Friday, January 31, 2014

product review: cardstore.com


it's always so nice to send greeting cards for different occasions, but let's get real . . . it can be such a hassle.  you have to go to the store, pick out a card, fill it out, address it, stamp it, and mail it.  well, sending greeting cards just got a whole lot easier thanks to cardstore.com.

cardstore.com lets you choose and personalize greeting cards, then they address and stamp the cards, and mail them out for you!  talk about simple.  you can do it all right from your computer, without ever having to leave the house.  you don't even have to get out of your pajamas!

recently, i was contacted by the team at cardstore.com to see if i was interested in doing a product review of their cards.  i was excited to see what they had to offer, so i jumped at the chance.  since valentine's day is right around the corner, i decided to make a valentine's day card for ryan.


there were over 500 options of valentine's day cards to choose from!

after looking through all of them, i decided to pick this cute card with a tandem bike on the front.  it was the perfect card since ryan and i just bought a tandem bike last summer and we absolutely love riding it together.


it was so easy to customize the card that i made for ryan.  i was able to choose how i wanted the layout of the inside of the card and the back of the card to look.  i also uploaded pictures to include in the card too.  it only took me a few minutes from start to finish.

after i customized my card, i got to see how it looked in the preview mode before i approved it.  i placed my order, and it was easy as could be!


i was surprised how fast ryan received my card.  he got it in the mail just a few days after i ordered it.  the card turned out really great, and ryan really loved it!  


i would definitely recommend cardstore.com to anyone.  it is super easy to use.  cardstore.com even has a free mobile app too, so you can upload pictures from your phone, and then create and mail cards while you're on the go!

right now, cardstore.com is offering valentine's day cards for $2.49 with the code CCA4312 through 2/7/14 which is perfect since valentine's day is right around the corner!

love, laurie

. . . 

*please note: cardstore.com sent me a free greeting card in exchange for a product review post.  however, the content of this post is based solely on my own personal opinion and experience.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

kitten love.


leko is such a little love bug.  he always loves to be exactly where we are, and he loves sitting on our laps.  since it has been extra cold outside, he has been cuddling extra close lately.  on sunday, i was sitting at the dining room table and leko jumped up on my lap.  he must have been cold and tired, because he curled up into a tiny little ball and stayed there for almost an hour!  what a cutie!

love, laurie

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

kitchen basics: cutting a recipe in half

i share a lot of recipes here on the blog, and i thought it might be helpful to also share a few tips/tricks in the kitchen.  so, i decided to start a new series called kitchen basics.  to kick things off, let's take a look at cutting a recipe in half . . .


sometimes a recipe yields entirely too much.  i often find myself cutting recipes in half so that i don't have so many leftovers.  sure, it's easy to cut a recipe in half when there are measurements like 1 cup or 1/2 teaspoon, but it's a bit more confusing when there are measurements like 1/3 cup.  if you're cutting a recipe in half, how do you measure 1/6 of a cup?  well, i came up with this little chart that breaks it down for you.  hope you find it helpful!

are there any kitchen tips/tricks that you would like to learn?  leave a comment or send me an email to let me know what you would like to see next in the kitchen basics series.

happy cooking!
love, laurie

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

brown sugar bacon waffles


you could say we are slightly addicted to waffles and pancakes on the weekends.  we are so well behaved during the week with our cereal for breakfast, so it's nice to have some fun on saturdays and sundays.

over the weekend we made waffles for breakfast with brown sugar bacon in them.  this wasn't our first rodeo with brown sugar bacon, but it was the first time we ever put it inside waffle batter.


if you are a fan of bacon, you absolutely need to try brown sugar bacon.  it is the easiest thing in the world to make and it is so incredibly good.  all you do is arrange uncooked bacon on a baking sheet and sprinkle brown sugar over the top of it.  the bacon gets really crispy in the oven and the brown sugar caramelizes on top of it.  oh my goodness!


as if brown sugar bacon wasn't good enough by itself, it is even better inside waffles . . . with maple syrup.  yum!

