Thursday, April 30, 2009
Dev graduates from ASC Saturday, May 9th. Most of his family is headed to Alamosa on Friday, May 8th and staying until Sunday.
I have to say that part of me can't wait, because I haven't had the opportunity to entertain much since we moved out here. But the other part of me, who knows how tiny our apartment is, is scared stiff.
I decided to offer dinner Friday and Saturday nights. Saturday night's dinner will serve as a sort of graduation celebration. Friday night's dinner is the least I can do, considering everyone is driving at least 4 hours and forking out bucks for hotel rooms.
To make things slightly easier on myself, I am planning the menu around things I can put together this weekend, or during the week, and pop in the oven when I need them.
Here's what I'm thinking so far......
Tea, Soda, Water
Homemade salsa and guacamole with chips as an appetizer
Smothered chicken burritos
Crock Pot Chile Beans
Homemade ice cream (probably vanilla with some toppings)
Saturday Breakfast (in a hurry since graduation is at 10am and there will be several people here getting ready)
Orange and Apple juices, coffee
Bagels with assorted spreads
Cereal for the kids
Tea, soda or water
Meat and Cheese Tray with homemade bread
Beer, tea, soda, water, wine
Bruschetta as an appetizer
German Chocolate Cake
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Sunday Brunch (for Mother's Day)
Juice and Coffee
Bacon Swiss Quiche
Spinach Cheddar Quiche
Yogurt and Granola
Most of these things can be prepared pretty far in advance and refrigerated or frozen. The few things that can't be prepared ahead can be put together without too much fuss the day of.
The big challenge in all of this is planning and grocery buying. I really want to get the lion's share of it done this weekend.
I will endeavor to keep you posted on my progress...
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I made my very first ever from scratch homemade cake at 7,500 feet above sea level today. I have made many homemade cakes before, but that was back home in Savannah, which is practically 2 feet below sea level.
After many dismal failures (including box mixes) I have finally made a cake from scratch that turned out decent. No- better than decent. I think this is the best cake I've ever made. No joke.
It all started when my fried Emmy posted on her blog about receiving as a gift from her hubby, a copy of "The Joy of Cooking." By the way, you should go read her blog. She is nauseatingly multi-talented. She cooks and knits beautifully, as well as a bunch of other stuff I learn about every freakin' time I read her blog. So go over to her blog right now.
Anyhoo...she read the high altitude instructions and cranked out a beautiful red velvet cake that made me drool. After reading that, I decided it was time to stop being a wuss about baking at high altitude and try again.
So after the breakfast dishes were cleared, I got out my pencil and my parchment paper and my baking pans and set to it.
After oiling and flouring the pans, then putting in the parchment circles, I began the batter.
I decided to use a carrot cake recipe from my home church's cookbook. It is Carrot Cake by Mrs. Ikey Robinson. Here's the recipe (with the changes for high altitude).
Miss Ikey's Carrot Cake
1 3/4 cup sugar, minus 3 tablespoons
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus 4 tablespoons
5 unbeaten eggs (original recipe called for 4)
2 cups all purpose flour plus 4 tablespoons
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cup grated carrots (hand grated- Mom says it makes a difference)
1/2 cup pecans
Blend sugar and oil until creamy. Add eggs (one at a time- but don't over beat them) and cream well. Sift flour, soda, salt, baking powder and cinnamon; add to first mixture. Fold in vanilla, carrots and nuts.
Pour into 3 prepared 8 inch round baking pans and bake at 375 (original recipe said 350) for 30 minutes.
Cream Cheese Frosting
16 ounces powdered sugar
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 stick butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream all ingredients together.
Here are the cakes all done and cooling...waiting for their hot date with the Cream Cheese Frosting...
And here is the cake after I finished it. I can't believe how well it turned out.
Here's a top view...
And here's what it looked like after we dug in...
Maybe next I'll try my hand at the red velvet..... who knows??
This is what Sunday morning looked like at our house. I was inspired by some beautiful strawberries I bought at the store yesterday, so I wanted to make a special breakfast.
What says "I Love You" more than a stack of hot, homemade buttermilk pancakes???
Well, I'll tell you what. A stack of hot, homemade buttermilk Strawberries Romanoff Pancakes with Brown Sugar-Sour Cream Sauce. That's what.
