Basil and Wha?

It’s Memorial Day weekend. And, with three days off, I have to embark upon some sort of culinary or gastric excitement, right?

I did get up in time to watch my favorite Saturday morning show…Pioneer Woman. And I found nothing to actually copy this weekend. But, I did become motivated to blog which is the other part of why I love Ree Drummond. Between her and my Human Vacuum friend, I am reminded about food and blogging….at the same time.

So although my favorite farm market is unfortunately not at full function anymore (super sad…the associated garden store is now closed….the only organic farm in driving distance…so sad…) I did manage to get over to Indigo and grab some awesome fresh veggies – those have been cooked. I arrived too late to get fresh strawberries, but they did happen to have organic basil which I decided to grab.

I felt motivated to make my coconut pound cake for the weekend. And from that I cut up some grocery store-bought strawberries, sprinkled them with a little bit of lime juice and sprinkled them with organic sugar because store strawberries are not always the sweetest when bought from the grocery store.

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And then I took some lemons, squeezed and zested them into my Vitamix. I added in organic honey and a HUGE pile of basil and liquified it. To add a bit to the “sauce” I included the pulp of the lemon. I liquified the sh*t outta that stuff. Just when you thought that was enough “stuff”…I added about a cup of coconut milk. It’s sweet, earthy, tangy….really nice flavor. I intend it to go on top of the pound cake or the strawberries…maybe both.

I’ve also made my standard summer squash and onion stir fry made with summer squash and zuccini from our farm market and baby potato salad with spring onions. It’s been a cooking kinda day.

Why did I tell you all this? I don’t know. Maybe to remind you to step outside the box and use some basil today with something aside from tomato sauce or pizza…

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Apple of my eye

I quote the bible of all cookbooks to me…The New Doubleday Cookbook…frequently. Last night, after a wonderful lunch with friends, I went grocery shopping and had it in my head that I wanted to make another pie, but not strawberry again. I opted for the “old standby” pie of apple. $140 later, I left the grocery store (holy wow, did we need all this stuff?) in the rain…thank you South Carolina for raining on me when I had a pile of grocery bags….and started the process.

I channel Ree Drummond for my pantry – I’ve always got a pantry of baking products because in my world, baking is an impulse item. I don’t always know when I’m going to feel like making cake or baking cookies. So, we must have everything from vegetable shortening to gluten-free flour….you never know when you’ll be baking for someone with celiac. After last week’s strawberry-rhubarb pie, I had the right amount (like…exactly) of shortening for a 2 crust pie. Not my FAVORITE THING TO MAKE but I thought I’d go for it.

I had purchased two goliath honeycrisp apples that I thought would be enough. And…they would have been enough for a 8″ pie. Of course, my pie plate here in mom’s house is 9″ and you’d be surprised how different 1″  in diameter makes when filling a pie. So, I had to supplement with 2 gala apples. Two mom-sized gala apples.

As you probably know if you follow me, recipes are just suggestions in my house. I already kind of knew the ratios for the crust. If you took my advice and got the above bible of cooking and baking called The New Doubleday Cookbook, you can flip to the Flaky Pastry II recipe in the Pies and Pastries chapter. Luckily apple pie is less than 10 pages later. I really only used the apple pie recipe for a guideline but please note…I need to skim less and read more. Here’s why:

I peeled and cored the apples, added the lemon juice (fresh squeezed cuz that’s the way I roll) and then added the sugar. Then I went to my stand-by Penzey’s Apple Pie Spice. I actually looked at the recipe and saw it called for a whopping 3/4 of a teaspoon of spice…and well, that just doesn’t do it for me. With apples, the cinnamon needs to be bold. I believe that Penzey’s Apple Pie spice is cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I really love that combo so even if I didn’t have the “pre-mixed” seasoning, I probably would have opted for this combo.

Here’s where I think I erred. I did know that I needed to dot the apples inside the pie with butter, but in the heat of the moment (ha), I forgot until after I put the top crust on. I’m not sure how I missed sealing the bottom crust to the top crust. I totally thought to myself, “Don’t they suggest sealing the crusts?” as I crimped. They had. But I didn’t. So, I’m not 100% sure the top will be stuck to the bottom.

