Thursday, December 17, 2009

Featured on Mod Podge Rocks!

I am honored today to be guest blogging at Mod Podge Rocks, an awesome blog devoted to Mod Podge! Go check it out!

Mod Podge Rocks

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Present for a True Wine-o

Each year, I rack my brain for the perfect Christmas present for Chris. He's actually very difficult because in addition to Christmas, his birthday is a week later, so I have to get all the good gifts out of my system in one fell swoop. This is not always, or ever, easy!

This year, with help from my brother, I got Chris a very good and unique gift: a wine barrel top lazy susan, and a bottle of wine from the same winery.

Yes, that's right, a top of a wine barrel, turned into a lazy susan. A very cool gift, because this is a used wine barrel top, which means when you turn it over, it's stained with the red wine that was aging in it. And the winery I got was Pahlmeyer, but the man who makes them has a bunch of different brandings on the wood, mostly the barrel makers but some wineries as well.

In case you're interested, here's the listing:

Wine Barrel Top Lazy Susan

Then since I got him a barrel top from Pahlmeyer, I decided a nice Pahlmeyer bottle of wine would go quite well with it! I checked out (and if you haven't been there before, you must go!) and looked at ratings of tons of bottles of wine. I finally settled on a bottle of 2005 Pahlmeyer Jayson Pinot Noir. I found it for purchase online, had it shipped, and voila! A perfect gift for a wonderful wine-o!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Split Pea Soup and Pyrador Pinot

Since the fam left after Thanksgiving, we were left with a lot of vegetables. I think we thought we would use far more carrots, onions, and celery than we actually did. Well anyway, since Chris was working late late late this week, and I was alone to fend for myself in the kitchen while still using some of the refrigerator contents, I decided to make some split pea soup! I had never made split pea soup before, and I didn't have ham (or anything pig-related), but I had everything else. But, thanks to, and my Droid on the train ride home, I came across a ham-less split pea recipe:

Split Pea Soup without Pork


* 1 pound dried split peas
* 1 stalk celery, diced
* 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
* 2 (14.5 ounce) cans low-fat, low sodium chicken broth
* 3 cups water
* salt and pepper to taste


1. Rinse and pick through peas. Place them in a large pot with the celery, carrots, broth and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until peas have fallen apart, 1 to 2 hours. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

I decided to also add a small onion, since I have a ton of them, and despite the reviews saying this was too watery, I actually found mine was too mushy, so I added more water. Also I only needed to cook mine about 1.5 hrs. I chose to saute the veggies with a little of the stock before putting all the split peas and remaining stock/water, with some pepper and a bit of smoked paprika for a little smokiness. In the end, you couldn't really taste the smoked paprika, so maybe next time I will choose something else for a boost in flavor. Regardless, the result was very tasty, very hearty for this cold weather, and reheated well for future lunches and dinners. I highly recommend this simple tasty meal!


Next on the agenda, the Pyrador Pinot Noir (2007). This wine is from the central coast of California, and is a decent wine for the $18 we paid for it at Binny's. It's a little thin, but has a fruit-forward flavor that we both really like. I'm not wild about it, but I enjoyed it for 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Brussels Sprouts: A Hit!

Yes, that's right... a brussels sprouts recipe that everyone loves! I have Thanksgiving to prove it. Chris and I tried this recipe (our own twists on a recipe) a couple weeks before Thanksgiving and LOVED it. So much so that we actually made it for Thanksgiving dinner, and everyone, including those who do not like brussels sprouts, were all over it! In fact, I even sent the recipe to my brother who made it before his Thanksgiving and he and his wife also loved it so much that they made it for Turkey Day as well. Go figure! I've sent this recipe to my whole family, and now I have been requested to make it for Christmas!

Katie's Shredded Brussels Sprouts


* 2 slices slab bacon
* 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 cup water
* 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I like country dijon that is more of a stone-ground mustard and still has mustard seed bits in it)
* 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved and very thinly sliced
* 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, turning once, until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain on a paper towel. Crumble.

