Sunday, August 30, 2015

9. Apple Tacos with Bailey's-Sweet Potato Pancake Shells, Fresh Blackberry Sauce and Whipped Cream


When I started this project, I wanted to display a variety of flavors, both savory and sweet.  Until this point, I hadn't done any sweet tacos, so I thought I'd wrap up this weekend with a Sunday brunch taco.

I had an apple taco stuck in my head.  But what kind of apple taco?  I tossed a few ideas around in my mind, and finally settled on a combination of apple and blackberry.  This flavor pairing makes me think of Ireland.  While I'm sure it's a thing in other places as well, I've come across more than one Irish recipe highlighting these two fruits.

I decided to go with the whole Irish theme.  If you're reading this and you're actually FROM Ireland, it's OK.  You can laugh.  We did visit Ireland a couple of years ago for a short vacation, and making these brought back some great memories.  I didn't actually EAT anything like this over there, but I remembered all the cool restaurants we found . . . and the food market in Cork . . . and the delicious vegetable soups and brown bread that they seem to have in every bar.  (Why is that not a thing here?)

I developed a taste for Irish coffees on that trip, too!  When I first thought about making brunch tacos the other day, I was planning on serving them with mimosas.  I changed my mind.  These tacos definitely needed Irish coffees on the side!  And bacon, because . . . duh.  It's brunch.  I also decided to throw some Bailey's in the recipe for good measure.

The sweet potato in the pancake isn't particularly Irish.  Actually . . . none of this is.  It's pretty delicious, though!  Here's what I did:

Apple Tacos with Bailey's-Sweet Potato Pancake Shells, Fresh Blackberry Sauce, and Whipped Cream

Makes 12-14 tacos, serving about 4 or 5


For the Bailey's-sweet potato pancake shells:

½ cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 small to medium sweet potato/yam (I used the Garnet variety), about 8 oz.
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup Bailey’s Irish cream
1 egg
1 tbsp. canola oil

Non-stick cooking spray

For the blackberry sauce:

One 6 oz. package fresh blackberries
2 tbsp. sugar

For the apple filling:

4 tbsp. butter
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1/4 cup sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. Bailey’s Irish cream
A pinch or two of freshly grated nutmeg

1 half-pint container of heavy whipping cream
A few large pinches of sugar

¼ cup walnut pieces and halves

1.  Place the walnuts on a sheet of foil or a baking sheet and toast them in a preheated 325 degree oven for about 5 minutes or until they are fragrant.  Process in a food processor until coarsely ground.  Set aside.  Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

2.  Poke the sweet potato several times with a fork.  Place on a sheet of foil or a baking sheet and roast for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender.  Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees.  Allow  the sweet potato to cool.  Remove the peel.

3.  Make the blackberry sauce:  Place the blackberries and sugar in a blender and blend until very smooth.  If you wish, you can pass it through a fine-mesh strainer to avoid the seed pieces, but I usually don't bother doing that kind of thing.  I don't mind berry seeds!

4.  Make the pancake shell batter:  Place the cooked sweet potato flesh in a blender.  Add the rest of the shell ingredients and blend until smooth.  Transfer to a medium bowl.  Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium-low heat.  Cook the pancakes, 3 at a time, using about 3 tablespoons of the batter for each one.  They should spread out to about the size of a street-taco tortilla.  Don't try flip them until they are almost set on the top!  As you finish them, stack them on a sheet of foil and place in a 200 degree oven to keep warm.

5.  Place the cream in a medium bowl and add sugar to taste.  Whip with a whisk until soft peaks form.  You can also use a hand mixer.  Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve the tacos.

6.  Make the apples:  Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the apples and sugar and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the cinnamon, Bailey's, and nutmeg.  Continue cooking until the apples are tender and the liquid has reduced, about 3 to 4 more minutes.

7.  Assemble the tacos.  For each taco, place a pancake shell on a plate.  Top with a small amount of the apple mixture.  Drizzle on some of the blackberry sauce.  Top with a spoonful of the whipped cream and garnish with a sprinkle of the ground walnuts.  Enjoy!

