Month: April 2013

Baked Pesto Chicken

  Today’s recipe is one we’re going to have to try again.  My Mr. is a fabulous cook, and that’s partly because he’s willing to take risks.  Thing is, risks don’t always pan out.  With this recipe he experimented with brining the chicken in a salt water bath to improve the texture.  Apparently the brine wasn’t quite put together right though, because our chicken turned out unbearably salty.  Everything other than the super saltiness was fabulous though, so we’ll be giving this another try without brining sometime soon.

  Here’s what we’re making:


Baked Pesto Chicken

  Here’s what you need:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

olive oil (for pan)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup basil pesto*
1/2 c mozzarella cheese, grated

*Normally I would buy fresh basil to make our own pesto.  Our store was out, so I got premade in a jar, was still delicious!

  Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a baking dish with olive oil and spread half of your pesto on the bottom.  Place your chicken on top and cover with the remaining pesto.
  Put aluminum foil over the dish and bake until chicken is barely firm and cooked through (25-30 minutes). Make sure you don’t cook too much at this point, or the chicken will be dry by the time the cheese is melted.
  Remove your foil and top the chicken with your mozzarella. Put everything back into the oven without foil and cook it until your cheese is melted.  If you want to brown your cheese a little bit, you can stick it back into the oven under the broiler for about 5 minutes after the cheese melts.

  Like I said, ours got a little jacked up by the brining this time around, but aside from the extra salt, this was incredible.  We all enjoyed it, and lamented that we couldn’t really appreciate the flavors because of the uber saltiness.  

  This really is a very simple dish with great results.  Even using jarred pesto it had wonderful flavor…I can’t wait to make it using fresh-from-the-garden basil!

Traveler Dress, a work-in-progress

  Oh I wanted to have this project done for you guys today.  I’ve been working like crazy trying to squeeze every possible minute of sewing time I could in… but my pint-sized bosses just weren’t having anything to do with it.  Doesn’t help, of course, that I’m tired, so I’m a little loopy and making rookie mistakes.  Ah well.  I’ve gotten this far:
  The completed dress should look like this:
  I’m not entirely sure that the dress is going to fit me until I’m done nursing.  I cut the fabric for this while I was still pregnant with R, thinking that with the button front it’d be nursing friendly…but in a supremely short sighted move, I picked my pattern size based on a dress that is rather snug…and I’m not certain that I’ll be able to fit it over my somewhat, uhm, expanded chest.
  We’ll see.  I guess this is what I get for liking my clothes too tight!
  Hopefully I’ll be able to finish this up in time for next week’s post…and hopefully when I put it on I won’t break the camera by shooting a button off the front into the lens.
  What are you sewing?

Thai Basil Meatballs

  The ingredient list of today’s recipe surprised me a little.  As somebody who is really into growing herbs (and only recently got successful at not killing other crops) I’ve grown just about every kind of basil known to man.  That means when I saw the name of this dish, I read it like this: Thai-basil Meatballs.  Apparently, it instead is: Thai, Basil-Meatballs.
  No Thai basil in it!
  Here’s what you need:
1-2 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs ground beef
1/2 c almond flour
2 eggs
1 roasted red pepper, about 1/3 c, chopped
1/4 c soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sriracha, chile sauce or hot sauce
handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 lime, zested
salt
  Start by roasting your red pepper under your broiler.  Cut the pepper into large chunks (we did thirds), place them on a cookie sheet and put them under the broiler for 3-5 minutes.  Allow to cool a bit before chopping so you don’t burn your fingers!
  Keep your oven on and set it to preheating to 400 degrees.
  On the stovetop, heat your olive oil over medium heat and saute your garlic until it is golden.  Place, along with all of the other ingredients except the beef into a large bowl and combine.  Once the other ingredients are mixed, add in the beef and continue mixing until everything is combined well.
  Mold the mixture into balls, placing them onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Place them in the oven until they are cooked through and begin to brown.  This should take approximately 20-30 minutes.
  Obviously if you’re cooking this as a low carb option, forgo the noodles.
  These were a great variation on traditional meatballs.  G was such a fan that he was nearly in tears the next day when he found out that my Mr. had taken all the leftovers for his lunch.  We had almond flour on hand, so we used it, but I expect that all purpose flour would serve.
  I really liked this with normal, run-of-the-mill sweet basil, but I think that at some point in the future I have to try it using Thai basil instead!

