Monday, October 31, 2011

'11 Happy Dance # 30: DIY Harry Potter Wands

Happy Halloween from Hogwarts!

In celebration of this festive fun occasion...let's make some Harry Potter wands!  I found this cool idea over at Cut out and Keep.

First thing you need is some sort of base for your wand.  I used those disposable round pointy wooden chopsticks.   They are on the short side, but that is ok since these wands were for Blockette.

Next, hot glue on some beads and what not.  I used the glue gun to add various bumps and nodules.
As I used shiny painted and plastic beads, I needed to give my wands several coats of primer.  Spray paint would have worked well, but I just had regular acrylic craft paint, so I used that.  I painted the one on the left with a red base coat and the one on the right with black.

Next, I used a dry brush technique to apply several different shades of brown.  I thought the one on the left looked a little boring, so I added some white dots.  Finally, I sprayed them with a coat of matte sealer so the paint wouldn't wear off after a few play sessions.

Viola! There you have it, DIY Harry Potter wands.  Sure beats spending $18-40 at Universal Studios, Warner Brothers or Alavans, particularly when I already had the paint, beads and glue in my crafting stash, I "liberated" the chop sticks from a Chinese fast food place, and borrowed the Matte sealer from my best friend's husband.

Oh, and Blockette LOVES them.  The redish one with the polka dots is her favorite.  She is swishing and flicking all about the house saying things like Alohomora or Riddikulus every chance she gets.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

'11 Happy Dance #29: Snowy's Halloween Costume

A few weeks ago Blockette won this little white poodle for completing her reading assignments on time. And that was how Snowy came to join our wee little band of crazies.

Last week Blockette asked me if I could make Snowy a skirt.  I told her "sure" and left it vague as to when said clothing was going to be completed. Today she asked me again(in her sweetest, most polite, non whiny voice), and of course, as I feel like I got hit by a mac truck, I told her, "Not today." 

Blockette was crestfallen but was trying hard not to show it.  Then she said, "Oh mom, but I really wanted her to have a Halloween costume." 

Sigh.  She's been super good and helpful lately.  I knew it wouldn't be too hard if I just sat down and focused. 
I present to you, Ballerina Snowy with her white tutu, jewel collar and snowflake earrings (and one very happy little girl.) 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rotary Blade Sharpening

So maybe I've been living on another planet, but I just found out this really awesome tip on how to sharpen your rotary blade over at Penny's Hands.  Wanna know what the trick is?  Tin foil!!! (or if you belong in the 21st century, Aluminum Foil.)

Yeah, you just run your rotary over the foil and's good as new.

People, you can do this with scissors and paper punchers too!  How neato is that?

OK.  I'll go back under my rock again.  Next week, maybe I'll tell you about these new fangled things they have for warming up your feet.  I don't want to spoil the surprise, so I'll just give you a hint...they're called socks!  Drat.  I ruined it.  Now I have to think of another equally exciting post for next Saturday.  Sigh.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Blow Your Mind Sloppy Joes

Soccer practice night is a bit hectic. We have to leave the house by 5:45, which doesn't leave much room for screwing around at dinner time, eating or preparation wise.  One night I was particularly pressed for time so I whipped out a good old fashioned can of Manwich...and steeled myself for a fight.

Oh, Blockette likes Manwich well enough, it's just the bun she doesn't particularly care for.  My daughter, who loves carbs in all other forms, doesn't like hot dog or hamburger buns.  But this time I had an ace up my sleeve.  You see, back in September I saw this post for lunch lady sloppy joes over at Simply Scratch.  The idea is brilliant.

I told Blockette I was going to BLOW HER MIND.  First, I got out a hot dog bun for the sloppy joes, instead of the boring ordinary hamburger buns.  I could have just stopped here.  A hot dog bun, for sloppy joes?  Blockette was floored and amazed at this minor change.

Then I said, "Oh just wait.  I'm really gonna blow your mind."  And I whipped out the cheese sticks...and I stuck that cheese stick. In. The. Bun.


Her mind was sufficiently blown. And I continue to hold the trophy for the world's best mother.  (::insert visual image of me headbanging and playing the air guitar.::)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday 42.11

1. Mrblocko took Blockette to her roller skating party.

2. Mrblocko stayed with Blockette when she realized she was terrified of roller skating, even though he probably would have been much happier on the couch watching football. (P.S. Blockette is a roller skating fanatic now.)

3.  Star Wars family movie time.

4.  Seeing Blockette's friend's family at church this Sunday.

5. I found the bugs in the bag of rice before I used the rice.

6. Not crying when I realized I didn't have any other rice besides the buggy stuff that went into the trash.

7. The bread I made on a whim turned out AWESOME.

8. Family reading time.

9. Being a mean mom.

10. Seeing Mrblocko go crazy trying to find the super secret stash of Halloween candy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Microwave Apple Crisp

How is it that I have not written about this amazing apple crisp before?  I got to thinking about it and I haven't made this awesome microwave apple crisp ever for Blockette.  That means it's been at least 6 years since I've made it.  I guess that I've just gotten so focused on baking new things that I lost touch with some of my favorite classics.

My mom and I used to make this all the time when I was a whipper snapper.  It comes from Betty Crocker's Microwaving for One or Two. This was perfect for the two of us.  We were never big eaters so most recipes that even served four left us with loads of leftovers.  It was nice to have some dishes where we knew we wouldn't have to be eating the same thing for days on end.

This is also the perfect dessert when you want apple pie, but are too lazy to make crust and want your dessert in 15 minutes or less.  And let's face it, most of the time I'm too lazy to make a pie crust and I want dessert NOW!

Below is the recipe for two servings.  You can easily half or double the recipe to your liking. If you are going to make a serving for one, just use a dash of the spices and nuke the apple crisp for about 3 minutes.

Microwave Apple Crisp for Two (A la Betty Crocker)
1 1/2 c peeled, sliced tart apples
2 T Flour (I've used All purpose and unbleached whole wheat.  Both were tasty.)
2 T oats (the recipe says quick cooking, but I've used old fashioned and that works fine too.)
2 T brown sugar
2 T margarine or butter, softened
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Spread apples in a 24 oz microwavable dish.  Mix remaining ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle on top of apples. Nuke that bad boy for 5-6 minutes until the apples are tender.  Serve with ice cream if you know what is good for you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate

I was wanting something chocolaty after dinner one evening, but wasn't willing to break into the stash of Halloween candy I have hidden somewhere in the house. (Shhhh Amy. Secrets.)  I thought that this pb hot chocolate from eat live run might satisfy my sweet tooth, and warm me up at the same time. 