Add onion and salt to the drippings in the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until tender and browned, about 3 minutes. Add water, vinegar and mustard and scrape up any browned bits. Add Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring often, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the crumbled bacon.

**Depending on how much brussels sprouts I use, I may add mustard and vinegar and taste as I go, adding more until the flavor is right. It's not supposed to be overwhelming mustard/vinegar flavor, but it should cut through the brussels sprouts taste a bit.

Make it and enjoy! I've got references!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fall Salad Plates

Chris and I are hosting our first Thanksgiving this year with Chris' parents, grandparents and sister. Since this is the first event we're hosting, I wanted to make it very festive so in the event the food doesn't turn out, at least everything will be pretty :)

We have fairly simple china (white plates with silver rim) and an antique white tablecloth and napkins that we received for our wedding that we will use for dinner. But, let's face it, that's a lot of white. So I decided to liven up the table a bit. Initially, my plan was to get some clear plates and spray paint the underside of them fall colors. Aaaand when I went to the craft store to get spray paint, I learned that spray paint is illegal to sell in Chicago, so there went that idea. So, standing in the craft store thinking, thinking, thinking...


Gold and copper leafed plates!

What you need:

Clear glass salad plates
Gold and copper leaf flecks (I can't find the product online, but it was Mona Lisa brand)
Mod Podge
Bowls to set the plate upside down on
Damp washcloth

That's it!

Start by brushing a light layer of Mod Podge in the center of the plate. It's best not to cover the whole plate because the Mod Podge will dry too quickly. With one hand (your non-painting hand), sprinkle flakes all over the Mod Podged area. Do not push them all the way down, as you will get Mod Podge all over your fingers, and the gold/copper will stick even worse than it already does. If you do start to get too sticky, that's what the damp washcloth is for.

Continue working your way around the plate...

Once you have all the gold/copper leaf applied to the plate, let the Mod Podge dry just a bit, and press the leaf down with with your fingers, brushing off any excess. Then, let it sit for another 30 min just to make sure it's dry, and paint another coat of Mod Podge on it. Cover again with two more coats, making sure to let it dry at least an hour between coats.

Finally, to make sure that the bottom isn't tacky, spray with 2 coats of clear acrylic finish.

Finished product!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An attitude adjustment

I came home tonight...a Sunday night after a very long week at work. I worked all week and then 7 hours yesterday and 7 hours today...I worked close to 70 hours for the week. Oh yes by the way this is Chris not Katie today. I grew up in a household that didn't center around wine but very much viewed wine as a way to enjoy life. Tonight I came home after a very long week with more work to do before heading into work in the morning. I needed an attitude adjustment tonight. Something to transform me from the office to being able to relax at home. Wine, I have found, is the perfect attitude adjuster. Tonight we enjoyed a Vision cono Sur Pinot Noir from Colchagua Valley in Chile. This Pinot was an easy drinking pinot and definitely my type of wine. I enjoy all types of wine but I need fruit. This is very new world in structure and had a very good amount of backbone with a slight amount of earthiness. By the way -- I am not a wine snob. I enjoy good wine but you will never hear some snotty claim of 10 different fruits. Wine to me has good fruit or it doesn't. A good backbone or not. Moral of the story, I would very highly recommend this wine for the $13 we paid for it at Binny's. Come to think of it, everything I've had from Chile has been a great value. If you haven't tried any wines from Chile I'd suggest a pinot noir if you really like fruit, or a Carmenere if you enjoy something closer to a fuller bodied red wine. I enjoy Chile because the wines have great fruit and there is nothing snotty about them...Chile is nowhere near having French or American or even Argentenian status yet. I find Chilean wines to be better than Malbec because they are more complex and a little less huge but with more fruit and structure.

