Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: Cooking (Page 2 of 3)


Despite the less-than-bumper crop of tomatoes this year, and despite the fact it wasn’t blazing hot, we sure got a lot of jalapenos harvested. James made pepper jelly, and then we didn’t pick for a while – so the next harvest was filled with large, thick-walled jalapenos, and I decided to make them into jalapeno poppers, one of my favorite appetizers ever.

Man, that was an undertaking. Probably because I made over 100 of them, and I spread the steps out over a few days.

First, I thought I didn’t need gloves, because I was only coring them out. WRONG-O. I cored them and then stuffed them with cream cheese, and then put them back in the fridge. The next day, I followed a recipe that had me dunk them in milk, then in flour, then back in milk, then in bread crumbs, and I was supposed to do each type of dredging a couple of times. Perhaps if one were making, say, 12, that wouldn’t seem like a giant pain in the ass. I did get them all coated, and then I layered them on a cookie sheet, with wax paper dividers, and froze them. Eventually they got bagged in food saver bags of 12, and I must say, they’re really good. Worth all the effort. Here’s a pic of them all ready to be bagged up:


The other appetizer you can make (courtesy of my pal Bekah) is cut a slit & remove the seeds, or cut them in half (still remove the seeds), stuff with cream cheese, and wrap with bacon. I used about a third of a bacon slice per jalapeno, and the second time I made them, I didn’t even mess with toothpicks. Place them on a cookie sheet (I put down tin foil, since I prefer lazy-easy clean-up), bake in a 375′ oven until the bacon is crisp, and yuuuummmmeh time awaits. I mean, bacon and cream cheese make everything better in general, why not combine them? And you’re still getting some vegetable… lol.

Last, but not least, a really awesome addition to a crudite platter is to halve jalapenos, and stuff them with crunchy peanut butter (or you could use cream cheese) – a fantastic upgrade to celery. And there’s always the fun Russian Roulette of if you’re going to get that jalapeno that’s blazing hot! But the peanut butter helps minimize the burn fairly quickly, and most everyone I know loves ’em. So, if you’re still harvesting peppers, these are some good ways to use them now, and save some for later, when it’s actually cold outside and you want a little summer heat flavor.

It’s The Great Pumpkin Conspiracy, That’s What.

I clipped an article out of the Star a week or so ago, for a Gooey Butter Cake recipe that uses pumpkin, ala Paula Deen. Seriously, anything Paula Deen does has to be good because it’s gonna involve a half-ton of sugar, at least a stick of butter, and usually the advice to top it all off with a big ol’ spoonful of whipped cream. So no big challenge there, all the ingredients are very normal, ordinary things.

Being unemployed means I get to go to the grocery store when all the old people are shopping. It’s rather nice. I went to Price Chopper on Monday, and in the baking aisle, where all the canned pumpkin should be? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing. Like there’d been a giant recall or a giant rush on the canned pumpkin. OK, I still had some time before I needed to make this. So today, after hanging & commiserating with Pensive Girl, I went to Aldi’s. (Aldi’s! Yes! My first time ever! Being frugal can really be an adventure. More on that later. I will say I researched it online so I wouldn’t look too new or stupid.) No pumpkin. They did have cranberry sauce, though. Ok. So, no biggie, Aldi’s doesn’t have everything, I’ll just swing into the ghetto Price Chopper on my way home.  (Sing it in your Cartman voice, “In the gheetttooooo”…) SAME THING. Completely empty shelf. What?! The?! Fuck!? Is everyone in the mood for pie, suddenly?

I decide, ok, Ward Parkway Target. I know, it’s not a full-service grocery store, but they’ve expanded…. maybe they’ll have it. Nope. They did have some evaporated milk with a photo of a SLICE of pumpkin pie on it, which fooled me for two seconds, and then I was angry at the can label for having suckered me in. Turns out the gorgeous Rashan, who tried to help me, and also had a canned pumpkin need (he was making cheesecake), had fallen for the same duplicitous photo on the milk can. And he also determined that no, there was no pumpkin to be had. They’ll have it later, as a seasonal item.

