Homemade Taco Seasoning

Looks even better than the store bought kind.

As I'm sure you've noticed by now, most of my homemade food is made because it costs less than store bought, and the ingredients are "pure" without the preservatives etc.  This taco seasoning was made for the exact same reason.

Now, if you ask my opinion, tacos just aren't the same without the seasoning.  It's all about the seasoning in my book.  Just plain beef?  Eww!  Chicken with no flavor?  Ick!!  So, just gotta add the perfect blend of ingredients, preferably not from a packet, a yippee, there ya have it, the perfect taco with just a few extra toppings!

I grew up with the "American style" of taco-eating, if you'd call it that.  Taco shell, refried beans, ground beef with seasoning, lettuce, salsa or tomatoes, a sprinkle of cheese and of course sour cream.  Today, I've tweaked the toppings to make it a bit healthier, but still enjoy eating something pretty similar to that.  I guess, it's true what they say, you never forget where you came from.

Seasoning before being mixed, look at all those colors!

Taco Seasoning
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 to 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp ground cumin
3 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients together.  Store in airtight container.

To Use:
Once meat is browned, add 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons of taco seasoning mix with meat to replace usual taco seasoning packet and 2 tsp cornstarch and 1 cup cold water.  Simmer on low until it has reached the desired thickness.

My "tweaks" to the recipe:
Instead of using crushed red pepper flakes, I actually used ground red pepper for fear of random hot bites with the flakes.  I love it with the ground red pepper!  I also try to use as little salt as possible.  So rather than using 3 tsp, I probably use more like 1/2 to 1 tsp.

I've also made this recipe a couple of times now, and the first time I added the 2 tbsp of cornstarch I felt it was too thick.  The last time I only added 1 tbsp of cornstarch, and it seemed as thick as it would typically be from a packet, but then again, it may be my preference.  You kind of have to tweak it to your liking.

PS - Do NOT forget the Oregano!!  I did once and it was SPICYYY!  Lesson learned, always read the recipe. :)

Source: Adapted from Smells Like Home


New Project - Dresser Turned TV Stand

I'm soo soo soo excited right now!!  The husband and I finally found a dresser on Craigslist that's exactly what we've been looking for.

For us to buy the dresser, it had to fit into the following criteria:

  • Cost less than $50
  • Have a bit of an antique look or character
  • Not too modern or sleek (I never thought I'd say that)
  • Must be solid wood, not press board
  • It had to be a long horizontal dresser, not a vertical chest
  • Wanted to do work to it....
  • But didn't want the drawers falling apart.
  • Drawers that pulled in and out easily
  • Be able to organize drawers easily with DVDs and/or gaming controllers etc.

After holding out for months, we finally found exactly what we wanted... AND it has all my picky specifications above,

Stay tuned for the next.  big.  project.  :)


Homemade Tahnini

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to make my own tahini (an essential ingredient for hummus), rather than buying it.  Just like with hummus, it costs a ton more to buy it... so I made my own.   

I'm sure many of you are wondering, what is tahini??  I thought the same thing prior to making hummus.  It sounds so exotic, right?   

Ready for this?   

You're gonna laugh at how simple it is...... 


Sesame seeds and olive oil. 

Yep, that's all. 

Again, a super easy recipe, and it smells AMAZING -- can't beat that, right? 

This recipe yields about 2 cups, but you only need 6 tablespoons for the hummus recipe

Tahini Recipe 
2 cups sesame seeds 
1/3 cup olive oil 

First, toast the sesame seeds --- heat a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the sesame seeds and toast lightly -- about 2 minutes, shaking the pan so they toast evenly.  Watch out, sesame seeds can burn very easily.  Once they start slightly turning brown, they're done. They'll go from toasted to burnt very quickly.  Transfer to a bowl and let the seeds cool completely. 

Next, process the sesame seeds in a food processor and slowly drizzle in the olive oil.  Pulse for 3-5 minutes, or until as smooth as possible.  Add additional olive oil as necessary.  Remove from processor and store in refrigerator (or add to the hummus recipe, then store in the fridge ;))   

Source: adapted from Cupcake Project


Homemade Roasted Garlic Hummus for less than $3... Mmm, Mmm!

Roasted Garlic Hummus and Pita Chips... Yum!

I've been wanting to make some homemade hummus for quite awhile, but haven't found a recipe that I really liked... until now.

There are many reasons I decided to make it homemade.
  • Price
  • Preservatives
  • Knowing the ingredients
  • Convenience
When I decided to make Hummus, a lot of my reasoning was based on price.  The Sabra brand that I typically buy, will cost a few dollars and is only about 7 or 10 ounces (I can't remember).  So my husband and I started buying it in bulk at our local Sam's Club and we could get the large (25 ounces) for $5.98  The problem with the large container is that we both go through spurts with hummus and don't consistently eat a large amount.  And, I'm not sure if you're like me, but if it sits in the fridge too long, it starts to taste different and I'm not a fan.  So we'd end up throwing it out and wasting the food and money.  

