Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesday

Here's our cheap wine of the week this week! We enjoyed this with some friends who made us delicious chicken and pork tacos. Yummy! I brought a straight cabernet and this cabernet/syrah blend because both would have a little spice to pair with the tacos. And both were good with it, but this one was better. Both Brad and I really liked it.

The Purple Cowboy Tenacious Red was about $11.99 at Jewel, and it was smooth and great next to the tacos and guac.

So next time you have good friends that make you tacos, bring this along and have a lovely meal!

Merry Christmas friends! We hope it's a blessed time of family and joy for all of you.

Weekly Recipe Wrap-Up

Hello all,

In keeping with this week's short posts, here's another one to add. I suppose when the holidays come around, I get to just enjoy the fruit of other people's cooking labor more often, and don't have time to make food for us as much.

So my one night of cooking this week yielded a really tasty BLT salad. Brad finished his final project for school and this was his celebration dinner. He wanted a salad, but I knew it needed a little bit of protein substance or it wasn't going to cut it for a whole meal. This turned out to be perfect. A little saltiness from the bacon, a little sweetness from the tomatoes, and a little tang from the dressing. I ended up using spinach for the salad instead of lettuce and it was great.

Lots of yummy grape tomatoes were a bright, delicious touch.

And the only other thing I took a picture of is truly not creative, but it's such great morning comfort food and it made me happy. We had leftover bread from the salad dinner and I knew it would got to waste if I didn't use it, so I ended up making cinnamon sugar toast.

This, a cup of Earl Grey, a blanket, and some falling snow outside my window was the perfect way to start a morning.

Have a truly blessed Christmas week!

Brad's New Website

Hello friends!

This is just to pass along that Brad has finally updated his website with the artwork he's been working on all semester! You should go check it out.

There's a lot of writing, we know, but it helps give a good sense of what this stuff really is and why it's so cool. His direction has changed dramatically this semester, so if you haven't seen his stuff in a while you may want the help figuring it out. It's been a great semester of learning and tweaking and discovering new ways to create. We're so blessed that Brad's had this opportunity to be at this school with these professors. Now he's on to applying for school to hopefully be in the master's program next year.

Here's a hot tip for the site. Follow the birdie! It's pretty dang awesome. :)

Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesday

Hello friends,

A short post about our cheap wine of the week. This week's was the Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon. I know, I know. Somewhat of a cop-out. Admittedly, this is not a creative pick, everyone already knows about Toasted Head. But it's cheap, it's good, and we drank it this week. So it wins. I think I spent $9.99 on it at Jewel, and we enjoyed it.

Hope you enjoy it too!

Weekly Recipe Wrap-Up

Another week, some more good food!

This week was full of some yummy meals. The first was a turkey burger night. It was based off of this Southwestern Turkey Burger recipe, though I used some white cheddar on top and turkey bacon. It turned out lovely, at any rate!

The next meal was one I've been craving for a while. I've made it a few times before, and it's a delicious four-cheese baked macaroni and cheese dish. Emeril's recipe is the baked macaroni recipe I tried first, and it was so good I've never thought to try and find another. You can't see it quite as well in the picture, but it's creamy and nutmeg-y and yummy goodness. I was so excited to finally cook it and serve it. (But we needed a bit of a break between the Thanksgiving amount of food and serving this monster.)

The last recipe was a new one for me. A friend on Facebook was talking about a Greek shrimp recipe and it made me think about making shrimp. I went searching for a shrimp meal that sounded delicious and like something I've never made. This is what I came up with. Good ol' Ina Garten. Always good for some really great food that taste wonderful. (Cook's note, I used half the butter it called for, and next time I'll add another half cup or so of bread crumbs to get a little more crispiness.) It was delicious. Both brad and I really liked it. And I like that it didn't include the pasta that's usually in shrimp scampi.

Here's the shrimps before cooking.

And here they are all finished and bubbly. Mmmmmm.

