Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. ~Philippians 4:8~

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cooking and Swagsurfing

Today I prepared a recipe from a fellow bloggie friend Nathan. His recipe for fricassee chicken  turned out to be a keeper! I provide no photos of my own, so please go over to his blog to have a look. Very similar to Mexican Arroz con Pollo, but sans the rice. I did however make a side of white rice, Cuban style, just like Nathan makes it. What a delicious meal! As always, I tweaked a couple of things, by adding mushrooms and thyme for added flavor. Other than that, I stayed true to the recipe.

It does seem as though almost all of my recent blog entries have been about cooking. Which is a good thing, because it simply means I have been inspired by so many in the world of internet blogging. And of course, since I'm already on the computer anyway, of course I also have to do a little bit of swagsurfing while I'm at it. Doesn't hurt to pad up that little nest egg with Swagbucks every chance I get.

What shall I blog about next? Probably about books or maybe sewing. Or my favorite topic: the Grandkids!  But first, a bit of housework awaits me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cooking with Yucca Flowers

This post would have looked perfect for St Patrick's Day. All because it' sooooo......green. My pictures are anyway. A couple of days ago Sweetie and I had a late breakfast, aka, brunch consisting of nopalitos which I had in the fridge. Upon further thought, I decided to add a few more ingredients, because that's just how I roll. I'm always looking to add more layers of flavor to my meals. Our little herb garden had some nice cilantro ready for cutting, and I also found some dandelion weeds. Yes, I also cut some weedy greens which were growing nicely in the garden. I wish I had found some quelite or lamb's quarters to add more greenery to my little dish. I also cut some nice spinach leaves, just a few, and mixed in a very few epazote leaves as well. Brought everything inside, and rinsed all the leaves thoroughly. Then I remembered I also had a flower stalk from a wild yucca that Sweetie had brought from the ranch a couple of days before. I had already cleaned and rinsed it, and separated all the little white petals and stored them.

While sauteeing some onions and garlic cloves, I parboiled the nopalitos and then drained out the water. Next, into the pan went all the ingredients, nopalitos and all, and carefully seasoned with salt and pepper. I added some beaten eggs, and tada! Brunch was served! You then decide if you want to eat with a fork, or you can make some nice little tacos. If made with flour tortillas, around here the tacos are called 'mariachis'. Cute name for any taco made with flour tortillas.


This photo is more of a closeup to show the yucca petals, which show as bright green, almost like little pieces of green onions. They do have an unusual taste, they remind me of what steamed cabbage tastes like. A product from nature and the wild- and they're free!

It's just something a little different from the norm we are used to eating. Sometimes we take for granted that there are lots of edible things in our surroundings which can be put to use in our cooking. As long as they are not full of pesticides or chemicals, they're pretty safe to eat. You just have to know what they are. Around here, nopalito season is in full swing. There are so many tasty recipes you can make with them. Many people use them in salads as well. It's always a good idea to try and grow your own. But to use them, you have to know how to remove the prickly needles. I still haven't mastered that technique yet. So I buy mine from the grocery store already peeled and sliced. They're not expensive per se, but they're not cheap either. That's why this year I'm going to try and learn how to do the prepping myself.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

IPhone and Azares

Things have been keeping me occupied for the most part. Things which require an awful lot of my time and attention- and which keep me from blogging. One of them, a very recent acquisition, is this handy little device:


Just one of my feeble attempts to try and stay somewhat up to date on technology- or at least not get left too far behind. It's also an early Anniversary gift from my Sweetie!

Turns out that IPhone is indeed a marvelous tool, but it's something that only young people can really take to like ducks to water. I've been spending too much time just trying to understand how to use it. I suppose it comes with being from a generation that grew up without these marvels of technology.
I'll get it- eventually.

In other news, we've been enjoying another rash of cool weather, with a few drops of rain which fell yesterday. Today, it was mostly windy and cold. Just a few days ago we were basking in days full of budding trees and blossoms everywhere. The air was filled with the intoxicating perfume of citrus flowers or 'azares' as they're called in Spanish. They are also a beautiful sight to behold! I wish everyone could smell these beauties! These are from our pomelo tree.


And once again, I am suffering from the yearly woes of the season- allergies. Hope this passes soon. Next time I hope to share photos of my herb garden. It's coming along very nicely.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Recipe for Sweet Tamales

Seeing as how I'm on a short hiatus from Swagbucks right now because in my zeal to search last night, I pressed the 'enter' button a bit too long and it was read by the site as being multiple and too quick and successive searches, ie, also called 'oversearching'. So I got the infamous 'rules' page, which is basically a little warning to lay off on the searches or risk being deactivated. So what is a girl to do when she can't be using her favorite search engine? Why Blog of course silly!

