Friday, September 28, 2012

House Happenings

It seems like any time Joe and I get a weekend where we stay in town, we try and do projects to fix up the house. This weekend will be no different. But over the past few, we've made a little progress in the house so I thought I would give a little update to our Lombardo Home Journal that I wrote up several months ago. There have only been a few changes, but most of them were things that were pretty high on my list (except for new couches, still don't have those). When I wrote that original post, I had just started painting over the black square above our front door. The previous owners had a clock centered in that square and the saying "Return with Honor" in vinyl stick on letters under it. I removed the letters right after moving in, but the square remained until this spring.

Before painting the square, I had to fill a few holes and I went ahead and filled a few more holes in the foyer. We had to get a new gallon of paint mixed and luckily the color match was almost perfect.  I primed and painted the square (and some other foyer walls), and with it gone, my attention turned to the "stained glass" on the windows over the door. When Joe bought the house, the faux stained glass was in a few places in the house.  It didn't take long for me to scrape it off the glass shower doors in the master bathroom and the side windows around the front door. But the the windows that were 2 stories up proved to be a bit more of a challenge. Two weekends ago we finally borrowed an extension ladder from our neighbor and I got to work scraping. It was pretty rough at the start and the paint did not want to come off, until I finally realized that I just need to switch out the blade on the razor scraper I was using. It made ALL the difference in the world! After that realization I didn't hesitate to switch the blades out anytime I was having trouble.

That dripping paint was soooo gross looking.

No more square or stained glass!

The windows are all scraped now and it's surprising how much more light is let in!

The next "update" is more of a sad story. Remember the tree we planted in the Landscaping Updates post? Well, the hot, dry summer was not kind to it. And despite our consistent watering, the tree died :( We had such high hopes for it too! So Joe dug the tree up and returned it to Home Depot for a full refund. It was nice that we at least got our money back. We plan on finding another tree to replace it soon.

Poor tree.

Another little behind the scenes update is the extra insulation that Joe added in the attic. We're hoping to see a significant change in our electricity bill this winter.

I also have an update on the dining room, but I'll probably dedicate an entire post to the re-design of that room. The other small projects I've done around here are mostly decorating for fall/Halloween but those will most likely get their own post as well. Tomorrow I'm going to work on a project that should result in a little giveaway for one lucky blog reader haha. So look forward to that! Oh, and my cousin Robyn and her husband Lance welcomed their baby girl, Myla, into the world today, so congratulations to them!  I can't wait to meet her :)

Are you all doing any house updates or projects?  Maybe if I hear about your I'll be more inspired to finish mine!  I hope you all have a great weekend, talk to you later!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Philly Cheese Chicken Sandwiches

Can you all believe it's almost October?! It just feels like September has flown by and we've been super busy around here. I've done several things that I want to post on the blog, but instead of sharing them with y'all, I end up moving on to another project or chore and the blog falls to the back burner. I've got a few recipes, house things and crafts that I've worked on recently, plus a plan for completely redoing our piano room, and I've got even more recipes and projects that I want to work on in the next few weeks!

Sometimes I just feel like there are way to many thoughts, ideas and plans in my head and I get a little overwhelmed. I hate to admit it, but a portion of my work day is spent looking at design and cooking blogs and day dreaming about things I want to work on when I get home. Almost every day, I make a "to do" list of chores and projects to work on when my work day is through. More times than not, I leave the list at work, but I still leave feeling motivated and excited to actually work on things I like and want to, as opposed to what I have to work on all day. Then after sitting in traffic for 45 minutes, I'm half asleep and not quite as inspired :(  My evenings do typically end up being productive, they just don't always include blog posts like I'd hoped. So without further ado, here is a sandwich recipe that I made a couple weekends ago for lunch/early dinner.

I've realized that if I'm going to make a recipe for the blog, I need to do it during the daylight hours in order to get good pictures. So I made these around lunch time, and ended up giving a few to our neighbor since he let Joe use the core aerator that he'd rented for his yard. This recipe came from a blog called How Sweet It Is. I thought it sounded like something that Joe would like so it went on my "things to make" list. It was pretty simple to make and it could be made even simpler by using a precooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. The best part was definitely the white cheddar sauce, which I'm thinking I might make for mac and cheese sometime. The sandwiches were pretty good, but not excellent. I would have assembled them a little better, and maybe seasoned them a little more. The cheese sauce really was the best part :) Here's the recipe!

Philly Cheese Chicken Sandwiches
From "How Sweet It Is" blog

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (I bought bone-in, skin-on and just trimmed them)
2 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 green pepper, sliced
1 sweet onion, sliced
8 ounces sharp white cheddar, grated
1/2 T. unsalted butter
1/2 T. flour
2/3 c. half and half
additional salt and pepper to taste
6 sub rolls

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large, oven safe skillet over medium high heat on the stove. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Trim the skin off the chicken thighs and season thighs with salt and pepper. Place the thighs in the skillet and sear on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.