this recipe made plenty of waffles, so we had leftovers.  store your leftover waffles in the refrigerator in ziploc bags and then reheat them in the toaster.  (of course you could freeze them too.)

now, if you are a fan of chicken and waffles, might i suggest trying these waffles with some poultry.  we didn't have chicken prepared, but we did have turkey.  (i roasted a 13 pound turkey over the weekend.)  so, on sunday night, ryan warmed up one of the leftover waffles and covered it with some turkey and gravy.  oh my goodness, it was so good.

last week we ate a ton of vegan and vegetarian recipes . . . this week, not so much.  you know, balance :-)


brown sugar bacon waffles
prep time: 10 minutes
baking time: 15-20 minutes
cooking time: 4-5 minutes per waffle (depending on your waffle iron
yields: about 5 servings
adapted from joy the baker

ingredients:
uncooked low-sodium bacon
dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

directions:
preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and preheat your waffle iron according to the manufacturer's instructions.

to make the bacon: cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  arrange the bacon on the baking sheet in a single layer.  generously sprinkle the brown sugar over the bacon.  bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy and the sugar has caramelized.  remove from the oven.  place the bacon on a cutting board (not a paper towel, they will stick) and allow the bacon to cool.  once cooled, chop the bacon into small pieces.

to make the waffles:  in a bowl, combine all of the ingredients and whisk until incorporated.  fold in the chopped brown sugar bacon.  pour enough batter into the waffle iron to just barely cover the waffle grid (usually about 1/2 cup of batter per waffle).  cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the waffles are golden brown.  once cooked, transfer the waffles to a baking sheet and keep them in a warm oven while you prepare the remaining waffles.  serve hot with maple syrup.

enjoy!
love, laurie

Monday, January 27, 2014

a few snapshots from the weekend . . .

^basking in the sunshine and watching morning shadows^
^brown sugar bacon waffles (i'll share the recipe tomorrow)^
^thanksgiving in january - making a wish on the wishbone (ryan won)^
^recipe testing - a failed attempt at vegan pumpkin pie^
^passed out between the blankets during the grammy awards^

love, laurie

Friday, January 24, 2014

how to: make your own ipad sleeve


ever since we bought our ipad air in november, i have been searching for a way to keep it safe.  you know how it is . . . you get a new toy, and you want to keep it pristine for as long as possible.  as soon as we got it, we put a screen protector and a case on it right away.  i love the case that we bought, but it leaves the top and the bottom edges of the ipad exposed.  i really didn't want the edges to get scratched, so i started hunting for a sleeve to put it in.  i searched everywhere for a sleeve that was inexpensive and large enough to fit our ipad with its case on.  since i couldn't find what i was looking for, i decided to make my own!

i had an idea in mind of what i wanted, so i searched the internet for d.i.y. ipad sleeve patterns.  i didn't find what i had in mind, so i just decided to wing it.  the end result turned out to be pretty close to what i imagined, and it was inexpensive and fun to make.  now we have a sleeve that fits our ipad with it's case on!


i actually made three of these ipad cases.  the first one i made was a bit snug for our ipad when the case is on it.  so, i decided to make a second one since i had extra supplies.  the second one (pictured above) is a great size and even has room to spare.  both of the first two have velcro to keep the flap closed.

the third one (pictured in the tutorial below) turned out the best.  i ran out of velcro, so i just made the flap on the third one a bit bigger so that it would stay closed.  the third one actually ended up being my favorite.  you know what they say, "third time's the charm!"

now, i have to tell you that i am, by no means, a sewer.  i have enough sewing skills to make minor repairs to a hem or a button, but that's about it.  so, if i can do this, so can you!

here's how i made my own ipad sleeve(s) . . .


step one: gather your supplies.  i bought my fabric and batting at joanne fabric.  (everything was on sale, and i used a coupon too!)  i didn't know how much fabric i would need, so i bought 3/4 yard of both fabrics and 3/4 yard of the cotton batting.  in the end, i had enough to make 3 ipad sleeves and there was a little bit of fabric leftover.  if you want to make just one sleeve, 1/4 yard of each should be plenty.

