Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Crockpot Chicken Chili

When winter finally rolls around to Texas, I start feeling like using my crockpot again. i dunno why I don't really consider this to be a summer appliance, but there you have it. I was also recently reminded by my friend Ryan that I even had a crockpot because he got one for Christmas. Things tend to become forgotten in my giant storage box of kitchen supplies. I found this great recipe for healthy chicken chili and I tried it right away. Gotta love dumping cans of yummies in the crockpot in the morning and coming home to a full blown meal!

I recently read on a blog that an easy way to shred chicken was to put it in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment for a few seconds. Worked like a charm! Goodbye fork shredding for hours!

Finished product!

Crockpot Chicken Chili (from Skinnytaste)

1 onion, chopped
1 16oz can black beans
1 16oz can kidney beans
1 16oz can tomato sauce
2 16oz cans corn
2 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes w/chilies
1 packet taco seasoning
1T cumin
1T chili powder
24oz chicken breast (I used 9 chicken tenderloins)
chili peppers, chopped
chopped fresh cilantro for topping
cheese for topping

*Be sure to drain and rinse the beans and corn. I also drained the diced tomatoes a bit to avoid a runny chili

Combine onion, beans, sauce, corn, tomatoes, taco seasoning, cumin, and chili powder in crockpot. Mix well. Lay the chicken on top. Cover and heat on low for 9.5 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Stir shredded chicken into the crockpot mixture. Heat on low for another 30min. Serve with cheese and cilantro or your choice of toppings.

Soft Ginger Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

More cookies! Hope you're not tired of them yet, cause there are more where these came from! I really liked these cookies on the first couple of days but now all I can taste is molasses. I dunno if I'm just becoming overly sensitive to it or if it needs to be toned down. You be the judge.

Soft Ginger and White Chocolate Cookies (from Two Peas & Their Pod)

1c butter, softened
1c sugar
1/2c molasses (maybe less?)
2T oil
1t vanilla
2 1/4t baking soda
1t salt
1 1/4t cinnamon
1 1/4t ground cloves (I think this could also be toned down a bit)
1t ground ginger
2 eggs
3 1/2c flour
1 1/2c white chocolate chunks
1c sugar for rolling the dough balls (I forgot this step haha)

Preheat to 350F. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in molasses, oil, vanilla, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in between additions. Slowly add in flour. Stir in white chocolate chips. Scoop dough balls and roll them in sugar. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Somethin Sweet

I can't remember if I updated you all on my favorite Houston area cupcakery, Somethin Sweet. They moved into their own place awhile back and it's a tiny bit hard to find since you wouldn't expect a cupcakery to be next door to an auto body shop. I stopped by there last weekend and picked up a quick pumpkin cupcake on my way to the recycling center:

Store facade

My cupcake to-go!

Yummy pumpkin cupcake

Give them a visit, you won't be disappointed!
4201 Center Street, Ste. A-1
Deer Park, TX 77536

January Birchbox Breakdown

In addition to evaluating the Foodzie Box's value for this month I also decided to evaluate the value of my Birchbox.

All my goodies, theme was Clarity this month.

Looks like we already have over full value haha! And, yes I checked the size and they are both .01oz.

This is available in a 150mL size for $19.50. I like the minty scent and how refreshing this face wash is.

I don't really like bars of soap because they're so messy, but I've been keeping this one by my bathroom sink for quick hand washes, say for after petting Baloo for a bit. It does smell nice.

LARABAR= $0.61
These are sold in packages of 12, but you can get them at most food/ sport and health stores individually. I really didn't like this, I fed most of it to Baloo. But, to be fair I really hate coconut so this was a bust from the get-go, not really the bar's fault.

I'm guesstimating the volume to be about 5mL (sorry I work in a lab and I roll SI units folks) so this price is really an estimate. I actually really liked this fragrance, but since I just bought one I might have to pass on this one.

Grand Total= $34.63

Wowza, I'd say I really got my money's worth this month considering the Birchbox is only $10! Even if I don't like an item or two, it's still a deal. I think I shall continue with this venture :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 2012 Foodzie Tasting Box

It's my first month paying full price for the new, more expensive Foodzie Box and while I enjoy getting new things and flavors delivered to my door, I want to make sure it is worth the price hike. Here is my Jan 2012 box:
Loaded with lots of goodies to be sure. Here is the breakdown:

Pacific Sea Salt and Cinnamon Crunch biscuit by Somersaults
2oz= $1.89 (x2)= $3.78 + s&h($5.95)
These are also available at Whole Foods, closest of which is 45 min from my apt.

