Shorten your cook time; use a toaster oven!

sweet potato baked in toaster oven

This sweet potato was baked in my toaster oven and with a little salt, pepper and maple syrup it will taste delicious!

So lately, everyone has been ranting and raving about crockpots and how easy they are to use. Trust me, I have done the same, I especially love this recipe for simple shredded taco chicken that I found on Pinterest and now I constantly have a jar of salsa and a packet of taco seasoning on hand!

 
However, this post is not about all the wonderful recipes and things you can do with a crockpot, but rather its less popular cousin, the toaster oven! I have always been a big advocate of toaster ovens for your typical breakfast foods: bagels, toast, biscuits, etc. But toaster ovens can do so much more, and fast! If you’re like me and need to make small portions (for one or two people) a toaster oven is so much more efficient than using a full size oven. It takes less than 5 minutes to preheat and sometimes can cut cooking times in half as well.

 
Recently I began making baked chicken in the toaster oven, it’s so easy and quick and just like a crockpot, it’s a hands off process. If you’re like me and using a pan to caramelize, mix and cook products doesn’t always end up all that gourmet, just stick to this. I usually take two chicken breasts (or four chicken tenderloins) and marinate them for however long I’m at work for the day (or the marinade I use, Lawry’s, says 30 minutes will do the trick) then just plop them in a baking dish and throw it into a preheated toaster oven at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or so. Take your chicken out and it should be done! Of course for safety purposes always double check and make sure there is no pink in the center.

 
Try this chef’s recipe for something new (below) or for super easy just use this Caribbean Jerk marinade from Lawry’s for full flavor chicken, no other seasoning required. I have also tried the Lemon Pepper flavor and it was pretty much what you’d expect from lemon pepper, a traditional choice.

Another great thing to bake in a toaster oven- potatoes. I baked my first sweet potatoes in the toaster oven the other day and they were amazing. It’s so easy, you preheat the oven to 400 degrees (takes about 3 minutes on mine), wrap a rimmed pan in aluminum foil, stab a couple sweet potatoes and then place them on the sheet. Set a timer for 45 minutes and begin baking!

Baking sweet potatoes in the toaster oven

Go ahead, try to cook whatever you want in the toaster oven: fish, bacon, sausage links, maybe even steaks- I don’t know Youtube it!

Regardless of what you like to eat most, a toaster oven will cut down your cook time and the time you wait for the stupid oven to preheat- not to mention your saving money on energy costs! It’s basically a win/win/win situation, unless you are a family of 10 and cook everything in Sam’s-sized portions. But if you’re like me and just want to eat healthy without eating the same meal five days in a row- go for the good ol’ toaster oven.

Good luck,

-Callie

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Trendy Pumpkins 2012 – Not just on the porch anymore!

For the past two years I have posted about what I consider to be “Trendy Pumpkins” (see Trendy Pumpkins 2010 or Trendy Pumpkins 2011) and last year declared it a tradition. Each year around fall I get a huge spike in readers who are once again prowling the Interweb for cute porch-sitting pumpkins. Therefore this year I’m going to stick with my usual pumpkin designs of the year, but I’m also gonna throw in a couple baking recipes because heaven forbid you don’t bake, drink and love all things pumpkin in 2012!

I know you don’t need my expertise as much now with the help of Pinterest, but regardless I still enjoy putting my two cents out there, so here goes:Chalkboard paint pumpkin

Chevron pumpkin Let’s start with a Chevron pumpkin and Chalkboard pumpkin from feeling Lovesome- 

With some masking tape and white spray paint you can easily achieve this look.

Halloween Owl Pumpkin

Or someone might give a hoot about this adorable Owl pumpkin– I found this little guy on HGTV.com.

napkin covered pumpkin finished

I prefer this pumpkin without the pipe-cleaner stem, but that’s just me.

Also, I found this great tutorial to cover a pumpkin (or fake pumpkin for reusable purposes) with a napkin, scrapbook paper or whatever fabric/pattern you want to use! Napkin-covered pumpkin– Super cute.

Use a pumpkin as a drink holder by cutting out the middle and removing the top.

And in case you haven’t seen this Party pumpkin– how neat is that?!

