Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cheesy Pasta in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

I feel like we don't eat much pasta because Matt's claimed to not be much of a fan.  I was never a huge pasta lover (despite the amounts I consumed in college) so mostly giving it up was never a big deal.  Then I realized I've posted a few pasta recipes lately (here, here) so maybe we eat more pasta than I thought?  This one today is perfect for these chillier fall days we're having and we'll be enjoying it semi-regularly until spring.  It was my pasta of choice before my race a few weeks ago, which was mainly just a reason to eat it.

It  is also something we eat semi-regularly during Lent, perfect for those meatless Fridays.  It’s not much harder or time consuming than the pasta & pasta sauce I so enjoyed in college.  In the time it takes the pasta to cook you mix up a spicy, creamy tomato sauce, stir it all together, add some cheese chunks (another thing I love about this recipe – no cheese to shred), and bake for a tiny bit of time.  Supper is ready in about 30 minutes, most of that hands off time.  Which is my favorite kind of supper, to be honest.

Can we also talk about this vintage Pyrex casserole dish.  My Mom had a variety of these forever and this one ended up in one of our garage sales, maybe because the lid broke years ago.  I scooped that right up and it’s one of my favorite things in the kitchen.  And not just because it’s blue, although it might largely be that too.  We’ve long established that I like almost anything (food excluded) in blue.  It’s so just super adorable and the perfect size for so many dishes.  I use it all the time.  

Next time to need to carbo-load for a race or avoid meat for whatever reason or just enjoy some really satisfying and delicious pasta – this would serve all of those well.  

Cheesy Pasta in a Creamy Tomato Sauce
yield: about 6 servings
-12 ounces uncooked pasta
-1 TB butter 
-4 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 TB tomato paste
-½ tsp red pepper flakes 
-¾ tsp kosher salt
-14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
~10 ounces mozzarella, cubed*
-½ cup heavy cream

*We buy cheese in 8 ounce blocks so I typically use a whole one of those and a little bit of whatever other cheese we have open in the fridge.

1) Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook 2 minutes shorter than recommended on the box.  Drain.
2) Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°.  Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and kosher salt, cooking just until fragrant, about one minute.  Pour in both cans of tomatoes and stir.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat the medium-low and simmer until the sauce is reduced by almost half and thickens, about 8 minutes.  Stir in the cream.  Remove from heat.
3) In a casserole dish, stir together the cooked pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese.  Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling.  Let sit a few minutes before serving.

Source: modified from Annie's Eats

Friday, October 21, 2016

{5} Random Thoughts

It's been awhile since I did a really random blog post.  So it's time.  Also, sometimes it's just nice to have something really easy to write.

1) I need natural sunlight.  One of the first things I do every morning is open almost all the downstairs blinds.  Except now the sun isn't coming up until about 8am which makes getting out of bed a little harder.  And it's only mid-October.  Lots of darkness ahead.

2) This:
I don't have anything to add to that other than a lot of head nodding.  It's so true.

3) I managed to both sneak in AND eat an entire packet of pretzel M&Ms (my favorite) over the course of two weeks, without either of my boys finding out.  I feel rather sneaky and proud about this although I should probably clue Matt in.  But not Luke, for obvious "3 year olds have enough energy and don't need extra sugar" reasons.  In my defense, it was a rather stressful few weeks with going on two months of having our house up on jacks and hearing our car needed a $4,900 repair (it ended up being much less). Chocolate was necessary.

4) I got my second flu shot of my life this week.  The reason I got it?  Not to avoid the flu but because Target would give you a $5 gift card if you got it there.  Apparently that's my price to have stuff injected into me.  I have done more for just $5. 

5) We watched Mary Poppins with Luke a few months ago and since then the soundtrack (or parts of it...there are a lot of songs in that movie!) has been on frequent play.  I say this with much love and respect for my husband but the line:
"Although we adore men individually, we agree that as a group, they're rather stupid."
Is the best line in any Disney song ever.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sewing Clutch Time

Now that I have seemingly perfected sewing burb cloths (I think after making ~150, I should have that pretty perfected) I have moved on (for now) to bags.  First was trying tote bags, something I am still trying to perfect.  Then it was sewing clutches which is my current favorite thing.  I love how easy these are to make and all the options for mixing and matching fabrics.  I think I finally found something, other than burb cloths, that I am good at making.

