Enough of winter!

I’m done with winter.  Like ending a bad relationship, I’m ready to pack my bags, take my lessons learned and move on.  I’m starting a rebound relationship with Spring and hopefully Summer will be kind and take me back again in a few months.  I can’t even explain the sheer joy I felt when i was at my favorite garden store last weekend and realized they had started selling spring veggies.  I have to give the hubs credit for managing not to laugh at me or roll his eyes when i packed up a cart full of plants, loaded them into the backseat of his car and yelled, “Jeeves, to the greenhouse!”

"Jeeves, to the greenhouse!"

And since last year was all about getting fruit trees all around the yard, this year, I’m focusing more on the food garden.  I’m thinking after all these years Square Foot Gardening hasn’t turned out to be a fad so now seems like a good time to try it.  I’ve been doing the traditional row planting every year up until now and figure it may be time to try the super intensive gardening style that has plants growing together in squares instead of rows.  I even got an app that helps you plan the whole thing out and was truly shocked that I actually need more plants than I ever needed before for just one 19′ x 3′ area.  Unlike my usual MO, I will not be doing the entire yard all at once this year.  I have actually “hired” the Hubs to use his skills as a Project Manager to manage my garden project this year.  Section by section seems to be the way to go. I suspect there is some secret joy there for the Hubs to have license to tell me to focus on one thing at a time (something a multi-tasker like me has no use for), but since I know it’s the smart way to go, I’ll give it a try this year.

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This spring is starting off the same way last spring did.  With me loading my 5 gallon buckets into the back of my SUV with my shovel.  It must have been fate that had me end up in a township that collects everyone’s leaves in the fall, composts them and piles it up in the Spring for free.  If not I think the added cost of dirt and amendments would have caused my husband to veto the amount of yard space I claimed for the garden.  (And the fact that it gets bigger every year). But sometimes a girl just gets lucky.  I did a few runs yesterday back and forth from the garden to the compost pile to get those shoveling muscles going again this year.  I was clearly a little too happy about shoveling compost.  I may or may not have said, “YES!” with a Tiger Woods style fist pump when I saw the compost pile was freshly filled. My poor car on the other hand is probably not thrilled at the prospect of being covered in compost again.  Thankfully it’s completely finished compost which doesn’t smell like anything and looks gorgeous and dark like that super expensive mulch I bought for a few years.  Live and learn…

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And onto my next oddball adventure for this year.  I’m going to give bokashi composting a try.  My dear husband likes to say that if it were up to me we would only have a recycling bill and not a garbage bill since I seem to think  you can recycle or compost anything.  Well, we’re getting closer to my ideal now that i found you can dump meat, dairy, and bread into the bokashi without any off smells. So I ordered by bucket and powder and we’ll see how it goes. They claim two weeks with the bucket then I can feed it to my worm composter. We’ll see how this works out. But as long as winter is done I’m happy!!

Fill the Freezer — Blueberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

After wading through too many posts and news stories about all the recalls, hidden additives and preservatives in foods lately, I’ve embarked on an effort that I’m calling my Fill the Freezer campaign.  I decided to fill my large standing freezer with lots of food that is homemade, but can easily be heated up or cooked in the time it takes us to get delivery or drive out to grab takeout.  As part of the effort I decided that I also need to resume making my own ice cream.  I used to make my own ice cream, but there was a texture component that I just was not a fan of.  There were just too many ice crystals that got in the way of transferring the flavors.  I’m not a huge ice cream fan, but I love pudding.  There’s something about the way the flavors of a pudding develop on your taste buds in layers and leave a warming vanilla aftertaste.  I’ve read every ice cream recipe book (sometimes cover to cover) I could get my hands on to figure out how to get the right texture.  Then I found Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home and mystery solved, the texture was perfect.  All the creamy yummy texture of pudding that allowed my preference for big bold flavors to transfer perfectly.

