My first spaghetti squash! I have to admit, I was pretty sure I'd enjoy this new product even though I never tasted it before. I pretty much like all things coming from the squash/gourd family - cucumbers, zucchini, butternut squash, pumpkins and now spaghetti squash :)
The spaghetti squash is a kooky little thing. In its uncooked form it looks like any other large winter squash - thin outer shell, firm flesh and seeds in its center. Once cooked, however, its flesh separates into individual strands, like spaghetti, instead of just turning soft. Hence, its spaghetti name!
I got this recipe over at honeyandjam where she's got some very beautiful pictures of the muffins (much nicer stuff than what I can get with my iPhone). They're very hearty and not overly sweet or banana-y, which I like very much. Great for a quick morning breakfast - something I struggle with everyday! Although I've never tried this myself, you could, technically, mix the batter the night before, fill the muffin tin, cover and refrigerate over night and then just bake them off in the morning. I just baked them the night before and warmed them up in the morning. You could do that too.
DECEMBER?! What in the world happened to November?!
Well, let's see... Some girlfriends from California came to visit and we all had a gay ol' time... Then this big storm called the Nor'Easter hit Virginia and we were locked up inside without cable and internet service for about five days... Then Jason went to North Carolina for two weeks to do some training, during which time I didn't cook much (Ah, the plight of cooking for one...)... And for the recent four day Thanksgiving weekend we went on a road trip through Virginia to Gettysburg, PA. Phew! Lots of stuff happened in the last few weeks!
Jason turned 26 yesterday, Sunday, November 1st. My gift to him was a surprise, homemade, candle-lit, birthday dinner two days before his actual birthday. To throw him off a bit, I told him we had reservations that night at a nice restaurant located nearby (*wink wink*).
Although I was busy preparing for the surprise all week long, he was completely oblivious and didn't suspect a thing! (That's a guy for you!) I tried to be fairly well prepared by getting everything that could be done ahead of time, done well ahead of time. But, there were still lots of small details that had to be left for the last minute - setting the table, lighting the candles and (the big one) getting all the food cooked and plated. As if that wasn't enough pressure, Jason decided to come home early from work that day!
Mmm. These scones are light, fluffy and deliciously buttery. No need for extra toppings but nutella or raspberry jam would probably put it over the top - if that's what you're going for. They're also incredibly easy to make. I was able to mix the batter together while the oven was preheating. Total bake time: 15 minutes. Makes a great quick breakfast. Oh, and the smell of these guys baking in the oven? *Drool*
The recipe makes 8 scone wedges. As you can see in the picture, I only baked off 6 which was way more than enough for breakfast for two. The remaining two? Freezer! This is my new favorite way of storing food, especially when you make a batch of baked goods and can't finish them before they spoil. Method: once you've cut the scones into shape, place on a plate in a single layer, cover with plastic wrap and freeze (un-baked). Once they're frozen they can be gathered up and kept in a ziplock freezer bag. They don't need to defrost before you bake them off - just add a few more minutes to the total bake time.
Get the recipe over at the SmittenKitchen blog (another blog that I heart!). Deb's scones look much prettier than mine but I'm sure mine taste just as good, right? Hmm, maybe I'll have to invest in some biscuit cutters...
I was super excited yesterday when the November issue of Gourmet magazine came in the mail. I'm always excited when a new issue of a cooking magazine arrives. And I can never wait and save it for later. I HAVE to flip through the entire thing, dog-ear every recipe I want to make, right then and there. I jot down ingredients I'll need onto my existing grocery list, then rush out to buy everything, and rush home to cook. Those photos can make me very hungry!
Watchout waistline, it's that time of year again! First comes the Halloween candy, then the Thanksgiving turkey and finally all those Christmas goodies. Mmm, I love this time of year. My tummy is filled with delicious things and - hopefully - I'll be surrounded by people I love.
