Tuesday, June 23, 2015

So precious I could throw up

I have been having a great time with the crocheting.  Thankfully Michaels and JoAnn's have coupons all the time, and thanks to RetailMeNot, I always have coupons handy if what I want is NOT on sale.  JoAnn's had a 60% off coupon last week.  You KNOW I went back every day!!!! 

So I am stocked up yarn for my next two projects, and I have finished THREE since I last posted.

I finished the ones for my older kids, but I'm not posting those until they arrive in their hands.  Because I want it to be a surprise, but my daughters blanket is white and shades of tan.  It's very soft and I think she will like it.  It's not the colors I originally picked out- but I really think she will like it.  The one for my oldest son is in bright camouflage colors.  Sure a little typical, but it needed to be a manly blanket.  It's thick and warm. 

I asked the oldest, before I made it if he wanted one.  I didn't want him to get his ass kicked for having a blankie from mommy, you know?  But that kid, he's so awesome.  He said, "I don't care what anyone says mom.  I think it's great.  I'd love it!" 

Yes folks, that's my son.

And lastly, I just completed something a little more challenging.  Something delicate and regular size yard, single stranded.  It was challenging, but I am really proud of it. 



Blanket, hat and booties
Seriously, is that not the most precious thing???  The blanket was the most challenging but only took me about 12 hours.  The hat and booties took about 30 minutes each.  And that flower?!?!?  OMG I was to die from the sweetness of that flower.  This set is being sent off to a friend of ours in Australia who just had a baby girl.  International, y'all!!!!
Now I'm working on Jerkface's blanket.  He wanted red and black. 
I'm trying to challenge myself with each project and doing a new pattern each time.  What I'm learning is that it's only challenging until you get the stitches memorized.  Then it's pretty easy.  I think tension will always be a challenge for anyone- but I had a brainstorm idea.  They really should sell starter chains.  If I knew that I could get a starting chain that I could take down to whatever size I needed, in the color I wanted,  in a reasonable price- I would buy that.  The starting chain is the foundation that often has to be restarted two or three times before you get it as close to right as it's gonna be. 
I'll post a picture of the red and black blanket when I get far enough along that you can appreciate the pattern.  But for now, I keep going. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Becoming my mother, one stitch at a time

So a few weeks ago I was feeling down.  Stressed about money and food and the things that stress out women my age, and above, and below. 

I'm not sure what made me think of it, but I decided I wanted to learn to crochet or knit.  My mom used to do it.  I have very vivid memories of crocheted blankets on the couch and my mother often sitting with her basket of yarn and her fingers working the needle so fast.  She tried to teach me, at least once, or probably twice growing up- but it didn't take.  I never got past the second row.  Tension problems and I would get frustrated and give up. 

My mother of course can crank out a blanket in a day.  To be honest, it may be TWO days, but it felt like a day.  I was always kind of in awe of that.

I have a blanket that my mother made for me when I was younger.  She made blankets for all of us kids.  I don't know if she ever actually finished mine, but when I moved out- I took it with me.  It's lots of colored squares.  Maybe 3x3.  Probably took forever to make.  The center is 4 squares, surrounded by a different color squares, surrounded by different color.... around and around.  It's huge, and very warm and very colorful.  I think it's missing half a side of the final color, but you couldn't tell cause there's so much color.  It's always been special to me, because she made it.  For me. 

I remember now.  My daughter graduated from college last month, and she will get getting a job and her own apartment soon.  I wanted to give her something for her new place.  Something special from me.  I purchased some yarn for my first project, which I decided would be a blanket for SR, and I set out to you tube to find what I wanted to make. 

I found this blanket on Pinterest, and the webpage had the pattern, which is really really easy.  Single crochets forever.  I started and then stopped and unraveled, because I didn't know what a single stitch WAS apparently, then I started again.  I used black, purple and white.  I ran into a few snags, no pun intended.  For one, I made it incredible wide.  Measuring the first chain is not an accurate idea of what it will be once you get the first few rows on.  So I turned it and instead of working top to bottom, I was working sideways.  Also, it's incredibly easy to add stitches on the ends, or drop them off.  If you look at the finished blanket, I'd say the 8 rows, you can see that it started even wider than it ended up.  the "width" issue turned out to be ok, because that width is perfect to wrap completely around SR's shoulders. 

I'm not a huge fan of the granny squares with the flowers.  Nor do I like a lot of holes in the blankets because your toes get stuck.  Nice thick blankets, that's what I like. 

A great thing about this pattern is that it's pretty forgiving.  If there are mistakes within, you can't really see them because with the colors, there's a lot going on.   This is how it turned out. 


Not bad huh???

I have started the blanket for my daughter.  That one also had a few stops and starts for various reasons.  I'm back on it now, and I have learned a few lessons for myself.

