28 March 2011

You've been chopped.

It is most decidedly NOT spring. It is cold. Biting cold. But it's sunny. This March has been very sneaky. So despite being so very much still winter, my brain is in spring mode, and Sunday I decided to make a very spring treat in honor of Chopped: All Stars night at our house. Lemon lime bars! And because I love this old recipe the best, I used it again. AND (and no and then!) my new apron is perfectly lemon-limey!

Because we were hosting guests, I made a double batch, so lots of citrus to squeeze. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I still get such silly joy out of using my antique juicer. I just love it to death.

This round of lemon-lime bars marked my first time making the crust with my processor. I always hem and haw about actually using it because it's so many pieces to clean up afterward, but I need to remember how much easier it makes everything. My crust mixed up in seconds. And it smelled oh so lovely, with all the lemon zest mixed in.

And just 'cause my apron matches so perfectly...

Into the oven to set, then it was time to mix up the lemon-lime filling. Which leads me to my latest exciting discovery: I made these on a Sunday. The little vitamin store where I buy my happy eggs is closed on Sunday. I needed eggs. I was feeling egg guilt all morning knowing I was going to have to buy store eggs. So I went into Martin's and pouted as I walked to the egg aisle. And look what I found!

Happy chickies!!!!!

Now. I'm always suspicious of grocery marketing. But I came home and did some research, and as far as I can tell, this is legit. I'll still buy my super local happy eggs, but I'm excited to know I have access to other happy, still slightly local eggs. Phew!

And guess what? The bars turned out great, and looked adorable in my fancy Pyrex. A random side note: This recipe, and the blog post I snagged it from, is what sparked my Pyrex obsession.

With and without coconut.

They went nicely with the fourth installment of the All Stars round. Even though annoying "aye-ron" won.

27 March 2011

Little dutch girl.

This weekend, I was lucky enough to catch up with Sara, who was on the west side for business. Saturday morning, I ventured up to Holland to meet her for brunch and general catching up. It was my first time in Holland, so the trip was a double whammy for me (it's just under an hour from here).

We met at the Windmill Restaurant in downtown Holland, what appears to be a local favorite. A pretty tiny diner, they serve breakfast all day as well as lunch items and pie.

(not my pic)

I love breakfast, so I knew I was sticking with that, but some sweet items caught my eye - I almost never venture from savory breakfast (even though I love French toast). A pancake roll-up? Neither of us had ever heard of such a thing. So, of course, I had to get two. The fruit-filled one, cherry, was just ok. It tasted like a pancake, with cherry pie filling in the middle. The regular roll-up, with butter and powdered sugar, was amazing (Sara agreed). You wouldn't think it would be anything special, but the way the melted butter mixed with the powdered sugar on the inside was unexpectedly delicious.

After food we wandered around downtown for a bit, spending the longest amount of time in the Seasoned Home, which was mostly bulk spices and bulk tea. Once we decided we were curious enough about the nutmeg (neither of us have ever seen the full nut in the store before), we were grabbing things left and right.

I could have easily brought home a ton more, but I narrowed my selections to a key lime seasoning (for fish) that smells crazy awesome, a chimichurri blend for Brad, 1/2 oz. of nutmeg, and pink peppercorns (pink!).

After exhausting downtown, we went for a little driving tour of the area (seriously, who lives there that can afford the mansions along the water [not even Lake Michigan! so random]), eventually landing at world's. coolest. vintage. store - Second Chance Design. I think Sara and I let out a collective swoon when we walked into the first room of stuff.

It's technically an antique store, but it's mostly stuff from the '50s, '60s, and '70s and everything is super affordable, so it doesn't feel like a traditional antique store. Sara lives in a super cool mid-century modern condo in Detroit, so this store was particularly awesome for her. And it shows. She bought a new bed and a dresser!

...and a teapot.

I didn't get any new furniture, but I found two pieces I'm currently in the process of harassing Brad about.

Polka dot chair, wooden cupboard. Gimmie.

That's not to say I didn't make a few small purchases...

A lovely vase that inspired me to pick up some tulips today. It was a dollar. ONE dollar. 


And a few bar items that inspired me to reorg my bookshelf o' booze.

A lovely green pitcher ($11):


It's screaming "sangria! sangria!"

And two sparkly crystal appetizer plates ($2/each):

What a day! Sara, pancake roll-ups, and sparkly retro items? Perfection.

