Month: May 2013

Mango Chicken with Chinese Noodles

  What is it about warm weather and limes?  There’s just something about the combination that can’t be beat.  Luckily, I’ve found a good handful of new recipes that make good use of them, including today’s recipe.
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced 
3 Tbsp peanut oil
1 c red pepper, diced 
salt and pepper to season
1/3 c orange juice
1/3 c lime juice
1/2 c Hoisin sauce
4 Tbsp rice wine or Chinese cooking wine
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar in a pinch)
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili paste (optional or to taste)
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp fresh ginger root, grated 
1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
1 tsp cornstarch
1 large, ripe mango, cubed
zest of one lime, finely minced
Chinese noodles
Heat your oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and chicken, season with salt and pepper and stir fry over high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the peppers and stir fry for another 30 seconds or so. Remove the chicken and peppers from the pan and set aside.
Add your orange and lime juices and simmer to reduce by half before adding your hoisin sauce, Chinese cooking wine, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, chili paste, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger root and Chinese five spice powder.  While the juices reduce, begin cooking your noodles.
Simmer for a couple of minutes and then return the chicken and peppers to the pan with the sauce. Bring to a boil and thicken with a mixture of 1 tsp corn starch dissolved in an ounce of cold water. 
Once everything has thickened, add your chopped mango and your lime zest.  Toss everything to combine and serve over your noodles.
  This is a crazy good recipe.  The fruits and peppers play off of the chicken in such a delicious way.  If you don’t do much Asian themed cooking, there are probably a lot of ingredients that you’ll need to pick up for this, but do it…all of them are great additions to lots of recipes!

Destructo-rama- Making our Yard a Little Safer

  I’ve mentioned it before, but our house is really old.  It was originally part of a huge farm and so there are quite a few outbuildings that sit on our property.  Most of them are in decent enough shape to be usable, but one of them was not.

  While I loved that old building for photos (and especially as a backdrop), G was getting far too curious about it, and the cracks and holes in it just grew bigger every winter.
  I had nightmares of it falling on someone, and it wasn’t really doing anything useful on our property anyhow, so it had to come down.
  My Mr. rented a dumpster and when it showed up early Friday morning, got to work.
  He started by prying the doors off and pulling out the windows.  There was metal sheeting over the roof, so that came off next.
  Next came the tar paper and the wooden roof.  Because there was a lot of material that was going to be coming out of the building and into the dumpster he burned as much of the wood as he could to save space.  I suggested we could keep it for our fireplace, but apparently it was the wrong type of wood and would gunk up our chimney and burn down the house, and do I want to burn down the house?!?!  

  By the end of the first day, most of the roof was gone and I teased him he wasn’t going to leave anything for his buddies (who were coming over the next day) to help with.
  Our dear friends from Pittsburgh arrived that night and bright and early the guys were out back pulling down the rest of the roof. 
  G really wanted to get out and help the guys, so rather than locking him inside the house to keep him safe, we took him (and R) to the local nature center where he could run around in the fresh air without the risk of getting a chunk of flying debris to the face.
  By the time we got back there wasn’t much left of the building.
  The guys broke for lunch, I put G & R down for their naps and the destruction continued.
  The three of them hulked over the final corner of the building and by 4pm everything was gone.  The beat up old concrete pad it was resting on is still back there, but there’s no concern that will fall on anybody, so we can take our time breaking it up.
  The guys collapsed on the lawn, we all enjoyed the remains of the fire and we played around with my bow and arrow set til G woke up.
  One big destruction finished, so now we can do more creative projects back there!

Happy Memorial Day

  No recipe this Monday, I expect most of you will be grilling today anyhow!  I hope everybody takes today to fully enjoy the freedoms that have been won for us with the lives of the men and women who have fought for our country.

  Pictures of a huge demolition project we did over the weekend tomorrow and I’ll try to have the recipe that normally would be up today on Wednesday.  Til then, enjoy the parades, the barbecue and your loved ones!

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
  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!

