Monday, April 30, 2012

Such a Slacker!

I feel like such a slacker.  I haven't cooked a decent meal in about 2 weeks (except for some tacos last week).  We have been so busy trying to get the house ready (2 weeks later, we still have a ton of more wallpaper to strip down).  We have been really lucky to have our mom's making us food over the last couple of days, so at least we haven't been starved!

We had a super busy weekend at the house.  We finished taking down the wallpaper in the dining room, and started on the hallway.  We also are about 1/3 finished (almost 1/2 finished) with the living room - we were pleasantly surprised to find that the bottom layer in the living room came down fairly easily.  My mom also took down all the paper in the bathroom, so all we'll have to do is steam off the glue, which should be relatively easy.

We also mowed the lawn on Saturday!!  We got a ride-on mower with the house, and I have been busting to try it out.  The lawn was getting pretty high, so I took a quick break on Saturday and spent an hour in the yard.  To make the experience more pleasurable, I'll have to add a cup holder onto the mower to hold my iced coffee!  haha :o)  

My dad took some pictures - enjoy!! :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wallpaper, Part 2!

So stripping wallpaper has proven to to be quite the project.  I think that I knew it was going to be a challenge, but it has totally exceeded my expectations.  We've been to the house to 9 times since closing, and each of those days we've made progress on taking the wallpaper down.  It's amazing how much of a difference the absence of the paper has made.

So Far:  We've finished the kitchen (which had 2 layers) and we're about 3/4 done with the dining room.  Below is a few pictures of the dining room just to show you a visual on how much nicer the room looks without the paper!

The Dining Room, with some of the paper stripped off.  It's a two part process - steaming the first layer and then the bottom layer
A little bit more progress...
The dining room, sans wallpaper!
Once we finish the dining room, we'll be moving onto the hallway (which has the same paper as the dining room - both layers) and the living room.  We thought the living room was going to be an easy shot where we could pull down the wallpaper and then steam off the glue...Unfortunately, when we pulled down the first layer of paper, we found ANOTHER LAYER underneath!  It's white, so it's deceiving, but (once again) it's textured...And it's stuck on there really good so we'll have to steam this off, too!


So that's that so far.  It's a work in progress, and it's coming along, just taking a little bit longer than I originally anticipated!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Always smile, Always laugh

Last night, as I was stripping wallpaper at the house, I realized I was smiling for no apparent reason.  I find it oddly therapeutic that I get to strip stuff off the walls, and it's what I'm supposed to be doing.  I also find that while I am stripping the wallpaper, I don't think about anything serious - I don't think about work, I don't think about things that frustrate me; it's just me, and the walls.  Last night, I started thinking about my grandmother.  It's been almost 10 months since she's been gone, but I find that I think about her a lot.  I think about random things, like how she loved picking us up from school (even if we called her at 10 at night to pick us up the next day), what an awful driver she was, how she never listened to what people were talking about - even if she asked the question first, how she bragged about my sister and brother and me to the point of being obnoxious, and how she was convinced that no matter how well I did in high school, I would never make National Honors Society (which I did, by the way, lol).  I look back on everything that happened throughout our lives together, and I always smile - even at the things that annoyed me in the past.

As I was thinking of Clara last night, I remembered something that my mom once said.  She said that she was talking to her mother and Auntie Theresa once about how Clara was doing while she was in the nursing home - and that no matter what was going on around her, Clara was always smiling and always laughing.  And that held true for her entire life - she was always looking for the positive in things, always smiling, and always laughing (even when she was nervous, she laughed).

I decided that it's time to employ the Clara way of life.  Always smile, always laugh, always try to find the good in every situation.  My cousin's husband, Wassim, said something along those lines on Easter....He described a particularly difficult situation that happened to them when they were moving, and he said something to the effect of while it was a bad situation, he always looks to find the positive in the situation instead of constantly talking about and remembering the negative.  It's the healthiest way to go through life.

So that's it.  My new mission.  Always smile, always laugh, always try to find the good in every situation.

Grandma Clara (on the right), with two of her favorite ladies, Anna (left) and Nonni (center) at my wedding in May 2010

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fun with Wallpaper!

It amazes me how certain things can come into style, and then go out again (and maybe even come back in again...).  Wallpaper seems to be one of those things.  My parents always had wallpaper in our house when I was young, but as I've gotten older, they seem to be leaning more towards paint.   

Personally, I'm not a fan of wallpaper.  While it protects the walls, I find it a lot easier to paint, especially if you get sick of what's on the walls...  My husband and I recently bought a house and we are so excited!  We closed on Friday, and we've begun the process of trying to clean it up.  The house is beautiful, but there is wallpaper in EVERY SINGLE ROOM except for one room, which has dark wood paneling.  We definitely have our work cut out for us.

