Friday, January 28, 2011

Yes It's True - Anybody Can Make This Pasta! Happy Eats!

This morning the Today Show had some happy news: making pasta is not as hard as you think. I found out, they were right! They made it look so easy! So in no time at all--especially for homemade pasta--I made this Cavatelli from scratch and added my own homemade mushroom and white wine sauce. But now, I'm going to share a few things they didn't have time to tell us. You can see their how-to video on the Today Show website.

The site of the classic flour well is what really got me going. It's been a few years since I've done this all by hand. For the pasta, you need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
3/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt

Make your flour well on a large board, or in a wide bowl, and slowly drizzle in the water and work it into the flour with a fork. Pretty soon you'll have a rough-looking ball of dough, which you will now have to knead for the next 5 to 8 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic and beautiful. This is a good arm workout. Make sure your board stays floured so the dough doesn't stick--5 to 8 minutes of kneading can feel like a long time. Next, have two baking sheets, covered with clean towels dusted with flour, ready to go--this is where you will put your little Cavatelli pastas to dry for a bit. 

Now cut your ball of dough into 8 pieces, and take out one piece to work with, covering the rest over with a bowl so it doesn't dry out. Roll the piece into a long rope--it will be about 1/2-inch thick, and cut it into 1/2-inch lengths.  Now you can practice your Cavatelli-making technique. 

Take a round-tipped knife, press it down on the little piece of dough and roll, quickly squeezing over the tip of the knife and removing it and laying it in the pan. You just made a Cavatelli! At this point I was thinking that the Cavatelli sort of look like gnocchi. But the main difference is that gnocchi is made from a softer dough with potatoes. So, at first, it took me several times to really get the hang of this, in making them look like little shells--but pretty soon I was a wiz at it! Just get the press, roll, and pinch system going with the knife, and you've got it made.  

This recipe makes one pound of pasta, so pretty soon you will get this going faster and faster and you will have two baking sheets filled with these little guys. I felt just like an Italian woman in her kitchen under the Tuscan sun! All the little pastas are made! Now they can take a break and dry out a bit while you prepare this luscious sauce. 

First, add two tablespoons of unsalted butter to a large pan, and drizzle in some olive oil. 

Right when the butter melts, add three cloves chopped garlic, and half of a large onion, chopped. (I love onion and garlic...can't help it)

Let this saute for a minute or two, and then pour in about half a cup of white wine. This should all be on medium heat. It will sizzle and the wine will start to reduce. Then add a cup of fresh sliced mushrooms. Salt to taste, and let this continue to saute and reduce down, as your water boils for the Cavatelli. Dump the pasta into the boiling water all at once. Mine had to cook for a good four maybe almost five minutes. They started floating to the top, so then I knew they were ready to go into the sauce. Toss the cooked Cavatelli into your mushroom wine sauce, and let this cook around on low for a couple of minutes--this fresh, homemade pasta has a way of really soaking up the flavor of sauce, unlike packaged dry pasta. 

When it is ready, top with a good grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and chopped flat-leaf parsley (I keep a potted flat-leaf parsley plant in the winter). Now, here's another tidbit they didn't tell you this morning on the today show--this pasta is filling! No kidding. It is very dense and very hearty, which is good when paired with a good hearty sauce. But it really does not take much of this to fill you up. So enjoy! You can do it. Seriously, you can make homemade pasta. An air kiss to you!

 Eat, write, dream, and stitch your heart out.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Coming soon with love...

A Valentines Day countdown is on the way. 

That's why iHeart February.

Minnie hearts knitting.

A Happy Snow White Clean Start for the Year

While there is still snow on the ground...I thought a snow white January deserved a snow white and organized start to a wonderful year of stitching, cooking and writing! Rather than making a list of resolutions that must start on January 1st--I simply resolved to spend this month cleaning out and organizing, about one day a week. And I couldn't be happier!  I'm actually getting severely organized!

SEWING/CRAFTING/SCRAPBOOKING STUFF! It all started in my own little corner in my own little chair--my craft corner. I went through stacks of files, books, magazines, scrapbook stuff, papers, fabrics and cross-stitch supplies. I weeded out the old stuff, and made new space to put things away. Ahhh. It's a good feeling. I can put my hands on things much faster and my projects have almost lined themselves up, waiting in the que to be started, tweaked and finished! One of the best things I reorganized was my fabric stash. We all have one, don't we! I wish I had a whole room of fabric, but I have just enough to barely fit into some drawers and cupboards. By the way, I was working on a wall-hanging with various fabrics--and forgot I bought the cutest pink fabric with embroidery and sequins last summer. When I rediscovered it, this fabric's gorgeous blushing color and tiny scattered sequins made me smile. It went right into my banner wall hanging, and I even took a leftover strip of it from the cutting, ran a couple of layers through the sewing machine and made a darling bookmark in five minutes! I also have a lot of beautiful yarns--just yearning to become my next cute tote bag or patch-happy banner. It's clear now: I either need more me's or more time. Maybe that's why the word "time" has the word "me" in it.

