the latest experiment

I like to cook and read cookbooks like novels – my favorites are the ones with great pictures (actually, I kind of hate cookbooks without pictures, no fun and not nearly the inspiration quota). But, as cooking is a nearly every day thing (I don’t count the heat-n-eat stuff as cooking), I don’t always have the ingredients for the latest recipe I found, or more often, I have some items that really need to get used up (or $ in the garbage can they will soon be) and so I have to figure out what to do.

There are websites out there that you can type in ingredients and they will pop back at you with a recipe, but . . . I’m not really the recipe following type, as much as I like to read them. I am a bit of a rogue that way, and will try some of this with some of that. Most of the time the experiments end up pretty great – I mean, really, if you like everything separately, then together it will probably be good. And if you kind of know how each item cooks up, then you really can’t go too wrong. So the other night I had 6 bratwurst, fresh basil pesto, and 4 zucchini from the garden. Why not?

Zucchini curls with onion, basil pesto and pine nuts on angel hair pasta. Not much of a name, but it was soooo good.

Do you want to make it too?


Toasted pine nuts – about 1/2 or so

6 bratwurst (cook in water, then cut into coins and saute with more basil/olive oil; do this before the pasta and set aside covered to stay warm.

Some extra basil leaves (5-6)

1 large vidalia onion (cut onion in half and then slice into half rings)

4 medium size zucchini (each about 8 inches) (wash and using vegetable peeler, peel into long ribbons – discard the seedy center)

1 cup of basil pesto (I made this the day before with 2 cups of basil leaves, about a cup of pine nuts, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 cup parmesan cheese, salt/pepper – throw it all in the food processor)

Angel hair pasta –  cook the box up per directions, drain. While the pan is still hot, add olive oil and the pesto, then add back in the drained pasta to coat.

While the water was boiling for pasta, I started to saute the onions on medium for about 7 minutes (still a bit of a crunch left).  I added the zucchini in and sauted it all together for about another 6 minutes, adding a little more olive oil (tbsp)  and some lemon juice (tsp). Added salt and pepper to taste. Tossed the sliced bratwurst in, and then added all that to the pasta and tossed some more. I poured all this into my serving dish and topped with pine nuts. I didn’t add parmesan, but next time I think that would be nice.

It was so nice and light and the bratwurst was fine with it – I got thumbs up from my husband on the zucchini ribbons – very light but still a crunch and good flavor.

So what cooking experiment have you tried lately? Let’s hear about it . . .     D


the million glass march . . .

It seems in our house that the glassware was always the largest category in the dishwasher – and we had to own sooooo many glasses to keep up with the demand, that when they were all clean at the same time, they didn’t fit in the cupboard! Plus, it seemed like I was always finding them left somewhere (and the said culprit said it wasn’t theirs because LOOK I have one right here!). Thinking caps on . . . remember the wine glass charms . . . anyway to make this work for regular glasses . . . cheaply . . . wander the aisles in the craft store . . . IDEA!!!!

GLASS CHARMS!!! These are tags for your glassware that fit most size glasses, comfortable enough while holding your glass, easy for anyone (especially kids) to use, and best of all, there are so many options on how you could make this look, that the possibilities are . . .!!!! What else that I like is that no one really is sure what the tags are made out of unless they are a shrink art plastic/crafty person, and so it sure is an inexpensive way to impress the friends and family. Did I mention that this is a cheap project?

monograms, without the mono

So here is how to make your very own glass charms (sounds like magic – maybe they are – not so many glasses to wash!) I think that this idea can be adapted for lots of uses; I see tags in my linen closet (yes, the dream linen closet, not the way it looks now, yeccch) or baskets of craft items . . . oh, I digress.

So here is what you need:

shrink art plastic

pony tail elastics

  • new pony tail elastics (from the hair care aisle) I used different colors for each person, but you get to customize this part
  • jump rings (from the jewelry findings aisle) – large size (3/8″ diameter or so – enough to attach the label to the elastic
  • shrink art plastic (you might have to ask where this is)
  • Pens and/or computer printer
  • scissors
  • hole punch tool
  • two pairs of pliers (preferably jewelry pliers, since they won’t mark up the jump rings)
  • cookie sheet/spatuala
  • oven

Next you will be using either your computer printer, or being artistic with marker pens to create the names on the shrink art plastic.

