Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chicken Soft Tacos

I made this dish a few weekends ago.  I got the recipe from my dear friend Aleah over at Nesting in New Jersey. She is a great cook and awesome party planner!  When she posted this recipe on her blog, I knew I would have to make it.  It's exactly the type of recipes I look for--easy, quick, and relatively healthy.  Mark and I both loved this dish.  I modified the recipe a little, but check out Aleah's blog for more great recipe ideas!

Chicken Soft Tacos
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 3 breasts)
1 teaspoon plus 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large carton low sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coursely chopped
¾ cup onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 small cans (or 1 large can) tomatoes with green chilies (Rotel)

Place chicken, skin side down, in a heavy stock pot and cover with chicken broth.  Add 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and cilantro.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Cook 30-40 minutes.

Remove chicken from pan and reserve broth.  When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred and set aside.  Meanwhile, add onions and garlic to pan and sauté until just softened, about 3 minutes.  Add canned tomatoes and all juices.  Return shredded chicken to the pan.  Season with an additional 1 ½ teaspoons cumin, ½ teaspoon chili powder, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne. Add in ¼ – ½ cup reserved broth to moisten.

Stir well to combine.  Warm over medium-low heat and serve.
 I can't believe I didn't take a picture of our soft tacos!  I'll just have to describe them.  We had them on flour tortillas (freshly made from HEB), with refried beans, cheese, salsa, diced tomatoes, and my creamy avocado dip.  Delicious!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Shredded Beef Tacos

This blog posting goes back in time a about 2 or 3 weeks since it took me a long time to get photos uploaded.  We spent our first “free” weekend in Austin going to the outlet mall in San Marcos.  I’m in real need of some work clothes, as I’ve been wearing the same 10 or so tops since internship year (2009-2010).  My favorite store to find professional clothing is the Banana Republic outlet store.  It’s usually where I have the most luck finding clothes that are age appropriate and fit my body shape.  I had been looking forward to going to the outlet mall ever since we moved here with hopes of finding a few new pieces to wear.  After several hours and several stores, all I got were two pairs of shorts (that I won’t be wearing to work but will wear in the summer) and one skirt.  Boo.  I couldn’t find anything else so the search continues.

One cool thing that we bought though was a Le Creuset dutch oven.  I’ve been eyeing these for a while but wanted to wait until our move was complete before seriously looking into them. 

One of the main reasons I wanted to get a dutch oven was to make this shredded beef recipe that I came across on one of my favorite cooking blogs.  I am a big fan of tex-mex and so is the writer of this blog.  This recipe looked so good I have been dreaming of trying it ever since I read it about 6 months ago.  Well my dream finally came true!  Thursday night I came home from work, cooked this baby for 3 hours in the oven, and we had shredded beef tacos Friday night for dinner.  Delicious!  By the way, the dutch oven was a breeze to work with and I look forward to the next dish I’ll make with it (not sure what that is yet).  

Recipe below is slightly modified from For the Love of Cooking blog:

Shredded Beef Tacos
  • 1-2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 lb lean chuck roast (trim most of the outside fat off) or rump roast
  • Cumin, to taste
  • Chili powder, to taste
  • Paprika, to taste
  • Oregano, to taste
  • Cilantro, about 1/3 cup, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups of beef broth (plus more if needed)
  • 4 oz can of whole green chiles
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded, de-veined, and chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Trim the outside fat off of the chuck roast. Season the chuck roast evenly with cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, coriander, sea salt, and freshly cracked pepper on both sides of the roast. Place them beef in the hot Dutch oven for 2-3 minutes on each side to sear the meat. Add the beef broth, whole green chiles, jalapeno, cilantro, and minced garlic. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and place into the oven for 2-3 hours making sure to check each hour to make sure you don’t need to add more broth. The beef is done when the meat is tender and shreds easily with a fork. Carefully, remove any fat that you see in the beef then shred the beef using a fork.

Other Ingredients:
  • Small flour tortillas (If you live in TX, HEB makes the best tortillas)
  • Refried beans, warmed
  • Extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Diced tomato
  • Avocado dip
Heat the refried beans. Place the tortillas in a damp cloth and microwave for 20 seconds to warm up. Spread a bit of refried beans down the center of the tortilla then add some shredded beef followed by cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and avocado dip. Serve with salsa and stuff yer face.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Shepherd's Pie

When we were staying with my in-laws before we moved to Texas, my mother in-law cooked some really good and inspiring dishes.  In fact, the first three dishes I made when we moved here were meals that she had cooked over that week and I recreated them here.  One of those dishes was Shepherd’s Pie.  I never had it before then and I really liked it.  Since I didn’t have her exact recipe, I googled one and found the following on allrecipes.com, which I modified a little bit and typed it up below.  Mark and I really enjoyed it and will be using this recipe again.  It was also nice in that I prepared it all in a casserole dish the night before, so after work the next day I just had to pop it in the oven and dinner was ready.  Unfortunately, I just realized that I didn't take any pictures!  I think I was still so overwhelmed from the move and starting work that I never thought I would get back to blogging again!  So sorry for not having pictures, but it was good and I definitely recommend this recipe.  Have a good weekend everyone!

