Convenience Cookies

Sorry, It’s been a while.  Actually, I feel like I have been saying that a lot to people lately.  My routine has been thrown in the air a bit in recent days – but 2012 finally seems to be getting settled.

One of the things that I have been trying to do lately is eliminate pre-packaged foods from the house. Right now, we still have a lot of it around mostly because in the moment, it makes life so much easier. Pre-packaged food always has a bunch of random weird stuff in it (and TONS of sodium) and by making it myself, I can have more control to make sure that things are as healthy as can be around here.

So to start my little pre-packaged by you – so it’s still homemade! series, I bring you Convenience Cookies.

This isn’t an original idea by any means… One of the greatest things about the cookies in the refrigerator section of the grocery store is that they are easy to pop into the oven when you want them, especially when you don’t have the time to make them from scratch.  This is also why thousands of school-aged children do so well at selling frozen cookie dough for fundraisers at school.  People love convenience and they especially love when things still feel homemade without the hassle.

For a fraction of the cost – you can do this yourself and it’s really simple.  I love having these around for nights when we have friends in town or over for dinner.  It also makes me more on top of my game – and I like that feeling.  Thinking ahead makes this worth it for whatever reason you might need them.

Directions -
Please excuse the mix of phone photos and real camera photos.  I forgot where the camera was when I got started.

Follow the recipe for your favorite scooped cookies – I usually use the Original NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and it freezes really nicely.  My only change is that I use 1/2 the chocolate chips and I use the mini chips if I can find them.

After you get the dough together, put the bowl in the fridge for about 5 minutes.  This makes the cookie dough easier to scoop.

Scoop the cookies onto a parchment lined cookie sheet (make sure this will fit into your freezer first).  They can be as close together as you wish, since you will not be baking these.

Stick the entire sheet into your freezer for 20 minutes or until you can pick up the cookies without leaving any chunks of dough left on the paper when you pick one up.

Ready.

When the dough balls are ready, toss them into a freezer bag or container.  It is important to use a freezer-safe container so that the cookies don’t get freezer burned and ruined before you can bake them.

There you go! I like to use Ziploc Smart Zip bags.  I use these for lots of stuff in the freezer and I always have really great results.

When you are ready to bake them, place the frozen cookies onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 1-2 minutes beyond the normal baking time listed on the original recipe.

Do you have anything that you put together like this ahead of time? Share it with me, please!

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Breakfast Chorizo Fried Rice and even homemade flour tortillas.

Rob loves fried rice. Rob really loves chorizo and since I have learned to mix them into a breakfast concoction… he’s decided I might have magical powers. Okay, he kind of already thought that, but this breakfast is definitely his favorite thing that I’ve come up with recently.

Living in this predominately Mexican neighborhood blesses us with the best carnicerias around. Plus, I’ve been getting great produce for incredible prices and it still has me leaving the store with excitement like I just won something (I am going to do a whole post about the grocery stores another day).

I planned to make this and then managed to totally forget to buy tortillas. Even though I can practically see the market from the house, I decided to make them. I have had this on my “to try” list for too long and the supplies to make them are too easy. So, Happy Tuesday my friends…

We’ll start with the fried rice.

Breakfast Chorizo Fried Rice
Makes enough for 3 hungry adults

Here’s what you need:
1/2 lb. chorizo (the real stuff – do not use regular pork sausage flavored to taste like chorizo. Trust me.)
2 c. cooked white rice
1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
5 eggs
1 bunch chopped cilantro, for garnish and deliciousness
1/2 c. shredded cheese or enough to sprinkle over the top at the end

How to:
I start by cooking the chorizo. You want to make sure that you get this cooked really well.

Once the chorizo is just about cooked, I add in onion and bell pepper (I forgot the pepper this time).

Once the onion starts to get translucent and the bell pepper looks soft, I add the rice. This is jasmine rice because that’s what I keep around the house – but you can use any kind of rice that you want. Brown rice works great too.

Incorporate the rice to the chorizo and veggies right away. Then let the rice sit on medium to high heat in the pan so that you can get the rice to crisp up, stirring occasionally.

Once the rice has had time to get cozy with the chorizo, I create a hole in the middle to make the eggs and add just a touch of olive oil.

Then start pouring in your eggs and cook them just like regular scrambled eggs inside of this little hole.

I like to cook the eggs like this mostly because you don’t have to dirty another pan and keeping the meal all in one place the whole way through is just so much easier.