A very good friend of mine from back home in Savannah, Jared, sent me for an engagement gift a year subscription to "Southern Living" magazine. He explained that he didn't want me to "forget how to be Southern." Although it is doubtful that I will EVER not be Southern, it was a very sweet gift. And I must admit I was so excited the day it landed in our mailbox that I had to fight every instinct in my Southern body not to plop on the couch right then and there and read it cover to cover and commit it to memory.
In the April 2009 issue of "Southern Living" magazine there were tons of scrumptious recipes. And one section on strawberries caught my attention. The pancakes we had this morning were based on one of these recipes.
I didn't use the actual pancake recipe in the article, because I use the one Dev's mom always made, and it is, by my standards, the best pancake recipe EVAR...
Here's what I did.....
First thing I did was wash and slice about 6 strawberries. Then I sprinkled them with 2 tablespoons of sugar and about 2 tablespoons of Apple Jack Brandy. The recipe called for orange liquor, but I didn't have any. Believe me, I didn't miss it. I covered those and let them sit and macerate for about 30 minutes, while I made the sauce and the pancakes.
For the sauce I mixed about 1/2 a cup of sour cream with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. I covered that and put it in the ice box to wait for breakfast.
Then, I made the pancakes. In case I haven't posted them before, it's an egg, 2 cups of buttermilk, a tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda and enough flour to form a thick pancake batter. And I do mean thick. If you don't add enough flour, they will stick like crazy to your griddle.
To serve I just stacked up 2 pancakes, topped it with some sour cream sauce, then put some of the berries on top of that.
This was so good!!!! I will do this again and again. And I will also use the Apple Jack/sugar maceration technique with other fresh fruit.
What a great way to start my day of cooking exploration! Now I was on to my carrot cake...but that's another post.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
The above photo isn't what I had to eat at the carnival...
Did I mention in that last post that whilst manning the popcorn machine at the Spring Carnival this morning, I ate 14 pounds of crap????
It started by just "cleaning" the stray popcorn out of the crease of the machine...then graduated to mouthfuls of the still warm popcorn as I was loading the bags. I don't even know how much of that awful "butter flavored" oil I consumed today. We use that prepackaged stuff so we don't have to measure each batch- so I'm sure it was pounds of the stuff.
Then my lunch choices were a hot dog or a slice of Dominoes pizza. Slim pickins there. I chose the hot dog, just because we already had pizza once this week, and I never eat hotdogs, in spite of a wicked craving for one every once in a while. And to wash down my gourmet mid day meal??? McDonalds Orange Drink. Diabetes in a plastic cup.
By the time I fought the typhoon and got back to the apartment, I felt awful. I can't remember the last time I ate such horrible food. And by horrible I mean absolutely no nutritional value. I felt like I had consumed a year's worth of junk food in one morning.
When dinner rolled around, I knew I needed to fix something light and good for me. I opted for baked chicken and a tossed salad.
I prepared the chicken by salt and peppering it, and putting chopped fresh rosemary, sliced garlic and sliced lemons under the skin, drizzling it with olive oil and baking it at 400 degrees until it reached 180 on the digital thermometer. I used bone in chicken thighs, because I think they have more flavor than breasts.
For the salad, I chopped ice berg lettuce, strawberries, carrots, mushrooms and onion, then threw in some dried blueberries. I dressed it with a classic vinaigrette recipe I found in my 1975 copy of "The Joy of Cooking." Here's the recipe:
French Dressing or Sauce Vinaigrette
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 apple cider vinegar
1/2 t. prepared mustard (I used grainy brown)
Whisk these together well and stream in 3/4 c. olive oil until nicely emulsified.
I'll be using this book again tomorrow to bake a carrot cake. I am attempting to exorcise my high altitude baking demons, and this book has a section on changing recipes for high altitudes. I'll post more about it tomorrow.
So what valuable lesson did I learn today??
It's a good thing Spring Carnival only comes around once a year.
I set off for school on my bicycle this morning, wearing jean capris, a tshirt and a light sweater. Oh- and covered head to toe in spf 70 sunblock.
Around noon the wind began to kick up, as it always does. Dev texted me and asked if I wanted him to come pick me up. I decided to decline his offer and ride my bike home. When will I learn????
I made it all the way home, but barely. The wind was awful. Crossing the Hwy 160 bridge against the wind was almost impossible. I ended up walking my bike over the top and coasting down the other side. By then my legs were like jello and it took forever to make it all the way to the apartment. I had to text Dev from the bottom of the stairs and ask him to help me carry my bike upstairs into the apartment. How wussy is that???
