A’Tempting’ Tuesday: Cheap and Easy Is, As Cheap and Easy Does

With only my son and me at home most of the time, I’ve been giving the tiara a little rest.  There’s been very little “real” cooking going on at my house.

I have been on a mission to find some easy, affordable meals that would work to prepare for just one, as my son and I are on different levels of “taste buddiness.”  There are only so many hot dogs and chicken nuggets one woman can endure, so I’m often resorting to making separate dishes for the two of us.

My search hasn’t turned up much I’m just crazy about yet.  I found this recipe for Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta at Budget Bytes.  This one was okay, but not a real winner for me in the taste department. It was just, well, edible.  Cheap and easy is, as cheap and easy does, I guess. It would have been just as easy to open a can of tomato soup (I love Campbell’s Cream of Tomato Soup, by the way), throw in some pasta and spinach and be done with it.

It is definitely affordable.  It comes in at just under $4 for 4 servings.  I should have cut the recipe in half.  After I ate it twice, I was done with it and I hate to throw away leftovers.

I might give this one another try.  I followed the recipe exactly.  I will say it fit the affordable and easy requirement quite nicely. I do think with some tweaking and playing with the seasonings, I might make it into something I really like.

Creamy Tomato & Spinach Pasta

1 T olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
Pinch red pepper flakes
Freshly cracked pepper to taste
½ tsp salt
2 T tomato paste
2 oz. cream cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan
½ lb. penne pasta
½ (9 oz.) bag fresh spinach

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender. (7-10 minutes.) Drain.

While pasta is cooking, dice the onion and mince the garlic.  Cook both on medium-low heat in large skillet with the olive oil until soft and transparent, about 5 minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the skillet with the onions and garlic. Stir.  Add the tomato paste and ½ cup of water to the skillet and stir until the tomato paste is dissolved into the sauce.

Turn the heat to low.  Cut the cream cheese into a few pieces and add to the skillet with the tomato sauce.  Use a whisk to stir the sauce until the cream cheese has fully melted in and the sauce is creamy.  Add half of the Parmesan to the skillet and whisk until melted.  Add the remainder of the Parmesan and whisk until melted again.

Add the fresh spinach and gently stir into the sauce until it has wilted. Add the pasta and stir until well coated with the sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm.

Despite not being in love with this recipe, I do love the Budget Bytes website.  Check it out.  There’s lots of ideas for easy, affordable dinners.

Cook’s Note:  I may play with this a little and see if I can improve it to suit my tastes.  If you try, let me know what changes you make.

Also, I must apologize for the lack of a photo.  I took one, but cannot tell you what happened to it.  I’ve had some issues with the flash card in my camera.  If I can recover the photo, I will add it later.

Until next time…

Dear Diet Coke … Our Romance is Over!

I am a Diet Coke addict. I chain drink. I have quit them multiple times only to fall of the wagon a few weeks — and oftentimes a few short days — later. I have no willpower.

I am not a coffee drinker and I don’t smoke, so Diet Coke is my pick-me-up every morning. The soft drink is also sometimes (who am I kidding? … is always) my afternoon lifeline. It wakes me up and gives me that burst of energy to get through the 2 p.m. doldrums. And if I am going to have a terribly fattening, no-good-for-you snack, Diet Coke negates that. Right?

I know. I know. They are so not good for me, but I am fueled by Diet Coke. I have read about all the side effects and my common sense tells me that quitting is a good thing. It is just so hard. As I said, I have unsuccessfully quit before. But, even off them for a few days I could see a difference in how I felt.

I made a mental note to myself last week that perhaps this Monday morning would be my last day to enjoy a DC. My romance must end. With great anticipation, I headed to the garage fridge to get my final one. I was fully planning to enjoy our last few moments together, down to the last sweet, fizzy drop.

I very sleepily stumbled through the garage, squinting as the fridge light harshly greeted me. What?!?!?!?!?!? There was the empty Diet Coke box, but none of the familiar red and white cans. What’s a girl to do? It’s Monday. Repeat: MONDAY. It’s cold and rainy, and I’m sleepy. I had to be at work before 7 AM!! Insert whiney voice here.

So now that I’ve recovered from the shock of no Diet Coke and the realization that someone in my family DRANK THE LAST ONE, maybe I can look at this as good thing. I was forced to quit!! I am saddened to end my long-lasting relationship with my carbonated friend, but I know I will feel better in the long run.

