February 28, 2012

No Soup for You!

Well, it's almost the end of the month and I admit that I've failed my soup challenge. I blame it on the unseasonably warm temperatures and my busyness and lack of motivation to find new soups everyone would love. Maybe next year!

I did make one more soup a few weeks ago that I never had time to blog about. It was a potato, corn & ham chowder that turned out pretty good. Actually, it got 4 thumbs up!

Well, I thought it was just okay. It was easy, that's for sure! Here's the picture of the recipe since I'm just too tired & lazy to type it all out (click if you want to enlarge)

I subbed some frozen hash browns for the canned potatoes. I don't think I've ever purchased or ate canned potatoes...I wonder what they taste like.

I've been so busy lately. I have tons of pictures and several recipes & posts I want to write...just not enough time! I'm going to try to get caught up soon. Here's a few of the things I hope to write about in the next week or so... rocket ships, birthday cakes, make-up, icy coffee, linus blankets, tater tots and more fun with kale :)

And, in case you didn't know, the post title is just from one of the very best shows EVER! <3 that soup nazi.

February 26, 2012

Kale Salad

Another great idea from Snack Girl! I tried her kale chips a while back and didn't care for those at all. Here's a recap of that adventure. Anyway, this recipe uses kale in its raw form in a simple salad. Kale is like super crazy healthy. Here's a little blurb from WebMd about what's in kale:

One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6, 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K and sulphur-containing phytonutrients.

Carotenoids and flavonoids are the specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits. Kale is also rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin.

All that is enough to make me want to eat kale every day. And, BONUS, it tastes good in salad form! But there's a little trick. You have to massage your kale. It softens it and makes it a bit more palatable and it's actually kind of fun! Just squeeze it & stir it around with your hands till it turns dark and reduces in volume. Click HERE for Snack Girl's recipe. This is how I made mine:

Kale Salad

1 bunch kale
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
fresh lemon juice (I squeezed a medium sized wedge)

Wash kale and strip the leaves from the tough stem. Chop into small bits and place to large bowl. Add oil and salt. Massage kale until it reduces in volume. Then add sugar and lemon juice.

As you can see, I added tomatoes and croutons to mine. It was really good! It does have a little bit different texture and flavor but it's not bitter or strong. And it's so pretty! I'll definitely be making more of these in the future.

February 21, 2012

New Bag!

I've been wanting a new purse for a while. Last week I went to Target and browsed the bags and just couldn't find one that I loved. There were lots of cute ones, stylish & trendy but none of them were "me." So, I decided to just make another one for myself. I bought some fabric last week on clearance, it's actually "outdoor upholstery" fabric but I liked the design and the colors and figured it might make a cute bag.

There were a few things I wanted this bag to have. I NEED at least two outer pockets. I hate fumbling around inside my purse for keys, phone & chapstick so I like keeping those separate in easy-to-reach pockets. And for this purse I really wanted to have just one shoulder strap. It needed to be roomy of course, and have a couple inside pockets too. I browsed online for patterns but didn't see any that I loved. Actually there were tons that I loved but none that would really fit my criteria.

So, I decided I had to get creative. This is the last purse I made using a Simplicity pattern:

I took this design and changed a few things. I made the pockets on the sides instead of the center, I rounded the top all the way to the sides and I made it with just one wide shoulder strap. I was actually very surprised that it turned out first try(!) with these modifications.


Side Pockets:


The lining isn't my favorite but it was fabric I already had and it actually matches quite well. One of the advantages of using the stiffer upholstery fabric for a purse is that you don't have to use any interfacing. I loved skipping that step!

Thank goodness I traced my pattern into a couple of pieces of newspaper so I can duplicate this design. I would love to have a couple more just like it in different fabrics. After using it for a few days I decided it is perfect for me!

