Pickle Notes (2010)

I could have sworn I made notes of my canning efforts last year – which recipes, and what sorts of spicing modifications that I made, but of course now I can’t find that.

When Beth/Bookishbiker posted this zucchini recipe it caught my eye (I had some great pickles seasoned with tumeric earlier this summer at a pizza place). So when I didn’t get around to making dinner with some zucchini I decided to go ahead and make them. Once I started the recipe I realized how much sugar was in the recipe – yup, it tastes a lot like bread and butter pickles. That is okay though. And in classic fashion my yield is off from the recipe yeild. I packed 3 pints jars plus one very full 1/2 pint jar – I probably should have packed the zucchini and onion slices looser in 4 pint jars. Oh well.

And I knew I wanted to make sweet spiced pickled beets again, but I also knew I didn’t want to make last years recipe since that turned out way too sweet. I’m 90% sure I used the Small Batch preserving recipe. So this year I tried the Ball Guide to Home Preservation recipe with my addition of ginger to the spices. But how much ginger did I use last year? Drats. So I decided to add just over 1/2 tablespoon of the dried, cracked ginger. I bought 2 bunches of beets at the Farmer’s Market (with oodles of golf ball size beets instead of the 4 or so larger beets that I see so often) I know it wasn’t the 10 lbs the recipe called for, but I was okay tossing a bit of brine (better than scrambling to boil a second batch of brine like I did last year). I thought I’d end up with about 4 pints. I ended up with 2 pints. Which might be a problem, since my mom has asked for some for christmas. Last year she actually mixed her plain canned beets with my pickled beets and said that created the perfect sweet-level of brine. Here’s hoping this brine recipe is a winner.

And finally: stop trying to process more than one type of pickle in an evening. Or at least pay attention to processing times before you are 3/4 the way through the process. That is when I realized that my zucchini jars only need to boil for 10 minutes while my beets need to boil for 30 minutes. The mom suggestion was to just take the zucchini out sooner.

September 3, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , . preserving. Leave a comment.

Not Weekly Baking

I fell behind in my weekly baking at the end of the year as my days began to fill with travel. While December is a month filled with baking for many I baked less than usual. I didn’t even get my usual day of christmas cookie baking in (grandma got Trader Joes cookies instead). And as I work to get back into a regular schedule I thought about breakfast. While I have a canister of granola waiting on the counter each morning I find myself too cold to think about yogurt and granola which leaves me with tea. Water, flavor and the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar I add is not so filling.

I was recently reminded of homemade instant oatmeal packets, something I tried briefly before and the last time I went to replenish the stash couldn’t find bulk instant oatmeal. This time around I found a recipe that calls for a quick oats as well as a few other variations. Did you know that dried milk can go bad? Yup – I was about use some of my dried milk (leftover from homemade hot chocolate mix this summer) when I sniffed it and pweew.

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I was going to try the big jar + shaking method when I chickened out, luckily I had 4 empty wide mouth half-pint jars – the perfect size to hold 2 “packets” worth of instant oatmeal. I just added salt to 2 jars and added salt, cinnamon, sugar and zante currants to the other 2 jars for some cinnamon raisin oatmeal. Now all I have to do is dump the contents in a bowl, add boiling water and stir. I suspect that if you are a one-packet eater the wide mouth half pint jars would make a perfect storage + eating vessel.

And the verdict?  Tasty enough if you tolerate or like instant oatmeal but 3/4 cup of oatmeal is too much food for me.  I ended up dumping out my two plain versions, mixed them up and re-measured them into 1/2 cup servings (and I added some flavorings). I really liked my cinnamon raisin version (and was meh on the apple-cinnamon version I made with some chopped dried apples). 3/4 cup of water was just right for my 1/2 cup of oatmeal since I like my oatmeal thicker than average. In fact when I make the non-instant stuff I use 2/3 cup oatmeal to 1 cup of water instead of the 1:2 oatmeal:water ratio most directions call for.

