Breakfast for Dinner

It was a comedy of food errors at my house while trying to make this dish of Bananas Foster French Toast.

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In the end, it turned out delicious, but getting to the end was quite an accomplishment.

First of all, you make this with challah bread, not Wonder bread or Texas Toast, which are more readily available at my local grocery store.

Because Mariano’s didn’t have challah bread, we decided to make it ourselves. We forgot to do it all day, then, as we were rushing to make/eat dinner before we headed out the door to watch the Illini football game (which wasn’t worth it), we made the dough.

It rose while our alma mater was dying a slow and painful football death, and then we baked the bread around 11pm that evening. It baked for about 30 minutes and we ended up with a delicious challah loaf.

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Though it was only a little after midnight, we headed to bed.

I woke up the next morning super excited for french toast, and much to my dismay, I saw the recipe called this “overnight” french toast. Overnight? Yep, the bread needed to soak for 8 hours, and preferably, overnight.

French toast for breakfast quickly became french toast for dinner once I realized our mistake.

We cut the bread into 1 inch pieces and pushed them into a 13×9 baking dish.

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We poured the egg-sugar-cinnamon mixture over the bread and waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, around 7pm, we finally got hungry for dinner. The bread was thoroughly soaked and all was looking good.

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I pulled up the recipe and saw the bread was supposed to bake for about 45 minutes(!) and before it baked, it was supposed to be at room temperature. Good gosh. We preheated the oven and only waited as long as it took the oven to preheat to 350 degrees. I put the baker in the oven, and 40ish minutes later, the apartment smelled wonderful and the bread came out looking like this:

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I couldn’t wait to dig in when I realized that we had again forgotten to make a part of the dish – the topping.

We quickly cut up 4 bananas, melted some butter, added some brown sugar, and about 5 minutes later, the topping was ready.

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Finally, about 30 hours after we first started preparing to make this dish (shopping for the challah bread that wasn’t at the store), and about 10 hours after we originally wanted it, we finally sat down to eat the breakfast french toast that had become our dinner.

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It was all worth it.

Birthday S’more Cupcakes

Last night, a bunch of my friends got together to celebrate the birthday of my dear friend, Liz.

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She requested I bake a dessert for the group, and she specifically requested a s’more cake, like the one I made for our friend Lauren’s birthday a while back.

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Cakes are rather unwieldy to bring out, so I didn’t think that was the best way to go. Instead, I came up with a way to make s’more cupcakes.

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It was actually pretty easy.

I started by making a plain old chocolate cupcake. My favorite recipe is:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup milk chocolate chips

Put all the ingredients together in a bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon. That’s really it.

I used my large cookie dough scoop to spoon batter into cupcake liners.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, turning once during the cooking process.

Once you can pull a clean toothpick out of them, they are done.

Now is when I started getting fancy.

Once the cupcakes were cooled, I took a cupcake corer and cored out each cupcake.

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For the filling and frosting, I mixed one tub of Cool Whip with one jar of marshmallow fluff. Whip until the mixture is very light.

I took about a quarter of the frosting and transferred it to another bowl. There, I added 3 crushed up graham crackers and mixed it all together.

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The graham-Cool Whip-marshmallow fluff combination is what I put inside the cored out cupcake middles.

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I used the frosting sans graham crackers to top off the cupcake.

For decoration, I took bits of graham cracker, crumbs, and some shiny sprinkles and put those on top.

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They were a hit.

Happy birthday, Liz!

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Cleaning Schedule

While preparing for my Italian dinner party, I realized that we spent a ton of time cleaning the apartment before Dan’s parents came over. Why? Because with two full-time jobs, staggered work hours, and a long commute, something has to give. It’s cleaning.

It’s not that we live in a pigsty, it’s that time gets away from us in doing the more time consuming cleaning – dusting, mopping all the floors, cleaning out the fridge, etc. I realized we were only doing these things before we had people over to the apartment. Then, we have a marathon cleaning session which leaves us not wanting to do that again for a long time.

I thought we could eliminate the need for a huge deep cleaning session if we were just better about keeping up on the day to day upkeep and then doing a light cleaning when company was coming. Dan and I talked about the chores each of us do and how often we thought it was necessary to do them, and came up with a chore list. I’ve converted that list into a cleaning schedule chart:

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This one’s generic, and can be used by anyone as a starting point. My actual cleaning schedule contains tasks related to Phoebe (walks, vet visits, grooming, etc.), but since not everyone has a Phoebe, I left those off of this list.

I tried to include cleaning that doesn’t usually get done, but really should. For example, when is the last time you cleaned your doorknobs or wiped down your remote with a Lysol wipe? Most likely never. Think of the germs that live on there! Gross.

I think that by writing down all the tasks to be done, the cleaning is more likely to happen. Of course, this is yet to be seen, as we’re just starting to try out this method. Hopefully, it will work and I’ll have a very clean apartment.

