NOMday foodie considerations…

Get it?  NOMday?  From Monday?  Yeah, I know….

So I was thinking this morning, as I began planning out another bi-monthly shopping trip for groceries, about one of my favorite (and Nick’s not so favorite) condiments, balsamic vinegar!  A lot of people are familiar with Modena style, which is a reproduction of the originals from Italy, and can be commonly found just about anywhere.  I headed over to ye olde wiki for more information on this delightful, tangy, sweet and pungent flavoring.

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There are only two ‘real’ styles of balsamic vinegar, detailed and protected by Italian and international law, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) and "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia).  They begin with a reduction using their specified type of grape juice, and must then be aged for at least 12 years.  What a wait!  Bottles of this traditional style run to hundreds of American dollars!

The more familiar version, that of Modena, is commercial grade and available for very economical rates everywhere.  The production of this wine vinegar is not aged, and emulates the flavors of the traditional by adding caramel and perhaps some natural thickeners.  Be that as it may, it’s still a flavor I love, and I will take what I can get!

I’ve found it a great flavor to add to a lot of dishes, and I’m finding it a frequent ingredient in my recipe experiments from myrecipes.com.  From there I learned to add it to commercial jarred spaghetti sauce to enhance the flavor and give it a more homemade taste!  I prefer it as a marinade for steak and fish, and for grilled fish like salmon, it makes a superb sauce when reduced with a little fresh garlic and honey.

I love this versatile, interesting flavor!  What’s your favorite?

Mmmm, biscuits!

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I do love my carbs, do I ever.  Biscuits are one of my favorite delivery methods, too, but I generally didn’t make them myself, instead reserving my consumption for trips to McDonalds or Thanksgiving dinners.  Little did I know it was SO EASY to make them myself.

I actually went directly to my box of pancake batter.  This is a staple in my pantry – I know I’m breaking some cursory rule of DiY cooking with this, but this activity was passed down from my mother, and while they call it ‘complete’ I’m always augmenting my pancakes with cinnamon and vanilla and things.  I vaguely recalled that pancake batter mix isn’t JUST for pancakes, but for waffles, pot pies, and indeed, biscuits!  Really, it wasn’t all that different from their standard pancake mix, just more mix and less milk.  They provide options for dropped biscuits (as you see there) or cut biscuits.  Both were great!  They were light and fluffy, a little bit crumbly like homemade biscuits should be!

There are plenty of simple recipes for biscuits on the internet (I’m going to get on the garlic-cheese biscuits ASAP!), but this leaves you with a simple method if you’re in a hurry.  Now, just to learn how to make a decent sausage gravy…

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Foodie Monday: Pork Medallions with capers and olives

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Faaabulous dinner, and it was super easy to make, which was ideal as we were limited on time on a rather wacky Sunday night.  Nick liked this especially because he’s a huge fan of capers.  The olives are very strong in their own right, but it’s a nice contrast to the pork.  We had green beans and squash flavored with a little garlic as a side.  I made this for Nick just before I took him off to the airport, no need for him to be hungry when he got to his destination!

Get the recipe at myrecipes.com!

Tea Dyeing

I found myself a little short on time yesterday, so I’m combining Foodie Monday and Costuming Tuesday here!  Ha! One of the things I keep finding myself doing as I’m working on projects is tea dyeing.  Dyeing is familiar to many crafters using dyes like Rit or other retail products.  But sometimes I don’t need such an intense change, just something a little aged, and then I turn to my favorite drink: tea!

IMG_2305 Tea dyeing would probably more accurately be called staining, but you get a good effect: a light reddish-brown color in addition to whatever you were starting with.  It’s a nice effect for creating an aged look, and works great on just about anything porous, from fabric to paper (I used to tea dye paper for treasure maps as a kid! Hee!).  Recently, I’ve been using it to darken white materials that just needed a slightly more creamy color.  Tea dyeing is not permanent and detergents will wash it out, so keep this in mind depending on what you’re creating.

One of the items I needed a bit darker was a bit of cotton cord I purchased to make a belt.  Cotton and other natural fabrics will dye much better than synthetics, but synthetics or blends will also stain slightly (I managed to stain quite acceptably a bit of white fur synthetic to a beige).  Make sure you run a test first!

I started out by brewing a nice big batch of tea!  All you need there?  Hot water and a lot of black tea bags (just buy the cheap store brand ones in the big package).  Depending on the size of the item you need dyed, you may need to adjust your container and the amount of tea.  I had a hank of cord about 5 yards, so I just used this medium glass bowl.IMG_2311

Make your tea, and while it’s still hot, add in your material.  Use a spoon to stir it around and make sure you return every few minutes to give it another stir.  Wait for the tea to cool to a manageable temperature and then rinse your material in cool water; this will wash away a lot of the tea and show a lighter color, so if it’s not dark enough, stick it back in the bowl!  Keep going until you get the color you like.

