Friday, July 31, 2015

Food on Friday

This week was pretty low key, which given the heat and a pinched nerve in my neck, that was a good thing.  

I started on my Big To-Do List (purging my way through the house.) I've gotten through several drawers and cupboards in the kitchen; I have one and a half empty cupboards and one empty drawer as a result.  I cleared through two tables in the family room - and found one of my favorite, no-longer-in-print magazines.  Finding it made me wish, again, I'd kept the past copies.  This, so far, isn't the kind of thing that's visible to anyone other than myself, unfortunately.  But if I need a reminder, I need only look as far as my laundry room, where I've been stacking and piling my purged items.  I need some boxes so I can get the stuff out of here.  Fast.

The heat and my neck kept my menu pretty simple this week.  Leftovers ruled one night and grilling outside helped keep the heat out of my kitchen.

I needed chocolate for dessert.  I have a chocolate cherry cake that I've made before, but I'll have to compare recipes to see why these Chocolate Cherry Bars were different.  They were super moist, chocolaty rich and the cherry flavor was noticeable.  I used a homemade cake mix, instead of box.

I've had make Your Own Chocolate Cake Mix on my homemade-pantry list for some time.  I have a couple different versions pinned.  The only differences I can tell just by looking is the amount of flour, but eventually I'll do some comparing.  I finally printed two out, one chocolate for the above recipe and one white/yellow version.  I don't know if it was this cake mix or the recipe I used with it, but it was awesome.  It produced a nicely dense, no-crumb chocolate cake.  I don't have cake flour, I have a substitute for it that's just all purpose flour and you take out a few teaspoons and add corn starch.  I'll be mixing up and storing a couple to use in the future.

Hot weather calls for cold salads, and this Taco Pasta Salad fit that bill.  I used the homemade salsa I made earlier and frozen corn (though fresh would have been even better.)  I toyed with adding chicken, but in the end kept to the recipe.  It was a hearty, spicy meatless meal, that I completed with homemade bread sticks.  I chose to serve the avocado on the side for the sake of leftovers (nobody wants browned avocados.)  I had the leftovers with a dollop of sour cream, which was also good.

These Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches have been bumped around on my menu for a couple weeks.  They finally had their day this week.  It was a simple recipe and quick to make - even in a hot kitchen.  I couldn't find white American cheese, so used muenster (a fairly good melty cheese) and it was okay.  I think the American cheese would have stayed gooey longer though, the muenster kind of "set up."  So, if I still can't find white (I may need to see if the deli carries it) I'll use traditional American.  I made homemade hoagie rolls (if you're going to do this, plan ahead, they are easy to do but require a couple days) and this is the part I will change.  I won't oven toast them.  The homemade rolls have a good crunch to start with, so next time I'll butter the insides and grill them.  That way the outside stays crunchy, but not overly so, which is what the oven did, and the insides are buttery and toasted.

Oven Baked French Fries were supposed to go with the Cheese Steaks, but I just couldn't.  We had them last night with Brats and they were good.  Super crispy and I liked the pre-seasoning - I may add a bit more black pepper.  But they came out as advertised - crunchy outside and soft inside.

I'm sure I'll tackle more from the Big To-Do List this weekend.  The heat may actually make me head to the basement and deal with the issue going on down there.  Ick.  The kids are headed out kayaking tomorrow morning.  Girlie is hosting a backyard movie for her Fam.  Otherwise, I think the weekend looks to be as low key as the week before.

Happy Friday,

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Throw Back Thursday

A couple Friday's ago I shirked by cooking duties and headed north with a friend for a little creative time.  I sat most of the day, instead of planning.  Then a couple hours before leaving I decided to get my stuff in gear.  I had initially wanted to work on one of my December Daily albums, but I could not find the pictures I set up for printing. I don't know if I printed them already (guess I need to add "sort out crop bags" to my list), the file was lost when I switched computers (doubtful, hubby is diligent in full back-ups), or if I was dreaming.  I'm thinking the dreaming is a pretty sure bet - I was probably setting up photos for something else and just got confused; also a sure bet.

