Sunday, September 30, 2012

Chicken "Tortilla the HUNgry" Soup

  I tried chicken tortilla soup when I came to college.  I really had never heard of it before then, but I really liked it.  And if you like the college cafeteria version of something, you know the real one is probably even better.

But every recipe called for things like "a whole chicken" or "12 cups of water" and a big o' stockpot...

Ok...but I am one person.  And I just want a couple of bowls.  Not a week's worth.  So, as per my usual I set out to make the kind of tortilla soup I would like, in a size that was right up my alley. 

This soup makes about 2-3 bowls.

-2 chicken tenderloins (or 1 chicken breast, whichever you buy)
-2.5 c water
-2 TB butter
-2 large rings of an onion, chopped finely
-1/2 regular tomato, diced
-1/2 c halved cherry tomatoes
-1/4 bell pepper diced (or equivalent in sweet peppers)
-3/4 tsp taco seasoning
-1/2 tsp garlic
-Salt and Pepper
-Cilantro (fresh) to taste (see the picture for an idea of what I used, maybe a TB? it was about 8 leaves, chopped)

Now, if you want a thicker more tomato-y broth, you might opt to use tomato juice/paste in here instead of some of the tomatoes or water.  I happen to like broth on the clear side.

Put the chicken, water, and butter in a pot (I used the bigger of my two normal Rachael Ray's) and turn it on about medium high. 

Chop up all your veggies and goodies.  I like to squish my cherry tomatoes a little to go ahead and coax some juice out in a bowl.

It took me about 10-15 minutes to get everything prepared, and I had my chicken cooking that whole time, and I had put it directly in frozen.  You may want to adjust the times a little if yours is already thawed or you have everything chopped in advance.

After I had everything in the bath, I put the lid on and let it all boil for about 30 minutes.  I kept it at a lower boil, so you may need to turn down your heat a tad.  I let mine roll at a little over 4 on my gas range.
 At the end of the thirty, taste your broth and adjust seasonings as needed.

Let it cook another 20 minutes (covered) and then pull out your chicken.

Use two forks and a cutting board and shred it in to small pieces.

Look at that shred.  Perfection.

Put the chicken back in your soup, turn the heat down to low, put the lid back on, and let it do its thing for another 10 minutes.

Serve up your soup with some chips and sour cream or guac or avocado, or whatever else you want to top it off with!

My question from all of this though, is why don't people put rice in this soup? It seems like rice would be delicious!

Next time I am DEFINITELY adding rice.

Happy souping!

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

I like to call it a catchlace.

I hope you raided the man caves and fishing departments! Such potential.

I decided to make another necklace.  I think it turned out quite swimmingly ;).

 So here's a funny shaped little guy! If you can find one of these guys, I suggest painting with metallic paint, or mod poding sections of a picture on it. 

If I wasn't out of ink, TOTALLY would opt for the picture.  That is such a fun way to wear your memories.
 But I have a lot of paint.  And I am very much in a messy-awesome mood for things.

I am a little tired of the perfection look.  I kinda like a little alternative now and then.

So basically I just used a makeup sponge to make interesting color bleeds and lines, thicker acryllic paint that you refuse to water down makes for awesome textures!

I used silver and red metallic on this one.
 And then for a similar look added some red streaks to these silver dudes.

And then I decided against using more of the copper ones, as I liked them in the other bracelet from last week.

Then just put it on a necklace chain and go for it! Pin It Now!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Wired Dragonfly Day 59

Sometimes I get these really weird notions to save something completely obscure, although at the time I have no idea what I will use them for.  This is one of those moments.  I had some jewels that apparently are used to hang off cakes by poking this toothpick thing into the cake boards.  Well that's all great and good, but I decided that the jewels would look far superior on a chandelier.  Now this wouldn't be odd...if the jewels were what I had saved.  However, I reserved the plastic toothpick parts because for some oddball reason, I wanted them to be dragonflies.

You know, your typical train of thought...toothpick = dragonfly.

I love DFs.  The only bug I love more than them are praying mantis bugs.  I had a praying mantis living outside my window once and as far as I am concerned that was the best pet I ever owned.  I love them.  They are strange, they look like aliens, they are ninja bugs, and I like them.

Weird but true.

So since I have yet to determine how to turn a mantis into jewelry, I will stick with dragonflies.  You will need:

-A plastic or real toothpick, I see no reason why they can't both be used here.  Or something else generally slender.
-Beads (round and also some seed beads.  I suggest white/clear tube shaped seed beads)

 My general method to this is that I put the beads on first that I want to be the top.  This lets me determine if I will need to wire wrap the top bead to keep it in place or if a spot of glue will suffice.  If I can avoid opening my glue, I do.

Assuming you need to wrap the top bead, I prefer to start at the bottom, wrap the wire a few times around the base going up, take the wire around the two or however many beads that make up the body that fit on well, and then put the wire through the top bead, the top bead on the pick, and wrap the wire back down around the beads and the base. 

Clearly, I always use longer lengths of wire for this project.
 To make wings, I use a different cut of wire and wrap it a few times between two beads.  Then I string on my seeds (for me, 13 white/clear tube shaped seed beads) and bend them into wing form.  Then I wrap the remaining wire around the fly a few times, and make the next wing.  Any remaining wire after the four wing sections are made gets wrapped around the body and the wings to keep them all together.

Here are a few examples of dragonflies I have made.  You can wrap wire around the body to make a bail to hang them from a necklace if you desire.  I also think these would make cute decorations, things to hang on gifts, and many others.
Here is an up close shot of my favorite little guy.

I tried at one point to add beads into the wrap around the bottom, and it just did not come out like I wanted.  If you had the right beads it could be super cute, but anything other than a tiny ball shaped bead is probably going to look a little odd.

You can use varying gauges of wire too, so feel free to use whatever you have on hand.  My blue fly is made of much thicker wire than the other two.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pinacakes: A Breakfast Vacation (with PROTEIN!)


