Friday, March 31, 2017

Food For Thought

It's Spring Break here - well we're wrapping it up, anyway.  All four kids were home - for the first time in six years their school schedules matched up.  I had hopes of heading out somewhere, even overnight, with them, but work schedules got in the way.  Boo.  

The demise of plans is what I'm using to blame my lack of cooking meals this week; I just didn't have it in me.  It works in my head, but I don't think the family is buying it.  I had a plan.  And a shopping list.  I just never made it out of the house. . .except to make a run to Taco Bell on a night when the chicken that was being smoked, didn't appear as though it would be done for dinner.  I made the off-hand comment, as I left to get tacos, "Watch, it'll climb the last 20 degrees and be done when I get back."  Truer words were never spoke.  Two of those stupid birds were indeed done by the time I set the bag of tacos and burritos on the kitchen counter.  We had the chicken the next night - it was fabulous.

I did make a couple things, however.

Sunday, I set up a brine for the chickens that would be smoked on Tuesday.  I used my Favorite Brine, but instead of orange rind, I used lemon (goes well with chicken) and added some thyme.  I should have cut back on the rosemary, but didn't.  Not that it was bad, I love rosemary, but I wanted more thyme to pair with the lemon.  The chicken was amazing - moist, a touch of sweet.  I now have a four more chickens to break-down for pre-cooked chicken recipes and bones to cook down into broth.  Something perfect for this rainy-waiting-for-snow day.

I still had those two pints of this 5-minute Enchilada Sauce to use up.  I opted to make smothered burritos for In-Law Dinner on Monday.  I used this Taco Spice, mixed in refried beans, rolled 'em up and smothered them.  Boom. Done.

I found two containers of left-over pumpkin stuffed way in the back of the fridge, so when I needed a dessert, I decided to find something to use it up.  Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Muffins to the rescue.  These were really good, very moist, nice warm seasonings.  I liked the cream cheese, but I think I may have been overzealous in my swirling - next time I'll cut back on that.  Still, there was a nice layer of the cream cheese.  Here, at altitude, they took longer to bake, but stayed moist despite the longer cook-time.  The moistness, actually, makes storing them difficult.  Put them in a sealed container and they get wet. . .You can actually leave the top loose, or store them in the 'fridge.

I needed a side for the burritos.  I always have black beans on hand, so this Southwestern Black Bean Salad worked for me.  We used it as a salsa with chips.  It was good, with a nice tang from the lime juice.  It would have been a good topper on the burritos.  It would also work as a non-meat filling for burritos or tacos.  I can see it on top of a bed of lettuce, as well.

I may not have put much, or any, effort into meals this week, but what I did do, used up some languishing items.  So that's a bonus.

We're expecting a snow storm, or we were 12 hours ago, I'll need to check the weather to see if they're sticking to that story.  So maybe, we'll enjoy a weekend with us at home, sort of a stay-cation, instead.

Happy Friday,

Mystery Box and New Deal

New week.  New mark downs.  New Deal.

I've always loved a box of goodies, the mystery kinds.  It's like a two-fer in terms of surprises - I get fun snail mail and it's bringing gobs of stuff I already know I like.  I've purchased a few from some of my favorite manufacturers - October Afternoon, Scenic Route (remember them), October Afternoon . . . I may have a few from October Afternoon.  

Today, it's my turn to create a Kitchen Sink of boxes.  This one is themed, too - Spring to be exact.  So, papers and embellishments that have that Easter, Mother's Day, Spring-y feel.  You'll find:  patterned paper (can you say 40 sheets), assorted ribbon, brads and buttons, journaling cards, chip and wood pieces, pin, clips, jewels, pearls, etc.  Each Kitchen Sink kit is a little different, though, if you get more than one, there may be some duplication in papers

The kits have a retail value of $90. . .but you'll get it all for $29.99 (plus shipping.)  Quantities are limited - get one today!

Oh, yeah, and there's new mark downs on the website - full kits, TV Dinner, Paper Packs, PLUS a new discount to apply to your entire order - 20%!  

Enter Code:  CLOSING20  Code is good for one use and must be entered at check-out - discount applied upon check-out.  Code expires April 7, 2017.

P.S.  I have plans to create other seasonal Kitchen Sink kits.  Watch the website.

Go. Shop.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Food for Thought

I mentioned yesterday that I had no idea what day it was, let alone what I'd be making for dinner.  It's been that kind of week.  I missed my window for planning and shopping, so anything I've made this week has been on hand.

