Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tip o'the Day - Reuse that aluminum foil!

I do my best to be as environmentally sound as possible, which includes re-using things. Where I live, the city does not recycle aluminum foil. I detest throwing out anything aluminum because aluminum is so highly recyclable, but at least I can get a few more uses out of foil I've used by balling it up and using it to scrub food off glass pans and bowls—they work just as well as steel scrubs. So I'm reusing and saving a few cents. Happy day!

Comforting tomato soup ... quick and easy on a work day

The weather turned a bit cooler here in the Inland Northwest this week, ie 70s instead of upper 80s to lower 90s. It's supposed to warm back up by the weekend, but the nights are getting cooler, and there is a definite chill in the air. Autumn is definitely on its way, and with the cooler temperature, soup sounded perfect for dinner last night.

I love soup. I do not love store-bought processed nasty canned flavorless full of sodium soup. I love making soup from scratch. It's hearty, easy and quick, all things I require for meals on work days. And what soup sounds perfect on a cool day? Tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches (on homemade bread).

My cooking style is like Rachael Ray's: I don't really measure, recipes are jumping off places to coming up with my own version, and I change things up a lot to suit the ingredients I have on hand, sometimes substituting this, leaving out that, or adding this. I generally always have the ingredients for tomato soup, and here's how I make it:

3-4 turns of the pan of vegetable or olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, preferrably the inner portion of the bunch with all the leaves (leaves have so much flavor!), chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
4 14 oz cans cut up/stewed tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 Bay leaf
Palmful dried basil
1/3 palmful dried oregano
Pinch dried sage
4 cups chicken broth
3 - 4 tsps sugar or honey (the absolute key to any tomato based soup/sauce!)
1 Pint heavy whipping cream
Salt to taste

Over medium heat, heat oil in a stock pot or Dutch oven, add onion, celery and garlic. Sautee until tender, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, paste, Bay leaf, basil, oregano, sage, and broth. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes. At this point, I like to use a stick blender to smooth the soup out a bit, but you could leave it as-is if you prefer. If you want to smooth it out a bit, do that just before adding the sugar, heavy whipping cream and salt, if desired, then serve.

Makes approximately 8 large bowls. I can never tell, Rick eats it so fast I lose track of how many bowls!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lovely summer weekend

What a nice weekend, spent one day at a friends' house swimming in her pool. It was a gorgeous day, not a cloud in the super blue skies, and 90 degrees outside. These are the summer days I love to remember.

No, the pool is not dirty, it just needs to be painted.

The rest of the weekend I spent working on the wrap I'm crocheting (which is taking forever), started making a pendant using magazine paper, cooking, and baking bread using my new Breadman 2700. I liked making bread with my Kitchen Aid mixer, but I LOVE making bread with my bread machine!
This thing is awesome! I was able to make a 2 lb loaf of bread (equivalent to 2 loaves) yesterday, while at the same time cooking an entire turkey dinner complete with apple stuffing (using homemade bread), garlic-smashed potatoes, roasted acorn squash & turkey gravy.

I have learned the trick of pausing it just before the 3rd rise to remove the paddle and shape and score the loaf, which makes it nice and pretty when it's all done. Excuse the crappy picture, I just could not get away from the light glaring through my kitchen windows, and my phone camera sucks.

All in all, a very nice weekend.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

10 Things I Love

I love to browse Dianne Sylvan's blog from time to time. She's funny, deep, and real, and I just love that. I also love her posts on things she loves, so I'm taking a page out of her book, so to speak.

1. My house
From the moment I walked into it when I was looking to buy, I knew it was mine. There's just something about it. It's not perfect, there are a million things I could do to it, the least of which is a new kitchen, but it's all mine, and I love it.

2. Coffee
Black coffee. Keep the milk, sugar and syrups out of it. Just good black coffee, preferably fair trade and roasted locally. I like 4 Seasons Coffee (to make at home/work), a local coffee house which also happens to reside in my mother-in-law's building downtown.

3. My birthday quilt
This heirloom piece was handmade especially for me last year by my best friend Esther, and it is beautiful.

4. My T-Mobile MyTouch 3G phone
It was a Christmas gift from my lovey a few years ago. This has been a fantastic phone I use for much more than just a phone. It's never far from my side.

5. My 2001 New Beetle TDI, Bella Bug
I named her before Twilight ever existed, so there. I've had her since 2002. She's very comfy to drive, has heated seats, and gets 43 mpg highway. Fantastic car!

6. Autumn
The crispness in the air, the back to school feeling, the sweaters and hats and warmer clothes. Leaves turning red and gold, picking pumpkins, Halloween, and cozy days by the fire (which in my case is a candelabra in the fireplace because I need to have my chimney repaired). I love switching from light summer meals to warm comfort foods like clam chowder and pumpkin soup, or toasted cheese sandwiches and homemade tomato soup.

