Monday, February 27, 2012

Our Save The Date

We were trying to save money as much as possible with our wedding. We also wanted to be careful with our weddings carbon footprint. One way were were able to do that was with electronic save the dates sent through email and posted through Facebook. Below are both versions we made.

We used a camera and the basic video software on our computer to make a stop motion save the date. The Mister really wanted to do one with candy, and I really wanted one with letters. So with this one we did both! This saved us money and saved the environment a few trees.

Of course, a video save the date is not for every wedding. What are some of the more memorable save the dates that you have seen?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Make Ahead Breakfast Sandwiches

When The Mister began talking about how we needed to go grocery shopping, I went through his usual list - lunch meat, some kind of sliced cheese, power bars, quick breakfast sandwiches...

So I looked to see what we already have and saw eggs, liquid egg whites, sausage patties, bacon, cheese... Only a few ingredients were missing for those breakfast sandwiches we kept buying at a ridiculous high price for convenience. And I never trust what is in the stuff that is kept in the freezer aisle. We have been making the switch to more homemade, from scratch, whole ingredients at home. But with our tiny budget right now and my busy school schedule, we are making the transition slowly.

So, we picked up some english muffins and jelly.

The Mister wanted your standard english muffin, and the cinnamon raisin kind. So, we mixed it up.

First - I love me a time saver. So, the egg whites were measured out and placed in my large muffin tin. If you are using a liquid egg, 1/4 cup equals 1 standard egg. These buddies were slipped into a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, then cooled. I cooked the sausage and bacon in the oven as well on a broiling rack, but for 10 minutes. I prefer cooking it this way because you get to get rid of some of that fat. While those were cooking, I split open my english muffins, measured out my foil, and scooped The Mister up a bowl of ice cream.

See those perfectly round egg whites? There must have been some bubbles in it when I put them in the oven, because there were some awful large mountains of hollow egg white. But that's ok.

The most important part of making anything ahead and then freezing it is to make sure it cools before you start assembling. It is never a good idea to just pop something in the freezer right after it comes out of the oven. 

This is such a fun thing to make because you can absolutely cater it to your liking. Here is my first breakfast sandwich:

Sourdough English Muffin
Egg Whites
Sausage Patty
American Cheese

I am not a fan of freezer burn (but then again, who loves getting psyched about something you pull from the icebox just to bite in to it and get that yucky taste - happened to me with what was supposed to be delicious garlic bread). These puppies were not going to lose their luster, so I wrapped them first in plastic wrap, and then in aluminum foil. The foil also gave me a handy way to label the sandwiches, too. 

Sandwich numero dos didn't sound as traditional to me, but The Mister wanted it! 

My next set of sandwiches had these ingredients:

Cinnamon Raisin sourdough english muffins
1 egg
Sausage Patties or Bacon Strips (I had used up all of the sausage patties, so I finished off the rest of the english muffins with bacon.)
Strawberry Jelly

These were assembled and wrapped up the same way. I grabbed my sharpie and labeled each after I wrapped it so the hubby would know which one he was diggin out of this very cool ice cream container turned freezer storage. 

And there you have it, folks. A quick breakfast sandwich you can just pull out of the freezer, unwrap and microwave while you put on your shoes to go out the door. Enjoy!

Ice Cream Container Turned Freezer Storage

I use to not be this way. I was totally ok with throwing away anything. But since we started saving jars of all kinds, shapes, and sizes for our wedding, I just. Can't. Stop.

And it seems to have gone beyond jars, now. I dug out the last scoop of vanilla ice cream that we had been working on for a while. I didn't even hesitate when I put the container in the dishwasher instead of our recycling bin. Then I went to dreaming up the possibilities.

This hand container can hold loads of different things - different bags of opened veggies, the pot pies I make for quick lunches for The Mister, our quick smoothie packs... So, I decided to jazz it up a bit.

My go to jazzer-upper these days is a trust container of chalkboard paint. Because this is on plastic, I knew doing several coats would be important. I wasn't interested in painting the whole container - just cover up the words.

Some trusty painters tape was applied. And the coats went on.

It flakes up a bit, which is ok for me right now. But I would recommend anyone doing this to either go the spray paint method or add a base coat down first. I am happy with our new freezer storage container and it is quite useful.

Anyone find a way to use things normally thrown out to organize your home?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Carrot Cream Cheese Muffins

I love me some baking. Now, I am much more cautious before whipping out my mixer and cocoa powder than I was before because I have come to the realization that even though there are only 2 of us living here, a dozen cupcakes can still disappear pretty fast.

But I couldn't take it anymore. I missed the flour on my hands and hitting 350 on my oven. So I compromised and put together a "healthy" baking project. Good thing  I had many carrots in my fridge because I'm weak and had there not been any, I am sure I would have gone straight to the chocolate.

