Upcycled Travel Tote

20130627-185146.jpg
Upcycled Travel Tote
When I have time, I love to visit resale shops and garage sales to find objects that I can incorporate in my sewing projects. I often buy old backpacks and purses just to cut out the closures and fasteners for other projects. I sometimes buy resale clothes with great looking buttons, only to cut them off and use the buttons to make some of my less expensive clothes look more expensive.
For this tote, I made the actual bag out of pre-quilted fabric that I found at Good Will. I filled the inside of the tote with fasteners and pockets to hide trinkets and valuables that M might need during her travels. Around the top edge of the bag, I stitched a trim that was originally found at the hem of a pair of capri pants that I bought at a garage sale. After all that, I used my embroidery machine to personalize the tote. M seems to love this colorful bag and she smiles when others ask her where she bought it. She proudly replies, “My mom made it especially for me”!

Crispy Corn Flake (Baked) Chicken Strips

20130626-194615.jpg

When I was in college, my roommate invited me to her hometown to spend the weekend with her family. My roommate’s mother was a wonderful cook, she prepared all kinds of goodies for us to munch on during out weekend visit. On Sunday afternoon, just before heading back to our college dorm, J’s mom prepared these delicious chicken strips with oven baked fries and a fresh garden salad. I thought the chicken was absolutely delicious. The meat was super tender, while the crust was flavorful and crunchy.
Years later, after I had graduated and was ready to start a family of my own, I asked J’s mom for this recipe. Oh, it’s so easy to make these strips…the oven baking eliminates the greasy mess that fried chicken leaves behind. Yet, these delectable strips are crispy and delicious. Once you try them, this might be the only way you prepare chicken for your family.

Crispy Cornflake Chicken Strips

4-6 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 1/2 cups corn flake cereal, finely crushed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 15×11″ baking pan with non- stick cooking spray. In three separate mixing bowls, individually place the flour, butter, and corn flakes. Dip the chicken strips in the flour, then the butter, then the corn flake cereal. Place the coated chicken strips on a baking sheet.
Bake 20 – 25 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink. Serve with ketchup, BBQ sauce, or ranch dressing.

Chocolate Chip Cake Mix Cookies

20130625-075927.jpg

This past weekend, we celebrated my daughter’s graduation from high school. I knew the temperature was predicted to reach 90 degrees so I got all of my baking out of the way during the week, while the temperatures were mild and breezy. A couple of weeks ago, I saw that the local market was having a sale on cake mix. I had cake mix coupons to stack onto the sale price so the final price came out to 75 cents per box! I bought 5 boxes and remembered that I had a great recipe for Chocolate Chip Cake Mix Cookies. I thought that this would be a great addition to the dessert table at the graduation party. These cookies are crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. They have great flavor and the guests really enjoyed them. Store in an air-tight container (if they last that long).

Chocolate Chip Cake Mix Cookies

1 box yellow cake mix
2 cups old fashioned oatmeal, uncooked
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

Combine cake mix, oatmeal, and sugar in large bowl; mix well. In a medium bowl, combine oil, eggs and extract; mix thoroughly. Next, add wet mixture to dry ingredients, stir well. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.
Use a small ice cream scoop to drop on ungreased cookie sheets about 2″ apart. Bake at 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Planting Tips…The Round, Spiky, Fluffy Rule

20130624-070720.jpg
I have been so pleased with my flower garden this summer. We have had plenty of rain and sunshine so things have been progressing well with very little effort on my part. I just love sitting outdoors in the late afternoon with a glass of lemonade and gazing over the flowers while the butterflies and bees do their thing. I’ve posted some of my round, spiky, and fluffy garden favorites that will soon fade while others will begin to bloom.

20130624-071621.jpg

20130624-071632.jpg

20130624-071653.jpg

20130624-071722.jpg

20130624-071641.jpg

20130624-071706.jpg
I was recently watching a local morning news program and was interested in a spotlight feature on container gardening. An interesting idea was presented; using the “Round, Spiky, Fluffy” rule as a means to successful container gardening.
This looked like a great idea to me…to find round, fluffy, and spiky looking plants to combine in a container for the perfect aesthetic. Daisies, and pansies are good examples of round flowering plants. Begonias might be categorized as fluffy. And, salvia would be a great example of a spiky flowering plant. Try not to shade out any plants in the container as they will continue to grow. Make sure your containers includes something filling, spilling and thrilling in order to spotlight the beauty of the season!

