Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blarty Bites: Moroccan Burgers with Mini-Flag Tutorial

Last Friday at the inaugural Blarty I whipped up a batch of Moroccan Burgers with Mint-Pepper Glaze.  The recipe was included (along with a coupon for free Private Selection Angus Ground Beef) in my latest BzzKit from *.

I was feeling pretty excited at the thought of making burgers since I can't actually remember the last time (if ever) that I made hamburger patties from scratch.  I know for a fact I have not made them in the last 8 years - so the thought of digging my hands in to a well spiced bowl of beef sounded kinda fun.

After a trip to Kroger to pick up my (FREE from BzzAgent!) beef and the few spices and ingredients I didn't already have, I arranged it all on the kitchen table for it's mini photo shoot.

Ohhh! Ahhhh! Spices!

Once the beef and spices were mixed into one delicious smelling mass I shaped them into patties and placed them in between sheets of wax paper and then put them all in a freezer bag.  I only put them in the fridge initially since I would be cooking them up in a few hours but I knew I wouldn't be making them all so this way it would be ready to pop in the freezer for future use.

Then came the making of the Mint-Pepper glaze.  It seemed easy - only about 4 ingredients.  The apricot jelly and red pepper flakes went right together.  Easy.  Then even the mint went well. Just wash and chop.  The I realized that the lemon portion of the recipe not only called for lemon juice but lemon zest.  This is when I realized that I don't have a zester**.  So I busted out my sharpest knife and carefully shaved the zest from my lemon and then chopped it.  During this process I somehow took a shot of juice to the eye and so half of the lemon was zested partially blind.  Once that process was complete it was happily time for the lemon juice.  So I halved the zested lemon and gave it a SQUEEZE! Yeah!  Lemon juice everywhere.  It turns out that a shaved lemon squeezes easier than one with a whole skin and so the force of my squeeze was just a little too much.  No worries the remaining juice was still enough to fulfill the recipe.

Once party time came I cooked them up in a skillet.  Unfortunately, the one fault of my apartment is the lack of any kind of outdoor space whatsoever - so that means no grill.  Once the burgers were cooked I layered on a slice of Havarti cheese and quartered them.  For the presentation I served the quarters in 2 oz. souffle cups with the mint-pepper glaze on the side (as I realize that mint-pepper glaze on a burger is not everyone's "thing").  As a bonus some of the quarters got mini decorative flags just for some extra super fun!  (Who says gluten free can't be fun?)  Everyone at the Blarty enjoyed the burger bites and I asked for the group opinion of the free BzzAgent Private Selection beef from Kroger.  It was agreed that it was good and beefy but as Jamie said "It's not like I'm going to run out and ask for your beef supplier".  Delicious and differently exotic flavor to the bites though!


Here is another shot from a few days later when I cooked some up for dinner. Ohhh! With avocado too!

Looks just like the picture, right?

Wanna make these?
Recipe Link here.

Bonus: Mini Flag Tutorial 

1. Cut triangles from paper.  Use glue on the thick end and wrap around toothpick.
 2. Weave paper under and over alternate fingers.

 3. Proudly present flag.

 *I'm a BzzAgent participating in a word-of-mouth campaign and gave me the free samples and the coupons for the Private Selection Items talked about in my post.  Wanna know more about BzzAgent? Check here.

** If you are worried about my lack of zester -don't be.  I bought one on my next trip to the store.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Blarty's Here!

What's a Blarty you ask?  It's a party where friends get together and talk blog.  I was lucky enough to host the very first Blarty and Jamie of the ReallyReally Blog and Becca of Drowning in Love, Anchored to You joined me in my new (-ish) digs and blog it up.

We had delicious food, some of which was inspired by my recent BzzKit from You can see the free goodies in my BzzKit just to the left of the TV in the photo above.  Also in the photo above, please notice the latest in my Strings-of-Things collection.

We had pitchers of Amanda's Famous Mojitos (it's actually just Crystal Light Mojito flavor, but Amanda was the first to introduce it to us), iced tea, Moroccan burger bites with mint-pepper jelly (which you'll learn more about in an upcoming post), sweet watermelon, classic chips and dip and some hot spinach artichoke dip.  Then came dessert.

