Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Before & After: DIY Craft Table Upgrade

Since we moved into our home a little over a year ago, I've had a little room all to myself to craft in.  It's glorious to not have to cram everything into a couple of bookshelves or constantly be moving my ongoing projects from the dining room table.  But, it's also taking a while to find the right things to go into this little craft oasis.

So, for a lot of the last 12 months, I've been on the hunt for storage solutions, useful furniture & cute decor for this space.  I'm almost to a good place with organization of the piles & piles of supplies that I've collected over the last several years.  The desk that houses the computer is also getting there in terms of how I want everything set up.  But, for the first 6 months or so, my craft room had no real 'crafting' space.  I had room to house my supplies & write about my projects, but no table to paint or sew or glitter on.  And I need space to use my glitter & make things turqoise y'all.

Two months ago, on a trip to a big Swedish furniture store, we picked up this table.  I think it cost all of $25 & is about 2ft. x 3ft.  It fit the budget & the space & is plenty big for most of my crafting needs.  Perfect right?  But it needed a little something to make it not so 'blah.'  And I really wanted to be able to use paint or glue without having to worry about getting it off the table when I was done. 

Solution: an inexpensive (re: cheap!) plasticy coated picnic tablecloth.  You know the ones that aren't quite disposable, not quite cloth, but completely wipe down-able?  The ones that are in every store right now with the summer decor?  The ones you can get for like $5 & come in a million colors & patterns?  That one!  So now I don't have to worry about spilling or finding newspaper before starting a project.  I just do what I want to do & wipe the table down with a wet cloth afterwards.  Very cool. 

I actually picked this one tablecloth last year at a summer clearance sale for less than $5.  And it's a little hard to see in the photos, but it's a great contrast to the seafoam/turquoise walls (the color is much more vibrant/darker in real life).  All I did was lay the tablecloth backside facing up on the floor, turn the table upside down on top the tablecloth, cut away the extra & went to town fold up the edges & securing them on the underneath side of the table with a staple gun.  It was maybe 10 minutes of stapling/folding & that was only because I had to reload the gun halfway through.  And if I ever decide I want another pattern or something doesn't come out after a craft?  15 minutes & $5 & I can have a brand new tabletop.

Awesome, right?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Slow Cooker Recipe: Green Chili Pulled Pork Loin Tacos with 505 Southwestern Sauces

Please note that I was sent 505 Southwestern Sauces for review.  While I was given 505 Southwestern Sauces, all thoughts & opinions are honest & my own. 

Happy Monday! 

I hope you had a great weekend & that today is as happy as it can be, you know, for a Monday & all.  Today, we're talking tacos.  Now, my experience with making my own tacos is not vast, we've grilled fajitas & shredded up rotisserie chickens before, but never have we ever attempted pork tacos.  But this weekend, I decided to get a little adventurous.  Well, not so much adventurous, as 'easiest way to full-proof pork tacos' but still.     

Green Chili Pulled Pork Loin Tacos.  In the Slow Cooker.  Uh Huh.

On Sunday, we had Andrew's cousin Marty over to watch the FIFA World Cup, US v. Portugal game, so I wanted to make a dinner that was going to be tasty, but also minimal effort.  A slow cooker meal sounded right.  And trying out pulled pork tacos was the best excuse to break out the 505 Southwestern Sauces I could think of.  You might remember from a couple of weeks ago when I shared Movie Night Nachos , that I was gifted a case of goodies from 505 Southwestern Sauces.  All of their sauces are made from chilies in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico, all natural & extremely delicious.  For this recipe I used both their Roasted Green Chilies AND the 'medium' Green Chili Sauce.  I wanted flavor y'all.  And they delivered. 

To start with, grab a 2ish lb. pork loin, an onion & a few light Mexican beers at the grocery store.  I chose pork loin because I wanted something on the leaner side.  And let me just say, it was just as easy to pull apart. 

About 8 1/2 to 9 hours before you're ready to serve dinner (perfect workday meal!) load up your slow cooker with the pork loin, a roughly diced onion, an entire 16oz. jar of 505 Southwestern Sauces Green Chili Sauce & 1-2 Mexican beers (water or stock can be substituted) making sure that the liquid is slightly higher that the pork loin.  Then, turn your slow cooker to the 'low' setting & enjoy your day.  A wonderful meal ahead that took maybe 5 minutes to prep.  Ahh, feels good, right?

