Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Photo Journalism

I was thinking I need to do a post, but I didn't know what I was going to write about. I took a look at the pictures on my phone to refresh my memory.  I found all sorts of random pictures from the last week.  I hope you enjoy a peak in my photo journal...a.k.a. my phone.

Cereal gone Halloween Wild!!! Tony the Tiger seems to be trying to appeal to the pumpkin spice crowd as well with his pumpkin pie flavored version. 
Toucan Sam almost had me, although I am not 100% sure what he is dressed as. My first thought was an owl, but the paws on his feet suggest otherwise. Either way just looking at this picture makes me want a big ol' bowl.
I don't always make good choices when I forget to bring lunch. However, one day I did. First of all I passed up fast food, then passed up a Froot Loops binge...and settled on this Spinach Artichoke Ravioli. It was pretty good and I felt good about my choice - win/win.
Friday we had a professional development event for all the teachers in our county. There were three locations. I was at the venue for high school teachers. Each venue arranged morning refreshments for the attendees. Ours had baskets of bananas...there were loads leftover. Somewhere in the county there is a massive batch of banana bread to be made.
There were also tons of pastries. I did indulge in a couple cookies. At one point, I went back to get something else and then checked myself. I grabbed another bottle of water and backed away from the pastry spread.  To no one's surprise, there was very few leftover pastries.
I later phone out that one of the locations had fresh fruit parfaits with yogurt and granola...yum!! 

Saturday morning the girls of our family enjoyed a farmers' market outing. My mom gets coupons from the senior citizens' center to use at the farmers' market. Then the market matches those amounts. I think it is a great idea. The market season ends this month and she had extra coupons to use up. She wanted to take us to pick out pumpkins (and other veggies). I got some spinach and zucchini, in addition to a couple of pumpkins.
Although I didn't buy any this time, I couldn't resist a picture of these pretty mixed pepper boxes.
We still have five big pieces of our tree to get rid of. They are too big to easily move and our chain saw can't handle the size. I contacted a local woodworking group to see if anyone wanted them. A guy came out Sunday to look at them and it turns out the tree was dead too long and some of the wood around the edges is too soft now.  I was really hoping someone could use it for something other than firewood. Looks like I am back to Facebook Marketplace to find someone willing to cut their own firewood.

This may be one of the most random things I've seen in Walmart. These slippers caught my eye as I was heading to the back of the store to get cream cheese. I didn't know until that very moment that I needed AC/DC and Def Leppard slippers. Just kidding, I didn't need them :) 
My niece was raving about these bagels, so I had to try them. They make a delicious egg sandwich. My husband does not agree...he couldn't get passed the smell of the Asiago cheese as it toasted.
I spent a little time sewing....
....while watching harvest themed Hallmark movies. Seriously they have movies for every occasion.
My goal was to get through this stack of squares. I made it through about a third, I think.
When pugs take selfies. This is my niece's pug, Penny. I am glad to see I am not the only one who had trouble finding the right angle.  The struggle is real.
Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving...also known in Canada as Thanksgiving. I grew up in Ontario and one thing I bought back to the States with me is a love of Butter Tarts. There are a gazillion recipes and this time I chose the Best Maple Butter Tarts from Canadian Living.
I did take the pre-made crust shortcut.  I've made the dough before, but I tend to have more trouble getting them out of the pan in one piece.
The filling is a super simple mixture of brown sugar, corn syrup (or in this case maple syrup) butter and egg. Some people liken in to the filling for pecan pie.
There is a Butter Tart controversy that I have to address. Canadians are divided on whether or not raisins have a place in butter tarts. Truth is I will NEVER turn down a raisin-free butter tart, but I as you can see below I am Team Raisin :)  I actually made a couple without raisins because I know some people just don't like raisins. I did have one raisin-free tart and it too was delicious!
I only made one batch and I shared them. Truth is I wanted to keep them ALL for my greedy self. 
My husband had his game group over Monday. I made them these Peanut Butter Brownies with Salted Preztels that I pinned immediately after seeing Valerie Bertinelli make them on Food Network. Her show is one of my go-to shows - she definitely has the "I want to hang out with her" factor. I did make one minor (or major) change. I used my favorite brownie mix for the base and used Valerie's instructions for the peanut butter swirl and pretzels. This picture was taken right before I added the pretzels and put it in the oven. Her recipe calls for half a cup of broken pretzels. Next time I would probably double the pretzels. Once out of the oven, taking pictures was apparently the last thing on my mind because there are none.  The parchment paper made it super easy to remove the slab of goodness (after it was completely cooled) and cut into nice even bars.
When your niece takes you for ice cream and then her jeep won't start. Her brother and his friend came to rescue us. It ended up needing to be towed :( 
Yesterday I forgot my lunch and was in the mood for a sandwich. When I got to Jimmy John's, I discovered they just introduced a new bread - 9 Grain Wheat.  The all-new bread is made with a blend wheat, rye, flaxseed, quinoa, oats, millet, barley, amaranth, and spelt, along with a hint of honey and molasses. I wanted to love it, but I did not. To me, it almost had a bitterness to it. Not to mention it was 120 calories more than my beloved white rolls.

I hope you enjoyed a peek in my photo journal.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Veggie Potstickers

Not much to report from the weekend. After last weekend it was nice to enjoy some "do nothing" time.

I did make Vegetable Potstickers and (spoiler alert) they were delicious. Potstickers are one of my all time favorites and I have made several times, but only meat-filled versions. I have been trying to be purposeful in introducing more vegetarian meals to my diet. I always have carrots in my fridge - except this day - had to make a quick trip to the store.
Prep started with chopping and grating. I kept looking at the carrots thinking "that's a lot of carrots" and at the mushrooms thinking "that's not enough mushrooms".
The recipe called for grated ginger, which means first there must be peeled ginger. I watch all kinds of cooking shows and I have seen this trick many times, but for some reason I refused to try it. I continued to peel my ginger with a knife. And if you know how knobby ginger is that is no easy feat. The trick...peel the ginger with a spoon...yes a spoon!  Simply scrape it with the edge of the spoon and the peel come right off with no danger of cutting yourself. I am embarrassed I didn't try it sooner...don't be me.
I saw water chestnuts in the recipe and decided to skip them. I've never been their biggest fan.- kind of a take it or leave it situation.  When I ran to the store for carrots, I decided to pick up a can. I opened it fully intending to use them, then I took a taste.Nope...straight into the trash.
All the chopped veggies were sauteed until a little tender and mixed with the rest of the ingredients (seasonings) and an egg. The egg is supposed to be a binder for the filling. Maybe my cabbage was a little too large because it didn't really seem to bind the filling. It was still going every which way.
They were a little tricky to fold, but a little patience and a dab of water around the edges to seal them did the trick.
I ended up with about 35 potstickers. The outsides are a little messy - those mushrooms were constantly sticking to my hands and ending up on the outside of the wrappers.
I put most of them on a parchment lined sheet pan and put them in the freezer for a couple of hours. Once frozen I transferred them to a freezer bag.
The rest of them I cooked up for my niece and I to sample. I made a simple dipping sauce with soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and garlic/ginger paste. I looked through a few recipes to determine a ratio for soy sauce to rice vinegar (2:1). I have winged it on the sauce many times, but often struggled to balance those two ingredients. The ratio turned out great.
And so began the struggle to not reach in the freezer and eat potstickers for every meal. There is a little bit of work involved in making these, but nothing difficult. If you are a potsticker fan I definitely recommend making a batch or two to keep in your freezer for a super quick meal.

I am still enjoying beautiful anniversary flowers. I love the colors!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Festive Weekend

I love festivals, but the heat of summer is too much. Last weekend was perfect weather to get out and enjoy a couple. I crammed so much in last weekend, I was a bit overwhelmed on what and how to blog.  Then the week passed by so quickly, I didn't get it together. Hang onto your seats - here goes a big ol' post before we get too deep into another weekend (I actually, have very little planned other than my husband's game on Sunday).

