May 21, 2010

Passing on the Love...

So I was recently awarded The Circle of Friends Award from my globe-trotting diva "NoelBell"

So here's the deal-i-o on getting this FAN-TABULOUS award :)

1st of all, thank your dear award giver (obviously), no "speech" required.

So THANK YOU NoelBell!!! I'm so happy and honored to have such a wonderful friend!

And then, since this is all about spreading the love, you've got three objectives.
1) Save the image above so you can upload it on your own blog without direct linking.
2) List 5 things you absolutely love to do
3) List 5 friendly bloggers, and comment on their blogs to let them know they've received an award!

1) CUDDLE WITH HUBBY - This one should just be obvious. I specifically love those perfect mornings where you're in the perfect position and desperately don't want to move. I love those moments most when it's a Saturday, and we really don't have to move.

2) COOK - Anyone who's been to my house probably knows this. I'm not one of those "nice" hosts, who tries recipes before subjecting visitors to them... fortunately, I do pretty well and haven't had to order pizza after dinner's "ready."  If you've read my blog, you probably could figure out this one too...

3) TAKE PHOTOS - I'm a photo-haulic. I love having photos and looking at photos. I have a fairly poor memory, and so Photos are my coping skill. A few years back, I realized I was taking more photos than doing things, and stopped taking as many... Now I'm trying to figure out how to do both, but on a nice day (or sometimes a nasty one) the idea of wandering around and being able to take pictures of the things most people miss makes me just giddy.

4) CREATE NEW THINGS - It's not just photos and food I like, I also love to knit and crochet and sew and paint and build and...

5) CHILL WITH MY 'PEEPS' - I love having visitors. I love that I have friends back "home" still who although I don't call (I like talking in person), still meet up with me to sit around and chat over coffee, ice cream, a movie (Disney's Animated Tarzan is my favorite "talk over it" movie - always in someone's living room though) every time I'm in town. I love randomly showing up at my neighbor's house and just chatting while she cleans the kitchen or cooks dinner (More often than not, I end up playing with her kids, or doing some dishes in the process too - which is always a million times better than doing my OWN dishes). And I LOVE when people "pass through" and come stay at my house, even if it's just to crash for a few hours before heading further down the road. Making time to CHILL with people is probably the best gift/best way to show that you love someone. mmmmm... I'm getting warm and fuzzies just THINKING about it!

And now... my awardee's, in no particular order...

1) Birdie, who writes Soldier's Lady - friend of a friend who is a fabulously entertaining writer. I love reading about her adventures every day. They're always fabulous. :)

2)Fidelio, who writes Midnight Radio. She's a FABULOUS lady, a WONDERFUL friend and I'm going to miss her when we move, but will continue to follow her blog, which, though sometimes sporadic, is insightful and fun at the same time. Plus, she's got a baby, a husband (ahem, 2nd child), and a kitty to run around after! Who has time to write then!?!?

3) Then "The Hussy" - the reason I started blogging. She writes in like, 50 thousand blogs, but I only follow two of them (I need time to write my own, right?) I'm going to nominate her for BLOG instead of her VLOG, because her VLOG already gets enough credit, and we're sharing love, right? :-P

4) A new blog I started following, and really need to get more involved with, but I love the idea, and it deserves a few extra peeks, so a little love to the author of Fifty-Two Times Etsy. And I'll try REALLY hard to be a weekly submitter or at least an every so often submitter!!

5) And finally, my old friend Yoda, who's just a great person, and somehow manages to find the most entertaining situations/people around, ALL THE TIME, and relays these stories for stalkers like me to enjoy in "As Heard by the Pattarazzi"

May 19, 2010

Venison Wing Burger Experiment

So we had our "SEE YOU NEXT TIME!" Open House this past weekend.  A bunch of wonderful friends were able to make it by, and we got through SOME of what was in the freezer/fridge. Still a long way to go... it's a good thing the next house isn't that far from the first... definitely ditty-moving (do it yourself) the coolers...

