December 5, 2011

I feel like I always talk about food.

Okay, another meal plan post. I was good this week and made my plan before going to the store. Some of my ideas can easily morph into something else, so I feel like I did pretty well.

Monday - was going to be pot pie, but our houseguest is cooking instead.
Tuesday - mushroom, spinach, caramelized onions white lasagna, a la I just add in the extra stuff.
Wednesday- enchiladas
Thursday - either chicken with forty cloves, or chicken cacciatore. I have the ingredients for both, just depends on my mood.
Friday - veggie stir fry. My leftovers might become soup the next day, if there are any.
Saturday - chicken pot pie. Leftovers from Thursday might end up in here as well, depending on which way I go.

This is all kind of in flux, per usual. I plan on freezing a few of the pot pies anyway, so they might all get made and put in the freezer/fridge Thursday, then baked off as needed. Tomorrow I think I will go ahead and make the enchilada filling and sauce, so then all I need to do Wednesday when I get home from work is assemble them. Depending on how ambitious I am, I might attempt to freeze some of this as well.

November 30, 2011

Meal Planning

So in an effort to help myself stay on top of food budgeting/meal planning, as well as sharing recipes, I am going to try and start posting my weekly meal plans.  This week is already half over, but I'll include the past couple of nights too, just for the hell of it.  I believe most of these I have already posted the recipe for (other than the pizza, but that's a gimme), so I don't think I'll post them. If you want them though, let me know.
Monday: Thai Fried Rice (a la Sean)
Tuesday: Chili. I put a fair amount of this in the freezer for another meal in the future.
Wednesday: Sausage Lentil Casserole
Thursday: Barbeque Chicken pizza
Friday: Baked potato soup
Saturday: I think I will do a sort of asian soup with bok choy, bamboo shoots, carrots, and chicken. Although soup two nights in a row might be a bit redundant. But this is my kitchen, and I do what I want. So there.
Sunday: Chicken pot pie. Again, I think I'll make extra to freeze. The recipe I like using ( makes a TON, and I have frozen it successfully in the past. I easily got 7-8 big individual pot pies out of my last batch, so I figure it's at least 2-3 meals, even factoring in our off and on house guests.

Some of what I'm experimenting with right now is trying to find things that either freeze and reheat well, or that can be cooked one portion at a time. Sean's schedule and mine are often at odds - joy of the restaurant industry - and having a hot meal when he gets home is nice. He certainly doesn't expect it, but I know he appreciates it. And thinking in terms of needing to feed him as well often gets me to cook a real meal as opposed to eating hummus and calling it dinner. So things like pizza and pot pie are great, since he can just cook his when he gets home, and I can eat whenever I am hungry.

September 5, 2011

Moroccan Chicken

A lot of you in facebook land were asking for this recipe, so I am delivering. I did what I always do when cooking, is get an idea in my head then read a bunch of different recipes, picking and choosing which elements I like.  Here is what I did this time.

2 chicken boobs, cut into smallish pieces
1 onion, chunked up
squash cut up
3 cloves of garlic, minced
can of chopped tomatoes, drained (this would be a great use for all those you have from the garden. Or your friends garden.)
2 tbps honey
1 can chickpeas
olive oil
salt to taste
chicken broth
Moroccan spice mix (see below)

In a big heavy pan, put a few tablespoons of olive oil, and some butter, chicken, onion, spices, and whatever veggies (not the maters yet though). Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes.  Add tomatoes, and continue cooking another 20. Stir every now and then, just to keep things from burning.  Add chickpeas and honey, along with enough broth to cover the chickpeas. Cook another 10 or so minutes, until chicken is cooked. I served it with some plain whole wheat couscous, and it was pretty damn good.

