Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Two easy main dish meals

I don't make resolutions for New Year's but I am trying to finish off long neglected projects this year, and also to do better about planning meals. I've been in a meal slump for ages. I've been married 38 years. That is a lot of dinners. What is the latest health concern, not ours but according to the media? Are we eating eggs but not butter or no dairy at all? Is wheat making me fat or is it diet Coke?

I'm not diminishing anyone's concerns with these matters but I was using the media's concern of the week as an excuse not to fix a meal that we liked. Realistically, I think we all know that moderation is the key, right?

The first recipe is from Publix. We don't have Publix stores in Michigan but I am familiar with them from visits to Florida.

Confetti Chicken

The link to Publix is here.  My paraphrased directions follow:
  • 2 T  unsalted butter
  • 8 oz  spaghetti, broken into 2" pieces
  • 10 oz  cooked, diced chicken (about 2.5 cups)
  • 4 oz  jar of pimentos, drained
  • 8 oz  trinity mix (I used a few stalks of celery and onions)
  • 10.5 oz  can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4 tsp  kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp  pepper
  • 14.5 oz  can low sodium chicken broth
  • 1.25 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup  panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 425* Bring water to boil for pasta. Cut butter in small places and place in bowl to soften.
  • Boil the broken pasts for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until partially tender. Drain.
  • Combine chicken, pimentos, trinity mix, soup, salt, pepper and broth. Cover and microwave on high 2-3 minutes until hot and veggies begin to soften. (I did this in a skillet on stove top)
  • Add drained pasta to chicken mixture. Transfer to 2 qt baking dish. Stir cheese and bread crumbs into softened butter. Mix with fingers until mix is crumbly. Spread evenly over casserole. Make 15-20 minutes or until bubbly around edges.
My husband isn't a huge fan of chicken casseroles but he really liked this, especially the topping. He asked that I try it with cream of chicken soup next time.


Next is a slow cooker recipe from America's Test Kitchen. The link is here with my paraphrased directions below.
Bachelor Beef Stew

  • 2 c  frozen chopped onions (or 2 onions, minced)
  • 3 T  tomato paste
  • 2 T  vegetable oil
  • 1.5 tsp  garlic powder (or 6 garlic cloves, minced)
  • 2 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 1 c  low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 c  beef broth
  • 8 oz  baby carrots
  • 1/4 c  soy sauce
  • 2 T  Minute tapioca
  • 2  bay leaves
  • 3 lbs  beef steak tips
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb  frozen roasted potatoes, steak fries or French fries.
  • 1 c  frozen peas
Cooking time is 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 on high.
  1. Microwave onion, tomato sauce, 1 T of oil (the other will be used later), garlic powder and thyme in bowl, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until onions are tender. Place in slow cooker.
  2. Stir both broths, carrots, soy sauce, tapioca and bay leaves into slow cooker. Season beef with salt and pepper and add. Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9-11  hours on low or 5-7 hours on high.
  3. Remove beef, allow to cool slightly on cutting board, then shred with two forks. Skim fat from stew with large spoon and remove bay leaves.
  4. Microwave potatoes with remaining T oil, stirring occasionally until thawed and warm, 5-7 minutes. Stir warm potatoes, shredded beef and peas into stew and heat through. Adjust seasonings and add more hot broth as necessary.
This was a huge hit in my house. The idea behind Bachelor Stew is that the recipe is easy and all items are likely to be in the freezer or pantry. I cut the meat before adding it rather than shredding it and left out the peas per hubby's preference. The Test Kitchen often uses frozen onions and now I do too. Less waste and no tears!

My crafting this month has been scrapbook/photo albums that don't merit showing here but I am very happy to have them done. Each son now has his life from birth through high school graduation chronicled and in THEIR homes (see that? I'm decluttering here!) and I have a Disney album from our two trips to the House of Mouse in '85 and '95.  See what I mean about long neglected projects? Another bonus is that doing these albums means most of our photos are now sorted and organized. Despite the bitter cold and starting the year with a head cold, January has turned out to be a productive, happy month.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I'm getting wimpier

Shortly after we were married, my husband and I saw the original Rocky movie at the show. My parents virtually never went to the movies but we thought this story of the underdog overcoming the odds might be enjoyable to them, so we went a second time and took them with us. The story was overshadowed by language for them. There really isn't much swearing in Rocky, but to 60 year old people who were accustomed to 3 network TV channels that didn't allow "damn", whatever curse words were in the movie were a shock to them. It isn't that they never swore, they simply weren't used to hearing it in movies.

Now I am 61 and unfortunately, you can hear a lot more than "damn" at any hour on cable TV, even on the old network stations of ABC, CBS and NBC. I could say more about this but language isn't what is on my mind this morning. Violence is.