As you read this, you might be thinking, "Wow.  That's a lot of cream and butter."  You would be right.  You also might think, "How many calories is this?"  Just don't go there.  Make this on someone's birthday and you'll be good.  No, it's not healthy.  And the Irish coffees basically make this a double-whipped-cream operation.  Hmm . . . I'm not sure what to say about that.  Ha ha.

They were SO good, though!  I loved the pancakes.  The combination of sweet potato and Bailey's was delicious.  I could see eating these on their own with some kind of simple sauce or topping (maybe even maple syrup).  I'm hanging onto this recipe!

OK.  I have to admit - this is stretching the whole taco thing a bit.  You might be thinking, "Well that's dumb.  She just made pancakes and ate them with her hands."  Ha ha.  We had to laugh about that.  Yes, they were kind of like pancakes.  According to my project description, though, they still qualify as tacos.  The shell was stable enough to pick them up and we DID!  However, the whipped cream began melting as soon as we topped them.  It began to seep through the shell just a little bit.  They were a little messy, but they still worked.  I don't know how to fix this without eliminating the whipped cream, which I wouldn't recommend.  I would just top them and eat them immediately!

By the way, if you want to just make all of the components, call them pancakes, and eat them with a fork, go ahead.  You won't be disappointed.  Call them whatever you want - they taste amazing!  :)

Here's a description of the Irish coffees I made this morning if you'd like to include those!

Well, what do you think?  Please feel free to comment below!  Thanks for reading!

Irish Coffees for Brunch (or other times as needed)!!!

If you read my latest taco post, you might have noticed that I made delicious Irish coffees to go with my apple brunch tacos.  They're pretty easy to make.  If you've never tried one, here's how I make them.

Irish Coffees

Serves 1 to ?


Dark brown sugar

Jameson Irish whiskey, or another Irish whiskey (not top shelf; you're mixing it with coffee!)

Heavy whipping cream, sweetened with a few pinches of sugar and whipped with a whisk (or hand mixer) until it just begins to hold soft peaks (8 to 16 oz., depending on how many drinks you want)

Hot coffee

The proportions of all of these ingredients are up to your own personal taste.  I'll describe what I do; feel free to adjust as needed.

1.  Start by placing a tablespoon of brown sugar in a large coffee mug.  Our mugs hold a little over 12 ounces.

2.  Add a healthy shot of whiskey.  In the picture below, the shot looks gigantic!  It's actually not - the shot glass has a line just below the top that says 1.5 ounces.  I fill it all the way to the top!  Muddle the whiskey and sugar with the back of a spoon.  

3.  Add coffee to taste.  I like the mug to be about two thirds full at this point.  I made a pot of French press coffee for these this morning, and they were fantastic!  Strong, good quality coffee makes a difference!

4.  Top with a few generous spoonfuls of whipped cream.  Enjoy!

Yes, I know you're supposed to serve these in glass Irish coffee mugs like this,

but we don't have any.  I think ours also look pretty good.  And, more importantly, they taste fantastic!

These are pretty decadent, so I only make them every once in a while, but they're so good!  Another plus is that the coffee makes it a legitimate brunch drink, so it doesn't even have to be five o'clock somewhere.  Well, it still is . . but . . . you know what I mean!

Do you have another tried-and-true method for making these?  Please comment below!  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Using Perler Bead Patterns for Quilts - Am I the Only Crazy One?


As I described in some of my previous quilting posts, I am in the midst of a monster quilt project that started with a perler bead pattern.

I am bound and determined to finish the quilt.  I've made progress over the past 24 hours.  I'm machine quilting it, and I've finally settled into a rhythm.  It's not perfect.  I've run into a few places where I've made an unavoidable (well, at least at this point) gather or two.  Still, I think I've got it figured out.  Actually, I'm excited to get done with it so I can start another one.

I'm not sure what kind of a quilter I'll become, but I don't think it's going to be along the lines of Little House on the Prairie.  That whole motif is just not me, though I was an avid reader of the books and watcher of the TV series as a kid.

I love the subversive and pop-culture cross stitch patterns that tend to show up on Pinterest.  I pin them - see?  I'll never have time to stitch them all!

Is there such a thing as subversive quilting?  I don't know . . . but look what I found!