Then, I had to ask The Hubs (my in-house ice cream expert) for ideas for flavors.  He turned to me and said, “You know what flavor you can never find in the store? Blueberry!”  I was stumped.  I’ve wandered freezer aisles everywhere and don’t remember ever seeing just a plain Blueberry Ice Cream.  There were lots of strawberry ice creams, but no blueberry.  So, I made a few changes to Jeni’s Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream and voila!  After 24 hours in the freezer, I asked The Hubs to try it out.  I took a spoonful and it was a gorgeous true blueberry flavor with a creamy vanilla finish that just tasted like summer.  The Hubs loved it  and gave me the “Now, when I ask you to make this again two months from now, don’t you tell me you forgot the recipe” look so I figured documentation was in order:

Blueberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

BlueberryIceCream

 

Blueberries:

1 quart blueberries

1 ½ cup sugar

Juice of half a lemon

Ice Cream Base:

4 tablespoons tapioca starch/flour

3 cups whole milk (reserve 4 tablespoons)

2 ½ cups heavy cream

1 ⅓ cup sugar

4 tablespoons tapioca syrup

½ cup buttermilk

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

¼ tsp fine sea salt

1 tbsp vanilla

 

  • Cook down blueberries in stock pot until temp reaches 220F.  Set aside to cool.

  • Make a slurry of 4 tablespoons of milk & 4 tablespoons tapioca starch.  Set aside. 

  • Add the milk, heavy cream, sugar, tapioca syrup & buttermilk to the stock pot.  Pour about ½ cup of blueberry syrup into the pot.

    NOTE: Use the same stock pot that you used to cook the blueberries (there should still be some blueberry syrup still sticking to the inside of the pot so use a wooden spoon and the warm milk to get the rest of it off the sides & bottom of the pan.)

  • Set the pot over medium-high heat and let it come to a boil.

  • In a 2 quart glass measuring cup, whisk sea salt into the softened cream cheese.

  • When the milk mixture starts boiling, set your timer for 4 minutes.

  • At the end of the 4 minutes, remove the stock pot from the heat and slowly whisk in the tapioca starch slurry.

  • Return the pot to the heat and stir with a wooden spoon while it boils for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.

  • Ladle about 1 cup of the milk mixture into the cream cheese and whisk.  Add more ladles and whisk until no cream cheese lumps appear.

  • Add the rest of the milk mixture to the cream cream cheese mixture and whisk.

  • Set aside to cool.

  • When the steam subsides, add the vanilla, cover the measuring cup and refrigerate for 24 hours

  • Insert the frozen base into a 2 quart ice cream machine.

  • Whisk the ice cream base THOROUGHLY to homogenize it.  There will be some parts that are thicker than others.

  • Add the ice cream base to the ice cream machine.

  • Set two alarms: one for 30 minutes and one for 25 minutes.

  • At 25 minutes, Drain the blueberries and add them to the ice cream base.  If you have syrup left over you can add up to ¼ cup.

  • At 30 minutes move the ice cream to a 2 quart container and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

 

 

Cookies for everyone…

You know those days when you just can’t decide if you want an oatmeal raisin cookie or a chocolate chip?  Well, the Hubs prefers chocolate chip and  I prefer oatmeal raisin.  So, this is a constant battle for me of What to make, since I make a batch of cookies for the house almost every week.  The Kid on the other hand, hates cookies so he doesn’t need a vote yet.  Perhaps he will be a tie breaker in the future.  But until then, I finally came up with the solution…. everyone gets what they want…

 

Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

CherryChocolateOatmealCookies

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter (or coconut oil), room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped coarsely

 

Position oven rack in center of oven.  Preheat oven to 325F.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl for 3 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture. Mix in oats, then chocolate chips, cherries and walnuts.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Hot & Fresh Out The Oven

I have a weekly schedule to make sure I bake. Every week I make chocolate chip w/ nut cookies, sourdough bread and muffins. (The Hubs & Kid may be spoiled.) Baking helps keep me (relatively) sane and relaxed. Since I have an odd version of a sweet tooth (I like sweets that aren’t too sweet), I am also picky about my sweets. And since I also like to pretend that my sweets can be healthy, I load them up with whole grains, coconut oil and sugar alternatives. I can’t get used to the taste of any of the stevia or other branded sugar alternatives so it’s usually honey/maple syrup/golden syrup.

