Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Beef, mushroom, and quinoa soup

I've been on a bit of a soup kick lately. If I'm being truthful, that's an understatement. My name is Abby and I have four types of soup frozen in my deep freeze. Hiiiiiii, Abby.
I don't consider it a problem though. I mean, Winter is well on its way according to my thermometer and the number of layers I have to wear to leave the house lately. And as much as it pains me to say it, there are a few things that are nice about my most loathed season. It's super pretty for the first snow (after that it's all dirty and brown and I'm ready for Spring), I love having the fireplace on in the evenings for that cozy feeling of relaxing before bed (the fireplace use is frowned upon in the Summer months), and cuddling up to a nice piping cup of hot chocolate or bowl of homemade soup is truly one of the most comforting feelings in the world when it's frosty out the window. If you live in a place where you don't experience Winter, I'm mostly jealous of you, but I also feel a teensy bit bad that you don't get the experience of being snowed in and not have to shower for 2 days at a time while scrapbooking your little heart away and drinking spiked apple pie mugs until a nap on the couch is seriously inevitable.
Anywho...back to my soup problem. I don't know what it is about this year, but I've never made more soup in my life. I've always had a couple go-to's that I make a few times each Winter and freeze the rest for later because the batches just can't be small for some reason. Truth be told, a lot of them are better after thawing and reheating, the process melds the flavas even more than simmering all day for some reason.
My mom's chicken noodle soup is my absolute specialty, and I just realized when I was searching to link the recipe here that I haven't posted it yet. Blasphemy. I can't believe one of my most made, most loved, and oldest recipes (I seriously think it was one of the first things I made on my own) hasn't made it here yet. I think I just always assume I have posted it already? Anyway, I'll get on that soon...pinky swear.
Besides Mama K's chicken noodle soup, my most made soups are by far her tortelini soup, and my variation of her chicken noodle using beef, my beef noodle soup. But this year I have stumbled upon a few other amazing soups to slurp that I am head over heels being my Aunt Kris' tomato basil soup and my most favorite soup of all time that I've made at home to this date, the cheesy veggie chowder.
So a couple Saturdays ago (the week before the wedding, as if I had nothing better to do) I decided to fill up my deep freeze with a couple more soups for the winter, like any good food hoarder would do to procrastinate stuff that really needed to be done. I made the staple chicken noodle to get rid of a ton of veggies I had leftover from a party, and decided I would do a beef soup as well, but wanted to sub the noods for some quinoa (my other creepy obsession this year) since I had heard it is just as fabtastic in soups as it is in everything else. Enter the world of beef, mushroom, and quinoa soup and prepare to never want to leave.
1.5 cups uncooked, rinsed quinoa
1 small onion, diced
3 green onions, diced
3 cans mushrooms
1 large beef roast
2 bay leaves
2 large can beef broth, plus an extra one to add after simmering when the quinoa soaks up the liquid
cracked pepper to taste
"Let's get this soup party started" said no one, ever. Except for me, right there. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, slather your beef roast in olive oil as well as a little salt and cracked pepper to taste. Cook your beef roast until done. I went for about 30-40 minutes, and cut into the roast to make sure there was no blood. It doesn't need to be over done, because it will cook more in the soup.
While the roast is baking, bring your 2 large cans of broth to a boil on your stovetop. Add the bay leaves and quinoa to cook, stirring continuously for about 10-15 minutes while boiling. Add the onions and mushrooms and turn the soup down to simmer for another 15 minutes.

Cut your meat into bite sized pieces and add it to the soup as it simmers. I usually let it rest a few minutes after baking, so you don't lose all the wonderous juices, but you can also dump the juices into the soup for more flava if you hate waste. Float your own boat, ya know!?

The soup is done once all ingredients are added and simmered for a while but it honestly only gets better the longer its allowed to stay out and party on the stove. I had two soups partying at once...I'm crazy like that.

Bowl it up and serve! I enjoy buttered bread with soup, rather than crackers. Crackers go with chili but bread goes with soup in my can choose how your world works, but I'm telling you that my world is pretty sweet.

