Thursday, January 31, 2013

The easier dinner recipe in my repertoire: Sexy Vegetarian Thursday!

Happy Sexy Vegetarian Thursday to you all!

To those of you having a rough day or week, believe me, I feel your pain. But you may not like this next sentence.

Today is my Friday!!

I took tomorrow off to spend the weekend with a friend who has basic training for the Air Force this month, and I've only seen him once in well over a year. Not to mention that a few of our other college friends will be there, too. Excited, stoked, pumped, amped, thriilled don't even begin to describe my feelings about this weekend.

I wish you all an equally lovely weekend.

Easy Lime Stir Fry Sauce

Whisk in a bowl:

2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. teriyaki sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. lime juice

Pour over skillet-full of veggies. Cook and stir until veggies are soft. Serve with rice. Done.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Making your own breadcrumbs

We've all been there. By there, I mean a point in our lives when we need to use breadcrumbs and we reach for them in a cardboard-can-thing. You know what I'm talking about. It's convenient to keep breadcrumbs stored away in your cupboard until that opportune moment when your ready to create a quick Italian culinary masterpiece, right?

Convenient? Yes. Natural? That's up for debate. Have you looked at the ingredients for breadcrumbs?? Prepare for a shock. You'd think it'd be simply bread and maybe some spices. Nope. This is what I found in a long-untouched can of breadcrumbs in my cupboard (I won't say the brand, but it rhymes with Shmegwans):

Niacinamide -- I still haven't quite sorted out what the hell this is, other than it's a vitamin. A lot of other vitamins, like A, B, and D, are also added into these breadcrumbs, and I'm not sure how to feel about it. On the one hand, the company could be trying to account for common vitamin deficiencies, like B12, in its customers. But if I think about this issue another way, what is there to say about the original product if it lacks nutrients that bread usually has?

Zinc Oxide -- an insoluble compound (most likely synthetically produced) used as an additive in paints, cement, pigments, batteries, and plastics, among other things. Granted, our bodies do need zinc to function, but I would rather get my zinc from NATURAL sources like dark chocolate, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and crab. I feel a bit nauseous just thinking about the fake, white powder being dumped in my breadcrumbs...

Now I realize I might be having a fanatical moment. I mean, here I am complaining that a company is adding vitamins to its product. However, I believe it's really important to consider what is in the food we buy from stores and why it's there.

PLUS, why spend your hard-earned money when you can make breadcrumbs at home for next to no cost.


If you already buy or make bread (and I would wager a majority of households do in some form [gluten-free, whole wheat, homemade, organic, etc.]), then your breadcrumbs are FREE and just as easily stored as the store-bought version.

Next time you are about to toss the uneaten ends of a loaf, or the crusts you tear off a piece of bread, simply stick those odd bits in a container and put them in the freezer. When you have a few pieces saved up and you need some breadcrumbs, take your bread out of the freezer, toast them, and pulse in a food processor or blender.


Toss whatever spices or seasonings in there that suit your fancy and voila! You have your homemade, free breadcrumbs. Feel free to stick any unused crumbs back in the freezer for future use, or make a big batch to keep stored in the freezer like you would the strange store-bought ones.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Vodka sauce ravioli: Sexy Vegetarian Thursday!

Can I get a WOOHOO?!

Sexy Vegetarian Thursday is back on track, and I am happy to share this really delicious, half homemade, quick and easy meat-free meal. I had a 10-hour workday today (5 total hours of driving for a 4 hour conference) and it didn't take much effort or energy to make.

Give this a whirl and let me know how you get on :)

Vodka Sauce Ravioli

Boil a package of cheese ravioli and steam some frozen broccoli. Easy peasy!

In a medium saucepan or large skillet, heat 1/3 cup of vodka to simmering. Allow to cook until the vodka reduced by half. Add 1/2 cup of light cream and 1 1/2 cups of tomato or marinara sauce. Stir gently but thoroughly. Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally for 5 minutes. Add 3 handfuls of fresh baby spinach (or any other leafy green you fancy), stir, and allow to simmer for 10 more minutes.

