I've Moved

I decided to start over with my blog, this one will no longer have new postings.
Come visit me at State 21.

Strawberry Butter

Recently I read an article that said berries do amazing things for skin.
I was born with a skin disorder called eczema.
I have a very mild version, but it leaves me with dry, itchy skin if I don't lather up with a ton of lotion every day.
In the article that I read, it said that berries, especially strawberries and blueberries can help keep eczema breakouts away.
Yes, please!
I ran out to the store and stocked up on fresh and frozen berries, trying to incorporate them into all of my meals.
Today's concoction yielded strawberry butter.
(By the way, this goes perfectly with my Greek Village Bread!)

1 lb of strawberries
3-4 tbsp of honey
2 tsp of lemon juice
1-1/2 sticks (or the equivalent) of your favorite butter/spread

Chop the tops off of the strawberries, then throw them into a blender. Chop it until there are no big chunks.

Put it into a saucepan, along with the honey and lemon juice. Boil and stir for 5-10 minutes or until it begins to thicken.

Let the strawberry mixture cool while you soften the butter- soften, DO NOT melt it.
Once the strawberries are room temperature, mix the butter into them.

Throw the new mixture back into the blender to make it smooth. Let it chill in the fridge for a while, then serve on fresh out of the oven bread.

This spread is a perfect mix between butter and jam, it's sweet, but not overpowering.
It's mouthwatering when the Strawberry butter becomes a little melty and the aroma fills your nose. 
Enjoy it before it's gone, this won't last long in your fridge!



Cancer Awareness Giveaway

I don't have a million readers, but I am very appreciative of the followers I do have.
This has been an awesome week and I can't help but be walking on cloud nine, so it's the perfect time to do a giveaway!

Two people in my life were suffering from cancer, and I found out yesterday that BOTH are cancer free!
One battled pancreatic cancer two years ago, having a huge, very serious surgery. The survival rate for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is VERY low, but she managed to pull through, and after two long years, her doctors have informed her that she is cancer free.
The other was a teenager when she was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She had the ovary removed and continued on with life. Last fall, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer again. And earlier this week, she had surgery again to remove the remainder of her inside lady parts. Doctors assured her she is once again cancer free.

To celebrate this amazing news for both people in my life, I want to do a giveaway to raise some awareness of both types of cancers. You're never too old or too young to get screened or share your body changes/concerns with your doctor. Make sure they listen to you, and don't dismiss your worries!

The bracelets are made with Swarovski pearls for the Choose Hope organization. If you win, you just have to promise that when someone asks you about the bracelet, you tell them what it represents. Deal?

Purple is the color for pancreatic cancer awareness and teal for ovarian cancer awareness.

I am giving away BOTH bracelets!
You can enter by leaving a comment on here with your name, city, email address, how you found my blog, and which color your prefer.
Here's the trick, I MUST have at least 25 of my wonderful readers enter the contest before I will ship these little beauties off, so spread the word!

This contest will remain open until next friday.

Good luck! X


Greek Village Bread

My Grandma was proud to be Greek.
She loved the food and she loved her family, she always called me her "little Greek girl".
But when it came to talking about the country itself, she never said much.
I brought up the idea of traveling abroad to visit Greece with a friend, and she practically begged me not to go.
I don't know which town my family came from or what they went through trying to come to America because it was never talked about.
Questions have gone unanswered since I can remember, and now my Grandma is gone, and I still don't have answers.
I know very little about my Grandma's upbringing, except her mother passed when she was a toddler, and in order to work to provide for his family, my Grandma's father had to pass her and her sister off to other family members and, from what I understand, orphanages at times.
I don't care that I'm not sure of my exact roots, I know I'm Greek, and I'm damn proud of it.
Some day I will travel to see the ruins and live like the Grecians do, but for now, this little Greek girl will stick to making their delicious food.

I went for an old, traditional recipe this time. It's Greek Village Bread, also known as Horiatiko Psomi (ho-ree-ah-tee-koh so-me).

It's relatively easy to make, this was my first time baking any bread on my own, and it turned out VERY (surprisingly!) well.

What you'll need:
2-1/4 tbsp dry yeast (one little packet)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
8 cups bread flour
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp olive oil (and a little extra for drizzling later)
2 tbsp honey
2-1/2 cups warm water

1. Stir the yeast packet into about 3/4 cup of warm water.
2. Stir in the whole wheat flour.
3. Let it stand for 20 minutes. It will look like this:

4. In a (very) large mixing bowl, mix the bread flour with the salt, then create a well in the middle.
5. Add the yeast mixture, oil, honey, and milk (in that order, it helps to keep the honey from sticking to the measuring spoon) to the well. It will look like this:

6. Use your hands to mix it all together, adding the 2-1/2 cups of water until it's a thick, gooey lump.
7. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead until it's no longer sticky.
8. Drizzle some olive oil over the top of the bread and rub it all around, making sure all sides have a thin layer.
9. Place the dough back into the mixing bowl.
10. Make a wet towel sandwich (dry, wet, dry) and lay it over the bowl.
11. Let it rise for 90 minutes.
12. For 5-10 minutes, alternate kneading and punching the dough on a floured surface.

