Christmas 2011

Gosh I was tired when Christmas finally came around. I have had such a hard time falling asleep at night and then think that if I wake up earlier that it might get better. Nope! Regardless, Gary and I headed to Strawberry Village for Oelrich Christmas with much excitement for the day's events. We love coming home because the food is always amazing and it's just fun to see everyone (AND DAISY!) I can't wait for next year when EVERYONE will be around (Cough Cough - A,N,& M!)

The appetizers were great, the dinner amazing, the whipped cream with pie stellar and the blokus game AWESOME :) Gary and I will have to buy that sometime!

**See, I really am an angel! ;)

Date Night - Holiday Style! 12.23.11

I find date nights really important. I think that it is a dedicated time to spend time with each other doing things that you don't normally do or don't do every day. We LOVE going out to eat but that can get expensive reaaaaaaaaallly quickly. Besides that, it gets boring. Sure, we love the good food, but doing different things together is perhaps a little more important. Gary desperately wants to go bowling but I talked him in to something else...

Making Gingerbread Houses!!

I have such fond memories of building gingerbread houses from kindergarten or first grade where the whole class made a little gingerbread village. SO MUCH FUN! Our houses didn't quite measure up to this but it was still fun. We had such a difficult time getting the house to actually stay up without falling (It sure is frustrating when you have to be patient :)!) Next time we'll go with a more simple approach aka just like elementary school with milk cartons and graham crackers!

Note: I bought these gingerbread house kits from Luther College Ministries. The Habitat for Humanities group was selling these for their upcoming trip! Glad I could give to such a great cause.

Super Sides {3} - Dipppppp

At some event last month, the kitchen made an insane feta cheese dip that I could not stop nibbling on. It was a dip that I dreamed about often. Yes, I had dreams about this dip. I talked to Gary about it at some point and he seemed just as excited to try it. SO it was my goal to make it and thought that a family Christmas was the perfect platform. I have to say that I was a bit nervous to try a new recipe that I wasn't even sure was THE recipe on a group of people but thought I might as well.

The day before I was to make it, I worked with the individual who actually made the dip. He so kindly shared with me the recipe he had used and IT WAS THE EXACT SAME RECIPE! I just about peed with excitement.

Needless to say, I made the dip and I feel like it was a hit. If not with the family, it sure was for Gary and I. Seriously, this dip is amazing.

Garlic Feta Cheese Dip

4 oz crumbled feta (I used block feta and crumbled it myself)
4 oz cream cheese
1/3 cup mayo
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp dill weed
1/8 tsp dried thyme

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well until blended together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve with crackers, pretzel crisps, assorted crisp breads or veggies.

Note: Recipe was quadrupled for pictures shown below.


Super Sides {2} - Potluck edition

Gary's work held a potluck this week for all their workers. How cute, right? I talked Gary in to making a bbq meatball recipe because I remembered how much he peed about the ones Bridget made for the Oelrich Christmas gathering on January 1, 2011. Did he remember what I was talking about? Of course not, but he signed up to make that anyway. A day or two before the potluck I then asked what everyone else was bringing. He rattled off a number of things, all including meat. Why on earth did he let me talk him in to bringing meatballs??? Dork! Anyway, they turned out quite well and they were all gone by the time Gary returned from work. I suppose that means they were a success!

Crock pot BBQ Meatballs

*I created my master meatballs (see What's for Dinner {4})** and used the directions from the link above.

**I didn't add mozzarella balls and somehow forgot to put in the dijon. No worries, they still tasted like candy!!


1 lb ground chuck
1 lb ground turkey
1 large egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
2 T minced garlic
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T Tabasco
Salt and Pepper - to taste

1 large bottle of regular BBQ Sauce (don’t go too thick on the sauce you need to be able to stir)
1/2 C. Grape Jelly

Preheat oven to 350. Get a nonstick cookie sheet ready. Get a large skillet and drizzle about 2 TBS. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the pan, this needs to be hot but do not turn it up to high you don’t want to burn the oil.

Get your hands dirty! Start mixing the meat and seasonings together. Then start forming one inch balls, just like you would for peanut butter cookies.

Carefully lower the balls into your hot oiled skillet. You want to put them in here to sear them, give them a nice color and lock the flavors in. You may have to turn them a couple times to get even color.

When you have some great color on your meatballs transfer them to your cookie sheet and put them in the oven to finish cooking them. Mine were done after 15 minutes but start with ten and make sure you test one by opening it and seeing that its well done.

