Friday, December 30, 2011


Some points of smart cooking I find to be common sense. To others, this might not be the case.   After my mom shared this little tip with me that I'm about to share with you, I never looked at cooking magazines or websites boasting "$10 dinners!" the same.  It's not just me right? You noticed all of these 'money saving recipes' pop up all over during this recession of sorts.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all about eating good food on a tight budget--but to be honest, many of these articles lie and call for ingredients you may never use again and make you think you're saving a buck in the long run by only using 20cents worth of this spice or that nut.  When only cooking for a few people or using ingredients that you only need a small amount of hit your grocery store to meet your new best friend that allows you to only buy exactly what amount of each ingredient (especially perishables) you need...the salad bar.  Now, I can't speak for every cook but I hate spending $3 on a red bell pepper, heart of celery, or 3lbs of carrots for one side salad, one batch of farm fresh potato salad or even family taco night, just to throw out the rotting extras a few days later. Many grocery stores today offer salad bars featuring a wide range of artisan ingredients--nuts, sunflower seads, boiled eggs, avacado.. all of which can be pricey when purchased in larger than needed ingredients. 

The smell of bacon was too much for Ranger..

I used my salad bar short cut to make double stuffed potatoes for a quick week night dinner using leftover potatoes from christmas dinner. For less than $1 I hit my local salad bar for some bacon crumbles, red onion, and cheddar cheese. I scooped out the insides of my potatoes and mashed them with sour cream and the salad bar ingredients. I topped with a small pat of butter and some additional cheese and baked them for 15 minutes.  You could add any toppings you love on potatoes--think ham and cheese, veggies and salsa, even chili from the grocery store soup crocks!

Quick, cheap & impressive dinners can be made using your brain and the change found in your couch cushions. Thanks Ma!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No twist...

Yesterday's gray clouds and strong winds made the perfect day to set up shop in the kitchen. Soft pretzels have been a long time favorite of mine and I hadn't made a homemade batch since I was a kid.  From that experience I remember very little about the preparation...mostly just forming the dough into all kinds of shapes. I made a few adjustments to this recipe and was impressed with the bite sized results. 

The biggest adjustment to the recipe was my use of whole wheat flour.  I've switched over to whole wheat flour for almost a year and use it in place of all purpose flour in all of my recipes. There's little difference in taste and texture and it makes me feel a little bit better about what I'm putting in my body. Second, I didn't have coarse salt for a sprinkle so I opted instead for regular sea salt. The flavor was right but the presentation a bit flat. I also opted to do half the batch and do the second half with a coating of cinnamon & sugar. For these I intend next time to make a dipping icing for complete indulgence.

blue & white bowl handmade & fired at JAR Studios

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Little touches...

The past two years I've been slowly making my way through a Christmas cookie book to determine what recipes will become traditions for us, which might make a few appearances due to convienience, simplicity or on hand ingredients, and which might not be worth repeating. The latest recipe was one for toffee bars, which was incredibly easy, tasty, and impressive in appearance. The shortbread bar was buttery and not over sweetened, while the chocolate layer was just thick enough to be indulgent. While it's been hard to not devour the entire batch, we wanted to share some over the holidays. This packaging is cute, creative, and requires no last minute trips out into the hustle and bustle of the holidays. This could even be used to wrap a high quality store bought treat or some clementines.

To make this cute little gift giving vessel you need an aluminum foil or plastic wrap box (make sure to cut off the metal edge!), some gift wrap & tissue, and ribbon, yarn or twine to close the box. Simply wrap the empty foil box with wrapping paper, line the inside with some tissue paper, and secure with a tie--I opted for 12 inches of sparkle flecked white finger-knitted yarn. A presentation to be appreciated just as much as the treats inside.

Friday, December 23, 2011

What's cookin'

Around the holidays I always get so sad that my parents, sisters, niece & nephew are so far away--especially when Dane works all day & I spend all afternoon wondering what my family is eating, talking and laughing about. Typically I dress Ranger up in his fancy sweater and we take walks around the neighborhood before cuddling up to watch a holiday movie or two. Being off from work both Christmas eve & day, I'm planning on cooking up a few treats to enjoy before the New Year (skinny jeans, prepare to be SAGGY jeans by May 1st!) .  I've been bookmarking these recipes for months, just waiting for the perfect chilly evening, or gray dreary day--which never seems to come..or life gets in the way and instead of baking, end up being filled with laundry and thank-you notes and vaccuming and all sorts of other tasks. 

