Category: What is That?


 

 

So what does a woman do when she is out of work?

In my case, nothing it appears. I have been out of work for nearly three months, which I never expected to be out of work this long, and I have not done a single damn thing beyond look for another job.

Special projects for organizations – not done.

Closets – not cleaned out.

Piles of papers – not organized.

Piles of outgrown children’s clothing on my bedroom chair – still there.

In the last few weeks I have decided to take the bull by the horns and find one spot at  a time to clear out. The first one was the over-flowing bill drawer that the bill payer never makes a point of organizing. Next spot was my crafting area. After that was an area between a bookcase and a couch.

These are all hard jobs, requiring at least an hour of attention and a trash can ready to receive bills from six years ago. That is when one must throw in a necessary but easy job.

Recovering the kitchen table/island.

Cute but in need of replacement

Cute but in need of replacement.

 

While the cloth is bright and attractive in most areas, family life is ripping it at the edges. All of the fuzzy stuff is showing and that is not good. That is when you bring our the tools for a new covering.

 

A new cloth and the staple gun

A new cloth and the staple gun

 

Sometimes, you have to be mean. Sometimes, you have to rip off what used to work in order for something new to take over.

The old cloth gone

The old cloth gone

 

Now I know what you are thinking. “That table top doesn’t look so bad.” Look closely and you will see the peeling veneer, the stains that are not identifiable. This desk came with the house and at first we kept it on the side. But the needs of more counter space and a good work area brought the desk to the middle of the floor. The atrocious top has me searching for oil cloth. But until I find that, I will keep using inexpensive vinyl table cloths I can staple into place.

 

The finished product

The finished product

 

What I do, after making sure the cloth is reasonably centered on the table, is start at one corner, pleat the corners for a smooth edge and staple them in. I go to the opposite corner, tighten up the cloth and repeat the pleats before stapling. I do the same thing with the other corners. Then I move to the sides, tighten the cloth and staple until all sides are completed.

Is this what I want for my dream kitchen? Not really. If I had my way and a wad of cash, my dream would be to have a box top butcher block counter top on the desk and six-inch lifts on each leg. Maybe it would look like one of those dream islands in the magazines.

Other projects would include replacing the cabinets and other counter tops  as well. New working appliances would grace my kitchen. Finally, my laundry center would be moved to the basement.

Until then, I will have to stick with my solution that involves a $4.50 vinyl table-cloth, a staple gun, and 15 minutes of time. And a look that leans more towards the French Country style I am aiming for.

What quick and easy projects are you doing around the house?

 

 

 

When you have an empty glass bowl, you know that it is waiting to be filled with greatness.

Torte - empty bowl

Some desserts demand something more than the plastic bowl, even if it some great new style. The start of this dessert came from Facebook in which someone, somewhere posted a picture of a torte. Or perhaps it should be considered a pudding.

The idea is that there are layers of broken-up cake followed by a pudding mixture. This particular dessert has three layers of brownie and pudding/candy filling.

It made me think about the puddings that Harry Potter loved or how this is a great way to use up cake that does not get eaten fast enough.

The brownies before they are shredded.

The brownies before they are shredded.

I started with a pan of brownies – freshly made. We did not have any leftover cake so I made a pan of brownies. Because the dessert has three layers I divided the pan into thirds.

Sliced candies

Sliced candies

Before I broke up the brownies, I cut  mini Reese’s peanut butter ups in half, two bags worth. There may have been some taste-testing of the ugly ones.  Once they were all sliced, I put the halves to the side.

Then I had the husband mix up two 5.1 packages of pudding, 1 cup of peanut butter and 4 teaspoons of vanilla, then mixed it with the 1 1/2  8 oz. containers of whipped cream before combining it with most of those candy halves.

Torte - filling

So now I start the layering. The brownie layer is incredibly easy. Just crumble one-third of the brownies in the pan and place it in the bottom of the bowl.

