Crunchy Zucchini Sticks with Greek Yogurt Dipping Sauce

First of all, it SNOWED here in north Texas this morning. I wasn’t expecting that when I gathered up the kids this morning to take my son to school.

Now, before I get into the recipe I want to share a little something with you that I am crazy excited about.

You’re going to want to check this out.

Ipsy

Here’s a little description from their site.

“Each month, subscribers will receive a beautiful Glam Bag

with deluxe samples and full-sized beauty products

All for only $10 a month.”

I signed up a couple of months ago and I love everything I’ve gotten! I just got my January bag today, here’s what it included.

Pacifica Tuscan Blood Orange Body Butter, SOHO Ergonomic Concealer Brush, Sexy Hair Volumizing Hair Spray, Josie Maran Argan Oil, and Nailtini Bloody Mary Nail Lacquer

Pacifica Tuscan Blood Orange Body Butter, SOHO Ergonomic Concealer Brush, Sexy Hair Volumizing Hair Spray, Josie Maran Argan Oil, and Nailtini Bloody Mary Nail Lacquer

Well worth $10 and I love being able to try out products that I otherwise would probably never buy! Last month I got an Urban Decay eye pencil and Yves Saint Laurent Mascara that I’m hooked on! It’s also nice just to get goodies in the mail 🙂 You can give these as gifts too which is fantastic. I gave them to all the women on my Christmas list this year and it was definitely a hit!

Speaking of a hit…these crunchy zucchini sticks were a score for this mom tonight. Both of my guys groan every time I make zucchini. I’ll admit that sometimes it seems to turn out a bit watery and soggy no matter how I cook it, and I’ve cooked it just about any and every way possible. Well, I have now, anyway.

We’ve been trying to keep things healthy around here, mostly by loading up on veggies and reasonably avoiding carbs. I had strip steak, zucchini and salad on the menu tonight but I wanted the boys to like the zucchini and since we had no other carbs planned I thought treating them sort of like mozzarella sticks seemed like a good idea.

I used a few unique ingredients that you can replicate or replace with something similar. In the egg wash that I used to get the bread crumbs to stick I used a dressing (homemade) that I had left over from last night. It’s a mustardy tarragon lemon vinaigrette (I’ll try to get the recipe posted this week) but you could replace it with a light Caesar, greek dressing or just use a bit Dijon. For the dipping sauce I mixed plain fat free greek yogurt with lemon artichoke hummus and feta water. If you have a Central Market near enough to go shopping you can get the hummus from the bulk section and the feta water is just the liquid that is in the container with the cheese. I get the one that’s labeled ‘superior sheep’s milk feta’. Its the best! If you don’t have access to fresh feta in water just use plain water and salt to taste.

 

IMG_1774

IMG_1770

Ingredients:

3 medium zucchini

1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan

1 cup bread crumbs

2 large eggs

1 Tbsp Mustard Tarragon Vinaigrette

1 cup AP flour

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:

1 cup fat free greek yogurt

3 Tbsp Hummus

1/4 cup feta water (more or less depending on how thick or thin you want sauce to be)

Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prep a baking sheet by lightly oiling or covering with foil.

Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise then cut each half in half lengthwise and then cut each quarter in half lengthwise. Cut all of them in half (on the short side).

Get three medium/large bowls. Mix together breadcrumbs, parm and a bit of salt and pepper in one of the bowls. Wisk eggs and dressing in another bowl and mix flour with salt and pepper in the third bowl. Coat zucchini on all sides with flour, dust off excess and dip in egg mixture then toss in bread crumbs and lay them out in even layer on the baking sheet.

Bake for about 10 min then flip each one and bake 10 more min.

Mix together sauce ingredients until combined. Salt if needed.

Sit back and enjoy watching your family devour their veggies 🙂

This should serve 4 and is right around 200 calories per serving. Not bad, huh?!

Mmmkay, it’s late (for me) and my couch partner is watching Silence of the Lambs soo…gotta go!

Blog Signature

 

Simple Scrumptious Apple Butter

I’m going to make this pretty short and sweet because I’ve got New Girl and Project Runway waiting for me on DVR.

If you don’t know, apple butter is similar to peanut butter in that there is no actual dairy butter in it. The butter part refers to it’s spreadable consistency and the applications it’s used for. Think toast, bagels, sandwiches, English muffins…cardboard. All examples of things that taste better with apple butter.

Seriously.

So, here we go.

Oh, and let me just disclaim that this is only simple if you have access to a couple of key gadgets.

