The happenings of my hectic and eclectic life!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Festive Fall

Cue the sappy love song. I am in LOVE with my convection oven…

After putting it to good use the past two weeks, I’ve realized that I could never go back. The results are fantastic. All of my baked good have come out so much more moist and cooked more even. And let’s talk about the multi-tasking…I can cook multiple things on different racks at the same time. It’s heavenly.

Let me also tell you I was really glad that this was my longest training week for my upcoming half marathon. After having to taste test everything I was making (cue sad love song…you feel so bad for me, right?) I was happy to be running off the extra calories and also checking off the long miles.

It’s officially the day that Autumn begins AND my parents are coming to visit! So I decided to be a “Pintester” this week and try out some of the ideas I’ve pinned lately to serve to my “guests” and to celebrate fall. Here we go….

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I kept seeing this recipe for pumpkin cupcakes floating around on Pinterest. The recipe called for a box of yellow cake mix and 1 15 oz can of pumpkin. That’s it. Then a Facebook friend posted that she made the same thing using a box of spice cake mix instead of the yellow cake mix and a can of pumpkin. I was intrigued and for me, that’s usually all it takes to send me off on a mission.

Last week I tried a recipe for Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins that was just mediocre. If I’m going to bake, go to all that effort, make a big mess and consume the calories, it better be delicious. I wasn’t jumping up and down over it, however the frosting was fantastic! So I decided to combine the Pinterest recipe, the frosting from the Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins AND some mini chocolate chips because they just make everything better. These muffins are AMAZING! I finished making them, taste tested and texted my friend to tell her I was dying in delicious-ness. It’s so simple there’s no way you can’t try it.

No joke in the original recipe there are two ingredients.
Ingredients 2

1 box spice cake mix
1 15oz can of pumpkin

Then I decided to doctor it up a bit by adding...
⅛ tsp each of Cinnamon, All Spice and Cloves
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix together until all ingredients are combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for about 18 minutes. Or follow cake box directions as if you are baking cupcakes. This recipe made 18 muffins.

On to the frosting. The frosting recipe I tried last week was a cream cheese frosting made from scratch. It was delicious, however I struggled with getting the consistency right. So instead of going to all that effort again, I decided to purchase store bought cream cheese frosting and doctor it up the way it was in the original recipe. I kept the same idea which was adding vanilla and maple flavoring to your cream cheese frosting. YUM. I would definitely do this again instead of messing around with making my own frosting.

Vanilla Maple Frosting
1 can store bought cream cheese frosting
1 T Vanilla extract
½ T Maple flavoring

Although I lack a food stylist (yes, I learned last week there is such a thing), I still thought they turned out pretty enough I could post a picture!
Pumpkin Muffins
I decided to make this next recipe because my e-mail inbox was filling up with notifications that someone had “repinned” my pin. So I thought a lot of you might be curious about this one as well!

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Streusel Coffee Cake
Coffee Cake

The recipe comes from the Pine Cones and Acorns blog. Everything on this blog looks yummy and is photographed beautifully! You can find the recipe here:
The original recipe calls for baking this cake in a 6 inch spring form pan. I didn’t have one so I lined a 6 inch Corningware dish with wax paper and baked in that. I left enough of an edge of wax paper sticking out of the pan that I could grab it and lift the coffee cake out once it cooled.

In all honesty the recipe is a little labor intensive. I like my baking quick and fabulous. So make sure you have time if you’re going to tackle this one. The inside of the coffee cake is delicious! The spice in the cake is just right and the cream cheese mixture is yummy! However, I thought the topping left much to be desired. If anyone else wants to test out this recipe and offer suggestions for improvement I’d love to hear them! I think the topping needs something to truly kick this recipe out of the park.

Are you beginning to see why all the running this week was necessary?! Two more delicious treats…

Pumpkin Hot Chocolate

1 1/2 cups skim milk
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon hot chocolate mix (I used chocolate and french vanilla cocoa mix)
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (to taste)

Whisk together the ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium heat.

