What’s for Dinner? Spaghetti and Everything Meatballs with Vodka Sauce

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So I’ve been MIA for a bit with the flu and then a nasty cold that followed.  I haven’t had the flu since I was in high school and I always get my flu shot (which of course everyone has an opinion about, I’ve gotten an earful of them over the last few weeks!!) but this year, everyone in my house had their turn with the nasty bug.  I haven’t been blogging much, but I have been taking pictures of everything I would normally blog about, so I have a bit of a stockpile of recipes and crafts to share over the next few weeks.

The first of those that I would like to share with you is something we call Spaghetti and Everything Meatballs.  This is what I make anytime the kids ask for spaghetti and meatballs.  It’s a very unique meatball recipe and we all just love it.  I use a store bought vodka sauce instead of a marinara.  I haven’t tried to make my own vodka sauce yet because the one I use from the jar is surprisingly good.  But I do have a few recipes for it that I’ll eventually try out.  We call these Everything Meatballs for the obvious reason: they have so many yummy ingredients in one place!  Now this is my slight variation of Rachael Ray’s Big Beef Meatballs so I can’t take full credit for this being my recipe.  I’ve just made a few tweeks to it to suit my tastes but I haven’t radically changed anything.

I got ahead of myself as I’ve been known to do when cooking, so I don’t have an ingredients photo.  So you’ll have to use your imagination for that part.  Now grab the following items and get started!

Spaghetti and Everything Meatballs

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 large white or yellow onion, grated
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Cremini mushrooms (also called baby bellas), chopped
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup either Parmesan, Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano or whatever you have on hand, shredded
3 Tblsp capers, drained and minced (I always throw in a little over, I love capers!!)
3 Tblsp fresh sage leaves, chopped (fresh sage really tastes so much better than dried in this!  But if using dried instead, use only about 1 Tblsp as dried herbs have a stronger flavor than fresh)
1 egg
Salt and Pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1 jar Vodka Sauce (I use the Safeway brand from Vons or Pavilions, it’s delicious!)

First, you’ll want to put on a pot of water to boil for the spaghetti.  I seem to forget to do this first a lot of the time and then I’m stuck waiting for the water to boil before I can put the meatballs in the oven!  Also, preheat the oven to 400F.

In a large bowl, throw in the ground beef and all remaining ingredients except the pasta and sauce.

Spaghetti and Everything Meatballs

Now get in there with your hands (wash them first, please!!) and mix everything together.  This is always my favorite part.  It grosses some people out.  To each his own, I guess!

Spaghetti and Everything Meatballs

Now you’ll grab a big baking sheet and give it a quick coat of cooking spray.  Form the meat mixture into meatballs, about golf ball size, or even a little bigger.  I usually get about 18 meatballs out of this recipe.

Spaghetti and Everything Meatballs

I know, my baking sheet has seen better days.  I’ve cooked a lot of food on that thing!  It’s clean, I promise you.

Now, pop these guys into the oven and let them cook for about 15-20 minutes.  Don’t overcook them, you want them to be juicy.

While the meatballs are in the oven, drop in the pasta into the boiling water and cook according to package directions.  Also, pour the pasta sauce into a saucepan and heat it up.

When the meatballs are done, place them into large bowl or plate lined with paper towels to soak up the grease.  Then, put some pasta on a plate, top with three or so meatballs and the vodka sauce.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti and Everything Meatballs

I love these leftovers as well!  I will sometimes heat up the meatballs with some garbanzo beans instead of pasta and top with the vodka sauce.  So so good!

I have a recipe for Lobster and Crab Raviolis that I made a few days ago which I can’t wait to share with you all!  Look out for it, it’s a good one!

Go…………create something beautiful today!

-Heather

What’s for Dinner? Beef and Pork Chili

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This recipe for my Beef and Pork Chili is one that I have been meaning to share for a very long time.  It is the first recipe I ever came up with that I can actually say is mine, start to finish.  It is the result of my husband asking me to make a good, spicy, meaty chili to go on top of hot dogs.  Now I have always liked chunks of beef in my chili rather than ground beef, but I didn’t think that would work as well on hot dogs.  Not that I had ever made chili before.  Also, this chili has bacon in it.  It’s kind of the surprise ingredient that everyone sees in the bowl after a few bites.  I figured my husband thinks that everything is better with bacon, so why not?  And this is better with bacon!  Anyhow, I jotted down a shopping list of items that I thought would make for a delicious chili just like my man was requesting and I amazed myself by nailing it on the first try!

This is really tasty and has been a huge hit for everyone I have ever served it to.  This recipe makes a huge batch, so it’s my go-to for serving large crowds at birthday parties or pot lucks.  It also freezes very well, so I usually make a whole batch and freeze half of it when making it for just us.  That came in handy recently when my sister-in-law was sick and I dropped some off at her house while she was at work.

Grab these items and start chopping……..