So instead, 15 minutes before I left I grabbed some photos, paired them up with Apron Strings kits, jammed them in my bags and ran out of the house.  I grabbed a lot of fall stuff, including this Doodlebug Halloween Parade kit that was in the October '13 Smaller kit.

I paired up the fun and bright paper with these First Halloween photos of my now 6 y.o; he was just over a month old at the time.  We will pretend I'm a good mom and that this isn't his second page...ever.  

I kept it simple and just trimmed the photos.  The background was pretty busy, in combination with his photos, so I blocked the layout on black cardstock and then put that on the patterned paper.  This is a great trick when you like the design of a given paper, but the combination of the photos and the paper just don't play well together.  I've heard you can trim out a chunk of the back paper to save and use later, but I'm not that motivated.

The tags came with straws (they make picks or flags) but I opted to hang from the baker's twine like pennants.   I have a couple full sheets of patterned paper and a very limited selection of embellishments left.  The papers I can probably add to another Doodlebug line, as their color pallets stay pretty consistent.  The remaining embellishments will get sorted out.

I like the layout.  I feel even better than my sweet boy now has two pages to call his own.  Someday I sincerely hope he will have three.

Happy Thursday,

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

We Are

  • We are amazed (yet saddened) by the long, long line of emergency vehicles (particularly fire trucks) in this procession for a fallen firefighter.  The line stretched for miles.  Hopefully, for the family, it was heartening to see the people lining the streets paying their respects and offering their support.
  • We are thankful he doesn't have a phone of his own (he currently hijacks his sister's) because his Snap Chatting would be off the charts.
  • We are "Squatching."  Though I've heard Squatch (aka Big Foot) prefer Snickers.
  • We are sorting out a large stash of snacks, which happens once a year, thanks to a grandfather who works in the snacks industry and invites the grandkids to come to trade shows.
  • We are loving the whole evening which included comfortable temps and Big Band Swing music!  It was just missing a refreshing alcoholic drink (which is banned in the park.)
  • We are ignoring the clothing choices (who let this boy out of the house like that?) and instead appreciate his appreciation of old cars.  It's got to be in the genes.  His father schools him on the old muscle cars and classics.  His older brothers have him up to speed on the newer versions and high-end sports cars.  Seriously, he can spot them in the distance and get the make right every time.
  • We are totally unconcerned.  Not a peep out of him.  If it hadn't been for the mess of paper towels and drops on the floor, I'd have had no idea.
  • We are suffering from a pinched neck this week and my 6 y.o. is on it.  Sweet boy vacuumed the upper and main floors and folded a load of laundry.  He's mine ladies, for at least another 12 years!
Happy Wednesday,

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Try It On Tuesday

It wasn't that I wasn't motivated on Monday for a Motivation Monday post, it's just I was up to my elbows in bread dough and with looming high temperatures making my kitchen more like the oven, well...

If you're looking to get a little craft on this week, you're in the right place for some inspiration.   Today, we'll start with this color pallet.  You can find more on the Color Theory board.

The colors are bright and, more than likely, you see Summer.  I do.  But wait and see how easily they work for other seasons.  Here are three kits where you can find them.

First, you'll find it in the Pebbles Garden Party line (top), which was in the May '14 Bigger kit.  This would be the traditional  summer-inspired line.  It'd be cute for your gardening activities, splash days, even bridal/baby showers.  Remember the b-sides to give you more options.

Bo Bunny's Candy Cane Lane line (middle), which was in the December '14 Smaller kit, helps you see the color pallet in a different light.  A Christmas light, that is.  The colors here give this Christmas/Winter line a vintage feel.  

Finally, hop over Easter from the Echo Park Happy Easter line (top) from the April '15 Smaller kit.  Pastel versions of the color pallet work for Spring themes, including all things Bunny.

