Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Canning- Pickled Cornichons

Something I would really like to add to my monthly routine is canning. My grandmother cans everything and it amazes me. She even lets me "shop" in her storage room for jelly, tomato sauce, and apples. All are of course <>

I found a great recipe via Hounds in the Kitchen that give directions on how to can pickled cornichons (or gherkins). Doesn't that sound lovely!

Homemade Cornichons

for each half pint jar

2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup water
5-8 whole 2-4 inch cucumbers, washed thoroughly with spines rubbed off
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 small bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon pepper corns
2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 fresh grape leaf, washed, optional

1. Heat salt, vinegar, and water in a pot over medium heat until boiling.
2. Pack cucumbers into a sterilized jar with peeled garlic clove. Sprinkle spices over cucumbers.
3. Pour boiling vinegar brine into the jar, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
4. Wipe rim and place new lid on the jar. Finger tighten a ring on the jar and place in a hot water bath.
5. Boil in hot water for 15 minutes. Remove from water bath and allow to cool to room temperature.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eat the Fridge Challenge

The man and myself tried to curb eating out this weekend. Don't get me wrong- we love eating out. It's a nice treat from cooking every night, which I try to do. However, between the two of us, we have a ton of food that begs to be eaten. Hence the "eat the fridge" challenge on Saturday.

I started by exploring the fridge, the pantry, and the spice cabinet. Usually our meals are centered around a meat with veggies for sides. I found some tuna, but wasn't feeling it, and we did have hot dogs, but we already had those for Saturday lunch. The canned chicken intrigued me since I haven't really explored that option. Ever.

After taking stock of what we had, I figured it would be an experimental night with some on-hand ingredients. I ended up making a Chili Salsa Chicken Bake which I served with chips and salsa because I was too lazy to make rice.

Chili Salsa Chicken Bake

You'll need:
* 1 can chicken
*1/2 can of black beans
*1.5 cups salsa
* 1/2 of chili seasoning packet
* 2 cups shredded cheese
* 1 tsp garlic powder
* 1 tsp lime juice (not really needed)
* 4 tortillas torn into random pieces (mine were 1-2 in.)
* 1 cup shredded cheese for topping (or more if you love cheese)
* sour cream for serving

Get cooking:
1. preheat oven to 375
2. add chicken to bowl and shred with fork, no large chunks
3. mix next 6 ingredients in bowl with chicken
4. spray pan with non-stick spray (recommend a 6*6 pan so you can layer)
5. place half of the torn tortillas on bottom, it doesn't have to be covered
6. layer half of the chicken mix.
7. place remaining tortillas and add other half of chicken mix
8. (optional) if you prefer, you can add salsa to the top before it goes into the oven
9. bake for 20-25 minutes
10. remove from oven, add cheese and bake for another 5-7 minutes or until cheese melts

The moral of the story- would I use canned chicken again? You betcha!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Adventures in Grilling

You know by the title that this isn't going to be good right? Just a warning.

Since moving from a house in the bluegrass state, to a second floor apartment in sweet home Alabama, the grill is still in storage. So, I figured I would tweak a few of my recipes to accommodate. It wasn't that easy, or that tasty.

I began to search for an alternative to a large grill and started with a GE 4 in1 Grill/Griddle.

It was a great deal and has removable plates that I can easily pop into the dishwasher for a quick clean. I laid some beautiful all beef hot dogs on the grill and it started sizzling with purpose. Unfortunately this only lasted for about 3 minutes, then it kicked the electric breaker and shut off. I just can't get it, and the power, to work at the same time. Bummer.

On to the next experiment with a grill pan. This worked nicely and wasn't as expensive as the indoor grill. It treated all my meats to a nice even grilling complete with juicy texture and grilling taste. Sold!

While net surfing the other day, I also found the balcony grill. It was a really neat concept, but was unable to locate one sold in the states.

Have you had any adventures in grilling?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Eat the Frog

I'm sure you've heard this phrase. No it doesn't mean grab a frog and a fork. It originated with Mark Twain who said "Eat a live frog every morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day."

In other words, do the difficult things first.

This pretty much has to do with procrastination. Unfortunately, this is one of my more obvious habits. Those dishes...I'm letting them soak. The laundry...I want to make sure it's completely dry before I fold. Grocery shopping...I need to get my coupons in order first.

See the pattern?

Recently at work, we were lucky enough to have a training on "eating the frog." It really made me think (no jokes please) about my procrastination and what would happen if I didn't. Procrastinate.

So for the last few days, I've been eating the toad the first thing. Report card below:

* 3 voicemails from the same person. I really don't want to return her call, but must. I pick up the phone and eat the frog. It goes really well and I enjoy the talk.

