Monday, June 27, 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth

Well, friends, we made it! To the most Magical Place on Earth! And they even have the inter-webs here... although no wireless, just ethernet cords. And you have to pay $9.95 for 24 hours of access. So I thought that since I have internet for just 24 hours, I should make the most of my time and blog about our adventures thus far.

We met Mickey & Minnie!
Except the internet is super-slow and it took about 12 minutes to upload this one photo. Not so magical. So I guess this is all you're gonna get. 

But, we've been having loads of fun--Tower of Terror, Rockin' Rollercoaster, American Idol (no, we didn't win), dinner in Italy, and French pastries while watching the fireworks. Ya know, just the usual. ;-)

And now we're off to the Magic Kingdom! Have a great week everyone!



Friday, June 24, 2011

Granola... bars? clusters? crumbles?

Okay... so I set out to make these granola bars to take with us on our travels tomorrow.



Because our flight leaves at 12:28pm, and I'm pretty sure they don't provide you lunch on a 2-hr trip to Florida. Though, I could be mistaken. 


The only thing is... they only kind of turned out as granola bars. More like granola chunks.  Cutting them into perfect squares proved to be quite impossible. We'll just call them rustic?




But, the wonderful combination of peanut butter and dark chocolate can't be beat.


I found these new dark chocolate morsels a few weeks ago, and re-discovered them in my baking cabinet today.




Think itty bitty Dove dark chocolates, in chocolate chip form. So so good.




I combined these with some oats, honey, chopped peanuts, and peanut butter. Keepin' it simple. With real ingredients!




A quick bake in the oven, and you have granola bars chunks! Delicious with a glass of milk or crumbled over some yogurt. Or ice cream. (Shhh... I won't tell.)


The best part? Cleaning up the "crumbs" from the pan...



Peanut Butter Granola Bars


  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup chopped peanuts
  • ¾ cup peanut butter, melted
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Method

Preheat oven to 350*F. Combine oats, chopped peanuts, and honey. Stir in melted peanut butter, then chocolate chips. Spread into greased 9x13-inch pan. Bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Things I'm Lovin', round #2

I did this once back in February, so here goes!


Reasons Why I'm Happy Today


1. The wonderful invention of skype. I got to talk with one of my BFF's who currently lives in South Korea (go read about her life here) this morning! For a glorious 52 minutes and we even got to see each other. It was practically like sitting in the same room. I even gave her a tour of our new house.


2. My mom gave me her Kindle. Okay, she didn't give it to me. She's letting me borrow it for our trip to Disney. (We leave Saturday!) It will be so nice to read on the plane without lugging around actual books. Let's just see if I can figure out how to work it before then. I wonder how many books I could charge to her amazon.com account without her realizing?






3. This week is SUPER DOUBLE COUPONS at my local grocery store. Usually they only double coupons up to $0.50. This week they double coupons up to $1.00! This means I got $58 of groceries for just $34, a 41.3% savings!


Free iced tea!
Love those sweet potato fries! And those smoothies,too...  so good, but they're usually $3+! Not so today.

Pepsi products happened to be on sale 4/$10. What a deal!

Can never have too many brownie mixes. Excited for those Hawaiian buns; must make more chicken salad! And pretzels will be good snacks for our travels.

A bit of produce to get us through til Saturday. Sadly no coupons for this.

4. Great Harvest Bread Company. Ever heard of 'em? My mom and I first discovered this bakery when I was 16 or 17. They make the best bread ever! There are none near the Bean Town, but when I was home this week, we stopped a few times. 


I got a loaf of Cranberry Apple Flax.



Toasted with almond butter & honey.
I also got one of their ginormous brownies, and was gonna snap a pic until I discovered my sweet Business Man finished it off for breakfast. Whoops.

5. The invention of morning radio talk shows. This might sound sort of pathetic, but listening to talk shows when I run in the morning makes me feel like I'm running with people. Although they never quite laugh at my jokes... but at least I can laugh at theirs?