In our great room, we moved furniture around, went through bookshelves, and made nice new clean spaces. The sun lit up my freshly dusted and organized front room that day--so nice! I put all our scrapbooks together on a shelf, and threw out a lot of things that have never seen the light of day once they were stuffed in a drawer! Now I have more scrapbook storage in there, hidden in cute cupboard drawers and a butterfly train bag. More changes to come this spring!

Next was the kitchen. I spent one afternoon assessing all my kitchen space. Cupboards and cabinets were cleaned out--some things sent to my booth at the flea market--more space to work and chop appeared and fresh clean spaces appeared where I could display some of my favorite sets of nesting bowls--which I use a lot. This is now a happy kitchen, not a storage bin! 

Since I've been stepping up the coupon clipping and store coupon stacking (without getting too obsessed with it, mind you) I found a nice, flat plastic box where the clipped coupons are grouped together and easily filed and accessible and it stays in a wicker tray (that actually used to be a picnic hamper lid but honestly, it's an adorable tray) with the current week's sales flyers, a little rotary cutter, and shopping list printed from the store website. Ahhh. (again) I only need to go in there once a week, add new ones, throw out the expired, and check my online store list--it's really not that time consuming when we are saving 50-60 dollars a week!
Last year I bought a big index card box to start a little organizing project, and finally I've done it! Now, before I explain what it is, I must say I realize I can do all of this on the computer, the iPad, my cell phone, and my laptop, and I do use organizing programs--such as One Note--but that's not the point. This is the little old-fashioned lady deep down inside of me who ultimately does not totally trust technology. I wanted a tangible, reliable place to access all my most import information, facts and figures and tips and serial numbers and schedules and ideas and phone numbers and doctors' names and career info. My big, cute, floral index box from Target holds the large index cards and I've added file tabs to the tops of them, and I feel better knowing that a lot of things that I only had on my computer somewhere are now written down in ink on paper in a place where I can find them!  Plus, if something happened, I can easily grab this little box and take it with me!
 Nighty Nite Table
I have to tell you, right now, that I don't believe in living with a teeny tiny nite table. My "nitestand" as my mom always called it, has to have room for plenty of books, a good bottle of lavendar/chamomile lotion, tissues, lip balm, a big lamp for journaling, drawing, knitting or cross-stitching and plenty of space to set a project and a glass of water. My nite table had been getting a little "busy looking" lately, so I cleaned it out from top to bottom, and although still fully loaded, it's much more peaceful now--making me more peaceful.

Taking Care of Where and When and Who
Next on my list was the household calendars. The top spiral-bound pocket calendar, which hangs in the kitchen, needed to work a little harder, and so did my deskpad calendar. I spent a couple of hours getting all of our year-long important information, schedules and activities posted on there--what a feeling of accomplishment to do the whole year, instead of month to month. When you start cleaning out, tossing out and taking care of your organizing chores, you can also find a lot of nice things--like the owl cross-stitch pattern I found in an old book. My daughter loves owls, and she can't wait for me to stitch this up and frame it for her--it is a small pattern so I think I can do it in no time.

So, little did I know January would be my organization month, but it has worked out really great. Basically, a little time each weekend this month was devoted to cleaning out and organizing, and I don't want to think about doing this again until June!

One of these days I will give a little tour of my old Victorian dollhouse. I painted a lot of the furniture, and the wallpaper and borders came from an old art book and wallpaper sample book--so fun! It's next on my list to clean out and dust though. I hope you enjoy your home--it's the best place in the world to eat, write, dream and stitch.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Of Coffee and Coupons - Another Blissful WOYWW

