Newly finished

I finished this little gem today in the carpool line.IMG_4641[1]

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been knitting a lot of projects for myself lately and the little one decided I needed to knit something for HER!

She picked out the yarn before Christmas and originally it was going to be a hat, but after seeing how comfy the cowls I’ve been making are, she decided she wanted one for herself instead.

I made it with Cascade Yarns’ Pacific Chunky which is a 60/40 blend of wool and acrylic.  Just enough wool to be warm, just enough acrylic that it’s soft enough for a 9 year old’s neck.

It’s a basic seed stitch (or is it moss? I can’t remember) – K1P1 all the way around.  I cast on 75 and did 3 rows straight knitting to give it a rolled edge and then finished with another rolled edge for symmetry.

I think it turned out really pretty. The color is lovely – very rich looking – and I didn’t want any fancy stitch patterns to compete with the beautiful color.

If you’re a Raveler, I’ve raveled it so you are welcome to add it to your queue if you like, although the pattern’s so simple, you don’t really need one.

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I think she likes it, don’t you?

*tap, tap, tap*

Is this thing on?

Just as with a workout routine, an unfinished project, or a strict diet; once you leave a blog stagnant for a while, it’s hard to start things back up again.

I am, however, still here.  Life has just been busy the past few months.  And when life gets busy, blogging takes a backseat to everything else.

The last third of 2013 was full of, well, full of life… living, loving, being creative, nursing, nurturing, reading, knitting, cooking…all those things I love to do.  And, working,of course.

December was busy – work projects demanding attention, holiday projects doing the same. But we managed to fit in some fun along the way and enjoyed being with those we love the most for both Christmas and New Year’s (and the days in-between)

snow baby

School is back in session after the holiday break and the snowpocalypse of last week.  The girls are bucking down and have their sights on the mini-break we have next week when they’ll get a four-day weekend.

French Onion Soup in the making

Big Girl has a retreat with her church group this weekend and Little Bit has a sleepover planned. SuperMan has been cleaning and reorganizing the basement after our flood a few weeks ago and I’ve been busy manning the support duties for the family – cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.

Pizza "bread"

I’ve been trying a few new recipes, which I plan to share with you  here  soon, and have been knitting like a madwoman. I have fallen in love with quick, one-skein projects – things I can tote with me in carpool line and that seem to finish up within a few days. I love the sense of accomplishment and being able to wear the fruits of my labor quickly.  I just read that someone calls January the “selfish knitting month,” which I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with. I have been doing just that for the past month – knitting things I wanted to knit just for me.  And loving every minute of it.

Hat & Scarf project

I did work on some “by request” projects over the holidays – made a hat for a longtime friend and a hat and scarf for another friend’s niece.  Those special projects were fun and I was terribly flattered that people actually wanted me to knit something for them! I certainly don’t consider myself the caliber of knitter that would make things to sell. (still don’t)  But my friends seem to like what I’ve made them.  Even my sweet little nephew loves his hat!

Very first hat I made

I hope you’ll stick around and join in on the conversation… Recipes and projects coming soon!

What I’ve been cooking lately

I’ve been on a soup kick since the weather got cold… cooking my old favorites – beef stew, chicken noodle soup, chili, etc.

But I have also been on the lookout for new soups and stews to try.  One of them I thought I’d invented myself, only to discover that what I’d really made was my own version of an old Italian standby.  I’ll share that recipe with you soon.

Another new soup that I’ve discovered is one I made this week. I found the pin on Pinterest (don’t you love that?!?) and then forgot about it until I was looking for an idea for dinner one day when I was feeling uninspired about cooking. (yes, it happens)

I found the recipe for Chicken Meatball & Orzo soup over on the blog Will Cook for Smiles.  I have to say, the soup was spectacular.  It was like French onion soup and chicken noodle soup had a baby.   Not quite so onion-y and not so chicken-y either, but a perfect marriage of the two. Three out of four in the house loved it.  The fourth liked the orzo, loved the broth but wasn’t so crazy about the meatballs and onions.  It’s ok, she’ll grow into the taste.  I would highly recommend you try it. 

photo from Will Cook for Smiles

It didn’t take long to cook, either. Maybe an hour total, including prep time.  I made the meatballs early in the day and let them chill in the fridge until I was ready to cook the soup.  I sautéed the onions and carrots until I got a nice caramelization on the onions.  I think that is key to the richness of the soup.  I also almost burnt my meatballs. I forgot that chicken has less fat and therefore burns easily! Yikes!  But all that goodness in the bottom of the pot came off when I added the broth and just made the soup that much better… Talk about turning a mistake into goodness. Smile

Another thing I’ve cooked and loved lately are these delicious chocolate fudge muffins.  Another case of tragedy averted here, too, as I was planning to make chocolate muffins (from a mix) for breakfast one morning and found that I was out of my standby mix.  I tried these muffins and we haven’t looked back.

While it take (a few minutes) longer to pull together than dumping a mix in a bowl and adding some milk, it tastes a whole lot better.  And I can control the sugar and fat content as well, which I like. (I’m also a big fan of sneaking in some extra protein powder to amp up the protein for the girls’ breakfasts by sneaking it in my muffins – don’t tell them!)

 

I think you’ll like them, too.  I’ve also taken the same recipe and made mini loaves of chocolate bread – which would be GREAT for Christmas gift giving…if you’re looking for a recipe to use.

More kitchen experiments to come soon.

What’ve you been cooking in your kitchen?

It’s a Monday … All day long

Wow, what a day it’s been.

I should’ve known though. My horoscope said to get everything done that I could before lunchtime because nothing was going to go according to plan after that.

Well, it was spot on.

