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Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday!!

Linking up with Lauren :)

one:: Went to the farmers market last Saturday with my friend Jill and her two beautiful twin babies.  I am loving the fall colors already showing up - now if only the weather would cooperate!!

two:: Was so excited Saturday evening to celebrate my friend Kayla's wedding.  These were the favors handed out with beer fun!!  They just clip to the top of your bottle and when you lift it to your mouth to drink - it looks like you have a mustache!!  I've never seen these before but they were too fun :)  The sign at the bar stated "we mustache you to help up celebrate!"

three:: Wally finally discovered drinking out of water glasses... this is probably a bad habit I should nip!

four:: Big plans for this basil plant in a couple days... Vera and I are making pesto this weekend!!  Can't wait and I'm very happy to use some of this beautiful basil (this is just one of my basil plants).  We will have lots of pesto to share :)

five:: I'm excited one to have finished this painting and two to be showing it Saturday in the InCommon We are Omaha show - featuring all local Omaha artists.  I've participated in this show in other years and it's always an incredible experience.  I've been starting at this painting unfinished for almost a year now... big accomplishment finally finishing it.  This isn't the completed completed painting and obviously it doesn't photograph as great as it looks in person (but I'm biased!!)

How was your week?!  Link up and share!!

ooh and football season begins Saturday -- GO BIG RED!!!!!!!!!!

Always, J

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sorry for the break!

I don't know about where you live but it's been about 100+ degrees here for the last five days and no end in sight - the 10day forecast makes me want to cry.... it's too hot to do anything...cook, eat, blog, write, basically I'm non-functioning in this weather.

It's almost September... can't we get some 60s please??!

This little beast has kept me busy lately!  I finally caught him red-handed!! He's (maybe its a she, I don't know) been digging around in all my beautiful plants!  I only have them outside in the summer so they can get some sun and heat but I'm not ready to bring them in quite yet - I had to pull in my herbs and pepper because he was getting out of control.  Almost completely un-potted my jalapeƱo plant.... little jerk.

Any tips for dealing with little pot-wrecking beasts?  Of course I don't really want to kill him, but I would like to punch him in the face!  LEAVE please!!

Always, J

Monday, August 26, 2013

About my cooking style...

Since I've been in the recipe business for quite awhile now - I wanted to share with you a little insight into my cooking style.

I'm sure you've noticed that I don't write recipes in the traditional manner - ingredient list followed my nice concise instructions... It's just not my style and my brain doesn't think that way.

I like to write my recipes as if you were sitting in my kitchen cooking right along with me - I'm also a huge fan of substitutions and using what you have currently in the fridge.  So maybe you're making a caesar salad and you don't have romaine lettuce - who cares just use that almost wilted spinach you have left over... it still works and you don't have to make a special trip to the store!

Conversational recipes are more like a story than a cold instructional piece... this just seems warmer to me even though sometimes I look back through my recipes because I want to make something and get frustrated because all I need to know is the amount of one ingredient I can't remember - so I get if you find this style frustrating :)  Perhaps in the future I will work better at adding recipe cards to the bottoms of my post.

Being able to cook from what you have is something important to me and I love looking at recipes and seeing how I can tweak them number one to make them gluten free and number two how to make them fit with what I have or what I like.  This is a skill that takes time to develop - I have no real culinary training except many years spent taking 4-H cooking classes at the county extension office and taking family and consumer science classes (home-ec) in high school.  I always loved our cooking labs in FCS because each team (we had four kitchen set ups) would make a recipe - for instance: pudding - but would alter the recipe so we could learn how different ingredients and techniques affected the outcome.  One group might use whole milk, another skim milk, another group might only cook the pudding for a shorter time, and the other group would use cornstarch as a thickener.  Then we all got to taste each batch and see the science behind cooking - these are skills I will never forget!

Also if you're reading this blog and don't happen to be gluten free - all my recipes use gluten free flour cup for cup regular flour - so you can easily transition them back to a glutonous delight.  You can also always add meat to the recipes or change which meat I used - ground beef for chicken or turkey... really you can sub anything.

I have many many recipes that I create that don't turn out - I end up eating a couple bites and thinking wow - I really missed the mark here and that's ok!  Not every recipe has to be cookbook presentable - just try to think through what maybe could be changed and don't be afraid to try the recipe again!  I made an indian spiced rice and it tasted terrible - well not terrible it just didn't have ANY flavor, so now I know I need to up my spice level and try it again because the idea of the recipe was great.

Cooking is flexible, substitutable, and forgiving - baking however is science.  That's the only time where I really measure correctly and follow instructions.  It's even more crucial when baking gluten free because you're relying on other ingredients for structure since you don't have the gluten protein in the flour.  I will admit, I'm a bit lazy when it comes to gluten free baking because I hate hate hate mixing gluten free flours (which are super expensive) and I have used Domata Flour for years.  Domata Flour is already pre-mixed and includes the appropriate ratio of xantham gum as well as a balance of brown rice flours, tapioca flour, and some other things.  I love Domata Flour because you can use it cup for cup in any existing recipe you have.  After baking with it for years, I've definitely discovered some of the negatives (well not negative but undesirable effects) this flour can have and I've considered trying other flours whether I try another mix or mix the flours myself.  Someday.  This is really on necessary when you're looking for a specific texture and it would help to have a different ratio of flours.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy my recipes and they give you the confidence to try gluten free cooking and baking yourself.  I usually try my recipes at least twice before I post them - but feel free to call me out on any mistakes or let me know if a recipe turns out terrible for you!  I'm more than happy to offer suggestions! -and of course fix my mistakes!!