So, when Wednesday (muffin day) came around again and the banana pile was still pretty high, it looked like banana muffins were the way to go. The kid takes these muffins to school for breakfast and I have a fear of causing someone’s child to have an allergic reaction to nuts. So, feel free to use nuts instead of the dried cherries. Actually, any kind of dried fruit should work well in this. Oh and BTW: these fill the muffin cups right to the top.

Banana-Oatmeal Muffins
(Makes 12 muffins)

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats, ground fine in blender OR 1 cup oat flour
1 cup flour
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, room temperature
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup ripe mashed banana
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F.

Add muffin liners to a 12-muffin pan.

In a medium size bowl, whisk to blend oat flour, flour, dried cherries, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together coconut oil, honey, maple syrup, eggs, banana and vanilla. Stir in sour cream.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients gently. Try not to over-mix.

Spoon mixture into muffin pan.

Bake for 25-30 mins or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Cool in muffin pan on a cooling rack for 5 minutes.

Remove muffins from pan. Cool muffins on cooling rack until ready to eat.

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Of Soup and Spices

It’s fall and soup season again. So, if I see vegetables in the fridge for more than a day, I’m tempted to turn it into soup. This week the lucky contestants were cauliflower and leftover baked potato wedges. Now, I like puréed soups and The Hubs likes chunky soups. So, I’m going to write this one out so you can do this soup either way with a few modifications.

I was in a spice mood when I started making this soup. This is one of those soups where I just open up the spice drawer and just start pulling out anything that sounds interesting. It probably helped that I’d been talking to my mom the day before about a doctor who wrote a cookbook and was pushing spices like turmeric, mustard, sesame, etc. etc. Of course, I am also completely hooked on making my own bread since I found HFCS on the list of ingredients of bread I was about to buy. And I figured I needed something else to do with the 12 pounds of honey I bought. (…Don’t ask) So, I figured soup would be the best thing to dip my bread into.

 

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Curried Cauliflower-Potato Soup
(Makes 4 quarts)

1/4 c curry powder (or to taste)
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
3 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 large spanish onion, minced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 large heads cauliflower
2 quarts potatoes, baked
1 can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock

Chunky Soup:

NOTE: cut cauliflower & potatoes into 1/2″ pieces. (Make it look pretty).

In a separate pot warm the stock over medium-low heat. Add coriander, cumin, sesame seeds & mustard seeds to a stock pot and turn to medium heat. When you start smelling all the spices (the whole spices may start popping), grind the spices in a spice grinder or leave whole. Add the minced onions, garbanzo beans and olive oil. Add the curry, smoked paprika, salt & pepper. Stir the onions and beans occasionally until the onions are translucent and the spices are starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic & stir the ingredients until you can smell the garlic. Add the cauliflower florets and cubed potatoes. Turn to coat with the spices. Add enough stock to cover the vegetables. Cover the pot and let cook until the cauliflower is soft enough that you can put a sharp knife through it easily. Add more stock as needed to get to desired brothyness (it’s a word now…). Add more salt & pepper as needed. Serve with buttered multigrain bread w/ apple butter or grilled cheese sandwiches.

Puréed Soup

NOTE: Cut the cauliflower & potatoes any way you like. It’ll look the same in the end.

