Monday, December 31, 2007
What didn't change was my continued exploration of new recipes. But before I give the final recipe tally for the year, I have the last reviews for 2007. Oh my goodness! I just realized I forgot to take any pictures! Drat and bother...I will have to work on that in the new year.
Classic Waffles (Ckng Lght BB/allrecipes.com) 6
These were good. They were a rather sweet waffle that baked up nice and golden. The recipe also made about 14 waffles for me - about 7" circular size. So a nice amount was frozen for later breakfasts. I would make this recipe again.
Roasted Pumpkin and Winter Squash Soup (Ckng Lght Nov 07, pg 258) 6
This used up the last of my 2005 pureed pumpkin, although I did need to modify the recipe just a tiny bit to do so. The recipe calls for roasting cubed pumpkin and butternut squash, then adding to the onion and chicken broth before pureeing the whole batch. I just roasted the butternut squash and combined the pureed pumpkin to heat. Love that immersion blender!
Frosted Sugar Cookies (c/o Karen Z, co-worker) 8
My intent was to make cut out cookies, but time was running out and the dough was ultra sticky and I said screw it and just rolled the dough into balls and squished flat before baking. What I like about these cookies is the almond extract rather than vanilla extract. It gives them just a little extra pop! These baked up into nice soft cookies. I also omitted the frosting and just sprinkled them with colored sprinkles.
Turkey Alfredo Pizza (Ckng Lght Dec 07 ) 8
This was so easy to make - shredded turkey or chicken, drained spinach, Alfredo sauce, fontina cheese and a Biboli crust. That was the base of the pizza. I added artichoke hearts because it just sort of seemed to call for it. Mix the shredded poultry with the spinach and spread on the crust. Add the artichoke hearts and top with about 1/2 cup of the Alfredo sauce. Sprinkle cheese over all - but not to much! Bake and eat. The flavors were good, but as a whole it was bit bland for us. We found ourselves sprinkling ground sea-salt on top. I will be making this again - probably tomorrow night in fact - and I will be adding some procuitto for a bit of seasoning. Mmmm....
Barbecue Spareribs (Cooks Illustrated, Jan/Feb 06, pg 11) 8
Oh, my oh, my! Absolutely incredible. And so easy! A seasoning past is made out of mustard, chili powder, Cayenne pepper, and a couple of other things which I am not recalling. This is wrapped in plastic and put back in the fridge for several hours. It was supposed to be for 8-24 hours, but I managed 2 (didn't read the directions far enough in advance). Place aluminum foil in the bottom of a large sheet pan and put a baking rack on top of that. Sprinkle finely ground loose leaf tea on the bottom and put the ribs on the rack. Yes, that's right. Loose leaf tea. Now cover everything super snug and put on a preheated baking stone in a 500* oven for 30 minutes. At 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 250* and carefully pour 1/2 cup of apple juice in the bottom of the pan and close the foil back up again. Bake for another hour or so.
Remove the foil and broil each side for 7-10 minutes.
It seems like a lot, but I was surprised at how easy and smooth everything went. And the taste? It was honestly, melting off the bone tender with a nice spicy zing to it. I only bought one rack of St. Louis baby back ribs (about 2 lbs) and I wish I had bought another one for more leftovers. So we had enough for 1 dinner (feeds 2) and 1 leftover lunch for the Husband.
Barbecue Beans (recipe from the Husbands Sister, source ??) mixed review
I had some leftover pinto beans in the freezer from a chili I made several weeks ago and this seemed an opportune time to try this recipe out. It was pretty simple - pre-made bbq sauce (or homemade works too, but I had a little jar I needed to use up), ketchup, mustard, molasses, maple syrup, and brown sugar and mix with the beans and cook. Now the sauce was fantastic - sauce-y, tangy and spicy. The beans...well, if there were some way to scrape the sauce off the beans and pitch the beans I would have. Somehow, between making the beans, freezing the beans, thawing the beans and reheating the beans they became even more crunchy and starchy than before. I really wish I had used bottled water when making them.... oh well. I'll try this recipe again with better beans.
Sourdough starter (The Bread Bible by Beth Henspberger)
A while back, in one of his homebrew magazines, the Husband found a recipe for making sourdough starter from the dregs of the homebrewing process. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to find the article since then. But after pointing out several of my baking books, he found an acceptable substitute and last week he started the starter. It is a combination of organic rye flour, AP flour, plain natural yogurt, the dregs from 3 bottles of homebrew topped off with warm water and sugar. This has been carefully tended and stirred and sniffed. Yes, each morning we anxiously sniff the starter trying to determine if it smells "citrus-y", "tangy", and well, "right". Yesterday he fed the starter for the first time and whoo! by mid-morning it was happily percolating away. Folks, I think we have a success! We'll be making a batch of Sourdough Rye Bread on New Years Day.
