Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cooking For a New Baby

So my cousin and her husband had a baby! (Unfortunately, the baby can't eat real foods yet, but .... soon)

And since I live three hours away, unfortunately I don't have the opportunity to bring them dinner on a regular basis, to make their lives a little easier.  What I COULD do, is make them a bunch of frozen dinners, that they could then heat up whenever they wanted to, and it was almost like I brought them dinner (but on their own sleep deprived schedule, which is probably even better) 

So the baby was born, and the next weekend, I booked it up to New Jersey to make use of my Mom and Dad's kitchen, and prepare a bunch of stuff to make for them. 
All the food before I packed it up! 

I made a bunch of stuff, (obvoiusly) but I only took pictures of the process of one of them, and that's the turkey shepherd's pie. 

The first thing I did was prepare all of the ingredients: Sauteed onions, and ground turkey, and then make a gravy to go with it (a little flour and chicken broth, seasoned, with a dash of half and half at the end to make it creamy) 
First layer!

Then, I did the arduous task of opening a bag of frozen veggies. Guys, my life is hard. So hard. 
Veggies are layered in!

Then, I made my mashed potatoes- Yukon gold potatoes, put through a ricer so that they are nice and smooth, then added butter, half and half, and a good amount of salt and pepper, stirred through until it is the right consistency. 

Shepherds pies ready to go! 

Then I labelled the top of them, with the cooking instructions: 

I made some other stuff for them too: 
 Roasted Veggie Lasagna, and Cold Peanut Noodles (these were for the fridge, not the freezer)

And you can't forget the dessert! I threw a bone to the brand new dad, and made one of his favorites: Banana Pudding. These are nice because you can also freeze them! 

A hat tip to my cousin Kelly, who advised me to use containers that did not need to be washed- I went to a party store, and got these aluminum pans, and they are just perfect- after they are done with them, they can just toss them out! No worrying about extra dishes.

I hope this makes their lives a little easier- I can't imagine how exhausted they must be, with their one hour naps substituting an actual night's sleep. I also can't wait to go and hang out with that kid some more! I think I may be increasing my trips to NJ in the near future :).

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Black Currant Jam- into Jelly

So something you may not know about me is that I love the flavor of black currant.  It started on my trip to Ireland when I was ten, and has not left me since.  Every time I have a friend or relative who goes to Europe, I request that they bring me back black currant flavored things, because that flavoring is not very common over here.  I can find it occasionally, and Trader Joe's recently got a black currant juice that is pretty solid, but finding it in other things is pretty rare. 

And then, at the farmer's market this morning, there they were: tiny little black currants, calling my name. vaaaaaaaal, vaaaaaaaaaaaal! buy usssssssss! they yelled.  Anthropomorphic fruit aside, I knew what I must do. 
Buy the berries. 

And then make some Jam. 

Canning supplies!

prepping for jamming.  I used this recipe, and tweaked it a little (I added some lemon juice, because I like it tart) 

Berries on the boil

Delicious jamming action. 

It was at this point that I realized that a) I couldn't find the thermometer, and b) this jam was really, really seedy.  So I made the executive decision to strain it before I put it into the jars. This resulted way less product than I had intended, but I will guard these jars with my life. 

the top one is just a little tasting amount. 

Bring on the summer of canning! 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ten Things Monday

These are ten things that are making me right now:

1:  My new job! (numbers 2-5 will also be regarding my new job)

2: My new job's hours, which are 9-5, and allow me to have nights and weekends free; this is a luxury that I have not had in over two years, which is amazing. Also weekends! Whole, glorious weekends where OTHER people are off!  (I imagine that that this new-ness will wear off, but right now, I am enjoying the hell out of it)

3: Getting a parking spot close to my house every evening.  It's amazing what not getting home at after 10 and having to walk two or more blocks when I'm crazy tired will do.

4: Packing lunch every day, and not just relying on grabbing something at work.

5: Bocce! I'm playing in the Hampden summer league, which I could not do if I worked at my old job. (see how I did that there?)

6: The baby shower for my cousin went off amazingly well! Everyone really liked the food I made, as well as the 40 jars of jam I canned as favors.  (making jam is not easy, yo)

7: Joining a CSA this summer! Get ready for some What The Hell Do I Do With These Veggies posts.

