Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy 4th!!

I decided to admit there was no way I was going to write any this weekend.  I hope everyone has a safe and Happy 4th!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hot and Cold Coffee

Whew!  It's been a busy week.  I'm leaving for some time on the lake tomorrow, which always means a deluge of extra house chores beforehand.  And on top of that we've been pretty busy at work lately.  However, the 4th of July is approaching, and it's pretty much one of my favorite holidays so I'm super excited!

On Monday night, I attended a screening of HBO's new documentary Hot Coffee.  It details the incredibly misunderstood McDonald's coffee case.  The movie features many of the misconceptions that surround the case, and its effect on the tort reform movement in the United States.  Before law school, I was definitely one of those who thought the case was ludicrous, absurd, and down right silly.  However, we read the facts of the case in torts.  She suffered from third degree burns all over her entire lap. It's fairly shocking at how misconstrued this case has become.  From the outside it seems like everything that's bad with the judicial system, but when you wipe away the rhetoric and hyperbole surrounding it, it's just a case like any other.  The movie also focus on 3 other American citizen's encounters with the tort system.

The movie is definitely skewed against tort reform, and it does a good job of presenting it's side of the argument. Regardless of personal opinions on the subject, it's definitely worth it's 88 minute time span.  What I gleaned most from the movie, is an appreciation for the complexity of our society.  There is no right fit for every problem, no one side fits all.  Politics aside, I definitely appreciate anything that challenges my thinking.

Speaking of coffee, thanks to the Pioneer Woman's brilliance, I've been greedily enjoying the perfect iced coffee for the past several days.  It's too dang hot to drink regular coffee right now, and her ice coffee method produces top notch coffee that I am addicted to.

Photo from The Pioneer Woman.

Since I don't think it's possible to improve on her instructions (or her humor), I'll just give a basic run down on how she cold brews coffee.  Essentially you just dump pre-ground coffee into a large plastic container.  She uses a gigantic restaurant size tub.  I just use my large plastic mixing bowl.  Add cold water to the mix, stir it up, and let the coffee steep anywhere from 8-12 hours.  Afterwards you simply strain the mixture through a sieve and a cheesecloth/coffee filter.  The result is perfectly smooth, perfectly tasty, and definitely not bitter coffee.

Also from the Pioneer Woman

She recommends (and I wholeheartedly agree) to making her version of Vietnamese Ice Coffee, using milk/half & half and a couple of teaspoons of sweetened condensed.  Words cannot express the goodness, so I won't even try.  Just do it.  You'll be happy you did.

I'm out of town as of tomorrow, but I'm taking my computer and hoping to do some posts during that time.  In the event that I get too distracted floating around in the lake{it's been known to happen}, have a safe and Happy Fourth of July!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Make Something: Envelope Pillows

I have previously mentioned how much I love pillowcases.  I change them all the time.  They are a quick, easy, and fairly cheap way of completely changing the feel of a room.  Envelope pillow cases are probably the easiest pillowcases of all to sew, and because they only require sewing in a straight line, they're a perfect beginner pillow.  In fact, the pillow cases that I removed from these pillows were the very first thing I ever sewed.    One day, I just decided I need to sew.  So I borrowed a sewing machine from my then 12 year old cousin, watched some Youtube videos {seriously}, a couple of hours and several swear words later they were finished.  They weren't the prettiest things ever, and it's fairly ridiculous they've been on my bed for as long as they have...about 4 years.

Any hoo, I'm finally working on redecorating my bedroom.  It's always the last room I ever tackle, and honestly it's never been fully completed to my liking.  Hereto, it's been an odd assortment of things.  The main problem is that I've never had any piece anchoring the room, so I've been vainly searching for things that match pieces I already have.  It's never going to happen.  So when I stumbled upon this fabric online {from Joann's}, I knew it would be perfect to anchor my whole bedroom.  It has enough color and interest that I can pull all sorts of things from it.  I'm pretty much in love with it.

Side note about the fabric- I looks super green on the website, but it's actually a bunch of grays, blacks, and tans.  There isn't any green at all.  Just an FYI, when you're purchasing fabric online, sight unseen.

And that lovely yellow chair is the "big ugly chair"...and is one of my MUST do projects this summer. It's SOO ugly but SOO comfy and it's the perfect chair to study in.  I've decide it can stay so long as I figure out a way to make it prettier.

To construct the pillowcase you're going to need 3 separate fabric panels.  Here's the easiest way to figure out the size of panels you need.  Take the overall dimensions of your pillow (mine was 20" x 20") and add an inch to both sides (so mine is now 21" x 21").  This will ensure that your pillowcase is snug on your pillow, while giving you a 1/2" seam allowance.

