Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pork Carnitas

To be perfectly upfront with you, I'm not entirely sure what a "carnita" is.  I know it's Mexican and I think it has something to do with shredded meat but from there I can't say 100% that I'm correct calling these carnitas.  But I will tell you this for 100% certain - they are deeelicious!

I like Mexican food but, let's be honest, it's not always the healthiest choice.  I used one of my favorite slow-cooking cuts of meat here, a pork shoulder, which is a bit fatty, but when it sits in the slow cooker for many hours you're very easily able to separate the fat from the meat and the meat that is left is tender and juicy and succulent.

I treated these a bit like a taco salad or an open faced nacho/burrito hybrid.  And what does one call a taco/salad/nacho/burrito hybrid?  Carnitas!

They're loaded with veggies and lots of flavor from the meat and will satisfy any Mex craving you have without weighing you down. 

Pork Carnitas
4 lb. pork shoulder
12 oz. lager beer (I used Yuengling, Budweiser would also be a good choice)
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp. kosher salt
corn tortillas
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red pepper, peeled, seeded and diced
1 yellow pepper, peeled, seeded and diced
1 c. grape tomatoes, halved
1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 avocados, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 c. shredded lettuce
hot sauce

Combine pork, beer, 1 c. water, garlic, and salt in a slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.  Remove meat to a cutting board and shred, separating the meat from the fat.  Throw the fat away and put the meat in a large saucepan.  Pour the liquid from the crock pot into a gravy separator and pour the broth into the pan with the pork and discard any fat on top.  Boil on high until all the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven broiler.

On a baking sheet, arrange corn tortillas.  Top each with pork, black beans, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, and cheddar.  Place under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese has melted.  Remove from oven and top with avocado, lettuce, and hot sauce to taste.

Click here for a printable recipe.

Linking to Crafty Scrappy Happy

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

$2 Office Shelves Update

Yep, you read that right.  $2.  Mind you, I had to travel all the way to Florida to get the paper for this little update (I live in Massachusetts) but before you think I have lost my mind I just happened to be in FL for vacation and did not actually fly all the way there for Target dollar bin paper.

I saw this exact paper used as backing for built-ins on Pam's blog about a month ago.

Wrapping paper as wallpaper

I immediately pinned the image and was at Target that very day scouring the dollar bins for the paper she used.  Sadly, not a roll in sight.  I went home and searched wallpapers and other wrapping paper sources but couldn't find anything close.  Actually, that's not entirely true.  I could get a roll of similar wallpaper on Spoonflower but it was $60 a roll, and when compared to the ONE DOLLAR A ROLL I knew Pam had paid I just couldn't bring myself to shell out.

Fast forward to our Florida vacation a few weeks ago and while checking my Instagram feed (click here to follow me) I saw that Carmel had scored the exact same paper at her local Target.  She is the sweetest thing ever and even offered to mail me a roll when I mentioned my sad, quatrefoil paper-less existence, but on a last ditch effort I swung by a Target near my in-laws' house on the very day we were leaving FL and, cue the angels singing, there was a bin full of quatrefoil paper just sitting here waiting for a good home.

I feverishly bought 6 rolls and very carefully transported them back to Boston in my carry on bag.

And here, at last, they are on my office built-ins.

I followed a pretty simple process for putting the paper up.  I stuck strips of double sided scrapbooking tape along the top edge of the shelf back, where the top of the paper would go.

I cut a strip of paper slightly longer than what I needed, then peeled off the paper backing on the tape, and carefully lined up the top edge of the paper with the top edge of the shelf and smoothed and pressed it into place.  For the other edges I used a straight edge (anything will do, I used a paint stirring stick!) and a sharp razor blade to cut the edges precisely.  Then I lifted the paper from the bottom, gave a light spray on the wall with spray adhesive, and smoothed and pressed the paper into place.  

A quick afternoon's work and I love the outcome.  How about a before and after shot?

Thanks to Pam for the great inspiration!  Are you running to Target yet to score your very own $1 quatrefoil paper??