I used a blend of spices I used to make roasted chickpeas once, since I liked to combo. I used about half of what this mix yielded, but feel free to adjust. I just have the leftovers in some tupperware to be used at a later date. Some recipes also included saffron, parsley, and cilantro which I didn't have on hand, but feel free. I would have used them if they were in my fridge. Here's the spice mix:

1/2 tsp each of curry powder, allspice, ground cloves, cayenne, and pumpkin pie spice. I have this last one on hand to make pumpkin lattes with, but I doubt you would know if it got left out. It's pretty much all the other stuff anyway.
2 tsps cinnamon, salt and ground ginger, but fresh would be awesome

I also threw in some cardamom for shits and giggles. But if you have a blend you like, go for it. This was just what struck my fancy at the time.

Also, I would use two cans of chickpeas if I made it again, but that's because I love them. Any veggies you have around would work too, I just used what I had. Hope you all enjoy it as much as we did!

July 18, 2011

Sometimes I throw random foods in a bowl and call it dinner.

Thanks to the bounty that is other peoples gardens (hi friends, hi pseudoMIL!), I have veggies coming out of my ears. Zucchini the size of whiffle ball bats, and tomatoes the size of the coordinating whiffle balls (side note, wtf is a whiffle?). Over achieving basil plants. So I concocted this dish to use up some of them. It’s really not terribly exciting, but it tasted good, and it used up some of these veggies, and it tasted good.

Orzo with Assorted Delicious Things
Roasted veggies (this time I used tomatoes, squash and zucchini)
Orzo, about a cup or so
Shrimp; 10ish small ones. I keep a bag of the frozen kind in my freezer. Yes, fresh would be better, but these work fine.
Feta (those little baby mozzarella balls would be tasty as well. I just have a mild feta addiction)

Roast whatever veggies you want to be using. I just tossed mine with some olive oil and salt, then stuck them in the oven at 400 until they were soft. My tomatoes got squishy, but I just used them as a kind of sauce, so it worked out.  Saute your shrimp until done and delightfully pink. Toss veggies, shrimp, and orzo together. Stir in some feta, oregano, and some fresh basil if you have some kicking around, or whatever spices make you say whee. I made a TON of roasted veggies, and what I don’t use tonight I’m going to throw on pizza, and then probably put the rest in some tomato sauce to use later. There may be attempts to can. Depends on how adventurous I feel this weekend.

April 28, 2011

The Towel Bar Dilemma

As I think I have mentioned before, I have a tendency to get a bug up my ass about something totally random, and just dive in without thinking it through all the way, like the aforementioned closet reorganization.  So occasionally, poor Sean will come home to me either exultantly wanting to show off what I did, or with the “Ummm, baby?”, which he has come to know precedes me telling him something that is probably going to be something I fucked up or that he needs to fix. Well. This leads me to the towel bars, which luckily was not an "Don't kill me, but.." moment. 

Partly because the linen closet is full of other stuff, and partly because it’s halfway across the house, we don’t keep any of our towels there. Meaning they are all in our bathroom. The same brain impulse that compels us to have our clothes in plain sight (I like to claim it’s being right brained, not sheer laziness), also means we rarely, if ever, have neatly folded towels artfully hanging on bars. We are hook people. So in our fairly small (very small by master bath standards) bathroom, the two towel bars just seemed superfluous. Every time I sat down to pee, I would stare at the consistently empty towel bar and think to myself, ‘Hey Eleanor. Just take that fucker down. You’re not using it, and it makes it look like you’re some sort of weird non-bathing slob’.  Which I assure you, we are not. So a couple of weeks ago, I busted out the screwdriver and took one of them down. No, I didn’t totally think this plan through. But it worked out okay. Plus, ignoring the fact that there are now holes in the wall from the dry wall anchors (don’t worry Mom, they’re going to be patched), I think it looks much better. The original plan was to buy trusty sticky hooks, but I was wandering through the dollar store and found an over the door hook thingie. These have worked well for us in the past, and it was some staggeringly large total, like $2 or something. So far, this new arrangement is working. We’re no longer hanging towels on doors, and I’m not taunted by a towel bar any longer.  The one near the sink is soon going to fall prey to my trusty pink screwdriver as well, but I think I am going to replace that one with one of those ring things. Replacing the medicine cabinet with something less crooked is on the docket as well, but that one requires some repainting. Baby steps seems to be the theme of our house projects.

