Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What's Cookin Wednesday

While working on The Pullman I was trying to come up with meals that we could enjoy without having to cook (because of course we had a full commercial kitchen we couldn't use!) This fit the bill perfectly.

Slow Cooker Enchiladas

1/2 yellow onion, diced small
1/2 bell pepper, diced small
1 16oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups cheese, shredded and divided
2 16oz jars of your favorite salsa
12 6"-8" tortillas, flour or corn
Optional: 1 cup leftover meat

In a medium bowl, mix together the onion, pepper, black beans, corn, spices, meat (if using), and just 1/2 cup of the cheese. Pour about a cup of salsa into the bottom of the slow cooker and spread it around evenly.

Scoop about 1/3 cup into one of the tortillas, roll it up, and nestle it inot the bottom of the crock pot. Repeat with the half of the remaining filling, rolling tortillas until the entire bottom of the crock pot is filled. Spread another cup of salsa over this layer and sprinkle it with another 1/2 cup of cheese.

Continue with the remaining filling and tortillas to create a second layer. Top with another cup of salsa, but reserve the reamining 1/2 cup of cheese for later. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 2-4 hours. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, sprinkle the leftover cheese over the top and let it melt.

Serve the enchiladas with the remaining salsa. Leftovers will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

This was yummy. I skipped the cheese at the end mainly because everyone ate when they were hungry and that wasn't at the same time. I didn't add any meat - but I think I actually used everything else in the recipe (WHOA! ;-))

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What I'm Reading Now

So in the hustle and bustle of the season, I forgot to write this blog post!

This is a book I read about, put on my library request list and forgot about!

The story begins with Connor's grandfather, Finn's, passing. After the funeral Connor's grandmother tells him that his grandfather wanted his ashes to be taken back to Ireland and spread there. Connor goes to Ireland and the adventure begins! A crazy story-telling Irish actor, a bad dude, a badder dude, a girl with red hair, and a leprechaun...? Connor travels along the southern coast of Ireland trying to figure out where to spread his grandfather's ashes.

I enjoyed the narrative of the story - maybe it helped that I had been places in the book (both in Ireland and Atlanta where Connor lives). I liked the story. Actually - I'm gonna have a fine at the library because I kept this book 3 days longer than I should have!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday

A good mixture of fall and Christmas-y taste for me is apples & cranberries!

Apple-Cranberry Crisp

2 pounds Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and thinly sliced
3/4 cup cranberries
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375F. Butter an 8" square baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix together apples, cranberries, white sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Place evenly into baking dish.

In the same bowl, combine oats, flour and brown sugar. With a fork, mix in butter until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle over apples.

Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender.

Only made better with a bit of vanilla ice cream! :-D

Monday, December 19, 2011

Me and my shadow!

Please feel free to listen (or watch!) this song while reading this post. :-)

I have always thought silhouettes were such lovely and understated works of art. I would be fascinated by the people who did it at Disney World, Kings Island, or Central Park. They could cut your silhouette out in minutes! I decided I thought it would be fun art to hang in our humble bedroom.

Our bedroom is a work in progress. These silhouettes are only the second thing I have hung on the wall, so I am taking my time with it. We did get around to painting in over the summer. It went from drab and boring, to vibrant and living.

It was amazing to me how the paint actually made the room look much bigger! In a house cursed with small rooms, that is indeed a blessing.

I started out with some frames and material. The frames were fine as they were, but several accent things in our bedroom are white, so I opted to paint them. The material...well, I want to use it behind the silhouettes, but I need your opinion. Which do you think would look best as the background? Or, should I leave them as they are with a white background?

I was not sure how I was going to capture the silhouette, as my love was was leaving to play basketball. But, I quickly took a side pic of him and he took one of me. He is good an humoring me. :-)

I pulled out the laptop and uploaded the pics. Then I used Picasa (a free photo editing program) to make them black/white. They also have a feature where you can add shadows, fill light, and highlights. I added shadow, to make the picture (and outline) darker.

Then I put the paper against the laptop screen and traced the outline. :-)

Cutting out the outline was not a problem. Could you believe though, that i could only find yellow paper? Oh how funny.

That meant I had to spray paint it black. I tried a permanent marker first, and it did not work very well. But the spray paint made it look like shiny paper.

I mounted them in the frames on the back of the picture that already came in the frame. Yeah, I'm cheap like that. But, I also wanted to do it like this before deciding to cut any lovely vintage fabric.

