Thursday, November 10, 2011

Something Yummy: Red Beet Eggs & Whole Wheat Bread

There is a wonderful farm stand* near us that opened up a few months ago (*Carries much more than what the individual farm produces.  Additionally carries local cheeses, bread, frozen ravioli, jam, soup mixes, and more).  We have been getting much of our produce and a few goodies from here.  The owner, Pete, is always friendly and happy to chat.  Once when we were buying beets he told us of one of his favorite foods - red beet eggs.  He used to drive through Pennsylvania regularly and this is evidently something that is not rare to find in Amish country.  It involves pickling beets and hard boiled eggs together.

We tried this a few weeks ago and ate them all before taking a picture, so I guess you could say that they came out well.  I went to make them again, wanted to tweak the recipe, and also used canned beets just to be quicker and less messy.

Red Beet Eggs

In a small sauce pan combine: juice from one can of beets (if using fresh, save about 1.5C of beet cooking liquid), 1C cider vinegar, 3T sugar, cinnamon stick (optional but yummy), 6 cloves (optional but yummy).  Heat to dissolve the sugar  and bring out the flavors of the cloves and cinnamon, and then let cool (don't want to overcook the eggs!).

In a large jar or glass bowl (will stain plastic) add: six to eight peeled hard boiled eggs, one can of beets (or a handful of prepared and sliced fresh beets), and some thinly sliced onion or shallots (optional).  Pour the prepared liquid over the eggs, beets, and onion.  The liquid should cover everything, if not, add a little bit of water (not more that 1/2 cup or it will dilute flavor, add more vinegar if needed).

Let the ingredients sit in the pickling liquid for at least a day, but preferably two or three to increase saturation of flavor and color.  Sprinkle a little salt on eggs when ready to eat.

Whole Wheat Bread

Confession time.  I don't really like the recipe I used for this bread.  It has a lot of promise, but the directions were super wrong.  I ended up adding much more flour than was called for, as the original recipe just made yeasty paper mache.  Anyway, it makes a killer sandwich with horseradish hummus, tomato, avocado, and munster cheese.  Nonetheless, the smell of fresh baking bread is one of the best things on a cold and dreary day winter-like day.  

Oh What the Heck...

This drink evidently sponsored by Trader Joe's
Laura is gone for the evening and this is how I like to party. Many people know how I feel about juice (answer: love it) and smoothies can be quantified by this equation: smoothy≥juice.  Because of ingredients on hand, my smoothy of the week has consisted of: milk, plain yoghurt, frozen raspberries, one banana, capful of vanilla, and a splash of maple syrup.

All together now!

Delicious!  If I prepared this for Herman Cain I bet he couldn't keep his hands off of it (allegedly).  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Favorite Time of the Year

Days like these just make me feel good—the beautiful fall weather, the sun shining, the air crisp (but not cold), the leaves changing to vibrant reds and oranges, and the smell of smoke coming from chimneys.

I love the view of our house through the two big burning bushes.  The red of the leaves will only continue to become more saturated, which leaves an almost electric confetti on our walkway.

These will likely be the last of the dahlias as we keep getting closer to the first frost of the season.

The stream of Christmas presents ordered online has begun.

The yawning dog is growing more and more fur in preparation for the winter (which means her neck is disappearing and her head is look smaller and smaller).

It's like she doesn't even notice the new curtains!
And it is awfully hard to be in a bad mood when wearing a tie with elephants and palm trees.

This is definitely one of my favorite times of year.  Time to take out the hooded sweatshirts, put the blankets back on the couch, stock up on hot chocolate mix, and be a happy homebody.

I LOVE our backyard.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Something Yummy: Potato Pancakes w/ Eggplant Béchamel

Our DVR is filled to the brim with episodes of Chopped.  If you aren't familiar with it, it is a cooking competition/elimination show on the Food Network where contestants are given baskets with totally random ingredients.  For example—make an appetizer using watermelon, canned sardines, pepper jack cheese, and zucchini in 20 minutes (Season 1 Episode 5).  After watching so many episodes, I stop and think "there is definitely something I can make here" every time I walk into the kitchen.

In my pantry I had: a tupperware of leftover potato dumpling dough, 3 carrots, 1 eggplant, and milk.  I wanted to have a mixture of flavors, textures, and colors.  I first planned on making a spicy potato pancake for the base of the dish.

The pancakes were made up of shredded potato, onion, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper and were held together with some egg and flour.  I wanted to get them just cooked through with a nice crisp on both sides.

