Sunday, May 18, 2014

A long, hard year

In the past year, we have grown a beautiful garden, pickled and jammed and canned, celebrated M's senior project (Honors!), his graduation (High Honors!), and just this past Friday he accepted a job offer as a Software Engineer at a company in RB. We have made new friends, and lost some old, weathered any number of storms -- metaphorical or real -- and most recently survived the 2014 May fires.

It has been a busy year.

I haven't found time to write mostly because I haven't found time to clear my head enough to write. Yet here we are: M is graduated, celebrated and gainfully employed. What an amazing and crazy journey.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Too many herbs
M helped me build it.
Isn't he awesome?

This year we have a 4' x 4' raised garden bed, just tall enough to keep it safe from Raggie.  We optimistically planted out bush beans, tomatoes, a bell pepper plant, lettuce seeds, cucumber seeds and some herbs.  Since starting out the garden in mid-March, we have quickly learned the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes, designed and built a cucumber trellis, and jerry-rigged some extensions to our existing tomato cages (see also: indeterminate tomatoes).

While our lettuces did not make it past one harvest -- overshadowed too soon by the over-zealous tomatoes -- and everything else in the garden is still building up to harvest time, our basil plants and flat parsley have been growing like mad since day one.  We harvested and pruned back the basil this weekend, and had to come up with a scheme for putting up eight cups of basil leaves.  The tomatoes are still green and growing, so bruschetta and caprese weren't an option for the weekend.  We also had an ample parsley harvest, and plenty of time to grill this weekend so I whipped up a big batch of pesto (sans cheese) for the freezer and a smaller batch of chimichurri sauce to accompany some grilled steaks.  Yum.

Pesto Genovese, sans cheese

Cheese does not suffer the freezer very well, so we opted to leave it out of the base pesto here.  To serve with pasta, dilute pesto slightly with the pasta cooking water and add Parmesan to taste.

7 cups basil leaves, washed and picked over, no thick stems
10 medium cloves garlic
1 cup pine nuts
1.75 cups olive oil

Blend in food processor until desired texture.  Ours made about 6 cups of pesto, which we packaged in 1/2 cup portions and froze.  We held out one portion for meals this week and tried some with dinner tonight.  I left the salt and pepper out so I could salt it to taste after adding in the cheese, as Parmesan is somewhat salty on its own.

Chimichurri Sauce

2 cups parsley (we used a mix of grocery store curly leaf and garden flat leaf)
2 Tbsp dried oregano
4 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (less if you'd like yours milder)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in bowl of food processor and blend, stopping to scrape down sides
once or twice.  Add oil in steady stream and blend until emulsion forms (or, if you have terrible pour-spout aim like me, in small additions).  Place in a sealed container and allow flavors to mingle for one to two hours before use.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Marmalade Marinades

We are still figuring out what to do with marmalade beyond smothering baked goods or sweetening really boring tea. These two ad hoc marinades have been a big hit, but I didn't measure so we'll have to wing it (again) if we want to remake them. I'm guessing at measurements to give us a starting point for next time.

Mustard, marmalade & garlic chicken marinade
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp lemon marmalade
1/3 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp garlic paste
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano

Choose a cooking vessel that is safe for the oven and the stove top. Slick the bottom with a small amount of olive oil, then lay in chicken pieces. Coat chicken pieces in marinade and bake in a 350° oven. We used this marinade for 2 large and one small chicken breast. When chicken pieces are cooked throughout, remove them from the pan and put the pan on the stove.

To make a pan sauce: Over medium heat, deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup white wine. Add one thinly sliced shallot and simmer to reduce volume in pan until it begins to thicken. Add 1 cup chicken broth and simmer until mixture reduces to approximately 1/2 volume. Add 1/4 cup heavy cream and stick until mixture begins to thicken. Spoon this pan sauce over chicken pieces, potatoes, green beans, broccoli -- whatever you're serving for dinner. It's a little spicier than my favorite smitten kitchen dijon chicken, but we enjoyed the kick.

Not bad for a "nothing in the fridge" Monday night dinner.

Marmalade, ginger soy salmon marinade
1/4 c Marmalade
1 Tbsp ginger paste
1/3 c soy sauce
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup white wine
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
peel of two lemons (juice was used for another project)
1.5lb salmon

Combine everything except lemon peels in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Place fish in one gallon zipper bag, add peels, add marinade. Press out as much air as possible and seal. Allow to marinate in fridge for 2-3 hours.

Place fish in a baking dish. The dish should be just slightly larger than the piece(s) of fish. Cover with marinade. Discard the lemon peels. Bake at 425° to desired firmness/opacity. (Our piece was very thick, and took ~40min). Marinade will reduce in oven to a thick glaze. Take care not to let it burn in the pan.

