Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Patio Fiasco - Part 3

Just… wow! Why am I having such a hard time with this?! Our landscapers were supposed to come on Friday to give us a quote to dig up the sod and dig down 6 inches and then remove the existing pavers. Well we weren’t home Friday night, so I come home Saturday morning and no quote from the landscaper. I call him up and he says, “Oh, I have you down for today.” Me: “Ok great, I will be home, just ring my doorbell.” No call, no show.

We got up early on Sunday and decided to go to breakfast before we hit Menard’s to go try and buy our materials for the second time. At Menard’s, there was no one out in the garden area to help us! So I stormed up to the manager’s desk and told them how we were there on Thursday and had terrible customer service. I told her that we were given all the wrong information, so they almost lost out on our sale because I could easily go to Home Depot or Lowe’s. I said, can you please have someone help us. She said I’ll help you and she did, she took us over to the assistant manager in building and he helped us order everything we needed. We even got free delivery for the bad experience we had earlier in the week. I was telling this guy how we’ve had so much trouble getting people to call me back, he was surprised and gave us the numbers to 3 other landscapers. So we came home and call our landscaper and these other three. No answer. No call back.

Yesterday (Monday) my landscaper called me around 8 a.m. he said he had been over on Sunday and rang the doorbell. Well, we had been at breakfast at that time. He didn’t see the marking we left on the sod, but he was going to stop by again and leave a quote in our mailbox.

I was very excited to get home to see this quote. When I opened the envelope all I could do was laugh. $920! He’s out of his effing mind!

So I spent almost all last night on the phone. I have a friend of friend coming out today to give us a quote and I’m hoping it’s good! We also had to reschedule the delivery of our material for next Wednesday.

All in all, we’re losing another week but I feel better about putting it off another week. I don’t feel so nervous because we aren’t rushed to try and find someone to do this.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Nothing is ever easy… the Patio Fiasco continues

Yesterday was sure fun (insert sarcasm font here). I call the Village to ask if we need a permit. We do, we also need a dig number. Call the dig people, get a number. Talk to a few co-workers asking about the permit and such and they tell me there is no need for a permit. So I made Frank call and cancel the dig service.

We met at Menard’s after I got off work and we were all ready to buy all of our materials. The store was full of 18 year old employees. The kid helping us had no clue what he was talking about. What we figured out and what he was telling us resulted in the price being tripled. We were pretty upset thinking now we really cannot do this project. The main price difference was with the sand. It’s $9 a bag and when we asked how much square footage each bag yields he told us 3.5 sq ft. Whoa! This would make the cost of the sand over a grand itself. So we left.

So we come home and are looking through the flyer again. This kid really was an idiot. The bag of sand covers 40-60 square feet! We figured it all out and were back to our original price. Now I am going back to Menard’s on Saturday, reading the manager a riot act and buying the stuff we need.

Now, we want to hire the landscapers to remove the grass, dip the hole and remove the existing pavers we do have. I called him back last night, as we spoke on Tuesday, to give him the depth at which we need it dug. I tell him 3 inches. He told me that that is not enough and you want at least 6 inches so you can do 3-4 inches of paver then a layer of sand then the paver. He was like, I don’t want to mess your cousin up but you are my customer and I am going to be honest with you. So he is coming out today to take a look at it and give me a quote for 3 inches and 6 inches including the price to remove the existing pavers. Let’s hope we can afford it.

If the landscapers are able to do this, then it will save my cousin 2 days of work at least. I really hope this all works out and we are going about this the right way.

I cannot wait for this to be over with so I can sit on my new patio with a beer and call it a day!

The Sump Pump took a Dump - Part Duex

Guess what? Not an easy fix. 4 days of trying to get our plumber friend over and after 6 calls yesterday from Frank, he finally got back to us. We were at Menard’s and he said he was sending his partner and our other friend; they were to be there in about 90 minutes. We got home within that 90 minutes and they still weren’t there. I called and they said they would be there in another hour. Great, right in the middle of our show’s season finale and we don’t have DVR/TiVo. So they come, all they were going to do was install a new battery and make sure the sump pump was working right.

TWO AND A HALF HOURS later and they tell us the sump pump backup is dead. We need a new one and it will be $250-500. Awesome! He cannot make it back until Saturday or Sunday. I am praying for Saturday because Sunday is our anniversary and I am going to be pretty pissed off if we have to wait for him all day and miss our dinner reservations at the Melting Pot! I told is partner, please let him know that Sunday is our anniversary and we have dinner reservations so if he could come earlier that will be great.

Let’s hope this all goes off without a hitch.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Patio Project Lives!

Wow, I could have sworn tons of people were out of work right now in this economy.  You would think people would be jumping at the opportunity to make a couple grand right now.  I guess, not so much.  Remember when I mentioned that we should have 5 quotes by Monday to mull over?  That didn’t happen.  Here’s the lowdown of how things went.

Concrete Guy #1 – blew me off on Wednesday.  I had a feeling in the puit of stomach he wasn’t going to show.  He called while we were trying to put the new flusher on the basement toilet.  He wanted to reschedule for Thursday or Friday.  Well, I had an appointment with a client Thursday night so I told him I would probably be home all day on Friday.  On Thursday night, after I called off for Friday, I sent him a text letting him know I wanted him to stop by tomorrow morning or afternoon.  He didn’t text me until 5:45 p.m. Friday night after the sump pump took a dump I knew his prices were going to high and didn’t want to waste his time.  I lied and said we had a sump pump emergency and now we couldn’t afford it.  He was only for stamped concrete anyways

Concrete Guy #2 – Now this guy I was really excited about.  He was a family friend and I was told the prices were going to be good. I spoke with him (well, if you call that speaking… he has the strongest Italian accent and I could barely understand him on the phone) on Tuesday and he was to come over Saturday morning.  I canceled brunch with a friend, who I seriously need to catch up with, for this meeting.  That morning, I drove frank to work, ran some errands and got home around 8:45.  I had 45 minutes before I expected him, so I started cleaning my newly defrosted fridge.  9:30 came and went.  I was pissed.  He didn’t even call.  Oh well, at least my cleaning momentum stuck with me and the house is spic n span!

Concrete Guy #3 – My mother, being the talker that she is, stopped a concrete guy (in the middle of a job) and talked to him about our project.  She got a card and I called to schedule an estimate.  The guy must have asked me to repeat my name 4 times and said he’d call back to set up an estimate.  No call.

Our landscapers – never called me back

Paver Estimate – I was looking through Craig’s list and was able to email a guy pictures of our space with a description of what we wanted.  He gave me a quick estimate that way, but it seems a bit high.

