Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Recipe: Chicken and Pasta in Creamy Tomato Sauce

Originally posted on Stretching a Dollar on July 4, 2008. 

I recently scored an italian cookbook on sale at Borders (it turned out to be free with my Borders Bucks) and this was the first recipe I tried from it. For anyone who knew me in Sault Ste. Marie, it mimicks one of my favorte Ang-Gio's recipes.

1 tbsp olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 jar pasta sauce
2 cups water
8 oz pasta (we used spaghetti)
1/2 cup whipping or heavy cream
1/2 tsp dried basil leaves, crushed (or 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves)

1. In 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and brown chicken. Remove chicken and set aside.

2. In same skillet, stir in pasta sauce and water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in uncooked pasta and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally (about 15 minutes or until pasta is tender.

3. Stir in cream and basil. Return chicken to skillet and cook 5 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

The whipping cream and basil add a little bit of a cost to this recipe but not much and it's really good. The sauce is heavy and filling but has a great taste. There are a few things we're going to change next time though. The chicken was a little bland, so we're going to bread it parmesan style next time. We're also going to try cheese filled tortellini for the pasta to give it a kick. Cooking directions may vary slightly due to this change, so be careful if you do it first.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ugly Cookies and Pretty Fruit Salads

Originally posted on "Never Meant for the Kitchen" on December 17, 2008. 

This past weekend I had to challenge of making something for a pot luck at work. I'd never made anything for a potluck. Oh, I've been to them plenty of times, but I always swung by a store beforehand to grab soda or rolls or cookies from the bakery. This time I decided to actually put forth some effort.

I should mention here that my boyfriend and I are trying to lose weight, so many of our recipes are of the lower fat, lower cal variety (not all of them however...we're doing the everything in moderation plan). Since I knew there wouldn't be alot of lighter fare at the potluck, I decided to try to go that route so I'd have something to fall back on (for the record, I still stuffed myself).

My first attempt was some low cal cookies I found on SparkPeople.

Not sure what happened but while I'd expected dryness in the dough, it was pretty much the exact opposite. And yes, I'll admit, I just sort of dropped them haphazardly all over the pan. Of course, the liquidity of them might have had something to do with me taking the lazy route of separating my egg whites and dropping some yoke in there. I thought I'd pulled most of it out...apparently that doesn't count?

I about freaked when I took them out of the oven. Instead of the light brown, smallish, fluffy cookies I remembered from childhood, the Monster Cookies of the Deep emerged....

Strangely enough, they tasted really good! But getting them off the pan was no easy feat (a lesson to me to use wax paper next time). After we got done poking and prodding these with a knife and a spatula, we finally managed to get them onto a plate.

According to my boyfriend, these cookies had their own defense looking like rotten meat jerky, they kept our roommates from eating them.

However, I was not about to serve these bad boys to my co-workers. So it was back to the drawing board of "what to fix for a group of hungry people." Then I was hit with inspiration. Fruit Salad! I love fruit, but for some reason I never seem to eat enough of it. I figured with fruit salad, I could eat the leftovers and not feel bad about it.
Wanting to give some variety, I decided to make two salads. The first was called a Winter Fruit Salad and was a recipe from SparkPeople.

My version excluded the kiwi fruit and the pear and added a couple sliced strawberries for color. I also used four different apples: Braeburn, Fuji, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith (one each). A few shots of lemon juice kept them from turning brown and didn't make the salad overly tangy.
This was a double batch and I had alot left over, so next time I'll pare it down to one serving. This coming weekend, I'm making it for myself and will freeze the servings. Of the two, this was my favorite.
The second salad was my boyfriend's favorite. This whipped fruit salad was a little higher in calories, but still not too bad in the scheme of things.

This was another double batch, so I mixed sugar free Cool Whip with Light Cool Whip and since the store didn't have any healthy looking blueberries, I went frozen. While the taste was pretty darn good, the salad itself didn't look as pretty as the first one.

