Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Gratin

This morning I set out to make a summer vegetable gratin (French word, pronounced: "gra-tan") to properly showcase my farmer's market produce- tomatoes, zucchini & red onions:) This dish is easy but requires several steps and a bit more time than most 'everyday' dishes but is so worth it:) So grab your 'handy dandy' paper towels and let's get started!

First, I sliced the zucchini into uniform medallions (approx 1/4 inch thick) and placed them in a colander with approx 2 tsp kosher salt (if using table salt, decrease to 1 tsp); toss the zucchini to evenly coat and set your timer for 30 minutes. This draining process relinquishes much of the water from the squash which naturally has a very high water content.

Next I cored & sliced my tomatoes (again, approx 1/4 inch thick) and placed them on a double layer of paper towels; sprinkle lightly with salt and allow to rest for a few minutes.

I took 2 smallish red onions and sliced in half and then sliced each half into slices. Caramelize the onions in a non stick pan over medium heat- don't be tempted to rush this and cook over high heat as you'll get scorched onions:)

Blot tomatoes with a double layer of paper towels to soak up as much moisture as possible. *NOTE: It may seem labor intensive to drain/blot your veggies but if these steps are skipped your final dish will be soupy vs fresh and light:)

Now, spray your oven safe dish and begin blotting the zucchini rounds with paper towels and shingling them in the dish. I lightly sprinkled some salt & pepper on top.

Next, shingle the tomato slices on top and sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Top the tomato with the caramelized onion and some crumbled goat cheese- if your cheese won't easily crumble, pop it in the freezer for 10 minutes and then crumble away:) Drizzle with olive oil and cook at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until the cheese is spotty brown and the zucchini is cooked.

Final touch- sprinkle some fresh, minced herbs on top (I used parsley but basil would have been lovely).

Ta da! Handy dandy vegetables, straight from the garden/farmer make this dish perfect but you can use whatever you have on hand. Yellow squash is a nice addition.

This summer gratin is lovely warm or room temperature with eggs for brunch, fresh pita for a snack or coupled with a crunchy pork chop (left over from yesterday) and pickled peaches:)

Thanks for stopping by:)


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crunchy Pork Chops

In 'I Love Lucy' episode #33, "Lucy's Schedule", Ricky & Lucy miss an important dinner and when the hosts inform the Ricardos of the menu they missed out on, Lucy states, "Pork chops. Oh, they're my favorite."

While I can't say that pork chops are "my favorite", I can say that I'm enjoying them more- they're so easy to diversify and prepare!

Today, I took 2 boneless, center cut pork chops (approx 1 inch thick) and blotted dry with paper towels. Next I placed 3/4 tsp seasoned salt (I used Sandwich Sprinkle from Penzeys), a pinch of Stevia (feel free to substitute white sugar) and some club crackers (melba toast, ritz crackers etc...also work well) in my 'handy dandy' food processor. Pulse until crackers are small crumbs.

I then dumped my cracker mix into a pie dish and blended in 1 tbsp mayonnaise with my fingers. *NOTE: upon reflection, the mayo could probably have been added to the crumbs in the food processor and then pulsed until blended. No messy fingers this way:)

Now, smear approx 1 tbsp mayonnaise onto all sides of a pork chop (so much for no messy fingers!) and coat with crumbs in the pie dish, pressing to adhere. Repeat with additional chop.

Place your crumbly chops on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet and cook at 425 degrees for 16-22 minutes or until a 'handy dandy' instant read thermometer reads 140-145 degrees when inserted in the side of the chop and the juices run clear.

Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes and then dig in. I enjoyed mine with some mashed potatoes and kale- the perfect bite:)

For less than $2, these pork chops have earned the honorary title of a "sweet" deal!

Have a great day!


