Friday, July 30, 2010

Headed West!

This weekend my Business Man and I are homeward-bound back to Illinois to have a nice visit with our families. Except, his family just left on vacation to DC... so that means we'll be visiting with my family only. Poor planning on our part.
This is good news for several reasons...
 1. My parents got a new puppy literally 3 days after my Business Man and I got married and I moved to the Bean Town. I have been seeing puppy pictures and hearing puppy talk for the last 4 weeks and I absolutely cannot wait to meet and play and cuddle with this puppy.
2. I seem to have left a lot of things that are important to me at my parent's house. Including but not limited to the following: 

    • several of my beloved cookbooks     
    • my new Kitchenaid mixer (Wedding gift from my parents! And I haven't even used it in the Bean Town yet!)
    • DVD collection (our shelves are looking mighty empty... need to fill up that DVD rack!)
    • my cupcake decorating supplies (...because we all need to be able to decorate gourmet cupcakes whenever we please)
    • all my shoes (except my brown sandals, running shoes, and a pair of flip-flops, which is all I packed for the honeymoon)
    • all my jewelry (except my wedding day pearls)
3. I am nearing the 500-mile mark on my running shoes, and I have yet to find a running shoe store here in the Bean Town. I will be able to go to my beloved Running Central and get new shoes this weekend... yay!
4. And of course, the most important reason, getting to see our fam! And maybe a friend or two as well...


So, as I gathered our belongings this morning to get ready for the trip, I thought to myself... "I think I will bring a goodie home... to show my parents how much I appreciate their hospitality."


Haha... really I just wanted an excuse to experiment in the kitchen. :-)


My mom loves all things cherries, and all things chocolate, so I thought up these Dark Chocolate Cherry Crumb Bars. I have been craving a crumb bar lately, and also something chocolatey. Once I remembered my mom's love for cherries, these were born. 







Dark Chocolate Cherry Crumb Bars

Makes one 8x8-inch pan. About 16 bars.

 Ingredients
  • Crust
    • ¾ cup brown sugar
    • ¾ tsp. baking powder
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1 cup oats
    • ¼ tsp. salt
    • 11 tbsp. butter
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Filling
    • 2 ½ cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • 2 tsp. cornstarch
    • 4 oz. good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
    • ½ cup sliced almonds


 Method
Preheat oven to 375*F. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.

For crust, combine brown sugar, baking powder, flour, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter until crumbly; add egg and vanilla and combine. It should still be pretty crumbly.

Spread about 2/3 of crust mixture into bottom of prepared pan.

To make filling, combine cherries, sugar, and cornstarch. Spread over crust in pan. Sprinkle with the dark chocolate chunks, and then cover with the remaining crust mixture. Top the whole thing off with the sliced almonds.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and set. Let cool; then remove from pan and cut into bars.




Here's a photo montage of all the different steps/layers...


Just the bottom crust.

Topped with the cherries.
Topped with the chocolate... I used Ghiradelli's 60% Cacao. It is tasty.
Top layer of crumb mixture.

And the almonds.


The finished product, plated.


I think these turned out wonderfully! They filled our apartment with the most wonderful smell as they were baking. The contrast of the tart cherries and rich chocolate with the sweet, buttery crust is like a party in your mouth.


Overhead view.


A close-up shot.



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A farmer in the Bean Town??

This past Saturday, my Business Man had to do a few things at the office, so I was on my own for the morning. I contemplated going for a run, but the temps here have been HOT. Like eggs frying on the sidewalk hot. I even had my shoes on and ran a half-block before I decided it was way too hot. 


My Business Man had talked about a Farmer's Market here in the Bean Town a few times... on the town square. I love some home-grown produce, so I decided I would go find this Farmer's Market.


I even looked it up online, to make sure I knew where I was going. So, I headed downtown with an iced mocha in hand to explore the bounteous Farmer's Market. My hometown has a pretty darn tootin' good one, with lots of vendors, so my expectations were high.


Unfortunately, I drove past this Farmer's Market and missed it. I thought I saw a booth or two, so decided to turn around to check it out again. And so I did.


And that was it. Two booths. And not one of them was selling produce. Ay ay ay...


I called my Business Man to see if he knew what was up with the Farmer's Market, and he mentioned that "maybe it got moved to the mall... yea I thought I heard them say it was out at the mall..."


So, I continued my journey to find the Farmer's Market. 


Got to the mall. 


