Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Better than Sonic

OK, bear with me on this one. I know it's super simple, but maybe...just's not obvious to all.

My sister recently pointed out that Sonic is now serving bratwursts. She kept going on and on about how delish they are. And then it occurred to me that maybe she didn't know how simple re-creating the recipe would be. So today, after picking the children up for school, I went to Sonic for a milkshake and to spy on their menu brats. Super simple. Super easy. Super yummy when made in your kitchen and not in a fast food joint.

It didn't take much twisting of the arm to convince my hubby that we needed brats tonight for dinner. Here's how ours looked:

sauerkraut bratwurst
  • A package of bratwurst (the ones you find in the cold cut/hotdog section of your grocery store
  • hotdog buns
  • spicy mustard
  • a can of sauerkraut (drained and lightly rinsed)
  • a medium onion (halved and sliced)
  • olive oil
  • celery salt
  • salt and pepper
  1. In a small pan, drizzle a little olive oil and heat on medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until soft and starting to brown.
  2. In a small sauce pot, heat the sauerkraut with a tiny bit of water (since you drained the original "juice") until heated through.
  3. Grill your brats until they crack and get a little black in places. (I guess you could also bake them or boil them, but grilling them in best.)
  4. Heat the hotdog buns in the microwave (I keep mine in their bag, with the bag open)
Once all of these things are done, just assemble your brat to your liking, sprinkling it with celery salt, salt, and pepper to taste.

WAY better than anything Sonic could come up with and made to taste. How could it not be good?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tinting Jars

My Gran has some of those official 1930s blue tinted mason jars. The ones that are awesome and gorgeous and worth some money is they have the original top and stuff with them. I've always loved those blue jars, so when I came across the tutorial to tint mason jars, I knew I had to try it. Luckily, my sister also came across the same tutorial, so we decided to give it a shot together this weekend. We played around with colors and jar sizes and such until we were finally satisfied. Of course, I completely forgot to take photos of the jars we were happiest with, mostly because I was exhausted and went to bed before they were done cooling. She had them all packed up by the time I woke up this morning. But the pictures below provide a pretty decent visual, so we'll go with them.

Orange tinted jar just out of the oven.

What You'll Need:

  • Clean, dry mason jars (any size will do)
  • A bottle of Mod Podge (the glossy kind)
  • Water
  • Food Coloring
  • Wax Paper
  • Cooling Racks
  • Baking Sheets
  • A Plastic Throw Away Solo Cup
  • A Plastic Spoon
The last two don't have to be plastic because you can wash this stuff out, but I find using plastic makes the clean up easier. I realize it's not great for the environment, though.
Mod Podge can be found at any craft supply store.

What You Need to Do:
  1. Preheat the oven at 270°
  2. Put a sheet of wax paper in your baking sheet, and then set a cooling rack on the wax paper
  3. In the plastic cup, pour 4 tablespoons of Mod Podge, 1 tablespoon of water, and roughly 8-10 drops of the food coloring of your choice. Stir well.
  4. Pour enough of the mixture into the bottom of your mason jars so that you are able to roll it around in the jars and coat the jars inside completely
  5. Pour any excess mixture back into the plastic cup
  6. Set the mason jars upside down on the cooling rack that is sitting in your baking sheet
  7. Let the mason jars sit for roughly 30 minutes (they will start to dry during this time.)
  8. Put the baking sheet with the mason jars upside down in the oven and bake for 30 minutes
  9. Flip the mason jars right side up and let them bake another 30 minutes
  10. Remove and allow them to cool completely before handling
WARNING: You cannot eat or drink out of these jars. They are toxic. You can, however, use them as votive holders, flower vases, or storage jars.
Jars drying before baking.
Baking Jars

Now, I know that the above jars don't look perfect. They don't have to. But, to take care of streaks or if you find your rims glopping up too much (which we found with the first batch which is pictured above), you can put more water in your mixture and/or bake a little longer. These things will take care of the glops and the streaks.

I'm thinking of making green and red ones for the Christmas Season and putting them all over the place with my normal decorations. 

