Thursday, February 28, 2013

Furniture Delivery - Chapter 4

When I got home from work today I found this.

After moving things around a bit, I ended up with this.

The tags are still on and the pillows are misplaced.

Now we need a rug to tie it together.

A lamp or two and some other items to bring in some of the blue in the chairs would be nice.

And we may end up putting a TV over the fireplace after all.

We'll see.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Living Room Update - Chapter 3

Last we talked about the living room I was under the impression our new furniture would not be delivered until March.  

Breck got a call this week saying they are prepared to deliver it all tomorrow.

Things came together quickly and we were able to sell all our furniture to make room for the new.

It's all cleared out now.

Can't wait to see how it all looks tomorrow.

Monday, February 25, 2013

3 Great Recipes: Chili, Chicken, and Beer Bread

Winter is winding down here in south Texas and spring is around the corner.  Our bluebonnets are going to be amazing thanks to much needed rain this winter.  The front yard is blanketed in bluebonnet plants that will be covered in flowers in another month.

Bumper crop for sure.  They make a solid carpet covering the entire front yard and much of the back fence line.  A few flowers have popped up in areas as well.

Believing that this weekend might be one of the last chilly ones we would have this year, we invited a neighbor to dinner Friday and broke out my favorite chili recipe.  I love the way the whole house smells of cumin, garlic, and chili powder while it is cooking.  And the brick color is irresistible.

My Favorite Chili
2 lbs. stew meat
1 lb sausage
2-28 ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1-6 ounce can tomato paste
1 large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
4 tsp beef bouillon
3/4 cup beer (Shiner Black, yum)
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbs oregano
1 tbs cumin
1 tsp basil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sugar
2-15 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed.

In a large stock pot, cook meat over medium-high heat until browned.  Drain off grease, and add tomato paste and diced tomatoes.  Give a good stir to softened the paste.  Add the chopped vegetables, bouillon, beer, seasonings and sugar.  Simmer covered for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally   You won't be able to resist the urge to lift that lid and stir, I promise.  If using large chunks of stew meat(I like smaller ones), add a little more time for them to get fall-apart-tender.  Add the drained and rinsed beans, stir and leave uncovered, and simmer for 30 more minutes.  It's got good flavor already, but pass the Tabasco and sliced jalapenos for the die hards.  Great with cheese, diced tomatoes, sour cream, copped raw onions, and Fritos.

While it was cooking we took in another terrific Texas sunset on the porch.

And a Not-Sangria beverage.  Beer is better with chili.

On Saturday, Breck and I were treated to another great meal cooked by my mother.  She found a recipe for Chicken Bryan and served it over egg noodles.  Outstanding, and going on my What's Cooking Recipes.

And what's dinner without a good photo bomb from the sister-in-law.

The sunset the night before was stunning and the moon after this meal was just as lovely.

And tonight, to finish off a productive weekend, we will finish the left over chili with a loaf of quick beer cheese bread.  So easy to make, and so good.

Beer Cheese Bread
3 cups self-rising flour (or make your own by sifting 3 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 tsp salt, and 3 3/4 tsp baking powder)
1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend (cheddar or Montery Jack is fine)
1 tbs sugar (1 tsp if using a beer on the sweet side)
4 sliced green onions (sun dried tomatoes or jalapenos would be good too)
1 tbs dried red/green peppers (other spices can be used)
1 bottle beer (I used Dos XX)
1 tsp coarse salt

Toss flour and sugar with cheese, breaking up any clumps.  Add the onions and dried red/green peppers.

Pour in the beer; it's going to bubble like crazy.

Get it all stirred together until all the flour is moist.  Scrape into a lightly greased pie pan or 8 x 8 pan, cover with plastic wrap or tea towel, and let it rest for 30 minutes or more.  It was laundry day here, so I put mine on the warm dryer.

Sprinkle with coarse salt and bake at 350 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes.  Check with a toothpick to see if that is enough time for your oven.  It may take you longer.  Cool on a rack covered with a tea towel.  This will help develop a softer crust.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Getting A Jump On Christmas 2013 With Wood

Since committing to a handmade Christmas this year, my brain has been in overdrive coming up with ideas.  After some quality time on the Internet, I find a plan is forming.  One thing I know for sure is that I am making something with wood from my yard.  Some of the oaks have been shedding their branches so Breck loaded some smaller ones (2 1/2 ro 4 inch diameter limbs) into the car and we headed to Houston to my dad's wood shop (a.k.a. garage).

