Tuesday, February 28, 2012

This Ice Cream is Bananas!

I swear it tastes better than it looks :)

Seriously though, that's all the base for this ice cream is.  Bananas.  So "ice cream" really isn't the best name for it.  But it tastes like ice cream, and almost has the texture of frozen custard.  The best part about it is that I can eat it while watching Biggest Loser and not feel guilty.  Plus, it's so easy to make that I can hardly call it a recipe.  I saw the instructions for this over a year ago online, and basically all you have to do is chop up a couple of frozen bananas and puree them in the food processor until smooth and creamy.  It's a great way to save bananas that are starting to go bad and or that you know won't get eaten.  Just throw them in the freezer and once you have a couple in there that are frozen solid, you're ready to make ice cream.

Of course I couldn't leave well enough alone, and I had to add some mix-ins.  In an effort to maintain a decent level of health in this ice cream, I opted to add peanut butter and some chocolate flavored protein powder that Joe usually makes into a shake after working out.  In the past I've added coconut and chocolate chips too.  I bet adding a little vanilla would make it taste even more like real ice cream.  Here's the breakdown:

What you'll need:
Frozen bananas (we use 2 for the 2 of us, but I could probably eat that much by myself) *update I just did eat that much by myself.  Joe came back from the gym and didn't feel like having any.  More for me!
Any mix-ins you want

I think that a food processor would make the quickest work out of this, but a blender will probably work too.

Start by peeling the bananas.  Unfortunately, you can't peel them like you would unfrozen bananas.  I usually use a sharp paring knife and peel it like a potato or something.  Oh, and since they're freezing (obviously), I hold the banana with a paper towel so that my fingers don't get too cold.

Next chop the peeled bananas into approximately 1" pieces.

Place the chopped bananas in the food processor bowl and start blending.  It might take a few minutes for it to really get creamy, but don't worry it will eventually come together.  Just stop the food processor every now and then and scrape down the sides with a spatula.

After about 30 seconds.
After about 1 minute.  You could probably eat it at this stage, but there would still be chunks of bananas.
Thaaaaat's better.  Now it's definitely ready to eat.  Unless you want to add in some extra things.
Once it's nice and creamy you can either add your mix-ins into the food processor or just stir them into your bowl by hand.  This time after I scooped the ice cream into the bowl, I placed it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm back up.  But feel free to eat it right out of the food processor bowl :)

Adding peanut butter and chocolate powder.
Mix it up!

Ok, so I realize that it really doesn't look that appetizing, but it really is delicious, I promise!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

DIY Shim Sunburst Mirror

We made a fancy stand for our awesome new computer monitor!

Just kidding, just kidding.  If you were able to look past that first picture, you'll get to see what we really made.  An awesome sunburst mirror for our living room!

I've seen this idea all over blogs, so please don't think that I came up with this on my own!  The sunburst part of the frame is made out of simple wooden shims that you can find at Home Depot or Lowe's.  The tutorial I followed is here.  With a couple layers of paint and glaze, some splintery shims and a plain white mirror became a 3 foot wide gilded masterpiece that now resides over our fireplace.  I saw another sunburst mirror at Hobby Lobby that was much smaller and it was priced at $170.  The materials for this mirror came in a little under $100, but a lot of that was from the glaze and spray paints.  Of which I have a lot leftover, so they'll get used for different projects eventually.

It really wasn't that hard to make, just time consuming, and in my opinion it was totally worth the day and a half of my life that went into it.  Our living room was lacking decoration and we desperately needed something hanging over the mantel.  Now if we can just whip the rest of the room in to shape.  Too bad I can't DIY new couches. :)  Here's the rundown of how this mirror came together.

The supplies needed:  8 packs of 15" wood shims, wood glue, gorilla glue, mirror, board for backing, any paint, stains or glazes you may want, chip brush for painting, rubber bands.

I started by making all the "rays".  This way I didn't have to glue every shim into a circle, just several groups of 5 and 7 and then those would get glued to the backing board.  I used the rubber bands to hold together the groupings until they were dried.  The Gorilla wood glue seemed to work really well and I used almost the entire bottle. I ended up having an entire pack of shims leftover though, since I decided to leave a space between the rays.

You can see the group of 5 and the group of 7 here.
 Once the rays were all made, I laid them out in the pattern I wanted, alternating 5 and 7, and placed the mirror on top to see how it all fit.  Looked good to me! :)

The mirror was a Hobby Lobby find.  All their mirrors were 50% off this week.
Then I painted the rays and the mirror with some gold Martha Stewart paint from Home Depot.  No need to paint the entire ray since the bottom half will be covered by the mirror.