Just before the eggs are totally finished, stir the eggs into the chorizo and rice.

Sprinkle it all with cheese, turn off the heat and put a lid on it so that the cheese can melt and incorporate into it all. Yum. This step is crucial because the best kind of cheese is almost always the melted kind (grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese… you get where I’m goin’ here).

Dish it up! Garnish it with amazing homemade tortillas (recipe is below!) and lots of cilantro. I took the picture below before the dish was cilantroed. Yum. I’m getting hungry again just recapping the awesomeness.

Tortilla time!

I don’t know what is specifically “Texas” about these – but they are delicious and I can basically guarantee that they are better for us than the tortillas that we buy full of lard or preservatives (even though they are delicious too). I have been wanting to make tortillas for a long time. Hot delicious tortillas just sound amazing, don’t they? I made these the night before and heated them up again for our breakfast and they were just as great. You need to make these.

Texas Flour Tortillas (Adapted and doubled from the recipe found at: HomeSickTexan)
Here’s what you need:

4 cups all-purpose flour (can make them whole wheat by substituting one cup of whole-wheat flour for white flour)
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
4 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 c. warm milk

How to:
Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and oil.


Slowly add the warm milk.
Stir until a loose, sticky ball is formed.


Cover your hands with flour and scoop the ball out of the bowl and knead for two minutes on a floured surface. Dough should be firm and soft.
Place dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for 20 minutes.

After the dough has rested, break off 12 sections, roll them into balls in your hands, place on a plate and then cover balls with damp cloth or plastic wrap for 10 minutes. (It’s very important to let the dough rest, otherwise it will be like elastic and won’t roll out to a proper thickness and shape.)


After dough has rested, one at a time place a dough ball on a floured surface, pat it out into a four-inch circle, and then roll with a rolling pin from the center until it’s thin (almost translucent – I forgot to get a photo of this because my hands were covered in dough) and about eight inches in diameter. (If you roll out pie crusts you’ll have no problem with this.) Don’t over work the dough, or it’ll be stiff. Keep rolled-out tortillas covered until ready to cook.
In a dry iron skillet or comal heated on high, cook the tortilla about thirty seconds on each side. It should start to puff a bit when it’s done.


Keep cooked tortillas covered wrapped in a napkin until ready to eat – or they disappear too quickly and that’s why you have to make a double batch. :)


Can be reheated in a dry iron skillet, over your gas-burner flame or in the oven wrapped in foil.
While you probably won’t have any leftovers, you can store in the fridge tightly wrapped in foil or plastic for a day or so.

Ah – there you have it – our favorite breakfast option, for now. What special breakfast do you love to make?

New Year’s Resolution

We’re seven days into 2012.  Does this seem possible? I don’t know how we got here, but here we are and every year I do make a New Year’s Resolution.

I think I started doing this in college.  I don’t remember my parents ever making resolutions, but as long as I can remember making a resolution, I have always made my resolutions about other people.  First, I know that if I promise to do something for someone else, I am more likely to follow through.  Second, I think it’s more fun this way.  I also have a few other rules: if I do not successfully complete the task or the promise, I roll over the resolution to the next year until I make it happen. Also, it’s something that I do that I keep up. I just don’t do it for that year – but I fold it into my normal life once I’m done.

I held on to the “I will remember people’s names when I meet them” resolution for at least 4 years.  It was a rough one, but people love to have their name remembered, it’s a great skill to have in public relations, and it encouraged me to meet more new people. Done. I am good at it now and don’t even have to think about it.

So here we are in 2012 and I failed at my 2011 resolution.  I lost track somewhere around getting married and moving to SF and never picked back up again.  My resolution (again) is to send a birthday card to my close friends (their kids too) and my family on or before their birthday.  Seems easy right?  Apparently not.  I have all of the cards (thanks to Costco and some special Hallmark choices) and I’ve already bought the stamps.  I am ready to go.

Want to make the list? Make sure I have your birthday on file and I know your address.  I absolutely love celebrating people’s birthdays and would love to send you a card. :)  Now that I have announced it here and at the very least my family should know about it.  Hopefully I will do this right and move on to something else next year.

How do you choose your New Year’s Resolution? Do you make one and stick to it? What do you do if you don’t keep your promise?

Saying thank you to 2011.

Well, she’s here… the new year has come. 2012, I have big plans for you. 2011 was an interesting year and I honestly have so many things to be thankful for.