{My Mom and I are also on a mission to perfect a Pumpkin Latte recipe while she is here! If we create the perfect concoction I’ll be sure to share!}
Caramel Apple Salad

I’ve had this recipe for some time and love to make it every fall when my parents visit! It feeds an army so make sure you invite your friends over!

4 red apples
4 green apples
1 8oz container Cool Whip (I use fat free Cool Whip)
1 15oz container pineapple tidbits, do not drain the juice
1 6oz package butterscotch pudding (I use sugar free pudding)

Chop the apples into pieces. Mix together Cool Whip, pineapple tidbits with the juice and pudding mix. Fold in apples. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Fall Decorations

Where are we going to eat all of this delicious food?? I couldn’t prepare all of these yummy recipes without creating a festive fall table for us to sit at. It all started with these cute, retro owl plates I saw in our local grocery store ad. I couldn’t pass them up as I thought they would add a whimsical touch to my table this fall. I was super excited to get them on sale and had an addition 20% off coupon. Deal alert!

How cute are these guys?!

I used this picture I pinned on Pinterest as inspiration for the rest of my table decorations!
Fall Table Box

I purchased 3 yards of burlap fabric at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon for my table. I bought the decorative pumpkins, leaves and moss to fill the wooden box at the Dollar Store for $1 for each item. I used battery operated candles instead of real candles, which if you don’t own any, I highly recommend!

Add the owl plates and VOILA!
Table collage

I can’t wait for my parents to arrive to enjoy the comfort of family as our festive fall begins!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm excited to be a part of the link party at High Heels and Grills and to get linked up with some great bloggers! Their blog has some FANTASTIC recipes and we all know I love those!

Join the link party today!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Did you miss the zucchini boat?

I did. It was sailing right past me. I was happily going along believing I didn’t like zucchini.

Turns out, I actually don’t care for yellow summer squash. Who knew? Because they are very commonly served together I had no idea I actually love zucchini. Going along with my typical behavior, an obsession began. All summer long I purchased 2 zucchini a week and looked for recipes to prepare it. After trying many different things I thought I would share three of my favorite recipes!

Because this blog should probably be at least a little bit educational, let’s learn a few things.

Zucchini is a type of summer squash and is actually a fruit, which may come up sometime when you are playing Trivial Pursuit so you can thank me later. In a culinary sense it is usually served as a vegetable, thus the tricky question. It is a very low calorie vegetable that is often used during weight reduction and cholesterol control programs. Each zucchini has only 17 calories! They contain no saturated fats or cholesterol. Its peel is good source of dietary fiber that helps reduce constipation and offers some protection against colon cancers. Zucchini is a very good source of potassium, which is a heart friendly electrolyte. It helps reduce blood pressure and heart rates by countering the effects of sodium. Zucchinis are available all year long, but they are at their best during late spring and summer seasons.

Here are some helpful hints for choosing a zucchini when shopping. In the stores choose small to medium sized zucchini featuring shiny, bright green skin. It should be firm and heavy in your hand. The best size for zucchini is 6 to 8 inches long and 2 inches or less in diameter. They can be stored in your fridge for 2 to 3 days If you are looking for an easy suggestion try eating it raw in a salad or with a dip, mix it with other vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, asparagus and green beans or shredded and added to breads or muffins.

Here are my three favorite zucchini recipes!

Summer Tortellini Salad

I pinned the original recipe to Pinterest from a great blog called Real Mom Kitchen. You can find the original recipe here
I’ve prepared this recipe using low fat store bought ranch dressing. I’ve also purchased the Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning packet and made the dressing with skim milk and plain Greek yogurt. Both are great depending on how much time you have and how health conscious you are feeling. 