Thankfully you know what a pancake looks like, my apologies my dear readers.

I bought a big carton of greek yogurt to make that pumpkin ice cream, right? I was tired of the whole 2 cups of heavy cream, unimaginably fatty and caloric stuffed ice cream recipes, so I opted to cut it down a bit.  Regardless, I had yogurt left over.  Naturally this has led to many experiments on what it can go in.  This.  Is one of those.  (Law and Order noise).


Anyway here we go:
-1 c pancake mix or your homemade base  (mine's almost empty, I hope to have a homemade version soon)
-1/2 c of greek yogurt  (or just use a small container and be prepared to add some more liquid)
-1/2 c of crushed pineapple PLUS the juice, no draining here
-1/2 c of coconut (optional, but tasty!)
-3 heaping TB of brown sugar (or just throw some in and call it a day)
-Optionals: pecans....yea that's all I can think of.

Mix this all together, admire how fluffy the batter looks, chuckle to yourself that it has at least 10 grams of protein in it, and dollop out some 1/4c pancakes onto your super awesome griddle. 

I like to cook mine a few minutes, flip, smoosh them down so that they cook throughout better (in my opinion), let them cook a few more on that side, and remove.

So simple.  So tasty.  Pin It Now!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I (Don't) Need You to Knead Me

But I would still love for you to love me.  And yes, I did completely overhaul my page, it was high time for an update!

And you are welcome, that song will be stuck in your head all day now.

For the past week or so (AKA ever since the epic disaster of the last bread recipe) I have been scouring the internet to learn what I can about No Knead bread.  As everyone else has learned it started with one Mr. Lahey recipe in the New York Times and has seen a recent revival, or as I like to say obsession, with current humans.

Now, as usual, I saw the original recipe, found something in it I did not like (the dutch oven in this case) and immediately started plotting how to get around this.  As I searched the depths of google (or at least the first two pages) I quickly discovered multiple things:
  • Most used the dutch oven
  • Some used cookie sheets
  • Some used loaf pans
  • Everything baked at a minimum of 450
Fair enough. That told me all I needed to know- loaf pan was just fine.  See, never take things at face value, or you will buy a dutch oven when you really don't need one.  Instead, just use your Rachael Ray Oven Lovin' loaf pan!

One more note, I opted to make this a VERY controlled experiment.  As I am but one human in this apartment, I decided to try a minimal recipe so that A) I did not have a gigantic amount of bread and B) I barely wasted anything if it sucked.

Always be prepared for something to suck.

Here's my approach:
-1 1/2 C all purpose flour
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/8 tsp yeast (yea I know, you have to eyeball it from 1/4)
-3/4 c lukewarm water (you may need a tad more depending on how you measure your flour)

Mix all of your dry ingredients together in a bowl and add the water.

I like to use a Rachael Ray "spoonula" for it because I hate being sticky and those are more sturdy than others I have.

Anyway mix all this up until it is just incorporated and your dough is rough looking and sticky.  See the picture? Sticky.

Cover the bowl with plastic (I used one of those reusable covers that looks like a shower cap) and let it sit overnight (or at around 12 hours).

I do believe it would be better if it is in a warm spot, especially for the second raising later.

My apartment claims it is 75, but my sherpa throw I always have on begs to differ.

Anyway, suppose you make this at night and the next morning you wake up and run to the kitchen like it's Christmas to see how the dough looks.  It should be poofed and have dots across the top, maybe even more than mine did.

Mine got to raise about 14 hours, but seriously I am not convinced of the temperature.
You always have the option of heating your oven to about 200 and turning it off and letting the bread sit in there.

Moving on.  When I was ready to bake I greased the sides of my Oven Lovin, which I now believe was not needed.

Most people turn the dough out onto a floured surface and work it around and then let it raise again in a towel.  I opted to completely avoid this. 

I got my dough out of the bowl after putting a little flour on top and worked it around in my hands for a few minutes.  I rounded it up and dropped it into the pan that it would bake in.

This is where the next time I will let it raise in my oven.  Instead, I left it on the burner that is always warm from my pilot light and covered it again for 2 hours.
It did raise the second time, maybe not as sigificantly as it could have if it was warm.  However, it was completely delicious!

Preheat your oven to 450 and bake for about 30 minutes if you are doing a small loaf in a large pan like I managed to do, and maybe up to 45 if you use a larger recipe.  Though I scaled mine down, some of the ones online use as many as 6 c of flour.

Here is the little cutie on my makeshift cooling rack.

I KNOW! I have an entire RRay set, a kitchenaid, a cake pop maker...and I don't have a cooling rack.  I am working on it!

Anyway, the result was like a ciabatta or baguette in the sense of it creating a delicious crispy crust around the outside.  It was not riddled with air pockets in the center, however, most likely due to not really rising much the second time. 

If you read the internet, everyone seems to act like you won't achieve this crispy crust without a dutch oven.  I contribute this achievement to the fact it was in a taller pan so that the heat rolled back in towards the top.  Again, a lot of people make rolls or baguettes on cookie sheets, so use what you have!

Seriously though, it is beyond delicious.  I mean beyond.  It reminds me of an olive oil focaccia I get from Meijer, but TASTIER!  And much more moist on the inside. Tomorrow, around 1/3 of it will become the most delicious turkey sandwich.

If you have a large family, opt for the recipes with more yield.  If you are a single soul like me and you want a small loaf, or a few rolls (shape balls and bake them on a cookie sheet) use this recipe.  I am a firm believer in super fresh, even if it means using smaller quantities and making it more often.

Next, I will be trying various flavor combinations. Pin It Now!

A Female of Substance

To anyone who saw this update on their twitter or however else and was hoping I had come up with something crafty already today, I am sad to say that will be a post for later tonight.

If it makes you feel better, I have some very promising homemade bread rising in a loaf pan in the kitchen.  Rest assured, there will be shenanigans later.