And, of course, what's a holiday season without some baked goods. Sure, it's against diet rules but come on! Tis the season to eat well and be (fat and) happy!
Poor Jason. Last week the guy had to suffer through eating the same everything bagel for breakfast every morning. How boring! But really, it's kind of my fault. I can never get up early enough to make a decent breakfast. The most I can muster up is two shots of espresso - one for him and the other for me. And breakfast is usually a bagel with cream cheese or cereal or yogurt and granola - anything that I don't actually have to prepare.
So I started searching for good breakfast ideas and making a list of things that could easily be made ahead and stored in the fridge, then warmed up for breakfast. And when I saw this recipe for zucchini bread over on the WhiteonRiceCouple blog, I immediately went out and bought some zucchinis. Mmmm, I'm eating a slice right now as I write this post.
My first Autumn experience is beginning to set in. The weather is cooling down, the winds are picking up and the leaves are just beginning to turn a pale yellow-green. I suspect it'll be full blown orange and red around here by the month's end. That's pretty exciting stuff when you come from Southern California where the leaves just wither and die and there aren't any real seasons to speak of.
So in honor of the cooling weather I wanted to make something warm and hearty.
This past weekend the local 5 Points Community Farm Market had a "locals festival". It was all about the locals here: local artists, craftsmen, musicians and, of course, food!
Our upstairs neighbor, Justin, is part of the local home-brewing club (yes, they brew their own beers at home) which had a little setup at the festival. So Jason and I came out to support the locals and the club and sample some beers. There were several mini-kegs filled with unique home-brews like pepper beer, smoke beer and pumpkin beer. Beer samples were free and any tips/donations left in the jar went to a local animal shelter. Drink beer to save the animals!
I've never been much of a breakfast person. Well, actually, I should say that I've never been much of an "American breakfast" person. I could never figure out how people could eat 2 eggs, sausages, bacon, hash browns & pancakes all at 7 o'clock in the morning! That much food and grease that early just makes me feel sick. And, yes, I'm aware that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, supposedly. But does that necessarily translate into having to eat an entire farm?
I'm back! OK, so I've been back a few days now but have lagged with the blogging cause we've been busy with the new dog! His name is Bugsy & there's a picture below.
The road trip was... long! Next time we go check on the house, we're definitely flying. But it was fun to do the drive at least once. Got to stop in Savannah and Fort Lauderdale where we played tourists for the day & saw some cool stuff. Finally made it to Key West & met up with old friends. The house is still in one piece, thank goodness! Ate a lot of food along the way, of course. Then on the way home made a pit stop in North Carolina to pick up Bugsy from a trainer's ranch.
OK, enough typying, more pictures (mostly of the food we ate throughout the trip, excluding the likes of McDonald's & Bojangles...)!
Start the day off with a hardy breakfast. Eggs benedict in a croissant.
Look familiar? Add Forest Gump, a bus bench, and a box of chocolates.
Tour Savannah via horse-drawn carriage. Meet Sonny & Cher.
Hey Ya'll, I ate a stick of butter @ Paula Deen's restaurant, The Lady & Sons! OK, maybe not a whole stick of butter, but we did have some authentic southern food.
Outside: people lining up to reserve seats. Can only be done the morning of.
Inside: on the 3rd floor. Rustic, with southern charm.
Complimentary hoecake & biscuit. Pour maple syrup on the hoecake, hot sauce on the biscuit.
Pulled pork butt sandwich with potato fries (sliced russet potatoes, battered & fried; yes, just like fried chicken).
Can't be in The South w/out having some hush puppies. With honey butter spread. Crisp on the outside, light & fluffy inside.
Harvest Salad: mixed greens, gorgonzola cheese, apple slices, candied pecans, honey mustard vinaigrette. Love this flavor combo!
Dozen oysters on the half shell. Heaven.
We also had a dozen jumbo peel & eat shrimp sauteed in garlic butter, but devoured them before I could get a picture. Sorry!
