armadillas


I wasn’t permitted to read Dr. Seuss as a child

He brought everything back,

all the food for the feast.

And he, he himself, the Grinch,

carved the roast beast

Oh my goodness! Friday I decided to make dinner for the boyfriend. He’d just returned from a trip to Pennsylvania and I wanted to do something special. Plus a friend was coming over and I figured why not cook up dinner for everyone. But what to make? Well, not so long ago the boyfriend requested pot roast. I have issue with pot roast. It’s just not one of my favorite things to eat. I’m not saying I don’t like it exactly…there are just other forms of beef I’d rather indulge in. I’ve always had these feeling about pot roast. Give me a roast chicken any day! But I agreed to get around to it for him and Friday was just as good a day as any.

And I blew myself away! I’m not sure if what I made could be classified as pot roast or braised beef (aren’t they rather the same thing?), but I kept calling all kinds of names (roast beef, pot roast, the beast in my pot) so I suppose it doesn’t really matter. All I know is that it was pretty dang tasty and I shall definitely be filing it away for future use. The best part? The dish ended up making two meals! But I’ll get to that later.

Let’s talk about my method real quick. As mentioned, I’m not a fan of traditional pot roast so I decided to give it an Italian twist. Whenever in doubt, always employ Italian twists. In my opinion, it’s extremely hard to go wrong with Italian. Besides, the boyfriend’s Nana sent him back with all kinds of canned goodies-tomatoes, peppers, beets, peaches- and I decided the tomatoes and peppers would serve my purpose superbly. Dump everything into the dutch oven, add some good herbs, and let the whole thing go for a few hours! I love one pot meals.

Once again, sorry for no pictures. I’ll get around to replacing/upgrading my phone eventually. Then I’ll just have to remake all these delicious dishes again for you. Sounds like a deal to me!

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lbs chuck roast (I used boneless but by all means keep the bone!)
  • 2 jars canned tomatoes (or get a couple cans of crushed tomatoes)
  • 1 jar canned/pickled peppers (I’d bet money that a jar of pepperoncinis or roasted red peppers would work)
  • 2 cups chicken stock (feel free to use beef stock. I don’t like strong beef flavors)
  • 1 can spaghetti/marinara sauce (for added depth)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced (because everyone is getting sick- no thank you!)
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar
  • Olive oil

Okay, let’s get to it! The first thing we want to do is sear our meat. Heat  a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a dutch oven on high heat. Medium-high if you hate how the oil tries to jump up on you from the pan. Quickly season your meat generously with salt and pepper. Once the oil is hot, using tongs place the chuck into the pan. Sear all sides until brown then remove from pan and set aside. Turn heat down to medium-low.

Now, my pantry is a little empty right now so I didn’t include extra vegetables, but if you have onions and carrots on hand then add them in! Chop those babies up and toss them into the remaining oil and let them cook down a little bit. But if you’ve neglected to go grocery shopping skip all that and use about half  the chicken stock to deglaze the yummy bits left from the chuck in the bottom of your dutch oven. I also added my garlic in during this step and let it simmer in the liquid. After a few minutes, add the remaining stock. Once again, feel free to use beef stock if you prefer or even water with bouillon cubes.

Everything is downhill from here. Empty both jars of tomatoes into your pot. Dump in the peppers. I added all the peppers, but only half the juice. If I were using pepperoncinis or roasted red peppers, I’d use all the tasty liquid to my advantage. Next, pop open your can of tomato sauce and add that in too.

My jars of canned tomatoes were just plain old tomatoes, so I spiced things up a bit with the oregano, basil, and parsley. You can do this to taste. I probably used between 1/2 a tablespoon to a whole tablespoon of herbs. Sprinkle in some sugar, as well. To counteract all the acid. Also, I like things hot so I added copious amounts of crushed red pepper flakes.

