July 5, 2011

Frustration with Blogger...

I have started a new blog on wordpress because I can't access my Blogger dashboard and have not been able to for over a month. You can find me here: www.simplehiddenlife.wordpress.com in the meantime but I am not crazy about wordpress so far either... anyone know of any other free blog sites that have good customization options and not a ton of technical issues?

April 27, 2011

Got Cloth?

I LOVE cloth diapers. It borders on insanity really. I mean, they are made to be receptacles of human waste after all. The thing is they are just so cute on or off a baby, they are so soft and fluffy, and they are so much cheaper than disposable diapers. What's not to love? Anyway, if you like cloth diapers Kissaluvs (makers of my favorite newborn fitted diapers, at least the ones I have tried so far) is having a giveaway! I have been coveting their new OS Marvels fitteds and covers for this new baby but haven't made any purchases yet. So bring on the giveaways!
Isn't that a cute diaper?! (picture is from Kissaluvs website)

April 26, 2011

Why I don't meal plan.

Ok, so maybe mostly it is because I am lazy. BUT there are also other good reasons why I don't meal plan. First, I don't like being tied into making a specific meal on a specific night. I know I can rearrange the plan if I have to but it still makes me feel sort of constrained, limited, somehow. Second, I like to experiment with new recipes. I probably never would have made the dinner I made tonight if I was meal planning since it was a new recipe for me. It was a very yummy lentil soup garnished with sour cream (if desired, my husband liked it without) and beer cheese muffins on the side. And another spur of the moment meal last Friday was, also very yummy, salmon patties (recipe courtesy of Heavenly Homemakers) which I modified a bit by adding 1/2 roughly chopped avocado, a little dill, and substituting a very generous squeeze of lime juice for the lemon juice. They had a delicious, almost floral, and light flavor. I like to be creative in the kitchen whenever I have the time/energy to do so and I feel like a meal plan would cramp my style.
Now, all this being said, there are drawbacks to not meal planning. One, I have to go grocery shopping more often or try to find recipes for which I have ingredients (or substitutions) on hand. Admittedly I sometimes like the challenge of trying to cook with what I have around, but sometimes a trip to the store is mandatory and not always welcome. Two, I probably waste more food than I would if I meal planned. Example: I had a bunch of fresh dill that I needed for a particular goulash recipe which I meant to either freeze or hang in a bunch and dry for later use. It goes without saying that in the flurry of last minute dinner preparations I threw it in the vegetable drawer, still with all intentions of preserving it for later use, and promptly forgot about it. A week later I had to throw out a very large bunch of funky, wilted, dill. Had I been meal planning I might have had another use for it that week. :( Three, I run the risk of everyone not liking what I made for dinner and, in the case of my toddler, having to make something else. Of course, I know my family's tastes pretty well so this doesn't happen that often but sometimes you run across a recipe that is just a dud and nobody likes it, me included. This is probably the night for a pizza. Finally, sometimes I just don't have the energy or desire to think about (ominous music) what to make for dinner. I am sure you have had those days when it seems like the most difficult task in the world to conjure up a meal out of thin air, or rather, the air floating around in your head (because you just cant think right now.) This happened a lot in my first trimester when I didn't want to eat period, let alone feed two other people. When this happens once in awhile it isn't really a big deal because I just fall back on one of my old standbys: spaghetti, pork chops, a roast of some sort in the crockpot, or chili. But when such a mood, or condition as it may be, persists for days, weeks, or even months (anyone else have 16 week or longer nausea with their pregnancies?) it becomes kind of a problem. So maybe a meal plan would have been good for such a time. Hmm, maybe I should just make up an emergency meal plan and pull it out whenever I feel that way. I probably won't do this though because, well I already said it, I tend to be lazy. ;)