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Quick & Easy Gift, Part 2

To coordinate with Leyla's Christmas bulletin board, I fashioned a soccer themed board for "Kurtis"- I found the fabric on sale at Hobby Lobby:)

I opted for less ribbon on this board as it's for an 11 y/o boy, and hoping it might resemble the goalie posts...if you imagine really hard:)

I created custom tacks for this board too (same method as the orange), using Stampin' Up! gray corduroy brads-the colored tack won't be seen once adhered to the board:) I have these comfortably housed in a recycled baby food jar but I'm thinking I need to make additional tacks as they seem lonely at the bottom... less is not always more:)

Stage one for homemade Christmas gifts completed- feeling grand:)

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bye Bye Crayon

Some time ago Olivia got a hold of a crayon (it had to be the purple one, the most lethal!) and decided to paint the side of our lovely couch- we won't discuss which parent was supposed to be watching Olivia at that time. I say 'lovely' because I purchased this couch at the Ethan Allen moving sale right before I moved into my 1st house, a year before hubby & I got married. It was my 1st major furniture purchase (a milestone) and I'm quite in love with it so let's just say that I literally shed a tear (or two...or three...!) when I saw Olivia's art work!

This picture is of the evil crayon, AFTER I took paper towels and my 'handy dandy' iron to it- purple really is the hardest color to fix:(

Well, the crayon marks have sat on the couch for "awhile" as I simply didn't have the time/motivation to attempt getting them out with another round of irnoning, feeling it would surely be in vain...

...and then I noticed this on my bottle of Goo Gone:

Could it really be this easy? I followed the simple directions and blotted Goo Gone onto a clean, white towel and dabbed away at the crayon marks...

It almost completely made the crayon marks disappear! Sine it was still a bit 'wet' (I followed by blotting with plain water), I left it until it dried to see if I would need another session...

There is a very faint purplish shadow, if you look closely, so I'll probably go at it once more...

However, the fact that visitors are no longer met with the evil crayon marks as soon as they enter the house makes me want to dance up & down!

***Note: Goo Gone is definitely NOT all natural so don't do this with kids nearby. I was so relieved to have the crayon marks disappearing that I didn't mind (too much) using 'chemicals' this once...however, I'm now searching for a safe and natural alternative. Any ideas???

End of the story: Olivia may never learn how to distinguish purple from the other colors (the crayon has been confiscated) but my couch is safer:)


Quick & Easy Gift

Orange is a color full of creativity & potential and is the confirmed favorite of my almost 16 y/o daughter, Leyla- I was blessed to inherit her when hubby & I were married almost 5 years ago:)

I've hatched a plan to craft an array of "orange" themed gifts (yes, for Christmas!) for her & my 1st is a bulletin board for her room. I found square cork boards at JoAnn and some lovely vintagey fabric at Creative Sewing Center (heaven on earth). After washing and ironing my fabric, I simply cut enough to overlap the sides by approx 1 1/2 inches and stapled to the back with a 'handy dandy' staple gun.

Next cut lengths of ribbon, leaving approx 1 1/2 inches to spare on each side- position to your liking and flip over, carefully keeping the ribbon in place.

Staple in place- watch your fingers and any 'kick back' from your 'handy dandy' staple gun:)

If your staples are raised, simply hammer down into place:)

To complete this gift I fashioned custom thumb tacks by snipping the metal legs off some corduroy brads from Stampin' Up! and adhered to plain thumb tacks- I used my 'handy dandy' glue gun to attach.

This gift is economical and special as it can be customized so easily- perfect for a picky teenager:)

I have another board for Leyla's younger brother that is soccer themed- will share that tomorrow:)

Happy crafting:)


Friday, June 22, 2012

Is Dinner Ready?

The other night we were to meet friends to hang out- there would be plenty of munchies so I didn't want to do a big meal. So with all the hubbub of kids running wild and trying to accomplish multiple things at once, I looked at the clock and realized, "It's almost 6pm and I'm starving"! What to do in a hurry...
I pulled out some brown rice noodles that I had picked up (on sale, of course!) and saw they only needed 6-8 minutes- perfect.