One piece left in the rebirth of these built-ins...I'll soon be "Shaking" things up a little.  And that's a hint :)

Linking up to Home Stories A to Z, Liz Marie Blog, Crafty Scrappy Happy, and...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Blueberry Wheat Germ Pancakes with Lemon Curd

Are you sick of pancake recipes yet?  I hope not, because I've got another one coming at you again today!  I must seem obsessed with pancakes lately, and maybe I am.  They make for such a homey breakfast and with some tweaks can be a really healthy and hearty way to start your day.  I usually make a big batch on the weekends and we reheat the leftovers on busy weekday mornings. 

Shall we take a walk down pancake memory lane?  There have been the blueberry chocolate chip quinoa pancakes, the multigrain buttermilk pancakes, and the banana coconut oat pancakes.  I played around a little with my base buttermilk recipe here and added a hearty dose of wheat germ, which is a good source of folic acid, dietary fiber, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E.

You can use frozen blueberries but I really like the tartness that fresh ones add.  Frozen just don't have the same zing.

You can certainly make your own lemon curd but for a quick-ish breakfast I keep a jar of store-bought on hand in the fridge.  I like Thursday Cottage Handmade Lemon Curd (I get it at Whole Foods with the jams).  Blueberry and lemon is such a classic flavor combination and it really shines here.

Blueberry Wheat Germ Pancakes with Lemon Curd
Ingredients - makes about 20 three-inch diameter pancakes
2 eggs
2 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. grapeseed oil
2 tbsp. sugar
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. wheat germ
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 pint fresh blueberries
jar of lemon curd

Heat a nonstick griddle over medium heat.  Preheat oven to 170º.

Whisk eggs, buttermilk, oil, and sugar in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk the flours, wheat germ, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add the blueberries and gently toss to coat.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and fold together with a rubber spatula just until the flour is evenly moistened.  The batter should be quite lumpy (this is what gives you fluffy pancakes).

Spoon the batter into the pan - I use a gravy ladle for each scoop and can fit four pancakes in the pan at a time.  Cook until golden on the bottom and little bubbles form on the top.  Flip and cook another minute or two until the pancakes are cooked through.  Remove to an oven-safe platter and place in the warm oven.  Continue until you've used all the batter.

Right before serving, put the jar of lemon curd in the microwave for 30-60 seconds, until it's a pourable consistency.  Top the pancakes with the lemon curd as you would maple syrup and eat!

Click here for a printable recipe.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Stairs Makeover Phase 2

I'm moving along with the changes to our stairs and am so thrilled with the progress so far.  The staircase is smack in front of you when you walk in our front door and the first thing anyone who comes in sees, so prettifying the space has a lot of impact. 

I showed you last week that my dad and I had pulled up the old runner, which was a much cleaner look, but left me with risers that looked like this.

I gave them a quick sand with my pad sander, filled the holes with lightweight spackle, then painted the risers to match the other white trim.


 The progression to date has been from carpeted, to bare with holes, to smooth and painted.

I also decided to paint the handrail and bottom piece of the banister in black semi-gloss and, oh my gosh, I love it even more than I imagined I would.

It has so much more visual impact with the black and white contrast.

I have some plans for that back wall of the stairs that are coming together and I'm really excited about it.  Stay tuned for the details!...

Friday, February 22, 2013

10% off business cards from Moo!

Hi everyone, and happy Friday!  I had a different post planned for today - a furniture building tutorial based on a bench I recently made - but I'm trying to learn SketchUp so I can give you clear diagrams and after several hours of frustration last night I had to throw in the towel and commit to doing some more "studying" this weekend.  If all goes well, I hope to have it up next week.

Instead, today I wanted to share with you my new "business" cards.  I'd been thinking of getting cards made for awhile now because I can't tell you how many times I've had this conversation in the past several months:

Person: Oh, you write a blog? Cool! What's it called?
Me: It's called "The Chronicles of Home."
Person: How do I get to it?
Me: You can go to to find it.
Person: Great, I'll check it out! forward to the next time I see the same person.

Person: I've been meaning to check out your blog but forgot the address!!

So, I figured having cards to give out might be a handy thing to keep around, both so people could remember my blog address and to give to prospective clients, since I've started doing some design consulting, furniture building, and reupholstery work on the side.

But still I was dragging my feet on actually having anything made.  And then a month or two ago Cassie at Primitive and Proper hosted a business cards giveaway from a company I'd never heard of called Moo.  And, lucky me, I won them!