How I’m Teaching My 3 Year Old Time Management

  We’ve been struggling with G lately in regards to time.  He is in a very independent stage and wants to do everything by himself.  Problem is, doing stuff himself takes (at least) 3 times longer than when Mommy and Daddy help him, AND he wants us to stand there and watch him do it, so we have less time to get the things we need to do done, AND he seems to derive great pleasure from drawing tasks out as long as humanly possible.
  As a disclaimer on the title of this post, you can’t teach somebody who doesn’t want to learn, and 3 year olds don’t typically have a whole heck of a lot of interest in learning how to be more cooperative.  That being said, we’ve found a couple of techniques that have at least helped encourage G to move a little quicker and to help him understand that if more than one thing can happen at the same time, we’re able to do more fun things in the day.
  So, without further ado:
  The first thing I did to help G understand that we can only do so many things in a day was to make him a “time pie”.
  I did a quick search online for clock faces, downloaded one and printed out several copies.  I used a ruler to divide the first copy into 5 minute “slices” and wrote the hour numbers on it.  Then I cut wedges out of the remaining copies for the approximate amount of time that several of our common tasks take.  Since one of our major struggles has been G understanding that we can do more fun things (like going to the park or playing together) if he will take care of things on his own, like eating his breakfast while I get dressed, I made sure to include tasks that I have to do as well.
  To use the pie, I sit down with G and ask him what we need to get done in the next hour (it seems to be a common amount of time in which we need to get things done anyhow).  We pull out the wedges for those things and arrange them on the blank clock.  I start by arranging them with nothing overlapping.  Mommy hangs out the entire time he’s eating breakfast, keeps him company while he uses the potty, helps him pick out his clothes for the day, all before getting dressed and taking care of baby R herself.  Then I show him how much more of the “pie” would be left for fun things if, while he ate his breakfast, I could get dressed.  If I could feed the baby while he used the potty, ect.
  This seems to be helping him build an understanding of time, but unfortunately, sometimes he just doesn’t really care if we have time left or not.  He knows nap time is coming and he’s going to drag lunch out til he bleeds every second he can out of it.  That’s when the timer comes out.
  We had been using a standard kitchen timer for a long time, but we found that he didn’t really have a concept of how long he had when we set it, and so while sometimes it encouraged him to move faster, a lot of times it just caused tantrums when the timer “unexpectedly” went off.  Luckily, we recently found a better timer option for him.
  We found all of these countdown timers on YouTube.  As the time runs out, the circle changes color, so your kiddo has a visual of how much time they’ve wasted used and how much they have left to finish their task.
  I’m not going to claim that these tricks have completely solved the problem, but they’ve absolutely improved it.  G now seems to have a much clearer understanding that, scream all he wants, Mama can’t actually make more hours in the day, and that if he’s a little cooperative, he gets to do more of the things he likes, and not just the tasks he has to get through.
  What tricks have you found to help little ones understand time management?  Please leave a comment and let me know!

Baked Dijon and Lime Chicken

  Yes, *sigh*, dijon again.  What did I tell you?  Predictable.

  Oh well.  I know what I like!
  Here’s what you need:
1 lb boneless chicken breast
½ c lime juice
½ c fresh cilantro, chopped
¼ c dijon mustard
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chili powder
½ tsp kosher/sea salt
½ tsp pepper
  This is a prep-ahead and then throw-in-the-oven-later kind of meal.  Great for nights you know you’re not going to have the time/patience for hands-on cooking close to mealtime.
  Throw all of your ingredients except for the chicken in a food processor and pulse to combine.  
  Place your chicken breasts in a baking dish and pour the sauce over top.  Cover it with saran wrap (or tin foil, or whatever) and place in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes or up to 6 hours.  I did pretty close to 6 hours myself.
  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, remove covering from dish and bake.  The original recipe claims you can get your chicken up to temp in 18-20 minutes (but to check with a meat thermometer to make sure you reach 165 degrees).  It took me closer to 40 minutes.  I’ve had this issue with several baked chicken breast recipes, so I’m not sure if this is a high altitude vs low altitude thing or if I just have a belligerent oven that doesn’t feel like cooking chicken breasts quickly.  Keep an eye on your chicken and figure out what time span works best for you.
  Once your chicken is cooked through, slice and serve warm with extra sauce.
  This was really good.  It probably had something to do with the fact that I just barely got it up to 165 degrees, but the chicken was incredibly tender and juicy, and the flavors were just wonderful.  Plus, even if I hadn’t prepped it earlier that day, getting this ready was insanely easy.
  Pretty much everything in this recipe is stuff we always have on hand.  Fresh cilantro is going to be the only sticking point, and I think I may plant some in my herb patch this year just so I can make this dish on a whim.

