Recession Chic

a down economy does not = ugly shoes

Dining In: Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Tomatoes January 29, 2009

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 2:29 PM
Tags: , ,

Ever since I traveled with my parents to Italy several years ago, I’ve had a love affair with gnocchi. When it’s on the menu, I order it. But, I’ve never really cooked it myself. As I was doing my usual Monday afternoon perusing of, I came upon a recipe for Winter Gnocchi. It seemed simple enough and required just a few easy to find ingredients.

I made several substitutions that made this meal a bit more recession chic:


  • Gnocchi
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Spinach – I substituted some leftover field greens bagged salad that was beginning to go bad in my fridge. Pulled out the slightly slimy leaves and used the rest! Great way to spruce up a pasta and not pitch out bad greens.
  • Mushrooms – I chose shiitake to make it interesting without a big cost. Though, morels would have been nice…(maybe in 3 years)
  • Sun dried tomatoes – At HEB they sell great sun-ripened tomatoes for around $3. They are less chewy and salty.
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of thyme
  • Splash of wine – From the look of the photo from OpenSourceFood, it would appear he used white wine. I had a bottle of red open.

Directions: straight from MikeDrawback’s recipe

  1. Boil your gnocchi and set aside
  2. Sweat some garlic  in olive oil in a pan
  3. Remove the garlic  and stir in the mushrooms.  Any kind of earthy mushroom is good for this.
  4. Add the tomatoes and keep stirring.
  5. Add greens and turn up the heat.  When the greens starts to shrink, splash in some wine, your pinches of thyme and nutmeg, and drop the gnocchi in as the wine cooks out.
  6. Eat.



Sometimes staining can be good January 26, 2009

Filed under: Home Decor — karakrautter @ 10:58 AM
Tags: , ,

Since I moved into my condo, I’ve made plans -in my mind- about all the things I would change and update. Well, after the holidays, I realized that my brilliant ideas on gutting my bathrooms would need a recession chic update.

After pricing all new vanities, tile flooring, shower, lighting (even at IKEA), I decided to find some other ways to update the look of my bathroom. I already changed the paint colors (which helped), but it still needed more. Right after I moved in, I stained the vanity cabinets of my half-bath with a darker wood stain. The end result was really nice, so I decided to do the same for my other baths. I already had stain (no cost there) and just needed a few more sanding sponges ($3-4).

Armed with a Phillips head, leftover paint brush, Minwax stain (in Jacobean) and sanding sponge, I spent my Saturday afternoon prepping and staining the wood. It took a bit longer than I anticipated. My dad was over for part of the day and needed some direction for hanging my new art and some shelves. Oh, and the landscape guys decided it would be a good idea to blow the leaves and other lawn things onto the drying cabinet doors. Nothing was ruined, just more touch up work and yelling on my part.

I only got my master bathroom done over the weekend, but have everything ready to do the guest bath this weekend. If you’re thinking about re-staining something, check out these tips from Below are the before and after photos. Next step in the update process will be some new fixtures and bath accessories!

Cabinets Before

Cabinets After


Dining In: Shrimp Orzo with spinach salad and garlic bread January 22, 2009

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 10:55 AM
Tags: , , , ,

In the current economy, ladies night for my friends and I might seem more potluck than posh. But, with combined creativity and cash three of good girlfriends and I pulled together quite a fabulous meal.

Just like a potluck, everyone contributed one part of the meal. However, various emails shared throughout the work day made the menu come together more like a dinner party. Check out all the recipes below!

The girls!

The lovely ladies! (left to right, Rachel, Kristy and Ashley)

Kristy’s Shrimp Orzo

For the pasta:

~1 lb pastina (any small pasta; I used orzo)
3 cups low sodium chicken broth/stock
3 cups water

Cook the pasta. (I’m pretty sure this doesn’t require too much instruction.) Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

For the shrimp (or clams & mussels, if you actually have them):

Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
Cherry or grape tomatoes (add as many or as few as you’d like; I like a lot of them), halved or quartered
~1 cup dry white wine
1 lb shrimp, peeled & de-veined; or 12 mussels and 12 clams
Lemon juice (I used half of a lemon because it was really juicy; use as much or as little as you like)
Salt & pepper to taste
~1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a deep saute pan or Dutch oven, saute the onion in some olive oil for a few minutes, until translucent, then add the garlic. Let cook for another minute or 2, then add the tomatoes and wine. Stir and scrape all the tasty brown bits off the bottom and let cook for a minute or 2.

FOR SHRIMP: Add the shrimp and cook for a couple minutes on each side. Just before the shrimp is done, squeeze in the lemon juice and stir. Taste and add salt & pepper as needed. Pour everything over the pasta and garnish with parsley and olive oil.

