Tuesday, March 29, 2011

bock bock bock (sound a chicken makes)

One thing I admire the most about old ladies is their ability to stretch a dollar and really make their food last!  They are multifaceted task masters that can turn one yard bird into 50 different meals and make use of all leftovers. These are traits everyone should learn! Not only is it good for your wallet, but you are also cutting your household waste and using your creative mind at the same time.  I have become quite good at this in the past three years of marriage; since I'm often too lazy to go to the store after my usual 9-10 hr work day. I often have to improvise and make due with what's in the fridge. Recently I have discovered these Buy One Get One Free chub packs of chicken breasts at my local grocery store. They come pre-seasoned too, which adds another interesting variable to the mix. I bought one pack of Garlic & Peppercorn seasoned blend, and got the pack of Malibu seasoned chicken for free. These are great because the seasonings are pretty basic and you can use them for just about any purpose your heart desires. Below are three different, easy recipes for chicken that are winners in my household. The first two are made in under 30 minutes...suck it, Rachel Ray ;)

Day 1

Using the Garlic & Peppercorn seasoned breasts, I made Chicken Tortilla soup. The whole thing took about 30 minutes from start to finish. I just kind of winged the recipe, but glad I still remember it, because it's pretty great, if I do say so myself.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1-2 lb chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes
1/2 cup onion, chopped to desired thickness
1 clove of garlic, pressed
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp parsley
1 qt chicken broth
1 small can of tomato paste
2 tbsp masa or corn meal
Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for Toppings (optional)
corn tortillas
sour cream
shredded cheese

In a large pot add onions and olive oil, saute onions on high heat until translucent. Add chicken and garlic, brown chicken until no pink is visible. add cumin, chili powder, and parsely, stir around. Add chicken broth, 1 can of tomato paste and masa or corn meal. Add salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Next chop up your avocado, cilantro, tomatoes, onion and cut up some corn tortillas into strips. You can either fry up your tortilla strips or bake them in the oven until crispy. I fried mine in about 1tbsp of olive oil and let them drain on a paper towel. Now you can set up a Topping Station with your chopped avocado, cheese, sour cream, tortilla strips, diced tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. This way everyone can add whatever toppings they feel like :)

Day 2

The next day, with my left over chicken (I had about 1.5 lbs of chicken left over) I made Chicken Alfredo with a really easy Alfredo sauce that is ridiculously yummy. That took about 20 minutes. If you have leftover sauce you can always make cheesy Alfredo bread or a broccoli in Alfredo sauce....trust me you will want to makes a lot of this sauce, it's pretty damn amazing.

Fettuccine de Chicken Alfredo

Sauteed Chicken
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1-2 lbs chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes
1 clove of garlic, pressed
1/2 cup shitty white wine you would never drink
Salt and Pepper to taste

Creamy Alfredo Sauce
1 pint heavy whipping cream (Waistline unapproved)
2 tbsp cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp of parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Start your pot of boiling water for your noodles.

Heat olive oil over high heat in a medium sized skillet and add onion. Saute until translucent. Add chicken and garlic and white wine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook on high heat until chicken is done. To avoid over cooking your chicken, cook until you can see no pink on the outside of any of your chicken pieces, every couple of minutes after that break open the largest piece and check for pink. When the middle is white, but still juicy, remove from heat. Don't want rubbery chicken!

In a saucepan add cream, cream cheese, butter, garlic, Parmesan cheese and parsley, constantly stir over medium-high heat until cream cheese dissolves and the parm cheese starts to melt. Add salt and pepper to taste (I usually don't add salt since the parm cheese adds enough salt for my taste).Turn down heat to medium, stir frequently for 20 minutes or until your sauce thickens. At ten minutes, add dry fettuccine noodles to your pot of boiling water. Cook to preferred doneness(is that a word?). If you use the fresh fettuccine noodles that you get in the refrigerator section at the store (which I highly recommend) start at 2 minutes.

** don't cook sauce too long after it thickens or your butter will separate from your cream, leaving a curdled looking, greasy mess. I did this once when trying to replicate the Rice a Roni Alfredo noodles. I added my dry noodles to the cooking cream sauce, cooked until noodles were soft, and had the above mentioned grease fest...not pretty or appetizing whatsoever.**

Now you can assemble your plates. I like to keep everything separate, that way I can add more or less chicken to my pasta depending on my mood. Then if I have leftover chicken, I can use it for a salad the next day, and I can use the leftover sauce to put on garlic bread or over broccoli.

Day 3

A few days later, had some extra cream left over so I made another batch of Alfredo sauce, bought some pizza dough, and made Smokey Alfredo Shrimp/Chicken Calazones.  You can use a pizza stone, which works best, or just use a regular baking sheet. Just be careful to line the bottom rack on your stove with  tin foil or another baking sheet so the cheese and juices from the calazones don't drip onto the heating element. (this is from experience in case you were wondering:/)

You don't have to do both chicken and shrimp, I happen to love the little crustaceans, but my hubby can't stand them; which is why I made him a chicken calazone.

