Monday, October 14, 2013

Taco Seasoning Substitute

There I was, standing in front of the stove, cooking up some ground turkey for tacos.  I pulled open the cupboard to pull out an envelope of taco seasoning mix, but there wasn't any in there.  I peered, I pulled, and then I sadly realized I didn't have any.  I looked back again at the cast iron skillet with the now brown turkey, looked back at my cupboard, considered all my options, and finally a moment of inspiration struck!  I pulled out my trusty cookbook, and turned to the poultry section where I found my recipe for Pita Chicken (which I promised to post and somehow never did).

And . . .  it turned out soooo good!  Way better than taco seasoning mix.  It tastes more complex and more subtle, and definitely more homemade.  Next time you cook up some tacos, just try this recipe.  I think you'll agree and like it even better.

Taco Seasoning Substitute (adapted from Pita Chicken Recipe,

Ground turkey
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1/4 cup-more or less salsa  (right now I'm loving Paige's Salsa in spicy*)

Once you've browned your ground turkey, sprinkle all the seasonings on top and mix to combine.  Next, add salsa and mix until consistency is to your liking.  Keep it on the stove until the salsa warms through.

I served mine simply inside a hard tortilla shell layered with black beans and lettuce.  My husband even added some colby-jack cheese.

Voila!  So yummy.  I hope you enjoy.  Comment below and let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

*Paige is my big sista and she's a modern Martha Stewart.  Her salsa is jarred in small batches and has a delicious freshly made flavor.  It so addicting it never lasts very long in my house.

Friday, October 11, 2013


This picture has nothing to do with this post. It's just a cold Day in San Francisco and I'm dreaming of the warm days of summer. Now, back to business.

I decided to download the Blogsy app to see how I like it for posting here. Hopefully it will make my posting easier and thus more consistent for you all.

Have any of you used Blogsy or another blogging app for Blogger? What are your thoughts?

P.S. typing on an iPad is awful, I'm going to have to get a real keyboard. Or, maybe I should just use a laptop instead . . .

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Halloween Door Wreath Tutorial

I was wandering Target a few weeks ago looking at the Halloween decorations and thinking of what I wanted to decorate our place with.  Nothing quite seemed right.  I felt like Goldilocks-things were either too juvenile or too scary.  That is, until I came across this Black Halloween Wreath from the BotanikaStudio shop on Etsy.  It was the perfect combination of sophistication and simplicity.  The shop owner has other beautiful decorations in her shop if you check her out.  (psst - she's running a 20% Halloween decorations promotion!)  Full disclosure - she has no idea who I am and I don't get anything for sharing this information.  When I find something cool, I just need to share.

Image from BotanikaStudio on Etsy.

I was just about to order the wreath from the shop when I realized it was less than 12 inches wide, and would be shipped from Poland.  I wanted something a bit bigger and right away, so I decided to try to recreate it myself.  It's pretty simple, and I hate to call this a "tutorial" but here you go anyway.

I took a trip to Joann's with the inspiration image on my phone and some coupons.  Out the door it cost me $33.91, but if I didn't have to buy a glue gun or spray paint it would have cost me $15 less.  And, I ended up picking out a $12.99 wreath instead of the $3 one.  Oh well.

Speaking of the wreath.  I was deciding between a larger and thinner version of the wreath in the inspiration photo, but the more I looked at it the more I realized it would just look too overwhelming on the door to our apartment.  So, I went with a fuller wreath that still kept the character of the inspiration.

When I got home the first thing I did was grab a large empty cardboard box (we tend to have a LOT of those around our place . . . thank you Amazon Prime?)  I took the box, wreath, and some Rustoleum Satin spray paint out to my patio.  Thanks to my friend Janette over at Style With Cents, I know how amazing Rustoleum is and it never occurred to me to try another brand (and after using it I agree, it's pretty awesome :).