After showering and changing clothes, we were off to run errands- recycling, library run, grocery store. Because it was such a beautiful, sunny day, I decided it was time for the first annual wearing of the shorts. I should have known it would jinx the rest of the day.
An hour later, we walked out of the library and the temp had dropped at least 15 degrees and the wind was blowing like crazy. Needless to say, I was freezing my butt off. But I didn't want to go home and change, because we only had one more stop to make (which was the grocery store- cold even when the weather outside is stifling hot). So I toughed it out and braved the refrigerated City Market in order to put food on the table yet another week.
I suppose to guard against another unseasonable turn of the weather, I won't try putting on shorts again til July...
Thursday, April 23, 2009
On the one hand, Thursday is my roughest day of the week. I teach all day on Thursday, and it's the kindergarteners. The kindergarteners are truly a mixed blessing. They are little and cute and they say funny stuff, but they are also wiggly and hyper and harder to control than their first grade counterparts.
But on the other hand, Thursday is pretty close to Friday, which is usually a really good day for me.
Dev and I had RSVP'd to attend the Adams State College's academic awards soiree at the Inn of the Rio Grande tonight at 6pm. Because I have severely neglected my grocery shopping and meal cooking duties, we had NOTHING in the fridge to eat.
I suggested we go get some pizza, then head over to the Inn for the program.
So that's what we did. The pizza was good. The program, alas, was not.
I can overlook the fact that the keynote speaker got held up in Denver and couldn't make it. The guy from the math department that took over did a very nice job. What I can't overlook is the fact that more than one student was left off the President's List, which is reserved for students who maintain a 4.0. If the students can put out the effort to earn the grades, the very least the college can do is double check their list to make sure they put everyone on it. Dev has maintained a 4.0 every single semester he's been on their campus, but was left off the Spring 08 list. So was a friend of his who happened to be sitting at our same table. They both made it on the Fall list, but were left off the other list. It just drives me crazy. Oh- and they spelled Dev's name wrong on his award. How hard is it to spell William, for crying out loud???? And was no one willing to proofread the freakin' certificates??
I guess this is just the last straw for me. Dev has had to deal with the complete and utter ineptitude on campus at ASC now for 3 years. I will be very glad when we can move on and deal with gross ineptitude somewhere else.
But to be fair, the dessert was yummie... :)
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
But just a little while ago, I had a moment of contentment.
I was standing in the kitchen, slicing home made bread, spreading it with butter, sprinkling it with cinnamon and sugar and putting it under the broiler. The kettle whistled and I poured the boiling water over chamomile and lavender flowers for some tea. Then I carried the tea and toast over to Dev and we sat and ate.
Sometimes you are just thankful.
I spent my Earth Day trying to explain global warming and recycling to first graders. The recycling discussions went well. The global warming...not so much.
After school, Dev and I came home, changed our clothes, grabbed the salmon-scallion-dill quiche I made last night and headed out the door to the community garden kick off at Polston. Of course, I forgot my camera, so I didn't get any pics of the terrific turn out. Or the food for that matter. I suck at blogging...
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I have 2 left. It used to be 3. But I showed those cat head biscuits who was boss. So now I'm down to 2: pie crust and rice.
I think my culinary fears arise from my southern upbringing. I remember the wonderful smells and sights that came out of my parents' kitchen, then I feel inadequate because for the life of me I can't replicate them. My momma would probably say it's because I left my southern home and dared to venture out in the wild west. I suppose she has a point. The altitude (7500 feet above sea level) certainly isn't making anything easier. But with the help of a little Alton Brownian culinary science, I should be able to compensate for that, right??
So I decided today was the day to confront my fear of making pie crust from scratch. The last time I attempted this feat, it resulted in a sore hand from becoming so enraged with the limp, fragile piece of dough that I slammed my fist down in sheer unadulterated rage. I'm sure the primal scream was heard for miles around our crappy little apartment.
But today, I had karma on my side. I had just delivered a container of home made soup to a friend who recently had a baby, so I figured I had a little banked up good vibe.
The pie dough recipe couldn't be simpler: 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 sticks of butter. I even cheated and used the food processor.
I put the flour and salt in the processor and whizzed it around a few pulses. Then I cut the cold butter into slices and threw it in the processor bowl. I whizzed that around until the butter was incorporated into the flour and it looked crumbly. Then I got a glass of ice cold water, and added it in tablespoon fulls until the dough started to stick together and I could pinch it together. Here's what it looked like....