 

The first brownie layer

The first brownie layer

 

So next up is getting that next layer on which is the filling. You really want to make sure that brownie layer is covered.

The filling layer in the bowl

The filling layer in the bowl

Looking good. So I repeated the brownie and filling steps two more times. After using every bit and only taking a bite or two of the filling, I brought out the remaining cool whip. I spread it over the top before adding the final bits of candy as a decoration on top.

The final product

The final product

 

And that was it. I made it well before supper, so I covered the top with plastic wrap. When we ate it later, all of us declared this perhaps one of the best desserts ever. It took a day or two to eat it all.  But it was worth it!

View of the layers

View of the layers

 

What new desserts are you trying?

 

Moroccan Meatballs on a Sunday

If I have not been as attentive as I should be, the truth is I just got over being sick.

Most of the time I get a stuffy head and power through because I have to, because kids and husband depend on me. I take something so I can sleep at night and keep going.

Bedside KahleBut this time was not that easy. I started getting the chills last Wednesday which came with a stuffed head somewhere on Thursday. I still had duties that included bringing the Youth Group to help with set-up for our church’s Pancake supper on Friday.

Friday morning came with a fever, stuffed head and the desire to stay in bed. But I sent off the kids who were not sick, comforted the one who was, and powered through one last errand run before calling another church member to take my place at the ticket booth.

I vaguely remember the Easter Egg Hunt the next day. I made it through a job interview and then went home. Where I went to bed and stayed there. Till Monday or was it Tuesday. I remember feeling much better yesterday. That is when I got out of the house although I did get out a little bit on Tuesday as well.

So now it is Thursday and in the last two days the 16-year-old has gotten the full blast. He has not been out and about since yesterday morning. The 8-year-old threw up yesterday but is looking better today.

But that is not what I came to share. I do look a others’ blogs, especially those on food and fashion. Some days that is all I can focus on.

I lightened the original picture

I lightened the original picture.

So the other weeks I knew I wanted make Moroccan Meatballs and knew that I had seen it recently. My sister-in-law has a good recipe I completely forgot about, so my apologies to her. My recipe instead came from the excellent blog of FrugalFeeding.com.

Maybe it is the picture of a handsome man in the kitchen or maybe it is the delicious recipes he puts up on a regular basis. I read his posts every time they hit my reader. I was inspired by his posts to make calzones although mine are not as pretty.

A few weeks ago, I decided my Sunday supper would include his Moroccan Meatballs recipes.

His recipe calls for meatballs made your way and has a little discussion on what  makes for the best meatballs. I personally use a 1 1/2lbs. of ground meat, 2 eggs, about a cup or more of bread crumbs and some spices of my choice. Then I roll them into the size I want and bake in a covered pan for about 20 minutes in a 350 oven. If I am making meatballs for spaghetti, I put Parmesan cheese, oregano, and basil in the mixture.

While the meatballs were in the oven, I began to chop onions, green peppers, and red peppers  before sauting them in the fry pan. In the crock pot, I put in canned tomatoes, garbonzo beans, 3 bay leafs, the celery I forgot earlier, the raisens, spices, honey, sauteed pepper and onions. I left out the chilies because  my kids are not fans of  hot foods.

In the crockpot and ready to serve.

In the crockpot and ready to serve.

Once the meatballs were done baking, I put them in the crockpot with the sauce mixture to continue simmering for a few hours. I took out the bay leaves before serving.

When it was time to eat, I made rice for the base. I put pears along this dish to have something bland and soothing to eat with it.

While there were leftovers that night, they did nt last long. The kids enjoyed the meal with the exception of the garbonzo beans. If I had to do it again, I would have only put in half as much. They were tasty but almost too many in the pot.

The husband and the 16-year-old ate them the next day and loved them even more.

Success!

Lent and Tuna Salad

Now that it is Lent, one must break out the tuna for Friday.

