Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A New Recipe to Try!

Let's ignore the fact that it has been over two months since my last post, shall we? Ok. Great. Moving on.

Over the past few weeks Mr. Maestro and I have been stocking up on sweet potatoes! Not intentionally...we've just been getting a lot of them in our weekly CSA bag. I love sweet potatoes, but sometimes I have a lack of inspiration when it comes to their cullinary preparation. There was one expecially huge sweet potato that was taunting me to do something with it - so I did! And I want to share it with you!

This recipe was developed by a fellow registered dietitian who is also a TV Chef - Ellie Krieger. This soup is low calorie and is packed with tons of vitamins and minerals. The peanut butter adds a protein punch. Try it - you'll love it!

Nutty Sweet Potato Soup
Recipe Credit: Ellie Krieger (love her!)


1 tablespoon canola oil


  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups) {I didn't have quite 2 cups, used about 1 cup}
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup) - {I used a green pepper, didn't have red}
  • 2 medium carrots, diced (about 1 cup) {I didn't have carrots - and my soup was great without them!}
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (2 cups) {Used my giant sweet potato - about 3 cups}
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth {I used about 7 cups homeade broth}
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes, with their juices
  • 2/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallion greens (about 3 scallions) {didn't have the scallions, so no garnish for me!}
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over a medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell pepper and carrots and cook, stirring until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the cayenne, black pepper, garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the sweet potato, broth, and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

*Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in a regular blender in 2 batches and return the soup to the pot {I used my food processor and it worked like a charm!}. Add the peanut butter and honey and stir, over low heat, until the peanut butter melts. Serve warm, garnished with the scallions.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Per Serving:

Calories 290; Total Fat 18g (Sat Fat 3.5g, Mono Fat 9g, Poly Fat 5g); Protein 14g; Carb 23g; Fiber 5g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 260mg

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My latest project...

Remember that little teaser I gave you back here? You know, the fabric swatches I showed at the bottom of the post? Well...I did something with them!  Wanna see??

It's called a quillow, and I learned how to make it from this excellent tutorial: Quillow

It's a gift for my first niece {yet to be born/named}.

It is aptly named a "quillow" as it is a quilt, that folds into a pillow! Genious!

The colors were chosen after Baby Girl's momma, D, asked me about acquiring some felt in a few particular colors: mustard yellow, light and dark aqua, red, chocolate brown, orange, light and dark gray, and white.  I decided to use this as my color inspiration, and I think it came together rather nicely!

I decided to hand tie the quilt (rather than machine quilt it) to preserve some of the fluffiness.  Unfortunately, I neglected to get a picture of the "hand ties."

The front of the quillow is light aqua with chocolate brown flecks, and is decorated with this little guy

as well as some hand stitched "swirls." Here is another view of the quilt portion.

And this is a view of the quilt top with the coordinating fleece backing. 

Elephants weren't in my original plan, but when I was looking for a cozy backing for the quilt, I stumbled across this fleece. It had EVERY SINGLE COLOR in it, and {i thought} coordinated perfectly!  Thus, the elephant theme was born. So cute! The quillow is for a little girl, and although elephants don't usually scream GIRL to me, there are some really pretty prints on some of the elephants {you can sort of see them in the picture} that I thought made it just feminine enough.
I traced the outline of one of these guys and used that pattern to make the elephant for the front of the quillow. Hope Baby Girl likes elephants!

Oh...and I couldn't resist stitching on one of my new labels! 

I had so much fun making this little gift for my first niece! I hope she knows how much she is already loved!

What do you think?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sweet Tomato Pie: My own label!

Sweet Tomato Pie: My own label!: "As you all know, I am a bit of a crafter at heart. I make a lot of the gifts I give and wish that I had more of a way to 'mark' those gifts ..."

My own label!

As you all know, I am a bit of a crafter at heart. I make a lot of the gifts I give and wish that I had more of a way to "mark" those gifts with a personal touch ... enter my new "fashion" labels! I am so excited about these! Right now they are pretty generic, but as I am able to devote more time to my side "business," I see them with my own logo {yet to be developed} and with my brand name instead of my own.
These are great for now, though!

I got them from a little shop on Etsy called Mommie Made It.

I admit that my design is pretty plain jane, but I was overwhelmed with the options!

Like I mentioned previously, my goal is to have custom labels one day. For now, these will do just fine!

 Wanna see?  Ok!

I think they are pretty swell!

On another note, we got some lovely okra in our CSA bag today and my FAVORITE summertime treat: yellow cherry tomatoes! YUM! These things are like candy!  I think we're going to have a selection of veggies for dinner tonight - and there may or may not be fried okra involved...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Where has the summer gone? Remembering Papa...

Mr. Maestro went back to school this week. Where has this summer gone? It feels like just a couple of days ago we were getting ready to head to China - and now we're back and summer is nearly over! 