In a separate pot warm the stock over medium-low heat. Add curry, coriander, cumin, sesame seeds & mustard seeds to a stock pot and turn to medium heat. When you start smelling all the spices (the whole spices may start popping), add the minced onions, garbanzo beans and olive oil. Add the smoked paprika, salt & pepper. Leave the onions and beans to cook in the spices, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and the spices are starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic & stir the ingredients until you can smell the garlic. Add the cauliflower and potatoes. Turn to coat with the spices. Add 1 quart of the stock. Cover the pot and let cook until the cauliflower is soft enough that you can put a fork through it easily. Purée in batches in a blender or in the pot with a hand blender. Add more stock as needed to get to desired consistency. Add more salt & pepper as needed. Serve with buttered multigrain bread w/ apple butter or grilled cheese sandwiches.

Life Happens… And so do quick meals…

I have a rolling list on my phone (and fridge) of every meal that The Kid and I eat in the week (I used to pack lunches for The Hubs but it got confusing so he handles his breakfast & lunch himself). I have this week’s menu complete and I am starting to figure out next week. Yes, it’s true, I have meal planning OCD. I used to think I was crazy, but thankfully, my Bestie assures me that she has a list too. It’s the only way we know exactly what we need to have available in the fridge (either buy it on the way home or defrost it ahead of time) and how we manage to keep food on the table and lunch in the lunch boxes. No one seems to care how food gets to the table, but they surely want to know what happened when it doesn’t get there. And this is how I ended up standing over the stove at 6am Monday morning cooking coconut rice so it would be ready for me in the evening so I could give I could make something for The Kid’s lunch for Tuesday (how’s that for a breadcrumb trail…lol)

The coconut rice is of course simple. I make my rice using my Foolproof Method but substitute the oil with coconut oil, and substitute the water with a mixture of 1 can of coconut milk and enough chicken stock to make 4 cups. This is of course for 2 cups of uncooked rice. When it’s cooked transfer the rice to a storage container & put it in the fridge. (Feel free to race off to daycare drop-off & work like I did when you’re done.)

I’ve found that my “fried rice” recipes work best with rice that isn’t freshly made. You can use freshly made rice, but I’ve found that the cold rice doesn’t absorb the oil like fresh rice would and you maintain a much better texture with individual grains of rice.

So, fast forward to the evening and I leave work an hour and a half late. I have half an hour before I have to pick up The Kid and nothing else ready in the house for his or my lunch tomorrow. Ooops!!!

Now as luck would have it I had just roasted some red peppers over the weekend, we had steamed snow peas for dinner last Friday, I had a butterflied chicken with two breasts and a thigh left (save the thigh for something else) and two containers of fresh cremini mushrooms. There was no time to cut onions (it was a miracle i sliced through the mushrooms as fast as I did without causing myself harm) and I also had to set up my coffee and The Kid’s breakfast and sippy cups on top of everything else so… trusty roasted garlic purée to the rescue. If I had more time to make it I would have added 1 cup of minced onions.

This is a cut as you go recipe so if you prefer to get everything sliced up before you start expect to stand around in some parts. It was all done and under a lid in less than half an hour, but I apologize since I was trying to beat the clock I can’t give you individual times for everything, just the visual cues.

Chicken & Mushroom Turmeric Fried Rice
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2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2 (8 oz.) containers cremini mushrooms, stems removed, sliced thin
1 cup minced onions, optional
2 tbsp turmeric
2 tbsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp roasted garlic purée
1 roasted red pepper (skins & seeds removed), minced
2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1-1/2 cups snow peas, cooked or defrosted from frozen, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock/drippings
Coconut Rice
1 tbsp salt

You’ll need a very large skillet. If you don’t have one (or aren’t feeding a child with an appetite far beyond his years….) Halve the recipe and use a normal skillet.