I decided to stay home today, clean the house and be (mostly) alone with my thoughts since Rob is off at work.  Here are just 10 of the big things I thought of and wanted to share.

10. Health.  50 lbs ago… I was not thankful for my health. I was definitely spiraling, but I didn’t care either.  With 2011 gone, so is over-weight and unhealthy Autumn.  Depression just does not look good on me. With the right motivation, I got myself in gear.  I rarely get sick and this is the only body I am going to get, so here is my promise: I am going to take care of myself from here on out. Photo below: On the left, is me at my 25th birthday party. On the right, is me in the same dress about a month ago. There is an honest 50 lb difference between these two photos. Good God it feels good to be in my skin right now. Thanks to those who were honest with me… those who gave encouraging words and everyone who helped me say no to french fries. The journey isn’t over and I wouldn’t have this kind success without your support.

9. Pets. I have the best 3 pets a girl could ask for.  I offended Rob the other night when I told him that Sydney is my best friend.  Maybe she’s just my best furry friend…  but I owe her for getting me out of the house even when I don’t want to, lots of cuddle time and endless love. She turns 3 this week. The cats are great too. I just love them and I love having a house that allows me to have them.

8. Technology.  This might seem silly, but with my family and friends all over the place – I have a special love for technology.  I spent our first 6 months in San Francisco rationing internet data and hunting down wifi.  We finally have internet again! Facetime, Skype, Gchat…. ok – I also love Facebook and I am developing an unhealthy addiction to Pinterest but I love being in touch with everyone no matter where they are. Pinterest officially wins the award for my new favorite Web site. All of you who reaped the benefits of this year’s Christmas cookies should know that those are all discoveries through Pinterest.

7. Public transportation. Huh? Really, Autumn? Yup, you read that correctly.  I love being able to get where I need to go without my car.  I’ve never really loved driving and living in San Francisco has given me a new found freedom.  Me and my Clipper card ride all around town without having to worry about parking or traffic. I can get almost anywhere and without question, this is the single biggest contributor to my weight loss.  I walk 1/2 a mile from the house to get to the Bart station, I ride and then walk to where ever I need to go and then I ride back to the Mission and walk home again. I stack up miles without even thinking about it and I love it.

6. Food. I made some incredible things and ate incredible food in 2011. Even with losing weight, I have managed to eat some fabulous things.  Our favorite establishment is what I call Asian comfort food and we find this fabulousness at Yamo.  The Burmese ladies who own Yamo are hilarious and we just can’t get enough of the house noodles. Check out their Yelp page here.

5. San Francisco.  Ok… enough about all of the little things about this place.  I love San Francisco. There, I said it. Even though many great things came together for Rob and I this year, moving to San Francisco is the single greatest decision that we have made together. This is why SF got #5 (my favorite number). We have a great place, a fantastic neighborhood, and we are starting to really get familiar with where we are. Check out the building we call home, below.  People stop and take pictures all day long.  It’s pretty awesome. Notice Syd and Trisket on top of our garage. ;)

4. Wedding! We finally got married. We are both so glad that we waited until we were really ready.  It was the most gorgeous day and nearly everyone that we love was there with us. I am blessed to have a man in my life who is patient with me, eats all of my food experiments (even the bad ones) and encourages me to become a better person. I am proud to finally be Mrs. Garibay and I really love hearing it at the bank and at Safeway when I check out. It’s the little things.

3. Family.  I miss my family. Those who are here, I need to see more and those who are gone are deeply missed.  I wish that I could suspend time, go back and even fast forward. This year I have learned to take things moment by moment and focus on what really matters. Rob has an incredibly gracious and loving family who I am blessed to be part of.  My Dad, Gram, big brother and sister and nieces and nephews, aunts and cousins all mean so much to me. I promise to be seeing more of all of you in 2012. No excuses.

FAMILY PHOTO TO BE POSTED SOON!

2. Learning.  I am so thankful for all of the lessons I learned in 2011.  I really believe I am a better person now than I was coming into 2011.  I learned to love myself again, forgive myself and others and let go of things that can’t be changed.  I learned that growing up means more than just getting a job and making a home, but it also means standing up for what you believe in and making decisions that don’t always make other people comfortable.  I am still learning… I don’t ever want to stop and I am thankful to live in a place that is giving me lots of opportunity for more of this.  The changes that come with each passing year aren’t always easy, but I can always rely on finding my new normal.

