Archive for October, 2011

October 31, 2011

ten random things…

about halloween

1. i’m dating myself here but when i was a wee trick or treater, costumes were bought at the drugstore and consisted of a polyester suit and a plastic mask with an elastic band.  i remember going as the easter bunny, casper, and cinderella.

2. in later years, my costumes became more elaborate and were usually difficult to travel in, on foot, and from house to house.  i was a stickler for authenticity though and refused to wear sneakers with a fairy costume insisting instead on a pair of high heels borrowed from my mother.

3. my mom has always made a chili  pre trick-or-treat dinner for as long as i can remember.  i have carried on that tradition and as soon as this post is published i will set the ground beef to brown on the stove.

4. in kindergarten i dressed as dorothy and made my sister go as a munchkin. my friend was the wicked witch.  we assembled our family members on the back patio while i stood on the picnic table and sang “somewhere over the rainbow”.  then i allowed my witch friend to chase me around the yard while i screamed periodically.

5. that same year i attended a school carnival and wanted to do a cake walk.  the number was called and we all waited. clutching a stuffed “toto” in a basket,   i wondered why #37 would not claim their cake.  then the boy next to me gave me a shove “it’s you stupid.”  i was allowed to choose from a table of cakes.  i picked one decorated as a jack-o-lantern.

6.  the only time i remember being afraid was when i had to collect my treat from a dracula in a coffin.  as soon as he jumped out i dropped my candy and ran for my life.

7. when my sister and i would come home from trick or treating we would sort our candy into piles: all the mini snickers over here, bit ‘o honey over here, sunbursts over here.

8. i cannot grasp the concept of “trunk or treat”.  it doesn’t sound like much of anything to me.  as a kid, much of the fun was in going from house to house; most of them decorated.

9. a group of college kids came to our house once when i was little.  it was way too late to be out – i was partially changed from my costume into my pjs but wanted to take care of the trick or treators.  i could not however reach the basket of candy on top of the clock in the hall.  after contemplating whether or not they should play a trick, one of them came in and lowered the basket for me.  i then distributed the tootsie pops.

10. tonight we plan to watch the great pumpkin as we do every year while eating our chili.

have a safe and happy halloween!

October 27, 2011

my pantry

one of the few things that did not get done after we reassembled our newly remodeled  kitchen was the pantry.

i’m not sure why.

i just never got around to it.

until  a few weeks ago.

the first step in my plan was to make a grand list of everything i felt a well stocked pantry (in our home) would need; purchase it, and then organize the shelves with all the goods.  because we try to eat fresh as much as possible i only access my pantry once a week or so with the exception of oatmeal which we eat nearly every morning.  in deciding what should belong on the shelves, i brainstormed all of my go-to recipes that could come together in a hurry (such as pumpkin dump cake), recipes i use for unexpected company (pasta tossed with pesto and  pine nuts), recipes i could use if i missed a trip to the store or was suddenly in the mood for comfort food (such as a tuna casserole).   i also added to the list a somewhat wide variety of dried beans that i try to use weekly on our soup night. the result was a grocery list several pages long which took considerable time to purchase and put away.

next step was to figure out storage for some of the dry goods such as beans and pasta.   now, i understand that this could have been very simple but i am a storage snob.  i like everything in my home to be pretty as well as functional; so for me, this part of the project took a bit of time.

my first consideration was modular tupperware.  i thought long and hard about this for a while, and i really liked the idea.   i noticed however,  while looking through the catalog that the lid color had changed since i last purchased tupperware.  if i wanted to be able to add to my container collection over time (which i did), or need to replace a container, i wanted to be able to do it with the same product.  i wanted everything to be uniform.  in the end, the tupperware option was voted down.

so, one afternoon while i was browsing through our new cucina italiana magazine i saw an ad for these:

and we decided that was the perfect solution.  i purchased along with them a fancy label maker capable of lots of fonts (i love fonts of all sorts) and went shopping for my pantry goods.

the result looks something like this:


grains and legumes....

canned goods...

i couldn’t be more pleased.

that done and out of the way the next step was organizing the spices.

yes, i did see that way cool idea all over pinterest of putting the spices in tiny jars and painting the lids with chalk paint.  i have to confess i was a tad bit envious of the genius of the person who thought that up.  however,  i like my labels to be read on the front and i had already purchased these from bed, bath, and beyond:

i also wanted to use my new label maker.

