Monday, June 8, 2015

Summer BBQ

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I received products at no charge for this post from  BzzAgent, but all opinions are mine.

May was pretty rainy around here--not too many opportunities for outdoor eating, but I was determined to have a "summer meal" anyway.   Smith's grocery store has a Red, White and BBQ event going on at their stores this month.  Lots of ideas for outdoor cooking.  I went for the classic steak. 

I got the meat out and into the McMormick's Grill Mates Brown Sugar and Bourbon seasoning packet and let the meat marinate for about 30 minutes while I got other stuff done for the meal.  I followed the America's Test Kitchen advice on cooking awesome steak.  I took the meat out of the marinade and used paper towels to dry it off thoroughly.  I sliced the steak into 2 pieces and placed it on a wire rack in a cookie sheet.  I used a meat thermometer that has the probe that goes in the  meat and the wire that goes outside of the oven.  I baked the steak at 275 for about 25 minutes, until the temperature of the meat was 105. 

I used a cast iron grill pan and got it super hot.  I put my baked steak on the hot pan and cooked for 2 minutes per side.  Take the meat out and tent it with foil to let it rest before serving. I ended up with a perfectly medium steak--nice pink, but not bloody red.  The marinade flavor was faint, so next time I might marinate overnight.


I added a wedge salad on the side along with a baked potato and corn on the cob.  I garnished the steak with some crunchy bits called Kroger Top'ems--I liked the crunch, but the mesquite flavor was a bit strong.  They'd be good on a salad or even on the baked potato. 


Wedge salad with blue cheese, red onion, red grapes, bacon and balsamic vinaigrette.

 And as a side note--Bzz Agent sent me some Sriracha Ketchup, which I tried another day in some fry sauce.  Kicky and delicious.







Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ruffled Maxi Skirt

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I'd been looking for a mustard colored skirt in the fall-and kept looking all winter and finally figured I'd have to make my own (never found one, or at least not one I liked). I decided I really wanted it to be ruffled like a gray skirt I bought at Macys. I then started looking for fabric, which turned out to be just as challenging as finding the skirt in the first place. You'd think as popular as ruffles are mainstream stores like Joann's or Hobby Lobby would have lots of cute knit fabric-but not the stores in my town. So I turned to Etsy and finally found some 2" knit ruffle fabric.


The making of the skirt is actually pretty simple, but the ruffles on the fabric do add a level of concentration. I had to pay really close attention when I cut out the front and back so that the ruffles lined up. I also did a basting stitch along the raw edges to make sure the ruffles didn't get bunched up when I sewed the pieces together. 

If you already have a long skirt, just use it as a pattern and cut your pieces about the same size (its stretchy knit, so you don't need much seam allowance).   If not, measure your waist and cut that measurement in half (so if your waist is 32", the top of your pattern will be 16".  Again, it's stretchy knit, so I didn't leave a seam allowance).  For the bottom of the skirt you decide how wide you want it to be (I went about 6" wider). 

Baste (or use straight pins) all the ruffles along the long edge of the pieces. You'll be glad you did when you go to sew the front and back together.

Put the front and back pieces together (right sides together) and sew up the long sides.
Now is the time to try it on-if it's too big you can adjust it now. Once you're sure it's the right size, measure around and add an inch (so if your measurement is 32", you'll need to add 1". 

To make the waistband I bought some regular jersey knit that matched as closely as I could find.  I like my waistbands to be about 6" tall when finished, so that means I cut a rectangle of fabric that was 12" tall and 33" wide (remember your width will match your skirt).  You can also use 2 pieces, each 12x16.5. I like to have my waistband taper, but you can just sew it as a rectangle. If you want to taper, you lay it out and trim the sides-then sew up the raw edges.



You'll have to fold the waistband over (wrong sides on the inside). 

Flip the waistband so that all the raw edges line up. Sew around (use a serger or if you don't have one, use the zig zag stitch so that it will stretch).  I had some custom labels made, so now is the time to sew that in too.

Ta-da, you have a new skirt have that is flouncy, bouncy, full of fun, fun, fun!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Star Wars Day--May the 4th Be With You!

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I love the original Star Wars movies, but Return of the Jedi holds a special place in my heart.  Daring rescues, cool light saber fights and adorable Ewoks!  I clearly remember going to see it in the summer of 1983.  I had gone on a trip to California with a singing group I was in--and came home to hear about lots of flooding in Salt Lake City.  So much flooding that they created a "river" right through downtown.  Our family went to see the river and then headed to the Century Movie theaters--these awesome theaters that were in dome shaped buildings (at least I thought they were awesome).  I even got to buy treats with my leftover trip money. It was a pretty great day.


