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I am a mom to twin boys, full-time employee of a telecommunications company and wife to a professional musician. I work, do yoga, cook and try to squeeze in DIY projects and spending time with friends.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Peach Palooza OR Saving Summer

I love peaches.  I love them so much I bought a half-bushel at the farmers market on Saturday... and went back to buy another half-bushel Sunday.  That's 50 pounds of peaches, sprawled around my dining room.

Really, they aren't sprawled.  They are nestled inside peach crates from 2 years ago, when I bought my peaches by the 4lb box at Trader Joes.  While my love affair with TJ continues, I now restrict my peach purchases to the farmers market.  In bulk.

Inquiring minds want to know what one does with 50lbs of peaches, right?  Here goes, along with hints for efficiency.

Did I mention that I have a new job that I love that has me traveling and busy?   Not as much time for cooking as there once was.  Efficiency is the key!

First things first-- while the peaches are beautiful and begging to be cooked/cut/preserved/frozen, do not yield to immediate temptation.  My peaches, as I brought them home from the market were lovely, but had not reached perfection.  Plan on the fruit aging for a few days in your home until the perfume overtakes you.  In practice, this also allows you to work with 5-10lbs/day, making the task more manageable.

Lay the peaches out on cookies sheets or in shoe boxes in a single (or at most double) layer.  Check them at least daily, removing those that are ripe and ready.  Bring those to the kitchen, wash and proceed as below:

Freezing peach slices:   Slice into 10-12 long slices, then place on a cookie sheet.  When slicing, try cutting across the peach (not down the peach crack).  If the pit is going to split, this method gives you a chance to get it out in one piece, which reduces the odds of having hard peach pits in your final product.

In my freezer, they are solid in 3 hours.  Move to a bag or freezer-safe container, and freeze.  With this method, the slices remain separate for smoothies, frozen yogurt/ice cream and baked goodies.  I use no preservative or acid to maintain color... I've never had a problem with them not being perfect eight months later.

Peach Jam:  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Prepare a bowl of ice water.  Each must be deep enough to hold your largest ripe peach.  Cut an X in the non-stem end of the peach, then drop into boiling water (I do 4 at a time in boiling water). After 30 seconds, remove peach and slip off skin.  Place naked peach into a bowl.

Here's the cool part... When you have 12 naked peaches in the bowl, crush them with your bare (clean) hands.  Remove pits as you go.  The benefit of crushing the peaches in your hand instead of dicing them on a cutting board is that you are able to capture all the peach juice.  And (bonus!) it doesn't end up all over your table/counter/floor/cat, saving you from the sticky, sugary mess.

Proceed with your peach jam recipe.  12 peaches makes about 8 cups of peach smush, which is enough for 2 batches of most jams.  Your results will vary based on the size of your peaches.  Duh.

For future jam, freeze the crushed peaches in containers in useful sizes...  I add 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice to every 4 cups of peaches, to ensure color.  Most finished recipes call for lemon juice anyway.  I use freezer bags and mason jars.

Peach Puree:  Using above technique, take smushed peaches and treat them to a whirl in the blender.  I add lemon juice as above, and freeze in 2 cups batches for future mixed drinks and ice cream. Bellinis, anyone?

Lots of other things to do with the fresh peaches.  Grilled peaches (slice in half, remove pit, brish with butter and grill face down over low heat) are awesome.  I saw a recipe for broiled peaches-- same as above, but in the oven.  Peach salsa is on my list this year- I'll process the peaches like peach jam, then follow the directions (maybe).



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hey all you Washingtonians... free stuff to keep you cool!  If I can get a schedule of where they will be stationed, I'll post it here before Friday.

NEW STUDY NAMES WASHINGTON D.C. THE SIXTH “SWEATIEST CITY” IN AMERICA: HONEYWELL FANS DEPLOY THE “BEAT THE HEAT” STREET TEAM
Honeywell Fans, in partnership with a team of scientists at environmental consulting company Environmental Health & Engineering, developed new criteria to rank major metropolises across the country on their potential “sweatiness” -- and, Washington D.C. has ranked sixth! To help Washingtonians prepare for summer heat waves, Honeywell will be deploying the Beat the Heat Street Team to hand out portable fans on Friday, June 12th at the National Mall from 9am to 4pm.

The new, USB and battery operated Turbo® on the Go! portable fan from Honeywell provides strong air circulation in a convenient, compact design that folds, stands upright and pivots for personalized cooling that goes with you anywhere you need it.

This Californian is always looking for ways to stay cool-- will let you know how this fan works for me and my family and how long the batteries last!





