In the Kitchen


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Today has been a slightly unusual day in that I've spent almost the entire day in the kitchen. (I don't have all the pictures to prove it, so you'll just have to take my word for it.) I woke up off-and-on this morning and then finally pushed myself out of the bed in the late morning. I know you can't really catch up on sleep, but I've been getting my share in this holiday break.

At any rate, after cooking breakfast for a change (I made a breakfast burrito - I finally got a chance to use up some of my Mexican seasoning) and having a cup of tea, I decided to get started on the desserts I volunteered for the church dinner tomorrow. But first I had to finish cleaning up the kitchen and putting up dishes that had already dried. I don't like cooking unless the kitchen is totally clean. So I got right to it. I even moved my little t.v. into the kitchen to utilize that cable I'm paying for.

While watching the Food Network, I began my dessert baking with another attempt of the Down East Maine Pumpkin bread that I baked about a week ago. This time I watched the bread more carefully . I think that recipe still needs some adjusting because the "doneness" that the recipe claims will happen in a certain time period does so at the sake of having an overly brown bottom. So I will try this recipe again to master the time or temperature. Now I'm thinking maybe I'll have to adjust the temperature. Maybe drop it 25 degrees. Well, to get back on subject, this bread baked better than the last batch. I carefully took both loaves out of the oven and placed them on cooling racks.

While they had been baking, I washed all of my cooking utensils and got started on the pound cake. I decided to try Aunt Tutsie's Lemon Pound Cake. I hadn't made that recipe in years, plus I wanted a cake that didn't yield an enormous amount of batter. The modern cake pans hold less batter than the ones my mom has had all of my life. I'm still searching for a tall bundt pan that doesn't have a releasable bottom like the angel food cake pans.

Aunt Tutsie's Lemon Pound Cake was easy to mix, but once I was done with that cake and the pumpkin bread I was totally out of sugar! I placed most of the batter into one of my coffee cake pans and the remaining batter I placed in my miniature silicone loaf pan. It only filled up 3 of the 8 spaces in the pan, but that will make a good freeze. Thankfully by purchasing this ancient home, I have a teeny tiny oven in the wall that I used to bake my miniature pound cakes in and I used the regular sized oven that I purchased this time last year to bake the real deal. That way, the cakes were done just about the same time and I could turn that oven off!

After the cakes were removed and placed on another cooling rack, I decided I'd better tackle that head of collards my dad brought back from our visit to grandma's. I had the seasoning meat flavoring up the water in a small pot while I sliced the collards into matchstick thin slices and washed them up in the sink. After the seasoned water was ready, I transferred it and the collards into my favorite big pot (it's the waterless cooking kind with a valve that opens and closes to help your food cook faster and hold in more nutrients) and cooked the collards for a seemingly short period of time. That's what frost will do for you! I called myself sampling the finished product, but my sample ended up being a plate of collards. Man, they were good. I put the rest of the pot in the fridge once the pot had cooled. I'll transfer them to another dish later. I was on a roll. The next head of collards I get, I will try Sunny Anderson's vegetarian style version. It sounds good.

After washing up the lastest batch of dishes, I decided to be more proactive. Don't let food go to waste - freeze it! So, I took the pot of the stew beef dish I'd made in the crockpot a little earlier and divided it into small meals, labeled the containers with the item and the date, and put them in the freezer. I was going to finish up my evening or day in the kitchen with cooking up the last piece of cabbage, but I got a little sidetracked and only managed to slice and wash the cabbage. So I put it in a Ziploc bag and will quickly decide how I'll use it if I don't decide to just steam it. I'm realizing now that if I'm not proactive about my food (for example) I just won't eat right because this time of year I'm too overworked to think of meals or too tired to care about them being balanced.

I've been putting myself on a tight budget when it concerns food and I was determined to eat whatever I had in my freezer down before restocking and so far it's working. Now the items that I'm putting back into the freezer are by-products of what I already had, except they are fully cooked. I still have some salmon and tilapia I need to use and a couple of other meats, but so far I think this plan is working for me.