Maybe this can be another thing I can mark off the list for my Cooking, Crafting and Chaos journey.

If the withdrawals don’t kill me, until next time y’all ….

(anyone want to bring me Starbucks???)

Crafting Memories ….

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Hi y’all. It’s finally Friday!

I don’t have a new “crafty” something I’d like to share this week. I have been very busy getting ready for a get together at my house. But, I do have a “craft memory” to share. I guess for me, crafting is quite often about creating memories through various projects and scrapbooking.

But, I have been organizing myself and getting ready for the transition between Fall decorations and Christmas decor. I remembered a project from last year that I absolutely love and plan to expand on this year. Well, I guess this project started about 14 years ago. Now, you say, “she is the queen of unfinished craft projects.” Not quite, but close.

When my daughter was about 5, I decided we needed a Western themed Christmas tree. (I have several themed trees now). Western-themed Christmas stuff, at least in Texas can be expensive! It’s not too bad when you are only adding a piece or two, but we were starting from scratch. So, it was DIY for us. We started by recreating some rope garland I had seen in a department store. I don’t remember the exact cost, but it was something like $40 for a 6- or 8-foot piece. Pfftttt! We made it with an old red bandana and $5 worth of rope from the hardware store. It turned out quite nicely, if I do say so myself. We are still using that “garland” today.

However, you can’t fill an entire Christmas tree with rope, so we also made ornaments out of dough. Using cookie cutters, we made boots, stars and Texas shapes. My daughter helped me make them. Those are some of my most favorite ornaments I have ever had because of the memories we made. Unfortunately, over the years, the dough ornaments have fallen apart. I think I only have one or two of those left. I have been able to amass quite a collection of holiday stars, cowboy Santa’s and more since then. Even though that tree is full to the brim now, I still enjoy shopping the after Christmas sales every now and then for new finds or picking up new items while on adventures with my family.

Whew! That was a lot of jabber to get to the point of this. Sorry. Last year, I wanted to add something larger to the tree, and do it within a budget. I’ve already talked about my Silhouette Cameo and this is just another example of a project I was able to do.

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I made these stars from red, green and Kraft scrapbooking cardstock. I made them in several sizes, using one 99-cent cut file purchased from the online Silhouette store. I don’t remember quite how many I made, but there are quite a few. In all, I spent less than $10 including paper I’m sure I bought on sale. Cutting them out was a cinch, however gluing all the green and red insets onto the star was a little time consuming. Some of them I ran through the sticker machine and sped the process up a little. You could also totally do them without the insets and the project would take literally minutes.

This year, I am making a few smaller stars to add to the garland on my mantle. It should cost me nothing, as I already have the cut file and some of the paper left from last year. Yay for no-cost projects that make a big impact!!

TOOLBOX TALK: I’ve talked more than once about my Silhouette Cameo and how much I love it. This is not a new machine, but it is a good one. The biggest plus, you don’t have the added cost of buying cartridges of files to cut.

There are so many files out there you can cut and you can pick just what you need, rather than buying a whole collection only to use one or two items from it. There are a multitude of websites that offer low-cost and even free files. I get most of mine from the Silhouette subscription program. Subscriptions start at $9.95 a month, but for that $9.95, you get $25 worth of files. Most files are 99 cents. They also offer a clearance section each week with files for 50 cents, and every Tuesday they offer one FREE file. LOVE it! I’m addicted. I’m amazed at all the scrapbook embellishments I’ve used and crafts I’ve done using their files. I just use the search function to find something specific to match what I’m working on. There are thousands of files and fonts you can choose from. Check it out if you have a chance:

Silhouette Online Store

Keep in mind, you can also cut the fonts you already have on your computer and convert any clip art or shape you have to an SVG (cut) file. I use an online converter, but if you are computer savvy there are other ways to do it as well, I just like the ease of the online converter I found.

With Silhouette software, you are also able to create your own art, alter or resize files you already own. It is so easy.

The only drawback I see (and it is small) to this electronic cutter is that is not super portable. You do have to hook it to a computer with the Silhouette Software on it. This computer “houses” all your cut files.

Until next time ….

A’Tempting’ Tuesday – Red Velvet Cheesecake Ball

It’s A’Tempting’ Tuesday!

I am always trying out new recipes and searching for something new to make, so each Tuesday I will share a new recipe. I will share the good, the bad and the ugly, being honest about my successes and failures (there are many of those).

