» May 2011 «


My Blue Jeans


I think David Dundas’ song “Jeans On” pretty much sums up my attitude toward blue jeans. If you have only heard the Keith Urban version please go to this link and listen to the original before reading further.

“When I wake up in the mornin’ light
I pull on my jeans and I feel all right
I pull my blue jeans on
I pull my old blue jeans on (cha-cha)
I pull my blue jeans on
I pull my old blue jeans on (cha-cha)”

It isn’t because the lyrics are all about the greatness of jeans (because they’re not) however, the melody of this song is exactly how I feel when I pull my blue jeans on.

When I wake up in the mornin’ light, pulling on my jeans really does make me feel alright. Cha-Cha!

This post was actually inspired by a post I read a few days ago at Made (I must admit, her post is much more amusing then mine), which showed images of her wardrobe consisting only of T-shirts and jeans in various colors.

If you are an avid blogger, or at least an avid reader of blogs, I’m sure you have run across the vast array of “style” posts. These are the posts that make you feel incredibly guilty for not looking like a size 0 model in $700 jeans every day of the week. The featured outfits usually include a few of the following: high-heeled boots, peasant blouse, vintage blazer, bedazzling jewelry, skinny jeans, large belts, leather hand bag, lots of makeup, and so on.

As much as I may like these featured outfits, I am the Queen of Practicality. It’s true. Just ask my mother who sends me birthday money with a note saying, “do not use for bills.” So, what does this practical girl buy every single time she reluctantly changes out of her sweatpants to run to the mall?

T-shirts and Jeans.

Now, I’m sure you are thinking, “that’s not a big deal, I wear lots of T-shirts and jeans.” My reply, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

The pictures I’ve included are just a few of the T-shirts and jeans that I currently own. The picture above features 10 pairs of jeans (2 are skirts), and 10 t-shirts/tanks. I have 6 more jean varieties in the closet and many more T’s, not to mention all my Milligan t-shirt attire (2 drawers full).

Although the amount of jeans and t-shirts does seem to go against my previous statement of being practical, I do actually wear them all, all the time. That is more than I can say for the few dressier items I own. And, since I’ve pretty much been the same size since 8th grade, my jean collection is 9 years in the making. So, it’s maybe only half as bad as it seems.

Do I ever dress up? Of course, I actually enjoy dressing up from time to time and I DO own a few dressier items, but jeans and t-shirts are the majority by far.

A Pros list for practical me:

  1. All of my jeans can be paired with all of my t-shirts. Talk about versatility and easy dressing.
  2. Dress them up with heels, a jacket, and jewelry.
  3. Dress down with flip-flops and a cute headband.
  4. For cooler days, pair your t-shirt with a sweater and throw a pair of rain boots on over your jeans.
  5. For warmer days, pull out the jean capris or skirt and a pair of flip-flops to keep you cool.

See, now the next time you are staring dazed and confused into the wreckage you once knew as a closet, just throw on your favorite pair of jeans and a t-shirt, thus allowing for more time to enjoy a cup of coffee, or actually eat breakfast.

“I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes. -Yves Saint Laurent


Gyro Pizza


It is not uncommon to find myself at a complete loss in the kitchen. Every few weeks I feel as if I have hit a cooking rut. There are only so many different ways to combine the same 7 ingredients. I know the simple solution is to incorporate more ingredients, but every time I find myself at the breaking point, another idea comes along. This time, my lovely husband provided the idea, a Gyro pizza.

You see, we kind of like Gyros. Actually, that is probably the understatement of the century. We kind of LOVE Gyros! More specifically, we love Ozzy’s Gyros in the mall. Not only are the gyros delicious, but we love Ozzy’s family. In fact, we rarely go to the mall for the actual mall, we just go for the gyros.

So, of course, the idea of a Gyro pizza sounded genius to me. Here’s what we did to make it happen.

Dough Ingredients:

2 tsp. dry yeast
1 c. warm water
2 c. flour
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. white sugar
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. basil

Dough Instructions:

Mix yeast in water and let sit until creamy, about 10 minutes. In another bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and mix. Add in the creamy yeast mixture and blend until dough is firm and joined.

Cover the ball of dough and let sit until it doubles in size, roughly 30 minutes. Mine never doubles in size, but somehow Jake is able to make it work. Basically, if it doesn’t double, you’ll have a thinner crust. Since I love thin crust, I am ok with it.

