On pies and turkeys and other crap on my phone

I know I'm supposed to working on the whole 30 days of truth thing (and I'm gonna get back to that - quit nagging!) but Keen, somewhere, stumbled on the idea of making pies in a mason jar.  Like you can make a mini single or double serving of pie in a canning jar, freeze it, and pull it out any time to bake it - in the jar - for pie!  Any time pie!  I've We've been kind of obsessed.  We thought it'd be cool to put them in the holiday gift baskets.  Of course, this takes lots of test runs.  (Oh damn!)  I've been big on apple. And because it's me, marshmallows must also work into the recipe equation.  Trust me, it works.

Isn't it cute?!

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However, it's one thing when you make pies in pint jars, those goes rather quickly.  It's another when you're trying to squish your fingers and delicate pie dough into a small 8oz container. It's going a little slower.  And in chunks.  Remember when I was bitching about discussing never having more time than 2 hour increments?  My house is never the most pristine, you understand (except for when the cleaners come because they are awesome and I fool around with pie), but right now my kitchen is a disaster.

This is the clean side.  (BTW, toasting each apple slice has been crucial to the pie-making process.  And don't forget a light spraying of albuterol.  Just kidding.  I was hungry. The albuterol being left out just means I'm a slob.)

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I didn't want to show the other counters. Or the sink.  It isn't pretty.  I'm hoping to have the project done today with a good 8-10 pie jars. I'm also going to be walking around the house saying, "Shut your pie jar!" and thinking I'm extraordinarily funny.  Alas, I know better.

While I was snapping shots on my phone I found a couple more random shots of crap I thought was amusing.  Then forgot about. Going through my phone is always strange.

First... turkeys!

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This was at my parents' house.  I grew up with an apricot orchard behind my house and a quick stroll to get to the wild hills behind them.  But it took turning those trees into over-priced under-yard homes (with, I swear, bathroom windows that are two feet from their neighbors) for turkeys and other wildlife to start roaming brazenly in the streets.  I hear there's a rumble going down after dark between the coyotes and the 'coons.

Then there is the ever popular red wagon full of graves!

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Cheerful yet disturbing.  And here is the rock my child insists on climbing every time we go to this one zoo park.  Even though he totally fell off it the first time. From the top!  Amazingly he wasn't hurt and I didn't have a heart attack even though it is exceedingly tall and hard.  I don't know what the park planners were thinking. Maybe the rocks were for the gazelles.

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It's lonely at the top.

(I told you I wasn't funny.)          - wg


The Art of Making Jam

First off, all those recipes/instructions for jam try to scare you.  They're all, follow these instructions PRECISELY!  Use EXACT measurements!  Do NOT deviate whatsoever from this recipe!  Or else your jam will FAIL, and YOU will fail, and the heavens will frown down upon you, and pigs and birds will get it on, and great monuments will crumble to dust just as your jam will not set and you will be stuck with runny jam to feed the mocking bird-pigs for all time.

And it's SO not true. I mean, birds like pigs, but only as friends.

Bottom line, once you get the hang of making jam you can tweak the shit out of it, just like anything else. And tis the season, since I've already made a few batches of our favorites, Keen and I were going over what new things we could try.

"How about nectarine/blueberry?" says Keen.

"Hmmm, I'd think the blueberry would overpower the nectarine. What about nectarine raspberry?"

"Oooooh!" (Yes, he said oooooh!)

So off I went, trip-trop trip-trop to the farmer's market.  The raspberries are nearing the end of the season, and it was near the end of the farmer's market so I swooped down on the last of the baskets. Then I started nibbling my way through the nectarines. (Farmer's markets - they're like the healthy version of Costco Sundays.)   Lo and behold! I bit into the most scrumptious nectarine ever!  Except apparently it wasn't entirely a nectarine, it was crossed with a plum, like a pluot... so that makes it a... plutarine?  Anyway, it tasted like nectarine only with a slightly softer texture and a bit more tang. Hot damn, I was cooking that up into something gooey!

