Thursday, June 30, 2011

July 4th Menu: Burgers with French Onions

Submitted by Linda
(Photo credit to Good Housekeeping.Com for this photo)
Three things:
#1. I'm really wishing for a new camera, a big step above my "point and shoot" Nikon. I'm putting a bug in Santa's ear for if you can suggest a 'next step' camera (one that isn't too complicated but will give me good results and allow me to grow in my skills), please feel free to give input below.

#2. Today I found myself in my kitchen cooking for fun. Weird, I know. But I really enjoyed myself and made a fantastic dinner for the man-boys and their dad.

#3. We have discovered the burger recipe that we will be making next Monday on the Fourth of July. I'm not a big meat eater, but this burger was a-maz-ing, and definitely worth repeating again and again!

This morning I showed Tommy this burger recipe from the June issue of Good Housekeeping. He agreed that it sounded good, especially since our family loves garlic, onions, mushrooms and gruyere cheese, all of which have a starring role in this recipe. Tommy agreed to help me put it all together (remember, he's my Food Network addict).

The recipe calls for Brioche rolls for the buns, which I couldn't find, so I happily substituted french rolls instead. You can see the burger with it's onion-mushroom-cheese topping, waiting for the garlic-mayo, lettuce and bun.
Tommy was so excited to take his first bite, he wouldn't let me adjust my camera for the sun, and you'll notice he didn't even get any side dishes onto his plate.
Here's my burger. It doesn't show the garlic-mayo, which is definitely a key part to this recipe.

Burgers with French Onions
Good Housekeeping June 2011
(The only change I made was to double the garlic-mayo recipe- we wanted to have plenty to slather on our burgers!)

  • 1/3 cup(s) light mayonnaise (2/3 for us!)
  • 1/4 cup(s) loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped (didn't double the parsley)
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed with press (I used 2)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 teaspoon(s) olive oil
  • 1 medium (6- to 8-ounce) red onion, cut in half, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounce(s) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup(s) water
  • 1 teaspoon(s) sugar
  • 1 1/4 pound(s) 85-percent lean ground beef
  • 1 ounce(s) Gruy√®re cheese, shredded
  • 4 brioche hamburger buns, toasted
  • 4 leaves Boston lettuce


1. Prepare outdoor grill for covered direct grilling on medium.

2. In small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, parsley, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; set aside.

3. In 12-inch skillet, heat oil on medium-high. Add onion; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until beginning to soften, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms, water, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cover and cook 5 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally.

4. Shape beef into four 3/4-inch-thick burgers. Lightly sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper to season both sides.

5. Grill burgers, covered, 7 minutes for medium or until desired doneness, turning over once. Top each burger with 1/4 cup onion mixture and 1 tablespoon cheese. Cover; cook 1 minute or until cheese has melted. Serve on buns with garlic mayonnaise and lettuce.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Benihana Fried Rice (Copycat Version)

Submitted by Linda
You won't be surprised to hear that Chef Michelle was appalled when I told her I bought this cookbook. Actually, I don't think it qualifies as a legitimate cookbook, since it is not written by any of her usual suspects, like Mario, Ina, Giada or Julia. But let me say that I have won her praise before with my less-than-gourmet fare, and I will attempt to do it again, next time she's in town.

This 'cookbook' is copycat versions of 'everyone's best-loved food', and the recipes are created by the author so that folks can save money and eat healthier by making their favorite restaurant dishes at home.

When I made Orange Chinese Beef recently, Nick asked if I would try the copycat recipe in the book for the Benihana Fried Rice. The recipe looked just like the way the knive-wielding-teppan-chefs do it at Benihana, except the big hunk of butter was missing from the recipe. We added some, despite the "eat healthier" claim in the book.

Let me say that it was every bit as yummy as the restaurant version, so good in fact, that Nick made it again a couple of days later (at 2 a.m.) when he was 'having a craving'.

Benihana Japanese Fried Rice
From Ron Douglas' America's Most Wanted Recipes
Serves 4 (unless you have Nick at your table - then you should double it!)