April 24, 2011

April 20, 2011

Yarn Along

Finished the little spring Georgian Lace Cap for Belle. I really don't like how the crown turned out but she seems quite happy with it, yay! It is hard to tell while I am knitting something if she likes it or not because she always seems ambivalent when I tell her "I am knitting ____ for you." But then when I gave it to her she said, "Mommy made a new pink hat for you!" (you means me) and wanted to try it on and look in the mirror immediately. Books are pretty much the same around here except I have added the Dr. Sears pregnancy book to my very sparse reading. Now go visit Ginny for more Yarn Along fun!
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April 14, 2011

Site Revamp

With all the changing of backgrounds and color themes around here, I have also been thinking of a site revamp. I am not sure exactly what this will entail but I do know I would like this blog to be more... focused. I don't know if I should start another blog with a new purpose or keep this one and just redefine it. I think I need a new 'about' page as well as a new title but it will take quite a bit of thinking on my part. I have been so inspired by the beauty of other blogs lately that I want my blog to reflect more loveliness, as well as be more reflective of my daily life. Stay tuned. :)

April 13, 2011

Yarn Along

I finally got it together to join another Yarn Along hosted by Ginny! I finished (well 99%) the bear I was working on for our Little Bear but haven't been able to get him back to duplicate stitch around the neck and make it tighter. She named him Mr. Tunyon and he is well loved. The last finishing touches (eyes, nose, and mouth) are not as perfect as I would like so I have been reluctant to take pictures so far. I had intended to move on directly to knitting a little cardigan for Belle for next fall but when it came down to it, after swatching and everything, I just couldn't make peace with the colors. When I ordered the yarn it seemed perfect but now I am not so sure that an eggplant cardigan with black collar, button band, and cuffs is what I want to knit for her. In the meantime, Belle has been asking me to knit her "something pink". She found some light pink Debbie Bliss cathay yarn I had in my stash and has been wanting to play with it all the time. I am pretty sure this is the yarn she had in mind. So I cast on a lacy little spring cap for her a couple days ago.
Reading has been sparse around here lately, except for children's books. Isabelle has been enjoying Dr. Seuss lately, Fox in Socks especially. She as also been liking the Saggy Baggy Elephant, a Golden Book from my childhood. I have mostly been reading blogs and a page here and there from the books in my previous yarn along posts. So what are you knitting and reading?

April 8, 2011

Stuffed Shells

I roasted a chicken Thursday night. Upside down. No, it wasn't on purpose. I also tried to make pan gravy from the drippings. With RED wine (I figured wine is wine right? Wrong.) So my chicken, while it had a very moist breast and tasted pretty good considering I put all the herbs and butter on its underside, was a bit of a flop. And the gravy not only separated but was a very unappetizing purplish grey color. Sort of like the color of a 2 or 3 day old bruise. My husband, brave soul that he is, ate it anyway. It did taste OK, just looked awful. Why in the world do I try to cook things I don't usually cook on days when I am frazzled and my pregnant brain has clearly thrown in the towel?
So in an attempt to redeem myself, and because my lovely sister in law asked for my stuffed shells recipe, I am cooking one of my old standbys: stuffed shells. This is a recipe I can be reasonably sure will always turn out well. I don't even actually have a recipe for it in fact. I always just make it sort of the way my parents did. I loosely follow the recipe in The Joy of Cooking for simple cheese filling... but not really. Since I don't have a recipe I never do it exactly the same every time. That is to say, not the same proportions. I always use the same ingredients but sometimes I add more of one kind of cheese or another, or more onion etc. The finished product always turns out yummy and pretty much the same. I made it with no meat tonight since it is Friday but if I were to add meat I would season and brown some ground beef or turkey and add the tomato sauce to it and allow it to heat through. So this is how I did it this time:

1 small onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced or finely chopped
1 package (10 oz) frozen spinach
1 (or 2) tub (15 oz) ricotta *note* see below
about 24 oz shredded mozzarella cheese *note* see below
about 1/3 to 1/2 ricotta tub of parmesan cheese *note* see below
about 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or combination of your choice of seasoning.
-I used about 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon parsley, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon thyme
a small dash of nutmeg (start with just a little tiny bit)
1 box (12 oz) large pasta shells
1 egg
1 26 oz jar tomato sauce (could have used another 1/2 jar probably but it was all I had)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F
Heat a large skillet and add olive oil, onions, and garlic. Cook until onions are just starting to turn translucent. Move the onions and garlic to the sides of the pan then add frozen spinach into the center and turn heat to low. Add salt and pepper. Leave it there for now.

