Red Lobster from Scratch

I’ve really been craving shrimp lately. I’m not sure if it was the shrimp cocktail on the P.J. Clarke’s app menu Friday or a video I watched on HRHCollection about shrimp potstickers, but I was really itching to try my hand at a shrimp recipe for dinner on Sunday. There’s probably a Red Lobster in/around Hyde Park that could have satisfied my craving at for about half the price of cooking it myself, but what fun would that have been? Zero fun!

So I found a Red Lobster copycat recipe for shrimp scampi and a Cheddar Bay Biscuit recipe from Pinterest, and I was off to the races. I also made some asparagus on the side, but I wasn’t too crazy about that, that so I’m not going to pass that along to you because I like you! 

My mock Red Lobster dinner was actually pretty easy — the hardest part being trying to open the bottle of wine without an actual corkscrew — but it was just mediocre. I didn’t love it, but it wasn’t really bad either. But it did get me off my shrimp kick, so that was a plus!

Shrimp Scampi

1 cup white wine
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 pound Shrimp (raw, peeled, deveined)
salt & pepper to taste (to be honest, I forgot to add it. Woops!)

Combine the butter, wine, garlic and shrimp in a pan.

Bake at 350 for 7 minutes until done. (How do you know when they’re done? When the shrimp have curled into a C shape, they are Cooked. Be careful not to let them curl into an O shape, because then they’re Overcooked.)

That’s it! Super easy. 

Cheddar Bay Biscuits

2 cups Bisquick
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt 

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. 

Mix biscuit mix, cheese and garlic. Add milk and stir until well mixed.

Drop biscuit-sized clumps of dough on the baking sheet.

Bake 10 – 13 minutes or until biscuits begin to brown sightly around the edges. 

While the biscuits are in the oven, melt the butter, oregano and garlic salt in a small bowl. As soon as the biscuits are done, brush the biscuits with the butter mixture. Serve warm!

Dinner is served!

Best. App. Ever.

And no, Jimmy Fallon, I do not mean cheese sticks. 

Since the iPad came out in 2010, Kenny wanted one, but couldn’t come up with enough things that he would actually use it for. I wanted one, but the only reason I had was Labyrinth. 

Last September, when I moved into my current apartment and started cooking and baking every Sunday, my reasons to want an iPad doubled. Now, I wanted an iPad to turn into my digital cookbook. I could just see it … my shiny tiny tablet on it’s pink cover that conveniently folds into a stand. It was gonna be great. 

Sadly, I couldn’t afford an iPad on my own, so I had to convince Kenny to want one too so we could split it. However, no matter how hard I tried, Labyrinth and a cookbook were still the only reasons I wanted an iPad. I must have said it enough times though because on Christmas, there was a brand new iPad under the tree. Best. Present. Ever.

So now that we had it, we were determined to put it to good use. Turns out, that wasn’t hard at all. We use it all the time and for just about everything. But my favorite app of all time out of all the apps I have on my ipod Touch, iPhone, MacBook Pro AND iPad, is hands down, The Recipe Box app

I went from this (only note quite because I wasn’t even this organized) ….

to this.

I can add recipes from anywhere with just a few clicks, add pictures, link to the original recipe, rate recipes, organize and categorize all my recipes! I don’t lose anything, I don’t forget which pizza crust recipe worked and which one stuck entirely to the pan, it’s like, the most amazing thing ever! Anyway, I just wanted to share it with you because I love it and I thought you might too! It’s $3.99, but totally worth it. 

Home Decor: Surface Tops

Surfaces are one of the easiest parts of my apartment to decorate, which is why I struggle with them the most. Countertops, tabletops, windowsills, bookshelves — there are so many surface tops in my apartment that are screaming to be decorated and it’s so easy to just keep putting stuff on them! My problem is not finding things to decorate with, my problem is ending up clutter everywhere! 

