Rick Bayless - Enchiladas Especiales Tecuba Style

Living in Chicago you would think that since Rick Bayless has a restaurant here it would be easy to get into. On the contrary. If you are less than a party of 5 they don't take reservations, and the last time I tried, which was time number 3 the wait was longer than 1 hr. No thanks. I love mexican food but to a busy mom who is getting away on a friday night a mexican restaurant is not that appealing if I have to wait that long to even get seated.

So I bought his cook book (oh btw, I bumped into him in my gym downtown, twice) and I watch the PBS show, "Mexico One Plate at a Time". It's not the same, I know, but it will do.

So the other day I watched an episode on enchiladas, and since I make enchiladas regularly, this one really caught my attention.

I went to his website and wouldn't you know it, it's chock-full of recipes. I searched and found the particular one, called Enchiladas Especiales Tecuba Style and after getting a few essentials, got to it.

I have to say this is one of my favorite enchiladas to date. The spinach and poblanos chiles give it a earthy smokey flavor that I haven't had in the other enchiladas. It's super easy to make the suace is the most work but after you make that the rest is 1.2.3.

The only thing that I will change next time I make this dish is if the poblanos don't have much heat, add some jalepenos along with the poblanos.

I thought about blending this in my Cuisinart, but there is so much sauce that comes out of this that I'm glad I stayed with the blender, plus it was easier to pour from.

You mix a portion of the sauce with your chicken so you have the flavor throughout, not just on top and bottom of the enchiladas.

These enchiladas, paired with some sour cream and beer with lime were a divine dinner, and I had plenty of leftovers that we had put in the freezer for the following week.

Definitely a recipe that I will come back to time and again. Click here for link


Oh No!!! I've become that mom.

You ever out and about and your toddler sneaks a candy bar with her out on errands and procceeds to eat it very quietly in the car while your driving and not paying attention. And then you get to the destination just to see that your kids face is covered with chocolate and so are her hands. AND you didnt bring anything to wipe with, since your child is not that messy anymore, I don't carry wipes on short trips. 

What do you do?

This is not what she looked like, this pic was from when she 
decided that blue marker will suffice as "makeup". 

URGGHHHH I can't believe that I DID THIS. I SWORE I would NEVER DO THIS. 

Sometimes the ends justify the means.

I did the spit and wipe. AAHHHHH. 

I HATED that whenever my mom did it to us and our faces needed a quick wipe.  I swore when I'm a mom I won't put my kids through that embarrassment and grossness. 

I guess that should teach me a lesson to never say never. A contradiction of its own. 

At least there was some semblance of cleanliness when we walked into the the pharmacy. (Disregard the chocolate on the coat please.)


Look Book

I went ahead and purchased a couple of things for my daughter Arianna a little early. Gap is always sold out and I'm glad I got a few of things before they sold out. Which of course I can't find the flower dress and the jean jumper online anymore. Hopefully Gap brings it back before summer starts.

I love the sandals, they are a snake skin print and mommy needs to get herself a pair. The pintucked butterfly top paired with a pair of jean shorts or capris will look so cute.

Air plants still do require a green thumb

As I mentioned before I am a gardner. I love the changing of the seasons, especially living in Chicago, the coming of spring. So it no surprise that when the growing season is done for, I have inside a plethora of plants to keep me going until the next growing season. One such plant that has been in my home is an air plant or better know as tillandsia.

I got this plant originally 5 yrs ago, not this particular plant because THAT particular plant decided to die on me, rot is actually a better word. I'm not bad when it comes to gardening but for some reason the air plant was not surviving in my home for longer than a year. This particular plant that you see is the 5th, and so far surviving.  These air plants are exactly what they sound like they survive on air, and the water thats in the air. So I was told. But I think the real reason they survive at least in zone 5 is in how much sun they get. Not hot direct sun but filtered sunlight. 

