Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Tablescape - New Years Eve 2014

Tonight was a "new table" kind of night. I always love new table night. It gives some change to the house without a complete redecoration, and it's fun to see what combinations of tablecloth/napkin/decor I can use. Plus I thought what better time to change out the Christmas lace for some sparkle since tomorrow is New Years Eve?! 

In my head, my tablescapes always aim to look like the elaborate, professionally decorated ones I see on Pinterest...unfortunately, they usually don't quite make it to that level (plus many times there is no place to actually eat with those fancy tables), but it's still a fun, crafty thing to do on a chilly, stormy night!

Anyways...I digress...I've recently become obsessed with rose gold, so I was THRILLED to see rose gold candle holders and sparkly candles at World Market on their Christmas clearance for half off! I was a little disappointed that they didn't have a short candle, but I think I made it work (with an upside down Pyrex bowl!). I also found some beautiful black silk, rose accent fabric at Hancocks...with my 50% off coupon, the $14.99/yard price tag was totally manageable!

I offset the black fabric with some ivory place mats, and made some short fake-flower arrangements to compliment the rose gold and ivory....all from Dollar Tree...such a wonderful store for simple projects like this!

I still need to find some black napkins, or maybe some black plates that I can write on with rose gold permanent marker, but overall I feel pretty accomplished. Now to watch some Food Network with my wine... :)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dinner - Smoked Pork Tacos

Since this week is a four day week for most of the country, I decided to celebrate Taco Tuesday a day early...which was perfect since I needed to use the smoked pork my parents left in Mobile when they visited last weekend! It was just about on its last leg, but it made for a mighty fine taco :)

On our tacos, I decided to make use of some leftover red cabbage as well by pickling it in a vinegar reduction. Then I caramelized some onions and topped it with feta. I didn't have any fresh cilantro (my spice garden is a bit pitiful at the moment) but that would have been an excellent addition as well. Overall it was a very tasty (almost) Tuesday meal!

 For the pickled red cabbage I used 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, and a heaping tablespoon of sugar. 

I combined them in a pot over medium heat until it was boiling and then threw in about 2 cups of thinly sliced red cabbage. I also sliced half a yellow onion and added it to a skillet with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Salt and pepper both pots and let them simmer away!

I tend to be a bit partial to some good black beans with my tacos, so I made a quick side while everything was cooking. I'm ALL about quick and yummy flavor combinations, so I made use of some fresh salsa that we just picked up from the store tonight (seriously, if you've never had Jack's Special fresh salsa you're missing out on a fundamental life concept). To make an easy side dish, you'll need about a 1/4 cup of salsa and a tablespoon of diced jalapenos(see yesterday's post for my thoughts on buying the jar of pre-diced!). Put this in a skillet over medium heat with the black beans and let it simmer along with everything else.

 I would recommend making a trip to the stove every 5 minutes or so to stir each pot, letting it all cook about 15 minutes. 

Now for the AMAZING part...smoked meat. Seriously. So. Good. I wish computers had a "smell it" button because let me tell you I could eat the air in my kitchen right now (Weird? No, not weird...) If you don't have any smoked meat (which I'm assuming most people wouldn't based on my fridge's history) you can substitute another meat of your choice. Personally, I'd recommend some form of red meat to stand up to the other flavors of this dish.  

For our tacos I diced the meat and warmed it in the leftover butter from the sauteed onions, but you could also slice meat or even serve a large piece of steak.

Once everything was cooked up, I put meat, onions, and red cabbage in a couple small tortillas and sprinkled everything with some feta. I'm kinda funny about my black bean juice getting all over my tortillas and making them soggy, so I put them in a small bowl but it's your choice. Serve with some chips and Jack's Special salsa and you are set for a great taco (almost) Tuesday!


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Dinner - Southwestern Chicken Fettuccine

Today the hubby and I were out shopping most of the afternoon for camping and backpacking gear (the backpacks were his Christmas present...I'm sure that will be in an upcoming episode of our adventures!) so I didn't feel like putting much effort into dinner. Pasta always seems to be an easy crowd-pleaser with minimum effort involved so I scrounged up the ingredients for a simple, quick southwestern chick fettuccine. 

The ingredient list is actually very simple:

- creamed corn
- fettuccine sauce (yes, I buy the jarred kind for a quick meal - Rago Roasted Garlic Parmesan is my fav)
- bow-tie pasta (or whatever your favorite pasta is!)
- roasted red peppers 
- jarred jalapenos (I like them pre-diced because they're easier to cook with and you don't have to worry about scrubbing your hands before touching your face, but if you have whole ones just dice them up!)
- red onion
- parmesan cheese (to garnish)

First, get your water salted and boiling, then throw in your pasta. I used half the box in this recipe, but I like a large sauce-per-pasta ratio so use however much you think you will need!

Chop about a quarter of the onion and 4-5 red pepper strips.

 Saute the onions in some olive oil for a few minutes, until they start to get translucent. Add the roasted red pepper strips and a tablespoon of the diced jalapenos.

To the sauteing vegetables, add a half teaspoon of each oregano, cumin, paprika (I used Target's smoked paprika...probably one of the best spices I own), salt, and pepper. If you need any extra liquid, you can use lime juice (my preference here), water, or chicken broth. Or Tequila...I suppose you could use tequila too...

I also cooked up some chicken for this recipe and threw the veggies in with them...if you are a non-meat-eating person, just omit this step :) 

Let everything simmer for 15 minutes or so, while the pasta finishes cooking. Once it's al dente, drain the pasta and add half the jar of sauce, half the can of corn (the other half will be a yummy addition to a meal later this week!), and the veggie/chicken mix. Cook for another few minutes until everything is piping hot!

Serve with parmesan cheese and some bread...and of course your favorite white wine. Bon appetit!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Dauphin Island Beach Trip - Christmas 2014

Living so far from family and friends, it's always a novelty when they can come in town for a holiday and enjoy the....err....warmth and beauty that envelopes Mobile, Alabama in the December month. This year was the first that we've had Ripley (our little blue merle girl Aussie) so we decided to break her in to the beach and the cold Gulf water...I'd say she did pretty well for a little squirt!

Testing out the water for the first time! She wasn't sure what to think...

Her brother Maverick helped her be brave! Pretty soon she was loving the sea and sand!

Love our pretty Maverick boy!!!! 

It was a wonderful day for some sun, and of course they didn't even make it off the island before they were knocked out! I'm sure we'll be making manyyyyyyyyy more trips once it warms back up!

~~Merry Christmas~~

Nicki, Andrew, Maverick, and Ripley