The Chili Pepper Apron
Can Your Own Beans? Sure! 
We try to do our produce shopping at a local produce market owned by a very nice Pakistani man who gets most of his merchandise from local farmers and even the occasional homeowner who happens to have a bumper crop of say.. lemons. 
While we were there recently, I noticed that he was carrying several types of dried beans.  This is very exciting because, if you did not already know this, DRIED BEANS ROCK! For several reasons:
1.) They’re cheap.  One pound of bulk dried chickpeas was $1.19.
2.) They’re versatile.  You can use them however you want once they are boiled soft and you get to control what goes in them. (ex. salt levels)
3.) They last forever.  Okay, maybe not forever, but pretty close.  Archaeologists have found beans in the tombs of ancient Egypt that are still good, so I think that qualifies them to “nearly forever”.
The biggest downside to dried beans is having to get them from “rock-like” to “palatable” before you can eat them.  The easiest way I have found to do this is with a slow cooker.
For the chickpeas pictured, it was 2.5 cups of dried beans to 6 cups of water that cooked in the slow cooker for about 3.5 hours on high.
This made about 6 cups of chickpeas.  
That’s right, that $1.19 per pound of dried beans equates to about 5-6 cans (maybe more) of chickpeas from the grocery store.  And if you consider that a can of chickpeas can be anywhere from $1.50 to $3.99 a can, that’s quite a bit of savings!
But what do you do with all those beans once they’re cooked? You can ‘em of course! 
Keep in mind that I did this at home without any of my grandmother’s fancy canning equipment and it was still easy peasy lemon squeezy.  
Just heat the jars, sealers, and lids (which you can buy all together at your local Walmart or general goods store) in a boiling water bath for at least 3 minutes.  Carefully remove the jar with tongs and allow to drain upside down on a towel for about a minute.  Ladle in the hot beans and seal with the sealer, screw on the lid, and allow to sit until you hear the “Pop!” from the sealer indicating it’s airtight and cooled.  This may take anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on how warm your kitchen is.  
That’s it!  You now have your very own healthy, canned beans for pennies instead of dollars!  This is all about saving money, peeps!  And the jars can be reused over and over, though you will need to buy new sealers as they are really only good for one, maybe two, uses.
Enjoy! 

Can Your Own Beans? Sure! 

We try to do our produce shopping at a local produce market owned by a very nice Pakistani man who gets most of his merchandise from local farmers and even the occasional homeowner who happens to have a bumper crop of say.. lemons. 

While we were there recently, I noticed that he was carrying several types of dried beans.  This is very exciting because, if you did not already know this, DRIED BEANS ROCK! For several reasons:

1.) They’re cheap.  One pound of bulk dried chickpeas was $1.19.

2.) They’re versatile.  You can use them however you want once they are boiled soft and you get to control what goes in them. (ex. salt levels)

3.) They last forever.  Okay, maybe not forever, but pretty close.  Archaeologists have found beans in the tombs of ancient Egypt that are still good, so I think that qualifies them to “nearly forever”.

The biggest downside to dried beans is having to get them from “rock-like” to “palatable” before you can eat them.  The easiest way I have found to do this is with a slow cooker.

For the chickpeas pictured, it was 2.5 cups of dried beans to 6 cups of water that cooked in the slow cooker for about 3.5 hours on high.

This made about 6 cups of chickpeas.  

That’s right, that $1.19 per pound of dried beans equates to about 5-6 cans (maybe more) of chickpeas from the grocery store.  And if you consider that a can of chickpeas can be anywhere from $1.50 to $3.99 a can, that’s quite a bit of savings!

But what do you do with all those beans once they’re cooked? You can ‘em of course! 

Keep in mind that I did this at home without any of my grandmother’s fancy canning equipment and it was still easy peasy lemon squeezy.  

Just heat the jars, sealers, and lids (which you can buy all together at your local Walmart or general goods store) in a boiling water bath for at least 3 minutes.  Carefully remove the jar with tongs and allow to drain upside down on a towel for about a minute.  Ladle in the hot beans and seal with the sealer, screw on the lid, and allow to sit until you hear the “Pop!” from the sealer indicating it’s airtight and cooled.  This may take anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on how warm your kitchen is.  

That’s it!  You now have your very own healthy, canned beans for pennies instead of dollars!  This is all about saving money, peeps!  And the jars can be reused over and over, though you will need to buy new sealers as they are really only good for one, maybe two, uses.

