Birds Are So 2010

Have you heard about Spoonflower?  You probably have, because I am often way behind the times.  But just in case you are as website-awareness-challenged as I, Spoonflower is a super cool site that allows anyone to upload designs to have printed on fabric.  You can order your own design or one uploaded by one of the many talented artists out there in Internetland.  I have no idea how long the site has been operating; I just recently stumbled upon it.  I’m telling you, I’m always late to the party.  (By the way, have you heard of this new site where you can bid on things like an auction?  Just kidding.) There are quite a few designs for tea towel sized calendars on Spoonflower.  I had been coveting a beautiful fabric hanging calendar from etsy way back in January, but I was too cheap to spend $50 on something that would hang in the kitchen for only one year.  So I decided to order a $11 fat quarter and hang it myself.  Again, back in January.  Because each order is custom, it takes a few weeks to receive your fun new fabric.  I was so excited when the package arrived last month.  Yes, last month.  Remember when I said I was behind the times?  I wasn’t lying.  Because this is what I ordered.

I know, I know, birds are so 2010.  Obviously.  It says so right at the top.  I didn’t even notice that this was a 2010 calendar.  Not when I ordered it.  And not even when I excitedly showed Sean my pretty new fabric.  He was all, “Um, this is 2011.”  Wop-wop. So I gave it another go.  Weeks later, my fabric arrived.  Look, it even has the correct year.  Score!

The artist is named Andrea Courchene and has an etsy shop here.   I ironed out the mailing creases, hemmed up the sides, put a small pocket on top, threaded a skinny dowel through the pocket, tied some yarn to the dowel, and hung it from a thumbtack in the kitchen.  So easy to make it can be done in one sentence.


More Food That Starts with the Letter Q

I kind of feel like quinoa is the new It Food.  I see it everywhere now, like we just invented it. Reminds me of blood oranges back in 2007, though I doubt adding quinoa would improve a martini.  Who knows?  I’m sure there’s a restaurant somewhere sprinkling three grains in the bottom of a Quinoa Martini.
I’m totally on board, however, because it is a perfect (healthier!) alternative to rice.  I like to make one-pot dishes that are usually meant to be served over rice.  Except I don’t care for rice.  At all.  Ok, I hate rice.  I used to use couscous, but apparently quinoa is much better for me.  Plus it sounds fancy, and I love faux fancy foods.
I learned about quinoa when my bff (The Most Awesome Person in the World) lived with me in 2009 and did a lot of cooking.  She left many mysterious items in the cupboard when she jetted off to Europe, including bags of this grain.  It apparently comes in different colors.  The all-knowing Google taught me how to cook it, and I’ve not looked back.
Tonight I made a delicious meal in the crock pot.  I quick seared some boneless skinless chicken thighs, about two minutes on each side.

I put them in the crock pot along with onions, carrots, a little butter, garlic, lemon juice, and about a cup of chicken stock.

I cooked it on high for about four hours, then turned it to low for the last hour and a half.  Just before they were done, I made some quinoa for the bottom of the bowls.  When quinoa is cooked, it grows little tails, like freaky little Darwinian grain.

I had never made chicken thighs before (sheltered, I know) and DUDE THEY WERE SO TENDER.  I have had bad experiences with the crock pot, so i was really surprised.  I might be a slow-cooker convert now.  It makes me look good.

Actual dinner conversation:

Taste tester 1:  Darlene, this is really good.
Me:  Thank you, that’s nice of you to say.
Taste tester 2:  Thanks for making it taste good so we don’t have to lie.


The recipe came from here, if you’re interested.  You should be interested.  It’s really good.

Fat Tuesday, Y’all

Yay, Mardi Gras!  Parades. Jazz.  Beads.  I have been to New Orleans exactly once and enjoyed every meal minute there.  I didn’t make it to Cafe du Monde until the last day of my trip, so I only had a breakfast of their famous beignets once.  I’ve been looking to recreate that ever since. Also, my DVR is full of food porn…er…food network shows.  Paula, Ina, Alton, and Rachel.  (Oh, and also a litte Guy Fieri, because, come on, he wears his sunglasses backwards.  He’s ridiculous.)  Last month I saw a New Orleans themed episode of Paula’s Best Dishes, wherein she made BEIGNETS.  I knew I needed a plan:  How can I make an entire batch of these babies in a way that doesn’t seem like I just want to sit there and eat all of them?  (Even though I kinda do.)  I know: a Mardi Gras dinner party. I started with the New Orleans holy trinity of cooking:  onions, celery, and peppers.  I used red and orange peppers; I like them better than the green ones.  And I put them in just a little bit of bacon grease.

I then added canned crushed tomatoes, ground pepper, and chopped garlic, and let it cook for about twenty minutes.  Then I added a bunch of shrimp and sliced andouille sausage (it was turkey sausage…shhh) and crumbled bacon.  Cooked about ten more minutes until the shrimp and sausage was done.  Put over a mixture of grains, the Harvest Blend from Trader Joe’s.  Yum.

