Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chinese Chicken Salad

When the weather starts to get hot I always try to find recipes which don't heat up the house.  As it is already starting to heat up here over on the west coast,  I've started breaking them out a little early this year.  This recipe is super simple.  I also just love the colors.  What is it about summer recipes that make them so colorful?  

 Chinese Chicken Salad

  • Chicken breasts - grilled and diced  
  • Head of lettuce 
  • Mandarin Oranges
  • Cranberries
  • Chow mein noodles or Won-ton strips
  • Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing

The chicken can be grilled ahead of time or on the day of.  You can cook it on a grill during the summer, or we like to use our George Foreman grill on days it's a little cooler or we don't feel like getting out the charcoal.

I like to make my dressing from scratch, but you could use store bought to make the recipe even easier. The dressing that I make has a nice little kick which I think balances out the sweetness of the oranges and cranberries making a wonderful flavor experience for your taste buds.

  I didn't include any specific proportions because it's a recipe that's made very much based on your tastes.  Add a little bit of this, a bit of that and you have a very scrumptious summer salad.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spray Paint: DIY Matching Picture Frames

I've been trying to slowly buy frames to put all my family pictures in, but I was getting frustrated on how much it cost to buy solid frames.  I recently acquired some frames from a garage sale for free.  They were solid wood but this gold color which of course was not in line with my color scheme.  I then went to a thrift store and picked up several solid wooden framed pictures. I think I spent less then five dollars total on all of them.

I bought a can of matte black spray paint.  I then laid out some newspaper on my back patio.  I took the glass out and the backs off.  I then got to spraying my frames.

 I had to do a few coats.  The trick was spraying from different angles to make sure I got all the different edges and crevices.   After letting it dry, I had a lovely solid wood picture frame that fits my color scheme.

I  then spray painted all the rest of the frames.  For the price of a can of spray paint and a couple bucks at the thrift store I got 9 frames.  I probably spent less on all the frames then I would normally spend on one!  Awesome!

I was talking with my sister-in-law about my project and it reminded her that she had some frames she could do the same with.  She spray painted hers white instead of black though.

She now has some lovely frames for her ocean themed bathroom.

The other great thing about this project is how quick it is.  I was able to squeeze in painting a frame or two in between tasks throughout the day.  It was a great feeling of satisfaction being able to put all my pictures up at once.  I even have a couple left over ready for when we take a new set of family photos.  

Do you have some old frames that you could make new again?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Reversible Kathleen Cape

After my Little Red Riding Hood post last Halloween, one of my best friends requested that I make a cape for her daughter's birthday.  She asked if I could make it reversible too. She gave me carte blanche on color and fabric.  So here is the "Reversible Kathleen Cape".

First start by cutting out your cape circles.  You will need one of each color.  (For more details on this process, see my Little Red Riding Hood post)  The main difference from the original was that it's more of a semi circle rather then a half circle because of trying to make the height taller.

Find a hood that fits your child and trace around it, taking in account seam allowances.  Sew together two hoods. (more on this too in Little Red Riding Hood post)

Attach your two hoods to your two cape circles.

For your ties, cut out two strips of each color the width and length that you want with enough for seam allowance..  Sew the solid strip to the patterned strip right sides together, leaving one end open. Turn inside out and topstitch.  Repeat for the second set.

Pin your two capes right sides together.

Pin your ties in between your two capes at the point underneath your hood line.  See picture below.

Sew the two capes together, leaving a space at the bottom unsewn for you to to turn inside out.  Hand stitch the hole closed, and then top stitch.   And Viola! you are done!   I actually found the reversible cape to be easier then the original Little Red Riding Hood cape because I didn't have to hem or worry about covering any exposed seams.

What I loved about this project was that I was able to use thread I had inherited from my friend's mother to sew it together.  Her mother passed away from Leukemia several years ago.  This is exactly the sort of thing she would have loved to make for her granddaughter.  I am glad that through me she was still able to be a part of her granddaughter's birthday present.

Post dedicated to Kathy Bowman.  You will live on in our hearts and memories forever.
Please help beat Leukemia by donating blood or   platelets  to your local donation center.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Easy Stir Fry

One of our favorite meals to make is stir fry.  It's such a quick and easy meal.  It's fairly healthy too.

Here's how we make ours.

