Friday, June 8, 2012

What's on the Menu? Salsa Verde

This is my first year to grow tomatillos and already I'm a fan!  Both plants are HUGE and covered with little yellow flowers.

And since I've never grown tomatillos, I was surprised to find the fruit growing in little casings that remind me of paper lanterns!  So cool!
I never in a million years thought that these things would produce at the level they do.  I have tomatillos coming out of my ears!  Now I have to admit, I don't know much about using tomatillos.  I have one sauce that I make for fish tacos that calls for a few tomatillos, but that's it.  So here I was, faced with a HUGE bowl of them wondering what the hell to do.  Then it hit me, Salsa Verde!  Duh.

First I had to remove the husks.
Then I washed them and put them on a cookie sheet (about a pound or so of them) with some olive oil, 1 onion, about 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, and a couple of de-seeded jalapeƱos (I wanted it mild enough for the kids) and popped them in the oven on about 400* to roast for 15 minutes, stirring them on occasion to make sure they didn't burn.
Afterwards, I dumped them into the food processor, oil, juices and all, added a couple of teaspoons of cumin and about a teaspoon or so of salt, a good handful of washed cilantro and the juice from 1/2 a lime.
After a good whir, I ended up with a wonderful, flavorful sauce that was perfect for dipping chips!  I also took about half of it to add to my sour cream chicken enchilada recipe, YUM!
So hooray for tomatillos!  You can bet I'm going to be enjoying A LOT of salsa verde this summer!  :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Plum Tasty!

A friend of mine sent me home with a TON of tiny, little plums on Sunday.  By Tuesday I was well aware that these tiny, little plums were going to start rotting.  Fast.  So I frantically got online to see what some options were.  I found a plum upside cake, which looked MARVELOUS, but I didn't have buttermilk in the house.  I eventually came across a recipe for plum sorbet at Simply Recipes and I immediately heard a little chorus of "Hallelujah" in my head!

First I started peeling and pitting these.

Yes.  I actually hand-peeled and hand-pitted these little plums because the recipe called for a fine mesh sieve to filter out the large pieces of skin and I didn't have one.  Anyway, after peeling and pitting I ran the plums, sugar, lemon juice and pinch of salt through the food processor until the mixture was smooth.  (Sorry about the sucky pic.)
I poured it all into my handy dandy ice cream maker and spun it for about 25 minutes.  At first it was more like a really thick smoothie, but after about 3 hours in the freezer it looked like this...
Sheer perfection!  And can I just say, YUM!  It was just sweet enough with a hint of tartness and the perfect dessert for a warm summer night!  So when life hands you plums, make sorbet!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Adventures in Gardening-Spring 2012

Hi All!!!  I know!  You totally thought I bailed, right?  Well, I didn't.  As usual, my life has been crazy-busy with these kids.  Between homeschooling, field trips, extra-curricular classes, travel, a husband who has been working 60+ hours a week and trying to get a new business off the ground, blogging has had to be on the back-burner.  There have been so many times that I just wanted to sit down and write, but dishes called or dance class was looming and I knew I wouldn't be able to commit a reasonable amount of time to write something intelligible.  So I just left it.  I am hoping to start budgeting my time a little better so I can check in a little more frequently.  I can't promise anything, but I'll do my best.

So amongst all this craziness, I actually did manage to plant a garden this spring!  I didn't plant one in the fall and it killed me.  Every time I looked out into the backyard, empty beds stared back at me and it pissed me off!  I just didn't have time.  I was lucky enough to get several heads of volunteer lettuce sprout up, so that made me a little happier!

I was really hoping to tear out the beds in late winter, rearrange some things and have this wonderful new garden set up by March, but yeah right!  Between basketball practices and games, science fair prep and everything else, I didn't even manage to weed the damn beds!  Hello!

So when the time came I had just a smidge of work to do!  I finally cleaned everything out and was ready to plant.  

