Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Easy, quick, and cheap...

...sounds like a bad tag line for a hooker. But I'm actually talking about a quick meal or snack that the teenager devoured and then made the next day on his own.

A little while ago, I made a ginormous batch of homemade ravioli and had PLENTY of the cheese mixture left over.

Just wanted to share with you an easy way to use some of that cheese mixture so it doesn't go to waste.

Yum! French bread pizza loaf!

I bought the french bread for $0.99 and cut about a third of it off, which turned out to be enough Ryan (large appetite), the teenager (potential for large appetite when it involves pizza but not when it involves vegetables), and myself.

Then, I sliced it in half, drizzled a drop of olive oil on it and shmeared some of the cheese spread on.

I topped it with some fresh tomatoes, roasted zucchini and yellow squash that I had left over from minestrone soup, and more spoonful's of the cheese mixture.

Popped it into the oven at 350 degrees for 10-20 minutes or so, till the cheese is melting and before it turns dark brown. Quick minute or two under the broiler and your good to go.

Easy. Quick. Cheap.  

French bread pizza loaf, not a hooker.

Question for you:
Do you have any easy, quick, and cheap meals that you can share? 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cooking, organizing, and painting.

This past weekend, I managed to knock off FOUR things from my 101 in 1001 list!

I spent Friday at my mothers house learning how to cook the infamous brisket/pot roast. Turns out they are two separate things (pot roast is cooked over the stove and the brisket was cooked in the oven.)

We prepped the two cuts of meat and all that goes with it over the course of the day. I plan to do a separate post on how we cooked them so I can add that into my recipe page but for now, consider this one checked off my list and another $5.00 to my savings account.

I am also considering this as "doing something with my mother other than shopping" because we spent the day together cooking when I could have easily just called her for the recipe. So, another one check off the list and another $5.00 to my savings account. 

While we were waiting for the meats to slow-cook, I helped my mother with organizing her recipes. She has accumulated an insane amount of random recipes throughout the years through printouts, friends jotting down recipes on scrap pieces of paper, news paper clippings, and who knows where else. They were piling up in a book and she had been complaining that she could never find what she needed.

We started by separating the recipes into piles based on categories (i.e. appetizers, desserts, breakfast, breads, chicken/turkey, drinks, etc.) and throwing out the ones that she decided she would never make again. We put them in plastic zip-lock bags and labeled the bags to help keep ourselves organized. We then transferred all of the random note papers and newspaper clippings onto index cards so they would all look uniform.

piles and piles and piles of recipes
I brought her two photo albums with extra pages if needed and we inserted the recipes into the album.

So, her recipes have been organized and I can add another $5.00 to my savings account for checking that off of my list.

Total so far: $15.00 and that was for Friday only! 

On Sunday, Ryan did an incredible amount of yard work while I stayed inside to finish painting the living room/kitchen/dining area. It is a great room, separated by a giant brick fire place. A few weeks ago, I got the living room area completed and I finally finished painting the dining area and kitchen area over the weekend. A few touch-ups yesterday evening and it is finally completed.  Add another $5.00 to my savings account for completing the painting process! Wahoo

Prepping in area. 

Gotta mix the paint

Before painting. Please excuse the massive mess and clutter all over the counter-tops
Painting around the beams was tough!
There was plaster coming onto the beams so it made it look very messy.


Check back for official before and after pictures and a complete post on the transformation of the space.

Oh, and check this out. I bought this on impulse and so glad I did. It was less than $10.00 and all you have to do is fill it with the paint. When you find a spot that needs to be touched up, shake the thing and twist the top. It rolls right on to the wall. Now all those little touch-ups will actually get done. It's such a pain in the ass to go to the garage, get the paint, mix it, pour it, make a mess, clean the brushes, etc.

Question for you:
How do you organize your recipes?
What housework projects are next on your list?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Friend Making Monday-10 Things That Make Me Happy

Aaaah, Monday. We meet again. It is Friend Making Monday though and after a busy weekend (where I completed 4 things from my 101 in 1001 list-read about it tomorrow), I feel ready for Monday. Weird, huh?

