Friday, April 30

This Week's Recipe--Four-Cheese Pasta Florentine

Photo from Kraftfoods.com

The Recipe
This week's recipe is another from the latest issue of Food & Family from Kraft Foods.com. I probably already mentioned this, but Food & Family got me hooked back when it was a free magazine. Now you have to pay for it, but they almost always have recipes I like in it so I pay. Even though it's nothing more than a Kraft advertisement. That I pay for. Anyway...I digress!

A printable version of this recipe can be found here.

Ingredients

3 cups mostaccioli, uncooked
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) cream cheese, cubed
1 cup low fat cottage cheese
2 eggs
1 pkg. (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated parmesan

HEAT oven to 375ºF.

COOK pasta as directed on package. Meanwhile, cook spinach as directed on package; drain well. Place in large bowl. Add cream cheese; stir until melted. Stir in cottage cheese and eggs until well blended.

DRAIN pasta. Add to spinach mixture with mozzarella; mix lightly. Spoon into 8- or 9-inch square baking dish; top with Parmesan.

BAKE 25 min. or until center is set.

Andrea's Kitchen
I followed this recipe fairly closely. I didn't have mostaccioli so I used some other tube-shaped pasta--rigtoni maybe?

The Verdict
Not too bad, but it needs a little garlic or something. At the risk of sounding like a wannabe Food Network host, it tasted kind of flat. And the kids didn't go for the spinach. At all. Kelsey ate it because I told her it would make her muscles strong (hey--it worked for Popeye!), but Stacy didn't buy it. Scott and I liked it though. When I make it again I'll add garlic and delete the spinach.


Wednesday, April 28

Could it be??

Spring?!?!


The mercury spiked 52 degrees here in Whittier yesterday which is the highest temperature so far for 2010! The girls and I headed out on a little walk and I noticed several signs that (in spite of my constant whining for the last few weeks!) spring does indeed seem to have arrived here in Alaska.

1) Less snow. It really is melting! Remember those January photos of the path to the tunnel? Now you can see the path!

2) The plywood is coming off and businesses are opening up! At least one restaurant is opening May 1. (those are fake flowers, though!)

3) Plants are coming up and leafing out! Here's a pussy willow I snapped a shot of at the harbor.

4) The temperature!! Look--we were all comfortable without coats on our walk!
And there are more, too! The BTI is filling up with seasonal residents. The Great Pacific Seafood processing plant is getting back into the swing of things. Fishermen are coming back--the harbor was packed this weekend. The ferry schedule is picking up again. All of these little things add up!

So what do you think? Is it spring?

Sunday, April 25

Birthday Crafts

Just a quick post to share a couple of things I made for Stacy's birthday.

1) The toolbelt! This was a big hit. I made it out of the leg of an old pair of jeans and some scraps of fabric for flowers. I added buttons to the centers of the flowers for fun. The tools are Home Depot toys from EBay. Kelsey was happy to model it for me while Stacy played with other new toys!


2) The birthday crown! I made one for Kelsey on her special day, so Stacy had been *really* looking forward to getting her own. She wore it most of the day, so I'd say it was a success!

Happy Birthday, Stacy!

Since the party's now over, I guess it's official...Stacy's 3!! Here's a roundup of shots from her birthday day and her birthday dinner last night. Much to her liking, her birthday fell on 'Daddy's stay-home' days, so we jammed all the fun into one day.



The excitement began at 6:30 with presents from Mommy and Daddy and Kelsey. Scott donned his chef hat (not really--you know how Scott is in the AM!!) and made Mickey Mouse pancakes. The girls celebrated with baths by themselves (remember? this is is a big deal at our house!), and then we alternately opened presents and played with new toys all day long. The festivities were capped off by a birthday dinner of hot dogs, chips, potato salad, green beans and deviled eggs. Then we lit the candles, blew them out and enjoyed cake (which was supposed to look like Cinderella, but turned out looking a little like Wilma Flintsone!) and ice cream. It was a fun day!

Just for kicks, I'll leave you with a walk down memory lane!

Friday, April 23

This Week's Recipe--The BEST Brownies Ever

Up until now I have preferred boxed brownie mix to any homemade brownies I've ever made. The texture and flavor have always been better. That was until I turned to my new best friend in the kitchen, Alton Brown. I know I've mentioned him before, but if you've never checked him out on his show Good Eats on the Food Network, you really should! This brownie recipe was featured during Valentine's week when he was making all manner of sinfully chocolate-y goodness.

