Category Archives: June Cleaver

I Gunna Fix You Up!

My friend David recently took a nasty tumble while on rollerskates, causing a spiral fracture of his tibia. He’s been on the couch recovering from surgery for a bit, and needed a pick-me-up. I was on my way out the door for a long weekend with friends and didn’t want to buy a ton of groceries before leaving. So, I pulled a Karel — meaning I used my mother’s pantry alchemy to put something together from what I had on hand.

Or as she calls it, “Fixing you up.”

As in, “Oh, you are hungry? Well, just sit there. I gunna fix you up.”

Don’t be fooled. My mother — who does refer to herself as Big Mama — is neither uneducated nor Southern. But she is hilarious. And Big Mama regularly speaks with idioms only we in our family understand. It’s a secret language of hilarity I imagine most families develop.

Twenty minutes later, she’d return with a plate of green chile chicken, or shepherd’s pie, or her pretzel crust jello salad that my brother and I can eat by the Pyrex dish-full. The magic in this is that none of those items appeared to be in the fridge when you were hungry 30 minutes prior. She waved her mysterious “fixin'” wand and voila — a delicious meal that only Big Mama can make just right.

Hmmm… pantry alchemy. What was I to do? The garden helped greatly. Scratching my head, I went digging through the freezer to find the remains of a rotisserie chicken ready for the stock pot. With tomatoes and zucchini in abundance, I chopped and diced, while roasting a butternut squash and garlic to add some additional umph.

A few hours later: Garden Soup ready for delivery.

Garden soup

Garden soup

Garden soup

{As it goes with just about any soup, I thought this was much tastier with a dollop of sour cream and a heavy drizzle of Siracha.}

Care Package

David opened the jars of peach and apple preserves with a spoon and took large mouthfuls, oohing and ahhing for my ego. (Some friends know my fragilities better than others.)

“Honey,” I said with a big, smug smile, “I done fixed you up.”

Three states away, my mother, most likely listening to Prince in house slippers, looked to the heavens and said a quiet, “Booyah.”

~K

Ounces and Pounds and Booyahs

Finny recommends buying a good kitchen scale to see just exactly what you are getting out of your garden vs. the money you put in.

Kitchen scale

Of course this system doesn’t equate time spent tilling, weeding, watering and even praying bees have an orgy in your garden — but hey. It does give you some solid numbers on what you are “producing.”

Kitchen scale

The girl has figured this stuff out to a science. Why not add one more fun kitchen tool to the mix? I’ll give my end of summer numbers when the first frost hits. Otherwise, I’m on the hunt for some Fall seeds before it gets too cold. I’m thinking onions, cabbage, broccoli, beets, carrots and maybe even some rhubarb. I’m definitely learning a ton this year on how gardens work in Colorado — and how they don’t. I’m excited to have a greenhouse to put to use this winter. We’ll see if my winter crops make it to the new scale.

Kitchen scale

In the meantime, there is a dentist office in town with a giant crab apple tree over flowing. I’ve become a wee bit obsessed with harvesting free fruit and putting it to use. I made the French apple cake out of the September/October 2012 Cooks Illustrated this weekend, and topped it with stewed brandied apples.

French Apple Cake

It was fantastic. I can’t wait to make it again. (Although I had a really hard time getting it out of the pan, so it doesn’t look as pretty as it tasted. Don’t you hate it when that happens?) I think I’ll add some of those peach preserves next time.

A win for local eating, and my belly.

~K

We be Jammin’

Palisade peaches are in season. Last September, during a visit my Dad said, “That is the best piece of fruit I’ve ever eaten!” He’s mentioned it several times since.

Peaches, people. My quiet father is still talking about peaches nearly a year later.

I’ve watched all summer as people stand in line at the local farmer’s market to pay $40 for a box of these golden beauties. My dad knows his fruit.

Peach jam

Peach jam

Peach jam

Peach Jam

What’s the best way to send your father in Texas peaches from Colorado? Booyah.

Peach Jam

Adding to the pantry shelves:

  • 2 quarts halved peaches
  • 7 jars stewed peaches
  • 7 jars peach jam

It is fun to watch this little pantry grow, holding on to the flavors of summer. I am dreaming of putting together beautiful baskets for Christmas with a variety of jams, pickles and sauces I’ve put up from the garden and market. One of these days I’ll get jam to set up properly! These are still a bit liquid-y. (Finny says it takes a lot of patience and practice. Gah.)

 

~K

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

A friend visiting my home this week mentioned the crab apple tree on the side of the house had bent limbs from all the fruit.
“What apple tree?”

“That one by the mailbox. You know. There are little apples all over the ground?”

“Those are apples? Are you sure?”

“Yes.

“Edible?”

“I’m not trying to poison you, dummy.”

We walked outside and he ate a handful of the tiny golden red orbs to prove his point.

Huh. Buckets of fruit at my fingertips, growing in my own yard and I had no idea.

Free fruit.

FREE FRUIT!

Of course I quickly played around in the kitchen to see what I could make, landing on spiced crab apple jelly for the first run.

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

IMG_42Spiced Crab Apple Jelly66

Next up: apple chutney.