And to end the year, I have started a batch of Homemade Vanilla. I don't have a specific recipe, but pulled from several sources. Basically, a bottle of vodka and 5 sliced vanilla beans. Let sit 3 months or longer. Shake every couple of days or so.
And (drum roll please.....) the recipe tally for 2007 is:
My goal was 120 so I am satisfied with where I hit. Next year I am aiming for 134.
Here is a comparison of past years:
2006 - 103
2005 - 137
2004 - 143
2002 - 129
Thursday, December 27, 2007
I bought a small bottle of Lavender essential oil and Tea Tree essential oil as these two came up most in Better Basics for the Home of the essential oils. This is probably due to the natural antibacterial properties of these two and that is what I wanted.
Here's a rough breakdown of what it has cost me so far to go "green":
$2.77 - 2 spray bottles for tea tree mixture and lavender mixture
$1.49 - 1 med spray bottle for vinegar mixture
$2.99 - 2 new sponges (gotta start with new sponges!)
$5.59 - 1 sm bottle of Dr. Bonner's castile liquid soap (recommended brand)
$4.75 - 1 sm bottle of vegetable glycerin
$9.59 - essential oil of lavender
$7.59 - essential oil of tea tree
$5.00 - 1 gal of vinegar (??)
$4.00 - 1 sm box of baking soda (??)
$0.00 - 2 med spray bottles already on hand
Now that might seem like a lot, but all of this should last me a goodly long time (I figure several months at a minimum. What I'll need to resupply more frequently will be the baking soda and vinegar, but those don't cost much in the grand scheme of things and I can use them for baking and cooking as well. Gotta like that! Multipurpose.
Anyhoo, after I got home last night and started supper (the Husband wasn't home yet) I mixed up my two spritzers and tested them out. The book warned about the tea tree being strong for a couple of days, but I didn't find the scent that offensive. So either I didn't mix the right amount - it's hard to measure drops into teaspoons and I didn't want to get essential oil all over my kitchen implements - or it wasn't that strong to me. The other items are a mix as needed so I set them aside.
With the husband forewarned, I shall go forth and clean! I hope my septic system thanks me for this...
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
A co-worker friend loaned me this book, Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond, after I expressed interest in cleaning with white distilled vinegar. I have been reading about the virtues of cleaning with this product for a while now and after a several of my standard commercial cleaning supplies ran out I decided it was time to give vinegar a whirl.
This book is really neat! The “recipes” she provides use basic cleaning products that you can find in just about any grocery store. The book is broken into sections so it is easy to refer to just the area you want. For example: housekeeping, skin care, whole body care, garden/pets/pest control. Under housekeeping (the chapter I was enthralled with) she covers everything: bathroom, dusting, carpet cleaning, floors, kitchen, drains, disinfectants, laundry, mold and mildew, all purpose cleaners, to name just a few.
I thought this was going to be complicated, that I would need a lot of additional “stuff”, but the author keeps it pretty basic. I focused on those recipes that used either on its own or in combination with: vinegar, baking soda, water, liquid detergent and/or essential oil of lavender or tea tree. The essential oils are generally optional, but I know I can find them down at my local co-op and they bring an added level of natural disinfectant, plus I know they smell nice.
I don’t have the essential oils yet – my plan is to swing by the co-op on my way home from work – but I had everything else, even a couple of empty or mostly empty spray bottles.
My first concoction to try was the Acid Cleaner. It sounds horrible, but this recipe is good for homes with hard water, pets and sick people. I have two of the three and we are entering cold and flu season!
¼ cup white distilled vinegar
¼ tsp liquid detergent (laundry detergent)
¾ cup water.
Combine in a spray bottle and go clean!
It smells a bit of vinegar, but it’s not bad at all and quickly fades, especially when compared to the fumes I get when using soft scrub or Clorox scrub.
In the tub and sink I just sprinkled some baking soda and took my sponge and scrub brush to it. After rinsing, I followed with the vinegar spray and wiped everything down. Shiny!
Now I especially like things that react, so I just had to try out this toilet bowl cleaner (I can’t believe I’m talking about cleaning my porcelain throne…) ¼ cup baking soda, ¼ cup vinegar. Dump in the toilet; let fizz (yes! It fizzes like Alka Seltzer!), scrub and flush. That was cool.