Now for the recipes:

My Favorite Pumpkin RollPumpkin roll

First off I’ll mention my most favorite pumpkin dessert is a pumpkin roll I’ve made two or three times now and I left the recipe here on Callie Lately, so check it out. Callie’s favorite pumpkin roll recipe.

Pumpkin Whoopie

From my best friend Katie, I received a book about making whoopie (not like that!) Inside there’s a recipe for a pumpkin whoopie pie that I have been meaning to try, and I think with fall in the air it’s perfect timing right about now. Here’s the recipe from the book whoopie pies. Whoopie Pies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. brown sugar (doesn’t specify light or dark)
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temp.
  • 1 1/2 c. solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift together the first six ingredients (#6 is salt) onto a sheet of waxed paper. Beat together the brown sugar and butter with a paddle attachment in a stand mixer on low speed until combined. Add the pumpkin, then egg, beating well. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Pumpkin whoopie pie

Add the flour mixture and beat on low until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Using a small ice cream scoop, drop about 2 tbsp. of batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets and repeat, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for about 15 minutes each, or until the cakes begin to crack and are firm to the touch. Let the cakes cook on the sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

For the frosting:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese at room temp.
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter at room temp.
  • 3 1/2 c. powdered sugar (one box)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed. Add the sugar and beat on low speed until combined. Add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium; beat until creamy and smooth (about 4 min).

Low-fat pumpkin cake bars (thanks to Pinterest and She Knows Food & Recipes)

Not only is this cake absolutely delicious, it’s very low in fat and calories because it’s made with no added butter or oil! Serve with low-fat cream cheese frosting for a deliciously deceptive holiday dessert! You might want to double the recipe — this pumpkin cake will go FAST!

Yields: About 16 cake bars

Ingredients:

Low fat pumpkin cake bars

For the cake:

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • Cooking spray

For the frosting:

  • 5 ounces light cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped

Directions:

  1. To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8-inch glass cake plate with cooking spray.
  2. Mix pumpkin, yogurt, vanilla, egg whites and sugar well in a large mixing bowl. Once combined, add in baking soda, baking powder, flour, salt and pumpkin pie spice until fully mixed.
  3. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until cake comes out dry when inserted with a toothpick.
  4. To make the frosting: Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla together. Once cake has cooled, frost and garnish with toasted almonds.

Enjoy!

-Callie

Post-graduate pros and cons

Out here in the real world I’m starting to distinguish between the good, the bad and the ugly. So I decided I’d see if y’all agree, or give those of you still hittin’ the books a heads up.

1) Pro: No homework. This is a glorious feeling. When I leave work, I leave my work behind. I don’t have to worry about fitting in a few shows on the Food network, cooking dinner and hitting the gym because after all that is said and done all I need to do is get some rest. Now I don’t feel guilty about back-to-back episodes of chopped because the only thing I’m putting off is my cycling routine.

2) Con: The realization that if I just want to dance one night- there will never be another social to get it out of my system. Nope, I would have to go in a club full of strangers instead of friends and dress like a “normal” person (where’s the fun in that?). No more fun costumes (especially the ones you thought would ward off boys but instead attracted them to your quirkiness, ie:Rubic’s cube.) So therefore- I have to pretend like a 30-minute workout on the elliptical is a dance party because I’m not yet ready to brave anything but the bar scene (no clubs for this one!)

3) Pro: Happy Hour! Lo and behold ladies, happy hour does exist on the other side! And trust me, it is much more meaningful when you actually spent the day working and want to take a break rather than the sorority mentality that happy hour is available at any time. On this side, it is something to be treasured- a little nugget of hope to look forward to. Which brings me to…

4) Con: Not going to happy hour because those last two months of “not caring what I eat” before graduation are still clinging to my thighs. Who thought it was a good idea to go to our favorites bars as much as possible and eat pizza by the slice every night again?? The worst part is now that I’m not in college, I worry that this isn’t just a phase where I need to workout, but rather, the beginning of my mom-body. This of course is completely false and untrue, but it’s the idea that, “What if I never lose this love-handle? Is this how it all starts?” (The answer is No!)

Which brings me to….

