Friday, January 30, 2009

What the Kale!?

Tonight I made one of my favorite, quick meals. It is creatively named "Smoked Sausage with Kale and Chickpeas." Kale is a misunderstood and often frightening vegetable. Just tonight, as I pulled the kale out of the crisper someone exclaimed, "only a dinosaur could eat that!." Kale is seriously undervalued and often ignored by American cooks. It's tasty, versatile, super healthy and cheap. My kind of veggie! So, get over your kale-o-phobia and give it a try.

Between the name and the picture above, you can probably figure out how to make it; but, I'm going to tell you anyway.

Smoked Sausage with Kale and Chickpeas Recipe:

1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3/4 to 1 lb smoked sausage, sliced.
Canned tomatoes with juice. Diced, stewed, Italian style; whatever floats your boat. Mine came with garlic. If yours don't have garlic, you will probably want to add some.
1-2 cups of chicken broth
1 can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed.
1 bunch of kale, washed, stemmed and torn into manageable pieces.

Other things that would make it even better:
deglazing the pan with some white wine
bay leaf
Italian seasoning
a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese
some crusty French or Italian bread. MMmmmmm....bread...Dang low carb diet! How I loathe thee.

Brown your sausage. (add onions and garlic now if using).
Deglaze the pan with white wine now if you like.
Add the mountain of kale to the pan even if it looks like it couldn't possibly fit. It will...eventually.
Add the tomatoes, beans, broth and any spices you like to the pan and cover.
Simmer for about 5 minutes. By this time your kale should have wilted down a bit. Give it a stir and replace the lid. Simmer for another 25 minutes or until the kale is tender, stirring occasionally.

Do me a favor.

These are the lovely party favors I made for Jayson's party. I had planned on buying some of those cute little Chinese take out style boxes. But it turns out that I am incredibly cheap. I am actually, physically incapable of paying $27 for party favor boxes for a 3 year old's birthday party. Yeah $27 for just the boxes...let me just write you a check out of my invisible checkbook...

I decided to make the little bags myself out of the left over scrapbook paper from the Balls of Fury. I found a template online, adjusted it to fit my little bottles of party bubbles, and went to work. I printed little monsters on the paper first and then cut out the bags. A stamp would have been easier and cuter, but guess what... there were no monster stamps at Michael's and it was too late to order one online. Besides, I don't think a bunch of preschoolers will care.

I used hot glue to put the bags together and punched a hole in the top; finishing them off with a cute ribbon. Take that, overpriced miniature takeout boxes!

1/3 pack of scrapbook paper- $2
24 pack of party bubbles- $7
2 rolls of ribbon- $4

Total cost: $13 for 24 favors

Balls of Fury

This is post #1 for Jayson's super awesome ultimate monster party! I made these sweet paper balls to hang up. I used this pattern as a starting point. I decided to use staples instead of glue, allowing the tabs to open up. I just thought it looked cooler. And of couse I made them WAY bigger. The big one is about 16" across.

I'll be keeping a running tab of my expenses. I am interested in seeing just how much this thing costs me. We are expecting about 50 guests, including kids and parents.

2/3 of a pack of scrapbooking paper

Total cost $4

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

25 things to get to know me better!

I am going to challenge all you fellow bloggers to take this survey and post it to your blog! You can either put the names of people you want to do it at the bottom, or just challenge all of your readers like I am doing. Please cut and paste this to your blog and fill in your own awnsers! Then make sure you leave me a comment so I can go to your blog and learn more about you!!

