New Recipe: Turkey Chili Shepherd’s Pie

August 18, 2011 at 7:18 pm (recipes, resolution: 1 a week)

I picked up this cookbook, Rachael Ray’s Look + Cook, at the library last week, and flipped through it while I was at jury duty on Monday. (Side note: got excused! Yay!)

There are some pretty good dinner recipes in there, and I tried one tonight: turkey chili shepherd’s pie. I used my recipe for chili instead of the recipe from the book, made in a crockpot a few days ago. Then today, I put some of the leftover chili in a 9 x 9 Pyrex dish, and topped with mashed sweet potatoes. Yes, sweet potatoes. I was skeptical, but Rachael was right. I stuck the chili and the potatoes in the oven at 475 degrees for about 20 minutes, then sprinkled on some cheddar cheese and stuck it back in until melted and golden. No picture, cause I was starving and forgot. 😦

Our verdict: pretty good!! Definitely a good way to use up leftover chili, and it’s a change from our typical chili meals. I added a little sour cream on top of my serving, and I loooved the creamy rich tang it added.

Are you a Rachael Ray fan? I can’t watch her show because I feel like she’s yelling at me, but I do love her cookbooks!


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Best of Pinterest: August 14

August 14, 2011 at 8:40 pm (links, pictures, random)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve become quite a fan of Pinterest – you can see my boards here. I thought that maybe once every week or so, I’d share some of the things I’ve found. I always enjoy seeing pictures that other people have found inspiring.

So, here’s what I’ve loved this week:

Source: via Stacey on Pinterest

I’m obsessed with the idea of a lovely wreath for our door for Christmas this year. Perhaps this one will do?

Source: via Stacey on Pinterest

Crock pot mac and cheese. I’m about to jump into a crazy commute, and I’m gonna need to rely on some crock pot recipes to make sure I’m eating dinner before 9 PM!

Source: via Stacey on Pinterest

Minion cupcakes!! I definitely want a Despicable Me party for my birthday now.

Source: via Stacey on Pinterest

We’re moving to an apartment with a PATIO(!) in a few weeks, and I’m dying to try a version of this.

Source: via Stacey on Pinterest

Loving this dress. With a cardigan it’s great for teaching, without a cardigan it’s great for dinners out or warm days. Hope to try sewing this sometime soon! Thinking I’ll leave off the bow though – makes it easier to fit under cardigans!

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Darning socks

August 11, 2011 at 7:04 pm (crafting, family)

My husband has a pair of socks – they’re nothing spectacular, just a stocking stuffer from his mom a few years ago. But he LOVES them. He calls them his “comfy socks,” and when he knows it’s going to be a rough/long day, he wears them. Sadly, about six months ago, he wore a hole in the heel of one of his comfy socks. It’s been sitting in my craft stuff for a while, and I finally got to JoAnn’s today to find some yarn to darn it with.

So after following this tutorial, and watching this video, I got this:

darned sock

Yeah, it’s not pretty. I couldn’t find yarn of the same thickness or color, so this was the best I could do. I also didn’t have anything round to stick in the sock, so I used a ceramic scoop from my kitchen, which worked okay. I tried on the sock, and I think it feels fine – Tyler was a little more skeptical, but we’ll see. I think once he gets over the fact that his sock has a black heel, he’ll be fine. πŸ™‚

So first darning experience – somewhat a success. Will I do this again? We’ll see… does anyone darn socks anymore? I don’t think I’d do this for anything other than special socks! Have any of you ever darned a sock?

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New Recipe: Hasselback potatoes

August 9, 2011 at 9:27 pm (recipes, resolution: 1 a week)

I pinned a recipe (picture below) for Hasselback potatoes on Pinterest this morning, and by lunchtime had scrapped what I’d planned for dinner and decided we were having steak and potatoes instead! πŸ™‚ This was a new recipe for Tyler, but not a new recipe for me. I grew up with potatoes like this, but my mom called them “hedgehog potatoes.” My humorous husband says they look more caterpillars than hedgehogs, but I’m sticking with my mom’s name. πŸ™‚ Come to find out, they’re Swedish, so perhaps my mom learned to make them when she studied there? I’ll have to ask!

You can click on my pin below to repin it to your own board, or you can see the original source here. I won’t repost the entire recipe, but I do have a few tips:
-SLICE THINLY. Seriously. If it’s thick, it just doesn’t work as well. Put the potato between two wooden spoon handles to stop you from cutting down too far.
-Be stingy with the olive oil. Maybe just brush it on, definitely do not pour it on. If you do, then it starts smoking, and you’re running around opening windows and turning on fans. (Seriously, do I ever learn?? Apparently not.)
-You’ll probably need longer than 40 minutes. Mine could have used about 20 minutes more, but I realized that too late.
-This is a great recipe for improvising! It’s been so long since I’ve had my mom’s version that I can’t remember what spices she used to add, but I know that she added more than salt and pepper. Rosemary? Oregano? I have no idea! I’ll just have to make more, I guess!