The Recipe
A nice printable version can be found here, on the Food Network's site.

Ingredients

  • Soft butter, for greasing the pan
  • Flour, for dusting the buttered pan
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup brown sugar, sifted
  • 8 ounces melted butter
  • 11/4 cups cocoa, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness with the tried-and-true toothpick method: a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out clean. When it's done, remove to a rack to cool. Resist the temptation to cut into it until it's mostly cool.

Andrea's Kitchen
I followed this one carefully...right up until the end! He says to resist cutting into them until they're mostly cool. All I can say is GOOD LUCK! I certainly wasn't able to resist!

The Verdict
Holy chocolate! No more mix brownies here! Of course with 2 cups of sugar and a cup of butter we'll only be eating brownies twice a year, but they'll be absolute brownie perfection!!

Wednesday, April 21

Girl's Nightgown from a T-Shirt

Remember a few weeks ago when I posted my to-do list? Well, we can now cross off #5

From the original list:

5. I've got to come up with a project that uses this stenciling method--it looks really neat!

I did it! Not only did I come up with my very own, wonderful, thrifty project, but I also tried out the freezer paper stenciling on it.

I made these nightgowns from some shirts of Scott's that he never wears. I traced a nightie we had to make a pattern, and then away I went!

The nighties from the front:

The nighties from the back:
And just for fun, here are my two clowns modeling their new duds! They were *very* excited to finally be able to wear them to bed tonight since they've been (not so patiently!) waiting for them for several days as I have made and then stenciled them.



These nighties were SUPER SIMPLE! Do you like??

Monday, April 19

10 Things I Want To Do This Summer

In the spirit of ignoring the snow outside, I'm working on my list of things to see and do this summer. I'll have to try to remember to check in at the end of the summer to cross off the things we get to!

1. Visit Palmer and the Colony House Museum. Maybe even during Colony Days!

2. Ride somewhere on the Alaska Railroad.

3. Ride somewhere on the Alaska Marine Highway.

4. Visit the city of Kenai.

5. Visit the city of Homer.

6. Visit Soldotna.

7. Go to the Alaska State Fair.

8. Spend a few hours at the Anchorage Saturday Market.

9. Take a glacier cruise (maybe with these folks or these folks).

10. Take the kids to Seward to the Alaska Sealife Center.

Hmmm...seems pretty ambitious!

Friday, April 16

This Week's Recipe--Marshmallows

Kelsey enjoying some hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows!

OK, this is going to sound really silly, but until a few months ago I didn't even know you could make your own marshmallows. I assumed they fell into the category of hot dogs and Twinkies--better left to the pros! Well, turns out I was wrong! At the advice of a friend, I tried the Alton Brown recipe for marshmallows.

The Recipe
A nice printable version can be found over at the Food Network's website, or by clicking here.

Ingredients

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Nonstick spray

Directions

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

For regular marshmallows:

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

For miniature marshmallows:

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Line 4 half sheet pans with parchment paper, spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray and dust with the confectioners' sugar mixture.

Scoop the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round piping tip. Pipe the mixture onto the prepared sheet pans lengthwise, leaving about 1-inch between each strip. Sprinkle the tops with enough of the remaining cornstarch and sugar mixture to lightly cover. Let the strips set for 4 hours or up to overnight.

Cut into 1/2 inch pieces using a pizza wheel or scissors dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining sugar mixture and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Andrea's Kitchen
I followed this one pretty closely. I did use regular salt instead of kosher, so I just used a dash.

The Verdict
Oh my yummity, yum, yum! These are so good! The recipe is lengthy, but really they were very easy to make. Messy, but easy. Now the only problem is going to be figuring out how to use them all up! A hot chocolate party? Rice Crispy treats? Scott suggested making cookies and squishing them between (that would also work before you let them set up). Or do I just leave them on the counter and snack??


Thursday, April 15

The Making of a Quilt--Day 2

Now I'm just waiting for my package from Texas with the fabrics to finish this up!

Today I finished piecing the blocks (73 in total).

Then I put some of them into rows.

Lots of pressing! Now...hurry up mail!