Over the past few weeks I have intermittently been in multiple discussions that have got me thinking about the state of the female lifestyle in our society.  I am in no way shape or form going to bash my gender or anything like that, but I do think we have a bit of room for improvement.  Allow me to elaborate using my own personal life experiences.

When I was in 6th grade I was a horribly pudgy little thing...with braces...and a perm.  Yes, all three at once.  Shockingly, this was not the time in my life when I had low self-esteem.  My 6th grade self, I believe, was blissful unaware that boys existed still, and really just wanted to beat the next version of Pokemon.  The rumors are true, I was born a geek.

Between 6th and 7th grade I played AAU basketball (hated every minute of it).  I lost about 30 pounds, I shot up about 5 inches, and the next thing I knew I was suddenly on the interest radar of boys.  Which might just have been because we all hit puberty, but that's beside the point.  Believe it or not, that was actually when my self-esteem bottomed out.

As hard as it is to explain the why, I actually still saw myself as the pudgy little kid.  It was your stereotypical messed up body image, and I actually still fight with that today.  I never would wear horizontal stripes, and when I think about it I can't name you a single shirt in my closet with them because I still never think they look nice.  At 5'7" or 5'8" (depends who you ask), and back then the all of 128 that I was, I was anything but fat.  Most people asked my mom if I was anorexic.  I wasn't, I just had a killer metabolic explosion.

This is all a roundabout way of getting to my point, which will be longwinded I'm sure.  I made some terrible boyfriend choices.  There was maybe one in the whole mix that had potential through my highschool and ISU years...but none that I can legitimately say are the "one that got away".  And time and time again I found myself in the very same situations with whoever the boyfriend of the month was, and time and time again I found it created cracks in who I was versus who I wanted to be.

Ladies, for the love of all that is good in the world, stop with the picture sending.  Somehow we all got on this weird craze didn't we? You know, the slightly (or very) suggestive pictures that oh so accidentally got sent?  Somehow, this has become the newest flirting fad.  Let me tell you it is completely one sided and it really does you no good. 

Here is what we never saw coming with the fad: every little "innocent" picture sent is a solid step toward building a relationship on sand.  Not sure what I am talking about? Back to the Bible we go, which talks about building your "house" on a solid foundation.  AKA, not sand.  Well the same applies for relationships like this.  I have found that more often than not, the pictures develop (pun intended) a relationship that is based on the physical.


If every day you wake up as a female and you get on the scale and that decides how your day goes, you need to turn your mentality around.  I know some very skinny people who are completely shallow and have no substance to them at all.

The worst part about this picture junk is you set this expectation for the next female that comes along when this relationship inevitably ends.  Never thought about that one?   I cannot tell you how many boys I have talked to over the past year that hint at or directly want pictures.  After being where I was in life, it's the single biggest turnoff.  Now, I am not including this for things when you have been dating someone a long time, you are at a special event and they say hey babe send me a picture.  Those are not the kind of pictures I am blasting here.

A very good friend and I were talking recently about the crazy definitions words like "sexy" have come to hold.  Somehow, in this whole mess of basing ourselves on the physicalities we have managed to replace the word "attractive" with the idea of "sexy". Does anyone else see a problem in that? 

Sending the pictures and wearing the revealing clothes and similar...all it does is make you feel cheap.  Eventually you start to wonder if the person really likes you or solely likes how you look because you are making it so simple for them to see it all.  I do not think this in any way shape or form develops serious and lasting relationships.

You know what should be attractive? A female with ideas, one who wants to change the world, one who really cares about others, one who has talents (baking, singing, whatever talent it is), one who is passionate about life- in the grand scheme of things do you REALLY want your selling point to be your low cut top?  Do you really want your selling point to be your super cute lingerie set?  Do you really want THAT to be your defining moment?  Not that the lingerie is bad, I agree it's cute but it should not DEFINE you.  Sex and being sexy should not DEFINE you.  You are so much more than that.

Surprisingly, females of substance in most cases are attractive to the boys that you really WANT to be attracted to.  The kind of boys that want the pictures are not the boys that last in relationships. I have multiple ex's that I can use as proof on this and some that never even got to the boyfriend stage because seriously it is the only thing they cared about. They are not the ones you would consider settling down with, and they are not necessarily the loyal ones either. 

Turn your life around, if you are in this mess.  I finally got to the point where I am comfortable with myself and my life enough to the point that I can say to someone "Yea, NO." when asked to shoot them just a quick slightly sexy picture.  Don't be a Desperate Darla (made that up myself) and bow to every whim.  The ones that are worth it will respect you regardless.  The ones that are really worth it won't even ask in the first place.

Is my self-esteem at 100%? No.  Will it ever be? I'm not sure.  But it is high enough to know when something is going to cheapen me as a human.  (And I am not a raging feminist by any means either so don't take the word cheapen as such.)

Find something you are passionate about.  Find a hobby or a cause or a career that you are truly passionate about and be someone of substance.  If your conversations with someone never hit any serious level of depth, ask yourself why that is.  Do you have no depth? Do they not? Or does the relationship not?  Fix it.  Dr. Phil once said that we teach people how to treat us. 

Be a female of substance.  Chase down your dreams and study what you are interested in.  You want to make bread? Check back here later and use my super simple recipe and be the best darn bread maker on your block (if the recipe works out...if not, use google).  You want to change the world? Change it, start in your community, look for issues, and fix them.  Be who you dream of being to the fullest potential that you can achieve and stop letting this stupid fad and the other stupid fads ruin who you are.  And stop taking society's portrayed image of the perfect female without a grain of salt.  The super skinny, super shallow, easy girl...she's nine times out of ten not going to be the one that aligns with who you really are.

Be a female of substance. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pumpkin Ice Cream (aka PICE CREAM) Sandwiches

Yesterday I posted a super delicious recipe for homemade pumpkin ice cream.  As with most homemade ice cream, it taste far superior today than it did yesterday.  I always think things really need a day to let the flavors mingle.  Regardless, I was talking to my mom earlier about how it was so delicious it deserved me going and getting cones, when she had a most remarkable suggestion.

