Madness, mayhem and mayonnaise

So, that broccoli salad I was going to make last night? It took me an HOUR AND A HALF to make. There was a time when I considered myself to be efficient in the kitchen. I could whip up anything, no recipe could possibly intimidate me. But then this thing happened where I started reading a lot of nutritional discoveries, and decided it would be a Good Idea to avoid soy products as much as possible. So I make our mayonnaise now. No more Hellmann’s, which is sad because it’s delicious. But for some reason I can’t explain, I have had the WORST time getting my mayo to emulsify the last several times I’ve made it. It used to be a cinch; I had the recipe memorized and in a matter of two minutes I’d have a fresh batch whipped up. But last night was one of those nights where the mayo gods were against me and I was afraid for my hair (I might pull it out, you see,). Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiinally I figured out that the egg yolks left over from making angel food cake for Easter dinner were Not Happy Yolks, and started with a fresh yolk and that made all the difference. Fortunately with mayo, once you get it started properly, all the eggs and oil you’ve messed up earlier will incorporate, no problem, so the whole lot was saved. At 10 pm I staggered to bed in disbelief that I had JUST finished making the salad. And then I went and shared it with my co-workers today – what was I THINKING? I’m pretty sure I should have horded it all to myself after the trouble I went through.

I’m not going to put up a recipe for mayonnaise… there are oodles all over the internet, just google it. Besides, I’m apparently not an expert at making it. I do, however, stick to it until I get good results. And don’t let anyone tell you home-made mayo will end up runny, they are WRONG. See?The yellowish color is because I used farm-fresh eggs from a guy up the road, and the yolks are practically orange.

IMG_2704If you do decide to try homemade mayo (It really is easy… I don’t mean to scare you off. Just small things can make it go wrong, but once that’s ironed out it’s easy and worth it.) don’t expect the flavor to be the same as Hallmann’s. It’s made with soybean oil. I assume yours would not be. And what I’ve come to realize is that a great part of the flavor is soybean oil flavor. I don’t know why that came as a surprise to me, but it did. So if you make it with light olive oil, as I do, it will taste mostly like light olive oil. Or you can use grapeseed oil, or avocado oil… and it will, well, taste like those oils. Go figure.

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Mini Chocolate Truffle ‘Cakes’

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This recipe has nothing to do with the 4th of July or BBQs, unlike all the other food posts the blogging world is producing the past few days.

This has everything to do with chocolate. And friends. I used to make these regularly, before I was stricken with health-consciousness *cough*, and I made them for the first time in a few years to take to a friend’s house recently. They were well received.

The original recipe is from Martha Stewart (or her food editor, or whoever), who makes them in standard sized muffin tins, but honestly, these are so intense and fudgy and rich (yes, I said rich… I’m turning into my grandmother.) that I feel they are best enjoyed in small bits, so I use mini-muffin tins. Anyhoo, on to the goodness.

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In the heat of the morning…

It’s hot today, folks. I know, I know… those of you who live in the southern states are laughing a little hysterically at me, but trust me, it’s hot. It was 92* in the shade, and we live without air conditioning, so chew on that for a moment. 😉

This morning when I got up, it was already hot. And sticky. SO very sticky. My bed sheets feel damp and clingy because of the humidity. Blech. IMG_0005

For breakfast, I wanted a green smoothie. It’s what I have for breakfast most days lately, and I looooove them. I nearly always start with a heafty handful of baby spinach, one of chopped kale, half and avocado, a good long slosh of almond milk and… whatever frozen fruit I have that sounds good to me.

I’d forgotten that we didn’t buy spinach the other day because mom’s in coming on in the garden. I opened the fridge looking for it, and when I realized  there was none I kind of stared in glum denial…

Yes. I had to go outside in the blazing sun and PICK spinach for my breakfast smoothie. This isn’t a big deal unless you know me and getting up in the morning. It’s not a pretty thing. But actually, it was a nice stretch, bending and hunkering a good 15 minutes in the wet, steaming row of baby spinach.

And it’s sooooo much cheaper than the grocery store… currently organic baby spinach is running $6-7 a pound if you buy the big box of it. Several pounds costs us less than $2 for seed. Take THAT, world. 😉

It was worth it, the heat and bugs and grogginess and all. I had a scrumptious, nutrition dense and highly refreshing blackberry-strawberry ‘green’ smoothie, and even shared some with my dad, who said it looked disgusting and sucked it down in a flash.  IMG_0007

My Christmas season

I have several friends who are attempting the 365 thing this year… you know, where you post a picture of something from your day every day for a year. It is so much fun to keep up with when someone actually does it. I know a few who have; I love the idea, but we all know by now that I’m not good with staying true to a course like that. I might last a week, maybe. So I decided, hey, I can still put up pictures when I feel like it, of whatever I’d like to share with you.  Duh.

So, to start with, here are some highlights from my Christmas season.