Tuna Salad Sandwich

Tuna Salad Sandwich

I have nothing against tuna but I really do not like fish all that much. I will eat them in a taco or if they have a hard shell. Can we say shrimp scampi?

On the way somewhere the other day my daughter asked if fish is considered meat, why is it okay to eat on the days you are not supposed to eat meat?

Can you tell we are not Catholic? I don’t think she would have ever questioned that if we were because it would simply be a fact of life. Friday is meatless and that means tuna for lunch.

Tuna Salad - Fennel Seed JarThe problem with tuna is it gives off a lot of gas. It does not always sit well in the tummy.

There are all sorts of ways to make tuna tastier. Some people like chopping up an onion, my husband puts in celery. My favorite is a grilled tuna sandwich with swiss cheese.

But when it comes to the base recipe for tuna salad, I like to use fennel seed. It gives a slightly sweet anise flavor and it decreases the amount of gas made by the tuna.

The basic recipe I follow is one can of tuna, a hard boiled egg diced, one small celery stalk chopped fine, a few shakes of garlic powder, a dollop of mayo, and a handful of fennel seeds that I crush by hand. Some times I put in relish and/or mustard.

Seeds in the hand

Seeds in the hand

I know some people like the onion but it stays with me all day and it not enjoyable. Pickle relish is another ingredient that I could do without. I guess you could put red pepper in it or other ingredients. Personally, I love to have a slice of tomato on my tuna sandwich.

So please share the way you think is the best way to eat tuna, especially if you feel you must during this Lenten season.

Easy Shrimp Chowder

One of the things I have enjoyed about Facebook is you see different things. If life doesn’t take you to the library to check out various magazines, Facebook brings it to your computer screen.

Provided you ‘like’ said magazine.

Now why I ‘liked’ Southern Living magazine in the first place is beyond me. I am not from the south, I have no plans to move to the south (I have a low heat tolerance), and I have only a few relatives who live in the south.

But this magazine also does drop-dead gorgeous pics of homes. I am willing to guess I drooled over something I discovered by accident.

Right now I am out of work. I was laid off – which is a bummer. But I am still spending a lot of time on my computer looking for new jobs. And that means when I need a break from the depressing grind of filling out yet another online application and survey, I go to Facebook.

Image from Southern Living

Image from Southern Living

 

Last week, Southern Living puts up a recipe for Shrimp Chowder. They have a picture to go along with it and the picture looks glorious.

The shrimp is floating happily with pieces of potato and tiny bits of parsley. Oyster crackers are strewn about to soak up the wonderful broth that you know will taste wonderful once you make it.

I decided right there and then that Saturday night’s soup was going to be this seafood delight. I announced to the kids what we were going to have and that prompted the 16-year-old to make other plans as he does not like shrimp.

The others were in and even the husband seemed ready to have something a little special. During the week he had bought a double long bread from Wal-mart. We had one half for supper during the week and save the rest for Saturday. However, our dog has been on a bread kick for the last month or two.

Somehow between Friday night, when I last saw the loaf, and Saturday night, the dog made off with the bread and ate it all up without the rest of us seeing him do it.

In the pot

In the pot

 

You can find the recipe through this link. It was very easy to put together. I started with a chopped onion in an aluminum pot.

The onion sautéed for about 8 minutes. That alone smelled good. Then I added the two cans of cream of potato soup, 3 1/2 cups of milk, and a touch of red cayenne pepper.  I only added a touch because my 8-year-old is not a fan of spicy foods. He loves shrimp but he can leave the pepper on the side.

While different portions are simmering, I start cleaning the shrimp. The recipe calls for raw shrimp but my store did not have raw shrimp in the size I wanted. I needed the kind that comes 50-60 in a pound. So I compromised and bought pre-cooked shrimp in that size.

This made cleaning of the shrimp easier and some people may have come into the kitchen to make sure the shrimp was tasty. All I had to do was gently but firmly remove the tails. Once they were cleaned, the shrimpies went into the pot.