April 16, 2011

Back in the Closet

When we moved into this house, one of the things we really liked about it was the spacious master closet. All the closets in the house were pretty good, but this one, thanks to it being a 1990’s addition, qualifies as a small walk in, and came with a pretty good ClosetMaid system already installed.  I was super drawn to the shoe rack along the bottom edge.  It was big enough that we didn’t need to use a dresser, which is good, because neither of us are really dresser people anyway. It’s nice to have all your clothes out where you can see them. Hell, we barely even close the closet door, partly due to a certain cats propensity for sleeping on the top shelves.  Well, after a few months of living with it, I figured out that it wasn’t quite suiting our purposes. What was mainly bugging me was this odd little narrow shelf right in the middle. And that lovely shoe rack? Well, it was a little low to the ground, and wasn’t big enough.  So. Little shelf came down off of my side, and shoe rack was flipped upside down and re-hung as a normal shelf.  This works MUCH better for us.  I later bought two shelf thingies from Target to hold shoes, which I like, and work.  The only issue with them is that there isn’t a good place in them to put my boots, but that’s why the organization gods gave us plastic bins.  I’d been coveting another piece in the same line with a door, and a shelf that I could use for socks, bras, underwear and other small little things that liked to run away into corners and fornicate with the dust bunnies. Well, last weekend while browsing through a certain big box store with a red theme, I found a unit that has drawers. They’re a bit on the small side, but true to my relatively new found policy of ‘if you don’t have enough room, it means you have too much shit’, I used it as an opportunity to get rid of all those bras that don’t fit, underwear that’s too small, and socks with holes. Now, our closet looks like this (yes, that is part of my RennFair costume hanging on the left. I'm a nerd. I don't deny this):

Unfortunately, the process turned our bed into this: . And of course, this was done right around bedtime. Because that is the optimal time to reorganize your closet doncha know.

And just a little explanation, in case anyone is looking at the second photo and panicking, most of that either went in the Goodwill/garage sale pile, or was put back away in the closet. That black and white bin contains all my purses, which are going to get a weeding soon I think. All in all, I'm making some progress. And we've managed to keep it that tidy (almost) for a week now.And those nightstands were tidied a bit after this picture too. I just wanted to prove to the internet what I slob I am I guess?

April 7, 2011

Spring Fever

Well, it's looking like winter is finally departing from the mountains, thank god. Now we're just rewarded with warm days, cold nights, and some EPIC storms (including the one three nights ago that knocked out our power!).  And of course, the ubiquitous spring cleaning bug.

This whole ''spring cleaning bug" has bitten me on the ass pretty hard. It's also being fueled by reading far too many DIY/design minded blogs, YoungHouseLove being my current favorite. I've never been totally thrilled with how our living room is put together, and the addition of one of a new Ikea shelf is making things more complicated. One of the inevitable perils of having roommates is that you end up with furniture that doesn't always fit the space, and will eventually move out with their owners, leaving me reticent to get rid of anything, lest I want it at a later date, yet equally reticent to buy anything to fit the current configuration since it will change in the future. In our case, we are lucky enough to have a pretty massive (306 sq ft to be exact!) space, so we don't feel TOO crowded, and even then I think it's just me. But I'm discovering that big isn't always better. We have room for more seating than in the old place, but I'm left feeling like the old tiny living room felt cozier. It doesn't help that I feel like we've just got pieces in here that aren't necessary, so it just feels cluttered to me, yet we still have odd areas of dead space.

There's also this huge expanse of wall with nothing on it. I keep saying that I am going to print photos from some of my trips and frame them, but then I start doing the math of buying enough frames, and my bank account starts crying, and the idea is abandoned.

I finally have a completely free weekend, so there's going to be a lot of cleaning/re-organizing going on. I'm on a quest for new bedroom lamps, frames, and eventually a rug for the living room. We've (okay mainly me) got some ideas kicking around on things we want to do in the kitchen and master bath as well, hopefully some of those can come to fruition soon.  I really want to do something like this in the awkward corners in our bedroom:

And on the knitting front, I cranked this blankie out for our new nephew, Captain Flynn. Sucker came out enormous (blanket, not baby), but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.

