Thursday, October 28, 2010

Going Japanese-Random Photos from my Facebook Uploads

Rabbit and Chick Bento: I made this for the kidlets lunch a while back.  The couldn't even wait for me to finish placing things fully because they were "starving".  Chick'n nuggets with carrot beaks and sesame seed eyes, Rabbit-nutella shimmer (what we call a sandwich here) with radish ear and nose, edamame, and grapes.

Inarizushi- I made these for the Hubby's birthday bento.  He was pulling an all-nighter at work and I wanted him to feel loved.  And yes, he ate ALL of these in one sitting.

Rice Bowl: Seems like when Hubby goes out of town, kidlets and I eat simpler.  Rice with radishes, negi, tamago sheet, and a ginger flower.  Under the veggies is some of my homemade kale furikake.  The potstickers were homemade since I'm allergic to most of the ones on the market and have pork, ginger, kale, and negi,

Robo-bento- Chaos wanted a Robot Shimmer for lunch.  So, there's a PB and Honey shimmer with apples, edamame, and raisins.  The robot has some carrot decor on it and was painted with a little blue food pen.

Beef rice bowl: Hubby went out of town again.  Rice tossed with kale and radish sprout furikake, topped with miso braised beef, and slightly pickled negi and carrots.  Topped with a little more sesame seeds for crunch.

We eat a lot of Japanese food here.  A lot.  It seems funny to me sometimes that my pantry next to the stove is almost entirely stocked with Asian condiments, especially considering I grew up eating Mexican and Cajun cuisine almost daily.  And while I still make a killer batch of enchiladas, I reach for the shoyu, mirin, and rice wine vinegar at least five times per week.  I keep miso in the fridge to make a quick cup of soup.  (Me- the girl who can't drink hot coffee because it's weird- actually makes a cup of miso soup two-three times per week.)  And I can work miracles with ramen and udon.

Mmmmmm.... udon.

I know what I'm having for dinner tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Everyone else was doing it.... Sort of.

I live on one of those streets that Norman Rockwell painted about.
Neighbors on all sides, you can tell what season it is just by looking at any porch on the street.
In July, American flags and pots of red, white, and blue flowers litter the facades of every house.  (I myself had bunting draped out and bright red salvia planted everywhere.)
September saw bushels of apples creeping on to the scene as everyone prepped for the block party.

And now?  Now the very Autumnal colors- yellows, rusty reds, oranges- of mums and pumpkins are finding their way to the front stoops.  Ghosts and scarecrows peek out from the hedges and wreaths of fall leaves are on every door.

Every door and porch, that is, except for mine.

My porch is currently littered with bike parts, sports balls, scooters, and roller blades. 

But today I started a few projects (that are low energy since I'm still recovering) that are sure to bring my porch up to standard before the throngs of Trick or Treaters eagerly make their way to my yard in search of the perfect store-bought sugar fix.

Introducing Kitty-Boo!

Currently, Kitty-boo is peeking out from the area under my mail box.  This weekend, he'll be joined by several pots of mums, some mini pumpkins, and a spider or two.

And then there's the Boo Crew:

I know right now they don't look like much, but these milk cartons are the beginnings of a ghostly path luminary set.  Anyone with a toddler knows how much milk you go through in a week.  By Hallow's Eve, I should have another 10 to 12 ghosts joining these guys on my walkway.  Weighted down with gravel, a lighted tea-light inside, these fellows should be a cheerful greeting in my front yard which is seriously lacking in street lights.

I've got more Halloween projects still to come- stick around and watch!

Craving Some Home Comforts

     I'm a Native Texan. 
     See the capitalization on the word "Native"?  That's a big deal to me.  I was born in Texas and lived there for most of the first 20 years of my life.  That makes me a Native.
     Texas is very much it's own little world.  There's a deep sense of pride that Texans feel that I've never quite seen anywhere else in the world.  
Living in Texas is nothing like what a lot of people expect it to be.  I've heard a number of stereotypes since I've traveled that make me kind of scratch my head wondering if people really think that about Texans.
For example, I grew up in an area that was heavily forested.
 (Yep... like looking out the window at my Mom's house...)

Notice, it's not a desert.  No cacti and tumbleweeds.
Sure, we had ranches in the area, but I certainly didn't grow up on one.   
No, I didn't own my own horse.  (In fact, I've only been on a horse about ten times in my entire life!)
I don't think I've ever owned cowboy boots.