Ingredients for Beef and Pork Chili by Dandelion Daze

Beef and Pork Chili

6 slices bacon, cut in 1/2″ pieces
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium white onions, chopped
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, halved lengthwise and chopped (seeds and membranes removed to your liking.  Leave all or some for more heat.)
1/2 can (7 oz size) chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced (if I forget to buy the jalapeno, then I will use a whole can.  This adds lots of spice as well as a delicious smoky flavor, please don’t skip it!)
3 Tblsp chili powder
1 Tblsp cumin
1 Tblsp paprika
2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork sausage (yup, like breakfast sausage!  I use Jimmy Dean)
1 cup beer (Newcastle or similar)
2 cans (15 oz size) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (28 oz size) crushed tomatoes
1 can (28 oz size) diced tomatoes

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over med-high heat.  Add the bacon and cook it until browned and crisp.  Meanwhile, chop the garlic, onions, bell peppers, jalapeno and chipotle peppers.  Don’t chop them up too small.

About this size.  I love these colors!

About this size. I love these colors!

Once the bacon is crisp, spoon off most of the grease and discard it.  Then, add the garlic, onions, peppers, chipotle peppers and jalapeno to the pot.  Give it a good stir and add in all the spices as well.  Cook this for several minutes until everything is a bit tender.

Beef and Pork Chili by Dandelion Daze

While the onions and peppers are cooking, brown the beef in a large skillet.  Drain off most of the fat and then add it to the pot with everything else.  You can also cook it directly in the pot after the onions and peppers are tender, but I like to remove some of the fat first, otherwise this can be a very greasy chili (but still delicious!).  Some people like it that way, so it’s up to you.  Do the same with the pork sausage, either brown it first and remove the fat or just cook it directly in the pot.

Once the meat has been added and is no longer pink, add the beer, beans and tomatoes.  You’ll give it a good stir, reduce the heat to low and then let it simmer for 90 minutes or longer.  This is a minimum, I like to let is simmer for closer to 2.5 hours to really let the flavors meld.

Beef and Pork Chili by Dandelion Daze

As you can see, this makes A LOT of chili!  My Dutch oven is 6.5 quarts and it’s nearly full.  Make sure you have a pot big enough or cut the ingredients in half if you don’t.

Dig in!  Serve over hot dogs with diced onions and cheddar cheese.  Or, my favorite, in a bowl with sour cream, cheddar cheese, sliced green onions and tortilla chips.

Go…….create something beautiful today!

-Heather

Made With Love

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A few days ago, I went to a baby shower for my nephew who is due in March.  I am so happy for my brother-in-law and his sweet girlfriend to welcome this baby into our family!  I have two nieces on my side of the family, but this will be my first nephew.  As a boy mom, I am really excited.  I crocheted several items for my new little nephew that I wanted to share.

First, I am a serious procrastinator.  That being said, I didn’t start his blanket until just a few days after Christmas.  All of a sudden I realized that if I didn’t start it right away, there was no way it would be ready in time for the shower.  I started hooking up squares in every minute of free time I had and, unbelievably, I finished it in exactly two weeks.

Retro Circles Blanket made by Dandelion Daze, pattern by Three Beans in a Pod

I am so happy with how this turned out.  The pattern is the Retro Circles Blanket by Three Beans in a Pod.  I made 42 squares and joined them 6 across and 7 down.  I joined them with single crochet stitches which gives the raised border between the squares.

The border for this blanket is 1 round of hdc in white, then I did one round of moss stitch in each color, followed by a final moss stitch round in white.  Moss stitch is * 1sc, ch1, sk next st * around.  In the corners, I did 1sc, ch 1, 1 sc all in the same corner stitch.

Here is a little closer look at the moss stitch border.  I just love how the colors seem to bleed together.

Here is a little closer look at the moss stitch border. I just love how the colors seem to bleed together.

I can not believe that I was able to make this in only two weeks.  My wrist was hurting pretty badly for a week or so after I finished, but of course I kept on crocheting, so that didn’t help matters.  I actually didn’t even touch a crochet hook yesterday but I think I need a few more days like that for my wrist to feel better.  I need to join a support group or something!  “Hi, my name is Heather and I can’t stop hooking!!”. 😉

One last look at this blanket because I really love how it turned out!

One last look at this blanket because I really love how it turned out!

So I thought I was all done with gifts for this little boy, as I had made him the blanket, a hat and a Sunburst Crochet Pillow Ball.  And the shower was in 3 days.  But then I was shopping for yarn for a different project and found a cotton ombre in the same colors I used in the blanket.  And it was on sale.  So, of course, I HAD to make him a little toy to go along with the blanket.  I just had to.

How cute is this little guy?!

How cute is this little guy?!