Shepherd’s Pie
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Skim Milk, about ¼ to ½ cup
  • 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • About ¾ a bag of frozen carrots/peas combination
  • About 1/3 to ½ a bag of frozen corn kernals
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef, I used 90% lean
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 3/4 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese


1.      Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
2.      Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain and mash. Mix in butter and 1/4 cup shredded cheese. And skim milk to desired consistency; the potatoes should be on the thick side still.  Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
3.      Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and cook until clear. Add ground beef and cook until well browned. Add in frozen carrots/peas and frozen corn and stir for about 1-2 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add ketchup and beef broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
4.      Spread the ground beef in an even layer on the bottom of a 2 quart casserole dish. Top with the mashed potato mixture and sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese.
5.      Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Little Boxes....On the Hillside

Boxes in NJ, Before the Move
 If you watch Weeds, then you know where the title of this post comes from.  Anywhoo, I was just going through the pictures on my camera and came across these that I took before and after our move.  They give you an idea of just how much work we had cut out for ourselves and what we've been up to for the past month.  This was most of the boxes, (I think we had about 150 boxes total) but not all of them, and of course, none of our furniture are in these pictures.

Delivery of Boxes in Austin

A Large Pile of Opened and Emptied Boxes

Another Perspective of the Emptied Boxes
 We actually unpacked the vast majority of the boxes within the first 5 days.  But it took about the rest of a month to organize things and put things in their places.  We are pretty much settled now but there's always things on my to-do list to make things look better!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Weekend Update

We had another productive and fun weekend here in Austin.  On Saturday, we went to go see Cabin in the Woods. 
Weird movie, wouldn’t recommend it.  I also completed a DIY project on Saturday that I am super proud of.  I bought these really ugly brass lamps from Goodwill earlier in the week and transformed them into chic and beautiful (at least I think so).  I did take a "before" picture and will take some "after" pictures.  On Saturday, I also got a massage at Massage Envy.  I’ve been a member of Massage Envy for a year or so now.  I think people give mixed reviews of them but the key is to find a good masseuse that fits your needs.  I like a deep tissue massage and often find that people don’t massage deep enough, so that was my concern in having a new massage therapist in Austin.  However, the therapist I had was fantastic!  I am definitely going to see her again and scheduled my next appointment in two weeks. 

On Sunday I did some shopping—got some new clothes at Ross (2 dresses and a tank top).  I also found the perfect lampshades at Target for my “new” lamps.  We also hung the majority of our pictures around the house…we are so close to being moved in!   Not much cooking going on this week.  I know I haven’t posted pictures in a while, which might make for a boring blogpost for others to read.  Truth is I’m too lazy to upload picture files on my computer when I get home from work.  One day it’ll happen—can’t tell you when though. 

This coming weekend we are going to Houston to celebrate my dad’s 66th birthday.  He’s having a big crawfish boil at his house with family.  So excited to see everyone—my dad, brother, cousins, aunts, and uncles!  I love being closer to my family and able to celebrate these special occasions with them.    

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Weekend Update

We had a really fun weekend!  It was a balance of being busy during the day, but also getting to sleep in...a lot.  And it felt wonderful.  On Saturday we finally went to see the Hunger Games.  We both really liked it—Mark liked it much more than I did, but I also thought it was good.  Not exactly good enough to motivate me to read the books, at least for now.  I might some day, but it’s not at the top of my priority list.  In the evening, we went to the Pecan Street Festival, which is one of many annual arts festivals in Austin.  It was super hot, so we walked through it kind of quickly and didn’t see anything of interest to us.  It was dark when we got home but we were so hot we went swimming in our apartment pool.  It was nice and relaxing, especially since we were the only ones there. 

On Sunday I did a LOT of cooking, which hopefully I’ll get to blog about before this weekend.  I made chicken soft tacos, fruit dip, and banana pineapple chocolate bread.  It was hot again on Sunday, so having the stove and oven on for hours probably wasn’t a good idea, but all the food was delicious. 

Last night we finally got around to hanging up some pictures in our apartment.  This was pretty much the last step in our “unpacking.”  We hung around 50% of our pictures, all downstairs, so things are definitely coming together.  Still more work to do though.  I also got some lamps from Goodwill yesterday that I plan to spray paint and spruce up.  It'll be my first DIY project of this sort, but I've seen so many cool lamp renovations on blogs that I wanted to try it myself.  I hope to go buy the spray paint today, but I'm still trying to figure out the logistics of spray painting something when I don't have any outdoor space in my apartment.  I will post pictures when I finish it though--hope it turns out well!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Finally a Day of Rest

This is our first weekend in Austin without doing a lot of unpacking/moving-related stuff!  I slept til 11 AM today and it felt wonderful.  We are finally going to see the Hunger Games today at an Alamo Drafthouse theater and then plan on going to the Pecan Street Festival later in the day.  Looking forward to a day of fun and relaxation!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

...And I'm Back!