I did, however, grow up eating a lot of tortillas and beans.  In fact, my Grandmother (on my Dad's side) was Hispanic so I ate a lot of Mexican foods.

Probably one of my favorite foods to make on these chilly Autumn days is Tortilla Soup- which, oddly enough, my Grandmother NEVER made for me.  I had it for the first time when I was 21 and I was hooked!  It wasn't long before I was working on my own recipe to make the very best tortilla soup ever.  My version has a mild spice and tender shredded chunks of chicken surrounded by a hearty broth that just makes the tongue happy.  A scoop of fresh queso fresco (yes, I MADE cheese!!!) and a wedge of lime to squeeze over the top just add another layer to this amazing meal.

Tortilla Soup

1TBS vegetable oil
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 small onion diced
1 jalapeno diced (remove the seeds for less heat)
2 cups of tomatoes (fresh or tinned)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 cup of corn tortillas, cut into thin noodle-like strips
3 chicken thighs
1/2 cup of beer (use a Mexican ale or lager!)
2 cups chicken broth
limes for garnish

Sweat all of the vegetables in the vegetable oil.  When softened, add spices and half of the tortillas, stir to combine.  Add in chicken thighs and liquids.  Cover and continue to cook on low for 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken and shred.  Return shredded chicken to the pan.  Add in remaining tortilla strips and simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve hot with lime wedges.

(I also like to add a bit of fresh cheese, sour cream, and jalapeno slices to mine and dip crunchy fresh tortilla chips into it.  My Hubby seems to prefer it plain with cheese and lime.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Derailed- by a Tooth Ache!

I'm not the most, how to say, observant person when it comes to my own health.
Don't get me wrong, if I have a cold, I'll take something for it.  I groom myself (even if I go a bit too long between haircuts...), exercise a bit and remember to put on clean socks.
But, sometimes my kids- ACK MY KIDS!!!- take over my life to the point that I put off things for myself.
I scheduled a routine dental appointment in March of 09.  And then, when one kidlet got ill, I moved it to April of 09.  Then we got evacuated from our home and spent a month looking for a new home so I moved it to June of 09.  Then another kidlet had to fly cross country for a wedding and I didn't have the funds.  So, it got pushed back again.  And again.  And again... until I stopped really thinking about it very much at all.  I mean, I brush and floss regularly.  I use mouth wash.  I chew sugar-free gum... It can't hurt to let it go a few extra months... right?

Apparently, and I'm hanging my head in shame, I was wrong.  I'm not wrong often (at least not in Hubby's earshot) but this time I was WRONG.

I got sick with a bad cold over the weekend and my tooth started aching.  I figured, "Hey, I'll wait until Monday and go get it checked out."  On Sunday night I ended up in the ER with an abscessed tooth that was giving me blood poisoning.  *face palm of shame*

So, needless to say, I did see a dentist today... and instead of the nice pleasant cleaning I was hoping to need... I got oral surgery and a lecture about neglecting myself and strict orders for a few more days of bed rest.

So- an entire weekend of cooking projects- derailed.

But, this is probably one of my favorite times of the year and the projects I've got lined up for the next few weeks are exciting and awesome and in some senses too darn cute to talk about up front!

So, I will see you again soon with more fun and tasty treats, tricks, crafts, and tales of my life as a Stay-At-Home Geek!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Big Tex

Just how big is The Big Tex?  These chocolate chip cookies are large enough that you need a bowl of milk if you intend to dunk them before eating!  Crunchy with a semi-soft interior, a secret ingredient lends smoky heat to the chocolate- deepening the heartiness of my favorite go-to cookie.

I actually make three batches of The Big Tex each week- my family and friends seem to inhale them with ease.  Even the pickiest of eaters can't stop at just one!

The Big Texas Chocolate Chip Cookie
makes 18 cookies
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
12 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of butter flavored shortening
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp instant coffee powder

Cream sugars, shortening and butter in a large mixing bowl.  Add in eggs and continue to cream until light and fluffy.  Mix in vanilla, salt, chili powder, and coffee powder.  While mixing slowly, add in flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  Once combined, add in chocolate chips.  Chill dough for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Using a standard ice cream scoop, place six cookies at a time onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake cookies for 17 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool immediately on a cooling rack.