October 28, 2011

Risotto Two Ways

With the news that many of my Upstate New York friends and family got snow yesterday, I figured that they could use something to warm them up. Risotto is a perfect cold weather recipe! I have recently made two versions - a butternut squash risotto with my mom, and a mushroom risotto that I made when Kristen came to visit. Risotto does take some time to make and requires a lot of stove hovering, but is well worth the effort.

Butternut Squash Risotto

1 box Arborio Rice (1 lb)
12 cups chicken or vegetable stock (you can also use less stock and cut it with water)
Half of a butternut squash peeled and cubed
4 cloves of garlic (diced/minced)
1 onion (diced)
1 stick of butter
2 tblsp Half & Half or heavy cream
Extra virgin olive oil
1- 2 cups Parmesan cheese
Seasoning: salt, pepper, fresh sage dried parsley, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon

Peel, cube and season (nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon salt) butternut squash, toss with extra virgin olive oil, bake until soft and set aside.
In a stock pot or deep saute pan melt a stick of butter, add diced onion and cook until clear, add minced garlic (careful not to burn).
Add entire box of Arborio rice and "toast" the rice (this should take about 1-2 minutes) again, careful not to burn.
Slowly ladle in 1 cup of stock at a time (vegetable or chicken). Wait until the rice absorbs the stock before adding another ladle full.
After roughly 35 minutes (may take longer depending on amount and heat) of stirring and adding one ladle of stock at a time, you will start to notice that the rice takes more time to absorb all of the stock.
Start tasting, ideally the rice should be somewhat al dente (have a bite to it) without feeling too hard. Keeping the rice al dente is important, no one likes a mushy paste-like risotto.
Add about half of a cup of Parmesan (or your favorite) grated cheese.
When rice is just about cooked, add the already cooked butternut squash.
Season to taste- I find that Parmesan already adds enough saltiness, but feel free to add more salt if needed. Add pepper, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon to taste.
To finish add a swirl of half & half or heavy cream- just one quick swirl around the pan (a few tablespoons). Stir risotto folding it in on itself.

Mushroom Risotto:

Same ingredients as above, but substitute squash for cleaned and chopped mushrooms.
I prefer chicken stock with this recipe.
Alter seasonings: I use an Italian mix seasoning that has dried basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme.
No need to cook the mushrooms beforehand, simply add them to the risotto towards the end when rice is almost cooked.
Follow all other steps above.

Hope that you all can try this comforting recipe over the weekend. Happy Friday!

October 27, 2011

DIY: Upcycled Chalkboard Wine Bottles

I found these (below) vases on PB Teen and have been wanting to make some of my own for some time now. Then, I found this DIY version on the amazingness that is Pinterest, and was inspired to use wine bottles. Since my lovely friend, Kristen, was in town we tackled this project together.

What you will need: wine bottles, spray paint primer and chalkboard spray paint (I used RUST-OLEUM purchased from Home Depot).

Step 1: Soak wine bottles in hot water and use soap and a scrubby sponge to remove labels and excess glue residue.

Step 2: Dry bottles thoroughly.

Step 3: In a well ventilated area (or outdoors) prime bottles with spray paint primer. Let dry.

Step 4: Once primer is dry, spray evenly with chalkboard spray paint. Let dry. For full and even coverage, spray a second coat.

You can leave them just like this, but I decided to hand paint the outline of wine labels on mine with white acrylic paint.

I displayed them in the kitchen and wrote (with chalk), "Koneman Reserve", "Penny's Pinot" and our monogram on them.

The possible uses for chalkboard spray paint are limitless - I plan on finding some inexpensive vases and bowls, chalkboard spray painting them and giving them as gifts!

October 19, 2011

Very Important Visitor

One of my closest friends, Kristen (pictured below to my left), is coming to visit today through the weekend! Kristen was a bridesmaid in our wedding and is one of my favorite people.

I went to the University of South Carolina with Kristen for our Freshman and half of our Sophomore year. We were often referred to as, Yankee girls (yes, people still say Yankee down here). We both transferred schools during the winter of our Sophomore year- her to University of Pittsburgh and me to Loyola Chicago. Due to our strong Yankee bond, our friendship has stood the test of time.

Kristen is the kind of friend everyone should have. She has such a positive energy and is a guaranteed good time. She is super adventurous, she lifeguards in the Outer Banks, NC during the summer and lived in New Zealand last winter!

I love having visitors- especially, since we live far away from most of our friends and a lot of our family. During Kristen's visit, we plan to go to the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a little past peak leaf peeping, but we hope to take some great pictures and soak up all of the fall colors.

We are going to do lots of cooking and crafting during Kristen's visit. I am making a mushroom risotto today (expect the recipe soon). Weather permitting, I am hoping that we can make pizzas on the grill together. Regardless of the weather, we will surely consume a few glasses of wine.

