Penne with Vodka Sauce

Penne in Pot

No Mani Monday today – I’ve had to trim my nails due to upcoming gigs on cello and the need to practice. They’re just so horribly hard to keep painted when they’re nothing but nubs. Instead I have for you a dinner I made last week – Penne with Vodka Sauce.

Unfortunately I don’t have a recipe for this one. It’s a family dish (yea, a mostly Russian and Ukrainian family has a heritage Italian recipe… figure that out) that I’ve been cooking so long I’m not even sure there ever was a recipe to begin with. I just sort of go and throw stuff in until it looks right. Tomatoes, garlic, vodka, meat, cheese… sometimes some mushrooms, spinach, and onions depending on my mood.

One of these days when I’m cooking it I’ll keep track of what and how much of things I add so I can post it here, but for now I guess it just serves as proof that I’m keeping to my cooking plans in terms of finances – cooking affordable meals in large quantities that can feed me all week.

I’ve Been a Bad Girl…

All together

So I told you last post that I broke my spending rules already thanks to a trip to NY. Here’s the fall out.

jitterbug

These first two skeins aren’t technically rule violations – my mom gifted them to me. A skein of Jitterbug and a skein of Cascade Heritage Silk. Both so beautiful, and ohhhh so soft.

Cascade Heritage silk

When she told me to pick out two skeins of sock yarn for myself, I tried to veer away from my usual color choices of purples, pinks, and greens and instead go for something more neutral. They’re both just neutral enough to still be considered neutral, but still interesting enough to hold my attention. I don’t know what it is, but I have trouble buying single-color yarns.

And after this, I still did good. There were so many other skeins that tempted me to make a purchase at Knitty City… but I did resist. Until the next day anyway, when this happened at Knitting Nation:

Madeline Tosh Merino light together

Madeline Tosh Merino Light in Plaid Blanket and Spectrum. But oh, just look at the colors in Spectrum! And Plaid Blanket is just so delightfully… earthy.

M Tosh spectrum close up

But it gets worse, because then this happened too:

malabrigo worsted

Malabrigo Worsted in Malambo

And then this:

manos pink

Manos del Uraguay Wool Clasica in 113 Wildflowers

And then my mom bought me this as well (so again, not technically a rule violation, but still):

Manos Tardis

Again, Manos del Uraguay Wool Clasica in 110 Stellar. This colorway makes me think of the Tardis for some reason.

sheep stitch markers

And to round out my bad girl rule breaking, the cutest stitch markers ever (again, thanks mom!).

But this is beyond out of hand now. And so I’m announcing an official amendment to the no yarn rule by eliminating the exception (one yarn purchase [meaning enough for one project] per 5 projects completed) until all of these new purchases have been used PLUS the five FOs required for the exception to kick into effect.

Here’s hoping I don’t break this rule again.

Another Quick NYC Trip… With a Few Broken Rules

The Met full with fountain

So I went to NYC last week for two days with my Mom. I never know how to handle these posts about our trips to NYC… my writing about them always seems too “boring vacation photo slide projector presentation.” We live in relatively close proximity to NYC – it’s only about 2-3 hours in depending on the traffic, so NYC visits have become pretty normal for us. We don’t really do any of the sightseeing or excursions or any of the other things that would make good blog fodder anymore. Basically nothing that people would care about. Particularly this trip, which was pretty utilitarian. We went up to see a show, killed some time during the day shopping, and then went home the next morning. It’s particularly boring because I was decidedly trying not to spend money…. I wouldn’t even have been able to go up if my Mom hadn’t wanted me to come meet her so badly (she was already up there for a work meeting) and paid for my bus ticket (thanks mom!).

So I guess I’ll talk about what a test of my new financial habits this trip was, and all the rules and regulations that I set for myself to help me prepare for the upcoming financial hit.

And oh, it was a test. A test that I started out acing, but ultimately failed. My mom and I hit all our usual spots – Lush and Sephora for cosmetics. And oh, Sephora as upped their nail polish game. I mean, just look at this:

Sephora Nail Polish Bar

But I managed to resist. I bought nothing.

Then my mom took me to her favorite yarn store in the city – my first visit to a NYC yarn store. While my mom is up there about once a month or so for work or to see my brother play – I can rarely go with because of work or finances, so I’ve just never had the chance to go yarn shopping in the city.

Knitty City

Ohhhhh what a challenge. As I’ve said before, the last thing I need is more yarn. But just look at this needle and button display!

Knitty City needles and buttons

Knitty City was small, but had sooooo much packed into such a small space. I suppose I should have expected that… it is in Manhattan, after all.

Knitty City inside

My mom did make it a bit easier for me to resist purchasing anything myself; she bought me two skeins and some stitch markers (thanks again, mom!).

