Thursday, March 31, 2011

Asian Braised Pork With Cucumber Salad

Tonight's dinner was deeeeeelicous.  I ripped the recipe out of a magazine and I'd be more than willing to give props, but the page doesn't have the name anywhere on it and I can't remember which one it came from.

I'll give you my version of the original recipe and then I'll tell you how I changed it up a bit.

Asian Braised Pork

1/4 C soy sauce
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 C brown sugar
1-inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced
2 1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
Hot cooked rice

In a slow cooker, combine the soy sauce, allspice, red pepper, brown sugar and ginger.  Add the pork and toss to coat.  Cover and cook until meat is tender, on low 7 to 8 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours.

I pretty much stuck to that, but I substituted the allspice with Chinese Five Spice.  I doubled the ginger and sliced half and grated the other half.  It seemed like an extremely small amount of liquid for crock pot cooking, but I left well enough alone and the meat ended up releasing more than enough juice to make a good sauce for the rice.  It reminded me a lot of another recipe for Filipino Adobo that I make a lot.  Because of that, next time, I would add potatoes and carrots to the mix.  Don't knock it till you've tried it.  Sooo good. I also sliced up some fresh jalapeno and put the sriracha on the table.

Cucumber Salad

1 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced into half moons
1/4 C rice vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1-inch piece of ginger, grated
1/4 sweet onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, brown sugar, and ginger.  Add cucumber and onion and toss to combine.

Having a salad consisting of only cucumbers is fine, but I was feelin' somethin' else this time around.  I omitted the onion because The Dad doesn't do raw onions even a little bit.  I added cabbage.  Why?  Because I like cabbage, I had cabbage and I thought cabbage sounded like a good addition.  I also added red bell pepper 'cause it was kinda boring to look at being all green.  I had some cilantro in the fridge, so I threw that in as well.  With the addition of those things, I ended up pouring in a little more vinegar, a small amount of white sugar and a drizzle of veggie oil.  Again, really good.  If you're not into cabbage salad, steamed broccoli would have been just as good, as well as any other veggie you've got in the crisper drawer.

Here's my dinner:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pesto Ravioli With Alfredo Sauce

It was another, make-it-up-as-you-go dinner.  I pulled the rest of that pesto out of the freezer along with a bag of frozen ravioli.  Sounds good already, doesn't it?  Instead of the usual marinara, I decided to bust out some alfredo.  The Dad LOVES alfredo sauce, but I can't even remember the last time I made it.  I cringe at the amount of fat that's involved.  Typically, it's cream, butter and cheese.  Mmmmm.  But I decided to slim it down a tad.  I melted about 1/3 C of butter in a saucepan, added some fresh minced garlic, and then instead of just using cream and cheese, I first added about 1/4 of flour.  I cooked that for a couple minutes, then added about 1C of heavy cream and about 1 1/2 C of skim milk.  Once that had thickened, I dumped in the parmesan.  Let's say it was 1C.  Just to make myself feel better.  I seasoned it with salt and pepper and poured it over my assembled dish.  Fresh tomato would have been a super fantastic addition to the layers as well.  But I didn't have any. 

Here's the step by step in photos:

Put an even layer of frozen ravioli in the bottom of a baking dish.  Dollop pesto on top.

Repeat with another layer.

Finish with a third layer of ravioli.  Pour alfredo sauce over entire dish.

Sprinkle with additonal parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes.  Uncover and broil for 5 minutes or until top is bubbly and brown.

Here it is on my plate with fresh basil:

We had it with a green salad and Trader Joe's Naan Bread:

The best part - it pleased all four mouths at the table.  Ahhhhh, success.

Just Peachy

We consume a lot of pancakes in this house.  It's so easy to whip up a batch and stir in whatever flavors and add-ins I'm feelin' that day.  Then I either keep the batter in the fridge for several breakfasts, or cook up the entire batch and keep them in the freezer.  I popped three frozen apple-cinnamon ones in the toaster this morning for The Kid.  Fast and easy.  My kind of breakfast.  This weekend I tried some new ones out of Better Homes and Gardens and they were yummy.  The syrup recipe to go with them was especially yummy.  I halved the recipe because I only had one can of peaches, and somehow I ended up having to add more liquid (I used milk), but other than that, I followed the recipe.  For the syrup, I didn't have chai-flavored tea bags and wasn't sure how regular black tea would be, so I skipped it all together.  It was good without it.  If I ever come across the chai ones, I'll try it that way too.

