Monday, December 22, 2014

Taco Seasoning Mix

You knew sooner or later I'd jump on the bandwagon and make up my own mixture to season taco meat, right?

Well, I did it.

After a great amount of research (aka reading everyone else's recipes and the reviews of them that I could find - there must be at least 100 variations!) and taste testing the powder against my favorite chemical-laden store-bought packet here is the recipe I've decided on:

Taco Seasoning

Very scant 1/3 cup chili powder
2 Tbl Tony Chachere's Bold Creole Seasoning*
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
Scant 1/4 cup cumin
Very scant 1/4 cup paprika
2 Tbl cornstarch
1 Tbl minced dehydrated onion
2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbl sugar
1 Tbl brown sugar

Mix together and store in tightly capped jar.  Makes approximately 1 1/4 cups.  Use 2-3 Tbl per pound of taco meat according to your tastes.  Simply brown and crumble the meat then add the seasoning with about 1/2 cup water and simmer for a few minutes.  Then you're ready to make some yummy yummy tacos or burritos or nachos or taco salads or...

Isn't it pretty?  I like it A LOT!  I like that there's no weird preservatives that I can't pronounce (unless there's some in the Tony's and I didn't look... I like that stuff too much and don't want to risk that there is something there that will make me want to kick that can to the curb).  And I like that this one is pretty straight-forward in the spices.  Some of the other folks out there in blog land use interesting stuff like cocoa powder and smoked paprika and I guess that's fine if  you want to incorporate those flavors.  I was seeking a really tasty, basic, use it in the weekly dinner rotation kind of taste and that's what I've got.  I also like that it's cheap!  I am estimating (because I used spices I already had on hand) that the total cost would work out to about $2 for the entire batch.  And I estimate it will make tacos 12-13 times.

The recipe above (minus the onions because I didn't have any) filled one of these cute little Classico jars that originally came home filled with pesto to the rim with enough left over to make tacos today.  I've kept the jars all along because I plan on spray painting the lids with brushed nickel paint and labeling with a cute round chalkboard label for the contents inside to store all my spices and mixtures like this.

Note:  Tony Chachere's Bold Creole Seasoning is a spicy seasoning salt.  If you don't have it, substitute your favorite seasoned salt or use 2 1/2 Tbl salt and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or use 1/4 tsp cayenne and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper).

Friday, December 19, 2014

Orange Syrup

I really dislike the fake maple taste of Mrs. Butterworth's syrup.  It's the only thing Derek will eat on pancakes and waffles.  So... I was the one to compromise and that trash is the only syrup that's been in the house for the past 2 years or so.

Until today!

Now I care less and less every day what he wants and do the things that make me happy and feed my spirit.  Today it was Orange Syrup that put a smile on my face.

Oh boy is this stuff YUMMY!!

My inspiration came from 3 things.  First, the bag of oranges in my fridge that needed to be used.   It's true:  necessity is the mother of invention! Second, the blueberry sauce I made recently to accompany a baked french toast dish for a Church potluck Christmas breakfast was my how-to basis.  But really I was thinking about the pancakes and syrup I had for breakfast on a trip to Boise when I was barely out of high school in the mid-1980's.  That was the only time I got to know my cousin, Dale Clarke, and his sweet wife, Cindy at all.  I remember that she was expecting their first baby, Stephanie.  I don't think they knew she was a girl yet...  And I remember their dogs.  They had two Pit Bulls who were the most gentle playful dogs.  I always wanted to go back and spend more time in Boise and get to know these cousins but, like many things, life happened and I didn't get back until many many years later on short business trips.  Dale and Cindy had divorced and he didn't live there any longer and I didn't know how to get ahold of her or if she would even be willing to see me.  Just a few weeks ago, though, Stephanie and I made a connection via the magic of Facebook.  It's going to be fun getting to know her a bit and sharing memories and old family pictures that were taken or collected by my Mother.

I can't remember the name of the restaurant we ate at to even search and see, if by some miracle, it's still there or not but the image I have in my mind is that it was across a very busy multi-lane street from Boise State University.  It was in the parking lot of a hotel.  And late one afternoon there was a storm rolled in and according to the marquis at BSU the temperature dropped nearly 20 degrees in 5 minutes time. Aren't the goofy details that stick with you funny?  That's about all I remember about the place. That and the house-specialty syrup.  It was a pineapple coconut concoction that just blew my young mind.  And now that I've got the how-to part figured out with the blueberries and the oranges, one of these days I'm going to make some of that and call it Pina Colada Syrup.  Pineapple, coconut milk, a hint of lime and just a touch of rum flavoring... and serve it over pecan encrusted french toast.

Ok, so that's my backstory.  And I know you're here for the recipe, so without further digression...

Orange Syrup

Grate the rind (just the orange part, not the bitter white pith) from 4 oranges into a saute pan.  Add the juice of all four oranges and sugar to taste.  I think I used about 1 1/4 cups but that could vary slightly depending on the sweetness of the oranges.  Add 2/3 cup water, a pinch of salt and 3 tsp of cornstarch and bring to a boil.  Whisk constantly until it thickens then remove from heat and stir in 3 Tbl butter.  Let cool.  You can use immediately but it's best to let it sit in the fridge for 48 hours to get all the orangey goodness incorporated well in the syrup and then warm slightly before serving over pancakes, waffles or french toast.  Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream.  Or just drizzle the syrup over ice cream...  This recipe filled a pint canning jar about 2/3 of the way.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Come home to me...

