Dec 8, 2012

Lettuce Wraps

This is a copycat recipe I found for P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps.  MMMMmmm... they are so good.  They are fairly simple to make although there's a lot of chopping.  I use my food processor to make it go faster and get the pieces teeny tiny (since I hate mushrooms).   It was a little bit of an investment the first time I had to buy some of the ingredients but now it's a super cheap meal to make since I have most items on hand.

PF Changs Lettuce Wraps
Serves:  4-6
Prep time:  30 minutes
Calories:  177 (without lettuce)

Pouring Sauce:
-1/4 cup sugar
-1/2 cup warm water
-2 tbsp soy sauce
-2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
-2 tbsp ketchup
-1 tbsp lemon juice
-1/8 tsp sesame oil (don't skip!)
-1 tsp hot water
-1 tbsp dijon mustard
-2 cloves garlic, minced

Chicken Stir-Fry:
-3 tbsp olive oil, divided
-2 tbsp sesame oil
-2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
-8 oz can water chestnuts, minced
-1/2 cup mushrooms, minced
-1/2 yellow onions, minced
-3 cloves garlic, minced

Stir-Fry Sauce:
-2 tbsp soy sauce
-2 tbsp brown sugar
-1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar

1 head of iceberg lettuce, torn

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For pouring sauce:  In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water.  Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice, and sesame oil.  Mix well and put in fridge until you are ready to eat.  Just before serving, combine hot water, mustard and garlic and mix in a small bowl.  Add to pouring sauce.

To make stir-fry sauce:  Combine all ingredients in small bowl and mix well.

To make chicken stir-fry:  Combine 2 tbsp olive oil and sesame oil and add to wok or large frying pan.  Heat oil over high heat until it glistens.  Add chicken and saute until mostly cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium-high.  Add another tbsp olive oil to pan , wait one minute, then add the rest of the stir-fry ingredients and the stir-fry sauce.  Stir-fry everything until the mushrooms have cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Remove from heat .

Serve stir-fry in lettuce pieces and top with pouring sauce.

Dec 7, 2012

(Lighter) Loaded Potato Soup.

I haven't put a recipe on here in forever but this one was worth it!  This is from the November 2012 issue of Cooking Light magazine (my new favorite read) and it is SO good and SO easy.

Serves: 4
Total prep time: about 25 minutes
Calories per serving: 325

-4 (6 ounce) red potatoes (the small ones are about 3 oz)
-2 tsp canola oil
-1/2 cup chopped onion
-1 1/4 cups fat free, lower-sodium chicken broth
-3 tbsp all purpose flour
-2 cups 1% milk (divided)
-1/4 cup light sour cream
-1/2 tsp salt (I added more)
-1/4 tsp pepper
-3 bacon slices, halved (I used bacon pieces  'cause I'm lazy)
-1/3 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
-4 tsp thinly sliced green onions

1.  Pierce potatoes with a fork.  Microwave on HIGH for 13 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Let cool.

2.  While the potatoes cook, heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add oil to pan.  Add onions and saute 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add broth to pan.  Combine flour and 1/2 cup of the milk in a small bowl, stirring until smooth.  Add flour mixture to pan with remaining 1 1/2 cups of milk.  Bring soup to a boil, stirring frequently.  Cook 1 minute.  Remove soup from heat, stir in sour cream, salt, and pepper.  (I tasted and mine needed more salt).

3.  (If you are using real bacon).  Arrange bacon on a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate.  Cover with another paper towel; microwave on HIGH for 4 minutes.  Crumble bacon.

4.  Discard potato skins (I didn't do this because I like the skins).  Coarsely mash potatoes into soup.  Top with shredded cheddar, onions, and bacon.

Apr 13, 2012

DIY Tank Dress Tutorial

Non-sewers may just want to skip this one but I made something today that I thought was fun.  It could potentially be a cheap (or even free!) project but I bought the fabric instead of using my stash because I had an inspiration photo I was trying to copy and I was dying to use a fun fruity print.

