Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cheesy Pasta Bake

My friends Carole and Jason who live in our same building and attend our ward just had a new baby girl. I made the crochet edge baby blanket for their baby Tori Jane and on a whim decided to also make them dinner.

Since I hadn't planned to make them dinner, I ended up making one of my quick go-to dinners which is actually super yummy and super easy.


1 lb Pasta
1 Can or Jar Spaghetti Sauce
1 small can Tomato Paste
1 Med Onion
1 lb Hamburger or shredded Chicken
2 cups Shredded Cheese

Seasonings (to taste):
Olive Oil
Garlic Powder
Italian Seasoning
Red Chili Pepper or Taco Seasoning

Yield: 12 servings

Sommer's Secret: This recipe makes about 2  standard cake pan (9 1/2 X 11 X 2") casseroles. I usually make a full recipe and freeze one for another day or put it all in my big lasagna pan if I'm having company over. It's a big hit every time I make it.


1. Set water to boil to cook pasta.
2. Brown Ground Beef and chopped onion in a skillet. (Salt and Pepper to taste).
3. Drain the oil from the meat.
4. Add Spaghetti Sauce and Tomato Paste.(one day I'll learn to make a good sauce from scratch!)
5. Stir in seasonings.

Sommer's Secret: I always jazz up cheap ready made spaghetti sauce with herbs and spices.It might be the Southwest in me, but  like my sauce to have just a tiny kick by adding a little cayenne pepper or in this case Taco Seasoning mix. My favorite to use is the Chipotle seasoning mix.  I also add about a teaspoon of sugar as it seems to really tone down the acid of the tomatoes and "marries" the seasonings.


6. Boil pasta until "al dente" - where the pasta is soft but firm. Drain.


7.  Pour sauce mixture over pasta and fold to combine.
8. Pour mixture into baking dish(es).
9. Sprinkle cheese on top.
11. Bake 15- 20 minutes until bubbly.

Sommer's Secret: Drizzle the top with olive oil and Broil 3-5 minutes until top is brown and crispy.


Sommer's Suggestions: Add veggies! Since I was using what we had at home, I didn't have any extras to add in...Bell peppers, black olives, mushrooms would  make this even more amazing. Add or substitute  Pepperoni or Italian sausage instead of beef or chicken....yum!

I served my pasta bake with a garden salad and homemade bread sticks.

1. Make 1 batch Pizza Dough Recipe.
2. Pat out onto a pizza dough pan.
3. Brush with butter and garlic mixture. (2 TBSbutter to 1 TBS garlic powder 1 tsp Parsley)
4. Sprinkle with with cheese (I used the Mozzarella, Provolone, Cheddar blend and Parmesan)
5. Bake 8-12 minutes until brown and bubbly.
6. Cut into strips with pizza cutter.

(As you can see my oven doesn't bake evenly and I ended up with one dark and one light cheesy bread sticks...but they were both just as delicious.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Totes for the Tikes

Since being called to be the Primary Secretary in my ward, I have throughly enjoyed being with the little ones in our ward. Our ward primary is quite small with 3-Sunbeams 1-CTR 4 about 3-CTR 5&6 and the rest Valiants 8-11 with a grande total of 15 to 20 kids on our best Sundays.

We have mostly boys and just  a few girls in our combined Junior and Senior primary so our Sundays can be super fun. We have a great presidency and dedicated teachers who care about the children.

 For Christmas/New Year's we wanted to give each child a special gift and I volunteered to use up my left over fabric to make little scripture totes for the kiddos.


Inside the little bags the  presidency included the 13 articles of faith cards on a ring and a little Book of Mormon. My sister Crystal showed me the site and gave me the idea to have them printed on photo paper at our local Sam's club so they kids can have their own set. 

 It has given me much pleasure to see the kids tote their bags to church each Sunday. I've been amazed at how popular they are with the boys! They LOVE them-who whould've thought?

For the bags I used the tutorial at P.S I quilt . This is a great project for using up scraps of materials and I loved the way she shows you to sew once all the way around to secure the binding and then top stitch everything all down- super SIMPLE and cute!

Sommer's Secret: I ommitted the batting and excluded the quilting portion since the bags were so little and don't need much stability.


I love how each one came out unique with it's own personality. 

Sommer's Secret: I didn't really worry about the bag sizes so they came out all different depending on the piece of fabric I had to work with- they just needed to be big enough to fit the little book of mormon.