This was my very first spray paint experience ever, so I read the instructions twice and let 'er rip!  I did two coats on the front, and then waited over night and did two coats on the back and made sure I covered the sides.

A few hours later I brought the dry wreath inside and started laying out my ribbon and made a bow and laid out the Martha Stewart paper bats.  (The bats and stars in the inspiration photo are wood, a much preferred material.)  Then I used the glue gun to keep them in place.

Finally, I used a 3M Command hook to hang the wreath on the front door.  At the last minute I spray painted the top black so it blended in better with the door and wreath.  Our front door is so dark that I couldn't get a decent picture, so this shot gives a better idea of the finished project.

I'm happy with the final product.  It was a very quick project, besides the drying time for the spray paint.

My supply list from Joann's: Rustoleum Painter's Touch 2X Ultra Canyon Black Satin spray paint, mini glue gun kit, Martha Stewart Bat Cave Silhouettes, 1 yard black and white polka dot wired ribbon, and wispy wreath.

Comment below if you have any thoughts or questions on this project.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Skin Care Routine

Just a quick post to share the face skin care routine I've been using for a year now that works really well for me and I recommend to anyone looking to try something new.  It took a few weeks to see consistent results.

Now, I don't claim to have flawless skin, I am prone to break outs, but I've discovered that this routine really does prevent them, and if I do break out it's minimal and it clears up pretty quickly.

Each morning when I shower I gently scrub my face with a washcloth (without soap) and then use Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser to wash my face.  (You can find Aveeno at places like Target.)

If I am breaking out, I like to use Neutrogena Acne Stress Control  3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment.  (You can find it at drugstores, it can be hard to find at Target.)  It has the consistency of a thin gel and I'll rub it on where I'm breaking out.  It goes on clear and has a clean, cucumbery-smell.  It doesn't dry my skin out, but I do like to put lotion over my whole face after the gel has dried.

My big splurge is my face lotion: Origins VitaZing SPF 15.  (You can find it at places like Macy's and Sephora.  I like Sephora because you can return anything you try and don't like.)  It comes in a 1.7 oz tube, but it lasts a very long time.  I'd say it lasts me 5-6 months, using about the size of two peas each morning.  The lotion comes out cream-colored, but it has a bit of a tint when applied.  It's just enough to make me look fresh and bright in the morning.  So, if I'm running late and don't have time for foundation there's no problem.

For foundation I use either MAC Studio Fix Powder Foundation or a liquid foundation like Make Up Forever Mat Velvet + or MAC Studio Fix Fluid Foundation SPF 15.  (You can find MAC at department stores and MAC stores.)  My forehead tends to get really oily looking throughout the day, but using the powder keeps it at a minimum.

Before I go to bed I use Neutrogena Make-up Remover Cleansing Towlettes.  (You can find these towlettes at places like Target, and if you love them stock up at Costco.)  Even if I didn't use foundation that day, I would still use the towlette at night because there's something special in the formulation (generic brands don't have it and don't work as well for me).  Once I started using the towlettes I really noticed a dramatic difference in my skin.

The towlettes do a good job of getting the bulk of my makeup off, but I find it leaves behind a slippery residue.  So, I use my Aveeno foaming cleanser again to clean up the the residue and any last bits of makeup.  I've found that it leaves my skin soft and moisturized so I really don't need to apply an additional moisturizer at night, which is nice.  (If I'm breaking out, I'll use my Neutrogena acne treatment gel on those areas and call it good.)

So, there you have it, my daily skin care routine.  I've had great success when I've been consistent about the routine, and since I've been doing the same routine for over a year I feel confident in the results enough to recommend it to anyone else who's interested in trying it.

I realize everyone's skin is unique, so I'm not going to claim this routine will work for everyone else - especially since I don't know anyone else who has tried this routine.  So, please comment below if you've tried any of these products and what you think of them.  If you try the routine, did it work for you?

