Create: Charred Corn Tacos

So I'll probably never be a food blogger.  I don't have the urge and am not nearly tidy enough in the kitchen to take pictures of the cooking. I also dig into the food too fast to get a pretty photo of it. BUT. When I discover something this amazing I have to share. It's practically a duty to let you all know about these tacos.

I grew up with flour tortillas, which were fine, but this summer I discovered how yummy a warmed corn tortilla can be. Then I grilled a couple corn cobs on a whim (too lazy to boil it) and threw some peppers and onions next to them. Something magical happens to those veggies as they get a little charred by the flames. They require no more fussing than a squeeze of lime juice and a little salt and pepper and bam — best salsa ever. Add the salsa to a tortilla and other amazing things like avocado and cheese? Perfect summer dinner.

I'm not exaggerating when I say we had these 5 times in one week. They're that good.

Since it's hot and sticky and I don't really love cooking when there are other fun summer activities to get on to, these have been perfect. I use some precooked meat, throw the veggies on the grill, and we have a fresh, delicious dinner in 15 minutes. The secret is that the grilled sweet corn and fresh cilantro make the whole taco so flavorful that these could be served at a fancy shmancy taco place.

You can fill your taco like me and proportion everything just so, or you can do it like Dave and pile it so full that he can't even pinch it shut at top. By the end of the meal he can make a whole taco from just the droppings that have fallen out while he was eating.

Also, these are just as good without the meat, so if you vegetarian or just don't have meat in the house, these are still a winner.

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Consider this recipe a guideline, the ingredients are so fresh and simple that it would be nearly impossible to mess up. We use whatever is in the fridge and throw it on the table to go on the tortillas. The salsa is the real star of the show. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 ears corn
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red pepper or a handful of smaller red peppers
  • 1 jalapeno (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1-2 limes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lb pre-cooked, chopped meat of some sort (chicken, fish, pork, etc)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp chili powder (depending on how spicy you like things)
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • corn tortillas

Additional optional toppings (go a little crazy with these):

  • sour cream
  • hot sauce
  • cheese
  • chopped lettuce
  • avocado
  • sliced cabbage
  • grilled pineapple
  • lime wedges
  •  

Instructions:

  1. Heat grill to high. 
  2. Slice onion lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices. shuck corn. Cut pepper in half and remove stem and seeds. 
  3. Place vegetables over flames and cook until slightly charred. 
  4. Remove and chop veggies into small pieces. Season with salt and pepper and dress with the chopped cilantro and lime juice. 
  5. Season meat with chili, cumin, salt and pepper. 
  6. Heat tortillas either in a skillet or wrapped in aluminum in the oven. 
  7. Top each tortilla with veggie salsa, chicken and all the other toppings your heart desires. 

House + Home: the kitchen

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Here it is! Our new kitchen in all it's bright and beautiful glory. So excited to finally share it with you.

Of all the things we did to this little house, the kitchen is the one that gives me the most daily joy. 

It may sound silly, but since we finished things up on this remodel, I find myself enjoying chores like doing the dishes and if you know me, that a huge deal. Dishes have always been the bane of my existence. Now I just want my cute little kitchen to be clean and the work to get it tidy is 100% worth it. We spent almost 2 months cooking with only a toaster oven and electric kettle, so you better believe I was over the moon once I got to start cooking in a real kitchen again.

In case you'd forgotten this is what the kitchen used to look like:

The glorious light streaming in makes the room look so much cuter than it was. But those drawers were only boxes with handles that if you pulled too hard, would dump their contents on your toes. The sink was a grand total of 6 inches deep. I could not reach the handles on the top cabinets without standing on my tip toes. The fridge opened up to block the main walkway into the living room. It wasn't the worst, but it was a handmade kitchen from the 1950s and not functional or pleasant.

After alot of imagination, a blizzard drive to Ikea, some really hard work and a whole lot of love, we now have this: 

Now, I know the room basically stayed the same. We didn't change the layout, size or general function. We didn't remove walls or install new windows. We even left some of the old cabinets up and didn't redo everything. But it still feels like a completely different room. 

Isn't she a beaut!? I can't get over that before/after myself. Here are a few more angles:

For our budget, this is a whole lot of bang for our buck. Our goal was, in the words of Dave, to "spend as little money as possible." 

