New Blog Space

For those of you still interested in following my blog, I’ve moved to Blogger. You can find my blog here.

Thanks!

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To anyone who reads or follows my blog, I would like to apologize for my lengthy absence.  I’ve had some health issues and that combined with school have kept me from doing any posting.  Plus, lets face it, I’m probably not the best at knowing how to keep up with a blog – any tips?

I know the link to the owls doesn’t work.  Apple has cut their web hosting service, so I no longer have a website and I’m not sure where to host my images. If someone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them.  I thought of using Flickr, but my files are usually .pdf format, so I’m not sure if that would work

I’m trying to get my health issues under control, but it’s difficult.  I have fibromyalgia, PCOS with abnormal uterine bleeding, anxiety, depression, and a former back injury that prevents me from walking around for too long at a time.  I know… I’m a mess.  I’m taking Cymbalta and it helps with the depression and anxiety, but does nothing for the fibro pain.  I have some good days and a lot of bad ones.

Anyway, again, I’m sorry for the long absence.  I want to make this blog work and part of that is being creative and trying new things to show you. I hope to be able to do just that after the new year.  I’m taking some online classes through Craftsy.com, so perhaps I’ll have some projects to show you soon.  I will also try to post some of my crochet projects.

 

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

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Apologies for my absence

I just wanted to submit a formal apology for my lack of posts lately.  I have been immersed in personal and healthy issues for the past few weeks and coupled with the heat here in Tacoma, just haven’t felt like doing much of anything.

However!… The weather is finally calming down and I’m feeling up to baking again.  I recently got some new Cricut cartridges for my Imagine as well, so I anticipate making some Autumn, Halloween, and Thanksgiving decorations and cards in the next few weeks after I get the craft room set up (and cleaned) better.

I also found it very taxing to post every single day and have come to the realization that most other bloggers don’t do this.  Some of my favorite bloggers only seem to post every few days with the occasional slew of daily posts when they are particularly active.  So with that, I think I will take it easy a bit and will stop trying to post every single day in the hope that when I do post, what I have to say will feel more substantive.

Cheers,
L

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Beef and Bleu Burger

While my husband hates bleu cheese in any form or application, I *love* it.  Love, Love, Love.  I love it on salads and burgers most of all.  Nothing beats a thick, beefy burger with bleu cheese dressing (and bacon if you have it) – except maybe a bacon avocado cheeseburger!

So tonight, because I had bleu cheese, some caramelized onions, and beef left over from previous dinners, I thought hey, what the heck.  I’ll make a bleu cheese burger for myself and a regular burger for Bryan.

I whipped up a little bit of bleu cheese dressing for the burger and realized it was probably a tiny bit too much, so munched on lettuce leaves (also leftover) dipped in the dressing.  Mmm, scrumptious.  It made me realize something:  I don’t have salad with bleu cheese often enough and I should have it a lot more.  Beginning… now!

I added the carmelized onions to my burger, but also came to another realization:  I really don’t care for them on bleu cheese burgers.  I much prefer smoky bacon over sweet onions.  So next time, I think I’ll crisp up two slices of applewood smoked bacon and crumble those on top.  I’m starting to drool.

Beef and Bleu Burger
Serves 1 healthy appetite

Dressing

4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1-2 tablespoons milk (to desired consistency)
Pinch each – black pepper and onion powder
Bleu cheese, crumbled (about 3 tablespoons)

Combine all ingredients except bleu cheese in a bowl or a mini-prep food processor. Blend or pulse to combine.  Add bleu cheese and either smoosh it in by hand or blend very briefly so you mix in the bleu cheese, but still have some chunks and bits left over.

If you really love bleu cheese dressing, you can make any amount of this dressing you want.  2 parts mayo, 1 part each sour cream and milk (less milk for a thicker dressing). Add onion powder, black pepper to taste, then add however much bleu cheese you want!

Burger (On to the main event!)

1/3 – 1/2lb ground chuck (mine was probably closer to 1/2lb), formed into a patty and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 Hamburger bun, seeded or not
Lettuce leaves
Tomato slices
Bleu cheese crumbles (optional, if you want even more bleu cheese deliciousness)
Bacon bits or slices (optional)
Bleu cheese dressing
Caramelized onions (optional – see my In-N-Out recipe here for instructions)

Grill or pan fry your burger to desired doneness.  Just before burgers are done, place bun on grill and toast until medium golden brown.

On top bun, spoon desired amount of dressing (I glopped mine on nice and thick).  Then place lettuce and tomato.  Set aside.

On bottom bun, spoon more dressing, if desired, and place cooked patty on top.  Top with bleu cheese crumbles, bacon, and onions, if using.  Place previously prepared bun on top and voila… nom nom nom.

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Irish Beef Stew with Stout

This delicious Irish-inspired beef stew was so good, both Bryan and I had seconds.  That never happens in this house – we usually scarf down our meal and save the rest for lunch the next day.  If we’re still hungry after dinner, we have some kind of dessert or snack on something.

