Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday

I haven't been super successful lately with recipes that I'm making and I like. But you've always gotta try new stuff - and maybe you'll like this.

Peaches + Basil + Red Onion

Toss 3 peaches, sliced 1/2 inch thick, with 1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced, 1/3 cup fresh basil (leaves torn if large), the juice of 1/2 leamon, 1/2 tsp coarse salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with 1 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil.

Serves 4
82 Calories, 0g saturated fat, 3 g unsaturated fat, 140mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

First - I'm a pretty simple chick. I like is. I made this with white peaches (they were on sale!) which I don't like as much as regular peaches. But this was just "eh" for me...too much flavor?

If you try it let me know what you think!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


This year for my friend Garry's birthday, I thought I would make him a cake! :) I baked the cake on Saturday and did the covering white coat of icing that night! The next morning, I woke up and started decorating! I used an 18 tip to make the ring of rosettes on the top . Then I wrote my message, in order to make sure it was placed properly.
I then used the same #18 tip to make stars and alternated stars and chocolate chips around the side of the cake. For my bottom border I used some chocolate jimmies I already had. Beautiful right!?! 1 problem!
Birthday is missing the H!

No, this didn't effect the way the cake tasted or the appreciation of it's recipient but it reminded me of a lesson I learned in school! SPELL CHECK! PROOFREAD! Always proofread! I can't tell you how many time I've received notes from people with misspellings in them or fairly obvious grammatical mistakes. Now, I'm no spelling expert but if I would have paid more attention to WHAT I was writing and not HOW it looked this error would have never occurred! If I had just taken a minute to step back and take a look at my words instead of just admiring my handiwork, I would have caught my mistake! Instead my sister-in-law pointed it out AFTER I had already posted photos on Facebook! OH well! :)

Lesson RE-learned! Take your time and pay attention!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Easy Update (I promise, it really is easy this time)

This is so easy, I probably shouldn't post it. But I thought it was a cute idea and a quick fix. All you need is a bottle of soap and a can of spray paint. You might already have both, so this project would cost you $0. Everyone has to love that!

I am one of those cheap-o's that gets a $1 bottle of soap, and then the $5 bottle to refill it with. Years later, the soap is an indistinguishable color, due to mixing all that soap. And so it sits, as ugly as can be, but totally effective!

I am also the cheap-o that wont just buy a pump to replace my $1. If i dont like it better, why would i buy it? (I did however buy this one for $3 -- GASP! I wanted the cool shape.)

So, I present to you a solution to my dilemma, and maybe yours too. (Or maybe you just want a 20 minute project that will change SOMETHING in your house.)


I simply took that clear bottle and spray painted it. Yup, that was it. Two thin even coats later and some drying time (I just left it on the cardboard overnight), voila! A new soap dispenser that looks all expensive. *Note: I spray painted outside. Left 20 minutes between coats.)

I have no problem with the pump action at all. It does not stick or anything if you apply it thin and even. With spray paint, it is ok not to cover everything the first time.

Now i have to upgrade the bathroom to match it. :-)

(The spray paint costs about $6, but for me it was leftover from next weeks project post.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

What I'm Reading Now

Another great, fast summer read. This one takes place in NYC...and I have a certain love for that city ;-) (currently have 2 more books with NYC things in the title!)

Great development of characters...there were so many at the beginning that I struggled a bit. Crazy how they all intermingle and intersect stories. I enjoyed the story overall - thought the ending was a bit unbelievable....but wishful thinking ;-)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday

It's zucchini season! And while I don't have a garden - it's one of the cheapest vegetables in the store right now. Which is what prompted this "experiment"

Vegetable Tian
2 Tbls olive oil (divided)
1 large sweet yellow onion cut in half and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 russet potatoes, unpeeled
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
3 large Roma tomatoes
Sea salt, black pepper, to taste
Dried thyme, to taste
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375. Coat a baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Heat 1 Tbl of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 60 seconds. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the greased baking dish.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini, squash and tomatoes in 1/4" thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly into a spiral, making only one layer. Season with seas salt, black pepper and dried thyme, to taste. Drizzle the last tablespoon of olive oil over the top.

