Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cheddar Corn Chowder

It isn't often that I follow a recipe to the letter, but Ina Garten's Cheddar Corn Chowder is an exception to that rule - so I won't retype the recipe, just let you know that this is an awesome and soul satisfying soup with enough body to make a meal.  We've gotten a lot of corn from the Farmer's Market this season, and the scraped fresh corn has gone into this soup twice now. 

This past weekend, our meat supplier gave us a half dozen ears as we were ringing up our order - so we'll probably be making this soup one more time. mmm....

Libra New Moon TUSAL

Yesterday was this month's New Moon - falling in Libra this time, making this a great period in which to tackle issues of fairness and justice, and generate a personal state of balance and harmony.  As far as our homes go, the New Moon in Libra can help us begin projects that add beauty and aesthetic appeal without clutter, and suggests that this might be a good time to make sure that everyone's tastes and interests are reflected in the home.

I'm continuing to tackle the clutter issue here, and only very slowly able to stitch in small doses - for me, Balance has to do with honestly assessing my need/desire to be working on Christmas gift stitching, and the need to keep my hands fairly capable for other daily tasks.  I'm going to let this New Moon be my reminder that keeping that balance in mind isn't a failing, but rather is what I need for health and happiness.  That said, I wouldn't mind if my TUSAL jar were to overflow this next month with signs that I'm able to stitch at will again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cooking By the Book: The Healthy Slow Cooker

A few nights ago, Michael made dinner for me, using one of his favorite cookbooks:  The Healthy Slow Cooker: More than 100 Recipes for Wellness and Health, by Judith Finlayson.

I have a sort of default leeriness of cookbooks that bill themselves as 'healthy'.  I have a few of them, but all too often, 'healthy' translates to making limp versions of otherwise good recipes by switching to low fat dairy products and various chemical fake sugars, neither of which I regard as 'healthy'.

The Healthy Slow Cooker is not like that at all - doing a random flip through the recipes, the ingredients are composed of real food, very little in the way of processed foods at all, and the couple that Michael's made from me with it have been very good.

This time, it was the Spicy Peanut Chicken, with a couple small modifications, and the result was delicious and satisfying in a comfort-food way.  I will be making use of this cookbook often - the recipes really do work well.

Spicy Peanut Chicken
serves 6

1 Tblsp olive oil or coconut oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tblsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 cup chicken stock
3 lb bone-in chicken thighs (approx. 12 thighs)
3 Tblsp smooth natural peanut butter
3 Tblsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tblsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 Tblsp Thai red curry paste
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cups sweet green peas (defrosted, if frozen)
1 red bell pepper, diced (I don't eat bells - we substituted a couple poblanos and 1 jalepeno pepper)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

In a skillet, heat oil and add onions, carrots and celery, stirring and cooking about 7 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, ginger, and black pepper, cooking and stirring another minute.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Arrange chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker and add vegetable mixture.  Cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours or on HIGH for 2 1/2 hours, until juices run clear when pierced with a fork.

In a bowl, combine peanut butter, lemon juice, soy sauce, and red curry paste, and mix well.  Add to slow cooker and still well.  Add coconut milk, peas, and peppers and stir well. Cover and cook on HIGH for 20 minutes, or until peppers are tender and mixture is hot.

Serve over cooked rice with a garnish of peanuts and chopped cilantro.

(Shared with Foodie Friday,  Flaunt It Friday, Sweets This Week, Simply Link Party, Friday FavoritesWeekend Wrap Up Party, Show and Share, Lambaround Blog HopSo Creative Party, Check Me Out Saturday, Think Pink Sundays, Sunday Showcase, Sundae Scoop, Be Colorful Motivated Monday, Making the World Cuter Monday, Making Monday Marvelous, Made By You Monday, Amaze Me Monday, Mouthwatering Monday, Mangia Mondays, Made with Love Mondays, Market Yourself Monday, Homemaker Monday, Hunk of Meat Monday Tuesdays at the Table, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Made From Scratch Tuesday, Tuesday's Tasty Tidbits, Your Recipe - My Kitchen, Tasty Tuesdays, Tasty Tuesday, Glitter Link Party, Traditional Tuesdays, What's on the Menu Wednesday, We Did It Wednesday, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Works For Me Wednesday, Show and TellWhat's On Your Plate?, Hoo's Got Talent, SYS Link Party, Show Off Your StuffFull Plate Thursday, It's a Keeper Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Frugal Food Thursday)

Monday, September 26, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week: 9/26 - 10/2

I don't worry overmuch about white after Labor Day - but I sure do love when the Equinox has arrived, and my meals can start looking like Fall.  Here's the plan for this week:

M - Sep 26
Green Salad with Pear Slices
Walnut-Stuffed Glazed Acorn Squash
Broccoli and Cauliflower

T - Sep 27
Slow Cooker
Ham, Sweet Potatoes, and Onions

(make Chai Tea Cookies)

W - Sep 28
Breakfast for Dinner
Harvest Nut and Grain Pancakes
Turkey Sausage
Homemade Chunky Applesauce

Th - Sep 29
Easy Dinner
Baked Pasta with Mozzerella
Garlic Bread

F - Sep 30
Vegetarian Curry over Rice

S - Oct 1
Michael's cooking
Hamburgers and Sides

Sn - Oct 2
Soup and Somethin'
Slow Cooker Gulashsuppe (German Beef and Potato Stew)
Crusty Bread

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cooking By the Book: The Ultimate Ice Cream Book

About a month ago, I made a little commitment to myself to increase the amount of cooking I did from our combined large collection of cookbooks - no specified schedule, though I've tried to make sure it's once a week or so.

I will do better about pictures than I did - I got a couple photographed (not necessarily well - the lighting in the house is not great for pictures in the evening), and will be more consistent about that, but I still want to post the recipes for what I've done so far, and tell you a little about the books they came from.