Is that everything? Place the chuck roast smack dab in the middle of all the red goodness and bring to a quick boil. Turn the heat down to low, top the pot with a lid, and leave it alone for 3-4 hours depending on your patience. The longer it cooks, the more tender the meat will be. I took mine out after only 3 hours, but we were all starving and I started cooking later then I had intended. But you’ll be on top of your game, I’m sure.

After the prescribed time, you have two choices. You can either shred your meat and serve it in the red soup that has been created inside your dutch oven. Or you can remove the meat, slice it, and serve it on a platter. I chose the latter route. Mmm mmm mmm. So yummy for something so usually not yummy. Everyone loved it, myself included. I served it with garlic mashed potatoes and Italian sauteed green beans. It was a wonderful meal.

You wanna know what else was great about my roasted beast? All those tomatoes and peppers and chicken stocked turned themselves into a lovely, spicy soup that I saved and served for dinner the next night. Can I get a big CHA-CHING?!

Two meals in one!!! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did

Tijuana

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Technical conspiracies

I’m so upset! As you all know, my lowly yet trusted camera phone stopped working the other day. It’s a bad thing, a very bad thing for my style of blogging. My poor photos may not be high quality, but at least they are instructional. So how, pray tell, am I supposed to make regular updates without photos? I suppose we’re just going to have to use our imaginations for a while. Or, I can attempt at doodling…which has never been my strong point.

Yeah, the doodling is not working out so well. Anyway, the reason I really wanted to post some pics today is because I finally finally finally attempted to make a dough that turned out perfectly. What a feat! I mean, remember my last few attempts with dough? They weren’t very pretty. But today I stumbled upon a fairly simple recipe for homemade pretzels and it was an absolute success. I was ecstatic!

Recipe courtesy Joanne Ozug at Fifteen Spatulas

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons quick rise yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Sea salt
  • Baking soda mixture (see below)

When I said this recipe was simple, I really meant it. Take all your ingredients and dump them into a bowl. Your warm water should be around 110 degrees.

Mix it all together with a wooden spoon until the dough begins to form.

Knead the dough. This surely is not my strong point so after a few minutes of trying to figure out if the dough was doing what it was supposed to be doing I decided to stop.

Dust the dough with flour and seal into a Ziploc bag. Allow to rest for half an hour.

After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the bag and divide into however many pretzels you want. The original recipe makes eight. I decided to make six small ones for snacking and two big ones for sandwiches. Who doesn’t love a pretzel sandwich?!

Once the dough is divided, roll and  form into little pretzel knots  on a lightly oiled surface. Dunk each knot into a Baking Soda Mixture, which consists of a cup of water mixed with a tablespoon of baking soda microwaved in a bowl together.

Place the dunked knots onto a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and let rest for 10 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Indulge!

These were pretty good, especially for my first try. I sincerely apologize for not having any photos. Next time I want to experiment and make garlic pretzels. Maybe I’ll even throw some herbs into the dough, too.


Dehydrated

Today, two things happened.

First, we went to Pick n Pull to try and dig a resistor out of an old Nissan Maxima. It took us three cars to find the correct one my Pathfinder needed. Fortunately, I got in on the passenger side and started taking apart the glove box just before a man opened the drivers side door and started fiddling around with the radio and switches. I asked him what he was looking for and he told me he was in need of a resistor. Too bad for him I got there first. Besides, from our conversation he didn’t seem to even know what a resistor looked like. I tried to explain to him that the one I was pulling was a special kind of resistor for automatic climate control and he probably just needed one of the more common four prong resistors that I found in the other two Maximas. Then he switched his story up and said he needed one with automatic climate control. I wished him luck and was on my way as soon as I could yank out my part. I don’t think he did any research before going to the junkyard. Oh well.

Then I went home, dismantled my own glove box, replaced the resistor, and put the whole thing back together without any assistance from the boyfriend whatsoever. I’m happy to report that my a/c is now working perfectly and all for only eight bucks versus one hundred thanks to our adventure at Pick n Pull. I’m one happy girl.

