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Monday, September 6, 2021

PATIO STENCIL

 I've been thinking about this patio project for several years now.  I finally decided to tackle it this year.  I had finished another landscaping project earlier in the summer and it just seemed like the right timing.  After all, if I finished the patio then I could sit outside and admire the view of all that landscaping work I had done!

It's different than I had originally envisioned, but it's growing on me.  The colors were a bit of a disappointment.  Our house is two shades of green, so I was hoping for a sage green and tan.  Neither came out like the "brochure", or the paint smear they put on the top of the can after tinting it.....but, it's not horrendous.

It took many days due to the number of steps, and also the weather.  It was super hot, so every day we tackled a step starting early in the morning.  We also had a couple days when rain was possible, so we skipped over those,which obviously meant delays.   The first step was a good power wash!  The second step, filling the expansion joints.  This wasn't a requirement, but I did like the idea of it since I find myself sweeping and/or hosing leaves, bugs  and other things out of those seams regularly.  
                                                                                                             
      
Next up......the primer coat. This is a recommended step by Behr (which is rated as the top brand for Porch & Patio paint). We used this when we painted our basement floor, so my husband was familiar with how it goes down; watery and milky. Once that step was completed and fully dry per the can instructions, the base coat went down.  
         
That was the tan color....my husband described the dried color as a chocolate milkshake, which is a pretty good description.     Now it was my turn......the stencil queen. I have done about 5-6 stencil projects that I can recall. But, I have never done stenciling on concrete.  I didn't really give it much thought.  I did read some other blogs, but everyone had varying techniques....so I just decided to go for it!

Looking at the picture to the right, you can see differences between the three stencils.  In the first one, I used a firm foam roller.  I've used this tool for many projects.  You can see I have some bleed over, so I thought maybe I didn't "offload" enough paint, or was using too much pressure.  So I used the same roller, adjusting my technique, but still had issues.    In the third one, I decided to switch to a 3/8" roller for rough surfaces.  Voila!  

My other decision, however was the pattern.....I was planning to use this interlocking motif, but once I got these three placed and adjoining, I decided it was going to be way too busy for our little patio. So, I opted to turn the stencil 90 degrees, and randomly place diamond versions all over. Again, the paint color is more of a seafoam green, versus the sage color I had hoped for which in honesty is another reason I didn't want to go overboard.  

The stenciling took me probably six hours over the course of two days. The first day, I literally painted myself into a corner. The second day, I was able to "fill in" where I wanted to add some additional coverage.  It was tempting to do more to fill in the gaps, but I finally talked myself out of it.  

We're slowly getting the furniture back into place after a good cleaning and in some cases a fresh layer of spray paint.  Everything is coming together nicely.  As it turns out, that seafoam green is one of the colors in my chair cushions at the table, so the colors are actually coming together nicely.  

All in all, I'm enjoying the new look.  In case you're wondering we did not put a sealer on it.  We did lots of research.  Behr said it wasn't necessary.  My husband read some reviews from people who had used it and they weren't too pleased with the outcome.  It goes on watery and milky like the primer and if you're not careful it leaves streaks.  Based upon those two things I opted to got without.

Hopefully, we've got several weeks left this season that will allow me to sit outside and enjoy all our hard work.  The morning are definitely cooler, but the temp is still soaring by the afternoon.  Bring on the Fall!!!

Saturday, July 31, 2021

RAVIOLI BAKE

I'm so happy I stumbled across this recipe.  Not only is it Italian goodness in every mouthful, but it is super easy to put together.
Everyone knows how time consuming building a lasagna can be (well worth it), what I would say if you have a taste for lasagna and you don't want to go through all the bother, this is a nice alternative.  You actually build it similarly to a lasagna, but you use frozen ravioli.  You heard me right.  Frozen!

In my picture you see two types, meat and cheese.  Choose whatever you like.  I just liked the idea of both flavors, so I built mine three layers high and started with cheese, put a meat layer in the middle and ended with a cheese layer.  So good!!

