Skewer Appetizer

You want these. I know you do.

You want these. I know you do.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love green olives. I always have and always will. I will put them in any savory dish, anytime.  I love them.  The How I Met Your Mother/Marshall and Lily Olive Theory is real and it is how we handle olives in my house.  Cut to me scrolling Pinterest, as I am wont to do, and I come across this pin, which leads me to this website, which leads to this website, which Google translates for me.  This appetizer contains green olives, goat cheese, and sausage.  Pretty much my 3 favorite foods.  I had to have this and I had to have it ASAP. I sent Alex to the grocery store (a pretty risky move on my part) and he really came through for me.

Assembling them was hella fast and easy.  Let my pictures show you the way.

MMM smoked sausage.

MMM smoked sausage.

Goat cheese, get in my belly!

Goat cheese, get in my belly!

Olives!

Olives!

They didn’t last long, I we gobbled them up pretty quickly.  To me they just scream fancy grown up party with wine, but what do I know.  Try them for yourselves and let me know.

Grade: Cost: Time:

A++

Less than $10

10 minutes

Level of Difficulty:
Easy
What I Would Change:
I definitely wouldn’t take anything out of this appetizer, but I know not everyone loves green olives like I do.  Banana peppers, mozzarella, black or greek olives could all be substituted to make this your own.
Overall Impression:
When I put this together, I had a ton of fun.  It was so simple, but delicious.  It reminded me that you don’t need to be a culinary virtuoso to make tasty food.  I would absolutely recommend this for your next party.hors d’oeuvres
Ohh you fancy, huh?

Ohh you fancy, huh?

Reusing Candle Jars

Does anyone remember when I tested removing the wax from candle containers?  The first time around, I used the newly clean jars to make more candles (which was a great idea).  As I burn candles, I put the used up glass jars in a closet in my house.  When they start to really collect, I pull them out and clean them.  I did this recently and found myself with a good amount of jars with lovely metal lids.  Instead of turning these back into candles,  I thought I would reuse them to store bathroom supplies as shown in this pin.

All my life I have had chronic ear infections so I know not to put things in my ears.  My boyfriend, however, is not so concerned with direct instructions not to do so and he uses cotton swabs daily to clean his ears.  He insists on buying the largest container of swabs as he can find and he just sits them down on the back of the toilet like so.

Not a great look.

Not a great look.

“But Katie,” you ask, “why not just stash the box under the sink?”  I would, dear friends, if I knew he wouldn’t just pull it out and stick on the back of the toilet again. Now that I had these lovely lidded jars, I decided to make this little corner of our bathroom slightly more appealing.  I filled my clean jar with the cotton swabs and put it on the back of the toilet – for now.

Much better.

Much better.

I need to fill another one with cotton balls for my make up remover and clean up the countertop in here so I can move these over there.  For now though, it looks nice and he really appreciates it.  I know he wants easy access to these since he uses them everyday.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to convince him that they aren’t as good for his ears as he thinks.

Grade: Cost: Time:

A

Free!

Once they are clean, no time at all.

Level of Difficulty:
Easy
What I Would Change:
The basic premise is perfect, but you could always jazz up the jars with paint or by putting some decorative paper around the inside to hide the contents.
Overall Impression:
This was pretty cheap and cute. Buying something similar would be almost silly when a lot of people have candles like this lying around.  If you don’t, ask a friend.

All Natural Almond Milk Face Cleanser

Image from the original pin.

I buy Almond Milk not only because it tastes good, but because it lasts so long. Even though it lasts well past a month I find I still always have a lot left. I don’t drink straight milk so it’s mostly for cereal in the morning. I found this pin for an all natural face cleanser using almond milk and honey and thought “why not?” It’s only 2tbsp almond milk, 1 tsp honey and 1/4 cup vitamin water (i use regular tap).

Up until this year I never used face cleansers or face wash. I hardly wore makeup so I never saw a need. The days I would wear make up, I’d shower at night and clean my face that way. In preparation for my cousin’s wedding, I learned that I need to up my beauty game.

I bought a bottle of face cleanser that I’ve been using every day. It’s been great at clearing off excess dead skin but sometimes dries out the rest of my face. I started to alternate. One day using the daily store bought method and the next day using this home remedy.