It's not just about the colors.  Remember, there's inspiration to be drawn from the photo, too.  The fish are super cute. There's their obvious use in looking for fish papers, buttons or brads.  But their scales make me think of layering items or scalloping edges.  Their golden sheen makes me think of adding gold accents that are all the rage now and come in everything from gold-foiled papers, to alphabets, to envelopes.  The fish are "outlined" in contrasting colors, so think about using stitching to add texture to your layouts.  It's hard to see, but there is a small lotus flower in the lower left of the photo - so drag out some floral accents.  The flower even looks a little mother-of-pearl.  Sort through your stash looking for pearl flourishes, pearl buttons, or just plain adhesive pearls.

Now let's pull it all together with a PageMaps sketch.  One that incorporates the above mentioned scallops - in the border strip and in the oversized mat that holds the layout.  There's the stitching (around the title) and a couple places for layered groups. 

So this should be a good jumping off place.  Now go and create.

Happy Tuesday,

Friday, July 24, 2015

Food on Friday - the Big List

Hubby and I, along with his parents, attended a concert in the park last night.  It was a gorgeous night, sweetened with the sound of big band swing music.  Awesome.

I was up early this morning, since a headache kept me from sleeping further, and started my cooking for the day before the heat rolled in.  Cloud cover is keeping some heat at bay, but I doubt it will be for long.  I have hoagie roll dough proofing.  Dessert for tonight is cooling on the counter.  Breadstick dough is rolling around in the bread machine.  Homemade poptarts are cooled and powdered-sugar dusted.

I decided to start a detailed list (I'm a big list person) for the decluttering of my home, room by room.  At least the living levels, for now, as the storage rooms in the basement are a nightmare and tackling them will require the running start that the rest of the house will give me.  I've listed things out in such a way that I can tackle one bullet point and make a dent without feeling like I'm tied to an area forever.

This week I made a lot of stuff.  If you're looking for a tried, easy to pull together, tasty meal, there's bound to be something here.

I don't know what it is about summer, but it brings out the need to eat tacos - a lot of them.  I love tacos anyway, but they make an appearance every couple weeks on the menu during the warmer months.  So when I saw this Easy Weeknight Chicken Tacos recipe, it got pinned and used quickly.  The recipe said it fed four people on 1 1/2 pounds of cooked chicken thighs, so I doubled mine for In-Law Monday.  Given the amount of leftovers, which isn't a bad thing because this chicken R.O.C.K.E.D, I probably could have just added an extra 1/2 pound.  But I have no problem freezing the extra, and I may actually cook more the next time just for the leftovers.  I highly recommend using the thighs called for, they just stay moist and hold the seasoning better, because the chicken was smoky and full of flavor.   I did the shredding in my stand mixer, which I'd seen as a tip before, but hadn't tried; I may never pull out two forks again!   I would also just use roma tomatoes and save yourself the cost of grape tomatoes.  The lime crema was a must have, so don't not make it.  I may try feta with this next time.

I needed a side to my tacos, so I grabbed this Cilantro Lime Rice I saw posted to Twitter.  I used brown rice (adjust cooking liquid accordingly.)  My limes were over-juicy and so the flavor was a little more lime and a little less cilantro than I'd have liked.  I do have another Cilantro Lime Rice recipe that I've used before.  I need to pick one, so I'll have to have a rice-off.

Lime.  Love it.  It is definitely a seasonal thing.  I can't see me enjoying a Cherry Limeade as much with snow falling.  So I take advantage of recipes like this Key Lime Pound Cake before the leaves start to fall.  This pound cake was super moist with lots of tart lime goodness.  It was, however, a bit on the crumbly side and I'm not sure why; I may actually have to adjust for altitude for this recipe .  It also stuck to the bottom of my pan (I hate that!) so I will use shortening, instead of butter, to grease my pan.  I also needed double the glaze to cover the cake.

