Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Mexican Fiesta

It’s been a fiesta at Casa de Havens!

It’s no secret my family loves Mexican. Baileigh only eats a handful of things, but she loves quesadillas. That may or may not be from the copious amount of Pancheros I ate while pregnant with her. My mom loves Mexican food too. Every time her and my dad come up to Dubuque to visit us, we will go to Los Aztecas or Salsas. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree...

We make some sort of Mexican food on a weekly basis. Enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas, etc. Lately I have also been pretty obsessed with avocados, which feeds into my obsession with making Mexican food. 

The last 2 weeks we have made 3 new Mexican meals. Two for dinner and one for breakfast.  I already posted the Chicken + Black Bean Enchiladas recipe, so here are the other two!

The real reason I keep up with the blog is to post recipes we loved, so I can remember them, and go back to them in the future. My Pinterest boards are overflowing with recipes, as are my recipes books at home. I need a place to throw all my favorites so I can come back and search for them. (I do need to work on “tagging” my posts more if I want to make this easier!)

 First off, a recipe I developed myself!

Southwest Chorizo Breakfast Hash

Serves 2
1 small russet potato
1 small sweet potato
1-2 cloves of garlic
Montreal Seasoning
salt + pepper
1 ½ tbsp olive or canola oil
¼ c chopped onion
½ small jalapeno (seeds removed)
5 oz ground pork chorizo (Hy-Vee sells it in a 10oz roll. We used half and froze the rest)
4 eggs
2-3 oz pepper jack cheese (shredded)
Optional toppings: salsa, pico de gallo, sour cream + avocado

Using my new favorite skillet from Pampered Chef. Amazing! Look how delicious those potatoes look!

  1. Wash and dice up the potatoes (with skin) Heat up a large skillet to medium. Saute the onions and jalapeno in the oil for 3 minutes or until soft. Add the fresh garlic and the potatoes. Cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes (until soft and crispy), stirring every so often. Season with salt, pepper and Montreal seasoning.
  2. In a small skillet, brown the chorizo on med-high heat until cooked thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. Once the potatoes and chorizo are done, cook the eggs, two at a time, to your preference. (We like our eggs cooked over easy)
  4. Assemble the hash! Place the potatoes down first, then half of the chorizo, top with shredded cheese and finish with the eggs on top! I like to throw it all in the microwave for a couple minutes to melt the cheese, but the hot eggs may do that too!
  5. Finish with your toppings!

Doesn't it look delicious!?

ThoughtsThis was DELICIOUS! The potatoes were a little crispy, the chorizo was flavorful and the eggs made it breakfast-y! (Ha!) It was delicious and easy to make.  We will certainly make it again!

The next recipe was a pinterest find, from the blog Peas and Crayons. Something about the recipe completely intrigued me. I don’t cook vegetarian meals very often. My husband loves meat and it takes the right vegetarian meal for him to “feel full.” Personally, I think it’s all in his head! (I’m pretty sure he doesn't read this, so I’m in the clear!) Nonetheless, this recipes lived up to what I thought it could be. Delicious, full of flavor + texture, and filling! I wonder how often I can sneak in more vegetarian meals like this?

Black Bean + Sweet Potato FlautasSlightly adapted from Peas and Crayons

​11-12 corn tortillas

1 can black beans
1 can jalapeno-corn 
1 small/medium sweet potato
1 small red pepper, diced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried or fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2oz  cream cheese
4-6 ounces of pepper jack cheese (grated)
3 tbsp of enchilada sauce
olive oil

Optional toppings: 
cilantro, salsa, guacamole avocado, jalapenos + sour cream

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 425F.  
  2. Poke a few holes in your sweet potato, wrap it in a slightly damp paper towel, and microwave on high for about 6-8 minutes.
  3. While the potato is cooking, mix together the veggies, black beans and garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, cilantro, cayenne, and enchilada sauce
  4. Scoop out the inside of the potato and add it to your veggies. Mix in the cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Next wrap your corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave on high for 30 seconds. I usually do about 4-5 at a time.This softens the tortilla so it's easier to roll.
  6. Spray or rub one side of the tortilla with oil and add veggie filling to the center of the "dry side" of the tortilla.
  7. Top it off with a layer of cheese and roll the tortilla. 
  8. Place on a wire baking/cooling rack and seal with a toothpick. Place the baking rack on top of a cookie sheet lined with foil. (This helps the fautas crisp up on both sides.)
  9. Repeat these steps until you have used all of the filling. Use a silicone brush to brush just a little more oil onto the rolled flauta.
  10. Bake on the middle rack, at 425F, for 15-20 minutes.
  11. Finish with your optional toppings!
This is the only photo I took. I was too anxious to EAT! Check out Peas and Crayons post for much better photos!