1. Where do you fall in your family?: I am the middle child! Blech! I vowed to never have 3 kids for that reason.
2. What motivates you to blog?: My husband is tired of hearing me say, "Look! Look! Look! Look what I made!" Now I can brag complete strangers. Something that would be completely inappropriate in real life.
3. What is your current WIP (work in progress)?: Our family history book on, Jayson's Birthday party stuff.
4. What are you watching/ listening to right now?: I am listening to hubby shoot and blow up stuff on the computer next to me.
5. What was the last thing you cooked?: Ginisang Munggo!
6. What was the last thing you read that wasnt online?: I am in the middle of the Vogue Sewing book. Yes, I am reading a sewing technique guide like it's a novel.
7. Who is your best friend?: My sister. We get more alike every day. It's frightening.
8. When was the last time you had your hair cut/styled/colored?: Maybe a month ago. We went to the beauty college. 3 haircuts for $21. Heck Yeah!
9. name 3 things you did today or 3 places you went: I did not go anywhere today! But I did take pictures of paper balls and food, do laundry and play outside with my boys.
10. What is your favorate food and favorate drink?: Sushi and Diet Pepsi. I think the chemicals in the Diet Pepsi kill the bacteria in the raw fish. So, I'm good....right?
11. What would you like to be doing right now?: Watching Superstars of Dance. I will, once I send that kid to bed.
12. Name 2 bad habits you have: Diet Pepsi consumption. Looking like a total bum when I'm at home: Crazy hair, no make-up, yoga pants...
13. If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?: I would love to be a designer of all things. I went to school for it but never finished :( I am still working on it though. (not the school, the designing.)
14. What are 3 of your favorate movies?: Chicago, Napoleon Dynamite, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
15. What was your nickname as a kid or your nickname now?: Just "Nic" I guess, only used by my dad and my friend, Dan.
16. Name 2 goals you have for the year: To actually be selling stuff regularly on Etsy, and to get my house decorated!
17. Where would you go on a dream vacation?: I have been on my dream vacation. I went to Italy for 3 weeks in 2005. I would also like to visit the Azores (the gorgeous land of my ancestors) and Japan.
18. What did you DO in high school?: Um, A LOT. I was editor of the school newspaper and the yearbook. I was a cheerleader. I was in drama. I also took lots of crafts classes.
19. Name something most people dont know about you: I am a belly dancer!
20. Would you rather call or text?: Um email. I am a SLOOOOW text-er and not much of a phone talker.
21. Name a regret: Taking out a $25,000 loan to go to a fancy design school.
22. Quick, check your phone, who is the 3rd to last person you talked to?: I'll just guess that it was the lady who bought my rocking chair off of Craig's List.
23. Whats your favorate type of icecream?: Ben and Jerry's Uncanny Cashew. But, I don't think they even have it anymore. A close second would be Ube Macapuno (taro and coconut).
24. If you could receive anything in the mail, what would it be?: Um, a check for a bazillion dollars...
25. What was the last thing you purchased?: Groceries. Woo-Hooooo!

Faking It.

This is another ren faire garb related post. Blackwork is the standard decoration for renaissance era undies. As much as I would love to have this delicate stitchery around the neckline and cuffs of my chemise, it's not gong to happen. That would take serious amount of time; quiet, uninterrupted time, of which I have none. So, I am going to fake it. By combining some of the embroidery stitches on my sewing machine, I have been able to create a fairly believable substitute. Let's just hope I don't run into a group of hardcore authenticity nuts at the faire, who will have me burned at the stake.

Nothing Says I Love You Like Fish Sauce and Bitter Melon.

What is stinky, unattractive AND delicious? Ginisang Munggo (or Filipino mung bean stew). Now, this is not a dish I would recommend for the Filipino food virgin; as it contains a few ingredients that take some getting used to (like bitter melon, and fish sauce). Once you learn to love the bitter, wrinkly squash and sauce made from fermented fish, you are ready to experience the wonders of ginisang munggo. Not only is it ultimate comfort food, it's also extremely healthy.

Ginisang Munggo Recipe

1 14 oz. bag green mung beans
1 bitter melon, seeded and sliced
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, or 2-3 fresh ones, chopped
1 cup frozen spinach
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 lb of your meat of choice. We use ground beef, because hubby loves ground beef so much, it's a little weird. Pork and shrimp are traditionally used.
Filipino fish sauce, also known as Patis

Rinse your mung beans in a colander. Place in a pot and cover with about 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. keep covered with at at least a 1/2 inch of water. Mung beans don't need to be soaked like other beans. Beans love to get all foamy and crazy when you boil them, so keep a close eye on them. A bean-foam explosion is a very bad thing.

Brown your meat. If using pork, make sure it is cooked and cubed first. Add the onions, garlic and bitter melon to the pan. Sauté until the veggies are limp and the bitter melon is no longer bright green.

When your beans are soft, add your tomatoes and spinach to the bean pot.

Add the sautéed veggies and meat to the bean pot. Simmer for 15 to 30 more minutes. If you are using shrimp, now is the time to add them. Cook just until opaque.

Season with fish sauce. Patis is EXTREMELY salty. Add just a little at a time.

Serve over rice.

Now that's some good eatin'!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Way Early Ren Faire Preparations

I designed my dress for this year's Ren Faire, but I can't decide what colors to use. The under dress has to be that gold color, since I already have the fabric (a sofa slip cover from a thrift store! LOL). So, cast your vote for one of the color combos shown or come up with a new one. No purple please.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I has a noodle!