Back home on Christmas Eve making apple butter for tomorrow's breakfast

 

1. Apple peeler. Not expensive and easy to operate; I can assure you that I would never make this without one.

2. Apple corer/slicer. Also, not expensive and easy to operate. This one isn’t as important but it certainly makes things so much faster.

3. Crockpot. I don’t want to fiddle with stove time and stirring and this is part of what makes this recipe so simple. You can prep it after dinner and it will be ready by breakfast.

You’ll need:

5 pounds of apples peeled, cored and sliced.

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Tbsp ground cinnamon

tsp ground cloves

tsp ground ginger

tsp salt

Tbsp vanilla extract

Juice of one lemon

IMG_1483

Throw all of the apple slices into the crockpot and set it on high then dump the sugar, spices and salt on top. Resist the urge to stir! This part is difficult for me but you want to bring the whole thing up to temp and melt the sugar so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. After it cooks for an hour or two you can stir it up and then leave it for another 10 hours. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract, stir and cook for about 2 more hours. Turn off your crockpot and use an emulsion blender to make it smooth and buttery. My favorite way to eat it is on a toasted sourdough English muffin. yum!

 

Goodnight!

Blog Signature

 

My Holiday in Review

Wow! It’s been a while. I’ve had a nice little vacation with both of my boys having two weeks off and getting the chance to visit with lots of friends and family. I’m going to share the highlights with you photo journal (insta) style and starting tomorrow it will be back to bloginess as usual (that doesn’t exactly have the impact I hoped…how about buis-og?)

Anyway, a few of the things I have to share with you in the coming days are related to some of these pics…can you guess which ones??

Ft. Worth Sunset as we head south to Austin

Ft. Worth Sunset as we head south to Austin

IMG_1446

Visiting my grandparents’ ranch west of San Antonio we were able to get some baby love from the newest addition to their family of Barbados sheep and fed their bodyguard the Bethlehem donkey.

IMG_1463

We hiked to the top of the “mountain” on their property where we encountered serious lack of a trail but at least J had a machete to clear the way. Isn’t it beautiful? Ok, maybe you have to be a Texas girl to appreciate the beauty in this terrain riddled with rocks and cacti…it makes me happy.

IMG_1447 IMG_1449 IMG_1452 IMG_1453 IMG_1464

IMG_1465 IMG_1466

Mountain Conquered

Mountain Conquered

Back in Austin we drove by the Capitol building so the kids could see how massive it is. It's pretty impressive.

Back in Austin we drove by the Capitol building so the kids could see how massive it is. It’s pretty impressive.

6th street during the day is quite charming.

6th street during the day is quite charming.

Goodbye Austin!

Goodbye Austin!

Back home on Christmas Eve making apple butter for tomorrow's breakfast

Back home on Christmas Eve making apple butter for tomorrow’s breakfast

The kids and I got up early to get breakfast, coffee and a fire made before waking up dad.

The kids and I got up early to get breakfast, coffee and a fire made before waking up dad.

IMG_1509 IMG_1510

LOOK WHAT MY WONDERFUL HUSBAND GOT ME!!!

LOOK WHAT MY WONDERFUL HUSBAND GOT ME!!!

After opening gifts heading to see more family. We were all pretty tired.

After opening gifts heading to see more family. We were all pretty tired.

We've been promised snow and we're patiently waiting.

We’ve been promised snow and we’re patiently waiting.

IMG_1551

What can I say? This was a great snow for these parts!

What can I say? This was a great snow for these parts!

Broccoli thief

Broccoli thief

Cute cousins :)

Cute cousins 🙂

helping with dinner <3

helping with dinner ❤

New glasses. Like?

New glasses. Like?

Found the most ridiculous shirt on the clearance rack at Old Navy while clothes shopping for J. After all of my mockery of this "sandwich" I couldn't pass it up!

Found the most ridiculous shirt on the clearance rack at Old Navy while clothes shopping for J. After all of my mockery of this “sandwich” I couldn’t pass it up!

 

Hope you all enjoyed your holiday time as much as we did!

Blog Signature

 

The Best Hot Cocoa

I shared my best meatball recipe last week and I figured, at this time of year it would make sense to share my hot cocoa recipe. This is a pretty basic recipe you could use as a jumping off point if you wanted to have something more elaborate. I came up with this because I have always loved the frothy yumminess that you get when your marshmallows melt in the hot cocoa so one day when I was making a batch I threw in a handful of them and it was delicious!

DSC_0340 DSC_0306

Makes two servings.