It's gonna look like this:

Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Uncover and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until browned. Enjoy!

Instead of yellow onion - I used red.
I didn't pre-cook the onion or the garlic, just threw it in the bottom of the pan
Used 2 each of zucchini & yellow squash due to the size of my baking dish
Obviously a spiral pattern wouldn't work in this pan ;-)
Couldn't find thyme, so I used oregano.
Didn't have sea salt, so I used Kosher salt.

Verdict -
LOVED IT! And while it took a long time to bake, it was super easy to throw together (especially since I didn't saute the onion & garlic!)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Desk? TV Stand?

Nette's in the middle of a few projects - so I get to share the one redo I've done since moving into my new place in April!

Garage sales in my hood have been frustrating. Most weeks I feel like I'm just driving around wasting gas (but not time, cause I've got plenty of time ;-)). But one weekend I found this beauty

for $10...I talked her down to $5 (and she threw in this cute guy for a quarter!)

My plan was to paint it. Didn't think there was much else to do with a bright pink desk! But on the way home it rubbed up against something else in the car and the paint chipped. So when I pulled it out - I saw this:

and I knew we were in business!

Got out my stripping material (I like the orange stuff that also smells like oranges) and got to work. It took the weekend (because I am never patient enough with the first "coat") and it's not perfect (ie - wouldn't put it up for sale), but I like it!

It's the perfect height for my TV and while the TV is longer than the desk, I kinda like it like that. And I like all the shelves on the side to hold my DVDs (in a CD holder) and my Wii (with still only 2 games...sad). And the little shelf underneath would not be stripped (that's why it's partially white..that's the stripping material). So that will be painted at some point...when I have paint left over from another project ;-)

Oh - and I DID update the knob on the front!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Freezer Sunday

I had a Groupon for produce that was about to expire, so I set up a Saturday delivery and paid my $5 handling charge. I should state that I'm pretty bad at understanding weights & volumes (ie. 1 pound of tomatoes actually equals how many tomatoes). So I was a bit surprised when I opened the box and saw how much food there really was!

So I thought my best plan of action would be to freeze some of the goodness.

As you can see - I plan to enjoy the bounty for quite some time ;-)

Friday, August 19, 2011

What I'm reading now

I read SO MUCH at the beach. It was WONDERFUL! Nothing like a cold beverage, a beach chair and umbrella and a good book to spend a day at the beach!

Yup - that's pretty much my set up everyday while there!

This book was perfect for a beach read! It had romance. It had drama. It had suspense. It had relationship woes. It had female friendship.

I started this book on the plane and finished it the next was good!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday

It all started with this
recipe and quickly became "leaving for vacation in 1 1/2 days - use all the produce!"

So here's what we started with:
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 pound kale, thick stems removed and leaves chopped
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added Great Northern or other white beans, drained and rinsed
8 ounces whole wheat pasta

Soak sundried tomatoes in hot water to cover for 15 minutes to soften them, then drain and thinly slice.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil for cooking the pasta. In a separate large, high-sided skillet, bring 3/4 cup water to a simmer. Add onion and cook 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in kale, beans and 3/4 cup water. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook 8 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking 4 to 5 minutes or until most liquid has evaporated, greens are wilted and tender and beans are heated through.

Add pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Add sliced sundried tomatoes 2 minutes before pasta is done. Drain pasta and tomatoes and add to skillet with greens. Stir to combine.

Instead of the yellow onion - I used red
Instead of sundried tomatoes - I used fresh
Added mushrooms
Was going to add yellow pepper - but I ate it before it made it to the pan!