For the back panels, you want them together to be 1 1/2 the length of the front panel.  I find it's easier to make one large panel and then cut it in half.  So for mine 21x1.5= 31.5 and 31.5/2= 15.75.  Therefore, each of the back panels will be 21"x15.75".  You want the back panels to overlap enough so that they don't gap once the pillow is inserted and making each panel 3/4 of the total length ensures this.

The first step is to hem the smaller panels.  Hem them on the 21" side.  One panel edge will be exposed and one will be hidden.  For the exposed panel, fold it down 1/2" iron and fold down again and iron.    Sew alongside the folded seam using a straight stitch.

For the panel that will be hidden, there really isn't any reason to actually hem it.  However, you want to do something to keep the edges from fraying.  Sew a small zig-zag stitch close to the fabric edge.  That'll keep those nasty frayed edges from messing up your lovely pillow.

And admittedly, I should have sewn closer to the fabric edge.

Assembly time!  Don't look so surprised!  I told you these were easy peasy!

Ok so here's how you stack the panels.  {I tried to upload a drawing of this, but my scanner was being dumb.}  Lay the front panel right side up with the hemmed side facing the center of the pillow.  {And in case you're not a sewer, the "right side" is the pretty side.  It's the side without any ugly stitches, etc.}  Lay the panel with the hemmed edge on top of this.  You want to put the nice side of the hem facing the right side of the front panel.  See picture if confused.

Lastly, lay the last panel down.  It really doesn't matter which way, just so long as the zig-zag side faces the center of the pillow. Line up all of the outer seams and pin around the edges.

Sew around all of the sides keeping a 1/2 seam allowance.  Back stitch once you get all the way back to the beginning.  Ever wonder how people get fabulous corners on their pillows?  Well, you're in luck!  I'm going to tell you.  The key is to keep stitching around every corner, instead of stopping and cutting your thread at each corner.  So how do you do that?  When you have 1/2 inch left to sew on a side STOP.  Make sure your needle is DOWN and pick up your presser foot.  Turn the entire piece of fabric to the next side.  Lower your presser food and continue stitching.  Simple as that.

 Once you get back to the beginning, clip the corners close to the stitches.  Be careful not to actually cut them though.  Flip your pillow right side to.  Use either your fingers or a chopstick (depending on the size of your corners), to poke the corners out so they're nice and pointy.

Stuff with pillow and you're done!  Repeat for as many pillowcases as you need!

Happy Weekend lovelies!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Guerilla Baking: Banana Nut Bread

I did not go to work today.  After 10 minutes of trying to motivate myself to standup, I realized that work was a futile effort.  So after sleeping until almost 11 {cannot remember the last time I slept that I late}  I was fairly hungry.  

I have a problem with sitting still.  I'm a self described hummingbird, always fluttering around from project to project.  Even now, when I'm cuddled up in a sweatshirt, my mind keeps drifting to all of the things I could be doing instead of the marathon of Food Network/Cooking Channel that I'm watching.  Given this, it should be unsurprising that instead of eating something out of the pantry, I decided to bake something.  I've had some bananas in the freezer forever {much to Jason's chagrin} so I figured it was a good time to get rid of some of them.

This recipe is my grandmother's, and I think it makes the best banana nut bread.  I'm probably slightly biased though.  :)  I love this recipe, aside from it reminding me of my Gram Gram, because it's super easy.  In my grandmother's words, "dump it all in a big bowl and mix it up."  With so many super complicated baking recipes, it nice to have one that requires basically no skill.

Before we start, I should explain the "guerilla" part of the title.  The recipe originally calls for buttermilk and baking soda.  But if you look at my ingredients photo you should see that I don't have either of these.

If a recipe calls for buttermilk and you don't have any, you can substitute regular milk with a little vinegar added.  Simply reduce the amount of milk by 1 tablespoon and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar.

Second, baking powder can be used in place of baking soda.  There are two different approaches to the switch.  You can use triple the amount of baking powder that the recipe calls for in baking soda.  However, depending on the recipe, this can affect the overall flavor.  The second option addresses that issue.  You can use double the amount called for and eliminate the salt, because salt hinders the rising process.  I decided to just triple the amount called for.  Baked goods need salt and I didn't think 3 teaspoons would change the overall flavor.  Fortunately that gamble was correct.  

