Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chocolate Elvis Smoothie

The A/C in our apartment has been broken for over a week.  I don't think I need to describe how hot it is in here, given that it's Miami at the beginning of the summer (let's just say it feels like a constant sauna).  And I've been making a lot of smoothies lately to stay cool.

A friend mailed us a Bed Bath and Beyond gift card recently, and I was so excited because I've been really wanting a blender to make such things as smoothies!  I've been experimenting with lots of different combinations and made this one recently that changed my life.  Dramatic?  Maybe, but it really will change your life!


Let's be real here-- Elvis knew a good thing when he became famous not just for being the King of rock-and-roll, but also for his love of combining peanut butter and banana.  Brilliant.  This is the perfect marriage of flavors and fruit.  Add in a little chocolate and you've got the best thing since sliced bread.

Chocolate Elvis Smoothie:
Serves 1

-2 Ice Cubes
-1/2 Frozen Banana
1/2 C. Milk (I used Almond but you could also use Skim for a low-fat option)
2 T. Peanut Butter
2 T. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1.5 T. Sweetener (Honey, Agave, Sugar)

Place Ice Cubes and 1/2 Frozen Banana in a blender.  Add in Milk, Peanut Butter, Cocoa, and Sweetener of your choice (I usually use Honey and it's sweet enough, but if you want it a bit more sweet you could always add more).  Blend until smooth.  


With the honey addition, this combo is about 250 calories, which is pretty low compared to the ridiculously high-sugar, high-cal smoothies out there.  Enjoy!


Apartment Found?

I'm apprehensive to say this but... I think we found an apartment!  Israel and I looked at about five places yesterday and this was our last stop of the day.  We almost thought about canceling our appointment because we were both tired and not sure if this one would work out.  This was our favorite place!

It's cute and charming and cozy and reasonably priced.  Best of all, it's in Coral Gables and close to Whole Foods!  Not to mention, in the same vicinity of a lot of our favorite restaurants!  Oh, and it has hardwood floors, which is extremely hard to find in Miami.  We can't put down our deposit until next Friday, but the lady showing us the apartment seemed understanding, so please pray that this will work out!!!  :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Springtime is for Babies

My husband and I currently watching the Heat/Bulls game on TV which is a pretty major game because if the Heat wins, they will go to the Finals!  I can't even believe I just wrote that.  I'm not a huge sports person, but lately I've really been enjoying watching the Heat play.  Basketball is probably the only sport I can watch on TV without getting bored.  My husband is a huge Heat fan and gets very animated during a game... he keeps scaring me by clapping and yelling.  :)

Anyways, I wanted to tell you about this little story of mine.  Last week as I was leaving the apartment, I walked out the door and literally almost stepped on a bunch of baby ducks!  They scattered with their mother leading the pack away from the door and I immediately grabbed my camera.  I don't think I'll ever get over the sheer cuteness of baby ducks.  Or baby anythings.






Oh my goodness.  Cuties!  Don't you love that they even have signs for duck crossings?  I think it's so polite that even in a huge city like Miami, a whole stream of cars still stop for a mother duck and her babies crossing the road.

I saw these guys a few different times by our door throughout the day but they were gone the next day.  I think the mama duck was a little leery of me and my camera.  At first I thought that these were the little babies that had hatched by our house, but found the expectant mother still sitting safely on her eggs.


She's gotten used to us passing by her spot everyday and I always check on her to see if they have hatched yet.  She doesn't jump up every time we pass by though and is pretty quiet now.  I think it should be any day now when the eggs will finally hatch!  

What about you guys?  Do any of you have birds' eggs waiting to be hatched or have you seen any sightings of baby birds lately?  :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pantry Soup Recipe + Exciting News!

Hello, my lovelies!

I'm sorry for the lack of posts lately.  It's been pretty stressful for us with looking for apartments plus my looking for jobs and I haven't been feeling so "blog" inspired due to my level of huge stress (which is my fault... I need to learn how to stop worrying and trust God more!  He obviously knows what He's doing).

