In My Kitchen, September 2013

I nearly choked when I saw how many months have passed since I did one of Celia’s In My Kitchen Posts! Since this happens to be a long weekend in the US, I’m making time to do one this month.

Here goes!

In my kitchen this summer, is an egg plate that holds 6 deviled eggs. I loved the small version. Now Robert and I can have deviled eggs without having to make a whole dozen just to fill up the plate. (Yeah, I’m obsessive like that) I think it’s funny how the depressions in the photo have the optical illusion of being convex rather than concave.

6-egg Egg Plate

I’ve been pickling up a storm this summer.

Vegetables ready to pickle!

Vegetables ready to pickle!

Pickling Cukes

Pickling Cucumbers

I hope we have enough to last us this  winter. I’ve made Sweet Pickle Chips, Half Sours, Dill Pickles, Pickled Cauliflower, Pickled Beets, Pickle Relish.

When I was done pickling, I made jams.

Simmering whole fig and lemon jam

Simmering whole fig and lemon jam

Blueberry, Lemon and Thyme, Strawberry Basil Balsamic and Whole Fig and Lemon.

Strawberries and basil

Strawberries and basil

Blueberry, Lemon and Thyme Jam

Blueberry, Lemon and Thyme Jam

These two were also in the jam batch: Peach, Pepper with Ginger, and Mint Jelly. I used natural pectin by using grated apple peel.

Grate apple peel for pectin

Grate apple peel for pectin

While the canner was out, and to take advantage of 4 gallons of boiling water, I also threw together a batch of Heirloom Tomato Salsa, Homemade Ketchup, and Dijon Style Mustard and our own processed Horseradish.

Horseradish Root

Horseradish Root. See the sprout on the end? It sprouted so now it’s growing in the garden. In a pot since I understand it spreads and is hard to control. I just cut the sprouted bit off, stuck it in some dirt and before too long it grew.

Processed Horseradish, for the perfect Bloody Mary!

Processed Horseradish, for the perfect Bloody Mary! I love horseradish on most any protein with a squirt of fresh lemon

Homemade Condiments

Homemade Condiments

The “PING!” of cooling jars seemed to be non-stop for several days.

Now I have to find somewhere to store all these jars!

I found this great bowl and sauce server in the cabbage Leaf patters by Majorca Ware; I just love it!

Cabbage Leaf bowl and Sauce Server

Cabbage Leaf bowl and Sauce Server

What’s happening in your kitchen?

Sweet Pickle Chips

Sweet Pickle Chips

In My Kitchen, March 2013

In My Kitchen this month are many things.

Freshly made croissants

Freshly made croissants

Croissants, Hamentashen, Almond Cakes, so much to give away!

My hairdresser got the croissants (some had lovely chocolate in them),DSC_0043 Hamentashen went to many Jewish friends, IMG_5083Almond cakes went with the TV crew and one got scarfed by us smothered in lovely berries and vanilla yogurt.

There is a Peruvian Blue potato that has  sprouted so I decided to try to grow it. So far, there are at least three areas

Sprouting Blue

Sprouting Blue

“rooting”.  I think these may get grown in a bag, if I can find one, to help with harvesting later.

There is a Vita-Mix in my kitchen this month, to “play with” for school. Also included is the large Whole Foods Cookbook they produce for using the Vita-Mix.

My assignment is to come up with something to use it for next semester when my class is “Global Cuisine”. One thing I have learned is that I really like my food with texture, and I like to chew my food rather than drink it.

Visiting Vita-mix

Visiting Vita-mix

I made a wonderful tasting marinade – Citrus Ginger Marinade – that we really liked the flavor but not the emulsified texture of the marinade,sauce or dressing it could be used as. I’ll play with it for a little while longer to see what else it can do, but so far, while I like a powerful blender, it isn’t something I’d really use that often. Smoothies aren’t really my thing, eventually pureed soups need something more interesting than a smooth texture. My opinion, you may love your Vita-Mix! If so, please comment on how you use it!

