Sunday, July 19, 2015

Staying Busy

All righty, again, it has been awhile since posting.  My excuse is the same as always - busy, busy, busy.  These last few months I have been swamped with work, traveling, working out, crafting and theatering (I know it not a REAL word, but maybe it should be!).  We recently returned from a fantastic trip to Ireland (swoon - did I have to come home?) and a few months ago the husband and I traveled to the east coast for my sister's graduation.  My BFF came to visit last month for my thirty, flirty & thriving birthday (who can tell me what movie that is from?! :)) and we had a blast together.

I have a new obsession with working out - mostly doing a PIYO routine, which is a mix between PIlaties and YOgo; get it: PI-YO.  I think my favorite part of PIYO is the fantastic stretch and limberness I feel afterwards.  As a bonus, my muscles are totally getting stronger from doing it daily!

I couldn't help but to wear my own ruby red shoes to see WICKED!
I have also joined a quilting block of the month club at a local fabric store.  It has kept me busy at my sewing machine and I am learning a ton of new techniques.  Next May, I will have a completed Washington State themed quilt to show off and hopefully a bunch of new skills sets in my sewing repertoire!  :)

Most recently, I have been able to score tickets to two shows in Seattle's playhouses.  The Mister ordered WICKED tickets for my birthday last month and this past week, we saw it.  I have loved the music for ages, but didn't know the complete storyline.  I've wanted to see it for years.  It lived up to it's great reputation!  Just a few days ago, someone gave me a ticket to the show GREASE which is playing downtown because she was unable to use it.  I will be soon heading there to see some Grease Lightning!  I will try not to sing a long too loudly, but with the catchy music, I am sure many folks will be singing along. :)  
  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cast Iron Obsession

Yikes!  It has been awhile  - as always, life keeps us busy! :)  So I find myself watching Sherlock on Netflix tonight and typing away.  Since I last updated, the Hubby and I have traveled a bit - to North Carolina and Pennsylvania.  We've enjoyed the surprisingly warm weather by spending some time enjoying the outdoors and I have even started my garden (planted brussel sprouts, herbs and kale).  I have recently discovered that I actually like brussel sprouts.  Growing up, I could not stand the vegetable, but now I cannot get enough of them!  I read somewhere that tastebuds expand every seven years, so maybe that explains my new brussel sprout obsession.  

A few weeks ago the Mister and I took a "cast iron cooking" class and Williams Sonoma.  They have weekly tutorials on an array of cooking topics, but I found the cast iron class to be beneficial.  I inherited 2 skillets (a 3 and 8 inch) a few years ago, but have never used them.  I don't know why I haven't use them.  Maybe I thought they were too much work or too tricky to use, I don't know.  But after the class, I had the confidence to give them a try.  Being that my skillets were unloved for so many years, the first thing that we had to do was season the skillets.  




My husband actually was the one who really did the hard work to season the skillets - he started by taking a metal scrubber, soap and water to remove the thick residue left on the skillets.  When he was done, the skillets were worn down to the bare metal.  

We then used a rag to spread a thin coating of oil (we used flaxseed oil because it has a higher smoking point) on the inside and outside of the skillet.  Since we used flaxseed oil, we could season the skillets at a higher temperature - we used 500 degrees for about 1 hour.  Other oils, should probably be seasoned at 350 degrees.  When in the oven, the skillet should be upside down so that the oil doesn't pool at the bottom of the pan.  We put a piece of aluminum foil at the bottom of the oven for the oil to drip, which made for easy clean up!  When the hour is up, we turned off the oven and let the skillets cool down in the oven.  Once cooled, we started the oil/coating/heating/cooling process again, again & again (we did four coats of oil).  When it was all said and done, our very old cast iron skillets look beautiful and new!  In fact, they are now my favorite thing to cook by beloved brussel sprouts in! :) :P

The truth is, since I now have usable cast iron skillets, I haven't touched my once cherished non-stick skillets and have been using the cast iron for everything.  We even splurged and bought a cast iron dutch oven to be able to cook more variety in cast iron.  We have become cast iron people. :)

Until the next time... 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I love me some Thanksgiving Leftovers

I will admit - I LOVE Thanksgiving.  The food and the relaxed family time all make the holiday quite appealing to me.  Growing up, all of the holidays were very busy and spent traveling to family member's homes, except Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving was spent at my parent's home.  It was relaxed, it was fun and down-right cozy!  Being that we are now farther away from both sides of our family, we do not get to celebrate with them, but that doesn't mean that I have stopped loving this holiday.

This will be my second year hosting the holiday on the west coast and this year we have a 14 pound turkey waiting for us.  One of the extra bonus' of hosting Thanksgiving is having the leftovers at your home, just waiting for you.  And I am pretty excited about having these leftovers!