5) Pro: More time to workout! All that partying and worrying has given me an amazing amount of motivation to work out every day. I’m aiming for six times this week, but it’s no big deal because from 5 p.m. on- I can put my workout schedule wherever I want!

6) Con: Phone dates. When I wanted to hang out with my friends in college- they were always within arms reach. Now, you actually have to plan time to call your friends. This requires time zone calculations and work schedule factoring and avoiding favorite TV show hours….geez. It’s exhausting. However, nothing can replace catching up with a best gal pal, so keep those ladies on speed dial!

7) Pro: Girls Trip! Yup- those much awaited trips my Mom always went on every year, now I can plan my own. And the luxury is, once we spread out- we spread the love. Friend in Atlanta, another in Austin- oh well just have to visit them all! Then next thing you know we’ll have bigger pay checks and it’ll be a girl’s cruise at 45 (so stay hot because consider that one on the calendar).

8 ) Con: You know how it’s funny to sit on Facebook during an entire class in college because you don’t need to pay attention and you’re just there for the attendance points? Well let’s just say work isn’t like that. Facebook just causes a guilty conscience, save it for after work. (Twitter on the other hand- not so bad in my book- but still keep it to a minimum.)

9) Pro: New beginnings! There’s nothing like starting fresh again, and graduation does that. Of course those four years are irreplaceable memories of love, laughter and outlandish behavior, but there’s room for all that in the real world too. It’s always exciting to be on the edge of something unknown and new. You can dress to impress because you never know who you’re gonna meet, and every moment feels like it might be some kind of breakthrough.

From where I’m at, things are looking pretty good. There’s a whole new world of people to meet out there and memories to make. Learning how to live in a new place or in a new way is exciting and adventurous. So live it up- whether you’re in those four golden years called college, or you’re out there blazing the path for those behind you. And always remember (cheesy quote follows)  make new friends but keep the old, one is silver the other gold.

Hope you are all having your own great adventures!

-Callie

Thankfulness on a busy schedule

There are times in life when its important to stop and take a break from the rush and remember some reasons why you are thankful to be here. This post is all about 10 great reasons why I’m thankful for in my busy and ever-changing life. Take some time to do this yourself– it can be a great exercise once a week or month, whatever works with your schedule to remind yourself of the little things and slow down for a few minutes. Here we go-

1. Great pictures to remember fun nights. Great pictures or ones that have funny memories tied to them can brighten my mood no matter what!

Time Machine Social

Time Machine Social

2. Listening to some of your favorite songs from high school. No matter how much your musical tastes mature or change, you always have a special place in your heart for the songs you jammed out to in your first car riding around with friends with a new sense of freedom and excitement. For me the band Brand New will always remind me of riding around in cars and doing pointless things that I probably would have gotten in trouble for anyways. Or another favorite, Taking Back Sunday.

3. The feeling you get from helping a friend in need, or even a stranger. With Dance Marathon at the University of Florida this weekend, I can’t wait for the amazing feeling when you know you’ve done something so amazing and bigger than yourself that will have a tremendous impact on the community. If you want to help me reach my final goal you can donate on my personal page here. In the past 16 years DM has raised more than $3.2 million for the children at Shands and I have donated more than $500 to this cause. Help me increase my total this year and help children in our area.

4. Safe travels. During my sister and brother-in-law’s trip to California, they got into a car accident. Everyone was safe but it makes you stop and think how quickly things can change. Every time you leave someone you love, you should let them know! It only takes an instant to create a lifetime of regret, just take the extra two seconds and give someone a hug, kiss or a meaningful farewell, plus you’ll feel more loved yourself if everyone does this.

5. Cooking with friends. This weekend Cameron and I made breakfast for dinner one night and then made an amazing salad with goat cheese and veggies another night. There’s just something that’s refreshing about making something at home and truly enjoying it, yum!

6. Cute T-shirts. Sounds silly but who doesn’t love a great T-shirt?! Especially in sororities and fraternities, I get so excited when you realize “What did I order this time?” and it turns out to be a really cute shirt! Things like this just perk me up throughout the day and walking around campus.