1 pkg. (9 oz.) uncooked refrigerated or frozen cheese-filled tortellini
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup you’re favorite ranch dressing
Parmesan cheese – to taste
  1. Cook tortellini according to package directions, drain and rinse under cold running water. Place tortellini in a large colander and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, slice zucchini. chop carrot(s). Cut tomatoes in half.
  3. Add vegetables to tortellini.
  4. Either make salad dressing or pour store bought dressing over salad. Grate parmesan cheese over salad. cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Yield: 6 servings

Zucchini Rice Casserole

You can find the original recipe here:
I first discovered this recipe when I was meal planning for the week of my half marathon this past spring. I was looking for a way to incorporate healthy carbs into my diet for the week. It’s delicious and the pepper jack cheese gives it just the right kick. I’ve made the entire recipe and then frozen half of it and twice I’ve halved the recipe and that worked out great as well. One time, in an effort to make the recipe more healthy I decided not to add the cream cheese at the end. Huge mistake. So run an extra mile, do a few more jumping jacks, whatever makes you feel better about it. Just don’t skip the cream cheese.

The original recipe calls for 2 hours preparation time and who has time for that?! Below is how I modified the original recipe to make it work for me.

1 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice
¼ cup water
4 cups diced zucchini
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese, divided
1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) corn kernels
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces ground turkey
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Pour rice into a microwave safe dish and cook according to microwave preparation instructions
  3. Dice zucchini and set aside
  4. Meanwhile, whisk milk and flour in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until bubbling and thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add 1 1/2 cups Jack cheese and corn and cook, stirring, until the cheese is melted. Set aside.
  5. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add ground turkey. Cook, stirring and breaking the sausage into small pieces with a spoon, until lightly browned and no longer pink, about 4 minutes.
  6. When the rice is done, pour into the bottom of an 11 x 13 casserole dish. Add ground turkey, uncooked zucchini and top with cheese sauce. Dollop cream cheese by the teaspoonful over the casserole.
  7. I removed the chicken broth from this recipe so I usually pour about ¼ cup water over the casserole to keep it moist while baking.
  8. Bake casserole in the oven until the cheese is melted and top is beginning to brown. about 30-40 minutes. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chips

I made this bread for a friend who just had a baby and she described it as “ah-mazing” so I had to share it. I follow this one according to the directions, but I do prefer to bake with mini chocolate chips instead of the regular size.

3/4 cup low-fat milk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2 small zucchini)
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla in a medium bowl. Stir in zucchini. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients and chocolate chips to the dry ingredients; stir until just combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
  3. Bake until golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Let cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.
If I’ve given you an obsession with zucchini you might want to check out this website: for 100 ways to cook zucchini.

Main dish, side dish and dessert….I highly recommend you hop on board the zucchini boat before the weather gets too chilly!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Nail Polish Is The New Lipstick

There’s just something about having polish on my nails. It makes me feel more put together and feminine. I think it has a way of completing your overall look and adds a finishing touch. To me, it’s kind of like putting on your makeup and then finishing with the perfect lip color.

What else is great about nail polish? It’s an easy way to try out a new trend with minimal commitment. The investment is small and nail polish is flattering to every body size and shape. As a Mom it can also be a great excuse to have “me” time or a way to bond with your daughter. You could also use it as an excuse to skip folding laundry because you can’t touch anything while your nails are wet.

In the heat of it all I truly embraced neon nails this summer. My favorites were neon pink and orange. The colors were so bright that every now and again I’d sneak a peek at my nails, forget they were painted neon and practically blind myself. It was ridiculous. But I’m over it. It’s still 100 degrees outside and I’ve moved on.

How can I tell? I’ve purchased 5 bottles of nail polish just this week! And they were all in shades perfect for fall.
While trying to decide which ones to invest in I came across a great review of the nail polish trends for fall on the Refinery 29 website. You can check it out at It summarizes the great trends for falls and provides tons of options and brands.

If you can’t spend all your money on nail polish, or buy five bottles of nail polish in one week (hello, ridiculous) then let’s talk about three colors you need in your collection for fall.
1. A neutral, think gray or beige
2. A red or wine color
3. A deep color such as a navy or burgundy

Here were my picks this week!
Nail Polish Collage

I’ve used OPI polish for years. I’ve always liked it and I think they have great colors. But I’ve recently developed and deep and meaningful relationship with Essie nail polish. I think makes your at home application appear more like a professional polish job and Essie is really affordable at about $8 a bottle.