* write the thank you card. Writing thank you's are really difficult for me and I never know what to say. Nevertheless, I sat down and ate the frog. It only took me 5 minutes and I feel much better for writing it.

* establishing a schedule for my daily work. Typically I don't like to set a schedule for the day, although one is set for me, because it reminds me of everything that I have to do. And then I over analyze about what happens if I don't get it all done. That changed Monday morning with a simple 5 minute prep. I created a file folder called "today" and added my printed work calendar and all the items I would need for that day. No more arriving late to meetings or being unprepared. Frog eaten.

This really wasn't as bad as previously anticipated, so I think I'll continue. Now, I'm off to work on the laundry, dishes, and grocery.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

For the Love of a Child

Children are miraculous creatures and I'm so blessed to have one. I'm a relatively young parent to have a 5-year-old. He is super sweet, very quiet, and likes to sleep with me. Storms bother him and he's not a fan of loud noises. He is ready to ride in the car on a moments notice and enjoys sitting in my lap.

Now for the rest of the story. My child is a four legged Japanese Spitz. Yes, I am one of those people.

My dog is my baby.

As such, I tend to pamper him with all kinds of good food (we should have stock in Oscar Meyer) and treats (vanilla ice cream with potato chips). So whenever I find a good recipe, I stick with it. The recipe below was one I found online but tweaked it just a bit to reduce the sugar and add garlic. What's a little bit of garlic breath among family?

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuit Recipe

2 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1.5 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp garlic powder (dogs love garlic)
1 tsp Sea Salt
3 eggs
1 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. Line a couple of sheet pans with wax paper.

3. Combine flours, brown sugar, garlic powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Add eggs and peanut butter and mix until blended.

4. Mix in oil. Add water water until dough is smooth and workable.

5. Cover the dough and set aside for 15-20 min. to relax.

6. Roll out dough to about 3/8″-1/2″ thick. Cut to desired shaped then put on sheet pans.

7. Bake for approx. 40 min. or until biscuits are slightly browned and fairly hard (they will harden a touch more when cool.) Set aside to cool then disperse as barked for.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blog Lovin'

If you haven't been to "What the Frock," go now. It's super fabulous!

I routinely (read daily) pop over there to see how she recreates outfits.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bacon and Blue Cheese Dinner Pies

Bacon makes my mouth very happy. This recipe makes my mouth happy. Enjoy it with a salad topped with balsamic vinaigrette dressing and a little bit of champagne.

Bacon & Blue Cheese Dinner Pies

* 6 slices of bacon
* 1 8.5 oz corn muffin mix
* 2/3 cup all purpose flour
* 1 tsp chili powder
* 1 egg, slightly beaten
* 1/4 cup milk
* 3 granny smith apples, cored and thinly sliced
* 1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
* fresh thyme (optional)

Make it:
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Cook bacon until crisp and reserve 1 tbsp drippings. Chop bacon.
3. In a bowl, combine muffin mix, flour, chili powder, egg, and milk. Divide dough into four portions. Place two portions each on a greased baking sheet adn press to 6/7 in. circles.
4. Top each circle with a layer of apply slices, leaving a 1 in. border. Fold edges around apple slices. Brush apples and crust with reserved bacon drippings.
5. Bake 10 minutes.
6. Top with blue cheese and bacon.
7. Bake 5 to 7 more minutes until edges are golden and crust is set.
8. Sprinkle with thyme.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Desk Destiny

It's past time to establish an office in my current abode. If you've ever worked from home, worked at home, or done homework, you know how important these are.

Before I pull out the cash, I'll hit a few of my favorite online vendors to determine a look which suits me and the room.

Option 1- Funky streamline. I like the desk and the chair. The desk would be ideal since my current computer is a laptop, but what if I want to (or must) upgrade to a desktop? I'll probably skip the deer head. Hmmm... I'll add this to the list but won't pounce just yet.

Option 2: Modern clean. Again, nice desk but little storage for all of my files and such. And believe me- I have "such!" The chair isn't really my style, but this has potential.

Option 3: Do it myself. I like this desk with it's clean lines and option to paint whatever color that suits me. It's not a bad price ($279) and has free shipping. To handle the other papers which goes along with life, I could always purchase a few items from Ikea.

Option 4: This picture is courtesy of Young House Love. If you haven't seen their site, grab some popcorn and go now! (Also check out their chihuahua's blog via Burger.) I love the DIY aspect of this desk with the hidden storage and comfy chair. Perhaps that's a door they've filched from Craigslist?

I'll let you know what I decide with pictures, of course.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yes, I've Moved!

Yes, I've been MIA (sigh). With the move to Alabama and all the settling that goes with that, I've been super busy. But now, I'm back in business and ready to rock...the house!

The Smithsonian is having their yearly Free Museum Day. This is a great deal and the museums are all over the U.S. This year I'll be heading here: