Sun Dried Tomato Chicken and Pasta

Time for another recipe that makes me feel fancy!  I should do this more often.  Sun dried tomatoes is something I’ve had in a restaurant, but never actually cooked with myself.  I also wasn’t sure that I would find it when I went grocery shopping, but, luckily, I did.  I got, literally, the only jar on the shelf.   The question is, though, was it worth it?  For this recipe you will need:

  • Sun dried tomatoes
  • Chicken
  • Half and Half
  • Penne pasta
  • Mozzarella

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Yum board.

Sun Dried Tomato and Chicken Pasta


This recipe is almost a one pan deal.  But it’s not.  You still need to boil your noodles because they will not be cooking in the pan with everything else.  There just isn’t enough liquid for that to work.  So you need to boil the noodles, but everything else is done in one pan, which was nice.  I thought that something this “fancy” might require using everything in my kitchen.  One thing I did wrong but didn’t realize until the end was add too much tomato.  The recipe called for a “small jar,” which is what I thought I purchased.  Later I realized that it gave a size for that jar: 3-4 oz.  My jar was 8 oz.  So, unwittingly, I added double the tomato.  I don’t think this is a huge issue, but it might account for my main problem with this dish.

What is my main problem?  The oil from the tomatoes never really settled into the recipe.  It didn’t mix.  When I scooped it into bowls, the oil settled on top of the sauce, which wasn’t a great look.  Looks aside, though, this was a pretty tasty dish.  It was rich with lots of great tomato taste.  Would I make this again?  Probably not, but that’s more of a personal preference thing.  I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t something I would put into a regular rotation.  I’m glad I tried it out.  It really makes me want to try and make something else with sun dried tomatoes now.  Muffins maybe?


Balsamic Salmon

Another day, another crack at salmon.  I cooked some tilapia the other night for a change of pace, and I was reminded why I normally go for salmon.  There’s just no flavor like there is with salmon.  Today’s flavor comes from a balsamic and honey based glaze that is added to the cooked fish.  For this recipe you will need:

  • Salmon
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Honey
  • Orange Juice
  • Rosemary
  • Vinegar

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Yum board.

Balsamic Salmon


This glaze turned out much sweeter than I anticipated.  It was almost too sweet (especially when I had been thinking it would be more tart).  The recipe was easy enough to follow, though I did make the comical mistake of dumping half a container of rosemary into the pan because I forgot it doesn’t have a shake top.  Once I started over, things went much smoother.  Overall, the only thing that varied from the recipe for me was that it took much longer for my sauce to reduce down than the instructions stated.  For a while I was concerned I had done something wrong, but it finally reduced, so I think I got it right.

Will I make this again?  Maybe.  It was straightforward and pretty tasty.  I might cut the honey a little so that it’s not as sweet.  Oddly enough, I don’t usually have orange juice in my fridge, so I couldn’t just decide to make this without a trip to the store.  (Everything else is stock in my pantry.)  But it would be worth the trip because they was flavorful and easy!

Iced Coffee

Back when I lived in Indiana, there would be a point in the school year when I would stop making hot coffee to take to work, and would buy an iced coffee instead.  I always tried to make iced coffee, but ended up with a watery mess.  Turns out, I didn’t know the secret.  For this you will need:

  • Coffee
  • Water
  • Large Container
  • A way to filter out grounds

iced coffee


Suddenly I get why I wasn’t having any success previously with my iced coffee.  It was always too watery because I wasn’t using a coffee concentrate to make it.  Making the concentrate was easy, but it does take a lot of grounds, so be prepared for that.  I ended up not using an entire pound of coffee simply because I knew I wouldn’t go through all that concentrate fast enough.  (I also knew I didn’t have a pourable container large enough to keep it in either.)  Instead, I cut the recipe down to 1/3.  If this didn’t work, I didn’t want to waste all that coffee.

Turns out I didn’t need to worry.  It turned out great!  When it came time to separate the liquid coffee gold from the grounds, I needed to be patient.  You really want to get all the coffee out that you can, so you need to be willing to work at getting all the liquid from the grounds.  I spent around 20 minutes total doing this.  I used a coffee filter in a strainer (to give it structure).  I also changed my filter 3 times to help get all the liquid out (so I wasn’t pushing through a mound of grounds).