So now, I’ve lost another week and am not much farther than where I started.  The good thing about all this waiting is the fact that we were able to really figure out what will be best for that space.  When our one friend came over Friday to look at the sump pump, he said that pavers are the way to go. Turns out my cousin’s husband knows how to do this. So he is going to come spend the work week at our house next week (to save 2-3 hours in traffic during rush hour a day) and get it done.

I am so relieved to finally have a plan in motion.  This week will be a bit hectic because we need to get a lot done.  I want to see if I can get the landscapers to dig up the grass for us and then take the old pavers when we remove them.  However, this would require me to actually get a hold of them.  Then we will need to procure the permit with the village.  Lastly, go select the pavers & set up the delivery.

I can’t wait to get this started!  I really like the design of this one here, so I think this may be our inspiration!

The Sump Pump took a Dump

I took a, very much needed, mental health day on Friday. I tend to take on too much and then burn myself out, so I was very much looking forward to having two whole days of cleaning and relaxing.

Frank woke up, as usual, at 5:30 to get ready for work. I rolled over and was dozing off when he came upstairs to tell me there was water in the laundry room. Apparently, I thought this was a dream or just didn’t think much of it, so I went back to sleep.

When I finally woke up at 8:30, sure enough, there was some water in the laundry room. I mopped up what I could but the kitchen rug we have under the shelving unit in there had been soaked. As it turns out that this water was overflowing from the sump pump. Awesome. Not knowing what to do (hey, give me a break, I’ve never lived in a house before!) I called my parents and they weren’t sure what to do either. I called Frank and he had already made a call to our good friend (and contractor) to come over to take a look at it.

He came over later that morning. The surge protector that holds the plug, tripped and apparently did something to the battery. He told us he would send over a shop vac (for the rug) and a charger for the battery. He helped me put a space heater and fan in there to air it out and we opened the window, shut off the light and closed the door.

We’re very lucky to have a plethora of friends who do things like this for a living and are always willing to lend a hand. So the next night we talked to our other friend (who owns his own sewer & drain company) and he asked us to send him a picture of it and he’d tell us exactly what needed to be done.

The drying out of the rug and room took a couple days, especially since the shop vac really didn’t do a thing. When I got home yesterday, the house smelled musty. I’m sure it’s from the rug, so I Febreze-d the heck out of it, opened the window and turned the fan back on. Nope, still stinky this morning! The rug has got to go, but it’s under a shelving unit housing hundreds of pounds of stuff.

Our fiend is coming over later to install a new battery for us and then we’ll be all set. I told Frank to get his help to slowly lift each corner to grab that rug and toss it. I certainly can’t do it!

So much for my mental health day! It never fails that every time I try to take a day off work something happens to me. (Last time I took a day off to recover after a weekend full of events, I woke up with food poisoning). Oh well, at least it’s all under control and relatively inexpensive.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Broccoli & Shrimp Scampi Pasta

  • 8 oz spaghetti
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2-3 tsp minced garlic
  • (approx) ½ cup Italian bread crumbs 
  • (approx) ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 10 oz small shrimp
  • ½ pounds of broccoli chopped into florets
  • ¼ tsp of each of the following seasonings: cumin, red pepper flakes, basil & onion salt

1. Cook pasta al dente
2. Boil broccoli
3. In a skillet, melt butter and sauté minced garlic. Add in all seasoning & wine, simmer for a moment. Add in shrimp and cook, tossing frequently, until pink. Slowly (a tsp at a time) mix in breadcrumbs. You may or may not use all the bread crumbs, just continue adding until your mixture has thickened up a bit.
4. Drain pasta, do not rinse. Put back in hot pot with drained hot broccoli and mix in shrimp scampi.
5. Serve garnished with freshly grated Romano cheese

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I have only been to Vegas twice, but I am absolutely obsessed and in love.  I always post this long review on my forums, so I thought I would just put it up on my blog for easy reference.

The times I have been have been for bachelorette parties – my best friends & my own.  I went with ‘experienced’ Vegas gals and I have learned a lot of do’s & don’ts.  I am by no means any expert!  Just have found some of these tips to come in handy.

THEHotel at Mandalay Bay:  The suites have an extra bathroom/powder room which helps when you have 4 girls sharing.  The room was amazing in itself.  The pool is the best on the strip.  Bring your own inner tube for the lazy river though and get down there early to find chairs.

Luxor: eh.  I wasn’t too impressed with this hotel. We stayed in the pyramid spa suite which was cool to have the hot tub in the room.  However, the service was terrible!! Our air was broken and it took forever to get them to fix it.  Then the house keeping sucked; I recall one day we went to eat came back to the room and it still wasn’t clean.  Well, housekeeping was next door and was just about to start on ours so she asked us to come back in an hour.  It was a long walk to the pool, spa and walkways to Excalibur.  The pool was nice, but nothing spectacular.  The spa was amazing!  Best.massage.ever.

Rain - When my husband went for his bachelor party, they did bottle service @ Rain... and because they showed up late they got a private room with a balcony overlooking the dance floor.  He said it was AMAZING.  He just loves Rain, but a lot of people say it's just too crowded for them.  Paul Oakenfeld is the resident DJ tho, so I can't wait to get back to Vegas to see him.

Tao Beach @ Tao – When we went from my friend’s party we did bottle service here and it was amazing!  We bypassed the lines and were escorted up an elevator and then another flight of stairs to the top of the Venetian.  It’s basically a pool area with cabanas and the like.  The pools are roped off and it’s just a big party up there.  The music was great.  We had a waitress, bouncer & busboy.  They were all great.  Waitress & busboy kinda hung out and partied with us a bit, made us drinks and shot if we wanted them.  The bouncer was there to watch our stuff, escort us to the bathroom and club (had we wanted to go, we never made it down there though since we were having such a good time).  I would definitely go back.

Studio 54-   We went on Thursday night for my party.  We had walked past earlier in the day during our roaming and they put us on the list for free admission, so we figured we’d check it out.  We had just come from LAX and even had a drink in our hand as we walked in.  Um, best freakin’ music ever!  We seriously danced our butts off for 6 hours, only stopping to drink water.  We had a bottle service there on Saturday & it was just alright. We were kinda crammed in a booth right off the dance floor with 2 other tables. (Incidentally, the table at the end was a group of guys from Chicago… who we then sat in front of on the plane right home, lol).  I kinda felt like it was a waste of bottle service there.  I’d definitely go back, but on a Thursday night again, for free =)

LAX – We stopped here on Thursday night since it was inside our hotel, Luxor, and we got free admission.  We went early, so it was dead.  I hear good things though and it seemed like it would be a good time.  We just didn’t stay to see it happenin’.

