Making a House a Home

What’s cookin’ good lookin’? June 24, 2011

Filed under: Foodie — gregandlisa @ 11:06 PM

We tried two new recipes tonight and we loved them both!!!

The first one is Dijon Mushroom Beef from my amazing Taste of Home cookbook I received for Christmas from my equally amazing fiance ๐Ÿ™‚

We found sirloin steak on sale (look for dates that are about to expire and they give you a discount!) and picked this recipe because we had all the ingredients on hand, which are:

  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced (which we actually omitted because we didn’t have any and Greg’s not a big fan)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced (also omitted, but on accident)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 pound beef top sirloin steak, thinly sliced
  • 1 can reduced-fat, reduced sodium condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 3/4 cup fat-free milk
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard

  1. In a large skillet, saute the mushrooms and onion in oil until tender. Remove and set aside.
  2. In the same skillet, cook the beef until no longer pink.
  3. Add the soup, milk, mustard, and mushroom mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cook and stir until thickened.

The recipe called for noodles, but we baked potatoes in the microwave and put it over that instead.

The sauce is delicious, and I think would taste good with chicken or pork too – definitely a sauce I will use again!

The second recipe I found on (where else?) Pinterest. It’s called “The Best Tomato Basil Soup” and is easy and delicious! This is a blog I will look into further!


  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 – 14 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 – 14 oz. can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 cups of stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 tsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh basil, julienned
  • Parmesan cheese
I didn’t use fresh basil, I used dried and just sprinkled a bunch in there. I also added rosemary and garlic powder. And along with Parmesan cheese I sprinkled Asiago and Romano cheeses in there too. I did have heavy cream on hand from a baking recipe last weekend that I will post later, but I wonder if that could be substituted for something less loaded with saturated fat ๐Ÿ™‚
What to do:
  1. In a saucepan, saute garlic in olive oil on medium heat for 1 minute – being careful not to burn the garlic.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes. ย Add the whole tomatoes one at a time, squeezing them into the pan to break them up. ย Add the juice from the whole tomatoes, as well. ย Add chicken stock, salt, pepper and sugar. ย Cook the soup on medium at a simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. To finish, reduce the heat to low and stir in heavy cream and basil

This made a decent size pot – it’s a great dinner party idea because it’s something that could be started early and left to simmer for awhile before adding the cream, while you made more time-consuming items. It could also be a fun dinner party idea to make a tomato soup “bar” and have a bunch of add-ins for people to make it there own, like ground turkey, macaroni noodles, green beans, cheeses, croutons, etc.

Yum, I can’t wait for leftover tomato soup tomorrow night for dinner! With gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches…I’m off to dream of delicious food, good night!


Best Brownie Ever June 17, 2011

Filed under: Foodie — gregandlisa @ 6:03 PM

I have discovered a new obsession – trying new recipes. Previously, I would find a few favorites, and eat the same things in a rotating manner. However, I’m discovering a whole new world that includes Pinterest and food blogs, especially this amazingly well-rounded woman (a foodie who used to be a personal trainer – what?!) who has a super cute blog title, How Sweet It Is. She is the amazing creator of the “Triple-Layer-Cookies-and-Cream-Crunch-Bars” that I consider to be the best brownie ever.

Here are the necessary ingredients. I altered her recipe very slightly by using Special Dark cocoa powder, a mix of white and whole wheat flour (1 cup white flour, 1/4 cup whole wheat flour), and Double Stuf Oreos instead of regular.

You mix most of these together and press Oreos into the batter like this:

Bake it for a bit, then add another layer of wonderful goodness

Chocolate chips! And…

more Oreos!!!! Bake for a few more minutes, while melting chocolate chips with peanut butter…

Then you get to pour this melty wonderfulness over the baked awesomeness

Spread it all over – this is very important, don’t leave open spaces!!!

The worst part is that you need to let it cool for 2 hours before you can eat it!

Look at all those luscious layers… brownie, Oreo, melted chocolate…they are amazing. Greg and I shared them with his mom, and some of our OT classmates and I think the overwhelming opinion was a resounding “YES PLEASE”!

Here’s the amazing recipe (with my alterations – for the real one, click the link above).