I'm honestly not sure how I came up with this recipe, it all just sounded good together. I almost added more veggies but thought keeping it simple would be best. It turned out very well, Main Man was a fan when I woke him from his nap with a steaming bowl of it. Food in your face the instant you awake from a peaceful slumber = one of the only acceptable reasons to rouse a husband "watching" football on a Saturday afternoon. I win :)

Sidenote: the big gallon sized ice cream containers work perfectly to freeze soups if you have them. Mama K saves them for me from the nursing home she works at when they have ice cream socials, which leads me to feel the need to fill them up with soup to freeze. See, it's not even my fault!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Spanikopita bites

Alright, alright, alriiiight. I meant to say that as in "let's get down to business, I'm back from my hiatus, let's do this", but I'm hearing it in the voice of Matthew McConaughey's creepy older dude character in Dazed and Confused. You know the guy..."I keep getting older, and they stay the saaaame age". Giggity. Gross.
Well, that opening paragraph went well out of the direction I planned it to, but that's life, I suppose. It's been a minute since I've given you a recipe, so I figured I better start with a sweet one. Not sweet as in sugary, but sweet as in yumtastical, and a little different than your average appetizer. We recently planned a surprise 30th birthday party for my friend Michelle, and this was one of my contributions to the spread of mouthwatering food. We had the the buffalo chicken dip and a pony keg of the seasonal pumpkin beer that she loves so much around her birthday. But I wanted to go out of the box a little for my part, and with Michelle and I having similar tastes in food, I thought this sounded delightful, light, and I hoped Michelle would too!
I found this recipe on Pinterest...naturally...and had been saving it for our next get together. Check out my new bakeware I got from the wedding...cork bottoms to put them in after baking so you dont need a pot holder or a trivet. Yeah, we're moving up in the world.  Anyway, besides being really tasty (in my humble opinion), they were also easier than pie! I did cheat though, I used mini phyllo cups that were already formed (in your freezer section) rather than rolling out the phyllo dough and making my own. Do what you choose...I choose quick :)
2 packages phyllo cups
1 small onion, chopped (I left this out because we had an onion hater in our midst, Christina I love you)
3 green onions, chopped
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (I used fresh spinach)
6 oz feta cheese, crumbled (I used reduced fat)
1 cup cottage cheese (I used fat free)
1 egg
2 T olive oil
8 T butter (I used 1 T butter for a little flavor)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add white and green onions, cook until softened (3-4 minutes). Add spinach and butter until spinach is wilted, stirring continuously. Meanwhile, mix feta, cottage cheese, and egg in medium bowl. Add cooked onions and spinach and season with salt and pepper to taste.
I covered the filling and refrigerated until I went to the party the following night, so that would be your best bet if you're preparing this ahead of time. Otherwise, just scoop the mixed filling into the phyllo cups, and place them in a greased baking dish to cook. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown....they should look like this:

If you use phyllo dough, you will need to roll it out and bake the dough in mini cupcake tins to make these phyllo cups to fill. I skipped that step...

The party went off without a hitch and I was glad I had my food prepared before hand so everyone could munch for the evening and there was not much cooking involved. If I were making this again, I would add some crushed red pepper for a little know me :) Besides that, these were a wonderful finger food that's a little different than the average dip! Enjoy the first recipe I've given you in a couple well as a picture of the birthday girl I will leave you with:

Yeah, that biz had a baby less than 2 months ago...30 and fabulous!!!!

