Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Better Than Olive Garden Chicken

I have gotten a lot of requests for this recipe, so I'll post it to make it easier for people to find. 

I originally found this recipe on Pinterest. We love it, but it it a little more labor intensive than I like on a busy weeknight. Since I discovered Tyson's Panko Breaded Chicken at Costco, this has become a go to recipe that is easy enough for a busy weeknight and good enough to make for guests or bring to a sick friend/new mom. 

2 tsp. McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 tsp. freeze dried chives
2 Tbsp. dried basil
3 Tbsp.butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4-1/3 c. Italian diced tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

In a saute pan, melt butter. Add garlic and cook for a minute, being careful to not let the garlic burn. Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil over medium heat. 
Stir in cream and tomatoes; bring to a boil. 
Reduce heat to low. Add Parmesan cheese, basil, chives, Montreal steak seasoning, and a dash of freshly ground black pepper. 
Stir and heat until thickened.

Serve over cooked Panko breaded chicken. 

We pair this with mashed potatoes or browned butter Parmesan spaghetti and a nice salad. 
I have yet to make this for anyone who didn't ask for the recipe!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Nap time crafts: DIY wood frames for under $6

I was staring at the collage above my couch, which was mainly comprised of pictures of our two girls, and trying to think of how to incorporate our new little man into the mix. The more I looked at the wall,  the more it started to bother me. I was sick of it. I wanted to change it up and go simpler.

My SIL took close up shots of her 4 kids, printed them in black and white, and framed them in her family room. Just the look I wanted. 

First up: pictures. Photographing a self proclaimed 5-year-old princess was a piece of cake. A 22-month-old little firecracker proved to be a little challenging. But trying to get a smile out of a 2 1/2-month-old required patience. But I persevered and finally got a good shot. A few minutes of editing in Picasa and they were being printed at Costco.

I took to the web to find frames. I found one I liked that had a wainscot facade to it, but it wasn't quite right. While laying in bed, my mind started churning and I thought of how much cheaper it would be to make a frame...but that would be a pain...but what if it wasn't a traditional type of frame... Then it occurred to me -  a picture doesn't have to be behind glass.

I love the rustic look. I was trying to explain to DH what I was imagining, but I'm bad at explaining these things. So out came the graph paper to try to get what was in my head, drawn out on paper. This is what I came up with:

These measurements are for an 8x10 picture, but it could easily be adjusted for any size. 

I browsed Home Depot's website to figure out what I needed and made a cut list. (Details at the bottom.)

With my list and three kids in tow (taking all three kids out by myself is an extremely rare occurrence, but when I get excited to do something, not much can stop me,) I went to Home Depot. I decided to use furring strips because they are so cheap. But that also means that you might have to search to find some good pieces. I took advantage of their free cutting services and saved myself the frustration of trying to cut the wood myself at home with my jig saw.

When I got a chance later in the afternoon, I went to the garage to sand the wood. With wood as rough as furring strips, an electric sander is an absolute must in my book. I really can't imagine sanding by hand, but it could be done if you are far more patient than I am.

The weather is too cold to use spray paint, so I went with good old cheap acrylic.
I was going to do all of the frames white, but DH convinced me to do different colors because, as he says I'm "obsessed with white." It's true. It's just so crisp and clean! Our living room color scheme is blue and yellow, so the color choice was obvious.  

After the white base coat dried, I painted the second coat and impatiently waited for them to dry. I asked handy DH to show me the best way to assemble these, but it turned in to him doing all the work for me. No complaints here!
DH marked the wood and drilled pilot holes through the vertical pieces. He then screwed 1 1/4" wood screws into the holes, making sure that the horizontal piece was positioned in the correct place, which was 2" down from the top, and up from the bottom.
 We added a sawtooth hanger to the back. DH used the markings that made for the pilot holes as a guide to position the hanger.

Two of the three finished frames.
To attach the pictures to the frame, I simply used a clear push pin, but you could use mini clothes pins, double sided tape on the back. Whatever you want.