Perennial herbs are beginning to show signs of growth as winter wanes.

Emerging Garlic Chives

Emerging Garlic Chives

We only had one good afternoon of snow last Saturday and it was all gone on Sunday. But, the tarragon, chives and rosemary are all showing signs of Spring.

I love eating Rosemary flowers! Right now the plant is bursting with the pale purple flowers.

Rosemary Flowers

Rosemary Flowers

Sage flowers are next and then chive flowers. Gather a bunch of them from your herb garden and pop them onto vegetables, salads or garnish almost any dish with them. The flavors are amazing, be sure to linger over it, notice it and enjoy.

Shout out to Celia over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting the monthly In My Kitchen Posts!

There are many more things simmering away in my kitchen so I’d better grab my camera and get busy documenting.

March 2 and it has been snowing all morning. 2 weeks ago we had “thunder snow”. Local weather lore says if you have thunder snow, you will have another snow 10 days to 2 weeks later.

We had thunder snow 2 weeks ago and this morning we have lovely big fluffy flakes that have been falling all morning. The ground is far too warm for anything to stick so it is really nice to watch.

IMG_5103

Butternut Squash Soup and Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwiches for lunch.

Spring is near!

And that is what is happening in my kitchen this month.

In My Kitchen December 2012

And so here it is, near the end of the year. I love the holidays.

The Christmas china gets put in the cabinets to use on a daily basis, parties get planned and attended, my son comes home and all is good.

Cheesecake on Christmas China

Cheesecake on Christmas China

In my kitchen are fantastic cookie cutters for making sugar cookies. The cookies will be decorated and given to anyone who visits. There are impression cutters and outline cutters. The impression cutters are my favorites; they have been around my kitchen since 1978 and get used every year. I love filling in the designs with all kinds of colors and sparkling sugar. Since I am making some today,  a post on them will soon follow.

All kinds of cookie cutters

All kinds of cookie cutters

I love these impression cutters.

I love these impression cutters.

We are making candles in my kitchen too. While these were made last year, we make them every year for gifts. They are nice to take along when visiting. Kayla made these for her mom last year. It is always nice when it is cold outside as the process goes along quicker.

We made these candles last year for my son's girlfriends mother.

We made these candles last year for my son’s girlfriends mother.

My kitchen is busy making all sorts of gifts.

Here is one of my TV shows loaded  with all sorts of gift giving ideas from my kitchen to yours! Have fun!

Head over to Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial to see all the fun things going on in kitchens across the world.

Entertaining

Entertaining is a word that can strike fear or pure pleasure in people.

Hors d’oeuvres spoons

The prospect of entertaining need not be a burden, just have a plan of action to make everything go smoothly. Don’t be afraid to begin planning well before your party. Allow yourself time to work on the details so when your party time arrives you will be well prepared to host a spectacular event.

Choose your location

Consider using your home to host your party. Take a look around and see how many people can comfortable fit. If they are going to be seated, is there enough seating and adequate space? Is this a standing conversing party? The occupancy changes if you are doing a seated dinner vs. a cocktail style party.

If you live in a small apartment, there may be a communal area you can reserve. If you live is a temperate climate or at the beach, consider holding your event outdoors. On the beach, in a park or back yard are all great locations.

Determine your guest list

Choose a varied guest list to keep the conversations lively. If everyone had the same interests, there will be a lot of ‘shop-talk’ instead of exchanging ideas and discovery conversations.

Please be considerate and don’t invite ex’s or enemies to the same events.

Strive for a balance of genders. Be considerate of those who are couples and who are singles. Being the only single at a party full of couples can be socially odd as can being the only couple at a singles party. Strive for a good mix.

Is there a theme?