Wow, 2012 has been a crazy and busy year!  It all started when I got a phone call the day we were going to fly to Houston (I think it was 12/29/11) to see Northwestern play in a bowl game against A&M.  The call was from Austin State Hospital, where I applied for a job as a psychologist.  I ended up flying back to Texas the next weekend (I think it was the 2nd week of the new year) so that I could interview for the job on a Monday.  I thought I did my best during the interview, but they were also interviewing others, so I wasn't sure what my chances were.  A few weeks went by as they interviewed other candidates, and I finally heard in mid-February that I got the job! 

Things were pretty crazy busy after that...as soon as I accepted (which was within about a week), we gave our apartment in NJ 60 days notice and ended up moving out about 45 das after giving our initial notice.  We planned to move at the end of March/beginning of April, and we began to pack our stuff at the end of February.  In the end, we had about 150 boxes and all of our furniture...we do not travel lightly.  Packing is so tiring!  We hired movers to ship our stuff to Texas and also shipped our cars.  My 1998 Toyota 4Runner that I've had since high school is still kickin'!  We stayed with Mark's parents the first week of April (Mark continued to work everyday) and left for Texas on Easter Sunday (4/8).  We arrived at our apartment in Austin and slept on the floor with 2 pillows and a bedsheet for 3 nights!  It was quite uncomfortable but we survived.  There was really nothing to do in our apartment and literally not even a place to sit except for the floor.  Our stuff and cars finally arrived on Wed. and we spent the rest of that week and weekend unpacking.  I don't consider my person who necessarily "loves things" but boy, did I miss our stuff! 

I started work on Monday, 4/16.  Good thing work started off with a 12 day orientation.  Although it felt long, it was kind of nice to ease into my job and responsibilities.  The state hospital is a much different environment and patient population compared to private practice!  My orientation is officially over as of yesterday.  I'm making progress on determing what my job responsibilities are and getting more comfortable working with the patients here.  I'm working with patients who have both a mental illness and mental retardation.  I think I'm going to learn a lot while I'm here and hopefully can help the patients too. 

After one week of work/orientation, we went to Houston to celebrate my 31st birthday.  We had a wonderful crawfish dinner...yum!  It was so nice to spend time with my family and catch up.  The last time I saw them was around the time of the New Year and my aunt's funeral, so circumstances were much better this time. 

So far I am loving Austin.  It seems like there is so much to do and so many places to eat!  My blog might shift from a cooking blog to a "pictures of things I ate" blog.  I am dreading the heat of the summer months though.  At least we have a pool in our apartment complex, so that should help in keeping cool. 

I'm adjusting to life with a full time job and finding that there is much less time for "life" when you work.  Most people already know this, but I am just now living it.  I've been spoiled working basically part time for the last year or so.  I am not a morning person, so having an 8-5 job is a little difficult for me.  It is nice to have evenings to spend with Mark though. 

Now that things have finally settled down a little and I've established some semblance of a routine, I hope to keep my blog more up to date. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Chocolate Fudge Pie

I decided to try this recipe from this blog I like to read called Chocolate Covered Katie.  I really don't have a huge sweet tooth at all, but I thought this recipe sounded interesting and easy, so I figured I didn't have much to lose by trying it.  I originally bought a chocolate graham crust I was planning to put the pie mix in, but when I tasted the filling, it was so rich on its own that I decided the chocolate crust would make it too rich and sweet for me.  So I ended up just putting mine in a container.  The recipe uses tofu, which if you aren't familiar with buying tofu, I bought this in my local grocery store:
The original recipe calls for 12.3 oz of tofu, and I think this container is slightly more than that, so I just cut a small piece of tofu off (what I estimated to be about 2 ounces) and added it to a stirfry I had made earlier).  I'll tell you more of my thoughts on it once I give you the recipe:

Chocolate Fudge Pie
1 package firm tofu, drained
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 T milk (any kind, I used coconut milk, but regular milk would do)
1/8 tsp salt
8-10 oz chocolate chips (I used 1 1/3 cups of Ghiardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Melt the chocolate (either on the stove or in the microwave), then throw everything into a food processor and blend until super-smooth. Pour into a pie crust if desired.  Fridge until chilled. This gets firmer and firmer, the longer it sits. (It’s firmer if you use firm tofu and more like mousse pie if you use silken.)

My thoughts on the finished product--it was much richer than I thought it would be!  This would certainly satisfy your sweet tooth.  I thought it was really good without being sickeningly sweet.  Mark liked it at first (he didn't love it), but then I told him it had tofu in it and he won't touch anymore of it.  I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do with the rest of it since I don't have a huge sweet tooth, but I thought it would be really yummy with a banana. I think it's cool that this recipe is vegan.  Even though I am not, I do try to be conscious of what I eat, so it's nice to know animals were not used in the making of this product.

Apparently, it's not too bad for you either.  The nutritional info for this, calculated using 8 slices, according to Katie's website is:
  • 143 calories
  • 6 grams fat
  • 2.5 grams protein
  • 0mg cholesterol
Update:  I wrote this post shortly after I made it, but it's been about 3 days since I made it.  I've been eating it with a banana, just like you would peanut butter and banana and it is delicious!  I would definitely make it again, but I would probably halve the recipe. 
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