27 September 2010

The Best Banana Pudding Ever

A couple of weeks ago, a former teacher was on campus giving a presentation in Theology. She's just an amazing teacher. I was able to be in an audience where she presented over Islam. It was just fabulous.

(She was actually one of Husby's favorite teachers in high school. The other fave is retired from public school and now teaches at our school, too. They both like to tell me HOW MUCH THEY LIKE HIM. AND OH MY GOODNESS HE'S JUST AS GOOD AS GOLD. And do know what? They're right! Except for when he leaves the closet door open at night just to see if my OCD is in gear.)

So, this teacher always bring homemade goods to the teachers lounge. Y'all, it is HARD working in a school and avoiding things like donuts and cookies and such that are always around. Well, I successfully avoided her homemade snicker doodles the week before. Mostly because they were all eaten. But upon her return for the presentation she brought BANANA PUDDING.

And I just can't avoid banana pudding. It's just impossible. Even if it's not great, it's still worth eating. Until I had this: the best banana pudding ever. Seriously. EVER. (Sorry, Mom.) Now, no banana pudding will ever live up to just being banana pudding; it will forever be compared to Mrs. Berry's Banana Pudding.

I dipped some from the container and took one bite. I recognized a familiar flavor: cream cheese. Y'all, you can top pretty much anything with cream cheese, and I'll eat it. But to have cream cheese in pudding? Praise the Lord! Why haven't I thought of it before?!

That night was Open House. I didn't go home between the end of the school day and Open House because I was quite busy. Before the parents came, I got a little hungry. I went to check on possible snacks in the lounge, and guess what I found? That's right. The leftover banana pudding. Being the martyr that I am, I ate the remaining goodness. After all, who wants to eat brown bananas the next day?

Are you ready? You seriously have to make this recipe.

The Best Banana Pudding Ever
From the kitchen of Mrs. Berry

1 8-oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 can Eagle Brand Milk
2 cups cold milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large box vanilla instant pudding
3 large bananas
Vanilla wafers
1 8-oz. Cool Whip (1/2 in pudding; 1/2 for topping), thawed

Mix pudding with 2 cups cold milk. Blend cream cheese and Eagle Brand; add to pudding mixture. Add vanilla and half the Cool Whip. Layer with Vanilla Wafers, pudding mixture, sliced bananas. Top with remaining Cool Whip. Allow to sit in fridge for several hours.

25 September 2010

In the Kitchen

It's no secret that I enjoy cooking. I feel comfortable in the kitchen, thanks to growing up in the restaurant industry, and having a mom and grandmother who loved to cook. But I'm still tired--just like you--at the end of the day, and I want my money to go far in the kitchen. Here are just a few tips that might be helpful.

I do not chop garlic. Period. It's too much of a hassle for me. Can you say lazy? I'm okay with it, really. And I still use chopped garlic, instead of ground, though. It's just in this form:

It saves me five minutes and smelly hands. I keep it in the fridge AT ALL TIMES.

Another thing you'll find in my fridge:

This chicken base makes soups--and other recipes--so easy. I use it in place of  those little bouillon cubes that sit for years in my pantry; 1/2 teaspoon = one bouillon cube. The flavor is richer, and I don't have scrape the bits of paper from the cubes anymore! With about 40 servings in a little jar, it's also cheaper than buying cans or boxes of chicken broth. I also have a jar of beef base in the fridge.

Don't enjoy chopping onions? Who does?! It just takes time at the end of a busy day. I have two tricks for this one. I either chop several onions at one time and freeze them in a Tupperware, OR I buy chopped frozen onions from the frozen food aisle. For about a dollar, you can get a bag of onions already chopped!

Do you have any tips in the kitchen? Time savers or money savers? I'd love to hear those!

24 September 2010

Friday Fives: Question Time

1. What is your favorite comfort food?

Ooh...I don't really have a go to comfort food. I love soup, so that could be it. Even in the summer, I eat--and make--soups. Soup with some good, buttered bread. Mmm! You can check out a few of my soup recipes here.  

2. What's one thing that's on your mind right now?

It's only 2.5 months until Christmas break! And less than two until Thanksgiving Break. Praise the Lord.