It could be Christmas or Holidays, Halloween, Valentines Day, Kentucky Derby Day, Wedding, St. Patrick’s Day or Talk Like a Pirate

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Photo credit: ParaScubaSailor)

Day or a just because.

Having a theme will make your choice of decorations and menu easier.

Plan you menu

Plan your menu

Unless you are having a dinner party, most party food should be small and able to be eaten without the use of a knife. Think about trying to balance a drink and eat while trying to impress someone you are just meeting.

My rule is 1-2 bites in size.

Make your favorite nibbles in bite size. Martha Stewart’s Hors d’ Oeuvres is one of the best references out there. If you ever see it, buy it.

Cover of "Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres...

Cover via Amazon

This post is not about menus or recipes but about how to plan a party so you don’t lose your mind in the process.

As I host a party or two this season, I will have menus and recipes.

Look at the space you have to display food. You are going to make yourself miserable if you plan more food than you can accommodate.

Decide what tables and surfaces you are going to use for what. A kitchen counter (clean and uncluttered) is nice for a beverage station.

If you need to borrow a table or two, make arrangements.

Write out your menu and make small labels. Take out your plates and dishes and decide what food is going on what plate. Put a label on each dish you decide to use. Arrange to borrow or buy or rent what you need beyond what you have.

Your menu should not require you to be in the kitchen longer than 10-15 minutes while guests are present. Plan a do ahead menu so you can spend time with your guests.

If you are planning an elegant holiday gathering and need stem-ware or nice glasses you can

A table full of glasses

go to the dollar store and see what they have. Often they have exactly what you need.

If you really don’t want to store 60 wine glasses, you can always rent them. Same with china and silverware, unless you choose to go

Rental Party Accessories

paper and plastic.

If you plan on entertaining more than once every year or so, you may want to buy a few nice display pieces. Large platters, staggered tray displays, small chafing dishes. Evaluate what you use and if it is worth storing.

Hint: If you go paper, buy a good quality. There is nothing worse than cheap paper plates and cheap plastic silverware. Same with paper napkins. Quality matters.

Plan your decor

Decor does not need to be elaborate. Use branches, pine cones, leaves, candles, berries, fruit, nuts, ribbons, even glass vases filled with Cheetos work.

Once I bought river stones and put them through the dishwasher. I lined trays with the hot rocks and placed food on the hot rocks to keep food warm. The rocks were scattered all over the table along with geodes, slabs of cut rock, and slate.

Ball and Mason jars make great candle holders for outdoor events.

Send your invitations at least two weeks ahead of time, three weeks is ideal. Ask for an RSVP so you have an idea how many to expect.

Make your shopping list.

Make your ‘need to do’ list.

Plan your activities on a calendar so you keep track and get everything done on time.

Make your parties enjoyable. If you want casual, make it casual, formal, make it formal. Make it what ever you are comfortable with hosting.

If you find you need help, either ask friends or hire one or two to clean things up and keep platters and dishes full.

Beverages

Don’t feel obligated to provide a full bar. Provide a party cocktail for everyone, red or white wine. Ask people to bring their own drinks. Be sure you have non-alcoholic beverages too.

Be a good host and NEVER allow your guests to drink and drive.

Have the number of a taxi service on hand so you can call inebriated guests a ride home. If you allow a drunk person to drive away, you could be held liable for any damages they cause if they were to get in an accident.

With December approaching, plan on having a party this season.

I always love the energy that remains in the house after a nice party, especially during the holidays.

In My Kitchen October 2012

I went to the new posts reader this morning and saw Celia’s new “In My Kitchen ” post  at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and was shocked at how fast time has flown by.

Yikes! It has been over 2 weeks since I have posted anything. Guess when life gets busy, things slip by without realizing how much time has slipped by unnoticed.

turnips

turnips (Photo credit: hagerstenguy)

In my kitchen were 5#’s of fresh turnips and radishes which are being turned into Pickled Turnips. The recipe came from David Lebovitz a while back. As much as I love turnips and radishes, the recipe intrigued me, so I had to try them and fell in love immediately. A post with the recipe is in the works.