Have you ever seen someone so excited about noodles?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Un(fortune)ate Cookies

We got Chinese take-out tonight, and somehow, someone ate all the fortune cookies before hubby got one. So, I had a sad hubby and toddler begging for "mo' tookies." There was only one thing I could do: Make mo' tookies. Not my most brilliant idea.

The tutorial I used was great. The source of my problems was my own warped (as in no longer flat) Air Bake cookie sheet. Super thin batter + wonky cookie sheet = one giant cookie. Yep, that's right, all the cookies ran together to create one giant mega-cookie. Well, Jayson and Hubby were happy take mega-cookie off my hands. It was crispy and especially delicious due to my use of banana extract in place of the almond extract.

I still really wanted some pretty cookies that I could actually fold up with a fortune. I attempted to make some more cookies, pancake style. That resulted in much more attractive cookies. They look good, but somewhat resemble week-old pancakes in texture. As an added bonus, they are massive and weigh about 4 pounds each.

Well, I'll give myself an "A" for effort, and Jayson will take care of the remaining cookies. And, maybe the bakeware fairy will come and bring me a new cookie sheet.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pirate Hat 101

You never know when you'll need a pirate hat. Luckily for you, I've come up with this awesome pirate hat making tutorial. So, let's make a pirate hat, shall we?

This hat is made from 100% cheepo, polyester felt.

Disclaimer: I'm sure there are ways to mathematically calculate the sizes and shapes of the pattern pieces, but you won't find them here. I am scary bad at math, so let's not go there.

Step 1: Take cranium measurements. Measure for head circumference and for the depth of the hat. Think from the top of the ear to just over the top of the head. Make sure the measuring tape is nice and loose when you measure around the head. Otherwise you will have a brain constrictor on your hands, and no one wants that.

Step 2: Mark and cut out felt. Add 1" each to your depth and circumference measurements. This will give you 1/2" seam allowance. Draw and cut a rectangle from those measurements.
Sew a 1/2" seam down the narrow side of the rectangle, making a short cylinder.
To create the top of the hat, trace this cylinder. Add 1/2" around the outside for seam allowance. Cut out.
Next cut a big circle. I mine was 17" across to begin with. You can always trim it down if it is too big. If you cut it too small, then you will just be stuck with a stupid looking hat.
Fold your circle in quarters and cut a small circle from the middle. The circle needs to be way smaller than you think it should be. I think I started with about 4". Once again you can make the circle larger later if you need to. Remember, I am bad at math.

Step 3: Make the crown of the hat. Pin the top of the hat into the cylinder. It's ok to allow a little extra fabric between the pins. Notice how mine looks "ruffly." Sew the pieces together with a 1/2" seam. Adjust the fabric as you go to prevent "pleats."
Now would be a good time to check the fit of the hat.

Step 4: Sew on the brim. Fit the crown of the hat inside of the hole in the center of your big circle of felt. It should look like a very tight fit, or even like it won't fit in there at all. Pin it, allowing the felt to stretch if it needs to. If it really, truly doesn't fit, now is the time to make your hole bigger. Do this a LITTLE at a time. Once it's too big, you are out of luck.
Sew the brim to the crown with a 1/2" seam.
Now sew down that seam into the crown of the hat. use the edge of the presser foot as a guide, and stitch next the the seam you just created.

Step 5: Make a cool applique. Draw a goofy looking skull and then take a really blurry picture of it, if you feel the need.
Cut out your applique and stitch it down.

Step 6: Finish the brim. Pin up the brim on 3 sides. If it is too long, you will need to trim it.
Add something along the edge of the brim. I just used a 1" wide strip of felt with my bias binding foot.
Tack up 3 sides of the brim, pirate style.

Now repeat the five "A's": Arrrg! Avast! Ahoy! Ayyy! Ai-Ai!

Captain No Beard and First Mate Stinkypants

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Not Yo Baby.

When Jayson was a baby, I started buying those little, fancy pants organic baby yogurts (YoBaby from Stonyfield Farm). I think they were about $38 for a six-pack. Ok, maybe not $38, but you get the point.

Well that got old real fast.

Being the frugal mama and do-it-yourself-er that I am; I got myself a yogurt maker. Making yogurt tuned out to be pretty easy. I used my yogurt maker a lot, until Jayson turned two. Then I had the green light to just be lazy and buy him "Grown Up" yogurt.