Why not just make pumpkin cookies and make ice cream sandwiches?

My best friend and I had talked about this the day before, but now it seemed so much more reasonable.  And by reasonable, I mean necessary. 

Now, I did this using Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix, because that is what I had on hand.  I am very much in a mood where I hate to see things go to waste, so much like my pancake mix I opted to go ahead and use this.  If you want to do this with cookies from scratch, I suggest this recipe:   Minus the cloves.  Personal opinion, I really don't like cloves.

If you happen to have BC Sugar Cookie Mix, here is what I used to make them:
-1 pouch of the mix + 1 TB flour
-1 egg
-1/2 plus another spoonful of canned pumpkin (shoot for a heaping half cup and it should equal out)
-1/3 c softened butter
-1 TB cinnamon
-5 shakes of ginger (yes, I am back to shakes)
-2 shakes of nutmeg

Alter the spices to your tastebuds, as always. 

Mix all of these ingredients together.  BC would tell you to put them on an ungreased cookie sheet, I will continually profess that this is bogus and you need to grease that sucker. 

Preheat your oven to 375.  Grease your cookie sheet and drop them by spoonfuls onto the sheet, leaving an inch or two between as they will poof a bit.  Bake for approximately 10 minutes.  You just want to edges to ever so slightly darken up.  My first round I baked closer to 350 and it took about 17 minutes to get them done, which is pretty much what the allrecipes pumpkin cookies call for.  Either way works. 

After you make them let them cool completely and let your ice cream set out a bit so that you can easily scoop it.  Have sections of plastic wrap cut off and ready to go.  Put the ice cream on the bottom cookie, top it, wrap it, and plop it in the freezer.  I like to keep mine in a larger bag. 

Their freezer life is substantially longer than the time they will actually last, as these are delicious and will be consumed immediately.

For me, this recipe made approximately 14 ice cream samiches!
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Monday, September 24, 2012

Pumpkin Ice Cream

FINALLY IT HAS ARRIVED! I have wanted to make pumpkin ice cream, but wanted to wait until it felt like fall outside.  Here is what you need.

-1/2 of a smaller can of pumpkin
-1 cup of heavy whipping cream
-2 cups of plain greek yogurt (honey flavored would be better but I could not get any)
-1/2-1 cup of sugar (depends on your tastebuds)
-1/2 c of almond milk (or whatever milk you have handy)
-1/3 pack of reduced fat cream cheese (relatively optional)
-2 TB brown sugar
-1/4 c of cinnamon sugar mix
-1 tsp ginger
-1/4 to 1/2 tsp nutmeg (again, to taste)
-Optional 1/3 c of light maple syrup, vastly contigent upon how sweet you want it and what kind of greek yogurt you used

Mix everything in the above list together in your delightful kitchenaid.  Or hand mix it, if you are in to that kind of thing.  Put it in the metal cannister of your ice cream maker and let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour. 

Put it all in your ice cream maker and follow the directions.  Transfer it to a bowl and stuff it in the freezer so it can finish firming up.

How soft your cream cheese is will likely determine how well incorporated it is.  I added cream cheese because I wanted it to remind me of the pumpkin cheesecake I make, and so you can add more greek yogurt and leave it out if you prefer.  Softer cream cheese will blend in better, whereas colder will leave some small chunks in your ice cream.  Both are delicious, mine was more on the cold side.

This should make enough to fill your container about or right under half full, so you may want to double the recipe if you go through ice cream more quickly.  If you want to double it but cut the fat you can add in half and half instead of more cream.  You maybe could completely replace the cream with the half and half, but be prepared for it to freeze differently or be a little less creamy. 

This is super delicious ice cream, I love pumpkin, and deserves something delicious like a waffle cone to go with it.  OR make some pumpkin cookies for an ice cream sandwich extravaganza.  Pin It Now!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

If You Teach A Man to Fish

 If you teach a man to fish, his daughter will use his lures to make jewelry.

Ladies, it is time to raid the man cave! There are all kinds of goodies in there it turns out, just waiting to be made into wearables.

For this bracelet (or statement necklace) you need:
-Chain and closures and jump rings
-metal lure pieces

You can buy them just about anywhere, but where is the fun in that?

 Go ahead and cut your length of chain and add your closures.

Lay out your pieces so that you can arrange the colors and similar.

Attach them with the jump rings, and get to wearing!

In just a few minutes, you can have this super cute bracelet, and most people probably won't make the connection that it is fishing lures.

This would be a great thing to look for materials at a flea market!

This fits with my day in a roundabout way, as I was out with a good friend hiking some trails and chatting by the river.  You may be in shock as I never talk about doing anything outdoorsy, but I do like trails. 

I just wouldn't camp.  Unless I was in a nice camper or RV.  And even then I'd prefer a cabin or a hotel haha.

Almost outdoorsy at least.

Regardless, it was a refreshing day.  I would go into detail, but I am worn out....


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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Creating the Mecca-lier

 My new Craft Mecca is on the distant horizon, and I finally got around to making the chandelier.  I am going to be using this beautiful damask wallpaper that I found on, and I wanted the light to have coordinating details.  I went back and forth on the accessory color for the light, and was lucky to have my sister tip me off that Meijer had a bunch of jewels on sale near their candles.  She listed me off the colors, and I KNEW that red was exactly what I wanted.  As such, a plan was born.

You will need:
-A brass octopus, aka a chandelier, mine is a 5 arm for mecca
-2 cans of black metallic flake krylon, or try the hammered black, or do whatever color you want
-a scrap of wallpaper or scrapbook paper wide enough to go around the "candles"
-jewels and wire

 Take the bulbs out of your light and give it a nice coat of paint.  If you are not going to cover the candle parts with paper and you need to cover those well, you will want to stuff paper towel or put painters tape over the top where the lightbulb goes in to save it from getting gunked up.


