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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Taking Advantage of Summer Veggies Part 1

I've never really been a veggie person, aside from my corn, green beans and potatoes (apparently potatoes are botanically considered a veggie, but nutritionally they are considered a starch.) But since being introduced to Pinterest, I've really expanded my horizons with veggies and I feel quite proud of myself. I have really learned to like brussel sprouts, asparagus, cabbage, yellow squash, zucchini...... just to name a few off the top of my head. My husband has always liked these veggies so he's in heaven that they are making an appearance more often at the dinner table. My kids are like the 3 Bears - I have one that likes to try all the veggies, one that is picky about which one she tries and one that one that won't try any at all.

I want to share with you a few recipes I've made lately that were a hit (with most of us!) and makes good use of all those summer veggies you either grow yourself, get at the farmers market or the grocery store. First up, Vegetable Tian that I found over at Just A Pinch. Wait until you see the beautiful colors of the veggies baked with fresh shredded Parmesan!

So go ahead and gather your potatoes (I used 3 of the 4 small-medium sized shown here), tomatoes (2 medium sized), onion, zucchini and yellow squash. The recipe also calls for Thyme but I'm not a fan, so I used Rosemary, salt & pepper. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (F).

Slice up all your veggies, chop your onion!

Next, in a pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil or butter, sautee your onion and 1 tsp minced garlic. I'm not a big fan of onion, but realize it's necessary sometimes so I use it according to my liking. The recipe calls for one whole medium onion so use what you prefer.

Decide what dish you are going to use. The recipe says to spray with cooking oil an 8x8 dish.I started off with that and realized it was going to be too big. I then switched to a loaf pan and it was too small. I finally settled on my 9" pie plate which was just right.  For some reason the 3 Bears keep popping up in this post! ;) Spread your onions & garlic on the bottom of your dish.

Next, start taking one of each veggie, and layer in a stack and put in the dish, and repeat until your dish is full. If you have extra veggies, just tuck them here and there to fill in the dish.

Doesn't that look pretty? Next, generously - and I stress generously - sprinkle your salt, pepper and Rosemary on top of your veggies. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and add fresh grated Parmesan cheese and bake another 15 minutes or so until the cheese is melted.

 And then you have a wonderful Vegetable Tian! I made mine with the intentions of it being a side dish, but my husband said it would be just fine as a main dish. It was pretty filling.

Some wonderful veggie goodness!

 Catch the full recipe here at Just A Pinch.

Stay tuned for some more veggie goodness with Part 2!

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Monday, July 29, 2013

THE Best Peanut Butter Cookies

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a fan of making cookies. They are my least favorite baking item. I think it's because I'm not a very patient person and so I don't like the numerous batches of in and out of the oven and taking forever to be done. What about I like to make cupcakes you say? I know, it's sort of the same thing but in the end with a cupcake comes the fun part of decorating. But I also don't like store bought cookies, so in the end my family doesn't get very many cookies. I'm trying to rectify that, and for starters, I've mentioned I've found THE best Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe over at Buttercream Bakehouse. One of the baking appeals is that they bake for 10 minutes or less and that's my criteria for making cookies. Get it done quick! If I come across a recipe that sounds good but they bake 13-15 minutes? - ehht. Close out and move on. So I was thrilled when I came across a recipe for soft & chewy (I can't stand hard cookies) Peanut Butter cookies AND the bake time was 7 minutes, I was all over that. And bonus ~ it had a little espresso powder in it! The recipe I found at Une Gamine dans la Cuisine was called Old Fashioned Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies which, I think it's funny that "old fashioned" is anything with espresso powder in it. Espresso just seems so modern to me! But, I do understand that was the original recipe and she just added the espresso powder. So if you don't add that, they'd be old fashioned. :)

See that chocolate milk looking stuff in the bottom right corner? The recipe called for cream or milk and since I had a few tablespoons left of Caramel Macchiato coffee creamer, I threw that in with the vanilla. The second batch I made (yes, 2 days later) I used Hazelnut creamer.