Kielbasa Skillet Meal

20130621-070801.jpg
This is a standby recipe that I have used for years. Three simple ingredients make for a quick and easy skillet meal.
My mother-in-law used to make a variation of this recipe by using kielbasa, sour kraut, apples, and canned potatoes. The flavors seemed a bit strong for me and I am really not a big fan of sour kraut. When J and I started our own family, I altered the recipe to suit our tastes. I buy kielbasa when it’s on sale and store it in the freezer until ready to use. The sausage is pre-cooked so it cooks up fast.
A helpful tip…when baking potatoes, always bake a few extra to add to skillet meals like this one. Having pre-baked potatoes on hand is a real time saver. This one pot meal makes clean up a snap!

1-2 Hillshire Farms Polska Kielbasa, precooked rope link-style
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 medium potatoes, baked and cubed
Canola oil to coat pan

Preheat a large skillet and add 2 tablespoon of canola oil to the pan. Cut kielbasa into 1/2″ slices; set aside. Add sliced onions to the skillet and sauté until caramelized. Add cubed baked potatoes to the skillet; sauté until golden brown. Mix in the sliced kielbasa and continue cooking until thoroughly cooked through; about 10 minutes.

Cake Mix Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

20130620-060848.jpg
I love when my family has the opportunity to kick back in the evening and spend some time together. We often relax while watching a movie, sitting on the deck of our pool, having a bonfire, or just talking around the kitchen table. I always turn to this recipe for an evening treat because it is so quick and easy to assemble and everyone can join in to make their own favorite treat. I usually have the cookies made ahead of time. Then, I line up the counter with various tubs of ice cream flavors and an assortment of toppings. Everyone can load up their cookie sandwich with all of their favorites and enjoy family time together. In this busy world, I just love munching on this scrumptious treat and sharing quality time with those that I hold dearest in my heart.

Cake Mix Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Cookie:
2 eggs
1 box of white cake mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Filling:
Ice Cream, any flavor
Toppings: Chocolate Chips, Sprinkles, Candies, etc.

In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, eggs and oil.
Use a small ice cream scoop to make 1″ balls with the dough and place on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for 6-10 minutes and light golden brown around the edges. After five minutes, remove to a wire rack to completely.

For filling, place a large scoop of ice cream between two cooled cookies, press firmly to flatten ice cream a bit. Press chocolate chips into the ice cream for added flavor.

Note: Use any flavor cake mix, ice cream, or toppings, to make this a personalized family favorite.

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies

20130619-071820.jpg
When I was a young girl, I would be asked to load up our Red Flyer wagon with a few of my younger brothers and sisters and spend the afternoon with them at the park. You see, I was the oldest girl in a family of 8 children. My mom would wash clothes, make meals, and tidy up the house, while I took care of the younger children in the family. It wasn’t unusual for me to have 5 little ones with me as I kept them occupied at the neighborhood park for a good portion of the day.
On one of my trips down the block, Mrs. Nolan, an elderly woman that lived in the corner house, opened her door and asked if we would like one of her freshly baked peanut butter cookies. Mrs. Nolan was a friend of the family so accepting a cookie would be no problem. After a few cookies and a glass of cold milk, we were on our way again.
On our next trip to the park, one of the children jumped out of the wagon at Mrs Nolan’s house and asked if we could go to see, “the cookie lady”. From then on, Mrs. Nolan was known as “the cookie lady” and we stopped nearly every day to visit her. She even had her husband assemble a small picnic table for us to sit at in her beautiful backyard, while she brought out cookies and milk.
As I think about my happy, innocent childhood, I remember a lovely women that spent her later years making 6 young children very happy as she fed us and talked with us under the shade of the oak trees in her welcoming backyard on Center Street.

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies

2 cups peanut butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Extra sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray cookie sheets with non-stick spray. In a medium bowl, stir peanut butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the eggs. Stir in the baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Roll dough into 1 inch balls (or scoop out dough with a small ice cream scoop) and place 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Press a cross into the cookie tops using the tines of a fork. Lightly sprinkle with extra sugar.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool for 5-10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.