Friday, May 14, 2010

ragin' cajun

I have a problem.  
I cook far too much food when hosting a group of people.
Cooking for a couple?  No sweat.  
A family of four?  Not to worry.  
But 6-9 people?  I'll make enough food to feed a soccer team.  Varsity and JV.  

Thats. A lot. Of freakin' chicken.  And guess what?  I also threw in shrimp and sausage!  You know, just in case the poultry wasn't enough.

And quite the healthy portion of peppers and onions... not to mention enough garlic to wipe out all the sparkling vampires* you can think of.

The back story: had a game night with an expected 6-8 people to show.  Apparently, this meant I had to make an insane amount of pasta.**  I added shrimp & Andouille sausage to the pasta, for fun.  And, for fun, I made this for guests where 2 did not eat  pork and 1 does not eat shrimp.  So, instead of tossing all together? I had something of an assemble-your-own-pasta bar.  You know, to make things easy for me!

So, while I did enjoy this meal, I wasn't in love with it.  I like the idea, and will probably go back and tweak it some more... especially with less cooking & removing & cooking & removing & adding & removing... Sheesh!!!  However, I will say this: you MUST*** add the andouille!  It adds great flavor and takes the pasta to a new level.  

Seriously.  Do the sausage.  It's for your own good.

*Really, Stephanie Meyer?  Sparkles???  Like a pixie??!?!?!  Bravo.**** 
**Just insane/ Got no brain!
***must Must MUST!!!
****I know, this rant has been expressed everywhere already.  But you haven't heard ME complain about it until now!

Cajun Pasta with Chicken, Shrimp and Andouille Sausage
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman, serves 6*

3 chicken breasts, cubed
2 handfuls of shrimp, de-shelled**
4 andoullie sausages, sliced
4tsps Cajun spices
1lb fettuccine, or other long noodle
2Tbsp olive oil
2Tbsp buter
1 green pepper, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
4 roma tomatoes, diced
2c chicken broth
1/2c white wine
1c heavy cream
cayenne pepper
chopped parsely

Cook pasta like... well, you normally cook pasta being careful not to over-do it.***

Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken and shrimp with Cajun spices & toss.  Cook chicken and sausages in 1Tbsp oil and 1Tbsp butter in a large, heavy skillet over high heat.  Don't over crowd & allow to brown on both sides (about 1-2 minutes per side).  You may have to cook the meat in batches, depending on space.  Then cook shrimp, (about 45sec-1min per side).  Set all meat aside.

 To the skillet, heat the remaining butter and olive oil and add the peppers, onions, and garlic. Sprinkle liberally with remaining Cajun spices and salt, if needed (some Cajun blends are super salty, so be careful.)
Cook over very high heat for 1 minute, stirring, to get veggies dark.  Add tomatoes.  Cook all for 30 more seconds and remove veggies from pan.

Still over high heat, add wine & chicken broth to deglaze the pan (i.e. scrape up any brown-bits stuck to the bottom.)  Cook this liquid for 3-5 min, and then reduce to medium-low & add the cream while whisking.  Cook for a few minutes until starts to thicken.  Season with black pepper and cayenne according to preference, (and salt if needed.)

Add meat, veggies, and their juices back into sauce.  Cook for 1-2 more minutes until hot and toss in pasta.  Top with parsely.

*I used Mrs. Pioneer's scale, as mine was too big for anyone.
**Though I love shrimp, and this definitely beefs up the dish, it's not required.  If anything, it kinda gets lost behind the chicken & sausage.  Pick your favorite two proteins & highlight just those.
***You don't want to over-do the pasta (cook to "al dente") because it wont hold up to the sauce.  Also, adding back into the pot with the hot sauce may cook it alittle more, and you don't want this to get soggy.  

Thursday, May 6, 2010

it's curtains for you!

I had a vision.  A beautiful vision of ethereal, white gauze billowing in my fabulous rec room.  

For the record, this was my "fabulous rec room" when I moved in:

Can't you just imagine the billows and the fabulous-ness???  Yup, me too.

Anyways, renovated the room, yada yada yada...

But no window treatments!  And let me tell you, I am a window treatment kinda gal.  The goal was to soften the room, and with the help of Ikea, I got my window treatments for a grand total of $10!  Added to $4 each cafe rods from Lowe's, and voila!  Window treatments for the entire room for $20!! 

Now, if hanging them was only that easy.....

So, my first thought was to hang them high, like I did with the living room curtains (LOVE), which makes the room feel taller.  This is because the eye sees a long line from ceiling to floor, which accentuates that distance.  However, I didn't think about the transparent, um, gauze-like nature of the... gauze curtains.

Not a fan.  Awkward and out-of-place.  So, out came the screws (advice: never tighten screws all the way until you are sure everything is in the right place), and in went a little patching putty and a dab of paint and Shh!  No one will know about this itsy-bitsy mistake.

Attempt #2:

MUCH better!  Love it.  Also like that this thin curtain helps to distort the view into my house from the outside.

Now, if only the other window was ready for the same overhaul.... ya see, it's kinda lacking molding.*  And no rod until there is molding; and no curtains until there is a rod.  You see my predicament??


