Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Creamy Tomato Soup

Back in October, I planted two tomato plants. They got HUGE very quickly.

By the end of November, I easily had 30 or more tomatoes on each plant.  (One was a regular size and the other was a cherry tomato.)  This was amazing but this was also about the time my 3 month old puppy discovered my garden.  She was drawn to the tomato plants and started to eat the plant.  Thankfully, she left the tomatoes alone but she was killing the plants.  (Puppies are SO much fun.)

I decided to pick all of the tomatoes.  Most of them were still green but I left them on my counter.  Now, it is January and I am still enjoying these tomatoes that have now turned red.  What to do with so many tomatoes?  Make soup, of course!

Click on the link below to print my recipe.  I added some dried basil to this soup when I added the tomatoes.  I forgot to put this on the recipe.  You can also add fresh basil.  Just chop it up.
Creamy Tomato Soup

                                       I just love the smell of onions and garlic, don't you.

My prized tomatoes. (Okay, they did not really win a prize but I was super proud of them.  I used both cherry tomatoes and my bigger tomatoes.  I even used a green tomato. Why not?)

My favorite pot.  Pioneer Woman, of course.  How can you not love a pot with a butterfly for the handle?

Simmering goodness.  This makes a lot of soup so I pour it into individual containers and I freeze them to take to lunch. This would go great with some grilled cheese sandwiches.  Or would taste great all by itself.  Enjo!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Be Happy! Be Crafty!

Hi Friends!

Many of you have asked me what vinyl I use for my shirts and other projects.  One of the sites I use is Happy Crafters.  Their vinyl comes in so many colors and styles.  Can you say Mermaid print?  Click on the link to the right and you will see all of your vinyl dreams come true.

Here is a Thanksgiving shirt I made. 

This shirt took me no time at all because this vinyl is so easy to use!

More pictures and videos of vinyl projects will be coming soon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Why I Love Blue Apron?

Let me first start this post by saying I am not getting paid or sponsored by Blue Apron meals.  This is just me, being honest about something I really love.

About a year ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to try Blue Apron for free.  I had no clue what Blue Apron even was.  She explained that it is a meal delivery service.  You get three meal kits delivered to your door.  It includes all ingredients and step by step recipes.  It normally costs around $60 a week but you can try it one week for free.

All I heard was free food.  So I signed up. I thought, one week?  I will try it for one week and then cancel my subscription and never think about it again.  Well, that was a year ago and I cannot imagine cancelling.

Here are six reasons why I love Blue Apron.  (Six is my favorite number so that is why I have six reasons.  Just in case you were wondering.  If not, just keep reading anyway.)

Reason #1:  Everything is measured for you.

You know, how you can start making a new recipe and it calls for 1/4 of a cup of something you never use. So you buy a whole box of an ingredient, use it once, and then it goes to waste in your pantry?  With Blue Apron, if you need a 1/4 cup, then send you a cute little package and it only contains that 1/4 of a cup. No extra waste. And no extra measuring.
 Reason #2:  Trying new recipes.

I love to cook but I'm also skeptical to try new things.  Blue Apron forces me to try to use new ingredients. Take these meatballs for instance. They contain yellow raisins. Yellow raisins in a meatball?  Are you crazy? Yes, crazy good.  And I have cooked plantains, and shrimp and grits, and shishito peppers, and the list goes on and on and on.
 Reason #3:  Quality ingredients

The fruits, veggies, and proteins that Blue Apron sends are always packaged in a way to preserve freshness. (Does that make sense?)  I feel like I am opening a big box to my local farmer's market.  Everything is crisp and green and colorful.  And if it's not, then they credit my account. (See Reason #4).  Look at this catfish and squash. I have never had catfish before trying Blue Apron and now I try it everywhere because it's so good. I need a catfish pond. But then I would probably think they were pets instead of deliciousness.
 Reason #4:  Amazing Customer Service

One month, I received two boxes instead of one. They were the exact same meals, just two of everything. First I panicked, thinking I had ordered two by mistake.  I contacted them immediately.  They said it was their mistake and I could keep the extra box. This was three extra meal kits.  $59.95 for free!  My sister enjoyed these extra meals.