This was a little bland. You see that they added no spices... I added salt (one reader might be shocked by that!) and pepper. Since I love garlic I'd probably add that next time.
And I'm not sure it needs the pasta...definitely made it more hearty, but overkill? (my serious love for pasta makes me never skip it when offered!)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lets get spicy!

Spices... They add so much flavor, and all it takes is a small amount. What would pizza be without Basil, Oregano and Garlic? What would mashed potatoes be without pepper? What would apple or pumkin pie be without cinnamon? All would still probably be edible, but spices take one on a journey to far off places...or to the window sill in your kitchen. They take you down reminisce lane, revisiting childhood memories and once again seeing Grandma pulling something wonderful out of the oven! (Ok, that is what spices do for me.)

Let me tell you a little story. As you can tell from above, I have an appreciation for spices. I love mixing them and using new ones. I liked them so much I took this spice rack with me to college. Yes, I was the only girl in the dorms who had a spice rack hanging on her wall. During open dorms (when the guys got to come visit our rooms), guys I had never met stopped by and asked if I was the girl with the spice rack. I even got asked if they could borrow some for their Ramen.

This was the rack. Once I left college, I took it down and put it away. I was living with others that had a spice rack, no need for two. I even put it in the yard sale twice, and then pulled it back out. When I got married, I was given a different one, which serves me very well. But, I wanted to change things up.

So I grabbed my trusty Red Apple spray paint and Black spray paint and got to work. First I painted the whole rack red. (Picture is after I did the back, but I still had the front to show you!)

These were the lids to the original jars that came with the rack. Not a bad green, just kinda...tired.

So I spray painted them all a shiny black! That will add some zest!

Then I soaked all the spice jars. Again, the labels were fine, but I wanted a more retro look. The old labels were gold and green.

I had to take a fingernail and a scrubby to them, but I got all the glue and label off.

**I was unable to get pictures of the label process. Sometimes I go too fast for myself. I wanted a decorative label that looked a little retro. I went to craft stores, office supply stores, scrap booking stores, and 100 other stores. (Exaggerating...a bit.) All I wanted was a decorative label people! And I wanted them to match, so the sets of 15 different ones was not going to work for me.

Finally, I found a stamp I could live with. The problem? It had lines in the middle, where you would write something. I didnt want the lines, just the boarder. So, the solution? Instead of ink, I used a marker and drew on the part I wanted the ink to show.

I used a regular 2 in x 4 in shipping label, chose a font I wanted, and printed out a list or spices. Then, I put the stamp over each one. It was a bit tricky getting it to center, and I had to reprint a few to do again. After that, I simply cut out the shape and then peeled it apart to put on the bottles. **

This is waht I ended up with!

The "Herbs & Spices" part was a dilema at first. I was going to paint it on, but it looked a bit sloppy. So, eventually I settled on using a permanent market to "paint" it on there. It actually turned out really well!

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday

I have to confess - I have a love for broccoli rabe! I love it with some garlic on a pizza - probably my favorite way to eat it (thanks for the intro Albanese!)

But this night I combined some other loves, sausage and pasta!

1 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed
8 ounces of penne
1 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz Italian sausage
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Cook broccoli rabe in boiling water 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water; drain well. Coarsely chop. Return water to boil. Add pasta; cook according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove casings from sausage. Add sausage to pan; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Add garlic; saute 1 minute. Stir in broccoli rabe; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in pasta, reserved cooking liquid, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Serve immediately.

