Thursday, April 25, 2013

fresh homemade pasta

I have been intending to make homemade fresh pasta for some time now. Unfortunately, I do not have a pasta machine, which is the main reason I have been putting it off. Today, though, I was thumbing through The Silver Spoon: Pasta, an Italian cookbook given to us as a wedding gift, and decided tonight was the night. The original recipe I was going to use from the book called for two kinds of flour that I don't have, so I abandoned that track and went in search of a simple "how to" online. What I found was a tutorial on a blog that will probably now be one of my absolute favourites, mostly because I adore Italian cooking.

The Italian Dish has a great post about making fresh pasta, along with a short video. The nice thing about making pasta is that it's not quite an exact recipe, which makes it perfect for me. Basically, it's a ratio of flour and eggs, plus a little water if needed. And there is the possibility of adding other flavours, like tomato or spinach. I decided to make the tomato-flavoured pasta because I had leftover tomato paste from the other day.
See, flour and eggs. And a food processor because that was less messy than mixing by hand.

I'm rather proud of my dough.

Look at the ickle noodles!


As you can probably see from the photos, the noodles aren't uniform and are rather thick. As a result, they had the texture of over-cooked pasta, but they still tasted excellent with the sauteed veggies (green and red bell pepper and shallots) and homemade meatballs. This meal went really well with a glass of red wine.

blessings amidst the clutter

Ah, blogging.
It's fantastic and sometimes not.
It can generate jealous and envy quicker than you can snap a finger.
(Pinterest has a way of doing that, too!)

Not that I am super prone to feelings of envy, but they can sneak up on me.
All of a sudden I look around my tiny and always cluttered home and sigh.
Why don't I have a beautiful kitchen?
Why can't the walls be free of scratches from previous owners?
Why this?
Why that?

But really, it's not such a big deal. Yeah, it may take me almost the whole week to clean up after our friends visit on the weekends (just in time for them to show up again, haha), but we spent that time with our friends. It's not our things that matter.

Obviously, I take pride in a clean house and yard and stuff.
But if when I wake up in the morning I give thanks to the Lord for all I have been given, clutter included, then I remember I am blessed.

Though you're still not seeing photos of the house on here when it's a wreck.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

curry is my favourite

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the taste of curry. At least since I was about seven or eight years old. I seem to recall eating it for the first time as a leftover because we were in a hurry to get to church on Christmas Eve for the children's service. I could be completely wrong about that and have two memories mixed up in my head, but at any rate, curry is my favourite. My mom makes an excellent chicken curry that I have made a few times, but never without her supervision. It's just one of those things I can't separate from my family. One of these days, I will make it here for Nate and me.

Tonight, though, I decided to try another chicken curry recipe I came across in the Taste of Home Cookbook. I don't use this cookbook much, but there are a few gems in it. One of them being the recipe I am about to share with you; it is super easy and can easily be made in 30 minutes if you have all your ingredients right at hand. This recipe calls for canned coconut milk and spinach, two things I thought I might never get Nate to consume. Not that I'm a huge fan of coconut milk either, but I do love spinach.

This curry is kind of incredible. Or at least I thought so. And Nate ate two full plates! With rice! Yeah, I was more than a little excited about that. Like I said, curry is my favourite. I don't know what I would do if he didn't like it, too.


curry chicken (adapted from the Taste of Home Cookbook) 

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tsp curry powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1 cup chopped tomato

Sprinkle chicken with curry, salt, and pepper. In a large skillet, saute chicken and onion in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Stir coconut milk and tomato paste into the chicken mixture; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until thickened. Add spinach and tomato; cook 2-3 minutes longer or until spinach is wilted.
Serve with white rice.

Notes: The original recipe called for canola oil, but since I don't use that, I substituted olive oil. I also didn't really measure my spices, but that's obviously up to you! And I added one extra spice into the sauce; Berbere Seasoning from Penzeys Spices, which is super spicy but with only 1 tsp it added the perfect kick.

apple-almond teacakes with vanilla cream

Other than Monday, this week has been rain. I don't have another word for it. Water, water everywhere. So anyway. All this rain put me in a baking mood, but I didn't get around to actually baking until today. And then of course when I decided I wanted to bake something, I was out of eggs, so had to run to the store, etc.

