Category: cooking

The Pantry Challenge

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it on this blog but I am not the greatest when it comes to budgeting. Luckily my expenses have always been pretty low and I haven’t really needed to that much. Well, recently I set a goal to try to do better, and I am focusing first on grocery expenses. You see my pantry and freezer is a bit of a mess!   I will often buy things on sale or have portions of items that I need for one recipe but don’t use again. To solve this problem I have decided to take on the pantry challenge!

My goal is going to be to go as long as I can without going to the grocery store and just use things from my pantry. The one exception will be milk that I will get from Winder Dairy each week. I’m not going to say I will never eat out but I am going to try and reduce that as well. There may end up being some meals that feel like I am on chopped but I’m up for the challenge!

How long do you think I can go? How long could you go without going to the grocery store? I’m excited to see how it goes and I will try to update you guys as regularly as I can.

Let’s do the pantry challenge!

Movie Munchies: Ratatouille

Today I get to present to you the 2nd episode in my Movie Munchies series.  Just in time for Valentines Day Jacqueline and I make the french dish ratatouille and talk about- you guessed it- Pixar’s Ratatouille!  These videos were a huge challenge for me so I would love your feedback.  We plan to do a couple a month so if you have ideas for good movie/recipe combinations please put in the comments sections.

Also if you try the recipe let me know what you think.  It’s a very versatile dish that you can use as a main dish or side.  Very tasty.

Thanks so much for your feedback and help!

Recipe:
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
1 large eggplant (1 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large yellow onions (1 pound total), diced large
1 head garlic, cloves smashed and peeled
2 bell peppers (any color), seeded and diced large
2 large zucchini (1 pound total), diced large
1 lb mushrooms
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
2 to 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper

Salt the eggplant and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Saute peppers, onions and garlic till translucent.  Add eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms and get some color.  Add tomatoes and then let stew on medium low heat as long as you can.  Serve as a topping for pasta or a side with meat.

Movie Munchies 1: Apricot Chicken/Blind Side

Hi guys!  I wanted to share with you a very exciting video I just posted on my youtube channel.  It’s called Movie Munchies where we will review a film and make a recipe on the same video.  This week to celebrate the Super Bowl we are talking about 2009’s The Blind Side and making my favorite apricot chicken drumsticks- perfect for game day.  This was a huge challenge for me and I would love to get your feedback.

We’ve already got episode 2 filmed and will probably do this a couple of times a month.  If you have any ideas for good movie/meal parings please let me know!

Making this video required a whole new kind of editing and filming for me so I learned a lot but I’m really excited for the future.  I loved my chemistry with Jacqueline and found the entire experience very rewarding.  I know each episode will only continue to improve.

Thanks for checking it out.

Recipe-
3 lbs drumsticks or other meat
1 cup onions diced
1 cup bell peppers diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1/3 c soy sauce
1/4 c firmly packed cup brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
1/4 c honey
1 14 ounce bottle ketchup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
hot sauce to taste
1 jar apricot preserves
Olive Oil
Heat up onions, peppers, and garlic till translucent. In separate skillet sear the chicken on high heat to get a golden brown color. Add all ingredients except for jam, heat and then let simmer till it thickens.
Add apricot jam to mixture and poor over chicken.
Bake at 400 degrees for an hour, remove tin foil at 30 minutes. Test with thermometer. Want chicken 165 degrees or higher.
Enjoy! Let me know if you like it and I’ve made it with wings, pork, ribs etc.

Raspberry Jam

I’m not some hipster where everything has to be homemade and local in order for me to enjoy it.  That said, there is something satisfying about crafting your own products.  I have a job that is online and markets others people’s stuff but I don’t make anything myself.  That is why it feels good to take raw materials and make something usable out of your efforts.

Yesterday I had such an experience and I turned a bunch of these:

jam3Into these:

jamIsn’t that impressive? I’m impressed by my efforts at the least! And to make it even better the jam tastes good my friends!  (It’s set up more now than last night when I had this toast)

jam4The great thing is it is very simple to make.  In fact, I didn’t even follow the recipe right and it still turned out right.

