Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Miracle Child: My Birth Story

While it's all still fresh in my mind, I wanted to document Samuel's birth story. I hope y'all don't mind! Birth stories are very personal and sometimes out of our control, so I'll just thank you guys in advance for letting me share my story. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tostones: The Macho Banana

There were several Dominican staples my mom cooked regularly for our family as I was growing up. One of my favorite dishes is captured in the glorious flavors of Pollo Guisao. I shared my crock pot version of that recipe last year. Today, I'd like to share with you my version of tostones. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Crockpot Short Rib Mole

I'll be completely honest and say that this is one of those recipes where you will just have to blindly trust that it will taste good when it's finished. Because it will leave you wondering at times. But trust me -- this is a winner and it's an easy, make-ahead dinner party meal (or just an easy weeknight meal).

Mole (pronounce moe-lay....not mole, ya weirdos. This ain't no Duck Dynasty affair over here) is a traditional Mexican sauce made with an assortment of toasted herbs, spices and chiles....and chocolate! It's very rich and complex in flavor, but not complex to make. In fact , this mole sauce recipe makes enough for two dinners, so you can freeze half of the sauce and bust it out later. Which I plan to do. Just sayin'. 


This recipe is based on Tyler Florence's Turkey Mole Poblano. Minus the turkey. Because, heck, beef is awesome and beef short ribs are even more awesome. But you could use almost whatever land-dwelling protein you like.

I start by making the mole sauce sans meat first. This is a fantastic staple to add to your kitchen repertoire, and as I mentioned above it makes a double order of sauce so you get two dinners out of it.

Mole Sauce

Ingredients


  • 2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 dried Anaheim chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • Hot water
  • 1/4 cup whole almonds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican, broken in pieces
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • onions, sliced
  • cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 serrano peppers, stemmed and seeded
  • plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, preferably Mexican, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chicken stock
Short Ribs

Ingredients


  • Short ribs
  • Salt and pepper

Tear the chiles into large pieces and toast them in a dry skillet with high sides (or a dutch oven) over medium heat until they change color a bit, about 2 minutes. I didn't have any dried Anaheim chiles and, frankly, have never been able to find them at my local grocery store, so I just doubled up on the anchos. 



 Put them into a bowl with the raisins and cover them with hot water. Soak until the chiles are softened (about 30 minutes). 

In the same skillet over medium heat, add the almonds, sesame seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon stickoregano, and thyme (I forgot to photograph the peppercorns, but don't worry, they made it into the pot). Toast the spices for 2 minutes. Transfer the spices to a spice grinder and grind, baby, grind! Set aside. 


In the same skillet, over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, onions, garlic, and serrano. Cook until the onions are lightly browned. 




...And then add the tomatoes. 


Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. 


Add the chocolate, ground spice mixture and the soaked chiles and raisins to the pot along with some of the chile soaking liquid. 



Puree using a hand blender, adding more soaking liquid or chicken stock, as needed, to make a smooth sauce. You can also use a regular blender, but I find a hand blender to be easier. :)

Once you reach the desired smoothness, your sauce is ready! If you taste-test at this point, don't be alarmed if you're not 100% pleased with the flavor. This sauce really comes into its own after it's slow cooked with a protein.



I generously seasoned the ribs with salt and pepper.


I browned them over medium-high heat with a little bit of EVOO -- this step is optional. You could just toss the ribs directly into the crockpot without browning them. 


The ribs walked single-file into the crockpot. 


And then I piled on half of my mole sauce on the ribs. I set the crockpot on low for 6 hours.



I served the mole over arepas (a South American staple, much like a corn pancake), but you could serve these over rice, over plantains (think tostones), or in tortillas. You can get my arepa recipe by clicking here.



We garnished with marinated red onions, cotija cheese and creme fraiche. It was to die for!!



Cheers!!

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nifty Thrifty Closet Storage

I was desperately rummaging around my house the other day looking for ways to avoid buying more child-size hangers. And then I found my solution, and figured I'd share! I'm using this solution for baby clothes but it could really be used for any number of things....like scarves, belts, accessories, jewelry, delicates, hats, fabric, crafting supplies, etc. 


I had purchased some shower curtain tension rods awhile back for another project (they were cheaper and better looking than buying regular window curtain tension rod), which came with shower curtain rings included. Since I wasn't using the tension rods in the shower, I just saved the curtain rings, figuring I'd find a way to use them eventually. Well, fast forward a year later and these rings have found their destiny!

By combining the ring with a clothes pin, I expanded my baby clothes-hanging capacity without having to buy more hangers. Now keep in mind, this solution was especially cost effective for me because I already had the shower rings on hand. Like I mentioned above, they came with the shower curtain tension rods that I needed for another project. So, for me, they were in essence "freebies" if you want to look at it that way. But a pack of 12 shower curtain hooks will run you anywhere from $2-5 dollars depending on the style and where you buy them, and I bought my clothes pins at the dollar store for $1 for a pack of about 30 or so. Child hangers run about $5-7 for a pack on 10 on amazon.com, but you're limited in what you can hang on them (shirts versus pants, etc). 


Don't get me wrong, I am definitely using child-size hangers, but my shower-curtain-ring-clothes-pin combination gives me a little bit more versatile storage. 


Ta da!!



What creative solutions have you come up with lately? Please share!


Cheers!

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Nursery Window Seat Bench Cushion

You may remember I installed these built-ins in the nursery. Well..... I finally made a cushion to go on top of the bench. Woo hoo!