I've applied for dozens of jobs but hadn't really heard back from any of them except for Macy's.  That was one of the first places I applied to and immediately got an email telling me to schedule myself an interview. Well, I went for my interview yesterday and it went so well that the manager immediately asked for me to wait a few minutes so I could get a second interview with another person!!  My second interview only lasted a few minutes, which was significantly shorter than my first one which lasted about half an hour, and I got hired!!!  :)  I'll be working in the Cosmetics Department as a "floater," which basically means that I'll probably be working at different counters each week.  I always loved playing dress-up when I was a little girl and thought it would be fun to work in that department!

It all happened so fast and I literally did float out of there, I was just so happy and excited!  Once again, I am humbled by how faithful God is and has been in my life.  It's so scary when the future looks so uncertain but God always provides!!

This job does have a base rate that I will be paid plus Commission, which is a first for me since I've never worked in retail before.  So that will definitely be interesting!  I start my training on Wednesday.

On another note, I do have a really simple recipe to share with you.  This meal came together one night when I literally had no idea what to make for dinner and was scrounging around in all of the cabinets!  The best part is that you are sure to have all or at least most of these ingredients right in your pantry.  I made it up myself and it literally takes about half an hour or so to make!  I'm so Rachael Ray right now.



Pantry Soup:
Serves 3-4 

2 T. Olive Oil
1 10 oz. Can of Corn
1 Mini Can Mild Green Chilis
1 14 oz. Can Diced Tomatoes
1 14 oz. Can Black Beans
1 1/2 C. Chicken Stock
1 Large Onion, Chopped
3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1 Green Pepper, Chopped
2 Chicken Breasts, Cooked and Shredded
1/2 tsp. Oregano
1 tsp. Cumin
1/2 tsp. Cilantro
1/2 tsp. Parsley
1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp. Cayenne 
1/4 tsp. Paprika
Salt & Pepper to taste

I feel strange calling this a recipe since it's sooo simple to put together!  In a large pot, saute onions in Olive Oil until translucent, then add in garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add Chicken Stock until almost boiling and then add all of the ingredients.  Simmer for about 30 minutes, then reduce heat to low for about 5 minutes.  Just be sure and keep tasting it to see if it needs more salt or any other spice you feel it's lacking.  This tasted even better the next day after everything had a chance to get acquainted with each other!  I sprinkled some Mozzarella cheese on top for a little creamier taste.  Even my veggie-fearing husband loved this!  ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One of Those Weeks


It’s been a tough week and it’s put me in a weird funk lately.  Last week we were doing laundry next door, when our landlord’s wife came by and handed us a nice letter.  Basically, the letter said that they had some kind of family emergency and were forcing everyone to move out by the end of June.  This was completely unexpected and seemed so unfair when the landlord had just come by the week before and hadn’t said a word about this.  

We’ve been wanting to move sometime this summer anyways, but not quite this soon and not without a little preparation and more saving first.  I was really upset, angry and scared.  Scared because moving costs a lot of money with having to pay for a hefty deposit on a new place plus a more expensive rent.  I’ve been applying at lots of places but am still looking for a job.  And with all of this happening, I’ve been feeling the pressure a whole lot to find one.  And soon.  

So, because we now have to save every penny we can in order to find a new place, we will not be able to visit Kansas next month.  :(  Hopefully we'll be able to come in August or September.  I'm totally bummed about this.  As crazy as it sounds, I miss Topeka a lot and the Midwest in general-- not to mention my family and friends.  So I'm hoping we'll be able to visit as soon as we can.  I really hate being so far away from my family.

A couple days after we got the news about having to move out, our power was out for a day and I lost a lot of stuff in our fridge.  It's just been one of those kind of weeks.  I know I've had a really bad attitude towards all of this and I need to change it.  I really don't handle stress well.  Israel has been so good at encouraging me that in the midst of all this craziness, God still has a plan and He's working right now even if we can't really see it.  I want to have more faith like my husband.  