The second thing that happened is I discovered the camera on my phone no longer works. I don’t know what happened to it, but that pretty much means that I won’t be able to post pictures for awhile. Of course, I could try taking it apart and figuring things out, but I think that’s little out of my league. But perhaps I’ll do a little research on it.

But it’s been a pretty good day!


I prefer the old kitchen before the remodel

Granny with Memaw (right)

Today I stumbled on a post here that reminded me of my great grandmother. Most of us call her Granny, though there is a small section of the family that calls her Old Granny for some old reason. For the most past, I find it annoying, but that’s neither here nor there. In January, that magnificent woman will be 90. Maybe 91. I don’t think anyone knows the actual year of her birth. 1922 seems to work for her so we’ll cross our fingers and say she’ll be 90. I should really make an effort to visit her this year on her birthday. I don’t visit nearly as often as I should.

One of the most frequent memories I have of my Granny is her making biscuits and gravy. Like the guy in the post above, it took me a long time to finally try biscuits and gravy. I won’t deny that I was a picky child and let’s be real- gravy doesn’t look all that appetizing. Plus, my Granny is a vegetarian so in my eyes her plain white gravy looked like nasty white goop designed to ruin a perfectly good biscuit. I’m not sure what I ate for breakfast on those days…

Granny and Gramps

Usually, I remember my first bite of most foods. I’ve said it before, I remember my first taste of crab legs, muscles, sausage, lo mein, egg rolls, Indian tacos, etc. The same doesn’t go for biscuits and gravy. For the life of me, I cannot remember how that stuff got on my plate and in my belly. But I remember not liking it one day and then loving it the next day. It became one of my comfort foods and it’s so easy to prepare. I do remember standing next to Granny’s ancient gas stove and watching her every move in making the gravy. Even back then I wasn’t so great at making dough. But I sure could replicate her gravy, which has served me greatly on many poor-girl dinner nights.

I don’t think I even knew that gravy came in carnivore form until I went to college. My friends and I used to host “Family Dinner Nights” and one night the theme was breakfast. Sarah made sausage gravy. Needless to say, my mind was blown. A new door was opened. Why hadn’t I ever discovered such a thing before!

But I still love my Granny’s plain gravy with heaping amounts of black pepper.

 


Thistle

 

You see that beauty? That there is a 1997 Nissan Pathfinder. She may be a little aged with a few nicks and dinks in her, but she’s my baby. I mean, she’s got 4wd, great cargo space, a sunroof, cruise control, running boards, a spacious drivers seat, air and heat, a roof rack, plus okay speakers for my radio. Who am I to complain? But having an older vehicle does mean things start to go. For instance, I had a severe oil leak and had to recently replace a lot of junk under there (gaskets, seals, etc). Now, my a/c is running high and won’t switch to the other settings. The likely problem? Blower motor resistor. And of course, I don’t have a normal, run-of-the-mill standard resistor. Nope, I have an automatic climate control resistor which is fancy for it’s gonna cost me more $$$. Leave it to me to have special needs. Fortunately, there’s a place not too far away where I can pick parts from used vehicles. Besides, the good thing about driving an older lady is that I sure am learning a lot about how to do things myself.

FYI, I can now:

Change my own oil

Change my own spark plugs

Change a tire

Change a battery

Clean a corroded battery

Jump a car

Level my own fluids when the shop forgets to do it themselves (I’m a little bitter, yes)

Replace a blower motor resistor

Once upon a time, I couldn’t do any of these things. But with the help of Youtube, the boyfriend, and the helpful texts of some mechanic friends of mine, I am becoming ever knowledgeable on the workings and maintenance of my lovely means of transportation. It shames me to think that there was once a time that if my air stopped working, I wouldn’t have investigated to find the problem. I would’ve just gone without air and pretended that I enjoyed having the windows rolled down ALL THE TIME.

