Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday's Meal

We've had a pretty mild summer here and I'm itching for the fall to come. I just love sweater weather. I may have also mentioned before that I love soup. I think it's good any time, don't you? Anyway here's a yummy recipe for you. Try it out now or save it for when there's a nip in the air.

Loaded Potato Soup

4 large baking potatoes
2/3 cup of flour
4 green onions, sauteed (save a bit for a garnish)
12 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled (save a bit for a garnish)
1 1/4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup butter
6 cups of milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Bake potatoes, cool and then scoop out the inside. Melt butter in a large dutch oven, add flour and stir until smooth, cooking about a minute. Gradually add the milk. Cover and cook over medium heat until thick. Add the potatoes, onions, bacon, cheese, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth. If it seems too thick just add a bit more milk and stir until desired thinness. Serve and top with a doolop of sour cream, onions and bacon.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I heart this!

It's a yarntrainer! Ain't it nifty? I am currently knitting a little hoodie for O. using some stashed yarn I've had forever. I think it's some Bernat I got from A.C. Moore, it's at least a pound and it's super soft. It kept losing it's shape and becoming a tangled mess even though I had it crammed inside a ziploc bag. So remembered that I had seen these before. I trotted off to JoAnn's coupon in hand and scored one for $5. Best $5 I've spent in a long time. Oh and while I was there I picked up the latest issue of SewHip (also using a coupon, $4, woohoo!). Anyways, I'm loving the yarntainer so I thought I'd pass on the recommendation. Go out and get one!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Baby it's cold outside, not really but it's cold in my deep freezer. We have a huge deep freezer in our garage. While I love it and could store a nearly endless supply of red label meat in there, occasionally you have to dig down deep to make sure some block of mystery meat from the dark ages isn't hiding in the bottom long forgotten. So, I'll be donning my gloves and doing the fun job of cleaning out the freezer. On a side note, if you don't have a freezer you should get one. Mine has paid for itself many times over. I can take advantage of sales, buy stuff in bulk, cook and freeze meals and still have room to spare. It's really saved us from eating out nearly as much and I think it's made our diet a healthier one. Even a small one would be great. If it doesn't save you some money, you let me know about it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What's your style?

So, I've been watching past seasons of Project Runway on Bravo and this topic seems to come up a bunch. It's the question of personal style. Do you have a signature style? styleless a style? I don't know, I used to be much more of a H.M. kind of a girl premotherhood. Now I can barely be bothered to run a comb through my hair or wear something other than an all purpose tshirt. When I think about it, my style is probably casual, which makes a lot of sense. My life is casual, my home is casual. I'm not fussy. I'm not frilly. I'm not about the bling. Let's face it, if I could wear a tshirt, shorts and flip flops all day every day that would be my idea of bliss. Yet, part of me dreams of being more stylish. The only thing that seems to be holding me back is that it seems like an awful lot of work. I mean just the time involved, beejeez who has time to put on makeup every day. But, I think I should do a little experiment. I will put on makeup, do "something" with my hair and dress in something other than one of my many tshirts for 30 days. I want to know a couple things. First, can I actually do it? Secondly, will it make me feel differently (I've heard that it will)? Thirdly, will my new stylish sensibility carry over into other aspect of my life? Will my cooking become more refined, my home more photo shoot ready? Will my knitting and sewing skills reach new heights? Will I become a yarn snob? Bye bye acrylics, hello cashmere! We shall see. I'll report back to you and let you know just how stylish I've become.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday's Meal

You know we love ourselves some Italian food at my house...or at least what we consider to be Italian food. You know I have a fondness for inexpensive meals too. Well this meal isn't necessary the most inexpensive you'll whip up, but it is one of the yummiest. I mean honestly what could be better than chicken paired with ham and cheese, yummo!

Chicken Prosciutto

6 skinless, boneless chicken breast
6 thin slices of prosciutto ham
6 slices of provolone cheese
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp parsley
3 tbsp dried basil
3 tbsp oregano
3 tbsp rosemary
2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 cup Marcela wine
1 cup of sour cream
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Flatten each chicken breast to about 1/4 " thick. Now for each chicken breast do the following: layer the Parmesan cheese, sprinkle salt,pepper, garlic, all the herbs, 1 slice of provolone and 1 slice of prosciutto ham. Roll up each chicken breast and insert a toothpick in several places to hold it together. In a large skillet add olive oil. Heat to medium and add the prepared chicken. Brown on all sides. Lower your heat, whisk the wine and sour cream together and pour over chicken. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from pan, remove the toothpicks and serve with pasta or garlic mashed potatoes.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chalk it up!