This hot chocolate is slightly sweet, with just a hint of Peanut butter in the background.  Mrblocko was a bit skeptical that it might be too peanut-y, but once, again I proved him wrong. Blockette thought it was the best hot chocolate ever.  I, however, think the Hot Toffee Chocolate I made last year, still holds the blue ribbon.

Had I actually paid attention, I would have seen that you add the peanut butter after all the other ingredients have been whisked together.  I just dumped everything into a sauce pan and whisked away.  It may have taken a bit of extra whisking, but it turned out just fine in the end.  So go ahead and dump everything in at once if you feel like it.  I do suggest not dumping half the bottle of vanilla extract onto your kitchen counter like I did.  Although, that's just a suggestion.  Do what you will.

Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate from Eat, Live, Run serves 1
1 cup milk
1 T peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 T sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk milk, cocoa powder, vanilla and sugar in a small pot on the stove. Bring to a simmer and add peanut butter, stirring well to get rid of any clumps. Pour into favorite mug and serve with whipped cream and salted peanuts.

Monday, October 24, 2011

'11 Happy Dance # 28: Halloween Fairy Dress

The other day I wrote about the white under dress I made for Blockette.  I whipped up another one lickety split that was large enough for her to wear a coat underneath.

I had bought this fabric years and years ago, and tried to make a Roman dress out of it.  It was an epic fail so I passed the whole thing onto my best friend.  She made a skirt out the fabric for herself.  Then a few weeks ago she cleaned out her craft room and asked me if I wanted first dibs on the fabric she was going to get rid of.  In that pile was a small amount of this fabric.  Turns out there was exactly enough to make this dress.

The camera did not like this fabric at all.  The threads going in one direction are red and the threads going in the other are green.  I guess that messes with the camera's digital something or another.  You'll just have to trust me that the fabric looks really neat in person.
I only took a picture of the back of Blockette this time.  I think she was trying to be ethereal or something, but it came off looking like someone told her they cancelled Christmas.

The wings I bought at Joann Fabrics for $4.  Four Dollars!  Yeah, I can swing that for a costume, especially when she is going to wear the wings over and over.  Now she has 4 different pairs of fairy wings to suit her every mood.  (Pink, red, blue and the autumn leaf ones)

Oh and I thought that I would add, her sash is the scarf I wore to my best friend's wedding.  It is perfect since I have no intention of making her another over dress or bodice before Halloween.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Bountiful Harvest

So I finally bit the bullet and plucked all the tomatoes off their vines.  It's been getting near freezing every night for about a week.  I figured it was now or never.

This is the extent of my harvest.  What a bumper crop, eh?
I think there's hope for the large Romas, but the baby cherry tomatoes...I'm not gonna hold my breath.

Blockette and her friend M both think the tomato in the lower right hand corner is hilarious.   They say it looks like it is pooping out another tomato.  Ah, to be six again.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

'11 Happy Dance # 27: Chemise for Blockette

Blockette decided that she wanted to be a fairy princess for Halloween. I thought that was awesome because we already had most of what she needed for her costume.  I mean I already made her a Renaissance dress for her birthday.  All she really needed was an underdress.

I've made Renaissance shirts to wear under a bodice for myself before.  I didn't think that a dress along the same lines in Blockette's size would be too hard to whip up.

Looks pretty cool.  I used an old white sheet that had a hole in it.  I even used the top edge of the sheet so I didn't have to hem it.

Here is Blockette in her full fairy glory. (Please ignore the funky hair do. It was crazy hair day at school for spirit week.)

So the dress fits great, except for the fact that we live in Illinois.  Halloween usually requires several layers to ensure not freezing to death while one goes begging door to door for sweets.  I did not make the dress big enough for her to wear layers underneath it.  Doh!  Back into the crafting room for me.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Do you like cross stitch?

If so...check out the blog Crafty Lil' Witch.  She's having a contest where she is giving away 2 of her designs from Brookes Books Publishing.  This is the same company that I adapted the freebie to make Blockette's tooth fairy pillow.
Head on over to Brooke's blog and enter her contest!

'11 Super Duper Dance Party Rave of Joy # 26: Pantry Quilt

It's done!  It's done!  It's finally done!  My first official real life quilty quilt of hugeness.  And huge it is.  I had intended it to be twin size, but it had a mind of its own and became a full size quilt.
The design is called a jar quilt.  Each jar and piece of the border fabric are different.   The quilt is for Blockette and I've titled it "Wizard's Pantry."  Each jar is something that I thought you might find if you were to take a peek in the pantry of a wizard.
For example, the above jars contain: mermaids, slime, snowflakes, fairies and butterflies, peas (hey a wizard needs to eat his greens too), a fairy, lightning, and coins.

I started this quilt last year once Blockette had started Kindergarten.  I worked on it for a 30 minutes to an hour each day she was at school. I finished all the cutting and piecing work, then took a break for the summer.

Once school started up again, I pinned and machine quilted it.  I think I spent more time trying to decide how to quilt the darn thing, than I did actually quilting it.  I had to revise my plan several times because my machine quilting skills are not very good yet.  I still need lots and lots of practice before I can attempt the more precise and fancy designs.
I settled on outlining the jars and doing a squiggly sort of stipple on the border.  Sometimes it was completely random, and others I went around the design of the border fabric.
I wanted to do something slightly different on the white blocks in the corners. It is supposed to be an abstract sort of palm leaf. Yeah. I know. Remember, I said it was abstract, so use your imagination.

Once I had the top pieced, I realized that I hadn't planed on a fabric for the back.  I was out of crafting funds at the time, so I needed to use the fabric already in my stash.  I found this wonderful Geisha fabric that I had no immediate plans for and thought it would be perfect.  Perfect, except for the fact that there wasn't enough fabric to back the entire quilt.
So I had to get creative and piece the back with other fabrics in my stash. The back turned out like this:

Not too bad for winging it.  There was only one problem.  I have no idea how it happened, but the black fabric on the bottom border ended up really wide in parts.  I thought I had squared everything of all hunky dory, but I guess not.  That's just character. And it makes the quilt really identifiable should anyone dare to swipe it.

