Friday, June 29, 2012

Social Butterfly

I don't know how it happened, but at some point this week I became social.  Really social.  Like, everyday-there-is-something-going-on social.  It all started last weekend when we entertained my son's in-laws.  Great company.  Then we went to the theater to watch a play with some other friends, and finished off the weekend spending time with our other son Cameron and his friend Daniella playing Pirate Flux into the night.

The social activities continued this week, as I spent a little time walking my neighbor Lucy's dogs, Jessie and Pepper, with her.  So nice to start the day with conversation.  During the school year my husband gets up early to have coffee and chat before I leave for work, but in the summer I let him sleep in.  I didn't realize I missed that until I started spending a little time with Lucy in the mornings.

Then I had a great sewing day and lunch with friends in town.  Wonderful to catch up with them, talk about movies and books, and get a little work done on my Dear Jane.

Another walk with Lucy looking for dead stuff on the side of the road.  I know it sounds odd, but a mountain lion has been spotted on the land across the street from my house (literally, right across the street), and with the buzzards hanging around we thought it might have made a fresh kill.  We have to be safe out here, right?  And no, I probably won't get pictures.

Can't stop the ball yet.  I had a very enjoyable visit with dear Ellen.  She has finished grad school and is heading to Dallas to start her career.  So nice for her to visit and spend a little time with me so I could get all caught up on her new apartment and her plans for summer travel before her move.

My dear friend Kristen hosted a nice dinner for a few of us ladies last night, which now gets you up to date.  She is so cute.  Look at these chalkboard coasters that she used to describe the food.

We had baked sweet potato fries . . .

. . . and turkey burgers with all the fixin's.

Fruit salad.

The blueberry juileps were so light and refreshing.

If I remember correctly, they were made from 1/4 cup of blueberries (muddled), 1 wedge of lemon, 1 Tbsp of brown sugar, 1 oz Jack Daniels, and 4 oz. of seltzer.  Yum.  And don't you love these little skewers with blueberries for garnish?  Such a well put together meal.  Thanks, Kristen.

I'm not done yet.  Tonight I have a cookout in Caldwell, TX at my friend Krystina's house, tomorrow a neighborhood bbq for lunch, then a party at my brother and sister-in-law's house in Houston.  Life is good.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Whole Wheat Farfalle and Sausage

I have been wanting to use whole wheat pasta for awhile now.  I bought some and stashed it in the pantry and basically forgot it was there.  As I perused the pantry tonight searching for dinner inspiration I found it.  Not wanting to go to the grocery store I whipped something up with what I had on hand.

In the freezer I had some leftover cooked sausage and some peas. 

I also had a full green pepper that needed to be used before it got all wrinkly, and some grape tomatoes and garlic.

It smelled wonderful.

I also needed to use up the ricotta cheese I had leftover from baking the Almond and Ricotta Cake this past weekend.  When it was all said and done I had a wonderful dinner that my husband loved, was very healthy, and emptied out my refrigerator.  Then I found this great program that took all my ingredients and made it into a recipe complete with nutritional information.  How fun is that!

Whole Wheat Farfalle and Sausage

Nutrition Info
  • Calories: 396.0
  • Fat: 18.6g
  • Carbohydrates: 38.1g
  • Protein: 20.2g


2 cups dried whole wheat farfalle pasta
6 oz ground sausage
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
6 oz (24 count) grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup frozen peas
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp dried basil
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Brown the sausage in a skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, chop green pepper, onion, garlic, and halve the grape tomatoes. When the sausage has fully cooked, drain the grease and add fresh vegetables, herbs, and the frozen peas to the meat. Cook stirring occasionally for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked to your personal liking. Add 1/2 cup of water and both cheeses. Stir until cheese has melted and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Toss in the cooked pasta so that the sauce coats the noodles. Serve.

Serving Size: 4 2-cup servings

Number of Servings: 4   
You can lower the fat by using skim ricotta.  I just didn't have it in the house.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Day with Friends

Today I had the pleasure of sewing with friends.  Such a nice treat.  I spent the morning getting some blocks prepped to take to my friend Andrea's house so I would have some applique to work on.  The best container I could find was this old Aaron Brothers box that some steaks had come in several years back.

Everything I needed fit nicely.

Great box, and great steaks, too.

However, I did drool a bit over the tin that Jacque had her hand work in.  It was a cute little thing.  Andrea took notice and had an an extra tin that she gave me.

So adorable, don't you think?  My apologies.  The lighting for these shots is horrible.

And everything fits perfectly. with room to spare.  This will be wonderful to keep a hand work project in to carry with me.

This was not the only treat I received today.  This little bag from Quilt n Sew (great little shop in Katy, TX) is filled with 1930's fabric.

