Wednesday, March 25, 2015

We Are

We are watching the snow fall - big, sloppy snow flakes of the Spring variety.  woohoo.  We are also getting ready to head out for another strep test.  yippee.  This week is proving more interesting already than all of last week.

  • We are cracking into book six, well hurtling through it.  I've ready 400+ pages in the last three days and I may or may not have stayed up until 3:30 am to read through to a culmination of a particular event.
  • We are cropping!!  I completed five pages.
Happy Wednesday,

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mixed Feelings About Spring and Mixed Reviews About Food

Happy First Day, or partial day at least, of Spring.  I always greet this day with mixed emotions.  While Winter is my second favorite season, I do get to this point and I'm pretty done with the brown landscape.  I'm still fine with cold and snow and we still have plenty enroute for us here in Colorado - but it's the in-betweens - the brown, the dust all over everything, the dull, colorless landscape.  I'm over that.  Cover it in snow and I'm good.  

But, while Spring brings a profusion of colors and rain to wash away the Winter grime, it also brings warmer temperatures.  Temperatures that tease with their not too hot ways.  A breeze tinged in warmth, that makes you open your windows.  Sunny afternoons that let you shed your coat and feel the warmth on your bare, mighty white, limbs.  But, it's all a facade.  Those temps are not long lasting.  In Colorado Winter bleeds into Spring so long that we rarely have much in the way of Spring-time-love-them temps, before they rocket into the upper 80's, and then the 90's and boom. . .Summer is here, which I hate.

Besides the joy of expecting green grass and flowering trees and bushes, I am free of the yoke of taxes and year-end work.  I'm done (my part is - hubby has the task of dropping them off with the accountant.)  I'm free.  It's a weight every year and every year when I'm finally finished I want to pull that Sound of Music move and twirl and twirl on a mountain top.  I'm 15 minutes from a mountain, so it's totally doable, but know what's better?  Heading out for a night of cropping.  Yep.  I'm tossing my cooking duties for the night.  I've helpfully located a Fish Fry for my loved ones and loved-ones-in-law to head to and I'm packing up and heading out to be with papers that don't have IRS stamped on the tops and tape that is not of the Red variety.

I've been doing quite a bit of cooking from Pinterest the last couple weeks, but the menu planning this week was spotty at best.  Still, plenty to report on, lots of good stuff and a couple misses.

I made this Open-faced BBQ Chicken French Bread Sandwich last night.  I had a rotisserie chicken I needed to break down and leftover Homemade BBQ Sauce from earlier in the week.  I made my own french bread, but didn't have any fresh cilantro (bummer,) but I had dried some from last summer; not as good a fresh, but worked in a pinch.  It was good.  The BBQ sauce I had made to put over chicken on Monday.  I've been looking for a good homemade recipe, that was fast, and this was thick and sweet with a little kick to it.  I think it might just be my go-to.

I'm a Salisbury Steak fan, so I thought I'd see how these Hamburger Steaks with Brown Gravy differ.  They were good.  The beef we had wasn't overly fatty, I think it was probably 80/20 and so didn't leave a lot of the good drippings behind.  A longer sear might have fixed that, too, so I had to use bacon fat, and that's pretty much all you tasted in the sauce - bacon.  Not that bacon is bad, hardly, but I was looking for that brown gravy thing.  If you opt to make these, I'd go with 70/30 beef.  In the end, I deleted the pin and will stick with my Salisbury Steak recipes.

I made this Spinach and Feta Crockpot Lasagna for our Meatless Friday meal. I've done traditional lasagna in the crockpot, and it turns out really well - the hard part is cracking the pasta to fit.  I love Feta, so I was looking forward to this one.  It was. . .eh.  It calls for "oven ready" pasta, which didn't really hold up to the longer cooking time of the crock pot; traditional noodles would have been better.  And I never got that bite and salt from the Feta that I was looking for.  If I made it again I'd up the ratio of Feta and go for regular noodles.  I ended up deleting the pin.