FOR MUSSELS AND CLAMS: Add the shellfish after the wine and tomatoes. Put a tight-fitting lid on the pot/pan you are using and let them steam for 5-8 minutes. They should cook through in that time. Transfer the clams and mussels to a plate – and get rid of any that haven’t opened – and pour the wine sauce over the pasta. Put the shellfish on top of the pasta. Squeeze the lemon over everything, and garnish with some chopped parsley and olive oil.

Ashley’s Spinach Salad

1 bag of baby spinach (HEB brand is my personal choice, and it’s already washed)
1 bag of snow peas (snip off the ends if they are a bit stem-y or woody, might need a rinse)
1 bag of croutons (garlic and butter was my selection yesterday)
1 bag of vine-ripened tomatoes (really any will do) rinse off and slice in half for easier eating 🙂
Balsamic Vinaigrette of choice

Toss all ingredients together and enjoy!

Rachel’s super easy garlic bread

Fresh baked cibatta bread, sliced in half
1 stick butter
6-8 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup (approx) of fresh parsley

Mix ingredients and slather on bread.  Place on baking sheet and put in 400 degree oven for approximately 15-20 minutes until bread is toasted.

shrimp orzo

The spread, complete with a light pino grigio.

I was in charge of dessert (not a big surprise). I knew that something chocolaty was in order and needed the perfect brownie recipe. Something more exciting that just plain brownies (just adding nuts does NOT make a brownie better). In my search for the best brownie recipe, I found another wonderful blog BakingBlonde. The Double Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies were #1 on her top 10 recipes from 2008 and I understand why. They were ridiculous from batter to baked! (Below is my photo, BakingBlonde’s image of the brownie is better – I need a new camera).

peanut butter cheesecake brownies


Custom Wall Art – Take 2 January 21, 2009

Filed under: Home Decor — karakrautter @ 10:08 PM
Tags: , ,

This is what staying in on a Friday night will get you. No cost entertainment – painting while catching up on all the shows I DVRed during the week. Oh, and drinks are on the house.

wall art

The art drying.

what's above my couch

The art in it’s final place.

What hangs above your couch?


Look for the chic and unique in unexpected places January 19, 2009

Filed under: Home Decor — karakrautter @ 12:17 PM
Tags: , , ,

One of the favorite pieces I have in my bedroom is my headboard. I got it after I moved into my last apartment (long before we all needed to watch our spending). I’ve never been a big fan of traditional headboards because they all look the same (no personality) and are pretty expensive for something that serves a limited function. Think back to prom. Remember seeing all those expensive dresses girls spend months looking for and would only wear once. And, to top it off, it seemed like everyone at my high school ended up getting the same ballgown just in a butter cream, baby pink, or lilac. My prom outfits always made a unique statement, – ask any of my friends that were there – and I wanted the same for my headboard.

So, the search began for a headboard that would complete the look of my bedroom without blending into the walls. After being disappointed with most headboards I saw, my mother suggested I look at room dividers. I quickly found several I liked, but they were pretty pricey. The headboard is not a crucial room element, so I waited. One day I got a random text from my mother saying she found a room divider that might work at Lowes, in the garden center. Umm, yeah. I wasn’t too sure about it either. But, it was on clearance for $5. I told her to get it and if I didn’t like it I knew she would find a home for it in her garden.

It was, and still is, perfect! In my old apartment it wasn’t as noticible because of the room layout, but in my new condo it looks amazing.



A new chic outfit on the cheap January 15, 2009

Filed under: Fashion — karakrautter @ 10:07 AM
Tags: , ,

My work friend, and cube neighbor, Michelle is also all about recession chic. This morning she told me about a fabulous shopping spree she went on yesterday, online. Seven new things for less than $70 with shipping!

Express is having a huge sale right now with many items starting at $9.99, with an additional 40% off. If you’re in need of a new outfit for a night out, check this sale out.

I’m seriously considering the following…





Dining In: Stuffed Tomatoes January 13, 2009

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 9:38 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Week two of actually cooking something other than rice, beans and cheese for dinner every night is in full motion. Again this week, I was inspired by some scrumptious photos on OpenSourceFood. However, this week I didn’t really follow the recipe and instead did what my mother taught me, improvising in the kitchen.

Dinner began as roasted stuffed peppers. But, my dear friends Kristy and Lauren were joining in the dining adventure, and neither of them are big fans of peppers, so I swapped tomatoes for peppers.

And, well, the substitutions continued. I wasn’t feeling mushrooms and had some leftover ricotta cheese. So I combined the tuna, ricotta, onion with some fresh basil and Italian herbs. The roasted tomatoes were drizzled with olive oil and topped with Parmesan.

Roasted Stuffed Tomatoes

Since we were eating light for dinner, dessert was needed. Kristy found this triple chocolate mocha cupcake recipe from Design*Sponge, which I could not refuse baking. The yummy treat was the perfect end to a wonderful Monday night meal!

Yummy Chocolate Cupcakes