And seeing as how I've also made a new blogging buddy, who happened to ask for my recipe for sweet tamales, why that just gave me the perfect topic to post about. Nathan, this is for you! Sorry, no pictures of the finished product. Next time I make them I will be sure to take lots of photos.

Authentic Mexican Sweet Tamales


Tea for Dough

1 ½ c water

2-3 cinnamon sticks (small)

3-4 cloves

¼ tsp anise seeds

2 cones of piloncillo (dark brown sugar)

Dash of cardamom (optional)



Filling

1 pkg each of dried fruits (cherries, cranberries)

½ box of dark raisins

½ box of golden raisins

1 pkg (10-12 oz) pecan pieces (or more to taste)

1 pkg of coconut

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Rum or brandy to cover the dried fruits in bowl



Dough-(Masa)

5 lbs. of corn masa fresh from tortilleria(Molino)

1 lb box of lard

1 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1 cup mixed of raisins and dried fruit

Corn husks (about 2 pkgs)

Note: Tea and filling may be prepared up to a week in advance (stored in fridge) if desired. This makes for less work on the day you prepare the tamales.




For Tea: combine all ingredients and simmer until piloncillo melts. Strain liquid when cooled and store covered in fridge.

For Filling: combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover and store in fridge.

For Dough:

I- When ready to make tamales, thoroughly clean and rinse husks. Soak in hot water for at least 20 minutes to soften. Drain, set aside.

II- Slowly melt lard over low heat, just until melted. In mixing bowl place masa, salt and baking powder. Using batter attachment, mix, and slowly add some of the tea to mix the dough until fluffy. Add fruit and the rest of the tea and mix well, stopping mixer in between additions. Slowly add melted lard and mix gently. Continue to add the lard until dough has a very soft consistency, but is spreadable. Stop mixer and place your prepared dough in a container so you can proceed to the next step. I usually place it in a disposable aluminum roasting pan. It makes for a comfortable height to dip into for spreading. Also a snap to clean up when finished! I just discard as it will be very greasy!

III- Using a tablespoon or a serving spoon, spread dough onto the wide part of the corn husk. You can spread a few at a time, and then fill, or if you have someone to help you, one person can spread the dough onto the husks, and the other places the filling and folds the tamal. To fill, place about a heaping tsp of filling (or more to taste) in center of dough. Fold one side of husk over the filling and then the other side of husk over the first side, then the tapered end down over the middle and lay down in layers. When all the dough has been used up, or you run out of filling (hopefully both at the same time) place your tamales in a steamer, arranging them in a vertical position. Cover with additional husks and a dish towel. Pour a kettle and a half of water and steam for about 1 ½ hours, or longer if necessary. Tamales are ready when the dough easily separates from the husk. Enjoy!

Makes about 8-9 dozen tamales

Note: Since we've got the flavors of coconut and rum going on, if you wanted you could also add some chopped pineapple to either the dough or the filling for a pina colada taste! I'm also thinking that if you should have leftover filling, you could use it for one of those fruit cookie bar recipes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Saucy Alfredo Chicken

Just a short post on what I made for dinner. I like to think it's Chicken Alfredo, because it's saucy. But I do tend to veer away from basic recipes anyway. I like to 'add' lots of extra ingredients. So maybe this is just my "Saucy Chicken" . Looking up a recipe for Creamy Alfredo sauce will yield so many different ways to make it. The important thing is that all it really is is the mixing of any dairy product that will give the creaminess (whipping cream, cream cheese, yogurt, sour cream,etc.) with your aromatics (garlic,onions, celery, and/or green peppers). Some recipes don't use the aromatics at all.

What I did initially was to cut up some boneless chicken breasts and just fry them til golden brown in a little bit of oil, and set aside.


I then just added the garlic first and fried till somewhat browned, then the onions,celery and a little bit of sweet bell pepper (for sweetness). Last I added some butter and proceeded to add mushrooms and some chopped sun ripened tomatoes which I first hydrated in water with some dried chile peppers. Into the pot they all went. At this point you can remove the garlic, which I use whole but crushed so I can easily remove it before the liquids are added.


Last, I merely added about a 1/4 cup of white wine to help deglaze and the whipping cream. Because I wanted lots of sauce, I also added some yogurt. I allowed the cream to simmer down until thick, and added parmesan cheese.


Finally served over a bed of pasta with a side of steamed veggies and topped with more grated parmesan cheese. French or Italian bread optional.