Anyways, Friend Making's what Kenlie writes:

"If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section here at: so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links here too so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic!

I found this last week and decided to join in on the fun again this week. 

10 Things That Make Me Happy
1. Puppies.  Seriously, there is nothing better than a puppy sitting on your lap or curled up next to you. Puppies and dogs are instant smiles for me.

The day we took Mulder home

Love this one of Mulder. 

2. When Ryan and I finish each others sentences or say the same thing at the same time. For some reason, it makes me feel good knowing that we think similarly.

3. The tree in girls area. Let me explain. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I went to an overnight camp as both a camper and a counselor. During my last few summers as a counselor, a bunch of us would gather around this one particular tree in the middle of girls area and read. That's where I fell in love with reading

4. Dancing. There are times when I hear music and it literally hurts from the inside to sit still.

5. Which leads me to "So You Think You Can Dance"

6. Moments when the teenager feels well deserved pride. Like last week, he finally did a pull-up on the pull-up bar we've had for over a year. He has been trying and trying all year long and he finally did it. Watching him finally do the pull-up and seeing the smile on his face was priceless and it is one of my favorite moments with him.

7. The girls. I know I've spoken about them before but I can guarantee I will be laughing till my stomach hurts when i am with them, especially if we play the dirty name game.

8. My afternoon phone calls with my best friend, Julie. We don't live near each other so we spend most of our friendship over the phone.

9. The feeling of going to bed without having to set your alarm for the next morning.

10. Nieces and nephews. I promise I am not being biased, but these little ones are the cutest!

Your turn to answer this week's questions and link back up.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Homemade Ravioli

When I first read Pioneer Woman's blog, this was the first post I ever read and ever since then, I've been making "homemade" ravioli. It only sounds fancy and complicated but I promise you, it's wicked easy.  It's one of the those recipes that, although not necessarily complicated, can take a while to make from start to finish. Maybe it's just me, but they also are a bit messy when making them. 

On the positive side, they make a TON of ravioli, freeze incredibly well, and are insanely easy to prepare on a weekday night.  

Anyways, back to the ravioli. I usually make two kinds of ravioli at once: a cheese ravioli and a ground beef ravioli.

For the cheese filling: 
-2 large containers of whole milk ricotta cheese (part skim or other types of ricotta cheese do not freeze well)
-Mozzarella cheese
-Parmesan cheese
-4 Wedges of Garlic and Herb Laughing Cow cheese
-Romano cheese
-1-2 eggs
-Salt and Pepper
-Olive Oil

*Please note that one of the great aspects about these recipes is that it is very forgiving. Don't have mozzarella cheese? No worries. You can use any combination of cheese that you like. Don't like spinach? Try arugula. Or kale. Or nothing. Whatever floats your boat on this one. You can very easily add more or less of any kind of cheese or other ingredients as you go along on this. 

1. Heat olive oil in skillet on medium heat. When oil is hot, add spinach and let wilt down. Let cool and cut into smaller pieces. 
2. Mix cheeses, egg,  and spinach until very well incorporated. 

Beef Filling:
-1 lb. ground beef (I use 90/10)
-Chopped onions 
-Minced garlic

*Another forgiving filling-add in sauteed peas and carrots for an additional veggie boost.  I'm thinking some Worcestershire sauce will probably be a good addition to this as well. Like I said, this is your boat. Float it however you want. 

1. Brown beef in skillet set over medium-high. Add onions and garlic. 

2. Cook until no longer pink and onions are translucent. 

3. Transfer to a bowl.

Directions: How to make the ravioli
-Egg wash (I use two eggs and a bit of water)
-Won Ton wrappers (I used three packages of Nasoya Won Ton wrappers but easily had more than enough filling for a fourth or fifth package)


-Cooking  spray stuff
-Filling of your choice

1. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and spray with oil. It's very important to spray oil where ever the ravioli are going to touch the wax paper; otherwise, they will stick to the paper. 

