Category: What is That?


Rice Pudding

My husband loves to watch cooking shows.

And we watch them all.

Because of these shows, I have worked to try new foods and new recipes. Which can be difficult because the family does not like to try new things. I always make sure there is an old favorite along so the new thing isn’t a total disaster.

As some of you know, I have been fighting Type Two Diabetes for the last few years. I am always trying to find ways to make old favorites amenable to the new way of life. The family is not always happy about these changes. I am the only one who like brown rice. And no one was interested in cauliflower/mashed potatoes mixture.

rice-pudding-end-product.jpg

They don’t really like rice pudding, well a few of them. But while watching Milk Street on PBS, I saw a recipe utilizing mango and knew I had to try it.

The Senagalese Mango and coconut rice pudding also includes coconut milk and shredded coconut.

This is suppose to add more flavor while reducing the amount of sugar in the dish. Sometimes it feels as if I am always looking for the holy grail of foods that allows me to have what I like without the damage of carbs.

Now, there is a small part of me that is fiercely anti-creating old favorites when you have turned a new leaf – voluntarily – foodwise. Vegan burgers, vegan chicken nuggets, vegan cheese make no sense to me. I also don’t understand why you want to re-create the taste and texture of a food you are no longer eating for moral reasons.

We had a long discussion over the dinner table about this in which my daughter who should become a lawyer argued that I am doing the same with my mashed caulifower, dark chocolate, and no bread rule.

rice-pudding-ingrediants.jpgNope, I am not doing the same because I am making changes by force and not due to want. Bread and pasta are slowly being eliminated from my diet. I recently had a unwich from Jimmy John’s and liked it. I didn’t miss the bread, almost.

I used to eat more pasta but I have asked my husband to serve those meals on the nights I am at school. I eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. I think about going Keto but the lack of beans really doesn’t satisfy my taste buds. Nor do I want to ask my family to make that huge jump for me.

I am willing to adapt old favorites. So when I printed out this recipe, I was able to decide how to adapt or change based on what was available to me. Coconut milk, right there. Unsweetened coconut. Not so much so I ended up using a sweetened version.

Rice Pudding - toasting coconutBefore I even started the first step, I made sure everything was poured out and ready to go. Knowing that toasting coconut can be tricky, I wanted everything to ready to go.

So when my pan was ready to go. I poured in the coconut and stirred.

Walked away, stirred again.

Tried not to get too anxious. Stirred again.

Took a picture. Stirred some more.

Waited, let more than half of it finally get brown.

This takes place in a minute and a half. Maybe two minutes.

rice-pudding-sauce.jpgSo I pour in the coconut milk, finally. Sugar, vanilla, and salt go into the pot as well.

The recipe says to let it get to a simmer.

Then I am supposed to let it stay on medium heat for five minutes.

So I stir and walk away. I take a nice picture.

Gwen is cutting up the Mango for me and I show her how to score the fruit once the sides are cut up.

I stir a little more and deem it ready for the next step. You want it to reduce a little bit but not too much. Once that is done, you add the rice.

I had a mixture of Basmati and white rice. They were leftovers from a taco meal. The Basmati may have been leftovers from another meal. The point is it needed to be used up. So I put it all in which was just a little more than the two cups required by a quarter cup.

rice-pudding-final-additions-and-simmer.jpgThen I added a cup of water. This is not in the list of ingredients but it was in the instructions. So I put it all in the pot at a nice little simmer.

The directions said to simmer for about 15-20 minutes to get it to a nice semi-thick consistency.

So I stirred and walked away. I put away all of the ingredients. I got bowls and spoons out. I stirred the pot.

I put the mangos on the table. My husband lamented there was no whipped cream. I stirred the pot after rolling my eyes. When there was more rice than liquid and almost but not quite sticking to the bottom, I turned off the burner.

I had decided not to do the camelized honey for the mangos because I wanted less sugar. I am sure it would have taken no time at all. In fact, I could have done it while the pudding was on it’s last simmer. Have two teaspoons of honey in a skillet and at the right moment throw in the fruit of a cut up mango.

But I didn’t.

With a 1/4 cup of reserved liquid of the sauce mixture, we added the mangos to the rice pudding in our bowls.

So good. and there were no leftovers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Memory Pillow

We all want keepsakes of our loved ones even when, or especially when, they are gone.

My father died four years ago.

I can’t believe it still and I know it happened.

