broccoli, cheddar and wild rice casserole

Yyyyyuuuuuummm! If you’re a fan of broccoli and cheese, make this as soon as humanly possible. I’ve made it twice since it was posted by Deb onto Smittenkitchen.com (it was posted on the 11th of this month so that’s saying something).

I made this twice because I could tell the first time that there were things I could do to make it a bit less soupy and a bit more crunchy. First off, the second time around I used aged white cheddar and pepper jack instead of medium cheddar. Best move ever. Also, I cut the milk in half and really let the cheese sauce thicken before spreading it over my rice.

Oh man. So delicious.

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Broccoli, Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole

Serves 4 as a generous side

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 large onion, diced
Salt
2/3 cup uncooked wild rice blend, rinsed
1 pound broccoli
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard powder or 1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
8 ounces cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice to onion and cook for 1 minute, then add 1 1/3 cups water and a few pinches of salt. Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to lowest temperature and cook with the lid on for about 50 minutes (or whatever amount of time is suggested on your package of rice). If you’d like a rice cooker to do this for you, transfer onions, water and rice to the machine and set the machine.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel broccoli stems and dice them into large chunks. Cut florets into 1-inch pieces. Cook in boiling, well-salted water for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain.

You can use this same pan to make the cheese sauce. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the mustard powder (if using), a pinch of cayenne and garlic and let sizzle for 1 minute. Add flour and whisk until combined, cooking the butter-flour mixture for 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly drizzle in milk, whisking constantly, then broth. Bring to a simmer and cook mixture at a simmer, stirring the whole time, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in smooth Dijon mustard if you didn’t use mustard powder.

Remove pan from heat and stir in 1/3 of grated cheese until melted. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Combine cooked wild rice blend and broccoli in a 2-quart baking dish or a 9-inch oven-safe skillet. Pour cheese sauce over and gently nudge to ensure all pieces get some sauce. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Bake casserole for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly, then run mixture under the broiler until cheese is toasty on top.

Sleep Chatter

My hubby is a famous sleep talker. Well, within our little Facebook circle. I’ve been told by countless people that they look forward to my posts which script out the interactions between Matt and I usually in the early moments after Matt falls asleep. In fact, I’ve had two messages from people making sure they didn’t miss one.

It’s amazing how easily he just spews out words. They don’t sound mumbled and quiet, just the opposite. One of my favorites of all time was a one-liner Matt yelled out while he napped on the couch: “You never have a Crayola when you need one!”

It takes a lot of energy to stifle my laughter.

Here are some recent examples of Matt’s entertaining craziness that made their way onto Facebook.

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Last night a friend told me about an app which records sleep talking. It senses sound all night long, but only records moments where the sound picks up. You’ll wake up to like 12 clips of tossing and turning or coughing or weird snoring…and perhaps a bit of chatter.

I just KNEW I had to download it.

Well it turns out that I’ve gotten so used to conversing with Matt while he’s sleep talking (to keep the weirdness going), that now I’m doing it in my sleep without even knowing it.

So enjoy this nice little recording of Matt and I. I’ll periodically alert you to new ones, if they come along, and dear goodness I hope they do.


Matt: “No! The whole thing untraveled!”
Haley: “What thing?”
Matt (in despair): “NNooooo”
Matt: “It was just unraveling right before our eyes.”
Haley: “Where is it?”
Matt: “It was a piece of…it was wound up on this piece of…furniture.”

DIY skin care extraodinaire

IMG_9290I love lots of things. Close to the top of the “things I love” list are coconut oil (I use it in my hair every time I wash), giving gifts, packing things cutely, DIY projects and the occasional pampering. Those five things synchronized last week when my lovely sister-in-law celebrated her birth. I figure every one loves occasional pampering, getting gifts, especially cute ones that are homemade with coconut oil. So that’s what I gave her.

Here’s the run down on what I made for one of my favorite people, and where I got the supplies to package it up all nice and tidy like.

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This whipped coconut lotion is perhaps the most most moisturizing thing I’ve ever felt. A little goes a long way. It’s great for an after shower skin treatment, and leaves your skin feeling oh so soft

Whipped Coconut Lotion

1 cup unrefined coconut oil in a solid state (melted and it won’t whip!)

3 Tbs olive oil (Or 2 Tbs sunflower seed oil and 1 Tbs olive oil)

2 Tbs aloe vera gel

essential oil of your choice (lavender, vanilla, or lemongrass would work!)

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, whip together until all ingredients are well incorporated (about 5-10 minutes).

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue to whip until mixture has a fluffy, frosting-like consistency. If you’re going to add essential oils, do so at this time.

*Make sure the essential oil is well incorporated before you scoop moisturizer into storage container.

