Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Food For Friday: Bruschetta Chicken

I'm back!  With Food for Friday...on Monday.  When I plugged in my hard drive last Monday to back up all my photos, I had no idea that it would take an entire week to back-up! 

This week's recipe is easy, doesn't require a lot of prep time, and is fresh & delicious!  My favorite combination.  I have a confession to make.  I never ate tomatoes before our vacation in Italy this summer.  I would eat tomato sauces, or tiny diced tomatoes if they were cooked in something, but I've never been a fan of raw tomatoes or large pieces of tomato.  Maybe it was all the fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes bursting with flavor that we were served in Italy, but I've acquired a taste for tomatoes.  You still won't find me eating a salted tomato slice or taking a bite out of one like an apple, but I've expanded my appreciation for tomatoes.  I decided to use some of our favorite flavors from Italy to create this dish.

4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (I use organic)
1 ripe medium-sized tomato
bunch of fresh basil
ball of fresh mozzarella cheese
garlic powder
kosher or sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a glass cooking dish with olive oil or nonstick spray.  Sprinkle both sides of each chicken breast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and lay in the dish.  Bake for 45 min to 1 hour, until the middles are no longer pink and the juice runs clear. 

While the chicken is baking, wash and dice the tomato.  Wash and dry the basil leaves, then cut them into thin ribbons.  The easiest way to do this is to stack several basil leaves together, roll them up, then slice down the roll, each cut about half a centimeter apart.  Slice the mozzarella into 8 slices.  You may not need your entire ball of mozzarella. 

When the chicken is baked through, remove it from the oven and top with the diced tomato, the basil, and 2 slices of fresh mozzarella on top.  Return to the oven until the mozzarella is melted. 

I served our Bruschetta Chicken with Garlic and Herb Quinoa Pilaf topped with a little grated fresh parmesan cheese.  You can find the quinoa recipe here at Aggie's Kitchen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sew Easy Ruffled Camera Strap Tutorial

I've been eyeing all the super cute camera straps that I've been seeing, so I decided to sew one.  I searched online for some tutorials for inspiration, then adapted them to work for my camera strap and the style I had in mind.  I photographed the process to share a tutorial with you.  I am so happy with how my new strap turned out!  I love the extra padding that the interfacing provides.  It's extra comfortable on my neck now, and has so much more personality than the plain black standard strap.
Remove the strap from your camera and measure the length & width of your strap.  Measure the length from the spot where you want your strap cover to end on each side.  I wanted my strap to end in the middle of the leather piece on my strap, so I measured the length from the middle of the leather piece on one side to the middle of the leather piece on the other side.

*Strip of fabric the length of your camera strap +1 inch x double the width of your camera strap +1.5 inches (ex. my strap was 21.5 inches long & 1 inch wide, so my strip of fabric was 22.5 in x 3.5 in)*Piece of interfacing (fusible preferable, but optional) the length of your strap x double the width of your camera strap +1/2 in (ex. my interfacing was 21.5 in x 2.5 in)
*Strip of fabric for the ruffle that is as wide as your interfacing strip x double the length of your strap (ex. my ruffle strip was 2.5 in x 43 in)
*Thread to match or coordinate with your fabric

1.  Cut your fabric strips to the lengths specified above.  You should have one strip for the actual strap, your interfacing, and one strip for the decorative ruffle.  I used a rotary cutter on a self-healing mat and a yardstick to make my long straight cuts on my fabric. 
2.  Center your interfacing on your strap fabric strip.  If you have fusible interfacing, place the fusible side against the wrong side of your fabric and iron to fuse.

3.  Fold the 1/2 in flap of fabric over the edge of the interfacing (see above) and press.

4.  Stitch a hem along the folded edge about 1/4 inch in.

5.  Fold the interfacing in half lengthwise and press to create a crease down the middle.  Fold the extra fabric over the edge of the interfacing lengthwise and press.  (see below)  Put the strap strip to the side.
6.  Take your ruffle strip of fabric and fold both long edges of your ruffle strip in approximately 1/4” and press.  I use a piece of cardstock, folding the fabric over the edge, to help me press a straight crease.
After you've pressed both edges, it should look like this.
 7.  Hem both long edges that you just pressed. (see below)
8.  Change your stitch length to 5 (a basting stitch) and stitch down the center of the ruffle strip.  Do not backstitch at the beginning or end!  Leave a couple of inches of thread when you cut off at the end.

9.  Lay the ruffle strip with the hemmed edges on the bottom on a flat surface.  Grab hold of the bottom thread coming out the end of your basting stitch and pull.  Holding that bottom thread taught, bunch and slide the fabric back to create the ruffle.  As the ruffle bunches, gently move the fabric back, spreading out the bunches to create the ruffle.  (see below)  Work from both edges toward the center until the entire strip is bunched/ruffled and is the same length as your strap fabric plus an extra 1/4 in on each end.

10.  Fold over the unfinished edge of the ruffle on each end 1/4 in, pin, and hem.  Be sure you change your stitch length back to normal!
11.  You are going to pin your ruffle onto one side of your strap, not down the center!  Using the crease you pressed down the middle as a guide, center the ruffle down one half of the strap, lining up the end of the strap and the end of the ruffle on each end, and pin it on.  (see below)
12.  Sew one line of stitches down the center of the ruffle, attaching the ruffle to the strap.
13.  Following the crease you pressed down the center of the strap, fold the strap in half.  Tucking in the raw edges you pressed over the interfacing, pin along the edge.  (see below)
14.  Edge stitch down the long edge where you pinned, making sure the ruffle stays folded back from the stitching, so it doesn't get caught into the stitches.

You're finished!
Slide the fabric strap cover over your camera strap.  Depending on how skinny & firm your strap is (mine is thinner than a DSLR strap), it can be a little bit tricky to feed the strap through the opening.  I tied a piece of twine onto the end of my black camera strap, and knotted the other end of the twine tight around a wooden skewer, then fed the skewer through the strap cover, using the twine to pull the black strap through the fabric strap cover. 
The tutorials I found for inspiration:
Cluck Cluck Sew
Moda Bake Shop by Megan of Brassy Apple
Crap I've Made

Friday, October 8, 2010

Food For Friday: Homemade Granola

In my continual quest for us to eat fresh, homemade, and with as few chemical additives as possible, I wanted to get in the habit of making fresh granola for us to have on hand for breakfast.  Sure, you can find healthy and delicious granola at your local health food store, but at upwards of $4.00 or $5.00 a lb, I can make our own for pennies on the dollar.  My friend TJ made this recipe for our staff team when we were in Austin, and she shared her recipe with me.  It's a very simple and easy granola, but with a wholesome sweet flavor and some good crunch from the nuts.  It's perfect to sprinkle on yogurt or to toss in a bowl with some fresh fruit and a splash of milk for a quick and easy breakfast.

I have bookmarked a few other granola recipes to try to add in some variety.  I hope to find a few other favorites to share in the future!

4 cups old-fashioned or rolled oats (not quick oats!)
1 1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used Canola Oil)
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 F. In a bowl mix the oats, almonds, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. In a saucepan warm the oil and honey. Whisk in vanilla.

Carefully pour the liquid over the oat mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon; finish mixing by hand. Spread granola in a 15x10 inch baking pan.
Bake 40 minutes, stirring carefully every 10 minutes. Transfer granola-filled pan to a rack to cool completely. Stir in raisins or cranberries.

Seal granola in an airtight container or self-sealing plastic bag. Store at room temperature for 1-2 weeks or in the freezer for 3 months.

Makes 7 cups.