It was brought to my attention at work the other day that I may in fact be a hoarder. I also seem to think that the crap that I keep collecting doubles as decorations. In my previous life (and my high school bedroom as it currently exists in Rochester, IL), you would find shelves covered with Beanie Babies, decorated Frappuccino bottles and every candle that I ever got from a junior high birthday party. In my new apartment, not so much. I’m making a conscious effort to decorate with less clutter. Not only that, but I’ve tried really hard to focus on practicality over just about anything else. Let’s see how I did. 

Take a walk through my home and see how I decorated some of my primary surface tops. I have bolded all the important tips in case you don’t want want to read all the words.

This pair of shelves is my ideal combination of practical and cute. First is the books. It’s always better to display your books, then box them up! Mine peek over the top of my desk, but I like it that way. You’ll see at the edge of the books is a festive mask from New Orleans, which is the only souvenir you’ll see on these shelves — I’m trying to limit the use of souvenirs as decorations to the really good ones.

On the second shelf on the far left, you’ll see a stack of magazines. Putting those on that shelf was very much intentional. It’s so easy to collect old magazines and let them pile up. Those magazines are there so that my magazine collection is limited to that height. If I haven’t read the magazines on the bottom of that pile by the time I need to make more room for new ones, then I’m probably never going to read it and thus it’s not worth taking up space! 

You can also see my tape, stapler and sticky notes hanging out on the right. I like to have my office supplies easily accessible. Plus, my passport is in plain sight so that I can always find it. Since I rarely use it, keeping it visible ensures that I won’t lose it. (Is that a terrible idea? That’s a serious question.) There’s a single picture frame and minimal trinkets.

This is one of my shelves near my desk. A good way to break up stacks of coffee table books and notebooks is to place some in/on different objects. In this case, I put some of them in a basket that I had left over from a Starbucks gift set. Another cute way to do this would have been to lay a few down horizontally with their spines facing out. 

Picture frames are great, don’t get me wrong, but I have a lot more pictures than I have room for frames. Sometimes, I like to use chunky paper clips to pin up a few photos in odd places, like the one on the left.

This vanity was my grandmother’s, and now it is one of my favorite things in my whole apartment. I think it’s classic, pretty and incredibly functional. I put a lot of thought into decorating my vanity, because I wanted to keep the classical look to it, but I also wanted to make it my own. It’s the most “me” part of my whole apartment. Lighting here was a must, so I opted to use the lamp from my grandma as well, to keep the look consistent. The perfume bottle, however, is not practical at all. There’s hardly any perfume left in there, but the bottle looks pretty and was a modern version of something vintage. I liked that contrast.

The pretty little piece on the glass shelf is a Waterford Crystal ring holder that I got from two very special people. The two lovely ladies that took me in as a volunteer at DSC while I was in college got me that when I graduated. I absolutely love it. Since this was my place that I’d spend time at every morning, I wanted to be surrounded by things that made me happy, which is why I keep that there. I topped that off with a darling floral hair clip that a Starbucks regular made for me back in Champaign. I like adding pretty little touches like that.

Since my vanity is the place where I go to look to pretty, I added a few extra pretty things to help secure that mood. I put a Coach and Tiffany bag on the bottom shelf, a few candles and a bodice jewelry stand to help set the tone.

Looking pretty isn’t enough, though. Looking pretty is only the icing on a person who’s pretty on the inside. I have one picture frame here that means a lot to me. I took this picture in junior high of all the things that made me happy, along with a sign that reads, “Yep. She’s Happy.” A lot of things that made me happy then were superficial, like money and eyeliner, but a lot of them still make me happy today, like my friends and good writing. It’s important to have a constant reminder of what makes you happy.

This is getting long, so I’ll make this one quick. Let’s try bullet points.

  • A few pictures frames (one of the boyfriend and two of old friends from college). I like to keep picture frames to a minimum, and this is about my max.
  • College participation trophy, which will obviously remain on display for the rest of my life as a constant reminder of my BFF.
  • My mom bought me that jewelry box on Mom’s weekend in college and I’m absolutely obsessed with it. It’s practical and pretty — my fave combo!
  • Displaying things people bring you from foreign countries is always acceptable. There’s a little bit of that up there. Love it!
  • And then there’s some sea shells from Galveston … I guess you can’t win them all.

