Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chocolate Mousse

I made some chocolate mousse for a little Valentine's Day dessert and oh my was so good. It was my favorite thing that I have made in a long time. Making any mousse involves a few steps but it is so worth it. I followed a recipe from

The Recipe (also found here)
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

The Method
  1. Melt the chocolate by adding to a bowl placed over simmering water and stirring until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks, 4 tablespoons sugar, 3/4 cup heavy cream and a pinch of salt in a medium 2-quart curved bottom saucepan.
  3. Place over medium heat and stir constantly until the mixture is thick, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the chocolate and vanilla.
  4. Strain the mixture into a large bowl using a fine mesh sieve and place in the refrigerator until chilled, at least 30 minutes.
  5. Beat the remaining 1 cup heavy cream and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the chilled chocolate.
  6. Divide the mousse evenly among 4 individual serving dishes and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.

You've gotta try it!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mac and Cheese

I've used the same mac and cheese recipe for some years now and every time I make it I am underwhelmed. It just isn't creamy enough and doesn't have enough of a sharp cheesy bite. It was time for a change. I tweaked my recipe by adding cream cheese for added creaminess and changed the kinds of cheese to give a better cheese taste. So this is my new and improved recipe (not that I ever posted my old one) and I am pretty happy with it!

The Recipe:

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni noodles
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups asiago cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup cream cheese (equals an 8 oz. package)
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional topping: 2 cups plain breadcrumbs, 3 Tbl. melted butter

The Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions, set aside.
  3. Melt butter on low, add flour and keep moving with whisk for about 5 minutes. (This makes a pasty 'roux' that helps thicken the sauce.)
  4. Slowly add milk, cream and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes until it thickens a bit.
  5. Add cream cheese, cheddar and asiago (reserving some cheddar and asiago for the top). Heat on low, stirring until all the cheeses melt.
  6. Stir in pasta.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste (I ended up using quite a bit of salt so make sure to taste).
  8. Pour mixture into a casserole dish and top with the extra cheddar and asiago cheeses.
  9. If you are adding the topping, mix melted butter with breadcrumbs, spoon over the top of the mac and cheese and spread evenly.
  10. Bake for about 30 minutes until bubbling and golden brown. Allow to cool a few minutes before serving.

I love this recipe! But that doesn't mean that I won't continue to tweak it a little, maybe trying different cheeses just for fun. Speaking of, Trader Joe's is a great place to get some of those 'fancier' cheeses for cheaper.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Preparing for Baby

Now that we are in the final stretch of this pregnancy, I've been feeling the pressure to have everything ready for the baby just in case he/she decides to make an early arrival. So we have been busy getting as prepared as possible while keeping in mind that you can't quite fully prepare for this big transition; in most ways you just have to live it.

People like to ask, "do you have the baby's room ready?" and we respond, "funny thing, we don't have a baby's room!". We're living in a one bedroom apartment and we're planning on moving to a bigger place this summer but in the meantime, it'll be the whole happy Johnson family in that one room. But that's just fine with us since we would have the baby in our room with us at first even if we had a bigger place.
So we just rearranged and added the crib right into our room.

And you gotta get creative with a limited amount of space so we put the baby's dresser/changing table in the closet. It works just fine since we are fortunate to have 2 closets in our room and it takes up less than half of one. And the added bonus is that we can close it off if we want to.

We had a lovely family shower at my cousin's house. Here is Anne who hosted and my sisters who helped out. Thanks guys!

Some classics thanks to Molly.

I know we're a while off from the baby playing with these blocks but I just love them! My friends got them for me from this really cute shop in Stillwater, Minnesota. I kept saying how much I loved them but how I shouldn't spend the money so they bought them without me suspecting a thing (which did take some serious sneakery on their part since I was right there).

The freezer is stocked with home-made meals...

...and veggies. I spent this past weekend making and freezing lots of food to have on hand. I know we could just buy this stuff but I figure we'll appreciate some good home-made food when the time comes (and I'll appreciate not having to make it). I made a big batch of spaghetti sauce (my grandma and grandpa's recipe...the best), chicken enchiladas, arugula/avocado pesto, potatoes and even some frozen raspberry greek yogurt just for fun.

And lastly, a sweet little note from our niece Gwen. She's excited for a new cousin and told me a few weeks ago that she hopes it's a boy because she's "sick of girl cousins" (she already has 4 of them plus 2 sisters). I guess we will see soon enough if she gets her wish but with the Wallgren track record, no one will be surprised if it is a girl.

We can't wait to find out! In the meantime, Matt and I are enjoying this peaceful time with each other (aka, the calm before the storm).

Monday, February 13, 2012

37 Weeks

Here I am at 37 weeks. I am now considered full term and due in about 3 weeks. I am feeling good besides trying to get over a cold (but I would rather be sick now instead of a few weeks from now). We're getting very excited that we are so close to meeting our baby and I can't believe how fast this whole pregnancy thing has gone!

People comment how I look normal from the back but when I turn to the side then...

...BAM! I still sometimes forget that I am so visibly pregnant then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and think "Whoa" or a stranger in the grocery store yells "when are you due?" as they walk by and I then I snap back into reality. The baby is growing well and it is a fascinating process.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Banana, Nutella and Peanut Butter Milkshake

So there I was, about to make my usual fruit smoothie when I remembered a milkshake recipe I had seen on Pinterest made with bananas, nutella and peanut butter so I went for it. I was too lazy to actually look up the recipe so I just made my own version (I figure it's hard to go wrong here).

The Recipe: (this is not the most exact recipe)

  • 3 frozen bananas, cut into pieces
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls nutella
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls peanut butter
  • a bit of sugar (just a teaspoon or so)
  • some milk (maybe 3 cups?)
  • about 8-10 big ice cubes

The Method:

Combine all ingredients and blend together until smooth. Add more milk if it's too thick. Enjoy!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pasta and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Balsamic Dressing

This recipe has a few things going for it: it's healthy, easy and good. It's also easy to adapt to your taste so just add whatever veggies you like or add some feta cheese for even more flavor. I like to use rotini pasta because the quinoa gets stuck in the spirals. And quinoa may sound fancy but it's really easy to cook and very good for you.

The Recipe:

  • 1 lb rotini pasta (whole wheat if you want even healthier)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup cucumber, cut into chunky pieces
  • 1 cup fresh tomato, cut same size as cucumber pieces
  • 1 cup yellow/red pepper, cut same size as other veggies
  • 1 can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper
  • Creamy Balsamic Dressing (combine 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup mayo, 1 tsp. honey, some salt and pepper, then drizzle in about 3/4 cup olive oil while whisking. It's hard for me to put this into measurements though cause I do it by sight and make sure to taste! I use this dressing for lots of different salads and pasta salads. Like this recipe.)

The Method:
  1. Cook pasta as directed with one added piece...add quinoa to the boiling water at the same time as the pasta as it takes around the same time to cook. Drain with fine mesh sieve or colander with smaller holes to make sure to catch all of the quinoa. Transfer to a medium/large bowl and allow to pasta/quinoa to cool a bit.
  2. Add veggies and enough dressing to coat. Taste, add more dressing if necessary and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Eat immediately or after cooled in the fridge. Leftovers store well in the fridge.
Oh, one more thing...I usually add baby spinich to this as well. Just add a few cups to the pasta/quinoa right after you drain it, stir and cover for a few minutes. The heat from the pasta wilts the spinach just a little and it shrinks just a bit. Stir again then continue to follow the recipe by stirring, transferring to a medium/large bowl and allowing to cool before adding veggies.
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