Thursday, December 31, 2009

9 great things that happened in 2009

1. Finally got married to Ollie after 4 years of dating
2. Moved in together with my hubby
3. Spent a week in St. Lucia for our honeymoon
4. Had a great bridal shower thrown by my awesome bridesmaids
5. Opened my own wedding planning business
6. Adopted a kitty cat named Charles
7. Started a new job as an academic advisor which I love
8. Began the house hunting process
9. Went to Vermont for Yvonne's wedding

I will be rolling out a new project tomorrow and announcing the winner of my DOC contest. Bring it on 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Crockpot Potroast

Very easy to make and only requires 5 ingredients:

1 2-3 lb beef shoulder or any other cut
Baby carrots, as many as wanted or can fit in the crock pot (I used a 4 quart size)
Potatoes cut into chunks, with or without skin
1 can of cream of mushroom soup, condensed
1 package of onion soup mix

Put the beef on the bottom of the crockpot and top with all of the veggies. Mix the onion soup mix and the mushroom soup together in a bowl until blended, and then dump into the crockpot. Cook on low at least 8 hours, or 4 hours on high. One of our favorites!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Crispy Orange Beef


For Stewed Meat:

1 lb stew beef
flour (for dredging)
cooking oil (to sauté meat)
dash of salt and pepper

For Sauce:

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon flour
juice of 1 orange
zest of half an orange
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pepper, to taste

To prepare meat:

Season stew meat very lightly with salt and pepper and lightly toss in flour. Shake off excess flour. Coat a shallow pan with cooking oil and gently pan fry stew meat. (I prefer the shake and bake method where you throw the meat, flour, and salt and pepper in a baggie or a tupperware and shake it all up, otherwise this could take awhile if the meat is in very small pieces.)

Drain meat and set aside.

To prepare the sauce:

Add cooking oil to sauce pan and gently cook garlic. Add flour to garlic and oil; cook to remove the uncooked flour taste. It will look pasty at first.

Stir in soy sauce and teriyaki sauce, whisking to prevent lumps. Add orange zest, orange juice, pepper, and all sugars.

Allow sauce to come to a boil and it will thicken. Cook to desired consistency. Toss stew meat in enough of the sauce just to coat it. Serve over rice.

This recipe definitely curbs your appetite when you are in the mood for Chinese food, and it cost me about $6 to make 2 large plates of it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Best Ever Flan

This was my first attempt at making my own flan, and it was the best one I have ever tasted, and many of my Cuban family members also agreed. It was also very simple and I had all of the ingredients already in my house. This recipe came from one of my coworkers, so thank you Frances!


1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 can of evaporated milk
1 block of cream cheese
4 egg yolks
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar


1. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar on medium until it melts and caramelizes. The sugar will go from brown, to golden and then to red if it burns, so keep stirring and keep it in the golden shade. If there are a few small lumps remaining, that is okay because they will melt in the oven.

2. While the sugar is melting, turn the oven on to 350 and place your 8x8 square or round pie pan in the oven to keep it hot. If the pan is hot, then the caramel will not harden as quickly. Pour the caramel into the hot baking pan, and smooth it around until the bottom is completely coated.

3. As the caramel cools, you can begin making the custard. Blend the two cans of milk, the vanilla and the cream cheese together in the blender. Drop one egg yolk at a time into the blender and blend for a few seconds in between the yolks.

4. Pour the custard mixture into your baking pan. This pan will need a "water bath" for best results, just like most cheesecakes and custard desserts. To do so, simply use a larger lasagna size pan (9x13 or so) and fill it with enough water so that the water line is halfway up the side of the flan.

5. Bake at 350 for an hour. Let it cool for 15 minutes and then place in the fridge to chill for 3 hours or more. To serve, invert the pan with a large plate and shake the pan to release the flan. We didn't do this part, we just ate it from the pan because everyone was too impatient. It got rave reviews and I will be bringing it to every Noche Buena celebration from now on.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Our First Christmas as Mr. and Mrs!

Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family! Today we celebrated our first Christmas as husband and wife, so I thought I would share a few traditions that we follow.

The first tradition is one that not to many people have heard of, except for anyone with German heritage. I participated in an ornament exchange this year, and the ornament that my elf really wanted was the pickle ornament. I was very excited that someone else knew about this tradition and wanted to partake.

Here’s one version of the “pickle legend” from a website that sells ornaments: “A very old Christmas eve tradition in Germany was to hide a pickle [ornament] deep in the branches of the family Christmas Tree. The parents hung the pickle last after all the other ornaments were in place. In the morning they knew the most observant child would receive an extra gift from St. Nicholas. The first adult who finds the pickle traditionally gets good luck for the whole year.” This Christmas pickle story, with a few minor variations, can be found all over the Web, in printed ads, and inside the ornament package. It says that Germans hang a pickle-shaped glass ornament on the Christmas tree hidden away so it’s difficult to find. The first child to find it on Christmas morning gets a special treat or an extra present.