So, I would head on over to Une Gamine dans la Cuisine and make these cookies. She has lots of other great looking recipes too. 

Make some and let me know what you think. They are definitely my go-to peanut butter cookie from now on! I'm not a big sweet eater, but I have a hard time staying away from these!

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

I've been kind of slacking lately in the dinner department. We've had one thing after another it seems, kids gone here and there, busy schedules and I've just been feeding whoever has been home. So, it's time to get back in the dinner mode. :) 

One of the things that kept me busy lately was my oldest turning 18 and we had a party. I still can't believe she's 18 already and leaving for college the end of next month. Happy birthday Hayley!!

Her favorite flowers are hydrangeas so I tried to go with that theme. She has a hydrangea bush outside her bedroom window so I picked some for the table decor and used that as my inspiration.

I tried to make hydrangea cupcakes but I think I need a little more practice making it look more like petals.

So anyway, back to dinner. One of our meals lately was Chicken Parmesan Meatballs that I found over at Dinner: A Love Story. I changed it a little bit, I made them regular meatball size to have with pasta, where as she made them larger to be the main course. After reading the reviews, many said to cut way back on the fennel seeds or not use them altogether. I chose not to use any at all. I also cut up string cheese and put that inside my meatballs. Who doesn't like a little surprise cheese inside, right?

We start by preheating the oven to 400 and combining these ingredients:

1 1/4 pounds ground chicken
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg, whisked
zest of half a lemon (I also left this out just because I didn't have a lemon)
2 mozzarella cheese sticks, cut into pieces

I then made my meatballs regular meatball size and put a piece of cheese inside. My 7 year old was kind enough to be my camera gal!

 Put them on a foil lined baking sheet. When all done, take some pasta sauce and paint the tops. 


looking so yummy already!

Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, start cooking your pasta & sauce of choice. After 15 minutes, remove from the oven and switch to broil. Add some cheese to the tops and broil a few minutes until the cheese is melted.

Serve your meatballs with some salad, pasta and bread and you're all set!

Mmmmmmm....Go make yourself some Chicken Parmesan Meatballs! 
(recipe adapted from Dinner: A Love Story)

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Savory Galette

Today I learned something new! No, it wasn't about pizza. I learned what a galette was. And in case you aren't familiar with it either, it's a French term for a free-form, flat pie that can be sweet or savory. I decided to make a savory one first for dinner, so I chose brussel sprouts, tomatoes, turkey bacon and green onion. 

I wanted to roast my brussel sprouts and tomatoes on the grill, so I found a brussel sprout marinade & grilling recipe from Alton Brown on the Food Network site.

As Alton says, first I microwaved the sprouts on high for 3 minutes.

I prepared my marinade of oil, dry mustard, minced garlic, paprika, salt & pepper......

and poured it all over the sprouts...

and then fired up my grill and grilled the skewers for 5 minutes on each side.

I set them aside to cool down a bit and then threw on my sliced tomatoes. They don't take too long, only a couple minutes on each side.

Then I prepared my pie crust using my own pie crust recipe.

Light & Flaky Pie Crust

2 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
5 tbsp cold water

Preheat oven to 425. Put flour in a bowl and sift with a fork. Add salt (& for this particular crust I also added some garlic powder and pepper.) Measure the 1/2 cup oil in a 1 cup measuring cup and add the water to the oil. Pour into the flour mix and mix well with a fork. Roll out between a layer of parchment paper (bottom) and waxed paper (top).

I rolled it out into one big crust on a large, flat cookie sheet.

Then I prepared a spread of 4 ounces of light cream cheese (softened) and 1 tsp of crushed garlic. 


I mixed that well with beaters and spread it on the crust, staying 1/2" away from the edge of the crust.

Next I grated some fresh parmesan cheese.

Then I sliced up my roasted brussel sprouts and put them all over the top of the crust. I cut up the cooked turkey bacon and added that. Next, I laid out the tomatoes and added some chopped green onion and covered it with the parmesan cheese. Finally, I folded up the edge and pinched it together all around. Isn't it looking scrumptious?

