Sunday, December 16, 2012

O Christmas Shrub, O Christmas Shrub

by Erin

In an effort to get into the holiday spirit, save money, and get rid of a shrubby eye-sore in our backyard, we converted a shrub to a Christmas tree.

Here's my lumberjack-ish husband cutting it down.   I almost missed out on the picture because he did it so quickly.  Studly. 


Later that night, we trimmed it.  I had three strands of lights, a collection or ornaments (thanks Mom), and some slightly tacky garland tucked away in my Christmas decor box (it hadn't been opened in probably 8 years).  Perfect.  Here's Max transitioning to his more artistic side. There's Penny doing what she does best.  Nothing.  
 

And here's our pretty shrub.


Now I've got to use Leslie's winter pom pom tutorial and get some presents wrapped and under the tree! 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Winter Pom-Pom Tutorial

by Leslie

"It's the holiday season, so whoopdy-doo and dickory-dock, and don't forget to hang up your socks!"
Don't you just love Andy Williams?  Whenever I hear a song of his on the radio it takes me back to the days when Erin, Laura, and I would put his record on after dinner and make up dance routines to the festive holiday songs.  

Wrapping gifts has always been somewhat of a holiday priority for me.  I don't always take the time to do anything fancy, but I love to when I can!  This year, I found a roll of white tulle at Hobby Lobby for half price (it ended up being $5). Armed with my new wrapping tulle, I decided to make some fun pom-poms to add to my gifts.

Here is my wrapped gift, wrapping paper courtesy of the Alzheimer's Society.  We've been getting a lot of holiday stuff in the mail lately.  At least this could be used! (Thanks Grandma, for donating to the Alzheimer's Society and giving this to me!)  By the way, this gift is for my brother-in-law, Derek.  I am sure he is reading this now and chomping at the bit to tear into it!!


Your eyes deceive you.  This is not toilet paper.  It's tulle!  This project could easily be done with tissue paper, as well.


Wrap a length of tulle around the gift and tie it in a nice knot with plenty of tulle to spare.


Cut approximately 10 pieces of tulle into similar sized squares.  Similar is the key word.  I didn't do a great job of measuring, but this adds to the "rustic" look of the pom-poms.  Ha!


Fold the tulle accordian-style so you are left with only a thin strip.


Tie the folded tulle VERY tightly onto the top of the package using the excess tulle you left earlier.


Fan out the tulle, separating each piece as much as you can for maximum volume.  Trim the tulle to the desired length and sit back and revel in the cuteness of it all.


Add any extra detail you might like!  I got this little bag from the dollar aisle at Target.  It would be so easy to make, but hey, it was a dollar!

I hope you all have fun getting ready for the holidays!  We head out for Colombia next week.  Time is just flying!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Whole Wheat Pancakes and "The Sweet Spot"

by Leslie




I've made pancakes quite a few times.  I'm no pro, but I think pancakes and I get each other.  I think they are a wonder of stovetop "baking" and I am surprised with how quickly they come together every time.

But have you ever had those times where no matter what you do, the pancakes don't turn out right?  They are either uncooked in the center or totally burnt on the outside.  This happens to me about every third time I make pancakes.  Why does this happen?

Because I can't seem to find "the sweet spot" on my stove.  I know there is a magical temperature on my stove that produces perfect pancakes, but sometimes I just never get there.

I find that this happens throughout my day, as well.  Once I get into a good rhythm, I can get lots accomplished.  If I never find that rhythm, though, watch out.  I will leave a pile of books to shelve at the library, dishes in my kitchen sink, and will have a hard time making polite conversation with almost anyone.

For these pancakes, though, I found the sweet spot.  They turned out so well and were just what the doctor ordered.  Let's hope I can replicate their perfection.


Whole-Wheat Pancakes with Easy Strawberry Sauce
Adapted from Ellie Krieger's recipe in The Food You Crave

Serves 4

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Cooking spray
Strawberry Sauce (below)

1. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, buttermilk, milk, vanilla, and honey.

2.  Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and pre-heat over medium heat.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix only until combined.

3.  Once the skillet is heated, add your pancake batter to the pan, about 1/4 cup at a time, depending on the size of pancakes you want.  I usually go larger!  Cook until the sides are bubbling, and then gently flip over.  Continue until all the batter is used up!

