From the Kitchen of Apartment #8 – Chunky Monkey Bark

It all started with a bag of banana chips that had been in the pantry for what seems like forever.  You see, I have this love/hate relationship with bananas.  I think it all started when I was in elementary school and I had a banana in my lunch and there was a HUGE spider in my lunch box.  Bananas have never been the same since then.  It’s not that I never eat bananas, it’s just that I have to be in the mood to eat them and that doesn’t happen too often.  Alas, I must have been in the mood for bananas then changed my mind when I got home – hence the unopened bag of banana chips.

One thing I do love is the peanut butter and banana combo – eaten plain or in a smoothie. Yum!  However you can’t make smoothies from banana chips – that would be painful to swallow!  It was time for a sweet treat around here and so I got creative and have what we now call….

Chunky Monkey Bark

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup banana chips

Melt the peanut butter and chocolate chips in a sauce pan over low heat, stirring consistently to ensure that it doesn’t burn or stick to the pan.  When melted, mix in a bowl with banana chips.  Spread in a (relatively) flat layer on a jelly roll pan lined with wax paper. Stick in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  Remove and break into chunks.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 

From the Kitchen of Apartment 8 – Cajun Shrimp Pasta

Cajun Shrimp Pasta

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Ingredients

  • Bell Peppers – Sliced
  • Onions – Sliced
  • Mushrooms – Sliced
  • Shrimp
  • Cajun Seasoning (click link for a recipe to make it with spices in your cabinet!)
  • 1 tablespoon of melted butter
  • 1 cup of milk
  • Pasta
  • Olive Oil

Recipes where you just kind of throw it all together are totally my kind of recipes.  Start out by boiling the water to cook your pasta.  While the water is heating, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet.  When the oil is hot, pour in the veggies and shrimp and sprinkle with cajun seasoning.  Stir occasionally.  Once the water is boiling, cook the pasta of your choice for the time recommended on the package (aim for a fairly firm al dente because it will cook a bit more when you mix it all together and you don’t want mushy noodles).  Mix your melted butter and milk in a measuring cup.  Sprinkle in a little cajun seasoning.  Once the vegetables are soft and the shrimp has turned pink, pour the milk and melted butter concoction in.  Stir.  Drain your cooked pasta and combine with veggies.  Stir.  Allow to thicken a bit.  Serve and enjoy!

This definitely has a kick – lighten up on the cayenne and red-crushed pepper if you don’t like it too spicy!  

More than Recipes!

Believe it or not, I do make things from Pinterest other than food!  I’m one of those people who falls in the category of a “crafter wanna-be”.  I’m not overly crafty, but I am creative.  I’m not very precise – I think that’s why I don’t do well with crafts! But I do get on little craft kicks and sometimes even finish the craft projects I begin!

Mod Podge Canvases – Inspired by this, I was given the task of decorating Than’s office when he started his job last fall.  Off we went to Michael’s to buy canvas, scrapbook paper (of his choice!) and Mod Podge.  It didn’t turn out perfectly (Mod Podge was a little bubbly…I’m sure somewhere on Pinterest they tell me how NOT to have bubbly Mod Podge…but alas, it’s too late) but all in all it added a great splash of colors to the plain walls of his office!

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A Review of the Latest from Pinterest

Spare moments to sit down and blog seem to be hard to come by these days.  After sitting behind a computer all day for work, more time in front of the screen is the last thing I want come the end of the day.  My eyeballs are recharged after a 3 day weekend and I’m here to report to you reviews from my latest Pinterest recipe attempts!

1.  Crispy Salty Kale Chips – Crispy and salty – two of my favorite food adjectives!  Hubby is more into the sweet stuff, while I like salty.  It’s no surprise that I was a fan and he was not.  I’d been seeing lots of recipes for Kale chips and finally decided to give it a try.  I’m glad I did!  I will definitely be snacking on these again.  Maybe it will help lessen my popcorn addiction…  There’s just something about eating green things that makes me feel healthy!

