Friday, August 31, 2012

Copy Cat Olive Garden Chicken and Gnocchi Soup Pin Test

Here is another Pinterest pin test, and sadly, another that I do not have any personal pictures for. I have long been a fan of The Olive Garden. It was a place that I would often ask to go to for birthday dinners, the restaurant my husband took me to on the night he proposed, and the place we went to to celebrate when we found out I was pregnant with our daughter. In one sentence I think I just revealed how very American I am! So when I saw this recipe for my favorite "cheap" dish there, I knew I had to try it! This recipe didn't disappoint either!

The ingredient list calls for:
1 tablespoons extra virgin oil
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 quart half and half
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1 cup onion, finely diced
2 minced garlic cloves
2 14 ounce cans of chicken broth if you enjoy thick soup, use one can
1 cup carrots, finely shredded
1 cup chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1 package gnocchi, cooked
1 cup of fresh spinach coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

I was also making an okra tomato soup for my husband and grandfather at the same time and both soups started out the same way:
1. Sauté the onions, celery and garlic in the butter and olive oil. I used garlic powder because the last time I used real garlic it made my eyes hurt so bad I had to leave the kitchen for an hour and now I am afraid of it. After I had enough for both soups I spooned out some of the cooked veggies into another pot and the recipes took their separate paths. Make sure you don't fudge on the butter for this one because you are going to need it for the next step.
2. Make a roux. You are going to want to have your burner somewhere around Medium for this. This part of a recipe always makes me feel like a mad scientist in an operating room. I literally treat it like it's life or death! To make the roux you are going to slowly add the flour while whisking vigorously. Sometimes this is hard to do with only two hands so I usually call on my husband to add the flour for me while I hold the pot and whisk. You have to keep whisking or you won't get that nice thickness that makes the soup rich and also so the flour and butter won't burn to the bottom of the pan. I had never done this with onions and celery already in the pot but they did not hinder the process at all. Once you have the flour dissolved you will want to slowly add the half and half. I think the next time I make this I will use 1/2 half and half and 1/2 milk, although I think technically that would just be "one and three quarters". Why don't they sell that? You may want to have a helper on hand for this as well as you will want to do this slowly and keep whisking.
3. Once you have all the half and half stirred in, add the carrots and chicken. I had some leftover chicken thighs that I had de-boned and chopped and I think next time I would add even more chicken. Use whatever you have around, just don't use the canned kind. Yuck!
4. Now would be a good time to make sure you have already cooked you gnocchi. I found some at Wal-mart for about $3 in the dry pasta section. When I make this again, I think I will only use half of the box. It was not bad, just a little over-powering. Also, the package told me to boil about 3 gallons of water but since I didn't have a pot that big I just used the biggest one I had on hand (not the stew pot, that one stays on the top of the cabinet and only comes down for special occasions) and they came out fine.
5. After a few minutes turn your burner to Med-Low and add the chicken stock. I only used one can because I could not fit much more in the pot I was using but I ended up adding more milk to the soup when I re-heated it, so two cans is probably right.
6. Let it cook for a few more minutes and then add the rest of the ingredients. I omitted the nutmeg because it just seemed weird and I didn't miss it. Let it cook for a little while longer and then it's done!

If you make this soup I would plan to freeze some of it. It made a LOT of soup and after three days, as good as it was, I just didn't want any more. My husband and I actually ended up going to Olive Garden a few days later and I got the Soup, Salad and Breadsticks lunch so I ordered a bowl to compare and I actually liked the one I made at home better. It was richer and just had a better over-all flavor. Maybe they added too much nutmeg.

The original link can be found here.

My Testimony

I have always known that if I was ever to write anything to be published in some form ever again that it had to not only contain, but be centered around Jesus Christ and His Gospel. To write something that someone I don't know might read, and to not tell them of Christ and His love for them, would be a grievous mistake. Although I am so apt to forget it, if I had to answer the question, "What is the meaning of life?" there is only one answer for me and that is Christ and what He has done. I believe that the whole purpose of this life is to glorify God.