Strawberry Sauce
1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup. 

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan on the stove and cook over low heat until bubbling.  Remove from heat and mash with a potato masher until strawberries reach desired consistency.  If you feel like using your food processor, you could blend up the berries in there.  I take the easy way out.  Serve the strawberry sauce over warm pancakes and enjoy!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fresh Tomato Soup

by Leslie

This summer was so enjoyable for me.  We bought a house, planted a garden, and had lots of wonderful visitors.

The garden was one of my favorite parts of summer.  We didn't plant much and we planted it late, but we tried to get as much out of it as we could.

We planted several varieties of tomato.  They didn't really start producing until it was about to freeze out, so we picked a lot of them green and put them in a brown paper bag in our basement on the off-chance that they would ripen.

Guess what?


They did!

You can tell that there are a few different shapes and sizes in there.  Our favorite variety that we grew was called Cherokee Purple.  They were gorgeous and meaty.  I canned a few of them but had some left, so I decided to make some fresh tomato soup with them.


Start by heating oil in a large pot and adding one chopped onion and a chopped carrot.  Add about 8-10 chopped tomatoes.  I put a little Italian Seasoning in at this point.  


Gorgeous!  After the tomatoes all included, add about 3-4 cups of chicken stock to the pot.  Bring this mixture to a boil, then let it simmer for about 45 minutes or until the tomatoes break up and are soft.

Remove the soup from the heat, and with a hand blender, blend until the ingredients are pretty smooth.

Let the mixture cool slightly, then run it through a fine mesh sieve or food mill, pushing the liquid into a bowl below.  

You will be left with this:


Discard pulp and add the smooth soup back to the pot to warm.

Serve however you like!  It is delectable on its own, but I'm sure some cream would be good, too!


Fresh Tomato Soup
Serves 4 with leftovers

1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, sliced
8-10 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 T. italian seasoning (I used Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle)
3-4 cups chicken broth or stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Sugar to taste


Start by heating oil in a large pot and adding one chopped onion and a chopped carrot.  Add about 8-10 chopped tomatoes. Add Italian Seasoning.

After the tomatoes all included, add about 3-4 cups of chicken stock to the pot.  Bring this mixture to a boil, then let it simmer for about 45 minutes or until the tomatoes break up and are soft.

Remove the soup from the heat, and with a hand blender, blend until the ingredients are pretty smooth.

Let the mixture cool slightly, then run it through a fine mesh sieve or food mill, pushing the liquid into a bowl below.  

Discard pulp and seeds and return the smooth liquid to the pot.  Add salt, pepper, and about a tablespoon of sugar and let the soup get hot.  

Serve with or without cream and enjoy!




Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas

By: Laura

I love a good and easy meal as much as anyone else, believe me with a two year old around, fast and easy is essential.  Recently though, I decided to take some time and make a really amazing dish: chicken enchiladas, complete with homemade enchilada sauce.  I found this dish on Pinterest, and took a Sunday afternoon (during nap time) to go after it.  Check out the results:

Begin by cooking jalapeños, onions, and salt in a large pan for about 8 to 10 minutes .  Be sure to stir them often.    

Next, add some garlic, chili powder, cumin and sugar and cook for 30 seconds.  Oh, yes, the flavors are melding together, yum!  

Then, add tomato sauce, water and fresh, chopped tomatoes into the mix and simmer for 5 minutes or until thick. Now, you can use cooked chicken, or you can cook the chicken in the sauce.  I went for the faster option, of course.  

Once the sauce has thickened, strain as much liquid as possible from the mixture into a bowl and set aside all but 1/4 of a cup to use for later.

Add one cup of cheese, cilantro and 1/4 of the enchilada sauce to the onion/chicken mixture, and now you've got the innards of your enchiladas.  (little play on words, folks)

Place about 1/3 of a cup of the mixture into the tortillas (I used flour tortillas because they are easier to work with than corn tortillas.)

Fold the tortilla tightly and lay seam side down into a greased 9x13 pan.  Lightly spray the tops of the enchiladas with cooking spray and bake at 425 degrees for seven minutes.  (this will add some crispiness!)

  After that seven minute time, top the enchiladas with the remaining cheese and sauce that was previously set aside.  Cover them with foil and bake at 400 degrees (notice the temperature decrease) for 20 minutes.  Take off the foil and put back into the oven for 5 more minutes, until cheese is bubbly. 

