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Thursday, May 31, 2012

I believe I've topped myself. THIS is officially the lamest post I've ever written!

I always thought my sheet folding post would remain the pinnacle of my "dumb shit" posts.  Then I decided to challenge myself to come up with some thing more lame.

The wait is over.

That day is here my friends.

You are welcome.

When we lived in Los Angeles, I worked for a large corporate company that often had fancy pants parties.  More often than not, I was hosting said fancy pants party (with the company paying of course!).  My small town table manners (don't talk with food in your mouth, ask your fellow diners questions about themselves, and don't put your elbows on the table lest you squish the tiny fairies that live on the edge of your table) were decent, but had not prepared me for multiple forks and fancy table settings.

I felt out of my element at these functions.  I needed my own Barney from Pretty Woman to take me around, dress me up, and then grill me on which fork to use when.  And I obviously needed to be reminded not to wear my knee-high hooker boots to these functions.  And spoiler alert: Edward Lewis is not my uncle!

Sadly, I don't exactly remember where I picked these tips are (were they all from one person, or did I get them online?), but I did learn them eventually and they were so helpful when I was at Spago (yes, seriously), or another restaurant where they also happened to be filming The Hills (yes, seriously).

First things first, silverware - generally if there are multiple forks, you use the fork starting with the outside first.  So, if someone puts a first course in front of you, use the fork furthest away from you to eat that dish.  When that plate is taken away, the fork goes with it.  When the next course is placed before you, use the next furthest fork from you.  And so on and so on.

And let's say you're the one setting that dinner table.  Where does the silverware go?  Easiest way to remember it:

Fork has four letters, so does left.  The fork goes on the left (side note, if you're ever eating on a boat and someone tells you to go to the PORT side, just remember that PORT and LEFT both have four letters).

Knife and spoon both have five letters, so does right.  Therefore, the knife and spoon go on the right side of the plate.  And on a boat, starboard is on the right ("board" has five letters just like right).

If you're seated at a packed table and there is silverware, bread plates, dinner plates, water glasses, blah blah blah in front of you, it can be overwhelming.  Take a deep breath and remember this tip:  your "Bread" plate is to the left and your drink is to the right of your main plate.

Please believe me that I've make those hands under the table during dinner trying to remember which is which.

Should you ever find yourself at a fancy restaurant, now you're prepared.  If you find yourself eating dinner at my house, just make a modest attempt at washing your hands, don't pick your nose too often, and we'll call it good.

If you find yourself at M.C. Hammer's house for dinner, this might be a useful tool for you:

 God help me, I hope someone understands that reference.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I ate a ton of crappy hummus to create this winner

Is that like kissing a lot of frogs before finding your prince?  A lot of garlicky garbanzo bean frogs.

I've been trying to make hummus at home for years.  I've never really gotten it right, and Troy and I have choked down some gross spread during my search for a great recipe.

I checked out Homemade Pantry from the library last month, and I've already renewed it twice.  I've made a ton of great things from it, and will be sad when I finally have to return it.

One of the recipes in there was hummus that the author's friend makes.  I decided to give it a shot and promised myself that I would follow the recipe to a "t".  That was a promise I quickly broke as I struck out on my own.  The recipe below is mine, but it was inspired by Homemade Pantry.  I will forever be grateful to Alana for finally nudging me in the right direction.

Oh Hell I Finally Figured it Out Hummus
1/2 lb of dried garbanzo beans (also called chick peas), or 2 cans
5 (yep, 5) cloves of garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp kosher salt
3 tblsp olive oil
1/8 tsp of smoked paprika*, plus more for sprinkling on top
1/8 tsp of sumac**, plus more for sprinkling on top
1/4 cup of tahini***
Sesame seeds
Dried parsley

1) (If using dried beans) In a mixing bowl, place dried beans and cover with 4 inches of water.   Let soak overnight.  Drain the liquid and add the soaked beans to a crockpot.  Cover with 3 inches of water and cook on low for 8 hours.  After cooking, drain the excess liquid, reserving it.

(If using canned beans) Open the can genius.  Drain.  Reserve the liquid.

2) In a food processor, add the beans, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and salt, and blend.  After a minute or so, drizzle the olive oil in with the machine is still going.  Add a bit of the reserved liquid if needed.