Since I made this entirely while Blockette was at school, she has no idea that I've made her a quilt.  I haven't given it to her yet.  I'm debating whether or not to save it for a Christmas present.  I guess that is going to depend on how cold it gets in November, or if she decides to go in my craft room.  I mean it's just sitting out there.  The label is face up and has her name on it, so I guess it's going to depend more on if I can find a place to hide it before she goes in there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thankful Thursday 41.11

1. Blockette has been trying real hard with this whole not lying to get yourself out of trouble thing.

2. Boo's "I'm gonna puke" warning meow.

3. Meat on sale at the grocery store like it's going out of style.

4.  Getting all the leaves in the backyard raked least all the leaves that have turned and fallen so far.

5. The Dinner at church was a lot of fun.

6. Blockette comparing Part 1 of the Deathly Hallows Movie to the TV show Mantracker. 

7. Hangin' out with my Home-girl.  (Haaa-aaay!)

8. I caught the measuring error in the pizza dough recipe just in time.

9. Mrblocko took Blockette and M to the bus stop this morning in the gale force winds.

10. Celebrating ten years of marriage!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DIY Taco Hamburger Helper

I stopped buying Hamburger Helper about a year ago. I used to think it was a really cheap meal. At least I thought so until I did an analysis of what I was getting. I could get a box of Hamburger Helper for about $.75 on sale and with a coupon. That seems great except I could buy a whole box of pasta for about the same price. I almost always add onions, corn and cheese to the box mix, and you already have to add meat, so there's no cost difference there either. So what was I really paying for with those boxes? Noodles, salt and spices. Yeah. I don't think so.

For the past year, I had every intention of making a non-boxed version of Hamburger Helper, but I just never seemed to get around to it. Then I saw the recipe for Taco Pasta from Plain Chicken. This was exactly what I was looking for!

I added fire roasted tomatoes and corn to the original recipe. I only had picante which is more liquid than veggies. I thought the fire roasted tomatoes would help balance out the picante, plus add some yummy fire roasted flavors. I added corn because, well, we like corn. I didn't have any cream cheese at the time so I just omitted it and added a bit more sour cream and grated cheese instead. I'm sure this made the dish less creamy, but no one seemed to care. It was still delicious.

Now, some people buy Hamburger Helper as a quick way to make a meal.  I didn't think this took any more or less time than the boxed version.  I was already chopping up garlic and onions for the boxed version though.  Some of those boxes take about 25 minutes to cook, and that's not including browning the meat. 

With the from scratch version, the onions get chopped and cooked along with the meat while the pasta is cooking.  By the time the noodles come to a boil, the meat is cooked and all the other ingredients have been added. At this point in the recipe, all that needs to be done is to add the noodles, and dinner is ready.  With the box, after you brown the meat, all the noodles and junk get added and you've gotta wait for it to cook.  Your time saving pre-packaged  Hamburger Helper actually takes longer! 

I will admit that this recipe does use an extra pan.  So there is a tiny bit more to clean up.  I have an old beat up pot that I use to boil noodles.  It is also dishwasher safe, so I do have that going for me.  However, I do have to wash the pan I use to cook the meat by hand.  If that is the case for you as well,  you've already got that dish water going, what is one more pot to clean? Pans used to boil noodles are always super easy to clean.  They maybe take 30 seconds, if that. I don't know about you, but I'm willing to put up with that additional 30 seconds of cleaning time to save 15-25 min of cooking time when I'm in a hurry.

One final thing.  This recipe, in addition to being faster and cheaper, makes more food.  This recipe fed the three of us for 2 whole meals, with a tiny half portion left over.  A box of Hamburger Helper feeds the three of us for 1 meal with a tiny half portion left over.

DIY Taco Hamburger Helper

1 pound ground beef
8 ounce small dry pasta shapes
2 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup salsa
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (optional)
1 can, drained or a heaping cup of frozen corn (optional)
3 T taco seasoning (or 1 package of taco seasoning)
heaping 1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Shredded Cheese for topping

Cook noodles. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Set aside. Cook ground meat and onion.  Drain fat.  Add garlic. Cook 30 seconds.  Mix in the salsa, tomatoes, corn and taco seasoning. Simmer over med heat for 5 min. Stir in pasta, sour cream and reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Top with shredded cheese and more sour cream and salsa if desired.   I added some black olives to my portion because we had an open can in the fridge that needed to be used up.  Feel free to add any other taco toppings to your portion.     

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Experimentations on the One Minute Peanut Butter Cake

I found this recipe for a 1 minute peanut butter cake over at Back to Her Roots. Since I am a hugemongous fan of the chocolate mug cake, I thought I'd broaden my horizons.  I was weirded out by the egg in the recipe, but one person wrote in the comments that they swapped out half of a banana for the egg.  Wouldn't the cake be mega good for me if I was eating a half of a banana? The answer of course is YES!

So here is the first cake I made:

half a banana, mashed (Mine was frozen so I nuked it for 20 seconds to thaw it out.)
1 tablespoon brown sugar splenda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 heaping tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 T cocoa powder
1-2 T chocolate chips

I mixed all the above ingredients together inside the coffee mug, then I swirled in a regular size spoon ful of Nutella.  Nuke for 30 seconds. Eat cake.  (This is the most important step.)

I don't know what the dealio was, but there was this odd soapy after taste.  At first I thought that it was the bananas, but bananas don't taste like soap no matter how gross they are.  I think either the splenda brown sugar or the baking powder may have been the culprit.

So I a few days later, I made cake number 2:
This time I left out the baking powder, used regular brown sugar, used more peanut butter and whole wheat flour.  See the recipe below:
half a banana, mashed
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 T whole wheat flour
2 heaping T peanut butter
1/2 T cocoa powder
1-2 T chocolate chips

Mix it all up in your coffee mug and swirl in a big ole blob o' Nutella before nuking for 45 seconds. Sit back and enjoy the worlds longest run on sentence. Oh, and your cake.

Ah, no more funky soap taste.  Cake 2 was gooey-er than cake 1.  I did use more peanut butter though.  The baking powder will give your cake more lift and cake like texture.  I prefer it gooey though.  So there you have it.  I think I'll stick with the second version I made.  Although, if Mrblocko should ever get a craving for one of these, I'll add the baking powder.  He likes a cake-ier texture to his mug cake.

Oh, and because I know he is going to ask me.. Yes. Yes I did eat both of these cakes by myself while you and Blockette were off at work and school.  Muhahahha!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding with Buttermilk Syrup

I had amassed enough leftover bread bits in my freezer that I felt it was time to make another bread pudding. This time I made caramel apple bread pudding from Our Best Bites.  This dish is absolutely sinful.  It probably should have been served for dessert but as I am a horrible/wonderful mother, I made it for dinner one night.  (Hey.  Don't judge.  It has apples in it.  Apples are healthy.)
I made the changes that a commenter on the original post from Our Best Bites suggested.  I used 5 whole eggs instead of 4 whole eggs and 3 yolks.  I also used 3 cups of skim milk instead of the milk and cream combo.  I also used 3 heaping cups of apples, so it was probably more like 4 cups of apples.  See how much healthier I made this dish!