Top enchiladas with cilantro and enjoy!  (sorry, not my greatest picture here, this is what happens when I try to act like a photographer!)

And there you have it: beautiful, delicious enchiladas from scratch.  It was a lot of work to get it all in order, but the flavors were worth it.  My husband was mad about them and so was I.  Give it a try over the weekend and you won't be disappointed! 

Recipe found here

Friday, September 21, 2012

Chicken Fajita Pizza--and a happy accident

by Leslie

Pizza is a staple at our house.  I mean, we have the stuff at least once a week.  Since we haven't found a great place to get pizza around here, we often make it ourselves.

Last week, I decided to use up some pizza dough that I had in the freezer (by the way, this dough keeps in the freezer so well!).

You can see just how much we love pizza here at the test nest.

Exhibit A.

Exhibit B.

Exhibit C. 

My idea was to use a lot of the fresh veggies we had around from the farmer's market.  I had onions, peppers, green onions, and cherry tomatoes.

Once I got my dough rolled out, I went to the pantry to find some marinara sauce (which is what we use for pizza sauce around my house).  Did we have any?  Of course not.

What we did have, though, was one of my husband's grocery store mess-ups.  Rotel Tomato Sauce.  I had been wanting to make salsa and required a can of the original stuff, but, you know.  Things happen.  There are lots of choices at the grocery store and sometimes the wrong choice gets made.

I might have been slightly ticked at the time, but after I made this pizza, I was wonderfully, gloriously happy.  Thanks, husband!

Here's my pizza, fresh out of the oven.


What makes this pizza so tasty?

The mingling of the flavors, my friend.

Chicken Fajita Pizza

(all measurements are approximate)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Pizza dough of your choice
1 can Rotel brand tomato sauce
dash of salt
1/4 cup red onion
1/4 cup sliced red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
1/2 cup diced or shredded cooked chicken
1/4 cup Monterrey Jack cheese
10 cherry tomatoes
1 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 green onions, finely chopped
crumbled queso fresco

1. Roll pizza dough out to desired thickness and place on a sprayed cookie sheet or pizza pan.

2.  Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on the crust and sprinkle lightly with salt

3.  Cover pizza with Rotel Tomato Sauce (We used about 1/2 a can)

4.  Spread the rest of the ingredients (except cilantro) on top of crust and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is brown and crusty.

5.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with cilantro and green onion

6.  Dine and enjoy!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Backyard Project-Fire Pit

by Leslie

When we purchased our house, one of the biggest selling points was the yard.  It is large (which is not what we were looking for), but it is beautiful.  There are several vignettes with various flowers and shrubs and we just couldn't say no!  We have a fenced off vegetable garden and an arbor that is covered in a beautiful vine with white flowers.  There are lovely ornamental trees and raspberry bushes already producing fruit!

The other thing we had--

THIS:



 To you, this may look like an innocuous planter.  I mean, I guess that's what you could call it.  But let me tell you, this thing was huge.  It had no purpose.  It had weeds growing all over it and the dirt was packed so solid you couldn't plant anything else in it.  I think it had originally been used to hold some sort of statue or fountain.

My plan?

Tear the thing apart and built a fire pit (hello, s'mores!)

  The only problem was, it was about three feet deep and 5 feet across.  The kicker?  Underneath the top layer of dirt was a whole mess of rocks.

That's when I quit working on this project.  I stayed away for about a month.

Then, one weekend Laura, Derek, and Ella stopped by.  Derek offered to lend us some help, so, thanks to my wonderful husband and brother-in-law, many of those rocks were removed and loaded by hand.  They were dumped behind our shed so we could forget about them.

That's when I quit working on this project for a second time.  I stayed away for another month.

Then, during Labor Day weekend, Jaime and I got to it and finished the damn thing.




Here I am after about my twentieth load of rocks.  It was hot.

Does anyone need any rocks?


This is the state after de-assembling the planter.  Resemble any ancient architecture you know?

 After pulling everything apart, we started to dig a base for the fire pit.  Jaime did some sort of geometric measuring to find the center, then we delved in.  I've never been one for measuring.  Then we took a break to eat lunch.  Jaime took a nap.