Tomorrow is May the 4th and to celebrate I decided to do some baking.  I went looking for inspiration on Pinterest and found a deliciously delightful blog called Yummy Crumble and knew this was the cake to make!  It didn't require a bunch of cake decorating skills like fondant or piping--but it is a multi-step messy process.  I made a few changes from the original because I couldn't find some of ingredients (and I didn't have a madeline cookie pan and neither did any of my neighbors).



Vanilla Bundt Cake
I liked the recipe on Yummy Crumble, so I'll send you over to her blog to get the recipe. Be sure to REALLY grease that bundt pan-mine was non-stick and I drowned it in non-stick spray and I still had one spot that didn't come out clean.  My cake took 43 minutes (I check it at 35 min and it was still really wet in the middle).  I did the cake first so that it could be cooling while I got the decoration stuff prepped.

"Sand" topping
Oatmeal cookies (the crunchy un-frosted kind from the cookie aisle)
Caramel topping (bottled from the ice cream section)





I used 12 cookies and pulverized them in the Vitamix.  Glaze the cake with a thin layer of caramel topping.  I spread it around with a rubber spatula and then pressed the cookie crumbs all over.  I did this while the cake was still on the cooling rack and on top of a cookie sheet to catch all the excess (and re-use the crumbs).

 

Sarlacc monster
Butterscotch chip jaws and tentacles
Almond slivers

I melted the chips in the microwave (heat in 30 second cycles and stir until all melty).   Put it in a zipper bag and clip the corner and pipe into 4 different fat squiggles for the tentacles.   For the mouth, I squeezed a rounded triangle shape onto a wax paper square and let it set for about 5 minutes and then draped it over a water bottle and popped it in the fridge (with a container on each side so it didn't roll around on me) to harden up. About 1 minute after it was in the fridge I used a butter knife to make some ridge marks on the back of the "monster." Honestly, this was the trickiest part--the water bottle really wanted to escape on me.  I used some white frosting to make teeth.




You stick the almond slivers around the inside, and then make a pile of frosting in the hole and set up the monster pieces. 


I'll be serving this fine cake with some Yoda Soda (ginger ale) and some ice cubes from my fancy Darth Vader and Han Solo in Carbonite molds.  Should be a fun celebration.




Friday, April 24, 2015

Iceland: What to pack

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When you live in a place that usually gets 4-5 months of snowy, cold winter you usually don't choose a place that has more snow and more cold for your spring break destination. Usually-but his was an unusual year. We didn't get much winter to speak of and I do like a good travel adventure.  My birthday often falls over spring break, so it's made it convenient to spend my birthday somewhere other than home, so this year I went for Iceland.  I know, I like beaches and warmth-but Iceland looks so beautiful and it's somewhere not everyone gets a chance to visit. A trip to Iceland requires more research and planning that your average trip-it's not like heading to SoCal where you can basically buy anything you need at Target when you get there.

I did lots of blog searching to find out what the weather was really like, from real folks who really went there. I wanted to know what they packed and what they were glad they had with them.  I knew that seeing the Northern Lights was priority number one and then visiting the scenic coastlines and waterfalls and geysers would also be part of my plan.  I also wanted to be able to pack in a carry-on. A real challenge for a cold climate.  My trip was April 5-11, so while technically spring, definitely still winter-like conditions in Iceland.


I did manage to get it all in my regular carry on roller-board suitcase along with my Keen cross body purse. I needed all my packing skills to make this one work, but I did it.  Packing cubes are key!  I saw that Ikea now carries a set of cubes for about $8.  I wore my boots and parka on the plane, but everything else went into the luggage. I ended up buying several new items for the trip, mostly from Sportsman's Warehouse-they have a really great ladies clothing section and sales folks who actually know stuff about their  products.


3 coats  (only needed 2)
4 sweaters/sweatshirts (only needed 2-3)
3 long sleeve base layer shirts
2 short sleeve base layer shirts
3 pair leggings
6 pair socks (some wool, some synthetic)
Boots
Trail shoes





Outerwear

Columbia Interchange Outer West Jacket- outer shell is wind/waterproof. Very important feature in Iceland. I stayed nice and warm and dry in this coat.












Columbia Mighty Lite Hooded Jacket-knee length, had the Omni Heat reflection lining. Was a great under-layer. Wore it everyday under my parka.














Mountain Hardwear down jacket-didn't need as much as I thought. Could have left this one home (but to be clear, I love this jacket...its my go-to jacket all winter at home, I just didn't need a 3rd coat on this trip). 


Columbia waterproof pants-used these twice on the trip and was glad for them. The Skogafoss waterfall sprayed lots of water around and  it snowed while we were there. I also was glad for them the night I was photographing the Northern Lights (since I was often kneeling on the snowy cold ground).

Columbia Bugaboots II with Omni Heat-waterproof and warm! Pretty decent traction too. Waded through some water and snow with no problems. Feet were toasty and dry.