Once the dough has risen, roll it out into the shape of your stone and get ready to bake.

Next, make my Greek sauce. This is very simple and is the same one we recently used on the Greek Turkey Burgers. You can view instructions here. Once you’ve made the sauce, coat your dough generously. Why generously? Well, aside from more being better, this tends to soak into the crust a little bit so you want to start with a healthy amount.

We used ground Italian sausage for our meat, mostly because it is easy and you don’t have to season it. Just open the package and crumble bits over your pizza.

Jack and I wanted this to taste very Gyro-ish so we decided to add the traditional veggies after baking so it would taste fresh. However, I still love the smell of baking onions so…I went ahead and added 4 stalks of green onions to the pizza before popping it in the oven. I also added half of a package of feta cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Once, your pizza is done baking, pull it out of the oven (thank you Captain Obvious) and add your freshly chopped tomato, lettuce, and sweet onion.

Last step, enjoy your Gyro pizza. So good.


A Few of My Favorite Things


Jack and I celebrated three years of marriage on Tuesday. Woohoo! Here’s a little tidbit about year three of marriage…apparently, leather is the gift of choice for three years of marriage because it is at this point the couple realizes the durability of their relationship. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I like the sound of it. I can hear you married veterans chuckling right now, “oh newlyweds.”

Anyways, I was able to take the entire day off for some much-needed R&R. Poor Jack still had to go in for most of the day, but I was able to catch up on a bit of cleaning and partake in a few activities I’ve been missing.

So, what did I do today, you ask?

After waking up at the delightful time of 9:30, I lazily walked into my kitchen for a cup of coffee and was greeted by a beautiful lily plant and a very sweet card from my best friend and hubby. This particular lily had three blooming flowers, one for each year of marriage. Awww.

Next, I enjoyed a cup of coffee on our front porch and watched the morning haze wear away. Here’s a picture of our porch growing progress.

I then walked down to the mailbox and was blessed to find five anniversary cards from our friends and family. Thank you all for the well wishes. We wouldn’t be where we are today without your love and support.

After a tearful read over the cards. I headed to the bank and then our local Starbucks to get coffee #2, but more importantly, to say hello to my friend Jane.

After a brief visit, I made the trek down the block to Target for a little “window shopping,” or at least that’s what I told myself. Just look, don’t touch, don’t buy, just look. That didn’t last long.

I’ve been wanting a pair of boots for the farm since last summer. These were cheap and cute enough for me to finally cave.

I mean, just look at these beauties, aren’t they perfect for a wildflower farm? I love boots!

I wasn’t completely selfish, however…I bought Jakie an individual mug/french press that he’s had his eye on for months.

We decided the one thing we absolutely wanted on our anniversary was sushi. So, we headed to our local Earth Fare and bought a few varieties of sushi, artisan bread, and Tillamook cheese. Yes, we bought sushi from a store, not a restaurant. Trust me their sushi beats any restaurant in the area.

I thought Tillamook Cheese would be a treat as well since we can’t buy normal blocks of it like we do back home. In fact, half the amount of Tillamook cheese costs double the price here in Tennessee. So, it truly was a treat.

We also rented a movie we’ve wanted to see since February. You ready for this? Gnomeo and Juliet.It was SO cute and my kind of clever with remarks along the lines of, “What’s in a gnome?” Yes, I am easily entertained.

We followed dinner with another favorite, French Silk Pie from Dairy Queen.
All in all, a very enjoyable anniversary, probably my favorite so far, and all for a reasonable price. Which, for practical me, feels wonderful.

A fabulous day of all the things I love: coffee, friends, gardening, sushi, Tillamook Cheese, boots, French Silk Pie, and of course, Jack. And now, I am finishing the day with one last favorite, blogging. So, thank you for indulging me as I take a break from the usual crafts and recipes to bring you a few of my favorite things.


Greek Turkey Burgers


Today was a great day. Instead of the isolated thunderstorms the weather man called for, today’s forecast was bright and sunny. A much-needed reprieve from the past two weeks of dreary rain, although I’ll take the rain over tornado warnings any day.

Aside from the beautiful weather, Jack and I were able to partake in a day of celebrations as our friend Adam graduated from a 4-year-long Master of Divinity program. Yay Adam! He will soon be attending Johns Hopkins so, ya, you could say were pretty proud to know this guy.

