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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.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Meyer Lemons

I have my produce delivered most weeks by Washingtons Green Grocer.  Compared to other produce deliveries and CSAs, WGG lets you edit your box-- if you don't want brussel sprouts, you can get 2 pineapples instead.  Boxes are updated Saturday, and for my area, delivered on Wednesday.  Plenty of time to meal plan, using the lovely fruits and vegetables.  They deliver other local, organic and interesting food items, too!

I did that substitution thing to get three orders of Meyer lemons in my last box.  I wasn't sure, but I knew there was something yummy I could do with them.
They smell even better than they look!

What I did not expect was their lovely perfume.

And what I really didn't expect is the memory that the perfume would unearth.

The intoxicating smell of the lemons brought back my grandparents house in Laguna Beach, CA.  They lived in that house from before I was born until my grandfather died when I was 31.  I learned to walk there.... my parents were moving from NJ to CA, and I spent the day with my grandparents while my parents looked for a house.

I wasn't sure if I could be right about this.... it was a long time ago.   I emailed my dad and his sister.  She replied in minutes that yes, the house on Capstan Drive had a Meyer lemon tree, and in memory, her house in Rancho Palos Verde has one too.  

As I write this, I realize that my favorite photo of me with my grandmother was taken in the front yard, near that tree.  All smiles!

Preserved lemons, chilling in the jar
As for the lemons, I made a small jar of preserved lemons, layering lemon slices with salt.  I have no idea what to do with them (most of the recipes I've found for preserved lemons include olives, which I loathe), but it seemed like a good adventure.

Sliced thin, five lemons are in the dehydrator.  It's a great way to keep a bit of this memory alive.  Sliced, dehydrated lemons are pretty, and can flavor seltzer, tea and vodka, three of my favorite beverages!  The dried ends are useful too; I'll grind them into dried Meyer lemon zest, to use in baked goods and canning.


There's one left.  It has a bruise on the side, so I didn't want to dry it.  I might keep using it in tea...  It smells divine.   And it reminds me of foggy mornings and sunny afternoons in Southern California.  Driving my grandmother's Volvo, going shopping and out to lunch at Cocos.  My grandfather watching the weather report each night (it was SoCal... the weather was always the same!), and the big leather chair in his office.  And the cool clover underfoot in the front yard.  And the lemon tree.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Chocolate Applesauce Cake

For no apparent reason (as my son would say), yesterday was a cooking day.  And not just a cooking day....  a new recipe day!  Three new recipes in one day!

Breakfast was a baked oatmeal dish.  A cross between traditional oatmeal and a large oatmeal cookie, it was enjoyed by all.  Will blog about that another day when I remember to take photos.  Not that they'll be good photos- my cooking skills far exceed my photography skills.  But still, I'd like to give it a try.

Today's feature is the title- Chocolate Applesauce Cake.  The 'cake' part got the kids attention, as did the presence of Chocolate.  All good.

Bonus crumbs... the downside of slicing when warm.  The price I have to pay for impatience.

This one came from a gluten free recipe on araisinandaporpoise.com - the original flour was buckwheat.  I replaced the 1/2 cup of buckwheat flour with 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour.  The consistency of the batter and the finished product were exactly as expected.  I think the sugar can be reduced- I'll also make it next time as muffins.


Chocolate Applesauce Cake

  • 1 cup nut butter (I used creamy peanut butter)
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce (I used homemade applebutter)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 and lightly oil a 10″ cake pan. A tube pan might be a nice alternative.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the nut butter, sugar, applesauce, eggs and vanilla and blend well together; I used an electric hand mixer.  
  3. Mix the dry ingredients together in a small bowl, then add to wet ingredients.  Mix together by hand until just combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the center springs back and the sides have just begun to come away from the pan.
  5. This cake slices best when cool.  Excellent when served with a cold glass of milk.
After the cake cooled, I sliced the rest and wrapped each piece in wax paper and put them in my baking box.  This way, the kids (and husband) can take portions instead of ALL the remaining cake.
Yum.  I give the remaining 8 portions about a day.

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.