Disclaimer:  These photos are seriously pathetic but they should get the job done.

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Okay, for this project you need:
  • a tank (I used a sunsuit that was getting too short)
  • skirt fabric
  • border fabric (optional)
  • ribbon for trim (optional)
  • clear elastic
  • sewing machine, thread, scissors, pins

This is a good beginner project but you should have experience creating gathers.  If not, I'd be happy to help you but I didn't want to detail that here.  I don't have a serger (yet!) so when I refer to "finishing the edge" I am using a zig zag stitch.  I set my zig zag stitch to the widest setting and keep the stitches pretty close together.  It's always worked great for me.  Also, I didn't use any special needles for knit and used the stitch settings I normally use for woven - worked great.

Here's my before shot.  This is the sunsuit (from Matilda Jane) I used.  I bought it on clearance for $8ish but she grew out of it before it fit.

I tried it on her and decided where I wanted the waist to begin.  I measured 1/2 inch down from there (seam allowance) and cut (had to remove some of my pocket stitches first).  Ahh, scary cutting my MJ!  You would do the same with a tank.

I decided the tank was a little too wide at the waist so I narrowed it by sewing from the armholes to the bottom on an angle, then I finished the edge.  Kind of hard to tell from this picture but it is narrower at the bottom.  Not sure if that would be necessary on a tank but since this had a loose sunsuit fit I thought it was best.

Next you're going to add elastic to the RIGHT side of the bottom of your tank.  The purpose of the elastic is to keep the cotton tank from stretching out at the waist and to add some reinforcement for the weight of the skirt.  Line it right up to the edge and sew it all the way around.  Don't pull it as you sew or your tank will bunch up.  Just hold it nice and even as you sew. After I did this I realized my elastic doesn't show at all when the dress is done so not sure if you need clear, white would probably be fine although the clear is definitely thinner.

Now you're ready to start your skirt.  Measure the width of your tank at the bottom and multiply by 2.5.  My tank was 9" across so I would need 2 panels that were each 22" wide.

To make things more confusing... since my panels needed to be 22" wide each and my fabric was 45" wide I decided to just make one big panel instead of 2.  Sorry if that's confusing!  If you're making a larger size you will need to cut 2 skirt panels (one for the front and one for the back).

I held the tank up to one of her dresses to determine the length I wanted for the skirt.  I decided on 8" total.  I wanted a 1.5" border on the bottom so (with 1/2" seam allowances) my skirt panel needed to be 7.5" tall.  Not going to get into the math for that - again, I would love to help if you need it!

My border is going to be 1.5" and I wanted it two-sided so I multiplied by 2 then added 1" for seam allowances (1/2 " for each end) for a length of 4".  The width should be the same as the skirt panel(s).

Skirt panel:  44" wide x 7.5" tall
Skirt border:  44" wide x 4" tall

Here are the pieces cut out.  (They are folded in this picture)

Now you're going to iron your border in half.  Fold it WRONG sides together.  Press.

Pin your border RIGHT sides together to your skirt panel.  You want the open edge of the border piece to line up with the edge of the skirt piece.  Pin.

Sew along the edge using a 1/2" seam allowance.  Then finish edge.

Lay skirt piece flat right side up and press along skirt/border seam.  Get it nice and flat!

If you aren't going to add ribbon trim, topstitch on the skirt fabric about 1/8" from the border fabric.  The below picture indicates where although I didn't do a topstitch since I added ribbon.

To add ribbon line the edge of the ribbon up with the bottom of the skirt fabric and sew!  Repeat this step for the top of ribbon (unless you have a narrow ribbon - that might only require one line of stitches).

Look how pretty my little bugs are!

Now fold the skirt RIGHT sides together.  Pin the short edge then sew with a 1/2" seam allowance.  Finish the edge.

The last step in your skirt piece is to create your gathering stitch.  Set your stitch length at the longest setting and sew all the way around the top of the skirt with a 1/4" seam allowance.  Do not back stitch!  Everybody does their gathering differently so use whatever method you like best.  

