Tip O’ the Week

*Tips that are NEAT-tO know!*


O.K. This one is part of my “you need to know but no one ever showed you” which may also be “you need to know but are too embarrassed to ask” tips. Everyone has to start somewhere and you only learn with experience and I really like to include things that may be helpful for people of ALL skill levels.

I remember when I was trying to teach myself to cook my using recipes from cookbooks and I realized I had no idea what dicing, chopping, folding and whisking TECHNICALLY were. I have seen more than a handful of cooks slice themselves open before figuring out the best way to cut a certain veggie and I had to slice myself up a bit before I learned knife techniques so I’m just hoping to save you a few stitches.

The safe technique for cutting an entire onion:

Press the palm of your hand firmly against the root of the onion.

Slide the first inch of your knife into the onion using a forward motion so it will slide in from tip to inch from tip. The moisture in the onion will create a suction with your blade and your blade with come to a stop. This is a good thing.

Flip your onion onto it’s side now and place your palm firmly over the bridge of your blade. This helps to insure that you don’t have any digits in the path of your blade!


Now you can gently press your knife through the rest of your onion! You can get really fast at it if you practice and that makes you look neat.

So here are 2 quick live examples. In the first, you can see with the first cut, I am slicing as I normally would and then I switch to this other method because the onion body has become smaller. Then I show how you should NOT hold the root of the onion while slicing down into it. You may notice, it looks a little too easy to slip and lose the tips of your fingers. Then the third cut through I show holding the bridge of the blade.

The second one is if you are more comfortable holding the root end and want more precise slices.



February 28, 2010. Tags: , . Cooking tips, Tip O' the Week, Too Embarassed to Ask. Leave a comment.

Al Pastor Tacos

The best part about being born and raised in Austin, Texas, was the abundance of genuine Mexican food as well as Tex-Mex. I am often thankful I paid attention while I lived there now that it is impossible to find great Mexican food in the northeast. I can make it at home whenever I want!

Al pastor taco meat is typically cooked on a spit but I don’t happen to have one of these and I am going to assume you probably don’t either. Well, no need to fear! After many tries, I believe I have figured out the best way to mimic the taste and texture of the rotisseried pork that makes these tacos so incredibly delicious. The meat stays tender, moist and still has the wonderful, slightly crisp skin. These are a nice, light dinner with cool toppings, hints of citrus, sweet pineapple and light corn tortillas. You can stuff yourself with these and still be able to move (to the dessert table). Also perfect for feeding a large number of people because the toppings are just served cold from a bowl. Notice how few ingredients there are as well! This=cheap. And if you typically steer clear of “tenderloin” because you assume it is expensive, you will realize that does not include pork. Onward to Mexico!

*Note: I like to marinate my meat the day before cooking it but you can also prepare it in the morning and let it marinate through the day.

You will need:

  • about 1 1/2-2 cups pineapple chunks and 3 Tbsp juice.
  • 2 lbs pork tenderloin
  • 1 large spanish onion
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • limes (plenty for some juice and garnish)
  • 2 Tbsp Cumin (for future reference, this is my favorite spice in the whole world besides salt and vanilla)
  • 1 Tbsp Chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp medium ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil plus 6 more Tbsp
  • corn tortillas

Do not cut your tenderloin. In a large ziplock or container with lid, combine all spices, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 3 Tbsp pineapple juice and whole tenderloin. Marinate in fridge overnight and through the day.

Dice onion and cilantro and combine the two in one bowl. Squeeze juice from half a lime over them and refrigerate. Chop pineapple into smaller chunks about (1/3″ in size) and put aside.  Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil on high heat in large skillet. Sear/fry pork for 3 minutes on all sides. Remove and place on cutting board. Chop into small chunks. (Insides should still be raw)

Heat 2 more Tbsp oil on high and fry pork pieces, tossing/turning regularly until cooked. This time will depend on the size of your cuts but typically anywhere from 7-12 minutes. Toss in pineapple chunks, squeeze juice from one whole lime and saute for 3 more minutes.

Serve on grilled corn tortillas, top with spoonful of raw onion mixture and limes slices.

*note: I have read many recipes that suggest marinating the meat with the pineapple pieces. I DO NOT recommend this as the meat ends up feeling mealy which is yuck.


February 25, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Recipes. Leave a comment.


Trying not to smoke, family drama, wedding planning and crunch time, and having to kick into excercise gear again are just a few things I have on the brain hence the miss on Sunday for tip o’ the week. I will be posting 2 incredible pork recipes and a simple safety tip to make up for it. Stay tuned!


February 24, 2010. Me and Mine. 1 comment.

Southern Onion Rings

I seem to have a hard time convincing people that a recipe will be good when it doesn’t have “fancy” ingredients. I think you’ll start to believe me after you try these. Your family will be impressed and you may be surprised. Takes about 15 minutes @ most.

