Thursday, January 31, 2008

Chicken Enchiladas

When we were younger, I didn't give much thought to what foods my sister liked or didn't like. I cooked it. If you like it, "Great!" If not . . . enjoy the peanut butter. She shared with me recently that Texas Casserole and Enchiladas were two of her favorites. It's nice to know that she wasn't having to choke down the dreadful stuff her older sister was boiling in the ol' cauldron. So, for patient and tolerant Anna, I give you chicken enchiladas . . .

Whole chicken was on sale last week, so I had to dismember poor Mr. Chicken. I used the dark meat for the enchiladas and used the rest to make soup.

The wings, legs, thighs, and a left over chicken breast go into the crock pot with a can of Rotel and enchilada sauce. Once the meat was done, I pulled it off the bone, put it back in the pot. I added a can of mushrooms, diced onion, minced garlic, cumin, chili powder, and let it cook on low for awhile longer. I did the prep work this past weekend and refrigerated it until I was ready to put it all together.

Yesterday, I warmed the meat up in the microwave and got the rest of my ingredients ready.

Alrighty. Step 1: Warm your corn tortillas. Put a thin layers of olive oil in the skillet and warm the enchilada on each side. You 'll see tiny little bubbles at the edges, but you don't want the body of the tortillas to puff up and harden. I let them drain a bit over the pan before transferring them to a plate. I usually end up using about 12 tortillas.
Step two, rolling the enchilada. I like to start with one edge raised along the side of the pan. Fill with the meat mixture.

Fold the top of the tortilla over the stuffing, sort of tucking the edge under the meat, and then roll it closed.The seam will be on the bottom and hold the enchilada closed.

Start your next tortilla with the top edge over your first enchilada. Again, fold the top edge over the stuffing, tuck and roll.

Keep rolling until you've filled the pan.

If you've got meat left over you can pour it over the enchiladas. If not, just pour another can of enchiladas sauce over top. I added a bit more chili powder.
Sprinkle on cheese. I like a Colby/Monteray Jack mixture.
Bake in a 350 F oven until the cheese melts.
Voila! Chicken enchiladas.
I topped my serving with sour cream and made an avocado salad as a side dish. I would have taken a picture but I brutalized the avocado.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Dream Of Spring

Don't you wish ladies still wore hats? Or rather, don't you wish ladies weren't made to feel a spectacle if they did wear hats?

I love hats. Straw hats, felt hats, fuzzy Dr. Schivago hats, berets, cloches, tams - all hats. The real bother is that women who wear hats are so rare, and consequently hats themselves are so rare, that it can be difficult to find a hat that fits. "One size fits all" - laughable. Whether it is due to an over-ripened ego or the bric-a-brac of trivia that been crammed into it, "One Size Fits All" does not fit my skull. "One Size Fits All" is a torturous vice that leaves unattractive read marks on my forehead. No, I need a hat with some room in it. When I find one, I buy it.

Now, I know that there are milliners out there whipping up confections of tulle and roses, but you will find that on average a good, made to order hat starts at $150 and sky rockets from there. My solution? A glue gun, florals, and all the ribbon you can shake a stick at.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

E is for Excellent.

Darn it. I struggle with compliments, but Miss Manners advises the proper response is not to belittle the compliment by nay-saying, but to offer a humble and sincere, "Thank you." So, thank you, to Mother's Pride for gifting me this award.

According to the rules, I have to pass this on to at least 10 others. The charming creatures are:

Liz at Mabel's House is gonna kill me for this, but (whether she wants to hear it or not) she has an amazing knack for making the old new and decorating on a dime. Plus I adore the fabulous Miss Mabel.

Linda at Frenchless in France allows you for a few moments to pretend you're strolling the streets of beautiful Paris. You couldn't ask for a nicer guide.

Posy is delightful, always finds the most amazing antiques and lives in a lovely corner of the world.

Anytime I'm in a cooking slump Lobstersquad inspires me to try something new. She's also a remarkably talented artist.

Tales from Pixie Wood is another one who gets it right; her cozy style is welcoming and warm.

Cupcakes at Home makes me want to run away to the Scottish Isles and never return. I think she's as fond of her beasties as I am of mine.

What Lobstersquad does for cooking, Restyled Home does for decorating. Whenever I'm read to give up, Linda reminds me that there's hope.

decor8 and Absolutely Beautiful Things are always offering up new inspiration.

And not that he needs any awards from me, but if you ever need a chuckle or a unique ( somewhat warped) point of view I highly recommend A Curate's Egg. Never a disappointment.

It occurred to me recently that until the advent of e-mail and blogging the art of correspondence had withered a bit. I have always enjoyed reading the journals and letters of historic figures and it often made me sad that people don't write the way they once did. It is nice to think that we can all contribute in our own small way to the written record. Not to mention the fact that one gets to meet the most fascinating people from all over the world. Well, enough of my sentimental blathering! Warm wishes to you all!

BBQ Sauce

Last summer, we started making our own BBQ sauce because we had run out while grilling, but the results were so good that we stopped buying the pre-made stuff.

I measure nothing; everything is strictly by taste . If I had to guess, I start with about 1/4 - 1/3 cup ketchup and about 1 1/2 cup brown sugar. Quick note: I make no apologies for using ketchup. The end result should be sweet and tangy; ketchup makes a good base.

The liquids: Ketchup, Brown Sugar, Honey, Mustard, Worcestershire. I like a lot of mustard, my husband not so much. Depending on whose making the sauce it could be anywhere from 3 Tblsp. to 1/3 of a cup. Worcestershire: just a couple dashes - it really gives it the tangy flavor, too much will kill the batch or you'll have to add a ton more sugar to get the balance right again.

Spices: Garlic, Onion Powder, Cumin, Chili Powder, Pepper.

And then the special ingredient: 1/2 shot bourbon or whiskey. Our kitchen offers a very nice Glenfiddich.

The results will keep for quite sometime in the fridge. There are lots of substitutions you could make: molasses instead of honey, Amaretto instead of whiskey(or no liquor), or Balsamic vinegar instead of Worcestershire sauce. It's best to start small. You can end up with a bucket of sauce if you have to keep adjusting the ingredients.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Torturing Your Pets - Part 1 of Many

When in the course of a relaxing Saturday morning you find yourself surrounded by the unmistakable aroma of filthy beast, action must be taken - even if the groomer is closed.

A warm bath was run, doggie soap and the requisite "rinse cup" on stand-by.

The beast trapped and confined is unhappy with this turn of events. Poor boy was napping on the sofa, minding his own business, when this crazy plan was concocted.
Bereft of his lovely red collar, the sullen Gerrard refuses to smile for the camera.

To add insult to injury, mummy makes him pose for pictures during the ordeal.

Ah, but now gleaming and pleasant smelling he insists that he be rewarded with his favorite part of the process - the towel!
(NOTE: No towels were injured during the washing of this dog)
Once again bedecked in his Liverpool red*, Gerrard demands to be let loose so that he can harass his sister, Wasabi (who was conveniently out of pocket during this cruel endeavor)
*For those uninterested in soccer, my husband named Gerrard after Steven Gerrard who plays for Liverpool, whose team color is red, and thus the dog has a red collar. And you, gentle reader, thought it was just for looks.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Fabulous Friday!

In theory, the holiday on Monday made it a short week, but I've got to tell you, the cold, gray weather made the past four days seem like six. I took my inspiration for today's fabulous guest from the winter weather.

The lovely lady to your left is H.S.H. Zinaida Yusupova, as painted by Valentin Serov. The Yusupov's were one of the most wealthy aristocratic families in Imperial Russia.

"The dazzling beauty and kind, affable personality of Nikolai Yusupov Jr.'s daughter Zinaida (1861-1939) made her the brightest star in the constellation of aristocratic heiresses of her time. Her son Felix recalls: 'Not only was she intelligent, educated and artistic; she was also the most charming, kind and outgoing person I knew. When my mother appeared, she lit up the room with some kind of heartfelt, demure inner radiance'."

A valuable trait, one would think, during those bitter Russian winters. There are a number of things that draw me to this painting. First, the soft, muted colors are cool but suggest the promise of Spring. The casual setting and pose are welcoming and intimate. On a less sophisticated note, I like her little dog - rather reminds me of my Wasabi. I don't usually post two images, but when I found this one, I couldn't resist. Princess Yusupova slightly younger . . .

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Feeding The Troops - A Game Plan

Since my husband moved to the evening shift at the beginning of the year, I have been struggling with the meal situation. I took his advice for awhile and just worried about feeding me, but then he would come home with fast food or eat a protein bar, and my inner Haus Frau couldn't abide that.

This week I've been cooking a meal ahead. Yesterday we had chicken pot pie that I had made the previous evening and tonight we'll have a meal I prepared last night. WARNING: the following dish is not gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, however it is probably one of the first things I learned to cook as a wee girl. My Mom and Auntie used to make this as a quick meal after school. It didn't have a name until I started calling it Texas Casserole (primarily because mother is from Texas and it strikes me as classic cowboy fare.)

So, without further ado, I give you Texas Casserole . . .

Brown & drain about 2 lbs of ground beef (the leaner the better). If you have one, use a cast iron skillet, otherwise you'll have to transfer it to a baking dish.
Add a can of baked beans, a can of corn, about 2 cups of BBQ sauce, a bit of garlic, cumin, and onion powder. I also add a bit of Cajun seasoning (roughly: salt, chili, cayenne, garlic salt, pepper, and a lot of other stuff I can't remember). It is also good with some onions thrown in. Stir.

Top with ready-made biscuits (again, this was created by two teenage girls in the 60's so bear with me).
Bake in a 350 degree oven until the biscuits brown.

Okay, here's the dirty little secret: in mom's original recipe the biscuits were dipped in butter and cornmeal before they were put on the casserole, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Taste-wise it's a bit like Sloppy Joe's, but of course the biscuits soak up the BBQ goodness and they don't fall apart like a hamburger bun.

P.S. Primarily, the reason I documented this nonsense is because it was late and I was tired and I needed something to keep me on task.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Learn to cook Indian food at Manjula's Kitchen. God bless YouTube.


It probably isn't hard to guess that I'm a huge Pre-Raphaelite fan. As my darling Algernon Swinburne once said, "To have read the greatest works of any great poet, to have beheld or heard the greatest works of any great painter or musician, is a possession added to the best things of life." The concept of "art for art's sake" and the fragile and fleeting nature of beauty inspire me.

So, when I was sorting through my hope chest and ran across a beautiful set of demitasse that I had been given as a wedding gift (10 years ago!), I was embarrassed. What a waste to have these delicate confections languishing in storage!

I think we all have items like these, fine jewelry or family china, that we don't use or leave locked away for fear of breaking or losing them. But beautiful things were never meant to be hidden, and beauty, in all its incarnations, only lasts a short while.

So, I unwrapped my gilt treasures and put them in the cabinet and whether it is common hot chocolate or fine cappuccino, they will be used and admired.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Amazon Queens

This picture from Danish Royal Watchers made me smile this morning. Crown Princess Mary would probably qualify as my Style Mentor as per Tim Gunn (obviously, she isn't usually armed and in fatigues). This photo sealed the deal.

As prissy as I can be, I also have hobbies and interests that are typically considered masculine. I am a fair archer and marks-woman. I enjoy soccer, football, hockey, and mixed martial arts. I can hold my own in debates regarding battlefield strategy, and I would dearly love to learn to fly an A-10 "Warthog".

As much as I love vintage photos and style, I also love the fact that as a modern woman I have the choice to wield a spatula and a rifle with equal skill - that feminine can be both pretty and strong.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Cooking Frenzy

I don't know what got into me this weekend; I was in the mood to cook. I tried my hand at Alton Brown's Chocolate Lava cakes. They tasted great but weren't very pretty to look at. I need a little work on my technique.

I also slow cooked chicken with Rotel*, enchilada sauce, pepper, cumin, chili, and minced garlic over night in the crock pot for fajitas. Huge hit, but again not much to photograph.

My last project though, came out of the oven and the hubby declared, "You need to take a picture of that." I made my first challah bread with the recipe from Two Fat Al's. It was delicious and not as hard to make as I remember yeast bread being. It was a bit too dense but I think the wee yeasties didn't get a proper wake up. I'll have to make sure the milk is warmer next time.

*I suspect Rotel is another regional thing 'cause I remember my mother fussing that she couldn't get any at the grocery store when we lived in Florida. I think it is a bit more popular now, but just in case I offer an informative link. My mom swore by it and she makes the *best* enchiladas I have ever had in my life - although I do a pretty good job now too. :)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fabulous Friday!

Friday at last! This week has been a slow one.

This week it is my pleasure to introduce the gloriously beautiful, Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough.

This portrait by Giovanni Boldini is a favorite of mine. It seems to combine the sometimes incongruous qualities of whimsy and elegance. She is painted here with her youngest son, Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill.

Sadly, her marriage to Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough didn't last and they divorced in 1921. Rest assured she didn't spend her days shut up in a convent.

Here's to a restful weekend!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

For History Buffs

Will at WWDN:In Exile reports that the Library of Congress has posted over 3,000 images on Flicker. Many are from The Great Depresssion and WWII, the rest are from the 1910's.

a sense of style

Thinking more about the grande expanse of blank wall, interior decorating, and what makes me feel comfortable. I got out on the web this morning and started looking for inspiration.
I love an organized clutter with lots of curiosities. I am drawn to rich colors and fabrics. The art of India, China, Japan, Morocco, Egypt - think of the tatters of Victorian Empire and you have my aesthetic. But, I also have a quirky, somewhat irreverent, sense of humor and like to throw in elements that are slightly off.

This image from Bloesem sparked my imagination. I love the use of the embroidery hoops and the idea of fabric as art, in and of itself.

This room from Desire to Inspire is really striking.

The Daunting Blank Page

Despite having artsy tendencies, interior decorating isn't one of my strengths. At best, I manage a sort of cozy eclectic. Add to my lack of skill and confidence, an overwhelming expanse of blank wall and I panic. My house is a split-level, meaning that there are two floors but you actually enter between them. It makes for a rather narrow entry.

This is the ominous wall. The space has potential to be stunning; I just don't know how to tackle it.
The cabinet by the door is used for dog leashes, sunglasses - that sort of stuff - but I am inclined to think that it might brighten up the space if it were painted. What color, though?

This is the narrow wall over the downstairs

The downstairs.

It needs color badly. The two that come to mind most often are red and black, but that's a bit bold for a gal who doesn't know what she's doing. Help!

Wasabi would like you to know that she tried very hard to be in as many pictures as possible.