How to Sew Your Own Pillowcase

  We’ve been really lucky with how G has adjusted to the new baby.  Having heard lots of horror stories of parents who can’t leave their children alone in the same room together for fear of the elder pinching or trying to smother the baby, I was prepared for the worst.  I won’t say that we haven’t seen some behavior backlash in the wake of the birth, but it has all been directed at us.  
  G loves R, to an almost comically possessive degree.
  One of the things that I think has probably helped keep G from feeling resentful towards R is that we’ve involved him in absolutely everything to do with the baby that’s possible.  He helps us give R his bath, helps change his diaper, re-covers him with his blanket in his swing if he kicks it off and almost always comes with me when it’s time for me to nurse R.
  Obviously, there’s only so exciting that can be for a little boy, so he has made up games to play while R eats.  His favorite is to make a nest of blankets and pillows on the floor and put his stuffed animals “to bed”.  This game has led to a voracious appetite for pillows, which led to some conflict over the one pillow I needed to support my back while nursing.
  Rather than have a constant turf-battle with him, I decided to make a “special” pillow for his favorite stuffed animal, Clifford.
  We happened to have a small travel pillow that had been kicking around that had seen better days.  Somebody (*cough, cough* G) had spilled hot cocoa all over it, and it had fallen out of favor.  A new pillowcase was just the answer.
  I dragged him into the office, pulled out all of my cottons that were large enough for the project and told him to pick two.
  Kudos to you if you recognize the bright green as the edging on his owl pant pockets.
  This is a super fast project, and obviously there is no reason you can’t make full sized pillow cases the same way.
  Here’s what you need:
Travel pillow sized case
1-16.5″x 25.5″ piece of fabric (body)
1-8.5″ x 25.5″ piece of fabric (edge)
coordinating thread
Bed sized pillowcase
1-27″ x 37.5″ piece of fabric (body)
1-8.5″ x 37.5″ (edge)*
coordinating thread
*notice that I gave my travel pillow a proportionally wider edge than a “professional” pillowcase.  If you want a wider, floppier edge on your big case, you’ll need to increase the 8.5″ measurement a few inches.
I’ve used 1/4″ seam allowances since that’s what my serger creates.
  Start by folding your edge piece in half (wrong sides together) to make it long and skinny.  Your 8.5″ measurement should become 4.25″.  Iron it flat to set the crease.
  Placing your right sides together, pin the unfinished edge of your now-folded edge piece along your body fabric.  Obviously at this point your edge piece is all “right” sides, so just make sure you’ve got it facing the right side of your body piece.  Stitch the two together and press the seam flat.
  Fold your now-joined pieces in half placing right sides together.  For your travel pillow this will make your 25.5″ edge 12.75″ long and your bed sized pillow’s 37.5″ edge 18.75″ long.  Sew the bottom and side edges of your pillowcase.  Flip right-side out and iron.  You’re done!
  I don’t tend to make a lot of these, since most sheet sets come with their own pillowcases, but this is a great way to make something special for a child or to accent current bedding.  It’s a wonderful project for beginning sewers.
  If you have any questions about how these go together, please let me know and I’ll be happy to help!

Goat Cheese Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken and Rosemary

  Mark this date folks, I’m about to do something unprecedented and tell you to not use as much cream as a recipe calls for.
  Here’s what you need:
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb dried rigatoni
1 quart heavy cream*
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove fresh garlic, crushed
8 oz goat cheese
2 c roasted chicken, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
*As into crazy creamy things as we are, we’re pretty sure this is supposed to be a pint.
  Start by boiling a pot of water and cooking your pasta.  While your pasta cooks, in a sauce pan, combine your cream, rosemary and garlic and heat to a simmer.  The original recipe has you reduce the cream by half.  Neither the Mr. or I have ever heard of reducing cream, and were both pretty sure it’d result in scorched milk and tears, so instead we just heated it through and called it good.  With the amounts listed we wound up with enough sauce for our meal and a left over baggie of sauce that we froze that will make another meal when combined with chicken and pasta.  Not a terrible thing for sure, but kind of excessive if you aren’t intending to make a freezer portion.
  Once your cream mixture is nice and hot, mix in your goat cheese and chicken and stir until everything is reheated and the sauce coats the back of a spoon.  Mix in your pasta and serve hot.
  This was absolutely delicious and really filling.  Like I said, it’s certainly not a bad thing that we have an extra bag of sauce to make this up in a hurry, but I think that reducing the cream to a pint and not winding up with that extra sauce would let the goat cheese flavor shine through a bit more.
  Even aside from the sauce, this was filling enough and made a big enough batch that we froze a meal’s worth of prepared pasta after we all finished eating.  Definitely a great recipe for entertaining friends (as long as they aren’t on a diet!).

Button Necklace, inspired by alex and chloe

  Pinterest is such a wonderful treasure trove of inspiration for me.  I get exposed to all sorts of designers, brands and ideas that I never would have come across on my own.