The side salad with the shrimp was a really easy spinach salad with some hard boiled eggs (thanks Trader Joe's for selling those by the bag), and a lemon-balsamic vinaigrette to go with the shrimp.

So there you have it. Christmas is coming! And I'm hoping to have some very fun pictures of snow and cold up soon. You can enjoy our white christmas vicariously (or you can live here too and wish you were in sunny so cal... either way). Have a wonderful holiday season!

Homemade Holiday

Hey friends. I thought I'd share this idea with you all. I'm sure Christmas is tight for everyone right now, but that doesn't mean that there are less people in our lives that we want to honor and thank and give something great to! I really wanted to give something to the other members of our small group at our new church, because they have been so welcoming and awesome by allowing us in their lives this semester. But with everyone in the group, giving a separate, store-bought gift to all of them wasn't probably feasible. So I decided to do something homemade. And these paint tins of brownies emerged.

I found this great Chocolate Chocolate Chip Brownie recipe on another blog (well, I'm assuming it's great, I've never actually tried it... if you're in my small group, let me know how they turned out). I just used the dry ingredients to make the layers (my friends will have to find their own butter and eggs). I found the paint tins at Michael's, and added some candy cane ornaments I had from an event I was part of at our old church a few years back.

The walnuts were an addition of mine into the recipe, but I left them in their own compartment so people didn't have to add them if they didn't want to. And I put a circle of wax paper in-between the layer of flour/cocoa powder and brown sugar so that it would help with the mixing process.

Lastly I tacked on the name tags with the recipe written on another card and voila! Homemade holiday goodness! I hope they all enjoy them, and I hope this may spark some creative juices in you for your friends too!

Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesday

You know what is perfect with a -20 degree wind-chill night? A cheap wine of the week, of course! (Yes, that's really what the weather will be here tonight... be jealous.)

And this week's was great. We're finally back to a cheap red, yay!

I found this at Whole Foods, one of their 10 great wines under $10 they are showcasing through the season. It's the 2007 Altovinum Evodia Old Vines Garnacha. It was $9.99, and worth every penny. A little light, but some great structure and really smooth flavor. Mmm mmm.

We've met a couple here who are just recently getting into wine, and this will be one I introduce them to for sure. For 10 bucks, this is a great wine, and something I think anyone can enjoy.

Okay, there's the shortest post I've ever done, but the Top Chef finale starts right now, so I gotta go. Enjoy!!

Weekly Recipe Wrap-Up

So this one's on a Monday, oh well. And this is about two week's worth of recipes and goodness, so be prepared for a long one with lots of yummy photos!

It all started the weekend before Thanksgiving when Jonathan was in town. He was here for a work training deal and stayed over the extra weekend to hang out with us. Fantastic. A new person to cook for! I was in the mood to cook scallops again after the great Charleston scallop sucess. But most of the recipes I found were of the same variety. But then Epicurious saved the day with this fantastic Nantucket Scallop Chowder recipe. It's like clam chowder, but with scallops and bacon. So, yeah, it's delicious. (Cook's note, I added corn, and next time I'll use my immersion blender and add in some more potatoes that have been all creamed together to add a little more of that chowder thickness... but it was still amazing.)

The finished product with some lovely paprika and bacon all over it

The best part of that meal, though, was the appetizer. I've made quite a few caprese salads in my day. My roommate in college, Elissa, taught me the beauty and deliciousness of them in college and I've loved them ever since. What's not to love about tomatoes, mozzarella and basil? But this caprese was the absolute best caprese I have ever had in my life. Everything was perfect. Heirloom tomatoes (on sale at Whole Foods), buffalo mozzarella, and Thai basil (a little spicier than regular basil). Mmmmmm mmmmm mmmmm. I could probably eat this every day. And the heirloom tomatoes looked really cool too with their scalloped edges and such.

