Drinking salty margaritas with Fernando

5 Sep

I don’t really understand the concept of working during the summer.  I went from high school, to college, back to high school as a teacher, so I’ve never been expected to work for more than about ten months at a time.  I feel like I do enough work in those ten months to count for twelve (I say that – did you know that teachers only work HALF the days of the year?!).  Because I’m taking on some additional responsibilities at school this year (read: selling my soul to debate), we decided to end my summer vacation in style a few weeks ago.

When I returned to work, I became immediately ill (I think I’m literally allergic to my workplace – and not due to mesothelioma as I suspected), so I didn’t work the second day of school and headed back home to see my honey and parents for an end-of-summer party.  With my stomach finally able to hold down solid food, we decided a Mexican fiesta was the way to go.  Since it was way, way too hot to go to Joe T. Garcia’s – we brought the Joe T experience home complete with nachos, margaritas, and the enchilada dinner.

Joel was in town as he had his wisdom teeth extracted that week, and he delighted us with his famous margaritas!  They are the most innocuous tasting things – a perfect sweet-sour blend with just a hint of tequila, but make no mistake – they pack a serious punch!

He agreed to share the recipe with ShitIKnit!

Joel-garitas!

4 parts sour mix

2 parts tequila (it will be well-mixed, no Patron necessary! (though I love Patron!))

2 parts lime juice (fresh or RealLime)

1 part agave nectar

1 part cointreau

He also mentions that if the sewage color these puppies can turn bothers you, a splash of blue curacao will perk them right up.    They are heavenly and I advise standing up before you start your second one, as they pack quite the punch!

Jack also made some kick-ass nachos because at our house cooking is a family affair – as it should be!

Jack’s Killer Nachos

Crispy tortilla rounds

1 poblano pepper

MJ cheese

special seasoning blend (sorry folks, he hasn’t agreed to share it, but it’s pretty kicky and I think it may have some smoked paprika in it)

If you were just thinking that my brothers are both insanely talented AND good looking, you’d be correct!  They are also smart, funny, and pretty much awesome as far as brothers go.

I won’t add any information about the Enchiladas yet, as I have a post coming this week about an enchilada duo!  Also, I’ve baked about a million treats since school came back and have much to share (hopefully including the cake balls I’m working on tonight).  Here’s a teaser though:

Huevos Rancheros and Maya Angelou

1 Sep

When I set out to start a blog, I knew this would happen.  I had so much free time during the summer to photograph, to cook, to knit and now?  Gone!  I’ve decided that a short setback ought not stop me and will resolve to bring Shit I Knit back into my life.

Tonight is a good night to start, too.  I made curry vindaloo to end my streak of non-cooking (and resisted it too – we were thisclose to trying out the new 5 Guys that just opened down the street!).  See, I spent two weeks as a bachelorette while Ross was on rotation in Dallas, making my diet consist of hummus, pita bread, diet coke, and grapefruit.  Thankfully he returned home on Saturday and our lives are back to being as normal as possible for a high school teacher and a med student.

Admittedly, there were a few perks to living the “single” life including, but not limited to: not being judged for wearing sweatpants, not getting the side eye for going to bed before nine, not having to pick up dog poop, and being able to slather mentholatum on my nose before bed without hearing Ross wretch with disgust.  However, last week was pretty awful!  The AC is out in the Volkswagen, so I’ve been commuting more than an hour each day in Houston sauna weather during the hottest part of the year.  Add in excessive meetings, a flat tire, plagues of cockroaches followed by ants, and one night of serious nausea and I was pretty much ready for Ross to go ahead and come home.

Thankfully, he brought with him some major turnaround as the last five days have been wonderful!  In honor of that, here are 5 things that I couldn’t be happier about!

1. My new MACBOOK!  Ross purchased our new computer on Monday after both of ours bit the dust simultaneously.  While we both have iphones and I use a Mac at school, this is our first Mac computer purchase and we LOVE it!  The first night we were able to videochat with my parents in Dallas.  We realize this makes us total nerds.

2. Driving a car with air conditioning.  I guess you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone – how quickly I forgot the days of high school when I drove the AC-less misty beige Honda… my commute is utter bliss now that I am back behind the wheel of my Scion.  I don’t even care that the windshield is cracked!

3. HBO.  I seriously don’t know how anyone could get through medical school or teaching high school without having a major TV and a billion channels.  We vacillate between paying for HBO/Showtime and paying for Netflix constantly.  I knew that living with my parents (who have HBO) for five weeks would convince Ross to make the change!

