Labor Day Blues

I’m not going to lie.  I never cared much for Labor Day.  And it’s silly – it’s supposed to be a holiday to honor folks like me – people that work.  How nice that people who work hard everyday have a holiday to honor all that we do.
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Summer is by far my favorite season of the year.  It is everything water in the Northeast.  Everything that is associated with water in our area is closed after Labor Day.  It stinks.  It’s a marking that fall is right around the corner.  Which means that the season of death is very soon to follow.  Labor day has always marked the end of summer (or the start of school) for me, so I always found myself down this day.  Today was no exception.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been attempting to come up with ideas of things to do during these coming cold weeks, before old man winter hits us in full effect.  So this is what I have come up with:

  • There is a Ren Fest down in the city area that last until the end of September.  I intend to venture down there either the weekend of the 20th or the 27th.  Holler.
  • For unspoken reasons, I have been drawn immediately to Little Falls, NY.  My sweet guy and I are taking a day trip next week to go hit a local gem and jeweler.  After that we have reservations at Beardslee Castle.
  • Apple picking in Greene County.  While we are swinging through the many orchards down there, I intend to check in on my friend Titan the Tiger at my old stomping ground – Bailiwick Ranch and Zoo.
  • There are plenty of beautiful places around to take a hike while the leaves turn.  I always seem to miss it every year.
  • I have special plans in the beginning of December to hit up an Indoor Water Park.  I have not been to one this year (which is one of the reasons why I am so crabby today), but I will make up for it in a few months.  I want to go to the Log Jam for dinner afterwards.  Yes, this day is about ME.
  • The furry guy celebrates his 35th birthday this autumn ❤
  • A few odds and ends, such as working with a fellow craftsman/artist on a project…or checking out some consignment shops to unload some of my gear after all of my weight loss!  Hopefully I will keep it off this winter.

Now, this should give me so much to do that I will not have anytime to breathe, let alone get a drive-by wax at Fantastic Sam’s.  However, I always find time to make things from SCRATCH.  Sundays are my “planning” days as far as food preparation is concerned.  I love making a homemade apple sauce (if he will help me peel apples).  I make amazing soups that will warm your soul and keep you healthy the entire cold season!  And the crock pot?  Thanks to my baby sister hooking me up with a new high tech digital device for my birthday this year…it’s going to be on in my kitchen this cold season.

Stay tuned for some of my fall recipes from SCRATCH!  A recent visit to the Outer Banks have pointed me in certain fall vegetables that I would never consider.  And HAY!  I’ll try anything once 🙂

Holler at me and let me know what you plan on doing Fall 2015!  ::C

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SCRATCH: Mini Crustless Quiches

Mini Quiches
This is a very healthy and quick breakfast/snack.  These little guys freeze well and thaw so wonderfully.  For a breakfast on the go, just grab a couple in a tupperware container and nuke them for 30-60 seconds and BAM!  You got a quick, hot and healthy breakfast that is packed full of protein.

Here’s all you need:

  • Big carton of egg beaters or egg whites (depending on how many you will make)
  • Variety of veggies (broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, peppers, onions, etc)
  • Spices of your liking (optional)
  • Shredded cheese (optional)
  • Cooking Spray
  • Muffin pan (even a mini muffin pan will work!)

Directions:

Preheat oven 350 degrees

In a skillet, use cooking spray to cook up the veggies.  Cook them up pretty thoroughly.  Set aside.

Spray the muffin pan.  Add a scoopful of the cooked veggies to each muffin chamber.  Be careful not to add to much, especially if you are using a mini pan.

Sprinkle a little shredded cheese on top of the veggies (optional).

Pour egg beaters/whites into each muffin chamber, not all the way to the top.  Leave some room as these mini quiches will grow.

Bake for 7-15 minutes, keeping an eye on the quiches to make sure that they don’t overcook.

Remove the mini quiches and enjoy.  Or save for later.  These mini quiches are also great served with a tossed salad for lunch.  Enjoy!

SCRATCH: Thanksgiving Leftovers

Yeah, I know.  That’s all we need.  Another post/blog/article on what to do with those thanksgiving leftovers.  But let’s face it people, how about making something a little different?  You know, other than turkey soup or open faced turkey sandwiches.  So I posted on my Facebook wall “What can I make tonight with the turkey?” or something along those lines.  Because I knew there would be some people that would absolutely pull one out for me.  Check it out:

Nancy in Southern California suggested Turkey Hash.  She has a recipe that calls for apples, potatoes and chicken.  She told me to use the turkey instead.

