Refinished Coffee Table with a Gold Mandala

I bought this coffee table at a yard sale a few years ago, with the intention of using it for the grandkids. I wanted to convert a little room in the basement into a game room for the grandkids but that didn’t work out. So the table has been sitting in my basement gathering dust.

Then I thought I would give it a new look. And I loved the new look so much that I almost kept it, but I just didn’t have the room for it.

It was a black table, I painted it white using a paint to block “bleeding”. Put 2 coats of a creamy white paint and then added a gold mandala in the center.

I love the look and will definitely be using mandala’s on tables again. What do you think?

Drying Herbs-Parsley, Basil and Thyme

My herbs are growing like crazy this year!! And I really don’t want to waste them so… since I had success with drying mint leaves I thought I would try to dry some herbs, Parsley, Basil and Thyme.

There is nothing like fresh herbs to add to you recipes but over the winter it’s kinda hard to keep fresh herbs on hand and those little packets of herbs you get at the store are not always in the best condition and they can be a little pricey too.

And even though I have a decent green thumb, I have never had success with herbs indoors. But now that I think of it, I have not tried since I moved in my house. Maybe I’ll give it a try this winter.

So, let’s get started. You will need paper plates and paper towels. I also used parchment paper to put the dried herbs on before I crumbled them but you could use another paper plate.

You will also need airtight containers to store them in, you can buy cute little jars to do this or just save jars from jelly or condiments. Label each jar with the name of the herb and the year. The dried herbs should be good for a year.

After selecting the herb you want to dry first, make good cuttings and make sure you rinse off any dirt and bugs. I like to set the herbs in a glass jar with a little water to keep them fresh, then when the leaves are completely dry you can begin the drying process. You do NOT want to dry the herbs while they are still wet, the heat from the microwave will cook them instead of drying.

Parsley: This was a little bit of a challenge until I got it figured out! First I tried the oven knowing it would get brown, but I gave it a shot, but it stank! Smelled burnt instead of dried. Then I tried the microwave and they actually caught fire and threw sparks… What the HECK!!!

The first time I tried drying them in the microwave, I just put them on a glass plate like I did my mint. I was surprised when they actually sparked! Then I tried putting a shot glass with just a little water in it, back in the corner of the microwave. All that did was add more moisture which I figured it would but after seeing the sparks fly, I thought it was at least worth a shot! Lastly I used paper plates and covered the parsley with paper towels. And that worked like a charm!

       

Just lay out the parsley on a paper plate, a single layer, cover with paper towels and then nuke them in 30 second increments until they are completely dry and easily crumble when you touch them. Check the parsley after each 30 second increment. Depending on the parsley, the time to dry will vary. I had some stems that had large thick leaves and then I had some stems that had smaller, thinner leaves which did not take as long.

I also left the dried parsley sit on parchment paper for several hours before I crumbled them. You don’t have to do that but I just wanted to make sure they were completely dry.

Basil: Again, lay the leaves on a paper plate in a single layer and not overlapping, and cover with paper towels. Nuke them in 20 or 30 second increments. My basil leave actually left off steam as they dried. I may have slightly panicked at first but then I put a paper towel over them and the drying process went well.

Nuke them in increments until they are dry. I left the leaves sit for a few hours before crumbling. I did run across one or two that were not completely dry so I popped them back in for a few seconds until they were crumbly.

Thyme: I just love this herb, it has to be one of my favorites. I put it in just about everything; scrambled eggs, quiche, soups, roasts, pasta salads, LOVE it!

I did the same with the thyme, laying sprigs of thyme on a paper plate and cover with a paper towel. The thyme definitely dried quicker and that is because the leaves are much smaller and there is less moisture in the herb.

So I only needed 2 increments of 30 seconds and it was done. After a few minutes I just ran my fingers down the stem and the dried leaves just fell off! Then I folded the paper plate in half and used it as a funnel to slide the herbs into the glass jar.

This was a fun project that I did on a Sunday that was just too darn hot to be outside. I’m sure I will have more herbs later as the plants fill in again. And I plan on giving some dried herbs as gifts too. Better start saving more jars!

Chicken Salad Naan Bread

My diet is a little limited right now but this recipe is something that my tummy LOVES! And I make it a lot. So very easy and you can do so many different things with it. I call this a chicken salad because it has a lot of lettuce and spinach, and is basically stuffed inside naan bread.