I got a call from Little Bit around mid-day that her glasses were broken. Drop everything, run down to the school, pick her up, get her glasses fixed, race back home for a conference call, help her with her school work and homework, start supper preparations…

SuperMan calls and says he will pick up the big girls from school so I think maybe I’ve dodged the bullet and that was the end of the derailment for the day…

oh, you are so naiive, I think much later in the day.

SuperMan DOES indeed get the girls and Little Bit and I are able to run an errand in place of sitting in carpool.
But just as I’m putting the orzo in the soup for dinner I get another call. This time I have to go rescue SuperMan as he’s swapping rental vehicles (and companies) and needs a ride between places. In rush hour, in the rain, in the dark.

It was a doozy of a day for sure.

My family is home and we are all safe and dry and warm. And for that, I am thankful. The derailed day could’ve been much worse. Instead, it was just a Monday. I told the girls, who had “Mondays” of their own today, that we all have them and that the good thing is that they don’t last long and we get to go to sleep and try again tomorrow.

Thank goodness!

Much to catch up with you on – like the accident(s) that SuperMan has had, the soup(s) I’ve been making and the knitting projects I’ve been up to. I’ll try to post again soon and give you another update.

But for now, I’m going to knit, sip some tea and be glad that Monday’s almost over.

What a week

It’s been a busy week at our house – lots of happenings for our family, especially the little one.

First, there was a lunch date on Saturday with Mommy & Daddy ~

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And manicures with Mommy.

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Then, there was pumpkin carving with our neighbors on Sunday evening (Big Girl was in on the carving but I didn’t get a picture of her)

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And then a field trip on Thursday to the planetarium~

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And then finally trick-or-treating with our friends ~

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And now we are all exhausted and ready for the weekend.

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Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

My friend, Cindy, who makes the most wonderful meals, made this soup for our family one night not too long ago.  After that dinner the girls and I kept thinking about, and talking about that soup.  We just had to have more.  It was so good!

My first attempt at re-creating the soup was not quite as good as Cindy’s was.  She had used a specific wild rice blend and my homemade spice blend did not quite match.  The soup was good, but a little spicy (I think too much ginger) and the girls weren’t crazy about it.  It most definitely wasn’t Cindy’s soup and that was what they wanted.

So, I waited a week or two and went back to the drawing board… or cutting board, that is.

My second attempt was much better and was quickly gobbled up by the entire family.  As a matter of fact, ALL of the soup was gone, which almost never happens at my house.  The girls even asked for it in their thermoses for lunch.

Success!

This is a great, hearty and comforting soup. Perfect for a rainy or cool fall day.  Leftovers are great – the rice absorbs as lot of the broth but it is still very good and you can always add more broth or water if you want it thinner.  We liked it just fine with less broth and it was so tasty even two days later.

I have no picture because there was nothing left to take pictures of!  Try it anyway. Smile

Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

Ingredients

1 pound chicken (I used a combination of thighs and breasts)
water for stock pot
chicken bouillon cube
1-2 stalks celery
1-2 carrots
1 small onion
~ 1 Tbsp garlic (minced)
2 boxes Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice (including spice packets inside)
salt/pepper
Houston House Seasoning
~1/2 – 3/4 cup half and half (or milk)

Instructions
  1. Dice celery, carrots, garlic & onion.  Add to stock pot with water and bouillon cube. Bring to a boil, adding chicken and seasoning generously with salt/pepper and Houston House Seasoning.
  2. Remove chicken and shred, reserving broth.
  3. Stir the rice and seasoning packets into the broth.
  4. Add chicken back to soup and bring to a boil.
  5. About 10 min before serving, add the half and half.  Bring back to a simmer.

It’s super easy and super, super good. I hope you give it a try.

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Menu Plan Monday

It’s a rainy, gloomy Monday here. The weather people said it was going to be in the 70’s here today but I really think they didn’t know what they were talking about. It might get to 70 downtown with the concrete heat island, but I doubt it will get out of the low 60’s here at home.

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Rainy weather makes me want to hibernate.  And to eat warm, comfort foods. And drink tea. And sleep. Smile

I’ve been back on my meal planning routine lately. Although I have changed things up a bit to accommodate our schedule this fall.  Thursdays are always leftover days.  The girls have dance and we’re close to 3 hours at the studio on Thursday nights.  It’s also my busiest meeting day for work.  So, no cooking for me.  We eat up whatever is left in the refrigerator or we eat sandwiches.  Which is actually working out really well – less leftovers are going to the pups and more are being eaten!

I’ve also been making great use of my freezer.  We had our big cooking day back in August to kick off the new school year and I have been doing a mini version of that from time to time since.  Having those meals in the freezer ready to is such a great timesaver and STRESS saver that it is totally worth it.

What I’ve been doing is that whenever I make a casserole-type of dish, I double the recipe and put one in the freezer.  Every.single.time.  My freezer gets stocked and my family gets fed.  Twice.  Beautiful.

And, like today, when I’m fighting a head cold and feeling under the weather those faithful, frozen friends are waiting to come to my aid… so nice.

Another thing I’ve been doing is not locking myself into a specific meal on a specific day – I have been listing five or six dishes on my index cards and posting in the kitchen.  Then I can look at the list and pick whichever one suits my mood and our schedule that day.

So, here is what’s on the docket for this week –

Chicken Spaghetti (from the freezer) Bourbon Chicken & Rice
Homemade pizzas Baked Pork Chops w/ saffron rice
White Bean Chicken Chili (this will be our Halloween night dinner) Fajitas

What’s cookin’ in your kitchen this week?

Check out more yummy menu ideas over on orgjunkie.com.