Give Chilean wines a try!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oven Thermometer: Your New Best Friend

For those of you who know Chris and I, you probably know we have historically been cursed by the fowl. That is, every time we've ever tried to cook a bird, be it chicken, turkey, or ostrich (ok, we haven't tried ostrich), our best attempts have been in vain. Every time we cooked a bird, it was raw inside and had to cook much much longer than the recipe recommended. Like, an hour and a half longer. For a 4 lb chicken, it really is not supposed to take more than an hour total, but we would reach ridiculous times of 2.5 hours and above. And at that length of time, the skin was beginning to burn so we'd end up having to stick it in a pot with a top, and then you lose the gorgeous brown skin.

Needless to say, we were fowl impaired.

But this week, we were finally successful! And why, you ask? Because of the glory of the oven thermometer. Hearing our bird woes, Chris' mom suggested we get an oven thermometer to see how accurate our oven really is. Turns out, not very. For example, the recipe we used stated to pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees and put it in for 20 min (breast side down) before flipping the bird over, basting, and turning down to 325. However, we found out thanks to our handy little thermometer, that when the oven *beeps* saying "I'm hot enough! I'm at 500!", it's actually a big, fat, stainless-steel liar. This time when we were ready to put the turkey in, we looked at the thermometer and it said 425. That's right, 425, and the oven claimed it was at 500. Granted, we tried to give it the benefit of the doubt, waiting a couple more minutes. It slowly climbed it's way up to 450, finally halting there. We ended up having to turn the oven up to 550 to get it to keep heating up. We continued this game of toying with the temperature on the oven to get it to what it actually needed to be inside throughout the cooking process. 350 when we wanted 325, 550, when we wanted 500. Regardless, thanks to our thermometer, we finally successfully cooked a bird, and it was moist and delicious, just like the recipe said it should be.

So, moral of the story, don't trust your oven. It may be a big fat liar.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mod Podge Fall Leaves in Frames

Ok, maybe I need a cooler name for this project, but oh well. Since Chris and I are hosting Thanksgiving in a couple weeks, I decided the place needed a little Thanksgiving sprucing up. I came up with a couple ideas, and this is the first one that has so far come to fruition. But believe me, it may be the first of many.

Since the leaves in fall are so pretty, Chris and I went around Lincoln Park a couple weeks ago and collected tons of leaves. I then dried them between some newspapers until now.

For this project, I used:

7 4x6 black frames (I had these lying around from an old golf thing I did for Chris' room in college)
1 sheet each bronze, burnt red, and light yellow paper
5 yds bronze ribbon
Fall leaves
Mod Podge
Paint brush
Hot glue gun

I cut out 4x6 pieces of each of the papers, using 3 bronze, 2 red, and 2 yellow. I then brushed Mod Podge on the back of the leaves, pressed them onto the paper, and simply turned the paper over so the leaf was visible in the frame and put the back on. I tested putting Mod Podge on the front of the leaf too to see what a glossy shine on the leaves would look like, but that actually made the leaves look fake so I just decided to go with using the Mod Podge only to adhere the leaves to the paper.

Then once all the frames were done, I turned them over and used the hot glue gun to glue the ribbon to the backs of the frames to hang them. I left a little ribbon hanging at the bottom and curled it a little.

Then I just hung them on some nails we already had up from the mirror that used to be hanging in that spot (had to add one nail for the middle one) and voila!

I think it looks pretty good. And it was cheap! I only had to buy the paper and the ribbon since the leaves were free, and I already had the frames. So all in all, this project cost about $5. Not bad!

I love doing projects like this on a Sunday afternoon while Chris is watching football. Simon likes being a part of them too...

Happy Sunday!

Pork Tenderloin Satay and Geja's Cafe

This week, Chris and I tried a recipe out of How to Cook Everything for Pork Satay. We had some pork tenderloins in the freezer from Costco that were looking to be eaten, and previously we had tried a more simple preparation. So this time, we looked for something a little more unique!

Pork Satay

Pork Tenderloin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients (other than pork) in a bowl. Place pork tenderloin in a 9x13 pan. Pour ingredients over pork tenderloin. Put in oven until the pork reaches an internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, approximately 40 minutes. When removed from oven, cover immediately with foil and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Enjoy!