Susi in New Jersey suggested Turkey Mushroom Tetrazzini.  It seems like a pasta/casserole type of dish that is mad easy to make.  Love it.

My local people had some good suggestions too:

Tina suggested a cranberry turkey stuffing bake.  That actually sounds pretty amazing.  However I don’t think the boyfriend will go for it.  If I omit the cranberries I might.

Doug, who is an IT pro like myself suggested a stew of turkey and dumplings.  This one I’m absolutely going to do.  Eat some then freeze some.

Mom Mancini suggested Turkey Meatloaf.  That one is an inside joke.  Thanks, Mom 🙂

Sarah suggested turkey pot pie.  I have some pie crusts, but I would probably do a Shepard’s pie first.

And then there’s the other leftovers, such as the stuffing and the smashed taters.  I will probably use the stuffing for the dumplings recipe like Doug suggested.  I also saw some cool little muffin things I can do with the taters.  If I can freeze them when I am done, I will do that.

So who wins?  Susi!  I’m making that dish that she suggested.  Something totally different that I would think of doing with thanksgiving leftovers.  And, it’s lightened up!

So, what do you do with all those thanksgiving leftovers?  ::C

Pictorial: Layered Chain Necklace in less than 10 steps

I recently created a chain style necklace that I found to be pretty popular.  A major component that I used to make this was beaded-chain, or quick links as some people call it.  I finished it up with some cone findings to give it a polished look.  The wonderful part about this necklace is that you can make it in any size you want, and mix this up with any beaded-chain that you want.

This is a great project for a beginner who is looking to bump up to intermediate.  It will take you about an hour or so, only because I took out the guess work.  Let’s get started.

You will need the following materials to complete this project:

Beaded Chain – any color, any length.  As you can see, I folded mine into quarters.  You can do thirds, halves…anything depending on the size of your necklace.

Primary Chain – Whatever layers you want to add on, make sure you have enough length for it.  Make sure length matches beaded chain folds.

Secondary Chain – You can use the same as your primary chain, but I would recommend one single strand that I very sturdy.

Two cone findings
One Alligator Clasp
Three smaller jump rings
One larger jump ring (not shown)
Two oval jump rings
2 pieces of wire (20 gauge-ish), with a loop wrapped around it.  Looping and wrapping this before getting started will save you troubles.
Basic wire working tools – pliers, needle nose, etc.

STEP ONE: Cut beaded chain and primary chain to match the same length.  Take the time to be picky about this.

STEP TWO: Open an oval jump ring and string through one side of the necklace.  This will include all strands to complete one end of your necklace, and one of the wire loops that you created:

STEP THREE:  Crush the oval jump ring with pliers to make it a little more thin so the cone finding can cover it.

STEP FOUR: Slide cone finding over wire and cover the oval jump ring:

STEP FIVE: Time to fire the bullet: wrap the wire out of the end of the cone to start to make a loop:

STEP SIX: Finalize your loop – don’t worry about sloppiness.  That’s part of the charm:

STEP SEVEN: Cut your secondary chain as long as you would like the focal part of your necklace to hang.  I would recommend no longer the just the collar bone.  Swing it around the back of your neck and look at a mirror.  Decide where you want the multi-chain necklace to begin.

STEP EIGHT: Attach your secondary chain using two of the smaller jump rings to the main portion of your necklace:

STEP NINE: Cut the secondary chain in the back.  Attach a lobster claw using your last smaller jump ring.  Add a larger, solid jump ring on the other side to complete the clasp set.

DONE!  This piece can be as versatile as you like.  Do you have ideas for variations?  Let me know.  Open her up, and be as creative with it as you can get.  I dare you ❤

Happy Thanksgiving!  ::C

Post and Run: New Vendor

Happy Turkey Times Everyone!

The Buffalo area in New York got bombed recently with snow.  Funny…did you see my preparation post about a month ago???

We are supposed to be getting some heavy snow, so everything is in place.  I have enough food and turkey fixings (except my fresh herbs!) for Thursday.  I can forage plenty for the next month.  So I’m not worried.  The only thing I am worried about is driving in that horrid weather.