So I don’t know what the dealy-bob is with the run on canned pumpkin in the regular grocery store – I can’t imagine that many people raced to the store after seeing that recipe – but I may have to try Hy-Vee or -eek- WalMart if we’re going to have this cake before November. Because I am not going to buy a pumpkin and cook it, just to be able to make a recipe that involves using a box cake mix. If you see canned pumpkin out there, lemme know!

Squash for Breakfast?

Yes, it’s possible. And, actually, delicious!

We’re in high harvesting mode with the garden, and while we can always freeze or can the tomatoes, coming up with a new way to eat zucchini or yellow squash can get a bit challenging. A few weeks ago, I remembered one of my favorite breakfast joints in Minneapolis, and how they specialized in egg scrambles loaded with non-traditional breakfast things – namely, vegetables. So I gave it a whirl, and darned if it isn’t just as tasty as I remembered it to be – and now I’ve created my own version, with summer squash!

I’ll admit up front, measurements and precision aren’t my thing when making dishes like this, especially because I think you can be flexible and include what you want. This isn’t a chemistry-based dish, where you need the right amount of leavening agent or a proper ratio with your flour. Experiment yourself! And you can get your veggies in before noon….

Very Veggie Scramble

1 onion, diced

1T vegetable oil

About 3 cups sliced vegetables (I used one small yellow squash and one small zucchini, a few jalapenos and a bag of frozen broccoli. Fresh broccoli is even better. Cauliflower would be delicious, too. Mushrooms. Peppers. You get my drift!)

1 fresh tomato, diced

4-5 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup cheese

salt, pepper to taste

Saute the onion until it’s softened, then add your veggies to the skillet. You want to cook the veggies to a stir-fry consistency, so there’s still some structure and bite in them, not mushy. Right as the veggies are nearing that stage, pour your beaten eggs over the whole thing, and gently stir and turn in the pan, cooking the eggs. Once the eggs are done, I added the tomato and then the cheese. I basically wanted the tomato to get to the same temperature as the dish, but without any further cooking, since it was the softest veggie in the mix. Season to taste – and devour! It reheats well in the microwave, so save your leftovers. You could extend this even further (and add a starch) if you folded in prepared hash browns right before the cheese-melting stage.

Veggie Scramble - finished

If your tomato crop is running over, hubs has a great bruschetta recipe on his tomato blog.  It’s a wonderfully tasty summer appetizer – we made this into dinner one night, it was so good. We used fresh mozzarella, which is definitely more traditional, but if you like goat cheese, I can’t recommend going that route enough. The tangy goat cheese definitely takes it to a whole new level!

Did you know you can’t buy the green sauce in a 12 oz bottle, like the one  you might use at Chipotle? This made me irritated. I do not like things that I love available only to the food service industry.  So, like much of my life, I found what we call a “work-around”:

Say hello to my not-so-little friend!

Mmmm. That’s a whole gallon of green Tabasco.  Screw you, tiny-5-ounce-bottle-available-at-Price-Chopper.

Also, for those who like to do cost analysis? It would require purchasing 25 5-oz bottles to come close in volume…. let me illustrate, starting with a gallon=128 ozs,  god why do we not use the metric system?

$3.99 (small bottle cost on website) divided by 5 = Cost per ounce = $0.798

128 times $0.798 = $102.14

My cost to ship a gallon was just under $50.

You can get yours straight from the source, too.  It’s all I can do not to drink it by the shot.

Hacking Starbucks

A couple weeks ago, I found myself at a Starbucks, around 8 o’clock in the evening, and as much as I love my lattes, that’s just too late for me to consume caffeine. (Yes, I know, I can get decaf, but where’s the fun in that? Plus, I wanted to try something new.)

So I ordered the Berry Chai Infusion.

Oh. Mah. God. Tart but sweet, spicy and smooth. Love at first sip.

I decided I had to figure out a way to recreate this at home. My first attempt was so-so, but my second attempt is pretty darned good. And a lot fewer calories, to boot! I’m slurping one right now, and it’s de-lish.