To make it from scratch it was minimal compared to buying in the store -- more on that later, and I know exactly what's in it, and that means NO PRESERVATIVES or added unhealthy crap, as we all know the side effects of those.

I typically just like plain or garlic hummus, though I've tried a black bean hummus that was really good, too.  The thing I really liked about this recipe, was that it's super simple to make and used few ingredients.  It didn't take long to prep, but the garlic cloves do have to bake in the oven for an hour prior to adding to the recipe.  As much as I like garlic... or should I say love?  This recipe seemed to have quite the bite to it due to the amount of garlic added.  Next time I may try to tweak it a bit by adding less cooked garlic, or just using all fresh, not cooked, chopped up cloves.  We'll see.  

Have you made hummus before?  If so, what did you like and dislike about it?  

Total cost of all ingredients $2.58
Roasted Garlic Hummmus
2 heads garlic, intact
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup water
6 tbsp. tahini (check out my homemade recipe)
1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper (very, very small pinch)
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Remove the papery outer skins of the garlic heads, leaving them otherwise intact.  Chop off the top quarter of the head so that all of the cloves are exposed.  Wrap the garlic in foil and bake until very tender.  This will take about an hour.  Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the sliced garlic cloves and saute, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  Transfer the garlic to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving the cooking oil for later.  Set aside.  Once the roasted garlic from the oven is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves from their skins.  This should give you about 1/4 cup.

In a small prep bowl, combine the lemon juice and water.  In another bowl, whisk together the reserved garlic cooking oil and the tahini (I couldn't find any, so I made my own.  More on that to come -- check it out here).  

In the bowl of a food processor, process the chickpeas, the roasted garlic puree, the remaining clove of garlic, salt and cayenne until the mixture is finely ground.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl to get off any access.  With the machine running, add the lemon juice-water mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream.  Scrape down the bowl and process for an additional minute.  With the machine running, add the oil-tahini mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream.  Scrape down the bowl and continue to process until the hummus is smooth and creamy.  Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, top with toasted garlic slices and minced fresh parsley, if desired.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats/Pinterest

Cost Breakdown
Can of chickpeas -  $0.89
Bottle of Olive Oil - $0.15
2 heads of garlic  - $0.81
Lemon - $0.49
Tahini (homemade) - $0.24
Cayenne Pepper - already had on hand, but I believe it's about $3 at Trader Joe's
Water FREE
Salt - already had on hand
TOTAL $2.58 for 4 cups (32 oz) of hummus.


Lucky Day!

Today is my lucky day...

My hubbs and I just ran to Walmart to get some ice cream for dessert (aka midnight snack) and when we opened it up, guess what we saw.....

Yep! A FOUR LEAF CLOVER made out of an Oreo. Lucky us? I think so!! :)


Homemade Dog Bones

I've been seeing a ton of homemade dog biscuits and treats on Pinterest, and thought I'd give one a try.  Jake  tends to have a sensitive stomach, so I'm always really careful of the types of food and treats that I buy him.  I'm always checking the ingredients to make sure it's healthy, especially his dog food.

When I came across this recipe on Pinterest with only FOUR ingredients, I knew I had to try it, since most dogs LOVE peanut butter.

Peanut Butter Dog Bones

2 cups whole wheat flower
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup natural peanut butter
1 cup low-fat milk

Preheat over to 375.  Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl.  Mix peanut butter and milk in another bowl.  Add wet and dry mixtures together.  Mix well. --- On a side note:  I used powdered peanut butter as it is healthier and has less calories than regular peanut butter.  I prepared it the same as always, with water, prior to combining with the milk.  I also don't buy dairy milk, so instead used almond milk.  I frequently bake with it and haven't had any issues yet. 

Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and knead.  Roll out to approximately 1/4 inch thickness and cut out with your favorite cookie cutter.  Place on a greased or non-stick baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly brown.  Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.

Yield 35 biscuits, but of course this depends on the size of the cookie cutter.  I had enough to fill almost 3 baking pans.

Jake LOVES them... if you can't tell, he's pretty excited :)


What's Your Clutter Style?

The other day I came across an Oprah quiz on her website about clutter style, aka lack of some major organization.  I thought it'd be interesting to see what exactly I lack when it comes to organization, especially because I try to stay organized.

According to the article, there are 5 types of clutter styles:

(1) The Behind-Closed-Doors Clutterer - This type of person appears to be organized on the outside and has what appears to be a very clean house, but tends to hide things behind closed doors where others cannot see it.

(2) The Knowledge Clutterer - This type of person will collect lots of books, magazines, articles etc in order to "remember" the knowledge.

(3) The Techie Clutterer - This person collects or keeps old gadgets, cords, cell phones etc.

(4) The Sentimental Clutterer/Family Historian - This person hoards old papers, drawings, clothing because of the sentimental value attached to it.

(5) The Bargain Shopper/Coupon Clipper - This person stocks up unnecessarily on items because they are on sale and can be purchased at a great price.  
So after reading through the five types of clutterers, I realized I don't fit exactly into one of the categories, but rather am part of a couple of them.  I'm partially a Knowledge Clutterer and partially a Techie Clutterer.