This is a verse I came across right after all this happened and it blessed me so much:

"I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, you are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So DO NOT FEAR, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:9-10

Monday, May 16, 2011

Anniversary Spaghetti and Meatballs


I hope you all don't get tired of my announcing how many months Israel and I have now been married.  We like to celebrate each month that our anniversary falls on at least for this first year, and for our eighth month we celebrated at home with a classic Italian meal-- old fashioned spaghetti and meatballs, with a homemade sauce and everything. Our French Bourdeoux wine also made an appearance and was just as good as it was at the wine tasting.

This is an easy recipe for meatballs that allows you to just mix everything up and set it in the slow cooker for a couple of hours.  It's delicious and so simple!

Anniversary Spaghetti and Meatballs:
Makes about 18 balls

Meatballs:
1 lb. Hamburger
1 C. Oatmeal
1 Egg
1/4 C. Onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp. Oregano
1/4 tsp. Parsley
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
dab of ketchup
2 T. Brown Sugar
1 T. Sugar

Sauce:
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 tsp. Pizza Seasonings
1/4 tsp. Oregano
1/2 tsp. Garlic Salt
1/2 T. Parsley
1/4 C. Onion, diced
1/4 tsp. salt and pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T. Brown Sugar

Once meat mixture is mixed well, take a clump and form into 1 1/2 inch balls.  Place in slow cooker.  Mix ingredients for the sauce together and pour over meatballs; cover completely.  Put on low for 3-4 hours or high for 2 hours.  It might take shorter or longer depending on crock pot.  

Serve with cooked spaghetti and re-enact the classic scene from Lady and the Tramp... unless you make this for a group of people-- that might be embarrassing.  ;)  Enjoy!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sickies

Well, I'm still sick.  I thought this little illness would pass quickly, but it's been hanging around a little longer.  I haven't been able to breathe through my nose due to all the congestion and I've got a terrible headache.  I haven't felt like doing much of anything the last few days.

On Monday, I woke up and thought the air smelled like a camp fire.  Israel couldn't agree because at that time his nose was the one that couldn't smell anything.  Well on Tuesday, I woke up thinking the same thing.  It turns out there was a huge wildfire in Collier County, which isn't really that close, but firefighters had still been working on extinguishing the fire.  The wind has been carrying the smoke into Miami and I guess there was even an air advisory earlier this week.  Apparently it's been affecting people with respiratory problems, and they've been telling people not to be outside exercising or spending much time outdoors because of the possible air pollutants.  So this could be why both Israel and I have gotten these strange colds.  Crazy!

On another weather-related note, it seems like there have been an outstanding number of natural disasters lately-- earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, tornadoes.... just the weather on crack or something.  Hurricane season is coming up and honestly, I'm scared.  Tornadoes I'm familiar with, but this is a whole new territory.  I guess the "good" thing about hurricanes is that there's at least a few days warning so you're not totally unprepared.  But I trust in the Lord, and I know He's got me!  :)

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Benadryl to the Resue

Well, I caught the bug my husband had on Sunday.  Yesterday, I woke up feeling awful and with an extremely sore throat.  I spent the afternoon at Barnes and Noble, reading and looking at job sites, but my sore throat got worse and I started feeling really congested, too.  I spent the rest of the day in bed, sending out my resume and applying for several jobs, while watching episodes of Bethenny Ever After.  Yes, trashy reality shows are my guilty pleasure.  Real Housewives, anyone?