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January 25, 2011. Tags: , , . Cooking. Leave a comment.

eating seasonally

Fauxmiddlechild alerted me to the existence of Epicurious's Seasonal Ingredient Map.  It seems pretty cool, although it isn't quite matching what I'm actually seeing at the Farmer's Market.  For example swiss chard isn't listed, and supposedly Washington State has produce during March but Oregon State is dormant-huh?  She was lamenting that she was unfamiliar with seasonal produce.  I want to say, don't feel to bad about it.  The supermarket culture of the past who-knows-how-long has separated us from this knowledge – so unless you are a gardener (of the edible varieties) this stuff is no longer common knowledge.  I'm still trying to get a handle on such things in my new locale (previously I was a lucky duck who got the excess from Mom's garden). 

Farmer's Markets are a good guide (if yours doesn't allow trucked in stuff like the one near our old house- no FM in the Midwest should ever be able to sell kiwis or mango or pineapples, I'm still irritated by it).  Of course some vendors have things like large greenhouses up their sleeve and I think that confuses things, I know I was confused when I saw cucumbers two weeks ago, before I had even seen strawberries.

I'm really excited that we finally were able to subscribe to a CSA this year (I've been wanting to since I learned of their existence like 9 years ago; of course previously we moved every summer and would just get the overabundance of our parents gardens so a CSA didn't quite fit our life).  We had to subscribe/join in early April and even then a couple farms I contacted had already filled all of their subscriber slots.  And due to the crappy "spring" we haven't gotten a share yet, my fingers are crossed it will happen soon.  I've been toying with the idea of taking a picture of our weekly shared bounty.

I also have 4 plants on my patio since this is a want-to-garden year in my want-to/no-way gardening cycle (so far I have a year where I attempt to garden, which is generally a bust wrt to all but a couple hard-to-kill houseplants, followed by a couple years where I say "nope" to gardening and then a lust for gardening hits again).  I planted a spearmint plant, an italian parsley plant, 3 basil plants and a 24" window box of nasturtium seeds that have been kind enough to actually sprout (they are about 3" tall now with 2 leaves each).  Since I haven't killed anything yet (in the 3 weeks I've had the stuff planted) I'm considering adding a rosemary plant and maybe some radishes or lettuces.

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June 4, 2008. Tags: , . Thoughts. 2 comments.

Dinner

Recently I picked up some tomatillos at the farmer's market.  I had started craving tomatillo salsa and was excited to make some since I haven't been keen on the jarred versions I've bought in the past.  They sat around longer than I'd like to admit once I realized that I wasn't sure what went well with tomatillo salsa other than chicken and we don't cook chicken anymore.  Tonight I finally came up with an idea for a meal to go with the sauce.  Enchiladas made with the salsa, filled with zucchini, mushrooms and onions and topped with queso fresco.  This worked nicely because I already have a large quantity of corn tortillas that I need to use.

We bought the remaining necessary ingredients while on our afternoon bike ride.  I came home and double checked my Diana Kennedy cookbook, The Cuisines of Mexico, and the tomatillo salsa recipe I pulled from The Homesick Texan.  I didn't have serano chiles, but I had two poblanos that I had to use, so I roasted them under the broiler (flipping ever minute or so) to get a nice charred flavor and remove the skins.  Then I threw the hulled, rinsed, quarter tomatillos in the blender with 1/2 a medium white onion, a couple chopped garlic cloves and the juice from 1/2 a lime.  I blended until mostly smooth, then added a handful of cilantro and the peeled chopped poblanos and blended again, then added a pinch of salt and sugar and dumped it all into a skillet with a bit of oil to simmer for 5 minutes.

For the filling I sauted up slices of 1/2 a medium onion, 1/2 lb of sliced mushrooms, then when they were soft I set them aside and sauted up 1 zucchini cut into large matchstick pieces and 1 yellow squash cut into a small dice.  I mixed the mushroom and onions back in and then mixed in 6 oz of crumbled queso fresco.