What to bake, though? Cupcakes were what I was most craving. So I planned to make a recipe out of this book (which is a totally different cover than mine...hmm):


When the subtitle says infinite, it's not kidding. This book is so cool and I can't believe this is the first time I've actually baked any cupcakes from it. The issue was usually that I didn't have the right type of sugar, but I fixed that last week while grocery shopping, so....

I knew I wanted apple and almond flavors together, which was convenient because there is a recipe in this book for just that! So I started mixing the batter and went in search of a muffin pan (already had the cupcake liners out). Somehow I don't own a muffin pan. Well, that was frustrating. But I did unearth my heart-shaped doughnut pan. Ah well, better than nothing. So I made baked doughnuts which actually turned into little cakes with a heart-shaped depression in the center because I filled the pan too high. But I didn't care because once topped with oodles of freshly whipped cream with vanilla and sugar, the cakes were delicious. Oh, and they totally didn't look like hearts anymore....

Yeah, I already ate three of them.
And finished the leftover cream.


Apple-almond cupcakes (adapted from 10,000 Cupcakes by Susanna Tee)

1 apple
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup superfine sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 extra large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2/3 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners. Peel, core, and finely chop the apple. Combine butter, sugar, and almond extract in a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy. Add the eggs carefully and whisk well. Sift in the flour and baking powder; fold in. Stir in the apple. (Don't use an electric mixer for the apple!!) Spoon into the liners and bake for 20-25 minutes until firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.

Vanilla cream

2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp superfine sugar

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Using an electric hand mixer, whisk together until the cream is thick and holds its shape. Use to cover 12 cupcakes, either with a pastry bag and tip or just using a knife.

Monday, April 15, 2013

has spring arrived at last?

Happy Monday! And Tax Day!

On second thought, that's not very happy for most people. And even though I don't work outside the home right now, I hate Mondays as much as everyone else. Partly as a leftover feeling from my college days.

But this morning I took my coffee outside on the deck and almost started crying because it feels so beautiful outside. It even smells like spring. At last. The sun is shining, the river is flowing, and my tulips are poking out of the ground. I noticed my tulips last week and got so excited, but now I'm ecstatic because the weather is lovely. I'm crossing my fingers that it stays that way.

This is a short post to welcome spring officially (I hope!), and to let you all know that I now have a camera!! One of my dearest friends was so kind to sell her old one to me at a discount price. It's not new, but it works perfectly, and besides it is new to me! I haven't taken many photos yet, and the ones I have taken are of my cats and my feet, but perhaps I'll have some photos of the yard to share in the near future. :)

Now, rather than going to the gym to workout this morning, I am going to put on my gardening hat and muck boots and get some yardwork done!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

an in-between time

The snow still covers the ground, which is fine with me, but I also would like to get outside without having to wear winter boots. That would be nice. The air is slowly warming up, and it did rain over the weekend. But it snowed again yesterday. Ah well. Such is Wisconsin!

My blog is suffering in this in-between time, as we transition from winter to spring. Not having a camera really doesn't help. I seriously hate posting without pictures, especially because many of my post ideas need pictures. I entered a giveaway over at Mommypotamus for the Canon T3i, which is the camera that I've been drooling over for a long time now. The giveaway ends at the end of the month, I think. Crossing my fingers and hoping hard! In the meantime, we have some spare cash, so maybe I'll just bite the bullet and buy an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera. Or go for the all-weather one from Nikon since that'd be apropos for our lifestyle. Hmm. Decisions.

At this point, I'm planning out the vegetable garden, ordering seeds, basking in every little bit of sunshine there is (speaking of which, be right back!), mourning the melting snow (yes, I really do like to hang onto winter; besides, melting snow makes me sad), and mentally planning the camping trips that we'll never get to take.