Last but not least … a plant. Everyone needs at least one pretty plant! One year, my brother wanted a puppy for his birthday and my mom bought him Bamboo. I’m a firm believer in this chain of decision making:

If you want a child, get a plant. If you still want a child, get a puppy. If you still want a child, wait a year and re-evaluate. If you still want a child, then go for it.

I’m clearly still at the plant stage.

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That’s all I got! I hope you liked some of my suggestions! Check back next Wednesday for how I decorate my walls!

Cinnamon Cookies

Before our usual Friday movie, Kenny and I usually grab drinks and apps. We’ve tried out some pretty great places downtown, but lately we’ve fallen in love with P.J. Clarke’s. They have Hoegaarden on tap, which was instantly a good sign.

The other day, we were still hungry after the chicken quesadilla we split and decided to try out their dessert menu. We got the cinnamon cookie topped with ice cream and caramel sauce and it was amazing!

It was so good in fact, that it inspired me to try my hand at making it myself. I had never made or even had cinnamon cookies ever before, so I didn’t even really know how to rank all the hits I got on Google when I searched “cinnamon cookie recipe.” I found one recipe that sounded great, but it called for cinnamon chips, which Treasure Island did not carry. This was my second choice, but it turned out to be a great decision. I will definitely be making these again.

Cinnamon Cookies

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (approximately) cinnamon sugar  (1/2 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon cinnamon)

Cream sugar and butter. Beat in egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.

Add dry ingredients to butter mixture until dough forms. Use your hands to press into a ball.

Cover and refrigerate for approximately 2 hours. 

Shape dough into small balls about 3/4” in diameter.

Roll balls in cinnamon sugar and place 1” apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. 

Bake at 350ºF for 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.

Cool slightly on pans, then place on cooling rack to cool completely.

They’re delicious on their own or try these serving suggestions! 

Try them warm with a dollop of ice cream.

Or put a scoop of french vanilla ice cream between two cookies, wrap individually and let freeze overnight for delicious ice cream sandwiches!

Enjoy!

Red Tailin’

I’m notoriously bad at setting high standards, and thus, I am often let down. After I saw the trailer, I was ridiculously excited for Red Tails. I think you know where this is going.

Red Tails wasn’t really a bad movie, as long as you don’t go into it expecting it to be the next Top Gun, which it certainly was not. Now I’m no Ebert, and my favorite movies include the aforementioned Top Gun, just about anything Michael Bay (particularly Transformers and Pearl Harbor) and a narrow collection of RomComs (particularly Love Actually and Uptown Girls), so you might want to take my review with a grain of salt.

Coming from a girl who finds the line in Pearl Harbor where Ben Affleck says, “I’m not anxious to die, sir, just anxious to matter,” to be epic, it takes a lot for me to find movie scripts to to be cheesy. Red Tails had a lot of lines that really did that for me. For example …

“I sure hope we get their help again!”

“We fight, we fight, we fight!”

“My God, those pilots are African!”

“We’ll get them on the way back.”

Even I, a girl who favors RomComs and Michael Bay, found the storyline’s predictability unforgivable.

My poor taste in movies is why I’m not suggesting you just take my word for it. Check out reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, the Red Eye and the Chicago Tribune and decide for yourself!

Home Decor: Utilizing Space

My current apartment isn’t my first apartment, but it is my first out-of-college apartment, which is an equally big deal. Unfortunately, that meant putting away my orange Christmas lights (which stayed up all year, of course), my pink satin comforter and my awesome (but tacky) liquor bottle collection (which was actually just a bunch of sticky bottles of flavored Smirnoff). Luckily, my first big kid apartment came with more than one closet, a doorman (fancy, right?!) and an actual pantry! And that liquor bottle collection? We just replaced it with an oh-so-fancy Goose Island bottle collection — moving up in this world!

This is my biggest apartment to date at a whopping 1,000 square feet. More space means a few things. First, it tends to breed more stuff. Second, it’s more area to decorate and organize. In my attempts to become a real person, I’ve tried to decorate my apartment accordingly — as in moving my shot glass collection to the cabinet, instead of the focal point of my bedroom. 