I next pulled out some baby bok choy (Costco) from the fridge, rinsed and sliced in half- prep done & no an after thought I added a lone red bell pepper too for some color:)

The noodles cooked in a regular saucepan, despite their length- they disappeared into the hot water almost instantly, making room:)

I sauteed the bok choy in a little vegetable + peanut oil in my 'handy dandy' large nonstick skillet- don't know how I ever survived without one of these! I finished off the bok choy (and pepper) by drizzling some soy sauce, rice vinegar and hoisin in the pan, making a delicious glaze- it will reduce quickly from the heat so don't let it bubble too long:) The bok choy were seared to perfection as soon as the noodles were done!

Dinner is ready (and GF) & it took all of 15 minutes! With some shrimp or fish, this would have been a more 'complete' meal but as is was perfect:) Hubby loved it (I never cease to be amazed at what wows him!) and I did too:)

Stir fries are a staple in our home- I use whatever I have on hand and almost always use my soy, rice vinegar & hoisin "go to"glaze...yummy every time!

If you haven't branched into any Asian cooking, you're seriously missing out. Easy and a great way to get in some fresh veggies!



West Elm Within

During my recent visit to Goodwill I happened to see this little salt & pepper set, sitting all by its lonesome. I quickly surmised that it was brand new and glanced to see how much Goodwill had marked it...

Booyeah! Come to Mama! Our kitchen is currently under decor renovation and these will be perfect. After all, it's those little touches that make such a difference:)

This taught me, yet again, to not judge by the appearance- who knew West Elm could be found at Goodwill?

As you journey through your day, remember to look beyond the outside layer- there's treasures to be found all around us and hopefully a lot more at $2.99:)


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Be A Good Neighbor

I've recently become fascinated with pallets. Yeah, like the kind used for shipping humongous things. I discovered a DIY project utilizing a pallet and started my search for said piece...only to remember that one of my neighbors regularly has pallets sitting on his front porch. Haven't yet worked up the courage to ask what is within those huge boxes....

While taking the kids for an impromptu drive this afternoon (Jonah is teething/fussy & Livy was bouncing off the walls!) I saw my neighbor dismantling his huge boxes/pallets. I pulled over (fashionably sporting my house clothes complete with baking smears across my Tshirt, bed head and no makeup so it's a wonder he didn't run inside to hide!) & said, "Hey. Do you recycle your pallets?" Poor man. He looked a bit sheepish as he said no. Too late I realized that I had put him on the spot- I was so stoked about seeing his pallets I was a bit dazed:) I followed with, "Can I have one? If you don't need them, I would love to take one off your hands". He seemed thrilled to oblige (made my day!) and loaded it in my car:)

Whew! So all that to say that I'm delivering some cookies as a thank you. Our meeting was such perfect timing that I felt a homemade sweet was in order, as well as a hand stamped card:)

Oatmeal Date Cookies:

I love to find ways to let others know that they're appreciated- it makes me happy:)

This week, look around to see who you can spread some appreciation to:)


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

No More Need to 'Shout'!

I've often remarked in the past that I could use a life time supply of Shout stain remover. I've been spot treating non stop since Livy & Jonah started eating solids- sound familiar:)

At the beginning of the year I started what has become a great journey of going 'crunchy' aka 'natural' and one of the biggest things I wanted to change pronto was the laundry/household cleaners. However, I found myself dithering about my Shout- how could I live without it?

So I began searching for homemade/natural stain removers (secretly thinking they wouldn't work) and tried my first round out this morning, finally! ***Note: I've been using Borax & Washing Soda to soak and spot treat for the past month and had good results but it wasn't cutting the super stubborn stuff that needed some extra TLC:)

Here's the recipe:

1 part Dawn (I used Method natural dish detergent, hence the orange hue to my mix)
2 parts Hydrogen Peroxide
1/2 part Baking Soda

I mixed this up in a 'handy dandy' baby food jar (I recycle as many of these as possible!) and applied with my 'laundry' toothbrush. I allowed my soiled items to rest for an hour and then washed as usual (delicate, cold water). My before/after pics were terrible as my laundry room doesn't have any natural light and I frankly couldn't be bothered to drag soiled clothes to the back patio to take pics while the kids were climbing the walls so you'll have to take my word for it- this stuff works!

