Thursday, August 30, 2012

Er. Mah. Gerd.

So I woke up one morning, and while laying in bed trying to convince myself that being vertical is a good thing, I see this...

I will never look at 'perderders' the same again...

And I laughed.
Then I got up, and I laughed.
Then I showered, while laughing.
Then I posted it on Facebook and got..... confusion....WTF people!?

But I'll stand by it. If you don't see the hilarity here, there's something wrong.....

Er. Mah. Gerd.

And for the record, my phone has since learned to autocorrect for "ERMAHGERD" (all caps, of course), "mershed" & most importantly "perderders"...

That is all.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What do I do with all these tomatoes!? Part 1

About 6 years ago, Jack & I decided to start a vegetable garden. I don't remember exactly how (or why) we started, but knowing us, I'm thinking it went something like this:

Me: These tomatoes suck. And they're expensive. I hate tomatoes.
Jack: Yeah, they're nothing like home grown...
Me: You can grow tomatoes? Here?
Jack: *eye roll*
Me: So why haven't we DONE THIS?
Jack: *eye roll + sigh*

For a city girl from New Orleans, I had all these great visions in my head of strolling outside every morning in my flowing dress and big hat among the perfect weed-free rows and plucking all the beautiful perfect fruit and veggies into my little basket and going inside and cooking up a storm.
I can't even count the number of ways I was wrong.
Silly city girl.

But over the years our garden has grown, and grown, and some years we have tomatoes coming out of our ears, and some years we're cursing and swearing that this is the last year. But on the good years, you get to ask yourself "What the hell am I going to do with ALL THESE TOMATOES?!"

I have the answer.

In the early stages of summer, when fresh from the garden tomatoes are a new thing, we eat them plain, on salads, on sandwiches, fry the green ones (when my patience with waiting for them to turn gets especially thin).... anyway you could imagine! But after a while, you start looking for some variety.

And one kind we can never seem to eat fast enough is the cherry tomato. So this year, I've been trying something new that I found on one of my FAVORITE blogs ever, Kalyn's Kitchen... 


I've always roasted tomatoes (more to come on that soon), but I've never slow roasted them, and frankly didn't understand the difference until I actually tried it. Kalyn recommends using roma tomatoes (find her recipe here), and while they're my favorite, I always have issues with my romas, and never get mass quantities of them. :( So, first I tried this with a batch of creole tomatoes -- and being bigger than the romas, it took FOREVER! They were great, but having the oven on for 10 hours making the house hot was too much for me. Then my cherry & plum tomatoes started exploding, and I decided to try using them instead.... it was awesome!

Cherry, plum & roma tomatoes -- though, not the radioactive variety that they appear to be...
So I started with about 30(ish) cherry, plum & roma tomatoes and cut them all in half. Then drizzled olive oil over them (not too much), and added salt, pepper, oregano, basil & garlic powder. Mix them well so they're all coated evenly.

Arrange them all cut side down on a cookie sheet (I line mine with pan liner, but it's not necessary if you have a decent pan), and  pop them into a 250º oven and wait....

After about an hour and a half, they're pretty good and roasted. From this point, you just need to decide how dry you want them. I usually cook mine for about 2.5 - 3 hours (I prefer them still juicy), then I simply turn of the oven leaving them inside and let everything cool. Be careful not to let them burn though...

Once they're cool, you can either pull the skins off or just scrape the entire pan into a container. If I have a lot of romas and larger plums in the group, I sometimes take the skins off, but with tomatoes this small, often I just don't bother.

The finished product on an egg white omelet....

Breakfast win.
Add some mozzarella... and er. mah. gerd. Awesome.

I keeps saying I'm going to freeze some of these. I WANT to freeze some. However, I can't seem to keep them long enough to freeze. They go on everything and anything.

I'll freeze the next batch..... promise.....


30 (or so) cherry tomatoes washed & cut in half
1 Tablespoon each: dried oregano, basil & garlic powder
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
Olive Oil (just enough to coat -- approximately 1T)

Preheat the oven to 250º. Add ingredients to a bowl and toss to coat with oil & seasonings evenly. Arrange on a cookie sheet cut-side down. Roast in the oven for 2-3 hours depending on desired doneness. ENJOY.

So easy, shortest recipe ever.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Millions of Peaches...

...peaches for me!