After some debate at home I decided I would try jelly instead of jam. Doesn't that sound good?  Nectarine raspberry jelly?  I'd have to strain the raspberries regardless so why not the whole batch?  Cool beans.  Then I looked up a few recipes just to get the general feel, except there were only raspberry jelly OR nectarine jelly recipes. Still cool. I'll just combine them.  I needed about 3 - 4 cups of juice to make jelly. I had three pints of raspberries and 11 good sized nectarines (about 3 lbs.)... no problem.

I started with all the raspberries, crushing them a layer at a time and placing them in a sieve to drip. Then I took half the nectarines, chopped them, crushed them a layer at a time (which was fully a bitch), and placed them in a pot with a 1/4 cup water.  I checked on the raspberries.  They had dribbled... a little tiny bit. 

This was the first moment of deliberation.  Or improvisation.  Whatever.

"These are not dripping. The last recipe I had said to cook them, but this recipe says to juice them raw," said I.

"I'd cook 'em. It'll release the juices," said Keen.

So I dump the raspberries in with the nectarines and simmered those suckers for 10 minutes. Then back in the sieve.  Drip drip drip.  Shit this process is slow, why don't I stir it a little?  Drip drip. I was still not getting much so I press on the pulp gently. Then a little less gently.  Drip drip.  OK, now I had about 1 3/4 cups juice.  The juice wasn't exactly clear anymore but I had pressed as much liquid out of the pulp as I could.  I needed to use the rest of the nectarines.  

I tossed the first bacth of drained fruit pulp and I cut up the nectarines.  Since Keen had wandered back into the kitchen, I asked his help crushing the suckers. He worked on the first layer, muttered "Uh... no," and grabbed the hand blender. 

"Won't that make the pieces drop through the sieve?" I asked.

"THAT sieve? No way." And Keen proceeded to chop the fruit into little tiny pieces. This was the second moment of improvisation.

I dumped them back in the pot with another 1/4 cup water. Simmer another ten minutes, then back in the sieve again.  And you know what?  Nectarines drip SLOW!

Did I mention that we had a wedding that day?  Well, we did and my dreams of finishing the jelly before the wedding were being threatened by stubborn plutarines. Third moment.  I wrap the sieve and bowl in plastic wrap and leave it to drip while we're gone. 

Five hours later, I come back to... 2/ 1/2 cups of juice.  Jesus fricking christ!

"Hey honey, I think this is gonna have to be jam."  Fourth moment.

"Whatever."

Luckily, since the nectarines were blended to hell and I was only adding in a portion of pulp I figured it would be a jelly-like jam.  That's close, right?  I dump the pulp and all the juice back into the pot, add my pectin, add some lemon juice, bring to a boil, add my sugar and a dab of butter, bring to a boil again (EXACTLY one minute!), and voila!  Jam to can. 

And you know what?  It was fucking delicious!  This lovely raspberry/nectarine crossed with a plum, processed over 8 hours, jelly turned jam that I'll probably never be able to recreate was WONDERFUL!  

Just in case any of you fine folks want to try it (and can find plutarines at your farmer's markets) here are the deets:

Accidental Jam (or Nectarine Raspberry Jam)

4 1/2 cups juice/pulp (about 2 cups was pulp)

1/2 cup water (to simmer the fruit)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 box Sure Jell pectin (regular)

5 1/2 cups sugar

a tablespoon butter

Follow instructions as listed above. Or maybe not.

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The bird-pigs aren't getting a smidgen of this stuff.

Enjoy and good luck!                - wg


Breakfast of Champions

Keen is hovering around 70 pounds of weight lost!  He's officially "stopped" dieting but he's totally addicted to working out now so I don't think the teeny tiny additional amount of food he's let back into his diet (which includes indulging in chips at Shark's games) is making an iota of difference.  He is a thorough convert to the church of healthy living. 