I will definitely make this again but would like to experiment a little. I may want take out the pineapple (never have been a fan of the stuff) and add nuts and/or marshmallows to give that real fluff feel.

It would also be fun to try some different flavors of pudding.

For the record, everyone at work seemed to like it, but the double batches made alot so we still had leftovers. Which is never a bad thing!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Finished Objects: Baby Leg Warmers

While the baby bug hasn't hit me, it seems to be getting those around me. A friend of mine from work recently had her third daughter and I managed to finish these baby leg warmers for her before the little girl joined her family.

The legwarmers were done in a 2x2 ribbing, just under a foot long so the baby cold grow into them a little bit. There are a few mistakes in these, but overall, they came out well and they look stretchy and cozy. 

I used some of the leftover yarn to make a baby hat, and before I finished I got it into my head to make it like a gnome hat. I'm not sure if I hit the mark, but it is a cute stockinette stitch hat. I do have to weave in the ends, which I'll probably do when I get back from my trip this week. 

I have a little bit of yarn left over from this ball, and I'm not entirely sure what I want to do with it. I could make a pair of baby socks, or I could use it to make a cozy for something (iPod, eReader, phone, etc.). I'll have to think on this.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wamego Winter Woolfest

Last Saturday, I got to attend a rare fiber festival in my area, the Wamego Winter Woolfest. I say rare, because it seems like we have a lack of good festivals in Kansas. Or maybe I'm just not hearing about them. This one was pretty hopping when we got there, and they had several classes. I didn't participate in any, because they day was already pretty full, but I did get some random pictures of the event.

I picked up two hanks of Alpaca/silk blend to knit myself a scarf and a hank of hand dyed Merino to knit my friend a pair of socks for her birthday. I rarely splurge on yarn, but I felt that the day and the event called for it. This might be my splurge of at least the first half of the year. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Goodreads: Furies of Calderon

Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera, #1)Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having read Butcher's Dresden File novels, I decided to give his Codex Alera series a try. My husband is reading them for the second time, and even though I tend to be intimidated by fantasy novels, I gave it a shot.

I loved this first book of the series. It has action that I can follow, romance that isn't over the top, cool magics, likable and unlikable characters. Even the bad guys are sometimes likable, because Butcher rarely makes his characters all dark or all light. And he does it well. In his fashion, there's also a good dose of humor and then some tragedy.

This book seemed a bit more intense than the earlier Dresden Books (I have to catch up on the later ones) and more graphic. I'm not complaining. I like intense and graphic anyway, and in this case, it just enhanced the reading experience.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 7, 2011

Me & My Money - The Intro to a Journey of Cheapness

Let's get started, shall we?

I fight with money. I generally hate it, but that's only when I don't have any. Which is normal for me. I've never been good with money. I have phases that last usually no more than 4 months in which I have it together. I'm budgeted, I'm balanced, I'm worry free. Then something happens and I'm reminded of how I failed to save, failed to track my spending, failed to record something in my checkbook that I should have.

It's been very frustrating and now it's not just my money I have to help manage. After a two and a half year long distance relationship, my boyfriend and I are finally together. Now we're dealing with two of us that have money issues. We're both spenders. Neither of us knows how to budget for ourselves. And now we're in this together, which means we're either going to drag each other further downhill or we're going to work together to be financially free and comfortable.

At the present time, neither of us are working. He's a college student and I just moved here. I'm hoping to have a steady job by the beginning of next week and after this week of classes, his job search efforts will be going in full force. We have one car between us and right now, I'm the only one with a drivers license. Which can be good and bad as far as the price of gas goes and what we're willing to do. At this point, I'm willing to try anything, especially because the only money we currently have is 17 dollars on a Wal-Mart gift card and 25 dollars in cash that I'm trying not to spend until I absolutely have to.

