Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cheesy Mac N Ground Beef Casserole

Around the house, this is simply known as "Casserole," because at the time I threw it together and had no idea what else to call it.  Also, I'd never made an actual casserole, and this was just the kind of night that had "seeking comfort" stamped all over it.  That was years ago, and this is, believe it or not, one of the few dishes that I make that my mister actually requests from time to time-though he keeps trying to connive me into putting sausage in it instead...well, that's another thing.

This is a great one dish meal, and I tell myself that really, it's not totally un-healthy, but really, you've got to go for it from time to time.  It's really a very simple thing to throw together, and works fine made a day in advance too.  My only regret was not taking a picture of the cooked end product, I'll just let you use your imagination...think ooey-gooey-cheesey-molten deliciousness.  Or better yet, try this recipe yourself, it has a little kick in it.

Uncooked, before the blanket of cheese...

Here's what you need:
1 box of your favorite macaroni and cheese
1/2-3/4 # ground beef (80/20 OK)
1 larger sized can of crushed tomatoes
1 green pepper, coarsely chopped
1 med/lrg onion, coarsely chopped
2 T oil (canola fine)
1/4 cup milk (for the mac n cheese, as directed)
2 T margarine (for the mac n cheese, as directed)
1/4 cup Louisiana hot sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Here's what to do:
Boil and prepare the macaroni and cheese as directed by the box
(includes ingredients for Kraft's version listed above as 2 T margarine and 1/4 C milk)
Using a large mixing bowl to stir in the seasoning, milk, margarine
In a skillet, heat 1 Tbs oil, saute the chopped onion, just until tender, then add it to the bowl
Heat other Tbs oil, saute the chopped green pepper, also until tender, and add it to the bowl
Brown the meat in the skillet, until fully cooked, add to the bowl
Add the can of crushed tomatoes and the 1/4 C of Louisiana hot sauce to the bowl and stir it all together.

Grease with margarine the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish
Spread the mixture into the dish
Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese
Cover with aluminum foil

Uncooked, before covering with foil

At this point, you can either refrigerate this until you are ready, or go ahead and bake at 350 degrees for an hour.  Be sure to let it cool so that you don't burn your mouth on that delectable melted cheese!

It is also very good the next day, even cold...hence the lack of finished product pictures.  Oops.  This will surely feed 3 hungry men for dinner!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Cleaning

So I had finally had it with the folded piles of fabric sitting on the setee by the foot of the bed, and determined to clean up this clutter one way or another.  But then I looked in at my sewing corner, and saw such disarray.  Four bags stuffed full and overflowing with leftover fabric, from scraps, to the I'll get on that project and fix it to something useful stages of things no longer worn were hovering in the corner like a looming tower.  Crushing my creative nature, and guilting me every time I bought new fabric.

Enough was enough.
I needed organization.  Order!  A sensible set-up!
I needed....shelves.

However, it is the unfortunate fact that we live in a town without a store selling lumber.  That's right.  You can buy dowel rods at the hardware store and that's about it.  So, after surveying my leftover stash of scrap pieces (now excited by the idea of using up these odds and ends as well), I made a list of what I had and started drawing out a plan. 

Well, after much cutting, sanding and fastening, I was rewarded with moderate success.
I now have a shelf.
And thing look so organized!
This inspired me to clean the whole corner of that room, re-organize, etc.
And one thing led to another and before I knew it, I've even got the leftover fabric rolled, banded and in a designated area.

Here is the "after shot" of my efforts...the before shot never happened, and it's just as well-take my word for it.

Now I'm all juiced up for my next project.  The workspace is just begging to be used!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Falafel and Tzatziki

Hello reader,

I have been having a blast discovering the joys of pressure cooking dried beans!
It's so much fun, and I love the fact that I don't have to mess around with pre-soaking or anything so time consuming as that.  To help me on my merry way, I found this great website:

Which has been enormously helpful.  I've cooked great northern beans to make into a lovely dip, or to enjoy with salsa and sour cream over them (really good!), and then I moved on to garbanzo beans (chick peas).  Lately I've been having trouble getting the consistency of hummus that is smooth and rich from using the cheap, pre-cooked canned variety, so this was my next mission...and it worked.  Over cooking the chick peas made them delightful for hummus.  This was the first factor that led me to a dinner of falafel...

The other happened one night during the week, when  I was seeking a creative way to use cauliflower as a side, and found a recipe for cauliflower falafel.  Well, the mister wasn't wild about it, so I saw this as a challenge to find a good recipe for the real deal.

For this, I turned to the well known website by The Shiksa In the Kitchen:

I read the reviews for this recipe, and went ahead with the pressure cooking of one-half bag of garbanzo beans (one half pound).