What really sets this bread pudding over the top, above all other bread puddings, is the Buttermilk Syrup.  There is a link on the Our Best Bites page to their version of Buttermilk syrup, but I used the recipe for buttermilk syrup from Creations by Kara.  The Creations by Kara version uses a white and brown sugar combination, while the Our Best Bites version uses white and Corn syrup.  The CbK version only needs 1/4 cup of butter while the OBB one uses a whole stick.  Oh, and the CbK recipe makes nearly double that of the OBB.  So I chose the OBB one.  Besides, I was all out of corn syrup.

Now I want to talk about that syrup for a second.  When they say use a large pot.  For pity's sake, use one.  Do you see the dirtied up marks that go above the rivets in the picture above?  That is how much the syrup is going to foam up when you add the baking soda.  Please err on the side of caution.  You don't want molten syrup all over your stove, counter, floor or anything really.  You have been warned!

This final picture is of the bread pudding topped with the Buttermilk syrup. So yummy!  We wound up having extra syrup.  It stores very nicely in the freezer.  The syrup doesn't really freeze, but the butter does float to the top.  A few minutes in the microwave, and a good stir brings everything back together again.  Blockette frequently requests this syrup on pancakes/waffle instead of the regular fake maple stuff.  Dare I say she even likes it better than the real live maple tree "blood".

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding from Our Best Bites
5-6 c. stale French bread cubes (about 1/2 of a standard loaf cut into 1″ cubes)
3 c. apples, peeled and chopped into small pieces
4 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. pumpkin or apple pie seasoning
1 Tbsp. butter, chopped
1 recipe Buttermilk Syrup

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease or spray a 9×13″ baking dish with shortening or non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss together the bread cubes and the apple pieces. Transfer to the baking dish. In the same large bowl, whisk remaining ingredients except for the butter. When combined, continue to whisk while pouring over bread/apple mix (just to make sure the spices are evently distributed). Gently combine the bread and egg mixture, making sure each piece of bread is soaking in part of the egg and milk mixture. Allow to stand for at least 15 minutes (longer, if you can; you could even do this the night before, cover it tightly, and then bake it in the morning). When egg/milk mix mostly soaked into bread, dab butter over bread and place baking dish, bake 40-50 min til center is set but not dry or burned. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 min.

Buttermilk Caramel Syrup from Creations by Kara
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter*
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

In a large saucepan, bring buttermilk, sugars, and butter to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla. It will bubble up a lot. Hopefully you used a large saucepan like I told you. :) As it cools, the bubbles will go away.
*Notes: The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup butter. I cut back to 1/4 c.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hashbrowns From Scratch Update

Back in August I wrote about this cool link I found on how to make your own hashbrowns.  Well, I finally cooked up some of my frozen shredded potatoes.

Here is what they look like after frying them up:
They aren't exactly the kind of hashbrowns you get from a store bought bag of frozen hashbrowns, but they were still really really yummy. I'd say they are a lot like the hashbrown patties you get at most fast food places, except a LOT less greasy.

Also it helps to cook them on a pan that is non-stick, not your old crappy one that has all the Teflon scratched off of it from over use.  Yeah.  Don't use that pan.  You should really throw that pan out cause it is so nasty.  Except you know you won't, cause it's really good for making popcorn.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Esau's Soup

I found this recipe for Esau's Red Red Soup in the Penzeys Spice catalog.  It was submitted by a lady named Dane Kuttler. The title of the recipe was what caught my eye.  This summer, the church sermons have been on the New Testament. 

If you aren't familiar with the story, here is my non biblical scholar's recap: There were these twins, Esau and Jacob.  Esau was born first and Jacob was never really happy with that.  So Esau comes in from a hard day's work in the fields and sees Jacob with this red lentil stew.  Of course Esau wants some and begs and begs his brother to give him some.  So Jacob says, "Ok but you've gotta give me your birthright in exchange."  Esau is so hungry that he does!  Ca-raaazeee.  That must've been one helluva bowl of stew.

I told Blockette that I found this recipe for Esau's Soup.  Well she was pretty excited about the whole thing.  I guess she thought it was the exact same recipe that Jacob made.  After a good chuckle, I said it wasn't the exact recipe, but something that was probably similar.  Luckily, her enthusiasm didn't diminish.

The soup itself was pretty tasty, not anything I'd sell my future for though!
After we sat down to eat, Blockette turned to me and said, between mouthfulls, "This looks like cat pukie."

I stopped and stared at her.

"Doesn't it look like cat pukie momma?"

I sighed and said, "Yes. You are right. It is sort of the same color. But doesn't it taste good?"

"Well, yes..."

"Ok then, let's not talk about what it looks like."

Esau's Red (not cat puke) Soup
1 onion Chopped
2 T olive oil
2 celery stalks chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 head garlic, minced
2 small potatoes, diced
1 c red lentils
4 c stock (the recipe says veggie, but I only had turkey stock on hand)
2 bay leaves
2 lemons, halved (I didn't have lemons so I just used lemon juice in a bottle)
1/2 t cumin
cayenne pepper to taste
salt to taste
parsley to garnish

Heat stock pot over med heat. Add oil and onions and cook until translucent. Add half the garlic, veggies and potatoes. Cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add lentils and stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for 30 min, or until potatoes and lentils tender. Add bay leaves, remaining garlic and lemons. Cook for 10 min. Remove bay leaves and lemons, squeezing juices out with tongs. Blend with blender or immersion blender to get desired texture. We went for a slightly chunky texture. Add cumin, cayenne and salt. Top with parsley.

Some additional notes:  I made a double recipe of this because I wanted leftovers.  After we the first serving I thought the soup was a little boring.  I had a leftover brat and a pecan wood smoked grilled chicken breast.  I diced both of them up and tossed them into the soup.  I also added a few handfuls of frozen corn and green beans.  Then I shook in a bit of Turkish Seasoning from Penzeys Spices. This soup was transformed into a nice hearty stew that was 10 times better than the original.  AND with all those add-ins, the stew barely resembled cat puke.  Double winning!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thankful Thursday 40.11

1. A great visit with my mom.

2. The Halloween puppet show put on by Blockette and my mom.

3. Getting the irises and crocuses planted.

4. My mom helped me plant said bulbs.

5. Mrblocko broke up that fist fight across the street.

6. I didn't misremember the date of the meeting I was supposed to go to.

7. The rain so I can be lazy and not rake today.

8. Having some nice conversations with grown ups.

9. Blockette learning her spelling words without me teaching her incorrectly.

10. Finding out M caught a fly and had it in his hand before he and Blockette got into the car last night. Ew.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bubble Up Pizza

We really love pizza in this house, but we hardly ever have it. Why? Cause I am mean. And lazy. And cheap.  Usually, I just buy the Tombstone brand when it goes on sale.  They have this garlic bread version that costs the same as the regular crust. The crust is thicker on the garlic bread version so we eat less of it.  A regular frozen pizza feeds us for one meal, but the garlic bread from Tombstone feeds the three of us with enough leftovers to feed one grown up and a kid the next day.

