Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Another No Recipe Dinner

This is no great revelation or anything, but I am so happy to be on a Blue Apron break and back to cooking my own dishes that I am sharing!  Last night was another yummy, spontaneous dinner.  If you saw what I made Monday (um, rack of lamb and mascarpone mashed potatoes), you know we had to eat healthy on Tuesday.  I pulled together a bunch of fresh ingredients I had on hand, a can of beans, a jar of salsa, and a bag of frozen Langostino!
I chopped the mango, avocado, and cilantro and served them right off the board (I like mine with minced red onion and lime juice as a salsa, while the others like thiers straight-up).
A sauteed the Langostino in cumin, garlic and chilli.  They made perfect little tacos or, as I like them, lettuce cups.  Literally dinner in 5 minutes!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fancy and Fast Monday Night

I am and have always been an advocate of cooking without a book.  I love to read cookbooks and troll Pinterest for inspiration  as much as the next guy;  I have just always believed that the best cooking is done by feel.  Once you know the methods and techniques, you really don't need an exact recipe for almost anything.  Baking is an obvious exception because of the science involved.  Even though I can throw together a pretty great dinner quickly, I was in a bit of a rut in the Fall.

I decided to give Blue Apron a try.  Over several months,  the food is was very good on average (some was even excellent).  The best part of the process was that it encouraged me to use some new ingredients that we really liked (I never even knew a watermelon radish existed). And it did get me out of the rut, but it isn't a perfect fit for us.  I still have to go to the store for breakfasts, lunches, and the picky-eater's dinner.  So the major benefit of not having to go to the market was lost on me.  Also, I am pretty experienced cook, but I would categorize most meals as having a difficult cooking level with a minimum of 30 minutes active cook-time. The recipes are written to suit people varying experience, so they have you do a lot of steps that are probably not needed (like having you quarter a lemon and chop its zest instead of just zesting it to begin with).   I finally did begin to incorporate my own short-cuts.  I began feeling tied to the kitchen and BA selected meals.  It limited my spontaneity--sometimes I just didn't want we had for dinner but didn't want it to spoil, so I made it anyway.  I am now on a break from BA and back to my own no-recipe method.  It feels so liberating to once again be a free-agent, so to speak.  I really loved cooking my way again last night.

We don't always eat like this (in fact, we are usually meatless on Monday), but I saw a rack of lamb on sale and snapped it up.  It was so easy to make this traditional meal using time-honored techniques.  The whole thing took 25 minutes, including lots of down time.  I started by heating the oven to 425.  While it heated, I quickly peeled and cut potatoes and put them in a shallow pan to boil. Meanwhile I quickly cut green beans and a shallot and seasoned the lamb:

And then I walked away to set the table and help with homework. That's what I had been missing with BA.   About 10 minutes later, I put the lamb in and then I walked away again to get the mail.  When I came back, I pulled the potatoes out and put them right in the serving bowl and threw the beans in the same pot to blanch.

I mashed to potatoes right in the serving bowl with a good blob of marscapone, salt and pepper.  I was ready to pull the beans out in a hot-minute.  I dumped the water and threw the shallots in with a small amount of butter to caramelize before putting the beans back in.  Within a minute, the lamb was finished as were the beans--all before the potatoes ever cooled! It made Monday feel extra special even though it was easy and came with no special instructions at all!!!! Truly, it was esier than having all the ingredients shipped to me with a recipe!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Purim is Coming...

Purim 2016 begins in the evening of Wednesday, March 23.  
Are you ready to have some fun?? 
 Here are my affordable and fun baskets from years past!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Where we are headed

I showed you our breakfast bar and  kitchen table as they have been for the last eight years in this post.   And now, here are my plans to update the space:

My plan is not to do a complete overhaul; I actually like many things about the room.  I still love the light fixture and the scale of the table is perfect.   Normally, I would change the paint if I wanted big results for little impact.  Our house is completely open concept, however, and changing paint would be a massive job.   The paint stays!  

While I like the sleek black chairs and barstools, my goal is to soften and update.  They black leather sadly is just not working with this vision.  We are replacing those pieces with these barstools and these chairs, which are on sale at Arhaus.   They are a wee bit more than the ultra-affordable ones at Restoration Hardware (did you know the words affordable and RH could go in the same sentence?), but much better constructed and more comfortable in my opinion. Since the 6 chairs and 4 barstools were a big budget item, we are trying to utilize what we have for the rest of the update.