And here's another:

And another:



These patterns are all from  I tried to post the links for each pattern, but for some reason it wouldn't work when I tried to go to the site from Pinterest.  They are also all pinned on my Pinterest quilts board.

So, in case you thought I was a cool kid, I just cleared it up for you.  No.  I'm one of the biggest geeks out there.  I have to try making one of these!  But . . . SO MANY SQUARES!  I'm tempted to try making a lap size quilt using squares slightly under 3 inches.  I did some calculations for the R2D2 pattern last night, and I could cut 2.75 inch squares and sew them with a quarter inch seam to get 2.5 inch squares.  The design is 22x24.  That would get me close to a lap size quilt, which would be much easier to deal with than the king-size plus monstrosity that has taken over my sewing machine!

I could play with the designs, too.  I think I might make the background of the R2D2 design light blue, and then add a red back to play off of the single red square on the front.

I'm not going to lie.  When I watch the trailers for the new Star Wars movie with the old cast members back in the mix, I feel like an eight-year-old again.  I'm so excited!!!

So . . . perler bead patterns for quilts.  Is this even a thing?  Am I the only one that does this?  Please share your thoughts!  I would love some comments.

Thanks for reading!  :)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

8. Quesadilla Tacos with Brown-Butter Calabacitas, Tomatillo Salsa, and Avocado


Wow!  What a week.  I was pretty busy at work and it was tough to even think about making tacos until tonight!  I was feeling a little fatigued, and I wasn't sure how excited I would be about creating something new.  However, as soon as I hit our friendly neighborhood grocery store, I started getting hungry for tacos and couldn't wait to see how my latest idea would turn out!

I wanted to do another vegetarian taco.  I love calabacitas, so I thought about incorporating that.  I also decided it would be fun to do a cross between a taco and a quesadilla.  A taco needs a sauce, right?  I had to include a fresh, tangy green tomatillo salsa.  I decided that the final touch would be avocado, because . . . well, avocado makes everything better!

Though I liked my general plan, in my mind there was still something missing.  I had a lineup of fresh, tasty ingredients planned.  What could it be?    Hmmm . . . It finally came to me!  Brown butter!  I had a strong feeling it would add a level of nutty, toasty depth to the rest of the ingredients.  I was a little bit concerned that it wouldn't quite mesh with the acidity of the tomatillos, but I figured . . . "WTH?"  To make my inclusion of those toasty notes a bit more decisive, I decided to roast the peppers for the calabacitas.  Here's the recipe:

Quesadilla Tacos with Brown-Butter Calabacitas, Tomatillo Salsa, and Avocado

Serves 4 (about 8 generous tacos), with extra salsa


For the tomatillo salsa:

8 oz. tomatillos (about 4 medium), coarsely chopped
½ cup coarsely chopped white onion
½ jalepeƱo, or to taste
A small clove of garlic
¼ cup packed cilantro leaves
¼ tsp. kosher salt

For the calabacitas mixture:

2 tbsp. butter
1 large ear of corn, husk removed and kernels cut off of the cob
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped

8 fajita-size flour tortillas

8 oz. pepper jack cheese, grated

A few large leaves of green leaf lettuce, thinly sliced

1 large avocado, diced

1.  Make the salsa:  Place the tomatillos, onion, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, and salt in a blender or food processor.  Blend until fairly smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.  Set aside.

2.  Prepare the tortillas:  Set the oven to broil and place a rack as high as possible.  Place the tortillas on two baking sheets (or just one if you are serving two people).  Cover each tortilla with about 1 oz. of the cheese.  Set aside.

3.  Make the calabacitas:  Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Cook gently until the milk solids begin to brown and the butter is golden and fragrant.  Add the corn, zucchini, yellow squash, and salt.  Raise the heat slightly and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are just tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the roasted red and poblano peppers and cook until heated through.

4.  When the calabacitas mixture is almost done, cook the tortillas.  Place the pan(s) under the broiler and cook briefly until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is slightly toasted but still soft.  Watch closely!

5.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  Place a small amount of calabacitas mixture down the center of each tortilla.  Top with some of the lettuce.  Spoon on some of the tomatillo salsa, being careful not to add excess liquid to the taco.  Finish with some of the diced avocado.  Enjoy!