LAVO -  STAY AWAY!  It’s so small and uppity, I hated it.  Here is the review I wrote on Trip Advisor: In August of 2008, I visited Tao Beach Nightclub & had bottle service reservations. My experience was magnificent. We had the best customer service from our VIP host, waitress, bus boy & bouncer. So when the same host sent me an e-mail telling me to check out Lavo, of course I was excited to do so. We arrived around 10:45 on a Saturday night and were quickly escorted to our table. The club was very small & I could tell it would be very crowded later that night. The hostess & waitress were quick to take my credit card and get our bottle setup, but that was probably the last time I saw them. When I was at Tao, if you touched your bottle, they would take it right out of your hand and say no no no, and make the drink for you; if your water carafe was less than half full, a new one instantly filled its place. Lavo did not provide any such service.  Then, there were no security guards monitoring who was coming into the 'VIP area' (which was 2 steps off the dance floor... so there were a lot of people coming in and sitting in seats of tables where the guests have not yet arrived.) We had to make sure to keep an eye on our table so no one was drinking out of our bottle & that our belongings were safe. The tables have about 2 feet of distance between them; so if you had more than 3 in your group, once the club got crowded, you could not all sit down. Also, while dancing we had people's bottoms literally sitting in our ice bucket because of the ridiculously close conditions. We kept asking for water & were flat out ignored, or it took 30 minutes. Upon leaving the club, we got in a cab & realized that they never gave me back my id and credit card, so I had to go all the way back into the club (which was about 40 stairs once you walked over the restaurant and lounge) and wait another 20 minutes for some bouncer to retrieve it for me. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. I will forever highly advise people not to go there.

Inside NYNY
Pour 24 outside of Coyote Ugly– it’s a nothing place but for some reason we always ended up there every night and met the most interesting people (probably from everyone walking by) and had so much fun! . 

Coyote Ugly – I am going to give this place the benefit of the doubt because in talking to others, I had a unique experience. We went on Thursday night of my friend’s party.  They wanted a $10 cover change, even though the place was dead, and we were 7 ladies.  I pursued them (with trinkets we had on, lol) to let us in for free.  They had part of it roped off to make it look fuller with the lack of people there. They wouldn’t let us on the bar to dance and they closed at 2.  It was nothing special, but I hear it’s a place when it’s packed & bumpin’.

Bar at Times Square – NY NY is one of my favorite hotels (and where I plan on staying my next trip) so we always passed this dueling piano bar and it always sounds like a party in there.  We stopped in early on a Thursday and it was jam packed. It’s pretty much standing room only, unless you pay for a table (which I think involves having to buy food or something).  We didn’t stay long as we nearly had some frat boys drinks all over us multiple times, and we had to get back to our room to change to start the night anyways.  So again, not the best experience, but I’ve always heard so much good about it, that I’d try it again.

Carnival Court – it’s an outdoor bar/grill with live music, a dance floor and tons of fun.  This place is a blast!  We went during the day and spent pretty much our entire afternoon there.  We saw an Elvis Impersonator and a break-dancing battle!

The Piano Bar - They do karaoke during certain times that is supposed to be fun.  We never made it inside, the yard stick long islands our new friends bought us ended with us doing a 25 person conga line through the casino and then the karoke bar looked too mellow for us, haha!

Mandalay Bay:
Rumjungle – this place is supposed to be cool.  We went on a Thursday night when it was a lounge, so it was NOT what was happening & ended up leaving.  But Friday & Saturdays it’s supposed to be sick. 

Forty Deuce -  it's 1940's themed with pin-up waitresses and a gangster DJ.  I've never been but want to go SO bad!  They do 2 burlesque shows a night that’s free when you pay cover to gain admission.

Minus 5 - inside Mandalay Place (between MB and Luxor) is an ice bar and they put you in fur coats and lead you to a full blown ice bar – we went looking for this in the Venetian the first trip and no one knew what we were talking about then found it after we got our hair done the second trip and never went inside but I hear good things.

Rock House – Located outside of Imperial Palace, my husband really liked this bar.  We stopped in because my friends wanted a guitar filled drink, haha!  They have beer pong & they play pretty good music. 

Nameless Dive bar – Behind Bill’s Gambling Saloon down Flamingo Rd is a little strip mall with a liquor store/bar on the end and Battista’s hole in the wall restaurant next to it.  It is truly a dive bar, but they have every drink for $1 (we were drinking $1 vodka red bulls, can’t beat hat!).  The bartender was giving us free drinks when we put $5 in the poker machines on the bar.

Battista’s hole in the wall - If you are looking for a cheap restaurant for all, check out Battista’s.  It's behind Bill's Gambling Saloon.  You get salad, soup, a pasta dish, dessert & unlimited wine for $24-27 a person.  The food is nothing special.

Dick’s Last Resort – inside of Excalibur is awesome for a fun lunch.  Same goes for margaritaville (inside the flamingo I think) and kahunaville (inside TI).

Trattoria Reggiano – inside the Venetian.  Order the spaghetti & meatballs (they make them with filet mignon) but expect leftovers unless you share!  Sit al fresco and enjoy the view of the indoor gondolas.

Ruffles Café – Inside Mandalay Bay.  Awesome breakfast!!

Kokomo – inside the Mirage, this is a really nice upscale steak place if you are looking for a nice dinner one night. It is pricey though (as most steak places are) but the food is magnificent.

N9NE Steakhouse – Inside the Palms. The hubs did this for his bachelor party and loved.

Do’s & Don’ts

DO try to bargain for your hotel room price!  Here’s what I’ve done in the past and it’s worked: Sign up for emails to receive promotions from the hotels you are interested in, when you see a good deal book it (give yourself a couple months before your trip to do this).  A month or two later (keep checking promotions to make sure there isn't a better one out there) call and say you've found a better deal at another hotel and would like to cancel.  They are likely to offer you the latest deal (typically not advertised in emails and the like) which will be your cheapest rate.  We did this with a pyramid spa suite at the Luxor - our first booking was for ~$800, we found another promo for ~$650, so I called to cancel my first reservation and they offered it to me for $550!  Couldn't believe it!

DO carry flasks!!  It’s a great favor to give your guests as a thank you for coming to your Vegas bash... and great to carry on the strip instead of stopping in a bar to get a $5-10 drink.  We often stopped at a vending machine for a lemonade and added our own vodka out of the flasks.