This is still way better though.
6. Sprinkles! Yes, sprinkles. Don't they just make your heart smile?


I made these funfetti cupcakes from How Sweet It Is, and they were fabulous. Just like everything else on her website.


7. And, of course, Disney World! We are traveling to Disney World soon. I am so excited, like a kid in a candy shop. Actually, I have plans to go to Goofy's Candy Company while we're there. You get to design your own chocolate-covered pretzels/apples/rice krispy treats! 





What else should we do while we're there? Besides run around and act like crazy kids. We're up for suggestions!



And these, my friends, are the reasons I'm lovin' today. What do you love about today?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Essential Summer Dessert

Last weekend, my Business Man and I hosted a fiesta for some of our friends in the Bean Town. While everyone enjoyed the food, I think dessert was the biggest hit. (Surprise, surprise.)


We had brownies (from a box, the horror!) topped with chocolate ganache, and fruit pizza.




Fruit pizza is most definitely my "go-to" summer dessert. Since it's the official 1st day of summer, I thought I'd share the recipe! It's delicious without being too heavy or rich. And it's most definitely healthy, because you are eating fruit, right?






The recipe I use is my mom's... she's been using it for years. It starts with a basic sugar cookie base, topped with a cream cheese-whipped topping, and then all the fruit your little heart desires! I usually go with strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, pineapple, and mandarin oranges. But raspberries are really good, too.


Even better when you pick the fruit yourself! (Picking berries on our honeymoon last July.)



A funny story about me & my Business Man (feel free to scroll to the bottom if you don't care): 


In the past, when I've made fruit pizza, I've always lined up the fruits in rows, like little soldiers. A row of strawberries, then a row of mandarin oranges, then pineapple, then kiwi, then blueberries. And it always had to be in rainbow order.  (Control freak much?) 


Anyways, one day I was getting the fruit pizza ready, and it was taking forever. And we were in a hurry. So my Business Man just started throwing the fruit all around, in no order whatsoever. (Insert ridiculous emotional break-down because he was ruining my dessert.) After several minutes of arguing, which might have included some tears (and not by my Business Man), I came to the conclusion that the fruit pizza would look okay if the fruit wasn't in rows. I would survive.


And now look at how I make it, years later: scattered all about. I guess my Business Man does know a thing or two. The only requirement I have now is that there has to be so much fruit loaded on the pizza that the cream cheese layer can hardly be seen. 


So, after all that, here's the recipe! Make this for your summer cook-outs or just to eat yourself. It makes a good breakfast, too. (Hehe.)




Fruit Pizza


  • Crust
    • ½ cup oil
    • ½ cup sugar
    • ½ cup powdered sugar
    • ½ cup butter or margarine
    • 1 egg
    • ½ tsp. baking soda
    • ½ tsp. cream of tartar
    • 2 ¼ cups flour
    • ¼ tsp. salt
  • Topping
    • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 container Cool Whip, thawed
  • Assorted Fresh Fruit

    Method

    For crust, combine oil, sugar, powdered sugar, and butter. Mix well. Add egg. Add dry ingredients. Spread into greased 15x10-inch or 11x17-inch pan, sealing edges. Bake 12 minutes at 375*F until lightly browned. Let cool.

    For topping, blend cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Fold in Cool Whip. Spread cream cheese mixture over crust. Arrange fruit over cream cheese mixture. Store in refrigerator.

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    2011 Steamboat Classic (& Friends reunion!)

    Yesterday was one of my absolute favorite road races of the year... the Steamboat Classic!

    Even better, this year some of my BFF's from college (Talen & Jen) came, and we had loads of fun. (By the way, my Business Man & I traveled home this weekend for fun and to visit with family.)



    We hadn't seen each other in nearly 6 months, so it was great to spend time together doing one of our favorite things: running.


    The Steamboat Classic (located in Peoria, IL) has two race options--the 4-mile and 15km. It's touted as the "World's Fastest 4-Mile" (aka elites come from many different nations to race it) and "Illinois' Toughest 15km". We decided to do the 15km (9.3 miles) to maximize our running time together. Hehe.


