Monday, October 31, 2011

The OSU Scarf

I have finished my latest knitting projects, which were collegiate ribbed scarves for Silas and his friend Miles. In a previous post I mentioned that Silas' scarf would be, of course, in OSU's majestic orange and black, while Miles' is in the rival colors of OU, maroon and white. (OU faithful refer to these colors as "crimson and cream," but really it is maroon and white. I suppose I could also begin calling OSU's colors "ebony and mango," but nah.) One more collegiate scarf, in OU colors, has been requested for another of Silas' friends, and I will be sure to post a pic of that gorgeous little girl when she has her warm OU scarf around her neck in the next month. I'm now working on a navy alpaca basket-weave scarf for BJ. Needles are happily clicking!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Game Day Chili

Our first foray into chili experimenting has come! As a Christmas gift last year I received a one-year subscription to Better Homes & Gardens, a magazine which I have quite come to enjoy. I think this means I'm old. Nonetheless, with each issue I receive I find at least a couple of recipes that I would like to try, and in a recent issue there was this recipe for Game Day Chili. I was intrigued by the ingredients of this recipe, which included dried plums, paprika, cloves, and my all-time favorite food...chocolate. (If you're looking at this recipe online, I think you need to also look up the recipe for chili seasoning puree, because that is a mixture of ingredients that you are required to make as part of this recipe). Overall, the recipe was not difficult to put together and then it went into the slow-cooker for several hours, which left me lots of time to play with my boys and watch some good old college football.

Overall, this chili recipe was agreed to be just alright. It was honestly a little bit too sweet, and the sweetness was slightly strange. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy sweetness in a chili, but this recipe just seemed like a little bit of overkill. BJ especially does not like sweetness in a chili recipe, so he was not impressed with this one. One thing to keep in mind is that some chili becomes better as it stands. BJ and I have a tradition of always eating chili dogs with our leftover chili the next day for lunch, which is usually during a nice NFL game on Sunday. We both strongly believed that Game Day Chili was better the next day on top of hot dogs than it was the night before. It really did improve with some standing and chilling.

Grades for Game Day Chili
Jenny: B

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meeting AB

I have referred in a previous post to our family's favorite TV chef, Alton Brown. Alton has a show on Food Network called Good Eats, which we have been watching as a couple for years. BJ is undoubtedly the bigger Alton fan of the two of us, but my allegiance to Alton runs deep because he uses the concepts of science and applies them to delicious cooking; thus, in my mind, he is solely responsible for my husband's transition from Hamburger Helper to real cooking. With the help of Alton, we are now a solid team in the kitchen, and some of our favorite Alton classics include soft pretzels, cheese soup, seedy crisps, cheesy poof, homemade brownies, and knock-your-socks-off apple pie, which BJ bakes nearly every Thanksgiving.

Yesterday we had a very cool opportunity to meet Alton Brown at a book signing in Oklahoma City! It was his first trip to Oklahoma and we had it on our calendar from the first announcement of it. BJ in particular was quite excited to meet his favorite chef and tell him thanks for everything. I seconded with a hearty thank-you of my own. Overall a neat experience and a minute or so to make pleasantries with a man who has definitely had culinary pull in our house for about the past six years.

On other fronts, this has been an exceptionally busy fall for us. There has definitely been a lot of play time, but we've also been putting quite a bit of effort into transforming our home so that it is ready for a second child. Our office had essentially become our "junk room," as my friend Jamie coined for me the other day, and it was truly an apt description. We've spent parts of the last few weekends working hard to disseminate office contents to other places in the house, trash, or a donation pile. Each room in the house has been gone through to create more space, and part of our process has been realizing that we could use our space much more effectively than we have been. We have nearly emptied the office and then will turn that into Silas' big boy bedroom, so that George can have the nursery that Silas currently occupies. All good things.

We've also been to a pumpkin patch, watched Oklahoma State have an awesome football season and rise to #3 in the BCS rankings, baked a number of fall specialties (including pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, chocolate-covered peanut clusters, bourbon cranberry compote, and pumpkin mac-n-cheese), and read tons of books. Silas' favorite activity seems to be reading books, and I'm not kidding when I say that sometimes BJ and I read 75 times a day to this child. He has a rotation of 10-15 books that he just can't seem to get enough of, and it has been a joy to watch his love for books being born. I have absolutely no idea what is normal for a 17-month-old in terms of vocabulary, but he is also talking up a storm now, typically just one to two words at a time. His communication is effective though, which is good for all of us, and BJ and I have counted in the ballpark of 80 words that he has down pat. Fun times!

I finished his OSU scarf and will post a picture of him wearing that shortly as well. =)  Here are a couple of pics from the pumpkin patch. Hope you are doing well, friends!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Quest for Chili

BJ and I have established a delicious goal for the fall of finding the perfect chili recipe. During the fall and winter months he and I have enjoyed chili and various soups every since we were first married and surviving those Minnesota winters. Traditionally we have used a box chili, but this fall I had an itch for more; BJ, who loves to cook just about as much as I do, was totally game when I suggested stepping outside of our box o'chili and expanding our horizons to chili recipes that are perhaps spicier, meatier, sweeter, bean-y-er, and/or all around better. I figured I may as well incorporate our quest into the blogging effort. Friends, we are welcoming recipes! If you have a chili that is tried-and-true or perhaps a chili recipe that looks good but you've just not found the time to try, send it on to us and we will give it a look and perhaps a taste. The exception here is white chicken chili recipes, which I will not accept. Let's get real people; white chicken chili is really soup, not chili. The chili must be red!

We decided to start our quest with a baseline, for which we chose our traditional box o'chili. For years we have used Carroll Shelby's Original Texas Brand Chili Kit.

