Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I mentioned to Amy the other day (has everyone visited Amy's shop? It fits right in with what I'm thinking about here - buy as little as possible, but when you do buy look for quality things that will last and that are made with care) that our KitchenAid stand mixer was a great investment. We've had it about 10 years and use it regularly. Heck, we like it so much it got its own cabinet when we re-did the kitchen. I remember that when we bought it it was $200, and I was so unsure about spending all that money. (Looks like it's more like $300 now.)

Just as an aside, I never saw a stand mixer until I was an adult. I still remember the first time I saw Jon's mom pull hers out of the closet. I did a lot of baking as a kid, and finding an invention that would cream butter for me was amazing.

I was thinking about what other things we've bought that were not so easy on our budget at the time, but have worked out to be completely worth the initial ouch. Some that come to mind right away:

Calphalon cookie sheets (used ONLY for cookies - cheapo $1-$2 cookie sheets are fine for everything else). We've had these 10 years as well, and they look pretty much like new.

Good pots/pans (Actually, if anyone has any recommendations for pans that will last the rest of my life, other than cast iron, I'd like to hear them. They need to be able to go in the oven. They don't need to be dishwasher safe.)

Silk long john's

Wool sweaters

Wood furniture

Glass containers

Handmade items

For the past couple of years I've been considering the idea of a food processor. I go back and forth on whether it will really save me so much time/effort that it's worth the cost and space in the kitchen. On the one hand, I've lived just fine without ever using one. On the other hand, there are things that look so much easier to do with one (chop nuts for example). If you have one, what's your opinion? Should I stick with my knives? Is there a brand you use that you'd recommend? Is it worth getting a bigger one? I think I'd almost need to be talked into it, really. I can see my kids growing up and using my mezzaluna. I can see a food processor ending up broken and in the trash. But if I'm wrong, I'd like to hear about it.

Oh, and check these out. They have a lifetime guarantee for breakage. We go through a LOT of straws, so I'm thinking these might be a good investment.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Our room is on Modish!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A note for hungry readers: I've gone through some old posts to add labels to them. I think I've tagged all the recipes, so if you're interested in those they should be easier to find now.

So far I'm the only one eating this at my house. Jon is feeling anti-chickpea. Dagny has apparently developed a major dislike for cloves. Rowan generally avoids spicy. Not sure what Andrew's excuse is.

I think it's really good, so I'm ok with not sharing.

Spicy Chickpea Ragout

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

8-10 whole canned tomatoes (reserve the liquid)

3 teaspoons ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 15 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Heat oil in a large skillet.

Add onions, garlic, and ginger.

Cook 3-5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, breaking them into pieces with spatula.

Add ½ cup reserved tomato juice with remaining spices.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add chickpeas.

Cook 10 minutes.

Serve with rice.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Zucchini and Summer Squash Casserole

1/2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
3 summer squash, sliced into thin rounds
3 zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
1 large egg
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups crushed butter crackers
3/4-1 cup grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease a 9 x 13" baking pan with Pam or butter.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.
Add the onions.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and cook about 1 minute.
Add the squash and zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the thyme and remove from heat.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to the baking dish, reserving the cooking liquid.
Combine the egg and cream in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in cooking liquid.
Pour over vegetables.
Bake until sets, about 30 minutes.
Sprinkle with crackers and parmesan, then bake til golden brown, 10-15 minutes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Here's one of the recipes from our 'make' list this week. We had never tried it before. It gave me horrid garlic breath, but it was really good. The teenagers (Am I supposed to stop calling them that now that some of them are in their twenties? Let's just think of it as an honorary title.) liked it too.

Spicy Black Bean Hummus

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, chopped

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1-2 Tablespoon Tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

Dash crushed red pepper

1-2 teaspoons olive oil

Dash ground red pepper

Chop garlic and jalapeno. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. The original recipe suggested using a food processor. I use a mezzaluna. (Mine's pretty similar to this one. If you have neither, just chop the garlic and pepper, mix up the rest, and smash with the back of a fork til smooth.)