Two are missing from the picture, which leads to another addiction….gel nail polish.

It’s fantastic, the finish is beautiful, it’s more natural looking than having artificial nails BUT if you get it done at a salon every two weeks it can be an expensive habit. I do my own gel nails at home using a Nailene gel kit with an LED light that I purchased from Walmart for $50. The kit came with a LED light, gel cleanser, gel primer, gel base & top coat, lint-free wipes, double sided nail buffer, manicure stick, and instruction sheet. Everything you need to get started!

Nailene nail kit

As far as gel nail polish brands I’ve tried Shellac, OPIAxxium, OPI Gel Color and Gelish. Gelish is by far my favorite. I purchase Gelish at Sally Beauty Supply. If you’ve never been before it’s a chain store that sells professional products that anyone can purchase. You do not have to be a licensed professional to shop there. Each mini Gelish bottle is about $15. If you really want to get the most bang for your buck you can purchase a bottle of Gelish that is twice the size of the mini ones you can purchase at Sally’s on for the same price they charge at Sally’s. So a full size bottle of nail polish for $15. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an immediate results kinda gal, so I just pay more to purchase it at Sally’s.

You can use all the supplies in your Nailene kit with your Gelish polish. I chose to buy the Gelish mini basics starter kit at Sally’s which includes gel cleanser, gel primer, gel base & top coat, cuticle oil and nail polish soak off. (mine did not come with light as shown in the picture below)

Gelish Mini Basics Kit

It cost me about $100 to get everything I needed to do my gel nails at home. It costs about $30-$35 to get a gel manicure in a salon. Although it might be a little more of an investment to get started doing your own gel nails at home you’ll have yourself paid back in about 3 manicures! I bought my supplies 7 months ago and am still using all of my original products! I re-do my gel polish every two weeks.

Here are the gel polishes I picked for my finger nails!

Gelish Collage

I’m looking forward to creating a lot of great combinations this fall with these five colors! I plan on matching the colors on my fingers and toes or mix things up and paint a different color on my fingers than toes. And one trend from the summer I’m going to keep up is painting my ring finger a different color! You can also consider adding a pattern or sparkle to your ring finger polish for a new look. It can be a fun way to change things up!

ring finger color

The next time you paint your pucker you just might want to paint your nails to add a little more polish to your life!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

An Intro To Me...

Welcome to my hectic and eclectic mashup life!

Sometimes I think to myself, “how did I get here?”

So many projects to complete, a list of things a mile long to accomplish…

and these are just the things I want to do for MYSELF, this doesn’t even include taking care of a husband, a 3 year old, a household, working full time and the list of necessary tasks goes on. My life has officially become hectic and eclectic, filled with a mashup of activities and goals.

Who am I? Just a regular, mid-western girl who seems to take pride in putting too much on my plate. I sometimes joke that I’m a “self-punisher” who every now and again has her head spinning around and each limb pulled in a different direction. Trying to live my normal life, run half marathons, scrapbook, craft and every now and again sit down and read a fashion magazine. Wondering again, how did I get here? So instead of fighting it, let’s embrace it. In fact, let’s blog about it.

It seems as though every week (or every day) I have a new obsession or in my opinion, fantastic idea. I make up my mind that I’m going to try something new and then I must not only complete it, but attempt to be fabulous at it. Oh and I have no patience so the results must happen immediately.

A friend and I joked 10 years ago that I should have a “recommendations website.” So, in a slightly different form, here it is. I’m looking forward to sharing with you my adventures in trying new projects, stories of how I took on new challenges as a novice and how it led to a path of success or total failure. Pictures and ideas of the fashion, hair and makeup trends I’m currently obsessed with, what I’m reading, the new challenges I’m taking on in a working out/running capacity, what I’m baking and a mashup of anything else I’m up to.

I’m hoping I can help you discover a few new things and that I will experience a little self discovery along the way.