I followed the recipe as listed on the site, only adding a touch of tumeric, and set the mixture in the fridge for a few hours.  Unfortunately, it came out with no stick-together at all.
I added flour and worked it.  Not enough.  Added more. Maybe.  Tried it in the heated canola oil....
And it totally fell apart while frying.
Sadness ensued.
Don't give up!  Add more flour and seasoning (because I figured now it was diluted).
And since I threw out the canola oil mess, I went with a skillet and olive oil.

Here is the recipe for the falafel I ended up making:


  • 1/2 pound dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans, pressure cooked
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 T flour
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 2 t cumin
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 1/8 t cayenne pepper
  • Pinch tumeric
  • Olive oil for sauteing


Process this mixture in a food processor, but quite before it gets too smooth like hummus, use the pulse!
I made patties out of the mixture by packing a heaping tablespoon against the side of the bowl, and releasing it into the hot oiled skillet with another tablespoon
Browned each side
Set them for 20 seconds on a paper towel to absorb extra oil
Then under a covered plate until they were all done.  I was able to work 4-5 at a time, and they didn't take long to brown.

 The sauce you see was the Tzatziki I made...

Tzatziki is a wonderfully easy and delightfully cool and crisp addition to this meal (and others too).  It emphasizes the falafel in a manner than I doubt anything else can, and so highly recommend making it to go with.

Tzatziki Recipe

1 1/2 C full fat yogurt
3/4 of a large cucumber
2 t dried mint
1 large garlic clove
1 T lemon juice
1/4 t salt

To make:

Peel and seed the cucumber, then chop finely (save the rest of the cucumber for garnish)
Press the garlic clove
Add the yogurt, lemon juice, dried mint, and salt
Stir and refridgerate until ready for use.

*If you happen to not have dried mint, you can use mint from a tea bag instead, just don't use peppermint.

One small confession...
I took this picture the next day when I was having the leftovers for lunch, so the falafel was not as crispy.  But it was still delicious!
For dinner I served it with pita pockets, smeared on the inside with hummus, the falafel, cucumber, tomato and onion slices, and of course, the Tzatziki, it was very good.  OH, and a pickle on the side (Kosher dill of course).


Sunday, March 16, 2014

One Apple = Dessert for Two

Ramekin Apple Crisp (for two)

Do you ever end up with one piece of fruit, that just sits there, because there is only one of them?  Have you ever been in a pinch with one apple and a craving for a dessert idea, and wondered, how can I make this stretch for the two of us?  Well, I can tell you one idea...

Make some apple crisp in ramekins!  As it turns out, one apple is the perfect size to fill two ramekins, and what better way to use it than to make two perfectly portioned individual desserts?   It takes a fraction of the time, and adds a special touch to the end of dinner.

Here are the instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
Wash the apple
Grab the cinnamon
Slice it as you would for a pie or crisp, about an eighth of an inch or slightly thicker, taking out the core
Margarine the sides and bottoms of the ramekins

Start placing the apple slices in the ramekin in an even coverage fashion
At halfway up the ramekin, add a dash of cinnamon and continue filling

Add another dash of cinnamon on the top

In a small bowl, combine:
2 T flour
3 T sugar
3/4 T margarine
1/4 t cinnamon

Use a fork or rub the mixture together with your hands until you achieve a coarse crumb consistency and it is even in texture and blended through.

Divide equally and sprinkle over the tops of both ramekins.

Give them a light pat, gently!
And into the oven for about 35 minutes.

The crust should be turning a light golden brown at this point, at which you are done!
Cool for 10 minutes and serve when cool enough to handle.
Vanilla iced cream or frozen yogurt is always a nice addition, but not necessary.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

McCall's 6802-Blah Cardigan

McCalls 6802

Hmmm.  A disappointment.


And this after I waited so long to get the pattern on sale! 
I had wanted to make a warm, snuggly, throw-it-on cardigan type sweater out of fleece, and had picked view C as the perfect conveyance for my idea.

The fact that it was labeled an easy sew made it all the more meant to be.  That was all in theory, however, not in practice as I soon came to find out.  

From reading other reviews, I gathered that this view was noted for excessive ease, so I decided to cut between the 8 and 10 sizes.  It also appeared that the sleeves were not full length, and that would bother me, so I chose to extend the sleeves in cutting by 5 inches.  The most obvious pointer was to cut the collar on a fold, who needs the extra seam?