I used his band saw to make slices about 1/4 inch  thick.

I also wanted some slices with holes in the centers.  After a little trial and error we opted to use the drill press to create the holes before slicing.

Worked like a charm.

After loading up the cuts into a bag and sharing a wonderful meal (more on that tomorrow), Breck and I headed home.

This morning, though, I was ready to try out a new product I bought on all my little slices.  This is a wood stabilizer that will help keep the wood from cracking when it dries.  It's part of the reason why I am working on this particular Christmas present so early.  The trees are dormant so the sap is not running, so these green cuts will dry nicely and hopefully not lose their bark.

One thing I really like about Pentacryl is that it is non-toxic so I can work inside without fumes.  I poured a little into a recycled plastic food cover and let my slice soak for 5 minutes.

 Cool, huh?

I used some old ice tongs to take the slice out and allowed it to drip for a few seconds.

After testing one, I decided 3 at a time would be way more efficient since I had about 55 to soak.

I hung the ones with the holes on twine in a box so the air would circulate all around them.

The others I stood up loosely in a cardboard box to dry.  I placed them all in a dark closet and won't work with them again for a few months when they will be thoroughly dry and ready to sand and stain (or paint and varnish).

And how far did my 32 ounces go?  A long way.  I only used about 5.

Plenty left for the next project.

I want to add a special thanks to my dad for all his help and the use of his tools, Breck for jumping in and taking pictures, and my mom for the wonderful dinner.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Red Velvet Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

What a week!  There has been so much going on around here I don't even know where to start, nor do I think you really want all the details.  I do want to tell you about a new recipe I made that is going on my What's Cooking Recipes and the event for which I made it.

My friend Krystina is getting married and her coworkers hosted a shower in our school's library for her and her fiance this week.  We went with a bird theme.  Her students, and others on our hallway, decorated small wooden birdhouses.  We used them to accent tables and a tree branch in a pot used to decorate the food table.

I printed some note cards with two birds on a branch and Krystina and Brent's names on them for people to write small pieces of advice or well wishes.  These were hung on the tree as well, and scattered under it.  Did I mention food?

There were chips, dips, fruits and more dips, and  M & Ms that looked like eggs in pretty bowls,

Punch!  We love punch!  Can you tell?

We opted not to get one large cake and instead went with 5 separate desserts.  These cupcakes were so cute, and right in line with the theme.

 There was a Whopper Cake made with malted milk balls and sweetened condensed milk, creamy Cheese Cake, Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting, and a light Angel Food Cake and strawberries.

Everything was amazing and I'm pretty sure everyone had a good time, including Krystina and Brent.  They were put on display a bit on a park bench decorated with a big bow.

And the gift?  The whole staff contributed toward a Lowes gift card presented tied to a new hammer to get them started.

Now back to the recipe I wanted to share.  I made the Red Velvet Cake and it got wonderful reviews so I thought it blog worthy.  The recipe is pretty simple.  I used three bowls and a bottle of Vanilla extract to get everything prepared.

In a stand mixer's bowl combine 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of vegetable oil, and two eggs.
In another bowl combine 1 cup butter milk, 1 tsp white vinegar, and 1 1/2 ounces of red food coloring.
In the third bowl combine 2 1/2 cups self rising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and 2 tbls. cocoa.

On medium high speed, beat sugar mixture for 5 minutes or more until light and fluffy.  Alternately add milk mix and flour mix to sugar blending gently after each addition.  Finally, add 1 1/2 tsps of vanilla and mix on low until combined.

Pour into greased 9" round pans and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30-35 minutes.  Check with a wooden pick to make sure cake is thoroughly cooked, then cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove cakes from pans and continue to cool.

Spread with store bought Cream Cheese Frosting, or better yet, make your own.  I used 2-8 ounce containers of cream cheese, one cup of stick butter (softened), 8 cups of powdered sugar, and 2 tsps of vanilla.  Beat, beat, beat, until fluffy and amazing. This made way more than I needed, so I froze what I didn't use for cupcakes later.

Sorry I didn't take more photos.  Breck and I had a friend over for dinner while I was making the cake so I was a little distracted.  And at the party I was so busy getting pictures of the people that I didn't get any of the cake when it was cut.  All I have is one of the cake tucked safely in the front seat of my car with towels to take the left overs home for Breck.   He was pleased.  He loves Red Velvet.