Dessert was a fabulous mixture of sweet and salty.  We first had mini dishes of Private Selection Dark Chocolate and Black Raspberry Ice Cream (I picked it up at Kroger using the coupon from and it was delish!  I would say that  Greater's Black Raspberry Chip Ice Cream still wins the Black Raspberry Ice Cream contest, but when judged independently, the Private Selection ice cream was a really great sweet, fruity and chocolaty flavor that adds an amazing gourmet finish to any dinner (or maybe it's just dinner itself).   After we finished the ice cream we moved on to the pickle ice, formally known as Pickle Pops.  Pickle Pops are basically pureed pickles and juice that can be frozen for an awesome treat. According to the website they help athletes prevent muscle cramps. Hear this can't-come-to-the-Blarty-because-I-have-a-race-in-the-morning-Michele?
All in all, I think only one official blog post was created during the actual Blarty (Go Jamie!) but we spent a lot of time discussing stats, posting frequency and other blog stuff .  It was a success and soon we will have ... Blarty 2.0!

*I'm a BzzAgent participating in a word-of-mouth campaign and gave me the free samples and the coupons for the Private Selection Items talked about in my post.  Wanna know more about BzzAgent? Check here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Green Goodness: The Spinach Smoothie

 I first read about the green smoothie here.  I was intrigued but never intended on making one.  Then about a week later a woman at work told me that she makes a smoothie every morning before work.  I thought "Wow, I could never make a smoothie every morning before work.  I'd never have enough time/energy." But then I decided to try it. 

 I stocked up on frozen fruit (except for bananas and citrus fruit I have trouble keeping fresh fruit around for decent periods  of time) and fresh spinach.  I now buy the "open stock" spinach from Kroger. I used to buy the kind in the big plastic tub but it would go bad before I could use it all.  Then one night I met a magical man in the produce department  In my imagination he came from a foreign land many years ago and his wild white beard and hair told me that he must in fact be very wise.  He told me that it would be much cheaper to buy the open stock organic spinach instead of the stuff in the tub.  It is usually priced at 3.99 a pound but who buys a pound?  I generally buy about 2.5 to 3 loosely packed cups of spinach and it costs me under 50 cents. Really.  The man also told me that I should put it in the plastic bag in the fridge but to leave the bag open because spinach is similar to the body in that while you should keep the body warm the crotch should be kept cool. The plastic bag acts as the blanket keeping the leaves warm while the opening allows the spinach crotch to cool. I'll admit I totally do it just like he said and I do think my spinach lasts longer than it used to. ANYWAY, Back to the smoothie. 

 On this particular morning I tossed in some frozen cherries, Private Selection Smoothie Blend (found at Kroger it's a mix pineapple, mango and strawberry), frozen blueberries and spinach.  I generally use water for the liquid but occasionally I'll use Knudsen's Just Tart Cherry or Just Cranberry or Lifeway Kefir.

Green Spinach Smoothie

After this I just turn the blender on and enjoy.  It is actually really easy as long as I remember to rinse the blender pitcher right away.  It's kinda fun, I just put in a little soap and warm water, put on the lid and turn it on again and it pretty much cleans itself.

You can put pretty much any combo of stuff into a smoothie, in fact I'm enjoying one made of blueberries, lemon and thyme tea right now.  It's delicious, tart and inspired by my favorite popsicle flavor from an awesome local business called Streetpops.

What do you like to put in your smoothie? Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Thursday, May 24, 2012

BzzCampaign: Private Selection

I received my BzzKit yesterday and as I promised I'm going to show you what is in it. (Don't know what I'm talking about? Check here.)

My current BzzCampaign  is for premium items from Kroger's Private Selection Line.

Here is my BzzKit...

The BzzKit contained :
A letter from
My BzzGuide full of helpful information and tips
A recipe card for Private Selections Moroccan Burgers with Mint-Pepper Glaze
1 bag of Private Selections Sea Salt and Pepper Chips
1 coupon for a FREE 6 inch Private Selections Pie (Apple or Cherry)
1 coupon for FREE Angus Ground Beef up to $5
1 coupon for $1.50 off a pint of Private Selections Ice Cream
5 coupons for 20% off Private Selections Ice Cream, Chips or Pie

Stay tuned for taste testing results!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In the Pink

... Or should I say "In theTwinkled Pink"?  Twinkled Pink nail polish by Revlon is the base coat for this super girly polish job in honor of my new niece who was born just a few weeks ago.

Dots: Color Zone unnamed pink with fine silver glitter

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Bzz Report

     I love free things and occasionally I get them.  A few years ago my sister brought me into the world of Extreme Couponing where we would get grocery hauls like this for around $30.

