Sewing With Nancy I’m Not

Ever since we had the outdoor kitchen built I’ve wanted to snazz it up and decorate it in crazy jewel tones.  But in the almost year it’s been finished it still looks the same, except for the Play Doh stuck to the floor and other random spots that I don’t even want to know what they are.  But this weekend I finally decided to make the covers for the cushions I made a few months ago.  Thanks to YouTube I had enough videos to at least make me believe I could do this in an hour or so… Uh, clearly I was wrong.

Now let’s also remember that I have the twinadoes to deal with as I’m being all crafty, so it’s not like I can just sit down and get it done.  I need to make a few, ok a zillion, stops to attend to them.  Then add in lunch, dinner, and everything else and that equals to an all day event.  But in all honesty, it still would have taken me several hours to complete without all the distractions.  Sewing is tough!!!  I am in no way an avid seamstress, in fact, my sewing machine has probably seen a couple hours use total in the ten years I’ve had it.

Here’s a few tips if you are planning on undertaking a sewing project, and yes I know that some of these seem very basic but I’m sure there are a few newbies like me that start without a clue.  Have a plan before you start, yes that seems like a no brainer, but I will admit it did cross my mind.  Seriously, how difficult could it be to sew a cushion, right?  WRONG!!  Watch Youtube videos, read instructions, etc…it will save you a lot of headache.

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When you watch/read instructions you will also be given a list of items you will need to do the job, heed that list.  I sort of winged it on a few items and it definitely made things more difficult.  For one, I wish I had bought some scissors meant for fabric and a seam ripper.  Now, I do have to say that the crayon really did a great job as far as placing marks on the fabric.

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My last tip, be prepared to improvise a bit.  I made a few mistakes and at first I got flustered and thought about just starting over.  Thankfully, I calmed down and took a few minutes to see what I could do to fix the problem rather than scrap the entire project to start over.

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Take your time when you actually start sewing.  I got a little cray cray a few times I pushed that little peddle down, those lines were not even close to straight.  Now maybe with more practice I’ll be able to fly through and sew straight lines, but for now I need to go slower.

In the end I am incredibly proud of the finished product.  It’s not perfect and if you look at it it’s obviously not done by a professional, and that’s totally ok with me.  Mine has character.  Mine was done by my two hands.

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My First Pinterest Project

Pinterest is like crack, once you start you just can’t stop!!  I know that if I have even a small glimpse of an idea in my head I can look on Pinterest and there will be the full on idea times a hundred.  So many creative and crafty people out there, unfortunately I’m not one of them so I borrow their ideas.  This beverage cart was one such idea.

There’s a zillion blogs on diy projects, and I swear I’ve looked at them all.  One consistency with about 90% of them is this neat little thing they do called a “home tour”.  They basically take pictures of every room of their house to show you how creatively they’ve decorated with all their diy projects.  Well, being the total voyeur that I am I am addicted to these virtual home tours.  It was on one such tour that I spied the beverage cart idea, taking a changing table and repurposing it for this use.

I did not run out and buy a new changing table, no sir!!  I simply looked on Craigslist to find a plethora of choices.  Some were ridiculously priced, and luckily, others were not.  There was no way I was paying a lot of money for something that could turn out horribly and I would want to toss.  I believe I paid about $40 for this one, the cost of the paint was more expensive than the table!

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I figured this would be a quickie project, but of course I hit a few bumps in the road along the way.  That’s okay though, I’ve learned for my next one.

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For my inspiration I used this placemat that I purchased at World Market (love that place).  I took it with me to my local “do-it” center, aka my favorite garden/hardware store to find some spray paint that matched the colors.

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I couldn’t believe how spot on the colors ended up being.  I did buy paint in a can for the wine/purple color.

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The gold paint was actually a pain to work with.  It didn’t adhere to the shelves very well, even with primer.   I ended up using about  four cans of the stuff to finally achieve what I wanted.

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Only to change my mind for the top shelf…..

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I had originally wanted to just do the lip of each shelf in the purple color, but it just didn’t seem like enough color so I did the entire top shelf.  There went all that hard work getting that gold color to stay!!!  After a few coats I let it dry and coated with a top coat.