Kyle Athayde Dance Party

After the shopping wore us out, we grabbed some grub and chilled at the hotel for a while before heading over to late night at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, where the Kyle Athayde Dance Party was playing (the show we came to see). They were so completely killin’, I can’t even really describe it. Here’s a YouTube recording – and this doesn’t even really do them justice.

It was the late night set, so as soon as they were done we went back to the hotel and crashed.

Knitting Nation sign

The next morning we left the city, making a stop in Nyack, NY to visit my mom’s other favorite NY yarn shop: Knitting Nation. Again, my first time there.

Knitting Nation inside

And quite frankly I got overwhelmed a bit. My self-resolve just didn’t last. After the previous day of impeccable self-control I just failed the test. I had brought some cash that my grandmother had given me as a “just in case” stash (mistake #1), and between Knitting Nation and the Pickwick Book Shop right down the street… well… I lost control. I broke my rules. I bought not only yarn, but books too – both items banned by my new restrictions. I mean, just look at the yarn!

Nyack bookstore

And the books!

History section nyack bookstore

I found four beautiful old hardcover Winston Churchill histories… and they were on sale! I couldn’t resist. And so I spent the rest of the ride home kicking myself for violating my rules. Jim tried to make me feel better as I texted him on the drive home. He assured me it was okay – it was a special trip, and I did use cash that I had stashed for special things. But I still feel badly about it.

going home

The weather on the drive home seemed to sympathize!

(photos taken with my Point and Shoot – except for the first one, which is from our trip up for my brother’s senior recital… I needed a title photo and none of the ones I took this trip really worked for that)

Mani Monday: Julep Glam Rock

Julep Glam Roc no topcoat

This is Julep’s Glam Roc, which came in my February Maven Box. For those of you not familiar with the Julep Maven Program (and disclaimer – I’m not a Julep representative, just a loyal customer) it’s a subscription box service that sends you Julep nail polish and beauty products in the mail each month. When you join you take a style profile quiz, and what box you get is tailored to that. However, unlike other subscription box services you can change your style profile at will, and you get to see what’s in your box each month before they send it – you have a 3 or 4 day window in which you can choose to change your style profile (or skip the month all together) if you decide you don’t like what’s in your box or would prefer another. The fact that you have the option to skip a box is totally invaluable for someone pinching pennies like me. It’s $19.99 a box, and the first box is free. You can also earn free boxes through the rewards program – 2000 Jules = 1 free box, and you get jules each time you take a monthly box and for any friends you refer to the program. (So if you intend to join, use this link to Julep.com or click the button at the bottom of this post so I can get credit for the referral!).

I know a lot of prominent nail bloggers don’t like the program because of some hiccups, glitches, and other issues they experienced when the program first launched, but I joined last year and have nothing but great things to say about the program. All the glitches seem to have been ironed out, and to be honest, their customer service has been nothing but amazing in every instance I’ve dealt with them. In fact, the story of how I got this color is a great example – my February Maven box actually arrived to me empty. The box was crushed and had the product torn out – only the tissue paper and packaging were left. The woman at my post office said it looked like a typical case of internal mail theft – it had arrived in that condition to them – and she made a report of it. She told me to contact the company about it to let them know what happened. Most companies won’t replace stolen product, but she said it would be worth a shot.

And I was admittedly skeptical about it – after all, it wasn’t Julep’s fault. But I went ahead and did it anyway, and frankly they were amazing. They had a replacement box in the mail to me almost immediately after they verified the post office report, and were polite and wonderful the whole time.

But anyway… the polish! I’m admittedly not a texture nail polish fan. I have tried both the China Glaze Texture polishes, and the OPI Liquid Sands and I hated them. They just feel so weird on the nail, and in my opinion just look horrible. However, the Stardust Finish here is by far the most wearable texture polish I’ve encountered. The texture is not too extreme – the polish isn’t heavy or chunky, and I’m not hyper aware of the texture every second it’s on my nails – and the finish is actually really cool. Matte, but still sparkly.

Overall, this is probably going to be the one texture polish I not only keep – but actually use in normal, everyday life. Home run for Julep.

Are you a Julep fan? How about texture polishes: love/hate/meh?

Miso Salmon Dinner

Miso Salmon

As mentioned last Friday – until Easter, my one cooking day of the week is being impacted by Lent. No meat for us, because the boyfriend fasts. So as promised, after the Miso Mushroom Pasta went over well last week and it was decided that miso is not a flavor that Jim hates, it was time to go full-out and try the Miso Salmon I’ve been craving for forever at this point.

Overall it was a huge hit, and it’s really simple. I basically followed this recipe only omitting the mushrooms (the ones I picked up turned out to be moldy at the bottom of the container). It’s really easy, you basically just mix together equal parts miso and mirin (sweet japanese cooking wine – any grocery store with a decently sized international section should have both ingredients), and dump it over the salmon filets along with a pat of butter. Seal it all up in a tin foil pouch, pop them in a 400F oven for 15 minutes, and BAM. Perfectly flakey Miso Salmon.