My half yard of fabric cost $4.00. Since the lining, trim & pockets are made from fabric that I had in my stash & I already had the magnetic snap, I felt like I didn't even had to pay for those ;) So $4.00 and about 2 hours of my time. Score!!!

February 19, 2012

A Few New Things

First of all, I'm loving my new garbage bowl. It's a genuine Rachael Ray garbage bowl I went & splurged on. Cause really, you could just use any kind of bowl for your garbage, it doesn't have to be a Rachael Ray. But this one is fun & orange & speckled and has a nice grippy rubber base on it's bottom. And it really does come in handy in the kitchen. While I'm cooking I just throw in bits & pieces of things then when I'm done (or when it's full) I just dump it all in the trash can.

What?! You say you want to see my garbage bowl, complete with garbage? Okay then-

Next up is my "new" iron skillet. I was planning to use some of my Christmas money to buy a cast iron skillet. I've been reading about how much healthier they are to cook with and how they can be seasoned to be virtually non-stick and I was really wanting to give one a try! I browsed online and planned on ordering one on Amazon. But then I ran across an old skillet at Goodwill. So, I bought it. It was old & rusty and needed some love. I did some research about cleaning & caring for old iron cookware and I learned that some of the best iron skillets you can get are old ones that have been "broken-in" and just like the saying goes, "they just don't make them like they used to!" I learned that Griswold and Wagner are the two most sought-after brands of antique cast iron cookware. And the one I found & bought just happened to be:

I wish I would've taken a before picture of it, it was really quite awful looking. But after sanding, cleaning and seasoning, here is how mine looks. Isn't it lovely!?

I've used it quite a few times and it works so nicely. For cleaning, I scrub it with hot water and scrubby sponge only (no soap or detergents!) then smear some olive oil into the surface and it is ready to go for next time. Like for some blueberry pancakes!

Next, I have a couple new kitchen gadgets that I'm loving. First is my citrus juicer, not sure why I didn't buy one of these sooner! This is the type I have:

First, I made the mistake of buying a plastic one. DON'T do it! It broke the first time I used it and I was the lucky one to find a piece of plastic in my salsa :( The new metal one I bought was only about $6 at Walmart and it works great.

My other new gadget it my apple corer. Again, should've bought one of these a long time ago. It makes cutting apples up so easy and is especially great if you just want thin slices with no core, like for making dried apple chips.

And lastly, one of my new favorite things not kitchen related is my new workout DVD! It is Denise Austin Sculpt & Burn Body Blitz I love it and I highly recommend it. There are 4 different 10 minute workouts so you can pick & choose which you are in the mood for and there is also an awesome warm-up and a very nice stretchy cool down. For me of little motivation, it's perfect. I tell myself...just do one segment...10 minutes, you can do that! And after I do one, I always feel like doing at least one more. They are fun & original workouts that are not boring.

I do like my other new DVD, Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30, but gosh dang, that woman is so bossy! I know that's her shtick, but it grates on my nerves. Too bad because it's a great workout too. Fortunately, I am finding the more I use the DVD the less she annoys me, which is surprising. Thankfully spring is around the corner and I'll be able to get out in the fresh air to do my workouts. Yay!

February 16, 2012

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies

We really don't neeeed anymore goodies since there are Valentine candies & treats galore around here, but my daughter & I were bored and in the mood to bake cookies this morning. I had just bought some zucchini at the store not really knowing what I was going to do with it, so I thought I'd google "zucchini cookies" and see what happened. This recipe is one of the first that popped up and it looked good. I liked that it had oats in it and not too much sugar or butter. But...zucchini cookes....would they taste good? I was willing to try! HERE is the link to the recipe but I'll repost it here with a couple changes I made.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1.5 cup shredded zucchini

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup dried cranberries

Combine dry ingredients well.

In another bowl, combine butter and sugars, mix until smooth. Add egg and vanilla extract. Next, add the shredded zucchini. Mix until combined.

Combine the flour mixture with the zucchini mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and dried cranberries.