You will need:

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 2-3 LARGE sweet onions, sliced 1/4″
  • frying oil (canola,vegetable, or soybean)
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp parsley flakes
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup corn meal

Heat frying oil in skillet. If you have a candy thermometer, you can use that to test to 350°. I usually just test with a sprinkle of batter.
(Take a pinch of your cornmeal mixture and sprinkle a little into the oil. The oil is ready when the mixture sizzles instantly.)

In medium bowl, pour buttermilk over onions. stir well with fork. Put all dry ingredients in another bowl and mix well. Move onions from milk to cornmeal mixture and coat well. Cook onions 8-10 at a time until golden brown.(This won’t take long!!) Place on paper towels until served.


February 20, 2010. Tags: , , . Recipes. 4 comments.

Stuffed Manicotti

↓ in 45 minutes ↓

You will need:

  • 12 manicotti shells cooked shy of al dente (6 minutes)
    I suggest keeping them on aluminum foil until ready to use so they do not stick together and tear.
  • 4 links sweet Italian sausage, scrambled, browned, and drained
  • 10 oz. frozen spinach, cooked and drained well
  • 3 oz. Ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (or fresh)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp basil
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp medium ground black pepper
    (all herb measurements are for dried, crushed)

Preheat oven to 450°
In medium saucepan, heat oil on low. Add all spices and garlic. Cook for 4 minutes stirring regularly. DO NOT ALLOW HERBS TO BROWN. Add tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in medium bowl, whisk egg whites lightly.
Add spinach, sausage, ricotta, parmesan, bread crumbs and egg whites. Mix together well.
Stuff each manicotti and set back on foil.

Pour half of tomato mixture into glass baking pan. Lay manicotti on top. Add remaining tomato mixture.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.


February 19, 2010. Tags: , , . Recipes. 1 comment.

Cappuccino Brownie Bonbons

I believe there are enough people already writing about
vegan, low fat, nitrate-free, organic, free-range,
gluten-free and/or all natural foods and recipes.
That’s a good thing because I am definitely not the person to do it.
You will never find any of that here because I don’t make it.
I am from the south and I love comfort foods.
I love cooking with butter and
I love bacon and chocolate.
Sometimes at the same time.
Having said that, here’s another recipe.

It’s simple.
I suggest you make these.

You will need:

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter (yes. That is a pound of butter.)
  • 16 oz. semisweet chocolate plus 1 more oz.
  • 6 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon plus 1 more tsp cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp instant coffee
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
    for topping:
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp powdered sugar

(Ina Garten’s peanut swirl brownies with modifications)

You can bake these in a brownie pan which makes a killer “birthday cake” or in mini or regular sized cupcake tins. Mini is perfect for the “bonbon” effect as seen in the photo above. If using a brownie pan, line with parchment paper.

Melt all butter, 16 oz. semisweet and all unsweetened chocolate in heat proof bowl over simmering water stirring regularly. Remove from heat and set aside. Stir a few times to help cooling.

Preheat oven to 350°

In a large bowl, stir eggs, lemon zest, vanilla, and almond together. Stir in sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and coffee.
In another bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt together.
Chocolate mixture should be warm, not hot, by now. Slowly stir and add chocolate mixture to egg mixture.
Stir flour mixture into batter  1/2 cup at a time.

For pan, bake 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. For smaller tins, check @ 15 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 10-15 minutes before attempting to remove.

I said STIR. Pay no attention to that mixer back there!


Whip heavy cream with powdered sugar for whipped topping.
In separate container, grate 1 oz. semisweet chocolate
and add 1 tsp cinnamon. Keep these refrigerated until just before serving.


February 19, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Recipes. Leave a comment.

From Raw to Rich

I have been watching Yuki Sugashima‘s progress in her exploration of natural fiber dying and find her and everything she does totally fascinating. She states in her blog, Barefoot Shepherdess, “My ultimate dream is to work the process from the beginning to the end, starting from raw fibers and finishing with a knitted item– truly, from sheep to shawl!”
I have wanted to do this with many media as well and absolutely love it when people are so passionate about something, they want to envelope themselves in every part of it. She documents her adventures very well and I adore the photos of her garden in Japan and all of the natural plants she uses to produce these incredibly beautiful dyes which lead to stunning skeins of silk and silk/wool yarn and embroidery thread!

dyed from Indigo leaves

And the best part: She actually sells them! I would end up keeping them all for myself because, to say these colors are beautiful, is such an understatement, but she has generous prices considering all the work she puts into them. You’ve gotta’ get your hands on some of these beauties!


February 17, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Art and Neat stuff, Knitting. Leave a comment.

Freezer Paper to the Rescue!