Oh, and for the men out there, I know one who really likes the acne gel.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Erin's No-Bake Energy Balls

The "original" of this recipe comes from one of my favorite bloggers, The Frugal Girl, via Money Saving Mom via Smashed Peas and Carrots, and it's my new favorite treat.  I'm trying to ween myself from processed sugar and this recipe calls for honey instead of white sugar, so I'm a big fan.  The sweetness of the honey and chocolate balances off the oats, and the texture is chewy without being gooey.  Come to think of it, these are a creamier and denser version of a granola bar.  Here's my adapted recipe:


1/2 cup peanut butter (I'm a huge fan of Laura Scudder's creamy pb)
1/3 cup of honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (if you have the choice, get the finest shredded one you can)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips


In a medium bowl stir together wet ingredients: peanut butter, honey, and vanilla.  Stir in oats, coconut, and mini chocolate chips.  Make sure everything's completely mixed.

Refrigerate mixture 30 minutes to make mixture easier to handle.  Scoop out 1 tablespoon or less and press to compact and roll into a ball.  Makes about 18-24 balls.

Store in the refrigerator.

Easy-peazy lemon squeezy!

Monday, October 8, 2012

White Bread

I recently discovered this recipe and am in love!  It gives me a crunchy crust with a hearty and moist inside.  It's the best of both worlds.  The simple ingredients make it even more appealing.  There's no added sugar or butter.  So, it feels pretty healthy.  The first time I tried this recipe I ran out of white flour in the middle of making it, so I substituted about a cup of whole wheat flour and it still turned out well.  I'll admit, the all white flour version tasted better, but the appeal of whole wheat has me thinking about trying it again.

The original recipe comes from James Peterson's Baking cookbook, here's my adaptation.

White Bread

4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups room temperature water
1 /1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, room temperature
1 teaspoon salt

Measure flour into bowl of stand mixer.  Use the back of your fist to make a deep well in the middle of the flour.  Pour in the water and sprinkle yeast over the water.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Mix, add salt and mix more.

Add dough hook.  Mix for 2 minutes to moisten flour (or 3 minutes if by hand).  Cover bowl gently with plastic wrap (you can use this same sheet of plastic wrap 2 more times - so keep it) and let sit for 20 minutes.  Knead dough on medium speed for 7 minutes (or 15 minutes if by hand), or until smooth.  It's okay to turn on the mixer to high to get the dough to slap against the sides of the bowl.

Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 2 hours.  Coat your bread pan with cooking spray.

Punch down dough, turn out onto very lightly floured surface and press dough into a rectangle.  Fold both ends (the shorter sides) into the center.  Start rolling the dough fairly tightly toward you until the seams are facing up.  Pinch the seams to seal.  Using the sides of your hands, push down on the edges of the cylinder.  Fold the edges in and pinch the seams to seal.  Place roll in bread pan, seam side down.  Spray one side of plastic wrap with cooking spray and gently cover pan.

After 30 minutes check to see if it's almost the size you want in the finished loaf (if not, keep checking on it until it is).

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, making sure the top rack is in the middle of the oven, with a second rack on the bottom.

Fill a small bowl with luke warm water and set aside.  Fill a sheet pan with a 2 inch rim with 1 inch of hot tap water.  Place on bottom rack of oven.  Remove plastic wrap and slide loaf onto rack over the pan of water.  Immediately dip your fingers in the small bowl of water and flick water on the oven walls, repeat.  Close oven and wait 30 seconds, then repeat.  Bake about 25 minutes, until top is golden brown.  Let bread cool on cooling rack until cool enough to turn the bread out of the pan and finish cooling on its own.

This makes 1 loaf.  To store, cover the cut end with a piece of aluminum foil and place loaf inside a paper bag.  This keeps the crust crunch.  Of course you can keep the bread in a plastic bag, but that will soften the crust.

May I suggest enjoying it topped with butter and homemade strawberry freezer jam.  I'll post a freezer jam tutorial soon!