I was lucky enough to have the BEST helper in the whole world!  The Monkey Man could care less about gardening these days.  If Mario and Luigi aren't involved it's futile!  :(  But the Piglet (aka Tie-dye Fairy Princess) is still interested and above all, she just likes hanging out with Mama.  She also had some help (such a good little mama already)!
Roddy didn't help at all, but he's just damn cute so he deserved a shout out!
This year we planted 2 types of okra (Clemson and emerald green), Japanese eggplant, 5 varieties of tomato, tomatillos (our first year with these), black-eyed peas, Chinese yard longs and squash.  Might I just say that zucchini and pumpkins were a total experiment.  For the last 3 years I have NEVER been able to grow a Curcubit of any kind, no squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelon or cantaloupe.  Stinkin' squash borers have taken them all out within a month of planting.  I just happened to read an article about this problem in the "Carrots Love Tomatoes" book and they suggested planting 1 squash seed with 3 icicle radish seeds and planting nasturtiums between the rows.  I figured what the hell, a $5 experiment and if they tanked, I'd just plant with a late crop of black-eyed peas.

Within about a month, we had progress!  Tomatoes and tomatillos.
First bed has the pumpkins, squash and yard longs and the back bed has eggplant and okra.
The kids and I went out of town for a 2 week trip to NM (blog post to follow soon, I promise) and I had to leave the garden in the hands of an over-worked spouse.  I was fully expecting the garden to be a bit, taxed, shall we say, when I came back.  But thankfully, central Texas is actually experiencing quite a lovely spring and the temps have been mild and we have actually had RAIN!  Yes, I said it.  R-A-I-N, rain!  Much to my great joy and complete surprise this is what I came home to...

Bed 1:  Clemson okra and Japanese eggplant
Bed 2:  Zucchini, pumpkins, yard longs.
Baby pumpkin!

And I just have to note, the pumpkins?  Well, those crazy things are from the seeds that I harvested from the teeny, tiny pumpkin my daughter fell in love with last fall and cried when it started to mold.  I promised her I would harvest the seeds and try to grow a pumpkin vine with those seeds.  Those pumpkins have grown with a vengeance.  I am sure these pumpkins are likely to take over my entire yard by the fall!

Bed 3:  Tomatoes and tomatillos.
Oh the salsa and green sauces I have in my future!

My first tomatillos!

And last but not least, Bed 4:  Emerald green okra and black-eyed peas!
I am feeling quite optimistic about my summer garden and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for mild weather and lots of rain!  It is so good to be gardening again and even better to be sharing my experiences with you!  Thanks for sticking around and I'll do my best to keep plugging along and trying to get some decent posts up!  Until next time, enjoy life!  It's awesome!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Homemade Ice Cream--Take 1

Big Daddy is AWESOME!  I have been begging and pestering and whining for an ice cream maker for months.  So guess what I got for Christmas!  Well, technically I got it a week before Christmas, but you know, he's a punctual guy!  I keep up with this other blog, "Gina's Skinny Recipes" and she got a new ice cream maker awhile back and the sorbets and ice creams and frozen yogurts she has been posting have been making me crazy!  I researched the model she's using and it looked like a nice machine so.... BAM!
The Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker!  How's that for a mouthful!?!

Well, needless to say, we had treats galore over the Christmas holiday (pies, gingerbread, chocolate cookies, sugar cookies, rice krispie treats, etc...) so I opted to hold off on the ice cream making until after we had eaten all of that other fattening stuff!  But last night I couldn't stand it anymore, so I fired it up!  I remembered to put the bowl in the freezer the day before, so it was ready to go.  For our first shot, I decided to go for a simple, no-frills vanilla.  I figured that was the best way to gauge the texture and flavor.  We mixed the ingredients, poured them in and 35 minutes later, we were rewarded with this....
Smooth, luscious, creamy, vanilla ice cream!  The Monkey Man and I had ours with pumpkin pie, Big Daddy had his with pecan pie and the Piglet, well, she prefers her vanilla with Midnight Moo chocolate sauce and rainbow sprinkles!  I am very pleased with our initial attempt and now I am brainstorming for new flavors.  I think coffee or green tea gelato sounds awesome!  Or Irish Cream!  I did notice HEB had blackberries on sale last week, that would make a killer sorbet!  Ahhhhh, so many desserts, so little time!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Did I make the cutest little clothespin dollies?

Why yes.  Yes, I did!!!  I was wanting to make something sweet for the Piggy for Christmas.  I had originally intended to make the little wooden peg gnomes, because she LOVES "Gnomeo and Juliet", but as fate would have it, I couldn't find the little peg dolls anywhere in town!  I have seriously been in every Jo-Ann Fabric, Hobby Lobby and Michael's in a 20-freakin'-mile radius of my house!  (Apparently I should have ordered them online!)  But I did find the little clothespins, so I started brainstorming a bit and here is what I came up with...

