Homemade Tortilla Chips

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I was reviewing some of my Real Simple magazines and found this great idea!  Give it a try when you have leftover tortillas from Fajitas Night!  I made a big batch today for a nacho salad lunch.  Turned out great.  I just brushed olive oil on the tortillas and cut the 10″ tortilla into 8 pieces.  Nice, big restaurant style chips.  Turned out great!

Try it:
1 tortilla
1 T olive oil
salt

optional seasonings to put in olive oil/sprinkle atop chips:
cumin
chili powder
curry
garlic powder

Cut tortilla into 8 wedges and arrange on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool and eat with your favorite salsa or crumble on soup.  Or you can use for taco salad like we did!

Enjoy!

back to calligraphy

I’m back to blogging after a month’s sabbatical due to the busyness of the holidays.  We went to California (see more on our family blog at Chronicles of a Vagabond) and spent time with my family there.  It was a great time of fun!!  Christmas without snow can be fun, too!

This year’s Christmas cards were handmade/designed and I had a lot of fun handwriting the addresses with various fonts I downloaded from the internet (yes, I specifically searched the internet for fun fonts to use for Christmas cards…).

I took calligraphy as a second grader one summer at summer school and I’ve kept up the skill since, of course, with much improvement and added flair (I not only do calligraphy, but also antique/old school style scripts with a ballpoint pen). It is something that is enjoyable and relaxing for me.  Not to mention, fun.  If you’re interested in having me address envelopes or script diplomas, send me an email!

Here is a sample of some of the fonts:

There were about 4-5 other fonts that I did on the cards that also turned out well, but I only photographed these few.

Here is what the interior of the card looked like:

We printed this on a light green background and pasted it onto black cardstock.  It turned out great!

Christmas craft endeavors that were not photographed:
*  2 Crocheted rolled brimmed hats with rosettes (light blue hat with taupe/cream rosettes)
*  2 jersey headbands with 3 varied sized rosettes
*  1 set of 4 placemats with pockets (brown/burnt orange/taupe & yellow)
*  Knit beanie for Nathaniel with Brown Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool
*  Further progress on Nick’s striped turtleneck wool sweater (still not finished)

Future craft projects:
*  Baby quilt
*  Miniature crocheted turtles
* wooden peg people (Homemadebyjill)

Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

My sweet boy

Smiley boy

Just smoke it!

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We smoked a leg of goat (the one we got from the County Fair)!  We soaked it in brine overnight and then put dry rub on it.  It smoked for almost 5 hours in our smoker, on the porch (yes, it smelled heavenly!) over hickory wood chips, white wine, orange slices and anise stars.

Here is the leg pre-smoke.  We didn’t get a picture post-smoke (unforunately), but it was SOOOO good!  We have 1 more leg, so I’ll get a better picture of before/after when we smoke that one.

I’m saving the leg bone to make split pea-barley soup.  That will be another good post.

easy homemade cream puffs

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My sister made cream puffs when she was here many months ago and froze the leftover cream puff shells.  So, I thought I’d pull them out and use them for a Thursday night hang out time with friends.  I threw together some instant vanilla pudding mix with 2 oz. cream cheese, 3 oz. leftover Ricotta cheese and about 3/4 c. milk.  It was sooo delicious!

Additionally, if you want a simple and great recipe for cream puffs, look here:  Easy Cream Puffs

Enjoy!

A taste of summer amidst fall

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Mango Sticky Rice is always a treat!  It is especially a treat when you have it in the middle of fall, just before the onset of winter.  It reminds me of a perfect balmy, summer day, which is sometimes just what I need when it’s 35 degrees outside (even though that’s not THAT cold..I’ve seen worse).  :-)  If you can find mangoes in your area, try this recipe!  It’s simple and delicious!

Ingredients
1 mango, peeled and sliced
1 c. of glutinous sticky rice (Thailand)
1 1/4 c. water
1/4 c. coconut milk
1 t. sugar
maraschino cherries (optional)

1.  Using a rice cooker, combine sticky rice and water and set to cook (or cook on stovetop)
2.  While rice is cooking, combine coconut milk and sugar.
3.  When rice is done, arrange on plate or in a bowl (mango can go beside rice or on top of).
4.  Just before eating, Pour coconut milk mixture over rice and eat with mango.

You’ve just created a delicious, exotic dessert in just 5-10 minutes!  Congratulations!  :-)

Fall Fruit, Fall Vegetable

I’ve been MIA due to rehearsals for Miracle on 34th Street that are taking over my life.  So, now that I have a little bit of free time here during the day, I’m going to write a quick post with 2 recipes that I think are pretty great.

Apples and pumpkins.  Those are, to me, the symbolic fruit/vegetable of fall.  When fall rolls around, all of a sudden, people are going crazy over apples and pumpkins.  So, I will feature 2 recipes that I brought to our family Thanksgiving get together (of course, I volunteered to bring dessert…).

Prepped apples

Philadelphia-Style Apple Cake
Be sure to grease the Bundt pan really well to avoid sticking!

