Friday, March 30, 2012

Lentil and Macaroni Soup

Hey y'all - I'm back! Did you miss my weeklong hiatus? Oh, you didn't notice. Eh, it's ok I know you have a life to lead. I was in sunny Louisville for a work conference. Anyway, I'm back and excited to share this great pantry meal that I whipped up last night.

I want to weigh in on the current controversy the New York Times whipped up regarding ghost writers on celebrity chefs. The short of it is a woman reports that she is among an army of ghost writers who help bring cookbooks to print. This ruffled some feathers; most notably Gwyneth Paltrow and Rachel Ray who enthusiastically deny the use of a ghost writer to help develop recipes. I'd like to say that I've always assumed that Rachel Ray had help bringing her thousands of recipes to print. I'm confused at the denials. Am I alone here people?

Alright back to the soup. Speaking of ghost writers I used Giada deLaurentiis. Well actually, I used her lentil soup recipe as a starting point for mine. I glanced over her recipe and pulled together my soup based on what I had on hand and dumped in some additional as I felt like it. It was delicious!

It was a perfect soup for a drizzly and chilly day. I also adore ditalini pasta in soup because it reminds me of my childhood. Also, I had all of the items in my pantry or crisper in the fridge. It was so good Joel had two bowls!

Lentil Soup
Yields 5-6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 carrots, diced
2 medium onions, diced
3/4 lb dried lentils
14 oz. diced tomatoes
2/3 cup dried pasta (I used ditalini but elbow macaroni would work here too)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leafs
10-12 cups chicken stock or water

grated parmesan


Heat large soup pot over medium heat and add olive oil, carrots, and onions and sauté until softened. If you have celery that would be an excellent addition. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Toss lentils in mixture for a few minutes then add tomatoes including juices. Add remaining spices and toss for a minute. Add stock or water and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes. Add pasta and cook for additional 10 minutes. Lentils and pasta should be cooked through.

Top soup grated parmesan to taste.


Monday, March 19, 2012

New fabric & bbq weekend

Very happy Monday, no really, happy Monday!! Let me just say the weekend was amazing; I felt like it was mid-June rather than mid-March. I told Joel that we should move to Virginia or south generally to enjoy this type of weather every year. A lot of time was spent outside and we even got in a BBQ, northern style (read: grilling) and not southern style.

I also wanted to update you all on fabrics that I recently bought. If you remember I am interested in taking up quilting. I hope to take a local class in the coming weeks and so in preparation I sought out some inspiration fabrics and came across a wonderful seller on Etsy, Dreamy Vintage Sheets, and found some gorgeous and affordable vintage sheets. Check 'em out.

That stack is so inspiring! I can't wait to get using them.

I adore this pack. I think I will use these in my first quilt. Since the class will be throughout the spring I feel this patriotic bunch would make a beautiful summery quilt for picnics and snuggling under the stars. Don't you agree? 

Don't you love how I led you to a yes? It's a skill people. 

These are just the sweetest! I have no idea what I will do with these but I have the most darling niece so who knows.

I love the fun and whimsy of this group.

Last but not least is this little foursome. True story about this group - I didn't order them. The seller threw them in! This leads me to a note on this seller she was very quick, threw in an extra little bundle, and refunded me unneeded shipping costs. Clearly, I will be using her again and I would recommend you check her out.

Also, the fabrics are all fat quarters minus the last group (I think they may be a little bit smaller. People, I'm learning quilting jargon. If you aren't sure what a FQ is let me explain with my very limited understanding, it's essentially the cut of the fabric, 18'' x 22'', that allows the maximum usage of the fabric.

How did I do?

In other news I wanted to show you some pictures I snapped over the weekend. This weather inspired me to purchase some spring-time flowers from the grocery store. Also, we got in a picnic and the local park looked a little bit other-worldly.

Although I am sad to see how low the lake is that drift wood was calling my name. I've seen some fabulous DIY crafts that would just be darling for summer. It feels like summer is just around the corner. Of course it is still March in Central New York so that means snow is not out of the question. But for now, I'm enjoying and soaking up this beautiful and crazy weekend.

Your turn: what did you do over the weekend? Are you as energized for the week as I am, or am I nuts? Scratch that; no need to answer that last question.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Black Bean Burgers

Black bean burgers are the best.

I like alliteration.  Let me try another one.

Bountiful black bean burgers bring bragging rights. 

Umm I lost it there at the end. 

Black bean burgers beg to be bitten. 

Well, it turns out a sentence starting only with b's is more difficult than I thought. Moving on. 

With the absolutely beeeautiful weather I've been thinking about going to a park and grilling out this weekend. In March. Is this what it feels like to live in the south? March is the start of spring from a mild winter with little to no snow? Not the normal, I wonder how many more snow storms we need to endure this month and maybe into April....I think I need to move. 

These burgers could not be easier or more delicious. I added spices I like but really this is meant to be played around with and various combinations would be delightful. I know I will continue try out different flavors. 

Check out what I started with. 

