Monday, July 26, 2010
I have made these bagels twice now, and they are amazing! Sooo much better than store bought, and so much cheaper! (I wish I would have taken a picture of them but we ate them up too fast! There are pictures of them in the links I provided, though.) My husband and I figured out that making them costs about 13 cents per bagel (we were guesstimating a little), and if you are anything like us, you can go through a bag of bagels in no time. Making them is a great way to save some money!
**The only note I would add to this recipe, is to add 1 tsp instead of 3/4 tsp yeast, and then 2 tsp instead of 2 TB of salt, as my first batch was way too salty.**
I am here to tell you that making bagels is NOT hard! The only thing that it is time consuming is that it takes 2 hours to rise, but that's pretty typical with bread. Besides that, it is actually pretty fun, and a great activity to do with your kids or some girl friends! Try it!!!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Unfortunately, one of those things that a large part of our grocery budget is dedicated to is cold cereal... When we came to this realization, and talked about the possibility of reducing the cereal consumption in our home, there were tears.... Yeah, I cried! I know it sounds silly. But you don't understaaaandd! - My whole life up until now, cereal has always been a part of my breakfast. It has always been there, waiting for me, like a true friend! How could I even think of including any other breakfast food in my morning meal? And all through my single years of college, what would I have done for breakfast and dinner, if I hadn't had my cereal waiting there so patiently in the cupboard for me? I could go on, but I'll spare you my "life cereal" poetry... that's just embarrassing.
As we talked about cutting cereal out of our lives, I thought of my morning bowl of cereal and all its deliciousness and glory. I couldn't bear to let it go. I knew I had to come up with a solution. Well, I actually came up with two!
SOLUTION #1: only cut back on cereal, rather than cut it completely out. Instead of going through 3-4 boxes of cereal per week, cut it down to 1 box, and supplement it with other foods like eggs, toast, fruit and yogurt. It's been working pretty well so far. I tried buying two kinds of cereal and splitting them each in half, so that we could have a variety still, but keep it at 1 box's worth of cereal. That has worked decently well - I just put the other half in a gallon ziploc bag.
SOLUTION #2: (This one is my favorite) Make. Granola. That counts as cereal, and do you realize how much cheaper it is to make it??! I found a recipe on allrecipes.com for really simple granola, with typical ingredients you would have on hand. I have made it 4 times now, each time, changing it a little so I liked it better, and now, I have come up with a recipe that I really like! I'll share it with you because I'm just hoping it will give you as much joy as it has brought to me. :)
Honey Almond Granola
2 c. old-fashioned oats (or 1 c. quick oats and 1 cup old fashioned if you want it to be in clusters)
¼ c. Sliced almonds
¼ c. + 1TB flaked coconut
1 TB packed brown sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla pudding powder
½ tsp cinnamon
Scant ¼ tsp. salt
½ c. orange blossom honey (or clover honey)
1 TB Vanilla Pudding
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
1. Combine oats, nuts, coconut, sugar, 1/2 TB pudding powder, cinnamon and salt in a mixing bowl.
2. Measure 1/2 cup honey into a liquid measuring cup, an then *add milk on top of the honey until it is up to 2/3 cup.
3. Add 1 TB vanilla pudding powder, vanilla and almond extract to the honey and milk, mix together and pour into dry ingredients. Mix well.
4. Bake at 280 degrees for 35 minutes. (check every 10 minutes, stirring each time) Bake until golden brown. Let it cool (and if you want it to be in clusters, let it cool before you stir it again), and store in an airtight container.
For a low sugar version - I have made it without the brown sugar or pudding powder, and just let the honey do all the sweetening, and it is still delicious.
I have found that Granola is a very forgiving recipe - you can really tweak it to meet your desires - If you want to add something or leave something out, you can, and it won't mess it up!
**EDIT 7/28/10: I found out that boiling the honey for 1 minute and then adding it to the dry mixture helps to soften the oats so they aren't so hard and crunchy and hard to chew...
Monday, July 19, 2010
- How to do a blind hem on my sewing machine (its wasn't as hard as I thought!) (here's the very helpful tutorial I used)
- How to put in an invisible zipper (easy if you have the right sewing machine foot) (a helpful tutorial, and another one)
- How to make darts and use them to contour a piece of clothing to fit me just right! (a helpful tutorial here and here)
- That I need to do things in the right order (AKA don't do the hem until everything else fits right, don't put the waistband on until it fits right and the zipper is in...)
The skirt is far from perfect (so don't look too closely!), and the waist is a LOT higher than I had planned, but I am pretty much burnt out on this project, and I am happy enough with it to wear it (wore it on sunday!). So, here's the exciting part - the before and after photos!
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Now, I feel like I'm pretty creative when it comes to sewing, repurposing, and a few other crafty type things, but cooking and baking are things I struggle with. I have found that the more I cook and bake, the more comfortable I am adapting and inventing dishes, but I still have a really hard time with thinking of what to make for dinner. I know there are some wonderful recipe websites out there that you can look up and find almost any recipe on... but you still have to think of what to make! So lately I have been loving browsing recipe blogs. I come across exciting new recipes and bookmark the ones I want to make, then plan the next week or so of meals.
