Recipe Review: Beef with Caramelized Shallots

Have you guys seen these Swanson Flavor Boost packets that came out about a year ago or so?  You can find info on them here if you haven’t. They come in chicken, beef and vegetable.  Well, a while back I had coupons for these guys.  LOTS of coupons for these guys.  So I bought them… 12 boxes of them.  They’re good for a year so I figured what the heck.  I’m crazy I know.  Anyway, once I had them I suddenly realized that I didn’t know what the heck I was going to do with them.  So I started perusing the Campbell’s website looking for inspiration.  One of the recipes I came across was this one and even though it’s beef based (which I don’t eat) I thought that the Hubs would love it.  So, off to the store I went.

Beef with Caramelized Shallots

Serves 4


  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 boneless beef sirloin steak (about 1 lb) cut into thin strips (I cut mine up like stew meat)
  • 6 medium shallots, cut in quarters (about 1 cup) (note: if you’ve never heard of a shallot don’t fret – they look similar to a head of garlic except they’re slightly purple in color – they have a flavor similar to that of an onion)
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon-style mustard (I used Grey Poupon)
  • 2 packets Swanson Flavor Boost Concentrated Beef Broth
  • 3 cups egg noodles


  1. Cook noodles as directed.  Drain and set aside.
  2. While noodles are cooking heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the beef and cook until well browned, stirring often.  Remove the beef from the skillet.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet.  Add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir the wine and vinegar in the skillet and cook for 5 minutes or until the mixture is reduced by half.  Stir in the mustard and concentrated broth.  Return the beef to the skillet and cook until the mixture is hot and bubbling.  Serve the beef mixture with the noodles.


Husband LOVED this dish.  He even made the little purring sound that he makes that tells me I made a winner.

I love that this is a simple two pot dish.  It’s quick and easy and other than slicing your meat and the shallots there’s zero prep work.  Add a quick side salad and this would be great for a weeknight meal!

When I cooked the beef there was a lot of juice left in the pan.  I decided not to drain it off.  It created a tiny bit of a gravy effect which I think enhanced the dish.  There was practically zero fat on the piece of meat that we used so draining/not draining didn’t really matter from a health standpoint.

When you’re simmering the wine, it splatters!  We have white countertops and red wine stains so I made sure to keep wiping it up as best I could.  Once the meal was cooked, I plated Husbands dish then ran a rag w/ de-greaser & bleach over our white counter & stove.  No stains!

I wouldn’t change anything in the recipe.  I suggest you try this one today!

*I was in no way sponsored by Campbell’s to write this review.  That’d be cool though.  Sponsor me Campbells!

I’ve linked up to these great parties:

Bloom Designs, Skip to My Lou, and Chef in Training.

As well as…

One Artsy Mama

By Stephanie Lynn

Movie Review: 12 Rounds

This ought to give you some idea of how many movies are in our Netflix queue – this movie came out in 2009 and I’m pretty darn certain we put it in our queue when we saw the previews… and we’re just now watching it.  It’s 2012 by the way if you didn’t know.  So yeah, three years’ worth of movies passed.  Craziness. 

Anyways, I have to say I rather enjoyed this movie.  There were some hokey parts that were to be expected (especially considering the main actor is a WWE wrestler).  I mean, let’s face it, WWE guys aren’t exactly known for their amazing acting skills (The Rock anyone?).  John Cena does a pretty good job though all things considered.  It’s not as though the guy is a trained actor.  Strangely enough, Brian White (who plays his partner) and who is a good actor (watch The Family Stone for proof) totally sucks it up in this movie.  He’s just not believable.  The acting just seems forced.  Maybe he just wasn’t able to channel his inner cop.  Steve Harris, on the other hand, is tooootally in sync with his FBI persona.  You pretty much hate him in the end.  He’s a self-righteous prick.  Although, if I remember correctly, he also played a self-righteous prick of a lawyer in some TV series (Ally McBeal, The Practice?  something like that).  Maybe he’s just a self-righteous prick. 

