February 27, 2010

Green Waffles??

We take every opportunity to celebrate holidays around here (see Super Bear's version of a leprechaun catcher). St Patrick's Day is no except. The kids love having green waffles with their green milk. Such silliness is pretty easy to come by with some food coloring. What will you have for St. Patties Day?

A talented friend of mine is from Ireland and she taught me how to make an authentic Irish meal (with beef cooked in Guinness no less). Judith taught how to make her yummy dinner at the Whole Foods Cooking School, where I volunteer. I am lucky to have this privilege as it means I get to learn directly from the chefs who are teaching. I love my nights there learning to cook as I always learn something new. The school's knife skills class changed the way I use my knives completely. Now I can chop (sort of) like the pros on TV which comes in handy when I'm chopping up strawberries that are in season right now. We eat them by the bushel and then make strawberry freezer jam with them - delicious!

February 22, 2010

Why I Love Martha Stewart - Meringue Cookies

From the time I was in high school and my Mom got Martha's Entertaining cookbook, I have loved Martha. Back then it was just Martha and her talents. These days I know it's an empire of creative and talented people, but I am still in love. I think my love affair comes from the fact that Martha pushes me to be better, try harder and venture just a little out of my comfort zone. I know I can make the recipes in BHG, Taste of Home, or Southern Living (my go to cookbook) without much straining of the mass between my ears. I have family cookbooks, and hand written recipe cards that I know so well, I don't really have to do more than glance at them. Then there is Martha.

I subscribe to Living, the MS magazine. I open the pages and read each magazine from cover to cover (I am NOT a jump around kind of gal). I devour this magazine in my spare time. Usually that means I'm reading it in the bathroom until I hear children calling my name. Or maybe I sneak in a few minutes of reading while I'm cooking one of those no-brainer meals. I dream of all of the crafts, entertaining, and recipes I will create straight from the pages of Living. I envision the matching decor with twelve specially prepared dishes all served in the perfect dishes from my vast collections of vintage enamelware and milk glass. We eat out on my veranda or somewhere in the yard with lanterns I made from Ball jars. The children are all dressed in perfect outfits that show off their summer tans catching fireflies....ok the fantasies get a little carried away - I don't have the veranda (or even the rest of it). This does not deter me from making a few of the crafts and recipes out of my fantasy life. I like tackling the ones presented in Living because they are a little challenging, often something I have never made before.

These lovely meringues I just made for Valentine's Day came straight off the front cover of the February Living issue. They are not something I would ordinarily make. Meringues, while not hard, take time. I have never made meringue as cookies, only as pie topping. The magazine showed them atop an amazing chocolate torte, but I wanted to make something for my kids and their friends. I did have the ingredients so I decided why not? I whipped up the eggs, sugar and cream of tarter the night before Valentine's. I added a little striping for the purple ones by painting the inside of my piping bags with food coloring. Then I tinted the rest of the batch pink. I put them in my fancy oven for a timed bake and it automatically shut off that night several hours later while the house was asleep. The next morning, I came downstairs to these cute hearts just perfect for little hands. Each of my kids got a box filled with them to take to Sunday school to celebrate Valentine's Day with their friends

Having Martha in my home, makes me a little better and more adventurous, broadening my horizons. Thanks Martha, you will always have a special place in my heart.

February 21, 2010

Flower Cake & Cupcakes

This cute cupcake and matching cake were for a one year old birthday party. The small cake is just perfect for the baby to enjoy all herself. The rest of the party attenders each got a strawberry cupcake. These were very simple to make and just took a little time. Each flower is a marshmallow cut with kitchen shears. You hold the marshmallow on it's side and snip almost all the way through four times. This makes five petals when you fan it out. Then you dip the cut sides into colored sugar which sticks perfectly to the marshmallow. The dot in the middle is piped icing to finish off the look. I used colors from the napkin (she got them at the dollar store) I was given for a guide to the party colors- very bright and fun. Apparently the birthday girl loved her cake.

February 16, 2010

Rice on the Cheap

THIS is the way to buy rice for cheap. Head to your local asian grocery store and buy a 25 lb bag for $20.  Spending $20 might seem like a lot, but it works out to only 80 cents per pound. Compare that to smaller bags of plain old long grain rice which has no flavor for more money. [Sidenote: I will be posting soon about my backup pantry to show you how we store this large amount of rice, flour and sugar.] We love jasmine rice which has a sweet smell and flavor, sushi rice which is shorter grain, firm yet tender. Thai sticky rice which is...wait for it....sticky. Basmati is perfect for Indian dishes since it has a nutty fluffy texture. We don't eat brown rice mainly because it does not keep as well as white rice. It will spoil too quickly to purchase in bulk.
We eat rice lots of ways, but here are some of our favorites:
jasmine: for anything that you would use long grain for, stroganoff, pad thai, pesto chicken, Cuban black beans and rice, paella, coconut curry, with smoked sausages, peppers and onions or as a base for Parmesan Fish
sushi rice: as stand alone side dish, especially sprinkled with sushi seasoning, as a base for any stir fry, fried rice, bee bim bop
sticky rice: perfect for rice pudding, the kids also love it with a seasoning over the top made off salt, sugar and sesame seeds, this is rice you can make into rice balls or other crazy shapes to make it fun
basmati rice: with mango chicken, tandoori chicken, palak paneer, masaman curry or any other indian dish (can also be used like jasmine)
We have a super duper rice cooker that I LOVE. It's a Zorirushi and in our house it serves no other purpose than cooking rice. You can use your rice cooker for oatmeal or actual rice dishes like black beans and rice, but I've heard it will affect the flavor of any other rice you cook afterwards. We (really MacGyver) are rice purists. This means the rice cooker is an expensive piece of equipment used only for cooking rice, but it does a perfect job every time and we eat rice often, so for us, it is worth it. Before using the rice cooker I had to pay more attention when cooking rice and would often make it too soggy or too crispy or even burn the bottom. Now it doesn't matter what kind of rice I'm cooking because the Zojirushi cooks it perfectly each time.