Smokey Alfredo Shrimp/Chicken Calazones

Sauteed chicken/shrimp
1/2 cup chopped uncooked bacon or pancetta
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, pressed
1-2lbs chicken or shrimp
Salt and Pepper to taste

Alfredo sauce
See above

Other ingredients
Pizza dough/Pizza crust
1 egg (see below)
Shredded Parmesan cheese

Shredded mozzarella
Chopped, fresh parsley

Cut up your bacon or pancetta into tiny pieces. Saute in your skillet on high heat until juices are running out. If you are using bacon, you may want to pour out the majority of your grease (Save this for your bacon tortillas!). Prosciutto doesn't make much grease, so no need to drain if you are using it. Then add your onions, garlic, and chicken or shrimp. Sprinkle on a light dusting of salt and pepper. Cook chicken until still slightly pink, cook shrimp until  almost all the way pink on the outside. Remove from heat. DON'T EAT, IT'S STILL "RAW"! Cooking your calazone will finish up the cooking process.

I am lucky enough to have a grocery store nearby that sells fresh, raw pizza dough, but if you don't have this luxury and don't have time or energy to make it from scratch, you can buy the pre-made pizza rounds and just make a Smokey Alfredo Chicken/Shrimp Pizza (I won't judge).

On a lightly floured pizza stone or baking sheet shape pizza dough to desired thickness. I usually do this by rolling it into a ball than then pinching in the middle and rotating it while pinching, pretty soon I get a nice circle going. One stretched to desired thickness, center one half on the stone/sheet, so 1/2 of your circle will be hanging over. Arrange toppings on the half of your circle centered on the stone/sheet. Layer cheese, sauce, meat, then another layer of cheese making sure to leave a 1 inch edge for sealing. Top with a light sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Beat one egg in a small bowl. With basting brush, spread egg on entire edge of dough, this will stick your edges together so cheese and sauce doesn't go every where. Fold naked side of dough over the topping side; just over the toppings. Now take your overlapping edge and fold it over and roll tight, and crimp so all edges are sealed. Stab entire length of calazone with a fork multiple times (Good stress reliever). Then baste entire top with egg. This will make a pretty, glossy top to your calazone once it's done baking. Sprinkle with Parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until crust is done. You can cut off a tiny piece of the edge at 30 minutes to test if it's done if you made a pretty thin crust.

If you are just popping in your pizza on your pre-made crust, just cook for about 10-20 minutes until your cheese is nice and melted and starting to brown at its highest peaks.
Bon appetit!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cuteness Overload

Thanks to my new favorite book by Twinkie Chan (What a name right?), my head might just explode. Never have I seen more original, adorable crocheted little trinkets as I have in the book "Crochet Goodies for Fashion Foodies." I decided I must make EVERYTHING in this book, but first I had to make this adorable cuppycake scarf shown below by the Author herself, Twinkie Chan.

It was a lot easier than I expected, however I found myself having to improvise as I had this gorgeous yarn I was dying to use and knew it wouldn't be enough to make a full, normal scarf. So instead of making the scarf with all pink cupcakes as the pattern suggested, I alternated making the rainbow cupcakes out of my bad ass, cool yarn I got from The Bead and Yarn Studio, and pink cupcakes out of a really soft cottony pink yarn I found. I am so excited and actually in disbelief that I actually made something so damn cute! It's definitely not perfect as I kind of had to guess on a few parts, not knowing, and too lazy to look up what a "whip stitch" was, etc; but overall I think it looks great! The beauty of crochet is that you can easily hide most of your mistakes. The instructions are pretty easy to follow for this pattern, especially for those like me who are just learning to read patterns.

The only bad thing I have noticed about me learning to crochet is my good intentions slowly start to unravel as my project draws to an end and then my greedy nature begins to take hold. As a result, the scarf I start making for a friend or family member quickly becomes mine. I think I really have a problem. I'm starting to feel like Gollum from Lord Of The Rings...all of my creations thus far have become "The Precious." Maybe if I make a dozen more I will finally be able to let one go, haha! What a selfish bitch, huh?

The Precious

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Time To Get Serious

I have never used this blog as a platform of any kind, but in light of recent tragic events in Japan I would like to take the time to list a few charities proactively taking action on the front lines of this horrendous aftermath. If you are like me, going about your daily life as normal and wondering what you could do to help, check out some of these amazing charities. Just a few dollars goes a long way. Remember, this could easily be us one day.

