Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Makin' Stock

Making stock is something that I've thought about doing for far too long.  But, at long last, we finally did it!  I must say I don't know what took me so long....it really was very simple.
And it tastes super.  And is so inexpensive it is nearly absurd!  As an added plus there are no worries about all the potentially scary stuff found in oh-so-many store-bought stock and bullion.
 
The first step is to save up a bunch of vegetable scraps in the freezer.  The only thing to steer clear of is strongly flavored items (like broccoli).  My bag was full of carrot and potato peels, garlic and onion skins, bell pepper cores, carrot tops, squash guts and skin, etc.  Stuff that I usually send to the compost pile.
Once you have a bunch of scraps you can make stock!  I used my pressure cooker, but you could certainly do it in a regular pot it would just probably take longer.
Vegetable Stock
Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, a few pepper corns, and two bay leaves to the pressure cooker.
Put the pressure cooker on the stove over high heat.
We added several sliced up several mushrooms too as my bag of scraps didn't contain any mushrooms and from what I've read they really add to the flavor.  We also added a few stocks of celery we had as well. 
Saute the mushrooms and celery for a few minutes.
Add the vegetable scraps and begin to saute them.  Be sure to rotate the veg every couple of minutes so that the stuff at the bottom gets brought to the top and vice versa.  Everything needs some time at the bottom of the pot. Tongs would probably be perfect for this task, but we don't own any so we just used a big spoon.
The pot starts out full nearly to the brim, but after 15 minutes or so it has shrunk considerably and by 25 minutes the pot should be only about half full.  Also, brown bits (called fond) should be starting to form at the bottom of the pot.
Add a cup of water and try to loosen the fond, scraping as much as possible off the bottom. 
Add nine more cups of water, but be sure you aren't overfilling your pressure cooker.  It shouldn't be filled more than 3/4 of the way full.
Secure the lid and bring the pot to pressure (our pressure cooker does 15 psi).
Cook for 45-60 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow the pressure to fall on its own accord.
Press everything through a funnel hand press (chinois) and tada!  Stock!
And then, after all that, the scraps still end up in the compost pile.   

We ended up with about two quarts of stock.  I froze a few cups of it in an ice cube tray as an experiment.  The rest was just gobbled up fresh in soup, chili, stuffing, risotto, etc.
It so nice when new ventures work out so well.

Whoooo's that with my Recipe Card?

When I was over at Matt's parent's house for Thanksgiving I noticed a little hand-painted, wooden pig with a clothes pin attached to the back sitting on the counter.  I was looking the painting over, admiring the delicate brush work, noticing the faint wisps of paint that spelled out the name Violet--Matt's grandmother.  Sharon explained to me that it was a recipe card holder. 

For some reason the idea of a recipe card holder really struck me as awesome.  Later, I thought, "I should make myself one!"  I looked around the house for the perfect object to turn into a holder and soon found it living in the collection of owls on top of the book shelf. 
A clothes pin, a bit of coloring, and a dab of super glue later I had my very own little owl kitchen helper.  Matt had the brilliant suggestion to color the clothes pin with a marker so that it matched the owl. 
I am so pleased.   It makes me happy to see it perched on the windowsill, being all useful and cute.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Saturday at Phipps

It has been unseasonably warm the last week and so over the weekend I found it all just too glorious to stay indoors.  It was a day that demanded the out of doors.
 
Saturday we called up Josh saying we wanted to go on some sort of outdoors adventure.  Without more detail he agreed.  I love that about him.  We picked him up and headed out of town to Phipps Park to hike and play folf.
 
In all the open space we still managed to run into a couple we knew out hiking with a visiting relative.  Scott, you may remember as Green Man, has a beard you can spot from a mile away.  It made me wonder if people recognize Matt and I from a distance because of his beard.
 It is so ruggedly beautiful out there.  High, windswept, open.  Mountains off on the horizon. 
This is the hole 18.  You throw your disc from the top of the cliff way down to a basket  near that big pine tree in the center.  It is crazy, but fun.   That sort of sums up the folf course at Phipps in general--crazy, but fun.
 
 
Since is has a tendency towards windiness out at Phipps Park I also brought the kites along.  It is one of my favorite kite flying spots.  Josh had the best kite flying, but really any Saturday in November kite flying is a pretty darn great day for me.  We had to quit when Josh and Matt's hands got chilled.  Silly boys, that is why you bring gloves!
I know the warm weather can't hold out much longer, but I am sure enjoying every minute of it.

Blast From the Past: Eggplant Burgers

I was weeding through some photos and found these.  Oh, man, just looking at them made me want to eat an eggplant burger right NOW!  I suppose I am past the end of the eggplant season....I don't think I saw any at the co-op last time I was there....the bushel of local eggplants had to run out sooner of later, I guess.

So, on a crisp autumn evening I shall reminisce about awesome summer barbeques.
 

Eggplant Burgers
Slice up the eggplant into rings, about 1/4 - 1/2 inches thick. 
Take each slice and dredge in egg replacer (we use Ener-G).
Dip in nutritional yeast until well coated.  (I suppose you could use a more traditional breading, but nooch is just the best!) 
Fry up in a skillet until golden brown.   
Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve.
Ah, look at that big green garden....it is so empty now!
They can also be served without the bun and they are still just a super.

