Friday, July 3, 2015

Food on Friday

It's Friday!  We have a quiet weekend in front of us, with no plans about what we're doing for the 4th.  Mass, of course, but other than that haven't decided (or even talked about) fireworks shows.  Our closest one, is just down the road about a mile and a half.  We've done the early-car-drop-off thing and we've done the park-and-walk-in (about a 1/2 mile) thing.  I enjoy going - it's just the six of us, usually, in this otherwise sea of humanity.  These kinds of moments are a bigger thing to me, with my daughter's departure just weeks away.

Hubby and our daughter are headed to the Zac Brown Band concert tonight out at Coors Field.  I know she is super psyched - hubby is, too, but he's more subdued about it; it could be a wet, but blissfully cool evening.

I haven't done much today - though I'm cruising my Pinterest board,looking for next week's menu.  I cooked from it this week, too, and feel like I need to weedle out some more pins - though I tend to pin at a rate 10 times faster than I use them.  I have other boards, including boards for each month's kits, and I keep thinking I need a plan to work through them, too.

I needed a dessert for Friday In-Law dinner, and I was baking up a storm last Friday anyway, so what was leaving the oven on for one more hour.  Boy, was this Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Ganache worth it.  It was rich and chocolaty, but it, oddly, wasn't heavy.  It had a lightness about it.  I served mine up with homemade Raspberry sauce.  Perfect.

I had hoped to serve this Mediterranean Quinoa Salad as a main dish (it would make a great side, too) on a stinkin' hot day, but some menu rearranging happened and it was served on a not-so-hot day.  Because I was serving eight, I added an extra half-cup of quinoa and altered the liquid content to accommodate the extra.  Even though there was plenty of protein, what with the quinoa and the chickpeas, I added three cups of chopped rotisserie chicken (chopped grilled chicken would be awesome, as well.)  I served it up with a side of homemade french bread.  The only things I'd change is add more Feta and I'd make some adjustments to the dressing.  I could taste the lemon, but no garlic or oregano, so I'd go up on both of those.  I like red onion, but it can be a strong flavor for some.  If that's you, soak the chopped onion in some ice water for a few minutes and that'll cut the bite a bit.

I wanted a quick grab for the morning and these Banana Coconut Muffins were a perfect fit for the over-ripe bananas on my counter.  They were very moist with that sweet taste of coconut.  Good stuff!

With my freezer staple smoked sausage on hand, I had most of the ingredients on hand to make this Jambalaya Pasta.  The recipe said it would serve four.  I opted to double the meat, but left the remainder of the recipe as-is.  It worked.  I had about a serving left over and nobody had to take a skimpy serving.  Because of the amount of meat, in the future I would probably brown the sausage and set aside, and then brown the chicken and then throw it all back in the pan and finish it.  The amount of meat cooking together didn't allow for browning.  I used chicken breast, but I do like thighs in this type of recipe, too.

I love salads in the summer.  I also like soups in the winter, but certain members of my family don't feel they are "meals."  So, when I serve a soup and someone asks what it is I call it a stew - which apparently qualifies for meal status.  This only works when the line between soup and stew are blurred - when it's clearly soup, I've have learned to serve them with a side of bread or some grilled sandwich.  In the summer I've learned to add meat and voila! it's a meal!  Just like this Mexican Salad, which was gorgeous meat-less, but to make my nay-sayers happy I cooked up some taco-seasoned ground beef and served it on the side.  I fried up my own tortilla strips with left over corn tortillas.  The dressing with this recipe is awesome.  It's thick and creamy and spicy without being hot - it will be taking the place of a bottled dressing as soon as I can keep people from buying the stupid stuff.  It would make a great dip for chips or veggies, as well.

I talked about coffee creamer last week with this recipe.  I have another Homemade Coffee Creamer recipe - this one has a couple different flavors, but like last week's this one is also milk-based, instead of sweetened condensed milk.  I didn't have the called-for half-and-half, but used heavy cream cut with 2% milk.  I've got one more recipe pinned that actually uses a combo of milk and cream.  I have to say, I'm liking these milk-based recipes.  They are small batches, but they don't take any time to mix up.  I believe I have found one more thing I won't have to buy.  Yeah!

Getting fish or non-meat meals in the menu seems infinitely easier in the summer.  This Spiced-Rubbed Tilapia with Tomatillo, Black Bean and Mango Salsa was really good.  We all love tilapia, but I love it because it can handle a variety of flavors.  I've never used tomatillos, so this was a first.  I like the flavors in the salsa, but it does make a lot.  A.  Lot.  The as-is recipe fed four, I added two more fillets, but didn't alter the recipe otherwise, and I still had quite a bit of salsa left; I would halve the amount next time.  Now to figure out how to use what's left - quesadillas anyone??

