Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kitchen Cabinets

Many of you may have seen these images before, since I think the remodel is from a 2008 Cottage Living... but I've been trying to sell Jeff on the idea recently.

Our kitchen has relatively new cabinets and granite counter tops, so I'd like to just incorporate the idea of raising our top cabinets, adding molding, and adding the lower open shelving.  For anyone debating the open shelving issue, which I have in the past, the Newlywed Diaries posted about the practicality of open shelving a few months ago.  And I am officially sold!

I showed Jeff these images, and he immediately asked about the microwave.  Ours is currently living above the oven, and I knew, without even asking, that going without one would be vetoed.

Then I did a little sleuthing (okay, so I just googled once and this was the first result link) for the rest of this amazing kitchen redo!

And here is the microwave!  ...above the refrigerator?!  Not sure if that would work for us, since we tend to use ours for reheating leftovers on a weekly basis.  Could you still have it above the stove?

I also love the two-toned cabinets, which Two Ellie recently did... But I'd really have to do a lot of convincing to paint cabinets that are practically new!

Besides being aesthetically pleasing, I think that raising the current cabinets and adding the open shelving would provide some amazing additional kitchen storage!  And get some of the items out of our guest bedroom closet and into the room where we actually use them!

What do you think?  Maybe a fun weekend project for the Whittakers?  Microwave thoughts?  Now to convince the husband...

W² Returns: Baked Orzo

Continuing on updates from our life in the kitchen, I tried out a new W² recipe last night that I had to share.  If I didn't tell you it was from Weight Watchers, you would seriously never know!  I realize I make this claim a lot, but it may be one of my new favorite meals.

I made a few modifications, so I'll share my slightly varied version.  The original recipe* calls for chopped fennel bulb and dried mint, which we didn't have on hand, so we omitted.  I upped the oregano by about 1/2 tsp and added basil and my absolute favorite Greek seasoning (as a side note, this seasoning is amazing on scrambled eggs, with a little feta).  And, of course, also added about 1/4 cup more feta cheese, so the points value is probably slightly off.   

*Note: I tried to link to the original recipe, but can't find it online.  It came from my Weight Watcher's Take-Out Tonight cookbook. 

W² Baked Orzo
1 lb. orzo pasta
6 oz. lean ground lamb (we substituted lean ground beef here)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp Cavender's All Purpose Greek Seasoning
14 oz can crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Cook orzo, according to package directions, until done.  Drain and transfer to large bowl.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add the lamb (or beef) and cook until browned.  Drain and transfer to bowl with orzo.

To the same skillet, add onion, garlic, oregano, basil, and Greek seasoning.  Cook until onion begins to soften (about 3-4 minutes).  Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and cinnamon.  Cook until sauce thickens (about 6-8 minutes).

Combine tomato sauce with orzo and lamb.  Stir in feta and mix well.  Transfer to lightly greased baking dish, and top with Parmesan.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or until hot.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall Baking

Today is my Monday, thanks to good ol' Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492!  I ended up spending a good part of my weekend baking... and it was so fun!

On Friday, I stocked up on pumpkin puree and tried out Jen's Pumpkin Apple Muffins.  I wanted something to make waking up at 6 am for our yard sale a little more bearable, and these definitely did the trick!  I ended up doubling Jen's recipe, and Jeff is planning on enjoying them for breakfast this week too.

I'll be making these again for the fall season for sure... The pumpkin and apple together are delicious!

{picture from Jen}

Yesterday, I spent most of the day baking with my Yiayia (grandma)... one of my favorite things to do!  We started with a family favorite, a huge batch of koulouria (or the Greek twist-shaped cookies).  I think others make these in a circle or 'S' shape, but our family always braids the dough and keeps the size small.  I personally think that the larger cookies get too dry.

The dough is easy to make, but the time commitment with twisting each cookie has me re-thinking my decision to add these to Christmas tins for gift-giving this year...

We made about 150 of these cookies (hey, they're small! and they keep really well just stored in an air-tight container).  Then decided to try out my Yiayia's new Pampered Chef cookie press... Spritz cookies are normally reserved for the holidays, but we found the pumpkin disc in her new set and couldn't resist!

So cute!  I liked the Pampered Chef cookie press overall, but the cookie size is much larger than the one that I have (or that my Yiayia used to have).  For these pumpkin cookies, it didn't matter much... and despite no change in taste, I think I still prefer the small size!

Then just when I thought I was done with my baking... I ran out and picked up some chocolate chips and walnuts last night to make these Betty Crocker oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies (that I blogged about here).  Back by popular demand Jeff's request.

Phew!  You'd think that I would be done for a while, but now I'm brainstorming something delicious and fall-inspired for Jeff's birthday in a few weeks!  Any suggestions?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Poll Results

Thanks to everyone who voted in our little SLR camera poll!  I learned a lot from your comments on the editing capabilities (which I had never considered before) and 66% of you were able to tell the difference between the three photos.  Yep, Photo B was the one taken with the SLR camera!

Here are a few more unedited shots...

While Ellie doesn't look too impressed, I still am!  Hopefully more updates to come on my camera progress... Perhaps on Jeff's favorite day of the year, Black Friday! 

P.S. - To anyone wondering, photo A was our regular digital camera and photo B was the older digital with telephoto lens.  Do those results surprise anyone, or was it how you voted?

Monday, October 4, 2010


Hope that everyone had a wonderful weekend!  I was Atlanta-bound for some much needed girl time with my college roommates!  Lindsey and her husband are temporarily in the city as part of his medical school residency.

I took the afternoon off work on Friday in an attempt to beat the Atlanta traffic.  Although I hadn't been to the city since middle school, I'd heard the stories of rush hour (and wanted no part of it).  Well now I have seen it... and it was quite a scene!  Fortunately, I caught just the beginning of it...  And Lindsey and I were able to enjoy an amazing dinner outside at Hearth.  It reminded me so much of Brixx, but I have to admit that I liked the pizza more!

Then we headed to the airport to pick up Kaylie... in from Wilmington!  There is always so much to catch up on with one another, so we used the rest of the night to do just that.

Shiva, almost straight off the plane from her Europe trip, took the red-eye from San Francisco.  It was like Christmas... We went to bed that night, and when we woke up we found Shiva in the living room, wrapped in a UNC snuggie!

Saturday was a wonderful slow start... Lindsey cooked us a delicious breakfast, we chatted, looked at Europe pictures... and read What to Expect When You're Expecting.  Why?  Because Lindsey is expecting!!  I couldn't be happier for Linds & Nick!  They will be incredible parents, and this weekend was the perfect way for all of us girls to help them celebrate the exciting news!

{cupcakes from Polka Dots Bake Shop}

After a relaxing morning, we headed to the cutest Atlanta neighborhood, Virginia Highland.  We browsed shops (organic baby ones included!) and had a delicious late lunch at Murphy's.

{picture from Kaylie}

{further proof that I cannot take a good picture... keep those eyes open!}

The day rounded out with a driving tour of downtown Atlanta, the Olympic Park, and Buckhead.  Finally, we grabbed a late dinner with Nick in Buckhead at Twist

It was such a perfect, fun weekend!  It reminded me so much of college afternoons spent lounging around the house together, watching tv in sweats and chatting.  These days I just soak in every second I get with my Carolina girls!  I'm grateful to have such beautiful, smart, amazing friends to go through life with... and now to celebrate parenthood with!