And even extra lucky is that Moo turned out to be super easy to work with and the cards are lovely.  They're thick and sturdy and have this really nice silky finish that's not exactly matte but not shiny either.  I would buy from them again in a heartbeat.

Moo offers business cards, postcards, stickers, labels, greeting cards, holiday cards, gift cards, and accessories for their products.  Click the Moo logo below to browse their products and to get 10% off your order!

Happy weekend and wish me luck in my adventures with SketchUp!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta

Yesterday I shared with you the height of decadence - a scrumptious tart made by layering salted almonds, dark chocolate, and caramel on top of a buttery cookie-like crust.  And today I'm back with another dessert, but I have some excellent news - this one is healthy!

This creamy panna cotta flecked with orange zest and vanilla bean tastes like another indulgence but it's made entirely with Greek yogurt, 2% milk, and only a little sugar (a little over a tablespoon per serving).  Topped with fresh berries you get a healthy dose of calcium and a good shot of vitamins and antioxidants.  It tastes remarkably like a Creamsicle for something so healthy.

Apparently I'm all about helping old-school treats climb the culinary ranks lately - Twix bars, Creamsicles...what next?

For all the details on this delicious, gorgeous, and healthy dessert, head over to Honey We're Healthy where I'm posting today!  You might want to check out Megan's quick shrimp taco idea while you're's on my list to make next week!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dark Chocolate & Caramel Tart with Salted Almonds

If you've been reading this blog for a little while now there are three things you may have deduced about my taste in desserts.
  1. I love dark chocolate.
  2. I love caramel.
  3. I love a bit of salt with both of these things.
Remember these dark chocolate brownies?  Or how about the salted caramel stuffed snickerdoodles?  Maybe the caramel tartlets caught your eyeI still dream about the salted caramel chocolate layer cake with its glittery dusting of sea salt that I made for my daughters' birthdays last year.

Well, guess what?  I've got another one for you today.  A dark chocolate and caramel tart with a jaunty salted almond hat.  It's so wonderfully rich you won't be able to eat more than a little sliver so don't even worry about the calories.

It kind of reminds me of a grown-up Twix bar.  Except so much better.  

There's no way around it.  You must make this.  Unless, of course, you do not share my affinity for salted chocolate caramel desserts.  But presuming we have this dessert love in common, grab your pen and paper and make a list...I see this tart in your future for the weekend.

Head on over to I Heart Naptime for full details and the recipe! 

Also, today is the last day to enter the Kitchen Aid stand mixer giveaway.  Don't miss out!  Click here to enter. 


Technical Difficulties and a Smoothie

Hi friends.

I'm having some technical difficulties over here and my planned post for today is going to have to wait for another day.

It's February school vacation week for most schools here in Massachusetts so I'm enjoying lots of lazy mornings with my girls, eating breakfast in pajamas, and deciding our days as we go.

We got some eggs from a friend yesterday who has chickens so this morning with be some creamy, dreamy fresh eggs and green smoothies.  I love how Jen from The Social Home makes hers - click the photo to see all the wonderful things she adds.

Hope you have a great day!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Little Kitchen Organization

Is there a part of your house - a drawer or cabinet, perhaps - that drives you bananas because it's such a mess and you can never find what you're looking for but you don't fix it because it always drives you crazy when you're in the moment doing something or rushing somewhere and by the time you have some time to address it you've kind of forgotten about it?  Anyone??

Well this kitchen drawer was that thing for me.

No big surprise, I'm sure, but it was practically impossible to ever find the utensil I was looking for in this disheveled tangle without some measure of digging and disgusted "Ugh!" sounds coming from yours truly.

Finally, finally, this past weekend I took 15 minutes and fixed the problem.  Seriously, 15 minutes.  WHY did I not do this sooner??

First step was emptying the contents of the drawer and separating into two piles: "keep" and "toss."  One only needs so many soup ladles!  The "toss" pile got, you guessed it, tossed, and the "keep" pile went into two further piles: "drawer" and "counter."  Smaller items went into the "drawer" pile and larger ones into the "counter" pile.  I had a spring-loaded drawer separator in the drawer already that just needed to be repositioned a bit before I neatly placed the remaining items back in the drawer.  Approximately 7 minutes later I had this dramatic before and after.