DO bottle service for groups of 5 or more.  It may sound like a lot, but it's totally worth it at the right spot.  You get express admission & your cover is included.  They escort you to your table (which you will NOT get unless you have bottle service) and then you get a waitress, a bouncer & a busboy.  They are constantly by your table, hanging out, taking your pics, making you drinks and shots (if you want).  The bouncer walks you to the bathroom, dance floor or inside the club (like at tao beach we were upstairs, so if we wanted to go into the actually club, he would have taken us there).  Plus it includes unlimited mixers and water.  Without bottle service in a club expect to wait 10-40 minutes to get a drink from the bartender, NOT have a table and wait 20 min- 3 hours to pay a $10-50 cover.  In my experience, it is very much worth it.

DO keep liquor in your room.  We always ask the cab driver (on the way from the airport to the hotel) to take us to a liquor store off the strip so we can stock up on bottles for the room, so we can pre-drink while we are getting ready and then take a cup with us. Plus you'll need it for your flask!

DO keep snacks in your room.  Room service is SO expensive and sometimes is SUCH a far walk to the food court and can be very pricey there too.

DO check out a spa.  I had the best massage of my life at the Luxor spa although it was pricey - $150 for an hour – I got full use of the steam room, Jacuzzis, saunas and then I even showered there and did my hair since they have all kinds of styling tools and products. You can also come & go into the spa all day that day you do your service.

DO make reservations for nicer restaurants for dinner; even if you are calling the same day.

DO grab the little Vegas 24/7 book in the cab.  It will give you free show times (for things like Bellagio fountains [see it both day and night], Mirage’s Volcano, TI’s ship show, etc.), numbers to restaurants for reservations, etc.

DON’T  plan TOO much.  You want to be able to do spontaneous things, while still being able to do everything you want to do see.  I recommend just planning your nights out and play it by ear throughout the day.

DON’T take anything ‘for free’ from anyone off the street or let anyone off the street talk you into buying bracelets for bars or clubs.  Nothing is really free, do yourself a favor and keep walking.
If you are gambling mainly for the free drinks – stay out of the nicer hotels; their drink service sucks – especially Mandalay Bay.  I’ve found Harrah’s to have the best drink service yet.  My husband likes Bill’s Gambling Saloon because they have $1 Michelob’s. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lemon Bars

Another recipe from my fellow nestie, JoJo!.  I've made this one multiple times and they are always devoured!  They are excellent and I was never very fond of lemon bars myself!

-2 cups sifted all purpose floud
-1 cup confectioner's sugar
-1 cup butter (melted)
-4 eggs
-2 cups white sugar
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1/4 cup all purpose flour
-5/8 cup lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350. grease 9x13 pan.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together 2 cups of flour and confectioner's sugar. Blend in the melted butter. Press into bottom of pan.

3. Bake in the oven for 15-25 minutes or until golden brown. 
4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat eggs until light. Combine the sugar, baking powder, 1/4 cup flour so there will be no lumps. Stir the mixture into the eggs. Finally, stir in the lemon juice. (mixture will be very liquid-y, do not worry) Pour over prepared crust and return to the oven.

4. Bake for additional 30 min or until bars are set. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.

I sprinkled powdered sugar when they were in the pan & then cut them.

Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats

One of my fellow nestie's, Katie, made this for a get together and I had to have the recipe!  I made it for a get together with our friends and they loved it!  I made mine with milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet like the recipe called for, both work and are very good!

- 6 cups Rice Krispies
- 1 cup Light Corn Syrup
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 cup Smooth Peanut Butter
- 1 bag milk chocolate chips
- 1 bag butterscotch chips

1. Put the rice krispies in a large bowl and set aside.

2. In a pot heat the corn syrup and sugar until the sugar is dissolved and then add the peanut butter. Mix until a smooth consistency.

3. Pour over rice krispies and mix them up.

4. In a small microwave safe bowl melt the semi-sweet and butterscotch chips together.  Careful not to burn.

5. In an 8x11 pan put the rice krispies in and smush so its all even.

6. Pour chocolate combo over the top and spread out.

Let these sit out until they set and they are ready to devour!  Do not refrigerate.  If you are bringing this to a party, I recommend cutting them up in squares first since they can be hard to cut and get out.

Best Darn Chocolate Cake

- 1 box devils food chocolate cake mix
- 1 box instant chocolate pudding
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla

1.Mix all together until well mixed.
2. Add 1 cup mini chocolate chips.
3. Put into bundt cake pan ( I used a 10" round pan instead). Bake at 350 for 45 to 55 minutes.
4. Once its cool and on the serving dish i will sprinkle with a little powdered sugar

I did this with powdered sugar because I was afraid that chocolate frosting may be too much, but it wouldn't have been.  So next time, it's getting topped with chocolate frosting!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo chicken dip

- 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 16 oz Ranch Dressing
- 16 oz Cream Cheese
- Bottle of your favorite hot sauce (to taste)

1. Boil and shred the chicken breast.
2. Mix ranch, cream cheese and hot sauce with mixer and then fold in the shredded chicken with fork.
3. Cover and store in Fridge for atleast 12 hours to cool, it wont taste as good if it is not cold.

I made this for a get together with friends and once the guys got over the look of it (it doesn't *look* particularly appetizing) they really enjoyed it.  I served it with Tostito scoops.


- 1 lb ground beef, browned & seasoned to your preferences
- 1 package of orange empanada discs
- 1 cup shredded chihuahua cheese
- 1 can re-fried beans
- Flour

1.  Brown & season ground beef.  Heat beans.  Shred cheese.

2.  Taking each disc on its own spread flour on each side and roll out with roller.

3.  On one side of disc, put 1-2 tsp of beans, 2-3 tbs of beef, cheese.  Close by folding over.  Press fork on the edge all around to "close" the shell

4.  Fry in hot oil until shells look crispy.

Garnish with hot sauce, sour cream and/or rice.

This usually makes around 10 empanadas.  It can be time consuming actually preparing them but they store well to freeze for later use, or are good for a bigger group.

Chili Cheese Dip

- 1 block softened cream cheese
- 1 can no bean chili
- 1 package shredded cheddar cheese

1. Spread cream cheese over bottom of baking dish
2. Top with chili
3. Top with chili
4. Cover with saran wrap and microwave for 2-5 minutes, until it starts bubbling

Another easy one that disappears very quickly!  Serve with crackers, chips, whatever's clever!