Once seared, cover the skillet and place in the oven to roast the chicken for 15 minutes. When finished, remove and let cool slightly. Reduce the oven heat to 300 degrees, then shred the chicken and set aside.

This was the bowl of bones and scraps.  I know that it looks like there is lots of usable meat in there, but I HATE picking chicken off the bone.

While the chicken is roasting, heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the peppers and onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 6-8 minutes until the veggies are soft, but not caramelized.

For the cheese sauce, heat the butter in small sauce pan over medium heat until it is sizzling. Whisk in the flour to create a roux and cook until it is light brown in color and smells slightly nutty, about 2 minutes. Add the half and half and stir until the mixture is bubbling and thickened. Reduce the heat to low and add about 5 ounces of the shredded cheese (leave the remaining 3 ounces set aside) and whisk until melted and smooth.

This is the light brown roux.

To assemble the sandwiches, lay each sub roll on its own square of foil.  Make sure the foil squares will be big enough to wrap a stuffed sandwich, mine were a little on the small side. Then this is where I would do things a little differently. The recipe said to layer chicken, then cheese sauce, then veggies, then shredded cheese. I would put some shredded cheese in first, then mix the chicken and veggies together before laying them in the sandwich, then top with the cheese sauce before TIGHTLY wrapping the sandwich. The problem with all the different layers is that you don't get all the flavors in each bite. And nobody wants that! :)

Once you're sandwiches are assembled,  place them on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  Then enjoy!

I really think these would be just as good with rotisserie chicken and it would be a lot easier!

I guess that's it for tonight. Time to go finish my to do list (that I'm doing from memory since I left it at work). Why do I always save the worst chores for last, and why does folding/putting away laundry have to be so awful?! Have a great rest of the week, and Happy Birthday to Joe's Mom, (today) and my Mimi (tomorrow)! May your birthdays not involve any folding and putting away of laundry :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Shrimp and Red Pepper Crostini

Yikes, I feel like it's been forever since I wrote something on here! I had the best of intentions of writing at least 2 blog posts last week while I was in eastern Kentucky for work. But I guess you could say that I was a little uninspired by my time in Kentucky, and a little exhausted after driving and hiking up and down the hills all day. So no posts were written. Then when I got home on Thursday, I had to make 4 dozen cupcakes with fondant toppers for a coworker's wife's birthday to deliver to him at work on Friday morning. The weekend came and went with various house projects and hanging out with friends, and once again, no blog posts got written. That brings us to tonight. I have 2 recipes and at least one house project/update to share with you all so I'll start with this delicious appetizer I made last weekend to bring to a friends house for a little wine tasting party/game night.

Although I didn't follow a recipe for this dish, I did have some inspiration. A couple weekends ago when Joe and I went to St. Louis, I went out to eat with Joe's mom, sisters, grandma and aunt at Zia's on The Hill and I ordered the Crostini Gamberetti as my meal. It was listed as an appetizer and the description stated "Rounds of Italian seed bread toasted and topped with shrimp, cream cheese, diced red peppers, green onions and fresh parmigiana". I quickly inhaled all the crostini that came with my meal and knew that I needed to recreate it at home. Soon. When the time came to make it, I referenced the Zia's menu online for the ingredient list once again and started to create my own version. The end result wasn't exactly like Zia's but they were just as delicious, only a little different. Here's my own recipe for Crostini Gamberetti. Or as I'm going to call it...

Shrimp and Red Pepper Crostini
(Makes approx. 30 crostini)

1 baguette, cut into 1/2" slices
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (1/3 less fat is fine)
2 T. chipotle mayonnaise (regular mayo would work too)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound raw shrimp, shelled and cut in half
parmesan cheese
1 T. olive oil
Cooking spray
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bell peppers, green onions and garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes until they start becoming soft.

Add the shrimp to the skillet and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.

In a medium bowl combine the cream cheese and the mayonnaise. Add the shrimp mixture from the skillet to the cream cheese mixture, stirring to combine.

Place the slices of bread onto a baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking spray and place in the oven for 5 minutes to lightly crisp the tops.

Remove the bread from the oven and place a spoonful of the shrimp mixture on top of each crostini. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese over the crostini and place back in the oven for 8-10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool for a couple minutes before eating. These were best while still warm, but I had some once they cooled down to room temperature and they were still delicious!  Enjoy!

I hope you are all having a great week and enjoying the cooler weather that seems to be moving in!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Soft Oatmeal Cookies with Biscoff Glaze

If you've ever flown on Delta then you've probably been offered a package of Biscoff cookies as a mid-flight snack. If you turned these cookies down, then you don't know what you missed! They're kind of like a mix between graham crackers and ginger snaps. And they're delicious. After having them on a Delta flight, I realized that I could also find them at the grocery store, and then I started seeing them pop up in recipes on a few blogs that I follow. The first time I used them in a recipe was as the crust for cheesecake and it was amazing. Then not too long ago, they came out with a Biscoff spread.

The star of the show.

It is about the consistency of peanut butter, but it contains no nuts and is 50% crushed Biscoff cookies. I saw this recipe and then stumbled across the spread at the Italian grocery store in St. Louis and knew that it was time to make these cookies. They were very simple to make and turned out AWESOME! Joe has dubbed them his new favorite cookie. They are soft and chewy and the glaze just puts them over the top. The recipe calls for quick oats which I think is important because you have to let the dough sit for 30 minutes before baking, and that gives the oats time to soak up some moisture and lose the raw oat texture. Here's the recipe!

Soft Oatmeal Cookies with Biscoff Glaze (Makes 4 dozen)
Original recipe from Bake at 350

2 cups quick oats
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter (I used unsalted and it was fine)
2 T. vegetable oil
1 c. light brown sugar
1 egg
6 T plain Greek yogurt
2 t. vanilla extract

For the glaze:
1/4 cup Biscoff spread
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 t. light corn syrup

Whisk together the oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and flour. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream together the butter, oil and sugar. Add the egg, beating until fluffy. Add the yogurt and the vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three parts. Beating enough each time to just incorporate the dry ingredients. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a small spoon or a 1" cookie scoop to scoop balls of dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Or if you have non-stick oven safe mats, those work great too. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. The original recipe uses a larger scoop, so if you do that, bake for a little longer. After baking, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

While the cookies are cooling, make the glaze. Whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth. Mine seemed a little thick at first so I added another splash of milk. Then place the rack of cookies over a baking sheet or a piece of wax paper and drizzle with the glaze until you've used it all. I used a glass measuring cup to pour the glaze over the cookies.

 Let the glaze set up for about 30 min. You could pop them in the fridge to help speed that up if needed :)  That's it, enjoy!

I'm hoping to try a couple new recipes today, so I can write about them while I'm on a work trip next week. I hope you're all having a great weekend and enjoying some great weather. I know we are!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

DIY Silver Leaf Lampshade

Yay for short work weeks!  I love that I'm almost 1/2 way through the week even though it feels like it just started.  The three day weekend flew by though with my 4 college housemates in town (Hey girls hey!!!).  We played a lot of games, had a ton of fun and only drank a little ;).  By the end of the weekend I think we were all wishing that we got to spend nights like this together a lot more often.  But now it's back to reality, a.k.a. work, so for me that means I also want to get posting on here again.  The first thing I want to show y'all is how I silver leafed the inside of the lampshade that now sits on the lamp on the campaign dresser.

I bought the lamp at a local thrift store for $3, but the shade that came with it was all wrong for what I had in mind.  My search for the perfect lampshade took me to 5 stores over the course of about 2 hours.  All I wanted was a basic white drum shade!  Ugh.  I finally found one at Lowe's and instantly brought it home and got to work on the silver leafing.  I already had the supplies that I needed on hand since I had tried some silver leafing on a failed wedding project.  Unfortunately I didn't quite have enough actual silver leaf so mid project I had to run back to Hobby Lobby for another pack.

The things you'll need for this project are silver leaf sheets, medium (adhesive specifically for leafing), some wax paper and a soft paint brush.

Start by brushing your entire surface that you want covered in silver with the medium.  Try and keep it a nice, thin, even coat.  Let it dry about 20 minutes or until it is clear.  However if you're painting something white, you won't be able to tell if it's clear, so wait about 20 minutes then touch it.  It should be tacky, but not wet.

Then using a square of wax paper a little bigger than the squares of silver leaf, place the wax paper over a layer of the silver and gently lift it off the paper backing in the package.  The silver should cling to the wax paper.  Then place the square of silver over part of tacky medium and press down with the wax paper.  Next I like to brush over the wax paper and silver with the soft paint brush to try and get as much of it in contact with the medium as possible.  Remove the wax paper and smooth the silver down a little more.  Don't worry about removing all the loose bits just yet, that can be done at the end.  Repeat that process until your entire surface is covered.

Then you can use the brush to remove the loose bits and add silver to any spots that were missed.  You can also use a paper towel or soft cloth to wipe the surface.  Just a warning though, the little pieces of silver leaf will fly everywhere and seem to just float since they're so light weight.  That's it!  If you wanted to you could paint your surface first if you want a different color to show through any cracks that remain in the silver.

Silver leaf EVERYWHERE

I like that the silver adds a different metallic to the space so it doesn't get too gold with the dresser hardware and the vase.  Now if only I could get that darn shade to sit straight on the lamp...

Have a great (short) week!