Monday, November 23, 2009

Christmas Crafting

Over the past few years, we have spent WAY too much on Christmas gifts. Both Michael and I love to give gifts so much, and I LOVE to shop for them. However, this year, we decided to be a bit less wasteful of our money (esp since we need to get ready for a baby!!!!!). So, I am doing lots of crafts for gifts. I finished a few this weekend and decided to share them. I will try not to put gifts on here that are for people who read the blog. However, I make no gurantee.These first couple of ornaments are not gifts. I have ornaments for each of the cats and so I needed ornaments on the tree for Shelby since this is his first Christmas with us. I found these unpainted ornaments at Joann's Fabric and they were 50% off so they were only about 40 cents each. I bought a couple of sets of these to paint for other people.These are ornaments that I cross-stitched. It took quite a while to finish these. They were stitched on plastic canvas and backed with felt.
Now I am probably proudest of this little piggy bank that I painted for my cousin's little girl, Lainey. I start out with either unpainted banks or ones that I find at yard sales, etc. I then sketch a design, paint them and add accessories. I've done lots of these (Camo, Superheros, Sports Teams, etc). Lainey's favorite color is purple and she likes ballet so I designed this purple ballerina piggy for her. Now I think I have a design for a Princess piggy that will work nicely for my other cousin's little girl, Ella. Stay tuned....
But first....I was inspired while watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas (LOVE IT!) last night and sketched this piggy bank. Don't know if it will ever get made, but it sure would be pretty awesome, I think!

Super Easy French Dip Sandwiches

This recipe is for a french dip sandwich that is so quick and easy and tastes sooooo good. Michael loves them! We usually eat them with some soup or potato chips.

French Dip Sandwiches
Ciabatta bread
Sliced Roast Beef (thinly sliced or shaved)
Beef Broth (I use 1 can and it is probably good for 4 sandwiches)
Garlic, minced
Cheddar cheese (sliced or shredded, doesn't matter)

Begin by melting butter (microwave is fine) with garlic. For 2 sandwiches I use about a Tbsp or 2 of butter and 1 clove of garlic.

Brush each slice of bread with garlic butter.

Plop some cheese on top of the butter coated bread (mmmm....cheese and garlic butter on bread....I could stop here, but a meatless meal is unacceptable to Michael). Bake the bread at 350 for 15 minutes or so or until the cheese is all melty. If you are in a hurry, as I was this past Saturday, you can put the bread under the broiler for a few minutes, but be careful!Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the roast beef in beef broth until heated through (The meat looks weird here because I had 2 different brands of roast beef and they were different colors, but both were tasty). Take the cheese bread out of the oven.....Throw some of that beef on it......

Pour the broth into bowls for dipping and enjoy!!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I've been bitten by the Christmas bug, and I think I might have a fever!

Yes, I have Christmas fever. I'm just ready to skip Thanksgiving all together! I'm not going to, of course. I'm looking forward to eating too much! I'll put more about my Thanksgiving meal in another post.
Anyway, I am so ready for Christmas. Maybe it's because my Christmas last year was an epic fail. I mean, it was great and all, but I just didn't feel very Christmasy. I didn't even put out our outdoor lights and I only sent Christmas cards to A-L people on my list. I guess that is what happens when you are defending your thesis in mid-December. I vowed that this year would make up for it. Maybe that is why I am so in the Christmas spirit. As I type this, I am listening to Christmas music on iTunes.
I bought an issue of Real Simple magazine this weekend and fell in love with the following floral idea:

Yesterday, I was at JoAnn's Fabric Store getting some cross stitch floss (I'm always running out of white!!), and I noticed that they had Christmas floral 40% off. Score! I remembered that
I have some Mint Julep cups at home that I used at our wedding. I bought 2 bunches of white poinsettas (I know the real kind would look better, but I have a cat that loves to eat flower type things, so I try to keep ones that will make her sick out of the house) and 2 bunches of small green poinsettas. I love that you can find really nice realistic flowers!

For this project, I used one bunch of white and one of green. I used small wire pliers to cut this stems to about 4 inches. My julep cups are about 4 or 5 inches deep. I'll use the other flowers in another project.

I didn't have any floral foam, but not to worry....I used some marbles and filled the cups about 3/4 full. This also added some nice weight so that my bumbling cat, Daysie will have more trouble knocking these over. Of course, Daysie isn't supposed to be on the table, but those of us who know cats, know that doesn't matter once you leave the house!

I started out simply with 2 white flowers. I thought this was gorgeous by itself.

I took that same arrangement and placed 2 green flowers among the whites. I loved this pop of color. I love anything green though.

I did three arrangements total and placed them in a group on a red placemat in the center of our kitchen table.

View from above....

