Potluck MVP! Stuffed Artichoke Casserole

My first visit to New Orleans was in the fall of 1998.  I studied for my undergrad degree at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. Go Badgers!!

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My freshman year roommate brought me to her hometown of Metairie, Louisiana. There I tried my first ever stuffed artichoke, we spent at least an hour peeling off its leaves and scraping the artichoke meat and breading off. Amazing!

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I’ve tried to bake my own stuffed artichokes over the years but it takes so much time and effort.  This week I tried a recipe that gives all the flavor without all the cleanup!  It makes a great addition to a holiday meal, it may even replace green bean casserole at my family dinner. The recipe can be found on the local Nola site, re-posting here:

Stuffed Artichoke Casserole

Makes 8-12 servings

3 (16.8 ounce) cans French-cut green beans, drained

2 (14 ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained

2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs

8 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

3-4 pods garlic, minced

1 medium onion, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain the artichoke hearts and chop into pieces.

Pour the green beans, artichoke hearts, bread crumbs, cheeses, chopped onion and garlic, Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese into a 9- by-13-inch baking dish that has been coated with nonstick spray. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to blend everything thoroughly. Drizzle olive oil over the top and cover the dish with aluminum foil.

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes.

Note: I’d squeeze some fresh lemon juice on the casserole just before serving.

IMG_1979Try it, you’ll love it!

Sarah

 

Win that Cookie Swap! Ginger Cookie Recipe

This past weekend was a whirlwind of to-do lists and fun events.  I started off Friday by posting my first ever youtube video!

Then it was off to Virginia Beach to celebrate a friends birthday.  It was 78 degrees at the beach on Saturday.

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The only hint that it was December was the Santa surfer.

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Finished off with a sold out show in downtown Norfolk.  If you haven’t heard this song, it is so much fun to sing at the top of your lungs!

By Sunday it was time to drive back home and bake up a storm for my cousin’s 13th annual cookie swap.  If you have never attended a cookie swap, everyone brings 6-7 dozen of their favorite homemade holiday cookie. Then you swap your cookies with everyone there so you get a huge variety of cookies without all the headache.

For the swap we had 21 different types of cookies!

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It was a tableful of calories, and a full time job to keep the kids in attendance from pigging out.

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Once the swap begins, everyone works their way around the table grabbing 6 of each type of cookie.  After the first round you can go back and get 4 cookies. Everyone keeps going around until the cookies are done!

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At this cookie swap we also vote on best Rookie cookie, most festive, most difficult to make, and best overall cookie.  And guess who won best overall cookie? This girl!! Shared with my favorite cookie tester.

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So here is the award winning recipe:

Ginger Cookie Sandwiches with Caramel Buttercream
Soft and chewy molasses ginger cookies are sandwiched together with caramel buttercream frosting!

Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 18 sandwich cookies
Ingredients

For Ginger Cookies:
1 c. sugar
¾ c. shortening (Crisco)
1 egg
¼ c. molasses
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cloves
1/4 c. chopped crystallized ginger
⅓ c. sugar, for rolling

For Caramel Buttercream:
½ c. butter, softened
½ c. prepared caramel sauce
1½ tsp. caramel extract (I find this easily at Walmart with the other
extracts)
3 ­ 4 c. powdered sugar

Directions
For cookies:
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together sugar and shortening.
2. Add in egg and molasses. Mix until well­ combined.
3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, ginger, and spices until well blended.
4. Add flour mixture to mixing bowl, beating until well­ combined.
5. Roll dough into 1­inch balls and roll the balls in granulated sugar.
6. Place them 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-­10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

For frosting:
1. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and caramel sauce til blended.
2. Add caramel extract.
3. Add enough powdered sugar that the frosting is thick and fluffy, but spreadable. Beat until fluffy.
4. Form cookie sandwiches by spreading the bottom of one ginger cookie with buttercream, and topping it with another cookie.

Enjoy

Notes
You must measure the molasses accurately. Too much, and the cookies will get sticky and goopy.

 

Back to Reality

Holidays – done

Sadie is still mad I made her wear the gift bow all day.

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First accomplishment of the New Year was taking down the Christmas tree.  This bad boy is straight vintage, I have the original box from when my grandparents bought it in the 1950’s from a department store in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

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I didn’t put up a tree last year for fear of the cats attacking it. So this year I found a solution, under that grey wrap that’s serving as a tree skirt is a completely duct taped base.  Yep, used one of my Ikea side tables and made sure that tree could not get knocked off.

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It worked! Aside from a few branches that Max managed to pull out, the tree survived.