I'm going to start with The Ultimate Ice Cream Book, by Bruce Weinstein, both because cooler temperatures are turning thoughts to warm desserts, and because we've tried two recipes from here, with equally impressive results.  I use the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker and love it - very easy to use, easy to clean and makes homemade ice cream a breeze.

The Ultimate Ice Cream Book includes a really nice variety of ice creams, sorbets, granitas, and the like, and has a good mix of familiar favorites and some interesting exotic recipes (I am intrigued to try the corn ice cream, and the jalepeno ice cream - Michael is less sure).  They also have rich custard type ice creams that use a lot of eggs, and less rich varieties and the recipes are categorized as 'master recipes', most with nearly a dozen interesting variations.

I think it helped the quality of our ice cream a whole lot that we used pastured eggs, and non-homogenized milk and heavy cream from a local supplier that delivers (it is pasteurized, as MD doesn't allow non-pasteurized milk to be sold, but it is still light years closer to real, rich milk than anything for sale in the stores.

The first recipe we tried was Chocolate Ice Cream - we had what we needed on hand, and it seemed that if their chocolate was good, that boded well for the rest of book.  The only change we made to the basic recipe was using Dark Cocoa instead of standards (it's what was on hand) and WOW, the result was insanely delicious - a very decadent, adult dark chocolate ice cream with some chopped walnuts tossed in.  Just to ramp it up a little more, we ate it with a drizzle of caramel and spent the next ten minutes moaning in pleasure. If you only ever make one batch of homemade ice cream, this is the one.

Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart

1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tblsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Place the sugar, eggs, and cocoa in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan.  With the food processor running, slowly pour the hot milk into the chocolate mixture through the feed tube.  Process until well blended.

Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly.  Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble.

Remove from heat and pour the hot chocolate custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl.  Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in 1-2 batches in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions, adding walnuts or other mix ins when the ice cream is semi-frozen.  When finished, the ice cream will be soft serve and ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least two hours.


Our second ice cream venture was last week - and no picture this time. The Ginger Ice Cream looks vanilla, and tastes to me like a frozen Ginger Chai Latte.  This, again, feels like an adult's ice cream.  One of the variations actually calls for steeping the milk with some chai tea, which I think I'd like to try next time.  The variation we used added the nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove, but you can keep it purely ginger if you'd like.  The candied ginger nibs are also optional - but they really made it interesting, so I'd recommend including them.

Ginger Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart

3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 4" piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tblsp finely chopped crystallized ginger

In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and eggs until thickened and pale yellow.  Beat in the cornstarch; set aside.

Slice the fresh ginger into 1/2" pieces and combine with the milk in a heavy saucepan, along with the spices.  Bring to a boil, ten remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 15 minutes.

Remove the ginger from the milk with a slotted spoon and slowly beat the warm milk into the eggs and sugar.

Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly.  Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble.

Remove from heat and pour the hot ginger custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl.  Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in 1-2 batches in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions, adding the crystallized ginger nibs when the ice cream is semi-frozen.  When finished, the ice cream will be soft serve and ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least two hours.

This goes perfectly with snickerdoodle cookies, and I would think it would also be very good with gingersnaps or gingerbread, for a more Autumn centered ice cream.

(Shared with Foodie FridaySweet Tooth Friday, Fat Camp Friday, Flaunt It Friday, Sweets This Week, Simply Link Party, Friday Favorites, Weekend WanderWeekend Wrap Up Party, Show and Share, Lambaround Blog HopSo Creative Party, Check Me Out Saturday, Think Pink Sundays, Sunday Showcase, Sundae Scoop, Be Colorful Motivated Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Making the World Cuter Monday, Making Monday Marvelous, Made By You Monday, Mad Skills Monday, Amaze Me Monday, Mouthwatering Monday, Mangia Mondays, Made with Love Mondays, Market Yourself Monday, Homemaker Monday, Tuesdays at the Table, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Made From Scratch Tuesday, Tuesday's Tasty TidbitsTasty TuesdaysGlitter Link Party, Traditional Tuesdays, What's on the Menu Wednesday, We Did It Wednesday, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Works For Me Wednesday, Show and TellWhat's On Your Plate?, Hoo's Got Talent, SYS Link Party, Show Off Your StuffFull Plate Thursday, It's a Keeper Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Frugal Food Thursday)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy Autumn!

It's a miracle!  The flare seems to have passed FINALLY, right as Fall comes in.  Sure, there's some creakies and I'm not yet ready to tire out my hands with much stitching or other fine motor work ... but the actual flaring seems to be finished.


Michael and I have written a bit about Autumn over at The Cauldron Born, and I plan to get a recipe up for you all later today.  Nice to feel back in the land of the living!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week: 9/19 - 9/25

I've been getting so lax with my meal planning lately and it's been showing in the quality of our meals!  Fortunately, Keeper of the Home is providing inspiration and accountablity with a 6 week Plan It - Don't Panic Meal Plan Challenge.  If you're looking for some ideas to rev up your meal planning, go check it out.  And of course, every week, Organizing Junkie shares tons of meal plans from all around the blogging community.

Here's mine for this week:

Mon - Sep 19
(Michael Cooking)
Grass-Fed Beef Cheeseburgers
Sweet Potato Oven Fries
Tossed Salad with Vinaigrette

Tues - Sep 20
Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry

(close... I realized we had only about a half cup of rice after it was too late to shift plans, so I used a container of leftover cooked spaghetti noodles I had in the freezer.  Dump 'em in a pot of water to thaw, then mix with the stir-fry. Yum!)

