Monday, December 2, 2013

Eggs and Spinach


I wanted an easy dinner. Something I could make quickly. Eggs usually end up being my go-to when I don't want to take the time to prepare anything else. And this evening, I has some Gouda in the house that also needed using up.

I prepared my eggs starting with high heat and ending with low heat. I tossed strips of cheese into the eggs that were already starting to cook in the pan and that's about when I turned down the heat. I wanted the cheese to melt and get crusty. When it's cooked this way, there's a nice variation between soft, fluffy eggs and crusty, crunchy cheesy spots.

After the eggs were served on my plate, I realized I hadn't really thought through what to serve with them. I had some bread and crackers, but I was looking for something that would be healthier alternative. And then I remembered the bag of freshly picked, organic spinach in my fridge.

It was the perfect contract of hot and cold, fresh and cooked. Each bite of egg had a crisp leaf to go with it.

Dinner was served. And I decided it was definitely yummy-goodness.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Spaghetti Dogs


This was  in no way my idea. I want to make that clear from the onset. I am not this creative. I mean, I do some really cool things with food, but never this cool - not on my own.

A friend of mine posted a picture (see above*) to my Facebook wall and said something to the effect that he was surprised he hadn't already seen something this awesome from me and the Yummy-Goodness platform.

Ha! It would have never occurred to me...that's why.

And yet, I knew that my kid, who is 7 and loves to play with his food, may just fall in love with this way to eat hot dogs and spaghetti. He's taught me on more than one occasion to check before I know for sure that he's going to be on board with a new experience. And so we spent some time together checking out the picture and talking about how interesting it would be for dinner.

"Little man, we have all the things we need to make these Spaghetti Dogs. Would you like me to make them for you?"

"Oh, yes," he replied enthusiastically.

And just like that, we committed to a food adventure as a part of our dinner menu.

I was going to play it safe and just make one dog. He assured me that two would be preferable. I didn't really agree; I just decided it wouldn't be the end of the word if he didn't like them as much as he thought he was going to.

It's really as simple as the picture portrays.
Take a hot dog, chop it into pieces and stick spaghetti noddles through the wienie-bites lengthwise. Just for a reference, I got 5 pieces from one dog.

I heated a pot of water to boiling and added all 10 pieces at once. As soon as the pasta was al dente, I strained the Spaghetti Dogs and placed them in a bowl.

He inhaled them - with delight. Because he sure enough did play, but not so much as to not focus on the goal, which was to stuff his face.


I served the Spaghetti Bites with a side of ketchup, which was well received.

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*This photo was shared from the "Dude. Wait, what?!" Reborn." Facebook Page. There wasn't a photo credit, so I am not really sure who to thank for this great idea. Whoever it is, THANK YOU - from both me and my kid.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

2012 Apple Adventures: Applesauce 2 (Or Not)

Those Snarky Sweets are aptly named.

I decided to move forward with another batch of applesauce, using only the Snarky Sweets so that I could ascertain their cook-down characteristics. I feel like if you know how an apple is going to break down when the heat is applied, you'll know best how to cook with it.

And extra applesauce isn't going to go to waste around here...

I peeled and chopped roughly half my stash, which ended up yielding about 8 cups of apple flesh. Because these apples are already naturally sweet, I decided to forgo the sugar. I figured if the sauce needed some sweetening, I could handle that on an as-needed basis when the time came. Apples and water (2 cups) went into a covered stock pot on medium heat.

And, as I've done with previous batches of applesauce, I periodically stirred the pot. But on about my third visit to the pot (giggle), I noticed that these apples were acting quite differently than I was used to - even though the water was boiling and the apples were heated through, they weren't breaking down. The best I could say is that some of the pieces seemed to be breaking apart into bits, but not really turning into mush. Stirring the apples still required a hefty amount of force as they stubbornly held their constitution together.

I assumed they needed more time.
The pot went dry and the apples started sticking to the bottom.

Feeling that I could learn a thing or two about how "to stick to my guns" from these apples, I added just a little water to the pot so that I could easily stir the mixture again - mostly big pieces and some smaller pieces of Snarky Sweets covered in a light watery glaze. Oh boy.

So, no applesauce from these guys.



A Facebook connection asked if I had considered using the KitchenAid; and the answer to that is no. I didn't want to make it more of a production than it already was - and these apples...I'm telling you: they're not budging.

I updated my status:

Those Snarky Sweet apples are stubborn.
They refuse to be made into sauce.
Hurumph.

And my dear friend responded:

Lol, they sound a little like you.

Hmmm....

The Story of the Snarky Sweets


The tree bearing these apples, the ones I've dubbed "The Snarky Sweets," can be found on the side of a road on the top of the mountain, flourishing in the space between the pavement edge and the cattle fence.

Apples littered the ground around the tree, on both sides of the fence. I approached it with care, walking tentatively among the overgrown blades of monkey grass. Most of the apples still on the tree were too high for me to reach, but there were so many apples available for pick up on the ground, so I focused my attention on the treasures available in the dirt.

It was like searching for Easter eggs, little golden-green treasures hidden among the thick, dark green tufts of vegetation. The monkey grass hid piles and piles of apples - most of which were only slightly bruised from the fall, and so were perfect picks for adding to my take-home bag.

While searching, fruit was fresh-falling from the tree...on the other side of the fence.

"I would really appreciate it if you let your fruit fall on this side of the fence, please," I told the tree. "I'm already over here trying to harvest your lovely treasures and put them to good use in my kitchen. The least you could do is make sure that the fresh-fallen fruits land in my area."
 
I thought it was a perfectly reasonable request.

Seconds after my petition, more fruit fell...on the other side of the fence, more than once.

Clearly, this tree has a dry sense of humor.