But.  The tender chunks of beef and the rich sauce all made for a comforting meal on what felt like a fall night.  It was windy and chilly last night and I could swear fall is just around the corner.  Don’t worry, I’m not complaining.  I would love for fall to be here and last 5 months, but I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of summer yet.

I wanted to get pictures of the stew, but ran into two problems.

1.  Pictures of beef stew aren’t very appetizing.  It’s a brown, chunky looking dish that, well, looks like dog food to be frank.

2.  For some reason, the steam interfered with my shots.  They turned out either fuzzy, steamy with glare, or had weird lines in them as if the camera couldn’t record the image properly.

So, I am left without pictures, but with an amazing recipe.  It’s another one of those precise recipes that requires you to accurately measure out ingredients.  Not.

Bryan said he would have liked some potatoes in the mixture, but my pot couldn’t have handled anything more added to it.  I had originally intended on serving it over mashed potatoes, but the stew was so thick I didn’t think it needed anything else.  I guess I was wrong!

Irish Beef Stew
Serves 2 very hungry people or 4 normal people

About 1.5-2lbs chuck roast, cut into 2″ cubes
1/2 cup flour seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon each, salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil

1 very large onion (about the size of a grapefruit), cut in half with ends removed, then thinly sliced from root to tip
1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 very large clove)
1 12oz bottle stout beer (I chose one that was dark and rich with chocolate and caramel notes)
6oz sliced mushrooms – any kind you want

3 beef bouillon cubes dissolved in 2 cups hot water
1 heaping spoonful tomato paste (about 2 tablespoons)

Fresh thyme to taste (about 1 tablespoon)

Start by coating the beef with the flour mixture.  Set aside.  In a large, heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Brown beef in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan.  Turn meat over to brown evenly and remove to a bowl or plate. Continue browning meat in batches until all meat is browned.

If the pan is dry, add a bit more oil.  Add sliced onions and cook until translucent and golden brown.  Add garlic and mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms have released their liquid and onions are starting to caramelize.

Reduce heat to a simmer.  Deglaze pan with 8oz of the stout (leaving the rest for you to drink!), scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add beef back to pan and stir to combine. Add beef bouillon/water mixture to pan and stir.  Add tomato paste.

Cook over low heat until meat is tender – about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.  Stir in fresh thyme leaves (you can also use dried – use half the amount called for and add them in with the bouillon) and cook another 5-10 minutes.  Serve alone, with crusty French bread, or over mashed potatoes.

Note:  Most Irish stews seem to have carrots in them.  I didn’t have any, so mine didn’t. But feel free to add some baby carrots to yours if you have them.  Add them in when you add the mushrooms and continue as usual.

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In-N-Out Burger Clone

So last night, I finally got around to trying the In-N-Out burger clone recipe found here.  I have to say it was a pain in the ass to make and was really messy.  That mustard-grilling thing splattered mustard *everywhere*.  BUT.  They were really good.  I think with a few tweaks, we’d have a really viable clone.  It needed more sauce and more mustard, but they were yummy and were quickly gobbled up.  It’s no wonder In-N-Out wraps theres in paper – our burgers literally fell apart without wrapping.  The onions slid off as did the lettuce, but still.  Did I mention they were good?

I ground my own beef as ordered, made my own caramelized onions (ahead of time), and did most things the same as the recipe.  But I didn’t have the thick-sliced cheese and used regular American slices.  I don’t think it made a huge difference, though.  The cheese was meltingly delicious as it was.  The biggest issue, as I mentioned, was the lack of enough sauce and mustard.  The sauce recipe was supposed to serve two, but we had leftovers – which means we didn’t use enough on the burgers.  I also felt it needed more of a mustardy flavor.  I never realized how that was missing from my previous attempts, but it really was.  It lends a lot to the finished burger.  I used Trader Joe’s white buns because, for some ungodly reason, our version of Arnold (Oroweat here) buns don’t come in plain old white.  WTF… seriously?  They only have sesame, potato, and whole wheat.  Whatever.  Next time, I might even make my own as I’ve heard In-N-Out makes their own and it’s similar to a light brioche bun.

Oh how I do miss the original, though.  Nothing beats heading down to In-N-Out and grabbing a double double and fries.  If we didn’t just buy a house in Tacoma last year, I think I’d really push for Bryan to get a job in California.  Yes, just so we could have In-N-Out again.  They are that good.  The abundance of Trader Joe’s stores doesn’t hurt, either.

Almost In-N-Out Burgers
Serves 2

1/2 pound fresh beef chuck with plenty of fat, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
2 soft Hamburger buns, preferably Arnold brand
Freshly ground black pepper
8 dill pickles chips
2 quarter-inch-thick slices ripe tomato
2 leaves fresh iceberg lettuce, white core section removed, torn to bun-sized pieces
1/4 cup yellow mustard
4 slices American Cheese

If using a meat grinder: Place feed shaft, blade, and 1/4-inch die of meat grinder in freezer until well-chilled. Meanwhile, place meat chunks on rimmed baking sheet, leaving space between each piece and place in freezer for 10 minutes until meat is firm.