Whilst Jaime was napping, I pieced together the pit.  This was not an easy job because some of the pieces were glued together from the former structure.  It ain't perfect, but I don't care.  By the way, I did check out Rochester's city codes for fire pits.  Check out your own city's just to make sure.


Once it got dark, we built ourselves a fire.  I hardly waited for the flames to be lit to make myself a nice s'more.

What do you think?  Fire pit success?


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Curb Appeal

by Erin

We've never much liked our house numbers.
Our old house numbers




They are kind of old-fashioned in a way I don't appreciate and if you can tell from the picture, they are held on by some rubber bungee cord things.  Super cool, eh?  Not so much.

Last year Max found some cool red house numbers while browsing through the Design Within Reach sale.  We both really liked them.  They were modern font.  They were red.  And for DWR standards they were affordable at $38.  Or so we thought.  As we sat excitedly by the computer ordering our new house numbers, we soon realized they were $38 per number!  Fat chance.

Later that month during a stroll through Home Depot we spotted some modern aluminum house numbers.  Ah ha!  Though they weren't red, I knew that could be easily fixed, and at $5 a number we were sold (I can't find a pic of them online, but I got them at Home Depot).  My Mom and Pops brought me some legally purchased apple red spray paint in Nebraska (spray paint is not sold in the city of Chicago) right before they came to town for the nuptial of Max and I, so now I had all I needed.

Last weekend I lightly sanded the numbers and put a couple of coats of that lovely apple red spray paint on them.  No, I did not take pictures.  Why would I have done that?

Max carefully measured, assembled, and put up the numbers while I carefully assisted by handing him numbers, masking tape, levels, and what not (mostly I just watched). The directions with the numbers were involved but straight-forward.  And here is the result...

New house numbers

Aren't they wonderful?  I can't stop going outside to look at them.  

 Although the little flag pole thing that held up our old numbers is sitting in our garage, we did put our old numbers to use.  We put them on the fence towards our alley.  Now friends and fam can find us via the alley.  Backdoor visitors are best, ya know.



Monday, August 20, 2012

Turning Two: A Puppy Party!

By: Laura

   In the past, when the month of August creeped up on me, I usually hated to see it.  With August comes the new school year, and though it's exciting to get back into the swing of things, the dog days of summer are just too good to give up.  August doesn't seem nearly as bad now, though, because of our sweet little lady, Ella Jane, who just happens to have a birthday in that very month.  Last weekend, we celebrated in style with a puppy party. No, there were no real puppies present (this mama isn't a dog lady), but there were plenty of other "types" of puppies around.  You'll see what I mean.  Check out the highlights of the day.  Ella is just the cutest!  (sorry, this is my daughter we're talking about here!)

The first puppy was the ever important birthday cake.  Isn't he cute?  Leslie and I (yes, Leslie came to NE  to help me get all the birthday projects done!) worked on this cake into the evening Friday.   I baked two nine by thirteen chocolate cakes and then cute pieces from a template (martha stewart) and then frosted it.  Whew!

I also made some cupcakes and sugar cookies in the shape of a dog bone a few days earlier, frosted them and froze them for the big day.  

Here is some of the doggy decor...the bowls I found in the dollar aisle at Target.  Perfect.  The coloring pages at the bottom of the picture were draw and printed by my friend Aileen (who also photographed the party!).  

This a poster I made using  a picture from one of Ella's favorite books called, A Kiss for You.  I just enlarged the picture and colored it.  That's my idea of drawing, since I can't.  

Puppies!

Presents!

Puppy balloons.  This was an easy decoration!  Simply buy brown balloons, draw the face with black marker and cut out ears to stick on.  (martha stewart)

Finally, it's the birthday girl, peeking through the window of her new kitchen from Mama and Daddy. 


Puppies have to eat and so did the kiddos.  Here is Ella with her best bud Hudson.  There are so darn cute!

Enjoying hot dogs and more at the party!

And now onto the gifts.  A new car from Grandmama.

Running to catch up with Hudson!

A new grocery cart from Grandma and Papa.


Our little sweetie!
A bike helmet for the adventurous two year old.

Near the end of the day, the birthday girl is too tired to feed herself, luckily Hudson was glad to lend a hand. 

A happy family!


It was such a fun day and I will always look forward to the 11th of August each year now that I have such a wonderful little girl to celebrate.  


