Something Old, Something New

No, I’m not talking about weddings. Recognize this stuff?

OEP_Taco_Seasoning_MixDelicious? Yes. But not so good for you. These are packed full of sodium and other things that are not so great for you. For me, these taco seasoning packets are a last resort for me at this point. Instead, I have started making my own taco seasoning! I think it tastes even better than the packets.

BeFunky_tacoseasoning.jpgYou will need:

1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 and 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
cornstarch (optional)

Directions:
In a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients except the corn starch. If you plan to only use this as a seasoning, go ahead and use up to 2 tbsp per pound of ground beef or your meat of choice and then cook.  If you like your seasoning to be saucier, similar to how the taco seasoning packets are, add a bit of cornstarch to your seasoning and mix well. Cook your meat first, then add up to 2 tbsp of seasoning and about 2/3 cup of water. Bring to a simmer until you see the sauce thicken.

Custard Adventures.

Unlike a lot of people, I’m not a big chocolate lover. There’s no indulging in tons of Cadbury eggs for me on Easter, but I still have a sweet tooth! One of my favorite desserts is a fruit tart because you still feel like you’re kind of eating something healthy. I’ve had some delicious fruit tarts from Whole Foods and Byerly’s, but I wanted to make my own. And let me tell you, I am SO excited to eat this tomorrow…if I can wait that long!

Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures of all of the steps. But if you follow the directions, you can end up with something as beautiful as my finished product 🙂

BeFunky_fruittart.jpg

Ingredients

1 package of sugar cookie dough

Fresh fruit of your choosing, enough to fill your tart

1/2 cup apricot jam

1 tbsp. water

For custard:

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

1 cup whole milk (yes, it needs to be whole!)

2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

1. Okay, so I cheated. Instead of making a buttery, flaky crust, I caved and used sugar cookie dough.  If you choose to do the same, roll out your cookie dough ahead of time. I rolled mine out in between two sheets of wax paper, took the top sheet off and then draped it over the tart pan. Do not worry about making it perfect! Bake at 350 degrees until you see the edges of the crust become golden. Let cool for at least 30 minutes.

2. While the crust is baking, go ahead and start making the custard. If you wanted to be really lazy, you could use a vanilla pudding. But I actually wanted to attempt making custard for the first time ever. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar and flour until thick and pale. Heat your milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it is ALMOST boiling. Remove from the heat and slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking continuously.

3. Return custard to the pot and cook over medium-low heat until the custard has thickened. Be sure to stir to get rid of any lumps. You can make sure it’s thick enough by seeing if it covers the back of a spoon. Once it is thick enough, add in the vanilla and stir well. Then place a piece of plastic wrap over the custard, which prevents a skin from developing. Allow to cool completely.

4. Once crust and custard are cooled, spoon custard into crust and spread evenly. Place your fruit as you wish.

5. Heat the apricot jam and water in a small saucepan until it’s reduced to a liquid consistency. Brush this generously over the fruit to set and seal the tart. Allow to cool completely.

6. INDULGE!

Believing in Basil

plantingI love the quote in the picture above and figured it would be appropriate to share since I’m posting about my gardening adventures. To all the gardeners out there, feel inspired 🙂

Spring is FINALLY starting to come around here in good old Minnesota. Last week we were sitting at a balmy 8 degrees, today we were nearing 40. And yes, in Minnesota, that’s warm! In an earlier post, I told you about my ventures trying to grow poppies and then trying to grow cilantro. Both failed. Alas, I didn’t give up.

I bought myself another growing kit from the dollar section at Target, but this time it was basil. Within about a week and a half, we’re growing!

basil.jpg

No luck with the cilantro or poppies, but I can’t help but believe in my basil.

PBCCBB.

No, the title of this post wasn’t a typo. Just me making you wonder what the heck is PBCCBB? The answer…all things delicious. Also known as Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. Yes, a mouthful to say and a mouthful to eat! The hardest thing about making this? Waiting for it to be done baking!

pbccbb.jpg

Use:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup ripe banana, mashed
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 cup chocolate chips

 

 

 

 

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a loaf pan generously.
2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugars until combined (I used a hand mixer). Then mix in peanut butter and banana. Once incorporated, mix in vanilla and egg. Slowly add flour mixture and beat until combined. At this point you may think your batter looks a little dry, almost like cookie dough, don’t worry!
2. Pour in milk and beat on low until the batter is smooth. Then add in chocolate chips.
3. Pour batter in loaf pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes.

 

 

 

Crock-Pot Love.

I love Crock-Pots. They involve cooking without doing a ton of hard work. Who wants slave away in the kitchen after shoveling heavy, wet snow for an hour? Yes, it is March. Yes, it’s still snowing here in good ol’ Minnesota. Knowing I could come inside, warm up, drop some things in a pot and turn a knob was comforting.

BBQ Pork RibletsIMG_0057

You will need:

1-2 lbs of pork riblets

1/8 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Lawry’s chile garlic seasoning

onion powder

black pepper

chopped onion

minced garlic

optional: BBQ sauce

Directions:

  1. Riblets come in long strips. Cut them as needed to allow them to fit in whatever size Crock-Pot you have
  2. Mix soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, minced garlic and olive oil together. Use as much or as little minced garlic as you want. Pour over ribs to make sure each rib is coated.
  3. Season to taste with salt, pepper, onion powder and other seasonings of your choice. I use Lawry’s chile garlic seasoning because it has a great smokey flavor.
  4. Add chopped onions on top. Cook in crock pot on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-6 hours.
  5. During the last hour, pour in BBQ sauce of your choosing.