Now I pull out the tools to take apart my glove box

 

Locate the blower motor resistor

 

And remove the blower motor resistor

 

Now I can take those tools to Pick-n-Pull, repeat the whole process, then return home and do it all in reverse. With the help of the boyfriend, of course. But soon I won’t need his guidance at all! My grandma always wanted me to take a class on basic automotive mechanics. Guess her wish is coming true!

 


Spells

Today I’m going to go on a little rant for ranting’s sake. You see, I’ve been job hunting, submitting applications left and right. There must be near 30 applications out there with my name on them- and that’s just from the past three days. Needless to say, it’s not a fun process. No, not at all.

But it would be really nice if one of these applications turn into my saving grace and someone gives me a ring or shoots me an email. My fingers are double crossed. It’s ridiculous how easy it is to find a crap job that pays next to nothing and offers even worse hours, and how hard it is to find something stable. Eh, but that’s the complaint of everyone nowadays, isn’t it? At least by some miracle I manage to get my bills paid, have a roof over my head and food in my belly, and have supportive friends with which to drink wine and rant. Even when life seems low, there’s always a spec of gold to be found.

Plus, let’s talk about this magnificent weather. As a gal more inclined to favor the winter months over the summer months, this past week of 73 has been absolutely perfect. I took much joy in flinging open the windows and shutting off the a/c. I’ve even donned a sweater thrice already. Perhaps I’m acting a little prematurely, but this summer was pretty rough and I’m ready to welcome better times. So here’s to pumpkin spice, knee high boots, sweaters and scarves, mint hot chocolate, crisp air, hard cider, snuggling, bon fires, falling leaves, and all the other great things that come along with cooler temps. Ah, I’m in love and we’ve barely begun.

So let’s make some chicken. Remember those wings/drumettes I made the other day? Well, it just so happens that I had a second package of drumettes eager to be cooked. Mmm I’m thinking teriyaki!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package chicken drumettes
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Lemon juice
  • Pepper

I promise, one day I’m going to do these things up with flour and see how it goes. You know, just to see if the skin gets crunchy and not just crispy. But today, I chose the marinade route. You can’t go wrong with a good marinade. Wash your drumettes and put them in a bowl or shallow dish. If you have freezer Ziploc bags. that would work even better!

Pour the teriyaki sauce and oil over the chicken

Drizzle with as much lemon juice as your lemon-loving heart desires

Add a heaping spoonful of garlic. With cold weather coming, garlic keeps the flu away

Now mix with your hands! Or shake your freezer bag up. Set aside for at least half an hour to get the flavors going. The longer it sets, the better.

Arrange chicken on a foil lined baking sheet. Baking sheets help the skin crisp up better in my opinion, but by all means you can use a regular baking dish.

Bake for 40 minutes at 425 degrees. If you’re a little silly like me, forget to SPRAY the foil with PAM. Guess I like aluminum with my chicken! Serve with some fried rice.


Let them fly

It’s FOOTBALL SEASON! That means I have the perfect excuse to eat excessive amounts of junk food on Wednesdays and Sundays. What a beautiful sport! Of course, I am joking. A little bit at least. I’m not very big on snacking. Not only is it bad for my wallet, but it’s also bad for my waste line. So I watch my Redskins win by sipping lemon water and maybe having some popcorn. But that doesn’t mean I don’t indulge every once in awhile. After all, today is our first game of the season. What kind of fan would I be if I didn’t…make some wings?!

That’s right, today I decided to try my hand at cooking up some wings. Well, technically they are little drumettes, but who’s really paying that close attention? Anyway, I play around with a few different ideas on how to prepare them. Since my kitchen is small, I opted against frying. I really hate how it makes the whole house smell like grease. But did I want to marinate my wings and then bake them? Or perhaps dredge them in flour to make them extra crispy? There seemed like so many options for my oven.

In the end, I chose to simply bake them on high heat. The skin got nice and crispy without worrying about if adding flour was going to make the whole lot soggy. Plus, no frying!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package chicken drumettes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Buffalo sauce (I used Texas Pete Fiery Sweet)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Rinse the drumettes and pat them dry with paper towels

Hit those babies with salt and pepper!