Now, there's no picture for this Turmeric Rice, which is pretty typical of Food Network recipes, unfortunately.  I made the rice to go with the BBQ Chicken I made.  It was okay.  I will redo this recipe with some adjustments:  1) There was way too much liquid in the recipe, even for brown rice.  I will follow the recommendations on the packaging because that has produced great rice.  2)  I will add the raisins near the end of the boiling time, instead of at the beginning  They plumped nicely, but all the sweetness of them was boiled out (probably in part because I cooked it longer trying to get rid of the liquid.)  3)  The recipe calls for fresh Turmeric which I didn't have and I'm not sure I've ever seen or looked for in the stores.  I used the dried option in the recipe and, again, either because of the nature of the dried spice or the longer time boiling, there wasn't much Turmeric flavor.  I'll add it at the end of the boil or when I fluff it at the end of its cook time.

I wasn't feeling up to a big old production for dessert when I chose these 3-Ingredient No Bake Peanut Butter Bars to serve with dinner.  They were great though.  And hello - three ingredients!  My daughter and I were talking about them (we often do a review on recipes) and decided they would make a great healthy snack or even a good after-workout treat for her, especially if I add Flaxseed to the recipe.  They did have to be refrigerated because they got too soft on the counter.

Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars were a good choice when I was feeling more up to spending time on a dessert.  Can I just say the frosting for these things was amazing!!  The bars themselves were also good, but I think I'll adjust the cook time down next time; they were soft, but probably could have been even more so.  I didn't color the frosting, nor did I add more sprinkles to the top.

While these Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas were easy to pull together, even with cooking our standard raw tortillas, and had overall good flavor, they seemed dry to me.  I'm not sure if it's because I made more than the eight (I got 11 out of the recipe) and so I didn't have enough sauce, or what.  They were all in the same pan, so I think the dryness was more from the inside of the enchiladas; there was nothing creamy.  I opted to delete the pin, because I have other recipes I like, and others to try as well.

Being half Irish, I have to cook Corned Beef on St. Patrick's Day; I think its in the bylaws.  I've done several varieties over the years, including using Guinness, so this Brown Sugar and Bourbon Glazed Corned Beef intrigued me.  Well the bourbon did.  So did the recipe calling to rinse the brine off the meat - something I'd never done before.  At least not with a Corned Beef, I do it all the time with other brines.  It was quite good, I must say.  The word "Glazed" is rather misnomer here.  There is no glaze.  Even if you reduced the juices, I don't think you'd get a glaze.  It was sweet; I could taste the bourbon, but not in an in-your-face kinda way.  And I liked that some of the salt was rinsed away.

I made these Crispy Parmesan Fries to go with the Hamburger and Brown Gravy recipe.  They turned out really good.  Crispy and herby.  I didn't get a lot of Parmesan, so next time I might add a sprinkle to the fries right out of the oven, as well as in the recipe.

This Crispy Baked Thai Chicken has been on my board for some time.  It probably would have been really good if it hadn't had to sit and get uncrispy, which is often a problem with anything crispy if you have to wait to serve it.  I used a peanut sauce I make all the time, rather than the version with this recipe, which looks good and the ingredients should be easy to find in most places.

My Quick Bread Dough has been getting a work out lately.  I made Calzones.  I made Cinnamon Rolls - those were amazing.  And I made these Homemade Pizza Rolls with it.  Looking at them in the pan, I thought, "All the insides are gonna fall out and burn."  But that was so not the case.  The dough rose up around all the ingredients and kept them in their place.  They were warm, soft and gooey.  I made my go-to marinara for dipping and they disappeared in record time.

The weekend looks a bit full.  There's the whole getting out for me tonight and to do so I need to head into the black hole that my studio has become.  We'll have another birthday on Saturday night to attend.  The 18 y.o. and I are heading to my sister's all day Sunday for an Outlander marathon. . .only two more weeks until its second half season one return!!!!  Hubby is heading out on Sunday for a shooting competition.  Spring Break, Round 2 is up next week for my High Schoolers.  The weather forecast is looking delightful. . .I see open windows and billowing curtains.

Happy Friday,

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Goodbye

I'm so sad to announce that Kristin Perez, long-time designer, is stepping down.  She has been part of the design team for years and has brought amazing layouts, cards and other paper crafts designed with Apron Strings kits.  She's also provided us with several awesome tutorials here and here and here and here and here, to dig out just a few.