Transfer your cooked meat to the crock pot and then cover them with half the bottle of BBQ sauce and the jelly. Stir it and get them coated, then stir in the rest of the BBQ sauce. Put the mixture on the temp that makes them bubble a little but not boil. Let simmer for 2 hours before devouring the entire crock pot. Recipes makes approximately 54 mini balls.


***Don't worry - this was taken after a semi-sear and before baking. They should end up well done once finished in the oven.


Date Night - December style

Since returning to Decorah, I've been dying to try the Tap Room located in the Hotel Winneshiek. They've done really well over the last few months and even started a Happy Hour menu. Gary and I finally made it over for drinks and an appetizer on Friday, December 16.

Part of my excitement was being able to get my drink of choice for only $3 - Malbec, which is normally $5. I had done a wine tasting at the hotel a while back and LOVED this wine and the Sangeovise but that one is no longer on the menu. They are both reds that pair really well with red meat. And boy do I love my red meats :) STEAK! Speaking of, we got an incredible appetizer called the Steak & Potato Stacks for only $4. This usually goes for $8. Sweeeeet! The stack comprises of a red potato, sliced filet mignon (OMG), a blue cheese butter, and a cherry tomato. My mouth is watering just thinking of it. Rest assured, I'll be back for more.

We decided that we would splurge on getting a meal too but headed to Rubaiyat for that because Gary was peeing his panties over their chicken sandwich. I've got to say I was pleasantly surprised with my order. My last go at this restaurant wasn't so pleasant, but I'll just keep my comments to myself because it's been a few years since I didn't like what I was served. I'd say that's a pretty good track record. PS: we haven't actually sat in the restaurant for a few years. It's just so gosh darn expensive. Besides, the bar has really great offerings - usually smaller portions of items on the regular menu.

Gary's meal choice:

Isaiah’s Chicken Sandwich 9.95
Country fried chicken filet, Carolina BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, tomato,
bacon, pickles; choice of soup, salad or sweet potato fries

My meal choice:
Tilapia Piccata 9.95
Artichoke hearts, capers, lemon butter white wine sauce; rice medley

**The fish was SO tasty! I'd definitely order this again.

What's for Dinner {5} - FLOP!

I've been dying to try make my first crack at making a delicious broccoli cheddar soup. I somehow got up the courage to make it last week and was sooo excited. Amanda had mentioned on one of my pins that all the times she's tried making the soup that it always separates. I've gotta say that going in, I thought I was golden. All the recipes I found seemed to really spell out the directions and none of the reviews mentioned this problem. When I had finished the soup I could tell that it hadn't completely melded together as all of the other broccoli cheddars I'd seen but it tasted fine. Gary and I then decided to leave it on the stove to simmer for 30 minutes while we watched something on tv. BAD IDEA. When we came back to the kitchen the soup had completely curdled and was inedible. It was so sad. I later found something online that said you should only leave the cheese on the heat until it's melted. Then remove because you'll end up with curdled soup. Disgusting. I'll just have to try again sometime.

Here's the recipe I loosely followed:

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

* 2 T. Butter, melted
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 1/2 c. butter, melted
* 1/2 c. all purpose flour
* 4 c. half and half
* 4 c. chicken broth
* 1 lb. fresh broccoli
* 2 cups, julienned carrots
* salt and pepper, to taste
* 1/2 t. nutmeg
* 16 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Saute onion in butter. Set aside. Whisk butter and flour over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir constantly and slowly add half and half. Add chicken stock, still whisking.

Simmer 20 minutes.

Add broccoli, carrots and onion. Cook over low heat until veggies are tender – about 20-25 minutes. Add salt and pepper. The soup will have thickened by now.

Carefully transfer soup mixture to blender and puree. Return soup to pot (or crockpot) over low heat. Add cheese. Stir until well blended. Add nutmeg right before serving.

**This, of course, was taken when the soup was STILL EDIBLE. How depressing!!

Hunter & Chloe Snapshots

The puppies have been adorable lately so I thought I'd share some of the pictures I managed to take of them.



Sweets & Treats {1}

I feel so behind in my blogging, I'm beginning to feel guilty. I have had so many good ideas for blog posts but seem to forget about them when it's about time to blog. SORRY. I've made some fun recipes lately but they've fallen a little short of my expectations.