So, what did we think?

Yes.  You should make these.  That's what we think.  :)

Overall, they were pretty easy to put together.  The salsa was a snap.  All the other chopping and grating can be done early on in the process.  Once you have everything prepped, it's a pretty quick meal.

The brown butter wasn't as much of a game-changer as I thought.  I'm OK with that, actually.  The toastiness that it added was subtle.  It didn't clash with the acidity of the other ingredients.  It meshed well with the roasted peppers.  Though I might not have picked out the brown butter in a taste test (if I had not known about it), I still think it was a good call.  It added depth to the dish as a whole.  When I make this again, I'm browning the butter!  :)

The only thing I would do differently is to watch the amount of liquid when spooning the salsa on the tacos.  I added no liquid to the salsa - I only used what's listed in the recipe.  However, the ingredients contain a good amount of water, so it's something to watch.  Just let any extra juice drain off the spoon!  I was too concerned about my blog pictures to pay attention to that.  Ha ha.  Our tacos were really fine (pretty freaking awesome, actually) - they were just slightly drippy.  Since we ate them right away, it wasn't an issue.  This isn't picnic food.  Seriously, though - who does that?  Picnic tacos?  Make-ahead tacos?  No.  Just eat them quickly and you'll be good.  ;)

So far, I'm on track.  I need to create about two taco recipes per week to reach my goal of 100 in a year.  If do one more this weekend, I'll be in good shape.  I'm thinking a sweet(ish) breakfast taco on Sunday.  With bacon.  And mimosas.  Stay tuned . . .

Feel free to comment!  Did you try them?  What did you think?  Have you ever made tacos for a picnic?  (I would really love to hear about that.)

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Seven Reasons to Get Up and Do That Morning Run!

As I've mentioned in some of my posts, last week was my first full back-to-school week!  I got a lot accomplished, but in the category of weekday morning exercise, I have to give myself an "F"!

I've been in a slight running rut for a while.  I ran a pretty good half marathon (the Portland Holiday Half) in December, but I haven't done any races since then.  It's always nice to have an event on the horizon to up my motivation, and I spent the whole spring and most of the summer without that.  It's always tough to get out there in the summer, anyway, because it's so freaking hot!  For most of our summer, even if you get up before the sun, it's not nice outside.  It's just less awful.  I've been running; I just haven't been too excited about it and I've been stuck in the 3 to 5 mile range.

About a month ago, I signed up for two races to force myself to get back on track.  I have the Groom Creek Classic half marathon coming up on September 26th.  I also signed up for the Sedona Marathon on February 6th.  The idea was to work my way back to the half marathon distance first.  I would then have the perfect amount of time to train for the full marathon.  I've been doing OK.  Sort of.  It's hard to get the medium to long distance runs in early in the morning.  I'm not really a morning person.  I'd rather go running at 9:30 am, not 5:30 am.  Life gets in the way, though.  It's too hot at 9:30 for anyone but crazy people.  I also teach a class at 9 am this semester, so . . . there it is.  My plan was to get up early on Sunday and do my 8 miler this past weekend.  I just . . . didn't.  The bed felt good and I slept in.

I have pretty much realized that it's do or die now for the half.  It's no fun to run a race when you're under-trained.  I forced myself to get up this morning before school, get out there at 5:30, and get those 8 miles in.  I did it.  It happened.  One day at a time.

If you're feeling like me, you need this list.  Here are seven reasons to get up early and put your running shoes on, from me to you!  :)

1.  If you pound a cup of coffee before you leave, that will be one more cup of coffee that you wouldn't have had time to drink if you had stayed in bed.  (If you're like me, you need all the help you can get!)

2.  You'll have time to think.  You won't feel rushed when you start your "real" day, because your mind will already have had that extra time to get itself ready.

3.  You'll see so many beautiful colors in the sky!  Who wants to miss that?  Not me!

4.  You'll see (and hear) things that hide from the heat and noise of daytime.  Bunnies.  Cute little lizards.  Lots of birds!  (Adjust your expectations to fit your location!)  There are beautiful creatures everywhere.  :)

5.  You'll have more energy when you finish your run.  You may feel like you need a nap later, but you'll feel like a boss all morning!

