Thursday, February 21, 2008

Classic Tomato Soup with a Twist

Ok. Ya'll talked me into it. This is a combination of recipes featured in Fine Cooking magazine {hubby surprised me with a subscription for my birthday}. Don't skip the roasted red pepper. It really gives the soup a nice smokiness and depth of flavor & is simple to do yourself {see instructions below}.

1 T. butter
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 T. flour
3 c. lower salt chicken broth {I just buy a 14 oz. can then add 1 c. water & 1 bullion cube to make 3 c.}
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 roasted red pepper, coarsely chopped**
1 1/2 t. sugar
1 sprig fresh thyme {if you have it, or I just use a couple large pinches of dried thyme}
1/4 t. each salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat the oil and butter over medium-low heat until the butter melts. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat. Cook for 1 minute. Slowly add the chicken broth, stirring to avoid lumps. Add the tomatoes, red pepper, sugar, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat while stirring the mixture to make sure that the flour is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes. Discard the thyme sprig {if using}. Let cool briefly and then puree in two or three batches in a blender or food processor. {Or if you have a stick blender, like I do, use it! Just puree it right in the pot.} Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm, but not hot. OAMC Alert: The mag says it can be frozen for up to three months.

**To roast your own pepper, just turn your stove top burner on low and set the pepper right on the burner. Turn periodically until charred on all sides. Place in bowl covered with plastic wrap for 5 minutes to steam off the skin. Peel. Cut off the top & take out the seeds. Voila!

Today I am going to try to make this Basil Coulis {pronounced coo-lee} to drizzle over: In food processor, combine 1 c. packed basil leaves, 1 clove garlic and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. With processor running, slowly drizzle in 1/4 c. EVOO, plus 2 T. more if needed. Can be made 2 or 3 days ahead, storing in the refrigerator and bringing to room temperature before using.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cooking Without an Oven

Yeah. ASK ME HOW I KNOW. Remember the saying, "You don't know what you've got until it's gone." Well, I realize how much I do love baking. Call me weird, but I even bake pizza rolls & chicken fingers when I could just put them in the micro. Everything just tastes better baked. So, in case you ever find yourself without an oven {three weeks and counting, folks!}, here are some ideas of meals you could make:

Any kind of soup: I recently made a yummy homemade Tomato soup ;>)
Breakfast for dinner: Sausage, Bacon, Waffles, Pancakes, French Toast, Eggs
Pasta: last night it was this, or Spaghetti, or Mac & Cheese
Pan-seared Chicken w/sides
Anything in the Crockpot: I've made this a few times {OAMC!!}
Sandwiches & Salad

I wished it weren't so freezing out, or else I'd be out grilling every night. Thankfully, my oven-less days will be coming to an end next weekend. We are inheriting a hand-me down stove from the in-laws. Gotta love a free solution!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sew and Sew: Resources

Seems like more and more people I know are either taking up sewing or picking it up & improving their skills. This excites me to no end! Nothing better than to talk with a friend about something you both enjoy. I, myself, love learning from other more experienced sewers, like my grandma and my mother-in-law, and would love to share what I've learned with others as well. Here is a list of some of my favorite tutorials or sewing resources:

Sew, Mama, Sew blog : there is a link in my sidebar to this also. Every month they feature something new. I *loved* the Handmade Holidays series {30 posts worth of tutorials in this one link, ya'll} for gift-giving inspiration {not to early to start for next year}!

Tiered Skirt Tutorial: Sew easy! You know I've made like 10 of these so far. Always a perfect fit!

Installing a Zipper: Just in case those zippers leave you clammy with nervousness, this will calm your fears.

Making a Zippered Pouch
: These could make great little gifts for all walks of life!

Baby Sewing: Lots of neat tutes here, like slings & diaper bags & sheets and more!

More Tutes than You can shake a stick at. Seriously.

Coffee Cozy: Haven't made one yet. But I think all my Starbuck-ers will be getting them for Christmas next year. Sew cute!

Bagsket Tutorial: I just made one last week. It's uber-cute! I'll post it when I get a minute.

Craftbits: Lots of goodies here. Not just for sewing either. Check it out.

Craftster: See what others have made & learn from their mistakes or process in the forums. I particularly enjoy the Purses, Bags, Wallets forums and the Kids Completed Projects and Kids Sewing Discussions.

I think that's quite enough to keep us all busy for sometime now, don't you agree? I enjoy several blogs as well for serious inspiration, such as Sugar Shop, Craft Apple, Pink Chalk Studio, & Pink Lemonade Boutique. Have a lovely weekend & happy creating!