But sadly, there haven't been good pizza sales lately. So no pizza for us.  I've also been too lazy to make dough from scratch.  I don't know's not like it's any harder than making any other type of bread.  Laaaay-zeeee.  That's me.

Then I saw this recipe for bubble up pizza over at the awesome blog, Plain Chicken.  And guess what?  Biscuits were so cheap at the store they were practically giving them away.  Well, we've overcome all the obstacles that were preventing us from having pizza. Cheap? Check.  Easier than scratch? Check.  Mom meanness eradicated? Well, not so much, but we'll just pretend that since I made pizza I'm not so much of a mean mommy.

I had Blockette help me make this meal, with a lot more complaining than I expected at first.  The original task I set before her was to  quarter the biscuits with a butter knife. For some reason she didn't want to actually touch the biscuits.  I mean they were slimy and doughy.  Amidst her whining I started rolling the quartered biscuits into balls.  Then Blockette wanted to do that.  She wanted to do that very badly.

This was confusing to me. Wouldn't rolling the biscuits into balls involve her touching the dough a whole lot more than when she was quartering them?  Apparently I fail at understanding the logic of a six year old because she LOVED rolling the dough into balls.  OK.  Whatever works right?

I used lots and lots of cheese on this pizza, probably 3 cups.   I just hate it when there is more sauce than cheese, don't you?  Viva la queso! I also used whole package (the small one that is around 3-4 oz) of pepperoni.  It was Blockette's job to put the pepperoni on the pizza.  We decided that it would be best to put half under the cheese and half over the cheese.  That way some of the pepperoni would be soft and some would be crispy.

There was just shy of 2 cups of spaghetti sauce that I had found earlier in the week in the back of the freezer, so I used that for the sauce.  It had onions, garlic, red peppers, carrots, mushrooms, sausage and zucchini in it.  I also sprinkled on some extra Italian seasoning at Blockette's request.  Since the pizza was absolutely loaded down with cheese and pepperoni, Blockette didn't catch that she was eating hidden veggies, namely mushrooms.  I love when a sneaky plan comes together.

This pizza probably cost slightly more than the frozen variety, but we got to customize our toppings.  If the Tombstone pizza had as much cheese and meat on it as the Bubble Up Pizza did,  they would have charged double at the grocery store.  This pizza served the 3 of us for 2 meals, so it stretched just a tiny bit more than it's frozen counterpart. 

Finally, there is no comparison when it comes to aroma.  Any pizza, frozen or fresh, smells awesome while it is baking. The fresh pizza, just smells so much better.  Our whole house was filled with the scent of pizza and you can't really put a price on that.  I'll definitely be making this recipe again.

Bubble Up Pizza from Plain Chicken
2 cans (12oz) golden layer buttermilk biscuits
1 jar (15oz) pizza sauce
2 cups mozzarella cheese
your favorite pizza toppings - cooked sausage, turkey pepperoni, peppers, mushrooms

Preheat oven to 375F. Cut biscuits into quarters and place in medium bowl. Toss biscuits with pizza sauce. Add pizza topping and half of the cheese. Toss until well blended. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Pour biscuit mixture into pan and top with remaining cheese. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes, or until biscuits are done.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mega Burritos

I've been trying to think of creative ways to make tasty meals that don't cost an arm and a leg.  Somehow it seems easier in the winter.  I just make soup.  With a heat index that hovered around 110F all summer, soup wasn't at the top of my meal planning list.

Then I saw the idea for Freezer friendly Bean and Rice Burrito over at Tammy's Recipes.  That looked quick and tasty and inexpensive to put together.  I had seen a similar recipe for taco seasoned rice and beans at Making Memories, so I sort of mashed those two recipes together for my burritos.  I'll write the exact recipe I used at the bottom of this post.
Meijers sells these hugemongous tortillas.They didn't have a size measurement other than "burrito" size on the package.  The burritos were so huge that I had to assemble them on my largest cutting board.  I'm guessing the tortillas were about 12 inches in diameter.
I put a heaping cup of filling in the ones I made for Mrblocko.  Mrblocko didn't think that a cup of filling was going to be enough to fill him up.  I laughed at him and made him two burritos - just in case.  When he saw them he laughed too and said, "Yea.  I think one burrito will be enough."

The ones wrapped in wax paper measure about 5x7 inches.  They aren't as massive as the ones they sell at Chipotle, but they are pretty darn close.  The tiny one on the far left is half of the small one I made for Blockette.  Even trying to make them small, Blockette could still only manage to finish half of hers.

That was just fine and dandy for me.  I ate the other half for lunch the next day.  I ate it cold right out of the fridge as I was too lazy to pop it in the microwave.  I was surprised how good it tasted cold.  I mean the cheese wasn't melty or anything, but sitting in the fridge overnight made the flavors get all friendly with each other.  Happy yum yum in my tum tum. 

The burritos came 8 to a package.  With the filling I prepared, I made 6 large ones, and 2 Blockette sized ones.  I wrapped two burritos in foil and froze them for a quick meal another day.  I also have enough leftover filling for at least 3 more massive burritos.  I froze that as well.

Here is what I did to make the filling for the burritos. Most of the ingredients I had in my freezer that needed to be used up before they fell victim to freezer burn.  This is a great way to use up leftovers.

