Bliss…because f*@k this day

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I had a pic for Bliss…me after a run in my holey shoes with a glass of wine. Was going to use it, but then today happened… and  F&%&%$#$%%##$K today.

I try…I run almost daily, get sleep, spend time with my boys, feed my hobbies and passions, spend time with my furballs, try to do what I can to keep myself happy…… but some days just wont relent.

At least one day a week I give the world a big double thumbs up… With my middle fingers…

So this is bliss. SERIOUS bliss. Candles, HOT water, Cab Sauv, Metal music on the bluetooth speaker (yes I can relax to Five Finger Death Punch and Killswitch Engage…why do you ask?) Now I’m relaxed. But still behind on my assignments….

Water – A Love/Hate Story

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Elias. My ferret. When I saw the assignment was Water, this is what immediately popped in my head. Elias’ bath time! He LOVES water and hates it. I had a bowl of water in his cage for a while and instead of drinking it, he would stick his head IN the bowl and blow bubbles. He tries to get in the tub every time we go in the bathroom, but when I give him a bath in the tub, he also tries to climb up the side to escape.

In this pic, he’s on the cusp of happy/pissed. He was like “Wheee, wait, I don’t think, HEY WHAT THE HELL WATER IN MY FACE!!!” I know it’s a little fuzzy and I am working on getting a better camera (I need new running shoes too I keep going back and forth, damn expensive hobbies). I decided to use it anyway because it makes me laugh and I love this picture. I’m sure I’m bias, because I adore this fur ball..

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So, I have this song, er, a part of a chorus….”The things we do for love, the things we do for love” from 10cc stuck in my head and I can’t get rid of it now. Yes, the time on the stove is P.M. My 17 year old asked me “What’s for dinner Ma?”…when we got home from shopping, after I got off work…at 10 P.M.

I moved to this shift, which is noon to 10pm, after 8 years on overnights. It’s nice, although not an ideal day shift, better to me than 9pm to 7am. I’m getting old and I can’t deal with that anymore. I want to SLEEP AT NIGHT! Although still getting used to it, it’s kinda hard on the kids too. They got used to me making dinner every night and spending time with them before work. Of course, they are all picky and at least one of the three wouldn’t like what I made and eat something else, but I think they liked the idea of Mom cooking. I do cook on days off but lately we’ve all been busy or half the family gone so we have been eating takeout or fast food a bit more lately too…boo me!

So when my son asked me what’s for dinner, I looked through the freezer and fridge and told him I could make him bacon and eggs. I hadn’t anticipated such an enthusiastic reaction he was like ALRIGHT! THANKS MOM!..(you would think I asked if it was ok that I invited Bruce Dickenson from Iron Maiden to join us for dinner)

I start frying this incredibly cheap ass bacon (I will NEVER buy sale off name bacon again, it fell apart completely…I originally bought it for wrapping chicken in another recipe I will share down the road, and am glad I found out this way it was not substantial enough for wrapping!) and eggs, and made him some toast with butter and strawberry jelly and those lyrics kept going through my head. “the things we do for looove!”

My friend Niki would tell me I like to do “acts of service” to show love. Like making something that I know someone will enjoy eating…although impromptu, on a chipped plate with no fancy garnish, he inhaled the plateful and went back for seconds. THAT makes me happy, and I know in a small way makes him feel loved. He and I have been through some rocky territory in our relationship, but we worked through it. So bacon and eggs at midnight might be weird, but it’s imperative to cook and eat stuff with the ones you love in the middle of the night sometimes!

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Street – The Masonic Temple and The Shriner

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I went out for a run this morning before work. Apparently I look down a lot while running. I think it’s the fact that where I live, there’s often icy patches, and if not ice, there’s probably a hole from last winter. I’m clumsy…if there’s a way to trip I usually find it.