I, however, have gained five pounds since he started dieting.

hmmm

Let's review.  (Since I promised to share some of his meal tips and have, of course, slacked.)


Keen's breakfast:  (dun dun DAH!)

vanilla soy milk with high fiber cheerios    -or-

high fiber yogurt mixed with multi-grain oatmeal

plus 2 fiber pills

(Because fiber fills you up so you don't feel as hungry.)


My breakfast (as of this morning):

cheese stick, lemon cookie, and grande chai latte with all milk

Hmmm, I wonder what the problem is?

            - the weirdgirl


Her brain is runny, like a cracked egg it is!

This is really dumb but I never remember how to boil eggs.  As in, I never remember the proper cooking time.  Or technique.  I mean besides putting them in water.  But it's not entirely my fault!  I have an egg cooker and trust me, I can work that puppy like a... hard working... puppy.  Anyway, the egg cooker's process involves poking holes in the little eggs' behinds which is not conducive to coloring the eggs.  So once again (just like every year) I'm googling "how to boil eggs".

But I shouldn't have bothered saving their eggy rumps because I just checked the pot and most of them have cracked.  (Heh... "crack"... "rump".)

I am now officially the worst cook of all time.  To be safe someone should confiscate my toaster.  (Also... worst blogger since I'm posting LIVE while boiling eggs!)

Aaaaaand... I just checked the directions of the "tye-dye egg" kit (Chance picked it out) and they're confusing.  I think this kit is French.  Why is everything you buy at Michael's French?  I'm sure the directions make perfect sense when not read in English.  Oy.  This should be fun.

Nothing to do with eggs but here's a little ditty that just won't get out of my head.  Kind of reminds me of Squeeze.   


ding ding ding!

Another update in our diet blog by proxy - Keen has reached 199.5 lbs!  He is quite psyched (and I'm quite proud).  He's been waiting to break the 200 pound mark.  He started his diet, according to the doctor's scale, at 247! 

So he's agreed to share some of his recipes and techniques (which I've frantically typed as he dictated).  One of the things he swears by is upping your fiber.  This was a big lifestyle change for him because Keen wasn't eating high fiber foods previously.  I've always been a fan of oatmeal and cereal but he wasn't.  Now that he's switched over he says that, as well as being good for you, the fact that fiber makes you feel fuller longer just helps with the diet.  Keen's been getting about 60% of his fiber in the mornings alone.  He eats high fiber/multi-grain oatmeal with high fiber yogurt, and has a fiber supplement to boot, starting the day off with a majority of his daily percentage.

Keen also has added in a lot of vegetables.  One way that we really enjoy them (where they're so flavorful you don't get sick of eating a lot of the same thing) is roasted.  He made a scrumptious zucchini and tomato mix for dinner Monday night that came out so good.  It is also super easy to make.  Here's the recipe.


Roasted Tomatoes and Zucchini

1 pound of zucchini

1 pound of cherry tomatoes (leave whole)

olive oil spray

salt & pepper

garlic powder

Cut the ends off the zucchini, slice down the middle lengthwise, and cut into half inch pieces.  Lay them out on a baking pan along with the tomatoes, and be sure to leave the tomatoes whole. Spray all the veggies with olive oil spray.  Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. 

Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes

Another dish he made that will definitely make a repeat performance is this one.

Veal with Artichoke and Mushrooms with Couscous

1 pound of ground veal

a 14 ounce can of artichoke hearts

3/4 pounds of sliced mushrooms (crimini or white buttons)

olive oil spray

salt & pepper

Prep:  Before beginning, slice the mushrooms.  Open and drain the can of artichoke hearts and cut the hearts into quarters. Set aside.

Spray a large non-stick frying pan with olive oil spray, add mushrooms and cook over medium heat for 3 - 4 minutes.  Add ground veal and brown with mushrooms until almost cooked (3 - 4 more minutes).  Add the quartered artichoke hearts and cook for another 3- 4 minutes until is cooked (or heated) through.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Prepare plain or parmigian couscous on the side.  You can serve the veal and vegetables mixed in with the couscous (which is how I like it) or on the side. 