4. Curry Vindaloo.  Vindaloo is my most favorite curry.  It’s spicy, flavorful, and pretty easy to make.  Plus it sounds super exotic!  Because Jamie Oliver is all about “spreading the recipes” I don’t think he will mind my sharing 🙂

Curry Vindaloo (from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution)

2 onions, halved and sliced.

4 cloves of garlic, I squished mine through the press.

2 red chiles (which aren’t available in the greater Houston area, so I used serranos), finely chopped

chunk of garlic, finely chopped.

handful of cilantro stalks (you can use the leaves to top the dish later)

Do all of the chopping and then heat a dutch oven (or whatever you’re using) to medium with some peanut oil about a T of butter.  Add all of the veg and simmer for about 10 minutes to soften the onions and brown everything.

Then add 2lbs of meat – we used beef, but I like lamb, too.  Cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Add 1 T of honey

1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup of hot curry paste

4 quartered tomatoes

and about a cup of water to cover everything.  Let it simmer for about an hour and serve over white rice.  I also like greek yogurt with mine to counter the heat.

5. Ross made AΩA!  I was pretty sure he would, but getting the real news was pretty awesome!  It makes me pretty happy to know I married a genius.

Later this week I will be posting the best margarita recipe ever.

Throwdown

10 Aug

As far as the Food Network is concerned, most of the “talent” is pretty annoying.   Giada’s head is way to big for her tiny body,  Ina Garten moves at the speed of paint drying, Paula Deen uses far too much mayonnaise, Rachael Ray needs psychiatric help, and Tyler Florence has an odontoid x-ray on his set (he seriously does – look for it!).  Even though I find Bobby Flay’s “Throwdown” a little ridiculous, and sometimes insulting to the home chef, I can’t deny that his food does appeal to me more than most of the personalities on TV.

With that in mind, when we went to Las Vegas a few weeks ago and faced the decision of which Celebri-Chef restaurant to dine at, Mesa Grill at Caesar’s Palace seemed like a good choice.  Admittedly, we had to eliminate a lot of restaurants purely based on the menu – if it only covered different cuts of steak, it was a no.  I know that steak is supposed to be great, and expensive steak is supposed to be even better, and as someone who loves food, I, more than most, should love steak.  The truth is I hate steak.  It’s not that I’m opposed to red meat (well, I was for a while in high school because I had an irrational fear of mad cow disease, but the two year sabbatical ended in the drive thru line of In-N-Out Burger in San Francisco), I just prefer meat as more of a side dish or an ingredient in a dish.  When I saw that an option on Mesa’s menu was a Chile Relleno we made a reservation immediately.

(Ross did not find it amusing that the margaritas, albeit delicious, were magenta.)

Thankfully, Bobby Flay DID live up to the hype and Mesa Grill served up some seriously fabulous food.  Everything was delicious from the corn muffins to the, well, side of corn.  I mean, when have you ever eaten at a restaurant and said, “Oh my, this corn is quite outstanding”??  Well, it was.  Here are a few pictures of the food:

Queso Fundido

Mom ordered Grouper topped with a fried squash blossom

Ross had a tuna steak with a caper sauce

And I had the best chile relleno I’ve ever eaten.  Period.  It was utter food bliss and made me want to plan trips to other fancy Food Network Chef’s restaurants to repeat the experience.  (Luckily, we went to San Diego next and I had La Playa fish tacos and was sated for the time being)

Upon our return, we knew that simply talking about this awesome meal to everyone didn’t do it justice, and it wasn’t very nice.  A few google searches later and we found some of the recipes from Mesa Grill – the corn muffins AND the relleno!  A few nights ago we did our best to recreate Bobby’s meal:

The corn muffins were delicious!  Though we could not locate blue corn, we found that it made the muffins look less like mold, so it actually worked out.

Here’s the RECIPE FOR MESA GRILL MUFFINS!

Though the chile rellenos required a little more work, they were totally and completely worth it – though, admittedly, I could eat Manchego cheese as a meal and consider it a success.

Here’s the peppers after they’d been blistered and peeled:

Then stuffed and closed up with toothpicks:

Then fried in a cornmeal batter:

You can find THE RECIPE FOR CULINARY BLISS HERE!

We served the muffins and rellenos up with a side of black beans and vodka tonics.  Though I missed the background noise of slot machines and the tobacco infused scent that is Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas – this meal was pretty darn good, too.

Square Pegs

8 Aug

In my tour of the Southwestern USA, I have hit cities with the sole intention of fun (i.e. Vegas, San Diego), but one week ago Mom and I made a trip down to Austin with no intentions of heavy drinking, beach lounging, or hours spent in front of “Survivor!” slot machines.  No, the trip to Austin was a labor of love – we went down to help Joel and Claire move in to their new house.  Though it was quite hot and there was much work to be done, we had a great time and their house looks so awesome that I had to share some pictures.

