February 28, 2010

Lenten Meal Idea

A few years ago my husband and I gave up eating meat on Fridays.  It is a small sacrifice really, but it does have spiritual meaning to us.  What it means on a practical level is that when Lent comes around I have a large stockpile of meatless dinner ideas to pull from.  The one I'm about to share here happens to be one of our favorites.  As I was writing this post I tried to find the original recipe that inspired this dish.  At first I thought that it was a Donna Hay recipe, but no.  Then I thought maybe I had seen it prepared by Giada, no again.  Finally I checked Everyday Food, but again, no luck.  I'm thinking that I just sort of put it together based off a variety of dishes instead of just one recipe.  I don't have any fancy name for it either, we just call it what it is, tuna pasta. 

I know for some the combination of tuna and pasta may seem a bit strange, but if you can get over the initial weirdness factor you'll see that this recipe really is a great one to have.  It's very filling, healthy and it's an easy pantry meal (well, pantry + freezer).  I always keep the supplies for this dish on hand.  Not only is it a great meal for Fridays, but sometimes I make this when we've had a long busy day or as an easy weekend lunch.  Here's the recipe:

Tuna pasta with peas (serves 2)
4 oz pasta cooked and drained (I like farfalle for this recipe)
one 6 oz can of tuna packed in olive oil, drained
1/2 cup frozen peas
zest of half a lemon, plus the juice of the lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Just a few notes here as there really isn't much cooking involved, I cook the peas with the pasta during the last minute of cooking or so.  After I've boiled the pasta and peas I drain them, immediately return them to the pan and add the rest of the ingredients.  I stir the ingredients just to combine them and warm the tuna.  I also break-up the tuna just a bit but not too much; I use albacore tuna and I like the pieces to stay somewhat large rather than shredded like in tuna salad.  And then it's ready to serve.

During Lent I do try to keep things simple at mealtime, which I find hard to do sometimes I confess.  But in order to simplify this recipe I usually substitute the tuna packed in oil with tuna packed in water.  It is much less luxurious that way and also not as flavorful, but it is still satisfying.  Also, if you can't find tuna packed in oil you'll have to make that substitution anyway.  In that case and if you are so inclined, you can always add a nice extra virgin olive oil to the finished dish so that it is not too dry.  Also, you'll see that the recipe above serves only two but the ingredients are easily adjusted for larger servings.

February 16, 2010

Win a free copy of Stretch your Sketches

Jill Paulson of A Matter of Memories has posted a very kind and positive review of Stretch your Sketches on her website.  To find out more about the eBook and for your chance to win a free copy visit her website and leave a comment stating how often you start your layouts with a sketch.  You must comment by Friday February 19th.  Good luck!

February 14, 2010

You *can* have your chicken and eat it too

A good friend of mine recently had a baby boy.  He's just 16 days old today and so tiny and sweet and perfect.  I wanted cook dinner for my friend and her family during this time as they readjust to life with a newborn.  They have one daughter who is almost three and so they are also adjusting to life as a family of three to life as a family of four.  I remember those first few weeks after Nathan was born.  It was tough for us; I'm not going to sugar-coat it.  This friend was so sweet and helpful to me and she brought us dinner probably once a week for the first four to five weeks.  And it meant so much to me.  So, I want to help them out.  Not only to return the favor, but because I remember those nights that she would bring dinner and it was such a comfort and such a relief to have something home-cooked and delicious to eat at the end of a long day.

As I was thinking of what to make for them I tried to think of what I would want to eat during a time like this and the first thing that popped into my mind was roasted chicken.  Not only is roasted chicken so lovely to eat the day you cook it as a hot meal, but in our family there are always leftovers (there is no way that me, my sweets and Gabe can eat an entire chicken!).  So, I thought it would be great for them because then they would have dinner one night and could have leftovers for another meal as well. 

Now, I will tell you that up until a few years ago I would never have dreamed of cooking a whole chicken myself.  I don't know why.  I don't remember my mom ever roasting a whole chicken.  Turkey, yes.  Chicken, well no.  Usually, if she did cook an entire chicken it was cut into pieces and she would bake them (so, in the oven but just not at a very high heat).  So maybe I was a little scared?  But I kept hearing Ina say that roasting a chicken was so easy that eventually I had to try it.  Guess what.  It is so easy.  And yet, so comforting and satisfying.

Now, I will also tell you, that as I was buying a chicken for my friend's dinner it occurred to me that my sweets would not be happy to have to smell the roasted chicken cooking in the house but not get to eat the roasted chicken.  For some reason he thinks I make the best roasted chicken ever.  While it is very sweet of him to say (thanks sweets!) I can assure you that it's probably not the best.  I mean, what does that mean anyway?  But basically I realized that I would need to buy two chickens.  There, problem solved. 

So this is what my roasting pan looked like yesterday afternoon:

And one-and-a-half hours later:

Ahhh, lovely roasted perfection.  And as a little side note, I had never roasted lemon wedges with the vegetables before.  I always stuff one in the cavity of the bird, but on another recommendation of Ina's I tried roasting lemons with the veggies.  Oh boy.  These were so yummy.  Just the tiniest hint of bitterness, but mostly just soft and tender with roasty-goodness.  They were the perfect compliment to the other vegetables.  I will definitely be adding them to the veggie mix from now on.

After we ate I carved the remainder of the chicken and took as much of the meat from the bone as possible (for chicken salad).  And then I made stock from the carcasses (which is now another of my favorite things to do.  Homemade stock is so amazingly simple and yet so good).

Finally, today we had a variation of this cranberry-walnut chicken salad.  My sweets is the type who likes sweet and savory foods together; especially the combination of meats with fruits (like pork chops with say, a lovely apple chutney).  So this was perfect for an easy Sunday lunch and we used up some of our chicken leftovers.

Next on the list?  I'm thinking spaghetti and meatballs...

February 4, 2010

My eBook :)

Where could I possibly begin... The week that my book was released the boys, along with sweets were sick, very sick, with what we think was food poisoning.  Although that was two weeks ago now, and they are long feeling much better, I am still behind on various chores (not least of which is the laundry).  But that's just one of the many reasons I am delayed in posting this: 

My eBook Stretch your Sketches is now available at Ella!

What can I say about it that won't sound like bragging?  I really love the way it turned out.  The book contains 21 layouts based off of 7 sketches with 32 bonus sketches at the end of the book.  Ten of the layouts were created by me.  I am very proud of my work and they are some of my favorite layouts that I have ever made.  The other 11 layouts were created by a combination of the Ella friends and four readers who won a spot in the eBook. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of them for their beautiful layouts and contributions to the book. 

The Ella Friends:
Linda Barber

Reader Contributors:

I also want to thank Ella Publishing and most specially Angie Lucas for giving me the opportunity to share my talents with other scrapbookers (however great or small they may be).  It is truly humbling to think that I can inspire others or create a spark in someone else's imagination.  That has been the most interesting, fun and blessed part of this whole experience.

Finally, don't forget about the Six Weeks of Sketches Challenge still underway on the Ella blog.  During week 2 of the challenge Ella announced the Grand Prize - a Cricut Expression!! 

For every week that you participate you will have your name entered into a drawing for the grand prize; see this post for details.  Also, each week there are three winners who will have their layouts featured on the blog and they will win an eBook of their choice.  It's been a lot of fun so far and tomorrow kicks off week #4.  Go... check it out. :)


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