Triple Layer Cookies and Cream Crunch Bars

makes 9-12 bars

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cocoa powder (Hershey’s Special Dark)

2 cups chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter

20 Oreo cookies (Double Stuf!)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8 x 8 cake pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then add remaining teaspoon of vanilla. Add in cocoa powder and mix until combined. Add flour and salt, mixing well until batter is smooth and comes together. Fold in 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

Spread in the 8 x 8 pan. Sink 9 Oreo cookies into the batter and press gently. Bake for 25-30 minutes. While baking, crush the remaining Oreos in a ziplock bag. When brownies are finished baking, remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1/2 cup chocolate chips and crush Oreos. Place back in the oven for about 2-3 minutes. During this time, melt remaining chocolate chips and peanut butter together. Remove brownies from oven and pour melted chocolate mixture over top, spreading with a spatula. Make sure chocolate gets down into the Oreo crevices, as it is the โ€œglueโ€ that holds the top to the bottom. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

Let brownies sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before cutting. Donโ€™t worry if some of the cookies spill out from the middle or the top cracks โ€“ they are still delicious!


Transformers: Rebirth of a Kitchen Table June 14, 2011

Filed under: DIY — gregandlisa @ 8:50 AM


On a random Saturday morning, while watching HGTV and drinking coffee, Greg mentioned re-upholstering our hand-me-down kitchen chairs. These chairs are in fine shape, they just needed some sprucing up.ย  We took a ton of pictures of our progress, but not of the entire chair beforehand. Here is the old cushion.

Lo and behold, re-upholstering chairs is way easy – much easier than spelling that darn word! Off to Lowe’s we went and purchased a staple gun, paint, sandpaper and paintbrushes. I was nervous about picking out the fabric because surely we would have very different ideas about what these chairs should look like…but it wasn’t an issue! We wanted a bright print, with aqua and white, because we were painting the chairs a bright white color. Here is the cushion with the new fabric on it.

Greg’s job was to rip out the staples on the old cushions – who ever originally made those cushions ensured that they were not going anywhere easily, believe me – while I painted. Here is the old chair with the new cushion on it…

Here is the first coat of paint…

Ta da! Here is the first complete chair!

And here are the first two chairs finished! ๐Ÿ™‚ We were so proud!

Now, here is a lesson I want to share with any of you new to the refinishing business – SAND, SAND, and SAND some more! We thought we would skip that step and save time, so these first two chairs simply received two coats of paint. By the time we finished the second chair, they started chipping. So, our time saver has turned into an additional project of sanding those chairs down even further than to begin with and repainting them. That is waiting for another day though ๐Ÿ™‚


Our next step was to refinish the table – we didn’t want to paint the tabletop white, so we only painted the legs. A future project will be to stain and seal the tabletop a dark brown to coordinate with the chair fabric, after sanding the crap out of it of course.

Here it is, shoved into the corner, the only place it will fit in our current apartment.

I spend a lot of time with homework spread all over this table. The dogs lay next to me in their beds, it’s so sweet!

The more I look at it, the more I think the dark stain would be a lovely finish to the set. I think we’ll wait for our summer semester to be over before we tackle that though!


Through a Sweet Treat, Our Guests Will Meet May 26, 2011

Filed under: Wedding Insanity!!! — gregandlisa @ 10:29 PM

One of the most fun parts of our wedding for me is the CAKE!!!! A consistent theme for Greg and I is to do things a little differently than other weddings – more original and creative than eccentric – and the cake is a major example of this! At a bridal event back in January, I met a baker who had a variety of cakes on display different from the others at the event. She created miniature cakes that will now be the centerpieces at each of our tables! Each cake feeds 8-10 people, will be a classic design with simple beading, and will be a different flavor. So instead of being seated at a numbered table, guests will be placed at tables by cake flavor, for example, the coconut table or the red velvet table. We plan on playing up this theme by asking our guests to join in by having one person from each table cut the cake while we cut ours. Also, since our families and friends won’t know each other that well, we’re going to encourage them to mingle and try the different flavors of cake. This concept has evolved over the past few months, so we’ll see if I continue to update this! Here is a photo of the cake (except they won’t be in red and I doubt I’ll put a flower on top):

An added bonus is that even though the cakes are small, each one can be two different flavors with a filling! Here are some ideas I have for cake flavors – feel free to tell me your thoughts on these or any other combinations you can think of!