P.S. If you're in love with a blog or tute that I didn't mention, please share with me & the rest of the group ;>)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Preparing the Way

I hate driving at night. Maybe it is because I do not have binocular vision. Maybe the inadequate headlights on my car have something to do with it. Maybe it is because I don't do it that often. Whatever the reason, I just don't like it. What's worse than driving at night? Driving at night on snowy roads! This doesn't happen to me often, but it was the case last Friday night while returning home from a night out with a near and dear friend. The twenty-five minute trip home was terribly unpleasant. I was praying nearly the whole way home while trying to stay focused on the white line. A deer on my edge of the road nearly gave me a coronary! I was extremely thankful for one thing: that other cars had gone before me to prepare the way. It made my drive, although still difficult, a little easier. I was so relieved to have someone else's tracks to follow in, instead of having to forge a new path.

The same thing has happened in our lives recently. On Friday, February 1st, hubster was "laid off". It wasn't anything personal. The company owners told him what a hard worker he is & what a great employee that he had been. They said they tried to hold off as long as they could, but they couldn't hold off any longer. They gave him a small severance {our first big blessing in a string of many} and there were three other severance checks on the desk. He wasn't the only one. They told him they would give him a good reference and would do whatever they could to help him if he needed it.

I. Was. Shocked. I knew changes were coming. He had told me so. I was thinking: promotion! Hubster sat me down and broke the news. {Note to self: Next time someone sits me down to tell me something, run, don't walk to the nearest exit.} My mental tape basically stopped and I sat there wondering what happened to my anticipated promotion. I never considered that maybe God had something better in mind. We had gone through job loss before, when I was 8 months pregnant with baby #2, just 3 short years ago. It did make this time a little easier, but nonetheless, stressful.

I had decided a long time ago that it would take much more than this to shake my faith, although, I don't want to test my limits! I knew that God would take care of us. Somehow. I am thankful that hubby would periodically be thinking about a Plan B. Now and again, he would come home telling me that if he ever lost his job, he would do such & such. I didn't think that we would ever need Plan B. The very next day, hubby had a meeting with a business contact/friend that he had made by networking at the old job. And over dinner, he announced his plan to start his own business. His business contact would be his first client. And so it was settled. He would start "working" in one week, from home no less! {My first thought was: Am I going to have to cook 3 meals a day for you??}

In less than a week, we had a business name, we incorporated, received our tax ID number, created business cards & hubby started working for himself. I know that this would not have been possible had God not gone before us to "prepare the way". Everything fell into place so nicely, it was almost hard to believe. It still all seems to good to be true. As hubby puts it, we are still waiting for someone to "torpedo our boat". Ever feel that way? Like God has given you something or done something for you that really is UNbelievable?

So that is where we stand. Feeling undeserving, yet nervous and excited all at the same time. Hubby can't wait to be able to work at the park and the beach and the McDonald's playland while enjoying his children. {He doesn't need to be at home for this job, just available by cell phone.} I can't wait for him to enjoy homeschooling with the kids by giving guitar or Spanish lessons. We both can't wait to see what God has in store for us next!

Jeremiah 33:3 ~ "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans for a hope and a future."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Aw, Shucks

I have been feeling really blessed by all my friends this week, who rallied around me for various reasons, including turning 30 and hubster losing his job last Friday {more on that to come}. Old friends, new friends, small group friends, internet friends. I have really been striving to be a better friend myself, so I'm feeling very loved in return. Thanks guys! Seriously. I also was surprised to learn that Jeanette has nominated me as her blogger of the month. Aw, shucks. *blush* I am glad that I could use this venue to offer some inspiration and helpful ideas, whether it be for crafts or for domestic engineering or womanhood in general. Thanks for the nomination!

Have you been blessed by a friend this week?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Easy Come, Easy Go

She was beautiful. I lovingly created her pattern myself, from scratch. I ordered some special fabrics online. I quilted the bottom of the front & back and made my first attempt at adding piping. She did lay listlessly in my "to finish" pile for some time, but once I got my new machine, she was one of the things to get finished first. I was saving her for summer. She would be perfect for a trip to the beach or the park. I hung her in my closet. Then.....I got impatient. I thought using her now would lift my spirits. I packed her up carefully for a trip to my in-laws house. That would be the first and last time I would use her.

My SIL: Wow! Nice bag!

Me: Thanks ;>)

SIL: Can I buy a bag from you like that? I'll give you $20.

Me: You mean, a bag like this one or this one?

SIL: No. That one.

Me: Um....ok.

So, I unpacked her & I'll hopefully see her now & again when I come to visit. Here she was:

P.S. Thanks to my summery bag, I have an order for another one in different fabrics from one of hubby's cousins!