Get the skillet on the stove over medium heat before you start doing anything else. You want the pot really hot to caramelize (not steam) the mushrooms. Clean and slice the mushrooms while the pan is heating up. You know the pan is ready if you drop a few small droplets of water in the dry pan (no oil yet until the pan passes the test) and the water droplet dances around the pan. Then add the oil followed quickly by the mushrooms. Spread the mushrooms around and go start cutting up everything else. Leave the mushrooms alone until you start seeing them turn a caramel color and start to curl. Then, move them around the pan so the get coated in oil. (If you are adding onions this is the place to do it. Let the onions get just a little browned, but not burnt.) When the mushrooms look wilted and caramelized, add minced roasted red peppers, garlic purée, turmeric, and smoked paprika. Move everything around the pan. The spices should begin to stick. Add the chicken and coat with the spiced mushroom mixture. Next add the chicken stock/drippings and scrape up the all the flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the corn and peas. Finally, add the coconut rice. You will likely need to use your hands to break up the rice to get everything mixed together. When everything is mixed, turn the heat to low, cover and leave for at least half an hour for the rice to warm through and the favors to meld.

Summertime… Yeah it’s Summertime… Having some Pesto

I’ve been busy beyond my normal level of busy in the past few months, so I’ve been a bit neglectful.  I apologize, but here me out: Hubs had a crazy grad school schedule despite graduating in May (lol) then he started a new job then a new new job. I became Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certified and sifted through massive convoluted Access Database code to rehab a poor database. We got rid of our pool which had reached the put up or shut up moment in its life. I redesigned all our garden beds and have officially decided to convert the garden to a fully edible landscape.  Forgiven? (I’m going to assume someone said yes…)

So, as I sat at work this afternoon dreaming of dinner I kept thinking about the basil plants that were getting too big and would be in danger of bolting soon.  Oh and what was I going to do with all that tarragon?  Well, I wanted a caprese salad with tomatoes, mozzarella & basil, but I had too much basil for a delicate preparation. I figured a semi-warm summer afternoon would be the perfect time to make the season’s first batch of garden fresh Pesto. So, pesto with a tomato mozzarella salad was the final decision

Tomato-Mozzarella Salad w/ Pesto Shells

Basil-Tarragon Pesto Shells w/ Tomato-Mozzarella Salad w/ Garlic Spread on Toasted Bread

Tomato-Mozzarella Salad

1 cup mozzarella balls, bite size, sliced in half
1-1/2 pints grape tomatoes, sliced in half
2 cloves garlic
1 pinch salt
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

About an hour before you are going to eat…. In a glass bowl with a cover (or you can just cover with plastic wrap) place mozzarella balls & tomatoes. Grate garlic cloves on a fine grater or use a garlic press. Add the garlic to the tomato mixture with a pinch of salt.  Cover & set aside. Every 10 minutes or so, shake the bowl so the juices get distributed evenly. Right before serving add white wine vinegar and shake again.

Basil-Tarragon Pesto

1 lb. pasta
3/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 cups Basil leaves (not packed)
2 cups tarragon leaves (not packed)
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon. small, juiced

Put the pine nuts in the pot that you plan to cook your pasta (…unless you have a free dishwasher on staff). Turn the heat to medium-low. You are going to toast the pine nuts in the pot so keep sniffing the air until you start to smell the toasted popcorn-like smell and the pine nuts are just starting to brown.  I wish I could tell you how long it takes, but I keep my pine nuts in the freezer so times vary for me.

NOTE: Pine nuts have low self-esteem. If you look away they will burn. Keep an eye on them and move them around the pan with a wooden spoon every few minutes or so until they are ready.

Take the pine nuts out of the pan and set aside.  Add the water to the pot to boil and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box.

NOTE: You can use any pasta you want for this, but I figured shells would be easier for The Kid to pick up with the halved tomatoes.

Add the garlic to your food processor while it’s running. When all the garlic is chopped (and pressed against the side of the food processor), add the pine nuts. Stop the food processor and add  the Parmesan cheese, the basil & tarragon leaves and a pinch of salt. Process until it starts forming what looks like a ball rolling around the processor. Start pouring in the olive oil slowly. Watch carefully. You only want to add enough oil to stop the “ball” from rolling around the food processor. (You are going to use pasta water later to thin it down to the exact consistency you want. So, don’t add all the oil if you don’t need it).  Squeeze in the juice of a lemon, process, then begin the test & adjust.  Taste for more lemon juice, salt, etc.  Adjust as needed.