On Saturday (before we headed out for our mini anniversary road trip) my mom and I took a quick trip to a local festival. Lincoln Place is a neighborhood in a town about 20 minutes from us. The neighborhood was settled by Eastern European immigrants who had arrived to work in the steel mills in the late 1800s/early 1900s. For many years, the area was known as Hungary Hollow. Mexican immigrants began to arrive around 1920.  Around the same time the area was officially named Lincoln Place to reflect the American ideals the residents now embraced while continuing to honor their various cultures.
I was not expecting the Mexican influence, but it was great to see the different cultures featured side by side in food and dance.
 A sad chapter in the history of Lincoln Place was a fire in 1953.
One of the actual fire engines that responded to the fire was on display. I have to admit, this fire engine looked much older than something I would have expected in the 50s. Perhaps it wasn't their newest truck.
Throughout the day, various dance troops performed.  We were only at the festival for about an hour, so we only saw Mexican and German dancers.
 I wish you could see how intricate this dress was. Each flower seemed to be individually crafted.
The food was the main event. There were at least ten different booths representing countries including Armenia, Bulgaria, Russia, Germany, Macedonia, Mexico - main dishes, desserts, snacks. There were so many things we wanted to try...and you can see we did our best.  The first thing I did (and it was difficult) was to eliminate Mexican food from our sampling. I wanted to try the Eastern European cuisines with which I had very little previous experience. I was happy to see the prices were very reasonable. I brought home leftovers. And there may have been some desserts we took home...not sure what happened to the pictures, so maybe that didn't happen :)  I picked up apple strudel from two different booths (German and Macedonian) for my strudel loving husband. His winner was the German strudel. I can't compare them because someone didn't share his favorite. I did, however, enjoy the Macedonian version.
I bought this dessert from the Russian booth. Large wafers are layered with cooked sweetened condensed milk (basically dulce de leche).  It is super simple to make, but apparently the wafers aren't readily available outside Russian/Ukrainian shops.  I loved the look of this dessert, but was not a fan of this particular flavor.
I found this cutie for my Christmas tree at the Russian booth.
This was the first year I'd even heard about this festival. Sadly, they announced it will most likely be their last one due to lack of funds. I am quite curious about their budget and expenses. I hope they find a way to continue.

Sunday my niece and I went to a local Art Fair. It had been circled on my calendar for awhile (technically marked as "interested" on Facebook).  At the last minutem I invited my niece and was super happy she was able to go. There was a wide variety of artists using all kinds of different mediums.

Is it a painting? Yes and no. It is a combination of painted fabric and embroidered details.
 A closer look reveals the intricate ribbon embroidery.
 I think I could find a place for this guy in my house.
How pretty would this be hanging above the patio or as a canopy over a bed? I loved how it filtered the light.
This artist had a quirky aesthetic. It is fascinating to see what is in people's brains and even more incredible how they get it out into their art.
We talked a little to this artist She made cyanotype sun prints using local plants.  Her father was (is?) an environmentalist. I loved how her artistic passion incorporated his scientific passion. In related news, I just put a sun print kit into my Amazon cart. Sounds like a fun project for our sidekick and bonus boy.
I thought this artist had a fun aesthetic.
 Who could resist this lineup. People without $400 ;)
I could have spent so much money at the art fair!

I think I have buyer's remorse, actually non-buyer's remorse about this artist - Layl McDill of Minneapolis. We spent quite a bit of time looking at her booth filled with items made from polymer clay. Her work was fascinating. She was so open and informative about her work. I was not surprised at all to see she on her website that she teaches classes.

Each color is a log of polymer clay shaped and pressed into the bigger log. She then continues to pull and press the log into various sizes. Then she cuts slices off the log to make the various pieces. It is incredible to see the same design several inches in diameter down to half an inch in diameter.
She had several teapots made from her creations. It is creation layered on creation to make yet another creation. I would say simply stunning. but there is nothing simple about it. .
You all know I am obsessed with Christmas ornaments. I really wanted one of her ornaments, but $24+ seemed too extravagant for an "impulse" buy.  I found some of her work for sale on another website. There are tons of ornaments, but pictures do not do her product justice. I feel like it would be nearly impossible to choose one through the website. But I may I might have to try!
 The detail and colors are amazing. Do you see the snails??
I wonder if she sold this guy or has one similar. Perhaps I will be sending her an email and ordering myself a Christmas present.

