Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weeknight Inspiration: Mexican Lasagna

This is one of my hubby's recipes.  It is kind of one of those bachelor concoctions but I actually really like it.  It is great to feed a crowd or good on a weeknight because you can make it ahead and then pop it in the oven on a night you don't feel like cooking too much.  Freezes great and leftovers are better than the first go round.

Mexican Lasagna
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
1can Rotel
1can ranch style beans
1 can cream of mushroom soup
3 cups mexican shredded cheese
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp cumin
10-12 tortillas (can use flour or corn, whichever you prefer)
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil

Sautee the onion in olive oil until tender.  Add ground beef and cook thoroughly. 

Drain the fat.  Add the canned goods, cumin and salt and pepper.  Let simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

In a large glass baking dish, layer the bottom with the meat mixture.  Add a sprinkling of cheese and a layer of tortillas.  Repeat until you get to the top of the dish.  Top with remaining cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees for about thirty minutes until warm and bubbly.

The New Traditionalists

Was reading the latest Traditional Home magazine and came across a site called The New Traditionalists.  I was instantly drawn to this crib (not that I'm shopping for one now):

I can add it to my one day wish list/inspiration folder.  That's the cool thing about a lot of their furniture pieces - you could almost imagine finding an old piece of furniture and doing it up using one of these for inspiration.

The cool thing about this company is that they have a huge selection of finishes that you can choose from on most of the pieces.  Here is a small sampling of the finishes they offer:

Here are some other pieces that I really liked.

The downside is that there were no prices listed on their site.  It doesn't appear that they sell to the trade only so I requested one of their catalogues to come in the mail.  We'll see...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Indian you can do at home

I love Indian food.  I mean I really LOVE it.  I got a taste for it when living in Scotland and while I haven't found any places in DC that I think are quite as good, at least I'm in a city where there is a decent selection.  Until a couple of years ago, I always thought you had to go out to eat to get Indian. But for my birthday two years ago, my husband had an Indian chef come into our house and teach me how to cook Indian.  Best present ever.

It can be a little expensive to start your base spice supply (you can find most everything online if you don't have an Indian store nearby) but once you have everything, it will last a long time.  Plus, I was amazed at how many of the spices I use in everyday cooking.

We learned about five different dishes from our Indian chef but this is my conglomoration of my favorite features.  It gets easier and yummier every time I fix it.  I also recently discovered whole grain basmati rice which I was happy that was just as tasty as the white variety.

Chicken Biriyani
3 cups chicken (I simplify this by using pulled rotisserie chicken)
2 cinnamon sticks
8-10 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 white or yellow onion
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups fat free plain greek yogurt
1 cup fat free half and half
4 Tbsp curry seasoning
1 Tbsp biryiani masala
2 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp red pepper flakes
6 cardamom with seeds
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup cashews

1 cup basmati rice, cooked to package directions

Sautee onion until translucent in the olive oil.  Add cloves, cinnamon, caradamom and red pepper flakes and sautee for one minute. 

Add curry, biriyani masala, cumin, raisins and cashews.  Cook for another minute.  Add chicken and cook until warmed.  Add yogurt and half and half and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer until all flavors have melded (about 10-15 minutes). 

Serve over rice.

Tuesday Tip: Combatting Wet Dog Smell

Upcoming April showers bring...the smell of wet dog into your house.  Combat this very simply.  Towel dry your pup before letting him/her inside (obviously).  I have one of those microfiber towels dedicated to the dog that I can leave right on the front porch or by the front door that works wonders.  After a good towel dry, simply rub Fido down with a good scented dryer sheet.  Wet dog smell be gone.

If the dreaded wet dog "shake" happens before the towel dry in your house, well, I can't help you there.

Images from SodaHead.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tater revamp and some other recipes

Ya'll, I lied.  A few weeks ago for one of my Tuesday tips, I told you my opinion on how to make the perfect baked potato.  I had almost everything right except for the salt.  On Thursday my husband took me to
J. Gilberts in McLean, VA and they had a salt licked baked potato.  I recreated it at home and it was divine.  The only adjustment you need to make from my previous instructions is when you wash the baked potato then you roll it in sea salt.  YUM!