Fish on Fridays means Baked Lemon Herb Tilapia made an appearance (and our Archbishop wouldn't give us a dispensation to have meat on this St. Patrick's Friday.)  I like tilapia for it's ease of use and that it takes a variety of seasonings really well.  It's a great fish in tacos.  Tonight was about lemon and herbs.  It was okay.  There's a butter spread you make that holds all the seasonings - it was kind of a pain to make (I'd use a mixer and really soften the butter.)  While the butter kept the fish moist, it wasn't as herbalicious as I prefer, though it wasn't bad, it might have just been the combo of herbs.  I have other herb fish recipes, so I opted not to keep this one.

The Archbishop may have said no to Corned Beef, but being Irish I had to have something besides a beer.  I had this Crockpot Irish Soda Bread pinned and decided to give it a go.  It came together super fast.  Being in arid Colorado I needed more buttermilk than the recipe called for but it took two-ish hours in the slow cooker.  Now, I've never had Soda Bread, so I wasn't sure what to expect. . .but this recipe produced a soft loaf, that was just a touch sweet.  I really like it, and because it is a nice base, I'll try dried cranberries or cherries.

Browned Butter M&M Cookies sounded like a nice finish for the week.  The browned butter gave a little extra richness to the cookies, which I opted to cook a little less (a suggestion in the recipe) because I like a softer, lighter cookie.  I didn't add the optional chocolate chips or nuts, but I think next time I will and cut back on the M&M's.

We had our brisket on Monday - hubby smoked it.  I needed to come up with some sides with things I had on hand.  I had carrots - a lot, because I need to make chicken broth - and apples that were looking less happy daily.  So a quick search produced Moroccan Maple-Roasted Carrots and Apples.  I wasn't sure about the seasoning working well with the brisket, but threw caution to the wind and whipped up some Garam Masala and went to town.    I used granny smith apples, and opted to leave the skin on them.  It was good.  I liked the smokiness and warmth of the spice.

These Buttered Noodles were another side for the brisket.  I was short on the noodles, so the sauce was a bit saucier, but they were still good.  Next time I think I may let the butter brown, just for extra flavor and check the seasonings - salt especially.

I had two pounds of strawberries, and precious little else for making a dessert.  So when I saw this Strawberry Shortcake Skillet that's what went in the oven.  I chose to use half my strawberries and made up the difference with raspberries.  I like the crunch of the corn meal in the topping, but it got a little soggier than an all flour mix, so I may cut back on the corn meal the next time.  I'm not sure cooking it longer would have solved the issue, I think it's simply a corn meal deal.

I have no clue what will be on the menu tonight. . .so I'd best get digging.

Happy Friday,

Thursday, March 23, 2017

We Are

I have no idea what day it is.  Seems to be par for the course this week, as I'm also cooking without a menu, which for me, is akin to a novice high-wire act working without a net - I have no idea what I'm doing, and hope everything comes out okay in the end.  So far so good.  There are meals on the table, generally around our usual eating time, and nobody's scrounging for more food because they're still hungry after.

  • It's the little things in the Home Healthcare field
  • Coffee = College Life and Mom Life and Getting Through The Day Life and . . . 
  • That's a lot of clothes
  • She may be a Ginger, but she needs a bit o'the green on St. Patrick's Day.  Have I mentioned I'm pretty sure she hates us.
  • When you're short, you need the bird's-eye-view to make your move
  • The fact that the spot is in the 18 y.o. just makes it better. . .he's got a nice soft bed
  • When I first started putting all their photos in the same frame, it was because I was too lazy to do something else with the older photo.  Now it's a heart-breaking, bitter-sweet look back.
  • And then Spring was official.
Happy Thursday,

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

REMINDERS for This Week's Deals @ Apron Strings

Just a reminder about this week's latest mark-downs, discounts and deals:

New Product Mark-downs

New Discount

Something FREE

You'll find fresh discounts in TV Dinners and Second Helpings of Paper - up to 30%

This week you can take an additional save 15% on your entire order, of already discounted goods.  Enter Code:  CLOSING15 at check out.  Code is good for one use and must be present at the time of checkout; refunds cannot be given for missing codes.

Finally, this week only you'll get a FREE Second Helping of Paper, simply by purchasing three Second Helpings of Paper.  You pick the first three, I'll pick the Freebie.  This works in multiples too, so buy three, get one free.  Buy six, get two free, etc.  