Sometimes I smell his cologne around the house, sometimes it is pipe tobacco.

But I also wanted something tangible of his to hold. That’s when I saw shirt pillows.

pillow chairYou take a loved one’s shirt and convert it into a pillow. To make it easier to wash the insert or replace it, a zipper is placed at the bottom of the pillow.

I took one of Dad’s favorite shirts, with Mom’s permission of course, to make into a pillow. The patterns I saw called for a 16″ pillow. But Dad was a big guy and we came to realize that an 18″ pillow was going to work much better.

Making the pattern was the easy part. I cut out an 18″ square out of newspaper. Originally I thought I was going to make a 16″ pillow and created that patter piece in the same way. But we quickly realized the pockets would be cut on the ends. Mom didn’t want that so I went two inches bigger.

pillow pattern cut outOnce I placed the pattern on the shirt and pinned it down, it came for the really hard part.

I had to cut the shirt.

In cutting the shirt I had to admit to myself just how real this all is. Dad is not coming back. He is not going to come around the corner quacking at me or the kids. He is not going to say “It’s too damn hot” or “it’s too damn cold.”

The door to the house will not open and he will not walk through. Cutting the shirt seemed more final than when we spread his ashes.

I had to wait until I was back home before I threw out the remains of the shirt. I couldn’t do it at Mom’s house where I made the project. All in all, it took me an hour to get the courage to cut around the pattern, giving it a half inch seam allowance.

pillow front stitch downAs I began to work on the shirt, I followed the good advice of my friend, Steve. It was tempting to simply leave the shirt able to open at the buttons. But puckering was a concern. Steve suggested that I sew down the button over lap, making it look like top stitching.

Another great suggestion was to put in the zipper before I created all of the side seams. That way the zipper is in before trying to make it fit. Once the zipper was in, all I had to do was create the side seams with a traditional 5/8 sewing line.

To be safe I did a zigzag stitch along the edges just to make sure there would be no raveling of material. After that, it was a matter of waiting for the pillow form to come from Amazon. Once it did, all I had to do was fluff the pillow form, bend it in half, and zip up the closure.

pillow finished

If I had to do it again, I would top stitch along the zipper for less gap. I can always go back and do that.

I might have used a 19″ pillow to fill out the corners better and to have a more pop of pillow fluffiness.

Otherwise, this went well. It only took a few hours in real time. I did have to take a while since it was the first time I made this project. Steeling your courage without alcohol takes time.

While I have some of his other shirts in quilted flannel, they are not going to get the shirt treatment. They are too warm to cut up.

Still, it makes for a great memory keepsake, especially when you need a little warmth or hug back.

pillow supplies

 

Supplies

1 Shirt

Matching or coordinating thread

Zipper – I had a 16″ zipper because that is what I planned initially. I would go with 1-2 inches shorter than the form size you plan to use.

Pins

Pattern

Pillow Form – On inch bigger than your pattern for a bigger fit.

Seam ripper – for all necessary unsewing

 

Lemon Blueberry Cake

For what ever reasons, I decided to make a lemon blueberry cake.

Maybe it was Oscar week and I always like to experiment with food choices for that meal. Maybe because winter has dragged on, and I needed something light and refreshing to eat. Maybe it was because I saw a great and luscious picture over at Sally’s Baking Addiction.

She made her cake from scratch. I used lemon cake mix. And my cream cheese frosting came from a tub.

Normally, I am not a person to make layer cakes. They require effort to make them straight and pretty. Bundt cakes require less effort and still tasty. But I really loved the look of this cake so I decided to go with it.

So to make a great picture, I put all of the ingredients, including one cup of blueberries, in the bowl. Now doesn’t that look pretty?

cake mix

Now, here is the problem. Once you start mixing those blueberries, the color immediately begins seep out of the berries. My lovely yellow cake is getting muddled with every stir of the spoon. I was not going to get the lovely color contrast.

Has that ever stopped me?

Cake baked

So I moved on, got those lovely pans filled and into the oven. At the right time, I got them out and, boy did it smell good in my house. As you can see the blueberries went down, which was okay in my book. I wanted to have the majority in one spot for the glorious effect later on.

I did what any improviser does best, I carried on and frosted the cake. The first layer went top down and I put a coating of frosting on. That cream cheese frosting was tasty. The next layer went top down. My goal became to use as much of the frosting that was left. It was going down. and around. I recently saw one suggestion of giving a thin layer all around the sides and top before going full blown with the rest of the frosting. I tried this and found I did not have as many crumbs trying to make a mess of my cake.