I like to hang mine in a tree because you need to be able to hit it from every angle.

Don't overly concern yourself with the candles if you are going to paper over them. 

 Cut your scrap of wallpaper.  Pull the candle stick off the light (most aren't attached) and put it on the paper to measure how much you need to cut.  This is where having somewhat of a coat of paint on it comes in handy, because you know exactly what parts will show and what won't.

Why waste paper on what won't be seen?

Get out your handy dandy bottle of mod podge and adhere your paper to the candle stick.  I personally put a coat of mod podge on there.

 I had to use thread because I left my wire at school and am home for the weekend, but you will be where your craft goods are and will use black wire or something that will blend in with whatever color you paint it.

Or you will paint your wire.  Trust me, you really want to use wire.

String whatever jewels and beads onto the wire and wrap the end around your light. 

I like to hang jewels off everywhere possible, and would eventually like to string some between the arms that have a mix of colors on them.
Here is how my light turned out, all there is left to do is glue down and secure some of the knots I had to tie (which you won't have because you will use WIRE) and to tweak a few of the strands.

OR I am going to take them all off and redo them with wire.

Regardless, this is such a cute way to pull in details from the rest of your room and have a VERY unique light fixture.

Go forth, and raid all of your local flea markets and peddler's malls, because that is where I found this light in the first place for $20.  Pin It Now!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Stir Fry the Sure Try

If there is one thing that I think I consistently do well, it is stir fry.  Now, stir fry is not the most complex thing to ever happen to mankind, but it can be one of the most delicious.  Here is how I make mine:

First, I like to alter soy sauce.  In one of my small plastic containers I mix up about 1/4c or so of soy sauce, 1/2 pack of true lime (a little lime juice is just fine if you have it), three shakes of the ginger bottle, and about a half teaspoon of brown sugar.  Mix this up, taste it to make sure you don't need to add a little more brown sugar, and set it aside while you prepare the rest of the stuff. 

The reason I make that sauce like that is because it cuts the super salty taste and adds some lighter, fresher notes into the stir fry.

You can also make the sauce and put it on asparagus, cook until tender, and it is phenomenal.  Actually, it is really just good on everything.

For the stir fry itself you need:
-1 thin cut pork chop
-1/2 cup cooked rice
-a handful of frozen corn (weird but true!)
-4 mushrooms, sliced
-1/4 to 1/2 cup of broccoli and/or any other veggies you want to add
-1 egg

Now look.  I know this isn't your typical Asian selection, but hang with me on this one.  You can put absolutely anything in a stir fry and make it delicious.  If I had pineapple on hand, I would have even thrown a few pieces of that in there.

Back to the stir fry.  Heat up a big skillet, the one I used here is at least 10 inches and might have been my 12.  I am not 100% sure, but it is my second largest skillet I own.  Put a pat of butter in the bottom because BUTTER IS THE KEY TO LIFE.  And, when used in moderation, butter provides delicious flavor and does not make you fat unless you overdo it and hit drive throughs all the time.  As far as I am concerned, butter is never the enemy.

Oh right, back to the stir fry.  Drop your veggies in, except the corn, you really just want to add any that are going to take a while to get tender, and salt and pepper them.  If you are worried about it getting too salty, just do the pepper.  You will have enough flavor in the sauce that it will be ok either way.  Drizzle a small portion, maybe just a tablespoon or so, of your ginger lime soy sauce over your veggies and let them do their thing. 

While they are cooking, salt and pepper your pork and cut into small cubes, I shoot for no bigger than an inch and sometimes go smaller.  Why is this awesome? They cook up so quickly this way!  Move your veggies over in your skillet and add your pork.  Drizzle another tablespoon or so over it and let it start cooking.  Give it a minute or two and turn the pieces over, and scoot them to one side of your skillet as well (this is why you need to use one of the larger ones you own!).

Crack your egg in any open spot on your skillet and break the yolk like you are scrambling it.  Attend to the pork and the veggies as needed and add in your corn, turning and whatnot as you see fit.  Flip the egg when you can and once it is pretty much cooked through chop it up into small pieces with your spatula. 

Toss the cooked rice in the skillet, stir everything up together, and add at least 3/4 of the rest of your sauce.  Mix it all around so that everything is coated, and let it cook for 3-5 minutes or so.  You can add another pat of butter in here if you like, I would be lying if I said I didn't!

Taste your rice and make sure it has enough saucy flavor, and add the rest in if needed.  This makes enough to feed me twice, just out of this small amount of ingredients.  The more veggies you add in the more it will feed, and you can easily up this recipe to feed as many as needed.  I am but one person, so I try to make things from a "one me, one meal" point of view.  This is one of the few recipes that I make that I have not yet managed to get down to one portion, but I can't say I mind that.

Again, use the ginger lime soy on chicken, on asparagus, on tons of things.  You can add more ginger if you want, play around with this until you find how it best fits you. It is very flexible and VERY flavorful.

And add corn into your stir fry, it is delicious.  Three cheers for hybrid dishes! Pin It Now!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Box on a Roll



What you need:
-An empty toilet paper roll, or a paper towel roll, cut down to the size you want
-A 6x6 scrap of paper, you will have to cut some overhang later so you can make it more precise if you want
-Rafia or ribbon

Before you attach the paper, use your thumb to press each end down on both sides, so that you know where it will need to bend.  Then fold them back up temporarily to put the paper on.

Pour out some mod podge on your page and fingerpaint it all over.  Or use a brush, if you are fancy like that.

Put the paper on the roll and wrap it around.  The easiest way to do this is to stick your thumbs in the roll and press the paper down all the way around.  This helped me get it tight and secure.

Fold your ends in a bit and trim off the excess paper, at least on the top end.  Unless you just feel like it, it is not inherently necessary to do it on the "bottom". 