I do recommend performing the ritual washing of the rice to rinse away the starchy residue that is leftover after milling (no matter if you use a rice cooker or a pot on the stove). This will give your rice a fluffiness and make the grains separate well. Tradition says you do it three times and rinse completely each time. I'm not so good about really rinsing each time, but I give the rice a good swish with my hands and then pour off most of the water three times. After rinsing you add the appropriate amount of cold water (according to the marks on the side of the cooker) and push "cook". It's that easy. You can start the cooker at a pre-set time with the time cooking or cook it whenever and the cooker will keep it warm until you are ready. This is one appliance that won't sit around like that waffle maker you never use!

Jasmine Rice

February 12, 2010

Sourdough Buttermilk Pancakes with Homemade Butter

Yea!!!! It's snowing. I love the snow and we don't really get any here in the south, so we are thrilled with the rare treat. When it's cold outside it's perfect inside for a breakfast (or dinner) treat of Sourdough Buttermilk Pancakes with homemade butter, maple syrup, juicy grapefruit, fresh scrambled eggs and cheese, crisp turkey bacon, and a pot of steaming Abuelita Hot Chocolate on the stove with marshmallows. Sourdough pancakes are a great way to use your starter when you don't feel like baking. These pancakes are really tasty, nothing like that Bisquick bland stuff. I'm not a huge fan of pancakes because I do think they are pretty blah, but these are delicious.

Sourdough Buttermilk Pancakes
2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 c sugar
1 1/3 c buttermilk
1 c sourdough starter
2 Tbsp oil
1 egg

Combine all dry ingredients in large bowl with whisk. Add buttermilk, starter, oil and egg to the dry mixture. Whisk until combined. Can be thinned with milk or water if the batter is too thick to easily pour. When griddle or pan is hot, pour batter on. At this step you can add fruit (we had some frozen blueberries left over), granola, or chocolate chips. Cook until bubbles form and then flip.

You can cook your pancakes in the traditional circle shape or you can cook them in "sticks" like we sometimes do. These are the perfect shape for dipping in syrup, which means you don't hear the "mom, can you cut these?" whine. This recipe makes a ton of pancakes, so I usually make some with fruit and then freeze the plain sticks for another day. You can separate them with wax paper and just pop them into the toaster oven to heat them up.

Since it's Valentine's Day weekend, you could color the batter pink like I did and pour them in the shape of hearts. Or sometimes we do "x's" and "o's" and the kids love that. Having a batter bowl makes this much easier, but you could pour the batter out of a liquid measuring cup.

This weekend we topped our pancakes with homemade butter. It was a science experiment for the kids and it was REALLY easy.
Homemade Butter
1 quart heavy cream
a little salt to taste (optional)

Pour cream into large mixing bowl and let it sit on the counter for a couple of hours to warm up. Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, beat the cream on medium or as high as you can without spraying it everywhere. As the cream beats it will slowly get stiffer and more like whipped cream (yes this is how you make fresh whipped cream, you just add some powdered sugar). Now you can jack the power up on the mixer to high and really get things going. Don't walk away from the mixer because butter is about to appear before your eyes. As you keep beating, you'll notice the cream gets chunkier and stiffer. It will start to ball around your whisk with a yellow color. You...have...made...BUTTER! 
At this stage, you can add some salt. Scrape it off the whisk into your container just sprinkle some salt on the butter as you mash it into a container. When you are smashing, you will get more liquid out of it. Don't throw that liquid away. This liquid byproduct of making butter is better know as BUTTERMILK! You are totally cool now, you've made butter and buttermilk!

Now this is what I call a cool kitchen experiment with yummy results. You can use your buttermilk in the pancake recipe above. This recipe will make about 2 c of butter and 2 1/4 c of buttermilk. I keep the buttermilk in a glass jar in the fridge until we need it. The butter will continue to weep buttermilk so you can just pour it into your jar. It's hard to believe butter can taste so creamy and delicious, but this stuff is phenomenal.

Enjoy your snowy morning with a yummy breakfast, I'm off to make snow angels!

February 10, 2010

Extra or Off Season Clothing Storage

This is the BEST system for storing extra clothes. We do not have big closets in our house, so I have to rotate the clothes we keep in our drawers and closets from winter/ fall to summer/ spring. The off season clothing gets stored in Rubbermaid Roughneck Boxes and put into the attic. They are small enough to transport on those awful pull down attic stairs without a death defying balancing act. Or you can always drop them down from the attic (which I have been known to do) if you are in a hurry and can't wait for anyone to help. They are sturdy enough they won't crack and if you toss them just right you can actually keep the lid on. That takes years of practice, because it's a skill.

I also use these same kind of bins for the kid's clothes. I have kept most of their clothes for the next baby. That means I'm not buying any clothes for Sausage Boy because I have everything left over from #1 Son. It's all stored in the lovely labeled bins. I use cardstock white paper with packing tape over it for the label so it comes right off when I need to change what is inside. The kids' clothes are labeled with "3T Girls Summer” or "12-18 mos Boy" and stored in order so I can find exactly what I need when we are ready for the next size up. I even keep the bigger sizes that people give us in bins for the future.

We also use some of these bins for holiday decorations. I have one labeled "Halloween" and three labeled "Easter". They come in various sizes so I can choose how much space I'll need. Like having big ones for those awkward Easter baskets. I love, love, love the way they stack securely so I can stack 'em high, using my vertical space instead of horizontal. I will stack them four high if they are against a wall and three high when they are free standing.

Rubbermaid bins are:
  • Durable, rugged storage boxes are shatter resistant down to 0 degrees fahrenheit (and I've heard stories where they have found them after fires with the contents intact)
  • Sturdy, built-in handles allow for easy carrying (and they slide really well on carpet!)
  • Snap-on, stay-tight lids help keep contents dry and dust-free
  • All units are stackable for saving valuable storage space (even most different gallon sizes)
  • Comes in 10, 14, 18, 25 and 31 gallon size
It's great to put your clothes (and the kids' clothes) away for a season because when you bring them out they feel new again. Or maybe they feel dated and you realize it's time to get rid of something. Whenever we take a bin out I always find a few things that can be given away. These bins also made moving a little easier because everything was already boxed up and labeled.

February 8, 2010

A Rooster Named Autumn

You may have heard the song, "A Boy Named Sue". (My family loves Johnny Cash.) We have a version of that song around our house. It's a "Rooster Named Autumn". So how does one end up with a rooster aka boy chicken who has a girl name like Autumn?
Once upon a time, we got some cute baby chicks at a chicken giveaway promotion and raised them into productive egg laying hens. Well, all except one. Turns out one of them was a boy, a rooster by the name of Freedom. We didn't know she was a he when we got him (her?). How could this have happened? We were only supposed to taking home girls, not boy chicks.

February 7, 2010

Marriage Planning Weekend

My husband and I are involved in a wonderful Sunday school class that is led by some incredibly smart people. These folks are all a little farther along in their lives than we are. Where we have young kids and we are "newly" married, their kids are grown and their marriages more seasoned. These are the kind of people you want to learn from because they have already been there and done that.

More than once, the leaders have talked about their "planning weekends". They take a whole weekend and work through a goal setting questionnaire to map out their year. Many of them have been doing this for a while and said it really has helped them be purposeful in their decision making and direction. Being a Type A person (as is my hubbie) this sounded right up my alley. Plan out our lives (okay maybe only a year) in a weekend?? I'm in!

February 4, 2010

Coloring on the Walls Permitted

My mom is pretty fantastic. Among her MANY talents, she can draw. Once upon a time, I had a green nursery and I wanted a little something on the walls. A friend made a cute two-dimensional birdhouse and I asked my mom the paint a bird to go with it. She painted the tree limb and blue bird using a child's book for reference. It was the cutest thing in the nursery, especially with a little moss hanging from the birdhouse. She even painted us chickens on the wall (maybe this was foreshadowing and I should have seen the "writing on the wall" about the chickens to come).
I can't draw stick figures, so there is no way I could have tackled this, but I am lucky to have a Super Mom come to my rescue when I need it.

Maybe you have an artistic bent? Try adding a little whimsy to your child's walls, what do they love?
Mom recommends:
  • acrylic paint (.99 at a craft store)
  • variety of paint brushes
  • plastic plate for mixing colors
  • sharpie pen for details
  • picture books for ideas

I recommend having an art projector since I can't draw. It takes any image and projects it onto a wall (like an overhead projector) so you just trace. My friend Liz did an entire X-Wing Fighter jet with the art projector that looked incredible. She even used glow in the dark paint for the stars. I'm hoping at some point we can add a rocket ship to Super Bear's blue walls.

Do you have painting talent? I'd love to see photos.

February 1, 2010

Princess Party

No matter what the amount of masculine things lying around our house, our Banana Girl is a princess through and through. Her favorite color has always been pink, despite my best efforts to encourage purple. She loves to dress up and play princess. In fact, we have dresses from three generations: stuff from my Grandma, my Mom, and me. Seeing her wear that prom dress from the 80's is hilarious.

When our little royal decided she wanted a princess party for her 4th I knew right away it would involve a doll cake. I know the idea of eating a skirt is well...absurd, but I love doll cakes. They make every little girl smile.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...