I love to make desserts and bake, so it’s fitting I share a dessert today. (I also sometimes need quick and easy and this recipe fits that bill too.) This is the time of the year we are constantly invited to get-togethers, so I use these opportunities to try new recipes and share a few old favorites. It works out well for me. I get to “feed” my joy of making desserts and baking. I don’t do it often unless I have somewhere to take my efforts, as hubby is a diabetic (a diabetic with a sweet tooth so I try not to have too many temptations around the house) and I really don’t need the calories.

Today, I am sharing a recipe that was new to me. I prepared this Red Velvet Cheesecake Ball for a little get-together with several friends I had not seen in a while. It was a hit, so I know I will definitely prepare this one again! In fact, I’ve already promised my daughter one when she is home from school in a couple of weeks.  Red Velvet cupcakes are her fave, so I know she will like this.

I also acquired a new dip recipe that night that I will share with you soon. It was quite yummy. It was a great night of good food, friends and wine.

I found this recipe on a Facebook page – $5-10 Meals – Cheap Eats. This site fills another need – CHEAP – and I have found several good recipes here.  Check it out.

I will tell you, I often “tweak” recipes and am not known for always following a recipe to the tee, so I will make note of any changes I’ve made. Added ingredients will be marked in bold.

Sorry about the quality of this picture.

Sorry about the quality of this picture.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Ball
Makes about 16 servings

Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups red velvet cake mix, dry
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla (I used pure vanilla)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I am sure I used more as I didn’t measure these)
Assorted cookies (I used vanilla wafers)

Directions:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, vanilla and butter until smooth.
Add in the red velvet cake mix, brown sugar and powdered sugar. Beat until smooth and combined.
Turn the mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap up into a ball and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Put the chocolate chips on a plate or in a shallow dish. Remove the cheese ball from the refrigerator and unwrap.
Roll in the chocolate chips.
Place on a serving plate and serve with cookies.

Cook’s Notes:

  • I added the vanilla because this recipe made me think of an icebox cheesecake recipe my mom always loved. That recipe used vanilla. I love vanilla paired with cream cheese, so I thought it would be a good addition here. I was right. In turn, I added a couple of extra tablespoons of powdered sugar to make up for the added liquid of the vanilla.
  • To aid in the shaping of the “ball,” I place the wrapped mixture in a small bowl with a very rounded bottom.
  • Here’s where I failed slightly.  It was a busy week and I was running behind as usual.  I didn’t allow enough chilling time for the mixture.  It was a little soft and hard to “roll” in the chocolate chips.  I wound up just patting them onto the surface of the ball.  Despite it’s softness, it still tasted great and everyone loved it.  Next time, I will make sure I allow at least two hours or more for chilling.

All and all, this will definitely be a dish I repeat in the future.  It was super easy, inexpensive and tasty.  As a bonus, I already had all the ingredients in my pantry.

If you try it out, I hope you enjoy.

Until next time ….

NEXT WEEK:  A Pampered Chef favorite.

Don’t cry over … an empty milk container

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Me and the kids

Here’s some milk, mommy … I bought it,

my 10-year-old said as he handed me a container of milk bought at the gas station.

The look on his face almost broke my heart.  I know he’s 10 (actually almost 11) and growing up very quickly.  He only calls me mommy when he’s upset.  He’s grown up in many ways,  but he will always be my baby, just as much as my daughter who is approaching 20.

Sometimes the simple actions of a child who has not yet really had to “face the world” can teach us so much.  Such a small gesture – stopping with his dad on the way to school to buy me some milk; but it taught me, actually reminded me of a lot.  As you see, I have already learned and apparently forgotten this lesson.  I just needed a review.

I shouldn’t let problems at home, fights with my husband, money issues and such be visible to my children. Period. Never!  As a parent, I have been trusted with these two wonderful treasures and it is my job to make sure they grow up happy, healthy and as equipped as I can possibly make them to face the world.  I failed that morning.  I think our roles were slightly reversed.

I was stressed over lack of time, lack of money and plethora of other things.  I was making my breakfast/lunch to take to work and we were out of milk.  I made some offhanded, grumpy comment to the effect of  “I don’t know how I’ll continue to keep food on the table at this rate.”  There’s some truth to that, but we aren’t destitute.  I can buy milk.  However, my son took those comments to heart.  He wanted to help in his own way and make his mom happy.  So, he took his own money earned from watching the neighbor’s dog and asked his dad to stop to buy me milk.  It not only made my day, but taught me a lesson.