standard style
I’ve used this same tutorial to make bags in three different sizes: a fold-over clutch, a wristlet (just adding a loop and wrist strap), and a standard clutch.  The wristlet, while the smallest, was definitely the most difficult because that darn strap took A LOT of time.  Waaaaay more than I expected.  At the end I was expected to sew through 24 layers of fabric, most of them home décor weight which is thicker than basic cotton.  Guess what, no machine I have can sew through 24 layers of fabric at once (and I've had 4 different machines in my house in the last 6 months).  So, if you decide to make a wristlet I would suggest finding a thin strap to sew.  And for obvious reasons (um...that I haven't figured it out myself) I'm not going to be posting one here.  One of the other clutches are the easiest to start with but I'm including my measurements for the wristlet body too.

fold-over style
I have a pretty good scrap fabric stash (largely from covering books and pillows) and so for the cost of the zipper and interfacing (~$3) I can whip one of these up and feel pretty good about my quiet time sewing.  So little is needed to make a cute clutch which makes it the perfect scrap stash project.  I've used vinyl leftover from recovering our jet ski, and I don't think I ever expected my purses to have something in common with our jet ski, other than owning both.  And I realize the overlap of people who have recovered jet ski seats and who are reading my blog are probably rather small but if you have leftover marine vinyl...this is an excellent use for it. (And when I've bought vinyl just for purses I've actually bought the marine vinyl because I prefer working with it.)
Another standard...I may have an addiction.

So, first step is picking fabric.  If you don’t have any scraps or a stash to use, buy 1/4 yard of each of the following (And, clearly, wait for a sale.  Those can make this super cheap):

-Cotton quilting fabric for the liner
-Home décor weight for the upper outside (I buy the stuff on the regular bolts, not the super wide, expensive stuff)
-Vinyl, leather or suede for the lower outside
-Medium weight fusible interfacing - I buy this one at Jo-Ann:

As well as a 14” zipper in a coordinating color (or white...I use white a lot).

You will also need standard sewing supplies:
-Sewing machine (I mean, you could do by hand if you want…)
-tape measure
-damp cloth for ironing interfacing

(These pictures are all from making a standard clutch but the process is the same for all.)

Once all the shopping/picking out fabric is done the first step is to cut the fabrics:

Fold-Over Clutch
Inner lining (x2) 12" x 12½"
Outer upper (x2) 12½" x 8¼"
Lower accent (vinyl, suede, leather) (x2) 12½" x 4½"

Inner lining (x2) 8¾" x 5"
Outer upper (x2) 9" x 4½"
Lower accent (vinyl, suede, leather) (x2) 9" x 2"

Standard Clutch
Inner lining (x2) 11½" x 8¾"
Outer upper (x2) 12" x 6"
Lower accent (vinyl, suede, leather) (x2) 12" x 3½"

As well as interfacing ¼" smaller on all side for each piece of lining.

Raw pieces (besides interfacing):

Start by fusing the interfacing to the backside of the liner fabric.

Follow the instruction sheet that came with the interfacing.  Set aside.
photo by Luke

Pin together the long sides of the two outside pieces, cotton and vinyl, right sides facing each other. 

Sew along the length, about 1/4” in.  
Open and press the seam (warning, vinyl will melt so keep the iron on the cotton side).  Do a top stitch on each side of this seam.  Repeat for the other piece of the outside.

To attach the first side to the zipper, place the lining right side UP (1).  Place the zipper, right side UP, on top of it, lining up the edges (2).  Top with the cotton/vinyl right side DOWN (3), again lining up with the edge of the zipper and lining.  (In this set of pictures everything is lined up against the left side of the zipper.)


Sew about 1/4” from the edge.  Remove pins.  Fold back the outside fabric so the backsides of the outside fabric and the lining are together.  Press the seams along the zipper.

This is always the part that requires extra thinking, to make sure I have all the layers exactly where they need to be, but rest assured, it’s not very difficult. Just make sure the like sides are together.

Lay out the outside fabric right side UP (4).  Next the zipper with the first side sewn on, with the two outsides together and the good side of the liner facing UP (5).  Then the second piece of liner, correct side DOWN (6).  Pin.  (Again, everything is lined up against the left side of the zipper.)

Sew just as before and iron open the seam along the zipper.  Iron the lining open as well.