Sunday, December 16, 2012

O Christmas Shrub, O Christmas Shrub

by Erin

In an effort to get into the holiday spirit, save money, and get rid of a shrubby eye-sore in our backyard, we converted a shrub to a Christmas tree.

Here's my lumberjack-ish husband cutting it down.   I almost missed out on the picture because he did it so quickly.  Studly. 


Later that night, we trimmed it.  I had three strands of lights, a collection or ornaments (thanks Mom), and some slightly tacky garland tucked away in my Christmas decor box (it hadn't been opened in probably 8 years).  Perfect.  Here's Max transitioning to his more artistic side. There's Penny doing what she does best.  Nothing.  
 

And here's our pretty shrub.


Now I've got to use Leslie's winter pom pom tutorial and get some presents wrapped and under the tree! 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Winter Pom-Pom Tutorial

by Leslie

"It's the holiday season, so whoopdy-doo and dickory-dock, and don't forget to hang up your socks!"
Don't you just love Andy Williams?  Whenever I hear a song of his on the radio it takes me back to the days when Erin, Laura, and I would put his record on after dinner and make up dance routines to the festive holiday songs.  

Wrapping gifts has always been somewhat of a holiday priority for me.  I don't always take the time to do anything fancy, but I love to when I can!  This year, I found a roll of white tulle at Hobby Lobby for half price (it ended up being $5). Armed with my new wrapping tulle, I decided to make some fun pom-poms to add to my gifts.

Here is my wrapped gift, wrapping paper courtesy of the Alzheimer's Society.  We've been getting a lot of holiday stuff in the mail lately.  At least this could be used! (Thanks Grandma, for donating to the Alzheimer's Society and giving this to me!)  By the way, this gift is for my brother-in-law, Derek.  I am sure he is reading this now and chomping at the bit to tear into it!!


Your eyes deceive you.  This is not toilet paper.  It's tulle!  This project could easily be done with tissue paper, as well.


Wrap a length of tulle around the gift and tie it in a nice knot with plenty of tulle to spare.


Cut approximately 10 pieces of tulle into similar sized squares.  Similar is the key word.  I didn't do a great job of measuring, but this adds to the "rustic" look of the pom-poms.  Ha!


Fold the tulle accordian-style so you are left with only a thin strip.


Tie the folded tulle VERY tightly onto the top of the package using the excess tulle you left earlier.


Fan out the tulle, separating each piece as much as you can for maximum volume.  Trim the tulle to the desired length and sit back and revel in the cuteness of it all.


Add any extra detail you might like!  I got this little bag from the dollar aisle at Target.  It would be so easy to make, but hey, it was a dollar!

I hope you all have fun getting ready for the holidays!  We head out for Colombia next week.  Time is just flying!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Whole Wheat Pancakes and "The Sweet Spot"

by Leslie




I've made pancakes quite a few times.  I'm no pro, but I think pancakes and I get each other.  I think they are a wonder of stovetop "baking" and I am surprised with how quickly they come together every time.

But have you ever had those times where no matter what you do, the pancakes don't turn out right?  They are either uncooked in the center or totally burnt on the outside.  This happens to me about every third time I make pancakes.  Why does this happen?

Because I can't seem to find "the sweet spot" on my stove.  I know there is a magical temperature on my stove that produces perfect pancakes, but sometimes I just never get there.

I find that this happens throughout my day, as well.  Once I get into a good rhythm, I can get lots accomplished.  If I never find that rhythm, though, watch out.  I will leave a pile of books to shelve at the library, dishes in my kitchen sink, and will have a hard time making polite conversation with almost anyone.

For these pancakes, though, I found the sweet spot.  They turned out so well and were just what the doctor ordered.  Let's hope I can replicate their perfection.


Whole-Wheat Pancakes with Easy Strawberry Sauce
Adapted from Ellie Krieger's recipe in The Food You Crave

Serves 4

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Cooking spray
Strawberry Sauce (below)

1. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, buttermilk, milk, vanilla, and honey.

2.  Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and pre-heat over medium heat.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix only until combined.

3.  Once the skillet is heated, add your pancake batter to the pan, about 1/4 cup at a time, depending on the size of pancakes you want.  I usually go larger!  Cook until the sides are bubbling, and then gently flip over.  Continue until all the batter is used up!

Strawberry Sauce
1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup. 

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan on the stove and cook over low heat until bubbling.  Remove from heat and mash with a potato masher until strawberries reach desired consistency.  If you feel like using your food processor, you could blend up the berries in there.  I take the easy way out.  Serve the strawberry sauce over warm pancakes and enjoy!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fresh Tomato Soup

by Leslie

This summer was so enjoyable for me.  We bought a house, planted a garden, and had lots of wonderful visitors.

The garden was one of my favorite parts of summer.  We didn't plant much and we planted it late, but we tried to get as much out of it as we could.

We planted several varieties of tomato.  They didn't really start producing until it was about to freeze out, so we picked a lot of them green and put them in a brown paper bag in our basement on the off-chance that they would ripen.

Guess what?


They did!

You can tell that there are a few different shapes and sizes in there.  Our favorite variety that we grew was called Cherokee Purple.  They were gorgeous and meaty.  I canned a few of them but had some left, so I decided to make some fresh tomato soup with them.


Start by heating oil in a large pot and adding one chopped onion and a chopped carrot.  Add about 8-10 chopped tomatoes.  I put a little Italian Seasoning in at this point.  


Gorgeous!  After the tomatoes all included, add about 3-4 cups of chicken stock to the pot.  Bring this mixture to a boil, then let it simmer for about 45 minutes or until the tomatoes break up and are soft.

Remove the soup from the heat, and with a hand blender, blend until the ingredients are pretty smooth.

Let the mixture cool slightly, then run it through a fine mesh sieve or food mill, pushing the liquid into a bowl below.  

You will be left with this:


Discard pulp and add the smooth soup back to the pot to warm.

Serve however you like!  It is delectable on its own, but I'm sure some cream would be good, too!


Fresh Tomato Soup
Serves 4 with leftovers

1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, sliced
8-10 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 T. italian seasoning (I used Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle)
3-4 cups chicken broth or stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Sugar to taste


Start by heating oil in a large pot and adding one chopped onion and a chopped carrot.  Add about 8-10 chopped tomatoes. Add Italian Seasoning.

After the tomatoes all included, add about 3-4 cups of chicken stock to the pot.  Bring this mixture to a boil, then let it simmer for about 45 minutes or until the tomatoes break up and are soft.

Remove the soup from the heat, and with a hand blender, blend until the ingredients are pretty smooth.

Let the mixture cool slightly, then run it through a fine mesh sieve or food mill, pushing the liquid into a bowl below.  

Discard pulp and seeds and return the smooth liquid to the pot.  Add salt, pepper, and about a tablespoon of sugar and let the soup get hot.  

Serve with or without cream and enjoy!




Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas

By: Laura

I love a good and easy meal as much as anyone else, believe me with a two year old around, fast and easy is essential.  Recently though, I decided to take some time and make a really amazing dish: chicken enchiladas, complete with homemade enchilada sauce.  I found this dish on Pinterest, and took a Sunday afternoon (during nap time) to go after it.  Check out the results:

Begin by cooking jalapeños, onions, and salt in a large pan for about 8 to 10 minutes .  Be sure to stir them often.    

Next, add some garlic, chili powder, cumin and sugar and cook for 30 seconds.  Oh, yes, the flavors are melding together, yum!  

Then, add tomato sauce, water and fresh, chopped tomatoes into the mix and simmer for 5 minutes or until thick. Now, you can use cooked chicken, or you can cook the chicken in the sauce.  I went for the faster option, of course.  

Once the sauce has thickened, strain as much liquid as possible from the mixture into a bowl and set aside all but 1/4 of a cup to use for later.

Add one cup of cheese, cilantro and 1/4 of the enchilada sauce to the onion/chicken mixture, and now you've got the innards of your enchiladas.  (little play on words, folks)

Place about 1/3 of a cup of the mixture into the tortillas (I used flour tortillas because they are easier to work with than corn tortillas.)

Fold the tortilla tightly and lay seam side down into a greased 9x13 pan.  Lightly spray the tops of the enchiladas with cooking spray and bake at 425 degrees for seven minutes.  (this will add some crispiness!)

  After that seven minute time, top the enchiladas with the remaining cheese and sauce that was previously set aside.  Cover them with foil and bake at 400 degrees (notice the temperature decrease) for 20 minutes.  Take off the foil and put back into the oven for 5 more minutes, until cheese is bubbly. 

