Jul 25, 2011

I'm not dead yet!

Just wanted to say hi to everyone! The new job is totally awesome and I love every minute of it, but it has kept me super busy! I hope in the next week or so to finally get photo dump 3 out and some new stuff for you. Hope all is well and you are enjoying your summer!! ~Steph

Apr 21, 2011

Photo Dump : Part 2 of 3

After the last post took me about 3 hours to complete I didn't know if I would have the energy for this one. But don't worry....it will be short. Just a few crafts I recently completed, mostly as wedding/baby gifts for my cousin. I have some other things in the works for bridesmaid gifts, but, shhhh, those are a secret :)

Mike found this book some time ago. We have made quite a few animals from this book (including some Pineapple and Charlie look-a-likes Mike made for me before I went on a trip). I thought this hedgehog would be good (especially with sew on eyes instead of the button ones I usually use), plus its one we haven't made yet.
He's a little awkward and a little crooked, but lovable (I hope!). He sort of looks like a long potato with hair, but soft.

My next slightly awkward item was a cupcake pincushion:
I found the idea here. Obviously this woman has been making them for a while. First thing I learned is that you should probably sew more than just a seam on the cupcake part, like sew through the whole thing so when you are assembling it you don't push it through and unravel the whole thing, like I did, and then Mike had to fix it. Yea.....plus I picked a sleeve cuff that was a tad too long. At least it is functional!  Top view:

I wanted to make something I knew how to make pretty well and would be a passable wedding gift. Napkins and placemats. I found this fabric for the napkins in my bin and thought it would be perfect for my cousin:
I needed to make 4, so they had to be rectangular instead of square, but then again they sit nicely across the lap. As for placemats, I wanted to send these to my cousin:
They matched really well and I like the not so straight stripes. Well....I only had enough fabric for 2. Did not realize that until I had already made 2. Bummer. At least Mike and I have a kitchen table for 2. So I made these instead:
These match, sort of, and they were a little thicker and I could make 4....score! I hope they work!

Alright....that's all I got for part 2.....stay tuned for part 3.....until then enjoy this photo of Pineapple and her doppelganger:

Photo Dump : Part 1 of 3

Ha....I don't know what to say. I just spent over 2 hours editing all my back photos that have accumulated since March 1st. Kinda makes my head hurt actually!

First off, news! I quit my job as a vet tech (long story) and I have been off for the past month getting stuff ready for the wedding (which is less than 3 months away!!!!). As of May 2nd, 2011, I will begin my career as a professor! I am in the process of finishing up paper work at a local private university to be an adjunct biology professor (with the potential to go to full time in the fall). How awesome will that be! I loved teaching so much when I was in grad school, so much that I cried after teaching my last lab before I graduated. This will actually be a career for me instead of jumping from job to job and being treated like I have no education. Exciting!

Second, an explanation....for the title. Since I have so many photos to dump on you poor people, I am going to be kind and break it up into 3 sections: Food, Crafts, and Garden. I don't know if I will get them all done today, but sometime in the next 3 days for sure since I already have all the photos edited!

If you recall in my last post eons ago I mentioned a book call "The Food Matters Cookbook". An awesome cookbook for those who may not want to go completely vegan or even vegetarian (which Mike just cannot do). Right now the only meat I stock the freezer with is organic chicken which I use very sparingly because of the price and fish that Mike has caught during this fishing trips to Sarasota.
First up from "The Food Matters Cookbook" we have Chicken with beans and rice (and peas for fun). A very simple, very healthy dish.

The cookbook also has some good recipes for pantry staples. How about some homemade crackers?

Not too bad. I did half with poppy seeds, but you can top them with whatever you like. Mine were crunchy to start with but after sealing them in a container they became a little soggy. I think they need to be baked longer to remove all the moisture. But a great idea none the less. A lot of processing goes into conventional store bought crackers and they usually have a lot of sugar and salt. With these, you can control pretty much everything that goes into them and still use them like you would normal crackers.

The basic whole wheat bread recipe from the cookbook:
I think I always over-knead my dough. My whole wheat loaves never rise as much I would like and sometimes come out very dense. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Next from the cookbook, Roast Potatoes and Chicken with Romesco:
Yea, I know it doesn't look very appetizing, but I was very impressed with the flavor from the roasted red peppers in the sauce. Subtle but unique. Roasted chicken and potatoes are a very basic dish that anyone can do and your options for sauce is incredible!