Spoon vodka sauce over ravioli and serve with a veggie of your choice, like broccoli.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Triple S Soup recipe

In a desperate ploy to come up with an edible dinner on Sunday and use up random ingredients in the house, I threw together a veggie and seafood soup. I was hoping it wouldn't taste like crap (I think we've all had a "dump" recipe turn out badly). On the contrary, the soup is delicious! It has a very delicate, slightly sweet flavor, and is thick and hearty.

I had a very easy time eating this scrumptiousness, but it was much harder to come up with a name for it. Eventually, I gave up and took an easy way out. I'm calling it my Triple S Soup, standing for shrimp, sweet potato, and spinach, three of the main ingredients.

Danni's Triple S Soup

 Prep time: 20 minutes (if you need to cook the shrimp)
Cook time: about an hour
Total time: roughly 80 minutes

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • small onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 or 3 celery sticks, sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, diced
  • 8 cups of stock or broth of your choice (I used 6 cups of ham stock, 2 cups of chicken broth)
  • 1 cup rice
  • 4 or 5 handfuls of fresh spinach, torn into pieces
  • 12-15 medium shrimp, cooked (I pan seared mine), and cut into pieces
  • roughly 1/4 cup of imitation crab, chopped
  • two squirts of yellow mustard or more to taste
  • 1 Tbs. Old Bay spice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Frank's Hot Sauce to top
  1. In a 5 quart cooking pot, heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil. Cook onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes.
  2.  Add celery and carrots. Cook at least 5 minutes.
  3. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Add sweet potato and cook about 10 minutes until potatoes are soft enough to mash. Lower heat.
  4. Use an immersion blender to create a smooth soup base. Bring back to boil.
  5. Add rice and cook 15-20 minutes.
  6. Add spinach, shrimp, crab, Old Bay, salt, pepper, and mustard. Cook 10 more minutes.
  7. Serve with Frank's on top!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Uses for coconut and olive oils outside the kitchen.

As I become more invested in eliminating unnecessary and unhealthy chemicals and toxins from my home and life, I've discovered that some of the things I use in the kitchen have uses outside the cooking arena.

Case in point: oils. Specifically, coconut oil and olive oil.

I use extra virgin olive oil for cooking nearly everyday, as many people do (for sauteing veggies, pan-cooking meat, marinades, sauces, keeping your spaghetti from forming a huge nasty clump, etc.). I'll spare you a boring lecture about it's extensive health benefits (read more here), but here's the lowdown: extra virgin olive oil has loads of antioxidants, which means it can help find cancer; ingesting EVOO benefits your heart, bones, and digestive tract; and, this unique oil has anti-inflammatory properties. 

Not to mention that olive oil is a great moisturizer! I first used EVOO outside the confines of my kitchen when I made my first batch of homemade sugar scrub. I mixed the oil with sugar and essential oil drops to create an amazing body scrub that not only removes dead skin but also softens and moisturizes. Why spend tons of money on sugar scrub when you can make your own for a couple bucks and you know exactly what's going into it? I gave this scrub away to two of my childhood friends when they graduated from college as gifts and they both really enjoyed it.

My favorite unconventional use for EVOO, though, is as an eye makeup remover.

You read that right. Eye makeup remover, friends.

EVOO is the gentlest and most moisturizing eye makeup remover I have ever used. Ever. I can't imagine using a store brand makeup remover packed with fillers, chemicals, and ingredients I can't pronounce. Olive oil easily takes away eyeshadow, mascara, eyeliner, and eye primer in one swipe. I keep a glass bottle full of olive oil on my bathroom counter. I simple pour a bit onto tissue or cotton, gently press it against my closed eye for a few seconds, and then wipe all the makeup away. (Please be gentle on this area! Forceful tugging can create premature wrinkles and damage your skin.)

The oil will, in no way, make you break out if you're only using it around your eyes. The pores in the skin around your eyes are incredibly small, and the oil does not clog your pores, anyway.

Extra benefits: I've noticed that the delicate skin around my eyes is soft and hydrated, the natural bags under my eyes (they're Papa makes them look dashing; mine however, make me look old and tired...) are not as puffy and irritated as they were when I used other makeup remover products, AND my eyelashes look and feel stronger and longer. What are you waiting for?! Go get your EVOO bottle and try this out.

