Thursday, March 30, 2017

IKEA-Style Swedish Meatball Meal (Recipe)

While we were driving into Memphis for a quick visit a few weeks ago, we passed an IKEA, and I told Mr. Handsome that we just had to go there for lunch. "Lunch at a furniture store?" he replied. "That's like buying fresh fish from a sewage treatment pond. No one wants that." He had clearly never had the IKEA experience.

Growing up, my brother and I loved IKEA. Whenever we were near one, we just had to stop in and order a plate of Swedish Meatballs. (We even went to an IKEA in Sweden, which was especially memorable.) We also enjoyed walking through the store and looking at all the fun gadgets....and trying to pronounce the Swedish names for everything. Some IKEA locations have cart escalators, which always added a fun twist.

Well, Mr. Handsome finally gave in to a quick stop at IKEA, and we had a blast. The Swedish meatballs with cream sauce and lingonberry jam were definitely the best part. Don't they just look amazing (see photo above)?

For those who aren't familiar with lingonberries, they are a Scandinavian wild berry. In the small grocery section at IKEA, there are dozens of lingonberry products for sale.

We ended up buying two items: a dishtowel for $0.79 (how can you pass that up?) and a package of frozen chicken meatballs.

The store also sells a pre-made package of cream sauce...

...But I decided to come up with my own recipe (see below). It was a hit! For those who don't have an IKEA nearby, any type of fully-cooked meatballs (Swedish or regular) will do. You can also make your own meatballs. For those who are vegetarian, IKEA sells meatless meatballs.

IKEA-Style Swedish Meatball Meal

IKEA Swedish Meatball Cream Sauce Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon butter
2-1/2 Tablespoons flour
3/4 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth, if vegetarian)
1 cup half and half
1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Asparagus (washed with ends removed)
Olive oil and garlic salt
Baby yellow potatoes, washed
Meatballs (25-30) 
1 Tablespoon butter

Serves 4


Place asparagus on a cookie sheet or other pan. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, and sprinkle with desired amount of garlic salt. Cook 15-20 minutes at 350F. (I use my toaster oven, but you can use a regular oven.)

Place potatoes in a pot with a vegetable steamer (with water underneath). If you don't have a steamer, just cook them how you normally cook your potatoes. Cook over medium heat until soft.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1-1/2 Tablespoons flour. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. 

Add broth and half and half. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Whisk in remaining flour (1 Tablespoon) and remaining ingredients (Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper).

If meatballs are frozen, add them to a saucepan with 1 Tablespoon melted butter, and cook (stirring every 30 seconds) over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.

Add meatballs to sauce, and cook, stirring constantly, until meatballs are covered in sauce.

Enjoy! I am kicking myself for passing up the lingonberry jam to eat with our meatballs, but we had some red currant jam on hand that worked just as well.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Makeup Tutorial Magazine Article

I am thrilled to announce that my makeup routine, "the natural look," made it into a magazine! The magazine is called Girlz 4 Christ, and my article is featured alongside content from Sadie Robertson and other young women.

My article is embedded below (double click each page to view a larger version), and you can visit the Girlz 4 Christ website to learn more about the magazine. (Click here to sign up for a free subscription, which will include the current issue.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Pandas Eating Bamboo (Videos)

A few weeks ago, I shared a video from the Memphis Zoo of a female lion opening its mouth on command just inches away from my husband and me. (It was pretty neat!) Our experience at the zoo was wonderful, as we saw several unique animals. These two videos are from the panda exhibit. I have a couple more to share, so stay tuned...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Vlog #3: Lessons in Marriage

At your request, Mr. Handsome and I just filmed another video blog. Some of you asked us to share what we have learned about relationships since getting married and moving in together, so that's the topic of this video. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice

Mr. Handsome and I have been on a fresh-squeezed orange juice kick. I know it's traditionally a breakfast drink, but we usually make it after dinner as a substitute for dessert.

I have always considered store-bought orange juice to be hit or miss. Every once in a while, you get a winner, and but you usually get a lemon (which is a real problem, unless you're in the mood for lemonade...excuse the pun).

Someday when we have more kitchen space (I really dislike clutter), we might invest in one of those fancy electric juicers, but for now, our handheld citrus juicer works just fine. And hey, when you spend 5 minutes making a single serving of juice, that juice is much more satisfying.

I am a firm believer in full-pulp orange juice, and our little $5 juicer seems to agree. The results have been delicious! At first, we used only Valencia oranges (known as juicing oranges), but then we started mixing in some naval oranges, and the already incredible taste improved by leaps and bounds. Do you enjoy fresh-squeezed orange juice?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Deviled Eggs Tutorial

Looking for a tasty snack that is decently healthy? How about deviled eggs? I recently prepared them for a get together, and they were a huge hit. Unfortunately, consuming plain eggs never fails give me a headache, so I only had a small taste, but they were great, and our friends loved them, too. Here is the recipe:

Easy Deviled Eggs

12 hard-boiled eggs
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
4 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Paprika for garnish
Cut each egg in half, lengthwise. Gently scoop yolks into a small bowl, and mash with a fork.

Add all remaining ingredients (except paprika), and mix together. 