Parsley from my herb garden

Parsley from my herb garden

 

Next up was chopping up the parsley.

Last year, I had herbs in containers on my front porch. I mixed them with the volunteer snapdragons and it was quite pretty. But it never seemed as if the parsley took off.

When the weather became too cold to stay out, the parsley and rosemary pots came in. That is when two sprouts really took off on the parsley. I would prefer the plant get a little more bushy so those two tall stems came into the kitchen.

I chopped them up nicely after putting in the cheese in the soup and waited for everyone to be ready to eat.

Serving Suggestion

Serving Suggestion

 

While setting the table, I put out the leftover Monterrey Jack cheese and the small bottle of red pepper. Oyster crackers bought at the last-minute also joined us for supper.

I drank a blush with the soup although I am sure something a little sturdier would have been the better choice.

The 8-year-old complained about the amount of red pepper while the husband added more to his bowl.

By the time we were dome eating for the night, I noticed that there was only one serving left. That went to my daughter after she got home from a school dance.

The next day, one of the 16-year-old’s friends asked if there was any soup left.

He was disappointed.

Apple Butter – A Taste of Fall

Fall is my favorite season. I love the slightly cooler temps that allow me to be as comfortable as I want to be.

Walking the dog does not mean sweating buckets. Working in the garden does not require early morning hours to avoid heat stroke or the mosquitoes.

Baking is happening back in the kitchen along with regular soup night and cooking that is not planned around the latest heat wave.

The Stuff

But my favorite return in the autumn season is Apple Butter. I guess you can eat it any time of year but this is the time I crave it the most.

And without a doubt, it must be Musselman’s. No one makes Twinkies like Hostess and no one makes Apple Butter like Musselman’s .

In this picture, it is making Crunchy Oat Bread tasty. Sometimes I put it on soft white bread. I also like it on pancakes and my husband puts it on scrapple. If you do not know what scrapple is, well, you must not be from Eastern Pennsylvania. Which is a nice way of me saying check it out on your own.

So when I am eating a biscuit with my soup or bread with my morning eggs, chances are I am wiping a swath of that bread with the slightly cinnamon-tinged apple butter. Perhaps apple butter is nothing more than crushed apples, less chunky than applesauce and much darker in color.

And yet it is the sweetness and smooth texture makes it a tasty treat that most members in the family look forward to eating when I pull that familiar jar out of the shopping bag.

Do you have a favorite food item to eat in the fall season?

Pork Chop Delights

As the weather gets cooler, I am in the mood to get back to the kitchen.

It is not like I have not looked at recipes all summer. It is not that I haven’t wanted to cook. But the summer heat takes all of my energy away as well as my appetite.

But with colder temperatures coming on, the coziest place in my house is the kitchen.

I found a recipe for boneless pork chops with sauteed Brussels sprouts and a sour cream sauce. I found this recipe at BHG.com. I may have seen it on my Facebook feed. And then I did what I do best – I made a print out and planned when to make it.  I had to put it off. A late summer heat wave forced me to put it to the side.

But then the weather worked in my favor. We went shopping and a collective groan came from the children as I put Brussels Sprouts in the basket. They could not believe I would subject them to such horror.

So we moved on. Later that week the husband bought boneless pork chops. That is a very important aspect to the recipe. It becomes difficult the pound the meat when a bone in the way.

Brussels Sprouts simmering in the pan.

So on the day of the meal I took about a pound of Brussels Sprouts,washed them and cleaned off the ends and dried out top leaves before halving the little green balls. Once that was done, I threw them into a pan with plenty of butter.

After they turned a nice color, I removed them from the pan and kept them warm. As I was sauteing the sprouts, I put the pork chops beteween sheets of plastic wrap and used my rolling pin to flatten the chops to about a 1/4 inch thickness. I dredged them in a flour mixture with salt, pepper, and paprika. I added more butter to the pan and fried those little tenderloins.

First side in the pan.

