Sunday, May 20, 2012

Is it Christmas Yet?

With summer just around the corner there is no better time to post a vanity blog about this cute little gingerbread house I made.  Or rather, decorated.  I don't know exactly how many labor hours went into this but it took the better part of a day in between parenting my kids (parenting, as in, making sure they don't kill themselves).  Having done a couple gingerbread houses over the years, even making the houses from scratch, I have seen this delightful holiday tradition make middle aged women weep.  While manipulating the candy can be difficult, usually it is a matter of leverage.  The real curse inducing step is the construction.  

First, do not use the footprint sized plastic base that comes with the house.  You get no landscaping to play with, the plastic doesn't transport well, and it gives a lousy perimeter for defending your house from accidental bumps.  This house is on a Rubbermaid tote container covered in heavy duty foil.

Second, you do not need to decorate after your house has already set up as decorating at a 90 degree angle can prove difficult but if you predecorate you have to keep in mind things like seams and pressure points.  Pressure points you say?  Yes, see the next tip.

Third, when setting up your house do not place unreasonable expectations on a concoction of water and powdered sugar to act like Quickrete.  Once you have placed a generous amount of icing at the seams and in the gaps of the cookies set up your walls for 12 to 24 hours propped with soup cans from the pantry.  Once the walls are stable you can add the roof pieces.  Be sure to prop these up overnight as well.  Just stack several good size cans next to the lower edge to prevent slipping.  After that add more icing to seams and decorate.  Now your house will be capable of surviving all December and probably to the next.  This is why it important to decorate with appetizing candies.  So that it doesn't.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Salsa Chicken Quinoa

This is a homely little dish but it cooks up in 30 and the flavor imparted from the salsa is pretty grand for a quick mid week meal.

Salsa Chicken Quinoa:
1 lb boneless skinless chicken diced
1 16 oz jar red or green salsa
1 can black beans drained
1 can pinto beans drained
1 can/ 2 cups chicken broth/ water
1 1/2 cups quinoa

Saute chicken in 2 Tbl cooking oil of choice, add all the other stuff, cover, cook 20 minutes, stir occasionally.  Serve with whatever you like.  Here I have cheddar cheese, avocado and sour cream.

If you buy your quinoa in bulk (about half the price of prepackaged) you will want to rinse it well.  This recipe is incidentally gluten free as well. Rock on.


This is just a very basic, very quick avocado salad or chunky guacamole best served the second the salt is incorporated.   When we make this guacamole there is no need for a main course.

5 ripe avocados pitted and diced
1 large Roma tomato diced
1/2 medium Vidalia (or white if you prefer sharper onion flavor) onion diced
1/2 cup rough chopped cilantro
zest and juice of 1/2 a lime
splash of tequila
1/2 medium jalepeno diced
salt and pepper to taste

give it a quick hearty stir to marry the spices and dig in. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012


I don't know exactly what it is beyond a cured pork product but now that we have finally been able to obtain and try the this variety of chorizo, as opposed to the uncooked, ground, meat in a casing, we will not be going back. Gabe knew it was out there, he'd watched many a celebrity chef use it. I didn't quite believe him until he found some in Bisbee at the High Desert Cafe (see January entry). Its flavor is immense. It is spicy but not overwhelmingly hot. The spices are so powerful you do have to pause and ponder the milk situation in the house before you pop a piece in your mouth. It easily can overpower a dish so best to pair it with something equally powerful to marry it or something fatty and starchy to subdue it. Or just eat it by the slice.

*Edited to add: I did, in fact, just buy some of the uncured chorizo because it was on sale and, you know, its great in breakfast burritos.

One Hot Epiphany

You know those moments when you learn one small new thing that ushers in a beautiful new chapter of your cooking? We had one of those 2 weeks ago. Gabe was making a breakfast skillet with hash browns for dinner and he consulted Good Eats where he learned one small new thing that has made me a happy cook each time I practice it.

Now, my saute has always been sloppy, even browning meat results in a fair bit of food stuck to the pan. Scrambling eggs is even worse. Invariably I attempt to heat my oil whilst I cut my meat and the oil overheats and reaches its smoke point. So I turn the heat OFF and then the meat gets put in the pan when I turn the heat back on....stuck meat, burnt oil, cursing. BUT if I turn the heat to MEDIUM/LOW for 5 min while I'm prepping the meat...VOILA! The oil doesn't burn, the meat doesn't stick (much) the hash browns get crispy, the eggs get beautiful. MEDIUM/LOW. Happy cooking.

*this is a technique for hash browns in a cast iron skillet but have found it works wonderfully in our stainless steel pots and pans. It is probably not as critical a nuance for non stick cookware.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Thursday Farmer's Market

If you are looking for a tasty lunch in Sierra Vista on Thursday I urge you to stop by the local Farmer's Market on Wilcox. Not only can you pick up all the supplies you need for your dinner from fresh fruits (delicious navel oranges last week) and vegetables (heirloom tomatoes, mustard greens, new potatoes) to emu filets (tastes like cube steak), but you can also get a plate of deliciousness from this booth. I am still relatively new to the southwest area but this lovely woman can craft a plate of Mexican food better than anything I ever tasted in Yuma. There are several tamale stands, a honey booth (YAY honey sticks!), a few arts and crafts tables and some rather addicting candied pecans and dried fruit ( Each week is a little different but most of the vendors are regulars. You can either get your lunch to go or sit at the tables set up in the center and listen to some banjo music. The people are friendly, the weather always seems to be perfect and the food makes you feel better after you've eaten it. Don't tell me you can say the same about your $5 KFC box.

The Thursday Farmer's Market runs 10 til 2 and is located on the northwest corner of Wilcox and Carmichael. Most vendors are cash only.

Dark N' Stormy

Shield your eyes children, this is a grown up drink.

Turned onto the Dark N' Stormy by an esteemed friend I have YET to have a drink with (a travesty) I must say this drink carries quite a bit of heft for a fizzy cocktail. My first attempts were with dark rum and diet ginger beer. This resulted in a Light n' Windy more than a Dark N' Stormy. So we got some real sugar Ginger Beer and some Black Strap Rum. I like to toss in a splash of the dark rum as well because, really, you can't have too much rum. Add a garnish of a shiny lime (shiny from lime oil because its nice and fresh, not because its been coated with wax, preferably) and you have yourself a good category 2 maelstrom brewing off the edge of your lips.