My dad has an industrial wallpaper steamer, so we've been using that, but while there was only one steamer, and two of us trying to take down wallpaper, I ended up going to Home Depot the other night and I bought a $50 steamer which works great!  I would definitely recommend it to anyone who needs to strip wallpaper.  It's only $50, and it works just as great as the industrial one (which costs at least $30/day to rent).

I figured I would share some of the wallpaper that we're dealing with....It's always a fun thing to look at!!  :o)

Master bedroom and bath
Bedroom.  As my neighbor said, it's so ugly you could possibly do something fun with it.  The most fun I'm going to do with it is strip it down, lol
Bedroom.  This is the least offensive.  Although it is textured...
Living Room.  If you looked up hideous in the dictionary, this will be next to the definition.  It's textured (obviously) and pretty much looks like they glued a burlap bag to the wall...
Dining Room and Hallway.  It doesn't look too bad, but imagine this repeated over everything.  Lucky us, there's a second layer of wallpaper underneath!!!
Main bathroom.  This isn't TOO bad.  But bad enough...
Kitchen.  Another form of hideous.  While stripping this wallpaper, we found not only another layer of wallpaper underneath, but also a Formica back-splash!
Last night, while stripping wallpaper, I found this.  It totally explains WHY they papered over the original back-splash.  Obviously, they tried to remove it in one spot and ruined the wall...

We have only gotten through the kitchen so far....But we have found some fun things written on the wall!!

So the kitchen is done, only 7 more rooms to go!  Wish us luck!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Egg Biscuits

My cousin Carolyn is getting married tomorrow!  Technically, she is already married, but she and her husband are finally getting to celebrate and I am SO excited!  Part of my contribution for the day was to make Italian Egg Biscuits for some cookie platters.  My mom has a tried and true recipe that her Auntie Virginia created.  My cousin Diana also has a tried and true recipe for egg biscuits that uses cream cheese.  While both recipes are absolutely delicious, I decided to make my cousin Diana's recipe.  The cream cheese doesn't really change the flavor, but it does help with moisture - and since I made them ahead of time, I figured that would help.  Here's what I did:

The Ingredients
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick of butter (I ALWAYS use unsalted)
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp Vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder

The Method
  • Cream together the cream cheese, butter, sugar, and eggs until smooth.  
  • Add  the eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated
  • Add the vanilla and mix well
  • Combine the flour and baking powder and add gradually to the wet mixture
  • The dough will be sticky.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.

The dough is all mixed (and a bit sticky) - rest for 10 minutes before handling

  • Roll into small knots and place 1-2 inches apart on a cookie sheet.  If the dough is too sticky, put some flour on your hands to help roll.  I like to keep my cookies small, it's more work because you have to roll more, but they are daintier and bit size!

The rolled cookies, ready to be baked!

  • Cook for 12-14 minutes at 350*.  Make sure the bottoms do not burn!

The baked cookies

  • Move to a drying rack to cool to prepare for frosting

The frosting is the next part of the operation.  It's very simple, and adds a bit of sweetness to the cookie.

The Ingredients
1 1lb box of confectioners sugar
2 Tbsp lemon extract (I actually use 1 tbsp of lemon and 1 tbsp of vanilla - this still gives you a hint of lemon flavor, but doesn't overpower it)
Heat in the Microwave
1/2 cup milk
1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp crisco

The Method
  • Heat the milk, butter and crisco in the microwave for about 30 seconds.  Stir well.  If the butter is not melted, keep heating for addition 5 seconds at a time.  Don't leave it in there too long - it may explode (I'm speaking from experience)
  • Gradually add the wet mixture into the sugar.  You may not need ALL of the milk - don't be afraid to only use part of it.  You want the frosting to be smooth but not runny
  • Dip the cookies into the frosting and set them to dry (I always set them on parchment paper

Frosting the cookies.  I flip them over and stick them right in the frosting - being careful NOT to get any on the bottom.  Let the excess drip off, and then let them sit to dry

  • Before the frosting gets too dry, add sprinkles, if you like,  Since my cousin's wedding colors are orange, turquoise, and pink, I did those colors (minus the orange, since I couldn't find them!)  I frosted 4 cookies, then did the sprinkles - if you wait too long, the sprinkles won't stick
  • Make sure you let the cookies set for a reasonable amount of time before stacking them (at least a couple of hours).  If you stack too quickly, all the frosting will get messed up

Rows of cookies, drying!