No seriously. About a million peaches are living on my damn dining table thanks to our dear friend at the Georgia State Farmer's Market. And instead of putting them in the fridge as soon as they were ripe, my dear Jack decided that these could be his new creative outlet. Every day I come home to find the peaches lovingly arranged in a new bowl....on the counter....not in the fridge....going bad.

So now they are peaches with a rapidly approaching deadline. Time bomb peaches? Peach bombs? BELLINI BOMBS!.... oooh, chapmagne.... what? Nevermind...

So anyway, never having been a big fan of fresh peaches (growing up I always preferred the canned ones -- freak child, I know)... I've spent the past 2 weeks trying to do things with peaches before they explode. Boom.

Grilled Peaches with Balsamic Vinegar
It sounded great, but in all honesty, it was kinda Meh. Probably flawed execution...and lack of vanilla ice cream (I'm a chocolate ice cream girl, really)... And nope, I'm not even gonna post the recipe.

Crock Pot Peach Cobbler
Well, it sounded good... but in all honesty, it was such a pain in the ass that I don't see how it could've been easier than the real thing. And problem #2: nothing gets crispy in the crock pot... except the BURNED bottom (yep, that's TWO crock pot recipes in a row that have ended up charred.... and this is why I think crock pots should only be used in the winter!) And problem #3: there's STILL no vanilla ice cream in the house... hmm...

Yup... you can totally burn a crock pot.
Peach Preserves (or, is it Jam?)
FINALLY!! With the last 10 very ripe peaches, I made something good! I've never even attempted preserves before (or is it technically jam? -- what's the difference anyway?), but my mom gave me a vague idea and we went from there.

Here's what happened...

Seed & peel the peaches (yup, that takes a while)...

Then add the sugar and water to a pot and cook over medium-high heat stirring until the sugar is dissolved (mostly), then add the peaches.

And then you let them simmer.... and stir... and simmer... and add the brown sugar and cinnamon... and stir... and simmer... and repeat (don't let it boil over, because it will! I tried to keep the heat medium to medium low -- bubbling, but no threat of disaster).

And this was after 45 minutes. Whew. I kept breaking up the larger pieces with the spoon.... and stirring.... and simmering....

It was finally done when it had reduced A LOT and just starting to stick to the bottom of the pot - about an hour or so.

So 10 peaches made one VERY full mason jar full of preserves! I don't know what you put peach jampreserves on, but I'm about to find out because I have this yummyness now!

The recipe:

10 very ripe peaches (seeded & peeled)
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 dash cinnamon (maybe 1/2 teaspoon if you wanna be all technical)
1/4 cup water

Peel & seed the peaches. Add sugar and water to your pot and cook over medium-high heat (constantly stirring) until sugar mostly dissolves. Add the peaches. Bring to a boil, but then reduce heat to medium-low so that it's still simmering, just not boiling over. Add brown sugar & cinnamon. Continue to stir (occasionally) and simmer for about an hour or until it reaches desired thickness. Keep in mind that it will get thicker once it cools. Enjoy!

Bread Update!

Last week I posted about my new found ability to make bread that's not only edible, but AWESOME! (don't remember? read it here)

Well, today I crossed the line from awesome to speechless! What's better then home-made-fresh-from-the-oven bread? Home-made-fresh-from-the-oven bread with roasted garlic, rosemary & toasted pine nuts!! Er. Mah. Gerd.

This is how I did it....

I started out roasting the garlic. I took about 8 cloves (un-peeled) and put them on a piece of aluminum foil. Coat with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and wrap the foil up into a package. (I know this is not the traditional way to do it, but it's quick and easy and allows you to do as much or as little as you like instead of a whole head) Roast at 300º F for about a half hour. Take it out and let it cool off -- a lot!

Uh..... YUM!
Once they're cool, the ooey-gooey garlic awesomeness just squeezes right out. Easy peasy.

Chop the garlic & about 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary.

Then I took the original bread recipe and cut it in half (there are only 2 of us here, so last time 1 whole batch was a little too much for us). Mix all the dry ingredients well, then add the roasted garlic, rosemary & about 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (nuts are optional, but I love pine nuts!). Add the water and mix until it's all one big doughy ball. Cover with saran wrap and let sit on the counter for 12-18 hours.

I usually do this part at night, so when I get up in the morning, I find this....