Have I mentioned yet that he can come up with this shit on the fly?  And they look so easy once he explains them!  This just goes to prove my point... some people have got mad cooking skills, and some of us HAVE NOT!  (In fact, some of us should never be allowed to cook food. hint)

Hope you enjoy these.  I'll keep posting new ones as they come up.

                - the weirdgirl


Lucky numbers... 14, 3, 26, 5

"Every day you don't blog makes it easier to put it off one day more."  That should be a Chinese proverb or something.  Except (obviously) updated for today's modern world.  There could be equally pithy sayings about YouTube and Facebook.  All folded carefully inside an ipod-shaped cookie.  Sure, the cookie might taste a bit stale, but you'll still eat it.  Because that too-hard cookie, shaped in technology, grounds you to reality for a brief moment in the crunchy sweet/blandness of the everyday.  And then you'll Tweet the experience and be joined by the rousing camaraderie of other eaters of dusty fate-filled cookies.

Yeah, I don't know where I'm going with this either.  This cold is finally fading but I'm still hitting every evening (my usual "blog time") pretty wiped out.  I gotta start writing in the morning.

I bet I could totally sell these fortune cookies via catalog.   
                   - wg


Way to show me up, you damn box

Our microwave has gone insane.  The thing will not turn off.  Well, technically what it does is turn itself on when you open the door; the fan goes on, the little plate thingy rotates.  You know, the opposite of what it’s supposed to do?  As soon as you shut the door again it turns off.  At first it would only go on occasionally when you opened the door – scared the crap out of me the first couple of times it happened… I’d yelp, shut the door really quick and timidly try to open it again – but now it’s constant. 

Now sure, it might just be the fan turning on, no microwaves shooting around, but it still totally freaks me out.  Every time that stupid thing would turn on (before it was continuous) I swear my hands would feel achy, blisters would break out, I’d feel those little sprained muscles you get right around your joints.

(It could just be from all the drum practice and gardening I’ve been doing but still.  I feel irradiated.) 

Keen keeps using the thing!  Just jabs his hands (and food) in really fast.  Ugh.  I’m so not going there.  In fact, I’m just waiting for his hands to turn green/shoot webs/get xray vision or something.  Because even if it is just the microwave fan not turning off… that can’t be healthy.   I’m almost certain that radiation can be stored in fans and rotating plates.  (It’s, like, science or something.)

The saddest thing is realizing how much Chance and I rely on the microwave for our daily diet.  Keen is OK because Keen cooks.  I, however, am lacking in the cooking gene.  Food that I try to “cook” just doesn’t taste very good.  (Except for baking; I rock at the baked desert.)  Chance is a toddler and eats primarily toddler food… hot dogs, chicken nuggets, canned soup, etc.  These things are so much easier with a microwave!  With the microwave around I felt like a competent and diligent mother.

Now we seem to be ping-ponging between meals of trail mix and takeout corn dogs.

God forbid the rest of the appliances ever revolt.

            - the weirdgirl


Seasonal Disorder(ed Mind)

I had all these things lined up to write about and they’ve all flown out of my head like little birds. I’ve been feeling really… drifty lately. If drifty is a feeling. Kind of unfocused, but also (alternating-ly) focused. But in a really mellow way. You know? Like, relaxed mood swinging. Maybe it’s the changing of the season? I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think the season definitely has something to do with it. I’ve been feeling overwhelming urges to bake (and eat) cookies lately. That can’t be good. (Unless combined with ice cream.)

Ah, that’s leads me to a thought! For anyone out there feeling in the mood… the ultimate cookie sundae:

First, you need some frozen or fresh cookie dough.

Second, if they’re pre-cut cookies you need to squish a couple of those puppies together to make one big cookie. Like... I would say four or five inches in diameter. (What?)

Third, cook it! Preferably in a dish about the same size of the cookie or at least easily handable. You know, so you can eat right out of the dish. (Yes, “handable” is a word now.)

