Orzo Pasta Salad

Last night we went to our friend Lisa and Andrew’s house so I brought my favorite pasta salad.  This is the first time I’ve made this salad this year and I love the way the kitchen smells while I’m putting it together.

I started making this loosely based on an orzo pasta salad my friend Celeste told me she makes.

Ingredients:

  • cooked orzo
  • chopped up asparagus (I throw it in the pasta water a few minutes before the orzo is done to cook it)
  • halved grape tomatoes
  • feta (I used reduced fat)
  • one lemon zest and juice
  • shredded or ribbons of basil
  • olive oil

I just mix all the ingredients together after the orzo has cooled and refrigerate until it’s served.

If it’s not lemony enough, you can add the juice of another lemon. This salad tastes like spring and summer. It’s refreshing, flagrant and wonderful. It can be a side or it’s own meal.

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How do you wind?

I don’t have a swift or a yarn ball winder.  I am not really that interested in getting them either.

I have a great method that works pretty well for me.

I decided to wind my yarn for my Augustine Shawlette while I watched the Jersey Shore reunion show the other night.

It’s probably not as quick as using a swift and a yarn ball winder.

This yarn is Kraemer Yarns Sterling Silk and Silver and it’s about 420 yards. It took about twenty five minutes but I was watching TV the whole time.

A couple months ago I was told that Kraemer stopped using silver in this yarn because the prices were too high.  But I think I’m pretty lucky because my skein is old enough that it still has silver in it.

I cast on the Augustine Shawlette last night and only did a small bit.  It’s going to be a fun pattern.

Finished Honey Cowl

Last night I finished my honey cowl.

I love the way it turned out and I really want to wear it.  It seems doubtful that this year will be cold enough again to wear it but I’ll try to make it work.

I loved this yarn so much.  It was a gift from my friend Ali and it was so soft and the color was amazing. I was a little worried it wouldn’t work for this pattern but as I knit, I realized that the colors looked great with all the slipped stitches and it almost looks striped.

I really recommend this pattern.  It’s easy and the results are great.  There is a seam where the yarn is joined but it doesn’t really bother me much.

Spinach Macaroni and Cheese

Last night I made Spinach Macaroni and Cheese inspired by this recipe I found on Pinterest.

I say inspired because there was nothing Weight Watchers friendly about this mac and cheese and I didn’t make them into muffins.  But I did love the idea of using spinach in my macaroni and cheese because we usually add broccoli. I was ready to try a different green addition.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk (I used skim)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a mild and sharp cheddar blend)
  • 2 eggs
  • 16 oz. cooked elbow macaroni
  • 2 boxes of frozen shredded spinach thawed and drained

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and got the macaroni cooking.  When it went in the water, I melted the butter in a small pot and then mixed in the flour until it was just cooked through.  Then I slowly added the milk, stirring until it thickened (last night it did not thicken as much as I would have liked but I was rushing).  Then I slowly added in the cheese, stirring constantly.  At this point you can season it with salt/pepper/garlic/nutmeg or pretty much anything you want.

I had my two eggs whisked up in a small bowl and slowly added a bit of the cheese sauce to temper the eggs.  After the macaroni was cooked, we drained it, put it back in the pot and added the cheese sauce, the eggs and the spinach.  I put it in a greased dish.

Then I baked it for about twenty minutes before sprinkling a bit more cheese on top and broiling it on low for four minutes.

The top was a bit crunchy and the inside was creamy and delicious.

And the spinach was awesome!  Like I said, we usually put broccoli in our macaroni and cheese but after mixing in spinach, I might just do that from now on.  It was perfect.  We have tons of leftovers for this week which is good because we have a busy week ahead.

 

Self-frosting Nutella Cupcakes

I decided to do some baking today to share tomorrow night at my friend Abbey’s bring your own craft night (I bring knitting). This self-frosting Nutella cupcake recipe was one of the first things I found on Pinterest.

This was really easy to pull together.  I ended up doubling the recipe because we needed to try them today for quality control purposes and Mike thought it would be rude to not bring a full dozen cupcakes.

The batter was thick like the recipe said so that the Nutella could be swirled on top.

They came out great although I would have probably baked them for less than 25 minutes although the recipe recommends 25 – 30 minutes.

We decided to taste one to see how they came out.

They were a little more dense than I like and could be a little more moist. I went back and read the recipe to see what the comments said. I realized that I left out half the fat!  I never put in the oil, only the butter. So, I guess they’re healthier than the original?