You can make your own, too! I’m not much on exacting specifics, but here’s what I did:

8-10 cups hot water

3 Tazo Black Chai tea bags

3 Celestial Seasonings Wild Berry Zinger tea bags

8 single-serve packets of Splenda

Pomegranate-Black Currant Juice (We had some Old Orchard juice I’d scored on clearance at Target, seemingly because they’re not making it anymore. Their Healthy Balance line looks like they’ve got some great blends that would work just as well. You want something with a tart base, and a blended juice tempers one flavor from dominating. And, bonus, 1/3 the calories! I’ll probably try the Pom-Blueberry-Acai next.)

Place the tea bags in a teapot, cover with hot water. Add the Splenda packets (or wait & do this after you taste-test), and allow to steep. When the tea is sufficiently strong, pour about 1/3-cup to 1/2-cup of juice into your mug, fill to the top with tea, and then microwave 30-60 seconds so the whole drink is piping hot.

Bravo Tazo, baby! You just hacked in. Let me know how yours goes! I think you could try all kinds of variations, with the constant being the black chai, and a tart juice.

Meet The New Year….

….Same As The Old Year….to paraphrase The Who, singing about something we ALL wish for ourselves, not to be fooled (again).

I rang in the new year by calming down three extremely pissed-off, barking black labs, who were certain we were under siege from The Enemy, as fireworks and god-knows-what-else exploded near and far from our house. I also was tending to the largest batch of crack Chex Mix I’ve ever made. Actually, the only batch I’ve ever made, but since the Wo was eating it for breakfast this morning when I stumbled out, and immediately asked me what in the hell I put in it to make it so full of WIN, I can only say, hey, I rocked in the New Year’s Chex Mix, baby. (The “secret”? Uh, half-again as much Worcestershire sauce as the traditional recipe calls for. We love us the nummeh brown winegar sauce.)

I followed up that winning first act with a breakfast of homemade Prune Cake from the Pioneer Woman, and do not let the name fool you. You will get on your knees and pray you’ll get another piece after you try the first one.  I served it with a tall glass o’ milk, and a shot of Reddi-whip on the side. Startin’ the New Year off RIGHT!

Then I threw together a batch of slow-cooker black-eyed peas, and that recipe lied to me about using dried beans. I thought I was in good shape, but 13 hours later, those suckers still have some crunch to ’em, so that’s going to be dinner tomorrow. Fortunately, we weren’t particularly hungry, because we got together with the Wo’s immediate family & ate at Ted’s Montana Grill. Deeeelish.  My brother-in-law got the Kitchen Sink Bison Burger, and good lord, that was the craziest damn sammich I’ve ever seen. It had ..well, yeah, everything on it, including a slice of ham and a fried egg! He loved it.

Before the Wo crashed last night, we spent some time playing our newest Wii game, Lego Indiana Jones and the something or other. Oh mah god, it’s pretty damned fun for a two-person game. We have to work co-operatively, though initial observations showed we were utterly incapable of it, as he would whip me into pieces, and I, once rebuilt, would attack him with my shovel. I noticed, playing the role of sidekick, that I got stuck with a lot more grunt work. Mostly because I had the shovel. Which is quite effective on enormous spiders, too. Anyway, we laughed our heads off, which was the goal.

End the year laughing, begin the next one with Chex Mix and Prune Cake.

We rock.

Happy New Year. Actually, I’m pretty sure this one will be a lot better than the last one.

Pardon My Twang….

…But I keep hearing an old-timey version of a Ralph Stanley song running through my head, specifically the refrain, “The darkest hour is just before dawn”.

Now, those who know me, and even those who don’t, yet come here for all the sparkling Grief Blogging might worry that I’m in a depression. Fear not. Well, I am, a little, but really, anyone over the age of 14 is bound to get the blues this time of year, what with all the manufactured joy and pre-packaged expectations that come with “The Holidays”. Nope. I’m in the darkest hour because I am cleaning and reorganizing all the kitchen accoutrements. Holy shitballs, Mabel, this is a Task and A Half! And basically, with most un-cluttering and organizational projects, you have to explode the whole thing before you can put it in order. Right now, Houston, we have esplosions.