Sprinkle with another dash of ground red pepper to distract from the fact that it doesn't look all that appetizing. Weird color.

Serve with chips or toasted pitas, followed by tic tacs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ok, tell me about planning, buying, and eating:

How does food/grocery shopping work at your house?

How often do you go grocery shopping?
Who does the grocery shopping?
How many people are you feeding?
Do you all eat meals together?
Is there a certain time you eat meals?

Where do you eat?
Do you plan weekly menus?
Do you eat out often?
What is the most important food for your family not to run out of?
Fresh baked cookies or store-bought?

I'll go first:

I have a general list of groceries I made years ago printed out. I go over that, and anything I know we need goes on my grocery list. Anything I'm not sure of goes on a '?' list. I ask everyone if there are any particular recipes they want ingredients for, then I get out my recipes and flip through for inspiration. Again, anything I know we need goes on the grocery list, anything I'm not sure of goes on '?'. As I go through the recipes I also make a list of the ones chosen, which we call our 'make' list, so anyone who feels like cooking or is hungry can check it and see what we have the ingredients for.

Ok - so we're at three lists: the grocery list, the '?' list, and the 'make' list. Jon takes the '?' list and goes through the pantry/fridge/freezer. We add whatever we don't have to the grocery list. Finally I ask everyone if there's anything in particular they want and if they think of anything not on the grocery list, I add it.

Most of the time, Jon does the grocery shopping.

We do one large shopping trip towards the beginning of the month and a medium-sized trip about halfway through the month, with smaller trips for things we forgot or decided we wanted in between if necessary. We have a number of farms nearby where we can get milk, fruits, and vegetables as needed.

We're generally feeding 5 people, but there's a very steady stream of visitors in and out of our kitchen. The fridge-full you saw in my other post will be feeding an extra four people this week.

We're all usually hungry at different times, and want different things. We do sometimes all eat together, but it's not a regular thing for us.

We eat all over the house, depending on what we're up to and whether we need a big flat surface (aka table).

We do plan what food we think we'll want to eat before we go shopping, but we don't plan what we'll eat on what day. We tend to look at cooking as something fun to do, so it's done whenever someone's in the mood, not necessarily at 'meal' times. We cook, tell everyone there's hot food, then store what's left to be heated up when it's wanted. I do pay attention to what we have available for different meals and the different tastes I know the kids have when I get the urge to cook, so that I'm not making a bunch of food no one will want to eat soon. And any of us is willing to cook if someone else is hungry for something in particular.

We very rarely eat out. A few times a year, mostly if we're on vacation.

It is very important not to run out of ice cream. You don't want to see most of us (I'm not naming any names) if we run out of ice cream.

We like packaged cookies just fine, but we usually have fresh cookies, with some extra cookie dough in the fridge.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A comment Kelly Lovejoy made while she was visiting has me thinking about refrigerators. So here's a blog challenge for whoever wants to take it: What does your refrigerator look like on an average day? Is it crammed and messy? Neat and organized? What's in it right now?

Here's what ours looked like Thursday. Jon went grocery shopping the night before, so this is pretty typical.

(Not everything is what it seems. We re-use containers - particularly jars - over and over again.)

(Petunia is diligent in her efforts to make sure no food escapes from the fridge unnoticed.)

Here's what's in our fridge right now (items marked with * are made by us):

Orange Juice
Grape Juice
Pineapple Juice
Iced Tea (I kinda wish Kelly Lovejoy would move here just so she could make us iced tea all the time. I do have her recipe. Not sure Jon would want to live without his Arizona, though.)
Sour Cream
Heavy Cream
(We currently get our milk from a farm but are hoping to be able to start getting it from a different one that's trying to get approval to sell raw milk - either way I'm planning to experiment with making butter and yogurt soon.)
*Peach Habanero Marinade
*Blueberry Honey Butter
*Strawberry Honey Butter
*BBQ Sauce
*Rose Petal Jelly
*Habanero Peach Preserves
*Maple, Strawberry, and Blueberry Syrup
*Strawberry and Blueberry Preserves
*Hot Sauce version 3.0
Various condiments and dressings
Blueberries (We've planted 18 bushes, but they're not producing much of anything yet.)
Strawberries (We'll be planting a LOT of strawberries next year.)
Herbs and Veggies including (off the top of my head...) broccoli, sweet and hot peppers, greens, garlic, cilantro, carrots, ginger, zucchini, summer squash (I paid a lot of attention this summer to what veggies and herbs we eat most, so I can better plan next year's garden.)
Alfredo Sauce
Salsa (Last week I made fresh salsa and, while it wasn't as spicy as I expected, it was really good.)
Bread (You've got a good shot at fresh bread in our house, but that's on the counter.)
Pizza Dough (I'm on the lookout for the perfect pizza dough. Got a favorite recipe?)
Eggs (I've always been interested in having chickens for 'eggs and atmosphere' as someone said to me yesterday, but I don't think I'd deal well with the inevitable losses. I'm happy to be able to get our eggs from Chloe's chickens, who seem to have everything chickens could possibly want.)
*Peanut Butter Bars
Vegan Marshmallows
*Smashed Chickpea Salad
*Toasted Ravioli
*Fried Rice
*Rice Pudding
*Sundried Tomato Pesto
*Mac and Cheese
Deli meat
Sliced , Chunk, Shredded, Ricotta, and Cream Cheese (Yes, that's a lot of cheese. Jon and Rowan are going to be learning to make cheese in November.)
Veggie Stock (I don't know why I don't make my own veggie stock when it's so simple.)
Applesauce (I make a mean applesauce, but this jar's not homemade.)
*Cookie Dough
Hot Fudge and Butterscotch
Hershey Syrup
Whipped Cream (We love homemade, but sometimes you just need a tub of Cool Whip.)
Frosting (Again, we like homemade, but sometimes you just need a tub of frosting.)

Leave a link in the comments if you do this on your blog.

Next blog challenge: planning, buying, and eating food.
Getting ready for the craft show at Soule.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

This peach tree was old when we moved to our house 9 years ago. Every year we're pleasantly surprised to see it load up with peaches.

After we bought the house, but before we'd come to know every nook and cranny, I said the only thing I'd add would be fruit trees. Winter ended, blooms started appearing, and suddenly I could see we had a pear, a peach, a crab apple, and two cherry trees. None were in the greatest shape. They hadn't been tended and had all lived long lives already. But, man, the peaches from that tree are unbelievable. Not grocery store pretty, sometimes munched on by worms, but so good. My favorite thing to do is to get the one from the very top of the tree, the one that feels hot to my hand. When I eat that peach, I taste sunshine.

It's because of this tree that I learned to can. One peach tree grows a LOT of peaches. In the next couple of weeks we'll be picking and I'll be listening for jars to pop. Oh, and making peach upside down cakes, some to eat and some to freeze. There's nothing like eating sunshine when it's cold outside.

We've added quite a few trees in the past nine years - peaches, apples, mulberries, pears, plums, and almonds - gotten our blueberry patch established, and next year we'll be adding strawberries. But I doubt anything will ever taste better than the first peach I ate off this old tree.
Today we made a dent in this project:

and in this one:

My bed is going to feel very good tonight.

Friday, September 04, 2009

A really long time ago this picture was on my blog. Remember?

Here's what the table looks like now:

(Well, actually it's a bit messier than that now, but that's what it looked like this morning.)

While we were working on the craft room (I seem to have settled into that name...) I came across another table at the architectural salvage store we like to go to. I didn't get any before pictures of it, but it was in a bit better shape than the first one. My mom and I refinished it too, and here' s how it came out:

This table has a little plaque on it that says it was property of Brown University. One of my favorite things about it is the graffiti in the drawers. (Is that weird?)

I wonder what 'Rotten ole Tom Brady', class of '51, is up to these days.
Ok, I've got another one for you. Can anyone tell me what this is?

It's not a bush, more like a small gangling tree, and we have tons of them.