Thursday, September 25, 2014

Taco Chili

So I think of this as Taco Soup, Jake calls it Taco Chili...whatever we call it I'm in love with how easy it is to pull together and how easy it is to freeze.

Start with your crock pot...I LOVE my crock pot, I have 3 of them, big, medium and tiny (perfect for cheese dips, etc.). Here is how you make this wonderful pot of goodness...I know it is a lot of cans and some people are against cans, but you could do it without the cans if you wanted to work really hard...I don't want to work really hard and cans don't scare me so I go with cans. This recipe will provide 6 or so servings so it is perfect for Jake and I for a nightly meal and then 4 zip lock baggies for the freezer.

Taco Chili
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
1 can rotel, I use the green chili kind
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced green chilies
1 can enchilada sauce (I use the green kind, but any kind would work)
2 TBS taco seasoning (you can use more or less depending on your preference)
8-12 oz tomato juice (depending on how thick you want it)

Put all ingredients into the crock pot and cook on low for 4-6 hours or high for 2-3. I top with some shredded cheese and plain, non-fat Greek yogurt.

Freezer Prep Method:
If you wanted to prep all the ingredients and give this away to a friend you could brown the hamburger and onions and cool that mixture then add everything to a gallon sized zip lock baggie with the cooking instructions on the outside and freeze then give to a friend or pull out when you are having a long week. Note: I find it easier to write on the bags when there isn't anything in them, so keep a Sharpie in your silverware drawer for just this occasion.

There are lots of variations you can make to this, don't like green chilies (shame on you) you can remove all together, you could add corn (I love corn, just not in soups), you could add other seasonings like chipolte or tomatillo salsa instead of the could replace the ground beef with turkey or chicken or a can of pinto beans.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

It is September 23rd and sickness has hit our house. Well it started with me getting a sinus infection/allergies two weeks ago and then he came down with the crud hard on Sunday...let's hope we are getting this out of our systems before real winter hits. So I thought what makes you feel better than Chicken Noodle Soup.

I am calling this homemade Chicken Noodle Soup but please don't think that the noodles are homemade, if they were then I would call this Chicken and Noodles, you all agree right?

Well even if you don't here is the world's most simple and tasty Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup that only takes 30 minutes from start to finish to complete, can't beat that!

1 precooked rotisserie chicken
1/4 white or yellow onion
15 baby carrots, the smaller the better (optional)
1 stalk of celery (optional)
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 1/2 boxes of 99% fat free, 33% lower sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
1/2 bag No Yolk Egg Noodles
2 tsp All Purpose Greek Seasoning (Salt Free)
Butter, olive oil, salt and pepper

Start your butter and olive oil in a stock pot. I use about 1 TBS butter and about the same olive oil. Finely dice your onion, chop your carrots and celery and add to the pan over medium heat. Let that mixture cook for 5-7 minutes or until your onions start to turn translucent, add the garlic and cook for one minute making sure it doesn't burn.

Next add your chicken broth, water and bay leaf to the pot and turn the heat up to medium high and bring the broth to a boil. Once to a boil add your egg noodles stirring as you add so they don't stick to each other and return to a boil. Reduce to a slow boil/simmer and cook for 12 minutes or until the noodles are cooked. While your noodles are cooking remove all the meat from your chicken and chop coarsely. Once the noodles are cooked, remove the bay leaf, add the chicken and Greek Seasoning and additional salt and pepper to fit your taste. Serve immediately.

This will keep in the refrigerator in plastic containers for a few days. It will freeze but I've never had the best luck freezing cooked noodles so if you can eat it in a couple days it would probably be best. This recipe above made 5 big servings.

