Saturday, October 22, 2011

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

I have an obsession with cookbooks. I tend to get them as gifts, and buy them. Needless to say I have ton! I have noticed that lately I just cook what I know. After buying another cookbook the other day, I swore to myself that I would  make more recipes from my cookbooks and cooking magazines. I found this shrimp recipe in one of my newest purchases- great deal I bought it for $4.99 at Marshalls. I was very proud of my savings of $27.96, but it's only a deal if you use it. The book is Food and Wine Annual Cookbook 2011-it has over 700 recipes complied from food and wine issues from last year. This is better then getting the magazine and having to sift through all the ads. All right lets get back to the Shrimp! I changed the recipe a bit since I didn't have all the ingredients, I believe it turned out amazing, and will always make it this way. The name sounds fancy- it just implies that it is spicy.
It takes 35 min, but 20 min of it is inactive so relatively no time at all, just some planning is in order.
Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Shrimp Fra Diavolo: 
"brother devil"
1 TBS crushed red Pepper flakes
3 TBS Olive Oil
1 1/2 pounds medium Shrimp- shelled and deveined
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
3 TBS Olive Oil
4 slices of Bacon- diced up
1 cup finely diced onion
2 minced garlic cloves
14 oz can of tomato sauce
2 TBS Sriracha sauce

Marinating Shrimp
In a plastic bag toss the shrimp with the first 3 TBS of Olive Oil,  red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Let shrimp marinate for 20 min. (I use a plastic bag because I can toss it around from the outside and not get too messy, and let it sit)
Bacon and Onion
Once the shrimp has marinated for 20 min, heat a large skillet until very hot! Add the shrimp and cook over high heat until the turn a pinkish color and halfway cooked about 2 min. Transfer them to a plate. Add the other 3 TBS of Olive Oil to the skillet along with the bacon, onion, and garlic. Cook over high heat until browned about 4-5 min. Return the shrimp and accumulated juices to the skillet. Add the tomato sauce and Sriracha, cook over medium heat until shrimp are fully cooked about 2 min. Then Voila! you are done. Now how easy was that?! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Frozen Burritos

When Ryan lived alone, he survived on frozen burritos, and pizza. It's a quick and easy food that he didn't have to do much with. Even though I make delicious dinners with leftovers. Sometimes I am not home for dinner, or we are in hurry. For these occasions frozen burritos are perfect. I hate to buy them because it is packed with so much stuff and kinda spendy. I experimented a few months ago with freezing pre-made burritos. It was a success. I told him if we got a chest freezer I would make more burritos, and frozen mini pizzas. I was slacking a bit, until this weekend. The motivation train was rolling through my house. I canned veggie stock, homemade grape juice and pears in blackberry juice. After that was all done, I took on my last food project for the weekend BURRITOS! Layered with Cilantro cumin black beans, spicy ground beef and cheese. I Bought the tortillas from the Mexican grocery down the road, and snagged a refreshing Mexican coke. First was the beans, I used canned black beans, but this would be good with pinto or refried.

Black Beans:

3- 28 oz Black Beans

1 bunch Cilantro chopped

2 TBS Cumin

1 TBS Red pepper flakes

1 tsp Salt

 In a large pan on medium heat, toss in all the beans, make sure to stir to evenly heat the beans, I like mine partly smashed with some whole beans for texture. Add the cilantro, and spices. Let cook for 5-10 min to incorporate the flavors. Keep stirring every few min. Once ready take off the heat and set aside.

Taco Meat:

2 pounds ground beef, or turkey

1/2 yellow onion- diced small

1 TBS olive oil

Taco seasoning for 2 pounds meat- I used trader Joe's taco seasoning

14 oz tomato sauce or diced tomatoes

3 TBS Jalapeno juice- from canned jalapenos (optional)

In a large pan on medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onion. Saute until translucent. Add the meat in small chunks around the pan. Cook meat until browned and broken up into small chunks. Drain off the fat. Add the taco seasoning and tomato sauce to browned meat and simmer for 5 min. Take off heat and set aside.

To assemble you will need:

12 Flour tortillas

12oz grated Cheddar cheese

Cilantro Black Beans

Cooked Taco Meat

If you have the counter space, you can build several burritos at once, assembly-line style, or just stuff them one by one.

The first burrito will help you figure out how much you can stuff in each tortilla and still be able to roll it. Take your filled tortillas, nudge the pile of filling toward one side (you can pull up the opposite end of the tortilla to shape it more into a line), then tuck the sides and begin to roll it tightly, tucking in as needed. Place the assembled burrito on a tray, seam side down. Repeat until all the burritos have been assembled. I had space to put the whole tray in my freezer, once they are frozen I will store in a freezer bag or two. To reheat in the microwave it only takes about 2-3 min on high. Add a bit of hot sauce and you are set for some quick and easy meals.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Watch Luke Grow!

I have put together a photo timeline of Lukas from the beginning to now. I can't believe how big he has gotten over the last 16 months. I can't believe 2 years ago I got pregnant, it changed my whole life. Lukas is so sweet and loving we are lucky to have such a great boy.  Most of the Photos I took, the rest were by some friends. 

First Ultra sound Photo
Minutes Old
First night in the Hospital
3 days Old
2 weeks Old
He did this pose on his own - 2 weeks old
1 month
6 weeks Smiley Face
2 months all snuggled up
2 months
2 1/2 months
3 months
4 months- wearing Oma Socks!
Little superman- 4 1/2 months
5 months
Go Seahawks! 5 1/2 months
New Year Baby! 6 months
Because he is! 7 months
8 months
10 months
11 months
11 months- baby steps
First Haircut- 11 months
Happy Birthday Baby! 1 year
Summer time fun 13 months
Bath time 13 months
14 months
15 months
Little Stunt man  16 months

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tomato, Basil and Garlic Sauce

I am not a huge fan of store bought tomato sauce, it has so much stuff in it. For some crazy reason they add sugar, don't get me wrong I l-o-v-e sugar- but NOT in my Tomato sauce! This sauce recipe is so versatile, it can be used for spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, dipping, and soups. It can be canned as well! My postJars,Jars, and more Jars! proves I have plenty of jars to can up this season's tomatoes. Right now is the tail end of tomato season, so if you plan on making this you better hurry! I have 2 recipes here a small one and a big one. If you are planning to can, take the leap and do the big one. The method for  canning is water bath. Not too scary, just a big pot of boiling water and mason jars with lids and bands. I got 25 pounds of tomatoes for $13.33, that was a screaming deal, I got 7 quarts, and 1 pint of sauce.  The garlic was from my garden, and basil was from a friends garden. This recipe is a base, browned meat or meatballs can be added for a tasty meat sauce. You can also kick it up a notch and add red pepper flakes, or diced jalapeƱos.

Adapted from Ball Canning recipes
Large Batch- Recommended for canning 
25 pounds Roma Tomatoes 
25 lb tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
10 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup finely minced, fresh basil
Chunky sauce
Only if canning:
1 Tbsp Bottled lemon juice per hot jar
7 Quart or 14 Pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Small Batch:
Smooth Sauce ready for Basil
10 lb tomatoes (about 30 medium)
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp finely minced fresh basil 
 Wash the tomatoes. Remove core and blossom ends. Cut into quarters. Set aside.
Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until transparent. Add tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes,stirring occasionally.
Puree tomato mixture in a food processor or blender, working in batches. Strain ( a fine mess strainer) puree to remove seeds and peel.Toss the tomato puree and basil in large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until volume is reduced by half( I didn't reduce by half more like a fourth I wanted a looser sauce), stirring to prevent sticking. Once the sauce has reached your desired thickness it can be gobbled up. 

Now only if you are canning: Prepare boiling water canner (large pot filled half way with boiling water, with a rack in the bottom to prevent the jars from touching the bottom).Heat jars in the sink covered in simmering  water. Heat lids in small saucepan with simmering water. Do not boil. Set bands aside
 Add 1 Tbsp bottled lemon juice to each hot jar. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles with a chopstick. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 35 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check for seal after 24 hours. Lids should not flex up and down when center is pressed. Store in a cool dry place, not the refrigerator.
Tomato, Basil and Garlic Sauce ready for Later!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Afghanistan: In the Field

Maggie in Kandahar
I just received a email from one of my best friends. A few months ago she embarked on a journey that had many of us worried, this is the first we are hearing from her.  Maggie is doing aid in Afghanistan. Before that she was enrolled in The Peace corps and lived in Africa for 2 years helping with education, and building of schools. I am so proud of her and miss her, she could be in Afghanistan for up to 3 years. Her email is attached just so you know what she is doing. I am going to be putting a few care packages together to send her, if you are interested let me know and I can send you her address privately, or if you are close to me add it into mine.

Bread Delivery

Greetings from Kandahar, 
It has been about a month and a half since I left Washington, DC.  Until a few weeks ago, I saw Afghanistan only through stapled reports, windows, through mesh, from a helicopter, from afar-until I had the opportunity to accompany my military counterparts on a village assessment. We met with the village elder, toured the mud/brick enclosures and distributed school supplies (schools opened 09/06/11). Mixed in the dust and tobacco fields were teams of children, under the age of 10, asking for candy and anything hanging from our body armor. Noticeably absent were women who remained in the structures, but who heard and saw us quite clearly, I am sure. Small boys stood on the clay roofs jumping down only where backpacks were distributed.  As we followed the sewage down the narrow passes between the houses, the village elder spoke of broken water pumps and the needs for canals; what was done before the pumps was unclear. The local district leadership remained focused on security, the planting season and road repair.
As an USAID field program officer for the District of Daman, I am tasked with monitoring/evaluating/proposing development projects with my military counter-parts and Afghan government officials.  Day to day I work out of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar City and travel periodically to the District Center and villages to meet with local officials to implement national development plans.  I attend a periodic shura (community meeting of elders/religious leaders of a community) with representatives from the military and government. These meetings provide opportunities for the village to raise/solve
disputes and coordinate activities; they are conducted exclusively by men.  There is a proposal to train a military female engagement team to hold a women’s shura in the villages, but this issue remains highly socially and political sensitive. Small village based engagements are planned for the next few months.  In terms of specific projects, the district government identified the lack of an official health representative and a crop disease diagnosis clinic as the immediate needs for the region. Updates to follow. 
Dinner with Government officials
Many of my military and civilian counter-parts have worked in conflict zones and the stories of their experiences/struggles remain.  Rocket attacks on the larger bases are not uncommon. As the sirens go off and a female British women calmly states: “Rocket Attack,” all personnel look for the nearest bomb shelter/hard structure.  Delayed meetings are conducted, snacks are shared and speculation as to the type of rocket and/or point of origin is discussed.   Many tell of similar situation in Iraq or abroad with a much different tone.  One woman recounted an incident that leaves her scared of balloons popping. Throughout my time here, I remain cognizant that although the dining facility serves steak and lobster tails on Fridays, this is a war zone and that as a civilian, I am a liability.  Many my military colleagues directly risk their lives to enable me to have local engagements with traditional leaders and government officials. This fact is not lost on me. 
Hotel Daman
I am not sure what this year will bring but despite the political, logistical and security setbacks, there is an opportunity to work with the communities to I improve access to services and to build the capacity of local leaders.
I look forward to the challenges ahead and will hopefully enjoy some more local food along the way.

Thank you for all of your message over these past few weeks.  Security in my area remains stable and we just received stable access to the Internet at provincial center.  Please feel free to send any questions.
Seed Distribution USAID Project
I miss you all and keep in touch!

 What would make Afghanistan a little better:
-Souvenirs from your hometown/USA to distribute in villages
-Bars soap
-Lotions and perfume (travel size)
-Your favorite BBQ sauce/hot sauce
-Pictures of America/YOU!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pureed Food not just for Babies!

We are sort of picky when it comes to eating in my house. When I was growing up I was the picky eater in my family, everyone ate everything- NOT ME! I worked my way around it by picking things off or eating around things. My dad says I wouldn't eat green things, if I saw certain foods I wouldn't even eat around them. I didn't know you could order hamburgers plain, so I didn't order them. As I got older I was embarrassed and would tell people that I was allergic to onions so i wouldn't have to eat them. I know what you are thinking, WHAT A WACKO! right? well yes I know it's wacky. When I met Ryan it was wacky eater meet wackier eater. He is way pickier then myself, limited fruits and veggies. For me it is a texture issue, for him it is texture, smell, and appearance. Now I try harder to be less picky for Lukas's sake, he needs to be exposed to all foods regardless of us liking them. Enough about being picky, back to the task at hand- baby food!

Lukas started eating regular food a month before he was 1, as a end result  I had a ton of leftover pureed baby food. Now what to do with it all?  I don't want to throw it out, it is perfectly fine, just pureed. I have found many ways to incorporate the baby food into my everyday cooking.  It's easy to add additional nutrients to any dish. If you have any leftover pureed meats- they are best donated to animal shelters, it can be used to bulk up sickly kittens.

  •  Squash added into mac and cheese
  •  Tomato sauce is the best to pad with extra baby food, tomatoes have such a strong flavor I put in peas, green beans, carrots. Great for pizza sauce, and over pasta!
  • Cauliflower and sweet potatoes can be added to mashed potatoes for some extra creaminess.  
  • Carrots, and peas will make meatballs moist, and healthy especially if you use ground Turkey.
  • Aapplesauce is the same- just eat it!
  • Mix in rice for a creamy texture
  • Fruit for smoothies - which can be made into Popsicles!
  • Fruit mixed into plain yogurt or cottage cheese for some good flavor without the extra sugars.
  • Banana puree for banana bread
  • Blueberry for muffins
  • Mango or peach for pancakes
That is just a little bit that I have tried. Since it fools my boys I think I am going to make it a regular thing, once the baby food is gone. I will pick up some veggies and puree them a few times a week so I can add them into our dinners.