Don't be discouraged if you are new to bread baking and it doesn't turn out.  I've had plenty of loaves not turn out right when I've tried a new recipe.  Just keep trying.  Practice makes perfect!

Cajun Pasta Fresca

This recipe originally came from  It's one of our go-to recipes and makes enough for lunch leftovers.  The fresh tomatoes give the dish a bright flavor and the cajun seasoning brings complexity and spiciness.

Tonight, we were faced with the all too common dreaded question, "What are we going to do for dinner?"  We both don't make it home from work until 6:30 pm and we've been so busy lately, we haven't meal planned and grocery shopped properly for months now(!)  Eating out is just too easy a solution for our tired brains.  But, we're getting better about finding creative solutions, because let's face it, agreeing on a casual dining restaurant (no fast food, thank you very much) and driving wherever it is ends up being a hassle in and of itself.

Okay, back to tonight.  The husband suggested (somewhat jokingly?) Panda Express because it's his #1 favorite option.  The problem is (and he knows it very well) I now loath Panda Express.  I got tired of it a year or so ago as I started trying to eat more vegetarian options when we went out.  So, that means what I end up ordering is a Panda Bowl with mixed veggies with eggplant.  Not very exciting (even if he will let me steal a bite or two of his orange chicken - my achilles heel!)

I digress, so, I told my husband he could take himself to Panda Express and I'd scrounge the kitchen for something suitable for myself.  Apparently, he didn't want Panda Express badly enough to venture solo.  So, he made a cup-of-noodle-soup-like-thing, which does not appeal to me at all.  I started thinking about what meager ingredients we had, what I could make with the least amount of effort, but still was somewhat healthy.  I then remembered the pint and a half of three different varieties/sizes of tomatoes my friend brought me last week from her backyard garden (I'm so envious!).  I had no idea what to do with all of those garden-grown tomatoes until tonight when I also remembered my Cajun Pasta Fresca recipe that calls for 7 Roma tomatoes, and I mentally calculated that the tomatoes I had were equivalent in volume.  I felt adventurous and inspired to make it work, it sounded like a fun challenge.

Apparently I've never posted this recipe!  Bizzare.  I must have taken pictures of it several times but never actually sat down and wrote the recipe.  It's okay, because I linked to the original recipe above, so you can follow it there.  Just know that I omit the parsley and always half that recipe for the two of us (also my husband is a complete omnivore, so I'll cook up some chicken breast on the side to mix in with his portion).  It gives us plenty, plus left overs for each of us for lunch the next day. Below I'm giving you the recipe as I made it tonight, and it turned out just as good (dare I say better?).


1/2 box dried spaghetti (we like Barilla Plus in the yellow box because it's multigrain)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped (my mincer was dirty, otherwise I would have opted to use that)
1 1/2 pints of fresh from the garden tomatoes in any variety and combination, rinsed and chopped to no bigger than 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or less, depending on your salt preference)
1 1/2 teaspoons cajun seasoning (we use McCormick's)
1/4 cup shredded colby jack cheese ('cause that's what I had in my fridge, and I'll probably opt to use it next time as well)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (the kind in a can, 'cause that's the only kind I had - the legit kind is always preferable)


Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Break spaghetti in half and dump in boiling water.  Cook 8 minutes, or al dente.  Drain and set aside.

While waiting for the water to boil, start heating up oil in large skillet over medium heat.

Briefly saute garlic in heated oil until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. You do not want it to brown.

Stir in tomatoes with their juice and sprinkle with salt, and mix up.  Let the mixture bubble for several minutes, then mash slightly with a fork.  It should be really easy.  If it's not, let the mixture continue to bubble a few more minutes and try again.  Once the whole mixture is nice and mashed, stir in cajun seasoning and cheeses and mix.  Add spaghetti and toss until coated.  Serve it up and enjoy!