Wed - Sep 21
Mixed Bean Chili

Thurs - Sep 22

Chicken, Corn and Potato Chowder

F - Sep 23
Chile and Cheese Rellenos
Spanish Rice

S - Sep 24

Sn - Sep 25
Pita Pizzas

Peeking out the other side

I've written a couple entries and not posted - and a good half dozen more in my head without touching fingers to keyboard.  Everyone of them has been variations on 'omg, I hurt so bad, I'm dying, ack!'  some with an air of apology for not writing, some with a defiant 'this sucks' tone, some sung to the tune of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen".   Yes, my friends, my nemesis Rheumatoid Arthritis has been for a visit, leaving me a nice flare gift.

Now, weirdly, in spite of quite literally not being able to stand or sit or lay down without vocalizing, it has otherwise been a lovely few weeks.  Last weekend, especially, when I was deep in the grip of it, Michael and I headed out to Orange, Virginia to stay at an absolutely lovely B&B called Holladay House, run by an old friend of his.  We'd put in reservations well before things got bad for me, and while it created some challenges, it was still so much fun.  I was very worried that my issues were going to ruin it for him... but he's such a good and wonderful patient man.  (I also snagged an amaaaazing recipe for Creme Brulee French Toast we'll be trying!)

RA is tough when it keeps you from doing what you have to do.  It can be mortifying to ask for help for very simple things like standing up or brushing your hair or putting on your shirt.   But it is absolutely exasperating and infuriating when it keeps you from doing what you very much want to do.

Today I'm feeling a bit better - standing up generates a little grunt, not a scream.  I'm able to type this without wincing.  My elbows have stopped feeling hot and swollen and can touch the arm of the chair without making me cry.  My hips still feel like rusty hinges, but I think things are coming along - hopefully for awhile, because this right now is my very favorite time of year and I want to experience it and enjoy it.

I am considering the possibility that I may not be able to stitch my way through Christmas presents this year, and that makes me sad, but when you can't even make a fist, holding a needle is a little hard.  We'll see, but I think I'm going to need to let myself off the hook for awhile and trust that family will understand.

Meanwhile, I'm going to let my fingers rest awhile, then see about getting a few neglected household things done.  I have a few recipes - some with pictures! - that I want to share here.

Please know that if I go silent it isn't lack of interest - it's just weather and chronic illness kicking my butt, and not wanting to focus too much of this space to moaning about it. (I am not saying I shouldn't moan, just that this is not where I want to do it.)  But I miss you all and so hope to pick up energy soon.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week: 9/5 - 9/11

 Time to seriously jump on the meal planning bandwagon again... I started to let it slide and the result this past week was two-fold:  we spent way more money than I'd intended 'grazing' the grocery store to see what looks good.  Since we are trying to eat local, raised ethically, and in season, which tends to cost more, we simply cannot afford to let our eyes and stomach whimsically shop for us.  We kinda really busted the budget on that trip.  In addition, today we got busy, the day slid by and suddenly it was 6:30 without a thought in our heads about what to eat, and too tired to try to put anything together - so we ate out.  Which is fine when it's intentional, but it's a terrible way to deal with not having planned dinner.

So no more of that!  This week's meal is meant to make use of what I know we have on hand, because I don't think we can financially deal with yet more shopping to turn our ingredients into meals.

M - Sep 5
Eat Out

T - Sep 6
Pork Roast and Apples
Tossed Salad

W - Sep 7
Leftover Pork
Baked Potatoes
Sauteed Mushrooms

Th - Sep 8
Couscous with Lemon, Chicken, and Olives

F - Sep 9
Ham Steaks
Seasoned Beans

S - Sep 10
Chicken Curry Rice with Veggies

Sn - Sep 11
Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
Garlic Bread

(shared with Menu Plan Monday)

A new blog

It feels slightly ridiculous to be announcing a new blog when I've been very lax this summer about keeping up with this one (call it summer vacation - I fully intend to get back to the domestic artiness of cooking, and crafting that makes up the majority of what I talk about here) but...

Michael and I are starting a new blog together - we've decided to work together on a year's worth of study with Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) and as a part of that, we're keeping an online journal together to log and discuss our progress.  Now, there's nothing sadder than a blog that no one is reading, so if you're interested in the pagan bits of my life, I invite you to come follow us at The Cauldron Born.  And for those of you who aren't, you'll be happy to know I plan to keep The Auld Grey Mare separate from the pagan aspects of my life, and just as happily talk stitchin' and kitchen here with all you lovely people.

If you do pop over, say hi to Michael - he's a really awesome man. :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Virgo New Moon TUSAL

I am so annoyed with myself for not writing at all this month. I'm really glad for the TUSAL project, because it forces me to come out and play at least once a month!  New commitment time (committing to myself, that is) to record my days, or they slip away from me.

It's been a very full month, too - Mercury Rx totally kicked my behind non-stop in the form of bureaucratic glitches and hang ups that had me spending more time - mostly unsuccessfully - sitting in various government agency waiting rooms being told I couldn't get there from here (it had to do with an ID issue, and I very nearly fell entirely off the grid for lack of a way back in).  Mostly solved now, but wow, annoying!

Rheumatoid arthritis flares have been making the month challenging too, but that's not anything new, just what colors the overall picture.

I got a bit of stitching done - including finishing and passing on the UU Spirit of Life blackwork sampler I designed for a church friend's kids.  I could not get the picture to really show what it looks like - the coloring is not quite as intense as this seems.. pale pink fabric, and variegated floss in purple and pink.  The small marks down the stem of the chalice are Ogham tree symbols - each of her three children are named for Ogham trees.  This was a lot of fun, but I think I'm done with this pattern now.... it's similar to the black and white design I made for the church auction, only this time I changed up the blackwork patterns to give a vaguely Land and Sky and Sea effect - I may be the only one who really sees it that way, but the top two, to me, look like mist or smoke, and feathers for Sky, the middle looks like flowers and a woven mat for Land, and the bottom like waves and of course fish, for Sea.