Drop cookie dough by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden.

Our cookies turned out great, they definitely have a cake-like texture to them that reminded me of muffins. So, kind of like individual cookie sized muffins. Nothing wrong with that! I'd have no problem eating a couple of these for breakfast. They are tasty & sweet but not overly sweet and they have oats & zucchini in them, so they're pretty healthy too!

February 14, 2012

Our Valentine's Day

We had such a nice Valentine's Day today! Nothing exciting, just some nice time with family and some very good food. For me Valentine's day isn't butterflies & romance, it's fun & silly and a time to be with people you love, and not just romantic gushy love. Oh, and it's a time to eat chocolate. Hubby gave me a giant block of Belgian dark chocolate for a gift. And I gave him a bag of Twizzlers. We're easy to please.

I got all my son's Valentine's cards ready yesterday:

And we went to his school party today. I have such fun memories of school parties...handing out & receiving cards. It's fun to relive that through my own kids.

We had a very nice family dinner tonight with inlaws and my mom. My contributions to the meal included this delicious Strawberry Spinach Salad:

I thought it was kind of Valentine-y with red heart shaped strawberries :)

I also made this yummy Roasted Asparagus:

I wish I'd had enough for a double batch of that, it was so good.

And for dessert I made another Cranberry Lime Galette:

I also made a pan of brownies since I wasn't sure the pie was enough for nine. I used a boxed mix of milk chocolate brownies. I subbed 1/4 c of the oil with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter, then sprinkled crushed up heath bars on top. Very yummy, wish I had a pic but I didn't think they'd be blog-worthy...oh yes indeed they were!

I'm counting my blessings this Valentine's Day. I am indeed blessed way beyond what I deserve. My daughter tells me about 10 times a day..."I'm so glad I have a Mommy like you!" and "I just love my family!" You can't get much sweeter than that.

February 13, 2012

Stained Glass Hearts (an easy Valentine craft)

I got this idea last year from a friend. It's a fun little craft that is quick & easy! All you need is some old crayons & some wax paper.

Take a few crayons that are Valentine-y colors and grate them like cheese. I used our fine grater.

Take your shavings and your wax paper along with some newspaper and head on over to your ironing board. Spread out a few layers of newspaper on your ironing board then put a large piece of wax paper on top. Sprinkle the shavings evenly over the piece & take another equal sized piece of wax paper and put it on top.

Put more newspaper on top of the 'sandwich' then with a hot iron (no steam) move it back & forth until your shavings are melted. The wax will seep through, I didn't use enough newspaper last year & I still have stains on my ironing board to prove it :(

When it's cooled off, cut it into some heart shapes...or any shapes. My daughter cut some lovely little rectangles.

We punched holes in our hearts and hung them from the bottom of a blind.

There just happens to be a register underneath this window, so the hearts have a gentle breeze that makes them twirl & dance :)

When we made these the other evening, the sun was coming through the window so beautifully. Check out this picture I got of the sun shining through this heart!

Happy Valentines Day!

February 09, 2012

Cookie Dough for Breakfast!

I just love Snack Girl. I've gotten so many great ideas from her site. Simple ideas, simple recipes using simple ingredients but that are healthy and still taste simply wonderful! The other day she featured a post on this super duper simple breakfast idea. She calls it Oatmeal Breakfast Cookie, but I think it's more like cookie dough! We had it for the first time this morning and I loved loved loved it. But I like anything oaty. The true test was when the kids tried it....and...it was a win win! My son said it would be even better with chocolate chips which coincidentally is how Snack Girl's son prefers it too. The batch that's in the fridge right now does indeed contain chocolate. It will be a great thing to wake up to on a Friday morning!

Here's how I made our breakfast cookie dough:

1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup milk
1 T peanut butter
1 T maple syrup (REAL)
chopped walnuts
dried cranberries

Mix everything in a bowl the night before and let it sit in the fridge. In the morning, get a spoon and dig in! This recipe makes about two servings.