Add the pesto to the dish you plan to serve the pasta in. When the pasta is cooked, reserve about a cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the pesto and stir them together. (I think it’s easier to add the pasta to the pesto with a slotted spoon or spider than to drain the whole thing in a colander first.)  After you mix the pasta & pesto, add some of the pasta water if you want thinner pesto.  Adjust to your taste.

Serve immediately topped with the tomato-mozzarella salad and toasted bread topped with some warmed Roasted Garlic Mayo

 

The Winter That Wasn’t

Well, it’s been an interesting month… The oven has gone on the fritz and has left me to the mercy of the oven thermometer to determine the actual oven temp. The Hubs went to China and South Korea with his fellow grad school students where he had lots of food adventures. He will, of course, be starting guest posts about his food adventures soon. And, the weather has decided to tempt me into planting out of season, but I’m not falling for it. I did manage to get a lot of spring veggie planting done so far. So, there are a lot of seedlings popping out of the ground. Oh, and as with every spring, I’m currently obsessed with salads.

So far I’ve planted:
Agretti
Fava beans
Kale
Saltwort
Spinach
Peas
Radish
Carrots
Pak Choi
Epazote
Watercress
Beets
Belgian Endive
Lettuce

I’m starting to move some of the seedlings I started inside to the “greenhouse” stand I have outside. So now I have more room to transplant the other seedlings which I’m very excited to say includes passion fruit seedlings that I grew from the seeds of a passion fruit I got at the supermarket. I’m hoping this will give me a good haul of plants this season and summer, but since the weather has as much of a role to play as everything else I’m still keeping my fingers crossed.

Of all the seeds I planted outside, the one I’m most excited about is the Agretti. It’s an Italian bitter green that I can’t find much info about. I was on the email list for an Italian seed company and when I saw the word rare in the description I had to buy it. I will admit (unapologetically) to having a seed collection that numbers in the hundreds. If I have never heard of something I am compelled to buy it. Or if there is a new variety like the purple tomato. The best information I have so far is that it is best to treat it simply with olive oil like you would broccoli raab.

So I continue my kitchen and garden adventures where we left off…

What’s In The Fridge?

My dear husband is great at many things. I wouldn’t say finding things is his forte. We came to an impasse a few weeks ago when he ordered lunch while he was home alone instead of digging into the plethora of leftovers we had in the fridge. The Hubs (unlike me) does not have a problem eating leftovers, but finding them is another story. So, to meet everyone’s needs I instituted the “In The Fridge” list.

Every time I make something, I put it on the list. Then every time the empty dish goes in the dishwasher, he crosses it off. It was working like a dream and The Hubs was actually eating leftovers when I realized that the true beauty of the list didn’t have anything to do with The Hubs at all. With the list of leftovers laid out, I had a new source of inspiration. I could just look through the list of leftovers and come up with new ideas for soups or lunch or even remix dinners.

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So, there I was on pizza night. Pizza for me is just a good way to use up any last bits of leftovers. I picked the taco meat, mushrooms, eggplant and I wanted ricotta, but didn’t have any. I had butter beans left over from making oxtail soup. I think it was the butter in the title that got me since I was already thinking dairy. I figured if they didn’t taste good, we’d just pluck them off. But, the skins got a little crispy and the inside stayed creamy. Who knew?!  It was fantastic.  I guess you just never know unless you try it.  And yes, the taco meat and eggplant were good too…

 

 