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Wedding recommendations

I'm baaaa-aaaaack! That was said in my most scary haunted house-ish voice, just so you know. Happy Halloween week, all! Oh, and happy new last name week to me...we just got the marriage license in the mail so I am headed to get de-Kratoska'd at the DOT today. Going to be strange to change things up after almost 30 years (especially since Kratoska was not an easy one to learn), but I'm pretty pumped to have become a Stensland! Just in case you're doesn't feel any different to be married. I still make dinner every night, and Main Man still takes out the trash. I catch glances of my updated ring with the wedding band on it once in a while, and that's about the extent of the change so far. I'll keep you posted on any new developments in that department though...
This post was meant to be all about the jewelry...I had it all set up with the best pics of my jewelry and the bridesmaids jewelry, so you could see the details of it and love it like I do. But then I couldn't choose my favorite photos, so I thought I would showcase the photographer here too...and then I saw one photo that perfectly showed the flowers and the jewelry together, and thought I should add the flower lady in here too. So this just turned into an "if you're getting married in Iowa, use these vendors because they rock my face off" post. So here we go :)
My mom's long time friend, Laura Comito, handmade all the fabulous jewelry for me and the wedding party. I've known Laura since I can remember, and I used to babysit her kids when I was a teenager, so when I thought about jewelry, I knew I had to talk to her and get some one-of-a-kind stuff that was not off the shelf like everyone else's stuff. I couldn't be happier with the results! She owns Artworks Studio (click on the link to hit her facebook page) in Carroll and she put together the most stunning jewelry I could've dreamed of for my big day! See my antique broach with dual pearl strands??  See the the yellow, grey, and silver beading for my bridesmaids? See it?? *Sigh* I hope I have another fancy occasion to wear this piece again, and also hope for a daughter to pass it down to someday.

Laura packed the necklaces in a gift box for the bridesmaids and I made these thick holders for the earrings to gift them to the bridal party. I was given the .pdf from a friend who saw that I had pinned something like this on Pinterest...she had just made something similar for her sister's wedding and sent me the file so I could make my own. How awesome did they turn out!? I'm not sure how to include a .pdf in a blog post (mama needs to practice blogging more now that wedding planning is over) so if you would like this file, you can email me at and I will send it to you.

These were the photos I thought showcased the jewelry the best, but these are also some of my favorite photos from the photographer. The veil effect turned out beautiful...
For those of you that didn't see my blog post with the engagement photos, you haven't heard me singing Paul's praises from the rooftops yet. I've been in a lot of weddings, folks...and I mean a lot. Paul is by far the best photographer I've ever seen in action, between getting guys to do Pinterest poses they really don't want to do, to working the flower girls and ring bearer into smiling when we needed them to, to getting Main Man and I to look so natural in some extremely awkward poses that feel anything but normal....Paul is the man. If you are in need of a photographer for family photos, senior pics, newborn sittings, or especially for weddings...tell Paul I sent you to and get ready to see yourself turn into a real life model before his camera lens. I'm telling you guys...I do not look this good in real life!
The next person I need to let you know about (and believe me, you want to know about her) is Naomi at Iced by Naomi (which is a subset of Cache Bake Shop in Clive, IA). We had three different flavors of cakeballs, and I literally saw people stuffing them in their pockets as they walked by the cake table. This is not an exaggeration. I told them they can have as many as they want, and they continued to stuff them in their pockets like little kids. These things were to. die. for. No joke. And this is coming from a chick who didn't care if they had cake at the wedding at all...we weren't even going to do a cake cutting ceremony at all. Main Man and I have always been the type to have another plate of food rather than hit the dessert table. You guys, we ate that cake down to the box...we licked the frosting off that sucker. It was a little embarrassing. I just want you all to know how serious I am here...we shall never order cake from anyone else again. Ever.

Besides, Naomi came and set the whole table up, leaving us no work to be done involving the dessert table. Awesomesauce. If you want to contact Naomi, you can email her at and tell her I sent you!