supplies:
- 1/4 yard fabric for the outside of the sleeve
- 1/4 yard fabric for the inside lining
- 1/4 yard cotton batting
- 8 inches sew-on velcro (not sticky-back velcro)
- thread
- fabric scissors
- ruler
- sewing machine


step two: get your ipad and measure it.  you want to cut your outer fabric, your inner lining fabric, and your batting so that you have three rectangles that are the same size.  you want them to be about 3x the length of your ipad and 1.5x the width of your ipad.


step three: arrange your outer and inner fabrics so that the fronts of the two fabrics are facing each other.  then place the batting on top.  make sure all of the edges line up.


step four: using your sewing machine, sew three of the four edges.  leave one of the short ends open.  use a pair of fabric scissors to trim the excess fabric along the edges.


step five: turn the material right side out, by pulling it through the open end.  tuck the edges of the open end in, and sew the open end closed.  this will be the top flap of the sleeve.


step six: lay out the rectangle so that the inner lining fabric is facing down.  starting from the bottom, fold the bottom up and over the outer fabric part way to make a "pocket."  (your "pocket" will be inside out.)  place your ipad in this "pocket" in order to determine how high you need to fold the fabric.  you want the entire ipad to be covered.


step seven: remove the ipad from the "pocket" and sew the two sides of the "pocket."


step eight: turn the "pocket" right side out.


step nine: flip the flap down over the pocket and enjoy!


optional: you can add velcro to your ipad sleeve to keep the flap closed if you want.  after step five, sew the rough side of the velcro to the bottom edge of the outer fabric.  then, after step seven, sew the soft side of the velcro to the inner lining on the flap.  be sure to line up the soft side of the velcro with the rough side of the velcro to insure that the velcro will line up when the flap is closed.


i had some leftover fabric, so i decided to make a little draw-string case for our ipad charger too.  it's a cute and convenient way to store the charger when we are not using it!

. . . 

there you have it!
love, laurie

Thursday, January 23, 2014

whole grain buckwheat pancakes


when i was younger, my mom used to make buckwheat pancakes.  i always loved the flavor of them.  they seemed so earthy and so healthy.  they were such a treat, and i often think about them.

every time i walk though the health food section of our local grocery store, i always stop to look at the buckwheat flour.  i typically leave it on the shelf since it is so expensive, but on one of our recent trips to the grocery store, i finally decided to buy a bag.  there are many brands of buckwheat flour, but i picked up bob's red mill organic whole grain buckwheat flour.  i couldn't wait to get home and make pancakes with it.


as soon as i bit into these pancakes, i was taken right back to my childhood.  they have a deep, almost nutty flavor, and they are so good.  

instead of being heavy and cakey, these pancakes are light and thin.  they have a great consistency, and they absorb maple syrup and like a sponge.  

we served our pancakes with honey and maple syrup, but they would be great with strawberries on top too!  i can't wait to make these pancakes again.


whole grain buckwheat pancakes
prep time: 5 minutes
cooking time: 10-15 minutes
yields: 2-3 servings
adapted from pancakes

ingredients:
1/2 cup whole grain buckwheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

directions:
in a medium bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.  in a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla.  add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.

heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan on medium heat.  pour 3 tablespoons of batter onto the griddle for each pancake.  cook for 2-3 minutes, until small bubbles begin to form.  flip the pancakes when they start to bubble, then cook for 2-3 minutes, until they are golden brown and cooked throughout.  once cooked, transfer the pancakes to a baking sheet and keep them in a warm oven while you cook the remaining pancake batter.  serve warm with honey and/or maple syrup.


enjoy!
love, laurie

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

turkey chili stuffed red peppers


the weather has been super cold lately.  it was -3 degrees this morning which is absolutely nuts.  (ryan and i are both ready to move to a warmer climate . . . california here we come!)  when it's this cold outside, we crave comfort food.

recently, we did a twist on traditional stuffed peppers by stuffing halves of red bell peppers with turkey chili.  (the stuffed half of the pepper was the perfect serving size!)