2. Line up won ton wrappers and brush the perimeter of the won ton wrapper with the egg wash.

3. Add a scoop of filling onto the won ton wrapper.

4. I found that it is easier to use two won ton wrappers for the beef ravioli and make a square for the beef filling. Once you have laid out the wrappers with the egg wash and put a scoop of filling (a teaspoon or so) onto the wrapper, gently lay another wrapper on top and press down on the sides to seal. It sometimes takes me a few raviolis or so to get into the groove of it, but once I've got the rhythm and process down, I'm good to go.  

5. With cheese filling, I find that one won ton wrapper is enough and they become triangular shaped. (This also helps to differentiate the two when they are in the freezer). To make these, I keep the won ton wrapper in my non-dominate hand, brush the wash on to the perimeter and add a teaspoon or so of the filling. Then, fold the bottom corner up to meet the top corner and seal the sides. If there is too much filling, the cheese mixture should just squeeze itself out when you press and seal it.  




Additional tips and things to consider: 

1. When you run out of room on the cookie sheets, simply spray the top of the ravioli with cooking spray and then lay another sheet of wax paper on top. It's important to spray to prevent the either side of the ravioli from sticking to wax paper. 

2. I used Glad's Press'n Seal on the first and last layer. This helps to secure them on the cookie sheet and prevent freezer burn. 
3. I like to let the ravioli firm up in the freezer for at least 24 hours before I transfer them from the cookie sheet to a plastic bag. 

4. Once they are frozen completely, I take them off the cookie sheets and put into plastic zip lock bags and keep in the freezer until I need them. It's also helpful that they are different shapes. 

When all is said and done, I ended up making 30 beef ravioli and 93 (yes, 93!!!) cheese ravioli's this time. I had plenty more filling to make more of each but I ran out of won ton wrappers first. Stay tuned for what I did with the remaining cheese mixture!  

How to Cook the Ravioli: 

So remember when I said the frozen ravioli were pathetically easy to prepare? I'm taking no defrost time needed, and three minutes of prep time or less....and no dishes necessary either. Score!

Ready. Set Go. 

1. Preheat oven to 350. 
2. Put frozen ravioli in an oven safe dish and top with tomato sauce of choice. (Bonus points if you use a disposable pan and throw it out when you're done.)
3. Bake until it is warmed through. I've pulled it out of the oven as soon as twenty minutes and left it in there as long as 45 minutes. 

See, pathetically easy.

Now, throw the disposable pan in the trash and relish in the fact of how much time and energy you saved instead of slaving over the hot stove making dinner tonight. 

I always find it worth it to have a steady supply of ravioli in the freezer. They are cheaper than buying in a package, and once you put the initial leg work in in the beginning, they are more convenient to make on a busy weekday night. They are great to have on hand for when unexpected company comes over because, let's face it, it is kind of impressive to say "I just whipped up some homemade ravioli."

Yep, I can whip up homemade ravioli on the drop of a dime's notice. 

Question for you: 
What do you prefer, cheese or beef ravioli? 
Do you have any recipes that seem impressive but are pathetically easy to make? 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Skillet Style Gnocchi with Fresh Squash and Corn

I took an overly relaxing-do-nothing-of-importance day yesterday so today I am forcing myself to be in kick-butt-feel-productive mode.

Even Mulder decided that sitting and looking out the window for HOURS on end was more than enough to do. The teenager was outside doing some (very heavily bribed) yard work, and Mulder watched him like a hawk.

Despite being lazy,  no that was right-I was being incredibly lazy. Anyways, despite being lazy, I did manage to make a pretty quick, delicious, and simple dinner (simple=very few dishes)

* I adapted this recipe from a something that I've had in my recipe book for a while but I don't remember where I got it from. 

-Package of gnocchi (more power to you if you make your own)
-3 ears of corn, removed from the cob
-1 small zucchini and yellow squash, cut into small pieces
-Minced garlic
-1/4 cup half and half
- 2-3 TBSP Parmesan cheese
-Fresh basil (I used 12-15 small leaves), chopped up
-Olive oil and/or butter
-Seasonings: sea salt, onion powder, oregano, pepper

1. In a large cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, spread gnocchi in an even layer. Let cook about 3-5 minutes, without touching it. Flip to the other side. Same thing: 3-5 minutes without touching.

