Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gulf Coast Hurricane

We were lucky that Gustav went annother direction. Our prayers are with those in its path.

Hurricane Tracker
News Story Video from Friday Afternoon
Gustav Now Category 4 -Video Aug 30 1:50 PM Eastern Time

My New Convecton and Microwave Ovens

I haven't talked about my new ovens, which have made me very happy. I cook dinner every day, after all. So being pleased with kitchen appliances is a nice lift while being frustrated with them can be a drag. I got my new ovens back in June so I have had time to really work with them and I'm still pleased as punch.

Left: Old Ovens Right: New Ovens
Click image for larger view

The Old Ovens - cons
I never liked my old range/oven. It had the broiler in a drawer down on the bottom and I was so sick of having get down on my knees and put my ear on the floor to see if my food was browning. I also had run across a lot of recipes that assumed my broiler was in the top of my regular oven. You've seen these recipes, they call for you to bake something for awhile, then broil it at the very end to get the top brown. For me this involved switching to that hated bottom drawer thing. And then most recipes that call for a broiler tell you to put food on a rack positioned "x inches from the heating element" that wasn't really practical in the drawer broiler, either. I never could tell how many inches up inside the drawer that element was. The old oven didn't have a self-cleaning cycle and wasn't programmable. The range top was hard to clean, I had to clean the white part - then I had to lift up the whole thing (like the hood of a car) and clean underneath it. The turntable no longer rotated on the old microwave, but other than that it was still working fine.

The New Ovens - Pros
The new range top is easy to clean, no underneath drippy area to have to clean. It has a nifty center burner and the continuous grate makes the range-top level all the way across, now when I am baking, I can set hot casserole dishes on there instead of dragging out a cooling rack and taking up counter space. I have more area to move pots off a burner in order to use the burner for something else. There are also nifty smart settings like Power Boil (boil large pot of water faster) and Precise Simmer (supposed to simmer without danger of boil over.) Our favorite feature was that center burner. The grates come off and can be replaced with a nifty griddle. Hubby loves to make pancakes and eggs and he says the lower temp of the middle burner is perfect for use with the griddle.

The main thing I love about the new microwave is that it's also a convection oven and it has TWO racks so I could get two casserole dishes in there (can you say Thanksgiving?) I find myself using this top convection oven ALL the time because it doesn't heat up the house like my lower oven does. I'll mix up a batch of cookie dough and keep it in the fridge all week. After dinner I'll scoop out and bake 2 cookies for each of us for dessert and we get to have fresh-baked cookies all week long. (My Dad got a built-in double oven with the top a Convection Microwave and it didn't do so well with the cookies, it only had one rack and an element in the top - the cookies were too close to the element and got hard and dried out before they were cooked - so if you're looking at one of these, pay attention to the rack positions. Dad's was made by KitchenAid.) I baked a chicken in here, once, and it came out really well, but roasting chickens splatter a lot -and since the microwave is not self-cleaning... I decided to roast chickens only in my large oven from now on. The new microwave was delivered first and I was so pleased with the convection feature that we went back to the store and changed our range/oven (which was on order) to the model with the convection oven.

The new oven is a convection oven and has the broiler in the top of the main oven. The bottom drawer is a warming oven which I haven't used. I'll probably store my cast iron down there... perhaps I will use it to keep the mashed potatoes warm at Thanksgiving. The new oven has a self-cleaning cycle, is programmable, and has a built-in probe thermometer. I just plug the probe into the outlet inside the oven and program the target temperature. When the food reaches target temperature, temperature it beeps and the oven turns off.
Both new ovens display the oven temperature during preheating and beep to alert me when the oven is up to temp. I am SO pleased with my new ovens (can you tell? LOL!) They are both GE Profile.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What's For Dinner: Dinner Experiment Pasta Bake

It's the great dinner experiment. I bought ingredients to make manicotti and I had the idea to try adding pesto to the usual ricotta filling, but I can not locate my Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator -which is what I use to fill manicotti. (Did I loan it to you? If I did please let me know where my baby is. LOL!) So I was trying to figure out what else I could make with the perishable ingredients for the manicotti. I thought I could make lasagna, but I hate layering those wriggly noodles and hoping they don't break or stick together before I can get everything assembled. And besides that I didn't have enough mozzarella for a lasagna. Then inspiration struck I remembered a baked spaghetti dish called "Bird's Nest Pie" that Becki Smith made. This is a kind of a hybrid of Bird's Nest Pie and a lasagna without the wriggly noodle handling.

