The Chopped Cookbook Review

Chopped Cookbook Review

I’m a big fan of just about everything on Food Network, and, when we had cable, Chopped was a regular watch for us. If you aren’t familiar with the show, chefs are given baskets with specific (often weird) ingredients that the have to combine with items from the show’s pantry to create memorable dishes 30 minutes. It’s a fun show, and the chefs end up making some very creative – and occasionally downright bizarre – dishes. So, when Blogging for Books sent me a copy of the Chopped Cookbook to review, I was super excited.

The book aims to take out the sometimes strange ingredients given to chefs on the show and replace them with “ingredients that most Americans buy every week at the supermarket.” Great! A cookbook with fun, quick recipes that uses ingredients on hand – what could be better!

When the book arrived, I was thrilled to flip through the recipes. What struck me most, though, was the question, “What does this have to do with Chopped?” Even with the premise of using ingredients most people have, most of the recipes would require a trip to the store for us. I started at the beginning and read the tips about flavor combinations and substitutions, but I didn’t find it all that informative. The best tips are peppered throughout the book, and the recipe tables for simple pan sauces and dressings were one of the highlights.

We marked a number of recipes that we wanted to try out, but we’ve only tried two of them so far. I have to say, despite their promise, both recipes were misses for us. The first we tried was Shepherd’s Stew with Dumplings. We both love shepherd’s pie, so we were looking forward to trying a different take on it. The end result was closer to beef stroganoff than shepherd’s pin in the flavor profile and used entirely too much butter. I have no problem modifying recipes to suit our tastes, but that one was just a bit too far off to bother with again as it wasn’t particularly easy or quick, and it required a number of ingredients we just don’t keep on hand like gnocchi, ground beef, fresh herbs, and chicken broth. Maybe we’re bad people for not keeping a fully stocked pantry at all times, but anything that will go bad usually isn’t in our fridge and if we buy something like gnocchi, we usually know exactly what we’re doing with it.

The second recipe we tried was Turkish Chicken Tacos. We love tacos, so we were definitely drawn to some of the taco variations in The Chopped Cookbook. We decided to use pitas instead of flour tortillas, but otherwise we followed the recipe. The recipe was seasoned ground chicken topped with a marinated onion salad and a yogurt sauce. The meat needed more seasoning, but the flavors of the meat didn’t go with the onion and parsley salad particularly well. It wasn’t a bad dish, but it was rather unmemorable. Once again, while it wasn’t a difficult dish to make, it certainly wasn’t quick or simple enough to make me want to go back and tweak the seasoning. There are just too many other recipes out there to try for me to spend time and money trying to make a mediocre recipe good.

I’m not saying that The Chopped Cookbook is a bad cookbook, but it just doesn’t do it for me. The tips and simple recipes, like frittatas and dressings, are good. However, I felt that the more complex recipes fell short, and required more time and outside ingredients than I wanted. There are certainly some other recipes in the book that we might try in the future, but I think I’ll try out a few of my Pinterest saves before I go back to it.



Gone Goat Crazy!


So, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve officially gone goat crazy. They’re so adorable and loving! John is on board with them too. He built this goat shelter for them, which is awesome!

Goat House

We also went to a goat care and cheese-making workshop with these people last weekend – It was very informative and fun, plus we got to take home some goat cheese! Also, fresh goat’s milk is WAY better than the store-bought stuff.

I leave you with a minute and a half of our goatie girls being cute (please excuse the excessive nibbling in the middle).

Rose Martha

Meet Our (Goat) Kids!

For those of you who don’t know, we had something very exciting happen to us recently. We had kids! Well, we picked out two goat kids. They’re both does (girls), and we finally decided on names!

They’re Mini-Nubians, which means they’re a cross between Nubian (large dairy goats) and Nigerian Dwarf goats. Mini-Nubians usually get to be between 22 and 25 inches high at the withers (shoulders), which is about the height of your average German Shepherd. Our girls are both second generation Mini-Nubians, so they don’t have all of the desired features (their ears aren’t as droopy for one), but they’re adorable.



This is our girl, Rose, named for Rose Tyler (a companion in Doctor Who).  Rose very much wants to be a lap goat and loves sitting in my lap.



Martha is less of a lap goat, though she still loves attention. She’s the more adventurous of the two and is named after another Doctor Who companion, Martha Jones. John picked Martha as one of our winners right away when we went to the dairy, because she was the first to stick her head through the fence and say hi.

The girls are both about 5 weeks old now, and still being bottle fed. It’s a lot of responsibility, but also a lot of fun! One day, we hope to milk them, but that at least a year and a half away. In the meantime, we’re enjoying our babies and looking forward to more goaty adventures.

Giveaway and a Sale at Haus of Ariella!

I opened Haus of Ariella on February 29, 2012. Since then, I’ve had 941 sales and lots of fun. To celebrate my upcoming 2nd Etsy-versary, I’ve decided to have both a sale and a giveaway!