I also roasted up some asparagus to go with the fish. That ended up being not only the perfect complement but super easy, since the cooking time and temperature are pretty much the same. I just tossed the asparagus with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder before roasting. Delicious, and came out of the oven at precisely the same time as the salmon.

Overall, A+ for this recipe and certainly one that will stay in the repertoire well past lent.

Lucky Charm Treats – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

lucky charms treats header

St. Paddy’s Day is one of my very favorite holidays. Or rather, let me rephrase that: My hometown St. Paddy’s Day Parade is one of my very favorite holidays, topped only by Christmas. I originate from the Scranton, PA area and let’s just say this – “Parade Day” (as we call it – it’s so important we don’t even need to specify. Everyone just knows) is a big freaking deal. That said, our sacred day was actually Saturday annnnnddddd I was a bad girl and didn’t bring my camera with me.

Boooooooo bad blogger.

So to make up for the lack of personal photos, here’s a tutorial for Lucky Charm Treats!

First, gather your supplies.

Lucky Charm Bars Supplies

You’ll need:

  • A box of Lucky Charms Cereal
  • A bag of marshmallows
  • Butter
  • A big rectangular baking tray of some sort – I used my lasagna pan because I don’t own any cake pans
  • A spatula of some sort for stirring and spreading

melt the butter

Second step: Melt up some butter – I used about 4 tbs.

Add the marshmallows

Third: Once the butter is all melted, add in your marshmallows and begin stirring. I used about 2/3 of the bag. I started off measuring cup by cup but then said “screw this” and dumped them all in. Sipping a Guinness while cooking makes me impatient I guess – look, I didn’t even wait for the butter to be totally melted! Just goes to show you, these are easy to make – loooootttsss of wiggle room in the instructions!

Melt the mallows

Let them melt and get all gooey and gross looking.

add the charms

Then, take the pot off the heat and add the lucky charms! I started out measuring, aiming for about 6 cups but pffffff. Who needs that. So I just dumped them in as I stirred until it looked relatively right. The cereal should be coated with the marshmallow goo – but not saturated.

spread into pan

Once all the cereal is coated, (and try not to over-stir or else the Lucky Charms marshmallows will start to melt too and the colors will run together into a muddled brown mess) dump it into your greased pan and use your spatula to flatten it all out into the corners in a nice even layer. This is far harder to do than with Rice Krispies – be patient.

Add some sprinkles

Then, just for shits and giggles and because there’s no such thing as too much sugar, add some sprinkles. It’s a good idea. Trust me.

Finished lucky charm treats

Let them cool (as eager as you may be, you really do need to do this – just ask my burnt finger), and then enjoy your Lucky Charms Treats!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Miso Mushroom Pasta

broccoli

I don’t get to cook often. My schedule basically allows me time to cook a nice, hot meal from scratch once a week on Fridays – twice if I’m lucky and don’t have a concert to work Saturday evening. And so I savor my cooking time. It’s something I absolutely love to do, and Friday meals usually work out very well, providing a nice hot dinner for me and Jim (the boyfriend) and depending on the recipe, several other meals that can be frozen and eaten at some point in the future at work.

However, recently I’ve run into a problem. It’s lent.

Now, I don’t fast. It’s just not something I do. But as a Catholic, Jim does. And apparently all my recipes are completely meat-centric. Even my vegetable soup. So I’ve been on the look out for great meatless recipes so that I can keep cooking these next few weeks. This past Friday I tried out a recipe I found while looking for ways to use the pound of miso I bought a few weeks back: Miso Mushroom Pasta.

I’ve been wanting to make miso salmon for a while, but Jim has never had miso before – not even basic miso soup. So he doesn’t know if he likes it or not. This pasta seemed like a great way to introduce it – the mushroom flavor stays dominant, with the miso only enhancing the flavors already there. Plus, this way if it turned out he absolutely hated the taste of miso, it wasn’t $10 worth of salmon down the drain.

Sauce

Overall, the pasta was a success – and we were so hungry that we totally forgot to photograph the finished product. It’s an easy recipe – most of it hangs on the Progresso Recipe Starter providing the base for the sauce. Add some miso and some greek yogurt and you’re good to go (I left out the sriracha because I’m a weeny and don’t like it). I also sautéed up some mushrooms to add some “meat” to the sauce other than the broccoli. The whole process took me about 20 minutes from start to finish, and it fed us for the next two days – it reheats beautifully.

Final grade for this recipe? A+ for both taste and ease. And Jim didn’t hate the miso… so the salmon is on the docket for tonight! Wish me luck!

Any great meatless or miso recipes I should try?