Prosciutto, Mint, and Melon Appetizers (Or A Baby Shower Brunch Idea!)

Yesterday, I was playing around with prosciutto to see if perhaps I might want to do a proscuitto, melon, and mint appetizer for my friend’s baby shower on Saturday.

There's melon in there somewhere.

There’s melon in there somewhere.

I was wrapping mint leaves and the cured meat around balls of cantaloup, when I received word that the shower was off.

Yup, you guessed it… another baby shower canceled due to the early arrival of another baby boy!

Finnie is a big brother now! Yay!!!

Declan is happy and healthy, and so is his mommy, and while I’m disappointed we won’t be stuffing our faces with pork products in his honor this weekend, I’m looking forward to holding him instead really soon!

Also?

I’ll never forget his birthday because he now shares one with my baby who turned four yesterday. ❤

SO not the same thing as a human baby. I know.

SO not the same thing, but I love him with all my heart. And that counts for something, right?

XOXO

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We’re Freezing Our Assets and Our Dinner (Or I Have a Freezer Fetish)

I recently registered for a financial planning course offered at my church. Though I have grown up a lot since my 20s, there’s still room for improvement. Plus, there’s a lot of instability in my industry, and I want to make sure I’m preparing myself properly for it.

Also, Albus was concerned we were spending too much money on lift tickets and not saving enough for retirement.

I think we need to talk about your mutual funds.

My parents are beyond fiscally responsible, and they could have taught me most of what I’m learning in the course, but they’re not patient people. And impatience? It runs in families… so I’m as bad as they are.

So, that’s why I’m paying Dave Ramsey to teach me the things my parents could — because his course was cheaper than the family therapist we’d need if my parents taught me this stuff. (See? I’m already being financially responsible.)

I’m learning all kinds of things I sort of already knew, but the difference is I’m actually putting them into practice willingly. And Albus has gotten into it.

He’s a financial gangster.

Obviously, I need a budget that includes a savings fund, but I need one that doesn’t make me feel too deprived either. I’m not capable of eating the same entrée night after night, but I also can’t justify wasting money by throwing away leftovers.

I’m still working out the kinks in my budget to balance quality of life in the moment with quality of life in the future, but I’m already seeing some great results from my efforts.

One way I’m working around the variety versus spending dilemma in the food category is to make dishes I can freeze. That way if I find myself running low on money in that section of the budget I have tons of options in my freezer that will satisfy my need for variety. I keep the containers small so they represent single serving sizes for a single girl like me. (Not only does freezing make financial sense, but it’s also super helpful to have meals made ahead if you work long hours and come home ravenous like I often do.)

My freezer situation.

My labeling system was inspired by my grandmother. She has a crazy enormous freezer in her basement that is filled with everything from frozen vegetable stock to pot roasts. (Don’t they all? I think that might be a requirement for being a grandmother, actually.) And everything is labeled with masking tape and a sharpie. Personally, I went the painters tape route because I like it better.

So, the freezer is one tool that keeps me on track financially. Menu planning is another. Look out for a post on that soon.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to put on my Ravenclaw pin, grab my owl, and hit up some bars for Halloween in my Hogwarts garb.

Once I get my owl away from the candy gummies, that is….

And, yes, I have a category in my budget for barhopping….

Drive By Bike Insults (Or I’m Not Sharing My Steak with Blue Cheese and Jalapeños)

Here’s what I love about my neighborhood: it’s dog friendly and it isn’t an uptight community where overbearing people tell you how you should be holding your dog’s leash or whatever. Here’s what I don’t like: weird people who shout at you while riding by on their bikes.

Usually I walk the dogs in some sort of baseball cap and yoga attire, but yesterday I was dressed in a sundress for church when I took the dogs out. Some guy with a strange fauxhawk thing happening on his head shouted at me, “Get a boyfriend!” as he rode by on his BMX looking bike.

Um, what?!?

Freak.

Is that what he said to you? I should have bitten him through his skinny jeans.

First of all, who says I don’t have one. (I mean, I don’t, but how does HE know?) Second, why is this any of his business anyway? And third… what in hell does he think he’ll accomplish by shouting at me?