I have a feeling that a few decorations are going to be spontaneously appearing over the next week until I can "officially" decorate next Friday. The most exciting will be "re"discovering what I bought after Christmas last year! Fun!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Barn Raising

With the baby on the way, we are needing to get the nursery ready. However, the room that will soon be the baby's room has been our "junk" room for some time now. So, we decided to put a storage building up beside the garage. Yes, that is an 800 square foot garage beside it and while most people would use that for storage, Michael does not allow non-garage type things in his garage. He's kind of a gear head. The lawnmower and yard stuff will even be going into the storage building.
Michael and his dad worked hard for 2 evenings to get this bad boy built. We only have the painting and shingles left to do. That should be done soon and I will put up pics of our little red "barn."
Now, to feed the builders, I decided a manly meal of beef was in order: Chicken Fried Steak. I ALMOST called mom because I've never attempted chicken fried steak before (shocking, I know), but I decided to figure it hard can it be??
Chicken Fried Steak:
Round steak, cut into individual serving size pieces
1 egg
All-purpose Flour (1/4 to 1/2 cup)
Seasoning Salt
Vegetable Oil
I started with a beautiful black Angus round steak. This is no store bought "suposed black Angus piece of meat. It's from one of my parent's cattle.

I trimmed it and cut along the seams to make 3 pieces of meat.

After using my meat mallet to flatten and tenderize the meat, I dipped it in egg and then into a mixture of flour, seasoning salt, and pepper. I was generous with both the salt and pepper.

I put about 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet and got it piping hot. Then popped in the steaks.

After just a few minutes (we still like our meat a little pink on the inside), I flipped the steaks.

I paired my chicken fried steaks with mashed potatoes and toated ciabatta bread with salad and sweet tea. I don't know if there is any question what part of the country I'm from..... ENJOY!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

First Recipe!!!

Caramel Pecan Pie

I found this in a cookbook and just had to make it as soon as I saw it. It just looked so rich and yummy (and believe me, both are true with this pie). The recipe is as follows:


1-2/3 c all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 c cold butter

1/3 c sweetened condensed milk

2 egg yolks


1-1/2 c sugar

1/2 c + 2 Tbsp butter

1/3 c maple syrup

3 eggs

3 egg whites

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 c ground pecans

In a bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in butter until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. It helps to cube the butter first.

Combine milk and egg yolks (save the will use them in the filling) and stir into the flour mixture until dough forms.
Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 in pie dish. Cover and refrigerate.

In a saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, and maple syrup for the filling. Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring contstantly. Remove from heat.

Beat eggs, egg whites, and vanilla in large mixing bowl. Slowly add the hot syrup mixture.

Stir in ground pecans.

I used whole pecans and ground them in my mini food processor. It worked great!
Pour filling mixture into pie crust.
Bake on the center rack at 350 F. Mine did not run over, but it is a good idea to put a cookie sheet under the pie just in case. It's easier to clean the cookie sheet than the oven!

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until set. I actually baked mine close to 50 and it was still a little jiggly in the center. It is a good idea to cover the crust edges in aluminum foil to protect from over browning. I didn't do that since I was out of aluminum foil....guess I need to go to the grocery!

After cooling for a couple hours, slice and enjoy with a glass of milk! Store in the refrigerator. It is also yummy cold!

I hope that you enjoy this pie. It would be great for Thanksgiving! Michael and I enjoyed a couple of slices apiece and now I've brought the rest to work to share. It's a bit much for 2 people!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Let's give this a try....

Hi! I'm Julie and this is my first attempt at blogging! I never really thought about blogging until I was reading my Southern Living Magazine and read about the Pioneer Woman and her blog. Now, I have no intention of getting famous and being put in a magazine or anything because of my blog. However, I did like the idea of sharing recipes, etc and maybe some of my thoughts with friends, family, and whoever has some time to kill.

I L-O-V-E to cook and bake. It's really nice now that I'm pregnant and not constantly worrying about my weight. It's really liberating. Not that I'm gonna let myself blow up like a baloon, but at least I let myself enjoy some of the more buttery, cheesy, and chocolatey dishes! So, I will be sharing some of those. I can worry about baby weight after March!

About my blog name: I really wanted something kinda catchy that summed me up but was still original. I only have a Masters degree so, I guess I'm not "technically" an animal scientist, but I've devoted most of my life to animal science, so I'm rolling with it. The "non sciencey" part comes from the fact that, most of the time, I just don't like science very much....meaning I hate inorganic chemistry and biochem. I know that those are necessary, but I only enjoy the parts that I can apply to real world animal science. When my friends and co-workers are going on about a sciencey topic "like they do," my eyes kind-of roll back in my head a little. I love their enthusiasm, though.

I love animals. I have 2 cats (Daysie & Pumpkin), a "Border-Beagle" (Shelby), and a horse (Spice). I like all cattle....I only love Angus me prejudiced, I don't care. I think cattle are awesome creatures (and the most tasty :) ).

Anyway, I think this is quite enough for now. I really need to get back to working on my task for the day: cleaning the lab at the UK beef unit. It's gotten pretty out of control out here! It's a beautiful fall friday in Kentucky though and hopefully I'll get to go home a little early!