Now it’s o.k. to be a slob or keep your kid’s favorite t-shirt even though it has a mustard stain on it. An easy way to cover a stain or make a boring shirt not so boring is to stencil it. I have a bad habit of buying clothes because I like the material and not necessarily the way it looks so I do this a lot. I also do this when I’m totally bored with everything I own but can’t afford to go shopping! This is how to get a good, crisp stencil and is easier and cheaper than contact paper. This works so well because it has a very light coat of plastic which helps it adhere to your fabric. It then peels right off with no trace.

You will need:

  • an exact-o knife
  • a design (printed out or drawn on paper)
  • your fabric
  • a cutting board
  • freezer paper (not wax paper but you can find it NEAR the wax paper)
  • a Sharpie
  • an iron
  • either spray paint for apparel (AKA “silkscreen in a can”) or regular spray paint works (I promise!)
  • scrap pieces of paper

First, lay a piece of your freezer paper on top of your design “waxy/shiny” side down, and trace on the dull side with your Sharpie. Next, put the freezer paper on a good cutting surface and cut out your image with the razor.

Be sure to save any small pieces you may need to block any paint such as:

Set your iron to cotton with NO steam. Place your main stencil on your fabric (leaving aside any small blocking pieces) where you want the image. Now press the freezer paper with your iron for about 10-15 seconds all the while, making sure to press all corners and edges well and moving the iron smoothly. If you have any smaller pieces, you can add them easier now and iron over each one to make it stick.

If there is fabric behind your stencil (such as a t-shirt) be sure to put scrap papers inside so the paint does not bleed through to the back.

Tape scrap papers over the rest of your fabric being careful to overlap them well.

In a work room or outside, hold your can 8-10 inches from your stencil and spray. IF YOU ARE USING REGULAR SPRAY PAINT, be sure to begin with light coatings. The thicker this paint is, the stiffer your fabric will be because it is enamel. I usually do light coats and my shirts are never stiff and have that “worn” look. The one below is very black because I used the apparel paint.

Let your fabric and stencil dry. Peel off your freezer paper and any plastic that helped it stick will come off with it. You don’t even have to wash it afterward! Use tweezers for small pieces.


A crisp image to hide any sloppiness!

February 16, 2010. Tags: , , , . Art and Neat stuff. 5 comments.

Tip O’ the Week

*Tips that are NEAT-tO know!*

O.K. So sometimes, some of us get a bit ahead of ourselves and when that craving for chocolate cake turns into the making of the chocolate cake, we may realize we used the last of the baking powder on those cookies last week or we are short just 2 tablespoons of butter!

Instead of feeling like a jerk, feel like a genius by subbing.
Here are a few of the most common

Emergency ingredient substitutions!

*horns sound*

SUB 1/4 tsp baking soda & 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

SUB  1 tsp dried herb

SUB 1/2 cup evaporated milk & 1/2 cup water

SUB 3 Tbsp cocoa & 1 Tbsp fat (vegetable oil or melted shortening, margarine, oleo)

SUB 1 oz unsweetened plus 1 Tbsp sugar

SUB 6 oz. (semi-sweet baking chocolate) chopped

*write them on a little card and put it in your recipe box* Hooray!

February 14, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Cooking tips, Tip O' the Week. 1 comment.

Sweet Treat from Colette Patterns

eeek! I had to post this right away! Colette Patterns has a wicked cute FREE pattern for these bloomers!

I can sew a bit. Not nearly as well as I wish and I can really only sew things that wouldn’t be worn as clothing(except a basic skirt). I just don’t have the mind for sewing clothes really but these are very simple. I’m so excited! Go get you some!

February 12, 2010. Art and Neat stuff. Leave a comment.


48 hours as an ex smoker and I’m feeling pretty good. I automatically think about lighting one after eating but that’s just it. I barely crave it, it’s really just out of habit. Weaning myself off of the patch, I expect to be a bit more difficult. A good friend of mine had the most incredible idea and I wanted to pass it on because I really think it’s a wonderful thing to do.
For the next month and a half, she is going to donate one dollar for me and one dollar for my fiancé, for each day we stay smoke free, to a charity of our choice. How great is that?! I think it is such a beautiful gesture of care and support and if one of my smoker friends wants to try to quit I plan on doing the same thing. I think of it this way. If I smoke, I’m basically stealing from a charity…and who can do that? Really? It’s a wonderful incentive.

I’ll be back on Sunday with the Tip o’ the Week and a few crafty project tips and maybe a recipe or two.


February 12, 2010. Tags: , , . Me and Mine. Leave a comment.

I Was a Chimney

I am in the process of quitting smoking. I have smoked half my life time. Over a pack a day. I will have my last cigarette on Wednesday.  Needless to say, I’m a little distracted.  Believe me, I am getting plenty done.  I just don’t think my brain would do a very good job of relaying information in an attractive fashion to here. I will take a few days off and hopefully have plenty of things to post in the first week of being a non smoker.

February 8, 2010. Me and Mine. 4 comments.

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