Happy Cooking!

Always, J

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Friday!

As always - HAPPY FRIDAY!  Another week survived and another week closer to fall / football season!!  woot woot

Linking up with Lauren!

Just photos today :)

How was your week?  Link up and share!! :)

Have a great weekend!

Always, J

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lemon Basil Chicken - with chopped Kale

As I've mentioned before, I'm really not a huge fan of chicken.....but I'm trying to eat as much healthy protein as possible due to my workout schedule and determination to get back in shape.  Oh the sacrifices we make to be skinny! 

I bought a bag of frozen chicken breasts from Trader Joes awhile back - but they've just been sitting in the freezer for weeks since I don't eat chicken, I really don't know what to do with it.  

Yesterday looking around my kitchen, I knew I had to use up some of my lemons and my basil plant was growing out of control.  I figured lemon basil might just make that chicken delicious.  I set two breasts out to thaw in the fridge.

For the marinade - I used the juice and zest of two lemons, a good handful of chopped basil, black pepper, and some olive oil.  I put all of this into a bowl and then set both chicken breasts in to marinate about two hours.  You could do more or less, however I'm not sure how long you could leave the chicken in lemon juice without an adverse reaction - so maybe not over night.  But I don't know - I'm just thinking how lemon juice can actually cook fish.... google it.

I dumped the chicken breasts and all the marinade juice into a skillet.  You can use the marinade for cooking / sauce but you cannot use the marinade raw like for a dressing after chicken has been in it (learned that after a consult with my mom).  I cooked the chicken until the juice ran clear and I cut a hole in the underside of the breast just to be sure.  No one likes undercooked or overcooked chicken - that's why it's so temperamental - you have to get it just right!

I removed the chicken breasts to rest on a plate.  To the remaining juice /sauce in the pan - I added some diced garlic and about a half cup of diced onion (it's all I had - I would probably use more normally).  Plus a tablespoon of butter just because.  I let this cook down for about 5 minutes, then added my frozen chopped kale (Trader Joes).  I cooked it until it warmed completely through and had a chance to soak up all the flavors plus I actually added a little kosher salt.  Personally I think kale tastes like fish food - but it's really good for you and easy to cover up with delicious lemon and garlic!

To serve, I plated my chicken and kale, then added a little more fresh lemon zest and basil to garnish and bring a bright flavor to the final dish. 

I was pleasantly pleased with the final dish - the chicken managed to soak up all that yummy lemon flavor (which is one of my favorites) and the basil was a beautiful compliment.  The kale was still kale, but it was very delicious with the lemon and garlic - bright and fresh!  

I had enough for lunch the next day - I sliced up the chicken breast and mixed the kale with regular salad greens for a fantastic leftover lunch dish!

Do you cook with Chicken?  What's your favorite chicken recipe?  Any tips?

I hope you enjoy this easy protein filled dish :)

Always, J

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

DIY - Chair Covers

This is a super easy afternoon project!  I'm not sure why upholstery seems so scary... But here are some tips and tricks to make this easy!

This is my dinning room set - a nice blond table and four chairs - with a very boring seat cover.  They never really bothered me before and they have really held up well since my parents bought me this set when I first moved out on my own.  But since my mom was coming for the day and we wanted a craft project - I started thinking about re-covering these to spruce up my apartment a bit!

1). Take apart your existing chair and measure front to back and side to side to get an estimate on how much fabric you will need.  This is important and measure twice!!  These seats were roughly 30x30 - with a generous amount for extra. Most upholstery fabrics are 58 inches wide so we figured two yards would get us by and have a little left over.

2). You can find upholstery fabric at most fabric stores and maybe some craft stores.  It's important to use specifically upholstery fabric because of the weight of the fabric and the tighter weave.  If your chair isn't going to get much use or is more decorative - then regular fabric could work, but you should really use upholstery just to be safe and prevent extra wear and tear.  

Some essentials you will need::
-upholstery fabric
-a good scissors 
-tape measure
-pen or pencil for markings
-a REALLY good staple gun (this took two purchases for us to figure out!)
-staples (more than you think)

*some of this you may have lying around the house, but if you're out buying fabric you might as well pick up the essentials.  You never know when you'll need a good staple gun!!

3). Lay out your fabric and start measuring for your covers (lay the fabric upside down).  Depending on your fabric and the design of your print - you might want to mark what direction you want "up" so that all the pieces are the same.  If you are absolutely sure of your measurements - go ahead and cut all your pieces at once.