Thoughts: These were incredible! So flavor and SO filling! I ate leftovers the next day for lunch too. They didn't stay crispy because I microwaved them, but then were still tasty! Make these today!

I have one more Mexican recipe but I'll save it for another post. This post is already getting pretty long!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shamrock Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

I have a small collection of cookie cutters. They are cute and hang under a shelf in our kitchen. However, I’ll admit, I rarely bake sugar cookies. I never wanted to make up a bunch of colored frosting  pipe designs on them and have a cookie with way too much frosting. Recently I read a post at one of my favorite blogs, Annie’s Eats, that had a tutorial on royal icing. It looked pretty simple. You whip up the frosting in the mixer, pour some into a piping bag, pipe around the edges of the cookie and let it harden. Then, you water down some of the icing, pour it onto the cookie, and use a tooth pick to help it spread out.  It looked easy enough, but you never know! I tested it out back in February when I made the heart sugar cookies. Surprisingly enough, they were pretty easy! The end result was a pretty cookie with a thin layer of royal frosting that hardened as it cooled. It is nice because you can stack or wrap up the cookies without the frosting getting all messy. 

Since the first attempt went pretty well, I decided to try again. This time, with cookie cutters that celebrate my heritage and my husband’s name-sake, St. Patrick’s Day. Shamrock cookies! I couldn’t find my shamrock cookie cutter, so I took Baileigh and headed to my favorite local baking shop,The Calico Bean Market. They have an entire room in the back dedicated to baking! Cookie cutters, food coloring, flours, misc. baking ingredients and an ENTIRE wall dedicated to sprinkles. If you ever need baking ingredients, check it out! It’s on Bluff Street, by the 4th street elevator. The owner is super friendly and helpful, too! While at Calico Bean I picked up meringue powder (for the icing), shamrock and butterfly cookie cutters, green food coloring and green and purple sprinkles. I baked the cookies on Saturday night, let them cool and then Baileigh and I got to work Sunday frosting the cookies! I baked shamrocks for me to decorate and the butterflies for her. She did an excellent job frosting using my new decorator bottles (via Pampered Chef) and enjoyed using lots of sprinkles!

My Shamrock cookies!

Baileigh's butterfly cookies!

Hard at work!

Cookie Recipe:
(The only thing I changed was using Almond extract for the vanilla. I like almond flavoring better in sugar cookies for some reason!)

The cookies looked and tasted delicious! I made way too much frosting, so I have plenty to use when I made Easter cookies in a couple weeks!

Here are two blogs that have beautiful sugar cookies! Both have tutorials too which help beginners like me!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Best of 2013 -- February Edition

Tomorrow is the last day of February, so I may be jumping the gun writing the “Best of 2013” post, but that’s okay! Like I mentioned in the Best of 2013-- January post, 2013 have started off great! There were several small things that happened, and one VERY exciting thing as well. Let’s get started, shall we?

February was jam packed! Both of my parents had birthdays! Mom’s was the 7th (I won’t disclose her age..somewhere around 39?) and my Dad turned 60! (He will tomorrow, actually!) Birthday’s are fun. We picked up cupcakes from my favorite local bakery, Candle Ready Cakes and enjoyed lunch in Davenport the weekend after! In addition to my parents, there was another very special birthday. My neighbor and her family welcomed the birth of their son, Owen. He’s adorable and I’m so happy for their family!

Date Night
We didn't do much for valentine’s day, so instead Patrick & I had a day date/date night and went to Brew Fest on Ice! It was a fun event down at the Mystique Ice Area. There were tons of Iowa and national brewers there and we were able to try lots of beers, as well as sample meats and cheeses from local shops. It was a great event and we ran into a lot of people we knew, which is always fun. After Brew Fest, we stopped at one of our favorite restaurants to dine for one last time, as they closed that weekend. We loved Star Brewery. Some people thought it was pricey  but to be honest, it cost the same for burgers and sandwiches at our local Applebee’s, and I thought the food was better at Star. The owner is opening a new restaurant soon, so we’ll have to check that out! After dinner we bounced around a few different bars, met ups with friends, drank swamp waters, and almost sang karaoke. Instead of singing, we grabs some late night snacks and headed home after a looonnnng (but fun) day!

Date night!

Kitchen Projects 
I didn't make a new year’s resolution this year. Well, I did the whole “try to be healthier” bit, but nothing drastic. I did make note I would try to cook a lot of new recipes February was no exception.

Here are a few of my creations: 

Homemade Chicken Parmesan. Recipe post to come!
 Made with homemade marinara too.

Biscuits + Gravy. Pat wanted to run to the store to get the ingredients, and
 I challenged him that we already had everything to make them from scratch. It was a success!

My new favorite pasta meal. Another recipe post maybe?
Tomatoes, green olives + artichokes in a light, spicy sauce

Valentine's cookies! I tried my hand at royal icing for the first time.
Not bad for an amateur! can't wait to make more for other holidays!

I mentioned above that one VERY exciting this happened. I won an ADDY! Not just an ADDY, but a GOLD one. To top that, I placed in the Final 15!
My Gold ADDY award & my Final 15 award. Love the golden popcorn!

Me & the awards by the ADDY banner. Wasn't the theme adorable?

A little background about the ADDY awards.

 "The ADDYs are the advertising industry's largest and most representative competition, attracting over 50,000 entries every year in local ADDY competitions. The mission of the ADDY competition is to recognize and reward creative excellence in the art of advertising. Conducted annually by the American Advertising Federation (AAF), the local AAF Dubuque ADDY Awards are the first of a three-tiered, national competition. Concurrently, all across the country, local entrants vie for recognition as the very best in their markets. At the second tier, AAF Dubuque winners compete against other winners in one of 15 District competitions. District winners are then forwarded to the third tier, the National ADDY Awards competition. Entry in your local ADDY competition is the first step toward winning a National ADDY."
(Source: AAF Dubuque

There were over 200 Professional entries submitted. Judges then reviewed each entry, ranked it and gave pieces they liked either a silver or gold award. After that, they gathered all the gold awards and decided which made it to the final 15. Now you understand my excitement! Out of all those entries, my piece was in the Final 15! Since I won gold, my piece is automatically entered to the District competition to be judged. Our district is made up of Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska & Kansas. After, if I place there, my entry will go to Nationals to be judged. I'm not getting my hopes up! Winning at our local event was awesome enough!This was the first year have submitted to the awards and I didn't leave empty handed! The entire event was an amazing success! The “vintage circus” theme was great and everything went off without a hitch! I have volunteered to help co-chair the event, so I have some pretty big shoes to fill! Luckily, one of the co-chairs from this year is staying on to show me the ropes for next year.

 Here was my award winning piece:

I created this as a unique way to stand out in a pile of resumes when I was job searching. It was so fun to create and I am really proud of it! 

That was my month of February. Great month, don’t you think? I’m not sure if I will always have such big things to mention each month, but it will be nice to have something to look back on too!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Best of 2013—January Edition

2012 was a fine year. It had its ups… and it’s downs…

2013 has only graced us with its presence for less than 2 months, but so far, they have been two very good months! I want to use this blog to remember things. Remember the great moments, the great meals and recipes we made and the great things we accomplished. I’ll start with January. I’ll write up on February in another week or two.

New Job!
After 6 years with Hy-Vee, Patrick got a new job as a Digital Success Consultant at McGraw-Hill! Hy-Vee was good to him and our family for the last 6 years, but he was ready for something new. Being a retail establishment, Patrick worked weekends (usually only Saturday though) and holidays were always chaotic. The only day Hy-Vee ever is closed is on Christmas. That’s it! In his new position, Patrick has the usually Monday-Friday hours, weekends off and paid Holidays. He started towards the end of January and he really likes it so far. We may or may not have had a few late night publishing debates after a few beers/glasses of wine. By the way, custom, online publications is the way to go. Go GRT!

My 15-Minutes of Fame
I’m thrifty. REALLY thrifty most of the time. Unless it’s something made by Kate Spade. I have a tendency to indulge on KS. Even on sale, it’s still very much indulging! Nonetheless, my thrifty self was VERY excited when Hy-Vee rolled out their Fuel Saver program in December. Long story, short, each week the grocery ad will have several items that when  you purchase will give you pennies off per gallon. Every time you buy these items, you can bank the cents up on your card and eventually redeem them for cents off per gallon of gas. I started banking up in December and was able to fill up our Subaru for $26 dollars, saving $1.20/PER GALLON and $17 that trip! How can you not be excited about that? Well, while visiting the Hy-Vee website, there was a form asking for feedback from customers about the new fuel saver program. Being the dork that I am, I filled out the survey and even included a photo I took at the pump!

That's right! $1.95 per gallon! I can't remember the last time it was that cheap!

About an hour later I was emailed by a marketing person at Hy-Vee corporate, asking if I would be in a Fuel Saver commercial. I laughed out loud, but agreed to do it. One week later I was at the Locust Street Hy-Vee with a camera crew filming my testimonial. I felt like a huge dork, especially since two ladies I know who work there witnessed the entire ordeal! The marketing person just asked me a few questions, and they filmed my answers. It was pretty candid and not scripted. After it was done, I was informed they had filmed 30 people or so the last few days and they would use about 15 in the commercials and they handed me a $100 giftcard to thank me for my time.

Two weeks later the emails, texts, facebook messages and calls started pouring in. They used my testimonial in an ad!
I just tried to pull the link up on youtube so I could link to it from here, and it’s gone! The other 3 are still there but not mine! Hmm! Nonetheless, I had my 15 minutes of fame!

Other than the two things above, most of January was spent hanging out with friends, trying out new recipes in the kitchen and trying to stay warm with all the snow storms! Below are some instagram photos from Jan & Feb so far!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Chicken + Black Bean Enchiladas

Dinner last night was a “happy accident.” I had an art instructor in college who referred to mistakes as happy accidents. This seemed to make sense in the class, printmaking, because it is hard to always be exact. That phrase has stuck with me since that day.

Last night the dinner plan was Chicken Fajitas. I was excited. I loooooove fajitas and have been kind of obsessed with avocado lately. Pat calls me as I’m about to leave work that the bell peppers were kind of going bad. Fajitas were out. However, we had black beans, rice, chicken, salsa and avocado, so we could still make chicken burrito bowls. I arrive home and he had opened the avocado, it was bad too. I was ticked. Originally I planned to make the fajitas earlier in the week, but changed things up and the fresh produce didn't last.  I didn't want burrito bowls anymore because the avocado had gone bad. I know, that doesn't make sense, but I was annoyed and stubborn at this point. Pat mentioned enchiladas. We had corn tortillas, chicken, pepper jack cheese and black beans, but we don’t have enchilada sauce. After a quick Google search, I found a 10 minute enchilada sauce recipe! Dinner was back on!

The chicken has been marinated in Trader Joe’s Soyaki marinade. It’s a great marinade that we use a lot for fajitas. I wasn't sure how the flavors would do with the enchilada sauce, but I wasn't too worried. Turns out the random ingredients we had at home made some of the best enchiladas I have ever had! Sometimes it’s fun to try out new recipes in the kitchen.

iPhone photo of the enchiladas.

Chicken + Black Bean Enchiladas
(Recipe created by me, enchilada sauce adapted from: AllRecipes)
Serves 3 (3 enchiladas each)

For the sauce:
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 TBSP self-rising flour
¼ cup chili powder
8 oz tomato sauce
1 ½ cup water
¼ tsp cumin
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion salt
Salt + pepper

For the enchiladas:
9-10 white corn tortillas
1 lb chicken breast (I used the Just Bare Breast Filets
½ cup Trader Joe’s Soyaki Marinade (or your favorite marinade)
8 oz block of pepper jack cheese, shredded (or 2 cups pre-shredded)
1 ½ c of black beans

Optional toppings: sour cream, avocado, lettuce, tomato, salsa

  1. Toss the chicken with the marinade and let it sit for 30 minutes or more.
  2. Preheat and bake the chicken in a covered casserole dish at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until done. Cool then shred the chicken.
  3. Start making the sauce by heating the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in flour + chili powder, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
  4. Gradually stir in tomato sauce, water and remaining ingredients, stirring until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Add 1c of enchilada sauce to the shredded chicken. Add in the black beans. Stir till combined.
  6. Add ½ cup of the enchilada sauce to a 9x13 pan. Spread it out so there is a thin layer of sauce in the dish.
  7. Microwave corn tortillas, about 3 at a time, for about 25 seconds to soften. Fill the middle of each corn tortilla with the chicken + black bean mixture, roll and place seam side down in the casserole dish. Continue filling until the mixture is complete. Make sure to line up the enchiladas close to each other.
  8. Top enchiladas with more sauce and the pepper jack cheese. (You will have enchilada sauce left, so use as much as you’d like)
  9. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is hot and bubbly!
  10. Let cool about 5 minutes and serve topped with your favorite toppings!

My Thoughts: These turned out awesome! The marinade, pepper jack and enchilada sauce worked so well together! Since this was whipped up last minute, all I had for toppings was sour cream, but they were great! Happy accident!

I know, this is the first blog post in like 6 months. I haven’t decided if I would keep up with it or not. I do like posting recipes we make, because it’s easy to go back and reference them. Even if I’m the only reader + it’s my personal recipe collection!

Happy cooking!