Their new house is located in the adorable Hyde Park neighborhood in Austin.  The neighborhood is so charming, filled with small, mid-century houses painted in easter-egg colors.  Most have been updated, but often keeping some original details.  Joel and Claire’s house is a four-square house – with two bedrooms, living room and kitchen each taking up a corner of the house.  This means that every room has windows on two walls – it’s bright and sunny all day long.  Though the place is somewhat small (800 square feet), it is an extremely functional space and perfect for them.  Unfortunately, with a fifty year old house comes a lack of storage space, so much of our time was spent hanging shelves and coming up with creative storage solutions.

The living room:

The Guest Bedroom/Office:

The Kitchen (my favorite!):

And a few details:

Congrats Joel and Claire – your new house couldn’t be cuter!

And, continuing in the spirit of a picture-heavy post – I finally finished knitting the giant squid!

Now I can relax and enjoy my last four days of summer vacation!

Youth – it tastes like chicken.

6 Aug

As a kid, your lunch can truly make or break your day and in no case is this more apparent than Wednesdays at FHS, where I teach.  Each and every hump-day, the high schoolers walk with a little extra spring in their step.  By fourth period, they will answer any question, take any test, run any errand, and, quite frankly, do anything I ask of them in exchange for getting out one minute early so that they can  be first in line for Chicken Fried Steak day.  In a way, I completely understand their enthusiasm.  A long-time “bringer” of my lunch (as opposed to my brother, a “buyer”), I couldn’t resist trading in my peanut butter and honey sandwich, a capri sun, cheez-its, orange, and a perfect dessert of swiss cake rolls on days when “South of the Border Taco Rolls” were on the menu.  While it sounds gross, any product of the Arlington ISD will agree that fried taco meat and nacho cheese deep fried in a tortilla and topped with more cheese is enough to bring purpose to your day.  The same goes for CFS day – there’s something about a crispy, fried meat, mashed potatoes and TWO rammekins of gravy that will undo any injustices that the public school system has burdened them with.  The thing is, you truly have to be a legal minor to appreciate this food (sort of like the way my parents never particularly understood the allure of the taco roll…), and try as I might, I really can’t get on board with the cafeteria chicken fried steak.  The problem is that every Wednesday I’m reminded of the most outstanding CFS of my life, the one at Mary’s.

Many of my childhood summer days were spent at our lake house on Possum Kingdom, which meant many summer nights were spent making the trek to Strawn to dine at Mary’s Cafe.  Mary’s is an unassuming shack in the middle of nowhere.  The line is always long, the gravy is always plentiful, and the chicken fried steaks are second to none.  In the many years it has been since I’ve dined at Mary’s, I’ve never found a restaurant capable of duplicating their steak, though not for lack of trying.  When my parents received their share of a 400lbs steer, named Rusty, we thought we may have stumbled on a meat with enough quality to attempt our own.  We are staying with my parents this month, so it seemed the perfect time to try.

We started by marinating the (very thin) steaks in buttermilk for several hours.  While I usually like a process picture, bloodly buttermilk may not have the appetizing affect that a food photo should.

Then the steaks were dredged in flour, re-dipped in buttermilk, and given a second coat of flour before frying outside in a peanut oil/crisco blend.

(Yum, crisco.)

Golden brown perfection!

We served these babies up with some mashed potatoes, biscuits, black-eyed peas, and plenty of delicious gravy.  I daresay we have stumbled on a little known secret of North Texas.  So, if you find yourself with a plentiful amount of grass-fed beef, give it a try.  If not, pay homage to Mary’s ASAP; you won’t be disappointed.

Defying Gravity (and logic)

31 Jul

We’re back home after our awesome vacation to Las Vegas and San Diego.  I have several posts in the works, but this morning I wanted to focus on the process of air travel.  You see, flying TO Las Vegas last Saturday was a piece of cake – we had emergency exit rows, the plane wasn’t crowded, our luggage arrived without pause, and we were winning money within an hour of landing.

Our trip home was not quite so delightful.  We flew home from San Diego via Salt Lake City and in our two flights (about 2 hours a piece), we experienced no trouble with airline employees, delays, or any other problems caused by the airport.  Truthfully all irritation we experienced in our 5 hours of air travel was caused by fellow travelers!  With that in mind, I think that if I perhaps share my ideas for improving air travel then you will read them, share them, and while it probably will never make a difference, at least we can all bitch together!