Another time, I got an avocado in my box.  It was really small.  And when I opened it, it was pretty brown. Now avocados are tricky little beasts so it did not surprise me that this one was bad, but I emailed Blue Apron anyways.  I told them what happened.  They credited my account $20 and apologized.  $20 for my avocado?  All I wanted was to let them know to check their produce.  I did not expect any money.

Reason #5:  Less Time (And Money) at the Grocery Store

I hate grocery shopping. Seriously, I would rather do many other things than go grocery shopping.  Is it the people?  The crowds?  Having to bring groceries inside and put them all away?  I'm not sure, but with Blue Apron I go to the grocery store only once or twice a month.  I usually go to get my dairy products and my fruits and veggies - unless the Farmer's Market is open and I go there instead.

When I first heard about Blue Apron, I thought it sounded expensive.  $59.95 for three meal kits.  Each kits has two or  more servings.  There is usually a protein and one or two sides.  I am actually saving money using Blue Apron.  Since I don't go to the store very much, I don't buy all of the extra snack stuff and I am not throwing out food that I never eat.  I only buy what I need.

Each kit makes me two or three meals, depending on the size of the sides.  Sometimes I just take the sides as my lunch the next day.  The sides are my favorite parts of these kits.  So many ways to use delicious fruits and veggies.

Reason #6:  They have an app for that.

The Blue Apron app allows me to choose my meals for the week. There are eight different choices.  Eight!!!  I can choose two or three.  There are vegetarian options.  I do not get Blue Apron every week, usually I choose every other week.  I still like to cook other things too.  The app lets me look at a month at a time and I can choose what weeks I want delivery and what weeks I want to skip.  If I don't like the options, I skip the week.  (The only recipes I have not enjoyed are usually Japanese inspired or include using black garlic.  That stuff is nasty.  No, really, it is.)

If you are interested in trying Blue Apron, let me know.  I can send you a week for free. But beware, once you start Blue Apron, you might never go back!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day Place Mats

A three day weekend means more time to get stuff done - more time for laundry and cleaning and crafts.  Okay, maybe not more time for crafts but I added these place mats to my to do list so I had to get them done.

My sisters bought me these burlap place mats for my birthday. (It only took me a month to get them decorated.)  They were all folded up so I sprayed them with water and ironed them.  You can still see some of the wrinkles but I'm going to just live with them.

First, I had to decide what to paint on the place mats.  I used my trusty thesaurus to find words that meant the same thing as "eat."  (This is a lie - I actually used  Same thing, kind of.)  It might be fun to use different languages and different ways to say eat but my kitchen isn't really international so I stuck with English.  There are LOTS of ways to say "eat," so I chose six of them and typed them up in Cricut Design Space.  Each one is about two inches high.

I cut out each word using orange vinyl. Why orange?  Just because I don't use orange a lot and this project can use any color.  I needed to use the stencil part, not the word itself, so I carefully had to peel the stencil off of the vinyl backing. This got tricky, depending on the size of the word and the letters.  This took the most time and patience.  (I also kept the orange words because I thought I might be able to use them for another project.)

After making the stencils, I placed each stencil in the corner of a place mat.  Now, burlap has holes in it.  (I remembered this the hard way.) Make sure to protect your work surface.  I used a roll of cheap table cloth that I cut apart along with newspaper.

Using a sponge brush, I painted using black paint. Don't use too much and use a dabbing motion to fill in any spaces that need more paint.  Then peel off the vinyl right away. I kept a garbage bag nearby to throw away the now black vinyl.

Once you peel it off, set it aside to dry.  I let it dry for about an hour before I was sure it was ready to be put on my table.

Here are the final products.  What do you think?

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Distant Hours - Book Review

Even though I do not remember how my love affair with books started, I LOVE to read!  I think it had something to do with my teachers, of course, and my Papo, my mom's dad.  He had an office that was full of books.  Two of the walls were floor to ceiling books.  I remember going in there as a little girl just sitting at his desk looking at the books of Hemingway and Faulkner.  Such stories and such adventures everywhere I looked.  Thankfully, I still have lots of his books lining the shelves of my home.  And so thankful I have a few weeks off each summer to read more books.