Here is just a sampling of the wonderfully inspiring layouts she's done for us:

If that doesn't do it, you can always find more of Kristin's work in the monthly newsletters found on the Apron Strings site and apply it to your current kits.

I cant' thank you enough Kristin, for all your hard work, your amazing (and seemingly endless ideas) for the use of your scraps and your support over the years.  You and your work will be missed. . .but mostly you!

Thank you!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We Are

We are sick.  We have been sick.  We are celebrating family in town.  We have celebrated new jobs.  We are celebrating a month-full of birthdays, one at a time.  We are behind.  We are catching up.  We are ignoring the Hoarders that once was my basement.  We are going cropping on Friday!

And then there's the things we did worthy of photos.

  • We are thinking it was beautiful when it was here, but are happy that (for now) it's gone.
  • We are three!
  • We are a tad off the mark.
  • We are hoping someone believes that I was only keeping the spot warm, and will move...willingly.
  • We are enjoying a quiet moment.
  • We are losing first teeth.
  • We are up and out early.
  • We are wondering how he sits that way.
  • We are celebrating traditions.
  • We are cousins - and it's flippin' 80 degrees.  In March.
  • We are brothers.
  • We are seeing Spring pop up.
  • We are thinking a new Range Rover might make having Strep a touch more easy to deal with.
  • We are super excited to be meeting Varly (goalie for the Avalanche.)
Happy Wednesday,

Friday, March 6, 2015

Feeding the Sick

It's been a frozen, snowy week.  I was taken down again last weekend with fever and congestion; it's another week of catching up (and I wasn't fully caught up from being sick  couple weeks ago.)  Another victim of Strep has been camped out on the couch the majority of the week.  There's a crater-filled slab of ice that at one time was the street that ran in front of our house.  With temps expected to be in the 50's today and tomorrow, maybe it'll start to melt.  Though the glaciers that were once front yards may be around until Summer.
As a result of being sick I didn't plan a menu for the week, but by default took part in a Pantry Challenge on one of the food blogs I follow (  I was nowhere near as prepared as the blogger, but I cooked from what I had on hand, including a night of leftovers to clear the 'fridge, and pizza last night because I just couldn't be bothered.  The downside of not planning means I have nothing planned for In-Law Dinner Night.  No-meat Friday helps narrow my options, but I'm not feeling inspired.
I made this Quick Dough to make Zesty Calzones, which I've made and posted about before.  I found this Quick Dough and have used it a couple times now in place of either my longer-to-make pizza dough, or in place of store bought "canned" dough.  The dough comes together in less than 30 minutes and is really good - light, but crunchy.  It worked great for these Calzones, which can be filled, really, with whatever you have on hand.  I had ham, pepperoni, mixed shredded cheese, tomatoes and red onions.  But turkey, bacon, ranch and sliced cheese would be great, too.
The sicky on the couch rarely loses her appetite, even when she's got fever and a raw throat.  When she had a craving for Brownies, I remembered this Fudge Brownie Pots for Two recipe that I'd come across just a couple days ago.  I managed to snag a spoonful from one and they were fudgy, chocolaty and rich.  My ramekins are wide, as opposed to deep, so I lowered my cook time to 20 minutes and watched for signs of doneness.  They filled the bill for Strep-girl, but she likes gooey centers so I probably could have pulled them a couple minutes before I did given the shallower ramekins I have.
I was starting to feel sick last Friday, but I was cooking for more than hubby's parents and still needed dessert.  I was looking for something I could whip up quickly, but that fed everyone.  A quick search found me this Old Fashioned Sugar Cake.  It had a light vanilla flavor, was mildly sweet and moist.  It didn't need frosting, so I followed the "dust with powdered sugar" recommendation.  It was great, and would pass for a brunch dish, too.  It would also be good with fresh fruit spooned over the top, or a scoop of chocolate ice cream.
I'm hoping to get my family through a weekend without someone getting sick.  I see Clorox Wipes in the hands of my children wiping down surfaces, handles and railings over the weekend.  Hubby has a dinner to attend with a friend.  Otherwise, I think we're just watching the snow melt.  Literally.

Happy Friday,