Sunday, February 22, 2009

Half-Shell Bag

Although I love the Vera Bradley bag that my sister gave me for Christmas a year ago, I wanted something a little smaller to carry every now and again. I looked at my usual stores: TJ Maxx and Target, and found several contenders, but none seemed just right and I couldn’t justify paying $14 when I didn’t really need a new bag. So, instead I worked this up. The idea came from a pattern for a bag on I had planned to make it, but decided it would be quicker to crochet instead. I used the half-shell pattern, and then added a border in single-stitch and handles, and lined the bag with some excess fabric. I also made pockets in the lining for my cell phone and sunglasses, which always seem to get lost in the bottom of a bag. I took only a few hours and cost nothing, since I used left over yarn and fabric. Here are the instructions for the half-shell (courtesy of NE, a couple of years ago =)
Crochet chain in multiple of four
*Single crochet in fourth chain from hook
Chain three, and dc three times in same hole as first single crochet
Repeat from * across
Turn and repeat

Super Easy Meals Part 3

My husband and I don’t eat as much meat as we once did, but occasionally we like to have a traditional Sunday lunch. I have borrowed another recipe from my mom – crock-pot pork chops. Pork chops are a common entrée in the south (in the town where my sister now lives, you can even get a pork chop sandwich), and there are a variety of ways they can be fixed – baked, grilled, or even (gulp) fried. Most of these methods, however, can lead to a very tough, chewy pork chop rather quickly. And they take time. My favorite method is to just place the chops (actually, they aren’t really chops, they are the boneless thin pork medallions) in the crock pot and pour in a can of chicken broth. Cook on high for four hours. This is almost no work, but the pork comes out very tender (you can cut if with the side of your fork). For this meal, I paired the chops with green beans (just canned, seasoned with salt and pepper and some of the broth from the crock-pot). I also wanted something like stuffing, but decided to use couscous instead. With the whole-wheat version, it cooks up very quickly, and I seasoned it with salt and pepper and sage and some of the broth from the crock-pot.

Super Easy Meals Part 2

My family has long been fans of Mexican food, although, of course, this is not authentic Mexican fare. It is not even Tex-Mex, but instead, what I call Mamma-Mex – dishes that my mom has put together (Still, every time we go home we ask her to make Taco Salad). One of my favorite Mexican dishes that is really easy is quesadillas. These are quite versatile and can be made with a variety of ingredients. The ones pictured feature corn and black beans (always a winning combination) along with cumin and tumeric (which are super good-for-you cancer fighters). Other quesadillas might contain cooked chicken or ground beef. Here are the basic ingredients and procedures:

3 whole wheat tortillas
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salsa
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salsa and sour cream to taste

Combine the mayo, chili powder and 1 teaspoon salsa and spread on half of each tortilla. The layer chicken and cheese on top. Fold the tortilla in half. Spray a sauté pan with cooking spray and heat each quesadilla on medium heat, then flip to the other side. The tortilla becomes crispy and brown when it is done. Cut the folded tortillas into triangles and serve with salsa and sour cream.

Location, Location, Location

I have a problem with reading. I can’t seem to do it while I am at home. Other things get into the way. Like the fact that I need to do laundry. Or perhaps I should work on my much neglected blog. Or maybe just sit on the couch and watch TV. So, out of desperation, I have begun doing my reading in the library. It seems like such an obvious thing, but for some reason I had always done my reading at home. Now, I can confine my work to a few hours, spent in the library, where I can focus entirely, free from distractions. The only problem I have encountered so far is that I need to read poems out loud to understand them, which is kind of hard to do in the library… So, any thoughts on the best locations for getting work done?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Super Easy Meals Part 1

Barbeque is a big deal in this state, with various regions championing their own particular concoctions and methods. Being a mountain girl, I can appreciate the “Down East” vinegar based bbq, but still prefer the tomato based flavors of home. Actually, I don’t think that mountain bbq is so much about tomatoes, as it is about sweetness. We love a brown sugar, honey, molasses sweet taste (I have found this to be in true in other areas – my family puts butter and sugar on not only grits, but rice as well).
Barbeque is surprisingly easy to make. Of course, I’m not talking about slow-roasting over a pit barbeque, but you can get quite good results with a crock-pot. And you only need two things: pork tenderloin and your choice of barbeque sauce. Put the loin in the crock-pot and cover with a good bit of sauce, cook on high for about four hours. By that time, the meat will be falling about and sooo tender. All you have to do is tear it up, shred it a bit with some forks. We like to fix this for Sunday afternoon. We come in from church and the smell greets us at the door. Traditionally (at least for us) barbeque is served with slaw – chop up some cabbage and shred some carrots, mix up with just a bit of mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Finish off the meal with some French fries.