June 22, 2010

What's Cookin': Potato Tacos

Ok, before you go anywhere: Just hang with me! I know this sounds weird, but trust me. Think crispy fish or chicken taco, only with potatoes.

This turned out so surprisingly well that I WISH I had come up with this. But I didn't. I got it out of a book from the library that I can't really remember the name of now. It was something along the lines of "Everything Meals on a Budget". I saw it and was so intrigued that I had to copy it down to try it. And here it is, in my own variation of it (because I can't leave well enough alone...).

Potato Tacos - makes enough for about 10 tacos
About 8 small potatoes (or 3-4 large ones) - cut into bite size pieces
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried minced onion (or one small fresh one, chopped - I was out)
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine potatoes, oil and seasonings in a large baking dish. Roast potatoes for 30 minutes. Flip over (as best you can) and roast another 15-20 minutes until browned and crispy*. Serve with taco fixings of your choice.

Now, here is how we fixed ours that I think really made them awesome. Mexican rice on a corn tortilla, a sprinkling of cheddar cheese, a scoop of potatoes and then a big dollop of a sour cream dip I made using a Chili & Lime rub my mom got us at Williams- Sonoma. That dip is amazing. It's incredible. It made those tacos taste so good. (I didn't try them without the dip, but I bet they would still be pretty good. Just not AS good.)

I don't know how to make the rub mix ( yet, I haven't even tried). But I know there is chili powder, cilantro, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, sugar, and lime juice powder. So, with a little testing you could add all that (using real juice, instead of powder) and make something similar. Or just top it off with plain sour cream, or salsa, or whatever. The original recipe called for a reduction of one can evaporated milk and one small can of diced chilies and tossing that with the cooked potatoes. I didn't have those, but if anyone tries it let me know!

These tacos were delicious and my favorite part was how CHEAP they were. I can get a 10 pound bag of potatoes for $1.89 and I used just a fraction for this meal. With ground beef usually being around $3.00/lb and boneless/skinless chicken being around $2.00/lb, this is an awesome,tasty and very filling alternative.

Ben Rating: 3.

*Basically, you're making greasy potatoes.

This Old House Tuesday

Ok, that's probably stretching it with the theme title. I have some housey things and didn't want to call this post "House Update" or something horribly boring like that. I don't really plan on sticking to house updates on Tuesdays.

First things first, we got a new table! (Please ignore the food on the floor. It's breakfast time.) We have been wanting a larger table for quite awhile. We sit down together for our meals, and I prefer to have all the food on the table rather than on the counters. But most of the time we just didn't have room for even one dish, let alone a meal. And as the boys get bigger (and more of them), it got a little more cramped.

We had found a very nice table at an unfinished furniture store. It was $625 dollars and it was very pretty. A nice farmhouse style one, with a leaf (might have been 2 leaves). But we had to finish it ourselves, which we were avoiding because of all the work it would be. Or I should say, Ben was avoiding it, since he would have been doing most of the work. I usually get to keep the kids out of his hair. ;)

So we put it off and put it off for months. A lot of the people we know have gotten furniture - very nice looking furniture - at Big Lots. And I did remember seeing things that I liked last time I was in there. So we decided to go down and take a look, see what we could find. I showed this table to Ben and he liked it. So we decided to get it, at $250 (woohoo! WAY under budget), and would deal with it if it was cheaply made. After all, we figured, we have fairly destructive boys so it wouldn't hurt as bad if it got beat up.

We got it home last night and Ben sat down to put it together and, to our surprise, it's almost all solid oak. It's a VERY nice table. We thought it would be the particle board-and-laminate Target construction. But no! It's very nice, and very sturdy. It's a little more modern than I was going for. But I do like the beefy farmhousey type style. It's just the color that doesn't go with our stuff. Although it is a very nice color in itself. Ben said we could refinish it if it really bugs us.

We will replace our chairs once we find some we like. I am so happy with this table. Eating dinner on it last night was so nice. It's so big! We could very easily fit 6 people, and probably 8 if we needed to. I was hoping to one day have an island in the kitchen, but it won't fit now with this table. However, there is enough working space on this table it can work as an island for me.