Does he think I’ll go out with him because he’s the perpetrator of a drive by bike insult? Does he think I have dogs because I’m some sad, lonely spinster? Or is he just some weirdo being weird? (Most likely scenario.)

Does this sort of thing happen to other people or is it just me?

I mean I have had baristas who would harass me for being single. Like it’s so hard to believe a woman can like dogs, steak, and football and not be some guy’s girlfriend. Whatever. (“Just hand me my whole milk latte, Chuck Woolery!”) I mean it’s not like I don’t date.

I just, oh, never mind….

Let’s change the subject to happier things. Like the new album by The xx. And steak.

I would like to eat one tonight while I watch Denver and Atlanta on Monday Night Football.

Even though I think a New York Strip can totally stand alone on its own merit, I also think it can benefit from blue cheese and chiles from time to time.

Tonight I used this recipe to make a jalapeno and blue cheese sauce for my New York Strip.

The longer I stay single, the better I get at handling power tools and lighting a charcoal grill without setting myself on fire, so there’s that.

I also added the blue cheese jalapeno mixture to my baked potato, but you should be careful with this because the blue cheese can get a bit overpowering if you slather it all over everything.

Suck it, weird bike boy, I’m not sharing my steak. Besides, I bet you’re a vegan anyway.

Football’s Back and It’s Time for Spicy Sausage (Or How to Make Spicy Italian Sausage with Tomato Cream Sauce on Farfalle)

Fall means spicy meat to me. For real.

I almost can’t believe football is back. I mean, it’s like 93 outside, but whatever. Football means fall to me. So in honor of it all, I’m making my favorite pasta dish for the game tonight. It’s a spicy sausage pasta with a tomato cream sauce, and it’s divine. It basically combines everything I love in this world.

Namely: cream, carbs, and pig.

Do you know what else makes this week a big deal? Besides all of the photos of my friends’ kids’ first day of school all over Facebook?

Yesterday was Albus’ one year adoption anniversary.

On September 4, 2011, I rescued a scared little boy named Bruno from the backseat of a Honda Accord and brought him home with me. I had just planned to foster him, but by September 5, I was making homemade ice cream cookie sandwiches while watching Harry Potter, and I sort of fell absolutely in love with the bombastic beast. Before Harry was off to Hogwarts, I had renamed the dog and informed Woodley we were keeping him.

I mean, look at this face.

What on earth am I wearing, woman?

How was I going to give him up? Woodley might have looked something like this when I told her the big dog was staying.

Another dog? I can’t even look at you.

But now they’re best buddies or something.

I’m not a dog, but I think this means they like each other. Plus Woodley cries at daycare if they don’t let her into the big dog area with her brother, so there’s that.

So anyway, here’s the recipe. It’s easy. And amazing.

Spicy Italian Sausage with Tomato Cream Sauce on Farfalle

2 T olive oil
1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional – I like my sauce really spicy so I add the pepper flakes)
1 C diced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 14.5 ounce cans of chopped tomatoes
½ C whipping cream

1 lb farfalle (or bowtie pasta)
½ C fresh basil, torn
Fresh grated parmesan

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium high heat. Add sausage (and red peppers flakes). Cook until the sausage is no longer pink, about 5 minutes, breaking the sausage into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon as you cook the meat. Add the onion and garlic, sautéing until tender, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and juice.

Put a pot of salted water on the stove to boil after adding the tomatoes to the sauce. Once the water is boiling, cook the noodles according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, simmer the tomato sauce for 20 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced and the tomatoes are a brick red color. Add the cream to the sauce and cook for 3-5 minutes until the cream has reduced slightly.

Drain the pasta and serve the sauce over the farfalle with torn basil on top. Garnish with fresh grated parmesan.

Eat. And smile while watching football and pretending it feels like fall.

My Mac is Back and It’s Time to Talk About Owls (Or How to Make Owl Sachets)

And my MacBook is back in business. Like Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes, rising from the ashes, my Mac (and its mouse) are all miraculously healed.