Next I used my iron to make a crease mark at the side points and front center point of my skirt and tank.  You could use an erasable fabric pen but I think the iron is easier.  Then I turned my skirt wrong side out and inserted my tank (right side out) into the skirt.  You could gather the skirt first and then insert the tank but I find this easier.  

I lined my skirt seam up with the back middle of the tank.  If you have 2 seams in your skirt (2 panels) it would look best to line the seams up with the sides of the tank.   I pinned all 4 points (front, sides, back) together then pulled one long string to gather.  Again, use whatever method of gathering you think is easiest.

Once you have the main 4 points pinned adjust all your gathers so that they are nice and even and pin everything using a TON of pins.

Sew your pieces together using a 1/2" seam allowance.  This seam allowance will ensure that your gathering stitch (and your clear elastic!) won't show on the front of the dress.

Finish edge.

Turn dress inside out and clip wayward threads.  Then... voila!  So fun!

I would estimate this is about a 2 hour project, less if you don't add a border or ribbon.  Not sure how long it took me because I made dinner halfway through and sewed my skirt on backward the first time (with the skirt seam right down the front, ugh!).  

She wasn't super pleased about trying it on for me but I can't wait for her to wear it this summer!

Still might add a flower like my inspiration picture but since mine has a more natural waist it might look weird.  Thoughts?

Hope your enjoyed this!  I can definitely see myself making all Emily's too short tanks into sweet little dresses using my fabric scraps.  

Apr 12, 2012

Favorite Things 2012 - Part 1

Decided not to wait until the end of the year.

Alexia Spicy Sweet Potato Fries.  ($3ish)
These are SO amazing.  I've tried to make sweet potato fries and they are always too soggy and too sweet potato-ey for me.  These aren't quite as crispy as ones you would get at a restaurant but they definitely aren't soggy and they are spicy and delicious.

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Mary Kay Tinted Moisturizer.  ($18)
I don't know how I missed this on my last list.  So perfect for summer!  I get it in my regular foundation color (pasty white - ha) and it is just right coverage plus SPF 20.  Can't even feel it on and I never burn wearing it.  Also, it lasts surprisingly long.

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Kindle Fire Bible App.  (free)
Not sure what exactly it is called but the little icon looks like the picture below.  You have to have Wifi to use (unlike a few other free bible apps that you can use anywhere) but it is awesome.  There are tons of bible reading plans (bible in a year, bible in chronological order, etc.).  The one I'm reading now is a 40 day lent plan (yeah, I'm a little behind).  Favorite features: if you fall behind there's a button to catch you up by adjusting each days reading, it pops up a reminder every day on my kindle, there are boxes that get checked when you complete your day's reading (for a list girl, that's a huge plus), cross referencing is so easy when all you have to do is click a button to get to another passage.

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Aquafresh Toothpaste ($2.50)
John and I always struggle in the toothpaste aisle.  I mean it's a pretty huge bummer when you pick a toothpaste and end up not liking it (especially if you buy the 2 pack).  We picked up this Aquafresh Cavity Protection toothpaste a couple months ago and we are hooked.  Perfect consistency.  Very refreshing.  It's actually a little bit creepy how much I love this toothpaste. 

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Matilda Jane. ($ridiculous$)
I have a problem.  Well... I'm sure I have many... but this is a big one.  I do make a lot of Emily's clothes but I love these cute and unique pieces and the quality is excellent.  Thanks friend for getting me addicted! Oh, if I had only had 2 boys...

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Pride and Prejudice (2005).  ($10 on Amazon)
Aside from the fact that the new version doesn't feature Colin Firth...  I watch this movie probably 2-3 times a month.  Are you shocked?   I LOVE it.  I'm a Jane Austen fan but this movie is more than that.  I don't know all the fancy movie terms but the way this was filmed is just so beautiful.  I feel so relaxed when I watch it or even just listen to it while I sew (great music too).

