Saturday, August 27, 2011

New Favorite Iced Coffee

I have always preferred my coffee/espresso cold, so finding this recipe made my day.
I found the recipe here at 
But first, let's talk about my new favorite way to make coffee-the cold brew method.
First I grind some of my beans. I always buy whole beans instead of ground coffee, because I like to grind it fresh for each use. And, I use Decaf Major Dickinson's. It is a flavor of Peet's coffee, by far the best coffee I've ever tasted. There isn't a Peet's Coffee in the midwest, but Great Harvest Bread Company does sell it for retail.

Next, I put 6 scoops of coffee grounds into my french press and then fill it up with COLD water.
I let it sit up to 24 hours in the fridge. 

Then I press it...

...and pour myself a cup. 
My french press makes about four cups of coffee, so this lasts me four drinks.

Next I add some Dark Chocolate Almond Milk. 
It is SO rich and creamy, and of course chocolatey!

I add a little less than one cup-I like my coffee strong.

For added creaminess, and only a few extra calories, I like to top it off with some whipped cream.
It is such a tasty treat! 

Quick alternative:
If I do not want to wait overnight, and I have already used up the iced coffee, I just pull three shots with my sweet espresso machine right over a cup of ice. You could also just make a cup of coffee and pour it over ice. It works just as well, but I suggest making ice cubes out of coffee because regular ice cubes water down the coffee. And, no one like watered-down coffee.

How do you like your coffee?

Watermelon Ginger Juice

I love watermelon, so when I saw this recipe I was delighted.

All you need is cubed watermelon...
a few dashes of ginger (fresh is best, but powder will do)....
and a few drops of honey or agave nectar.

Mix together and chill.

This is so refreshing once chilled. 
It is light and crisp, and the ginger marries with the melon to give a little kick.
It is the perfect snack or pick-me-up.

Monthly Menu Planning

So, I finally got around to number one on my list of goals for this semester:
Monthly Menu Planning.
I got some ideas from an article by found here.
 There is also a link to a printable monthly menu planning template at the bottom of the article that I used.
 So I started off by going through these (my cookbooks).....
and these (my Cooking Light, Bon Apetit, and Real Simple magazines).
I wrote down page numbers from my cookbooks and tore out pages from my magazine that I know Seth and I will enjoy.
I finally consolidated all of the recipes and articles that I like from my magazines! 
I am getting tired of storing piles and piles of magazines in our cozy apartment.

 Next, I gave each night of the week a theme:
Tuesdays-Soups/Main Dish Salads
Thursdays-American (I make this the only night we have red meat)
Sunday-Leftovers/Free for all

Then I just found four recipes for each night, wrote down the books and the page numbers they are from, and accumulated a shopping list. Once we start a family, I would love to use Azure Standard for some pantry items and Community CROPS for our produce.
But before I get settled in on using those sources, I am planning on grocery shopping at the beginning of each month for all the dry goods I will need that month. Then I will buy meat weekly and produce as often as possible. I like buying my produce frequently, so it is as fresh as possible.
Since I work nights, I have found a lot of crock pot meals for my dinner themes. That way they will be ready for Seth when he gets home, since he gets home hours before I do.

I kept breakfasts and lunches very simple. Seth eats cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch basically every day, so I don't have to plan for him. 

I like a little more variety for breakfast, so this I just pick one of these options (I normally have all of them on hand):
Bran Muffins
Green Smoothies
Greek Yogurt with fresh/frozen berries
Egg whites with beans and cilantro

I normally find myself eating the same few things for lunch:
either leftovers, rice and beans, chicken dogs, or salads.

How do you like to plan your meals?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

I had leftover butternut squash bechamel sauce from the mac & cheese, so I decided to make some butternut squash soup. I know what you're thinking, "Butternut squash soup? It's summer, not winter!" Yes, but I had to do something with my squash. I couldn't just let it go to waste.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium canned plum tomatoes (I use Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes-THE BEST!!)
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, halved, seeded, and diced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, optional

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, sage, 1 teaspoon of the salt and season with pepper, to taste. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 15 minutes.
Raise heat to medium-high, add the tomatoes, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the tomatoes break up and the onions brown slightly, about 7 minutes.
(It was steaming so much I couldn't get a clear picture!)
This is normally where you would add the squash and the remaining teaspoon salt, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, about 12 minutes. Add the broth, bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, until the vegetables tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender, or with an immersion blender. Return the soup to the pot and reheat over medium heat.
Instead, I just mixed the butternut squash sauce into the blended tomato and onion puree.
Then I added the vinegar. The recipe says you can sprinkle the Parmesan cheese here, but the butternut squash sauce already had cheese in it so I didn't add anymore.
It was such a comforting meal-I felt like it should be snowing instead of scorching hot.
A little roll of pretzel bread (one of my new favorite foods) was a great accompaniment.

Big dip into the soup.

I finished off the meal with some homemade lemonade-water, lemon juice, a dash of sugar and a handful of frozen mixed berries. 
Deliciously refreshing.

