Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summery Mango Salsa and Sweet Chili Rice

This is what I'm eating as I type this. Well, when you read this of course I will be done but know that I am in pure bliss right now.

Cottage cheese with summery mango salsa
We were celebrating my step-dad's birthday last night. His birthday isn't until next week but my brother and his family are going up north and will miss it (lucky ducks) so we celebrated early.

Our menu:
Grilled chicken cutlets with summery mango salsa
Sweet chili rice
Grilled zucchini, peppers, onions, and eggplant
Garden salad (literally)

Summery Mango Salsa

3 mangos, chopped
1 cup pineapple tidbits (drained)
1 jalapeno, chopped (seeds removed because I'm a sissy)
3 or 4 green onions, chopped
1 lime, juice squeezed over the salsa

This was so easy and a real hit. Just combine everything, douse with lime juice, stir and you're done. Cilantro would have been a great addition or maybe mint, but I wasn't sure my family would appreciate either so I left them out. We had this served over grilled chicken, though fish or pork would be a combination too.

This morning, I had this same salsa over cottage cheese for breakfast and it was way better than I had imagined it would be. I have called this a summery salsa but really all of the ingredients are available just as readily in the winter so you could make it year-round.

Sweet Chili Rice

2 cups white rice
4 cups water
1 Tablespoon oil
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce for chicken
1 cup pineapple tidbits (no juice)
1/4 cup green onions, chopped

This was another easy recipe. Basically I just made rice and threw in the flavours, but in case you're new to rice on the stove, here is what I did.

In a saucepan, add the oil and the rice. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring occasionally so the rice doesn't brown or burn. Add the water (if I was more on the ball, I would have subbed some of the water with the pineapple juice but I didn't think of it at the time).  Add the rest of the ingredients.

Get it up to a boil and let it go for about 5 minutes until you can start to see that the water has cooked off to the level of the rice. Cover and reduce to simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, but leave covered for a few more minutes.  Then fluff and serve. I didn't realize that the sweet chili sauce had a bit of heat to it.  This was great as far as taste, but wasn't very nice to give my 4-year-old nephew. He didn't complain which I thought afterward was kind of funny. What a kid.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Finally Finished

We have lived here 2-1/2 years now and we have finally finished the outside landscaping.  Well okay, it's never actually finished, is it?!  But this is the bulk of it, done.

The driveway was just finished last week and the planting in the center was done today.  Woohoo.

I can't tell you how happy I am going to be to wake up each morning and NOT hear the sound of people working out front.  he he

In Where's Waldo fashion -- can you spot Danny our white dog in that picture?

Here's a close-up to help you out (a little hint: we often refer to him as chocolate-head, lol)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Crocheted Bracelets

I haven't been this giddy about a project, maybe ever.  I first saw this crocheted bracelet on From Glitter to Gumdrops.  Christy does a fabulous job explaining all of the steps and made me want to try this.  I'm so glad she did.

She has done a great (and amusing) tutorial so please do check out her tutorial - it's great.  I started with a 30-gauge wire and H8/5.0 mm crochet hook.  I've had this crochet hook forever, don't even remember where I got it but that is the description on the hook itself.

So, you start by stringing on your beads.  The first bracelet I used 10 beads which ended up being too long for my wrist (the blue and pink one).  The second bracelet I only used 8 beads and it was a better fit (turquoise and white). I also made a sequin bracelet with only 6 beads, thinking that a certain little niece might like that one (the hot pink and sequin one).

So string on your beads, then make a twisty loop.

Crochet 3 chains, and then start to incorporate the beads into the crocheting.  Add 1 bead, then just chain.  Add 1 bead, then just chain.

Keep going until you've added all of the beads, then make 3 more chains.  Cut the wire from the spool and thread back through the last chain.  Remove the hook and tie off.

Make 6 of these.  You can use whatever bead arrangement you like.  All the same.  All different.  Whatever combination you like.  For this particular bracelet, I did a bead and a sequin in each loop.