I love this little hippo!  I need to make another for my boys, before they’re too big to snuggle with stuffed animals.  This is the Harriet Hippo pattern by Fugly Crochet.  I just love that name, by the way!!  We used to say fugly all the time as kids and I don’t know many people who say it.  The pattern also includes an elephant made with the same body design and a different head.  It’s not a free pattern, however it is well worth the couple bucks I paid for it.  The pattern is very well-writen and includes many pictures to explain how the pieces come together.  I can’t say enough about how clever this design is.  There is no sewing together at all!  It’s pretty fun to join the pieces with crochet and suddenly see it all come together.

On Ravelry, there are many comments about this hippo coming out front heavy so it stands on it’s nose.  Having read that before I started, I added some ceramic pie weights to the stuffing in the feet and body.  I like these because they are pretty heavy for their size and also washable.  They are also too big to escape the crochet, but I still recommend putting them inside a little fabric liner or stocking if making the toy for a baby.

The pattern calls for safety eyes but I stitched the eyes on with a scrap of black yarn.  I just didn’t feel like going to the store again!

Hippo and Baby Blanket made by Dandelion Daze

I am so excited to meet my new little nephew!  My brother and his girlfriend really loved the gifts I made which is awesome because anyone who knits or crochets knows how great it feels when your handmade gifts are loved and appreciated.  And I’m so happy I made the hippo at the last minute because that was their favorite item of the things I made.

I hope you enjoyed this look at what I’ve been working on instead of blogging these last few weeks!

Go…….create something beautiful today!

-Heather

PS…I am linking up this post over at Hookin On Hump Day at My Merry Messy Life.  Go check out the other fiber arts projects that have been linked there as well!

What’s for Breakfast? Fruit and Spinach Smoothies

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A few months ago, I began making some super healthy fruit and spinach smoothies for breakfast.  I’ve held off on blogging about them because I was trying out lots of different combinations of ingredients.  Most were delicious!  Some were a little funky.  Of course, my kids were my ultimate taste testers.  If they approved, I knew I had a winner.

Yum!!  If you add blueberries like in the picture of ingredients below, your smoothies will be purple instead of green.

Yum!! If you add blueberries like in the picture of ingredients below, your smoothies will be purple instead of green.

I have truly seen so many benefits after adding these smoothies to our diet.  It’s incredible how much added energy I feel after drinking one first thing in the morning.  Obviously, just knowing that my boys have a huge dose of fruit and veggies and all of their antioxidant power every day is awesome.  The best part so far?  With these smoothies, cutting down on my portion sizes on all other meals during the day and walking more, I’ve lost 12 pounds in a month!  And that was over the holidays!!

So, to make your own smoothies at home, you can start with my simple recipe.  If you’d like you can build on it to make your own variations depending on what it is that you’re trying to sneak into your diet.

Here is what I started with, although I found that this is much tastier with mango instead of blueberries.  Both have huge doses of antioxidants so I opted for the one that I thought tasted better.

Here is what I started with, although I found that this is much tastier with mango instead of blueberries. Both have huge doses of antioxidants so I opted for the one that I thought tasted better.

Basic Fruit and Spinach Smoothie

2 handfuls fresh spinach
1 banana
1 avocado
3/4 cup frozen peaches
3/4 cup frozen mango or blueberries (the kids and I prefer the taste of mango)
Water to help blend

Just throw all ingredients in the blender and add water as needed to help it all blend.  You’ll probably have to stop and stir it up as you go until it’s all nicely blended together.  This makes enough for two big smoothies or three decent sized smoothies which is perfect for me and my two boys.  My husband won’t even try it, but maybe I’ll convince him one day.

I don’t always add avocado to my smoothies, but I love the creaminess that it adds.  It’s not as sweet as it would be if you left it out, but it’s full of healthy fats and other vitamins.

If you want to build on this recipe, you can do something similar to what I am usually blending up in the mornings these days.

Here is what I made this morning.  Greek yogurt for added protein and flaxseed for it's amazing health benefits.

Here is what I made this morning. Greek yogurt for added protein and flaxseed for it’s amazing health benefits.

Souped Up Fruit and Spinach Smoothie

2 handfuls spinach or kale (spinach has a milder flavor but kale is awesome for you!)
1 banana
1-1/2 cups frozen fruit such as peaches and mangoes
1/2 cup greek yogurt
2 Tblsp flaxseed (full of Omega3, fiber, and lignens which fight cancer, diabetes and heart disease!  This is good stuff!)
Water and/or almond milk to blend

Again, just add all ingredients in a blender and add the water and/or almond milk until it’s a nice consistency.  If using almond milk, I taste my smoothie as I stop the blender and stir it around.  I love the flavor of almond milk, but it can be a bit much with everything else going on in here.  If it’s perfect taste-wise but still needs more liquid, then I switch it up to water.

What I love about these besides the many health benefits is that it’s so easy to mix up the flavors with different ingredients.  You can sneak in a lot of different things into your diet with these.  Just be creative and don’t be scared to mix it up.