For almost a year, my poor, lonely yogurt maker has been collecting dust. But now that Kyle is old enough, we are back in the yogurt making business.
Whole Milk Yogurt Recipe:

3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup powdered milk
3 heaping tablespoons store-bought plain yogurt

Preheat your yogurt maker.
Combine the whole milk and powdered milk in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Heat just to boiling, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
Once the milk has come to a boil, turn off the heat.
let the milk cool to about 110 degrees.
Add the store bought yogurt to a small bowl.
Gently stir in a few tablespoons of the warm milk mixture into the yogurt. This will thin it out and and make it easier to combine with the remaining milk.
Pour the yogurt mixture into the pan with the milk, stirring gently.
Pour this mixture into the yogurt maker container(s).
Cover and let it do it's thing for 8 hours. Do Not Disturb.

Bacteria never tasted so good!

You may be able to skip the powdered milk, as this made some VERY thick yogurt.

For Kyle, I just mashed some fresh blueberries with a fork and mixed in the yogurt. Jayson wont eat yogurt on its own so I upgraded him to a toddler friendly smoothie with banana, blueberries, strawberries and (Bwa hahahahaha) some fresh baby spinach. I don't know why tricking a 3 year-old into eating spinach makes me feel so dang smart, but it does!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I just had to see what else I could "Turbo." So, I threw a frozen, skinless chicken thigh in the ol' turbo broiler. It turned out really well, crispy and brown on the outside, even without skin or breading. I made it into a yummy salad with baby spinach, a giant tomato, and a Persian cucumber. What a healthy lunch! (But probably not healthy enough to make up for the Lechon Kawali incident.)

My Baby is Growing Up!

Kyle is exactly 7 months old today, and he has officially mastered the "pincer grasp." This kid LOVES to eat! Once he figures out how to open the refrigerator, there will be no stopping him.

Pick Me! Pick Me!

Cuteable is doing a fantastic giveaway! They are going to send out a basket of handmade crafty goodness to one lucky winner. The basket will contain goodies from a variety of crafters, who will be featured on her site until the contest has ended.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I bought hubby a Turbo Broiler for his birthday. He has said, "we need a turbo broiler" over nine thousand times in the past six years. His lifelong dream has now come true. He is now the proud owner of the most majestic of all the counter top appliances. Time to broil some pork fat.

We made Lechon Kawali. It was...scrumtrelescent...Crispy, crunchy and dripping with porky goodness..and grease. Delicious in the way only cubes of broiled pork skin and fat can be.

I pressure cooked the pork belly in chicken stock for 15 minutes. I then allowed it to drain in the fridge while I took the kids to play at "Super Frank's Fun Adventure."

When we got home, I sliced the pork into strips to maximize it's crispy deliciousness. I threw it in the turbo broiler and set it to 350 for 45 minutes. It's pretty awesome how you can watch food cook in there, and take it out at the exact second it has reached golden brown perfection.

We chopped up our slab o' pig and dipped it in Mang Tomas Sauce and spiced vinegar with soy sauce. Lechon Kawali should of course be served with a side of steaming hot rice....and a bottle of Lipitor.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Just Wing It!

My hubby loves hot wings. I mean REALLY loves hot wings. Like buy wings by the 15 pound bag, and Frank's Red Hot Sauce by the gallon..just for himself, loves wings.
I can't stand the things. But, I make them anyways, because I am the best wife ever.

Since wings are consumed in such large quantities around here, I came up with an easy way to make them. Five pounds at a time.


Massive bottle of Frank's Red Hot Sauce
Chicken wings. I can fit 5 lbs in my slow cooker.

Dump wings in slow cooker. Pour hot sauce over, making sure to coat all the wings. They don't need to be submerged, but there should be some sauce on every wing. You can give them a quick stir for more even sauce distribution, if that kind of thing makes you happy.

Set your slow cooker to high for at least the first hour. After that you can turn it down. If you leave it on high, your wings should be done in 2 1/2 to 3 hours. They are done when the meat starts peeling back from the bones.

After your wings are cooked, remove them from the slow cooker with a slotted spoon and toss them on to a pan suitable for broiling. Now, as you may have guessed, we are going to pop them under the broiler for a few minutes. When they look a bit dryer and less like a gloppy mess, they are done.

For those of you who thought I might be exaggerating when I said that we buy Frank's Red Hot Sauce by the gallon...