i didn’t need to collect any more spices like i did pantry goods.  i did need to narrow down what i had, getting rid of anything that had expired or gone stale.

i also needed to wash all the little lids and jars by hand, having learned they were not compatible with the dishwasher.

then i had to let them dry overnight and then some to ensure that the contents would not get damp.

quite a process……

the clothespins are for drying the jars. a little trick i learned from martha stewart

the fun part was loading all the contents into the cute little jars, and of course labeling them in a fancy font.

they fit perfectly on my narrow little pantry shelves and as with the canned goods,  i’ve been very happy with the result.

discussion underway about a new camera...

so far the stocked pantry has worked wonderful and helped to offset our monthly grocery budget.  we just have to remember that once something is used it is put on the list so we always have what we need. much easier said than done, believe it or not.

October 21, 2011

random thoughts for a friday morning

~this is my first and only post for this week.  i am lagging behind in several areas; we’re also going through a stressful time and some days i feel like i am furiously treading water just barely keeping my chin above the surface.  i have had posts lined up but lacked the time or energy to write them out and publish.

~i feel like socializing about as much as i feel like writing.  i have one more social obligation lined up for this  year, and then i plan to drop off the face of the earth until january at which time i will come up for air.  hopefully.

~today is my husband’s birthday.  he is younger than i am but other than that we can never remember how old we are.  birthday traditions here include a dinner of your choice usually prepared together while listening to jazz.  since my husband is in meetings all day and his dinner of choice is an all day thing, i am going to make it for him: spare ribs braised with red onion, bacon, and guiness; mashed potatoes, and boston cream cupcakes.

~our first hard frost (or last depending on how you look at it) was  yesterday morning.  my beautiful wedding white zinnias are finished for the year.

~i am in the process of deep cleaning my house.  it takes more time than one would think.  by the time i am finally finished it will be time to start all over again.

~redbook has launched a publicity campaign for infertility called “the truth about trying”.  when i discovered it, i stood on my chair and applauded.  you can see it here.

October 13, 2011

fall wreath

when marco and i bought our first home a few months prior to our wedding, one of the first things i did, even in the middle of all the wedding prep, was to make a wreath and hang it on the front door.  to me a wreath on the door says home.  since i love to change things with the season, eventually i had  a wreath for spring, summer, fall, and winter.

when we moved to our current older home with limited storage space my wreath collection presented a problem.  in addition to a closet crowded with floral wreathes, we had  a “double door” situation: a glass door in front of our entry door and the majority of my wreathes were too poofy for the narrow space.

it took me a few years but i finally came up with a solution: a simple, single, grapevine wreath with interchangeable floral picks befitting the season.  the smaller size wreath fits easily between the two doors, and the picks are much easier to store and require much less space than an entire wreath.

so here’s my grapevine wreath purchased at joann’s.

and here is my floral pick (alright it is a bit bigger than a pick…) purchased at hobby lobby for 50% off.

and after attaching a floral wire hanger to the back, i wove the pick through the grapevine so that it can easily be removed after thanksgiving for a christmas arrangement.

now, i’m aware that bows are no longer in vogue and are very ’90s but i am a bow person.  or rather i should say i am a ribbon person.  i love streamers but not necessarily the “bow”.  so, i took this tone on tone stripe and tied it in a square knot at the base of the floral…

and cut the ends at uneven lengths.

and since i love all things feathered, nearly all of my wreathes have had a bird of some sort.  i found these crows a few years ago at pottery barn.  after halloween i’d love to replace them with a sparrow for thanksgiving.

finished product!  i love my red door and the mail slot.

October 10, 2011

my new smart phone

this is my new smart phone!  we got it on saturday.   i have a wonderful app for my phone.  it helps me organize my day, tells me where i need to be and when, and helps me keep track of what needs to be done around the house.