I keep a few packages of naan bread in the freezer, as well as chicken breasts.

And, I had a huge harvest of lettuce and spinach for a while. Sadly that is done for now but I planted more!

All I did was put a piece of naan on a pizza stone, added a huge handful cooked, chopped chicken, a little bit of salsa, and a light sprinkling of shredded cheese. I baked that at 350 until the cheese was melted and it was good and hot!

I removed it from the oven and plated it, then I topped it with lettuce and spinach, diced tomatoes or my favorite… chopped, roasted red peppers.

It’s almost like a sandwich.

For me now, this is all I can do. These are a few ingredients that do NOT make me sick BUT the possibilities are endless with this.

I would love to add avocados but they don’t do good things to my tummy.

You can use a vinaigrette as a topping, or aioli sauce, sour cream, etc.

Last summer I made a lot of caprese naan, my ultimate favorite but I haven’t tried mozzarella cheese yet. Goat cheese works for me so I might try caprese with goat cheese soon.

I’ve done taco pizza with the naan, truly an amazingly delicious dinner! There are just so many variations, and I have a lot of other ideas too!

Anyway, it comes together fast so now that I am busy with my yard, this is perfect when I need a quick meal.

Drying Mint

I love growing mint, I use it for hot and iced tea as well as mojitos. I grow it in pots because of how invasive it is, and honestly, not only do I not have any other area’s in my gardens to grow it but I don’t want it growing all over the place!!

This year however, the mint didn’t come back as full and strong as it usually does. So I don’t have as much and it’s already looking a little sad. My last trip to the greenhouse I looked for mint but it was gone so I cannot plant more.

So, I am treating myself to one mojito every evening before dinner. And I am starting to dry some of it to use over the winter. I won’t have enough to last all winter but a little is better than none!

My recipe for iced mint tea and mojitos is here.

Last year I dried it in the oven but it turns a little brown, still good but brown. This year I tried it in the microwave and it turned out great! It’s still nice and green too.

I have 2 types of mint, don’t ask me what cuz I don’t know. If I had to guess and try to remember what I bought, I would say one is a type of spearmint and the fuzzy leaf is maybe an apple mint.

I put the clean and dry leaves on a microwavable plate, and nuked the leaves in about 20 seconds increments until they were dry. After each 20 seconds I checked on them to see how dry they were, then left them cool.

Next I placed all the leaves in a large bowl and crumbled them, and then put them in a pretty jar.

 

My next batch of drying the mint, I used paper plates and covered them with a paper towel and that was such a better way to dry them!

Hope you are all having a great summer!

Houseplants, Flowers and Butterfly’s

I have a deep imbedded love for houseplants and flowers. I think it started when I was quite young, maybe around 10, while I was visiting my aunt in Baltimore. She is also a houseplant and flower addict.

  

Anyway, she took me along to run her errands, one of those stops was a plant shop. She bought me a plant, and the addiction began.

I’ve had plants in my home ever since, even as a teenager I had plants in my room. To this day my aunt and I share plant and flower stories and cuttings.

  

I like to think I have a green thumb BUT there have been a few plants that I just cannot seem to keep alive. That doesn’t stop or discourage me although I do not like being the cause for a plants demise.

 

Same thing with my outside flowers and plants; I cannot get enough flowers for the summer! I have pots of annual flowers all over the front porch, back patio and even in the mulch beds. And my mulch beds are filled with perennials. I am always finding something new to me that sparks in my heart!

  

I still have a lot of empty spots in my flower beds that need filled in, so I am working on a list. Last year I bought some varieties of cone flowers, unfortunately the bunnies ate a lot of them and they never really grew after that. This year they are coming up nicely so I’m excited to see them bloom.

 

This is my third spring with my little lilac bush, my most favorite flower ever. Limelight hydrangea’s are also a favorite, I have 6 of those.

  

I like to hide little things in my flowers too. I have some trolls, one of which is doing yoga! And I have a small fairy garden set up for the granddaughters. I even have a frog doing yoga in one of the flower beds.

 

I also love butterfly bushes, the Black Knight is my favorite. And with all of these flowers, especially the butterfly bushes that I have, brings a lot of butterflies.

So now I “raise” them. I keep pots of parsley in all the beds, Black Swallowtails lay their eggs on parsley. And I have Butterfly Weed, Monarchs lay their eggs on that.

