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Monday, February 29, 2016

Is it Mexican Night?

YAY!  Another casserole dish meal!  Can't beat that for a weeknight.  This time we're changing it up a bit and going Mexican!

Doesn't that look good?  It's simple too.

Start with grilling the onion and garlic (really, this is how all good recipes start).  The more the better!
Add in a can of tomatoes, re fried beans, black beans, corn, and seasoning.  You can play it loose here.  Throw in whatever you think would be good, browned ground beef, spinach, jalapeno peppers (ooooh I should have thrown in peppers!), whateva!

Now start layering in your casserole dish.  First place corn tortillas on the bottom then add your bean mixture.
Toss on some cheddar cheese, then layer more tortillas, bean mixture and cheese.
Pop in a preheated 400 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Grab a glass of wine and enjoy until casserole is ready.

This is a simple, quick and delicious meal and bonus that it makes great leftovers too!

A big THANK YOU to Alec who was STARVIN' and just got home from school and was NOT in the mood to cook but still made this recipe while I took pictures!  Way to power through kiddo!

As always, here's the cut and paste recipe format.

Mexican Tortilla Casserole
Adapted from Three Many Cooks and The Mom 100 Cookbook
You’ll need:
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 14-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained, 1/3 cup of juice reserved
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn
2 15.5 oz cans black or pinto beans (or a mix), drained
3 cups coarsely chopped regular or baby spinach
kosher salt and ground black pepper
8 corn tortillas
2 cups Monterey Jack, cheddar cheese or both
Optional toppings: chopped fresh cilantro, chopped fresh jalapeƱo, sour cream, salsa
Preheat the oven to 400F and lightly grease a casserole dish (approximately 8×11 inches or 9×9 inches) with cooking spray.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat and the garlic, onion, chili powder and cumin. Stir for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Stir in the tomatoes, reserved juice, tomato paste, corn, beans and spinach. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring, until the spinach has wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place two corn tortillas in the bottom of the casserole dish and top with 1/4 of the bean and vegetable mixture, spreading evenly. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of cheese on top. Repeat the layering process with the remaining ingredients, finishing with cheese.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until the casserole has cooked through. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with the optional garnishes, if using.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Five Things for Friday

Wow!  What a beautiful week we've had.  Blue sky
and 60 degree weather; can't beat that for February, unless your a polar bear (*sad*).

Weather like this makes me really appreciate those early blooming plants, like the delicate daffodil and the hellebore, that get you even more excited for Spring!

This week I'm really loving my Japanese Cornelian Cherry Tree!  This tree is always an early bloomer and I appreciate the fact that it's yellow and not pink, what with all the other cherry trees about to bloom pink this tree really stands out (look at that blue sky!!!).  Although it's called a cherry tree, it's actually a dogwood so if you ask for it at your local nursery, tell them that (they probably already know though).

What's a week without me talking about boots?  So, keeping with the boot theme, I found this article about what to look for in a good boot.  I totally agree with #2--Make Sure They're Resole-able!  Have you ever got a pair of shoes or boots resoled before?  It's like getting a new pair but better because they're already soft and broken in!

How many times have you or your child been sick and the last thing you wanted to do was drive to the doctor's office and sit and wait in a waiting room with other sick and miserable people?  Side story: one time I took my son to the emergency room because he was under the weather and he was developing marks all over his body.  As soon as we showed up they got us in right away, diagnosed him with chicken pox and quickly ushered us out the back door.  That was the fastest I've ever been seen in an emergency room!  Moral of the story, if you want to be seen right away, show up with a highly contagious disease! Actually, don't.  Today there is a better way.  Doctor on Demand, Now Clinic, and American Well are new ways you can remain in your bed, reach for your laptop or phone and talk face to face with a doctor who can, if necessary, even write you a prescription!  Most online visits do not require an in office follow up visit, per Doctor on Demand's website and most online visits cost around $40, covered by some health plans.  I wish this was around when my son was young and we made all those midnight urgent care or emergency room visits for ear infections!

This cracked me up:

I love that they included every possible non-related item popular on the internet in the title. Cat. Steampunk. Vintage. Upcycled.  Aaaand it's adorable!

Have a beautiful weekend!  I've got another great casserole recipe coming up next  week and I hope to get those long-awaited planter boxes made!

