Thursday, December 29, 2011

Recipe Thursday: Swiss Green Beans

I'm going to start off this week's recipe post with an apology. Somehow I have managed to make this recipe TWICE in the past week and neglected to take pictures of it both times. My mom made this green bean casserole recipe one year as an alternative to the traditional cream of mushroom soup/fried onion variety, and we Wonuses were immediately hooked. I brought it to our Secret Santa work party and then made it again for the Bussells' Christmas day feast.

Swiss Green Beans
-serves 8

2 (1 lb.) cans French style green beans                       1 c. sour cream                       
1 T margarine (or butter)                                            ½ tsp. grated onion
2 tbsp. flour                                                                ¼ lb. grated swiss cheese
1 tsp. salt                                                                    1 c. crushed corn flakes
¼ tsp. black pepper                                                    1 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp sugar                                                                 

Drain green beans.  Melt margarine. Add flour, salt, pepper, sugar, sour cream, and grated onion.  Fold the beans into the above mixture.  Spread in a 2 qt. buttered casserole dish.  Sprinkle the top with Swiss cheese.  Mix the corn flakes and melted butter, and top beans and cheese dish with the buttered, crushed, corn flakes.  Bake in 375 oven for 30 minutes.  

The second time around there was no Swiss cheese available at the grocery store so I made it with monterrey jack instead and it turned out just as good. If I make this again any time soon I'll post a picture. I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's- I'll be back Sunday with my week 1 resolution results!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Three Days and Counting

Season's greetings! I hope everyone is enjoying the Christmas- New Year's limbo where you don't know whether it's acceptable to continue listening to Christmas music and keep your tree and lights up and eat copious amounts of cookies... I am, of course, doing all of these things with wholehearted enthusiasm. If only I didn't have my pesky job to be back to I'd be the happiest girl in the world! Carl and I spent the weekend in Columbia where Julie and Ernie treated us to a wonderfully relaxing, fun holiday. This was my first Christmas not spent with my family and I've got to say, I was a little nervous at first. Thankfully I didn't burst into tears Christmas morning or anything embarrassing like that. I know that I must have been really good this year because look what Santa brought me:

Before you pass judgment I should note that he also gave me the car payment to go with it- yay, adulthood! Me and Carl are a little obsessed with the Subaru. There were a few days where we even fought over who got to drive it. Don't tell him, but this is actually just a ploy on my part to get him to want to chauffeur me everywhere. Sadly I think I'm still having a little PTSD from the Jetta era because I keep having nightmares about the Subaru overheating, and waking up disappointed and angry that I bought a car with the same problems. So far it's treated me well, so let's hope that continues.

In other news, we came home Monday to find a little package with our many wedding pictures waiting inside. If you're my Facebook friend you may have already spotted the albums I posted. It's taken a lot of time to sort through all of them because there's so many (4,400!!!), it's a little overwhelming. I'm still picking out my favorites and drafting out the long-ago promised wedding mega post, so don't think that I got lazy and flaked. It's coming, I promise!

Can you believe we only have 3 days left in 2011!? This is going to be a hard year to top, but I've got really high hopes for 2012. I'm gearing up for the start of the ABC's on Sunday, and getting somewhat anxious about the possibility of picking a super hard letter fresh out of the gate. I've got a yummy recipe for tomorrow, so until then, while the merry bells keep ringing may your every wish come true. Annnd now that song will be stuck in my head for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kitchen Gadget Recommendations

One of my favorite things in the world is finding a good kitchen gadget. Carl will vouch for the fact that, if left unattended, I could stand and drool in Williams Sonoma for hours on end. Who knows, maybe I was a chef in another life! These two gadgets both feature lawn mower- style pulls that make them super fun to use, and also extra handy when the power is out. Behold, the Chef'n VeggiChop Vegetable chopper:

We received this as a wedding gift and really love it. And when I say love it I mean that we fight over who gets to pull the handle to do the chopping. It's just as effective as a mini food processor and perfect for small batches of veggies. You can also swap out a regular lid for the one with the handle to store your veggies in, if need be.

Next up is the Zyliss Easy Spin salad spinner, another awesome wedding gift.

One thing that I think really puts this salad spinner in a league of its own is the stop button on the lid and the fact that it's made out of BPA-free plastic. It was recommended in Flanagan's Smart Home, which I talked about here. I was somewhat surprised that a salad spinner was included in such a small list of essential household items, but mostly excited that her recommendation validated my need for another nifty kitchen tool.

