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Avec Amour : December 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

CSA Veggies: Potato Gnocchi

Doing a winter CSA, you're basically guaranteed several pounds of potatoes each week, and perhaps a few other vegetables. To be completely honest, I don't remember the last time I bought potatoes before we signed up for this CSA, so the abundance has been a challenge to use up!

so many potatoes.

I should also mention that I had Yukon Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, and Red Japanese Sweet Potatoes (what?!)

After making mashed potatoes (coming soon) and several soups, I tried to think of any other meals that were primarily made of potato. Finally it hit me - gnocchi.

My first thought was how unhealthy they were. My second thought was how terribly long they would take to make! Not to mention I was hungry RIGHT THEN, and didn't want to wait hours to eat. Once i checked out a few recipes, I combined them to make my own. I ate a handful of almonds to tide me over, and got to work.

Homemade Potato Gnocchi
45-60 min prep time, 5 min cook time
Will make 10-12 servings of gnocchi

4-5 Medium sized potatoes. or 10-12 small ones (if using the baby gold ones) - we used the Japanese Red Sweet Potatoes (they were delicious for this)
1 cup flour; additional for dusting surfaces
2 beaten eggs
optional: 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese

1 - Peel potatoes and cut into chunks. Put into a large sauce pan and boil until soft. Potatoes should easily be poked by a fork. About 20 minutes.
2 - Drain potatoes and return to pan. Use potato masher (or ricer if you have one!) until very smooth.
3 - Add flour, eggs, and pinch of salt. Use hands to mix everything until you have a big bowl of very sticky dough. Add parmesan if desired (after initially mixed). Do not use electric mixer.
4 - Put another pot of salted water on so it will be ready for you in a few minutes (if cooking now - if not, skip this step)
5 - Cover flat surface with flour, and begin to make long, skinny tubes of dough. These should be about the size of a nickel around.
6 - Cut the tubes into 1" chunks and set aside until all dough is finished.

If freezing, place on a flour covered cookie sheet or wax paper, and place in freezer overnight. Transfer to freezer bags after 12 hours.

If cooking, place the desired amount of gnocchi in the boiling water. Once the gnocchi float to the top, allow to boil 1-2 more minutes, the remove from heat.

all ready to be frozen
We ate ours with vodka sauce and really enjoyed it. I will say, they are UGLY. I didn't take any photos of them in sauce because they just looked awful (seriously, see above). I will have to work on making mine look like something edible, but they really were tasty.

I'm also really into the idea of these, because it was super short on ingredients, didn't take that long, and made us extra meals for a while! Now we can have 'home made dinner' in 5 minutes on a busy weekday night. YES!

I'd like to experiment with these, see if I can come up with a wheat-free option, perhaps a vegan one as well.

Have you ever made gnocchi before? Any other tips for making them look nicer?

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Big Sky, Montana

When I married Matt, I married into his traditions - which is fine with me, because one of them is going snowboarding in Montana with family and friends after Thanksgiving.

Well... if i have to... :)

Admittedly, I barely took any pictures this year because it was freezing and I only went snowboarding once.

this is not a joke.
But Montana is certainly one of the most beautiful places i've ever been.

at the top.
This was the second place on our tour de world this November... so we went from 93 degrees to -20 degrees in about a 24 hour period. Did i also mention that we packed a carry on each? That meant my sundress was tucked in a thermal shirt. So crazy to subject your body to such a temperature change! 

Matt's family always takes this trip because they own time share at the lodge, and also because the first and last week of season are insanely cheap. You buy one $79 pass, and you can snowboard for 14 days (the first 7/last 7).

We pay the cleaning fees on the condo, and we eat in every night. It is the cheapest trip ever, and it's awesome.

Have you ever been to Montana? Do you love it like I do? Have you ever jumped 100 degrees in temperature in a short amount of time?

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Perfecting the Multi-Way Flight

I'm always looking for the best travel deal. In the last year, my new favorite way to maximize time, locations and save money is to check into multi-way flights. It's especially helpful if you're flying into one airport and flying out of another.

This is easily done on Expedia or your travel search of choice, then you purchase through the airline listed.

Here's an example. I picked random dates and random cities, but just wanted to show the possibilities.

Let's pretend you need to go to New York and Chicago on back to back weekends.

$336, not that bad. And I didn't change any dates to see if there was a more affordable option, perhaps staying an extra day in one or the other. This has you staying in Chicago until you need to go to New York.

Now, if you booked this same trip on two different flights, you're looking at over $100 price increase per person.

Now like I said, this might be a strange example. But let's say you're flying into one airport and out of another. i.e., Flying into Seattle and taking the train to Portland. Or seeing all of your family over one holiday weekend! Let's try another. 

My husband's family lives in North Dakota and vacations in Montana, a 9 hour drive away. My family lives in Florida, and usually stays in Florida ;) But for fun, let's say we were doing Disney with my family. We'd want to fly into the vacation destinations, but then drive back with our parents for a day or two at home. 

If we fly to North Dakota, we would have to drive nearly 20 hours round trip to fit Montana in. Alternatively, we fly into one and out of the other. Same with Disney, 3 hours from my parent's house. Let's see them separate. 

Ouch. Over $900 per person, plus 1 million hours in the car. Let's see the multi-way:
The multi way in this case saves you time and money. $100 per person, and cuts your driving time in half. 

This is similar to a trip we recently took. We went to Mexico to celebrate our anniversary, but wanted to meet up with Matt's family to go snowboarding, and then drive back to his hometown for a few days with extended family. 