These cookies are not difficult, but they are time consuming!  Make sure you have the time to make these before you start them....But they're definitely worth the effort!!!


Crock Pot Chili

A number of years ago, my sister came across a recipe for chili in the newspaper.  We have made it more times than I can count - it's so delicious.  The other day, I took out a package of ground beef (it was 2 lbs that I didn't split right after I bought it) and I needed a good recipe to use all of the beef.

While I love my sister's recipe, as I was looking over the card today, I realized I was lacking a few ingredients (like diced tomatoes).  So I decided to improvise.  Normally, my improvisations do not work out well.  Tonight, it was great!  Here's what I did:

The Ingredients
  • 2 lbs ground beef (I used 90% lean)
  • Chopped onion (I used 1/2 of a gi-normous onion)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 15oz cans beans (I used 1 can small red kidney beans, 1 can large red kidney beans, 1 can white beans (Cannelini) - I used this mixture because it's what I had....The original recipe actually called for 4 cans of beans - which you can do by all means, but I find it to be too many beans)
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 bottle of beer (I used a Pale Ale because it was in the fridge)
  • 4 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 2 tsp Cumin
  • 1 Tbsp Salt (I used kosher salt, use more or less depending on your taste)
  • Hot sauce (as much or as little as you want)
The Method
  • Brown the beef and the onion in a large skillet.  Once browned, put all of the mixture into the crock pot liner
  • Add in all of the seasonings, tomato paste, beans, and beer and mix well

Everything's in the pot - getting ready to cook!
  • Set the crock pot for 4 hours on low.  You really just need everything to mix together, and for the seasonings to flavor the meat.  
  • Enjoy with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream!

This really is some great chili!!!  You can taste the beer, but it's a great flavor.  The chili serves 8 and is 8 points plus per serving (cheese and sour cream is extra).

I made this in bulk - but it is great for lunches!!! :o)


Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I am not a fan of leftovers.  I find that on most occasions, re-heated food is awful (with a few exceptions).  However, I do like taking my leftovers and making something new with it....QUICHE!

I find that I really only make quiche at Easter time.  There's something about ham and cheese quiche that just makes me happy.  I make it different almost every year and it's one of the very few things that I can cook and improvise and not have it come out awful.  

This year's quiche is Ham and Broccoli....Here's what I did:

The Ingredients
-Leftover ham (I used about 5-6 slices and cubed it up)
-Cheese (whatever kind you have/like.  I had some basket cheese, so I cubed up some of that)
-1 box frozen chopped broccoli, defrosted
-Onion (as much as you want, I used 1/4 of a massive onion)
-Garlic (once again, as much as you want)
-4 eggs, beaten, with a splash of milk (more, depending on the size you're making)
-Pie Crust

The Method to my Madness
-Chop the onion and saute it in a little bit of olive oil
-Add in the garlic and the defrosted broccoli
-Add in some salt and pepper (not too much salt - the ham is salty enough)
-Add in the chopped ham
Onion, Garlic, Broccoli, and Ham
-Line a pie plate with the pie crust (if you're feeling ambition, go ahead and make your own.  I bought the rolls of pie crust - thank you Pillsbury!!)
-Put all of the broccoli and ham mixture into the crust

-Put the cheese in on top and mix in it with a fork (I think that chunks of cheese works better than shredded cheese)
On the Left:  Basket Cheese!  On the Right:  Everything in the pie crust

-Pour the Beaten eggs/milk over the mixture and mix it in, making sure to mix everything in well
-Fold the crust over for a "rustic" look - or make a real crust if you're up to it...
-Bake at 350* for 30-45 minutes

The Finished Product

 The key to a good quiche is using whatever you want - Potatoes are great in quiche (make sure you pre-cook them so they're not hard when you try to eat it).  I would have used potatoes today, but I didn't have any....

Have fun and ENJOY!!

Points:  7 points per slice - 8 slices per pie

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Dinner

This year we celebrated Easter at my mom's house.  There were 14 of us this year and I'd say that we had a really nice time.

Instead of my mom cooking the majority of all the food and everyone just coming to eat, we split up the responsibility this year and everyone made 1 dish each.

Mom:  Ham and Turkey and Stuffing (The turkey and stuffing was made for those who don't like ham)
Me:  Green Beans (I made them with caramelized onion and almonds - they were SO good, and I forgot to take a pictures of them!!!) and Sweet Bread
Auntie Regina:  Broccoli Casserole
Auntie Annette:  Roasted Potatoes
Dad:  Antipasto deli rolls
Carolyn:  Pickled Peppers
Nonni:  Rice Pie
Mom & Erin:  Egg biscuits and a Pagoda (A bit of deliciousness consisting of flaky pastry, boiled cream, chocolate cream, whipped cream, raspberry filling, and peaches - with cherries on top! - I had never tried a Pagoda, or even heard of one before, but my Mother in law's contribution was very well received!!)