It's kind of inevitable when your spouse is sick that you will soon be, too.  I'm glad that at least this is only a 24-48 hour bug, with just cold symptoms mainly.  My whole body started feeling really achy, so I took some Benadryl last night before I went to sleep and it definitely helped me get through the night.  I didn't even hear my alarm go off or wake up when Israel got out of bed this morning.  I'm still feeling a little groggy, due to the Benadryl effects.  I've been drinking lots of green tea with honey and lemon and lots of water, too.  I wanted to go running this morning, but obviously that wouldn't have been the best idea.  I think the only place I'll be going today is to Walgreens to buy more tea and tissues.

I made a summer reading list recently, and Israel came back with the first book on my list the other day-- The Sharper Your Knife, the Less you Cry.  I started reading it two days ago and am pretty far into it already.  This book is about a woman who lost her corporate job in London and decides to take a huge risk, investing her savings and enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu as a culinary student in Paris.  I'm really liking it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nutella Coconut Macaroons


For Mother's Day I made these very easy macaroons and gave some to each mother at the party-- Ofelia, María, Bertha, Marili, Danay and Yinet.  I have never made these or anything with coconut in it for that matter, but couldn't believe how easy these were!  I've recently started loving coconut a lot which is so strange, because I hated the stuff when I was a kid.  But now, I can't get enough of it.

There's a very similar kind of Cuban candy you can even find at Walgreens that have several variations of a coconut ball-- some with almonds, plain or with sweetened condensed milk.  Here is my own version I created:



Nutella Coconut Macaroons:
Makes about 12 balls

2 C. Shredded Coconut, Sweetened
1/3 C. Nutella
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. Salt
1/3 C. Almond Milk (or other kind of milk)
1/2 C. Sugar
3 Egg Whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  

Combine Shredded Coconut with Nutella in a medium-sized bowl with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Add in Vanilla, Salt, Almond Milk and Sugar until combined.  Fold in Egg Whites with a fork and mix gently.

Place balls on a cookie sheet with parchment paper or greased muffin tin and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly toasted.  Allow to cool for ten minutes and sprinkle tops with extra Nutella.  Store in the fridge between sheets of parchment paper.  

Monday, May 9, 2011

Féliz Día de las Madres!

When I heard that there was going to be a barbeque next door on Mother's Day, I had pictured chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs on a hot grill outside and later slathered with barbeque sauce.  Oh, American Elenita.  When you will you ever learn that it's never what you expect?

Instead, a few guys sat outside in the 90+ degrees for several hours mixing up a huge pot of Paella.  I tried to get a photo of this, but they kept the lid closed most of the time to ward away the flies.  Paella is a Spanish dish and there are a few different ways to prepare it, but this one was mixed-- meaning there was seafood combined with chicken and chorizo.  This was served over moist yellow rice with shrimp, lobster, chicken and sausage, and it's kind of a big deal just because of how long it takes to make.  I was given a rather large serving but I could only finish about half because it was so rich.

There was of course, like any Cuban party, loud conversations, dancing and music.  They also served homemade sangria (which was amazing!) and a rum cake for dessert they had picked up at a local bakery.


Sangria!


Ofelia and Israel.  They were actually both feeling quite sick yesterday :(


Deimy with her dad Ley


Deimy and María


We formed a congo line dancing and little Christopher jumped in back of me, pushing me along :)


Singing with Celine Dion


So precious!


These sunflowers were given to Danay, but they made me think of my mom back in Kansas :)  I wish I could have been there to celebrate with her.


I'm so thankful for my mom and the woman she is.  She inspires me to be the most compassionate and loving mom to my own kids one day.  Love you, Mom!  

Happy Mother's Day!


Sweet Shot Day
ShutterLoveTuesdays

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I told you I would start the recipe sharing love soon!  :)  I'll start with this cake because it is the most fresh on my mind and because it tastes amazing.  Buttery, dense yet very moist (is that an oxymoron?), and it just melts in your mouth.  The cream cheese addition is what sets it over the top.  I'm pretty sure you could add any kind of fruit to this recipe and it would taste divine.  I had blueberries on the mind (and in the freezer) so I chose those.