25 March 2011

Working girl.

Sick of me yet? ;) I'm taking advantage of all my free time now because in just over a week, I'll have a little bit less time because... I got a job! Like, a go-into-the-office, not-just-a-temporary-contract job. After working from home for 5-1/2 years, and not having consistent work for over 2 years, it'll be interesting, to say the least, but I think it'll be good for me. And when I'm not stressing about leaving the pooches or failing miserably, I'm mostly excited to get back into the real world. I'll be doing "marketing" (I hate saying that because I have no true marketing experience - why can't he just make me happy and call it "communications"?) for a small, family-owned manufacturing company in Benton Harbor. Will keep you posted on any exciting adventures.

To celebrate, today I treated myself to a $13 manicure (thanks for the tip, Hillary!), also my reward for not biting my nails for three whole weeks (a habit I rekindled last spring when we started trying to sell the house). I feel so fancy with my party girl pink nails.

And, of course, no celebration is worthy of being called a celebration without some delicious food. Tonight I convinced Brad to take me to the Bistro. We've been here several times and it's the nicest place in St. Joe. But after having found places we love in Benton Harbor and other neighboring towns, we've concluded the entrees are just not worth the $$. That being said, we LOVE the appetizers. Seriously, best fries ever. So tonight we ordered some drinks (my new favorite, Smithwick's, which is BEER!), apps, and salads. To start, tuna tartare with an amazing wasabi sauce. This was so good - I could have eaten two, all on my own. The tuna's got a bite to it, then with the wasabi... nice and spicy. Then pan fried crab cakes, which were fluffy and light. And, of course, our true love, the pomme frittes. A Caesar salad for Brad and a mixed greens salad (with blue cheese, please!) for me. The perfect meal.

It's freezing outside, but it's sunny and the lake looks beautiful, so I convinced Brad to go for a little drive after dinner (we ate at 6:30 so there was plenty of light left when we were done [early bird special!]). We drove by my new office, around the boonies a bit, through St. Joe's swankiest neighborhood, making a final pit stop at the Liquor Cabinet, which is right at the end of our road. I thought the Wine Castle in Ann Arbor was impressive. This place, there are almost no words. There are rows and rows of Michigan wine, including a ton of wineries I've never even seen. Rows and rows and rows of Michigan beer, including Ann Arbor Brewing Company (aww, home!) beer. And Sex! And Fizz! And Wet! I didn't even make my way through the booze! I just kept grabbing. And I'm not even thirsty! But I got a few bottles to have on hand, and I can't wait to go back again soon and explore some more. And, of course, I got a bottle of Fizz, just cause I could.

The celebration continues this weekend, as Brad and I head to the outlet mall to buy... gulp... work clothes!

24 March 2011

There's no place like home.

I'm so excited about our new kitchen art. Even though it required me doing math to get most of it up. The good news is no one was injured in my struggle (except one of my frames, which I dropped and cracked the wood and need to replace eventually... shhh, don't tell Brad).

The little guys above my window are my London souvenirs. On our last day of vacation, Brad and I visited the Churchill War Rooms, which, to my delight, had the most amazing gift shop (kind of an odd spot for a gift shop, but who am I to argue?). Side note: I've JUST discovered they have an online gift shop, too. Uh-oh! ;) Anyway, the gift shop highlighted wartime propaganda, and I nearly squealed with delight when I discovered the very extensive postcard display. I picked out my favorites and have been saving them for the right spot (which reminds me, I have two off-size ones yet to frame and hang!). And considering my house was built in the late 1930s, they are the perfect addition.

Turn a new leaf: Eat vegetables daily to enjoy good health.
Save kitchen scraps to feed the hens.
Housewives! Please finish traveling by 4 'o clock (and leave the trams, buses, and trains free for war workers).
Feed right to feel right.

To the left, we have my new French chickie, which I am madly in love with. And I must sing the praises of Allposters.com again - the best friend of any new homeowner. So many great prints to choose from, and so many great sales almost daily. I think I got French chickie for 30% off.

My french is pretty rudimentary, so I haven't completely translated the message. Something about a brave chicken? (Hopefully it's nothing like "chicken is delicious!!!") Either way, I'm happy to have my new poultry friend to keep me company in the kitchen.

Finally, the ultimate message.