The good news is that I love the art in the space.  It is a sweet Graciela Rodo Boulanger featuring ballerinas at practice, which is just the most perfect representation of our family.  The scale is off, however, for the big, blank wall. I have a plan to fix that.  Way back in Mr. 31-derful's bachelor pad, we had an early version of Pottery Barn's Studio Wall Easel.  It was similar to this one, but in chrome and a bit more modern.  We have stored it for the past 13 years, and are about to bring it out of retirement.  It will be getting a facelift and housing a few beloved art pieces we already own. When they are all grouped together, they should fill the wall nicely (and hopefully each piece will still shine)!

My sister-in-law ordered a natural rug in a lattice print, but it was accidentally shipped in brown as opposed to the gray that she ordered.   They ended up letting her keep both, I and I may utilize her cast-off if it works.  I am always torn about a rug under a dining table.  My inner wannabe-decorator says," yes," but my head says, "what a mess to clean!"

Finally, I want to change the sleek glass table top out for a wood one.  The table is from Room and Board and they offer new tops, but they are a fortune (like I should just get a different table, but I like this one). I have bids out for having a wood top built.  Mr 31-derful's parents have offered up their beloved wooden pedestal table, which has tremendous sentimental value (and actual value), but I fear that it may be too much wood.  So this is a big TBD.  

What do you do to spruce up your space and how often do you think decor should be changed out???

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Crack Corn and I don't.........

I posted this a few weeks back but am sharing again with Kellys Korner SUYL because its sooo good.

I originally titled this post "Jimmy Crack Corn And I don't Care."  It is a reference to a song that I sang as a child in Memphis, TN.  I just looked up the lyrics and it doesn't mean what I thought.  I am not even sure if I know the song at all.  I do know Crack Corn, though.
Do you know crack corn? I usually make it once in the Fall as a dessert-snack-combo to accompany chili. I made it recently just for kicks.  It is my favorite salty and sweet treat, but I rarely make it because it is seriously dangerous.   You can get burnt making it and you can definitely get "burnt" by its truly addictive quality.  Proceed with caution.
  Come a little closer if you dare:
Can you smell the buttery-sweet goodness?  Can you taste the hint of salt?  Can you feel it melting in your mouth?  If not, I suggest you make some right away so that you, too, will know crack corn.

  1. Gather your ingredients: 2 sticks of butter, 1/2 cup of light corn syrup, 1 cup of brown sugar. I teaspoon of baking soda and a bag of this: 
  1. This is one of those bizarre products that is made by several different brands and is certainly in your grocery store even though most people have never heard of it.  If you are familiar with Pirates' Booty, it is like that but with no cheese topping.  It is so much better to use than actual popcorn because there are no kernels and the porous texture soaks up all the coating!
  2. In 2 quart sauce melt the butter.

  1. Then add sugar & corn syrup, and bring to a boil.  

  2. Cook for 2 minutes before adding the the baking soda, which will cause the caramel mixture to foam up.Stir well and remove from heat.
  3. Pour over puff corn in a roaster or on cookie sheet with sides.  I like to line it with non-stick aluminum and use a silicon spoon to stir it because plastic will melt.  Bake in 350* oven for 45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes.  The color develops a bit each time

  4. Remove from oven, spread out onto wax paper to cool (I just break up any chunks and cool on the non-stick aluminum).  The recipe makes a ton and it stays in an air tight container for a few weeks, though it rarely lasts very long!  
    I put ours in these adorable little treat bags from the dollar spot .  It makes crack corn even sweeter, don't you think???

Linking up with:

Monday, February 15, 2016

Yes sir, that's my baby....

Last week was a whirlwind of mommy duties. I upped the ante for Peyton's Last Rodeo, got the girls' Valentines ready, styled the cocoa cart, helped with science projects, and attended class parties all day Thursday. Since it was a 4 day weekend, both girls had the dreaded double sleepover on Thursday-Friday. Friday we had a wine tasting to attend, thankfully leaving us home Saturday night. I was so grateful and just out of steam to make anything too cute for Valentine's Day! I had dragged out the decor but hadn't even opened the bins yet.

At 3:45 my oldest daughter reminded me that we always have her bestie's family over for Valentines. It is true, we always do this, and you know I hate to break tradition. So I allowed her to text them to see if they were free (the parents were staying in Saturday because the also had the wine tasting Friday). She set it all up while I met with a woman to talk drapes (much more on that later). The family was coming at 5:30 and my drape meeting went until 4:45, forcing little miss to set the whole thing up! She raided the V-day decor bins, added some plants from the window, and did this all herself:
She even dragged the settee down the stairs by herself
She created separate place-settings for the kids and adults:
Yes, sir, that's my baby! The apple doesn't fall from the tree! A chip off the old block! She gets it from her mama! Did I miss any colloquialisms???