Combine meat in large bowl and toss to combine. Grind meat and refrigerate immediately until ready for use. Handle as gently as possible. Proceed with step three below.

If using a food processor: Place bowl and blade of food processor in freezer until well-chilled. Meanwhile, place meat chunks on rimmed baking sheet, leaving space between each piece, and place in freezer for 10 minutes until meat is firm, but not frozen.

Combine meat in large bowl and toss to combine. Working in two batches, place meat cubes in food processor and pulse until medium-fine grind is achieved, about 8 to 10 one-second pulses, scraping down processor bowl as necessary. Refrigerate ground meat immediately until ready for use. Handle as gently as possible.

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees while you cook the onions: Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt to skillet. Reduce heat to medium low, and cook, tossing and stirring occasionally until onions are well browned, about 15 minutes. Once onions begin to sizzle heavily and appear dry, add 1 tablespoon water to skillet and stir. Continue cooking until water evaporates and onions start sizzling again. Repeat process, adding 1 tablespoon of water with each iteration until onions are meltingly soft and dark brown, about 3 times total. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Make the sauce: Combine mayonnaise, ketchup, relish, sugar, and vinegar in small bowl. Stir to combine.

Place closed buns in preheated oven for 2 minutes until slightly darkened and crisped. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in 12-inch non-stick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat until shimmering. Open buns and add face-down to skillet. Toast until dark brown around the edges, about 1 minute total.

Form ground beef into four 2-ounce patties, using damp hands to press each into a patty about 3/16ths of an inch thick and 4 inches wide. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil to pan, swirl to coat, and heat over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. Add burger patties and cook without moving until well browned and crusty on first side, about 2 1/2 minutes. While they are cooking, spread 1 tablespoon mustard on raw side of each patty with a spoon. Meanwhile, top each bottom bun with up half of spread, 4 slices pickles, 1 slice tomato, and lettuce. Flip patties with a thin spatula so mustard side is down and continue to cook for 1 minute. Top each patty with a slice of cheese. Divide onion mixture evenly between two patties. Place the other two patties directly on top of the onions , sandwiching them between the beef. Transfer patty stacks to bottom bun. Top with top bun, and serve immediately.

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Two Salads

So… remember how I was saying I would do at least one thing every day.  Well, I haven’t forgotten about that!  I did do something yesterday, I just didn’t post about it until today.

This is where you say, “ok, well what did you do today then?”

Um, well, about that…

See, all day today, I spent researching my family’s ancestry.  So I did actually do something, but nothing I can actually post about… yet.  Eventually, I’ll post a link or maybe some images of what I’ve found so far (and it’s a lot, let me tell you – my paternal grandmother’s side of the family really knows how to breed).

Anyway, back to last night.

Since I really did two things last night (for the price of one), I feel my sort-of lack of doing anything today is somewhat justified.  Or at least a little ok.  Maybe.  Right?

“What did you do last night that was so great” you ask?

Well, first, I made this scrumptious chicken salad for dinner.  It was *so good* I can’t even explain it.  You just have to try it – unfortunately, you’ll need a Trader Joe’s nearby or a really good recipe for a dressing that can approximate theirs.  But try it, you won’t be sorry.  It was so good our plates were totally clean afterwards.

 

 

Second, I used the leftover chicken breast and made Bryan his lunch for tomorrow – a Thai-inspired noodle salad with cabbage, cilantro, and peanut dressing.  I made mine with leftover flank steak from the steak salad Saturday.  I have to say that next time, I’d use rice noodles (the thin ones) or at least angel hair pasta.  Spaghetti, especially whole wheat, is just too thick for a salad like this, I think.  The peanut dressing is also from Trader Joe’s, but I’d imagine any similar dressing would work.  I’ve made similar salads before just by combining some peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, honey or brown sugar, and chile flakes.  Thin with a little water and you’re good.  It’s really done just to your own taste.

Now on to dinner…

Spring Greens with Chicken, Bleu Cheese, Candied Walnuts, Pears, and Pear Gorgonzola Vinaigrette 

Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a starter
Note:  This is another really precise recipe!

1 Bag spring greens
2 Small chicken breasts, cooked and diced (I simmered mine in water, then
browned them, but you could grill them or use rotisserie chicken)
1 pear, diced
Bleu Cheese (about 2 tablespoons per person)
Candied Walnuts (1 small handful per person – I got these at TJ’s)
Trader Joe’s Champagne Pear Vinaigrette with Gorgonzola (to taste)

Divide the bag of greens among 2 dinner plates (4 salad plates for a starter).

Sprinkle diced chicken and pears over greens.  Sprinkle bleu cheese and walnuts to taste.

Drizzle dressing over salads and serve.

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