OK it's after dinner now and I thought it turned out really well. I like the
Campanelle a lot, it's shape traps and holds onto those tasty bits and the
frilled edge is reminiscent of lasagna. (It's 3 days later and Ethan has had THREE dinners of this pasta and tonight at bedtime he said he hoped there was still enough for tomorrow.)

Meat Sauce:
Italian Seasoned Ground Turkey (couldn't find ground chicken at
the market)
2 cans Spaghetti sauce

Pasta Layer
3 Eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
a little less than 1 Pound Campanelle Pasta (spiral tube with a frill)
1 tub low fat cottage cheese

Cheese Layer
1 Egg
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese
1 tub prepared basil pesto
Mozzarella (less than 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 and put a large pot of water on to boil.

1) In a deep skillet, cook ground turkey, breaking up into pieces with a spoon. When meat is cooked, pour in 1 can spaghetti sauce, cover, bring up to a bubble then turn off. If 2 cans will fit put them both in together. My pan wasn't big enough so I had to add more sauce to the pan after I had ladled out the bottom layer of the casserole.

2) In a medium bowl beat 1 egg, add 1 1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, mix together. Dump in one tub prepared basil pesto, stir to combine, set aside.

3) Cook Pasta according to package directions. While pasta cooks... Beat 3 eggs in a large bowl, beat in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. When pasta is cooked, drain in colander. While pasta is hot quickly mix into egg and cheese mixture, the heat of the pasta will begin to cook the egg and it will coat the pasta keeping it moist. Stir in tub of cottage cheese.

4) Assembly
Spray a 9x13 (or larger as it was overflowing my dish) baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place 1 or 2 ladles of meat sauce into bottom of dish and spread to cover. Layer a little less than half of the pasta on top of the sauce and spread to cover. Spread all of the ricotta mixture on top of the pasta and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella. Top with remaining Pasta mixture, top with remaining meat sauce.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in 350 oven until bubbling and 160 degrees in the center (food safety guidelines say eggs need to cook to 160 degrees to be safe) about 60 minutes (more if ingredients were not already hot going into the oven.) Remove foil, sprinkle with Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and return to oven until cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. I'd use a spoon to serve this, I don't think it's going to come out in squares.

Whadya think? Sound good?

Pirate Composition Notebook

Ethan came home with a composition notebook from school His assignment was to "decorate it." Well you can't really very effectively color on the front of one of those things, so we were forced to get creative. He really got into misting and crumpling the card stock and choosing the colors. Click on Images for Larger View

1) Mist Desert Sand Cardstock with water and crumple into a ball, unfold and crumple again until you have achieved the desired amount of wrinkles. Wetting the cardstock makes it softer and more flexible, dry cardstock will tear.
2) place cardstock between 2 thin towels (or inside a pillowcase) Iron on dry setting until cardstock is dry.
3) Rough up with sandpaper to expose the white core, lightly rub dark ink pad onto paper for additional dimension.
4) Cut to size, round corners and glue to composition book using liquid glass.

Pirate Pieces cut with Cuttle Kids Pirate Dies one layer for each color.
Letters cut with Cricut, Base Camp 1 1/2" and 1 1/2" Shadow
Cardstock, Inks and Liquid Glass by Close To My Heart
Assembled pieces were brushed with liquid glass and glued to notebook using liquid glass.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back To School

The bus has come, the house it empty - I should be ready to celebrate, but I have to race off to work. 4th Grade, after 5 years of this, Ethan knows the drill his little friend from next door starts Kindergarten today. I remember when Ethan was that excited about going to school.

School Zone Scrapbook Pages

In Honor of the First Day of School - here are some pages from the first day of school 2006. The Right Hand page is made on a 12x12 file folder (True Fit Folio made by CTMH) 2006 is on the tab. Lift up the file folder to reveal the third page inside.