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Beauty of a Casserole Dish

I have a confession, I love the casserole dish.  You know that 13" X 9" glass wonder that's shoved in the back of your kitchen cabinet?  The one that when you first started cooking and you were making a cake from a box and it called for a 13" X 9"  pan and you pulled it out but for the life of you you couldn't find ANYWHERE where it was actually written 13" X 9" (seriously why isn't that marked more prominently?)?

I love this dish because you can throw just about anything in it, bake it for 30 minutes and you've got a meal!  You can also, if you're so inclined and really organized, throw stuff in it, freeze it for future use, thaw it, bake it for 30 minutes and BOOYAH another meal!  Needless to say, I have a few casserole recipes up my sleeve and lucky you today I'm going to share one!

Who doesn't love pasta, tomato sauce and cheese?  Seriously, anyone?  Fun fact, my son when he was younger, actually didn't like spaghetti.  Yes, I thought it was weird but I tried to not permanently traumatize him for this and I worked around it all the while questioning whether he was swapped at birth.  Annnyway...back to the recipe and for good nature, my son is helping me with this because NOW he likes spaghetti and someone needs to make this dish while I'm shooting pictures.

To begin with, cook your noodles.

While the noodles are cooking chop up your onion and garlic---the more the better!

Add olive oil to a skillet and brown the onion and garlic.  Add ground beef (we use Quorn Foods Meat Free Beef Grounds, 12 Ounce -- 12 per case.)

Once the noodles have finished cooking, whip up one egg and 1/2 cup milk.  Drain the noodles then mix the egg mixture into the noodles.

Now the fun part!  This is where the casserole dish comes in!  Spread the noodles in the bottom of the greased casserole dish, spoon the tomato sauce on top of the noodles.
Now top with mozzarella cheese and pop in a 350 degree preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes!

There's something about baking the dish that blends all the ingredients and their flavors together.  Better than if you just ate it without baking it.  Also, another fun fact, that 20 minutes while it's baking is the perfect amount of time to drink a glass of wine!

Now, if you feel this recipe is a little low brow for you, well here's basically the same recipe with some greens and fancy cheese and baked in a spring form pan (I know! High class, huh?).

Here's the recipe in 'copy and paste' format (we didn't have the bell pepper so we made it without and we added garlic, because, well, that goes with out saying. You just add garlic.):

Baked Spaghetti


  • 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti, broken into thirds
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 jar (14 ounces) meatless spaghetti sauce
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 to 2 cups (4 to 8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Nutritional Facts

1 serving (1 each) equals 286 calories, 11 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 65 mg cholesterol, 718 mg sodium, 29 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 17 g protein.


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat egg, milk and salt. Drain spaghetti; add to egg mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to a greased 13x9-in. baking dish.
  3. In a large skillet, cook beef, sausage, onion and green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce. Spoon over the spaghetti mixture.
  4. Bake, uncovered, 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the cheese. Bake 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.
  5. Freeze option: Cool spaghetti completely before tossing with egg mixture. Transfer to baking dish; cover and refrigerate. Meanwhile, prepare meat sauce and cool completely before spooning over spaghetti mixture. Cover and freeze unbaked casserole. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake as directed, increasing time as necessary to heat through and for a thermometer inserted in center to read 165°. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Five Things for Friday

Here we are at the end of another week and where did my internet travels take me this week?

This link came to me from a dear friend of mine after reading last week's "Five Things".  If you don't want to invest in a Cat Cave Bed - Handmade Felted Merino Wool House for Cats and Kittens - Original Cat Caves By Earthtone Solutions (Enchanted Forest)
for your feline friends, here's a great DIY video where you need only a box and a T-Shirt!  Who doesn't have an extra box and T-Shirt to make this even if you don't have a cat?

These photographs really caught my eye.  I just love how the look of windows seem to have a cultural and geographical identity.  Beautiful.

One of my favorite ways to mindlessly peruse the internet is to look at design blogs.  I'm a sucker for before and after features and this one gave me pause, especially the third picture.  I couldn't stop staring at the tile.  I love how they used square white tiles and laid them as though they were subway tiles.  So unexpected and subtle.