Here's what I started with.

All painted up and drying outside

At home in the kitchen. Love it!

Always one to reuse what I have to make something new. I decided to make a chalkboard for our kitchen. I used some leftover luan, a can of chalkboard paint, some stickers I got from Joann's on clearance for $.97 and white paint pen. Presto chango...chalkboard.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Well, that was uncomfortable

Hoarders, have you seen it? It's a new show on A & E. I had heard about the show. I didn't really plan to watch it since the few times I've seen stories about Hoarding on various talk shows I'm very disturbed by them. Anyway I was surfing the net and stumbled onto the A & E website and they had full episodes online so I thought I'd check it out. Oh holy Jesus! I realize that it's a mental illness and a compulsion, but I have to admit that I was so completely uncomfortable by the thought of living like that I couldn't stop talking about how awful it was. In fact I was so traumatized that I couldn't even watch the entire episode. I have a thing about chaos. It fills me with panic. Don't get me wrong, I love stuff. I love to thrift. But, this was something much, much more. In episode one there was a family with three kids and they were existing (not living) in absolute and utter squalor. I think it was the thought of the kids living like that really pushed my button. But, I have to admit that wasn't even the worst of it. One of the people was a food hoarder. Use your imagination and you can just imagine how awful it truly was. I commend A & E's effort in trying to bring this affliction to light. It's extremely sad. I had a Home Health patient once that I think was probably a hoarder and it was something to behold. I think his started with his decline in health and simple inability to care for himself. Seeing that show helped me understand him a bit better.
One positive that came from watching the show is that I'm even more motivated to continue to purge and organize. In recent weeks I've gotten rid of boxes of books, magazines and clothes. I'm proud of myself. The frugal part of me is often in direct opposition with the part of me that desires order in her life. One thing I've come to realize about organizing and purging is that it's an ongoing process. You have to always be doing it. But, the fun thing is if you get rid of some things that just gives you an excuse to go shopping!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Now that my bookshelves are looking spiffy, I think I should tackle my magazines. I tend not to get rid of them even when I know that I won't read them again. I need to though, especially since I recently started subscriptions to Real Simple, Southern Living and Family Circle. If I don't start purging some of these soon I will be overrun with magazines. I will either take them to the share box at the library or post them on Freecycle. First though, I need to go through them and see if I need any of the recipes or articles for inspirations. I really love the recipes in Southern Living, those people are my kind of cooks. No skimping on flavor or pretending the food is health food, lol. So, that's what I'll be doing today. Oh and I'm starting day one of my Couch to 5k running plan. That should count for work shouldn't it? I just downloaded the app for my iphone. It's super cool. You can run it over your itunes so you can use your own playlist and still hear the prompts that tell you when to walk or run. I hope it works, I'd really like to lose at least ten more pounds and I think the only way I can do it is to really change up my workout routine (notice how I didn't mention change what I eat). I've also started doing yoga to take the place of working out with weights (there's no kind of strength training like supporting your own body weight to kick your ass!). That should pretty much take up most of my day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm going to do it!

I've said before that I'm not a great knitter, but I do so enjoy it and in any craft I enjoy I endeavor to try and challenge myself. Recently I've been working on a simple garter lace shawl for a swap. I'm getting more comfortable with the process and I've decided to make a Clapotis. I've wanted to make one forever but was intimidated by the thought of it. But I have some great charts and there's a forum on Ravelry completely dedicated to Clapotis so I'm going to go for it. I have some yarn I bought many months ago from Tuesday Morning. It's Araucania Atacama and it's just gorgeous. In fact it was that yarn that pushed me into getting a ballwinder and swift since the yarn comes in hanks and needs to be wound into a center pull ball for me to work with it (just ask me how I found out). I can't wait to get started but first I need to finish my current shawl project. It's for a holiday prayer shawl swap I'm participating in. I'm a bit nervous to subject my knitting to someone I don't know, but it's all with good intentions so I'm trying to do a good job on it. Here's a picture of my current shawl project in progress. At the rate I knit I probably have about 3 more weeks of knitting at least. But it's getting there. The pattern is from a book I got from the library, I think it was called "Traditional Knitted Lace" and the pattern is a simple garter knitted shawl. It's a very versatile pattern and simple to memorize. I'm sure I will make it again. It would look fabulous with a really funky sock yarn. That would really show off the open pattern of the lace.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday's meal

We love pasta. But sometimes I get tired of a red sauce and want something a bit different. Here's a yummy change of pace to tempt your palate. Oh, and you might notice I don't precook my noodles, but if you prefer you can cook yours according to the package.

White Chicken Lasagna

1 (16 ounce) package lasagna noodles
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
4 cooked, boneless chicken breast halves, diced
2 (16 ounce) jars Alfredo-style pasta sauce
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 (16 oz) ricotta cheese
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Cook spinach according to package directions; drain. In a skillet over medium heat cook onions and garlic until softened. In a medium bowl, combine chicken, onions, garlic and one jar of Alfredo sauce, stir together. In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan cheese and drained, cooked spinach, and stir.
In a 9 x 13 casserole, place one layer of lasagna noodles, edges overlapping. Pour chicken and Alfredo sauce mixture over noodle layer and spread evenly. Sprinkle 1 cup of shredded mozzarella over chicken mixture. Top with another layer of noodles. Spread spinach mixture evenly over noodles. Pour 1/2 of remaining jar of Alfredo sauce over spinach mixture, spread evenly. Sprinkle another cup of mozzarella over sauce, lay on the final noodle layer and top with remaining 2 cups of mozzarella and salt and pepper to taste. Cover tightly with foil, bake for approximately 50-60, until beginning to bubble, remove foil and bake uncovered for 10 more minutes, until the cheese on top is melted and bubbly.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

I may have mentioned before that our home would be considered small, especially for the area we live in. In reality we thought this was our starter home and we would just be here about five years. Ten years later, we are still here. Most of the time it's fine. However, sometimes I feel like we could use more space. We have this really awesome although underused covered patio that I would like to fix up to extend our living space. Finding a couple of chairs for free got me started. They have rattan backs and that says casual outdoor living to me. But I'm still in the market for a bigger table and some other things to really do it up right. I've been browsing through tons of flickr groups and sets to get inspiration. There's really some great ideas out there. Now just to do it on a budget. I think my project today will be to create a virtual "inspiration board" depicting my plan. This will be my first time creating one like this, although for years I've kept a home inspiration notebook. We'll see how it goes. I'm not the most computer savvy person out there, lol.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday's Meal

When I was growing up I would visit my Grandmother every summer and sometimes at Christmas. One of the most vivid and cherished memories I have is that I would always spend time with my Great Aunt Juanita (my Grandmother's sister) and we would bake cookies. I don't ever remember my grandmother and I baking and oddly enough I don't even recall baking with my mom, but I remember baking oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies with my Aunt. I remember how excited I would be and how I couldn't wait for them to cool so I could have them with a tall glass of cold milk. For years I've tried to find the exact recipe that she used. I think I finally have and I couldn't wait to share it with you all. It takes me back to such a happy time. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup of butter, melted and cooled
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups of flour
2 cups of old fashioned oats
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 cup of raisins
1 12 oz. pkg of chocolate chips
1/4 cup of milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Stir in eggs one at a time, mixing well. In a medium bowl combine all the dry ingredients, mix well to blend. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed sugar mixture. Stir in raisins and chocolate chips. Drop dough about 1 inch apart on a nonstick cookie sheet. Bake approximately 15 mins. or until golden brown, but don't over cook them. Remove from oven, let cool and then remove from cookie sheet.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What every DIY/Crafter needs...

Having picked up a cute toolbox on the cheap recently at the thrift store it got me to thinking about what every crafty diva should have in their own perverbial tool box.

So here is my must have list. It's by no means all inclusive, but it should certainly get you started if you don't know where to start.

1. A glue gun. I have both a low heat one (for when I do crafty stuff with the kids) and a molten lava hot one for when it's just me and I want something to stick forever.

2. Staple gun. I swear by my electric one. I've stapled many things and it's just a great tool to have on hand for reupholstering things or making budget friendly art work.

3. palm sander. You never know when you will need to sand something or get the yen to refinish a piece of furniture.

