Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Balls - No Bake Cookies

So yesterday, we all had a sweet tooth, but I didn't have anything dessert-like in the house.  I surveyed the kitched and realized I was out of white sugar, stick butter, and much of anything in the way of chocolate other than some cocoa powder and 1/2 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips.

It was also humid and rainy and kind of hot - I didn't want to turn on an A/C OR an oven.  I wanted something sweet that required no baking.  I searched around on the internet but every no bake recipe called for something I didn't have - mostly white sugar.

I gave up.

I went to the kitchen and pulled out some dessert balance in the tub, powdered sugar, brown sugar, 1/2 cup chocolate chips, peanut butter, oats and some colored jimmies... hmmm..

I ended up with a most FANTASTICAL TREAT!  I will make them again and experiement with more variations.  Even a 5 year old could make these all alone.

1/2 cup peanut butter - in this case I used Jiff
1/2 cup confectioner sugar - the sweet stuff I had the most of
3/4 cup of rolled oats - uncooked
3/4 cup honey bunches of oats cereal (w/almonds - what I had on the shelf)
1-2T of milk (skim, could substitute anything wet that works for you)
1t of vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used semi sweet)

I dumped it all into a bowl - yes, literally dumped and I didn't measure very accurately either.  I stirred it with a wooden spoon for about 1 minute until the wet was dry and the dry was wet.

I then scooped with a small spoon into my hand, pressed to make it ball-shaped and put it on a tray.

We ate them JUST like that - it actually tasted like eating chocolate chip oatmeal cookie dough -

It made about 2 dozen balls - everyone loved them.  They were gone before dinner time!  I will definately make them again!

YUM.  And by the way - if you're in the path of hurricane Irene (who is following the earth quake to the east coast and the mid-Atlantic areas) this will be your most beloved snack.  If you lose power, you can still make these, they require NO oven, stove or any kind of heat - I didn't even refrigerate them afterwards though they weren't around long enough to do so anyway.

Enjoy!  And by the way, if you grocery shop anywhere in Hurricane Irene's path, these ingredients will be far more readily available than flashlights and batteries which are apparently sold out EVERYWHERE in the Philadelphia area!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Seismic Stuffed Mushrooms

What's for Dinner?  That's the question that starts to bug me every day about 4pm.  I don't really plan my meal schedule, nor do I shop for specific recipes (since I rarely use recipes - or if I do I tend to use the IDEA of the recipe and make it my own).  So, around 4pm I start to look around to see what I have to make into something called dinner.

We're not a meat and potato family.  About 90% of the time our meals are vegetarian and about 50% of the time vegan - again, not by planning, just by what we regularly eat.  So, for me, dinner doesn't always have to be well matched, nor does it need to contain an overview of the food pyramid on a plate.  Thus, as long as I end up with enough healthy elements, dinner can be almost anything.  The whole family goes along with this style of eating, so it's no big deal.

Last night's meal was something new, an invented dish and in honor of the east coast Earthquake that could be felt all along the east coast (no I didn't feel it, my daughter and I were in IKEA and apparently, it's kind of Earthquake resistant - but my two kids at home said our house shook and my husband thought someone had sneaked into his office, and was standing behind him shaking his chair, my son who was at the skateboard park had no idea) I'm calling last night's main course (aka only course) Seismic Stuffed Mushrooms.

Here's the deal:  They are portabella stuffed mushrooms (the big variety) stuffed with Italian summer stuffing and pepper cream cheese. 

Ingredients:  Carrots (any kind, even shredded), Onion, Celery, Dried Bread (or bag of stuffing), fresh garlic, cream cheese (or substitute), peppers (about 5 any variety - some hot some sweet), granulated garlic, chili oil, portabella mushrooms - large, salt and pepper

The Stuffing:  Cook down a mirepoix (carrots, onion, celery) until they are soft and tender and the onions are translucent.  I added about 3 minced garlic cloves to my mirepoix to make it more Italian and less American Thanksgiving -ish.  I cooked them in both canola oil and Earth Balance for a buttery flavor.  I used a large handful of baby carrots - chopped small, one large onion and one celery heart plus 3 large cloves of garlic.  Throw in some herbs... I used a bunch of tarragon (I have bushes of the fresh stuff in my garden and I had dried some earlier this summer, I used the dried). 

I also used a few shakes of poultry seasoning and a bit of chopped fresh sage (also bushes of this in my garden).  Add dried bread stuffing (unflavored).  I used half a bag, you'll have to gauge how much you need.  You want only enough bread so that the mirepoix and herb flavor doesn't disappear.  Then, add broth (I make my own or use vegetable broth or use a vegetable broth cube diluted in hot water).  Add to stuffing mixture until all the bread has absorbed the juice.  The mixture will be kind of soppy but the bread is still somewhat formed.