So that was the plan.   
Then came the directions… and what a mess.   
They seemed all over the place, and nonsensical.  Instead I followed this chain of events because it made more sense:
Shoulder/upper arm seams
Side seams
Fold pocket top, place, pin, stitch along bottom and top stitch the pocket side near the side seam of the body (stitch fold down on one side, and all the way down, fold under then top stitch side)
Cut neck band on the fold-eliminate center back seam, stitch side of neck band, turn inside out, pin neck band seam to inside collar area, fold neck band over and pin to outside (encasing seam) and stitch
Bottom seam
Sleeve seam

And the result was well-thought out (I thought!) but hideous.  Short in length and shapeless.  Disappointing to say the least.

I can’t see giving this another go.  But the view A does look cute.  Guess I’ll check out the reviews for that one and see some finished products before I write this pattern off completely.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Simplicity 1805--A T-Shirt for Me Shirt

Simplicity 1805
Stretch knit shirts, variations

I made view B, but with the sleeves of view C, since I wanted a shorter sleeve look.
I used this great thin knit that I’d picked up on some insane clearance at Hancock Fabrics (I think), and bought out the rest of the bolt, which wasn’t much, I had 1 1/2 yards of 56” wide fabric to work with.  And I ended up with some leftover.

Previous reviewers mention that this pattern runs large, that must be why they put such sizes like XS and XXS in this envelope.  So I cut an XS for the top’s neck and sleeves, and switched to S at the “waistline” marking.  

Back view

I like that the sleeves are attached to the shirt front and back, because I really didn’t want to have to fight with the gathers again so soon after my last shirt project.  I didn’t like the neck band instructions.  My oh my I had to fight with stretching that collar!  At this point I am not at all sure I followed the instructions on this, but I did manage to get it on.  I stitched the raw edges together (which was the hardest part) on the inside of the shirt, but then pressed the neck band up and over to encase the raw edges and topstitched the finished edge to the shirt outside.  (Confused yet? I’m not great at conveying this!)  This was so that the weight of the layers would fall forward on the neck line and not turn or twist inward—an occurrence that causes me some irritation for sure.  I also skipped the interfacing step for the neckband, after reading other reviewers experience with this, I found it was not worthwhile to interface anything.

The only other change I made was to put the elastic on the side seams last.   I wasn’t sure if I’d want it, and honestly, the shirt looked fine without it, but I slept on the idea, and decided to go ahead.  But, instead of sewing the elastic directly onto the shirt at the side seams, I decided my thread would show through too much, and not wanting that, I sewed the elastic to the front facing side of the French side seams instead.  It seems to have worked OK, and the gathering effect is there.  

I did like the few pattern pieces, the simple instructions, and it is a pretty quick sew.  Just watch out for that danged neck piece that requires a crazy amount of stretching to fit.  I might sew it again, not sure, for some reason printed knits (in my price range, especially) are hard to find around here.  I like the look of view F, with the open shoulders, but would like a wider set neckline with that….we’ll see.

Simplicity 1540--Grey Fleece Coat

Simplicity 1540

Misses Jacket in two lengths with collar variations

I made view A in size 8 out of some fleece blankets I picked up before Christmas at Walmart, 2/$5. 
It seemed like this project had a lot of steps, though the pieces went together quickly, until I got stuck. The first half of the instructions were fine, but I remember reading and re-reading one step of the collar, for some reason I just wasn’t getting it.   Then on step 34 I figured enough of this basting nonsense, I’m stitching (because they never go back and stitch it!).  But the most confusing part to me was that of the sleeves.  Step 40 doesn’t even look like it goes with the drawing, and doesn’t make sense.  And after reading the paragraph of step 42 time and time again, I had to step away for a while.  Then come back, ignore the directions and work out the following so that it was reasonable (to me): sleeve cuff--on outside of sleeve, place cuff right sides together so raw edges meet, stitch at 5/8” and again at 1/4” from seam.  Turn.  Trim inside cuff seam along stitching, press seam up, turn outside again, top stitch 1/2” from seam on sleeve (not cuff).  This was so that I can catch the seam in the top stitching. 

The only actual change I made to the pattern was to shorten it, I used a length about halfway between the cut lines for the shorter jackets and the longer ones; about 29 inches from base of neck to bottom hem in back.

Oh, I also learned that the type of fleece I used had a bit of stretch to it after all, and it really was a good idea to practice the button holes before putting them on the jacket itself-they would have been way too big!  I made a few on scrap and threw out the measuring rules of thumb on button size vs. button hole, because the holes would just stretch out, and figured it by trial and error. 

I really like the finished product though!  It’s the best jacket I’ve ever sewn, (including that one other one I did) and I might make another version of this again some time.  Maybe a shorter version of the same jacket, or maybe even the shawl collar one.
For now it is just too cold to wear it, but I have something nice to look forward to when the weather starts to warm a little, for now, it's parka time!