1 1/4 cups uncooked short-grain Japanese white rice
Soybean oil (I used vegetable oil)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 finely diced green onions
1/2 frozen peas, thawed (I did not include these, because I am not a fan of peas)
1 medium carrot, finely grated
4 teaspoons soy sauce
salt and pepper


1. Cook the rice according to the package directions. Once done, empty into a mixing bowl.
2. In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil. Scramble the eggs into small pieces until cooked. Empty the scrambled eggs into the bowl with the rice and stir together.
3. Using the same pan, add additional oil, the diced green onions, the peas, and the carrot. Let simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.
4. Add several scoops of the cooled rice and egg mixture to the skillet. Keep gradually adding a scoop at a time and keep stirring. (I added some butter at this point).
5 .While mixing, slowly add the soy sauce a teaspoon at a time until the fried rice is golden brown in color.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Submitted by Linda (with a photo credit to Michelle)
I'm a big fan of making cards well ahead of time, so that I can enjoy the creative process and not feel pressured by time. Lately, however, I waited until the last minute to create this beauty for a very dear couple who were celebrating their 50th anniversary.
Michelle had given me the new Swirls and Curls Verses set, and I knew that I wanted to use the congratulations from that set as my starting point. I also knew that I wanted some type of butterfly for the background, to tie in the tiny butterfly above the word.

A few months back, I created a notebook of photocopies of all my different stamp sets, and I organized the copies by themes, holidays, words only, etc. Because many of the Stampin' Up sets are assorted, I knew this would help me when I needed to find certain designs, or when I'm looking for words to fit into a specific space on a card. I can't tell you how many times I've referred to that notebook lately. If you are a stamper, I highly recommend making yourself a similar resource.

Anyway, I found my butterfly, added the 50 with the good old Whimsical Numbers, and the Mr. and Mrs. from Tiny Tags. To top if off, I added the tiny yellow flower embellishment.

Well, today is actually Michelle and David's 13th anniversary, and she wanted to create a card to give to Dave. Using the same format, she created a card that is romantic, yet a bit more masculine. So this is her take on it! Beautiful, right?
Here's to David and Michelle going 37 more years together to reach their 50th! Happy Anniversary!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Crock Pot Pleaser #3: Chinese Orange Beef

Submitted by Linda
It's always a challenge to cook dinner after a long day of work, so I have always been a fan of the crock pot. Even in the summer, when I have all day to prepare dinner, I still would rather spend my time crafting or cleaning out my cabinets (or taking a mid-day nap)! Don't you love knowing that your dinner is cooking (without you) and will be ready when you are?

I am notorious for saving recipes and never trying them, so this summer I'm looking though the stack of ripped out magazine pages and am trying the ones that I think my family will most enjoy. It's always a bonus if a crock pot recipe turns out to be a winner.

I know I'm not alone in facing the challenge of making dinner every night, and I would guess that I'm also not alone in that most people have some "random meat" in their freezer. I'm pretty careful to buy cuts of meat that I know I will have success with, but my DH (dear husband) sometimes gets excited about a deal at the grocery store and brings home meat I'm not sure how to cook. Usually I call chef Michelle, and she walks me through it. In this case the packaging said "London Broil". Well, after checking with Mr. Google, I learned that "London Broil" is not a cut of meat, but rather a recipe that is usually used with a tougher flank type steak. London Broil calls for marinating or tenderizing the meat, and what better way to tenderize a tough piece of meat than in the crock pot?

So I pulled out this recipe from Woman's Day, June 2, 2009 (no comments on how long I've saved this scrap of paper), cut up my meat, and threw it all together in the crock pot. My family loved it, and I think it even tasted better the next day as leftovers.

Part of the success of the meal can be attributed to the "Benihana Fried Rice" recipe, shown in the picture, which I will post tomorrow.

Chinese Orange Beef Recipe

From Woman's Day; June 2, 2009

Succulent chunks of beef—flavored with orange marmalade, minced garlic, fresh ginger and teriyaki sauce—are paired with sliced red pepper and snow peas for a fresh meal the whole family will love.