Love that this is almost a one dish meal! Next time I think I'd go with a spicy sausage...mmmmm

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An Exercise in Futility

I know, I know! "Hannah, you're the cake blogger!" Last night I started working on a project and thought, "This could be a good one to blog about!"
Last week was "The World's Longest Yard Sale". The "Yard Sale" is locate on US 127 which starts in Hudson, MI and travels south ending in Gadsden, AL. My mom has a spot that she rents on a farm in Verona, KY. There are many vendors there and from one of these vendors is whom I purchased my letter from! My letter is a 2 1/2 foot H! :) The letter was obviously part of a larger, lighted sign. My idea was to cover it with material and place it on the wall! (thinking that yes, I already have material and I don't have any paint I could use!)
So, as I said I had already started this project when I decided to use it for a blog post so this was my attempt at a "before picture"
This is the bolt of cloth I already had and thought I'd use since it matches the color scheme in my kitchen.
You can see the wiring in place inside the letter. This is my "in progress picture". I spent an hour cutting and taping the material to the letter... This is the finished letter on my wall, it looks just fine (from 15-20 weeks away...)
This is the finished letter on my wall, it looks just fine (from 15-20 weeks away...) Up close you could see some of the tape and not all of the material was laying flat.... I was not impressed... So I changed my mind! I ripped all the material off and decided to leave it bare (it's blue which also matches my kitchen!) :)
I ripped all the material off and decided to leave it bare (it's blue which also matches my kitchen!) :)
I now have a few things on it, using it as a shelf, don't know if I'll leave them on there or not. And probably one of these days I'll paint it! :) I'll probably stick with the blue! But I've definitely learned that it's harder than you think to put material over little curves like there are on this H! :) And I think I might just stick to cakes! :) I don't know, we'll see!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Heirloom Blanket

Such a cuttie! This is my best friend's little guy at about three months. Looks like a bundle of fun, doesnt he? I have yet to meet the tyke in person or on skype, cause he is keeping mommy busy. However, maybe by Christmas! I look forward to it.

R and I have been friends since middle school and the rest is history. This picture is from her baby shower, when I gave her this blanket as a gift. I enjoy embroidering things very much.
I enjoy doing it and being productive while I watch tv. (Yes, I confess I do things like that while watching tv.) Of course, I also redo furniture there are well. I have a hard time sitting still and watching tv, so I end up doing something with my hands. My mother does crossword puzzles. That is a bit much for me.

Anyway, this is the third such blanket I have made: the second embroidered, the other blanket was quilted. I really enjoy trying to do gifts like this for very close friends. Those getting married often get pillowcases. (Hope they like them!) I want to give them something a little more personal. Something that takes time and effort. (When I have the time to give the effort!)

Here is that little guy again on the blanket. You can see it a bit better than in the picture at the shower.

Dont you just love the shirt? Also, a small closeup on the embroidery.

Hope you enjoy the pictures! Thanks R for letting me share the pictures. I sure had fun doing it and thinking of this wee kid that would eventually get to enjoy it!

Friday, August 5, 2011

What I'm Reading Now

First, I must confess my fascination of the World War 2 era. I don't know why - but I really like that time in American history. This book was a book club read, but it was right up my alley with the time setting.

The story follows Henry, a Chinese boy living in Seattle. His parents want him to only speak English in their home - even though they only speak Cantonese. He is "able" to go to an all white school where he is bullied. And one day a Japanese girl shows up to help out in the kitchen. Given the time period - Henry's father hates Japanese people. They two kids start to build a friendship.... and then the girl and her family are sent away!

The story goes back and forth between the past and the "present" (1980s). The characters are well developed and this is an easy read.

If you're still planning a trip to the beach - take this with you!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tilapia with Dill and Sushi Seasoning (Pantry Pull-together)

Heidi has had a super busy week, and so I get the pleasure of sharing a recipe this week. Thankfully, I had some great things on hand and got to put it all together for a pretty little meal.

What you see above is Tilapia, mac and cheese, pickled beets and sliced cucumbers.

Last year, we bought 1/4 a beef. As you can imagine, we have been eating a lot of beef. I know...not all that good for you. However, last night I wanted some variety! EAT MORE...of something else.