This morning, I moseyed down to Index, a restaurant supply store in the River Market, and boy, it’s easy to drop your whole wallet there. It gets hypnotizing, as you walk around looking at all these…things… you start to think, “Well of COURSE I could use a dozen of those little stainless cups they serve ketchup in at McCoy’s,” and you catch yourself mentally visualizing and measuring your oven, just in case this enormous cookie sheet could fit in it. And of course you’d need the matching Silpat. I caught myself eyeballing a sugar pourer. It was only $1.50. I was certain that would be useful. I could throw the old one away. Update the sugar pouring aspect of my life.  You wouldn’t believe the siren songs I hear in my head in that store.  Anyhoo, I did NOT buy anything off my list, my goal was to get some large foodservice-grade containers to put baking supplies in (flour, sugar) and then at least one more big one for rice. This is the downside of the CostCo shopping – enormous bags of flour and rice, and where in the hell do you put them? Shove ’em in the back room off the kitchen, that’s where. Alongside last winter’s birdseed, which, upon unearthing, I later caught Tripper EATING. He is such a motherfucking black lab it makes me crazy. Birdseed. To him, it must have been some gourmet trail mix. (That is going out to the greenhouse. I did not buy a tub for it.)

So now my fantastic birthday-present-to-myself from this summer, the KitchenAid 6, sits on top of a chrome cart, and stacked in glorious organization under it are the flour, sugar, powdered sugar and on the bottom shelf, rice. I will be able to just pull the cart in to the main kitchen area & use the mixer on the cart, instead of having to lift and move the beast onto the countertop (because it’s so tall, it blocks the cabinet doors. Yep.)  And this one beacon of organization and containment is in the middle of the dining room, and its strangeness is making Suzy crazy, so she’s been lying here GROWLING at it the whole time I’ve been typing. Dogs. Thank god they can’t drive, they’d lose their minds.

OH, but see, there’s more. There’s a huge big ol’ reason all of this is happening, besides the fact I’m on vacation, and alternating between lolling about & knitting and being productive. I got a really kickass Christmas present. Two, in fact. One from my MIL (Momma Linda) and one from my husband. We draw names in his family, and she got mine. And she has heard me bitch and pick fights with said husband over …wait for it…. a french fry cutter. He has refused to buy it for me because it is…impractical. A unitasker. No. I am not married to Alton Brown, but sometimes it sounds that way! I wanted one because the cheapy one I  had broke, and I wanted a solid, restaurant-quality, never-gonna-break sort of french fry cutter. DO NOT ASK ME how many times a year I make french fries. Because that is not the point. Here was something I genuinely wanted. For years. It started to take on a lifeblood all its own.  James would complain about how hard I am to buy for, and I would always look at him and say, “French fry cutter.” Yet he refused to get it. (There were arguments made about our walls and the fact it has to be mounted to one, blah blah blah DETAILS, people. Trivial details.) So, since my MIL and I are not unlike each other, she went and ordered me the mac-daddy french-fry cutter to beat the band. Doesn’t have to be mounted on a wall, either. And when she informed my husband of this gift, he knew his goose was cooked. Or tater was sizzlin’, whichever metaphor you prefer. Because in the past – and as recently as last week – others had offered to pool resources, to go around him, to buy it for me. I refused. I purposefully never told my father, because he would have had it shipped express the next day to make a point.  This was my lynchpin. My sand in his Vaseline.  So the Wo knew he had to do something. And he ordered a twin deep-fat fryer from CostCo. Yes. That clanging noise was everyone’s arteries slamming the doors on crazy. CRAZY. But he had to get with the program or have it forever held against him, and it has made me laugh repeatedly since Christmas day, because it’s partly an O’Henry short story, partly a clash of personalities and priorities, and through it all, completely filled with love.