Sommer's Secret: I used coordinating ribbon, premade bias tape and strips of fabric for  the binding around and handles.  I liked using the ribbon the best since there was lots less prep work with no need to have to iron the raw edge before sewing.

It was also easy to use strips of fabric NOT cut on the bias since there really wasn't a need for the bias stretch. But the premade Bias binding was easy to use as it is pre-pressed.


Sommer's Secret: I had to sew together lots of small pieces for some of the bags which actually ended up being a little more sturdy than the others.


My all time favorite feature has got to be polka dots. They are just SO FUN! My favorite bags are the ones that have a handle made out of the same fabric as the bag, which definately took a little more time. If I had a little more time I think pockets on the fronts and cute button embelishments would have been AWESOME! 


Sommer's Secret: For the boy bags I picked up some woven nylon in black and white for a more plain handle. This also made it super easy.

I am so glad I've found a useful home for these left over scraps.....now they have THEIR time to shine!

Friday, February 17, 2012

First Crochet Edge blankie

My friend Carole recently gave birth to a brand new baby girl named Tori Jane. With the arrival of her precious little one I seized the opportunity to try my hand at a crochet edge blankie.


I began by purchasing 2 coordinated pieces of girly flannelet.

Sommer's Secret: So I have the least amount of waste, I usually purchase a square of fabric. Standard fabric widths are about 45" so I have the fabric store cut a 45"x45" square for my "receiving" blankets. (Generally Receiving blankets are about 36"X52'0.

When I get home I wash and dry the fabric so that there isn't any shrinkage on the finished blanket. When I'm feeling up for it I like to "block" the fabric to "reset" the grain by ironing the fabric while it's pinned flat. Otherwise ironing works just fine. While these steps take more time, The finished product definitely comes out SO much better.

I've dabbled in crochet on and off since my grandmother McCombs gave me my first crochet lesson and I've recently picked it up again which usually happens around General Conference time so I can have something to do while listening to all the speakers ;o)

While I've seen lots of ways that people make crochet edged blankets, I've never made one but here's what I did:

Step 1: Pin fabric squares on top of each other right sides together.

Step 2: Using a fabric (erasable) pen, I used a plate as a guide to mark and cut off the edges of the blankie to have a rounded edge. I figured a round edge would make for more "continuous" crochet edge.

Step 3: Sew the two fabric pieces together, leaving an opening for turning.

Step 4: Turn.

Step 5: Iron edges flat folding in the open area to create a finished edge.

At this point you can either top stitch around the edge or do what I did:

Step 6: Beginning at the opening where you "turned" or insided out your blanket. Begin your blanket stitch, sewing between both layers of fabric to close the opening.

Sommer's Secret: Since I was using heavier weight fabric and didnt' have a super sharp crochet hook, I used a sharp embroidery needle to create my blanket stitch. I understand some people prefer to use their crochet hook to puncture through the fabric, or top stitch to create the holes. There is also this nifty machine that you can buy that will actually make the holes around the edge for you and actually 'seals' the holes so they don't fray- cool huh?

Here is a good tutorial on how to do the blanket stitch.

Sommer's Secret:  Since I didn't top stitch the blanket I didn't really have a guide for spacing my blanket stitch, so I used my thumb nail as a guide. The stitches weren't perfect but I like that it has a little more "homemade" character with my uneven, imperfect stitches.

 After completing your blanket stitch around the entire edge of the blanket, you have your foundation to being crocheting.

Step 7: Insert crochet hook into the first blanket stitch and chain three to begin.

Step 8: Complete a single row of the shell stitch around the entire edge.

While there are MANY ways to make a crochet edge blanket, I enjoyed making this simple one for my friend. 

Here are a few awesome tutorials on other ways to make a crochet edge blanket:

Today's Top Twenty
Little Birdie Secrets
This and That Creative

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yummy Homemade Bread

This is another post I made to our Relief Society blog.  This is a great recipe for first time bread makers as you can learn the "feel" of the dough and how to incorporate all ingredients by hand. This recipe also works well if you're using a stand mixer. The result is a versatile  light, fluffy dough that can be used to make a variety of breads and rolls.