Active Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 8 hours


    • 1 slow-cooker liner (we used Reynolds)
    • 2 lb cubed beef stew meat
    • 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (we used Kikkoman Takumi Collection)
    • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
    • 1 tsp each minced garlic and fresh ginger
    • 1 red pepper, cut in 1/2-in.-thick strips
    • 6 oz snow peas, strings removed
    • 4 scallions, thinly sliced


1. Line a 3-qt or larger slow-cooker with liner. Add beef, teriyaki sauce, orange marmalade, garlic and ginger to slow-cooker. Cover and cook on low 8 to 10 hours until beef is tender.

2. Turn to high. Stir in pepper strips and snow peas; cover and cook on high 10 minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender. Top with scallions.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

CPK's BBQ Chicken Salad

Submitted by Linda
So in the quest to feed my hungry boys who are gainfully employed this summer, I pulled out this favorite recipe of CPK's BBQ Chicken Salad. You may remember that I posted the recipe for the Garden Herb Ranch Dressing that goes on the salad, but this time my plan was to do some shortcuts to make the prep easier.

Yesterday Michelle blogged about being accomplished women, but I am definitely the 'weaker link' in the kitchen. I can hold my own, especially in baking, but I am becoming more of a foodie thanks to Michelle's input into our friendship. I know that philosophically, she is always a fan of homemade vs. store-bought, yet sometimes our lives move so quickly that we need to get a good meal on the table after a long day at work.

Shortcut #1: Since salads always seem to require more time to chop and mince, I decided to buy my ranch dressing at Eddie's. I'm sure any nice ranch dressing would do.

Shortcut #2: Cook extra chicken earlier in the week. The CPK recipe says to grill or broil chicken breasts with a bit of olive oil, soy sauce, salt and minced garlic brushed onto it. So throw some onto the BBQ when you're doing some other cooking.

Shortcut #3: The recipe calls for fried corn tortilla strips tossed into the salad and sprinkled on top. I was willing to do this step, because they take very little time, and are such an upgrade. However, on a regular workday, I could easily substitute gently broken Tostitos.

I think the secret to the yumminess of the salad is that the salad is tossed in the ranch, and the chicken is tossed in BBQ sauce, and then the chicken is put on top of the salad. The blend of ranch and bbq sauce is 'bomb-diggity' (those were Nick's exact words last night!)

Here is the salad portion of the recipe:

1/2 head iceberg lettuce (cored, rinsed,dried and cut into 1/8" strips)
1/2 romaine lettuce leaves (separated, trimmed, rinsed, dried, and cut into thin strips)
12 large fresh basil leaves, cut into 1/8" strips
1 lb. jicama, cut into 1/4" by 1/4" by 3/4" strips (I did cubes)
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed, drained
1 cup canned sweet white corn kernals, drained
3 T. chopped fresh cilantro
2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, cut into 1/2" dices
1/4 C. good-quality-sweet and spicy BBQ sauce (I used KC Masterpiece)
12 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4" strips and fried in hot oil (or use purchased tortilla chips)
scallions, chopped

Cut the (cooked and chilled) chicken breasts into 3/4 inch cubes and, in a bowl, toss with 1/4 C. barbeque sauce to coat well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the lettuces, basil, jicama, cheese, beans, corn, cilantro, dressing and half of the fried tortilla strips. Transfer the salad to chilled serving plates. Surround each salad with the diced tomatoes and the remaining tortilla strips. Top each salad with chunks of chicken, and drizzle the chicken with the bbq sauce. Garnish with the scallions.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Accomplished Women

Submitted Michelle
Linda and I recently had a conversation about being what Jane Austen calls an accomplished woman. According to Caroline Bingley in the novel Pride and Prejudice, "...a woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.'' We figure we possess these qualities and more. Having degrees in music we are above average at singing and flute playing. We also cook, craft, teach and blog!