January 9, 2011

The Great Sock Caper

Every now and then I decide that I am going to knit/sew/cook/build something without totally thinking it through. Sometimes it works out okay, and sometimes it ends with me sitting in a mound of flour on the kitchen floor crying. Well, this time it worked out. Sort of. In a vain effort to stop my boyfriend from wearing socks with his flip flops I jokingly said I would make him some toe socks. This backfired (of course!) and immediately resulted in him asking for a pair of tabi socks. "Sure honey!".  Well. There were several problems with this.

1. I've never knit socks before.
2. Tabi socks wouldn't really be your cut and dried socks
3. fidshgfiuaeghauehgouhrgourREALLYELEANOR!?

Well, after a couple of failed attempts, I finally got one sock done. The first pattern I used had to be modified, because Sean has monkey toes or something. So that was fun. Get the whole thing made, tralalala, look! A sock!  Well, I decided I didn't like that pattern, because clearly changing patterns halfway through a pair of socks makes perfect sense. So on to the second pattern! This one had more flexibility with numbers, etc so less modding. Well, I cast off the second sock last night, have him try them on. The fucking co edge was too tight on the first one, so I had to frog the BO edge and redo it. The upside? I learned how to work this magic: Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.

Patterns I used and my synopsis of their sock viability:
Nice and Easy - This was the second sock. As I am new to knitting socks, I can't decide if I like short row heels or sl1k1 heels better. It's up for debate. I actually think this sock was a little too big for the size 11 foot. Kind of baggy, and the cuff is poofy. This could all be chalked up to user error though.

Mr. Tabi First sock. I don't know what size 11 man foot the author was using, but I was knitting to gauge and there was no way the toes were going to fit. Not even close. Hence all the fiddling with numbers. Fits better through the foot section though, and cuff is much tighter. 

All in all, he likes them. He's wearing them as I type. He wants more. We'll see. But here's a picture:

P.S. They're not as wonky as they look in the picture. He was doing weird things with his ankles.

January 7, 2011

Soup and Wool

 I made this black bean soup the other night and it was SO GOOD. I've been on a quest for a good black been soup for awhile now and have been disappointed. This one was perfect though. It's a Dave Lieberman recipe, and I honestly did absolutely no tweaking, and don't think there is anything I would change.

10 slices bacon, finely chopped
2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, pressed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth (if you want more broth, up this, it's very little)
1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes (I used the kind with chilies)
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
4 (15 1/2-ounce) cans black beans, drained but not rinsed (I've mentioned this before, but I cook and freeze my own, and therefore I think I used about four cups cooked dried beans)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch cilantro (okay I left this out cause I didn't have any)
juice of 1/2 lime
Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
Grated cheddar, for garnish
Put the bacon into a large heavy pot and place it over medium heat. Cook until it starts to give up its fat, about 4 minutes (I lied. One thing I would change? Cook the bacon longer. I don't like chewy fat, so I ended up picking out some. Sean thought it was fine though). Stir in the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until you can smell it, about 1 minute. Add the broth, tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire, and chili powder. Stir in the beans, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the soup is bubbling gently and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, pick off all the thick stems from the cilantro. Wash it and shake dry. Chop the cilantro coarsely and stir it into the soup when it has been simmering 10 minutes. Cook until the soup is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Serve with the garnishes.

On the knitting front, I've been cranking. The Christmas gift list ended up at: 3 scarves, 2 shawl/wraps, and a bag. All in about a month. I think I slept somewhere in there. Maybe. I just posted a bunch of knitting pictures on facebook, so I won't bore you with that redundancy. Currently I'm working on a Clapotis for my pseudo-SIL's birthday. Just using some Simply Soft, but it's coming out quite pretty. Definitely on the list of things to make for myself soon. I'm thinking of making mine in some Noro Silk Garden, because I love what the colors do.  My LYS is having a sale right now, I'm thinking it might be a good time.