Vanilla Blueberry Energy Bar from Bearded Brothers
4pk=$12 so 1=$3 + s&h($4.95)
These are also available at Luke's Locker, also 45 min away.

*Sea Salt & Nibs Bar by Madecasse*
1= $5.99 + s&h($5.99) but there is a min $17/ order
Also available at Whole Foods

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil by Kelapo
8oz= $7.69 so 0.5oz= $0.47 +s&h(4.95)

Sun Ripened Pu'er Tea by Five Mountains
2oz= $19.95 + s&h($5.60) 
I have no idea how much was in our box, the pkg is not labeled, I shall weigh it tonight and edit post tomorrow!
So I weighed it and there was only 1oz in the bag so this is actually 1oz= $9.98 + s&h($5.60)

Quite Cheesy Kale Krunch by Alive & Radiant
1= $5.99 (s&h tbd)

Roasted Almonds by Stackhouse Orchards
3lb= $25 so 4oz= $2.08 + s&h(free from Foodzie this month)

This brings my total box to a grand total of $31.29 before even calculating in separate shipping and handling costs. Since the current cost of a Foodzie box is $29.99, it seems this is an ok deal. And, as you can tell, there are a few items that cannot even be bought as a single. Now, the highest value item of this box was the tea. I have yet to try this tea, but I'm not a real big tea aficionado like my sister so that's not something I would have been interested in buying/ trying to begin with. I will continue with the Foodzie box for a month or two more and continue to assess the worthiness of it. Stay tuned for future boxes!

Dark Chocolate Cookies with Caramel and Sea Salt

I used to have no interest in baking cookies. I didn't like having to always be hopping up and down to put sheet after sheet of cookies in the oven after mixing up the dough. Cupcakes seemed so much easier since, with a standard recipe, it's once in the oven and done. However, I have since taken to baking my cupcakes one tin at a time to thwart my crappy apartment oven's attempts to ruin my cupcakes by lack of circulation in the oven. I also started making my cookies really big so that there were fewer sheets of them to bake. I also realized that the frosting of the cupcakes requires a second go-around in the kitchen after everything is cool, whereas cookies are ready for the munching. Hence, I've been on a bit of a cookie kick. Here are the latest in this craze, my dark chocolate cookies with caramel bits and sea salt:

Sorry, no fancy pics, I made the and immediately took them to my friends' house to watch football. I have to say that they were really yummy, but the caramel bits were low quality and next time I will find some fancy caramel to use instead. Also, this recipe made very few cookies, double for any sort of larger gathering.

Dark Chocolate Cookies with Caramel Bits and Sea Salt (from Two Peas & Their Pod)

1 1/4c flour
1/4t baking soda
1/4t salt
5T butter
7T Hershey's Special Dark cocoa
2/3c sugar
1/3c brown sugar
1/3c yogurt (I used vanilla Greek yogurt because it's what I had)
1t vanilla
soft caramel, rolled into balls
sea salt

Preheat 350F. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Transfer to large mixing bowl. Add cocoa and sugars, mix well. Add yogurt and vanilla, stir until combined. Add flour mixture, stirring until moist. Wrap the chocolate dough balls around the caramel and place on baking sheet. Slightly flatten dough and sprinkle sea salt on top. Bake 7 minutes. cool completely.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Monthly Subscriptions

So, after loving both my Foodzie and Birchbox experiences so much, I decided to see what else was out there by way of monthly box subscriptions. I came across many options depending on what you're looking to get:
Blissmobox- focuses on organic and eco-friendly goods ($22)
Also offer Blissmo Break Box- for a company snack room I guess, they ship every 2 weeks with tons of healthy snacks ($98)
Babbabox- kids' activity box ($29.99)
Eco Emi- extremely eco-friendly, organic, sometimes raw products ($15)
Citrus Lane- age specific products for kids ($25)
Makeup Monthly- full-sized make-up to try from well known brands, nail club ($20), cosmetic club ($30), beauty care club ($35)
Conscious Box- ethical, sustainable, environmentally conscious, 100% vegetarian products ($19)
Kiwi Crate- Kids projects for ages 3-6 ($19.95)

I decided to try the Blissmobox in December. It had some interesting products.
So far I've used the baking cups (they separated from the cupcakes after a day), the cinnamon (delicious, like all cinnamon), and the pecan butter (love nut butters, and this one had a great taste). I can't say that I was blown out of the water with this, but I may try one more to see how they do with a different theme (December was the kitchen box). Let me know if you try any of the other boxes!