Sweet relief. I have a full computer screen — and a mouse that works.

So, anyway, I figured it’s time to talk about owl sachets. I should preface this tutorial with the admission that the last time I sewed anything I was about nine. And it kind of looked like a Pound Puppy. If you squinted. Hard. (I also made a panda that week which was equally heinous. I then decided I was done sewing forever and I went back to playing basketball like a proper tomboy.)

See, I own a sewing machine but prior to suggesting we give owl sachets as baby shower gifts, I had not actually removed said machine from the box. I found threading the machine more challenging than the actual act of sewing, but after watching a YouTube tutorial in Portuguese about 15 times, I finally mastered it. (I found the manual utterly useless because it skipped steps assuming one had some rudimentary understanding of sewing. I did not.)

The inspiration for this madness was this fabulous pin I found on Pinterest.

These darling owl pillows are made from Amy Butler fabric and are available on Etsy. Photo courtesy of April Foss on Etsy.

Perhaps a sensible person would not have volunteered herself for a sewing project when she did not actually know how to sew, but I like learning new things. And I am not sensible. Plus, I work best under pressure. If you’re not a lunatic like me, or if you’re pressed for time, you can buy adorable owl pillows from April Foss on Etsy. She has an amazing array of designs. Hers are not sachets, but they are still super cute.

If you want to go the DIY route ‘cuz you’re crazy like me (or actually gifted like April and Martha, which I am not), then here’s the how-to:

I cut an owl shape out of fabric and used it as a pattern. I then pinned it to the fabric I was cutting out.

Woodley decided to help me sew. And by “help” I mean she rubbed her face on the fabric before falling asleep on it.

I sewed around the ears and the sides leaving the bottom open. To achieve a firm three dimensional shape, I filled the sachets with some stuffing I picked up at Jo-Ann’s and I mixed in the dry lavender. Then I hand sewed the bottom of the sachets.

Next I cut out eyes from white and black felt and glued them on with a hot glue gun. I opted to skip the beaks because I thought they were superfluous. I’m sure real owls don’t feel this way about their beaks, but whatever….

Here are my owls getting ready for their glue gun eye jobs.

The adorable gray and yellow fabric is Amy Butler and I found it online. The pink fabric was donated by the other shower host from her stash, so I don’t know who the designer is.

I’ll finish gluing the eyes on the sachets when we reschedule the shower. (See, the guest of honor, baby Connor, decided to arrive 5 weeks early, the day before his own shower. He and his mom are happy and healthy, and now he gets to meet everyone who bought him strollers and stuff.)

Prince Harry, Pina Coladas, and Other Observations on Vegas. (Or I’m Looking for the Perfect Pina Colada)

Note to self: I need hurricane glasses. Pina Coladas just don’t look right when served in the wrong glassware.

You have probably already heard, but just in case you haven’t, Prince Harry’s blurry bum and bits are prominently featured on TMZ today. I mean, he was in Vegas, so it’s kind of, “Whatever. Leave the poor prince alone!” But it is the royal bum, so it’s breaking news. Or something.

(By the way, if you want to see the blurry pics of the prince, who apparently isn’t all that good at playing pool, here’s the link, but maybe don’t click on it if you’re at work.)

You’re welcome.

So, yeah, that’s all very different than my last trip to the strip. The last time I went to Vegas I had a large pina colada outside of Paris after a day at the pool and then promptly fell asleep snuggling with the dogs while watching TV.

The only available “glassware” for serving Pina Coladas outside of Paris were either this balloon situation or a large plastic Eiffel Tower that hung from my neck. I considered this the lesser of two aesthetic evils.

Clearly, I didn’t do Vegas right. I didn’t step on any burning cigarettes or broken glass while carrying my shoes across the strip at 7 am, I didn’t drop $400 on food in two days, and I didn’t play strip pool with a prince.

I mean, it should hardly even count as a trip to Vegas if about six girls aren’t washing their filthy feet in the spa tub at the same time and at least one person doesn’t play poker until dawn with an off season athlete. (And, no, that is absolutely not a euphemism.) But this was not that kind of trip. Not the kind that leads to dirty feet or royal debauchery, anyway.

After vacillating for weeks about meeting up with friends who were in town for a hockey tournament, I made a game day decision — like booked my room at 10 am and jumped in the car with the dogs at 11 am kind of game day decision. Obviously, I would never bring them for a wild weekend, but this was just a chill, catch up with friends by the pool kind of trip. Totally the kind for dogs. I should probably do a post on bringing dogs to Vegas because there are challenges, but it can be done, and I have the pictures to prove it.

Albus discovers that everything is super sized in Vegas. Even the cats.

Apparently, Albus has caught the scent of margaritas, quesadillas, and sin. This photo was taken moments before he tried to enter Margaritaville of his own volition.

So anyway, all of this TMZ talk of Vegas was really making me want a pina colada and some vintage booty music tonight, so I cranked up some bad 90s jams like Yolanda, Tootsee Roll, and Fatboy and pulled out the blender.

I mixed up a batch of pina coladas, and I have to admit it wasn’t life changing. I mean, it was pretty good and it wasn’t as cloyingly sweet as the crappy made from a mix kind, but I think I wanted more pineapple punch. Next time I’ll probably use fresh pineapple instead of the canned version in juice. I may even freeze the pineapple before mixing it and cut down on the ice so the drink will have a little more sweet pineappley pizzazz.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering: 68% of the TMZ audience? Now thinks Prince Harry is awesome.

(And, yes, I had to vote to find that out. I might have even voted twice. Don’t judge me. After all, I did hear about the royal debacle from NPR in the first place.)

Pina Colada

2/3 C light rum
2/3 C pineapple
2/3 C cream of coconut
3 C crushed ice

Add the rum, pineapple and cream of coconut and blend thoroughly. Add the crushed ice and blend completely.

To achieve a more uniform slushy consistency, I put the cocktail in my ice cream maker and let it do its magic for about ten minutes. That made it an awesome consistency.

If you have any other suggestions to improve upon the pina colada recipe, please hook me up. I need to find my perfect Prince Charming Pina Colada.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 1 (Or How to Make Spicy Eggplant Dip)

This easy eggplant dip is kind of spicy. And totally yummy.

The last two weeks have been an absolute blur, what with the baking and sewing and papier mache-ing for two parties. So, apologies for the radio silence the last few days. I have been absolutely covered in paint, sprinkles, and cake batter, and I thought it would be unwise to type in that condition. Also, I was so completely crazed that I nearly pulled an undergrad-like all-nighter on Saturday. For real.

In the aftermath of the madness, I was a little unsure where to start my blog posts. Then my friend e-mailed me and asked for the recipe for the spicy eggplant dip I served at my birthday party, so that seemed like a logical place to begin.

I can’t totally take credit for the recipe. It comes from a Bon Appetit Cookbook from 2003, called Best Entertaining Recipes.

Albus is very into the cookbook as well. He thinks he can learn to cook through osmosis. Or something.

I promise there will be so many Peter Pan Party posts in the next two weeks that you will be like, “Listen, I’m over your birthday — and that troublesome little boy in green tights.”

So, anyway, here’s the recipe. I have modified it slightly by decreasing the amount of salt used. (This is because I serve it with store-bought pita chips and they are saltier than the toasted pita chips used in the original recipe.)

Spicy Eggplant Dip

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons minced garlic (I don’t really measure this, to be honest.)
2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 1-pound eggplants, peeled, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
4 red bell peppers, seeded, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 large red onions, cut into 3/4 inch cubes

Fresh parsley as garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray the two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Add eggplant, bell peppers, and onions to the bowl; toss to coat with seasoned oil. Divide the mixture between the two baking sheets. Roast until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned, turning occasionally, about 35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes on the baking sheets.

Transfer half of the vegetable mixture to the food processor. Process until a coarse puree forms. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Garnish with parsley to serve (optional). You can also mix in 3 T of chopped parsley before serving, but I don’t think it really adds that much flavor.

This can be made two days ahead, but I’d wait to add the parsley if you’re going that route.