You can warm it up of course, but we liked ours cold. And you can change up the extra ingredients. I think a dash of cinnamon would be good, or a touch of vanilla & some raisins. Or chopped apples or blueberries. Lots of possibilities!

Try it!!!

February 05, 2012


We had a great little Superbowl party tonight! Though we needed a few more people here to eat all the food I made. When it comes to dips and appetizer foods I go a little crazy. I can't help it. Appetizers are my favorite food group. So, here's the run down on our spread:

Pizza Dip, Garlic Bread and Buffalo Chicken Dip:

Hot Pepper Peach Cheeseball- recipe HERE. I just use regular peach preserves and some cut-up jalapenos in place of the fancy pepper peach spread.

Stuffed Jalapenos- sort of morphed these two recipes HERE. And I wore my rubber gloves this time like a good girl.

Spinach Dip- I now make this dip with fresh cut-up spinach instead of frozen. I love it that way! And it's easier too. No messy squeezing of the frozen stuff.

Cocktail Weenies- I just throw these together, about equal parts yellow mustard and plum jelly tossed with some little smokies.

I didn't get a pic of my homemade salsa, but it was lovely and delicious.

And for dessert I made these amazing brownies!

They are called Slutty Brownies, I need to change the name of them to something more child appropriate since I will definitely be making them again! They are three layer brownies, bottom layer is chocolate chip cookie dough, the middle is Oreo cookies and the top is brownie batter. SO easy but so sinfully wonderful. Even more wonderful with some ice cream cause they just don't have enough fat & calories on their own.

Good news is we have enough leftovers to last us the next couple days! Bad news is I need to workout about twice a day all week to make up for this weekend's yumminess.

February 02, 2012

Back on Track...for now

Ever since the holidays it seems like I've lost my motivation to eat healthier, or at least to eat less. I allow myself to indulge for the holidays hoping that when life gets back to normal, I'll fall back into my groove of a healthier disciplined diet & exercise regimen. Well, up until last week that hadn't happened. Since I stay home with my daughter, I have this problem of just eating all day. A little here & there, but it adds up and my jeans were getting waaay tight. Mornings are my main problem. I like to graze and eat about 3 or 4 breakfasts worth of food before lunch :(. I do love my cereal/pancakes/waffles/muffins...you get the picture. And those foods don't really keep my satisfied & full. So, it was good timing that I ran across this recipe for a 'Power Smoothie' on Our Best Bites. We haven't been using our Blentec much lately like we should, so I decided to try this smoothie and hopefully let it do its magic. I even tracked down the oat groats at the 'healthy grocery store'.

I've changed up the recipe some, my smoothie is basically this:

1 frozen banana
1/2 c frozen blueberries
1 apple
1 orange
handful of spinach
1/2 c greek yogurt
2 T oat groats
1 c orange juice

This smoothie tastes wonderful! It's hard to believe you're ingesting all that goodness when you just drink it up through a straw. I can't imagine having a whole banana, apple, orange, pile of spinach, etc on a plate and eating it, but in a smoothie, it's so fun & easy, not to mention delicious! And it has really changed my eating habits, seriously, almost magically. I make one after returning from taking my son to school, drink it up and I am NOT HUNGRY the rest of the morning. And it seems to carry over to the rest of the day. I just don't get those wild cravings of wanting to eat anything I see. My other little trick is my carrots & peanut butter snack. They make an awesome afternoon snack, low carb and protein rich, carries me over to dinner time, no problem.

I've also been working out 3 or 4 times a week. I've been doing Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred along with a couple Denise Austin DVD's that I really like. I have a couple new ones on order since I'm growing tired of my little library.

So, I'm feeling great for now, under control, a bit fitter and more energetic. But...we've got a party weekend coming up so I'll need to get back to damage control come Monday. Thankfully I'll have my spinach & oat groats standing by.