Sunday, August 11, 2013

Busy Weekend

It's our last weekend home for a month, which means this weekend was a mad scramble to get as much done as possible. We did take Friday night out to relax by starting a bonfire and having cocktails and cigars in the gazebo. It may have been a pain in the ass to move the raised beds and gazebo, but now that everything is together it's so worth it.

Saturday we worked around the yard quite a bit. We made a quick run to the Farmer's Market first thing in the morning, then went to St Paul Bagelry for breakfast before getting started around the house homestead. I spent a good chunk of the morning harvesting dill seed, mint and sage. I feel very comfortable saying that I will never need to buy dill seed again. I have the mint and sage hanging in the gazebo to dry, and later on this week I'll be harvesting some basil and catnip to join them.

Today we worked on a ton of inside organization. We cleaned out the pantry and fridge and reorganized both of them. I'm starting to work on inventorying everything in the pantry too, so it's easier for us to plan meals when we're not at home to see what we have. Eventually I want to be able to expand the inventory to all my canned goods so I can track our food consumption for the purposes of planning gardens. I'm trying to decide if this makes us efficient or sickeningly anal retentive.

I'm changing my blogging a bit. I realized I don't use this blog much because it's such a pain to post pictures. I've gotten a tumblr to post pictures on and will use this for the actual blogging and see if it encourages me to remember to blog. The tumblr can be found here:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Comfort Food

It's dark all the time lately. I know, December in Minnesota, of course it's dark, but after such a long spring and summer, the dark and cold just seem more imposing than usual. It's got me craving cheese and pasta and all the carby comfort foods.

Wednesday night we were just going to have eggs for dinner, but I got it in my head that I needed baked mac and cheese. Then I remembered that I'd taken bacon out of the freezer to have with the eggs, and thought that bacon is quite possibly the only thing that could make baked mac and cheese better. The result is quite possibly the tastiest thing I've ever made. I didn't follow any specific recipe, just made a basic sauce and added spices to taste.

Baked Mac and Cheese with Bacon
8 oz macaroni noodles
6 TBS Butter
3 TBS Flour
3 cups milk
1 TBS Dry Mustard
cayenne pepper
black pepper
14 oz (app) shredded cheese of your choice
3/4 pound of bacon
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Start your noodles boiling and your bacon cooking. I bake my bacon at around 350 until it's chewy bordering on crispy, but however you like to eat it is where you should

Melt 3 TBS butter in a large pan until it's fully liquid and just a little bubbly. Add the flour and dry mustard and stir constantly (I use a whisk) until it's all incorporated, then let it cook for another minute or so. Gradually add in the milk, whisking constantly until is smooth. Add a pinch (or more) of cayenne along with salt and black pepper to taste and stir slowly and constantly until it starts to thicken up. Stir in whatever cheese you like. I start with about 12 oz, and add more if I think it needs it. This time I used a cheddar jack mix along with a little swiss. Let it get all melty and delicious.

Mix your noodles and cheese sauce in a big baking dish. They will be really saucy, but I've found that it dries quite a bit while baking so I use all the sauce. Cut your bacon into whatever size pieces you like and stir it in. Sprinkle some more cheese over the top. I don't ever measure it, I just sprinkle until it looks like enough.

Melt the last three tablespoons of butter and stir them into 1 cup of panko. Sprinkle it evenly over the top. Bake the whole thing at 350 for 30 minutes, then flip the broiler to low and let it broil for just a couple minutes until the bread crumbs get nice and toasty. Let it sit for a few minutes when you take it out so the cheese can set up just a little. Have a salad with it so you can pretend for a few seconds that you're healthy.

Today we decided on soup, largely because we had ingredients we needed to use up. I saw this recipe for Potato, Cheddar & Bacon Soup a few weeks back and we decided it would be a good meal for a snowstorm. It was. Holy buckets. It was thick and rich and a cup of it made me feel like I was going to burst. I added a little more bacon than the recipe called for, a little extra milk and stock, and added a wedge of butter. After shoveling the driveway (the snow blower won't start) it was perfect for letting our bodies warm up and refuel.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Domestic Goddess Day

It's a lovely late fall day, and I spent it converting the seasons bounty into food for the winter and starting pumpkin mead and plum wine.

A few weeks ago Midwest Brewing sent out an email talking about making pumpkin ale for your holiday gatherings. We aren't quite setup for making our own beer yet, but I've been wanting to try making some mead, and since it needs to age for a year, I decided to start it now. I drew from a number of different recipes to put it together and this is what I came up with:

3 lbs fresh clover honey
1 gallon spring water
13 5/8oz pumpkin
1.5 tsp acid blend
1tsp yeast nutrient
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 crushed campden tablet
1 packet Lalvin D47 yeast.

I cut up and seeded a pumpkin and roasted it for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees. It was just soft enough to get the peel off, but not mushy. I cut it into smaller chunks, put it in a straining bag and tossed it in my bucket.

Meanwhile, I heated the water and honey to about 100 degrees so the honey would melt down into the water. Once warm and incorporated I poured it into the bucket over the pumpkin. Next the acid blend, nutrient, cinnamon and campden went in. I gave everything a good stir, closed up the bucket and took it down to the bar. Tomorrow I'll put in the yeast and let it start fermenting.

There was a lot of simmering going on.

Next, it was tomato time. I still had 3 bags of tomatoes from last year in the freezer, so I cooked them down along with a handful of this years fresh tomatoes and jarred them off. In total I got 11 pints of tomato sauce. I opted not to season any of it so that I can tailor it to my recipe when it's time to cook. This years harvest is a lot smaller than last due to the drought and my problems with a virus in the soil, so I'm not sure I'll have enough tomatoes left this year to make another batch. If I do get enough for a smaller batch, I may try those with a clove of garlic.