The finished product. I'm very happy. They're big enough to make a statement, yet they are simple. 

Shopping list and Cut list for ONE frame:
(1) 1"x4"x8' furring strip, cut into 22" pieces (you will end up with 4 and you will use all of them) $2.18
(1) 1"x3"x8' furring strip, cut into 14" pieces (you will end up with 6, but only need 2) $2.12
(1) sawtooth hanger under $1
(8) 1 1/4" wood screws under $.50

My little love

Our sweet boy is here and I am so head-over-heels in love with him. But adjusting to three kids has been so much harder than I ever anticipated. After 12 weeks of being in a fog, I started crafting again. It has helped me feel somewhat normal again. So, hopefully, I can revive this blog a bit.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Buffalo Shepherds Pie

A couple years ago when we were living up in the ghetto, I heard about a pub that was in a local hotel. Being the anglophile that I am, I was eager to check it out. It's actually an Irish pub, not an English pub, but close enough.

DH and I along with our little DD were slightly out of our element. Everyone around us was enjoying a pint and we ordered soda. The menu was full of unfamiliar fare so we had to ask the waiter for recommendations. The waiter recommended something called Buffalo Shepherds Pie. It was love at first bite.

We gobbled it up and raved about it to our family. We ate there a few more times until that glorious day when we moved out of the ghetto. The menu had a good description of the dish so DH and I set about to replicate it at home.

We've made it a few times and we learn something new with each attempt. We've got it down to just how we like it. I made it yesterday and divided the goods into three dishes so that in a couple months when we're home with our new little squish, we will have some delicious dinners waiting in the freezer.

Now this recipe calls for beer. We don't drink it but we have no problem cooking with it. The restaurant uses Tetley's Draught, but we couldn't find that locally. I called up a friend who knows beer and asked what a comparable beer would be, he recommended Newcastle, which I found at the state liquor store. (I enjoyed some strange looks at the liquor store, buying beer with an 8 month pregnant belly. Good times.) In the past we have used Guinness extra stout beer, which had a stronger flavor than the Newcastle.

Buffalo Shepherds Pie

  • 1 lb. andouille sausage, cooked and sliced
  • 1 lb. ground bison, cooked and salted & peppered**
  • 1 lb. ground beef, cooked
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1/2 lb. frozen corn
  • 24 oz. Newcastle Brown Ale
  • 1 can cr. of mushroom soup
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 lb. Irish cheddar cheese (Kerrygold Dubliner Irish Cheese, found in most grocery store gourmet cheese islands)
  • 14-16 medium Idaho russet potatoes
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 TBSP. sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • Kosher salt to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add peeled and cubed potatoes and cook until tender.

In a large Saute pan, saute onion in a little olive oil until translucent. Add corn and saute. Set aside.

Cook beef and bison, drain fat, season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Cook andouille. Slice lengthwise and then into small (half circle) slices.
In a large pan, combine all meats and beer. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

While the meat is simmering, make mashed potatoes. In a kitchenaid, mix potatoes, milk, sour cream and butter until smooth. Season with kosher salt.

When meat is done simmering, drain the beer. Combine meat, corn, onion, cream of mushroom soup, and dried thyme.

Transfer to two 8x8 (or equivalent) pans. Top with a thick layer of mashed potatoes. Sprinkle the cheese on top.

Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until bubbling hot.

**ground bison can be expensive. I've never found it for less than $10/lb. But we've learned that the important flavors come from the andouille sausage and the Irish cheddar, so most of the time we just use 2 lbs. of ground beef instead using the bison.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Only 15 months....

Wow, 15 months since my last post. And so much has changed. A new home, DH has a new position at work (and only ONE job!!!!) and most significantly, we've got another little blessing on the way. And it's a BOY!!!!!! We're so thrilled.