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IMG_9250 IMG_9247 IMG_9256Love Mary Kay’s satin hand scrub but want to save a few bucks by making your own? Done.

Sugar Hand Scrub

1 cup of pure cane granulated sugar

1/4 cup Olay + Dawn Hand Renewal wash

(I assume all hand soaps would work…maybe pick your favorite scent and let me know how it goes?)

Mix the two together…pow. Scrub a Tbs or so into wet hands and wash away with warm water. Moisturize.

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IMG_9216IMG_9232One of the thousands of amazing uses for coconut oil is as makeup and mascara remover. Seriously…I’m not joking. And your face will smell like summer.

Coconut oil Makeup Remover 

Use it straight out of the jar, or simply melt some down and store it in another container.

Cover your face lightly with coconut oil and wash away with a warm wash cloth.

To remove mascara, gently rub some oil onto your lashes and a massage. Wipe away with a cotton ball and repeat until your mascara is no more! I heard a rumor it helps your lashes grow.

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IMG_9223IMG_9234IMG_9239This all-over scrub is just what you need to exfoliate and moisture your whole bod. If used gently, it’s safe for your face. The sea salt and coconut oil are great for your skin. Perhaps leave some in the shower? Careful when you’re washing this stuff away, coconut oil can get slippery.

Sea Salt and Coconut Oil Scrub

1 cup melted coconut

1/2 cup sea salt

Mix ‘em up. Enjoy the gravelly spa bliss.

For those interested in the packaging, I used little masons from around my house to store the actual product.IMG_9290-001I created tags for my jars using brown card stock which you can get at any craft store. The paper punch I used to create my labels you can buy here or probably at a local craft store. But online it’s on sale!IMG_9293

The font used on the labels and tags is called Moon Flower Bold which you can download for free at dafont.com. The gray baker’s twine I bought online. I can’t remember where but hobbylobby.com is a great place to start.

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I’d LOVE to hear if you make any of these skin care projects…or perhaps you’ve got a different one up your sleeve you’d care to share? Next on my list: lip balm.

coconut-curry chickpea quinoa pineapple burger

Sometimes you just need to sink your teeth into a nice burger. Being a vegetarian (A lifestyle choice, my diet used to consist of Doritos and pasta…when did I eat fruit? I couldn’t answer that) that doesn’t happen. BUT every once and a while you get a reaaaalllyy good veggie burger. One that can win any meat lovers heart. If you like Indian spices, smooth coconut and bursts of warm pineapple…you’ll being making this burger weekly. IMG_9462IMG_9447 IMG_9452 IMG_9453 IMG_9464This burger pairs perfectly with sweet potato fries, your favorite chips, or cold veggies with dip.

I found this great recipe over at cheekykitchen.com. SO GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD.

Chickpea Quinoa Pineapple Burger

Ingredients:

1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon curry
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Goya Adobo Seasoning (or onion salt)(Haley: I used 1/2 teaspoon onion powder and a dash of salt)
1/4 cup fresh chives or scallions, chopped (Haley: I used a bit of chopped red onion)
1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs (Haley: I made my own quickly my toasting bread in the oven and chopping in my food processor)
4 slices fresh pineapple
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
1/4 cup mayonnaise or something similar
lime zest
pepper
4  hamburger buns
4 teaspoons butter
lettuce

(Haley: I also added slices of red onion)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the chickpeas, coconut milk, curry, garam masala, adobo seasoning, and garlic powder in a food processor. Pulse until pureed. Stir in the chives, Quinoa, and panko crumbs. Form into 4 patties.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle the pan with olive oil and a bit of sesame oil. Pan fry patties until golden brown on each side. Then set aside the patties and grill the pineapple until golden brown grill lines appear on each side of the fruit.

Butter the inside halves of the hamburger buns with Earth Balance butter. Bake, buttered sides up, in an oven preheated to 400 degrees until the butter is melted and the buns are toasty.

In a small bowl, stir together the lime zest, pepper, and mayonnaise.

Serve the Chickpea burgers topped with grilled pineapple, your flavored mayonnaise, and a bit of lettuce on top of your burger buns.

Snuggly Owl Blanky

Sewing for me is an absolute joy. I LOVE it. Mostly because you turn bits and pieces of fabric into something functional, beautiful, enjoyable. It’s a hobby that you can get increasingly better at, there’s always something new to learn and try.

I’ve been working on a lot of fun projects lately. One of my most favorite, was plucked out of my vivid, ever-changing imagination. Without a pattern, you are challenged to think through dimension and get creative with what you’ve got. My new little niece Sayla had a party coming up, and I knew that was the perfect opportunity to make something altogether new.

