Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Thifty Tip #4: Freezing

Did you know that you can freeze hot peppers and chives? You can then use them (still frozen!) the same way you would use fresh. Of course, chives and chiles are not the most expensive ingredients out there, but I find that it is hard to find chives in the winter and some times our local stores doesn't get the more exotic varieties of chile peppers, so when we see them, we stock up and freeze any extras. I generally chop both chives and chile peppers before freezing but if you remove the stems, hot peppers can be froze whole.

Freezing also a good way to keep harder to find or seasonal ingredients (like garlic chives, scotch bonnet peppers, berries or even pomegranate seeds) on hand. There is nothing worse than needing a particular ingredient or chile and then not being able to find it at the store when you go to buy it. Most fresh herbs can be frozen, which is a good way to preserve a large harvest if you grow your own. Some herbs become less than attractive when they thaw, but they still would work in a recipe and generally have a better flavor than dried. I even freeze my own corn (with its juices) when it is in season and while not as wonderful as fresh, it is nearly as good and lasts until the next corn season.

Here is an excellent website that gives instructions on how to freeze dozens of foods including things I have never heard of like mayhaw juice.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Charmed, I'm sure

Charm bracelets are ripe for a comeback. They are kitschy, noisy and fun. I spotted this tiny waffle iron that opens up to reveal the press, it would be perfect on a jangly charm bracelet.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

In My Kitchen: Bialetti Cookware

Someone emailed me wondering what sort of pots and pans I use. I have a fair amount of Le Creuset (teapot, lobster pot, grill pan, stockpot) and Calphalon (various saucepans, everyday pan) but I honestly use the pieces from this Bialetti set (in blue and not pink, sadly) that my mom bought me years ago rather frequently and the whole lot of them is only a little more than that Le Crueset teapot. They are nonstick (I know some people are anti-nonstick, but I am not too concerned), oven safe to 350 degrees and have held up to several years of heavy use and abuse with out peeling or having to be replaced.

Friday, February 23, 2007

5 Facts About Me

Me, age 6.

So, I was tagged by one of my favorite bloggers, Ximena, to tell 5 things about me. I think you already know the basics: I live in Baltimore, MD (but did you know I have never lived anywhere else and don't plan to?), I am 27 (08.19.79!), I have a husband of almost 2 years, Matt (born 05.29.72, married 03.25.05), two dogs, Violet (a 4 year old black whippet) and Elvis (14 year old pug) and a house (built 1934) with a big yard and I enjoy cooking.

But did you know....

1. I read nearly a book a day, some times more. I am a super fast reader and read all the time. Even when I am brushing my teeth or waiting for something to download on the computer. I can't stand downtime. I carry a book with me every where in case I have to wait some where. I find it puzzling when people say they don't have time to read, I read very quickly but really, there is always time to read if you really want to even if it is just for a few minutes. Even when I was finishing up my Master's and working full time I kept up the pace. I spend time watching TV (although I admit I occasionally read during commerical breaks, especially if I am alone) and watch an average of 6 movies a week (we have two 3-at-a-time Netflix accounts) so it is not like I have given up all other forms of media. I can't help it. I get fidgety when I can't read. If I am stuck without a book, I will read a toothpaste tube rather than not read anything. My favorite types of books to read: memoirs (of famous/infamous/ordinary people/adoption/addicts/feminists), books about interesting disorders (OCD, autism, bipolar etc.), food writing, travelogues, loads of nongenre novels, the occasional mystery or young adult novel, some true crime, social histories, cryptology and design. I don't like: sports writing, science fiction, fantasy, anything with fairies (or even less, with faeries).

2. I love getting mail. When we bought our house, one of the things I was most excited about was that we were allowed to have a private mailbox in front of our house (in most of Baltimore City, houses have those wall mounted type mailboxes that you can't fit packages in or mail things out of) where I could put mail out and leave the flag up so I know when the mailman has been there (he puts the flag down) and not have to go to the post office or even the corner to mail something out. Plus we have an enclosed porch and a driveway where they can leave packages which makes things even easier. I do swaps, get magazines, send away for free samples, subscribe to Netflix, recently joined Film Movement and order things online in order to have a high chance of getting at least one piece of "good" mail each day.

3. I am very, very nearsighted and have worn gas permeable ("hard") contacts since I was 12. I really can't see clearly past my nose. The best part of getting contacts was being able to wear regular sunglasses, which I do everywhere, even in winter because I hate squinting and want to avoid eye wrinkles.