Then I decided on some type of light cream sauce.  Looking at the eggplant, I thought of moussaka with a nice creamy béchamel sauce.  I figured why not combine the two?

I heated a little oil, whisked in some flour, slowly added milk to the desired consistently, and added salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

I grilled the eggplant with just a little salt.  When the eggplant softened it was added to the food processor along with the béchamel sauce (I also added a spoonful of tahini to bring out some of the earthiness of the eggplant).

Next, I wanted to add a little crunch to the meal with the carrots.  I cooked them just briefly in some butter, garlic salt, and dill.  Potatoes, carrots, and a creamy sauce?  I'll eat it.

Carrots, potato pancakes cooking, sauce, and pancake mixture to be fried

I stacked the potato pancakes, sauce, carrots and repeated.  I really think the Chopped judges would have enjoyed it—except maybe Geoffrey Zakarian, who really dislikes spiciness!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I'm a big non-blogging jerk

If I had a blog entry for each top level terrorist or despot that has been killed over the last two months, I would have infinitely more entries.  However, this is not the case and I once again return to the promise that "I swear I am never going to go this long without blogging again!"

Wait, I know I have made promises like this before....
"I swear the kitchen is never going to be this messy again."
"I swear I'm never going to leave my sweatshirt in the basement and let a spider nest in it again."
"I swear I'll tie my shoes, even when I'm running late, so I don't fall in the parking lot again."

Yeah.... right.....

I'm going to pretend that this is just a normal post like the tons before and after this one, and I'll tell you about what has been weighing on my mind heavily as of late.  I really want to build something.  I have spent the last year planning out my dream chicken coop—it is super awesome.  But I am starting to have second thoughts about my phantasmagorical poultry plans.  I have fears that I will be saying to myself....

"I swear I'm never going to let the chicken poop pile up like this again."
"I swear I'm never going to end up with 20 dozen eggs in the fridge again."
"I swear I'm going to stop annoying my wife by asking, 'Do the chickens have large talons?'"

So... I still want to build something, but what?  What about a miniature gypsy caravan?  Yes, I can understand how you might not understand how I went from point A (chicken coop) to point B (gypsy caravan), so let me try to explain.  I want something that: 1) we can add to our yard, 2) will be fairly low maintenance, 3) is family friendly (just thinking of the future—this is NOT an announcement!), and 4) is really cool.

A while ago I discovered something called a "roulotte."  It works really well as a canvas for creating a really funky and creative outdoor play space.

This is the sweetest playhouse I have seen in a long time, and you can see a lot more pictures of it on the mikodesign website.  This is what the designers at IKEA dream of: high quality/high use super functional spaces.  When you look at pictures of the inside, you would swear that this was some type of magical tent from Harry Potter that is boundless on the inside despite its outside appearance.

Another thing that I really like about the above roulotte is that it is relatively simple.  Classic roulottes have hours of craftsmanship poured into them, but the key elements I'm focusing on are the relative shape, size, and functionality of roulottes in general.

Picture stolen from HERE
Picture stolen from HERE
Picture stolen from HERE
Picture stolen from HERE
Part of me wonders if I was a traveling artist in a previous life.  Not only am I really drawn to roulottes, but a few years ago I was a little bit obsessed with Pakistani truck art.

There are bunches of people in Pakistan who make almost nothing and put almost everything into their trucks.  Take the cabs in New York City that are all filled with trinkets, then enlarge them and put hundreds of hours into their planning and implementation.  I mean, how good would it feel to go to work driving one of these?

Picture stolen from HERE
Picture stolen from HERE
Picture stolen from HERE
Picture stolen from HERE
I know that relations have been tense lately between the US and Pakistan, but I highly support the efforts of these people who have tricked out their trucks.  In fact, it is generally a good reminder that there are people doing some amazing things—and that the narrow portraits painted on the news on so many nights cannot adequately portray the many facets of foreign cultures.

Let's just pretend that I'm going to post again within the next week.  
(Vegas odds aren't looking great.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


This last week has been full of T&A, you know, tables and animals.  With Laura down at the Cape for most of the month, I have been left at home to tackle some projects.  One big thing was to clear up the clutter in our basement.  We never really moved out of "move in" mode, where anything we didn't know what to do with or where to put it, just got moved down to the basement.  Each item went one after another down the steps to keep it secret, keep it safe.

After picking up two solid core doors from the fam in the Ham, and a little bit of lumber, it was as easy as 1, 2, 3.... ugh.