I've only recently started using coconut oil in baking and cooking. Last month, I picked up a jar of Spectrum Organic Coconut Oil (*no, Spectrum is NOT sponsoring this post*). The contents are solid until warmed. When I made my first batch of whole wheat bread, I melted a bit of coconut oil to grease the loaf pans, which worked really nicely. I have read, however, a lot of blog posts and seen many Pins about using coconut oil for health and beauty purposes as it has lots of antioxidants as well an anti-bacterial and moisturizing properties.

Last night, I used coconut oil as a hair mask for the first time. My hair is just past my shoulders, so I scooped about a tablespoon of solid coconut oil from the jar. It easily melted in my hand. I spread the oil first at the ends of my hair first. When the ends were saturated, I used the rest of the oil in my hand to coat the rest of my hair, using very little at the roots.

I then braided my hair and slept with the oil in it over night. This morning, I shampooed and conditioned as usual. It washed out easily, in case you were worried about that.

Benefits: My hair is so manageable, soft, and shiny today! I have quite fine hair, and there's a lot if it, so usually my hair is in tangles before I even get to my car in the morning. Not today, friends! My hair isn't knotted at all and it's lunch time. I don't think that's ever happened to me. The ends of my hair look and feel so hydrated, and my hair looks really healthy! I will absolutely be using coconut oil as a regular hair mask.

I hope today's post gave you some ideas about ways you can use oils for health and beauty :)

Leave a comment about the unconventional ways you use olive and coconut oils (or other types, too!).


Friday, January 18, 2013

Recycled Handmade Journal

I'm sorry I haven't posted anything in a week. I missed Sexy Vegetarian Thursday, which I feel awful about, but I'm in a bit of a funk this week. Mr. J is traveling for his research and not having him around throws me off. But, it's more than just missing my main guy. I feel so drained physically, mentally, and emotionally (work is kicking my butt). I haven't cooked at all since Tuesday (leftovers have been a godsend) and haven't crafted in at least two weeks. What have I been doing, you ask?

Let's just say I come home from work, heat up leftovers, park my butt in a chair, and watch Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, or How I Met Your Mother. Laughing until you think you're going to throw up is medicinal, right?

I need to pull a Stella and get my groove back.

In the meantime, I want to share this easy craft tutorial with you so you can make your very own journal using recycled materials! A friend, Jess, came to visit me before Christmas and noticed the kitchen journal I made myself in 2011 (I'll share a pic of that soon. Mr J took our only good camera with him on his trip). While she admired it, I told her I use it to write down recipes I make up. I then proceeded to not-so-subtly hint that she shouldn't make herself one because Christmas was around the corner. I'm smooth like that. The key to keeping this project simple is to use what you have!

Recycled Handmade Journal

1. Select and cut your cardboard.
 Look through your recycling bin until you find some thin cardboard to use for your journal covers. As you can tell, I used a popcorn box. (Funny story: this particular popcorn box followed us from college [mind you, we graduated almost two years ago] and John had already owned it for awhile. Needless to say, I finally got fed up of having it around and finally chucked it's gross, unpoppable contents.)

Cut two pieces of cardboard so they are 5.5" wide and 8" long, as shown below. You'll also want to cut an additional circle that about 2.75" in diameter. You'll see why later.

2. Select and cut paper to cover the cardboard.
 Dig out some pretty scrapbook or craft paper you haven't found a use for yet. I have a ton of scrapbooking paper, so it was easy to find this lovely green paper with a silver floral design for the outside of the covers and a solid silver for the inside. Trace your pieces of cardboard onto the respective sheets of paper and cut. You'll need six pieces in all: two for the outermost sides, two for the innermost sides (pictured), and two circular pieces.

3. Paste the paper onto the cardboard. Let dry for 30 minutes.
 Use scrapbooking glue or something similar to paste the paper pieces to the cardboard (don't forget about your little circle! Cover that, too) You'll want to let these dry for at least 30 minutes under some pressure so the cardboard dries flat. I placed some books on top of my pieces. (I actually set this project aside for a couple of days. It's safe to say they were ready by then!)