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I’ve ordered some glass to go on each shelf, it will look better and also be a protective layer against spills and other mishaps.  Also, the glass will give the shelves a little more strength, not that I’ll be putting really heavy things on them, but you never know.  A little tip about this when picking out your perfect changing table, some of the shelves on these tables can be stronger than others.  Of the two I’ve purchased, this one has the weaker shelves, they are thinner and bow inward under less pressure.

Overall, I’m quite happy with my results.  I’ve purchased another changing table just a little different than this one as well as one that is more like a dresser.  Both are on my growing list of projects…

Chile Relleno Casserole

I made something I said I wouldn’t make, chile relleno casserole.  The thought of putting canned peppers in place of a freshly roasted poblano just made me cringe.  But since I’m always saying how people should try things they normally wouldn’t I thought I should too.  However, I knew I had to put my RHS spin on it and use fresh poblanos that I roasted myself.

This was pretty good, but it will never replace the real thing, in my opinion.  It’s definitely easier doing it this way and you do get that nice combination of flavors.  Obviously would be easier to take to a pot luck than the real thing!!

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For the Recipe:

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9 Poblano peppers, roasted, skinned and deseeded

1 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, grated

4 oz. cheddar cheese, grated

5 eggs

1/2 c. egg whites

1 c. milk

1/2 c. whipping cream

1/4 c. flour

1 tsp. ground pepper

1 1/2 tsp. salt

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Roast the peppers and remove their skins and seeds.  I roast mine on the stove, I’ve also done it on the barbeque.  When I seed them, I just make one slit down the side, remove the seeds and stem.  Set them aside.  In a bowl, mix the eggs, egg whites, flour, salt and pepper.  Spray the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Lay one layer of the peppers down, then a layer of the cheese, repeat.  Pour the egg mixture over the top, then set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before baking (could sit longer if need be).  Bake in a 350 F. oven for 25 minutes, or until the center is set.

**Note:  I like mine fairly cheesy so I used a lot of it, it would still be good with less.  I also had part of a pepper leftover after doing the second layer so I chopped it up and sprinkled it over the top.  I served it with my spiced up tomato sauce from my regular chile relleno recipe.

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Enjoy!!

Ginger Short Rib Soup with Korean Radish

Like most everyone else, I love soups during the colder months.  Not too many of them I don’t like.  However, I do get bored with the same soups over and over.  I mean, I love chicken soup, but come on…there’s so many more things to put in a pot and call soup!!

With most soups, the ingredients can be altered to fit your tastes without hurting the end result, unlike in baking.  Maybe that’s why I struggle at baking, following a recipe is just so difficult for me.

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For the Recipe:

4 lbs. short ribs

2 large onions, quartered

2 bay leaves

2 tbsp. minced garlic

ginger, I used about a 4 inch piece that I sliced

1 tsp. pepper

2 tsp. salt

4 c. beef stock

2 carrots, cut into chunks

2 lbs. Korean radish (you can substitute daikon)

1 bunch of cilantro, divided and chopped (half you will put into the pot and half will be used for garnish)

noodles of choice, I used bean thread this time but I also like to use ramen style (and no not Top Ramen)

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Put the short ribs, onions, ginger, bay leaves, garlic, pepper, salt, and beef stock in a large heavy bottom pot.  Cook over med/low heat for about 1 1/2 hours.  Do not let this get to hard boil, you want it to be a low simmer, stirring every so often.  Next, take out the short ribs and strain the liquid to remove all the other solids.  Do not throw out this liquid, only the solids.  De-fat the liquid and put back into the pot with the short ribs (you can take the bones off the ribs if you prefer, you could even cut the meat into chunks.  Taste your broth, now is the time to “season to taste”.  Sometimes I’ll add in more ginger to really give it a ginger taste.  Add the carrots and bring back up to a simmer.  Let cook another 10 or so minutes until the carrots start to soften.  Next, add the radish, half of the bunch of chopped cilantro and let cook 15 minutes.

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While this is cooking boil some water, or as I like to use, beef stock in a 2 quart pot.  Add the noodles you choose to use and follow their directions.  You could throw the noodles into the soup pot, but since they expand so much they tend to suck up all the broth and to me that just isn’t good…

Now to the good part… eating!!

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Use the other half of the chopped cilantro for garnish.  I also love raw thinly sliced mushrooms on the top, the broth is so hot it cooks the mushrooms perfectly in the bowl.

Enjoy!!