But we came up with a rough estimate of what we used to call "Ruck Burgers" - the hamburgers that were covered with hot sauce that we used to get at... "The Ruck" our old college dive bar. (they're on the menu as "Wing Burgers" - what did they know? pshhh! lol)

I had a little over 2 pounds of venison ground beef that was given to us by a friend of Hubby's, and so I mixed it all up with a McCormick packet of Buffalo Wing Mix, made some pattys and Hubby grilled them up like regular burgers. WOW. They were pretty nummy. Didn't taste just like Ruck Burgers... but they were made with venison instead of beef... and a McCormick packet instead of hot sauce, but hey. It's the thought that counts.

Either way, I ate mine with ranch dressing instead of ketchup, and it was DE-LISH. So if you're looking for a way to change it up from regular burgers for your next shindig (or tonight's dinner), throw some Buffalo Wing Mix in your ground meat and put the bottle of ranch (or blue cheese dressing) out and see what happens. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised :).

May 17, 2010

Because I have good blogger friends :)

So many (if not all) of you know that I'm a military wife. I follow a few blogs of wonderful ladies who have the same "occupation" as myself, and I had at attach a very wonderful blog post by one of them today. The funny part? It's "recycled" on her blog - as in, she doesn't have time to write today, so she's posting an old one. And IT'S the one I HAVE to post a link to at the bottom of this post.

It's part of the answer to a question I was asked a month or so back by a good friend and new military wife... "Who's in the military?" It was multiple choice... A) Hubby. B) Both of us.  My answer was a resounding "B". With a caveat. I know... you aren't supposed to combine multiple choice with essay answers, but I don't care.

It's obvious why "A" could be correct - Hubby is MOST DEFINITELY in the military. By why should "B" be my answer? What is it to be "in the military" and in this case... "in the Marine Corps"?

1) You move every three years (or so)
2) You go on deployments
3) You're in training whenever you aren't on a deployment
And you're doing it all for the love of God, Family and Country
(and more yes, but still... those are pretty big components)

Why wouldn't I fit into those categories?

Every time Hubby is told to move, I move with him. I uproot any connections or jobs that I have at the time, pack up my stuff and head out of town. And I do it because there's no way I would be able to let him move away from me. I do it willingly because he's not moving on a whim, he's doing it as a duty to his country. God, Family, Country.

Hubby has only deployed once (I consider that luck, him not so much), but it will happen again. Just because HE'S the one that goes to the "sandbox" doesn't mean that my life here carries on as usual. I only get to talk to HIM as much as he gets to talk to ME. I only get letters as often as he does. I get JUST as many e-mails from HIM as he gets from ME. I serve a deployment each time he does, and I do it because I love him, and am proud of his love of country. God, Family, Country.

Training is a HUGE aspect of the military - and I am constantly in training also. Am I learning hand combat techniques or how to shoot a gun? No... well, not always. But I am learning the finer points of our finances. I am learning how each of the tools in the garage works. I am learning what all those acronyms mean so I understand what he's SAYING when he gets home. I'm also learning how to sleep in such a big bed by myself. How to tuck myself in at night without a goodnight kiss. How to get up and get about my day, knowing that I'll be eating dinner by myself tonight in front of the TV before putting myself to bed, alone, again. But it's a sacrifice I'm willing (though maybe not EAGER) to make. I give it up to God, for my Family, who's serving my Country.

So I am part of the military - I may not be an officer like Hubby (nor would I want to be), and I may not fight in wars like they do (nor do I want to), but the Military is a family, and I am part of it. My sisters are my military wives, my neighbors and friends, and we are all serving our God, Families and Country - right along side our husbands.

I do not hate the Marine Corps (anymore), and I might have to disagree slightly with Birdie when she says the "The Marine Corps doesn't care about the wives" - they do care... just not a lot :-P. But you will find no stronger, self reliant, independent, loving, supportive, sacrificial woman as a Military Wife.