Boxes Update

I've been slacking on my Foodzie and Birchbox updates. Here are the ones I've received for the past few months:

November Foodzie box favorite: Vadeboncoeur nougat. The pistachios were yummy, but really messy and hard to open. Everything else was sort of a wash. I made the cornbread muffins, they were dry. And I've just been eating the cranberries, good but not exciting. And I didn't like the crostini and haven't figured out what to do with the pickled figs.

December Foodzie Box: so hard to choose a favorite, but it would have to be the Put Your Money On Honey caramels by Droga Confections. Oh my goodness, the perfect combination of dark chocolate and caramel topped with sea salt! I also loved the butterscotch, chocolate sun cups, blueberry acai gummies, and butter crunch. The florentines were ok and I didn't really like this flavor for the 479 popcorn.

December Birchbox favorite: Ol├Če Biologique Huile Moderne face and body oil. It has really helped keep my face from drying up and flaking out in the winter weather.

The price of the Foodzie tasting box has increased from $19.99 to $29.95 so I will be investigating if it is really worth continuing for the January box. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Puffy Quilt for Krista and Brian's New Nugget

My good soccer and game night peeps, Krista and Brian just had a sweet baby boy and I had a puffy quilt waiting for them. Unfortunately, I got really sick right after he was born and I had to wait until after Christmas break to give them his puffy quilt. So, now that they have finally seen it I can reveal it here. It was another unisex attempt, but I think it turned out a bit boyish so I'm glad they had a boy! Here it is:

I always love a good animal themed blanket! I also made a pink and grey one for Miss Reagan, but I totally forgot to take pictures of it! Major fail! I'll have to ask Ali to snap a few shots of it for me I guess.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Home for the Holidays

This year I had an amazing break at home with fam and friends. It was my longest vacation to date and I loved every minute of it! I spent a lot of time with the fam at the Blue Wind, easily their favorite restaurant/ wine bar in The County. You should definitely make it a part of your to-do list if you ever find yourself visiting St. Mary's County, MD. On one of our many visits we ran into the Devines (also frequent guests of the Blue Wind), including my friend, Kelli, from high school. She got married awhile back and I haven't seen her recently, but she's pregnant! So adorable!

I love being at my parents' house for Christmas because my Mom somewhat loses her mind decorating for this holiday. The house is primarily painted in red, green, and navy anyways so it really lends itself to Christmas decorating. Here are a few snapshots of the trees my Mom had scattered throughout the house:

Another welcome attraction at my parents' house is their dog, Gracie. She loves me. I may buy her affection with scraps and continuous petting, but whatever. This is her 'wtf woman, why aren't you petting me' face:
 Gracie's Christmas present from Baloo and I:
It was a santa rope toy with squeakers, win:
 This is her favorite sleeping/ being pet position:
Love her. And of course, I get to see alllll the fam. Here is a pic of me with the grandparents on Christmas Day:

As always we went on our yearly trip into DC to visit the museums with my Grandma. This year we went to the Freer Gallery and made a quick dash into the insanely packed Natural History Museum to see a new mummy exhibit. Here are my favorite pieces from the exhibits:
From the Freer Gallery, I found shrek! aka a Ritual Ewer from 1200-1100BEC China:
Fittings in the form of tigers, Shaanix province 900BCE:
From the Natural History Museum: A mummy of an Egyptian Divine Bull:
Inner coffin of Tentkhonsu:

My sister, Jesse, goes to trivia at a nearby bar on occasion with her friends and their parents. We had a kids vs parents duel and we may have lost, but it was tons of fun all the same. The parents got first place in the whole place (my Dad is a wealth of minute detailed information) and won $50!

And towards the end of my vacation I was able to visit my childhood friend, Alison, and her new baby, Reagan! A real cutie! So glad I could meet her.

I had the best time at home and I miss everyone already. Can't wait for my next trip back East!