I’ve told a bunch of people that I make these almost every day and most people say the same thing: “Isn’t a pain to take out and use and wash your blender everyday?!”.  Seriously?  No.  You just rinse it out when you’re done, dry off all the parts and put it back in the cupboard.  You’re not making anything in it that really needs to be soaped up and scrubbed out, so it’s literally like a 3-minute clean up.

I hope some of you try this because I can’t say enough good things about the health benefits here!

Go………..create something beautiful today!
-Heather

Homemade Kool-Aid Play Dough

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I make a lot of play dough.  Like A Lot.  If your kids are anything like mine, they often leave their play dough right where it is when they’re done playing with it.  If I don’t make sure it gets put away, then a few days later when they want to play with it again, there isn’t anymore.

So I’ve searched the internet for the perfect play dough recipe.  There’s no shortage of recipes out there so I’ve experimented with a lot of them.  But, I’ve found that there is a shortage of good play dough recipes that don’t turn into a sticky mess all over your pots, counters and hands.  So today I want to share with you my “perfect” play dough recipe that I’ve come up with from combining a few.

I say it’s perfect because it only takes a few minutes to come together and is NOT a giant gloopy, sticky mess.  And because it’s made with Kool-Aid so the kids think it’s magic how it smells yummy and is super colorful.  My boys aren’t so much into the Easter-like pastels that result from using regular food coloring.  So, let’s get started, shall we?

Please ignore my dirty flour container.  I cook a lot.  It gets messy.  You understand :)

Please ignore my dirty flour container. I cook a lot. It gets messy. You understand 🙂

Perfect Kool-Aid Play Dough

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup salt
1 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
2 tsp cream of tartar
4 packets Kool Aid

All you do is combine everything in a pot and stir over low to medium heat until it clumps together in a ball.  This takes about 3 minutes of stirring pretty much constantly.  Once it clumps together, plop it on a piece of wax paper and let it cool for about 10 minutes.

Lemon and grape play dough!  The kids love how this stuff smells!  Orange smells a little funky to me, but my boys say it still smells awesome.

Lemon and grape play dough! The kids love how this stuff smells! Orange smells a little funky to me, but my boys say it still smells awesome.

Then you can knead it a few times and pass it off to the kids.  Make sure it is cool enough to handle before putting it in their little hands!

Set them up with their favorite play sets and a few batches of your play dough and they’ll be happy for hours!  Or at least a few minutes.  You know how it goes.

Homemade Kool Aid Play Dough by www.dandeliondaze.wordpress.com

See…kid approved!  My little man, C, is molding himself some new teeth with his dentist set since he somehow knocked out a baby tooth last week!  What am I going to do with him?!  I’m looking for the grey strands to start coming in my hair any day now!

My test for good play dough: can you roll it around in your hands and not have it all stuck to your palms?  YES!

My test for good play dough: can you roll it around in your hands and not have it all stuck to your palms? YES!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my recipe for homemade play dough.  Go……….impress your kids with it!  And create something beautiful today!

-Heather

My Sweet Divine Hat

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This is just a quick post to share my latest crochet project.  This may very well be my favorite thing that I’ve made so far in my short crocheting career.

Sweet Divine Hat by www.dandeliondaze.wordpress.com

The pattern for this is the Divine Hat by Sarah Arnold.  I just discovered this pattern recently, even though it seems to be one of the most popular hat patterns on Ravelry.  As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted a bright yellow hat with a big grey bow.  I used Vickie Howell’s Sheep(ish) yarn in yellow(ish) for the hat and grey(ish) for the bow.  I love the way this yarn looks with the hat, it’s super soft and has a beautiful sheen to it.

To make the bow, I chained 14, then did 13 hdc across and repeated that for 14 rows.  Then I just pinched together the middle of the rectangle and wrapped it with yarn to hold it in place.  Then I sewed the middle of the bow and the edges of the bow to the hat, only going through the front part of the stitches so that the inside of the hat doesn’t look messy with the grey stitches.

Sweet Divine Hat by www.dandeliondaze.wordpresscom

This really is my new favorite hat, I just love how it turned out.  I wore it today and received a bunch of compliments on it.  I hope you enjoyed my take on the Divine Hat!

Go………….create something beautiful today!

-Heather

FREE Crochet Pattern: The Amanda Newsboy Cap

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I’ve discovered something.  I really enjoy writing crochet patterns!  This new one is for a slouchy style newsboy cap that I made for my best friend’s birthday a couple of months ago.  Since I gifted it to her and didn’t write the pattern down as I made it, I had to recreate it to be able to write the pattern.

Amanda Newsboy Cap by www.dandeliondaze.wordpress.com

I envisioned a hat just like this one when I was trying to decide what to make my best friend for her birthday.  But I just couldn’t find a pattern that looked like what I saw in my head.  So after much experimentation, I came up with this pattern.  It’s basically a slouchy hat that has several decrease rounds so that it fits snugly around your head.  I hope you like my newest pattern!

The Amanda Newsboy Cap

Your supplies:
1 ball worsted weight yarn (I used almost a whole 145 yd ball of Vanna’s Choice in Grey Marble)
Size H (5.00MM) crochet hook
2 Buttons
Yarn Needle

Stitches used: ch, sc, hdc, dc, full star stitch, hdc2tog, sc2tog and dc2tog.  The decrease stitches (last 3 listed) are very easy and there are many YouTube videos demonstrating how to do them if you’re confused or new to those stitches.  Here is a link to the videos for the star stitch: Part 1 and Part 2.

Body of hat:
Round 1: In magic or adjustable ring, ch2, then 11 dc in ring.  Pull ring tight and join with sl st to top of first dc, not to the ch2.

Round 2: Ch2, 2dc in each st around, join with sl st to top of the first dc.

Round 3: Ch2, 2dc in next st, *1dc in next st, 2dc in next st*, repeat * to * around, join with a sl st to top of first dc.

Round 4: Ch2, 2dc in next st, *1dc in next 2 sts, 2dc in next st*, repeat * to * around, join with a sl st to top of first dc.

Round 5: Ch2, 2dc in next st, *1dc in next 3 sts, 2dc in next st*, repeat * to * around, join with a sl st to top of first dc.

Round 6: Ch2, 2dc in next st, *1dc in next 4 sts, 2dc in next st*, repeat * to * around, join with a sl st to top of first dc.

Round 7: Ch2, 2dc in next st, *1dc in next 5 sts, 2dc in next st*, repeat * to * around, join with a sl st to top of first dc.

Round 8: Ch2, 2dc in next st, *1dc in next 6 sts, 2dc in next st*, repeat * to * around, join with a sl st to top of first dc.

Round 9: Ch2, 2dc in next st, *1dc in next 7sts, 2dc in next st*, repeat * to * around, join with a sl st to top of first dc.

Round 10: Ch2, 1dc in each st around, join with a sl st to top of first dc.

Round 11: Ch2,  dc2tog first 2 sts, *1dc in next 7 sts, dc2tog next 2 sts*, repeat * to * around, join with a sl st to top of first dc.

Round 12: Ch2,  1dc in first st, *dc2tog next 2 sts, 1dc in next 5 sts*, repeat * to * around until last 6 sts of previous round, then 1dc in next 4 sts, dc2tog last 2 sts, join with a sl st to top of first dc.

Round 13: Ch2, dc2tog first 2 sts, *1dc in next 3 sts, dc2tog next 2 sts*, repeat * to * around, join with sl st to top of first dc.

Rounds 14 & 15: Ch2, 1dc in each st around, join with a sl st to top of first dc.  Do not finish off, instead begin brim of hat here.

Brim:
Row 1: Ch1, work 1hdc in each of next 27 sts.  Ch 1, turn.

Row 2: Working in front loop only for this row, sc2tog twice, 1sc in each of next 19 sts, sc2tog twice.  Ch1, turn.

Row 3: Working in both loops again for this row, hdc2tog first 2 sts, 1hdc in each of next 19 sts, hdc2tog last 2 sts.  Ch1, turn.

Row 4: Working in front loop only for this row, sc2tog twice, 1sc in each of next 17 sts, sc2tog twice.  Ch1, turn.

Row 5: Working in back loop only for this row, 1sc in each st across, ch1 and turn.

Row 6: Working in both loops for this row, 1hdc in each st across, ch1 and turn.

Row 7: Working in both loops for this row, 1sc in each st across.  Finish off, leaving a long tail for sewing the brim.

Fold rows 5-7 under and sew in place to row 2 of brim.

Star Stitch Strap (please watch the videos first as this stitch is much easier to do once you see it!  It’s difficult to write in a way that makes sense.  Row 1 is half of the stitch, Row 2 completes the star stitch.):

Row 1: Ch33.  Insert hook into 2nd chain from hook and pull up a loop, then do the same in the next 4 chains.  There should be 6 loops on your hook.  Next, yarn over and pull through all 6 loops.  This makes the spokes of the bottom half of the star.  Chain one to close the stitch.  Next, insert hook in “eyelet” created by the last chain 1 and pull up a loop.  Then,  insert hook in last spoke of the star stitch you just made and pull up a loop.  Then insert hook in same chain that you made the last spoke of last star in and pull up a loop.  Then, insert hook and pull up a loop in next 2 chains.  There should again be 6 loops on your hook.  Yarn over and pull through all 6 loops and chain 1 to close.  Continue until end of row.  Turn.

Row 2: To complete the full star stitch, chain 2, then make 2 hdc in the eyelet of each incomplete star stitch from previous row.  Continue until end of row and finish off, leaving a long tail for sewing.