Anyway, now, all this stuff has to go somewhere, and some things need to be removed, since they are ever-so-rarely used. And I’m taking FULL advantage of the no-limit-on-trash-bags opportunity this week, going a little crazy with the tossing, but it feels good.  With the bonus that now I can have my very own State Fair in the kitchen anytime I want.


The sun is slowly sinkin’
The day’s almost gone
Still darkness falls around us
And we must journey on
The darkest hour is just before dawn
The narrow way leads home
Lay down your soul at jesus’ feet
The darkest hour is just before dawn

Like a shepherd out on the mountain
A-watchin’ the sheep down below
He’s coming back to claim us
Will you be ready to go
The darkest hour is just before dawn

The narrow way leads home
Lay down your soul
Let jesus in
The darkest hour is just before dawn
The darkest hour is just before dawn

For everyone who found their heart aching over the holidays, just remember…. you are not alone.

Is a Knitting Hangover a YarnOver?

Wowza, what a weekend!

Saturday was the Sunflower Knitting Guild’s Kansas yarn crawl. Laura volunteered to drive us, and Carmen, Jen & I gallivanted together. Carmen is the (self-proclaimed) Ghetto GPS, and at some point, I had to point out she didn’t have an “off” button. She retorted it done broke off and you gotta get the pliers out if you wanna change it! Well served comeback, my friend. There was a lot of laughing, needless to say, in between our shopping.

We went to Knit Wit, where I bought two skeins of beyootiful laceweight yarn. (You get so much yarn for the moneh, oo oo, oo ooo) It’s in BlueBlood Red.
Lacey Lamb

Then we went to the Needle Nest, and I didn’t find any yarn there that had to come home with me. I picked up a couple of Amy Butler patterns, and admired some fabric, but it was getting pretty crowded inside, I was starting to overheat and it seemed like a good idea to get outside and out of the way. Laura took this pic of us under the vine-covered arbor in front of the shop:

(Nobody was outside with us, so we couldn’t get a foursome shot. And my picture? Did not turn out. My little Kodak gets fussy if you don’t let it whir and think for at least 15 seconds after you take a picture. Grrrr. But, at least the Canon behaves & all the rest of the pics were taken with that.)

Back to the narration! After Louisburg, we zipped off to Lawrence, and were 45 minutes early for our visit to Tracy Bunker’s studio, so we trekked over to the DQ, and had us a snack. I love the DQ. We arrived back at her studio at the same time everyone else on the crawl got there, so we all descended at once. I bought some Rayon Ruffles in Dragonfly – the colors are atypical for me, and it was really reasonably priced. The only downside is that I noticed her sweet dog Ruby had a bunch of little black bugs on her tummy, so I’m quarantining the yarn until I’m sure I didn’t bring home anything unwanted visitors for our dogs. (We use Advantix on them, but still. It’s a battle I don’t need!)

Rayon Ruffles

The last stop was the Lawrence mecca, The Yarn Barn. I wasn’t going to get anything, actually, until I saw a shop sample of a cute cotton tote bag. They didn’t have the pattern, but I got some cotton yarn, and it’s a crochet pattern, so I figure, why not, I can single stitch crochet like a mad woman, maybe I could crank something out super fast?! Who knows. It looked like a relatively simple shell stitch, and it’s for their learn-to-crochet class. Famous last words, I know – but it shouldn’t be :that: hard?

Saucy Cotton

We went back to our carpool meet-up spot, and then Carmen and I went on to Joann’s, because I had to get more candy melts for the next day’s activity! Yup. We had a Ravelry meet-up at The Studio, Sunday afternoon. And because cupcakes are practically the official dessert of Ravelry, we had a cupcake contest. Boy, did we get a lot of cupcakes! It was awesome! Mine were simple – white cake, chocolate frosting, edible glitter, and then the toppers were the Studio’s daisy, made out of colored candy. I was inspired!

Daisy close-up

Studio Logo Daisy on Cupcakes

Then, since I was on a roll with the candy-making, I made dipped and molded pretzels as well. (Those did not go to the event. The Wo loves ’em.)
Pretzels in chocolate

We had a GREAT turnout, with around 45 knitters & crocheters & spinners showing up!