Here is a picture of the final product, no I am not a food photographer but it doesn't look too bad. You will notice we don't have celery in our soup because someone who will remain nameless but is currently sick doesn't like celery in soups. No biggie we just left it out and I added some celery flakes to it.
I also must have deleted the picture from my phone after I posted it to Instgram so here is a screen grab of my Instagram post. Do you follow me on Instagram? If not, you should. @travelingcowgirl

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ready for the Weekend

Whew...what a week! I have been on the road for the last 4 or is it 5 weeks, honestly I have lost track so I am for sure ready for the weekend. Last weekend we had a nice relaxing weekend at home, we had plenty of projects to do inside and out...I was working on priming and painting the laundry sorter that Jake built me and mowing the yard...again...can someone please tell Mother Nature that it is September and the grass needs to die?!?!? And Jake worked on getting our barn ready for concrete, gravel to be put in the driveway and getting my trailer prepped for my big road trip to Texas in a couple of weeks (more about that soon!). In addition to all that fun stuff I spent a lot of time in the kitchen getting meals prepped for us for the winter, and making a few extras to give to three of my friends/co-workers who are have had/having babies in the next month or so. It is nice that I can work off my kitchen island and see the TV from there...I get to watch football and be productive at the same time! Double Bonus!!

I wanted to share with you some successful recipes from last weekend. I only share recipes from Pinterest that I've tried myself and I will always tell you if I modify them in any way.

First of all I made the meat sauce from this Spaghetti Squash Lasagna recipe. One thing I do is I remove the fennel from the meat sauce because well we aren't fans of fennel. You are probably saying why in the world is she making her own meat sauce, but that stuff out of a jar. Which is true and I do love a couple of jarred pasta sauces including Trader Joe's and Classico, but there is a lot of sugar and sodium in those, plus my hamburger is already browned in the sauce!

Next I had bought a big package of chicken thighs at the store...I like them because they have a little more flavor and they are cheaper. I don't like them because they have bones and usually you have to remove the skin yourself but it typically does come off very easily. So I made a couple of these Artichoke Chicken Thighs. Now Jake doesn't care for those flavors so I made a big pan to take to a friend and then a couple of small pans that I can make for myself if he is on the road one night.

Then the sweets snuck I have been doing really good about eating healthy, but it is Pumpkin season and well I LOVE pumpkin so I am not going to completely avoid the pumpkin but be better about what i made. So I made Pumpkin-Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies, what I learned is that they are very soft and I should have left them on the baking racks to harden a little more than I did because they got overly soft in the container I put them in, but they were good none-the-less.

Then what everyone should make this weekend, go buy your favorite baking apple and whip up a batch of the Pioneer Woman's perfect pie crust and make these Salted Carmel Apple Hand Pies. I'm sure her pie crust is just as good but my mom said that PW's was a great one and my mom makes the best pies so that is the direction I went. I will say the hand pies are only going to be good and carmel filled if they are warm so keep that in mind when you serve them.

Hope this crazy rant of a Friday post will provide you with some recipe inspiration for your weekend!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Boot Storage - DIY

At the Rancho Not So Grande, we have a plethora of boots...not just cowboy boots but we do have our fair share we also have work boots, rubber boots, snow boots you name it we have them. So I wanted a good way to organize them in the garage right as you walk in the door so they weren't collecting in my laundry room floor all the time.

So I found a way on Pinterest and thought I would try it out. I just bought wooden crates from Michaels Art and Crafts store (note: they always have a coupon so download their app or go online so you don't pay full price because they add up when you buy as many as you need for this project). Then arrange them as you feel they would work best for you, as I mentioned we have a lot of boots so I needed more vertical oriented crates than horizontal, but I also created some space in and around the crates for extra shoes to go as well. I haven't affixed these together since I wasn't sure I loved the orientation and I like the flexibility to change it as I go, but so far so good. I also will still be on the hunt for some vintage crates or larger crates that can be swapped out on the bottom.

After, it isn't sexy but it is functional!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Oatella Cookies

Stop what you are doing.

Go straight to the grocery and buy a brand new jar of Nutella. (because if you are like me you never have a full, unopened jar of Nutella in the house)

Go home and make these cookies.