13. Divide the dough into 4 loaves, and shape them (long, round, throw it in a pan, it doesn't matter).
14. Place the loaves (several inches apart) onto cookie sheets and cover with the towel sandwich again.
15. Let them rise for at least an hour.
16. Score the tops of the loaves, with an X or a couple slash lines, whatever you fancy.
17. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees and place one sheet in the oven at a time, on the middle rack.
18. Bake for 20 minutes (maybe shorter depending on how you make your loaves), keep an eye on them!)
19. Remove from oven, slice, eat while warm.
20. Save some for later to sop up oil or for the morning to toast and enjoy with jam.


Lemon Squares

Nothing says "Spring" to me quite like fresh fruit.
Especially lemons.
I love when restaurants start offering lemonade drinks for the beginning of the warm seasons.
For me, it's like a party celebrating the end of a long winter.
Because it is still January,I also need some comfort in my diet- I couldn't quite go full-blown Spring on you yet.
So I made Lemon Bars.
All the lemon taste I craved, but the warmth and fluffiness of a winter treat.

I wasn't happy about the way they looked while I was making them, but the first bite made my eyes roll back into my head, and before I knew what my mouth was doing I let out an "ohhhmmmm" sound.
These aren't for the faint of heart. If you just want a little lemon taste, this is not your recipe.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (this equals about 1 juicy lemon)
sifted powdered sugar (for later)

Soften the butter in the microwave for a few seconds. Mix the flour, butter, powdered sugar, and salt until it becomes crumbly/crust like. I used a mixer and left it on low for a while. It came out smooth, yet crumbly. Just make sure everything is mixed well.
Smoosh it all down into a greased pan. I used one slightly smaller than a 13x9 in order to make my bars thicker. Use what you'd like. Bake for 20 min (until golden colored) at 350.

While the crust is baking, mix together the granulated sugar, eggs, and lemon juice. I blended slowly at first then turned it up to medium-fast for a few seconds.
When the crust is done, remove it from the oven, and pour the lemon juice mixture on top of the hot crust.

Pop it back into the oven at 350 for an additional 20 minutes or until the edges are golden and the middle looks done-ish.
Let it cool completely, sift with powdered sugar, cut into squares and enjoy

Try not to eat more than two in one sitting.
You will get an upset tummy.
Lesson learned.


Spring 2013 Fashion Guide

It's January, yet it's warm and I haven't seen snow in quite some time.
This strange weather makes me want Spring more than usual, so I thought now would be a good time to do a Spring fashion guide.
The best part about Spring is the change of clothing. We go from dark colors, boots, hats, and wool scarves to light layers, fresh and fun colors, and strappy sandals.
When I was younger, it seemed that if you weren't right on trend, you were made fun of in school, thought to be uncool.
Now, if you're doing something different, people admire you for it.
You really can't go wrong this spring. Bright colors, pastels, grays and browns are all making an appearance on the runway.
Anymore you can find skinny jeans next to boot cuts next to flared jeans. You'll find girls of the same age preferring different styles and all rocking them flawlessly. A young girl's fashion has really become about personal preference and being able to pull off the look you're going for, rather than having one label.
One day you can find me in a colorful, flowery dress, and the next I'll be in a black and gray tiger t-shirt with leather boots.
I don't have an exact style. I always felt pressured into fitting into a certain group: was I preppy with polos and khakis or was I more of a vixen with dark colors, tight pants, and sky-high heels?
Now that I'm older, I see fashion for what it is. Fun.
If you're not having fun with it, you're doing it wrong. You don't need to fit into one single category. Do what you want, play with color, and most importnatly, rock what you wear.
So here is my eclectic mix of clothing that you may catch me in this Spring.

I love pink. Pink goes with light, pink goes with dark, pink is feminine no matter how you wear it. Pink is good. This blazer is great for work or running around town. It makes you look like you tried to be "stylish", yet you can throw it on over just about anything else in your closet.

Statement tees are fun, fashionable, and easy to wear. You can be a size 2 or 22 and this shirt will be just as cool. The dripping paint look reminds me of Zevs dripping logo art, which I fell in love with last year.

Who doesn't love a body suit? It won't come untucked and it looks sleek and composed all night. You could be sloppy drunk (not that I recommend it) and your outfit will still look flawless- minus the drink spills.....

If it's just a little too cold to wear your favorite dress, throw this on. Keep it in your bag or car and when the sun starts going down, sling this on and voila. Warm again. You could also wear this with leggings or jeans for an extra slouchy look. No matter how you wear it, you're going to be comfortable.

Not only are these pants colorful, they scream spring. Blue is a great color to wear year round. They're a slightly stretchy, almost legging type pant, so very breathable and won't weigh you down. The best part about these is that they're under $15! These pants are an awesome way to change your wardrobe significantly without spending a ton of money. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, but I like blue the best.

