Thursday, March 31, 2011

Recipe: Summery Dressing (with salad suggestions!)

On Saturday night, we had the pleasure of dining with Allison (Sloan) and Jeff Polish. Sloan is a colleague of mine, who is half what I want to be when I grow up and half who I want to hang out with when I grow up (and now!). She's stylish, cool, smart as hell, devoted wife, mother of three boys and a hard worker. Her husband, Jeff (together with Sloan) started the Monti, which is a story-telling event held here in the Triangle. Check it out if you haven't yet, but get on their email list, because the event sells out within minutes. Anyway, they were so kind as to host us for dinner, and I was charged with bringing a salad to pair with a (fantastic!) brisket and mashed potatoes. I decided to go for a very "American" salad, with a little bit of a cobb feel.


  •        3 tbsp red-wine vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar bc that’s what I had at home already!)
  •        1 tbsp fresh (yah right) lemon juice
  •        2 tsp Dijon mustard
  •        1 small garlic clove, minced (AKA through my garlic press)
  •        ½ tsp salt (to taste)
  •        ½ tsp sugar
  •        ¼ tsp black pepper (to taste)
  •        ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  •        2 tsp worchestershire (just a couple splashes)
I put it all in a tupperware container so I could shake it around and easily transport, and voila! A great, light, summery dressing. Can you tell I'm already in a summer mindset?

Salad that accompanied dressing: Tomatoes (fresh from the Flea Market!), Hard-boiled eggs, Avocados, Romaine Lettuce, Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Recipe: Easy Skinny Strawberry Cheesecake

I stole this recipe from Kelly ; if you're not following her yet, you should be. She's only been blogging for, like, a month and she already has 30+ recipes up there. Essentially, she takes other people's recipes, and makes them healthier. She's brilliant and adorable and I went to school with her. 

Anyway, we were having Grace & Ryan over for dinner last night, and I needed a dessert but had very little time, what with all my meatball making (more on that later). This is perfect. Most of the ingredient list (which is SO short!), you likely already have in your pantry.

  • 8 oz fat free cream cheese / Neufchâtel cheese (I microwaved for :30 to soften)
  • 9" graham cracker pie crust (I guess you could make it yourself, but who does that?!)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 packets of Splenda
  • 1 tub of fat-free Cool Whip
  • Fresh Strawberries (sliced)

Mix the cream cheese, vanilla & splenda with a hand mixer until light and fluffy
Whip in the cool whip until light and fluffy again
Spoon into pie crust and refrigerate for several hours
Top with sliced strawberries

That's it! Seriously. Best of all, only 200 calories per serving. Ryan even asked me if I bought it. I couldn't think of a more perfect summer dessert ... yes, my beloved Chocolate Éclair Cake has finally been replaced as my favorite summer staple. More on that later, too. Big hopes for this blog, can you tell?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stuck in Cary: Volume 2

As I noted previously, Ben's not letting me sell our house this year, so we are making tiny little updates along the way. Who knows, by the time I've done all these little bitty projects, maybe I'll change my mind about leaving! (Doubtful)

Next on my checklist is cabinet knobs / drawer pulls for my kitchen. I counted 17 cabinets and 8 drawer pulls, so it's not going to be a $20 project. Last night, I mentioned to Ben that Whitney was going to help me pick out some new fixtures, and he suggested that we should just replace the cabinets themselves. Little does he know this is likely a $5-10K job. I am considering repainting them, especially after seeing Emily Kissee's brand new WHITE cabinets, but afraid that may be too much since our kitchen is white above the chair rail (and red below, my favorite).

I've included a few pictures from the kitchen as it currently stands - they're not great because I took them on my phone last night, but it's a peak as to what kind of patterns I like.

Recently purchased decorative hand towels from Target
 Lucy's little corner (her bowls & mat are black & white)
Here, you get a glimpse of our black & white alternating "tiled" linoleum floors. Love the pattern, HATE the material. I'm seriously considering tiling. Also, you can see the red & white paint on the walls.
 Our pot rack, left by the previous owners, which is one of my favorite pieces in the house. The decorative red colander was courtesy of our old Martha Stewart Magazine rep, and my adorable girly apron (which is always on display) was a gift from Abby
 Red placements with fun decorative plates on the kitchen table, recently purchased from TJ Maxx. I LOVE this pattern.