I'm realizing that I do a lot of things according to my moods. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but it is a realization that I am experiencing. I craft when the mood hits, I bake when I'm in that "baking" mood, I practice my Spanish when the mood strikes. You get the picture. What I've learned is that when I do these things outside of that mood I'm often less successful: the cakes don't turn out as well, I make more mistakes in my craft projects. So, today was one of those cooking moods, so I needed to cook everything I could while the mood was striking. I just wish someone would have a sale on shrimp while I'm in this mood. I wonder if I channel my thoughts to that effect if it would make it happen?

Until then....

The Search is Finally Over!


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I searched long and hard to find Twinings of London's Lemon and Chinese Ginger Tea. I've been in so many different grocery stores that I was beginning to wonder if the tea was really worth the search. Well, world, let me tell you...yes, it was worth it. After leaving the quinceañera tonight, I decided to stop by Fresh Market thinking that they had to have this tea. And they did.

I'm enjoying a cup of this delicious tea with a small chunk of that Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread that I made the other day. Oh, they are so compatible.

Have a great evening.

Having Fun Baking Bread


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I was invited for a Thanksgiving luncheon recently and I decided to bake something "Thanksgiving-like." So, I decided to bake some pumpkin bread. Ok, I've never baked pumpkin bread, but I found this really tasty-sounding recipe on Allrecipes.com and I needed a reason to try it out. It was Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread. I don't know how authentic it is since I've never been to Maine, but I'll the cook's word for it.

It was a really quick recipe to make. My only addition was 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, per the other reviewers' suggestion. I also baked the bread in two 9x5 loaf pans instead of 3 7x3 pans as the recipe requested. Let's just say that I'm super glad that I had two loaf pans.

Check this out. I had the two pans of bread in the oven. I kept checking them every five minutes after they had baked for 45 minutes because by using larger pans, I was going to have to cook the bread for longer than the recipe time. As I was checking the bread, I decided one pan should come out of the oven. The phone rang. I tried to talk to my aunt on the phone and use my Pampered Chef oven mits to get the pan out. Somehow the bread pan wasn't secure in the gloves and it hit the floor!

Let's just say that I served the other one. :-) Bottom line, when you're tired, crazy stuff like that is more prone to happen. And also never talk on the phone while doing important tasks like measuring or taking things out of the oven. It's better to be safe than sorry.

I thought the bread had a delicious spice taste. I'm sure it would go really well with coffee.

Enjoy!

A Time for Beans...


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When I finally got home from work, I started a pot of beans. Well, actually, it was the recipe I mentioned on yesterday: Heidi Swanson's Baby Lima Soup with Chipotle Broth recipe. As I am the queen of subsitutions, I used the bean I had on hand - navy beans. My favorite.

I didn't want to be cooking beans all night, so I used my waterless pressure-cooker pot. I pretty much followed the recipe to the "t" with the exception of using a different bean. Being brave, I threw in two chipotle peppers, and quickly removed one of them after sampling the broth. Yeah, it had some kick back there. Whew! I used the sea salt mentioned in the recipe, but it was missing something so I had to add a little table salt.

Let's just get right to it:

Slicing up the onions
Sauté cebollas, sauté!
My big 'ol pot of beans...
Time to eat (and no, I didn't add more s&p)
All gone!

Ooh Dinner Was Good


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Despite my sore throat, I was able to enjoy my Saturday dinner at O'Charley's. This week I've been trying to become more conscious again of what I am eating or not eating. I've noticed that I've had quite a few meatless meals lately, which is fine, but I still need to make sure I'm getting enough calories and the right nutrients.

A few friends and I went to O'Charley's and we all ordered really healthy meals. I won't tell you about theirs, but mine was great! I had Fresh Atlantic Grilled Salmon, steamed broccoli with this lemon juice sauce, and a bowl of potato soup. The strawberry lemonade was really good too. And the conversation was out of this world - good conversation always makes the meal time a pleasant experience, but I digress.

Again, I'm sorry that there isn't a visual, but just know that the presentation was deliciously wonderful, just as wonderful as the meal itself. If I go back to O'Charley's I would order that dish combination again, but more importantly, you know I've got to try it at home, right? I love home-cooked meals. (Oh and when I get home I can't wait to try another Heidi Swanson recipe recommended to me by my buddy, Mark. It's a chipotle lima bean soup.) Ummm....