Pickled Turnips

In my kitchen is a big basket of lemons and some limes. Robert uses the limes in his drinks so I need to come up with some ways of using all these lemons we over bought. So I am planning to make lemon curd, preserved lemons, lemonade, dried zest, maybe some lemon vinegar and emulsified lemon oil and Chicken Piccata.

A Basket of Lemons

Right now, they are just a basket of lemons.

I bought a lemon squeezer just because.

Lemon Squeezer

In my kitchen is a new pan! I love this new square pan from All-Clad. I am sure they call it a griddle but I sure do like it. I have used it everyday since I got it.

Square Pan

In my kitchen is my levian. It was kept in the fridge all summer. Now that the weather is cooling down, it can come back out and hang out at room temperature. It will develop a deep rich flavor this way. Typically I make bread every week. I think September was a time warp because I didn’t make bread but once, maybe twice. And now October is also flying by. Can time be measured accurately by a levain life cycle? if so, I should read and listen to what it is telling me.

A Bowl of Levain

I have two buckwheat loaves in the oven. Next is a 10-grain loaf and an olive loaf with lemon and rosemary. I look forward to making that one!

Tyler gets to move back into his apartment next weekend so he will be cooking again. The “How To . . .” posts will start back again soon.

And there is another White Dinner Event on October 27 and classes resume again soon. Is it true that time speeds up as you get older? Is it time to write the November IMK already?!

Baking from a Box

 

My friend Joanie asked me if I would make up a batch of cupcakes from a box mix. She was curious about whether they would live up to the name associated with the high-priced mix.

“Would it be the same if I made it vs. a professional chef?” she asked.

Presenting me with the challenge of using a boxed mix I told her I would give it a whirl.

She wants to know:

Would I make any changes to the directions?

Is it easy like baking from a box promises?

Are the results as promising as the names on the box: in this case, Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa and the German Chocolate Cupcake and Frosting Mix.

The mix is distributed by Stonewall Kitchens although nowhere on the box does it say where the mix was put together.

So, here goes.

First, the mix costs $13.95 for 12 cupcakes.

My first thought is “expensive”. Is it worth the money?

I notice the frosting mix contains cornstarch which is something I wouldn’t use as in my opinion, it is a cheap way out of proper thickening techniques. But we will see.

Inside the box are three bags: one contains the chocolate cake mix, another granular frosting mix and lastly, a small bag of sweetened shredded coconut.

I need to supply:

  • 1-1/2 sticks of butter
  • 2  whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks (I see macarons in the near future!)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

The directions seem to be simple enough, so I pull the eggs and butter from the fridge and go for a run while they come to room temperature.

Instead of using plain cups for the cupcakes, I am going to use the fun flower ones I found out shopping one day.

Fast forward to finished baking these. All I can say it they are definitely NOT worth the price, let alone the extra cost of a fancy paper cup. Not only did they not turn out, they were also hard as rocks one they cooled.

They also had a funny smell as they were baking. Usually when you bake chocolate, the aroma is thick in the air. The aroma from these had you checking the bottom of your shoes.

Nice expensive cupcake mix
Don’t waste your money!

Now after that fiasco, my curiosity was up, how would the normal cake mixes found in the grocery store work out?

So I hauled up to the grocery and bought one of each kind of German Chocolate Cake Mix; there were three.

All three had me supply eggs, oil and water. That’s it. Frosting was extra, but was that tiny bag of coconut in the expensive mix worth the $13? (No)

So I made each of these mixes, each mix made 24, the expensive mix made 12.

I made a quick coconut caramel frosting from scratch to frost the cupcakes with, and I used the frosting mix from Barefoot Contessa’s box. It was OK, nothing great and it looked rather dull. I’m wondering if they ever passed this box mix by Ina to see if she approved. I can’t imagine they did.