You will want to prepare all your ingredients ahead of time because once you start cooking it goes pretty fast.

First cut up some onion slices, and mince a few garlic cloves. Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil in your wok (or frying pan).  Turn your heat on high, and once hot throw in your onions and garlic. The amount of garlic and onions is really to your taste, but I recommend not skipping this step because they really add flavor to your dish. Saute until onions are clear.

Next put in your meat.  Chicken, beef or tofu all work well.  Your local grocery store even sells beef precut for stir fry if you're really short on time.  Make sure your meat is cut into about square inch pieces. Cook until meat is done, constantly stirring.  One of the tricks to stir fry is to continually mix it to evenly cook it and to keep it from burning.

The next step is to add vegetables.  We usually buy a premade bag of stir fry vegetables to save on time, but you can choose any veggies that you prefer.

In addition to the premade bag, we also add bell pepper slices.  One thing to note is that you add veggies in the order of longest cooking time.  Broccoli and carrots go in first, bell peppers go in last.  You want all your vegetables to stay crispy, so you only want to cook them a little while.

We also like to add noodles. The brand we buy is pictured below, but we just use the noodles and throw away the spice packet that comes with it.  These are prepared by poking holes in the plastic they come in inside and microwaving for one minute. Then add them to your wok.  If you rather, skip the noodles and serve your dish over rice.

Add about a quarter cup of water and add your stir fry sauce.  I'm sure there are some great recipes out there to make yourself but our favorite is House of Tsang. (Remember this is a quick meal, making sauce from scratch adds time). Their classic is good, but if you like spicy try the Szechuan sauce. Add to taste, I think we usually use about a quarter of a bottle.

Mix until sauce is hot and food is coated.  Serve immediately.

And that's it! Just 15 minutes to make a quick satisfying meal!

Friday, October 18, 2013

My Pumpkin Misadventure: Cooking up my Fall Decor Pumpkin

In January, I decided to break into my pumpkin from my Fall Decor.  I bought it in September and thought for sure it would be rotten inside, but just in case I didn't want good pumpkin to go to waste.   I cut into and it was perfectly fine!    I haven't done much cooking with pumpkin and was excited to try to find some yummy recipes to use it in.

My first task was to figure out how to take it from a whole pumpkin to usable for recipes.  I searched around and one of the solutions I found was to cook it like acorn squash.  Cut it up, put it the oven, fill the bottom with an inch or so of water, and bake until soft.  It kind of worked, but turned out to be a much bigger ordeal then planned.  The pumpkin was so thick that it took much longer to get the pumpkin soft then expected.  By the time it was soft in the middle the top had a nice crispy crust which I had to peal off in order to use the soft pumpkin underneath.  The other problem was because it was taking so long,  the water kept evaporating, so I kept needing to add more water.  One time, I wasn't thinking, and I added cold water to my pan instead of hot water.  The below picture was result of that mistake.  BAM! Explosion - glass everywhere.    :(   I'm sad too, because I can't find another blue glass 9 X 13 pan.

How do you cook a pumpkin?

The first thing I made from it were pumpkin pancakes.  They were quite yummy, soo moist.  I unfortunately don't know know what recipe I used.  Anyone have any good pumpkin pancake recipes to share? I'd love to try them out this season!

The one thing that I do remember was that all the recipes called for pumpkin  pie spice mix which I did not have because I don't like pumpkin pie  (yes, I know, how could I not like pumpkin pie? Well, I don't like cheesecake either. I'm weird - it's just a texture thing I have).  I looked up how to make it from scratch and all recipes included nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and ginger - all ingredients I had on hand.

The other recipe I tried was from a blog I like to read - Something Swanky: Desserts and Designs . Her blog is all about desserts and diy blog design tricks... kind of a weird combination but two things which I'm very interested in.  It appeals to both my tummy and  my brain.  :)

This recipe is to die for - so yummy and fairly easy to do too.  I recommend you don't pass this recipe up this fall season.

Photo Credit: Something Swanky
This is a pumpkin roll with cream cheese frosting... oh so delicious.  Just give it a try yourself, you'll be glad you did.  I'm bringing this recipe to the next Thanksgiving gathering I go to this year.

Pumpkin Roll from Something Swanky.  

So the season for pumpkins is here again - What are your favorite pumpkin recipes?
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