“day runner” app:

and this is what we call the “grocery list” app.  with one single motion of the hand, i can add whatever i need to my list:

with this feature i can access facebook from my phone:

here is facebook:

here is the phone:


the only thing my wonderful smartphone lacks is voice mail.  however, i’m thinking that feature may ultimately go the way of our microwave, when we switched it out for this high-tech model here:

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October 6, 2011

chili with lamb and chorizo

or lamb and chorizo chili or chorizo and lamb chili…whatever you want to call it.

disclaimer: as i said before i am not a photographer.  i thought about just posting the recipe but if you are like me, looking at recipes without pictures is not much fun.  in the end i decided very bad pictures would be better than no pictures at all.  you may or may  not agree.

chili is my go-to comfort food for the fall.  i think the tradition started with my mom who always made up her betty crocker chili recipe for halloween.   when i got married, i discovered my own recipe with  and began our own tradition of halloween night chili but eventually we got to where we were eating it often through the fall and winter months.  this year we decided to branch out and try some other chilis: a different recipe each month with the first  monday of the month being chili night.

we kicked off our chili season with this version made with lamb and chorizo.  ( a discussion is underway about a much better camera for the future.  if you absolutely cannot stand the neon glare in the photos following, the recipe is at the end of the post. )

start off with a pound of ground lamb and two ten ounce tubes of chorizo.  we’re fortunate that our local grocery carries lamb on  a regular basis so for us it is pretty easy to find.  we also have a local, natural supplier through our farmer’s market.  set the meat out and set it aside while you focus  your attention on the “hot sauce”.

in a medium saucepan cover about ten chilies de arbol with about 1 cup of chicken broth. this stuff packs a wallop, if you want milder chili, use fewer chilies.

::shields eyes from glaring blue label:: i discovered these cute little 8 oz cartons of chicken broth at whole foods.  they come in a pack of three and are wonderfully convenient for those times you only need a small amount.  unused portions freeze well.   simmer the chilies over medium heat for ten minutes; or until the chilies soften.

while the chilies simmer away, you have time to coarsely chop 2 cups of onion (i will not insult your intelligence by showing you how) and chop 12 cloves, (yes 12, don’t decrease the amount) of garlic.

when your chilies have softened process in a food processor or with a hand held blender.  this stuff is part of what makes this recipe so great.  it is also liquid lava, so it is hothothot.  set aside, and use with caution.

go ahead and drain two cans of pozole dorado (golden hominy).  while it is draining in the sink, brown your chorizo.  now, if you have never worked with chorizo before you will notice that this has a very grainy texture, much finer than ground beef or bulk sausage.  when you put it in the pan and it begins to cook, it will spread out all over the place.   don’t worry (i did the first time i cooked with chorizo) that is what it is supposed to do.  when it has browned, pour the contents of the pan (grease and all) into a strainer and set over a bowl to drain.

it needs to drain for a full ten minutes.  set your timer and you have enough time to tidy up the kitchen, or if you are irresponsible like me, leave the dishes in the sink and check your fb updates.   when the chorizo has drained, measure off 1/4 cup of the drippings and add to the pan.  (discard the rest)

heat over a medium high burner/flame and add your onions and garlic.  you will also add, your spices, the meat, a can of diced tomatoes, and the pozole.  at the end, begin adding your hot sauce to taste.  do not add it all at once as it may be too spicy.  i cooked my chili a day ahead and tasted throughout the day, adjusting the heat as we went along.  if you do decide to make this in advance, be mindful of the fact that your flavor and heat will grow in intensity as it sits.  i also noticed that the pozole softened overnight and when we do this again, i would prefer to add just before serving.

serve with a dollop of sour cream, some chopped onion, grated sharp cheddar cheese, and crushed blue corn tortilla chips if desired.

chili with lamb and chorizo

1 c chicken broth

5-10 chilies de arbol

2 10 oz tubes beef chorizo

1 lb ground lamb

2 c coarsely chopped red onion

12 garlic cloves, chopped

1 T dried oregano

1 T c ground cumin

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes

2 15 oz cans pozole dorado (golden hominy), rinsed, drained


sour cream

chopped onion

grated sharp cheddar cheese

blue corn tortilla chips

sliced jalepeno

combine broth and chilies in a heavy, medium saucepan.  simmer, until chilis soften, about 12 minutes.  puree chilis in blender.  set aside.

brown chorizo in heavy pot over medium heat until drippings come to a simmer.  break up meat with back of a spoon.  transfer to a strainer set over a bowl.  drain 10 minutes.

return 1/4 c of the chorizo drippings to the pot.  add onions, garlic, oregano, and cumin.  saute until onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  add lamb, and brown until no longer pink.  add chorizo, tomatoes, and chili puree.  bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 1 hour.  add hominy and simmer an additional 15 minutes.  serve with garnishes.

6-8 servings

~adapted from  the bon appetit cookbook