Anyways, after a fun day of friends and mocha cake, I am going to try to crank out this recipe for you. Jack and I broke out the ground turkey Thursday evening to make one of our favorite meals, Greek turkey burgers. If you are one to criticize the authenticity of food origins than you might want to stop reading now as I have no idea if this can really be considered Greek at all.

However, we do use Greek yogurt to make the sauce, so that’s the name I am going with.

We have made these numerous times and this last batch was the best yet.  Just goes to show, if at first you don’t succeed…well, you know the rest.

Turkey Burger Ingredients:

1 package ground turkey
1/4 of a large sweet onion
1/4 c. mushrooms ( I think I chopped 6 or 7 mushrooms)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1 package of feta cheese
1 tbsp Worcestershire
salt/pepper
oregano
garlic powder

Turkey Burger Instructions:

Thaw turkey. Chop mushrooms and onions.

Combine turkey, Worcestershire, onion, and mushrooms in a large bowl. Add egg and bread crumbs.

If you think the mixture looks super liquidy, you either need to mix it up some more (using your hands works best), or add a few more sprinkles of bread crumbs. I added less crumbs this time and the burgers ended up super moist, which was awesome.

Next, add 1/2 the feta package to the mix as well as seasonings. Be generous with the seasoning, really… you can never over-season. General seasoning guidelines??? I would say add at least 1 tbsp of oregano and garlic and 1 tsp of salt and pepper. The image below has all the seasonings on top of the meat, you should also have this much seasoning.

Form mixture into patties. You should be able to get 4-6 patties depending on the size you prefer. Cook in a pan, not on the grill to prevent any slippage through the grate.

At the same time, you should sautee some onions in olive oil to add to the top of the burger. Trust me, it’s the right choice.

Now to the Greek sauce…

Greek Sauce Ingredients:

1 single container of Plain Greek Yogurt (in the size that costs $1)
1/4 grated cucumber
2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp dill
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp lemon (tast it after 1 to see what you think)
1-2 tsp. garlic

Greek Sauce Instructions:

Grate the cucumber, yes, like on a cheese grater. The end product will look something like this…

Combine all ingredients.Taste it as you go, you may not like as much seasoning as we do or you may want more. Either way, these amounts should be a good starting point.

All that’s left is to place your burger on a bun, add sauteed onions, lettuce, Greek sauce, and voila, deliciousness on a bun!

These are fabulous, really, truly, fabulous. Happy cooking!


15 Minute Dress


So, I like clothes…a lot. Although I usually default to jeans and a fitted T-shirt, my fashion tastes did evolve while working at Nordstrom before Jack and I got engaged. Nordstrom clothes+discount=hooked.

Nowadays, being a young married couple, there isn’t much shopping taking place. Instead, I look at clothes online and dream of flowing cotton dresses, classic cardigans, and modest heels.

Every now and then, I see a dainty dress and think, “I can make that, no problem.” Unfortunately, it usually turns out to be a problem. I tend to overestimate my sewing abilities and let my impatience get the best of me, usually resulting in a less-than-satisfactory end product.

This time however, the end product was a success and it really only took me 15 minutes.

I chose this olive/purple stretchy fabric, it’s like a rayon spandex blend of some sort. First, I took two pieces of the fabric and placed right sides together. Then, I set a dress, that I love, on top of the fabric (see below) and placed pins in the fabric around the dress to copy the shape.

Next, I sewed 4 inches across the top for the shoulders, not sewing all the way to the edge. Then I measured down about 6 inches (the dress I copied had wide arm holes) and started sewing from that point down to the bottom of the fabric following the line of pins. I got the idea for the simple sewing on the shoulders and sides from this baby hankie dress which explains the setup more precisely sorry forgot to take pictures of the setup).

Finally, I turned the dress inside out and added a cute belt and some matching shoes. Tada! A dress I can actually wear (excuse the headless pictures, it was late and I have no desire to have my picture taken). I still have to hem the bottom, but I wanted to get the pictures up. Want to try your hand at sewing an outfit? Trust me this is the simplest outfit ever ever. You CAN do this. Happy sewing!


Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls


One of my favorite guilty pleasures growing up included a tub of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, and a spoon.  Yes, I realize this is ridiculously unhealthy but how can you resist? Luckily, my peanut butter cravings have diminished enough for my husband to not be completely disgusted by me, however these tiny treats take me back to my love affair with peanut butter.

Ingredients:

1 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter
2 c. peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1 package of dipping chocolate (almond bark brand works well)

Instructions:

Blend peanut butter and butter with mixer. Add powdered sugar.
If you use smooth peanut butter try adding corn flakes to the mix and taking out a little bit of powdered sugar. This gives you a more subtle crunch than you would get with crunchy peanut butter and it just happens to be my favorite way to eat peanut butter balls.

Shape dough into 1-1.5 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet.

Ok, this next step is IMPORTANT…once all the balls are rolled place the sheet in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. The peanut butter must be firm before coating with chocolate or they will fall apart.

Melt dipping chocolate in a double boiler. You can microwave if your chocolate allows but read the directions carefully.

I do not own a double boiler so instead, I put a glass bowl on top of a pot of boiling water to melt the chocolate. This works well, but be sure the two are a good fit. You want to avoid letting out steam that will get into your chocolate and cause bubbles.

Next, drop a couple of peanut butter balls into the chocolate at a time, use two spoons to move the peanut butter balls around until coated. Carefully drop onto wax paper and let cool.

I know that seems like a lot of writing to explain this process but it’s really very simple, waiting to eat the finished product is the hardest part. Enjoy!


Pecan Tarts


I made these tasty pecan tarts this weekend, recipe courtesy of momma Mary, for the Chamber Youth Leadership graduation reception at Milligan. These mini tarts are quick and easy to make, not to mention they taste phenomenal. Great for any shower or large get-together.

Ingredients:

Shell:
1/2 c. butter
3 oz. cream cheese
1 c. flour
Pecan Filling:
2 tbsp. butter
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 c. chopped pecans

Instructions:

Starting with the shell, blend butter and cream cheese. Once blended, add flour and mix. Dough will be crumbly.

Mix dough into 1.5 inch balls and place each in muffin slots on a mini muffin pan.

Use a mini-tart shaper to press down in the middle of the dough, pushing the dough up along the sides of the pan.

If you do not have a tart shaper, like me, use the end of another tool from your vast array of cooking utensils. I used the blunt end of a pizza cutter.

I also flattened out the edges of my dough, pressing them into the side of the pan so there would be more room for filling.

Now to the filling…

Mix all filling ingredients except the pecans with a blender.

Once ingredients are combined, pour in 1 c. of chopped pecans and mix with a spoon.

Now, fill your tart shells with the filling. Fill only to the top edge of the shell.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and voila! Mini pecan pies.

A few tips:

  1. You do not need to grease or spray your muffin pan prior to filling with dough. The butter in the dough keeps it from sticking.
  2. If you have trouble getting the pies out of the pan, use a thin piece of cardboard or a thick piece of paper to slide along the edges and it will pop right out.
  3. Dust the end of your dough-pressing tool with flour to keep it from sticking.
  4. Although small, these are fairly rich so you really do not need to make them any bigger than mini-muffin size.

Happy baking!


My First Catering Gig


I love summer and I love Saturdays and today is both (at least summer break, even if the weather is still spring). I am currently sitting at my kitchen table, cookbooks haphazardly strewn about, coffee in hand, laptop playing Feist, and way too many baking supplies crowding the already crowded counter tops.

I always seem to have great expectations for my summers. You would think a break from all the classes and studying that normally consume my days would free up some time, however, that does not seem to be the case so far.

My list of things to do looks something like this:

  1. finish Avynlea’s blanket before she arrives: Due date T-one month
  2. cut a sew 50 yards of fabric into table runners for Kelly’s wedding
  3. finish at least 1 of the 3 wardrobe transformation projects originally intended for the blog 2 months ago
  4. read the book Ellyn sent me
  5. practice my violin so I continue to shame my instructor
  6. fix the curtains in my kitchen
  7. make curtains for the spare room instead of the sloppy draped fabric that’s been there for 2 years now
  8. finish my picnic quilt

The list goes on, but I think that gives you a good idea. Back to the point of this post…my boss asked if I would be interested in catering this Chamber Youth Leadership graduation ceremony on Monday. Because I love to bake, and can’t seem to turn down a challenge, I eagerly agreed. So, this weekend, my list will have to wait.