Today I had a specific multitasking plan, to go out for my run and see if I could find an interesting picture for the Photography 101 assignment. I had an hour before work, wanted to get at least 5 miles in, and get a photo I liked a lot. Well, I went into wander mode on accident, took about 15 pictures, ran almost 6 miles, the last couple as fast as I could because I was running late for work. I felt great and have some pictures I really like, but frizzy hair. Oh well.

I have debated for 7 hours which to use. I think the Shriner captures this assignment the best of my group of pics. He’s standing stoically in front of the Masonic Temple, which I noticed before, but never really looked at. The building to the far left with the dome top is our County Office Building.

Part of my love of running is the freedom of going anywhere I want, my music in my ears, and seeing things in a different light (when I think to look up). When I’m out, I usually kind of let my mind wander and let my body tell me how far I should go that day. I got sidetracked this summer with training for a marathon, and had to get so many miles in per week training. The last few weeks, I remember how nice it was to get back to running for fun. (Then I signed up for a November 100 mile challenge…sigh). I keep reminding myself to look up now. There are some interesting things and beautiful architecture in this area!

HOME

As a part of the WordPress Photography 101 class, they asked us to post a picture that meant home. I went straight downstairs and told my sons I needed a picture of them for my class. We’ve lived in apartments, trailers, other people’s houses, big houses, small houses. Anywhere we keep our stuff is HOME with them. In a few years I guess I’ll have to find a way to redefine home. Time is flying by, they are growing taller, their voices have gotten deeper, they will be driving soon, they’re kind of hairy…but for now, here are my babies, my HOME.

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Niki’s Spinach Dip

This spinach dip is amazing. It reminds me a bit of Green Mill’s Spinach Dip, only better!

Ingedients:

16 ounces sour cream
1 cup real mayo, a little more if you like it creamy
1 package dried Knorr vegetable soup mix
1 tablespoon (4-6 cloves) minced fresh or jarred garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
A couple shakes of seasoning salt
A couple shakes of black pepper
1 8 ounce can water chestnuts drained and chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, gutted and diced
2 10 ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed
4 green onions

Method:

Combine the sour cream and mayo until it’s the same color (sounds stupid, but if you don’t mix it first it will be more difficult in the long run). Add the soup mix, garlic, red and black pepper, and salt and mix. Chop water chestnuts and mix in. Set aside.

~On a side note, I found this awesome chopper bowl on EBay years ago. Someone makes them in Alaska, and it’s so easy to chop smaller things with!

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Place your thawed spinach on a clean dish towel and wring until all the liquid has been removed. Make sure you really wring it out well or your dip will turn green and watery. You’ll want to use an old or dark colored dish towel because it will turn it green.

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The spinach should be compact and quite dry. Pull apart and mix into mayo mixture a bit at a time.

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Mix in one of the tomatoes and two green onions. Garnish with the remaining onion and tomato. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Serve with French bread or crackers.

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Easy Baked Chicken Taquitos

So I’ve been making these Taquitos for about 10 years now and have kind of found the quickest, tastiest groove to make them. Not exactly sure why they are so delicious to me but they are. Even cold out of the fridge later. They’re like a much easier tamale with a crunch!
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Following is enough for about 30-35 Taquitos.

Ingredients:

2 Chicken breasts

3/4 cup shredded cheddar

Spicy seasoned salt

Cumin

Corriander

Paprika

30-35 corn tortillas

Method:

In a saucepan, cover chicken with an inch or so of water. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of corrriander, cumin, paprika and season salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium high heat. Boil about 15-20 mins until chicken is cooked through and tender.

Remove chicken from heat and drain. You can dump it but I usually save it for making chicken based soups or homemade refrained beans. Let chicken cool a few minutes.

THIS IS AN AWESOME TRICK I LEARNED!

If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, pull that bad boy out…trust me. Put your chicken in there and slowly move your speed to a high speed. Allow it to shred the chicken then stop and pull the bigger chunks to the center and restart until thoroughly shredded! I LOVE this trick. Shredding was one of the most annoying things in the world to me before. After shredded, add cheddar and another 1/2 teaspoon of each of the seasonings to your shredded chicken and you are ready to roll..literally!

Heat corn tortillas, one at a time over a hot burner, just long enough to get them a little browned and pliable. I stack them on a plate to keep them warm. I find I get about 15 taquitos per chicken breast. I roll mine kind of small because I like the extra crunch. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Once you have your tortillas ready, line the bottom of your pan with some olive oil. I use a turkey roaster pan to fit all the taquitos, and usually use about 1/4 cup oil. Seems like a lot but it makes them nice and crispy in the oven, and beats deep frying.

Place about a tablespoon of the chicken mixture at the edge of your tortilla and roll up. Place seam side down in the pan. Continue until all your shells and mixture are gone.

Drizzle olive oil over the top of the taquitos. I use my hand to distribute it evenly across them kind of patting it down not to disturb your rolls too much.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, until they are firm to the touch and slightly more browned. I usually turn the broiler on at the end for a minute or two to give them that extra crunch.

Serve with hot sauce, salsa, sour cream…whatever dips you like! This is a great snack or often I will pair it with rice and beans for a meal.

I was told by my teenager that I had to get with the times and make a YouTube video for my blog. So here’s kind of the abridged version of the method. It starts with me shredding the chicken in my mixer..kinda loud…sorry.

Basic Artisan Bread Dough

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I got this recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. There are variations, and tips and techniques in the book that really make the book worth owning! HOWEVER, I think they might do voodoo, because they taught themselves how to make some of the most delicious breads on the planet, and they are both slender….I can eat only a slice or two…after running 5 miles. Because carbs hate me….damn delicious carbs. This amazing tome is also available as an ebook!

Artisan Bread In Five

If you love fresh bread like I do, this is a simple method for novice bread makers that makes AMAZING bread! (The French in me makes all bread and most wine irresistible to me. I keep promising myself I will stop trying different ingredients and toppings but then I find myself, elbow deep in the flour bin with my book open saying OOOoooh! Gotta make this one! Ok, sorry, back to the how to here):

Ingredients (makes 4 1 lb loaves)

1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons course salt (I use kosher or course sea salt)
3 cups lukewarm water
6 1/2 cups all purpose flour
cornmeal, for board

Tools:
Pizza stone (not necessary, but does make a great loaf)
Pizza peel, large cutting board, or other large straight edged surface you can move around
Small pan
Large lidded (non-airtight) container ( I use an old 4.5 quart ice cream bucket)

Instructions:
In lidded containter, add yeast, salt and water. Mix to dissolve.Measure flour in measuring cups, using the scoop and sweep method:

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Add flour and mix with a wooden spoon, making sure all the flour is incorporated. Just combine all the ingredients no kneading is necessary! (You may have a slightly larger bicep after stirring!)

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Cover your bowl and let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. I put it in the oven with only the interior light on. Once risen, you can use immediately, or store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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When you are ready to bake, dust pizza peel or cutting board with cornstarch.

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Sprinkle flour over top of dough, then grab a grapefruit sized hunk of bread and cut off. Turn the bread a couple times clockwise turning edges under to form a round loaf (boule). You may need to keep your hands dusted with flour so keep it nearby. The dough can be pretty sticky.

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Place on peel or cutting board and allow to rest while oven heats (if you are using refrigerated dough, cover with plastic and give it an extra half hour before preheating oven) . Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a small pan in the oven to heat up with your stone.

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When your oven is ready, dust the top of your loaf with flour and score the top of your loaf with a sharp knife to prevent it from cracking open in the oven. I usually do a hashtag like crisscross or a scalloped group of curved lines. Fill a cup with cold water and put it by the oven.

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Slide loaf from peel on to hot stone by pushing your board forward and pulling back quickly over the stone. This kinda slide-launches that baby right onto the stone. Once that’s done, grab your cup of water and toss it in that little pan you had heating up with the stone and shut the oven door quickly. This makes steam in the oven and gives your crust that nice chewy texture. Bake at 450 for 30 minutes until nicely browned and if you tap the bottom of the loaf it sounds hollow. Cool on wire rack as long as you can stand before you say screw it and hack off a piece, slather it with butter and shove it in your face! Enjoy!

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Here is a variation:
Add about 1 teaspoon of each thyme and rosemary to your bucket before adding the water and mix.
I also love making it with green olives, but you add those AFTER it has risen. I was out of green olives so I added black olives and real bacon pieces.

Make your boule as above, but dust the counter with flour and flatten it out. Top with olives, bacon, whatever sounds good. (If you want cheese, it’s best to mix a harder cheese, such as cheddar into the actual dough…add 1 cup to your water mixture before adding your flour)

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Roll up like a jelly roll and press to seal:

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Then pull the sides around and tuck them under:

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Then shape back into a boule and place on peel to rest while your oven heats. Dust with flour and score:

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Bake at 450 for 30 minutes and cool on rack. Enjoy!

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Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is a great easy dinner. With the cold weather coming, it’s wonderful to come home from work to a delicious hardy bowl of soup! I use a 5.5 quart crockpot and freeze bowls of leftovers. You may want to half the recipe for smaller crockpots.

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts (raw or frozen)
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves minced garlic
2 jalapeños diced (optional)
2 cans Mexican flavor diced tomatoes with chiles
2 cans black beans, rinsed
2 cans nacho cheese soup
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cans red or green enchilada sauce
2 cans corn and peppers

Place chicken breasts at bottom of crockpot. Add fresh ingredients, then canned and stir gently. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours. Pull out chicken and shred, place back in pot. Top with fresh cilantro, jalapeños, cheddar, sour cream, or whatever you like! I usually make some bread to have with it 🙂

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BBB Bread of the Month

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I joined the Bread Baking Babes and Friends group on Facebook. They are a great group of people who love to make bread and quite talented! They do a Bread of the Month, and this month it was a Caramelized Onion, Cheese and Herb stuffed braid from Katie at Thyme For Cooking http://thymeforcookingblog.com/2014/10/onion-herb-cheese-stuffed-bread. This was a fun bread to make. I substituted a few ingredients and added some.  When I made it, I doubled this original recipe to make a second loaf, a sweet stuffed bread for the kids. Following is a recipe for one loaf.

For the Bread:

  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 pkg (1 tablespoon bulk) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon course kosher or sea salt
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

For the filling and top:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 cups onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 cup Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup Italian cheese blend
  • 1 egg, beaten

In a large bowl or bowl of your stand mixer, add sugar, then warm water to dissolve. Add yeast and let it stand for a while until it starts to froth. Mix in eggs and egg yolks, milk, oil, and salt. Add about 3 1/4 of the flour and check consistency. Should be sticky but pull away from the sides of the bowl. I used the full 3 1/2 cups but depending on egg size you may need a bit less or a bit more flour to achieve the right consistency. Kneed for 10 minutes. Place in a well oiled bowl, cover and sit in a warm spot for about an hour, until doubled in bulk. I like to rise my doughs in my oven with just the light on.

Meanwhile, for the filling, heat oil and butter in skillet over medium high heat. Add sliced onions, thyme, and sugar. Fry onion mixture until onions are a nice golden brown. Pull from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Grease or line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch dough down and roll out into a rectangle, about the size of your pan.

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Spread mustard and horseradish down the middle lengthwise leaving about an inch on either end of the short sides. Top that with your onion mixture, then cheese.

To make “braid”, slice your strips diagonally, starting about a half inch from the filling through the edge of your dough, about an inch wide. Make sure you have a sharp knife or scissors. (My strips are thinner from having to pull them apart a little due to a dull knife!)

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