I had 10 cups of raspberries and I used 10 tbsp of this real fruit pectin (any pectin will do).

jam5Then you mash the raspberries (mine were very soft so just a spoon was all I needed).  Then I had 20 tsp of lemon juice.  I saved myself from all the juicing by using bottled juice since it is mostly for the acid.

lemon juiceThen add 2 tbsp butter and let mixture boil for 2 minutes.  (I put sugar in at this point but you aren’t supposed too. I read the directions incorrectly but it didn’t matter).

Take off heat add the sugar 10 cups (It makes a lot of jam) and then let it get to a rolling boil again (so it can’t be stopped by stirring).  Let boil for 2 minutes.

Let cool and then skim off any foam and put into jars.  I don’t use a canner for this kind of jam.  All you have to do is put on the seal and ring and turn it upside down and it will set. (you can tell if it is set if you press down on the seal and it doesn’t pop back up on you.

And that’s it!! Raspberry is the easiest of all because aside from washing there is no prep work for the fruit.  That’s what made peach jam so difficult is the peeling, pitting and chopping of the fruit.  I have also made strawberry jam and that is so good but is still more work than raspberry (but a lot less expensive).

All of them are delicious and fun to make.  Especially if you have a family it could be a great project.  I would like to branch out into other types of preserves such as ketchups, chutneys and pickles.  Do any of you can or preserve your food?  I’d love to hear your recipes.

Trees, Turkey, Meals and Lights

Hi guys!  I just wanted to give you a little update on my life.

Well to begin with Christmas has arrived. Got the lights and the tree up!

lightswindowThis year I rented my Christmas tree which is a completely brilliant notion.  Instead of having to store a giant tree all year and lug it out, decorate it by myself, I signed up and for the price of a house cleaning it is set up, stored, decorated and taken down at end of season.

treeAs some of you will remember from years past I have a memory tree with ornaments from travels and all other parts of my life.  I also have little picture frames that have black and white photography of my friends and family, which is especially nice this year as I will not be seeing family and my best friend Emily is away.

I have a few new ornaments to add to the tree.  Some I got in Tampa and these fun Disney ornaments to pay tribute to my Disney project and blog this year.

disney ornamentIn other news Thanksgiving has been a lot of fun.  I went to my aunt and uncle’s for dinner and it was a full house of cousins and relatives.  I was in charge of making the salad and it turned out pretty tasty.

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And now a little recipe.

saladArugula Salad with Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Dressing

Arugula

pomegranate pips  (put pomegranate under water and it makes it easy to de-seed)

butternut squash peeled, seeded and diced into 1 inch cubes

parmesean cheese

walnuts

cranberries

apple cider

apple cider vinegar

olive oil

shallots finely diced

digon mustard

maple syrup

Start with butternut squash on baking sheets with olive oil and maple syrup. Put in 375 degree oven for 45-60 minutes until the cubes are tender but crusted on outside.  While cooking mix 2 tbsp vinegar, 3/4 cup cider, 2 tbsp syrup, 2 tbsp shallots in saucepan.

Cook for 8-10 minutes until mixture has thickened.  Then add1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tbsp mustard, 1/4 cup maple syrup.  Put in jar and shake until mustard is emulsified.  I added a little water because my vinegar was strong.  If you like it sweeter add more syrup . If you want more mustard go for it!

I used a cranberry walnut mixture I bought at the store but if you don’t have that then I would roast the walnuts before.

When serving add arugula, butternut squash, walnuts, cranberries, pomegranate pips, parmesean shavings.  Add all ingredients and top with dressing and serve!

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Since I wasn’t cooking Thanksgiving dinner I decided to order one from my local market, Harmons, so I could have some leftovers!  It was pretty cool I got everything from a full turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, stuffing, green beans, rolls and 2 pies for $100.  Pretty cool right?