At the end of last summer I had 10 Black Swallowtail chrysalis’ that overwintered. All of them have eclosed this spring.

I had hoped to raise bees this year but there is a little bit of expense to start the set up. My home needs some attention and that is where I need to put that money this year, so maybe next year I can start beekeeping.

I suppose at some point I will no longer have room to buy anymore plants, I am getting really close but I’m not there yet!

Toasted Orzo with Chicken

Have you ever toasted orzo? If you have not, you must try it! This recipe takes something so simple like orzo to another whole level.

I start with butter and olive oil in a large non-stick fry pan over medium to medium high heat. I definitely use more butter than oil for this, the orzo will toast better with more butter. When the butter is melted I add the orzo and start moving it around the pan. You cannot walk away from this!

 

Depending on your stove you might need to knock the heat back to medium, just keep an eye on the orzo. I stir often, until it is starting to get golden. Then I move the pan to my sink to add the chicken stock, because the pan is so screaming hot it can make a mess on the stove.

Anyway, I add the stock and turmeric, salt and pepper, and put the pan back on the burner, medium heat and let it simmer. Not a hard boil, just a light simmer.  For this meal, I added torn spinach, so good!

I cook the orzo until it is tender, adding more stock as needed. I also like to toss in a big sprig of Thyme but that is optional.

I like to play around with the taste, sometimes I add cayenne pepper, I have added chopped sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and chopped green beans. Go ahead and be creative, use the orzo as your base, your canvas.

Then I like to plate the orzo and add cooked shrimp, chicken, salmon. Again, be creative.   For this dish I baked half of a chicken breast, sliced it and then topped off the orzo.

A side salad or veggie along with it and you have a perfect and filling meal.

I really don’t have measurements, this is one of those dishes I make that I don’t measure anything!! For the orzo, I usually use about one cup. I almost always use an entire carton of stock but I start with about half and then add more as needed.

This makes more than I can eat in one meal so I love making this and keeping it for other meals for a couple of days.

I hope you give toasted orzo a try!

 

Honey Lavender Lemonade

There is nothing more refreshing then fresh lemonade on a hot humid day.  It is really a treat on days that I am doing yard and garden work.

I up’d my lemonade game and made Honey Lavender Lemonade, and I cannot stay away from it!

Between the refreshing lemons and the sweetness from the honey simple syrup, the hint of lavender just took this drink to a different level.

I started with the simple syrup. To a small saucepan I poured in one cup of water, about ½ cup of sugar. I didn’t measure, I just eyeballed, which I do a lot! I heated that over a medium low heat, stirring often, until the sugar was dissolved. Then I turned off the heat and added ½ cup of my favorite honey. I stirred the simple syrup until the honey dissolved and then set it aside.

Next I steeped the lavender buds. I measured 2 T of organic lavender buds into a small coffee filter and tied it shut with a little piece of butcher twine. Tossed that in a coffee mug with water, about 1 cup of water and nuked it for about 2 minutes. Set it aside to steep. Basically your making lavender tea, YUM!

Finally I started working on the lemons. I squeezed about 6 lemons and got about one cup of lemon juice. I poured that into my Mom’s pretty Princess House pitcher.

When the simple syrup and lavender tea were cooled, I poured that in with the lemon juice and added an additional 3 cups of water.

Stir and serve. Garnish with lemon slices and a sprig of lavender. I will definitely be making this a lot this summer!

 

Honey Lavender Lemonade

5 cups water

½ cup sugar

½ cup honey

2 T organic lavender buds

1 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice

  1. Start with the simple syrup. Add 1 cup of water and the sugar to a small saucepan. Heat the water until the sugar melts and remove from heat. Add the honey and stir until dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Add the lavender buds to a coffee filter and tie shut with butchers twine. To a coffee mug add 1 cup water and the lavender tea bag and heat in the microwave for 2 minutes and then let steep while you juice the lemons.
  3. Add the lemon juice to a pitcher, add the simple syrup and the lavender water. Then add the remaining 3 cups of water.

Cleaned out the Fridge Pasta Sauce!!

I really dislike throwing out food, but on occasion I am guilty of needing to toss some things that I didn’t use. And that bothers me.

I’ve really been trying to not do that anymore, so I’ve been more observant of my schedule along with the food in my fridge. Sounds odd I know, but what I mean is; if I have a busy week and I have a lot of perishables, I may end up freezing things or I make a one pot dish with as much of the food as I can.