Top enchiladas with cilantro and enjoy!  (sorry, not my greatest picture here, this is what happens when I try to act like a photographer!)

And there you have it: beautiful, delicious enchiladas from scratch.  It was a lot of work to get it all in order, but the flavors were worth it.  My husband was mad about them and so was I.  Give it a try over the weekend and you won't be disappointed! 

Recipe found here

Friday, September 21, 2012

Chicken Fajita Pizza--and a happy accident

by Leslie

Pizza is a staple at our house.  I mean, we have the stuff at least once a week.  Since we haven't found a great place to get pizza around here, we often make it ourselves.

Last week, I decided to use up some pizza dough that I had in the freezer (by the way, this dough keeps in the freezer so well!).

You can see just how much we love pizza here at the test nest.

Exhibit A.

Exhibit B.

Exhibit C. 

My idea was to use a lot of the fresh veggies we had around from the farmer's market.  I had onions, peppers, green onions, and cherry tomatoes.

Once I got my dough rolled out, I went to the pantry to find some marinara sauce (which is what we use for pizza sauce around my house).  Did we have any?  Of course not.

What we did have, though, was one of my husband's grocery store mess-ups.  Rotel Tomato Sauce.  I had been wanting to make salsa and required a can of the original stuff, but, you know.  Things happen.  There are lots of choices at the grocery store and sometimes the wrong choice gets made.

I might have been slightly ticked at the time, but after I made this pizza, I was wonderfully, gloriously happy.  Thanks, husband!

Here's my pizza, fresh out of the oven.


What makes this pizza so tasty?

The mingling of the flavors, my friend.

Chicken Fajita Pizza

(all measurements are approximate)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Pizza dough of your choice
1 can Rotel brand tomato sauce
dash of salt
1/4 cup red onion
1/4 cup sliced red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
1/2 cup diced or shredded cooked chicken
1/4 cup Monterrey Jack cheese
10 cherry tomatoes
1 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 green onions, finely chopped
crumbled queso fresco

1. Roll pizza dough out to desired thickness and place on a sprayed cookie sheet or pizza pan.

2.  Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on the crust and sprinkle lightly with salt

3.  Cover pizza with Rotel Tomato Sauce (We used about 1/2 a can)

4.  Spread the rest of the ingredients (except cilantro) on top of crust and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is brown and crusty.

5.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with cilantro and green onion

6.  Dine and enjoy!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Backyard Project-Fire Pit

by Leslie

When we purchased our house, one of the biggest selling points was the yard.  It is large (which is not what we were looking for), but it is beautiful.  There are several vignettes with various flowers and shrubs and we just couldn't say no!  We have a fenced off vegetable garden and an arbor that is covered in a beautiful vine with white flowers.  There are lovely ornamental trees and raspberry bushes already producing fruit!

The other thing we had--

THIS:



 To you, this may look like an innocuous planter.  I mean, I guess that's what you could call it.  But let me tell you, this thing was huge.  It had no purpose.  It had weeds growing all over it and the dirt was packed so solid you couldn't plant anything else in it.  I think it had originally been used to hold some sort of statue or fountain.

My plan?

Tear the thing apart and built a fire pit (hello, s'mores!)

  The only problem was, it was about three feet deep and 5 feet across.  The kicker?  Underneath the top layer of dirt was a whole mess of rocks.

That's when I quit working on this project.  I stayed away for about a month.

Then, one weekend Laura, Derek, and Ella stopped by.  Derek offered to lend us some help, so, thanks to my wonderful husband and brother-in-law, many of those rocks were removed and loaded by hand.  They were dumped behind our shed so we could forget about them.

That's when I quit working on this project for a second time.  I stayed away for another month.

Then, during Labor Day weekend, Jaime and I got to it and finished the damn thing.




Here I am after about my twentieth load of rocks.  It was hot.

Does anyone need any rocks?


This is the state after de-assembling the planter.  Resemble any ancient architecture you know?

 After pulling everything apart, we started to dig a base for the fire pit.  Jaime did some sort of geometric measuring to find the center, then we delved in.  I've never been one for measuring.  Then we took a break to eat lunch.  Jaime took a nap.