I found this on Tasty Kitchen by Bakerella and it had great reviews so I thought I'd try this one.  The original recipe makes two loaves, so I halved the recipe and modified it just a bit.  I made one loaf and I had a little extra but not quite enough for another, so I saved the batter and later filled two custard cups and put those in the oven for about half an hour.  I flipped them upside down with a plate and and took them out of the molds.  The loaf was delicious but I really liked the shape of the custard cup size, too!  Like I mentioned earlier, Israel and I ate up this whole thing in two days!  So all I have to show for a photo are these molds.


Here is my modified recipe:

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pound Cake:
Adapted from Bakerella
Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:
1 1/4 c. Flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 c. plus 2 T. Butter, Room Temp.
4 oz. Cream Cheese, Room Temp.
1 1/2 c. Sugar
3 Eggs, Room Temp.
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 c. Milk, Room Temp.
1 c. Frozen Blueberries, or another type of fruit you prefer (Optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  

Sift flour and baking powder in a medium-sized bowl; set aside.  Cream sugar, butter and cream cheese for about 5 minutes, using a mixer.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla milk and until combined.

Gradually add flour mixture until combined.  Fold in blueberries with a spatula.

Pour batter into one greased and floured loaf pan.  

Bake for about 60 minutes or until done.


Job Possibilities and Desserts

Good morning!

Sorry I haven't blogged much this week.  As for an update on the ducklings, the mama duck has come back to her nest, and I haven't seen her leave it in 3 days.  I'm glad to know that I didn't disturb anything!  Does anyone know how long it takes for little ducklings to hatch?

I've been at the job search a lot this week, and until yesterday there just hadn't been any real leads.  Something came up yesterday that I know only God could have done, so we'll see what happens there.  I'll explain more once I know a bit more or hopefully get hired!

This week Israel and I got my car insured, got the title registered and bought a new license plate.  Soooooo expensive... needless to say, with us buying tickets for Kansas soon too, we will not be eating out for quite some time.  Time to get creative in the kitchen on a low budget!  For tonight, I'm planning on making a soup with all of our remaining vegetables and any canned veggies that have been setting in the cupboard for a while.  Any other low budget ideas?  I'm already scouring the coupons and am thinking those Extreme Couponing ladies on TLC definitely have it together.

I finished my first Podrunner program two days ago and have been running almost every day this week!  I can now run 4 miles comfortably without thinking I'm going to die or wanting to stop every minute.  Although I don't think I'll be able to run in any upcoming races this month or the next, I'm hoping to train for maybe a 10K in the Fall, and it's now my goal to be able to run a half marathon sometime in the future!

I made two desserts this week-- a Blueberry Cream Cheese Pound Cake and a Mocha Pudding Cake.  I've been teasing you with all of these recipes I keep mentioning, but I really do plan on sharing them with you soon!  The pound cake turned out very well (my first time making one), and since I had a lot of blueberries on hand, I decided to throw those in there.  We had intended to take it over to share with everyone next door, but we just kept eating it and realized that there just wouldn't be enough for everyone so we might as well finish it.  ;)  Makes total sense, right?  So I made a Mocha Pudding Cake instead for them, from David Lebowitz's The Great Book of Chocolate.  I didn't even take a picture of this!  This was a pretty intense cake.  You first mix all of the basic ingredients together-- eggs, flour, sugar, cocoa, etc.  And it's pretty liquidy, so you just pour that right into the pan.  Then you mix together the remaining cocoa and sugar, sprinkle that all over to make a new layer, and then here's the best part-- pour a cup of hot, strong brewed coffee over everything and put into the oven.  I'm telling you, this stuff was rich!

Well, I'm off to the bank and running a couple more errands today.  Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We're going to have ducklings!

No, not Israel and me.  ;)

When I got home yesterday, I was walking up the driveway and right before I passed in front of a section of our front window that has a lot of plants around it, a duck jumped down right in front of me and flew away.  It startled me so much I actually jumped back a little!  Quite a few ducks populate our neighborhood so they aren't necessarily a rare thing to see around here.