    I somehow managed to "forget" to tell the girls that there is a huge hill that we would have to climb twice in the 15km. But they didn't seem to mind too much.


    We had a blast... just running for fun and talking and catching up the whole way. Although we might have slightly annoyed a few of the other runners who were trying to keep their focus. 


    Super-excited to be almost finished! Check out my crazy eyes... I swear I'm not possessed.
    We crossed the finish line holding hands, which was super-special. We managed to complete the race in 1:13:34, a 7:54 avg, which was decent considering the hills and all the giggles!


    Next year we need to make sure the fourth member of the "Fab Four" makes it to the race. That would be just perfect.


    One person wasn't really there... can you guess who it was?


    After heading back to my parents' house, napping, and cleaning up a bit, we headed to one of the best places in the world--Holland's Mercantile


    Peach rings and malted milk balls! Yum.
    Only the best place to load up on candy and sugar after a race.


    Can't go to the town square without taking a fountain picture! (Beckah is on the left... Tal-Tal's sister drove over for the afternoon.)


    Talen, Jen, and of course me. Acting a bit ridiculous.
    And then after coming down from our sugar high we went on saw Bridesmaids. Very very funny. And very fitting because Jen (center in the pic above!) is getting married in August and we are bridesmaids! Can't wait!


    Welp, that's all for now, I've got to make some potato salad for our Father's Day cookout!

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Breakstone's Sour Cream Flavor Lovers Party!

    Like that's not a mouthful, haha.


    So, a few months ago, I applied to host a "House Party" for Breakstone's Sour Cream. Basically, different brands offer "party packs" to people, who then in turn open their homes to friends & family to try out new brands and products.


    Well, I got chosen, and we had the party on Sunday night! Breakstone's has come out with several new flavored sour creams and sour cream dips, and we were supposed to try them out. Unfortunately, our local grocery stores only carried two of the seven varieties, so we only got to try two of the new flavors (chipotle and ranch). 


    We decided to go with a Mexican Fiesta theme, since we were sampling chipotle sour cream. Yes, it's a bit of a stretch. But everyone loves Mexican food!


    Chips & salsa! We served our favorite cherry salsa from Door County.
    Here's what was on the menu:


    Chips & Salsa
    Roasted Corn Dip (<-- this is delicious!)
    Chicken & Steak Fajitas
    Frijoles
    Strawberry Agua Fresca
    Fruit Pizza
    Brownies with Ganache

    It was my first time making fajitas, so I was a little nervous, but they turned out fine! 


    Fajita vegetables ready to go.

    Corn tortillas, duh.

    Unfortunately I was a little busy trying to get everything ready for the fiesta, and didn't get as many pictures as I had hoped.


    We had Strawberry Agua Fresca, which was almost like a fresh strawberry juice! It was very tasty.


    Reusing the glass dispenser from our wedding!
    Fruit pizza for dessert!


    Recipe will be posted soon. Promise.


    As for the sour cream?






    It got a big thumb's up! The chipotle flavor was a nice topping to the fajitas. I imagine it would also be good in enchiladas, or on top of some breakfast burritos. Mmm...




    And now the fun part! As part of the "party pack", I received a bunch of coupons and recipe booklets to give to my party guests. 




    Well, I have a lot of coupons leftover and booklets leftover (8 sets), so if you would like a set, send me an email with your name and mailing address to beantownsara@gmail.com, and I will spread the sour cream love!


    Thank you, House Party, for the wonderful party pack! We had a great time!

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Yesterday's Surprise and Today's Adventure

    Yesterday's Surprise:


    So, as you know, yesterday was my Business Man's birthday. He turned a whopping 24 years old! I mentioned that I had a few surprises up my sleeve, and one of them was that I co-conspired with his team members at the office to throw him a potluck lunch.