Both the Code and the FREE paper offer are good through March 25th.

Go. Shop.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Food for Thought

We wrapped up hockey last weekend.  We'll have a short break from that before heading into some off-season drop in stuff and a camp.  The 70 and, yes, 80 degree temps are saying Spring, even though this is Colorado and we should still be in the clutches of Winter.  We've had to turn on our sprinklers, as we haven't had enough snow/rain. 

I've been eyeing closets and drawers with a building need to clear them out.  I know there are coats in the hall closet that are sized 12 months, and even our gold fish is older than that.  I'm also reviewing my garden.  I need the burly men of the house to shift a few barrels around.  There are a couple totally in shade, thanks to the evergreen tree, that I think would be a much happier spot for my blueberries.  Though the temps are supposed to be in the 80's this weekend, I might convince them to break a sweat before the temps fall off again next week.  Fingers crossed.

Meals this time of year vary from need-to-have-fresh and comfort casseroles.

Dessert time.  Tiger Eye Brownies up.  Bonus points for having everything on hand.  Extra credit for it being fast and easy.  They received thumbs up all around.  They were soft and peanut buttery, without being overly sweet.  And somehow four people managed to polish off 14 in two days.  I was not one of the four people, neither was the 18 y.o.  So I believe we have our suspect base - who had how many will, likely, forever be a mystery, though I have my suspicions.

Friday.  Lent.  No meat.  I thought about going healthy and loading up on something packed with veggies, but then I saw this Sour Cream and Onion Tuna Noodle Casserole, and well . . .  It's from Pioneer Woman, so I know it will be good, creamy and loaded with things that some may say are less than healthy.  But hey, it's got peas.  It's got celery and onion.  All three of which fall in the veggie category.  Pasta, that's a grain.  And tuna . . . fish . . . Omega 3's.  Gooood.  See?  Totally healthy and really good.  Now, I used heavy cream, but cut it with 2% milk, because that's what I had on hand.  I would have liked it just a scosh creamier, so I will probably add a bit more milk and a tad less cream (because I almost always have both those on hand and don't see the need to buy half-and-half when I do.)

My 8 y.o., who has a PhD in manipulation, mentioned that it had been a while since we'd had brownies (his personal choice for desserts) and before I knew it I was making Perfect Chocolate Brownies.  To which he was delighted.  They are almost as good as my mom's brownie recipe.  They are rich and more cakey, than gooey (not a gooey brownie fan), but moist.  Plus they make a 9x13 pan size!  To which I added a note that only ONE PER DAY, lest we have a repeat of the Tiger Eye Brownie situation.

I found two pints of enchilada sauce stowed way in the back of my 'fridge, so I figured I needed a recipe to use up at least one of them.  Unfortunately, this Slow Cooker Fiesta Ranch Cream Cheese Chicken uses zero cups.  AND I don't have anything else on the menu this week that will use the bounty of sauce I will still have at the end of the week.  Brilliant.  I did put some sauce on the refried bean sides I served up with this chicken that found it's way into tacos (both crunchy and soft) for dinner.  The chicken was easy to set up and forget about - it smells amazing.  I used thighs instead of breasts - no worries about dried out chicken - it was super moist even before the cream cheese.  I also found it sacrilegious to be tossing out the drippings from the bottom, so I sneakily kept about a tablespoon, before moving on in the recipe.  After tasting the chicken before the addition of ranch and cream cheese, and then, obviously, after, I have to say, I preferred it before.  I really liked the seasoning rub, and had I kept all the drippings, it would have been all the better.  I think next time I'll drop the ranch and cut back on the cream cheese.  Dare I say leave it out, too?  This chicken would be great on salads and nachos, in taquitos (maybe keep the cream cheese here) and tacos.  We served it up with Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded romaine and avocado.

Holy crap, these Easy French Dip Sliders were awesome!  I used my grocer's "pan rolls" rather than the Hawaiian Rolls.  The grocer rolls were a little larger, but still 12, and over $1 less expensive.  Soooo good.  Soft, warm, gooey, meaty, a slight crunch from the tops of the buns.  I had a package of deli roast beef on hand (it was under a pound), and eyeballed the meat on the sandwiches; could have probably gone a bit more, I only used about half the package, but two sliders per person seemed to fill everyone up.  The sauce you pour on top, we brushed on.  It also seems to do a weird coagulating thing (maybe I didn't whip it together sufficiently, I don't know.)  I'm sure it's the packaged sauce's thickener, but it was still weird so I didn't keep any leftover sauce.  Whatever it was, I didn't care once it was on the buns, baked and in my mouth.