4. I have a good memory. I remember most of what I have read, even from elementary school. I know an inordinate amount of trivia and do very well in those sorts of games and in any sort of historical/trivia/arcane knowledge dispute. I also have a pretty good visual memory-if I want to go back a reread a passage in a book, I can picture where those particular words are on the page and how far in the book they were; I can picture where just about any object in the house is at any time, even the locations of spices in the cabinet; I can find my way around other cities even if I have only been there once (even if I was a child at the time) by remembering the locations of buildings.

5. As a small child I was so obsessed with ketchup that my mother had to buy a pump bottle to decant it into (this was before plastic squeeze bottles) so I could serve myself. Then suddenly I couldn't stand it anymore (I think it was the dried crust that did me in, for a while I could only eat it from packets) and now even the smell makes me sick to my stomach. We have to remove it from tables when we eat out.

So, there you go. I hope I haven't horrified you with my quirks, but I tried to pick things that you probably wouldn't be able to guess just from the blogs. I assure you, I am also exceedingly delightful and entertaining.

I tag: Kristen, Andrea Lynn and Laura Rebecca.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Temples and Murcotts?

So, the other day I was perusing a 1963 copy of Life Magazine about the Kennedys and came across something interesting. I always pay careful attention to ads in old magazines because they are a good glimpse into what people aspired to and lived like during that time. Anyway, I came across a sort of striking 2 full page ad by the Florida Citrus Growers group. It first caught my attention because it was advertising citrus as just coming into season around the winter holidays. I thought it was interesting that they were advertising seasonal fruit and it seemed like maybe most citrus (or at least tasty citrus) wasn't available year round in some areas. It all seemed normal until I started reading it closer. It mentioned grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, tangelos and then suddenly...."easy-to-peel, sweet and scrumptiously juicy temples and murcotts.".

Temples and murcotts? What the hell are they? I have never seen a temple or a murcott my whole life, but some how in 1963, the whole world was waiting until January when it was temple and murcott season. Some quick research tells me that they are varieties of oranges, which makes sense, but they must have been pretty popular that they could be called by name without an explanation.

Maybe the next wave of "heirloom" fruit will be citrus. We get more varieties of apples (even in the off season) in the last few years than ever before, and last year, even the regular supermarket had yellow and purple varieties of tomatoes. I say, bring back temples and murcotts!

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Elite" Canning Jars

Ball has just come out with a new line of canning jars that I really like: the Collection Elite Platinum Jar . I was sent some as part of a promotion and I like them so much more than the jars I have I used in the past. These have a more modern shape, plain glass sides and brushed finish "platinum" lids. I know I am not alone in my dislike of the old style fruit print or "quilted" jars and these are much better-I feel a lot less like Ma in Little House on the Prairie when I look at these and think about canning. They'd also be great for storing things like beads or cotton balls, they hold a lot but don't take up much room. I have the 8oz size, but I hear they come in 16 oz as well. The only downside to the new design that I could see is that unlike the traditonal 8 oz jars, the 8 oz platinum jars are rather squat, so you couldn't use them to can small amounts of long or bulky foods like pickles. They would still be perfect for jelly, jam, salsa or curd though. You can buy them online here.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Planning for Summer Recipes in February

When you look outside and your yard looks like this:

it is hard to remember that Spring is not that far off. However, we are already hard at work on planning our garden. A couple of years ago we went berry picking and I picked some of the prettiest golden raspberries. I was so taken with them, I remembered their name: kiwi gold. I have seen them occasionally at Whole Foods but they are always so expensive I didn't buy them. Anyway, we have a very large yard with plenty of room for planting, an rarity in our city. We already have a plum tree and have grown vegetables so raspberries were the next logical step. We did some looking around and found that our favorite online nursery is selling the kiwi gold variety this year! From their description: "Kiwi Gold is a yellow-gold variety with sweet flavor and great holding ability on the vine. Unlike some varieties, Kiwi gold won't fall to pieces if you delay picking the ripe fruit a day or two; it stays firm, juicy, and super-flavorful. Plants are very vigorous and resist powdery mildew." We've already ordered a set of 6 plants. The best part is that Greenwood will automatically ship the plants out at your frost free date so you don't get them before you can plant them. I hear they produce the same year you plant them, so I am hoping for some golden raspberries this summer. We are also planting a variety of giant tomato, fennel and strawberry popcorn among other things.

