Steak Fajitas

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One of the worst times of year for a teacher is the two weeks before school starts. It’s not because we are dreading it, but the anticipation of the work load, and wanting to enjoy every last drop of summer–those two things form a dichotomy that keeps many a teacher up with insomnia at night and cranky during the day. I am starting to have stress school dreams and I am starting to get on my husband’s nerves. Buckle up, sweetie, we’ve only just begun.

We didn’t get the best news today either. Henry got hired at a new job and they originally wanted him to start next Wednesday. Sweet. We made camping plans for this weekend. They called today and said, actually, can you start Friday. He wasn’t in the position to say no–so I am going camping by myself. Well, not all by myself, but without Henry.  Bummer. This was our last hurrah for the summer.

Our consolation prize? Fajitas for dinner. It’s not camping, but it’s something.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound steak, sliced
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili powder (I used california)
  • 2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • half of an onion, sliced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice from half of an extremely juicy lime
  • zest of half of a lime
  • half of a large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • large drizzle of garlic olive oil

Marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.

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Fry it up. Serve it up. Try to not pout about not camping with your sweetie.

I separated out the peppers and fried them first. It’s super important that you don’t overcook your steak, and if you separate out ingredients that cook at different rates, you can make sure that doesn’t happen.

I love my new old cast iron pan!

I love my new old cast iron pan!

 

 

Gratuitious Wedding Food Porn

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Planning our wedding was stressful. And exciting. And maddening. And fun. And frustrating. Some things I could just not get motivated to take care of. I didn’t care a lot about what some would consider “traditional” wedding decisions. Where people would sit. What type of guest book to get.   So I dragged my feet and hemmed and hawed about certain decisions–but when it came to wedding food, I knew exactly what I wanted and how I wanted it done.

First things first: Wedding cake. Does anybody even like that crap anyway? Does any person legitimately enjoy eating cake? And wedding cake is the worst of it–75% frosting, 25% frills and fondant. I couldn’t see myself paying a couple hundred dollars for something I wouldn’t eat anyway. Our solution? Wedding pie. We ended up ordering them from Barb’s Pies in Ferndale, Washington, and they turned out perfect. My father in law made a tiered stand for them and the whole set up was better than I could have imagined.  I got that cute pie sign from the World Market last February, right around the time we decided on pies and it was totally meant to be at our wedding.

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Photos by Angela Noelle Photography

After I had the pie idea nailed down, I moved onto dinner. It was an outdoor wedding at gorgeous Vartanyan Estate Winery and so I knew I wanted something outdoor friendly–but also elevated. Kabobs was the first thing that came to mind. Thanks to my lovely mother in law, we were able to pull off the food like a well oiled machine. She had a whole brigade of friends show up to man the grill and serve everyone.

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We had beef and chicken kabob marinated in easy, but assertive marinades. The chicken was dusted in Emerill Lagasse’s “essence” and smoked before being grilled the next day. The chicken was marinated in lemon juice, dijon mustard, fresh rosemary, garlic, and salt and pepper.

My only regret that day was not getting to eat more of the spread. I think I had a bit of cheesecake and a bite of salad. It was nice to see everyone else chowing down, though.

Vampire Proof Your Life: Garlic Wine

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Henry and I have been dabbling in home brewing for a year and a half now. We started with hard apple cider, which ended down the drain. Next was watermelon wine, which is still chilling out in the bottle, waiting to mature. After that was a lager, which has turned out the best of all of our recipes. Now we have moved on to garlic wine. The brew shop owner suggested it to us the very first time we went to see him, ask him questions, and buy his equipment. It sounded easy enough, and it was easy–but we didn’t think it through all the way, and neither did he give us any warnings.

So let this be your warning. Making this wine is only for the strong of will. You will smell things you wished you hadn’t. It will permeate your walls. Furniture. Everything. But you have to finish it–the damage is done. Roast, mince, boil, ferment. Do it. I’ll let you know how ours turned out next summer.

Equipment:

1.  2 gallon food safe bucket

2.  1 gallon carboy and airlock

3.  Racking siphon

Recipe:

  • 1.5 cups of orange juice
  • 1 can of apple juice concentrate
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 2 pounds of sugar
  • 1 tsp Yeast nutrient
  • 1 tsp Pectic enzyme
  • 1 Packet Lalvin EC-1118 yeast
  • 12 large heads of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp tannin

Method:

First, prepare a yeast starter.  Mix the juice, yeast nutrient, and pectic enzyme. Pitch the yeast.

Roast 6 of the heads of garlic for two hours at 350. When it cools, squeeze the cloves out.

Take the other 6 heads and peel them. Boil the raw garlic and roasted garlic together with 1/2 gallon of water for 45 minutes. Try to not die. The smell–oh, the eye burning smell! This boiling step will the longest 45 minutes of your entire life.

Strain the liquid into your food safe bucket, also known as your primary fermentation vessel. I used a combination of colander and cheese cloth. Add the apple concentrate, lemon juice, and tannin to the bucket. Stir. Add water until your volume equals one gallon.

Record the specific gravity. Or have your husband do it.  It should be at least 1.074. 

Oh, yeah. Don’t pitch the yeast into the other ingredients until it’s cooled to 90 degrees.  Don’t want to fry the yeast.

Leave it in your food safe bucket for a week.  Rack to a one gallon carboy, fitted with an airlock.

Rack it again after three weeks, and then after that, once or twice a month for six months. After you bottle it, it’ll be done a year from when you began the entire process.