Lobster Sushi Rolls

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Last night a local store posted on Facebook that they had their lobster buy one get one free, and since I was having some major dinner blahs I decided to head on down there to see if they had any big ones.  Let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised to see they had several three pound lobsters just calling my name.  Apparently they expected more people to serve lobster over the holidays than what actually did, so they had two tanks that needed to be cleared out.  I was more than happy to take four of them off their hands

I boiled all the lobsters when I got home, ate one tail for dinner, then put the meat of the rest of them in the fridge.  I have a few other ideas that I want to do but decided to start with these lobster sushi rolls.

For the Recipe (using measurements for one roll):

1 sheet sushi nori

1/2 c. cooked sushi rice (I used calrose seasoned with a little rice wine vinegar and sugar)

the meat from one claw, cut into three strips (you could use meat from the tail, but I had other plans for that)

2 tbsp. avocado sauce (avocado mixed with lemon juice and a pinch of salt to a creamy texture)

cooked spinach, about 10 leaves (sautéed in very little olive oil until wilted)

1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Using a bamboo sushi roller place the nori on top, then thinly spread the rice over it, reaching the sides.  Place the lobster meat across the rice.  Next, using a spoon or butter knife, spread the avocado sauce evenly next to the lobster meat.  Place the spinach on top of the lobster.  Carefully roll it up, giving a firm squeeze to make sure all the ingredients are snug inside.  Don’t squeeze too hard or it will all come out the sides, even with a nice squeeze a little will come out, but not much.  When you get to the end, dip your finger in water and use it as a glue to get the nori to stick, making a nice closure.  Using a sharp knife dipped in water, slice your roll.

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Enjoy!!!

 

 

 

Garden Beds

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For the past few months I’ve been tossing my vegetable and fruit excess into my garden beds, along with leaves and various paper, today I finally got out there to turn it all over.  It’s amazing how quickly that stuff decomposes, the pumpkins from Halloween were just little blobs of orange!

It was so nice to get out there and start doing some gardening, it’s a step in the direction of my next garden.  I’m still on deciding just how many seeds I’ll start inside in order to get a jump on the season.  I do know I won’t go as crazy as I did last year.  One seed I won’t be planting… okra.  I’ve tried it so many times but we are just not in the correct area for it to be successful.

I’ll still add a few more things to the garden beds to make them in tip top shape in order to have a bountiful garden, but I know I’m heading in the right direction because the worms were plentiful.

Anyone else getting excited for their gardens?

Chicken Congee

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Congee is one of the dishes that is very versatile.  This recipe I use chicken, but I’ve had it with seafood, pieces of beef, just vegetables, even tripe.  Depending on what you put in  your congee, this is quite the economical eats!!  It’s also another one of the dishes I make that my twinadoes like.  Much like a soup, I can add all kinds of vegetables and get them to eat it.

When I make chicken congee I’ve used both cooked chicken and raw chicken, each had good results.  When I use raw chicken I like to marinate it a little bit before adding for some extra flavor but it isn’t a must.

For the Recipe:

1 c. jasmine rice, uncooked

10 c. chicken stock or water (I’ve used both, and either is fine)

1/2 large onion, minced

3 tbsp. ginger, grated

2 tbsp. garlic, minced

1 tsp. ground pepper

4 tbsp. fish sauce

4 tbsp. shaohsing rice wine

5 boneless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces (I marinated mine, recipe for marinade to follow)

1 1/2 c. fresh shitake mushrooms, diced small (you could substitute crimini mushrooms if shitake not available)

2 large carrots, diced small

1 c. frozen peas

2 handfuls bok choy, julienned (can also substitute spinach or other leafy green)

5 green onions, sliced for garnish

In a heavy 5 quart pot add the rice, stock/water, onion, ginger, garlic, pepper, fish sauce, shaohsing rice wine and cook for an hour.  Do not cook on too high of heat or the rice will burn, also be sure to stir frequently.  After the hour, add the chicken, mushrooms, and carrots.  Let cook for 10-15 minutes.  Taste for seasoning, adjust if needed.  Add peas and bok choy, cook for another 5-7 minutes.  Serve and sprinkle with the green onions.

**Recipe for Chicken Marinade:

1 tbsp. sesame oil

1 tbsp. oyster sauce

2 tbsp. fish sauce

1 tbsp. shaohsing rice wine

Put all ingredients in a bag with the chicken.  Make sure chicken is covered completely and the ingredients are mixed well.  Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.  For mine I did about an hour.