The series The Following began last year and had many viewers hooked before the first episode was over. I was one of them. The key word in that sentence is "was".  I am not a movie or TV critic, and I'm not campaigning to have any shows removed. I only speak for myself. The violence of that show got to me. I watched it through the first season because I wanted to know what happened to the key characters, but I listened more than I watched. Hearing torture, even though I know it was acting and not real, was almost as bad as watching it. That series resumes soon, maybe even this week. My husband will probably watch it but I won't.

A newer series has joined that category for me. The series is The Blacklist. I think it is well written and I really like James Spader. I'd been having doubts that I could continue watching this but last night confirmed that I cannot.  I was wide awake in the middle of the night and thought I would catch up on recorded TV. Silly me, I chose The Blacklist. I was awake for another 90 minutes after watching that even though I had my eyes covered when the bad guys reached for their tools of torture. I know that these shows still hold back from what some movies show, but the implication and dialog is clear enough to upset me.

I suspect 20 and 30 year olds take these shows in stride. I don't want to guess what will bother them when they reach 60 since swearing and violence are norms in the world of entertainment now. In my philosophical moments, I wonder if all of this isn't desensitizing society as a whole and partly explains man's treatment of fellow man. I try not to think about this too much though. It makes me want to write blog posts and ask the unanswerable question: What the hell is going on? And then I have to silently apologize to Mom and Dad. They weren't used to seeing swearing in print either.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Birthday Card

My younger son has a birthday on Monday. He will be 34. If that isn't bad enough, his brother will be 36 in two months. Good thing I'm not concerned with lying about my age. I mean I might if I could pull it off, and more importantly, if I could remember what age I claim as my own. I know someone on Facebook who took 10 years off her age. Does she really think family and long time friends don't know how old she is? It's just a number, and as the saying goes, the more birthdays you have, the longer you live. Profound, right? That's me.

I need a lot more birthdays to get through all the crafts that I have pinned on Pinterest. One pin led to this card. It measures 5.5" wide and 6.5" tall. Flat, it is mail-able but I think it would require extra postage. I didn't make an envelope for this, it will just be handed to my son. Without further ado, here it is, first flat:
And here it is standing, table high view:
Looking at from above:
And from directly overhead:
A paper cutter and scoring device are handy but not absolute necessities. Chances are, if you make cards or play much with paper, you already have these tools.

The directions and a video guide to making this are available at Splitcoaststampers I don't recall if you have to be a member to see this or not, but there is no cost involved and I do not get unwanted emails, etc from them. They are safe.

The two photos that are at odd angles to the left and right on the opened card are glued to narrow strips of acetate. I recently organized all of my cling style rubber stamps, most of which came packaged with small sheets of clear acetate. As I put the stamps in their new home, I couldn't toss all that acetate that might be useful. For once, I was right!

The back panel of this card should have had the black paper on the back side and striped paper (the lining of the box) visible from the front. Oops. That panel and a plain one on the back are cut longer to keep the rear flap of the box upright. In this card, the back panel is solid black and I wrote our son's birthday greetings in metallic ink.

I will definitely make this card again.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hell has frozen in so many ways....

Each of the 50 states has at least one location with below freezing temperatures. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that Hell has frozen over. Hell, Michigan, that is.
Southeast Michigan has broken some records that didn't need breaking but I'm not in control of that.

I'm also not in control of Blogger which is giving me error messages and asking me to sign in twice. Perhaps the Universe is telling me that I was better off when I wasn't blogging? Internet Explorer is working better than Firefox which sometimes freezes, pixelates, goes black and returns to where I was. That is scary. I'm beginning to think that Blogger-Google-Chrome are trying to force my hand in how I sign in (not Gmail), which browser I use (not Chrome) and maybe they are behind the Velveeta shortage that I heard out or that M&Ms should be colored with a different product. Heavens, we all really need those M&Ms right? Don't limit your intake if you feel the dye is wrong. Uh oh, I'd better stop before I begin to rant.

Let's face it, if we're going to rant, there are bigger issues than weather or Blogger we can discuss. How about Dennis Rodman and O.J. Simpson?  I can not believe that Rodman thinks it is ok to befriend Kim Jong Un. Even if Rodman is a bit crazy and thinks he is doing something worthwhile (and that is a HUGE if), what is with the other players going along with him? And now O.J. Simpson wants presidential clemency because he claims to have brain cancer and doesn't want "to die in prison like jailhouse scum".  Really? A plea for clemency and use that phrase?