Huge Batch of Burrito Filling
2T olive oil
3 medium onions, cut in half, then sliced in half moons
1/2 of a roasted red pepper, diced
1 pound of ground turkey
2 T taco seasoning
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 c cooked rice (this is 1 1/3 c of rice before it is cooked)
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 c of medium pace picante 
4 chopped green onions
2 cups of defrosted frozen corn
1 1/2 c cooked and shredded chicken (mine had taco seasoning already in it.)
2 large carrots, finely shredded
4 cups of shredded cheese, (I had longhorn colby and sharp cheddar)

In a very large pot or skillet, cook the onions in the olive oil until they begin to soften and caramelize.  Add the ground turkey. Brown the turkey until it is cooked all the way through.  Add the garlic and taco seasoning.  Stir to combine.  Add the rice, beans, picante, green onions, corn, chicken, and carrots.  Stir to combine so all the ingredients are distributed evenly.  At this point I let the mixture cool to room temperature and then mixed in the cheese.  Since I was making these ahead for Mrblocko, I wanted to make sure that the cheese would be evenly distributed throughout the entire mix.  I was afraid that if the cheese melted, that wouldn't happen.  There are lots of other things you could add: chipotles, jalapenos, a can of rotel, a can of chiles, refried beans, ground beef, cilantro, shredded beef, fish, chopped sausage...whatever floats your boat.

Now if you have leftovers, and you probably will, unless you are feeding a very large family, you can assemble your jumbo burritos and freeze them.   I took our leftover burritos straight from the freezer and placed them in a 375F oven for 35 minutes.  They weren't exactly warm, but they weren't frozen anymore.  Since they were getting sent to work with Mrblocko during the week, there was no need for them to be anything more than not frozen.  When asked how the leftover burritos tasted, Mrblocko replied, "Good."  So there you have it.  Leftover burritos are good.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cake Batter Pancakes and Ketchup???

I've discovered the secret to making pancakes less messy. Well, I discovered it like Columbus discovered America. (Cause how can you discover somewhere that's already got people living there?) Anywho, I "discovered" this idea on Real Simple. Put your pancake batter in an empty (clean) ketchup bottle. (Of course you could use a catsup bottle, but only if you are a communist.  True Americans use Ketchup.  For REALZ.)
I used the jumbo 40 oz container, cause we use lots of ketchup in our house and it was the container I had on hand.  Using a funnel is highly recommended for putting the batter into the squeezy container.  If you spoon it in, you'll just make a huge mess, and that defeats the whole purpose of using the bottle.

Now onto the actual pancakes.  Remember when I wrote about Cake batter ice cream back in September?  Well I made cake batter pancakes from How Sweet It Is with some of my leftover powdered strawberry cake mix.

Oh, you should have seen Blockette's face when I told her we were having pink cake batter pancakes for dinner.  Man.  Cake? And Pancakes?  At the same time?  For dinner?  She about hugged my guts out and told me I was the best mom EVER!  Gotta love that.

I only slightly screwed up.  The recipe calls for sprinkles but I only had the tiny kind, not the jimmies.  So when I added the sprinkles to the batter they all dissolved.  This made the batter less pink and more of a slight weird pinky purple color.

I tried adding the sprinkles once the batter was on the griddle but they still weren't really visible once the pancakes were cooked.  And, I ran out of sprinkles before I used up all the batter.  Blockette was slightly sad at this, but really how sad could she be?  We were having cake flavored pancakes for dinner.

The pancakes also lost their pink color when I cooked them.
They browned up like regular pancakes.
This was sort of a bummer too, because Blockette and I were excited to have PINK pancakes. Again, really, how sad could we be? CAKE PANCAKES! For DINNER. Woot. Woot.

So what did they taste like?  They were an equal combination of cake and pancake flavors.  It was not like eating a slice of cake for dinner at all.  (Not that I have EVER done such a thing.)  The cake was not a lie, but it was not overwhelming either.

I don't I like these any better or worse than regular pancakes. I wouldn't open up a box of cake mix just to make these little guys, but if I had a box that was already open, I'd make these again.  They were a nice treat for Blockette.  Oh, and just to clarify, waffles still rule. Go team Waffle!

Cake Batter Pancakes from How Sweet it is makes about 12 pancakes
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup yellow cake mix
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 cups milk (I used vanilla almond milk)
assorted sprinkles

Combine flour, cake mix, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl and mix. Add 1 cup of milk, egg and vanilla extract and stir until smooth. You want the batter to look like regular pancake batter; not too thin, not too thick. This will vary greatly on the brand of cake mix you use. Start with 1 cup of milk and add more if needed. I suggest a small taste test as well to see if the pancakes are flavored enough. Preheat a skillet on medium heat. Fold desired amount of sprinkles into batter. Pour batter in 1/4 cup measurements onto skillet and let cook until bubbles form on top, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook for 1 minute more.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bunny Free Ceiling Fan Cleaning

Ok, here is another one of those, "Duh, why didn't I think of that" tips I saw over on Lifehacker.  You can clean the blades of your ceiling fan with a pillow case!!!  You just stick a fan blade inside the pillowcase and wipe.  All the fuzz bunnies land inside the pillow case. 

This is particularly useful to me as the ceiling fan in our bedroom is directly over the bed.  There's nothing like cleaning the fan and then having to vacuum your bed because all the crud from your fan has deposited itself all over where you sleep.  I hate making more work for myself.

I've used those swiffer things and various microfiber cloths that are supposed to catch the dust with static.  Those things never quite catch all the gunk and I still wind up with grey fuzz all over my bed. 

In addition to the extra cleaning, I get a major case of the sneezes.  I cleaned both our ceiling fans without even a tickle in my nose.  Can I get a woot woot?  Yeah, I'm probably more excited about this than I should be.  I don't get out much.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

DIY Drain Unclog Fail

Apparently there is this baking soda and vinegar trick (that I saw over on Tidy Mom) that is supposed to magically unclog your drains.

I thought that I would give it a try as our kitchen sink has been draining slow and occasionally backing up into the other sink. So I dumped the baking soda and then the vinegar down the drain. I waited the requisite 30 minutes then ran the water for several minutes. Then I put the stopper in one sink and let the sink fill up with a few inches of water. I pulled the drain plug and...nuthin. Absolutely nothing. It drained exactly the same as before I dumped down the baking soda and vinegar.

There are people who swear by this kitchen staple drain un-clogger, but they must have less tricky sink problems. Until there is a real problem, like the sink won't drain at all, I'm not going to call a plumber. Mrblocko thought perhaps that there might be something wrong with our garbage disposal. I sure hope he is wrong. Aren't there magic drain unclogging fairies? Maybe if I wait long enough the problem will fix itself.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chocolate Chambord and White Chip Ice Cream

This Chocolate and baileys gelato from The Shoebox Kitchen was ALMOST an epic fail. But as we all know, almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

First, I'm not exactly certain what gelato is.  It seems like it has to do with how slow it is churned?  Since I churned this like anything else,  I guess it is ice cream, except that it doesnt have cream so its not. Let's just say it's a frozen dairy concoction as Iced Skim Milk doesn't have as nice of a ring to it.