6.  Yep.  Go ahead and drink that (or those) beer(s).  You already burned it (them) off!  Use common sense and mathematics (number of beers vs. number of miles) for this one.  It is possible for it NOT to be true.  Ha ha.

7.  Because - one of the  most important things to make the most out of life (in my humble opinion) is to SHOW UP.  No matter how you feel, get up, pull yourself together, and say "yes".  Show up for your life.  It'll feel so much better!

I hope this helps someone out there who is struggling with the morning run experience!  I have definitely been there.  Recently.  After writing this, I feel like I can do it again.  Tomorrow.  According to my training plan, it's only 3 miles, not 8.  Whew!

Please comment - do you have any to add to this list?  What gets you out of bed in the morning for a run?  I could always use a few more . . .

Thanks for reading!  :)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Quilting: An Exercise in Patience . . .

And just like that, the weekend is almost over!  Though I didn't document anything except our Friday night tacos, I was quite productive this weekend.  Before I embark on another crazy work-week, I thought I'd post an update on my quilting adventure . . . or misadventure?

Let's go with adventure.  I like to keep things positive!

As I posted last week, I had some trouble getting started with the machine quilting process.  

I got the whole thing pinned last Sunday.  5 days.  That's how long it took for my knees and lower body to stop hurting.  Then, I started the process of machine quilting it.  Anyway, one of the two lines that I sewed last week was not right.  The stitches on the back side were tangled and looped, and I couldn't see the problem until I was done.  This is what it looked like:

Oh, no.  No, no, no.  I have spent too much time and money on this quilt to let that go.  Today, I finally decided to deal with it. I had to rip the whole line out.  125 inches worth.  It took about 1 1/2 hours.  There are now little bits of aqua-blue thread all over the place.  I'm sure I will still be finding pieces of it for as long as we live in this house.  Ha ha.  

Anyway, I thought it was a thread tension issue, but after searching around online, I decided it might have something to do with the bobbin.  This article was pretty helpful.  It gave me some possibilities, at least.  After trying again, I noticed the bobbin thread had come loose from the tension blades that it was supposed to go through.  That was it!  Once I fixed that, I stopped having the tangled thread problem.  

I have now sewed four lines through the length of the quilt.  I have 20 more to go.  Then, there will be 18 lines to sew across the width of the quilt.  I'm making progress!  

I found another mistake, though.  Can you see what it is?  Well, other than the corners of my squares not matching up exactly?  (I swear, I picked the worst part of the quilt for this photo!)

Well, my goal was to stitch a quarter inch off of the ditch.  Do you see it?  One line is on the right side of the ditch, and one line is on the left side!  They were all supposed to be on the right side.  O.o  I either have to live with one line being on the wrong side of the ditch, or just sew BOTH sides of the ditch on the whole quilt.  I haven't made up my mind yet.

Well, here is my quilt in its resting place in the art room until . . . well, realistically, probably next Sunday!

No, those paintings in the background are not mine.  Those are the work of my husband.  :)  The art room is kind of a multi-purpose location - oil paintings drying, beer fermenting in the closet, etc.  Never a dull moment!  Ha ha!

Well, what do you think?  Should I sew on both sides of the ditch, or just pretend I didn't notice my little mistake?  Feel free to comment!  Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 21, 2015

7. Spicy Lamb Tacos with Cucumber-Mint Pico de Gallo and Ricotta-Yogurt Sauce


My husband really wanted me to call these "Tacos from Morocco".  I just couldn't bring myself to do it!  A lot of the flavors in this recipe were inspired by some North African/Mediterranean taste combinations, but I'm pretty sure that nothing like this is actually served in Morocco.  I decided to go with the more conventional and obvious title.