Position strap to your liking above the brim of the hat and stitch into place.

Sew a button on either end of the strap.  Make sure all ends have been woven in and your hat is complete!

Amanda Newsboy Cap by www.dandeliondaze.wordpress.com

I really hope you’ve enjoyed my pattern.  Please feel free to share it, pin it, like it and of course make it!  But PLEASE, link back to my page and give me credit for my pattern.  Also, feel free to sell finished items made with this pattern, but again, give credit to me as the author of the pattern used.  Karma works for you or against you, peeps! 😉

Amanda Newsboy Cap by www.dandeliondaze.wordpress.com

Please don’t hesitate to ask me for clarification if it is needed on anything in this pattern.  It seems to have been the most difficult for me to write for some reason, so please let me know if anything doesn’t make sense!

Go………..create something beautiful today!

-Heather

My Weekend in Cell Phone Shots

Weekends are for relaxing, right?  For getting in that family time or catching up on the things you never quite get to during the hectic work week, right?  So why does it seem that almost every Sunday evening, we are exhausted because of all the running around we’ve had to do for the past two days?  Or that the house is a mess because I didn’t have a chance to catch up on any cleaning?  Or that book and/or crochet project are still sitting half-finished?  Why has there not been a single period in this post so far that is currently 103 words long?  Or the kids’ rooms are so messy you can barely get to the bed without stepping on a Lego?  Because we seem to over plan and cram soooo much into those two days at the end of every week that we never get time to really enjoy the weekend!  Anyone else have this problem, or is it just us?  Have a period, I feel like there needs to be one finally.

Well this past weekend was just the opposite of what we normally have going on.  And it was soooo nice!

As usual, I couldn’t sleep past 6:45AM on Saturday morning.  Even though I was up watching TV with the man until 1:00AM.  So I made some coffee and finally used one of the beautiful new coffee cups I bought at Cracker Barrel in Utah and settled down to a book I’ve been meaning to start for a long time.

Drowning Ruth has been on my "to read" list for a long time.  I found this copy at the Friends of the Library bookstore for $1!!  It looks like it has been well read.  I love my Kindle, but I really do miss the feel and smell of a real book in my hands.

Drowning Ruth has been on my “to read” list for a long time. I found this copy at the Friends of the Library bookstore for $1!! It looks like it has been well read. I love my Kindle, but I really do miss the feel and smell of a real book in my hands.

Drowning Ruth promises to be a great read so far.  I only read about 70 pages over the weekend, but the story has me hooked for real!

The kids only let me read for so long as they wanted breakfast and cereal just wasn’t going to cut it!  As I was cooking up some bacon, sausage, eggs and pancakes, I snapped a few pictures of Pepperoni hanging out watching the chaos of a Saturday morning.

Pepperoni & Soda watching the action.  Probably hoping for a piece of bacon to hit the deck.  He thinks he's a dog.

Pepperoni & Soda watching the action. Probably hoping for a piece of bacon to hit the deck. He thinks he’s a dog.

I don't think he wanted a close up, as he's swiping at my phone.  Or maybe he just wanted to play Angry Birds...

I don’t think he wanted a close up, as he’s swiping at my phone. Or maybe he just wanted to play Angry Birds…

A little while later, I took my puppy girl Marley out for a short walk.  I don’t think I’ve talked about Marley girl yet.  She’s not really a puppy anymore as she is 3 years old and she has just really come into her own as a great dog.  No, we didn’t name her after that romantic comedy Marley and Me from a few years back.  I think it’s a romantic comedy, I don’t know, I’ve never seen it.  But everyone asks that question when they hear her name.  We named her Marley as in Robert Nesta.  That’s Bob Marley for anyone who doesn’t listen to much reggae.  She was just such a chill and mellow puppy it seemed to fit.  I wonder if that’s who the dog in the movie is named after??

Anyhow, my Marley (AKA Marles Barkley AKA Marley the Love Dog AKA Gnarly Marley) is a lab-pitbull mix who we got from the West End Animal Shelter in Ontario, CA when she was just 5 months old and she is just the sweetest thing.  She thinks she’s a 65 pound lap dog and we don’t really let her know that she wasn’t born to actually be a lap dog.

My pretty girl enjoying a break at the park and watching the kids play.

My pretty girl enjoying a break at the park and watching the kids play.

When we returned from our walk, my husband had gotten down the Christmas decorations so we could get to work.  It was, after all, December 1st!  I used to do my Christmas decorating on the day after Thanksgiving, but now that we are Utah each year for Thanksgiving, I like to do it on December 1 if I can.

I made this NOEL sign with wooden letters I purchased from Michael's a few years back.  I just painted them with acrylic paint and mounted them with velcro stickys to the wall.  I ran out of stickys so my L is a little crooked!  I'll fix that when I go to the store this week.