So at the end of the day, we had so many cupcakes and bowls of coconut frosting lying around, Robert was afraid of us eating them all.

I wrapped plated of the cupcakes up in cellophane and sent Robert around the neighborhood giving them to all our neighbors.

One little boy was asking his mom why they didn’t have anything good around the house to eat, like cupcakes, the night before.

When he answered the door and Robert was standing there with an entire plate of cupcakes, all he could say was “Really! Thank you! Thank you so much!” Grinning ear to ear, he disappeared into the house with a plate of cupcakes. I could imagine him hiding them in his room so his older brothers wouldn’t get any.

I love sharing the sweets I make because if I didn’t, #1, we would weigh as much as a horse, #2 I wouldn’t make them just because of #1.

And I do love to make pastries, bread and lots of great food. Sharing it is the only way to keep from wearing it.

As a side note, I did make macarons from the egg whites, I should have given away more of them. I need to add a few more miles to my running schedule.

I did figure out that if you are going to bake cupcakes, forget the boxes and make the batter from scratch. It will be cheaper by far and you will know exactly what you are eating.

My advice? Joanie, get your money back.

If you want to use a mix Duncan Hines or Pillsbury or any of the organic mixes work just fine.

My opinion is Contessa needs to go back to the kitchen to re-work her box mix.

I never would have done this if Joanie didn’t ask.

 

In My Kitchen August 2012

Besides being hot in my kitchen this month, there are a few things I would like to share with you.

White Dinner Desserts Table

In honor of our kick off event for White Dinners in Charlotte, we did a White Dinner Dessert gathering.

So a friend of mine, Joanie, and I decided to make French Macarons and I think they turned out pretty good.

We made:

Vanilla Bean with Mango Curd Filling,

Blueberry with Lemon Curd Filling and

Lime green one with Chocolate Hazelnut Filling (We were playing with color)

We discovered the almond meal we used, which was made with almond skins on the nuts, made all the colors duller than we wanted.

They tasted great and our macarons had feet.

Pierre Hermes says to make and fill them, set in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving. We did and Man-o-man.(Yup I said ‘man-o-man’)

Did they taste great; the mouth feel was so hard to describe! Love, love, love these tasty morsels.

I had heard each macaron had roughly 100 calories in it so you can guess they didn’t stay around here too long. I threw away what was still around this morning , easier than wearing them on your hips.

It was so much fun making them, I look forward to making more. The best part is giving them away before they get stale.

some Fresh Figs; shared bounty strikes again. I traded some pickles.

The first dish created with the figs was a chicken dish with rosemary, garlic and figs. The pan was de-glazed with red wine and finished with a splash of balsamic vinegar. It was delicious but no pictures, sigh.

The intention is to make an almond fig tart with the remaining figs but, as you can see from the bowl, they are disappearing fast.

I adore fresh figs.

A dwindling bowl of fresh figs, that tart better hurry up and get made!

Lastly, in my kitchen this month is a glimpse into my spice cabinet.

I try to use things up quickly so I can either make more or buy more. I keep dried, sliced and minced garlic on hand for emergency back up units when fresh garlic isn’t around.

Any lemons we use get zested with a fine microplane. The zest is dried to be used in shortbread, fish, pasta or soup dishes. Why just use the inside when the zest has so much flavor?

A standard unit of Montreal Steak Seasoning holds a permanent spot in the cabinet.

Those square jars are so wonderful, I use them over and over again. The brushed stainless steel tops make them perfect for storing spices and seasoning concoctions I create and often share.

The Spice Cabinet

So much food moves through my kitchen it is hard to believe we are only two. But I feed everyone who comes by. Even the UPS man gets cookies.

Hey, it makes me happy.

So that is what is in my kitchen this month. I can’t believe a month has gone by already.

A BIG thanks goes out to Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting this marvelous idea!

August? Really?

Guess that’s why this post is late!