Creamy Goat Cheese Pasta with Kale

I have been trying to experiment more with growing dark leafy greens in the garden. Last year was a disaster with swiss chard. No matter how many times I tried to prepare it, it still tasted like dirt. This year I took on dinosaur kale. It is a variety of kale that has a flatter leaf than the curly variety usually found in the grocery store.
I started the plants from seed this spring. I was beginning to feel like they were never going to grow but all of a sudden they look like this

Commence torturing Mike with kale recipes (evil laugh.)

Seriously though, I found this really yummy recipe from Martha I slightly adapted it based on what I had on hand. You could easily substitute spinach for the kale in this recipe and play with other add ins. The goat cheese sauce is what makes this really delicious.

Gather your ingredients

(Apparently I am not a good ingredients organizer because I left out the garlic and olive oil in this pic)

  • 1 pound dried pasta (Martha called for penne, I had mini rotini and I only used 3/4 of the cooked pasta)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small or one medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes (This isn't spicy. If you like it hotter add 1-2 tsp or omit if you want it mild )        
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon zest, plus more for garnish 
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay
  • 1/2 bunch kale, tough stems removed, leaves thinly sliced crosswise (8 cups) (A good tip to remove the stems: Hold the stem in one hand and grab the kale with the other and run your hand down the stem. The leaf will easily separate.)
  • 6 to 7 ounces fresh goat cheese (not sure what fresh is. I just bought what I found at the grocery store)
  • 1/2 cup pitted, halved Kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes. Sliced in half or quarters
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup  Parmesan cheese (Martha called for fresh but I just used the powder stuff and it was fine. I also reduced the amount)
  • Optional: two cups meat- shredded turkey, chicken or sausage would all work. ( I didn't add meat since I wanted this as a side dish)

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water, then drain.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the red-pepper flakes, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.

Add lemon zest and wine, and cook until wine has evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in kale and 1/4 cup reserved cooking water, and cook until kale wilts, about 3 minutes.

Add meat (if you are adding it) and cook until heated through. Add goat cheese and remaining 1 1/4 cups reserved cooking liquid, stirring until sauce is creamy.

Add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes

Add pasta to skillet, and cook, stirring, until pasta is coated and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in olives and lemon juice. Sprinkle with Parmesan and lemon zest.

Serve immediately. We had it with smoked chicken legs from the smoker. And Mike enjoyed it! Score one for kale!

Mantel Redo

We have always had a problem with our mantel not being level. This was especially annoying since we burn a lot of candles. We would always end up with uneven candles or wax on the floor. We wanted an affordable fix. Something that would look good for a small cost.

Mike started out by pulling off the old mantel. It was in two pieces. There was a base with a box on top. Luckily the base was salvageable.

We went to Lowes and got a 6 x 12 ft pine board. We had Lowes cut it down to the right size. If you haven't used the wood cutting service before, it's fabulous. It's located in the lumber section and they will cut the wood for free.

We took the board home and Mike patched some knots with wood filler to make it smooth and sanded the whole board really well.

We had some leftover quarter round from our dining room that he cut to fit around the base to give the mantel a finished look.

Then he primed and painted the board, base and quarter round. Here are the painted components.

On went the base and board, finished with the quarter round. He added some caulk to close any gaps.

Then came a round of touch up paint on the wall, fireplace and bricks in front. We previously faux painted the fireplace to look like slate. It was one of the first things we did when we moved in. (Including painting the living room since it was a pale pink color.)

And here it is all accessorized. And by the way, everything on the mantel came from a garage sale. Including the pictures but excluding the flowers those were only $1.00 each at Michaels :)

Wine Cork Candle Holder

We having been collecting wine corks for a while. I have been wanting to do something with them and they were starting to overflow the vase we had them it. While reworking the dining room I looked a bowl we had and a light bulb went off.

I took the corks

The bowl and a glass candle holder

I dumped the corks in the bowl.

And inserted the candle holder in the middle. Super easy!

And here it is in our dining room on top of a red charger.

There is lots more space to add more corks. I have found a ton of cool ideas with wine corks on my Pinterest page. I foresee a new project in the future but this is a perfect way to store them until inspiration strikes.

Cooking With A Smoker

I found this smoker for only $10 at a garage sale. This has to be one of my greatest discoveries!

Mike is a grilling expert and with this smoker he took his grilling skills to a whole new level :) The smoker is actually very easy to use and has similar components to grilling. It's a cross between grilling and baking. Our smoker has a bowl in the bottom for charcoal and wood, two grates, a bowl for water, a lid and a side door that opens to cool the temp down.