Feel free to experiment!  Got some of that raspberry tea?  It might make a nice rose color!  Got any turmeric?  That makes a heck of a yellow or orange dye!  Works on leather, too!

So?  What kitchen items do you find yourself using in your crafting?

Get into my car!

So, to take off from last Foodie Monday (I had a really good name for what Monday posts were going to be called and I have since forgotten completely.  I am slightly annoyed about that) post, wherein I plotted to begin using MyRecipes.com to create a little more interesting meals for Nick and me.image

One of the things that’s pretty new to me is fresh garlic.  It.  Is.  Amazing.  Period.  However, it is a nasty mess to chop.  I have a few good knives, but I don’t know yet how to use them well enough for chopping.  Besides that, I hated for my fingers and hands to smell like garlic for days after.  So I went looking for a garlic press, and instead I found… this!

I am calling it a Garlic Car, and it is my new favorite thing.  It is actually the Handheld Garlic Chopper, but that’s just no fun at all.  It has wheels, it’s a car now.  Anyway.  It’s simple to use and really safe, a clove or two of garlic go in the top, and then you send it on a trip around the counter or six.  Magically you have wonderful, tidy chopped garlic.  Want it minced?  Go around a few more times!  And after you have delightful minced garlic?  Your fingers don’t smell like it for three days!  Hooray!

It was more expensive than a regular garlic press at about $10, but for the fun little thing it is and how useful it can be, it was totally worth it!  It definitely seems it would be good for little kids, too, safe and fun to roll around.  I can’t wait to let my nephew try it!

What’s your favorite fun kitchen utensil?

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Doing it by the (cook)book.

I am in a constant quest to run an organized, efficient household. In an effort to keep our lives simple, I schedule out our meals two weeks at a time.  This is good for our budget, and for our free time, as Nick or I get to spend our time doing things we WANT to do, rather than going to the grocery store every night.  It’s gone VERY well for the last year, but I realized while working on my schedule that I continue to repeat about twelve similar dishes over and over and over again.  We LOVE good food, I’d even call us fledgling foodies, and I was a little appalled at my boring steak and potatoes meals.

Randy Mayor; Lydia DeGaris-Pursell - via myrecipes.comSo, I went on something of a side-quest (don’t forget the nerdy girl behind all this economy!) to find a way to expand our meal repertoire while not expanding our shopping time or our limited budget.  A friend recently made us an AMAZING Thai meal, and when I asked where she found the recipe (and all the other amazing recipes she’s made for us!) she directed me to myrecipes.com!  In exploring their website, I discovered their 1 List, 5 Meals recipes.  They provide a shopping list that has all the ingredients you’ll need for the 5 meals that accompany.  This was the solution I was looking for!  We’re starting off with Week One; it features a lot of fish (gotta love those great omega-3 fatty acids!) and sort of ‘cool’ foods which I like especially in the summer, when I don’t feel like cooking (or even eating =p) because of the heat.  There are plenty of other options as well; desserts, vegetarian dishes, quick and easy, or you can upload your own recipes!

So we’re going to try them out for the next two weeks.  Our weekly shopping night is coming up soon, and I’m excited about it for the first time in months.  So?  What’s your favorite food strategy?

A tomato a day…

doortodoorOne of my favorite regular deliveries came yesterday afternoon!  These pretty organic tomatoes!  We get a little box twice a month from a local delivery service… and while I call it ‘little’ (they call it the bitty box!), it’s quite a collection of fruits and veggies.  It’s all organic, and what they can provide locally they do!

We get our order from Door to Door Organics!  Our location is in Colorado, of course, but they have locations in Kansas City, Chicago, Michigan, and along the East Coast.  We like this because not only do we KNOW we have fresh fruit and veggies coming for a visit on a regular basis, it’s also a REALLY great price.  Let me show you…

Our ‘bitty’ box costs us $22.66, including delivery.  This time it contained those three tomatoes, two grapefruit, a 2lb bag of red seedless grapes, 4 plums, 4 peaches, a pound of yellow squash, a 6oz package of blueberries, and 4 bananas (and let me tell you, once you’ve had an organic banana, you’ll never go back!).  Comparatively, at our local grocery store, we’ll run about $26-30 for all that (and that’s just buying regular stuff.. NOT organic!), and WE have to do all the shopping, hauling, picking… all the hard work!  With Door to Door, we just sit there and poof!  Fresh fruits and veggies!

Everything is adjustable (we actually get a bitty fruit box, but we like to trade out our not-so-favorite fruits for our favorite veggies sometimes), from the size of the box to the delivery frequency, to the contents of each individual box.  Just log into the website to make any changes, add things you might want, substitute, even add eco-friendly cleaning materials, treats like chocolate, and organic beverages!  The website is SUPER user friendly, and customer service is very helpful, if you ever need them!

We love it!  Eating right and saving money in an eco-friendly way is right up our alley.  How about you?