4. Decorate the front cover
 You can be as fancy or minimalist as you like. My friend Jess has a classic, sophisticated taste, so I wanted two statement pieces that had clean lines. I used Scrabble tiles to spell out her initials and used E6000 to glue them to the top center of the cover. Next, I made a horizontal line to help break up the cover's length. I used dots of scrapbooking glue to tack down white satin ribbon I found in my craft drawer. I made sure the ribbon was long enough to wrap completely around and just barely overlap (picture of inside cover below). I then, very carefully, glued craft cord on top of the ribbon. Remember to make use of what you already have in your craft box/drawer/desk/room and get creative!

5.Design the inside cover.
I slightly overlapped the ribbon and glued it down. I then made a cute little bow with the craft cord before gluing that down, too.

 6. Decorate and attach the bookmark.
It's more of a design element than a bookmark, but whatever. Use a hole punch to make a hole in the top right corner of the BACK COVER. Decorate your circular piece of paper-covered cardboard. I used the craft cord and scrapbooking glue to make a line around the circle with another little bow. Punch a hole near the outer rim of the circle. Use a small length of ribbon, cord, or whatever you have to connect the circle to the back cover. You can personalize the bookmark further by writing the gift-receiver's name or a sweet little note!

7. Punch holes in the covers to create a spine.
Place your front cover atop your back cover, putting inside covers together. Use a pencil to mark where the holes should be on each piece so the two pieces line up. Punch the holes.

8. Cut pages and connect them to covers.
Now you have to stuff your journal with pages! I have a couple of little notebooks lying around and one lost it's cover many moons ago. I took 30 pages from that journal for Jess's. Cut the paper so it just smaller than the covers and punch holes in each page so they line up with the cover holes. Use cord, ribbon, etc. to thread the pages and tie them to the covers. This is the part that takes the longest.

VOILA! You've created a simple, adorable journal with recycled products and love.


Friday, January 11, 2013

January's Pintests and Reviews!

Last month, I posted my first batch of pin-tests and reviews. It went over pretty well with you readers so I decided this kind of post will make a monthly appearance here on C.C.! Back story: I am addicted to Pinterest (here are my boards) and each week, I try out at least a couple of the recipes/projects I pin. This is a chance for me to share with you 3 honest stories about how these pintests went and my thoughts on the recipe or project. So far this January, I've been obsessed with homemade bread and stuff you slather on said bread. Here we go!

Almond Butter

I've wanted to make almond butter for the longest time. Luckily for me, Mr. J's sister knows us well: part of our Christmas gift was a Wegmans' gift card. That was all the impetus I needed to buy almonds in bulk. At Weggie-Weggie-Wegmans, the whole raw almonds were $6.99/lb. I bought 1.130 lbs. of almonds for $7.90. It was rather painful to shell out that much for some nuts, but they have stretched far in the last two weeks! I had enough left over after trying this pin for snacking and another experiment that I'll disclose soon! I will be investigating prices now that I'm interested in buying almonds more regularly.

Anyhow, I found this recipe from My New Roots that insisted the only thing I needed to make almond butter was almonds. At first, I thought Sarah B. was cray cray! I was under the assumption you needed some sort of oil to facilitate the smooth factor. FALSE, friends, false.

As per Sarah's instructions, I placed enough raw almonds on an ungreased baking sheet to cover it in one layer. I strayed a bit from her instructions and roasted the almonds in the oven at a higher temp for a shorter time: 350 degrees for 12ish minutes. As soon as you can smell those bad boys, they're done! If you want to be extra sure, follow Sarah's example: see if the almond is golden inside instead of white.

The second step is to put your roasted almonds in a food processor. I almost made the mistake of overstuffing my small processor. At first, I dumped all the almonds in there and the damn thing wasn't doing much. DUH, Danni: do it in batches. It was a face-meet-palm moment. After about 5 minutes of blending the oils released and I made the smoothest almond butter I could have imagined!

 This stuff is the bomb! I cannot get enough of it. I can't believe how easy it was to make my own almond butter. Now I feel like an idiot for even considering buying the $10 jar of the pre-made stuff. I used roughly $5.50 worth of raw almonds to make 2 cups of butter, which is pretty damn near equivalent to the amount you get in that expensive jar. Can I get a WAHOO for saving some major moolah?!