The final product was tasty.  I made a mix of half coffee, half milk, and just a sprinkle of sugar.  Now that it’s hot, I can enjoy my coffee and the temperature.

Sausage Stuffed Shells in Butternut Squash Sauce

Some days I don’t want quick or simple when I cook.  Instead I want interesting flavors and wow.  When I saw this stuffed shell recipe that used butternut squash as the basis for a sauce, I was sold.  It had an interesting flavor combination and the pictures were stunning.  I had to try it!  For this recipe you will need:

  • Butternut squash
  • Onion
  • Vegetable broth
  • Milk
  • Sausage
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Shells

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Yum board.

Sausage Stuffed Shells in Butternut Squash Sauce


This recipe is not quick, so make sure you read the whole thing and are prepared for that.  The squash and onions need to roast for an hour before you can puree them to make the sauce.  Now, on the plus side, you can literally cook everything else while this is happening.  However, everything else doesn’t take an hour, so you’ll still be waiting.  However, you could absolutely do the roasting over the weekend (or whenever you have time), and make the sauce ahead so it’s ready to go when you’re ready to use it.  (Once everything is roasted, the rest of the sauce process took me about 10 minutes.)  One thing that I noticed was that my sauce was super thick, like spoonable thick.  I’m not sure if that’s how it was intended to be, but mine was.  Adding more broth and milk could help thin it out if that’s a problem for you.  Also, I used my Vitamix to make the sauce and it worked like a charm.  Just make sure to put in all the liquid at the beginning since it’s so thick.  Don’t wait on adding the milk.

As for the rest of the process, it was a simple matter of cooking sausage and mixing it in with the ricotta cheese.  When it came time to stuff the shells, the thick sauce was pretty helpful.  I placed the shell into the sauce which held it in place, and then I spooned the filling into them.  I ended up making the full batch, but only half the shells.  The rest of the filling and sauce are in my refrigerator to use this week.

The flavors were GREAT.  I loved the combination of butternut squash with the sausage.  It made for a nice mix of just a little sweet with just a bit spicy.  While this recipe takes time to complete, it is absolutely worth it.  It would be a great dish to make for company because it looks great in the dish and has a fun flavor set.  I absolutely recommend trying this recipe out!

Dyeing a Shirt

My husband had a scrub top left over from nursing school that was white.  It’s a pretty awesome top because of the pockets-both their size and positioning.  However, white isn’t a great color for the job of nursing because of how easily it shows dirt.  So this top sat in the back of the closet, only coming out every now and then.  Last time I was at the store, I noticed the Rit dye.  “That,” I said to myself, “is the answer.  This is how we put that top to use.”  I’d never dyed clothes before, so I was excited to try this.  You will need:

  • Clothing item
  • Box of dye
  • Container to dye in
  • Rubber Gloves

I used Rit dye and followed the instructions on the box.  The font is SUPER small, so you might want to check out their website, which also has a tutorial video.

Dyeing a Shirt

Before you dye, get everything together.  You don’t want to have gloves covered in dye water and realize you need something.  Even if you’re using a bathtub, you’ll want to put down a plastic cloth of some sort to be a barrier.  You think you can do this without making a mess, but you’re wrong.  I saw little splatters of dye throughout the process.  I’m not even sure how most of them happened.  (Tip:  have your clean-up materials handy for just this sort of situation.  I had a bleach rag ready to go while I dyed, specifically for those little splatters that might escape my plastic cover.  I used it more than I thought I would.)

The instructions tell you to add to the dye water based on what type of fabric you have.  I had a mostly cotton product, so I added salt to mine.  I had difficulty finding information about what additives to use for mixed fabrics, so I just used the additive meant for the fabric with the highest percentage.  Once the shirt was in the dye bath, I found it helpful to use a bit of wooden dowel to help move it around.  This seemed to cause less overall mess than my gloved hands.

The final product was a bit more grey than black, but I mostly expected that.  I didn’t think I was going to get a true black.  I’m sure it’s possible (maybe through a second trip through dye), but I am happy with my result, so I won’t be bothering with that.  This whole process was messier than I anticipated (which made me wish we had some sort of wash basin where I wouldn’t have cared as much), but it was also more fun than I thought it would be.  I will totally be dying more things in the future!