Ultra-Change – UPDATE

Okay, so I have been converted… by milk. I have been drinking skim milk forever and thought it was okay… for milk. I used to drink non-organic, then I read all the articles telling you that there are unending reasons to get organic milk that are good for you and good for the environment. So, I switched. I noticed a modicum of flavor improvement, but quite frankly, it was still… milk. Better, but kind of flavorless. It was supposedly good for calcium and what not, but I could live without it. As a side note, I tried soy milk and realized there were worse things out there than bland milk and had something of a boost in my appreciation. As is expected with me, I eventually lost the appreciation when once again I tasted… milk. Maybe it just wasn’t for me. I guess I could accept that. Maybe I’d just find some other way to get the whole calcium thing. The Hubs on the other hand loves milk. He came along on the skim milk ride — begrudgingly, but since he didn’t have to do any grocery shopping he let it go.

Okay, so I was drinking organic milk and getting through when I read something that said, if you don’t like milk, it’s probably because it’s been ultra-pasteurized. Supposedly, the pasteurized method doesn’t destroy the flavor the way ultra-pasteurizing does. Really….?! So I looked it up. They have to heat the raw milk to make it safe for drinking, but the method of heating makes a big difference. Either they do the super high heat for a few seconds (Ultra-Pasteurization) or they go for a longer period and get it to the right temp (Pasteurization). So let me get this straight…. either you sit in a tanning bed cranked up to a million for a few minutes or you go to the beach for a few hours and relax to get a tan. I know which one I’d prefer. The milk I found also happened to be from grass-fed, not corn-fed cow’s milk and switched again. So, I switched again to see if it made a difference. Surprise, surprise…. definite flavor improvement. But honestly, there was still something missing.

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Now, as I was doing all this I was waging a war of sorts against anything low fat. I swore off all versions of sour cream, cream cheese and any other cheese that claimed to be low fat because they just didn’t taste right. They always tasted kind of bland to me and when you flip over to the nutritional panel on the packaging it always had way too much sodium to balance the fact that sucking out the fat makes it taste well…. bland. Then we were blessed with The Kid who around a year started drinking milk. We were instructed to get him whole milk. So, we dutifully cut into our premium refrigerator space and started having two huge gallon jugs of milk in the fridge. Skim for us, whole for The Kid. Then, recently, I started making my own yogurt with homemade preserves. Since it was what I had, I tried yogurt with the skim milk. It was good, and definitely cheaper than store-bought organic yogurt and it was crazy easy. I just heated the milk to 180F, cooled it down to 140F, added the freeze dried yogurt starter and poured it over the preserves in the jars on the yogurt maker. I turned on the machine and in 10-12 hours… organic yogurt. Then, last week we ran out of skim and I was out of yogurt again and tried it with the whole milk. Epiphany…. Amazing!

Then I took the final step… I told The Hubs that I’m not buying skim milk anymore. I still hear the cartoon double take sound effect when I remember telling him about this. I had a bowl of cereal with whole milk. When I used to make cereal with the skim milk, I would put in a massive amount of milk with not that much cereal. Since I didn’t want to cut into the kid’s supply I put half as much whole milk in and it was fantastic. Great texture, great level of satisfaction. Why would I bother to drink a lot of skim when I could drink a little whole. The house is converted. We’re a whole family now!

UPDATE: If you are considering making your own yogurt, I added links to the products I actually use.  I worked it out and even though it’s an up front investment it will pay itself off in the end.

It is dramatically cheaper  to just make your own and understand that this rational is included in the fact that I use expensive organic, pasteurized, grass-fed milk at $6.99/gallon.  I used a quart per batch and I get 7 6oz. yogurts per batch.  Now compared to the $1.00 (or more) price tag of the greek organic yogurts in the supermarket and of course the Story of Stuff‘s recommendation to reduce using plastic.  I could save more by using some of a previous batch to make the new one instead of the freeze dried powder, but I just can’t be bothered.  But seriously… try this it’s a great way to use up leftover fruit too since you can just add your own homemade compotes or just some of your favorite jams/jellies.