Once all the rays were painted and dried, it was time to attach them to the backing board.  I arranged them on the table and applied the glue and placed the board on top.  That's when the computer monitor came into use.  We needed something heavy to "clamp" the board to the rays so the bond would be nice and strong.

 In the morning we removed the monitor, and my handy helper attached the hanging hardware before we flipped it over to glue on the mirror.

This time we used something a little lighter and smaller to clamp the mirror to the rays.

I decided in the morning that the gold wasn't quite the color I wanted and it needed to be a little darker.  I had some copper color craft paint on hand, so I mixed it with a little water and painted over all the rays and the mirror.  Its hard to tell, but in the next picture the copper "glaze" has been painted on.

The final painting step was to apply a black glaze to everything.  I wanted it to give some depth and character to the mirror and I think it did just that, there just aren't really any pictures to do it justice.  My method for this was to paint on the glaze then wipe off all of it that I could with an old rag.  That way, the glaze just stayed in the cracks and low spots.  

Here's the final product hung over the fireplace.  Now I just need to pick up a couple things to finish decorating the mantel with.

All Done!

Detail of the rays.

The view from the kitchen.  Please ignore the dirty green couch and the various messes. :)
Well, I guess that's it.  I'm afraid that this mirror has replaced the Italy gallery wall as my favorite decoration in the house.  I just can't stop looking at it!  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pizza! Pizza!

I've got to give credit to Mom for this next recipe.  Well, Mom and King Arthur Flour.  A couple Christmases ago in Ohio, Mom suggested that we make some pizza for dinner one night using a new recipe that she'd found in the King Arthur Flour catalog.  It was a simple recipe and the pizza really turned out great!  Needless to say, I've been making it a lot ever since then... more then I'd like to admit.  It's just so good!  And Joe really likes it too, so that helps.  

When I first started making this dough, I would make the entire recipe as shown, but it makes a pretty thick crust for our 16" pizza pan.  So I started making only a 1/2 recipe for a thinner crust.  Then finally I had a little "ah ha!" moment.  Just make a whole batch and freeze 1/2 of it!  Duh!  When I used the 1/2 that I'd frozen, it worked just as well as the fresh dough.  Here's the recipe:

Quick Beer Pizza Crust
From King Arthur Flour

4 cups All purpose flour
1 1/2 cups Beer (room temperature)
2 t. (1 packet) Instant yeast
1 t. Baking powder
1 1/2 t. Salt
2 T. Olive Oil

Pour the beer into a mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it.  Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Add flour mixture and olive oil to yeast/beer mixture.  If using a stand mixer then mix with dough hook until everything pulls together and a soft dough forms.  You can also stir it together and knead it by hand until soft and pliable.  The place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let sit for at least 30 minutes.  If you're going to freeze 1/2 of it, then go ahead and split it before letting it sit.  Just wrap the half to freeze in plastic wrap then place it in a Ziploc freezer bag before freezing it.

If you don't be like me and you remember to add the olive oil, your dough will look better than this.  And that is a good thing :)

After the dough has rested, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and shape the dough into the size needed for your pan.  Place in the oven *without toppings* for 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven, add all your toppings then bake for 10-12 minutes.  Enjoy!

- I've made this with whole wheat flour before, but it sometimes turns out a bit dry.  I think that maybe using both all purpose and whole wheat flour would probably be a good compromise.
- Sometimes I add Italian seasoning or some Parmesan cheese to the dough and that tastes great too.
- Pretty much any type of beer works.  We just use whatever leftover beer we may have on hand.

I hope that you enjoy this if you decide to try it out!  Oh, and I would have put more pictures of the making of the dough, but I forgot to add the olive oil, so I tried to do it after I'd already mixed everything else and it ended up looking kind of funky.  But, it still turned out fine, which just goes to show you that it's hard to mess up!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mavericks Game

This past Tuesday night, Lisa and I (that's right, this is a Joe post!) went to a Missouri Mavericks game. The Missouri Mavericks are the professional minor league hockey team here in Kansas City. The tickets were my Valentines gift from Lisa this year, and I think she made a good choice. The Mavericks were playing the Rapid City Rush, so there were major bragging rights at stake (looking at you, Uncle Dave).  We had awesome seats compared to most hockey games I've been to. I don't think there was a bad seat in the house though...there were only about 20 rows of seats. It was decently crowded, especially for a minor league hockey game on a Tuesday night. 