They were not so little but about four minutes on each side did the trick. They were a nice golden brown color once I flipped them over.

Don’t they look great?

Once all of the chops were cooked so that they were only a little pink on the edges, I placed the Sprouts and Chops in a platter. I made a quick sauce with sour cream, brown sugar, and a bit of milk that I heated in the pan after sauteing the veggies and meat.

Hey, Good Looking.

I paired this with rice since we had a nice sauce. The husband drank a red wine. I did not since wine tends to put me to sleep. As for the kids, two hated their ‘no  thank you’ servings of the sprouts. The oldest ate his serving and the others as well. There was nothing left once the meal was over.

Bummer because that would have made a good lunch the next day.

What have you been cooking lately?

As I was scouting around last week, looking at scrumptious blogs, I noted Chicago John’s lovely plum cobbler.

It looked so tasty and I commented that I wanted to make it. Then I made a side note about how my favorite cobbler/crisp recipe is one that puts the oatmeal in the fruit portion and not on top.

I found it on allrecipes.com and I really like it. Maybe it is because I like that lovely tartness of rhubarb.

But I also like how the rhubarb portion is made thicker by the oatmeal.

Ingredients

Now we know it is no longer rhubarb season so I substituted Granny Smith apples instead. And I wanted to add in Craisens. So when the hubby went to the store, that was on his list. And he came home with Blueberry Infused Craisens.

While it tasted good together, it was not what I wanted. I almost thought about doing the Jennifer Aniston riff from The Breakup about “Baby wanting” the right thing but I do not have long beautiful blond hair as she does.

So we moved on.

Apple Mixture

I cut up the two large apples and added a handful of the craisens. I mixed together fruit, sugars, oatmeal and a bit of flour; then I dumped it all in a two-quart dish. The topping was flour, margarine and a little salt. I am not a salt fan and left it off although I did add a few shakes of cinnamon.

With the topping

In the oven it went. Thirty minutes later, after I retrieved Sam from his buddy’s house, I pulled it out of the oven as it bubbled and smelled just like blueberry pie.

The end result was the younger members of the family did not like the blueberry bits. And they made mention once, twice, maybe more, that we should have had ice cream.

On that, I think we are in agreement.

Out of the oven

 

 

 

 

 

What is That? Exploding Photo Boxes

I haven’t written about a product for some time. But it has not been for a lack of seeing something.

About a month ago, I found this great new way of scrap-booking for the scrap-booking impaired.

Which would be me. I have photos in boxes all over the place which I always mean to get in a book but never do. My grandmother was able to do this and she had far less conveniences than I do. Makes me feel almost ashamed of myself.

Exploding Photo Album

While at the State Fair, I stumbled upon a booth that had these lovely gift boxes. It was in the entrance way to the Exposition Hall that also had these wooden toys that make the sounds of crickets and frogs.

Wait, I am getting off track. Back to the boxes.

They were in a variety of colors, depending on your theme of choice. We saw ones for pets, Illini, princess, weddings and such.

My daughter might have used the word ‘adorable,’ which she uses a lot, to describe this box. But in this case, she is right, they really are adorable.

Are you still wondering how it is a photo album? It just looks like a very pretty box with a bright bow on top.

The secret is revealed when you lift the lid.

Because, all of a sudden, pages fly out and lie flat. And when you start messing with the pages you begin to realize that the pages flip around so you can have a bunch of different pictures.

You can put it on paper that matched the theme of the album, a person’s favorite color, the color of a room or a specific event.

The other great thing about this is They are willing to do the work for you. That’s right, Amazing pages will take your photos and words to personalize the box for you.

The cost for one of these boxes is $30. That is right, $30 plus shipping. You send in the pictures and any information you want in the photo album.

You get back this great looking photo album that takes up only a little bit of space but is a great conversation starter. This could be a great tool if you have a family member with memory issues or someone who is not well and needs a quick pick-me-up.

