Showing posts with label Home Cookin'. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Home Cookin'. Show all posts

August 26, 2023

Begin Again

It's been a quiet summer--at least here on my blog.  I'm sure many of you can relate, trying to keep that marathon of long summer days under control, not burning out too quickly.  School has begun again for my first grader (what??? I know, I can't believe I'm typing that) so I thought I'd try to begin again with this old blog here.
Emotions were strong yesterday for S.  Like his mother, he has trouble acclimating to new situations.  A few tears were shed as he trudged up those bus steps, but I'm confident he'll settle in over the next week or so.

I've been busying myself (I know, it's only the second day) with canning and freezing stuff from our garden.  The tomatoes were fabulous this year, so I want to be able to enjoy them in December, if they last.
Crock pot tomato sauce--freezer or canner?  Haven't decided yet.
I messed up my pickles though; I forgot to add water to the brine so these will induce extra puckering of our mouths!
There's also been a lot of yarn on my knitting needles, which is so uncharacteristic of me in summertime.
This slouchy hat above was a lot of fun to knit.  You can find the pattern, called "Minty" on Knitty (it's also on my Ravelry page).
This shawl got me through a long plane ride to and from San Francisco; I knit practically the entire trip.  Soren and I flew to see my brother in July and had a blast.  I miss that foggy city.

So that's what's been going on around here--boys getting bigger, seasons dissolving into the next.  We're embracing beginnings here!

March 21, 2023

A Delectable Shepherd's Pie

I'm sharing my recipe for shepherd's pie over at a local-to-me blog today.
Not only is it tasty, but it moves my previous post down on the page so you don't have to look at the nasty kombucha SCOBY again (my husband thanked me; kombucha gives him the creeps).

Have a great weekend!

March 18, 2023

The Great Kombucha Experiment

It's time for a new science experiment in the house.  I've done the no-shampoo thing (still doing it with good results), attempted sauerkraut last week, and now I'm trying to make another weird fermented food--kombucha.
If you've never had it, it's essentially like a naturally-carbonated, fruity/vinegary fermented tea soda.  It's really hard to describe, but I like it.  It's a great source of probiotics, among other healthy things, but it's such a unique and enjoyable drink (and expensive when purchased in health food stores) that I wanted to learn to make my own.

In its gestating form, it's kind of disgusting, as you can see in the photo above (you don't actually drink the slimy stuff; the liquid is strained).  You need a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) mother, which you can buy from here or get from someone you know who makes their own kombucha (mine is from a teacher at my yoga studio).  Here's what I got:
It's like raw chicken meets placenta.
The SCOBY was packed with some of the starter liquid from its original kombucha batch, and the watery blob smelled a lot like vinegar.  It really didn't bother me too much, looking at it, oddly enough.

I followed the recipe shared by the yoga teacher, which she got from Kombucha Kamp (she got her SCOBY from there).  I found a similar recipe and instructions from this website (it's a less-spammy looking one).

Here's what I used:
SCOBY :: Wide mouth Gallon jar :: 5 organic green tea bags :: 1 cup organic sugar :: tightly woven cloth and rubber band to cover the top of the jar

The process of making the tea was easy.  I boiled 4 cups of filtered water, then steeped my tea bags in it for 10 minutes.
Then I removed the tea bags and stirred in 1 cup of organic sugar until it dissolved.
In went 8 cups (64 oz.) of filtered water to the tea, which brought down the water temp so I didn't kill the SCOBY.
Next, I poured in all the contents of the bag, including the liquid.
Yes, that looks disgusting, like a fetal pig floating in formaldehyde.  Did I burn your eyeballs?  If not, here are some more shots
It apparently doesn't matter where the SCOBY floats, bottom or top. 
I gave it a stir, then capped it with the woven fabric and tightened it with a rubber band.
Then I stuck it in my pantry where it's dark.  That spot still gets some airflow due to opening and closing the door throughout the day.
I'm hoping that when I taste it in a week (yes, I'm going to taste it!) it will be sweet and bubbly.  The next step is to strain it, add fruit juice and bottle it.  I'll post about that part of the experiment then.

What do you think? Does this give you the heeby-jeebys?  Have you ever tasted kombucha?  Would you?

March 12, 2024


Things are looking up around here.  There's something to be said about a tropical 60 degree day after weeks and weeks of arctic air to lift one's spirits.
It's nice to break out the chalk, even if we are still in coats and the snow still decorates our yard.  It's only going to get warmer from this point on, right?

It's starting, this dance of ours going from outside to inside and back again.  I'm ready for it!

Speaking of inside, I've still been knitting, and finally finished the Color Affection shawl, which is so hard to photograph.
I've been puttering around the house, changing things around for spring.  It's what I do when I get antsy and bored.
I bought an unfinished pine wood shelf from Ikea and stained it with black/brown paint, then waxed it with finishing paste wax.  The brackets are from Ikea too (total cost was under $10).  I like displaying my baskets and thrift shop plates, as well as my embroidery.
There's something about circles that always appeals to my aesthetic.
So far the boys haven't pulled it down, or even messed with it.  It's bolted to the wall pretty securely though, a process which generated plenty of curse words from me (I was racing against the finish-this-by-the-end-of-naptime clock.