Whilst Jaime was napping, I pieced together the pit.  This was not an easy job because some of the pieces were glued together from the former structure.  It ain't perfect, but I don't care.  By the way, I did check out Rochester's city codes for fire pits.  Check out your own city's just to make sure.


Once it got dark, we built ourselves a fire.  I hardly waited for the flames to be lit to make myself a nice s'more.

What do you think?  Fire pit success?


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Curb Appeal

by Erin

We've never much liked our house numbers.
Our old house numbers




They are kind of old-fashioned in a way I don't appreciate and if you can tell from the picture, they are held on by some rubber bungee cord things.  Super cool, eh?  Not so much.

Last year Max found some cool red house numbers while browsing through the Design Within Reach sale.  We both really liked them.  They were modern font.  They were red.  And for DWR standards they were affordable at $38.  Or so we thought.  As we sat excitedly by the computer ordering our new house numbers, we soon realized they were $38 per number!  Fat chance.

Later that month during a stroll through Home Depot we spotted some modern aluminum house numbers.  Ah ha!  Though they weren't red, I knew that could be easily fixed, and at $5 a number we were sold (I can't find a pic of them online, but I got them at Home Depot).  My Mom and Pops brought me some legally purchased apple red spray paint in Nebraska (spray paint is not sold in the city of Chicago) right before they came to town for the nuptial of Max and I, so now I had all I needed.

Last weekend I lightly sanded the numbers and put a couple of coats of that lovely apple red spray paint on them.  No, I did not take pictures.  Why would I have done that?

Max carefully measured, assembled, and put up the numbers while I carefully assisted by handing him numbers, masking tape, levels, and what not (mostly I just watched). The directions with the numbers were involved but straight-forward.  And here is the result...

New house numbers

Aren't they wonderful?  I can't stop going outside to look at them.  

 Although the little flag pole thing that held up our old numbers is sitting in our garage, we did put our old numbers to use.  We put them on the fence towards our alley.  Now friends and fam can find us via the alley.  Backdoor visitors are best, ya know.



Monday, August 20, 2012

Turning Two: A Puppy Party!

By: Laura

   In the past, when the month of August creeped up on me, I usually hated to see it.  With August comes the new school year, and though it's exciting to get back into the swing of things, the dog days of summer are just too good to give up.  August doesn't seem nearly as bad now, though, because of our sweet little lady, Ella Jane, who just happens to have a birthday in that very month.  Last weekend, we celebrated in style with a puppy party. No, there were no real puppies present (this mama isn't a dog lady), but there were plenty of other "types" of puppies around.  You'll see what I mean.  Check out the highlights of the day.  Ella is just the cutest!  (sorry, this is my daughter we're talking about here!)

The first puppy was the ever important birthday cake.  Isn't he cute?  Leslie and I (yes, Leslie came to NE  to help me get all the birthday projects done!) worked on this cake into the evening Friday.   I baked two nine by thirteen chocolate cakes and then cute pieces from a template (martha stewart) and then frosted it.  Whew!

I also made some cupcakes and sugar cookies in the shape of a dog bone a few days earlier, frosted them and froze them for the big day.  

Here is some of the doggy decor...the bowls I found in the dollar aisle at Target.  Perfect.  The coloring pages at the bottom of the picture were draw and printed by my friend Aileen (who also photographed the party!).  

This a poster I made using  a picture from one of Ella's favorite books called, A Kiss for You.  I just enlarged the picture and colored it.  That's my idea of drawing, since I can't.  

Puppies!

Presents!

Puppy balloons.  This was an easy decoration!  Simply buy brown balloons, draw the face with black marker and cut out ears to stick on.  (martha stewart)

Finally, it's the birthday girl, peeking through the window of her new kitchen from Mama and Daddy. 


Puppies have to eat and so did the kiddos.  Here is Ella with her best bud Hudson.  There are so darn cute!

Enjoying hot dogs and more at the party!

And now onto the gifts.  A new car from Grandmama.

Running to catch up with Hudson!

A new grocery cart from Grandma and Papa.


Our little sweetie!
A bike helmet for the adventurous two year old.

Near the end of the day, the birthday girl is too tired to feed herself, luckily Hudson was glad to lend a hand. 

A happy family!


It was such a fun day and I will always look forward to the 11th of August each year now that I have such a wonderful little girl to celebrate.