Now through 3/1/2014, get 15% off any purchase at Haus of Ariella with coupon code HAUS15. A purchase will also qualify you for 10 additional entries in the giveaway!

The giveaway will run from now until 2/28/2014 (yes, I opened my shop on a leap year). Enter here – You can get entries by liking my Facebook page, following me on Twitter or Pinterest, favoriting my shop, and more! The prize is a $20 gift card for my shop – good towards anything that strikes your fancy. Start entering today! Some entries can be done every day to increase your odds of winning. Good luck!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year, everyone! I hope yours is off to a good start. I apologize for my very lengthy absence from blogging, but life keeps getting in the way.

2014 is starting out to be a year of new beginnings for us. I will be starting the new year with a new job! It’s an office job in Arden that starts on the 20th. While it’s only 29 hours a week and I’ll have to keep a few nights at the restaurant, it should make my schedule less crazy and hopefully I’ll get back into the swing of things here. I’m also hoping that I’ll have more energy to put into creating new items for my Etsy shop, Haus of Ariella.

John starts school tomorrow. He’s going to Blue Ridge to get an associate degree in auto body repair, which is right up his alley. He’s a bit nervous about starting school after not being in a classroom for so long, but I know he’s going to do amazingly. Plus, most of his classes seem to have brief classroom component followed by hands-on work in the shop, which he’ll love.

Other new endeavors include trying to be a bit healthier this year. As some of you may know, John and I tried to do that last spring. I was on Weight Watchers and John, while not on the plan, was eating the same meals I was for the most part. We lost a good bit of weight in a healthy way and were more active. Unfortunately, when I started studying for the bar, stress got the best of me and I threw WW out the window. I also stopped exercising as much. After I took the bar, I hoped to get back into a good routine, but working long hours at the restaurant threw my off and I never really got back to where I wanted to be in terms of weight or general health. I recently signed back up for Weight Watchers, and I’m trying to find a used elliptical to put downstairs (I’d just walk in our beautiful neighborhood in Pisgah Forest, but I know I won’t be able to motivate myself in this cold, cold weather). John is hoping to find time to work out between classes or after classes on his shorter days. Hopefully, with our new schedules, we’ll be able to commit to a healthier lifestyle that we can maintain.

I’m also trying to learn a bit of Spanish this year. I was hoping I’d be able to take courses somewhere, but the continuing ed courses seem a bit too slow for me and other courses won’t work with my schedule. I was thinking about getting Rosetta Stone, but it’s prohibitively expensive. Someone on my Etsy team told me about a website called Duolingo that helps you learn languages. It’s free and fun, and while it won’t get me to where I want to be, it’s a good foundation in vocabulary and basic grammar. It’s a good start, and I’d recommend it as a fun way to start on a new language or brush up on vocabulary from one you used to know.

All in all, I think we’re starting off in the right direction this year. Have you started anything new this year? Do you have any resolutions?

Happy New Year!

Our New Home

It’s been quite a while since my last post, but we’ve been quite busy. I’ve been working a lot and we recently moved into a new place! We’re renting a really cool house in Brevard from my mother’s former coworker and her husband. They had to move fairly suddenly when she was offered a job in Michigan, so a good bit of their stuff is still here and we had/have a lot of cleaning to do. We’re also going to do a bit of repainting to make it our own. We’ll be here for the next two years at least, so we want to really make it home.

We thought we would have it ready for company sooner than we actually will, so our plans for a cook-out have been delayed. In the meantime, here’s a photographic tour.

The Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the first things we’re going to repaint. We want white cabinets and a mint green wall. We think it will look quite nice with the granite counter tops.

Dining Room

The dining room is really cool with built-in bookshelves over the sliding door. We’ve painted the bookshelves white since I took this photo, though the place is still mostly in disarray. Our new dining room set looks pretty awesome in there (thanks, Suzanne!).


The dining room goes into the living room, which is a rather large space. We want to paint the living room/dining room a light blue. We also want to get a small love seat to go where my desk currently is (the desk will go into the office once we repaint the floor).


Off of the dining room, there are french doors that lead to an enormous screened in porch. There’s also full sized outdoor table that isn’t shown in the photo, so we’re going to have space for some great cookouts.


There are three bedrooms in the house. Above is the former craft room that we’re going to turn into an office/craft room. the fabric and such are the owner’s, so we’re boxing them up for her and putting them with the other things they’re going to come back for. The floors are painted baseboards, so after we get it all out, we’re going to repaint those.


The second room is the cat/guest room (sorry guests, but we’ll move the boxes to the office before you come). The cleaned the carpeting that was in the room prior to leaving, but they had 7 dogs and 4 cats who had done a bit of damage prior to that. Of course, if an animal smells that another animal has peed somewhere before, it becomes an automatic invitation to go there again. So John ripped up the carpet (we were given permission to do so, if you were wondering) and used a ton of Nature’s Miracle on the boards. We’re also going to paint that floor.