And here is the yearly picture of our house. We have lived here over a year now, and I want to take pictures every year to see how much it has changed. Our flower bed looks gorgeous with all the colors. And Ben has babied our lawn so much it's a beautiful emerald green now.

One of these years we will redo the siding and stucco. We are thinking we will do a grey color scheme, with grey brick replacing all the stone. Then black trim and accents. We also need a new roof, so I'm hoping next year we can swing that. Here is our house when we bought it: 

Much better, don't you think? :)

June 21, 2010

What's Cookin': Ricecapades!

Teehee. Ricecapades.
(Not my pic.)
Y'all know I love rice. I realized the other day that I have a lot of rice recipes. Be it rice dishes, or ways of preparing rice for different meal flavors. So here are a few of my rice recipes that I have perfected over the last few years and I use frequently.

Basic Rice 
This is my plain rice recipe that I will make when I'm using the rice in other dishes that will add flavor to it. Ben likes to add milk and sugar to the rice if I make it with water for a dessert rice dish. Goes well with anything that is complemented by basic rice.

2 Cups uncooked white rice
2 Tbs oil and/or butter
1 tsp salt
3 3/4 C chicken broth/stock (for plain rice, use water)

In a large skillet or pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add rice and cook until rice is browned and crisp. Add salt and stir, then pour in chicken broth. Let come to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes*. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Spicy Asian Rice
I came up with this the other night in an effort to spice up a cranberry Asian chicken dish (recipe coming after I perfect it). It has a little kick, which can be adjusted by adding more or less red pepper flakes. Would go well with any Asian dish, or something that you just want spiced rice for. 
2 C uncooked white rice
2 Tbs oil and/or butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 3/4 C chicken broth

In a large skillet or pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add rice and cook until rice is browned and crisp. Add all of the spices and stir to even combine with rice. Pour in chicken broth and let come to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer 20-25 minutes*. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Ranch Rice
I made this up one day a few years ago when I wanted something more than just plain rice. It turned out delicious. Goes well with any dish.

2 C uncooked white rice
2 Tbs oil and/or butter
1 Ranch dip seasoning packet
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/4 C broth or water

In a large skillet or pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add rice and cook until rice is browned and crisp. Mix the ranch seasoning, milk, salt and broth or water together. Pour into pan with rice. Let come to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 20-25 minutes*. Fluff with a fork.

Fried Rice
You can find my fried rice recipe in my Orange Chicken & Fried Rice post.

Mexican Rice
I have tried many Mexican rice recipes over the years, trying to find one that matches the rice you find in Mexican restaurants. I've finally nailed it by combining a few different aspects of various recipes. Ben says he likes it even better than the restaurants. Goes well with tacos, burritos, or any Mexican/TexMex dishes.
2 C uncooked white rice
2 Tbs oil and/or butter
1 small onion, diced fine
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C tomato sauce
3 1/2 C chicken broth or water
Juice of one lemon or lime (or about 2 Tbs of juice from the bottle)

Heat oil in a large skillet or pot oven medium heat. Add rice and onion and cook until rice is just browned and crisp. Stir in garlic, cumin and salt and let rice toast a little bit longer (until you're afraid it will burn). Pour in tomato sauce and broth. Let come to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes*. Pour lemon juice over top, fluff with a fork and serve.

"Dirty" Rice
Dirty rice is a southern dish that involves chicken livers/gizzards, onions, pepper, spices, and usually seafood or sausage of some kind. I will probably get shot for calling my version dirty rice, but that's just the name that seemed to work. Mine is build from leftovers (not chicken gizzards) and is a great way to use up random bits of meat and rice. When I don't have much of anything else I do a bacon and eggs version. It's a good cheap meal any way you make it.

2-3 C cooked rice, cooled
2 Tbs oil and/or butter
About 2 C leftover chicken, beef, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, meat of some kind, etc.
Spices of your choosing - Mine usually include garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper. Amounts are up to you. I just season to taste, erring on the side of spicy.