And now, I proudly present 

Gram Gram's Banana Nut Bread
  • 2 bananas, mashed.  {If you have bananas that are going bad, but don't want to make bread then, simply toss them in the freezer.  When you're ready to bake, simply thaw, cut the tops off and peel.}
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup nuts {I used pecans, but use whatever kind you prefer}
  • 5 tbsp buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract {I actually used 2, because I love vanilla}
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup oil

Instructions: Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl. {I just added them in the order the ingredients are listed.}  Pour into an oil and floured loaf pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  The bread is done when it's golden brown, the top has split, and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Mine actually finished baking in a little less than 1 hour; I have a gas oven, and it tends to cook quicker that electric ovens. 

And yes...I went a little heavy handed on the coating of my pan.  Opps.

Flip the loaf out onto a piece of wax paper.  That way you can easily wrap it up and store it.

Slice and serve warm with a pat of butter and a frosty cold glass of milk.  

Thanks Gram! Love you! :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Weekday Meals: Chicken Tortilla Soup

I mentioned yesterday that I did not feel well, and I didn't.  My skin was on fire and I'd recently developed a case of the sniffles.  I actually went home early from work today, because I'm pretty sure I'm running a fever.  I needed to figure out something to eat for dinner yesterday, and for some reason I really wanted chicken tortilla soup.  Eating hot soup while it's 105 degrees outside doesn't make any sense, and it makes less sense considering that my skin is probably around 105 degrees too.  I don't question these things.  I just make what sounds tasty.

I thought I had a pretty decent recipe that I'd developed over the years, but I stumbled across this one by the Scrumptious Chef.  It had everything I was craving.  It's a little involved, but not in a difficult way.  Mainly it just takes a while to cook the stock.  The results were out of this world outstanding.  It's definitely my new go-to for chicken tortilla soup.



  • 1 whole chicken (3-5 pounds)
  • 3 bays leaves
  • 1 sweet onion, quartered
  • 1 white onion, quartered
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • Tops of 1 bunch of celery (you'll use the stalks later)

For the soup
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 Poblano peppers
  • 1 lb. tomatillos, husked and cut in half.
  • 1 bunch of celery, chopped
  • 1 entire clove of garlic, minced
  • Jalapeno (optional)

To make the stock:
Combine all of the ingredients in a large sauce pan.  Bring to a boil and boil for 15 minutes.  Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for one hour.  At the end of the hour, debone the chicken and set aside.  Straing the stock through a fine sieve and throw away the vegetables.  Add the bones back to the stock and simmer for another hour.

During that hour, prepare your vegetables.  Place the Poblanos, tomatillos, and jalapenos on a baking sheet and broil for 10-15 minutes until the skins are charred and blistered.  They should look almost black.

So what in the world is a tomatillo?  They are a small, green vegetable that is similar to a cross between a tomato and a pepper.  They have a tart but slightly spicy flavor that makes them perfect for Mexican food.  They come in a papery husk that needs to be removed.

Your vegetables should be this charred.

Once the Poblanos are charred place them in a paper bag and allow them to steam for approximately 5 minutes.  This will enable you to easily remove the skins.  After the peppers have steamed remove the skins and discard.  Roughly chop and set aside.

Here's where I went a little off recipe.  You know it was bound to happen.  Add the tomatillos, the jalapenos (if using), and one poblano in the bowl of a food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Season lightly with salt.

Add the chopped onion, celery, and garlic to a large skillet and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.  

After 15 minutes, add the chopped poblanos to the mixtures and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, add in the pureed tomatillo mixture and cook for another 15 minutes.  
You're probably starting to get sick of me saying "15 minutes"

If you timed this correctly, you should finish about the exact time the stock finishes simmering for it's hour.  Strain the stock mixture again to remove the bones.  Add the stock back to the saucepan.

Add the chicken and the vegetable mixture to the saucepan and simmer for an hour longer.
Keep with it!  You're almost to the finish line!

At the end of the hour, taste for salt and pepper, ladle into bowls and top with desired toppings.
Some suggestions include: avocados, sour cream, Mexican cheeses (cojita, creama, pepper jack), freshly squeezed lime, crispy chips, cilantro, etc.

Honestly, it's so good.  And definitely a great cure for a sunburn and the sniffles.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A little of this and a little of that kind of weekend

Happy Monday all!  I hope everyone's Monday is going well, and at least going better than mine.  I've had a pretty rough day, due to some less than stellar sun choices this weekend.  But more on that later.  As I mentioned on Friday, J and I had a jam packed weekend.  We had such a blast, and I thought I'd share a couple of photos with you.

I took this picture on our drive in.  It's so nice being in the middle of nowhere sometimes.