Blog Identity

I have switched the theme of my blog a couple times, and I have finally come to the realization that I want to blog about homemaking. Even though I go to school full-time and work part-time, I long to be a homemaker. Trust me, my mind is much more consumed with thoughts of homemaking, than thoughts of school or work. It just suits my fancy. There are so many things about it that I love, so I thought this would be the perfect place to document.
Eventually I'd love to get all computer savvy and add cool little tabs at the top of my blog and make it all fancy-like, but for now I am keeping it super simple. 
I have a few things I would like to accomplish and master this semester. I'm sure I will think of more things along the way, but here is my initial list:

1. Monthly Menu Planning
2. Set up a daily schedule/routine (and stick with it!)
3. Go through a devotion with Seth
4. Read my Bible everyday (I always find an excuse!)
5. Significantly reduce the amount of time spent in front of the TV/computer every day
6. Throw away at least one thing every day
7. Start to replace our store-bought condiments with homemade condiments
8. Buy more local produce and meat
9. Start a mini-garden
10. Buy less processed foods
11. Start to replace our cleaning products with homemade products
12. Make homemade hand soap
13. Make homemade deodorant
14. Make homemade chapstick
15. Visit The Saucy Cook (A gourmet food market in Lincoln)

What are you looking forward to accomplishing this Fall?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mongolian Beef

So I made Mongolian Beef tonight for Seth and I from this recipe right here.
I didn't take any pictures of it, because it looked exactly like the recipe I followed.
The key to the deliciousness is splurging a little on the meat.
Using flank steak costs a little more, but makes a big difference.
The only changes I made were reducing the brown sugar a little, and adding broccoli.
It turned out so delicious! 

I also found this recipe at iowagirleats.
Doesn't she make it look tasty?!

Hope you give it a try!
It's now time to laugh my tooshy off watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Creamy, Light Macaroni and Cheese

Nothing defines comfort food better than mac and cheese, and nothing gives "comfort" a bad nutritional name quite so deliciously: A typical bowl can contain a half-day's worth of calories and two days' saturated fat. Instead of the traditional buttery, heavy sauce, this recipe uses butternut squash. Combined with the nonfat milk and Greek yogurt, the squash adds a rich, nutty flavor, sneaks in some vegetables, and brilliantly mimics the color and creaminess of cheddar sauce. The squash subs in for the butter in the creamy sauce, saving 7g saturated fat per serving, and the nonfat milk replaces half-and-half and whole milk in the sauce to cut a total of 5g saturated fat per serving. The cheese trio of Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino Romano, and Gruyere saves 336 calories worth of cheese per serving.

3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash
1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. fat-free Greek yogurt
1 1/4 cups (5 oz.) shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup (4 oz.) grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup (1 oz.) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 lb. uncooked cavatappi
Cooking spray
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup panko
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Serves 8

Butternut Squash "Bechamel"
Boil the squash with milk, broth, and garlic to help marry the sweet and savory flavors for an intensely rich base. No roux, no clumps, no mess.

Puree the butternut squash mixture until smooth. Fat-free Greek yogurt adds tang, richness, and thickening power to the sweet butternut.

Stir the three cheeses into the pureed butternut sauce while it's still warm to ensure they all melt evenly.

Use a pasta shape that holds on to the sauce. Cavatappi is great because of its corkscrew shape and grooved ridges; penne rigate would also work well.

Once everything is mixed, sprinkle with sauteed panko and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.
Sprinkle with fresh parsley, and serve immediately.

Trust me, it is way more delicious than these pictures depict.
It would be even better topped with my husband's delicious grilled chicken.
I hope you give this a try.


Seth and I celebrated one year of marriage a couple weekends ago.
We went to Nebraska City.
We went to the Wine Under the Pines Festival at Kimmel Orchard, walked around at Arbor Day Farm and Lied Lodge, then stayed the night at Slattery Vintage Estates-a cute little vineyard with bungalows near Nebraska City.
The barn at Arbor Day Farm was gorgeous!
We pretended we were getting married there (yes, I know, we're dorks).

 First kiss as husband and wife (reenactment of course:)). 

Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes!

Pretty barn, and clouds.

The path between Arbor Day Farm and Lied Lodge was absolutely gorgeous.

I wish I had a better camera to do it justice.

Grape Stomp at Kimmel Orchard-
we decided to stick to observing instead of participating.

 Our cute bungalow at Slattery Vintage Estates.

Love the outdoor lights and bird cage, plus the clouds are remarkable.

We enjoyed a slice of our wedding cake topper from last August 6th.
I know you won't believe me, but it actually tasted good!
My mom really knew how to wrap it up well.

It ended up storming that entire night-
we actually caught some lightning in this picture.

The dark clouds looming over us!

The beautiful sunset-once again, our camera does not do it justice.
It was hands down, the best sunset we have enjoyed.
Simply breathtaking.

These two little guys found there way home with us.

Nebraska City was full of lush greenery.
I love willow trees.

If you haven't already, I recommend taking a little trip to Nebraska City.
We had a splendid time relaxing and enjoying God's beautiful handiwork.

A Few of my Favorite Summer Things

Wine and strawberry date with one of my good friends, Ashley.

New favorite dessert-frozen grapes.

The more they sit out, the more frosty they get.

Green Smoothies 
(I added too many dark colored berries this time for mine to actually turn green).

Basically a green smoothie is any sort of green vegetable plus anything else you like.
This time I added frozen berries and peaches.

And a frozen banana-it helps make the smoothie creamy.
I freeze the banana whole then rinse it in warm water to peel easily.

Fresh pineapple.

Fresh blueberries.

Spinach-lots and lots of it.

Enough water to bring everything together.
If I have carrot juice on hand I like to add that instead of water.

Agave nectar is a good sweetener. 
I do not normally think it needs to be sweetened, but others might like to add a little.

I first like to mix the fruit and liquid together.

I love fruit!

All blended up.

Time for the spinach. 
The smoothie can absorb much more spinach than you would think.
I ended up using the entire box for this smoothie.
Of course the smoothie did make about four servings.

The dark color of all the berries kept the spinach from turning the smoothie a pretty green color.

These smoothies are a great way to get in the recommended fruits and vegetables.
I like to experiment with the ingredients-
I have used avocados, soybeans, and lettuce as my green vegetable,
and I normally just add whatever fruit I have on hand.
 What are your favorite summer things?