July 28, 2015

Pinterest Cooking: Southwest Pasta Skillet

It's a busy week here at the Daniels house.  We've got things going on every night this week, so when my day at work fell apart (aka all my visits cancelled) by 9:00 this morning, I decided to take the afternoon off.  Luckily my sweet best friend was able to move up our hang out time to this afternoon.  So I spent the afternoon with Erin and was able to be home this evening.  

Once I knew I'd be home tonight, I figured I should plan something for dinner.  So I figured I'd try out a new recipe.  I texted David to give him some options and he chose the Southwest Pasta Skillet.

This recipe was very delicious and very easy to put together.  I started boiling the water for the pasta at 5:41 and by 6:21 the meal was done and so were all of my dishes from the prep work.  Any dinner that takes 40 minutes from start to finish, makes a ton of food (enough for David to have 2 helpings tonight and us both to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow and maybe beyond), and is as tasty as this was is a winner in my book!

This pin linked to a recipe on the Kraft Recipes website.  

I followed it pretty closely, but there were a few changes.  We don't usually have milk in our house, but I did have some half and half so I used that instead of buying milk.  I used my own homemade taco seasoning and I had a can of Rotel, so I used that instead of a can of tomatoes and a chopped green pepper.

This recipe was definitely a winner for us!

July 27, 2015

Pinterest Cooking: Homemade Ice Cream

So I finished up my year of cooking through the recipes we got for our wedding.  And it was a lot of fun trying new recipes.  There were definitely some that we didn't love, both most of the recipes were really great and I know I will make them time and time again.

It was fun for me to get to try out at least one new recipe each week to mix into our same old same old rotation of meals.  So I decided I wanted to keep trying to make a new recipe each week for the next year too.  This year I'm going to lean on another good friend Pinterest :)  

Over the last few years that I've been on Pinterest I've found a lot of really neat things.  I've found new recipes, craft ideas, home decor, wedding ideas, gift ideas, and cleaning tips.  The thing with pinterest is you just never know how well it's going to turn out.  In fact, that's why there is a whole website of Pinterest Fails (I'm sure there are many sites with these on them!).  I've had friends say that they don't like to cook off of Pinterest recipes because they don't always turn out well.  

I've had pretty good luck with them and I've got over 350+ recipes on my Pinterest Board.  Some of them I have made, but many I haven't.  So I figured this would be a good reminder for me to cook through some of them this year.  One thing I like about it is that I can customize this a little more to how our week is going--If we have lots of busy nights I can find make ahead meals.  If we are going to a dinner with a certain theme, I can find a dish that fits.  I've loved cooking through tried and true recipes of my friends and family, but there were times where it felt like nothing "fit" for that week and I was cooking it because I had to try to make something fit--which usually turned out okay, but I'm looking forward to a little more flexibility.

And I even made a few recipes off Pinterest last week to get the whole thing started!  I have the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid, but it's been a few years since I've used it.  While we were in our apartment our freezer didn't have enough room to freeze the bowl overnight.  So we had already talked about making some homemade ice cream sometime this summer.

We had a few friends over to swim Friday night and they brought takeout for dinner.  I decided it would be a perfect time to try out some ice cream!  I didn't document the whole thing since I'm just now really deciding to write them up, but here are the two new recipes I tried.

The first was a homemade chocolate ice cream.  I made this one in the morning and then chilled the mixture the rest of the day.  Once we started dinner I put it in my ice cream maker and it froze as we were eating.  It was very rich.  But I thought it had a great consistency and taste.

I also tried out this no churn ice cream recipe.  When I was searching for ice cream recipes on Pinterest, this came up and I thought the no churn aspect sounded interesting.  Instead of making the cookie dough, I used oreos to make a cookies and cream ice cream (Cookies & Cream is David's favorite ice cream flavor) so it was a lot easier.  This one was pretty easy to put together and I made it Friday morning and froze it until it was cold that evening.  We thought it was pretty good.  I could definitely taste the condensed milk in it (one of our friends said it tasted like caramel) but otherwise it was pretty tasty and easy to make for a summer evening treat.

Not much beats homemade ice cream in the middle of July!  I will definitely need to pull out my ice cream maker more often

July 26, 2015

Recent Silhouette Projects

I've been having lots of fun experimenting with my silhouette to try out some new things. 

 A few months ago I made a Backyard Rules sign.  I talked about how I am an impulse crafter--I usually decide I want to do something and I try to make it that day.  So my first Backyard Rules sign was on a backing of a frame and it didn't hold up well against the buckets of rain we go in the months after I hung it up.  In June I decided to get some actual wood and make one that was a little sturdier.