Most of all, I am excited to catch up with my sweet friend and have some quality girl time- something that I have been really missing since our move to Charlotte.

October 17, 2011

Spapshots from this Weekend

This weekend was full of lots of picture taking. Jake and I went to my parent's house on Saturday and our niece, Addie, was visiting. With all of the fall decorations on hand, I decided to do an impromptu shoot with her. She obviously knows what's up, because while she was perched on a haystack she looked up at us and said, "I'm soooo cute!". That you are, Miss Addie!
I also did a shoot yesterday in NODA with some of my classmates. I absolutely love NODA, it is the arts district of Charlotte and has tons of awesome backdrops for picture taking! Below are a few of my favorites.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

October 16, 2011

Madelynn Dawn Koneman

 Two weeks ago today, our perfect niece, Madelynn Dawn Koneman, was born. Madelynn is Jake's brother, Zach, and his wife, Jenna's, daughter. The first grandchild on the Koneman side of our family. The beginning of a new generation.

Zach and Jenna decided to be surprised with the sex of Madelynn, so we had lovingly called her, "Baby Ko", during Jenna's pregnancy. Not knowing was hard, but added to the anticipation of her birth.

I was boarding a flight home from Denver when I heard the news that Jenna was in labor (longest flight ever). My sister-in-law, Sarah, texted me updates whenever she got them. Jenna had a long labor, but everything went really well, and at 9:39 p.m. they welcomed a healthy and beautiful daughter into the world. And just like that everything changes.

Jake and I were sitting together when his brother, Zach, called us with the news. Jake was beaming, but I could see in his face how badly he wanted to be there. We both did. We ache to hold our niece, and can't wait to see Jenna and Zach in their new roles of mom and dad. 

One of the many things that I am most excited for, is to see my mother-in-law, Joyce, as a new grandma. This woman was born to be a grandma! Our future children really hit the jackpot - and are going to have the two best grandmas in the world.

It is hard to wrap your mind around how much you can love this little being, who just two weeks ago, had not yet been born. What's more, is how much you can love someone that you have never met.

Madelynn may never know how much she represents to our family. There is nothing that signifies more hope and excitement for the future than a new baby.

We get to meet Madelynn the week before Thanksgiving and are spending the entire week in Wisconsin with her. We wait in anticipation to meet our beautiful niece. Until then, we are getting to know her through pictures and stories. 

"A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bank balance smaller, home happier, clothes dirty, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for." -Unknown

October 14, 2011

Weekend Project: Creating a Gallery Wall

I have a passion for photography and love to hang my favorite images around our home. Gallery walls are a great way to add a personal touch to any space. I learned a lot through trial and error in creating our gallery walls and thought I would share some tips that I gathered along the way.

Some Inspiration:

If you aren't comfortable improvising, the below templates (via Pinterest) are a good place to start.

The gallery wall pictured below hangs in our upstairs hallway. Originally, I purchased just the flower paintings, but they felt too small in scale once they were up on the wall. I added some photos from our engagement shoot and prints that I found on etsy to liven things up.

Our wedding song lyrics, "To Make You Feel My Love" Found in Texas Girl Designs' Etsy Shop

Found in CJ Print's Etsy Shop 

The gallery wall below hangs in our master bedroom. We had photos from our wedding, our parent's and grandparent's weddings printed in black and white for a vintage feel. This wall was a labor of love, as I spray painted the majority of these frames - and took longer than expected working on the layout/design of this wall.

I just started the latest gallery display in our home (below) in our laundry room/ Penelope's room .

                                               The camera painting can be found here the "rejoice" framed fabric and mirror can be found here

Tips I learned along the way:

1. Ikea is your best friend. If you have one in your area, stock up on frames - they are cheap and come in many different sizes. A gallery wall can look awesome with a variety of eclectic frames, but if you're going for a cohesive look, buy similar frames with the same color matting.

2. Measure and plan ahead. Having an equal distance (usually about 2.5 inches) between each frame gives balance to a grouping. I chose to draw out my groupings, this gave me the freedom to play around with the design before putting any holes in the wall.

3. Don’t get too hung up on being matchy-matchy. Photos taken from different vantage points with a variety of textures can make for an interesting grouping. Also, think outside of the box, you can frame and display anything from baby blankets to varsity letters.

4. Most importantly, take your time and have fun with your gallery wall. Don't get too caught up in making it perfect. Quirkiness and creativity in a gallery can really make it stand out.

October 13, 2011

Southwestern Egg Rolls

Now that football season is underway, I am on the hunt for fun and satisfying game-day recipes. Southwestern egg rolls are a combination of spicy, cheesy, crunchy, finger food goodness- and are sure to please your favorite football fan. Added bonus, they are simple to make and most of the ingredients are pantry staples.