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I made sugared rose petals for our Christmas dessert. It was Jubilee Cake, in honor for the Queen’s Jubilee. Two layers of s moist almond cake with clotted cream and raspberries in between. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right kind of cream to make clotted cream, so I ended up with sorta-thickish but still runny, lumpy cream. Hey, it still tasted good. But it did make me angry at the FDA or whoever it is that thinks we need to have everything ultra-pasteurized. But that’s a different topic…

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Home-Made Perogies

 

It’s been a while since I made Perogies… in fact, when I couldn’t remember which book my recipe came from, I checked in my old food blog, and it was 3 years ago that I was in the habit of making them. Wowzers, how time flies. Mom’s been bugging me to make these lately, and since it’s a Saturday and we need something to keep the kids occupied all day, I thought to myself “What better way to keep them busy than to inflict labor-intense Perogie assembly on them? BWAHahahaha.”
I’m such a good sister.
So, I figured I might as well share the recipe on here, since my old blog is pretty much a thing of the past. If I wasn’t so lazy, I’d take new pictures of the process today as I work on them, but I won’t. You’ll just have to make do with the pictures from before I knew how to use my camera properly.
Be careful with this recipe. These are hearty and high-carb, full of cheese and butter, and for your health’s sake, wait til the official meal and don’t snack on 20 as you cook them. *sigh*
Ukrainian Perogies
For the Dough:
2 C flour
1/2 C warm milk
1/2 C mashed potato
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs oil
Mix all ingredients, adding a little more milk if it’s too dry. Knead on a lightly floured surface until it forms a ball. You want it to be just slightly sticky. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a towel to rest at least 30 minutes.
Filling:
1/2 C finely chopped onion
1/4 C butter
2 C mashed potato ( a good use for left-overs, or boil fresh and season with salt and pepper)
1 C grated white cheddar
Sauté the onion in butter until well cooked and starting to brown. Mix with potato and cheese. You might want to add salt to taste, but keep in mind that the cheese has quite a bit of salt already. If you use hot mashed potato, allow to cool a bit before filling perogies.
Set a pot of water to boil (the wider it is the more you can cook at once). Roll the dough very thinly on lightly floured surface (0.125″ to be precise. *cough*) adding as little four as possible to keep it from sticking. Cut 3″ circles with a wide glass/biscuit cutter.

Press scraps into a ball, and allow it to rest again so the dough can be re-used. It relaxes significantly after 15 minutes or more.
Scoop 1 1/2- 2 tsp filling into each circle (you’ll figure out how much is too much pretty quick, it’ll gush out the corner.), fold and press closed. The dough sticks together very well compared to some other pastries. The first time I made these I thought they’d pop open, but they didn’t.
Place in boiling water to cook. Stir once to keep them from sticking to the bottom. They will float after about 2 minutes. Cook about a minute longer, then remove with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle cooked perogies with melted butter and toss. You can either eat them now as a ravioli-like dumpling, or….
…. fry them until golden, as we do. I actually like them either way, but most of my family only likes them fried.

Lunch

 

Blue potatoes, Spanish Spice peppers and yellow summer squash, fresh from the garden. We still haven’t had a frost, which is very surprising, heading into the second week of October.  I obviously didn’t eat everything pictured here, but I did slice up half an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic with half a diced pepper and sauteed until the onion was soft. Then I pushed the onions to one side of the pan and put in a few slices of chicken breast, and after turning those I laid thinly sliced squash over everything, salt and pepper and put a lid on everything until the squash was tender and everything was ah-mazing. I’ve had good squash and I’ve had disgusting squash… this was probably the best yet.

Jamie Oliver: My New Foodie Nerd-Crush

 

As a friend of mine, who cheerfully gushes along with me, says “He’s so adorkable.”

Just this past week I stumbled across Jamie Oliver’s TV show Jamie at Home. I don’t even remember how I found it, but I’ve been watching about ten episodes a day ever since. Love it. He’s a lot of fun, has a lot of passion for what he’s doing, so down-to-earth, and most importantly, his food is real. The very fact that a good part of his show occurs in his garden immediately made me see him as a ‘real’ person.

I’m afraid he’s already made me into a bit of a cooking-show snob, because when I decided to give The Pioneer Woman’s show a try, it lasted about15 minutes and I couldn’t take it any more. Sorry, Ree… you are a wonderfully entertaining writer, but in front of a camera is not where you were meant to be. I love you anyway. Someday, I will win a free Kitchen Aid from you.

Back to Jamie. He’s been around for quite a while, right? I’m pretty sure I’ve even cooked some of his recipes from Food Network’s website. I think I had heard of his efforts to get healthy meals into the schools. Did you know he owns a restaurant where they train teens from rough backgrounds into chefs, and give them the chance to actually work there after they are done training? Pretty cool. And also, if you need a good laugh, look up the names of his children. But don’t judge. He claims his wife named them.

And now I must leave you… softlyyyyy… (Ten points to the first one who knows why I just did that.)

Time to go check the mail.

Because I ordered two of Jamie Oliver’s cook-books. And.. and… they just might get here today. *grin*

As a parting gift, I give you Jamie Oliver, making English Onion Soup. The best part is his monologue whilst crying over the onions. Totally made my day.

 

Of Egg Whites

 

Eggs in baking can sometimes be problematic. Angel food cake wants whites only, but you hate to waste the yolks. Occasionally, you may be cooking lemon curd or a custard that only wants the yolks. Many of us succumb to making too many baked products and puddings at once to use up everything and then have the delightful problem of too many sweets in the house. I haven’t found a solution for what to do when you have extra yolks, but with extra whites, I learned you can freeze them.

Line a drinking glass or jar with a freezer ziplock bag and crack the egg into it, capturing the yolk you need in the shell, of course.

Label with how many yolks there are and pop the bag into the freezer. To quickly thaw them, put the baggy in a bowl or very warm water, careful that it’s not so hot it will begin cooking them. They whip up perfectly into stiff peak, or whatever state you need them in. Several times I’ve found I had just the right number of whites in the freezer and didn’t have to crack any eggs or waste any yolks just to make waffles or my mom’s special tapioca pudding, etc.