Would I make this again: SHIT YES. I am actually dreading to day I run out of it. I need to get into squirrel mode and locate some reasonably priced nuts and store them. No one else gets my nuts!

Whole Wheat Bread

How's bouts some bread to go with that almond butter? For awhile I was put off from making bread because all the recipes I found were SO confusing, complicated, and time consuming. That is, until I found this recipe at People who make bread on a regular basis aren't messing around! This recipe makes FOUR loaves! Who the heck has FOUR bread pans just sitting around waiting to be used?? I had to go buy a SECOND one just so I could make half this recipe. Thankfully, has an little app that lets you readjust the serving size. But, be forewarned: while the ingredients amounts change, the instructions do not reflect those changes! I baffled myself to the point of messing the brown sugar mix enough that I have to start it over. Thankfully, that wasn't that hard or costly to do. Just be more careful than I was!

I found the recipe itself very easy to follow and there wasn't that much hands-on time. The bread is soft and has a lot of flavor! I wrapped the second loaf in 3 layers of aluminum foil and froze it for next week. Here's to not having to bake bread two weeks in a row!

Would I make this again? YES, absolutely! Next time I make this, I will crunch the numbers to determine how my loaves compare to store-bought whole wheat bread. I have a feeling this recipe is both a money saver AND a way to eliminate some preservatives from your diet.

Blender Butter

Lastly, how about some real butter to go with the bread and almond butter? Ha.

I've made butter at home before and I really enjoyed shaking the cream in a jar (talk about an arm workout). I did not, however, enjoy having to use my hands to squish the butter on a cutting board with my hands. That was so disgusting. Hence, I got pretty excited when I saw these instructions over at One Good Thing by Jillee to make butter in your blender!

The process was really easy: pour some cream in your blender and let that baby go until the fat pulls together and you can pour out the buttermilk. You then rinse the butter by adding a bit of water to the blender, pulsing, and draining the water. I did that about 5 times. Then, I simple scooped the butter onto a paper towel-lined piece of plastic wrap, wrapped the butter into a little tube and applied pressure to release the excess water! Unroll, remove paper towels, and put your butter in a butter dish. 

This dish was FULL of butter from using a pint of cream :) I don't always go out of my way to make my own butter, but when I do, I feel great for avoiding the salt and preservatives found in store butter. Mr. J and I are trying to find a local farm to get cream from....We'll keep you posted on that adventure :)

Would I make this again? TOTALLY! I get a huge amount of satisfaction from making butter. It's a little strange.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

A new recipe: sexy vegetarian Thursday!

One of my three goals for this year (to get healthier, to eliminate stress, and to take steps towards my ideal job) has already been shot to shit, as my dad would say. This week at work has thrown my zen approach out the window, into a wood chipper, and then into a vat of boiling oil.

It's been that bad.

For obvious reasons, I can't get into details, but the gist is that two of my coworkers in my small program are on leave. I've been given four work-intensive projects on top of my already demanding job facilitating programs for at-risk teens.

Long story short: I am losing my marbles and am not finding any joy AT ALL in what I'm doing at work. And that sucks. A whole lot. I wish I could find another job that better suited my education and interests, but the only jobs available are ones that would force me to take a huge pay cut and work undesirable hours with no benefits. That's just not gonna fly. Thus, I feel trapped, overwhelmed, exhausted, and generally poop-tacular.

In the meantime, I am trying to find joy in scrapbooking, cooking, and sewing. You know, general domestic goddessness. I received a cookbook from Mr. J's mom based on the TV show called The Chew. After reading it cover to cover and discussing its many awesome recipes, we decided to try Mario's Chilaquiles. I'll share with you how we used his recipe to suit our needs.

Mario's Chilaquiles

1. First, beat five eggs (3 for Mr. J, 2 for me) and heat some olive oil and 1 Tbs. butter in a large saute pan. When the butter melted, pour the eggs into the pan, followed immediately by 1 cup of salsa. Cook the egg mix on low-medium heat and stir constantly until it starts to firm up.


