Saturday, January 31, 2015

One dish=lunch for the week

It's amazing how expensive "grabbing lunch" can be when you do it multiple times throughout the week.  (Am I the only one who still thinks it's going to come out to five bucks or less?  How long ago was that?!)  In an effort to do more meal planning I have a go-to casserole that can feed me for days.  It's flexible, it's easy, and most importantly, it's delicious!

Here's what you need:

-6 eggs
-green onions (one bunch, chopped)
-half of a container of mushrooms
-two small tomatoes
-a handful of shredded cheese (Feta works, too!)
-salt and pepper
-a can of artichokes
-one link of smoked sausage (or a small package of diced ham)

Start by cracking the eggs:

vegetable casserole

Add some salt and pepper plus the artichokes:

vegetable casserole

Add the chopped green onions:

vegetable casserole

Add the mushrooms (I cut them a little smaller than their original slices):

vegetable casserole

Add some diced tomatoes:

vegetable casserole

and the cheese:

vegetable casserole

and the sliced sausage!  I forgot to take a picture of this step, but I tried a new flavor:  jalapeno and cheese!  (Yes, I was the kid who loved the hot dogs with the cheese inside.)

Mix it all together, breaking up the egg yolks:

vegetable casserole

Pour it into a 9x13" pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. 

vegetable casserole

Finished, easy as that! 

vegetable casserole

You can add any of your leftover vegetables to this.  (Zucchini is fantastic!)  This is a great way to use up those odds and ends in the fridge.



Crawfish Dip

If there's one thing I miss about Louisiana, it's the food.  Po'boys, Jambalaya, Casino Cakes...I need to stop there because I'm getting hungry!  I'm trying out a new recipe that involves crawfish and I can't wait to eat this at the Super Bowl party we'll be attending tomorrow!

Crawfish Dip

You will need:
-a half stick of butter
-a bunch of green onions, chopped
-a package of frozen crawfish tail meat, thawed
-two blocks of cream cheese, room temperature
-a half cup of mayo
-several shakes of hot sauce
-1/2 to 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce

Melt the butter over medium heat.  Once the butter is mostly melted, add half of the chopped onions.

melted butter

Now it's time for the mudbugs--that's Cajun for crawfish!  This brand comes in a 12 ounce package.  (Tip:  You can find these near the frozen seafood.)


Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the crawfish. 


Let it simmer for about 10 minutes.  In the meantime, gather the rest of your ingredients and combine the softened cream cheese and mayo. 

cream cheese

Use a mixer (or stir really furiously?) to combine them.  Then, add the Worcestershire sauce and the dashes of hot sauce.  I added about seven shakes of Tabasco.

cream cheese seafood dip

After this is combined it should be time to pull the crawfish off the stove and add it to the bowl.  You'll also want to add the rest of the chopped onions.

crawfish dip

I mixed them by hand with a spatula so the texture of the crawfish would remain intact. 

The original recipe (you can read it here ) recommends that you make it a day ahead so the flavors can mingle.  Then, when you're ready, serve it cold.  Let's hope it lives up to the pictures!


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Easy cake decorating idea: sprinkle cake!

The tip for today is a quick one:  use sprinkles to spell out your message!

sprinkle cake

I made this cake for a coworker's promotion.  She loves yellow so that, of course, needed to be the base color.  I had a hard time picking another color to go with it (I was making it the night before and didn't want any other icing colors to bleed into the yellow).  I looked through my sprinkle collection and found a big jar of stars, but this could work with any kind of sprinkle, or even small candies!

It took me some trial and error to get the spacing right on the message but it came together nicely.  I wrote out the message and went back in to fill in any gaps on the letters, since the lighter colors like yellow and orange were harder to see and made the letters look a little shaky.  It need more flair than just the word so I added some stars (made of stars, haha!) and then a border. 

Quick, cute, and a simple way to spell out your message!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Office Chic

I've moved around a bit and I'm no stranger to setting up a new space.  My first classroom as in a closet, as was my first school office:

...a closet full of stuff.

After that it was on to a shared portable that I showed here and here:

and eventually on office "up on the hill" not far from the administration building (but connected to the school's alternative behavior program...oh well, close enough).  I recently mentioned here that I've moved again but before I did I snapped a few pictures of the old office. 

It was bright turquoise when I moved in but that didn't bother me--I already had a lamp to match!  The area around my desk was covered in cards and notes that made me smile:

Dual monitors are the greatest thing!  How did I ever work without them?

You can just see the top of the giant Eiffel Tower collage that my sister- and mother-in-law put together for me with pictures of our 2013 trip to Europe.  I love seeing the pictures and remembering all of the places we went.  Up near the top is a painting I made at one of those "paint with a twist" kinds of places.

I insisted on snagging my in-laws' old loveseat and putting it in my little office.  I meant to sit on it when I had a lot of grant reading to do but my reading load decreased once I got the couch and everyone else sat on it a lot more than I did.  It was comfy, though!

I made curtains to eliminate the afternoon glare on my computer.  I also took apart a Paris calendar and hung all of the pictures to brighten up the place.  I also framed and added ribbon hangers to a couple of watercolor pictures of Paris that my sister- and brother-in-law picked up for me on one of their trips.

Hey, a purple Christmas tree! 

The artwork is from my Texas Wesleyan days.  It lived a HMS after I left but when the grant ended their I reclaimed them and now they're a real bright spot in my office.  I love the decal on the side of the filing cabinet:  a giant Eiffel Tower!