6 cups peeled and thinly sliced Granny Smith apples (about 3 large)
1/2 cup plus 4 T. granulated sugar, divided
1 T. cinnamon
3 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
4 eggs
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 c. vegetable oil (or 1/2 c. veg. oil + 1/2 c. apple sauce)
1/2 c. orange juice
2 1/2 t. vanilla

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan.
2. Combine apple slices with 4 T. sugar and cinnamon, set aside.
3.  Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, set aside.
4.  Beat eggs with remaining granulated sugar and brown sugar.  Add veg. oil, orange juice and vanilla, beat well.  Gradually blend in flour mixture and mix until well blended (about 1 minute).
5.  Pour 1/3 of batter into pan.  Top with half the apple slices, draining off any liqui.  Pour in half the remaining batter and top with remaining apple slices.  Top with remaining batter, making sure apples are covered.
6.  Bake 55-60 minutes until top is golden brown and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Let cool 10 minutes in pan.  Turn out onto wire rack and let cool completely.  Serves 16

(adapted from AmericanProfile, courtesy of Carolyn Wyman, PHiladelphia, PA)

Tube pan Apple Cake

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Pie pumpkin

Crust (from Trout Point Lodge Cookbook, makes seven 9-10 inch tart crusts)
1 3/4 c. sugar
3 1/2 c. (7 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
8 1/2 c. flour

1.  Combine sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla in large bowl and mix with whisk or electric mixer on low speed.  Mix until ingredients are just combined; do not overwork.
2.  With vigorous whisking motions or on med. speed, add flour a bit at a time, until mixture is combined and smooth (small chunks of butter may remain).  Do not overmix., or the dough will become tough and mealy.  Stop mixing as soon as the dough forms a cohesive mass and can be formed into a ball.
3.  Using a scale, divide the dough into 7 equal parts.  Shape each one into a ball, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate.  The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 wks or in the freezer for up to 1 month (thaw in refrigerator before rolling out).
4.  When you are ready to use the dough, remove plastic wrap and place dough on a floured work surface.  Press on the ball to form a 1 1/2 in thick disk.  Roll it out according to instructions in the pie or tart recipe.

Filling
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees C (175 degrees C).  Roll crust out and press into 9×13 pan and set in freezer while making filling.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk, then remaining two eggs, pumpkin, remaining 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, and salt; mix well. Pour over crust; sprinkle with pecans.
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until set.
  4. Cool, then chill in refrigerator. Cut into squares. Store covered in refrigerator.

*option:  top each bar with a pecan. 


Welsh Cinnamon-Cherry Griddle Cakes

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This morning, I had a hankering for something bread-y and sweet.  Nothing of the sort was found in the kitchen, so I tried to look for a quick recipe.  I found a quick bread type recipe in my Wycliffe Cookbook for Welsh Griddle Cakes.  I decided to add a bit of cinnamon and substitute raisins with dried cherries instead (leftover from Chocolate Cherry Rum Cheesecake from Trout Point Lodge near Halifax, Nova Scotia).

Rhys has a recipe for Welsh Griddle Cakes, too (I have not tried it, but since he’s Welsh, I figured it’s reliable), so you can try both to see which one you like!  You can find the history for Welsh Griddle Cakes here.  Quite interesting!

The result was delightful!  I had something bread-y in less than 20 minutes!  A recipe that was satisfying to the taste buds.

Welsh Cinnamon-Cherry Griddle Cakes
Combine:
1 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/8 t. salt

Using a pastry cutter or fork:
1/4 c. butter, chilled/cold

Add:
1/4 c. dried cherries
1/4 t. cinnamon
2-4 T. evaporated milk, or enough to just make the dough come together

Form little balls and press into patties about 1/4-1/2 inch thick and grill on a well floured griddle until golden brown.  Serve with butter and/or honey, or eat plain!

Step by Step Homemade Gyros

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Gyro:  “turning/to turn” in Greek

We had 2 pounds of ground goat (the one we got from the county fair) left, so we decided to make Gyros with it!  Exciting times…since I’ve always loved ordering Gyros at places that sell it.

Gyros is normally made with ground lamb combined with beef, but goat will be a pretty good substitute.

Alton Brown’s recipe got some pretty good reviews (4 out of 5 stars) and has a pretty good recipe when it comes to meats, so I decided to try his variation of Gyro meat and Tzatziki sauce.   Ideally, it would be fun to be in the kitchen of a Greek mama to watch and take notes, but Alton Brown will do just fine for now.  If you’re curious, you can find a pretty interesting explanation of the origins of this American invention, which is most similar to a “Doner Kebab” from Turkey.  Here’s my adapted version of Alton Brown’s recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped or shredded
  • 2 pounds ground goat meat
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon dried ground rosemary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    Directions

    Process the onion in a food processor for 10 to 15 seconds and turn out into the center of a tea towel. Gather up the ends of the towel and squeeze until almost all of the juice is removed. Discard juice.

