Sunday, February 28, 2010

Barefoot Sunday: Roasted Brussel Sprouts

What a fitting end to Healthy Food February to have Barefoot Sunday be about something so traditionally panned as a vegetable, yet quite healthy and maybe deserving of a second chance. I have never had a brussel sprout before. I have no idea if Jason had before either, but the conversation about tonight's meal went something like this:
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      Danielle: Guess what I am making for Barefoot Sunday?
      Jason: What?
      Danielle: Brussel sprouts!
      Jason: Why?!
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When all was said and out of the oven, the sprouts really were quite tasty. Per Ina Garten's recipe, I tossed a pound and a half of spouts with 3 tablespoons of olive oil plus salt and pepper. I roasted them on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes. They are surely an acquired taste, but tasty nonetheless. 
We will definitely continue the healthy eating habits explored for this month's One Small Change, though it may not be posted about...since we'll be talking more about our March change after all. I'll tell you what it is tomorrow ;)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

How to Make Your Grandmother's Bread

Step One: Walk casually into the kitchen thinking, "I'd like to make some bread."
Step Two: Casually look for the bread recipe in the recipe box. 
Step Three: Experience great panic when unable to find recipe. Empty recipe box.
Step Four: Check computer. I typed that one, right? Um, no. 
Step Five: Sift through (no pun intended) every recipe. Toss a few that are no longer appealing.
Step Six: Breathe sigh of relief when recipe is found.
Step Seven: Actually type it up this time. 
Step Eight: Make the bread approximately 30 minutes and one freak out later.
Step Nine: Eat the bread.
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Step nine was my favorite ;o)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sneak Peek

Here is a little Friday evening sneak peek at a craft project I have going on right now...naturally I am beginning another project while still in the middle of several others. March is a fun and full month in my family with two very special birthdays to plan for and craft for. Incidentally, the above project is not for either of those ladies, but it's not quite March yet...
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Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Fun Little Drink





This is a little concoction I like to drink while making dinner; one that won't put me to sleep by prime time television: 3 parts club soda to 1 part pomegranate juice plus a squirt (or three) of lime. The club soda both stretches the dollar-factor of the pomegranate juice as well as the syrupy quality it can have. So, you are left with a healthy, tasty drink that's pink!
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On a completely unrelated note...I so wish that I had both my camera and a third arm to take a picture of myself this afternoon, an image I saw in the reflection of my glass back door as I ventured wearily home after a long day's work: Me carrying my huge and heavy bag, her backpack, my coat, her coat, two overpacked bags of groceries, my scarf half in my mouth and trailing behind me on the ground and my keys hanging off my pinkie so that I may try and unlock the door.  She's nearly five and could/should probably carry some things in too, but at four-thirty she's just as tired and whiny as I am. So, I continue to carry on. Literally. At least I have strong mom-arms now :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Making Brown Rice Yellow

Being raised in Key West means that Jason and I are both accustomed to eating and cooking Cuban cuisine. One of the staples is yellow rice, which is rice that has been seasoned with saffron. Tonight I wanted to make picadillo (ground beef, tomatoes, onions, olives, etc. served with black beans and yellow rice). I typically purchase the packaged yellow rice (which is white rice with the saffron and seasonings included). In the name of being extra healthy this month, I wanted to experiment with adding saffron to brown rice on my own: 
I cooked the brown rice according to package directions, but added a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a 1/2 teaspoon of saffron per uncooked cup of rice. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the rice did turn a yummy yellow color!:
Upon tasting, I feel like I could have gone heavier with the saffron. Saffron strands (which are the stigmas or strands of crocus flowers) are not cheap, so I figured err on the side of caution this time. Next I will up it to a full teaspoon. Still, I am pleased to be able to incorporate brown rice into this family standby :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Snack-Time Tip

Here's a little tip from me to you. Amelia's school asks that snack be packaged separately from lunch and labeled so as to be easily identifiable in the class snack basket. After trying to write her name with Sharpies and whatnot on the snack bags in the morning, which isn't very legible for a small child, I decided to print her name on address labels instead: 
Clearly labeled, easy for her to read, and easy for me to stick (I keep them in the kitchen junk drawer for easy reach):
I know, I know. Some of you who read this will see that my use of plastic baggies is not a very green choice at all. Most of the container items in her lunch box are not disposable, but for the special snack rules this is all I got! 
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PS: You could even put mommy love messages on them...or clip art...or stickers...ok, now I am getting ahead of myself! 