And, I do have to say…although I know how to use the food processor to make pie crust dough…and it’s super easy….these last two times, I haven’t. I used the normal ole pastry blender (in fact, I have a favorite Pampered Chef pastry blender that I think is SUPER) to cut the cold vegetable shortening into the flour. It did take about 6 1/2 tablespoons of ice water…I suppose I could have used 7 but I didn’t want super-sticky dough and with pie crust you can go from perfect to sticky-soupy in 1/2 a tablespoon very quickly. I did choose not to brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar but I’m pretty sure we’ll use whipped topping for the final presentation. That’s sweet stuff.

So….yeah here’s where I have to pause. I baked it for the perfect amount of time. It is a gorgeous slightly browned, gorgeously toasty looking pie.

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An Interesting End

So, I did wind up making the pie after a long wild day at work. I did something unusual. My plan was to make a struesel topping. I even broke out the trusty Doubleday cookbook to be sure I had a good recipe for struesel. But then I noticed I still had puff pastry in the freezer. Yes, and what a great plan….flaky pie crust pastry on the bottom, crispy puff pastry on top! 

We haven’t taste-tested yet, but here it is – egg wash and a bit of sugar to make it a little sweeter.

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Whip it up

Yesterday I bought local rhubarb and local strawberries. I had every intention ​of making a pie last night but alas…I didn’t. 

I was reading one of the two books I’ve got going right now and had a wild desire to make a pie crust.

Oh…should I mention it’s 9:00 pm?

So, off to the kitchen I dashed…sifted flour and salt, cut in vegetable shortening, drizzled in ice water, formed a smooth disc, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and popped it in the fridge. 

Tomorrow after work, I will make us a strawberry-rhubarb pie. 

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Berry Sweet

My first attempt at food photo blogging. Yes, I am on it right now.

So, I bought my third batch of berries for the spring. It seems that the true measure of spring having sprung is when you walk into the produce section of any grocery store and you are barraged with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. In this area of the country, April starts strawberry season. Blueberries come in May/June, and blackberries seem to be the June/July berries (along with raspberries).

It so happens that my favorite grocery story of the moment is struttin’ both strawberries and blueberries. I have yet to make it to a farm stand, although two are open. I hope next Saturday. I prefer local produce, but my organic farm stand nearby is not open on Sunday. It’s also the garden center where I bought my blueberry bushes, and where I got my fig tree. Yes, the one that died. I will be replacing said fig this year.

A story for another day, however.

I don’t have a wild and crazy recipe for you, except I did something interesting with the berries I bought (strawberries and blueberries). After washing them and cutting the strawberries into quarters, I poured about a half a cup of prosecco over them and let them sit. Upon tasting about half an hour later, the berries were not sickly sweet…but lightly flavored with prosecco. I suppose this would work as well with a champagne or spumante also, however I have discovered that prosecco suits my palate much more than either of the other sparkling wines. And…I sprung for the $14 bottle.

I cut a recipe for “Extra Rich Biscuits” into 1/4 and came out with 4 small to medium shortbread servings so we could have berry shortcake. The biscuit recipe is from my favorite Doubleday cookbook that I have referenced here before. One thing I did do to the biscuits before baking was to brush them with a mixture of honey and agave cut with a couple of tablespoons of prosecco.

Other attempts at awesome experimentation failed – I tried to make a strawberry cider-prosecco syrup for the presentation but it wound up tasting a tad burned.

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Even more exciting, I downloaded a free trial of Photoshop/Lightbox and after taking about ten pictures I began my learning of how to take and then edit a picture into something I want to share. I think the picture looks okay and that’s pretty untouched…a little bit of saturation and color correction…but remember, this was my first attempt at Photoshop so I am not far enough along to do much “retouching”.

With any luck, I will become a bit better at choosing the right plate (although I love the plate I used…the color combo isn’t the best with red berries).

Let me know what you think. Is there a chance I will maybe some day be able to consider myself a food photographer and blogger? Yea or nay?

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Hot Child in the City

It’s probably no great surprise to my frequent readers that I have a pretty crappy body image. I know all the lines…. it’s not what is outside but what is inside….your weight should not define you….TV and magazine images are not representative of real women… I’ve got it. None of that changes my feeling of being g fat, because I have been more fit than I am now. 