Anyways, a snow bound time makes for good bead smithing and jewelry works.  So I intend to use that time to do just that.  Let me tell you about a new online vendor that I have fallen in love with:

Gifts of Joyhttp://www.giftsjoy.com

Goodness.  This place not only has a wonderful selection, offers great discounts and fabulous prices…but I am completely how quickly they ship your order.  I have been partial to Mountain Fire Gems, but Gifts of Joy is really giving MFG a run for their money.  If you are a jewelry maker and you don’t know about these people – you need to check them out.

Here are some items that I have recently listed on ETSY.

Memory wire with quality glass beads

Stretch beaded bracelets – in Amethyst and Blue Sponge Quartz

Aqua beaded and wired Statement Necklace

Aqua Shell Necklace/Bracelet/Earrings Set – This also comes in ORANGE and PURPLE.  See my site for more:

Lapis Lazuli with bronze Rondelle spacers.  Something I made for a friend.  Now it’s on my regular line:

Christmas is coming people.  So here are some kickbacks:

Be safe during this Turkey Time!  ::C

SCRATCH:: Creative Cuisine: On Plan and On Budget

Before I begin, understand that I strive to eat very healthy.  Not just healthy, but low in fat, calories, blah blah blah.  It’s part of my Weight Watchers (WW) journey.  When I stick with it, I’m extremely successful.  I’ve lost 30 pounds sense this summer – when I started working at the YMCA again after my pretty harsh injury at the beginning of the year (which fueled the weight gain).  Now, I’m down to a size 10.  You want to lose weight reasonably and learn great lifestyle changes?  I highly recommend WW all the way.  I’ll take that to the grave.

I used to not be so into cooking.  I remember when I was living by myself (or married and by myself), I would make the most simple dinners.  A piece of frozen salmon with some steamed asparagus.  I knew just the right amount of couscous to make just for myself.  A lean cuisine (chicken Alfredo was my favorite for this one) with steamed broccoli mixed together in a bowl.  A frozen turkey burger with low fat cottage cheese and lettuce.  Boom.  Quick gourmet meals for the weight conscious.  These are not so bad, and I still have these in my back pocket.  But this all isn’t really “cooking”.  It’s just kind of heating something up.

Now, I love to cook.  I really enjoy cooking for my wonderful boyfriend.  I love making special dishes for us to share together.  Culinary is an art form that you can practice every day.  And it doesn’t have to kill your wallet or your waistline to make it happen.  Interested?  Then listen up…

I have so many of them…but here are some of my favorite dishes that I make (and when I make them)…from SCRATCH!

Salmon Smarty Pants (Tuesdays) – That’s what I call it.  Fresh salmon with a little olive oil, lemon and dill.  Serve with roasted asparagus and couscous.  So simple.

Prosciutto Wrapped Cod (Friday-Monday) – my new favorite white fish.  I sear it in a little olive oil and fresh minced garlic and then bake it in the oven.  Last night I served it with whole wheat pasta and sautéed baby spinach with lemon and caper sauce.

Marinated Pork Tenderloin or Chicken (Monday, Wednesday, Sunday) – make enough of it so that you have leftovers for lunch for your salad tomorrow and the day after.  Remember – no pork intake of any kind at least 2 days before weigh in (WI).

Shrimp Scampi (Friday) – Take uncooked shrimp and throw it in a pan with some EVOO and garlic.  Only cook for two minutes TOPS and just make sure they are pink on both sides.  Set aside shrimps.  Add in light butter (2 tbsp), fat free (FF) chicken broth and a splash of wine.  Make sure you use enough garlic to take out a vampire lair.  Once this breaks down, add back shrimps.  Don’t overcook.

Mussels (Friday) – I usually will get 5+ pounds of mussels from my local fish market.  They are already cleaned and de-bearded.  Just throw them in a big pot with water to steam.  Add others if you want.

There are two essential mussel dishes that I make: mussels marinara and mussels in cream sauce.  Before you are all like “OMG!  I thought this was a weight loss blog!” – wait for it…

With both of these dishes, I take most the mussels out of the shell and incorporate them right in the sauce.  I leave a few intact on the shell for fun and presentation.  The marinara dish is simple – minced garlic in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).  Throw it in some sauce (homemade or store brand), add your own Italian spices to make it yours.

The cream sauce is a little trickier, but it’s not that complicated.  Strain the broth from the mussels and set aside.  Using a food processer, whip up 1 part broth and one part fat free creamer (told you).  Add this into your skillet which already contains the meat from the mussels, maybe 2 tablespoons of light real butter, garlic already cooked in EVOO and a splash of white wine.  Holy shit, this is so good.  However, it’s not very heavy and it’s a very reasonable “hit” to take when eating and trying to lose weight.

Crock Pot Concoctions (Sunday) – I don’t use my crock pot that often.  This is a shame, I really should more often.  The last things that I made were turkey chili and lightened up beef stroganoff.  I wish there were more that I could think of.  But honestly?  I just don’t have time in the morning to put all this crap together.  And, I feel a little safety concerned keeping something cooking unsupervised in my house all day.  It’s silly, I know.  But this is coming from someone who was raised by a family who told her not to leave the house with laundry un attended.  SOMETHING COULD GO WRONG.  A PIPE COULD BURST.  THERE COULD BE  A FIRE.  See?  Yeah, crockpot unsupervised not going to happen.

These dishes that I mentioned can be reasonable on the wallet and you can make them for one two or more.  Just remember – if you got more it’s always going to cost you more coin.  That’s one of the many reasons why I don’t have children.  Good god.

My other random tidbits for you:

  • If you came looking for vegan or vegetarian dishes, sorry.  You absolutely came to the wrong girl.  I love all animals very much.  But they are so tasty and good for you.
  • Whole wheat pasta is available at your warehouse club stores.  Looks for other good starches like QUINOA. Good way to pinch a penny is by buying in bulk.
  • Don’t forget the veggies…for all the love that is holy.  And make sure they are green for god’s sakes.  I strive for 2 cups of veggies on my plate at dinner time.

    Make EXTRA so you will have some leftover.  Set aside and throw them in your eggs in the morning.  You don’t eat eggs in the morning??  Why, I ought to…  It takes about 5 minutes.  Throw them in a container to take with you.  Scramble up one egg and some egg whites from a store brand carton.  So tasty, good for you and will keep you full.

  • Stick with fresh veggies.  Again, warehouse stores are great as is Aldi’s when you can hit them up at the right time.  I’m not going to give you the “eat in season!” lecture because that’s lame.  I hate squash.
  • I always prioritize my portion control: starches (1 cup max.  Period.), sauces, then meats.  Veggies?  Have at it as long as they are bare.
  • Coupons for whole foods (like fresh produce and meats) do not exist.  They just don’t, so stop looking for them.  Coupons that are in style this season are for baking, brothing, frozen veggies, canned soups and cold medicines.  Stock up like it’s the zombie apocalypse.
  • I always keep extras of everything on hand: onion soup mix, canned soup, canned veggies, salsa, condiments.  Just in case.
  • Rice crispy treats and brownies are my quick go-to desserts.  I use sugar free apple sauce in the brownies instead of oil and light butter when making the rice crispy treats.  Get rice crispies while they are on sale and combine with a coupon.  Marshmellows at Aldis or warehouse club.  Same goes for brownies and apple sauce.  Every penny/point counts.
  • I re-use some of my zip-lock baggies.
  • Get a good tupperware set for food storage.  Store your weight loss cabbage soup in a big container right up front so you can just dump some in a bowl and eat with the satisfaction that you are getting in your veggies and will be full.
  • Most simplest way to steam fresh broccoli:  cut of the florets from the crown.  Throw it in a microwave container with a cover (does not have to seal).  Add about 1/2 cup of water.  Nuke for 5 minutes.  Done.
  • When a recipe calls for wine, I use mostly FF chicken broth and a splash of wine.  Saves on the wallet and waistline.
  • Go to a local fish market or get your fish on sale.  Get some poundage of fish.  Save one pound for tonight to cook.  Freeze the other.  Fresh fish frozen is still WAAAAAY better than just those frozen packages.
  • If you want to make a whole mess of food and freeze it for meals later – wow that’s a great idea!  Do yourself a kindness and label/date the stuff.  That way you are not pulling something out a year later going “huh??”
  • Chinese takeout.  Always start out with soup and get steamed with the sauce on the side.  Fried rice or something starchy?  Measure it.

    So, what’s cooking tonight?  ::C