The couponing world opened meup to a whole world of online groups, surveys and programs designed to get free stuff or earn money.  While pretty much all of that has come and gone for me, one site remained.  Bzzagent.
BzzAgent is an awesome, professional and legitimate site where you can get products for free in return for your opinions and interactions with others. AND IT IS EASY.

    1. Sign Up.

    2. Take some surveys.  I know not everyone likes to divulge too much info about themselves on the internet or to marketing companies but really I don’t have a problem with it.  I don’t really care who knows what brands of cat food i’ve purchased in the last six months or that I wear eyeshadow and mascara every day but foundation only 1-2 times a week. (Those are pretty much what the survey questions are like.)

    3. Wait for a campaign invite.  You can’t just sign up and get anything you want.  They will invite you to different campaigns depending on what your survey answers are.

    4. Join campaign and wait for your BzzKit.  This is the HARDEST part simply because you are waiting for your awesome free products.  I’m in this stage right now - you’ll see what my BzzKit contains as soon as I get it!

   5. Bust open the BzzKit and start Bzzing.  This is where you use the product your self and discuss/share it with friends/Twitter/Facebook/your blog. Often BzzKit’s will contain coupons to make it fun and easy to share with others.

   6. Report Bzz. This is where you give feed back on the product and talk about your social interacions and what other people thought about the product.  

Easy as pie.  NO, easy as free pie. (Which may or may not be coming in my next BzzKit) Probably not Gluten Free though :(

Since I’ve been a member I’ve received 5  lip products, eyeshadow and mascara, countless cleaning products (How do they know I'm messy?), a scented candle, a free dinner at Boston Market and I’ll be getting more soon.  So yeah, I’m not loaded down in free gear -but it’s just kind of a fun little hobby that has a few benefits.

Like reading about free stuff? Check out Jamie's swag here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Let there be light.

And privacy.

Yes this is another (and I think the last) of the old posts originally drafted in December of 2011.  This was one of my favorite projects and is very much still being enjoyed by my brother who lives in apartment now.

The bathroom window in the old apartment looked directly across the driveway and into the second floor window of the neighbors.  It also seemed that the inhabitants of the neighboring third floor would be able to see in as well.  

I have seen this awesome stuff at Home Depot before and just knew it would be an awesome solution.  These Artscape's are basically just giant window clings that you can buy in different designs for around $20 at any big box home improvement store.

I chose Magnolia as I thought it went with the colors and feel of the house as some of the existing actual stained glass had similar colors.

First I rolled it out over the window (I'm only doing the bottom half and will just keep the shade pulled down half way). Using painters tape to secure I checked the direction and placement of the design but used actual measurements and a straight edge to cut it to size.

Close up of the painters tape!

You then spray the window with a little soapy water so the giant cling will slide around and into the perfect spot and then you use an old credit card type thing to squeegee out the bubbles and you are done!  It was way easier and quicker than I imagined.

The real bonus of this project was that I had enough left over to cover the transom window over the entry door.  The view through this window was of the crappy old hallway chandelier that had 4 unmatched, bare light bulbs.  Also, since the hall light is always on at night, the soft glow through the Artscapes film was like a nice night light.

Do you have a night light?

Friday, May 18, 2012

All Aboard the Sideboard

Here we are again - another old post. This post was first written and saved to a draft on December 4, 2011. Please enjoy this journey back to my  old apartment!

 I am always in need of more storage space so I'm upgrading the kitchen.  I got rid of the old 4-6 person table that I had borrowed from my sister and replaced it with a super compact Muddus 2 person table from IKEA.  That has left me a little extra room for a Svalbo sideboard that I can load up with lots of crafty goodies.

First, I measured out the space.  I needed to make sure my box of liquor would fit.


I assembled the table and even hung some awesome art, created by my niece, above it in a Ribba frame.

This is the most updated picture of the sideboard (sorry for the darkness).  You can see it all loaded with liquor and craft supplies.  Love it!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where is the Ladies Room?

Another blog that has been in draft form for months!  Enjoy these photos from my old apartment!

I first saw these guys over on Peppermint Plum and thought they were soooo cute!  I bought mine at Michaels on clearance for 99 cents each! 

I started  with just basic black but after watching The Wicker Man I felt like they needed some awesome eyes. So I made them using some tissue paper and a Stampin' Up punch.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Nutrients for Nine

Here is another post you should have seen long ago.  In fact, so long that I don't even live in this apartment anymore.  But you get to see it now.

