Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flower Power

Ok, I get that the paint on my girls' wall is neither about running nor eating, but it's a fun share nonetheless. My girls have finally reached the age where they'd like to pick the theme and direction for the decor in their room, much to my dismay. They decided on flowers, butterflies, and fairies. I'm an expert at none of these things. So in my desperation I turned to paint, my cricut, and a treasure at the most surpising of places. Here's how it turned out:

First, I started with the grass and stems. I used paint and a foam craft brush for this. I had to have someone else in the room letting me know if I went to high on one side, or dipped too low with the grass, but that was the most difficult part. Grass is a fairly forgiving freehand venture.

Next I did the flower middles. Yellow paint. I tried this two ways: I cut a yellow circle from my cricut to the size I wanted then used the paper as a sort of stencil. Also I tried using the cut-out circle itself as a pattern and traced in light pencil where I wanted the circle to be atop the stem and painted in my lines. Both ways turned out fine, I'm not sure I'd say one was easier than the other, I guess it just depends on your taste.

Next came the petals themselves which I used colored vinyl and my cricut for. I cut out various shapes using the George and Basic Shape cartridge (I think).

I was competely stumped by the butterflies and fairies, though. I could have used the cricut for them, but I couldn't find any I loved with as many color layers as I wanted. One morning while trying to kill time with my 4 yr. old we perused the dollar store, which I haven't done in years. They have everything there! Not great stuff as you might imagine, but wall stickers? Oh yes.
They had a couple kinds of butterflies and fairies, and after a quick eenie-meenie-miny-moh game we had some picked. Now they have a gorgeous purple room with one white wall full of flowers and fairies, and remain the happiest girly-girls you ever did meet!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Taco Tuesday!

Ok, that's a lie. Tacos should never be restricted to one day of the week. They should be had on any day, and for any occasion or whim. Tacos are flat out delicious. Since I'm of the Au Naturale persuasion I make my own taco seasoning. Turns out, it's cheaper AND better for you!

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1/4 c. water
1 t. cumin
1 t. chili powder
1 t. salt
1/4-1/2 t. pepper
1 clove garlic (or 1/2 t. garlic powder)
1 -2 t. grated onion(or 1/2 t. onion powder)

Brown the meat with onion and garlic, add water and seasonings, simmer to reach desired consistency. (appx. 5 minutes)

Easy right? and no red 40 or yellow 5 or anything that preserves freshness and gives you cancer! :-)

On taco night I find I always need salsa, but I don't always buy it or have all the ingredients to make a stellar fresh one (for some reason I never remember to buy cilantro and peppers!). So in a pinch I have a simple and tasty recipe from my dad that only uses things I keep on hand. It uses a lot of the same ingredients as the taco seasoning. I grow and bottle a kajillion tomatoes (yes, that's the exact number) every year so I just use those. If that's not something you do, you can just use canned tomatoes from the store.

Jim's Salsa

two 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
(or 1 qt bottled)
One 4 oz can mild or medium diced green chiles
1t. cumin
1 t. chili powder
1 /2 t. garlic salt
1/4 t. garlic powder
(I use 1 clove fresh minced garlic and 1 t. salt instead of the previous 2)
1 t. onion powder (or 1-2 t. grated fresh)
(add 1/4 t. cayenne if you want some heat)

Blend all ingredients in blender except chiles. Blend well. Add chiles and blend a few seconds (or not at all depending on how chunky you like it). You can, of course play with amounts of ingredients to get the taste you want, it's easy, hope you like it!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine Mini Pavlovas

Since we had our official Valentine's date early (see previous post), this year on the day we had a romantic little dinner for 6 (us + the 4 kids) at home. We had Cheesy Potato Corn chowder with extra bacon as per the oldest child's request, medallion rolls (little rolls), and mini Valentine Pavlovas.

I'm not sure if any of you have ever made pavlova, but it's a little intimidating. There are very few ingredients, but they can be temperamental especially if you're making them mini, which I always do because individual servings are so much easier to work with. They are also worth every second of work and worry.

Preheat to 350, and then you begin with making the meringue, which is not difficult at all despite how fancy it sounds.
Just beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt til they're firm (which is past foamy) then add the sugar and keep beating.