1. My New Normal. ….and that brings me to the number one thing that I am thankful for right now.  In 2010, I thought I had found my new normal – but that feeling didn’t last long.  I still have really rough days and I miss my Mom and Brandon a lot, but I am finally turning the corner to where I will find peace with their deaths. When the feelings of loss and loneliness try to take over, I am finally finding comfort in the moments that I had with them. I know that I have an incredible ability to love others very deeply and they both experienced that from me.  I don’t have regrets with either of my relationships with them, other than I want more time with them.  I miss them as deeply as I love them and that’s what makes it difficult. My new normal is shaping into something that I could never have guessed or imagined – but I like what it looks like and I am proud to call it mine.

Here’s to 2012.  I have big big plans this year and I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for us.

What did 2011 give you that you are thankful for?

Christmas Cookie lineup

I’m more excited than ever about making Christmas cookies this year because I have a new, fancy Kitchen Aid mixer that I got as a wedding gift. She’s needs a name still, but I love her.

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The following are the cookies that I will begin baking this evening:

Where do I start?

Man Muffins

Over the years, I’ve really gotten good at making what I call “man food.”  This isn’t just food that appeals to men (fried chicken, meaty/cheesy casseroles, meatloaf, etc.), but food that comes in the right portions and quantity that men prefer.  I got all of this experience through feeding Rob, of course, and then add in all of his friends that we have had coming over for years to have dinner at our place.  I won’t name names here, but there are a few friends that I need to specifically plan for 2 people eating, instead of just one man-sized appetite.  I learned that leftovers were something to be praised and that they will not be forgotten at the back of the fridge.  This is also about the time that I learned that there is no such thing as too much garlic bread.

Rob isn’t big on sweets, but I definitely love to bake – so I have also gotten good at putting together savory baked treats as well.  Stage right, Man Muffins. Muffins are usually fruity and even feminine, but not these beauties.

Below are the simple steps, and photos, to making these crowd pleasers.   I usually serve them along side chili or soup – but you can’t really go wrong with these.

Man Muffins AKA: Jalepeno & Cheddar Corn Muffins
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes  Yield: 20 muffins

2 pkgs of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix <– Save yourself the trouble of measuring when you’re feeding large groups/appetites.
1 c. milk
2 eggs
1 can diced jalepenos
About 1/4 c. sharp cheddar cheese <– To be mixed into the batter.
More cheese for sprinkling

Throw all of the ingredients in together (except the cheddar that you are saving to sprinkle).

Fill the cups about halfway and sprinkle a healthy pinch on top.  I use a small cookie scoop to get the batter in the muffin cups, it’s not as messy as using a spoon. I do this so that I am sure that each one is equal, which makes sure that they all bake and finish together and so that you don’t have a muffin top spilling out. <– This must be where the term “muffin top” came from, yes?

Place them on the center rack at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the cheese top is brown and gorgeous.  These Man Muffins are baking in a very manly set of camo paper cups.  Pretty cute, huh?

Tada! Man Muffin success!  Enjoy and if you make them, let me know how you change it up or how they turn out. :)

Happy baking!

$50 Ikea Expedit “hack”

Problem solver. Hurdle jumper. Creative genius? Maybe.

Ok… I’ve been holding out on this post for a few months and I needed to do it, mostly because I am super proud of myself and I think other people will be able to use the idea.

I bought a giant Ikea Expedit bookcase from the previous tenant in Unit 1 for a steal. I really wanted to look awesome while maintaing functionality but I also knew that I definitely couldn’t afford the expensive cubbie doors from Ikea.

These are each $30. I love them - but it was not going to happen.

So, I sat and stared at this mess of a shelf for a few weeks. We didn’t have TV or internet and I was going nuts in the house without any storage or extra funds to make this look better. We moved in with a bunch of extra milk crates and Rob insisted that these were “just fine” and that they “did the job” and that I didn’t need to “waste money.”

This is an honest photo. I didn't make any adjustments for this photo op.

Then – I had an idea to use the milk crates but cover them up. I googled and found so many people looking for a cheaper solution. Some women fashioned cloth covers for milk crates – examples of that here, but I wanted something that looked more like the real deal. So, here’s what I’ve come up with. Step by step is below and I didn’t touch a circular saw <– bonus points. ;)

I had 9 milk crates and knew that if I cut a 4x4 piece of wood, I could get all of my "faces" out of one piece with just a little extra wood. I didn't need anything fancy or heavy duty either.