INGREDIENTS:

1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 package (or two if you want to add both) of frozen ravioli
½ lb. shredded mozzarella (I used a pre-packaged mozz/provolone mix)
grated parmesan


DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Add a skim layer of sauce to the bottom of the baking dish.  I chose a 6x9 inch baking dish since I was making this for just two of us.  Begin placing the frozen ravioli into the pan.  Top the ravioli with sauce, shredded cheese, and a sprinkling of some grated parmesan.  

Continue layering to build up your dish.  I stopped at three layers for mine and made sure I added some extra mozzarella to the top.   Tent with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 45-55 minutes.  Check at the 40 minute mark and remove foil, so the top gets slightly brown.

Let sit for approximately 10 minutes before dishing it up.

Enjoy!


recipe: c/o www.bettycrocker.com

Monday, July 19, 2021

HAM, SWISS, SPINACH QUICHE

It had been quite some time since I'd made a quiche, so I opted for my ham and swiss option, but also threw in some spinach for good measure.  It turned out super yummy, and really fluffy since I used the remaining half and half that I had in the fridge.  

I opted for a pre-made frozen pie shell and was able to have this bad boy ready to eat in about an hour.

INGREDIENTS:

1 frozen deep dish pie shell
4 eggs
1 cup half and half  (whole milk works well)       
*1 cup cubed cooked ham 
1 ½ cups grated swiss cheese
3/4 cup shredded fresh spinach leaves
pepper
salt
dried minced onions
garlic
dried parsley

* I purchased a small ham steak and cubed it myself.  I've tried to use the pre-cubed, but the ham is always pretty wet and I found it made the crust soggy.  


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and half and half.  Add the seasonings and whisk until they're fully incorporated.  I didn't measure what I used, but I would say it was probably about 1 tsp. of onions and parsley and 1/2 tsp. of pepper, salt and garlic....add more or less, per your liking. 

Place the empty pie shell on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet.  Place about 1/3 of the shredded spinach into the bottom of the pie shell, layer in about 1/3 of the ham and top with 1/3 of the cheese.  Continue until all the ingredients have been added.  Pour the egg mixture over the top.  

Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes, until lightly browned.  

Removed from the oven and let sit about 15 minutes before attempting to slice.

Enjoy!

Thursday, July 8, 2021

SHEET PAN SHRIMP AND SAUSAGE DINNER

 I've come across a number of sheet pan recipes, and finally decided to try one.  I looked at a number that involved shrimp and chicken sausage and took bits and pieces from several recipes to create my own version. 

This one turned out so well, I'm excited to experiment with other combinations!  And.....you can't beat the fact that there's absolutely no clean up.  

There's a bit of prep at the beginning cutting up the items, and because I was using a number of different items that would take longer to cook than others, realize that the cooking process to this recipe works in stages.  Total cook time is 50-60 minutes. 

INGREDIENTS:

5 small yukon gold potatoes
1 bag fresh cauliflower/broccoli (found in the produce section)
1 pkg. chicken with apple sausage
1 lb. large shrimp

Optional Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. honey
couple squirts of lemon juice 


DIRECTIONS:

1.  Cut all items (with the exception of the shrimp) into bite size pieces
2.  Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
3.  Using a large plastic bag, place the potatoes in the bag, add some canola oil, kosher salt, dried rosemary and pepper.  Seal and shake to coat the potatoes.  
4.  Spray the section of the sheet pan that the potatoes will be placed on.  Cook for 20 minutes
5.  In the meantime, coat the broccoli and cauliflower with the same flavor combination (or add other ingredients that suit you).  Add to the sheet pan (I did not spray any other portion of the pan during the rest of the baking) and cook for an additional 20 minutes.
6.  Using a separate bag, add the shrimp with a little canola oil and some Old Bay Seasoning and pepper to your liking (I probably put in 2 tsp. of Old Bay and 1 tsp. of pepper).  
7.  Add both the sausage and shrimp to the pan and cook for approximately 10-15 minutes, watching the shrimp to ensure they are adequately cooked. 