I made this NOEL sign with wooden letters I purchased from Michael’s a few years back. I just painted them with acrylic paint and mounted them with velcro stickys to the wall. I ran out of stickys so my L is a little crooked! I’ll fix that when I go to the store this week.

The mantle needs work!  I have been browsing Pinterest of course and have a bunch of ideas in mind :)

The mantle needs work! I have been browsing Pinterest of course and have a bunch of ideas in mind 🙂

This is one my very favorite Christmas decorations!

This is one my very favorite Christmas decorations!

This sleigh and everything in it is very special to me.  This is the fifth year that I’ve had it and the kids love to help me set it up every year.  The sleigh was something I saw at Costco five years ago and had to have.  The beautiful cross stitch pillow was made for me by my sister the same year.  She even cross stitched her name and the year in the bottom corner of the pillow.  The bear is a Build-A-Bear that I made for T when he was just a few months old, before he was a stinky football playing 2nd grader who I just love to pieces.  The Santa hat belonged to my mom when I was a kid and it totally reminds me of Christmas in the old two room house that we grew up in and that my dad and his siblings grew up in before us.  Finally, the quilt was made by Nona, my 91 year old great grandmother who lives in Oregon, for my boys.  Isn’t it amazing that my kids have a quilt made specially for them by their great great grandmother AND they’ve actually met her and know who she is?!  I love that, it makes me so happy!

My man was busy outside with the lights on the house while I was busy putting everything up inside.  The sky looked really angry and like it was going to open up any moment and it was beginning to get dark when he told me that he was going to “just” secure the reindeer and sleigh to the roof.  Of course I said he wouldn’t be able to get it done before it was dark and raining.  So, naturally, he took that as a challenge.  He set up some work lights on the roof and set to work.  He succeeded.

This is a horrible shot, the lights were messing with my phone, but there's my man, proving me wrong!

This is a horrible shot, the lights were messing with my phone, but there’s my man, proving me wrong!

I was able to round out my Sunday reading, cooking and working on my crochet.  Sounds like the perfect day, right?!  It was.  My sis-in-law came by to hang out for a bit and watch Return of the Jedi with the boys.  My dad was on his way home from a trip to Phoenix and stopped by just in time for the shrimp fajitas I made for dinner.  Truly an awesome day.

I am making something that is going to be seriously ADORABLE (sorry but use of caps is warranted for the cuteness coming together in this project) for my niece.  Her birthday was the week before last and I haven’t seen her yet so I’m still working on her present.  Her mom, my bestest bestie since we were in 6th grade together, is a reader so I can’t show you everything but here is a little sneak peek:

That's all ya get ;)  It doesn't do justice to the rest of the piece which I should have finished tonight or tomorrow but you'll see the finished thing after my little girl gets her gift!

That’s all ya get 😉 It doesn’t do justice to the rest of the piece which I should have finished tonight or tomorrow but you’ll see the finished thing after my little girl gets her gift!

Well, that’s about it.  I probably won’t have another weekend so relaxing for a while, so I’m really glad I got to enjoy it and share it with you all.

Hope you all had a great weekend as well, whether it was busy or relaxing, and that Monday isn’t getting the best of you!

Go……….create something beautiful today!

-Heather

What’s for Lunch? Apple & Sage Chicken Salad Pita

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We’ve all stood in the kitchen with the fridge door wide open, not wanting to eat anything you see and just wishing that something would come together.  Well that’s sort of how lunch went at my house a few days ago.  I didn’t want anything heavy and I’m really trying to eat more protein and less carbs, so I was looking for something that I wouldn’t feel guilty for eating later.  I went over to the pantry next and found a can of cooked chicken breast and the next thing I knew, I was pulling ingredients out left and right.  I wasn’t going to blog about this meal because it was totally unplanned and I just threw it together.  But it turned out to be so good!  The kids wanted it again yesterday, so I took some photos when I made it again so I could share it with you all.

Apple & Sage Chicken Salad Pita by www.dandeliondaze.wprdpress.com

Collect these ingredients:

12 oz can chunk chicken breast, or this would be good with some leftover roasted chicken
1/2 cup light mayo (I’d like to try this with plain greek yogurt next time for less fat and more protein!)
1-1/2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
3 green onions, sliced
1 Tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Pita pockets (I used the Sara Lee whole wheat pitas, they are only 80 calories per pocket)

Drain the chicken, put it in a bowl and break it up with a fork.  Chop your apple and sage, slice up your green onions and throw those all in there with the chicken.  Then add the remaining ingredients and stir.  That’s it!  I put mine in a pita pocket with some red leaf lettuce.

Apple & Sage Chicken Salad Pita by www.dandeliondaze.wordpress.com

This was such a light and fresh lunch, but it was still totally satisfying!  I will definitely be making it again with the greek yogurt instead of mayo, but I’m not sure how it will taste!  I may need to make some adjustments to the other ingredients for it.  My sister also said this might be good with fresh broccoli.  There are all kinds of variations you can make with the basic recipe.  I hope you make it soon and enjoy!