Raglan Sleeve Top- McCall’s pattern M6288

  Oh commercial patterns with the word “Easy” the envelope, how I love you.  Quick, simple projects that let me focus on detail technique and wardrobe building without the frustration of not having a completed piece for months thanks to my adorable little interruptions.  And, much like my adored wrap sweater, this one is liable to get made a million times.
  I actually put off buying this pattern for a really long time.  I liked it every time I flipped through the pattern books, but I was pretty sure that I mostly just liked it because the model is utterly gorgeous and the color they picked is especially flattering on her.
  Too bad I’m not a 6′ tall, leggy, Indian ballerina, huh?
  The usual $1 pattern sale rolled around again not too long ago though, and I finally decided I’d just give in and buy it.  There are worse things than spending $1 on a pattern that might not work out.
  Except it totally did work out.
  I love this top.  I made it out of leftover knit from my modified Adriadne top.  I will admit that it’s not super practical from a “get on the floor and play with the toddler while holding a baby” standpoint, cuz it is really low cut and stretchy (so R tends to yank it even further down) but oooh cute staple if you don’t mind flashing a bit of cleavage.  Besides, I can always throw a tank top underneath if I’m feeling especially modest.
  Since my bust measurement is all jacked up right now anyhow, I based my size off my waist and went with a 10.  It fits perfectly…hooray for finally picking the right size!
  I followed the pattern and instructions for this exactly.  That says to me, that for a normal length torso-ed person, this top would be crazy long.  It probably also means it would be too low cut.  I would highly recommend checking the neckline on yourself and considering modifying it before cutting into your fabric.  Aside from that, go wild.  This is a quick, easy top and it doesn’t take a whole lot of fabric.
  Expect to see more of these in the future…and probably other pieces from this pattern as well!

Nutella and Goat Cheese Turnovers

  Well, I’m not quite back to my pre-pregnancy body, but for just under 3 months out, I’m pretty happy with how quickly the weight has come off.  My Mr. is doing his best to sabotage my efforts though…look what he made the other night:
  Yeah…Nutella and goat cheese in a turnover.  So much for my decision to skip dessert that night.  He started with this recipe and modified it to use the goat cheese.
Here’s what you need:
1 sheet Puff Pastry, thawed
¼ c goat cheese, softened
2/3 c Nutella
1 Egg
1 Tbsp Water
2 Tbsp Powdered Sugar
  Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out your puff pastry.  You want to do this either on a silicone mat or a floured surface so it won’t glue itself to your counter.  You should wind up with an approximately 12″x12″ square.  Cut this into 9 equal squares (approximately 4″).
  Whisk together your goat cheese and Nutella in a bowl until they are smooth and evenly mixed.
Drop 1 Tbsp of the cheese/Nutella mixture into the corner of puff pastry. Leave a small edge on the puff pastry so when you fold the squares over the edges can be crimped together. Fold the opposite side of the square over the Nutella/cheese mixture. Seal the edges together.
  Place the turnovers onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking sheet.  Whisk together your egg and water to make an egg wash. Brush each turnover with the egg wash.
Place your turnovers in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes. Move them to a wire rack to cool when they are done cooking. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top and serve warm.  Attempt to not eat 15 in one sitting.  Fail miserably (just me?).
  Gah…I don’t think I have to tell you that these are incredible.  That man of mine, he’s trouble in the kitchen.  Goodbye willpower, hello yummy.

Home Improvements/Maintenance Take Precedence

  Now that the weather is warming up the Mr. and I have been compiling our summer to-do list.  One of the things my Mr. has talked about doing for a long time is putting ceiling fans or a whole house fan into our upstairs.  Ceiling fans are a slightly smaller project, but I’m bratty picky about the fans I can stand like so we decided to go the whole house fan route.

  Sunday morning our power was out for scheduled maintenance but my Mr. forged ahead anyhow, it was supposed to be back on by 8am, so we figured it should be soon.
  Our house is old, so the vast majority of the walls and ceilings are plaster.  Plaster is a penny to cut without making an enormous mess.  Knowing this, the Mr. created a plastic sheet tent around the area he was going to be sawing in.  He swears it helped an incredible amount…but…uh….
  That layer of plaster dust you can see on my dining room table extended all the way into both my living room and my kitchen…and I don’t even want to talk about the bedrooms upstairs.  We’ll just say that everybody got new sheets and their beds got good and wiped down before it was time to sleep and leave it at that.
  Thank god we have a generator or we wouldn’t have even been able to vacuum…the power didn’t come back on til after 3pm.
  G was really into helping my Mr., so when the saw came out and it got too dangerous for 3 year old “help”, I hauled the boys into the basement to keep them out of the way.  Once we realized how much dust was in the air we decided it was best if they stayed down there til it settled.  That gave me a chance to get some serious work done on a play space for G down there, like we’ve been promising him since R was born.
  Still a lot of work to do down there.  Like most people, we’ve used our basement as a bit of a catch-all for things we weren’t entirely sure what to do with, but at least there’s a space carved out for him now.  I set up his house (it was actually mine when I was a little girl…that beast has seen some wear), he has an art center (I used a hanging fruit basket on a chain hung from the ceiling beams to hold his markers and crayons) and he has space to tool around in his giant plastic car without my wincing every time he runs into something.
  More importantly, for his sanity and mine, he has somewhere he can go play loudly and rambunctiously without my giving him a hard time about waking/scaring/hurting the baby.
  Meanwhile, I’m cleaning everything (and I do mean everything) in my house to get rid of the plaster dust.  Every time the light changes I see somewhere else I missed!  So, no craft this week, us not breathing in airborne ceiling takes precedence over making a new necklace any day!

Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Herb Frittata

  It’s been too long…time for another frittata.  Seriously, we eat these all the time.  It’s a little ridiculous, in an eggy, cheesey kind of way.
  Here’s what you need:
2 Tbs olive oil
2 shallots, chopped finely 
1 c mushrooms, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
10 large eggs
3 Tbs heavy cream
1/4 lb fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  As usual, we ditched the given directions and went with the pizza frittata approach of setting the bottom on the stovetop and then transferring it to the stove.  It just seems to work out better for us than anything else, and is far faster.
  Start by heating your olive oil in a large skillet. Add the shallots, mushrooms, thyme, oregano and red pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper, and saute, stirring often, until the shallots are soft and the mushrooms have released most of their liquid (5-7 minutes). Set aside.
  Beat your eggs in a large bowl and then add all of your other ingredients except for the Parmesan.
Pour your mixture into a greased, oven proof skillet (around 10″) and cook on the stovetop on low until the edges begin to set (around 3 minutes).  If you have a cast iron skillet, it’s a great choice for this recipe!  Once your edges have begun to set, transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until it is set (around 12 minutes).
Sprinkle the Parmesan over the frittata and place under the broiler until the top is set and golden, about 2 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the broiler.  Let cool before serving.
  Obviously, when I say that we’re constantly eating frittatas, we like them.  That being said, they’re usually something we have leftovers from for lunch for a couple of days afterwards (that’s part of what I like about them!).  This frittata however…only one slice survived to the next day.  I don’t know if it was the goat cheese or the fact we used our own dried thyme or what, but we all went back for seconds and thirds!

DrapeDrape2- no.2 one-piece side drape top

  I finished the top I started last week, and upon completing it I composed a letter to myself in my head.  It went like this:
Dear Erin,
You had a baby.  You are nursing said baby.  Your body isn’t the shape it normally is.  Please stop expecting clothing intended for gamine Japanese women to fit you correctly.
  Thank you,
Your Unusually Womanly Figure
  I don’t think it turned out badly, just not how I expected.  As I mentioned, I rather figured that the length would be a little awkward for a dress on me.  I was right about that, but I didn’t really notice just how flat chested the model in the picture was until I put mine on and couldn’t get it to drape anything like that.
  Hey look Ma!  I figured out how to look like a busty Victoria’s Secret model!  Stand next to that lady!
  The fabric I used isn’t ideal.  It’s a clearance knit I had in my stash, but it was one of the few 60″ widths I have left, and this piece needs one.  A softer, tshirt material in cotton would give much nicer, softer folds, but, eh.  I worked with what I had.
  There’s a little bit of gaping in the armholes, but I haven’t decided yet if it’s an issue I can fix by taking it in at the side seam, or, again, because I’m currently too busty for this design.
  If you decide you want to try this top out, piecing together the pattern is by far the hardest part.  Pay attention to the guide at the top of the pattern sheet that tells you which pieces you’re looking for.  This “one piece” pattern is broken into 3 pieces on the sheet and you need to line them up to create your pattern while tracing.  I found 2 originally and was confused as to why the grainline seemed so wrong…it was supposed to be on the third, middle piece that I’d ignored.  Way to go me.
  Once your pattern is cut out, you’re pretty much home free.  The construction for this was very straightforward, and unlike the folded shrug and two-way stole from ShapeShape, I would have no qualms about a beginner trying it out.  The most difficult portion is finishing the neck and armholes, for which I used the same binding process as I did for the Ariadne top.
  I’m not sure I’ll be getting a whole lot of wear out of this for a while.  It photographs nicely, but I sort of feel like a tank under a tablecloth wearing it right now.  We’ll see.
  I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to try out another piece in this book before it’s due back to the library, but I expect I’ll be checking it out again!