You should be left with something looking like this:



Now is just finishing the bag!  MAKE SURE you leave the zipper open about half way or you will be stuck with a bag permanently inside out.  Or a lot of seam ripping to do.  I speak from experience on this.  LEAVE THE ZIPPER OPEN.

Pin together the good sides of the outside, making sure the vinyl seams line up on both halves.  Sew completely around the outside of the outside fabric (it will be inside out at this point.)

Pin together the two liner sides and sew almost completely around the lining, leaving ~3-4 inch opening somewhere, I prefer the bottom center but if you forgot (like I did here) you can leave it on the side.

Trim corners.  Turn right side out and it should look something like this:

Hand stitch the ~3 inch opening shut and push the liner down into the bag.  Ta-Da!  You are done!!

I know there are a lot of steps and I tried to take a lot of pictures but these really are pretty straight forward.  Once the fabrics are cut I can knock out all the machine sewing and ironing in 45 minutes which makes this a pretty fun and satisfying nap/quiet time project.  And you just made a purse!  Oh the possibilities...

Source: modified from Barbara Huber Designs

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Helpful Hints: Freeze Yo' Celery

You know, like "Treat Yo Self" from Park and Rec although this is freezing celery...which really isn't treating yourself...unless you consider celery a treat?  I highly doubt there are people that do...I mean it's celery.  The reason I'm freezing it is because nobody wanted to eat it in the first place. 

After pretty much every gathering to which I take veggies I take celery.  It's a different color than carrots (my other standard) but not peppers (which I don't eat) and you can always buy it for cheap.  But who really eats celery besides with peanut butter, raisins, and carrot wheels?  Not many people.  So I always have leftovers.  You know what you can do with leftover celery?  Cut it up and freeze it.  That is literally all there is to it.  You chop it up (or don't, your life), throw it in a freezer bag, and stick it in the freezer.  Bam.  Now you have chopped celery for soups or casseroles or the like AND not wasting AND you don't have to stuff youself (or not) with celery at this moment. 

That's what Michael Scott would call a win-win-win.  And that's two tv references for me in one post.  I don't know if I should be shocked or amazed. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hawaiian Lasagna

I realize I've been posting a lot of supper recipes for someone who proclaims to not really like cooking.  I mean, I like it sometimes but knowing I have to get supper on the table pretty much every night has me really liking leftover nights.  Seriously, those are about my favorite.  Or maybe nights we eat out of the crockpot because then we don't even have to heat anything up because eating food cold that should be warm is one of those things I really don't like.  To the point I will waaaaay over warm-up anything in the microwave because I prefer "burn my mouth" hot to too cold.

This might also be a large part of the reason we don't do many sides outside of a lot of green beans and some fruit (usually doesn't require cooking).  Even when we do have sides (green beans) they are usually done 10 minutes after our entree.  I'm really organized in the kitchen, clearly.

Luckily, this Hawaiian Lasagna is one of those really easy meals that doesn't take much prep time which really are my favorite (and reheats nicely).  Even less if you buy the oven ready lasagna noodles which is absolutely the only kind I get (at Target).  I will grate the cheese but dealing with extra boiling water just to pre-cook the noodles isn't something I am interested in doing.  I highly recommend the oven ready kind.

This is a different take on my beloved Hawaiian Pizza (or really, just pineapple pizza which is 1000% my favorite kind).  And as a HUGE bonus for us, although Matt despises Hawaiian Pizza as much as I love it, he will eat this which I find strange...because to me they are very very very similar.  Oh well, it's nice to have another meal in my repertoire we will all eat!

Hawaiian Lasgana
serves: 6-8
-9 lasagna noodles
-at least 3 cups of pasta/tomato sauce (always err on the side of too much sauce than not enough)

-1 standard sized can of pineapple chunks, drained
-1½ cups chopped deli/cold meat ham
-2 cups shredded cheese

1) Preheat the oven to 350°.  Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray or olive oil.
2) Lay 3 noodles in the bottom of the pan.  Top with about 1 cup pasta sauce, ½ cup pineapple chunks, ½ cup ham, and ½ cup cheese.
3) Repeat these layers 2 more times, ending with a full cup of cheese on top.
4) Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake another 20 minutes.  Enjoy!

Source: slightly modified from Julie's Eats & Treats