Katherine Book of the Auwaiolimu Ward taught us how to make homemade bread at our Weekday Relief Society Meeting on Wednesday, April 6, 2011. This hands on class was a great opportunity for us learn how to mix the ingredients and feel the texture of the dough to get the bread just right.
Here's the recipe:

Ingredients for Half Batch:
4 cups Bread Flour*
1 Tbs self acting fast rising Yeast
1 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Powdered Milk
1/4 cup Sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 c)Butter or Shortening
1 1/2 cup warm Water
1 tsp Vanilla Extract (optional)
yield: 1 1/2 doz rolls or 2 loaves
Baking time: 30 minutes Baking temp: 350 degrees

Ingredients for Full Batch:
 8 cups Bread Flour*
 2 Tbs self acting fast rising Yeast
2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Powdered Milk
3/4 cup Sugar
1 stick (1/2 c.) Butter or Shortening
3 cups warm Water
2 tsp Vanilla Extract (optional)
yield: 3 to 4 dozen rolls or  2 to 3 loaves.
 Baking time: 30 minutes
Baking temp: 350 degrees

 * Note: you may substitute all purpose flour instead of bread flour if desired. Resulting bread may have a different consistency. Bread flour has more protein which leads to more gluten allowing your bread to be more stretchy creating more of a "chewy" texture whereas all purpose has less protein and makes a less stretchy dough creating a more "crumbly" texture.  
1. Combine all dry ingredients (including dry yeast)  in a large mixing bowl. Mix well to incorporate all ingredients.

2. Add butter or shortening.
3. Using hands squish butter into small bits through out the dry mixture until the consistency is similar to coarse corn meal.

4. Create a "well" or indentation in the middle of butter/dry ingredient mixture.

5. Pour warm water into the well and begin slowly incorporating the flour into the water mixture.


Note: Make sure your water isn't too hot otherwise it will "kill" the yeast and the dough won't rise. Water should be like the comfortable warm temperature you would use to bathe.

6. Continue to stir and knead mixture  in until all the flour and water are incorporated and the dough forms a ball.

To test when you have kneaded the dough enough, slice an "X "mark on top of the ball of dough. If the dough begins to separate, it has been kneaded enough and you can set it aside for rising.

7. Place dough ball into an airtight container that has been pre-greased with oil or shortening or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Kathy Book recommends using a gallon size ice cream container with a lid.  

8. Set aside dough and allow to rise until double in size.


Note: A full size batch of the bread recipe will rise to pop the lid off the container when it has risen to double in size.

Don't forget to spray the bottom of the lid so the dough doesn't stick when it rises.

Note: A half batch recipe will only rise half way in a gallon size ice cream container when double in size.

9. After dough has doubled in size. Punch it down to deflate the dough and let it rest 5 minutes. 10.  Then shape into desired loaves, rolls, hamburger buns, hot dog buns or cinnamon rolls (one dough can make all these kinds of breads!). 11. After shaping dough and placing in baking dishes, allow to rise until double in size and then bake.

To Shape rolls:  Pinch balls of dough out a little smaller than a golf ball.


Rolls into balls to smooth the surface and place on baking sheet, leaving enough room between each ball of dough  for expansion.


For Butter rolls: melt 1/2 to 1 stick of butter and pour on bottom of pan before adding formed rolls. Baking time for rolls is 20-30 minutes @ 350 degrees.

To Shape loaves:  Flatten out  dough on table with hands into shape of a rectangle. (doesn't need to be perfect Spray surface of table with non-stick spray or use flour to keep dough from sticking.


Then roll dough from one edge to the other. Pinch seam closed and place in loaf pan and press down.


Baking time for loaves is 20-30 minutes.

For hot dog buns: use same method as shaping for loaves only using less dough to make smaller "loaves" place evenly on baking sheet.


For Hamburger Buns: Pinch off dough the size of a tennis ball. Roll between hands to smooth surface. Place on baking sheet like you would for rolls then press down to flatten.

For Cinnamon Rolls: 1. Flour or spray table top to keep dough from sticking. 2. Use rolling pin to roll out dough into a rectangle. Be careful not to roll too think. Dough should be no thinner than 1/4 " thick.


3. Brush melted butter over the surface of the rolled out dough. 4. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon and sugar, leaving about 1/4" border around the edge of the dough rectangle. . We used 1/2 cup cinnamon to 4 cups white sugar. (Brown sugar or combination of white and brown can also be used).


Pat down sugar cinnamon mixture.


5.  Roll up rectangle with cinnamon/sugar tugging on the dough a little as you go to keep the roll nice and tight -but not too tight. Until dough is formed into a long roll.


6. Pinch seam closed and cut into 1 1/2" to 2" sections.

7. Place evenly on baking dish.


8. Bake 20 - 30 minutes until golden brown @ 350 degrees.