So, back to my cup of organic coffee and my seed catalogs.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

tea tuesday: Teavana Earl Grey Creme$slge$

When I first tasted tea as a child, I had a cup of some french vanilla tea. It was delicious. But then I had a cup of Earl Grey. It was even better.

Since that moment, nigh on 18 years ago, Earl Grey has been my favorite tea. My tea tastes have broadened considerably since then, of course. I can't recall a tea I didn't like.

But anyway. Earl Grey. What a stately name. There are many versions of Earl Grey out there. Nearly every tea company produces one. I guess that shows how popular it is. One of the best that I've ever tried is the Earl Grey Creme from Teavana. First of all, Teavana only sells loose leaf tea. That automatically makes their tea better than some other companies. Yes, I'm a tea snob, though you wouldn't know it from looking at my tea cabinet -- most of the tea in there is in teabags.

Earl Grey Creme is a black tea flavoured with bergamot orange. Bergamot is an acquired taste, I think. I know that my Grandma, who of all people ought to love Earl Grey, says she does not because of the bergamot. Ah well, more for me!

Here is the description from the Teavana website:

High tea is further elevated with tart bergamot orange tastefully tempered by creamy Madagascar vanilla then blended with the classic pomp of an Earl Grey black tea. A majestically smooth confection that is now available any time the senses desire. Sprinkled with sunny yellow marigold petals, this full leaf wonder is divinely delicious with a silky sweet finish. 

The tea that I have doesn't have the yellow marigold petals, so this must be a recent addition. The photo above doesn't really show those, either. One reviewer on the page said that it doesn't taste quite the same, so I guess we shall have to see.

But if you're looking for a stately and delicious cup of tea, try Earl Grey. It's delectable with a splash of cream and two lumps of sugar. And don't forget the scones! 

Monday, February 18, 2013

the "green" lifestyle

One of the things I've become enamoured with lately is the "green" lifestyle. The idea of living off the grid and being self-sustainable is fascinating and it's kind of a huge dream of mine. And when I say a huge dream, I mean it, because I also want to live in a giant old Victorian farmhouse out in the country, and I also want to travel the world, which would make self-sustainable living a bit hard.... I should mention that I have a lot of huge dreams, but they don't all coincide very nicely. No pretty jigsaw puzzle in my brain. That's what happens when you have an interest in almost anything and a severe case of wanderlust.

But as far as the "green" lifestyle goes, some of that is so easily attainable. Here are a few things I've already done to live more simply and in consequence, more green.

  • Make my own home cleaners using vinegar, water, baking soda, and lemons. (Essential oils to join in soon.)
  • Start experimenting with home beauty products. (I used half a lemon to rub raw honey all over my face, rinsed it clean with warm water, and applied a tiny amount of coconut oil as a moisturizer -- my face glowed. And felt so soft. I gotta do that again. Good thing lemons are cheap, haha.)
  • Stop buying processed foods and start making most things from scratch. This is excellent because there is less package waste, and we're not putting so many toxic ingredients into our bodies.
  • Start buying fair-trade and organic whole coffee beans. (Not only is this more sustainable, but for some reason this coffee tastes so much better.)
  • Make my own laundry detergent. (Granted, mine has Oxi-Clean in it, which might not be the best stuff, but the mix that I made has lasted almost nine months. Less money spent, less waste overall, and no fillers in the soap.)

This blog has a lot of focus on living a simple lifestyle, which of course doesn't mean easier. And to be honest, green living isn't necessarily easier, either. But it can be less expensive in the long run, because it truly does end up being healthier.
I'm no crazy environmental hippie, but I do know that God created the earth first, for us. Though we and it are no longer perfect and will most certainly not last forever, I want to help take care of the earth and take care of my own body because we are stewards. We need to take care of this fantastic planet that He has given to us, we need to have compassion on the peoples who inhabit it, and maybe in the process, the Holy Spirit will plant the seeds of faith.
Yes, that's a long stretch, but we are all connected, because we are all creations by God in His image. We are His children, though so many people on earth don't believe that.