Salomon Pro XA 7 trail running shoes--my first pair of trail shoes.  Great traction and Gore-tex waterproofing.  Kept my feet nice and dry and warm.













Burton fleece lined hat-warm, but I wish I had taken a hat with ties or ear flaps. The wind was so gusty that it was hard to keep on my head sometimes.

North Face running gloves-these were good enough for being outside for less than an hour at a time, but they did get completely soggy at the last waterfall stop.

Base Layers

Marker silk long johns-I've had these for years. They are super thin and slippery, so clothes don't get all bunched up around them. Glad I took the bottoms but I could have left the top at home, I never used it.

Helly Hansen long sleeve tech tee















Athleta long sleeve tech tee















Kirkland 1/4 zip long sleeve tech tee-I've had this shirt for a couple years and I  love it--wore it once under the Columbia fleece, but I didn't really need it. I could have left it home.
















2 short sleeve t-shirts-basic cotton layering t-shirts

Sweaters and Leggings



Athleta Relay leggings-2 pairs, 1 gray, 1 black. These are thick running leggings that I use in the winter. Perfect for traveling.  Comfy and warm enough.


Cuddle Duds black fleece leggings-I wore them on the plane since they are super comfy.  Thought I might wear them over my Athleta pants, but never felt like I needed the extra layer. Bonus, you get them at Walmart and they are very cheap!





Columbia Optic Got It II sweater 1/2 zip fleece-super comfy and warm.  Its a nice sweater and fits really nice. Would definitely take it again.















Columbia 1/4 zip fleece-super thin fleece, but soft and warm.  Already had this and glad I took it.














Athleta Stoked 1/4 zip sweater-I've had this one for a couple years--warm and comfy.













Columbia black 1/4 zip waffle weave sweater-wore on the plane, wouldn't take it again because I didn't really need it.


Everything else



Swimsuit-a must for the hot pools around Iceland
Socks--miscellaneous wool, but my favorites were the Lorpens
DSLR camera with 4 extra memory cards and sets of batteries and travel tripod
Nylon daypack-very compact, packed in my suitcase and just used during the day.  Thought I could use it for souvenirs if I needed it (didn't). 
Unmentionables (long johns included)
PJs
Toiletries (I took a bare minimum of make-up...with a hat on every day and sunglasses, make up was pretty unnecessary). 



Here's the final thoughts--pick out clothes that will wick away sweat and keep you warm--and maybe pick a super cute parka and hat since every picture will show you in it.  Iceland is amazing--and having the right clothing kept me comfortable so that I could enjoy being outside for pretty much 6 straight days. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bottling Grapefruit

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I ran across a Pin one day while looking at "Popular" pins and found a fun blog that had lots of canning and preserving instructions.  The post that interested me most (at the moment) was the bottled grapefruit.  I like grapefruit.  Even as a kid I liked it--provided it had a lot of sugar on the top.

I really enjoy the fancy grapefruit in the glass jars from the grocery store that have all the membrane removed--but its usually over $3 a jar, so I don't buy it too often.  Today, looking at the grocery ads, a small store had grapefruits on sale 5 for $1.  I stopped by and picked up 20 fruits (each were about a pound) for just $4 and tried out home canning of grapefruit.

When you peel and de-membrane the fruit, you lose a lot of volume.  I did 10 fruits and got 4 pints of finished product.  It took me about 40 minutes to peel and prepare the fruit.  I thought about doing the other 10 fruit on the counter, but I think I'll just eat them fresh--but it was a fun project for an evening.

Supplies
Grapefruit
Sugar
Water
Canning jars with new lids and bands
Sharp knife!
Water bath canner
Funnel

Prepare the fruit
I used my sharp santoku knife to slice away the peel and pith.  Then I sliced as close along a segment's membrane on both sides and popped it out of the fruit.  Do this over a bowl since it will be juicy and slurpy.  Put the prepared fruit in a bowl and try to keep out the seeds.





Sugar syrup
You can make it more or less sweet.  I used 5 cups of water and 1 3/4 cups of sugar (which was about twice the syrup I needed for my fruit).  Mix the water and sugar in a pot and bring it to a boil.


Add the fruit to the jars and then pour the hot sugar syrup over the top, leaving about 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar.  Use a knife to slide around the edges of the jar to get rid of any air bubbles).  Wash the rim of the jar off and put on the lid and band.


Process the fruit
Put the hot fruit-filled jars into the water bath canner and bring up to a boil.  Once its boiling, process for 15 minutes (I live above 4,500 feet).  Pull the jars out and set on the counter.  The lid should have "sucked down" and not make any noise when you push on it--otherwise the seal didn't work and you'll need to keep the jar in the fridge and use it first.



Since I already had jars and sugar, I got 4 pints of grapefruit for $2, so much better than the $3 at the store-and I enjoyed a couple episodes of Big Bang Theory while I was at it!