Because of the concert, we won't be hosting the in-laws tonight, so I have a long do-nothing day left.  Pizza for dinner.

Happy Friday - and Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Throw-Back Thursday

I'm sure I've said it before - many, many times - but I'm a huge fan of sketches.  I use them All. The. Time.  I don't care if they are colored, black and white, detailed (photo placement, use of patterned paper and embellishment placement) or simple (photo and title placement.)  I typically select what I use based on my number of photos and go from there.  But besides sketches, sometimes an actual layout can provide the same usefulness as a sketch.  Sometime more so because you get to see other things at work.  So whether it's a sketch or the actual page(s), it's all good.

With that in mind, we'll take a bit of a trip back, to July 2009 and a couple layouts from way back then.  And holy crap, would you look at my memory for remembering lines, because if you're like me, you might still have the kit a sheet and some bits left.

Does it get more simple than this?  Seriously, though it doesn't look simple and it's because of the paper.  This page is a great reminder, and example, of how to use those large design papers.  Go minimal in both photos and embellishments.  This was a Little Yellow Bicycle's Traveler line.

This layout has my favorite things - circles.  Circles are the perfect thing for scaling.  Make them bigger or smaller according to your photo.  Add more photos or more patterned paper if you have less photos.  String out more of them to create a two-pager.  Also, Little Yellow Bicycle Traveler line (except the Apples.)

Besides this being of photo my my niece and nephew - I can't believe how little they are - this layout gives a great option for dealing with papers that have over-sized graphics.  I love those papers, but struggle in incorporating them into pages.  Here the paper was cut, pushing that one graphic page over the spread.  Or opt to just use the right side for a one-pager.  I know this line was Bo Bunny Popsicle.

And, for the 4th of July this weekend - this was a combination of a couple lines from Jenni Bowlin, I'm pretty sure Farmer's Wife and Trendy.  I like this one for the clean lines and simple photo grouping - it's an easy block to add to, or make the photo sizes different.  It also illustrates a great way to combine three patterns - one large print, two small prints, with one of them being a different color to keep the layout from being monochromatic (not that there's anything wrong with that.)

I got some really good news yesterday that frees up a lot of brain space, so I may have to go clean the mess that was my studio, replace my work desk that was used in the garage sale a couple weeks ago, tuck away things that didn't sell and we opted to hold on to and play a bit, because life is great.

Happy Thursday,

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

We Are

It was just one of those quiet, pensive weeks around here.  We just plugged along doing our summer thing.  Staying occupied, keeping distracted, and there aren't really pictures for that.

  • We are decked out in our swimming best - even though we're at the indoor pool
  • We are almost finished (we are finished now and on to "Some Luck") with "The Astronauts Wives Club."  It was good, too, and another quick read.  
  • We are just happy to be at the pool.
Happy Wednesday,

Friday, June 26, 2015

It's All About the Food

We've been enjoying some rain, to cool off from heat, at the end of the day.  Well, sort of enjoying it. It's not only a bit more rain than is good, like street flooding and high, fast rivers, but it's a bit more than rain.  We've had some palm-sized hail fall out east.  Palm-sized, people.  And not baby palms, big, adult, farmer palms! There was a tornado that touched down on the other side of town from us; Colorado gets tornadoes (a lot of them) but seldom in the city.  Today, temps will be down, but storms will again roll through.  It's the perfect day for cooking - and I have quite the list of things to get done:  a dessert for tonight, a loaf a bread, a loaf of raisin bread and some muffins (because I have bananas that are past their prime.)

I've been pinning recipes like a crazy person, now it's time to use them.  I did some last week and because I was a total potato this week and didn't plan, I carried over some recipes I was too lazy to do in last week's heat.

I watch a couple shows on the Food Network - Pioneer Woman (I'm kind of a groupie with her), being one of them.  I've finally figured out that while I watch, I should have Pinterest open to snag recipes.  That was the case with this pin.  She provided a couple options to the basic recipe, one of which was making Butterscotch Pudding.  I was planning to do the White Chocolate Chip version, but was doing gluten-free dessert, so I went with Butterscotch.  I'm hit or miss with Butterscotch, but after eating this pudding, I figured out I'm hit or miss with artificial Butterscotch, because this pudding was equally buttery and caramely.  It was amazing!  I topped mine with lightly sweetened fresh whipped cream.  My family opted to top their whipped cream with mini chocolate chips.  It is a definite do-over!