Monday, February 22, 2010

It Just Takes One

We had beautiful weather this weekend; of course, today it's raining but we enjoyed it while it lasted. All it took was the first set of neighbors to wander out into their yard, bewildered at the nasty state of it all, to get the rest of us moving. Slowly but surely we all followed suit, cranking up long-hibernating lawn equipment and digging in. Literally. 
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By the end of the weekend there was a little more outdoor enjoyment to be had, rather than focused grooming. Children were playing outside. Adults were planting pansies and talking about the crazy climate we live in. Birdies were chirping and feeding on the berries freed from cut limbs. It was so nice to have that sense of community that comes from not being shut inside from the elements. It was also nice that the neighborhood college kids, engaging in an interesting combination beer pong/study session, at least had the same taste in music as we did (since we couldn't help but here it :). 
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Here are some pictures:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Barefoot Sunday: Profiteroles!

The back story (in bullets for ease of following): 

  1. Saw episode of Barefoot Contessa where Ina made profiteroles; Immediately want to eat them, but remain intimidated by the process for over a year. 
  2. Start a blog so that I may brave adventures in the craft and culinary realm. 
  3. Make cheese puffs (which have the same basic dough as profiteroles, called Pâte à choux) as a first run, with help from my mom. More about the dough on my cheese puffs post
  4. Eat profiteroles at French restaurant in town last Saturday...they are only okay. Yay! This gives me the confidence to give it a try (because if a restaurant can't get it right every time...)
Today I did it! Amelia and I even made the sauce over a double boiler, which we have never done before. We felt very culinary and fabulous. 
Ta da: 
They were so light, crispy, and delicious. When Amelia saw them completed she said, "those look like yum." Yum, indeed. The process was not nearly as scary or difficult as I had made it out to be.  You can totally do this. Find the recipe right here FoodNetwork.com. Happy baking!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Awaiting Spring

It was warm enough today to do some much needed work in the yard...work of the pruning, clipping, dragging-dead-limbing variety. Our yard has finally graduated from overgrown and ever so slightly embarrassing to a nice, bare-but-clean-looking space. Now we, along with Isa, await spring!
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PS: It's a running joke in our family that Isa's shadow is much more chihuahua-eqse than Isa herself...wouldn't you agree? :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Gufetto

I named this little guy Gufetto, which means little owl in Italian. He is a get-well present for my (Italian) dad who had shoulder surgery this afternoon (he's doing great). Before you go thinking that I whipped this up last night, know that this project took about a week's time in making/shipping. 
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First I had some embroidery fun designing the front while watching recorded episodes of Project Runway:
I wanted the back to have a ruffly/feathery look, so I used pinking shears to cut strips of felt, then overlapped them as I stitched them on to the main scrap of felt (excuse the chipped nail polish and colorful pajama pants please):
To finish, I pinned the opposite sides together, sewed around the "outline" created by the embroidery (leaving the bottom un-sewn for stuffing purposes). I turned him right-side-out, stuffed him, and finished sewing. I left some of the "feather" strips longer so that they could flare out a little as wings.
Perhaps one day I will be organized and adventurous enough to create a real tutorial to share...this will have to do for now, but if anyone has questions just leave a comment or email. Happy Friday! 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Healthy Food February Update