If anyone is looking for a last minute Christmas gift, these would both be great. A special mother-in-law of mine might just be getting one of them (don't worry, I didn't ruin the surprise- she was with me when I bought it)! An added bonus: anyone working on losing weight for the new year can achieve their goal quicker with the arm workout from the pulleys- truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Recipe Thursday: Green Juice and my New Year's Resolution

I can't believe it's already Thursday! Actually, let me rephrase that: I can't believe this is the second to last Thursday before Christmas. Meaning the year is almost over. Holy smokes! Is everyone ready for the holidays? Aside from some tree decorating and non-stop listening to Christmas music (just while I'm in the car, really) I feel like I haven't done anything festive. No cookie baking, no hot chocolate drinking, no present wrapping- Carl and I didn't get each other gifts this year so all of the ones under the tree are for people who won't see that they're not yet wrapped!- and no holiday parties yet. Also, it's hard to get in a holiday mood with the weather being what it has. Singing "Baby it's Cold Outside" when it's 70 degrees out just feels wrong. Oh well, I guess it's coming no matter what. Here's our little tree:

This was taken before we received a beautiful new tree skirt from Mama Wonus. Although the white blanket sort of looks like snow, right?

Today's recipe involves no cooking- it's a juice! We're going to Columbia for the weekend so I'm trying to use up any produce we have that might not be in the best shape by the time we get back. Juicing can be expensive but I always remind myself how good it is for me when I get pouty about the grocery bill. These past few weeks I've been making a glass in the morning to have before my green smoothie, and that way my juicer doesn't get jealous of the new blender. Here's what went in tonight's batch:

2 stalks of celery, 2 green apples, a cucumber, a lemon, 2 big collard leaves, and 4 romaine leaves.

This is what the finished product looks like:

One for me and one for Carl. It got Carl's stamp of approval tonight!

Since we're on the topic of healthy stuff, I'll go ahead and tell y'all my New Year's resolution plans. I'm a notorious resolution abandoner if there ever was one. I think it's a no-brainer that we set ourselves up for failure when we expect to change over night and stay that way. The only resolution I have ever kept for good was to quit biting my nails, which was no small feat for me. Even though it was hard, I think what helped was that I wasn't simultaneously changing every other aspect about myself. And so, with baby steps as my inspiration I came up with my plan for next year: The ABC's of 2012. I've assigned each letter of the alphabet a word (for instance 'T' is for Totinos, 'F' is for fried food, 'L' is for liquor), and each week on Sunday I'll pick a letter and work on modifying my lifestyle or diet over the course of the next week, depending on the word. Here's where it gets interesting: the letter will be picked at random, so I won't know what I'm up against until the week starts. Some of them are really tricky... if you think that 'T,' 'F,' and 'L' are bad, just wait! I had also planned on rewarding myself by putting $20 into a savings account for each successful week and using the money to buy a new blender at the end of it all, but I guess I ruined that. A new rewards system is in the works and I'm definitely open to suggestions. Also, if anyone feels like they are up to the challenge and wants to participate please let me know! I'd be more than thrilled to have a resolution buddy. And don't be intimidated- I do plan on allowing myself to cheat a little bit in social situations, etc. What's life without some good-natured rule bending?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

IT'S HERE!!!!!!

The wait is finally over! Here's our wedding video:

I wish I could go back and relive the day in slow motion- this made me realize how fast it all went by. Thank you to all of our friends and family for making it so awesome and memorable! And yes, I'll admit that I've watched this about 3 times in the past 20 minutes- I'm not ashamed.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The End of an Era: Emptying the Storage Unit

When I first came to Charleston five years ago my family was in the process of moving to England. This meant that unlike most other college students, I was forced to bring everything I owned with me to school rather than leaving it in my parents' basement for all of eternity. All the trinkets and mementos and clothes and CDs- basically every belonging that I had amassed in my 19 years- it all came. I remember the day I moved into the dorms we hadn't separated the college living necessities from what would soon get put in a storage unit, and everyone looked at me like I was absolutely insane. It was truly a ridiculous amount of stuff. It all sat in a storage unit in Mount Pleasant for three years. After graduation when my car no longer had to be housed in the unit I took some time to downsize and get rid of a few things here and there; just enough to get it all to fit in a smaller unit. That was a process that I had no desire to repeat until recently, when my parents made a deal with me involving the emptying of the unit by the end of the year, or the adoption of the monthly bill. Of course I chose the former option, which meant the beginning of a long and painful journey. Here's a portion of the unit on the first day of cleaning a few weeks ago:

The fact that Carl is wearing shorts in this picture is making me even more depressed about the onset of cold weather