An Afternoon at Umpstead Park


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In the Saturday session we spent the first half of the day completing indoors activities dealing with soil. We learned what soil consists of and had opportunities to explore separating some living and nonliving things found in soil. It was fun to watch people squirm when they discovered earthworms! At one point I was looking at two earthworms in a bucket and then I took my eye away for a moment and when I looked back, one earthworm had crawled halfway out of the container and the other one was gone! It was discovered shortly thereafter crawling on the table about two people away. Boy that sucker was fast!

After lunch (I had a baked potato with some fixings and a small salad - sorry no pictures), we spent the rest of the afternoon at Umpstead Park really getting our hands dirty. Well, they got their hands dirty, while I had my hands wrapped around my camera. I partly wanted to makeup for missing my photo op while I was "resting" and I also was feeling not like myself (hey, I'm entitled to being moody sometimes right?) but I was hanging in there - being a teamplayer and all.

Here are a few of those shots:


Friday's Dinner


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Ok, what I failed to mention earlier is that while I was reminiscing with my college friend, one of my friends from these weekend workshops was waiting for me so that we could go to dinner. I'm so glad that she has a forgiving heart, because I was much later than my original time getting back to her and both of us were "starving".

We decided to go to Uno Chicago's for dinner. Neither of us ordered pizza, but I did order a really great dish. Well, actually two dishes. I ordered a bowl of broccoli cheese soup and some roasted vegetable quesadillas. Oh they were good. I really wish I had my pocket camera with me to have taken that glorious site. But just know that it was really good. Now you know I'm going to have to try and recreate those quesadillas when I get home.

A Day Off


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This weekend I'm attending a weekend workshop and so I decided to take a day off of work for myself. I had all kinds of plans. Oh, I was going to leave home early and take my time getting to my workshop destination. You know when you're traveling alone you can stop whenever you want at places you often pass by. I planned to stop and take some pictures in a few places, look for this Twinings Lemon and Ginger tea that a friend gave me that I can't seem to find, and stop by a few camera shops. Oh yeah, and upgrade my cellphone. It's on its last leg.

All of those things were plans. The reality was that I was dog tired. My body was determined to get the last say, and when the rain started pouring down, that was it. I was out. Sleep called my name, and getting out of the bed and fulfilling all of those "plans" was now a thing of the past.

When I finally left town, I was just a hair-breath ahead of the school traffic. I made a few stops looking for that darn tea. (Still can't find it - in the capital city!) But I finally got to my destination.

One cool thing about this "day off" is that I got the opportunity to remeet one of my college classmates. We had the opportunity to reminisce about "the good 'ol days!" 10 years gone by. Wow! Anyways, that was great.

So, even though this "day off" didn't turn out like I expected, it still was a really good day.

Crocheted Hat (cont'd)


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I'm still working on my crocheted hat. I'm being optimistic now. I think it's going to turn out well. I'm nearing the end on this brimless creation.

Crocheted Hat


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I'm working on a new project - a crocheted hat. I've never successfully crocheted a hat before, but I've decided to give it a try after viewing PreppyPeach's fabulous hat collection. (I just ordered one of her hats today.) I grabbed the prettiest solid color 4-ply yarn I had and got started. My only regret so far is that I didn't have a full skein of yarn. Now that I'm getting the hang of this pattern, I realize I'm going to have to make it two-tone because I'm going to run out of this color very, very soon.

Separation


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I decided to start another blog entitled: Krafty Kreations. Mainly I thought I needed to separate my craft interest from this blog, so if you're curious, you can visit me at Krafty Kreations.

Trying Something New


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Today we were out of work because it was Veteran's Day. At first I had purposed to take the morning (at least) to go out on a photo shoot. I've been wanting to take some Autumn pictures before the season closes. No such luck today. I was in a cleaning, crafting mood, so I spent most of the day juggling between the two activities. Although I worked and rested intermittently, there's still so much more to do indoors. (I would need a lot more consecutive Veteran's Days to complete those tasks.)

For dinner, I looked (you guessed it) on my favorite recipe site: Allrecipes.com for a shrimp stirfry recipe utilizing the ingredients that I thought I had in the house. Turns out, I found a great recipe, but didn't have any shrimp! And it wasn't on sale. So, chicken it was. The recipe for Szechwan Shrimp was delicious. I'll have to give that cook 5 stars when I actually make it again - with shrimp!

