I store all kinds of things about cooking, quilting and some surprises in my cupboard. Check it out.

Chicken, Spinach, Artichoke and Orzo Casserole

I saw a recipe online for bell peppers stuffed with rice, ground chicken and an interesting blend of vegetables which sounded good, but I thought my family would like it better in casserole-form.  I used chopped bell peppers along with chicken breast rather than ground chicken and substituted orzo for rice to make a very flavorful and satisfying meal.  I used my favorite mixture of oregano and chili powder to give the dish a little kick and it was voted a winner by the family.  I assembled the dish a day ahead of time and baked it for Sunday dinner.  We had enough for everyone to have an extra serving for supper during the week.  This dish would also freeze well.

Chicken, Spinach, Artichoke and Orzo Casserole

1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
½ cup onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
15 oz. can of tomato sauce
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
15 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and coarsely chopped
1 cup orzo cooked al dente according to package directions
½ chicken breast, cooked and shredded
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Oiled 9×13 baking dish

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and cook bell pepper and onion until soft but not brown.  Add minced garlic, oregano, chili powder, salt, and black pepper.  Stir in tomato sauce, thawed spinach, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes.  Add cooked orzo and shredded chicken breast.  Spoon mixture into oiled 9×13 baking dish.  Dish can be covered and refrigerated at this point and baked later.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place covered casserole in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until mixture begins to bubble.  Remove cover and sprinkle with crumbled Feta cheese.  Bake for 10 minutes more.  Serve hot.

6-8 generous servings


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Knitting – Seamless Tote – Market Bag

 

I enjoy going to thrift shops and looking for vintage collectibles and china, and since I’ve been knitting have found some good bargains in yarn.  Since 90% of my knitting is for charity, I appreciate finding some nice yarn at a good price.  I was thrilled to find a large plastic bag filled with 17 unopened skeins of Caron Premium yarn in off-white for only $10.00.

I envisioned soft, fluffy baby blankets for my Lakota Indian group and was disappointed when I made a trial swatch to find that the yarn was thick and rather stiff when knitted.  So much for fluffy baby blankets and I made a dishcloth, a table mat and a floor mat.  The yarn worked OK for these projects but I had a lot of yarn and didn’t want to make any more cloths or mats.  Then, I thought it might make a good, strong market bag to carry all the fresh corn and melons I buy at the farmer’s market every summer.  My daughter had a nice pattern for a seamless tote bag that is knit in one piece from the bottom up.  The pattern called for 4mm (#6 US) needles and cotton or DK (baby/sport) yarn.  I used #6 needles with my thick, sturdy yarn and following the pattern for the bag portion exactly, made a very thick, sturdy market bag.  I changed the pattern a bit for the handle which my daughter had made and found to be stretchy.  I made two long I-cords, doubled them and stitched to the center front and center back of the bag to form a shopping bag shape.

 

The design pattern is easy and the project is a good one to work on while watching TV or visiting with friends.

Using the thinner yarn would have produced a bag 13 inches wide x 14 inches deep.  My bag turned out to be 18 inches wide x 17 inches long.

Here is the link for the tote bag:

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/seamless-tote-bag

 

…and here is a You Tube tutorial on how to make an I-cord.  This is another project that is mindless and good for knitting when there might be distractions.  I used the same needle and yarn size to make the I-cord as I used for the bag.

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Tipsy Peach Chicken – Low Fat

I found this recipe over 10 years ago online (sorry, I don’t remember the source) and adapted it to make a nice, light luncheon or supper dish.  I would prefer fresh peaches, but canned ones also work fine and give a little pep to this low fat, low cal meal.

Tipsy Chicken with Peaches

3 medium chicken breasts, cut into cubes
Salt/Pepper
1 tsp. olive oil
Large onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. smoked paprika
6 green onions with tops, chopped
¼ cup orange juice
2 Tblsp. Bourbon
1 cup sliced peaches
Grating of fresh nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Spray a 9 inch casserole dish

Place chicken cubes in prepared casserole and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat olive oil and cook onions over medium heat about 5 minutes.  Add paprika and chopped green onions.  Cook an additional 4 minutes.

Spread onion mixture over chicken; spoon orange juice and bourbon over the top and bake uncovered for @ 400 degrees F for 30 minutes, turning and stirring occasionally.

Remove chicken from oven and spoon peaches over the top.  Grate nutmeg lightly over peaches and return to oven to bake for 15-20 minutes more until chicken is done.

Serve over hot rice.

Diet Power:  ¼ of casserole with ½ cup rice =  278 calories, 3.7 g fat, 37.7 g carbohydrate, 1.99 g dietary fiber, 24.2 g protein. 