Nothing.


At this point, I thought about going into the mall and spending the grocery budget on some new clothes. But, that wouldn't be too good; I like to cook too much.


So, upon my drive home I discovered a small produce stand on the side of the road advertising corn and tomatoes. Now, I'm not much for corn or tomatoes, but thought I at least needed to get some type of produce from a Farmer's Market-type stand.


Sweet corn & tomatoes!




It turned out that they offered much more than just corn and tomatoes, and I came away with 4 ears of corn, 3 peaches, 2 zucchinis, and a bottle of local honey. For $7! Pretty good deal if I say so myself.


The loot!




I decided to make some zucchini bread with the zucchini. I really wanted to make zucchini-pineapple sheet cake, but I also wanted to make something my Business Man and I could munch on for breakfast without starting our days with a complete sugar crash.


I followed this recipe over at myrecipes.com. I've never made zucchini bread, but I think it turned out alright. Instead of making 2 loaves, I made 1 loaf and pan of bars in a 9-inch-square pan.






Of course, I had to add my own touch to the recipe so I whipped up a quick lemon-cream cheese frosting drizzle to accent the lemon zest in the bread.




Who am I kidding, everything's better when it's completely covered in icing.


And then I boxed up the small bars for a special package for a special friend who will remain anonymous.


Now off to relax on the couch with my Business Man and my new favorite show on the Food Network... Cupcake Wars!

Friday, July 23, 2010

What to do when you forget your running shoes...

It seems that all my posts about "Life in Bean Town USA" occur outside of the Bean Town. I guess that's okay, as hopefully soon some exciting things will actually happen in the Bean Town.


This past Thursday my Business Man had to take a trip over/down to Newark, OH for a dinner meeting and then a meeting the next morning. I decided to tag along, because, what else am I gonna do??

As soon as we arrived at the hotel, my Business Man had to leave right away for his dinner meeting. (At the Olive Garden, none-the-less... not fair!) I was planning on ordering room service, as I have never done that before and have dreamed of someone delivering a scrumptious meal right to my room and then devouring it in bed. But, there was one problem. Our hotel didn't have room service, or any restaurant service at all!

Luckily for me, there was a Texas Roadhouse literally 1/2 block from the hotel. Probably even less than that. Now, I love me some Chicken Critters from the Texas Roadhouse, even if I feel like a 5-year-old when I order them. So, I called my order in and was seriously back in my room with my food in less than 12 minutes. And, it was enough food to feed 3 of me. Just sayin'.

Of course, I forgot my camera on this trip. Along with my contact solution and running shoes. So, pictures in this post will be courtesy of my crappy phone or just stolen from the internet.

Note: 3 boxes. One filled with chicken strips/french fries. One with salad. And then 4 rolls. For just me.

So, my Business Man came back from his meeting, and thought we should go out for ice cream... yesss!! My favorite summer activity! We drove to this nearby little town called Granville, and it was like Wisteria Lane. (For those DH lovers out there...) Just a perfect, quaint, cute little town. With an adorable downtown area.


We went to Whit's Frozen Custard, where I got a chocolate-raspberry-brownie "Whitster", which I believe is their form of a blizzard. My belly started to hurt a little after this. Maybe I should have skipped that sixth chicken critter...

It looked similar to this creation.

My Business Man and I walked around the downtown area for awhile and wished that we could live here. Everybody just seemed so happy! And perfect! And then, we found the most absolutely perfect running trail. (Well, technically it could be a walking trail or biking trail, but in my eyes, it was a running trail.)

I really wish I had a picture, it was that gorgeous. It weaved through tons of beautiful houses, set up on hills. It went right through the downtown district. It passed by old educational buildings that are very interesting to a education-minded person like myself.

A picture of a house in Granville. Just one of the many many beauties. Trust me, the others were a lot cooler, too.

Too bad this the overnight trip where I left everything in the Bean Town. I just needed to go for a run in this little town the next morning. What to do with no running shoes?!?

After much deliberation (aka 2 seconds), I asked my Business Man if we could make a quick Wal-mart trip to get some cheap running shoes. I mean, I would only have to wear them for one day. Who cares if they're ugly? Or don't give me any support? Or make people stare at me like I'm a freak?

We found Wal-mart, and got some sneakers... for $12. They only had one type of women's tennis shoe. Quite surprising.

Aren't they beauties? I have designated them as my "mowing" shoes from now on. Too bad we live in an apartment and don't have to mow. Shucks.