I was having my humidifier running in the winter in the living room and after a few months noticed that the air plant was rotting from the inside so to the trash went #1, #2, #3 and #4. This last one was in my bedroom, in a fairly decent spot, it was getting late afternoon sun but through the shades, which I gather is enough. Also I soaked this sucker, like the rest of them, for a couple of hours in the bathroom sink.

I'm crossing my fingers, hopefully they will stay with me for a very long time. I love how beautiful they are. Their texture is something out of this world. The Tillandsia Xerographica has a texture like paper and the curly leaves twist around and under but for a plant so large its super light. 

I think I read somewhere that they do a wonderful job of cleaning the air of harmful VOC's. Bonus.

Oh and the container that I placed the air plant is made out of tree bark. Don't know which type of tree. Isn't it gorgeous? I love this container, I have two of them. It was given to me as a gift from a coworker, who is an awesome gardener in her own right.  

I wish I could get more of these but alas, she bought it at a yard sale YEARS ago, and for .25. Yes 25 CENTS each. I wonder if its hard to make? hmm project for another day?

If you have success in zone 5 with air plants, leave a comment on how in this world you get them to stay alive, and if you ever get them to bloom? Which I've heard they do.

Quote of the Week


Steel Drum style in the Windy City

My awesome friends, Ann & Vince, have a house in with a back deck. When they bought the house they intended on tearing down the deck and making a huge multi-level wraparound porch. It seemed that the deck always went on the back burner as they got busy with other projects. But last spring, Ann decided that enough was enough and with a caribbean inspiration, a little of Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffet she decided to bring the caribbean to Brookfield. I know she talked about this project for awhile and people kinda thought this was going to look horrible, but she's a designer as well and I think her vision was really thought out before she went along with this. Plus I think she had to get her husband on board so this had to look phenomenal.

This is the before, pretty sad looking when the sun isn't out don't you agree. Especially with all the dead plants and bare trees.

The procedure was pretty simple, the first step was to clean the wood. They applied this deck cleaner and left it on for a couple of hours, washing it off to reveal nice, clean wood that was ready to get stained, once the rain went away.

You can't tell, but it made the deck fresher not so gray, as it tends to get with rain and snow covered for several months out of the year.

Next it was time to stain. They went with a product from Sherwin Williams Deckscapes. They have a ton of colors to choose from and three different finishes.

After staining the deck with the help of a couple of extra hands and drying time it was finished. It doesn't hurt that the sun was out when this photo was taken since it gives it that extra feeling like you might be somewhere tropical.

Can you hear the steel drum playing? Well if that doesn't inspire you to turn a dingy, gray heap of wood into this wonderful and marvelous concoction I don't know what will. I know some neighbors were thinking this was going to look like a Vikings Deck when they were told that it was going to be stained in purple and yellow, but after it was complete, they were all pleasantly surprised that it came as well as it did. 

Now take a look at the finished product, the all weather wicker deck furniture with the turquoise cushions and the light-up palm tree totally ties this thing together. 

How wonderful and gorgeous is this deck? I love the vibrant colors of it set against the white. I think if the white stain was not there it might be a little loud. But I think it has the opposite effect, very calming. They did an awesome job and I think everyone can take a page out of this and not be afraid of trying new and crazy things. After all its only paint (stain in this case). Now get me a daiquiri. 


Reupholstered chairs

I might have mentioned that I stalk craig, on a regular basis. I have a restraining order put on me by my husband as of late; so I can't go and buy anything currently. But I have to show you my best craigslist find. It is a pub table and {6} – really 6 pub height chairs. All for $300.00 Thats a steal in our neck of the woods, new ones don't come that cheap and this one has 6 chairs AND the table expands.

My dad and I drove 45 minutes to pick it up, we stuck it in his van with all 6 chairs and didn't need to disassemble anything. The table and chairs were in a great condition. The only thing that I did not like was the cushions that came on the chairs.

