Sunday, January 31, 2010

Carnita is Spanish for Delicious

Not really, but it should be. It's actually Spanish for little meat typically referring to seasoned shredded pork. All you really need to know is that they are simple to make, great for when you have company and really delicious. Here's the recipe:

Mix rub:
1 t. garlic powder
4 T. chili powder
1 t. kosher salt
1 t. cumin
1 t. oregano
1 t. black pepper
1 t. crushed red pepper

Other ingredients:
2 - 3 lb pork roast
2 yellow onions
1 can chicken broth
1-2 bay leaves

Mix seasonings together and roll the roast into the mix, creating a thick coating or crust.

Put 1-2 bay leaves in the bottom of the crock pot. Place roast on top. Pour in 1 can chicken broth and add 1 yellow onion in large slices. Sprinkle in remaining rub.

Cook in crockpot 5-6 hours on high or all day on low.

Once the roast is cooked through and sort of falls apart, remove it from the crockpot and shred. Transfer meat and 2-3 cups liquid from crockpot, but be sure to remove the bay leaves, into an extra large saute pan. Cook on high until almost all of the liquid is gone. *This is the most important step. The carnitas are good without this step, but so much more flavorful if you take the time to reduce the liquid. It usually takes under 5 minutes.

If you're not ready to eat yet, you can throw the meat back in the slow cooker on warm until it's time to eat.

Serve on tortillas with fresh cilantro, onions and tomatoes.

Every time I have made carnitas for company, I have been asked for the recipe.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A fox, a squirrel, two bunnies and some pink pears

These are the back and front of the same tote.

I finally finished these three totes, which have only been lacking handles since sometime before Christmas, I think. I really like the process of making the actual tote portion and I don't mind making handles. Something about putting those two pieces together, though, I really dread. It's similar to a lot of things in life that you dread, but once you make yourself do, they aren't so bad, like exercising or cooking dinner.

This is the last of this Annamoa fabric from Ikea, at least for now. It makes me sad. I think this is my favorite fabric that I've made totes from.

I put handles on two other totes tonight as well. Nothing better to do during yet another blizzard. Those will be in the shop later this week.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Climbing to the top

Pottery Barn has sold various home decor ladders for years. They can be used as magazine racks or to hold throw blankets or pretty scarves and a multitude of other things. I really like them, but they are expensive! Depending on the size, I have seen them run anywhere between $100 and $300. Ouch. I can't afford that. So I decided - like I often do - "I can make that." Typically that phrases ends with varying results, but this time, the outcome was even better than I was envisioning.

My picture might not be as nicely staged as the Pottery Barn one above, but it does have an Alven in it, who refused to move while I was taking the photos. I guess he was feeling particularly handsome. Anyway, this project is really simple, and most people will not believe you did it yourself.

The two vertical pieces are just 6 foot long 1.5 inch diameter dowel rods from the craft store. The rungs are a couple of 48" long, half inch diameter dowels, cut into thirds. I made this ladder a few years back, before I owned an electric saw. I cut the dowels with a steak knife - which I am not suggesting you do! A handsaw would work just fine if you don't have an electric one.

I wanted my ladder to look old and weathered, so I distressed it with various objects. Just whack, whittle and hack away at the dowels with a screwdriver, keys, claw hammer, small knife or whatever you think will do the right amount of damage. Do this before you assemble the ladder, it's much easier and you're less likely to have it fall apart in your hands.

Use a 1/2 inch drill bit, to make six small holes, equal distance apart on both your larger dowels. Fill the holes with wood glue to affix the rungs. Once it is completely dry you can paint.

Again, I was going for an old, weathered look, so I painted the entire thing a reddish brown with spray paint. Once that was dry, I used black spray paint and did a lighter, sloppier coat, leaving the sides of the ladder and tops of the rungs with some of the brown showing. I figured if this ladder had ever been really used, that's where the paint would have faded and worn away most.

As I am sure you've figured out by now, this ladder is decorative only and while it stands up to our cats trying to climb it and occasionally knocking it over, it should never actually be used by people, including kids.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Olive you

I finished this olive tote up over lunch today. I really love this fabric from Ikea. This one is sold to a friend of mine, but I have two more with the same fabric in the works, so watch for them in the shop soon!

Monday, January 18, 2010

DIY wall art

I did this project a while back, but I get so many comments on it when people visit, that I thought I'd share how cheap and easy it was. Under $10 for a 3' x 3' piece for your wall.

First off, the squares are 12" square scrapbook paper. I just picked papers from two different sets that had designs I liked with colors that go in my living room.

I bought a couple of 1-by-2s at the hardware store. They sell for a couple dollars for an 8 or 12 foot piece. Cut them into 10" pieces with 45 degree angles. Put them together into a square and use a staple gun to connect them together. Wrap the paper around the squares and use tape or glue to stick the paper to the wood. Done.

One good trick to hanging a set of frames like these is to use a long level. I used a sharpie to make small marks on the edge of my level, transferred those lines into dots on the wall, hammered in small tack nails and hung them up. So easy and cheap, but they look really nice. Most people think I painted them because of the texture of the paper I used. Very few people realize they are paper.

Another idea for something like this, although it would not be as cheap, would be to use vinyl record frames to frame the paper. You kind of lose the three dimensional look of having the squares be 1" deep, but it's mostly the same effect. 

Mmm Chevre

I made my second attempt at goat cheese today and it worked out great. I had a much easier time this around. I don't know if it's because I wasn't as nervous as I was last time or if it was because I made firm chevre and the processes is a little different than making the creamy version.

You start out by heating the milk to around 190 degrees. Then stir in 1/4 vinegar with 1 teaspoon of citric acid dissolved in it. It was instant gratification, my favorite kind of gratification. The milk curdled right away and only took about 10 minutes to drain. The wheel on the left (reddish one) has aleppo peppers and chili powder. The wheel on the right is just salt and cracked black pepper.

I am so excited at how pretty they look and more importantly, how yummy they taste. No one else seems as impressed with my cheese making as much as I do. Don't care; I'm still amazed at my talent. Ha!

Thanks again to Urban Cheesecraft for making these fun cheese kits!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A very good day

Yesterday was our 4th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful day. Had lunch at the Waterfront. I had the Halibut Royale. The halibut is marinated in chardonnay then topped with sour cream, mayonnaise, chopped green onions and seasoned bread crumb. So yummy.

We were going to go to the Des Moines Art Center after that, but we were in a food stupor, so we decided to go to a movie instead. We saw the Blind Side and it was really good. Then we got some coffee and wandered around the mall a while. Every anniversary we stop by the Cosmo Lounge downtown Des Moines for a martini. I had a Bloodytini (basically a bloody Mary martini) made with pepper vodka and it was, as always, delicious. Thanks, Sherry!

Even though we still weren't hungry, we went out to dinner anyway to Sam & Gabe's. We had scallops and duck and were basically gluttons. By the time we got home, we were both way too stuffed to eat the wonderful homemade raspberry cheesecake with chocolate crust. (I had some at lunch today though and it was amazing! Thanks, babe!)

I gave my amazing honey two Alice in Wonderland prints from Unique Art Pendants, which I bought on Etsy and framed myself.

I received the cheesecake (so yummy), a beautiful bouquet of stargazer lilies and this book of Manolo Blahnik shoe drawings. It is a collection of his sketches from the 1970s to the present. They are all so amazing and I can't wait to study them. They are inspiring.

Thank you, babe, for another amazing anniversary. I love you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

4 years ago today, on Friday the 13th with a full moon, we got married on a beach in Mexico. Sure wish we were there today with these same amazing people.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Save a tree

Three new "Save a Tree" totes in my shop! Well, they aren't there yet, but they will be either tonight or tomorrow. What do you think?

The few. The proud.

This is a special order Marines tote that I finished today over lunch. Seems simple enough, but it really taxed my brain. I've done appliques and I've done iron-ons. But this was both. What I should have done is make the white canvas applique, attach it to the tote and then put the iron on emblem. Instead I ironed on the emblem before making the canvas into an applique. Duh. I figured it out soon enough so it all worked out, but it took a lot more thinking than working so this tote took a long time!

I have 4 more ordered plus 6 for the shop, all in various stages of doneness. I can't seem to get motivated though. I blame the weather or the holidays or just plain laziness on my part!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sunny beaches, here we come

It's cold here. Not average winter cold, but freeze your eyeballs and snot cold. Today's windchill was 40 below. Cold weather sucks. It freezes your brain and makes you do crazy things like book a last minute mini vacation to L.A. Ha! I'm so excited. We leave 4 weeks from today. $600 for two round trip tickets, 3 nights in a 4 star hotel on the beach and a rental car. Can't beat that. It'll be a happy (two weeks late) 4th anniversary present to ourselves. Better start using the self tanning lotion. Iowans are very pasty in the winter.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fettuccine with artichokes and beans

This is one of those recipes I found when I was sick of everything on my "go-to" list of things to make for dinner. I was still looking for something at least a little healthy. I am not a big fan of beans. Mash them up and add a bunch of seasoning, call it dip, and I'm in. But whole beans aren't my thing. Which is why I am so surprise that I love this so much. Here's the recipe:

3/4 pound fettuccine
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can cannellini beans, rinced
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
salt and pepper
3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1. Cook pasta as directed. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water.
2. Heat  oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add beans, artichokes, salt and pepper. Cook until headed through. (3-4 minutes)
3. Toss pasta with artichoke mixture and reserved pasta water. Sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Sometimes we use more artichokes. In our house, there can never be too many of them. Sometimes I add a little Parmesan on top or sprinkle the artichokes with Italian seasoning while they cook. Mix it up. This is really good. Try it even if you think you won't like it. I did and I think you will too.

Getting going

I finally got my butt back in gear tonight. I am really happy with how this tote turned out. The patterned fabric is light weight, so I lined it with canvas. Per request, I added a small interior pocket. (Did you know it is very hard to take a picture of a pocket on the inside of a bag?) I decided to make it and the underside of the straps in a contrasting fabric and I think that was the right choice. It looks really pretty. This one is special order and the last of this fabric, so there aren't any more. The good news is that I also put trim on six other totes since I got home from work. They should have handles tonight or tomorrow and be ready for the shop.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Enchilada soup you can make in 3 minutes

Yes. 3 minutes hands-on time. This soup is really good. It tastes sinfully cheesy and spicy, but is really low fat and calorie.

1 can Rotel - however hot you want it
1 can low fat cream of soup (I use mushroom but chicken works just as well)
1 can Campbell's Fiesta Nacho Soup
1 can enchilada sauce - again, however hot you want it
2.5 c. skim milk

Put everything in a pan. Stir. Cook until hot and enjoy! That's seriously it. If you are feeling ambitious you can add either shredded cooked chicken breast or a can of chicken. We serve with fat free Greek yogurt and baked tortilla chips. The ff yogurt is much better that fat free sour cream and much creamier. It only has 7.5 calories per tablespoon.

Here's the fat/cal for just the soup. The yogurt ads basically nothing but remember to add the chips if your counting calories or points.
1 serving = 1/4 of finished soup, about 1.5 cups, I'd guess.
Fat = 6.5
Calories = 178
Fiber = 2
WW points = 3

This soup is so good we have it about once a week. It's that "go-to" when no one wants to cook. Mmmm.


I'm not sure how I stumbled upon Emily at ERMoriginals but I am addicted. More and more of her jewelry is making it onto my Etsy favorites list every day. Her ability to mix today's trends (asymmetrical and multi-pendant necklaces) and vintage elements into her pieces is amazing. The beautiful pieces are the best part, but a close second are her prices. Currently there are only two pieces (out of over 150 items) that are over $50 and the vast majority are $25 or less! Here's a few of my favorite pieces:

I recieved this necklace from my sweetie for Christmas. It is stunning in person.

As credit card bills come in after the holiday shopping spree, this jewelry is still an affordable luxury. Instead of having one of those home jewelry parties, get together with friends and shop ERMoriginals together. The jewelry you receive will be just as nice (if not better) and think how much more you'll be able to get for your money!

*I have never received anything free from ERMoriginals and was not paid in any way for this post.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pleasant surprise

I have been a fan of Cabin + Cub for a while now - both the blog and Etsy shop. Valerie has great woodburnings, retro collages, stationary and tags. I could close my eyes and point at anything in her shop and be happy to have it. Imagine my surprise and delight when I opened a gift from my best friend to find these two Cabin + Cub woodburned wall art panels. Imagine my friend's surprise when I told her I knew of and love Cabin + Cub. I'm not sure if great minds think alike - but ours definately do. Thank you Lindsay for getting me these, and thank you Valerie for making them.

Out with the sloth

I have been unbelievably sloth-like and slacking these last couple of weeks - at least in the area of Etsy and sewing. I have had 6 totes sewn (3 of each of the above fabric), that still need trim and handles. They have been patiently waiting for a couple of weeks now. The holidays are over and even though its still bitterly cold out (30 below wind chills and a high for the week of 10 degrees) I have to get my butt back in gear and go to the fabric store for notions so I can finish those 6 and start work on more.

Next in line for totedom:

More from this Ikea fabric which has been a best seller for me.

Olive branch fabric, also from Ikea.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

NYE appetizer

I made these on NYE and they turned out really yummy. Here is the original recipe:

Artichoke Wonton Cups
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise*
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (14 ounce) can water packed artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (12 ounce) package wonton wrappers
*I used 1/2 c. mayo and 1/2 c. greek yogurt, which cut calories and fat but not taste at all!

1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, onion powder and garlic powder; mix well. Stir in the mozzarella cheese and artichokes; set aside.
2. Coat one side of each wonton wrapper with nonstick cooking spray; press greased side down into miniature muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees F for 5 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Fill each cup with 1 tablespoon artichoke mixture. Bake 5-6 minutes longer or until golden brown. Serve warm.

There are a few things I'd change for next time. First, make sure your wonton cups are very open before baking. Some of mine closed up during baking, which made them very hard to stuff. I will also double the artichokes and cut back some on the mozzarella and Parmesan. Don't get me wrong, I love cheese, but I think it they will be even tastier that way.

Random photo of the day:

Turns out you can make a french fry glow red if you leave it under the burner inadvertently while making tea.


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