In a big bowl combine ricotta and parmesan cheese and a heaping ricotta tub-ful of mozzarella (*you may want to double these proportions if you are not overly fond of spinach and don't mind having extra filling. More cheese is always good*), italian seasoning, and nutmeg. A note about the nutmeg: start with just a little bit and taste it, if you want more add a tiny bit more and taste again. Repeat until you have the amount you like. I only like just a very subtle hint of nutmeg so I only use a small dash or two.

Check on your spinach. if it is still a frozen block, turn it over and scrape the thawed spinach from the other side. I pretty much just keep doing this till it is all thawed then I cook it for a few more minutes till it just starts to darken and to evaporate any water from the thawing.

While the spinach is cooking start your water to boil to cook the pasta shells.
When the spinach is done just take it off the heat and leave it to cool before adding it to the cheese mixture.

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. When the spinach is cooled add it to the cheese and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. I usually add a bit more salt at this point if I didn't salt the cheese yet but I made the spinach pretty salty this time so I didn't need it. Now add your egg to the cheese and spinach mixture and mix it in really well. You can make this without egg but the filling doesn't hold together in the shells quite as well. I add the egg last so I can taste the filling and see if it needs more seasoning.

Ok so your filling is ready to go, now about those shells... This is the part that gives me the most trouble and there is no really easy/foolproof way to get the shells cooled off enough to handle with out them all sticking together and ripping. I pretty much just accept that there will be casualties but I always seem to have enough shells in the end so I try not to let it bug me. Anyone have a good use for leftover ripped pasta shells? I have had better success in the past coating them with a little olive oil immediately after draining them but I didn't do that this time. I also was pretty frustrated with my sticky and shredded noodles this time. Anyway, when the shells are cool enough to handle, I use a large spoon (like a table spoon, not the measuring kind though) and spoon a rounded spoonful into each shell. I used to worry about not stuffing them enough and ended up with overstuffed shells and sometimes not enough filling left. So I try to stuff them full but not so full that they won't close together at the opening (does that make sense?). I should have probably taken pictures of this whole process but I had a very rambunctious 2 year old to attend to in the middle of all this and, well, lets face it, a bag of shredded mozzarella only keeps her occupied for so long. Then I sort of smush them all into my baking pan in one layer. In my case this was 2 stoneware oval baking dishes, one was 10 x 8 and one was 9 x 7 but I am sure a 13 x 9 pan would produce neater results. Then I pour my sauce over the top and cover with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Put it in the middle of the oven and bake for about 40 min until it is bubbling and the cheese reaches your desired level of brown-ness. Voila! Satisfied husband and kiddo!

***A few notes about how I made it this time and how I would change it next time, or What I Think I Usually Do. After eating this last night (and it was yummy!), I realized that I usually about double the amount of cheese mixture in proportion to the spinach. The filling was a little heavy on the spinach which I like but my daughter is not so fond of. Also I had NO LEFTOVERS from the filling and I usually always have leftovers, from which I like to make egg, cheese, and spinach omelets. So next time I would double the cheese proportions but nothing else, maybe throw in a second egg to help it hold together more. Then you would have a bunch of leftover filling. Alternately you could halve the spinach and leave the cheese as it is but then you might not have quite enough filling. Bottom line: when it comes to pasta you can never have too much cheese. :)

April 2, 2011

New Design

What do you think? I am playing around with Blogger templates and have settled on this one for now. Good? Bad? Just plain ugly?


I think I just saw a tumbleweed...

March 31, 2011

While I am at it.

Since I have decided to crawl out of my first trimester hole and blog, I might as well tell you about a great giveaway going on over at Happy Little Homemaker. She is giving away a "Mind Organization for Mom's " package that sounds like it might be helpful for anyone who is like me and is almost the opposite of organized. :) So go check it out!