Okay, now we had to try the drain cleaner combo: 1 cup baking soda, 3 cups boiling water. Dump baking soda down drain. Pour on boiling water. Watch it fizzle and pop and sizzle. Follow with 1 cup vinegar for additional cleaning (and fizzling and popping and sizzling.) I used this on my bathtub drain as it clogs up pretty easily.
And there was a suggestion for adding ¼ cup vinegar to your laundry during the rinse cycle. So I did. I just put it in the 'liquid fabric softener' slot. I know it’s supposed to help keep blue jeans blue, prevent lint from sticking to everything, and help rinse out the soap. Since I have hard water, it can only help.
I am still short a couple-three spray bottles for everything that I want to mix together and have on hand. I do want to have a disinfectant spray of either lavender or tea tree for between the big cleanings or right after a big cleaning. And it’s a bit awkward lugging around a gallon of vinegar between the three floors.
So, that was part of my most excellent adventure this weekend. I highly recommend Berthold-Bond’s book.
Monday, December 17, 2007
They find the natives have the knowledge and capabilities to make very rudimentary spacesuits, they stir up a revolution in the name of progress. After a brief interlude to talk to the gods, in which they find out the gods are preparing various species for a future war, Matt eventually decides this is not in the natives best interest for a revolution and starts to work against Volkov. Yes. It is like that.
This story was fragmented, read a bit like a political history book, was reminiscent of Le Miserables only shorter (not that Le Miserables is a bad book), and really had very little appeal in the character department. I just never quite figured out who I should be rooting for - Matt? For standing up to the socialist revolutionary? Salasso? For standing up to the rest of the saurs and helping the humans obtain the freedom of space? For Lydia? The trader who loved Volkov and went against her clan’s wishes to help Matt and Volkov? For Gail and Stone? Two natives who got caught up in interstellar intrigue? Who? Who do I root for?
Bah. There are better things to read.
In the meantime, I have a couple of main dishes for review:
Green Chili-Chicken Enchiladas (Ckng Lght, Dec 2007, pg 126) 7
These go with the Green Chili Sauce I review next. Pretty simple to make, especially once I made a couple of modifications. The recipe calls to boil 4 - 6oz chicken breasts in chicken broth, with diced onion and garlic. I personally thought it would be a heck of a lot easier and more flavorful to just buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it ahead of time. So I did. And yes, it did make assembly easier. The chicken is then mixed with sour cream and chopped onion and rolled into the corn tortilla’s and topped with the green chili sauce and cheese. Overall, this was tasty, but I still thought the chicken/sour cream mixture could have been a bit more flavorful with the addition of red or green peppers and maybe something else.
This was simple to make and nicely tangy. Six Anaheim peppers are blackened under the broiler and steamed in a zippy bag to allow the skins to slip right off. Onions are sauteed on the stove, to which broth, the peppers and seasonings are added. Once everything has softened, it’s blended together to make the sauce. The recipe calls for using the blender, but if you have a handy-dandy immersion blender (my favorite!) it simplifies things greatly. If it wasn’t for this sauce, the enchilada’s would have been really bland.
Moroccan Chickpea Stew (Ckng Lght, Nov 2007, pg 228) 7
This is my lunch today, and, well, for the next week. I love these flavorful soup/stews because not only are they easy to assemble, but they make the perfect amount for the week for lunches. Onion, carrots, garlic and jalapeno are sauteed until soft. Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, butternut squash (my substitute for forgetting to buy potato's), chickpeas and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. I went 30 because my squash was still a bit crunchy. Recipe recommends serving with couscous or brown rice, but I didn’t have time to make either last night. I will do so later this week.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Here's Little B in the Elfin Hat:
And here is a picture of his Squash Hat:
Isn't he such a handsome tyke!
And since we're on the topic of knitting, I have "discovered" a new yarn store in the Twin Ports! Fabric Works is located over in Superior and is a combination fabric and yarn store. It was a couple weekends ago I found myself on a mission for more yarn: I needed some Regia self-striping yarn for several London Beanie hats I promised family members, and my youngest sister requested another hat and scarf for a new coat she had recently purchased.
So after my morning yoga class I made my way over to Superior, hoping to get all my errands done and meet my friend Tess for lunch before the Big Snow hit. Alas, the Big Snow came as I was driving over the High Bridge, but being a staunch Minnesotan, I went forth. There was knitting to be done!