That said, they are still really good. And anything that’s lacking because of the missing fat can be made up with a glass of milk on the side. I still plan to share so we’ll see what my fellow crafters think tomorrow night.

Sriraccha-Glazed Chicken and Onions Over Rice

Earlier this week I saw that Beth made Sriracha-Glazed Chicken and Onions Over Rice. She said it was delicious and easy but she had me at sriracha. The recipe is from Cooking Light.

As we were making it, we wondered about some of the ingredients. Well, only one ingredient – ketchup.  But we stuck with the recipe for the most part only substituting fresh garlic for bottled.  We also doubled the sauce since Mike likes a lot of sauce and we were having broccoli on the side I suspected it might all get mixed together.

Just like Beth said, this recipe is amazing. It is so flavorful and easy but it could use a bit more heat so I might add more sriracha next time. And like I said above, I mixed this bowl together when I ate it and the sauce was great on the broccoli. You could probably stir fry more vegetables in with the chicken and onions too.

I get the leftovers from this dinner and I’m really looking forward to them.

Apricot Chicken with Stir Fried Green Beans

This is a dinner I make without a real recipe. Right after I graduated from college, I started watching 30 Minute Meals.  It was 2001 and no one really knew who this Rachael Ray woman was but I loyally watched after work.  This was when my cooking skills were still pretty novice and unless Jenn (who was my roommate at the time) and I were eating together, I was mostly making simple things for just me.

I remember seeing Rachael make Apricot Chicken and I started trying to make it myself.  I never followed a recipe, I just did what I remembered her doing.  I haven’t made this in at least two years so tonight’s version is probably very far from the original (like cooking whisper down the lane) but it still tastes delicious.

Ingredients:

  • half an onion chopped
  • one pound of chicken cut into one inch(ish) pieces
  • some chicken broth (maybe 3/4 of a cup?)
  • half a small jar of apricot preserves
  • teaspoon of cornstarch

I heated some olive oil in a pan over medium high heat and added the onion. When it was soft, I added the chicken and cooked it until I couldn’t see any more pink.  I deglazed the pan with the chicken broth.  After it came to a boil,  I lowered the heat to medium low and stirred in the apricot preserves and let it simmer for about five minutes.  I added some cornstarch to thicken up the sauce and let it simmer on low until the sides were ready.

The stir fried green beans were a little more done than I like but also simple.  I just heat some olive oil in a pan, add the beans, cook to my liking (or more tonight), then I toss them with some teriyaki sauce and cook a minute or so longer.  At the end I stir in some crushed red pepper and sesame seeds.

The sweet apricot chicken and the salty slightly hot green beans go great together. For a weeknight meal, it’s relatively simple and quick. I don’t know why I haven’t made this in years.

Beef Tagine with Butternut Squash

Tonight’s dinner was a success.  We made Beef Tagine with Butternut Squash from Cooking Light.

We followed the recipe using an onion instead of shallots and fresh ginger instead of dried. And we added in chopped dried apricot and prunes as well.  The result was so flavorful with a bit of heat.  I definitely recommend this recipe as it was easy to make and tasted delicious.

WIP Inventory

In the spirit of actually finishing some of my projects, it was time for an inventory of my current works in progress so I can really see how far I’ve come and how much knitting I’ll be doing to finish them.

Last night I decided to frog my second pair of toe up socks. I love the Mini Mochi but I think it will be best used on a different project maybe a Spectra (if only my hands could knit as quickly as my brain plans!).  The only thing I really loved about this particular project was the name Our Stock Would Plummet because they were toe up. Get it?

Anyway, I have another sock project still on the needles that I will finish one day (can you sense my lack of enthusiasm for socks?).  Right now, they are 25% complete.

I also have this Fishtail Lace Scarf that I started last April that I’d like to prioritize and finish. It’s 30% complete.

I love the color of this Kauni yarn and can’t wait to see it finished and blocked. This one requires a bit more attention so I prefer to knit this while I’m watching mindless TV.

I have my Honey Cowl which is half way there and could probably be completed within the week or so depending on the kind of knitting time I have.  This is great for movies.

And finally my One Row Lace Scarf which I’ve mostly been knitting on airplanes and long car rides where I’m the passenger because it travels so easily. It’s an easy lace pattern and it doesn’t take up any room in my bag.  It seems like I’m traveling so much but mostly I’ve been driving which makes knitting impossible.  It’s 40% complete.

All of a sudden, I feel like I can finish these projects and get started on new things. Taking inventory and frogging that half a sock really made me feel great. Hopefully I can get in a lot of knitting today.