SPRING! Spring has arrived in the mountains and it did not come one single moment too soon. I don’t know if I remember a winter that went on as long as this one – it just seemed like I would never feel warmth or see grass ever again. As a kid, I spent my summers entirely outdoors – from swimming in the pool and making forts in the woods to reading books in the hammock and eating dinner every night outside on the patio. I didn’t realize how much I missed all the outdoor time until A and I got our house. Apartment living is never conducive to outdoor activities – my last apartment had a tiny frontyard that was close to a very busy street. But now, I have this whole fenced in backyard at my disposal! From the moment the warm weather hit, I’ve been toiling in the yard laying mulch, planting dahlias, creating a brick lined pathway, setting up our patio! And my pride and joy of all of this?
Last year I had a…uhh, rather unsuccessful tomato garden. First year in our house, I was still trying to figure out how we were going to turn our field of grass into a YARD. This year I knew I wanted to do it right and supplement my CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) share I am splitting with a co-worker. (VEGGIES FOR DAYS!) When I saw that newest edition of The Postage Stamp Garden was up for you review, I snatched it.
The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden was first published in the 70s (how appropriate for me) – it’s all about growing as much as you can in a small space so you always have an abundance of food from your garden. The typical size of a postage stamp garden is only 4’x4′ – my garden is smaller than that, so I had to scale back a bit. The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden is such a great guide for both beginning gardeners and old pros – it can act both as a complete teaching guide and a useful reference. I have mine tabbed and marked up already! My favorite highlights include:
This year I planted seedlings early inside with a seed kit – bush beans, basil, cucumbers, zucchini, and lettuce. I used my handy (and ever growing) collection of washi tape to label them in their little greenhouse:
I was a bit nervous that nothing was going to happen – and sure enough out of 18 beans I only had three sprout and it took them over three weeks. My zucchini and cucumber were also late bloomers – but they’re now all happily planted in my garden and doing well. I sowed kale and carrot seeds directly into the garden bed and the kale shot up in less than a week. I credit this to the huge bucket of compost I got for free from a local goat and chicken farm. This is also what I call adulting.
I’ll round out my vegetable garden this weekend when I pick up my heirloom tomato plants from my CSA farm – so excited for tomatoes! And in other exciting news: Blogging for Books was kind enough to give me an extra copy of The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden to giveaway to my readers! And it’s the perfect time of year to get your garden in shape so…
The giveaway ends of June 2nd. Open to USA only. Good luck and happy gardening!
Don’t worry, my love for cooking hasn’t gone anywhere. Just in the past two weeks I’ve made homemade naan bread, cooked up some delicious sweet potato hash, and made meatloaf sliders over homemade fontina cornbread (truth be told A actually made most of that recipe – and nailed it!) The last cookbook I got was Relæ: A Book of Ideas by Christian F. Puglisi. Puglisi is the chef and owner of a restaurant by the same name in Copenhagen. I was initially drawn to this book because it seemed to be a veritable tome of information at a staggering 448 pages and seemed quite unique.
Aesthetically, it’s an absolutely gorgeous book. Hardcover, beautifully tabbed, modern. I was really thrilled when I opened it, because I’m a suck for good marketing. It also reads like an actual book. It tells the story of the restaurant, the story behind various aspects of the restaurant (from their water filtration system to the bread served at the tables) with fine detail. Every chapter and subchapter is heavily cross-referenced so you can go back and forth easily. You can glean some useful, practical tips here and there, such as the best place to store olive oil in your kitchen (hint: not by a heat source), different ways to cook with butter (basting your meat with it!), and how to incorporate vegetable skins into a recipe. It also has gorgeous photography throughout – large, full page images.
Well, as you may have guessed from the short section above, this cookbook fell a bit flat for me. It’s not really cookbook. It’s the very long account of Puglisi’s restaurant and every single detail of it. The recipes themselves are pretentious. Several require a sous-vide machine. The writing often comes across as condescending and the word “mouthfeel” is used and I absolutely despise that word.
It’s not to say that I don’t have an interest in food or food theory, but I also have a strong interest in cooking good food. I don’t care if tap water isn’t good enough, I care about fresh (local when I can!) ingredients, interesting recipes, and good that tastes good. Plain and simple. The author opens the book by saying loves buying cookbooks, but he only ever opens them occasionally and admittedly never cooks from others’ recipes because he wants to put his “stamp” on everything. This is a bit much for me. I know this book has been well reviewed and people have said it’s wonderful for furthering their culinary journey; I guess we’re on different journeys.
Recommended for: A professional chef, restauranteur, or foodies that take themselves very, very seriously.
Circa spring 2013 I started drinking seltzer water. After many, many failed attempts to get myself to drink more water, I thought I’d give that weird bubbly stuff a shot. I hated it initially. I used to cut it with a bit of cranberry juice or OJ to power through it. But I weaned myself off the juice (this sounds like I was using steroids) was drinking straight up seltzer. After many trials I also narrowed down my absolute favorites:
But at some point I realized that my seltzer habit was becoming a bit expensive and I was really tired of having cans all over the house. I also hated the “OMG AM I OUT OF SELTZER?” panic when I went to grab one with dinner. Enter: Sodastream. My mom bought me a soda stream for Christmas and I was so pumped to make my own flavored seltzer and NEVER GO STORE BOUGHT AGAIN.
Oh my god, was I wrong.