Enjoy! 

We (strawberry) jammin’ in here!

That’s right! This is a super duper long post about how you, yes YOU!, can make and enjoy your very own strawberry preserves/jam.

While officially “preserves” and “jam” are two different things, for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to be referring to this product as “jam”.

Now, for this edition of The Chili Pepper Apron, we travel north to my Grandmother’s house.  Yep, the same one that gave me all the cookbooks from that previous post.  She doesn’t live super far away, plus she enjoys the company, and most importantly: she has all the necessary supplies.

This is the tricky part of jammin’, if you don’t have the necessary supplies, it’s all but impossible to jam.  Some of the supplies you probably already have, some probably not unless you’ve jammed before.  If you’re never going to jam again, you may want to improvise on your jammin’ supplies.  

Yes, I’m greatly enjoying myself… and I may or may not be reading this in a Jamaican accent.   And now you are too.  You’re welcome!

Jammin’ Supplies are as listed, and later, pictured:  

A large stockpot, about 8 quarts in size

A small sauce pan

A medium pot, about 4-6 quarts.

An assortment of clean glass jars with Canning Lids.  

Canning lids are special and can be found in the canning/preserving section of Walmart, various hardware stores, and even the occasional dollar store.  They have two parts: an outer ring that screws onto the jar and an inner sealing lid with a wax lip that hermetically seals the jar to prevent the invasion of micro-organisms.  Usually these lids are already conveniently attached to the top of jars that you can also buy at the above listed places.  A very important note though: While the jars and the rings can be reused, the sealing lids cannot! 


Jammin’ Ingredients:

ingredients

Clean, Sorted strawberries with tops removed.

Sugar, LOTS

butter (unsalted or salted, which ever)

Certo (liquid pectin in a pouch, it’s in a blue box in the baking or canning aisle)


You’re going to put the jars into a boiling water bath in the biggest stock pot.  You want them at a rolling boil for at least three minutes.  I usually just let them cook away until I’m ready for them.  You put the sealing lids and the rings into the small sauce pan and allow them to simmer until you’re ready to use them.  It’ll look something like this:

boiling jars

Except that the lids haven’t started boiling yet in that photo.

Since a watched pot never boils, go make yourself useful! 

By smashing strawberries!  

(This would also make an interesting name for a band.)

before smashing

Mmm.. previously frozen strawberries. (They’re only in season for a short while! So feel free to freeze them instead of trying to make all of them into preserves immediately. Just make sure you thaw them completely before trying to smash them.)

SMASH SMASH FORK SMASH!

post smashing

Notice that this is not a puree.  You don’t want a puree.  You should be able to tell that there are strawberries in your jam! 

Do this until you have about 4 cups of strawberries and juice.  Feel free to recruit helpers for this part.  

strawberry soup?

Add your smashed strawberries to your medium sized pot:

strawberries in a pot

Measure out 7 (yes, seven) cups of granulated sugar and add that to the strawberries:

sugar

Over medium heat, carefully stir the sugar into the strawberries until well mixed and add a pat of butter.. to help limit foaming.

butter

Continue cooking over medium-medium high heat stirring occasionally until the mixture begins to simmer.  Stir constantly until mixture comes to a rolling boil.  

While you’re waiting on the simmer, begin prepping your next steps.  

First, find a helper.  Seriously, the canning segment can be intense and you’ll find yourself sweating less and with fewer frustrations (and less spilled jam) if you just find someone to help you.  Make sure they understand their part, which I’ll go over in a few minutes, and that they stay nearby where you can quickly access them.  

Next, open your packet of Certo.  This is a liquid pectin formula and it’s the only one I’ve ever used and the only one my grandmother trusts.  If you’re using another brand or style of pectin, you’re taking your jam results into unknown territory.  Just putting that out there. 

Find something to easily remove your PIPING HOT jars from the BOILING water.  The emphasis is so you remember that you really shouldn’t be sticking your hand (or your helpers hand) into a pot of super hot water.  I originally used long barbecue tongs but we not have an actual jar grabber that Grandma got from the Ace Hardware store.  

Once your strawberry/sugar/butter mixture comes to a boil, things move fast, so there are not really a lot of pictures of this next section.