So, just from posting those photos, it sounds like I'm ready to paint the cabinets, replace the knobs & drawer pulls, tile the floor and make new curtains (these aren't pictures, but they're red & white gingham and they're way too country for my liking). But first, the knobs. I think I want something more fun than just brushed nickel like I have in the bathrooms, but they need to be somewhat inexpensive due to the quantity.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Eckerson Church Search: Season 2, Episode 3

A husband who grew up Catholic. A wife who grew up Evangelical / Non-Denominational / Assembly of God / some combination thereof. Is there middle ground? Can we find a church home that will suit both of our needs? Our journey continues throughout the Triangle.

This week: Genesis United Methodist Church
I passed the church last week when I went to see Kelly & Casey finish their marathon. It was so close to our house that I made a mental note to check out service times - 11:20, perfect, right? Wrong. There was nothing overtly wrong with this church, I guess, but it gets very few checks on our list.

Building: D
The location of the church itself is something that is really important to Ben. I think this comes from growing up Catholic, as most (all?) Catholic churches are filled with stained glass windows, candles, statues, etc. I certainly don't disagree with him on this one, though I never identified it as a priority until he brought it up.

From the street (High House, in case you were wondering), it looks like a huge building. Upon entry, we were both pretty disappointed. It's more like the warehouse / gymnasium-esque buildings that I was used to attending. No stained glass. No pews. A big X on that one.

Teaching: C
The biggest priority for both of us is having a good teacher. Someone who can engage us, put things into a contemporary spin, someone who isn't too long-winded but isn't just regurgitating scripture. I need a charismatic speaker, and Ben wants someone who is clearly educated by seminary or otherwise.

The minister was a sweet older man with a southern accent. His sermon was short, his anecdotes were irrelevant and his message was superficial at best. His one redeeming quality was that he sought us out as we were exiting (despite a huge line of church-goers waiting to shake his hand) and thanked us for coming, and asked us to come back.

Church Body: B
Eckerson Church Search, Season 2 Episode 2 was very promising (and still might be our best fit so far), but the biggest problem we had was the average age of the church body (which was approximately 65). While not as big of a priority for Ben, I'm looking for the opportunity to fellowship with people we have something in common with. Maybe they're 20-somethings and dating, or maybe they're 30-somethings with two kids, but they're definitely not 60-somethings with blue hair.

Genesis had a great mix of church-goers at a variety of ages. Even though it was a bit smaller, there were a good amount of young families, and a choir filled mostly with grandma-aged folks. This was probably the most redeeming quality about the church.

Overall Grade: C
The schedule of the church was great. The location (4 minutes from our house) is ideal. The music situation was fine. Our fellow church-goers were friendly but not overbearing. Length of sermon and length of service were good. Length of prayer was awkwardly long, though. And as a whole, we were unimpressed. So, we continue the Eckerson Church Search. We're gonna be out of town for the next few weeks (Mexico next Sunday - YAY!, Kelly's Bridal Shower in VA the weekend after that), so we'll hopefully resume this series April 17.

And of course, if anyone reads this, and you have a suggestion for a church we should try, please send it my way!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Stuck in Cary: Volume 1

I have been desperately wanting to move to Raleigh. Not that I don't love our tiny little suburban haven, but it would be nice to be able to get dinner after 9pm ... just sayin'.

Of course, the market has not fully recovered, so Ben has informed me that we will not be moving to Raleigh this year (2011). In an attempt to appease me (read: avoid a temper tantrum), he's given me permission to make upgrades to the house that will allow me to fall back in love with it. Bless his heart, the first thing I asked for was a hot tub for our back deck. Fingers Crossed! ;)

In the mean time, we've been doing tiny adjustments to slowly remove any evidence of the tacky 90's elements the house was built with.