Going through that amount of stuff is exhausting! I can totally relate to those crazy people on 'Hoarders' after a day of sorting. The problem was that they were all things that I used infrequently enough to house in a unit a half an hour away, but once I starting going through it all I realized how much sentimental value so much of it had. I had to take a moment and play therapist to remind myself that throwing away things doesn't equate to throwing love or memories away. Yes it's cheesy but it helped. After several trips to Goodwill, the dumpster, and down Memory Lane we finally finished up the project today:
Allison: 1 Storage Unit: 0

Other life updates: I've been ever so patient in waiting for the professional pictures from our wedding to be ready for everyone's viewing pleasure. Our photographer was awesome and I know that she's working really hard to make everything perfect. She emailed me on Friday to say that she was finishing up, and in the time since then I've been compulsively checking my email every five minutes, dying to see the pictures. I can't wait to share them with everyone, so hopefully we don't have to wait too much longer- I might go crazy otherwise.

Car shopping was sort of fun but mostly not. We found one we really liked, a 2010 Subaru Forester, and we're just waiting to hear back from the seller. Fingers crossed, folks! Subaru owners all have really good things to say about their cars, and the longevity is impressive. Hopefully this will be a car purchase that lasts us for quite some time. Plus I think it'll give me a lot more street cred than the Jetta... at least when I'm shopping at Whole Foods. Right?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Recipe Thursday: Lazy Time Nachos

I realized around Sunday that I forgot to post for Recipe Thursday last week. Yikes! I wish I had something really incredible to put up to make up for the lost week, but alas, it's me we're talking about. I've been doing a lot of smoothie-making, juicing, and salad eating this week, but tonight I was feeling down in the dumps and big time lazy so I decided to make one of my favorite comfort foods: nachos.

These nachos feature slightly stale Tostitos Hint of Lime tortilla chips, halfway heated black beans, left over Moe's queso, and lazy time guacamole (avocados that I didn't put much effort into mashing, haphazardly diced tomatoes, and a splash of Italian dressing). They turned out great!

Carl and I have officially started the hunt for a new car to replace my Jetta. After trying to overheat on the way home from work the other day- yes, in December- I decided I really need to look for something more reliable that doesn't make me cry every 4-6 weeks when something goes wrong with it. One thing about car shopping that I didn't expect: it's an emotional roller coaster. I keep getting waves of buyer's remorse without actually having made a purchase, I can't decide whether to lease or to buy, and I really have no idea what I want, aside from something not too boxy that won't need repairs ever. We're going on Saturday to look at a few dealerships and I'm a little nervous! In my whole 24 years I can't say that I've exactly mastered the art of negotiation or keeping a poker face, so this could be really interesting. And when I say interesting I mean that Carl might want to kill me by the end of the day. Wish us luck!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Come Early

For those of you who haven't yet seen Carl's Facebook status, today was a very exciting day for me. Bed Bath and Beyond has an event for their registrants where they offer a 20% discount on all the items you didn't receive, as well as anything else in the store. It's pure genius! All of us brides stampeded through the store foaming at the mouth and ready to do some serious spending on household items. For the past year or so I've been contemplating getting a high-end blender, but every time I started to save for it something else would come up and the blender would get put on the back burner for another couple of months. When I found out about the BB&B event I decided that it was time to go for it. A 20% discount is huge, and I probably won't be able to get such a good price, well... ever. I've heard great things about Vitamix and Blendtec, so it was a really tough choice for me. After reading through a jungle of research, product comparisons, and consumer reviews I chose the Vitamix and finally got to bring it home tonight. I'm not ashamed to say that I am giddier than a 4-year old on Christmas morning. You might be thinking, "Allison, why in God's name would you spend such a disgusting amount of money on a kitchen appliance?" Good question. Between our gift cards and the aforementioned discount I didn't end up paying too, too much out of pocket. The blender has a 7 year warranty and I read numerous reviews from people who've had theirs for more than double that amount of time without any issue. For the amount of blending I do, that means a lot. I've already used it twice tonight:

Its first green smoothie! I was really impressed with how quickly it blended and how smooth it was.

Homemade salad dressing- Sweet Dijon Vinaigrette

One of my favorite things about it: for cleanup all you have to do is fill it with water and a few drops of dish soap, blend it for a minute and that's it. It's so powerful that it turns it into its own mini-dishwasher! Now I only wish I was hungrier so that I could make more smoothies.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Melman's Hungry

I think this picture speaks for itself.

I feel like I should submit it to one of those websites that posts pictures of pets in funny situations with dumb captions to accompany them. This could be Melman's big break! I've been saying for years that he at least deserves to be on a greeting card.