Step 1.) Once the mixture is boiling, add in your pouch of Certo and continue stirring for exactly 1 minute.  At the end of one minute, turn off the stove and remove the mixture from heat.

boiling!

2.)  HELPER JOB: Carefully remove one jar from the water bath and drain well over a clean towel. 

3.)  Carefully ladle in enough strawberry mixture to reach the bottom of the jar’s neck (the first ridge at the top of the jar). 

To make this easier, I use a special canning funnel, available at canning store locations.

half full

4.) HELPER JOB: Retrieve one sealing lid and one ring from the hot water.  Dry on a clean towel.  Wipe off the lip of the glass jar with a damp, clean towel.  Place the sealing lid on top and tighten ring down.  

5.) Set the jar aside and allow to cool undisturbed until you hear a “POP” from the sealing lid and until the jar is cool to the touch.  This means the jar has sealed.  Listen for your pop to jar ratio to ensure all of your jars seal properly.  Unsealed jars are not the end of the world, they are just the ones that need to be eaten first. Also, DO NOT PRESS ON THE SEALING LID IN ORDER TO MAKE IT “POP”!

(I forgot to take a picture of the finished jars.. just use your imagination)

Repeat these steps until all jam is sealed away.  If you have a little left, but not enough for a full jar, you can pour that into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap, but you want to use that up within a few days.

That shouldn’t be difficult.  This stuff is addicting, you’ll want to add it to anything and everything that can hold strawberry jam.  We used two gallon bags of frozen strawberries and got about 13 pints of strawberry preserves.  So plan accordingly. This will keep for at least a year, but you can also give it away as gifts.

Just.. be careful if you do give it away.. you may suddenly find yourself inundated with canning supplies and puppy dog eyes from friends and family members who want you to make more.. and more.. and more of this. 

Give your plants a drink

Even plants like to kick back with a beer every now and then!

beer bottle waterer

Or at least with a beer bottle.  

Living in the Sunshine state is great for beach trips and vacationers, but it’s not so great for plants that need water.

Last year, I received a gift of those “As Seen On TV” watering globes that look really pretty and help deliver the perfect amount of water to potted plants.  

The problem is they can be very tricky to fill because of the narrow opening and I only have a few of them.  

My brother came for a visit a few weeks ago and decided that my liquor collection was pathetic (it is) and decided to add to it and also pick up a selection of brews while he was out.  This left me with several empty bottles of beer.. and possibly a slight hangover. 

I’m an avid recycler, but I’m also a big fan of “Reduce and Reuse”, so looking at these forlorn bottles in the recycle bin reminded me of a beer bottle fence I had seen at a beach house in Topsail Island, NC.  It got me thinking about what a beer bottle could be used for and I wondered if it could be useful in gardening beyond making a fancy border.

Five minutes later, all my garden pots are guzzling a brewski! 

recycled beer bottles

The pretty lady on this bottle makes my green onions stand at attention. Rowr.

I imagine you could use wine bottles as well for a longer watering period and so far it’s worked really well for my plants, we only have to refill them about once a week.  Just make sure the plants that you are using them for really do need a good amount of water and are not going to drown because of your excessive drinking habit. 

When the going gets tough..

Get Creative.

At least, that’s what you do when you need a solution to a problem and there are no practical or easy fixes.  

In my case, the problem was my seedlings.  They’re growing rapidly which means they were all face-planting (like my pun?) into the plastic cover that protected them from the ferocious plant-eating kitty.  This meant that some of them ran the risk of oversaturating their leaves in the condensation at the top and others weren’t getting enough air flow to even sprout.  

Cue my childhood abilities to build anything out of sticks.  

I was a freaking McGuyver when it came to creating things.  Gimme a pocketknife, some sticks, string, and/or duct tape and five minutes and I’d have something created or, at the very least, well on its way.

Unfortunately, many of my projects took on a life of their own and I have sketchbooks filled with various ideas that started out simple enough and became monsters in their own right… or could make me millions one day if I could ever focus on them long enough to.. hey, look at that squirrel!

So how did I solve my problem?

With this:

Tada

TA DAH!!

It’s a screened over… wigwam.. thing..

Okay, so the picture quality sucks.  I decided that right before the first major thunderstorm in three months was the perfect time to take a photo.. which means that right outside the window it looks like the freaking Armageddon is preparing to take place.  

Luckily, it was just much needed rain.  