3. What's the best advice you've ever received?

When one of my BFFs, Devon, advised me to just talk to the boy. Then, I married him.

4. If you found $10 today, what would you do with it?

Since I NEVER have cash, I'd stick it in my wallet and hold onto it until I need $10 in cash. Seriously, I never have cash unless Husby gives it to me. I prefer cards. But then again, I'm not really a saver. (Husby LOVES that!) It'd be fun to do this project that I blogged about here. I'd just need a few embroidery hoops and a little cute fabric on clearance.

5. What is your least favorite thing to clean in your house?

I HATE TO VACUUM. Seriously, I'll do anything before vacuuming. I'd rather sweep and mop than vacuum. Husby is so good to do that part of house cleaning. Although I'm convinced that if I had the Dyson Ball Vacuum, that I'd change my tune. Ha!

What about you? What's your favorite comfort food?
Have any great advice? What's your least favorite thing to clean?

Leave a comment; then play along at Just Me and My Life.

23 September 2010

How Cute!

This is such a cute idea for artwork! And inexpensive! It's a must! (I love exclamation points!!!)

This one has a set of instructions. Can you say EASY?

And now used as bulletin boards?! Stop it! It's just too cute.

 What do you think?! I'm pretty sure they're some of the cutest things ever!

21 September 2010

A Yummy Dinner (Recipes Included)

To celebrate our 11 Monthiversary, I made a cozy dinner. I always think of soups and casseroles as cozy, fall foods. Even though it's far from fall weather, we were tucked away indoors as it rained outside. And sometimes, I have to pretend that it's cool/cold outside, so rainy weather and soup--with the A/C blasting--does the trick! I also LOVE SANDWICHES, so this was a perfect meal.

I found a Cheesy Beer Soup recipe and was intrigued. When I reviewed the recipe and process, I decided that I'd make a few changes to the ingredients and preparation. Honestly, while it was cooking, Husby and I both taste-tested it and weren't crazy about it. But the flavor definitely grew on us, and we were excited to have leftovers. I think it's best to serve it with something else, just to cut the richness of the soup. (See: oven ham sammies, below.)

Cheesy Beer Soup
Adapted from original recipe

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup flour
6 tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
1 can or bottle beer
3 handfuls Colby-Jack shredded cheese
8 oz. Velveeta, cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce, or to taste
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Saute onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, until soft. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Once butter is melted, slowly add 1/2 cup flour, whisking to avoid clumps. Once flour is incorporated, cook for about 1 minute, whisking the entire time. Next, add the milk slowly, continue whisking.

Add the beer and chicken bouillon cubes, allow to heat and dissolve the cubes. Add the Velveeta slowly. Stir often (or the entire time) to keep the soup from scorching. Add the shredded Colby-Jack cheese. Once all cheese is melted, add Tabasco sauce and salt.

Next up: Oven Ham Sammies.

I found this sandwich recipe on Tasty Kitchen. Always one to find recipes and print them, sometimes I struggle to make the recipes. But I'm SO GLAD that I made this one.

It's shocking that I did make it, as I have an aversion to the word "sammies." Thanks a lot, Rachael Ray. I also don't love Swiss cheese, but I decided to remain true to the recipe and use it instead of cheddar. Actually, the one thing that won me over was the Hawaiian rolls used to make these things. Mmm! It was a great choice to compliment the cheese-iness of the Cheesy Beer Soup.

Oven Ham Sammies

16 ounces, weight Thin Sliced Deli Ham
3 slices Swiss cheese, cut into fourths
1 package King Hawaiian Rolls, 12 count
1/2 cups butter, melted
2 teaspoons Onion Flakes
1 teaspoon Poppy Seeds
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard

Put ham and cheese in between sliced rolls. Mix all other ingredients and spoon over sandwiches. Let set overnight or several hours.

Bake on 350F for 15 minutes before serving.

Seriously, you have to try these recipes! They're really good, and I had dinner made in about 30 minutes.

