Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chicken chorizo

I have only had chicken chorizo once and it was in an omelet on one of my very worst days but somehow I remembered that chicken chorizo.  It was a food that just stuck out in my mind in a good way and I wanted to recreate it.  Yesterday we spent most of the day down the hill.  Our cat Shadow was broken and we got her fixed but that is a different story.  ;)  While we were waiting on Shadow we went to Bass Pro Shops and hung out and drooled.  We ended up looking at sausage making equipment, books, spices and kits.  Since I was spending money getting Shadow fixed I wasn't spending money there but took full of advantage of everything we could read. 

We found out that alot of chicken sausages are made from fully cooked sausage and it oddly we had fully cooked and shredded chicken legs at home so today I got the grinder out and started grinding the chicken.  I will tell you it looks kinda funny when it comes out.  It reminded me of baby food but it tastes just like deviled chicken which I love.  So without any further rambling here is the recipe.

Chicken Chorizo ~ Jenn's way

9+ lbs. shredded dark meat chicken
heavy 1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup minced dried onions
1/8 cup minced dried garlic
1/8 cup cumin
1/8 cup paprika
1/8 cup dried cilantro
2 Tbsp kosher salt
16-20 grinds of pepper
1 heaping Tbsp tomato powder
1 cup chicken stock
3 eggs

Start by grinding your cooked chicken.  If you want you could even use a food processor for this step.  Just make sure it is all evenly ground or processed.  Then the fun starts...  throw everything in a large bowl and start combining.  This can take some time.  I mixed most of it in by hand but finished with the Kitchen Aid and the paddle attachment.   Take a small ball and flatten and cook on griddle or non stick skillet and taste.  Adjust seasoning and then shape by hand or  put into sausage casings.  We did it both ways. 

One thing to note is that there is very little fat so you are going to want to use some non stick spray to cook it.  I have two large sausages in casings that I froze but I also used it tonight on our Indian fry bread.  The chicken is very light but really does hold it's own.   Give it a try and let me know what you think.

BTW ~ I am pretty sure I saw an electric grinder that does everything except tell the meat to jump into it.  Hmmm... how to bribe Santa...  I think Jenn might just need that... 

Menu planning, my new goal

I have found that if I make a menu I not only save money on food but I also am able to serve a more balanced and complete meal with less hassle and time.  However, the draw back is always taking the time to write up a menu... oh yeah, and then sticking to it...

This month I decided I was really going to work on menu planning and sticking to it.  The challenge I gave myself was making a menu for a full month that required very few if any trips to the grocery store.  I think I did a very good job for February.  I started out by making a menu for the rest of January which was only 6 days and then just kept expanding from there. 

So far dinner has been on the table at a decent time and I have heard nothing but compliments from the boys.  I wasn't going to post this here but then I decided that someone else might be in need of dinner ideas so why not share?

End of January

Meatloaf with mashed potatoes, green beans and country gravy
Spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic bread (homemade sourdough french bread... yum)
Split pea soup with leftover garlic bread
BBQ chicken with baked  potatoes and garlic green beans
Indian fry bread pizzas with chicken chorizo and beans
Spicy chicken tacos with rice and beans

*I have tried to think ahead and make things as easy as possible for myself.  When we BBQ'd the chicken I did 2 whole chickens that Curt had cut up.  We did half of the chicken with BBQ sauce and the other half with a yummy red sauce that Curt made.   The best thing about this menu was that I never had to run to the store.  I used my non fat homemade yogurt in place of sour cream and homemade salsa.  The boys have been happy and I have very few leftovers which makes me happy since it means less science experiments in my fridge. 

Stay tuned for February's menu. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

True Love mini album

This album was so much fun and it was really easy to do.  I plan to use it for pictures of Curt and I throughout the year.  Here is what you will need:

5 pieces double sided cardstock (I used We R Memory Keepers comstock collection)
embellishments ( I used buttons, rhinestones, rubons and flowers)
Mini heart album (M's find $1 or you could make your own)
Ring or BIA
craft knife
sanding block
quick tacky glue

To start I covered both sides of the hearts with cardstock and then heavily sanded the edges.  Don't forget to cut where the holes are to allow the ring if using.