I painted the wood with a few coats of yellow paint.  Then after it was dry I laid the vinyl words on it and then painted over with the navy.  After that dried I peeled off the vinyl and it was ready to go.  I did spray it with some sealer to help it stand up against water.  Hopefully this one will last--so far so good!
I also made this sign for our backyard.  We went to a birthday party in June where they had 2 Texas signs out back one painted orange with the Texas logo and one painted Green with the Baylor logo.  David talked about it and seemed to like it, so I made this one for our back patio.  I already had the canvas for a project that hadn't worked out a few months ago and it was actually already dark green.  I used the Silhouette to cut out the shapes of the states on card stock and then painted around them on the canvas.  I also made stencils for the letters with card stock.  I finished it off with some sealer.
One of the ideas I had seen on Pinterest was a giant scrabble game for your backyard.  I had looked at different options--getting wood cut, finding blocks, etc.  But I ended up picking up a box of 100 white tiles for pretty cheap at Home Depot.  At first I tried to make stencils with the silhouette to paint the letters on, but they didn't turn out so well.  I found it was much easier to cut the letters on black vinyl and then put them on.  Then I sprayed them with a sealer...

...Halfway through my project I ran out of my spray sealer that I used, but I found this Mod Podge brand one and I love it!
Our crate of tiles is ready to go!  We don't have a giant board {yet} so it's more of backyard Bananagrams at this point!

I also decided to try out some heat transfer vinyl.  I bought a few t-shirts on sale and got some samples of the vinyl.  I had recently bought a shirt from an etsy shop and I really loved her others.  I decided to try out one that was like her Texas shirts.
My first two projects didn't turn out too well, but this one seemed to work pretty easily!  I was showing it to a friend at work and she asked me to make her one that had the shape of Texas and Home on it--I have a shirt like that from Zulily.

So I made this one last week to take to her.  I'm still figuring out how to perfect the Heat Transfer Vinyl process, but these shirts seemed to come out okay for beginning projects.

I love finding new things to do with my Silhouette Machine and trying out new crafts.

July 12, 2015

Cooking up Memories: Chicken Salad

Well I am not to recipe #50, the final recipe of the bunch.  And this is one of my favorites.  I had seen this recipe early on and knew it would be a good one to make.  My plan was to make it sometime in the Spring.  David and I had talked about going to take Lily hiking on the trails by our apartment once the weather got warmer/nicer.  And I thought it would be perfect to make this chicken salad and take it to eat for lunch while on our hike.  

And then I broke my foot and couldn't walk for 2 months.  I'm just now getting to a point where I feel stable enough to possibly take on hiking, but we'll probably wait a little longer to make sure I'm completely healed.  But there went those plans for the perfect time to make this meal.  And then since then I haven't found a good opportunity to mix it up.  I'm so glad I made it for this week though--it will be perfect for lunches on our first week of 100 degree days this year!

We had a busy morning today.  David's best friend Dean spent the weekend with us, so we went to church and had lunch before he headed back home.  Then David and I went back up to church for a meeting.  We got home mid-afternoon and had an afternoon of yard work, laundry and grocery shopping.  

While the laundry was going I cooked up this chicken salad.  I boiled the chicken and then got to mixing it all up!

While it was chilling we spent a little time in our pool.  Served up the sandwiches on Hawaiian rolls and they were delicious!

Chicken Salad:
*6 cups cooked Chicken ("Boil" Boneless Chicken on Stove) {I cooked up 3 lbs of chicken breasts that I had bought from Costco and I had 6 heaping cups of Chicken and little to spare for another dish later!} *1/2 cup Sour Cream (can sub mayo) *1/2 cup Mayo *1 tablespoon Celery Seasoning *2 tablespoons Poppy Seeds (optional) *2 cups Red Seedless Grapes, cut lengthwise *1/2 cup Pecans {I left these out}
-Cut up chicken in small chunks
-Combine everything in large bowl
-Mix well and season to taste adding extra mayo if necessary & salt & pepper
-Chill until ready to serve
-Serve on croissants
-Great served with fruit salad, macaroni salad & crunch potato chips

What a great summer meal!  This is another one I will definitely come back to!

July 9, 2015

Cooking up Memories: Chocolate Sheet Cake

This recipe was gifted to me by David's Aunt Jarla.  She brought this recipe along with 2 of the cake pans she uses to the shower and I've used the pans a lot, but hadn't yet made this cake.  I knew it was one that I would love, but since it probably wouldn't be high on David's list I was waiting for the right time to make it for a group, otherwise I'd end up eating almost an entire cake by myself (and it's so delicious that I probably would have!)