Attach them by twisting the wire ends together at ONE end (not that anyone would have twisted BOTH ends together and then had to try hard not to swear while unraveling them).

 So twist one end, separate into three strands with two chains in each, and then braid them.  When you get to the end, twist again (now is the time to twist the second end).

Add findings of some sort by threading the twisted end through the loop.

Fold the wire back onto itself to seal the finding.  Repeat at the other end and you're done.

 I love these.  I think they look a little edgy and interesting and as I said, they are entirely addictive to make. (Sorry about the tea towel in the background.)

I had to wait until the next morning to get help from hubbie to put these on.  Try as I might I was not able to fasten then by myself.  Here's the shot:

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

No really.  This is an awesome breakfast.  Low in fat, high in fibre and protein and just good for you stuff (and yes, that is the technical term).  I've mentioned that I'm trying to lose a bit of weight so here is a breakfast that is low in pseudo-old-Weight Watchers points.

Are you familiar with these babies?  They're egg whites in a carton.  No separating eggs, no wondering what to do with the yolks, just pour.  (Oh, and once again, I forgot to recharge the barely-lasts-10-minutes-battery on the camera last night, so these are iphone pictures, which I previously mentioned are nearly as good as my dying camera pictures, any camera suggestions would be appreciated).

So, 6 tablespoons of egg whites (obviously you could use egg whites that you've separated from whole eggs), 1 tablespoon of tapenade (find the recipe here for a roasted red pepper version), and 1/2 ounce of goat cheese (I used peppercorn because I am a pepper nut, but you can use any kind).

I start the eggs on the stove in a non-stick pan that isn't as non-stick as it used to be, so I give it a quick spray with olive oil spray.  Once the bottom seems to be done, I pop it in the oven  under the broiler to finish up the top.  I'm sure this might sound all chef-like but really it is because I'm more than a little bit clumsy, and turning over omelets has never worked for me.  This cooks both sides without any risky flipping.

While the omelet was doing it's thing, I popped a bunch of kale into another pan (washed and stems removed when I brought it home from the grocery store because I'm not about to do that first thing in the morning just to add something healthy to my breakfast) and covered it over medium-low heat.  No oil, no water clinging to leaves, just the kale.  (start out with more than you think because it wilts down a lot).

Once the kale has softened up I do something that hubbie thinks is crazy.  I add some pepper, some salt, and red wine vinegar.  Mmmm, wakes the whole thing up and gives awesome flavour without adding any calories (okay, maybe 2, but I'm calling that none).

If I'm making the kale for someone else or as a side with supper, I like to add a drizzle of olive oil and chopped garlic to the pan, then finish it off with a spritz of lemon juice and some grated Parmesan cheese.  This combo was suggested by my good friend Becky of Becky and the Beanstalk (her site is not active but the archive stuff is so worthwhile) and inspired by Jamie Oliver and it is fabulous.

This was only 2.25 old pseudo points if anyone's counting.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Making Rings and New Toys

I have a new toy and I love it.  I first bought a thing-a-ma jig at Michael's (50% off coupon) but I couldn't really get it to work right.  Amy from One Artsy Mama helped walk me through how to use it (there were no instructions and I really wasn't figuring out how to use it by myself) but it still wasn't working right.  So I returned it and got myself a ring mandrel.

I love this thing.  All it does is give me something to wrap the wire around, but I love this thing.  I was initially trying to make rings by using my own finger but the wire would cut in and then the blood would make it so slippery.  Now, no blood.  And I can figure out the sizing, not perfectly (it's not easy actually) but better than just plain guessing.  Did I mention I love this thing?  :)

So, how about a peek at my ring attempts then, huh?  I started by wrapping the wire a few times around the mandrel and then twisting to anchor it.

From here I threaded on a few seed beads and then just bent the two sides until I liked how it looked.

This ring was done with the 24 gauge wire which is easy to work with, but isn't as durable as the lower gauges.  When my finger would catch on something, the ring would bend a bit and I would have to push it back into place.  Fortunately, that wasn't difficult to do (just used my fingers) but with practice I think 20 gauge wire would be a bit better.