But once I put them up, I could not decide it they were too plain or not. Any votes?

And yes, that is a cricket bat next to my husband's side of the bed. I always feel protected. :-)

Friday, December 16, 2011

What I'm Reading Now

This is the story of a woman who has suffered an accident and every morning wakes up not remembering the day(s) before. She begins keeping a journal - at the recommendation of a doctor, who she does not remember - and reads and writes in it every day. The doctor says that writing the journal might help her remember things. It does. Some of those things are sad, some are scary/mysterious.

I really got into the character - wanting her to remember things. Wondering, like her, if they were things she remembered or made up. The author did a great job of making me suspicious of more than one character in the book. I guessed a key part of the ending before reading it, but didn't guess the ending! This book had me staying up late and waking up early to finish it at the end.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday - Thanksgiving Edition (part 2!)

Today we get to the "non-veggie" side and DESSERT!

Cranberry, Apricot and Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf (Gluten Free AND Vegan!) (from one of my favorite web-sites Oh She Glows

1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped celery + 1/2 cup, divided
1 heaping cup chopped sweet onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups uncooked wild rice
2 cups vegetable broth (be sure to use gluten-free if you want the dish to be)
1 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
3/4 - 1 tsp kosher salt + black pepper
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, thinly sliced

-Preheat oven to 325F and toast the pecans for about 7-8 minutes. Remove and set aside.
-Saute onion, oil and garlic in a skillet over miedum-low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add 1.5 cups chopped celery and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
-Add wild rice, broth, bay leaf and water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low-medium and then cover with lid. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring once half way through.
-After 30 minutes, uncover, stir and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Note that wild rice cooking times can vary a lot so keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn.

Remove bay leaf and stir in the dried fruit. Season to taste and stir in the sliced fresh cranberries and 1/2 cup chopped raw celery. Stir in toasted pecans.

yum! (but I skipped the pecans)

Applesauce Spice Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar and ice cream, for serving

-Place a 15" piece of parchment paper in the bowl of a 5-6 qt slow cooker, letting the excess come up the sides. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.
-Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the applesauce and vanilla (the mixture will look curdled). Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated.
-Transfer the batter to the prepared slow cooker and cook, covered, until set and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 2 - 2 1/2 hours on high.
-Holding the parchment, transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for at least 15 minutes. Dust with the confectioners' sugar and serve with ice cream, if desired.

I liked being able to put this in the crockpot and not worry about it. But it tasted the same as any old spice cake...which I'm usually "eh" about ;-)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday wreath!

There is nothing for getting into the holiday spirit like a little Christmas-y DIY project. I was on the lookout for something fun, since I had just painted our door. I went to craft stores and hardware stores and other stores looking for a wreath. Those things are expensive! I was not about to shell out $60. So I opted to make one.

If you were to buy all these supplies, they would be around $20. But, with the ever present coupon and some sales, I scored all this for around $10. I got an 18in wreath form, brown yarn, red polka dot ribbon, three 81/2 x 11 sheets of white felt and one of green.

I trimmed down the form till it was the softer shape I wanted. I cut the pieces off with a knife, then pushed the foam down. I wanted rounded edges for the front of the wreath, not squared. But, I did want the back to stay squared so it would lay flat.

I put a drop of glue on and started winding. (If you choose to do this project, I suggest balling your yarn first. Its not easy putting the whole thing through each time.)

The whole process took me several hours, but I was very particular about how it sat. I jsut watched tv while I did it over a few nights.

Then I worked on the flowers. I wanted white ones, so I could use them year round on the blue door if I wanted to. I cut 1 - 1 1/2 in strips out of one of the white sheets. Then I cut into squares. Rounding the edges off two corners gives you a good shape for the petals. I sewed together the two square ends on a round piece of the felt. I just used two stitches in each piece. Went all the way around the circle.

Then I sewed on the second layer. :-) I made all of the flowers in about an hour or so. I only did two rows of petals, then I put fun vintage buttons in the middle.

I cut out random leaf shapes and sewed two on each flower.

Arranging the wreath can be fun. I pinned each flower on (under the big buttons) so that I could take them off and use different flowers if I wanted to use the base year round. I did the same with the ribbons, which are rather random, but I wanted to add the holiday color.

I made a yarn loop and glued it to the top part of my wreath.

Turned out to be a pleasant greeting each evening when I get home from work.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What's Cooking - Special Saturday edition

Every weekday morning I eat the exact same thing for breakfast. Some may say I'm a creature of habit, but I like to say it's because I don't have to think about what to make every morning! But the weekends allow me time to bake a breakfast and enjoy with a cup of coffee...mmm.