we covered them with sharp cheddar cheese which we melted under the broiler, and we served them alongside mashed potatoes.  they were so good!

this dish makes leftovers, which we love.  the leftovers reheated really well in the microwave.  it's so nice when you can make dinner on a weekend and have leftovers for the rest of the week!


turkey chili stuffed red peppers
prep time: 5-10 minutes
cooking time: 15-20 minutes
baking time: 30-35 minutes
yields: 12 servings

ingredients:
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can corn, drained and rinsed
6 large red bell peppers
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

directions:
preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  in a large pot, over medium heat, saute the red onion in the olive oil until tender (about 2-3 minutes).  add the ground turkey and cook until the turkey is cooked throughout.  add the spices, hot sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, beans, and corn.  stir well and allow the chili to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

slice the red bell peppers in half lengthwise.  remove the seeds and rinse with water.  arrange the peppers in baking pans (i used one 9x13 inch pan and one 8x8 inch pan.)  evenly divide the turkey chili among the peppers, spooning the chili into the insides of the peppers.  bake uncovered for 25 minutes.  evenly distribute the cheese on top of the peppers and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted.  (you can also place the peppers under a broiler for a few moments to melt and brown the cheese.)


enjoy!
love, laurie

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

vegan banana walnut waffles


even though we are not vegetarians, we often make a lot of vegetarian recipes.  however, we don't tend to make many vegan recipes.  one of my goals for the new year is to see if i can start cooking/eating a bit more vegan.  it's all about balance in life.  i can eat my weight in chicken parm, so i have to find ways to balance that out.  you know how it is.

we just love breakfast at our house.  we eat cereal every morning on weekdays, so weekends are all about fun breakfasts.  we are pancake and waffle fanatics!

on saturday morning, we made banana walnut waffles.  i'll let you in on a little secret about these waffles . . . they're vegan!

cooking vegan seems so difficult at first, but really it's all about finding the right substitutions.  if you do it right, you won't even know that a recipe is vegan.  that's exactly the case with these waffles.  you won't find any milk, eggs, or butter in this recipe.  we used almond milk in place of milk (of course, you could use soy milk or rice milk too) and we used oil in place of butter.

these waffles turned out so good.  they don't look vegan, and they certainly don't taste vegan.  they actually tasted just like banana bread.  the ripe banana and the chopped walnuts gave them such a great flavor.  there is a hit of cinnamon in them and a dash of pure maple syrup too.  such a great combination.

we served our waffles with sliced bananas, extra walnuts, peanut butter, honey, and pure maple syrup.  (i'm sure a little bit of nutella spread on top of these waffles would be awesome too!)

this recipe made plenty of waffles, so we had some left over.  it's just wonderful to have leftovers, we're big fans of leftovers in our house.  we stored them in the refrigerator in ziploc bags and then reheated them in the toaster when we were ready to eat them again.  you could freeze the leftover waffles too and then reheat them in a toaster or toaster oven.  talk about a great toaster breakfast!


vegan banana walnut waffles
prep time: 10 minutes
cooking time: 4-5 minutes per waffle (depending on your waffle iron)
yields: about 5 servings
adapted from shutterbean

ingredients:
1 3/4 cup almond milk (or soy milk)
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 ripe bananas
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

directions:
preheat your waffle iron according to the manufacturer's instructions.  in a small bowl, combine the almond milk, water, and vinegar.  stir and then set aside to allow the milk to curdle.  in a separate bowl, mash the bananas.  add the curdled almond milk mixture along with the oil, maple syrup, and vanilla.  stir well to combine.  add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.  stir just until combined, then fold in the chopped walnuts.

pour enough batter into the waffle iron to just barely cover the waffle grid (usually about 1/2 cup of batter per waffle).  cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the waffles are golden brown.  once cooked, transfer the waffles to a baking sheet and keep them in a warm oven while you prepare the remaining waffles.  serve hot with sliced bananas, additional walnuts, peanut butter, honey, and/or maple syrup.

enjoy!
love, laurie