First of all, supplies.  I used wooden clothespins, soy-based paint (that was a neat find!), self-adhesive craft foam, poms-poms, cross-stitch thread, ruffled ribbon, and a hot glue gun.
 I attempted mermaids first, so I turned the clothespins to where the slit was at the sides and painted the lower portion for the tail.  (Sorry for the crappy pic, lighting wasn't the best.)
Then I added a little bikini top, the face and embellished the tail.
And yes, I even added little belly-buttons!  Next step was to add hair and construct tail fins.  I had my mom-in-law cut the fins out of sparkly, self-adhesive craft foam.  You need two for each tail, so you can stick them together.  Once they are stuck together and your dolls are dry enough, slide that foam into the slits at the bottom of the clothespin.  We cut the hair out of cross-stitch thread and used a dot of hot glue and pressed the hair into it.  Then embellished as desired.  This is final product!
They're SWEET!  Right?  I felt so inspired and confident after I finished these little cuties that I decided to whip out some ballerinas too!  Pretty much the same deal, except the slits faced forward.  I painted little toe shoes and used ruffles and pom-poms for the tutus.  I also painted the hair and added some pom-poms for buns and/or little hats! 
OK, the one with the orange poms makes me giggle!  I LOVE them!  I do think for the next batch, I will paint the bodice in a way that leaves an unpainted area for little arms.  But hey, for a first try, these turned out pretty damn good!  I can't wait to see my little Piggy's face on Christmas morning!  I am also looking forward to making the next batch with her.  She would have SO much fun with this.  And once we figure out the gnomes, I'll be sure to post about them as well!  

Here's hoping you all have a wonderful holiday season!   Keep warm and safe and love one another!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cranberry Lovin' from the Oven

It's the time of year when I start hoarding cranberries.  Ocean Spray, Dole, whatever, I buy at least one bag every time I go into HEB or Costco.  I have to get enough to last me the whole year!  Now I'm not that into cranberry sauce or cranberry Jell-O or anything like that.  I just happen to have an unnatural love of cranberry bread!  Cranberry coffee cake rules too, but that's another post!  Anyway, we just baked a fresh loaf today and I thought I'd share.  The recipe I use is from the Ocean Spray site.  There are a couple of things I omit from this recipe, because nuts and orange peel do NOT float my boat, but you can choose for yourself!

Cranberry Bread

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 c. orange juice
1 tbsp. orange peel (I leave this out, not a fan of the zest!)
2 tbsp shortening
1 egg, well beaten
1-1/2 c. cranberries (fresh or frozen), chopped
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Oven on 350*F.  Have a greased loaf pan ready.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, & baking soda.  Add OJ, peel (if you're using it), shortening and egg.  Mix until you're sure the shortening has been well distributed.  Stir in the cranberries and nuts.  Pour into the greased loaf pan.

Bake for 55-60 minutes.  Check it at 55, do the toothpick tests.  Cool on a wire rack.

This is what ya get...
Now if that ain't some serious love in a loaf, I don't what is!!  ENJOY!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What's on the Menu: Cauliflower Soup

Soup seems to be the menu item of choice these days!  What can I say, we got rain today and the cooler temps just made me crave soup!  And hey, lucky me, I had a head of cauliflower in the fridge!  Anyway, talk about a quick easy dinner, this soup can be made in about a 1/2 hour tops!  It's full of flavor, so much so even my kids like it!!

I found the recipe on the "Taste of Home" website.  I pretty much follow the recipe except I add turkey bacon!!!  It kind of defeats my dreams of going veggie 2 nights a week, but it's SO good with the bacon!

What you need:
1 med. head of cauliflower, broken into florets
1 good-sized carrot, shredded
1 stalk of celery, chopped
2-1/2 c. water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp. salt (I use a little less since the bouillon is so salty)
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 c. milk
1 c. shredded cheese

In a large pot, combine cauliflower, carrot, celery, water and bouillon cubes.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 min. or until cauliflower is tender.
In another pan, fry the turkey bacon!  I chop mine up into small pieces.
Set aside the bacon until the end.

In the bacon pan, melt 3 tbsp. of butter.  Then stir in the flour, salt and pepper.  Whisk until smooth.  Add the milk a little bit at a time.  Boil over medium heat, cooking and stirring until it thickens slightly.  We're not shooting for gravy here!  ;)  Turn off heat, add the cheese and melt.  Stir in the bacon bits and SERVE!  I like mine with a nice dash of Tabasco!