Wednesday, April 14

The Making of a Quilt--Day 1


Well I did it! I finally got up the nerve to unroll my beautiful Moda jellyroll and start a quilt with it. It's been a busy 24 hours since I decided (at long last!) on a pattern and got going. Last night I unrolled and matched up my strips into pleasing trios.

This morning I tackled sewing the trios and pressing them.

Then chopping them up again.
Then sewing them back together into nine patch blocks.

I have completed 50 nine patch blocks, so by my calculations that leaves me 20 or so left to stitch. I can then put part of the quilt together. Then I have to wait for the rest of my fabric to arrive from Suzzette's Fabric in Italy. Texas that is! I'd love to tell you about the pattern I chose, but I'm going to keep it a secret for a little bit. I'm so excited about it that I dreamed about it last night, though!

Sisterly Love



Aren't these just sweet?!?!

This was the other morning just after I hopped off the treadmill and just after I turned on Sesame Street so I could jump in the shower. Minutes before the girls had been playing "kitty" so in these pictures Kelsey (kitty) is sitting on her owner's lap.

In other news, the sounds of "f" and "th" have made their way into Stacy's speaking. Goodbye "dis and dat" and hello "this and that"! She's also proud to announce that she'll be "three" on her birthday, which sounds somewhat better than being "free"!

Kelsey's vocabulary has expanded to include phrases such as, "Wait just a moment, please!" and Stacy loves to tell people, "Thank you! I really appreciate that!". Scott and I both are often struck by the depth of their conversations with each other. It's so fun to listen to them work out games and such!

Monday, April 12

5 Things I Like About Snow

Just in case you hadn't heard, we still have snow. In fact, we're still getting snow! As I type this the white stuff has been falling since last night around 9pm. Last weekend we had a 2 1/2 day snow 'event' that yielded us about 18 inches of fresh snow. On top of our gazillion inches of old stuff! Up until about April 1 I was still smiling when it snowed. Now I'm groaning! It's officially spring for Pete's sake!!!

Anyway...since I've not yet figured out how to get rid of it all (although I am working on a plan to sell it all on EBay...) I'm thinking positively the good things about snow. In January I'm sure this list would have been longer, but here goes:

1. Even when it's cloudy outside, the light reflecting off the snow makes it nice and bright in #804. This was especially nice on those shorter winter days.

2. It nicely disguises some of Whittier's less than beautiful 'stuff'

3. In its various stages it provides me with some free entertainment watching people attempt to park in it, get out of their parking spots in it, plow it, relocate it, store it, etc.

4.I honestly do still love the way trees look with a fresh snowfall dusting their branches.

5. Snowshoeing. I'm still new to this, andI'm having a lot of fun!

Saturday, April 10

Another Question for YOU!

I did this a little while ago, and it was fun to read people's responses! The girls are quite taken with "Green Eggs and Ham" right now, so my question is:

What's your favorite Dr. Seuss book?

My favorite is probably "The Sneetches and Other Stories". It's the one I remember asking my mom to read to me over and over as a kid. Which means that when you scroll down it probably won't be her favorite!

Leave your answer as a comment below, I look forward to reading them all! Thanks!

Friday, April 9

This Week's Recipe--Smoked Salmon Chowder

photo from Alaska Smokehouse

This recipe can be found over at the Alaska Smokehouse, but I'm going to post it here also, to see if you can spot the potential problem with this recipe as written. I didn't notice it until I was cooking it. More on that later though; here's

The Recipe
Ingredients:
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup onion, finely diced
  • 8 ounces of Alaska Smokehouse Smoked Salmon
  • 2 tablespoons of margarine
  • 4 medium potatoes, cooked and cut in bite sized chunks
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup light cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

1. Pour eight cups of chicken or vegetable stock in a large saucepan and begin to heat it up.
2. Heat on low for five minutes and then turn your burner to medium so that you slowly bring the stock to temperature.
3. In a separate large pan, melt the margarine and sauté diced onions until they are translucent.
4. Add flour to the melted margarine and stir continuously for 5 minutes.

Increase heat on stock to medium-high, and with a wire whisk, add flour, margarine and onion mixture to the liquid. Stir constantly, breaking up any lumps that form. Add Alaska Smokehouse Smoked Salmon and stir. Add potato chunks, milk, cream, and salt and pepper to taste, and continue stirring. Decrease heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning or sticking.

