Spectacular Minestrone

My baby son has had a cold all weekend. In an effort to get some nutrients in him, I pulled out of the cupboard a pouch of pre-made baby minestrone soup. It was pretty bland and I didn't have high hopes, but Jack ate the entire thingie of it in a matter of minutes.

It wasn't good and I figured I could easily make something one hundred times tastier.

And I did.

I wanted an authentic minestrone so I turned to legendary Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan. In her book, "More Classic Italian Cooking," she has a recipe for Minestrone alla Novarese. She calls it "spectacularly hearty," and she doesn't let you down. It's a bit different from a typical minestrone, but that's what I wanted. The ingredients were easy to find and the soup is simple and delicious.

And minestrone always tastes better reheated the next day. I am sure it will be a hit with Jack.

I made some very slight changes, but the red cabbage adds so much depth of flavor, like none I've ever tasted. I was surprised how little tomatoes the recipe called for, but I trust Ms. Hazan through and through.

Serve this with some hearty artisan bread and a glass of red wine.

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbs. butter
2 slices of bacon, cut into little bits
1 onion, sliced very thin
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced (use the leaves)
2 zucchini, diced
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 can cannellini beans, partially drained
1/3 cup canned Italian tomatoes, chopped with their juice (I accidentally bought pre chopped kind, so I eyeballed it)
salt and pepper
1.5 cups chicken broth

Add the oil, butter, bacon, and onion to a soup pot and turn heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden -- about 20 minutes.

Add all of the diced veggies and the cabbage and thoroughly coat in the oil and fat. Mmmm...fat is good. Stir around for a minute or two.

Add the tomatoes with their juice, a tiny bit of salt, and lots of freshly ground pepper. Add the broth and as much water as needed to cover the veggies by one inch.

Cover and simmer on very low for at least two hours. Skim off some of the excess fat with a spoon. Add the beans with some of their liquid 15 minutes before serving.

Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese when served.

If you like noodles in your minestrone, I'd add the dry noodles toward the end and serve right when the noodles are al dente.

Old Rain Jacket ===> Baby Rain Pants in 20 Minutes

Our son is just learning to walk, which means crawling is still his preferred method of transportation. Alaska summers can be wet and although yesterday was a balmy 66 degrees and every child on our street was playing out in the sprinkler, most of the time it's a bit chillier. 

Jack has been recently introduced to the outdoors that isn't covered in snow. It's too warm for a snow suit and he keeps mucking up his regular pants. What I really needed for him was a pair of outdoor pants.

I'd long ago posted about making pants from t-shirts and I've also made baby pants from sweater sleeves. Wouldn't it be perfect to cut up an old rain jacket and make pants out of it? Usually rain jackets have adjustable wrist straps, which would totally work to tighten over baby boots. Yes, it can be done!

And thanks to a church rummage sale yesterday, I did it for less than a dollar.

Here's how.

One large adult rain jacket or windbreaker. Adjustable wrist straps preferred
fabric scissors
one foot of half-inch wide elastic
large safety pin
sewing machine
one pair of pants that already fit your baby

This project is super simple. You literally only sew two seams and then sew up the elastic. It took me 20 minutes from start to finish.

You'll be using an existing pair of pants as a pattern. Turn them inside out. Take one leg and turn it right side out. Tuck it inside the other leg so it looks like you have a one-legged pair of pants. Fold the pants so the inseam is along the edge. Ta-da! Pants pattern. Study how this looks because you'll be doing this later.

Lay your pattern on top of one of the jacket sleeves so the hem of the pant leg is the end of the sleeve. 
Using chalk, mark the rise and waistband of your pants, about an inch away from the pattern on the rise and three inches above the waistband. This isn't an exact science, but you want enough room in the waistband area so you can fold it down twice and still be able to fit a diaper.
Cut your sleeve along your markings. My jacket had a breathable liner, which I decided to keep 'cause it worked out that way. 

Lay the leg you just cut on top of the other sleeve and follow along those cut lines for the second leg. You are now halfway done with your project.