Friday, February 15, 2013

the wonders of coconut oil

Coconut oil on my skin.
Coconut oil in my coffee.
Popcorn made with coconut oil.
Coconut oil in my hair.
Oil-pulling with coconut oil.
Coconut oil in my smoothie.


Okay, maybe that last one is a bit much. But seriously, coconut oil is the new miracle food/drug/beauty product. Maybe not new, but it's new to me. When I purchased a big jar of the stuff from Wilderness Family Naturals after much debating and research, I intended mostly to use it for oil pulling (more on that in a moment) and putting in my hair. I do use it in my hair as a conditioner, leave-in or wash out, and it kind of works as a gel, too. And then my hair smells like summer should. Which is awesome.

Oil-pulling is an ancient health practice that just requires some pure oil and your mouth. Coconut oil is the best for this; never use vegetable oil or canola oil or any of those. I think sesame oil is okay, too. The downside of coconut oil is that you have to melt it first, since it is solid at room temperature, at least in the wintertime. But all you have to do is slowly swish the oil around in your mouth for 15-20 minutes, preferably before you even drink anything in the morning. This process draws out, or "pulls" toxins from your body via your mouth. The mouth is probably one of the more toxic parts of your body, which makes sense if you think about it. And never swallow the oil, because of course it is laden with toxins that you don't want in your stomach! There's not much more to the process itself; there's a fair bit of research out there to read on the benefits of it if you'd like. I had been meaning to try oil pulling for a month now, but I finally did it today. And I didn't last more than 30 seconds. My gag reflex is super annoying. But my mouth felt better even in those 30 seconds. My back teeth had been hurting, which is why I finally got up the courage to try this, and now they really don't hurt. Granted, that'll probably change as soon as I eat something hard, but I am going to attempt to be faithful with this oil pulling and see if I can train myself to be better about it.

As for other ways of using coconut oil, it does work really well on the skin. I put it on my legs after I shave, and they feel amazing. I even have smoothed a tiny amount onto my lips. Use it like you would a lotion, but you need very little because it's obviously oily. And, because it's solid, just rub a small amount in your palms until liquid and then use it. Coconut oil can also be used to make deodorant, body butter, sugar scrubs, lip balms, etc. I'll post recipes as I try them.

And this awesome oil can be used in the kitchen, too! I used it in my Stir-Crazy to pop popcorn last night and I could hardly taste the coconut and the popcorn wasn't super oily and heavy like when I use vegetable oil (which I won't be buying anymore!). It was delicious. I also occasionally put a scoop of oil in my cup of coffee or in my smoothie.

I never used to like coconut. The taste bothered me a lot. But I was determined to get over that so I could use this wonderful oil, and I think perhaps I have! If you have questions about the different kinds of coconut oil, don't hesitate to ask! I purchased extra-virgin, because that's probably the best for beauty products.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Tea is good for your heart, so drink a cup of tea.
Whether alone or together, drink a cup of tea.
Tea is good for your soul, so drink a cup of tea.
Whether happy or sad, drink a cup of tea.

Happy Valentine's Day

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I write; it's just what I do.

In the last five or so years (pretty much since my family got fast internet, yay!), I have been blogging. Not regularly, perhaps, but I've made my share of posts. Private journaling has always been a hobby of mine, though I have let it slack off in the last few years. I guess now that I'm not a teenager with frivolous things like boys, shoes, and makeup to write about, there's nothing important left! I kid...completely and utterly kid. But the point is, I'm a writer.

My blogging has evolved from being more of an online diary to being something I purposefully share with the world. Does anyone remember Xanga? Or LiveJournal? I had an account on both of those while my family still had dial-up! I love some of the things I wrote on my LiveJournal. Xanga was definitely more on the frivolous side. And then there was MySpace, which wasn't exactly a journal. And Facebook notes were a thing for awhile, too. And I finally joined Blogger. Again, the point is, I'm a writer.

