Friday, February 25, 2011

Beefy Nachos "Recipe"

I feel like I’d be lying if I called this a “recipe” because it’s quite simple and non-revolutionary. But I’m giving you ingredients and instructions, so I guess it still qualifies. As a kid, my mom would slap some American cheese slices onto tortilla chips, stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds and we’d have a quick afternoon snack. Here’s my version all dressed up.  I usually make these nachos the day after taco night, when we have just a small bowl of beef leftover.

1lb of ground beef
1 packet of taco seasoning
Cheese (American, cheddar, Monterey, pepper jack, Colby, whatevs)
Tortilla chips

Lettuce - shredded
Tomatoes - diced
Onion - diced
Sour cream – dollop

Cook beef per taco seasoning packet instructions. Arrange chips on plate. Top with beef and cheese. Microwave for 30 seconds. Add optional toppings. Perfect for an afternoon snack/lunch!

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Thursday, February 24, 2011


Ryu (6) and Kira (3) were going to LEGOLAND at the Streets of Woodfield for their post birthday celebrations so we tagged along too.  I’m still new to taking kids out and am figuring out how to be best prepared.  But here are my thoughts on this crazy place:
  1. Buy your tickets online and check the special offers. Standard price at the door is $19/adult and $15/kid!! DO NOT PAY FULL PRICE! We bought midweek tickets online for $10/adult or kid.
  2. Pack lightly. It was a very cold day so everyone was bundled up. But then it was super warm inside, with nowhere to put your coats/bags! Luckily we had 4 adults and 3 kids, because one person lugged around all 7 coats and 5 bags/purses/camera bags. They need a locker system or something. The only time I noticed a place to put your coats was at the EXIT, as I was leaving! And they were just hangers, like a kindergarten classroom. That looks like a mixup waiting to happen.
  3. It is chaos. Partly because it was a holiday. And perhaps this type of scenario is normal and it was just shocking to my rookie parent eyes. Downstairs there was an organized flow and one direction of traffic since you just view huge Lego displays, similar to a museum setup. Upstairs it was a complete free for all for kids to run amuck!  There’s a movie, workshop, and a factory all in the same vicinity with no clear waiting areas which caused lots of congestion. Then on the other side past the cafĂ© is a play ground, multiple lego tables, a big foam lego area, car ramps, and a carnival ride (that they probably waited 30 minutes for).
  4. Don’t bring a stroller. A few people did, but I personally would not want to navigate through the tight areas with legos and kids strewn everywhere.
Liza put it best when she said, “I’m so glad this is our first and last time here.” Don’t get me wrong, the kids had fun, but definitely no desire to go back on our end.

On a photography note, I am still confused with lighting and getting my white balance right. Similar to the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier, I could not get my shots to look right with the fluorescent/halogen/overhead/natural light combination. Blech. Let me know if you have any tips! I also need to learn how to be consistent with my post processing, hmmm...
                                          rawwwr...jungle scene                                   ok so the Chicago exhibit was pretty cool...
Check out his cool shirt! He told me it was from Target.
Heeeeeey! I want to be your friend!!! Come play with meeeeee!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Creamy Pasta Sauce Recipe

And by creamy, I mean cream cheese J I was getting bored of my meaty spaghetti sauce, so I decided to adapt from a Vodka Cream Sauce that I used to make before I was pregnant. Now that Mia is more interested in table foods, I thought it’d be best to leave out the vodka, no?

She gobbled this creamy pasta sauce up and would whine if I didn’t feed her fast enough! Bonus is that she gets meat, carrots and grains J It’s also good with frozen peas (just throw them in your boiling water when your pasta is almost done cooking).

Follow the recipe I previously posted (I used rotini this time). Then at the end, add in 4 oz (½  a stick) of cream cheese to your sauce and stir until cheese is melted. Mix with pasta and Mmm mm mmm! Again, I can’t make pasta look appetizing, perhaps because I never have any garnishes on hand. Oh well, just trust me and try it!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Party Ideas: Top Chef Potluck

I got an email last week from a friend (who lives in DC) telling me about her Top Chef Potluck Challenge party.  How amazing is this season?!? This party is SUCH a fun idea and I would love to do it.  But I don’t think I have enough friends who enjoy cooking haha!  