I found this recipe on Pinterest and it is what I call a 'Nailed It' recipe now. I've actually created a board on Pinterest called 'Nailed It' to track my success because it is important to know what is successful and what isn't because I think we all have learned that there is plenty on there that takes skills beyond what an average person has, and I consider myself a fairly crafty person.

The pin came from Cookie Madness, but the recipe is actually from Food and Wine.

I thought the only thing that was hard to follow was how long the cookies needed to bake...did they bake for 8-10 minutes total and you were supposed to move the pans at 4-5 minutes or was 8-10 minutes half way. Well I tried 8-10 initially and realized that was way too short, but 16-20 made a pretty crunchy cookie, imagine a great cookie with I split the difference I went about 12 minutes total and they were still a little gooey in the middle when I took them out of the oven and they tasted awesome and didn't get too hard when they cooled.

Pour yourself a big glass of milk and ENJOY!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

House Remodel - Master Bathroom

The Rancho Not So Grande master bedroom and bathroom is one of the most favorite places of mine in the house. Here is some info about the master bathroom upcycle. We did a lot more to this bathroom and are so happy that we did.

Here are some pictures of the original bathroom...yes you are seeing that correctly there are two showers a stand up and a shower tub combo. I like to call them his and hers showers, because who doesn't need his and hers showers.

It is hard to say what needed to go first so here is the list of the things that we changed:
  1. Replaced the vinyl with tile
  2. Removed the wall paper and paint the walls
  3. Remove and replace the vanity
  4. Replace light fixture
  5. Frame out the showers
  6. Replace the toilet and fan/light kit
  7. Paint built-in medicine cabinet doors
Before: En suite bathroom with one sink...I think not.
Before: Wall paper everywhere!

First things first we had to remove the wall paper. Let me go on record saying I HATE WALL PAPER. Especially wall paper in bathrooms because the permeability of that paper even when scored is very little. My mom and I, then Jake and I scraped and scraped and scraped. After that was done we put a nice coat of paint on the walls. This is the same color as in the master bedroom and the half bath, Saddle Suede.

I hate this wall paper. I'm so glad it is gone.

We chose a very simple ceramic tile, we went with larger 18x18 tiles because they were cheaper than the 12x12 and we felt it make the space look a little larger and not so busy.

The vanity is the center piece of the room, I wanted something rustic and unique. We had this piece made by a young furniture maker in Kansas City. Unruh Furniture is located in Grandview and he does really, really nice work. We knew we wanted copper sinks but want and need are two different things, fortunately for me I found copper sinks in the National Ropers Supply catalog...more fortunately for me they were significantly cheaper than what was at Menards or other online places, plus I got my 10% USTRC Gold Plus discount. We used resin on the top of the wood cabinet as well to seal the wood and protect from water. We also framed out the stock mirror in the bathroom, it elevates it so much and makes it look like an expensive framed mirror when we used about $10 worth of trim that we stained.

This is so far my favorite piece that we have added to the house.

The faucets were from Lowes, which are the same style as the faucet in the half bath. You might ask why I have the same faucet style in two places, well for one I love the faucet and secondly I saw a faucet just like that in the Hotel Phillips when I was in college and told myself when I ever got to remodel a house I wanted that faucet and fortunately for me I am spoiled and I got my faucets.

The light fixtures are simple but much better than the original.

The finishing touches were to frame out the showers, add tin to the walls and paint and distress the medicine cabinets. The shower curtain I had at my previous town home and we got the towel hooks from Rod's Western Wear, I believe the are called robe hooks.

We treated our tin with a spray-on poly just to prevent the rust from rubbing off.
Oh hey look, we added a dog too. I forgot that addition!

Now the all important resource list...if you have any questions about where anything came from, just let me know!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Shredding Chicken...

Super exciting title I know...Shredding Chicken, but hey I have something here that will prevent you from having burned fingers and a steamy face from shredding chicken with your fingers or two forks. I did see this on Pinterest but had to try it for myself to see if it worked, and it did!