On to breakfast. Aaron and I lost our habit of morning workouts over the summer, and have been relying too much on packaged food, so it's time to start meal planning again. We both need to make an effort to get more protein and vegetables in our diet, so these seem like a good solution. While my bacon was baking I diced a red pepper and a package of baby bellas and sauteed them in olive. Both the meat and veggies went into the fridge for awhile to cool before going in the muffins.

Then we went to dinner at Nate and Jessica's, and I gave their daughter her first toy light saber. I'm a hero.

When we got home I preheated the oven to 375 and whipped up a dozen eggs with some salt and peppers in a bowl. I put about half a slice of bacon into each muffin cup, divided the veggies evenly among the cups and then added a little italian cheese blend to each. I filled the muffins cups with the eggs, gave them a quick stir to mix the ingredients and put them in the oven for  25 minutes. If they taste half as good as they smell, they will make an awesome breakfast.

Last but not least, I started a batch of plum wine. I used the recipe from winemakers recipe handbook. I haven't decided on a yeast variety for it yet, but I figure I have 24 hours to decide. (Editor's Note: I decided on Montrachet. I considered Cote de Blanc, which is what the fruit type/yeast grid I got from Midwest suggested, but the Cote de Blanc is supposed to ferment to a drier wine, and I want the peach to be a little sweeter and have more body.)

Zoe and Lukas were my faithful assistants all day.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Adventure in Wine Making

A few weeks ago Aaron rousted me out of bed, plied me with coffee and took me down to Midwest Brewing for a class on how to make raspberry wine. I was hooked almost instantly, and bought a starter kit after class. This weekend I started two batches of wine, peach and cherry.

Peach Wine I used the base recipe from Winemaker's recipe handbook. I want a strong peach flavor, so I bumped the amount of peaches to 3lbs, 1oz. I mistakenly used yeast nutrient instead of energizer, so when I added the yeast on Monday night I also added 1/4 tsp of energizer. I want a sweeter, fruity flavor so I used Cote des Blancs yeast.

Cherry Wine I used the base recipe from Winemaker's recipe handbook. I opted for the sour cherry instead of sweet, because when I used to get cherry wines from the winery in Door County the sweet cherry was too overwhelming. I can always sweeten it to taste with simple syrup later. I used exactly 4lbs of sweet cherries, and on Monday night added Champagne yeast. As of Tuesday morning, both wines are fermenting nicely.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I am Patient Zero

I've been sick for 10 days; it's getting ridiculous. I'm feeling much better than I did a week ago, but I'm really sick of the congested head and constant coughing. I'm still trying to figure out how I managed to work everyday last week other than sheer stubborn pride.

What have I been up to other than starting the zombie apocalypse? Not much actually. I was too sick to even do much knitting last week, so I haven't gotten very far.

I have finished the purple stripe socks, which are the first complete pair of toe up. I definitely prefer this technique, because it allows me to make a sock that fits my foot and get a good guess for how long my cuff is. The only thing I don't like is that the cuff is a little too snug. I used a larger needles size for my cast off, but they're still a little hard to get over my foot. I also don't like the ribbing at the top. I also think for the next pair I'll put a couple increases in at the top to accommodate my ginormous calves.

I definitely have a little work to do to tighten up my heels. I've got holes where the gusset and the heel join on both sides on both pair. I'll put a couple stitches in this pair, and add a couple extra increases in the next pair to give a tighter join.

I'm not very good at having empty needles, so after finishing the purple stripes I started in on these. It's a gorgeous pink and green variegated yarn that I saw in Borealis and fell in love with. I'm hoping to get two pair out of this yarn, because I'd like a calf high pair and a pair of footie socks.

The cocktail in the pictures is my latest go-to. It's equal parts vodka and Pama liqueur with a splash of club soda. Tasty and perfect for the warm weather .

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Favorite Recipes

I've always loved ham and bean soup. My mom used to make it when I was growing up, and it was my favorite. Even after I'd moved to Minnesota for law school she would freeze it and load up a cooler with some frozen soup when I came to visit. I've been struggling with lunches lately, and finding food with a good mix of protein and carbs, so I decided it was time to learn to make it myself. I started poking at recipes, looking for ideas and thinking I'd make a batch this weekend. When Aaron and I were shopping tonight I saw some gorgeous smoked, cured ham shanks from the organic farm, and seemed like a sign.

Work has been crazy busy this week, and to top it off I have a work event tomorrow night, so I decided to just toss everything in the crockpot. Right now a ham shank, a pound of beans, chopped celery and onion, and a bay leaf are soaking, and with any luck, by the time I get up tomorrow morning the whole house will smell like awesome, smoky soup.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bad horror movies and new skills

I have a cold that just won't go away, so I decided to spend the day on the couch in my sweats getting some knitting done. The last year I've gotten stagnant in my knitting, so when the winter schedule for The Yarnery came out last fall I signed up for a few classes. The first class was toe up socks two at a time on magic loop, and I just finished that this past week. I finished through the heel of one sock, and I'll finish the other heel this afternoon. After that it's just a few inches of stockinette to finish the cuff.

Now that football is done I'm back to dredging the depths of Netflix for entertainment. I have no idea what the name of this movie is, but it's full of cliched dialog and has a panty sniffing psycho, so I don't see myself bothering to check the name. Whisper has informed me that this movie is bullshit. I've informed him that his opinion doesn't count, and whatever we watch next will probably be worse.