It irks me that we don’t find out until the last five minutes of the movie what John Cenas’ characters wife does for a living (her name is Ashley Scott btw).  Here’s why it’s irritating:  it’s the key to this entire freaking movie.  I didn’t see the end coming at all which is fine, I like that.  However, I felt irritated at the end because I didn’t have all the facts.  It’s like trying to complete a puzzle when the person across from you is hiding a few pieces in their pocket.  NO FAIR! 

The only other issue I had with this movie is that John Cena’s character struggles to even manage a pull up.  Even if you didn’t know going in that he’s a wrestler, the guy is in ridiculous shape.  I don’t know a single guy in that kind of shape who couldn’t manage to do one single pull up.  If you’re going to put in an actor with that sort of physical prowess then let him show off a little.  It doesn’t have to be flashy or overdone, but I’m pretty sure those muscles are capable of doing more than making women drool. 

Last but not least, there’s a song at the very end of the movie (during the credits if I remember correctly) that I love.  Sadly, I can’t find the name of it.  Someone with better internet skills than myself want to give it a shot? 

What’d you think?  Have you seen this movie?  Did you like it?  Do you think that wrestlers should just stick to wrestling? 

Random I know, but is it just me or does John Cena look like an older, and much more muscly version of Channing Tatum?

Book Review: Bloodline by Maggie Shayne

So this book is yet another random vampire book that I picked up somewhere along the way.  I’d never heard of Maggie Shayne  before and I’m fairly certain that I don’t own any of her other books

Technically this is a romance book but it’s not just chock-full of steamy sex scenes.  Although at one point the two main characters do fall asleep still ‘joined’ if you get my drift.  Call me crazy but I just don’t think that’s a particularly comfortable way to get my eight hours of beauty sleep. 

I think the idea behind this story is sound and provocative.  It definitely had much more potential than what was actually written.  It’s not a total loss or anything, I just wanted more backstory.  The details on The Farm and the DPI (the Division of Paranormal Investigations) are lacking at best.  There’s so much more there that Shayne just didn’t delve into.  I mentioned this to a friend and she said ‘that’s what happens when editors get involved.’  As far as I know, she could be right.  It could be that the information I’m seeking was in there originally and it was edited out because it was superfluous.  Who knows.  I’m not a writer (this blog withstanding) and I’m sure as heck not an editor.  It was an interesting read but it wasn’t good enough to provoke me to read any of her other books. 

What about you?  Have you read any other Maggie Shayne books?  Am I passing judgment too quickly?

Here’s a synopsis of the book from Barnes & Noble

Lilith awakens cold, naked and alone, knowing nothing—not even who she is—except that she has to run, run for her life because someone is after her.

When Ethan discovers the terrified woman hiding on his ranch, he knows immediately not only who she is, but what. He’s never forgotten her, not in all the time since he escaped their joint prison, a clandestine CIA facility where humans are bred into vampires willing to kill on command. He refused to accept that fate, and since he won his freedom he’s become a legend to those he left behind. With her own escape, Lilith has become a legend, too, and now—together—they have no choice but to fight those who would become a legend by killing one.

July Date Night

(photos totally not taken by me)

For our date night this month I decided to take the Husband out to Houston Motorsports Park for a little NASCAR racing.  Neither of us are really NASCAR fans but let’s be real here… do you know a single guy who isn’t thrilled at the idea of fast cars and the possibility of serious car carnage?  Nah, me neither.

Even though I possess absolutely zero Y chromosomes I have to say that I enjoyed this outing a lot.  It was H-O-T but hello, we live in TEXAS.  It’s basically always hot.  Fortunately there was a wonderful breeze that kept us from absolutely frying.  I knew enough about this place (having been there before) to know to bring stadium seats (you know, the foam kind so that your butt isn’t numb 30 minutes in) and most importantly, EAR PLUGS.  I have sensitive ears and having made the mistake of going to this type of event without ear plugs before, I was not about to repeat that disaster.  Not only did I bring ear plugs, I brought two types!  Foam and silicone!  And I even had enough to share with the family in front of us who didn’t have any for their young child. 