To get started get some wood chips. We found some at Lowes and Target in the grilling section. We got mesquite and hickory but there are other options like cherry and apple. Soak the chips in water to keep them from burning too quickly and producing too much smoke. Then wrap them in foil and cut a few slits.
Put charcoal in the bottom and light it. Wait until the charcoal turns grey.

Pause to take pictures of our dog Rufus since he won't stay away from the camera :)

Prepare the meat. We cooked pork ribs and chicken legs. Mike rubed everything with season salt.

Once the charcoal is ready place the rest of the smoker on top of the charcoal bowl. Fill the bowl with water and place one grill on top of it. We loaded ours with ribs. Place the other grill on the top. We filled this one with checken legs.

Put on the lid and let the magic happen.

After about two hours we added some peppers from the garden. The legs are already looking pretty good.

About 4 hours later everything was done. Mike always know when the meat is done but a meat thermometer is also a handy tool to use.

Mike finished the ribs on the grill. He basted them with barbeque and let it carmelize.

We had the ribs for dinner with some roasted red potatoes from the farmers market and the smoked peppers. Yum!

Framing odd sized art

We got these really cool vintage art pictures a few years at a garage sale but never knew how to frame them. A trip to Michaels revealed these really awesome floating frames. The picture "floats" in the frame. It is surrounded by glass and whatever wall color you have looks like a border around the picture.

The picture sits in between two pieces of glass. It's really easy to put it together and you have the freedom to center it how you want. This would also work really well with multiple smaller pictures in a bigger frame.

We got an awesome deal on them too. 40% off plus an extra 25% on top of that with a coupon from the paper! And they look awesome in our kitchen.

framing odd size art

framing odd size art

Kitchen Redo

Mike and I have been in our house for almost 5 years. We liked the kitchen when we moved in but it was starting to get tired. The paint on the cabinets was chipping, the counter tops were cracking and the white floor always looked dirty.

We were ready to remodel and we took a week off of work to get it done ourselves.

Kitchen remodel, painted cabinets, Olympic phantom mist, corian counter top, 18 x 18 peel and stick tile

Kitchen remodel, painted cabinets, Olympic phantom mist, corian counter top, 18 x 18 peel and stick tile

Kitchen remodel, painted cabinets, Olympic phantom mist, corian counter top, 18 x 18 peel and stick tile

The biggest expense with new solid surface counter tops. Mike ripped the old ones out and we had them installed by Lowes. They threw in a free deep stainless steel sink and we used our existing faucet. Mike did the plumbing.

The cabinets got a fresh coat of paint. We used Olympic phantom mist in semi gloss. This was a huge job. We primed first with a tinted primer and then put several light coats of paint on them.

The walls and the woodwork also were painted. The woodwork was natural wood before but in was in poor condition so we decided to freshen it up.

Mike ripped out our existing peel n stick floor and we laid a new one down with 18 x 18 inch tiles.
We had an unused nook that we hung shelves in. We got a board cut down in Lowes and painted it to match the cabinets. We hung them with shelf brackets we picked up in the shelving organization section. It makes the area so much more functional. The mini fridge was an awesome Craigslist find!

For our eating area we bought the bar table on Amazon and used stools my mom gave us that were previously in our basement. We added a wine rack that was in our dining room and shelves from a garage sale we updated with a fresh coat of paint. Then accessorized with pictures and plants.

Here are the before pics.

Flower pin

I saw this really cute shirt at Made by Lex. I love the flower on it so I used her tutorial as a basis for making a flower pin.

Here is what I came up with

I had some white flowy material. No idea what it is but I've had it forever and it was a poor attempt at curtains at one point.

I cut 3 imperfect circles out of my white material and two slightly smaller ones out of tulle. I took about a 6 inch by 1 inch strip of the white material and ran a basting strip through to turn it into a ruffle

I stacked the circles with the tulle ones on top

I pinched the back of the layers and sewed through to try and keep the shape.

Then I took my ruffle and would it into a flower shape. When I had it the way I wanted it I sewed the back to keep the shape.

Next I sewed the ruffle flower to the layers. I sewed a pearl bead in the center. To turn it into a pin I cut a round piece of felt, and a tiny piece to fit in the in pin backing. I glued the flower to the felt and the pin to the back of the felt. I put the tiny piece where the glue comes through the holes in the pin back to make it look more finished.

Here is the finished product. (Working on my self portrait :P)

And a closer shot