Saturday, January 17, 2015

Best Parenting Moment Ever

At bedtime, one of my boys asked me to read to him.  He's been doing this for about a week now.  And although he's almost ten, he wants to hear the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.  We read them together when he was younger (five?  six?).  Like me, he's a fan.  We started this time with The Long Winter, because it's cold here now.  We have no risk of being cut off from civilization and starved like the folks in that story, but it's cold enough to relate, and we can certainly take a moment to be grateful for the warm beds and good movies.

Anyway, we finish the chapter and talk for a minute.  At some point, he puts his finger in gun position and points them at me, asking 'what would you do if someone did this?'

Mom:  Wow, I hope that never happens to me.  But if they wanted my phone or watch, I would give it to them.
Boy:  Because they're expensive?
Mom:  Because I can get another phone or watch.  If they wanted to hurt you, I'd have to fight back, because I can't get another you.
Boy:  (puts his gun down and launches into me with a huge hug)

Best
Parenting
Moment
Ever.

I love you too, Boy.

Remind me of this when he's a miserable, smelly teenager.

Funny story about how kids torture their parents

A funny story from last week.  Funny in a twisted kinda way.

A few nights ago, I had the kids solo.  Mr. Unwired was out at a gig; I made dinner, and the kids and I had a lovely meal.  Afterwords, we balanced clean-up and a few random chores, then it was time for my son to take his nightly medicine.  He takes it crushed in ice cream (yum), a flavor of his choosing.

I let him know it's time.  He agrees, I crush the pills, swirl in the Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge (double-yum), and he reacts:

Boy:  I'm not taking this.

I reply:
Mom:  Not sure what the deal is... you agreed earlier, please take the meds and then we can go upstairs and read before bed.

Boy:  I don't like taking this.
Mom:  I'm sorry you don't like it... would another flavor of ice cream be better?  I can buy it tomorrow, for tomorrow night's dose.
Boy:  I don't like taking medicine.
then..... Boy:  It's not fair that my brother doesn't have to take medicine.
then....  Boy:  I don't want to.
then....  Boy:  You're no fun.

At some point, he agreed to take the dose mixed into milk.  Which I did.  The response was as expected at this point in the story:
Boy:  This is gross.  I'm not taking it.

After 20 minutes of handwringing and pouting and stress, we agreed that I would mix him a new dose in new ice cream.
2 minutes later, he took it.
About 5 seconds later, he cracks a joke.

Now put yourself in my shoes.  You are relieved that the medicine is down.  You are proud of yourself for remaining calm for 20 minutes of head-crushing stress that came out of nowhere.  And now the kid is cracking jokes?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?  I say:

Mom:  Hey kid, I'm glad you're cracking jokes.  Now would you kindly explaining to me what the HECK has been going on the last 20 minutes?  What was the deal with not taking your meds?  Were you just messing with me?
Boy:  Yes.  I was just messing with you.

Mom:  <head explodes>

The end.

PS:  All true.  I told Mr. Unwired the next day- he was dumbfounded.  The happy ending is that when the kid put up a fuss about something inconsequential later that week, I looked him square in the eye and said 'Stop messing with me'.  And he did.
PPS:  I recounted the story to my mom later in the week.  She replied that while the kid looks like my in-laws, he's definitely related to her side of my family.  Good story tellers, athletes and eaters.  And comedians, if sometimes a little twisted.  Ugg.






Saturday, December 6, 2014

Event: Great American Bulb Swap

I spent part of Friday with a friend at the Great American Bulb Swap at Eastern Market in Washington DC.  I had heard about the event from the blog Gadgeteer and planned to go, then I received an invitation to attend as a blogger-- yay!

If you've read other posts in this blog, you know that I can be cheap frugal. So while the idea of spending $15/bulb is unappealing, I am certainly interested in bulbs that last 20+ years.  I also found myself with a lack of good energy efficient options for the fourteen recessed lights in our kitchen and living room.  I've bought many CFLs for these fixtures and relegated each one to little used fixtures because the light was so unpleasant.  We stuck with halogen floods for these constantly used fixtures...  not cheap at $5/bulb and VERY hot, but at least I like the light.

In a fit of energy efficiency, I broke down and bought six LED bulbs for the kitchen in summer 2013. They were a mere $10/bulb at Costco (gulp!).  They are slow to come on, and two of the six have had intermittent flickering, requiring a warranty claim and return to Costco.  Not the best experience, but the light is pleasant and they're not as hot as halogen.

Enter Cree Bulbs.  I first encountered Cree bulbs at a local energy conservation event this past summer.  I used one Cree bulb when the kitchen LED bulb started blinking, immediately noticing that it came on faster than the ones from Costco and gave off an equally appealing light.  When the other company came through with replacement bulbs, I put the Cree back in the closet in order to have a matching set in the kitchen.