2.  Bacon Wrapped Asparagus Breadsticks – I was making fish for dinner, which can be kind of hit or miss with my husband.  He doesn’t LOVE fish, but he’ll eat it and I wanted to ensure that he liked the side I was making with it.  I vaguely recalled something about bacon wrapped asparagus on Pinterest (two things he is definitely a fan of!) so I decided to give it a whirl.  And no, of course I didn’t think to look back at the recipe!  Well, as you’ll see from the recipe I actually forgot that there were breadsticks involved in the recipe, so we juts had bacon wrapped asparagus, topped with a little black paper then baked.  Yum!  I’m sure WITH the breadsticks would also be delicious!

3.  Bubble Up Pizza –  This was so-so.  Husband liked it a lot more than I did.  I don’t think I baked it quite long enough so the texture of mine was kind of disgusting.  I was too many bites in before putting it back in the oven to enjoy it when it was more fully baked.  We did ours with pepperoni and mushroom.  I definitely prefer regular pizza or a calzone to this, but I’m glad we tried it.

4.  Neiman Marcus Brownies –  It was a Saturday morning with an unexpected guest who was in town meeting up with us for lunch.  We wanted to invite him over for coffee and dessert after lunch.  Yes, it’s always a risk to try something new when a guest is coming over, but thank goodness this one was a winner! Super quick, easy and tasty.

5.  Pumpkin Oatmeal Cups – These left something to be desired for us.  We even added chocolate chips…but… Yeah…  I think it was a texture thing. I’d definitely prefer a plain bowl of oatmeal!  Go figure…So much for the healthy recipe working out…

 

Red Zone, Yellow Zone, Green Zone

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Last weekend Than and I were taking a class at church and our Pastor was sharing his story of how God brought him there. He shared an excellent analogy about work and calling describing the Red Zone, Yellow Zone and Green Zone.  He described it as follows:

The Green Zone:  Responsibilities in the green zone are the things that you’re excited about every morning when you get out of bed.  These are the things that fall in your sweet spot – things you love and areas in which you are gifted.

The Yellow Zone:  Yellow is what I would describe as neutral.  This zone includes things you are fully capable of, but that you don’t love or maybe even really enjoy at all.

The Red Zone: The red zone involves tasks that you absolutely DREAD.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my 20’s searching for the green zone. As I near the end of my 20’s I’m not sure that I’ve found my “green zone” but I like to think I’m getting closer than where I was a few years ago.  I might even say that as I grow as a person, my green zone is also growing and expanding.  Do you know what’s in your green zone?  What do you do that breathes life and energy into you?

I find the yellow zone to be the most difficult.  When the majority of my life is in the yellow zone I get bored. Antsy. Anxious. Frustrated.  Honestly, the yellow zone tends to suck the life out of me possibly even more than the red zone.  I think it’s because when I’m capable of doing something (especially things I’m doing well) I feel like I should be enjoying it because I’m good at it and too often that’s just not the case.

I thought somewhere in my 20’s it would all fall into place. I’d figure out what I love and then that’s what I’d be doing. I feel like I’ve been in the yellow zone for a lot of my life.  Sometimes I think that it’s the next season of life that will finally be my green zone. For example, I’ll be in my green zone when I get engaged…or when I get married…or when we have kids…or when I blah blah blah.  Yet sometimes, you get to that anticipated green zone, only to find more yellow…or perhaps even red?! 

As I stop and think about it, I’m grateful for the green, the yellow and the red. I’m grateful for opportunities to do things I love, yet I’m aware that I must be faithful and obedient in the yellow and the red.  And besides, without the yellow and red zones, we’d never know when we fine the green zone.  

While I still believe that pursuing green is a lofty and worthwhile goal (after all, God has given us gifts and we must be good stewards of them), I don’t want to spend so much time pursuing green that I miss out on the moments here and now.  For I believe living fully engaged in the present helps us find great contentment in the green, yellow and red.

 

From the Kitchen of Apartment 8 – Lazy Cook’s Apple Fritters

My husband LOVES apple fritters.  Usually we just buy them as a special treat, but on occasion I get ambitious and try to make them at home.  We’ve tried out various recipes and each time is a learning for me.  Some turn out well.  Others…well…not so much.  I have yet to perfect the Apple Fritter but last night we created  a little something to satisfy an apple fritter hankering in a pinch!