This was adapted from the South Beach Diet’s recipe for Big Easy Shrimp.  I just added way more veggies and the sausage.  (The recipe calls for only ONE celery stalk.  Come on, South Beach Diet, I thought you LOVED vegetables.) Then we put the Fat in Fat Tuesday.  Beignets are just fried dough.  Little rectangular donuts covered in powdered sugar and eaten while still warm.  SO FREAKING DELICIOUS.  I was a little worried they wouldn’t hold up to the ideal beignets in my memory, but they turned out really good.    I couldn’t find a written version of the recipe online, so I hung out with my pause button and took notes while watching Ms Paula Deen make them on the show.  Here you are, for your recreating pleasure. Paula Deen’s Beignets First measure out seven cups of bread flour.  You’ll need it when you don’t have time to measure it out. Mix together in a large bowl 1 1/2 cup lukewarm water 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 envelope yeast Let sit for ten minutes. In a smaller bowl, mix together 2 eggs slightly beaten 1 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup evaporated milk Beat together slightly, then add to yeast mixture.  Whisk together. Add about three cups of bread flour to the yeast mixture.  Keep whisking (a helper is nice for the constant whisking). Add 1/4 cup of solid Crisco to the yeast mixture. Keep whisking.  (Seriously, recruit a friend for this part.) Add the rest of the flour.  Whisk it on it there. Knead the mixture together.  Leave on all five of your giant rings.  (Apparently.  Paula did.) Spray a bowl with some sort of non-stick spray can stuff.  Put the dough in the bowl and cover it with a clean towel.  Let it sit for about two hours. (Now go have a glass of wine with your friends, cook dinner, eat dinner, and save room for dessert.) Heat ole…ohl…(I think she means oil) to 350 degrees.* *You know, in the deep fryer that you have built into your countertop.  What?  You don’t have one of those?  I really hate when the cooking show hosts don’t give alternate instructions when they start using equipment that only restaurant cooks and cooking show hosts have access to.  And maybe rich people.  In this case, I used a Fry Daddy.  Instead of 350, I turned it to ‘ON’.  It seemed to work ok. Sprinkle a liberal amount of flour onto your cutting board.  If you have a normal residential-use sized cutting board like I do, only roll out half the dough at a time. Roll out the dough, not too thick, not too thin.  I did the first batch a little too thin, and it was still good.  It worked best when the dough was about the thickness of a slice of bread. Cut the dough into little rectangles.  She calls them squares, but they are not square.  More like fat rectangles.

Cook them in the oil.  As soon as they pop up to the top, flip them.  I flipped them pretty frequently, so they didn’t get too done on either side.

When you take them out, first put them on a paper towel to drain a bit of the oil.  Then quick put them in some powdered sugar to get all yummy.  Then eat them while still warm.  Share (or not) with your friends.  At least share with the friend that helped you with the whisking.

New Rug

First of all:  I love World Market.  I just want to put that out there.  I mean, they carry Milka brand chocolate.  And their Mark West Pinot Noir seems to never be out of stock.  These things are important to me. We stopped in this afternoon to pick up some wine, and they were having a Rug Clearance Sale.  Yay! Our old rug was from World Market.  It was fine, if a bit small and slippery.  But since I’ve painted, I am on a redecorating frenzy.  Here is the old rug in the freshly painted entranceway.

It’s fine.  Just sort of blends into the floor.  But I wanted something with some attitude.  I brought home two new rugs to try.  The first of the two is the same smallish, slippery style, just in brighter colors.

Eh.  The bright colors that make it stand out from the floor actually make it seem smaller. The next one is much more fun with a Moroccan-esque pattern.

Much better.  It’s almost too big, but I kind of like that. It says, ‘welcome to our home, we are not afraid of bright patterns here.’ Also ‘wipe your feet.’ The countdown to the cats ruining it begins.

Food That Starts with the Letter Q

I have a super sneaky trick for using up vegetables that are becoming, er, not-so-fresh.  It’s really easy but I like to pretend that it’s not, kind of like the mom on those old Rice Krispie treat commercials from the 1990s.  I can be all, “oh look what I have made for you, because I love you so much and I want you to have a healthy and delicious homemade breakfast to start your days this week.”  When it’s actually more like, “oops, i bought too much spinach and the onions won’t keep any longer and what other kind of vegetables do I have in here?”

Just spray the inside of some muffin tins with some olive oil and add the chopped vegetables along with some fresh ground pepper and whatever kind of cheese you have on hand.  If you have some sad-looking herbs left over from some earlier recipes, chop them up and toss them in too.  Beat up some eggs with a little milk, cream, half & half…whatever you have.  You just need a splash to make the eggs fluffy.  Pour the eggs into the tins, about 2/3 or 3/4 full.  Bake at 350 for 30ish minutes.  And voila!  Quiche!  The name even sounds fancy.

When they cool, wrap them up individually.  Instant healthy portable breakfast.  I like to pop them in the microwave for about 45 seconds.  But mostly I like to say, ‘there’s quiche in the fridge for breakfast.’  It sounds so gourmet-bed-and-breakfast-y.

How Important is Light, Anyway?

I totally fixed the leaky garbage disposal last weekend.  Who knew Plumbing was so easy?  Piece of cake.

Electrician-ing must be just as simple, right?

I hated the ceiling fan in the kitchen.  It was big, ugly, and sticky with permanent dust.  And it didn’t work.  The light worked, but the fan didn’t spin.  Like an oversized light fixture that took up way too much visual space in my tiny kitchen.

This evening around 630pm (after the sun set) seemed like the best time to change the light fixture.  Even though I was working by the light of one lantern and two flashlights.  Even though I really had no idea what I was doing.  Even though I didn’t even have a proper new fixture — I had a ceiling fan globe and this metal box that the dude at Lowe’s told me shouldwork.
Well, look!  It does totally open up the room.

Except.  Um.  It doesn’t work.  Whoops.
Thank goodness for the little recessed lights above the kitchen counters.  They’ll do for now.

I guess Electrician-ing isn’t as easy as I thought.