I bought 3 skeins of the Regia, and 4 skeins of Cascade 220 in a lovely shade of pink. I don't have the lot # otherwise I would have you take a look. I also purchased a "How To" book as it had a great illustrated example on how to do a cable cast on and I bought a hat and mitten pattern. I'm finding, much like recipes, once I've done a pattern I want to do something different. After lunch with Tess, we wandered into the Yarn Harbor where I bought another hat pattern that I liked a bit better for the sister.
Stay tuned for lots of knitting projects in the coming year!
Monday, December 10, 2007
I also made some good progress on the pantry reduction project/challenge. Here’s what got used up:
1 bag (2 ½ lbs) frozen apples from 2004
1 bag cranberries from 2004
partial bag of frozen corn
bag of pinto beans from 2006
tube of ground turkey from the MIL’s
Chunky Spiced Applesauce (CL Oct 07, pg 140) 7
It was my original intent to use up the frozen apples in apple butter, but I forgot. So when this recipe showed up I was like...hmm, I can also use the frozen cranberries! Since I had frozen apples I needed to modify the recipe just a tich and skip the first step of dousing in lemon juice. The cranberries were mixed with sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon and brought to a boil until they popped (that is so cool!) and then the apples are added and everything simmered till nice and mooshy. A slight application of a potato masher and ta da! Cranberry applesauce! I thought the sweetness was nicely balanced by the tart berries, and my only complaint was the little residual cranberry skins are a bit unpleasant in the mouth.
Harvest Creamy Corn "Choup" (Every Day with RR, Sept 07 pg 101)
What I like about RR’s recipes, or at least the ones I pick, is they are simple to assemble yet abundant in the flavor dept. This one was also easy to pull together. I had one modification right away - after frying the bacon, I removed them bits and drained some of the bacon grease off. I don’t like soggy bacon and I didn’t need nor want 1/8 cup of bacon grease for flavor.
Otherwise it was a pretty straight forward soup/chowder (ie "choup"). Saute onion, red pepper, zucchini and potato in bacon grease, add seasonings and flour, add chicken broth and bring to a boil and simmer. Add a cup each of cream and milk. This ended up being way to much liquid, so I cut back the milk to ½ cup. I should have also cut back the cream as I would have preferred it more chowder-y than soup. Still, I love these vegetable soups.
I have not yet tasted this bread as it is nicely wrapped up and frozen for later this week. I thought I was going to miss the annual office party, but circumstances dictated otherwise. So, I planned ahead and made a couple loaves of pumpkin bread. Super easy recipe: mix wet ingredients, mix dry ingredients, combine and bake for an hour. Where I modified was I used 2 eggs for the ½ cup egg substitute. Smelled great, looked nice, and I over baked the loaves by about 5 minutes. Oh well! When all sliced up nobody will notice...
Now I couldn’t very well make a pumpkin treat and not have *something* for the house! These muffins were the perfect thing and also super easy - wet ingredients meet dry ingredients add in cranberries and bake. What I like about both of these recipes was the minimal oil used. So often zucchini muffins, pumpkin breads, etc all use upwards of a full cup of oil and the end result is a greasy muffin. The pumpkin bread used 1/4 cup per loaf and the muffins were 1/4 cup for the whole recipe. These were moist, flavorful, and delicious (especially while still warm from the oven). I’ll be making these again.
*I will be the first to admit, I do not care for chili with ground beef in it. And I will also say, I do not care to eat anything that has come out of the MIL’s apartment. So thus it was the Hubby brought home a tube of ground turkey from the MIL’s and we now needed a way to use it up. I came across this recipe and thought perfect! HE can eat the chili for lunch! It was also my intent to make Green Chili Enchilada’s for dinner on Sunday but an emergency run to the Vet ended my cooking for the day. And so I found myself eating chili with ground stuff from the Mother in Laws.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Here’s what got made this week:
Chunky Two Bean and Beef Chili (Ckng Lght Sept 07, pg 140) 7
I haven’t had chili in a while, and the Hubby wanted to make some. So we collectively picked out this recipe and made a few modifications. I don’t care for stew meat, so we used a sirloin steak instead. Neither one of us cares for kidney beans (I’ve tried...just can’t get past their pasty texture) so I subbed black beans. The spice mixture in this recipe was really good - cumin, chili powder, red chili powder, cinnamon, and oregano. I think this combination really made the dish.