I was born into a Christian family and was in church from the very first week I was born. I know that many would look on my parents as being over-protective or too sheltering, and there were many times in my adolescence that I thought the same, but looking back I am so grateful for how I was raised. I was taught the truths of the Bible from a very early age. I learned that all men were sinners and that Christ died to pay for their sins. I learned that if I wanted to go to heaven, I needed to agree with God about my sinful condition and accept His free gift of forgiveness and make him the Lord of my life. I also learned that if I rejected His forgiveness the only other option was to go the Hell when I died, a place that was never meant for me. I later learned more and grew in my understanding of the Gospel, but at age 12, this was enough. One day after school I yielded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and put my confidence and trust in Jesus Christ.

Life has not been perfect since then and no one said it would be. Every day is a struggle and a decision to walk with God. I come to the end of many days and wonder, "Why I didn't talk to God all day? Why did I let another day go by with out growing closer to Him?" But He is always faithful. Hebrews 13:5 is talking about being content with what you have in Christ when it says, "... I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee". Even when I fail Him, God still promises to be faithful to me. You can't beat a love like that.

If you find this post and you don't know my Jesus but you want to know more, please, fell free to contact me! I will be glad to help you in any way I can, even if you just need someone to hear your story. I will also be glad to help you meet my Jesus for yourself.

As Christ was getting ready to go to the cross and die for our sins, He was giving His disciples some final words of instruction and comfort. I want to share with you one of those verses of comfort that I think is both beautiful and reassuring.

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you, 
my peace I give unto you:
not as the world giveth, give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid.

Dole Whip Pin Test

This looks amazing right? Tropical, refreshing and most of all "smooth" all come to mind when viewing this image. Well maybe if you are at Disney where dreams really do come true. This is my first Pinterest review and one of the reasons I finally decided to start this blog. I came across another blog in which the blogger's entire website was dedicated to testing and reviewing Pins as well as sharing her results. I had been thinking of doing the same thing for a long time, but seeing an example was the little push I needed to get started.

I had never heard of this before but it seems to have quite a fan following. You can find the original link to this idea here although I don't know why you would want to.

The recipe called for:
2 20 ounce cans Dole crushed pineapple with juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped

The first time I attempted this recipe I cut it in half so I could spend less money. I also opted for a tub of Cool Whip instead of the heavy whipping cream because a) I'm cheap, b) I'm trying to watch what I eat sometimes and c) I didn't want to use the blender AND the hand mixer for just one recipe. Too many dirty dishes when you don't have a dish washer. Other than that I followed the directions exactly. It came out tasting somewhat alright but the texture was WAY off. Definitely not the soft serve pictured above. I thought maybe it was my bender. Perhaps it just wasn't powerful enough to chop all that pineapple up really well. That, and the cool whip.

So, fast forward a few weeks and we are staying at my Grandparent's house in TN (something we do often as we travel) and I decided to try it again. This time I'd have my grandma's very nice blender and I'd use the heavy whipping cream. We were having a big family night and so I decided to prepare it for that. I guess blenders just don't like pineapple because it came out terrible once again. The heavy whipping cream made no difference. As I was transferring it from a gallon zip lock bag to a bowl, my aunt described it as looking like an unpleasant female infection. It was THAT BAD. A few brave souls did try it but concluded it needed more sugar at the very least. My grandma was very sweet about the whole thing and kept insisting it was good, but she also comes from a generation that does not waste as she was not about to let me throw it in the trash!

Conclusion? Unless you live in Hawaii, leave this one up to the folks at Disney.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Glitter Tip Nails

