Friday, February 27, 2009

The Renagade Quilter

Even though I've been quilting for quite a while now, I still consider myself a beginner. I caught the quilting bug from a co-worker of mine years ago and she gave me some basic instructions on how to quilt. Other than that, though, I've been on my own. But I see this as a good thing, in a way. I'm not the kind of person who likes doing things by the book, so making up my own quilt patterns has been the most interesting part. Anxiety arousing, but fun. To start a quilt, I get a basic idea of what I want from the zillions of quilting books I own, then I come up with my own ideas and start piecing it together. I often find myself changing details as I go. Granted, I haven't strayed much from the basic 9 patch patterns to really challenge myself, but I'm working on it!

These pictures are of the bedsized quilt I'm working on for my oldest daughter. She has the first quilt I ever made. It was a humongous puff quilt I made when I got a little too enthusiastic in the beginning of my new hobby. Poor girl! Now I'm finally getting around to making her a decent quilt. My other kids have baby quilts I made them already and my hubby has a flannel one I finally completed last year. My mother and my mother-in-law also have quilts I made one year when I got a wild hair about giving them each one for Christmas.

Here is a picture of my son's quilt.

The most challenging part of quilting is not buying too much fabric. Since I started quilting, I have collected enough fabric to fill two bags, two wicker baskets and one box. I discovered that if I stay away from Joann's and Ebay, I should be good. At least until they have a sale. Then all bets are off.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Low Fat Spaghetti Pie

This recipe is one of my family's favorites. It combines spaghetti, ground beef, sauce and cheese and it's low fat. It's hard not to like this dish! I always make extra spaghetti on spaghetti night so I can make this a few days later. It's a great dinner when you are always pressed for time and don't feel like making something complicated. And it's easy to make ahead which I appreciate!

Spaghetti Pie

4 cups of cooked spaghetti (doesn't have to be exact)
1 tablespoon butter
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
8 oz. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 fennel seeds, crushed (I substituted rosemary)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 cup low fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese

In a large saucepan, stir together butter and spaghetti until hot (add a little water if it starts to stick). Add egg and Parmesan cheese and stir until blended.

In a medium size skillet, cook ground beef, onion, garlic and fennel seeds until meat is browned and onion tender. Drain any fat. Stir in tomato sauce and oregano and cook until heated through.

Coat a 9 inch pie plate or square baking dish with cooking spray. Press spaghetti mixture onto bottom and along sides forming a crust. Spread cottage cheese over top and along sides of spaghetti crust. Spread meat mixture over cottage cheese. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and heated through. Cut into wedges to serve.

Calories: 270
Fat: 11 grams

"No man is lonely
eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention."
-Christopher Morley

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Therapist Is Diagnosed

I try to post on my blog at least every other day, except weekends. But this week I just can't seem to get motivated to do anything. Even my hubby had to encourage me to talk with him last night. I didn't have the energy for that either. He must have noticed I wasn't holding it together too well. I told him I had been getting the basics done everyday, but I'd been feeling irritable and tired all the time and just wanted to be by myself. I told him a few more of my symptoms and he said, "You have care giver's burnout". Huh? Me? Now, I'm a therapist by profession though I haven't practiced for over 5 years now so I'm a little out of the loop. I understood what he was saying, but needed him to explain the symptoms. Apparently, it's becoming a common issue he sees in his job. He deals with the elderly and their families on a daily basis in our county. Care giver's burnout is becoming a recognized issue for many of the families. My husband also teaches at a local college and incorporates this issue into his classes. It seems that this problem doesn't only affect caregiver's of the elderly, but it can affect anyone caring daily for others.

When I look at what I do everyday, I realized that I get very few breaks, if any. My son has PDD so I have therapists in and out of my house, and I also have two other children to care for each with their own issues. My husband works long hours so I'm basically a single parent most days. Not a horrible situation by any stretch, but it can get overwhelming. There is little time to take just for me. And since I am an introvert, I know I need time to regroup. I guess I didn't realize I wasn't getting it.

I looked up care giver's burnout to learn more about it. I was surprised. It mirrors symptoms of depression pretty closely, but it's categorized as a stress disorder. Here is a good link if you want to know more about it:

After realizing what I was doing to myself by not taking breaks and working constantly, I decided I am going to force myself to sit down at least an hour a day and do something fun, like quilt or read. Baking is fun for me too, but I think I need to pace myself with it. Just start small and see what happens. Hey, it's not the worst thing that could happen, right? :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hazelnut Coffee Brownies

Oh man, these are decadent. The flavors are subtle and layered with the chocolate. Mmmm! The icing adds a lot to this brownie and is just right to balance the chewy texture of the brownie and crunch of the nuts. Wonderful with a glass of cold milk. Yum!

Hazelnut Coffee Brownies

6 (1 oz) unsweetened chocolate baking squares, divided
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs
4 tsp. instant coffee, divided
2 tablespoons plus 2 tsp. strong coffee
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted
2 tablespoons whipping or heavy cream
2 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Melt 4 chocolate baking squares and 1/2 cup butter in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add sugars. Mix well. Stir in eggs, 2 tsp. instant coffee, and 2 tsp. prepared coffee. Add flour and salt and mix until blended. Stir in nuts.

Spread into a 13 x 9 inch pan lined with alum. foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until set on top. Cool.

Melt remaining 2 chocolate squares and 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan on low heat stirring as needed. Remove from heat. Mix in 2 tsp. of instant coffee, 2 tablespoons of prepared coffee, cream and hazelnut liqueur. Add enough powdered sugar for good spreading consistency and beat until smooth.

Frost cooled brownies and garnish if desired. Use foil to lift brownies out and cut into squares.