What works for you?

Lazy Football Sunday White Chili

Yesterday was a super lazy day. A day where I only got dressed (in sweatpants and an old shirt) because I had to go on an errand. A football and chili day.

Taking stock of what was in the pantry, I realized I didn’t have everything that was needed for my usual chili. I was lacking ground beef, tomato juice, and a couple different kinds of beans. Pretty much all the ingredients for chili. Hmmm. I was already back from my errand, and going out again was not an option for me. I did realize I had quite a bit of frozen ground turkey, and a ton of great northern beans (white beans). That’s when it hit me – white chili.

I had seen this recipe a while back, but I never got around to making it. It came out great.

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Personally, I thought white chili was both easier to make and tastier. Extra points for it being healthier too (turkey instead of beef).

I didn’t measure any of the spices, and just kept adding more until I liked the taste.

I felt so lazy that I didn’t even make the jalapeno cornbread I intended as the side dish. Instead, I took out the rest of the Asiago bread from the farmer’s market that we had frozen. I put it in the oven for a few minutes, until it got a little toasted.

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The bread went with the chili perfectly.

It was a nice little Sunday.

Last Name Letterpress

Over the summer, Dan and I checked out Lit Fest, down in Printer’s Row. It was cool to see some seriously old books, meet some authors, and just generally be downtown in the city on a nice (hot) day.

We ended up buying some bestseller paperbacks to help a local school, and some old letterpress letters.

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Oh. So. Cool.

Looking through them made your fingers all inky, but it was really neat seeing all the different fonts, symbols, and styles. I just had to have some.

We ended up buying the letters for our last name: THORNE. As this was a popular booth, they didn’t have all the letters we needed in any one specific font or size. Turns out, the variety made this project turned out much better anyways.

At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. Put them in a cool jar? But then you wouldn’t be able to see what the letters spelled.

I finally figured it out and decided to mount the letters on some wood, and use it as a sort of sign to display.

My original thought was to use a couple pieces of distressed pallet wood, but as I thought about it, I didn’t love the idea.

I ended up deciding to use…get this…a hardwood floor sample.

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Uh huh. I picked up a bunch of samples, put the letters next to them, and picked the one that worked best with the colors in the letterpress stamps.

Once that was decided it was quite an easy project.

I just took some wood glue and, after having spaced out the letters the way I wanted them, I glued them in place.

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I put a couple heavy books on top of the letters while they dried overnight.

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Now, this cute little piece sits on the shelf behind the couch in our living room.

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And look, from the side, you can see the grooves where the letters fit into the letterpress machine.

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This guy will probably find a new home elsewhere in the apartment, but for now, I like seeing it when I walk in the front door.

Italian Dinner Party

Over the weekend, Dan’s parents came to visit us and we gave them their belated birthday present – a home-cooked dinner made by yours truly and my hubby.

While celebrating their birthdays back in July, we gave them a bottle of wine (to BYOB for the dinner) and a sample menu where they could pick from a few choices for an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. All would be made by Dan and I and ready when they got to our place.

The menu for the evening was:

Appetizer: melted fresh mozzarella and prosciutto crostini topped with basil
Entree: wild mushroom and Parmesan spinach ravioli in marinara sauce served with garlic herb knots
Dessert: Madagascan black vanilla bean honey yogurt panna cotta drizzled with warm honey

Sounds fancy.

Honestly, the prep time wasn’t too long, and we definitely blocked out the day for cooking (and cleaning to make our apartment presentable!).

The appetizer was the easiest. We put some prosciutto and deli mozzarella (not the fresh kind because it’s too watery) on top of some baguette slices and sprinkles the top with basil.

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I put those in the oven for about 7 minutes at 350, which was until the cheese melted.

The next easiest was the dessert. We’ve made the panna cotta before, so it wasn’t a challenge.

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The garlic knots also were a breeze.

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My secret? Store bought pizza dough from Trader Joe’s. I sliced the dough, rolled it, and tied it into these cute little knots.

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I sauteed 4 cloves of garlic in olive oil, then brushed the mixture on top of the knots before baking them. I also added parsley and a bit of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese. Bake those for about 8 minutes at 350.

The most time-consuming was by far the mushroom ravioli.

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We handmade the spinach dough and made the mushroom filling from scratch.

We topped the ravioli with some of my marinara sauce, which is Giada’s basic recipe with my own little tweaks.

As for decor, I kept it really simple. A single white daisy in a glass vase. White tablecloth. Bold red cloth napkins. White china/serveware.

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I read somewhere that white plates really let the food stand out, and I totally agree. This is the first time I really focused on that, and I was really happy with the results. I’ll be sure to use that tip again in the future.

It was a fun night with family and food.