The meat that I use is either lean ground beef or ground turkey, but for our baseline grading we used ground beef. I also added onion that I cooked with the beef, a can of tomato sauce, water, and two cans of beans. For this tasting I used a can of red kidney beans and a can of pinto beans, because how can you go wrong with pinto beans?

As an aside, I know that I took a picture of a finished bowl of our chili kit chili, but I sure can't seem to find it. Sorry.

The verdict: The chili isn't bad, that's for sure! We've chosen this as our easy, go-to chili for years, and with good reason. You can make it as spicy as you'd like because you add your own desired amount of cayenne. With our additions of onion, beans, fritos, sour cream, and cheese, it's not a bad place to start. I think it can get better though.

Jenny's grade: B
BJ's grade: B

Send us recipes!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Graham Crackers! Airplanes! What a Duo!

Some people that I know are really into the organic food movement that seems to be sweeping parts of the country. Honestly, I'm really not, but I understand and appreciate the value of wholesome ingredients in the foods that we eat. At the risk of offending people on either end of the spectrum, I simply have to say that we squeeze in what fits into our lifestyle, attempting to make it as healthy as possible without completely breaking our budget. Silas eats processed foods like Cheerios, but he does not eat chicken nuggets and french fries every day (especially not in the place of his vegetables!). When my friend Stacy from Minnesota blogged about some graham crackers that she makes for her kids from a site called, I checked it out and decided I had to give it a go!

Here is the recipe for these graham crackers. Silas eats lots of graham crackers, and since the recipe promised that they were easy I thought, "Why not?" one day during his nap time. We were not disappointed! It all blends together quickly and easily in the food processor, and then you roll out the dough and cut it into shapes of your choice. As you might recall from the last post, Silas has a bit of an appreciation for airplanes right now, so ours are airplane-shaped, courtesy of a $1 cookie cutter found in a toy store. They are delicious, as are most foods that contain honey and cinnamon, and I know what ingredients are going into them. One adjustment I have made is increasing the amount of whole wheat flour from 1 cup to 1-1/2 cups, and accordingly cutting down the all-purpose flour from 1-1/2 cups to 1 cup. Don't doesn't make them too dry! Would this face lie? He only has one in each hand.  =)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Portland: Belated Part Two

Well, we made it back from Portland a week ago and have had a busy week in the meantime. A recap of random bits from parte dos of our trip:

  • BJ had to work less in the second half of the week, and Silas and I were happy to see him a little more. We tried a couple of new delicious restaurants and also a tried-and-true favorite of BJ's from last time, Deschutes Brewery. None of the food in Portland was disappointing.
  • Silas and I (through no fault of Silas') ventured into the nearby Ben & Jerry's far too many times, but it was necessary for George and me to get our fill of "Coconut Seven-Layer Bar" before it was no longer available to us on a daily basis. (Have I mentioned that we are naming the baby George? Well, George it is!) I also could not resist a taste of their new flavor, Schweddy Balls. The teenagers who were operating the store seemed to be under the illusion that the "Schweddy Balls" skit from SNL was "all the way back in the 80's." Part of me was just realizing I am old, but part of me was protesting, "It was Alec Baldwin and Molly Shannon! It wasn't that long ago!"
  • Silas and I also continued our sweep of the sugary goods offered by the city by visiting the renowned Voodoo Doughnuts for breakfast one day. Voodoo was highlighted on the Portland episode of "Man v. Food," and it did not disappoint.   
Fortunately Silas was more interested in this guy than in partaking in my Raspberry Romeo doughnut.
  • Silas and I also hit up the downtown branch of the Portland library system and joined some local toddlers in weekly storytime activities on Thursday. It was pretty fun and kept Silas entertained for 40 minutes, which was beyond my expectations for his attention span!
  • Perhaps it is a testament to the fact that I am now an old woman, but one evening in the hotel I had to get out of bed and knock on the door of our neighbors' room and ask them to please keep it down. For the second time on the trip I found myself in deliberation: on one hand I realized I am just plain old now, but on the other I'm protesting, "It was 11:30 at night and those frat boys would NOT stop roaring with laughter every 20 seconds!" Even Silas, my champion sleeper, was not handling it well!
  • Have I mentioned that Silas is fairly obsessed with airplanes? Well, he is. You can imagine his excitement every time we take him to the airport to see airplanes (which he calls "mare-mays") and then, gasp, BOARD an airplane and go into the sky! It's just all too much for him to take sometimes, and he spends the majority of our layovers looking through the floor-to-ceiling windows at the mare-mays parked at their respective gates, screaming in excitement "Mare-may!" for all passersby to hear. So our travel day back was pretty kickin'. Speaking of kickin', OSU also kicked Texas A&M that day in College Station, so a grand day was had by all of us.
BJ and I have somehow not readjusted to Central time yet, which is pretty unfortunate for our day-time energy levels. For example, last night we stayed up until 2AM, which is absurd and hasn't been done since Silas was born. Exactly what we are thinking, I truly have no idea. Fortunately, we own a son who is chillax and slept until 9:40 himself this morning, meaning of course that BJ and I also slept until 9:40.

Last update is that all those naps that Silas took in our Portland hotel resulted in my finishing Baby Owen's blanket! It turns out that nap-time is a wonderful thing when you get to use it for something fun and not things like housework and dinner preparation. Who knew? Of course, I made the bonehead move of quickly mailing the blanket off before taking pictures of it, but Sommer has graciously texted me a few pics of her kids enjoying my quite imperfect creation. Owen would make any blanket look good though!

I am currently well on my way to creating a collegiate-style ribbed scarf for Silas, in orange and black for OSU of course. His friend Miles will soon be sporting his own too, though in OU's maroon and white colors. I will post a picture of the boys in their rival scarves upon completion! Hope everyone is doing well!