In a very large pan or pot heat the oil or butter. Add the meat and heat through (unless it's eggs, then add them after the rice). Add the rice and stir to combine with meat. Season with spices to your taste.

A few points about making rice:
  • When you add the broth/water to the rice, do NOT stir it. This will cause the starches in the rice to mix with the water, making sticky rice. Try to touch it as little as possible. Stir once if you have to, to even it out. Or better yet, just wiggle the pan a little.
  • I have found that I get slightly fluffier rice if I take the pan off the heat once the time is up and let it sit with the lid on for 3-5 minutes. It also gives the top layer a little more chance to soak up more moisture. 
  • When making fried rice, or any dish rice dish you will be cooking/frying later it is best to start with cold rice. This will ensure you don't wind up with a rice clod. Day old is best, but I've been known to cook the rice a few hours ahead and cool it on a sheet pan in the fridge.
  • Rice is like pasta in that it's easier to flavor it during cooking rather than after. Adding at least salt into the liquid will give better flavor than trying to salt or season it afterward.
Do you have any really good rice recipes?

*I have a gas stove, so your times may vary depending on what you're cooking on. Adjust accordingly.

June 20, 2010

A Littlest Birthday

Today is my littlest man's one year birthday. I can't believe he is already a year. It seems like just yesterday that I popped him out. Who told him he could grow up?

He is such a big boy. It cracks me up that he thinks he is "one of the guys" and runs around like he can do everything his older brothers do. We were saying this morning that he acts more like an 18 month or two year old than a one year old.

It was so nice to have a normal, safe, full term pregnancy and delivery. And this is what I got out of it. He is almost always smiling and laughing. He chases his brothers around and tackles them to the ground. He snuggles me when he's tired or sad. And he makes the most adorable scrunchy face when he's upset.

It's weird to think that one of these days I will have to let them go live their own lives. But until then, they are all mine! Muahaha.

Happy Birthday Duder!

June 16, 2010

Garden Update

I was going to do a garden update yesterday, but didn't get around to taking pictures. Then my sister in law beat me to it! So here is mine.
This is the lily that has finally bloomed from one of the bulbs I got at the dollar store. All the bulbs we got have sprouted except for just one. We are thinking that this fall/winter we will start a hothouse and just grow all our own flowers to plant.

My onions are going crazy. They are the ones from the grocery store that were growing in the pantry, so I planted them. Now I need to cut off a bunch and dry them. The green beans I planted are starting to go crazy too. They seemed to have slowed down though, so I think I need to take them out of the little pots and just put them in the dirt. Their roots are going through the drainage holes into the soil below.

We have three jalapeno pots, and they are all about this big. I haven't seen any signs of peppers yet though. I just keep waiting.

These are our Roma tomato plants in the Topsy Turvy we got. Apparently, they didn't get the memo about growing upside down. Once they get tomatoes they should hang down and go the other way.

Which should be soon, since we've had blooms for about a week now.

This mint is the one we planted from a sprig I bought at the store for eating. We had kept it in a glass of water and it started growing roots like crazy. Now we have a very healthy and happy mint plant. Whenever we take a bit to use, we just replant the rest of the sprig and it starts growing as well. I'm starting to think it might need a bigger home though. It is a weed, so if we plant it in the ground we'll have to be careful of it taking over.

And lastly, this is Ben's latest wind chime. (Please ignore the ugly fence. We are hoping to replace it fairly soon.) A little smaller than his first one, and it went so much faster this time since he had a better idea of what he wanted to do. Apparently this corner of our porch gets a lot of wind. It has been signing almost non-stop since he put it there. I love wind chimes. I think we will be one of those couples that has wind chimes all over the place.

Our lilies and delphinium in the front are blooming as well. Summer is finally here and I'm so happy about all the color we are getting!

