Friday, June 15, 2012

Getting Crafty

The past week, I've been in a DIY mood.  I know, so ambitious of me right?  I've been wanting to get a new wreath or hanging decoration for our front door because we still have our holiday wreath up from January.  Yesterday I was talking to my neighbor Gretchen and she told me about a wreath she made using scrap fabrics.  Unfortunately i haven't sewed enough to have scrap fabrics, but fortunately i was so excited I just had to go out and make it happen!

First, I went to google to find out where I could get scrap fabric.  DI popped up!  I zoomed over to DI and found a large piece of lite green fabric for $1.  Can't beat that! At least now I had one color decision.  Because I can be impatient, I decided I didn't want to go from store to store looking for scrap fabric so I went over to Joanns. 
I got 4 18X21 pieces (they come prepackaged this way) of purple and grey fabric.  And they just so happened to be on sale for $1 a piece!

Now making the wreath!
First step - get a hanger and bend it into a circular shape. Here are my results:

It was fairly easy, but then again I had Evan help me with his strong muscular hands! ;)
Then I took all this:

And turned it into this:

I decided on 7" by 1 1/4 "....roughly of course.  Most people do these with scraps so I wasn't too OCD about them being all matchy matchy. 

And then the fun part! Tying them onto the wire.  I think a lot of people would be fine going about it in a very random fashion, but I like things to be more even.  So I started with all grey and then I filled in with purple and added a few splashes of green. 
Let me tell you, I was very nervous throughout this process.  After I had tied for awhile, I thought "this just ain't happenin' " I decided that I was too ambitious and that this was not working out.  It just didn't look right.  But I had gotten that far, so I kept pressing forward. 
Here are my results:

I added the purple bow, but I'm still trying to decide if it works with the look. 
Overall, I'm pleased!
All at the cost of $5!

The key for this wreath is to have a lot of ties.  It really started coming together when I got so many on there that I had to smoosh them nice and tight. 

I guess I'll venture onward :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chicken Cacciatore made light

I've decided this picture definitely doesn't do the meal justice.  So, as can be guessed - this meal was fabulous! Why am i having such great luck when it comes to exploring cooking? I am very excited because although the recipe intimidated me, this recipe was ridiculously easy to make.  It took at the most 45 minutes to make, 25 of that was just cook time!

Here is the original recipe. (From Annie, and I think from Weight Watchers)
6 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, (about 1½ lbs)
⅛  teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
8-10 ounce package mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion. chopped, about 2 cups
1 large red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
½ cup white wine
1 (24 oz) jar Classico Tomato and Basil Tomato Sauce or your favorite
½ teaspoon Italian seasonings
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

1. Sprinkle chicken thighs with a little salt and pepper.  In a large nonstick pan, add the chicken and cook about 5 minutes or until brown, turning once.  Remove chicken from pan to a plate.  While the chicken is browning, place the mushrooms, onions and both peppers in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Cook in microwave for about 2-3 minutes until the vegetables are softened.
2. In the same large pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add garlic, softened mushrooms, onions and peppers.   Saute on high heat until lightly browned and soft, about 3-4 minutes.
3. Stir in wine and cook for about 1-2 minutes until wine is almost evaporated.
4. Return chicken to pan and add the tomato sauce, Italian seasonings and fresh ground pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes until chicken is tender and no longer pink.

And how I made it:
You should know...This makes a lot of food, or i should say a lot for two people.  I think it could feed 4-6 people!
First of all, I used chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs. I'm sure its good either way, but I just so happen to usually have chicken breasts in my freezer.  So, I used 2 1/2 boneless chicken breasts.  I cut the two whole chicken breasts in half and so to start off, I had 5 pieces of chicken.  As the recipe says, I sprinkled them with salt and pepper and then cooked the chicken until it was browning.  I did this on medium heat, and I would say it took about 5 or so minutes.  I was nervous during this part because the whole chicken wasn't getting cooked, just the outside.  However, I ventured on and realized that the entire chicken gets cooked by the end of the meal.  
While the chicken was browning, I cut up my bell peppers and onion and placed them in a Tupperware with the mushrooms ( i bought the mushrooms sliced).  I would recommend doing the chopping before starting the chicken because it got slightly hectic!  Anyway, as the recipe says i put them in the microwave for 2 minutes.  When the chicken was done, i took it out of the pan and poured in the veggies.  BTW, I used 1 TBSP garlic powder instead of garlic cloves.  I sauteed the veggies until they were brown and sizzling.  I added the cooking wine and continued cooking for a couple minutes.This is what it looked like:
Then I added the chicken back into the pan and sliced each piece in half, I did this to ensure that it got fully cooked! So now I had 10 pieces of chicken (if you're counting!). I added the tomato sauce, Italian seasonings and pepper.  It was boiling after about 20 seconds so then I reduced the heat to low and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.  

