2 Cats Recipe: Homemade Taco Seasoning

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Taco Seasoning

Tacos, Yummy yummy Tacos

Tacos, Yummy yummy Tacos

I have a few go-to recipes in my repertoire for nights when a delicious home cooked meal is needed but not one that’s fancy. We are pretty big fans of Mexican food, especially Chris, so I make tacos with our own taco seasoning at least once every two weeks. Originally, I was buying those all-in-one taco kits from the grocery store. Once we started making them so often however, I began to look for ways to make taco night a little less expensive and more flavorful.

I started making my own taco seasoning blend at that point. This way, I can control what types of spices go in the seasoning mix and save money at the same time. I like a taco that smoky with a little heat and not too much salt. Cumin, paprika and oregano are main players in my seasoning mix. I make a good amount of seasoning at a time, it usually lasts a little over 1 month or 3 uses.

The Completed Taco Seasoning

The Completed Taco Seasoning

The seasoning goes well with any sort of meat we’ve tried. My favorite so far has been ground turkey tacos. Chris is a fan of the traditional beef. We haven’t tried ground pork or shrimp yet, but I can’t see those being bad in any way. For nights when I’m in a vegetarian mood, I add the seasoning to a can of black beans and load up the tacos. This is one of the only vegetarian meals I can offer Chris without any complaints.

I like that taco night is one of personal choice. The perfect taco for me is a soft flour tortilla with meat, cheese, black beans, lettuce, a little red onion, salsa, sour cream, and a drop of sriracha. Chris’s ideal taco is a crunchy corn shell with meat, cheese, and sometimes maybe a little lettuce. Ah, the differences between genders…

His and Hers Tacos, guess which one is which?

His and Hers Tacos, guess which one is which?

Please feel free to use my recipe for taco seasoning and let me know what you think!

Taco Seasoning
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder              
½ Teaspoon Dried Oregano
½ Teaspoon Garlic Powder                
1 Teaspoon Paprika
½ Teaspoon Red Chili Flakes          
1 Teaspoon Salt (Kosher)
3 Teaspoons Ground Cumin            
1 ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper
-Mix together all ingredients and store in an airtight container. When ready to use, use 1-2 tablespoons per pound of meat or can of beans. 

Recipe Review: Brownies for Valentines

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Best Brownies from “Big Girls Small Kitchen”

http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/2009/02/cooking-for-others-tins-of-treats.html

Yummy, brownie batter

Yummy brownie batter

Valentine’s Day is a day to show love and affection to those you care about. Chris does this by watching BBC’s Sherlock and buying me bubble bath. Tchai shows her affection by making me her human bed. Zelda occasionally head-butts me and I think that’s her sign of love. I show my love through baking. One of the best treats to do this in my opinion is brownies. I think really good made from scratch brownies are one of the best things ever. The best brownie is soft and fudgy on the interior and has a crunchy-crisp top. I like a deep, complex dark chocolate with a nice rounded sweetness. I do enjoy pecans or walnuts mixed in, but to me, dark chocolate chips make them divine.

Tchaikovsky

Tchai showing how much she loves me, by laying all over me…

I used this Big Girls Small Kitchen recipe because it seemed to be a well-balanced place to start. I liked that it called for unsweetened chocolate versus bittersweet or semi-sweet. I think unsweetened is the best way to get that dark chocolate flavor I crave. I used my 2 quart sauce pan to melt the butter and chocolate and then tossed the rest of the ingredients into the pan, which saved an extra bowl in clean up. The recipe calls for 1 cup of add-ins. I used a mixture of semi-sweet and white chocolate chips (because that’s what I had in my pantry). On a slightly related note, I suggest using a serrated knife when chopping chocolate, it’s so much easier!

Chopped Chocolate for Brownies

Chopped Chocolate for Brownies

Once the brownies finish baking, the recipe instructs that they go directly in the freezer to cool. I thought this was odd but I followed along as directed, hoping it would make the brownies easier to free from the pan. Unfortunately, that was not the case. It took some ungraceful finagling but I finally got the gooey little squares out. Chris didn’t appreciate having to wait for the freezer brownies to come to room temperature

The completed brownies, thawing from the freezer

The completed brownies, thawing from the freezer

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I think this brownie recipe was good, but not amazing. The white chocolate chips were a bad choice because they added too much candy-bar like sweetness for me. I also felt there was too much of a sugary taste and not enough chocolate. Chris agreed with my opinions, my boss however really liked the brownies… so much so that the last few mysteriously disappeared from my desk.
To sum up, I think these brownies are perfect for those who aren’t fans of a dark, complex chocolate. I would definitely use them for a bake sale or as a gift for one of my classes, but they aren’t going to be the recipe I make for when I crave that gooey confection.