The boys were happy that I had pulled out the plastic Easter eggs.  Man, do I hate those things.
I'm continually stepping on them, but they both love them so much.  S even set up an egg hunt just for me, with smaller eggs stuffed inside the larger ones.
Even my winter wreath has become bunny-fied.
On the kitchen front, I'm finally trying my hand at sauerkraut, thanks to Erin's inspiration.
It's a bit too carrot-y (hence the orange color) I think I got the brine too salty, but so far it hasn't gotten moldy.  We'll see how it is in a few more days.  I'm hoping that this project gives me the confidence to try making kombucha.  That's next on my list of kitchen science experiments.

That's that for life around these parts.  I'm looking forward to warm, sunny days spent outdoors.  I hope you are too.

December 10, 2023

Salted Caramel Hazelnut Shortbread Bars {Hodgson Mill Giveaway}

Caramel. Salt. Savory/sweet goodness.  My all-time favorite dessert flavor is caramel.  Since I was a kid I was always drawn to caramel--Twix bars, caramel sundaes, turtle candies.  To add another layer to my love of caramel is my love of savory flavors.  Actually, my salt tooth is more intense than my sweet one, so I've really become enamored of the salted caramel trend--I hope it sticks around for a while.

Thus, while experimenting in the kitchen with some products from Hodgson Mill as part of their Have a Grain Holiday campaign and contest (you should enter, you can win great prizes every day until Christmas), I came up with these Salted Caramel Hazelnut Shortbread Bars.
They're a blend of one of my favorite cookies, shortbread, and my friend Shana's obsessively delicious Saltine Toffee recipe.  Topped off with hazelnuts, they make a lovely cookie/bar that would be stellar at a cookie exchange, as a gift, or simply to devour at your own table.
It's a recipe of few ingredients, lots of butter, and a bit of finesse in the kitchen.  Here's what you'll need:


(makes roughly 18 bars)
For the Shortbread:
  • 1/2 cup Hodgson Mill Organic Unbleached All Purpose White Flour
  • 1/2 cup Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
For the topping
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup half and half (you can omit this if you'd like, but I think it adds a creamier texture)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 bag chocolate chips (whatever kind you like; I prefer dark chocolate)
  • 2 oz. chopped hazelnuts
  • pinch of good quality, flaky sea salt (like Maldon)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a 9x13" pan with parchment paper with about a 2" overhang on each side. 
I used two pieces, layered.  This will make it easier to remove and cut the bars when they're done.

In a food processor or with a pastry blender, combine the flours, sugar and salt and blend well.
Add the 2 sticks (!) of softened butter along with the teaspoon of vanilla and process until crumbs form.

Press the crumb mixture into the pan.  I use the butter wrapper to keep my hands clean.
Once it's evenly spread in the pan, prick the surface with a fork to enable even baking.
Pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes or until browned.
About halfway through the baking, heat the last stick of butter, the half and half and the cup of brown sugar in a sauce pan over medium high heat.
If you really want to multi-task, toast the hazelnuts while you're making the caramel.
They're fine raw, but toasting them for a few minutes adds so much more flavor.

Back to the caramel: bring to a rolling boil and cook for one minute.
Add the vanilla and stir well.  Spread this mixture evenly over the shortbread, and stick it back into the oven until the caramel bubbles (about a minute or two).
Remove from the oven and pour the bag of chocolate chips over the hot caramel. 
 Spread with a spoon or spatula to evenly cover the caramel layer.
Sprinkle the sea salt over the melted chocolate.
Finally, top it with the toasted hazelnuts.  I press them into the warm chocolate so they'll stick better.
Allow to cool completely (or even stick them in the freezer, since they're easier to cut when cold).  Remove from the pan and cut into squares, rectangles, triangles, whatever you'd like.
These are addictingly good.  Watch that you don't eat too many, though a small square goes a long way.
They'd make a great gift, stacked in a jar and tied with a ribbon, if you're willing to part with them.  Tis the season to be giving though.
You can print a coupon for $1 off Hodgson Mill products by visiting this page on their website.  And don't forget to enter their Have a Grain Holiday daily contest, where you can win Hodgson Mill prizes every day until Christmas.

Want to win $25 worth of great products from Hodgson Mill?  You can choose either a whole grain or gluten-free package.  To enter, simply leave a comment here about what item you'd like to try from Hodgson Mill.  Extra entries for sharing this giveaway in some way (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest--just leave me the link in your comment).  I'll randomly choose the winner  next Wednesday December 18th.  Good luck!
Disclosure: I received samples of Hodgson Mill flours to create this recipe, which I am entering into the blogger Have a Grain Holiday contest.
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