So, the next morning, I ran. Regardless of their Wal-mart-ness, they got the job done. I got about 5.5 miles in until my feet started screaming at me. Only escaped with a little blister on my baby toe.

Sorry to those of you who don't do well with feet. I'm still trying to salvage my pedicure from my wedding 3 weeks ago, but I don't think it's working so well for me anymore.

After the run, I headed to the cute little coffee shop and got myself a "real-fruit smoothie" and waited for my Business Man to get done with his meeting. And by "real-fruit smoothie", I mean frozen slushy drink that came out of a whirly machine that I'm sure had more sugar than fruit or any other ingredients. Whatever, it tasted good.

Gotta love Photo Booth pictures...

And then, my Business Man and I stopped at the Cheesecake Factory for lunch on the way home! Isn't he great or what? I only have pics of our cheesecake that we enjoyed later that night at home.

Key Lime on the left for the lady, and Coffee Kahlua Brownie on the right for the gentleman.
I may have just had some of his as well. :-o

That's about it for our latest adventures in the Bean Town. Maybe next time the adventure will actually occur in the Bean Town!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What to do when you're blue...

As I was grocery shopping last week, I came across a huge tub of blueberries! For only $3.99!! Usually a small tub costs $2.99.

Note the container is next to an orange so you can gain some perspective. It is just a never-ending supply!

You might already know that I love blueberries if you read my post about blueberry donuts. Well, recently I have been trying to use up that huge tub of blueberries. I have been eating them with yogurt, putting them in my cereal, topping salads with them, and I think I even mixed them into our burgers last weekend (j/k). I wanted to make pancakes, but my Business Man and I don't eat breakfast at home together during the week.

So what can I do with the rest of the blueberries?

I did some researching on the internet, and found a recipe for Blueberry-Oatmeal Cookies! Why not? If they have fruit and oats, then they're definitely healthy for you.

Oh, by the way, now you will get to see a sneak peak of our cute little kitchen, too!

Ta-da!

That's pretty much it. As you can see, we don't have much counter-space. The fridge is to the left of the photo and the table we eat at is in the front of the photo. You know how most people have canisters on the counter to hold flour, sugar, etc...? Well, we don't have room for that.

Solution: hanging canister set from IKEA! I swear, you will walk into our apartment and feel like you've stepped on to the floor model at IKEA.

I don't have a before picture of this canister set, but the process of installing it was a little harder than we expected. We thought we could just hang it on the wall, but that was bad news bears... an innocent guest would inevitably conk their head while eating. Not what we want in this household.

Where could we put it?

Over the sink? No... then I would be dumping flour and sugar down the drain all the time.

Solution: Over the microwave, hanging under the cabinet! Maximum use of space!

Now, the problem was just how to hang it there. You see, the canister set already had holes drilled in it, so we just needed to drill holes in the cabinet to line up with the holes in the canister set. And of course, since I am the one who graduated with a math degree, I got to be the one to figure out where the holes should go. It was much harder than it seems it would be!

So, once I drew the spots where the holes should go, my Business Man began to drill the holes.

Aren't men with power tools so attractive?

And then... a few minutes later, I had canisters under my counter! So lovely!


Left to right, sugar, flour, oats, rice, and tea bags. (And my Sweet 'n' Low is hidden in the back behind the tea bags... )

Okay, now that you have learned all about the canisters at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Business Man, we can move on to the actual cookie baking.

I found a recipe over at Picky Palate, but made some adaptations. Hers included coconut and I hate coconut... it's a texture thing. I also added nuts, and used fresh blueberries instead of frozen. Here it is!

Blueberry-Oatmeal Cookies
2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups quick oats
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup chopped walnuts
12-oz. package white chocolate chips

Cream butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Add eggs and 1 tsp. vanilla. (Who actually measures vanilla? I just dump a bit in.)

Now you're supposed to combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl, and then add it to the large bowl. But, I just throw it all in together. It gets mixed up!

Then, add the oats.

Then, very carefully, trying not to smash the blueberries, fold in the blueberries, walnuts, and white chocolate chips. Now let the dough chill out in the fridge for a few hours.

It should look something like this.

When it's good and ready, plop it by the tablespoon onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 375*F for about 10 minutes or so until the edges start to set. Don't over-bake them or you will have one crunchy cookie!