19 September 2010

Spin Pin Review: Curly Hair

In June, my life was changed by the Spin Pin. You can read about that here. Here is THE Spin Pin:

I have naturally curly hair, so during the summer, I wear it curly almost everyday. (Otherwise, it curls on its own after I step into humidity or begin to sweat, which doesn't take long in 107 degrees.) So, I was curious to know if I'd have the same results with curly hair.

And I did!

Doesn't that look fab?! (Not me, my hair!)

Again, I have a gagillion layers, so I had to use a few extra bobby pins to tuck away the little stray pieces caused by the curly, shorter layers. But the 'do really stayed in place. FOR THE WHOLE DAY! It made me so happy!

I love the Spin Pin! They're definitely worth the $5 price tag.

Even after my fabulous Spin Pin review in June, the Goody peeps still don't know who I am. :)
I bought my own Spin Pins, did my own hair and took the pictures (in the mirror) all on my own.

17 September 2010

Friday Fives: I Want It!

I just discovered CSN Stores this summer. I've found tons of stuff that I'd love to have. And they have such good prices! Here are five things that I have my eye on. Maybe, just maybe, I'll win the gift card over at Just Me and My Life. Here's hoping!

I've had my eye on this rug, and finally decided that it's a must buy. I just love the colors in it!

Oh, and this French oven! I received a set of Le Cruset bowls as a wedding gift. I LOVE them! I do wish I had a fabulous French oven. This red one is my favorite color today. Tomorrow, that will most certainly change. It could be turquoise or yellow. Or even the purple French oven.

Okay. I AM NOT PREGNANT. But I am a planner. Just like I contacted a photographer before we were even engaged, I've also LOOKED at baby furniture. I just know what I want. And I super love this crib. It's not the typical, traditional cherry tone wood. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's not me. I intend to spend a little cash on a crib, and then I really want to do everything else (dresser as a changing table, other baby things that I don't know about, etc) DIY. I'm not a matchy-match person, so I surely don't want a full set of furniture. Again, it's pretty; just not me.

I really wanted the Cuisinart Griddler when we registered for our showers, but we didn't receive it. That's okay. But I am thinking that since I STILL WANT IT, it'd be a good buy. Right? I totally agree. Since we don't have a grill outside, it's a grill to use inside. Then you can flip the plates and use it as a griddle.
Grill + griddle = Griddler. Those Cuisinart peeps are so clever!

Okay. I do love Christmas. I always said that I wanted Christmas dishes and not China. I'll take these, please. Spode-like, but not Spode prices. 

16 September 2010

Choose Your Pose

Guess what today was?

How many of you guessed Picture Day?

Because that's what it was.


I've semi-stressed about this all week. I've not been happy with my yearbook picture in the faculty section that past two years. The main reason is that they always photograph me on my bad side. I prefer for my left side to be facing the camera. It's the best angle for me. My hair is parted to lay on the left side of my face. It's just right for me.

But this year...this year was "choose your pose." How exciting! I decided on Monday that I would figure out how to get my left side facing the camera. And then came the outfit. Although I'll wear black any day of the week and twice on Sundays, it doesn't photograph well. I tried that last year. I pulled one outfit out just to see if it would work. But it was a blue shirt. Which wouldn't contrast well with a blue background. Back to the drawing board. I finally had two outfits in mind, only to figure out yesterday that both outfits are in the dry cleaning bag that I keep forgetting to take to the dry cleaners. Dang it.

This morning, I was able to find just the outfit for picture day. Then I had to contemplate whether I should wear my hair curly or straight. Sometimes curly hair in a tiny yearbook photo looks a little big. Not that I'm opposed to big hair. I have teasing mechanisms and products galore for that. I'm just afraid of looking like my head is really big in comparison to everyone else. But then again, my hair kinks at 3% humidity, so straightening it is often a big ole waste of time. Oh, and my hairstylist used an Instyler--curling brush-straightener duo--on my hair this week when I got a little trim. IT WAS AWESOME. I really wanted to get one, but couldn't justify spending $100 on it just so I'd have it for pictures.

Anyway...I opted for curly hair. And it fell just a bit so a super big-headed picture wouldn't happen! My make-up looked nice, even though it was done in the car, since I was running late. (See: choosing an outfit for pictures, above.) And my outfit was just great.