The evidence:
1a) original: tacky brass light fixtures
1b) new: brushed silver light fixtures, YAY!
2a) original: silver curtain rod with gold curtain scarf
2b) new: bronze / iron curtain rod
 (a larger view of our beautiful black out curtains)

 Baby steps, people. On next week's episode of "Stuck in Cary": Replacing the Kitchen Cabinet Pulls

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day from Lucy

Happy Saint Patrick's Day (a day late). Lucy got pinched first thing yesterday morning, so we had to give her a little "luck of the Irish" to get her into the holiday spirit.

We celebrated St. Patrick's Day without any green beer, but with a DELICIOUS reuben. Several of us went to Big Boss Brewery to partake in good food & drink. There are a lot of perks to working in advertising, but free beer is definitely one of my favorites. With the weather finally turning to spring (hopefully for good!) we were able to sit outside and enjoy music, partake in the free libations, and purchase fabulous local food from a bevy of food trucks present. I only drank two beers over the course of 4 hours, but I certainly made up for those calories in everything I ate! It was a fun night, albeit an early one considering the holiday, and I was thrilled to wake up on March 18th without a hangover ... maybe I'm finally getting over binge drinking during the week? Wishful thinking, I'm sure.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Recipe: Yummy Beef Burgers

I rarely use ground beef for anything these days (I'm a firm believer in the power of ground turkey), but I was hosting 25 co-workers on Saturday and decided to make a people-pleaser burger. Word to the wise: I made 10 burgers out of this recipe and they shrunk up to be a little small. I'd guess 8 is optimal. Additional tips: press a hole in the center (not all the way through, just a dimple) to help them cook evenly.

Beef Burgers:
Serves anywhere from 6-10 

2 lbs Lean Ground Beef (I think I used 80/20?)
1 oz pkg dry onion soup mix
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup oats
2 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp ground black pepper (or more + salt to taste)

Missing Husband. Reward: 10 leftover hamburgers and a bag of Oreos

Ben has been at SXSW in Austin since Thursday. THURSDAY. That's 6 days ago. He's having the time of his life, visiting with our friend Hank and other folks from McKinney, learning a lot, eating & drinking even more and "getting inspired". But I want him back.

I'll trade you the 10 leftover hamburgers that are in my freezer from Saturday's Beer Olympics and a half-eaten bag of Oreos that are at my pod if you return him to me.

Seriously, it's getting out of hand. If you follow me on twitter (which you should: @aeckerson ), you know that, last night for dinner, I had a Cadbury Creme Egg and a glass of Simply Apple juice. That does not a meal make. I was built to be a wife, I love cooking, but only for other people. Mostly for my husband.

So send him home please.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Recipe: Baked Mac & Cheese

My cousins, Sandradee & Justin, got us The Joy of Cooking as a wedding gift and it is by far one of my most used gifts. I have a number of go-to recipes (Chicken Parmesan is one of my favs) but I get great enjoyment out of using an actual printed cookbook rather than just constantly checking an app. Tonight, we were rushed for time, so I picked a quick baked mac & cheese recipe and made a few slight modifications, per usual.

  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 2.5 cups white sauce (I used a jar of alfredo, rather than using their recipe to home-make it)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2.5 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Paprika
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • Bay leaf

Additional ingredients I used:

  • Ground mustard
  • Sliced pepperjack cheese 
Preheat oven to 350
Cook the macaroni normally & drain
Meanwhile, simmer white sauce, onion, ground mustard & paprika (1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon each), salt & pepper to taste, bay leaf for 15 minutes
Remove bay leaf
Remove sauce from heat, add half shredded cheese and stir until melted
Mix sauce & pasta in a bowl
Place half sauce / pasta mixture in a greased baking dish, layer with pepperjack cheese
Place remaining sauce / pasta mixture over pepperjack, top with remaining shredded cheese and bread crumbs
Bake :30 minutes

There's a first time for everything

Not sure why, but I've had an increasing urge to start a blog. Why not, right? There are plenty of people with blogs that are far less exciting than Ben & I. So I'm giving it a shot. If you happened upon this completely by accident, I apologize, because there is absolutely nothing of interest so far ... but just you wait.