Monday, February 11, 2013

Soup's On! It IS Still Winter

Even though the temperatures in our neck of the woods have flirted with 50 off and on the past week or so, it is still winter and that means it's still soup season.

A locally owned restaurant in our community serves one of my favorite soups ever. The menu name for it is Andouille Sausage and Kale soup. It's an exceptional broth-based soup. One of my other favorites is Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana, also a sausage and greens soup, but with a cream base.

My family will be the first to tell you that cooking isn't my forte. So, I'm always looking for easy meals that are next to impossible to mess up. To complicate things, I also want healthy, lower fat/lower calorie recipes, when possible.

My search for something like the andouille sausage or Zuppa Toscana recipes turned up a number of possibilities, but none that met all my requirements: easy, healthy and reasonably low-fat/low-cal. So, I cherry-picked the best ingredients from a couple of recipes and came up with my own variation on a theme.

The main difference in my version from the other creamy soups is the substitution of skim milk for the whole milk, half-and-half and heavy cream and spicy Italian turkey sausage for sweet Italian pork sausage. Of course, if you want a richer, more caloric, higher fat soup, you can replace the skim milk in my recipe with two cups of whole milk and four cups of half-and-half and a splash of heavy cream.

Any type of Italian sausage will work. Select one that suits your taste. We like ours (spicy) hot!

Here's the recipe:


  • 2 bunches of kale, cleaned and torn into bite-sized pieces (or substitute a half bag of frozen kale, if desired; thaw and add as you would the fresh kale)
  • 12-15 red potatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 whole onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs. Italian sausage
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or to taste; I add more)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 5 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • Fresh or dried oregano to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
Boil sliced potatoes until tender. Don't overcook. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, brown the sausage and onions. Drain any fat. Stir in red pepper flakes, oregano, black pepper, chicken broth, milk and half-and-half. Simmer 20-30 minutes.

Add potatoes. Stir in kale. 

Simmer another 10-15 minutes. Serve.

Bon Apetit!

P.S. Don't you just love the adorable placemats and napkins I found at the thrift store? They're in the original box, label on, never used. Probably from the '60s or '70s. Each of the four placemats has a different saying on it. Watch for this sweet set in my Etsy store in the next couple of weeks.

Make it a great day!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Make Your Own Envelopes for That Extra Special Touch

A few weeks ago, I came across a great blog post featuring handmade envelopes and confetti from Kristi at Digital Cake Crafting. She makes truly lovely sheet music envelopes using the Martha Steward Scoring Board. I have Martha's board, too, and have used it often. I also have started making my own envelope templates. The envelopes above are made from my templates.

Making envelopes is like therapy to me. They're easy and fun and, when I'm done, I know I have something completely unique. I've made envelopes in about every size imaginable. But, I have a soft spot for mini envelopes, which I incorporate into the ephemera journals I make.

When I come across an envelope shape or size I like, I make a template of it.

Follow these simple instructions and you'll soon be on your way to creating your own special versions.

Steam your found envelope open by covering it with a dish towel or other soft cloth. Set your iron to one of the lower heat settings--one that will allow you to use steam. Steam open by applying the hot iron to the cover cloth, checking the envelope every several seconds to gauge your progress and to ensure the paper doesn't overheat.

After it's steamed open, let the envelope cool and the melted glue set for a couple of minutes before moving on to the next step.

Now, trace your envelope onto a piece of thick cardboard.

Cut out your template and you're ready to create your own envelopes. TIP:  I file the original envelope with the cardboard template for folding reference in the future.

You can create your envelopes out of any type of paper that suits your fancy or your needs. Because I'm big on recycling or upcycling, I most often use pages from discarded books, maps that are otherwise past their prime, old sheet music, paper bags and vintage magazine or catalog pages. Don't worry if the paper isn't perfect. You can often work around any stains, small tears or creases. Of course, wrapping paper and scrapbooking paper are also nice materials for envelopes.

For the larger envelopes below, I used vintage magazine covers and pages. For the smaller envelopes, I used pages of National Geographic.

Trace your template on the paper of your choice. TIP: If you're using paper that has words or an image with a right side up and an upside down, be careful how you place your template. If you plan to use the envelope in a traditional way, so that the front of the envelope is where you normally would put a name or address, place the template so the words or image are right side up on that portion of the envelope. If, like I do, you plan to use the back of the envelope as the front, place accordingly so the image is right side up on that side. This may take a bit of practice until you get the hang of it.

Using your original envelope for reference, fold and score accordingly. I use a bone scorer, but the edge of an expired gift card works just as well.

Next, glue the pouch of the envelope using a glue stick.

I made my envelope to use in an ephemera journal. I like to include handmade envelopes in my journals and attach the traditional front to a piece of card stock so the flap remains free to open and insert special goodies.

That makes the traditional back of the envelope the front in my journals. You can see how the words are positioned when I use the envelopes in this way.

The vintage valentine envelope shows the traditional front and back when the envelope is to be used in the normal fashion.

Recycle some paper today. Mail a special envelope tomorrow. 

Make it a great day!
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