"Anything is good if it's made of chocolate."
-Jo Brand

Friday, February 13, 2009

Anti Theft Lunch Bags

Seeing this site for the first time, I laughed and thought, now why didn't I think of that?! I am actually considering getting some for my husband, who works in the mental health field. The workers there have the unique problem of their clients stealing their lunches. This might stop them right quick!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gooey Butter Cakes

Who in the world could resist a dessert called Gooey Butter Cakes? They are so easy to make and very rich tasting. You can dress them up or leave them as they are. Keep a box of cake mix on hand and you can throw these together in a hurry. This recipe is from Paula Deen, the queen of butter herself!

Gooey Butter Cakes

1 (18.25 oz.) box of cake mix, yellow or white
1 egg
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, melted

1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, egg, and butter. Mix well. Pat into the bottom of the prepared pan and set aside.

In another bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat in confectioners' sugar and mix well. Beat in butter at low speed. Pour onto cake mixture in pan and spread evenly. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. You want the center to be a little gooey so don't bake past that point. Remove and cool completely. Cut into squares.

To alter, add chocolate chips and chopped nuts on top of batter before baking. Or for peanut butter gooey, use chocolate cake mix and add an additional egg and 1 cup peanut butter to cream cheese mix.

"Eat butter first, and eat it last, and live till a hundred years be past."
-Old Dutch proverb

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Samoa Bars

It's girl scout cookie time again. I've already got my order in! Samoas are my favorite by far. The caramel coconut combined with the cookie crunch and the chocolate just do me in (lots of "C's" in that sentence :) So when I stumbled upon a recipe for Samoa Bars over on Baking Bites site, I could not pass it by. Although they are a little complicated to make, they are worth the extra effort. The only thing I'd change is baking the cookie base a little longer. Mine fell apart on me during the cutting and transferring to the plate. Oh well, I'll eat it anyway I can get it!

Samoa Bars

Cookie Base:

1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt


3 cups shredded coconut
12 oz package chewy caramels, unwrapped
1/4 tsp salt
3 tablespoons milk
10 oz. dark or semi sweet chocolate (chocolate chips work)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually add flour and salt at low speed until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until browned on edges. Be sure middle is baked well and almost solid to the touch.

Turn oven down to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out coconut. Place in oven and toast for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Coconut should be golden in color. Set aside to cool.

Place caramels into a microwave safe bowl with the milk and salt. Microwave on high for 4 minutes, stirring as needed until caramels melt. Stir until smooth then stir in the coconut. Use a spatula dipped in water to help blend the ingredients.

Place coconut topping in spoonfuls over the cookie base. Spread with spatula or spoon dipped in water. Let topping cool.

Melt chocolate in a small bowl and using a sandwich bag, pour chocolate into bag and snip one corner. Drizzle chocolate across topping. Cut into bars with a pizza cutter dipped in water. With remaining chocolate, dip the base of the bars until coated. Place on wax or parchment paper until cool.

"Badges mean nothing in themselves, but they mark a certain achievement and they are a link between the rich and the poor. For when one girl sees a badge on a sister Scout's arm, if that girl has won the same badge, it at once awakens an interest and sympathy between them."
-Juliette G. Low

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A New Meme

The other day, Queen of Everything posted a meme that she invited anyone to try. I realized that I have done that meme before so I found a new one to post. If anyone wants to post it please feel free.

1. Do you like bleu cheese? Oh yeah. It's my favorite dressing
2. Have you ever smoked? I tried it out as a kid but no otherwise
3. Do you own a gun? My husband does.
4. What flavor Kool Aid was your favorite? Yuck. I don't like the stuff
5. What do you think of hot dogs? Another yuck-what is in those things?
6. Favorite Christmas movie? Christmas Vacation- it's too funny
7. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? the milk in my cereal
8. Can you do push ups? I can do a few, but who wants to?
9. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? My earrings
10. Favorite hobby? It's between baking and quilting
11. Do you wear glasses/contacts? no
12. Middle name? don't have one
13. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink. sweet tea, water and OJ
14. Current worry? my daughter who is sick
15. Current hate right now? parents who abuse their kids
16. Favorite place to be? Besides home, anywhere in Virginia
17. Do you own slippers? yes
18. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? ugh, no. too slippery
19. Can you whistle? only if I breath in, not out. weird, eh?
20. What songs do you sing in the shower? none, I can't sing!
21. Last thing that made you laugh? my son thanking his helicoptor

Monday, February 2, 2009

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Well, they did it. The Steelers won the Super Bowl. A sixth ring, one for the other thumb! Everyone here is groggy from staying up last night and my daughter said there wasn't many kids in school today. But everyone is happy. The Steelers won and there was tons of great food at all the parties last night, no doubt. We decided to have our own family party this year and I tried a new recipe, Buffalo Chicken Dip. It was easy to throw together and went well with the wings, nachos, pizza, cake and punch we had. This recipe makes a 9 x 13 size dish so it's plenty for any get together. All you need to add is chips!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cans (12.5 oz) cooked chicken
1 bottle (12 oz) Buffalo wing sauce (I used Frank's)
2 packages (8 oz) cream cheese, softened (light version is fine)
1/2 cup ranch or blue cheese dressing
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 pkg. (2 cups) shredded Mexican cheese blend

In a medium saucepan, heat oil and add onion. Cook until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken, Buffalo wing sauce, cream cheese, dressing and celery.

Lightly spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray. Spoon mixture into pan. Sprinkle with Mexican cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until dip is bubbling and cheese is melted.

Serve with chips or crackers.

“My last name.”
— Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers quarterback, on what distinguishes him from his competition.

Sunday, February 1, 2009