Friday, August 31, 2012

Fall's coming!

You know fall's coming in my house when a few things happen:
1. We get another windfall of raspberries
2. The joy of grilling outside has been completely replaced by our renewed love for all things pasta
3.  I start talking about knitting projects again.

buttercup beretIn the spirit of #3, I saw this SUPER cute little hat pattern, and endeavor to try it soon.  It may even replace "Ugly Red Hat", which I crocheted in college and pretty much wear all winter.  I'm also hoping that a nice beret can jazz up my outfits since I've basically given up on wearing jewelry for little guys' first year of life at this point...

The pattern designer made it out of a wool and silk blend yarn, but I've got my eye on this sweet Kelly green cotton yarn I've had for years.  I also have not successfully knit in the round before, so I may have calls into my mother and friend, Erin, to get this one accomplished.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Blind Faith Beer Clone

A few weeks ago, the big guy seemed flabbergasted at the fact that we had no more IPA's left in the basement for us to drink and made me promise to brew more ASAP.  So I chose two, brewed one, and even employed a new hopping technique in the process!

The first one I brewed up was a Blind Faith (Magic Hat) clone.  Blind Faith is one of the few truly hoppy beers that Magic Hat produces, but it still has a pretty light mouth feel.  I remember it being pretty light in color, but it's been a while, so I could be completely wrong on that one.

The coolest thing about making this recipe is that it called for dry hopping (throwing a bit of the hops in after/during fermentation and during the boil) and with our new kegging system I used a new technique to dry hop.  I threw the 2 oz. or so of the hops into a muslin bag, tied it to the inside of the keg so that they sat in the beer without clogging up the intake and voila!

I think the only thing that this clone got right was mouth feel, but I still like my beer.

This weekend, hopefully I'll be able to brew an Oktoberfest!

Friday, August 24, 2012

On the menu for next week

I realized that even though I've been doing a pretty good job of sticking with my meal-planning, I haven't shared my experiences in this arena lately.

I have not stuck with a meal planning service--I didn't LOVE the recipes, and our fickle tastebuds tend to crave things that weren't in any of the menus I found.  I did, however, find a lot of inspiration of how I should be doing things and continue to use the models of execution from many of the websites I found.

So what exactly am I doing?  I've started bookmarking recipes and (GASP!) making a running grocery list of items we'll need to execute those menu items for the next few weeks.  You'll notice some things are crossed off, and that's because their procurement was delegated to the big guy who drives past a butcher on his way home from work.  Other things missing from the list are things I have in my garden, so no tomatoes, eggplants, herbs, cucumbers or raspberries will show up on here until October.

And what will we be cooking?
-Peach sauce for the little guy
-A shrimp, peach and spinach hot salad thingy (once I make it and figure out what I'm doing I'll post about it)
-Pasta with hot sausage, fried sage, and a cream sauce.
-Grilled flank steaks (probably slightly Mexican-style w/ fresh salsa and tortillas)
-Grilled chicken breasts marinated in a yogurt curry sauce.
-Eggplant (roasted, fried and baked into a "lasagna", possibly into a chutney I saw)
-Pretty much all meals will be accompanied by a tomato salad since it's that time of year.
-Left over corn chowder to eat with hamburgers and hot dogs over Labor Day weekend

It's amazing how just this little bit of conscious planning has really taken away the stress, made me a better grocery shopper in terms of both time and money, and has really made our evenings that much more enjoyable.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pistachio Milk

I definitely think this could be a contender for weirdest breakfast of the week, but I DARE you to try it and tell me it's awful.

A few weeks ago I was reading FoodBabe's Blog, and she posted a pistachio milk recipe.  Intrigued, I set out on the semi-daunting task of finding unsalted, unroasted, shelled pistachios.  It took a minute and two grocery stores, but I found them at the fancy farmer's market near the in-laws.  Biggest draw back:  $20 a lb.

This recipe is easy-peasy, so try it if you have a $20 spot to burn, because it really is worth it.  It also only took about 2 minutes to make, though cleaning up the food processor took about 5.

The pistachio milk is really satisfying, nutty, and even a little thick (thanks to my less than fine mesh strainer), and a half jar and a banana was a perfect breakfast.  I added a bit of vanilla, and I think for a really awesome fall drink, I'd warm this up and add a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Other possibilities going through my brain:
-Making this into an icecream
-Booze--why does it always come back to booze?  I'm thinking a bit of spiced rum could be nice.
-Whip it and put it on a chocolate dipped graham cracker
-Smoothies--Add some oranges and a creamsicle appears!

Drink the pistachio milk.  Seriously.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Corn off the Cob

Apparently I am on the same writing and cooking schedule as a NYTimes food columnist--Corn is on my brain!

In an effort to send better quality videos your way (with minimizing effort on my behalf), here's a really great video to show you how to remove the corn from your cobs.

Stay tuned for a recipe for corn chowder...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tomato Basil Bisque

August to me means lots of fun foods from the garden, and a panic attack trying to make sure I use everything before it spoils!  To preserve those 80 lbs of tomatoes I've been picking, I make this super yummy soup with a portion of them.  Everything could come from my garden (save the dairy), but alas, my garlic didn't do anything this spring...