I learned a long time ago not to judge myself by stepping on a scale, but by how my clothes fit. And, since I moved here to take care of my parents, I have gained 4 dress sizes. That means I’ve bought at least two new wardrobes in 6 years. 

Working out with John (Myers, my trainer) has made me much stronger and toned my muscles, but menopause is wreaking havoc on my ability to lose the fat that covers my toned muscles.

Believe it or not, there’s a positive end to this wordy post……

Last night, I actually felt good about myself as my new Lil Maggie Lucky Brand Jeans would not stay “up” even tho I had a belt on. And…..even better, when I went into Kroger to get mom her Sunday New York Times (it was after midnight), Jim saw the cashier dude totally check my ass out as I walked by him to pick up some other groceries….and then watch me walk out the door.
When I got back in the van and Jim told me, I swear, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I’m vain, I know it. I will probably go to hell on a road paved with the sin of vanity but for just a moment….I felt good. 

Both me. 8 years apart.

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New camera and blogging

I keep thinking about how I can possibly work in a weekly blog using pictures I take. Several friends…and a few TV personalities (The Pioneer Woman)…blog regularly. I have always wanted to do it regularly…blog, that is. And I typically resolve to do something but don’t follow through.

After getting my new camera (thank you 20 years at work…) I am trying to learn about composing photographs while trying to learn all the abbreviations for each setting on this wild and crazy camera. I love the camera. I can’t wait to learn what each abbreviation means, but it’s taking a while….because as with everything, it takes time and patience. Two things I typically don’t have.

I’ve taken a few food pictures and by looking at the display screen, they are pretty great. The non-food pictures…well, I just don’t know. I’m thinking I may not have a career in portrait photography OR “action” photography (read this as rock-concert-photos). I still wind up needing to take about 30:1 ratio when the subject of the photos are moving.

So, if you follow my blog, you know I typically add a photo. This particular blog is photo-less because with any luck, the blogs to come will be blogs with better photos. Possibly photos of food. I may just try that “online cookbook” thing where I take pictures of my successes.

And…with any luck, I will blog more than just once a month. Okay, once every six weeks. Okay, sometimes it’s two to three months, I know, I know. I have to be inspired. But I’m working on being inspired more often.

Stay tuned.

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Lobstah Mac & Cheese

I may have done this recipe before but just bear with me.  My mac & cheese is pretty darn good. But add lobster to any recipe (maybe not chocolate cake) and it’s way better. By the bye…you can likely sub in crab, or shrimp, or mixed shellfish if you prefer that to lobster.

First, we used 5 lobster tails. It doesn’t HAVE to be tail meat. Claw meat is fine too. But, you want about a cup of seafood. If you use pre-cooked, then skip the cooking section for the lobster. HA!

Lobster Mac & Cheese

5 lobster tails, uncooked

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

2 cups milk

2 cups shredded cheese (I used white cheddar and swiss this time…shred your own, really)

1 lb of pasta, cooked to al dente (really, let it be a tiny bit chewy because it will cook more)

salt, white pepper, ground mustard, onion powder (a pinch of each)

Panko if you desire

First, cook the lobster tails. So, in a pot of boiling salted water, submerge the tails and bring to a boil. Boil for 12 minutes or just under done. Remove from water, shock in an ice bath for a minute or so, then remove from water and let cool on the counter or in a strainer.

Melt the butter in a 2 quart saucepan. Add flour and stir until no lumps remain. Continue cooking until the roux is just lighter than peanut butter. Slowly incorporate milk, stirring to keep smooth. Add salt, pepper, ground mustard, and onion powder. Cook for around 7-10 minutes on medium-high heat until the white sauce begins to thicken. (At this point, it’s super to have a 2nd pair of hands help) Add cheese in sections stirring to melt. Continue until all cheese is incorporated. Shut off heat, and move off burner.

Grease a 9 x 12 baking pan. I use a ceramic cake pan, but metal will work too. I also grease with cooking spray, I’m too lazy to butter a pan.

In the greased pan, combine pasta and cheese sauce. At this point it’s up to you whether you add the lobster to the cheese sauce, add it to the pasta, or add it separately. I like to make sure we get a little lobster in every serving so I add it at the end and ensure there’s some in each inch of the pan.