Fourth, pull that sucker out of the oven, drop a big scoop of ice cream onto the still hot cookie (this is SO key), and drizzle with sundae topping. (I prefer white chocolate- macadamia cookies with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch topping, but feel free to go crazy.)

Fifth, eat. No sappy chick flick or special occasion necessary. (Well, maybe Fall is a good one.)

One of the upsides to having kids, knowing other people with kids, working with people with kids, etc. is some school, somewhere is trying to raise a buck selling those frozen buckets of cookie dough.

God bless them.

OK, I digressed. (That’s what happens when you just start typing.)

Some days… I just want to babble.         - wg


Cheese, it’s a lifestyle

OK, so this is the second installment of my Cooking for Slackers series.  Who knows?  If I can come up with enough slackeriffic recipes I might be able to make up my own pamphlet!  And then you all would have the (dubious) honor of my acquaintance.  You could even initiate conversations with, “Hey you know that weird chick at the supermarket who hands out cheesy pamphlets with only three (sucky) recipes in them?  Yeah, I know her!”

What?  I have dreams too, you know.

Just so you know, all recipes have gone through vigorous quality testing.  I.e. if me and Keen like the taste, it’s approved!  And if it’s easy and can made in under ten minutes than it’s doubly approved by me, slacker cook extraordinaire.  Stamps for everyone!  So, here you go…

Cheesy Chicken Mac

1 – 2 packages of Easy Mac  (this is the microwavable Mac n Cheese for those of you not in the know, and if you don’t know about Easy Mac I suggest you run out and get some right now!)

1 can Underwood Chicken Spread (now I know some of you may have prejudices against canned meat, but you really should give them a try)

Make the Easy Mac in the microwave as usual. After the cheese part is prepared, mix in 1/3 to ½ can of chicken spread (to taste) per package of Easy Mac.  Serve!

That’s it.  And once again it’s really tasty.  After I started making it for my son, Keen and I both started eating this as a light meal / mid-afternoon snack as well.  I have another version that you can almost call a casserole that involves regular Mac n Cheese and some light (*shudder*) cooking.  Basically, I throw in some cut up broccoli in the boiling water to cook along with the noodles, then prepare as usual and throw in a whole can of chicken spread.

Easy peasy, super cheesy.                – the weirdgirl 


Cooking for Slackers

As some of you may know  I LOVE food!  However, me and cooking - not so strong a relationship there (nor am I inclined towards counseling, i.e. cooking classes – ugh!).  I AM a whiz when it comes to baked goods, but those are mainly desserts so the motivation is obvious.  Regular cooking… eh, both skill and creative flair fail rather spectacularly… plus, I just don’t want to.  Creatively getting out of cooking, that’s another story.  And since I now have another mouth to feed (a mouth entering that lovely, picky toddler stage) I’m really putting my creative slacker skills to good use.   

In that vein I present to you: the Easiest Baby Smoothie Recipe ever! (really!)

Take 1 baby yogurt (4 oz)

Take 1 – 2 jars of pureed baby food fruit (4 - 6oz)

Whole milk for thinning (1 – 2 oz)

In large glass mix together with a spoon – that’s right, NO need to haul out the blender or chop up fruit!

Pour into sippy cup with straw, serve

Seriously, that’s all there is to it – you mix the yogurt and the fruit to taste and you use the milk to thin it enough to get through a straw.  Pear and peach yogurt make great bases, but I imagine blueberry would be good, too.  So far I’ve mixed apricot and banana strawberry (alone or together) with yogurt to make smoothies.  I’ll probably dabble in a berry blend soon, and of course there’s always “mixed fruit”. 

Damn, it’s so easy (slacker effortless) I even impress myself. AND it’s frickin’ delicious!  Try not to eat too much yourself, though, ‘cause all that whole milk and baby yogurt goes right to your hips.

Mmmmm, smoothie.              – the weirdgirl