8: I have dubbed this The Summer of Canning. Or the summer I Put It All Up. Or I put summer in a jar... I don't know. I could probably use some help coming up with a catchy title.  I'm planning on making more pickles (dilly beans, gardiniera, ect) and Jams- Blackberry, peach, and if i can get my paws on some black raspberries I will do those too. I'm planning to go picking as well, to make all the jam.

9:  Tots and Trivia on Tuesdays. Man, I love my neighborhood bar. I can't wait until it starts!

10: The summer is stretching out in front of me- filled with opportunities and possibilities.  I drive home, blast some poppy music, and am just enjoying the hell out of everything right now.

What is making you happy right now?

What is making you happy right now?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ten Things That Are Making Me Happy Right Now

1 Lizzie Bennet Diaries

So this web series is a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, and the format is Youtube Channel (Lizzie Bennet is a vlogger)  It is really smart, and fairly faithful to the books (people who are sticklers about sticking to the books might want to look away; there are some small liberties and changes made, but nothing huge)  there are 97 episodes so far, and I'm willing to bet that they'll wrap up at an even hundred. New episodes are Mondays and Thursdays, and I need someone to catch up because I love it so much and want to taaaaaaaaaaalk about it!   Some of you have to be insomniacs/have too much time on your hands/ need something to do while you're knitting, right? COME ON, IT'S AWESOME.

2  Chocolate Milk- Trader Joe's Organic Midnight Moo + Tall glass of milk = Very Happy Val

3 Pickles! I know I've already posted about the pickles I've made, but my dad and grandmom recently tried them, and they said that they were authentic to how my great grandmother made them! It seriously was the most rewarding experience I've had cooking in a while- to be able to make them for my dad and G... it was great.  Now I'm contemplating making a whole dinner from that book. 

4 The Mountain goats, specifically the songs Love Love Love and This Year. 

5 Tomorrow is the first day of spring!  I am looking forward to this winter being over. 

6 Cooking Project: Making preserved lemons. This started because of a joke, but they look really pretty chilling on my counter. 

7 Apple Cider Caramels: I made the Smitten Kitchen ones with my friend Abby, and then I went rouge and made orange caramels and covered them in chocolate. Result: pretty good. 

8 Have I talked about this hummus before? no? Go make it. It sounds fussy, but it is TOTALLY WORTH IT. Look how pretty mine is:

9  Planning Canning for the summer!  I am going to utilize the heck out of the farmer's market.  Making my own jams, more pickles, and tomato sauce- it's going to be great. 

10  My cousins are coming to visit in April!  The Rhode Island contingent is hitting Baltimore hard.  I can't wait to show them my city!

What is making you happy right now?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tilly's Pickles

I never had the chance to know my paternal great grandmother Tilly. All I have is the stories of her, the family lore. That, and the repeated stories that indicate she was a great cook.  She worked as a cook as well, in a school for many years, before the days of frozen meals and burgers and fries in school cafeterias. 

This Christmas, my grandmother gave me one of the best gifts I've ever received. It is the cookbook that was given to her, by her mother, when she got married. The publication date is 1952, and it was the cookbook that my grandmother and great grandmother cooked out of. It is so wonderful to have this piece of family history to look at, and, because I'm me- to cook from. 

The bread and butter pickles are one of the things that my great grandmother was known for, and as soon as I got the cookbook, I started plotting to make them.  

So I chose a day that I dubbed "Pickle Day", and set out to make my pickles.  I also was making Sriracha pickles, because I have had a bunch of requests from my co-workers to make more. 

Here is the cast of characters: 

And the cucumbers and onions, all sliced up:

Sidenote: I used my mandoline for the first time making these pickles, and while it is efficient and made it a whole lot faster and easier, it also took a chunk of one of my knuckles off. That thing is SHARP.  I need to get one of those metal mesh gloves. Or to use the guard it comes with.... 

 Jars getting ready to be sterilized:

The fruits of my labor! (the Sriracha pickles are here too)

There's something to using recipes from the past (although I had to update this recipe slightly, because I processed the jars instead of just hot-packing them) It makes me feel more connected to my family, and to a woman I've never known, but hope that some of her love of cooking has been passed down through me.