I was timing it just right so that I wouldn't have to cut in line in front of the children. Actually, that's not true. I wanted no children there so that they'd show me my picture on their fancy-schmancy digital cameras and let me retake it, if desired.

But then?

I received an email just after lunch thanking all for a great picture day.



I even had my pose ready to go.

12 September 2010

Weekend Update (with a Recipe)

Oh my word. The busyness of the impending holiday season has already begun! I feel like we run from one thing to another. It's not that I don't want to do things or see people, it's just that I really like my bed. My 5:30am workout is going into the third week, so I cherish the weekends when I wake up after the sun. (Oh, and that little tip about getting up at the same time everyday. Not doing it. That's just crazy talk.)

On Friday night, my friend and college roomie, Adriane was in town. For our quality time, we ran errands. I think that screams "adult." Running errands after work on a Friday afternoon. You know what else screams adult? When she left to go visit another friend, I went to the grocery store--on a Friday evening. IT WAS HEAVEN. There were so few people. I think I might do it next week.

After a trip for groceries, I grabbed dinner to go for me and Husby. I called about five minutes out, so that he'd be ready to help carry in the trunk load, only to find out that we'd lost power. We ate dinner outside with the citronella candles that proved useless, since I have mosquito bites all over. Just as we were done, the electricity came back on. Hallelu! I had a baby shower to prep!

My friend-sister like person, Ashley, is preggers with her first baby. We grew up together, and our families are still inseparable. It's so exciting! I made a yummy cheese ball. (I'll post that recipe later in the week.) As soon as I started on the next project, we lost power. Again. Grr! It came back on much more quickly than the first time. Once the lights were on, I finished making a mobile for the nursery, as well as big, colorful tissue pouf balls for shower decor.

On Saturday, I drove to my hometown for the shower. It was a great morning/early afternoon. I was able to see tons of people who I haven't seen in quite a while--at least since our wedding, almost 11 months ago! It was a fabulous shower, and OH SO CUTE! Of course, being away from home for the morning and most of the afternoon meant that dinner was in the hands of Husby. I gave him the recipe for Crockpot Chicken and Black Beans (recipe below), and it turned out wonderfully! It's definitely a repeat for us--it was yummy and easy.

Today has been a day for cleaning. Seriously, I loathe cleaning. And not only did I clean, but decided both bathrooms needed to be reorganized, which meant everything from both rooms pulled out into other rooms. It looked horrible for most of the day. But now, it looks so nice! Hopefully, it will be much more functional.

I'm off to our clean room to get ready for bed in our clean, reorganized bathroom. I hope you have a great Monday!

Crockpot Chicken and Black Beans

4 FROZEN boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 C salsa
1 can black beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
8 oz. cream cheese

Place chicken, salsa, beans, corn and spices into crockpot. Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 4-5 hours, or until chicken is done. Place cream cheese on top 30 minutes before serving. Stir into mixture when melted. Serve with rice.

09 September 2010

Another List...

1. We're back to the numbered/bulleted list until further notice. (Which could be the next blog post, if I can write sentences in the form of a paragraph.)

2.  I learned something fascinating over the weekend, while in Wisconsin. Those from the southern states noticed how little salt is used in cooking. At one point, we hunted down salt shakers. THEN, our friend from Canada enlightened us to this fact: we use more salt in our cooking in the South because we sweat more, and our bodies NEED more salt. In the North, since they sweat less, they don't need as much salt, so that don't add as much to their cooking. How crazy is that?

3.  I love salty food. Now, I have an excuse.

4.  I am a HOT MESS when I workout. This morning, sweat was everywhere. So much so that our BodyVive instructor commented on it. Maybe she wasn't talking to me, but after the workout, a couple of girls still looked like nary a hair was out of place. We won't even talk about my hair. It was worse than bad.

5.  I almost cried this morning when I heard that the heat index will be 100 today. Where is Fall, and when will it get here?! I'm so upset at that meteorologist who said it would be "noticeably cooler by mid-September." FALSE.

