Friday, January 30, 2009


*Warning - unimportant rambling about a TV show ahead*

I think when I attended Notre Dame the bigwigs that negotiated our football contract with NBC put something in the water. Or maybe they just made sure that the only channel to come in remotely clearly with the rabbit ears required to watch TV in our dorm rooms in those days was the local NBC station. Regardless of how it happened, I became an NBC addict. I watch plenty of shows on other channels, but my favorites are on NBC. I'd be hard-pressed to choose one out of my top three: The Office, 30 Rock, and Chuck.

It seems like a lot of people watch The Office, which is great because it's a hilarious show. 30 Rock has gotten a ton of publicity with all of Tina Fey's appearances and awards over the past several years. But, in my (admittedly biased) opinion, Chuck hasn't gotten the recognition it deserves. If you've never watched it, I'm sure that the premise sounds odd - a regular guy accidentally downloads all the government's secrets into his brain, then has to keep his spy life from his family and friends by pretending to date an attractive, undercover CIA agent and working with an undercover NSA agent at an electronics store...? Riiiight. But it has a perfect mix of action, comedy, and romance (heavier on the action and comedy), plus a lot of fun pop culture references. For example, *MINOR SPOILER* Sgt. Al Powell from Die Hard makes another appearance as a Twinkie-eating cop during a Christmas Eve hostage situation at the Buy More. And to be honest, it's a great show for nerds - where else you would you see someone *ANOTHER MINOR SPOILER* attempt to beat Atari Missile Command to retrieve a hidden code that will disable a terrorist satellite? might make more sense if you watch it. If you want to check it out, the official Chuck website at least has all the episodes from this season, and season 1 is out on DVD/Blu-ray or on demand at Amazon.

Or, if you want to jump right in, Chuck is finally back on Monday (at 8pm EST) after the holiday break. And those 3D glasses NBC and Pepsi have been pushing for that Monsters vs. Aliens Super Bowl trailer? You'll get even more use by saving them for the 3D Chuck episode! I'll admit an ulterior motive - I've heard rumors of cancellation, plus Chuck will now be going up against House - so I'm kinda worried that one of our favorite shows is going to disappear after just two seasons. Not that me asking my few readers to watch will make a difference, but the more people who watch, the better - plus I just think you'll enjoy it. Let me know if you start watching - or if you already do!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Franks 'n' Beans Bread Bowls

If you're still looking for a Super Bowl food idea, these might be a good fit. They're tasty, hearty, and easy! I saw them on a Mr. Food segment awhile back and saved the recipe because it seemed like something Shaun and I would like.

Franks 'n' Beans Bread Bowls

1 pound hot dogs, cut into 1-inch pieces (we prefer thinner, roughly 1/2-inch pieces)
2 cans (16 ounces each) vegetarian baked beans, drained
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup chili sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
5 kaiser rolls (we easily stretch this to 6)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese

In a soup pot, combine all the ingredients except the rolls and cheese; mix well and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the tops off the rolls and hollow out each roll to create a bowl. Spoon the franks 'n' beans evenly into each bread bowl. Sprinkle each with Cheddar cheese, and serve.

NOTE: If you prefer the bread bowls toasty, warm these in the oven after filling. (we definitely prefer to do this!)

Mmmm, good stuff. These work out well for a regular dinner too, maybe with some veggies on the side. Shaun eats two bread bowls and I eat one in a sitting, so we have just enough for two nights. Not the fanciest meal in the world, but hey, we're not the fanciest people in the world.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cinnamon Chip Muffins

I heard about cinnamon chips several months ago but hadn't tried any until Christmas. I picked some up at the store without knowing what I was going to make and ended up finding this simple recipe on the Hershey website. We had these when my family was visiting and liked them, so I finished up the bag with a partial batch this past weekend.

Cinnamon Chip Muffins

2 cups all-purpose biscuit baking mix
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup HERSHEY'S Cinnamon Chips
2/3 cup milk

Heat oven to 400°F. Grease or paperline 12 muffin cups (2-1/2-inches in diameter).
Stir together baking mix, sugar, vegetable oil, egg, cinnamon chips and milk in medium bowl just until moistened. Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin cups.
Bake 15 to 18 minutes or just until browned. (ours had a slight crisp to the outside after just 15 minutes) Cool slightly; remove from pan. 12 muffins.