The latest book I checked out at the library (Yes, the library!!!  You can check out FREE books.  It is amazing!) was Kate Morton's The Distant Hours.  I found her name on a must read books list.  I had never heard of her before so I was intrigued.  Here is what Barnes and Noble website says about it:

"The #1 internationally bestselling author of The Forgotten Garden mesmerizes readers with this haunting tale of long-buried secrets and the twists of fate that can alter lives forever.It starts with a letter, lost for half a century and unexpectedly delivered to Edie’s mother on a Sunday afternoon. The letter leads Edie to Milderhurst Castle, where the eccentric Blythe spinsters live and where, she discovers, her mother was billeted during World War II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives caring for their younger sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiancé jilted her in 1941. Inside the decaying castle, Edie searches for her mother’s past but soon learns there are other secrets hidden in its walls. The truth of what happened in “the distant hours” has been waiting a long time for someone to find it. In this enthralling romantic thriller, Morton pays homage to the classics of gothic fiction, spinning a rich and intricate web of mystery, suspense, and lost love."

At first, the storyline confused me because it goes back and forth from the past to the present and then to the past again.  I found myself just wanting the stories to get finished instead of the jumping around in time.  My aunt told me how much she loved this author so I just kept reading. 

By the middle of the book, I was hooked.  The characters were haunting and so complex. They stayed on my mind even when I was not reading.  The characters were not especially likeable but they all contained such sorrow and mystery.  The castle mentioned in the book had just enough creepy in it to be intriguing. 

At the end, I thought I had it all figured out only to realize that I was wrong.  The ending was perfect and made sense.  I was sad and relieved to find out what had happened to the characters.  They are still with me, even though the 562 pages are done.

Prepare to be drawn into the depths of this story.  I cannot wait to pick up another Kate Morton story.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fall Is In The Air

Fall is in the air!  Or at least that is what everyone else around the country is telling me.  Here in Phoenix, we are still having 100 degree days.  Normally, the weather does not bother me but everyone else gets to wear sweaters and boots. I miss sweaters and boots.

One thing that makes me really think of fall is apples! Maybe it is a teacher thing, but I love all desserts with apples.  Here is a simple Apple Crisp that you can make tonight (while you wear your boots and sweaters.) Use any kind of apples. Add a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream on top.

Apple Crips (originally from
Serves 12

10 cups apples - peeled and sliced (I keep my peels on. I'm too lazy to peel them and I think the peels taste good.)
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water

1 cup oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place apples in a 9 x 13 inch pan. Mix white sugar, flour, and cinnamon together and sprinkle over apple slices. Pour water on it.

Combine rest of the ingredients. Crumble evenly over the apples.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Southwestern Sweet Potato

Lots of my married friends think I am so strange for cooking for myself. They think I should eat cereal every night. Really?  Single gals deserve to eat good food too.  So I'm going to share some of my favorite simple recipes. 

How about those nights when you are really hungry but really tired?  Try this Southwestern Sweet Potato.

I did not create this but I remember reading something similar so I had to try it.

Seriously, this is yumminess!

My sister and I went to a Farmer's Market a few weeks back and bought HUGE sweet potatoes.  This is actually half.  (The other half was devoured at last night's dinner.)  To cook this sweet potato, I used my Potato Express.  If you do not own one, go buy one now.  My mom bought it for me and I chuckled, thinking it was silly. Then I used it.  It cooks potatoes in your microwave in minutes.  No heating up the oven!!  And no poking the potato with holes first. Genius!!!

Then I added some black beans.  Simple so far!

And then, now here it gets really good, I piled on some 6 Layer Dip I bought at my local deli.  It includes beans, sour cream, salsa, and cheese.  I just used a few scoops. Hardly any calories and added some creaminess that this dish needed.  (Feel free to just add sour cream or guacamole too.)

Then I topped it with some hot sauce and my favorite herb, cilantro.  Do you have a favorite herb?  My little sister thinks this is such a weird question. She does not believe that everyone has a favorite herb.  Maybe not, but if they did, I hope they would choose cilantro.  Really, I do believe in cilantro.

Now dig in!  It's yummy and will keep you full for hours. 

(And please don't mind the Winnie the Pooh plates.  I plan on replacing everything with Pioneer Woman's collection. Have you seen it?  MUST HAVE IT ALL!)

Happy Eating!