A couple of local restaurants were serving food at the art fair. One was a wood-fired pizza place my husband and I love. Wee especially love a pizza we had during a pizza crawl event we attended a couple years ago - Chili Lime Pork. Unfortunately, it is a seasonal item and I just noticed last week we missed the season. However, this Maple Bourbon Pork from their fall menu is super tasty. My niece and I picked up a couple items to take home to share with my husband for lunch.
Tuesday was our 7th anniversary. Although we had celebrated in advance over the weekend, I couldn't resist making him a special meal. I chose him over Cookbook Club - that's true love.  I had some comp time at work, so I took the afternoon off to focus on the meal. By now. you all know how much I love to make new things. It might be the bane of my husband's existence. He says I make something good and then he never sees it again. He is very much a person who loves the tried and true. I decided to make him a meal of known favorites. (Side note; he would have never met these favorites, if I had tried new things, just sayin'.)
Any meal that includes my Jalapeno Boats has my husband's instant attention. I've been making these for so long I just wing it every time I make them. I cut the jalapenos in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and ribs. For the filling, I start with a block of light cream cheese, add shredded cheddar, crumbled bacon and chopped cilantro. Then I spread the filling inside the jalapeno boat. It gets a little messy corralling the filling into the boat, but your hands are your best kitchen utensil, so it all works out  Finally, I press filling side down into panko to give them a bit of a crust. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or so (until they start to brown on top and peppers soften a little.  I had these ready when he came in from work.
Bacon Wrapped Potatoes with Honey Scallion Sauce - This recipe from Aaron McCargo, Jr (winner of season 4 of Food Network Star) might be my favorite of the night. I remember watching the show and when he made these I had to try them. I've only made them a handful of times over the years because they are super decadent. Potato wedges are wrapped in bacon and slowly cooked in shallow oil. By the time the bacon is crisped up the potatoes are cooked through. The crispy bacon with the soft potato is a great texture. The sauce, however, is what sends it over the top - honey, melted butter, green onions, salt and pepper. I love the how the warm butter draws the green onion flavor into the sauce. So simple and so divine. I might have licked the plate.
Mexican Street Corn Salad I made the salad early in the afternoon, so it had time to chill. We are obsessed with the flavors of street corn - cotija cheese, lime and cilantro. This recipe uses a bag of frozen corn which you char a little in a skillet. I had to make a second trip to the grocery store because the first bag of frozen corn was not good - it was old tasting (like it had been picked well past its prime). You definitely need a good ingredients to make delicious dishes.
The final step was cooking delicious ribeye steak. I was always intimidated making steak. It was too expensive to ruin. After I got my cast iron skillet, I found instructions on cooking it on the stove and finishing in the oven. We like our steak medium rare, so it takes almost no time to cook - a couple minutes on each side and then in the oven for a couple of minutes. The secret is in the "board sauce" - chopped garlic and herbs smashed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper to make a paste. Spread the paste on the cutting board and put the hot steak on top to rest. Once rested, I slice the steak and mix it up with the board sauce. It is SO good!  You can mix and match any herbs you like. On this night I just used basil cause my rosemary had died. Other times I've done cilantro and a bit of jalapeno.
You might be wondering where the dessert is....there was going to be an orange souffle....  However, I chickened out. I figured I had enough going on. I've never made souffle and no matter how easy Ina Garten says it is, I am still a bit nervous. One of these days.

I debated even including this  or perhaps even worse wrapping up a very pleasant post with this. Just trying to keep it real. So, a week or so ago I bought this frozen paella at Walmart. It was marked down, but still had good dates on it. I decided to make it Wednesday evening for myself. It had a strong seafood smell to it - not in a bad way (unless you ask my seafood hating husband).  It looked good...and tasted good. When I finished eating dinner, I was already looking forward to eating the leftovers the next day. That is until I woke in the middle of the night and proceeded to throw up several times. Then woke up get the idea. I can barely think about it without feeling queasy and I currently have a strong aversion to all things seafood. Hopefully that aversion will pass...I am not sure I could ever forgive Sam's Choice if it doesn't pass.
I ended up being sick all the next day and into Friday. My ribs still hurt from the trauma.

I don't have a festival packed schedule this weekend. I am planning to enjoy some time at home, but even as I write this part of me is wondering what I might be missing out there. I have a recipe (ingredients already purchased) ready to try. I might also do a little sewing. 

Hope your weekend is off to a good start!