New Fall Checklist

Not that I’ve officially properly mourned the end of summer, and shared my fun warm weather happenings, I’m ready to move on to fall.

Last year, I created this Fall Fun Checklist.

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I never really updated my progress on it, but I can tell you now that I completed everything except visiting a haunted house and playing in leaves. Pretty good in my book.

This year, I’ve created a new to do list, and tried to come up with completely new activities to try.

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As you can see, I made a few tweaks to the layout. I kept the general color scheme the same, it is fall, but I inverted the list to be vertical. I think it looks better on my mantle that way.

I really had to limit myself in the food category. What it is about crisp weather that makes you want to bake up a batch of fatty cookies or whip up a pot of creamy, calorie-filled soup? I do have a ton of new fall recipes I want to try, and I’m sure you’ll hear about those when I get around to making them.

Feel free to print out mthe checklist and partake in my fall fun.

I hope to check just as many off my list as I did last year. Are there any activities you’re looking forward to this season that I’ve forgotten?

It’s Game Time, Baby!

With this post, I’m finally caught up after all of my blog difficulties last week. Don’t go expecting every day posts anymore. I know, you’re crushed.

Football season is upon us. To me, it is a time of lazy Sundays on a couch, friends, and of course some pretty fatty though totally delicious comfort food.

Chili. Sliders. Chips and dip. Wings. Pizza. Yum.

To kick off the NFL’s first weekend, I thought I’d share some yummy recipes I saved to make the next time I host a football Sunday.

Always first in my mind at any football gathering: chili.

Here’s a great recipe for a white chicken chili, to change it up from the same old beef and bean chili.

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I’m also a big fan of bite sized snacks for game watching.

These taco cups using wonton wrappers certainly fits the bill.

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As do these pigs in a blanket (easy to make with hot dogs and crescent rolls).

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I also think these buffalo chicken bites are a great idea.

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Way less messy than traditional wings. For ease, make the chicken mixture from scratch, but just use store bought pizza dough (I really like the kind from Trader Joe’s) instead of homemade.

Finally, and probably the easiest of all, set out a ton of chips and a variety of dips.

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Guacamole, salsa, spinach artichoke, chili con queso, taco, etc. Don’t be afraid of store-bought stuff either. I love to cook more than most, but on game day, I spend my time watching the games and not in the kitchen.

I can’t wait for Sunday’s game. Bear Down!

Summer’s End

Just like I believe Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of it. I can’t believe summer has come and gone.

I thought I’d do a final review of my summer checklist and see how I fared in getting through my to do list.

In my original to do list, I thought of 23 summer activities that I hoped to do before fall rolled around.

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In three updates (here, here, and here), I tracked my progress.

All in all, I accomplished most of the activities.

Ones I didn’t get to:
Bike path
Make limoncello
Summerdance
See fireworks
Bonfire/s’mores

Oh well.

I did do a bunch of additional warm weather activities that I never thought of while making the list.

Over the Labor Day weekend, I headed to the Walworth County Fair. Goats, cows, emus, fried food and all.

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I even tried a fair staple – deep fried Twinkies.

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It wasn’t for me.

For my friend Lauren’s birthday, we attended a classical concert in the park at Millennium Park.

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I had a wonderful birthday party on our back patio.

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I went to more Movies in the Park than I expected. Final count: 4 (Wizard of Oz, The Lorax, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, North by Northwest).

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And we spent at least one morning each weekend at the dog beach.

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I’d say I made the most of my summer. Did you?

As my final nail in the summertime coffin, check back next week for a new to do list this fall!

Open Face Grilled Tuna Salad Sandwich

Continiung on with the catch-up posts due to the blog issues I was having last week, I’m sharing with you the open face grilled tuna salad sandwich I made from our delicious Farmer’s Market finds.

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I’ve had this sandwich before (Dan’s parents are big fans and have made this for us), and it tastes so good every time I have it. I’m wondering why I don’t make it more often.

It’s a simple dish.

Start by making tuna salad as you usually do. I prefer it with mayo and celery to give it some crunch. Once you have it made, set aside.

Next, start up your grill and brush olive oil onto sliced pieces of bread.

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I have to warn you, I don’t think there is any bread better than the kind we have. It really makes the sandwich. The bread is from the Wheaton French Market, which is a Farmer’s Market. The bakery itself is Great Harvest Bread Co.

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Once the pieces have been oiled, put them on a hot grill. It only takes a couple minutes to get each side nice and toasted.

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Add the tuna salad on top of the grilled piece of bread and anything else you might want on there too (cheese, tomato slices, etc.). If you want to melt the ingredients, put the sandwich back on the grill for a few minutes. I skipped that step.

We ate it with some fresh sweet corn (also from the same Farmer’s Market) that was tossed on the grill at the same time as the bread. A light warm weather dinner that is sure to please.