Thursday, June 30, 2011

Road Trips with Kids and NO TV

With the holiday weekend upon us it is predicted that 39 million Americans will hop in their cars and get on with the good ol' tradition of summer road trippin'. Hitting the road is one of my favorite parts about summer. To me road trippin' means freedom, adventure, lively and unpredictable circumstances, new places, tight spaces, roadside picnics and uninterrupted time with the people I love. All good things in my book. 

But road trips with kids can be a source of panic and anxiety for many parents, grandparents and godparents. And for good reason. When trapped in the car with children we brave endless hours of...

She's touching my seat.

He's looking at me.

Mommy, I have to peeeeee. I can't hold it. I have to go nowwwwwwwwwwwww.

Are we therrrrrre yeeeeet?

Over the years, the biggest words of advice we've ever received are "make sure you bring a DVD player for the kids". So early-on in our adventures in parenting we bought a portable DVD player to entertain the kids on our road trips. 

I don't know if it's just my kids or what, but bringing a TV with us in the car is a nightmare on wheels. 

As of this year I've vowed never to bring that thing into my vehicle again.

With the DVD player in the vehicle I endure endless hours of...

What's wrong with this thing. Why isn't it working? Every 31 minutes.

I don't like this movie. I want the other one. Every 7 minutes.

I don't want to watch her movie, it's for girls. Every 4 1/2 minutes.

I can't seeeeeee it. Every 3 minutes.

As a result of this torture, I banned all sources of motion picture from our latest road trip. No TV. No computer DVDs. No Gameboy.

Instead I found 13 simple ways to keep the children happy and engaged on our 32 hour round-trip excursion. Granted it was just me and my three monkeys. I needed some serious strategy.

As I was plotting out my no-TV method of road trip survival, my strategies fell into three categories—
Passive Engagement


For my brood, food is the most important component in maintaining our composure. All hell breaks loose when the children are hungry. Prior planning goes a long way such circumstances.

A few strategies that worked well for us:

Large Tote — I filled an 18 Gallon Rubbermaid Roughneck Tote with endless snacks. Gluten-free and diary-free stuff that was easy to grab such as Larabars, Kettle Chips, Mrs. May's Sesame Strips, Stretch Island Fruit Strips, juice boxes and so much more.

Cooler — Then I packed a cooler with all kinds of fresh fruit, vegetables, peanut butter, jelly and lunch meat. 

Impromptu Picnics — This made it super convenient to stop for impromptu picnic lunches. 

Fresh Air — With my gaggle of young kids, the best picnics were had at old-school vintage playgrounds.

Prepared Smoothies — One of the treats we looked forward to the most was the frozen smoothies I packed in the cooler. Blend them up the day before you leave and stick them in the freezer overnight. They serve as convenient ice packs for the cooler and halfway through the day you'll have a fresh icey cold treat waiting for you. Don't forget to pack cups and straws, you'll need them when you stop in the middle of nowhere.

Icey Cold Beverages — Lest we forget the driver, be sure to pack some icey cold beverages that will help maintain focus on the road. Nobody needs an adventurous road trip turning into an adventurous visit to the roadside ditch. While coffee and tea may work for many of us to keep our attention sharp, a fantastic non-caffinated option for energy and focus is Kombucha. Pick some up at your local natural grocer before heading out and be pleasantly surprised at how invigorated you'll feel when you finally reach your destination.


Notebook and Pencil — I am always amazed at how far a simple pen and paper will get me when it comes to keeping the children busy. Each child received a new notebook for the trip and a small sack of colored pencils. They had hours of fun drawing the things they saw out the window.

Pipe Cleaners — We had great success with bringing along something crafty to keep their little hands busy, such as pipe cleaners. I found them at the Dollar Store and bought a pack for each kid. You should have seen all the beautiful rings, bracelets and necklaces I was adorned with by the end of the trip.

Binders — I prepared a three-ringed binder filled with age appropriate material for each child. For the baby this was coloring sheets of lions and hippos. For my eldest child the binder was filled with maps of the United States so he could draw our route as we traveled.

Library Books — There is a lot to be said for the captivating factor of new library books. Enough said.

Digital Camera — The kids love, love, love taking pictures of all they see. So many new and interesting things to capture. You should have seen my son trying to get the perfect picture of the military trucks as they passed. It kept him busy for over an hour.

Passive Engagement

Historically, this is where the TV makes an appearance. Not anymore, my friends.