Tie, and glue if you want to make sure it sticks, a pretty ribbon or rafia around the tube.  You can glue your bottom together to ensure nothing falls out if you are worried.

Takes about five minutes, plus a few more to dry!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fresh Berry Pancakes

 I have rapidly made up for 22 years of hating pancakes.  Again, my gripe is with the overly sweet, artificial flavors, and fake syrup.  Once introduced to this yummy light maple organic syrup from target, we had a whole new ballgame on our hands.  I plan on trying the medium maple next to see if I prefer it to light.  So far I think light is delicious.

I had purchased a couple of packs of blueberries and raspberries from Meijer this week, as the razz were a buck for a pack.  I am such a sucker for things that are $1.  Except the pretty colored peppers.  Those are a rip off for a buck.

ANYWAY, the pancakes I decided to make stemmed from really needing to use up those berries before I go home for te weekend.  Here is what I did:

I let the berries sit overnight in about a tablespoon of sugar.  I would have liked to have added a little lemon juice, but I have none, and I probably should have mashed them but didn't.  They were really juicy like strawberries get, but it ended up not being an issue.

I used about a cup or slightly under of the berries, 1 cup of pancake mix (I am determined to use that box up before I start making my own), 3/4c almond milk, 1 TB brown sugar, and after mixing all this up and mashing in the berries (I used a fork to mash/stir) I decided that it needed a bit more liquid so I added another 1/4 c of water

I buttered up my favorite griddle, as seen in the first picture, and used a 1/4c scoop of batter for each pancake.  This recipe made about ten.  They only take a few minutes on each side to cook up, and while your second bunch is cooking you can make your eggs on the remaining part of the griddle.  No wonder it is one of my favorite kitchen tools- I love efficiency.
I don't honestly even worry about warming up my syrup, I simply drizzle it on when I take the last ones off the griddle and put them directly on my munching platter.  They are piping hot when they come off, and this seems to work just fine.

I actually added a handful of broken up pecans into mine for a little texture, but this is completely optional for those preferring just berries.  You could also use greek yogurt in this recipe, just add it before you add your liquids so that you can adjust them accordingly to get the right texture.  That is my next project, protein packed greek pancakes!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tame the Mane: My Favorite Hairstyle

 My favorite new way of making my hair look like I actually care enough about school to fix it is braiding it around the top of my head.  I saw something similar on Pinterest a while back and decided to adapt it to something more suited towards me.

Just for the record, this picture is pretty close to what my haircolor actually is (I find that iphones like to change colors of real life).  Mom likes to call it, Secretariat.   It really is chestnut horse-like.  But I digress.

Back to my desire for easy and cute hairstyles for a 3 foot long mane.  You know, something that I could wear to keep the hair out of my face in case of a zombie attack or if I was thrown in the middle of a stadium to fight for food and survival.  The usual.

My hair is almost always waist-length, I try to keep layers in it but I don't get haircuts nearly as often as I should (ask my beautician, I'm lucky if I make it back in at the six month mark).

So I have created a color coded diagram (stop laughing!) to better explain how I do this.

First, I need to tell you that I don't braid my hair like this using a mirror.  I think it is confusing and I prefer to sit somewhere, close my eyes sometimes, and picture what I am doing instead.  It just makes it easier for me and so much less likely for me to confuse my directions.

If you can french braid this is a piece of cake.  I start my braid right at or behind my ear on my right side.  I lean over to the left so that my hair falls that way to keep from grabbing pieces I don't want. 

I start by grabbing about a 1inch or so section and dividing it in to three pieces (color coded in this picture to the side).  I cross the right piece to the center, then the left to the center, just like a normal braid.  Sometimes I do this twice to get in the flow.  Then, with my next cross from the right (or outside of your braid towards your face, as you may prefer to start from your left) I pull a small section of hair to cross with it, pulling from the outside.  I find it easier to cross the piece and then pull the section and combine with it, as opposed to pulling and then crossing. 

Then I continue on to cross the left piece to the center, BUT I DON'T PULL WITH THIS ONE.  I have found I prefer this method for braids crossing over my head.  Only pull with the pieces you cross on the outside from your forehead side.  As I get toward the top of my head I start to lean up straight so that my hair will fall back that way.  Again, I just find this to be easier to avoid pulling hairs I don't want.  The same goes for if I start my braid near where my head meets my neck, I flip it all upside down and lean forward over my bed to make sure I am getting what I want.

Now do you see why I don't bother with mirrors?

 You can go as far or short as you want with this braid, and can either bobby pin it, put a hair tie in it, or braid it out so that you have a braid hanging in your hair, which is interesting as well. 

Today, I did this braided part first and then teased my hair behind it and secured it with a clip.

For those of you who aren't good at teasing (I am just getting the hang of it) here is my method:  I use my comb or brush (I lose my comb every time I use it, so the brush works too) to comb a section back towards my scalp that I have pulled up (teasing the underside of the section).  Then, after I have teased it a bit I twist the section together multiple times, and THEN push it upwards on my skull and attach with pins or whatnot.  My hair is pretty particular, and this is the best way I have found to keep volume in the poof.

This is another thing I like to do with the braids, which is adding in a messy bun behind it.  A lot of times I will braid it starting from the back and crossing over the top and angling back towards where the braid will be.  I have even added multiple layers of these, in which case I highly suggest using very small sections when you pull.

It's nothing fancy, but it is a great way to keep your hair out of your eyes in a cute and fun manner.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

My 5 Minute Santa (Plus a Little Drying Time)

I don't always have time for deeply involved crafts.  I figured I would have been done with more of my homework than I am by this time today, but my Google Sketchup model was being so quirky and slow that it took me from 10 this morning til around 5 or so to put the "finishing touches" on my model and turn it in.  It was so frustrating. 

I really like quick crafts for this reason.  Sometimes, you just want to make something really quick, have it turn out super cute, feel great about yourself, and get back to whatever homework, housework, or other work you were doing.  Well, this was one of those times, and I think I had this guy done in about 5 minutes...and that is with using paint!  All it needs is to dry overnight, which it can do on its own.