And there you go, Blueberry-Oatmeal Cookies. Perfect for breakfast on-the-run; I'm pretty sure my Business Man snagged 3 (or 4) on the way out the door this morning...


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hitting the Three C's

This past week my Business Man and I have traveled what feels like all over Ohio.


Last Saturday, we went to Cincinnati. (Ikea trip... see a previous post.)

Tuesday, we went to Columbus. (Again, can be documented in a previous post.)

There's only one "C" city left to visit in Ohio... that would be Cleveland!

My Business Man's company had a promotion in June where he could win an overnight to Cleveland and to see an Indians' game. (The Indians are a baseball team for all of you out there who don't follow sports. Myself included. Although I do know a smidge about long-distance running.)

So, because my Business Man is so awesome, he won the trip plus $200 cash! We took off for Cleveland Friday morning. It's about a 3-hour drive, so that of course required a stop at Starbuck's.
Enjoying my nonfat iced cinnamon dulce latte, with whipped cream of course. I run 40 miles a week for a reason. :-P Whipped cream being one of them.

Upon arriving in Cleveland, my Business Man had to go to a short meeting, which I was invited to. Super-fun! Actually, the speaker was pretty interesting.

We then had a few hours to kill before the start of the game. My Business Man and I wandered downtown. When I say wandered, I mean that we went on a random walk and ended up by the lake. Pretty perfect! And a boat just happened to be leaving on a tour! So, we paid our $15 and hopped on the "Good Time III."

By the way, if it's such a good time, what happened to I & II?

So, as the boat (ship? It had 3 levels...) took off, we listened as one of the ship mates explained how to put on our life jackets in case we face the fate of the Titanic. He was very descriptive.

BTW, this ship mate looked like he was about 16. Just sayin'. Although he does probably know more about boating than many people my age.

Our lovely cruise was narrated by none other than some radio personality who is very popular in Cleveland. At first, I was excited, "Oh, this will be so interesting!" Turns out it was a recording... and not always synced up with where we were on the tour. Ha.

Relaxin' on the top deck, soakin' up some sun. Good thing I brought my shades.

The ride was pretty neat. We thought we'd go out more on the water, but we stayed pretty close to shore, on the Cuyahoga River. We went under 10945986151238 bridges, and learned about 4 different types of bridges that open up to let boats pass through.

2 of above-mentioned bridges.

We passed some neat-o architecture. Cool radio personality guy told us all about it, but of course I can't remember any of the details. Figures.


And, we went by the Browns stadium. I guess this is their football team?


After the boat ride, we continued to walk, heading back toward the hotel. We found some super-cool ginormous guitars in front of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Me, posing ever-so-quaintly with my guitar.

My Business Man knows how to rock-out a little more.

So, we stopped at the hotel to change and get "freshened up" for the game. Aka get ready to sweat. As soon as we got to the game, the sweat started pouring down my back. So fun!

The theme for the game series was "Beach Weekend." I wish I would have worn my bikini. :-P That would have eliminated a lot of the sweating issues.

Overall, it was a very fun night. The Indians' pulled out a win against Detroit. (8-2.) My Business Man and I spent some quality time with some of his Business friends. And, of course, I convinced my sweetie to buy me some chocolate ice cream. (Well, custard to be exact.) Plus, we got to see fireworks after the game!



It was a nice little post-honeymoon trip, to celebrate our 2-week anniversary. Ha!

That's all from the Bean Town for now... stay tuned for more adventures.

:-)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Columbus, Ho!

So, this past Tuesday, my Business Man had a meeting all day in Columbus. I thought to myself, "What am I going to do all by myself all day in the Bean Town?" That is, until my Business Man invited me to go along with him to the meeting! No, not the actual meeting, but I could drop him off at the meeting and then go do fun things in Columbus.


So, I looked up some fun things to do. I found a nice nature preserve/park site thing with lots of trails to go run on. Something like 5.5 miles of trails. It was only a few miles from where my Business Man's meeting was, so that was nice.

I arrived, and got ready to run. Unfortunately, I forgot my running watch at home, so that meant I had to carry my cell phone to keep time. This would prove to be handy later. I also tied the car key to my shoe, so I could get back in the car after my run. So I took off on my run. This place was hilly! I have not run hills in awhile, and my legs were sore! I ran for 54 minutes, calling it 6 miles. I was so grateful to get back to the car and get cleaned up... it was very humid, especially at 11am.

So, I get the handy-dandy key tied to my shoe and try to open the car.