Another flashback to last week's "Five Things" post; I mentioned all the great sales going on right now on winter clothes.  Well, I picked up these kick-ass Frye boots for $80 at Nordstrom Rack! That's right, not only are they black AND they've got a buckle, but they've also got STUDS!  I'll get plenty of winter and spring wear out these babies!

I know you've been waiting for this!  The Peppermint Soap is now available in my online store!
Make a commitment to remove harmful ingredients from your skincare products and pick up a few bars of these beauties!  $5 each and free shipping for orders over $30!

Here's to another great weekend!  We're actually entering the "what will we plant in the vegetable garden?" phase of the year.  I hope to get another outdoor planter box made this weekend complete with photos and instructions (spoiler alert: it's not really a box, as in square box! WHAAAA!!??  I know CRAY-Z!.).  Look for it next week on my blog!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Laundry Room Drying Rod

This past October, while we were walking home from a restaurant, we came across these bamboo poles on the side of the road for free.  There was no way I was going to pass up these babies.  They were at least 13 feet in length and 2 inches in diameter!  We picked them up and carried them home under the cover of darkness.  Fast forward four months and I finally got around to doing something with one of them.

I come from a family that whenever possible (when it wasn't raining) hung their clothes on a line outside to dry.  Sure we had a drier but it always felt nicer to have clothes dried in the fresh air.  I even have a clothes line in my tiny backyard.  The problem is, what with the rain, I really only get to use it a couple months out of the year.  I bought a drying rack from IKEA and use it in my laundry room for sweaters and other clothes not fit to throw in the drier, but I longed to hang my clothes to dry.  That's why I was so thrilled to use one of these bamboo poles as a makeshift clothes drying rod in my laundry/weight/work/storage room!

To hang the pole I put two hooks in the ceiling about 8 feet apart.  I was able to find a stud in both cases but if I couldn't I would have used a molly to screw the hooks into.

Next I held my bamboo pole up to the hooks and marked where I needed to add my chain on the poles.

I (full disclosure, from here on out when I say 'I' I really mean 'Jeff') cut two pieces of sisal rope about 18 inches long and two pieces of chain about 6 inches long.
I then wrapped the rope around the pole several times very tightly.
After securing the rope to the pole, I threaded the rope through a link in the chain and wrapped the rope several more times around the pole.

I now had the chain tied to the pole and repeated the steps for the other end of the pole.
Now the easy part!  I  hung the chain to the hooks in my ceiling.

Perfect!  Now I have a place to hang my yoga mat and wet clothes to dry!

PS.  Don't judge the weight/storage/work/laundry room.  It's not pretty but it's the most functional room in the house...
Oh, and that large pipe that's stuck through the foundation, that mitigates radon in the basement.  Just an FYI.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Astoria, Oregon

We spent this past weekend enjoying Astoria, Oregon and specifically Fort George Brewing's Festival of the Dark Arts.  This beer festival celebrates all things dark, especially, but not limited to, the beer.

There were artists, dancers, tarot card readers, magician, and stilt walking.  You could get a tattoo, participate in a speed noir fiction contest, or simply watch and drink.

Many of the beers were aged in bourbon or whiskey barrels and all of the beers we tried were excellent.

Some people went in costume.

Astoria is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies and has a rich history.  It sits at the mouth of the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean and gets almost 68 inches of rain a year!

It's a town full of fisherman, sea lions, antique stores, and bars.  In other words, a fine place to visit!

Sea lions are all over the docks in Astoria.  This has caused great distress to the local fishermen as the sea lions have ferocious appetites for fish.

This lovely group barked all night outside our hotel.

Tickets go on sale for the Festival of the Dark Arts in November and sell out quickly, as do the hotel rooms.  It's best to get your plans made if you want to spend a dark, rainy weekend drinking great beer and visiting with the sea lions.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Five Things for Friday

If you've read my blog this week you could tell it's been a busy one for me.  I finished a few things I've been putting off meaning to do for a while now, such as renaming my blog.  No need to fear though, I'm never to busy to mindless peruse the internet in search of the useful, beautiful, or can't live with out.  Such as....

Got a cat or even a small dog?  Need a Valentine's gift for them (seriously, do people buy Valentine's gifts for their pets)?  This handmade cat cave looks fun and cozy!  What pet wouldn't like to snuggle up in that?  I wonder if it comes in human size?