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Artichoke and Kale Chicken and Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

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This is adapted from a recipe I found about a month ago, but never got around to making. The original recipe called for thawed and squeezed, frozen spinach.  I thought using kale instead would give some texture to the final dish, as it doesn’t mush up like spinach does. I also added fresh herbs to my recipe and subbed in Japanese mayo, just because I had it around.

As a side dish, I peeled an enormous sweet potato and cut it into rounds. I laid the rounds on a sheet pan, drizzled them in garlic olive oil, and gave them a pinch of minced rosemary, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. I baked them in the oven with the chicken dish and they finished at the same time. Perfect.

Disclaimer. I did not measure my ingredients. Use your best judgement. Taste. Make enough sauce to coat the chicken and kale. Use equal parts mayo and yogurt. Make it your own!

Ingredients:

  • Four boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Kale–half of a bunch, sliced
  • Artichoke hearts–marinated in oil, rinsed and diced
  • Parmesan cheese–grated
  • mayonnaise–I used Kewpie mayo
  • Greek yogurt
  • fresh sage, thyme, rosemary–finely minced
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic–minced
  • onion–diced
  • half of a red bell pepper–diced

Method:

Salt and pepper chicken. Brown it on both sides. Don’t worry about cooking it through. I did the entire dish in a cast iron frying pan, so it is a one pan dish–stove to oven.

Mix artichoke, cheese, mayo, yogurt, herbs, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Set aside.

After chicken is done, set aside on a plate. In the same pan, saute onions, peppers, garlic–then add kale and cook down.

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Turn off the heat, add the cheese mixture.

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Nestle chicken in the sauce.  Bake until chicken is done and sauce is melty and gooey.

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Tacos à la Shiela

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Quintessential childhood foods.

As adults looking back, we often wonder, how in the world did my folks think it was ok to feed me that? Or why did I think that tasted so good? But they did and we did and we grew up healthy and happy, right? Well adjusted adults–regardless of the fried spam sandwiches and spaghettios.

Chef Boyardee. Campbell’s. Tony the Tiger. Squeeze its and Capri Suns. Push pops. Ring pops. Pudding cups. Most of it highly processed. Loaded with sugar, salt, fat, and gimmicks.

We survived, though–and I try my hardest to give the kids wholesome foods–hoping that those recipes will be quintessential for them when they reflect as adults.

And then sometimes, like tonight, I hearken back to a simple time–a time when it was perfectly acceptable to include cheese whiz in a recipe and feed it to your family. Tonight, I make tacos à la Shiela.

Shiela is my dad’s sister–and for all intents and purposes, she is my mom. The best memories of my childhood were with her–and some of my earliest and strongest food memories are with her as well. These tacos are simple, addictive, and trashy. Cheese whiz, browned and drained hamburger, and a can of rinsed kidney beans. Mix it all together, throw into a taco shell along with your regular cast of taco characters and you’ll have something that is salty, gooey, creamy, and crunchy. The best guilty pleasure I can think of. And now I get to share it with my family. I’d have taken a picture of it cooked, but it’s equal parts brown and gloppy–not exactly the most photogenic dish.

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In other news, we are making garlic and onion wine tonight. Super excited!

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A Day of Pizza

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I am really going all out with pizza today. But not in the traditional sense.  I am taking the expected ingredients–marinara, cheese, and pepperoni–and using them in strange ways. First up this afternoon was pizza biscuits. I took the regular whomp biscuits, cut slits into them, and slipped in a spoonful of marinara sauce, spoonful of ranch sauce (why not?!), a pepperoni or two, and a large pinch of cheese. Then I sealed up the edges and baked them like normal biscuits. Henry said: Can you make these always forever? (not the child, the adult).  Needless to say, they were a hit.

Tonight, I am turning those same ingredients into Pizza Pasta. Here’s the breakdown.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound whole wheat pasta, your choice of style. I used penne.
  • some meat sauce I had in the freezer. Several cups? Use however much you’d normally use for a pound of pasta.
  • 1/2 cup ranch mixed with 1/2 cup ricotta
  • Grated cheese
  • Pepperonis

Method:

1.  Boil the pasta, but do not cook it all the way. Leave it a little raw. It will continue to cook in the oven.

2.  Layer the pasta down on some meat sauce in a baking dish. Half of the pasta goes down. Put down a sprinkle of cheese and all of the ricotta/ranch mixture. Then add the second half of the pasta, and the meat sauce on top of that. Then more cheese, and then your pepperonis.

3.  Bake it at 425 until it’s done. 30-45 minutes, I think. 

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Giada’s Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops with Bobby’s Greek Potatoes (and pie!)

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Giada’s Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops with Bobby’s Greek Potatoes (and pie!)

This afternoon, I tried to drink a slimfast. The three year old slowly came towards me, licking his lips: “Is that called chocolate milk, Jenn?” He whimpered and crept closer.  I took a drink. He eyeballed me. The six year old corrected him: “No! It has protein. It makes Jenn strong.”

I just sat there and wondered if it would be ok to lock myself in my bedroom for the rest of the day.

Instead of running away for the rest of the afternoon, we took the kids to the park to play.  We amassed a snail army, ate blackberries we found, and took turns down the fireman’s pole.  and when we got home, I made Parmesan crusted pork chops, Greek potatoes, green beans, and a fairy pie (also known as a raspberry lemon refrigerator pie).

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The kids wolfed it down. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Recipes are linked above. Changes I made were minimal. I added frozen raspberries to the pie to make it pink and that was about it.

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