I'm always on the lookout for what to do with leftover chili.  In this case, I actually made chili earlier in the week so that I could make this Chili Cheese Crescent Hot Dog Bake (I don't have a canned chili recipe that I like, if you do - go for it.)  The recipe is set to make eight, being a family of six, that's not gonna be enough, so I managed to squeeze out four more.  They were good - warm, cheesy (in a way that only American Cheese can be), with that soft crescent dough-thing.  I didn't get a taste of the garlic in the butter, that goes on top of the crescents but my chili recipe has some good spice, so that may be why.

Don't forget about the current savings deal on the website - 15% off your entire order (prices are already discounted on line) and a FREE Second Helping of Paper when you buy in multiples of three (buy three get one, buy six get two, etc.)  Use code CLOSING15 at check out.  Offers good thru March 25th.

Happy Friday,

Thursday, March 16, 2017

New Close Out Deals

Ready for new deals?

Ready to save 15%?

Ready for something FREE?

Well, get ready then, because today is your day.  

First up, you'll save 15% on your entire order, of already discounted goods.  Enter Code:  CLOSING15 at check out.  Code is good for one use and must be present at the time of checkout; refunds cannot be given for missing codes.

PLUS you can get a FREE Second Helping of Paper, simply by purchasing three Second Helpings of Paper.  You pick the first three, I'll pick the Freebie.  This works in multiples too, so buy three, get one free.  Buy six, get two free, etc.  

Can I just say, Second Helpings are great for extending your TV Dinner, of the same line.  Seriously, sometimes I want to use both sides, but have to choose, because I don't have two full sheets.  Second Helpings are great for making cards and tags (check out PageMaps for their CardMaps.  Becky's designs are alwasy awesome.)  Second Helpings are great for dishing a bit of something new into something you already have, whether it's stretching out a kit, mixing it up with scraps, or something to prompt you to use embellishments from your stash.

Both the Code and the FREE paper offer are good through March 25th.

Go Shop!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

We Are

I continue to receive, and am so grateful for, all the lovely wishes, remembered memories and the "what Apron Strings means to me" comments I've received.  Thank you!

It was a mostly-quiet week.  Just settling into routines, that will soon change because end-of-school will be upon us.  Another graduate.  Summer jobs.  Summer classes.  Summer breaks.

  • Her photo and words, though I share the sentiment
  • I'm not a word-problem fan, but I, too, would like to see this one play out
  • Star Wars . . . it spans the generations
  • When, after the first swim of the season in the duck pond, the garden hose only removes so much duck. . .it's time to for a bath.  Good thing she loves water.
  • Saturdays are for squirrels who taunt and tease #theywillpay
  • As my daughter so nicely put it when I posted this to Instagram, "You know you're a hockey mom when you get pissed about the ice conditions."  Hey, it was sloppy ice, looked like a melting snow cone.  #puddles
  • Last "take a knee" meeting
  • Enjoying the after-party with teammates
  • Home Healthcare - it's not as glamorous as it looks, but it'll pay for nursing school
  • I'm not sure I'd classify 97.5% as sucky
  • Though you aren't less "moral" in these clothes, they are the clothes of a full-time student working two part-time jobs
  • I think he might like hockey - he wants to set up his goal to practice his shooting skills. . .in the house.  I'm thinking, ah, no.
  • Spring is on its way
Happy Wednesday,

Friday, March 10, 2017

Food For Thought

First, thank you for your sweet words after I announced the closing of Apron Strings.  Like I said, it is those things that I will miss.  

Also, if you are among those taking advantage of the good selection and discounts during the Clearance Sale, thank you.  There is still time to take advantage of the good selection and get an extra 10% off your order through the weekend.  Simply enter:  BLOGCLEARANCE when you check out.  Code is good thru 3.12.17.  Refunds cannot be given for missing codes.

I'm more or less back in the grove of planning, shopping and cooking, which I'm sure my family appreciates.  Except for Wednesday, when there were two of us home and I opted to rely on leftovers.  Some people were not so happy when they came home and found that out.

I was looking for something different for dessert and this Almond Apricot Biscotti seemed different enough.  I've made biscotti before, using a cake mix to start; this was from scratch.  It made two small loaves, which I forgot to round a bit, but it still worked just fine.  They were good.  Just the right crunch.  It's a good base to switch things up. . .cherries, walnuts, apples, pecans.  