This idea of an accomplished woman prompted me to think about some of my front row friends and I realized they are accomplished women too. There is my friend Jennifer (a.k.a. Cubby) who is actually Dr. Jennifer having procured an advanced degree in vocal arts from USC. She is an amazing singer of classical music and opera. There is my cousin, Dr. Kathy, who is a professor at St. John's University and knows all things related to 18th Century British Literature (including Jane Austen!) There is my niece Rachel who is studying photography at The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and keeps me in the know with youthful expressions and fashion. And then there is my friend Sheryl, a teaching colleague from the 1990's without whom I would have never survived my 9 years in secondary education.

Sheryl is probably the smartest person I know. If you look up brilliant or genius in the dictionary you will find her picture. On top of being well read and well educated, she is also an amazing crafter. I am lucky enough to be the recipient of some of her amazing work.

My birthday is fast approaching and on Monday I received a package in the mail from Sheryl. Inside were some fantastic, handmade gifts.

This one is my favorite.
It is a bag that she knitted and felted. I love the vine and leaf detail and the way it wraps around both sides of the bag. It is big enough to fit my laptop, a notepad and my wallet.
She also sent this pouch with the cutest button possible.
Autumn is my favorite time of year and I would guess that is why Sheryl picked that button for me.
Sheryl also made me some face cloths and included a box of delicious smelling soups to go with them. They are made from the softest of all possible yarns and I love having them for my own particular use. (Obviously, I don't share these with my husband.)
Living in a world which often defines accomplishment as having wealth and celebrity can often make one feel ordinary. However, if we look at ourselves through the eyes of Jane Austen, we are all quite accomplished women!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tommy's 20th!

Submitted by Linda
So the day before Tommy's birthday, I jokingly asked him if he cared if he received a handmade card (because being a 'typical guy', it doesn't seem like he really notices whether I do or don't). Anyway, he immediately responded with "handmade of course"! Maybe he is paying more attention than I originally thought!

I decided I wanted something somewhat simply and manly, and I thought it would be cute if I did something with the number 20, even though I don't have very many number stamps. I used my one inch circle punch to do "faux embossing" (just glued a bunch of dots on the front), used my rough type alphabet to spell his name and pulled out my old "tall tales" numbers for the 20. I do think that putting the 'happy birthday' vertically in the zero is somewhat inspired, even if I do say so myself!!!
He liked the card, but probably liked the cash that was inside it more.

I would like to point out the gorgeous sunflower in the background. My kindergarten friends planted these from seeds, and they are just now fully blooming! The stems are about 8 feet tall, and the flowers are easily the size of a dinner plate. I will be seeing some of my students later today, and I thought they would enjoy seeing the fruits of their labors.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Keeping Up With Creativity

Submitted by Michelle

These last few weeks have a been a whirlwind with the closing out of the school year. I think I've written in the past about how hectic September and June can be for teachers. I'm not sure which is more work, getting everything started in September or putting it all away in June, but I do know I cherish the start of summer when all I have in front of me are endless days of freedom from schedules, bells and responsibilities.

During my close out phase of the last few weeks I had lots of creative juices flowing but many of them weren't always in the form of cards. I made a slide show of my students using pictures from the entire school year. I set it to fun, up tempo music and then burned a copy for each child to keep. It was a labor of love and I'm so glad I did it. I had a fantastic group of kids this year and I know their parents really appreciated the gift.

Along with the DVD project I designed a graduation announcement for the son of a colleague.

This is the front view...
and the inside.
I also squeezed in 2 cards from the Stampin' Up idea Book and Catalog. These cute love birds are on page 140.
This card is my favorite so far. It is on page 138 of the IBC and was a cinch to make. The butterflies are easily debossed and cut out using a Embosslit die for the Big Shot machine.

Now that I am on vacation for the next 53 days I should have plenty of time to make cards. And since, Stampin' Up comes out with a new IBC on July 1 I've got to finish making all the the cards I have flagged in the current IBC so I'll be ready to move on!