Shelterbox: Provides temporary shelters such as tents and other supplies

Americares: Provides medical and disaster relief

Convoy Of Hope: Convoy of Hope is considered a “first responder” organization in disaster relief. With a fleet of tractor-trailers, a 300,000-square-foot warehouse, a high-tech Mobile Command Center and through a scalable distribution model we have been heralded for quickly providing resources and help to victims of disasters worldwide.

Doctors without borders: based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics and impartiality. The organization is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.

International Medical Corps.: International Medical Corps is a global, humanitarian, nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and relief and development programs. Established in 1984 by volunteer doctors and nurses, International Medical Corps is a private, voluntary, nonpolitical, nonsectarian organization
For a full list of charities go to: www.cnn.com/impact
Another Great Charity Directory: www.charitynavigator.org

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

From Sloppy Failure to Beautiful Mediocrity

I can now crochet from a pattern...sometimes...on a good day. I do much better when it's a visual pattern, rather than text. If It's a text pattern...I will inevitably screw it up. Just like the floppy beanie I tried making in Vegas; keyword: tried. I thought I was following the pattern exactly...but I'm pretty sure the giant, yellow vagina-shaped blob I made was not what the author had in mind. So, I reluctantly unraveled the whole thing (Yes, I followed it through to the end, just to see how screwed up it would become...I'm sick like that.)and started over. Slowly but surely, after following the visual pattern, my yarn actually morphed into something that resembled a beanie! It's definitely not perfect, and I kind of guessed on a couple parts, but unless you are a master crocheter you wouldn't even notice. I'm so proud of myself! Here is a link to a You Tube video for a crochet floppy beanie much like the one I made, so grab some yarn and a hook and make one for yourself!

I wish I would have taken a picture of the yellow sloppy, failure of a  beanie I made...but alas, I did not. So here is a dramatic recreation:
This crochet thing is really starting to consume me! Even while vacationing in Vegas I made time to sit around and crochet, all while consuming alcohol, so it definitely wasn't as lame as it sounds! Well, maybe it was but I was too trashed to notice. I managed to make two scarves and the above floppy-failure hat while in Vegas, and before my trip I made a really cute green scarf with little flower accents. Yes, I actually created something with my own two hands. Pretty sweet feeling ;0

Now, I feel like I  need to take the time to talk about booze for a second...partly because while crocheting in Vegas I had some pretty amazing alcoholic beverages that I feel I must share with my "of age" crowd. If you have a project that stresses you out, or just need to wind down after a hard day, nothing hits the spot and calms the nerves better than a good drink. While in Vegas I had plenty of those but my stand out favorites was the winning combo of a tequila shot with the pickle juice chaser aptly named: The Hooker--seriously, this sounds horrible, but it is REALLY, damn good! Another standout was this lovely red wine blend my friend introduced me to called Ménage à Trois, yes it is as amazing as I imagine one of those would be. Oooh! Last but not least a vodka infused Sweet Tea made by Jeremiah Weed is to die for! According to the hubby it tastes exactly like his grandma's sweet tea, only it will kick you in the ass. I added a little squirt of lemon and a dash of water to mine and it was heaven in a glass. No, I am not being paid by the companies I just mentioned, I just wanted to enlighten all of my of-age readers to these amazing adult beverages; but if anyone from the above company's is reading this I do accept gifts here: theoldladyatheart@yahoo.com  ;)

Here's my finished floppy beanie

If you are a new reader and interested in learning to crochet, check out my first-timer crochet tutorial posts below.
Pop your crocheting cherry here: Tangled In Yarn
More in-depth tutorial: The Impatient, but Happy Hooker

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Let's get Diiiirty!

Time to leave the girly girl in the kitchen and get your hands dirty in the garden! As my favorite time of year approaches, blossoms are slowly popping out from naked limbs, soft sunlight kisses the ground, and billowy clouds fill up the sky. This could only mean one thing...planting season is near!  This is a time of careful planning and breaking up the cracked Winter soil that is devoid of all life...except weeds. Damn, dirty weeds; how I hate them so. This weekend is all about preparation for a garden that will be as bountiful as the bosom of a medieval wench in a corset cinched to the top. 

There is something about going into your backyard and harvesting your crop instead of driving to the store when you need produce. Need a tomato to add to your gourmet pizza, or a sprig of parsley for garnish? No need to put on a bra and trek down the block, just walk a few steps to the garden, look both ways to make sure your neighbors don't see you in your bra-less glory, and voila! Fresh produce in your hands! Plus you don't have to worry about what kind of scary little extras are in your produce, because you cared for your plants yourself; no greasy waxes, no nasty pesticide residues, no gasses to speed up ripening, just pure, unadulterated, fresh, ripe produce. Sounds great, huh? Try it, it's really not difficult if you aren't afraid to get down and dirty. Plus you attract all kinds of gorgeous little creatures for you to gaze at. It really is a rewarding, great thing to have your own garden.