This past week has all been about the weather!  First, that earthquake - and no, I do not want to hear from west coasters saying how it was 'nothing'... while I don't think we should cower before natural events like this, I don't think we need to be all jaded and blase about it either!  It was really, really unexpected and strange - I was washing dishes when it started, and had time to process (holy moly, did a bomb go off... wow, still going on, wow...earthquake?! hmm... maybe time to get away from the cabinet full of glass..), crab walk hanging onto the sink over to the door frame - notice the china cabinet rocking side to side and decide to stay away from that, and scoot away from the dining room into the living room to grab my cane in case I was needing to try to crawl over stuff in a few seconds.  It was a big slow roll and I think the only reason that china cabinet didn't come down is that the rolls were coming from the side of the cabinet rather than front to back.  I hear it went on a good 90 seconds.

As soon as it stopped, I was outside checking on Sadie Beagle (who was happy to see me but didn't seem bothered at all about what had just happened), checked for downed trees - none - exchanged exclamations with neighbors, and walked the yard until my heart stopped trying to punch its way out of my chest.

No damage - a few things fell over, but none breakable, so alrighty then!

And now, we're buttoned down waiting for Hurricane Irene - we've got lots of water stowed in containers, filled the freezer with more containers of water to maximize the time things will stay frozen, have food that doesn't need cooking, and a good supply of liquor and board games. hee..  We're inland enough that flooding isn't an issue but power outages are likely.

Now, this Virgo New Moon - which doesn't start until tonight, but I may not have power by then - seems to be all about analyzing and perfecting our lives.  It's a good time to make a recommitment to whatever our path is - to make sure our walk is matching our talk.  My intentions this month is to continue our recent path of shopping and eating local, seasonal foods as an ethical and spiritual practice, to be involved with our UU Church (I just 'signed the book' and it is a short step from that to being approached by various action committees), and also to beginning a Druid study for the next couple years.

So - goodbye Mercury retrograde (ended yesterday), hello Virgo New Moon!  If you're in the path of Irene - stay safe!

Monday, August 1, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week: Aug 1-7

It's a new month and today is Lughnasadh - the first harvest, focused on grains... barley, corn, etc, as well as all these lovely summer vegetables and fruits we've been enjoying.  I tend to treat this as a day to acknowledge some of our indigenous foods - squash, turtle beans, tomatoes, corn.  I don't remember how or why I came to that association, but it works for me well.

Michael and I were able to share in a small public ritual in Alexandria yesterday and brought home some sweetgrass braids that will find their way onto the year 'round tree for a season.

This morning, we got our first milk delivery from a local creamery - they arrived just about a half hour before we'd normally wake up, so that's absolutely perfect..well before the day gets hot enough to need to rush out to the cooler to claim the goodies.

Meanwhile, it's time for some menu planning, and to work out my kitchen tasks for the week.  I'm putting dates to these but they might get shuffled around a bit:

Monday, Aug 1
Summer Vegetable Chowder
Corn Bread
Beer (Hello, John Barleycorn!)
Peach Crisp

Food preservation:
- Prepare water kefir.
- make yogurt

Take out chicken for Wednesday.
 Take down ground beef for tomorrow.
Prepare dough for breadsticks tomorrow.

 Tuesday, Aug 2
Spaghetti with Homemade Meat Sauce

start some pickles

Make cucumber salad for tomorrow.

Wednesday, Aug 3
Roast Chicken
Brown Rice Pilaf
Green Beans
Cucumber Salad

Begin sourdough starter.

Take out ham for tomorrow.

Thursday, Aug 4
Ham and Potatoes au Gratin
Mixed Fruit Salad

Pick off remaining chicken from carcass.
Take pork roast out of freezer.

Friday, Aug 5

Make chicken stock from carcass.

Saturday, Aug 6
Chicken Pot Pies
(leftover chicken, fresh veggies)
Brown Rice

Make enough chicken pot pies to have some for the freezer.

Sunday, Aug 7
Chopped Veggie Salad

Shared with Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Leo New Moon TUSAL

Just a very quick quickie... still haven't unboxed my old TUSAL jar (I can't let myself unpack the stitch stash until there's a place for it), and haven't done a lot of stitching this past month..just enough to make a little coating of fibers at the bottom of the jar.

I should be able to do a real stitchery progress update soon, though!  There are a couple of things that are close to being finished.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

If it's Saturday, it's Farmer's Market Time!

More pretty farmer's market bounty - I'll meal plan around this what we still have on hand later on today or tomorrow.  Monday, we've got a delivery coming from a local creamery... how cool is that, to get dairy delivered??

The light on this is iffy, but we've got some okra, some pickling cucumbers, 3 squash (2 patty pan shaped, and one round zucchini), a bottle of bing cherry cider, and then some meat... tuna steaks, a pound of ground beef, a couple ham steaks and some bacon.

And here, there is some kale, regular slicing cucumbers, a few onions, green beans, blueberries and another big crop of fruit... peaches, nectarines, some plums, and a couple early apples.

Remember that little watermelon I picked up last week - I finally opened it a couple days ago, and look! The inside of it is golden and there is hardly any rind at all.  It's crisp and juicy.. still takes like watermelon, but how pretty!

 Yesterday I was in search of a snack and had just a few little cherry tomatoes left, and so I decided to put together something simple on the fly.

And this is just about as simple as can be - I sliced some of the golden watermelon in a bowl, sprinkled in the rest of my cherry tomatoes, halved, and then tossed in a little bit of feta cheese. 