An hour to half-hour before you're ready for dinner, pull the pork loin out of the slow cooker & very carefully (it'll be smokin' hot!) shred the pork with two forks.  Do not drain the liquid from the slow cooker.  Place the pork back in the slow cooker & add an entire 16oz. jar of 505 Southwestern Sauces Roasted Green Chilies.  Trust me, it won't be too much.  It's just spicy enough to be awesome.  Let the now-pulled pork simmer in goodness for 30 minutes to an hour.

Just before you're ready to eat, char up some corn tortillas in a little oil on the stove & gather up a few of your favorite taco condiments.  My suggestions are avocado (always avocado right?), cilantro, lime wedges, a few peppers & the kicker: thinly sliced yellow squash.  

I know that it sounds strange, but I first had squash on tacos at Cabo Bob's, a fantastic pick-your-own Mexican place in Austin & haven't looked back since.  It takes tacos to a whole other level.  In my opinion, just a few pieces of squash in this particular pork taco is insanely good.  Just try it; it's worth tasting.  If you don't like it, you can slough it off as one of those 'weird' Austin things.   But if you love it, you can thank me by sharing with your friends. :)

These tacos were good. Real good.  The pork was juicy, packed with green chili flavor & spicy enough to make you happy, but not so hot your mouth burns.  Just right.  If you like to kick things up to another heat level, I suggest going with the 'hot' 505 Southwestern Sauces Green Chili Sauce.    

505 Southwestern Sauces can be purchased at your neighborhood H-E-B.

Monday, June 16, 2014

My May learning Kelsey Nixon's Kitchen Confidence: All the Dishes in 1 Place!

Wow, May flew by!  I can't tell you how much I loved getting in the kitchen & diving into all of the delicious, flexible & approachable recipes in Kelsey Nixon's new cookbook, Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything (Clarkson Potter, $19.99).

Kelsey Nixon's Kitchen Confidence

For 31 days I scoured through this cookbook, trying several recipes & flagging countless more to try later.  Everything that I made was tasty, easy to put together & worthy of going into regular menu rotation.  The book is also filled with helpful hints & variations that any level of cook will appreciate.    
Check out what I thought about each of my Kitchen Confidence explorations by clicking on any of the links below.  And to try out one of Kelsey's dishes yourself, be sure to read my post on the Lemon-Scented Chicken Thighs, it includes the recipe!

Charred Corn Salad

Charred Corn Salad

Pot Roast

Pot Roast

Roasted Tomato Soup & Cheesy Croutons

Roasted Tomato Soup & Cheesy Croutons

Twice Baked Potatoes

Lemon-Scented Chicken Thighs *Recipe Included*

Lemon-Scented Chicken Thighs

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dressed to Impress Chicken Thighs *Recipe Included*: My May learning Kelsey Nixon's Kitchen Confidence

One of my favorite things to do with a free evening or Saturday afternoon is to catch up on my weekly DVR'd shows while messing around in my craft room.  Cooking Channel's Kitchen Essentials hosted by Kelsey Nixon is always on my list of TV to watch.  Her approachable style & unique flavor combinations keep me coming back episode after episode.

So, when I saw that she was coming out with a cookbook, Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything (Clarkson Potter, $19.99), I was really excited.  For the entire month of May, I'm diving in & devouring Kitchen Confidence.  For 31 days, I'll be making dishes from Kelsey Nixon's book & writing about them here.

Lemon-Scented Chicken Thighs

I know that's it's technically past May, but the last few weeks have been a little crazy for us.  Throw in a sick husband & it equaled us not getting much of anything accomplished. So, think of this post as a bonus. :)  I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to share this final dish with you, it's so good.  This is a wonderful meal to make for a special night at home, and stunning enough to serve to guests.  It's a great go-to for when you want a little something extra, but not a ton of work.

Kelsey Nixon & her team were even kind enough to let me share the recipe, so you can make these awesome chicken thighs yourself!