Sure the recipe says to use whole milk and heavy cream, but, I know this is going to come as a complete and udder shock to you...I used skim.  I am nothing if not consistent.  I also used Chambord instead of Baileys.  I would have loved to use Baileys because Baileys ice cream is da bomb.  But, sadly, no Baileys in the house.  We had Malibu, Kahlua, and Chambord.  Malibu sounded gross, and while Mrblocko would have LUVed the Kahlua version, Blockette and I would have liked it not so much.  So raspberry yumalicious Chambord it was.

Now the Chambord got all weird when it hit the heat. It was almost like it turned into gritty candy.  A gritty candy that wasn't pleasant tasting.  I have no idea what it was that made it get all weird like that. Maybe the coloring was the culprit?  The booze was old?  I have no luck boiling things other than water?  Your guess is as good as mine.

I had already committed myself to making this ice cream, so I strained the chambord-sugar-milk mixture before combining it with the chocolatey milk mixture.  I gave it a taste test before I sent it to the fridge to chill and it seemed good.  Really good.
I was still worried the texture would be off.  Maybe the strainer didn't catch all the weird gritty bits?  I wanted to do something to counter act the potential non smoothness of the end product.

Earlier in the week I had made bars that were supposed to have white chocolate drizzled on top.  The chocolate seized up as I was drizzling it and refused to attach itself to the bars. I thought I could salvage the chocolate for some other purpose so I just picked off the stubborn white chocolate from the bars.  This ice cream seemed like the perfect use for the wonky chocolate.  White chocolate is best buddies with raspberry.  So I chopped up the white chocolate into fine little bits about half the size (or smaller) of mini chocolate chips.  I added the white chocolate bits to the ice cream in the last 5 minutes of the churning process.

One nice side effect of using booze in ice cream is that your ice cream never fully solidifies.  It remains nice and scoop-able even after a week in the chill chest. No worries about ruining your plastic ice cream containers here!

The ice cream tasted just heavenly.  If there were any texture issues, the white chocolate bits hid them well.  I thought this ice cream was incredibly rich.  I can only imagine how much richer it would taste if I had used cream! 

P.S. Mrblocko wants me to tell you that this is his most favorite ice cream that I have made so far.  Which, I think is saying something because I think all the ice creams I've made have kicked butt.

Chocolate and Baileys Gelato from The Shoebox Kitchen
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Baileys Irish Cream (oh yeah)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt

Before you get started, make an ice bath by placing ice cubes in a large mixing bowl, adding water, then placing another smaller mixing bowl into the bath. The smaller mixing bowl should be able to hold about 6 cups of liquid. Measure out your liquids. Measure out your sugar and cocoa powder, as well as your corn starch. In a mixing bowl, pour your whole milk, salt, corn starch, and cocoa powder. Whisk vigorously to combine and dissolve the solids as much as possible. Make sure there is no dry cocoa left floating in the mixture. Set aside.

Bring the two creams and sugar to a hard simmer in a medium heavy bottom saucepan, whisking frequently. Remove from heat and add the whole milk mixture. Whisk to mix thoroughly, then return to heat and bring back to a hard simmer, whisking constantly. Once simmering, continue to whisk and cook the mixture for another 5 minutes, or until you feel the mixture thickening (much like making a pudding). Transfer the chocolatey amazingness to your ice bath bowl and continue to whisk until you see no more steam coming from the amazingness. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cooled completely, about 4 hours or overnight (when we’re really impatient we sneak it into the freezer for about an hour). Churn the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the instructions, usually about 20 minutes. Transfer to a chilled container (we like using ceramic loaf pans – they are the perfect size and their shape allows for easier scooping) and place in the freezer overnight (if you can wait).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thankful Thursday 39.11

1. The amusement from the look of Shock and Horror when Blockette realized who Anakin Skywaker REALLY is!

2. The three of us sitting in bed as Mrblocko read the first chapter of Prisoner of Azkaban out loud.

3. Mega savings again at the grocery store.

4. Mrblocko handling Blockette's temper tantrum while we were at a friend's house.

5. Getting the front yard raked before the leaves got crunchy and hard to rake.

6. Mrblocko took Blockette to soccer and let me stay home so I wouldn't catch a cold.

7. Blockette was brave enough to try going down the zip line swing!  (She's braver than I am!)

8. Blockette commenting to Mrblocko how neat it was that his face is glittery from all the little white hairs.  (Yeah, he immediately went and shaved.  hehehe.)

9. Splurging on ice cream with Blockette after finding out I didn't get that job I applied for. (It had Oreos, Baby Ruth and Butterfingers in it...just what the Dr. ordered.)

10. The not too hot, not too cold, sunshiny weather this week.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream

MMMM. Peanut butter ice cream.  Blockette says this is the best ice cream ever because of all the chunks of peanut buttery goodness.  She is right.  The chunks of peanut butter are AWESOME!
This recipe was created as a copy cat by Kelly Neil for Baskin Robbin's Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream.  I'd have to say it was pretty spot on.  I used a combination of half and half and milk instead of cream, so I'm sure that was why it wasn't closer to the original.  Cream makes everything, well creamier.  But my weak milky version was still filled with peanut butter and chocolate-y ice cream goodness.

The only bad thing about this recipe was that after a few days the ice cream sets up like concrete in the freezer.  To solve this problem you can:
A. Eat all the ice cream in one sitting.
B. Not eat any more ice cream and whine about it.
C. Break out a jack hammer.
D. Set the ice cream on the counter for 10 minutes while you clean up the dinner mess.

I'll let you choose.  I will warn you that if you pick option c, you're probably gonna break whatever container you've stored your ice cream in so keep that in mind.  If you're lucky, you'll find that same container you used to freeze your ice cream in on sale at the store the next time you go shopping.  Not that I'd know anything about that.

Baskin Robbin's-Style Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream from Kelly Neil
2 Cups Heavy Cream
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Cocoa
pinch of Salt
1/2 Cup Smooth Peanut Butter
1-2 Tbsp Icing Sugar

Whisk cream, coca, sugar and salt in a saucepan to a full roiling boil (should be foamy) - chill. Mix PB and icing sugar together (adjust amount of icing sugar to taste - I used 2 Tbsp).  Churn chocolate batter in an ice cream maker.  In a container, layer churned batter with dollops of PB - freeze.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Beer French Frys

We eat a lot of potatoes in the summer. I usually cut them into planks, brush them with olive oil and sprinkle on some garlic or grill seasoning before Mrblocko tosses them on the grill.  These are so super tasty, especially when Mrblocko gets them nice and crispy brown.  Yum!  But as summer winds down, as delicious as the potato planks are, we all start to get a bit tired of them.