Ok, doesn't look so great, but it's going to be AWESOME..... trust me!!
Scoop out the dough onto a well-floured surface and just make it into a ball. That's it. No kneading required.

shh...I'm resting...
Once you have a nice ball, flour a dish towel (cotton, not terry cloth) and shake off the excess. Then put your dough on it and wrap it loosely and let it rest for about an hour.

Rub the flour in, then shake off some of the excess...

Meanwhile, put your pot (with the lid on) in the oven and let it get good and hot (don't use anything with rubber handles... they'll melt!). Take the bread and just flip it into the hot pot. Cover it and let it cook for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and let it cook for 15 more minutes and you get.....

Am I beautiful or WHAT!?
BAM! I made bread. Again. And better (smaller, but better!).

The only problem I had with this bread is that I used the same pot I used for double the recipe and it came out much shorter this time (Well, duh. That's kinda how it works). And unfortunately, the short bread doesn't work as well for sandwiches. So I found a new pot in our collection of cast iron that will from here on out be my half-a-recipe pot. There's just one looks like THIS...

So stay tuned for how to turn this disaster into a beautiful cast iron bread making machine!!! :)

But for now, here's the whole bread recipe in a nutshell:

3 C bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
1 1/2 C warm water
2T chopped roasted garlic
2T chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 C toasted pine nuts (optional)

Mix everything together well except for the water. Add water and mix until it's all combined (you might need to add an additional small splash of water or 2 -- just enough to be able to combine all the dry ingredients). Cover with saran wrap and let sit on the counter for 12-18 hours (DO NOT REFRIGERATE!). Pour dough onto well-floured surface and make into a ball. Place dough ball onto well-floured cotton dishtowel (shake off the excess flour first). Loosely cover and let rest for an hour. Meanwhile, heat the pot and lid in the oven at 450. Flip bread into pot, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Immediately take out of the pot and let rest for an hour. DO NOT cut the bread before it finishes cooling completely (even if it smells like it needs to be cut and eaten immediately).

Bam. Bread. You're welcome.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Unicorns Scoot Rainbows

Sometimes I stumble upon things that are just spit your coffee on the laptop hilarious...then I share them so you can also ruin your laptop. Or keyboard.

This is one of those things.

Clean that off your carpet, bitches!
I don't know who these guys are at We Know Awesome, (and if they designed this or not) but they clearly know awesome, and I'm ordering a shirt.

That is all.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

how to clean your microwave....for real.

There is a battle waging in my house. One between good and evil..... err.....ok, maybe just clean and dirty, but it might as well be good and evil!

A few years ago, I requested one of these from my mom for Christmas.

Boom! You don't wanna see what's going on under here...
I thought it would help keep the microwave clean(ish -- I'm not completely unrealistic). In theory, you cover your food, so when you hit 3 minutes instead of 30 seconds and your burrito explodes, the bean carnage will be contained. The flaw in this contraption is this:


For whatever reason, Jack HATES my burrito-carnage-container. I must put it back in the microwave 10 times a day (because, well, it doesn't work if it's not actually inside the microwave -- duh). Every time he heats up anything, I find it on the stove. Infuriating. Which is why, cleaning the microwave has always been his responsibility.... until now!

I recently found (on Pinterest) about 35 different posts on cleaning your microwave. My favorite is from the Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking that includes 7 other wonderful household uses for vinegar (who knew!?!).

It's so easy.

Take 2/3 cup water & 2/3 cup vinegar (white) and combine in a glass MICROWAVE SAFE bowl. Now turn your microwave on for about 10 minutes (no burrito carnage container, just the bowl). 10 minutes seemed like an insanely long time to have my microwave running. I was fairly certain it would explode, but it didn't. Whew. Now remove the bowl (with oven mits, or a towel or something because it's HOTHOT), and wipe out the inside of your microwave with a sponge. You've essentially just steam cleaned your microwave! BAM!

Now THAT'S a clean microwave!!
Don't get me wrong, I had to do it twice to get our microwave sparkling clean -- but I fully attribute that to the state of our microwave, and how long it's been since anyone had cleaned it (ahem). I'll bet if you do this regularly every few weeks (err... months?), it'll stay pretty consistently clean. We shall see... but for now, score one point for team good.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

FORMERLY bread impaired...