Yay for finally making something during the day for better picture results!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Potatoes...and a bit of humor - take 2

Please pardon my multiple posts as I learn how to share videos!

Apparently I've already hit a bit of a slump. I have plenty of stuff to blog about, but I haven't been motivated. I think I sorta have those midwinter blahs, and Shaun and I have just been lazy and watching a ton of movies and TV shows on Netflix/Xbox. That whole system takes couch potato-ness to a whole new level. Fortunately, that phrase helps lead into the two recipes I wanted to share tonight - how convenient. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of either, because it seems when we have any kind of potatoes they just disappear too fast!

I encountered the first recipe on Heather Drive, a blog I read pretty frequently. Heather started a blog back when we were on the same wedding planning message board, and I got hooked! I admit that I'm very much a person who likes to follow a recipe and measure exact amounts, but somehow I guessed right with this one - at least according to Shaun! And as Heather suggests, we'll experiment with other spices as we will definitely make these a lot. These fries will fill your house with a wonderful aroma as they bake.

Crispy (Baked!) Homefries

2-2.5 lbs. potatoes
Olive oil
Garlic powder
Garlic salt
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.
Rinse potatoes and (if desired) peel. (we didn't peel ours) Cut potatoes into small chunks. Be sure to cut them all so they are relatively the same size.
In large bowl, combine potatoes with the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle liberally with olive oil. Add in garlic powder, garlic salt, black pepper, oregano, and parsley (to taste). With your hands, toss potatoes to coat them with herbs and spices.
Pour potatoes onto baking sheet and spread evenly.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until crispy, flipping with spatula every 15-20 minutes. Baking time will vary depending on size of potatoes and individual oven. If potatoes do not become crispy on their own, throw them under the broiler for an additional 5 minutes after baking. (ours tasted good to us with just the baking)

The second recipe is once again from my mom, and I don't know the original source. Nothing fancy, but they have a pretty good flavor while steering away from the butter that's often used in mashed potato recipes. Of course I like to put butter on top anyway...

Mashed Potatoes

3 lbs cubed peeled baking potatoes
1/2 c reduced fat milk
1/2 c fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp reduced fat sour cream
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and return potatoes to pan. Add milk and broth; mash to desired consistency. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Stir in sour cream, salt and pepper.

So, for the humor - Shaun and I have watched SNL together pretty much every weekend since's just one of those things we do, whether it's good or bad. The post-election shows have been a letdown overall, which is understandable, but the latest episode was so bad we were both asleep for the very end. However, I found a pretty funny impersonation that for some reason wasn't aired. On inauguration eve, regardless of your political affiliation, I think most of us can agree that the video in the post below is just plain funny:

Potatoes...and a bit of humor

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Chocolate Covered Oreos

I promise this will be the last of my overdue Christmas goodies posts. Just like the PB fudge, these Oreos are something I make every year at Christmas, and our family and friends who are chocolate fans go nuts over them. My mother-in-law even brought me a package of mint Oreos before Christmas just to make sure I had them ready to dip. ;-) And, just like the PB fudge, this is one of the easiest things to make!

I just melt one bag (I think 12 oz) each of dark (semisweet) and milk chocolate chips in the microwave or on the stove - I generally use Ghirardelli. With the thickness shown below, that amount will cover somewhere around 3 dozen of the double stuf Oreos - which the seasonal and mint Oreos are. One other tip: After dipping (and decorating if you desire), place the Oreos on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and pop them in the freezer for a bit - they'll harden quickly and be much easier to peel off the sheet and store without damage.

From L to R: Holiday Oreo with red filling (regular flavor); Cool Mint Creme Oreo; Limited Edition Candy Cane Creme Oreo (not anything special, to be honest); Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joes - I thought these had the strongest mint flavor, with little candy cane bits in the filling. I tried to help out the non-mint fans with a coding system on the outside. Yum! Okay, I'll try not to make any more Christmas posts until after Thanksgiving. Back to watching the last college football game for awhile...

Monday, January 5, 2009

2008: A Year In Review

When I used to journal (mainly in high school, a bit in college), I would typically do yearly review entries so I could remember what had gone on in my life over the previous year. And I have to admit, sometimes things would get so busy that the review would be my only account of the last few months of the year! I know we're already a few days into 2009, but 2008 was probably the most memorable year of my life so far, so I'm kinda nostalgic about it.