Books on Tape — Instead, we opted to borrow books on CD from the library. Talk about happy and content. All three little ones sat and listened intently for hours. Then they would nap. Then they would listen intently. Then they would nap. The pattern continued until we listened through eight full disks. I was in road trip heaven.

Tunes — It wouldn't be a road trip without your favorite tunes to rock out to. Make at least two CDs ahead of time, one with the kids favorites and one with yours. Rockin' and rollin' is how it was meant to be.

So there you have it. Thirteen ideas that kept me and my children sane on our latest long road trip.

I'd love to hear your ideas for keeping the children engaged when on the road. Please do share your thoughts below.

Here's to safe, happy and contented travels!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Huevos Rancheros

This is a picture of my favorite breakfast on our recent trip to Mexico. I liked it so much I was moved to photograph it. My husband was slightly embarrassed by this behavior. But what the heck, I find pleasure in recreating my restaurant favorites at home. Photos help.

On the menu it was listed as Ranchero Eggs. I asked the waiter what to expect with this dish, thinking I was potentially ordering some kind of farmhouse scramble.

He kindly described a very common meal in Mexico—corn tortilla topped with refried beans, sunny-side-up egg, chorizo and tomato sauce. It took me a second, but when I realized he was talking about Huevos Rancheros I giggled quietly to myself trying to understand the logic here. In the States we call this dish by its Spanish name and at this particular restaurant in Mexico they call this dish by its English name. What gives?

Anyhow, it was darn good. So good that I made a point of coming home to recreate the flavors in my Little White Kitchen. Not knowing where to start with ranchero sauce, I took to the world wide web to find something similar to the flavors I remember at that quaint restaurant on the corner of the town square.

Emeril Lagasse's Food Network recipe for ranchero sauce seemed to be the closest fit to what was captured in my photograph. So I gave it a try with a slight modification for spice. I strayed from the rest of the recipe based on what I remembered from my breakfast in Mexico. Emeril's ranchero sauce is a good fit for this recipe, but it is fun to play around with the ingredients until you find the perfect fit for your palate. Increase the amount of tomatoes, decrease the green pepper, up the cayenne or try other varieties of hot pepper.

So much fun to be had with ranchero sauce! I bet you never knew.

Huevos Rancheros

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Serves: 4

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup white onion, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon minced serrano pepper (or jalapeno for less heat)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup coarsely chopped tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
4 large eggs
1 pound Mexican chorizo
1 can refried beans, heated
4 corn tortillas or tostadas

The Preparation Method:

Get all of your ingredients ready ahead of time. The sauce comes together quickly and there won't be time to chop, dice and measure once you get cooking.

In a medium saucepan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, cook the onion and bell peppers for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the cumin, salt, cayenne, serrano and garlic.

Stir together and cook for 30 seconds only.

Now add the chopped tomatoes along with any accompanying juices. Cook for 2 minutes while continuing to stir.

Add the chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

Remove from heat.

While the sauce is thickening, you can start browning the chorizo.

Use a wooden spoon or spatula to make the meat all crumbly. Cook throughly. Set aside.

Once the ranchero sauce and chorizo are finished cooking, start frying your eggs. Be sure to add plenty of oil to the pan and let it heat up over medium-high heat before cracking the egg into it. Hot oiled pans make for easy egg removal. Dry mildly warm pans make for a mess.

Note: Sunny-side-up is the traditional way to prepare Huevos Rancheros, but there are those of us who don't prefer our yolks to run. In which case I give you complete permission to pierce the yolk sac and flip that baby over to make this Huevos Rancheros over-hard.

While the eggs are cooking, begin assembly...

Tostada or soft corn tortilla,

layered with warm refried beans,

crumbly chorizo,

runny (or not so runny) egg,

and ranchero sauce.

Dive in and delight in the simplicity of a farmhouse breakfast.

I am thinking of farmhouses. I am thinking I remember something about Ray Lamontagne moving into an old farmhouse built in 1830. I am thinking I really like Ray's cover of Gnarls Barkley's song Crazy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Simple Joy

Have you ever noticed the ease and grace of a wildflower dancing in the wind?

Her delicate petals flap and twist in every direction as the gusts of wind twirl about her.

She is caught in a moment of spontaneous movement, not an ounce of rigidity in her composition.

Astonishingly pliable, yet, completely unyielding in her position.




Friday, June 24, 2011

Wish It and Ye Shall Find It

Garage Sale Rules of Engagement 

#1: Wish It and Ye Shall Find It

I was browsing The Pioneer Woman's blog last week and got excited about her post on the Perfect Iced Coffee.