Here’s what I am making:

  • red velvet cake cookies with powdered sugar coating
  • shortbread cookies with cream cheese frosting, sprinkled with cocoa powder
  • pecan tassies (mini pecan pies)
  • chocolate covered peanut butter balls
  • homemade cheesecake layered brownies
  • sparkling pineapple/orange punch

So far this morning I have made red velvet cookies and pecan tassies. Included are a few pictures. You can find the red velvet cookie recipes here. The shortbread is basically the same recipes as my Rummy Shortbread Cookies, minus the rum. I know, big disappointed sigh from my readers, but high school students and parents, I figured it’s better to not chance anyone being offended.

I stole the pecan tassie and the peanut butter ball recipes from my mom-in-law. Thanks mom!

I am freezing the juices from my punch into two flower-shaped rings for the punch bowls and putting my home-grown mint leaves into the mix. I think it will turn out very nicely (will post a picture here once it is frozen so keep checking back). I’ll be sure to post the pecan tassie and peanut butter ball recipes shortly for you all when my oven isn’t beeping at me. Have you ever catered an event for 75-100 individuals? Feel free to leave any tips you may have. Wish me luck!


Bruschetta Baguettes


We have officially entered my favorite time of year, that time of year when there are more than 2 veggies in the store that both look and taste fresh. Maybe it’s just me but I’m pretty sure our meals taste 500 times better in the spring.

With summer just around the corner, Jack and I have started phasing out our heavier meals in exchange for lighter, more fresh versions of our favorites. Monday’s meal was fantastic! I made broiled bruschetta baguettes. This one is a must for the Weinbender recipe box.

Ingredients:

1 baguette
1/2 large tomato
1/4 c. onion
1/4 c. cucumber
feta cheese
graded cheddar cheese
3 garlic cloves (minced)
lettuce or spinach leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
pepper
salt
oregano
basil

Instructions:

Slice the baguette lengthwise, so you separate the top from the bottom. Brush olive oil lightly over the tops of the bread. Mince garlic cloves and spread evenly over baguette.

Chop tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Place veggies on baguette. Lightly sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Sprinkle all seasonings according to your individual tastes.

Place baguette slices under broiler for about 10 minutes. Be sure to check every few minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Chop a few slices of spinach or lettuce. Pull baguette out of oven when edges are browned. Sprinkle with lettuce and feta cheese.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Happy broiling!

Tags: http://www.staying-awake.org, http://www.whyhcg.com, http://www.myprovigil.com


Flowers for Mom


Yesterday at the farm we had a Mother’s Day workshop which is one of my absolute favorite workshops each year. Mother’s day falls at the best time of the year for Linda’s flowers. The flowers are incredibly fragrant and absolutely gorgeous.

Some of my all-time favorites that bloom around this time include: ranunculus (the rose-like flower above), baptisia (the yellow stalk-like flower above), peonies, mock orange (my favorite), rhododendrons, spirea, smoke bush, and much more.

So, in honor of Mother’s Day, (and because pictures of the farm are my mother’s favorite posts) I decided to post some pictures of the beautiful flowers that all you mothers deserve to be given.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Vegetable Shrimp Soup


I absolutely love shrimp. I could eat shrimp every single day and never tire of it. So, the other night, I decided to experiment with a make-shift shrimp soup. I was pleasantly surprised with the result. This recipe will feed 4 individuals 1 cup apiece.

Ingredients:

30 deveined shrimp without tail
1/4 c. tomato sauce
2 tomatoes
2 green onions
1/4 of a large cucumber
1/4 c. red onion
1 avocado
1 leek
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro
1-2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. garlic

Instructions:

Thaw, rinse and drain shrimp. Place in frying pan to cook. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic. Add 1 tsp. lemon juice. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side.

Chop cucumber, tomato, leeks, and onions and place in a pot on low with a small amount of butter.

Add tomato sauce, lime, lemon, cilantro, 1 tbsp. garlic, salt and pepper.

Add cooked shrimp to soup. Let cook for 5 minutes. Add avocado and serve.

I also think this meal would work well cold or over rice. Don’t let the recipe limit your imagination, feel free to add to or take away from the ingredients, especially seasonings. I try to provide a general idea of how much seasoning I use but I normally season to taste, so taste your food as you go to make sure you like the finished product. Happy cooking!