The tomatoes were very sweet and 'warm' tasting, and it played well with the cool crispness of the watermelon, while the feta offered a bit of savory saltiness.  So simple, and so good.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Buy Local Challenge Check Up: Think Global, Eat Local

I didn't want to let the week go by without checking in on how we actually did this week, in our challenge to buy and eat local foods.  As I'd noted, the weekend was challenging - we were barely home at all, and in no shape to find one of the few restaurants we know of in the area that promotes local food choices (and I'm sorry that's the case too - it would have been fun to fulfill the mission while supporting local-food restaurants!).
But for the rest of the week we have done very well, I think, and eaten like royalty.

Summer produce this time of year plays very well with around-the-world cuisines, and ours landed in Mexico and India, with their shared love of chiles, cilantro and tomatoes.  I also did a little bit of preserving, which worked out haphazardly, but still tastes might fine.

I also kinda sorta failed at preserving my bounty of peaches - only kinda sorta, because the result tastes good.  I tried to make some freezer jam, and didn't get the details totally right so it failed to gel.  Which is A-Ok, because instead I have a lot of insanely delicious peach-nectarine SAUCE in my freezer to use for whatever I want to.

On Monday, I made Chile Rellenos using local poblanos, eggs and even cheese and onions to stuff them with.  We had these with homemade refried black beans, and a fresh pico de gallo (again, local tomatoes, jalepenos, onion and cilantro - although I am not sure if the cilantro itself was local).

Tuesday was Indian food!  Rogan Josh - a lamb and tomato curry has been my nemesis for years now.  My daughter and I loooove it, but my previous attempts have been sort of meh.  Now here I was with some lovely local pastured lamb and I was so afraid I'd mess it up - but it came out perfectly seasoned and simmered.  We ate that with brown rice, a cucumber raita (local tomatoes, homemade yogurt), and some homemade flatbread.

(So far, that's two days where everything not local was homemade at least, and less grocery store groceries than would fill one bag)

I also made up a little batch of vanilla peach ice cream to see how my 'peach sauce' tasted in something.  Answer: like peachy summer heaven, that's how.

Wednesday was pretty much all-American, with oven-baked chicken, patty pan squash, egg noodles, and corn on the cob.  It was a lot like my the sort of evening meal my mom fixed for us growing up - except the chicken wasn't breaded with Shake and Bake, and the veggies weren't canned. But it still yelled old-fashioned comfort food to me.  The 'local' part was the squash and corn.

Thursday was leftovers - chicken, a couple veggies (local), and a big ol' salad - local lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and a local creamery's feta cheese.

Today, we're going over to a friend's house - so it's back to grabbing a few cherry tomatoes and a peach to make sure I fill the challenge.  But I'm also doing some food prep so we can eat local LATER, too.

I really, really, really wanted to try some real canning (yes it scares me, yes I am well armed with knowledge enough to avoid actually killing anyone) but I need a rack to make sure hot water gets under the jars, and have to put things off til then.  Meanwhile, I still had a whole lot of plum tomatoes that need to be dealt with, so away with my thoughts of spaghetti sauce... and in with two racks of halved tomatoes drying in the oven.  The house smells insanely good right now.

I'm also going to turn the rest of the fresh jalapenos into pickled jalapenos (fridge style), and try making a bit of mayonnaise with some pastures eggs.

Tomorrow is Farmer's Market Day - I'm hoping some berries will be in, and will continue to scoop up the summer squash and cucumbers while we can.  We have plans to plow deep into some of these boxes (we're both 'grr grumble, can't get to my books' at this point), and dinner will be brats (local farm), home made rolls, German potato salad (a friend gave us a bunch of potatoes out of his yard!), and some sauteed cabbage and shallots - both local.

Sunday, I'm not exactly sure on yet... it's the last day of the challenge, and also Lughnasadh Eve - First Harvest, the grain harvest.  So I'm thinking a Three Sister's Stew of some sort, full of fresh corn and black beans and some squash (summer style since it's too early for winter varieties, I'm sure), along with some corn tortillas

All together - quite a winning challenge, I think, and one we'll try to stick to as much as we can.  Talking to people in other places and of course, knowing my own experiences where I was just living, we are terribly blessed to have the option to support local agriculture  - and to have a robust local food shed to support.  It would seem criminal and flatly ungrateful to me to not do so... and I am growing increasingly worried that if we don't, we (generic all-of-us we) may not have that option anymore.

Uh oh

This does not bode well - last night, while I was tapping out my to-do list for today (I know... livin' large!) my computer went blue screen...just blank, and it took a few seconds for it to respond to my pushing the shut down button.  We let it cool down for awhile and headed out to do a bit of shopping, and when we came back, it will power up but black screen and no responsiveness.  For example, pushing the cap lock didn't make the cap lock light turn on.

So... I'm scared.  Michael took it in with him to see about getting it looked at, and graciously is letting me use his for today, but I fear not only the death of the computer - but the death of everything in there.

Argh..bang head... go back up your files.  Sigh.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week: 7/24 - 7/30

How nice - my Tomato-Cucumber Gazpacho from last week was featured on My Sweet and Savory's My Meatless Monday.  The rest of her featured meal looks delicious too - go check it out!

This is Buy Local Week here in Maryland, with the challenge to eat something local every day - locally sourced items will be noted in each day's menu plan.

Sunday July 24

(Local: lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese)

Monday July 25
Cheese and Onion Stuffed Chile Rellenos
Mexican Seasoned Beans
Spicy Grits

(Local: onions, poblano chiles, tomatoes, jalepenos, onions, garlic)

Tuesday July 26
Lamb Rogan Josh
Brown Rice
Cucumber Raita
Flat Bread

(Local: lamb, tomatoes, garlic, onion, cucumbers)

Wednesday, July 27
Baked Chicken
Patty Pan Squash
Corn on the Cob

(Local: patty pan squash, corn)
Thursday, July 28

(Local: whatever's 'left', lettuce, tomatoes)

 Friday, July 29
(Local: pork roast, tomatillos, poblanos, jalapenos, garlic, onion)

Saturday, July 30
Brotchen (Homemade Crusty Rolls)
Sauteed Cabbage and Shallots

(Local: brats, cabbage, potatoes, shallots)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I love mason jars

The Old Block House is giving away a half dozen beautiful blue glass mason jars - stop over and sign up for them!  I am not sure what all I'd be doing with them - I know a couple would become soap dispensers.. they are so cute!