For the first time since I discovered chalk I left the edges alone... it was craziness but I really liked the effect.  After your pages are covered it is time to embellish and have fun!  Use whatever you want to create the album.  The more personalized the better!   Since this album is for pictures of Curt and I, I wanted something not overly girly but kinda romantic all the same.  I really had fun with this and can't wait to fill it with pictures of us.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Name Plaque

Here is a super easy little gift to make and shhh... it's inexpensive too!

Name plaque (available at M's for under $1)
sand paper
craft paint
Scrap cardstock
Die cut machine or stencils and scissors
Modge Podge
Clear spray paint
Ribbon if desired

This is what we are going to create

Start by sanding any rough edges and then cover with craft paint.  This may take a couple coats to fully cover.  While you are waiting for the paint to dry cut out your lettering and any shapes you wish to use.  I used MTC to cut the letters, ladybug, and leaves.   I chalked the leaves and used a scoring tool to add some dimension.  

Once the paint was dry I covered it with Modge Podge and then attached the cardstock piece.  I used a small pop dot to raise up the lady bug.  I put on a total of 3 coats of Modge Podge and then painted the white dots with a toothpick.  After everything is fully dry coat with atleast 2 coats of clear spray paint. 

You can add a ribbon to the back to hang on a wall.  Have fun and please share if you try this.

Spicy Mexican Soup

I meant to make tortilla soup but ran out of time to make tortillas.  I decided to improvise and just kinda wing it.  This soup was a huge hit and will become a winter staple for us.  The best part is you can use your food storage for this if you like.  Ok, let's get started.


2 half chicken breasts, cooked and shredded             
3 cups black beans, cooked but not drained
4 cups chicken broth
1 chopped bell pepper
1 chopped onion
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 cans diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1-2 finely chopped jalapenos
1/4 cup water
4 Tbsp corn meal
Chili powder
Cilantro (chopped)

Optional toppings
sour cream

Combine everything except corn meal, water and cilantro in large pot and let simmer about 20 minutes.  Soak the cornmeal in the 1/4 cup of water while the soup simmers.  After 20 minutes add in the cornmeal mix and let simmer another 15 minutes.  Add the chopped cilantro, top as desired and serve. 

This can be served with either corn or flour tortillas (I strongly recommend you make your own), corn bread or on it's own.   Try this soup it will make your life better or at least it will spice up your winter.

To use your food storage use

1 1/2 cups dried black beans cooked
1 pint canned chicken
1/4 cup dried bell peppers
1/4 cup dried chopped onion
1/8 cup dried garlic
1 qt tomatoes
Substitute canned chipoltle for the jalapeno (unless you are growing jalapenos)
*For the broth either used canned broth, bouillon cubes or the juice from the canned chicken with enough water to make 4 cups.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I admit it.... I am in love with lard

Yes it is true.  I found lard and I am in love.  I am sure you are wondering how I came to fall in love with something that sounds soo disgusting.  Well, it all started when I found  She is my hero.   I love her recipes, I love her stories and now I love lard. 

What I think you need to do (yes I said need).  Is follow this link  and make these tortillas.  I am telling you it will change your life or atleast the way you think about tortillas.  I have made the recipe several times using good old Crisco but I decided to live on the wild side and buy some good old lard.  I am soo glad I did.  I am never buying tortillas again!  Seriously they are that good.  I can not stop thinking of all the delicious food I can create using these tortillas. 

I am sure tonight my dreams will be full of cheeses, sauces and hearty fillings to go into these wonderous, tasty and I am sure low cal tortillas.  Please try these, your family will thank you.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Toddler Stool

This stool is soo cute!  I needed a Christmas gift for my nephew Diesel and this is what I came up with. 

So here is what you need to make this:

1 small wooden stool (Get it at M's with a coupon)
Sand paper in various grades
Craft paint in your choice of colors
Patterned paper 2 sheets 12x12
Solid cardstock 3 colors
Cricut or other die cut system (or a pair of scissors and stencils)
Modge Podge
Clear spray paint

Start by sanding all of the rough edges.  Wipe clean with a soft cloth and paint.  This might take a couple coats.  I attached PP to the top with Modge Podge and then used sand paper to remove the excess after the Modge Podge is completely dry.  Trust me you don't want to try it while it is wet!  While that is drying cut out your letters and or shapes.  Attach card stock letters or shapes to the stool with more Modge Podge.  At this point I decided I wanted to make the stool slightly more rustic so I took my sandpaper and roughed up the edges and chalked around the top.  I also "burned" through the paper on the top of stool with my sand paper and then chalked around that. 