Seema asked me for some decorating ideas and immediately my mind was racing!  Within a few hours I sent her five pages worth of ideas.  I was so excited for her party and I was nowhere near it! She wasn’t able to incorporate all my ideas because she is a busy lawyer lady, but here are pictures of the super cute decorations that she included and party details as told by Seema…
Each guest was responsible for a dish or two.  A few people don't cook, so instead they were in charge of judging the competition.  And by judging, I mean bringing alcohol.
To start the party, we had a quick fire challenge: create a cocktail using anything in my kitchen.  We all drew knives (numbered 1 through 4, and two of each number).  Rather than be paired up with the matching number, you went head to head with that person.  The winners of each round were eligible for the big quick fire win!  Each round lasted 10 minutes and the rounds were going even while we were cooking. 
After appetizers, entrees, veggies and dessert, the winners of the quick fire challenge were announced, as were the worst and top dishes. I love the prizes!  

Quick fire:  $10 gift certificate to Whole Foods
Elimination challenge:  Swanson's broth, Gladware products, Terlato wine, and a copy of Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential

The winning dishes:
♦ Antonia's mussels from this season
♦ Dale's cookies from this season
♦ Michael Voltaggio's braised pork belly with soy-mustard sauce and peanuts
The bottom, wah wah:
♦ Marcel's curried lamb chops
♦ Kenny's hot and sour curried eggplant

Here are some other Top Chef Party ideas that came to my mind:
♦ Knife Block ♦ Steam ♦ Flames ♦ Cookbooks ♦ Timer ♦ Restaurant wars ♦ Aspen
♦White chef coats/aprons ♦ Pantry items ♦

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Friday, February 18, 2011

First Birthday Party Sweets & Doljabi

If you haven’t yet, check out these posts: sneak peek, inspiration board, and PART ONE – Decorations.

I wish there were three of me. One to make sure the party runs smoothly, one to be the photog, and one to actually enjoy the party! But, I would love to do it again! J Read on for the rest of Mia’s Winter One-derland Party details…

Food - If my mom were here, there’d be more Thai food L But we still had a delicious spread of:
© Bulgogi
© Spicy chicken wings – Great Seas
© Japchae
© Kaktugi & kimchi
© Filipino Eggrolls (my FAVE!) - Uni-mart
© Crab rangoons - Marian’s sister
Decorating Details
  • I used a silver and white runner from Target underneath all the white plates that I already had from Bed Bath & Beyond’s B. Smith Collection.
  • I made food labels from MS Word, glued onto cardstock (actually, the silver thing that goes around Nordstrom gift boxes!).
Desserts – I wanted to keep my baking to a minimum since I already had my hands full with all the decorating details. My sweets table included:
© Mia’s smashcake - Jewel
© Cupcakes - Molly’s, who messed up our order grrr!
© Dunkin Donuts powdered munchkins
© White chocolate chip coconut bars - will post recipe later
© White chocolate covered Oreos – Jewel (ribbon around sticks tutorial from HWTM)
© Cappuccino wafers
© Pirouettes
© Hershey’s kisses with labels on the bottoms – will post template later
© White chocolate covered pretzels (I made two nights before)
© Gerber Puffs for the babies
Decorating Details:
  • The floor length tablecloth was a flat sheet from my bedroom.
  • To add height to the plates, I used candlesticks from Target.
  • For the cupcakes, I used two upside-down Clementine boxes underneath the sheet, a gift wrapped box and Martha Stewart cake stands.
  • I wrapped vases in sweater sleeves topped with ric rac and wrapped fabric and yarn around the base of IKEA vases.
Doljabi - Since Doug is Korean, we had Mia dress up in a traditional hanbok that Umma picked up in Korea for the doljabi game.  You lay out various objects and see which one she picks to foretell her future. She picked the calculator - she’ll be nerdy just like Daddy! Ok, so we both have accounting degrees. When everyone cheered when she picked the calculator, she was so startled and scared!
Decorating Details:
  • I wrapped soup cans to hold people’s guesses of what she’d pick. The winner got a gift card.
  • Items to choose from were
    • Glue Stick – crafty like Mommy
    • Calculator – nerdy like Daddy
    • Microphone – performer
    • Pencil – teacher
    • Golf ball - athlete
  • Printed the game instructions displayed in a frame.
  • We had pictures from my first birthday, Doug’s first birthday in his hanbok, and Mia in her hanbok.
  • There's a faux fire in the fireplace made of thin cardboard, foil and tissue paper.
Cake Smashing – After the doljabi, we let her have her cake!  It was the neatest cake smashing ever! That’s our girl! J Surprisingly she didn’t care to dig into it, but didn’t mind when we fed her.
Decorating Details:
  • Taped scraps of fabric, ribbon and cardstock to the high chair tray
  • Bib by Danielle Shannon
A special thank you to...
© Steve and Sandy for opening up their beautiful home to our friends, family and my car full of decorations
© My friends for listening to me party plan for months and donating sweaters
© Frances for taking pictures
© And most patient, understanding, 20 trip loading and unloading, hours of power cleaning husband who believes in me J