June 13, 2010

FK: A Pair of Socks

Today is the 21st birthday of one of my most awesome brothers-in-law. For his birthday, I am giving him these - a pair of socks. Once upon a time I made a pair of socks for Ben. Upon finding out that I was able to make socks and after trying them on and apparently liking them, I was tasked to make socks for said brothers. This is pair 2 of 3 for 1 of 3 brothers (confused?).

Pattern: Plain Sock (not an actual pattern)

Yarn: Knit Picks Essential* in "Dusk" - 1 3/4(ish) balls

Needles:  Ribbing - US 1/2.25mm Susan Bates aluminum
Foot - US 2/2.75mm Knit Picks Harmony wood

YTD Mileage: Weighing in at 2.9 ounces, this brings my new mileage to 2.86!

By using smaller needles for the ribbing it creates both a cleaner looking rib (in my opinion) and a little more "grip" so the socks don't slide down as easily.  Now I just have to make a grey pair for the last brother!

*I believe that Knit Picks has renamed this yarn to "Stroll", so if you want the yarn look for that name.

June 8, 2010

What's Cookin': French Bread Pizza

This is such an easy dinner. I haven't had/made French Bread Pizza in so long. It's just like regular pizza, only Frenchier! Ben ate pretty much a whole half by himself. He said it was awesome. I'm sharing this because it was so delicious I couldn't believe I had forgotten about it and I believe everyone needs reminding. :)

French Bread Pizza
1 loaf of French Bread (I get mine fresh from FoodMaxx. The flavor is wonderful, and it's nice and soft. You don't want anything too chewy or it could turn out tough. Lighter is better.)
1 C tomato sauce
2(ish) C shredded cheese of your favorite flavor(s)
Assorted toppings of your choice

Split the loaf in half lengthwise. Spread sauce evenly over bread, then top with cheese and other toppings. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until cheese starts to bubble and crisp.

Notes & Variations: I didn't pre-toast my bread before hand because I didn't remember until after I put the sauce on. Next time I will toast it for a few minutes before hand, but it did turn out fine this time. For the sauce I just had an 8 oz can that I mixed about a teaspoon each of garlic powder and Italian seasoning into. All I had was cheddar, but if I'd had mozzarella I would have done half & half.

June 7, 2010

FK: Maude - Pictures, Finally

It is a gorgeous day today. I am sitting on my back porch right now, enjoying the breeze and watching the boys play in their new kiddy pool. I will hopefully get a good chunk of knitting time in while they do that.

I have been finished with this sweater for about a week now, and I just have not remembered to take pictures. I was going to have Ben take some, but kept forgetting to ask. So today I decided to use the time control on my camera and get some so I could post them for you!

Pattern: Maude by Diane Mulholland, size small

Yarn: Knit Picks Simply Cotton Sport in "Camel Heather" - 5 balls

Needles: US 4/3.5mm Addi circular
US 2/2.75 Addi circular

YTD Mileage: This sweater weighed in at 8.5 ounces, which gives an approximate yarn yardage of 790. Giving my YTD mileage a new total of 2.46!

I loved knitting this top. It was just enough lace, and just enough plain 2x2 ribbing. Plus I love top down sweaters, as you can try them on as you go and figure out the fitting. The top section is a little loose though. So I might, might do some surgery to remove the top section and reknit it in the extra small size. Or I have enough yarn I might just knit a whole new one and have two.

Or I could get that boob job I've been wanting and fill it out. :P

June 6, 2010

C25K - Wee Bit of a Set Back

Remember in my last C25K post how I mentioned my ankles hurting? Well it has happened every time I've tried to run in the back yard. And if there has been anything I've learned from knitting, it's to stop when something hurts lest you severely damage yourself.

So, I have stopped running for now and am just walking (vigorously) at the moment. I am hoping to be able to try running around the neighborhood - on the nice flat sidewalk - but I will have to find a time that Ben is home and it is early/late enough so as to not kill myself in 3 digit temperatures.

Meanwhile, does anyone have a good, fun workout that focuses on the core and abs? I have tried a few different videos and I can't seem to find one that I like enough to do on a regular basis. I prefer dance type workouts, so if anyone has a good one please let me know!