I'm not getting down about it though. Life has a way of working out, so between trying to live cheaply, we're also going to try to make money where we can. Jobs are around the corner. My goal is to live frugally past getting jobs though. I want to have a savings account, I want to be able to pay my bills, and I don't want to have to freak out if the car breaks down or something comes up. I also want to be able to go on dates, do dinner with friends, and take trips throughout the year.

Blogging about it will hopefully keep me on track, which is the main reason I'm doing it. I'm making it public in the hopes of getting input from others and maybe giving some useful hints to others along the way. Here's to the first step in making myself into a self made cheapskate!


This was originally published on "Stretching a Dollar" on May 6, 2008.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I Wasn't Really Meant to Cook....

It was such a joke in our family...I'd never be one to cook a meal. My grandmother cooked large italian dinners and my mom wasn't too bad in the kitchen either. I, however, wasn't much good beyond Ramen noodles and peanut butter toast. I had no idea how to cut up an onion and I'm still not too sure of how to make a good egg.

I even had to call my grandma last weekend to find out how to make a whipped fruit salad.

This never bothered me really. I didn't want to be in the kitchen. I was awkward there and didn't know a wok from a skillet. It was much easier to just hit a drive thru or order a pizza, and when money got tight, frozen dinners and hot pockets were my best friend. There's been a few times I'd cooked or baked something, but I always ended on a stressed note and a lack of motivation to clean up the kitchen.

In May, I moved on the little bit of money I had left and realized that I had to suck it up and learn some skills. Fast food is expensive. I had to be creative and let's face creative can one really be when you're dealing with frozen food and peanut butter and jelly? So I started small, bought a couple cookbooks, surfed a few websites, and broke out the crockpot. It wasn't long before I was cooking on the stovetop and the oven. Believe it or not, I'm actually up to cutting onions.

Though I go through phases where I don't necessarily want to cook, when I am doing it, I love it. I love not having to think of anything but the food and I love the sense of accomplishment I get from a meal well cooked.

Inspired by the masses of cool blogs and recipes I've been finding lately, as well as my new little "hobby" of taking pictures of the food I cook and some that I just eat, I've decided to start my own food blog. Mostly, I want a record of the recipes I try so I can use them at a later date. It's also fun to share with friends and let's face it...I love to blog. So here we go. I don't guarantee something everyday, but there may be days filled with stuff (weekends).

Let's see how this goes...

This was originally published on "Never Meant for the Kitchen" on 12/16/08. I've definitely come a long way since then. One thing that hits me about this post is how I talk about having just talked to my grandmother, who passed away in 2009. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

January Resolutions

It's a brand new year and everyone is making their 2011 resolutions. I don't normally make resolutions, because then I just feel bad when I give them up in February. However, I have decided to do something this year in celebration of the year 2011 (which has yet to actually prove if it's going to be one to celebrate or not).

A few weeks back I was doing weekly goals and updating about them. I fell off that wagon, but cramming a list of things into a week tends to be kind of overwhelming. I decided to take the goal idea and merge it with the concept of resolutions with a monthly resolution list. This isn't to say I can't reuse resolutions, it just breaks the longer term things up into bite size goals that might be easier to achieve.

I've got my list of January Resolutions made already, and most of them are hobby related. Some are time sensitive and some are ones that I will hopefully carry over into the next month. Some are just for fun.

Write DnD game for Tengaicon
Walk 20 days for 30 minutes for the January 2011 Fitness Kickoff Challenge
Finish the first three books in the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher
Finish Lego HP
Watch two horror films from my Netflix queue
Track everything spent in the checkbook
Write 4 content  articles
Log 15 hours on ChaCha
Write and schedule blogs on a three times a week basis. I'll be pulling old ones from my old blogs in order to get rid of them this year.
Get going as a consultant for Passion Parties.

I'll also be taking a mid month road trip to help some good friends of mine move from Michigan to Oklahoma, attending a small fiber festival close to hear and enjoying a day of gaming at the above mentioned Tengaicon. 

It's going to be a pretty busy start to the new year. 

Bring it on!