Friday, December 5, 2014

Food Friday: Veggie Orzo Beef Stew

GUYS!  I made soup and it is SO GOOD!  I had a bunch of old/leftover veggies, so I kinda started with that and decided I wanted to use some random ground beef and some pasta.

I'm labeling this a stew because I figure I could eat it with a fork if I wanted.  That's my soup/stew line.  Eat with a fork & sop up the juice with bread = stew.  Spoon required = soup.

So much goodness all in one bowl.  I love it when things work out better than I expect.  Below is what I used, but feel free to substitute for what you have on hand.  The great thing about stew is that it thickens while it stands too.  You can add water each time you reheat to make the stew stretch a bit further.  This was also obscenely cheap.  It cost somewhere around $7 for the whole pot.

Here's the printable, which opens a print dialogue box in a new window.

Veggie Orzo Beef Stew
3/4 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
1 medium onion, small dice ~1/4"
1 potato, small dice
8 celery stalks, chopped to 1/4"
8 oz baby carrots, chopped to 1/4"
1 can of peas
1 can of corn
6 cups water
6 teaspoons beef bullion granules (or 6 cubes)
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (can omit if it's not in your pantry)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf 
2 cups orzo pasta
2 more cups water
3 teaspoons corn starch
In a large stock pot, combine everything except the corn starch, the second amount of water, and the orzo pasta.  Bring the pot to a boil.  Once boiled, turn down to a simmer.  Cook for 45 minutes.  Add the orzo pasta and the second amount of water if needed.  Simmer for 15 minutes more.  Stir in the corn starch at the very end.  You may want to mix the corn starch with a bit of water before adding it to the pot.  That will prevent lumps.  I did not do this, but I also didn't have consistency issues when I tossed the corn starch in the pot and stirred.  YMMV.  That's it!

This is a fairly low-maintenance recipe once the chopping, ground beef browning, and boiling is done.  You just kind of set it and forget it.  Stir it a couple times an hour or whatever and you can leave it on low heat all day.  I cooked the soup long enough for the onions to basically disappear.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

So I Ran a Marathon

A MARATHON.  That happened exactly 3 weeks ago.  I'm pretty impressed with myself since exactly one year ago at the date of the marathon I was decidedly NOT a runner.

My first ever marathon was the Rock N Roll in Savannah, GA.  Savannah is one of my favorite towns in the country and it was great to see it in a different way.  It was a nice weekend.

I started the morning at 4am eastern time. I’m on central back home, so other than being the butt crack of dawn, I didn’t have any daylight savings issues. I ate a cliff bar for breakfast and downed a bottle of water before leaving my hotel room. I parked at the convention center at 5:30 and decided to use the portapotty before crossing the river. The ferry line ended up 1000 people longer during that time! I saw a gorgeous sunrise while waiting for the ferry though. 

Good thing I used the toilet when I did. This is only one of several lines of toilets. I saw one guy pooping in the corner of a building, which, UGH!

 The slowpokes get put in the back of the line. I couldn’t even see the start from where I was.

This is a "Welcome Runners" sign.  
There is a man wearing orange cheering all the runners on from the hotel balcony.  :)
 Getting closer!

Obligatory marathon selfie.  Green bibs means 1/2 marathon. 

 1 corral left! Should have kept my sunglasses on. :)

 And we're off!

I ran a fairly strong first 5 miles. I loved seeing all the people cheering us on from their houses at 8am. Their coffee smelled so good! I felt like I took off too fast. Looking at my 5k time, it only seemed like I was going too fast; there were far too many people so close together to really take off. (36:41 5k)

I tried to cheer on all the other marathoners along the way. It seemed like there were 100 half marathoners for every marathoner on the course. Us long-distance crazies needed to stick together! One lady was supposed to run the full, but she wasn’t comfortable with it after not being able to stick with her training schedule. She was running the half with her friend instead. She told me I was killing it at the 10k mark and wished me well. (1:15:16 10k) I liked sexy
saxguitar man around mile 8. He was a hit with the runners as you can see from my photo.

The local daisy girl scout troupe put together the most adorable paper plate daisies for one neighborhood at miles 10-11. That was a gorgeous neighborhood. We’d never have anything like that where I live. (2:03:31 10 miles) I was prepared to make the marathon split at mile 11 and I started FREAKING OUT when it didn’t happen. The split was closer to mile 12. I thought I might have followed the crowd and not made the turn when I needed to. It got so lonely after the split. Marathoners to the left.

I hit the halfway point at 2:41:45. Every mile after this one was totally uncharted territory. I don’t recommend training for a fall marathon if you live in Florida. It was stupid-hot out and miserable to run in, so I mostly didn’t. I’d run 11 half marathons to this point, including a pseudo-marathon experience (in my opinion) of a 10k, 5k, half marathon weekend. I felt so ready for the marathon after that last half. I ran my second-fastest half marathon time and I was on tired legs when I started out.