December 13, 2010

Snow Day

So once again winter has arrived here in the mountains. Snow men have been made, cocoa has been drunk, people have been stranded, heaters have been cranked (sorta. I'm a scrooge, that propanes expensive yo!).  Anywho, all these snow days have given me plenty of time to knit. In the last month I have cranked out:

3 scarves
1 neckerchief thingy
grocery bag holder
1 hat
most of a big bag
3 dishcloths
and part of another scarf.

Point is, I am a machine. Rawr. Pictures will be forthcoming after gifts have been opened. I guess I'm sort of giving it away by listing, but there are no details, so whatever. Oh, and did I mention that I also am done with shopping? I have 1 thing to finish and a couple of small things to crank out (some of which are optional), and I am done.

November 24, 2010

Baked Potato Soup

Baked potato soup is nommy and super easy. Go make it. Go make it now.  It's one of my favorite winter recipes since chances are good I have all the stuff on hand, and it only requires one pot.

What you need:
baked potatoes. 4 or so should be sufficient, but quantities aren't set in stone here
4 cups milk
4 cups chicken stock
green onions
sour cream

Cook some bacon. I use like 6 pieces, because I want the fat, and bacon is delicious. I suppose you could use turkey bacon, but why? Anyway, cook off your bacon and set aside, but don't drain the fat. Throw in some flour (roughly the same amount of liquid and flour). Stir around and cook for a couple of minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and deglaze a bit so that you have all those yummy bacon bits. Pour in the milk. I usually cook it for a few minutes and let it all heat through, then dump in the potatoes. Now, I usually put in the skin of one and the innards of the rest. I sort of chop them up, but since baked potatoes don't chop real well, don't spaz if they just kind of chunk up. Dump these in and stir around. As it simmers some more, if it looks like the soup isn't going to be thick enough for you, just mush up some of the potatoes and stir it around. Once everything is hot and thick, put in a glob of sour cream, a cup or so of cheese, the bacon, and some chopped up green onions or chives. If I don't have green stalky things, I just saute some onion in the bacon fat instead.  Anyway, do this and then cut your heat. At some point in this process I throw in a good amount of fresh ground pepper, usually a little paprika, and some season salt.  This is definitely a taste as you go kind of thing. Remember that milk and potatoes are bland as hell, so chances are you are going to use more seasoning than you think you need. Just keep tasting. But you can honestly throw in whatever the hell you want, it's all good! 

November 17, 2010

Some thoughts on knitting

So as those of you who know me in real life know, I knit at pretty much any available opportunity. This often means I am knitting in public which leads to some inevitable statements from people.  For the purpose of performing a public service announcement, I'm going to debunk a few of them.

1. "I don't have time to do stuff like that." Do you watch movies? Wait in doctors offices? Watch tv? Sit in traffic jams? Then guess what? You have time to knit. Just because you don't have hours on end to knit doesn't mean that you don't have time. Quite frankly, a lot of the time I am knitting it's a row or two here and there. I don't sit down and churn out a sweater in one sitting here people! My point is, once you start knitting, you realize that you do have time. And then you will become obsessed and make time.

2. "My grandmother used to do that. Isn't knitting only for old people?" No. Shut up.

3. "I could never do that!" Well guess what? Have you ever tried? Then how would you know? It's really not that hard. You have two pointy stick and some string. You essentially make a serious of knots to form fabric. This is not rocket science people. Yes there are some techniques that are more difficult. But what one knitter finds difficult others think is a piece of cake. For instance, I find color work difficult and tedious. But I do enjoy knitting things with cool textures and shape. So there you have it.

4. "Would you teach me how?" Sure. Let me know when and where.

And then simply for the hell of it, a picture of the Mario afghan I've been working on for Sean:


November 16, 2010

I can't think of a witty title

So tis the season. The season of Christmas knitting that is. I REALLY want to share pictures, but I also don't want to ruin the surprise for the recipients, so I am just going to taunt you all with the fact that I am getting shit done. I do promise that I will make a huge post after the fact showing off ALL THE THINGS.  But to make you all feel better, here's a hat I made for the craft fair awhile back.  It's actually up for grabs if anyone wants it!