Anyone else grow up with Hasselback/hedgehog potatoes? Do you know them by yet another name? πŸ™‚

Source: via Stacey on Pinterest

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Beef Stroganoff

July 31, 2011 at 4:02 pm (recipes)

Not a new recipe for us, but a new recipe for the blog, and one of our favorites because of how quick and easy it cooks. I whipped it up last week after a full day of teaching, since I didn’t have a lot of time to prep for dinner. It’s not particularly healthy, but you could probably adapt it – yogurt instead of sour cream?

This recipe is easily scaled to however many people you’re feeding, just multiply the sauce recipe accordingly. The amounts below are perfect for two people:
1 TB of butter
1 TB of flour
1/2 cup of beef broth
1/4 cup of sour cream
sometimes, I like to add a little red wine too for flavor, but it’s totally optional. Also, it makes the sauce pink, just to warn you.

Start by cutting up your beef into bite size strips. I usually use one steak for two of us, as this is pretty filling, so about 4-5 oz of meat per person. Melt the butter in a skillet on the stovetop, and when the skillet is hot, add your beef and brown. Once the meat is mostly cooked, add your flour and stir until combined. Then add beef broth, and cook until meat is done to your liking. Stir in the sour cream, and a little red wine if you wish, and keep cooking/stirring until sauce is hot all the way through. Serve over egg noodles, or another kind of pasta if you prefer. I served it with a side salad, and it was a perfect dinner for a summer evening – if it was winter, I might have added a bread and another vegetable as we tend to be much hungrier in the winter.

Right now, I’m sipping on some mint iced tea while working on some craft projects, and it’s making for a lovely afternoon! But I’d like to know: what do you want to see from this blog? I’m struggling to think of things to post lately… a collection of my favorite links? Things I’m working on? Books I’m reading? All of the above? (And is there an easy way to post from my Blackberry, does anyone know?)

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Links for the week

July 14, 2011 at 9:16 pm (links)

Things I’ve been amused by or found useful this week…

Monkey self portraits – I love an amusing animal story. But seriously, the first picture on this article makes me laugh every time I see it.

Easy English Bible – developed by Wycliffe translators, this is a translation of the Bible using a basic 1200 word English vocabulary. Super helpful for my Chinese students who have little English… spiritual concepts don’t always translate so well.

Koala Sewing Tables – my mom sent me a link for her dream sewing table, and now I’m ogling dream sewing rooms. (Ooo, new Pinterest category?)

Creating the Invisible Mannequin Effect – remember this for future Etsy shop.

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An upside

July 14, 2011 at 8:47 pm (recipes, resolution: 1 a week, teaching)

Since the last time I posted: I started teaching high schoolers from China, I went to Monterey and saw a baby otter, and I have now interviewed for 12 positions in three months.

And then, today, I got a job. Sort of. In six weeks I start teaching full time, in a special ed classroom, for a teacher who is on leave. At the moment, we don’t know when/if he’ll back, so maybe I’ll have a class after November, maybe I won’t. Right now, I’m not concerned. Either way, I am thrilled to begin – I felt so at home at the school when I interviewed, and I am highly impressed by my future boss.

I can’t say that through this whole process I had faith that God would provide. Oh, has there been doubting going on in this household (which I think is a fully human response and something every Christian faces during their life). But, I am so grateful to have made it this point, to see light at the end of this tunnel of unemployment, and to be soon doing what I love to do, what I was made to do. And, I am sure my students will be saying all sorts of wonderful things for the blog. πŸ™‚

So for now, I go back to teaching high schoolers from China for the summer, then preparing for my classroom. MY CLASSROOM. I never thought I’d get to say those words!

In other news, I improvised a recipe for enchiladas the other day that I was sure would be a hit. The gist of it was minced bell pepper and onion and black beans inside with the meat and cheese. In my head, it tasted wonderful. Sadly, when we sat down to dinner, it didn’t taste wonderful. It was pretty awful, to be honest. Still edible, but it just didn’t work right. So, you don’t get to see all the pictures I took for that post, sorry. Unless you’d like to see some glamorous shots of ground turkey and cheese that have no recipe attached to them.

Any recipe successes out there this week?? I need something to get over these enchiladas, guys. Or can you commiserate in my attempts to be original?

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New Recipe: Soft Brown Sugar Cookies

July 6, 2011 at 9:45 am (links, recipes, resolution: 1 a week)

Have you checked out Pinterest yet? Here’s my boards. I wasn’t sure how often I’d use it, but now that I’ve played around with it, I’m really liking it! It’s so much easier to pin a picture of something I love to a board and then find it later, rather than bookmarking it and then trying to sift through the hundreds of recipes I’ve bookmarked. Someone gave me a good tip that you can use Pinterest when starting an Etsy shop to see what colors/patterns/styles are popular at the moment.