I’ve had a yard of pink paisley minky lying around my house, which I thought would be perfect for a blanky project. But how to make it original and fun? I sketched out some ideas, and ultimately created a snuggly owl blanky.
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The inside of this little owl here is made from a precious old daisy pillowcase, which belonged to Sayla’s recently passed Great Grandma. IMG_9111Loops of textured ribbon are great for babies self soothing skills. They love to play with them.
IMG_9119 IMG_9117 Layered pieces of felt create dimensional sleepy eyes that look like they need a snuggle. IMG_9118 IMG_9115 The blanky is big enough to wrap a little one up nice and tight. IMG_9128If you’d like to know how to make your own snuggly blanky, just say so and I’ll put a tutorial together! In the meantime, what from your inspired imagination are you going to make reality this week?

DIY Paint Pen Mug

Right…I know you’ve seen this on Pinterest. I mean really, it’s hard to miss. I gave it a try for Valentine’s day and was pleasantly surprised by the result. Awesome and easy.

My Hubby loves him some coffee. And he loves him some big mugs and knowing that something is homemade and unique is enough for him to love it. So I figured for Valentine’s day I couldn’t go wrong with a big custom mug. Aaaannndddd stuffing things full of candy doesn’t hurt. IMG_8798

You may have seen the little tag line that comes along with this project, “Sharpie, 350 for 30 mins – done!”. But actually it’s not that simple. I read over and over that using a regular sharpie was not cutting it. The ink would run off almost immediately after “firing”.

Here’s what I did…and it worked so I’ve got that going for me.

A grabbed a black paint pen from Micheal’s Craft Store. Dollar Tree mugs were way too small and girly so I grabbed a few from Fred Meyer for $4.00 each. I printed the quote/font I wanted and practiced writing it.

IMG_8740Honestly, after I practiced a few words/letters and I just went for it and started writing. I couldn’t get the “M” in Matthew just right, and I wondered if nail polish remover would work as an eraser. It worked beautifully. Just use a cotton ball with a little bit of nail polish remover and it wipes away easily. I was satisfied with the 7th “M” I drew.

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Next, put your mug in a cold oven. Heat to 375 degrees and then set your timer for 30 minutes. Once your 30 minutes is up, turn the oven off, letting the mug cool completely in the oven. This part takes a while.

IMG_8751Once they cool, they should be good to go! I tested mine by running water over it and gently towel drying. These mugs need to be hand washed gently. Other tutorials say you can dishwasher them, which may be true. I always play it safe when I give something as a gift…you want to be sure it’ll last!

IMG_8799The possibilities are endless! I’ve seen some amazingly creative designs which I can’t wait to try. Are you gonna make one??

simple non-toxic floor cleaner

Cleaning is not my favorite thing in the world. Really it’s something that I’ve fought for a long time. Stupid adult responsibility. While we’ve all got different standards of cleanliness, we all have to do it. I mean eventually you have to do laundry. Eventually you have to sweep. Eventually you have to clean dishes. I have all sorts of tricks up my sleeve to making cleaning “fun”. I’m motivated by activities that involve multiples senses. I like to turn on an audiobook, light a good smelling candle, have a snack in a bowl that I can grab every time I complete something, or try to get my space as bright as possible. Doing at least one of those things helps motivate me to clean.

Recently though I’ve gotten more interested in cleaning techniques, products and tricks. Often I look up new ways to clean whatever it is, which makes the whole process more enjoyable. Mopping for example. I’ve always used some chemically floor cleaner. About 3 times a year, I dump some blue super chemically smelling stuff in a bucket and mop up the floor.

I decided to try something new with the whole floor cleaning business. I found a non-toxic formula that had great feedback online and gave it a go.

IMG_8888Mix one gallon of hot water with 1/2 cup white vinegar, 2 Tbs baking soda and a few drops of your favorite dish soap.

It’s that simple. You can use it on your kitchen floor and it’s great for your wood floors. After a good sweep and dust mop, I was actually excited to clean. The moment I started mopping I could tell the difference. First off it smelled amazing and fresh. Secondly, it actually got marks off the floor much more easily than my chemically store bought stuff.

Here are some “after” photos…well more like “during” photos. I had recently finished mopping and while the floors are still shiny-wet in these photos, I’m amazed at how they’ve retained a nice reflection in them after drying.

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IMG_8896 IMG_8897But I don’t know why I felt it necessary to mop the floor this particular day. Especially since we’re in a muddy after-snow transition, and without any type of entryway for said muddy stuff the floors quickly got some nice spots on them. But hey you can’t stop living. IMG_8887Maybe I’ll tell you about my laundry tricks someday. It’s seriously a little wacky. I just like trying new things to keep it interesting, which makes my laundry methods a bit intense.

And here’s a picture for your viewing pleasure. Gideon, on nicely laundered bedding. IMG_8919