I spent days brainstorming, sketching, researching and dreaming of what we could do to make this into a cheery space. Since I love to cook and can easily spend hours in the kitchen, it was extremely important to me.

When we added everything up at the end of the project the total for this came in under $2500. That includes a brand new dishwasher, all new lower cabinets (9 drawers!), sink, and faucet. I wasn't actually going to say how much we spent, but I just added it all up and was so proud of us for keeping things reasonable, I had to share. Considering the 2017 average kitchen renovation budget is 20k, I couldn't be happier with not only our results, but our costs as well.

*Note: I know talking about money can be tricky and that to some what we spent is a measly sum and to some it's crazy expensive. However we did buy the house knowing it needed updating and budgeted a certain amount. We consider it an investment that we get to enjoy along the way. :)

We had some pretty lofty goals for the kitchen and by the time we finally finished we had:

  • Removed linoleum and had the floor refinished
  • Demoed bottom cabinets
  • Built and installed new cabinet lowers
  • Put in new countertops, sink, and faucet
  • Added a dishwasher
  • Switched the stove and fridge placement
  • Removed the weird backsplash "arcs" 
  • Tiled the backsplash 
  • Painted the upper cabinets to match the lowers
  • Updated the cabinet hardware
  • Gave the whole room a fresh coat of paint
  • Exchanged the overhead light fixture
  • Installed a new/brighter light fixture above the sink and added a switch
  • Built shelves for the north wall

Phew, listing it all out makes me feel tired. Dave and I did all the work ourselves with some help from his brother with the cabinets and a professional electrician when necessary.

As far as the style, I love country and farmhouse style and knew that it was important to keep the room bright. There is only one window and my goal was to help the light as much as possible. That window needed no changes itself because it's been perfect all along. The view is lovely and the light that streams in is the best.

The first big issue to figure out was the dishwasher. There wasn't one and it was a condition on us buying the house that we would add one. Because our kitchen is so small we had to figure out how to fit a sink, stove, dishwasher, and as much cabinet space as possible in that small stretch of wall.

A small dishwasher was fine with me, so I found the one with the best ratings and ordered it right up. Then I realized that I didn't really ever use the double sink in the old house and actually liked the look of the one basin farmhouse sink better anyway. We kept the full size stove and still had room for 2 large stacks of drawers. I couldn't be more happy with the fact that I can stand next to the dishwasher and unload most of it into the drawers next to it without taking a step. 

The countertops were an easy decision. I wanted butcher block for our old house and we'd decided against it, but this time I knew it was worth insisting on. At first I felt like they were too yellow, but now I haven't even thought that in a long time. I also find I actually love them more with wear marks and imperfections added. It gives them a lovely character. The only thing we have to be careful about is making sure we oil the areas around the sink often enough to keep them water resistant.

The sink is probably my favorite part of the entire kitchen. I've dreamt of a farmhouse apron style sink for a long time. They can be pretty pricey, but good ol' Ikea has affordable options. Believe it or not, we ended up getting ours for half price by finding it in their As Is section.

I was worried I might end up missing a standard double sink, but this basin is huge. I honestly feel like I have more room because the one sink is so spacious. It can have a good amount of dirty dishes in it and is still usable. It also cleans up super well. I give it a good scrub with this every couple days and it shines right up.

The backsplash is my handiwork. Dave was a bit intimidated by such a large surface, but I loved the project. More than anything else, as we added those tiles, we could feel the classiness of the kitchen increasing. So much satisfaction from an afternoon of work. I'm itching to tile other things now (bathroom maybe?).

We also moved our magnetic knife board from the old house and put it back up under the cabinets. It's so handy to have them out of the way, but within reach. 

The finishing touch on the whole kitchen was our shelf/cart combination on the north wall. It had been empty of anything and left the room feeling extremely lopsided. Once we put up the shelves and placed the card there, all of a sudden the room felt balanced and weirdly complete. It was the perfect touch. We keep our toaster oven and a couple crates on the cart. The shelves store my most commonly used pantry items and an ever changing display of flowers, cook books, vases, bowl, and knick knacks. They fulfill my desire for open shelving without compromising cabinet space.

I love my little kitchen so much. It was a big project for us, but the rewards match the effort. I am finishing this post filled with gratitude for how our new house is turning into a home. 