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Winter One-derland 1st Birthday Party: Decorations

Finally! Here is Part One of Mia’s Winter One-derland Party...Be sure to check out my sneak peek and inspiration board too.  I know most of us are SO over winter as we thaw out of the blizzard, but check it out and let me know what you think! A lot of the party concepts can be used for other themes simply by switching the colors of cardstock, yarn, branches, floral picks, etc.

Being busy as hostess, I wasn’t part of every conversation, but I do recall hearing lots of laughter and moans from tummies being so full. And to me, that is a successful party. Oh and the birthday girl was happily awake for a majority of the time. J 
*All photos by me and Frances*
 DIY Details:
  • Mantle– Purchased wooden letters from Michael’s and painted with acrylic paint. The letters were resting against cheap frames lined with glittery wrapping paper. The 3 candleholders are from Michael's too.
  • Sweater Pillows & VasesI asked my friends for sweaters they don’t plan on wearing and made pillows out of them. I also snipped sweater sleeves and wrapped them around glass vases which eliminated the need for fillers.
  • Dot/51 Weekly Pictures GarlandsI took a picture of Mia every week to document how she’s grown and changed throughout the year. Using ribbon, I taped the pictures and circles punched out of cardstock to create a backdrop for the entry way, kitchen and family room. My sister in law will be putting them in a scrapbook for me J Thanks Liza!
  • Crepe Paper Rosette WreathThis cost less than $3 to make because I made my own wreath form. I took a wrapping paper roll that was unraveling and taped the ends together. Then I wrapped the loose form with brown paper bags taping where ever necessary to give the wreath more bulk.
  • Favors -
    Kids - I found a polar bear book in the $1 bin at Target which fit perfectly with the winter theme! I also nabbed some mittens from the $1 bin. I punched out circles to use as gift tags.
    Adults – When I was a kid, I remember coming inside to have hot chocolate after playing in the snow. So I made dry hot chocolate mix for everyone to take home from the Winter One-derland J I saved baby food jars months in advance and used Martha’s hot chocolate mix, but added Hazelnut Coffee-mate Creamer to change it up a bit. I also put mini marshmallows in the jars, just like when I was a kid. Using MS word, I printed a thank you message on one side of cardstock and instructions on the other. I punched them out and attached them to the jars with yarn.  
  • Candelabra Centerpiece Inspired by this centerpiece from Thrifty Decor Chick and this candelabra from Hostess with the Mostess, I covered the edges of a cheap mirror with ribbon, topped it with cardstock circles, Ikea vases filled with holiday picks from Michael’s, and a cupcake topped candelabra (also from Michael’s).
  • Home Videos (not pictured) – I went through our videos for the year and set a laptop on the end table. The videos were on repeat for guests to watch while hanging out in the living room. 
But wait! There's more to the party! This was only the front of the house!
PART TWO - Desserts and Doljabi post is in the works...

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