Cake

Which turned out quite lovely once I added the extra blueberries as an edible garnish. It was very tasty. And the sliced version had some of that contrast I was going for.

Cake slice

But if I ever do this again, I am making sure to put the blueberries in the cake pans first and then cover with the batter. Secondly, I am using more frosting in the middle. You can never have enough frosting in the middle.

What are you baking to get rid of the winter blues?

As many of you know, I am working on a battle against weight.

I used to weigh 225 pounds. I have been told that being tall makes that weight look less than it is. But let’s face it, a 48 inch waist is still a 48 inch waist. No amount of height is going to make that waist look any smaller than it really is.

I am also dealing with the beginnings of arthritis which really sucks some days. My energy gets zapped and before I know it, I am taking a two hour nap and not the 20 minute nap I was hoping to do instead. I get those flares of a small temp with no reason for it, especially in the winter time. Fatigue is not my friend and I try to work around it all of the time.

In the last few years, I have taken off a lot of weight and 7 inches around the middle. Those seven inches were hard won as I have a deep and abiding love for food. I love trying new recipes, I love things with fat and sugar. If it is deep fried, well, I am in heaven. But research has told me those things are not good for me so I have learned to cut back.

Soda is once a week, cookies and candy are eaten less often. I try to stick to water and ice tea for drinks while snacking on popcorn a little more often.

But still, I could lose about 10 more pounds. The diet and exercise has been good but I need a little extra push. So I thought I would take a gander at the Paleo diet. Some people call it the Caveman diet.

Paleoista by Nell StephensonI picked up Paleoista  by Nell Stephenson. Look at that cover, she looks hip and happy with legs way too long for her body. But that is beside the point.

Then I began reading the book. I was OK with giving up processed food. I mean, I know how to make sauces and such, I shouldn’t rely on noodles from a bag or sauce from a jar.

Eating more fresh fruit and vegetables actually sound like a good idea to me. That is how I have lost a lot of my weight by incorporating fresh or frozen veggies and fruits in the diet. Eating more protein seemed like a good idea as well.

Then I got to the part that said no grains because people in the paleo era were nomadic, therefore they did not have time to plant and wait for grains to grow. That meant no bread, no pasta, no donuts, no cereal, no cake.

After that I go to the part that said no legumes because that would have taken too much time to grow before the group had to pick up and leave again. So no refried beans, no white kidney beans in many of my soups, no beans in the chili or any number of dishes.

But the worst came when she said no dairy because traveling with a cow or goat would not have happened. Which means no milk, cheese, ice cream, sour cream, cottage cheese, or cream cheese.

All credibility was lost when the author made the statement that these three groups are not really food groups and therefore you are not missing out on anything.

Really?

I have learned the hard way that wheat bread – not white bread- is the way to control my sugars from doing the big surge. I have learned that Barilla’s pasta with semolina is a better choice for me than even Prince (even if Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day).

I have learned that I feel better when beans are a part of my soups. I feel better when I eat them. As for milk, I only drink whole milk so that the fat slows down the uptake of the sugar in the milk. But I rarely drink more than a half a cup on any given day.

I like butter on my freshly cooked corn-on-the-cob, I like cream cheese on my bagels.

But here is what I do not do. I do not eat like a pig. I know my serving sizes and I stick to them. I allow myself days to cheat and eat some forbidden things because to totally take them away would be killer. I would never stay on that diet.

Perhaps the Paleo diet worked for the author of this book. But for me, it would have been a total wash. I refuse to follow any diet that says stop eating entire food groups.

So I guess I will go back to what I was doing with eating more veggies and fruits, drinking water, and getting plenty of exercise. Perhaps I should up that walking distance again. More exercise seems to be the best  answer to any of my weight problems in the long run.

What diet books have you read lately that seemed like a bust after you started reading the book?

 

 

Dinosaur Garden

Dinosaur in the garden

 

What is That? Snicker Salad!

In the summer time, I have one mainstay in my pot luck arsenal that never fails.  It also has the advantage of being quick and easy to put together.

Considering the events of the past week, I am sure some of you are wondering why I am not getting into a long discussion of what the Trayvon Martin decision means to me.

The simple truth is, in my opinion, I believe we will hear of more teenage boys being killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were deemed threats whether they are or not, and someone will of take care of them – all while congratulating themselves for taking out a thug in training even if that is not true.

