January 24, 2013

Butter Chicken

I have to start out by saying the Mister is an excellent cook! For the first eight years of our relationship he cooked everything (except lasagna, that was my dish). I loved his food and hated cooking so it worked out well. I have never been bad at cooking, it was just never my thing. I baked, the Mister cooked. Recently, I have become more interested in cooking. Our crazy schedules and the fact that we now have every kitchen utensil, ever, has made cooking more necessary and enjoyable for me. On Wednesdays and Thursdays our schedules line up and we get to prepare dinner together. It is one of the best parts of my week!

This week we decided to try something new and adventurous since we had the time. Thanks to our quarterly magazine from the local grocery store (Wegmans, for those of you in the North East. If you aren't familiar with Weggies, I do apologize, they are the best!) we decided on Butter Chicken.

The name is kind of misleading since there is a grand total of 1 tbsp of butter in the whole dish. So, if you are a geek like me you can head over to Wikipedia to discover the origins of the name.

The recipe calls for a pre-made "simmer sauce", but after reading the ingredient list and because we actually enjoy the process of cooking, we decided to make our own. The detour to Wikipedia would have been best before we had finished eating the dinner, as it has a list of common spices to be included in the tomato sauce portion of the dish...but it was absolutely delicious anyway.

For our first attempt attempt at Butter Chicken, we started with a simple Tandoori paste marinade.

There are two almost identical versions of this marinade, one with added color and one without. We went with the one without. Easy decision in my book. When we walked away the Mister said "Oh God, we *are* granolas". It's hard to deny when all we eat is fresh or frozen vegetables, lean chicken, and rice, and we go out of our way to make a sauce not containing extra chemicals. But I'll wear the name with pride. Just today, I was thinking to myself how grateful I am for the way we eat. So many people eat what is quick or easy and they miss out on so much wonderful, healthy food that way.

The chicken should marinate in the refrigerator for anywhere from 2-24 hours with 3-4 tbsp Tandoori paste. Ours was in for about 6 hours. There was some discussion about the chicken. I cut it into cubes before marinating, the Mister thought that it should have marinated and cooked before being cut up. Its your choice, really.

For the tomato sauce we used:
1 lg can tomato sauce (contadina is our top choice)
3 tbsp plain greek yogurt
olive oil
3 cloves garlic
diced onion
kosher salt

You may also want to include:

In a small saucepan, sweat the garlic with olive oil until fragrant. Add the tomato sauce and the rest of the spices. Stir well. Add yogurt one tbsp at a time and stir until combined.

Transfer 2 cups of this mixture to large saucepan. Save the rest for another time (we froze ours). Add 1 cup heavy cream, stir well and bring to a simmer.  Add chicken and continue simmering for 5-10 minutes.

This meal was amazing! It rates right up there with coconut curry chicken. Definitely a keeper!

January 23, 2013

Storage Solutions

Storage, one of the biggest problems in my life, home, and most significantly in my craft room. Lack of storage is a major player, but the aesthetics of the storage is important to me too. The Mister is very much a function over form guy, but I like a little form in my life.  This quote speaks to how I want my home to be seen.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” 

- William Morris

In my efforts to combine both form and function, while at the same time trying to reduce cost on my end, and waste on mother earth's, I have amassed quite the collection of (in my opinion) beautiful storage containers. These containers have all been saved from the landfill and given a second chance to show their worth. 

January 19, 2013

...And More Sharpies

Hello, my name is Mini-Munny! The Mister got me this little guy as a stocking stuffer this year. Oh my, was I one happy little lady. I have wanted one of these for years! Each time I see one in the store I ask the Mister to buy it for me. He always rolls his eyes and tells me that I don't need one. So you can imagine how surprised and excited I was when I found him sitting in my stocking!

Munny is a little vinyl figure from kidrobot that can be pierced, painted, posed, and anything else your imagination can dream up to do to make him beautiful!

To make this gift even better, which was a feat in itself, the Mister also got me a 24 pack of Sharpies. I cannot begin to express my love for Sharpies. And to have a fresh set to use to beautify my own Munny...amazing!