Turn one leg inside out. As you did with your "pattern," tuck the right-side-out pant leg inside the leg you turned inside out. Line up the cut edges along the rise and pin in place. Sew this one seam. I double stitched it in case Jack is rough on them.

Un-tuck the legs and you should have an inside-out pair of pants with no waistband.

Fold down the waist about 3/4 inch and fold it down again so there are no raw edges. Pin all around the waist.

Turn the pants right side out and sew around the waistband, making sure there is just over a half-inch space to run the elastic through. Leave a small part unsewn so you can run the elastic through. You could do this with the pants inside out, but I like knowing what the outside seam looks like cause I sew totally crooked.

Put a safety pin through the end of the elastic and run it through the waistband. Use the pattern pants as a guide for how tight to make the elastic, or use your child as a model. Mine was sleeping so I winged it. When you've decided how tight the elastic should be, sew both ends of the elastic together with a zig-zag stitch back and forth a few times.

Sew over the opening in the waistband.
Put pants on your baby and let him get dirty out there!


Today's Thrift Finds

It snowed today. SNOWED. I know it's Alaska and all, but even we think it's abnormal. Last year we beat the overall snowfall record and this year we have beaten the longest snow cover record.

I needed a thrifty fix to conquer my bad weather blues.

Here's what I conjured up!

PacSun T-shirt, $2; Joe's Jeans, $10

Pocket detail of Joe's Jeans

Vintage beaded cropped cardigan, $2; vintage Worthington herringbone skirt, $2.50

Beading detail 
Abercrombie & Fitch Cardigan, $1.50; Penguin silk top, $1.50

Chicken Taquitos with Spinach & Wild Rice

In my ongoing quest for quick and somewhat healthy dinner ideas, I came across a tasty recipe for chicken flautas today. Usually my decision to try a recipe is based 90 per cent on whether I have all of the ingredients already. This one passed the screening and sounded tasty as can be. Since I never know what type of vegetable to serve alongside Mexican food, I tweaked the recipe slightly and added chopped frozen spinach. I also healthified it more by adding a wild rice/quinoa blend that I'd made earlier in the day and saved in the fridge.

Both boys (husband and son) gobbled this up. I think I'll have to make these a staple dinner in our house.

Ingredients (I eyeball everything, so measurements are approximations):
8-10 taco-sized flour tortillas
1 chicken breast
olive oil
1/4 cup salsa
1/4 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1/2 brick Neufchatel cheese or cream cheese
nearly one cup Monterey jack cheese
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Place frozen spinach in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with water. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and microwave for two minutes. Drain thoroughly, squeezing with your hands to remove as much water as possible. Place in a medium mixing bowl.

Butterfly the chicken breast and coat both sides with salt and pepper. Coat a frying pan with olive oil and heat over medium-high flame. Add chicken and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Once chicken is thoroughly cooked, shred with two forks and add to mixing bowl.

Add all the other ingredients but the tortillas and combine thoroughly. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the filling onto a tortilla and shape it into a narrow log. Roll up the tortilla tightly and place seam-side down in a casserole dish. Do the same with the rest of the tortillas and coat the tops of the taquitos with cooking spray. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until they are golden and crisp on the edges.


Knitted Socks -- Finally!

I've been an avid knitter for about 11 years and during those years I have diagnosed myself with SSS -- Single Sock Syndrome. I will knit one sock, usually on size seven needles because I'm lazy, and then the idea of having to start a whole new sock is too daunting. The single sock rests forever in my random drawer of lost regular socks.

Until now.

My mother-in-law gave me Peruvian hand-dyed wool yarn for Christmas and I finally decided it was sock time. I was going to free myself from SSS.

I love how it knitted up. I used a simple pattern found on Ravelry called Beginner's Socks. The instructions were crystal clear, but having knitted countless Christmas stockings it was nothing new.

I used less than one skein of Araucanía yarn, 240 yards, 100 gram weight, color 411 with size six needles.

I decided I wanted short ankle socks with tighter ribbing, so I K1, P1 for only four rounds. I was going to take a progress photo and decided my toes were in dire need of a pedicure, so I got them all painted up to match the socks, but I finished them during my appointment. They knit up faster than I thought!


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