Another appropriate title for this post would be: I could never be a hand model! See evidence below!
I don't consider myself to be high maintenance, but I have recently rediscovered nail polish on my finger nails. I always have my toe nails painted (who doesn't?) but for a long time I worked jobs where I either couldn't paint my nails or where painting them was pointless. As a stay at home mom I still do plenty of house work that chips away at my pretty paint, but my polish will still last for more than a few hours now so I consider it worth it. 
I can't seem to go to Wal-mart or Target without checking out their nail polish section and my most recent acquirements were the two pretty pinks below. Together they cost me around $3. I have been rebuilding my collection of polishes because some of them had to be at least 10 years old!
To achieve this look I started with two coats of Wet Wild Fast Dry - How I Met Your Magenta - and it really does dry fast. Work quickly. For the tips I free handed the glitter which was Wet n Wild Wild Shine - Sparked. The easiest way for me to get a straight line is to do short downward strokes rather than trying to go straight across the nail. Also, glitter polish is a little more forgiving, your line does not have to be perfect to still look good. After the first layer of glitter dried I gingerly went over it a second time to make it a little denser. I finished that off with a clear top coat. 
 Now for the hand modeling hilarity! At first I tried to do the "hold the bottle" pose I'd seen all over Pinterest. In my opinion it makes my hand look like a claw! Not attractive!
Then I tried it with out the bottle. Bad idea! I am NOT double jointed. I think if Wet n Wild saw this one they might ask me to take it down, bad for business!

If you thought you couldn't do French tips to yourself, think again! Just try it with glitter!

Hair Flowers made from fake flowers

Greetings Internet! This is the inaugural post of a blog that has been in my head for a long time! I love to craft and cook and do things on a budget and I have been wanting to write about it for a long time, I just never did. So here goes! I have an addiction to Pinterest (like most women my age) and I have a board with about 40 something pins that I have tried. Many of my posts will be dedicated to chronicling the results of attempting those pins and others as I try them. I also am avowing to start getting pictorial evidence of my conquests as I know that I always enjoy seeing things in pictures! So with that in mind, on to the first tutorial. I have made close to 100 of these fake flower hair clips and if you have never tried them, they are super  easy!
You will need 4 things:
1. A fake flower - I like to get them from the dollar store or Wal-mart but you can also find them at craft stores, however, they will just be a lot more expensive. If you see one that you cannot resist, wait for a sale or try to get a coupon. Personally I cannot stomach spending $6-12 on one. I was very excited when I found these slightly higher quality ones at the Dollar Tree. They were $1 each and I can usually get several for that amount but I was willing to pay it for these. They are big, like as big as my daughter's head. I think they are going to look adorable! If you are going to get the cheap ones, look for flowers with a lot of layers as they will come out looking a lot fuller.
2. Some kind of hair clip/headband - Generally I like to put flowers on alligator clips but these were so big I opted for a barrette. I recently found a great deal on Alligator clips at Sally Beauty Supply. 100 clips for $6.39. I was paying between $2-3 for around 12 so that is a great deal!
3. A hot glue gun - When I first attempted to make these I would actually sew the flower to the clip. Don't do that. It's really stupid. Buy a glue gun at Wal-mart for around $5 for the gun and the glue.
4. Something for the center of your flower - In this case I will be using part of the original middle from the fake flower itself.

 The first thing you will want to do is disassemble your flower. Four layers will make a nice full hair clip. Anything less may not look quite as nice if they are made of very thin fabric. Save the center. If you are making a Gerber Daisy like the one I am making, I have found that you either need a very large gem or a button, OR the fuzzy part of the center usually looks really nice. This is not the case with all fake flowers. For most others I would recommend a button or fake gem.

If the original center of your flower is in multiple parts, discard all but the fuzzy center piece (unless you like the rest of it, I don't) and remove the stem.

Next, glue the layers of your flower down one by one. Make sure that they are facing the right direction before you stick them to the glue. I made the mistake of gluing one on backwards once and it wasn't the end of the world but it didn't look as good as it could have. I like to use the hole in the middle as a guide for where the next layer should go. Also, if I have two layers that are the same size, I like to turn the second one slightly so that it looks fuller. When I get to the last layer before the center, instead of adding more glue, I smooth the fabric over the glue so that the excess glue come through the hole and use that glue to attach my center so I know that it is perfectly in the middle.

Then just set it aside and let it dry for a minute or two and you are done! I included the next two pictures just to give you some perspective of just how big this thing is! If I ever go to the Kentucky Derby or Prince Harry's wedding, I'll have a fascinator!

My daughter looked pretty cute in them but they may be something she has to grow into!