June 5, 2010

What's Cookin': Amaretto Peach Butter

Ben has made a dish a few times before that involves sauteing peaches and/or nectarines in brown sugar and cinnamon, then dousing them in a shot of Amaretto liquor and letting it all cook down together. It is heavenly and we love serving it over ice cream or cake. When I tasted this peach butter yesterday after putting the liquor in, it tasted exactly like that. It was so delicious. I even put it on my grilled chicken last night and it was amazing. If you have an abundance of fruit I would highly suggest making this. You'll never go back to plain old jam.

Amaretto Peach Butter - makes 2 and a half pints
4 & 1/2 pounds peaches* - pitted, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 C water
Zest and Juice of one lemon
1 & 1/2 C sugar
1/2 C Amaretto liquor

Place peaches, water, zest and lemon juice in a large stainless steel sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once peaches have reached a boil, reduce heat and continue to simmer until peaches are softened, about 20 minutes.

Working in small batches, and being careful not to burn yourself, puree peaches in a food processor. Measure 4 cups.

Clean saucepan and return peaches, adding sugar and stirring until sugar is dissolved. Heat over medium heat to boiling then reduce heat again and keep boiling. Once mixture starts to thicken, add liquor. Continue to boil until mixture is thickened and holds it's shape on a spoon.

Transfer to jars, leaving 1/4" head space. Add lids and screw bands until fingertip tight. Place in water bath canner making sure to cover jars completely with water (at least an inch). Bring to boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove lid then wait 5 minutes before removing jars.

If you have extra butter just put in a container with a lid (or another jar) and stick it in the fridge. It will be good for a few weeks (if it lasts that long...).

*I had 4 and 1/2 pounds of whole peaches (before peeling and chopping) and I wound up only getting half of the yield, so apparently the recipe meant 4 and 1/2 pounds of peach flesh. I cut the other ingredients in half to accommodate, but if you are going by the weight of peach flesh (getting 8 cups of puree), then double the sugar and liquor.

June 4, 2010

Attack of the Baked (And Canned) Goods

When my kitchen looks like this:
And my microwave/recipe holder looks like this:
And the swamp cooler is on before it's even 9:00 am... You know it's going to be good.

Remember that baking itch? After a busy week and a grocery shopping trip I finally had a chance to do what I wanted to do in the kitchen. I wanted to beat the heat so I got an early start at 7:30. And holy sheep was I productive today.

A 24 muffin batch of Oatmeal Streusel Muffins (with the addition of 1 cup chopped walnuts. Mmmm.)...

A batch of Vanilla Scones, recipe from All Home Cooking, All Year Long (with 1/2 tsp cinnamon added to the dough)...

And a loaf of Bagel Bread topped off my baking for the day. Then I decided that since I was in the kitchen, the mess was made, and I was already hot I might as well process those peaches that Mimi gave me... So I got 2 and a half pint jars of Amarreto Peach Butter canned.

Yes. Amaretto Peach Butter. Oh my sweet woolly goodness. This is the best stuff I have ever had. It turned out so delicious and I want to put it on everything. Ev-ry-thing. Screw plain old peach jam. I will share the recipe in a bit.
I had also thought about cooking up some chocolate cupcakes from the box of mix I have in the pantry, and a batch of pizza dough. But I realized that I had to stop at some point because there really is only 5 of us, and 3 of us are small people. So I reigned myself in... I got a lot done today, as you can see above.

And then my day was topped off with a surprise visit from my sister. We got to sit and talk for about 2 hours, which was awesome since I haven't visited with her in so long. It was so nice.

And now, I don't want to see my stove for a week. We're having BBQ'd chicken for dinner tonight. ;)

June 2, 2010

Something New!

I found out last night that Blogger now has the option to make pages! (This might not be so new, but I'm kinda slow...) I have added a page each for recipes and for finished knitting projects. You can find each linked in the navigation bar located right under the blog's title image.

I have imported my finished projects from my old knitting blog, so you can see the stuff from 2009 if you go to the project page. Now I can easily look back to see what I have done over the past years and say things like,  "Aw, I really loved that project." and "HOLY SHEEP. What was I thinking?!?"