Here’s the great thing about HMP… it’s totally affordable and family friendly.  Tickets are $12 for adults and kids 12 and under are FREE.  When we went they were also doing $1 specials on beer, soda, and hot dogs.  This means that your family of 4 can go out and each get a drink and a hot dog and a ticket for a total of $32 or $8pp.  That’s less than a movie ticket people!  Even better?  If you don’t want to pay $1 for their specials you can bring your own food!  You can’t bring in coolers or grills but I saw tons of people with bags stuffed full of food and drinks (and you could always hide the cooler in your car and just take turns going out to get refills).  The show we went to had two parts with an intermission in between.  During intermission, they even bring out all the cars & their drivers so that spectators can go out on the track to talk to them and ooh and ahh over the cars.  What little boy wouldn’t absolutely love this?  I saw a small boy, maybe 6 or so, wearing a Cars shirt and absolutely jumping up and down and freaking out when he realized he could go out there and touch the cars.  It made me think of my oldest nephew who’s a total Cars fanatic.  He would LOVE to do something like that.  We’re definitely going to have to add it to the list of things to do when my stepsis and family come back in town. 

There was a pretty fair amount of car carnage.  One car wrecked pretty bad and started spewing gasoline backwards onto the windshield of the car behind it.  The car in front sparked and the whole thing caught fire.  Fortunately no one was injured but suffice it to say those cars didn’t race anymore than night.  There were several other fender benders and various needs for the caution flag to come out but when we left at intermission every person (not every car) was still in one piece.

Have you done anything fun with your hunny lately?  Have any suggestions for future date nights for the Hubs and me?

Window Shopping Wednesday – Z Gallerie (furniture)

So my office is in a multi-use space that has our local city hall, lots of restaurants and shops, office space (obviously) and even some really expensive condos.  It’s a nifty little area and I’m very happy to work here.  One of the shops nearby is Z Gallerie and honestly, it’s just torture to drive/walk by every day and not go in and spend my entire paycheck (and my Husbands).  I walked by today and nearly had to physically restrain myself.  I loooove their stuff.  So, in order to save my checkbook I figured we’d go perusing today.

This weeks featured shop:  Z Gallerie (the furniture section)

I love the classic lines of this Pauline Sofa and it’s available in grey (my preferred sofa color). It even has nailhead trim.  Swoon.

This Oscar Sofa is outstanding as well.  Sadly, it’s only available in white which would never work in our house.  I just adore those rolled arms, the tufted seat (and more nailhead trim!).

I realize chevron is all the rage right now and that it may be getting old to some of you and that more than likely it will eventually go out of style.  Until then though, I’m loving this Storage Bench in Zig Zag.

I like the sleek and somewhat feminine lines of this Cosmopolitan End Table.  Also, since it’s glass, it doesn’t take up much visual space so you could use it just about anywhere.

I love mirrored furniture.  It adds great light and texture to a room.  I wouldn’t use it for something that you use multiple times a day though or you’d be super frustrated with the fingerprints.  Using this Borghese Mirrored Side Chest as an end table would be a great way to incorporate a piece like this.

I’m of the opinion that if you have a formal dining room, it should be exactly that… formal.  I have so much fun dressing up our dining room table for special occasions.  These Lola Side Chairs add just the right amount of glam without being overpowering.

I think these Hyacinth Chairs would add an amazing amount of texture to a room.  I’d use these in the breakfast area.  I would definitely add some plush cushions to pad the bottoms.

I have been ooo-ing and ahh-ing over this Chambers Chaise for quite a while now.  I want so badly to put this in our master bedroom.  It’d also be amazing in a sunroom if you have one.

These Bailey Chairs would make great little occasional chairs.  Since they don’t have arms, they appear to be smaller visually than they actually are which means they’d fit well into small rooms.  There are several fabric patterns to choose from including Linx (shown), Zig Zag (in a mustardy yellow), Zig Zag (in black), and Zebra (in a light grey).

Doesn’t this Colonial Accent Chair just scream ‘come sit on me with a book and a glass of lemonade!’  Yes please!

Confession.  I’ve been eyeballing these Cuddler Chairs  for about five years now.  Even the Husband knows that I absolutely *HAVE TO HAVE ONE*!!!!  This would be my all-time favorite reading spot in the house.