So I portioned it all into meals and have them ready in my chest freezer for many holiday meals to come! Pretty clever right?

dinner dinners

So that’s my little holiday update. I hope you are all doing great and having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.  Make sure to check out Scrooge month on my other blog.  I’m having a blast watching and writing about these films of the story I love so much. I just posted yesterday about the Alistair Sims classic and today on the Disney stop motion effort.

European Style Grocery Shopping

veggies

I’ve spoken a number of times on this blog about food, cooking and the challenges of shopping for one.  Lately I’ve been trying a new strategy that has been working out very well.

This article explains the shopping philosophy and how it saves money, gives the best food http://www.wisebread.com/buy-your-groceries-european-style

Basically the idea is instead of buying in bulk or cooking large quantities, you go to the grocery store every day and buy what you need for that day or perhaps for 2-3 days.

This is smart for the following reasons

1. You get the freshest ingredients

2.  It avoids waste saving money and time

3. Fresh, seasonal ingredients typically are the least expensive

4. For a single woman who eats out a lot it makes it easy to eat out without spoiling food or meal plans waiting to be made.  You can just plan on eating out instead of shopping.

5. With a grocery store in walking distance of my house it isn’t really any  more work to shop everyday.

6. Less groceries and less mess.  Today I dirtied a few pieces of silverware and 1 plate instead of tons of pots and pans.  Of course, I can plan an everyday meal that uses a lot of pots and pans but at least I know that’s what I am doing and can plan accordingly instead of just having ingredients and trying to make something good out of it.

7.  It allows you to order what you are in the mood for on a particular day.  Not stuck eating leftovers or ingredients that sounded good a month ago.

Today for example I went to the grocery store purchased a rotiserie chicken, a kale salad and twiced baked potato they make at Harmons and stuff to make easy crepes for dessert

The other day it was a tub of chili, another it is chicken and sauce.  A lot of items are hard for me to purchase because I just can’t eat them fast enough.  A loaf of bread for instance is hard for 1 person to polish off before it is either stale in the fridge or moldy outside.

With European grocery store I can  buy just what I need for that meal and be done with it.

It may seem like this type of shopping would be more expensive and while I haven’t done the math I don’t think I’ve spent much more if any.

I know that such shopping might be impossible if you have a family but if you don’t, give it a try.  I bet you will love it!

Plus, you get to sound all suave and debonaire with your European shopping trip… 🙂

How do you shop for evening meals?  What strategies work for you?

First Day Jitters

So today is the first day of the new job!  I started to write this post many times but then would stop because it was seemingly more tweet than blog worthy.  I am part nervous, part excited, and that’s basically it.

It’s something entirely new as a career and I have no doubt that transitioning from hobbyist to a career in digital marketing will be a challenge.  However, I also know I am starting small, part-time and we are all committed to being patient with each other.

It feels strange starting something new.  It’s probably been since starting the job in accounting which was way out of my wheelhouse.  I also was thinking back to the the first day in the MTC and the mission field.

Wondering what it was going to be like and if I could do it.  On one hand I want to give both of the Rachel’s at those points a hug and say ‘you’ll get through the tough times’ and also say ‘you do it and you do it well’.

Looking back on those experiences I realize the worrying was justified and it wasn’t.  Those were some of the toughest times of my life beginning but the worry of failure wasn’t really justified.  I wasn’t perfect but I think I turned into a good missionary and then accounting clerk.  Regardless it all worked out for the best.

What about you my friends?  What in your 30’s+ have you started anew, afresh? Whether a new marriage, job, child etc?  Were you excited and freaked out like me?  Any advice?  How has it been different starting something new in your 30s vs 20s?  It seems like it could be more challenging and yet more rewarding.  Would love to hear your perspectives.

This morning we had a conference call to go over the company I will be working for and in the next week will be filling out forms and starting projects.  It is a new position so there will be some moving and stretching as we figure out what works best for everyone.  I will probably be going out to Georgia sometime this summer to see the facilities and meet my co-workers.  The main offices are in Dalton Georgia so that should be a fun place to visit.