After you add the lobster, you can cover the top with panko, or not. Arguments arise as to whether that’s the “normal” way to do mac & cheese or not. Up to you. Do what you want. Jim likes the added crispiness of it with panko. I don’t care either way.

Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes. Sometimes I get all crazy and bake it for 20 minutes at 400. 350 for 30 works fine. You should see it bubbling a bit and it turns a bit golden brown.

Oh, and cover it with foil or don’t. Again, I haven’t seen a HUGE difference in flavor either way. If you cover it with foil, you’ll want to remove the foil 2/3 of the way through the cooking time so you get a crispy top.

And there you have it. It really does keep well, and leftovers are fantastic.

Enjoy your lobster!

LobMacNCheese

 

 

 

 

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Pita is Not Scary

So, I’ve tried making pita before and they turned out great.No special recipe…just googled “pita bread recipe” and used a Bobby Flay recipe that I found. The first attempt was white pita…organic all around and it came out great. This time, I Googled “whole wheat pita recipe” and picked the very first recipe. I used all organic ingredients and enhanced the flour with 3 heaping tbsp each of oat bran and wheat germ. What resulted was the perfect quantity of dry ingredients to make a tender dough and enough left over for bench flour. Came out with 8 puffy pitas and I really like the results (there are 7 left…quality control, you know…)
Baking bread of any kind is therapeutic for me. I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from blooming yeast, mixing just the right amount, kneading until.perfectly worked, proofing to a beautifully doubled dough, cutting, shaping, and then baking…it is like no other experience. I like to make sweets, and cooking is fun, but bread….well, that is so different. 

Lots of people fear the yeast experience but not I. Yeast is my friend and while I have had “less than successful” bread experiences, my wins far outweigh my losses. 

I post on instagram with the hash tag #nofearbaking and share my photos to both Facebook and Twitter. The reason I use #nofearbaking is because of just that. I enter into the realm of yeast bread with no fear. I take recipes from the wild and wooly Internet and tweak them to my liking. You may gasp and mutter, “baking is chemistry…you must be precise” but to that I reply, “Pshaw…” Well, not EXACTLY. I tweak intelligently most of the time.

How? Well, take the pita recipe. It indicates I will need additional flour (a.k.a. dry ingredients) for kneading and rolling out my dough. So, the 6 extra tablespoons of dry ingredients gave me jus about a teaspoon of left over flour. Enough for a good dough and bench flour. It worked. 

Also, the recipe called for honey. While I have lots of honey in the house, it’s all raw honey that doesn’t pour so well. I wanted to make it easier on the yeast so I subbed organic agave for honey. Truth be told, I’d like to try the recipe with some nice fragrant wildflower honey next time to see if it might just give a hint more sweetness. Everythingstill tastes perfect, but I would like to try the honey.

The only drawback to pita is the 500 degree oven. I love how fast they bake, but yowza that’sa hot oven. Especially when it is 70 degrees outside.

My new bread passion is pita (followed by, in a close 2nd) pretzels a la Alton Brown. I go through phases. French bread was a passion for a bit. Anadama bread another one. I will never run out of passion for yeast bread baking. 

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In My Own Little Corner of the World

I like to say that I am often accused of being Pollyanna because I try to see the positive side of everything. 

In the past 18 months, I’ve found it hard to see positives in our world, for WHATEVER reason. And, I’ve too often worried that my thoughts and opinions posted on a nameless social media site would offend my friends in such a way that they would, in fact, no longer like me. (Yes, I can be THAT insecure sometimes). Maybe I’m a snowflake, maybe I’m an empath, maybe I’m just too damn sensitive. Or maybe I have so much shot resting on my shoulders now-a-days that I am unsure who I really am. Walk a mile in my shoes before you judge.
So, here is my final word on all that…

If you harm puppies, kitties, horses, birds, goats, chickens, otters….name an animal. If you hurt them, I don’t like you. That is my sole stump to st

If you don’t fall in that category then you might be my friend. 

I have opinions on worldly things but they are none of your damn business. They are mine. 

Sorry to be so cold, but I am not able to carry this weight anymore and I need to find peace. 

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