But when I walked by the same area outside our apartment today, the same duck flew out again, inches from my face.  This was too strange to happen two days in a row, so I inspected the area and saw this:



Duck eggs!

I was so delighted when I saw what this feisty duck had been hiding and nesting on.  I've never even seen duck eggs before, so I can't wait to see them after they have hatched!

Monday, May 2, 2011

My parents in Miami-- Day 3

This was the last day my parents were here, and we were seriously busy all day long doing a ton of different things that we forgot to bring them by to see the grandparents, Christopher and Danay.  Next time!  :)

Israel and I just had to take them to Books & Books because we love that place so much.  We all ordered paninis for lunch but when it was time to order dessert, they were all out of the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake!  For shame!  So we went to the most adorable French café for coffee and pastries.  Israel and I have walked by this place several times on date nights in the Gables, but they close early so we've never gotten to go in.  We took advantage of the afternoon and made a point to go here.


First of all, we absolutely loved this little café.  As soon as we walked in the already ajar door, the owners greeted us with an exuberant "Bonjour!"  This was interesting because Israel was just reading in David Lebowitz's book, The Sweet Life in Paris, that when in France you should always greet the owner or store clerk when you walk in or it's considered extremely rude.  So I think we all replied with "Hello" or maybe Israel said "Bonjour" back.  :)  There was already a man sitting at the counter conversing with one of the owners in French.  Apparently there's a small French community in Coconut Grove, which isn't too far from Coral Gables (and yes, I'm now dying to explore that area!), and so this place has lots of regular French customers who come here often.


We were seated at a large family-style table in the middle of the café and all ordered crepes-- my parents and I ordered the Nutella crepe and Israel ordered a lemon and sugar one.  I was expecting it to be somewhat small so I was surprised when the chef brought out a large crepe filling the entire plate!  It was delicious, but I couldn't eat all of it (correction:  I knew that I shouldn't eat all of it).  The owner Luis came by, speaking in both French and English, and told us about an upcoming free wine tasting that weekend.  Without even needing to discuss it, Israel and I already agreed we would be coming.


My huge but oh-so-incredibly-delicious Nutella crepe

When we finished our pastries and coffee, we meandered around the Gables a bit more, showing my parents our favorite spots and headed to Bayside.  It's a fun touristy place by the water with lots of shops, restaurants and a cute market place.


I've already forgotten the name of this tree, but these are all over the Gables.


This is a replica of a shark that was caught here and this picture is... probably one of my favorites ever.






My dad advising my mom on which bracelet looks best

We were all pretty exhausted after our sun-filled afternoon, so we headed to my parents' hotel by the airport to rest.  My dad had some vouchers for the hotel restaurant so we ended up eating there, which was surprisingly amazing!  I ordered the Grilled Alaskan Salmon with Cilantro Salsa and Coconut Rice.  Oh my.  I'm still thinking about it-- it really was that good!  Israel and I saw they had Dulce de Leche Cheesecake on the menu, so we split one for dessert.  It was good, but it just wasn't Books & Books good.  :)


An amaaaazing dinner!


Once we were all properly stuffed, we went back to the hotel for a couple more hours and then we said goodbye to my parents.  It was a wonderful day to complete their visit.  :)

Sweet Shot Day

Menu Monday: 5/1-5/7

Sunday:  Barbeque Chicken Pasta Bake

Monday:  Leftovers

Tuesday:  Vegetable Soup with Crostini

Wednesday:  Pepperoni Pizza for Israel, Greek Salad for Me

Thursday:  White Bean and Sausage Sauté with Biscuits

Friday:  Revoltillo con Arroz y Frijoles Negros (Fried Eggs with Rice and Black Beans... I'll probably have a salad)

Saturday:  Dinner at Marili's house?