The older I get, the more muted colors I enjoy wearing. Taupe is one of my new favorites. It's good for every season and will always be classy. You will always be on color trend if you go with earth tones, so if you're someone who worries about that sort of thing, make your expensive clothing purchases in colors that will be "in" forever. Then mix it up with the more inexpensive items in your closet.

Ok, now here's something I've been struggling with for a while. Denim on denim.
I'm never quite sure if I love it. But then crazy colored pants came back into stores, and all of a sudden it's ok to wear a denim top with coral colored pants.
You can find my favorite denim tops here, here, and here.

If you're stuck with what to wear, ask yourself if you love it. If you love it and will wear it, buy it.
No one else's opinion matters.



The Roundhouse

The last train station on the BNSF metra is Aurora, IL.
Some of you may recognize that city from Wayne's World... No way! Way!
Connected to the train station is what is known as The Roundhouse.
I'm not sure of everything that currently occupies the building, but from what little wandering I've done, I've seen a pub tucked away. I've been told there are also little venues for concerts/weddings/events within the building.
During the holidays, reindeer would be put in the center to mingle with the diners and wanderers.
They don't do this anymore due to a death in the reindeer family. Apparently reindeer have very sensitive stomachs and people were feeding the food off their plates.
Regardless, The RH has become a favorite of mine.
We were the first customers for the day, don't let the empty tables fool you. By the time we were done eating, the place was full of men in suits, girlfriends meeting up, and families too.

The atmosphere is a mix of soft and hard, warm and cold. The old wood floor, stone walls, exposed hardware, cushiony sleek leather seats, and roaring fires keep the restaurant comfortable, yet stimulating.

I went with the Roundhouse Burger. It is a medium-thick patty with applewood smoked bacon, a roasted pablano, white cheddar cheese, and oozing with a house-made spicy/tangy barbecue sauce. I also opted for the house-cut french fries.
Everything that is served at The RH is 100% organic, including beverages.
The owners also only use local, fresh ingredients.
I couldn't believe my senses when our waitress brought out the food. It looked and smelled so amazing. I don't think J and I talked for the next 15-20 minutes as we devoured our lunch, except for the occasional "can I have a bite of that?"

J ordered the N'Awlins Muffaletta- a sandwich made of ham, salami, mortadella, and capicola meats with provalone cheese, topped with an olive salad, smooshed between two pieces of a sesame bun.


The portions are enough to have a meal and take a goody bag home... that's only if your tastebuds will let you stop.
The building has been in the hands of many owners (including Walter payton of the Bears), but now the RH is owned by Two Brothers.
They brew and serve their own beer and have seasonal favorites; you can learn more about that and brewery tours here.

You can also find more information about The RH here, and the other Two Brother's restaurant, The Tap House, here.


Philadelphia Brownies

Hi everyone!
It has been a loooong few months. I have a ton of updates to give you.
Most importantly, I graduated from college and am now ready to sit for boards!
I'm nervous and excited and so ready to get on with the rest of my life.
I'm adjusting slowly to city life, but it's not coming as naturally as I thought it would.
I get nervous going to new places by myself when J is at work, but I know the more I do it, the easier it will be.
Moving to a new state requires so much paperwork in order to get a new license, a library card, and all the other little things you don't really think of.
I wouldn't change any of it though!
It's snowing today and I'm being a shut-in with the pup. Nothing sits better in my tummy on a cold winter day than something deliciously warm.
I've been trying to stay away from sweets but since it's my Dad's birthday and I wanted to bake him something anyways, here's one of my all-time favorite treats- Philadelphia Brownies.
A rendition of this recipe goes way back in my family. It's one that my Grandma loved baking for my Dad. Since I can't find Grandma's recipe, I made my own easy (cheating!) version.
What you'll need:
1 Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme brownie mix
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 package (8oz) Philadelphia cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

What I love about the Ghirardelli brownies is that it comes with a chocolate syrup. Set the syrup aside, even though the package tells you to add it right away, DON'T! Otherwise, follow the directions on the back of the box. Pour only 2/3 of the mixture into the greased pan, and set it aside (don't put it in the oven yet). Save the other 1/3, along with the syrup packet, and set it aside.

With a mixer, beat the cream cheese until it is soft and smooth, then add 1 egg, the sugar, and the vanilla. Mix until it is smooth again.

Plop the entire cream cheese mix on top of the uncooked brownies in the pan. Smooth it all around until it covers most of the top. Then pour the remaining brownie mix over the cream cheese mix. Don't worry if the white shows through. This isn't art class!

Spread the syrup packet evenly over the pan using a knife. You can leave it like this, or make a pretty design using the tip of the knife.

Plop the pan in the oven at 325F for about 35-40 minutes or until the cream cheese is a golden color. Wait until the pan is completely cooled before cutting and serving.
Also, these should be refrigerated.... obviously unless they're all gone after one sitting!

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