When you are done looking at the pictures all you have to do is lift the pages, put the box top back, and put the box wherever you store it.

I love stuff like this.

To find out more information about the Exploding Photo Album and other products, visit the website at www.amazing-pages.com or visit the Facebook page at Amazing Pages.

Very Berry Salad

Last week when I talked about losing enough weight to go down a shirt size, I receive much congratulations.

Very Berry Salad

I appreciate hearing that because on a day-to-day basis I do not see it. I do not see it until something fits differently, and I mean in a good way.

But one of the comments struck a nerve as a person stated how hard it is to lose weight when you are a foodie.

You don’t have to tell that one to me twice, I understand completely.

This time of year, once the tomatoes come in, it is BLTs every night of the week.   Bring on the butter for Corn-on-the-Cob. And did I mention it is fair season? That means fried food galore.

It does not help that I and my husband like trying new recipes. I find them in the newspaper, on the web, around the blog circuit, cook books; well, you get the picture. We like to cook.

My favorite recipes are cream sauces with white wine, tomatoes and/or mushrooms. Braised chicken is better once it soaks in Marsala or Imperial sauce.

Then there is dessert. My son and I learned how to make lava cakes together. My daughter made a fabulous tart last year. The seven-year-old allowed me to buy Italian ice for his dessert last week. We have done dirt cups and jello desserts topped with whip cream and strawberries.

This has made my weight-loss slower than it should considering I am not taking any medicines and I am able to walk near daily with the dog.  It has taken me two years to lose 40 pounds. Other people seem to do it so quickly.

I have a neighbor who looks great after losing 50 pounds in six months. Another has worked to get 30 pounds off in the same time period. Meanwhile, I am struggling to get past the next five-pound threshold.

I admit to binge-ing  late at night so I am trying to get to bed at an earlier time. When my feet hurt thanks to arthritis or I am simply tired for no good reason, I do walk less.

However there are bright spots. Thanks to the latest heat wave, I am near my initial goal weight. I nearly fit into not one but two dresses. Clothing that fit the bigger body is starting to feel too big.

But the other half of the story is I am making lifestyle changes and not some crazy short-term diet. I am choosing to eat more fresh veggies and fruits. Whole grain breads are becoming a part of my life as well as my husband’s. Soda is a treat that I have once a week and I prefer getting it from a soda fountain as opposed to pre-bottled.

Is any of this going to stop my foodie explorations?

I hope not. This fall I want to work on making real ramen dishes. And I want to work on a  stroganoff which calls for sour cream. Oh, and there is the egg nog cake  and a Noel log I have always wanted to make for the holidays.

Yes, I am on a diet but that has not stopped my love affair with good tasting food. It simply means I eat a little less of it and adapt the recipe to have healthier ingredients whenever possible.

Now for the recipe. Two weeks ago I made this great salad that has fruit in with lettuce leaves. I have always been suspicious of such salads because I was never sure the sweet fruit would work with slightly bitter greens.

I found the recipe in an American Profile insert in my newspaper. It called for a Spring Mix salad bag but I went with a Red Heart bag when there was none of the former in the racks.

Salad Ingredients

Very Berry Salad

One Salad Bag

4 oz. sliced strawberries

4 oz. blackberries

1 handful each of dried cranberries, dried raspberries, and chopped walnuts

1 sliced Shallot (We did this on the side for the husband)

4 oz. goat cheese

Vinaigrette (on the side)

Because I could not find dried raspberries, I allowed the vinaigrette to be the raspberry element. The other dilemma was what to serve with the salad. The author suggested baby back ribs. We went with pork chops marinated in orange juice. My husband thought we should have had a french bread with this. We did not and it all worked just fine.

Our younger children liked the fruit but not the lettuce. The fifteen-year-old, who is becoming a foodie himself, thought the vinaigrette was too sweet but he had two helpings.

Pork Chop and Very Bery Salad

 

What new dishes are you making?