Taking the House by Storm

The trials and tribulations of the average gal trying to navigate through life, love and the pursuit of domestic bliss.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chili Takes the Chill Out

My husband, Rick, has a few signature dishes he periodically makes. Most of them have been in his repertoire for awhile – Salmon Patties and Shepherd's Pie are holdovers from his youth and he's made his version of Stir Fry since before we met.

But there's one recipe he started making just since we've been married and it's really good – Award-Winning Chili from allrecipes.com. Since it was cold, we're expecting the white death and we had three pounds of ground turkey in the freezer, I decided to give it a go. And it turned out pretty well.

There were only two ingredients I didn't have on hand. Cilantro – which I absolutely love but didn't miss – and chili seasoning packets, so I used Chili Seasoning Mix II, also from allrecipes.com.

If you like a hearty chili, give this one a try. It has a few unique ingredients - like carrots - and tastes great with corn chips and cheese - mmmmm.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Creme Brulee French Toast

I put this together Saturday afternoon for our post-party breakfast. Our friends, Jean and Andy, were spending the night, so I wanted to be prepared. It's one of those overnight french toasts and I thought that would sure beat making breakfast from scratch.

Since I was making it pre-party, I was in a rush and didn't get to read others' reviews so I made it exactly as the recipe dictated. Then I stuck it in the fridge and all I had to do in the morning was pop it in a preheated oven. Because I'm such an over-achiever, I defrosted some goetta I'd already sliced and fried that up. Delish.

Next time I make it, I'll add pecans and sprinkle a little cinnamon on top as other allrecipes.com reviewers suggested. And should you decide to try it yourself, be advised: it takes about 10-15 minutes longer than LynnInHK would lead you to believe.

note: Sorry I didn't think to take any pictures before it was too late, but there are a few with the recipe.

Another Resolution to Add to the Pile

So I'm in my allrecipes.com account, trying to put my hands on a Buffalo Chicken Dip recipe I wanted to make for our party this past weekend when I realized I had 497 recipes in my account, scant few of which I've actually ever tried.

Yes, it's just another manifestation of my deep-seeded clutter instinct. Regardless, I thought to myself: forget the Julia/Julia Project (congrats to Julie Powell; apparently, they've made a movie out of it). Forget A Year of CrockPotting. Forget the Cupcake Project. I'm going to undertake the Allrecipes.com Project and either start making some of these recipes or get rid of them.

My first recipe since making this decision: the Grilled Apple and Swiss Cheese Sandwich, which isn't really the best example of a recipe, but it's a start, dammit.

It was good. I wound up making it twice to use up the ingredients I purchased for it. The first time I made it with French bread, thinking it would grill up nicely. Unfortunately, French is not the best bread to use because it really dried out, plus I cut it too thick.

Today I made it with some multi-grain sandwich bread (sorry, no pix). Tasty, but I kind of burned it. Both times, I finished it off in a 350° oven because I like my cheese really melty. So even though this sandwich didn't turn out perfectly either time, through no fault of its own, I'd recommend it because it's a great flavor combination.

* note: if you do put your skillet in the oven and are smart enough to use a potholder to get it out, don't forget to apply that same brainpower to using it again should you decide to move said skillet once out of the oven. Sadly, I did not, but my reflexes were such my burn is minor.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How My Mind Works is God's Own Mystery

So I'm sitting here trying to figure out what we're serving at our annual Ornament Exchange Party this Saturday. (Yes, this is a current post – my husband thought it would be less chaotic having it outside of the actual holiday season. Little did he realize our last minute habits would remain the same.)

Anyway, I'm trying to get my grocery/booze list together since today is going to be the warmest day of the rest of the week (26˚) and I don't want to wait until Saturday – that will really give me a coronary. A few weeks before Christmas, Allrecipes.com had sent a weekly newsletter focusing on holiday drinks that I wanted to check out. I remember at the time thinking – I don't need to save this email. I can just do a search on their site when the time comes.

Not so fast. While I may be remembering the recipes wrong, I couldn't find all of the Bailey's options I thought I saw. So I decided to check my email inbox (I currently have over 35 pages in there) and I had every stinking newsletter they sent in December EXCEPT the one I need. How's that for irony? As if one lousy email more would have made any difference...sigh.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

We Don't Nee sd No Stinkin' Taco Seasoning Packets

I've always thought about 'making' my own taco seasoning. With all the extra salt and preservatives you find in prepackaged stuff, it couldn't hurt. Tonight I had my chance.