And here is the blanket I made my little bruvver when he left for college. It's been over a year, but I just now got some pictures of the FO.

October 8, 2010

Comfort food

We've had a spate of cold weather (and the annual fall colds) around here, so comfort food has been a pretty high priority. After consuming more cup o'noodles than was probably healthy, I've started in on some of my favorite fall recipes.  The first one may possibly be one of my favorite foods of all time: Chicken with Forty Cloves. My mom used to make this sometimes, and I would eat my weight in it.  The recipe is more or less attributed to James Beard, but I don't always do it his way. Because following recipes to the letter is no fun doncha know.

The Cast of Characters:

3 or 4 stalks of celery chopped up small
an onion, likewise diced up fine (sometimes I leave out the onion. It honestly depends on how much chopping I feel like doing)
some chicken thighs and legs. I use 4-6, but I eat the mush more than the chicken, so basically use a piece or two for each person
2/3 c or so olive oil
1/2 dry vermouth
2 1/2 tsp salt. I usually add about half this and salt the finished product to taste
good amount black pepper
40 cloves of garlic. Yeah. 40. That's about 3 or so heads.
some good crusty bread for serving

Preheat the oven to 375. Peel the garlic. James Beard doesn't but I think it is easier in the long run. Yes if you want to use the pre-peeled garlic go ahead, but it's out the ass expensive, and doesn't taste as good. But no judgment.  Chop up that which must be chopped.  Put the onion and celery in the bottom of some oven safe dish, something with a lid.  Sprinkle on a good amount of parsley and tarragon. Coat the chicken in the oil and put it in the dish. Chuck in all the garlic, pour the remaining oil and the vermouth over top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the lid on and bake for roughly 80 minutes. JB wants you to do some crazy shit with flour paste and tinfoil and the lid, and whateverthefuckelse, but I just use the lid and it comes out fine. You want your chicken cooked and your garlic smushy.  I also do this in my crock pot a lot, and might even prefer it that way. Use the bread to soak up all the awesome garlic mush from the bottom of the pan. And before you ask, no you cannot cut the garlic. God will smite you.  Not really, but do remember that roasted garlic is super mild, without the bite of raw garlic. Promise. Although you will have garlic breath. Embrace it. Then go get seconds.

October 7, 2010

Baby knitting

So now that I have given it to her, I can share photos of the dress I made Katie's impending baby girl.  I used a pattern named Rana that I found on Rav, and it came out freaking adorable!  The baby cashmerino yarn was great, and super soft.   The pattern was super easy to follow, and it took me about a week/week and a half of knitting. I could whip it out in a couple of days if I needed to. I do (inevitably) have a few quibbles with the patter. First, the sizing. It made no sense. I guessed, and made the smallest size, and I would guess it's at least a 12 mos size. Not a bad thing, but still worth noting.  Also, I thought the back slit was excessively long, and sewing on snaps was a pain and a fucking half. Next time, I might try and join in the round sooner (so as to close the gap), and work in button holes.  Or find snap tape, or something. Because UGH.  But without further ado, here are some crappy cell phone pics. Cause I forgot my camera. Sorry.

Sleeve detail:

I'm also whipping out some hats, bags, dishcloths, and maybe a scarf or two for a craft sale in a couple of weeks at my mom's church, so if you're in the Huntersville area and are curious, come on! I'm sharing a booth with my baby brother who is selling some of his badass chain mail jewelry.

September 14, 2010

Roasted tomatoes with feta and shrimp

So I made a positively delicious dinner tonight, so I figured I would share. I used the last couple of tomatoes from my pseudo-MIL's garden that were starting to get a little soft, since they would only get more so in the oven. Shrimp and feta are two of my absolute favorite foods, and this dish combined them quite well.  I imagine this would be fairly healthy as well.