So even after I persevered to ignore the Holiday shopping pressure, I’m still a bargain shopper at heart.  Here are some steals I managed to gift myself during the after holiday sale blitz.

I took a quick trip to NYC in mid-December and made it a point to do some shopping.  Usually when I visit the city I’m so focused on not getting lost and losing my luggage that I never really buy anything.  This time there was a full afternoon spent scavenging SoHo for some deals.

Best purchase: Uniqlo HeatTech Leggings, $22

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It’s about 5 degrees outside today, and I was perfectly comfortable commuting in these leggings. I’d seen other bloggers recommend this brand and so far I’ve been impressed. I’ve washed these a couple times and they are not fading or pilling.

Combined with my new leather boots from Target ($75), I’m styling 😉

Nordstrom is killing it with their merchandise and markdowns lately.  Picked up some adorable pajamas: Sleepyhead Thermal Pajamas, $32.16

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And stocked up on some essentials, the Worthington line at JCPenney is now my go to for daily work wear.  Their Modern Trouser Pants, $40, are great quality, come in five different sizing options, can be worn year round, and have a flattering fit.  With over a 1,000 reviews, I’m not the only person sporting them 🙂

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I ordered a couple of their blazers to check out, couldn’t find a lot of deals on suits.

Lastly, I’ll be getting my Olivia Pope on with this dress from Boden: Sixties Wool Shift in Navy ($114)

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What’s not going into my closet? These leggings, a gift from the BF. I couldn’t make this up, spandex leggings with an assortment of cats.  He wonders why I won’t try them on……..

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Find any good deals this week? Please share 🙂

Sarah

Pressure to Shop, Spend & Buy

I am the first to admit that I thoroughly enjoy shopping. If I’m having a crappy day, I will hop on my iPad and find something new and shiny to make my life better. This has led to four closets stuffed full of clothes, shoes, purses, etc. that I rarely use. This could be my future!

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Over the past year I’ve been working on slowing down my shopping game and focusing on a more minimalist mindset.  Blogger posts about capsule wardrobes have been inspirational as well as the financial bloggers that focus on long term goals.

But the pressure of the holiday season is quickly unraveling my progress. On Cyber Monday I felt so overwhelmed by all the ads, emails, and promo codes that I didn’t even want to shop.  The combination of the list of Christmas presents to procure and the never-ending deals being offered daily creates anxiety that I’m going to miss out on the best gift if I don’t buy something right now.

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Some of the pressure is my own making.  I get daily emails from all of my favorite stores and brands announcing the best deals and most wanted gifts.  Reading the gift buying guides from the hottest bloggers adds fuel to the fire. And then there’s actually going to the sites and sorting through the thousands of discounted goods.  It’s here that I often end up picking out a couple items for myself as well.

So here’s what I’m doing to try to keep my sanity this holiday season:

No Window Shopping – It’s when I wander through a sale that I will end up picking out items that my family and friends don’t really need.  No matter how good the deal, if they don’t use the gift, it’s wasted money.

Mindful Gifting – Along the same lines, be thoughtful about each gift and its purpose. Just because its the hottest gift of the season doesn’t mean its the right gift for my siblings.

Selective Email – There’s no need to checkout every sale or email.  Keeping my focus on the stores that I know I will be buying from will keep me from getting overwhelmed.

Budget – The purpose of the season is to share joy and love with those around you, not to max out your credit cards and miss your mortgage payment.  I have a special savings account that I auto deduct funds to during the year to budget holiday shopping.

Reality Check – Retailers offer discounts throughout the holiday season, there is no harm in waiting until next week’s payday or until you know what you can afford. If it sells out, so what? Its not the last cashmere cardigan on the face of the earth.

Take a breath – focus on the joy the gift will bring your loved one, and how much more relaxed you’ll be knowing it isn’t wreaking havoc on your credit score.

I hope your staying sane this holiday season 🙂

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Blah Blah Blah Holidays

I have no motivation for home projects this week.  I’m in holiday season survival mode.  Trying to wrap up everything in the office before I start my vacation, attending potlucks and secret santa exchanges, and finishing up my holiday shopping for the family.

It never fails, each year as it gets really close to Dec.25th, I panic that I haven’t bought enough presents.  Then I over spend and impulse Amazon shop.  Yey, holidays.

Anyway, when I get back from visiting the family I have a project lined up.

My first reupholster project EVER.  Check out my $15 Nova Restore find.

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It’s going to be amazing! Or it will look horrible and I’ll never speak of it again.

Hope everyone is enjoying the week and panicking with me!

Extra bonus, pic of the kitten Max stealing the dog’s bed, Sadie then squeezed into the cat bed.

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Have a great week,

Sarah