My dreams of making French Chicken in a Pot (courtesy of a Cook's Illustrated email) were shattered when I hadn't started it by 5:15 and it takes about 2.5 hours (at least, with me behind the wheel). 8 p.m. seemed a little late to eat with an 18-month-old to feed, so I opted for Plan B: Tacos.

Over the weekend, we picked up some taco shells at the grocery and I had some ground turkey gathering icicles in the freezer. What we didn't have was any seasoning. So I went to my trusted source, allrecipes.com, and picked the one with the most stars - Taco Seasoning I.

I thought it was easy to make and tasted great. Rick thought it was really hot and only ate 3 tacos; I think poor Ian burned his little mouth. [Wound up making him a delicious, nutritious, and high in salt (not to mention lips and assholes) hot dog. Only the best for my son.]

Four hours later, I'm noticing a little tingly sensation in the back of my throat. Honestly, I didn't find it that spicy while eating it (what I'd term 'medium' as far as heat goes) but maybe if I'd only sprinkled on half a batch, it would have been more palatable for the rest of the fam. But if you're among those that like it hot, I think you'll enjoy it.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Do a Little Crock-Pot Cookin'

Thanks to Working Moms Against Guilt's Friday Finds, I found out about A Year of CrockPotting. While the project itself is over, the blog is still there, with all 365 days of fabulous recipes. Plus, Stephanie, the author with a self-described "unnatural obsession" with her crockpot, will continue to update the site about once a week. It could be just what you're looking for to help make your life easier in the new year.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


Technically, I should stop making them. If I've learned anything, it's that starting or stopping something on a big day (like New Year's or your birthday or anything like that) is almost a sure-fire way to guarantee failure. It's too easy to keep track of your progress (or not) and get discouraged.

For example, I quit smoking several times in the 20 years I was a smoker, often beginning on New Year's Eve or during Lent. As a resolution, it would begin weighing on my mind, thinking: I haven't had a cigarette in x days or x weeks or x months. And the pressure would get to be too much. I'd have to just have one. Then another. Then, next thing you know, I'd have a pack eyeballing me from the seat of my car.

I'm almost 5 years free and clear of cigarettes and I believe it's because I can't remember an exact day that I quit. I know it was near Lent, but not Ash Wednesday, so I wasn't temped come Easter Sunday to light up. Plus, I quit during a very stressful time in my life - planning my wedding - and I knew that if I could make it through something like that, I'd never again need that crutch. (Which is a good thing as I'm the type that likes to create stress.)

Anyway, all that said, I'm going to make some resolutions and hope that I'll stick to them even though I'll easily be able to measure my success or failure. Here they are, in no particular order:
• get my blog going again (so far, so good)
• take care of my body
• take care of my soul through church (missed my first opportunity on New Year's Day, but back in the saddle today) and prayer
• take care of my mind (by learning new things and reading more often)
• declutter (started cleaning out the basement today and already organized our pantry)
• be a positive force in my own life
• keep in better contact with friends and relatives (calls, letters, visits)

I guess that's enough self-improvement for one year. What are you guys shooting for?

My New Best Friend

For Christmas, I asked for a label maker. I can't remember where I first read about it or what initially got me to thinking I needed one, but the bottom line was I believed it could help me get organized, so I put a star by it on my Christmas list.

Thanks to my mother-in-law, Charlie, I am the proud new owner of a Brother P-Touch 1280 model (ain't it pretty?) and I've been using the heck out of it so far in the kitchen.

One afternoon, I used it to help me organize my pantry, which was ridiculously out of control. We have one (loving called the monolith) with drawers in it and it was a huge mess. Foods were all mixed together and on top of one of another. Not a great way to go about making dinner or even compiling an accurate grocery list.

So while my husband was out doing Lord only knows what and my precious beano was snoozing away, I took everything out of the pantry, ditched the old, stale, yucky stuff and grouped what was left together so it would be easier to find what I'm looking for.

The label maker came in handy by labeling the shelves so my husband and I will both know where to look for something and where to put it back. And I used it to label clear containers I've purchased to keep cereals fresh and bags of rices, etc., in an easy to see and stock format.

In the fridge, I've been labeling leftovers like a madwoman. No more wondering when I made that grilled fish or what kind of soup that is. It's all right there on the label for me.

The only complaint I have about it (and it's probably something I can change; I just haven't gotten around to reading the instruction manual yet) is that there's a lot of wasted space before and after the label info.

Other than that, I'm glad I got one and can't wait to see what it can help me organize in the rest of the house.