I L-O-V-E this Victoria Sleigh Bed.  It needs to come home with me right now!  Husband says it’s “too girly” but fortunately for me we agreed a loooong time ago that he gets to decorate/organize the garage and his office any way he wants but that the rest of the house is MINE!  Come to mama!

I’m fairly certain I just virtually spent six months’ worth of my salary but wouldn’t my house be just fabulous?

Recipe Review: Beef and Wild Rice Medley

I’m a picky eater (as detailed here, here, and even here).  One of the things I don’t eat is beef.  Don’t ask me why, I just don’t like it.  I remember eating steak as a child but as I got older… eww.  Occasionally I’ll eat ground beef (strange I know, especially since that’s not the ‘good’ meat) but mostly, I just shy away from it all together.

So, it’s safe to say I made this recipe with the Husband in mind.  He looooves meat (like most other red-blooded American males).  I’m also a huge fan of dishes that are 1-pot meals and/or require a packaged ingredient (this is how I use up a lot of the things I buy with coupons).

Enter the Beef and Wild Rice Medley from the Taste of Home website.  I’ve gotta tell ya, I ate a spoonful of rice and vegis out of the pot when this was done and it was mmm mmm good!  I know why the Hubs ate the ENTIRE 4 SERVINGS in one sitting.  If you’re looking for a quick, meaty, and delicious meal, this is it!  Pair it with a salad and you’re good to go.  Enjoy!!!

(picture from Taste of Home)

Beef and Wild Rice Medley

Serves 4


  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb beef top sirloin steak, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • ¼ cup sliced celery
  • ¼ cup julienned green bell pepper
  • 2-1/4 cups water
  • 1 package (6 oz) long grain and wild rice mix (we used Uncle Ben’s Original)
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped green onion


  1. In a small bowl, combine the garlic powder, thyme and cayenne. Sprinkle over beef.
  2. In a large saucepan coated with cooking spray, cook beef in oil until no longer pink; drain. Stir in celery and green pepper; cook 2 minutes longer or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in the water and rice mix with contents of seasoning packet.
  3. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 23-28 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in tomato; heat through. Sprinkle with onion. 


I didn’t find a need to drain the meat.  There was very little grease to speak of (maybe ½ a teaspoon) so I just left it.

Super easy to get this baby started and then make a salad/set the table while it’s finishing up.  You absolutely should try this recipe!  I’ll be making this one again soon.

I’ve linked up to these great parties:

Bloom Designs
Chef in Training
Delightful Order
Happy Hour Projects
I Heart Nap Time
Ivy and Elephants
One Artsy Mama
Skip to My Lou
Under the Table and Dreaming

Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into. ~ Henry Beecher, Life Thoughts, 1858

Are you an Ikea fan?  I am.  I totally am.  Some of their stuff is cheap and not worth buying.  Other stuff though, totally worth it.  A while back mom and I were wandering through Ikea (I can’t even remember what for now) and we found this guy…

The Ikea Socker Greenhouse

Isn’t he adorable?!?!  I just *HAD* to have him.  So I paid for him and he went home with me.  I knew immediately what flowers I planned to put in him.  African violets.  Yep, I’m a glutton for punishment.  I went with Hubs to Lowes and we picked up 4 of them plus pots and special potting mix.

Here’s what I will say – getting this sucker together was not easy.  I totally had to stop at one point for fear of breaking it and get the Hubs to help me out.  Truthfully, if it didn’t entail a thirty minute drive, I probably would have exchanged the greenhouse for another one.  We kept getting snagged on a bent part and Hubs had to manually unbend it without ripping the whole thing to shreds.  In the end, he got it to work.  It doesn’t close perfectly but I’m ok with that.  He’s still freaking cute.

He’s hanging out right now in our dining room.

Close -up

His perch in our dining room.

Opening the top

Flower close-up

Truth is, I potted this sucker at least a month ago and guess what?  The flowers all died.  Just the flowers though… the foliage is still looking great.  I’m fairly certain the reasoning for this is a lack of humidity.  This is where the whole thing about this greenhouse being damaged from the get-go comes into play.  I’m going to try something different with them to raise their humidity level (filling the ‘saucers’ with rocks and water, then placing the plants on top).  Hopefully it’ll help.  If not, this may mean that I have to find another plant that will thrive.