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Mat Kearney.
I think my favorite Christian artist right now.  I love pretty much all of his songs (that doesn't happen often) but my current favorites are Ships in the Night, Count on Me, and Nothing Left to Lose.

Also, as far as music goes I'm constantly listening to this and this right now.  I am a huge Brad Paisley fan (his music is so fun) and the Remind Me duet with Carrie Underwood is beautiful and (I think) sooo romantic.

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Smokey Bones.
Yep, the restaurant.  We avoided this place for the last 5+ years because I thought I hated it but I was wrong.  Our favorites are the Smoked Beef Brisket, Smoked Wings, Sweet Potato Stix, and the Hot Bag 'o Donuts w/ Strawberry Cream Dipping Sauce.  Yum!  (they also have a pretty good rewards club and you can bet we're a part of that)

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There you go... my recent favorites.

Feb 22, 2012

DIY Laundry Detergent

A few people have asked about this but I've been putting it off 'til I had "tested" my product.  I've been using my homemade laundry detergent for a month now so I feel like I can accurately review it.

First off, I got my recipe from the Tidy Tangle.  That link will send you to the original post and there is an updated one here.  I suggest you read both before you make it.  I'm sure there's tons more out there but Rachel at the Tidy Tangle is a friend (with 5 dirty boys!) so I went with her recipe and made just a few changes of my own.

Note:  The above picture also includes the ingredients for homemade fabric softener - recipe also found on Tidy Tangle.  Haven't come to a conclusion about that yet.

I found all of the ingredients for the detergent in the laundry aisle at Wal-Mart.  There were by the laundry stain removers.  You will need:

  • 1 bar Fels Naptha soap ($1.06)
  • 1 box washing soda - not baking soda (55 oz - $3.54)
  • 1 box Borax (76oz - $3.69)
  • clean 5 gallon bucket with lid
  • old laundry detergent container
The total cost of these items was $8.29.  These prices include tax.  Not sure what the bucket cost - less than $5 at Lowes.  You may already have one so I didn't include it in the "start-up" cost.  

Now onto the instructions...

Homemade Laundry Detergent

1 bar Fels Naptha soap
1 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda)
1 cup Borax

  1. Grate your bar of soap into a small pot.  Fill pot halfway with water then bring to a boil.  Boil until all soap has melted.  Remove from heat.
  2. Now dump your melted soap into your 5 gallon bucket.  Fill about 2/3 of the way with water.  Then add washing soda and Borax.  Mix it all up.  Put the lid on it.  Let it sit over night."
  3. Next morning it will be very gloppy - almost a solid.  I think you could probably get it to loosen just by stirring it a bunch (or even having your husband give your bucket a really good shake ~ why does that sound dirty?) but I used a combo of stirring and using my immersion blender.  Keep at it for a little while and it will become a nice smooth liquid.  At this point I used a funnel and a big measuring cup to get it into my old Tide bottle.  I put the lid back on my 5 gallon bucket and it sits in my laundry room waiting to refill my bottle.  Done!

A few notes...
  • I shake my detergent every time before I use it.  Seems like it needs it so that it's super easy to pour and not gloppy.
  • Unfortunately, homemade detergent doesn't have the aaahhmazing scent of your previous detergent (oh yeah, I miss my Tide).  It doesn't small bad.  It really has so smell at all.  Completely neutral.  Next time I make a batch I may add a small bottle of tide to the mix - just to see if I can get my clean scent back.  It kind of negates the savings but...
  • As far as the savings goes...  the cost for the whole bucket of detergent is $1.96.  I'm not sure how many Tide bottles that will fill up - or how much Tide costs.  I think we can all agree that the savings is pretty much insane.  So as far as adding a small Tide bottle to my next batch to get my scent back... I think it's totally worth it.
  • So the biggest question... does it work?  Definitely!  All my clothes come out clean - dirt and stains removed.  I will say I am all about pre-treating our clothes so I can't say how effective it as at removing stains on its own.  But with my current method of stain remover, soaking in Oxi if it's really bad (basically everything Emily wears), then washing... it is cleaning exactly the same as Tide did.  Yay savings!