Buy Local Challenge Week - July 23-31

"I pledge to eat at least one thing from a local farm every day during Buy Local Week." - Maryland Buy Local Challenge.

Michael and I have been doing this pretty much all month, but we were happy to sign the pledge and make it official.

Day 1 was farmer's market day, so we grabbed out provisions for the week.  No meat needed this time around (the freezer's stocked with locally raised pastured meat), and no eggs were available, but the veggies and fruits are plentiful:

Clockwise from the back: Oriental Melon, Watermelon (can't recall the variety - it's very small), 3 patty pan squashes, 6 ears of corn, a feta 'sampler' pack, some Jack Cheese, a head of lettuce, 1 white onion, a pint of red onions, a bundle of shallots, and a half dozen poblano peppers.

A pint of tomatillos, and one of burstingly sweet cherry tomatoes.

A whole lotta plum tomatoes, so I can do some preserving this week.

And finally, peaches and nectarines - the ones in the bowl are perfect for eating out of hand over the next few days, while the ones in the bag are riper and will be used in cooking.

Later today, I'll plan our meals for the week around this bounty.

So... how did the local EATING go yesterday?  Not so great, honestly - we were on the run all day, and it was insanely hot and humid, so what food we did eat was grabbed on the run.  This is what I ate yesterday:

Homemade yogurt, topped with fresh cherry sauce and muesli.
A good breakfast... the milk for the yogurt was pastured, but it was store bought, and I'm not sure if it was local.  The cherries were also grocery store cherries, and I don't remember if I'd got them in the local produce section or not.  So I can't count any of this.

Lunch (snack):
a fresh nectarine from the farmer's market - this counts!

Late lunch/early dinner:
We ate out and I had a cubana sandwich and potato chips that were made onsite, but I doubt the potatoes are locally raised.  And a locally brewed beer - but I'm not sure that should count either!  So nope... didn't succeed at eating locally while we were out on the run.

Late evening snack (I was so hot and mildly sunstrokey from being out in the heat all day I couldn't eat):
a small handful of farmer's market cherry tomatoes.

So my challenge total was 1 nectarine and about 5 cherry tomatoes.  It's as start!

As to what had us out in that heat - after the farmer's market, we dropped our goodies off at home, and headed out to the library, and then went to one of the Borders that's in the process of shutting down to see if there was anything we wanted to pick up.

Well - apparently Borders has decided to stop spending money on air conditioning - it was 100F outside, and about 120F inside, which I think is a really horrible way to treat the employees that are about to lose their jobs!  They'd already sold off or removed their seats, so there was no way to rest in that oppressive atmosphere.  I would have picked up a couple magazine issues at 40% off (mainly British cross stitch mags), and tried to see what was on the shelves - but the books were mostly only 10% off and the lines to check out were snaking through the store - and after a bit, I couldn't even think straight, so we left and found somewhere to eat, hydrate and cool off. So that was a bust.

By the time we got home to give Sadie Beagle a chance to run around outside for a bit, it was time to head off again, back into the city for the last play of the this year's Fringe season.  We saw an interesting play about Picasso (older Picasso comes back to younger Picasso to tell him what's coming ... and in the process destroys his relationship with the woman that's been by his side through the starving artist times).  Very well done, and we'll keep an eye on those actors for next year.

Hmm...does 'buying local' include supporting local art??

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cherry Berry Clafouti

This is a lovely, cooling dessert that tastes like a lot more effort than it takes to actually pull together.  Clafouti tastes a lot like a cross between a puffy baked pancake and an egg custard to me, with fruit!  Add some fresh whipped cream and mmm...

I made this for dessert the other night, mainly out of necessity - I had some fresh blueberries and cherries in the refrigerator that needed to get used up, without a whole lot of effort because hi, we are having a humid heat wave here, and I am frail. (hee)

I should think any berries or bits of soft ripe fruit would work fne with this.

Cherry Berry Clafouti

1 1/2 cups fruit (I used 1 cup sliced cherries and 1/2 cup blueberries)
1/4 cup sugar, rapadura, stevia or other sweetener
2 Tbsp. flour (whole wheat worked fine)
2 eggs
2/3 c.whole milk (almond milk, coconut milk, etc, should also work fine)
1/2 Tbsp. vanilla
pinch salt

If you're using cherries, pit them first (make it simple...cut them in half and take out the pit).  Sprinkle the fruit around the bottom of a greased pie pan.  Combine remaining ingredients and whip, either by hand, with a mixer or in a blender - make sure it's very well blended.  Pour egg batter over the top of the fruit and bake 20 minutes or until it's set in the middle and feels spongy but not sticky.

This tastes good either warm or chilled, and it won't last long enough to worry about leftovers.