You can purchase clear or one-side-frosted (works better with color pencils), but either way, remember that whatever you draw or print must be 3 times larger than the finished size. I just stuck with simple names in black ink thinking I was going to do monograms, but duplicate letters required full names to accomplish the goal of identifying the glass! I was able to run the shrink art plastic through my printer, but if you can’t do that, print out and trace over the printout with your pens. The shrink art plastic will let you use pens/pencils since the shrinking process seals the print onto the plastic. Let it dry thoroughly so you don’t smear the print, then cut the names/words out. I used my paper cutter for fast, even cuts. but a scissors is needed to round out the corners – this is important, since sharp corners get sharper when they are shrunk. Leave enough space to punch a hole (a regular hole punch works great – the hole will shrink too).

Next follow the directions on the package for shrinking your labels – mine was 375 degree oven for 2-3 minutes.

ready to shrink

I cut a paper bag and spread it out on the cookie sheet, and spaced the labels pretty far apart – you don’t want them touching as they shrink.

they go quick!

Now call the kids to watch – it is pretty fun to watch how the plastic suddenly starts to shrink and curl, and then straightens itself out (most of the way).

If they don’t flatten out themselves, you have about 5-10 seconds to flatten them when they come out of the oven – I used the flat back of my solid spatula, but use what you have (use more paper bag pieces to shield your fingers from getting burned if necessary). Let them cool.

you only have seconds to flatten them

Almost done! Now take the jump rings, and while using one pliers to hold it, use the second pliers to open the ring up enough to get the label and the pony elastic on and then close up the ring.

jump rings and pliers

your magic glass

You are done!!! The magic of the Glass Charm is yours!

This is a project that can be as quick or time consuming as you decide to be artistic. Hey, I just thought of wine bottle labels, gift tags . . .

Just so you know, over time, the elastic will stretch out and you may have to get new elastics (just open the jump ring and change it out).

Just another ingenuitygirl day – go make these and let me know how yours turn out!


summer on a plate

no cook dinner – open cans and chop some things!

I want to tell you about the recipe I made up that I think I want to have for dinner every night this summer! Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration, but it was so good and easy to make, and even a little bit healthy too. And versatile. You could do this a few dozen ways. I really did make it up, but it is a bit of a copy (they do say that imitation is the best form of flattery – thank you Qdoba and Chipotle!)

i have plans for these babies . . .

First you need a can of sweet corn and a can of black beans. Open and drain them and dump them together in a big bowl.

I had a can of diced green chiles. I added that to the bowl too – just opened and dumped it in.

Next are tomatoes. This is probably the hardest part – chop up the tomatoes into diced size (do you want more specifics? About ¾” square or so – I used grape tomatoes and chopped them into eight pieces each) Use a sharp knife with your tomato chopping – it is soooooo much easier to not have tomato guts all over because your knife is smooshing more than it is cutting. Maybe you will have to order the Ginsu knives from tv (but wait, there’s more!!!)

Now dump those into the big bowl with the corn and beans. Get yourself an onion. I used a sweet Vidalia – about ½ chopped up pretty small and into the bowl it goes. Next is some garlic – one clove, and I grated it with my micrograter tool (no garlic chunks to surprise you) – just grate it right in there.

Next is the lime – cut in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl of good stuff. Now if you want, some salt and pepper to taste (a large pinch of salt and about four turns of the pepper mill for me, but its really up to you.)

Now I have seen recipes that add some olive oil. I didn’t. I just stirred this all up. You can make this up earlier if you want, but because the tomatoes are fresh, the mix will get a bit watery because the tomatoes have a lot of water in them.

it really tasted as good as it looks!

So you can pile this on lettuce or nacho chips, add some cheese, and dinner is ready. If you want to be fancy, add some grilled chicken, or shrimp (like this). I used a key lime spice blend from World Market on the shrimp – wow!

Now one of my favorite parts – add some chopped avocado on top!

I tell you, this tastes like summer on a plate.

This really only took me about 20 minutes – so as long as you have the ingredients on hand, it is a really fast meal. See what I mean? You might just want this for dinner every night this summer too!!!!

Variations could be: If you didn’t have fresh tomatoes, you could use canned, diced tomatoes and drain them.  You could also be really gourmet and grill your own sweet corn and slice it off and add that. What about skipping the chiles and adding basil and goat cheese? Or adding fresh chopped sweet peppers? Cubed zucchini? This could be the recipe that evolves all summer, but it is fresh, raw vegetables, so eat lots of it!

Happy Tuesday to you . . .