Two reasons for my excitement. One, coffee makes my day. Any which way you make it, I'll take it. Two, the glass dispenser in which her coffee concentrate lives is very handy, not to mention good looking.

Seeing it reminded me of two things. One, I needed to go make a large batch of iced coffee for a no hassle iced coffee experience morning, noon and night. Two, I needed to go find myself one of those nifty glass drink dispensers for the backyard birthday party we were hosting later that week.

Admitting that I never buy stuff like this at a normal store, my only hope for securing one of these handy glass beverage jars would be during my routine Saturday morning garage sale hopping.

Which brings me to the first topic in my series of posts on The Garage Sale Rules of Engagement.

When heading out to a garage sale, it is a good idea to have a few specific wishes in mind. This Saturday I wished for a large glass drink dispenser. Low and behold, the very first garage sale I stopped at had a 3-gallon, recycled glass, brass spigot beverage jar. Completely aware that this backyard BBQ treasure would cost upwards of $50 at the store, I was happily dancing away with my new jug for $2.

I will admit that the 'wish it and ye shall find it' rule isn't always so immediate. There are times when it will take weeks—even years, as was the case with my nifty handheld blender—before you find exactly what you're looking for at garage sales and thrift stores. But when you walk in with a few specific items in mind, it is ten times more likely that you won't walk away with an armload of s*#t you don't need.

And that brings me to The Cardinal Rule of Garage Saling:

Don't bring home s*#t you don't need.

Now get out there, have fun and discover your treasures!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gluten Free Cookie Mix by Betty Crocker®

There are certain times every month when this dancing cook is called to bake something sweet as the midnight hour approaches. I won't say which times of the month, but I can assure you the craving builds to a pinnacle every 28 days or so. When the craving hits it is immediate and unrelenting. Typically, there is no time for working together the perfect gluten-free flour blend. The desert must be complete and ready for consumption within twenty minutes of the calling.

That's when this Betty Crocker® gluten free boxed cookie mix makes an appearance. Keeping a box hidden on the cupboard shelves at all times bodes well for this family. Without it, I have been known to get a little crazy. Not in a good way.

I know Betty Crocker® might seem like an odd pick for gluten free goodies. I'll admit I was shocked the first time I saw their gluten free line on the shelves at my local grocery store.

There are plenty of other companies that specialize in gluten free baked goods. And some of these companies make products that—in my opinion—are ten times better than their glutenized alternatives. More about those products later.

But today I'm talking about Betty Crocker® because they've got a really great handle on boxed mixes, as you might imagine. And... their boxed mixes are widely available. I can find this line of gluten free brownies, yellow cake, chocolate chip cookies and devil's food cake in almost any grocery store I walk into. This is helpful for those times when a friend or relative wants to host a party with gluten free cake and doesn't know where to start. I simply tell them to go find the Better Crocker® mixes on their grocery store shelves and they'll see a tasty gluten free option right in front of them. It makes things easy. I like easy.

A few other good things to know about these boxed mixes ~
The entire line is dairy free, too. Bonus!
Betty Crocker® sponsors the Celiac Disease Foundation and the Celiac Sprue Association. Fantastic!
The line is made in a dedicated gluten free processing facility. Yipee Yay!

That said, every 28 days or so you might find me having one of these bad boys for breakfast with my coffee...

It's the simple pleasures in life, isn't it?

Not a paid advertisement. Me like cookies. Me like them very much. 

Please note that companies can change their ingredients at will. If working with a severe food allergy always double check the ingredient list before consuming this product. Peace out.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Balsamic Glazed Sliced Steak Salad

Perfect song on the radio 
Sing along 'cause it's one we know 
It's a smile, it's a kiss 
It's a sip of wine, it's summertime 
Sweet summertime 

Oh, pardon me. I didn't realize you were listening. I do have a tendency to sing loudly when I'm alone in the kitchen. I typically don't sing so loudly when other folks are present, unless you have the good fortune of being one of my children. In that case you'd be asking me to be quiet because it's embarrassing. But since you're surely not one of my children I won't be singing for you any time soon. Unless you're stopped next to my car at a red light. In that case you'd be smiling awkwardly at me over the passenger seat because you find my singing to be so off-pitched it hurts. Then you'll see me slowly rolling up my windows and looking even more awkwardly back at you. But anyhow, I'm singing today because this is today's theme song. And theme songs are meant to be sung along to. The first day of summer. Summer solstice. The longest day of the year. A day for grilling out. A season for salads.