Shared with: Weekend Wander, Weekend Wrap-Up Party, Whatcha Got Weekend, Check Me Out Saturday, Saturday Nite Special, Not Baaad Sundays, Sundae Scoop, Sunday Showcase Party, Think Pink Sundays, Show and Share Sunday, Mouthwatering MondayMangia Monday, My Meatless Mondays, Monday Mania, Midnight Mania Meatless Monday, Just Another Meatless Monday, Made With Love Monday, Market Yourself Monday, Homemaker Monday, DIY Project Parade, You're So Very Creative Monday, Motivated Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Making the World Cuter Monday, Making Monday Marvelous, Made By You Monday, Craft-O-Maniac Monday, Amaze Me Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays, Your Recipe My Kitchen, Tuesday's Tasty Tidbits, Made From Scratch Tuesdays, Totally Tasty Tuesdays, Beauty & Bedlam Tasty Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tuesdays At The Table, Traditional Tuesdays, Hearth & Soul Hop, Glitter Link Party, Anything Related, Crafty Link Party, Creative Bloggers Party, Weekday Potluck, What's On the Menu Wednesday, What's On Your Plate?, Hoo's Got Talent?, We Did It Wednesday, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Show and Tell Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Works For Me Wednesday, Penny Pinching Party, Healthy 2Day Wednesdays, Frugal Food Thursdays, Pennywise Platter Thursdays, Simple Lives Thursday, Show Off Your Stuff, Somewhat Simple Blog Link Party, It's a Keeper Thursday, Cooking Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Fat Camp Friday, Sweet Tooth Friday, Foodie Friday, Frugal Friday, Fight Back Friday, Life as Mom Frugal Friday, Friday Favorites, Simply Link Party, Sweets This Week, Flaunt It Friday.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week: 7/17 - 7/23

This next week involves more unpacking and organizing (or course!) and a visit some morning later this week with an old friend of mine (yay!).  And then this weekend, there's the Farmer's Market, another Fringe performance, church, and an afternoon of poker, so busy busy and fun, fun, too!

There may be a bit of juggling here, deciding what we eat on one day, but here's the basic plan:

Sunday, July 17
Broiled Salmon
Cucumber-Onion Salad in Yogurt

To do:  
Make chicken broth.

Monday, July 18 -MEATLESS
Vegetarian Taco Salad

To do: 
Make Yogurt.
Make laundry soap.

Tuesday, July 19
Pan-Sauteed Chicken
Sauteed Beet Greens
Corn on the Cob
Homemade Bread

To do:
Make bread

Wednesday, July 20
Pita Sandwiches
Onion Rings
Cole Slaw

To do: 
Make cole slaw
Thursday, July 21
Spaghetti and Homemade Meat Sauce
Garlic Bread

To do:
Make sauce

Friday, July 22
Fresh Sausage and Veggie Frittata with Potatoes

Saturday, July 23
Eat Out or Something Simple

Shared with Menu Plan Monday

Tomato-Cucumber Gazpacho

Late last night found Michael and me chopping veggies that were still growing yesterday, and running them through the food processor to make a refreshing chilled Tomato-Cucumber Gazpacho.

Our Unitarian-Universalist church designates the third Sunday in each month "Soup Sunday" and when I sign up for it, I like to make my offering seasonal.

So what could be better during July then a cold soup made up of (mostly) locally sourced foods?  I was a little worried last night - that initial taste seemed a bit bland (this version doesn't include bell peppers, and I held the sliced jalepenos out for people to add if they like - not everyone there cares for spicy).  But after an overnight chill, the flavors have melded and the taste is refreshing and awesome.

Mind you - this is for folks that like cilantro.  I don't even know how it would work without it, or what could possibly replace it.

Farmer's Market Tomato-Cucumber Gazpacho
8 large fresh tomatoes, cored and quarters
(home grown or farmer's market - the grocery store tomatoes don't have enough flavor for this)
3-4 large fresh cucumbers, peeled, seeded, cut into chunks
4 ears of fresh corn
1 large onion, diced
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
2 cups ice cubes
Juice of 3 limes
adobo sauce from 1 small can of chipotles
(the chipotles can be put in a freezer safe container and frozen for future use)
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
3 fresh jalepenos, cored and sliced

Run tomatoes, cucumbers through food processor until coursely chopped - this will be very liquidy, but shouldn't be pureed.  I did this in batches, turning it all into a large aluminum bowl. Add corn and diced onion to bowl.  Run cilantro leaves through food processor to finely chop and add to bowl.  Run ice through food processor to 'slushy' consistency - side effect of this is that it will pick up all the bits of cilantro still in the container, creating a tasty cilantro 'gratina'.  Add ice to bowl.  Mix in adobo sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

At this point, I put the jalepenos in a small container (if you like, you can just add them to the gazpacho, making it more spicy than my version) and transfered the gazpacho into a sealable container for transport.  Either way, let this chill overnight or at least a few hours - the flavors meld beautifully.

If this were for at home, I'd want to chop some avocado to top the soup with, along with the jalepeno slices.

Update:  It was finished off quickly - the adobo sauce gives it just a bit of spicy zest, while the sliced jalepenos ramped the heat up to something wonderful. Without either, this would be cooling and vibrant - this tastes like summer.

Shared with:
Show and Share Day, Weekend Wander, Weekend Wrap Up Party, Whatcha Got Weekend, Check Me Out Saturday, Saturday Nite Special, Show and Tell Saturday, Not "Baaaad" Sundays, Sundae Scoop Link Party, Sunday Showcase, Think Pink Sunday, Show and Share Sunday, Mangia Monday, Mouthwatering Monday, Just Another Meatless Monday, Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays, Monday Mania, My Meatless Monday, You're So Very Creative Monday, Market Yourself Monday, Mad Skills Monday, Amaze Me Monday, Craft-O-Maniac Monday, Motivated Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Making the World Cuter Monday, Making Monday Marvelous, Made By You Monday, Mad Skills Monday, Made with Love Monday, Homemaker Monday, Tuesdays at the Table, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Made From Scratch Tuesday, Tuesday's Tasty Tidbits, Your Recipe My Kitchen, Tasty Tuesdays, Tasty Tuesday, Hearth & Soul Blog Hop, Traditional Tuesdays, Get Your Craft On Tuesday, Glitter Link Party, What's on the Menu Wednesday, What's On Your Plate?, Real Food Wednesday, Works For Me Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Frugal Food Thursday.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Farmer's Market, Fringe Festival and Crepes

Another nonstop Saturday in DC - starting with an early trip to the Farmer's Market, this time to the Cheverly Farmer's Market, where Michael normally goes.  This one is only in operation ever other week, giving us plenty of room to graze the others, but it had lots to see and choose - veggies and fruits, all kinds of meat, cheese, potted herbs, homemade soaps... it's really hard for me not to take a little bit of everything there is.