Here's the recipe:

Peach Pancakes & Chai Syrup

2 15-oz cans peach slices (juice pack) - I assumed that meant packed in pear juice rather than sugar syrup and that's all I ever buy anyway.
1/2 C whipping cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 C oat flour or whole wheat flour - I used whole wheat
1 C all-purpose flour
1/3 C packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 recipe Chai Syrup
Fresh or frozen peaches, chopped for garnish (optional)

Drain peaches; reserve 1 C juice.  In blender process peaches until smooth.  Transfer to bowl; stir in cream and eggs; set aside.

In large bowl combine flours, brown sugar, baking powder, spices, and 1 tsp salt.  Add peach mixture.  Stir just until moistened.  Pour 1/4 C batter onto hot, lightly greased griddle; spread to 4-inch circle.  Cook over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes per side.  Serve with Chai Syrup and chopped peaches.

Chai Syrup

Cook and stir reserved juice, 1/4 C water, 1/4 C packed brown sugar, and 2 tsp cornstarch over medium-low heat.  Add 2 spiced chai-flavored black tea bags; cook and stir over medium until slightly thickened; cook and stir 1 minutes.  Discard tea bags.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pretty In Pink

How is it that a three year old can accumulate SO MUCH STUFF!?  The other project I've been working on is in The Girl's room.  I'm attempting to corral the endless amount of things that are setting everywhere.  I'm not talking about toys.  There isn't a flat service in the entire room that doesn't have a knick knack setting on it or a picture hung on it.  There is no blank wall space.  You cannot see the top of the dresser.  Things are hanging from the ceiling.  There's even stuff on shelves in her closet because I just don't know where else to put it.  Stuff, stuff and more stuff.  Okay, confession alert, a lot of it is mine.  Things I had when I was little.  They've slowly made their way out of boxes and into her room.  And now it is jam packed.  So, as they say in the garden, when you're outta room, go vertical.  And that's what I'm doing.  I worked on it all morning.  It's somewhat better.  I recently moved her bed though, as an attempt to make more floor space, and now a lot of the things on the wall don't make sense.  And when you move that many things, you wind up with a zillion nail holes.  Unfortunately, I don't have any paint left for touch-ups.  I don't even know what colors they were.  So moving pictures could lead to completely gutting it, painting the whole room, and starting from scratch.  That is not on my near-future agenda.  (Famous last words.)  So the plan is to finish up in there and then I'll bust out the camera.  And you will gasp.  At the stuff. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekend Warrior(s)

Note:  Just in case you think it's the most beautiful color in the world and must have it in your life, the bathroom paint is Behr, Scotland Road. 

Remember that painting frenzy I was in?  Well, I finally committed to two colors this weekend.  Saturday afternoon, the wild hair (hare?) hit and I sent The Dad to Home Depot for paint (there may have been a few more things on that list).  I started taking things off the walls in the master bathroom.  Bye bye beige.

Here's some in-progress shots:

And of course, no project is complete without my two little helpers:

When I was trying to decide on colors for the two rooms, I was kinda using this curtain as a stepping point:

There used to be white ones up:

Then I had this one up, thinking I was committed to it:

But the longer it hung there, the more I decided I didn't love it.  I liked the colors, but the brown background was a little too dark for the dungeon room.   So Sunday afternoon I headed out to JoAnn Fabric's - paint chips in hand - to see if I could find something I liked better.  Ah yes, another project.  I found one I liked and also found a $3 remnant to make a new curtain for the bathroom window as well.  The old one was plain white.

Now let me just say, I suck at sewing.  I inevitably end up ripping out seams from mistakes, sewing something on backward, etc.  You'll hear people say, "Well, I can sew a straight line".  I can't do that either.  I can't even cut a straight line.  But, in the end, I still manage to somehow get it all figured out.  Enough to wrangle out curtains, pillows, duvet covers, etc.  Basic right angle-shaped objects.  This time though, I really didn't want to drag out the sewing machine.  It was close to dinner time and I have to set up shop at the dining room table.  So I busted out the Stitch Witchery instead.

Fold over where you want your hem and iron away:

Make two folds so there's a nice finish on the back side if it will show.  This is the first one.

Here's the second fold - make sure the top has a pocket big enough for the rod to fit through, if necessary.

Another shot.

The magic goods.

And here's the fifteen minute curtain:

Ooooh, Ahhhhh.

Then I made the two for the french doors.  With a break in between to get dinner on the table.  In the middle of the second one, I ran out of Stitch Witchery.  Grrr.  So it was either run to the store or bust out the sewing machine.  I did the latter.  I put a rod pocket in the top of both of them, but then I remembered I had some clip rings.  So I dug those out.

This is what they look like:

I clipped them on the top like this:

Then I hung them up like this:

THEN, this morning, I was looking at one of the blogs I read everyday and guess what her post was about?  No-sew curtains using Stitch Witchery and clip rings to hang them.  AND, she showed a super cool trick to make them hang better. Pinch-and-clip is what she called it.  Here's my version:

Pinch from the back and attach clip to the pinched part.

Voila, you get pleats!  Very exciting.  Yeah, it doesn't take much to amaze me.

Here they are with their mini makeover:

So there's your, I-don't-need-a-sewing-machine-to-make-curtains tutorial.

Now, here's the almost finished bathroom pics:

I haven't hung everything back up yet.  You can see the bird pic frame on the floor got a new coat of spray paint.  Black.

There were three cube shelves hanging here before.  I decided to switch it up.

Twenty five bonus points for the person who can tell me what this shelf was in it's previous life.  P.S.  The shelf isn't crooked, my photo skills are.  P.P.S.  That's a sneak peek at the bedroom color.

Thar ya have it.  That's how my weekend was spent.  I also worked on something else, but it's not finished, so I'll save it for later.  Now I need a weekend to paint our bedroom......

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Outsiders

These should be the last of the addition pics.  I couldn't find any good ones of the back of the house since we painted it (last summer), but you'll see it when I start taking massive amounts of pictures of the yard in a couple months.

I had mentioned that it took us forever to put siding up.  We were trying to find some that matched the existing - on the cheap.  New cedar siding is EXPENSIVE!!!  We came across quite a bit and quite often at our local rebuilding center, but it was never the right size.  I can't even remember what it is now, but I believe it's a 9 inch reveal.  I finally found some on Craigslist.  A contractor was tearing it off of his own house.  The Dad drove out to look at it and told him we'd take it all at $1 a foot.  The crazy part was, they had it rough side out, so that was the side that was painted.  Ours is smooth side out, so when we put it up, it was raw cedar.  Almost too pretty to paint.  Almost.

Here it is in progress:

Our little helpers:

You have no idea how good it felt to finally have this part done:

We also ended up having to move the man door on the back of the garage.  As it was, the new stairs leading to the french doors blocked it.  Here's a during and after of that:

We also jacked up the pergola.  What a job that was.  It used to be level with the gutter on the garage.  In the photo above, you can see how that might cause a problem with the house bumped out.  DUCK!  We were out on the patio staring at it one day, and The Dad and The Contractor neighbor wanted to jack it up from the bottom.  The posts are set in concrete.  After about 15 minutes, The Mom came up with her most genius idea ever.  It's really hard to explain, so here's a picture instead:

The top of the pergola used to sit on that horizontal beam.  They built the ladder lookin' thing and all we had to raise was the top and put that under it.  Genius.  If I do say so myself.  :o)  It was still a major project, but nothing like it could have been.  And, we got to keep The Dad's previous hard work intact.

The patio that the pergola covers was there when I moved in.  We tore out the concrete and put down pavers, but it's the same footprint.  We recycled the pavers from the previous patio we had put in that was where our master bedroom/bathroom is now.   So we lost quite a bit of solid surface when we tore everything out.  Hence the deck.  That was yard before we started.

Here's that being built:

I think we've finally come to the end.  Hahahahahahaha.  As if it EVER ends.  I literally have a list on the fridge that never gets smaller.  It grows and grows and grows.  We cross off one thing and add three more.  The never ending cycle of home ownership.  I'm always saying it would be so nice to have a Handy Manny who could come in and be at my beck and call.  Pay someone to do all the things on that list and have them finally be done.  But in the end, where would the satisfaction be in that?  The way it is, we get all the bragging rights.  Who could ask for anything more? 

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