I have to say, the cooking times were just to my liking.  The potatoes were crusty on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside.  The veggies had just a little char, and the sausage and shrimp were done, but still moist and tender.

I chose to make a dipping sauce as listed above, which I thought blended well with everything, including the veggies.  My husband chose to drizzle the sauce over his entire plate.  You choose....or go naked....whatever, floats your boat.  

Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

GRILLED CHICKEN FLORENTINE PASTA

I love pasta recipes, but I try not to eat them a lot, since they seem to love my butt and thighs (if you know what I mean).  But alas, it had been awhile, so I went with a Grilled Chicken Florentine Pasta. 

I'll be absolutely honest, I didn't grill the chicken.  I just didn't feel like firing up the grill for this....but I'll plan better next time and grill a bunch of chicken and freeze some for later.  It was super yummy with just lightly browned chicken on the stovetop, so I can only imagine how much tastier it would be with grilled chicken!

Get the noodles cooking while you're putting together the rest of the dish, and you'll be ready to eat in about 30 minutes!


INGREDIENTS:

2 (6 oz.) chicken breasts, skinned
3/4 tsp. salt, divided
3/4 tsp. black pepper, divided
8 oz. uncooked linguine (I used fettucine since that's what I had in the pantry)
2 Tbsp. canola oil
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. chopped fresh garlic
1 cup whole milk
1 cup chicken broth (low sodium)
3 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
4 cups fresh spinach leaves

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare grill (if you're going to grill).  Season chicken with ¼ tsp. salt and pepper.  Grill chicken.  Let stand 10 minutes, slice thinly.  If you're browning the chicken, season the same way.  Using a large oiled skillet, brown over medium heat.  Slice thinly.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain well; keep warm.   

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.   Cook garlic until lightly browned.  Stir in flour.  Add milk and broth, stirring with a whisk; bring to a simmer, and cook 2 minutes or until thickened.  Add cheese, stirring until cheese melts.  Add remaining ½ tsp. salt and pepper, along with the spinach.  Stir until spinach wilts.  Add pasta and chicken; toss to combine.

Enjoy!

recipe c/o:  www.myrecipes.com

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

CUSTOM WEDDING GOWN

This particular wedding dress is as unique as the couples' love story.  The story spans 15 years. and culminates in a wedding in France, which is where they met as younger versions of themselves.  Spring forward a decade and a half and they found each other after life/partners had come and gone from their lives.  They got married in a quiet ceremony in the Mayor's office, followed by an intimate al fresco dinner with family.  With that setting, you can imagine that my bride was looking for a non-traditional dress for the big day.  In fact, she had a tea length dress in mind.


She brought me a couple of inspirational pictures and I went from there.  Part nostalgia, part contemporary fashion....she was delighted with the end result!  A deep sheer embroidered lace "V" in the front and open back, combined with a circle skirt and flouncy short sleeves makes this the perfect wedding dress for their one of a kind wedding.                                               

                                                                                                                                                    Extra touches like a custom sash with appliques from the embroidered lace, along with tulle inserts along the front and back bodice, takes the design up a notch. 

And of course, with some Covid restrictions still in place in the EU in early June, I made a matching mask for her to use before and after the ceremony.                                                                                 Congratulations to Rachel and Youri....Best Wishes to the both of you as you continue to write more chapters to your sweet love story!       

Friday, June 18, 2021

IRISH WHEATEN BREAD

 One of my all time favorite meals from our Mother/Daughter trip to Ireland was a bowl of seafood chowder and Irish brown bread, or Irish wheaten bread.  It was such a simple meal, but it was so tasty! Below is a picture of that wonderful meal.  

We had many wonderful Irish breads during our travels, this one being one of my favorites.  So, it's become my mission to try to replicate this bread.  It's been a series of trials and errors with recipes, shapes, and loaf pans.  The last recipe has a very good flavor, but I'm still not quite happy with the "loft".  