 Panko breaded fish fillets (I forgot which kind it was!) with roasted carrot spears in a general tso's glaze:
Not exactly a recipe from "The Food Matters Cookbook" but close. The fish was my doing, but the roasted carrots spears was his idea (but he had you making your own ginger glaze). I have this great, all natural, no high fructose corn syrup, general tso sauce in the fridge that was given to us and I though that it would be useful as a glaze for the carrots and it was. Putting your twist on every recipe is one of the joys of cooking!

 And the last recipe of the bunch from the cookbook:
My version of Cream of Vegetable soup. I used his basic instructions and some ingredients. This soups has celery, organic carrots and onions, spices, organic soymilk, butter, and flour used for the creaminess, and fresh parsley from the garden! Mike really wanted beans with this so he can get more protein (but instead I made veggie chili the next night, which I forgot to take a picture of!).

These photos are not really in chronological order just because I wanted to group that first set together. Let's see....what's next....
Just a breaded, baked fish recipe with broccoli. To be honest, I really don't know why I took a picture of this since it's really nothing impressive or exciting.

I still get the Food Network magazine and still enjoy it, though I don't make a lot of the meat dishes any more.
This was the Instant Chocolate Cake from the April 2011 issues. Really good! Probably really high in calories and fat, but good for that chocolate fix during that special time of the month :)

Another Food Network Magazine recipe, this time from the May 2011 issue. This is my version of their Mix & Match Quick Break recipe: carrot, walnut, and oatmeal bread with chocolate glaze. Mike really liked the bread but didn't like chocolate combo. Its want's that bad. Maybe next time I will try the vanilla or cream cheese version.

A pile of cookies:
I really do not remember where I got this recipe or what sort of cookies these are. They are probably the white chocolate chip cookies I made a few weeks ago because we were out of normal chocolate chips. Oh well....I thought you might like a picture of a pile of cookies.

Oooh....this is a good one:
Mike's parents were in town for St.Patty's day and, of course, how can you not have corned beef and cabbage? I had to work all day, and Mike made this all by himself! Apparently he found a recipe that called for some bacon and other ingredients not commonly found in this sort of recipe. It was amazing! He did such a good job that his mother was calling him after she returned home for the recipe.

I also still get the Better Homes and Gardens magazine:
I made this spectacular Carrot Bread with Cream Cheese Icing  from the magazine for when my Dad and his girlfriend were in town. The only thing I would change is maybe cutting the carrots a little smaller for the top, but other than that this was a great.

Umm....I think this was just a simple vegetable soup I made. Sorry, I got nothing.

Sometimes I like to grab a free copy of Creative Loafing, and I actually tried a recipe from it:
Buttery Lemon Bars, not in any way healthy, but super delicious and homemade!!

Can you recall the last time I cooked a whole chicken? I cannot, but I did save the carcass from it and I finally made stock from it:
I have followed a few different stock recipes in the past, but this time I just winged it. Here is my basic recipe:
1 chicken carcass (with some meat, cartilage, and what not left on it) or saved chicken bones (can be frozen)
2-3 washed and chopped carrots (no need to peel, just wash)
1 medium onion roughly chopped (any kind will work, use an older one that is about to go bad if you have it)
3-4 medium celery stalks chopped (leaves can be left on)
1 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
Various seasonings (whatever you have or like): parsley, garlic powder, dried basil, etc