A messy workdesk is a happy workdesk. Right? And somehow, from the very first word I wrote in 2011, I stumbled onto my "Live Happy" theme for January. I was probably trying to write myself happy, because January is not my favorite month--I'm a summer girl. Then, it just seemed like a good idea to have a theme every month this year! So I will reveal the February theme on February 1st, but in the meantime my desk is a total mess and it's Wednesday, so I have to do a What's On Your Workdesk Wednesday! I took an old piece of creme colored Aida cloth, coffee-stained it, (the perfect thing to do since I was making a coffee sign for my kitchen) and cross-stitched from a cute alphabet pattern with a little sparkle in it. I plan to find some coffee themed fabric, and then stitch up this little banner to hang by the coffeemaker. But right now, it's still laying on my workdesk. Ironically, next to it, is a bunch of coffee. I finally received my coffeebasket in the mail, which I won by entering a contest on the Food Channel Facebook page. I love the Food Channel--they are the "first place to go for all things food" and one day I entered a Folger's Coffee writing contest, and won one of the three coffee baskets they were giving away. Too fun! So check out or go to their Facebook page at!/FoodChannel. They have delicious recipes, fun little contests, and food news. And they have something new all the time.
Now, in other food news, I'm attempting to become an extreme couponer! What a great way to make money by saving money! Last week, I went to my local Kroger chain store, and I had loaded a number of coupons on my store card from their website, and then I stacked those with maunfacturer coupons for the same products. I also bought items on special, and so I ended up ringing up about $100, and when they took off all the coupons and savings, I only spent $55. That was pretty good for me. So I am in the middle of really organizing my coupon stash--and every Wednesday I'll go on the store site when they post their new weekly store coupons, and will come up with some amazing deals and savings! It's kinda fun. Then next month, I'm actually taking a one-night class called "Ultimate Couponing" and hopefully I'll discover some more secrets. And yes, I will share tips! I don't plan to get obsessed with it--I just want to be a normal shopper who happens to hardly pay anything for lots of groceries! *Sigh.*
I can't wait to get my workdesk cleaned up again! I actually have a very cute workspace, which you may have seen in my past WOYWW--but today it looks like a tornado hit. Or a snowstorm, which we are expecting here tomorrow! That's okay. I'm happy. I've got a lot of stitching and even scrapbooking I want to do. And that's the happiness of winter--having lots of wonderful things to do when you're stuck indoors.

I know all this coffee will keep me eating, writing, dreaming, and 
stitching into the wee hours! Woo hoo! Happy WOYWW!

Pot-free coffeemakers are the best!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bundt Happy. Dark Chocolate Chip Bundt, that is...

This dark chocolate chip bundt cake was a huge hit at our house. The recipe is so easy--you use a cake mix along with a few other ingredients, and dump it all together in the mixer. You can make a low-sugar version too. After unmolding it from the bundt pan, let it cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar. It's pretty and decadent.

I have to say, I make all my bundt cakes in a bundt pan my mom gave me--it's over 40 years old. It's very heavy and worn, but it's kind of magical. It reminds me of a book I used to read to my daughter, Strega Nona and her magic pasta pot. I think I loved that story more than my daughter did! So we read it a lot back then. My mama's magic bundt pan has never failed me and always produces the tastiest cakes! Wish I could bring myself to buy a nice new bundt pan, I'm always on the lookout--but I just can't seem to do it. *Sigh.*  Here's the recipe.

Dark Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

1 (18.25 ounce) package chocolate cake mix (I use the Pillsbury sugar-free mix for a low-sugar version)
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix (again, you can sub with a sugar-free version)
1 cup lowfat sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In  a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and water. Mix until completely combined (around 2 to 3 minutes in the mixer). Stir in the dark chocolate chips and pour batter into a well-greased 12-cup size bundt pan. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes before inverting onto a cake plate. Optional: After it's completely cooled, dust with powdered sugar.

I think this little cake is worthy of company--so I definitely need to have a tea party with my girlfriends this winter! The more the merrier--fits right in with my "happiness" theme this month!

Eat. Write. Dream. Where's Stitch?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Seeds of Happiness

There is a saying that you can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. You can grow a lot of joy too. I once had a theatre professor who actually wrote a play called "Seeds of Joy." It had a few runs in a couple of different cities, and I was in it during one of those runs. All I can remember is that I played a disfigured woman with a piece of black lace over my entire head--you never saw my face. I was in one scene. Talk about no joy and a thankless role! Hmmmf! (uh-oh, the diva is surfacing)