At this point I realized that 1) my 9 x 12 casserole dish was in the fridge half-full of macaroni and cheese and 2) we were hungry and wanted to eat now.  I decided to layer the dish similar to lasagne.  Then I decided that I didn't want to wait another 20 to 30 minutes for the casserole to bake so I filled and rolled a couple cooked corn tortillas and top with sauce for us to eat for dinner and use the rest of the filling and sauce for the casserole.  The enchiladas were on the spicy side (I guess I used too many chiles) but okay with sour cream.

I layered corn tortillas, veggie mix, salsa, corn torillas, veggie mix, salsa, corn tortillas, and finally salsa (using maybe 1/2 cup of salsa per layer) topping with 3 oz of crumbled queso fresco.  Then I decided it seemed a little dry, at this point I remembered that Diana Kennedy mentioned tomatillo salsa pairs well with egg dishes, so I beat together two eggs and milk and poured it over the casserole and popped it in the oven set at 350 F for 30 minutes.

We are full from our enchiladas but I hope this egg, veggie and tomatillo salsa casserole is a good dinner tomorrow.

editing to add:  It was a great dinner, and lunch and another dinner.  Sadly I forgot to take pictures and post this in a timely fashion.

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September 24, 2007. Tags: , , , , . Thoughts. Leave a comment.

Snacking on apples

This afternoon I had half a honeycrisp diced up and mixed with cottage cheese.  It was a very nice afternoon snack, though I think I still prefer granny smith apples in my cottage cheese.  Or maybe it was the peel that threw the balance off.  Maybe I'll peel it next time.

If you are lucky enough to see Honeycrisp apples in your store/farmer's market/fruit stand you should definitely pick up at least one to give it a try.  They are lovely and crisp and crunchy and sweet with just a bit of tart and juicy and possibly the perfect apple.  Just save some for us.

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September 20, 2007. Tags: , , . Thoughts. 4 comments.

Pad Thai

We made pad thai for dinner tonight.  We started trying to make pad thai at home after moving and our favorite thai place didn't make pad thai the way our previous thai place made it.  At first I tried a Thai Kitchen kit, blech.  Then I found A Taste of Thai pad thai sauce packet–this made pad thai at home so easy.  I figured that the key ingredient was the tamarind.  Beware, I've seen a number of products with tomato sauce and no tamarind.

Eventually our stand-by supermarket stopped carrying the pad thai packet and I had to search out a recipe on my own.  Here two resources that I've found most helpful:
pad thai recipe from Kasma Loha-unchit, I also recommend checking out this site more, there is good information on ingredients and brands
egullet forum thread on pad thai

A trip to my favorite international market and I had the necessary odd ingredients: tamarind concentrate (so much easier than the chunk of tamarind I had to buy tonight), fish sauce and palm sugar (now I just use regular sugar, haven't noticed a big difference myself).  We don't use shrimp (or preserved radish, though I'd like to try it if I find it).  The first time we made this it took a long time.  Since then we've pared down prep to fit inside the noodle soaking time (we like wide noodles that take 30 minutes of soaking) and it just takes a few minutes more after that.  I almost have the sauce recipe memorized.  Almost.  Now I just need to find a new international market (darn move).

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September 26, 2006. Tags: , . Cooking, former Vox Blog. Leave a comment.

Packing a lunch

I've brought my lunch with me almost exclusively since kindergarten (there was that brief affair with the ala cart section of my 7th grade cafeteria, but must I tell you about the time I consumed large amounts of super pretzels, red baron mini-pizzas and various frozen treats?).  I was always the kid who got weird looks about my lunch, even after I started packing it myself (plain rice cakes with peanut butter and honey; left-over veggie quiche; kiwi fruit; slivered almonds, dates) and sometimes I envied the kids with baggies of cookies and chips.  Occasionally I still get weird looks (but I also get compliments on how good my lunch smells).