I thought that's an easy fix. I was going to go and buy fabric for them right away but I wasn't sure what I wanted to put on them, plus I didn't feel like spending a lot of dough on fabric either. So being the resourceful girl that I am; I used the leftover fabric from our couch fix that the upholsterers left for us. Which essentially was FREE since they were repairing a tiny rip and they kept sending us the wrong side, after the rip was repaired the guy who was out here fixing it let us keep it, which came out to 5 yards.

So thats what I did I covered the chairs in the leftover couch material. It was ok, but was not what I really wanted in the end. Plus it was way to matchy with the couch being in the next room and I can see from one into the other. They were microfiber, which is fantastic when you have kids, cuz everything comes right off. But they were boring.

As you can see, it's not bad, just well, ho hum I guess. They come clean real easy. I know since my daughter, Ari, drew with ball point pen, red marker and highlighter all over that material on the couch. It all came out. Thank God for her sake.

But one day on a whim I was trolling Hancock fabrics and out of the corner of my eye in the discount bin I see something. Ohh its grey, and yellow, grellow, my favorite combo and its reduced. I look at the pattern and I instantly fall in love. I have to have it. So I went home without it. 

I know, what the hell was I doing? I didn't want to impulse buy so I went home to think about it for a few days. Needless to say I couldn't get it out of my mind so I went back 2 days later  and was going to get a few yards.

As I was at the cutting table it seemed like such a waste to grab only a few yards, I took all of it, all 6 yards for $32.00. I thought that was a great deal. I wanted to come home and change the cushions out right away, but I held back. Don't ask me why, maybe I was just lazy and didn't feel like striping all 6 chairs again and stapling with that heavy duty stapler. *Note to self or to whomever reading this, if you are ever going to use a staple gun, get a good one; one that is comfortable in your hand cuz after awhile the sucker hurts.

I waited till after the holidays and after the winter blahs and decided that today was the perfect day. In between making Rick Bayless enchiladas, come back for pics and recipe later, I recovered the chairs. 

So without further ado, tada... oh wait I'll show you the material closeup, it's a nice heavy nubby material. 

And NOW for the chair, who knows, maybe in another year or when we move into a different house they'll get another makeover. But for now I love them.


Kitchen Crush

When we got married, we got as a gift a set of knives. I also went out and bought myself a set of stainless steel knives from overstock. 2 sets of knives, although they are great knives I have literally no counter space. So two knife blocks are getting ridiculous. The solution was to get rid of one of the blocks and try to put most of the knives into one block. Not a great solution when they are all clean and put away there are always too many or the holes aren't right for the width. It's completely frustrating. Until – I was at BBB and saw the Kapoosh knife block. The model that they had in stock I wasn't into and I wanted to get the larger one. I decided to go online and see if I can find one that suits my kitchen more. I sure did, they aren't cheap but I really want to get it.

Do you have one? Do you like it? I read a comment online that the "sticks" get all bent out of shape, is that common? Looks pretty awesome, you can fit multiple types of knives from different sets and have them all corralled in one place.  Let me know what you think about these.




Upholstered Dreams

I'm constantly lurking on craigslist, and I always find something that needs to be taken home, to the dismay of my husband. 1. Since he needs to haul the item and 2. I really have no more room in my home for such purchases. I don't know what it is, I love chairs, all kinds of chairs I would put them everywhere, but that starts to look real cluttered real fast. But if I had a bigger bedroom I would totally get this chair and put it in a nice nook.  
Designer: Beth Dotolo  Photography Kevin Dotolo

Isn't this pattern gorgeous, and look how wonderfully the shapes line up with the cushion and the frame. This is not the work of an amateur, I should know. I have a book on upholstering and it looks easy but it's really not. The only thing that I have done are my kitchen chairs. I bought them with an off white microfiber on the cushion and it was from craig, so they were used. I had this leftover fabric from my couch when it was broken we had it fixed and they sent over soooooo much fabric that I decided to keep it.  Well I was able to reupholster the chairs but it's a boring fabric choice . So I'm doing it again.

I found this fabric in the discount bin, and all Im saying is its a little grellow. You know... grey and yellow.