So that was basically it.  We did a basic orientation of the company and most of the answers to questions were ‘I’ll get back to you on that’.

I think I may just have to read Julia Child’s book My Life in France.  It’s one of my favorites for a lot of reasons but I love that she had the guts to change her life later in life.  She didn’t graduate from culinary school till she was almost 39.  Then she spent the next 10 years of her life working on Mastering the Art of French Cooking and in 1961 when she was 49 it was published.

Everything we know about Julia Child started then.  At 50 she became the Julia Child we all know with the debut of The French Chef.  How many people do you know that have started something so big at 50?  It’s so inspiring to me.

Her marriage to Paul Child is another inspiration to me. They met when she was 32 and married at 34.  He seems to have been worth waiting for.  As an artist he no doubt wanted to be creative and energetic but he chose to work as a bureaucrat for his job so that Julia could go to culinary school and write her book.  What a wonderful example of love and support.

Most people would find the notion of a housewife going to Le Cordon Blu in the 60s to be silly but not Paul Child.  In fact, it was his insistence that  kept her motivated when it got difficult.

I wasn’t planning on talking about Julia and Paul on this post but they are an inspiration to me and as I start this new journey I hope to embrace the adventure like them.

Read My Life in France.  I know you will love it!

So share with me your new experiences.  What you learned from them?  What your inspiration was?  What was tougher at 30 than at 20? What was easier?  Thanks in advance.

New folder6

 

 

Speedy Rolls and #LDSConf

This weekend I had the great experience of listening to my church’s General Conference where the prophet and other leadership speak words of wisdom and counsel to all of us. The interesting thing about this weekend is there wasn’t one stand out talk.

They all were great and impacted me.  It all made me want to be a better person and strengthened my faith.  I am so excited to dive into them for the next 6 months and make them part of my life.

In the last 2 years I became more involved in the Church’s twitter movement known as #twitterstake.  This isn’t officially part of the church but they have embraced social networking and have established #ldsconf as the General Conference hashtag as well as tags for every speaker.

#ldsconf

Older members may be surprised by the embrace of such social media and wonder if it distracts viewers to be on twitter at the same time they are listening to the prophet and apostles?  If I had not participated myself I might wonder the same thing.

In fact, it is the reverse.  For a multisensory learner like myself being able to interact with a community of worldwide saints while watching General Conference only adds to my understanding and faith.

Not only do other viewers pick up on talk aspects that I don’t, but I am also using reading, writing, listening and viewing to process ideas instead of merely viewing.  I can’t understate how much it has helped me to get the most out of General Conference since I started in 2012.

It has also helped me to feel a part of a worldwide movement.  To literally bare my testimony to others all around the world.  I have made friends that are truly cherished, some that I have met and others that I communicate with frequently.

conference-1

One of my twitter friends @Stan_Way  described it well:

Fullscreen capture 462014 52127 PM.bmp

Indeed, who reading my blog or tweet will become a lasting friend?  What a great world we live in.  Never any other time in the history of the world could a single woman have such a voice.  It’s just wonderful.

For some reason this conference everyone was making cinnamon rolls on twitter.  After about the 300th tweet I broke down and made my own.  I’m not the hugest baker in the world, but I have a recipe for ‘Speedy Rolls’ in my cookbook (see post for more on the cookbook)  for many years. For all of you that aren’t bakers it is the easiest recipe.  Fail proof!

It can also be used as cinnamon rolls and works great.

cinnamonrolls

Speedy Rolls/Cinnamon Rolls

Place in mixing bowl and let disolve

2 cups warm water

2 tbsp yeast (2 packages)

1/3 cup sugar

Add and beat for 2 minutes

1 tbsp salt

2 cups flour

Add and beat for 1 minute

2 eggs

1/3 cup melted shortening or butter

Gradually add until dough forms

4 1/2 cups flour

Let stand for 20 minutes.  Then shape and let rise for another 20 minutes.