Turkey Pot Pie is one of my favorite "leftover" meals.  Last year, I froze a few of these pies, so we could eat them several months down the road.  Leftover turkey is the gift that keeps giving! :)


What you need:
1 package of pie crust (2 shells)
2 cups shredded turkey
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup of cheddar cheese
1 package of frozen mixed vegetables (thawed and drained)
1 teaspoon of salt & pepper

Directions:
1. Line a pie pan with one of the pie crust shells
2. In a separate bowl, combine the turkey, cream of chicken soup, cheese, veggies, salt and pepper.
3. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and cover with the second shell.  Pinch the edges shut and cut slits into the top so that it can vent.


When you are ready to bake the Chicken Pot Pie, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and pop it in the oven for about 40 minutes.  By that time the crust should be a golden brown color.   It is a hardy, tasty meal - love those leftovers! :)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Soup in the Making

Well, well - the weather has turned cold on me quite quickly!  Here in the Pacific Northwest, this last week the temperature has dropped quickly (hopefully it will warm up a bit).  On top of that, my husband had a minor surgery on his eyes (which he has quickly recovered).   What food is the best comfort food in cold weather?  SOUP, of course!! :)  

For these cold weather, recovery days, I adapted the recipe from Gimme Some Oven for some Zuppa Toscana soup.  Who doesn't love the comfort that a good, hot bowl of soup brings.  I made a lot of soup, so we were able to eat it for several days.  I do not consider myself a "fancy" chef, but I think that I did well with this one.  My husband at least thought so!  He couldn't stop eating it! :)  A wife win! :P




What you need:
1 lb. of ground Italian sausage (I used the hot kind)
1 small onion, diced
1/2 red pepper
4 cups of chicken stock
1 bunch of kale (I only used half of the bunch, but you can't buy a half bunch! :P)
1 lb. cheese tortellini
1/4 cup cream cheese
salt & pepper

What you do:
1. In a large stock pan, Add the sausage and onion.  Over medium-high heat, begin to brown the sausage.  When it is about half way browned, add the red pepper too.  While the sausage is cooking, break up the meat chunks.  Once done, try to drain the extra grease, if you are able.

2. Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a light boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low add the kale and tortellini.  Mix it all together.  Let the mixture cook, covered, for about 5 minutes (make sure that the tortellini is cooked).  Add the cream cheese and mix it in.  Season with salt and pepper.

Although it was a rather simple recipe, it had great results and tasted like it was a lot harder to make than it actually was!  I have already bought the ingredients to make this again! Husband will be happy. :)



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Readers Challenge

Recently, on Facebook, I was challenged to do a readers challenge of sorts.  Normally I do not participate in these little challenges/callouts, but being the book nerd that I am, I found this one a little too tempting.  I have always found solace in books - and when I find a good one, I have trouble putting it down.  So here it goes - My Top 10 Fictional Books (in no particular order).



1. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) - I first read this book in high school.  Told through the eyes of a young girl, it touches on subjects of inequality of race and integrity.  Once it is read, it cannot help but to leave an impact.

2. Redeeming Love (Francine Rivers) - In this retelling of the Biblical story of Hosea, this book deals details the restoring love of God.  It is a beautiful description of endless love and compassion.

3. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell) - I will admit, I first read this book because of how long it was.  In my high school English class, we only had to write 1 book report a semester if the book we read was a certain length.  Gone with the Wind was in that category of only 1 book report.  However, I loved this book and have since read it several times!  A tale of the South during and after the Civil War, it is a story of survival.

4. The Traveler's Gift (Andy Andrews) - Told in a story format, this book gives strategies for personal success.  However, the story is so good that you don't realize that it is a self-help book but you do remember the principles.  Good stuff.

5. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens) - How can you not like a book that starts with, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"? Set during the French Revolution, this is a story of sacrifice and social justice.  Plus there is a doppelganger - coolness! Given the age of this book, it can be downloaded digitally for free.

6. Mark of the Lion series (Francine Rivers) - I will admit, book 1 (A Voice in the Wind) & book 2 (An Echo in the Darkness) are my favorite.   However, book 3 (As Sure as the Dawn) is still decent, but kinda breaks off of the story line that the first two books follow.  If you do read the first book, make sure that you have the second handy because you will want to jump right into it!

7. Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowlings) - This 7 book series is the classic story of good verses evil.  I was actually a little late to jump on the Harry Potter train, reading them about 10 years after everyone else, but I am so glad that I did pick them up!

8. Emma (Jane Austin) - I enjoy pretty much any Jane Austin novel.  However, Emma has a special place in my heart - who doesn't love a mistaken matchmaker?  Emma is also available for a free digital download from Amazon.

9. Julie (Catherine Marshall) - This is much lesser know than Catherine Marshall's "Christy", but it is the coming of age story of a girl in a small town.  Since I have also grew up in a small town, I felt such a connection to Julie and loved this story.