 My mister really outdid himself this year! And these were just some of my stocking stuffers!

I am so excited to have Mr. Munny that I can't even think of how I want to decorate him. Once I do though, I will make sure to show him off!

Sharpies, Sharpies...

Each year I find my self gravitating towards a gifty craft that I like to make in bulk. Crafts that are able to be personalized for each person without taking days to complete.  This year that craft was Sharpie ceramics. Pinterest is aflood with tutorials for this snappy little craft, and the very first post I saw sparked my interest. Coffee mugs...I like coffee mugs, Sharpies...I love sharpies! Sounds like a winner to me.

I enjoyed making each mug really personal for its recipient. Adding different patterns and of course the owner's initial. It's possible that my consistent fascination with personalization stems from the fact that with a name like Kadi, you don't get the chance to have very much personalized unless it's custom made. I make it a point to personalize as may gifts as possible, for people with easy-to-find names, as well as those of us with more unique names and spellings.

Case in point:

 ...the Mister's sister, O'Hara. She has her Master's in Neuroscience.

I truly loved this project and I ended up making four of these little buggers this year.

January 17, 2013

Lamberton Conservatory

While my Mister's family was visiting earlier this month we decided to take a trip to explore our little city. I had seen an advertisement in the local events paper for a Holiday Poinsettia Show at the Conservatory. Until then I didn't even know we had a Conservatory, but Mister's mom loves flowers so it seemed like it would be worth a trip.

There were some beautiful poinsettias. They had their own space in the beginning, but they were also scattered throughout the other plants. I thought this was a nice touch. And it was an amazing opportunity for the Mister to use that camera he loves so much!

We went for the Poinsettias, but the rest of the conservatory out-shined the show.

I do apologize for not having the names of any of these plants. They were all labeled in the conservatory, but I was too distracted with everything else to write them down.

Due to distance and circumstances beyond control, the Mister hadn't seen his mom or sister in over four years. We took this chance to snap a few shots. The beauty of the conservatory made an excellent backdrop for the family photos.

 And of course being me, I needed a few pictures of me hamming it up. =)

To make the day even better the weather was perfect! It was cold, and there was about a foot of fresh snow on the ground, but the sun was bright and the wind was calm. Days like these are the reason I love winter in New York so much. Few things are more beautiful than a snowy, sunny day. All the sun made inside of the conservatory so much brighter as well. The four of us spent a beautiful day enjoying the scenery and each other's company.

January 10, 2013

Cookies Anyone?

The holidays are over! Hooray! Now I can get back into the real world and catch up on the blogging and crafting I didn't do through the holidays. Me and the Mister had a lot of fun moments this season. For me, one of the best parts is guilt-free cookie baking and eating!

My Mister's mom and sister came to spend a few days with us between xmas and the New Year. For their visit, I made three of my favorite cookie recipes: Peanut Butter Blossom, Swirled Sugar Cookies, and Cinnamon Almond Cookies (this last type are a huge hit with everyone else, not a personal favorite however.)

Peanut Butter Blossoms
These are one of the Mister's all time favorite cookies. He eats them all year long and was actually the one who introduced me to these wonderful little goodies in the first place.

These are, of course, rolled in colored sugar for some added holiday glam!

Swirled Sugar Cookies
I've made these before with a dash of peppermint extract, but the flavor was a little overpowering. I loved the look of the swirls, so this time I just went with a simple sugar cookie recipe.

And finally,
Cinnamon Almond Cookies
I have made these only once in the past. The first time through they were beyond difficult and I wasn't thrilled with the flavor. But then I let others try them and the reviews were raving! This time around I made a few changes and had a few more tools in my arsenal. I am still not a huge fan of the cookie itself, but the process was much more enjoyable this time.

Needless to say, I made way too many cookies for four people to ever eat. And mom and sister brought even more cookies to share. Now, however, there are several personal-sized packages of wonderful cookies living in the freezer until they are needed again.