Last night we hosted our first meeting of our new Community Group.  For the last 7 months or so, we've been working with the leaders of our Young Adults group at church, the leaders of our Small Group ministry and several friends as we try to figure out what life "after" the Young Adults group looks like.  Through lots of conversation we decided to start a new Community Group.  We'll rotate between houses, but the first night was at our house and we served dinner.  I thought this cake would be a perfect dessert with our BBQ dinner, and it was.  

I cooked it on Monday night so it was ready to go for this week.  I took lots of pictures of the process this time.

I gathered all of the ingredients for the cake

I melted the butter, cocoa, water, and Crisco together

While that was melting, I stirred together the flour and sugar

Then I added the melted mixture to the flour and sugar

 Included the other ingredients and beat it for 2 minutes in my Kitchenaid

Poured it into the 11x14 pan and baked it for 20 minutes at 350

While the cake was baking, I cleaned up the dishes and then got to work on the Icing

First I sifted the powdered sugar and Cocoa together

When the cake had about 5 minutes left to bake, I started melting the butter and milk for the icing

Once the cake came out and the butter mixture was melted, I added the Cocoa and powdered sugar and vanilla to the icing
Poured it over the cake

Done :)

It was pretty easy to put together and I loved the way it tasted!  I will definitely be making this again!

Chocolate Sheet Cake
Heat oven to 350 degrees
*2 cups Flour *2 cups Sugar *1 stick Butter *4 tablespoons Cocoa *1 cup Water *1/2 cup Crisco *2 Eggs *1/2 cup Buttermilk (or whole milk) {I used whole milk because it's what I had} *1 teaspoon Cinnamon *1 teaspoon Soda *1/4 teaspoon Salt *1 teaspoon Vanilla
-In sauce pan, melt butter, cocoa, water & Crisco
-Add to Flour & Sugar-- add remaining ingredients.
-Beat 2 minutes
Bake in a greased 11x14 pan--20 minutes
Icing **Pour over hot cake**
*1 stick Butter *6 tablespoons Milk *4 tablespoons Cocoa *1 box Powdered Sugar *1 teaspoon Vanilla
-Melt together the butter and milk
-Sift together the cocoa and powdered sugar
-Combine these together and add 1 teaspoon vanilla (1 cup Chopped Pecans, if desired {I don't desire that!})

My brother Jeremy's favorite cake is Texas cake and this is very similar to that.  This is also similar to Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Sheet Cake.  One main difference between this cake and those is that there aren't any nuts in the icing (I prefer it without).  But one of the other things that made this cake even better is the teaspoon of cinnamon in the batter.  A few different people commented last night that they could taste that hint of cinnamon and it really went a long way to combine with the chocolate flavors.  Definitely makes this cake one of the best chocolate sheet cakes I've ever had!  I'm so grateful for this recipe that Jarla shared with me--and I can't wait to make this one for years to come!

11 days until our 2nd anniversary... and only 1 more recipe to go!

July 2, 2015

Cooking up Memories: No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cake

This recipe came from my Aunt Sandy (the same one who gave me the pound cake recipe I made a few weeks ago).  

When I had first seen this recipe in my collection, I knew it would be perfect for summer.  It was so easy to put together and was a great (and pretty light) summer treat.  We had our friends Andy and Ivy over for dinner last night, so I thought it would be a perfect dessert for that occasion.  I think it turned out pretty well and was a great cool treat at the end of a warm day!

No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cake
*3 lbs fresh Strawberries, sliced *2 (8 ounce) tubs fat-free whipped topping (or use regular or light {I used light because that's what I could find!}) *1 (14.4 oz) box graham crackers *1/4 cup milk chocolate morsels
1. Spread a small amount of whipped topping on the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan.  Place 5 graham cracker sheets down the middle and break 2 more sheets into crackers to fit down the sides.  Lightly cover the top of the graham crackers with more whipped topping and then a layer of strawberries.  Repeat three times, until you have four layers of graham crackers (you may be a few crackers short on the top layer, but that's ok).  You'll end with a lay of strawberries on top {I only did 3 layers of everything and it filled my 9x13 pan!}
2. Place milk chocolate chip morsels in a plastic bag.  Microwave in 10 second intervals until melted.  Snip the end of the plastic bag and drizzle chocolate over top of cake {I completely skipped this part.  I kind of forgot about it.  But the dessert was great even without the chocolate, so I'll definitely have to make it again with the topping!}
3. Refrigerate covered for at least four hours, or until the crackers have softened completely.  Cake will last well for two days.  It will still be good on the third day, but the strawberries will start to get juicy and leak into the whipped topping.  It will still taste good, but it won't be as pretty.

Perfect dessert for a summer night at the grill!