Served with steamed broccoli, this was M's reward dinner for conquering the take-home final from hell.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Marmalade Muffins with Millet and Coconut

Now that we have um-teen jars of Marmalade to work our way through, it's time to start coming up with recipes that use it up. Muffins are familiar territory for us. Once we'd made our first batch of apple sauce, we quickly devised an apple-sauce-laden muffin recipe. For Lemon Marmalade, I decided to remix one of our longstanding favorites, Raspberry Millet Muffins from The Cottage in La Jolla. At our house, these are already often changed around to swap the raspberries for blackberries and the sour cream for greek yogurt.

Marmalade Muffins with Millet and Coconut
1 stick softened butter
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Marmalade
3 eggs
1 cup greek yogurt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup millet
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the yogurt and vanilla and blend. In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until mixed. Add the millet and coconut, stir to combine. Fill the muffin cups to the top and bake for 25 minutes.

Notes: If you use sweetened shredded coconut, you will probably want to adjust the sugar somewhat.

We lowered the sugar from the original recipe, because the Marmalade is so sugar-heavy. I had originally used 1/4 c marmalade, but upped it by a few spoonfuls when I decided I wanted a bit more lemony kick. If you're one of those crazy lemon loving folks, you could add some lemon zest to punch it up a bit further.

We also love the crunch-pop mouthfeel of millet in our baked goods. If that's not for you, skip it. Or mix in a couple tablespoons of poppy seeds in lieu of all the millet.

We used home-made vanilla extract which has no added sugar.
Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Marmalade

My coworker has a meyer lemon tree, which is going bonkers right now. She brought in a huge basket of lemons on Monday and I watched it dwindle as people brought home one, or two, or maybe three. At the end of the week she was looking at a half-full basket of lemons and lamenting that her tree is still full. Don't worry, I said -- because I often say crazy things. Don't worry. There's this marmalade recipe I've been dying to try...

Which is how I ended up with a kettle full of lemons steeping on my stove. Luckily my fellow automation chica also home cans and is giving me her excess half pint jars (I believe the exact phrasing was: YAY! I get to offload some jars. COME GET THEM NOW!) and her giant kettle. My giant kettle will be full of marmalade. Oof.

I loosely followed a couple recipes I found online, augmenting them along with information from PickYourOwn. I refer to Pick Your Own for waterbath canning times on many things. I also feel like canning recipes are based more on "how many of X I have on hand" and less on exact weights. I did not count the lemons, but I did measure the shredded lemon peel + juice.

Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Marmalade
8 cups lemon peels + juice (see instructions for preparation)
12 cups water
2 vanilla beans
5lb bag of sugar
peel of 2 granny smith apples

To prepare lemons:
Halve and juice lemons, reserving seeds. Slice peel into very thin pieces -- I used our food processor and a thin slicing disk. Measure juice + peels and then place in a very large non-reactive stock pot. Add water. Bring this mixture to a boil.

Wrap the lemon seeds and apple peel in cheesecloth and secure tightly with kitchen twine. You can also use a non-reactive tea infuser. Lemon seeds and green apple peel are both high in natural pectin and will help the marmalade gel. You can skip this if you intend to use liquid pectin. If so, follow the instructions on your pectin labeling for proper sugar quantities.

Bring lemon-water mixture to a boil. If using seeds and apple peel, simmer for 45min. Turn off heat and leave this mixture to steep and cool for 3-6 hours, or as long as overnight. Scrape the vanilla beans and add the seeds and pods to the mixture after it has cooled below boiling but is still warm.

After steeping, remove the cheesecloth or infuser containing the apple peel and seeds. Bring the mixture back up to a boil and add the sugar. Stir until sugar is fully dissolved. Cook, uncovered, at a low simmer until the mixture reaches 222F. Use your favorite method to test for gelling.

I always process jams and fruit butters in a water bath, because I do not trust simply inverting the jars. PYO says 15min, with 1/4" headspace. Store no longer than 18 months.

I checked our cans in the morning, and it appears to be set. (When I tip the jar to the side and inspect the headspace, everything stays put and there's no sliding. Victory!) Ours made 17 half-pints and one full pint. That's a lot of marmalade.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Adventures in bread making

As a Christmas/New Year/Just Because present, I got myself (and M) a few new cookbooks. One is a massive tome of Indian recipes, to inspire us to try things well outside of our comfort zones; two are Michael Ruhlman's books Ratio (for me) and Twenty (for M). I wanted M to get a chance to explore technique in a language and style that appealed to him, and I was interested in learning how to break away from being so recipe-bound. What I did not expect was that my first "ratiometric" cooking would be bread.

Ruhlman's bread ratio breaks down like this:
500g flour
300g water
10g salt
2g yeast

We've settled on the following as an everyday adaptation:
500g flour
300g water
10g salt
10g olive oil
4g yeast (ours is old and gets started very slowly)

This variation got cut up into 2" pieces after the first rise, coated in melted butter and cinnamon sugar, and turned into pull apart bread:
500g flour (plus a little extra in kneading)
300g milk (scalded first)
10g salt
2 Tbsp melted butter
8g yeast

We've baked the basic bread in a dutch oven (above), and in a loaf pan (below). It tastes a lot better than store bought bread, and makes the best cinnamon toast french toast casserole. (From smittenkitchen, of course.) Yum.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Falafel, baked not fried

I have a bunch of new recipes to put up here, before I forget how we tweaked and adjusted them this winter. Bear with the sudden flood--and then inevitable silence--which has become the cadence of our online lives lately. Myka and I are branching out of our culinary habits, which means a lot of experimenting and some new favorites. These were an instant hit, but failed to hold together well enough for frying. No problem! We like them better baked anyway.