3) Once the hummus is super smooth stop the machine and add the smoked paprika and sumac, and pulse a few times.

4) Store extras in a mason jar, but it's very important that you immediately put some in a bowl, sprinkle sesame seeds, parsley, more smoked paprika, and a tiny bit of sumac on top, and then make an ass of yourself while you devour it.

Step 4 is the most important.

*I buy smoked paprika at Costco, and if you don't have a Costco or access to smoked paprika, I weep for you.  Seriously, it's the best.  I get a year's worth at Costco for $4.  You NEED this.

**If you found yourself saying "what the fuck is sumac", you're not alone.  I said that the first time someone recommended this spice to me for hummus.  You can't find it in a normal store.  You need to drive to a fancy pants store where soccer moms are driving their 1 kid around in a Ford Expedition and drinking a "Venti sugar-free skinny latte with extra room for Splenda".  THOSE are the stores where you can find Sumac.  If you're in the Puget Sound area, head to Central Market (it's a huge trip for me, but I go every few months because it's worth it!) and they have it in the bulk spice section.

I think it's a Middle Eastern spice, so if you have an ethnic grocery store, try there!

If you can't find it, dial up the smoked paprika a bit, and put a pinch of cayenne pepper in instead of the sumac.

***Tahini can usually be found near peanut butter in the grocery store.  It's stupidly expensive, but the $6 jar will easily last about 12 batches of hummus.
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The best meal we've had in a long time

It all started with a loaf of bread.  And a pound of local asparagus.  And a strong desire not to cook.

We were at the Farmer's Market on Saturday and found "pizza" baguettes.  And it needed to get in to my mouth STAT.  I remembered a recipe I had seen earlier in the week, and decided to recreated it - "Sarah Style".

Cheesey Bruchsetta
1 baquette
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried chives
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for dipping
2 tomatoes
Ricotta (homemade or store bought.  I actually used some homemade cottage cheese for this)

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2) Put the cheese in a mixing bowl.  Add the spices.  Mix.

3) Pour some olive oil in a plate.  Slice the baquette, and dip each piece of bread in the olive oil.  Place on a baking stone or baking sheet.

4) Top with the cheese mixture.
Leave a few without cheese for your picky ass kid.
5) Put in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.

6) Top with tomatoes prior to serving (because hot tomatoes are the work of the devil).
7) Resign yourself to never kissing your spouse again because your garlic breath is so stanky!

This was a great "meat-free" meal that left us super full and happy!  I also paired it with homemade hummus (recipe tomorrow).
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Monday, May 28, 2012

Simple whole wheat hamburger buns

A few weeks ago, a reader asked me about my homemade hamburger buns that I had in my meal plan post.  I told her I would do a post at some point, and I am a woman of my word!

These hamburger buns are wicked simple and come together quite quickly.  I utilize my whole wheat bread recipe and use the steps from my original bread post.   They take less time than actual bread because they rise more quickly.

After the first rise (when you're waiting for the dough to get nice and poofy), knead the bread again, and then pinch off pieces of dough.  Roll the dough in a ball, and flatten it on a baking sheet or baking stone.
In my opinion, only serial killers have clean bakeware. 
Filthy bakeware proves that someone cares enough to use it, and use it often.
Let it rise for about 45-60 minutes or until they're to your liking.  I prefer smaller flatter buns because they remind me of my boobs after nursing a kid for 2 years force Troy to make smaller burgers which means he is less likely to overeat which he is known to do.  These are dense whole wheat buns, and you don't need a huge bun because you'll fill up quickly with these.
After about an hour's rise.
After they've risen to your desired "height", bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes depending on how firm you want them.
If you want to get fancy, brush these with an egg white wash, or a little butter and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.  Paired with mostly meatless burgers, turkey burgers, or regular hamburgers, these buns complete any family BBQ!
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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Meal plan for May 28th - June 3rd

We had some gorgeous weather this weekend...well, we did on Saturday, and I spent a ton of time out in the garden.  Holy cow the garden is in a sad state of affairs.  Despite my eagerness to get out there this spring, I've pretty much done nothing remarkable.

I may have done nothing remarkable outside, but last night we had one of the best meals that I've made in months.  It was a very simple set up, but man the flavors really came together!  I'll be posting some recipes later this week.