4). Place your cover onto the fabric square (centered).  Notice we didn't remove the existing seat cover - and I didn't need to add batting - this will be different with every chair set so use your best judgement.  That's another great thing about the weight of upholstery fabric - you won't see anything through it typically.  Work from each side and worry about the corners later.  One side, staple center, side across from where you just stapled, staple center - then do your other two sides.  Always working from the center out and working in a balanced direction.  This will help keep your fabric centered and help prevent wrinkles.  Turn the fabric edge under before stapling for a more finished look.

5). Use your best judgement on the corners - just try and make them all look the same.  Consider the direction of the chair and how the corners will look.  Don't worry too much about mistakes - staples can always be pulled out if things aren't laying nicely.

While my mom worked on the actual upholstery act - I was busy taking off the old seats.  Each chair will be different - make sure to only remove screws holding the seat to the frame.  Keep all the screws for each chair together and separate from the others - same with keeping the seat with the original chair frame.  This will just help things go smoother when you put the new seat back on.  Also flipping the chair over - like the photo above - makes putting the seat back on sooooo much easier!

My mom was really good at this so I just let her work on all of them!  She rocks at corners :)

Before and After.  This only took about 2 hours total for four chairs - I'd say that's pretty successful!

I was really excited about how much this spruced up my dinning room - the blue really pops against the blond wood :)

Have you tried recovering furniture?  How did it go?  Any additional tips?

Always, J

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Canning!! --Basil Peach Pepper Jelly

This is a very special collaboration post between me and my dear friend Vera!  A couple weeks ago she taught me how to make jelly and the canning process.  

Click over to Vera's blog for the recipe and canning process!!

Always, J

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hello Friday!

Happy Friday!

Linking up with Lauren :)

one:: I can honestly say I haven't used my 3 years of Japanese language studies much since college.  But the opportunity arose last Saturday when I was honored to give a nomination speech for a dear friend of mine running for vice president of Kiwanis International.  Her convention where her voting will take place is in Toyko next summer so I thought an intro in Japanese seemed fitting! I have to admit, I needed to brush up a bit anyways :)

two:: We spent last weekend in Des Moines with family friends while also attending the NE-IA district Kiwanis Convention.  This convention always falls on my mom's birthday - so of course we had to celebrate with a birthday lunch at PF Changs and then some shopping afterwards!

three:: So this happened.  I am so lucky to have such amazing gluten free companies - I'm beginning a new partnership with Udi's Gluten Free.  They sent me an ENORMOUS box of goodies to review!  So many new products and flavor variations - many posts to come!  *it's too much work to get photos without a cat in them...Kevin loves gluten free treats, he was excited as I was!

four:: Still working away on painting bowls for the Empty Bowls event by the Foodbank for the Heartland.  I think I only have about 100 left to paint!  Thanks to all my friends who have stepped in to help along the way :)

five:: My mom came to town for a mommy and me day!  We had lunch and crafted all afternoon.  Thanks to her awesome upholstery skills - we recovered all my dining rooms chairs.  The left one is the before and the new one is the beautiful blue floral print!  I can't believe how much this perked up my dinning room!! 

How was your week?  Link up and share!!  :)

Always, J

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Taco Soup

This recipe has many little parts - but worth the effort for a delicious and rich taco soup!

I started with fresh sweet corn (from my CSA) which I shucked and then boiled in salted water for about 8 minutes.  Set aside to cool.  Once you're able to handle the corn - put a regular cereal bowl upside down in a 9x13 baking pan, then use a sharp paring knife to cut the corn off the cob.  This is the easiest way I've found to do this and makes quick clean work of a very messy job!  I did about 3 dozen ears in the course of the afternoon - once everything was cooled and cut, I divide up the corn in to freezer ziplock bags in 1 cup measurements.  Now I will have sweet corn for all my soup recipes this fall!

Of course you could just sub in a bag of frozen corn - whatever you have on hand!

Next I started on the hamburger portion of the taco soup.  I also did this in a huge batch - start with 1-2 onions chopped and add to ground beef.  I did a large 3 pound package.  Add in pepper to taste.  Once the beef is browned - you can divide up the beef and freeze it at this point.  It's great to have on hand for tacos, soups, and pastas.  

Once I had the amount I wanted (about 1 pound of ground beef) - I added additional seasonings.  A little more black pepper, a good helping of cumin, chili powder, and a touch of garam masala (an indian spice that I love - it has a very warm deep spice to it).

Now the real soup making part!  Heat olive oil in a soup pot and add in chili flakes to taste and crushed garlic.  Let the oil slowly warm the spices.

Then add in 1 package of Mirapoix (a onion, celery, carrot mixture already diced up from Trader Joes - honestly I use this in almost every soup I make).  Cook through.

Add in 1 can of black beans (drained & rinsed).

1 can of diced tomatoes (juice and all)

And then about 1 to 1/2 cups of corn. 

For the stock of the soup - I love using spicy V8 juice instead of just traditional canned tomato juice, I just think it adds a greater depth of flavor. Add in enough juice until the soup is a consistency you enjoy - then let the soup simmer for at least an hour.  Taste occasionally and see if it needs a little extra something :)

You will love this soup!  So great for fall tailgating coming up - or a lovely sunday soup!


Always, J