When I opened the program, I was surprised to see a familiar face. Turns out I went to high school with the Mavericks' starting goalie! Small world, huh...

One thing that's great about minor league hockey is that the teams are always doing whatever they can to bring fans to games. This night it was $1 hotdog and $3 beer night, which was great. And it seemed as though every section got to take part in some kind of give-away or contest. Like everyone gets a free burger in a section if someone answers a trivia question correctly, or everyone at the game gets a free chicken sandwich if the Mavericks score a goal in the first minute of the third period.  Unfortunately, we didn't come home with any winnings, but we did get some free foam pucks. Speaking of foam pucks...

They had a intermission game called "Chuck-a-puck". If you haven't heard of it before, it's where they put targets out onto the ice and have people in the stands try to throw foam pucks onto the targets. Whoever gets their puck closest to the target wins the prize. Most of the prizes were gift cards to local businesses, but the big one in the middle was $600 cash. We didn't win, but I like to think we were close.

My puck is the red one.

The game was really good. It was very evenly matched and went back and forth a lot. There was even a really good fight right in front of us.

 I don't think Lisa was too entertained by the fight, but she did get a kick out of Mac, the Mavericks' mascot. She said she liked his crazy eyes. Unfortunately, the Mavericks ended up losing the game in shootouts, but it was still a great game, and I had a great time.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy Mardi Gras!

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez! (Let the good times roll!)  Happy Mardi Gras to all of you.

Unfortunately, there isn't a very big Mardi Gras celebration here in Kansas City, but I'm trying to bring at least a little bit of festivity to my office.  Last year I made a traditional king cake and brought it into work, so I figured I better keep the tradition alive.  This year I decided to make individual king cake "cupcakes" from a recipe I found here.  I haven't tried one yet, but the dough and the filling definitely reminded me of some of the best king cakes I've had.  So I have pretty high hopes for them.  I even found some little plastic babies at Hobby Lobby and hid one in one of the cupcakes.  Usually, the person who gets the baby is responsible for bringing in the next king cake, but since tomorrow is the last day of Mardi Gras, I'll be bringing in a prize for the person who finds the baby.  Last year the prize was a plate of homemade pecan pralines, but this year I didn't feel like putting quite as much time into the prize.  Instead I was able to find a 6-pack of Abita Mardi Gras Bock (Abita beer is a Louisiana favorite).  Hopefully whoever wins enjoys it!  Well, here are a few pictures of the mini king cakes.  Also, if you need a VERY last minute king cake idea I found a pretty neat one at this blog and they look pretty easy and super cute.

Maybe one day I'll get to the point where I post these recipes BEFORE the day that they're made for.  That way if you actually want to make it, you can.  One day...

The mini-cakes prior to being iced.  I think they'd be super delicious by themselves and could probably pass as a breakfast food.  King cake is a breakfast food, right?

Mm mm mm... Cream cheese and cinnamon filling.

See the one in the third row, third from the left?  Can you tell that it's the one with the baby inside?  Well, it is :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weekend in St. Louis

Hello family and friends!  I hope you all had a great weekend!  Joe and I just got back from a little trip to St. Louis.  On Friday evening we picked up one of Joe's friend in Columbia, MO then drove to Joe's parents' house and rested up for the busy Saturday we had planned.  Joe's plans for the weekend included a bachelor party for another friend that started with a group of them going to a St. Louis Blues hockey game, then heading over to the huge Mardi Gras celebration that was going on this past weekend.  I've never personally attended St. Louis Mardi Gras, but I've heard that it is the a close second to the party that goes on in New Orleans.  Needless to say, I think the guys all had a pretty great time.  By the time Joe's dad and I went to pick them up at 10:30, they were pretty wiped out.  It will be nice to see that group of guys again in about a month for the actual wedding of the bachelor.  

My plans for the weekend didn't include quite as much partying, but it was still my idea of a fun time :)  Joe's mom took his two sisters and me to see "A West Side Story" at the fabulous Fox Theater.  The show was awesome!  I had never even seen the movie version of this story, so I really wasn't sure what to expect.  The only thing I was sure of was that "Maria!" would be a common theme, haha.  The performance really was amazing and the theater itself was incredible.  I couldn't get a good picture of the inside of the theater, but here's a link to the website if you'd like to check it out: "The Fabulous Fox".  Thanks again to Joe's mom and sisters for entertaining me while Joe was out with the guys!