Put lots of cooking spray on the pan.

Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes depending on size. Until godlen brown

If making cinnamon rolls using rolling pin to make dough about 1/4 inch thick.  Then spread cinnamon, sugar, butter and brown sugar very liberally.  Roll up into one large log then cut into 1 inch slices.

Let rise and it took me around 25 minutes to cook because they are so big.

Top with glaze made from butter, powdered sugar and a little milk.

 

The cinnamon rolls also gave me an excuse to meet my neighbors.  Win-win!

 

Happy Irish Day!

irish dinner

Happy St Patricks Day! I love entertaining and finding an excuse to celebrate and today I celebrated St Patricks Day a day early.

I also got to celebrate using my pressure cooker for the first real time! It’s pretty intimidating putting it all in there, hoping you have it right and then hearing it whistle and sputter.

It sounded like it was about ready to explode the whole time but I didn’t peak and after an hour my corned beef and cabbage was looking good and tender (normally takes hours, so the pressure cooker was a success!). I finished off rubbing it in brown sugar and roasting in the oven so it got crystallized and sweet.
irish dinner 3

I added mashed potatoes made with sour cream, milk, russet potatoes and butter to the meal and it was delicious! (See recipe below)

My cousin Danielle and her husband Corey came and my sister and her roommate Becca. In between dinner we played Balderdash and then Danielle brought a yummy cheesecake. All in all it was a great and delicious night!

Btw, according to Wikipedia St Patrick’s Day is a day of feasting to commemorate the arrival of Christianity into Ireland. What better way to celebrate then by feasting with friends on Sunday.

Life is good and I hope you all have a wonderful day and week.

Top of the morning!

corned beef and mashed potatoes
Pressure Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
3 lb corned beef brisket
1 large green cabbage
1 bag baby carrots (or 3 carrots peeled and diced)
2 apples diced
1 onion chopped
1 packet of pork rub seasoning (I used this brown sugar rub I got in my Tyler Florence fancy box. It is for pork but worked great with the corned beef)
rub
brown sugar and agave for roasting
Put apple, cabbage, carrots, onion in bottom of pressure cooker.
Cover beef with spice mix on all sides, put on top of veggies. Add water until just gets to the bottom of the beef.
Put pressure cooker on high for about 10 minutes and then turn to low (for me it was a level 4 on the stove).
Let cook on low for an hour and 15 more minutes.
Then take meat out and rub with brown sugar and drizzle on some agave. Put in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes until brown sugar is crystalized and bubbly (don’t let it burn!)
Make sure to cut it against the grain and as thinly as possible to keep it from being tough.
Serve veggies and meat.

Mashed Potatoes
8 russet potatoes peeled and diced
1 cup sour cream
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup of milk
salt and pepper
Cook potatoes till tender then mash adding milk, butter and sour cream to taste. If I’m going to splurge and eat potatoes I make them really good but it’s up to you.

The downside to using the pressure cooker is that it is too watery to create any kind of gravy but the sour cream in the mashed potatoes made them flavorful enough on their own. You could also add garlic if you wanted.

So, that was my fun night. What did you guys do this weekend? Anything fun? And don’t worry. I will be wearing green on the actual holiday. In fact, check out the youtube channel because I will be opening a very special My Ireland Box in honor of the day. So fun!

Cookbooks

Last week I made 2 recipes from a very special cookbook- ‘the best white bread’ and ‘italian chicken’.  Where did I get these recipes why from my very own cookbook. See below:

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a nice big hole in the sleeve for the main dishes. Kind of appropriate.
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Drinks
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Desserts my favorite section and not a bad drawing!
20140118_153326
yummy salads

When I was 17 I was heading off to college I wanted to take my mother’s best recipes with me, so I gathered them together into a 3 ring binder on blue paper separated into categories like drinks, bread, salads, desserts.  The thing that I love is even though it was just for me I did my own drawings to accompany the recipes.   How many 17 year old’s who can’t really draw to save their life do that?