While I like the exfoliating feeling of the store bought one, I also enjoy the soothing, refreshing feeling of this almond milk remedy. My face feels softer and firmer the days I use the milk cleanser. I haven’t had any blemish problems from the honey, like I thought I would.

I will keep up this routine just because I always have extra milk. Plus It just feels good.

Grade: Cost: Time:
A Free 5 minutes a day
Level of Difficulty:
Easy
What I Would Change:
Make a smaller batch or leave on longer. I make it fresh each time.
Overall Impression:
My face feels so soft and smooth after this. I like using it in combination with a face scrub. One day removes the dead skin, the other restores the softness to it. Is there a noticeable difference? Hard to say, but if you have extra almond milk every month (like me) and can spare some honey, then you should enjoy this simply for the refreshed feeling you get.

Goodbye Hair Buildup

This winter my hair was plagued with a heavy, greasy feeling. I hated it. No matter how many times I washed my hair it felt like it was getting worse and worse. When I went to visit my hairdresser she noticed the same thing. Turns out my cheap shampoo was ruining my hair.

People have always told me that my hair is my best trait. When my hairdresser told me that my best trait is being ruined I had to change my ways. She told me to use regular soap on it 2 or 3 times to get the buildup out. I also needed to switch shampoos. I’ve done both, but I can still feel some of the buildup. Before I did another round of soap I decided I’d try this organic baking soda paste.

Image from the original pin. IMAGE IS VERY MISLEADING!! Your hair will not look that shiny afterward.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared about trying this. Petrified is more accurate. I know “hair grows back” but I thought all sorts of crazy things. “what if it strips the color from my hair?” “What if it all falls out”. RACHEL GET AHOLD OF YOURSELF!

Just to ease my fears, I googled more about this trick. It all relates to chemistry. The amount of baking soda you use in the paste is directly related to other aspects of your hair. Chemistry is NOT my forte. Art is my forte, so I just followed the directions of the pin. Mix 1/4 cup baking soda with 3 Tablespoons of water. You’re supposed to let it sit for 10 minutes and then wash out.

30 seconds in I panicked. My hair felt so dry and frizzy! It felt like it was eating away at my hair. I hated it. I jumped it he shower and immediately started washing it out. Once I felt my hair was once again safe I began to check it. It was all still there, but it did feel lighter. I began to add the rest of the batch to various part of my hair. I massaged it in and rinsed instantly. The worst parts of buildup on my hair were much less. One more good wash with soap should do the trick to get it back to the way it way. Fingers crossed!

Grade: Cost: Time:
A (Works, but be wary….) Free 1 minute
Level of Difficulty:
Easy
What I Would Change:
WATCH OUT! It says do it for 10 minutes. 1 minute did a lot on my hair. If you already have dry hair, be careful.
Overall Impression:
I put it on the worst buildup spots on my hair. It removed a lot instantly, but dries out the hair really fast. I only left it on for a minute. If you want to try this I’d suggest testing this in spots just a little at a time. Then leave it on longer the more you trust it. The soap trick worked just fine for me too. Honestly I’d rather wash my hair with soap for a week straight than try this again… Too much stress involved.

Wedding Prep – Fitness and Nutrition

Earlier this month I was a bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding. While I tried to eat healthy and have a regular fitness plan in the months leading up to the big day, I was nowhere near where I needed to be. In fact I might have gained a little weight since I bought my dress. The dangerous trio (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years) did a number on me. And that number was bad. Once New Years was done I made a goal for myself. I wanted get into shape.

I mostly focused on my arms, but to get the definition quickly I needed to improve my nutrition too. I read up a LOT about what I needed for better nutrition. Here’s a taste of many of the things that helped me.

Weight Lifting. It’s not just for guys.

Here is the simplest guide on what you need to cut out of your system:

After 21 days I didn’t crave any of this. In fact the thought of eating it made me sick. I’ve heard people say that if you work on something for 3 weeks it will become a habit. Now I have to talk myself into eating the chips or pastries.