We realized later, while reading Cooks Illustrated, that we screwed up the browning of the meat. We (*ahem*, me) put too much meat into the pot which caused it to steam rather than brown. Then we dumped the remainder of the chili ingredients in and I think the meat was a tich overcooked. Learning experience, but the chili still turned out very good.
Greek Style Gyro’s with Tadziki Sauce (Cooks Illustrated, July/Aug 07, pg 13) 7
The Hubby found this recipe while trying to find a stuffed pork chop recipe. The subsequent recipe was fairly quick to assemble, tasted darn good and made a nice amount that could be eaten in a reasonable amount of time by two people - ie two meals. Garlic, onion, a partial slice of pita bread and seasonings are combined in a food processor, then gently mixed with ground chuck and shaped into patties. This is then fried on the stove top to create the nice crust that tastes so good. The meat patties, tadziki sauce, lettuce, tomato and feta cheese all get wrapped in a pita fold, and if one wishes to get fancy, you can wrap them in aluminum foil just like they do in a restaurant.
The tadziki sauce is whole milk yogurt that has been strained for 30 minutes, then combined with cucumbers, lemon juice, garlic and dill. I have not had whole milk yogurt before and was a little apprehensive to have to buy a whole quart tub for a mere 1 cup. But, much to my delight, I actually liked the taste of whole milk yogurt as much as my usual 2% homemade variety or the low-fat that I occasionally buy. I strongly recommend the Stonyfield Farms brand - 6 active cultures, no strange chemicals or HFCS.
Cranberry Pancakes (Eating Well, Nov/Dec 07, pg 30) 6
I had errands to run Thursday with the Hubby, so as a morning treat I dug out this recipe (literally, I couldn’t remember where the recipe was so I had my piles of recent magazines stacked up on the table!). This is from Eating Well’s "Cooking for Two" section, which I didn’t realized until after I made a batch, but please note, this can easily be doubled or tripled.
½ cup of cranberries is tossed in boiling water for two minutes, drained, and set aside. AP Flour, WW Flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder are mixed together. Milk, egg, vanilla and oil are whisked separately. Chop the cooled cranberries, add to liquid, add to dry ingredients. That’s it!
The cranberry flavor was more subtle than I thought it would be, and this made exactly 5 pancakes. I decided this wouldn’t be enough for the Hubby so I quick did small bowls of yogurt, granola and banana. This was a nice change from our usual variations on steel cut oats or old fashioned oats. I would make the pancakes again, but double the recipe.
And what, pray tell, you ask, was the pantry reduction for this week? You are going to like this one: Raspberry Pie! I made a raspberry pie this summer and set it aside for later, and later was this week. My only regret was it turned out really, really runny. I had added extra flour to the berries, but I think I should have added some arrowroot as well. Oh well, it still tasted really good.
Here's a peek at what's coming up next week, I started menu planning last night:
Pumpkin and cranberry muffins
Beef and beer chili
maybe veggie enchiladas
"Choup" (a vegetable chowder soup from Every Day with RR)
Monday, December 3, 2007
Yes...I just finished it....Not because it was bad, or slow, but because I was slow. Too much going on.
Little Fuzzy is set on the planet Zarathura. Jack Holloway, a sunstone prospector, comes home one evening and finds a small, cute, fuzzy, little critter-person in his house. He has never seen anything of it’s like in all the years he’s been living and working on the planet and after a few apprehensive moments, the two get along just dandy. In the coming days, Little Fuzzy, as Jack names him, brings the rest of his family to live with Jack. In the coming days, Jack begins to realize these little creatures are much, much smarter than he initally realized.
Jack contacts some scientific type people he knows and suddenly the ramifications are rippling through the planets controlling force, the Company. If these are sapient creatures then the Company must forgoit’s right to the planet and the planets classification changes. This is bad news for the Company.
The remainder of the book involves the Company trying to deny the Fuzzy’s (fuzzy fuzzy holloway Zarathura) are sapient while Jack and his gang try and prove they are. The outcome of this little trial will change the current definition of "sapient" from talks-and-builds-a-fire to something much more far reaching. The plot concludes in a courtroom drama reminiscent of any of the court shows on TV today.
The book was published in 1962 and had some interesting quirks. For example, everyone smokes. Seriously. Everyone was pulling out a pipe, cigar or a cigarette and smoking. But then they would "phone call" by view screen and "shake hands" in the Chinese fashion. And this one always gets me, they would travel by hover car, but still used revolvers and shotguns.
Still, I would recommend this one, just because it was an enjoyable read and I always like these older sf stories.