I'm a Knowledge Clutterer because I love to collect books and magazine clippings.  I've always loved a good book... the touch, the smell.  There's nothing like it.  I'm not sure how all these people read on those electronic readers.  They're just so... boring.  I'm not sure I'll ever be able to transition over to that.  I also love my magazines.  Now, don't get me wrong, I do read a lot of blogs and have a ton of online subscriptions to stuff, but there is nothing like the feel of flipping through a book or magazine.  Am I right, or am I right? :)  I will say though, I've drastically improved with the magazines since I have Pinterest now.  I pin things like crazy because it's so convenient and saves all my stuff in one place, and of course it saves lots of paper.  

I'm also a Techie Clutter because we have more old electronics than I'd like to admit.  I mean, c'mon, I still have my old ORIGINAL Game Boy, "just in case" it's ever worth money someday.  Sometimes I find it ridiculous that I've kept it, because it probably doesn't even work, and really, when will I ever play it again.  But it's just so...cool.  And it was mine as a kid (oh boy, I must also be a bit on the sentimental side, too).  

My husband and I have a ton of old electronics cords still just in case we ever need them for another gadget.  I will say though, I've downsized a lot of it, and I've organized my clutter too.  It's all neatly in a box and each cord is bound with a ziptie.  That helps, right?  Ok ok, maybe I'm just trying to convince myself.

I guess when it comes down to it, it seems we have a little bit of each style.  I'm sure I buy too many cans of black beans when I go to the store, but why go to the store for such a simple thing every week when I can easily stock up on just a couple cans.  And aren't we all behind closed doors clutterers?  I never want my stuff just laying out, even as minimal as it seems.

If you'd like to read the full article, or learn how to manage your clutter style, go to Oprah's website directly for the full posting.  

So... What type of clutterer are you, and how do you manage it? 


30 Things Before 30

Back in college, I created my list of 30 things to do before age 30.  Now that I'm 28, I have t-minus 2 years to complete over half of them.

Here's the list....

(1) Go skydiving - 2005 with Krystle in Florida

(2) Go bungee jumping

(3) Get a tattoo

(4) Go parasailing

(5) Go to Canada

(6) Go to Mexico

(7) Go to California (can you tell at this point I had strong desire to travel?)

(8) Go on a cruise - Casino boat cruise with Krystle and CJ in 2007

(9) Fall in love - Married 5/8/10

(10) Take a self defense class - 2011 with Tiffany and Jen in Champaign, IL

(11) Read the bible cover to cover

(12) Learn to play guitar - already learned and forgot :)

(13) Learn to ballroom dance - learned prior to the wedding

(14) Learn to shoot a gun

(15) Go to Indy 500 race or similar

(16) Go to Mardi Gras - St Louis 2005

(17) Go water skiing

(18) Go snow skiing

(19) Go surfing

(20) Learn another language -  Took 4 years of Spanish in High School

(21) Attend mass of a different religion

(22) Drive a motorcycle - drove Uncle Glen's with assistance 

(23) Shave a guy

(24) Get a psychic reading

(25) Go scuba diving

(26) See a Broadway show

(27) Donate hair - Donated to Locks of Love 2007

(28) Learn to tie a tie - learned and forgot... again.

(29) Ride in a jet

(30) Have kids

As you can tell, I have a lot of traveling to do in the next couple of years, among other things... :)

Photo Post on McEinhart Photo

Good Morning!!  I'm home sick today (again), as there has been a bad flu going around Middle Tennessee, as well as my work office, and lucky me, I caught it (or something else fun).  So since I'm not much in the mood for writing a new post, I thought I'd refer ya'll back to my photography site [HERE] to check out our Christmas pictures.  I had a lot of fun with my new Canon remote, as you'll see....



Where Has Time Gone?

Cheers to 2012 and an even better 2013.  

Time and life has gotten the best of me the past year.  To be quite frank, I was pretty down for awhile and had a lot of trouble getting out of the funk of things.  Then time just got away from me and I got busy.  To give a brief overview of what's been going on, my husband and I were pretty unhappy living in small-town-Illinois and decided it was time for a change.   In May, I got a "new" job at the bank I used to work for in Nashville, TN.  Since it actually started out as a temp job, I moved by myself to live temporarily with a girl I found from Craigslist (more on that later).  I lived with her for almost 4 months, then finally got my own apartment and a permanent position.  My husband moved down a bit later once he got a job transfer allowing him to work from home.

I must say, it's been quite the ride the past few months.  We're back living in Nashville and loving life.  It's great getting to explore more and learn new areas of town that we didn't see the last time we lived here.  We also decided to drastically downgrade our apartment size, in order to save more for a house.  Unfortunately, we got locked into the lease before we knew the hubbs would be working from home.  But all in all, we're making it work.

Being that we're in a new city and have done a lot of exploring, keep your eye out for lots of Nashville pictures.  Also, since we downgraded our apartment, you'll definitely see more about small space living and how to stay organized even while living in such a small space.

Overall, I have to say, it's great to be back on here...  Keep your eyes open for many more to come, and thanks for your patience this past year.