In theory, summer is supposed to be a time to sit back and relax for a while. That has not been the case for us this year! We returned from China on June 14th (Tuesday) and that weekend (after working Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) we went to my hometown to visit with my grandparents - and specifically to say "good bye" to my Papa who had been battling Parkinson's Disease for the past 16 years (he bore it with such grace - we never heard him complain although it was obviously frustrating for him as his body and then mind slowy began to fade away). Saturday night the family gathered around his bedside and sang old church songs - one of his favorite things to do. By this point he wasn't able to open his eyes or respond to us verbally, but we saw his lips move with ours as we sang those old familiar words and he squeezed our hands to let us know he was there. Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I have done - but I am so grateful that I was able to have that experience. As I left on Sunday afternoon to return back home I whispered in his ear one last time that I loved him dearly and that I expected him to save me a place at his workbench in his new barn up in Heaven.  I returned to work on Monday and Tuesday morning got the message that he was with Jesus. The visitation was on Wednesday June 22nd  and the funeral the next day. The service was very personal and sweet - as my Uncle was the minister who performed the ceremony. My brother and dad put together a slide show honoring Papa's life. Here is a link to the slide show, in case you'd like to see it: My Papa. In addition to being - quite literally - a rocket scientist, Papa was also an avid wood-worker {especially in his retirement years}. We gathered up examples of all the things he had made for us {children and grandchildren} and displayed those at the funeral and visitation - I wish I had a picture to show you of all of those things together, but I just wasn't thinking about taking pictures that whole weekend! The only downside to this display was the back-log of people it caused moving throught the visitation line - people just didn't want to stop looking at his creations! Sara {my sister-in-law} and I worked on a memory book for the guests at the visitation and funeral to sign. This way those in attendance could leave a fond memory or some kind words for the family instead of just signing their name. In the album, we also put a copy of the funeral sermon. Memi (my grandmother) was hesitant to include the slide show in the funeral or substitute a guest book with the memory album on account if things "not being done that way." But in the end she was thrilled with the result. The slideshow was poignant and sweet, and I personally witnessed Memi reading and re-reading the entire memory album every day after the funeral.

I have so many memories of spending time with Papa. My family lived on the same land as my grandparents growing up, and they had a hard time getting us to leave their house and barn!  Here are a couple of pictures of me and Papa that show what a patient guy he was:

 { As you can clearly see, I am posing with Papa AND an ear of corn.}

{there are no words to describe this shirt except the word that is embroidered on the front "COOL" }

I haven't really had to deal with death much in my lifetime, especially not the death of a family member that I was so close to, so this summer has been a bit tough. A friend recommended that I read the book "Heaven is for Real" - which I did. It's an easy read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I won't do a book review or anything, but I will say that it was a very healing book for me to read.

On a lighter note, we are headed with my fam to Savannah, GA tomorrow night for a long weekend-mini-vacay. I can NOT tell you how excited I am about this. It will be so nice to spend time {low-stress} together, eat amazing food, and enjoy a new vacation destination. And in true Clark family style, we will {of course} be taking a Segway tour of the city. Nice.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Back in the Saddle - with a new recipe to share!

Well, I've given up.

I've given up on my China Journal. I've decided that I never actually intended to finish writing and posting about our adventures in China - so if you're curious about the last half of our trip, just ask! Otherwise, I think it's time that we all move on.

I may be alone in this, but I have been seriously missing my usual creative outlets that I share with you on this Blog. I haven't really been trying many new recipes, and I haven't pulled out the ole' sewing machine since we left for China! That changes today!

I know I'm way behind on my CSA posts (on account of being out of town, laziness, etc), but I thought I'd pick right back up with week 8 followed by a recipe using some of those tasty ingredients.

Here is what we got in the bag this past week:

A delish assortment of nectarines, squash, onions, tomatoes, blueberries, homemade bread, and eggplants {check out the teeny-tiny heirloom varieties! What do you do with those guys?}

I love the food this time of year! Yummy fresh produce + cooking on the grill = one happy lady! One of our go to sides at this time of year is a Caprese salad. Sooo tasty with fresh mozzarella and ripe heirloom tomatoes. All you need is a high-quality olive oil and some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Perfection.

Remember that recipe I promised you? The one that uses fresh local produce? Well here it is!
This is courtesy of Jill Forrester @ Whitton Farms (where we get our CSA).

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups white sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 pint fresh blueberries


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease 4 mini-loaf pans.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Fold in the zucchini. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer to the prepared mini-loaf pans.
Bake 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

This past weekend we made the trip back to Alabama to vist my folks and for Mr. Maestro to do this:

Yes, they are standing in the street.

In the meantime, I'm working on a new project! YAY! I'm not saying what it is, but here is a little tease:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Even MORE China!

Again, for those of you who have only read this one China entry, Mr. Maestro and I intended to keep a journal-ish log of our travels in China on this here blog. Unfortunately, what we did not realize was that Blogger is blocked in China! That being said, we are just now getting around to posting a recollection of our adventures in China (we were postponed due to some family circumstances which I will post more about later).