~K

 

Tomato! Tomahto!

Raise your hand if you have a bookshelf full of creative tomes you’ve never read. You saw them at the bookstore and just had to have them. This pattern! That recipe! This idea!

I believe the creative publishing industry is successful because of an average consumer thought process that goes a bit like this: “Oooh. Pretty photographs! This pillow case/tote bag/lemon cake is so different from the other 12 sets of directions I already own…”

Canning

And then it ends up in the pile with the others to gather dust. You try not to look at that shelf when you walk by, because nothing makes you feel like more of a failure than all the money spent on more books for ideas you’ll likely never even start, much less finish.

Thanks Finny!

But wait! There is the ocassional ray of creative hope! Finny sent this canning book for my birthday. I’m not much of a canner, but I’ve always wanted to be — in part because Fin sends the most delicious Christmas packages with pickles and jams and other goodies she’s made from her garden. I have a serious case of, “Why can’t I do that?! Gah. I wanna!” every time I get such a thoughtful gift. I also grew up with pantry shelves full of delicious jellies, pickles, beets and asparagus — much of which came from family friends in Minnesota.

Canning

Canning

Canning

The other day I saw that canning book on the dreaded shelf where ideas go to die, and dusted it off. I put it on the kitchen counter and have been browsing here and there, thinking of what I can do with this or that out of the garden. Well! When my friend Rae recently went out of town leaving me with a CSA basket full of tomatoes, and my Jess said she’d be interested in coming over to help — I knew canning day had arrived.

Canning

{Side note: Jess is La Domestique. If you’ve never visited her food blog, it is what I aspire to be. Her photography, recipes and dedication to the craft are A+.}

Canning

Three hot and sweaty hours later, tomatoes with basil from the garden — canned!

Sweet tomato action

(Really, only six jars of tomatoes? I KNOW. I so value homemade canned goods now. I didn’t appreciate how much work went into saving food this way.)

Next up: transforming tiny crab apples on my tree into chutney and jam. And perhaps dusting off that shelf and making a donation to the local library. Life is to short to be burdened with literary guilt.*

~K

*Speaking of, did I mention I’m in a summer book club trying to tackle Infinite Jest? The chances of me finishing this thing before I burn it are slim to none.  As one book club member recently mentioned, “Uh, I totally get why DFW killed himself. Dude had demons.” And, if that doesn’t make you want to curl up and read, I’m not sure what will.

Ceramic Chicken

Adam bought a ceramic chicken cooking dish last summer, putting me into a furious state of cooking gadget envy. For those who have ever had “beer butt chicken,” this dish does the same thing — but cleaner. You fill the small container with the desired liquid and spices, place a whole chicken over it and roast for 1.5 hours at 350 degrees. The result is crispy, perfectly roasted chicken, with the fat drained off into the dish vs. the bottom of your oven or grill.

Comme ça:

Fajitas

Fajitas

Fajitas

 

Fajitas

Fajitas

Fajitas

Fajitas

Fajitas

Fajitas

Fajitas

Fajitas

A bit of chopping and grilling of vegetables and voila: fajitas for a family dinner. Yes, oh yes, I will be making this often.

~K

 

Envelope Clutch #3

My first try at piping.*

Envelope Clutch #3

I bought the exterior fabric at my local thrift store. The 3 yard piece cost $.75. Sometimes, life just seems too lucky.

Envelope Clutch #3

Envelope Clutch #3

Envelope Clutch #3

The interior reminds me of my first car — the Hornet. I bought this fat quarter for something like $13 at Fancy Tiger. It’s Japanese and was an impulse purchase. The bamboo handle and zipper I had on hand. My summer tote — a fair reflection of my quirks. Thrifty, impulse, vintage and off to the rodeo. And yet — still a touch of Betty Draper.

No?

~K

No, that isn’t a reference to 50 Shades of Bondage. The fact some 20% of all books purchased in the US right now are tied to that series makes me wonder if I will ever make my mark as a writer (of characters who don’t own handcuffs.)

Bon Meh

Bon Meh

Last week I mentioned I’d be preparing a fancy new recipe with my new 2 week food planning guide. (By the way, that guide is changing my life. I no longer do a dozen market runs for odd ingredients, or worry if I’m going to have the right items on hand for a meal. The mystery is gone, and I love it. It’s planned, working and yummy. Booyah.)

Bon Meh

That fancy new recipe was this month’s cover for Bon Appetit: prosciutto-wrapped stuffed pork loin, over apples.

Pros:

Beautiful presentation

Bon Meh

Kale. Any time I can use kale, for humor’s sake, I do. Adam hates kale and thinks I’m insane for regularly finding ways to include it in my diet. And so, as our friendship goes, I find ways to add kale to breakfast. And cocktails.

Bon Meh

Bon Meh

Bon Meh

I learned a new cooking technique: butterflying a loin. Who knew it was so easy? (And here I thought butterflying a loin was pulling a muscle in the 200 meter.)

Bon Meh

I got to use a meat thermometer I didn’t even know I owned. Score one for the gadget gods!