Isn’t it interesting because I could have just written the recipes down.  I’m not an artist so why did I feel inspired to add the drawings to my little cookbook?  Who knows exactly what inspired me but I would like to think it was because I knew that the recipes were special, that they deserved to be memorialized in some way and even if I was the only one who would see the drawings (which I pretty much am until this post) it was still worth it.

And you know what? It has been worth it.  I feel happy whenever I look in my cookbook and see the drawings.  It’s like 17 year old me waiving and saying hello to 33 year old me.  Over the years flour and guck has built up on the plastic covers of the pages and even had several that got briefly melted but I haven’t changed them to new covers.  I like seeing the years and remembering the time I made candy and it melted the on the fudge recipe or seeing the flour and remembering the pancakes that I’ve made over the years.

Other recipes remind me of the cooking contests we used to have (some are actually from the contest like the Green and White Lasagna one below).  That is one of the best times of my childhood cooking with my siblings.  Pancakes also remind me of my Dad and how he tried diligently for weeks to make the perfect pancake.  A recipe for spaghetti  makes me think of my Mom and how we ate pasta and sauce at least once a week growing up.  I also see the apple pie recipe and think of all the family gatherings where my Mother made the perfect pie and wistfully wonder if I will ever have such a culinary moment (her’s are seriously the best)

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Italian Chicken is one of my favorites.
20140118_153249
Even have the butter label stuck on the pancake page1

It’s an amazing thing because at the same time that my cookbook brings back all those memories it is creating new one’s that I will look back on 5 years and see the flour from when I first made bread in my new house or the raspberry pies I made and brought to my friends the Porters. I don’t if I can think of anything else that is both a time capsule of past and present more than this cookbook.

For some reason I had an idea when I was young that this would be important so I not only made such a book for myself but when my sister got engaged I made a similar (if a bit nicer!) cookbook for her.  You see, she and her husband and spent much of their courting time with me and I had done most of the cooking.  At the time I was working and it was fun for me to cook for hungry guests and hear about their plans and adventures.  So, when I made Megan a cookbook it was more based on the recipes that I had made for her and not as much about the recipes Mom had made.

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Megan’s recipe was all based on things that were quick that I had made for them as they were courting and engaged.
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You’ll notice I have hand drawn drawings on Megan’s too. It just makes it more special.
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Chili was a favorite of mine in college. It was sort of dotored up canned goods but always tasty and cheap.
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the cover. So fun.

You will see in hers there is also the hand drawn artwork which I still find amazing as I am not much of a drawer but there was something about making a cookbook that made me draw by hand.  It’s like passing on a bit of who you are with what you cook so nothing else would work but your own hand at drawing.  And maybe the memory of making the drawings becomes part of the time capsule for past and future memories.  I hope it has been that for my sister.  I know she uses it often.

As I was making bread I said to myself ‘I wonder if most people would just look online for such a recipe?’ I’m sure they do and I look online often for sure but I hope that with the advancement we haven’t lost the value of creating family cookbooks, with personal touches of story and art for your life, your family to share and add on to.  Such a legacy of flour and egg cannot be transferred to an email or a pinterist pin.

Food has such a link to our survival, to what makes us literally alive; therefore, the stories it can tell can be monumental or sublimely small.  Without the family, homemade cookbook we lose some of those stories and some of that life.

So make a goal of it this year to write down your family recipes, add some illustrations (you’ve seen mine, don’t have to be so great) and then give similar gifts to those you love for their memories and by transference now your memories.  It’s just a good thing to do!

Don’t get so lost in the world of blogging, even food blogging, that you forget to make things that make memories.  Writing is powerful but so is art and beauty and cooking, so make a cookbook as a gift to your life! You’ll love it!

Ps.  I know there are companies that can make it all professional but I would discourage from that.  Make it you and everytime you see your wobbly version of a salad or a turkey you will smile and say to yourself ‘thanks 17 me love ya’ and those are the sublime moments of life.