My version and quite simple too actually. We had enough for 4 people and then some leftovers as well. What I did with the leftover pasta was mix it into the saucy chicken for another ready made meal.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Our Precious

We recently had the distinct pleasure of babysitting our precious GrandSons whilst their parents went out for dinner to celebrate my Daughter in law's Birthday as well as to enjoy some much needed adult companionship. A perfect opportunity for us to stock up on some photos of the Grandkids, and a rare treat for us, we took quite a lot of pictures. Our precious babies are growing so fast! These are just a very few of all the ones we took.


Both are good about smiling at the camera. I remember when they didn't much like having their photos taken. Now they just take it in stride.


During the day, I was able to snag photos of them with their Daddy. It was nice seeing their Daddy playing right alongside them. Reminded me of when he was the one playing on the floor with his toys. Of course that was just before video games appeared on the scene. Once the Nintendo and Playstation systems came out, that became the primary form of entertainment for my own kids. Oh, the memories!

And so it was that for a brief moment we were taken back to our own days of parenting, if only for a very brief time. Right around bedtime, Elias suddenly realized his Mommy was no where in sight and began to ask and cry for her. We managed to hold the fort down for a couple of hours longer, but at one point we finally had to call in the reinforcements.  I do know that as they get older and see more and more of us, that will no longer be an issue. For now though, we just enjoy whatever time we get to be with them!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Biscuit Update

Another gorgeous day! I say gorgeous because it's cloudy, overcast, and misty! Perfect combo! Heat, heat , stay away, don't come back for quite a spell. Sweetie was outside planting my lemon eucalyptus trees and a couple of other plants that were waiting in pots.

While he was outside, I was inside cooking up a big pot of pinto beans with plenty of salt pork and epazote, garlic and onions. Frijoles en bola, or unmashed beans go mighty fine with either cornbread, or in this case, biscuits. I did in fact make Diane's recipe for biscuit mix, and whipped up a batch. I am here to tell you they are delicious! Taste better than McDonald's! And woo!hoo! now I too can whip up a batch anytime I want to enjoy them with coffee and with my Sweetie! Even Sweetie complimented me, so they really must be good. Thanks Diane for sharing! I'll tell you what, those frijolitos really hit the spot. And my mix looks oh so pretty in the glass jar. Next time I make them, I'll be sure to take a picture. This time around they werent big and fluffy, but I think I rolled the dough out too thin. What I liked about the dough is that after I'd let it rest for about 10 minutes, when I came back to roll it out, it felt almost like yeasty dough, all puffy and soft. Yet even though I spread the the dough a wee bit too much, the flavor is wonderful.

As for the rest of the day, it revolves around chores around here. I always still make time to stop and check the going ons of the cyberworld. So until next post, on this same bat channel, have a great day!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Jar Update

I just wanted to post a quick update on the blog. I know I've been away from blogging too much.  Writing has to remain a constant in my life as a form of expression. So I couldn't stay away for long.

On this chilly, misty day I set out to Kmart looking for those glass jars I mentioned in one of my previous posts. Nada. No luck there. Even went to Goodwill hoping they might have some nice sized jars for my biscuit mix. No luck on that front. But I did find some very nice 100% linen skirts. I figured I can easily turn them into some cool aprons. I just love linen! The jars not easily forgotten, I then ventured to Walmart where I finally found them. The lid was not in the color I wanted, since it was a plain silver tone, but like Diane mentioned they can easily be painted to that nice "Martha Stewart green shade" I so love. There was only one size available, which I think is the 1 quart size, but I bought it anyway. I would love the gallon size. A search indicates the Container Store carries them. So next time I make a trip to San Antonio, I'll have to stop by the store and look for them. I am also going to be on the lookout for these jars the next time I go to the flea market. They have such a utilitarian look, I just know they'll always come in handy.

I will definitely make a post about how the biscuits turn out for me. My next post should be my book review for the two books I received last month and hopefully a simple recipe I'd like to share.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Evidence

Well, I thought I'd follow suit and post a link to a news video out of Kansas. You'll soon see why I rave about Swagbucks! I'm already on my way to my 11th $5 gift card. Not bad since I started in late November. And that's only because I'm taking it slow. Some people who really work at getting referrals, codes, searches, make more than $100 a month. The way referrals work, if for example you sign up using my link, the first 100 swagbucks you earn ONLY in doing searches will also be awarded to me. But not anything you earn in codes, or any of the other ways you can earn swagbucks. Only in the searches. So if you earn 1 swagbuck for searching for example.....blogger....I will also get a swagbuck. After those 100 swagbucks, it would stop matching them for me. So that means in order for me to really earn ALOT of swagbucks, I would have to keep getting referrals sign up under me. A lot of people are very successful in getting their friends and family to sign up, but since a lot of people erronously think it's a scam it's not easy to have people sign up. But as evidenced by the video above, Swagbucks is slowly gaining recognition and momentum as the premier digital dollar site.