Soft pretzel tots from A Cozy Kitchen look like the perfect snack for movie or football watching. They'd also be perfect to take to the park or with us on a winter walk with Ranger.
photo via A Cozy Kitchen    

Sweet potato casserole is one of Dane's holiday favorites.  After deciding to host my first Thanksgiving, I was searching for an easy, but impressive sweet potato dish that would bring all the familiar flavors without all of the sugar and processed after taste. I decided on the Neely's Old School Souffle recipe and it turned out perfect! I'll be whipping these up to bring to my in-laws' for Christmas dinner.
photo via Food TV

Lastly, I've been on a mission while cooking and baking to not take too many shortcuts. Don't get me wrong, often these modern conviences are perfect substitutes and cut time dramatically down when preparing for a crowd, but I've been finding everything to taste a little bit better when made completely from scratch. Plus, on a money saving mission in the kitchen I've found the cost of flour/sugar/eggs/milk vs. the cost of prepared mixes to be a little bit easier on the wallet in the long run. So, these bad boys might need to be our end of the year treat, spotted on Kevin & Amanda.
photo via Kevin & Amanda

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rain on my parade...

During the season of parties and gatherings nothing stresses a hostess out like wanting everything to be perfect--food, weather, gifts, decor--but at the end of the day something with inevitably go wrong. Don't let these things rain on your parade! On the day where I was to play the ultimate hostess (see: wedding day) the blue skies faded to a dark gray, a cold breeze kicked up, and the clouds wept at the last few hours of my single life---okay by "wept" I mean cried bawled hysterically like a little girl. Luckily an early morning trip to Target and an overwhelming gut feeling inspired me to spend over $100 on umbrellas and I will forever consider that to be the absolute BEST decision of my life. And so my bridesmaids and I put on our dresses and heels and grabbed our umbrellas and paraded downtown for a pre-wedding photo shoot. 

 photos by Wright-Moore Photography

Monday, December 19, 2011

Finger-knitting fun,,,

For halloween I dressed up as where's waldo for a few logistic reasons. 

1. I had to be dressed good enough to sell clothing in a high(er) end clothing store to business professionals.
2. I was getting married in 4 days and couldn't think about costumes or shelling out money for one.
3. I had just purchased new glasses and was dying for  reason to wear them.

I was able to assemble my costume quite easily and needed only some red yarn to add a pom pom on the top of a white knitted cap. Fast forward six weeks and I have an entire roll of red yarn and no use for it in sight. Enter: FINGER KNITTING! Having minimal sewing experience (I'm lucky if I can get a button to stay on and be functional..) and even less patience, finger knitting seemed like a plausible use for my red yarn. Using the December 8th post from She blogs she blogs  I followed the simple tutorial video, sat down for a Tuesday night of GLEE, The New Girl & Raising Hope and ended up with red, handmade garland for our tree.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Into the swing of things...

I know, I know--I've been the world's worst blogger for almost 5 months.  A sweltering southern summer, trying to work to make ends almost meet & planning a wedding were among several distractions. Let's not forget October which proved to be a mental breaking point that ended with several almost terrible decisions.  By the grace of god we all made it out alive and survived. Here we are on the other side and I'm ready to turn Dressing On the Side into what it deserves to be.  Honestly, I'm ready to turn this LIFE into what it deserves to be. So here it is, my pledge to you..regular updates, a new focus, and a place worth spending a few moments each day.

The plan is for this to be the first of many posts focusing on my DIY projects, recipes and other things too good to not know about.

Pictured below, DIY wedding favors!! It was important to us that our favors were something atleast somewhat useful or functional and something worth taking with you after the last drinks were poured.  We didn't want to waste money(our total favor cost was <$35!) and figured edible favors were the best idea, since any left behind could just come back with us and we'd have jam for days/weeks to come!  We ordered these adorable 1oz jars of high quality strawberry preserves, designed a metallic hang tag & sent guests home with the sentiment to "spread the love". They were perfect for our gold & red color theme and were a hit with our guests as they used them for breakfast.
one of the successful things that did happen during my hiatus..    

It's nice to be back.!

photo by Wright-Moore Photography