Bon Meh

 

Did I already mention beautiful presentation, with cooking twine and all? Such fun to put together. Bon Meh

The baked apples. Propping up the loins to cook over halved apples is genius. And the result is savory, sweet deliciousness. The meat with the cooked, tart, green apples is nothing short of delightful.

Cons:

A dozen expensive ingredients, including $10 worth of mushrooms that ended up being indistinguishable

Not a recipe for a single cook. If Alma hadn’t been visiting, there was no way I could have tied the pork together alone. It was not a hard job, but one that certainly required 4 hands.

Bon Meh

DRY. The cook time is totally off. Comments on the recipe show that I’m not the only one to be disappointed with how dry the meat came out of the oven. Come to find out 100 minutes at 400 degrees is a MOTHER LOAD OF HEAT for one little 2.5 pound loin. Some 45 minutes would suffice. (Use yer trusty thermometer to judge.)

Bon Meh
And perhaps most “con:” gross leftovers. I tried having this for lunch today and it just wasn’t good. Chances are I will not make this recipe again. The meal cost more than $50 to cook for the 3 of us, with ample leftovers. Sadly, I was counting on those for lunch and dinner today.

~K

 

Food, Sex, Money

Gallo Blanco

There are nights I dream of Gallo Blanco’s tacos.

Just kidding about the sex. But since you’re here… (if that’s made you feel bad, then watch SEX at fulltube). This might be a good way to de-stress as well.

If you’re not so much into watching these and need help finding a way to meet your sexual needs, invest in one of those sex toys. These sex toys could include a Thrusting dildo or even a vibrator. Anyway, that’s enough information about sex.

One of my goals for 2011 was to be better about tracking expenses. I spent September intentionally using only debit, and Mint to categorize where my expenses landed.

Needless to say the dining slice of the pie was ala mode.

apple pie for Rex

hi! I’m unfashionable pie. Somebody give me a scoop already.

Nothing makes me feel more disgusted than throwing food away. It’s disgraceful. In an attempt to be better about both controlling silly food related spending and reducing food waste, I requested the advice of friends on Facebook/Twitter.

There were a variety of clever ideas, with one central theme: make soup. Save what you don’t use and throw it in a pot and clean up your fridge regularly with a hodgepodge soup. Also, plan. My friend Stacey provided an ideal solution. Her two-week food planning Google doc tracks groceries and meals. It makes you sit down, look at your calendar and appropriately schedule meals, and related shopping.

Pumpkin apple chestnut soup

mmmm… soup. Likely to use this roasted squash recipe to clean up what’s left of the gourds in the garden.

I love it.

Earlier this week I set up 2.5 weeks worth of meals, leaving ample room for eating out (with friends in town, this is a certainty), and the chance to cook one fancy new recipe that requires speciality ingredients. These will both help me stick to the plan. Then I cut coupons. For less than $150, I purchased enough food to cook 8 large dinners (to feed 4+), breakfast and lunch. I also restocked my trifecta of bad habits: Diet Coke/coffee/chardonnay. There are leftovers scheduled too. (Those who say “I don’t eat leftovers” make me crabby. There are 7 million children starving in the horn of Africa. Shut up and take the to-go box.)

Mexican meatloaf

The next couple of weeks include: Mexican meatloaf, arroz con pollo, BBQ, chicken enchiladas, prosciutto wrapped roasted pork loin, crock pot green chile and chicken pot pie.

So, here I am. The coupon-cutting meal planner who revels in Type A organization and budgets to the penny. In other words, I’m a raspberry beret away from becoming this woman.

The kind you buy at a second-hand store,

~K

Making Friends with the Butcher

Braised Short Ribs

I try not to buy copies of magazines while I’m waiting at the grocery store. I canceled several subscriptions when I moved because I just couldn’t keep up.* But when I saw the October issue of Bon Appetit, I couldn’t resist. I so love finding a magazine recipe for something I’ve never even considered making, heading off to the grocery with a list of ingredients and watching it come to life. Rarely do I get out of my normal BBQ-meatloaf-casserole routine. Red wine braised short ribs, thankfully, shook up the schedule. Soon enough I was introducing myself to the local butcher and walking out with pounds of 2-inch ribs, vegetables and bottles of cabernet.

Braised Short Ribs

Worse case scenario, you open the bottle of wine and order a pizza. Best case scenario: the recipe worked. And oh, sweet heavens, it was one of the best meals I’ve ever made.

Braised Short Ribs

Braised Short Ribs

Braised Short Ribs

I paired the ribs with my friend Juliann’s mashed sweet potatoes and whipped up a peach cobbler for dessert, using up the last of my bushel from Palisade, CO.

I’m adding this recipe to mine for rack of lamb. So incredibly easy to prepare for such great results. The key is to find a good butcher who will trim the fat and cut the ribs for you. He will be able to use state of the art equipment to do this. You can purchase Hobart equipment parts by National Bandsaw at their website. Otherwise, buy an extra bottle of wine to sip while these cook away.

Winner, winner spare rib dinner. (With leftovers, if you are lucky!)

~K

*Come to find out after a month of careful budgeting, it’s these little expenses that kill me softly.