Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tasty Thursday: All Spiced Up

{Tasty Thursday | Chai Brownies}
Recipes, Tips, and Inspiration from my kitchen to yours.

Don't these just look delicious? Guess what? They are! And they're super easy to make!

This is my newest twist on brownies, and D has declared them a winner! I'm always looking to spice things up a bit, and the chocolate in these brownies balances nicely with some chai tea flavor. I cheated and used a box brownie mix and a scoop of Tastefully Simple's Oh My! Chai drink mix (one scoop of the mix is roughly 3 Tablespoons). They would be just as good with some homemade chai mix instead, like Taste of Home's Spiced Chai Mix. You can play around with the spices and add or subtract depending on your personal preferences, and use the mix for a steaming mug of chai tea later.
For extra gooey brownies, I added a handful of chocolate chips. Yum!

These brownies are the perfect fall twist on an always-welcome dessert! What other ways do you like to spice up your brownies?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

This morning brought to you by:

- Chocolate Caramel Nut coffee (A birthday present from the Historian, so yummy! Incidentally, her first day of classes for her Ph.D. start today -- so excited for her!)
- the newest September/October issue of Midwest Living (FALL! YAY!)
- my lovely new finds from Hillcreek yesterday (a last minute trip to Columbia for my computer which coincided with a 75% off end of season/moving sale? of course! It's amazing what $30 can get you.)

4 skeins Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in Gold
2 skeins Debbie Bliss Amalfi in Mauve
2 skeins Debbie Bliss Amalfi in Pale Pink
2 skeins Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in Rose/Violet (not sure of the colorway. It definitely looks more rose than violet, but there's a different number called Rose)
2 skeins Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in Buttermilk
3 skeins Ella Rae Rimini in Brown

This afternoon, I do believe I'll knit....  Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tasty Thursday: Apple and Black Raspberry Chipotle Pork Loin

I've been enjoying one of my last weeks remaining in the summer by staying busy in the kitchen! We've successfully eaten most of the leftovers in the fridge, and I was really hungry for a new, home-cooked meal. I decided to take a look in the freezer and fridge and this is the result!

{Apple and Black Raspberry Chipotle Pork Loin}

Doesn't that look delicious? It was!
This was actually a really simple recipe to put together, and only used a few ingredients!

- Pork Loin {I bought mine as a huge 12-pound loin, or some weight similar to that, because it was on a really good deal at Woods. I then cut it up into smaller approx. 2 pound portions. This made it: easier to fit in the freezer, quicker to unthaw, and more practical for dinner time.}
- Salt and pepper
- 1 small Gala apple
Fischer & Wieser Four Star Black Raspberry Chipotle Sauce {Seriously. This stuff is DELICIOUS. I'm sure their other sauces, jams, and jellies are just as tasty!}

1. Salt and pepper pork loin and place in crockpot.
2. Cut up apple and put on top of pork loin.
3. Pour sauce over top. How much is up to you. I used enough to cover the bottom, but not so much to make it really soupy.
4. Turn crock pot on LOW and cook for 6-8 hours.
5. Serve and enjoy! I drizzled on a little more sauce from the bottle, and served ours with rice, mixed vegetables, and salad. YUM!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Muffins and Musings

I debated saving this culinary adventure for a Tasty Thursday post, but as I followed a recipe and I'm impatient, they're going to tempt you today instead.

Yesterday I woke up and found myself in a baking mood. I hadn't baked muffins in a while, and this delicious recipe is in one of my favorite muffin books. Way back in the college days (Haha! Like it was really that long ago?), my friends and I liked to walk down to Borders and discovered it on one of our excursions.

Cinnamon and Walnut muffins, anyone? I enjoyed one this morning with my coffee (in my favorite mug, of course!), and they're definitely a keeper! Next time though, I think I'll add a little more cinnamon. ;)

I don't have much else to discuss, although I am working on a few gifts for some friends and should hopefully have those finished within the next few days.

Also, there's something about 4-part harmony that makes me really happy. I've been listening to quite a bit of Lutheran Public Radio lately, and it's been nice to have so much church music running through my head. I've even been able to recognize a few artists without looking! Downside: how much it makes me nostalgic for college and our wonderful music program, singing in the chapel choir, and going to chapel (especially on festival days... so much musical gloriousness). Upside: makes me eager for Christmas and listening to Lessons and Carols again!