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Knitting – Easy Peasy Socks – Free Pattern

When I started knitting about a year and a half ago, I didn’t care about doing anything fancy – I just wanted to knit scarves, hats, mittens and … socks.  The scarves, hats and mittens were relatively easy to learn, but, oh boy, the socks.  I tried making a pair early on in my knitting experience and gave up after knitting a pair that was basically not wearable.  I waited awhile and tried again and yet a third time without good results.  At this point, I gave all of my sock/fingering yarn to my daughter who keeps me in gorgeous socks and figured I must have a mental block that kept me from doing what so many knitters consider an easy project.

Last week, I decided to give socks another try when I noticed a pattern on Ravelry called Easy Peasy Socks (“designed with the first-time sock knitter in mind”) by Stacey Trock.  The pattern calls for yarn and needles that would produce a gauge of 6 stitches/inch and I used #3 needles and baby/sports weight yarn to make mine.  I use only circular Magic Loop needles (circular with a long cable) and I was actually able to follow the pattern and make a pair of socks!  Stacey issues a warning:  “This pattern is annotated with lots of helpful hints & notes … it’s sorta like a transcript of what a sock class with me is like.”  And it’s how I felt as I followed along – it was like a class with a very student-friendly teacher.

My big problem has always been the heel flap and gusset, and I was able to do this reasonably well.

I’m now in the process of adapting the pattern so that I can make it with a longer leg length, longer ribbing and in a fingering/sock yarn.  I want to devise a formula that will allow me to make this very nice and “easy-peasy” sock in any size I want and using any needles or yarn that I choose.  More on that later.

Here is Stacey’s free pattern:  http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/easy-peasy-socks-for-first-timers

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Pasta with Ham, Pear and Goat Cheese

This is an adaptation of a recipe I found in 2015 on a wonderful site called Natasha’s Palace.  It’s worth a visit there to see all of the great and unusual recipes she has.  The original recipe is here:

https://nataschaspalace.co/2015/05/28/pear-goat-cheese-and-cured-ham-pasta/

My daughters and I love this dish, especially if I can use some flavorful Honey Baked Ham leftovers.

Ham, Pear and Goat Cheese Pasta

¾ cup bowtie pasta
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 Tblsp. garlic, minced
2 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and sliced
One cup chopped cooked ham
1 tsp. oregano
Salt/Pepper to taste
1 Tblsp. butter
4 oz. goat cheese

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water to al dente, drain

In a saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion slices, sprinkle with salt/pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent but not brown.

Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Add pear slices and ham and cook until heated.  Stir in oregano and salt/pepper to taste.  Stir in butter and drained pasta.  Add goat cheese in small lumps and stir gently until cheese has melted.

Serve hot.

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Knitting – Natl. Defense Service Stripe Scarf – Free Pattern

When I decided to learn to knit in January of 2016, I was interested in making easy, practical items for several charities.  One of them was Knit Your Bit for the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.  All of the information is here:

http://www.nationalww2museum.org/learn/knit-your-bit/how-to-participate.html

In addition to information, there are patterns on this site to use to both knit and crochet scarves.  I knew from my daughter’s experiences from past years that red, white and blue scarves were very popular and that is what I’ve been making.

Recently, though, on the Knit Your Bit Facebook page, I found a pattern for a scarf that has the colors and designs of a National Defense Service Medal.  This medal is a decoration presented to recognize all military members who have served in active duty during a declared “national emergency”.  It is an easy garter stitch striped scarf and interesting with the addition of bright yellow.

To find this pattern, go to the Knit Your Bits Facebook page and search for National Defense Service Stripe Scarf to get the free pattern for a scarf 6 inches wide x 71 inches long, knitted in worsted yarn with size 9 or 10 needles.  Nice item to donate to the museum’s program or to give to your favorite veteran.

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Dried Cherry Chicken Wraps

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I found this recipe, adapted slightly here, on a cherry orchard web site in 2013 (page no longer available).

I just got around to making the wraps and they are really good, quick to make and have some vegetables included along with the tangy dried cherries.  I’ll be making these again.

*Instead of tortillas, I used some great flatbread I found in the deli section of my grocery store.

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Dried Cherry Wraps

1/2 cup non-fat lemon yogurt
1 tablespoon honey Dijon-style mustard or honey-mustard dressing
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1-1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken (8 ounces)
1 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber
1/3 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup sliced green onion
4 (8- to 10-inch) whole wheat flour tortillas, tomato-flavored flour tortillas*

Whisk together yogurt, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Gently stir in chicken, cherries, carrot, cucumber and green onion. Mound about 3/4 cup chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla or flatbread, leaving space all around for folding . Fold in top and bottom and fold over each side, placing wrap seam-side down on a plate.  Cut into 3 portions.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Yield:  4 servings

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