Now, go forth and tint!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Knit ALL the Stitches

I have started...slowly... working on all of the knit things I will be making people for Christmas this year. But, because I am a wife, mama, and full time teacher, I don't have a ton of time, which means my projects around this time of year have to be simple and fast. I wish that weren't the case. I actually tried to convince myself this year that I would get all of my Christmas knitting done over the summer. But then summer got here, and I had to do important things like read and drink lemonade and hang out at any swimming pool I could find within a 100 miles. Oh, and sleep. Lots and lots of glorious sleep until a staggering 9 am. I'm a party animal. I know.

Anyhoo, so I'm knitting. And the things I am knitting are relying on the good, old garter stitch, which is pretty much the easiest stitch in the history of all stitches ever conceived. But that's ok. Because it's not about the stitch; it's about the project and/or the yarn. The wonderful, amazing, beautifully colored yarn.

For instance:

I am a huge fan of multicolored yarn because it means I don't have to knit with multiple skeins all at one time. And a good colored multicolored yarn can make that boring old garter stitch look like uptown fabulous. This is a circle scarf I have knitted for my dad's lovely lady, Linda. I wish I could put a "feel this" button so you, precious reader, could understand the pure lushness of this yarn. After I finished it, I put the damn thing on just so I could love it for a little while.

That's not weird at all.

Another project:

Ok, so this one I've actually had shelved for a while. For a couple of reasons. The biggest being that it's made of chinchilla, which is pretty expensive in terms of how much bang you get for your buck. It's such an awesome yarn, though. It's thick and durable and perfect for big throws, which is what this will be. And, because I'm using a simple garter stitch, the project itself won't take long to finish. 

And finally, the project I love the most:

That was kind of anti-climatic, wasn't it? But wait until you hear the details. What you see here is grandmother's dishcloth. Seriously. That's what the pattern is called. Grandmother's dishcloth. It's a simple garter stitch that incorporates a "yarn over" after every second stitch in each row, which causes the pattern around the edges.

Here's why I'm most excited about it: It's actually my grandmother's dishcloth pattern. The one she has used for as long as I can remember. I even have a few of her dishcloths, sadly falling apart though.

Looks rough, right? I don't care. My Gran made that and there is no way I'd ever throw it away. 

Anyway, Gran's getting older and, while she still knits every single day, her hands aren't what they used to be. Last time I visited with her, I noticed her dishcloths, looking a little worn. So, I'm making her a whole stack of dishcloths with the pattern she's used for me for years.

I'm a fan of the sentimental, particularly when it comes to this woman. She's my heart.

The old and the new

Happy knitting!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thanksgiving Practice

This weekend was full of Crock Pot madness. In fact, on Sunday, I had two slow cookers going at once, something that is a true testament to my slow cooking infatuation. One of those cookers held my apples(auce) recipe previously posted. The other held a Try-Out-Thanksgiving recipe I've been wanting to try before the big day.

If you're anything like me, Thanksgiving is a day of utter chaos in the kitchen. There are so many wonderfully delicious things I always want to cook for my family that I often overdo it and end up with way more on my hands than I can properly deal with. But this year, I've decided to do two things:

  1. Not cook every single Thanksgiving recipe I've ever come across, made, or maybe even head about
  2. Use a slow cooker whenever humanly possible.
So, I happened upon a chicken and dressing recipe that looked simple enough to give it a go, just to see if it was up to Thanksgiving standards. 

Slow Cooker Stuffing Chicken
  • 2-3 lbs of chicken breast strips
  • 8-10 slices of swiss cheese
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 box stove top stuffing (chicken or savory herb flavor). Yes, I KNOW this is cheating at Thanksgiving. Trust me. I know.
  • 1/4 cup melted butter.
  1. Spray the inside of your slow cooker with non-stick spray
  2. Wash your chicken and lay it flat in the bottom of your cooker
  3. Cover with the swiss cheese slices
  4. Mix milk and cream of mushroom soup until creamy and...
  5. Pour mixture over cheese slices
  6. Pour dried stuffing over mixture
  7. Drizzle with butter
  8. Cook on high for 3 hours and on low for 1 hour
  9. Turn your slow cooker lid sideways for the last 30 minutes to let the moisture escape so your stuffing isn't soggy.
As you can see in the above picture, the cheese and soup mixture will bubble up through the stuffing.

