Friday Favorites – 05112018

The list of stuff I’ve been digging on lately. 🙂

1) X-Men

I’ve mentioned before my affinity for digital comics. Well, I’ve been reading a lot of X-Men books lately, at Steve’s suggestion. They’re one of his favorite titles.

I’d read a few X-Men books in the past, but lately I’ve been on more of a kick. Which is good, I guess, since we’ve got plenty of issues for me to choose from (the suggested reading order he wrote up for me me is quite lengthy. Ha.)

 

God Loves, Man Kills was the basis for the film X-Men 2, and Days of Future Past was the inspiration for the movie of the same title. I liked both movies, but I thought both books were even better!

Cyclops

My favorite X-Man, Cyclops

 

2)  This guest post on Becoming Minimalist, about gratitude:

This pretty much speaks for itself, so I’ll just leave the link here:

I liked this quote:

“Think of something in your life that you tend to take for granted. It can be as simple as running water or groceries in your fridge, or that you get to listen to music you enjoy or read books that inspire you. Now consider, for a moment, what your life would be like if you didn’t have it?

Especially at times when I find myself caught up in thinking about how something is not quite right—flight is delayed, garage door is broken—I remind myself to pause and think: Imagine life without this. It doesn’t mean I don’t ever want anything or wish for something to be better, but this simple exercise fills me with deep gratitude for the many amazing things that do fill my life, and it offers a helpful way to prioritize where I spend my emotional energy.”

 

3) Amazon giveaways

Last month, I hosted a couple of giveaways on Amazon. It was so much fun I knew I wanted to do it again, so for my birthday, I gave away a bunch of books. There were winners for everything but one copy of The Princess Diaries, so I’m re-listing it again :). Check it out here:

See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: The Princess Diaries (Kindle Edition). https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/2a9c6dd164ae8cd6 NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of May 18, 2018 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules. (Claimed! :))

I’m also giving away a copy of The Lunar Chronicles coloring book, because I think it’s cool and I sort of wish I had one. Ha.

Lunar Chron coloring book

(I’ll post the giveaway link when Amazon sends it to me). (Edit: This giveaway was over so soon, I didn’t have time to post the link! Congrats to the winner :))

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that anything I write is particularly similar to any of the stuff I’ve given away. These are just books I really like, by authors I think are talented. They can be counted as influences of mine, I suppose, and definitely as recommendations! 🙂

These giveaways have been a lot of fun for me, and I think I’ll probably continue to host a few throughout the rest of the year.

4) My birthday

I turned 41 last month!

It was great. 🙂

Steve and I usually like to celebrate one another’s birthdays all month long, so…we did a lot of stuff. We attended several screenings of some of my fave horror and sci-fi movies  (The Brood, Videodrome, Nightbreed) at The Alamo Drafthouse, and he also took me to see Jonathan Davis perform when he came through here on his solo tour! So fun. I’m excited for JD’s new album! Only a couple more weeks to go.

Jonathan Davis

JD and his band. Photo by Steve

On my actual birthday, we went out for breakfast doughnuts and then to see The Avengers: Infinity War, which of course was awesome.

 

Then we went out for my fave meal, pizza and beer for dinner (Because I am classy like that. Ha). I had a great time. Steve sent me these gorgeous multi-colored roses.

 

 

5) Chips and Cheese Chili Casserole

Okay, this is probably one of the easiest recipes ever, but it is so, SO GOOD. I always joke that I could probably eat a whole pan in one sitting. I like it so much, this is what I chose to make myself for my birthday meal (a few days before my actual birthday…like I said, we tend to stretch out the celebrations to an inordinate degree around here :)).

chili chips and cheese casserole ingredients

I think this casserole would be great for a pot-luck, particularly if you made it a day ahead because it tastes even better after it’s been sitting in the fridge all night.

chili chips casserole completed

Probably not the healthiest thing you could ever eat, but also not the worst for you. The recipe says it’s gluten-free and with all those beans, it’s got to be high in fiber, right? So there’s that!

chili chips casserole leftovers_1

This is pretty much all that is ever left over.

FWIW, the recipe says there are all sorts of different ways you can make this casserole, and I’m sure that is true, but…the first time I made it, I used (1) 15 oz. can of black beans, (1) 8 oz. can of tomato sauce and (1) 14.5 oz. can of Amy’s brand Medium Chili, and this combo was so tasty, I have never bothered to change it. I think ONE time I tried it with a different kind of vegetarian chili and I just didn’t like it as much, so…these are the ingredients I normally stick with. I also like to use Kraft Triple Cheddar “Creamy Melt with a touch of Philadelphia cream cheese” in this, because it adds more tartness and pairs well with the sour cream (I think). Try it and see!

5) Craft beer

I’m not sure how Steve and I initially got into drinking craft beer, but it’s become sort of a hobby for us. We’ve been lucky enough to visit a ton of breweries around the state, as well as a few in other places.