Now for the flower...ohhhhhh, the flowers!! For those of you that don't know, my mom went to horticulture college and used to own her own flower shop. She was a bit nervous letting me hire someone to do the flowers for the big day, but I didn't want her worrying about a job that large the day of the wedding...and I had the perfect person in mind. Jessica did the wedding flowers for a good friend of mine who got married last Fall and I was in love with them. They were gorgeous shades of purple I hadn't ever seen before, put together so perfectly that I kept trying to snap pictures at all angles to get the best angle to capture their beauty...but to no avail. Absolutely breathtaking.
So naturally, I got Jessica's contact info from my friend, and met with her to see what she thought about my colors. I showed her some Pinterest photos, talked to her a few times, and she delivered the flowers without me even seeing her the day of the wedding. Totally hands off, totally beautiful, totally what I wanted, and totally reasonable pricing. She was the easiest vendor possible, and I couldn't have asked for a better result. If you need flowers for any occasion, Jessica works at the Botanical Center in Des Moines, so she's very knowledgeable if you have questions. You can contact her by email at
As you know if you saw the post about our save the dates, my cousin Emma is an extremely talented graphic designer and just opened  her own business called Doodle Poodle Designs. She designed and assembled all our programs for the day of the wedding, from a couple ideas I sent her. I don't even have words to describe how great she is at what she does, her meticulous eye is evident when you see the finished product. I have some very talented family members, I'm telling you!
OK, I can't stop, here are a few more of my favorite photos of Main Man and I on the big day...I could look through these all day. Each of these photos gives me the lovely feeling of being there in the moment all over again, and allows me to continue to enjoy all the wonderful details that went into planning for it all.
He's perdy handsome, huh!?

Just announced...Mr. and Mrs. Main Man
The picture above and the picture below both show the gorgeous venue we were so lucky to find when searching for the place to hold our big day. Prairie Moon winery in Ames was one of the first places we visited, and we both fell in love with it immediately. There's such a laid back but classic ambiance there...and I can't think of a better place to have gotten married, than in a vinyard. The owners are fantastic people, and were more than helpful with planning questions, suggestions, and vendor ideas since they do have weddings there most every weekend...they've had some practice at this stuff! If you have any need for an event venue, even business meetings, be sure to keep them in mind....Janet saved my life a few times with her planning help, you can contact her at so she can save yours too!

We had actually used our DJ before the wedding, so he wasn't hard to find! Ty-Tunes is owned by a young dude from Main Man's hometown who started his own business at a young age, and really gets a person excited to do something with themselves when hearing his story. He's been working as a DJ since he was in high school, giving up his weekends to work parties and now weddings, and just has the entrepreneurial spirit that I love to see in a young guy! We had Main Man's 30th birthday party a couple years ago in our shop, and Tyler was there with all his sound and light equipment to make sure the party went off without a hitch...and it did! We will continue to use him and recommend him to friends for any DJ needs, if you would like to get ahold of Tyler you can email him at to see if he is available for your needs. Tyler even set up the music outdoors for our ceremony, and then moved his equipment inside for the reception so we could use him for the whole event. Everything was perfect, and he kept the night moving at the right pace too...we will be calling your for our next big shindig, Tyler!

Pinterest shot :)
Seeing each other for the first time before the ceremony

Three generations of ladies...Bingaman, Kratoska, and now Stensland

The dress I won in a Facebook contest from Simply Bridal

Yes, I had a bridesman. My oldest friend Chris stood up on my side for the wedding.
Since this is a food blog, I should definitely mention how wonderful our caterer was (which you already know if you're from the Carroll area). We used Lidderdale Country Store for our meal the night of the wedding, and although I don't have photos of any of the food yet, you betta baleev they're coming! I've grown up going to weddings using Lidderdale so it was a given to use them for our celebration, knowing they would be completely hands-off for me, and the food would be phenomenal per usual. We served poppyseed chicken, pork loin in au jus, and lasagna (Main Man's choice) for our mains as well as baby red pototoes in butter and garlic, corn, 7 salads (including their famous caesar and my favorite taco) and not one person left hungry, I would put money on that! They are extremely reasonably priced too, which sweetens the pot even more.
Anyway, I'm sure all of you are excited to hear that we will be back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow...and I will actually give you recipes the rest of the week! It's been a nice little hiatus but I have some yummy things to share with you so stay patient, and we will be back in full force tomorrow!
Mrs. S :)