(Note: At first, I was freaked out by the texture this created. Mario--via his recipe--was telling me that this produced "smooth and creamy" eggs. I didn't know exactly what that meant, but Mr. J likes following recipes to the T and I wanted to humor him. The curds were very small and it appeared mushy, whereas normally I cook scrambled eggs in larger clumps until they're pretty darn dry. DO NOT BE FOOLED by the weird pink mush: it is delicious. Trust me on this.)

 2. When the eggs have pulled together and look less wet (about 5-7 minutes of cooking), add 3/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese and two handfuls of slightly crushed tortilla chips. Cook until cheese melts and you're comfortable that those eggies are cooked thoroughly.

3. Serve the chilaquiles with plain Greek yogurt and more cheese on top. We opted to have corn and cucumber slices as sides and eat the chilaquiles with more chips.

The result was salty, a little spicy, and really flavorful. It would be great for any meal!


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

How about a fifteen minute, crowd pleasing appetizer?

 Did that post title make me sound like an inexperienced infomercial kitchen appliance saleswoman?

That's because I am.

I've made this delightful treat twice; both times, the crowd raved. Ya heard, I made baked brie for a houseful of sweaty college kids in highlighter-stained white T shirts jumping around in a dark room complete with strobe lights and migraine-inducing "music."

Okay, that last part wasn't at all true. But college boys have tried and loved this (ones who normally only eat stuff their moms make. You know what type of guy I'm talking about).

Oh, and my delightful grandmother adored this, too :)

Honey Brie

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet or pan with aluminum foil and coat lightly with cooking spray, coconut oil, or a Crisco-like substance.

Cut the topmost layer of mold off the brie and place on your lined pan/sheet.

Drizzle honey over the brie--however much you want!

 Bake your brie for about 10 minutes, or until it looks like a gooey, delicious mess.

Serve with crackers of your liking.

Enjoy! xo

Friday, January 4, 2013

The week that made me question if I have bad joujou

Is it just me, or is this a weird week? Was there a full moon I didn't know about? Did I unknowingly walk under a ladder? Maybe I gave a black cat a good swift kick in my sleep. Perhaps I starred in a play and said something other than "break a leg" (trust me, my life is not that exciting). Now I hear The Producers' cast singing, "It's bad luck to say good luck on opening night! If you do, I'll tell you!" I may have watched that movie an unhealthy amount of times...

Due to my series of unfortunate events this week, I must consider that, a) all bad things happen in threes, b) I must have some bad karma or something following me around, and c) I am a chronic over-reactor.

First came the mysterious windshield incident of 2013. What a way to start the new year off with a bang. Or rather, a smash. I felt so bad for my poor car, Leo. He's been in the shop too many times this year. He is almost a teenager, I guess. Now that he's 11, he's been giving me all kinds of 'tude.

Second, our internet and cell booster went down for unknown reasons. We tried to replace the modem, but when that failed to solve the problem, I started pointing fingers at the squirrels in the basement. You guessed it: they're still taking up residence down there.

Third, our washing machine crapped the bed. After four years of utilizing unloved college washer and dryer units and spending too many hours last year cleaning our clothes at a really sketchy laundromat, we were overjoyed to have a washer and dryer in our rental house! However, the set we have was made in the 80s and is very temperamental. The washing machine squeals--A LOT--and hums and rattles and generally shakes the floor whenever it's running. How did we know it was broken, you ask? It started SMOKING.

Sidenote: I realize that, in the grand scheme of life, these are pretty petty problems. Believe me, I know how blessed Mr. J and I are to have otherwise functioning vehicles, and the extra money to afford services like internet and cell phone service. Not to mention, we're quite lucky to have a house to rent and a washer and dryer at our disposal.

Nevertheless, I was none too pleased that all three incidents had to happen in the same bloody week. In fact, they were less than 4 days apart. Grr! On the upside, my windshield was replaced, our internet was fixed, and our landlord is diligently working as I type to fix that damned washer. Bless that man, and Mr. J, for dealing with my antics and promptly dealing with the problem. It's times like these I wish I was as mechanically inclined as I am comfortable in the kitchen.

Speaking of comfy, here's a recipe that is both healthful and scrumptious (queue bad segue).