Also, I am thinking of making printable/down-loadable PDF versions of the recipes that were a big success. Would that be something y'all are interested in?

June 1, 2010

What's Cookin': Shredded Meat & Biscuit Casserole

No pic, because I'm a horrible blogger. Use your imagination. It's good for you! ;)

I need to go grocery shopping, but that's not til Thursday so these next few days are my "what can I make with what I have" days. Tonight was one such meal. I had leftover pork roast and about a cup of spaghetti sauce. I have been wanting bread things lately (thus my baking itch) so decided to do something with my usual biscuit recipe, added some stuff to it and made up the rest.

We sat down to eat and once Ben tried it he asked "Is this a Whatcha Got Casserole?" A question like that usually ends with him scrunching his face and saying something like "ah... yeah I could tell." However, tonight I told him yes, it was and he said that it was really good for a Whatcha Got. So here is what I came up with.

Shredded Meat & Biscuit Casserole - makes about 6 servings
4-5 C shredded meat (I had pork, could use chicken or beef as well)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 C spaghetti or tomato sauce
1 Tbs Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 C shredded cheddar

Biscuit Topping:
2 C flour
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbs shortening (or butter, or half of each)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 C shredded cheddar
1 C milk (or sour milk, or buttermilk)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and grease a 9 x 9 casserole dish. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbs oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft. Add pork and sauce. Stir until thoroughly mixed. (You may need to add a bit of water, I used about 1/2 cup). Turn to low and simmer while you make the topping.

In a large bowl combine first 4 biscuit ingredients. Cut in the shortening until mix resembles corn meal. Stir in the garlic and cheese, then add the milk. Stir until just combined. Spread the meat mixture in the bottom of the casserole dish, sprinkle with shredded cheese and spoon the biscuit topping over it, spreading to evenly cover top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and dough is no longer gooey*.

Notes & Variations: This was so simplistically delicious that I wouldn't change much. You could add extra veggies if you wanted, but I liked it the way it was. However, you could change up the spices and come up with an Asian version (with soy, ginger, hoisen), or a Southwestern version (with BBQ sauce, or chili powder, or taco season), etc.

*I popped it in for my usual 15 minute biscuits time and the center was still a little doughy underneath. I put it back in for another 5ish minutes and it was fine after that.

Ben Rating: 3.5-4. Not bad for a Whatcha Got, and we all had seconds.

Happy June!

 Welcome to June everyone! Doesn't feel like it, does it? At least not in my little part of the world. The weather around here has been WEIRD for so long. Cold during the week, warm/hot on the weekends. Although we are supposed to hit triple digits next week. Not looking forward to that.

We had a WONDERFUL long weekend these last couple days. Ben and I left Friday night for the beach and spent our time there filled with fish & chips, sun, water, relaxing, sleeping, and Food Network (the only thing I miss about cable). It was so nice and so needed. We got back into town Sunday, then had to attend a wedding, which was sweet but way too hot and right in direct sunlight. Ugh. I'm so glad we don't keep a lot of friends, and the ones we do have are now all married. No more weddings for awhile please.

And yesterday we had a nice relaxing day where Ben fiddled around the house, then we BBQ'd for just us. It was so nice. The weather was beautiful and it was so good to be home. It was nice to be by ourselves, but we both missed our babies.

I didn't get much knitting done over the last few days, which was totally OK. I showed Ben the finished sweater and he agreed with me that it was a little too short. So I ripped back the cast off edge and have added a few more inches of ribbing. I did most of it in the car on the way home. 2x2 rib makes for excellent car knitting since I don't have to look at it. I will cast off today and then it should be completely done.

Mimi gave me a ton of peaches that she wants me to make into jam. Hopefully I will get that done sometime this week. If I don't get that far then they will become cobbler. Although I think the point was to give her back some jam. I still have the baking itch also, just not today. Too many things to do.

Now, back to the grind. What did you all do for your Memorial day weekend?

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