I've made White Chicken Enchiladas before, but I believe this was the first time I received any response to them, other than a lackadaisical head nod.  They were creamy and warm.  I might add a little cilantro - because I love cilantro with Mexican food, and I totally spaced out adding avocado to them.  I used rotisserie chicken, which might have benefited from a bit of spice.

I can never find small spaghetti squash, and this week, I also couldn't find them in non-organic.  All my grocer had was large, and organic, which was $0.50 more per pound!  I almost ditched this Sausage and Pepper Stuffed Spaghetti Squash recipe because of that.  But, I stuck to it and glad I did.  I'm a fan of spaghetti squash though I couldn't convince my 18 y.o., who is no fan.  If I even say "squash" he turns his nose up and it's the devil to get him to try it. . .but the 8 y.o. chowed down.  Because I used two large, I got eight servings by cutting each into fourths.  It reheats well, so that's good, too.

I needed a side for the In-Law Dinner on Monday.  I was making the below casserole and forgot to pick up salad stuff.  I knew I had carrots and opted to make Garlic Butter Roasted Carrots.  It seemed an odd choice for a Mexican dish, but I thought I could tie it in by add a dash of taco seasoning to the recipe.  And, given the ooos and ahhs, it worked.  The carrots got caramelized, which is always yummy, and they had a dash of Mexican spice.  The only thing I'd do next time is make sure I have big fat carrots.  They shrink while roasting, so thinner carrots shrink to almost nothing.  

I had been craving Mexican, and thought multiple times over the weekend I needed to make a "run for the boarder," so instead I just planned it into the coming week.  This Bubble Up Enchilada Bake was great for Monday.  I wasn't sure if I'd need to double it since I was serving eight,, but the biscuits were plenty.  I just added a can of rinsed and drained black beans to the meat mixture.  I served it sprinkled with cilantro and we topped servings with sour cream and avocado.

Dont' forget to shop the Clearance Sale this weekend.

Happy Friday,

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

We Are. . .Changes

I'm preempting the usual We Are because, well, one I don't have any photos from last week . . . not a one, but, more to announce that We Are Closing.

Yep, it's true.  I am closing Apron Strings.  February was the last kit, and that feels right since 12 years ago, it was February that saw Apron Strings' first kits.

A lot has changed in the scrapbooking world in those 12 years.  A. LOT.  It's some of those changes, along with family things, that has me deciding that now is the time, though I've thought about it for a long while.  I'm actually a bit surprised, because I wasn't expecting it, but I'm quite comfortable with the decision - I thought I'd be uncertain and unsure, nervous even.  However, I'm excited as to what my life will look like without Apron Strings having first dibs on my schedule.

It's been such an adventure over the years.  The people I've "met," all the great products from companies still around, and those that have gone (whose product still lives in my stash.)  The CHA's I've attended and met people at. . .it's where I met Becky Fleck, who does our exclusive sketches in the monthly scrapbook kits and operates PageMaps.  Crops I hosted for Colorado members, or those I met up with at other crops.

I'll miss seeing the new releases and choosing the fun papers and embellishments.  It used to be I'd sit with tons of catalogs flipping through, marking pages and trying to match up printed photos to be sure things coordinated (so fun. . .not).  Those catalogs are gone now, everything is online.

Mostly, I'll miss all the connections with customers and designers I've met and worked with over the years.  Though I rarely saw any of them face-to-face, it felt like we'd been friends for years.  Funny how you can connect with someone simply through an email, or recognize a kindred spirit during the simple act of handling someone's invoices every month and labeling their box.  It was even more fun when I saw your stories played out on the layouts you shared, especially if they used an Apron Strings kit ;).

So for all you've been to Apron Strings, and myself, thank you!

Now, for some business stuff. . .I have stock that needs to be re-homed.  I'll be running a clearance sale so all these lovely things can come and live with you.  You do know the best way to use your old stash is to inject a couple new things into it?  You knew that, right?  I thought so.  Anyway, it's a great time to stock-up and save.  Shop now, while the selection is good.  Stock is already discounted on the website, but you can save 10% more on your entire order through the end of this week, by using code:  BLOGCLEARANCE when you check out.  Code is good thru 3.12.17.  Refunds cannot be given for missing codes.

I'll still be around, here on the blog - I don't expect to stop writing anytime soon.  I'm also on Instagram and I stalk around on Facebook.

Happy Wednesday,