Monday, September 22, 2014

THE BASICS: HOMEMADE BROWN SUGAR

 
Sometimes, in the kitchen, magic happens. You mix two ingredients and BOOM. You've made something you never thought was possible to make on your own. It's science, it's magic, it's both.
 
That's how I felt when I found the recipe for brown sugar in the Joy the Baker Cookbook. I figured that brown sugar was a process that was only going to happen at the sugar factory. In fact, it is a simple process of mixing two sugar products-white, granulated sugar and molasses-into one another. 
 
 

 
One cup of sugar to one tablespoon of molasses.
 
 
We mix.
 
 
Soft, sticky, sweet brown sugar. Making cookies better, I promise.
 
I've stopped buying brown sugar at the store. I keep a bottle of unsulfured molasses in the house and just make up a cup or two at a time and store it in an airtight container in the cupboard. One bottle of molasses makes a ton of brown sugar. It tastes better and saves money. Win/win.
 
 

Homemade Brown Sugar

 
Mix 1 cup of granulated cane sugar with 1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses with a fork. As the sugar and molasses combine, it will appear clumpy and sticky. Keep going! Don't give up! Continue stirring until sugar is light brown in color and fluffy. For dark brown sugar, add another tablespoon of molasses.
 
Enjoy!



Thursday, September 4, 2014

FRONT PORCH CHALKBOARD


In our new neighborhood, fixing up your front porch is a big deal. Kids play outside together a lot in our neighborhood and parents sit out front and talk. It has an old fashioned, small town feel. We wanted our porch to be useful, comfortable, and pretty. We when we first arrived, there were no flowers out front, so while we waited a week for our furniture to arrive, we planted some shrubs and flowers, and the kids each chose a bird feeder as well. We already had the flag, the metal chicken (silent auction win!), and the vintage Coca-Cola chairs and table. It was all looking pretty nice but basic, so I decided to put out a welcome chalkboard sign.
 

The chalk board used to be inside our old house, but I couldn't find the right spot for it in our new place. But it looks super cute on the porch. I like the idea of changing it throughout the season. Just the right little extra for front porch sittin'.
 

Also, this cuteness helps.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

SCENES FROM A CROSS COUNTRY ROAD TRIP

 
 
The Sierras.
 
 
Nevada Sky.
 
 
 The Great Salt Lake.
 
 
Sven the Reinder in Utah.
 
 
Dinosaur Land.
 

Dinosaur National Park//Future Scientist
 
 
Wyoming.
 
 
 Hello, Mr. Presidents.
 
 
 
Over 100 miles of advertising for Wall Drug deserved a shop.
 
 
Hotel life is cartoons with breakfast.
 
 
 Alpacas in Iowa.
 
 
There were lots of French fries on this trip.
 
 
Home stretch.
 
Arrival!
 
Details of places we saw and things we did to come!

Monday, July 14, 2014

PEACHY KEEN SMOOTHIES

 
 
This past weekend, Ava and I headed to Farmer's Market to pick up some fruit. There is a severe drought going on in Northern California and it's hit small farmer's hard. The stands were few and far between as farms try to beat the heat/lack of water. But the peach seller we always buy from was there, handing out free samples and selling glorious yellow and white peaches. I bought 2 1/2 pounds of them. And then I got home and remembered we are moving-very, very soon-and I need to use up our food, not buy more and waste it. So this morning I whipped up a big batch of smoothies with those delicious peaches. These smoothies are both dairy free and vegan and the perfect, EASY breakfast on a hot July morning.
 

Peachy Keen Smoothies

makes 2 large servings
 
2 large peaches, pitted and sliced
1 banana (fresh or frozen), sliced
1 cup of orange juice
1 cup of water
3-5 ice cubes.
 
Add all ingredients together in a blender. Blend and serve. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

READING LIST: MISS RUMPHIUS

 
Just what do we want out of our lives? For Alice Rumphius, she wants to travel the world and then live by the sea. As she explains this as a child, sitting on her grandfather's knee, he tells her that there is one more thing that she must do. She must make the world more beautiful. She agrees.
 
But how?
 
 

 
The book, by Barbara Cooney, is beautifully illustrated, of course. But the story- the simple story of choosing your course and following it, of fulfilling promises made, of leaving the world a little more lovely then when you came in to it, is just as beautiful.



 
Because of course, Miss Rumphius finds a way.



And passes it on.
 

 
 
Because shouldn't all great things be passed on? Like this book, that was my childhood favorite and is now my daughter's. A little thing perhaps. But I've maybe made her world more beautiful by sharing this book.
 
 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Basics: CHICKEN STOCK

 
 
Homemade chicken stock is one of those things that is just so easy and so much better than store bought, that once you make it, you'll never look back.
Stock is traditionally prepared by simply simmering meat bones in water. Vegetables, herbs, and spices are often added for flavor. The key to stock is using bones that have been roasted, in an oven or even on a barbeque. I alternate from simmering stock on the stove top or using my slow cooker. Both produce excellent results.
Stock is the perfect way to use up a roasted chicken carcass and vegetable ends. I keep gallon size zip lock bags in my freezer, and I'll throw a roasted chicken in one after we've eaten most of the meat off of it. I keep another one for vegetable odds and ends. Half an onion, celery leaves, the end of leeks, all go into the bag. Once I have a bag full, I make up a pot of stock. I freeze my stock in ice cube trays and they it's always ready if I need a little or a lot.
Though a bit time consuming, this is an easy recipe that you can throw together any evening or weekend.
 

Chicken Stock

Ingredients:
1 roasted chicken carcass, some meat still on the bones
2 carrots, roughly chopped
4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
1-2 onions, quartered (you don't even have to peel them)
4-6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 sprigs of thyme
5 sprigs of Italian parsley
2 bay leaves
 
Method1: Place the chicken carcass in a large, deep pot. Cover with cold water. Add the vegetables. If you'd like, tie the herbs together with kitchen twine, it makes for easier straining but is not necessary. Add the herbs to the pot. Bring the stock to a boil and immediately reduce to a low simmer. Simmer for 3-4 hours on stove top. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain stock through a fine sieve. Refrigerate (1 week ) or freeze (6 months).
 
Method 2: Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and cover with cold water (see note above on herbs). Cook on low for 6 hours.Remove from heat and let cool. Strain stock through a fine sieve. Refrigerate (1 week ) or freeze (6 months).  
 
This is a new series of posts that will focus on the basics of cooking.