All materials by Close To My Heart
Colors are Outdoor Denim, Cranberry, Sunflower, and Clover Meadow.
Stamps: Essential Alphabet, Precious Alphabet (numbers), Back To School, School Fun
School Zone Paper Packet

2 Page Layouts adapted from Keep It In Proportion sketch from the Cherish book by CTMH. Single Page Layout is Quartet Pinwheel Sketch from Reflections book by CTMH.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Frogs Hoppy Birthday Jar

I made this jar to hold a gift card for my Dad's birthday. I filled the jar with paper shreds and placed a gift card inside. The plastic jar is a Folger's Decafinated Coffee Jar.

To give the images a more interresting look I inked up the frogs in Citrus Leaf ink, then before stamping, rolled the stamp edges in Clover Meadow so the inks blended into eachother on the stamp. The Dragon Fly was inked in Pansy Purple ink with the edges rolled in Moonstruck Ink.

All materials are Close To My Heart.
Stamp Set: Frogs (now retired)
Colors: Moonstruck, Citrus Leaf, Clover Meadow, and Pansy Purple

Friday, August 22, 2008

Time To Meet The Teachers, Again

Today we went to school and met Ethan's teachers for this year. Ethan is now in 4th Grade, how time flies! We saw several of his teachers from last year who all wanted a hug. Of course he was quite shy about hugging.

This is Mrs. Q. - who we already know because she student taught in his classroom last year. Ethan will have Ms. Q. for Language Arts, Reading and Social Studies. We were glad to hear that his friend Jadd (from 2nd Grade) will be in his class again, this year.
This is Mrs. M. She recognized Ethan becuase she was in the classroom next door to him last year. Ethan will have Mrs. M. for Mathematics and Science.

At first Ethan was quite shy with her, but when she told him that he should only come in if he liked fun - he started supressing that lopsided grin. By the time she told him about Fun Friday and showed him the Brain Teaser Toys for dedicated students... he was won over and I had to persuade him to leave. She won ME over by giving me a business card with her contact information on it!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Spellbinders Nestabilities Have Arrived!

They are Here! They are Here! They are Here!

Do I sound like a Who? I wonder if Horton heard the yop I made when I stepped out my front door and saw my package sitting there. Joy of Joys. I can't wait to play!

Next question. Does anyone already have these? How do I store them?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What's For Dinner: Smashed Potatoes and Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Yes, I'm making Lemon Rosemary Chicken - again. Whole Chickens were on sale for $0.79 per pound at Kroger. This time I remembered to rub the outside with oil before putting it in the oven, so it should come out with browner, crispier skin this time. Click Here for Previous Lemon and Rosemary Chicken Post and Recipe

To go along with the chicken I'm making Smashed Potatoes - a recipe that I used to make ALL the time, and forgot about. It's so easy and the potatoes are DELICIOUS. It's a recipe from America's Test Kitchen - my print-out dates it to November of 2004. I'll add pictures, later.

Smashed Potatoes

2 pounds Red potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and warm
1/2 cup cream cheese (4 oz.), at room temperature (I use Neufchatel -less fat tastes the same)
ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Place potatoes in large saucepan and cover with 1 inch cold water, add 1 teaspoon salt and bay leaf. Be sure to start with cold water or the potaotes will cook unevenly. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until paring knife can be inserted into potatoes with no resistance, 35 to 45 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain potatoes. Return potatoes to pot, discard bay, and allow potatoes to stand in pot, uncovered, until surfaces are dry, about 5 minutes.

While potaotes dry, whisk melted butter and softened cream cheese in medium bowl until smooth and fully incorporated. Add 1/4 cup of reserved cooking water, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, chives, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using rubber spatula or back of woodwn spoon, smash potatoes just enough to break skins.

Fold in butter/cream cheese mixture until most of the liquid has been absorbed and chunks of potatoes remain. Add more cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed, until potatoes are slightly looser than desired (potatoes will thicken slightly with standing). Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper; serve immediately.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Header Design

Today I updated the header graphic. Every so often I just want something new.
This photo is a view of one of the Ginko trees in front of my Dad's house. I love Ginkos, from the pretty leaves (put two stem ends together and they look like a butterfly) to the sound of the leaves shimmering in the breeze. I had to desaturate the color in the photo a bit to get the title to show against it.