2. Set gnocchi aside in a bowl. Add some more oil and/or butter to the skillet and let the oil warm up. Saute the garlic, corn, zucchini/squash until tender. Season as you see fit: sea salt, pepper, oregano, onion powder, etc.

3. Turn off the heat. Add the half and half, basil, and Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine.

4. Add the gnocchi back to the skillet and give it a final stir to incorporate all the ingredients. Add more seasonings if needed.

5. Let sit in the hot skillet for a few minutes to re-warm the gnocchi.

Even the teenager, who is an insanely picky and stubborn eater, went back for seconds. Ryan loved the crisp of the gnocchi and vegetables and so did I. In the past, I have always boiled the gnocchi but I have found that cooking it in the skillet added a refreshing crispiness to it.

 I'm off to make up for yesterday's lack of productivity. On the docket for today: cleaning the bathroom, doing this workout, preparing for a meeting, having the meeting, and going to work.

Happy Thursday!

Question for you:
What do you do on super-lazy-absolutely-not-productive days?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Score! Double Score!! Triple Score!!!

I am feeling super accomplished! 

As part of my profession, I am required to complete 30 hours of Continuing Education Courses every three years. My three year cycle ends in December and I was able to complete my 30 hours as of last night! Score!!!

I used the website and had the best experience with it. 
Typically, there are conferences and courses you can register for and attend; however, the time commitment is not always convenient and they are extremely expensive. I've had flyers sent to me for weekend long courses that are far away enough that I would have had to spend money for a hotel and food accommodations. Additionally, those courses are well over a couple hundred dollars just to attend and the amount of CEU credits that can be earned in a single weekend long doesn't justify spending the amount of money being spent (for me, at least.) 

While there is something to be said for direct learning, being with other people, and the questions and answer with the facilitator, I found that my $99.00 annual subscription was money well spent. I was able to access an unlimited amount of courses based on my interests. I chose text-based courses (as opposed to video presentations or live seminars) for the sole reason that I could print the text and the quiz questions and complete on my own time (within reason-there is a three week time span from when you "register" for a course and have to complete it). 

Best part of all, the transcripts from the courses can be sent directly from the website to the American Speech and Hearing Association for processing to comply with national certification regulations. 

All in all, I was so invested in the process, that I was able to complete all 30 courses and corresponding quizzes within a matter of three weeks. Double Score!!! 

Triple Score....wait for it annual subscription is valid until July 2014 so come January, I am going to get a head start on my next 30 hours. My goal is to complete the 30 hours before my subscription runs out so I won't have to pay another fee. 

Another $5.00 to my savings account for another goal accomplished in my 101 in 1001 lists. 

Updates on some 101 in 1001 goals in progress:

-I am going to my mothers house on Friday to learn how to cook her pot roast 
-I finished my latest book (The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark) and am in the middle of my next book 
-I have about a week and half left of my month of not buying coffee
-Still working on my 2000 piece puzzle. Made some significant progress in the last few days
-I'm slowly but surely working on paying down my credit card bill and car loan
-Does my obsession with playing Candy Crush count for something?
-Painting the living room/kitchen/dining area. I completed the living room area, but have to go back for some touch-ups and still get started on the other side of the room. 

Happy Hump Day!

Question for you:
Do you have to do any continuing education for your profession?
What goals are you working on?
Any book recommendations? 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Let's Talk About TV-

Happy Monday. 
I started reading Kenlie's blog this morning and loved her Friend Making Monday's series so I thought I would join in on the fun. 