But I'm making gazpacho for our church's once a month 'Soup Sunday' tomorrow, so I wanted to focus on what I needed for that, along with a selection of free range and/or grass fed meats... and once again, we've got a nice fat haul which we'll meal plan around tomorrow:

We've got lots of cucumbers and tomatoes, some broccoli, onions, corn on the cob, and kale here, along with potted lavender, rosemary and orange-mint.

... and then there is a pork roast, some lamb stew meat, a whole chicken, some eggs, ground beef, a pack of bratwursts and one of chorizo, and some cheddar-horseradish cheese.

And finally, a couple jars of jam - pineapple-ginger and spiced fig. Yum....

So we were back home with all this by 10:30, chilled out a little while and then headed back up into the city to play.  This is Fringe Festival month in DC, with hundreds of live performances - plays, dance, music, comedy - are available all over town in dozens of small venues.  If you live near a major town, check out if they've got a Fringe Festival... it's a fantastic way to support the arts, and see some really good performances.

This year, we budgeted to see three - last week we saw Fat Men in Skirts, put on by Molotov Theatre (we never miss a performance of theirs and they never disappoint).  Today, we decided to check out some improv by the Washington Improvisational Theatre (WIT) - and by luck we were allowed to see both of their performances.  The first was iTOONsicle, an improvisational send-up of animated musicals... they ask the audience to jot down a setting, and pull one answer from a jar, and then they make up the whole thing on the spot, complete with songs and a mostly cohesive plot. Today's turned into an odd musical set in a Starbucks in the deep south - and the main characters were a Grande coffee cup, a Michael Bolten CD, some coffee beans and cocoa beans and a very perverted South American orange soda. (You hadda be there).

The second performance was divided into a 'radio play' improv using a few audience suggestions to built a speaking-only plot and a series of improv vignettes based on randomly grazing an audience member's ipod... turned out they used mine, so it was both out of date and a blend of the obscure and the embarrassing. hee...  Lots of fun!

We'll be catching one more play before Fringe ends next weekend.

After the play, we had a lovely light dinner at a small cafe near the theatre that is devoted to crepes - every filling you can imagine, both savory and sweet, and sooo good.  Man, I've missed DC.

Finally, we walked a few blocks to a Whole Foods to pick up a couple more items we needed and home again.  Such a full day, with soup yet to make... and I loved every minute of it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Full Moon Musings

As we continue to work toward melding our household, Michael and I are also putting conscious effort into establishing the sort of habits we want to incorporate - we've each been the solo head of household for a long time (and in his case, living alone), so we're both used to doing things our own way.  It's been fun learning to adjust to doing things OUR own way.

One of those habits is a nightly walk with Sadie Beagle sometime after he get's home from work... usually after dinner when the sun has gone down and it's a bit cooler outside.  Last night it was nearly 10:00 pm - the summer bugs (locusts, I'm sure, along with who knows what all) were loudly buzzing, and the full moon was so bright it competed, and won, for dominance over the street light.  There was a light breeze, and we strolled along in the dark, with the conversation easily moving from what we needed to do this weekend to the way the little things, like the sight of the full moon, or even the sound of insects in the dark, made us feel centered in the nature... feeling the timeless huge expanses of the universe, and the ethereal briefness of life - that of summer bugs, and our own.

The Capricorn Full Moon and the Cancer Sun - seems to fit very neatly into what I'm focusing on right now.  Cancer is domestic and emotional, Capricorn is practical and logical - everything I need to find a place for everything, to bring order to domestic chaos.  It is coming along steadily, if slowly.

One of our goals is to create a lifestyle together that is healthier for us both (and for Sadie!), frugal, sustainable and ethical - a tall order, made easier in that they are not contradictory intentions for the most part. By next year, we'd like to be able to legitimately call ourselves urban homesteaders - this year is the year of adjusting and learning what we need to do to proceed.

I hope this month's moon brings us all the blessings of meaningful work and the groundedness to make our goals happen!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Roasted Potatoes and Shallots

I totally forgot to take a picture before we ate last night - so no picture of the Swiss Chard, but there were a few potatoes left to show off.

These and the chard accompanied a roast chicken, making for a dinner with very little talking but a lot of grunty 'mm mm' noises.

Other than the chicken, everything came from the farmer's market, and the roasted potatos and shallots were the star of the show.

The little red potatoes turned out to have a rosy pink interior (it was all caramel brown after cooking), very pretty little things, and they taste amazing.

The prep was very simple - washed and unpeeled, quartered potatoes, tossed in olive oil with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  Roast at 400F in a baking dish for 30 minutes, then add peeled, halved fresh shallots, toss with more olive oil and little bit of dried rosemary (or throw on a fresh rosemary sprig) and bake for another hour, until everything is richly caramelized.

The potatoes will have a crispy outside and buttery inside and the shallots will be tender and sweet.  Amazing, earthy, and we'll be doing this one a lot.

Shared with Mouthwatering MondayMotivate Me Monday, Mad Skills Monday, Homemaker Mondays, Market Yourself Monday, Made With Love Monday, Monday Mania, Tuesdays at the Table, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Totally Tasty Tuesdays, Made From Scratch Tuesday, Tuesday's Tasty TidbitsGet Your Craft On, Anything Related, Tasty Tuesday, What's Cooking Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Strut Your Stuff Thursday, Show Off Your Stuff Thursday, It's a Keeper Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter Thursday, Fresh Food Friday.