One of my favorite bloggers, Alex from HRHCollection, wrote a post the other day entitled The State of my Living Area with a throwback to Decor: Arranging a Coffee Table, which I also loved. I thought it was adorable, and that inspired me to write a decor post to share with you. (Maybe one day I’ll get the guts to make a video post, too!) My house will probably never be as cute as hers … 

… but I try.

I’ve noticed that my interior decorating can be grouped into three very distinct categories. I’ll be sharing one with you each Wednesday for three weeks. 

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Home Decor Part 1: Utilizing space

I have a pretty big living room, but I don’t have a dinning room or an office. I didn’t necessarily need either of these rooms, since I can do work on my laptop from the couch and I’m perfectly capable of eating dinner at the coffee table. This comes back to to trying to be a grown up though, and grown-ups have kitchen tables, so I needed one too.

This is the living room I started with.

My goal was to add a dining area and an office area to the living room without taking away any of its utility. I wanted to have separate spaces, but not cut into the openness of the big room. My living room is also lined with windows and capitalizing on our view was also really important to me.  

The secret? Nooks.

I created nooks that where open and airy, but definitive enough to set the room apart. They added more use to the room, but didn’t take anything way from it. The divisions are soft, instead of harsh borders, which allow the room the flow together. 

The Dining Area

Purpose: All we really needed in our dining area was a table. There’s only two of us most the time, so we didn’t want a huge table, but we wanted the option to have a couple people over for dinner or lunch. We picked out this table from IKEA which converts from a table for two to a table for four. 

Location: Like I said, we didn’t want to take away from the purpose of the living room, which, for us, was watching TV. So we needed the dining area to still have a view of the TV. The window view was also really important to me, so I didn’t want anything obstructing that either. We chose this corner, because it allowed us to meet both of our standards. 

[Our TV, by the way, is on the wall opposite the couch]

Boundary: The next thing was how to set it off. I didn’t want anything obtrusive or harsh. I wanted the separation to be subtle and practical. We chose this bookshelf from IKEA, which was absolutely perfect!

The bookshelf was a great room separator because it was open from both sides, which made it was insanely practical. By using the bookshelf as a room divider, we could use the bookshelf from both sides, allowing for twice as much viewable storage space. Plus, by placing it perpendicular to the window, we hardly obstructed our lovely view.

The Office

Purpose: The idea for my office nook is actually what inspired my love of nooks. I wanted to have an area for my office that could block out distractions. I didn’t want it to be visible from the primary spaces of the room, but I didn’t want it to be a dark and isolated corner either. I chose to put it in this corner for a few reasons.

Location: By putting my nook here, the size of the living room hardly appears any smaller. The edge of the nook is parallel with the far edge of the room, which makes for a subtle cut into the room’s area. The windows were also really important in choosing the location. I wanted the natural light to help me stay alert and focused, but also to help create the sensation that my “place” was a nice little get-away. I also didn’t want to block the corner where both window walls meet, because that was the focal point of the room. 

Boundary: A tall desk made for a natural division for my office. It wasn’t quite that simple though. It started out with a simple, tall desk that I bought off one of my friends. 

To the left, you’ll notice some metal shelves. Since my desk didn’t have a lot of storage room, I needed the metal shelves to keep my office supplies, a few coffee table books and my Starbucks card collection. Also, you can tell that the back of my desk is open. That didn’t serve my purpose of creating an “office” free from distraction, plus it wasn’t very pretty. To solve this problem, I picked out some pretty curtain fabric from IKEA. It had to be thick enough to block out the light coming from behind it so you couldn’t see the silhouettes of all the stuff on my desk. I used tiny nails to attach the fabric to the desk. The silver shelves were a little lower than my desk, so I had to get creative. I pulled the the fabric taught, and nailed the corner of the fabric to the wall so that from the living room it appeared to be one solid structure. I also added a little bit of lace to the bottom for some flair. 

Check back next week for Home Decor: Surfaces.