And today, boy oh boy, do I have a salad for you. Balsamic Glazed Sliced Steak Salad is the perfect mix of light and hearty, sweet and savory.

This has become the favorite salad in our house. The other night I prepared enough to last two dinners but was pleasantly surprised to find my children asking for seconds and thirds. Sure enough we finished off the whole batch in one sitting.

The key to this salad is the balsamic reduction. Since I don't have a lot of extra time on my hands and I prefer to do things the easy way, I made sure my balsamic reduction was super simple. It needed to be something I could do while candying pecans. So I dumped a bottle of balsamic vinegar in a heavy saucepan and put the heat on. Then I reduced the liquid to half while stirring continuously. Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

Enough talk. Let's get to it.

Balsamic Glazed Sliced Steak Salad

1-2 pounds flank steak (or whatever you want to cook up tonight)
1 large head of romaine lettuce, chopped
2 cups candied pecans
1 cup dried cranberries, sweetened
10 oz grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
16 oz sliced button mushrooms
1/4 head shredded red cabbage
1/2 liter balsamic vinegar
balsamic vinaigrette dressing

The Preparation Method:

Let us begin by taking a closer look at the tastiest salad I've made in years...

Now that we have our inspiration for the task ahead of us, we shall carry-on.

Word to the wise with this salad—plan ahead. Make the balsamic reduction yesterday. Make the candied pecans the day before yesterday. There is no good reason why you should be eating dinner at ten o'clock at night just because you forgot to make these most crucial items ahead of time. They both keep on the shelf nicely. Make them when you have an extra half hour in the day and be amazed at how quickly you can pull this salad together.

I posted about the candied pecans the other day. Click here for the recipe.

The balsamic reduction glaze is easy. Pour a bottle of balsamic vinaigrette in a heave saucepan. Use half a liter or a full liter. (The glaze that is left over can be stored in an airtight container in the cupboard to spruce up most meat or fish entrees.) Turn the heat on medium-high. Stir continuously. Bring to a slow boil. When the vinegar sticks to a wooden spoon, as seen in the picture above, the reduction is complete. It should be thick like molasses. This process took me about 30 minutes. Beware of letting it go too long for fear of it burning. Immediately take off the heat and let cool. Set aside. (The cupboard is fine. The refrigerator will turn it hard as a rock.)

Next begin preparing the other toppings...

Thinly sliced red cabbage.

Grape tomatoes cut lengthwise.

Sweetened dried cranberries.

Thinly sliced button mushrooms.

Now it's time to get the steak on the grill. Get the grill nice and hot before you put the steak on. Help the steak stay nice and tender by only flipping it once. Keep the lid on the grill while it's cooking.

Grill your steak how you like it. For us this was about four minutes on each side to achieve nice grill marks on the outside and medium-rare in the center. This steak was a little thick. Less time if your steak is thinner.

Bring off the grill and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness. This will allow all the juices to settle into the meat rather than run all over your cutting board. Then thinly slice the steak.

While the steak is resting, start dressing the salad plates...

A handful of mushrooms.

Just a touch of red cabbage.

A small handful of dried cranberries.

Some grape tomatoes.

And a few candied pecans. Unless you are one of my children. In which case you would grab the whole bowl and dump it on your plate and leave none for your siblings or your parents. Sneaky buggers.

Even though Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing is quite possibly one of the easiest salad dressings on the planet, I opted for a store bought variety. Newman's Own is one of my favorites! Pour a light drizzle over the salad at this point.

Now add the slices of steak over the top and give a heavy drizzle of the balsamic reduction over the top of the warm meat. In a minute or two it will melt into the meat and turns into magic on a plate.

Enjoy on the back porch—or stoop or balcony or fire escape—tonight.

Happy summer everyone!

What is better than a video with Karaoke style lyrics? Come on and sing along with me. I promise I won't  give you any awkward looks.

Kenny Chesney - Summertime

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's the Simple Things in Life

"So, what's it like?" she says to me with bright eager eyes.

"What?" I ask knowing full well what she wants to know.

She's inquiring about my husband. She wants me to spill all the juicy details of having him back home now that his four year love affair with Grad School is officially over.

If I was collecting pennies for every time I have been asked this question over the past month I would have six dollars and twenty-four cents in my pocket.

Every girlfriend I see greets me with huge eyes and a smile that reaches from ear to ear. I can feel their excitement for me and my family. A lot of these women have walked alongside me over the years and have seen me through buckets of tears, fits of anger, physical exhaustion and mental delusion.