6.  I'm actually thinking about becoming a meteorologist. You can get away with not doing your job correctly. That's a lot less pressure than a college advisor.

7.  I'm super-pumped about our anniversary weekend. Kathryn mentioned last week that she books hotels through Hotwire. Well, I did it, and we're staying at a Westin for $46 per night. FABULOUS! I love a good deal. Now, I get to find fun places to eat, since we're saving money. Oh, and I should probably get at least one new outfit with all the money I saved.

8.  Let's end with a prayer request. I have an amazing student, Katie (actually, she graduated last year), who is battling cancer for the third time. She's going to treatment every other week in Houston for 10 weeks. In December, she'll begin a new treatment that will keep her in isolation over her birthday, Christmas and New Years. Will you pray for healing for her body? Pray that the side effects of chemo will be minimal. Pray that the Lord will reveal himself to her as a Savior and comforter. Pray for her family; she has a younger sister with whom she is very close. Pray for joy and peace to overwhelm her.

08 September 2010

The Thunder Rolls

Last night, I was in my pajamas by 5:30. Amen. Hallelujah.

We were gone to a wedding over Labor Day weekend. We had a fabulous time in Wisconsin with so many friends. The weather was perfect, if a little chilly. The wedding was beautiful and overlooked Lake Geneva with a reception at an apple orchard. We visited The Cheese Box three of the four days we were in Wisconsin, where we tasted chese after cheese. We were so enamoured by the dozens of types of cheeses offered that one of the employees asked if we have cheese where we're from. Ha! One of the owners even offered to let us stay in her pop-up camper the next time we visit.

It's amazing at how many weather-related goings on can happen in four days away! Example: Hurricane Earl doesn't come anywhere close to ravaging the East Coast, as predicted. Another example: Hurricane Hermine made landfall somewhere on the Texas-Mexico coastline, which is cause for lots of rain. I had no clue that Hermine was a threat to Texas.

So as the storm approached yesterday afternoon, the thunder pounded outside my office. I grabbed a few things to work on at home, and ran down the hill to my car. I didn't actually run, but I did want to get off the hill since you never know when "lightening lockdown" can happen, and you're stuck in the nearest building.

It was a fabulous evening in my pajamas. Husby and I feasted on breakfast tacos and watched Top Chef from last week. (I was so sad to see Tiffany leave.) After a 5:30am workout this morning for both of us, we're looking forward to a repeat of laziness tonight.

01 September 2010

I Didn't Eat Just One

These are amazing and quite possibly my new favorite chip:

Now, I've never actually had Carolina BBQ. I'm not even sure if they're representative of the northern Carolina or the southern Carolina. So I'm not sure if they actually resemble the taste of said food. But I have had lots of BBQ in the great State of Texas. And since regular BBQ chips are pretty close in taste to their namesake, BBQ sauce, I'm guessing these Carolina BBQ chips are, as well.

But oh! These are totally different than regular BBQ chips! After posting about them yesterday and buying them the day before, I just couldn't stop thinking about them. There was a 50% chance of having them for dinner. (The options were this spaghetti or Reuben sandwiches; they'd be served along side the sandwiches.) Well, I decided yesterday afternoon that a  Reuben has a pretty deep flavors: rye bread, sauerkraut, 1000 Island dressing, and I just wasn't sure if they'd compliment the sandwich well. So, I decided that I'd taste them ahead of time. And my life will never be the same.

As I opened the bag, I immediately thought of salt and vinegar potato chips. (A favorite!) The smell was intense. I wasn't sure what to think of the first chip. I mulled over the first flavor: spicy brown mustard. Then I tasted vinegar and brown sugar, and then it got spicy! I'm thinking cayenne. Holy moly, they are good! I'm really glad that potato chip bags aren't known for being full. When Husby sees it, he won't know just how many I really ate. Ha!

I definitely recommend buying a bag. And if you're from a Carolina, or if you're a connoisseur of Carolina BBQ, let me know if they're true to the name "Tangy Carolina BBQ." And then let's plan a trip to have some, because I think I'd like it!

You probably guessed it, but the FritoLay people
and the people of the Carolinas have absolutely no idea who I am.
They make good chips and BBQ, though.