1. A Christmas Gift Claimed
At Christmas, we offered my sister and her boyfriend a homemade, 4-course dinner of their choosing. They decided to do Italian and recently claimed their gift.
|The gang in midst of chowing down.|
|Pizza fondue. Heat one jar of pizza sauce and choose dippers. I made homemade focaccia, and added cubed fresh mozzarella, pepperoni, and tortellini.|
|Cheese, bacon, and chicken pasta bake. This recipe has been modified, but check out the original here|
|Chocolate Lava Cake. The recipe is super easy.|
I love food and holidays. You can learn so much about culture and history just by eating. I enjoy learning how people celebrated events with food. It's such a fun way to honor and respect the traditions of others.
We don't celebrate Lent, but Mardi Gras has been a staple since I started taking French back in high school. Our teacher would always make crepes the whole day while we decorated masks with glitter and feathers. I'm pretty sure the janitors loathed this day.
I almost missed Mardi Gras this year. Wasn't paying attention until I saw an article online for recipes. The night before, I ambitiously tackled King Cake.
If you're not familiar with this fun tradition, check it out here. Long story short, it's a large pastry that's made using the traditional colors of Mardi Gras (green, yellow, and purple) and has some religious connotations.
I actually enjoy making breads, so this was a fun prospect. I used this recipe on All Recipes and added the cream cheese as suggested by a reviewer. I also used a green gummy bear in place of a plastic baby to avoid a choking hazard as I took this into work. Unfortunately, it must have melted as no one found it!
|This is supposed to be a ring. Guess I didn't have it stretch out enough. Still tasted delicious!|
|Took the time to dye my own colored sugar (much cheaper) though I had to buy blue dye.|
|Yummy, sugary goodness. I enjoyed making my coworkers swoon over my creation.|
The Amanas are an Iowa favorite. They are a historic community of 7 villages once populated by German immigrants, now home to excellent shops, restaurants, and spirits. Only a 20-minute drive from us, we hop over once every couple of months.
Our favorite activity is to eat at the Colony Inn, which serves its meal family-style. Which means big portions and generous bowls of mashed potatoes, bread and butter, salads, and cottage cheese. Oh yes, and sauerkraut.
|Mike is ready and alert for copious amounts of food|
|Knackwurst and bratwurst for him.|
|Amana ham for her.|
|This is from last summer, but gives you an idea of the spread a $30 meal comes with.|
In April, I turned 27. Mike had drill that weekend so my plans were a little limited, though I went out with a friend for my first mani- and pedicure. I was just going to take myself to Dairy Queen and get a hot dog and a blizzard (which I love), but Mike decided that was the saddest thing in the world. So we got gussied up and went to Biaggi's, an Italian restaurant we've been eying ever since we moved here.
Biaggi's is priced like Olive Garden. But we threw out every budget-conscious dinning rule. We got wine, appetizers, salads (not included) and dessert, which doubled a normal bill of $35 to $75. It's ok to splurge on birthdays. Especially when we both had lunch for the next day and we believe in tipping well.
|Onion focaccia and olive oil/Parmesan for dipping|
|Caprese salad: tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, onions, and balsamic|
|Mike nearly died when they brought out a separate boat of blue cheese crumbles to go with his blue cheese dressing|
|Huge bowls of pasta. For him, a roasted pepper/sausage dish. For her, bow tie alfredo with chicken.|
|The birthday girl with her Zinfandel. I'm not yet brave enough to try new wines at restaurants.|
|Dessert cannelloni filled with sweet cream.|