Recipe Review : Roasted Chicken

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Lemon Chicken with Croutons

Barefoot in Paris – Ina Garten; Clarkson Potter 2004

A roast leg of chicken, croutons, and a spinach salad. Yum!

A roast leg of chicken, croutons, and a spinach salad. Yum!

Julia Child said “You can always judge the quality of a cook or a restaurant by roast chicken.” America’s test kitchen seems to agree; when a chef comes to interview at the prestigious establishment they are asked to cook two things, one of them being roast chicken. Clearly this is a good place to start when recipe testing.

I have always found the idea of preparing a whole roast chicken to be daunting. I think it may be some sort of subconscious pressure from Ms. Child. The balance between moist meat and a golden crispy skin is of the utmost importance. Come to think of it, I am not sure I’d ever had roast chicken until I cooked it for myself, maybe my mom was intimidated by the “French chef” as well.

Chicken pre-oven

Chicken pre-oven

I like the Barefoot Contessa recipe for a few reasons. The first is that most of the ingredients called for are already stocked in my fridge and panty. Secondly, I really appreciate a recipe I don’t have to fuss over too much. I made this in about an hour and ten minutes and I’d say twenty minutes of that were spent actively cooking. Thirdly and most importantly, it’s a delicious roast chicken. The crunch of the skin, tenderness of the meat, and hint of lemon all made a lovely meal.  One criticism I have about this recipe is the suggested pan. I am not sure about you, but I only have one roasting pan and it’s large enough to fit my Thanksgiving turkey. I used a 9 x 13 glass dish to roast the chicken instead and it worked just fine.

Behind the Chicken

tee-hee, chicken butt

Alongside the bird I served the onions from the pan, chicken jus and homemade croutons.  The onions were caramelized and cooked in those yummy chicken juices. Unfortunately when the onions were cooking they gave off an unpleasant smell that filled our whole apartment for 10-15 minutes.

making the croutons

making the croutons

I don’t know why I’ve never thought to make my own croutons; all it takes is a loaf of bread, a hot pan, and some oil. The croutons were crunchy and wonderful alongside the softer onions and chicken. To me though, the jus was the best thing about the whole dish. The crunchy croutons covered in the savory lemony jus were like culinary heaven. Bonus, there was a good amount of chicken for leftover sandwiches for a few days.  I definitely think I will be using this roast chicken recipe in the future.

The completed meal

The completed meal

Hey, mom we're hungry, where's ours?

Hey, mom we’re hungry, where’s ours?

Meet the Cats

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Because this blog is named 2 Cats and a Kitchen it would be remiss if the cats were not introduced as one of the first orders of business.

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This is Tchaikovsky, or Tchai for short. My college roommate and I adopted her in January of 2005.  I fell in love with the teeny baby as soon as she gave each of me my first head snuggle.

Tchai is a very calming influence in our home (and as you can see not so teeny anymore). She likes to lounge about with my boyfriend and me. She is an independent sort of lap cat, she wants to decide when she’d like to sit on you and she’ll leave if she feels the least bit snuggled. She is also very fond of sitting in boxes or pairs of our shoes. I always feel like I have a sweet silent supporter in Tchai.

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Zelda on the other hand is a lively hyper rascal. She was adopted about 18 months ago when she was between 2 and 3 years old. When we selected her name, I was under the impression she was named for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife. My boyfriend however, just told me that was the case so he could name her after the video game princess.

Zelda is smaller and slighter than her adopted sister and where Tchai can be rather Zen, Zelda is more of a troublemaker. She likes to make her presence known in the house by scratching couches and whining at 5:30 AM. We have had to adjust by using our guest room as cat holding area at night and covering the couches in foil, but Zelda is so cute that she doesn’t belong anywhere else in the world.