 

Line a cookie sheet (or your trusted pizza pan) with some aluminum foil. If you forgot (as usual) to preheat you oven, go ahead and do that now. 4oo degrees please! One day you’ll be a good baker and remember to preheat, one day…

Take your seasoned chicken and mix it up with some oil. I would prefer to use olive oil, but I was plum out so canola oil will just have to do. No worries! This step can be done in a bowl if you prefer, but I rather save some clean dishes and coat the chicken right on the lined cookie sheet

 

Get your hands in there!

 

All done for now. Bake for 45 minutes for some nice crunch. I do like added texture myself

 

After 45 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven and admire your handy work. Just lovely! At this point, you can make your own buffalo/wing sauce and toss it all together. But it’s game day and I was feeling lazy so I just heated up some Texas Pete in the microwave. That’s just how we do things sometimes. Toss…

 

 

…and serve! If you haven’t noticed, I served my wings with extra sauce on the side because I like to get messy (and the fiery sweet is more sweet than fiery), but feel free to serve with some ranch or blue cheese. It’s your game food after all!

 

Go SKINS!

 


Lavender and burlap

Last night was a very special occasion. Sarah Beth, one of my good friends from college, got married! It was a simple yet elegant affair that took place at a beautiful vineyard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The view was majestic. She couldn’t have chosen a better venue.

Of course, I kept things classy by changing in the parking lot. It’s possible the van driver got a couple sneak peaks. Guess I’ve always been a bit of an exhibitionist but in my defense I was only following the boyfriend’s lead. Oh well.

I’m pretty sure the reception hall was once a stable or carriage house. That’s the feel I got from it anyway. But I’m telling you, it was a pretty nice looking converted stable. Honestly, one of the best settings I’ve ever been to.

Aside from the fact that the place was just gorgeous, I’m sure the fact that Sarah did her own decorations only added a special touch of charm to the wedding. Her theme was wheat and lavender, her colors purple and burlap. I really liked that she used mason jars in her center pieces. I brought a few home I loved them so much!

Seriously, how cute!

It has become my opinion that all weddings should be held in the evening. I think it makes the event more magical, more enchanting. Maybe I’m just a fan of stars and candlelight. Plus, the favors were these adorable little s’more kits. I’m sure the fire pit looked nicer under the moonlight than it would have in the sunlight.

Of  course, there is the matter of food as well. Savory pulled pork served on warm baked buns. Crunchy coleslaw and creamy potato salad. Fresh green beans served with red peppers. And last but not least, some of the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste. Needless to say, I filled up my plate with everything. Then went back for seconds. If I wasn’t so stuffed, I would’ve made a third round just because it was all so delicious. The caterer (or who I assume was the caterer) was as sweet as a button and we had a nice little conversation. She did good!

Yes, most definitely the best wedding I’ve gone to yet. And by far the most enthusiastic dance floor I’ve ever experienced. Those groomsmen know how to get down! Perhaps that’s one of the perks of getting married young. Most of us dancers were in our early to late twenties. But don’t worry. Some of the older folk joined in, too. Good DJ! Oh, and since the wedding was held at a vineyard, I took the liberty to enjoy a bit of wine. Their Crozé mixed with some lemonade was the perfect combination. That particular wine was described as being dry, but I found it to be more on the sweet side. The lemonade really helped to cut down that sweetness.

I just want to emphasize one more time what a beautiful ceremony the whole thing was. I really enjoyed what the preacher/pastor/reverend/minister/official (Aaron) had to say about love. I’m going to ask him if he has an available copy of his sermon/service or if I can at least have a list of his sources.

What a beautiful couple!

I only hope that one day my own wedding is such a success. I think I’m going to wrangle the new MRS into being my wedding planner. I think she could find a nice career in the business, haha. She has a wonderful eye for detail and creativity. Did I mention she did the whole thing herself (with the recruitment of her mama)?

I wish them all the happiness in the world!