Recently we went to Family Business Brewing Company in Dripping Springs, which is co-owned by Jensen and Danneel Ackles. The name is a nod to “Supernatural” – “Saving people, hunting things…the family business.” 😀

 

Their IPA, Cosmic Cowboy, was so good! I’m not into this craft beer stuff enough to know all the ins and outs about every different style, but I do know what I like and I am definitely an IPA fan. The hoppier and more bitter, the better IMO.

The day after the Family Business tour, we did a 5K at the Rentsch Brewery in Georgetown, and their beers were really good, too. (This is the Double Dry-Hopped IPA, which was pretty amazing). The race was fun — nice weather for it!

rentsch beer

Pic by Steve

 

6) Concerts with my husband

There was a time in my twenties when I remember being really burned out on going to concerts. I’m not sure why, but they just didn’t hold much appeal for me anymore. Then Steve and I started going to more and more live shows again, and now I love them.

John 5

Last month we went to see John 5…and I took this blurry photo of him.

We’ve been lucky enough to see tons of bands perform over the years. This past week we saw Mastodon. They’re hugely talented and put on a fantastic show. This was especially cool because we’d made plans to see them twice before and both of those shows had ended up being canceled. They said they hadn’t played here in two years! So, yeah…it was great to finally catch them again.

Mastodon

Much better pic of Mastodon by Steve

Okay, I think that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!!

XOXO,

Elizabeth

 

Mini Meatless Loaves

DSCF3571My tip for today: when you make meatloaf (or, as in my case, vegetarian meatless loaf), try cooking it in a muffin tin.This makes it easier to serve, as you don’t have to slice anything. Use a little cooking spray (or a nonstick pan) and the finished individual servings just slide right out of the muffin cups! Also, cooking the loaf this way ensures every serving is essentially an “end-piece” with that yummy crusty edge around it :).

This Morningstar Farms recipe is my go-to meatless loaf recipe. It makes 10 regular-sized muffin cups’ worth of loaf. I substitute green bell pepper for the celery because I don’t like celery, and I spread ketchup (HEB Organic is my favorite) mixed with a little seasoning salt, dry mustard, black pepper and brown sugar over the top.

Mini Meatless LoavesIt was hard for me to get a particularly appetizing picture of these little guys (I think perhaps meatloaf is just not a very photogenic food), but there are lots of other examples of various implementations of this same idea online. Like this one. Cute, right?

Happy homemaking,

Elizabeth

Easy Eggplant Parmesan

I’ve learned that eggplant is officially “in season” July through October. Well, in season or not, I managed to find a couple of nice ones at my grocery store the other week.

EggplantsI made Eggplant Parmesan, which my husband reminded me was one of the very first meals I ever cooked for him back when we were dating. So I guess you could say it is one of the dishes I used to win him over ;). Ha.

I originally got this recipe from a television program where a camera crew would show up at a regular person’s house and film them making their “signature dish.” It was on Food Network and I don’t remember the name of the show! But I’ve tweaked this recipe so much over the past 15 years or so, I feel safe calling it my own at this point, anyway.

After washing and slicing the eggplant (I used about 1.75 lb.s here), dredge it in an egg/milk mixture and some bread crumbs. The easiest way I have found to do this is to put the egg mixture in one pie plate and the breadcrumbs in another right beside it. Dip each slice of eggplant in one dish and then the next, and then lay it on the baking sheet. Sometimes I use preseasoned Italian breadcrumbs such as those pictured here, other times I mix plain whole wheat crumbs with Italian seasoning. Either one works.

Eggplant Parmesan 1Arrange the coated eggplant slices on a baking sheet (here, I put parchment paper over mine — also, I needed two baking sheets to accommodate all the eggplant!) and drizzle each slice with a little olive oil. This step makes the crumb coating crisp up nicely in the oven, so I don’t recommend skipping it! Just dip a spoon in some oil and sprinkle it on.

Bake the eggplant in a 400 F degree oven for 15 minutes, then use tongs to flip all the slices, drizzle with olive oil and bake for another 15 minutes. They should be browned and crispy on both sides. In the meantime, heat 6 oz. tomato paste, 6 oz. water, and 8 oz. tomato sauce in a saucepan. Add whatever Italian seasonings you prefer (I’ll list my favorites at the bottom of this post) and simmer for about 30 minutes, while the eggplant is cooking.

When the eggplant is done, arrange the browned slices in a baking dish. Spoon the sauce over each slice and cover with Mozzarella and a bit of Parmesan cheese. Here, I used a mixture of thinly sliced and shredded Mozzarella, because that is what I had in the fridge!

Bake the completed casserole at 400 F for 10 – 12 minutes, just until the cheese starts to brown. Don’t leave it in too long; you don’t want your eggplant to get soggy!

Eggplant Parmesan 2I served this with a salad, tossed with a homemade Italian salad dressing that has become a favorite of mine.

Eggplant Parmesan 3So easy and delicious!