  Alex and Chloe is one of those brands.  When I saw the picture above on Pinterest I fell in love.  As a seamstress, I have a bit of a weakness for buttons, but unfortunately, while the Alex and Chloe versions are fabulous, to say that their starting price of $100 is a bit out of my comfort range would be rather understating things.
  Luckily, this idea is perfectly DIY-able, and I already had all the supplies on hand.
  The main challenge of making this work is finding a combination of chain and button that fit together.  You need either a really fine chain, or a button with a rather large hole.  I busted out my collection of chains and antique buttons and split the difference so I didn’t need to buy anything.  Somewhat delicate chain and a shell button that had a slightly larger than average hole.  Once the button was threaded onto the chain, I attached my closures, hung it ’round my neck and pretty much haven’t taken it off since.
  Soooo, I know I’m supposed to be working on smiling more in pictures, but the boys were giving me hell all morning when I took these, so I was in more of a “scowl at the camera” kind of mood.   Besides, a smile would have totally ruined the “Girl with the Pearl Button Necklace”, historical-drama novel look going on in the close up shot anyhow.
  This is such a quick and easy craft to throw together, with such great results!  Break out your own button collection and find a pretty one to wear.
  By the way, speaking of easy projects, the top I have on is one of the altered maternity tops I told you about a month or so ago!

Cashew Chicken Dijon

  The problem with writing up all the recipes we try is, it makes a girl feel predictable.  I’m a sucker for blue cheese, mushrooms will get my attention every time and, it turns out, I have a weakness for dijon mustard.
  Who knew?
Here’s what you need:
1 green pepper, cut into strips*
1  red pepper, cut into strips**
2 Tbsp peanut oil
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1/2 c chicken broth
1/4 c  dijon mustard
1 tsp cornstarch
1/3 c cashews, coarsely chopped
rice to serve (optional)
*There was an ingredient mix up earlier in the week, so we used a poblano pepper instead of a bell pepper
**We also added onion.  Cook this with the peppers if you add it.
  Start by heating 1 Tbsp of oil in a large skillet.  When hot, cook your sliced peppers, stirring until tender.  Remove them from the skillet and set them aside to keep warm.
  Add your remaining Tbsp of oil and cook your chicken until cooked all the way through.  Set aside with the peppers.
  Mix your broth, mustard and cornstarch and add to the skillet.  Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Return your chicken and peppers and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes until everything is well mixed and re-heated.  Stir in your cashews and serve.
  This turned out quite well, and had a surprisingly sophisticated taste for a recipe from Kraft thanks to the dijon mustard in it.  Big food manufacturers are great at coming up with easy recipes, but we tend to find the flavor to be bland.  That we substituted a spicier pepper and added onions may have something to do with it, but in general this seemed to be well written.  It’s a good stir-fry with a not-so-predictable flavor.  Plus, if you’re trying to watch your carb intake, it’s plenty good without any rice.

Brother Owl Pants

  Color is sort of my thing.  I may not have a great sense of how a pattern will work out on a piece, and I’m definitely still a bit hopeless in the kitchen, but if you need help determining flattering colors for you (or just color combinations), I’m all over it.

  Unfortunately for me, having an eye for color is a less-than-marketable skill in the area I live in.  Fortunately for me, it gives me lots of opportunities to go shopping with friends and family.
  My ma was looking for some advice on selecting fabrics in flattering colors for a few clothing patterns she was going to be making.  I helped her out, and as a thank you, she offered to buy me some fabric.  Since the fabric I’d been eyeing to make myself a shirt didn’t have enough on the bolt, I grabbed a flashy, bottom-weight juvenile print and decided to make the boys pants.
  These pants can’t decide if they’re for hipsters or if they just don’t have the time to care cuz they’re too busy at their glow-stick fueled rave.
  I am so jealous they can pull them off and I can’t.
  R’s pants are as simple as they can get.  Straight forward, 4 piece, elastic waist pants.  I’m not opposed to the idea of sewing things for him, despite knowing he’s going to grow out of them in a month, but I’m also not about to put hours of work into it.
  G’s pants are a bit more elaborate.  He’s growing, but mostly just up, so I can leave myself a nice deep hem in the legs and let them out as need be.  Besides, assuming they don’t get worn to absolute shreds by this little boy, they’ve also got a whole second run coming when R gets to be G’s size.  They’re still the same ol’, same ol’ pants with pockets I’ve been making him for forever now, but for these I added an extra detail.
  Because this is such a busy print, I wanted to outline the pockets so they didn’t just fade into the design.  I happened to have some neon green cotton that worked with the print perfectly, so I made up some bias tape and sandwiched it into the seam when I sewed my pocket in.
  G loves all of his bright, highly patterned clothing and these don’t seem to be an exception.  I predict that they’re going to be a part of many, many eye-bleedingly clashy outfits to come.
  As always, if you have any questions about anything I’ve done sewing these, let me know!