And what's the fun in having heirlooms if they aren't different colors? Bring on the yellow tomatoes!

The next couple dinners that week were just fun, easy dinners. I knew I'd have more cooking than even I would want to do on Thanksgiving, so I took a bit of a break.

Here's one of my favorite things, breakfast for dinner!

And here's a great chicken corn salad that's one of my go-tos whenever I see boston lettuce in the store. It's based off this recipe, though it's been modified a bit over time.

And last, but not least, was the turkey tortilla soup that I was forced into post-Thanksgiving. So, as you know, I didn't roast a huge turkey for thanksgiving. I did this Turkey Osso Bucco recipe instead. It turned out wonderfully. But I way overbought on the turkey parts. We just used the turkey breast pieces I'd gotten, and so I had these two gigantic turkey legs left over that I didn't know what to do with. (Those large dinosaur legs in the boiling pot of water in the Thanksgiving post.) So after some thought and worry, because I didn't want them to go to waste, we finally hit on a spin off chicken tortilla soup, just with turkey. I boiled those legs for almost an hour, forgetting that this was not the most efficient or effective way to deal with really large pieces of meat. But they finally got cooked, and they were shredded into a lot of spices and goodness and topped with tortilla chips. It worked out. But I'll try and not recreate that next year...

Phew! That's all of them! Have a great week! And for all you west-coasters out there, just know that we had the first legitimate snowfall of the year over here! So it's awesome for now, but I'll soon be rather jealous of you all. :-)

Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesday

It's baaaaaaaack! Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesday has also returned from its hiatus. First a little news, I took the GRE yesterday and it went really, really well. The new computerized version lets you know your score right at the end of the test, so you don't have to wait around and wonder how you did. It was such a relief to see that score pop up on the screen and know all my hard work the last couple weeks has been worth it. Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts for me, I know this is just another confirmation that God thinks I should go to grad school. On to the applications!

Anyway, in honor of the occasion we opened a bottle of Frank Family Blanc de Blancs Champagne to celebrate. (Not a cheap wine of the week by any stretch of the imagination, but I'll include a picture anyway)

But our real cheap wine this week was one my parents and Brad and I enjoyed at Fontana Grill and Wine Bar in our neighborhood. The name of the wine is actually "Reds", which is, obviously, a red blend. It's a blend of carignane, zinfandel, and petite sirah. At the restaurant the bottle was $22, which means in real life it's probably about $15. Still not crazy cheap, but it's a great deal. The wine was silky smooth, very velvety without being overpowering. My Dad and Brad and I really liked it, and my Mom, who normally doesn't like reds, even enjoyed her sip. We'll definitely be getting it next time at Fontana. (Great restaurant, by the way... my Mom and Brad and I had been there when she was in town last, like 6 weeks ago, and the waitress remembered us, very nice)

So if you see it on the menu someday, go for it! I can't find it online (you try searching for "Reds" as a wine and finding it...), so you don't get a picture, but try and remember it if you can.


Thanksgiving Time in Chicago

It's been a crazy time here in the windy city, and we've had a ton of friends and family over to visit us! It's been great but very busy, so the blog has been sadly neglected. But here's a big Thanksgiving post. My parents came in town for Thanksgiving and have been here for 5 days or so. This was my first Thanksgiving hosting and it went really well! We also got to have Kristen White and her Dad, Moreno, come down from Wisconsin as well, which was great.

Here are my 10 things I learned hosting Thanksgiving...

1) Have friends over! It makes it a lot more fun. Friends also help cook and bring extra food so you don't have to do it all... fantastic.
2) Hosting Thanksgiving actually takes a lot more work and planning than I ever thought it did.
3) You really don't need to roast a huge turkey, you can make Turkey Osso Bucco instead.