"I can't imagine what it must feel like."

"How different is it now?"

"Are you loving it?"

I must admit I'm walking on Cloud Nine, it feels so right and, yes, I absolutely love having him around. I simply can't get enough. By having him with us so much, I believe I am just now waking up from a dark haze to see what we were missing for so long.

First off, we accomplished more around the house in one weekend than had been attended to in an entire calendar year while he was in school. It blew my mind. Finally those squeaky doors, overcrowded closets and small—but important—handyman jobs got some much deserved attention.

In addition to cleaning out closets, over the past few weeks of summer vacation I have been working on centering myself in the things that are most important for the health of my family. 

I'm finding it's the little things that are the most meaningful to me. I have filled up my eye sockets with tears of joy more times than I can count since my sweet husband's graduation day. 

The main theme over the past few weeks in my family has been The Simple Life. (Was that a TV show? Who knows. We don't have TV. I think I recall something about Paris and Nicole. Must be a memory from the grocery store gossip magazines. Got to love those little treasures. Too much irrelevant information is imprinted on my brain from those five minute exposures. I will admit though, I do like these magazines. Put one in front of me and I'm captivated for hours. Is it because we don't have TV? Who knows. All I know is you should see me in a hotel room with cable TV. Oh, Lordy!)

Back to our house. Back to the simple life. Yes. A theme for us. Something to strive for.

The obvious truth is that it's the simple things that are the biggest blessings...

Sharing a cup of coffee together in the morning before walking into our respective workplaces.

A lunchtime communication just to ask, "How are the kids doing today?"

Playing catch in the backyard no sooner than walking through the front door.

Family meals. Two adults, three children. Finally a decent ratio.

Washing dishes in peace while someone else gets the kids ready for bed. Lord knows that I've hit my limit with the kids somewhere around the six o'clock hour. Who knew a woman could cling to the kitchen sink so desperately after dinner.

All that to say, focusing on the simple things in life has brought the most joy to our family over the past few weeks. And as of today I'm feeling inspired not to loose this feeling. So I'm creating a little project for myself.

Once a week I will be sharing a Simple Joy. Captured in a photo, one simple thing that brings me joy. Something that I see, feel, taste or experience that keeps me dancing in the kitchen. We all know that life can be hard, unpredictable and difficult to navigate at times. I'm fairly certain these realities won't ever disappear. Nor should they disappear entirely. It's the joy and the pain, the highs and the lows that make this such a rich and complex existence.

I'm excited to identify just a few of the highs on this here bloggy blog every Monday morning—one little way I can start my week off with positive perspective.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bringing the Joy of Family Vacation Home

It has been one month since that glorious day in May when my sweet husband walked across the commencement stage to receive his diploma for our—eh, I mean, his—four years of hard work in Grad School.

In the past six weeks our family has traveled 2,784 miles by car and 4,334 miles by air to three amazing destinations for a some much needed R&R, in addition to visiting one very average middle America town to honor the life of a very important person.

Evidence seen here...

My road trip with the three kids halfway across the country. Dada stayed home.

Graduation vacation in Mexico. The whole family together. Delightful.

Camping in Moab, Utah. Multi-family fun.

Our annual trip to California to visit with my family. Just me and the kids.

Across the miles we've had plenty of time together to talk and dream and laugh and dream some more.

The most amazing thing about trips in general is that we get to take a step back from the day-to-day happenings in our lives. Remarkably, when not in the middle of the normal flow—be it the busy, mundane or chaotic flow—of our lives we start to see things a little differently. And if we're lucky we'll be seeing things a lot differently by the time we get home. That's why I love taking trips so much. The new perspective is so refreshing.

I especially like road trips—even with three rowdy kids in the back. The focused time I get with my hubby is precious to me. Endless hours of talking. Endless hours of hand holding. For some reason we don't seem to get much of that goodness when we stick around the house. And the kids are strapped in. Have I mentioned before my love of little children who sit still?

Still and quiet children aside, upon arriving at home my main goal was to translate the wonderful things we've seen, breathed and felt from our time away into our day-to-day living.

However upon arriving at home, the busyness of our schedules, mundane household chores and chaotic ambiance inside our four walls took their proper places front and center in our day-to-day happenings.

Hardly shocking. But honestly, I was shocked. How did we go from peace and harmony on the beach to three short people fighting, screaming and whining all day long? I imagined our family vacation bliss would last a few weeks at the very least, while I was secretly hoping for slightly more. We must have forgotten to pack the good vibes, mellow moods, and go-with-the-flow attitudes in to our suitcases. These delightful ways of functioning together have likely found anther family of vacationers to overwhelm with their joy by now.