This is actually a housewarming card from Sara and Matt. I've had it out for months and it just occurred to me last week that it would look perfect in our mudroom, where we enter the house 95% of the time. So I framed it, did some more math, and hung it up. I think it's just right.

23 March 2011

Loosey goosey.

Remember yesterday when I said I was going to attempt to re-create my Goose Island meal tonight? Well, I'm halfway through! I even started earlier this afternoon so my side salad would be nice and cool to serve with the burgers. So first up, dealing with the couscous, my version of the pumpkin chevre salad.

I was very excited to find a package of giant pearl couscous (little couscous is no fun), which I cooked according to the package directions (saute couscous on medium in a saucepan with a tablespoon of oil for about five minutes; slowly stir in two cups of boiling water; simmer for 12 minutes).


*Note, be careful when pouring bowling water into a super hot, oiled pan. The steam burned my thumb. Owie.

Mixed in about 2 tablespoons of canned pumpkin. Then I threw it in the fridge to cool. Once cool, I tossed in a handful or two of pumpkin seeds (or pepitas as they are apparently also called), a drizzle of olive oil, a squirt of lemon juice, and a very generous palmful of dried parsley. Make that a couple squirts of lemon juice - probably about a tablespoon-plus. Then... the goat cheese. Yum. I crumbled in about a 1/4 of a small block of goat cheese and stirred it all around. Nibble nibble, then back in the fridge.

Next up, I made the burger sauce, based on Goose Island's chipotle aioli. I combined 1/2 cup of Miracle Whip (would be better with regular mayo); 1 tablespoon of spicy mustard; sprinkles of cayenne pepper, paprika, and pepper; and a few squirts of lemon juice. Whisk whisk whisk. Tastes pretty close... It's thicker but I wasn't sure what to add to thin it out but keep the taste (other than another squirt of lemon juice). The Miracle Whip is definitely what you taste most here, but that's not all bad. This sauce will definitely do. In the fridge to chill.

Now it's time to make black bean burgers, copied from here. I'll keep ya posted....

Black bean burgers made and eaten. But let me backtrack. I followed the burger recipe as instructed, adding some hot sauce, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper for taste.


Time to get mashy...


Screw the fork. I got my potato masher out.

Then it was onto the skillet.

The recipe called for 1/3 cup of beans per burger. I must say, this made for some teeny tiny burgers. I would use at least 1/2 a cup, if not more, per burger next time. As the burgers finished up, I melted some cheese on top, then got to assembling.

Bun, sauce, lettuce (hydroponic!), spicy salsa, burger, cheddar. Put the burger and the salad together, and how do you think I did??

Well, I think I did pretty darn good re-creating my Goose Island meal. And Brad seemed pretty enthused, too. The burger was near identical in taste. The pasta, despite looking a little oranger (due to canned pumpkin puree vs. chunks of fresh pumpkin), tasted nearly identical, too. I'm pretty pleased with myself. Pretty pleased indeed.

22 March 2011

Bright lights big city.

Sometimes I don't post for awhile because something's going on. When there is life drama, as I've evidenced many times over the years, I get grumpy and don't feel like writing. The good news is that this time, I didn't post for a while because I was too busy having a super awesome week. Between visits, trips, oodles of food, knitting dates, team Stachel work projects, and book club, I feel like I haven't sat down in over a week. It is a gray and rainy day, and my teeth are throbbing from this afternoon's dental work, so I'm sitting down, darn it, and I'm going to reminisce about everything.

The excitement began two Saturdays ago when Lisa S. came to town. We spent a quiet night in with some homemade pimento mac, then woke up bright and early Sunday morning to head to Chicago, where we were meeting her sister, Jenny, and super awesome nieces, Megan and Brooke (who were taking the train [yes, train!] from Texas). Unfortunately, the train was delayed, but Lisa and I took advantage of the down time and grabbed brunch at the Gage.

We kind of just stumbled upon it, but the Gage ended up being the perfect brunch spot. Housed in a 1920s hat-making office building, the restaurant had a ton of history and was decorated perfectly to its art deco past. And the food was super tasty and super affordable (although the $11 skinny skinny mimosa was a little overpriced).

Perhaps the most delicious smoked salmon I've ever eaten. It made me make oooey ahhey noises.

A few hours and some missing luggage later (luckily it turned up for the girls the next afternoon), the group was finally together and we headed out for dinner. Sushi at Japonais. I'm grateful for world's coolest teenage girls that like sushi. I HAD to have sushi. I don't have sushi here. Mmm sushi.