There are several challenges.  First, our ingredients are different than those in Ireland.  Second, our loaf pans are not the same dimensions (you can see the shape in the picture above.  Their pans are longer and narrower), Thirdly, I'm baking this at high altitude versus sea level. 

Let me take you through all three rounds I've gone through so far.  Hopefully, my efforts will streamline things for you.  I'll also share the recipe that I believe I'll be sticking with while I continue to work on the size/shape of my loafs.

If you do some browsing, you will find a lot of recipes out there.  This one, as I mentioned is a brown soda bread or wheaten bread.  The classic soda bread has just a few ingredients, and does not include yeast.  The leavening comes from buttermilk and baking soda.  The best thing, it doesn't invole any kneading either. 

My first attempt was classic in the ingredients, and also in the round shape.  I even put the cross on the top (look that up, it's a fun story).  You know the Winter Olympics event that takes place on the ice, called Curling?, it uses a broom and has this disc (also known as the rock or stone) that slides down the ice? Well, that's what this baby reminded me of.  It had a decent flavor, but was very dry and the outer crust was rough and fell apart when I cut into it.

For my second attempt, I chose a different recipe.  I found this cute male chef from Ireland on You Tube and used his recipe.  He also used loaf pans.  (the recipe yields two loaves) 
It has a few other ingredients which gives the bread an even better flavor, like a bit of brown sugar and golden syrup (or what we know as honey....isn't that adorable?).                                                               As you can see from the pictures, the slices aren't very tall.                 
My third attempt was to use the same recipe, but I purchased a smaller loaf pan.  I did get the same hearty flavor and a little better lift.   So, I feel like I'm on the right track.  I'm going to continue to work with the size of the loaf pans and I may try to increase the volume of the recipe by another 1/2, which should help fill the pans a bit better (there definitely is room for more batter).  In the meantime, I'm going to continue to enjoy what I've made.  I chose to slice the loaves and then freeze them so I can just grab a slice (or two) and re-heat them in the microwave as I please.   Don't forget to add some butter, and a little bit of golden syrup on top.                                                                                                         

Below is the recipe from Chef Adrian that I recommend.  I did not make any high altitude adjustments, since I believe the height of the loaf comes down to the pans.  The bread is otherwise hearty and moist as is. 

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups plus 1 Tbsp. wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 ½ cup buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. quick oats 

DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray or grease two loaf pans (8½ x 4 ½).  Sift the flours, soda and salt into a bowl.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk, brown sugar, melted butter and honey.

Using a spatula (or clean hands), mix gently and quickly until you have achieved a nice dropping consistency.  The mixture should bind together without being sloppy.  Don't overwork. 

Divide the mixture equally between the loaf tins and sprinkle with the oats.  Most homes don't have an oven that can half steam and half bake.  So bake these on the top shelf for 45-50 minutes with a tray of water in the bottom of the oven to create some steam.  (This added technique of steaming, I feel made a huge difference from the first recipe.  My loaves were done in 40 minutes)

Check halfway through that the loaves aren't browning too much.  If they are, reduce the temperature or move the loaves down a shelf.  When cooked, tip out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.  

I am willing to admit, I may never hit the mark on this bread, since the reason this meal tasted so fabulous could be based upon the magical nature of this vacation. 

After all, I was in Ireland with my daughter.  I was walking in the footsteps of my Mom's ancestors. We had just left the Cliffs of Moher where we were almost blown into the Atlantic and a cold rain had started.  We were damp and windblown and tired when we arrived at the lodge.  We went down to their dining room (it was mid-day and we hadn't had any lunch) and this meal absolutely hit the spot! 

In order to replicate this bread to a T.....it may come down to another trip to Ireland!  There is a whole section of Ireland that we didn't get to on our first adventure.  Maybe a little Scotland and Northern Ireland this time around.