Jan 6, 2012

Favorite Things 2011

Time to share my obsessions in 2011.  I've been reading a bunch of blogs with posts about favorite Christmas presents lately and I love reading them.  Who doesn't love to find out about unique/handy products that make life a little easier/more fun/cleaner?  (okay, maybe just me with the "cleaner")

Oreck Electric Broom.  
Between this and my Oreck Steam Mop I almost don't mind all the cleaning.  It is SO nice to be able to pull this out instead of the big vacuum - especially since I vacuum the kitchen at least once a day.  This thing rocks.  

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Tommee Tippee bibs.
Pretty sure Emily is the messiest baby that ever existed.  I cringe to think of the laundry I would have to do if I used cloth bibs for her all the time.  Love the cup at the bottom too.  I was skeptical about whether it would actually catch the crumbs but it DOES.  It even catches the water she drips down her chin.  

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The Nate Berkus Show.
Okay, it's not exactly a product but it is my favorite daytime show.  

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Deal websites.
You know?  Groupon, Groopdealz, Living Social.  We are obsessed (especially John).

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The Hunger Games (especially Book 1).
Favorite series of the year but just starting The Mortal Instruments and already think I may love those even more.

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Camelbak water bottles.
We recently became members at the YMCA (again) so good water bottles were on our Christmas lists.  My sister got John one of these water bottles and we've all been stealing it (even Emily).  I think he finally got sick of sharing because yesterday an Amazon box showed up with Camelbaks for the rest of us.  Ha.  Even Emily can use these and they do.  not.  leak.

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I love love this blog.  Oh man, if John and I could do this for a living it would be a dream.  I feel like I know these people (creepy).  I love that they are super wordy, overly descriptive, and share ever detail of their home makeover.  So much inspiration for... the next one.

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Kindle Fire.
My big surprise from John.  As a book lover I was worried about not getting that authentic book feel but I'm also a sucker for new electronic gadgets so I couldn't resist.  Pretty sure John's getting tired of seeing me with this thing ALL the time.  It is a nice distraction for Carson though.  Gotta love those Angry Birds.

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Mary Kay Mineral Powder Foundation.
Never thought I'd get into this.  Figured it would be too messy and not enough coverage but I'm a convert.  Love this stuff.

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My sewing machine (Kenmore Model #19110)
This wasn't new in 2011 but I sewed more this year than ever before.  Mostly I sewed oilcloth products for rbtbags.  But toward the end of the year I went a little crazy making clothes for Emily.  I even opened my own Etsy shop and had 8 sales!  Yeah, 8 doesn't sound like a lot but I couldn't believe I had any.  Not sure how far I'll take the whole sewing business thing but for sure I'm going to keep making things for Emily and my 2 sweet nieces.

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Honeybaked Ham Hickory Smoked Honey Mustard.
I couldn't find a picture of this and I hope that doesn't mean it's going to be hard to buy more.  I bought some in Florida over Thanksgiving and it is so good on a ham and cheddar sandwich.  SO good.  I can't even tell you how good.  I am a mustard fan and this is the BEST mustard I've ever had.  I'm having a small panic attack right now because I just finished up the last of ours and I'm worried I won't be able to find more.  Ack!

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'nough said.  If you don't know what this is, shame on you. (or maybe shame on me for spending so much time online)

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L'Oreal Go 360 Clean Face Wash w/ scrubber.
I'm not gonna lie.  When I first saw commercials for this product I thought it was the stupidest thing I had ever seen.  Then my sister said she loved it so we tried it.  Ahhh.  That scrubber thing rocks my socks.  

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Yes.  Odd choice for the only movie I would list on my favorite things post.  I found the lights and the music so entrancing I could watch this movie every week.  Still not entirely sure what the movie is about but all that neon and the beep-y music.... loved it.

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This recipe for Chicken Soup.
I've probably made it 30 times this year and I'm still not sick of it.  Soooo good.