Uh oh.

The key won't open the door. But it's the key that starts the car!

I try the passenger door. I try the trunk. I try the driver's door again. The key still won't open the car.

Starting to panic, I text my Business Man while he's in his meeting. Apparently, not all cars are designed such that the key that starts the car is the same key that opens the car. In my past experience of driving cars (all 6 years of it), that has always been the case. So, now I am locked out of the car.

At a random nature hiking place... where I don't know anyone.

I considered dialing 4-1-1, and trying to find a locksmith. But, I didn't have $80 cash, and I didn't even have my checkbook. So, I went and talked to the nice nature center lady who was watering flowers. I explained the situation, and she took pity on me and called the ranger from the next park over. She convinced him to drive over to this park, and jimmy my door open.

After waiting what seemed like hours (really only about 20 minutes), Mr. Nice Ranger Man arrived and started working on the car door. I have never seen anyone get into a car like he did; it was actually very interesting to watch! He stuck something between the car door and then pumped this air pump thing to get about a 1/2-inch crack. Then, he put this long stick-thingy inside to try to reach the lock to unlock it. After about 20 minutes of maneuvering and tinkering around, he got it unlocked! And I was so thankful to Mr. Nice Ranger Man for getting me back into the car and not even charging me any money.

So, finally I was able to clean myself up and move onto my next destination: Easton Town Center. Shops, restaurants, and even Trader Joe's! Very exciting.

So, I spent the afternoon shopping. I tried on a lot of clothes, but only bought a pair of dress capris at The Limited. It started to rain, which isn't so fun at an outdoor mall. My last stop was Trader Joe's, where I got a lot of fun stuff. Brie cheese, apple-chicken sausage, chocolate-covered pretzel slims, 9-grain cereal, dried mango, trail mix... all very delicious.

Next, I went back and picked up my Business Man from his meeting. Not time to go home yet! We drove to his brother's place to pick up the rest of our wedding presents. You see, after our wedding we went straight on our honeymoon, and we couldn't fit all the presents in our car. My Business Man's brother brought the rest of them out to Ohio for us (he's working out here this summer), and we just had to go to his place and pick them up. So that was fun.

We capped off the whole night with dinner at Hickory River Smokehouse while driving home. Mmmm... ribs & cornbread. :-)

Peace out!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Trip to IKEA!

So, as newlyweds, my Business Man and I don't really own all that much furniture. Since I've moved in about a week ago, my clothes have been occupying a bunch of laundry baskets, rubbermaid tubs, and cardboard boxes in all various places of the apartment. A little bit frustrating.


Fortunately for us, IKEA is a less than 2 hour drive from home! My Business Man has never been, and I've only been a few times. So we decided to take a good chunk of our wedding cash and go buy some furniture for our cute little apartment.

We ended up with 2 dressers, 2 nightstands, and a huge wall shelving unit for the living room. And, a canister set for the kitchen. Oh, and a cheese grater. And lamps. And some closet organizers. I think that's it. Ha!

The thing about IKEA furniture is that it all comes in a billion little pieces in flat boxes. No joke, we had two flatbed carts and one regular cart in the store. Each of the dressers had two boxes of parts!

We got home from IKEA around 4:30 or so, and got to work assembling. We decided to work on the bedroom pieces first.

Here I am working on one of the nightstands. That only took 45 minutes.

My business man putting together the other nightstand.

Working on the huuuuuge dresser.



We finally finished all the bedroom stuff. 6 hours later. With very sore hands and backs and legs from crouching down. Headed to bed, only to wake up and start all over.

Actually, the next day we slept in quite a bit and had a relaxing morning. Ray's Market (grocery store that wouldn't take my check the other day) makes the best blueberry donuts. Now, you might be thinking, "Blueberry donuts... interesting." But they are soooo good! Think blueberry muffin, but way better. My Business Man ran out and got us a few to enjoy before church.

Me, posing with the illustrious blueberry donut. So good! I want another one right now.

After church, we got to work on the living room furniture.



From blank wall...



To full wall!


We looove how it turned out! Yes, it was a butt-load of tedious work, but it really looks great in the room and gives us a lot of storage space that we didn't have before.

Huge dresser.

My dresser!! Love, love, love the vanity mirror. And I put it together all by myself!

Our bed, with new nightstands and purple lamps. Lovin' the whole black and white look.

All in all, a very productive weekend here in Bean Town. Until next time!

 
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