You need:
-A small flower pot (you can use any size really, I just used the ones that are about 2-3 inches tall)
-Red Paint
-Black leading or paint
-White puffy paint
-A small washer (larger if using a larger pot)
-A makeup sponge

 Put you out a very small dollop of paint, use your sponge, and paint the "bottom", which in this case is actually the top, red.

Use the leading or black paint, or even a sharpie to put a black belt right above the ridge.

Use your white puffy paint to paint the ridge and to make a line up the front for where his "jacket" meets in the middle.

You can add buttons if you like, I don't suggest trying to make them with the leading.

Stick the washer right in the paint and let it do the work for you.

This is just to kind of give you an idea of some of the things you can do with it.  You can put a gaudy green candle dish on it...or not.  It would be very cute with a white or red plate on top for desserts, if you want to stick one on but don't want to glue it and ruin your paint, consider using a mounting dot or tape to hold it on there without permanently attaching.

Other thoughts I have on this guy:
-You could put a fishing sinker on a string, or a heavy bead, string it through the openin and glue it on top, attach a small handle or finnial on top and make your own santa bell
-You could put a large bead on a string, string it through the opening, tie a knot or bow in the string and use this as an ornament
-You could paint this like a pilgrims hat and use it for Thanksgiving decorations

You don't need great painting skills to do this.  It's a very quick and very versatile way to make a really cute display for holidays or festival booths, and I was able to pick up my flower pots at the dollar tree! 


Happy crafting, I am back off to homework land. Pin It Now!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Salt Dough, My Play Dough Years Revisted

I have been reading up a lot on salt dough.  I saw the keywords that I like, such as "cheap".  I like things that are cheap.  Let's face it, jewelry stuff is expensive and any way that you can skirt around having to buy something, or any opportunity have to reduce your cost of making something if you are in to selling it is a big o feather in your hat.

In this case, maybe a salt dough feather.

What I noticed while I was reading the many recipes I read was that they were all over the place.  This one had a lot of flour, this one used hot water, this one used warm water, that one used cold, this random one used oil, etc.  You know what that told me? This stuff is versatile.  And I like versatile, because versatile means you don't have to be overly concerned with a recipe...

Huh, it's like it was made for me. 

For the dough I used 2 CUPS FLOUR (store brand), 1 CUP SALT (super cheap off brand at that), and about 1 CUP OF WATER (the cheap non filtered tap kind, teehee).  I mixed it up, and then added just a dusting more of flour to knead the stuff into something I could work with.  I think the general consensus is higher proportion of flour, more smooth dough, but I was perfectly content with how this turned out, so I rolled with it.  Make your shapes and air dry, or bake at 200 for a couple of hours.  I did a combo, and some of them aren't fully dry.  Big/thick shapes will naturally take longer.  Paint when they are dry.

The real beauty in all this is I used no cookie cutters...ok fine I HAVE NO COOKIE CUTTERS IN MY APARTMENT.  I admit it.  I am hoping I can sweet talk my mom out of a few of her million of them.  But, what I did determine is that if you ever had any play dough skills, you can work with salt dough with limited tools.

Here are a few of my favorites, and the rough idea on how I made them (as I would say 40% is luck):

 These were remarkably simple, and my second favorite results.  For snakes I just grabbed off a chunk, rolled it on my table to come out with a pretty even log of salt dough, and determined the size I wanted and tore off that long of a piece.  Sometimes I even guessed just right when I tore it off.

Grab both sides of the log and let the middle touch your wax papered surface.  As you start to lay both sides down slowly, determine where you want them to cross and do so. 

I like to use my fingers and pinch one side to a point for the tail, and flatten the top part out a bit for the head.

I am not 100% convinced these are fully dry yet, so I have not painted them.  Everything will look so much cooler with metallic paint (or LOOKING GLASS PAINT!)
 These are my FAVORITES.  These are a big case of a lucky accident, I was making a leaf and I ended up with the one in the bottom right...not a leaf at all.

To make the inner ridges I used a cake pop stick to poke the dough down, which made successive tiny ridges in there.  For the sides I used a steak knife and made gouges in them...

I know, really complex.

The cake pop stick is also what I used on the left side snake, because I will be putting rhinestones on it later.

Now, imagine these leaves with a turquoise and bronze paint on them...Oh yes.
 I'll be the first to admit this guy could have been better.  Again though, with the right coat of paint he has some serious potential. 

With a lot of the animals, I had to break it down into basic shapes.  As you can see with his tail they are teardrop-esque shapes with holes punched down for rhinestones later.

Mess around and build up your layers to get dimension on these things.  Anything in life can be broken down into basic shapes, and you can use paint and embellishments to add your textures.
 To make this circle without having any tools, I rolled a small chunk into a ball in my hands...AND THEN GAVE IT A GOOD OL MOOOOSH.  I flattened it out, laid it on my surface, and eyeballed it to as best of a circle as I could manage. 

You could be fancy and print you out some templates.

I cannot, because I am still out of ink.

And if you want to cut a wedge out of your circle, you can make a pretty awesome PACMAN PENDANT!! And yes, I will be stringing him on a necklace with some yellow beads to finish the look.  And no, I do not think pacman has an eye, that is where I will be attaching my jump ring.

Punch the holes before you bake btw.

Here are my owls, agian I broke them down into basic shapes.

I have an owl drying right now (air) that I went ahead and put beads in while it was wet dough.

I don't know how well that will work, but I figured it was worth a shot.

My best advice for stuff like this is pull up some google images on owl jewelry to use as a reference while you work.
 Here are some gears, again just made by flattening balls of dough out and cutting out shapes in them.

Salt dough is so super simple to manipulate you are really only limited by what you can think of making.