I still stand by my hometown Godaiko as the most delicious sushi around. The spicy is spicy, the rolls are big. I could never get enough. But the specialty rolls at Japonais are almost indescribable. If you're in Chicago and looking for a hip swanky night of sushi, I don't know that you can beat it. Brad and I went a few years ago and I've been dreaming of the tuna tuna salmon roll ever since.

The top roll in the boat, the tuna tuna salmon is salmon tartare topped with sliced tuna, avocado sauce, and wasabi tobiko sauce. It is melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I could have eaten five of these rolls. Unfortunately, at $17, just one tuna tuna salmon for me. Luckily, there were delicious cocktails for me to drown my sorrow in.

Jenny drinks her MUCH earned floating orchid.

After some ice skating up high...

Up top the Hancock building.

And some sleepy sleep at our awesome hotel...

It was Monday morning and time to go to the aquarium. Here fishy fishy fishy!

I see you, Brad.

I could go to Shedd over and over again. It's one of my favorite places. I love fishes.

And I love the big city with my Lisa!

We'd basically planned our day around a final stop at Franks 'n Dawgs for Chicago-style hot dogs for the girls. We drive over there, park, walk up, yank on the door.... and it's closed on Mondays! What is this, St. Joe? Sheesh! We were short on time and had already paid for parking, so we wandered over to Goose Island, which, honestly, was way better for me!

Black bean burger with spicy cheese, chipotle aioli, and salsa. And a side of cous cous with pumpkin and goat cheese. YUM. Seriously. Yum. My plan for tomorrow is to re-create this meal for dinner. If I could ever make it to the store....

Then it was time to head back to Michigan. Since the girls missed out earlier, we decided to make our own Chicago hot dogs. Surprisingly, our local grocery store had everything we needed, including sport peppers and a very strangely colored pickle relish.

Funny-looking relish, pickle spear, sport peppers, 
tomato hunk, yellow mustard, onions, celery salt, hot dog.

I didn't have a Chicago-style dog... Relish? Pickle? Ugh! But I did eat a delicious veggie dog. With cheese. And everyone seemed to enjoy their fancy dawgs.

As much as I enjoyed our time in the big city, I loved having everyone at our house for two days, and I loved showing them our beach and our little town. Who doesn't love sand dunes and the five and dime store?

We really loved having everyone here... Even Georgie eventually made friends. And the house has seemed a little empty ever since.

17 March 2011

Lep in the hood.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

This day last year, Brad and I were discussing his interview with Whirlpool, which he'd had in the morning. Who'd of honestly thunk that a year later, we'd actually BE here, celebrating the holiday with our new St. Joe friends? Definitely not us, but now that we're here, I wouldn't change it for the world.

11 March 2011


Obviously, I've been playing around with my blog today. Hope you like the new look! Really just posting, though, to say that my new title font is called "homemade apple." How appropriate. Happy weekend!

PS. Thanks to Meg for helping me out when I screwed the pooch with my new header!!

Meet me in the blue room.

We are almost done with all the house re-do. So close. As of right now, we have one room (well, porch), three hallways, and four ceilings left to paint. Because.... we finished our mini living room upstairs this past week. Here she is in her bare-bones glory when we first moved in.


Since then, we've bought the faux fireplace and a handful of other do-dads to make the space more enjoyable. But the color was horrible and the haphazard art was really starting to drive me crazy. So last weekend we buckled down and tackled the main part of the project - painting. To tie the upstairs in with the downstairs (and because we had a whole gallon of it in the basement), we painted the room the same color ("luna") as the dining room. And, of course, we had our little helpers.

Yes, George is actually sitting ON Brad's lap.

After having to do two coats in the kitchen, I was so relieved at how well the blue went over the brown - just one coat. Phew!

Heidi finds painting very tiring.

She was snoring her head off.

Anyway, so after painting, and a trip to Pier One (the matching frames below, on sale for $25 for both. Score!) for some finishing touches, we now have a very cozy, perfectly put together 2nd tv room. Woo! (The color is actually more blue-green in person. It's so hard to accurately capture color!)

Mr. Fox was happy to still have a place in the new room.

Next up, repainting the ugly yellow sun porch a much prettier yellow. What on earth will we do with ourselves once there is nothing left to paint???