I found this recipe, for Soft Brown Sugar Cookies, on a friend’s Pinterest board. Tried them out the other night, and they are SO GOOD. The recipe was really straight forward, I didn’t make any modifications, but somehow I ended up with four dozen cookies instead of two dozen… but I only had enough frosting for two dozen. (And I was too lazy to make more frosting, so half of the cookies are plain.) Either way, I love this recipe! They are soft, with a wonderful flavor.

Any readers who are on Pinterest? I’d love to follow you!

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Not a fan of poetry

July 2, 2011 at 10:42 am (random, teaching)

I normally don’t like poetry. I’d always dread the unit in every English class where we had to read poems and analyze them. Short stories, I’m all over those, but poems are my nemesis.

Found this one today, though, and I liked it a lot:

by Dorothy Parker

β€œHope it was that tutored me,
And Love that taught me more;
And now I learn at Sorrow’s knee
The self-same lore.”

I had finally gotten out of my funk, and actually just had a busy enough two weeks that I didn’t have much time to blog. I helped out at my church’s Vacation Bible School, went on a church retreat, a vacation day at Disneyland, then I spent a busy week interviewing for two jobs. I drove 280 miles for two interviews for one teaching position, and I thought it was pretty much a sure thing. Was SO excited to finally be getting somewhere.But oh, is God teaching me to trust Him lately. A late interviewee bumped me from the top spot. I got the call yesterday that I was their second favorite candidate, but they only had one job, so they were very sorry but they had to pick the other person.

Ouch. Been at Sorrow’s knee since getting that call.

I have no idea where my life is supposed to go from here. I’ve got exactly one month from yesterday to find a job somewhere else in the Los Angeles area, otherwise we’re committed to our (not centrally located) apartment for another year, and I’ve got to find something in this area. (One of the areas hit the hardest by the recession, so openings are rare around here.) I know I should be saying that I know God has a plan for me, and this will all work out, but right now? Right now I’m mad. And hurt. And frustrated.

So, I push on. I have chinchillas to pet-sit this weekend. They are freaked out by my apartment, sadly, so I mostly watch them instead of playing with them. I designed my first quilt and got most of the pieces cut out yesterday. (Which made me realize I really need a rotary cutter!) Today we’re using movie tickets a friend gave us to go see Pirates 4. I don’t like life right now, but I push forward. I am in Sorrow, but in Sorrow I will learn.

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Socialite Skirt, and a funk

June 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm (crafting, pictures)

I’m in a funk this week. Just feeling out of sorts about life and careers and my perspective on it all, which is making me ponder pursuing some new things. I’ve been feeling like I need to think, and walking dogs or sewing are the best “thinking activities” for me. Sadly, I have no dogs to walk, so sewing it was. πŸ™‚

I finished most of my Socialite Skirt from Elle Apparel, except for the hem. I LOVE the inverted box pleats, which are supposed to be the back of the skirt: (ignore my bathroom towels, sorry)
box pleats

But the front is supposed to have a box pleat and knife pleats, and it just looks weird. See what I mean:
skirt front

Too bubbly on the back? Too poofy? Not sure. It just doesn’t lie right on me. It looks lovely on the original website, but on me? Meh. I’m debating tearing it out, and doing both sides like the back, with inverted box pleats. In general, I LOVE sewing with elastic thread. So glad I tried that, and now I want to make dozens of knit skirts, once I narrow down this bubbly butt problem.

As an aside, a danger of sewing while thinking through your funk:
selvedge oops
That would be the selvedge edge, that I was supposed to sew into the side seam. Whoops.

Before I forget, here’s a picture of my finished fruit leather:
fruit leather
If you attempt, make sure that you can poke it and not leave finger marks. Don’t let your fruit leather be mushy!!

So today, while still thinking through my funk, I decided to quilt instead. A long time ago, my mom and I joined a block of the month club through Meissner Sewing Center. I have no idea if they still do this, but you used to be able to pay $5 and get the fabric plus directions for your first block, and you could watch them make the block and give hints/tips at a monthly class. Then if you brought your block back completed to the next class, you got another set of fabric and directions for a new block. We did this for two years, and because I was a busy high school student at the time, sometimes my blocks didn’t get finished. It’s been six years since I graduated high school, seven since I started attending these quilt block classes, and I still have unfinished blocks.

I pulled one out today, and finished it:
quilt block
It’s not perfect, (my points don’t match) but it certainly turned out better than the skirt… πŸ™‚

I’m not through my funk yet, we’ll see how the weekend goes, but for now I am feeling at least a little more productive. And, a little closer to a finished quilt!

What’s your favorite pondering activity?

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