Today, I am posting our updates from Friday, June 3rd, Saturday, June 4th, and Sunday, June 5th:

Friday, June 3

What a long day! Sorry this one is so short, but it was a lot of traveling today:

This AM started early (4 AM early) as we prepared to leave Beijing. We barely made our flight to Shanghai (due to the "necessity" of our entire group remaining together every step of our journey- including airport security) - but we did, and arrived at the Shanghai airport just in time to load onto a bus and make our way to Suzhou and Wuxi.
We were on the bus for around 1.5 hours and made a couple of stops in Wuxi. The first was at the Tai lake (famous for it's "rockery" - large rocks found on the bottom of the lake and used to decorate gardens and fishing industry). It is the 3rd largest lake in China - over 2000 hectares in size. The day was foggy/polluted- so it was difficult to really appreciate the view (thus, no pictures of the experience as it was nearly impossible to appreicate!).

 The second stop was at the Fu garden - a large garden famous for its Tai lake rockery decorations. 
{As you can see, it appears very overcast in this photo - it's actually pollution}

Many of our crew are growing tired of the food - and so our dinner plans were cancelled so that everyone could have the opportunity for KFC or McDonalds. I admit, even we welcomed the change!

Saturday, June 4

We woke up in Suzhou and packed the busses for another busy day of traveling and sight seeing. We were joined by a new local tour guide, Tim, who we really enjoyed. We had two stops planned in Suzhou- the first at the Lingering Garden, the second at a local silk factory. The day began overcast and had progressed to a steady drizzle by the time we arrived at the Lingering Garden.
 Once a private residence, the garden (which is really a large indoor/outdoor house) is now a public space protected as a cultural treasure by UNISCO. Even on a cloudy day, the home did a remarkable job of capturing natural light. It was really a series of rooms connected by covered corridors. It was truly a beautiful space.

 Pay special attention to this sign that informed us of the expected behavior:

 Throughout the garden, traditional Chinese musicians dressed in traditional clothing were stationed. We heard both vocalists and instrumentalists- and we even knew one of the songs! 
{We did not know this song}

The steady rain provided a nice background to the music - I can imagine that it must have been a relaxing place to live!
After the lingering garden, we made our way to the silk factory.  When we arrived, we were greeted with display cases full of silk worm cocoons!

We watched the workers soften the cocoons in water and then how each cocoon is unravelled into thread (eight strands from eight different cocoons are used for a single thread.

We also watched the process for making silk batting for silk comforters. It is hard to believe that a single cocoon can stretch to "king size!"

As with most of our factory visits, we felt rushed through the "learning process," only to spend too much time in the government sponsored shops.  Suzhou seems like a beautiful city- we wish there had been time to get off the bus and wander around. We bid farewell to Tim and began our 2 hour bus ride to Hangzhou. When we arrived, we were taken to a street known for shopping for over 2000 years! There were loads of fun shops, but we only had 30 minutes to look! :( We were taken to dinner and then back to our hotel for the evening.

Sunday, June 5th -
Today we started our adventures by taking a boat tour of the Tai lake. We walked through a park to get to the harbor and our whole group boarded a very asian looking boat and enjoyed a 45 minute cruise where we had lovely views of the Hangzhou skyline.

Our time in Souzhou and Hangzhou have been very short, but I can't help but think i would really enjoy spending more time in these beautiful cities!

After the boat tour we began traveling into the country a bit to visit a tea plantation. We learned that Hangzhou is famous for it's tea production - specifically green tea. Green tea is made from the tiny end leaf "buds" of the tea plant, and grown in rows along the hillside. It is picked in April, so there wasn't a lot of action going on while we were there.

The same tea plant is used to make green, white, and black teas - the difference being the age of the leaf and the preparation process (black tea is fermented). The green tea leaves are dried in a giant wok and then ready for use! there are three different levels of green tea: the top level is Emperor's tea (and is very expensive!) the middle level is a combination of emporor's tea and a lower quality tea leaf and the lowest level is simply the lowest quality tea leaf. According to our guides, only the lowest quality of green tea is allowed to be exported!! In addition to learning about the process of preparing green tea, we also learned a bit about it's antioxidant value...

Since we are tea lovers, we of course bought some of the "higher quality" tea that would not be exported to the US as well as my favorite - Jasmine Tea or Mo Li Wah. Yum!
The Tea plantation was a fun stop. I loved this quaint little fountain in the garden of the plantation...How appropriate!
From Hangzhou we then started the trip to Shanghai- the final destination of our trip. We arrived in Shanghai and went straight to The Bund - which is like a river walk area. The Bund is full of European style buildings built pre 1940s. The buildings have since been turned into banks and shops like Prada and Dolce and Gabbana. According to our tour guide, these buildings still look so nice because they were "built to last" - not sure what he is saying about Chinese construction.... The sky scrapers here are a sight to behold. Again, according to our guide, 10 years ago, there were over 30,000 in Shanghai- I guess no one has cared enough to count since then. The tallest one is 101 stories tall- so tall it is most often hidden in the clouds. We will spend one night in a nice hotel before relocating to the educational hall for the remainder of our trip.  Here are a couple of shots of the Shanghai skyline (photo editing a la Mr. Maestro):

 {Note the "bottle opener" - second tallest building in the world - 110 stories}
 {we do not know what this building is, but these "pods" are actually parts of the building suspended}
 {The Pearl Tower is the 4th tallest TV tower in the world - it has a glass floor on the upper "pearl!"}