Meanwhile, I sent Mr. 31-derful out for eggs and I whipped up a little BFD (breakfast for dinner) in a flash! I had picked up these adorable and yummy waffles from Ikea. I also got some of their potato pancakes. I am not sure why, but I felt super strange about getting food there (which is ridiculous because we eat far more exotic things all the time).  My fears were totally irrational because both products were great and will be a part of future Valentine's breakfasts around these parts!

Valentine's Day itself was spent snuggling by the fire, watching the snow fall, and savoring Downton!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Warm Up with Hot Cocoa

I always forget to take pictures. Always. Just last week, I forgot to capture my Super Bowl Buffet, which was super cute. I wonder how other bloggers manage to not only take pictures, but go so far as to set up vignettes in improbable places. Did you really just happen to take that couch into the woods?!!

Well, my forgetfulness and good fortune finally collided yesterday! The teacher appreciation committee, which I co-chair, hosted a hot chocolate bar yesterday to show the teachers how much we love them for Valentine's Day. Here was the flyer:

Of course, I forgot my camera and even my phone. It was hard getting out the door with 50 cups of hot chocolate by 7:30! Anyhoo...after the whole thing was over, I was wheeling the cart back home. We live close to the school. The cart looked so sweet in the snow that I grabbed my phone and snapped a few quick pics. Yes, I really did just happen to have that cart out in the snow!

This was after the precious valentines mugs (which were the gift to the teachers) were all gone. Still, you can see how charming it was:

We had oodles of good toppings:

They were all open when we served, of course, but I had sealed them up before the journey home. I should have uncapped them all for the photos, but by this time I was cold!

I can't claim responsibility for the best part, which were the hanging heart cookies that adorned each mug. Those bragging rights go to our newest co-chair, who you may recall entered our little group in a bizarre series of miscommunications. Oh BOY am I happy that she barged her way in :)!! Can you believe these????? I die.

Finally, I have one picture which was sent to me from the school. It is of the kids serving a beloved teacher at the cart. She isn't even our teacher, but is so kind and caring that she knows my kids. That is sort of the point. These teachers all know all 350 kids by name and even by character. They give their all to our kids and that is why we want to show our appreciation!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Science Fair Projects, Valentine's, and Peyton's Last Rodeo Oh MY!

Last night was the Daddy-Daughter Dance around these parts, today is Mr 31-derful's birthday, and we are about to embark on a busy weekend. Our days are going to be filled with science projects for both girls, Valentine crafting, and Peyton's last Rodeo, oh my! For many years we have spent the super bowl with another family with little girls. They don't care so much about the game and I don't go all out, BUT I have to add some Peyton's-Last-Rodeo Flair!

Here are some scenes from my phone getting ready for it all!

Peyton Pops are chilling in the freezer along with a matching cake. I have been busy styling a PVC field goal into a "last rodeo" centerpiece, and I found the cutest quatrefoil and chevron paper products at Ikea in blue and orange. Aren't they presh???

This is our menu:
Do you think we will have enough junk??? HA!

The girls and I laid out their valentines on the computer. It was super easy because A is using big sis' design from last year. Since N is at a new school this year we were able to cheat and just modify her card from last year. The whole thing took three minutes, and I sent them out to print (I learned all too well that the blackboard background sucks all our ink dry). N's will be adorned with a light up ring and A's will get a sweet little heart pencil sharpener.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited about the science projects--these are good ones! What are you up to this weekend??

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A fun morning, what I forgot at the dollar store and a free printable!

This morning we celebrated Groundhog's Day with pancakes, yummy treats to share with our favorite teachers, and (of course) by packing a groundhog themed lunch!

After breakfast, it was off to school for the kids and off to the dollar store for me. I live around the corner from a Party City and I adore for upscale disposables, but the dollar store can't be beat for cheap paper products! Today I needed to get mugs for an upcoming Cocoa Cart we are doing for the teachers, plates and napkins for the "baby's" 3rd grade party, and some Valentine's Day supplies both girls needed for their cards.

I was so focused Valentine's Day that I forgot to think about what I actually needed later in the week, let alone later in the month. I walked right out of there before I remembered that I am having another family over for the Super Bowl on Sunday. I could have bought some cheap Broncos colored plates (remember, it is the Peyton Bowl to me). It actually turns out I have several events coming up in the next two months that will each having me running to the dollar store, the craft store, and the grocery. I don't want to make a separate run to each place for each of them. I decided that I am going to shop once (for supplies and nonperishable items), condense my crafting to one work day for all the parties, and generally work ahead in an organized fashion! In order to plan ahead, I made a little chart for myself.

I am going to fill it out and give it ago. If you have multiple events on the horizon and want to simplify your planning, you can find the chart here