Some of the key things I learned:

  • You don’t need to cut what you’re eating, you just have to make healthier choices.
  • If you’re doing weight training (which I was) eat foods high in protein and low in fat. It will help fuel and repair your muscles, keep you full while also being healthy.
  • Weight training isn’t just for guys. It will help women get in shape too. And no you won’t look like a female Arnold Schwarzenegger if you pick up 5lb-ers.
  • Cardio is great for losing weight quickly, but weight training is better for keeping it off. The more muscle you have, the more it will help break down the rest of the fat in your body.
  • Incorporate work out moves anywhere you can. Washing dishes? do some squats. Watching TV? Do any of the number of TV workout pins available. Katie did a Dr. Who one.
  • Eliminate processed sugars, white bread, candy, soda, etc.
  • You can eat carbs, but choose healthier options like rice instead of bread. You can still eat bread but chose a healthier option like multigrain versus white.  If you want to lose weight quick though, skip the extra morning toast.
  • Drink more water. Did you know feeling tired is one of the first signs of dehydration? Neither did I.

I’ve compiled a list of the different pins I found helpful.

Nutrition

35 Amazing Foods for Weight Loss – Try to incorporate these in your daily diet. I would eat a banana every morning at 10 AM and an Apple at 3PM. I’d also incorporate avocados in salads or scrambled eggs.

5 Advantages of Drinking Water in the Morning – I would drink an entire glass of water, drive to work and make oatmeal in the kitchenette. My metabolism was already boosted for an hour before I gave it something. Then it was ready to go and process what I was feeding it.

Top 10 Belly Fat Burning Foods - I would only eat eggs or oatmeal for breakfast. Mostly oatmeal. I’m not a big fan of eggs.

10 Meatless Sources of Protein – Vegetarian? Here are some good ideas for you. Careful, some are also very high in fat.

Fitness

17 Freeweight Exercises for Toned Arms - My go to list. I tested this once before. It has all the key arm exercises and I really owe this one a lot!

10 Ab Exercises - These you can do on the floor! Those days I was feeling lazy? This was my go to workout.

Lazy Girl’s Inner Thigh Workout - I did these, but I would also do a variation of #2. I would put weights under the back of my knee. With the weights firmly in place I would open and close my legs (sounds so trampy but it works really well). The extra weight worked those inner thigh muscles getting them in shape quickly.

I could tell you the number of lbs I lost from this, but the number isn’t what’s important. I did lose weight. It helped me slim down everywhere, but the combination of better nutrition and working out is what really matters. My entire body looked more toned. I felt confident and happy.

Not sure where to begin? Try the pins I mentioned above. They were really helpful.

And remember this:

Grade: Cost: Time:
A+ Free Ongoing
Level of Difficulty:
Medium
What I Would Change:
It’s all about your motivation. Keep going. If you find yourself struggling. Make smaller goals to yourself. “If I wait 30 minutes I can treat myself to that chocolate… I’ve made it 30 minutes, what’s another 15?… Only 15 away from an hour!” Before you know it time will fly and you’ll have faced your challenge.
Overall Impression:
You don’t need to make all the changes at once. Quitting cold turkey leads to rebounds. Work on a few things, then once you’ve mastered those, try a few more. I didn’t eat plain chicken and veggies for 3 weeks, but I wasn’t eating brownies while watching Netflix either.

Hungarian Paprikas

Earlier this week I told you about the homemade spaetzle I made. It was only the companion to the real showstopper: Chicken Paprikas. I had a hard time deciding which variation of the recipe to use. Eventually I settled upon the one from food.com. It had a lot of good reviews and also talked about boiling the meat in the mixture for a long while. That’s something I remember my grandma doing when she made it, so I deemed it VERY important when picking the recipe.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. De-fat, and tenderize chicken. Cut into bite-sized pieces. With oil, brown chicken in a large pan on medium-high heat (6-10 min).
  2. Add paprika, onion powder, salt, pepper, and chicken broth to the chicken in the pan. Stir them to mix. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer and put a lid on and let simmer for 25 minute. ( left mine for a little longer)
  3. In a container with a lid (tupperware is good) mix water, flour and sour cream for the chicken. Shaking the mixture aggressively is the best way to ensure a smooth mix. Set aside mixture for later.
  4. Make spaetzle during this step. See instructions for spaetzle here.
  5. Meanwhile, the chicken should be about done simmering. Using a spoon, draw some of the chicken sauce and put it into the sour cream/flour/water mixture that you had set aside. This is important to prevent sour cream from curdling. Put the lid on and shake the mixture once more. There should be no flour or sour cream chunks in the mixture.
  6. Finally, stir the mixture into the chicken pan. Mix until consistent. Bring the sauce to a boil stirring occasionally for sauce to thicken.
  7. Serve paprikas over spaetzle.