This sauce was a perfect example. I have several half full boxes of various pastas in my pantry. I had a partial jar of marina sauce along with some veggies in my fridge so I decided to make a pasta sauce.

I started with the marina sauce, put that in a pot and turned it on low. I had about 6 roma tomatoes that were not really good enough to slice and use in anything so I blanched them for a minute or so in boiling water. Peeled them, removed the seeds and tossed them in the marina.

I also had a rind of parmesan cheese in the freezer, I put half of that in the sauce. Added pepper, a little salt, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. I had a little leftover red wine, I know I know, how is that even possible!! But I did, so I poured some of that in the sauce as well.

Then I found some black olives so I chopped them up and tossed them in too. I left that simmer on low for about 30 minutes, stirring often, then I tossed in some chopped zucchini and a handful of spinach.

Next I started the pasta.

And the next thing I knew dinner was done. I topped the pasta with some freshly grated parmesan cheese, opened another bottle of wine and I was good to go!

What meals have you made by cleaning out your fridge?

Broccoli and Cheese Topped Chicken

I have been on a broccoli kick lately.   I usually just prefer it steamed or stirred fried and never do I like broccoli and cheese…. EVER! Until now.

It’s delicious over a perfectly cooked chicken breast and topped with shredded cheese.

It’s comes together rather quickly, cooking the chicken takes the longest amount of time so this dish is great for those times that you want something healthy and filling but yet not wanting to spend much time in the kitchen.

I am also sure this would be perfect for summer grilling!

I added some oil to my cast iron skillet over medium heat. I seasoned the boneless, skinless chicken breast with Cajun seasoning and cooked the chicken on each side.

Meanwhile I steamed some small broccoli florets, seasoned with salt and pepper.

When the chicken was cooked, I topped it with the broccoli and then shredded cheese, popped that into the oven, 375 degrees, until the cheese melted.

You could also bake the chicken in the oven, then pull it out to put the broccoli and cheese and pop it back in the over to melt the cheese.

This was such an easy meal to make and will be a perfect meal for those busy summer days when I want something fast for a meal.

Enjoy!

How to prepare a spaghetti squash for roasting

Anyone that follows my blog knows by now how much I love spaghetti squash!

I have always LOVED pasta, it’s my absolute favorite meal, prepared in many many ways!! But I’m trying to eat healthier meals so I need to cut out the pasta when possible. I sub those dishes with spaghetti squash.

A friend of mine asked how to prepare it, she said she has wanted to try to make it but didn’t know how. I promised her that the next time I would make it, I would send her pictures and directions so she could see what I was doing. I thought I would share just in case anyone else is interested too.

Cutting those suckers is half the battle! Use a good sharp knife, keep a wooden spoon handy. And make sure the squash is on a cutting board so you do not chop or cut into your countertop. I start by putting the knife right in the middle lengthwise (or end to end) and carefully work it down about halfway through. I found that if I put it the entire way through, I have a more difficult time working it around to the end. This works for me, you may find a better way for you.

Anyway, I gently start working the knife blade back towards the end of the squash. Now, sometimes I have had squash that my knife will NOT cut through the stem, this is where the wooden spoon comes in handy, but it needs to be a heavy duty wooden spoon. I use the handle to start “hammering” the knife handle down through the stem. Seriously, this works!!! I saw someone else do this, I tried it and it works!

After that, just keep cutting around the entire squash. If the cut doesn’t match up on the opposite side, no worries cuz no one is gonna see that.

Then scrape out the seeds. If you start scraping too much you will see that you are also pulling the squash noodles out too so once you have the strands with the seeds out, then you’re good to go.

If you’re only planning to use half the squash, wrap the other piece in plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge for up to a week.

Next I drizzle the squash with olive oil, then salt and pepper. Depending on the sauce I am making I may add different spices and herbs to the squash. For this recipe I sprinkled the squash with cayenne pepper.

You will need a baking dish or cookie sheet lined with foil, just make sure the baking object has sides to collect any oil that may run out.

Turn the squash upside down onto the baking sheet. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 45 minutes or until tender.

When done, remove the baking sheet from the oven. I use a towel to grab the squash and turn it over. Be careful!! Using a fork, gently pull the noodles from the squash onto a large bowl or plate.

There ya go! Give it try and feel free to share how you make you spaghetti squash.