Jason's mom lives on a ranch in Central Texas.  I love being out there.  The only lights you see at night are stars and the only sounds you hear are crickets...and the occasional coyote(!).  The other fun thing about his mom's house are all of the animals.  They have several cats and dogs, goats, horses, and my favorite- a donkey named Rocket.  They're also planning on adding chickens and a cow sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Clearly that's Rocket in the front.  Did you know that donkeys guard goats?  They protect them from coyotes and anything else that could attack a goat.  When I first walked up to their pin (don't worry it's a gigantic area) the goats waited until Rocket determined I was safe before they came to see me.  It was pretty cute.

This picture cracks me up.  The goats and Rocket were so fascinated by little Dolce.  Rocket kept sniffing him and every time Dolce would growl he'd jump back by 4 feet.

Seriously.  He makes me heart melt.

We were also fortunate enough to spend a day in Fredericksburg.  Fredericksburg is the home of the Texas Wine Trail.  Texas wines are the 2nd fastest growing wine destination in the county, succeeded only by Napa Valley.  The NY Times called the Texas Hill Country as a whole the best place to visit for the summer.  Personally, I think a Texas trip could easily rival Napa Valley.  I tried to plan a trip there once, but we could have gone to Europe for the same price!  Fredericksburg is a lot easier on the wallet and Texas people truly are welcoming.
And, in case you're wondering, no that was not a paid advertisement.  :)

We didn't tour any vineyards last weekend, but we did several wine tastings on Main Street.  Jason and I purchased a bottle and actually had it signed by the winemaker.  That's pretty neat.

I was also Jones-ing to go to an olive oil store, but they'd "stepped out" when we tried to go in!  Boo!  All the more reason to go back.  We went to the Rock Box Theatre for an afternoon performance.  If you're ever in the area- GO- they are an incredibly talented group of performers.  This was my second time and they've never disappointed.

We wrapped up the weekend with a visit to Jason's dad's house for Father's Day.  We spent a glorious afternoon floating around in the water and enjoying the sun.  Which brings me to my less than stellar decision...

This weekend was crazy hot.  And I mean crazy hot.  It was 104 degrees on Saturday and a densely shaded thermometer read 106 degrees at 6:30pm on Sunday! I'm usually very fastidious about sunscreen.  I realized a while ago that golden tanned skin was just not happening with my fair complexion and that trying was only going to result in burns and wrinkles.

Well, sometimes bad habits come back with a vengeance:

A red, hot vengeance.  Needless to say I will be returning to my smart sun protection plan.  That is, once I can go into the sun again without my skin feeling like it's going to burn off.  

And if you're looking for natural sunscreen or information on sunscreen in general, I highly recommend you check out the Natural Vixen.  She posts all kinds of great information on what is and is not in the beauty products we slather all over our bodies.

And now, I'm going to crawl my burnt to a crisp body into bed.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pop Pop! (overs) Recipe

Pop, pop! Anyone else watch Community?  I've been watching it since the show premiered, and I'm pretty sure at one point I was only like 1 of 50 people watching it.  For the longest time Jason was convinced it was going to be cancelled.  Turns out he was wrong.  Pretty much everyone I know watches it now...although that may be partly due the absence left by The Office's less than stellar season.

Today's recipe is one of my all-time favorites: popovers.  It's insanely easy to make, and they look pretty spectacular.  Even better, this is a perfect recipe for someone who wants to make their own breads but is intimidated by words like "bloom" and "proof".  Don't worry, I'm still pretty much smack dab in that category too.  This recipe comes from Melissa D'Arabian from the Food Network.  It's very basic, but I've dressed it up with all sorts of things- chopped herbs, cheese, you name it.

There are a couple of things you MUST do to make the recipe turn out.  First, heat your muffin pan in the oven before you add the blended mixture.  Second, DO NOT.  I REPEAT DO NOT open your oven during the cooking process.  There are not any leavening agents in the recipe.  The dough rises simply from the steam created.  If you open the oven before they finish, they will deflate.  And no one wants a deflated popover.   Lastly, it's best if all the ingredients are warm, as this helps with the steaming process.  If your milk is cold, simply warm it in the microwave until warm to touch.  That's it.  Now whip out that blender and get to it.


  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (room temperature or warmed in the microwave)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • Melt the butter and brush into a muffin pan.  Turn the oven on to 400 degrees and stick the pan in the oven while it preheats.

  • While the oven preheats, mix eggs in a blender until they turn a pale yellow color and are frothy. 
  •  Add the warm milk and blend until combined.  Add the flour, salt, and whatever butter is left over  and blend until smooth.

  • Pour into the muffin tin and bake for 35 minutes until they have puffed up and are golden brown.  And remember, DO NOT open the oven early.  If you must look, turn on the oven light and look through the window! :)
  • Now go impress people with your awesome baking skills!

Have a lovely weekend!  I'm off to Fredericksburg, the ranch, and some much needed time on the lake!