We ran through Savannah State University for about 3 miles, including a lap around the track. There were some guys stretching before doing their own runs at the school and I yelled out to them “we are just warming up the track for you!” They laughed. One of the band singers (I think at miles 14.25 and 17.5) yelled out at us that he would be running his marathon after we finished up. I told him I’d be waiting for him at the finished line. I was in really good spirits the entire run, though I definitely slowed down quite a bit after the half. I think it was mostly because I felt like I was by myself out there and we were running along the highway for a ways. My 20 mile time was 4:16:01.

A Blue Angels plane was on the SSU campus and I had to read the placard to find out why. I live near Blue Angels HQ. This plane was on campus in recognition of the first black man to fly for the Blue Angels. He was an SSU graduate.

I didn’t particularly like running past the soccer field miles 19-22. It felt like the organizers were trying to find places to have us run to make those miles. We were running the wrong way down streets and turning around and going in the other direction. Miles 23 & 24 were back on the highway. The finish line came quickly after getting back into downtown, though the finish line was confusing! There were so many cable ramps and scaffolds that I couldn’t quite see the finish line. I sprinted to the “finish” too soon and had to walk to catch my breath before sprinting to the actual finish. D’oh! And yes I did have that much gas left at the end. I finished in 5:44:43. I put 5:45 as my prediction, so go me!

I never felt “the wall” people warned me about. I noticed pains I hadn’t felt before at points. My butt got tight for a couple minutes, so I awkwardly walked it out while doing a nice meat mallet pounding. My tailbone started hurting. That was weird. My ankles were fine. My calves were really okay. I even made my “A goal” of walking back to the ferry from the finish line. As far as the goodies go, some of the things were packed up already. There were boxes and boxes of pretzels, but no volunteers handing them out. I wanted one of those solar blankets because I was COLD, but again, no volunteers handing them out. I could see the solar blankets on the pallets! The secure zone should be fully manned until the very last runner comes through. There was still over an hour before the course closed. I find this unacceptable, especially considering these people went 26 miles.

Here I am with my medal. I finished.


Actually, not the end.  Getting to this point was not easy. In the weeks leading up to marathon day, it was something I had doubts I could complete.  I kept reminding myself that I was stronger than I thought I was.  There would be days I thought I couldn't run a marathon, but a lifetime ahead of me knowing that I did.  Now I feel...

It's the BEST feeling.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Food Friday: Pear Brownies

I know it's not Friday yet.  I wanted to post this simple recipe in case you need any last minute desserts for Thanksgiving.  These aren't really brownies or blondies, but what else do I call gooey bars of delicious?

On to the recipe (you can skip down to the bottom for the written or grab the printable here).

What you need:  flour, sugar, vegetable oil, cinnamon, vanilla, eggs, salt, baking powder, and a large pear

3 eggs in a bowl

Whisk the sugar and eggs together until light and fluffy (sort of custardy)

Add the vanilla and the oil

Cinnamon is one of my favorite spices.  Add a heaping teaspoon of that (or more if you are me).

I love the way stuff looks when it's being mixed together!

Sift in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 2 cups of flour

Mix it all up

Gently fold in the pears (or apples)

Spread in a 9x13 pan (the yellow on mine is that baking spray stuff.  Pam maybe?  I didn't really need it for this pyrex pan, but I wasn't taking any chances.)
After about 40 minutes, you get this delicious gooey hunk of amazing with a creme brulee-esque top.  I ate mine with some greek yogurt because I like that sweet/tart flavor combo.
The entire pan disappeared before I could take photos the first time I made these brownies.  This is my second go at them.

I was so tempted to grind some of this cinnamon sugar on top of my yogurt.  I thought it might be overkill, but now I wish I had.  That yogurt looks so plain next to the brownies.

Have a recipe. (Link opens printable recipe in a new window)

Pear Brownies
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup vegetable oil (increase to 1 cup if using apples)
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 cups diced pears (or apples)

Heat oven to 350­°.  Whisk eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and vegetable oil.  Stir in cinnamon.  Sift salt, baking powder, and flour into the wet ingredients and stir to combine.  Gently fold in pears (or apples).  Bake for 35-45 minutes in a 9x13 baking dish.  If using aluminum, grease the pan.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fashion Plate: Capital Class Trench

It's come to my attention that some of you are getting cold.  I'm keeping warm in my insulated part of Florida and I wanted to post another swimsuit fashion plate this week, but I'm trying to be respectful to those of you that have already seen snow this season. 

This week's fashion plate is based on ModCloth's Capital Class Trench.  The Robson pattern from Sewaholic seems absolutely perfect for this look.  The line drawing is a bit misleading, as the collar is double just like the ModCloth one.  I chose a navy polka dot cotton duck fabric from, but you can use any light to medium fabric, such as cotton twill or gabardine.

This is actually my one year(ish) anniversary of posting fashion plates.  I clicked "post" on the first one on 9/27 last year.  Yay!