Next week I'll cover the new space, which includes a couple of new pieces and some blank wall space.  You'll have to give me some ideas on how to fill it!


Saturday, January 17, 2015

How to grown green onions on your windowsill

Did you know that you can regrow green onions?  It's so easy!

Cut the onions so they're all about the same size.  You'll want just a little bit of green but you're mostly saving the white bulbs and lower stalks.  I leave the rubber band around them so they'll stay together.  Put them in a cup of water so the water is about as high as the white of the onions.

regrow green onions

This is what they looked like at the end of the first day.  You can see how they're already starting to sprout! 

After three days:

regrow green onions

Four days:

regrow green onions

Eight days (keep an eye on that tall one!):

regrow green onions

Ten days:

regrow green onions

Thirteen days:

regrow green onions

Sixteen days:

regrow green onions

This is about the point where I cut them off and start over.  I've repeated this process three times but they may be able to go further.  (At that point I just got burnt out on green onions, haha!)


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Craft Table

My craft room is in the rounded part of the house so I was looking for a round table to fit the area so I could craft by all of the windows.  I bought a $10 table on Craigslist that looked promising--it had a pedestal base!  Unfortunately when I started sanding the top it just started peeling and splintering like crazy.  It turns out that the thin layer on top was just covering tons of wood chips that had been pressed together to make up most of the table top.  I took the top off of the base and looked for a new table top.  It is crazy expensive to buy a table top that's close to 50" so another cheap table was the way to go.  I found a simple table at Goodwill for--you guessed it--$10.  I took it straight to my dad's house and we got to work sanding it.  It was a nice, solid piece of wood that would look great on that pedestal base. 

Since I now realize I didn't take many before pictures, here's what I DO have:

the base:

wood table

and the top:

wood table

Dad fixed up the table so the two pieces would fit (the size of the new top was very close to the old one!).  I took it home and started to paint. 

If I did this again I would definitely prime the wood first so the paint wouldn't bubble up.  Instead I used a paint and primer in one, which works well for walls but not as well for wood furniture.  However, I:

a) had never done this before
b) am incredibly impatient regarding my projects (example here )

Spray paint was definitely the way to go on the base, considering all of the nooks and crannies.  Here are some pics of the process:

wood table

wood table

wood table

wood table

wood table

wood table

wood table

I wasn't thrilled with the finish on the top (a spray clear coat) because I had to stop spraying before I really wanted to because of the bubbling.  Truthfully, if this was going to be used as a dining room table I would have not gotten far with the painting before I sanded it down and started over, priming first.  However, this table is going to be a work surface (I've since gotten paint on it!) so it really wasn't a big deal to me.

Hooray for $10 furniture!


Friday, January 9, 2015

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

It is definitely bread pudding season.

chocolate chip bread pudding

Making a big batch of bread pudding for a group event means you get to have your fill while giving the rest to your friends.  A little bit of indulgence is a lot better than a pan full of indulgence!

I love this bread pudding recipe from Giada De Laurentiis.  She likes to use Panettone, which you see around Christmas.  It looks like this:


I usually use it because I love the slightly sweet bread and the chocolate chips.  This year, I just ran down to Albertson's and bought some of that fresh-baked bread that they guarantee to be hot on your way home from work.  I grabbed a couple since this was my first time going that route but it turns out one is plenty. 

Start cutting the bread into roughly 1 inch cubes.  You'll also want to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

bread cubes
bread cubes
Add in a handful of chocolate chips and repeat the bread and chips for a second layer. 
bread cubes with chocolate chips

bread cubes with chocolate chips

Your casserole dish should be slightly overflowing, which is okay because you're about to smush it down!

To make the custard you'll need:
-8 eggs
-1 1/2 cups whipping cream (*I used half and half.)
-2 1/2 cups whole milk (*I used skim milk.  Don't tell Giada!)
-1 1/4 cups sugar

Whisk those ingredients together:


and pour the mixture all over the bread cubes.  Spilling part of it down your cabinets and onto the floor is an optional step that I would not recommend, not that I did that or anything...

Use both of your (clean, jewelry-free) hands and press down the bread cubes.  You want each cube to have the chance to be submerged in the custard mixture.  They won't stay under but they will remain wet.  Let the wet bread cubes sit for at least 30 minutes or cover it and pop it into the fridge for a couple of hours.  (I made mine at 1:30 and put it into the oven at 4:00 for an event at 5.) 

When it's time to bake it you'll bake it--uncovered--for 45 minutes.  You're looking for the top to bounce back a little when you press it.  The recipe describes it as "the pudding puffs and is set in the center."  Let it cool just enough so it doesn't burn your mouth.  It's best served warm!

chocolate chip bread pudding

It's also best served with:

cinnamon syrup

Cinnamon syrup!

I make this while the dish is baking.  I think it's best when you put it into a little measuring cup with a spout and let people drizzle it onto their own piece of bread pudding. 

Here's what you'll need:
-1 cup of water
-1 cup of brown sugar, packed
-2 tablespoons of whipping cream (*I subbed mocha flavored coffee creamer left over from the holiday festivities because I was NOT going back to the store!)
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cook the water and sugar over high heat on the stove, stirring so the sugar will dissolve. 

cinnamon syrup

Once it gets to boiling cook it for 10 minutes, then remove it from the heat.  Whisk in the cream(er) and cinnamon and let it cool.  You'll want to heat it up a little before you serve it with the pudding. 

Sooooo good!