Recently I tried 2 scone recipies. One I liked, the other I didn't.

Easy Scones (from Woman's Day November 1, 2011)

3 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup lemon-lime soda
3/4 cup heavy cream (I used 1/2 & 1/2)

-Heat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
-Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. With a fork, gently stir in the soda and cream, mixing untl incorporated (do not overmix).
-Drop 8 large spoonfuls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with raw or granulated sugar, if desired, and bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes. Serve warm with butter and honey or jam.

I was skeptical when I started. So few ingredients and it would taste good? They were ok - they were better with apple & peach butters :-D

Glazed Cinnamon Scones (from Money Saving Mom)

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 egg, separated
3 Tbl honey
1/3 cup buttermilk (or 1/3 cup milk mixed with 1/2 tsp of lemon juice)

Crumb Topping:
1-2 Tbls sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Glaze Ingredients
1 cup powdered sugar
1-3 tsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

-Preheat oven to 400F. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in
butter until mixture is crumbly.
-In a separate bowl mix egg yoke, honey and buttermilk. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
-Form dough into a ball on a floured surface. Roll or pat out to 1/2" in thickness and 8" in diamete. Cut into 8 equally sized pieces.
-Transfer to a greased baking sheet. Whisk the egg white until froth forms and brush over the tops of scones. Mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over egg-white-topped-scones.
-Bake for 10-12 minutes.
- Mix together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until glaze forms. Drizzle over scones after they bake.

I simply sprinkled sugar and cinnamon over the dough. And I skipped the glaze (toooo sweet!). LOVED these!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday - Thanksgiving Edition (part 1)

Man, I really like to cook for other people. Something I've known for awhile, but I'm reminded when a group of people are going to get together.

This week will be the bread and vegetables I made for Pullman Thanksgiving.

Irish Soda Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbls brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup golden raisins
1 3/4 cups milk

- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Stir in raisins. Make well in dry ingredients.
- Add the milk; stir till moistened.
- Turn into a greased 9x 1 1/2" baking pan. Bake in a 350 oven for 30-35 minutes or till the top is browned. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool thoroughly.
- Wrap bread in foil and clear plastic wrap and store overnight before servings.
Makes 1 loaf, 12 servings.
My changes: No raisins. I wanted this to be more of a bread then a sweet loaf. Used 1/2 & 1/2 instead of milk (had it on hand).

Can't go wrong with a loaf of Irish soda bread - even sent it home with an Irish lad! ;-)

Candied Carrots
4 Tbl unsalted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pounds small carrots, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a large saute pan, melt the butter over mediume head. Stir in the maple syrup, salt, cayenne, and 1/4 cup water. Add the carrots. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the carrots are just tender and the glaze has thickened, 15-20 minutes, tossing gently every few minutes. Sprinkle with pepper.

This was yummy! Lots of butter though.

Dilled Carrots and Green Beans

3/4 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dill weed
4 medium carrots, julienned
1/2 lb fresh green beans
1/4 cup reduced-fat Italian salad dressing

In a small saucepan, bring the water, sugar, salt and dill to a boil. Add carrots and beans. Cook, uncovered, for 5-8 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender; drain.

Drizzle with dressing; toss to coat.

So simple! So yummy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Red Door is a perfume...what is Blue Door?

My house is one of many on the block. Built in the 50s, its a cookie cutter, built for the new families that needed homes after the WWII. There is not much to make it stand out. Honestly, that is OK. I do not want it to stand out TOO much. But, a little zest is always good, right?

I wanted to come home to something special. Something different from what everyone else is coming home to. So I opted to paint my door. The color was the difficulty. There are so many good ones!

I went for blue. And no, its not just a college basketball statement. I love blue! And my husband happens to like it to. When you agree, you just have to go with it! We took the door down, washed it and let it dry. Make sure you pick a time when you are going to be home for a solid 6-8 hrs. :-)

Then, I sanded it to get the rough spots out. After that came the painting. I tried it first with a brush. I knew it would take several coats if I went that route.

So, I switched to a roller for the flat parts, brush for the grooves. In this pictures above, left side is rolled. See the difference?

I ended up doing five coats total.

Then we put it back up. Its such a happy door now! I have to admit...I was thinking of this guy when I painted it also....

I love my fox door knocker! (He needed a special door!)