1.  Have enough yarn when you start.  The store, or a FEW stores may not have the yarn or the color when you go back.  And if you DO have to go back for more, make sure you know the color or have a piece with you.  What looks like the same shade of blue, may not be- trust me. 

2. Buy it on sale.  Its not TERRIBLY expensive, but the blanket above used 15 skeins of yarn.  Purchased with coupons it was only about $2 per skein, but without it would have been closer to $3.

3.  For me, single strands of yarn and a small hook does not build your fabric very fast.  If you are an "instant gratification" person, using 3 strands of yarn, or thicker yarn makes it go much faster.  Also the larger crochet hooks are easy for me to use. 

4. Learn the lingo.  There are a TON of free patterns out there, not just on you tube, but one websites for the yarn companies as well as the people who make the stuff.  So being able to read a pattern is helpful.

5. Practice.  A lot of the YouTube videos will walk you through it.  Seriously, "Now finish this row and meet me back here" so you pause the video- finish your row- hit play, and move along.  YouTube is really a great thing.  Work on the first few rows again and again.  Tension is a bitch- a really vengeful and pretty unforgiving bitch.  Look back on every row and if it's too tight or too loose, unravel and do it again.   

I am not jinxing anything by posting any pictures of the new blanket I started for my daughter.  It's been a crazy start and stop and start again process and in the end I was.... resentful... of the blanket and frustrated by my mistakes.  I really want to make it with love and all that.  I didn't want to pour frustration in every stitch, I feel like she would KNOW.  So I started something new that I'm pleased with.  I'm taking my time and really enjoying the process.

And yes, I will be making blankets for each of my kids.  I want them to have something special that I made for them.  Like my mom did for me. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

What she's cooking now

Ok fast forward cause I'm a shitty blogger.  I know this.  Lately I'd rather do than write about doing, I should do a vlog.... but then I have been breaking out like a 15 year old and while I don't make a fuss about my looks on a day to day basis, photos and videos freeze me in time, and nobody wants that.

So I have added a few things to my cooking rotation that I'm pretty excited about.

Mac and Cheese.  The first and most exciting is this mac and cheese.  I have finally found THE recipe.  It's easy as sin and pretty delicious.  I'm still looking for the right combination of cheese.  I think using 100% sharp cheddar will be the winner.  But I've tried pepperjack, mild cheddar and parmesan.  Cheddar and mozzarella.  and cheddarjack, which I think is nild cheddar and jack cheese.  I have not tried 100% sharp cheddar yet.   Come to think of it, I have no idea why.

Anyway- this is the recipe, and I haven't used the buttery crackers, but last night I used some panko bread crumbs and that gave it a nice texture.  Next time I'll buy seasoned breadcrumbs.  I followed the directions exactly, except I didn't measure the noodles.  2 1/2 cups of pasta is not enough for how much sauce is made starting with 4 cups of milk.  I use a whole bag, I think that is 16 oz.  You want it to be a little saucy before you put it in the oven, but you don't want it to be soup.  Well, maybe it makes it even more cheesy if you do- but I have a lot of people to feed.  The recipe calls for 2 and 1/2 cups by volume, but the pasta is 16oz by weight.  So maybe it all works in the end.  I use a 16 box of pasta if it comes in a box.  The big bags are usually 32 oz so half of that.  whatever.  All I know is that 2 1/2 cups is not enough pasta.

Cinnamon Rolls.  1 hour Cinnamon Rolls to be precise and it does take about that long.  Which is awesome.  I have no idea how long it takes to make other cinnamon rolls, but the fact that they added how long they will take right in the name- makes it "Julie Friendly."  I'm not always a busy girl, but I am definitely a lazy girl and a fat girl, so I can take an hour to indulge myself.  I mean, my kids.   These are easy and tasty and my kids absolutely devour them.

Swedish Meatballs.  Look there's only so much I can do with ground beef.  The fact that you can make the meatballs in the microwave is great, but you can also make them on the stove or put them in the oven and you really can't tell the difference when they are buried in the sauce and pasta.  The oven baked meatballs seem to be the best, visually.  However, with the summer months coming up, maybe you don't want to turn on the oven.  The sauce is easy although I suggest your start with 1/16 tsp of nutmeg if at all, and go up from there.  I did the 1/4 tsp and it was too much so I added some white pepper to balance that out.  ProTip: do NOT sniff into a bag of white pepper.  My nose was burning for almost an hour.  

Hamburger buns.  40 minute buns.  These are delicious.  They are dense and taste spectacular.  I have not yet, but I plan to use this recipe to make dinner buns as well.    I have done it exactly as said in the recipe but I've also let them rise for 45 minutes.  I think they were a little lighter.  Either way, they are delicious and any leftovers we just eat with butter.  No South Beach Diet happening here.