The Cheese Mixture:  Remove the seeds from your peppers (I used 2 jalapenos and 3 green bells from my garden) and rough chop them.  Saute them over medium heat until they are soft but not mush.  Transfer them to the food processor for a quick (and I mean quick) whirl.  Scrape the pepper mash from the processor and add it to about 6 ounces of softened cream cheese.  Sprinkle in some granulated garlic powder, salt and about a teaspoon of chili oil.  Stir.  At this point the cheese/pepper mixture will be hart to resist and you'll want to add it to crackers and have a snack!  You can substitute the cream cheese for vegan cream cheese or soft tofu for a similar vegan effect.

The Portabellas:  Remove the stems and the black undersides (I scrape them clean with a spoon).  Drizzle some oil and cook them over medium high heat until they are MOSTLY cooked through.  Don't over cook them at this point.  I add a bit of salt when I'm cooking them. 

NOTE: I used the remaining mushroom juice and oil mixture from the mushroom cooking process and poured it over my stuffing mixture to give it more flavor.

Assembling:  Put the portabellas top-side-down on a tray or in a casserole dish.  Add some cheese mixture and spread it across the mushroom - it acts as a glue for the stuffing.  Pile in stuffing.  Give them a bit of salt and pepper.  Put them in a 400F oven for at least 20 mins.  The stuffing will get crispy on top - that's what you want.

Remove from oven and let sit about 5 minutes before eating.  When these babies came out of the oven and I called the family in for dinner (there were only 3 of us and 6 mushrooms at this meal) I was very nervous having NO IDEA if I'd been successful.  We all REALLY liked them - we ate 2 per piece.  No leftovers... I did add the remaining stuffing that didn't go into a mushroom into a bread pan and I baked it in the oven alongside the mushrooms.  My daughter has already claimed that extra stuffing portion for lunch today!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pom Pom Cuties

In my daily craft blog perusing, I came across this SO cute and SO easy tutorial for Pom Pom Napkin Rings at the blog Aesthetic Nest.

There is a tutorial for these cute little rings with step by step instructions and photos.  You won't believe how easy it is.  Check out her awesome idea.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Turn Pesto into Peschetta

Here is one my favorite cures for lots of leftover pesto.  I invented this a few years ago when I had a bumper crop of basil and I was making giant batches of the garlicky green stuff.  I call this dish PESCHETTA (pronounced Pesketta).  It's kind of like Bruschetta with with pesto.

Here goes.

First, cut up some French or Italian bread, white or wheat both work fine.  Cut the slices anyway you wish - any cut of bread slice will do.

Then, spread a thin coating of leftover pesto on the bread. - Not too heavy, you don't want it clumpy, just a thin, smooth layer.

Next, drizzle a bit of olive oil (any variety you like) over the bread.

Sprinkle some finely grated Parmesan cheese (or any type of hard Italian variety you prefer) over the top.

Optional:  Add some thinly sliced garden fresh tomatoes.

Last - a dose of salt and pepper.

Then, put it into an over at about 350F and cook until the bread is warmed through and a bit crispy.  No specific time limit.

Tonight I had a bit of a crazy meal, I served my peschetta with long grain and wild rice and asparagus with homemade Dijon vinaigrette.  I know, weird, but that's what I had on hand.  No one complained, all plates were wiped clean with the final pieces of the pesto bread.

By the way, keep in mind that a single slice of this goodness can be made for an afternoon snack and heated in a toaster oven - yes, I have done that a few times!


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunshine and Knit Stitches

I've been wanting to knit.  But it's been REALLY hot in Philly this summer - and lately it's been nothing but humidity, downpours and thunderstorms. UGH.  I'm longing for cool fall nights - days that make me feel like I want to go camping and dry earth beneath my feet.

This lovely sunshine scarf pattern by the Purl Bee makes me want it even MORE!  I've been really wanting to knit but the weather has made me feel like doing anything but wrapping myself in yarn and needles.

This is a MUST knit for the first few cool days of the fall.  The pattern looks just my speed (bumbling knitter) and I can't wait to wrap myself in its happy sunshine colors and feel sun on my face and cool in the air all at the same time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's PESTO time again!

For the past two years my backyard vegetable garden just hasn't yielded as well as I would have liked but after a rough start, and a few additional plantings, my basil finally took!

There's nothing better than pulling something from your own yard and creating dinner with it the same night.  If you haven't made pesto before, just know that it's really easy.  Here's how I do it.