But remember I said it took 15 minutes?  Well it was so easy and gratifying a job I moved on to the drawer underneath and did the same.

The "counter" items, utensils I use often and are handy to have right at my fingertips, went into two containers - one for whisks and spatulas on the counter where I typically prep items and the other for ladles, large spoons, and other cooking utensils, near the stove.

I realized I haven't shared too many photos of my kitchen, so here's a quick little photo tour.


Sink side of kitchen

Stove side of kitchen
Have you ever kicked yourself for not making a simple organizational change sooner?  I'm so happy with the way this new setup is functioning for me just these last few days!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ripping Up Our Carpet Runner

I love the look of a runner on stairs.  I also love that it quiets footsteps, and any of you who have ever heard my husband walk around on a wood floor know that anything we can do to hush those puppies is a move in the right direction.  We actually were just sitting here talking about how many of his shoes need to be resoled because they have holes the size of quarters in the bottoms.  Literally.

I'm any of your husbands, brothers, boyfriends wear giant holes in their shoes?? 

But I'm getting off track.  Runners.  Aren't these geometric stairs pretty?


geometric runner 

The runner that we inherited with our house was in great shape but it really darkened the staircase and the hunter green and burgundy pattern just wasn't our style.

Our staircase gets no direct light so I hoped that I'd pull up the carpet to find no fading of the wood on either side of the runner, and luckily, I was right.  The wood under the rug and the wood on either side matched perfectly. 

I was pretty surprised how quick and easy it was to pull it up.  I'm no expert here, and I had an extra set of hands from my dad, but here's how we did it.

First, we pulled up a corner to loosen an edge and get a good grip.  Be very careful because the sharp ends of staples will be poking all out of the underside as you pull it up.  I used a pair of pliers to grip the carpet and then just kind of gave it a good pull.  The carpet came right up and brought most of the staples with it.  We went at it a little at a time until we'd removed all of the carpet.

There was carpet padding underneath and we followed the same process for removing that.  And since I ripped up the padding you could probably guess that as much as I love the look of those geometric runners, I've decided to leave our stairs bare.  I think we may be moving sort of soonish and ultimately thought it safer for resale to leave the wood bare.  

After all the carpet and padding were up we removed stray staples from the floor using needlenose pliers.  Then we used a hammer and small crowbar (the same "cat's paw" tool I use when working with upholstery nails) to gently jimmy the wood pieces off that the carpet had been attached to (see above photo).

We were left with a pile of scraps that we very carefully carried outside because it was full of nails and staples.

The staircase looks so much cleaner and brighter already, even though it's got a lot of little holes from the nails and staples.  I sanded and cleaned the risers over the weekend and am hoping to get them painted this week so should have some good finished photos for you next week!

Hope you're either having a good start to the work week or are enjoying an extra day off for President's Day!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Isn't there something about lobster mac and cheese that just screams decadence?  Until recently I'd only ordered it in restaurants and had never made it at home.  Lobster meat is usually pretty pricey, which is the main thing that held me back from trying it sooner.

And then my mom made a brilliant discovery at Costco - they sell a 2 lb. bag of wild-caught langoustines for $20.  So $10 a pound.  And that's a pound of straight meat, no shells, and all of that meat has the flavor and consistency of lobster tail meat.  We may start eating lobster weekly!  Well, probably not, but it's opened the door to so many recipes I breezed past before because I thought, "Nah, lobster's too expensive."

So, lobster mac and cheese.  I basically adapted my favorite, classic recipe from my mom that uses a béchamel sauce as the base.  I used a combination of sharp cheddar and gruyere cheeses and added them a little differently than I usually do to get that pleasantly gooey-out-of-the-oven texture.  I wanted a string of cheese clinging to my fork as I took a bite.  Mmmm…can't you picture it?

This is easy enough (and cheap enough!) to add to your weeknight repertoire, but baked in individual little ramekins or gratin dishes it's also special enough to serve for guests or a special dinner with your sweetie.

Mom, seriously, food find of the decade with these langoustines.  I'm a little worried I may develop a cholesterol problem with the new accessibility of lobster meat!

Lobster Mac and Cheese
1/2 lb. small shells or gemelli pasta, cooked in salted water
3 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 c. milk
5 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
5 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded 
1 lb. lobster meat, cut into bite-sized pieces

Preheat oven to 375º.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk until smooth.  Cook a minute or two but don't let the flour brown beyond just a touch of color.  Add dried mustard, Worcestershire, thyme, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.  