Since Ixtapa is remote, flights are usually around $600/person. Bismarck and Bozeman, remote in their own ways (i.e., only like two airlines fly there), are also very expensive. Typically in the $400-500 range. Needless to say, we budget for flights around here! Unfortunately, $1,000/person for Thanksgiving was not in the cards. We were able to find a multi-way ticket for just a bit more than the price of going to one of the places. So we booked it! And packed everything in a carry on. More on that later!

Give it a try. If you search your destinations and aren't seeing much savings, switch your days +/- 1 and see what happens. When we did our Mexico/Arctic Tundra tour, the magic combo of days was amazingly affordable - but move it one day in either direction, we would have paid over $2,000 per person. So check out your options!

The multi-way ticket can make your next trip go smoothly. You cut down on fly time, save money, and travel more than you paid for! 

Have you ever used a multi-way ticket? Good results?

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Friday, December 20, 2013

DIY Glitter Votives

I was on the search for some simple festive decor, and i couldn't seem to find anything that wasn't overpriced or SUPER gaudy.

Enter - making it myself.

Here's what you'll need:
A few tubes of glitter. I chose white, silver, and rose gold
Mod Podge
Small glass votives

Tea Lights for after

1 - Apply Mod Podge with the sponge to desired areas (I did some all over and some more 'color blocked') - make sure it's not too thick, but covers everything.
2 - Pour glitter over and tap lightly to loosen excess glitter.
3 - Set upside down to dry overnight
4 - Add your tea lights and display proudly! 

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DIY Natural Laundry Detergent

So i'll admit it. I'm kind of becoming a hippie.

Maybe not an actual one, but I'm far too aware of all the chemicals in things we use on a daily basis, which has triggered a change. I've been seeking natural alternatives to household products and personal care products.

I started with the detergent because i've heard of friends doing this before, and having wonderful results!

It takes about 5 minutes, and what you make last over 6 months. Not to mention it cost me about $8 for all the ingredients.

Some people use Fels-Naptha soap, but I love Dr. Bronner's everything. Plus it smells amazing! They have lavender, almond, and a bunch of other scents, but we like the peppermint. I also use a cheese grater to shred up the soap. I've read about using a food processor, but mine is a little hard to clean, so I don't want soap bits leftover :)

That's literally it. I put mine in an old Oxy Clean tub and shake it for about 10 seconds to make sure everything is mixed, but you could easily use regular tupperware or any other type of bin. I found that i need about 1/8 cup for a normal wash, 1/4 cup if it's really large or really dirty. You could mark an old laundry scoop or use a leftover measuring cup you don't use anymore. 

You could make as large or as small portions of this as you wanted, just stick to the 2 parts Borax, 2 Parts Washing Soda, 1 part grated soap. The baking soda isn't even completely necessary, but it's naturally anti bacterial and doesn't hurt :)

Have you ever made your own cleaning supplies before? 

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Non Traditional Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving.... over two weeks late. I hope it was wonderful :) We've been gone since the end of November, but I'm so happy to be home!

We celebrated Friendsgiving the Tuesday before with our Village. I cooked my first turkey and managed not to screw it up! (Thanks, Williams-Sonoma Brine!)

Only 'group photo' we took... whoops. That could have gone better.
Getting ready for dessert!

We had a great time. If you notice all the funny hats, they are from our Christmas Crackers we each had. Have you ever done them? When I lived in London, everyone had them around the holidays and I thought they were so much fun. You always get a paper crown, and some type of toy, riddle or gadget. They're kind of silly, but it's a fun tradition that I stole from the Brits, because it's just fun :) I bought them at TJ Maxx, but have also seen them at Target.

The morning of Thanksgiving, we boarded a plane! We spent 90% of our Turkey Day on three different planes and in four different airports.... whew! Luckily, our second flight had free satellite tv, so I was able to watch the Macy's Parade! Gotta love technology.

I mentioned our Honeymoon in Mexico at a resort called Capella Ixtapa in the Zihuatanejo region. It's beautiful and remote, and we just love it.

We were blessed enough to find that gorgeous resort on a Flash Sale via Jet Setter (seriously, sign up NOW) for about 60% off regular cost, and decided to take a mini-cation to celebrate our first anniversary and have ourselves a non-traditional Thanksgiving. 

We tacked it onto another trip, which I'll explain more about in the next few posts.

But as assumed, it did not disappoint.

We ate and drank to our hearts content, enjoyed every sunset on the balcony, swam in the pool, visited the shops in town, finished a few books and just generally enjoyed each others company while being unplugged. We even saw three whales playing out by the islands in the bay, schools of fish jumping around, and tons of beautiful birds. So pretty!

view from the balcony


outside. Paradise, right?
First sunset.
Reading by the pool!
Enjoying the chips, salsa, guac and cervezas they delivered to our room each night!
Dip in our personal pool.
Down by the hotel pool
Tapas menu and my Diet Coke.... i only drink it in Mexico!
We were really stressed, as you can see.
Matt asked for "Chips and Salsa, Mas Grande" for lunch.... and this is what happened. DELICIOUS.
Never gets old.
bathing suits are on, i promise!

After breakfast one perfect morning.
I mean seriously. What a forecast for November/December!
These are all iPhone pics, I have a few on my camera as well. But I think it's so beautiful, it almost doesn't matter the quality of the pictures!

Can it be our anniversary every day?

I want to go back.... NOW. I asked if the hotel was hiring, and I was only half kidding.... because if I could live there, I think I would! Also, we were leaving Mexico and heading straight to Bozeman, Montana.... aka, the Arctic Tundra. More on that later... but let me give you a hint: 100 degree difference in temperature. YIKES! 

Have you been to Mexico? If you are married, have you ever revisited where you honeymooned?

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