The recipe doesn't mention anything about noodles, but I just thought it should have noodles! So i made some fettuccine noodles to go with it.  I would actually recommend more penne style noodles, but that's all I had so i went with it.  It was yummy!  See!!!:

And, i complemented the entire meal with some corn.  Can't go wrong with corn or green beans with every meal ;-)


Healthy Week!

And hopefully healthy life.  The times I feel best are the times when I'm feeling healthy.  This includes me doing some sort of physical activity in the day, getting enough rest (but not too much!), and eating well. 
A couple weeks ago I was chatting with my brother Jason!
He told me that Annie had been cooking some healthy meals and he was feeling amazing.  In fact, almost purely because of eating healthier he told me he was losing some weight.  This shocked me.  So I did a little research and found out that one of the main keys of having a healthy life is good food choices.
I have been hesitant to cook meals that are considered "healthy meals" because my experience is that they don't taste very good!  Plus i am a true believer in intuitive eating.  But then Jason told me that he actually thought these meals Annie was making tasted really good!!
So then I got to chatting with my sister Annie!
She told me that the meals were somewhat easy to make and she thought they were pretty tasty too! Lucky enough for me, she had some of the meals saved in her email so she forwarded it to me.  All the credit for this weeks recipes go to Annie.  
Yesterday I went on a crazy grocery shopping trip and got all the ingredients for each of the meals.  This week Evan is going to really take on the role of Ginny pig.
Thanks Annie and Jason!!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Manicotti, or something like it.

The final product!

A few months ago, my sister Michelle (here she is!!!)
 told me about this stuffed noodle recipe she makes.  It sounded pretty good, so I bought some of the ingredients I thought went in it.  Time passed, and I kept forgetting to get the recipe from her! 
Well, the other day (yesterday)  I decided since things had calmed down a bit I wanted to cook a home made meal.  I looked in my cupboard to see what I had and I saw those stuffed shells I had bought months previous!  I decided to see what kind of meal I could make with them.  Unfortanately, as I was searching through recipes almost every meal included ricotti or other cheeses like that.  Even more unfortanately, I was in a mood where I really didn't want to go to the store! Then I stumbled across the one and only recipe I could find that didn't take a whole lot of ingredients. I was in very unfamiliar territory, but I decided to try it.  It turned out YUMMY! And I even made some changes to the recipe, so I feel pretty cool. Also, i just have to say that being back in the kitchen and cooking a meal felt so absolutely wonderful.  I love it!  This recipe was simple and quick.  I think overall it took about 30 minutes.
Here is the original recipe:
14 uncooked manicotti shells
1/2 pound ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese,
1.Cook manicotti according to package directions; drain. In a skillet, cook the beef, onion and green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the tomato sauce, oregano and thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup cheese; stir until melted.
2.Stuff half meat mixture into manicotti shells; arrange in a greased 8-in. square baking dish. Spoon remaining meat mixture over shells. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees F for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese; bake 5-10 minutes longer or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Here is how I made it...and wow.  Looking at the recipe again makes me realize that I really did change it up! The following is the Lazy Persons way to do this recipe:

First of all, I realized a little too late that I had stuffed shells instead of Manicotti noodles.  At this point, I decided to stick with it and see what happened. So, to start off, I boiled a package of stuffed noodles for about 5-7 minutes.  The important thing here is to undercook your noodles so that they are easier to fill with the ingredients.  Don't worry, they will finish cooking later in the oven!
As I was boiling my noodles, I defrosted my groundbeef in the microwave.  I used a guestimate of 1/2 lb of ground beef.  I've found that you can use more or less groundbeef and it is okay! The meal will turn out great.
After I had drained my noodles, I started cooking my groundbeef in a saucepan.  Instead of an actual onion, I used 1/2 TBSP of onion powder.  I've started doing this substition quite frequently and I haven't been sad as of yet.  I also added 1/2 tsp of garlic powder. 
Helpful Hint #7: 1 small onion = 1/2 TBSP onion powder.  1 medium onion = 1 TBSP onion powder.  1 large onion = 1 1/2 TBSP onion powder. 
1 medium sized clove garlic = 1/4 tsp garlic powder.  1 large or 2 medium cloves = 1/2 tsp garlic powder.
After my groundbeef was browned, I drained it. I always drain it and am shocked by all the grease that comes out - YUCK! I put the groundbeef back into the saucepan and instead of tomato sauce, i added 1 jar of spaghetti sauce, 1 tsp oregano and 1 tsp thyme.  I did not use the green bell pepper, although I think this would only add excellence! I brought the sauce mixture to a boil and then reduced heat and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes.  The longer you let it simmer, the better the taste will be.  As I did this, I turned my oven on to 325 degreees.  Then i added some mozarella cheese and dove into the scary part!
After I greased a 9X9 baking dish, I poured my noodles in the pan. 
Stuffing the noodles!!!  I would pick up a noodle, open the noodle slightly, spoon some of the sauce mixture in and set it back into the pan. And yes, some of the sauce mixture would fall out. Some stayed in, so I wasn't too worried.  It may simple to describe this process, but I had no idea what to do so this is what i did! And it worked!  I didn't end up using all of my noodles, so i took some out, but it was about two layers of noodles in the pan.  I stopped when I decided I had just enough left to cover all the noodles and then I put it in the oven! I baked it for about 10 minutes, added some cheese on top and put it back in for about 3 minutes. 
It came out looking delightful and then luckily it tasted just as delightful! Evan seemed to love it and I did too! We even had leftovers. I haven't tried them yet, but I believe they will be yummy!

The last thing you should take from this is that stuffed noodles can work with manicotti recipes :)

Here i am checking on my noodles!

Life is great!

I haven't made something worth blogging about in a while.(But I just did and will be blogging about it shortly) Don't worry, that doesn't mean that me and Evan have stopped eating.  Evan is quite the champion at feeding himself. :)  Also, i've discovered these amazing things at the grocery store - 10 minute meals.  They seem really healthy, but we've decided based on how quickly they can be made that they must not be that healthy.  They are in the freezer section and the ones we have tried are a variety of pasta's.  You just put them in the saucepan, cover it up, and ten minutes later you have the equivalent of a restaurant meal. For realz!! These have been a life saver for me because I have had a crazy month and a half. 
For my first time ever I decided to do spring term!  And I decided to take 9 credits because I figured I should get my money's worth.  It has been soo incredibly stressful and crazy, but I have loved every second of it.  I have officially decided spring is my favorite time to take classes.  Because everything is smushed together, there is no room for procrastination (which is a huge weakness for me).  I feel really on top of it because, well, i've had to be!  Also, a lot of my teachers actually cut out material so i feel really happy that I have less work to do than I would if I took it any other time :).  And the last thing i love is that i'm getting 9 whole credits done in approximately a month in a half.  It feels great!

Other fun things:
-Me and Evan have been playing Tennis like champs.  It is great because we have access to courts that are within 5 minutes of our house.  Evan beats me every time, but I think I am getting better.  It feels so great to be active and to be doing something fun with the guy I love.  I prefer doubles, so let me know if you are game!
-We went to the Zoo with the Driggs and so of course Ella Bella.  I go to the zoo approximately once or less every year.  But that doesn't mean i don't love it!!  I feel like I could sit and watch the monkeys all day long.  I love animals!  It makes me sad to think that they have to sit in a boring cage all day, but then a zoo lady told me a lot of them are born in the zoo so thats the only life they know.  Ella really loved the zoo experience. She is at such a fun age! The new exhibit wasn't up and running yet so i guess we'll have to make another trip ;) 
Here are some pics:

-Last week I went to Seven Peaks TWICE! And guess what? I'm counting on going at least 60 more times this summer. Not joking. I love it there! Lazy river, slides, wave pool, or just laying on my towel.  It is wonderful!
-I am absolutely confident in my decision to become an elementary school teacher. I've had my doubts and i've had my hesitations, but now i am more than sure!  Now that i'm in the major, i've already had experience being out in the schools.  I. love. it.  I can not wait to have my own class! I want to get out there and do my thing! But then i remember, there is so much i don't know, so i will try to be patient. But i still can't wait!
-We went bowling! (and we don't need to talk about who won.)
- I saw the family i used to nanny for - the Katy and David Roth family.  I love them! And i was so excited that they came to BYU so that i could see them. 
-I made my first pasta salad ever! In fact, i think i will blog about it even though it is probably something a first grader could do. But i feel so accomplished!
-Evan got a haircut...and this is exciting why? because it was a BUZZ HAIRCUT! And he looks so fine! I love it. And i'm so proud of him for being daring :)
-Me and Evan have a favorite restaurant - LAS GLORIAS. Its mexican food and lets just say its AmAzInG!  Every month we get a buy one get one free coupon in the mail so we can eat there for practically nothing. 
And i still have the best little family with my cute Charly and my cute Evan !!!