*Hey, at least there IS a window!!!  Baby steps, people, baby steps.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

under da sea

I recently shared an overview of my adventures in aquariums, but left it unfinished.

I would like to take this moment to apologize to all my readers (Hi, Katie & Tara!) for leaving you hanging.  I wish I could say this will be the last time I do such horrible & unspeakable acts. But that would be a fib.  And fibs are "wrong."

But look!  An update!  And so soon, too!!!



Really, just more rocks and plants.  A lot of freakin' plants.  But this is completely up-to-date.  Current.  Now.  Fresh, even!

After getting the 6 danios, I got 2 Kissing Gouramis and 2 Bala Sharks.  Unfortunately, the Gouramis came with ich/ick, which is a parasite that lives in the skin of the fish.... Yeah, parasites.  They nasty!  So, ended up returning the Gouramis, and treating my tank to kill the parasites.  Now, everyone is healthy & happy & harmonious!!*

Current residents: 5 Zebra Danios, 9 Tiger Barbs (3 albino, 3 regular, 3 green), 3 Bala Sharks, and 1 Spotted Sailfin Pleco.

*Three cheers for alliterations!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

et tu, brute?

Romaine Lettuce + Red Onions + (leftover) Chicken + Pecorino Romano + Garlic Ciabatta Toast + Lemon Juice + Freshly Ground Pepper + Caesar Dressing* = Salad


 *Interesting tidbit: Caesar salads are not, technically, a traditional Italian dish.  Most believe it was created by Caesar Cardini, (an Italian-born Mexican,) in California or Mexico.  The two ruling stories say he either made it on the 4th of July when his restaurant was depleted of supplies or for a group of Hollywood stars.  A third rumor is that Caesar's brother, Alex, actually invented it.  Either way, I LOVE it!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

weekend update: taming the wild

On Saturday, my mom came down to help us with some red fence removal by lending her hard work & pick-up truck.  In return, I cook a feast (more on that later) and offer my sparkling personality.

The picture above is the 1/2 started state my yard was in for a couple weeks; we started pulling some fence down, only to stop when we realized we have no means to dispose of it.  So, yeah, this is the view that greeted me everytime I looked outside.  Fabulous.

Anyways, lets remember the beginning (or close to it):

Now, over the weekend, we laid more grass seed, planted a rosemary bush and an azalea, removed most of the remaining red fence, cleared the hill and side garden, planted hosta along the stairs, and mowed.




Funny story, I started planting some of the extra hosta from around the property to line these stairs.  Only to find out my mom had a few huge bunches at her house, which happened to be the opposite style (white edges with green inside) from what I had just planted.  Soooooo, uprooted the recently planted hosta and replaced with the other variety.  And, ta da!  I'm eager for these to fill in to made a thick border for the (less than appealing) stairs.

Also?  I lied to you.  This isn't completely a "weekend update"... the hosta transplanting was done earlier.  Shh!  It'll be our little secret.

Now, for the fence & vegetable garden...




Oooohhh, Aaaaahhh!!!!  So, to tally the work done: rock border moved out to meet the patio, removed old boxwood bushes, transplanted all remaining hosta and daffodils, removed red privacy fence, and cleared out all remaining junk from behind the fence,* leaves, weeds, and excess ivy. 

True, now I can see easily into the neighbor's yard, which may or may not be a good thing.  But, it also makes the yard feel bigger and will allow more sunlight to reach the vegetable plants.  Which, in case you didn't guess, is totally awesome!!

*Behind the fence, there were a bunch of metal posts, trash, a fiberglass whip, and wire.  Yup, this is the gold I find in my backyard.  

Meanwhile, the Hill of Pain and Doom still spreads its reign of horror on all who challenge it.




I gave the hill a good dousing with poison & brush killer, to try and get things good and dead.  Or dead and good.  Whichever way you look at it.  I'm sure it killed something... but not a lot.  Or, rather, not enough!  I wanted to go on a weed & poison killing spree.  Take no prisoners!  Ask no questions!  But, I was thwarted by the lack of chemical strength, (or maybe lack of "ammunition"?  Next time: 4 containers of brush killer...  per weed.)  Back to the matter at hand: soaked the weeds, transplanted all random daffodils from around the property to make a line behind the rocks at the base of the hill, filled in the line of hosta (between the daffodils & the rock line), and then raked, cut, & cleared all debris.  So, though the hill is still home to the most wretched weeds, it looks better!  

Our rationale for leaving the weeds for the time being is that the roots, damned as they may be, are holding some of the hill in place and thwarting that dastardly erosion.  Will work on uprooting & banishing all interloping plants once we have the new, permanent residents (probably a basic ground cover) ready to go.

Here's the final "AFTER," once the weekend was done:

You can't tell, but there are tons of tiny baby grasses incubating here!

Just wait until that path & patio are sparkling with awesome renovation.  Just... wait...

Yup.  There you go.  Very productive & satisfying weekend.  And I am oh-so-glad that we chose to do this work in the humid, 88degree heat.  Smashing good idea.