First.  Pick enough Basil so that when you pluck off the leaves, you will fill your food processor above the level of the blade. 

Peel some garlic cloves.  A typical amount might be 2 - 3 cloves but I LOVE garlic and there can never be too much in my estimation - so I use a lot.

You can rough chop the garlic first but my processor does a good enough job with the cloves left whole.  Toss them in with the basil leaves and put the top on the processor.  Begin to blend the two ingredients.  As soon as they are partially broken down, begin to drizzle in some olive oil through the processor's pour hole.

Don't add too much, just enough to give a glossy sheen to the mixture.  As you continue to blend the ingredients the green will turn brighter, lighter and somewhat milkier looking.

YUM!  This looks just perfect to me.  At this point some people add in pine nuts and parmesean cheese (already finely grated).  However, I like to add the last two ingredients to my dish when I serve the food.  If there will be leftover PESTO, and if it needs to be heated, the heating process makes the cheese kind of gummy when it's already in the mixture.  Sometimes I do like to grind up the pine nuts in the mixture for a thicker, nuttier paste.

I like to add my pesto at room temperature to steaming hot pasta.  I prefer not to heat the pesto itself.  After adding the pesto to the pasta, toss it.  You shouldn't have thick green gobs, just use enough that it looks as if you have green-tinged pasta with basil flecks in it.

In my household, we also like to serve a red tomato sauce (I make a lovely homemade version learned from my Italian mother-in-law, Adele). 

My favorite preparation - tomato sauce in the bottom of the bowl.  Pasta on top of that, pesto over the pasta and slightly agitated with a fork to mix it around.  Then, a sprinkle of grated parmesean cheese and a spattering of toasted pine nuts on the top.  Add a few pieces of homemade garlic bread on the side, a big glass of red wine and dinner is served!

In the summer, we go lazy buffet style right off of the kitchen table.

Happy Dinner - PS... find someone else to wash the dishes and clean the kitchen and settle somewhere comfy to finish your wine!

Sewing and Digital Scrapbooking

You may not think so, but sewing, quilting and digital scrapbooking just might go hand in hand!

Check out the SherYourScraps blog for a post about how these two hobbies work together -

This is page 1 of a four page post about how to combine the two efforts.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cutest Little Ritas!

I swear this is NOT a blog about drinking.  But when I was buying some wine last week I couldn't resist how cute these little personal sized margarita bottles were.  I had to try a 4-pack to see if the taste was as yummy as the bottles were quaint.

Needless to say, the 4-pack is now GONE and the drinks were yummy.  I like to KNOW there is tequila in my margarita and I don't like it too sweet.  These bottles were just a hint shy on the strong side but the sweetness factor was perfect.

My preferred way to drink a margarita - traditional style, on ice with salt.  Just rim your margarita glass with lime, ring the lip with salt, add some chopped ice and pour on a bottle. One bottle fit my glass almost perfectly.  Bottoms up!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Trash to Treasure Birthday Chair

I couldn't decide what to get my niece Maisie for her 2nd birthday - but then... THERE IT WAS.

As I was on my way to the post office, a little wooden rocker sat all alone by the curb in front of a neighbor's house.  The next day was trash day.

On my way back from the post office, I hoped the little chair would still be there and lo and behold, it was.

I figured the chair must be broken but it wasn't.  It had some kids' stickers stuck to it and quite a bit of permanent marker drawn on it but otherwise, it was perfect.  Into my trunk it went.  I had plans for this little seat.

The first thing I did was get my husband to remove the stickers and sand it down as much as possible.  Here's how it looked after he gave it a whirl:

Unfortunately, the week leading up to Maisie's birthday was very humid and my house isn't centrally air conditioned.  That was not good for getting the paint to dry.  I decided to use an oil based paint because I had some left from another project and it was just the right color of off-white that still appeared white.  First I gave it a good prime.  When the primer was dry, nicely covering the marker that didn't sand away, I brushed on the first coat.

It took 2 coats of paint and seemed to take forever to dry between coats.  While it was drying I decided to make a little cushion for it.  I pieced together some strips for the top and made the back so it had a slip-in opening.  I attached some rick rack to tie the cushion to the spindles.  I filled the cushion with some really cheap batting that a friend had used to wrap and send a gift to us.

Here's how it looked when it was done:

I wished I had made the cover a LITTLE bigger.  I custom made the pattern by drawing it on some newspaper and I should have been a little more careful with my sizing. 

However, Maisie's bottom fit on it just fine.  Though the cute little chair is totally cuter when filled with my adorable little red-headed niece complete with little pony tails!

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