So check out Birdie's page to see what inspired me to write this post - because she says it better than I do :)

May 14, 2010

Homemade Crusty French Bread

 Photo from because I didn't actually make french bread this week, so I don't have a photo...

So I said I'd try and get a recipe out this week... and I remembered I told a friend I'd post a recipe for french bread, so lets stop procrastinating (my favorite activity this week) and get a recipe down.

This will make 2 large baguettes, it's SUPER easy - even if you don't have a fabulous kitchen-aid mixer with dough hook attachment... however you definitely want a dough hook attachment for your stand mixer to make it super easy... it just doesn't need to be kitchen aid. (Sorry Jess, if I've violated #8 just then :-P), and you can definitely halve it to make 1 loaf.

A lot of people think they have to measure SUPER PRECISELY to make bread. While you're best bet for nice, fluffy bread is to actually use a measuring cup, don't panic if the measurements aren't PERFECT. Think about it - in medieval times, do you really think that people all had standardized measuring cups? 

The directions for this look really complicated, so before you get there - this is a brief "what you're doing" so you don't hyperventilate at the concept of baking bread.
1) Mix dry ingredients
2) Add wet ingredient and let the mixer do it's job
3) Let it sleep for 2 hours
4) Make it look like a loaf of bread
5) Let it take another nap
6) Put it in the oven
7) Adjust temperature
8) Let it cool.

You only actually DO something for 3 steps. And while the dough is "resting" you don't even really need to be home, since your oven isn't on anyway. So throw some ingredients in your mixer, go to the gym, wash your hands and make it look like a bread loaf, take a shower, clean the kitchen, do some laundry, watch some TV, turn your oven on, pop it in and you have warm french bread. 

Now, my Joy of Cooking cookbook that I get this from is really descriptive - it's my "go to book" if I want to make something new, and it's always delicious. So if you're looking for a good, descriptive, complete cookbook... that's the one I recommend.

Didn't I say I wasn't going to procrastinate? OK! OK! OK! here it is!

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water, at room temperature
(SUPER easy - not even hot water!)

1) Mix flour, salt and yeast together in large bowl (yup, yeast too)
2) Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in water (all of it)
3) Stir thoroughly with a heavy duty mixer (you can do it by hand, but the mixer is so much easier) until dough is soft and elastic (I go for "looks silky" and then I pull on it to see if it stretches), about 12 minutes on low speed.
4) Cover dough with a clean, damp cloth, or turn it once in oil and cover bowl with plastic wrap (don't push the plastic wrap down on the dough, it needs room to grow)
5) Let it rise in a warm place (75*-85*) for 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

BREAK! Time for some tips on bread rising.
So since I like the cold, I keep it air conditioned below 75* (73*, but still) and I've had difficulty getting bread to rise at that temperature. 
I'd be ALL SET if my oven had a "proof" setting, but it doesn't. 
Literally, the proof setting on your oven (if you have one) is for raising bread. 
But if you're like me, and you don't have a proof setting, you can turn the oven on for a few minutes, and then turn it off. It'll warm up the inside of the oven just a little, and then you can put the bread inside the oven covered to rise - but MAKE SURE IT'S TURNED OFF!!! 
And obviously, close the door, or it was a futile attempt at finding a "warm spot". 
My grandmother often just puts it in the oven without doing a mini pre-heat... but she has a gas oven with a pilot light, so the oven IS a little warmer than the rest of the house normally. 
Me and my electric oven... not so much. 
Sometimes, she will also sit it on the stove BETWEEN burners that are on - so it warms up the air around it.
Basically, play some tricks, do what you need to do, to get the dough somewhere between 75 and 85 for a few hours.