Things have been progressing slowly but surely in our latest One Small Change. Green tea, natural sugars, decaffeinated coffee, and cooking with brown rice have made their way into the mix. So far we are enjoying the flavor and more complex texture of brown rice. However, I am not enjoying the longer cook time. I was thinking about making a larger quantity over the weekend to then reheat in weeknight portions. Hmmm....
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Tonight we had a modified version of Real Simple magazine's "Golden Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives." Essentially, it's chicken sauteed with onions, pimento-stuffed green olives, grape tomatoes, and garlic. The recipe called for white wine to deglaze the pan; I substituted lemon juice and served over brown rice instead of white: 
It was tasty, though I am not a fan of the resulting dish pile (not pictured ;). 
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A tiny roadblock to Healthy Food February? Two little boxes delivered by a neighborhood Girl Scout containing none other than Thin Mints and Tag-A-Longs. My favorites. Ugh! Yum!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Of Knitting, Rain

On Monday we were off from school. It rained and rained:
Thus, I got the urge to knit. I dug through my smallish stash of yarn and began a small knitted purse for Amelia. I knit about 10 rows and decided to "try something." Major fail--had to begrudgingly unravel:
And start again: 
Oh, well! At least I got to knit on a cold and rainy morning!
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Speaking of cold, the flower pot (full of dead stuff, sorry) that had filled with rain water was frozen over this morning.   It looks perfect enough for Polly Pocket to skate on!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hello Yellow

After the yellow bird came home with me, we went on a walk where there were...real yellow birdies! Well, yellow-bellied birdies anyway: 
Then they flew away...frightened by the bold lady who will walk shamelessly into neighbors' yards with her camera. 
I wonder what they are? 
PS: Just a little more yellow on this cold, wintry day: 
Stay warm!

Monday, February 15, 2010

In Between

In between cooking, tidying, mommying, and cooking again yesterday I stepped out for just a minute to be my own Valentine...to sip a vanilla coffee and wander the craft store looking for nothing in particular but hoping to run across some pretty things. I donned my pinky pink shoes and off I went: 
And find pretty things, I did. Some pretty papers and trinkets. Then I stumbled across this plucky and puckish yellow garden bird that all but demanded to come home with me so she could live in my studio. 
Who could argue?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I.L.Y.

Here is a Valentine for you, dear readers, from my sweet Amelia. She is developing her very early writing skills and we just figured out that when she is "writing a story" she is writing the first letter of every word. 
ILY= I love you. We love her. Happy Day!
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PS: Barefoot Sunday was not forgotten. I type this as I wear a dirty apron with another "Ina roast chicken" in the oven. Yum. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hedgehog Completed

The wee hog is finally complete! A little more complicated than I originally thought, I had to whittle the plan for more hedgehogs down to one (with some extra Valentine-y doo dads added instead). Since this was a purchased pattern, I can't really share too many details except to say that I chose to add more rows of quills so that he didn't appear to be balding. Also, in all manner of ridiculous chores, I had to trim up his side quills a little bit because Hedgie looked like he was auditioning for a remake of Welcome Back Kotter. 
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I hope she likes it!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Far From Home

Written by Anne DeGrace, Far From Home is a story of a heartbroken young woman Jo and the various people she meets working at a roadside diner in 1977. It's a lovely mix of the original plot, plus several interwoven short stories  (the tales of those she meets). It wasn't happy, nor sad; not climactic, nor boring. I struggled with a worthy description until I read an interview of the author. DeGrace describes the books she likes to read: 
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"I want a good story, and I want characters I care about. There doesn't need to be a lot of action, but there does need to be enough depth to make me think and make me care."
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Anne DeGrace wrote a book that she would enjoy reading, it seems. I enjoyed it too :) 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentines In Store

Ok, perhaps not the most clever play-on-words I will ever think of...but such a prettier title than "store bought Valentines" don't you think? And certainly I know a few people with Valentines in store, particularly some little teenies in Amelia's preschool class. 
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I had grand plans of homemade cards, but alas, reality set in. We all really liked these cards anyway, they are cute and give the children (who are only very early readers) something to do with the cards. I wrote the children's names on the front and then Amelia signed her name on each and every card and sealed each with a sticker. Watching her work so carefully was precious and priceless. 
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Stay warm, my friends! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pretty Paper Presents