If that last paragraph is too much to handle, you have a couple of options. “Tsk” the next time a boy is shot, volunteer your time with some sort of youth activity, or yell “get of my lawn” when ‘those’ boys walk by.

Now that the subject has been covered, Let’s talk about Snicker Salad. There is nothing healthy in this salad, not even the Granny Smith apples.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

 

It is a mixture of apple, snickers, vanilla pudding and cool whip that is rich and tasty. I start by placing the candy bars – all three – in the fridge to get a little stiff for cutting down.

Chopping the candy bar.

Chopping the candy bar.

I like to cut the candy bar length-wise into three strips. then I slice width-wise as big or as small as I like. Towards the end of the third bar, I begin slicing a little bigger than I started. After that, I peel and chunk up the apples. I used to dice the apples. Now I make bigger slices but it all goes  together well no matter what.

Chopped Apples and Candy Bar

Chopped Apples and Candy Bar

 

In my big bowl I mix the large instant pudding package with 1 1/2 cups of milk. I mix it all up until the powder is completely incorporated. Normally this is the time when I add one half of a 16 oz container of cool whip. But for the purposes of the picture, I put in all of the ingredients in one bowl so one could see how it might look.

Before the Big Stir

Before the Big Stir

The hard part starts here as one has to stir all of the ingredients together. The cool whip does not always want to cooperate and the snickers wants to stay together. But with a few gentle stirs and maybe a hard one or two, the salad begins to cooperate. The apples ensure mixing and the cool whip encourages creaminess.

That’s it! you are done. Cover your dish, bring it to the summer party and watch as people ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ over the simplest dessert ever.

Where's the Spoon?

Where’s the Spoon?

 

And the best part? You may never bring home leftovers after the party when you bring this dessert.

 

 

 

Perhaps this has happened to you.

Your mom gives you some clothes and tells you to use them or give them away or whatever you want.

In the pile are a pair of Bill Blass peach colored jeans. And while they are tight around the waist, they are loose in the legs. I am not sure if this how all Bill Blass clothes fit.

There is a part of me thinking there is no way I am going to wear these pants while another part is thinking this color is really in style and I need a new skirt or two.

So I make plans to convert it from pants to a skirt which will be easier now that I have a new Husquverna-Viking sewing machine. After watching a wiki video, I feel ready to try it but I really need a practice run.

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Denim-Skirt-From-Recycled-Jeans

That is when I discover a pair of jeans that my daughter has stretched beyond repair in the rear seam area. Perfect.

First things first, I cut off the lower 12 inches of pant leg.

Pants - Beginning

Then with my favorite tool, the seam ripper, I open up the inside pant seams and seams leading up to the zipper and back yoke. This is the longest task of the project.

Pants - Unsewn

Next up is pinning the back seam and sewing it down. The trick here is to make a straight seam out of extra fabric. If I had to do this part again, I would have laid the pieces flat and drawn a straight line to sew on.

Pants - Pinned

After getting the front seam done, I cut off the extra fabric and use one of my serge stitches on the outside ends before ironing the seam to one side.

Now I make one final mark for the desired length of the hem. My daughter wants this to be above her knees and I want it below the thighs. We find a good compromise so a quick roll through with my rotary cutter gets the right length.

Pants - Final hem cut

I stitch to a different serger stitch on the hem to prevent future unraveling, turn up the hem and sew it down.

Pants - New Hem

Ba-Bam! The girl has a new skirt and we do not have to throw away her favorite jeans.

Pants - Completed

Now all I need is peach-colored thread.

What are you sewing this summer?

 

 

Seven little turkey vultures all in a row.

Six little turkey vultures all in a row.

 

 

Talk about your strange sights that you see along the road. I have never seen these birds lined up on a fence row like this before.

 

Have you?

If you are like me, you are looking at Facebook every day.

And there is a lot to see, especially if you are a cooking/crafting/gardening/decorating sort of person – which I am.

A few months ago I saw a really cool craft that could be used in the garden. It is a decorative piece that can be as personal as you want it to be.

What am I talking about?

My Brand New Sign Post.

Tada!!!!!

Sign - Complete

Now I know what you are thinking.

I want one too. That is Soooo Cute!!! Was it hard to make?

To be honest it really was not that hard to make. First off, I had the 2x4x8 already standing up in the ground. It was meant to hold up an air conditioner but stayed when the air conditioner died.