6) Punch down the dough (aka, pull it out of the bowl, and don't worry that it's not as poofy as it was before you touched it) and place on a floured surface
7) Shape bread* (*see below) into baguettes and place onto a greased baking sheet. When you place your loaves, make sure to leave PLENTY of room between them, because they aren't done rising, and they'll almost double in size, so leave at least 1 loaf of space between them (1/2 a loaf worth on the sides :-P)
8) Cover the loaves with that damp cloth again and let the bread rise (in that warm place) until it's just less than doubled in size, and score the top (Cut with a very sharp, flat bladed knife about 1/2 inch deep lines about 2 inches apart across the top of the bread - this lets the bread expand in the oven, and makes it fluffy - yup, not just for pretties)
9) Preheat oven to 400* (make sure your bread isn't IN the oven at that point...) 

Since the trick to CRUSTY bread is steam, we're going to need to find a way to MAKE that steam. 
No worries, it's easy. You're going to find either an old metal baking sheet, or a cast iron pot, or an oven safe-something METAL and throw it in the oven to pre-heat as well. 
(If you use glass, when you add the water to make the steam, the glass/ceramic dish with crack, and instead of steam, you'll have a mess and one less dish) 
I've also found that when using a cookie sheet, the bottom can warp in the hot oven if there isn't enough water to cover the entire bottom for the entire baking time, and then any minerals in the water can bake onto the sheet, making it not pretty. 
So I advise using an old sheet/cake pan/etc that you don't like, but keep for emergencies 
(the oh my gosh, I need to make a three layer cake! kind of emergencies... what, you don't have those? Weird.)
I just use the sheet I got nasty when I learned the warp/minerals lesson. It's my "steam pan" now...
OK, you caught me again - I use a cast iron pan. I don't use my "lessons learned" cookie sheet anymore. 
At all.
But I still have it.
For emergencies.

10) Boil some water, and when the oven is pre-heated, pour about a cup of water into the pan - it will steam, and the oven is super hot, so don't get too close.
11) Place the bread on the center rack and bake for 15 minutes
12) Turn the oven down to 350* and bake for another 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. As an additional test, if you pull it off the pan, and tap the bottom, it will sound hollow.
13) Just as the crust is STARTING to turn brown (5 minutes or so before it's done), you can brush the loaf with an egg white/water mixture (1 egg white + 1 tablespoon water beaten together) to give it a nice finish and sheen. I usually forget this step, or decide I'm not wasting an egg on it :-P
14) cool on a wire rack. It says completely.... but warm fresh homemade crusty french bread is TO DIE FOR!! So wait... 5-10 minutes (the bread is still technically "cooking" when it comes out of the oven) and THEN slice into it... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

* Shaping bread - french bread has a "specific" manner of shaping, it sounds complicated, but if you've ever made Play Doh snakes... you've done it. Start at the center of a hunk of dough, and roll away from you while pushing out to the edges. Repeat this until you have a nice, tapered roll the length of your baking sheet. Alternatively, just because we're making "french bread" doesn't mean it needs to LOOK like french bread. You can make sandwich rolls, round rolls, whatever shape bread you're looking for. Just make sure that you score the top of the bread before you put it in the oven.

May 11, 2010

Time to brag (again)

So I thought this week was going really slow
I didn't have any sales or hopes for sales last week on Etsy
and nothing so far this week... 
and then I got a message - 
"You've been chosen for a Treasury"

OK, it didn't really say that.  
But it should have, 
cause that's what it meant!

You can check the treasury out if you click HERE
but can you find my photo?  
(notice the ability to cheat? I'm so nice to you.)

So that's exciting. 

And I was asked by someone if they wanted to trade ACEO's with me (Art trading cards).
I don't collect, but someone wants one... 
...just not enough to spend $3.00 on it.

Possibly coming soon to Etsy are going to be 
Magnet ACEO's (Wallet sized photos for your fridge)
Wine Bottle Labels - Customizable
 Memory Card Games - Series Based, or choices by you
And of course... a new series.