So bright and cheerful.  Thanks, Andrea.  I can't wait to get out my books and make a plan for this line.

I also got a lot of work done between chatting, lunch, and more chatting.  I started 4 blocks and finished 2 of them.


I need to finish these by June 30th to keep on track to complete 14 blocks a month.  Shouldn't be a problem.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

and It's Gluten Free!

In our circle of family and friends we have many different food needs and restrictions.  It can make cooking a challenge.  Challenge is good.  This weekend we were working with gluten free.

I started the day by putting a pork butt roast in the crock pot.  So many recipes for crock pots have you adding a packet of dry onion soup powder, which is just not my style.  I made my own blend of seasonings for the roast with 1 Tablespoon each of garlic powder, parsley, black pepper, and sea salt, and 3 Tablespoons of minced dried onion.

I rubbed this on the roast, added 1/2 Cup of water and 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce (yes, it's gluten free).

8 hours on low, set it, and forget it.

Crock pots are NOT just for cold weather cooking.
After 8 hours, the meat fell off the bone and I easily trimmed the fat off the meat.

I also drained all the fat out of the crock pot.  With 2 forks, I shredded the meat and added my homemade bbq sauce.  To make the sauce I put  3/4 Cup Ketchup, 1/2 Cut tomato sauce, 1/2 Cup cider vinegar, 1/2 pineapple juice, 3/4 Cup brown sugar, 1/4 Cup Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 water, 1 small chopped onion, and 1 Tablespoon chili powder for some kick.  Not my favorite sauce, but the pineapple really worked with the pork and slaw.

Speaking of slaw, I made a simple one with a rice vinegar, sugar, and oil dressing with small chunks of apple and red onion in it.  So good on the pulled pork sandwiches.

Some oven baked potatoes with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper rounded out the meal.

Now to the star of the meal.  The gluten free Almond and Ricotta Cake.  Oh my gosh!  This was so good.  I got the recipe at Luculillian Delights.  The texture was perfect, the moisture content was perfect, the flavor was perfect, and it was a hit.  I got to use my Farm Fresh eggs.  So good, and yes it makes a difference.

The whites slide out of the shells so easily when eggs are super fresh.
Grinding the almonds took no time at all.

Translating the recipe into our American measuring system was a fun challenge.  I got a scale (been meaning to do this for some time to help with more precise baking) so I could do the convergences.

100g ground almonds
You MUST make this cake.

I used the extra ground almonds to sprinkle on the cooled cake.
I mean it.  At some point in your life you must make this cake.

The cutting board was perfect for serving
A tip or two:  Bake at 347 degrees if you can, if not then 350, and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Also, the recipe does not specify the size of the cake pan, but I used a 9", greased and floured.  I almost blew it here, but at the last minute remembered to use the rice flour and not my AP flour.   People, it was really good.  I may add a little lemon zest next time to brighten up the flavor, but it really did not need it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

One More Chore To Check Off My List

I could write a week's worth of posts just from my day yesterday.  I was all over the map with activities and photographs.  Before I headed out to the yard work, (after coffee, of course) I put a roast in the crock pot.  The weather was nice for planting, and Breck and I had picked up 31 new plants to add to the front landscaping the night before.

But check out these plants.  We wanted flowering perennials so we could have the wonderful blooms, but I wouldn't need to replant every year.

We also wanted to start a succulent garden in a rocky area, but didn't want to commit to the idea until we had tested out a few plants in the space to see if they would survive the all day sun and heat.

We did pick up a few annuals.  What the heck, right?

The planting went well, but took much longer than I had expected.  First off, I broke my little hand trowel.  I thought about grabbing a serving spoon from my kitchen . . . don't worry . . . I didn't.  It did leave me using a big shovel which just didn't work as well.  Then I got distracted by the perfect morning light which showed off the spiderwebs.

If it had not been for the angle of the sunlight and water from the sprinkler I don't think I would have seen this.  You can see the shadow left by the water drops in the bottom left, and the wispy, lace like tendrils of the web.  How cool is that!

    Then I spied this guy.

The lighting has to be just right to see these webs.  Look at this shot from another angle of the same web.  Not nearly as visible.

I also stopped to refill the bird feeder.  It took them awhile, but the birds got used to me working so close and came cautiously to the feeder anyway.  No pictures, sorry.  My hands were filthy by this point, but so worth it.  And you can tell from the long shadows that it didn't take too long into the day.  I did get an early start.

The "after" pictures will be much better when the plants get more established.

I confess that I did not plant the succulents.  It got hot and I had company coming.  When I went back in the house, the roast smelled amazing.  I love my crock pot.  I'll tell you more about our meal and the gluten free cake I made.  Hint, it was wonderful and I'll make it again.