Another thing I'd also thought I'd explain is why I keep mentioning gift cards. When you start accumulating your swagbucks, you can just keep on adding to them. And you have the option of buying things from the site's store, which has a huge selection of items you might want in exchange for your swagbucks. So in essence you're buying things for free. But the more popular way is to buy Amazon gift cards. You can buy $5, $25, or $50 gift cards with your swagbucks. Once they're posted to your account, you then go over to the Amazon web site and input your gift card codes, and the money then shows up on your Amazon account available to you to buy anything you want there! Free money! Other people want actual money, so they instead buy Pay Pal gift cards which of course are real actual money you can deposit to your bank account. Pay Pal gift cards however cost quite a bit more than Amazon cards though. So you would need to spend more of your Swagbucks to buy one.
As of this past February 25, Swagbucks implemented a change in the Swagbucks value system. Now 1 swagbuck is actually worth 10. It's pretty much the same thing as before, only now a gift card that used to cost 45 swagbucks now costs 450. But by the same token when you earn on searches, you earn 10, 20, 30 or even more swagbucks instead of 1, 2, or 3. The really great thing now is that the site is posting more codes which means more opportunities to win swagbucks. It has really improved its whole operation as a whole.

Hope you look into it. Remember, the basic gist of the matter is that now you'll be rewarded for using a search engine, when you search for things online. Whereas before when you made searches you got absolutely nothing in the way of 'buying' power. With Swagbucks, you can certainly 'buy' a lot of things! Another thing to keep in mind, every time you do a search or click on ads, someone out there is making money. There are several companies which indeed do make money through your searches. Isn't it time you also got rewarded?

One last note, I realize I've already made other posts about this website. I know perhaps some are thinking that it's getting tiring or annoying, or that I'm trying to sell you another 'scammy' moneymaking idea. I realized this on a personal level when I told a relative about it, and she proceeded to tell me about her Son who was trying to earn comissions from selling a product, thereby hinting that perhaps I should sign up with him, and she might look into signing up with Swagbucks. I absolutely have to say this: THIS ISN'T ABOUT PROFIT FOR ME!  I am only sharing this because I consider it something that can be a blessing for you! The most I can expect to earn if you sign up with me is roughly $10. I'm not going to compromise my credibility for that amount of money or any amount! I share this because I wish I had known about this long ago. I share this because I know money is tight right now, and if I know of a way you can help your budget, I want you to also be in on it. It's not anything illegal or questionable, so I know I can tell you about this with a clear conscience. It's not going to earn you a 'paycheck' true, but it's that little extra 'rainy day' or 'egg money' you can have stashed aside. Now I can get off my soapbox.....
Until next time have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Of Links and Recipes

I need to go to Kmart or Walmart tomorrow to try and find a nice large glass container for a biscuit mix I'll be preparing using Diane's recipe over at Tomato Soup Cake. It is her glass jar precisely which sets me off on a hunt. I remember Target used to have some almost exactly like hers. The last few times I went I searched for them but they no longer carry them. If not, I may just buy a gallon sized one similar to those used by Martha Stewart for her flours.

Diane posted so many delicious variations of her recipe on her post. It should be a very frugal way to always have some mix on hand. I love her description of how she whips up some biscuits when company shows up unexpectedly. Sweetie and I like to toast our biscuits in our little toaster oven, then spread butter and jam or honey. Great snack when he stops by in the evenings to have coffee with me during his tour of duty. Really hits the spot! So making my own from scratch would be really nice.

It's one of those things that gets in my head and I have to act on it or it will be like a thousand other recipes and ideas I find along the way always meaning to someday make. This one sounds like a keeper! Another thing I really want to try my hand at is cheese making. Suzanne from Chickens in the Road has a treasure trove of wonderful recipes, and she recently made cheddar cheese. Her latest venture was a foray into making lard! What a post! I always thought lard was bad for you. But I've begun to have a sneaking suspicion it's all in the marketing ploys of the food industry which really control our shopping habits. I'm just really grateful and I love how these women share such wonderful recipes with their readers. Head over there and pay them a visit, you're sure to find a recipe you like!

Wish me luck finding that handsome glass jar! Maybe next post I can share one of my recipes!

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