The cucumbers and pumpkins I planted.. last week? are doing very well and, as you can see in the photo.. sort of, the seeds I planted are all sprouting nicely.  The okra has almost out grown even this screened cover and the butternut squash sprouted about two days after planting.  The watermelon is growing and the yellow squash is thinking about it.  The zucchini is still asleep.. it keeps muttering something about “five more minutes” or something.  I’m sure it will sprout soon.  The new roma tomato seeds and the Brandywine* tomato seeds are shooting right up.  And if you look closely, right in the front row of the photo, even my dried peanut seeds from the grocery store are sprouting!!  I did not expect to achieve anything from them, but low and behold, there we go! 

*As a LOTR nerd, I get a kick out of the fact I’m growing Brandywine tomatoes.  Even if I keep pronouncing it “Baranduin”.

Pizza is not a vegetable, but it is perfect.

Pizza is the perfect food.  It encompasses the major food groups by ways of the crust being grains, the toppings as veggies, the cheese as dairy, and the sauce as fruit! 

Yes, tomatoes are a fruit, go look it up.

Even better than the health consciousness of it, is the uniqueness of it. 

Your basic cheese pizza is good, but it’s still just a blank slate.  In fact, forget that: the idea of PIZZA is a blank sketchbook upon which any and all manifestation of your culinary ideas can come true.  

And it’s easy.

When I bring leftover pizza for lunch, the most common statement I hear is “That smells amazing, where did you get it??” My answer is always the same “Thanks, I actually made it myself.”

NO. WAY.

This seems to shock people.  That somehow the thing that we can quickly order over the phone and have delivered to our front door in the 30 minutes to one hour range can somehow be created using the ingredients we have at home and still be as good if not better than what arrives in that cardboard box.   It must be really hard, involve a lot of expensive stuff that I don’t have, and it must take a really long time, right?

Wrong!

In fact, if you follow the directions, make sure you have all your ingredients on hand (or at least in your house), you too can make a delicious, healthy pizza in the same amount of time as it takes to dial your favorite pizza shop and order one extra large greas-o pizza and have it delivered.

Ready? Okay, start the timer. Go!

Step 1: Collect all your ingredients.  I would hope it goes without saying that you want to make sure your ingredients are fresh and usable.  This may be the longest part of the recipe if your as unfamiliar in your kitchen as you are with Quantum Mechanics.*

pizza

*If you’re comfortable with quantum mechanics, congratulations, now get back to my transmogrifier. 

Step 2: Break out your mixing container.  I use a Kitchenaid stand mixer which makes life happy.  A bowl and wooden spoon work just as well and count as a complete upper body work out! 

Three: Add 3/4 cup warm (~110 degree F) water to the bowl, about 3 teaspoons of honey, and the packet of Active Dry yeast.  I do not recommend rapid rise yeast as it’ll make things move a little quickly.  But if that’s what you have, then go with it, and just be careful to check the dough during the rising period before it gains sentience and tries to take over the world. 

yeast bubbles

Allow the yeast mixture to sit for 5 minutes or until bubbly and foamy (no more than 5 minutes though).

Quatro: While the yeast is proofing (that’s what it’s called), go a head and weigh out your dry ingredients.  For me, this includes 6 ounces (about 1.5 cups) All Purpose Flour, 4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) Whole Wheat Flour, and about 2 tablespoons Wheat Germ.  Ounce measurements for a cup of flour are arguable, I judge around the 5 ounce range.

dry ingredients

If you don’t have a kitchen scale and you bake a lot, I recommend getting one.  If you don’t have one and don’t want one, make sure you’re measuring correctly.  Gently spoon (no, no cuddling the baking ingredients) the dry ingredients into a measuring cup and level with a knife.  Sticking the cup into the bag and dragging it back out again does not equal a precise measurement! 

bubbles Good, we’re bubbly, time to continue.

Number E:  Add dry ingredients to yeast mixture and turn on mixer or carefully mix together with a wooden spoon. 

mixing

With the mixer going (preferably), drizzle in about 1/4-1/2 cup Olive Oil.  Keep mixing until your dough looks something like this:

almost dough Add some water if it still looks dry.