I even made burgers the other night mixing just ground beef and cheese as a binder.  They were tasty, except the patties were round and flat when I put them on the bbq, but when they were done they were no longer flat, and no longer round.  My kid told me they looked like oversized and oddly shaped meatballs.  They were tasty though, but I will have to work on a better burger.

Lastly, Bread Machine Pizza dough.  One of the things I realized is that we were spending $100 a month on take out pizza.  There's 4-5 of us so we always have to order at LEAST two pizzas, then add delivery cost and tip.  Times at least once a week.  This recipe makes a fantastic dough.  I even pulled out my own pizza spinning tricks (I was never very good at that) but it was fun to reminisce.  You can make the sauce using tomato paste and tomato sauce and add seasoning, or even use spaghetti sauce, and add some more spices to cut the sweetness.  I added a dash of cayenne pepper as well.  Top with cheese and whatever else.  The best thing to do is put the crust in the oven for a few minutes before you add your toppings.  Makes for a more firm bottom and having stoneware in the house comes in handy!!!

The first time I made the homemade pizza I didn't have pepperoni, so I spiced up some ground beef with cayenne pepper, garlic and salt and pepper.  It was a nice substitute and I didn't have to go to the store.

So those are my newest cooking adventures.  Added to the tacos and meatball rotation.  I've been barbecuing again lately.  I have some ribs I was planning to make today, but I forgot to take them out of the freezer- soooooo maybe pizza tonight???

The Pinterest links are on my Food I've Made board.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

This week in my kitchen

It's been a decent week cooking wise. A few easy nights, one leftover night.  However I did manage to come up with a few things.

I found this thin sliced spicy chicken at Stater Bros. and while I wasn't sure just HOW spicy it would be.  I also wasn't sure what I would do with it, but it was a damn good price and I thought I would make something a little more leaning towards something I would want to eat.  I see recipes for stuffed chicken and chicken wraps so I thought I would figure something out. 

I looked at different recipes for what they stuffed or rolled into chicken and I came up with cream cheese, some shredded cheddar jack, and a little bit of spinach.  I admit I overcooked it just a bit, because I wasn't sure if it would take longer for the inside to cook, but it didn't.  However, the taste was delicious.  I don't usually see the spicy chicken, but I can probably do it with regular chicken and add different spices. 

I made a beef stew also, but I didn't take pictures.  Easy crock pot stew that was warm on the inside, except everyone in this house is weird about vegetables.  Everyone will eat the potatoes.  SR will only eat onions, the boys, just the carrots.  I'm the only one who will eat the mushrooms and everything else.  So serving it was a bit of a chore and everyone's bowl looked a little bit different.  sigh...

These are egg muffins.  One of my friends posted this on the internet.  Except hers looked really good.  These look kinda wrecked.  They did taste pretty good though.  I made them so I can grab a few to take to work for breakfast.  I did it for about three days, after forgetting the first day.  They were tasty, good reheated with some salt.  However after three days, they just felt kinda slimy in the bag.  Probably condensation- but I have a weird thing about wet eggs.  But they are not going to waste, because SR had a few and Max really likes them too. 

Now for something sweet.

Last week cake and brownie mix was on sale for .99 each if you buy 4.  So I bought 4- and then a few days later I bought 4 more.  I realized that the snacks I was buying for the kids lunches was costing me about $10 a week.  And if I made brownies at home, it would cost me maybe $2.00.  So I made a batch of brownies and used my mini muffin pan.  It made 40 little brownie bites.  And guess what, you can FREEZE them.  So I put them in a ziploack and every day I took some out for the kids lunches.  They were defrosted by lunchtime and they said they tastes delicious!!  Go mom!!!

Since I then had 3 boxes of brownies and 4 boxes of cake in my pantry, I decided to look up recipes for cake mix.  When I read "cake mix cookies" I thought- whaaaaaa?????

Cake mix
1 tsp of baking powder
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2 eggs
I c chocolate chips.

They are delicious!!!  A little sweeter than the usual chocolate chip cookies- one or two is quite enough,  But really good.  Easy to make.  Bake for 10 min at 375 and while they are cooling, the sort of settle.  They look fluffy and cakey when you take them out of the oven- but after about 5 minutes cooling, they flatten out and they look and taste awesome. 

Very light in color, but delicious.

Imagine the possibilities!  Red velvet with white chocolate chips.  Chocolate cake and mint chips, or peanut butter chips.  Ohhhh the sweets.... I love the sweets.

As you can imagine, the kids and SR are really loving my domestic abilities. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

You win some bread, you lose some dough

So my bread making efforts have been decent. 

Banana bread- win.  It could be a little sweeter, I need to find the sweet spot for ripe bananas.  But hot with butter, it was delish.

French bread- turned out awesome, but doesn't really keep for more than a day. 

Rolls for thanksgiving.  The dough was awesome, and the rolls turned out beautiful. 