4) Mom's floaty shirt can blow into the gas stove and light on fire and then she'll have a big melted hole in it, and then you'll be reminded that you don't have a fire extinguisher

5) Moreno White brings over really cool toys to play with, like a laser pointer that, when you point it at a diamond in the dark will throw off all sorts of cool reflections

6) The Dykeman family recipe for stuffing is still the most delicious stuffing ever.

7) Red gerber daisies are a lovely little touch.

8) When you cook leftover turkey legs, it looks like you're cooking parts of a dinosaur, they're huge and they take forever to cook.

9) Everyone needs huge homemade hands around their Thanksgiving table.

10) There are so very, very many thinks to be thankful for in my life!!! Brad and I are so thankful for all God has given us. He's pretty incredible, and has given us a pretty incredible life.

Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful as well!

Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesday

Welcome back to Cheap Wine of the Week! We're finally back to an actual cheap wine that we actually drank this week.

This week's is the 2008 Paso a Paso Verdejo. I think I found this at Whole Foods, though it could have been Trader Joe's. It was $9.99 and it was another white that I needed to cook with. I'd honestly never heard of the Verdejo varietal, so I was excited to see what it tasted like, but I wasn't prepared to spend a ton of money on it. And I figured if we didn't like it, I'd cook with all of it. But it turns out I liked it well enough to drink it instead!

It's got some nice crisp citrus flavors, with a very little sweetness. I think with some sort of citrus salad or a light chicken dish, it would pair very nicely. I keep finding these whites that I'm enjoying, which is a surprise. I still wouldn't pick a white as a favorite any time soon, but these cheaper, lighter, dry whites have been just nice and refreshing. (And they're always cheaper, so they have a better chance of ending up here...)

Here're a few pictures:

And a close-up of the label, very cool geode looking label.

Have a good week all!

Weekly Recipe Wrap-Up

Another week, another recipe wrap-up!

This was a great cooking week. We got to have friends over Friday night to play Settlers with us so I finally got to cook for company! Of course, I failed to take any pictures of the food, but oh well. The pictures of the dining room from the last post are from that night, so that will have to suffice. Anyway, on to the food I did manage to capture!

The first meal was chicken piccata and some yummy garlic mashed potatoes. I love chicken piccata and I love how quickly it cooks up. The mashed potatoes were an excuse to use some leftover half and half that was going to expire soon. Hearty and delicious!

The next meal we had was for our 3rd anniversary. I was hoping for something really special, and I found this recipe and just wanted to try it out. It was a spinach spaghetti dish with artichokes and mushroom and garlic. I tweaked the recipe by adding the mushrooms and taking out the sundried tomatoes. (Though it would have had better colors with that pop of red...)

And for dessert, we had my go-to yummy dessert, which is fresh fruit over vanilla ice cream. I was inspired to add a little something different by a friend's blog ( who had a post a few days ago on Pomegranates. She's right, they are so much fun to pop out, and they are truly delicious. So I added some pomegranate arils to the classic raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, and macerated them in some sugar and freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Yummy.

And lastly, on an impulse buy at Whole Foods, I found some trout on sale, and figured that I should try my hand at whole trout. I grew up with my Dad's small-mouth bass and sauteed potato dishes, and I wanted to emulate that a little bit. But, unfortunately, I don't have the secret recipe for the breading he uses (I've never asked, he might be willing to share), and these trout were completely whole, heads and all (though I had the guy chop those off, I couldn't handle it). So I went for an oven-baked preparation, but still had those delicious Hamilton potatoes. Oh my word. This was some yummy fish. Of course, anything with all those herbs and lemon and white wine sauce would be good. But this was quite yummy.

Here's the raw trout with the herbs getting smooshed in there.

All bundled up in its pouch!

And the final dish.

That's all for now. Hope you have a good upcoming week everyone!