When it's reach the desired texture, fold in the corn starch and vinegar.

After this point I sometimes beat it again, which probably defeats the purpose of folding in the last ingredients, but I really want it fluffy and I worry!

Next you pipe it into the desired shape (I've done pillows for a pajama party, bones for a Halloween party, and now hearts), or just spoon it for circles. If you don't have a piping bag, just spoon it into a ziploc and cut the corner off to pipe it, it works great. Make sure you line your baking tray with parchment paper.

Then bake them at 350 for five minutes. Turn the heat down to 300 after that time and bake a further 35-40 minutes. Turn the oven off and crack the door open to let the heat out and let them cool with the door ajar for at least an hour.

Hopefully they won't crack and fall. Sometimes keeping the door closed for a couple minutes after turning the oven off can help, then open it a little, but it all depends on the heat of your oven, so keep trying!

They will be pinkish when they're done. If they're brownish, they're overdone. What you have is a slightly crispy outer shell with a delightfully chewy inside, it's the best!

After they've completely cooled simply top with whipped cream (please don't insult these with cool whip), and either fresh fruit or a fruity sauce of your choice. I made a simple one with 3/4 cup OJ, 2 T. cornstarch, 1/4 (plus a little more) sugar and frozen berries. Feel free to comment for questions on the sauce.
Here's how they turned out! Enjoy!

4 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 C. fine sugar
1 T. Cornstarch
1 t. Vinegar

Spoon into one large mound or small individual mounds (6-8) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 for 5 minutes then bake a further 35-40 minutes at 300. Turn oven off, allow to cool with door ajar for at least an hour.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Will you be my Valentine?

I've decided that going out to dinner on Valentine's Day is overrated. I hate crowds and waiting. This year we did our Valentine's date early, and didn't brave the restaurants and let me tell you it turned out amazing!

We were joined by 5 other couples this year at a party at our house. On the invite we asked that the couples email us a couple songs that they either loved or were totally "them". Then when they arrived we ate our dinner while playing a game with the songs. We played a minute or so of each song and had each person guess which couple they thought had submitted each. Hilarious. We got everything from cheesy wedding country like 'Keeper of the Stars' by Tracy Byrd to totally rockin' rock like 'Papercut' by Linkin Park. Some submitted songs from their wedding videos, others sent songs they used to make out to when they were dating, etc. It was so funny.

Our dinner consisted of food brought by each couple and every single thing was delicious! We handled the meat, so that's the only recipe I'll be able to supply today, sorry, I don't have anyone else's recipes! For the chicken we marinated it in SoyVay's Very Very Teriyaki sauce for 3 hours. The steak marinade can be found at the end of this post.
We grilled chicken and steak, had boiled red potatoes, a bleu cheese spinach salad, an amazing strawberry drink, Parmesan encrusted french bread loaves, and a german chocolate cake for dessert. It was a serious feast.

After dinner we split up into two teams and headed out on the road for a valentine's road rally. We were to find and photograph as many of the destinations on the list as we could in 45 minutes. At least 4 members of each team of 6 had to be in each photograph and we were to make the pics as creative as possible. One team had someone doing the backwards hug yourself pretend make-out in every photo. The other team was kissing in every one. We were to find destinations like: A place to propose, a place to go to dinner, a place to buy lingerie, a place to have a reception, etc. Team one got back first with every item checked off their list having combined one or two in a couple photos. Team two arrived last, but their photos were the best by far! It was a blast.

When we got back we watched the pictures while eating our dessert and chatted or played games for whoever wanted to stay after that. A CD of all the "songs" served as the perfect party favor. Awesome. This may be the making of a new tradition!

Steak Marinade:
Soy Sauce (I used Braggs Liquid Aminos)
Lemon Juice
Italian Seasoning
Fresh pressed garlic (2 cloves)

Combine in a gallon ziploc bag and add meat, refrigerate for 3-4 hours

Sorry, no amounts again, just play with it, it's very forgiving. I think I ended up with about a cup and a half of the soy sauce, and nearly the same with the lemon juice. I would guess a couple tablespoons of the italian seasoning. Delicious!