When you lose a furry family member the grief is every bit as intense as when you lose a human you are close to.  And you don't know if to greet people who say cruel and horrible things like "It's just a dog..." with a hard kick to the groin or pity for the lack of unconditional love in their life so you end up so you end up looking at them with an expression that asks "Are you from another planet?" as melt into yet another stream of hot, lonely, heart-broken tears.

The past few months it seems like so many people I know have had to say goodbye to a well-loved pet.  I've watched as they've struggled through the pain of having the very fabric of their daily life ripped apart.  I know that someday I'll face that with my boys, too.  Hopefully it's a long ways off... but I already dread its coming.  I didn't start the morning with such morbid thoughts, but a tender poem came across my Facebook feed and left me sniffling and reminiscing about the fur-babies awaiting me on the other side.  I LOVE the last line!  If animals aren't allowed in Heaven, it isn't home.

To my dearest friend...

I stood by your bed last night; I came to have a peep. 
I could see that you were crying you found it hard to sleep. 
I spoke to you softly as you brushed away a tear, 
"It's me, I haven't left you, I'm well, I'm fine, I'm here." 
I was close to you at breakfast, I watched you pour the tea, 
You were thinking of the many times, your hands reached down to me. 
I was with you at the shops today; your arms were getting sore. 
I longed to take your parcels, I wish I could do more. 
I was with you at my grave today; you tend it with such care. 
I want to re-assure you, that I'm not lying there. 
I walked with you towards the house, as you fumbled for your key. 
I gently put my paw on you; I smiled and said, "it's me." 
You looked so very tired, and sank into a chair. 
I tried so hard to let you know, that I was standing there. 
It's possible for me, to be so near you everyday. 
To say to you with certainty, "I never went away." 
You sat there very quietly, then smiled, I think you knew... 
in the stillness of that evening, I was very close to you. 
The day is over... I smile and watch you yawning 
and say "good-night, God bless, I'll see you in the morning." 
And when the time is right for you to cross the brief divide, 
I'll rush across to greet you and we'll stand, side by side. 
I have so many things to show you, there is so much for you to see. 
Be patient, live your journey out...then come home to me.

Rest in peace sweet fur-babies... Rest in peace my Coley, Ugly, Buttons, Smokey, Daisy, Mittens, Lizzie, Pepper, Harry, Suzy, Baby, and Taffy.  I can't wait to see you again!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Adventure Ahead

Every now and then I find myself repeating an apology for a prolonged absence... I must not be all that penitent because I keep doing it so I'm going to skip the I'm sorry part and just let you know that I spent a lot of the last month finding me and reconnecting my psyche with passions that had been put aside.  You know those things that probably contributed a big share in losing touch with myself and having that major crash...

Being away from blogging was actually a very good thing for me.  And I invite you to rejoice in that!  I'm more ready than ever to put the nightmare of the past couple of years behind me and move on to a bright and wonderful future.

The first thing I'm doing is adjusting my attitude.  With all the health problems, financial problems, relationship problems, even more serious relationship problems, still even more serious relationship problems, questioning everything I knew about life, love, God, the world... yeah, living has felt like an ordeal at times.

I'm letting loose of the relationship woes.  I did what was in my power to make things work and to seek forgiveness and reconciliation for my wrongs.  That's all I can do.  So I'm just letting it go.  I'm giving up on the apology that's definitely owed me but I know will never come.  My next chapter starts now.  And it's all about adventure!

I'm taking care of me first.  For the longest time I couldn't even think of things that I used to be interested in or would see as fun.  A couple of weeks ago, though, I had a breakthrough.  I pulled out a quilt top I'd started years ago and got too busy so it was set aside and never finished.  Somehow it made it on the truck for my move and in a few weeks it will be all finished.  There was even enough spare fabric folded up with it to make some throw pillows.  My plan is to put these on my future couch.  I also pulled out the sketch book and noticed that I used to do some pretty awesome sketches.  I've been saving inspiration pictures to pick that hobby up again and studying artists whose style I like.  I've also done some research into what kind of colored pencils I need to get so that I'll be able to do some intricately shaded florals.  A few other long lost loves I'm planning to reconnect with is the Farmer's Market for Saturday breakfast and a little shopping, adding to my collection of antique silver spoons (and finishing out the big set of Columbia silverware), expanding my culinary skills by trying new foods and cooking methods and gardening.

Yes, I know I say every year that I want to garden in the coming spring and I haven't managed to make it happen for about 5 years now.  Whether I end up staying in this very house where I have plenty of room to do it right or have to start over again on my own and have flower pots on a balcony, I swear by Heaven's Most Almighty Powers 2015 will see me have a garden!

I'm going back on the job market.  Despite being chewed up and spit out like yesterday's bubble gum, I know I have skills.  And someone out there is going to have the intelligence to recognize that and get one heck of deal when they make me an employee.

I'm going back on the social market, too.  I moved to Georgia with the promise and expectation of being pulled into a big, happy, close-knit family.  I had the promise and expectation of being introduced to their business contacts and friends.   Both were over promised and vastly under delivered...  I found myself financially taken advantage of, stranded, lonely, isolated, far from anyone I knew and feeling very much like I didn't quite fit in.  No more!  I've started to develop my own unique social network.  I've met the neighbors.  I've found a wonderful group of like-minded folks in my church congregation.  I've already planned out a couple of evening classes for next year and a respectable list of events and places to visit where I'll no doubt meet other people with at least that specific interest in common.

I have real, honest, achievable goals.  They are all written out in detail, broken down into smaller steps and the work has begun.  I hope you'll stick around for the ride... it's going to be a heck of a show!!