These colorful prints aren't actually prints at all.  They are terribly outdated nutrition education tools.  Yeah, I think things have changed since '78.  Including the fact that no one actually eats Beef Liver anymore.  Luckily bright colors and graphic style never age and so I picked up a bunch of $5 (on sale) frames from Michaels and used some old cardboard to create a nail template to make sure I had a pretty even grid.


These pics are now in a pile on my new floor waiting to be re-hung!

Friday, May 11, 2012

About Thanksgiving

This is not an official Blog From the Past (BFTP) but it may as well be!  This post should be dated in November of 2011 but instead you get it now.

...I'd like to add some new food to our family traditions.

So it's not yet a traditional Thanksgiving dinner food in my family, but I'd like to think it may become one. Greens.

NOTE:  These were Kale greens and while most folks were good sports and tried them - I don't really know that anyone LOVED them.  Including me.  Later I used the same recipe with the onions and red pepper and such but with collards.  I ended up throwing them away. Even the "hurry up and shove it in before you eat anything else on your plate because you are an adult and should just eat it" method didn't work.
NOTE 2: I synthesized this Thanksgiving recipe from the different recipes of two women I work with.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Get that Jeep Off Road!

When Mark invited me "Jeepin'" I thought it was like hiking, but for lazy people who would rather drive than walk.  But I was wrong, we spent the whole day riding the Jeep Green Unicorn out at Haspin Acres and by the end of the day we were muddy and exhausted.  It was not at all a lazy day.
Mark is showing me the awesomeness that is Haspin Acres.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Minty Fresh Nail Polish

Like toothpaste foam!

This is a quick combo of Orly White Tips and Revlon Color Beam Sheer Bright Sky.

NOTE: I had to borrow Mark's arm for the second pic because it looked better on tan skin and sadly Mark would not let me actually paint his nails.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Best of the Blogs

...among those that I read at least.  Remember in this post when I mentioned that I read a lot of blogs that make me want to do all sorts of fun things just like they are doing?  Well here is a list of some of my favorite blogs that, well, make me want to do things!

Young House Love
Of course I have to start here.  This DIY/Young family blog is just so sweet, honest and cheery - while still being very stylish and informative was the first blog that I read regularly.  I love it so much that when talking about it in conversation with friends who are avid readers the blog writers, John & Sherry, are referred to by name.  We have even had other friends ask who these "John" and "Sherry" people were that they didn't know.

I have already mentioned some of my favorite nail polish blogs in a previous post, but hey, I don't think they can be mentioned too many times.
The Polished Perfectionist 
Wow!  You won't believe that these nails are real!  She also has a great polish application and clean up tutorial in her How-To section.

More Good Reads...

I also have a great addiction to style blogs - many of them focus on clothing style but they often have beauty and lifestyle elements as well.  (Sometime in the future I'll make a fun post about how I started to mimic some of these blogs.)  This one was hard to pick a top blog - I have two favorites!

Keiko Lynn
I love Keiko Lynn for her edgy outfits and of course I couldn't ignore her amazing hair, skin and makeup.
What I Wore 2Day
This is my other favorite. Kasmira, the blog author, puts together really fun and colorful outfits everyday.  I also love that she is local (Cincinnati!) and that a lot of her clothes are thrifted.

More Good Reads...
Delightfully Tacky
Mr. Kate
Merrick's Art
A Beautiful Mess
Girl With Curves

I don't read a ton of food blogs - these two are really all I need.

Just take a look and you'll see why I love this.  Sweet and pretty.  The first recipe I ever made from this sight was for Congo Bars!  They were delish!
The Gluten-Free Baker
I love reading about tasty and healthy GF foods. This is were I got the idea to start adding spinach to my morning smoothies.  Oh, and it doesn't hurt that I used to drive her to high school!

Then of course there are the home/life and design blogs.  I already mentioned Young House Love but I also enjoy:
How About Orange
Design Blagh
Color Issue

And of course, I have two randoms that don't seem to fit into any of the other categories.

The Dieline
This is an incredibly interesting blog about...package design?
This blog, although never updated anymore, is close to my heart.  This is the blog of my ex-land lady who is just super awesome.  She was the main reason I moved into my last apartment. If nothing else, when you finish her blog there is a link to her Flickr  account on the side I suggest you check out.

Have fun checking these out and be sure to leave a comment and tell me if you love or heartily dislike any of these blogs.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Girl Has Got to Eat

I really like to take pictures of the food in my life.

Ready for lunch yet?