(Almost Organic) Turkey Goulash

Cook 1 pound of whole wheat organic pasta according to package instructions (I like to use farfalle, or bowties. They make me feel festive!)

In a large pot, cook 1 pound of ground turkey in 2 Tbs. olive oil with 3 diced garlic cloves.

When the turkey is nice and brown, add:
  • 1 28-oz can organic crushed tomatoes
  • 1 6 oz can organic tomato paste
  • 1 or 2 tsp. onion powder (depending on how much you like that smoky, oniony flavor)
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning (or paprika)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tomatoes and 2 celery stalks, pureed
This puree helps smooth out your tomato sauce (and sneak in extra veggie power!)

Bring your meat sauce to a boil, then lower to a simmer for at least 10 minutes (the longer the sauce simmers, the more flavorful it will be).

Add your cooked pasta. Stir and heat through. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy! xo

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Homemade Gifts Episode III: Revenge of the Coaster

Happy first day of 2013!

(I sincerely apologize for the abused Star Wars reference. It makes no sense. I know.)

I am determined to make today a better day than yesterday. Due to the windshield incident, followed by an epically failed attempt at making yogurt, I was not my cheerful self. I recovered pretty well from Leo's injuries, but when my yogurt culture died and the milk separated into curds and whey, I was a TOTAL grump for about an hour. I am still unsure of what exactly I did wrong. Maybe in a week or two after I let my grudge against the recipe go, I will try to make yogurt again.

Luckily, the foul mood did not last long because, shortly thereafter, my first ever ham turned out amazingly! This is definitely Mr. J's week of dreams. We have more ham than I know what to do with! I made a ton of ham stock last night (tutorial to come) and a huge batch of ham and bean soup is simmering away in the crockpot. I am still relaxing in my snuggly, fuzzy robe and I'm looking forward to a quiet last day of vacation filled with easy chores and making my first loaf of homemade bread! I am using this recipe, FYI.

On Pinterest many moons ago, I saw a pin for coasters made out of Scrabble tiles. Of course, there was not a linked tutorial. I decided I would figure this project out on my own. Here's what I came up with.

Word Tile Coasters

Such a creative project name, I know. What can I say? I have skills.

1.  The first thing you need to do is acquire tiles of some sort. I went to Home Depot looking for ceramic tiles that were less than a dollar a piece. Keep an open mind when you're on this hunt: be flexible and let what you find guide your end product. It can be easy to get discouraged if you can't find exactly the item you see in your mind's eye. I found myself facing this dilemma. I finally found some tile at the right price, but they were quite thick and had a odd edge: not exactly what I had been dreaming of. But I figured, I could get 8 tiles, enough for two coaster sets, for less than $8, so these babies were worth a shot.

2.  Next, get yourself some heavy duty glue. I used E6000. Don't get that crap on your hands, though. It stinks to high heaven and is not as fun to peel off your skin as hot glue.

3. Now you can give your coasters some feet to avoid damaging surfaces when you use them. I used a serrated kitchen knife to slice up corks and used E6000 to attach a cork slice to each of the four corners on the bottom of each coaster. As you can tell from this picture, I was not particularly worried about making all of the slices even. It really wasn't a problem down the road, so don't worry yourself about making them perfect!

Next, use Scrabble letters to create the words you want (My grandparents gave my an old set so these were free!). Use the glue to attach the letters together. Let the words dry for at least an hour before you glue them to the tile. I found I could fit four four-letter words maximum on a 1" x 1" tile.

Here's the set I made for my dad. I used one word at the top of each coaster. This left enough room for a glass to rest on the remainder of the visible tile.

You can see here how thick the coasters were, but I loved the rustic appearance, especially paired with the wooden tiles and cork feet.

 And here's the set I made for my grandfather. He's a salt of the earth kind of guy with lots of outdoor hobbies, so I gave each coaster a theme: hunting, gardening, logging, and his grandkids. Luckily, all four of us have a short name or nickname that I was able to fit on there! He really loved this set :)

I was lucky to find this tile: it had a cool, distressed-looking surface. I can't recall if these tiles were made of real rock or not... guess I should have paid more attention!

Once you acquire the materials, you can throw these coasters together in less than two hours.