Shit I Knit’s Rules for Air Travel

1. No obnoxious bitching in line. I’ve noticed this trend lately and it irritates me before I’ve even gone through security!  Basically you’re standing in some insanely long line  and some jerk behind you decides that if he expresses his complaints by loudly swearing to himself about the various incompetencies of the airline/airline employees/TSA/etc.  The problem is that the only person who can hear this is me.  And I really don’t care, even though your goal is to have me turn around and join in on your bitching.  But I won’t because it’s dumb.  I’m in no hurry to stand in another line, to sit at an uncomfortable chair at a gate, and read overpriced magazines.

2. Do NOT, under any circumstances, recline your seat. The only place this could ever be acceptable is if you were flying between midnight and five a.m. and your flight was long and EVERYONE on the plane was doing it.  The thing is, while it may make you 10% more comfortable, it’s guaranteed to make the person behind you 90% less comfortable.  Yesterday Ross and I had a fellow traveler in our laps on both flights – and we flew at 10 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon.  I try really hard to be mature in life and handle all situations with grace and kindness, but if someone reclines their seat on a flight?  Oh, it’s ON!  I’m not above irritating someone into flipping their seat back up, in fact, I’ll share with you a step-by-step process for getting a jerk to unrecline ASAP:

Step 1: Arctic blast.  As soon as the jerk reclines?  Turn your little air blaster on full blast and aim it directly at the top of their head.  Give this a minute or two, and if they are still reclined, move on to step 2.

Step 2: Percussion.  I’m 25 and I have no problem kicking someone’s seat on an airplane.  If you have a kid, let them loose on the kicking, but if you’re over age 10, you have to do this on your own.  I’ve found that if you can get the jerk in row 10 to lean forward for just a second, wedge your knees into the seat.  This way when they lean back, they will be up about 3 inches further.  Let them get comfortable and when they are nodding off for their mid-morning nap, release!  Otherwise, any excuse you can find to jolt the seat will do!

Step 3: Obnoxiousness.  Clearly this person’s will to sit at a 110 degree pitch is very strong so you really need to pull out the big guns.  Begin by loudly stating to your seat mate how rude it is when people recline their seat.  Then select an obnoxious reading material and read it with your seat mate as loud as you possibly can.  Yesterday Ross and I read Us Magazine at Earth-shaking volume and honestly the article on “Who Has The Better Butt?” (Ross excitedly exclaimed: KIM KARDASHIAN!) pushed grandma tuberculosis back in her place ASAP!  Once my mom and I read an entire issue of Cosmopolitan together to thwart a recliner and it totally worked.

Step 4:  While I can hardly believe that anyone would choose slight reclining over torture, there is occasionally a traveler who can withstand anything I can dream up.  If that’s the case, you have to go with fear.  When deplaning, get right behind them and loudly comment about the “total jerk” who was in front of you.  If they turn around, give them a serious evil eye.  It won’t do anything, but I sleep better at night knowing that at least they realized what was wrong.

3. Deplane in order. You’ve seen it happen: the second the plane stops, everyone, even tuberculosis grandma (who I didn’t fully explain, there was a geriatric seat recliner in front of me on our last leg who had a dry, hacking, tuberculosis cough the. entire. time. – gross!) suddenly snaps into action, jockeying for position in line to get out.  Wrong.  Stay in your seat until the people two rows ahead of you are getting up, then collect your belongings, don’t whack anyone on the head with your “carry on” bags that take up the entire overhead compartment, and then go.  Someone in the row behind you tries to cut?  As my dad says, don’t be shy to throw a knee, or a hip in to put them in their place.  But seriously, what’s the rush?  You’re going to wait for HOURS at baggage claim anyway.

4. Don’t box me out of baggage claim. If there was one egregious error in air travel, it’s the way 90% of people collect their baggage.  They get their whole family up there and stand in a row one inch from the carousel so nobody else can even see what’s there.  Here’s a tip: why doesn’t everyone stand about 2-3 feet away and simply step forward when one of their bags comes by?  Sadly, I have an answer.  If that was the protocol how could the crazy lady standing directly in front of us, spending one minute scratching her rear and the next fondling every single bag that comes by, possibly read the name on every single black bag before deciding it wasn’t hers? (Ross decided that if you are, in fact, blind and decide to carry a black suitcase, would it kill you to put some sort marker on it?)  Luckily for us, “luggage” for us means a traffic-cone-orange duffel bag leftover from Ross’ tennis days (if the color weren’t enough, the large “WILSON” emblazoned on the side guarantees that nobody will accidentally take your bag).  In short, if everyone stepped back and waited, the whole process would go much smoother.