But let's face it. You can't be a diva when you're digging in the dirt. You plant these little seeds, and they do bring a lot of joy, because they need you. Taking care of your garden is like taking care of yourself. Planting, repotting, digging, weeding, pulling, watering, pruning...things start growing. Including your humble spirit. You work and work on it, and one day, you walk out there on a sparkling, clear, sunny summer morning, inhaling the fragrance and looking at your live artwork as you sip a big mug of coffee, and something occurs to you. This must have been the root of at least one moment that someone experienced in the Garden of Eden. (before all that ugly business with the snake, which by the way could have been solved simply by having a few cats around) Wait. Did Eve have her coffee? I hope so. It seems like paradise would not have been complete without some coffee beans. Anway, there in your garden, all of this wonderful, blooming, herb and veggie basket of paradise is there before you, like magic. Sometimes I see those shows about how the sun could blast the Earth at any moment, and the Mayans think it's all going to be over by 2012. So I never take a moment in my garden for granted.
Mesclun lettuce seeds go right into the garden in March--they like cool weather.

I think God blesses you in a garden. I know it is a gift, and something I'm so fortunate to have each summer. I can't wait until the time comes again when I can pick some sprigs of lemon thyme and eat another sweet, warm tomato freshly escaped from its vine. 

Ahh. Garden dreams. And so, the prep work begins now. I go through dozens of stored seeds, and make some choices. Then I turn to Burpee and do some catalog shopping for more seeds. I sketch out a new plan--I have one big middle plot and three raised beds to the side--I want to make the most of the space and plant my favorite herbs, veggies, and cutting flowers. In the second week of February, I start the first tray of tomato seeds. Each week, I plant more trays of vegetables, herbs and flowers on my greenhouse sunporch, and it fills up until we can't hardly walk around out there. As the plants get healthy, some get transferred into bigger pots, and wait for their day.

In March the lettuce and radish seeds go right into the garden and get to have the space all to themselves for a while! My husband goes out and works the soil for me, and I tend to all the seedlings spending their childhood on my greenhouse. The first planting day in early May is when I am on my hands and knees, crawling around the garden bed and happily planting. I have to make sure I give some starts enough space, and yet I want to work in as many plants as possible. I also plant some seeds with the starts, like a few zukes and spaghetti squash which seems to do really well when grown right in the garden from seed. I also trim the garden in marigold starts and seeds--their natural antioxidants guard against some diseases and pests--probably more than I'll ever know! But I like to keep things organic.

So here we are in January. There are HUGE snow flakes falling outside my window in the Ozarks right now. My greenhouse is happily yet sadly clean and spacious--save for the plants that are enjoying their overwintering time, and of course my cats who love to sun themselves out there. Tonight, it's me, a cup of chamomile-vanilla tea, and a Burpee catalog. Seeds. Joy.

Eat from the garden, Write about your garden, Dream of your garden, Sew Seeds at all times.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happiness Is a Kitty to Love

Here kitty kitty! Yes, I am a cat lady, through and through. I almost always have two cats residing with me--sometimes three. They are often adopted from the street, or sometimes a family that cannot keep them. So my real kitties are special--but so are these. I love embroidering on felt--just freely embroidering however my golden needle leads me! For a few weeks, I could not stop making these felt kitties. Everywhere I went, I had kitty bodies in my bag, DMC floss, and a needle--always ready to work on them. Some became part of Christmas gift baskets. They are so easy to make, and for me, the real fun is embroidering on their little bellies. Each one is unique--just like a real cat.

First, I simply drew up a pattern, from an idea I saw on a blog, and went from there (sorry, didn't mean to steal, but I couldn't resist! and these are different in several ways). I cut two pieces for the body, and one round coordinating color for the belly. I sewed the belly piece on, before doing the embroidery. Then when all embroidery is done, I blanket-stitched the bodies together, leaving a little gap for stuffing, so it was easy to close up with continued blanket stitching and I didn't have to turn out. I think the blanket-stitching looks cute too. I also added a loop of ribbon at the top, because these kitties like to hang around! The complete kitty is all hand-stitched, so it's really special.

Now it's time to take a break from the kitty factory, and play some chubby kitty checkers. (bought this checker game many many years ago at a craft fair!)

Joseph, sunning himself on the greenhouse.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Oh Happy Day

The other day, my happy morning started with a veggie omelet. Seriously, it made me so happy! Simply saute two or three sliced baby portobella mushrooms and a teaspoon of scallions in a nonstick skillet (with a tiny bit of melted butter) for a minute. Add two beaten eggs, and when it firms up, flip it over with a spatula and add half a chopped roma tomato and shredded cheese to taste, on one side, then fold the omelet over and make sure it is cooked through. Have a good morning! (You know, I think my theme this month is "happy.")

Nice hot coffee and a veggie omelet will melt that sleepy mask away.