Pasta with Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes

I was having a conversation with one of my sisters a while back, and the subject of artichokes came up. Normal conversation, right? :) She was talking about how much she loves artichokes, and I was telling her that I had recently realized that I don’t know if I really have consciously eaten an artichoke. So she passed on this recipe for us to try from the Pioneer Woman.

That was delicious. And pretty easy too – artichokes and all. :)


2 T. olive oil

1 lb. pasta (she does thin spaghetti – I prefer something with more texture)

2 T. butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 can artichoke hearts (14.5 oz.), drained

1 can diced tomatoes with juice (14.5 oz.)

1 c. heavy cream

1/2 c. chicken broth

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

salt and pepper, to taste

1 c. Parmesan cheese


Step 1: Cook your pasta. Drain, and set aside. (see? easy so far.)

Step 2: Put olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat & melt. Add onions and garlic. Saute for 2-3 min.

Sauteed onions have to be one of my favorite smells. And tastes. So good.

Step 3: Add artichoke hearts (drained) and tomatoes (with juice). Stir and cook for 8-10 min. I also chopped up the artichoke hearts before I threw them in so they wouldn’t be so hugely chunky.

Step 4: Reduce heat to low and add cream and chicken broth. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and keep cooking on low until heated through. Make sure you use enough salt so you have flavor. That means to test your sauce and make sure you can taste it.

Step 5: Place pasta in a large bowl, and pour Parmesan cheese over the top. Then pour the sauce over the top and toss to coat.

Done! That was very delicious, pretty easy and it made a LOT of food. My sister had told me that they usually have it for dinner, then for leftovers at lunch for a couple of days – which I interpreted to mean that my family would finish it off in one night. Nope. We also had it for dinner that night, and then happily had it for leftovers at lunch for a couple of days afterward.

Thanks Jen for passing that one on! And thank you to the Pioneer Woman for sharing this awesomeness in the first place. :)

Picture Hanging Tip – and DSLR tutorial links

This is a tip for hanging those annoying pictures with the two hooks – the ones where they have a hook on each side to keep things level and distribute the weight evenly. Those ones.

I have a couple of larger pictures like that, and hanging them was a large pain – I measured the distance between the hooks, penciled in two holes that distance apart and hoped they would be level, and then did trial and error until it looked right.

This lovely tip from Aimee @ It’s Overflowing came to me right on time – my mom had sent a picture for our boys that happened to have the two hooks, so I could try it out while I still remembered it.

Hooray for timely tips – this was VERY easy.

You take blue tape (or scotch tape – just something that won’t ruin the backing) and cut a piece that fits from the center of one hook to the center of the other, like so:

Then you take the blue tape of wonder, stick it on your wall at the spot that you would like your picture, and hammer some nails into place (I ended up cutting my tape a little short, so I hammered one of the nails slightly outside of the tape):

Voila! Level, easily hung picture.

The great thing about this is you can actually check the tape visually (or with a level, if you prefer) to see if it looks level. AND you have the nails perfectly spaced. I loved that.

Thank you Aimee!

By the way, Aimee has a bunch of VERY helpful tutorials on how to use a DSLR camera in manual instead of auto. Start at the link I posted, and work your way through. I learned a lot! :)

Cloud Dough (Homemade Moon Sand)

For those of you who have wanted to try Moon Sand, but maybe have wondered about the mess and have sat on the fence about it, this is a great way to try it out at home. I got this idea from Juggling with Kids.

Here is all you need:

4 cups of flour

1/2 cup of baby oil

That is IT, my friend. It makes a pretty good-sized batch, so you could even halve it if you don’t have a big container for your kids to play in.

Just mix them together in a large bowl, and you are good to go!

I was really impressed at how well this held up – when it was formed together, it stayed together really well, but it still held a good “powder” form when it was broken apart. My 5-year old actually wanted to make it all into balls at the very end when we went to store it in a gallon ziploc, and none of them broke on the way into the cabinet OR on the way out when he wanted to play again, until he was ready to break them apart.

Super fun! I will warn you, though, it can make a bit of a mess, so either have a sufficiently large container (mine was not deep enough t0 contain some of the overspill) OR just be ready to sweep up a bit at the end. To me, the idea of an “indoor dry sand” is totally worth having a bit of a mess at the end – my kids will play for a long time and love it, and that is awesome.


Finger Paint in a BAG

I decided that I wanted to try to find a good fingerpaint recipe. I was only able to find essentially two recipes (here and here), and I was not terribly impressed with either of them. They were both waaaaaaaay too sticky. The kids tried playing with the finger paint and ended up washing their hands within a minute of getting it on their papers. So, I am still in the search for a good recipe – when I find it, I will happily share it. If you have tried either of these with success, I’m happy to try them again because there is a chance that there was some human error. OR, if you have a different recipe, I would love to have it to try! :)

BUT, in the meantime I remembered seeing this idea from Amy @ Let’s Explore. She took finger paint and put it in a gallon-sized baggie so her toddler could work on writing letters. I love that it also means NO MESS. Best idea ever. I took the finger paint from the first recipe (the one with corn starch) and plopped it all in the bag and this is what I got:

Pretty good! I think it would be even easier to use with better finger paint in the bag – or tempura paint, as Amy suggested as an alternative. I think either way, my 2-year old definitely likes to not have gloppy fingers, so this is a good solution for her. The older boys are easily entertained either way.

**Note: I hot glued the top shut too. After the bag was zipped, I just glued the very top pieces together. It has stayed put nicely, even when kids were chucking it around the house and using it as a hat.


My Cookie Sheet is CLEAN :)

Yes. It is finally clean. (Cue heavenly chorus.)

When I was cleaning the drip pans from my stove, I remembered that I had read a comment somewhere in the middle of my many cookie sheet cleaning tips that had mentioned using ammonia to clean out her oven. My oven, oddly enough, is not very dirty. I gave it a wipe down with a wet sponge (no other chemicals) and it got most of what was in there cleaned out. I couldn’t remember if the commenter decided to stick her cookie sheet in her oven with ammonia, but decided it was worth a go.

I put my cookie sheet in the cold oven on the bottom rack, put some ammonia in a bowl on the top rack, and let it sit overnight.

Here is what it looked like before (after my 11 different ways to try and get it clean):

And here is what it looks like now:

Clean! Hooray! That used some steel wool and elbow grease too after I took it from the oven, but I had tried steel wool over and over again with many different products and I couldn’t get it all off. The ammonia worked great. It also took off some of the oil splatters on the glass on the inside of the oven that I couldn’t get off earlier with just the wet sponge.

Hooray! :)

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