7. Forgiving dads. Yes we all need them. My dad has a short temper most of the time, but every now and then he’ll come out of left field and be completely understanding and patient with my irresponsible college student mentality. So maybe I got a few dings in the car or forgot to call when I said I would, sometimes dads just “get it” and understand where you’re coming from and are just happy to be your dad. That’s a great feeling.

8. Getting a compliment in the most unexpected ways. My car was being serviced at the local Volkswagen and in the meantime Bob, the shuttle driver, gave me a ride back to the sorority house. With the constant car trouble I encounter Bob and I are on first-name basis now (no worries, he’s a 50-something man who mostly talks about nature and occasionally drives like someone from New Jersey). So after a few trips in the shuttle with some other unpleasant riders, he decided to let me know he always appreciated how pleasant I was. Sometimes it only takes something small to make you take a step back and try to be more pleasant all the time. It feels good to know that people look forward to being around you.

9. Imparting knowledge to someone who feels like their world has been changed from what you told them. So if you have read my previous blog about sunless tanners, sometimes it just takes a little proof for people to take your advice. Last night I opened two of my friends eyes to Sally Hansen’s spray-on tan and I felt good that I could pass on a little tip to someone else who can enjoy it.

10. People who go above and beyond even if what they are doing will not receive any recognition. As a former membership director of my sorority, I understand how you can work, work and work and not always get credit for what you’ve done. Sometimes it happens. But if you really try to pay attention and watch all the people who are willing to go above and beyond to get something done to make you happy, you will see that people will do this all the time, just for you.

Love is in the Air

Imagine yourself sitting in a dimly lit room with soft background music playing and champagne bubbling in a crystal glass as you lean affectionately toward the man of your dreams as he tells you about his future plans to be a millionaire and– ok so maybe this is not the typical college Valentine’s Day.

Each year when Valentine’s Day rolls around you have a dichotomy of people who feel as though the occasion was made up and those who just want really expensive gifts and expect their boyfriend to spend all his money on some romantic night. Personally, I fall more on the side of Valentine’s being a crock.

First of all, we just recovered (maybe) from all the Christmas spending and just paid for all of our Spring break plans, so why go out and blow $300 (or more) just because?!

I say yes, celebrate Valentine’s Day, but be savvy and make it about doing something together not a gift-giving extravaganza. However, I think any girl should be happy for a nice bouquet- but I have a feeling this blog is mostly read by females so we’ll skip that part.

Here’s a few ways that I like to make “that special day” easy and affordable.

Chocolate covered strawberries from the Food Network

Food Network has the perfect recipe for chocolate covered strawberries.

Start off with the simple pleasures- chocolate covered strawberries, or some other little baked good. Make it miniature so that it’s cute and sexy. There’s nothing sexy about stuffing your face. Mini-cupcakes could be perfect and you can decorate them 101 ways and write personal messages on them.

Martha Stewart's Valentine cupcakes

Sweet sayings on these scrumptious Martha Stewart cupcakes.

Visit Martha Stewart’s website to get the dish on these cupcakes.

Other than that, unless you’ve got four hours to cook, clean, prepare and host a romantic dinner and make sure your roommates are gone (unlikely in the apartment world) then I would just leave that up to him. Maybe make some suggestions ahead of time, doesn’t have to be perfect or fancy, just somewhere you both enjoy. Then all you need is a cute outfit for the occasion or perhaps something from Victoria’s Secret, like this cute little pink number.

Lingerie

Victoria's Secret lingerie

In the end it really doesn’t matter how big or small your Valentine’s Day is, if you just think about doing something fun or fresh for a day then that’s what really matters. My favorite part about Valentine’s Day is the cards. So many to choose from and they don’t have to be cheesy, just a little reminder to people around you that “Hey, even though we’re both really busy, I really like you.” Now Hallmark even has really cute E-cards so you can send them to family, or someone long distance! Definitely worth checking out.

Even cheesier than that more adorable are these personalized Hallmark cards that you can order from Hallmark’s website. You can have a photo or your boyfriend’s name printed on the card and sent to him. I think that this is such a cute idea.

Valentine's Hallmark Card

Personal photos in a Hallmark Card- how creative!

Good luck shopping and remember to look for simple things that would make someone’s day!