Tortellini is a freezer staple for me, along with ham steaks, smoked sausage and rotisserie chicken. Those types of things come in handy when you don't plan a weekly menu but need to feed the family.  Enter this Ham & Cheese Tortellini.  It was quick and easy and totally cheesy goodness.  The recipe calls for Swiss, which I love.  I had one person in the family comment, What's that bitey flavor?"  To which I replied, "Swiss cheese."  Back came, "Oh."  So, I'll take that comment into consideration next time, no matter how much of a perfect match Swiss and ham make.  I'll cut the Swiss with Monterrey Jack, both good melting cheeses.

I was supposed to make this for In-Law Dinner last Friday but the garage sale and my parent's move sort of cut into the day.  We cancelled the dinner and I moved this Chicken with Sun Dried Tomato Cream Sauce to Monday.  It was a meal that was easy to pull together.  My only issue, the sauce was too thin.  Really good, but too thin.  When I think of a cream sauce, I think of a sauce with some body to it; some stick-to-it-ness.  Next time I make it, I'll drain off almost all of the fat - probably leaving a couple tablespoons for the flavor it provides, and go from there.  You could also try to reduce the sauce before putting the chicken back in.  I served it with angel-hair pasta to soak up the sauce, but orzo would work too.

We go through a lot of granola, so it's become a homemade staple these days, heaven knows I have plenty of recipes to try out.  I've made the kind you can grab by the handful to munch on and kinds like this Vanilla Almond Granola, that is more sprinkle on yogurt, ice cream, in a smoothie or in a bowl with milk.  It's good and light and crispy.  You can taste the toasted almonds and oats.

I love Oven Tacos - something about the sort of soft bottoms, crunchy tops and melted cheese - but never make them.  I don't know why.  So when I was menu planning, I pulled this Oven Tacos recipe.  They were just how I like them - soft, crunchy, gooey.  I didn't use the called for two pounds of beef, instead going with one pound beef and a half a pound of ground pork.  That combined with the rest of the taco-filling ingredients, made a ton of tacos - close to 20; filling them about a third full.  We topped them with lettuce, sour cream, guacamole and tomatoes.  I found I also had this one pinned, and they are almost the same (the one I made has green chilies and chopped onion), so I deleted the second one.

With the Oven Tacos above, the blogger provided a Taco Seasoning mix recipe (I'm making almost all my own mixes these days, they're too easy not to.)  I had a previous recipe of Taco Seasoning on hand when I made the Tacos, so I used that.  The recipe used up what I had, so I mixed up another batch using the new recipe.  Now, no menu plan for this week, combined with some freezer staples, raw tortillas that needed to be used up and a couple left over taco shells and I had dinner for last night.  I grabbed my rotisserie chicken from the freezer, some leftover brown rice, and a tablespoon of the new Taco Seasoning (with a bit of chicken broth to keep the chicken/rice mixture moist while it reheated) and boom, I have chicken tacos.  Served up with the same toppings as the Oven Tacos, that seasoning was really good!  It may become my go-to; I think I have one more pinned to give a try, but that one has bumped out my previous go-to.

Besides my baking for today, I have a couple end-of-business-day things to get done, so I'd best move on.

Happy Friday,

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

We Are

We are passed the busy weekend - the garage sale went well.  Friday was definitely better than Saturday, but we sold stuff (met the goals the kids set) and what was left over was packed up and dropped off with Goodwill that night.  My parents were moved out and over - not without its hiccups, but it's done and they are getting settled into their temporary digs.  I am the keeper of their dining room set, the delivery of which - combined with the garage sale - created a huge mess in my house.  The proverbial dust has settled, and I now have actual dining room furniture in my dining room; a first in my 25 years of marriage.  Father's Day was spent with both families - one for brunch and one for dinner, with a small break to celebrate the father in my own house.

  • We are never to old to enjoy a good splash after the rain.
  • We are selling all kinds of things - this one is "solb"
  • We are father and son (who is also a father.)
  • We are playing "Chubby Bunny" and they can have at it.  The only way you'll get me eating marshmallows is fire roasted and dipped in Bailey's.  Or day-old Peeps at Easter.
  • We are trying to earn $10 in the "Eat six saltines in 60 seconds" challenge.  Only the challenge-issuer won, and that was because he didn't have to pay out; he, too, couldn't complete the challenge.
  • We are family, minus one sister.
  • We are just happy to be playing in water.
Happy Wednesday,

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

We Are

We are heading into a busy weekend - to start it's Father's Day; are you ready?  Me?  Ah, yeah, not so much.  We are participating in our neighborhood's Garage Sale, which is Friday and Saturday.  Also, on Friday and Saturday my parents are moving out of the house they've been in since we moved here, when I was finishing up 3rd grade.  They'll be packing up and moving in with my sister while they wait for their new home to be finished.  My 16 y.o. will be attending the Steubenville of the Rockies conference, which is sleep-away and all weekend.  And I have some of my own torture to deal with Friday afternoon.  Fun stuff.

