Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cleaning Out

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Do you ever walk into a room in your house and just wonder "where did all this stuff come from?"  I do.  I know I'm supposed to get rid of something in my closet if I bring something new home, but I don't (or I plan to and forget).  So I've got way more stuff than I need and I'm not waiting until the New Year or Spring to get started on getting rid of it.  I saw several other blog posts on keeping your de-cluttering process small and manageable.  I'm not even planning at organizing stuff--just getting rid of stuff.  I suspect the organization will happen pretty much by itself when I don't have items towering or falling out of the closet. 

So, I sat down and made a list of places in my house that could probably use a de-junking.  The list is LONG.  But that is ok.  I'm not going to make myself do a space every day, but I did make the spaces small enough that I can do one in a reasonable amount of time.

Supplies I'll need:
Lots of old grocery bags or trash bags
Camera/paper pencil to document items I'm donating for tax purposes

Anybody else want to try it?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

No Slip Running Headband

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I have a few weaknesses-that it doesn't seem to matter if I need any more or not (and believe me, I don't NEED any more stuff) lip gloss, black yoga pants, boots and cute exercise accessories.  I suppose I figure that if I can't be the fastest or the most coordinated person out there, at least I can look cute while I'm at it. 

I was volunteering at a race expo before a marathon last week (I didn't run this one, but maybe next year)--so I wandered around the booths to see what was out there and there was a booth full of headbands.  They were cute, but I knew I had most of the supplies at home, so I decided to try making my own.



Materials
16 inches of pattern ribbon (1" width)
16 inches of velvet ribbon (1" width)
7-8 inches of braided elastic

(FYI, velvet ribbon is expensive, so use your Hobby Lobby or Joanne's coupon)

1.  Cut each of your ribbons and place them together, wrong sides together. 
2.  Fold the ends of the ribbons under and place under the presser foot of the sewing machine.  This is the trickiest part.
3. Sew along the edge of the ribbon as close to the edge as possible (I adjusted the needle on my machine to the far right).

4. When you get about 2 inches from the end, fold those edges under like you did at the other end and sew to the edge.  Do the same thing on the other long side.

5. Slide the elastic into one end of the headband about 1/2" and sew across 3-4 times to secure.  Repeat on the other end (make sure that the elastic is not twisted).

You might want to use another headband or measure your head before you start to make any changes to the length.



Now I'm ready for running...and for an upcoming trip!  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Garlic Shrimp with Lime Cilantro Butter Sauce

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My mom made us this dinner and it was a perfect summer meal.  So quick and tasty.  I've made it several times since.  The recipe was modified from this recipe.  Since mom has a great crop of cilantro growing in the backyard, it made sense to use it (plus, we love the stuff).

You need about 10 minutes from start to finish if you use some ready made ingredients like the peeled shrimp from Costco and the jar of minced garlic.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 pound raw shrimp (shelled and tails off)
1 teaspoon of minced garlic (about 2-3 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup real butter
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

8 oz spaghetti noodles


Boil the water and get the pasta cooking.  Once the pasta is boiling away, heat up a large saute pan. Add the butter, garlic, cayenne, salt and shrimp.  Cook on medium heat until shrimp turn pink (about 2 minutes per side).  Remove pan from heat and just before serving, add the fresh lime juice and cilantro and stir. Drain the noodles and add them to the butter and shrimp and toss.  Serve with some tasty bread and possibly a caprese salad.




Monday, July 28, 2014

Apricot Habanero Jam

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Saturday I was headed to the Big Orange Box store for the 3rd time for a yard project when I drove past a house at the end of the street with a sign that said "Free apricots" with a ladder all ready to go in the yard-sweet!  I stopped by and knocked on the door and the gentleman who lived there was happy to have the fruit go to a good home.   It was great to chat with him while I picked about 2 grocery bags of apricots.

I knew I was going to make some jam, but I wanted something more interesting than usual.  Some searching around the internet and I saw that adding in peppers was popular.  That sounded great.  I've done jalapeno jelly before and it was tasty.  I pulled out my Ball Canning book (the blue one) and saw that the recipe for regular apricot jam didn't call for pectin. Hmmm, I haven't done that before, so I hedged my bets and used 1 package of liquid pectin during the last 1 minute of cooking. Just in case.

Ingredients
8 cups apricot puree (about 12 cups of whole fruit...maybe 5 pounds?)
6 cups sugar
3 habanero peppers
1 teaspoon butter
1 pouch liquid pectin (optional...the recipe didn't call for it)

I washed the apricots in the sink and then used my fingers to split them in 1/2 and pull out the pits.  I then pureed (chunky) the fruit in my food processor.
 

I removed the seeds from the peppers and tossed them in the processor along with about 1 cup of the fruit puree.


Mix the fruit and sugar in  a large pot (I used my 8 quart dutch oven) and bring to a boil on medium heat.  Stir occasionally and cook until reduced about half (took about 25 minutes for me).  The color goes from the light, bright color to a dark caramel-ly color.  I also used a  thermometer to check when it got to about 220 degrees.  For the last minute of cooking, I added 1 pouch of liquid pectin and boiled for one minute, then filled my sterilized jars (makes about 5 pints) and processed in a water bath for 15 minutes.