Let’s Talk About TV
1.  Share your current “Must-See” TV shows.  
Without a doubt, So You Think You Can Dance. I never miss it. Also currently watching The Killing (love it!) and  Under the Dome. I know it's not new, but I recently became hooked on How I Met Your Mother and am anxiously awaiting the eight season to be available on Netflix. I have been watching Grey's Anatomy since it started and will continue to watch in the fall. 
2.  Do you prefer reality shows or sitcoms?  
Hmmm. Probably reality-documentary like shows. I enjoy a few sitcoms here and there, but I usually search for reality shows on Netflix when I want something on in the background while I am cooking. I like the shows like Forensics, Hoarders, Intervention, etc. 
3. Who is your favorite talk show host?
Another hmmm. I don't really watch talk shows that often so I don't necessarily have a favorite. 
4. Which network(s) do you turn to for news?  
I don't. 
5. Do you have Tivo or DVR?  If so, which programs do you have set to record?
We don't even have anything fancier than basic cable, let alone TiVo or DVR. I used to have DVR and as much as I loved the convenience factor,  I'm much happier only paying $7.99 a month for Netflix instead of a Comcast bill well over $100.00
6. Have you ever started watching a show simply because you heard so much about it on social media?  If so, which one did you watch?  
 keep hearing about Games of Thrones  so it's on my list of shows to watch but haven't started yet
7. List any TV series that you own on DVD. 
I own all of the Friends DVD's, Roseanne (another one of my classic favorites), 24, and a few seasons of House and Grey's Anatomy. Before I had Netflix or anything like that, I had massive surgery and knew I would be on bedrest for a few months so I stocked up on DVD's. 
8.  Do you have a subscription to Netflix, Hulu, etc?
Netflix instant streaming is the only thing we have. I tried the Hulu subscription but it wasn't really worth it. Ryan is also pretty handy at figuring out how to download movies and shows so I rely on him a lot for stuff like that. 
9.  If you could star in a TV show that already exists, which one would you choose?
Friends-watching the bloopers, they look like they are having so much fun and thoroughly enjoy being together. 
10.  If you could bring back one TV show that is no longer on the air, which one would you choose? 
Easy- Friends. Or 24. I loved the premise of that show-even named my dog after Jack!

Your turn! Copy the questions and link back up! 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Shit Soup" (Minestrone-Inspired Soup)

This week has been insanely hot so I took advantage of some pool and beach time. On Wednesday, I went to my Grandmother's apartment complex and sat at the pool with her for a few hours in the afternoon. It was an afternoon well spent-I sat in the kiddie section of the pool reading my book, continued working on my CEU courses, and talked about recipes and cooking with some of the ladies at the pool. One of the ladies, Millie, began telling me of me "shit recipes" -a Yiddish phrase that means a recipe where you sort of just throw anything and everything you have into it. 

That's exactly what I did with this soup. I loosely based it off of a minestrone soup recipe I found a while ago (sorry-for the life of me, I can't remember where it came from) 

Like I said, this is a "shit recipe" so there are no exact measurements or directions. 
I started off with the following ingredients: 

olive oil
2 zucchini
2 yellow squash
10 Vegetable and 10 chicken bouillon cubes
garlic powder
5 carrots
5 small russet potatoes
4 stalks of celery
2 cans (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes and their juices
1 small can of butter beans
1 large can of cannelloni beans
salt and pepper
16 cups of water
About half a cup of quinoa

1. Chop carrots and celery. Saute vegetables for a few minutes in olive oil in a large dutch oven

2. Once the vegetables have softened a bit, add bullion cubes and water. Increase heat to medium-high.

3. Chop potatoes, zucchini, and squash into small, bite-sized pieces and add to soup. Add quinoa and bring to a boil. 

4. Add cans of diced tomatoes and their juices. 

5. Add zucchini and squash. 
6. Drain and rinse beans and add to soup. 
7. Continue cooking soup over medium-low heat until vegetables and potatoes are tender and quinoa is cooked thoroughly. Add seasonings as you find appropriate. This time, I just added some pepper. The bullion cubes tend to be pretty salty so it wasn't necessary to add any additional salt. 

Serve with a piece of toasted french bread. 

This particular version of soup yielded a good amount so I was able to pack some into Tupperware containers and freeze for another time. I've made many variations of this type of soup with different combinations of vegetables (i.e corn, beans, etc.), beans (i.e. kidney, fava, lima, etc.) and starches (i.e. rice, pasta, etc.) and it always comes out tasting great. 


Question for you:

Do you have any recipe swapping stories?