It should not be my child’s responsibility to worry about what’s wrong at home.  I should also not cry over an empty milk container.

So, now as I continue this journey I started with last week’s blog, I will add remembering to always remain positive in front of my son to my bucket list of things I want to accomplish.

Until next time ….

Coming tommorrow:  A’Tempting’ Tuesday — My attempt at a new recipe each week.

Confessions of a “Martha wanna-be.” This will be my journey ….

Wow.  It has been a long time since I last blogged, years in fact.  That’s hard to believe because I love to write.  More so, I love to create anything, but life gets in the way…. thus my long hiatus.

I have decided that now is the time to start doing something I want to do…this will be my journey to be the organized, creative and entertaining person I know is inside of me.  I, as is my home, am a work in progress.

I’ve set some goals for myself, some things I want to do in the coming days, weeks, months and even years.  I may be a little old to start with this kind of  venture, but hey… why not??   My children are older (10 and 19), my life has slowed down somewhat and my current career doesn’t require me to exhaust my creative juices during the work week.  I now have the time — and more importantly — the determination to do this.

Let’s start by explaining my title …. Cooking, Crafting and Chaos.  That is my life.  Better yet, maybe my title should just simply be Chaos.  There’s no better way to explain it.  I spend a lot of time taking care of my home and family, going to my son’s baseball tournaments, sending goody boxes to my daughter at college, cooking, trying new recipes, testing the waters of selling Pampered Chef products and playing in my very disorganized craft room.  All wrapped up in one package it is CHAOS.  Chaos is served daily at my house.

I confess, I am somewhat of a “Martha Stewart Wanna Be,” I know with all the negative publicity around her of late, I should probably not admit this. Yes, I want to be like her in some ways. But, I don’t want to be her.  I’d love to have her talent, her drive to do what she enjoys doing and be able to make a living doing that. (Her money wouldn’t hurt either). Although I respect what she has accomplished, I want to be like her minus the jail time and the famed, hardened personality.  So maybe I just want to be my own version of her.  Just call me Martha Shelly 🙂

I’m starting with this blog.  For those of you who know me, you know it will be filled with cooking, crafts and lots of talk about my husband and beautiful children —  All the things I love and yes, lots of just plain chatter.  I’ve spent the last few weeks browsing blogs and YouTube channels and enjoying what so many other people out there have to offer.  I’ve even spent some time revisiting my past blog posts (now posted here).  It has reignited my inner creativity that I could never find time to use.  I can do this.  I’m starting small with goal of posting here at least once a week, and eventually three to four times a week.  Hopefully, making this public will keep me committed. Hopefully, I will also find some readers.

Then, on to harder goals.  I’d love to do a video blog.  This is a big fear, especially for someone self-conscious about everything from her accent (yes I have one) to her graying hair, to the disarray of my home.  It’s so much easier to hide behind your words; to share without being seen. But becoming what I want to be includes conquering some fears.  So, here goes.

I’m looking forward to sharing my journey — including successes and failures — with you.  Let’s do this together.  I have a lot to learn, so be patient. There will be lots of recipes and crafty projects, lots and lots of time spent organizing and beautifying my home and, I’m sure, lots of rambling.  I like to talk.

Until next time…

It never fails ….

It never fails that something throws a kink in your plan.

I had gotten myself organized right down to the minute.  My list of things I needed to take care of prior to leaving for Disney on Monday was extremely detailed, right down to the time I actually zip up the luggage.

I thought I was home free and for once, going to relax as I prepare my family to leave for vacation.

Then I got the call from the daycare.  My little boy who never gets sicks wasn’t feeling well and had a temp of 100.6.  That in itself is not too bad.  By the time we got to him about an hour later it had spiked to 101.7.  Hubby decided to take him on in to the doctor.

Bless his heart.Only 45 hours from Disney and he is diagnosed with strep.  He never gets sicks so I couldn’t believe it.  My hubby called me from the doctor’s office and I could hear my little one crying in the background.  From the sound of it, I could tell he felt really bad.  I immediately went into paranoid mom mode.

The thought of him not being able to enjoy his trip to Disney just breaks my heart.  The thought of mom sitting all week in a hotel room with a sick little boy doesn’t sound too promising either.

But in true Collier fashion, as soon as the antibiotics and the ibuprofen kicked in, he was running around the house like the little wild man he is.  He was chatting about Mickey Mouse and wanting to start packing.  I really hope it lasts.

We just put him to bed after another dose of meds.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Here’s a new pic of him.

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Night