Hot Artichoke Dip

- 1 block softened cream cheese
- 1 stick softened butter
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1- 12 oz can artichoke hearts (drained)

1. Blend all together
2. Put in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish
3. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
4. Bake 350 for 30-40 minutes or until it bubbles

Serve with crackers, pita chips, tortilla chips, whatever!  This dip is always a big hit!

5 layer Taco Dip

- 1 container of sour cream
- 1 container of wholly guacamole (or you can make your own)
- 1 bag of shredded Mexican cheese
- 1 can of refried beans
- 1 package of taco seasoning
- 1 small can of sliced olives

1.  Blend taco seasoning with beans, pour as bottom layer in a casserole dish.
2.  Pour guacamole & then sour cream.
3.  Sprinkle cheese all over top.  Place olives all over top of cheese.
4.  Chill for at least one hour and serve straight from fridge.

* To make 6 layers, you can put seasoned ground beef on the bottom before beans.

 This one is great for a bigger crowd as it yields quite a bit of servings.  Serve with tortilla chips of course!

Cream Cheese Dip

1 block cream cheese
1/2 roll of Pillsbury crescent rolls
Few spoonfuls of minced garlic in oil

1. On a cookie sheet, put block of cream cheese & top with garlic (enough to cover top of block) and then cover with the crescent rolls, tucking it under.
2. Bake per crescent instructions, all to cool for 10 minutes before removing. Flip upside down and serve with crackers.

It's the easy appetizer and very tasty!

First Hudock Cookie Exchange

I know this is dated, but since I just started this blog I wanted to list the new cookie recipes I gathered from hosting my first ever cookie exchange!

I sent out this facebook invite:
Come and enjoy an appetizer buffet,
hot spiced cider and sample all those
delicious cookies!

We look forward to seeing you
...and your cookies, of course !

**The Rules of the Cookie Exchange**

1. All cookies should be homemade and baked.
2. No plain chocolate chip cookies, no-bakes or meringues.
3. Please bring 6 dozen total cookies.
4. The theme is "Christmas Cookies"
5. Arrange cookies in a basket or platter and be creative! Bring a large container to carry away your cookies.
6. Email  a copy of your recipe to me before the party (or bring recipe to the party)
7. Christmas attire is encouraged! The more redic the better!
8. RSVP as soon as you can and let me know what type of cookies you are planning on baking - no duplicate recipes are allowed.
9. There's a prize for the best Christmas outfit.
10. If you don't have time to bake, or have burnt your cookies, but still want to attend, you must go to a real bakery and buy 6 dozen yummy cookies.

It's no secret to anyone who knows me, that Christmas is my favorite time of year.  I put up 2 Christmas trees and completely deck out my house with decorations in just about every single room in the house. So as far as decor went, I didn't need to buy or do too much.  I went to the dollar store and bought some snowmen (I collect snowmen & may or may not be slightly obsessed with them) paper products and a few extra cookie platters ( I knew there would be people who forgot and it's not like I couldn't find a use for them myself.).  I set out my snowmen paper goods, put my appetizers on my additonal snowmen platters and even used my snowmen spreaders for some of the apps.

To avoid clutter on the kitchen table, I moved one of my plastic tables into the kitchen and threw a vinyl Christmas tablecloth over it for us to display our cookies.

Since I wanted this cookie exchange to serve as a way for people to actually go home with cookies, I didn't want us to be eating them there! So I made some chocolate chip cookies to set out, a chocolate cake, artichoke dip with crackers, cheese spread with crackers and some swedish meatballs.

I wanted to keep these festive but I was having a hard time (and running out of time) to get everything I needed for some of the drinks I had in mind.  So here's what we ended up with:
- White Russians
- Eggnog
- Holiday Hangover (7up, rum & a mini candy cane)

I didn't want to get too cheesey with this, so I just stuck to one game.  I made necklaces using ribbon and candy canes.  When everyone arrived, I gave them a necklace and explained the rules.  Everytime someone said cookie, they could take it away from that person.  By the end of the exchange, whoever had the most candy cane necklaces one.  I called this 'don't say cookie game.'

I ended up with a prize for everyone.  I went to the dollar store and bought things like: a bell necklace, a Christmas platter, oven mitts, a snowman mug, etc.  I gave 2 gifts to the person who won the 'can't say cookie game.'  Everyone came dressed up!  It was a lot of fun. One lady wrapped herself like a present, another wrapped a box and stepped into it like a present with a bow on her head and others were just in a random mix of festive gear!  The lady who won brought some maxi-pad slippers that were decorated Christmas-y and we got a good laugh out of it!  For that winner, I bought a gingerbread cookie ornament and wrote on the back "Hudock Cookie Exchange 2009. Most festive outfit".

All in all, it was a really good time!  We had a few too many drinks and were giggling uncontrollably!  We played apples to apples and just hung out.  As the night progressed, hubby came home and some of the other ladies husbands, boyfriends and more friends came over.  Most of the cookies were good, some not so much!  So cookie party = great success!


Fudge Ecstasies
1 12-ounce semisweet chocolate pieces
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped nuts

Grease cookie sheet. In a saucepan cook and stir 1 cup of the chocolate pieces, the unsweetened chocolate, and butter until melted. Remove from heat add eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla & baking powder.
Beat until combined, scraping sides of pan. Stir in remaining 1 cup chocolate pieces & nuts.
Drop cookies on cookie sheet & Bake in a 350 oven for 8-10 min until edges are firm & surfaces are dull & crackled.

Peanut Blossom Cookies 

1 bag (8 oz) Hershey’s Kisses
½ cup shortening
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup pakced light brown sugar
1 egg
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar (red or green)
Heat oven to 375
Remove wrappers from Hershey’s Kisses
Beat shortening & peanut butter in large bowl until well blended.
Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar & brown sugar; beat until light & fluffy
Add egg, milk & vanilla; beat well.
Stir together flour, baking soda & salt.  Gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls.
Roll in granulated sugar, place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown
Immediately press a kiss into center of each cookie.  Cookie will crack around edges.
Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack, cool completely before serving.