As the weather is finally below steamy boiling hot, and almost, dare I say chilly,  I've been wanting to use the oven more.  I thought we should switch things up, and give these Beer soaked frys from edible perspective a try.
I sliced up 3 large yellow flesh red skinned potatoes the size of baking potatoes.  This made a lot more fries than I expected.  The above picture is of the leftover fries after one meal.  We totally pigged out on fries and still had at least one huge serving of fries left.  Blockette and I ate these fries the next day.  They weren't nearly as tasty the first time around as they got a bit dry reheating them on the skillet.

The leftovers were probably on the dry side because I baked  the fries the first time for 70 min.  The recipe says to cook them for 40 min to 1 hour.   We like our fries really brown and crispy though, so I just kept checking on them until they looked the desired color.

I soaked the taters in Fat Tire Ale.  There was no particular reason for choosing this beer other than it was the only Ale on sale when I went to the grocery store.  I had baked with Fat Tire before so, even though I don't drink beer/ale, I knew it would yield some tasty results.

The blogger over at Edible Perspective said that half the beer gets absorbed into the potatoes. I was curious if this was indeed true, so I measured the remaining beer after the tater's 15 min dip in the hops-y hot tub. Almost exactly half the beer was left.  Pretty cool.  Yup.  Those spuds were nice and sloshed.

I was worried that perhaps Blockette wouldn't like the fries.  She is fickle when it comes to food cooked with alcohol.  She totally surprised me and said, "These were the best fries ever.  Better than from a store." I think she meant restaurant, but whatever.  She loved them and that's all that mattered.

Mrblocko and I really dug them too.  We agreed that these won't ever take the place of planked potatoes on the grill in the summer, but they are a nice change of pace when the weather is cool enough to use the oven.

The Edible Perspective posted a sweet potato version that I am going to have to try as well.  I just realized that I've never made sweet potato fries from scratch before.  I'm going to have to remedy that with a batch of drunk sweet fries in the not too distant future.

Garlic Salted, Beer Baked French Fries from Edible Perspective [serves 4]
1 bottle New Belgium Somersault beer [or similar]
3 russet potatoes [~1 3/4lbs]
3 cloves garlic, minced
3T olive oil
1-1 1/2t salt
1/4-1/2t black pepper

Preheat oven to 425F.  Scrub potatoes, and cut per instructions above. leave the skins on. In a large bowl, soak the cut fries, in 1 bottle of beer. Let soak for 15min, tossing 1-2x. Drain beer and toss with olive oil, garlic, salt + pepper, until well coated. Line a large baking sheet with parchment [optional, but nice for quick clean up!] and spread the fries, in a single layer on the pan. Use two pans, if needed. You don’t want them stacked. Bake for 40min – 1hr, depending on how crispy you like them, tossing 3-4 times. Add more salt + pepper to your liking.

Monday, October 3, 2011

September Reads

1.The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure.  I'll admit it.  I thought the Little House on the Prairie books were 100% non-fiction books.  Turns out a lot of it was made up from bits and pieces of Laura's life, not exactly in the right order, town or with the same people.  This book is the journey the author went on as she visited all the historical places from Laura Ingalls Wilder's past.  It's an interesting read for fans of the time period, the books and maybe, dare I say, fans of the TV show.

2. The Mulligan by Nathan Jorgenson.  My mom gave me this book and told me it was hilarious.  Then my husband read it and agreed wholeheartedly.  I thought they were both nuts.  The story starts out fairly slow and I found myself getting really angry with the main character.  I mean he was SUCH an absolute doormat.  Mrblocko said that it started getting really funny at the Ranch, but I didn't start laughing out loud until the main character starts working as a guide.  The book itself is written very well, except the end kind of fizzles out. That was a bummer.  Over all it is a good book that I think appeals to a wide audience.  

3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  This book was awesome.  In the future most everything is done in this virtual reality called OASIS.  The guy who invented it put in his will that created this mega Easter egg.  Whoever finds it owns OASIS and becomes the wealthiest most powerful person on the planet.  Oh and did I mention that the guy was a teen in the '80's so the whole thing is filled with '80's references.  Yeah.  So if you're a computer geek, gamer, plugged in nerdy kinda person, or even the slightest bit of an '80's freak,  you will love this book.

4. Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker.  This was a fun fluffy zombie read.  At times I thought the author was trying too hard to be witty with all the pop culture references.  The narrator of the memoir was a hoity-toity college professor who thought he was all that.  I guess the fact that the witticisms got annoying after a while just emphasized that part of his personality.  Somehow it all works.  The book isn't going to win any literary awards, but it was a funny little story.

5. Bossypants by Tina Fey. This book reads just like watching Tina Fey on TV.  I mean I literally heard her voice in my head as I was reading it.  If you loved her on SNL or 30 Rock, you'll think this book is laugh out loud funny.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Second day hair-twisty braid

This what your hair will look like once you undo the two stranded twisty braid.   When Blockette saw her hair after the braids were removed she exclaimed, "I look like a brand new girl!!!"  I absolutely love that soft body wave.  I wish my hair looked wavy like that every day.  Too bad I'm not coordinated enough to braid my own hair.

As a completely unrelated note, does anyone have any tips or suggestions why my pictures are turning out so grainy?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

'11 Happy Dance #25 : Capri Sun Beach Bag

I've been seeing these juice pouch bags at stores and on the internet for a while.  I thought to myself, "Hey, I could do that!"  Capri Sun was on sale at the end of August so I stocked up so I could make this bag for Blockette's lunches.  Most of the time Blockette remembers to bring her empty juice container, but I enlisted my best friend and her daughter to help me collect them.

It's a good thing I did as this bag is made up of about 38 juice pouches, or about 4 boxes.  Blockette hasn't even been in school for 38 days yet.

I found basic directions on how to assemble a Capri Sun lunch bag from the blog Thrifty Fun. The size of the bag I took from the Capri Sun Beach Bag over at Shelstring.

I think I made a mistake attaching the straps to the outside of the bag.  It probably would have looked better sewn on the inside.  I attached them on the outside because I like to pin things and you can't pin a plastic juice pouch.  So, instead, I used the markings on the outside of the bag to line things up.

The straps nearly killed my machine.  Once the needle came out completely from the machine and almost broke off inside the sewing machine.  A couple of times I had to stitch backwards because I couldn't get the plastic-y material to cooperate.

My goal is to make a bag for each one of Blockette's teachers as an end of the year present.  We'll see if that happens though.  At the very least, I've got this one finished.