Sources:

Sink, countertop, cabinets, dishwasher, faucet, cart, shelf brackets, tiles, light fixture, sink light, hardware, fairy lights, soap dispenser, storage jars

 

Create: Austrian Linzer Cookies (+Recipe)

While I was growing up, my family didn't du much Christmas decorating during December. We saved that for Christmas Eve. However, we did bake up a storm in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Gingerbread, sugar cookies, "Linzer Augen" and a half dozen other traditional Austrian baked goods.

I remember hours of standing at the kitchen counter on a chair to help cut out hundreds of shapes out of rolled out dough. It was a sure sign that Christmas was coming when my mom became a cookie baking monster. 

This year has been a bit tricky due to our impending move. We haven't been able to decorate our house the way we did last year, so I've had a bit of a hard time feeling Christmas-y. On Sunday, I realized I could get into that holiday spirit without requiring a tree.  

Within a minute of asking my mom for her Linzer Cookie (Linzer Augen in German) recipe, I got the above recipe texted to me. I'm sure that's the same recipe she's used for over 20 years. Now if you're like me, you probably don't have a kitchen scale. Well, all Austrian baking recipes are measured in grams and decagrams, so as a good little Austrian girl I really should have had a scale. 

We remedied my scale-less condition with some left over wedding Bed, Bath, and Beyond gift cards and make a quick stop at the grocery store for a few ingredients.

The dough for these cookies is stupid easy to make. It's a standard, mix butter and sugar, add the egg, and then mix in the dry ingredients. You could probably even just mix everything together at once and still be fine.

I made the dough while super distracted by the snowflakes that started to fall from the sky and accidentally added the sugar to the flour. It turned our perfectly fine and I just scooped a bit of the sugar off the top and into the butter. No harm.

As with most cutout cookies, you do have to let the dough cool in the fridge for a while. I wrapped some gifts while waiting and Dave DJed the Christmas tunes.

I only have a couple cookie cutters and had to borrow the small ones from a neighbor. But the cutters I have are my grandma's or maybe even my great-grandma's, so I love getting a chance to use them.

As I rolled, cut, and baked those cookies, I realized how cookie making is intensely associated with this season in my memory. I had never thought about it before. But as snow fell outside, and Dave did a jig to a Christmas tune, I felt more cheery and Christmas spirit-y than I had yet. 

The trickiest part of these cookies is making sure they don't burn. The bake time is 7-10 minutes, and ideally they should just have a hint of brown around the edges. There was one batch that wasn't quite done, I turned around and came back less than a minute later, and they were all over-crisped and browned. I couldn't believe how fast it happened.

Once the cookies cooled, I spread them with raspberry jam and added the cute cutout upper piece on top. I used raspberry, but the traditional jam would be currant. It would be much redder than the raspberry and add a perfect blend of tart and sweet, I just didn't have time to find some.

Once I sprinkled them with powdered sugar, I packaged a couple up to give as little gifts. I kept about half of them and have been savoring them with a hot mug of something in the evenings. I love how melty, crispy and perfectly sweet they are. 

Linzer Cookies come from the city of Linz, Austria which happens to be the place I was born. For me, these cookies are even more special because of that.

I adjusted my mom's original recipe to be in American measurements instead of grams if you'd like to give these a try. They're easy and yummy. Turn on some tunes and cozy on up for a fun time filled with baking and delicious smells.

If you make them, please let me know! I'd love to hear about your adventures in the kitchen.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 1/3 c. flour
  • 1 1/4 c. almond flour or finely ground almonds
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch salt
  • jam, currant jam is traditional, but raspberry is common in the States
  • powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

Dough:

  1. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl if needed
  2. Add the egg and beat until combined
  3. Meanwhile, combine together the flour, almonds, and salt
  4. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until just combined
  5. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour

Baking:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll half the dough out until it's about 1/8"-thick 
  3. Use a 2 1/2" round cookie cutter (or drinking glass), cut out cookies
  4. Cut out a small circle or other shape out of the center of half the cookie rounds
  5. Transfer rounds to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Gather the scrap dough, roll, and repeat
  7. Bake all of the cookies for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to turn brown. Keep a careful eye on them after 7 minutes as they can go from lightly browned to dark in less than a minute
  8. Let them cool for a couple minutes on the pan, then transfer to a rack

Filling:

  1. Spread  1/2 tsp of jam on solid cookies 
  2. Top each with one of the cutout cookies to make a tiny cookie-jam-cookie sandwich
  3. Sprinkle all the cookies with powdered sugar to finish
  4. Enjoy!