Tastes great.  It does have a kick, but the cooking tones it down from when I tasted the raw puree.  Serve with cream cheese on crackers or as a side for pork or chicken.  Could be a tasty replacement for cranberry sauce on a sandwich. My mom suggested it as a dipping sauce for fried cream cheese wontons.  Hmmm, a trip to the store for won ton wrappers may be in order tonight.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Harry Potter Day of Fun

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Each summer I do a day of fun with my brothers' kids.  I used to take the kids somewhere fun/educational--but as the number of kids has grown-I've simplified.  The kids don't care about fancy or expensive stuff, so I don't stress myself over minutia. For one brother's kids, it was a day of games,  for another brother, it was a trip to the park with his kids.

 After lunch out and a stop at the grocery store we headed home for games, movie and snacks.  This year's theme was Harry Potter.  Our games included Pin the Scar on Harry Potter, Bingo and a Table Quidditch.  I also have Scene It Harry Potter and we made a "Who Am I?" game where the kids drew a name out of a hat and had to describe/impersonate the character (Kinda a mix of charades/20 questions).

For Pin the Scar on Harry Potter I did a search for a simple Harry Potter outline (less ink for my computer).  I saved the image and inserted it into an Excel document.  I stretched the image to make it 2 pages across and 2 pages long.  When you print, it will print out on 4 pieces of paper, which you'll need to trim and tape together.  I found my image here



For the lightning bolt scar, I used a sheet of return address labels.  Click the image to download the PDF if you want to use them (you could probably just draw some on masking tape or other stickers).  Look for the Harry Potter files after you click.

https://sites.google.com/site/theprojectspot/downloads



Table Quidditch was fun.  I made the ring stands with dowels, plastic tubing and duct tape.  If you poke around Google images you'll see much fancier versions (I rummaged through my garden shed and found all the stuff, you could also use a hanger, or pipe cleaners).  Click the image below to download the PDF of the rules/instructions (look for the Harry Potter files). Note:  I made the instructions before we played--with kids, it was better to play only to 50 points.  We also taped the cups to the table.  We played as teams (one match we were Slytherin vs. Griffindor).



https://sites.google.com/site/theprojectspot/downloads

For the movie, I picked up snacks and made some really simple labels.  Magic Wands (licorice), Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, Gummy Frogs and Potter Popcorn.  We enjoyed the first Harry Potter movie together.  You can use the labels I made here.  For the soda, I used the cute 2 liter bottle labels that I found here (loved the site, but her food labels didn't line up with what I wanted to serve).



We had a great time together.  During the movie we all had our magic wands out and did all the spells along with Harry et al :)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Taste of Mexico

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I like Mexican food.  I like easy dinners.  So when BzzAgent sent me some new products to try that combined both of those things I was game.  Smith's Marketplace is having a Taste of Mexico festival for the month of June.  I decided to give the ready-made Barbacoa a try.




The meat is already cooked, all I had to do was microwave it for about 3 minutes, then open and shred it with a couple of forks.  The meat was not spicy-hot, but had lots of flavor and was moist. I added my own tortillas, cilantro and lime juice and served up corn on the cob on the side. 



Speaking of lime juice, I used this nifty Everyday Living citrus squeezer.  Cut the lime in half and put it in and squeeze out all the limey goodness.  Easy!  The squeezer would work with lemons or maybe even some small oranges.



Dinner prep took me less than 10 minutes from the time I opened the package until it was on the table.  Not bad for a weeknight dinner.  It made 6 servings, which I'd say is enough for two adults and two small kids or two hungry adults (I ate two and that was about right for me).

There are pork and chicken varieties too that are already cooked and look for the pre-seasoned fajita meat that you cook yourself. 


*I received Kroger products to try at no cost from BzzAgent, but was not paid for my review.  My opinions are all my own.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fish Tacos with mango salsa and cilantro dressing

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I love the Hispanic grocery store near my house!  It always has great deals on produce to make tasty dishes, such as last night's dinner...fish tacos.  I forgot to take any pretty pictures of along the way, so you get a picture of my lunchtime leftovers (which were the envy of the breakroom).

Fish tacos are like regular tacos, you put whatever YOU want on them--but I think last night's combo was a winner. Makes enough salsa/dressing for about 8-9 tacos.

Ingredients

Fish, any type you like, cooked the way you like it (tilapia, halibut, broiled, deep fried...whatever)
Tortillas (I used flour)
Shredded cabbage
Cilantro
Lime wedges
Mango salsa
Cilantro dressing

Mango Salsa
1 ripe mango, diced (about 1 c.)
1/4 of a red onion, diced finely (about 1/4 c.)
1/2 jalapeno without the seeds, diced finely
juice of 1 lime
Cilantro, chopped (I probably had about 1/4 c.)

Mix it all together--add more or less of any of the ingredients that you like.

Cilantro Dressing (kinda like Cafe Rio)
Warning...I just added stuff as I went and eyeballed everything, so....my next batch may vary a bit, but it was TASTY

1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. sour cream
1/3 bunch of cilantro, washed...stems and all
1 T. of diced red onion
1/2 jalapeno without the seeds
2-3 Tbs. milk
1 tsp. ranch dressing mix (powdered)
juice of 1 lime
dash of cumin
dash of garlic powder


Puree everything until smooth (my Magic Bullet is great for this).  I added milk until the dressing was the consistency I wanted.  I used less ranch mix to begin with and added a bit more as I went (I didn't want it too "ranchy").  For the "dash" I just did a small shake from the spice jar...again, less at first, more later if you want more. 

Now to the good part...

Assemble your tacos with fish, shredded cabbage, cilantro, salsa and dressing.  Squeeze some fresh lime on it.  Keep eating until it is GONE (which won't take too long).