Making flavored seltzer has possibly been the most difficult challenge of my homeowning life. First I tried the Flavor Essences made by SodaStream. Unfortunately, there are only three flavors – orange, lemon-lime, raspberry. I set up that soda stream got that water all bubbly and was so read to love my lemon-lime seltzer and…
The worst lemon-lime flavor to ever grace my palate. So I tried my next method: lemon and lime juice! WHAT COULD GO WRONG? I bought the industrial sized bottle of lime juice and added it to my bubbled water…which resulted in a cloudy acidic mess.
Two failures in, I was not discouraged. I started googling various things like “seltzer flavor essence,” “how to make flavored seltzer,” and “dear god why doesn’t anyone know how to make flavored seltzer.”
In a very, very strange diet forum that was obsessed with adding flavor to things without the calories (like chocolate flavored water will somehow stop your chocolate craving), I discovered Capella Flavors. There was some vagueness as to what the hell was in this flavor drops and the Nutrition Facts didn’t help to clear up this mystery- but I was all in. There are crazy flavors are like banana split and blue raspberry cotton candy…but I found my one true love: LEMON-LIME Y’ALL. It took me a week and a half to get the drops shipped from California and the day they arrived I thought I had really nailed it. A few drops in, a gentle swirl…
But then after drinking it for a bit, I noticed a bit of a strange aftertaste. And when I grabbed the bottle, despite not having spilled anything on it, it was inexplicably sticky. I looked at the bottle for nutrition information and that’s when I saw it,
Oh. They’re made with antifreeze. Great. And yes, while I know there is somehow food grade propylene glycol and I always try to listen science…
And, as you may have surmised, the anti-freeze drops are out. Not just because of the anti-freeze, but also because of the inexplicably sticky bottles. Damnit. I did a little more research on flavoring and I found packets of lime flavoring on Amazon. Upon pouring these packets into my seltzer, it made the entire bottle start fizzing until it overflowed.
My last ditch effort was buying a (cue my embarrassment on this one) I bought a Skinnygirl Cucumber Lime flavored water syrup. I was hoping I could just use a dash of it, and it’s one of the ONLY syrups for Sodastream that doesn’t have artificial sweetener in it. Unfortunately, the sickeningly sweet syrup is filled with far too much artificial cucumber instead. Also, I really don’t want any actually sweetness to my water…just flavor.
I am back to square one creating my own seltzer. Lately I’ve just been pushing a tiny bit of lemon juice in. It’s not perfect, but it’s tiding me over until I somehow find the perfect flavor. Feel free to chime in with ideas or things you’ve tried.
Oh, Butternut Squash. How did we not fall in love until now? Now that the farmer’s market is a distant memory, I cling to my last bits of local produce: potatoes, shallots, onions, and of course, winter squash. The last day of the farmer’s market I stocked up as much as possible on things I knew would last in my pantry and of course the ever-strangely-shaped and slightly intimidating winter squash! After making an amazing butternut squash lasagna from Seriously Delish, I found myself wanting to put butternut squash on everything. Enter butternut squash pasta sauce. This recipe is a conglomeration of 4-5 recipes I found on the internet to give me an idea of how to approach it, and then just using the ingredients I deemed delicious.
This is a fairly loose recipe – I find myself tasting it over and over again until I deem it ready. I also heavily recommend the vegetable stock – I tried a chicken stock and I don’t feel like it added enough depth of flavor. I used Better than Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base – which has no MSG and is primarily made from vegetables. Even better? Make your own vegetable stock! I haven’t made my own yet, but it’s on my list. Currently I have bialy dough rising – priorities here people, priorities.
My other recommendations for this recipe:
I put this over shells, orichiette, and also gnocchi. Feel free to sub in any pasta you want. And always, always drop pieces of butternut squash for your dogs, because they will love you forever. And it’s actually good for them. (Until Hami starts wandering around the kitchen crying because he wants more butternut squash and it has all been sauced.)
It’s my last day of vacation. Oh, the sorrow. I’ve only had to work 4 days in the past two weeks and going back to this place called “work” seems like such a bizarre concept. And I woke up this morning thinking about brownies. And coffee. Well, I am always thinking about coffee when I wake up, because I can’t get anything done without a mug of coffee within a few inches of me at all times. So as my last hurrah, I decided to get baking. And eating. Always both.
Once I had sipped my TMNT mug of coffee for a bit all whilst thinking of brownies, I made the executive decision to combine the two. Since I have enough coffee to last until next winter since I bought a bajillion bags from Starbucks after Christmas, so why not throw it into some baked goods? Especially some lovely espresso roast? Why NOT combine my two true loves?
I never liked soup. Frankly, if you ask me, I’ll probably tell you I hate soup. There is nothing satisfactory about drinking a meal to me. Unless that meal happens to be a very large cotton candy milkshake from Stewart’s Shops. However, last year when I began my cooking adventure with Plated, I started making various stews and chilis, and I loved them. So I may just be in soup denial. One thing I really like about making chilis and stews – they’re so very flexible! This recipe came about from having a stockpile of vegetables left over from the farmer’s market. My pantry is still stocked with garlic, onions, shallots, and potatoes as we speak.
I love making this early in the week, especially now that it’s cold. It’s a warm dish that is great for lunch or dinner the next day. And I like to dress it up with various things – cheese, sour cream, cilantro, sometimes even slices of avocado. It’s versatile and delicious – and just FILLED with vegetables. When I eat it I have this strong feeling of adulthood pride because for once, JUST once, I am EATING THE DAILY RECOMMENDED SERVING OF VEGETABLES. That’s a true accomplishment.