Hubby has meetings tonight, which means I'm so cooking tilapia for supper! :)

{The cookbook, for anyone interested: 1 Mix, 100 Muffins by Susanna Tee.}

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Welcoming Guests in Style

Some of my favorite college memories come from touring with my university's Wind Symphony all over the country {and internationally! China 2009, whoo!}. We had two tours each year, a long weekend in the fall and our 10 day Spring Break, visiting Lutheran congregations and schools, sharing our music and faith with those in attendance at our concerts each night. {Of course, we had some free time as well...}

Each night after a concert, we stayed with host families from the congregation we visited, spent time getting to know them, and relished a few hours of sleep in a bed substantially more comfortable than a bus seat. One young couple we stayed with junior year truly understood what it was like to live on a bus for 10 days with 60 other college students, and provided us a useful little basket in our room full of toiletries we may have forgotten or already used up. It was one of the most thoughtful gifts I could have received, and I loved that she went the extra mile in making our stay pleasant. :)

This past weekend, my best friend M came to visit {of course, for the State Fair. I'm going to pretend she came to see me, too}. In the same vein as our lovely host mom years ago, I provided her with a little welcome gift and toiletry basket.

Except mine..... came in a margarita glass. How fun is that?!

Items I included:
- shampoo and conditioner
- lotion
- deodorant
- toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, and some gum {Trident sample from my dentist's office}
- comb

So many of these items I got as samples from various organizations, or my mother-in-law {who happens to work in a dental office and loves sharing the free goodies with us}.

You could also include soap, tampons or other feminine hygiene products, shaving cream, aspirin, bath pouf, or anything else someone may forget to pack. It depends on your guest -- you know them, so it's easy to personalize it.

I also included a little bath set for her to take home and a handwritten note designed to sound like a hotel welcome card. The best part? The first words out of her mouth upon seeing her margarita: "Bleez! It's just like on tour!" :)

What are your favorite ways to welcome your out-of-town guests?

Friday, August 17, 2012

In Which I Win a Ribbon at the State Fair!

On Wednesday, I decided to have a "me" day and take myself to the State Fair. It was a lovely day! I ran into a few people I know, had funnel cake for lunch (which, by the way, is completely unhealthy and delightfully delicious), walked around a LOT, bought a few Christmas presents (yippee!), and even won a ribbon in the Fastest Knitting competition!

 {No joke! D laughed at me when I told him about it, because he didn't think I was serious.... totally serious, and I'm ridiculously excited and proud to have won this ribbon! :D}

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cooler Weather!

We've finally been having some cooler weather and RAIN this past weekend! {Thank you, God!} I've celebrated by enjoying a few cups of coffee and knitting away on my shawl. I didn't complete it in time to qualify for a Ravellenics medal, but I am on the last chart! Too tricky to bring to Knit Night tonight, but I'm really excited for the progress. :) This shawl is making me look forward to autumn even more, and I'm finally starting to think about planning my fall knitting [coincidentally, fall is also my favorite season].

Do you have any fall knitting, crafting, or other activities planned?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Lately, we've been enduring drought and ridiculously hot weather. I've been hiding inside as much as possible, but still enjoying life. 

Here's some photos of what I've been up to lately:
I finished the towel and dishcloths for the auction basket I put together. I think it turned out really cute, and the pattern was oh, so easy. [The basket included this hand towel, two dishcloths, a pot scrubby, pan scraper, two bottles of hand soap, some recipe cards, a wooden spoon, and spatulas.] Of course, I forgot to take a picture of the baskets once I had put them all together! [I also donated a tea basket, including a mug, tea caddy, and sampling of different teas.] Definitely planning on making more of these towels -- these make great gifts and don't take too long to knit.
A dear sister in Christ and I celebrated our birthdays (hers is only a few days after mine) with our college girlfriends. We enjoyed dinner at a winery, complete with fabulous company, delicious wine and food, and free birthday dessert!

We "kidnapped" the seniors in our youth group as a last farewell before college starts this fall. After visiting the Science Center, we made a quick stop by the Seminary before dinner at Seamus McDaniel's. What a fun day in St. Louis!

     In the kitchen: We had a few cooler days this past week, and I really wanted pizza but was looking for something a bit healthier and cheaper than purchasing it from a pizza chain. Behold: homemade pizza, complete with bacon, pepperoni, peppers, onion, and yummy cheese. Of course it was accompanied by a quality Lutheran beverage, in the form of Sam Adams' East-West K├Âlsch.
Tonight, I needed a little extra freezer space from my recent stock-up of meat, and had some mashed bananas in the freezer that needed to be used up. Chocolate chip banana bread smells so good, and I love this recipe I got out of my favorite church cookbook! North Dakotans definitely know how to cook!

On the needles: My Wisteria Lace Shawl (this year's Ravellenic Games project) has been progressing fairly well. I've only had to fix a few mistakes so far, but I'm further behind than I had hoped by this point. My goal for tonight is to finish Chart A. [We're ignoring the fact that the goal has remained the same for a few days now...]
D's Vest has been my go-to knitting for Knit Nights lately. 17 inches of stockinette is pretty hard to mess up, and as with most Knit Nights, we enjoy knitting almost as much as talking. :) At this pace, his vest may actually be completed by the time cooler weather finally arrives.