Coconut Chicken with Mango Salsa

Dried coconut is one of those things that I know I don’t like.  I’ve known this since I was young.  But, do I actually know this?  There are a lot of foods that I didn’t like when I was young that I’ve changed my mind about.  When I saw this recipe, it just seemed so tropical and tasty that I decided it was time to test that dislike.  For this recipe you will need:

  • Chicken
  • Coconut
  • Mango
  • Jalapeno
  • Red Onion
  • Cilantro
  • Flour
  • Egg

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Yum board.

Coconut Chicken with Mango Salsa


This recipe was pretty straight forward:  chop everything for the salsa and throw it in a bowl; coat the chicken in flour, eggs, and coconut and cook.  There were no difficult techniques of confusing directions.  One thing I did that the directions didn’t mention is wear gloves during the prep.  I didn’t want hot pepper juice on my hands, and I’m one of those people that is allergic to mango skin (something I learned one very confusing night when I lived in Hawaii).  So, make sure that, if needed, you take precautions while preparing this meal.

The final result was, in my opinion, pretty tasty, but something I would spend some time modifying to better suit my own tastes.  I’d probably add a little spice to the chicken to give it more flavor.  I would also put more lime juice on the salsa.  However, I won’t be making these changes because the husband really didn’t like this recipe.  Like me, he is not a dried coconut fan.  The only difference here is that I learned I can tolerate (and maybe even enjoy) it in some instances, but he is still a big fat “no” on it.  Do I recommend this recipe?  I do, but not if you aren’t a dried coconut fan.

Balsamic Beef Sandwhiches

My favorite slow cooker recipes are the ones that fill the house up with a delicious smell.  The ones that make your mouth water whether you come home to it or you’ve been there all day as it slowly permeated the air.  This is one of those recipes.  For it, you will need:

  • Beef
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Garlic

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Yum board.

Balsamic Beef Sandwiches


While there are a fair number of ingredients, this is a pretty straight forward measure and dump recipe.  There’s not much to do beyond that.  I spent more time setting everything out to take the picture than I did throwing it all into the crock pot.  This is one of those recipes that takes very little time in the morning, but you won’t be able to forget about because it just smells so good!

This is a good recipe to have on hand because, aside from the meat and buns, all the ingredients are things you probably already have in your cabinets.  I might have to start keeping the meat in the freezer for those mornings when I wake up and think, “I really don’t want to cook today.”

Nerf Gun Mod

I’d like to start today by congratulating our Keep-Collective Giveaway winner”  Leslie B!  Ansley will be in touch with you!  Now, today’s post is a guide to taking a Nerf Gun and modding it for your needs.  The husband and I did this to a set as part of a birthday gift to a friend.  It was fun, and only a little trying.  There are lots of different ways to do this, and there are even forums for how to do different styles, so don’t consider this some sort of expert guide.  This was our first time and it was fun!


  • Nerf Guns
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Brushes of varying size
  • Rags
  • Protective Clear Coat

Nerf Gun Mod


  1. You can choose to take the gun apart, but we were concerned about our ability to put it back together, so we did not.  If you decide to take it apart, make sure to take pictures for yourself as reference when you put it back together.
  2. Decide on your color scheme.  We went with a gray for the barrel and trigger, light brown on the handle wrap, gold on all the parts that were originally black, and regular brown on the rest.  It’s easiest if you assign a new color to each current color, but not strictly necessary.
  3. Put on your first coat for the light colors first.  It will make you want to scream because it will start to pull away, or not cover well.  This is okay.  Put on a coat the best you can, and walk away.  I went for coverage and wasn’t especially careful about the fine lines and details.  That’s why I did the light colors first-the darker brown would cover any overlap when I used it.
  4. Put on coats of paint over and over again until you have the coverage you desire.  For me, this meant applying coats about every twenty minutes for several hours every night.  Your mileage may vary.
  5. Repeat this process with the dark brown, this time being more careful about those fine lines and distinctions.  Go back with a detail brush to clean up all those fine lines.  (I did this at the same time, alternating between two brushes as I worked.)
  6. Make sure all moving mechanisms (such as the trigger) are still working.
  7. Touch up as needed.
  8. Wet a rag and dip it into some black paint.  Rub the rag over the gun to give it the weathered/dirty look.  Repeat this until you are happy with the look.
  9. Clear coat the gun so the paint won’t chip and peel.
  10. Enjoy!