A Pagoda from Pastryland Bakery in Smithfield, RI
I totally overdid it with the sweat bread....But I'm sure it won't go to waste!!

The 13 sweet breads that I decided to make for Sunday.  12 mini's and 1 extra large - Some with hard boiled eggs!!  Everyone got to take home a mini!!
All in all, it was another delicious holiday.  There was much less food than usual (can you believe that that list is LESS food than usual?) but we were able to enjoy what we were eating instead of stuffing ourselves with too many choices and not enjoying anything.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Cleaning out my closet...

It's amazing the things you find in your closet after not going through them for a while...I have a closet where the entire top shelf is full of t-shirts, sweat pants, work out clothes, etc. 

Within the mess that exists in that closet, the multitude of t-shirts just sit there because I just don't wear them. I have them separated into categories: High School, UMass, Concerts, Work, and Random. The high school category mostly consists of shirts from the era: when I worked at Sundaes the ice cream shop, and random t's from or around high school. I've kept a selection mostly for sentimental reasons.  The UMass category is a collection of t's obtained mostly from the college of engineering, with a few that I either got for free or actually purchased. The work category is just free t's from promotions at work. The concert and random category are exactly that. 

It's pretty safe to say that I don't wear any of the shirts from highschool.  I wear a small selection of the UMass shirts, but not all of them.  The work shirts I wear all the time, as well as most of the random shirts.  The Concert Shirts are just there to remind me of some of the shows I've been to.  I have an amazing Paul McCartney shirt (that my brother tried to steal at one point), Eric Clapton, Green Day, etc.  I never wear those shirts.

It's fun to take a run down memory lane and look over the shirts...
I've included a few samples of what I came across, for your viewing pleasure :)


"I am not a morning person" - I got this for free while walking through the campus center at UMass

A front and Back view - "Ask Me!"  "I Know STUFF" - we wore these when we toured the Freshmen around at Cranston West

"I Love To Watch UMASS DEBATE" - Say it out loud....There you go....This is probably the best $10 I every spent....

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rigatoni with Sausage and Kale

As we all know, I have tried my fair share of Weight Watcher recipes. My last dish didn't go so well....however, my friend Michelle (and faithful Quahog Tales follower) gave me a recipe today and per her suggestion I made it for dinner.

The Recipe:
2 cups uncooked rigatoni
8 oz uncooked turkey sausage, sweet italian variety
4 cups uncooked kale, roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cup chicken broth
Black pepper
1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese (I didn't have this, so I just used grated cheese)

The Method:
Cook rigatoni in salted water according to package directions.

Meanwhile, remove sausage from casing and cook in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, breaking up the sausage as it cooks.  Add the kale, stirring frequently, until the kale is limp and wilted (about 3-5 minutes)

Add the broth and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet.  Season with salt and pepper (I went easy on the salt since I knew I was putting the cheese on top).  Reduce heat, cover and cooke for about 5-10 minutes, until kale is tender.  Stir in cooked and drained rigatoni.

Divide into four servings and sprinkle each serving with about 2 tbsp of cheese.

The Verdict:
My husband had two full servings. Enough said!!!

Points Plus per serving: 8

Rigitoni with Sausage and Kale (don't forget to add some cheese on top!!!)

Spring Time Challenge

So my friends and I have started another Healthy Challenge on March 26 (first weigh-in was Monday April 2 - I'm already down 2 pounds!!!) and I'm on another session of Weight Watchers Online.  

The Healthy Challenge takes into account the healthy amounts of the healthy guidelines that one should be observing on a daily basis (2 fruits, 3 vegetables, 64 oz of water - 8 cups, a limited amount of sweets, no eating after 9 pm, and a reasonable amount of exercise).  
Weight Watchers, as we all know, uses the "Points Plus" system to account for the food that you eat during the day.  Also, you can earn points by exercising.

While I'm using these two things to help me on my weight loss goals, I'm finding that exercise is always taking the back seat.  So I'm challenging myself.  Again.

I found a workout on Pinterest the other day, and I'm interested in trying it.  It uses only your body, and no equipment (and that makes me happy - I'm always afraid that using weights will bulk me up instead of slimming me down).  