Take your warm chicken, I wouldn't do it hot straight out of the oven, drop it in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment and turn on low...after 10-20 seconds you will think, that girl is completely crazy...the airport air has gotten to her and this isn't doing anything, then you will see it start to break apart and shred. As the chicken starts to break apart a little then you can turn it up and let it truly shred it apart. and then you get this...1 minute later. AMAZING.

I usually shred up some chicken and put it in the freezer and have it in case I want to make soup or enchiladas as some point, saves me so much time.
It looks like this in about a minute! This was 2 average sized chicken breasts. I would recommend doing them 2 at a time.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

House Remodel - Half Bath

Rancho Not So Grande is taking shape! Well we are finally living upstairs, we have been in the house a year now and the remodel process has taken longer than we both thought, but the best news is that our house is going to be exactly how we wanted it...rustic, western, repurposed and comfortable. I think that a lot of people forget that last one when they are remodeling or working on their houses...if you can't live in it comfortably then what is the purpose of having it?

So here is the first part of the house we are sharing. Our half bath is a very small space, it is right inside the garage entrance hallway and has enough space for a sink and toilet, which I guess is all you need in a half bath. When we moved in the half bath was functional but just dated, as was a lot of the house. Our house was built in 1990 and since the previous owners hadn't lived in the house for the last 10 years there hadn't been a lot of upgrades, but the nice part is that the house was built right when they built it so cosmetic changes were all we have had to make and those were just for personal preference. So anyway back to the half bath...I hated the sink and felt that the oak vanity was nice but it was a lot of oak...hardwood floors, trim and vanity so our solution was pretty easy:


  1. Remove and replace the vanity top and sink/faucet
  2. Update the light fixture and mirror
  3. Upcycle the existing vanity
  4. Update vanity hardware
  5. Paint the walls
  6. Replace the toilet


Starting with the paint we used a nice darker tan called Saddle Suede, which is the same color we used in the master bedroom and master bathroom. I removed the hardware from the vanity and removed the doors and drawer fronts. I rough sanded the wood and used the same color of red we used on our accent wall in the great room to dry brush on some color so you can still see the grain of the wood through the paint. After the paint dried I lightly sanded (with the grain) the edges of the doors and places where natural wear would occur then I used a sock to rub on a dark stain which I rubbed off to create a worn look. We reinstalled the doors and added conchos for the drawer pulls. There are kits you can buy for around $10/6-10 that can turn any concho into a drawer pull.

To replace the vanity top we reused our old decking boards and Jake made it custom to fit the space, I poured resin epoxy on it (3x coats) to give it a smooth finish and make it easier to clean and we trimmed out the top. A lot of people are scared of the resin and if you read the instructions you will understand why. I presonally didn't have any problems with mine not mixing or setting up right. We used a small hand held torch to pop the bubbles, again the instructions will help with this. We purchased a vessel sink and old pump style faucet and installed them into the new vanity top.

This is what the vanity top looks like up close without the facet and sink on it.
I will say, I do NOT recommend taping off the wall before you pour the resin on
because the reality is that the resin will level itself off on the wall and if you do
what I did then the painters tape will be stuck to your wall and you will
be required to trim out the top of your boards.

The light above the mirror is an outdoor barn light purchased from Lowes. The problem is that the light goes directly onto the sink and left the toilet area a little dark so we opted to add a light/vent fan combo above the toilet to replace the vent fan that was there, sorry I don't have a picture of that it just isn't that exciting. But I love my barn light, plus it was super cheap as compared to a lighting store.

The mirror and towel bar are both from Hobby Lobby. The mirror is 5-6 years old but the towel bar I purchased this winter. This total remodel ran around $500 with the sink, faucet, toilet and bathroom fan taking up the bulk of that budget. I've included a resource list below, I often get asked where did you get here you go. Everything except the mirror was purchased within the past year.