And I can't think of anything else right now, but life is great!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Busy Busy Busy Life.

As can be seen by how long its been since I've done a cooking post, i haven't been on top of my cooking game lately.  Honestly I don't know what happened.  Like a lot of my hobbies, I seem to go in spurts.  I'll be really into it for a few weeks and then really out of it for the next few.  I do enjoy cooking and trying new things, but it seems life has gotten quite hectic lately.
What have I done??
-I've finished Winter semester!!! Boo ya baby.  Five classes and its looking like 5 A's.  I do believe that is my best semester in college so far.
-I've officially hiked the Y! I feel like this is something every BYU student should do at least once as part of their college experience.  Why it has taken me so long I don't know. It was hard! Maybe its cause i'm out of shape, maybe its because I don't really like hiking, but my heartrate was up the entire time.  I felt a great sense of accomplishment when it was done though :)

-I tried a new pizza at Slab Pizza-- Chicken Enchilada.  Just writing about it is making me crave it.  It is a flavor I don't think I can get enough of.
-I've gone down memory lane with regards to Pokemon cards. Ha ha, but seriously.  When I was in elementary school I collected them.  I thought it was fun to trade during recess and stuff. But I never learned the actual card game.  When Evan stumbled across his childhood collection, he taught me the actual game. It is so fun! Seriously. You may think it sounds stupid but I guarantee if you like card games, you will like this one.
-I've gotten sick! It was so weird.  Evan was sick for approximately 2 weeks straight. I was sure that I would catch it since I practically breath the same air.  When he got better, I figured my immune system was top notch.  But then it hit me.  It may have been a little late, but it was the same thing.  Sore throat, headache, sinus problems. Yuck!
-I started cycling classes at Gold's Gym.  This is very exciting for me!  I will be able to stay fit hopefully doing something I find fun.  So far they have been extremely difficult.  I get off the bike feeling like I'm going to die.  They are only 45 minute classes too! But I think if I can stick with it, I will love it.
-I discovered the show The Vampire Diaries.  And lets just say I've been consumed.  Its a good thing that I get a little break between semesters because it is extremely addicting.  I can't get enough of it.  I dread when I'm caught up to real time, but I can't stop watching!
-I got a pair of gorgeous red cowboy boots.  (ok they were actually for my birthday in december, but i just got the right size delivered)  I went shopping and found two dresses that will coordinate perfectly!
-I've officially been promoted at work.  I am now a Financial Service Representative, or FSR.  That means I do a lot more then teller.  I open new accounts, send wires, do loans, and pretty much handle customer service needs.  I love it!

So yes, I've been horrible at keeping up on my cooking and blogging, but a lot has happened in the past few months! It's a busy, busy, busy life.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday Secret

Tuesday. It has become a day that I dread and look forward to at the same time.  Dread because I have a class that goes until 8pm. Look forward to because of our tuesday night dinner.  What is this dinner you might ask? Well let me tell you, in the form of a story. (Quite a short story really)

There once was a boy. He met a girl. They fell in love. Now they are married. One night, this boy and this girl were feeling hungry. "What shall we eat?" they both said. In fact, it turned into a chant.
"What shall we eat?"
"What shall we eat?"
"What shall we eat?"

The girl said, "I could make something." The boy said "Nah, that sounds like too much work." So the girl began her search. She looked high and low through a place called Google. Many places she did visit but alas there were too many possibilities!
"What food do you feel like, my love?", The girl inquired.
"Pizza!", The boy responded. (The girl should of known this by now, but alas it had only been a few months!)
And so the search was narrowed. The girl once again searched. This time, going to more specific places such as "Little Caesars" and "Dominos". Fate intervened at this time, for then she looked at "Pizza Hut" There, on the screen so big you couldn't miss it was "It's Tuscani Tuesday, Pasta for 2 $6"  Could this be true? It couldn't be true. It was too good to be true!!! But as they soon came to find out, it was true. A pasta and 5 breadsticks for only $6!!!
They ordered. They waited (10 min). They picked up. They devoured.
Their tummies were full, they were felt exuberant and they couldn't ask for anything more.
The end.

So, as could probably be guessed by this great story, tuesday nights are now our Tuscani Tuesdays. Evan orders at around 7:45 and then when I get home, dinner is served! They even have two options, meaty marinara or creamy chicken alfredo. We switch off every other week.
We think this deal is too good to be true, but its still going so far!
And that is our Tuesday Secret. Enjoy!