I consider myself a decent cook (my family is Greek, so I'm fairly sure there's feta and olive oil in my veins). But no matter how hard I try, there are certain things I CANNOT make. Call it a mental block. Call it lacking in skill. Whatever. Can't do it. For example...

Rice is evil. I don't eat a lot of rice, simply because I am rice impaired. Don't bother telling me your secrets for the perfect way to cook rice, because I've tried them all. I'm sure they're fine and good, but I have a mental block against rice, and will always manage to f*** it up no matter how easy it should be.

I love cookies. But I don't care what kind of pre-made-dummy-proof cookie dough I buy, when I take them out of the oven, they will either be raw or brown and hard as a rock. Now, don't think this gets in the way of me eating cookies, because I like them super gooey anyway. I live on the edge. Screw you salmonella...

Bread..... until now.
I've lost count of all the bread products I've screwed up over the years. Other than my semi-decent focaccia last year, they've all been inedible hockey pucks of doom. And before you ask -- no, I don't have a bread maker. Nor do I have a $500 stand mixer with a bread paddle attachment. Puh-lease.... that lotto ticket hasn't hit yet. Not to mention, I prefer to learn to do things the old-fashioned way (aka masochist). I live in Atlanta where southern women have been baking bread for generations without any help from these expensive toys.... so why can't I?

Well, thanks to this recent post I found from "Frugal Living NW".... I can.

BAM -- I have made BREAD!!!

I MADE BREAD!!! (and this is the picture that got emailed and text to everyone I know)

And not only is it the most beautiful thing you've EVER seen, but it tastes like wonderful fresh french bread! It's wonderful for sandwiches (BLT with tomatoes from the garden -- slap yo' momma good!). The only thing I regret is not thinking of using it for French Toast before we finished it off.

Anyway, follow the recipe exactly as it's written, though be warned, it makes A LOT! And since we're only 2 here, we ended up giving some away as it will only stay good on the counter about a week. I might try freezing some next time.... or cutting the recipe in half and seeing how that works out. Either way, I'll be making it again....and again...and again....

My Tips & Changes:
• When you wrap it in a dish towel, make sure it's THOROUGHLY floured. If you don't put enough, it will stick when you try to "flop" it into the pot
• I don't have a cast iron dutch oven (YET).... but I do have a large pot that has metal handles & lid (don't try to use one with plastic or it'll melt) that worked perfectly.
• Again, like I said, next time I'm going to attempt a half recipe. I'll post the revised cooking times etc. (if it works).

for the sake of research...

So, first things first.... my name is Stephanie, and I am a Pinterest junkie. I have a problem. I admit it.

So many ideas, recipes, crafts, tips, instructions, quotes.... you name it! But my problem is, how do you know if any of them are good? I can post a recipe to Pinterest for chocolate pie using dirt from my garden (and other questionable brown ingredients), but simply pinning it doesn't make it edible.

So I have to test my favorites.
Or the ones that make me call bullshit.
Well, and let's be honest, everything in between too...

A few weeks ago, I stumbled on these "Vick's Vapor shower discs" from an awesome blog Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity. I am addicted to anything around the house that will save money, stretch things farther and I'm intrigued by al the things you can do yourself -- and this blog is awesome. And hilarious. Again, I have a problem.... I know.

Smells WAY better than they look....
Anyway.... so the thought of ordering essential oils and making EVERYTHING I own smell like a spa seemed like the most brilliant idea ever! So after buying out half of Amazon, and waiting most impatiently for a week (patience is not one of my strongest suits), they finally arrived and I decided to try them. They were easy, smelled great.... but they don't look so great. (In all fairness, this is mostly my fault since I was being cheap and separated the paper cupcake liner from the foil liner -- 2 liners for 1 disc?!? Crazy talk!!) The foil ones look good. Paper, not so much.

But here's the problem... I jumped the gun! I have no idea if they're "crumbly" (apparently a common problem among the reader/reviewers), or if they're too big (should I have used the smaller muffin tin?) because it's AUGUST, and no one is taking steaming hot showers and battling stuffy noses and colds!

So I ask you.... is it wrong to put extra pepper in Jack's food (Jack = the boyfriend, handy man, and fellow DIY junkie)? Or encourage the cats to sleep on his pillow just to get some kind of sneeze out of him so I can test my newest experiment? It's in the name of research, right?

I guess this one will have to be open-ended until someone sneezes.....