Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mediterranean Potato Salad

First off, let me say that I am NOT a potato salad person!  I never was big on it, and then I lived in Germany for 6 months and they LOVE potato salad.  In six months, I probably had some kind of potato salad close to a hundred times!  And I NEVER enjoyed any variation of it, and they make it like most Americans.  Fast forward to the past few months, my husband's chiropractor suggested he try to follow a little more of a Mediterranean diet.  So I set out to find at least a few dishes so that we could incorporate it into our meals a little bit more.  So I braved the potato salad world once more and am pleased with the results!
2 pounds potatoes
1 green bell pepper, minced (this is the part that I dislike the most, but my hubby LOVES it, so I just set it to the side so that he could have some but I could avoid it!  Maybe that's why I actually liked it!)
1 large cucumber, sliced and quartered
1/2 cup sliced red onion ( I used a little less than a a half cup and soaked it in water for a few minutes before adding it so the onion wouldn't take over the flavor)
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
salt and pepper to taste
3 pita breads, cut in wedges (the store I went to didn't have pita bread, so I used multi-grain thin buns Arnold Select Sandwich Thins Multi-Grain 12 oz (Pack of 4)and they were very tasty and looked like wedged pita bread!)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add potatoes, and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes.  Drain, cool, and chop.
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, (green peppers), cucumbers, red onion, and cheese.
Whisk together the lemon juice, salad dressing, salt and pepper.  Pour over salad and toss to coat.  Serve with pita bread wedges.

This is another one that I was very surprised to see that my kids enjoyed it!  The even asked for seconds!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stove Top Beef and Penne Casserole

I am all about saving time and doing few dishes, so one pan meals really appeal to me!  I have this recipe that is good, but the kids will only eat maybe one serving and the recipe makes a LOT.  Good to freeze some and enjoy later.  And it's not one pan, but we'll get into that in a minute.

2 cups dry penne pasta (or small pasta of your choice)
2 Lbs. lean ground beef
1 med onion, chopped
2 cans (12 fl. oz. each) evaporated milk
1 can (15 oz.) 100% pure pumpkin
1 can tomato sauce
1 Tbs. packed brown sugar
1 Tbs paprika
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups frozen peas, thawed

Cook pasta in large saucepan for 1 to 2 minutes less than package directions (pasta should be slightly firm in texture); drain.
Cook beef and onion in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until beef is no longer pink, drain.  Reduce heat to medium.  Stir in evaporated milk, pumpkin, tomato sauce, sugar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.  Cook, stirring occationally until mixture begins to simmer.  Add pasta and peas; stir until heated.

I decided the other day to make this recipe, but ran into quite a few snafus. We were out of milk and out of evaporated milk, out of tomato sauce, I usually used cooked and pureed squash, but we didn't have any.  To top it off, I started cooking only one pound of ground beef and realized that the recipe called for two pounds right around the time the first pound was done cooking and the rest of the beef was frozen and raw.  I got to thinking about the website Everyday Food Storage where Crystal talks about replacing one or two things with food storage things to help incorporate it into your diet.  She also has conversion charts for using non-instant powdered milk, which I happened to have on hand, in making things like evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk or buttermilk.  We also had two fresh tomatoes, and died onions (another food storage item), so my recipe looked more like this:

1 heaping cup dry whole wheat penne pasta (macaroni works really well too)
1 pound ground beef
2 Tbs (about, I didn't really measure) dried chopped onions
1/2 cup + 1 Tbs dry powdered non-instant milk
1 1/2 cup water
2 finely diced tomatos
1   6 oz. jar of baby food-squash
1 scant T packed brown sugar
1 scant T paprika
1 scant Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 cup frozen peas

Cook beef with onion, drain, add powdered milk and water, stir VERY well, add dry pasta.  Turn to medium heat, while heating, add other ingredients, cover, and simmer, stirring occationally.  Cook for about 15 minutes or so until pasta is tender.

I really reduced the salt, it's one small change we've been working on to be a little healthier.

One pan, using what I had on hand, and it was really good!  Since my tomatoes were so juicy it ended up being a little watery, but you could add a little flour or corn starch to thicken it up (interesting fact: flour will give sauces a more opaque appearance, while corn starch will give a more glossy, clear look).  It would also be good with a side of some hot homemade biscuits!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Baby bedroom

Lately I have been really tired and not very productive.  I started evaluating what could be causing such fatigue.  It wasn't hard to pinpoint, my son who just turned one STILL insisted on waking up several times at night to nurse.  Sometime almost continually for several hours.  With the older kids we would put them in another room and let them cry it out.  Now we are in a two bedroom apartment and the bigger kids are in one bedroom, we're in the other (complicated, I know).  The baby sleeps in our room.  I would just let him cry it out in our room, but my husband has to get up early most mornings to work 10 hours of manual labor in the heat, so he could use as much sleep as he could get.  I was exhausted and frustrated, and we even tried putting him in the living room, but it wasn't a good fit because the high ceiling and larger room echoed, waking up the other kids and keeping us up, plus we couldn't totally block out the lights from the parking lot outside. So I finally de-cluttered a little bit and moved some stuff around and viola!
The closet is now the baby's bedroom!  It stays dark, it's little warmer than the rest of the house, which is good because he almost always wakes up cold, and all the clothes and the size make it so his cries don't echo and wake up everyone.  You know what?  We've had him in the for several nights now and he's one woken up at night once!  Even when my hubby and I are talking at normal levels in our bedroom.  So it's been wonderful!  We can sleep more and cuddle with each other rather than having someone between us.  It's just all round great!  When my husband goes into the closet to get dressed in the morning it's about the time the baby wakes up anyway, and about the time I get up so it works out great!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sun dress

A while back I made a summery dress with this patternSimplicity Sewing Pattern 5189 Misses Dresses, KK (8-10-12-14).  Well for my birthday, my mom sent me a gift card to JoAnn fabric (thanks mom!), I went there and the fabric I liked was on sale!  So I got enough fabric for two dresses and have made one already!
My five year old daughter also made me a necklace out of clear beads and insisted that I wear it while taking the picture.
I make a few changes to the pattern.  I shortened the sleeves, didn't put any facing on the inside collar, and when it came to hemming, I just did a ziz zag stitch all along to raw edge, and then folded it up and did a straight stitch to hold it up.  It was SOOOOOO much easier than folding it over twice and trying to get it to stay and not going crazy!  I also made the tie a lot wider and made a smaller hem on it so I didn't go crazy turning it right side out!  And I made the tie one long part and didn't attach it to the dress so I can switch it up with other belts later on if I want to.  I'm pleased with the way it came out!