    I brought our favorite chicken salad (with Hawaiian buns, of course!) and s'mores cookies. The lovely ladies also brought in goodies to make a complete feast. I was able to sneak in the back door without him even noticing, and set everything up in one of the back rooms. He was actually very surprised! (Especially considering he stopped at home to grab his phone charger when I was making the chicken salad that morning. I just told him I was making ice cream cake. And he believed it, even though I was chopping celery at the time. Celery ice cream cake? Yum?)


    For dessert, I made S'mores Cookies. (Recipe from Picky Palate.) These were good!! A little tricky to make, but very cute. 


    It's basically a mini s'more...




    Tucked inside chocolate chip cookie dough.




    And then baked to perfection! 




    If you haven't checked Picky Palate out before, you definitely should. She stuffs chocolate chip cookies with all sorts of goodies! (Oreos, brownies, Reese's cups...)


    Today's Adventure:


    So, today, we had our house washed and the windows professionally cleaned. I decided that I would get the heck outta dodge while the workers were here doing their thing. Where did I go? Only my most favorite shopping center ever: Easton Town Center in Columbus. 


    I had some Barnes & Noble gift cards to use and some Limited coupons burning a hole in my pocket. Plus, it has been a good 3 months since I've been to my favorite grocery store Trader Joe's.


    Of course, whenever I leave the Bean Town by myself, nothing ever seems to go as planned. First of all, I got a little lost trying to get there and drove an extra 20 miles out of my way. Whoops. (Guess you shouldn't be talking on the phone and trying to follow MapQuest directions at the same time? I will just blame it on my mom... she was who I was talking to.)


    Second, I might have just accidentally locked my keys in the car while dropping off my shopping purchases before going into Trader Joe's. (Remember this post? Same exact thing happened on a previous solo trip to Columbus!) Looks like I can't trust myself to go to Columbus by myself without tragically locking my keys in the car.


    Keys just sitting there. And me having no access to them. Sad.
    Did I mention that I forgot to charge my cell phone before leaving on this trip? So it was screaming LOW BATTERY the whole time I was trying to figure out the situation. Thanks to my Business Man, a locksmith was there within the hour. And due to our awesome car insurance, I think we don't have to pay all of the $84 fee. At least I hope we don't... or I might need to find a summer job. I kid, I kid.


    You bet I went and snatched one of these yummy beverages while waiting for the locksmith to call and praying that my phone didn't die. It lasted through one phone call with the locksmith but not the second. But he still found me!
    Anyways, I finally made it to Trader Joe's.


    I got some oldies, but goodies.


    Naan bread, pizza dough, PB pretzels, dried mango, oatmeal.


    And some new things to try.


    Sun-dried tomato & basil chicken sausage, chicken gyoza potstickers, and shells & cheddar.
    It seems they have discontinued my favorite Cranberry Mango salsa and Poppyseed salad dressing. Sad day. And I was able to resist the Dark Chocolate PB Cups.


    We tried the chicken sausage tonight on the pizza dough, and man was it good. Now, I'm off to watch a movie with my Business Man... a low-stress night is definitely needed!

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Happy Flag Day! err... Birthday?

    On this very day, 24 years ago, a very special delivery was made.



    My Business Man was born! Happy Birthday to my sweetie!


    Last year we didn't really get to celebrate. (The whole being separated by 400 miles and planning a wedding thing kinda got in the way.) So this year, I've got a couple surprises in store.


    But first, a few of the reasons why I love my Business Man:


    He shares my love for ice cream, though probably not quite to the same extent.



    He knows how to have fun when shopping.


    He secretly wants a puppy of his very own. (The more I say it, the more it will come true, right?)


    He enjoys screwing up pictures with funny faces, just like me.


    He's not afraid to get wet in the rain, if it means we're having fun.


    He chose to marry this crazy girl after dating me for over 7 years! That's love, I tell you.


    He is a great leader in our marriage, always looking for what's best for me and our future together.



    Happy Birthday honey... I'm so thankful for you and I can't wait for the 50+ more birthdays to come.

     
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