What about you? Are you already planning your gardens?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

Listen to this and other Valentine's Day worthy songs on A Date with John Waters.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


It is not even Valentine's Day yet and already this mini cupcake pan is on sale for $6. I like the after Valentine's Day sales better than the after Christmas ones. Lots of cooking related items are marked down just because they are in red or pink. I find that Christmas cooking/baking products hard to pass off for every day use: too much red/green together, snowmen, lots of stripes. Valentine's Day items (in the cooking realm at least) tend to be solid colored and more neutral.
Target in particular is a goldmine for discounted Wilton products this time of year. Muffin tins, cupcake stands, bowls, decorator tips, sugars, cookie cutters, cupcake carriers are always reduced the 15th despite being the exact same items that they stock all year because they are in special Valentine's Day packaging and they always seem to have a lot left after the holiday.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Blood Oranges

I heard this piece on blood oranges on NPR. Fascinating facts and fruit gossip.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Fanciful Fruits

A trip to the insanely crowded H Mart today yielded some fruit and veggie wonders: about 15 kiwi for $3*, rhubarb, Thai and Chinese eggplant, tons of greens, kumquats (I've been wanting to try them but they are normally so expensive. H Mart had a good sized box for $2!), two kinds of hot peppers, mushrooms, and a 2 lb bag key limes for $3. We also got the usual frozen dumplings/noodles/sushi ingredients and some odd flours to make har gao with. And palm sugar, which I've been looking for. Ooh, and some frozen mixed seafood (octopus! squid! shrimp! mussels!) which will be fun to pop into soups and stirfry.

We haven't done a tremendous amount of cooking the last few days, my Grandpop had his birthday (he's 93 this year) yesterday so we didn't make anything exciting for dinner Thursday because we didn't want leftovers and then Friday we had dinner with him and didn't cook. So, I am excited to get back into the swing of things with some new ingredients: rhubarb! kumquat! to try. Any suggestions?

*normally $1-1.50 each to put it in perspective.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Valentine's Day Food

So, what are all of you home cooks making for Valentine's Day? Or are you all going out? We are probably having sushi but my husband is going to make some sort of a dessert. I can't decide what to have him make though. Last year he made this cake and it was great. I normally do all of the sweets baking, but he is a really good baker too and has the patience I lack for making things like yeast breads and multiple step desserts so I would like to take advantage of this as much as I can. For my 25th birthday two years ago he made me this bombe (dome cake) with two kinds of chocolate mousse and brandy soaked strips of pound cake. So he is very capable. Any suggestions?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Win a New Kitchen!

Who wouldn't want that? If you sign up at the super cool Group Recipes site you will be entered in a contest to win just that: $6,000 towards your dream kitchen. Sign up here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Voodoo Knife Set

Valentine's Day is by far my favorite holiday of the year. I know not everyone shares this feeling so for them, I present the voodoo knife set. It is $60 but is an excellent conversation piece, divorce party gift or even a warning to future lovers not to break your heart.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Food Photography

Natural light is key when taking pictures of food. You don't want to use flash, so you need all the light you can get. This can be hard to come by during the winter when it starts to get dark at 4PM. I end up trying to cook early in the day, open doors and blinds and even try odd spots like the living room or outdoors to get good shots. I snapped this picture in my living room and didn't even realize until I brought it up on the computer that I had captured Elvis lurking beneath.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Kitchen Staples

This post about grocery lists got me thinking about what I consider 'staples' in my kitchen. A some what complete list is this:

We always have:
sugar (granulated, light and dark brown and confectioners')
canned tomatoes
canned black beans
onions (I swear we go through like 3-6 lbs a week!)
sour cream
dried pasta
extra sharp cheddar
chocolate chips
coke (cans)
frozen spinach
seasonal vegetables
some sort of meat (generally what ever is on sale)
frozen peas

We almost always have:
canned kidney beans
cream cheese
fresh ginger
salad ingredients (i.e. lettuce, tomato, radish, cucumber)
club soda (cans)
tonic (cans)
frozen perogies
frozen okra
canned soup
egg noodles

We very rarely have:
tortilla chips
packaged cookies
any sort of frozen prepared "meal"
any sort of prepared food item or mix
ice cream

We never, ever have:

Not to mention the dozens of mustards, sauces and spices we always have and the constant influx of new/fresh/perishable ingredients.

How about you? What are your staples?

Cake Stand

I saw this glass cake stand at Target for only $8. I didn't buy it, but it seems like a good deal. I've been tempted to get one in the past but am not sure if I make cakes frequently enough to make the storage space commitment. This model doubles as a punch bowl when you flip both the base and cover upside down which makes it a little a little less of a single use item. Not that I make lots of punch either, but it is it a interesting feature.