One can of black beans, one egg, a medium onion, whole wheat bread crumbs, (shy) paprika, cumin, italian seasoning, chili powder, garlic powder, and hot sauce.

Basically I dump them all together and mix. Easy, no?

I had a peanut butter top handy and used it to form the burgers evenly.

Heat through - no biggie. These were good on the stove top but I am imagining how awesome they would be on a grill. mmmm.

Toss together with a toasted bun and some lettuce. Not shown is the ketchup that I topped my burger with, naturally. 

So is anyone planning on firing up the grill this weekend? How about considering moving south to be treated with early springs forever? 

Black Bean Burgers

Yield 4 burgers


1 can black beans
1 medium onion, diced
1 egg
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 teaspoon cumin 
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
3-4 shakes hot sauce


In a medium bowl lightly whisk egg. Add drained black beans. Using a potato masher or fork break up black beans and combine into egg. Add finely diced onion, bread crumbs, and spices. Mix with hands to evenly distribute ingredients. 

Form into evenly sized burgers. Saute on stove top over medium heat in pan sprayed with non stick cooking spray or on a grill about 7 minutes each side. 

Serve on a toasted bun. 


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chair Update

I have been meaning to get this update out since my mother, her friend Debra, and I took a crack at the chair reupholstery project. And since part two is about a week away so I figured I should get to getting.

A couple of weeks ago like I mentioned my mother barely made it to my apartment with one of her girlfriends, Debra. In true fashion for my mother she drove with death-defying precision. She may or may not have ended up on a one way street going the wrong way. Gah! Amazingly, they made it in one piece. Seriously people this is proof-positive that child resiliency is real and I stand before you as proof!   

Anywho, after catching my breath from laughing about the eventful drive out we got to work. Here's a reminder of what we started with. I painted the wood portions of the chair earlier this winter in preparation.

It may be difficult to tell but we started by ripping off the piping that lined the wood and discussing a game plan.

 Initially, the plan was to not strip the chair bare and work over at least some of the existing fabric. Please note I said initially.

Opening up the back was the start of the stripping. Then we just kept going. It seemed like the right thing to do.

What the what? Please note the strange cushion situation above. The upper "wing" of the chair is cushioned but not the base of the arm. Something had to be done.

A little switcheroo was in order. So we padded the base of the arm and formed a cage with thread over the stuffing to keep it secure. At this point we decided the second trip to JoAnn's was in order to purchase foam for the wing section to give us the plush look we're looking for.

After stripping, destapling, considering a new game plan, destapling, a trip to JoAnn's, lunch, destapling, and some laughing we were ready to get moving on the fabric reupholstery...yay!

I should mention at this point that Debra is amazing. She is very deliberate and thoughtful in her approach. My mother is more like a bull - let's remember the one-way street incident. I am somewhere in the middle. But still, cutting the fabric is more than a little nerve wracking. Measure twice three times and cut once.

Another important step is lining up and relining up the patter with the various pieces. We decide to start at the arms after positioning the bottom and back.

We start stapling both of the arms around the wooden handles. At this point we decide to call it a day. I know, I know, we've come so far. But we were losing steam and understandably Debra wanted to hitch a ride back with my mother while there was still daylight after the morning's crazy ride out. 

The lions-share of the first day was repairing, tearing, destapling, and taking the chair apart. Next week we will tackle the stapling and piecing which I am hopeful will be pretty straight forward and likely a bit quicker. Then the cushion and piping that may be another story. This is why I insist on reinforcements. 

Stay tuned for the conclusion of the saga. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Chocolate chip toffee cookie bars

Have you ever used Tasty Kitchen? It is the recipe clearing house that the Pioneer Woman started and that I from time to time post a recipe on. That's the point; anyone can become a member and upload recipes to share. I was checking out the site earlier this week and stumbled across this ooey-gooey treat.   The original blogger to post this was Shugary Sweets. I tweeked it slightly but generally used the same recipe.

A big plus is it is a bar cookie recipe. Bar cookies are my favorite. They are so easy.  These are mostly prepare, assemble, and bake. Easy peasy.

Layer, layer, layer.

Graham cracker crust

Oooey-chocolatey-fudge layer

Toffee sprinkles

Chocolate chip cookie dough

More toffee sprinkles

Now get thee to the oven to bake.

The end results do not disappoint. They were seriously gooey.

Check them out. You can see the bar on the end is spreading out because of it's still gooey center - even after resting for more than an hour. I suggest you have a tall glass of milk in hand with these puppies.

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookie Bars
Adapted from Shugary Sweets
Yields 24 - 32 servings 


For the crust
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted

For the fudge
1 can sweetened condensed milk
12 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup toffee chips

For the cookie
3/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 oz. package milk chocolate morsels
1/2 cup toffee chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper (optional, I didn't). Combine butter and graham cracker crumbs and press into pan.

To prepare the fudge combine all ingredients minus toffee bits in small sauce pan and heat over medium-low heat until smooth. Spread over crust; use knife to spread evenly. Sprinkle with toffee chips.