Cornflake Christmas Wreaths 

½ cup margarine
1 cup (10 oz) regular marshmallows
1 tsp green food colorsing
6 cups Corn Flakes ceral
1 tsp vanilla
Red cinnamon candies or M&M mini candies
Vegetable cooking spray
1.)    In a large saucepan, melt margarine over low head.  Add marshmallow and stir until completely melted. 
2.)    Remove from heat.  Stir in food coloring and vanilla
3.)    Add corn flakes cereal.  Stir until well coated
4.)    Using ¼ cup dry measure coated with cooking spray, evenly portion warm cereal mixture.
5.)    Using buttered finger, quickly shape into individual wreathes.  Dot with cinnamon or M&M mini candies

Bohemian Kolaches 

2 Sticks of Butter (soft, remove from fridge 2 hours before your prep time)
2 Sticks of Margarine (soft, remove from fridge 2 hours before your prep time)
2 packages of Cream cheese (soft, remove from fridge 2 hours before your prep time)
4 ½ cups of flour
½ teaspoon of vanilla
Solo fruit filling (your choice)
Powdered sugar
First preheat oven to 350 degrees
1.)    Combine the Butter, Margarine, Cream Cheese, and Vanilla once mixed (mix by hand) add in flour.  Place in refrigerator for 1 hour. 
2.)    Split dough in half, roll with rolling pin, you don’t want it to roll too thin they will crumble and burn, should be about half an inch thick. 
3.)    Use a small to medium size glass to cut circles in the dough.  Lift circle out and place on cookie sheet, than take you thumb and press in the middle of circle, this is where you will put your filling.
4.)    Use about a spoonful of filling try not to over fill, you don’t want it to over flow as it bakes.
5.)    Your cookies will bake anywhere from 10-15 Mins; they should be lightly brown, check bottoms of cookies through out bake time to make sure bottoms don’t burn.
6.)     Let cool and than use a sifter to sprinkle powder sugar over the top.
It may take a few times for you to perfect this recipe, it’s a recipe where you have to feel and touch and the batter should be soft.

2 cups flour
½ cup powered sugar
1 cup butter
2 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla

½ bag of powered sugar

1.)    Preheat oven to 350
2.)    Mix all ingredients together with a wooden spoon.
3.)    Take ½ teaspoonful of dough and roll into ball.  Roll out (using your hand as a roller) to create a half moon shape.
4.)    Bake for 8-9 minutes
5.)    Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes and while cookies are still warm, dump them in powered sugar to cover entire surface.

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies‏

1/2  cup butter, softened
1/2  cup peanut butter
1/2  cup granulated sugar
1/2  cup packed brown sugar or 1/4 cup honey
1/2  teaspoon baking soda
1/2  teaspoon baking powder
1  egg
1/2  teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4  cups all-purpose flour
  Granulated sugar

1.) Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large bowl combine butter and peanut butter. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. Beat until combined, scraping the side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and Vanilla until combined. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. If necessary, cover and chill about 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.

2.) Place additional granulated sugar in a small bowl. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in sugar to coat. place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the tines of a fork, flatten balls by making crisscross marks on top.

3.)  Bake in preheated oven for 7 to 9 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool.  makes about 36 cookies

To Store: Place in layers separatd by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

*** For lots of crunch in these classics, opt for extra-crunchy peanut butter instead of the smooth variety.****

Baking Tips
Many cookie recipes require the dough to be chilled before baking. Here's why chilling is necessary.

-Softend butter or shortening used in the dough often makes the dough too soft and sticky to work with.

-Chilling the dough causes the butter to harden a bit, creating a firm dough that is easier to handle.

-When cookie dough rests in the refrigerator, the glutens in the dough relax, which results in tender cookies.

-Chilling the dough minimizes stickness, making it easier to roll out.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp milk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet choc. chips

1.) Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and stir well.

2.) Add vanilla and chocolate chips.

3.) Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350º for ~10 minutes.

Turkey Soup

- 2 turkey wings (usually around 1.5 lbs total)
- 1 small white onion
- 1/2 bunch of celery
- 1/2 bag of carrots
- 5 chicken bouillon cubes
- Seasonings (I use basil, oregano & parsley)
- Salt & Pepper

1.  Clean turkey and place in a large soup pot.  Fill with water so that turkey is covered completely.

2.  Throw in whole skinned onion, bouillon cubes & salt & pepper.

3.  Cook to a boil for 1-2 hours.  I wait until the onion has gotten so soft that its completely broken up.

4.  Remove turkey wings and allow to cool.  Once cool, the turkey should be so tender it will just fall off the bone. I like to sort of shred it into pieces that are reasonable for the soup.

5.  Pour in celery & carrots.  Add seasonings.

6.  Cook for another 30 minutes or so, by this time your turkey should be ready to go back in.  Cook for another 30 minutes.

This makes enough for about 6-8 servings.  I like to freeze half of it in the winter tho.

Parmesan/Romano Crusted Tilapia

- 3-4 Tilapia fillets
- 2 large lemons
- 1/2 cup of Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup olive oil
-  lemon pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425.

On a cookie sheet, put the fillets in center, squeeze 1 lemon over fillets  and season to flavor.  Bake for 10 minutes, turning over midway through baking.

Mix olive oil & lemon juice from remaining lemon.

Take out of oven and turn on broiler.  Pour above mixture over fish and then sprinkle with Romano (or Parmesan) cheese.  Set under broiler for 5-7 minutes.  (cheese will form a crust)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I had the pleasure of learning how to make sushi myself so we can eat it more often without breaking the bank.

Makes 5 rolls:

- 2 1/2 cups calrose rice
- 1 package of roasted seaweed sheets
- 4 oz of sushi grade (every important or you will get sick) fish of choice... smoked salmon and precooked crab is always safe
- veggies & other mix-ins of choice, sliced into long strips
- 3 1/3 cups of water
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar

1. Rinse rice out 3-4 times, the water should go from cloudy to almost clear.

2. Boil rinsed rice with water, once boiled - lower heat and simmer (covered) for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, let sit (covered) additional 10 minutes (I fluffed the rice before letting it sit another 10 minutes). Place in *PLASTIC* bowl (it is important once rice leaves pot it does not come into contact with anymore metal) cover with damp paper towel and let cool in fridge for 10-15 minutes.

3. In a cup mix vinegar & sugar - microwave for 30 seconds (you can also boil this if desired).

3. CUT in (do not mix, stir or fold) vinegar/sugar mix to bowl of rice. (it's gonna smell... aka kind of reek, lol).

4. On a sushi rolling mat - place seaweed shiny side down and flatten rice over it, leaving a 1/2 inch space on the bottom. It is easier to flatten it with a wet spatula and then manipulate it with your fingers (you will wash your hands a lot). Make sure the rice is not too high as you dont want a monstrous roll, but just about 1/8 of an inch high off the seaweed.

5. Place fish, veggies, etc in the center and roll towards you creating a lip on the roll and then work with it to flatten it out and roll it closed.