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL
Scored a great suite @ Il Lugano Hotel for cheap via Hotwire. Balcony w/ intercoastal view, full kitchen w/ diswasher, washer & dryer en suite, HD tv.
Fort Lauderdale beach.
Sea turtle nests everywhere up & down the beach!
KEY WEST, FL
Shelly & Jackson were nice enough to invite us over for dinner the first night we were in town. She made a yummy chili & he grilled up some delicious sausages. But I didn't get a picture of any of that cause I was too preoccupied w/ this adorable little girl! World, meet Maddie!
When we left Key West over a year ago, Maddie was hardly a bump in her mommy's tummy. Look at her now! Just one big bundle of cuteness! Don't you just want to gobble her up?!
A Cole's Peace creation: Pesto Portobello sandwich w/ onions, tomatoes & chipotle mayo sauce. Extension of the fabulously famous Restaurant Store (where I used to work!). It was great to see the crew again!
Dinner w/ Sandy @ Mangia, Mangia! Fresh, hand made fettucini tossed in a tomato based seafood sauce w/ mahi mahi, scallops & conch (the local delicacy). With a side of cuban bread.
Hanging out @ The Inn's gigantic pool (complete w/ waterfall) while the boys work on the house. Ahh, the good life...
Smather's "Beach". It's man made, incredibly shallow, polluted (but don't tell the tourists!), and the water is about 90 degrees. It's a good place to tan, I guess? Cool off w/ a huge cup of Hawaiian shaved ice from the nice old lady in her trailer or sip on cold coconut juice from the coconut man.
I just couldn't leave Key West w/out buying 3 loaves of mango bread and one loaf of french sourdough. Most delicious bread, ever. We're almost through w/ one loaf already! :(
Everyone, please meet Bugsy! He's a 3 year old Boston Terrier that we got from a rescue group in North Carolina. Super obedient, very people friendly, but has a doggie aggression issue - we're working on it. We think he looks like a little Gremlin, but a cute one! :) What do you think?
A few days ago Jason and I took a motorcycle ride down to the Virginia/North Carolina state line to browse the farm stands and to buy these jimmies (male blue crabs). He had heard from his co-worker, Archie, of a good place to buy live crabs that wasn't too far from where we live. Riding down interstate 168, just before passing into North Carolina, we saw signs for "Live Blue Crabs", "$35 a Bushel". I had no idea how much a bushel was but it sounded like a whole lot of crab for not a whole lot of money.
We pulled the bike up to a large trailer hitch parked on the grass off the side of the road. It looked like one of those rentable U-Haul trailers you attach to the back of your truck when you need to move. Except, this one was gigantic and even air-conditioned! Sitting under a make-shift canopy next to the trailer was a friendly couple ready to sell their goods. Inside the trailer were dozens of bushel baskets filled with crabs. By the time we got there that day the Jumbo blue crabs were already gone but they still had jimmies for $12/dozen and sooks (smaller females) for $6/dozen. We went with a dozen jimmies. The nice crab guy bagged them up for us and we gently squeezed them into the bike's saddle bag for the ride home.
Nice crab guy also told us the best way to eat the crabs was to pull off their top shell and steam (not boil) them. Neither Jason nor I had ever cooked live crab before so when we got home we immediately looked up how to prepare and clean live crabs. It took a lot of elbow grease to pry off those shells (Jason did all the hard work, =]) and some more work to pick out the sweet meat but oh, boy was it worth it! By the end of the meal we were two satisfied crab eaters, covered in shattered shell fragments and sticky with their juices.
After prepping and cleaning the crabs, we simply sprinkled on some Old Bay seasoning and steamed them over a water/vinegar mix. The best method for eating: twist and pull off legs and pinchers from the body, munching on any juicy white meat that comes off with them. Then, you can either crack and feast on the lump claw meat or pick out the rest of the body meat. I like to dip the crab meat in a mix of equal parts salt & pepper with a squeeze of lime juice or you can go traditional with simple melted butter.