It was a pretty easy process. I cut two long rectangles of fabric, which would become the top and bottom of the cushion. I also cut three thin strips of fabric, which would become the sides. I sewed everything together, inside out. You're probably realizing at this point that I'm too sleep-deprived to write up a good step-by-step overview of this project. So, these pictures are all you're going to get. :)



Once almost all of the sides were sewn, I turned the whole thing right-side in and then stuffed it.

Aaaaand, then I was done!
Cheers!

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Friday, January 4, 2013

A few nursery updates

I wanted to catch y'all up on a couple of updates I've made to the nursery. If you follow Pig and Paint on Facebook, you probably saw that I finished the nursery curtains -- and went into labor a few hours later (oopsie!). 

So, here they are!


I also added a skirt to the crib. I ghetto-DIY-ed it with some safety pins attached to the mattress frame. Don't judge...I only had so much time before Samuel was going to wake up from his nap. 




Easy cheesy! By the way, that creeper in the back is Mo the Mammoth peering out from behind the crib -- he's awesome! He's a rocking chair wooly mammoth from my mother in law. Samuel is going to have a blast playing with him when he's older.



Cheers!

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Nursery Art

My sister is an incredibly talented artist, and she made an amazing gift for Samuel's nursery -- custom art! Let me tell you, people were talking about this art weeks after my baby shower. It made quite the impression!

These three sketches are one of my favorite design elements in the room. Not only do they hold tremendous sentimental value because they are from my sister, but they are simply OUTSTANDING and one-of-a-kind pieces that give the room a wonderful hint of whimsy.


My sister is an artist by profession and does quite a bit of custom commissioned work via Etsy, from paintings and sketches, to sculptures and crafts, to even designing book covers and characters for novelists. She offered to create something for Samuel's room, so I gave her a high-level overview of the colors and theme and she ran with it. Her creativity and ability know no bounds!


Working with an artist is a great way to give your space the perfect touch it needs. And you'd be surprised at how affordable commissioning custom art can be, especially when you consider the fact that you can be part of the creative process, from determining subject matter, picking key colors, or even just giving the artist a general direction and letting them go crazy with it.


Of course, I'd love for y'all to work with my sister because I think she's pretty much the bee's knees. You can contact her via her Etsy shop at the following link:


http://www.etsy.com/shop/KVarts


For Samuel's nursery, she used pages of a dictionary as her canvas and sketched happy-go-lucky animals, with the corresponding animal definition called out on the page. You can now order your own dictionary animal prints via her Etsy shop, so definitely make sure you check out her store!!


Here we have a crime-fighting giraffe in a detective's hat, smoking a bubble pipe.


The second features a show-stopping elephant tipping his top hat, while sporting a scarf and a cane.


And last but not least, we have a adventure-loving zebra in a sweater and a jockey's hat.



I mean, seriously, aren't these awesome?



Is there any area in your home that could use custom art? If so, where?
Cheers!!

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hello 2013!

Happy New Year!!!


Last New Year's Day, my husband declared 2012 would be "the year of unquenchable optimism." Looking back, I am astounded at how profoundly accurate he was. Our family went through major transitions and challenges personally and professionally in 2012, but had more hope woven through the core of our beings than ever before. And when I say "hope" I mean God's favor and action in our lives was exponentially greater than we had ever experienced. Sometimes it seems like you're on the treadmill of life -- working hard and going nowhere, but gaining strength and endurance all the way. We spent a season of several years on the treadmill. In 2012, God took us off the treadmill and put us in the game, and it has been the most exciting time of our lives. If you are local to the Bay Area and want to see what God is doing, please come visit us at Valley Church in Vacaville


So, I asked Brian what he foresees for 2013. He thought for a moment, and said, "This is the year to reap what we've sown." In 2012, we sowed seeds in several areas....in Brian's music and book writing, in my blog, in Brian's ministry at Valley Church, and in my new job. And, of course, in the greatest gift of all: our son Samuel. I can't wait to see what we reap in 2013!


From a project perspective, I have some specific things I hope to accomplish, so here's my top 10 list for 2013. 


Top 10 Projects for 2013


1. Install a barn door between the master bedroom and bathroom.
This has been on my to-do list for awhile. Barn door hardware is expensive. After reviewing some of the DIY / faux versions, I've drawn up plans for my own DIY version......bbbbbut, I may just bite the bullet and buy the real hardware and save myself a little time. We shall see. I will definitely be making the door myself regardless. 




2. Finish Samuel's nursery.
Today is my due date and I had hoped to have the room completed by now. But, it was about 4 weeks before I felt comfortable going up and down the stairs multiple times per day after my c-section, so I lost a little bit of time. Hopefully it won't be much longer before it's complete. 




3. Replace the art over the fireplace.
I'm thinking a mirror would be nice.


4. Replace our TV stand.
'Nuff said.




5. Install a kitchen backsplash.
Brian and I really want to put in a backsplash, but cannot decide what we want to do....but I'm determined to tackle this project soon!




6. Finish the living room.
This is something I had hoped to get done in 2012, but now it's gettin' pushed into 2013. Still not quite sure how I want to dress this space, but I'm hoping inspiration will strike.




7. Spruce up our master bathroom.
Still waiting for inspiration to strike on this space too....I'd really love to change out all of the tile, but that probably won't be in my 2013 budget. 




8. Start meal-planning again. 
I used to do this and we saved so much money. I would plan meals about 1-2 weeks in advance. This way I could plan meals with similar ingredients, and wasted less food. 


9. Do something with the backyard.
Ugh. I want to do something with our backyard so badly. It's completely unfinished. I'm not even going to post a before picture yet. It's just a shame.


10. Finish Brian's studio.
Another project leftover from 2012. Sorry Brian! :)




Cheers!!

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