Go……….create something beautiful today!

-Heather

What’s for Dinner? Pizza Chicken

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I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!  We spent the holiday with my grandparents at their home Utah and had a great time.  I have many pictures of our trip and will be posting some of them soon.  But right now, I want to share with you something that I made for dinner tonight.

This recipe is a family favorite from waaaay back: Pizza Chicken!  It’s really just Parmesan Chicken, but as kids we called it Pizza Chicken because well, it’s like pizza but with chicken instead of dough.  Simple enough, right?  Life’s not so simple anymore, being a grown-up and all, but I can still make my Mom’s Pizza Chicken and feel like I’m sitting at my parents’ dinner table with my biggest worry being my 6th grade report on the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (how do I remember doing that report?!!  It was a fun one!).

I didn’t take an ingredients photo for this recipe.  My best friend called me while I was getting ready to cook dinner and the next thing I knew I was talking and cooking and dinner was halfway done before I remembered to grab my camera!  My measurements listed here aren’t exact as this recipe is one I learned from literally watching my mom make it and I’ve never measured a thing when making it myself.  If you’re a bit of a control freak and the whole no measuring thing bugs you, take a breath, pour some wine, it’s cool.  This will be deliciousness at it’s comforting best, I promise.  Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

6 pieces Boneless Skinless Chicken, thighs and/or breasts (I use thighs only, the breasts are always dry but I know many prefer white meat)
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
2 Eggs
1 cup Milk
3/4 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
Canola or Vegetable oil, enough to cover bottom of a deep skillet
1/2 Jar Spaghetti Sauce (I used Classico Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic this time around)
1 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Grab a deep skillet and pour in enough canola or vegetable oil to cover the bottom.  Put it over med-high heat and preheat the oven to 350F.  Don’t forget to pour some wine.  Cooking with wine and some good music is good for your soul, I’m a firm believer.  Now you’ll put the flour on one plate, beat the eggs and milk in a bowl and put the bread crumbs on another plate.  You’re going to work in a bit of an assembly line here.  Dredge a piece of chicken in flour, then dip it in the egg mixture, then dredge it in the bread crumbs, THEN place it in the skillet.  Make sure the oil is hot enough before you put it in.  It should be hot enough to sizzle when you drop in a few crumbs to test, but it should NOT be so hot that it’s smoking.  Smoking oil is bad!  As is burned butter and garlic, but I’m getting off track now.  Once the chicken is nicely browned on one side, use tongs to flip it over.  Be careful working with the hot oil, especially if you have kids, a dog, and a cat who don’t know what “stay out of my kitchen!!” means!  You’re going to finish cooking the chicken in the oven, so only brown it in the skillet, don’t fully cook it.

Repeat dredging, dipping, dredging again and then browning the chicken pieces until all are browned.  Remove each piece as they are finished browning and place on a plate of paper towels to soak up excess oil.  When all the chicken pieces are done place them on a cookie sheet sprayed lightly with some cooking spray.  Now, spoon some spaghetti sauce on top of each piece of chicken.  Use as much or as little as you’d like.  Then top that off with as much or as little shredded mozzarella as you’d like.  About this time, realize that you’re talking on the phone so much your jaw is about to lock up and grab your camera to finally snap a few photos!

Things are looking delicious up in here!

Once all the chicken pieces are covered with sauce and cheese, pop that cookie sheet in the oven.  If you’re using only thighs they will cook off fairly quickly.  It usually takes mine about 15 minutes in the oven at 375F to reach 180F on the meat thermometer.  Breasts are typically much thicker and will take longer to cook, maybe closer to 30 minutes.  Please please please check the chicken with a thermometer or by cutting into it before you serve.  I have one of those digital meat thermometers that you can place in the oven and the receiver on the outside of the oven will beep when your food is close to being done.  They’re pretty affordable, around $20 or so, and I really recommend getting one to anyone who cooks a lot.  When the chicken is done, take it out of the oven to cool for a bit while you finish any sides you might be making to go along with it.

Almost time to eat! The sides that are still cooking on the stove: steamed broccoli, garlic sauteed spinach, and fettucini alfredo (from a box, I have to admit!).

Once everything is done, refill your glass of wine and dinner is served!  This dish has been devoured by everyone I’ve ever served it to, kids and adults alike!

For those of you without a thermometer, this is what your chicken should look like in the middle when it’s done. Please don’t get salmonella, it ain’t fun!

I have to put my food on a small plate like I give to my kids to keep from overeating! So yummy!

I hope that some of you make this soon and that you enjoy it as much as my family and friends do!

Go……….create something beautiful today!

-Heather

I’m linking up over at The 36th Avenue…go check out the other great links there!  Good stuff as always!