So, I pulled out the Tilapia I had in the freezer. I knew I wanted Mac and Cheese, since it has been ages since I had any. You know how sometimes you just get a hankering for something like that? The beets and cucumber were an after thought, when I went searching through the fridge for some veggies. (I ate the whole cucumber by the way, it just looked better in the pic as a garnish.) The recipe for the beets is in Monday's post here.

So, after all that longwindedness, here is what I pulled together. Sometimes, you just have to pull out ingredients you have not used in a while and create something different!

The vinegar above I bought at a Japanese grocery store in KY ($3). It is actually a seasoning for Sushi rice. It adds a GREAT flavor to rice and other dishes. My man isnt big on vinegar, but this one has a mellow, almost sweet taste to it. Even he likes it, and he is rather...decided in what he likes. :-) If you can find it, you should try this vinegar.

Tilapia with Dill and Sushi Seasoning

I cooked them individually, so this is for one piece of Tilapia. I have a small skillet. :-)

1 Tbl EVOO
1 clove garlic
1 filet of Tilapia
1/4 tsp Dill
1/2 - 1 tsp sushi seasoning**
Dash of salt and pepper

I really made this to taste, so you could add more or less of the seasoning and dill.

Warm EVOO and minced garlic in a skillet, sauteing the garlic to soften it. Add the filet, add a dash of salt and pepper to taste. On medium heat, saute the filet for 3-5 minutes. Turn over, add Dill and sushi seasoning and cook another 3-5 minutes, or until the fish begins to flake.


**If you do not want to use the sushi seasoning, you can also use lemon juice for a differnt flavor that is still very good.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lazy (HA!) Sunday afternoon

Aren't they beautiful? Those, my friends, are the result of a few hours work. :-) I love it when you can make something that is both yummy and beautiful! What are they? They are pickled beets. Did I just lose you? Did you gag a bit when I said that? I hope not!

Canning and pickling go back hundreds on years, and yes, it is a tradition still carried on by some. It is nice to know you can grow your own veggies and be able to keep them through the winter and into the next few years. Come and get me bad me ROAR! Ok, enough of that.

My little man's grandparents gave us some of thier garden produce: beets, green beans, and zucchini. (THANK YOU!) Their garden is producing a few weeks ahead of our meager patch. (Yes, I call it a patch, it is small and right now seems to have more weeds than veggies.) We thought the beets may have been past thier prime by now, but we slavaged enough for a small batch of canned beets. They gave me this whole box, and that is where it all began.

I then had to track down the recipe from my mom. Moms can be a wonderful thing, and mine is no exception (I am actually doubly blessed). I call her sometimes, even when I have the recipe, cause it is more fun hearing it from her.

Here is the recipe:

2 c. sugar
2 c. water

2 c. vinegar

1 tsp. Cloves

1 tsp. Allspice

1 Tbl. Cinnamon

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a suacepan and then add some liquid to form a paste. Gradually add the remaining wet ingredients, place on burner and bring to a boil. Boil to mix and then pour hot liquid over beets.

This is it boiling and smelling fantastic! It smells so sharp and spicy.

Meanwhile, here is me, cutting up all the beets, taking out those that are too far gone to use. (Aka. they get woody.) Beets really are a beautiful root veggie.

And yes, they will dye your fingers. However, a few hand washings and a shower later...its all gone. :-)

So after they are sliced, I pack them into rinsed out pint jars. (The little round piece you see is the weight for the pressure canner.) I had enough for five pints. Which ended up being exactly how much liquid I needed to fill them up!

I boiled the lids and then put them on the jars. Lids and then rings.

Yeah! In about and hour they will come out looking all lovely. I put them in the pressure canner and let them boil, boil, and boil some more. There is a small opening on the lid of a pressure canner that lets out steam. I have to wait until there is a constant stream of steam (say that three times fast) and then time it for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, I put the weight on. Then I wait until the weight starts jiggling, and then I time it for another 25 minutes. After that you are done and you can let it cool!

Now we can either save them or eat them! I might just open up a jar when I get home. Yum, yum!