When you are happy with the stool add one more coat of Modge Podge and let dry thoroughly.  When it is dry spray with 2-3 coats clear spray paint.

Here is the finished product....  well actually here is Diesel but you get the idea.

This is a great gift that can be made for under $5.00 with a coupon.  Have fun!

"Food of Love" part 2

2 new sausage recipes and these might be even better than the first one!

Cilanto Spiced Sausage

2 1/2 lb of ground pork
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1 Tbsp dried minced garlilc
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper
1 bunch of fresh cilantro

Mix all powders together. Finely chop cilantro or chop in food processor stalks and all. Mix pork, powders, and cilantro. Regrind mixture if using a meat grinder. Fry up a small patty to check flavor and spiciness. The flavor will intensify over time. Divide into 1/2 pound packages or stuff into casings, then freeze. Let stand in freezer for atleast a week.

Apple Pecan Sausage

2 1/2 lbs ground pork
1 large apple cut into 1/4" cubes
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground clove
2 pinches salt

Cut apple into 1/4" cubes, smaller if you are not using a meat grinder. Mix pork and apple together. Add pecans, spices, and salt. Regrind mixture if using a meat grinder. Fry up a small patty to check flavor. Package as above.

If you like or love these recipes they are mine.  If however, you do not, well then they are Curt's recipes.  Enjoy and please tell us what you think! 

Sinfully Good Cinnamon Rolls

This dough recipe comes from my wonderfully talented friend Deb.  This recipe has been used many times for many different purposes.  Yesterday, while I was feeling a bit out of control, I decided to take this recipe and make cinnamon rolls with some delightfully decadent additions.  By the time I got around to trying one I had also covered them in cream cheese icing.   So here we go.

The Dough

2 pkgs dry yeast
2/3 cup of sugar divided
1 cup warm water
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup margerine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs beaten
6-7 cups all purpose flour

Dissolve yeast and 1 tsp sugar in 1 cup warm water; let stand about 5 minutes.  Combine remaining sugar, salt, margerine and shortening in a large bowl.  Add boiling water and stir until butter and shortening melt.  Cool slightly.  Add dissolved yeast, stirring well.  Add eggs and 3 cups of flour, beating at medium speed of electric mixer until smooth.  Gradually stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.  Place in a well greased bowl, turning to grease the top.  Cover and let rise until doubled in size.  Punch dough down and place on well floured surface.  Divide dough in half and set one half aside.  Roll the dough out into a large rectangle about a 1/4" thick.  Now here comes the fun part.

Spread your dough with some softened butter and then sprinkle with a cinnamon sugar mixture.  When you are done with that grab some chocolate chips and some chopped nuts.  I like pecans.  Cover the cinnamon mixture with the chocolate chips and pecans.  You could also sprinkle on some brown sugar and coconut.  Once you feel your cinnamon rolls are sufficiently sinful go ahead and roll them up starting at the wide side.  After it is rolled slice into about 1 1/2" slices and place into buttered baking dish.  Cover with a dish towel and let rise about 30 minutes until doubled in size.  Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or just until the tops are golden brown. 

After the rolls have cooled slightly you can either eat them as is or you can be bad like me and cover them in cream cheese icing.  Either way is delicious and is a wonderful treat at the end of a long day or at the start of what is sure to be a long day.  Just make sure you have a fresh pot of coffee to enjoy with your rolls.

*This dough can also be used for wonderful dinner rolls which is what I did with the other half of the dough or it can be turned into some wonderful light buns great for making sandwhiches.  I like to make up a pan of cinnamon rolls and a pan of dinner rolls before we go camping.  The cinnamon rolls are a great way to start the day and the rolls are fantastic with some hobo stew making the perfect end to the day.

Kids, Kittens and Chaos!