But until I actually do them, I will show you a few of my other  upholstered benches that if I had the space or little grubby hands weren't a problem than I would totally get.  

That is if my local salvation army weren't such greedy bastards and actually sold something that wasn't an arm and a leg. I mean come on'. How is it other people can find all these gems at the salv army or thrift store and cost $15? I find a chair thats stained and the wood is nicked and they price them at $60 and up. After you factor in the fabric and the batting the chair will come out total 300 buckeroos. And if you decide to take a stab at it yourself, forgetaboutit'. 

If you see a nice chair or bench that has great curves and doesn't cost a fortune, send her my way, but leave her on my back stoop so my husband doesn't see. 


Chicken tortilla soup

When your craving something salty, crunchy, creamy, and sour at the same time this hits the spot. I know there are numerous tortilla soup recipes and a majority of them are tomato based but this one is a lighter version, plus my 2 yr old can eat this without screaming "ohh its spicy!!" every time she takes a bite.

I love this soup on a cold winter day or even on a day when you want something thats filling but not heavy.  It has the salty, crunchy texture of the tortilla, which to save calories and time I don't deep fry I coat with  tiny bit of oil and pop in the oven. The creamy of the avocado, the sour of the broth, since I squeeze in a liberal amount of lime into the bowl, and the crispness of the cilantro and spiciness of the tipatio hot sauce. Yum

This soup is based on chicken rosol that I added ingredients to in order to make this tortilla soup.


The foundation of every soup is a good stock

I love to cook and when I first started to cook I was 11 yrs old helping my mom, learning from her. I started out in the kitchen by making chicken in a pot but moved on to more serious things pretty quickly. She has thought me a lot about cooking and the fundamentals of cooking don't change. Take for instance the simple stock, its simple for what it is but at the same time adds a very complex flavor to your food; add it to risotto, stews and of course as a basis for most soups. 

In all polish homes, stock is called rosół (pron: ro souw) Rosół is a traditional Polish meat broth, that is usually made from beef/veal or chicken and sometimes turkey. The more bones that are in the stock the better the stock. Also we add a good amount of vegetables to the stock. Celery, carrots, leek, parsley and some people add garlic and onions too. There is also an element that Polish people add which is vegeta - and can be bought in most ethnic grocery stores, although not necessary. 

Adding vegeta to your rosol adds lots of flavor but I have cooked without it and it was fine except it needed more salt, lots more salt. If your on a low salt diet than leave it out. 

I wanted to post this since whenever I talk about making soup I will most likely start as a base of rosol and add to it, like when making mushroom soup, or chicken tortilla soup, or filipino arroz caldo or my favorite sinigang.  I mean sometimes its ok to have a box or can or stock in your pantry but why when you can make a pot of this and store small containers of it in your freezer for a day when you need stock. 

Chicken or beef with bones or turkey necks(makes a less fattier but still flavorful version)
pot filled with water
2 stalks of celery
3 carrots peeled
half of a medium sized leek 
small bunch of parsley

or salt if not using vegeta

You can't see too well since its a dark pot.

photo credit of Mojegotowanie.com

Place meat (chicken, beef, veal or turkey) into pot cover with water. bring to a boil until you see the scum accumulating on top, skim off the scum it makes a cleaner stock. After skimming the scum add the vegetables and a couple of teaspoons of vegeta to the pot. You can always add more so go easy the first time. Then you let the rosol simmer on a med flame for a couple of hours. The trick to getting a clear not cloudy broth is the low simmer. After a couple of hours the rosol will be done and you can serve in a traditional way with fine noodles or potatoes. I sometimes like to shred the chicken, esp. for my daughter and add the carrots from the rosol and sprinkle a bit of parsley on top for flavor and color. 

If you made a large pot strain the vegetable and bits of vegeta that is most likely sunk to the bottom and place in smaller containers into the freezer which you can use next time you need stock.

Next up is my chicken tortilla soup. 

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