This concludes my rules for flight. I’ll be back with pictures of food ASAP!

Pie in the Sky

22 Jul

You know that old saying, “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels”?  I beg to differ – anyone who believes that has clearly never eaten homemade pasta, or fresh coconut gelato, or mole enchiladas, or Boi Na Braza – I mean look at this picture of us there – could we BE any happier?

Maybe if we’d remembered to open our eyes….

Anyway, these “people” have definitely never eaten one of my pies.  I obviously love pie – at our wedding we had miniature pies instead of cake!

They were a huge hit – so much so that someone (coughTHEBRIDEcough), only had ONE miniature key lime pie that was delicately fed to me by my groom.  As a sidenote: I really hate when people do that whole feeding at the wedding business and totally smush the cake into each other’s faces.  I think it’s really mean spirited and I’d like to get some statistics on how many of those weddings end in divorce.

As a couple, we find feeding one another very awkward, as is evident in our wedding pictures:

Suffice it to say that pies are an integral part of my marriage, my happiness, and my diet (or lack thereof).  I love to make pies because a homemade pie is getting harder and harder to come by these days and I’ve never been criticized for bringing one to any sort of social gathering.

One of my most favorite pies is the key lime pie.  My parents used to pick these up from the Donut Hole in Florida where we vacationed when I was a kid.  I remember my dad telling me that I may not like this pie, that it had kind of a grown up taste, but I wanted so desperately to have an advanced palate (even at age six), that I pretended to like it and ate it every time they had one until I actually did like it.  Because it has a graham cracker crust, which is far easier to make than pastry, it was also the very first pie I learned to make.  I love it so much, I’m actually going to share the recipe!

Key Lime Pie

Crust:

1 sleeve graham crackers (you will want Nabisco grahams in the red box)

2 T sugar

6 T butter (if you use unsalted, you also need to add a pinch of salt)

handful of coconut.

Run the crackers and sugar through a food processor until they look crumbly, but not to the point of dust.  Melt the butter and pour over the cracker mixture until everything sticks together, then add the coconut.  Press into a pie pan and bake for 8 minutes at 350.

Filling:

1 can eagle brand sweetened condensed milk (the lowfat kind really tastes no different, but if you’re trying to be health conscious, you really shouldn’t be eating pie in the first place…)

1 bag of key limes.

4 egg yolks

1 husband, brother, or combination of the two who don’t pick at their cuticles.

Cut the key limes in half and have one of the men handle juicing them.  This task is arduous, boring, and really stings if you have any sort of wound on your finger.  You can use the pre-squeezed stuff, but it really isn’t good.  You want about a half cup of juice, which is about 20 key limes or one bag of them.  Mix this with the eagle brand and the egg yolks until smooth.  Then pour it all into a pie crust and bake it for 20 more minutes at 350.  Refrigerate for a few hours before you serve and, once it’s chilled top with whipped cream.  I’m a big of a whipped cream snob (it’s homemade or it doesn’t touch my pie).  For that, you just take one small carton of whipping cream and whip it with some vanilla and about a tablespoon of sugar.  Or, if you’re cool like me, you use your whipped cream gun:

The gun, incidentally, also provides a nice way to reward your key lime squeezer.

Another pie that I’ve grown to love in recent months (I’m now going with a wedding theme to this post since I spoke of the mini-pies – key lime pies are old, this one is new…) is the Kahlua silk pie.  It’s no secret that I like to bake with booze – I mean, I’ve been requesting a rum cake for my birthday since I was about five and my fellow teachers say they always know that if I’ve made it, it’s spiked with something.  In fact, should I ever open a small bakery, it will be called the drunken cupcake and offer a myriad of spirited snacks (if you think this doesn’t sound good, ask me to make you some margarita cupcakes with tequila frosting).

When my mom suggested that I made this pie as soon as possible, I did.  If you have a stand mixer, definitely get it out as it takes a lot of mixing.  This is another pioneer woman gem – though I did make a few changes.  She takes much better step-by-step photos than I do (meaning, she takes them), so here is the RECIPE FOR THIS AWESOME PIE!

My changes were to use espresso instead of instant coffee, add about a cup and a half of pecans in the crust (with more Kahlua), and to top with some toasted nuts.  The leftover filling is an awesome dip for graham crackers.  Also, apparently it’s really mean to bring such an awesome dessert to school if you work with women who are pregnant.  They may or may not speak to you for a while.

It’s awesome:

Tomorrow I’m embarking on a mission to pack everything for Vegas AND another two weeks in Dallas.  There will probably be a post about it and I may be a little snarky, so be prepared!