This coming week Joe and I will be heading to another hockey game.  This time it will be for the Kansas City minor league team, The Mavericks. I'll be sure to snap a couple pictures there.  Also, I've got plans to make a Mardi Gras treat to bring into work on Tuesday, so I'm sure you'll see the post up by Wednesday :)  Well, happy Mardi Gras, and I hope you all have a great week!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Layer Cake

Wow.  This cake was good.  And it better be good since it took 5 hours of my life to make.  The recipe came from a blog that I like to look at called Annie's Eats.  It is chocolate cake, with chocolate ganache and raspberry filling, topped with raspberry buttercream and a chocolate coating.  Really it wasn't that hard to make, it was just time consuming.  After making the cake batter I was thinking that I may never go back to boxed cake mix again.  I wish I could tell you that I didn't lick the bowl completely clean, but that would be a lie.  It was that good.  However, my one comment would be to follow the recipe exactly.  Don't be like me and assume that greasing and flouring the pan will be enough.  When the recipe says to line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, do it.  When I tried to turn the cakes out onto cooling racks, quite a bit was left behind in the pans.  Luckily, it didn't seem to affect the final product.  I added the pieces that I could salvage from the pans back to the cake, then just filled in the low spots with extra chocolate ganache.  If only more things in life could be fixed by adding chocolate ganache.  

I brought the leftovers to work this morning and it was gone by about 9:30, so I guess they liked it.  If you're feeling inspired and want to make this cake for yourself, you can find the recipe here.  And now for a couple pictures of the final project.

Here's a shot of the delicious Valentine's dinner that Joe and I made.  We were surprised by how easy it was to cook the lobster tails, and it was much quicker and cheaper than going out to eat!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Remembering Italy

Happy Valentine's day to everyone!  Today is exactly 3 months until our one year anniversary and the past 9 months have certainly flown by.  A lot has happened in the past 9 months, but not the typical 9 month event that you all might be thinking of or hoping for. : )  We spent the 10 days after our wedding touring Italy and I often flip back through the pictures and dream of going back and seeing the beautiful scenery, architecture and all the history.  Italy really was an unbelievable place to visit and it is hard to pick one favorite place or thing that we saw.  Joe and I wanted to share some of the pictures we took with you, so we picked out a couple photos from each city we traveled to; Milan, Venice, Florence, Pisa, and Rome.  I hope you enjoy them and maybe they'll give you a little mental vacation to a sunny, beautiful place!

First up, Milan!

We found this park in Milan by accident and it ended up being one of our favorite spots.  There was even castle there!  

I thought this was a cool spot in Milan because it shows a mix of the newer city and the much older side.  Plus, we got some free juice there from a lady giving out samples.

This picture is just quintessential Venice.  This was definitely one of our favorite places.  Everything there was just beautiful, and exactly what you would imagine Venice to be like. 

The view from the Campanille (Bell Tower) in St. Marks Square.  You could see the entire island from this spot.

Twilight on the river in Florence.  This picture was taken from the famous Ponte Vecchio Bridge.
View of Florence from the Piazzale De Michaelangelo.  If you ever go to Florence, you absolutely have to hike up there at sunset.  When I first saw this skyline, it reminded me of a scene from Mary Poppins, which led to me singing "Feed the Birds" every time I saw some pigeons... which was a lot.


This is just funny because there are a total of 3 people "holding up" the tower.   We climbed up the tower and the view from the top was fantastic.


The Trevi Fountain.  We only saw it at night, but I've decided that's the best time to see it : )

Inside the Colosseum.  You can really get an idea of the size of this structure by finding the people standing around the edges.  The Colosseum was definitely a sight to see.

By far my favorite thing in Rome was all the "ruins" everywhere.  I think Joe got tired of me pointing them out every time I saw a crumbling building.  It's just so cool that they're a couple thousand years old!

This building is not ancient (it was built in the 1920s), but it is still pretty awesome, and  enormous!  We took an elevator ride to the top and got some amazing views of all of Rome.
Last but not least is Joe's favorite picture from the trip.  We call this one, "The Sighting of Big Foot".   I'm not sure if you can tell, but it's a picture of me lurking through some ruins to get a picture near them.  He thinks it's funny for some reason.

Tomorrow I'll share the dessert I made for Valentine's day.  It was the polar opposite of the easy, 2 ingredient fudge I posted on Sunday.  This cake was definitely a labor of love!