Oh what a day yesterday was...  As some of you may know I have a lot of nieces and nephews 9 to be exact.  In my infinite wisdom I offered to babysit 7 of them in my house.  By doing this I brought the number of children in my 700 sq. ft. house to 9.  Oh yea I am not the brightest crayon in the box. 

To be on the safe side I put the kittens (who are a bit scared of small children) into my room where they would be safe.  Little did I know that my room would not be safe.  The kids all came over and I promptly told them to go outside and play in the snow that was left.  I kept the 2 youngest in the house with me.  It seemed that just a few seconds had gone by and I had children coming back in claiming they were "bored" I told them that were not bored and needed to go back outside.  I had almost convinced them when I heard a strange sound that was followed by "Aunt Jenn what is this?"  I turned around to see my youngest niece with her fingers in my BIA about to push the handle down.  I explained that it was a finger chopper offer and that it should be left alone. 

After several deep breaths I began looking around to see what else could possibly get these kiddos into trouble.  I quickly realized I didn't need to look around they would find the items for me if given time.  I quickly grabbed the ATG out of my youngest nephews hands.  Who knew that scrapbooking could cause so much trouble.  I rushed around moving everything that had now been deemed dangerous out of reach of the little ones.  Whew!  I was in good shape now just in time for all of the kids to come back and announce that once again they were bored but now they were "starving" too.  Lunchtime was here and I was prepared....

Ok so I only thought I was prepared.  I got out the bread and started slicing.  18 slices was good, 1/2 pint of jelly and peanut butter with some sliced apples.   Good to go right? Wrong.   My table seats 4 on a good day and today was not a good day so there was only room for 2 this led everyone to believe that they could eat on my couch... Um no!  I ended up with 7 little ones on the living room floor eating pb&j and sliced apples.  I was sure eventually I would get it all cleaned up but now was not the time to think about that.  I sent them all into the boys room to play Playstation together.  What could go wrong?

In a word, everything.  For some odd reason the 9 year old girl and the 15 year old boy didn't want to play the same game.  Who woulda thunk it?  Eventually we got some of them playing, some of them complaining and 2 of them napping.  Things were going good.  After awhile I sent them all out to play again minus the 2 sleepy heads.  Of course they came back in and they were "starving".  Starving?  Really we just ate!  It seems these kids along with mine are bottomless pits.  The fresh baked bread right out of the oven was in there sights and it took a major battle of wills to save the bread.  The tomatoes in the dehydrator were not as lucky. 

The boys decided it was paper airplane time.  Oh good there is nothing like paper airplanes flying around your incredibly small house that is full of small bodies.  After yelling "stop throwing those you will put out an eye" the kids retreated to the boys room again.  I knew we were safe now.  My brother would be home any minute to pick up his kids and then I would get something accomplished.  Of course when Curt called my brother to find out where they were we found out they were still at the movies.  Hmmmm, what am I going to do now?

I decided the best course of action for the moment was asprin and another pot of coffee.  This led to one of my nephew's asking why I drank soo much coffee.  I told him it was because I loved them all soo much I wanted to have plenty of energy.  I think he may have bought it.

We sent the kids back to the boys room with a movie that we thought they could all agree on.  Once again however that didn't work as planned.  We ended up with most of them watching the movie and Uncle Curt playing with the rest of them.   My brother showed up to the relief of everyone, children included.   As the kids all walked out the door I smiled and told my brother that I would be happy to babysit again but next time it would be at his house and not mine.  He smiled and said he understood.  I had babysat for a total of 8 hours however, with 9 children I believe that was equal to a 32 hour babysitting shift.

The kittens were released from their makeshift prison and we ate dinner and spent a couple hours relaxing and enjoying the quiet.  Curt and I soon realized we were exhausted and headed to bed.  Now here comes the best part.  Smoke the kitten found the dog treats I had in my room.  They were meant to be a Christmas gift for Amarri but I forgot.  Smoke decided they were kitten treats and tried to eat them on my bed.  These are red colored dog treats so my ivory sheets look like they were home to small scale massacre.  Of course eventually the treat rolled off of the bed and onto the floor where it unfortunately landed on a stack of scrap paper that was set aside.  I guess Smoke decided that maybe the paper was an even better treat so he ate the corners off of the paper.  While picking up all of the pieces of paper I realized my jewelery box that Trevor made me some 10 years ago was not on the nightstand.   Hmmm, can you guess where it was?  Yes it was under the bed and now I have several hours of untangling necklaces to look forward to. 