But that's all going to have to wait until June.
Actually - I have most of the "May Flowers" memory card game finished... 
so lemme know if you want it :-P
The rest really has to wait.

May 10, 2010

Monday? Already?

While I did manage to get a "what's for dinner" up while we were out of town (that's how good I am to you people, I mean really. The dedication. And for who-knows what, because I'm 99% sure there are a number of you who are "followers" without being "followers" and read without commenting, but what's a girl to know!?!?! - OK, rant over) I don't have one ready today. Maybe later this week. I dunno. Last week was kind of lack-luster. I was having major mental meltdown thinking life was over numerous times. It wasn't by the way, but I definitely thought it was at LEAST twice last week.

(p.s. for those who DON'T know, we're moving... last week was "find the perfect house" week... and by perfect, I mean "the best house for rent on the market right now" and by week I mean "the one day we're scheduled to drive around town with a realtor")

But we found a great house, in what looks like a great neighborhood, and hopefully I can channel my excitement into prepping this house to be moved OUT of. P.S. If anyone out there is going to be around the last week of the month? we could TOTALLY use an extra set of hands to walk around with markers to accurately mark boxes and spend time with movers, making sure that none of our stuff goes into their pockets. So... if you're bored... there's a free lunch and some Gatorade/Crystal Light in it for you! Also, if you're in the area and DIDN'T get an Evite from me, it means I don't have your e-mail, and you should comment here so I can get/find it and invite you to our open house this Saturday.

May 4, 2010

What's for Dinner? Pelau!

As part of Gourmet Club this year, I was assigned as a cook for our "Caribbean" lunch, and so dutifully went searching for "traditional" Caribbean food. What I found was the classic, Caribbean dish, and when I made it, I learned why. 1 pot, about 45 minutes total, and if you follow this recipe, you can feed thousands. OK, maybe only 10-15, but my first attempt fed me, my neighbor Summer, her three children, myself again, my parents and then myself for a few more lunches until I just couldn't do it anymore (it's good, but it ain't peanut butter!). Attempt #2, I cut most the ingredients in half, and it fed me and hubby twice, and me once again... so 10's a good number for minimum mouths to feed. :)  It is DELICIOUS with flat bread.  Not the most beautiful dish... but pretty darn delicious!

Pelau consists of marinated chicken which is then cooked with rice.

1 tbsp salt (you can cut it in half, but no more than that - this is ALL the salt that is going in to season 4 lbs of chicken (I totally didn't use that much by the way - so if you do, it'll feed even more) and 3 cups of rice)
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp ginger powder
2 sprigs thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
2 tbsp cilantro
2 cloves garlic (crushed or thinly sliced)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp ketchup
1 green onion/chive
1 medium onion – chopped
1 medium tomato – chopped
Optional: ¼ tsp red pepper flake

Other Ingredients:
4-5 lbs chicken washed in lime juice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 can pigeon peas/congo peas drained & rinsed (or fresh soaked overnight)
1 large carrot “coined”
3 cups long grain brown rice - rinsed
3 cups water
1 cup coconut milk (≈one can) 

1. Cut the chicken & wash in lime juice
2. Add marinade ingredients to a large bowl & mix well. Add chicken & let marinate for at least 1 hour (up to overnight for more flavor)
3. Once chicken is ready, heat large pot (must have a cover), & add oil. When oil is heated, add brown sugar & let set until caramelized (or just before it's ALL caramelized)
4. Quickly add chicken pieces to oil & turn to get caramel over all sides of all the chicken. Cover & let cook for 10 minutes. If necessary, remove lid & cook off natural juices from chicken.
5. While chicken is cooking, strain & rinse the pigeon peas & slice the carrots. Add these ingredients to the remaining marinade.
6. Once juices have reduced, add marinade, peas & carrots to the pot
7. Rinse brown rice in water a few times to wash away extra starch & add drained rice to the pot
Add water & coconut milk & stir. Bring back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover, & let simmer for 35 minutes or until fluid is gone