I threw it in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. The picture was taken on the kitchen counter and the lighting wasn't the best, but it really is more appealing than this LOL.

Slice it up and enjoy a piece!

The nice thing about this is it's easy and you can top it with whatever you'd like, and all the better with toppings that you wouldn't normally have on a pizza. I was pleasantly surprised with the turkey bacon, I've never had it before. Let me know if you make one and what you put on it!

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Outdoor Pillows with Hidden Zippers

Hello! Yes, I'm back after a week (or two- did you miss me?) It's been pretty crazy with getting ready for my daughters graduation party and then the following weekend we went camping. But, I've got a project to show that I've done recently that I hope you will enjoy!

I have a wooden bench and chair on my deck that need some decor to liven things up a bit. I had purchased some outdoor fabric a while back on clearance at Jo-Ann's and I've just been waiting for the right project to use it. I also had the idea in the back of my head about using plastic bags as stuffing for outdoor pillows or seat cushions. I don't plan on leaving them outside to get rained on but in reality, it will probably happen at some point so I'm hoping that having plastic inside will be better for getting wet and drying back out. I think it's a great idea to use those and I guess we will see if that's true or not.

I've made several pillow covers (envelope style) to put over pillow forms. Making covers is so darn addicting because they are soooo easy. And you can have a million of them for every season/holiday and it's easy to store them off season because they just fold up flat, instead of having to store the whole actual pillow! I made covers (with forms) as party favors for my daughters 17th birthday party. Yes, she likes the decor stuff instead of usual party favors and they seemed to be a big hit with the girls too! Sorry for the bad picture, it's from my phone and taken in the basement.

It's been a while since I've made some but the tutorials out there are all pretty similar. I don't recall which one I used (and I think it's bookmarked on my old laptop that is slowly dying) but this one  from the happy housie looks very similar to how I made mine.

So anyway, with stuffing the pillows with plastic bags, obviously this easy envelope style wasn't going to work for me so I needed to find something else easy that was totally enclosed. I'm not an expert in zippers, I have sewn items with zippers before but only a few times. So the fact that this tutorial from Design Sponge boasted a hidden zipper was super easy caught my attention - and guess what? It was!

My girls are big into the nautical anchor and chevron, so I chose a coordinating chevron print to do an anchor with and sew that to the front of the pillow. I used this anchor template from Craftaholics Anonymous.

I cut out my pillow pieces, 2 pieces that were 14"x14". I wanted it bigger, but the only reason I did this was because the tutorial said to use a zipper 4 inches shorter than your pillow size. The only size zipper that I had that was a bigger size was red and even though it's hidden, I didn't want to use that so I had to go with a 9" zipper in white, thus my pillow was 14"x14" (which included 1" for seam allowance.) In hind site, because I was stuffing it, it didn't matter what size zipper I used because I didn't need it to accommodate a pillow form, so really I could've made my pillow any size with my 9" zipper.When I make more, I may just wrap a regular pillow form in a plastic bag and tape it really well and use that as my form to sort of waterproof it.

OK, so I have my anchor sew on, my pillow pieces and my zipper so I started with the directions of putting my pillow pieces right sides together, and laying my zipper at the top, centered. I didn't take pictures of every step of this process because it was my first one so I wanted to make sure I could actually do it first. But her tutorial at Design Sponge is very easy to follow. The hardest part is remembering where you put your additional feet, getting out your manual to figure out which was the zipper foot, changing your machine to a zipper foot and back to the regular foot. But those of you that use the zipper foot frequently will have no problem, I promise. :)

Fast forward to the end, stuff the pillow case with my bags....

See how the zipper is hidden? (and it would be more if I tucked in the pull) Apparently something is going on with my bobbin thread that I need to adjust so excuse the poor stitching for now...

And there you have it, a super cute outdoor pillow!

So, if you need to spruce up your porch, deck or patio, or even anywhere inside using regular fabric, I suggest using either of the tutorials I mentioned as they're both very easy to follow. Go nuts.... have fun!

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