Here is what we'll be shoving in our food holes this week:

Monday:: home canned tomato soup with BSTAs (a BLT, but with the added awesomeness of avocado!  And with spinach because I hate when lettuce is hot), sweet potato fries.  And fruit.  Because there is always fruit!

Tuesday:: Salmon cakes, artichokes, and coleslaw.

Wednesday:: I'm working super late.  Troy and Jack will be on their own.

Thursday:: Asian meatballs with vegetables and rice.  I'm going to make the meatballs this weekend, and then cook them in the sauce in the crockpot while I'm at work.  I'll serve it with some lazy lady egg rolls.

Friday::  Homemade pizza and salad from the garden.  The final jar of canned pears.  Sigh.  There will be tears.  Pear season is a long way off.

Saturday:: I'm off to the Mother Earth News Fair!!!!  So excited!  I've been waiting for this for months.  Getting to go is my mother's day present.  Troy and Jack will be on their own for dinner.

Sunday:: dinner at my parent's.  No clue what they're serving, or what we'll bring.

This week I spent $27.94 at the grocery store, and totally forgot to take a photo.  I bought: avocados, "hippy" Rice Krispies (organic Envirokids puffs.  For a recipe I'm going to try out this week), 4 bottles of organic Santa Cruz cherry and raspberry lemonade (it was 4/$5 and I buy a lot during the summer when it's on sale to use for our water kefir soda), organic bananas, organic carrots, 1 organic cucumber, sugar peas, garlic (can't wait for my harvest later this summer!), natural lunch meat from the deli, and tomatoes.

I also spent $7 on raw milk, $40 at Costco on various items, and $333 on fruit. 

On fruit. 

I bought to two fruit shares from a local CSA.  The "local" (Eastern Washington) fruit will be delivered five times throughout the season and will include pears, apples, peaches, cherries, and...I think that is it!  It will be a total of 196 pounds which means I'll be getting bulk organic fruit for $1.70 per pound.

What are you having this week?

Friday, May 25, 2012

The lazy lady's guide to homemade egg rolls

Want to know a secret?  It's a big one.

I am Lazy.

With a capital L.

It's true.  I like making homemade things, but if it takes too long, or gets too complicated, I tend to throw in the towel and yell "this is stupid".

I'm lazy.

And six.

So, if you're like me, and still love egg rolls, this post is for you!

Lazy Lady Egg Rolls
-Egg roll wrappers
-1 bag of coleslaw mix (just the kind with the cabbage and carrots.  Not the sauce too)
-1 small bowl of water
-Dipping sauce of your choice (you need the sauce.  Most egg rolls have "cooked" innards that are flavored already. These aren't.  Because they're Lazy Lady Egg Rolls (remember?).  So you need the sauce to add flavor that is missing from the "insides".)

1) Lay out 1 egg roll wrapper on a flat surface.

2) Put a small amount of the cabbage mixture in the middle.

3) Fold the ends over the mixture.

4) Starting at one of the long ends, roll the wrapper up and over the folded ends.

5) When you come to the end of the wrap, put it over the wrapper.

6) Wet your finger in the bowl of water, and "paint" the seam closed.

If you're going to serve these right away, heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Then add enough oil (I use coconut) to cover the bottom of the skillet.  Place the egg roll "seam side" down in the oil.
Turns out if you freeze egg rolls and then let them thaw completely, they flatten out and resemble a 100 year old man's scrot...nevermind.  But I was too lazy to remake these just for a nice photo.
Cook it until that side is crispy and brown, and then flip.  When finished cooking, I place them on a plate lined with phonebook sheets to absorb the extra oil.
If you don't want to cook these right away, place on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper, and freeze.  Then transfer to a freezer-proof bag or container.  No need to thaw before serving, but if you can let it sit at room temperature for a bit before cooking, it helps.  See tip in photo above though!

This is the only sweet chili sauce I can find in my podunk town that doesn't have HFCS in it.  It's quite tasty, and I encourage you to seek it out!  Avoid anything that says "Restaurant Style Sweet and Sour".  It's way too sweet and fakey.
Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.  Congratulate yourself on making something without pitching a fit and calling it stupid.
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Blog design giveaway

Hey all, my friend Tara who did my blog redesign is offering up her creative services to a lucky winner over at her blog Craft-Tacular

Tara is crazy talented and I speak from experience when I say super patient.  She put up with all my insane pleas and changes until it looked exactly like what I had inside my head (that's a scary thought).  I highly recommend her, and if you're looking for an awesome redesign, head on over and enter!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lazy lady's skillet potatoes

So, I love these potatoes for multiple reasons.  But the top reason?  You cook them in a cast iron skillet which means you don't have to wash an extra dish.  I would live my life in cast iron to cut down on dishes.  Cast iron pants?  Cast iron shoes?  Yes please.