Monday, September 29, 2014

FO: Fancy Ball Dress

"Fancy Ball Dress"
(aka Vogue 1192)

Just the Facts:
Fabric: 2 yards each dupioni silk from Measure $50 and bemberg rayon from JoAnn's $10
Notions: Thread, zipper $3
Pattern: Vogue 1192
Year: 2010
Time to Complete:  about 2 years (seriously, lol. see here and here)
First Worn:  September 27, 2014
Wear Again:  yes, hopefully I'll have the opportunity soon!
Total Cost: $67.00

It's been a while since I had a finished thing to post.  I've had a lot of changes going on in my life.  The biggest one is that I just started a new job less than 2 weeks ago.  Doing interview prep and such took a lot of energy out of me and then having to work out my notice at my old job of over 7 years was draining as well.  I know I made the right decision, but I was constantly feeling Done.  Now that that's over, more time for sewing! (hopefully)

I had my 10-year high school reunion Saturday night.  I wasn't sure I wanted to go to it.  I mean, who actually goes to their 10-year reunion anyway?  I decided to go to the reunion and use it as motivation to finish up this gorgeous dress that's been hanging there taunting me for nearly 2 years.

All these night time pictures are terrible, though the fabric color is surprisingly accurate.  A touch less shiny and more green perhaps.  I left off with this dress very annoyed with the left front bodice piece.  The bust dart was in the way wrong place and I COULD NOT figure out how to fix it.  I guess a couple more years of sewing experience under my scissors helped a lot.  I looked at the pattern piece and knew exactly what I needed to do to fix my issue.  I marked my bust apex on the pattern piece. closed the dart on the tracing, and retraced the pattern piece to start fresh.  From there, I slashed the bust dart open and spread my pattern piece out, creating a much smaller and shorter dart.  The new pattern piece is almost perfect!

I could have done a better job with the hem.  It's a bit lower in the front than the back.   I lost a fair amount of fabric to unraveling over the years.  YEARS.  This dress was taunting me in the corner, you have no idea.

Glamor shot!

I was trying to show off the pleats and failing horribly.  Are they tucks or pleats?  I can never keep them straight.  According to this pop quiz, people have been getting them confused for a long time.  I like this description from that same link: "A tuck is secured it’s entire length, as in a pin-tuck. A tuck is fixed.  A pleat is only secured at one end (unless it is smocked) it is loose, it can fold and unfold. A pleat is malleable."  I'm thinking my shaping detail is a pleat because they lines aren't sewn for the entire length--only 2-3" per line.

 I started with the size 8 and made quite a few changes to this dress to get it to fit me properly.
    --shortened the dress front and back by 3"
    --took 1.5" off the shoulder seam at the neck tapering to match the pattern at the armhole
    --redrew the v-neck seam line, taking off anywhere from 3/4" to 1/4" 
    --moved the bust dart on the left front and made it 2.5" instead of 4.5"
    --hand-stitched a 3/4" hem instead of 2" hem (shouldn't have shortened so much!  I didn't make the shoulder seam adjustment on my muslin and that's where I lost a lot of the length.)

More about the reunion:  I was SHOCKED! by who married who, how much weight people gained (or lost), the jobs people held, and how many people I didn't recognize at all.  One guy in my class is a construction foreman-type who works for the State of Florida.  His dad is the local judge and everyone thought Andrew was going to be a lawyer for sure.  The party was held at the town country club (I went to school in a very small town).  There was some food, a cash bar, and a very bad DJ.  We opened the time capsule.  Someone put tarter sauce in it!  It was brown and gross after 10 years.  There were a lot of pictures in the time capsule too.  Someone put one in from the first day of senior year.  I don't even remember taking the photo that day.  My life has changed so many ways since graduating from high school, yet it feels like I haven't changed at all.

I didn't get any pictures at the event, so I had to get up on Sunday and take some semi-decent daytime ones.  This is bedhead and leftover mascara.  Wooo.  I'm also hiding my glasses behind my back.  Lazy Sunday FTW.

I had a really hard time with this back vent.  I was stumped for several days.  The lining pattern pieces are an inch or two narrower than the fashion fabric and the lining didn't seem to match up with the fashion fabric on the inside.  The left side looks like it's pulling.  That's actually the extension side and the directions had me tack that down, which only led to the dress riding up like crazy.  I opted to leave the extension open and iron a sharp crease instead.  It's marginally better, trust me.

Bonus butt shot!

I said it before--this dress is the result of a perfect pairing of fabric and pattern.  The pleats/tucks look perfect and the darts are sharp.  This dress is classically beautiful.  I think even the color is great.  I believe the details would be lost in a darker color.

There is one major stress point on this dress and that is where the right and left fronts meet just above the rightmost tuck.  The pattern instructions have you perform a certain form of sorcery to get these pieces joined.  You should probably backstitch this section more than you think you need to.

I did a lot of hand stitching on this dress.  The armscyes and necklines were understitched by hand.

As were the hems and tacking the lining to the shell.

Have a glimpse at this weird vent.

And a glimpse of the gorgeous slubbing on this fabric!

Did you go to any of your high school reunions?  What surprised you the most about the people you graduated with 10 (or 20 or 30) years later?