Pour in about a third of the milk and whisk until smooth.  Add the next third and repeat, then add remaining milk and whisk to combine.  Cook about 5 minutes, until thickened.

Remove from heat and stir in cooked pasta, Gruyere, Cheddar, and lobster.  Pour into a rectangular baking dish or individual ramekins or gratin dishes.  Bake until cheese is bubbling, about 30 minutes.  Serve hot.

Click here for printable recipe.

Linking to
Crafty Scrappy Happy

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Giveaway...and It's a Big One!

Happy Valentine's Day!  Any big plans today?  We usually just do a quiet dinner at home with our daughters and have a special little dessert.  I'm trying a new dessert tonight and if it turns out, you can be sure I'll be sharing it with you all very soon :)  You can follow me on Instagram for little sneak peeks along the way!...and, I can't believe I'm saying it, but I'm going to give Twitter another shot.  Click here to follow me...though it will probably be mostly imports from Instagram!

Big plans or no plans, you'll want to keep reading for a chance to win BIG this Valentine's Day.  Want to know my top three absolute most favorite and most used kitchen appliances?  My Cuisinart food processor, my Vitamix blender, and my Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  I use the stand mixer at least a few times a week and it has made cooking and baking so, so much easier. 

I've teamed up with I Heart Nap Time's creative team today to bring you one SWEET giveaway!! Enter to win a brand new Kitchen Aid (in any color). $300 value!! You'll not only get the chance to win this awesome prize, but you'll also find some fabulous new blogs to follow.



Good luck!!


If you don’t have Facebook, you can still enter by commenting. This giveaway is in no way affiliated, administered or endorsed by Facebook. The giveaway closes on February 21st at 12 am. The winner will be notified by email on 2/23/13 and will need to respond within 48 hours to claim their prize or another winner will be chosen. Winner must be 18 years of age or older and a US resident in order to win. Winners are responsible for paying any necessary taxes on winnings. Alternate entry email: coleen@iheartnaptime (dot) net with first and last name, and a valid email address. All prizes will be mailed by the sponsor and all participating blog owners are not held responsible if the prize is not fulfilled. The name of the winner will be announced on this page once the giveaway has ended.

Banana Coconut Oat Pancakes

Fridays are the one weekday when my daughters and I don’t have to rush out of the house in the morning and I love making pancakes for breakfast.  There’s something I find so comforting and relaxing about flipping pancakes on a chilly morning and then sitting around in our pajamas and leisurely eating them. 

I often make multigrain pancakes but lately I’ve been trying out other options so we have some choices on our Friday pancake mornings.  The flavor of these flourless pancakes, made with ground oats, mashed bananas, and coconut, are reminiscent of banana bread.  They’re a bit more dense than a flour and buttermilk pancake but still nice and tender.

I love that we get all the goodness of oatmeal with fruit in a tidy little breakfast package, also perfect for a snack on the go.  My family doesn't follow a gluten free diet but good news for those of you who do - if you're careful to use uncontaminated oats (I understand Gluten Free Oats and Gifts of Nature are known to be safe) these pancakes are gluten free.  They're also completely dairy free.

My favorite way to top these pancakes is with a few slices of banana, a sprinkle of coconut, and a scattering of salted cashews.  The pancakes themselves are so sweet from the mashed banana that I don’t usually add any maple syrup on top.  I think a dollop of creamy, mellow mascarpone cheese would also be a delicious addition to the toppings.

Banana Coconut Oat Pancakes
2 large or 3 medium bananas, mashed
2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. oat flour*
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. shredded coconut
salted cashews

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat.

Whisk mashed banana, oil, lemon juice, and sugar in a medium bowl until well blended.

In another medium bowl whisk oat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and coconut.

Pour dry ingredients over wet and fold gently with a rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened.

Spread a little butter or oil onto hot skillet.  Ladle batter in circles and cook until little bubbles form and underside is golden.  Flip and cook a few minutes longer until cooked through.

Serve with additional banana slices, coconut, and salted cashews.

*To make oat flour, put old fashioned oats in a food processor and process until very finely ground.

Click here for a printable recipe.