Here's the recipe for the only tomato soup I'll eat!

Tomato Basil Bisque
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
About 5 lbs of tomatoes, peeled and seeded (view the video tutorial here)
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1-2 TBS of basil pesto

Heat large sauce pot on medium with olive oil. Add onions and garlic with a pinch of salt, stirring frequently until they become translucent. 

Boost the heat to high and add one tomato, stirring until it fairly well disintegrates and much of the liquid has evaporated. 

Then slowly add the remaining tomatoes (this eases the mess more than anything).  Bring to a simmer and then set heat to low, stirring occasionally.  Let the soup simmer for a few hours until it has reduced by at least 1/3 (sometimes a bit more if you have watery tomatoes). 

Off heat and using a stick blender, blend the tomatoes to your desired consistency. 

Slowly stir in the cream (to avoid curdling, keep the mixture off the heat), and then add in the pesto.

Consume immediately, or store in fridge for up to a week/freezer for a few months.  I recommend reheating on the stove--the microwave changes the texture and can make for some curdling.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Apple Peach Pear Sauce

This started as an attempt to make baby food and get rid of some fruit just starting its downward spiral, and I must say it's probably one of the yummiest things I've made in a while.

2 pears, peeled, cored, cut into large chunks
3 apples, peeled, cored, cut into large chunks
2 peaches, peeled, cored, cut into large chunks
1/2 cup of water

Put all ingredients into a sauce pan (medium to large) and cook over medium heat until fruit softens a bit.  Stirring helps to even out the cooking, so I encourage occasional stirring.  Estimate 10-15 minutes for cooking max.  Whiz everything in your food processor until you get the consistency you desire, and enjoy!

I made two servings for the little guy to take to school (2 oz. cups) and froze the rest (though I stole a huge spoonful for me beforehand!).

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Summer Harvest

Wednesday Night's Haul
The garden is doing so much better this year than last, and I couldn't be happier!  So far this week, I've harvested about 10 lbs of tomatoes, 3 eggplant, and my gorgeous mother gave me about 7 lbs of cucumbers. 

So what am I going to do with all of this?  Since we'll never be able to eat all of this fresh, we're going to have to find a way to make it last. 

I still have about 5 jars of tomatoes that I canned last year in my pantry, so I'd rather not start canning yet.  I'm leaning toward freezer meals/condiments to use up the tomatoes:
-Tomato Basil bisque
-Vodka Sauce
-Ratatouille (also helps to get rid of the bushel of squash I got from my mother)

The cucumbers are a bit trickier, but I have a few ideas:
-Grammy's freezer pickles (so friggin easy, and we LOVE them)

I love that this tomato has a beak!
And on the greek vein, I'm going to roast my eggplants, and make the greek version of babagonoush (must find recipe) which apparently doesn't include tahini.

I'll post some recipes soon, but if you want to get started on canning, take a look at last year's tutorial.  There's even a video on peeling and seeding so you can make all this yummy stuff!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Great Baby Food Debate

We've been sending little man with baby food to school for about a month now.  Though, at first he was apparently a little confused at being given food (vs. milk) at school and didn't eat too much, that has all changed.  At last teacher report, he quote, "ate up dem apples like I ain't ne'er seen no baby do," so I've been sending even MORE and he keeps eating "dem".

The biggest surprise to me in this whole baby food making thing, is that people seem to have quite the range of emotions when they learn I'm making the baby food.  Other than here, I don't really advertise it since the whole parenting landscape (among other parents) can be quite a mine field I'm finding...  Some are quite surprised, impressed, and others appear to be incredulous, annoyed, and even offended that I'm making the baby food.  Most, just don't seem to get why I would even want to do this.

So, I've decided to list my reasons to clear up any confusion:
1. I am cheap!  2 oz. of gerber carrot puree is 99c.  99c!  I bought 2 lbs of carrots for $2 and made about 30oz. of carrot puree.
2.  I want to be able to pronounce everything that my kid is eating.  It's just a personal preference so that I don't sound dumb.  Though I did probably sound dumb when I asked the doctor how much food he should eat...
3.  It's really not that much work or time for me.  Last night I spent exactly 30 minutes peeling, chopping, steaming, and pureeing carrots.  And it's 30 minutes I was going to be in the kitchen anyway because I was already making dinner.
4. I actually find it easier to make my own than worry about whether he has enough food in the pantry. Even this weekend, I just made sure that I grabbed a banana from our hotel while traveling so I could mash it up in the car if we ran out of food.
5. I honestly, find this to be a lot of fun.  I like playing with my food processor and checking off the list of foods that little man has eaten.
6. I am CHEAP!  Even without teeth, little man is eating about 4 oz. of food everyday on top of his 18+ oz. of milk.  That would be an additional $28 each week, and would almost DOUBLE my monthly grocery bill!  I want to save that money for when he's a teenager and literally eating me out of house and home.

I don't think that parents that aren't making their baby's food are bad parents (I had a woman imply that I was being snooty the other day).  I like to cook.  And experiment.  If you don't like to cook, or play with food, or aren't good at multi-tasking during the dinner-making process--this isn't for you.
Plus, I found that an apple core makes a great teether the other day while making his apple sauce!