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 to "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).





Saturday, May 3, 2014

Star Wars: May the 4th Printable

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Just a quick one today...I've been out doing yard work today with many of my awesome neighbors who came to help.  Tomorrow is May the 4th, and in case you didn't know, that is Star Wars day (you know, May the Fourth be with you...)  Anyway, I found some great images here, and I added a quick greeting and I'm done.  I think I'll put them with some cookies and take them to some of those awesome neighbors.

Look for the file called May the 4th and download it here:
https://sites.google.com/site/theprojectspot/downloads

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Running Inspiration Printables

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I've taken on a big challenge...running a full marathon.  That is 26.2 miles.  A very long way.  A few years ago I started running when I participated in a 5K benefit run, Fill the Ark.  I had very few excuses since that race set up its finish line pretty much at the end of my driveway.  After completing a couple 5Ks I started to think I could do a 10K.  I signed up, I trained and I worked...and then I got hurt.  I did nothing more than lean over to pick something up, and I was injured and in physical therapy for 6 months.  It was so frustrating.  About a year later, I decided it was time to try again--and I did it with the help of a kind friend who agreed to run super slow on my behalf and coached me along.
 

Many folks told me that running gets addictive, and it does...sort of.  I still don't love it.  I don't look forward to it, but I have learned a lot about myself and the power of setting goals.  I did my first 1/2 marathon last September in Disneyland.  I figured that if I was going to run 13.1 miles, I should do it somewhere I truly love.  It was quite the experience.  I trained and my body felt strong, but I was unprepared for the sheer size of this race...somewhere near 17,000 runners.  In my head I had planned to be back at the hotel resting within 3 hours of the start of the race.  Nope.  I didn't even cross the starting line until about an hour after the starting pistol went off.  Between the crowds, the heat (I thought I'd be done by the time the temperature became a factor) and a headache that just didn't want to let go, it took me MUCH longer than I had planned.  I was thrilled to finish, but felt discouraged that things didn't go well.


I decided to try another 1/2 marathon--I picked one in St. George, in January, which would be smaller and cooler.  My good friend agreed to go with me.  I continued training (including the run that ripped my favorite running tights in my last post) and managed to cut almost 40 minutes off my finish time.  I felt great at the end of the race--no real down time--which got me thinking.  And thinking.  And some more thinking, that MAYBE I could do a full marathon.


I spent another month really considering it...and I decided to sign up for a local race.  I've been training.  Saturdays are pretty much spent doing the long training runs.  This past weekend was my last long training run, 23 miles.  But I didn't make it.  At mile 15 my body was screaming at me and my back was tight and angry-and a migraine was threatening to get out of control.  I stopped.  I waited.  I waited some more.  And I knew I had to try.  I made it another 6.5 miles and I was done for the day.  So--now I have the taper...fewer miles, just maintaining my fitness and letting my body get ready for the real deal in a couple weeks. 

I decided I needed a few more inspirational quotes to hang around my house, in my car, in my gym bag.  Anywhere and everywhere.  Everyone tells me that the marathon distance is a mental game. I was singing in choir on Sunday after my not-quite-23 mile run and we sang the words from Isaiah 40:31 "they shall run and not be weary and they shall walk and not faint"...seemed like that was a good place to start my inspirational quotes.  Wish me luck (and good weather!)




If you'd like to print these quotes, click the link and look for the Run Inspiration file. Its sized to print on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper.  I'm even thinking of printing some on tattoo paper to put on my arm for race day.

UPDATE:  I did it!  I finished the Ogden Marathon.  It was exactly as hard as I thought it would be.  Miles 22-26.2 were SO long and so hard.  I appreciated all the wonderful people who cheered on total strangers along the route and the great volunteers who offered up water and encouragement.  




Saturday, February 22, 2014

Modern Darning

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I have a pair of running tights that I love.  I had gone for a run in January and was feeling pretty smug about myself...until I hit a patch of black ice and went down on my knee, which hurt--and to add insult to injury, I ended up with a small hole in the pants.  Argh.  The tights were pricey, and I knew that if I didn't fix the hole, it would just get bigger and the pants would be ruined.  So, a lesson in darning, the modern way.  I don't have a fancy sewing machine, just a basic Singer. 

My first step was to stabilize the hole. I grabbed some iron-on Stitch Witchery and some satin ribbon.  I slid the ribbon and fusible webbing into the pants and ironed it flat from the outside of the pants (this let me press all the edges of the tear into the fusible webbing).  After it had cooled, the hole was nearly invisible, but I knew that it wouldn't stand up to the multiple washings that running pants would go through.

 

Next, find a thread that matches the fabric.  I took the pants and my 40% off coupon to JoAnne's and found some thread that was spot-on for a match (no, not that gray, or that gray, or that charcoal, or that slate...ah, that one!) 

Get your sewing machine all set with the bobbin and thread all loaded up.  I set the  machine to zig-zag with a short stitch length.  Next time, I would recommend using a chalk pencil to draw a small circle around the area you are going to darn, then just fill in the circle (the dark fabric and good job of ironing the hole up made it hard to see if I had gotten it all covered with stitches).

I slid the pants onto the arm of the sewing machine--it was a bit tricky to get all the fabric bunched up and out of the way, but I managed it.  I sewed on the top side of the pants (just the one layer though, so I didn't sew the pants closed), turned the fabric a bit and sewed again and kept turning and sewing (sometimes using the backstitch mode).  It took about 30 seconds and I had it done!

Took the pants out for another run today, and they work great.  I can't feel the patch and I know it will be fine in the washing machine.  So, for the cost of a $1 spool of thread I saved my favorite running tights.  I have tried this on jeans too--you can buy variegated denim thread that matches very nicely (or you can try using a lighter thread on the bobbin and darker on the spool).