1.Saute your chopped onions in the 1 tbsp of oil for about 5 minutes just to bring out more of the flavor.
2. Add all veggies and chicken to the pot and cover with water (enough to just cover everything).  Stir in your seasonings. Bring to boil. Now some people say to skim off the fat at this point and while the stock cooks. I do not. I like to have a layer of fat on top of my stock so that is stores longer in the fridge. Plus the cold solidified fat is easier to remove right before you use the stock.
3. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 30-60 minutes, pretty much till all the meat and what not has fallen off the bones and the veggies are really tender.
4. Allow stock to cool for 10-20 minutes.
5. Strain (I use a mesh metal strainer) stock into a large bowl (I do this so I don't make a huge mess trying to strain it into jars). Don't worry if some of the seasoning makes it through, it will make the stock taste better when you use it later.
6. Pour into your containers. I reccomend old glass jars for storing in the fridge. If you want to freeze it, which you can, I would use a plastic bag or plastic container but wait till it has cooled a more (you don't want to melt the plastic bag!).
7 After pouring into desired container, allow to cool to almost room temp before placing in the fridge or freezer.
Ta da! Homemade chicken stock! I use mine in soups, rice dishes, to poach things, to make healthy mashed potatoes. There are a lot of uses for it. And it's nice because you can control the salt.

I was craving coconut one day:
 And I found this recipe for Coconut Lime Wedding Cookies. Loved them! Never thought lime would be good in cookies, but I was wrong. If you are adventerous when it comes to cookies you need to try these!

And another craving: strawberries:
Whole wheat strawberry scones! I didn't save the recipe, sorry! They were great for a lazy Sunday morning breakfast!

That same lazy Sunday, Mike and I went to some local markets in the area and came home with this:
Local, organically grown, rainbow chard! It was so pretty! I had never seen rainbow chard before, let a alone know how to cook it, but I had to have it (along with some local organic onions as well). I found this recipe on Dr.Oz's website, of all places. And it was a great place to use some of the homemade chicken stock!! The chard cooking:

Yes, I know, it's meat!! When Mike's parents were in town they left us with some ribeye steaks. You can never throw free food away (unless it's rotten I guess)! I figured why not balance out the super healthy chard with some grilled steak. Of course they were both great! I highly reccomend rainbow chard!

One of the Borders near us went out of business, but before they did Mike and I picked up some books (and Kobos!) at some great prices! One book I got is "Home Made Simple".  I still had puff pastry in the freezer so I picked this:
Crispy Cinnamon Suagr Palmiers. Really easy and really good. These would be great for a party since they are so rich you can cut them really small and have a lot to go around.

Fish was getting low in the freezer, so we had to go fishing last weekend (well Mike fishes and I sit there and read and tan). Look what we came home with:
A whole pompano! My Aunt reccomend for us to cook it whole. So after Mike de-headed and gutted it, I stuffed with salt, pepper, garlic, and limes. I slit the skin on both sides and coated it with olive oil and then baked it. A better picture of the stuffing:
 For some reason I wansn't really hungry after I made this, so Mike got the whole thing. I did try a bite and it was delicious. Mike loved it. It was all the could talk about for the rest of the evening. Yea for free food from the gulf!

Bread was running low in the house and I didn't want to go buy more:

This is a variation on this Whole Wheat & Rye Yogurt Flax Bread. I ommited potato flakes and gluten and used ground flax seed in place of both of them. As for the yogurt, I used goat yogurt we picked up from a local farmer. The balsamic vinegar was something I had never tried in bread before. Again, this bread came out very dense, but had an excellent flavor! It has been great for breakfast toast.

And lastly, in the food section, orange cupcakes!
Another food item Mike's parents left were some oranges. I have a hard time eating oranges for some reason, but I can juice them all day long. Why not use fresh squeezed orange juice in baked goods! I used the cupcake recipe from this page and the buttercream frosting from this one
They were amazing! Great texture (for the batter I used 1 egg and then substitued the other with applecause and baking powder like they do in vegan recipes), and they set up really well. I wanted to goof off with the icing, and I only have 2 tips (I am still practicing so I have not invested in more sizes). Here are my decorations (don't laugh!):
But my favorite by far was this one:
I don't know why. Just because. As you can see though, I need more practice icing and decorating things!