 Y'all, this dish has everything going for it.  A total 10.  The chicken thighs were so meaty & juicy.  The veggies were cooked to perfection; there was just a bit of bite left to the carrots & the potatoes were just soft enough to be creamy.  And the baguette croutons that were mixed throughout the dish, oh wow.  They elevated the meal to something really special.  

I also loved that the lemon & thyme flavors were present but not too overpowering.  There was just enough citrus to make it fresh & allow the rest of the ingredients really pop.

I only wish we had doubled the veggies & croutons.  They were so tasty I could've eaten an entire pan.  We will so be making this one again & again.  And again.

Lemon-Scented Chicken Thighs 

with Crispy Croutons & Carrots

From “Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything” by Kelsey Nixon (Clarkson Potter, $19.99)

1/2 baguette, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 lb. small red potatoes, halved
Canola Oil
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 3lbs. total)
Kosher salt & cracked black pepper
1 large yellow onion, sliced
6 garlic cloves, smashed
3/4 lb. baby carrots
2 lemons, cut into wedges
Small bunch thyme sprigs

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Put the baguette cubes on a baking sheet.  Bake until dried out, about 10 minutes.  Remove the bread cubes & let cool.  Leave the oven on & increase the temperature to 425 degrees.

Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a pot, cover with salted water & bring to a boil.  Cook until barely fork-tender, 10 minutes.  Drain & let cool.

Set a 14-inch heavy oven-proof skillet over high heat & coat with canola oil.  Season the chicken thighs with salt & pepper.  Working in batches, if necessary, sear the chicken, skin side down, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.  Flip & cook the second side for 2 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the onion to the skillet, season with salt & cook until translucent and softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic & cook for 1 minute.  Add the baguette cubes, potatoes, carrots, lemon wedges & thyme; season with salt & pepper.  Toss everything in the fat (add an additional glug of oil if the pan looks dry.)  Arrange the chicken thighs on top of the vegetable and crouton  mixture.

Bake until the thighs are cooked through & reach 160 degrees on a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh, about 20 minutes.

To serve, divide chicken and vegetables evenly among 4 plates or serve the dish family-style at the table.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Movie Night Nachos: 505 Southwestern Sauces Review

Please note that I was sent 505 Southwestern Sauces for review.  While I was given 505 Southwestern Sauces, all thoughts & opinions are honest & my own.

Movie Night Nachos

One of our favorite ways to spend an evening is with a movie.  It's enjoyable, low-stress & do-able, even on a weeknight.  Whether it's something on Netflix we can snuggle up with, a Friday night at the theater or even a classic on cable to pass the time on a lazy Sunday, we're usually in.  Every once in a while, I like to make a fun, laid-back, eat-with-your-hands kind of dinner that we can enjoy on the couch with a good flick.

A few weeks ago I was sent a box of goodies from 505 Southwestern Sauces.  I was so excited to try these sauces made exclusively with chilies from the Hatch Valley of New Mexico!  They are also all natural, & gluten & trans fat free.  Bonus: you can feel good, not guilty, about eating these.

A recent evening spent at home was the perfect time to try out the Chipotle Honey Roasted Green Chile Salsa.  Movie Night also turned into Nacho Night.  And it was really good. 

I really rolled out the supreme carpet for these nachos. While I was making up the queso (classic Velveeta & Rotel mix), I sauteed up stew meat in a little beer & chili powder.  The beer really tenderized the beef & made it so juicy.  I also diced up a avocado, tomato & lettuce...which makes this 'healthy,' right?  The sweet, savory, just a bit spicy salsa was the ultimate topper to our queso-covered, steak adorned nachos.  Each bite had so much flavor.

If you know me well, you know that I cannot take alot of heat.  I am a lifelong Texan, but I lack the desire for my mouth to be on chile-infused fire.  This salsa was just right for me.  The smokiness of the chipotle shined & the honey gave it a great balance.  You can really taste that the veggies have been slow roasted, which is key in my book.

This simple, delicious meal made a night at home a box office hit.

 Chipotle Honey Roasted Green Chile Salsa along with all of the other members of the 505 Southwestern Sauces family can be found on the shelves of your local H-E-B.