Yesterday I got brave and fiddled with the HTML code on my template (scarry!) I figured out how to widen my posts, which enabled me to post wider photos. This really makes a difference in the display size of double page scrapbook layouts, I hope you can see them better, now.

August 21, 2008 - I changed the header again, the picture of the ginkos wasn't working with my blog name, so here is the ginko picture I was talking about.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blossoms, Bubbles and Little Boys

These pages are of my lovely Mother who is no longer with us. Ethan is the only grandchild in my family and she doted on him. She had that grandmother's gift of always knowing what would delight... a grandmother's patience and relish for the activity as well.

The quote was about grandmothers, but Mom was a Nana - so I adapted the quote accordingly. It reads, "Nobody can do for little children what Nanas do. Nanas sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children. "

I made this layout while she was still living and was able to show it to her. She was a little self concious about having her cheeks puffed out in the photos... That surprised me, I always thought she looked so beautiful in these pictures. She was in her element, playing with her grandson, in her yard with even the Jacaranda tree in blossom behind her.

Her other comment regarding this page was that the quote was backward and should have said Nobody can do for Nanas what grandchildren do. Grandchildren sprinkle stardust over the lives of Nanas. How I miss her.

It occurs to me that I should add a pull out tag in order to include and preserve her comments.

Customizing a Level 1 Kit

These pages are made with a preprinted layout. Floral Impressions Level 1 Kit from Close To My Heart. I wanted to keep the pages very simple so they would enhance the photos without competing for attention. On the left hand page the was a space for a very large photo. My photo was smaller and ran horizontal (landscape) while the provided space was vertical (portrait.) I made the page fit my needs by placing a photo plus a text box into the space. I matted the photo, and created the text box from matching printed paper. I added a file tab, brads and a spiral clip.

On the righgt hand page I simply added green mats to 2 of the photos and lilac mats to the remaining two photos.

Fair Blossoms Friend Card

My friend Heather made this beautiful birthday card for me.

All products by CTMH
Fair Blossoms Stamp Set, Friendship Word Puzzle Stamp Set.
Sihouette Level 2 Paper Packet.

What's For Dinner: Lemon Dijon Chicken

This is one of my favorite recipes, I make it a few times each month. The lemon, dijon and fresh thyme flavors are so good, together. And it really is a quick, easy recipe. It's from my standby weeknight cookbook
Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats -- A Year of Deliciously Differnt Dinners

Here are all the ingredients needed to make the sauce.

Lemon Dijon Chicken

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts 1 for each person
Salt and Pepper
2 Lemons
Fresh Thyme
Olive Oil
3/4 cup chicken stock
3 heaping Tablespoons dijon mustard
3 heaping Tablespoons Sour Cream

Place chicken in zipper bag (to prevent splattering) and pound until uniform in thickness. Place chicken on platter. Sprinkle one side with salt & pepper, thyme leaves, and lemon juice.

Heat pan over medium heat, add some olive oil. Place chicken in pan, seasoned side down. Sprinkle second side of chicken (which will now be face up) with salt & pepper, thyme leaves and lemon juice. Cook until chicken is cooked thru, about 6 minutes per side.

Remove chicken to clean plate or platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
Turn heat up on pan. Add chicken stock and dijon mustard, stir together with a nylon whisk, reduce heat and let cook about 3 minutes.
Stir in sour cream and cook another minute or two.
Return chicken to pan.

Serve with rice and vegetables. Asparagus and broccoli go very well with the sauce.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tea At Paris In A Cup

One of the highlights of my trip this year was having tea with my Dad at Paris in a Cup!
The food was delicious, unusual, and beautiful. I felt so spoiled.

Dad and I both had the Madame du Barry which included: Warm Scones with Crème & Preserves Assorted Tea Sandwiches with Petite Salade Composee’ Petit Fours and Hot or Cold Freshly Steeped Tea.