Sign - Blank Board

The next part was gathering the wood pieces for the name plates. At some point my neighbor was remodeling their house so some slats stayed in my yard. Another neighbor was tearing down wood siding. Some pieces came from the burn pile my husband keeps around.

The next part was even easier. I sanded down those pieces on the side I wanted to paint to make it smooth and accepting of the paint. I ran a damp cloth over each piece to remove dust from the sanding.  Then I made a list of the different places I wanted to put on a sign board.

However, how I did the next part was a part of the learning process. I lettered most of the boards. And that part was fun because I changed font styles for the different places. I used FolkArt Outdoor Acrylic Paint by Plaid for the letters. Another lucky coincidence? My son is a paper boy so I have lots of brown craft paper to use under my painting projects.

Sign - Lettering

Just before making the last three name signs I realized I wanted a little color on them to make the letters stand out more. So I found some peach color paint and used my pounding brush to apply the color. After the paint was dried, I used a fine grade of sand paper to remove some of the paint to make the wood look a little distressed.

Sign - Process

I really liked that effect. When I tried it on some of the pieces I had already painted, the effect did not turn out well. I should have sanded more of the first bit of lettering off. Instead, I soldiered on with a new coat of a pale pink and lettering in the black outside paint. Once it was all dry, I sprayed each board with a clear glaze.

Sign - Complete 2

All that was left to do was to have the husband pound nails into the boards while I held them at jaunty angles with the back of the boards level with the 2×4. The finished product looks great. I am not usually successful with projects like this but this time around, I have a winner.

Have you tried any of the ideas you have found on facebook or pintrest and have had success?

Supplies:

Paint Brushes

Fine Grade Sand Paper

Seven thin wood pieces the shape and size of a street sign

Acrylic Craft Paint in your choice of colors for background

FolkArt Outdoor Acrylic Paint by Plaid for the lettering

Clear Glaze Spray Paint

2×4 in the length of your choice

Nails and Hammer

Husband or willing person to use hammer and nails

 

Every time I turn around, I hear someone talking about Chicken and Waffles.

People rave about this dish and I have never had it. I looked up a few recipes and knew I could do it so my last Sunday Supper meal was just that.

My central problem was my waffle iron. It is not a traditional iron with the square pockets.

chicken and waffles - Waffle Iron

My waffle iron is a Mickey Mouse design with the heads of the six main characters. That would be Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Pluto. However, why let a little issue like that bother you when there is is chicken waiting to be fried.

Now, I did not use a recipe per sae. That’s right, I made it all up as I went along. This could bother some people and some times it bothers me because I like to time everything.

Instead, I took my chicken breasts and pounded them a little thinner so they would cook faster. After that, I prepared a dredging pan of flour, salt and pepper. I made a skillet get hot on the stove, put the oven at 250 and took out a glass dish to put my cooked chicken pieces in and keep warm in the oven.

chicken and waffles - ingredients

Meanwhile, my daughter made the waffle batter while the iron  heated up. But here is where our first snafu came up. I forgot to spray the iron with Pam before we started. The first batch stuck to the plates and would not come off. It would take practically burning the dough off of the plates in order to clean them.

However, once that debacle was over we were in waffle-making and chicken frying heaven. I put a little vegetable oil in the hot skillet before starting the chicken. The waffle iron was sprayed with Pam and all came out fairly well. What was made went into the low oven to stay warm without drying out and waited for all to be done.

Last thing that needed to happen – besides the steaming of broccoli – was to make the chicken gravy. I did a simple rue in the pan we used for cooking the chicken. Then I added chicken broth, let that simmer down for a bit to reduce before adding the milk. The husband oversaw the final part of cooking the sauce because that is what he likes to do best.

chicken and waffles - plated

Now some people make the layers with waffle on the bottom, chicken next and then the gravy. Others add syrup between the waffle and the chicken. Some pictures showed just the chicken on the waffle.

At our table, we had people eating the components separately with syrup on the waffles. I went for the syrup between the chick and the waffle while my husband choose to have only the gravy covering his stack.

I guess it does not matter how you eat it because the leftovers were minimal. The kids kept going back for chicken and waffle pieces.  The broccoli was eaten by some and the last of that became omelets the next morning.

chicken and waffles - components

This is one meal I was told to “add to the rotation.”

Are you trying any new recipes this spring?