IMG_0061

 

Art CAN be easy.

I haven’t made any crafts lately or done any DIY projects.  Naturally, it was time for me to venture into the time-consuming land known as Pinterest once again. I love canvas wall art, so I decided to do this super easy project. I took a shortcut by buying a full wooden word instead of separate letters to make a word/phrase, just because it was cheaper. Here was the result…dream.jpgThe canvases I bought came in a pack of 2, so I needed to figure out what to do with the second one. I painted it gray and then dipped the end of a toilet paper roll into yellow paint and “stamped” circles onto the canvas. I may take my time with this one more next time or try a different pattern, but I still like it. circles.jpgAnd there you have it. Easy art for those of us who aren’t gifted with creativity!

Seeds to Cilantro

20130223-224046.jpgThe whole reason I started this blog was to capture the little and simple things in life that bring so much joy to me. And so often, those are the things we take for granted. Food just happens to be one of those things. What a blessing that we can actually grow our own food. I must admit I am a loyal watcher of Twin Cities Live, a local talk show. Host Elizabeth Ries is always inspiring viewers to learn about their food, to be innovative and find new ways to do things. Her blog, Home to Homestead, touches on all of these things.

As you may have remembered from one of my past posts, I was attempting to grow some poppies, but they were more stubborn than I anticipated. But when I went to Target this week and was rummaging through the dollar section yet again, I was pleasantly surprised.

cilantro1A cilantro grow kit! Cilantro is one of my absolute favorite herbs to cook with, so I got straight to work!

cilantro5There they are, the seeds all nestled in the soil. Then a lid goes over them and it all acts as a mini greenhouse.

cilantro3And there you have it. My cilantro seeds waiting for some sunlight on a cold, Minnesota winter afternoon. PLEASE grow!

Obsessions.

Every now and then I’ll try a food and it will become a new favorite of mine. This doesn’t happen all that often because I’m a pretty picky eater. I stick to what I love…cheese, mangoes, popcorn, bacon. At least the mangoes are healthy, right? Anyways, about a month ago I tried white chicken chili. In all honesty, I don’t know how “new” it is, but I’ve been seeing it around a lot more in restaurants and on store shelves. Ever since I devoured a wonderful bowl of it from Byerly’s, I knew it was a favorite.

But then I kept thinking about it…obsession. So I had myself another bowl at Overflow Espresso Cafe. Even better! So creamy, so full of flavor, and a little kick at the end of each bite.

overflowlunch

So today I figured, why not try to make it myself?!? I used a recipe found on The Girl Who Ate Everything’s blog. Not only was it easy to make, but it’s also easy to modify. Here’s the recipe, as I made it. I didn’t make the full recipe, but still got a LOT of chili! Most importantly, it was delicious.

chili1

Ingredients
1/4 of an onion, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 can of reduced sodium chicken broth
1 can of Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed (use any white bean of your choosing!)
1 package Hormel Natural Choice oven roasted chicken (feel free to cook up your own chicken if you’d like)
1 (4 oz) can, diced green chiles, drained
3 Tbsp McCormick White Chicken Chili seasoning
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4-1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

  1. In a large pot, add olive oil and onions. Cook over medium heat until onions begin to become translucent. Add everything else to the pot, but NOT the sour cream or cheese.
  2. Cook on low-medium heat for 30 minutes and be sure to stir frequently. Then add in sour cream and cheese. Be sure all of the cheese is melted.
  3. If you feel like your chili is not thick enough, mix 1 Tbsp of cornstarch with a little bit of water, then add to pot. Bring the heat up to a boil. This should help it thicken!
  4. ENJOY! I added some asiago ciabatta croutons of the top of my chili just for an extra crunch. Mmm.

chili2

Ready to Grow

growkit

It’s winter in Minnesota. As I write this post, it’s a whopping 1 degree outside. When I look outside, I see most of the ground covered in white. And a few small patches of brown, lifeless grass, where the snow melted just a few days ago when we enjoyed a balmy 40 degrees. Why not add some color to the picture? This little poppy grow kit is my $1.00 investment in bringing some life to an otherwise dull environment. Here’s to hoping this little guy sprouts with some TLC from yours truly.

Simple instructions

Simple instructions

seeds all ready to be planted

seeds all ready to be planted

ready to grow!

ready to grow!

Putting the Fast in Breakfast

breakfast

I love breakfast. And I can’t go without it or I will be one cranky lady. While my breakfast is usually rushed during the work week, I get to treat myself a bit during the weekend. Mmm.

  1. Crack 2 egg whites into a microwaveable bowl. Add a bit of salt, pepper and bacon bits (the real ones, not the hard crunchy ones!) Cover and microwave for about 45 seconds.
  2. Immediately top with your cheese of choice.
  3. Garnish with parsley
  4. Scoop out of the bowl and place on top of a piece of whole wheat toast
  5. ENJOY!