But I want them back. Mellow moods, mellow moods, where are you?

So I've been thinking. What are the factors that contribute to such greatness as a family when on vacation?

A few points that have been sitting with me strongly...

Simplify everything. On vacation the schedules are simple. They are not overcrowded with nonsense. We do the essentials. Not much more. Cooking becomes a family activity. Tidying is a mindful practice.

Detach from the stuff. On vacation our space is not overcrowded with ten thousand little things. Or a hundred items of clothing. Or sixty pairs of shoes. Everyone has one outfit for now, one in the laundry and one for later. Just one pair of shoes per person. One hat. One book. In a hotel room or vacation rental there is a place for everything and everything in its place. This is so much easier to do when there are one hundred things to deal with instead of one hundred million things.

Allow children their fair share of the Earth's elements. For my kids, this is no less than eight hours a day feeling the sun's warmth and getting up close and personal with the forces of nature—be it a wave, dirt path or tall rock.

Plan well. There is a time and place for everything in the day. Try to feed the kids a meal two hours late and watch the madness unfold. Try to get just one more thing done on the computer before we leave for that bike ride I promised and watch the madness unfold. Meal prep, kitchen clean-up, quiet time and mama's work all have proper spots. When well executed this ship runs smoothly.

I'm excited to actualize these concepts in our home this week. First stop... delivering bags of stuff to the thrift store. Yay!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Green Mountain Gringo Salsa

For the longest time our gluten-free family found solace in Mexican restaurants when going out to eat. Remarkably, our favorite place in town would feed our family of five on one large chicken fajita platter. The free chips and salsa really do a bang-up job as an appetizer for my crew.

We carried-on the Saturday night fajita plate tradition for years until we determined that our Celiac son was also allergic to corn. Without corn and wheat and dairy, dining at Mexican restaurants has become slightly less appealing. 

Since then we've been making plenty of wonderful Mexican dishes at home sans the corn. However, one of my favorite things about Mexican restaurants is the mouth-watering fresh salsa. I could make a meal of it alone.

Bound and determined to find a store bought salsa that brings as much joy as the restaurant varieties I came across Green Mountain Gringo brand salsa.

Green Mountain Gringo offers everything I love about homemade salsa but easy to grab off the shelves when in a rush.

Fresh flavor, perfectly blended spices and five heat levels that are kind to my palate. The chunky texture of this salsa is lovely for pouring over the top of tacos and burrito bowls. And the complexity of flavors will keep you coming back with your chip or cucumber or whatever you use to dip. 

Long live restaurant quality Mexican food at home!

Word up—This is not a paid advertisement. I like salsa. I like Green Mountain Gringo. 'Nuf said.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Simple Candied Pecans

It's almost Christmas in July! And if you've been hanging around this blog for any length of time you'll certainly recall what that means... SUGAR NUTS

Christmas in December, July, September or August only means one thing in my book. Remember those out-of-this-world Burnt Sugar Almonds I fell in love with last December? They were so good I found myself making a batch every other day for every reason I could think of... teacher's gifts, neighbor's gifts, gifts to myself for going through all the hard work of making them. I promised myself that this would be a holiday tradition only, so to minimize the need to buy increasingly larger pant sizes as the year carries on. I am proud to say that the sugar nuts have maintained their proper position until now—sugar and nuts, sitting separately in their respective positions in the cupboard. 

Until now that is! Christmas in July is a great reason to sprinkle sugar nuts on salads, over ice cream sundaes, or mix them in with the gorp as a special surprise for the kids.

This recipe is so easy and so good. Give it a try and I guarantee you'll be happy you did. 

Simple Candied Pecans

2 cups raw pecans halves (broken once more in half lengthwise)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

The Preparation Method:

Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved.

Pour in 2 cups of the halved and halved again pecans.

Still over medium-high heat, stir the pecans to coat them well in the sugar syrup.

Continue stirring the pecans. Don't stop stirring. You will see the syrup turn into a dry crumbly coating over the nuts. This is good. Very good. Keep stirring.

After a few more minutes watch the crumbly coating begin to melt back into a liquid. Keep stirring as the thick liquid coats the nuts slightly.

The batch is finished when the nuts are slightly shiny—but mostly bumpy—in appearance.

Immediately spread onto a piece of wax paper to cool.

Try not to eat them all in one sitting, my friends!

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