The joys of being a mom, an aunt and a kitten owner know no bounds. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Homemade sausage or "Food of Love"

I truly believe that homemade foods taste better because in the words of Curt "you can taste the love".  That is only one of the reasons we started making our own sausage.  With prices being what they are sausage didn't always fit in the budget and it was missed.  After lots of trial and error we have gotten pretty darn good at it.  Yesterday we came up with a new recipe and our niece came over to learn how to make sausage.  We had a good time and she was a great helper.  I should have taken pictures. 

Sundried Tomato Italian Parmesan Sausage

2 1/2 lbs of fresh ground pork
1/4 cup ground sun dried tomatoes
1/4 cup good Italian seasoning
1/8 cup of good grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp roasted red pepper and garlic seasoning
2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Combine all your seasonings together and stir well.  Sprinkle over your ground pork and work in with your hands.  After it seems to be mixed in I run it through the meat grinder one more time it seems to combine it more evenly.  Now comes the best part.  Make a small patty with the sausage and cook it up and taste it.  If you are happy with the taste you can either shape your sausage or bag it up in bulk.  If you feel it needs more seasoning then reseason but remember even in the freezer the flavor will continue to intensify.

This is a great sausage and has tons of flavor.  I shaped it into fairly large links and plan to serve them grilled on some whole grain rolls. 

Enjoy and please tell me what you think!

** A note on grinding your own meat.  I know some of you might be intimidated by the idea but it really is a money saver and it is very satisfying.  If you have a Kitchen Aid they sell a great attachment but you can also get a manual grinder for a very reasonable price.  It is a great tool to have around.  Having a meat grinder allows me to purchase meats on sale and make my own ground beef and sausage for a fraction of the cost.  If you have no interest in grinding your own meat you can purchase pre ground pork and after adding the seasoning just work it in more so that the flavors are evenly distributed.

Super Yummy Whole Wheat Waffles

I have really gotten into the whole wheat and whole grain thing.  I love the way it tastes and I really love the way whole grains fill up a teenage boy without breaking the bank.  Try these waffles!  They are light and crispy but they are hearty and filling.  It makes a great breakfast for dinner and they are quick to make.

1 3/4 cups of whole wheat flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
2 Tbsp flax meal
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg (freshly ground)
2 cups millk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla

Start heating up your waffle iron (mine takes forever to get hot).  Combine all ingredients and blend well.  Let the batter sit for about 10 minutes.  This is a great time to get some sausage cooking ;)  When your iron is ready pour the batter on and cook as usual.  In my waffle iron this recipe made 7 waffles.  I will be doubling the recipe next time so that I have leftovers for the boys.  I love having leftover waffles because that frees up time for me in the morning which means I can have an extra cup of coffee with some peace and quiet.

Some quick notes
*This recipe can be easily changed and adapted to suit your tastes.  The flours can be changed.  I started with an all purpose flour recipe and changed it so it worked for us.  Feel free to experiment.
**This recipe works fantastic for using your food storage.  Change the 2 large eggs into 2 Tbsp powdered egg, leave the milk out and add in 6 Tbsp instant dry milk and use 2 cups of water.
***The next step for this recipe is going to be trying it with finely chopped nuts.  I plan on adding in 1/2 cup of either almonds or pecans.  I will let you know what we think. 

After you try this please tell me what you think and what changes you made.  Enjoy!

A New Year

I can hardly believe it is 2011.  It seems we were just celebrating 2010.  If I really think about it though I am somehow amazed that all of the changes in our life occured in just 12 months.  It seems that life is changing so very quickly. 

I am praying that this is a much better year for everyone and that we can take the time to enjoy each and everyday we have.

In my attempt to make this a better year I am going to try to do much better with my blog.  I have not been playing with paper lately but I have been playing with my food... lol. So I will be sharing some yummy recipes with you tonight.  I am hoping once the snow has melted I will have time to get back to some paper crafts. 

I hope this new year finds all of you happy and healthy and ready to continue on.