Tonight for my lunch, err dinner (since I had to work late), I brought leftover brown rice (I find that brown rice reheats very nicely in the microwave) with nori goma furikake (seaweed, sesame seed, rice cake and msg), frozen peas, a mozzarella cheese stick and strawberries.  It was nice, it felt healthy.  Packing lunches has become so much easier and harder as an adult.  Easier because I have access to a refrigerator, freezer and microwave and this opens up possibilities like tonight's meal that I didn't have as a kid.  Harder because I am no longer happy eating the same sandwich (cheese, lettuce and cucumber on whole wheat with spicy mustard) with carrot sticks everyday. 

I have found it is helpful to have a bit of "school lunch" mindset when packing my lunch, having things like string cheese, fruit cups (applesauce or mandarin oranges), dried fruit, nuts (sometimes in the guise of trail-mix)and snacky crackers (white cheddar cheese-its, goldfish!) in the pantry can make lunches easier to pack.  And sometimes a PB&J just hits the spot. 

Venturing out of the school mindset I also think frozen fruits and veggies help-out.  Those bags of mixed frozen fruit translate nicely into individual servings of partially frozen fruit salad (blah if totally thawed).  Frozen veggies translate into easy rice plus veggies meals ('steam' some frozen stir-fry veggies, shake with some sauce*, dump on top of reheated rice) or simple like my rice and peas tonight.  And those "baby" carrots steam decently in the microwave as well.

I really need to compile a list of my lunch ideas (that was my intention here, but this post got too long).  I also will bring leftovers (like coconut curry) and store-bought frozen meals for lunch, but that will be another post some other day.

*sauce= 2 parts water, 1 part soy sauce, dash of garlic-chili sauce (or toasted sesame oil) and maybe some grated ginger if I prepare this the night before

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August 10, 2006. Tags: , . Cooking, Thoughts. 3 comments.

Fajitas

The Husband made fajitas tonight.  I want to share the recipe (bear with our non-measuring cooking selves) because I just think it is so good and a nice easy supper.  All measurements are guestimates since the palm and the eye were our his measuring utensils.

Our chicken fajitas
Chicken (today 3 thighs, skinnned and boned) cut into strips and chunks where necessary
Onion (today 1/2 medium onion) I like them cut lyonnaise-style (think crescent moon shapes)
Bell peppers (today 1 small green, half a red) into 1/4" by 2" strips
oil (enough to coat the pan)
chipotle powder (today 1/2 to 1 teaspon, start with less to control the heat)
cumin (today 2 teaspoons)
Salt (today 1 teaspoon kosher salt)

Heat oil in pan.  Add peppers and onions, saute for a 3-4 minutes, toss in chicken, sprinkle with chipotle,  cumin and salt.  Saute for another 3-4 minutes.  Adjust seasonings as necessary.  We serve with tortillas, grated cheese and salsa.  Sometimes we also have gauc, sour cream, lettuce and other toppings.  Frankly I'm not really sure how these vary from soft tacos but they are now known as fajitas in my house.

We use our 12" calphalon hard-anodized "everyday" pan for this dish.  I love how there are two short handles and a nice lid.  Calphalon makes a version of this pan in a number of their lines (we got the commercial version), I like how they fit in the kitchen sink if soaking in necessary and not dealing with a long handle.  But it is our first hard-anodized pan and we are still getting used to cleaning it.

I bought the chipotle (ground red) from Penzeys Spices.  They have a mail order catalog but I go to a store (one is about 15 minutes from my house) and they have jars of everything so you can smell the spices and recipe cards for a number of things (warning, The Husband gets overwhelmed by all the smells in the store).  One thing I really like is that they offer a wide variety of sizes, everything from 1/4 cup jars (the chipotle 1/4 c jar gives you 1.2 oz) to 1 pound bags.  Not as cheap as being able to buy bulk (where I can buy the 1 tablespoon needed) but still pretty nice and then I don't collect numerous unidentified baggies with spices in my spice drawer.

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August 7, 2006. Tags: , . Cooking, former Vox Blog. 2 comments.