Like I said, there are a lot of different ways to do this.  I didn’t do any priming, but others do.  I used acrylics, but others use spray paint.  There are a lot of ways to get to the final product, but the goal is to have fun doing it, and to create a look that you’ve been imagining!  Enjoy!

May Birchbox Review

May was a good Birchbox month as far as my nose was concerned.  Everything this month smelled delightful.  While I was a bit annoyed to get yet another fragrance, everything else was so excellent I all but forgot about it.  If you want to check out my previous reviews, click here.

May Birchbox

  1. Macadamia Professional Nourishing Moisture Oil Treatment (Full size $40):  Curly hair tends to be dry hair, so anything that can help moisturize is definitely worth checking out. This oil did the job, but I like my Beauty Protector oil better.  However, this trial size is absolutely going into my travel bag to use whenever I don’t want/need to travel with something full size.
  2. Beauty Protector Beauty Cream Body Lotion (Full size $15.95):  Like every other Beauty Protector product I’ve tried, this smelled AMAZING.  It was sweet without being candy like.  I wanted to eat it with a spoon.  Plus, the lotion is amazingly thick and creamy, and really nourishes without making you feel oily.  I’ve tested quite a few lotions I like now, but this one is probably top two.
  3. W3LL PEOPLE The Expressionist Bio Extreme Mascara (Full size $23.50):  I liked that this mascara was all natural and didn’t contain any dyes in it, but it was only a bit above the drug store options I usually select.  I think the wand was well designed, which helped keep my lashes separated, but I didn’t think it did much lengthening.  It was fun to try, but won’t be on my purchase list.
  4. Juliette Has a Gun Not a Perfume (Full size $90-120):  As I mention every time I get perfume, I’m not really a fragrance person.  I will say, though, that this had a great Spring or Summer scent that is fresh and bold.  If I was the type of person to buy perfume, I might give this one strong consideration.
  5. Naobay Oxygenating Cream Moisturizer (Full size $36):  This was probably my favorite product this month.  This moisturizer has a light, fresh scent that pairs well with my lemon face scrub.  It goes on easily, and doesn’t leave you feeling oily.  The entire time I used this product, I didn’t have any dry patches, and I also didn’t break out (which sometimes happens to me with moisturizers).  Also, I was able to layer this under foundation (which I rarely wear), and my face didn’t feel like it was caked in products, nor did it affect the application or coverage of my foundation.  I’ve been looking for a moisturizer for a while.  I think this is the one.  I’ll be buying this in full size.

There it is-another great Birchbox!  If you want to try it for yourself, here’s my referral code.  I’m in love with this monthly sample subscription, and I bet you will be too!

Lemon Lava Cake

I’ve made chocolate lava cake before, but, for some reason, that’s a fall/winter dessert in my mind.  Then I saw this lemon lava cake and I thought that felt like a perfect summer dessert.  Plus, the center is made of lemon curd, and I’ve been itching to make some again.  For this recipe you will need:

  • Lemons
  • Sugar
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Flour

Get the full recipe here, or check out my pin on my Just Desserts board.

Lemon Lava Cake


Lemon curd isn’t hard to make, but it does take patience.  You have to make sure the temperature isn’t took hot and constantly whisk until the curd starts to thicken.  There is no way to speed up that process.  But it is so worth it.  I loved that this recipe made just a small bit of lemon curd because sometimes there is so much I don’t know what to do with it.  One thing this recipe didn’t mention that I like to do when making lemon curd is to strain it before you put it into the refrigerator to cool.  This helps separate out any bits of egg (usually the whites) that didn’t incorporate properly and, instead, scrambled a bit.

The cake batter was surprisingly sticky.  I expected something a little more liquid than dough.  That just means the batter won’t really spread when you put it in the ramekins.  I used my fingers to spread it out.  I used the method where you spoon some batter, spoon some curd, then cover with more batter.  I don’t have a piping bag, so this next tip is just for the spooning method.  Make sure that you make a seal with the batter to keep the lemon curd in the middle.  If you don’t, some will seep out the edges and will ooze out the sides when you pull it out of the oven.  You need it to be neatly tucked in the middle to get that perfect “lava” effect when you first cut into it.

Overall, this was a fun summer dessert.  The tartness of the curd with the sweetness of the cake was a perfect combination.  You can make the curd ahead of time, and just have to make the batter whenever you’re ready or this treat.  I will absolutely be making this again.  In fact, I already did!


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