2 cups milk

4 Tbsp. cocoa powder

1 cup mini marshmallows (plus extra for garnish)

1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

2 candy canes for garnish (optional)

In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan heat the milk on medium-low heat until warm (stirring constantly so the bottom doesn’t scorch). Once the milk is warm, whisk in the cocoa powder until fully integrated then at the marshmallows. Whisk the mixture lightly until the marshmallows are melted then add the sweetened condensed milk and stir to combine.

Divide among two mugs and garnish with mini marshmallows and a candy cane. When you stir the cocoa with your candy cane you will have mint chocolate! I recommend you cozy up by a fire for this one. Christmas music optional but also recommended.

I have some shopping to finish up…do you think the mall will be busy? Yes, I’m afraid. 😦 It’s what I get for procrastinating.

Blog Signature

Crazy Easy (and cheap!) Curtains

IMG_1245

I told you this would amaze you. This seems to be the thing I get compliments on the most in my newly updated dining room. Perhaps it’s because it seems so unique. The first question people seem to ask after they comment “I love the curtains!” is “How did you do that?!?” which is inevitably followed by something like, “Wow, that’s so cool!”

I’ve never been one for curtains. I like simple décor and curtains always seem fussy to me but I knew that if I wanted a complete make-over I had to do some kind of window covering. Plus, if I had to see the hideous top of the blinds anymore I may have gone postal.

My criteria for window covering was 1. no “curtain rod” (I just don’t like them) 2. nothing too heavy/still allow light in 3. cheap 4. easy

DSC_0153

So I picked up 12 yards (but I only used 6) of a lightweight white cotton jersey knit on clearance at a discount fabric store for $2.30 per yard and an 8 foot 1 x 4 at my home improvement store for $6.

I stained the wood with the same stain I used for the dining table and chairs then did a coat of spray polyurethane. Once dry, I predrilled a hole in each end of the wood piece about an inch in from the ends and centered from top to bottom.

I cut 2 panels of 3 yards each of the fabric which, since it’s jersey, doesn’t need to be hemmed (yay for no sewing!) and stapled each one to the back of the wood flat (with no gathers and overlapping in the middle).

I screwed the wood directly into the wall and then used screw in hooks and cotton twill tape as tie backs.

IMG_1246

So, for less than $20 I have curtains. Unique ones. I like that.

In hindsight, I would have made the board and therefore the curtains stretch much further past the edge of the window. It was actually an error either in my measurement of the window or perhaps I was flustered during one of my 25 trips to Lowe’s in a 30 day period (most likely). I thought that the piece of wood that I bought was going to be 1′ longer than the window opening on each side. What I ended up with was 2″ on each side -_- not happy about that. Oh well. Hopefully, if you try this out you’ll learn from my mistakes!

I believe this concludes my dining room make-over project. For now, anyway. I still want a rug and a new light fixture…sometime in the future I will get that done. For now, I’m going to get a roast started for dinner and then finish my Christmas shopping.

I’m thinking tomorrow I’ll share my very best meatball recipe with you. I made them last week and took a couple of pics so get ready!

Blog Signature

 

DIY Buffet from Coffee Table

I kind of got lucky with this one. I scored this coffee table for FREE from someone on Craigslist!

IMG_0407

That bottom portion is some kind of metal and is not attached to the top wood portion which is painted black.

When I picked it up I really wasn’t sure what I would do with it since I don’t need a coffee table but how could I pass up a perfectly good piece of free furniture?? I couldn’t.

Even though it wasn’t ideal I decided to see if I could make a buffet for my dining room out of it.

IMG_1167

 

Soooo, I talked my husband into building a new base for the wood part of the table with some scrap plywood I snagged from a trash pile a while back. We didn’t have enough to add shelves like I wanted but we will definitely add to it later (perhaps sometime after Christmas when our bank account stops hemorrhaging).

IMG_1168

 

We painted it white and gave the draw pulls a coat of silver spray paint. I would have preferred to change them out with something a bit more modern but the budget didn’t allow for that…for now anyway.

You may have noticed a few Christmas decorations. I’ve finally got the whole house littered with little touches of holiday cheer 🙂

Tomorrow, I’ll share with you a few ways that I’ve added a bit of sparkle to some ordinary objects to make them look festive. I don’t know about you, but I get tired of the same decorations I pull out of my attic every year. I don’t really want to go spend hundreds of dollars (and I easily could) on new stuff every year…soooo, I found some inexpensive ways to update and modernize what I already have. I think you’re going to like it!

Have a fantastic Tuesday evening!