3 cups cooked dried chickpeas
1 Tbsp garlic paste
1 large yellow onion, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 tablespoons chopped mint
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Combine everything but chickpeas in food processor and pulse until well chopped. Add chickpeas and pulse until combined, but still coarse. Let mixture rest 30min in the fridge.

Cover a cookie sheet with tin foil to make clean up easier. Drop large rounded spoonfuls of mixture onto foil, like making drop cookies. We get ~24 out of the above mixture. Bake at 350F for 20-30 min.

We enjoyed these with home-made tzatziki, lettuce, red onion, tomato and pita bread, and also shared them with our cousins.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Curried Lentils with Lemon

I suddenly started craving this five and a half years after the one and only time I'd made it. I can't find the original recipe anywhere, just the picture I posted of it back in 2007. It turned out great, full of the flavors I'd remembered, and stronger than I would have liked it back then due to the addition of extra lemon and extra curry near the end. I don't know if I'll ever find the original recipe, but I'm posting ours here so I don't have to re-invent it again some time in 2017.

Curried Lentils with Lemon
2 cups red lentils
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 large onion (or two small onions), chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots or a handful of baby carrots, chopped
1/2 cup canned crushed or diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 bay leaves
1 lemon, cut into rings
Olive oil
Salt to taste

Sweating the onion and garlic in a little bit of olive oil, in the bottom of a large stock pot. When they just start to get fragrant, add the celery and carrots and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the curry powder and stir for 1min. Add in the broth, the tomatoes and spinach, the bay leaves and the sliced lemon and bring up to a simmer. Add in the lentils, cover and cook to your preferred done-ness. (Our lentils absorbed a lot of water before they cooked fully, so I ended up adding about 2.5 cups of water about 30min into the cook time.) Total cooking time was about 40min.

Remove the lemon slices and the bay leaves. Salt to taste. I wanted ours a bit more curried and a bit more lemony, so I added another teaspoon of curry powder and two tablespoons of lemon juice.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Aberfeldy, Scotland

In August, M & I set off on a group adventure to Scotland with two of our closest friends. We met up with another couple at our US connection, and yet another at our destination, bringing the adventuring party to eight people, from five cities (in three countries); three rental cars; one two-bedroom apartment; and one poor, unsuspecting foreign country.

There has been a lot going on for us this year, from new jobs to re-evaluating old goals, to tending our first abundant garden. I haven't written much because I haven't been ready to write yet. Enjoy the pictures, and have fun reliving our trip with us.

Scotland on flickr.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

IMG_1816Luzern, Schweiz

I am in Switzerland again for work, on some sort of top secret Special Ops Engineering mission with another Sr. FAE. On his advice, I flew in the Friday before our three day stretch in-office, and have the weekend to myself. Friday was consumed by the rigors of arriving, napping, adjusting and finding something to eat for dinner. I'm staying at the Walhalla, which is close to the Zürich Hauptbahnhof, instead of at the Seefeld which is further down the lake. We traveled to the Seefeld to see another co-worker, who departed early Saturday morning for home.

On Saturday, I took the Zug (train) down to Luzern to go exploring. It's the first adventure I have had here, outside of walking the Altstadt in Zürich. It was supposed to be rainy and cold, but the weather held out for the day. I met a nice couple from Omaha on the train, and we decided to adventure together through Luzern. They wanted to go to the top of Pilatus, and it sounded like fun to me, so I was the translator and our trio headed by bus, cable car, and sky gondola up the mountain to the -6 deg C weather at the very top.

After the mountain, we made our way back to the city center, explore the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) and walked to the Löwendenkmal. I took the 16.50 train back to Zürich, sharing a quick conversation with M via SMS before his morning class began, and set about getting the photos online when I got back to my room.

I've spoken more German in the last two days than I think I have in the previous five years. Most of it is asking for directions, or ordering food, or buying tickets. Now and then there's a bit of polite chit-chat, or an unexpected aside from someone who does not know I primarily speak English. I'm getting by, which surprises me (pleasantly) since it's been 12+ years since I had any sort of fluency.

Today is rainy and cold, and three days of interrupted and shallow sleep have caught up with me. I had designs on visiting Basel or Rapperswil, but I think I'm going to take it easy and hang around here. Catch up on some sleep. Maybe wander around the old city if the rain lets up. The purpose of my trip is to be useful Monday-Wednesday at work, so I should make sure I'm up for that. Maybe I'll just find somewhere to sit, sip Milchkaffee and watch the weather and the Limmat flow past.

Luzern photos, on Flickr.