Until next time, part 2, please enjoy this photo of something magical Mike found at the local Goodwill:
A like-new artisan, tilt-head, 5 qt Kitchenaid stand mixer with 3 attachements and pouring sheild for $30!!! You read right, $30! Now what would I do with two mixers (well I told Mike we should start a bakery but then he wanted to rip out the kitchen wall). Well I tried both, and Mike said the one I didn't like we would gift to some one who will not be named. After a few test runs, I still like my white lift-bowl one. Maybe it's because I was already used to mixing things in it, I don't know, but me and the tilt-head did not get along as well. I hope the lucky person is excited :)

Mar 1, 2011

Saving the Planet

Yea, I know it's been a while. Pictures are backing up. Still working full time and hating it. Not so much the full time as the incompetent people I have to work with and the fact that I don't have much of a life outside of work. Anyway...in the last month I made a lot of food from my Hungry Girl cookbook but then I saw a documentary called Food Inc. and now I am trying to make food choices that are not only good for my body but good for the environment and my budget too. I never realized how much commercial food production impacts our world. I am not going completely vegan or even completely vegetarian but I am trying to switch my diet over to 85% non meat and 15% meat that has been humanly treated. But I won't bore you with my ideals, but if you are interested I suggest watching the movie and checking out the book Food Matters by Mark Bittman (I actually just got a copy of his Food Matters cookbook recently). Speaking of things I got recently, a lot of the Borders around us are going out of business and I got a good deal on a Kobo at one of their stores and I cannot put that thing down! For a basic ereader it is pretty sweet!
Alright, lets back it up a few weeks. I have 2 boxes of puffy pasty in the freezer that I got at Aldi during the holiday specials, so I made my twist on the Hungry Girl Mini Mushroom Tarlets:
Delicious!!! I cannot how say how amazing these were. I still have some puff pastry left, so this will be happening again soon!

Next was my version of Hungry Girls Swirls Gone Wild Cheesecake Brownies:
They were pretty good. I think next time the cheesecake mixture needs to be mixed throughout the entire batter rather than just at the top.

Needed to finish up the chicken thighs in the freezer:
Roasted chicken and potatoes. Simple, always good, and easy.

Another Aldi meal:
Honey baked ham and spinach cucumber salad. I forgot how much I loved cucumbers, either in salad or by themselves. Everyone should eat more cucumbers!

As you read earlier, we are trying to eat better not only for ourselves for our planet too. We went to Whole Foods to stock up on some earth friendly products. I purchased some thick cut, bone in pork chops that rate a Step 4 on Whole Foods Animal Welfare Rating System. Mike is not able to go fully vegetarian, so we will be cutting back on our meat and the meat we do eat, we will try to find options that go along the lines of the animal welfare rating system. So here our my cornbread and cranberry stuffed pork chops:
This picture isn't very flattering with the fat sorta dripping down the side, but this was super delicious! We made sure to savor every bite since these pork chops were kind of expensive!

A deep fryer is not the healthiest accessory to have in the kitchen, but Mike really wanted one and Aldi, of course, had one on sale. So let's deep fry healthy! Mike made sweet potato chips from organic sweet potatoes we got at Whole Foods:
Really, really good. We ended up making them our meal for that night. We're horrible, I know :)

I like to make a big breakfast on Sundays, but I wanted it to be healthy. So I found a recipe for whole wheat coffee cake (now I cannot find the recipe for it on my computer, sorry!):
Yes it does look blue. The recipe called for vanilla yogurt, but all I had was blueberry, so I made it whole wheat blueberry coffee cake, which was an excellent decision on my part since it made it taste wonderfully of blueberries!

Picked up some silken tofu at Whole Foods with the intent of making a chocolate tofu pie. Started to make the chocolate tofu part and realized I did not have a graham cracker crust to put it in, so I made one using this recipe :
 And then I filled it with the tofu goodness and baked it:
I did cook it a little too long because the edge of the crust was a little browned and the top of the pie looked a little darker than normal. If you're not used to tofu, I wouldn't suggest jumping into this recipe unless you really want to try something different.

I was able to find some tofu shiratake noodles at Whole Foods and a lot of Hungry Girl recipes call for them in place of normal noodles. So we tried Hungry Girls version of Skyline Chili's 3-Way chili:
It wasn't that bad. The tofu noodles take a little getting used too, but the chili and cheese really helped!

And lastly, tonight's dinner. I know I should have take a picture before I ripped them out of the garden, but we had some fresh bibb lettuce joining our dinner tonight:
Pair it with some whole wheat pasta and home made sauce:
It was excellent! I am so glad we finally have some bounty from our garden! I need to take more pictures of all the plants in bloom and all the new growth. Maybe next time....

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of my tired babies relaxing under the couch: