Sunday, March 1, 2015

Bacon and Worcestershire Stuffed Sweet Potatoes - March Secret Recipe Club #Recipe

My family loves sweet potatoes. Usually my kids line up for brown sugar, butter or cinnamon to top their favorite, but this time around I wanted to go for something a bit more savory.

Actually, we just returned from a family vacation and it was a blast. The grill at the resort was amazing and I had a shrimp and lobster linguine that was amazing, also a charred chicken with sauteed spinach. But after all the rich foods and fun, I was looking for something simple, fresh and light.

These Bacon and Worcestershire Stuffed Sweet Potatoes from Helen at Casa Costello seemed like the perfect light dinner idea.

Yes, it is March and time for The Secret Recipe Club recipe selection for the month. This is a delicious and simple dish sure to excite your taste buds and "wow" your family.

I was assigned to Helen's blog and loved browsing through all the great recipes. Helen also has three children and blogs from the UK. She shares her love of food, as well as cake decorating on her blog. Though I found several recipes I wanted to try, the stuffed sweet potatoes caught my eye because my family already loves them, I haven't made a savory style sweet potato before and well, I happened to also have the same brand of Worcestershire Sauce in my pantry.

It seemed like fate.

So grab some sweet potatoes, onion, bacon, oil, salt and Worcestershire Sauce, and let's start stuffing.

Now, I love baking potatoes in the oven. After many attempts at finding the perfect way to bake our potatoes, I am a fan of rubbing them in oil, poking them with holes and then sprinkling them with coarse kosher salt. Bake them for about an hour at 330 degrees till fork tender.

I was able to find these cute little sweet potatoes, much more manageable than the usual huge tubers I usually buy. Aren't they perfect?

While the sweet potatoes were baking, I worked on the filling. Diced onion and chopped bacon went into the cast iron skillet to saute. Once cooked through, I added the dry thyme and Worcestershire Sauce.

Once soft, I scooped out the inside of the sweet potatoes and placed the filling in a bowl with the cooked sweet potato.

Give it a good mash and mix.

Then stuff it all back inside the hollowed out sweet potato skins. Easy right?

Then pop the stuffed sweet potatoes back into the oven for a few minutes to warm them through. Serve with a salad or as a side. Either way, they are delicious!

Bacon and Worcestershire Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
adapted from Casa Costello

You Will Need:

  • 8 small sweet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 of a large yellow onion, diced
  •  4 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 330 degrees. 

Wash the sweet potatoes, cover each in olive oil, poke holes in it, sprinkle with kosher salt and place on a baking tray. Bake for about an hour, or until the potato is fork tender.

While the potatoes are baking, saute the onion till translucent, add the bacon to crisp up, then add the thyme and Worcestershire Sauce. Warm through.

Scoop out the centers of the sweet potatoes. Place the potato filling and sauteed mixture in a bowl and mix well. Season to taste. Spoon the mixed filling back into the potato shells and place back in the oven at 350 degrees to warm through.

Serve while warm.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

All Decked Out With Baymax for the Big Hero 6 Release

We are crafting up a storm in our excitement for the #BigHero6Release. This Baymax accessories tutorial and DVD release shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias

Last year for my son's 7th birthday we took a group of his friends to the movies to celebrate. The movie my son wanted to see was Big Hero 6. We had all been pretty taken by the movie previews. It was, of course, a huge hit with the kids and their parents as well.

Can I just say, fist bumps will never be same!

So in anticipation of the DVD release this week, we decided to craft up some Baymax fun, starting with a necklace of our favorite character out of the easy to work with Crayola Air Dry Clay.

Baymax Necklace

I used several colors to create a Baymax bead, multi-colored Chem-Balls from Honey Lemon and microbot beads. Here I used: yellow, pink, purple, glitter blue, white, black and metallic silver.

To create Honey Lemon's Chem Ball beads, I rolled out a small portion of clay. Be sure to put down wax paper to protect your work surface from pigment in the clay. The clay also picks up any lint or oils, so having a clean work surface helps to keep creations looking their best.

With a tool or toothpick, poke a hole through the center of the ball of clay, I like to use a sharp tool to start with so my ball doesn't become distorted when pierced. Then I go back with a wider tool to enlarge the hole for easier stringing later.

I also created the Baymax bead in a similar way. I made a slightly larger bead and formed it into an oval. I used black seed beads to create the eyes and then a permanent marker to draw a line between them.

After the beads dry for a day or two, they are ready to glaze. A simple coat or two of glossy glaze will make the beads shiny and smooth.

Then they are ready to string in a necklace. My daughter was very excited. She is all about jewelry right now and this unique necklace has all her favorites; Honey Lemon's Chem Balls, Microbots and Baymax, himself.

Felt Baymax Applique

Of course, we needed something to go along with her necklace. I have been big on personalizing my daughter's clothing lately. Her plain black pants were perfect for embellishing with some Baymax fun. There is no need for an embroidery machine. All you need for this craft is a little felt, embroidery thread, an iron-on interfacing and an article of clothing to embellish.

I found an image I wanted to use in the right size and cut out my felt. I used a dressmakers pencil to sketch the eyes for embroidery. The pencil color wipes off the felt easily.

I used a backstitch between the eyes and then the seed stitch for the eyes themselves. I used iron-on interfacing to attach the felt to the pants and then stitched around the edges by hand.

It was the perfect way to make my daughter's play clothes extra special. Even better for playing with her new Flying Baymax.

Baymax Felt Hair bow

And last, I made my daughter a big red hair bow with her favorite character. If you have visited my blog before, you know my daughter loves hair bows and ribbons. I also enjoy creating new ones for her to wear.

These are so simple to make, and a great way to show how much you enjoy the movie, Big Hero 6.

I created a larger, flatter Baymax head out of the same air dry clay. After drying I glazed it and then cut out a piece of red felt. A smaller strip will become the center of the hair bow.

Bring the edges together and hot glue them to the middle.

Then fold over the middle and add a drop of hot glue.

Wrap the center around the front of the bow and over an alligator clip to secure it.

Glue the clay Baymax to the front and you are done!

Now my daughter is all decked out and ready to enjoy the movie again. My son and I ran into Walmart to grab a copy. He was really excited for a chance to see the movie again.

We purchased the Big Hero 6 Blu-Ray/DVD+ Gift With Purchase Set. It includes a digital movie on Vudu while supplies last! Just scan your receipt using the Savings Catcher in the Walmart app. Then look for a message by phone or email. Then you will be able to watch Big Hero 6 on any of your devices.

My son was also thrilled that the added DVD gift was The Science of Big Hero 6. With robotics, microbots and electro-magnetic suspension it is perfect for my little budding science fan.

Now, with all this to enjoy, don't forget to check out the fun Big Hero 6 toys available at Walmart. Be sure to take a peak at the selection when you pick up your copy of the DVD.  I grabbed mine online and had this Flying Baymax  and Hiro delivered right to my home. The kids proclaimed me the best Mom ever.

 What can I say? I am a big fan, too.

What does the larger than life character of Baymax inspire you to create?

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

You Will Flip for Purex® PowerShot Detergent

Disclaimer - I received sample laundry detergent and coupons to try from Purex as part of the Purex Insiders Program. All experiences and opinions are my own and were not influenced by the product I received. 

Every get tired of scooping?

I know it is a simple thing, but seems like more often than not I am startled by a crash, a yell, a cry mid scoop. Somehow things get messier in my laundry room than intended and well, detergent gets spilled wasted... or worse, over scooped.

I do 3+ loads of laundry with a farm based family of 5 so I don't like to waste detergent. I also do a whole lotta scooping.

I think Purex must have heard my wishes and they are turning their detergent upside down.

Well, literally.

The new Purex® PowerShot Detergent doesn't come with the standard scoop... or measuring cap... You just flip and pour the perfect amount. Yeah, every. time. Auto dosing takes one more step out of my day and with little laundry helpers on the horizon, I love a chance to cut down on the waste.

Super concentrated, using it is easy...

Just Flip. Dose, Done.

And how did it work? Well, besides being super easy and "no scoop necessary", it held up well to our touch dirt, grease and general kid grime and food stains. Yeah, Purex takes good care of our clothing.

I enjoyed it so much, I had to share this product with friends. a big thank you to Purex for sharing coupons.

Grab a coupon! 

Be sure to enter the NEW Purex® PowerShot™ Detergent Sweepstakes
  • Three grand prize winners will receive a Whirlpool® Washer & Dryer set
  • 300 runner-up winners will get a free bottle of NEW Purex® PowerShot™ Detergent
  • Also receive a $1.00 off coupon emailed to you when Purex® PowerShot™ Detergent is available at your favorite retailer. Yeah, it is that new! 
Enter Today! (Sweepstakes ends 3/31/2015)

Good luck
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sourdough Buttered Rolls - Something to Chew On

Every year Parent Teacher Conferences just sneak up on me. I am left with wondering, do I have any questions? Or what do my kids do all day?

I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I mean, I went through 12+ years of conferences and usually accompanied my Mom to hear what the teachers had to say. I remember not all teachers liked that idea.

Now it is requested that the kids are there. So, with two siblings in tow, we all head in to find out what is up. Of course we are armed with the approved question handout...

Yes, I said, "Approved questions". This really blew my mind.

It asks parents to be encouraging, supportive in their students' efforts and progress. There are even talking points for parents. We are asked to make positive comments like:

  • I'm proud of the work that you have shown us.
  • I can see that you are trying very hard.
  • I'm so impressed with the way you conducted your conference.
Really? I am pretty sure my Mom was not given tips on positive body language for a Kindergarten Parent Teacher Conference. I am also pretty sure that if needed, all talk of "trying very hard" would have been thrown right out the window if I had been goofing off in class.

Instead I probably would have faces consequences at home. You better believe my Mom's body language would not have been positive. It would have said loud and clear, "We will discuss this when we get home."

I would have straightened up after that.

Are we coddling our kids too much? Everyday I make an effort to talk to my son and daughter about their day in school. We address issues and we find solutions. 

When my daughter had issues with some girls in her class, we talked about it. We worked on boosting her self esteem and we discussed it with her teacher. With my son, he needed extra reading practice at home. We also spend a few extra hours a week on his penmanship. I did encourage real results.

But it ruffles my feathers a little when the school tells me how to behave in a Parent Teacher Conference. 

So, instead of stewing over what I would like to say on the matter... I will keep my mouth shut and full of these fabulous and fun little Sourdough Buttered Rolls. A tangy and simple sourdough in a fun roll shape. The carb-filled goodness did help me take my mind off the whole upcoming Teacher Conference showdown.

I promise to be good... I just may need another roll...

Okay, onto this fun twist on sourdough...

Grab your ingredients, which includes your fed sourdough starter. I like to feed mine the night before baking. 

My stand mixer with pig tail dough implement does a great job kneading the dough... so I don't need too. This is so much better than my old dough hook. 

Once kneaded, cover the bowl and let it sit and rise in a warm area. My kitchen usually stays the warmest, but don't be surprised if the sourdough rises very slowly.

These are made just like your classic cinnamon rolls. Instead of filling them with cinnamon and brown sugar, they are brushed with butter. I think this Spring I will fill them with a little herb and cheese mixture, or perhaps caramelized onions and rosemary?

Roll them up and place them in two pie plates to rise for another hour or so. They will have a crispy exterior like a loaf of sourdough, but the middle smells wonderfully like a deep yeasty loaf of sourdough bread. 

Two pans was the perfect side for a simple soup. In this house, fresh breads never last long.

Sourdough Buttered Rolls

You Will Need:
  • 1/2 c. sourdough starter, fed
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 1/4 tsp. bread salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 + 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 c. room temperature water
Combine all the ingredients in a stand mixer with corkscrew bread attachment. Knead for 5 minutes until the dough comes together and is soft and smooth. 

Cover the mixing bowl with kitchen wrap and let the dough double in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours in a warm place. 

When the dough has gone through its first rise, transfer to a non-stick rolling mat or a slightly greased surface. Roll out to 12"x16" rectangle. Spread the surface with 5 Tbsp. softened butter. Roll the dough up into a log and slice like cinnamon rolls. 

Place sliced rolls into 2 pie plates, cover and let rise for another hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees towards the end of the rise. 

Bake for about 25 minutes. The rolls will only brown slightly. Do not overcook. Spread the remaining softened butter over the finished rolls and serve immediately.

Enjoy! ...and wish me luck with those Parent Teacher Conferences tomorrow.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Garden Update - Planning Ahead for Spring

Can we all just take a moment of silence for the Winter that never was, here in Oregon?

The dream of skiing this Winter was quickly dashed when there wasn't enough snow to keep the resorts open. Also, for February, things are looking an awfully lot like Spring already. So I am ready to face the reality that my poor garden is in need of a makeover.

Has it really been almost 3 years since I had a proper garden?

There are a few signs of life coming through. The rhubarb is poking its way up through the ground despite being neglected. And there are also a few really hardy herbs that refused to give up despite last Summer's drought.

This rosemary bush in particular has really thrived in spite of being neglected since the baby was born. I also see sage and will just need to trim back these shrubs for the new season.

But, just about everything else needs to be sprouted or planted new.

I am excited at the opportunity to build my garden with raised beds exactly how I want it. I will still have some plants scattered outside the beds, like German Chamomile and Sunflowers, but our edible fruits and vegetables will be easier to car for in the raised beds I will be making.

I have already ordered our starts and seeds from Territorial Seed Company here in Oregon. In the greenhouse the kids and I will be starting our flowers and herbs shortly. I have a kitchen garden cloche ordered to help with early lettuce and salad mix plants transplants. Hopefully that will help bring fresh salad to the table earlier this year.

This is my garden plot, you can see the faint outline of the old garden area. Since the weather has been dry, I hope to start working and amending the soil soon. Then we can construct the beds over the top and start to fill them with loose dirt and compost.

I am so excited to revive the gardening posts here and have so much to share with planing, plant care, updates and of course our harvest and recipes.

This is a great time to start planning your own garden and ordering seeds and starts before they sell out for the season. Here are a few of the new items I will be planting this year:

  • 'Ketchup and Fries' - a grafted plant that  that will give me both cherry tomatoes above ground and potatoes below. My kids are really excited about this one! 
  • Green Tea bush - growing up we house sat for a woman who had her own tea bush. She would dry the leaves and make her own tea. I am really excited to try this.
  • Several cherry tomatoes - from "chocolate" cherry to an Orange Paruche Tomato, I will have 5 small tomato varieties for salads and drying. I want to make our plates more colorful this year.
  • German Chamomile - again for making our own freshly dried herbal tea.
  • The Usual - Swiss Chard, zucchini, eggplant, leeks, cucumbers and basic herbs.
My garden spot may not be big, but I do have big plans for what we are planting! Our garden is more for the kids and I to enjoy and work in. Most of our fresh produce still comes from the hard work my husband puts into the greater farm.

He is not a big fan of my own garden. "Farmers don't grow gardens." But, he has been very supportive and helpful at getting me on my way to create a new family garden plot for 2015.

Will you have a garden this year? What will you be planting?

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