Hang on there cowboy, you’re not ready to make pizza yet.  This is good, but it’s not quite dough.  You need to knead.  You want the dough to be rather elastic so either let the mixer run for a while, or better yet, work out those hands and arms.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and begin kneading.  Think about your cat when it’s testing the squishiness of your innards.  Push the heel of your hand into the ball, fold in half, rotate 90 degrees, repeat.  Do this for about 3-5 minutes,  longer if you’re taking your time.  Your dough should become slightly sticky and elastic and should be able to be pulled into a ball like this:

dough!

Whatever step we’re on now:  Place the ball into a bowl and coat with cooking spray or olive oil to keep from drying out.  Cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm, draft free place for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size. (I use a barely warm oven that’s OFF.)

While the dough is rising, you could be playing a video game, getting a drink, or any other number of things.  Personally, I cracked open a beer.  Then I cleaned up from the first mess (dough making) and prepared the second mess: Toppings.

Toppings can be anything you want on your pizza.  This is where you can let your creativity shine! 

For me, my toppings are: Tomato, garlic, basil, oregano, mushrooms, olives, and cheese.

toppings

Now you’ll probably notice there’s no sauce listed there, but think about it.. what is sauce? Tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and basil!  So, I just add the ingredients in layers and let it make its own sauce! Ha ha! I’m so cleaver clever!

Go ahead and start chopping what needs chopping so that you’re ready when…

DING!

The dough’s ready!

ready dough 

When you can press two fingers into the dough and the indentations stay there, the dough has risen.

Assembly!:

If you have a pizza peel (aka: a pizza spatula) go ahead and get it out and make sure it’s clean.  If you don’t have one, use the back of a clean baking sheet or cookie sheet without a lip. 

PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 425-450 DEGREES F!

Sprinkle about 1/4 cup cornmeal onto the board and start pressing out your dough until it’s the right size.  The bigger the circle, the thinner the crust.  Just keep that in mind. 

ready for topping

The assembly will now be presented in photo form:

garlic and herbs garlic and herbs

tomato slices tomato slices

cheese cheese

I apparently forgot to take a photo of the pre-cooked mushroom and olive topping… but I think you all get the right idea. 

Make sure your pizza stone is preheated properly.

hot in ther?

If you don’t have a pizza stone, again just use the baking sheet idea, but check the pizza earlier to see if it’s done.

Slide the pizza off the peel (or cookie sheet) and onto the stone and set your timer for 10 - 12 minutes.  My oven has a nefarious hot spot in the back left corner, so I set my timer for 6 minutes and then rotate the pizza 180 degrees before cooking for the final 5-6 minutes.

cooking

Longest. 10 minutes. ever. 

Ding! Times up! 

Carefully remove the pizza from the oven.  I use an old pizza pan to serve it on.  If you can, let it sit for 5 minutes so you don’t end up at the ER with cheese burns.

masterpiece

All in all, it takes me just about an hour to create this piece of art.  Which, depending on the night, traffic, alignment of the stars, and the restaurant, is about the same time for delivery. 

Go ahead and serve yourself a slice and try a bite… delicious isn’t it?

yum

Enjoy!

Bo’l’d Peanuts, a true southern delicacy

If you pronounce these as “Boy-el-d” peanuts, then you’re not really from the south. And you probably haven’t even been in the south.  And you probably have no idea why anyone in their right mind would want to eat peanuts that have been boiled until soft and slightly mushy.

peanuts

But now I bet you’re intrigued.  

What is it about boiling legumes for an entire day in a simple bath of salt water that makes them turn from ordinary snack food into a delightful southern treat that brings back memories of sitting on the swinging bench on the back porch watching the fireflies come out as the sun goes down to a relaxing chorus of cicadas and crickets. You may have grown up in the middle of Suburbia, USA with no porch, crickets, or fireflies, but somehow those memories are still in there and boiling peanuts will bring them right to the surface of your mind. 

I was fortunate enough to grow up in suburbia south.  We had a back deck, though no swing bench, and we had fireflies, but they are hard to find now because the light pollution has dimmed their courtship flashes so the males and females become lost in a haze, hoping to bump into each other and instead end up trying to mate with a headlight. 

Yet strangely enough, my family never tried to make our own boiled peanuts. We always bought ours from a roadside stand or general store on some back highway as we were going for our ritual “seriously, I know where I’m at.. I just decided to take the scenic route” drive during family vacations.  So the peanuts became the snack of travels.  Watching the world twist by as Dad somehow managed to get us from “Lost” to “Home” without us ever having to ask the Old Farmer With The Yellow Dog.  