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Wool: A Lifelong Passion

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Wool runs in my veins.

Not literally, but almost. I come from a family filled with knitters. All my Austrian lady relatives have some sort of handcraft in the works at all times: socks, dolls, mittens, hats, and just about anything else you can think of. 

My mom took the hobby to a new level with her own spinning wheel, an angora bunny, and countless fibre projects. In the States, knitting is considered an old lady habit, but I've never put much stock into that. After all I learned how to knit when I was only eight years old. It wasn't unusual for huge bags of raw wool to sit around the house or to spend a whole morning of our homeschool doing some sort of wood carding, dying, felting, spinning, knitting or other wool craft.

Even my 11th birthday party was knitting themed. Every girl got a party favor pin made of a mini knitting done on toothpicks. They were so cute!

At one point I had an orphan pet lamb that I bottle fed and who lived in our house with us (diaper included). 

Every year when the nip returns to the air and things outdoors wrap up in favor of cozy evenings indoors, my instinct is to reach for a set of knitting needles and work on some small (or large) project.

I've collected two large baskets of of my own yarn (nothing compared to my mom's stash) and always have a couple ongoing knitting projects. I love diving into my basket and coming out with a ball of fuzzy yarn with the potential to turn into so many different things. There are few things as relaxing to me as the rhythm of knitting — "in through the front door, once around the back, out through the window, and off jumps jack." 

Even things that aren't technically knit, like wool blankets, sheep skins or anything else fuzzy or furry made from natural fiber equal the epitome of coziness and home to me.

My first instinct is to make a pair of knit booties when a baby makes his/her appearance in this world. It feels wrong to buy beanies or wool socks from the store because I know I could make them for myself (see above). 

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I recently even used a different method and felted a sweet mobile for a friend's babe. I loved seeing wool batting take shape and become something that can give joy and brighten up someone's home. Dave loved it so much he tried to convince me to give it to him instead of the baby. I think that was one of the best compliments he's ever given my work.

On our trip to Iceland, I felt like a kid in a candy shop when we walked into shop after shop filled with wool products. Icelandic sheep are unique for their crazy long and warm fiber. I could have spent thousands on the beautiful things I saw. Their patterns and neutral color schemes were like a special kryptonite to me. Needless to say, I left the country inspired and determined to do more knitting this fall and winter.

Throughout the years, the rhythm of needles and yarn, the satisfaction of seeing something slowly form on my lap and the inherent coziness have been constant. I love using little windows of time in the car, watching tv, or waiting for appointments that would usually go wasted to add just a little bit more to what I'm working on at the time. 

Now my fingers are itching to dig into a new project. I'm thinking some of my weekend time will be spent curled up with some tea and wooliness.

 

Find more woolly inspiration and reading here:

Woolens Pinterest Board

Fringe Supply Co.

Kelbourne Woolens

Ravelry

Create: Apple Sauce

At the end of our farm share, we received so many apples from a local orchard I had no idea what to do with them. A friend mentioned making applesauce in a crockpot and I was all ears. Dave can eat a quart of applesauce in one sitting, so I knew immediately that was the right thing for those apples to become.

My dear friend, Hannah, was visiting and graciously offered to help me prep the apples. It was so fun to chat while peeling and chopping. It was more fun than work.

I recently got a 50mm lens for my camera and had so much fun practicing a bit with it. Our kitchen has some really pretty light in the afternoon, so it was a perfect opportunity to play around. I really love this lens, even though I'm no expert at using it yet. I feel like the photos might actually capture a bit more of the beauty in things than my other lenses. I'm pretty much in love with it. 

Our apple sauce "recipe" was ridiculously simple:

  • Fill crock pot with peeled, cut apples and 2 cups water.
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  • Cook on high until nice and saucy.

We did scoop some of the mushy apples onto vanilla ice cream halfway through cooking. so. good.  I highly recommend that. 

The end result was 2 quarts of lovely pink apple sauce. It was satisfying to make something wholesome and cozy without having to go out and buy extra ingredients or labor in the kitchen for hours. It would probably be worth it just for the amazing scent that filled our house while the apples were cooking.