6. SLICE with a *WET* knife in half, placing the 2 halves next to each other (its just easier to cut) and then slice into 6-8 pieces total (off one roll).

You can enjoy it right away or cover with syran wrap for later use. I didnt have syran wrap and used foil and it was ok, but the next day you could tell it was not as fresh.

I made 10 rolls total since we were having company. Here were my combos:
- salmon & cream cheese (Philadelphia roll)
- salmon, cream cheese & cucumber
- crab & cream cheese
- crab, cream cheese & cucumber

I played it on the safe side since it was my first time. We tore it up! Our non-sushi loving friends are now hooked! And we had plenty left that we had a little sushi picnic in the basement the next day.

Slow Cooker: Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Take a 2-4 pound pork loin or pork shoulder, season (I use salt, pepper, onion powder & garlic powder) and put in crockpot with a package of onion soup mix and a little water.

Cook on high for 4 hours of low for 8.

Remove, pull pork apart with 2 forks, add in crockpot your favorite BBQ sauce (we're Sweet Baby Ray's snobs) and put pork back in there. Mix together & let cook for another 30 minutes.

Serve on your favorite buns.

This is a quick & easy recipe for a party since it stays warm as long as you need it too and not many people dislike pulled pork!

Slow Cooker: Taco Chicken

- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 20 oz of hot chili beans
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 8 oz diced tomatoes
- 8 oz corn
- 1 package of taco seasoning
- 2 packages of sazon
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 3 tsp of sofrito
- 2 tsp of cumin
- 2 tsp of onion salt
- 2 tsp of garlic powder
- 2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1/4 cup of hot sauce

Throw everything in the crock pot, mix and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.

This is good alone or can even be used to make tacos.

Slow Cooker: Enchiladas

• 1 pound lean ground beef
• 1 1/4 cup water
• 1 package of taco seasoning
• 2 packages of sazon
• 1 14 oz jar of enchilada sauce
• 4 cups of shredded mexican cheese
• 1 can cream of mushroom soup
• 1 can cream of chicken soup
• 4-5 corn tortillas, quartered

1. Brown meat, drain fat. Add water, taco seasoning & 1 package of sazon. Simmer for 15 minutes.
2. In a bowl mix all but 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce, 3 cups cheese, soups & package of sazon.
3. Spray crock pot with cooking spray. Add a layer of corn tortillas to the bottom, covering it completely. Add a thin layer of meat, then add a layer of the cheese mixture, then a layer of tortillas. Do this until you run out of everything, making sure the top is a layer of tortillas. Put remaining sauce on top & sprinkle remaining cheese on top of that.
4. Cover & cook for 1 hour - 1 hour 15 minutes.
** The only trouble I had with this recipe was getting it out of the crockpot. It fell apart a bit, but I think it was cause from a stupid spoon I used to get it out.

Also, this recipe yields a lot! So either serve it for a group, or prepare to freeze some leftovers.

Slow Cooker: Pork Stew

You can... throw it in the pot!

I had a package of pork tenderloin medallions that I cut up into smaller pieces, added carrots, potatoes and some chopped up onion. Threw it in the crockpot with seasoning (sea salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder) & 2 bags of brown gravy (dry) mix and then added about 3 cups of water.

I cooked it on high for 8 hours, and since I am gone for work for 12 hours, it then was on warm for the last 4.

Turned out delish! The meat was so tender, it was falling apart. I was pretty nervous about it since it was my first time just throwing things in, but we loved it.

This is a good hearty meal, perfect for winter. Definitely freeze leftovers!

Slow Cooker: Chicken Tetrazzini

• 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
• 2 tablespoons melted butter
• 1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix (can substitute with onion soup mix)
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 small onion, sliced and separated into rings (if you used onion soup mix substitute, omit)
• 3 cloves garlic, minced (can substiute with 1/2 tsp minced garlic from jar)
• 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup (can substitute with cream of mushroom soup & 1 chicken boullion cube)
• 1/2 cup chicken broth (I used 1 cup instead)
• 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1. Place chicken in the slow cooker crock. Top with 2 tablespoons melted butter; sprinkle with Italian dressing or onon soup mix.
2. Cover, and cook on High for 3 hours.
3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook and stir until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Mix in the cream of chicken soup, chicken broth, and cream cheese. Pour mixture over the cooked chicken in the slow cooker.
4. Cover, and continue to cook on Low until chicken in fork tender and the sauce has thickened, about 1 additional hour. **IF you chose to add 1 cup of chicken broth instead, cook on low for 20 minutes and then switch back to high for remaining 40 minutes. Once hour is up, unplug & let sit for 15-20 minutes COVERED!

I made this with egg noodles and poured them right into the crock to mix it with it.

Soooo yummy!

Slow Cooker: Chicken and Dumplings

* 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves cut into bit sized pieces
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
* 1 packet of onion soup mix
* 1 package refrigerated biscuit dough, torn into pieces
* salt & pepper to taste
* garlic powder to taste

1. Place the chicken, butter, soup, onion mix & seasonings in a slow cooker, and fill with enough water to cover.
2. Cover, and cook for 5 to 6 hours on High. About 45 minutes before serving, place the torn biscuit dough in the slow cooker. Cook until the dough is no longer raw in the center.

This recipe calls for 2 packages of biscuit dough but I've done it and it's just too much.

Italian Stuffed Chicken

I tried this for the first time a couple weeks ago when I was sick of eating the same things on the South Beach Diet. It was amazingly delicious & we didn't think we even liked spinach! I'm made it again for mother's day and my parents loved it!

This also is a good recipe to use when preparing a romantic meal.

Serves: 2

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups of spinach (washed & chopped)
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
12 oz diced tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 chicken bouillon cube
½ cup water
3 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil

To make sauce: In a saucepan, heat olive oil & 2 tsp of minced garlic (careful not to burn the garlic). Add in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, boullion cube, water, oregno and basil. Cook until flavors blend together. Season with salt & pepper, lower heat to simmer until sauce becomes a bit thicker

To make stuffing:
In a saucepan, heat olive oil & 1 tsp of garlic. Add in spach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat, let cool for a minute. Add in 1 ½ cups of mozzarella cheese (enough to cover spinach). Allow cheese to melt, and then mix in with spinach so it is easier to work with.

Slice chicken breast lengthwise to create a pouch, careful not to cut in half. Fill with as much stuffing as you can, using toothpick of twine to keep it together. In a baking dish, pour enough sauce to cover bottom, put chicken on top & use remaining sauce to cover chicken.

Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Add remaining cheese to top and cook for another 5 minutes.

Can be served by itself or onto of any pasta of your choosing.

Corn Pudding

Frank was getting really sick of grilled asparagus so I decided to try some new recipes. I made this gem with stuffed spinach artichoke burgers.

This version serves 5, so we got 2 dinner sides out of it:
• 1/4 cup splenda
• 3 tsp whole wheat flour
• ½ cup egg beaters
• 1/2 cup skim milk
• 2 tablespoons butter, melted
• sea salt & pepper to taste
• 1/2 can whole kernel corn, drained
• 1/2 can cream-style corn

In a bowl, combine the sugar and flour. Whisk in the eggs, then milk, butter, salt and pepper. Stir in the corn and cream-style corn. Pour into a greased baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

This would make a great dish for a pot luck or big family meal, to make full 10 servings, simply double ingredients!

Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Burgers

In preparation for our weekend getaway for our anniversary, I started recipe hunting for some romantic and fun meals I can make during our long weekend. I came across a recipe for stuffed burgers and thought what else can I stuff them with? After getting some inspiration from some cooking forums, I wanted to try spinach artichoke dip stuffed burgers. Here is the recipe I created for them:

• 2 cups washed spinach
• 1 can of drained artichoke hearts
• 6 ounces cream cheese (softened)
• 1/4 cup sour cream
• 1/4 cup mayonnaise
• 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
• 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

• 2lb ground beef
• 1/2 onion grated or finely chopped
• ½ tsp pinches cumin
• ½ tsp pinches chili powder
• A dash of fresh ground black pepper
• A pinch of sea salt
• A tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
• 1 egg lightly beaten

Mix all stuffing ingredients together with a hand mixer. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Mix all hamburger ingredients together and make into 8 small, flat patties. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour

Scoop stuffing into center of 4 patties. Cover with remaining 4 patties and pinch edges to close.

Bake, grill or pan-sear burgers until brown and cooked to your liking.

I pan seared (it was too cold and threatened of rain to grill) them and was on a time crunch, so I didn't get a chance to refrigerate anything. I feel like adding this step will allow you to handle everything better, close up the burgers properly and avoid them falling apart in the pan like mine did.

I served Frank's on an onion bun and mine on half of a whole wheat bun. I think they would be great on pretzel buns though!

They were still delicious! Had enough left to have it for leftovers a couple days later. I made this with corn pudding.

As for the dip, I probably could have cut everything in half. I had quite a bit leftover so I brought it over to my parent's house thinking we'd munch on it before dinner on Mother's Day. Didn't happen but I left it there for them anyways.

The Patio Fiasco

We entertain a lot, especially in the summer. So now that the wedding is over with and we paid off a lot of bills, we have some play money. We would like to spend this money on a patio. Our main reason for wanting to do this is that, with our current layout, our chairs sink into the grass and we finally have a pretty lawn that we don't want ruined. We started out with the idea of extending our existing patio pavers to create a patio area large enough to put our patio table, chairs and have some extra space too. We have a 28’ x 12’ area in front of our sunroom that is perfect for it. Here is where the fiasco begins.

Well, my mom is a bartender and the bar she works at is frequented by tradesman. She happened to be talking about our patio paver project and one of her customers, a master craftsman, said, “Well I am remodeling my house and getting rid of my deck. I can give it to her for free, design it and install it.” All I was going to have to pay for was the labor. Woohoo! Right? Wrong.

5 days after his unreturned phone call and I am running into the house having just got home from work to grab my ringing phone. I was stuck in traffic for 2 hours and my bladder was about to explode. My mother says, “Chris is here, he wants to come by tomorrow, here talk to him!” I was like, “wait, mom, I have to work tomorrow!” [I do side work as a videographer for weddings] She hands the phone to him, we decide he is going to come over the following morning (Saturday) at 9 a.m.

I was a little more than perturbed at this situation seeing as I was about to work a 12 hour day the next day and now I had to get up extra early to get ready, deal with him coming over and then prepping lunch for my friends before we went to go work this wedding. Saturday comes and I am up, half ready and waiting. And waiting. And waiting. I got frustrated and went upstairs to start my make-up so I wouldn’t be rushing/running late later. One eye done and *knock, knock*. Le sigh.

An hour later and he has a few ideas but no idea of a price. Great. He tells me he will draw it up, get some prices and get back to me.

A week later and no response; he sees my mom in the bar and says the machine to make the drawing is broken. [Because there’s only one Menards in Chicago, right? *rolls eyes] Also, he can’t use his ‘free’ wood anymore because it is not big enough. Okay. Finally, after 3 weeks of waiting (and no correspondence with ME) he gives the drawing and quote to my mom. Ugh. *I* need it. I live 20 miles from my mom and only see her once a week. With my crazy commute, it’s simply too much to run over there after work one day. So I finally get the sketch on Mother’s Day.

The deck is just not what we wanted. We got the estimate and the drawing and he didn't even draw up what we discussed. He only put one set of stairs and a handrail all around it. I don't want a handrail, I need 2 set of stairs (hello, the landscapers need to get across it with a lawnmower!) and why would I want it closed off the rest of our yard? Plus the only reason this project turned into a deck was because we were supposed to be getting free wood. Which is not happening. AND the price of lumber is going up (or already has) so the estimate isn't even accurate anymore. Not to mention the fact that we are losing 2 feet of width on it because of how the roof of the sunroom overhang is and apparently the deck needs to be 13 inches off the ground, so someone as tall as Frank would hit his head on the overhang if we had it so that you walked out of the sunroom onto the deck.
So now onto different options:
We're worried about putting pavers in because the way our current ones look now. They buckled in the winter and so they are all sinking, they move, etc. We live on the corner and our house is on a bit of a slant. So that particular part of the yard is on the higher ground & gets a lot of water. We worry if we put in new pavers (even if we do it right) what's to say that in 2-5 years it won't do the same thing?
I just want a place to put my patio where the chairs won't sink into the grass.
So now, we're considering concrete... and having it stamped so it *looks* like pavers. Only problem is we don't know how much concrete would be and we just lost 3 weeks waiting for the deck quote.
So yesterday I called around. I have 3 concrete contractors coming by the house this week, already got 1 paver quote and waiting on another. I have heard 3 times now that pavers are not ideal so I really think we are going to end up with concrete. I also heard stamped concrete is more likely to crack. So watch it end up being just plain concrete. Whatever. I just want to sit down at my patio set with my beer and not sink into the grass.
This has become one big headache when it should be fun.