Andrea's Kitchen
Ok...so it looks yummy in the picture and I had all of the ingredients on hand, so away I go! All's going well until I hit step 4. I'll pause here and let you re-read step 4. OK, now look back up there and double check how much flour I'm stirring into how much butter. Hmmmm...1 cup of flour into 2 tablespoo
ns of butter????? Yeah--well like I said, I didn't notice this until I was watching two pots on the stove and trying to complete step 4 with an almost 3 year old hanging on my leg and a 4 year old whining she was hungry, so I just charged ahead, following the directions. And it turned out OK...since there are spuds in there too, you don't notice all those lumps of flour that didn't dissolve! Next time I'll use the old gravy method Gma Paul used where you put the flour and some liquid in a container with a lid and shake and shake and shake. That would be much easier to get to add in smoothly. Either that or add some of the milk or broth mixture to the butter before adding the flour so it's more like a roux and less like little lumps of flour!

The other potential hang-up comes with the cooking time and the potatoes. Chopped potatoes just aren't done in 10 minutes! Luckily I saw this one coming, and adjusted the cooking time to about 18 minutes.

My final adjustment was to add about 2t. of paprika to the soup. My tasting told me it needed something more, so I tried paprika. I liked the result.

The Verdict
So after reading all of that, you're probably thinking that this recipe was a bust. But it wasn't! We all liked it, even Scott the sworn salmon-hater! Not too bad, huh?

Wednesday, April 7

More Fun With Photos

Hey--look what I can do! :-) Turns out Fotki has a couple of widgets to offer...funny what you can discover when you look a little closer! Since I'm on Fotki several times a day I guess I didn't notice that new 'widgets' tab...

Click on the photo to change to the next one in the stack.



Here's another...watch the photos change!



And finally, one last one--since I'm sure you're tired of looking at these same photos over and over by now!

Tuesday, April 6

Lookie!

Hey! Something good has come from reading all those blogs! I learned how to do this:

which I think is pretty neat! I went here and it's easy as pie...give it a try! It looks like they also have some other fun tools to play around with. Oh...there goes more time down the drain! :-)

Sunday, April 4

Button-Edged Socks

We were first introduced to these socks by Auntie Gwen who gave the girls each a pair during their first year. They wore them until the heels hit the middle of their feet and then I had to learn to make them some new ones! Turns out it's pretty quick and easy--and yields a product the girls love, love, love! I made them some for their Christmas stockings and then another pair each for their Easter baskets. And those originals from Auntie Gwen? Well, since they also included beads that spelled the girls' names I have them set aside--some day I'll take them apart and re-use the buttons and beads. Someday!

Friday, April 2

Easter Eggs

The girls and I dyed Easter Eggs this morning. This was the first time we've dyed eggs that we haven't had to do it on the kitchen floor. We also didn't end up with nearly so many smashed ones as we have in years past...only one hit the floor today!

Here's a shot I took, trying to be artistic:



There are more pictures over on Fotki if you'd like!

Fabric Bowls and Baskets

The last two Thursday evenings I've been in Girdwood with a wonderful group of ladies, learning to make fabric bowls. We did the prep work last week and then made the actual bowl last night. The method we learned is similar to this pattern, I believe. Here's the bowl I completed yesterday.



In the meantime however, I Googled around and found this tutorial demonstrating a slightly different technique. Using this method, the edges of the fabric fray slightly, and I loved the look right away for my purposes--an Easter basket. I *LOVE* how it turned out! I used buttons from Gma Paul's stash to adorn the handles. Now I just have to whip up one more before Sunday!

This Week's Recipe--South-of-the-Border Chicken & Pasta Skillet

Photo from Kraftfoods.com

The Recipe
This is another Kraft Foods special! It's from the Spring 2010 magazine and it's also on their website over here.

Andrea's Kitchen
I actually followed this one pretty closely, although I did substitute canned corn for the frozen corn the recipe called for.

The Verdict
Good, but a bit spicy for my taste. Next time I'll choose a sweeter salsa and I think I'll like it better. Scott liked it and Kelsey did too, after we added some sour cream to hers. Stacy didn't care for it. It's a do over though--I want to try it once more with different salsa, because it was quick!