I’ve linked up to these great parties:

Bloom Designs, Skip to My Lou, and Chef in Training.

As well as…

One Artsy Mama

Book Review: Kentucky Bride by Hannah Howell

It hasn’t been that long since my last book review but I want you to know I really was trying to give you guys a break after posting seven nearly back to back.  That being said, I’ve read several books since then so the reviews are starting to pile up again.  Eventually once I get my life in order (haha) I might start making these a weekly deal or something (kind of like my Window Shopping Wednesday) but who knows.  In the meantime, I’ve gotta tell you about this book!

Ok, so I’m sure you can tell from the cover that yes, this is totally a romance novel.  Don’t let that stop you from reading it though.  I’m being totally honest here when I say that if you took out all of the romance parts this is still a really good book.  It’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.  This is totally one of those books that I was reading at red lights. 

Here’s the synopsis from Barnes & Noble but I’ve gotta tell you, it sucks.  It totally doesn’t do this book justice. 

Beautiful Clover Sherwood never expected such a cruel fate. Her father’s death has left her penniless, ostracized from Pennsylvania society, and abandoned by her fiancé. All she has now is a grieving mother, two hungry little brothers and no prospects…until a wealthy Kentucky backwoodsman with a deep Scottish burr comes to town-and inspires her to make a most daring move…

It’s no secret that rugged, roughhewn Scotsman, Ballard MacGregor is ready to marry. Nonetheless, he is surprised by genteel Clover’s sudden proposal…and more than pleased. For the lass’s sweet innocence is bewitching. But settlement life proves harsh on his refined young wife. And Ballard fears that unless he can awaken her passion and win her love-as she has won his-he may lose his Kentucky bride…

One reason I love snail mail (part 3)…

Just got my July BirchBox in the mail. 

Here’s the rundown of what was in my box (prices are for full-size product):

Earbuds:  $10 (approximately)
Color Protection:  $24
Tinted Moisturizer:  $38
Perfume:  $98
Lipstick:  $22
Fruit & Nut Bar:  $25.35 (for a box of 15 or approximately $1.69/bar)

TOTAL:  $217.35

Since I paid $10 for the trial size box I saved $207.35 (if you figure I could have purchased these in their full-sized varieties). 

Alterna Bamboo Fade-Proof Fluide

Here’s what the website says:  Weightlessly shields hair with a UVA/UVB barrier to fade-proof color while enhancing vibrancy & multi-dimensional shine.  With rinse resistant Color Hold® UV+ Technology for the highest level of color protection.  Clinically Proven to retain color and brightness for 60 washes.

 Problem:  I don’t color my hair.  In fact, the only person I know who does color their hair is my mom and she gets hers highlighted.  Can highlighted hair color fade?  I mean, it’s bleached.  I don’t think it can.  So, I’ve got to find someone who doesn’t bleach their hair and have them try this out. 

 Jourer Luminizing Moisture Tint

Here’s what the website says:  This lightweight moisturizing tint evens out imperfections and fades the appearance of fine lines with its light-diffusing multi-mineral formula. SPF 20 protects from UVA and UVB rays while Ginseng and Gingko Biloba Leaf Extract deliver antioxidants to skin, promoting a healthy complexion.  Oil Free. Hypoallergenic. Fragrance Free. Water Resistant. Perfect for all skin types.

 Problem:  The color that they sent is ‘bronze’ which is their 5th darkest shade… and I’m part albino (not really, I’m just seriously pale).  So, when I tested this color out on my hand (definitely the most tanned part of my body) it’s reaaaally dark and noticeable.  I’d look ridiculous if I tried this out.  Sooo… my mom has mentioned that she wants to try a new foundation and she has darker and more olive-toned skin so I have a distinct feeling she’s going to get to try this baby out. 