7. Making soup
Could you tell? I love thick, yummy soups. They're so easy, and usually cheap, to make.

8. IJournal app by
What I love the most about this app is the #gratitude tag. It's good to be thankful for our blessings, and to get into the daily habit of giving thanks. It also integrates well with the Catch Notes app, which I love for taking picture notes, etc. The apps can be accessed both on your phone or via internet.

9. My great-great-grandmother Laura's wedding ring
Blue topaz surrounded by seed pearls in a white gold setting. My paternal grandmother gave this heirloom to me when I was 13. It was her mother's mother's ring, which makes it very, very special to me.

10. Gyros from The West Wing
I love Mediterranean food, and I especially love gyros, but The White House is the only restaurant around here that makes them well, and it is unfortunately located about 30 miles away. But this summer they opened another location just a few miles from my house! More gyros for me!

Monday, August 22, 2011

My new year manifesting

My birthday was Sunday, and I had so many people celebrating with me. My family had a barbeque for me at the lake on Saturday (my request), and my friends threw me a big party that night. It was truly fantastic, I am so blessed with such wonderful people in my life. I can't wait to use the breadmaker several of my friends gave me!

I have a really good feeling about the upcoming year. The past several years have been difficult, to say the least, but this year ... well, I feel a positive change happening. This is going to be a good year for me in all respects: physically, spiritually and financially.

One thing I wanted to do was to start my new year out feeling good, ie., not hungover from imbibing too much at my party, and I was absolutely successful in that. It was great! Other party attendees were feeling a bit less great than me, it was a very good party...

I also spent some time dreaming about things I would like to manifest. Things like a new stove, and not just any new stove, I want my dream stove, which looks something like this:

It will fit perfectly in my 1937 home, which mostly likely housed a similar stove at one point. I currently have the average size range, with a little shelving unit next to it to take up the extra space. I love, love, love these vintage stoves!

And to go with my lovely vintage range, I would like a whole new kitchen that harkens back to 1930s style. The picture below is the type of kitchen I would love to have, except with a different color scheme. I'm not a fan of white anything in the kitchen, so maybe a butter yellow or sage green or even red! You see, I plan on winning the lottery.

I want a creative year, because creativity makes me feel good. I love the feeling I have when I've completed a project. This also means I want an organized year, because organization helps me be more creative. Yes, I am one of those people who needs a clean desk in order to work. Organization is freedom to me.

Speaking of organization, I also want a real, bona fide laundry room. My laundry room consists of a washer and dryer against a wall in my basement. I want an aesthetically pleasing laundry room offering organization and convenience. It won't have windows or anything, but it could have a sink, countertop and cabinetry a la the picture below:

I want to finally figure out a color I would like to paint my living, dining and hallway. It has been 10 years since I painted these rooms, so they are starting to need it.

And last but not least, I want to install a patio, a raised bed vegetable garden, and a perennial garden along the sidewalk in my front yard.

These things may not all come in the next year, but they will come! Blessed be.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Some nice changes

I've been keeping busy this summer, and I've changed some things up in my lifestyle. First of all, I gave up wine several weeks ago. I drink far too much of it, and my consumption of it is standing in the way of a lot of things, not the least of which is weight loss. And I haven't really missed it. I've allowed myself some in social settings, such as when Rick's mom was over - I had a glass with her. But I'm not keeping it in the house, and I'm not spending money on it (that'll save $20/week!).

Since giving up wine, I've re-discovered my motivation to get some exercise on a nearly daily basis. It makes me feel good :) I sleep better and wake up earlier, so it's just easier to get up in the morning.

Another change is that I've begun making bread rather than buying it. Rick and I like good quality bread, and buying it is expensive, with decent 100% whole wheat bread costing nearly $5/loaf. I decided that since bread is easy to make, I could save us $10/week making it. Well, a little over $8/week considering the cost of ingredients. I've found that I enjoy making bread, and seeing those finished golden loaves come out of the oven gives me a really nice sense of accomplishment.

And I've found my muse again, which I think has a lot to do with removing the wine from my household. I've started a crochet project, a pretty wrap which thus far looks like a pretty squiggle, and I've just been inundated with ideas for other projects, which I will post as I begin them.

I feel fall in the air already, and even had to wear a sweatshirt on my walk this morning. Farmers Almanac predicted the cooler than average summer, and also predicts we should have a slightly warmer than average September. Considering we've had less than six weeks of summer-like weather, I'm not near as ready for autumn as I usually am by this time, so hoping we have a really nice September.