Go rummage around in your kitchen and find the following items:
olive oil
some sort of grain. I used couscous, but it would be equally good with pasta, rice, or orzo.
lemon juice

So you preheat your oven to 450. Hack up your tomatoes into eighths or so. Chop up some garlic. I used four or five cloves, but we love our garlic around here.  Throw in some salt and pepper. Toss it around so it's good and coated.  Put in the oven for around 20 minutes.  Add in your shrimp, cup or so of feta, and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice.  Bake for 10 or so minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through.  Serve with whatever grain you are using.  I had a fair amount of liquid in the bottom of my pan, and ladled some of it on the couscous, and zomg nom. This will definitely be going into the dinner rotation.  Throwing in some spinach would be a nice addition.

August 31, 2010

Apple butter!

So one of my favorite foods in possibly the whole entire world is apple butter. For some reason, I had always thought it would be terribly time consuming and complicated to make. Then one day a couple of years ago I found myself with 2 bags of apples going soft and yucky. I figured they were going bad anyway, so why not do an experiment, so I peeled 'em up, whacked them up some and threw them in my crock pot. Many hours and some spices later, I had apple butter!  And it was good! Hooray! This might not be the 'right' way to make apple butter, or the way your grandma made it or whatever, but this is the way that works for me, and quite frankly, as long as I am happy with the results, I don't think the 'right' and 'wrong' ways mean shit. So without further ado, here is my "recipe" for apple butter.

Get you a bunch of apples. I usually just get a bag of whatever I can get. As far as I can tell, anything will work. I've used everything except green ones, but that is because I don't like the green ones. Peel them, core them and chop them into roughly equal pieces. I peel mine for one very simple reason. I don't have a food mill, and the idea of picking out apple peel at the end just seems like more work than peeling. So I peel.  Throw all your chopped apples in the crock pot. Mine is usually pretty full. They are going to cook down. They are going to cook down A LOT. I set it on low and walk away. Check them every now and then. You want to be able to squish them easily with a fork. This has taken me anywhere from 6 hours to 12 hours. Seems to have something to do with the water content of the apples. When they are all nice and squishy grab your potato masher and smush them all up. Throw in your sugar, starting at about 1/4 c.  I suppose if you wanted to use fake sugar you could, but I never have. I don't keep the stuff around. Then dump in some cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and a pinch of ginger. I usually go about 1 tsp of each. Cook for an hour or so, then taste it. Add more spices, or more sugar if you don't think it's sweet enough. Cook until it tastes right. Sorry, I know that's vague, but that's how it works.

When it's done, I let it cool a bit, then put it in some tupperware and either freeze it or stick it in the fridge. If you want to be adventurous and can it, be my guest.

I think I might attempt doing this with pumpkin this fall. Pumpkin butter sounds really good to me. I imagine you could also use the same method for peaches, or pears.

August 21, 2010

Birthday cake

So the other night was Sean's moms birthday. Since I had to work all day and wouldn't be able to help Sean cook dinner (which was some sort of Moroccan lemon chicken thing with some mango chutney thrown in. FUCKING AWESOME), I volunteered to make the birthday cake.  What I made was this:  Oh. My. Gawd.  Delicious.

Here comes the but...

Now, I don't know about ya'll, but I see baking as a learning process. I make it the way the recipe says to (more or less) then decide what I want to change.  This time was no exception.  Firstly, I would make twice the icing. I think it could of used more filling, and I use every bit.  Secondly, my cake didn't absorb as much of the espresso syrup as I would have liked. I didn't use cake flour, I used all-purpose, which might have contributed to this.  Lesson learned, I will pop for the cake flour next time around. My solution for both these problems will be simple - make it into four layers. More filling, more absorbency, and presto, problem solved!

I also started contemplating what this icing would be like on chocolate cake and immediately started drooling.

And here's a teaser for what's going to emerge next from the pastel  covered walls of our kitchen:

August 4, 2010

Snack food

Once in awhile I post a healthy, low-fat, veggie filled recipe. This is not one of those times. This is one of those foods that you just don't really want to know, but damn it, it tastes good.  What delicacy am I whipping up this time? Chex Mix. One of my favorite snack foods ever. The kind you buy in the store is pretty good, but I like making it myself because A) it's hella cheaper, B) I can put in it whatever I want, and C) the kind in the bag is never seasoned enough for me.  This "recipe", is more like a description of how I do something that is stupid easy, but people seem to like mine, so I am sharing.  Now I know this is nothing special, but I love it, and I like sharing things that make me happy.