To illustrate this fact (the "I'm a writer" one), I'm going to tell you a story. A few years ago, June 2010, I went camping up north with my husband (boyfriend at the time!) and some of his long time friends. I knew exactly two of them, but by the end of the trip I knew I fit in well. At any rate, it was fun. But the whole being a writer started to get to me the morning after we arrived. I had completely forgotten my journal! When I go out into God's glorious creation, I should have my journal with me. So I improvised, pulling out my little cell phone and using the "Notes" function to write. I don't know how many separate notes I filled when Nate finally asked if I wanted to buy a notebook at the general store. He bought me one, which of course got soaked because it rained almost the entire week...that's a different story, though. But I got to write, and I was happy.

I need to get my thoughts out. And I like to share with people the things I know and the things I am learning, in hopes that others will share with me what they know and are learning. It's a two-way street. And writing is my witness to a lost and broken world. Being a Christian permeates every aspect of my life, and because writing is one of my skills, I use that to share the Gospel. Once shared, it is the work of the Holy Spirit, not me. It's all God's work, not mine. He just uses me in His work.

I write; it's just what I do.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

tea tuesday: PG Tips

PG Tips  Tea Bags - 40 count

Hello, my name is Beth and I'm addicted to tea. (The irony is that I'm drinking coffee as I write this.) Other than books, I probably spent most of my little money during college on tea. I still have some of that tea, but we won't talk about that. I have a shelf in my beverage cabinet overflowing with tea. I drink at least one cup of tea per day, oftentimes two or three. I don't have an overarching preference; it's more my mood, how my body feels, and the time of day.

One of my favorite black teas comes from England. Surprised? I didn't think so. Anyway. I was first introduced to PG Tips about eight years ago when I first met the Tea Ladies. These lovely ladies serve only PG Tips at their soirees and tea parties held mainly in the parlor at the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington, IL. The mansion is one of my favorite places on this earth. I have walked the halls in various period costumes, played Christmas carols on the parlor piano, given a couple of small tours, worked in the garden, and last but not least, taken tea in the parlor. I have also served tea in the parlor, as a maid for some of the parties. I could go on about that place, which I miss so much it physically hurts, but this post is for tea, not the mansion.

PG Tips is a black tea. On the side of the box is written this description: "A popular British blend of the finest Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan teas which produces a rich and refreshing flavour. The definitive traditional English tea." Funny how we think of tea as coming from England, but it is obviously not grown there. Anyway. This tea does indeed have a "rich and refreshing flavour" that I love very much. It is perfect plain, or with milk and sugar, or honey and lemon, or whatever combination you would like. But please don't put milk and lemon together -- that would curdle the milk and then your tea would be nasty!

One of my favorite ways to drink PG Tips is as a hot toddy in the evenings. I make a mug of tea, add a jigger of whiskey, and either a teaspoon of sugar or honey. It is quite delicious and excellent on cold and dreary winter nights. (Click on the picture at the top of this post to purchase some tea!)

Monday, February 11, 2013

welcome to "a blissful simplicitea"

Greetings, and welcome to my lifestyle blog! As you can see in the header, this blog is for recipes (probably lots of recipes -- I have an obsession with cooking and baking), natural health and wellness, various crafts and DIY projects I take on, thoughts on marriage and life in general, and tea. Yes, always tea.

I am hoping for this blog to give others inspiration while also giving me inspiration and building my confidence, because the largest goal is to eventually build a business. Granted, this is a very large goal, and probably quite far away, possibly unattainable. But I hope that anyone who follows me will enjoy the journey, and perhaps learn a few things along the way.

You'll have to bear with me during the early stages of this blog. I do not have a working camera -- just my iPod and cell phone. My iPod photos turn out rather grainy for reasons I don't know, and my cell phone is unfortunately not good with transferring photos. I am saving for a DSLR, but in the meantime I hope to purchase a simple point-and-shoot. I also do have a Polaroid that I will experiment with, but that's a separate topic for later posts. ^_^

Posting will be somewhat sporadic in these early days, especially as I am still fiddling with the blog layout and stuff. So, here's to the beginning of a new adventure! I can't wait to see how it all plays out.