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Bridesmaids wedding shower and bachelorette party

Here it is. My last post with the Kratoska name. I'm taking wedding week off from all unnecessary responsibilities to focus on not pulling out my hair or grinding my teeth in my sleep. No time for cooking...actually, that's a blatant lie. I cook when I stress. I made two different homemade soups to freeze and homemade spagetti sauce to can this weekend. Yeah, when I get overwhelmed, I add more things to my to-do list...go ahead and try to tell me how counterproductive that is...I won't listen. So I do have some things to share with you, just no time to write about them. Such is life. I'll be back next week with all sorts of fun things to talk about, and a brand shiny new last time to boot!
Today, I shall share with you in photos, the final shower and my bachelorette party that were both thrown by "the girls". The girls are my people. They're the ones that have been around, some since high school (I don't care to mention how long that's been) and some the last few years, through the great times, the crap times, the times when I need to spill and vent, the times when I need wine and girl talk, the times when I cry happy tears, the times when I have sad tears. We've been through four weddings together, 3 babies, as well as 2 pregnancies with babies on the way right now, some multiple states apart, some 10 minutes away...all of these girls are irreplaceable in my life. They sure know how to make a girl feel special, and I hope they understand how deep an appreciation I have for everything they did to make that weekend unforgettable. Thanks, ladies...I couldn't be as happy as I am in life if it weren't for your support, advice, and love throughout the years.  Here's a toast on the last Monday of my single life, to you!
The Girls :)

They snuck my Aunt Lisa in from Chicago to surprise me :)

Cheesecake bar....stop it!

Mini lasagnas

Caprese skewers, fruit and dip, and buffalo chicken dip
Manda and I getting the bachlorette party kicked off!
Mama K and her sissies

The girls and I at the winery for our tasting

Mama K, the aunts and I :)

Bet you didn't have a prego pole dance at your bachelorette party!

What a perfect night!

Aunt Vicki and I

My moms :)

Cousin Michelle and I!
So there you have it. All the festivities leading up to the festivity of my life...I will be sure to share with you some wedding photos after the big day is behind us. Until then, so long blogosphere...I will be a Stensland when I return! :)

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jamison wedding shower

Well, I guess since this is the week before the wedding, I should get all my pre-wedding celebrations posted for you to drool over before the actual big day is upon us! I shared the lovliness of The Kratoska wedding shower with you all earlier this week, so it only makes sense to show the shower from Main Man's side of the family this week as well.
The Jamisons are right up my alley, you guys. They're all a little weird and funny and laughy and jokey...oh, they are also genuinely good-hearted people and they love potlucks and food. Ummmmm, could I have found a better family to marry into? Methinks not.  Plus, they have this super secret real Italian family pasta sauce recipe that is just to fall over and die for and then get up and die again for...and I've been trying finagle (is that even a word and if it is, is that how you spell it?) the recipe since I met Main Man. I don't have my greasy paws on it yet, but when I do, you better bet your bottom britches dollar that I ain't sharin' it with you people! Some things are meant to keep in the family...find your own Jamison to snuggle up to for it :)
Below is the picture story of our lovely Sunday afternoon couple spagetti shower that the Jamisons all chipped in and threw for Main Man and I...I'm kinda wishing I hadn't devoured the leftover sauce that day and had some hidden in the freezer to pull out such luck. Wah, wah, wahhhhh.
Main Man heading through the line first

The holy's THE SAUCE!

Centerpieces with scrapbook paper and grey socks on the vases...brilliant!

I ate it all. Don't judge.

The dessert table. Cinnamon roll cake, peanut butter cup cupcakes, smores bars, cheesecake filled strawberries. Seriously.

The sign in table, thanks for the sign Cheryl!

What in the world could this package be?

Oh, a large camping chair...every married couple needs one!

I think he liked it :)

Brother Ben has returned from overseas!! Don't worry, he has since removed the raccoon from his face for the wedding.

Main Man's uncle Dewey recieving his retirement gift!

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