The recipe was a success, except for one thing. I don't know if it's Thanksgiving worthy. It's dinner rotation in the Mahaffey house worthy. But Thanksgiving dinner is a big deal, and I'm just not sure it's THAT good. The husband says it is. I'll have to think about it.

To go with the chicken stuffing, I made my garlic roasted brussels sprouts and corn on the cob. We were some happy people!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Slow Cooker Apples(auce)

My mother recently spent the weekend in the Appalachian mountains for her birthday, and while there she got her hands on some apples. Not just some apples. Massive amounts of apples. Pink Lady apples to be exact. Her garage has boxes and boxes of pretty pink lady apples spilling out of them.

The problem: My mother doesn't cook. She's more of a "heat-it-up" kind of woman. So, she told me I could have full access to all of these apples.

Recently, I came across an applesauce recipe that I thought was pretty interesting, particularly because it was made in a slow cooker. But, I'm not a huge fan of applesauce. It's the consistency. Something about it freaks me out. So I've been trying to figure out how I can work with these apples without making traditional, mashed up applesauce.


This is, of course, before the cooking process. I'm not sure what to call it. Granola Cored Apples? 

Anyway, here's the information.

  • 6 medium sized apples of your choosing
  • 1/2 c light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granola
  • 1/4 cup cranberries
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  1. Combine brown sugar, granola, cranberries, and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl
  2. Wash your apples thoroughly and then halve them going side to side**
  3. Core the halves using a sharp paring knife. It doesn't have to be perfect. Just get all the middle bits out.
  4. Put the two halves back together, so that it looks like an apple again, and fill the cored middle with your granola mixture.
  5. Place the filled apples in your slow cooker
  6. Pour orange juice in the bottom of your slow cooker
  7. Cook on high for 2 hours and then on warm for 2 hours.
You can then spoon each full apple directly out onto individual serving dishes. Serve with a scoop of Vanilla Bean ice cream.

I can't even explain to you how good this is. It's restaurant quality good. It's close-your-eyes-and-purr good. It's why-did-I-serve-this-in-my-kids-plastic-bowl good.

*If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, you will need 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp ground cloves.

**If you have an apple corer, you don't necessarily have to halve your apples. I halve mine for two reasons. First, I don't have a corer. Second, that little break up of apple allows the granola mixture to kind of seep in between the two halves, which I think spices them up more.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Slow Cooker Chili

I love the fall. It's my favorite time of year. The weather is gorgeous, college football is in full swing, Halloween gives me reason to eat obscene amounts of sugar, and we gain an hour of sleep when the clocks change. 

I also love fall foods. Soup. Chili. Chowder. Pumpkin Pie. Baked Apples. Stuffing. Hot Cider. How can anyone argue that these aren't the best foods?

This fall, I've decided to make use of my Slow Cooker, mostly because we are SO DAGUM BUSY! And when we get busy, it usually means we eat out a lot more, which is never good. Not just because it's unhealthy, but because it's just gross a lot of the time. Why spend $30 on food for the family if the food you get isn't excellent?

So, I've pulled out the Slow Cooker. And I've pulled out my recipes that are easiest to do in the Slow Cooker.

The first is my chili recipe, which has been adapted and shaped over the years from a very basic recipe I found on the back of a canned tomato can. (I don't remember which one.)

  • Ground Hamburger or Ground Turkey (Venison would work, too)
  • 1 can of stewed chili flavored tomatoes (with juice)
  • 1 can of whole kernel corn (with juice)
  • 1 can of light red kidney beans (drained well)
  • 1 can of black beans (partially drained)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 packet of chili seasoning
  • 2 dashes of cinnamon
  • 2 dashes of celery salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Brown meat and drain thoroughly
  2. Add all ingredients to Slow Cooker
  3. Cook on low for 4 hours
  4. Remove bay leaf before serving
  5. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese and chopped green onions if desired.
I usually serve this with tostitos or cornbread. It depends on how "hands on" I want the meal to be. My children LOVE this. During cooler/cold weather, this meal makes the rotation in our house usually once every week and a half.