Tchai was an only child for several years and I was afraid she would never take to her little sister. There was a long adjustment period but both cats seem to be very fond of each other now. Every day I come home from work and I find them lying on the bed napping together.  I catch Tchai trying to groom and mother Zelda once or twice a week. Zelda seems to be happy to have a playmate (though Tchai is a super lazy one).  I kind of can’t imagine one cat without the other now.

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So there you have it, our feline introductions. OH! Before I sign off I should introduce to the other member of the 2 cats household.

Chris and I at Walt Disney World

Chris and I at Walt Disney World

This is Chris, my boyfriend. He is the resident photographer and additional taste tester around here (I wish I could convince him to be the dishwasher too!). We adopted each other 4 years ago. He’s kind of a picky eater, which can sometimes be frustrating but over time we’ve been expanding his palate. I am glad to have his opinions and his help on my internet adventure.

An Introduction

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I’m not a good cook; I’m just really good at following recipes”

I’m not sure if this is an original statement of my mother’s, but it’s something I borrow when anyone compliments my cooking.  Food has a significant presence in my life; there are cookbooks and cooking magazines all over my apartment. I use Pinterest every morning and evening to find recipes online…when I’m not preoccupied pinning stuff about Benedict Cumberbatch (but that’s another blog)! And if you were to look through my TiVo list, there would be many a show from Cooking Channel and the Food Network. I arrived late to both the world of food and the world of blogging, so allow me to explain how I got here.

I’m originally from a lovely small town in Georgia, and like many kids of my generation, cooking wasn’t part of my everyday childhood. Both of my parents spent 50+ hours a week at work, so when they were at home, spending several more hours in the kitchen wasn’t a top priority. There were home cooked meals on weekends but (again) like many kids of my generation, I was also one of those obnoxious picky eaters and refused a lot of those meals. When I was old enough to “cook” for myself, there was a lot of blue-box mac & cheese involved.

When I left for college in Manhattan my mother gave me my first cookbook.  It was an Ultimate Southern Living cookbook. As she handed it to me she said something to the effect of “I’m sorry I really didn’t teach you how to cook, but this should cover the basics when needed”. I first thought the gift was humorous and doubted its usefulness….I was totally wrong!  It took nineteen years, but college finally set me on a course to appreciating the culinary arts.

I didn’t cook a whole lot my first year in college. One of the best parts of living in Manhattan is having so many different types of cuisine at your disposal and I was able to defeat my inner picky eater. My first real memory of cooking comes from the end of 2002. I made some sort of chili or stew for an NFL game so my friends and I could have something other than take-out. Even now, I don’t remember exactly what I made, but I do remember my 2 friends magically transformed into 10! Once I moved out of the dorm and into my own apartment with my first (and sadly, only) gas stove, I started cooking a great deal more.

I moved back to Georgia to pursue more schooling and my cookbook addiction really took form. My apartment was known for its Sunday dinners and sweet treats. I can happily recall a many smiling faces around my dining room table. On an unrelated note, I also found that it was really easy for me to get favors done and my dishes always seemed to be washed….I’ve never quite figured that one out 😉

Fast forward eight or so years, two adopted cats, a few jobs and relationships and here I am in the triangle region of North Carolina. I have collected about 30 cookbooks; ranging from those written by modern T.V. Chefs to the classics everyone is “supposed” to have.  From books dedicated a specific subject to my second (or third) copy of that same Southern Living Cookbook. I make home cooked meals around 3 times a week and usually it’s from a recipe I’ve found somewhere.

Though cooking is my hobby, I don’t feel very comfortable creating my own recipes. I would much rather rely on someone else’s expertise, though I’ve have found that not every recipe is a smashing success, even when the directions are followed to the letter. This blog’s main purpose is to review recipes from cookbooks, websites, and magazines. I will also explore how some recipes can be varied slightly and still taste fantastic (or even better). I won’t just put the successful recipes up mind you, I find it annoying that you never see others’ failures. An important part of my journey through food has definitely been the missteps; you know…the frozen pizza back up nights. I will occasionally throw a recipe on that I’ve developed as well as go on sentimental tangents about food memories or experiences I’ve had (or Benedict Cumberbatch). I sincerely hope you will be along for the ride!

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