  • creme-de-menthe and chocolate swirl with fudge filling
  • chocolate and vanilla cake with a strawberry filling
  • German chocolate cake with the German chocolate coconut filling
  • white cake with chocolate filling
  • yellow cake with lemon filling
  • lemon cake with raspberry filling
  • lemon poppyseed with lemon filling
  • carrot cake with cream cheese filling
  • pistachio cake with cream cheese filling
  • raspberry cake with chocolate filling
  • red velvet cake with cream cheese filling
  • lemon poppyseed with raspberry filling
  • chocolate cake with cherry filling
  • chocolate cake with peanut butter filling
  • strawberry and white cake with chocolate filling
  • lemon and coconut cake with blueberry filling
  • chocolate cake with marshmallow creme filling
  • orange and white cake with cream cheese filling

Well, that’s all I can think of off the top of my head ๐Ÿ™‚ Some other cake flavors on the list from the that I would want to incorporate somehow include:

  • amaretto
  • banana
  • blackberry
  • black walnut
  • bubble gum (kid’s table maybe?)
  • butterscotch
  • butter-rum
  • cherry
  • chocolate cherry
  • chocolate mint
  • confetti
  • cotton candy (again, potential for kids – we’re not having many though!)
  • grape
  • marble
  • maple pecan
  • maple
  • pina colada
  • pralines n cream
  • root beer

I don’t have a list of filling flavors, but she says that almost any flavor is possible! So, for my creative friends out there, please share your awesome ideas!


One of Those Times When the Destination IS More Important Than the Journey May 25, 2011

Filed under: Wedding Insanity!!! — gregandlisa @ 5:06 PM

My first time wedding dress shopping was awful. I was with my mother and future mother-in-law (which was not the awful part!) at a chain bridal store that will remain nameless, and even though I had an appointment, walk-ins took over and it took a long time for me to be able to try on any dresses (which also wasn’t the worst part). When I finally tried on dresses, they were all very short (I’m 5’11”, so it’s to be expected) but it made it hard to imagine what the dress would really look like. None of them were very flattering and I felt huge in all of them (I’m a size 12, so just a little above average, I like to think). They were not willing to compromise or alter any dresses either – which is an issue when strapless is NOT what you are interested in right now. So, needless to say, I left in a pretty bad mood.

Things got better though! Greg and I went dress shopping together (gasp!) and it was amazing! We took a chance and just walked in, and we were lucky enough for someone to be available who was nice and patient – it was just like “Say Yes to the Dress”! I found my dream dress – flattering, form-fitting, satin, just the right amount of “crystal” embellishments…*sigh*. The price however, was not within my reach (*tear*)! Below is the first dress I felt like a bride in ๐Ÿ™‚

The original "dream dress"

The original "dream dress"

So, the dress search continued….to Wisconsin! Where I found a ton of dresses that I love for a lot cheaper than the big ole city of St. Louis ๐Ÿ™‚ On a Monday night, my mom and I went to this adorable boutique that offered to stay open late just for us – it was amazing to have the entire shop to ourselves! My mom tried on a bunch of dresses, I tried on a bunch of dresses…it was magical! Three (very different!) dresses were the favorites of the evening:

This lace one was nothing like I imagined, but it looked amazing on me! The ribbon was a white color though, and I liked that a lot better than the colored ribbon.

The next one was everything that I thought I wanted:

And this last one I tried on just to have fun, because it was so different from anything else I had tried. It was so glamorous! I didn’t want to take it off!

None of them, however, made me feel like that first dress though (*sigh*), so I left empty-handed to continue shopping the next day with my aunt and godmother, my cousin and matron of honor, and my mom. This was another great experience, and they allowed us to take over the shop for more than 3 hours! I found about 5 dresses that were top contenders, and when I tried them on a second time was able to narrow it down to two – one had the V-neck with straps that I wanted, and the other had the satin with the fit-and-flare style that I loved. What was a girl to do?!

Thankfully, the owner overhead me, and suggested checking with the designer about creating a custom neckline on the satin fit-and-flare dress! I anxiously awaited news and on the third day was told that it was completely doable!!! I went in and tried on the dress again and put money down to have it ordered!!! Below is the front and back of the original dress. My color choice was creme, between ivory and gold ๐Ÿ™‚

Imagine a V-neck and V-back with approximately 1-inch straps ๐Ÿ™‚

So, the path to finding a dress was a roller coaster, but every dress helped to shape what I wanted and what I didn’t – and I didn’t settle for something that was just ok – once I knew what I wanted, I wasn’t going to stop until I got it, and now that I found it, I couldn’t be happier! I can’t wait to see it in four months!