Lazy Cook Apple Fritters

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  • 1 medium apple, chopped
  • Cinnamon and Sugar mixture
  • 1 Can tubed biscuits
  • Oil

Glaze

  • Powdered Sugar
  • Milk

First, sprinkle your chopped apple with the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Next, remove biscuits from the tube and tear open like you would if you were buttering a biscuit (most biscuits from a tube are layered so it should be easily to tear in line with one of the layers).  Sprinkle open faced biscuit with a little more cinnamon and sugar, then fill one half of the biscuit with apples.  Layer the other half of the biscuit over the apples and pinch together all around.  Repeat until biscuit dough is gone.  Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.  Fry until golden brown, flipping the fritters over about halfway through.  While cooking, mix together a few tablespoons of powdered sugar and milk until you reach desired consistency for glaze.  Set aside. When the fritters are cooked, dip in the glaze and serve hot.

 

The Latest from Pinterest

My luck has improved with my Pinterest pins lately!  Back when I first started actually trying things from Pinterest (as opposed to just pinning and pinning and pinning!) I had a lot of fails and a few wins.   But now the wins outweigh the fails…by a lot!

Here are a few new items that made it to our dinner table in the last few weeks – thank you Pinterest!

Tortellini Soup – loved it, though I should have cooked it for a little less time in the crock pot – the tortellini was a little mushy for my taste.  Very flavorful and super simple!  (Upon looking at the recipe again, I just realized that this wasn’t supposed to be a soup.  Hmmm…)

Quinoa and Spinach Mac ‘n Cheese – Very filling and tasty, though I am having a slight ethical dilemma about eating quinoa.  Find out why.

Cowboy Casserole – Husband loved this more than me, but for a casserole it was pretty good and I do NOT like my food mixed.  It helps that the word cowboy is in the title.  I like cowboys. (Insert husband rolling eyes…) These are definitely not the real food ingredients we usually eat but a nice comfort food dish!  And I love that the blogger who posted this recipe says it looks like dog food.  She’s right.  I can confirm.  It does.

Kale Pesto – I’m not a huge fan of pesto because I can only handle basil in small amounts.  However I like the idea of pesto and so this kale pesto caught my eye!  I’d definitely make it again!

Next new kitchen experiment on the agenda – juicing!  Stay tuned…

The Groupon Purchase

It’s hard to believe that my latest adventure started with a Groupon.  In spite of the fact that Groupon always seems to send more emails that I signed up for, you can find some pretty good deals, so that keeps me from getting overly angry for the extras and marking them as spam!

Being the wife of a seminary student I find myself constantly surrounded by people earning multiple Masters degrees, entering PhD programs and so forth.  While I value education and I think it’s important to be a life-long learner, I have no desire at this point in time to get another degree.  But somewhere in the midst of that, there’s always a little bit of an “itch” for something new. Studying communications, I’ve always had a wide range of interests and never focused in on just one area to become an expert in.  Working in marketing for a non-profit, the same is true.  I’m spread all over the place.  I like the variety found in my education and work experience, but sometimes I just wish I had some useful, practical skills.  By useful, practical skills I mean that I wish I was a nurse or a graphic designer…something a little more black and white. Clearly defined. Now the  reality is marketing does require some specific skills and I’m absolutely an advocate for people studying communication, but I digress…

Enter Groupon.

This week Groupon was offering an 88% off deal for TESOL certification.  Having taught English overseas for a year and with our desire/plans to move overseas again, this seems like a great skill to further and keep handy.  Is it a risk to buy this on Groupon? Ummm…yes. Do I really know what I’m getting for my money? No. But will I come away with something useful at the end? Absolutely.  After all, most opportunities in life are what you make of them!

So there it is!  I have the next 12 months to finish the online TESOL certification program!  Will I  use it? Who knows!  My mind is swirling with ideas and potential opportunities and if nothing else, I’m sure the course work will occupy me time to keep me from distracting my diligent, hard working, studious husband! Come to think of it… I wonder if that’s why he encouraged me to purchase this… 😉