My Notes:

  • Turns out I don’t have onion powder. I googled what to do and it said dried minced onion is the best substitute. 1 tablespoon minced onion is approx. 1/3 tablespoon of onion powder. I only added 6 tablespoons because 9 seemed like WAY too much.
  • My mom said to also add some Cubinelli peppers for extra flavor. I bought them and ended up forgetting them. *sigh*
  • Let the chicken simmer for longer than 25 minutes. The longer it simmers the more the flavor gets into the chicken.
  • I used small 1 inch pieces of chicken breast. It was all I had.
image

Hungarian Chicken Paprikas with Nokedli (Spaetzle)

 

Grade: Cost: Time:
A+ Most are basics. I spent no more than $10 total for the sweet paprika, sour cream and peppers (see my notes) 1 Hour
Level of Difficulty:
Medium/Hard There is a lot of multitasking involved if you’re also making the spaetzle. I suggest making this with someone else.
What I Would Change:
Add Cubinelli peppers for a little extra flavor. They are a sweeter pepper, and give just a hint of flavor. They’re my favorite for making stuffed peppers.
Overall Impression:
Excellent! Not exactly like my grandmother’s but still a great meal on a cold day. You can’t go wrong. And that paprika sauce… mmm. I was licking the plate clean.

 

Homemade Spaetzle

Sunday was NOT my day… I woke up with a bad headache, my back hurt and my fridge defrosted overnight. Not only did I lose $20 worth of brand new yogurt, but my ice packs were practically useless as well. There was also an ever expanding puddle on my floor from the melting ice. We fixed the fridge, but my day was ruined. Those wonderful plans of getting up early, working out, eating healthy were gone. Gone like my yogurt.

After cleaning up the water and getting the fridge going again, I had to spend my Sunday morning at the food store. Since I was already in a rotten mood, and it was -1 without even factoring in the wind chill I wanted to GOOD MEAL. The first and only thing that came to mind was Chicken Paprikas. Never heard of it? It’s a Hungarian dish and my absolute favorite. It’s usually served with Nokedli, more commonly known as spaetzle.

I don’t have my grandma’s recipe so I turned to Pinterest for both the spaetzle and chicken paprikas recipe. Today I’m going to let you in on the spaetzle recipe. I did not use the paprikas recipe attached to this one. The one my grandma would make would sit in a put until the meat started to fall off the bone. This one didn’t seem right. The spaetzle recipe did.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cups water
  • 1 tablespooon butter, melted

Instructions:

Originally from American Heritage

  1. I suggest you make the spaetlze while your chicken is simmering in the broth. I made mine too early and they sat around for way too long.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  3. Whisk together flour and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the eggs, water and butter.
  4. Stir until the batter is smooth and thick.
  5. Drop batter (each dollop about a teaspoon) into boiling water with a spoon; dipping the spoon into the water each time. This will keep your spoon clean and make the whole process less painful. [You can make these larger or smaller to your taste]
  6. Cook only half the dough at a time to avoid over crowding. Stir the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, so that the dumplings will rise to the top. After the dumplings rise to the top, let them boil about 2 minutes more.
  7. Remove to a large colander and drain while you repeat the process with the second half of the batter.

My Experience:

  • The spoon took too long. I coated my cutting baord and hands with flour. I rolled the dough into small snake-like pieces and began ripping and throwing pieces into the boiling water. It was fun. Plus it gave it that great “chewing gum” look that it’s supposed to have.
  • I used more flour than I should have. My spaetzle was pretty heavy. It should be pretty light. I might not have let them cook long enough. We’ll see after I eat my leftovers today.
  • The smaller the pieces the better. They cook faster and they’re easier to eat.
Making the dough for spaetzle or nokedli.

Making the dough. I added a little extra flour on top so my hands didn’t stick as I mixed it.

 

cooking spaetzle.

The dough will begin to rise to the top of the water when it’s done cooking.

 

Grade: Cost: Time:
B+ Free 20 minutes
Level of Difficulty:
Medium
What I Would Change:
Less flour and cook longer. I put flour on my hands as I ripped my pieces apart. I think this is what made the pieces heavier than I remember.
Overall Impression:
I need to make a few slight modifications (mainly beginners errors). Otherwise this is a fairly simple recipe. It does take awhile to make. This process is great to have two people for. I would throw the pieces in the water and I had my boyfriend scoop them out for me.
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