To prepare cookie mixture cream the butter and brown sugar using hand mixer. Mix milk, vanilla, and egg into creamed butter until well mixed. Mix flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in the wet mixture. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread (with clean hands) over fudge/toffee. Sprinkle remaining toffee.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Don't worry it will still be gooey.

Allow to cool for more than an hour (apparently).


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Best Banana Bread

I realize I just posted a banana bread recipe at the end of January. You know, I loved that recipe and I added chocolate chips and it was delicious. Then I stumbled across a recipe (via pinterest) from America's Test Kitchen on Food 4 Wibowo. The most exciting thing about this recipe is not one, two, three, four, but FIVE bananas. It was love at first sight. Seriously.

Oh and the other interesting thing about this recipe is you nuke the bananas and drain the liquids into a bowl. Then simmer the liquids to concentrate the flavors. I am positive this is the secret to the beauty of this bread and I almost didn't make it because it meant a few extra dirty dishes. I am so glad I made it anyway.

This is the loaf fresh out of the oven.

A few slices calling my name. Also, check out my new spring table cloth. I found this puppy on half off at Target. Holla. I love it!

The top is perfect and crunchy-crusty.

This bread will not disappoint.

The only change I made is to not include sliced bananas on the top because I didn't think we needed it.

Check out the recipe over on Food 4 Wibowo.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Camera Strap update

Happy Monday! I had the most relaxing weekend ever. It was fabulous. I thought I would update you on some highlights including the camera strap update.

So you may remember the monstrosity of an attempted camera strap. There were all sorts of problems going on but to sum it up it was ill fitted. After chatting with me mum and her super-sewer friend Debra I decided to take a second whack at it and fix my mistake. They provided several ideas of how best to approach the project and in the end it took less than an hour to correct - yes!

The most important lesson I learned is to measure the camera strap myself instead of following a guide online. The short-story of what I did was seam ripped the strap cover and using the new measurements cut it down to size with 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Check out the fit now.

Much better, no? It's not perfect but it is absolutely a major improvement. Now I am ready for spring!

In other news, I told you there was a whole lot of relaxing going on around here this weekend. Well, I had a cuddle buddy....check out who.


Emma can you hear me?

Emma loves Joel more than she loves me. Emma is a beautiful dog of a friend of mine who I occasionally dog-sit for. Emma spent the majority of her weekend lounging around. The other half of the time she spends acting like Randall from Monsters Inc. but that's why we love her.

How was your weekend? Did you relax or have an adventure?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lake Placid Adventure

As promised, to my mother, I am bringing you (mom) a post on our weekend in Lake Placid. Get excited.

Our journey began well enough but half way to Lake Placid we were in the middle of an icy-slushy-snowy-terrifying drive. At one point we considered turning around but realized we would be driving through the back end of the storm so we soldiered on and made it albeit an hour and a half later than expected. On the plus side we were greeted by this scene.

Even though I grew up in New York State and even have college friends from the Adirondacks I have never been to Lake Placid. It is such a beautiful town. The day we arrived we decided to walk around the Main Street area and explore the rows of shops. You can imagine how thrilling this was for Joel; it's a good thing he loves me.

One of the shops had Christmas goodies still on display and I happened across this felted ornament. I snapped a pic in hopes that I craft this business up next year for my tree.

On our second day we decided to check out the Olympic sites. First up, the Olympic museum and to check out the relics of the two Olympics Lake Placid hosted. This is the line up of bobsleds or as I like to think of them death traps. Incidentally, the weekend we visited was actually the bobsled and skeleton world championships.

The Olympics really brings out the patriotism, don't you think?

Next door to the Olympic Center is the Lake Placid High School - naturally. The front lawn of the High School the outdoor Olympic Speed Skating rink, of course.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the weather while we were there was COLD. I mean wind chills in the single digits during the day. For that reason we opted against going to the bobsled event to shiver and freeze all day. Instead, it was off to the Olympic ski jumping area. Here's the view from afar.

Now is a good time to mention that I'm not crazy about heights. I blame my mother. The woman is afraid of heights and made it known through various hyperventilating panic attacks throughout my childhood. I was interested to check out the top of the ski jumps but was not thrilled about going onto  the outdoor observation deck; I did it anyway.  Joel snapped the two pictures to demonstrate what the jumper sees before flinging him/herself down the jump.

Let's take a moment to check out the scale of that large machinery at the base of the jump.

Ok moving on.

You guys, I have played Wii sports and really love the ski jumping...because I am so good at it. Something tells me this does not adequately prepare me to actually jump from this craziness. As a matter of fact, on the way up the worker-bee extolled horror stories from the previous week: a broken back on one unlucky jumper and a broken ankle for another. No thanks.

That is why I felt happiest behind these at the top of the 150 meter jump.

There you have it - the highlights of our weekend. In addition, we had delicious food and saw a cute romantic comedy play over the weekend.  Joel and I are already planning a return trip this summer.

We were sad to leave but we were thankful for an uneventful and safe drive home.

Until next time, this is  the face of a man plotting all the biking and hiking for our summer trip.