This side dish is stupidly easy, and comes together wickedly fast.

And you don't have to wash the dish.  Did I mention that already?

Skillet Spuds
-Potatoes (duh) - however many you'd like.  Organic if possible
-1 tsp of dried parsley
-salt and pepper to taste
-1/8 tsp dried dill
-6 (yes 6) cloves of garlic
-2 tblsp olive oil, plus a bit more to coat the skillet
-1/4 tsp dried chives
-sprinkle of smoked paprika (less than 1/8 tsp.  Literally, just a sprinkle)

1) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Put your cast iron skillet in the oven while preheating.

2) I cut the potatoes and garlic up on the weekend to make dinner a faster affair during the week.  

3) In your tub, or a mixing bowl, add the spices and 2 tblsp of olive oil.  If using a lidded container, put the lid on and shake (told you these were lazy potatoes).  If using a mixing bowl, mix with a spoon.

4) When the oven is hot, carefully remove the skillet and drizzle a little olive oil on the pan.  Swirl to coat the bottom.  Add the spuds, give them a stir, and then put them back in the oven for 11 minutes.

5) At 11 minutes, give them a stir, and put them back in for another 10-15 depending on how crispy you prefer them.  You can also blast them with a broiler for the last minute or two to get them really crispy!
Some asparagus I had roasted the night before was hitching a ride in the last 5 minutes to heat up.
6) Serve with your favorite main dish.  Foolishly say "yes" when your 3 year old asks if HE can put the ketchup on YOUR plate.

Rookie mistake.
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Let's talk sunscreen

I know there are a lot of people out there who claim that sunscreen will give you cancer.  The chemicals in it will seep in to your brain and you'll grow another uterus or something.

While some ingredients in some products may be sketchy, this much I know, me + no sunscreen will absolutely end in cancer.

In 2007, Troy and I went to London for a vacation (I found the world's cheapest tickets).  One day, we were on a bus with tinted windows.

I was wearing SPF 15.

It was March.

And I got a sunburn on my face.

So yeah, I'm pale.  And now, so is my kid.
Go outside without sunscreen?  That thought makes me cringe! (Photo by Jack)

My family has genetic disposition to cancers.  I like gardening.  I like being outside with my kid.  That means I wear sunscreen each and every day.  I don't care how much coconut oil you slather on your face, how much pastured meat you eat, whole grains you consume, cod liver oil you take, or spotted owl nutsack extract you swallow; when you're as pasty as me (and my spawn), you need extra protection.

And because I can't afford the super expensive and absolutely safe sunscreen, I do my best and I call it a day.  If you're curious about a product when (if) you're in the market for sunscreen, check out the skindeep database which is a free source that ranks products based on potentially harmful chemicals.  If you're curious, this is the one I'm using because it's cheap and readily available at Target (in the baby section).

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be jumping from shade patch to shade patch on my way from the parking lot in to my office.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cottage cheese - I like it in a bowl, but not on my thighs

Sadly, I only have the choice in one of those matters.  Ahem.

Growing up, we often had cottage cheese topped with fruit during dinner.  I was never a huge fan, and one day (probably around 6), I just stopped eating it.  I've had nothing to do with it ever since.

Then two weeks ago, I was at a breakfast meeting, and someone had brought a tub of cottage cheese.  I thought to myself, "self, it's been about 24 years since you ate this stuff last.  Try a small bite".  So I did.

And then I had a bigger bite.

And a bigger bite!

And pretty soon I was growling at anyone who tried to eat some of my precious.*

*That didn't happen.

Last week, I bought some cottage cheese, topped it with sliced tomatoes, and sprinkled salt and pepper over it.  Troy and I had some with dinner one night, and then couldn't stop eating it.  We then bought a tub of it from Costco two days later, and promptly ate it in about three days.

After searching for and not finding an organic version of cottage cheese in my little town, I set off on an online search for a recipe to make my own.  I found this one by Alton Brown.

When you can't do anything about your thighs cottage cheese
*the ingredients below have been halved from the original version
1/2 gallon of milk (I used our local raw milk)
1/4 cup + a few tblsp of vinegar
1/2 tsp of kosher salt
1/4 cup of half and half or heavy cream (I used the cream on the top of our milk!)

1) Heat the milk in a pan (my beloved dutch oven) on medium heat until it reaches 120 degrees.

2) Remove the pan from the heat, and gently pour in the vinegar.  Stir slowly for 1 to 2 minutes.

3) Cover, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

4) Pour the mixture in colander lined with a tea towel for 5 minutes.

5) Rinse the mixture in the towel under cool water for 3-5 minutes.  Make sure you're squeezing and moving the mixture until cool. (that's what she said).

6) Squeeze dry and transfer to mixing bowl.  Add the salt, and stir to break up the curd.

Add the half and half or cream right before serving.  Top with your topping of choice.  I prefer to treat this as a cheap version of creamy mozzarella for caprese salad.

I thought this was pretty good!  I'll probably continue buying some from the store because this recipe doesn't make nearly enough to serve our needs.  It's a great use for milk that might go bad if not used immediately.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Also...I finished up another "page"

Check out "hippy shit" for all my, um...hippy shit posts.

Meal plan for May 21st-27th

Good morning!  I hope you've had a lovely weekend thus far!  Yesterday, we went to my sister's to celebrate my sweet nephew's birthday.  I made him this bucket and a dino hoodie.  We also bought him this book that is so much fun to read with little ones.  Jack got a copy for his birthday, and we've been having a blast reading it.

Look at this adorable cake my sister made!
Today, we're off to the in-laws to welcome home my brother-in-law who has been "under way" for about four months.  For anyone not in a military community, "under way" means a military unit has been out on a ship or a boat (submarine) away from their families for a certain length of time.  Returning to the community is always a fun and special event for loved ones.  It brings lots of family time.

And lots of babies about 10 months later.


Here is what we're going to be eating this week.  A quick reminder on breakfast - Tuesdays and Thursdays, Jack and I have smoothies.  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,  Troy and I have oatmeal, and Jack eats breakfast at my aunt's.

Lunches for adults are always leftovers from the night before.  Should we not have enough for two lunches, we'll grab a lunch-sized portion of soup from our deep freeze.  When I make a big batch of soup in the crockpot, we freeze the leftovers in pint-sized glass canning jars just for this purpose.  We'll take either a sandwich, or some cheese and crackers, carrots, and some fruit.  Jack gets the same thing every day (I was the same way until I was 8, so I don't worry too much about lack of variety): sandwich with homemade bread, freezer jam, and DIY almond butter.  Paired with a few slices of cheddar, some dried or fresh fruit, and maybe a little treat if I've made one.

Monday:: Roasted chicken, skillet potatoes, and salad from the garden.

Tuesday:: Black bean and cheese burritos, Spanish rice in the rice cooker, and fruit.

Wednesday:: Cold Thai noodle salad, and homemade lazy lady egg rolls (recipe coming this week!).

Thursday:: Troy is making burgers.  He makes the yummiest burgers, which is lucky because I just recently picked up about a thousand pounds of grass fed burger and roasts from my local butcher.  Ok, it was like 35 pounds, but still.  They offer grassfed freezer packs for $129 for 25 lbs of beef.  Because we don't really care about steak, they sub out the expensive cuts for 10 pounds more burger and roasts.  Works out to $3.68 a lb for local grassfed meat!   We'll probably rock some sweet potato fries, and grilled asparagus.

Friday:: Popcorn and fruit!  The working mom end of week dinner of champions.  While we sit on the couch and watch a movie.  Oh yeah!

Saturday:: no ideas yet.  Maybe you care to suggest something?  I'll probably end up making breakfast for dinner if nothing else tickles my fancy.

Sunday:: dinner at my parents.

This week I spent $44.55 on groceries.
My cashier at the grocery store was in training.  That bottle of witch hazel is on my receipt, but didn't come home...
We're hitting up Costco later today, but the bill should be low because we only need sweet potato fries, a great fresh veggie if they have it, organic carrots if they have them, and some fruit.

Happy cooking this week, but most importantly, happy eating!
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