Salsa is something we go through a lot.  It's also one of those things that seems easy enough to make (and customize to taste) and, so, I've been thinking of adding it to my homemade staple list.  Enter Easy Salsa.  We like our salsa diced pretty fine, so I pulsed the chopped ingredients a couple times in Cuisinart.  This recipe has great fresh flavor, and is spiced just right for us.  I didn't use a jalapeno (though I almost bought one.)  Instead I used some roasted jalapeno I had in the freezer - next time I'll add a bit more.  It's good straight away, or letting it sit gives it even more flavor, as everything melds together.  It made about a quart and a half.  Everything in this recipe is a staple, so I'll continue to make it.

I used leftover pulled pork in this Game Day BBQ Chicken Ranch French Bread recipe instead of chicken.  Then I whipped up some Ranch Dressing and made a loaf of french bread and assembled.  It was warm, crunchy and gooey (I used monterrey jack instead of mozzarella) and even though it used the oven, it wasn't on long enough to adversely heat up the kitchen.

I'm always on the look out for morning meal options, especially for the school year.  More so this year because the 18 y.o. wants healthier choices for college mornings.  I whipped up a batch of these On the Go Breakfast Muffins.  They are really good.  Soft, a bit sweet and easy to eat on the run.  I used breakfast sausage, instead of italian.  I also used monterrey jack, instead of cheddar, because that's what I had on hand.  And, had I been reading the recipe I'd have topped them with more cheese.  The daughter and I were discussing them and thought some cumin and chili powder would also be good in them.  They reheat in the microwave (from the 'fridge) in about 30 seconds.  I put a couple in the freezer to see how they do from freezer to microwave, and they rocked that too - about a minute in the microwave. They stayed soft, with no sign of overdoneness or rubberiness. 

I've seen overnight oats for breakfast, but just haven't tackled them.  These Tropical Yogurt Parfaits (Overnight Oats) are also a school/college morning experiment.  Given my distaste for traditional oatmeal (too slimy), I approached these with caution.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The oats were soft, and maybe a bit too much for my tastes, but not slimy.  I used vanilla yogurt, and the yogurt did keep the bananas from browning.  I also only had crushed pineapple, but it worked.  These would be easy to customize with various fruits.  The Girly and I were going over other options; she's not a huge oat fan, so we talked about granola on the bottom (which would probably still soften, but maybe not as much.  Skipping something on the bottom and topping with granola.  Even toasting the oatmeal which might help it hold up a little at the bottom.  Adding a sprinkle of flax or chai, but probably just before eating, chai gets slimy too. The other option is thicker rolled oats on the bottom - Bob's Red Mill offers such.

Bring or give me a Cherry Limeade and I am one happy camper.  Last summer I had an adult version, but for the life of me I cannot find the recipe this year.  So I went in search of an {Adult} Cherry Limeade.  I used Three Olives Cherry Vodka and limeade concentrate (I was out of limes), about an ounce.  I, unfortunately, picked up the wrong seltzer water - I thought it was lime and cherry, but it was lime and cranberry, which affected the flavor in that you knew there was something other than cherry in the drink.  Next time, I'll just get lime seltzer.  It was yummy, though!!  Refreshing, lime-y and bordering on dangerous, since the vodka doesn't really jump and yell, "I'm alcoholic!"

For whatever reason I've not picked up Rhubarb much this year.  So when it caught my eye this week, I grabbed some and then came home to find a way to use it.  I opted for Rhubarb Freezer Jam.  Aside from the fact that it crystallized, I have to say, I'm disappointed.  The strawberry jello (used in place of pectin) was far too overpowering for me.  I don't get any of the tart from the Rhubarb and a whole 'lotta sweet from the jello.  It made four pints, three are in the freezer and one is in the 'fridge.  Since it's basically a solid, it'll probably end up as a sauce; pancakes or ice cream anyone?  I used it this morning in my homemade poptarts, where it worked well.  I've deleted the recipe, as I have other Rhubarb jam recipes pinned.

I've got several of these bloggers' tortellini combos and they are all good, including their Italian Sausage Tortellini.  Even though it was a warm day, there was something about the spice of the sausage, the cream sauce and the gooey tortellini that just hit the spot.  Save a little money and buy bulk spinach (instead of baby) and then just chop it.