These are the presents for my "boy" on Valentine's Day. I wanted to share them with you so that you could see the pretty paper, which I printed free from the Lovely Design blog! Sharilyn, the blog author, designs beautiful patterns each month and has them on her blog to download and use however your heart desires! February's pattern (wrapped above) has such a pretty Valentine-y pink but also enough blue and brown to warrant use on a husband's gift...no? What if I tie on a big brown bow, will that make it manly? No? Oh, well, he'll like the presents anyway. I love the paper...and the husband :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pretty Pictures Post: Weekend Sunshine

It is yet another cold, wet day here...the kind where you feel chilled to the bone all day long and really want to be wearing cozy socks and drinking hot chocolate. It makes me all the more grateful for the wee bit of afternoon sunshine we got on Sunday:
Look out! She is getting super-fast on that bike!
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PS: On formatting: I am struggling with finding an available font that is not too small or way to big. How's this? Also, how is the three-column format working for everyone? I'd love to know your thoughts!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Evening Bag

This was a fun little project that I got teased mercilessly about from my friends...lovingly of course :) We had a formal event to attend Saturday evening that required me to hem a few inches from my dress. The large scrap of black sequined fabric was begging to be used somehow, yet it was too narrow to use on it's own. 
Here's what I did: I folded a piece of felt in half width-wise, hand sewed the sides closed, then turned it inside-out so that the stitches didn't show. Then I pinned the sequined fabric in place and sewed it to the sides (the black fabric hid the stitches, so I didn't even need to be careful). I purposely used the original dress bottom's "hem" as the top of the evening bag so that no special finishing was needed. I sewed on a snap and packed it up with the essentials. 
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I was sort of sad to be done with it, so now it's in my day-to-day bag holding random un-fancy things like bobby pins and Chapstick :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Barefoot Sunday: Vinaigrette for Green Salad


This is a quick post, everyone, because it's nearly Super Bowl kickoff time! To offset what will be some yummy Super Bowl snacking, we had a light dinner including a green salad with Ina's delicious mustard-based vinaigrette. You can find it here at FoodNetwork.com. 
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It was tasty, peppery, and light. Yum!
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PS: If you have to spell vinaigrette a bunch of times, eventually you will memorize it : ) 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tying Two On

If you check out Bloom's Friday post, you may see the connection between that post and it's comments and the dusting off of my running gear. I have been hibernating for the winter and even though winter is still in full swing, I am ready to breathe some fresh air. And yes, I have silly old-school headphones for my ipod. They stay in better...really. 
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And naturally, I cannot leave you with a picture of sneakers. So here's a little yellow and green to put a spring in your step: 
Barefoot Sunday tomorrow! How am I going to swing it during Healthy Food February? Hmm...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Remember the Sweet Things

Not simply the book, but this story may be one of my very favorites ever. It is a true story that I stumbled upon years ago as an article in Hallmark magazine (oh, how I miss that publication). I forever kept the magazine and was so pleasantly surprised to learn that a book would follow.
It is the true story of Ellen Greene and her husband Marshall, affectionately known as "Marsh." Their life together was not without struggle, but through it all Ellen engaged in a sweet, tender, and inspiring tradition. 
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From the book jacket: 
   
   For twenty years, Ellen Greene kept a running list of the thoughtful, funny, touching things that her husband Marsh said and did. She wrote them down secretly, then shared those thoughts with him every Valentine's Day when he would find pages of her "Sweet Things List" tucked inside a card. 
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I promise you that if you read this story, you will fall in love with Ellen and Marsh. Quite probably, it will inspire you to create a list of your own sweet things for someone in your life...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Pause For Pretty Pink

On our very quick, post-work walk of the dog today I brought along the camera in hopes that I would see something, anything besides a sea of brown, dormant grass. Luckily: 
I don't even know what this stuff is, but I am so grateful to have seen it! Oh spring, so close and yet still so far...
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I have an exciting book bit to share with you tomorrow, one of my very favorites. See you then!