Like many things that taste good, this will involve butter. I suppose you could use the fake stuff, but given that I live with a French-ish trained chef, nothing but the real thing ever enters my home. I think I might get left behind if I ever tried to slip fake butter into the cart at the store. So butter.  Here's what all you're going to need:

2 sticks of melted butter
1 tbsp garlic powder
heaping tsp seasoned salt
1/4 c Worcestershire sauce
some cumin
some chili powder
more salt if you think it's not salty enough, but mine usually is
if you're feeling frisky throw in some hot sauce

Mix all this together in your 4 c pyrex measuring cup you got from your mother. Pour over: approx one box corn chex, half a box wheat chex, most of a box of Spicy Cheez-It's. I usually pour half, then stir it good, then the other half, stir again. You want everything good and coated with the butter-y deliciousness.  I usually cook it in my roasting pan, because that's the only thing I have big enough. Sadly, I think Chex mix is the only thing my roasting pan has ever really seen.  Bake at 350 until it's all crispy, stirring every 20 minutes or so. It might take awhile. Mine has taken anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple of hours. Stirring is important though, otherwise it gets super crispy on top and is mush on the bottom.

One of my other favorite things about Chex mix is that you can use up stale stuff in it, cause it crisps back up in the oven. For instance, this time I used half a box of stale-ish cereal we had kicking around, and half a bag of stale pretzels that have been in my pantry for god knows how long. And it will be delicious.  So the next time you want something salty, make chex mix. You won't regret it. And hey, you don't like my way, make up your own!

August 3, 2010

Chai Cupcakes!

So there has been tons of stuff happening this summer. Wedding showers, baby showers, slip and slides, gardens, baking, re-organizing, and of course working TONS.  Sean moved to nights at the restaurant, I've been working close to full time thanks to summer schedules, plus a new weekend gig. Needless to say, we've been keeping super busy!  However, it being me, I have found lots of time for baking and knitting.  A couple of weeks ago I concocted what might be one of my new favorite desserts. Chai cupcakes.  And since it was demanded of me, I shall now share:

2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp chai spice mix (following)
1/2 c butter at room temp
1 1/4 c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 c milk steeped with chai tea

Chai Mix:
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cloves
1 1/2 tsp cardamom
pinch of nutmeg (optional, I put it in because I mistakenly pulled it off the spice rack and felt like it)

Pre-heat your oven to 350. Heat up your milk and steep with chai teabags (I just microwaved it and threw in 2 tea bags, but do whatever floats your boat.) Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla. Alternate blending in wet/dry ingredients.  If you feel like it makes it a difference, you can sift all the dry stuff together first, but I never do. I throw it in a bowl and whisk/mix with a fork and call it a day. Again, whatever you feel like doing will work.  Bake for 15-20 minutes. I found mine usually required the 20 side of things, but I think I have a lazy oven.

In terms of frosting, I did one batch with Honey Cinnamon, and one Honey Cardamom, both with a cream cheese base. I used 8 oz of cream cheese, a couple of tbps of milk, a stick of softened butter, and 1/4 c honey.  Blended all this together and get it good and fluffy, then mix in either some of the spice mix leftover from the cake, cardamom (cardamom and some lemon juice was GOOOOOD), or cinnamon. Again, whatever you feel like.  Now a note on cream cheese frosting. Most recipes use some god awful quantity of powdered sugar, like 4 cups, or an entire bag, or whatever. Um, yeah. I usually start with something like 1/2 a cup, and I usually stay there. I don't like super sweet frosting, so this is about right for me. Especially when I used the honey, I started light with the sugar and tasted as I went. This had nothing to do with my intense love of cream cheese frosting and my desire to lick the beater the whole time. Nothing at all. If you like it sweet, go ahead and throw in as much sugar as your heart desires.

The spice mix is also good mixed with a can of sweetened condensed milk and used to make chai tea, or in a glass of milk to make a chai latte.  Thanks for that one Jess!