Next time, we'll definitely try to get the JUMBO blue crabs.
Before: Bright blue, cleaned & ready to steam.
After: Bright pink and ready to eat!
Note: Nice crab guy on I-168 will be there until mid October, when he packs up the crab business and switches over to leading duck hunts.
Oh my poor little blog, I've been neglecting you... But not to fear, I haven't been neglecting my cooking duties, just the blogging!
Last week was tomato project week: making fresh tomato sauce with the 20lb box of local tomatoes I bought, then preserving the sauce by canning it in mason jars. That's right folks, I went totally old-school on this one. It seems like everyone in the foodie/blogging world has taken to this Canvolution and I thought I'd give it a try too.
The first thing I learned was that tomato sauce for that night's dinner versus tomato sauce for canning are two different species. Most recipes for tomato sauce that's intended to be eaten right away usually include carrots and celery. Tomato sauce that's intended for canning is really just tomatoes, onions and dried herbs, nothing more. I mistakenly made tomato sauce with carrots and celery on my first try which, sadly, tasted more like carrots than tomatoes. So I went searching for a different recipe and found one from Bon Appetit (ah, BA, you never fail me) specially formulated for canning.
A word of warning: this project is not for those short on time or patience. Although I'd say even the beginning home cook could successfully complete this project (I did!), the difficulty is that it requires a lot of time and involves multiple steps. Steps, which if you don't follow precisely, could lead to incorrectly canned sauce and the real risk of food poisoning via Botulism. To make it easier on myself, I divided the project up into two days; Day 1: peel, seed and chop tomatoes and prepare all the tools & ingredients you'll need to sterilize the jars and cook the sauce; Day 2: sterilize canning jars, make sauce, can, then process.
Special equipment: 1. Mason jars & lids for canning, which you can purchase here. 2. Very large stock pot in which to sterilize empty jars and process filled jars. Should be large enough so that the jar, sitting up, can be covered with at least 1 inch of water from its lid. 3. This utensil set. The most useful things are the jar lifter and wide-mouth funnel.
For a first time "canner", I found these tips on sterilizing, canning & processing to be very helpful. I had a print out next to me while I made the tomato sauce.
Now, we're almost ready to start cooking. Before we make the sauce though, the tomatoes need to be peeled and seeded (unless you have a food mill). It's a fairly simple process:
How to Peel & Seed Tomatoes
Bring pot of water to rolling boil.
Meanwhile, make an "X" on bottom of tomatoes.
Throw into boiling water, 30 seconds - 1 minute (no more!)
Fish out with slotted spoon, dunk into bowl of ice water, 5 seconds, fish out.
Peel back skin with fingers. Chop in half, scoop out seeds with small spoon. Chop up remaining flesh for sauce.
I let my peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes sit in the refrigerator over night until the next day when I was ready to make the sauce.
It's the next morning and I pull my tomatoes out of the refrigerator. I begin by boiling water to sterilize the mason jars. Remember to follow these tips. While I wait for the water to boil, I start making my sauce.
The recipe below has been adapted from Bon Appetit. I cut everything in half to make a smaller, more manageable batch. It is important to use bottled lemon juice, not fresh squeezed, because the bottled version has a consistant acidity level that is crucial in keeping away the botulism.
Combine 2 cups tomatoes and next 6 ingredients in large stockpot or skillet. Stir over medium-high heat until tomatoes begin to release juice, 5 minutes. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is thickened, stirring frequently, 20 minutes. Add remaining tomatoes. Increase heat to high and bring to rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer until mixture is reduced to about 6 cups, stirring frequently, 30 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper, and with sugar to taste, if desired.
Pour 1 tbsp lemon juice into each of 3 hot clean 1-pint glass canning jars. Spoon sauce into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids, apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 35 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.
Sterilize jars and lids
Make the sauce
Fill jars with sauce, place lid, tighten screw band, boil to process.