RECIPE:

1 1/2 – 2 pounds eggplant, washed and sliced 1/2″ thick

1 egg, beaten with 2 Tbsp. milk

Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

olive oil

6 oz. tomato paste

6 oz. water

8 oz. tomato sauce

1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp. oregano

1 minced garlic clove

dash of onion powder

salt & pepper to taste

1 cup (or more, depending on your taste) shredded or sliced Mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup (or more) shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Dip eggplant slices into the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumbs, coating both sides well. Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment. Arrange each slice of coated eggplant in one layer on baking sheet and drizzle each piece with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Check that slices are golden brown. Turn and bake for another 15 minutes.

In the meantime, dilute tomato paste and sauce with water in a medium saucepan. Add seasonings, cover and simmer on low for about 30 minutes, while eggplant is browning.

When the eggplant is browned, arrange the slices in a 13″ x 9″ baking dish. Spread sauce over each slice. Top with Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Bake assembled casserole for 10 – 12 minutes, just until the cheese starts to brown. Serve hot!

Bon appetit!

Elizabeth

Make your own hamburger buns.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to share simple cooking/cleaning/general homemaking tips  and ideas that I have put into practice over the years — and to give a shout-out to the blogs I have learned them from. Because when I first got married I knew next to nothing about being a wife or homemaker, and I have learned so much from reading other people’s blogs! I haven’t been doing much of that thus far, but I hope to rectify that in the future…even if the tips wind up being published only sporadically ;).

My tips and recipes and stuff won’t be anything fancy. Nevertheless, I hope they will be helpful to a novice such as I was (and in many ways still am) :). At the very least, I hope they will be encouraging. I’ve noticed that when I read homemaking blogs, even if the posts are about things I already do, know how to do (or, hey, will never do), it still usually inspires me in some way. Sometimes it’s just nice to read about other women’s routines and ideas! Makes me want to try my hand at something new.

So…my tip this week is to make your own hamburger buns. They are inexpensive and taste so much better than store-bought ones.

DSCF2670I used to be afraid of yeast baking, honestly, because it seemed rather complicated to me. I think I was mostly worried about not doing the kneading right. But a couple of years ago I got a KitchenAid stand mixer with a dough hook for Christmas and it sort of changed my life. Now I bake all sorts of bread!

For the hamburger buns, I use this recipe and tutorial from The Frugal Girl. I follow it pretty closely, except I use my dough hook for the kneading and I often mix in at least a third white whole wheat flour. And I usually halve the recipe overall because my freezer is not very big and I don’t want to fill it up with nothing but hamburger buns :).

I have also made this recipe in my bread machine a couple of times. I use the dough cycle and then take the dough out, shape it, put it on the cookie sheets and into the oven (with a bowl of hot water) for the second rise.

It is a somewhat time-consuming process, but not really difficult. You can, after all, work on other stuff while the dough sits and does its thing :). And then, when you are done, you get to eat the results with the delicious toppings of your choice. I often serve mine with homemade bean patties of some sort (a recipe for another day), but the leftovers are great to pack in my husband’s lunches, topped with Tofurky veggie “cold cut” slices or a breaded Morningstar Farms “chikn” patty like this one:

DSCF3480 Happy baking (and eating!),

Elizabeth

PS – The top photo is from my first attempt at making these buns, while the bottom photo is from my most recent one. The tops of the buns turn out a lot smoother and prettier these days! But they have always tasted good :).

Mediterranean Nachos

We eat nachos pretty often in this household.

Recently, I was putting corn chips away in a cabinet and noticed the pita chips sitting there, and got to thinking…what if I made “Mediterranean Nachos” by subbing pitas for corn chips? What if I used hummus instead of refried beans? Kalamata olives instead of black olives, spinach instead of lettuce, etc., etc…you get what I’m saying :).

When I mentioned this idea to S, he suggested using crumbled falafel instead of the veggie “ground beef” crumbles we usually use, and tzatziki instead of sour cream. I almost couldn’t wait for the weekend to come so I could try it.

IMG_3200

DSCF3428

For the falafel, I used a mix. I just dropped spoonfuls of it onto parchment paper and baked it for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through.

DSCF3431

Then I crumbled it onto the nachos and topped them with everything else.

IMG_3201

Obviously this is not a unique idea (google “Greek Nachos” and you’ll see what I mean) but it was new to me! And it was quick, easy and delicious. I’ll definitely make it again.

Creamy Sausage and Spinach Pasta Skillet

I hadn’t planned to post about this meal but when I opened up the container to eat the left-overs (last week), I thought it looked kind of pretty, even the next day. So I took some pictures. And here they are :).

DSCF3426

DSCF3427

This is an adapted version of a recipe found on The Comfort of Cooking.

To make it veggie, instead of sausage I used Tofurky Kielbasa (I like to fry this up in a separate pan and then add it to the rest of the dish at the last minute, otherwise it gets a bit soggy), and I substituted vegetable broth for the chicken broth. The only diced tomatoes I had on hand were Italian seasoned, so I used those (and I think I liked it better than when I’ve used plain ones in the recipe before, actually!). Instead of the jalapenos, I added a dash of crushed red pepper flakes. I originally served this with more steamed vegetables on the side. The bread was from a Central Market Organic Multigrain loaf I picked up at HEB.