I was impressed.  They cooked about a minute too long- but while still warm, they were a huge hit.  and so pretty. 

Lightly flour a rolling pin, and roll one dough half out into a 13×9-inch rectangle. Brush with melted butter. Cut the rectangle lengthwise into 6 strips. Stack the strips evenly, with the buttered side up, and cut the stack into 12 pieces. Repeat with the other dough half. Grease 2 regular muffin pans, and place one piece in each muffin pan cup, with the layers facing up.

This week my attempts were not so good.

I wanted to make a French bread as my inlaws were visiting I wanted to wow them.  I thought to just use the dough cycle, and then bake it in the oven so I could shape it like an actual French bread roll. 
That didn't happen. 

I don't know exactly what happened but maybe I misread the flour, cause it was a sticky mess.  Cleaning was a bitch also.  And I had dough in my hair many hours after my company LEFT. Bought sourdough rolls instead.  Objective: failed

Then I thought I'd make burger buns to go with the pulled pork sandwiches we had for dinner tonight.  Again, didn't happen.

The dough cycle mixes for 7 minutes.  That's it, then it starts the first rise.  So any changes you want to make to the dough has to be done the first 5 minutes or so.  I peeked in to look at the dough ball and it was dry.  Not even mixed well enough if you ask me.  And by the time I tried to add more liquid, the mixing stopped.  No fixing it at that point.  I took the dough ball out and tried to add more water and mix it with the hook attachment (for dough) on my hand mixer.  I don't have a stationary mixer.  For this task, I need one. 

So picture me, with a huge ball of dough with some added liquid.  I put the hook into the dough ball, and turn it on low.  The BOWL starts spinning.  Liquid flying.  Holy shit!!  So I hold on to high speed bowl spin, and then the dough ball is spinning.  Nothing is mixing.  More liquid flying.  Shit.

So I flour a cutting board and thump the dough ball onto it.  THUMP.  It actually THUMPED.  I tried adding water but there was just no penetrating this thing.  It was just getting messier.  My fingers were getting stickier.  I heard my friends voice, "bread is cheap to make so it's ok if you fuck up a few batches." 

So I threw the whole wet mess into the garbage.  Today, I bought rolls.  Objective: failed AGAIN

I am not giving up on this.  I know I can make dough.  I made it for the rolls for thanksgiving.  It CAN be done.  Also I need to watch the mixing on the dough cycle more carefully. I only have a limited amount of time to correct mistakes.  It's all about finding the correct wet to dry ratio.  When all else fails, apply math!!! 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Adventures in bread making

I have not forgotten this place.  I have just been cooking a lot of the same things.  Tacos.  Meatloaf.  Nothing exciting.

However I DID get an EXCELLENT birthday gift. A bread maker!!!

This one to be exact.

I am so excited about it. 

To go with my new breadmaker I also received from friends:

A HUGE book of breadmaker recipes
A new bread knife
A bread slicer (you put the bread on it and cut between the slats
A new flour container
A new set of measuring spoons from an 1/8 to 2 cups.
A recipe book stand!!

I'm SOOOO ready.

I have made three loaves of bread.

Loaf 1.
White bread.  From the book that came with the machine.  Tasted great, but collapsed.  I think I did not measure the salt very well. 

Loaf 2.
White bread. From the King Arthur Flour website, used olive oil instead of butter.  Turned out perfect. 

Loaf 3.
Sour cream bread.  From my Breadmaker book.
1/2 cup +1 tablespoon of water
1/1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons of lilght brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon yeast

Mine rose a little too high, and collapsed just a bit.  I think next time I will make sure the sourcream is room temp, and NOT try to slice it before it's cool (like the recipe says).  Either way.  The taste is delicious.  It has just a hint of sweet but it's moist and delicious.  The kids used it for their lunches today and they both loved it. 

Tonight I'm making banana bread.  Very excited about that!!!!! 

And I'm going to also make dough tonight for rolls tomorrow to go with spaghetti.  The excitement is killing me.

I sort of look at making bread with the same respect as I produced breast milk.  Stay with me.....  It's such a basic staple of life.  Bread.  And I can make it.  There's a weird pride for me in that. 

Ok, stop laughing.     

Monday, November 3, 2014

Things I found on the internet

I love looking at posts about easy and clever ways to organize.  I am not very organized, but I dream of being one of those really creative organizers. 

I found this article yesterday on Pinterest.  Have you been on Pinterest??  I spent HOURS yesterday pinning recipes and decorating ideas and clever organizing.

Here's some amazing things I want to do, but I probably never will.

Magnetic Strips for Bobby Pins

Garment bag to organize wrapping paper
Instead of shoving it in a box in the medicine cabinet
Solo cups for arranging Christmas Ornaments

Here's my Pinterest Page.   It's growing, and I'm adding things daily.  Anything you want to find, you can probably find it on Pinterest.