I needed to make hummus for a recipe, but I chose Avocado Hummus because I had several avocados heading for over-ripe-land.  It was ok; I didn't get much avocado taste.  I know avocados aren't bold in flavor, but I was expecting a little something.  It was quite thick, too, so I added olive oil and then water when the oil wasn't doing much.  It worked okay with the recipe, but I'll try a traditional hummus next time.  I deleted this recipe since it didn't blow me away and I have two other avocado hummus options to try.

These Greek Chicken Wraps required the above hummus.  I liked the chicken mixture, it had good flavor and the hummus was a low-cal, flavorful dressing option.  These would be good with soup in the colder months.

Our weekend looks to be fairly quiet.  Maybe some fishing at some point.  Maybe some bed building at some point.  Maybe heading to the local Craft Beer-fest.  Maybe tackling something on my new declutter my house list.  We'll just have to see.

Happy Friday,

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Throw Back Thursday

Step back to July, 2011.  These were the kits being played with - I may have a couple sheets left from one or two of these kits.  If, like me, you do, too, go dig them out and plan to play.  And soon.

This layout not only used Fancy Pants Beach Babe, but the sketch from that month as well.  This line was bright and distressed and felt like you needed an ice cold glass of lemonade at your elbow as you worked.  Aside from using a good amount of patterned papers (hello, used up kit!) you can split the design for a one-pager, you can add additional photos to the left, or get smaller photos in place of the large ones (or a combination of large and small.)

Jillibean is one of my favorite manufacturers.  Their Watermelon Gazpacho Soup was/is great.  The colors, the graphics, it is just fun (I wish I'd picked up the stamp set!)  The line helped create this clean and simple layout.  Actually, this layout could be a take on the same sketch from above.  If you like a little more to your layout, you can continue the strips of patterned paper across the layout, or add journaling strips below the four-block of photos.  Use buttons or brads to "hang" the swimsuit line.  You could also layer a small grouping of embellishments between the larger and smaller photo blocks.

Cosmo Cricket's Salt Air had a bit of a water/ocean theme going on, but because of its "B Sides" it is much more versatile than that.  Here the summery colors helped tell the story of a trip to the zoo.  Change the Bracket-shape to a circle if you don't feel like free-handing.  You could also use another patterned paper for that spot.  Divide the larger photos into smaller photos to get more to a page.

Here the same Salt Air as above is put to the water test, and it passes in flying colors.  The hand-cut splashes, from the patterned paper, are a great way to use larger graphics instead of cutting the paper down or trying to arrange your photos over the design while still seeing the design.  This one-page layout allows for more photos, should you choose.  The layered grouping at the bottom is a great way to use a variety of embellishments out of a kit.

We'll wrap it up with Jenni Bowlin's Be Our Guest line.  This layout is also clean and simple, but the feel of it differs because the patterned paper used is more graphic itself.  A simple hand-stitched circle connects it all.  This is a great layout if you're using a combination of pocket-pages and traditional pages; the grid layout pairs nicely with the pockets.  You could also do two more square photos to get more on the page, just move the title up or below the extra photos.

I'm already starting to look ahead to the weekend, and I'd like very much to work on a page or two myself.  I've heard "fishing" mentioned a few times in the house, which would give me uninterrupted time.  The gear from last weekend's trip still clutters my entry way and I'm telling myself it's not because they were lazy (or worse, figured someone else would take care of it), but because they planned to use it again, soon.

Happy Thursday,

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

We Are

  • We are "enjoying" the heat.  He is, I'm not.
  • We are completing orientation.  With move-in day just 28 days away, we are unable to deny she will be leaving us - and my heart breaks a little more.
  • We are celebrating these two birthdays - my little sister's and my mom's.
  • We are backyard movie nighting Raiders of the Lost Ark; perfect evening for it too.
  • We are kayaking on Boulder Res - the one in front is a first-timer, the one in back is enjoying a second time (his first being in San Diego - ocean-side.)
  • We are the fish whisperer.
  • We are done in with all the work involved with being an expert fisherman
Happy Wednesday,