Well, and how long you can sit in one place if you are me.  The whole 3 hours on the floor indian style idea...not gonna suggest that one.  I was not sure I could make it to my bed after that haha!
Here is a sideways (always forget to turn them) shot of everything I made out of my dough so far.  That is right, I am not all the way through my dough.  I have a piece in a ziploc bag that is easily the size of a roll.  And not even like a pansy dinner roll either, I am talking a ciabatta roll or something.

So basically, if you mess up, you have wasted very little money, just the time that you have invested.  And, if even half of the stuff you make ends up working out, imagine the money you save buying it.  You can make beads, ornaments, decorations, jewelry pendants, anything you want.

For instance, wouldn't those little octopi make the CUTEST picture frame decorations in a themed room?

Of course they would.

After you paint these cuties, seal them with something.  Or if you leave them bare, seal them with something.  Whatever your preference is.  Just make sure you get a good coat or multiple coats on there to maximize their lastability. 

Again, I am not 100% convinced all of my pieces are dry since some are still very dark, so I will be giving them some more time to air dry before I start painting.  Which works well, because I really don't have any paint except for red and gray...

Go make that dough! Pin It Now!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Peanut Butter Pretzel Poppers

THANK GOODNESS I finally came up with a decent name for these right before I started to blog.  Earlier to my friend it was "peanut buttery pretzel samich thingies dipped in white chocolate"...which, although descriptive, doesn't quite have that ring I am looking for.

I really thought about trying to make more homemade bread today.  However, what won me over into not doing it was the fact that I am going home this coming weekend and my mom has a dishwasher.  Much better to experiment where there is a dishwasher.

Anyway,  I am starting to feel like the story of my life is seeing things on pinterest and then changing them because I don't like how they are done.  Well, that and never following a recipe 100% correctly because I have this weird mental block that won't allow me to (LOL!).  SO this time I decided to tackle those little pretzel samich-y (yes, I really do wish it was spelled samich) things that are dipped in chocolate and have some PB mix in the middle. 

Here are the issues I have with the recipe on pinterest, and let me tell you they are big issues:
-I cannot, CANNOT, and further more cannot stand anything dipped in semi sweet chips.  When there are things so delicious as Candi-quick, the chocolate version of which reminds me of hot cocoa, I cannot understand why someone would want to use semi-sweet chips.  I have hated them for my entire existence, and I don't see it changing any time soon.

Don't get me wrong, I am glad people like em and I am glad they like the original.  It just is very much NOT for me.

-Issue the second, although I normally love brown sugar with every fiber of my being, I hate it so bad in the combo of ingredients in the original version that it is unreal.  I literally cannot eat a sweet potato without brown sugar, so I assure you it is just something about it being mixed with peanut butter.  Icky.

Now, on the other hand, I LOVE peanut butter balls.  I mean really I love them. I also love white chocolate, aka Almond Bark.  Oh buddy, that is the good stuff.  So naturally, we bring ourselves to MY version for my fellow almond bark lovers out there:

PEANUT BUTTER PRETZEL POPPERS!  (cue applause)   You need:
 -1/2 c peanut butter, I used the kind with honey you can use whatever you have, just understand that we may end up with slightly different amounts needed
-1 cup of powdered sugar, more or less depending on your PB, mine seemed somewhat oily
-About 2 or 3 TBs of butter, again just depending on what your consistency is coming out like
-1 to 2 packs of candiquick (white, chocolate, both, whatever you fancy)
-optional drizzle of real maple syrup, I recommend it (slightly less than a tablespoon) but you could put in honey instead or completely leave it out.  It really does not change the flavor a whole lot, but it did help me get the consistency I wanted and made it a little sweeter.

Ok so you mix all those up.  The butter needs to be really soft obviously, I always have some sitting out because I cook with it 3 times a day, no joke, and so I just used a couple of spoonfuls of room temp butter. 
 If it were me, I would put ALL of the pb in, and about half to three fourths of the powdered sugar in there to start out with.  And the butter, of course.  Mix that all in and then see where you are at.  You are going for the consistency of a peanut butter ball where you could shape it into a ball and it would hold its form well enough to dip right then and there without having to chill it.  So basically you want it on the stiff side.

I ended up adding more sugar than needed and it was not wanting to incorporate into a cohesive mass like you see in the first picture.  That is how the maple syrup came about, because I needed to get it a little softer.  Worked like a charm.

Anyway mix it all up, get the consistency that you want, if it is on the soft side but you love the taste, roll with it we are going to freeze them anyway.  Using a spoon or your fingers put the PB mix onto a pretzel and put another on top like a sandwich.  Pretty darn simple.

Pop them on a cookie sheet or in a cake pan (that is what I used so they would not slide off) and pop them in the freezer.  I left them in there long enough to cook and eat dinner, but I would say leave them in at least ten minutes. 

Melt your candiquick according to directions. Get a pair of tongs, they make dipping anything and everything so much simpler.  Spread out some wax paper on your counter and get those babies out of the freezer. Dip em, flip em, and drip em to coat, and after draining off the excess sit them on your wax paper.  As you can see, I prefer to be haphazard and I get chocolate everywhere and I don't mind.

But you can be neat if you so choose.  Let them sit there for at least an hour or so before you do anything with them, more or less depending on the temperature of your room.  They will set a little better if its cold.  You can also put them in the fridge, but this tends to cloud up chocolate and give it more of a matte look and sometimes a streaky look.  Which doesn't make a darn bit of difference, if you ask me, but it is good to know in case you are doing something with chocolate for something super important.

You could also just crumble up pretzels and add it to your peanut butter ball mix, but I just think these are cute.  AND they give me reason to say samiches.  I have already eaten a few of these, and I must say they are MUCH more Jenna friendly than the originals.

Happy samiching!

All of my photos are taken with my iphone, by the way, which hates my kitchen.  I really can't blame it, my kitchen has sort of this dijon mustard color in it (it's an apartment and this isn't my choice) for the cabinets and countertops and so it tends to cast a yellow haze over everything I do. 

Random but true.
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