4. Tape measure. Great to tuck in your purse so that when you're out and about and come across that to die for piece of furniture you know whether or not it will fit your space

5. A hammer. You know, so you can hammer things.

6. X-Acto knife. A great tool for cutting picture mats and various other items.

7. A level. Preferably one that's a couple feet long, but I'm quite fond of my 12" one for hanging small items.

8. Phillip's head screw driver. So you can screw something when you need to. It's also nice to have a flathead one, but phillip's head screws seem to be more common.

9. A drill. It's make hanging things such as shelves and curtain hardware so much nicer.

10.Paint (spray paint and latex.) I always shop those mistints. You just never know when the perfect color will follow you home. Spray paint is nice to change the look of smaller items lickety split. It's fun to unify a group of mixmatched items by using color.

11. Flashlight. So you can see.

12. Sewing machine ( or at the very least a needle and thread). It's a skill everyone should know at least the basics. You'll be amazed at the amazing pillows and window treatments you can make without much skill under your belt.

13. Miter box. Great for making your own molding to embellish furniture or your walls.

14. Double sided adhesive mounting tape. To hang things to the wall without using nails or attach fabric to an item.

15. Blue painters tape. Great to tape off when painting or to use as a place marker to figure out where to hang pictures on the wall.

Hope this little list helps you on your DIY journey. Go forth and create something.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Books! Books have always been a huge part of my life and as a ferocious reader I have way too many. As you all may recall, I love a good thrift deal and generally books at a thrift store range from $.50-$3 or 4. Never one to pass up a good deal I've gotten some awesome books for personal library. At the same time though, I have amassed more books than one person could ever need and more than I probably will ever read in this lifetime. So, that's what I'm doing today. Packing up books I won't read or won't read again and passing on the gift of literature to someone else. I'll post an offer on Freecycle. I'm sure there will be some takers as like me, most people enjoy a good book.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sweet Deals

Not that I'm an enabler or anything but Amazon has been running awesome deals on magazine subscriptions. I just got a Real Simple magazine subscription for the insane price of $5 last month and now I see they have Country Living for $5. Sweet! I'm getting it. There's a bunch of other magazine deals too. Not all of them are for $5, but definitely deeply discounted. Go check it out.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday's Meal

I make a lot of pizza in my house. It's one of the few things that E. will eat consistently and it's pretty inexpensive and quick to do. I own two pizza stones and two bread machines so that helps the process go a lot quicker. I can toss the makings for dough in oven on my way to the gym, when we get back the dough is ready and lickety split lunch is served. I like making dough in the bread machine vs. by hand (hence the two bread machines), but you can make this recipe either way. So, lately I've been trying to make the switch over to a pizza dough recipe that uses some whole wheat flour rather than just white flour. Trying to be semi healthy, lol. I have found that I prefer the white wheat flour over regular whole wheat, but you can use whichever wheat flour you like best. I have to admit that I prefer the texture of the whole wheat pizza crust over a white flour pizza crust and believe it our not the kids haven't even noticed the switch. I buy my cheese in large quantities and use leftover pasta sauce and I can make 2 pizzas for under $4. I think that's pretty good, don't you?

Sort of Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

1 1/3 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)

If you are using a bread machine to make your dough add the ingredients as listed and use the dough cycle. Remove the dough when done and follow the directions for rolling out your dough.

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top, and let stand for about 10 minutes, until foamy. Stir the olive oil and salt into the yeast mixture, then mix in the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour until dough starts to come together. Tip dough out onto a surface floured with the remaining all-purpose flour, and knead until all of the flour has been absorbed, and the ball of dough becomes smooth, about 10 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with a towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 2 pieces for 2 thin crust, or leave whole to make one thick crust. Form into a tight ball. Let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Roll out a ball of dough with a rolling pin to the desired size and thickness (If you want 2 thin crust pizza, divide dough into 2 balls). Place on a well oiled pizza pan or seasoned pizza stone. Top pizza with your favorite toppings. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes (depending on thickness) in the preheated oven, until the crust is crisp and golden at the edges, and cheese is melted on the top.

Here's a tip. We like a thick crust pizza so I usually prebake my crust for about 8-10 mins. without toppings and then remove it from the oven, add my topping and bake for another 10 or 12 minutes. This way I have found my crust is cooked completely through. I probably wouldn't do this if I were doing thin crust pizzas.