Oops! There I go again, but at least I'm warmer as I get hot under the collar.  
I'm not seriously hot under the collar but I do wonder if society will stop idolizing celebrity to the point where celebs lose touch with reality. Aren't most of these problems in part because they've been surrounded by yes men, telling them that they are wonderful in their distorted views? Also their doctors and lawyers who explain away their poor behavior in ways that we could never pull off? If Mary Smith down the street endorses Kim Jong Un assassinating his uncle and treatment of his entire country, we think she is a wacko and ignore her. Dennis Rodman get national attention. Repeatedly. If society ignored them, the media wouldn't make anything from dragging Rodman, Simpson and Tonya Harding into the news. Again.

I really need this weather to break so that I can get out of the house!

To end on a bright note, Summer is only 164 days away!

Friday, January 3, 2014

First Friday of the New Year

I don't know why reaching Friday is such an accomplishment in retirement when theoretically one day is the same as the next, but that Friday feeling still exists. Even without special plans for the weekend, Fridays still feel good, the promise of fun, relief or both.

Here in SE Michigan, we could use a little relief from cold weather but we are neither as bad as some areas nor at our worst yet. Next week's highs will be single digit temperatures. Single digits!!
I can't leave Michigan. My roots are here. My family and friends are here. This house has been our home all of our married life and it means a lot to me. Winter doesn't last forever but love does.

I've often said that I was meant to be an island girl. My hair was once this dark. I can wear a flower. I can sway from side to side. Unfortunately the similarities in body image end there.

I had a great idea recently. If you aren't familiar with the location and shape of Michigan, here is brief lesson. The lower peninsula, where I live, is called The Mitten. The upper peninsula can be reached by the Mackinac Bridge  (pronounced Mack-in-naw) which is a long suspension bridge. The upper peninsula has a common border with Wisconsin, not us "trolls" who live under the bridge.
Lower Michigan borders the states of Indiana and Ohio, as seen here:
With no offense directed at my Indiana and Ohio neighbors, my great idea was to physically cut the Mitten off of Indiana and Ohio and become an island. Brilliant, right? We would suddenly be warm. Tropical flowers would bloom. I would be oh-so-very happy!

Mother Nature stepped in and stomped on that idea. I cancelled the huge reciprocating saw that was going to accomplish this feat when I read some news on Facebook. Look on the map, the right of Detroit. Do you see that heart shaped blue water between Lake Erie on the south and Lake Huron on the north? That is Lake St Clair. Near the top of that heart, very close to the red line that indicates the division of American-Canadian waters, is Harsens Island. Our family has a cottage there. Most people on the island are summer people but there are 2000+ people who live their year round. The only way to reach the island is by your own boat or crossing over by auto ferry. Due to ice on the river, the ferry shut down yesterday afternoon with hopes of the coast guard cutter freeing things up this morning so that ferry crossings could resume.

Apparently making the Mitten an island wouldn't bring me the balmy weather I desire. Darn it. But never fear, I still can say you know why? Because we are one day closer to warm weather!

I'm even feeling sorry for the squirrels in this weather!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Knitted Bunnies

Between Pinterest and Ravelry, I didn't stand a chance. Little bunnies kept jumping out and me, crying "Knit me! Knit me!" The pattern, available through Ravelry and here at Little Cotton Rabbits, was fairly quick to knit. I am tempted to say it was definitely quick to knit but I am writing this over a month later and the holidays (shouldn't that be holly "daze"?) might have skewed my perception of time.

Oooh! A bunny butt!

Here she is with her toy bear out of her Christmas stocking.

Why did I make her gray? Perhaps she is an old bunny like me with graying  Truthfully, I knew I wanted her dress to be red and white and wanted contrast in her body coloring.

The pattern parts are all knit flat, sewn and stuffed. I often knit in the round but on small projects, knitting flat can be easier. The body of the rabbit, including her striped legs and shoes is made with SMC Select merino cotton yarn. Her dress and the Christmas stocking are made from Rowan's Sienna cotton yarn. The bear was made from leftover self striping sock yarn. 

The rabbit pattern comes with one dress pattern. The additional pattern for seasonal dresses is based on the original dress with graphs for the various designs. I think the dress will fit stuffed bears that I have out all year long. I didn't think to try this dress on one of them before sending this off as a gift. If the dress pattern fits, my bears are going to be very well dressed all year long!

The Christmas stocking went together so well, I made twelve more of them, ten shown here.

If you're looking for projects to use up small quantities of yarn, if you need a snug-able toy, or if you just have a thing for bunnies, hop on over to Ravelry or to the link above and get the pattern for the girl rabbit, the boy rabbit, or maybe you prefer a hedgehog or fox.  This link will take to you free patterns on the website if you'd like to get a feel for her directions before making a purchase.