10 The Giver (Lois Lowry) - A story about a unique boy who holds all the memories & feelings of a futuristic society.  This is a book that will make one think and question.

Well, that is it - my top ten favorite books of all time.  Of course, there are a few honorable mentions: Anne of Green Gables series, Nancy Drew books, Chronicle of Narnia, etc. that are up there on my list.  I am a true bookworm & thank you for indulging me; this little list was quite nostalgic for me! :P

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Just Crazy About Canning

I have a new hobby!  And a few weekends ago I spent a lot of time on my newest hobby - CANNING!  In truth, I have been very spoiled growing up, as my mother and grandmothers all canned and were willing to share their harvest with me, but I have never really participated in the act of canning, nor did I really want to.  This year, all that changed.  Since all my family is across the country, I am left to fend for myself in the canning arena.  I am excited about the outcome of my canning adventures, but I do have a new appreciation for all the hard work that my family did to share their canning with me.

I knew that I wanted to can this year, but our yard does not have the space nor the sun light to produce much of a garden.  In the little bit of yard that the sun actually hits, we have 2 zucchini plants and 1 cherry tomato plant, all which have taken over. :)  Growing up in a rural area, I am used to eating things "fresh from the farm", so not having access to a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as soon as I step outside the door has been an adjustment to me.  To compensate, this year I had 20 lb. of green beans delivered from a local farm.  When I told people that I was doing this, they looked at me like I was crazy.  20 lb. of anything is a lot for only 2 people!  But I knew that I wanted to can them.  On top of that, my kind co-worker brought me back red pears and tomatoes from her recent trip to California.  With all these fresh fruits and veggies, I planned for a busy weekend.  Below is the end result of all that was canned: peaches, tomato sauce, salsa, applesauce, green beans and cinnamon-pear jam.



As I said, my co-worker brought me some beautiful red pears from California.  Yum!  I scoured the internet to find what I wanted to make with this beautiful gift and found a recipe for Cinnamon Pear Jam at Food in Jars. I will admit that I choose this one because you don't have to peal the pears - I am terribly slow at pealing fruit!

What you Need:
16 cups of pears (cubed)
8 cups of sugar
Juice from a medium sized lemon
2 Tbsp of Cinnamon
2 Tbsp of Pectin


Cook down the pears & sugar, on medium heat, in a stainless steel pot.  When the pears are soft, mash the fruit with a potato masher until the mixture is fairly smooth.  Add the lemon juice, cinnamon and pectin into the mixture.  Continue to cook until the jam starts to thicken.  For me it was about 15-20 minutes.


Once the concoction has thickened, fill the jars and place the lids, which were heated in boiling water while the pears were cooking, and screw on the rim of the jar.  Put the jars in a boiling water bath for about 10 minutes, start the timer once the water returns to a boil.  After the 10 minutes, remove the jars from the pot and let them cool on the counter for about 3 hours.  Hopefully the lids will seal during this time - all of mine did thankfully!

I will tell you, it is mighty tasty jam! :)  I am actually thinking about trying it as a marinade for a ham in the future, but I guess we will just have to wait and see. :)



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fall is Around the Corner!

Fall is my favorite season and it is just around the corner.  I LOVE it: the brisk air, the color of the leaves, the yummy foods.  I am getting giddy just thinking about it! :)  As Summer is drawing to an end and our visitors have come and gone (it really was a good Summer!), we are preparing to go back to Pennsylvania for a quick trip for my family reunion/party.  It will good to see everyone again, as I haven't seen several of these folks since our wedding, last Fall (another reason why Fall is my favorite season).

As an ode to everything Fall, I made some Pumpkin Bread to assist me to get into the mood of the upcoming season.  Yum, Yum, Yum.  I thoroughly enjoyed eating this treat during breakfast with my morning coffee.


I found the original recipe at A Subtle Revelry.   She also shares a really cool way to write on bread, so check it out.

1-2/3 cup flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp of each: nutmeg, ground cloves, pumpkin pie spice & cinnamon
2 beaten eggs
1 can of pumpkin
3/4 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water




Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a bread pan.

In one bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking soda and powder and all of the spices.
In another bowl, mix the eggs, pumpkin, vegetable oil, sugar and water.
Once each set is mixed separately, combine and mix to blend together.  Pour your batter into your baking pan.  Pop it in the oven for about 1 hour.  Do the toothpick test and if comes out clean, you are set.  Let it cool for about a half hour  before transferring to a cooling rack.

It is mighty tasty when it is slightly warm.  We finished this loaf in about 3 days (don't judge, it was just too good not to eat! :P) and it was just as moist on the third day - a sign of a good bread, I believe.  Enjoy & Welcome FALL! :)