Me, Bulby and Elaine at Eastern Market DC
At this event, I learned that my Cree bulb is behind the curve compared to the new ones.  The newest ones are plastic, which makes them shatterproof and less expensive to make.  They dim better than previous versions, and kept the instant-on feature I noticed in the first one.  If there's a problem, Home Depot will swap them out under warranty.  And, drum roll please.... they are only $7.97 at Home Depot.  That's 20% savings over the ones I got at Costco, and they are better bulbs.  Score!


The price is right, the energy savings is there, and most importantly, the light looks right in my house.  Time to head to Home Depot and switch to Cree!

Disclaimer: I received Cree bulbs and gift cards as a part of this event, but was not asked to write about the event or the bulbs. All opinions are my own.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Two Recipes: Pecan Pancakes and Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Cake

I've mentioned before that I love to save recipes.  They are saved in folders and files and binders, and many never see the light of the kitchen.

Some, on the other hand, demand to be made.... immediately.

This post is about two of those recipes.

I'm glad they were so insistent.  I have been well rewarded for having made them (queue the applause).

First up, Pecan Pancakes.  I stumbled across this one by clicking from one blog to the next. I will be forever grateful for the time to wander, as it landed me in the midst of such yumminess at 'Blogging Over Thyme' (here).

My son prepared this recipe, doubling it as I asked him to.  We're hungry around here.  I prepped the ground pecans the night before, so that he didn't need to use the blender and wake up the rest of the household-- he's the early bird!  I think he followed the recipe as written, except omitting the ground cloves.  He put in two whole cloves; I fished them out later :-).  He did split the flour-- half all-purpose, half white whole wheat flour as the blog (but not the recipe) suggests.  The pancakes were very light thanks to the buttermilk, but hearty and delicious.

The second recipe was made just four days after I found it:  Brown Sugar-Sweet Potato Cake from the Washington Post.  I had been telling the kids I was planning to make dessert over the weekend, then lost track of time and generally backed out of my commitment to them.

This went on for several days... until I found this recipe in the Wednesday Food section.

I made the recipe the following Sunday.  I was planning to halve it (who needs cake for 16 laying around the house?!) until I realized that I had a friend coming for coffee on Monday.  That would be the perfect excuse to serve cake in the morning, right?

My friend loves Bundt cakes, and as it turns out, had not had time to eat breakfast before coming over.  She had two portions of cake, and I am thrilled she enjoyed it.

The only change I made to this recipe was to use canned pumpkin, instead of sweet potatoes.  I am also unsure of the exact amount of molasses I used.... it's really sticky, and I was at the bottom of the bottle.  I measured one tablespoon, then dribbled the rest into the bowl, straight from the bottle.

I'm just crazy that way.

You may (or may not) want to know that the molasses was older than the child I was cooking with.  I don't use a lot of it, and am not certain if I'll buy another bottle to make this cake again, or just substitute something else.  Let me know if you decide to make a substitution.

Until next time.... Bon Appetit!


Sunday, November 9, 2014

MEAT!

Meaty goodness!
My dear friend (the one who taught me to can) just posted on FB that she thinks my Pot Roast recipe is the best ever.  I have to agree, although I will give credit to Alton Brown for the bones of the recipe.  I am reminded that I never posted the recipe online.... this post corrects that egregious error.



This photo doesn't hurt either :-)







Even when cooking for four, I double the recipe and freeze the extra.  And yes, you MUST allow the meat to rest overnight before serving.  Alton Brown explains the impact of the heat/cooling cycle on the connective tissue in his Good Eats episode on stew

Pot Roast
2 lbs blade cut chuck roast/cross rib roast/cross rib steak
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
10 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup canned tomatoes (chopped or diced)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar or red wine
1 cup black raisins

1.  Trim excess fat from the outside of the meat and cut it into a few pieces.  Place in crock pot with remaining ingredients and cook on low for six hours, or until a fork can shred the meat.

2.  Remove the meat from the crock pot and place in a stove top safe dish.  Place in fridge overnight.

3.  An hour or so before serving, remove from fridge and skim chinks of fat from the top of the dish (this is the saving grace of using a fatty piece of meat- so much is removed in this step).  Warm the whole dish over medium-low heat on the stovetop.

4.  Prior to serving, remove the meat from the pan and place on a serving dish.  With an immersion blender, puree the gravy in the pan (it can be removed to a blender, although working with hot sauces in a blender requires skills I don't have.  If you don't have an immersion blender and don't want to blend, then skip this step-- it's all about the aesthetics, but won't affect the flavor).

5.  After blending (or not) turn up the heat to medium high and reduce the gravy by half to concentrate flavors.  Serve gravy on top of the pot roast, or pass it on the side.

Gravy goes great over mashed potatoes.

Delicious.  Time to go buy some pot roast meat!


Photo Credits:  www.lauravidlerphotography.com