Here is a picture of the pickle ornament that hangs on my parents' Christmas tree.

Every year on December 24th, my father's side of the family gets together to celebrate my cousin Christina's birthday and Noche Buena. We play board games, drink heavily, and pig out on roasted pig, rice and beans, yucca, salad, and birthday cake. This year, I tried making my very first flan for dessert. Flan is one of my favorites and I have no clue how I went this long without trying to make one. The recipe will follow in the next post. The "cousins" consist of myself, Christina, Amy and Monica. We were inseparable growing up, and although we don't get to see each other too often anymore, we know we will be together on December 24th and we will have to take our "cousin" picture. Here is this years'.

We spent Christmas Eve at my parents' house so that we could all open presents together in the morning. Charles came along with us for the festivities. Normally we would go visit Ollie's family in the afternoon, but they went to North Carolina to celebrate a very white Christmas with a few feet of snow.

We don't have too much space in our house but we did do a little bit of decorating. We had to make sure Charles' first Christmas was a special one!

Our First Christmas ornament, given to us during the ornament exchange. Thanks Gladys!

Our stockings hung off the audio pier... can you guess whose is whose? The one with the "A" belongs to Charles. Doesn't make much sense, I know.

The Mr. and Mrs!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My hubby and our kitty

I got my eyebrows threaded!

Holy cow, what a life changing experience! I have never had such perfectly shaped eyebrows in my life. I think my range of facial expressions just doubled. I decided to try threading because my skin is way too sensitive for waxing (need I remember what happened the week before my wedding? shudder....) and with plucking I can never get my eyebrows to look even. It only took 10 minutes and I did it on my lunch break yesterday. I wish I could have watched what she was doing to me, but I had to keep my eyes closed so I am not exactly sure what went down, so I googled some info if you don't know what threading is (info from WiseGeek.)

Threading involves twisting a piece of thread, usually cotton, into a double strand. This double stranded thread is used to pick up a line of hair and then remove it, creating a very clean, precise hairline. Threading is the technique preferred by Indian movie stars, who are often distinguished by their crisp brow lines. Threading can be used to eliminate a unibrow, raise the arch of the eyebrow, or add shape and definition to the brow. Because it removes hair by the follicle, it is a reasonably long lasting hair removal technique as well. Repeat visits after three to four weeks are standard. The technique is also not terribly expensive because it is easy to do quickly and does not require costly chemical ingredients. For women who would like to pursue a more natural beauty regimen, eyebrowis a good choice, since it does not use harmful products.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Done with my holiday baking!

Organic Laundry Detergent

I have been introduced to making my own laundry detergent from my friend Jenise. It is even organic too, if you are yuppie like that. I didn't realize how easy it was and it looked like a fun project. Most of the ingredients were found at Publix, but I had to go to Whole Foods for Dr. Bronner's soap, or you can order it online but it isn't really cheaper.

1 bar Dr. Bronner's castile bar soap - finely grated (or you can just chop it up with a knife into small pieces like I did. Jenise's favorites were peppermint and lavender, so that is what I bought as well.) Cost: $4.19 per bar, the most expensive part

1/2 cup Washing Soda Cost: $2.19 for the box

1/2 cup Borax Cost: $3.99 for the box

1/4-1/2 cup Baking Soda Cost $.69 for a small box

In a large pot, heat 3 pints of water. Add the grated bar soap and stir until melted. Then add the washing soda, baking soda, and borax. Stir until powder is dissolved, then remove from heat. This makes your whole house smell so fresh and so clean.

In a 2 gallon clean pail, pour 1 quart of hot water and add the heated soap mixture. Top pail with cold water and stir well.

You can also add 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oil.

Use 1/2-1 cup per load, shaking or stirring soap before each use (it will gel a little).

You can buy jars or containers and package this up very nicely to give as gifts. Great idea for the person who is everything or if you don't know what to get someone. Who doesn't use laundry detergent?

Festive Fudge Blossoms

I am a big fan of making super easy recipes and letting everyone think you slaved away for hours. This is a very basic recipe that you can play with and make tons of different versions of it.

1 box (18.25 ounces) of chocolate fudge cake mix (told you it was easy, starts with a box!)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (or any nut)
48 hershey's kisses, or hugs, or peanut butter cups

1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut butter into cake mix in large bowl until it resembles course crumbs. Stir in egg and 2 tablespoons water until well blended.

2. Shape dough into 1/2 inch balls, or use small cookie scooper. Roll the balls into the chopped nuts, pressing nuts gently into dough. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake cookies 12 minutes or until puffy and nearly set. Place candy in center of each cookie, bake one minute more. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Fudge Cake Balls

One of the most popular baking sites on the interwebs is Bakerella, and spending too much time on there will make your pants tight. Making truffle like cake balls is so easy though and they come out so amazing, you just have to do it.

Here is what you do: bake a cake from the box, any flavor. I used devil's food cake. After it cools, crumble it up in a large bowl. If you have a kitchenaid mixer or any stand mixer, just throw it there on low and let the mixer break it up. Then dump in a container of icing, and flavor. I used a can of milk chocolate. Once it is all mixed up, roll the mix into little balls or use a cookie scooper, my favorite thing ever. Put them in the fridge to harden for about an hour. Then melt down some of your favorite chocolate chips. The best way to do this is to boil a small saucepan of water, then place a glass bowl on top of the pot and pour the chips in. Do not let the water touch the bowl. Stir until melted and smooth, then roll the cake balls around in there until they are coated, and place on wax paper.

You can decorate them if you wish by swirling different kinds of chocolate on top, sprinkles, nuts, or icing. We had some leftover pink icing so I piped that on top to make it look more holiday like. Refrigerate till it is time to serve them.

Chicken Pot Pie

I saw this recipe on my friend Devynn's cooking blog, and I have made it several times since then. The good thing about chicken pot pie is you can use whatever you have on hand, so we have never made the exact same one twice. Sometimes I make my own pie crust, sometimes I use pillsbury biscuits on top, and this is the easiest and tastes the best: bisquick mix on top. This particular time, I was lame and used a store bought crust because I had no time to make one.
Anyway, here is the recipe for the inner goods:

Prep: 40 minutes Bake: 35 minutes 6 servings
Oven: 425 degrees Pan: 9x9x2

1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas and carrots (or whatever veggies you want to use, broccoli is REALLY good in this)
1/3 cup butter or stick margarine
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
Pastry crust: make your own or use store bought

1. Please frozen veggies in a bowl and cover in cold water to separate (drain before adding)
2. Melt butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, onion, salt and pepper (makes a roux). Cook and stir constantly until mixture is bubbly, remove from heat and stir in broth and milk. Remember to remove from heat so you don't scald the milk. Return to heat and oil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in chicken and veggies, remove from heat.
3. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
4. Make pastry (I do this first) roll two-thirds of hte pastry into a 13-inch square. Ease into an ungreased 9x9x2. Pour chicken mixture into pastry-lined dish.
5. Roll remaining pastry into 11-inch square. You can cut out designs and stuff with a cookie cutter and make it all pretty, I just cut slits in the top on the diagonalto let air vent. Turn edges of the pastry and cut off the excess.
6. Bake about 35 minutes or until golden brown.

My hubby adores this recipe, and we usually serve it with mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Crockpot Roasting Chicken

I picked up a 5 pound roasting chicken at Winn-Dixie for 6 bucks yesterday. I have always wanted to make a whole chicken in the crockpot, and after how wonderful my Thanksgiving turkey came out, I was itching to make it this week. I skinned the chicken to the best of my ability, took out the neck parts, and this chicken actually came with a packet of seasoning. I had a recipe I was going to use that involved 6 or so different spices, but I decided to be lazy and use the packet it came with. I coated the chicken on all sides, and turned it on low at 10 AM this morning. When I came home from work at 8:30, this is what I saw:

It looked great and the house smelled divine. You can see just how much seasoning came in the packet! My husband asked me if there was any pepper left in the house. Hmph. I cooked it on low for 9 hours, and then my programmable crockpot switched to warm around 7 tonight and I threw a chicken pasta side in the microwave, steamed some corn, and that's whats for dinner. Holy tenderness batman!

Lemon Cake

My hubby requested a lemon cake for his birthday back in August, so I asked his grandma for the recipe he loves. I whipped up this super simple cake a few months back, and Yvonne's mom had a slice of it and she loved it. It was so moist even though I had made it almost a week earlier before she tasted it. So when her birthday came around last week, I recreated the cake and brought it to her house, along with all the Christmas gifts Yvonne gave me in NC to bring home to her family. It was fun playing Santa!

Lemon Cake ingredients:

1 package of lemon cake w/out pudding

1 pack lemon jello

¾ cup water

4 eggs

¾ c Wesson oil

Blend all together, beat 4 mins on high, scrape sides as it mixes.

Grease and flour 9 inch springform pan.

Bake at 350 for one hour.

I drizzled half a cup of melted cream cheese frosting over the cake to make a glaze-like topping. Top it with whatever you wish, powdered sugar or white chocolate would also be yummy.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Our Thanksgiving Vacation

We left South Florida on the Friday before Thanksgiving, and stayed the night at Ollie's grandma's house in Daytona. Charles came with us and she thought he was a very pretty kitty. The next morning we drove the rest of the way to Weaverville, NC which is a few miles outside of Asheville. We were there all the way until the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so we did a lot of things and also had plenty of time to relax. This is pretty much what we did:

Saturday: arrived in Weaverville and visited Ollie's friend Ben in their new home and saw his brand new baby Henry, what a cutie.

Sunday: went food shopping, fixed the water heater so we can finally take showers, and attended Sage's memorial service (see previous post.)

Monday: Went shopping at Asheville Mall and left our wedding rings at Helzberg to get redipped and made all shiny and new again.

Tuesday: We drove to the top of Mount Mitchell, which is the highest peak east of the Mississippi. Then we hiked to the top of Mt. Craig which is the next peak over) and then back down again. To get there you need to drive for a good while up the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were up so high that the weather was below us.

you can see the weather below us in the background

Wednesday: We had lunch at the Moe's in Biltmore Village (yes, there is a Moe's! I can officially live here now) after we visited Asheville's Urgent Care Clinic so I can take my drug test for the job offer I had received earlier that day. We also traveled to the nearby town of Marshall to check out the real estate in the area. It is a dream of ours to move to western NC in the near future, but Marshall was definitely way too much out in the sticks for us. My BFF Yvonne and her husband Tony also arrived super late that night from TN to spend the holiday weekend with us.

Thursday: Before we left in the morning, I prepared my turkey for the crockpot and left it simmering all day. Since we weren't going to be home, we couldn't leave the oven on so this worked out perfectly. We visited the Biltmore Estate, spent some time wine tasting, and just enjoying the life of the ridiculously wealthy. The estate is over 800 acres, and the home is 175,000 square feet. It is the largest private residence in the United States, and this is only the summer home for the Vanderbilt family.

We picked up a foreclosure while we were there...

The view from the terrace

Here we are posing with Charles' older cousin

And then we tasted all the wine we could.... with a baby.

When we got home, the turkey was ready and we were starving. Yvonne and I whipped up the other side dished, and we dove in. This was my favorite turkey I had ever eaten, so tender and juicy it all fell apart. I used a turkey breast, a stick of butter, a can of broth, salt and pepper, and let it go for about 8 hours. Here are some pics of our feast (please excuse the weaponry on the table, silly boys!)

We had tons of leftovers so we had Thanksgiving part 2 on Saturday night.

Friday: This is my first year not braving the crowds at 4 AM to partake in my favorite shopping day. For once, I actually did not need or want anything. I am guessing it is because we got married this year and got our share of stuff for awhile. We did brave the mall later that day to check out new cell phones and see the deals they were offering. I was about to get the Droid but I am still holding out for an iphone, we shall see what happens in a few months. For lunch we had good ole' BBQ at Luella's BBQ. Back at the house, we found some expired cans of food in the pantry, so the guys decided to use them for target practice. The girls got turns too, but the guys were too busy telling us how to shoot to take our pictures. Bah humbug.

We visited with the neighbors that maintain the property that my in-laws own up there (where we were staying) and also went to downtown Asheville that night to eat at Wasabi's for some good sushi. It was freezing outside so there weren't really too many hippies around. I really wanted Yvonne to see how many there normally are around town.

Saturday: Ollie decided to drive us to a different mall instead of the Asheville Mall we had been to many times already that week. It was called the Biltmore Square Mall, and man was it feeling the brunt of the recession. Almost every store had closed down and all we saw were vacant spaces. Oh well, it was worth driving out there because we passed this road on the way, and had to take a picture:

This sign was actually at the intersection of Ollie Weaver and Ayers Road. How crazy is that?
When we got back into Weaverville, we ate at Blue Mountain Pizza which is the local pizza joint, and the hippies there did not disappoint. That afternoon, we saw the Gators demolish the Seminoles in the swamp. Gator games take priority, even on vacation.

Sunday: we left Weaverville at around 10:30 AM, and got back to South Florida at 3 AM. It was a loooong drive, but the most annoying part was the 3 hour holdup in South Carolina because of the accident on the OTHER side of the highway. That's right, our lanes were free and clear, but everyone needed to stop and slow down to investigate the other side of the highway. I still cannot get over that cost us 3 hours.

Here we have some pictures of the property my husband's parents' own. I am so glad we can visit as often as we want. Can't wait to go back next year!