I originally saw the recipe here- great blog with lots of other great tips:)

Hope this helps you:)


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Christmas in June

I ventured into Goodwill for the 1st time last week (it's a new day, free of previous judgments & castigations!) and came out with a few treasures- here is one:

A lovely hand painted basket, perfect to house
Livy's tea sets- it fits her room decor perfectly
as an added bonus & was just $3.99:)

I had planned to hold onto this until Christmas and tucked it into Livy's closet thinking she wouldn't even notice it amid the boxes of clothes, gift wrap etc.... However, a few minutes of being unchaperoned this morning and here is what I discover:

Livy having a tea party with Gymbo and her new dolly:) I didn't have the heart to put it away again so she's enjoying her "Christmas" tea caddy a little early:)

Was a great excuse to practice wearing her "tea gloves":

Have a great day & embrace the unexpected:)


Feeling Dauncey?

'I Love Lucy' episode #50 ('Lucy is Enciente'), Lucy explains to Ethel that she's going to see the doctor as she's feeling "dauncy". This is a word that her "grandmother made up for when you're not really sick but you just feel lousy."

LinkSome time ago I discovered that I have a gluten sensitivity. I haven't felt the need to acquire an actual diagnosis of some kind so I simply endeavor to avoid gluten as much as possible and my tummy is thankful:)

I haven't been as diligent in my GF efforts for the past week or so and have been feeling "dauncey" as a result:)

I stumbled upon a great GF blog by accident and thought I would share- I have a list of useful things to try from browsing, like making my own Worcestershire sauce, GF condensed cream soup, GF chex mix etc.... Can't wait!

Wondering what all the hype is about 'GF' aka "gluten free'? It boils down to the small bowel (lovely) not functioning correctly yielding unpleasant side effects such as, bloating, constipation as well as other side effects such as increased moodiness, skin 'issues' and just feeling "dauncey", to name a few:)

***Note this is a very simplified, casual definition so please be sure to consult professional counsel if you feel you might have a gluten intolerance/sensitivity! I've conducted 'tests' of going GF and found that my whole being was much happier (and so was hubby's!), thus why we avoid gluten as much as possible:)

I read an article (can't remember where!) that said 90% of people worldwide have some form of gluten intolerance (ranging from mild adverse symptoms to hard core Celiac disease)- staggering and yet relieving to know that there are so many sharing this journey:) I went a long time not knowing that my body was rebelling against my ignorant abuse of ingesting gluten but after conducting a trial (at least 2 weeks!), was amazed at how good I felt!

Maybe you're unaware of any need to go GF. You might be one of those 10% with no gluten sensitivity or you might not realize, which was the case for myself & hubby. I would encourage you to conduct a GF trial for at least 2 weeks and see what happens. You won't die, I promise!

Here is a list of GF foods- it has every spice, preservative & food known to man listed, so I just search for the questioned ingredient vs scrolling as you'll be there a long time otherwise:)

There's a great GF eatery, right here in San Antonio: Little Aussie Bakery & they have amazing pizza!

And one of our favorite snacks are these babies:

I always carry one in the diaper bag for Livy as she loves them and I know of multiple other toddlers, teens and adults that equally adore them and they have no known GF issues! These bars are just plain yummy! They can be a little pricey (compared to a plain ol granola bar) so we get ours at Costco (great price) and keep in mind that these are packed with vitamins/nutrients so they're almost a meal replacement and GF!

So, I know this was long- if you made it through, thanks & let me know if you have any GF secrets to share:)


Monday, June 18, 2012

Sunny Days

If you're like me, you may often forget to apply sunscreen before venturing out. I'm on a mission to change this. I'm pretty hard core about slathering my kiddos with sunscreen and have switched to all natural but I still am neglecting myself all too often.

Solution: I apply to myself while I apply to the kids! Simple!

I just picked up an extra sunscreen at Sprouts as I was running low- it was on sale for almost half off. Score for all natural at a great price!

And my Mom just gave me a great all natural sunscreen
(for kids but I use the same) that she found on clearance at her local HEB- originally $15 something and she got it for $3 something. Always check the clearance area & always protect your skin!

Stay safe while enjoying sunny days this summer:)