Our RoomNext is our bedroom (please ignore the half-folded laundry on the bed). We’re going to try to find a cheap bed frame that preferably doesn’t require a box spring. Other than organizing and doing a bit of decorating, our room doesn’t really need anything.

Bathroom Mirror

Our bathroom is in pretty good shape too. I need to get a new shower curtain and a bathmat. John made a small vanity for next to the sink for us to replace the shelves in the photo, which is nice. I love the medicine cabinet mirror in there!

Guest BathYou can’t see much of the guest bathroom in this photo, but it’s perfect the way it is. It also has a wonderfully deep tub for me, which I love!


The garage is kind of packed, but a lot of it belongs to the owners’ daughters, and they’ll come pick up their stuff soon.

Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop

Last, but not least, is the workshop. It’s enormous! John has been working so hard to get it organized and to get the shelves with their stuff on them to the sides so that we can have a more open space. He also killed the mold that was infesting one of the walls and re-Drylocked it so that I can go down there and breathe. He also made the sliding door down there functional again, which is really nice. I’ll show photos of the finished project at some point, but it’s looking very promising. He’s also going to attempt to revamp the piano they left for us (the action is pretty much gone – he’ll have to replace most if not all of the bridle straps).

We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve already made a good bit of progress. Hopefully we’ll be able to have company soon, especially since John’s family will be here at the end of the month!

Back to Reality

As some of you (i.e. everyone who has had any contact with me in the past three months) may know, I recently took the bar exam. It was a two day ordeal of the complete opposite of fun. I think I survived, however, I’m less sure that I passed. I’ve honestly been having nightmares about certain bizarre questions that appeared on the exam, but I try not to worry too much during the day, since there’s not a damn thing I can do about it now.

John and I both start work next Wednesday. He has a part-time position at Lowe’s in Brevard, which is good because then he can apply for full-time positions as well, plus he can always request more hours if they’re available. Even their part-time permanent employees are eligible for benefits, too, so we’ll have to look into how much that would cost. I’m going to start waiting tables at The Black Rose, which is a pub in Hendo.

Waiting tables isn’t exactly ideal (having a stable legal job would be ideal), but it’s money coming in and the schedule is fairly flexible, so I can transition to practicing law as I get legal work coming in. Once I find out if I passed the bar, I’m going to (hopefully) look into renting a small office space to meet with clients. I saw something that looked perfect and was a great price, but entering into a year-long lease without knowing whether I passed would be a bit foolish. Of course, the ideal situation would be going to work for a firm as a full-time attorney, but I might have to gain a bit more experience and make some more connections for that to happen.

Our big challenge right now is finding a place to live.  It seems as though every other house out here is for sale, but there’s almost nothing for rent, so the prices are unreasonably high for a lot of rental units. We really aren’t expecting much from a house, but if we’re going to be living in an old, run-down, 700 square-foot house with one window AC unit in a bad part of town, we don’t want to pay $800/month for the privilege. There are very few apartment complexes here too, so they can charge just about whatever they’d like.  Asheville seems to be better as far as the rental market goes, but since neither of us currently has a job there, it would be a bit silly to move that far away from where we’re working.

Of course, we did find one place that seemed perfect – reasonable price, decent size, pretty good location. The problem: we have cats. Apparently that was a non-negotiable, so we’re back to the drawing board. Our goal was to be out of my parents’ house before our anniversary, which is September 22nd, but that might not happen.

My biggest problem with the housing hunt is really how we’ve been treated by the people we’ve spoken too about properties. Apparently, renters are the scum of the earth around here and deserve no respect whatsoever. I made an appointment with one agent to see a place. We got there at the appointment time and another couple with kids had just driven up. The agent basically ignored us, let us all in, then said we could fill out applications. I wouldn’t have had an issue with it had the guy 1) told us in advance that someone else was going to see the place at the same time and 2) actually acknowledged our existence at some point. The place was a bit iffy for us anyway, but the way we were treated while looking at the place made us quite certain we didn’t want those people as landlords.

Yes, this is the actual house we were grilled about being able to afford to RENT

Yes, this is the actual house we were grilled about being able to afford to RENT

I called about another place today and asked if we could possibly see it today. Instead of answering that, the woman grille d me about our income and savings. Clearly our income is an issue when renting a place, but could we please just see the shanty (and it did look busted from the ad) before we fill out an application. We have a reasonable idea of what we can afford and OF COURSE we have enough to put down the first month’s rent with a security deposit. Why would we be asking to see run-down little shacks if we couldn’t afford it? The conversation was off-putting enough for us to say forget it to that place.

There’s a small possibility that we could be able to rent from a friend of my mom’s, but I’m starting to think that might be a little too perfect to actually work out. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting table and anxiously awaiting bar results. Hopefully something will come together for us soon.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 19,977 other followers