Sometime last week while browsing the Asian food section in the grocery store, I decided to purchase some bean threads. Didn't know what they were (still really don't but they're made from mung bean???), but out of the few items that looked like it on the shelf, it had the least amount of sodium (10mg) and almost nothing else. I wondered if it would be tasteless and for less than two bucks I would find out.

And I did. I finished the stir fry, chopped up the reconstituted bean threads, and added them into the pan. And....it was delicious!!!

Ordering Prints


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I ordered some of my favorite photographs from Mpix.com a few days ago. I had some enlarged to 8x10s and some into 5x7s. I also decided to try their metallic paper. The prints came in yesterday and I am ecstatic! I wish I could show you how the prints turned out, but it's not possible unless you are one of those people that I see quite often.

Out of all the pictures I've taken, most of them are just stored away on disks and on my computer. I rarely print them unless I have a specific purpose for them. I don't want them just stashed in some photo box or in the company's print sleeves, you know? Well, the prints I ordered are intended to help decorate the bare walls of my home. There's this small-scale framing business in town that doesn't quite realize how fantastic they are, so their prices are really reasonable. I plan to go there and see how they can make magic with my photographs!

Until then....

p.s. Happy Veteran's Day!

I'm Finished (well almost)


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Yesterday I finished a crocheted baby afghan for my cousin, Talib. I need to pre-wash the item and then sew in the loose ends before sending him his little gift. I hope he enjoys it.

Here I Go


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I decided to start this blog today because I have too many interests to incorporate into one blog. It was really that simple. I hope you enjoy this creative journey with me.

The Soup is Done!


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While I was completing the previous blog, the kitchen timer sounded to let me know to get myself back into the kitchen. While I blended the ingredients together and heated them through again in a saucepot, I put a couple pieces of twisted garlic bread in the oven.

The soup was delicious. For those that wonder if I ate the whole bowl that I photographed, the answer is no. My serving was in a much smaller bowl, and I only ate 1 1/2 pieces of garlic bread. Delicious! Heidi Swanson has some really good dishes. Thanks, Mark for bringing this recipe to my attention. I hope your soup was as good as mine.

Let's Try Roasting


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I'm making a new soup - a Roasted Tomato Soup. Yes, this is one of Heidi Swanson's dishes. I've only roasted one vegetable before and that was the butternut squash for the soup I made not too long back. So this roasting of vegetables is a new experience. The tomatoes that I used were the last ones from my summer crop.

I can smell the aroma of the roasting vegetables and I can only assume that this soup is going to be fantastic. As with any new cooking experience, I had to take pictures along the way. Here's what I have until I'm finished with the dish:

A Time for Focused Talent


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I had this discussion with my mom this evening about how one is to use their talents. I mean, everyone's got some, even if it takes a lifetime (or less) to discover what they are. I'm still in discovery mode, but also wondering how to develop the talents that I'm aware of and put them to good use.

I dabble in a lot of things, which can be good or not, depending on how you look at it. I usually have a lot ideas running through my mind because of it. My home office/craft room is a wreck right now because I'm trying to find the right organizational system for all of the things I find interest in (for the right price).

When the mood hits me: I sew (if you could see the stash of fabrics), I crochet (love making baby blankets for my near and dear friends/family), I'm learning to take photographs (so you know there are tons of pictures, albums, books about photography...), and I like art (one of my art teacher friends bought me a cool art kit with pastels, watercolor pencils). Then there's computer related materials - gadgets and books galore. There are some other interests, but the reality of them isn't found in my home/office.

* Before you make a judgment, please note that most of the time I do actually finish my "projects." I don't have all of this half-made stuff lying around.

Most of my life I've been wondering what I'm supposed to do with my talents. I'm not an expert on any of them, but I enjoy them. I'm hoping that they will come together in some way that I can understand. When that happens, I'll be sure to key you in, but until then, I guess I'll just have to keep learning more about how to hone the skills. There's always room for growth.

I posted this picture to remind myself that there's always something new to learn. This is my first knitting project, and this is one that isn't complete. I'm not a knitter, but I tried. Maybe one day I will finish this scarf!

Playing with My Food


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It's a wonder I can get anything done, or at least anything cooked or eaten. Yesterday I decided to cook some cabbage, but you know I couldn't resist taking a few shots of that vegetable before it got sliced up, seasoned, cooked, and eaten....

By the way, the cabbage was quite tasty...