I gave this idea to the guy with the circular saw in the lumber department and for an extra $2 and a few perfect cuts later, I was good to go.

We stopped to take some goofy pictures while we were waiting for the paint to be mixed.

Rob wasn't nearly as excited. He still wasn't sold on my idea - and he really wasn't sold on me taking this picture and posting it somewhere for anyone to see it.

The "faces" were going to screw into the front of the milk crate to fully cover the hole in the shelf. You can see how this lines up in this picture. You can also see our dog, Sydney, looking at us like we're crazy.

The "faces" fit perfectly.

We screwed the board to the milk crate - be sure to use some kind of washer too. If I was going to do this project again, I would probably attempt to glue it with some serious putty or adhesive because on the other side I had screws to cover up. The holes toward the center are for the handle.

A little wood putty and some sand paper and all was well - but I think I would still glue these if I did it again.

Before paint - but this is how they will fit!

On all of the others, I decided to paint them before we put on the handles. This is where it was hard to line them up just right. Even though we had matching crates, the plastic didn't always line up the same. In hind sight, I would probably center one knob in the middle of the "face."

So, I got this project almost finished and we decided to move into Unit 3.  We never completely finished the cubbies and we knew that we were going to have to get rid of the shelves when we moved into Unit 3 because there was no where to put it that made sense.  We ended up selling it to Rob’s parents.  His mom runs a daycare and these are a perfect storage solution for her laundry room and the kiddos! Here is a photo of the cabinets getting finished.

Almost finished...

Pretty awesome, huh? I spent about $50… but we already had the crates.  You can buy those here and here. Happy hacking!

Ah – more kitchen remodel…

So, it’s been one week since the kitchen remodel began and let me say… that horrible kitchen will not be missed.  LL’s promise to “just do something in here” is coming through and I am so excited I can hardly wait for it all to be finished.

Here are some progress photos – they speak for themselves. Please picture me jumping up and down with excitement in the kitchen and pausing to take these photos each day.  Some of them are blurry… I was still kinda jumping. ;)

Click the images to make them larger.

Ah – kitchen remodel…

So… we’ve been into our new place for two weeks.  You’d think that I would be all settled in and just counting the days until we leave for Christmas… but that’s not happening.

When we decided to move to Unit 3, we agreed with our landlady, we’ll call her LL, that we would be accepting the unit as is.  No paint or frills – the unit would be handed over just as the last tenant left. We were both okay with this because LL had agreed to get me “go for it” where paint was concerned.

Here comes my negotiating… I somehow got LL to agree to put in a dishwasher into Unit 1, as we were signing our lease.  We agreed that when Rob and I moved down the hall that we would also get a dishwasher into Unit 3. The kitchen in Unit 3 looked like this.

Original kitchen in Unit 3

 

More of the kitchen wall

 

You can’t exactly see how unfunctionable this kitchen is – but it was going to be a big adjustment for me.  Virtually no counter space or storage and a refrigerator that I am taller than (5’4 on a good day).  I began the conversation with LL by simply asking if I could swap the fridge in Unit 3 with the one we were already using in Unit 1 – done and done. Then LL and I had another conversation where after I told her for the 10th time that the kitchen would be fine – she said, “Please just let me  do something in here… the kitchen is just a mess.” Ding! Here was my opportunity. LL is a kitchen designer by trade and has heaps of odds and ends in her garage from other projects.  She and I went into the space to chat about what I would want in here and to see if we could make it work. She asked me what I would put into the space if it was actually my kitchen.

Here was my list:

  • Butcher block counters
  • White cabinets, glass door fronts with installed lighting
  • While we’re talking lighting… I wanted task lighting and new hung lights too. I’m supposed to dream big, right?
  • Farmhouse style sink – available at Ikea (one of my very best friends, Ashley, has one that I have been jealous of for a few years)
  • Drawers, drawers, drawers… did I mention I wanted lots of storage?

LL said, “You can have it! Give me one week once you get moved in and we’ll make this happen for you.” Then she added that she would look around and see what else she had. Maybe build in the fridge with some “Racheal Ray” pull out shelves and some over the fridge cabinets.  I thought I was in kitchen heaven but I wasn’t willing to get too excited until I saw things start to come together.

The demo started last Thursday… and things should be complete by Friday.  Pictures to come. I can’t tell you how excited I am.

For now… this is what we looked like last Thursday (12/8).

Ripping out the old.

 

All I can see is the ugly burgundy colored walls... oh, and the lack of any kitchen at all.