Dev gets the photo creds today, by the way.
I dumped the mass of dough onto a floured counter and used my hands to mush it into somewhat of a disk shape. After that I sprinkled more flour on the top and used my rolling pin to roll it out...
Dev and I both like crust, so I didn't roll it out paper thin. And I didn't bother to get it in a circle, either...
Here's a nice blurry action shot of me folding the dough into quarters and moving it to the pie dish...
Then I layed it in the dish and trimmed the excess from around the edges. No fancy fluting around here, just rustic quiche baking...
Here I am, smiling smuggly, thinking of the yummie quiche we'd be having for dinner tonight...
So, what did I put in my lovely home made pie crust??
I made a ham quiche. I put chopped ham, sliced mushrooms and cheddar cheese in the bottom of the unbaked crust, then poured my standard quiche base over it (heavy cream, nutmeg, hot sauce, 4 eggs, pinch of salt and sugar). An hour or so later, we had this...
We are going to an Earth Day potluck tomorrow night, so while I was at it, I made another crust, but this time I filled it with drained and rinsed canned salmon, 4 sliced scallions, dill, cheddar and some cubed cream cheese. I haven't tasted it, but it smelled really good baking in the oven...
All in all, I'd say it was a pretty good day. I'm not afraid of pie crust anymore. Hah.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Lately, my freakouts have centered around my health (borderline high blood pressure, acid reflux and general old age), family drama (health issues on both sides of our family), job prospects for Dev and an upcoming move for us to who knows where.
My latest freakout is lead in cosmetics. Did you know there is lead in many products WE PUT ALL OVER OUR BODIES???? It amazes me that we obsess about what we eat, yet we don't ever even read the labels on the products we put on the largest organ of our bodies- our skin!
I was skipping around on the internet the other day and just happened to read an article about lead in lipstick. Lead in lipstick?? Yes, lead in lipstick. It seems that lead is in quite a bit of the lipstick we buy. And it's not only lipstick. There are many body products that contain all sorts of disease causing chemicals.
So, after taking a hard look at my make-up drawer, I have decided to do some research on alternatives for people who do not wish to slather themselves in carcinogens every morning before heading to work.
This evening I sat down and looked at mountainroseherbs.com. I have an older catalog of theirs that I picked up after attending a local lecture on making your own salves and balms. They list all sorts of organic products, including teas and tea brewing equipment, as well as essential oils and hand made balms and lotions. I am seriously thinking of ordering small sizes of several of their products, just to see what happens. If I do it, I'll be sure to fill you in on what I think.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
After several attempts to find out ANYTHING about recycling here in Alamosa, I got sidetracked on another project.
I noticed my friend Tee had linked her Flickr photostream to her Facebook wall. What a brilliant idea! I had no idea how to do it, but after a quick message to Tee, she pointed me in the right direction. So now, the most recent 15 pics on my Flickr photostream will show on the left side of my profile page.
Another friend of mine, Diane, managed to link her personal blog to appear on her Facebook wall. Another brilliant idea! I searched RSS Feeds in facebook applications, but couldn't get that to appear on my page. But then I found the settings button on my wall page (or something like that) and figured it out from there. Hopefully my blogposts will now appear on my profile page as well. The only thing that's weird is that you can't see the pics unless you click on the title of the blog entry. Oh well.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Dev and I are both off Friday and Monday.... nice.
We are headed home to see his parents in Montrose, but we're going to take the long way in the morning and stop off at a few fishing holes. In anticipation of the first fishing trip of the season, we jumped in the truck and went down to Big R's to buy our fishing licenses. $31 each is pretty steep, considering I've NEVER caught anything. But it's cheaper than the fine if we got caught fishing without one.
Even if I don't catch any fish, I'm sure I'll take a few pics.
Once in Montrose, I plan on taking it easy. I have a new knitting project to work on, so hopefully I'll get a long way towards finishing it by Monday evening. I'm making a shawl thingie to wear to Dev's graduation. The dress I picked out is kind of like a sundress, and I don't reveal my naked upper chicken arms in public. I found an easy (?) pattern in a knitting magazine and with the help of my friend Kim and her yarn shop The Yarn Gallery (look for "Memory Lane" scrapbooking shop on Main Street in Alamosa, CO- then go in and spend lots of money!!) I bought some swanky yarn and hopefully I'll produce my first major wearable piece of knitting!
I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter weekend and eats lots of good food and spends time with friends and family.
I was craving chili the other day, but wanted something different. As you probably know, I've been cutting back on sodium, and trying to add more plant based foods to my diet. So when I was leafing through the April 2008 issue of "Real Simple" magazine (yes I know it's a year old, but when you wait and look at last year's magazines again, they are just like new!!) and saw a recipe for 3 Bean Chili, I snapped it up and gave it a whirl.
I went pretty much by the recipe (although it called for a pesto and I was too hungry to be bothered with that, so I just garnished with whole toasted pine nuts, chopped cilantro instead of parsley and some chopped tomato) but added some other touches.
3 Bean Chili from "Real Simple"
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 can diced tomatoes (I used crushed)
salt and pepper (I didn't use salt)
1 can chickpeas (I used black beans)
1 can cannellini beans
1 can kidney beans
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 T. pine nuts, toasted
1 c. fresh parsley, chopped (I used cilantro)
Drain and rinse all the beans.
Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion and carrots and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. I also added the garlic at this point, and 2 stalks of finely chopped celery (because I had it and I needed to use it). I also added a few glugs of red wine, cuz I needed to finish the bottle before it turned into salad dressing).
Stir in tomatoes and 2 cups water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. I also added chipotle powder and some home made chile powder, cuz I wanted it to have some heat.
Add all the beans and cook til heated through. I let mine simmer at least 30 minutes, so the beans wouldn't taste so canned.
I served this with the pine nuts and cilantro and chopped tomato as garnish- as well as a dollop of sour cream. Along side I served green chile corn bread muffins (a total cheat- Jiffy cornbread mix with added buttermilk and a can of green chiles).
Not bad for a relatively quick vegetarian meal. Dev even had seconds. But I will admit that I added a good amount of hot sauce to mine at the table, because it needed some extra zip.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Substitutions don't always work. Most of the time they do, but sometimes they don't. This was one of those times.
I found a recipe in "Real Simple" magazine for chickpea patties served over a chopped salad with a Greek yogurt dressing. Great! But I didn't have any chickpeas.
So I substituted black beans. It didn't really work. After dredging them in the flour and putting them in the hot pan, they immediately began melting. I think if you use softer beans, perhaps you need an additional binder, like bread crumbs or something.
Anyhoo, they tasted great but the texture sucked. I mean really sucked.
And I didn't make their dressing. I used some southwest ranch I already had leftover in the fridge.
And it wasn't very photogenic, was it?
Saturday, April 4, 2009
The trouble is, I just haven't been feeling very inspired lately. We've had lots of issues to deal with lately, and the last thing I feel like doing at the end of the day is sitting down to write about it.
That's not normal. The Mimi I know loves to blog. She loves to blabber on and on about things. And she loves to cook.
But even cooking lost its therapeutic value for me. The only thing in which I have taken solace is knitting. And I'm not even very good at that.
But, things are looking up, and hopefully I'll get back in the saddle sometime soon.
I've been catching up on my blog reading and I've made a list of recipes I'd like to try in the near future.... From "Closet Cooking," I'd like to try the Meyer Lemon Bars and the Chocolate Stout Cake. I also found a Jalapeno Popper Dip on some blog, and a Blueberry Crumb Cake recipe at "Fundamentally Flawed."
I did cook a really good dinner tonight, but didn't take pics. I had been craving a taco salad, but because of my ever heightening blood pressure, I have been avoiding all fast food and most prepackaged food because of the sodium.
I have these taco salad shell molds I inherited from my father's cooking gadget collection, so I very lightly brushed 2 flour tortillas with sun dried tomato oil and fit them into the molds. I also cut 8 small corn tortillas into quarters and brushed the quarters with the same oil. The shells and chips went into a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes (until they were slightly brown and achingly crispy). Then I chopped a small onion, threw it in my biggest skillet. After it had softened, I added a pound of ground turkey, a few glugs of beer, cumin, coriander, home made chile powder, chipotle chile powder, oregano and fresh cilantro. When the liquid had cooked out and the turkey was done, I added a can of black beans (drained and rinsed WELL), some frozen white corn, chopped portabello mushroom caps and about a tablespoon of organic ketchup. When the shells were done I put some of the meat mixture on the bottom, then a little shredded sharp cheddar, some halved grape tomatoes, chopped cucumber, chopped raw cabbage and ice berg lettuce. Then, I added some home made southwest ranch salad dressing I had in the fridge. I served a few of the salt free fresh tortilla chips on the side. A pretty damn good dinner, if I do say so myself.