"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Yes, I Am a Domestic Goddess (Recipe)

My Mom is a very good cook. She's not a gourmet, certainly not a culinary snob, but she can follow a recipe and make the most of it. She can also walk into the kitchen, raid the pantry, and make a delicious meal from whatever's on hand. Most impressive is her ability to duplicate, or even improve upon, a (simple) restaurant recipe just by taste.

I was fortunate enough to inherit her skills and the good sense to pay attention when I helped Mom and Babcie (that's Polish for Grandma) in the kitchen. They taught me the basic techniques I needed to survive on my own and be able to cook for myself and others. Just about everything else I know about cooking and cuisine came from watching the Food Network, and before that, various cooking shows like the Great Chefs series and, of course, Julia Child. So when I throw together a recipe I really love I try to write it down immediately. Why? Because if I'm asked to share a recipe I tend to get blank stares when I say things like, ". . .then throw in a little tomato paste and a ton of garlic." How much is "a little?". . .What do you mean by "a ton?" I get it. Some people can cook by feel and some need a real, honest to goodness recipe to follow. With that, I give you a recipe that was a big hit a couple of weeks ago along with a way to use the leftovers AND a variation that tastes completely different.

I didn't have the presence of mind to take any pictures of the original recipe and the leftovers were gone by the time I thought of it, so the photos you see are of the variation that uses sausage.

Auntie's Pasta

2 Tbsp canola or olive oil
2 tsp butter (real butter, not margarine!)
1/2 c onion, chopped
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 cloves garlic, chopped (or substitute 1/2 t garlic powder)
1 (12 oz.) box of penne or ziti, cooked until it's almost done, then drained
1-1 1/2 lbs chicken, cut into bite sized cubes
1 c frozen green beans
grated parmesan cheese, to taste

Heat oil and butter in a deep, nonstick pan on medium heat until butter is completely melted
Add onion and sautee until translucent
Add garlic, Italian seasoning, and chicken and sautee until chicken is almost cooked through
Stir in pasta and vegetables
Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are heated through and the chicken is done (about 7-10 minutes)
Dish up and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and serve with a side of garlic bread

Total time in the kitchen: about 45 minutes
Serves 8 generous portions

A Few Notes about Ingredients:

That little bit of butter will add a ton of flavor without adding a lot of saturated fat, so please don't leave it out. If you want to reduce the fat content then reduce the amount of oil slightly.

The pasta I prefer is a tri-color made with actual vegetables to sneak some veggies into the kids' diets or a whole grain pasta. Either is better tasting and more nutritious than that plain old white stuff. The reason you slightly undercook your pasta is that the steam released from your veggies will cook the pasta the rest of the way. If you add fully cooked pasta, it will get mushy. I add quite a bit of salt to my pasta water because I don't add salt to my recipes.

If you aren't crazy about green beans use frozen peas, carrots, or corn. Just make sure your veggies are frozen and not canned.

What to Do with the Leftovers:

The next day, once everything is sufficiently chilled, toss the whole deal with your favorite Italian dressing (about 2 Tbsp per serving) and serve cold. This makes an awesome pasta salad.


Auntie's Pasta made with turkey sausage
Instead of chicken and Italian seasoning, use a good quality sausage (I used a turkey and cheddar sausage we all love) and oregano. (Credit for this variation has to go to my BFF who grabbed a package of sausage out of the freezer and asked, "Do you think you can turn this into that thing you made last week with the chicken and the pasta?")

You could also go with sliced steak and summer savory, but I'd leave off the parmesan cheese.

I welcome any other ideas you might have for variations. Please leave them in the comments section.

Happy Cooking!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Susan G. Komen and Safeway

Bows and Arrows hat
Pattern by Dot Matthews
I'll try to keep this post somewhat brief, but if you've been reading this blog, or ever gotten an email from me, you know I rarely succeed. Anyhow, a few months ago, a crocheter who is fairly new to the art emailed me asking for clarification on an instruction used in one of my patterns. Let's call her Kathy (because that's her name). Kathy mentioned she'd be making the pattern for a charity auction that's coming up in October. Immediately I offered to do what I could for the fundraiser because I've known countless women who've fought breast cancer. Fortunately, only one of them lost the battle (glass half full). I pledged a couple of posts, and possibly a few tweets, to give the auction some free advertising and I'll be sending on some goodies to be sold in the auction. (Thankfully I have a stash of premade goodies right now, because I've stupidly spread myself too thin yet again.) So before I take any more attention away from this worthy cause, here's the info:

Who to contact for details: Katie and Jodi 520-384-3952
What's the event: fundraiser auction to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation
Where will it be held: Safeway, 650 North Bisbee Ave., Willcox, AZ 85643
When is it happening: second weekend in October (Sat & Sun the 8th & 9th)
Why are they doing it: to raise breast cancer awareness

Lady's Skull Hat
Pattern courtesy Lily/Sugar 'n Cream
Yes, I understand that not all of you are in the state of Arizona, but I also figured we've all got talent we can lend to send off an item or two to be sold at the auction. And, for those of you in the area, why not stop in and see what's for sale? The theme of the fundraiser is Homemade Crafts and anyone who wishes to participate is more than welcome; it is fully open to the public. Any items not sold that weekend will be held for sale on the following weekend.

I know Kathy is making at least one of the Big Girl patterns to feature. I would love to see pics of any items you decide to send off for this fundraiser or any other. Email them to me at BigGirlJewelry@yahoo.com and I'll feature them in an upcoming post.

I'd love to hear your comments, but will not be able to offer further details. If you'd like more information, please do contact Katie or Jodi at the number listed above.

Happy (and Healthy) Crocheting!

Cluster Craze Hat
Pattern by Dot Matthews

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Youuuuuu Did It!

I love seeing the pics you all post on Ravelry and the ones you send me. This batch is loaded with color, and I'm really excited to share it. To everyone who contributed I offer a heartfelt thank you. If your photos aren't here, but you'd like to share them, by all means email them to me at BigGirlJewelry@yahoo.com. Happy Crocheting!

Samantha (Samie1914 on Ravelry)
made 3 Big Girl Towels for Mother's Day.
Read about them in her blog.

Judit (Jucuu on Ravelry)
made a whole slew of the Plain and Simple Dishcloths.
Here they are in gray and...

Here's one in camel.

Jessica (goldmoonjd on Ravelry)
used a lovely pale yellow held together with thread
for extra texture when she made this Big Girl Scrubby.

Lisa Marie (SunCB on Ravelry)
used the leftover yarn from her Big Girl Towel
to make this Big Girl Scrubby.

Megan (themegababe on Ravelry, Twitter, and Facebook)
made a couple of Broken Links Scrubbies in great colors.

Compubimbo on Ravelry
shot a pic of her first Big Girl Scrubby on a beautiful background.
(Yeah, I notice that stuff!) Wait! There's more...

Krystl (thisiskrys on Ravelry)
got a great shot of her Big Girl Pot Holder in red.

I told you there were more! Compubimbo made a whole slew
of Big Girl Scrubbies  in honor of Earth Day.
Kelly (kmulaux on Ravelry)
brought some drama to the Big Girl Scrubby by using red.
Thanks again everybody for allowing me to use your great shots and show off your handiwork. If I've asked your permission and NOT used your photo, I'm planning on showing off another group very soon, but I wouldn't be offended by a reminder from you. 

Happy Crocheting!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Payback's Not Always a . . . (You Know the Rest)

Big Girl Dish Cloth

I've been meaning for a while to give a great big shout out to someone who is at least partially responsible for much of the traffic on this blog: Rachel from Crochet Pattern Central. Rachel spends hours every week finding and posting links to FREE crochet patterns, answering emails, and keeping her site running. Crochet Pattern Central has had over eight million (wow) unique visitors since it's creation in December of 2003. The truly amazing thing is that Rachel does it all for free. She charges nobody for any of her hard work, not the users who search her sites for patterns, not the designers who post them, nobody. Why? I can only guess. I haven't interviewed her for this post. I just wanted to give her some well deserved recognition.

Big Girl Towel and Pot Holder
(while under construction)
Whenever I post a new free pattern here on the blog, I email Rachel and let her know. Within days, my link is on her site and the page in question is viewed hundreds of times. A stat I find mind boggling is that my humble little blog has had a little over 53,000 page views since I started it about a year ago. Almost 30,000 of those views came directly from Crochet Pattern Central. So do me a favor: The next time you're over at CPC searching for free crochet patterns for your next project, drop Rachel an email to thank her for all she does. And, if you find it in your heart to leave a donation while you're there. . .awesome.

Rachel, from the bottom of my yarn bag, thank you.

Happy (free) Crocheting!