Thanksgiving Photos

Clover rolls raising.
"The Spread" of what we brought over to Matt's parents.  Gravy, hummus, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, clover rolls, braided wreath bread, apple juice, flax crackers, apple pie, and cornbread stuffing.  Since we don't eat dairy we tend to just take care of ourselves to make it easier on everyone.
Stuffing is the best part of the holiday meal if you ask me.  Cornbread stuffing is the best of the best.  Nah, cornbread stuffing with cashews and dried cherries is the best of the best.
Stuffed homegrown butternut squash.  Matt is so swell.
   
A pretty holiday table, snapped just as we all sat down because I knew I'd be too busy eating to take many photos.  Besides, I have found that people seem to not like having their photo taken while eating.
My plate.  The first one anyways.  I ate too much....but it was just SO good!
Ryan looking maniacally happy at dessert time.
I then tried to take bets on how long it would take Ryan to fall asleep after the meal.  However he held out juuuuuusssst long enough to prove us all wrong out of sheer spite!
Matt sang to us while we played games in the kitchen.
Bananagrams and family are a great mix.
It was an absolutely outstanding day all around and I think we were all pretty darn thankful to share it together.        

Spreading the Garlic

I am a garlic-a-holic.  I love it.  I put it in nearly every dish I prepare and never just a lone clove, always at least a couple.  So, when I spotted an abundance at the discount grocery a while ago I didn't really think or hesitate. 
Some of our homegrown garlic from this year that is long gone (into my belly) by now.
Matt roasted up all the heads and we went a little wild.  Roasted garlic everything!  Hummus, soup, pasta sauce, stir-fry, bread, and heck, let's just cut right to it and spread roasted garlic right on crackers.  If you haven't done this, and enjoy garlic, I can't recommend it enough. 
To roast garlic we drizzle olive oil liberally over the head and then wrap the whole thing in a piece of aluminum foil and pop in the oven.  Time and temperature can vary, but we typically roast our garlic at about 400 degrees F. for 30-40 minutes.  You'll know it is done if you can poke through a clove easily with the point of a knife. 

That is the sign that the garlic is soft and delicious and just begging to be spread on crackers!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving

Just a quick post to wish all a happy Thanksgiving holiday!  I have so much to be thankful for and I really enjoy this holiday.  A chance to eat, drink, and be merry with friends and family.  To be grateful for all the simple pleasures.   And you know who are great a appreciating the simple things?  Children.  Here is the list my nephew made last year of all the things he was thankful for.  Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tracks

One of my favorite things about winter is the little tracks left in the snow by all the bunnies, ducks, mice, etc.   It delights me.  This little squirrel went everywhere!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On My Mind.... Bunco Party

Today my mind is a whirl with Bunco.  I am part of a monthly Bunco group composed of, primarily, librarians.  We usually have dinner, drinks, dessert, and plentiful amounts of laughing and hollering in between all the dice rolling, of course.  Oh, it is so much fun and tonight they are coming over to my house to play our November game!  
I've been busy this week making sure the house is all in order, borrowing a few extra things I didn't have enough of (like chairs and bowls) and planning the food I'd like to serve which ended up being chili (you know me and my chili), oatmeal bread, and an apple pie (which Matt made).  Mmmmmmm......

I am really looking forward to it, as I always am on Bunco night. 

The On My Mind concept come from  Rhonda on her Down to Earth blog.  Won't you join in on the fun?!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Two-Skirt Weekend

I had last Friday off.  After Matt headed off to work I decided I was going to seize the chance to work on sewing projects, something, as I've said, I'd been failing to make time for.  So that was the plan, to take over the whole house (this is why I need a craft space) and sew myself silly.  And sew I did!
I'd made skirts before, but never with pockets.  That was the challenge du jour.  For me pockets, or a lack there of, can be a deal-breaker.  I do own a few skirts without pockets, but I refuse to pay money for a skirt without them.  Maybe if I was a purse carrying woman I wouldn't care as much about pockets, but I am just not that type.  I need pockets.  Real pockets too, not that so small it could hold just a jelly bean type pockets that are found in many women's clothing.
I dug out the Simplicity pattern my mother had given me to make the green twirling skirt, a bundle of vintage fabric, and I got to work.  Truth be told, it was much easier than I expected.  I now regret that I didn't attempt pockets with the green skirt!   In just a matter of hours I had a new skirt...with pockets!  I attribute this to one of two things:  #1 I am finally getting some skill as a seamstress or #2 Pockets aren't as hard as I'd been lead to believe.  Actually, it was probably a combination of both.
It was such a success actually that I turned around and made a second skirt on Sunday while Matt was over at a friend's for football.  This skirt was all white and made from scrap fabric.  Matt and I are toying with adding skirts to our tie-dye business and it would be so much more profitable if I could just bust them out myself.  We'll have to see about that as I may grow weary of skirt making by the winter's end, but the demo version sure went together fast so I am going to give it a whirl.  Dresses and skirts are one of our most frequently requested items. 

Next I want to make myself a dress, but I haven't quite found the pattern I am looking for....