Cream Cheese (1 brick/ 8 ounces)
Chicken (2 breasts)
Corn (1 can - frozen or fresh works too)
Black Beans (1 can)
Rotel- diced tomatoes & chillies (1 can)
Jalapenos (I used diced- roughly 4 tablespoons)
Rice (I used Uncle Ben's southwestern whole grain rice)
Shredded Cheese
Hot Sauce (To taste)
Seasoning (Taco seasoning mix or chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt & pepper)
Melted Butter
Phyllo Dough

Season and cook chicken however you prefer (I grilled mine for added flavor)
Shred Chicken (tip: use a fork to shred)
On stove top over low/medium heat combine cooked shredded chicken, corn, black beans, rotel, jalapenos (we like spicy in our house- so I added quite a lot), cooked rice (tip: I used the Uncle Ben's microwaveable rice to make things easier) and softened cream cheese.
Mix until cream cheese is melted and all ingredients are well incorporated.

Unroll phyllo dough, use 3 sheets stacked on top of one another. Cut sheets in half lengthwise (forming two equal size rectangles). Paint sheets with melted butter. Mound 2-3 tablespoons of filling in the center of each phyllo dough rectangle. Top with shredded cheese. Roll or fold phyllo dough closed in whichever shape you prefer. Paint the top of each egg roll with melted butter. Place on cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown

Top with sour cream and cilantro. Serve with your favorite salsa or guacamole for dipping. Enjoy!

*This recipe makes amazing chicken nachos as well, instead of phyllo dough you can use the filling to top tortilla chips

*This can also be cooked in a crock pot. Same ingredients- but you can toss in raw or frozen chicken and cook on medium heat for 4-6 hours

October 10, 2011

All Things Autumn

Right now, we are soaking up all things Autumn. I thank my lucky stars every time I step outside and am not hit like a ton of bricks by the oppressive southern heat. 

This weekend, we had a few neighbors over for a bonfire. I made some fall inspired snacks and a cocktail that I highly recommend trying: equal parts cranberry cider (you can substitute this with apple cider- or any cider, really), ginger ale and spiced rum, garnished with a cinnamon stick and an apple wedge. Wish that I had taken a pic, but it totally slipped my mind must have been the rum.

We also decorated our home for the glorious season of fall! A few leaf garlands, apple cinnamon candles, a bowl of gourds, a fall inspired table runner and pumpkins and mums for our front porch complete our autumn look. 

This year, we decided to paint our pumpkins. I think that we might still carve a couple when Halloween gets closer. I used acrylic paint to add our monogram to one pumpkin and decorated the other pumpkin with puff paint.

Penny is also loving fall! Did I forget to mention, we named our new puppy Penelope Rose? Penny really suits her, almost as much as the pink puffy vest that she is rocking below. I know, you might think it is over-the-top, but the evenings are crisp and the poor little girl shivers! I also got lots of strange looks this weekend, because I wear Penny around on the front of me in a Baby Bjorn type contraption made for puppies (I promise I will post a pic of this soon). She won't let me put her down and I need my hands free... At least that's what I tell people.

What are you doing to let a little fall into your life?

                                                          (I found this idea via Danielle Burkleo's Pinterest which was originally posted here)

October 5, 2011

Puppy Love

I have been a bad bad blogger. But, I promise for good reason! I was traveling from Wed- Sun... Then, on Sunday night we got the most amazing news. Our beautiful baby niece was born, Madelynn Dawn Koneman. I am going to write a separate post all about this little one once I talk with her mommy today. I need as many details as possible. It kills me that we can't hold her or meet her in person until Thanksgiving. I don't plan on putting her down the entire week that we are in Wisconsin. She is absolutely perfect.

All of the photos of our sweet niece Madelynn have been making me crave a little one - and, since we are not quite ready for human babies ;) I have been pushing Jake towards a puppy.

Jake and I well, I have been wanting a puppy for such a long time. I even made up a taunting song that I would sing to Jake on occasion (who wants a wittle puppy dog, I do I do)... I know - shameless. Finally, by chance, we found our little baby puppy yesterday and brought her home last night. She is just the sweetest. So calm, always wants to be held and gives lots of kisses (is this post making you throw up in your mouth yet?).

Here's the thing, we need your help! We cannot decide on a name. First she was Violet, then she was Vivian ("Vivi") and now I threw Harper and Eloise ("Ellie"/ "LouLou") into the mix. This poor little puppy is confused. Will you help us name her? My fav at the moment is Harper - it seems to really suit her.

I am open for any suggestions that you might have. So please, help a girl out! Leave your favorite name in the comments.

Thanks for your help!
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