I'm sure no one reads this blog anymore so this will be more for me. But I have two major goals that I'm currently working on. 1.) find freezer meal recipes that my family will actually like. Most recipes I find don't sound very appealing to our picky, picky eaters. Ground beef is something my family just does not eat. And with baby #3 on the way, I am determined to not get into the terrible habit of eating out that we did when our last baby was born. She is now 15 months old and we still eat out way too much. It's unhealthy and expensive. Which leads me into goal 2.) Get in control of our finances. With DH's new position, we're finally in a situation where we can save up for a house. We've never been good savers. But I am determined to get into a house. I am also determined to be out of debt before we get into a house. Aside from a car, perhaps. But we've still got hospital bills from our last baby and we're about to have more. I don't want that looming over our heads if we've got a mortgage to pay.

As for freezer meals, I was all set to start doubling recipes, saving 1/2 for a freezer meal and having the other half for dinner. Then what happens? Our second fridge died. So we've got to replace that so we'll have freezer space. Also, I like to shop once every two weeks. And since we are milk lovers, I can't fit all the milk we need in one fridge, plus all the yogurt, string cheese, cottage cheese, etc that our littlest one goes through.

As for budgeting, I am currently trying to find an envelope system that I like. Paper envelopes bother me, I've already tried them. I'm looking for a cloth/zippered envelope system. I've seen some on etsy but I can't bring myself to buy something that I know I could make. So hopefully my next post will be my new envelope system.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My latest creation...

Baby Quinn. Born on March 15th at 4:28 am, weighing 7 pounds 4 oz. I am so in love with her.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cloth Diaper Cover Tutorial

We've decided to cloth diaper baby Q and since we only have 9 weeks left until her arrival, I decided it was high time I get everything I need to diaper her when we come home. I recently learned that Hobby Lobby and JoAnn's sells Babyville products, a line that has everything you need to make cloth diapers. After doing the math, I discovered that I could make about 8 diapers for the price of buying two. Now that's just common sense.

There are lots of free patterns out there but I couldn't find any that suited my needs so I decided to draft my own to be like the Thirsties Duo Wrap Snap cover because it's adjustable and can fit a baby from birth to about 18 pounds.

I did have to buy all of supplies because these are not things I have ever used before.


-16x16 square of PUL fabric
-snap applicator
-about 1.5 feet fold over elastic or *FOE
-sewing machine, preferably with a 3 stitch ziz-zag capability
-good quality polyester thread

*FOE: There is a great seller on ebay called hobovian who sells FOE in a large variety of colors and it's incredibly cheap. She will even send you color samples for free. this link should take you right to her page or search "fold over elastic" on ebay.

**Obviously, if you're buying your supplies at JoAnn's or Hobby Lobby, you can use 40% off coupons for all of these items.

Here's the cheapest possible scenario to make 8 covers:
Buy 1 yard of fabric for $14.99, using a 40% off coupon for $8.99
Buy a pack of snaps for $7.99, using a 40% off coupon for $4.80
Buy 10 yards of fold over elastic on ebay for $3.30 + shipping, about $5 total
Buy a snap applicator (one time purchase) with a 40% off coupon for $12

Total cost of 8 cloth diaper covers: $18.79 + tax
Plus the one time cost of the snap applicator for $12.

$20 for 8 diaper covers is AMAZING. Even $31 (including the snap applicator) for 8 covers is still AMAZING! That's two covers retail!

JoAnn's sells a pack of coordinating pre-cut PUL squares, enough to make 3 covers, for $14.99. I almost bought a pack until I realized that I can make 8 covers for the same price (1 yard of fabric.)
The down side to my frugality is that I'll have a lot of covers using the same fabric, but remember you can always make wet bags, bibs, diaper changing mats and lots of other things with your leftover PUL.


First I laid out all my pattern pieces and traced them on the wrong side of the PUL with a marker. Then I marked where all the snaps would be. In my pattern (which is made of poster board) I poked little holes where the snaps need to be so that I would just press a marker over the hole and it would leave a mark.