I swear my father has every road map of the country imprinted in his brain where he can access it at a moments notice so you can tell him three landmarks you see around you and he’ll be able to tell you how to get from “WherethehellamI?” to Home safely and quickly.  Regardless of the fact that you’re 650 miles away and he hasn’t been there in 25 years. 

Now you’re probably getting bored with my reminesing and wondering when I’m going to post about the actual recipe and thinking that this post might become a novel with the level of detail.

Well, I’m sure this post is novel, but not a novel because the recipe for Boiled Peanuts is pretty much in the name.

Ingredients:

1 lb Raw or “Green” Peanuts (you can buy these dried at the grocery store or fresh at the farmer’s market.)

1/4 to 1/2 Cup salt

Water

That’s it.  Oh, and a crock pot. 

Wash your peanuts well to remove any extra dirt from them.  If you’re using dried peanuts, you’ll probably want to soak them overnight to cut down on boiling time. Then dump them, shells and all, into the crock pot, add the salt, and cover with water.  (You may have to push the peanuts down to make sure there’s enough water to cover them since they do float.)  

Pre-boiling

Then, set the crock pot on high, cover with the lid, and let them boil for 5-8 hours.. or until they’re soft.  

post boiling

You’re done! Once they’re soft to your liking, you just drain and serve!  You can keep them refrigerated for about 3 days in a covered container or you can eat them right away.  They’re good hot or cold and will probably not last you three days.. they might barely last you three hours.  Which is good when you’re on some back road in the Appalachians and you’re fairly certain you’re almost to that next town.. it should be just a few more minutes..

Yum

Enjoy!  

Pancakes.. it’s like dessert for Breakfast!

Good Morning, Sunshine!!!

Not much of a morning person? That’s okay! It’s the afternoon now! So get your lazy derriere out of bed and get your breakfast on!

Great thing about breakfast is that it can be any time after a long period without food.  That’s what the origin of the word is:  to “Break your fast”.  A fast being a long period without the intake of food. 

Pancakes are wonderful for “breaking your fast”.  They’re relatively quick, you could make the batter ahead and just pour it in the skillet the next day, or you could even make the pancakes, freeze them, and then just quickly reheat them while you’re frantically trying to run out the door!  As long as you don’t forget them in the toaster oven. 

Even better, depending on how you make your cakes, it’s like having dessert for breakfast!  Particularly some of the ones I’ve seen served at Denny’s and other diners.  

This morning I decided I wanted pancakes so I pulled out my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and flipped open to the pancake page.

Initially I was just going to go with the standard pancake recipe:

BH&G pancakes

But then I caught sight of this:

whole wheat!

Whole Wheat Pancakes?? Yes, please! 

Why am I so excited about whole wheat pancakes? That’s not like dessert at all!

Well, you’re right.  But it’s still sweet enough, plus I have a bag of whole wheat flour that really should be used up relatively soon, and it’s healthier than plain flour since it has more fiber to it.  It makes you feel fuller faster and longer, so you eat less throughout the day.  

If you’re on the Paleo or no wheat diet, you shouldn’t be reading this page anyways.  Go read about my hummus recipe or something.

So let’s line up our ingredients. 

ingredients

And begin.

First, mix in 1 Cup of 100% whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

mix 1

all mixed

Hmm.. This recipe calls for Buttermilk.  Don’t worry if this is not something you have on hand! There’s a trick you can use here.  You see, buttermilk is rather tangy, thick milk so you can make your own! (No, seriously, it’s in the cookbook and everything!)  All you require is this:

faux buttermilk

That’s right, milk and vinegar.  Put in 1 Tablespoon of vinegar for every cup of buttermilk into a glass measuring cup and then pour in enough milk to equal that cup measurement.  In this case, the recipe calls for 1 Cup buttermilk, so I add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and then enough milk to make 1 cup.  Let this sit for 5 minutes and viola! You have “Sour” milk, aka: fake buttermilk! 

To help save on dish washing later, I went ahead and added the 1 egg and 2 tablespoons cooking (canola) oil to this same glass measuring cup and whisked it together in there before adding it to the flour mixture.

liquid ingredients

added in

When you’re stirring this all together, take care not to overmix! It should be lumpy!! If you over stir, you will end up with pancake flavored gum and that leads to you doing a major jaw workout while chewing.  This is not good food.  

see? lumps

During all of this, I’ve had the cast iron skillet preheating.  So it’s almost ready.  Rub an oily paper towel over it to grease it up a bit.  Between the preheating and the oil, you should not have to worry about the pancakes sticking.  If they are, it’s probably time to reseason your cast iron. 