Even butterflies get Spring fever!
If you've never planted a garden, don't have room in your backyard, or have no backyard, don't worry! You can make some pretty amazing container gardens that virtually take no effort at all. There are even tomato vines that are in a hanging planter on the market now and all you have to do is water them. So...why should you prefer homegrown over store bought produce?

Homegrown fruits and veggies are so much better tasting than commercially grown stuff. Not that big farmers suck--because without farmers we would all starve--but they have to worry about shelf life, large quantity, and shipping long distances, where the home gardener is more concerned with peak ripeness, since the garden is only a few feet away from the table. Sure, you may not have the experience and education a commercial farmer has, but that doesn't mean your green thumb will fail. Just do it! Go buy a pot, and some potting soil, throw a plant in there, water it, throw in some organic fertilizer once a month, and in no time you will get to eat your success.

Not sure what to plant and when? Here is a handy dandy little website that will help you out. All you have to do is find out which zone you live in and go from there. Click here and just enter your zip code(if you are in the USA) to find your planting zone. Once you do that you can click here to find the planting schedule for your zone. If you're like me and like to see a monthly calendar on exactly what to do in your garden, click here. See? So easy, right? If you live in a cool climate, try setting up an herb garden in your kitchen windowsill, or at a South-facing window. Don't be scared, take baby steps first; it will be worth it in the end!

 Here are some more pics from last year's garden:
My first tomato of hundreds.
What a cute little leafhopper! One of my favorite things about having a garden is playing with the bugs.
By the end of the season this Serrano pepper plant got to 3 ft tall and about 3 ft wide and produced peppers for me all summer long.
Another added benefit to having a garden is free food for my Crested Gecko, Willy! They deserve to be eaten after the damage they did to my tomatoes! Sweet revenge. Willy will F*^ck a bitch up.

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rhymes With Bunt ;)

Thanks to one of my blogging buddies I was inspired to make a doily. Okay, I know what you are thinking, doilies are those dusty stained things grandma has on her coffee table, but this little doily will definitely make your grandma blush! Wicked Crochet sent me a really cool pattern for a "special" doily and I am so excited about it!  I went right away and bought all the necessary materials, which were a needle that is so tiny it looks dangerous, and some REALLY small gauge thready yarn stuff (cotton Size 10). Seriously, I hope I don't impale myself with this needle! Ahhh

Disclaimer: If you are easily offended, or are reading this with a child do not read further...unless you want to have to explain a very grown-up word. :)

At the end of this post you will see a picture of the finished doily...but I must warn you, if you are easily offended this will not be your cup of tea. However, if you are not embarrassed by dirty words, the irony of this piece is brilliant! The fact that something so intricate and beautiful could have such a dirty word as its centerpiece is just fascinating to me. I am proud to be presenting this to my bestest friend, because she is one of the ladies in my life that will definitely appreciate the irony; this is why I love this girl! But again, thank you Kara from Wicked Crochet for this amazing pattern, you are a genius! Kara also makes these bitchin' skull pattern scarfs and so much more. So if you would like to patronize her, check out her Etsy store here!
I also found out, the smaller the yarn I use, the more insane my cat becomes. Making this doily was a huge challenge as I had to fight her off every step of the way. Lucy has waged a war with the doily thread.

Amazing yarns I got from The Bead and Yarn Studio in Bakersfield, CA
 I would also like to take the time to mention where I got my yarn and encourage you to check out your locally owned stores before giving money to "The Man" and shopping at chain stores. Yes, chain stores are cheaper, but you get better quality and one on one time with actual needle workers at local shops. Thanks to the recommendation of a good friend, I was told about a store here in Bakersfield called Bead And Yarn Studio where I was encouraged to ask questions and basically talked poor Lulu's ear off for over an hour as she helped me choose yarn. She also offers one on one classes and help with projects or technique. Try to get that from Michael's! The overall experience was wonderful and I would highly recommend shopping local and helping out the little guys.  

So here you go, below you will find what I call the "Mike Hunt" doily (Say the name out loud if this confuses you). I made this from a pattern by Wicked Crochet and a really small crochet needle (Size 7) and thread (cotton #10). I would  not recommend this for the beginning crocheter, but once you've got the double crochet down, you'll be fine. It takes some getting used to working with such smaller materials...you kind of feel like your crocheting something for a Smurf; but it started getting more fluid after the first few rows. You will see that by comparing the bottom of the doily--where I started-- to the top where I finished. Just a pointer, make your stitches tighter than you normally would and they won't turn out all ruffly like mine is. If you would like to make your own Mike Hunt doily and any other hilarious doilies Kara has to offer, here is where you can purchase the pattern for only $3!! That's totally a steal.
My very first doily! Kara's looks much better than mine, but now that I know what I'm doing the next one should be a piece of cake!