Brad's Artwork

I wanted to show off a few new pieces of Brad's. He's been working on these huge "artifacts", as he calls them, of a lost world online. They are these much-larger-than-life pieces that are drawn solely on the computer (using his tablet). They are so awesome. And since we have them printed out now, we decided to put them up in the dining room. Why not? Hands can eat, and cook, and do all sorts of dining-related activities. And since the dining room doubles as Brad's workspace, this seemed appropriate for that as well. I really like them and I thought you all would like them as well. They are so cool!

Here's as much of both of the hands as I could get in one photo. These are both about 7 feet wide and 4 feet tall. Pretty huge.

And here's somewhat of a detail of just the one hand (this one's Brad's hand, the other one is mine).

Hope you're having lovely weekends, even though the college football scene today was awful!

Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesday

This week's wine was really cheap (for us), it was free! We had the privilege of being part of my friend, Elissa's, wedding on Saturday, and I am going to combine a post about that day with my weekly one celebrating one of the wines at the reception.

The wedding was wonderful. Elissa met Chris two summers ago at her church. Chris was going to seminary and was at her church as an intern (or something like that), and she was invited by her aunt to help on a project with him. Apparently she didn't do much on the project, but she and Chris certainly became great friends really quickly. It has been wonderful watching their relationship and I am so thankful that she has found a man that loves the Lord and her so very much. My absolute favorite part about the wedding is that it means she is finally moving out to Illinois! Chris is a pastor at a group of churches down in the Quad Cities area, which is about two and a half hours away. Yay! That's a lot closer than Phoenix!

Here are a few pictures from the wedding.

This is my favorite getting-ready picture, her mom and sister were helping her get into that gorgeous dress and she was cracking up at the process.

And here's the wonderful couple. Officially Mr. and Mrs. Heller!

And here's a little bit of detail from the reception, the flowers and "tent" made out of lights were just stunning.

As for our "cheap wine of the week", that honor goes to the ZD Cabernet we had at the reception. It was really delicious, with all that you hope for out of a nice Cab. And we were really happy to be able to drink such a great wine without having to buy it ourselves! For anyone that was also at the wedding, I'm sure you enjoyed it as well. For anyone else looking for a great "cheap" wine, I suggest you find some good friends who will let you try it out on their dime. :-)

Congratulations Chris and Elissa! We love you and we are so happy to have you as in-state neighbors!

PS ~ Happy 3rd Anniversary to us! Brad and I will be drinking another not-cheap-wine-of-the-week tonight in honor of our day. We got to go to Napa on the trip out here and that was our anniversary gift to ourselves, so we'll be opening one of the bottles in honor of that.

Weekly Recipe Wrap-Up

Phew! It's been a long week! But a great one. I was in Phoenix Wednesday through tonight for my college roommate, Elissa's, wedding. Brad joined me Friday night and we had a wonderful time with her friends and family and I'm so thankful I got to be a part of her day. God has already blessed them so much. And they're moving to Illinois in the Quad Cities area! Yay!!

So I didn't get a chance to cook much this week. But a couple good recipes came out anyway.

First up was a night where we needed something warm and filling to make a crisp, fall night more inviting. So what's better for that than french onion soup? I found a recipe online that looked really good. Here it is. And it was really good, but it took a whole lot longer than I prepared for. The caramelizing of the onions took about two hours. But it was worth it. Mmmmm mmm good. Unfortunately, I don't have oven-sfe bowls, so I wasn't able to broil a great Gruyere topping onto the bowls that you dig through, but the Gruyere topped bread had to suffice.

And my other opportunity to cook came in Phoenix. Mom was working late and it was up to Dad and I to make something to eat. So we scrounged around a little bit and came up with these frozen tempura shrimp that we needed to make something with. And I found this recipe for some cold sesame noodles. The best part? The only things we needed to buy at the store were the egg noodles and the cilantro. Nice $4 meal.

Here're the noodles (honestly the best peanut sauce I've ever made, it would be delicious on anything)

Here's the finished product:

I promise to cook some more this week, but I appreciated the help from my Dad and it was pretty fun to have another audience other than Brad to eat with me. :-)