All Supplies from Stampin' Up!
Graduation Announcement
: On The Spot, Best Friends Alphabet (both are retired)
Paper: Marina Mist, Whisper White, Brushed Gold
Ink: Versamark
Accessories: Gold Embossing Powder, Clear Embossing Powder, Colluzzle, Extra Large Oval punch

Friend to Friend
: Love You Much, Dots Wheel
Paper: Whisper White, Pear Pizzaz, Tangerine Tango
Ink: Versamark, Basic Black (marker) Daffodil Delight (marker), Real Red (marker)
Accessories: Tangerine Tango Taffeta Ribbon, Eyelet Border Punch


: Elements of Style
Paper: Crumb Cake, Not Quite Navy, So Saffron, Parisian Breeze DSP (retired)
Ink: Versamark
Accessories: Clear Embossing Powder, Beautiful Wings Embosslit, Basic Pearls, Designer Button, White Bakers Twine

Monday, June 6, 2011


Submitted by Linda
This beautiful kid-made art is our interpretation of Kandinsky's concentric circles.
At our school we do a "thank you" event for our volunteers, and this year, we did "Thanks a Latte" theme and provided breakfast goodies with nice coffee and juices. Our entire staff works together to decorate and provide food, and my role was to create an inexpensive gift to give the folks who come.
Michelle and I made these together both for her school event and mine, and they consist of a post-it pad encased in a cute cover, which closes with velcro. The design on the top says "heartfelt thanks". Between the two of us, we made 130 gifts. And fortunately, we made them weeks ago, so we were ready to go!
I think the colors are fun and springy, and were made of the retired SU cardstock colors. Our people really enjoyed the event, and seemed to enjoy their gift! Nothing says love like a gift made with velcro (Ha!)!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Thank You Jars

Submitted by Linda

First of all, kudos to Michelle and her 30 day crafting challenge. I can't keep up, but have done a bit of crafting out of necessity lately.

I'm certain that primary school teachers are genetically programmed to save stuff. You know what I'm talking about: egg cartons, strawberry baskets, toilet paper tubes, and other random things. I was taught at a young age that "one man's wine is another man's vinegar". One item I love to collect (which others would certainly say is 'vinegar') is jars. I especially like the small ones that have no writing on the lid (formerly used for mustard or jam).

I needed some type of inexpensive 'thank you' for 4 lovely 5th and 6th grade students who come twice each week, during their lunch, to help in my kindergarten. These girls run centers and do a wonderful job. I can't wait to write letters of recommendation for them to get into teacher school some day. So here's what I came up with:
For the monogrammed jar toppers I used Stampin' UP's Ice Cream Parlor DSP and die cuts (no longer available, and I'm sad that I'm using it up!) and added ribbons and a tag.
I filled them with skittles and I was done! For another inexpensive gift idea, take a look at this old post featuring soup cans!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Downstairs Designs

Submitted by Michelle

One of the many blessings of being a paper crafter and working as a demonstrator for Stampin' Up is the opportunity to meet new friends. Stampin' Up brought Carrie and I together when she was moving to La Quinta from Michigan and I've met other really great ladies who live in the desert through my stamping endeavors. I also meet people virtually through blogs and the Stampin' Up website. One such person is Heather Klump. I've never met her, but I'm sure we'd be front row friends if we didn't live thousands of miles apart. Heather has a blog called Downstairs Designs where she displays her amazing cards. Unlike me, Heather is a creator not a copier. And luckily for me, Heather doesn't mind that I copy her ideas all the time. The card below is a modified version of a card Heather recently made and I love, love, love it!
My 30 days of crafting challenge is still going strong. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed about keeping up with blog entries about my cards and then I realized I didn't promise to blog each one! So, I'll keep crafting every day and I'll show you the cards when I have time. For now, go to Heather's blog and check it out! Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

All Supplies from Stampin' Up!
Stamps: Tart and Tangy, Fabulous Phrases
Paper: Melon Mambo, Daffodil Delight, Pretty in Pink, Whisper White, Old Olive, Sale-A-Bration DSP
Ink: Old Olive Marker, Black Staz-On
Accessories: Perfect Polka Dots Embossing Folder, Eyelet Border Punch, 2 3/8" Scallop Circle Punch, 1 3/4" Circle Punch, Old Olive 1/8" Taffeta Ribbon, Sale-A-Bration buttons