It was a sunny day, and everyone pretty much clung to the shade.

Ravelry Meet Up at The Studio
Everyone Clings to Shade

There were all sorts of cupcakes:
Cindy, Laura & Angela

My cupcakes won for Manager’s Choice, and I got a fabulous “Ripped” shot glass. I also won a Studio goody sack, and then my name got drawn AGAIN, but they picked another person, because seriously, it would have looked rigged at that point. (It wasn’t! I swear!)

The best part about yesterday is this:

Successful Food Drive for Harvesters

We got an entire table full of food donations for Harvesters. Knitters are good, generous folks! And they can bake like fiends, too….

Now I need a weekend, to recover from my weekend. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a posthumous shout-out to George Carlin. He was just here a minute ago! Man, what a funny, funny dude. He will be missed, and I can only aspire to swear as much as he did.

Lotsa Pics!

OK, first off, I’m going to show you the cake I made last weekend for Momma Linda’s birthday:
Gnome Guards the Cake

It’s a Peach Upside-Down Cake, from AllRecipes (I love that site). The cake is from scratch and it’s deeee-licious!

Momma Linda's B'day Cake

I love to garnish.

Now, here’s how Tripper looks when I’m giving all the dogs some treats. I realize it’s blurry, but you get the tractor-beam stare, nonetheless.
Tripper Wants A Treat

We give them treats in order of pack status, so we say their names, and then toss them whatever they’re getting. (It goes, “Suzy!”, “Polly!” “Tripper!”) What’s funny is that the other two dogs sit and remain utterly fixated, watching your hand. Tripper, however, does this in-place bouncing, keeping his back legs grounded, but lifting his front paws off the floor in this sort of horse-rearing-back motion. He does it quite enthusiastically (to each dog’s name), and it usually results in his ears flopping completely inside-out, but he continues to perk them up. And it makes me laugh, and laugh, and laugh! I had to stage these ear pics, but you get the idea.

Ear Flippage
I like that his lips look a little caught, too. Doofus.
Lady, This Is Embarassing.
OK OK, you’ve had your fun….. now knock it off, Lady.

Last, but not least…
Grammar Update!

So, it really is good to know someone. And I used to work with the guy who’s now a designer at one Ace Hardware’s agencies. I didn’t want him to get thrown under the bus, in case it was his work, so I sent him the photo of the egregious shelf-talker. Turns out it was done corporately – and nationwide. And he reassured me that they’d have to reprint them all. (He’s on a one-man mission to eliminate bad letter kerning. He understands.) And, the Wendy’s boards have been fixed! To say I had a triumphant week in the war on bad grammar and spelling would be an understatement. Never underestimate your own power to change the world!!!

Popeye Better Stay Off Our Street for A While….

…James pulled all the spinach last week & cleaned it, giving us about 4 gallon bags of fresh, home-grown spinach. So delish. We were having MommaLinda over for dinner on Saturday night, and he asked if I’d make homemade pasta.

I didn’t get any pics of the fettucine drying, but man, it’s pretty stuff. The spinach adds so much – flavor, color, and homemade pasta is -to borrow from original Iron Chef- like butterflies on your tongue. So light!
Steaming  Homemade Spinach Noodles
I made a very simple sauce – not even that saucy, per se, but it contained sauteed onions, rough-chopped garlic, italian sausage, baby portobella mushrooms and more spinach. I added some of the pasta water to the pan to give it a little more sauciness; other than that, it stood on its own.
Sausage, Spinach, Mushroom, Onion, Garlic saute
Topped with fresh parmesan, it made for a lovely, rustic dish, replete with fresh garden goodness.
Giant Dish of Pasta

Then, last night, I tried another recipe, involving spinach and ricotta and sauteed onions & garlic – and it completely sucked! Ah well. Can’t win ’em all, I guess. I’m able to salvage the mixture to repurpose into lasagne at some point, so at least it wasn’t a complete bomb. In any event, we are Vitamin-K,-A, and iron-rich after this past weekend!

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