I previously mentioned a dry- erase magnetic calendar I have on the side of my refrigerator that I wanted to use... and I am happy to report that I have been using it with good success! It helps me remember what I planned for the week/ month, it is easy to add and change things around to fit my schedule. The only problem is that I only have room to write the main dish, so I don't always plan side dishes. That is something I need to work on... adding healthy, veggie- based side dishes to each meal.
Part of my motivation for making meals pretty much each night is that I decided to stop eating refined sugar (after I realized that my "sweet tooth" had become more of an addiction and I wasn't feeling so great). Since I was snacking all day on sugar and simple-carb- laden snacks, I wasn't all that hungry at dinner time. So after I stopped eating all the junk, I started feeling better, but I felt like I was starving, since I wasn't really cooking all that much. So that's my confession. I thought I would hate cooking every night, but surprisingly, I have really looked forward to making new things that sound good to me. Not all the recipes I have tried have been smashing successes at our home, but they have exposed us to new things and have given me further ideas of things I could make.
Here are some of the things I have been making:
Chicken Strips (using plain yogurt and ritz cracker crumbs)
Deli-Style Pasta Salad- turns out so pretty and colorful!
Chicken Taquitos (I followed the recipe except instead of frying, I baked the assembled taquitos on a cookie sheet.)
Sweet and Sour Chicken (give yourself 2+ hours to make by yourself)
Twice Baked Potatoes
Chicken/ Cranberry Braid
Pastitsio (takes 2 hours total and makes tons of dirty dishes- not a good combo.)
Santa Fe Chicken and Potato Soup
Barbecued burgers (ok, I didn't really do this one, my husband likes to do the grilling)
Here's what I will be making in the next little while:
Chicken, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas
Pesto Chicken Wraps
What are your favorite resources and inspirations for cooking?
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
The concept I used for my nursing tops is the overlapping seam under the bust. I like it because it isn't too obviously a nursing top, it is functional yet cute, and it keeps you covered above and below. There are some great patterns you can find for free online for this kind of shirt if you want to sew it from scratch, but I wanted to use up some shirts from the bin of "refashion candidates" I have that I wouldn't otherwise wear. "Use what you have"- my personal motto.
I made two nursing tops, each using parts from two different shirts. Here are the "before" shirts:
These shirts were both maternity shirts that had been well- loved and were no longer suitable for wearing.
This shirt was given to me and is not a maternity shirt, but is a babydoll style that lends itself well to the type of refashion I had in mind. I also used a bit of a plain white T-shirt (not pictured).
I did the pink shirt first, and learned a few things along the way that I used the second time for a better looking shirt. For the pink shirt, the first thing I did was try on the shirt and mark dots where I would cut a seam under the bust line. Then, I connected the dots to give a straight line, and I cut all the way across.
Then I cut off the sleeves of the darker pink shirt, and trimmed them a bit so that they were straight tubes. After the sleeves were more or less even, I basted both ends of each of the sleeves, and pulled the threads to make gathers.
Then I pinned one of the sleeves on top of the raw edge of the top portion of the shirt and sewed it all the way across. I did add a few gathers under the bust to try to give it a more fitted look.
I cut a piece of lightweight, clear elastic which was 3/8" thick and about 2/3 as long as the width of my shirt. I sewed it with a zig zag stitch directly onto the raw edge of the bottom portion of the shirt. If you were using a fabric that frayed, and if the length of the shirt was not an issue, you could sew a small casing and thread regular elastic through it. The elastic is important, because it will keep the bottom part of the shirt from sagging down. The gathered band will hide this part- it will not show.
With the elastic on and the shirt turned inside out, I carefully pinned the sides together so that the darker band was sandwiched in between the front and back pieces of the shirt. Here is what the shirt looked like at this point, inside out:
I actually sewed the side seams together at this point, but didn't like how it fit or looked, so I added the other sleeve in the back, took in the sides of the shirt a bit, re-sewed the sides, and trimmed the excess off.
For the next shirt, I used a little different method. I cut along the seam that was already there, then used my seam ripper a few inches down the sides. I cut two rectangles from a white T-shirt, one was about 14" x 3", and the other was 14"x 6".
I basted and gathered the short sides of the bigger rectangle, like I did with the sleeves on the previous shirt, then I sewed the long edges together, turned it right side out, and sewed it to the top portion of the shirt. I added the elastic on the bottom portion and sewed the sides together exactly like I did on the pink shirt, except that I didn't make the band go all the way around the shirt, only in front.
I knew the shirt was too low cut to wear on its own,but wearing a tank top or camisole under it would defeat the purpose of the shirt, so I found a white tank top, also in my bin of "potential refashions", which I inserted under the top of the shirt. All I did was cut the shoulder seam on the top of the tank top, match it up with the shoulder seam of the shirt, sew them together, then pin and sew them together around the neckline of the shirt. I just cut away the rest of the tank top. Here is what that looked like inside out:
Here is a photo demonstrating how the shirt works- just lift up the top portion of the shirt; the bottom part stays in place with the elastic.
I actually wore this shirt all day Sunday and found it to be very comfortable and discrete. I think this kind of refashion is easiest with shirts that are already babydoll style, but you can use any shirt that fits you well. I would recommend the second method I used for making the gathered band, instead of using sleeves- it just works better. Also, the material you use for the gathered band needs to have a fair amount of stretch to it, or it will not pull up easily, and it will be difficult to put on as well.
I have some ideas for other styles of nursing shirt refashions, so stay tuned and hopefully I will have more to post soon.
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