Now's the time that most stores start putting all their winter items on sale.  That works good for me because we've still got several more months of wet weather ahead.  So, this is a good time to look for boots and here's a pair I've got my eye on waiting for them to drop in price even lower!
 There is simply no such thing as too many pair of boots!

Along that same line, I think this crop shirt/sweater may be too good to pass up.  It's an Etsy find which makes it even better!

Last weekend found me at one of my favorite brewpubs, Culmination Brewing.  Granted there are a lot to choose from in Portland but this one stands out in my mind because of it's wide selection of beer styles all done very well, and its awesome food.  I like the fact that its menu is small yet everything on it (that we tried) is well made with quality ingredients.  This is the second time we've been there and both times I've ordered the tacos.  Excellent!  Try them with pork or the brisket.

I'm still crushing on my new camera,Nikon D3300 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR with Auto Focus-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens (Black).
So much so, Monday I came home from work and immediately start shooting pictures of my new Peppermint Soap!  These are my best soap pictures yet!

The soap is not yet fully cured but once it is, pick up a couple bars in the online store!

I've got a big treat for you next week as this weekend we're off to a beer festival in Astoria, Oregon!   Lots of great photos of beer, art, water, beach, beer are in store!  If you can't wait to see the photos, follow me on Instagram!

Hope you have a great weekend as well.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What's in a Name?

What's in a name?  I've been asking myself that a lot lately and I finally decided a name is important. Important enough to change when necessary.  Even when that change affects urls, forwarding recipes, CNames, txt record changes, and includes the risk of ruining a good thing.  I said all that to say, Lora's Beauty blog can now be found under the 'simple' url of simply.lorasbeauty.com.  Lora's Beauty online store will remain www.lorasbeauty.com; no change there.

You can still access the blog from the old url lorasbeauty.blogspot.com, you'll 'simply' (ok, last time I'll do that) be redirected to simply.lorasbeauty.com.  With this change, my hope is to create a more professional, interesting, and insightful area to share not only happenings in the Lora's Beauty Online Store, but also things I find intriguing. They will include, but are not limited to, recipes, links, books, furniture remodels, and photographs.

So, what's in a name, simply (sorry, couldn't resist that one) everything!


Monday, February 8, 2016

A Soap Making Weekend

It was a busy, productive weekend!  No bread was made, unfortunately, but lots of soap was made and a lot of pictures were taken.

You may recall from Friday, that I bought myself a new camera.
This weekend I was finally able to put it to good use.   The first photo is of my very popular Warm Cinnamon&Honey Goat Milk Soap.  This is a great smelling bar, packed with cinnamon, and has a beautiful rustic look.
Another powerful smelling bar is my Honey Safflower Goat Milk Soap. 
The natural smell of fennel complete with delicate safflower pedals make up this bar of soap.

We were lucky enough to have a beautiful weekend to take photos so I was able to get many shots outside.  One thing I still need to do, though, is get closer to the soap.

I really like this photo of my Pepperwood Goat Milk Soap. 
This soap contains a cedar and light anise scent to it.  Hot peppers are added to spice it up!  Although I've photographed this on a pink and blue crochet doily this is really a quite masculine bar.

Patchouli Cedar Sage Goat Milk Soap is also a masculine bar.  It has the warm scent of patchouli and cedar and is packed with dried sage.

This being a more rustic bar, I like the photo of it outdoors with the plants in the background.

I replenished my stock of Mug-o-Beer Soap this weekend as well.
 Audrey couldn't resist the sweet smell of basil and citrus emanating from this bar!  She hopped up on the window sill so she could get a better look!

This bar cut really beautifully, although I'm not happy with this photo.  I need to get closer to the soap!

And finally, a camera phone photo!  This is my latest Peppermint Goat Milk Soap.  It's not yet in the online store as it still needs to cure.  I experimented a little with this bar and embedded some soap curls on the top of it.  It is colored with all natural Brazilian Clay and Activated Charcoal.  Wow!  This bar packs a powerful peppermint scent to really get you going on a slow morning!

This bar will look even nicer once cut!

Well there you have it, my weekend in soap and pictures!  All these bars, except the Peppermint one, are available at the online store for only $5 each!  Free shipping is available for those orders over $30!