This was a fun Friday night recipe.  It came together a lot more quickly than some of my other taco creations!  At first glance, it looks like a "regular" taco:  ground meat, lettuce, and . . . what is that?  Sour cream?  No.  Of course not!  Greek yogurt and whole milk ricotta.  That's right.  These tacos are sneaky-unusual.  In a good way!  Here's the recipe:

Spicy Lamb Tacos with Cucumber-Mint Pico de Gallo and Ricotta-Yogurt Sauce

Serves 4 (about 8 generous tacos)


For the ricotta-yogurt sauce:

½ cup Greek yogurt
½ cup whole milk ricotta
¼ tsp. salt
A big pinch of cayenne pepper

For the cucumber-mint pico de gallo:

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
1 Fresno pepper or other small red chile (more or less; taste for heat), finely chopped
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
A few splashes of red wine vinegar
½ tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Yes, there's a St. Lupulin extra pale ale in this picture.  It's not part of the recipe.  You could add it, I guess, but I wouldn't recommend it.  Just keep it on the side.  For the cook.  ;)  
For the lamb filling:

1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. dried oregano
A pinch of ground cloves
1 lb. ground lamb
1 tsp. salt
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Multi-grain corn and wheat tortillas (about 8)

A few large leaves of green leaf lettuce, thinly sliced

Smoked hot paprika for garnish

1.  In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the ricotta-yogurt sauce.  Set aside.  I would keep it at room temperature.  It won't take long to make the rest.

2.  In another small bowl, combine the ingredients for the cucumber-mint pico de gallo.  (Before you add your chile peppers, taste them!  Mine were hotter than I expected.  I was going to add two and I decided to add only one after I checked them.)  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Set aside.

3.  Make the lamb filling:  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, and cloves.  Cook and stir for about one minute, or until fragrant.  Add the lamb and salt.  Cook and stir, breaking up the lamb into small pieces, for about 10 minutes or until the lamb is fully cooked.  Add the tomatoes, lower the heat, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the tomato is heated through and most of the excess juice has evaporated.  Season to taste with pepper.  Adjust any other seasonings as needed.  Keep warm.

4.  Heat the tortillas:  I heated my tortillas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or so on each side, just like I have done in the past with corn or flour tortillas.  Since this is basically the last step, you don't really need to keep them warm.  Just stack them on a plate or sheet of foil until it's time to assemble the tacos!

5.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  Spoon a small amount of the lamb filling in the center of the taco.  Top with some of the lettuce.  Finish with a spoonful or two of the pico de gallo and a healthy drizzle of the ricotta-yogurt sauce.  Garnish to taste with the hot paprika.  Enjoy!

You'll notice that the photo above is missing the smoked paprika garnish.  I have to give Steve credit for that one.  We started to eat these (without the paprika) and agreed that, while they were very good, they could use an extra kick.  We tried crushed red pepper first.  That was OK.  It worked.  Then he mentioned paprika, and I remembered the Spanish smoked hot paprika in the spice cabinet.  That was the ticket!  I suppose you could add it to the lamb mixture, but it worked really well as a garnish because it was easy to control the extra heat and spice.  The hot paprika really took these over the top!  It is kind of a "weird" ingredient, but I wouldn't skip it.  It's great on a lot of things!  If you don't have any, here's a link to get some from Amazon!  You can get some in two days!

The only other issue I had with this recipe (and it wasn't really an issue) was a small amount of extra grease that accumulated in the pan with the lamb filling.  I decided it was not a thing I was going to worry about, and it didn't bother us a bit.  It was pretty easy to spoon the lamb out of the pan without it.  However, if that sort of thing is not what you want, you could always brown the lamb in a separate pan, drain it, and then add it to the onion and spice mixture, continuing the recipe as written from that point.  It would work just fine that way, too.  :)

This was a delicious recipe!  We both highly recommend it.  If you want to use it as the centerpiece of a totally inauthentic "Morocco Date Night", I won't tell.  Make these, crack open a bottle of better-than-mediocre red wine, and watch Casablanca.  It'll be a good time!

Please comment:  What do you think of the idea?  Did you try them?  How did they turn out?  What would you do differently?  Did you actually watch Casablanca?  Ha ha.  Until next time . . . Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

6. Butternut Squash and Kale Tacos with Wild Rice, White Cheddar, Toasted Walnuts, and Fried Sage Leaves


For this taco recipe, I decided to go vegetarian again.  I like to mix things up.  Since my dear husband is out of town, I thought I would use an ingredient that he doesn't particularly like:  butternut squash!

Since these tacos are already pretty hipster (more or less), I decided to throw some kale into the mix.  I rounded out the flavor profile with nutty wild rice, toasted walnuts, and some fried sage leaves.  The result was a rich, earthy, delicious taco unlike any I've ever had.  If you like the ingredients, you'll like the taco.  Here's the recipe:

6.  Butternut Squash and Kale Tacos with Wild Rice, White Cheddar, Toasted Walnuts, and Fried Sage Leaves

Serves 3 to 4 (6 to 8 tacos)


½ cup walnuts

30 medium to large sage leaves
Olive oil (or other oil) for frying

For the kale mixture:

¼ cup wild rice
1 cup water
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. butter
2 medium shallots, sliced, about ¾ cup
½ bunch kale, about 6-8 oz., rinsed, cut away from the tough ribs, and coarsely chopped
¼ tsp. salt

For the squash:

4 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (about ½ inch dice)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. chopped thyme leaves
½ tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Multi-grain corn and wheat tortillas (I used Mission Corn & Whole Wheat Blend.)

4 oz. white cheddar cheese, finely grated (I used Kerrygold Aged Cheddar.)

1.  Place the walnuts on a sheet of foil or a baking sheet and toast them in a preheated 325 degree oven for about 5 minutes or until they are fragrant.  Coarsely chop and set aside.  Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

2.  Make the sage leaves:  In a small pot, pour olive oil (or another oil of your choice) to a depth of 1/2 inch.  Heat over medium heat.  Test the oil by flicking a drop of water into it.  If it sizzles vigorously, it's probably ready.  Drop the sage leaves, a few at a time, into the oil.  Fry for about 5 to 20 seconds, depending on how hot your oil is.  The leaves should curl and stiffen up, but not brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon (heat-proof) and drain on a paper towel.  Sprinkle with salt.  The leaves should become crispy as they cool.  (This was a little tricky.  I purposely included more sage leaves than needed in the recipe, because it's hard to get it exactly right.  I had some that were too brown.  I also had some that could have been crispier.  I had enough that were perfect, though, and that's the important thing!)

Yes, there is a lot of oil going on.  I find it's best not to think about those things.  I don't need that kind of negativity in my life.  Besides, it's mostly on the paper towel!  :)

3.  Make the kale mixture:  Bring 1 cup of water to boil.  Add the wild rice and salt.  Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes or until the rice is tender.  Drain the excess water and set aside.  While the rice is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots, cooking and stirring until soft and slightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the kale and the salt.  Stir, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the kale is tender.  While the kale cooks, stir it occasionally and add a small amount of water if the mixture seems dry.  Add the wild rice to the kale mixture.  Stir and set aside.

4.  Cook the squash:  In a medium bowl, toss the squash, olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Place on a sheet of foil or baking sheet in a single layer and roast at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until slightly browned and tender.  Set aside.

5.  When the squash is almost done, prepare the tortillas.  I heated my tortillas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or so on each side, just like I have done in the past with corn or flour tortillas.  This corn-wheat blend was a new one for me, but the same method worked just fine!  Since this is basically the last step, you don't really need to keep them warm.  Just stack them on a plate or sheet of foil until it's time to assemble the tacos!

6.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  Spoon a small amount of the kale and wild rice mixture in the center of the tortilla.  Top with some of the butternut squash.  Sprinkle some grated cheddar over the butternut squash.  Finish with some toasted walnuts and a few fried sage leaves.  Enjoy!

Well . . . that's that.  How were they?  You're going to have to take my word for it, because I made and tested these tacos with no supervision whatsoever.  They were astounding.  

There was really no "sauce" in this recipe, but there was enough moisture in the squash and kale (and richness from the cheese) that it didn't really need anything extra.  

The new hybrid corn-wheat tortillas were pretty tasty.  I will be using them again. 

I have to be honest.  I'm just proud of myself for finishing these and getting this posted.  I just went back to work on Monday (fall semester), and this is my first work-night taco post! 

When I got home and started typing out my recipe plan and gathering the ingredients (after a full day, in an empty house, except for the puppies,) I knew this was serious.  The Taco Project is a real thing.  It's happening.

This recipe had a lot of steps.  A lot of the steps had to be completed simultaneously, but all of them were fairly easy.  The whole process made a bit of a mess, but I have seen much worse on many occasions.  I would recommend these tacos.  They're worth it!

Thanks for reading!  I'll check back in this weekend for . . . what kind of tacos?  I don't know yet!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Quilt That Ate My Living Room

This one will be a short post.  I'm beat.

So . . . as I mentioned in my "About Me" post, I started quilting over the summer.  I found a really cool bead pattern on Pinterest.  See?

It's from  Cool, right?  Why wouldn't it make a great quilt?  Over the summer, I cut out the squares and sewed them all together.  The top has been finished for a little while.  I had been putting off the next part, because this quilt is huge.  The squares are 5 inches, so it's a king size quilt (roughly).  We have a queen size bed, so I was obviously not anticipating the consequences of my choices.  On many levels.

I finally moved the living room furniture so I could lay the quilt back, batting, and top on the floor.  It was very difficult to get it to smooth out.  I got an iron and an extension cord and just started in the middle.  I worked my way out, ironing and pinning for about two and a half hours.  380 pins.  My knees and my back hate me right now, and I don't even have bad knees.  Or a bad back.  Yet.

Here's a picture of it after I was done pinning!

I'm going to machine quilt it, stitching about 1/4 inch off of "in the ditch".  I even got one line done, lengthwise through the middle.  I did a second line and then I realized my machine was skipping stitches in that line, so I'm going to have to rip the whole second line out.  Some other day.  Not today.

Anyway, if you decide to take up quilting, here are some things that I've learned about how to start:

1.  Use a quilting pattern.  Not a perler bead pattern.  Even if it's really cool.

2.  Make a quilt for a baby.  If you don't have a baby, find a baby that needs a quilt and make them one.

3.  If there's no room to put the quilt flat on the floor anywhere in your house, it's too big.  Especially if it's your first quilt.

I think that's it.  It's really been fun, but today was . . . work.  Thanks for reading!  :)

Raspberry Muffins with Pecans and Mini Chocolate Chips


I think I must have been craving carbs this morning!  I'm getting ready for a half marathon next month, so I was up early to get in my longer run (7 miles) on this blazing hot day.  After I got back, I just had to have some muffins!  I remembered some raspberries that I bought the other day.  They were rapidly reaching their do-or-die moment, so I decided to use them up before it was too late. 

I always have chocolate chips in the refrigerator.  With four nephews, I need to be ready to make cookies at all times!  It made perfect sense to throw those in, too - and pecans . . . well . . . just because.  

I got out my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook from 1970-something. 

This used to be my mom's cookbook.  She got a new one and almost threw it away!  I had to save it!  I practically learned how to cook out of this book when I was a kid.  Sure, it's a little weird.  It has recipes for molded rice rings and hamburger . . . cupcakes (or whatever those are in the picture).  It has sentimental value, though.  It's a great resource for basic stuff.  I turned to the recipe for Best Ever Muffins and adapted it into this:

Raspberry Muffins with Pecans and Mini Chocolate Chips

Makes 10 muffins


1 cup spelt flour (or all-purpose flour)
¾ cup blended rolled oats (or oat flour if you have it)
¼ cup sugar
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup whole milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 scant cup fresh raspberries
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
½ cup pecans, chopped

Non-stick cooking spray

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  

2.  Mix the first five ingredients in a medium bowl.  In another small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and oil.

3.  Pour the wet ingredients into the medium bowl, add the raspberries, and stir together until just blended.  Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans.

4.  Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Divide the batter between ten of the cups.

5.  Bake for about 17-18 minutes.  I have a convection oven, so you may need to bake yours a bit longer and/or bump up the cooking temperature by 10 degrees or so.  

6.  Allow muffins to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes.  Enjoy!

I have to say, these muffins hit the spot!  They are not very sweet, so if you don't like the natural tartness of raspberries, you may want to up the sugar a little bit.  I thought the slight bit of sweetness from the chocolate chips was enough.  Since I made these as a breakfast treat, I didn't want them to wander over into cupcake territory!

Yes, I put butter on them.  No, I'm not sorry.  Thanks for reading!