Here's the workout:

I took my measurements this morning (bust, waist, hips, upper arm, thigh, calfs) and while I won't publish those numbers to you, I will re-post at the end of my 8 week challenge (Which will be Monday May 21, 2012) with not only my weight loss (as of the beginning of my 8-week challenge, but also my inches lost)!!!

So wish me luck!  :o)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spicy Turkey Burgers

More and more I find myself looking for ways of using ground turkey instead of ground beef.  I remember someone at work saying that if you don't use 99% fat free turkey, what's the point?  Well, there are definite benefits to not eating red meat multiple times a week.  And even if I'm eating the same amount of "fat" I can at least enjoy the similar taste and not worry about the cons of eating red meat.

A while ago, my husband found a recipe online after one of my usual "lets try something new" flops.  Naturally, the recipe he found was fantastic....We've made it a few times, and it's now time for me to share it with you!!!

Spicy Turkey Burgers

The Recipe
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp nonfat plain yogurt (I often do not have yogurt in the house, but do have sour cream.  Either one is fine)
1 Tbsp fresh dill (I never have fresh dill...I use dry dill, and still use the same amount)
1 1/2 tsp hot sauce (or more if you choose)
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove minced garlic (I use a garlic press rather than trying to mince it myself)
1 lb lean ground turkey (I use a 20 ounce package)

The Method

  • Combine everything together and mix well
  • Shape into 4 patties, about 3/4" thick
  • Grill on medium hot heat for 6-8 minutes per side until no longer pink
    • If you're like me and share a grill with a bunch of other people who refuse to clean it after they use it, then you can cook your burgers either on the stove top, or in the oven.  I prefer the oven and bake them at 400*F for 10 minutes per side
  • Serve on whole wheat Kaiser rolls with lettuce and tomato
These burgers are quick and easy, and quite delicious!!!  Tonight I made them with a side of fresh baked fries.  (6 points plus each!)


Spicy Turkey Burger on a whole wheat bun with lettuce.  Deliciousness!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sweet Bread!!!

You know it's almost Easter when the Sweet Bread recipe comes out.  I'm actually quite early in baking my first batch this year.  I normally don't start baking Sweet Bread until at least Friday before Easter.  This year, I'm on top of things!  Every year for the past 2-3 years, we have sent a bread out to Florida to my Father in Law.  This year I was determined to get him some bread BEFORE Easter, rather than after.

I also decided that while I blogged about Sweet Bread last year, I would actually share the recipe with you this year!!!  Enjoy!!

The Recipe
1 cup milk (I always use 2%)
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 packets yeast (either Active Dry or Instant - it really doesn't matter.  If you have bulk Yeast instead of packets, use 5 teaspoons here)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup luke-warm water
6 eggs
1 tsp salt
10 cups flour

The Method
  • Melt the milk, butter and 2 cups of sugar in a sauce pan and let cool completely (I usually cool it for a little while and then stick it in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes)
  • While cooling the milk/butter/sugar mixture, mix together the water, 1 Tbsp sugar and yeast.  Let sit and activate
  • Beat the eggs and add in the activated Yeast and cooled milk/butter/sugar mixture
  • Add in the flour and salt (I usually mix in 9 cups and the once mixed together, use the last cup (plus a little more, if needed) while kneading the dough)
  • Dump the dough mixture onto a floured surface and knead until smooth (about 5-10 minutes)
  • Transfer the kneaded dough into an oiled bowl and cover in oil.  Let rise to double in bulk (about 2-3 hours)
  • Dump the risen dough onto a flour surface and cut into sections (I usually cut into 3 uneven pieces, one for a small loaf pan, one for a large loaf pan, and one for a tube pan).  Braid each section and transfer to greased pans
  • Let the dough rise in the greased pans until they have doubled again (about 1 hour)
  • Bake at 275*F for about 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.  10 minutes before removing from the oven, put an egg-wash on each loaf to brown the tops (I always put the timer on for 45 minutes, test and then go from there....)
Pictures of the whole process are below!  This is the most delicious Sweet Bread recipe you'll ever make!  It's really delicious.  Cutting and eating it while it's hot is so good, and toasting it and putting some butter on top is a great option, too!!!


From left to right:  milk/butter/sugar mixture, water/sugar/yeast mixture, flour/salt

The Yeast makes the dough rise!  The activated yeast (this is shown in a 4-cup measuring cup, fyi)
The kneaded dough, covered in oil in a bowl (this is a giant salad bowl, and after 2 1/2 hours of rising, the dough was expanded to the top lip of the bowl!)
A section of the dough, braided and ready to be put into one of the pans!
Braided, and ready to rise!  These rose for another hour before going into the oven
The final result!