So I measured out my dry ingredients.

Flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, and salt! It is important to have both the baking powder and the baking soda - one work on alkaline ingredients and one works on acidic ingredients to give a fluffy, risen cake. Put all of these dry ingredients together in your mixing bowl.

2 large carrots, peeled and grated. Use the smaller grater to avoid chunks of carrot getting stuck in your teeth when you enjoy your muffin. 1 large carrot can be peeled and grated to equal 1 cup of carrot.

Maple syrup  for sweetness and moistness.

Canola oil - for the needed fats and moistness.

2 eggs at room temperature. If you are like me and keep your eggs in the fridge at all times, you can pull them out and place them on your preheating oven as soon as you decide to bake something. If when it comes time to put them in the eggs are still in need of more warming up, you can gently place them in a bowl of lukewarm water to gently warm them up without fear of getting them too warm.

Add your carrots to the mix!

These beautiful muffins are delicious because they have a yummy cream cheese filling that is sweetened with honey. When buying honey, go local! There are a number of studies that go back and forth between having no benefit and a slight benefit to those who eat local honey and have pollen allergies. Local honey contains the pollen spores of the pollen that floats around causing your itchy watery eyes and nose. Eating local honey can work as a type of vaccination. However, there would need to be continuous and prolonged ingestion to have lasting effects. And those who have severe allergies should take extreme caution and always consult your health care provider before trying any natural remedy or rumored treatment.

Line your muffin tins with your paper cups and fill each about halfway. Drop a little dollop of your sweetened cream cheese mix in to the middle and top with a little more batter. I wanted my cream cheese mix to peel through, so I filled about 3/4 full and then put the dollop with a thin topping of the batter. Place in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

Then top the beauties (when cooled) with the remainder of the cream cheese mix.

Enjoy these for breakfast, brunch, or even a snack! Give them to friends, family, or coworkers. Yummy!

Carrot and Cream Cheese Muffin Recipe
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp all spice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
2 c (2 large) carrots, grated
1 2/3 c maple syrup
2 eggs
1/3 c canola oil

6 oz cream cheese
2 tbs honey

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line 12 muffin tins.
2. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, ginger, salt).
3. Mix the wet ingredients (canola oil, maple syrup, eggs).
4. Combine it all and throw in the carrots. stir well.
5. In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese and honey until smooth and soft.
6. Fill muffin tins halfway. Drop in a tablespoon of filling. Cover with more batter.
7. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Let cool.
8. Frost with extra filling however your heart desires.


Transforming a Desk into a Hutch

This is one of those posts that I wish I had known I would be posting our projects on a blog one day, because I lack many before images on this one. Good thing is that this project has yet to be completed.

When moving out of the furnished dorm and into a furnished apartment (sans desk) for college, I still had super limited funds but a smart cookie of a boyfriend (now my hunky, genius husband). So below is the redone desk in my apartment. It needed a fresh coat of paint and updated hardware. We sanded that thing for what seemed like forever because there were about 5 previous paint colors on this freebie (from Chris's parents garage). The hardware was easily updated with some flat black spray paint we already had on hand.

Then, we got married and moved in together. Our apartment is tiny - less than 600 square feet. We both have a ton of hobbies and I love to use the kitchen so we knew the 5 cabinets and 1 drawer in the kitchen would not suffice. This lead to the next transformation of the desk. We pulled off the old top and replaced it with a piece of Aspen wood that mimicked butcher block and put a similar topper onto the 3 shelves we anchored to the desktop. Black knobs to match the black handles and a coat of matching paint all around gave us this beauty. It was lovely on move in day.

I snapped the shots below this morning. We have acquired more wedding gifts and random things since move in. We needed to store our printer somewhere, so it was placed under the desk atop an Ikea Lack table that fit snugly in. Beneath it is a basket with the extra printer paper.We received more casserole dishes and that made us rearrange the hutch and add some mug hangers. The basket on top of the hutch holds jars and a glass trifle bowl. Our mixing bowls and colanders are stored in the rustic bucket that was a part of a wedding gift packaging - very cute, by the way. We did do a brighter coat of food safe stain to brighten up the wood, which helped it match our island.

So you see, we need more space. And our hutch never quite got completed. Twine keeps the doors closed. There is no back or lighting. Some paint touch ups have to be done. Before we move to our next place in the next couple months with more space, this project has to be finished!

Here is the plan:
Add beadboard backing behind the shelving
Fix the tracks of the drawers (they squeal and squeak) with new tracks
Line the drawers with pretty wrapping paper
Put magnetic plates to keep the doors closed (and ditch the twine tie)
Touch up the paint
Brighten up the top a bit more with the food safe stain.
Add lights on each shelf and below the hutch for the desktop

I think after all of those updates, it will be complete. What do you think? Any more suggestions?