This is another 24-gauge wire ring with white beads that I wore to Father's Day and seriously, every single woman there commented on how much they liked it (separately I mean, not like a big group "ooh that's so nice").  Please try to disregard my seriously aging hands, they'd been out in the garden doing hard labour all day at this point.

Next up are a few more tailored attempts.  Wish me luck and have a fabulous weekend.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade

I've been trying to lose a bit of weight (well, 20 pounds but it's easier to think about it as a bit of weight).  With summer's fresh produce and perfect conditions for some extra exercise, it seemed like a good plan.  So I started doing a pseudo-Weight Watchers sort of thing.  There is a lot of information online and so many great sites with recipes.

So far I've lost 7 pounds.  I know,....thrilled!!  It isn't easy but I've been trying a lot of new things to get flavour without fat and calories.  This tapenade has great zing and no oil, perfect to trim back calories but add big taste.

Start with a half a jar of roasted red peppers (I used the sliced kind which holds a lot more than the one with the whole pieces and drained it), add 5 cloves of garlic (you can pare this back if you're not as big a garlic fan as I am) and lots of black pepper.

Throw in 20 green olives and 2 Tablespoons of capers.

At this point you can add fresh herbs (parsley, dill, chives, basil would all work well), some lemon zest, maybe some dried chillies.  I wouldn't add salt to it though as the rest of the ingredients are all pretty salty on their own.  Give it a whirl (I used the attachment on my immersion blender).

And that's it.  Makes about 12 tablespoons and if you're a weight watchers point fan, about 0.25 points per Tablespoon (old points).  I added this to my egg white omelette this morning, to a baby potato/artichoke saute last night and to sardine pasta for lunch today.  Can you say addicted?  :)

(By the way, the battery on my camera pooped out right as I was making this so I used my iphone camera.  I think I need to buy a new camera because I can't tell the difference in photo quality.  Any suggestions by people who love their cameras?)

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lamp Shade Fix

Do you remember this attempt at stenciling from my lamp shade fail?

This was my first try at painting on a stencil and it didn't go well at all.  The trauma of that event had me steering well clear of stenciling and veering towards contact paper.  I found this paper at the dollar store (it was $2 - false advertising? lol).  Here is how it turned out.

The rest of the decor for this room is going to be all black and white so I think this pattern works nicely.  

The contact paper was insanely difficult to apply to the shade.  I kept trying to hold the shade between my knees while I applied the contact paper and tried to smooth out wrinkles.  I'm sure it looked hilarious but in the end, it did the job (well, as long as you don't look too closely).

I saw this duvet cover and pillowcases at Ikea.  I thought that black sheets might look cool with them, just peeking out at the top when you fold back the duvet.
Love this little nightstand, also from Ikea.
These drapes look like a perfect match for the new lamp shade (yep, Ikea again).
Much more to do in this room, but at least the shade is fixed.  It's a start.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beamsville Market

Saturday was our town's first market.  Nothing says summertime to me quite like the country market.  I love all of the fresh produce.  I love talking with the families that plant and harvest these fabulous fruits and vegetables.  I love how everyone seems so cheery, smiling, nodding, maybe sparking up a brief conversation.  I love everything about the market.

But my favourite thing? My absolute favourite thing is the flowers.  

We also got baby zucchini, the first local strawberries, radishes the size of your fist and asparagus, but every day I enjoy these flowers.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Well, here is my second try at the bird's nest pendant.  I think this one turned out so much better, neater.  I like the beads better too.  Hubbie asked if I was going to use a bit of cover-up on my chest blemishes which sort of cracked me up.  Sorry gals, but I am completely okay sharing a hive or two with you.  Hope you can see past the horror that is my chest to see the pendant.  :)  (To be fair, he didn't care but thought that I might be self-conscious.  I figure, hey, I'm allergic to everything so if I try to find a time when I'm not having a reaction, I'll never get to share things with you, lol).

This one is a variation on the theme but with a button in the middle for a different look.

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