 Arrange egg white halves along the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

Fill each egg with yolk mixture, as shown below. I used a spoon, but if you want to be extra fancy, feel free to try a pastry bag.

Sprinkle with paprika, and serve.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Baking Tutorial: Chai Cupcakes

I fell in love with chai cupcakes the very first time I tasted them, which was at my sister-in-law's wedding almost four years ago. After having them a couple more times since that day, I came to the conclusion that I had to figure out how to make them. They are just that good!

I came across a recipe on Taste of Home and made adaptations to make it slightly healthier and easier to follow. (They are still cupcakes, though, so there is only so much you can do to make them "healthy.") Hope you enjoy my tutorial!

Homemade Chai Cupcakes


1-1/2 teaspoons of the following 5-spice mixture:
   1/2 teaspoon cinnamon  
   1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
   1/2 teaspoon cloves
   1/2 teaspoon cardamom (the "secret" ingredient)
   1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1-1/2 cups flour (I use unbleached white)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup 2% milk

3 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 Tablespoons 2% milk
Remaining amount of 5-spice mixture
Extra cinnamon for garnish
*In my opinion, one batch of frosting is just the right amount for one batch of cupcakes (makes 12). But if you're a frosting lover and want tons, feel free to double.


Cupcakes: In a large mixing bowl, use a fork or whisk to cream sugar and softened butter until all grains of sugar are mixed in (approximately 1-2 minutes).

 Add egg and vanilla, and cream until fully mixed in (approximately 1 minute).

 In a small bowl, make 5-spice mixture (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and pepper).

In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and 1-1/2 teaspoons of 5-spice mixture.

Gradually add milk and dry mixture to wet mixture. Whisk until fully combined.

Line a 12-muffin pan with muffin cups, and fill 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22-24 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cupcakes are done when toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. When cupcakes can be removed without burning your fingers, place on wire rack to cool.

Frosting: Once cupcakes have cooled, make frosting. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat softened butter until smooth. Beat in vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth. Gradually add milk until you have reached the desired consistency for decorating.  Add 1/2 of remaining 5-spice mixture, and taste. Add more if desired.

Decorate cupcakes. I use a piping bag (also known as a pastry bag). They are available at most grocery stores, but if you already have a pastry tip, you can use a sandwich-size plastic bag.

Garnish with a light dusting of cinnamon (and/or remaining spice mixture, if you didn't use it all in the frosting). Enjoy! Be sure to share your hard work with family and friends.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

More Memphis Snapshots

In addition to a visit to the zoo and the Peabody Hotel, we made a few other quick stops during our jam-packed day trip to Memphis, Tennessee. One of those stops was the Memphis Pyramid, home of a massive Bass Pro Shops. My fisherman husband was in heaven.

Built in the early 1990s as a 20,000-seat arena (used by the NBA Memphis Grizzlies and the University of Memphis men's basketball program), the pyramid is 321 feet tall and among the top ten tallest pyramids in the world. (Did you know that Memphis was an ancient Egyptian city?)

The idea for the structure, referred to as the Memphis Pyramid or the Great American Pyramid, was conceived in 1954 by a local artist. Bass Pro Shops opened a 535,000-square-foot retail store inside the pyramid two years ago.

In addition to the regular Bass Pro Shops goods, the pyramid features a wilderness-themed hotel, 600,000 gallons of water exhibits (including an alligator habitat), and 100-foot-tall trees. In the center is a 28-story freestanding elevator, which takes visitors up to a glass lookout. We elected not to pay the $10 per person for the elevator ride, but we enjoyed touring the store.

 It truly was a dream come true for Mr. Handsome!

While downtown, we stopped by the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed on April 4th, 1968. The motel now houses the National Civil Rights Museum. We didn't have time to tour the museum, but it was very sobering just to be there. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Peabody Duck March

In addition to visiting the Memphis Zoo on our day trip to Memphis, Tennessee, we also stopped by the iconic Peabody Hotel to watch the historic Duck March, a daily event that has been going on for nearly 90 years.

Never have I seen so much hype over mallard ducks. When we arrived a few minutes before 11am, there were more than 100 people lined up near the elevator in the hotel lobby. Smart phones in hand, they were all waiting patiently for the arrival of the ducks.

At 11am sharp, the "duckmaster" appeared, and an announcement came over the loudspeaker. The elevator door opened, and out walked the ducks!

They made a beeline for the fountain, jumped in, and started swimming in circles. A little anticlimactic but still quite adorable.

Apparently these water fowl live in a $200,000 marble and glass structure called the Royal Duck Palace, located on the rooftop of the hotel. Despite the luxury quarters, the hotel is very clear that it does not treat the ducks like pets. They are raised at a local farm and only live at the hotel for a three-month term, after which they are returned to the farm.

Immediately following the march, everyone hustled over to the tiny fountain to snap pictures of the ducks. Again, mallard ducks are plentiful in the wild, but I guess there's just something intriguing about seeing them indoors. I stepped back to take a photo of the eager crowed.

And then I decided to get in on the fun and snap some duck pictures.

The duckmaster asked a little girl (no more than two years old) to help him dump food into the water. From the back, she looks just like my niece!

And that's the end of my duck gallery. Have you heard of the Peabody ducks or visited the hotel?