Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Kitchen Curtains

This past summer, I lucked up and found ten yards of vintage fabric for ten bucks. I didn't know what I was going to do with it, only that I liked it and that I knew I'd find something useful for it one day. Then, halfway through the Fall semester, I realized just what to do: make curtains for my kitchen.

Now, I should explain a few things about my kitchen. When we moved into this house, I hated it (the kitchen). The cabinets are horrible. The counter tops are made of that old laminate stuff. The appliances (specifically the dishwasher) look like something out of 1973. Oh, and the washer and dryer are in the corner, which somehow makes it impossible for an actual kitchen table to be in the room--even a small bistro style table. Needless to say, I was unhappy because I LOVE a good kitchen. A good kitchen is easily my favorite room in the house.

But my kitchen was not good. And I knew we couldn't afford the money or time it would take to give it a modern update.

Then, one day, while visiting with my Gran, I realized something. Her kitchen is my most favorite room that exists on this planet. And her kitchen is old school. Just like mine. But hers has character because she has given it the character it needs.

And so I started to work my magic. Slowly. Piece by piece. Today, another piece fell in place. I made and hung three basic, old school curtains that look divine in my now "happy place" kitchen.

I think...think...all that's left to do now is find the right rug for the room, which I'm fairly sure will need to be a large, braided, red rug. Oh, and to make some hand towels. And replace the cabinet hardware.

A little at a time...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Mother-In-Law's Peanut Butter Balls

I just spent a glorious 5 days with my in-laws. And I mean that for real. I realize a lot of people aren't lucky enough to have really awesome in-laws. I am that lucky. When I go to my MIL's house, I always feel welcome and happy and stress free. It's a good change from normal life.

We always go up right before actual Christmas so we can do our celebrations with them and then be home for Santa's big visit. When I got there, we had some work to do to prepare for the festivities. One of these things was to make the Peanut Butter Balls.

We can't have Christmas up there without the Peanut Butter Balls.

While they can be a little tedious to make with regard to time, they are actually really simple to make.

Ingredients for balls*:
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 box powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (we use Reese peanut butter for this)
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 sticks margarine, melted
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Mix all of the above together, adding the butter last. Use your hands. It's more fun.

Ingredients for chocolate:
  • 1/2 block of paraffin wax (we used Gulf Wax)
  • 1 6oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate morsels
Melt the wax and chocolate in a double boiler or pot on pot.

Pot on Pot Boiler

How to "assemble" the peanut butter balls:
Rolled Peanut Butter Balls
  • Pinch off a small amount of peanut butter mixture and roll it into a ball in the palm of your hand. It shouldn't be any wider than a quarter, really. Although, I guess the size can be up to you. We made 4 batches at once and had well over a hundred peanut butter balls. The smaller you roll, the more there are.
  • Drop each ball into the melted chocolate mixture, rolling it around until it's covered.
  • Remove the ball with a slotted spoon so the extra chocolate can drip back into the pot
  • Lay your peanut butter balls on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper so they can dry. Drying won't take long.
  • Store your peanut butter balls in a sealed container until ready to enjoy.

Chocolatey Goodness!
They are seriously sinful and yummy. All weekend, I'd watch people popping these things in their mouths. How can you not love a peanut butter ball?!

*I suspect you can leave some of these ingredients out for those who can't have, say, nuts or coconut, and these would still be just as yummy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

I've been wanting to try the new Philadelphia cooking cremes since they first appeared on the shelf in the grocery store. So tonight, I put one to the test by making the Chicken Pot Pie recipe that's listed here. But, because I don't ever like sticking to a recipe, I changed some stuff up. It ended up looking like this at the end of the night:

My family inhaled it. And then made me wrap up what was left so they could have leftovers of it tomorrow. That almost never happens. We're not a family of leftovers...mostly because I've perfected the art of cooking for just 4 people.

Just out of the oven

  • 1 lb. of chicken breast, cut into tiny, bite-sized pieces
  • a spoonful of butter or margarine
  • 3 cups of mixed veg, thawed and drained
  • 1 container of Philadelphia Cooking Creme Italian Cheese and Herb*
  • 2 deep dished pie crusts

Half Eaten
  1. Heat oven to 400°
  2. In a skillet, melt butter and brown the bite-sized pieces of chicken 
  3. Add veg and cook through for 2-3 minutes
  4. Add Cooking Creme and heat through until mixture just begins to bubble
  5. Spoon into one deep dished pie crust
  6. Top with the other pie crust (please read explanation below) and cut slits in the top
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.
Now, the explanation of step 6:

 The original recipe (the one linked above) says to just put the mixture in a pie tin and then cover with a crust. I don't like pot pies like that. I like my pot pies to be surrounded by crust, both top and bottom. But, when I went to the grocery store, I only got the deep dished crusts and forgot to get the roll out pie "top" that most people would use in this situation. Of course, I could of made the top from scratch, but no. So, after I put the mixture in one pie shell, I ran a knife around the rim of the second pie crust, cutting the fluted edges off and then turned the pie crust tin upside down until it (the crust) dropped out in one nice sheet. I then placed it over my mixture already on the first pie shell and thumb smashed the edges of the two crusts together. Turned out great.

Creamy and flavorful and divine
Of course, it doesn't quite cut into "pie" pieces. But so what. It's yummy no matter what.

Before the massacre.

*The actual recipe called for Savory Garlic Cooking Creme. My grocery store was out of that flavor, so I got the Italian Cheese and Herb. It was yummy.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Arroz Mexicano

I love food. All kinds of food. There's just about nothing I won't eat, and I'll pretty much try anything at least once. But one of my all time favorite dishes ever is Mexican Rice. Yes, I'm fully aware that it's probably not "authentic" Mexican Rice when I order it in the restaurants. But I love it anyway.

I've tried to make it a few times with different sorts of recipes. Most of those recipes were massive culinary failures.

Until now.

A successful Mexican Rice

I adapted this recipe from a couple of different recipes. I like how flexible it is.


  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 small white onion, minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium sized carrot, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups of water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 tsp celery salt (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  1. In a pan (that you have a lid for), heat oil and butter over high heat until really hot
  2. Add onion, garlic, carrot, salt and pepper, celery salt, and cayenne pepper. Saute for 3 minutes.
  3. Add rice and saute for 5 minutes. You will need to stir this almost constantly. Your rice may start to brown, which is a good thing. (If it doesn't brown, that's ok, too.)
  4. Add water, being careful of the steam that's going to try to smack you in the face.
  5. Drop in the tomato paste and just whirl it around a bit in the rice. Don't completely mix it.
  6. Bring everything to a boil and then turn your stove down to the lowest possible heat setting. (I put mine on warm. If you have a gas stove, you want it low enough that the flame is just about to go out.)
  7. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes. DO NOT TAKE THE LID OFF AT ALL UNTIL IT HAS SAT FOR 15 MINUTES. If you let the moisture escape, your rice won't finish cooking.
  9. Remove lid, fluff with fork, add any more salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Simmering (I cheated and lifted the top. Do not do this.)
My family loves this rice. It's diverse enough to be served with a number of different dishes, so it's very versatile.
And yummy. Don't forget yummy.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Deck the Halls

May your Christmas Decorating be joyous and awesome.

Mantel Garland with Real Magnolia Leaves
Ribbons and Real Holly Leaves and Berries
Santa Pepper
Shrek and the Who hat
The Girl Bell
Vader helps us decorate.