Oscar de la Renta live in love Perfume

Here’s what the website says:  Introducing Live in Love – the new fragrance for women created by a man who adores them. Inspired by Oscar de la Renta’s passion for life, the scent is a reflection of the woman who lives each day the same, filled with joy and beauty.

It doesn’t do anything for me personally but I can see how someone would like it.  I think it’s something my mom might like so she might be getting this one as well.  It doesn’t smell bad or anything, it’s just not ‘me’.

Stila Lip Glaze in action (that’s the name of the color)

Here’s what the website says: Want lips that get all the attention they deserve? Turn on the shine and you’ll be turning heads with Stila’s most popular lip gloss.  Choose from an array of delectable shades that add a splash of color and fabulously matching flavors and scents in one easy click of this famous pen.

 Problem:  I can’t find this shade for sale (or even listed) on their website.  (note:  this is probably due to the fact that it’s from the limited edition It’s Go Time Lip Glaze Trio… but I can’t find that either).  Which sucks because I love this color.  It’s a pinky gold.  Sooo pretty.  I haven’t actually tried it on yet but it’s totally a color I would buy in the store.  I’m curious to see how it wears since it’s not long wearing.  In addition, the applicator is a little strange.  You actually turn the dial at the bottom and it pushes the gloss up in between the bristles.  I’m hoping it’s a good design but I have a feeling it’s going to be messy.  We’ll see.

LARABAR Roasted Nut Roll

Here’s what the website says:  It’s true, we’re nuts about nuts over here at LÄRABAR, and Roasted Nut Roll is a sure sign that we are still as passionate about them as ever. A sweet and salty standout, the shining stars of this bar are the almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts that bring the crunch and the flavor we go nuts for.

 Problem:  I don’t really like nuts.  So… I gave this to my friend G at work and let her try it.  Here’s what she had to say… ‘I ate the little nutty bar a little bit ago…it was very good…130 calories w/80 of those fat for 2 bites…kinda high and not sure I would want to spend the calories on it unless I didn’t have anything else…but the taste was really good.’  We all know that nuts are high in calories and in fat but supposedly it’s mostly good fat.  So, one of these little bars is probably your daily allowance for nuts.  It does have 5 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. 

 I’d definitely have to say the bar I got last time was waaaaay better.

Birchbox Earbuds

Here’s what the website says:  Whether we’re jogging through the park or powering through a laptop session, earbuds are one of our constant accessories. So we started thinking: why stick with the same boring white pair we’ve been using for years? We designed these custom pink and green or pink and blue neon earbuds so we can rock out to our favorite tunes in style. They’re extra-durable and extra-comfy—now that’s music to our ears.

Problem:  If you love these neon earbuds you’re out of luck… they’re not for sale.  Also, I have a pair already that I love and that fit my teeny tiny ears just perfect. 

All in all you’d think that I’d be bummed about this month’s box since I’m not going to end up keeping much besides the lipstick but you’d be wrong.  I’m actually really excited about the lipstick.  AND I get to give the unwanted goodies to some friends/family members and I love giving people stuff so that works out well.  I love getting goodies in the mail, don’t you?

Window Shopping Wednesday – Mellon Monkeys

I went to a baby shower this weekend for a friend of mine.  Perhaps that’s why I was so drawn to this Etsy store.

This weeks featured shop: Mellon Monkeys

This Newborn Visor for Boys just cracks me up.  I mean seriously, how cute is this?

I love this Girl’s Boutique Peasant Dress in Yellow and Gray.  It’s sewn beautifully and the fabric choice is just genius.  I think the boots are a little too grown-up looking but the dress rocks my socks.

Have a boy and a girl?  What about this Brother and Sister Matching Combo with Boys Necktie and Girls Peasant Dress?  How great is this for family photo shoots?  And I loooove that peasant dress.

Admit it ladies, there’s nothing sexier than a guy in a well-tailored suit and tie.  Why not start the little man in your life off early with one of these handsome ties?  My favorites have to be H, I, and F.

Have a little diva in your life?  If you do, what diva doesn’t like zebra print and pink?  Try out this Girl’s Hot Pink and Zebra Pillowcase Dress.

Thanks for window shopping with me today!!!