Of course, when I tried to start writing about the beginning of the year, all I remembered was that we made a quick trip to South Bend in February for a whirlwind weekend of wedding planning and that I had a killer cold for 2+ weeks. I'm not sure if it's sweet or sad, but just about every day during lunch, Shaun and I chat in Gmail, so I have a record of the general goings-on of our lives for the past few years (replacing my college form of records - saved AIM chats). So I did a brief perusal of January through March to refresh my memory and realized how quickly I've forgotten how consumed our lives were with wedding planning! That was really a major theme for the first 5 months of the year. No wonder we're so much more relaxed now!

Spring started to get even more interesting - in April my mother-in-law and sister-in-law threw me a surprise bridal shower, and even more surprising, my mom flew in for it! That was a lot of fun. Then in May, my ND friend and matron of honor flew me down to Atlanta for a bachelorette weekend of sorts. We were our typical wild and crazy selves, watching movies and going to the aquarium and botanical gardens...ha. In all seriousness, it was also a very fun weekend!

And then June finally brought the wedding and honeymoon. It still seems surreal when I think back on it. It was amazing to finally have our vision for the wedding day come together and go so was more amazing to have so many of our family and friends together in one of our favorite places...and it was most amazing to finally get to marry my best friend! The ceremony was beautiful and went by in the blink of an eye, and the reception was memorable for many reasons: a tornado warning forcing all of us to the basement for awhile, our drum cake, actually playing drums with 15 or so fellow former members of the Notre Dame Drumline... A honeymoon to the Orlando theme parks and Clearwater Beach, followed by another drummer wedding in Boston, was a pretty good way to cap it off.

The summer flew by much faster than we expected. We really got into the Olympics this year and kind of had withdrawal when they were over. The focus on swimming made me a bit nostalgic for my high school swimming days, and I had fun sharing memories and some "insider" swimming stuff with Shaun. We had a busy end of the summer, with a quick weekend flight to Minnesota to see my family, a Labor Day weekend trip to Washington DC to visit some friends (I love that city!), and a drive to my first Penn State football game.

Fall brought us a little more relaxation, and we really enjoyed following the election - as it seems everyone did this year. We're also fairly big SNL fans, so the extra shows and hilarious impersonations were right up our alley! Without getting too political, I will say we were happy with the results, and we're hopeful that this is a step in the right direction for our country.

We kicked off our first married holiday season with another trip to MN for Thanksgiving - it was fun seeing the usual family members plus 2008's additions to the family: my cousin's son Timmy, and my mom's little Westie/Scottie mix Ruby! Thanks to low airfares, my parents and sister were also able to come to Connecticut for Christmas, so we had a huge combined celebration between Shaun's family and mine. Overwhelming, but we had a blast! And we got the surprise Christmas gift of the first Notre Dame bowl win in almost 15 years!

Well, I'm sure you've heard quite enough - if you read all of that, I'm impressed, lol. I have to admit I was a little bummed about the end of 2008...the year just flew by, and overall it was a great one - 2009 is going to seem kinda boring in comparison. But after a long New Year's weekend of just relaxing with my hubby, I'm thinking I'll be perfectly happy to have some "boring" time.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Peanut Butter Fudge

This is another of my "must-make"s for Christmas. Since I had plenty of extra sweets in the freezer, I put together a tray of cookies and fudge to take to a small New Year's gathering (picture below), and the fudge was the only thing that completely disappeared. And it's so easy to make! The one thing I can't remember from year to year is whether the M&Ms on top are chopped in half or kept whole. It tastes good either way though!

Peanut Butter Fudge

2/3 c butter
2/3 c peanut butter
6 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla
3/4 cup red and green M&Ms, divided (at least 1/2 cup chopped)

Measure butter and peanut butter into large microwaveable bowl. Microwave until butter melts (1 1/2 - 2 minutes). Stir until blended.
Stir in powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth. Microwave until softened but not bubbly (1 - 1 1/2 minutes). Stir. Quickly stir in 1/2 cup chopped M&Ms.
Pour into buttered 9x9 pan. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup M&Ms on top, press in lightly. Refrigerate, covered, at least 1 hour before cutting. Store in refrigerator.
(Chocolate chips can be substituted for M&Ms).
*I'm not sure of the source of this recipe...I got it from my mom who's made it for years.