  • We are the Official Race Photo from the Steamboat Springs Half-Marathon.
  • We are deep into the real struggle to perfect this trick, or even get it down once.
  • We are doing our best to survive #Droughtlander.  Funny how reading eight 1000+ page books for eight months can make a 200+ page book run like a hot knife through butter.  This is my second book since completing the series and I'm enjoying it - the book, not the lack of Outlander.
  • We are pouting because we were not invited up on the couch.
  • We are playing on sister's phone and discovering the joy that is Snapchat
Happy Wednesday,

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saturday Food

I know it's a Saturday.  What's up with this?  This is the time I didn't have yesterday, as I spent it doing a lot of cooking.  Monday's and Friday's seem to be the day I do some major food prep - baking bread for the week, mixing up snacks, etc.  Yesterday it was granola bars, cookies, mock apple pie, a smaller batch of chicken stock, along with the usual Friday night In-Law Dinner.

So, as food was the theme, I'm carrying that over to today's post (that should have been yesterday's) with my weekly Pinterest finds.  Trying out recipes that are quick to pull together, but tasty (usually), too.

Given that I've pinned more to Pinterest, lately, than I've been cooking, I see next week's menu planning being Pinterest heavy.

I love a good cakey brownie; I'm not much for the gooey versions.  The photo for these Irresistible Fudgy Brownies caught my eye - they looked cakey and rich.  And they were.  Rich, dark chocolate and cakey enough to make again.

Indiana's state pie seems to be some sugar cream concoction.  I've made this one a couple times, and it's good.  Really good actually.  I came across this Sugar Cream Pie recipe and it was different from the first, so naturally I have to try it.  Holy moly, as much as I loved the first one, I love this one, too.  It's creamier, custardier, thicker, caramelier.  It's just more.  Caution, because you blind bake the crust on this recipe, cover the edges on the blind bake and during the second baking or they can get over dark - over dark can be bitter.  This pie will definitely make the rounds again!

With the exception of this Mug Cake recipe (because it is two boxed mixes mixed together, along with water), mug cakes aren't exactly cost effective.  But if you're making a mug dessert, you're not interested in cost, you're interested in satisfying a craving.  I have a couple in my repertoire, the Mug Cake above and these brownies, which actually serves two.  I have several mug desserts pinned, and decided to try a couple this week.  Up first, Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Mug.  If more than one person is wanting chocolate chip cookies - make a batch of cookies, because each mug takes one egg yolk, whereas a full batch takes two eggs - see cost effectiveness.  I also had these chocolate chip mug cookie recipes pinned: this one and this one and outside of the photos, all three recipes are identical, so I deleted the superfluous ones.  They were a little more cake and a little less of that chocolate chip cookie dough taste I like; but good, and if you're only making one, I say go for it.  I would used mini chips, instead of regular sized.  I also didn't cook them in a mug, I used ramekins.

I love my morning coffee.  I love it full of creamer.  Flavored non-dairy creamer.  And I'm well aware how full of chemicals they are, but I can't seem to wean myself from them.  I've tried.  I have a more than a couple creamer recipes pinned; I've tried this one and this one and they are okay.  For me, with making my own pantry staples, I have to weigh the cost of making it, versus is it better for me/my family versus flavor factors.  This Cinnamon Bun Coffee Creamer, compared against the two I've tried, uses cream and milk and flavorings versus sweetened condensed milk and flavorings.  The Cinnamon Bun creamer seemed a little thicker and creamier than my other recipes.  I almost always have cream on hand, so I think it could be cost effective, compared to store bought versions, and maybe even versus the older pins, sweetened condensed milk being the cost-variable ingredient.  I liked the flavor and the texture enough to try to not only make again, but to adapt my older pins to cream/milk bases.

This Dark Chocolate Mug Cake was all about satisfing a craving.  The link has links to three other flavors, which sound good.  The chocolate was rich and the cake moist.  I used a ramekin and had to cook it 20 seconds longer than suggested.  I was expecting it to take less time than a mug, I'm not sure how a mug would have cooked in 40 seconds.  Nonetheless, it was good and will be a go-to for single serve cravings.

Happy Saturday,