The first was not a dinner, but a dessert. I had been craving pumpkin for so long so I thought it'd be fun for Gary and I to make a cute little dessert to bring to our Thanksgivings. They were super fun to make and tasted fine. They just weren't spectacular. I wanted them to be so amazing that you couldn't help to eat the whole bin. Sadly I think there is still a container of them in the fridge...Oops.

I waited so long to post about this that I can't even remember what recipe I used. I found one from my pinterest board but it's just a little different. However, it'd do. It's roughly the same concept minus the cookie crumbs on top.

Pumpkin Spice Truffles


½ cup white chocolate chunks or chips
2 cups white chocolate almond bark (I think I used around 4-5 cubes)
1/3 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup canned pumpkin purée
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of fine salt
2 ounces cream cheese, softened


Melt the 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium-low heat or in the microwave for about 1 minutes. Stir often to keep the chocolate from burning. Transfer to a large bowl. Add gingersnap crumbs, pumpkin, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, zest, cinnamon, salt and cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Transfer to a shallow bowl, cover and chill until just solid enough to roll into balls, about 2 hours.

Line a large sheet tray with parchment paper. Melt remaining 2 cups white chocolate almond bark and transfer to a small, deep bowl. Roll 1 heaping teaspoon of the pumpkin mixture into a ball in your hands, then drop into the chocolate. Working quickly, gently spoon chocolate over to coat. Using a small spoon or fork, lift the truffle out of the chocolate, shake off excess and transfer to prepared sheet tray. Dollop a bit of extra chocolate on any parts that remain exposed, then sprinkle a few gingersnap or graham cracker crumbs over the top, if you like.

Repeat process with remaining pumpkin mixture and chocolate, then chill truffles until chocolate is completely set, about 1 hour.

I still have a love affair with pumpkin so I haven't quite given up yet. I'll find another recipe to try :)

"The river is so high today!"

Years ago I made a comment to Gary that the river seemed really high. Perhaps I've been a little sensitive about the river since the 2008 flood. Who knows. But ever since, he LITERALLY mentions that the river looks high every time we go over the bridge. It's actually charming unless I'm not in a good mood. Then it's just annoying :)

Anyhoo, I've made it a habit to take a picture of it on my walks. It seems that no matter when I do, it is just so darn pretty. I love it. It makes those days when it's super cold out but I have no choice to walk actually nice and refreshing. I haven't had to walk in snow yet but I look forward to talking a picture of a snow/ice covered river.

Here are the pictures I've taken since being back in D-town.

NOVEMBER 1, 2011

NOVEMBER 30, 2011

DECEMBER 12, 2011

As you can see, the geese have yet to travel to warmer climates. It has been such a nice winter thus far!


Bucket List {3}

November was a weird month as far as exercising goes. I was gung-ho for a solid week or two but then it kinda went to "gosh, I'm tired" or "gosh, I don't have time" or "gosh, I was on my feet for 10 hours today. Doesn't that count as my workout?" Clearly, I need to set a standard routine regardless of my non-standard work schedule. If I have a set time each day to do my daily exercises and to go on wii fit for even 10 minutes, I will do it. It's got to become a non-negotiable. End of story. Here is the monthly recap of my progress on this list item:

12,000 GOAL
     1670 COMPLETED as of 11/30
10,330 LEFT TO COMPLETE by 10/31/12

Average/Day = 27.8
Oct Average/Day = 39.5

*SAD! I went down in my average even though I increased the reps. A lot is to be said for doing these every day. I missed 13 days and made up only 3-4 of them. Not good.

10,000 GOAL
     1305 COMPLETED as of 11/30
   8,695 LEFT TO COMPLETE by 10/31/12

Average/Day = 22.1 Boo.
Oct Average/Day = 30.4

  10,000 GOAL
       605 COMPLETED as of 11/30
   9,395 LEFT TO COMPLETE by 10/31/12

Average/Day = 12.3
Oct Average/Day = 20.4


  5,200 GOAL (in minutes)
     1004 COMPLETED as of 11/30
   4,196 LEFT TO COMPLETE by 10/31/12

I'd say that November was a draw. I started out really strong and felt really good about my progress. I then started working again and things kiiiinnndddaaa fell to the wayside. I need to make a better action plan in order for me to follow through. Remember, exercise is a NON-NEGOTIABLE!

My goal for December is to make up for the days I missed in November. It's important to not push myself too hard so I will do two sets of reps per day of each exercise that must be completed before I shower.

Crunches - 24 reps twice a day
Squats - 14 reps twice a day
Push ups - 18 reps twice a day