  • Return the onion to the food processor and add the lamb, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt, and pepper and process until it is a fine paste, approximately 1 minute. Stop the processor as needed to scrape down sides of bowl.
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Place the mixture into a loaf pan, making sure to press into the sides of the pan. Place the loaf pan into a water bath and bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. Place the loaf pan on a cooling rack and place a brick wrapped in aluminum foil directly on the surface of the meat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees F. Slice and serve on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped onion, tomatoes and feta cheese.

Anyway, here are the 2 pounds of ground goat meat, defrosted and ready to be mixed up.

Ground goat meat

I mixed the 2 pounds of goat meat with the dry spices in the blender (should’ve been a food processor, but since I had none, the blender worked, though not ideally) one small batch at a time.

Dry spices + Blender

The blender that blended meat!

Then, I spread the purreed meat into a loaf pan and made sure to press it in to the sides and place a foil-wrapped brick on top to make sure the meat stays as compact as possible (it’s tight like deli meat).

Brick on meat

Then, I refrigerated this overnight.

The next day 2 hours before dinner time, I took the meat out and (this is the part where I mess up) start baking it.  But, I forgot to put the loaf pan into a water bath!  I baked it just like meat loaf.  I only realize when it’s too late and the loaf is almost done.  So, if you do indeed give this recipe a try, remember:  WATER BATH!  I baked it at 325 for about 70 minutes.

While the meat was baking, I prepared the Tzatziki Sauce.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces plain yogurt
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley

Place the yogurt in a tea towel, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl, and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Place the chopped cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze to remove the liquid; discard liquid. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups
(adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe)

The night before, I had also prepped some dough for the pita bread.  That will be in another post; one about Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes (that’s where the dough recipe was taken from).

After baking, I took the pan out and let it sit for just a little while to cool enough so that I could drain the excess fat and then slice it. I drained the excess fat into a bowl (to save for cooking other dishes in the future) and turn the loaf out.

Finely sliced gyro meat

Fortunately, it still tasted moist enough and I think that perhaps the fat in the meat helped to retain some of the moisture.  Whatever happened, the meat was still moist and yummy!

Close up

After the meat and sauce were done, I put the fresh pita dough in the oven to bake a few pitas and kept them warm in my tortilla warmer that I bought from Aldi (see prior post), complete with a warming stone!

Meanwhile, I chopped up the tomatoes and onions and set the table.

Voila!  A wonderful dinner that didn’t take too much to make (though prep time was plenty).

Ta-dah! Here's the spread

We had some nice Paisano wine to go with it all!  Yummmm.

What type of ethnic cuisine do you like?

Pumpkin Tribute 5: Fluffy Pumpkin Pancakes

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With whipped cream and butter

I follow Chef John’s (from Food Wishes) blog weekly and he has a great pumpkin pancake recipe, Chef John’s Pumpkin Pancakes, that includes the usage of lemon juice and lemon zest!  Kind of a fun addition.  Chef John is also known for fun videos to accompany his recipes.  He is incredibly humorous and has a great video voice.  He makes cooking fun and easy!

Below, you can find it adapted to what I had on hand.  I had some leftover cans of evaporated milk (I bought 3 from Aldi’s since they’re having their seasonal items sales) after making the pumpkin pie, and we didn’t have anymore regular milk in the fridge, so I just used the evaporated milk that I had.  Fluffiest pancakes ever!

Pumpkin Pancakes Ingredients
(adapted from Chef John at Food Wishes)
Mix in one bowl:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt

Mix in another bowl:
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar

Combine and make pumpkin pancakes!

Like the scones, I usually mix the dry ingredients together the night before and then combine the wet ingredients the morning of breakfast, so as to save time in the morning when I’m cooking at 6am.

You can also add chopped walnuts or pecans if you like some crunchiness and texture to your pancakes.  We had this with leftover whipped cream from the pumpkin pie.

With whipped cream and butter

The sneakers I’ve been waiting for

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The winning pair

This is my first post about fashion, so I’m just going to say that it’s part of “Arts & Crafts.” Or rather, the “stitch” part of “A Stitch and a Stir.”

I started my quest for a pair of casual sneakers (because every girl needs a pair of casual sneakers) about 2 months ago.  Two days ago, 2 months later, I bought the pair I looked at on day one of said quest.  It’s funny how sometimes our first instinct is the right one…they always told me not to second guess myself.

I looked at a variety from Rocket Dogs to Converse to Sanuks…high and low I searched, cheap shoes to expensive shoes, ran the gamut.  And at last, I found myself at Kohl’s looking at a $50.00 pair of Converse that were very unique-looking and conveniently, on the clearance rack.  They were only $20.00, but the wrong size, so i took a chance and called another local Kohl’s.  Fortunately, they had my size in the exact same style shoe.  I was overjoyed and asked them to place the shoes on hold and I would be in the next day to pick them up!

The next morning at 8:30am, I left the house with little Nathaniel and went to pick up my long-awaited Converse sneakers.  I used my 15% off Kohl’s coupon and got my new sneakers for less than $20!  What a steal!

My new Converse

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