Okay, so it wasn't as easy as I thought it should have been.  I felt like I was knitting.  I would be completely done with the table, then decide I wanted it to be a little bit different, take the whole thing apart, start again, and only ending up wanting to make changes when completed once again.

I must have rebuilt this at least four times.  Different height, different width, making it connect with the sink, blurg.  I still want to paint the frame and put a shelf underneath, but by and large it is complete.  I told Laura that this was a present for her, but evidently just because it is Laura's laundry table doesn't mean that only she can do laundry.

This evening after work I threw together a work bench really quick.  No bells and whistles yet, but give me another week or two.

I'm manish!
The two small, green, rectangular boxes had been how we were storing all of our tools before this.

My time alone in the house is largely very quiet.  Which means tiny little nails on the other side of the ceiling are easily noticed.  Here is the first friend I found:

What a cutie!  He (or she) just wanted a little bit of granola bar, can't blame them for that!  I released him/her at work (Outside obviously.  Wait... I am the person who has secretly dried elephant poop indoors before.  So, maybe I do need to state that I didn't release the mouse indoors).  The next day I found another friend (see previous picture).

After a long week at work, I finally get to see Laura again at the Cape.  Here is proof that we were by the ocean:

And here is our half dog/half wicker furniture cyborg:

Hope everyone is having a great summer and kicking the butt of your to-do list!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Flamin' Hot Pupusas

One of the great things about my trip (years ago) to Honduras was all of the amazing food.  There were mountains of avocados, mangos, cheeses, beans, plantains, and countless other yummies.

Do you see the white rectangles on the lower right?  At most vegetarian friendly restaurants in the US, geometric white blocks equal tofu.  In Honduras, white blocks equal fried cheese.  I can still taste it!
However, one of the most memorable things I ate (several times) were pupusas.  Pupusas are stuffed tortillas.  Kind of like a quesadilla, but thinner, not as dressed up, and one single tortilla.  Sometimes I think of it as a Latin calzone.  The important thing to take away from this is that they are delicious.

Now, chances are unless you are in a Honduran or El Salvadoran restaurant, you will not find pupusas on the menu.  This is exactly why I have made multiple attempts to learn how to make them at home.  I would like to dedicate this recipe to my dear friend Douglas who was my wonderful guide around Honduras.  In honor of him, I would like to name the following dish "Siguatepeque Pankeke."

Fast Forward to This Evening... As I was checking out at my local hardware store I was confronted by a display of snacks.  I try to avoid ever looking at these, because if I ever lock eyes with a bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos, chances are that we are going home together.  This was one of those days.

Driving home, I decided I wanted to incorporate the Flamin' Hot Cheetos.  A quick spin in the food processor and this is what it looked like.

I mixed together:
     1/3C crushed Flamin' Hot Cheetos
     1 2/3C Whole Wheat Flour
     1 1/2t Baking Powder
     2t Oil
*I did not add any salt because of the Cheetos, could have used maybe a tiny pinch

To this I added:
     3/4C of Milk that has been warmed up

Knead the dough until it is nice and pliable and sticks together; you will end up with an unnaturally red lump of dough.

I covered this for awhile as I cleaned up my dishes thus far (I'm thinking Laura would mind coming home to stained red counters, bowls, and cutting boards) and decided what to put in the middle.

Dividing the dough into eight equal pieces, I rolled each one out.  *It is very important to get the dough as thin as possible.  There is only a thin layer of filling between the two tortillas.  If the dough ends up thick, the finished product is like taking a big bite of flour.*

Here is one tortilla rolled out.  I added refried beans and some jalapenos for the middle.  Normally, you would fill the entire center and put another tortilla on top.  Being lazy, and wanting smaller pupusas, I just filled half and folded the other side over.

After folding over or adding another tortilla on top, you want to flatten it down again.  You can use your hands or rolling pin gently.  From my dough I made four pupusas like the one above, and left four unfilled to make plain tortillas.

Use a dry pan on medium heat to cook.  The tortillas only take about 30-50 seconds for each side, the pupusas take just a little longer.

Here is the bounty, and below is something I like to call "dinner."

I topped off the final product with mild salsa, roasted yellow & red peppers, and cilantro.  The tortilla was not very spicy at all.  Next time I would add spices like cayenne, tabasco, or pepper flakes instead of the Cheetos.  The mild salsa and sweet peppers were a nice balance for the spicy jalapenos.  The beans were a smooth and rich filler tying it all together.

Honduras, I miss you.  Hope to see you soon (and also Douglas & Michele and your tiny one!).