With these perfect baked taters we had delicious skirt steak marinated in soy, lime and horseradish sauce...

and my version of Caprese salad:

1 bag of baby arugula
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 cup diced fresh mozzarella
balsamic dressing (see below)

Easy balsamic vinagrette:
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (mixed into the vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste

Top the salad with the dressing and toss just before serving.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekend Cocktails

Our good friends Betsy and Rob were in town visiting this weekend.  Betsy was on spring break (she's an assistant principal) and they were celebrating their first anniversary as well as my birthday.  In honor of all of the celebrations we made two new cocktails both of which were delicious!

Raspberry Beer Cocktail
1/2 cup vodka
3 beers
1 can frozen raspberry lemonade (thawed)
1 cup frozen raspberries
fresh mint sprigs

Mix all ingredients in a large pitcher and garnish with raspberries and fresh mint sprigs.

Beer Margaritas
1 can frozen limeade (thawed)
1 cup tequila
1/4 cup grand marnier
4 beers
1/2 cup margarita mix (we really like the Stirrings one)

Mix together in a large pitcher.  Serve over ice.

Birthday cupcakes

Stella wants some too!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy Birthday...

to me.  Lord, I am gettin' old. 

Two things on the top of my wish list that I'm not getting for my birthday this year are:

A house.  Do you think this one is too much to wish for as a starter home?

A dishwasher.  Oh wait, our kitchen is the size of a closet so this won't fit.  But since the sink is currently filled with dirty dishes that I refuse to do on my birthday, a girl can only dream.

After a lovely birthday eve with my book club girls (do NOT be fooled by the title of our club - no reading or discussion of books occurs at our book club - it is mainly consumption of large amounts of wine), my husband gave me a beautiful new watch!  He says he's got another one on the way but I have to wait until tonight to get it.  He's taking me to J. Gilberts which I've been dying to try.  Despite having to go to work, not getting the top two items on my wish list, AND being older than dirt, all in all it hasn't been a bad day.

Images: Arlington Friends House and MIT Alumni Site

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Color Me Happy...

thanks to interior designer John Loecke - not of the tv show Lost fame - but of the interior design world.

Check it.  I think I'd be happy in any one of these rooms.

Um, hello beach cottage.  Or too much for a beach cottage maybe?  Maybe I'll decorate my master bedroom like this and pretend I'm at the beach year round.  Love the bright colors and the mix of fabrics.  Especially adore those lamps. 

Loecke has an amazing skill with mixing art to make it look spectacular.  I'm not sure individiually I'd care much about any of those paintings but together they look fabulous.  BHG featured this in an article about decorating with white walls.  There's so much color in this room that I hardly even noticed the walls were white!

I can't say enough about this dining nook.  Comfy, cozy, whimsical but not overdone.  Can I come for dinner?

I usually prefer lighter cabinetry.  Not here.  How awesome is that plate display?

Perfect dressing nook.  I don't care if you're not super girly or pink isn't your favorite color.  Who wouldn't want to sit here?

I adore the mix of fabrics on the sofa.  File in the how to mix patterns, colors and fabrics inspiration drawer.

Again with the picture collection.  Not in love with any of the images individually but love the display. 

Images via John Loecke website, Better Homes and Gardens, flickr, Country Living, The Peak of Chic, Room Envy, & Simply Seleta

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Kitchen Space Savers

If you like to cook and you have a small kitchen, then you've got a big problem.  We love to cook and I think we have one of the tiniest kitchens for maybe that flat I had in Scotland.  The owners of the house should get credit for coming up with savvy space saving ideas for our kitchen.  They could work for any size kitchen, really.  The bigger the space you have, the more elaborate yours could be.

First off, and this is the biggest help, is our pot rack.  It hangs on a wall opposite of our one corner of counter space and our two cabinets.  If we had to put our pots in the cabinets, we'd have no room for dishes, glasses or serving ware.  Problem solved.  No matter where I move, I'd like to have a pot day hopefully it'll be hanging from the ceiling but we'll save that for another day.

Second, get a magnetic rack to hang your knives.  It isn't save to shove them into drawers with all of your other utensils.  You can easily cut yourself.  This way, they are out of harms way and you feel kind of professional, like a real chef!

Lastly, another magnetic tool bar displays frequently used spices.  The clear lid allows you to see inside and you can easily reach it when you are cooking at the stove.  A larger magnetic board could be mounted on a wall (and would be if we had more space) for additional spices.

Get yourself to IKEA.  They have all of this stuff on the cheap.  Get your kitchen organized!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hello, Lubbock.

Just back from a long weekend in Lubbock, Texas to surprise my husband's Mom for her 60th.  Mission accomplished!  She was shocked. 

Haven't been able to post much for a few days but here are a couple of images from the hotel that I liked.  We stayed at a Hawthorne Suites by Wyndham.  They used relatively inexpensive materials but they were well done and made it look quite put together.  Good tips for our own at home decorating.  Here are a couple:

Bold, graphic, black and white wall paper but only on one accent wall behind the bed.  Otherwise, you might get dizzy.  Good effect on one wall though.

Nail head chair.  You could do this to any plain old chair to spice it up.  Love the look.

Inexpensive prints on canvas - not framed.  I didn't get a shot of the one in the bathroom which I liked a lot more but you get the idea.  One big one with the bold colors makes a big statement.

Then my husband took me to a place in Lubbock called Ransom Canyon.  It was a canyon with a big lake in the middle and some of the craziest houses I've ever seen in my life.  This one is called the shell house because it is shaped like a conch. 

This one is entirely made of steel and quite possibly had the best view of the lake of the whole joint.  Not sure I would want to live there but it was definitely interesting to look at.  Yes, that is snow on the ground after we left 60+ degree weather here...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Visual Harmony

About a month ago in Martha Stewart's daily organizing tip, she used the phrase "visual harmony" and it resonated with me.  I think achieving visual harmony in your decor is a good goal to keep in mind.  It doesn't have to mean symmetrical; but in my opinion often times it does.  Moreover, I think the most important thing to recognize is that visual harmony means different things to different people.  Here are some images, however organized or symmetrical, that bring me visual harmony.  What does it for you?

I don't know that I'd want my wardrobe to be this monochromatic but I'll take this level of organization any day of the week.

More modern than my typical taste but I'm digging the clean lines of the furniture and the super organized shelves.

Serious symmetry and seriously appealing.

If office llooked this neat.

No symmetry here.  In fact, it is a little off-kilter.  But so peaceful.

I hereby adopt another motto (besides every room should have a little animal print in it).  You can never have too many orchids.  Especially white ones.

Symmetrical but still interesting.  I want that coffee table.

Images found via The Haystack Needle, Organized Life, Apartment Therapy, Phoebe Howard, Apartment Therapy, Southern Exposure, Apartment Therapy & Second Floor Living.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gobble Gobble

No, it is not Thanksgiving BUT we got to enjoy the best part of it for dinner last night.  No, we didn't have mashed potatoes. Okay, the second best part...the turkey!

I got a turkey breast from my butcher and slow roasted it in the crock pot.  So easy, so juicy, so tender, and so much of it!  I froze the stock and the leftover to make soup soon.

Here's all I did:

1 6-8 pound turkey breast, bone in (it is hard to find much smaller than that but if you can, it might fit in the crock pot a little easier...)
1 lemon, cut in half
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1 Tbsp brown sugar.

Add everything to the crock pot and set on low for 8 hours.  If you wait until the end to add the salt and pepper and rub it into the turkey, it won't all wash off when you pour the liquid in.



Remember, save the stock!  Who needs to wait until November to have turkey?

What do you call an Irish guy on his front porch?

Paddy O'Furniture. Ba da ching! 

Had to give you my favorite St. Patrick's Day joke.  I heard that on the radio several years ago and think of it every year at this time.

Anywho, here are some images of green in honor of this occasion...

If there's one thing I had reaffirmed from this post, it is that kelly green and graphic black and white (especially zebra print in my opinion!) look fabulous together!

Images from apartment therapy, color me happy (2), flickr, high fashion home, wide open spaces and tobi fairley
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