Blog Signature

 

My “New” Dining Table

I have to confess that this post was meant for last Thursday. In fact, I had it all ready to go and I saved it as a draft rather than publishing it…which I just discovered because this is the first time I have touched my computer since Thursday afternoon…whoops!

Oh well, here it is 🙂

Let’s talk about tables.

We purchased a brand new table about 4 years ago and it is still in great condition so we definitely didn’t need a new table. Problem is, ours is counter-height…which is shorter than bar height but taller than standard table height. With the layout of our kitchen/dining area those extra few inches just didn’t work. We have a peninsula separating the kitchen and dining which makes it nice and open but with the upper cabinets above it, you couldn’t see someone’s face that was standing in the kitchen if you were sitting at the dining table. That doesn’t work for me.

This spring I found an old table base by someone’s curb

dsc_0268

…and this old wood at someone else’s

dsc_0259

At the time I desperately needed a craft table (and I had none of the saws I now have) so I drove up to my grandparents’ house and my grandfather helped me build a rustic little table.

Then I spent weeks (yes, weeks) resurfacing and refinishing the top. The wood was old and very weather damaged. I knew I wanted it rustic but I at least wanted the surface to be even and somewhat smooth-ish.

Once I had it stained (I used Rustoleum Kona)and sealed I fell in love. This table was the one thing that I knew for sure would be used in our dining room make-over. Though, it needed a bit of expansion to truly work as a dining table. So with $30 worth of lumber and steel brackets my husband and I framed it out making it bigger by 6 inches on each side.

IMG_1160

With four mismatched recovered and refinished mid-century era chairs (non of them dining chairs, I’ll admit, but the chairs cost us about $30 total) we now have a new to us dining set that we spent a whopping $60 on…and I love it! It’s not perfect but that’s the beauty. Worrying about using a coaster or the little one banging toys on it just doesn’t suit me.

 

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the buffet!

Blog Signature

Regretfully Yours,

Dear Friends,

It pains me to inform you that there has been more than a couple of snafus with the building of my dining table; a project that should have been ready for oohs and ahhs precisely yesterday. Unfortunately, several miscalculations (and wrong cuts) on my part have lead to a lack of completion and a (current) total of three trips to Lowe’s with at least one more in the foreseeable future. The final deadline for this project is midnight Friday….cross your fingers for me! For now, I’m going to meet up with my sis to shop for fabric. I hate to leave you like this… As a consolation for my dropping the ball, please enjoy the recipe below for the laundry soap I’ve been using for almost a year now. It’s cheap cheap cheap (about $10 for a 3 month supply), smells good and works great!

Regretfully Yours,

Sarah

Homemade Laundry Soap

1 bar of dr. Bronner’s castile soap (grated; I think rose smells best)

2 cups each baking soda, borax and super washing soda

Just mix it all together and use 1-2 Tbsp per load.

No more naked walls!

Despite my better judgement, I spent all day yesterday working on dressing up the dining/kitchen walls. This is far from the most pressing item on my very long list of To dos but I just couldn’t resist. And I’m happy about that because it just feels so much more comfy and lived in.

I didn’t buy any artwork for the room. As much as I love art we just can’t afford to spend hundreds-thousands of dollars on beautiful art. I realize you can pick up inexpensive decent stuff at home decor stores but why not DIY?

So I stole graciously borrowed cool photographs of food from the web and printed them in various sizes at a photo kiosk in my drug store. I used old frames I already had (all of them I obtained for free) and just updated them to match the rest of the room.

Over the summer my grandparents gave me some old windows from their house which they had lying around after some updates. I originally planned to use the large pane-less one as a wipe off board for our new weekly menu board (as seen on pinterest) but while cleaning out the garage not that long ago, Bo accidentally knocked it over and broke it 😦

What was left was a couple of smaller ones with panes that wouldn’t work for what I wanted so I decided to make a chalkboard for the menu board and use the window to display photos.

For the photo display, I cleaned up the window and gave it a light coat of white paint to freshen it up just a bit (I wanted to retain it’s rustic charm). I stapled lengths of yellow suede cord to the back and paper clipped pictures to it…sort of like a clothesline look. I’m thinking when they come down for Thanksgiving I’m going to get my grandparents to write somewhere on the window their address and the years that this window was a part of it. What an awesome treasure!

For the chalkboard, I used a piece of scrap plywood (which I rescued from a trash pile, obviously). I screwed it in each of the four corners directly to my wall with anchors. I then gave it two coats of chalkboard paint, which I made myself using black paint and non-sanded grout. Do a heaping tablespoon of grout to each half cup of paint. Only make what you need because you can’t store this stuff.