Its fruit, though, is tender and subtly sweet.
Imagine if a Golden Delicious could whisper in your ear; or if it could blow you a kiss - that's how I can best explain it. The skin is fairly thin and easy to peel.

At this point, I haven't yet cooked or baked with these apples, but I have sliced a few of them - just as I would a "regular" apple - and served them to my fruit-hungry 7 year old.

Stay tuned for more adventures with The Snarky Sweets...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

2012 Apple Adventures: The Line Up

Over Labor Day weekend, I had the distinct pleasure to revisit one of my favorite areas in Virginia. My friend’s family owns some property near the Blue Ridge Parkway and they have an apple tree that was planted by one of the great-grandfathers thriving in the front yard of their mountain cabin. Last August, I experienced the joy of harvesting apples for the first time, which included adventures in cooking and baking with apples. 

This year, I had the delight to revisit the same apple tree for its annual offering of crisp, tart apples – that, in my opinion, are perfect for creating applesauce and apple pies. In addition, I had the opportunity to pick apples from two other areas in the same neighborhood. So I have 3 distinct apple types to adventure with this coming month – and I couldn’t be more excited!



And here’s this year’s line up: all apples, and each one very different.

Apple 1 (Left): Snarky Sweets

Apple 2 (Middle): Wilson Apples

Apple 3 (Right): Teary-Tart Leathers


Note: None of these apples have been officially identified, so I’m giving each of them a nickname. Samples have been submitted to an area Cider Maker, who has in turn submitted the apples to be reviewed by an Apple Expert. This is a pretty big deal. Diane of Foggy Ridge Cider is an Apple Guru and even specializes in a plethora of “uncommon” apple species, which means that she knows all kinds of apples that the normal person wouldn’t recognize. I’d like to say the fact that she sent them higher up the Apple Chain means that these particular apples could be really special and maybe a rare type – but the truth is that all apples, whether they’re common or rare are pretty special gifts from nature. With that in mind, I anticipate what the Apple Expert will say – and I am more thankful than I can say for both of these Apple Lovers to take the time to be a part of my adventure.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

2012 Apple Adventures - Day 1

Over Labor Day weekend, I had the distinct pleasure to revisit one of my favorite areas in Virginia. My friend's family owns some property near the Blue Ridge Parkway and they have an apple tree that was planted by one of the great-grandfathers thriving in the front yard of their mountain cabin. Last August, I experienced the joy of harvesting apples for the first time, which included adventures in cooking and baking with apples. 

This year, I had the delight to revisit the same apple tree for its annual offering of crisp, tart apples - that, in my opinion, are perfect for creating applesauce and apple pies. In addition, I had the opportunity to pick apples from two other areas in the same neighborhood. So I have 3 distinct apple types to adventure with this coming month - and I couldn't be more excited!
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My first day in the kitchen with this year's harvest, I decided to pursue the tried-and-true option from the get-go. I have an antsy 7 year old encouraging me to make as many apple delicacies as quickly as possible - and I needed to placate him with an offering before I started exploring outright.

And so, I decided to focus on making applesauce with the apples I was already familiar with - fairly easy with predictable results.

The apples from my friend's great-grandfather's tree were separated from the rest. I peeled and chopped apples until I had about 10 cups of apple flesh. I added the apples, 2 cups of water and 1 cup of white sugar to a stock pot, covered it and let it cook down over medium heat.

I was aiming to get a thick sauce and succeeded - although, I would remind you that thick sauce can bubble and splatter before you even realize it. My admonishment comes with a sincere spirit as my right wrist showcases a new burn mark in the shape of plop-splattered applesauce. Be careful. There's no rush to cook down the apples, so err on the side of caution and use a lower heat, if you're concerned. Make sure to use the pot cover as a shield and stir the mixture well.

These particular apples* break down really well, so there's little mashing required.
They produce a sauce that's rich and flavorful - like a fine red wine.

Once the majority of the apples were mush, I turned off the heat and periodically stirred the sauce. After about an hour, I decided I couldn't wait any longer for it to cool down. I ladled a generous portion into a bowl and added a handful of Blueberry Granola.

I declare Day 1 of 2012 Apple Adventures a complete success.

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*Apple type is unknown. A sample has been sent to an Apple Expert for identification.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Halloween Candy in September


I saw it in the bulk isle at The Bread Basket and picked it up without thinking twice, a bag of "Autumn Mix." In this case, "Autumn Mix" refers to regular and caramel candy corn kernels and pumpkin-shaped candy. My kid loves regular candy corn - and I really wanted to try to darker kernels, the caramel flavored ones. I figured this bag o' delights was plenty of candy to suit both of our "sweet tooth" needs.

I was gone on a weekend away with my boyfriend and was adding to the "goodies" I could bring home. I left my 7 year old at home with his dad and I knew I had some making up to do. When he found out that I was headed to the mountains to pick apples without him, he was upset.

I don't blame him.

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I made sure to return home in time for our bedtime ritual. But I was just in time - and so didn't get the chance to unload all the goodies. Instead, I talked about all the fun items we would be able to indulge in during the next day - it was the mac-daddy of bedtime stories, if I do say so myself.

"Guess what else I got," my voice was giddy with the thought of unveiling yet another surprise.

"What," he asked dutifully.

"I bought some candy corn for us to share. What do you think of that?"

"Um, candy corn is Halloween candy," he responded as if trying to educate me on one of the most obvious facts of life.

I chuckled, "Okay. Well, I guess I will just have to eat it all myself."

"Oh, no. I can eat it in September as well," he assured me.

I gave him a big hug and said, "I am sure that you can. I am sure that it will taste even better because we get it eat it a whole month before Halloween."

He grinned at me - and I knew I was forgiven for leaving him for my weekend get-a-way.