We had this with some steamed broccoli, which went very well with the flavors. It's sort of a spicy salty peanuty sauce, and it turned out quite well. We would definitely make this again!


On Friday, Chris and I went to Geja's Cafe for dinner. It's a fondue place that we had been hearing about from multiple people. And conveniently, it's about a block away! You may notice from the site though that it's pretty pricey, so we weren't really jumping on the opportunity to go. Luckily, recently there was a coupon special through 3 o'clock Club where you could get a $100 gift certificate for $30. Perfect! So we picked up one of those and headed to Geja's. The ambiance was definitely intended to be very romantic. Guitar player, dim lights, etc. It was very fun to get dressed up and go here. The cheese fondue was good, but incredibly intense. You almost needed to eat it with the fruit rather than the bread, because it needed some sweet to cut through the strong flavor. Of course Chris did not partake of the fondue :) Then for dinner, I had scallops, shrimp, and lobster, and Chris had beef, shrimp, and lobster. The oil was so incredibly hot that it gave an amazing crispy coat to the meat, it was wonderful. I had never had scallops in fondue before either, and they were big delicious scallops that cooked beautifully in the hot oil. Finally, we finished with a flaming chocolate fondue. The flaming part came from the orange liqueur floater, which allowed just enough time to roast some marshmallows. Overall, the whole meal was absolutely delicious. Oh, and the best part, we had a phenomenal waitress, very attentive and smart, and at the end of the meal she said she doesn't usually comment on her guests but had to tell me that I looked like Grace Kelly. Of course, being so young, I had to look up who Grace Kelly was. She was a 1950's actress who married the Prince of Monaco at the age of 26. That's right, I look like a princess. So overall it was a pretty good night!

Now I'm off to go walk around outside. It's 70 degrees and sunny out! That's right, 70 degrees, in November! Got to take advantage of it while it lasts!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Call 911 --- we're on fire!

Last night, Chris and I tried a new recipe out of Bon Apetit. This was an oven-roasted tomato pasta, which had great potential. Sliced up tomatoes, on a baking sheet, with a mixture of olive oil, italian spices, garlic, pepper, and red pepper flakes brushed on top, then baked at 400 degrees for 1 hour. Well.... it was a good idea. And it still is. But the thing that we learned is that red pepper flakes get MUCH hotter when you cook them. Usually, we put red pepper flakes on pizza, or briefly in the wok, but we have never cooked them for an hour. Turns out, they get hot. Like, really, really hot. Which wouldn't have been a problem if it wasn't for the fact that we put more red pepper flakes in than it called for because "sure! Add more! We like hot food!"


Nearly inedible. Man, did we try though. So we ended up only having a few noodles, and making a whole other batch of noodles and mixing the remaining tomatoes with the noodles so the ratio of spicy tomatoes to pasta was a little more bearable.

I think we'll definitely try this again, but we will go easy on the red pepper flakes :)

On another note, we had a lovely bottle of Newton Chardonnay last night. This is a good bottle as the weather starts to get cold, because it is one hearty chardonnay. Incredibly full, deep, buttery but fragrant, very good overall. It's a great winter white.

Oh, also, the label comes off REALLY easy when it's chilling in the ice bucket:

Isn't he cute?? :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Time to start a permanent blog

After The Wine Label Project was complete, I decided it was time to just keep a more permanent, less project-focused blog. So I thought to myself, if I wanted to talk about things, what would I talk about? Well, that's easy.



Mod Podge.

So this is a place for me to share the culinary adventures that Chris and I take, the wines we share, and the projects I create with Mod Podge.

And with that, I thought the first post would fittingly be about my very first Mod Podge project. The pictures below show my first introduction to Mod Podge. I was in high school, and decided to redo an old hope chest of my grandmother's. I had a lot of old pictures of her with no use for them, and this old stained hope chest that her mother had made her out of a John Deere milk crate.

Enjoy the transformation:

And so began the love of Mod Podge :)