Pour about 1/3 cup batter onto the skillet.  Let it cook about 2 minutes per side or until bubbles are forming nicely on top and sticking around for a few seconds.  You should be able to easily slide your spatula under the pancake with out getting batter on the spatula.  

panned cake!

ready for flipping

Remember to be confident with your flipping abilities.  If you hesitate or move too slowly, you’ll just end up pushing the cake around the pan.  Or worse, folding it.  Have courage! You can do this! Deep breath! One! Two! Three!! Under and FLIP!  Yay!!! Have a sip of coffee.. I know that was a strenuous task.

Now you have to repeat those steps until all of your pancakes have come off and are stacked in a glorious golden pile of goodness! (Hurray for alliteration!)

glorious golden goodness

Oh yes, since these are whole wheat, they will appear darker than your normal pancakes.  Make sure you adjust your stove top heat accordingly.  I used low-medium low after preheating at just below medium. 

Slide your serving onto your plate (remember to share..) and top as you feel fit.  Here I used unsalted butter and real maple syrup.

Dig in!

Yum.

Remember to clean up your mess! But since this is breakfast, you don’t have to do it right away. 

Another great thing about this recipe is that it makes about 6-8 pancakes at about 125-130 calories each, so you don’t have to feel super guilty about eating them! ..Unless you ate all of them and your family is just starting to get up and are wondering where all the pancakes went. 

If you do feel guilty, then you can just do what I did:  Use them as fuel to get through a 5 mile run! 

Enjoy!

Hummus? More like Yum-mus!

Look! A recipe! I know you all were getting hungry for another one.  

Today’s recipe: Hummus.  If you’ve never had hummus then you had better have an allergy to chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans), olive oil, sesame seeds (tahini), or garlic, otherwise you have no excuse.

Or you live no where near a grocery store.  In which case, I’m very sorry.

I’ve had hummus from several sources.  Grocery stores, friend recipes, Greek restaurants, Mediterranean restaurants, other.. restaurants..

Anyways, all hummus recipes revolve around pretty much the same ingredients:  

hummus ingredients

Number 1: Garbanzo beans or Chickpeas.  These are the same thing! Please don’t stand there for 20 minutes in the grocery store trying to figure out which one you need.  If you’re pressed for time or just want to have the ingredients on hand, go with a canned variety.  Make sure you look for one that has low sodium though, because the manufacturers can really pile it in there. We’ll talk more about the sodium thing later.  If you’re going for fancy 100% homemade, look for a dried fresh variety that you can boil up on your own.  I have yet to try this, but it is on my to-do list.  Dried beans do last a veryveryvery long time, but may also require a lot of soaking and prep time before they’re ready to use. 

Number 2: Tahini.  This is a paste made of white sesame seeds and tastes a bit like an ever-so-slightly bitter peanut butter.  You can find it at most big grocery stores (e.g. Wal-mart) and it generally comes in a tin.  It will cost you $5-7 and may be the most expensive part of this whole recipe; but it will last you a very long time and, so long as it is refrigerated and closed, it doesn’t spoil easily.  My can lasted well over a year.  You’ll notice that it usually has a layer of oil on top. DON’T POUR THIS OFF!!! You want to C.A.R.E.F.U.L.L.Y. stir this into the paste.  If you get rid of it, your paste is so thick that it’s hard to work with.  An alternate to stirring is to look for a glass jar of tahini (I have found this at a local ethnic market) and heat it for about 30 seconds in the microwave (without the lid!) then close it tight and shake it, it should mix in a bit easier. Make sure it’s not too hot to handle first! 

Number 3: Olive oil.  This almost goes without saying.. you know.. since it’s a Mediterranean recipe and all.  If you find an olive oil that tastes good, go with it.  I use Wal-mart brand and have no qualms about its flavor.  BUT —> ( | ) (heh heh hem.. sorry..) If it’s been sitting in direct sunlight at all or in your pantry since the time of the mastodon, give it a sniff and taste test.  If it smells rank or rancid, toss it.  If it tastes bleh, toss it and go get a new bottle. 