After cutting out all my pieces I taped the wings and rectangle in place, which are there to reinforce the snaps. I used tape to avoid putting holes in the PUL.

Then I used the awl (it comes in the snap applicator kit) to poke holes in the PUL for the snaps.

The actual application of the snaps is simple but this is one of the tricky parts of making the cover. You need to be cautious of which side the cap (smooth side of the snap) should be on and if you need to be using a stud or socket.

The caps need to be on the inside of the cover, except for the 4 on the wings. Also, on my pattern I have a 21 snaps total and I have a blue x over 4 of the snap marks. Those x marks need the opposite kind of snap than the other 17. So if I used a socket on the 17 snaps, I need to use a stud on the 4 with the blue x. If I used 17 SOCKETS on one diaper, I will use 17 STUDS on my next diaper so that I don't run out of sockets and have a pile of studs that can't be used. Make sense? I hope so because I re-wrote that about 10 times trying to make it understandable. Make sure you give the snaps a really good squeeze. I was having a hard time getting my snaps to click together so I started giving them 5-6 squeezes when I applied them, and I no longer have a problem.

Now I'm about a half hour into this project and all the snaps are finally in place! All that's left to do is add the fold over elastic.
To apply the FOE, you start by adding elastic to the gussets and basting them in place. Then, starting near the top left wing, you sew using a 3 stitch zigzag (or a wide zigzag if necessary) but sewing it as you would normal bias tape and NOT STRETCHING IT. There are four sections where you need to stretch the FOE as you sew, the back, the legs and the front. One tip: go slow!

After you're done sewing and before you ever use them on baby, you need to put them in the dryer and let it run on hot for 20 minutes to seal the holes.

It seems simple enough but it was a matter of trail and error for me. I bought a package of Babyville's FOE because I was too impatient to wait for my ebay order to arrive. I hate to say it, but I didn't like Babyville's FOE. It didn't have enough stretch to it which is okay for the outer edge of the cover but the gussets need a lot of stretch! So when I sewed my next diaper I used normal bias tape in the gusset area only and added some basic elastic from my stash. It turned out so much better! Here's a comparison:They look the same here, but when you open them up...
...the pink is much tighter. The green diaper has FOE in the gussets. The pink diaper has bias tape + elastic.

I'm happy with the overall size of the pattern. These pictures shows the original Thirsties Duo cover next to my pink cover.

I tweaked some things along the way. You can see in some pictures that my green cover has a squared top corner. I started sewing a rounded top corner because it was easier and looked nicer in the end.

I received my FOE from ebay today. I sewed another diaper and I liked the FOE much better.

Here's another option:
After seeing how effective the bias tape + elastic was, I sewed a diaper using only bias tape and I sewed little pieces of elastic into the 4 sections that needed it. This diaper also turned out really well, so if you don't want to spend the money on FOE, just buy double fold bias tape and some elastic (I think I used 1/4 inch but you could certainly use bigger.)

I am loving making these covers. But since my little one isn't here I don't know how well they work. I sent some home with my SIL to try on her 5 month old. I'm anxious to get her report!

My SIL tested the diapers on her baby, she said they work great!

I went to JoAnns and got some more fabric and some velcro. It occurred to me that snaps in the middle of the night might be a pain, so I wanted a few with velcro.

I bought the Babyville book and I'm really glad I did. It has great ideas and patterns. There are step by step pictures and instructions for all kinds of diapers. I highly recommend buying the book.

Here are a few more that I've made.

I found a style in the book that intrigued me called the snail shell.
It's a basic diaper cover that doesn't need to be made of PUL. There are snaps in the cover that hold a shell, which is a piece of PUL that holds a prefold or insert.


With shell snapped in

With prefold in place.

I can't wait to try out the snail shell. It would be so easy to snap shells in and out.

I've made more covers than Baby Q will ever need. I need to start trying pocket diapers or AIO's. I just can't stop!