My board is a rectangle of 2′ X 1′ 9″ so I picked up an 8ft piece of moulding at the hardware store. I got the cheapest kind they had (which is not even real wood) for a little over $5. I cut the appropriate lengths with 45 degree angles for mitred corners and just hot glued (yes, hot glued) those bad daddies right onto the wood. I used a little bit of wood filler to clean up the seams in the corners and then lightly sanded it when dry then painted the trim a color somewhere between turquoise and sea foam (mixed it myself).

My favorite project from yesterday was the apron (and chef coat) hooks. This was yet another free project! A stained piece of scrap wood + wine corks = EASY, FREE AND CUTE apron hooks! yay for free!

This would be so cute painted a bright funky color but I decided to stain it. I’m a sucker for stained wood but I absolutely hate the sanding part so anytime I have an opportunity to do a small easy-to-sand project, I’m likely going to stain it. So once that part was done…

I drilled holes in the center of the corks just large enough to fit a nail head. Hammered the nails into the board leaving enough sticking out of the board to go slightly more than halfway into the cork. Busted out my trusty sidekick Gertrude (hot glue gun) and filled up the drilled holes in each cork and slipped them over the nails (holding in place until it’s cooled).

So simple…I LOVE IT!

The only expense for all of my wall decor was the moulding and the photos I printed which all together cost me just under $20. 😀

On today’s agenda, the table. I can’t wait to get this done so I can share it with you. If I have time I will also work on painting the stools and the chairs.

You know, I just looked at my dining room inspo pics that I shared with you guys not too long ago and realized that this has morphed into something that really doesn’t even resemble any of that. Odd.

Have a great rest of the day and let’s meet back here tomorrow for some table action! (I hope!)

Coffee Bar = Best space in the house!

I finally finished it, ya’ll! I can’t stop admiring it and now I wonder how I’ve ever lived without it! If you’re a coffee lover I definitely recommend making a coffee bar in your own home. Even if you have limited space (as I do) it’s likely you can make it work. Mine occupies the smallest corner of the dining room which has otherwise been empty since most functional pieces of furniture would never fit. I had a large-ish palm there for a little while but I think this is such a better use of space!

This project made me feel a bit like Dr. Frankenstein and you’re about to see why. I was never able to find the perfect piece to make-over (one that fit in my budget, that is) so I had to mix and match to get what I wanted.

Here’s what I started out with. Two small (very small) silver cabinets about a foot wide each and 1 and half feet tall for $15. The little shelf I got on a garbage digging excursion (but it’s not part of this project) and the white cabinet was $5.

I took the little feet off the two silver cabinets and busted out the jigsaw. I had to eliminate the overhang of the trim around the top and bottom.

Now, here is where the Frankenstein comes in. Using some scrap plywood I retrieved from someone’s curbside donation pile (better?) I cut a piece in the size of the bottoms of the two cabinets side by side and then glued and screwed them to it. I then used a metal bracket on the back top edge to stabilize the two together and filled the gap with a healthy dose of wood filler.

 

I basically made a box out of plywood for the two to sit on and then used wood filler again to smooth out the areas where the cabinets attach to the plywood. I also reattached the feet to the bottom and I had to turn around one of the doors since they were originally facing in the same direction.

I sanded and painted it and voila!

The white cabinet I simply used as is and hung it on the wall above. Actually, all of the knobs were shiny silver so I spray painted them to look brushed.

Best little corner of the house!

After all that, a cappuccino was in order 🙂

Like I said, I recommend this for anyone that appreciates a good cup of joe. It would be a much simpler project if you have an old chest or dresser that you could revamp and maybe do some simple open shelving on the wall with hooks to hang your cups. The possibilities are endless!

I am way behind on my checklist for make-over completion and I have only a week to get it done! Here is what I have left (in no particular order)

  • Buffet
  • Window covering
  • Artwork
  • Table extension
  • Chair redos
  • Stool redos (plus I need to find one more)
  • Rug
  • Apron holder
  • New menu board (in progress)
  • Chandelier revamp

YIKES! This is list is frighteningly long! Anyone want to volunteer to help?

The chandy, rug, apron holder and window covering are lower priority but I haven’t given up yet. I still have hope that I can finish all of this so please join me in my fantasy world and try to keep up because I’ll be moving at warp speed this week. Thank goodness my coffee bar is done; I see lots of espresso shots and abnormally large pots of coffee in my immediate future!

Have a fantastic Sunday and GO COWBOYS!