That’s pretty much it.  So why do I have balsamic vinegar, garlic, and capers in the photo?  Flavor, my friend, flavor.  While you can make hummus using just chickpeas, olive oil, and tahini, it’s going to have a very bland or mild flavor; but this also makes it a great base for some really yummy combinations, so have fun!  I’ll give you a list of some different add-ins later, ‘Kay?

So, onward to preparation!! 

Dust off this baby.  If you don’t have one, find one, it makes life happy. 

food processor

Open your can of chickpeas (if you’re using canned) and drain them into a colander. Rinse them well with water.  Remember that sodium thing I mentioned earlier? This helps to reduce it down since the salt is mostly in the liquid around the beans.  Dump them into the food processor. Pulse a few times until they look like this:

blended beans

Add in the chopped garlic (if you’re using it. I recommend it.), and pulse a few more times.  I cheat and just break up the garlic a bit before dropping it in and then let the blades do the rest, but if you want to be 100% positive there are no BAM! GARLIC! areas, go ahead and mince it up before you add it in. 

Add in your tahini, about 1/4 cup. 

down the chute

Down the chute! Yes, the tahini and garlic are in there already..

With the food processor running, drizzle in about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (if you’re using) and start drizzling in the olive oil.  How much depends on how you want the hummus to look when it’s done.  The more oil, the smoother the consistence, but also the more calories.  I used about 1/2 cup oil and then added about 1/8 cup water.  You can also add in any other flavorings at this time.  I added capers for a brine-y taste.  

Other good add-ins: lemon zest and juice, pitted Greek olives, roasted red peppers, jalapenos, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, oregano, Parmesan cheese, or any other savory flavor that you like.  Amounts of each will vary depending on personal taste. 

After you’ve blended properly, it should look something like this:

h-yum-us! 

And I’m not going to lie, you could sit down with a spoon right there and start eating it, but I recommend putting it into a bowl with a lid and letting it sit overnight.  It’s better the next day.  However, I did not take this advice and went ahead and chopped up some carrot and celery sticks and sat down to a mid-morning post-workout snack!

snack time!

And dont’ forget about this..

clean up

Yeah.. Don’t forget to clean up your mess!  It’ll make your spouse/significant other/roommate/parents happy later.  And if you live by yourself, you don’t want to invite unwelcome critters into your home by leaving delicious food leftovers in the sink. 

I hope you all enjoy! 

Arise my little veggies..

Four days ago I posted about my hopes of growing minions veggies in my own home garden.  This is the third year I’m attempting this, by the way.  The past two years have shown mixed success.  My #1 success has been Jalapenos, which I think I talked about earlier.  Go read my earlier post if you want to hear more about it.

Well, my hopes are bearing fruit! Or at the very least, seedlings.  Which will hopefully bear.. vegetables.  Except for the tomatoes which should bear fruit. 

Look!

Veggies

Right there in the cups! ..What? You can’t see them? Fine, hold on..

closer

Do you see them now?? The itty bitty lettuces? I.. really? You still don’t see them?  Fine..

There

If you still can’t see them then you need to fix your computer, eyes, or both.  Or realize that the little green things are the veggies.  Yes, they come from the dirt.. no.. I’m not making this up.. I .. Fine.. be that way!

Anyways, for the rest of you who know where Veggies come from.. 

Pumpkin

The Pumpkin apparently heard me calling it a slacker and decided it was all “Oh no She dih-int!” and is now all bustin’ up in here! 

Bam! 

Sewing…

I don’t like sewing.

I’m well aware that it has its uses and I am eternally grateful for those souls who make clothing so that I may be warm and protected from sun, cold, and (above all) the sight of someone else’s naked backside.

Yes, all in all, I’m grateful for sewing. I just don’t really enjoy doing it myself. Which is rather ironic considering all of my dolls growing up rested on pillows handmade by yours truly. I have even received a Honorable Mention at a local quilting show for the one and only quilt I’ve made (at age 9).

I admired the pioneers and immersed myself in the Little House on the Prairie series and still occasionally find myself wishing for a simpler time when each day had an assignment of baking, cleaning, canning, gardening, candlemaking, etc. etc. etc.

Yes, I love being able to create things with my own hands and admire the works of others who manifest simple everyday necessities as works of trade and of art.

But heaven forbid I ever have to be responsible for the sewing. We’ll all be running around in sack dresses.

*This post brought to you by having to hem a pair of pants.