Sunday, July 31, 2011

Grating zucchini

I make Deidre Imus' Crabiless Crab Cakes often. Though I call them zucchini cakes. Her Imus Ranch cookbook has fabulous vegetarian/vegan recipes without a lot of fuss and fancy ingredients. Plus reading about the ranch is interesting.

But I digress.

My mother gave me two zucchini from a friend's garden. My daughter keeps asking for zucchini cakes, but I forgot and she leaves for camp today. Therefore I'm prepping zucchini for freezing. I normally grate, dry on dishtowels and freeze in bags of 2 cups each. When doing this, you have to watch the moisture level when you use the zucchini after freezing. Zucchini is normally wet and freezing and thawing really brings that moisture out.

I'm trying to dry my zucchini by baking it on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees, checking it every 5-7 minutes so I don't cook it.

Banana Bread and Nutella

At the Easton Farmers Market, we met a delightful woman who bakes via Spreading Joy Bakery in Stroudsburg. My daughter fell in love with her sample of banana bread so we bought a loaf and sliced it for breakfast. We had it with peanut butter or Nutella and wow was it heavenly.

Also-- my daughter leaves for camp today so does this mean I'll cook like a fiend to amuse myself or not cook at all?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Super Plums

Today I bought about three pounds of various plums at the Easton Farmers Market. I had hoped to can some, and I did, but my first attempt had little girl not packing the fruit tight enough so I had to repack.

I cut three plus pounds of plums. The Ball recipe says to pack them whole, after pricking them. I wasn't sure I wanted to keep them whole.

- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup honey
- 5 1/2 cups water

Bring to a boil, stirring as needed.

I had planned a raw pack but after we didn't pack them tight enough the results ended up getting a hot pack.

I only ended up with one pint, so I froze some of the honey syrup and, once I drained and repacked the plums, I saved the plum honey syrup and froze that.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Spinach and corn muffins

I got the inspiration for corn muffins last night so today I dusted off Eileen Breslin's vegan recipe which I had previously posted here:

I added about 1 cup frozen corn and two cups shredded fresh spinach to the dry ingredients. And I reduced the sugar.

I reduced the dry ingredients by about 1/8 of a cup or less. I used 3/4 cup organic whole milk (so this variation is not vegan), and more than 1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk, then I added about two tablespoons black strap molasses.

I poured into cupcake tins and once cooked served as a sandwich with a Morningstar breakfast pattie.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

From the New York Times, "That's not Trash, That's Dinner"

“When kids visit the farm, we give them cornstalks to chew,” she said. Like sugar cane, the stalks contain sweet juice.
For Ms. Elder, who runs the Community Farm of Ann Arbor, the edible vegetable begins with the sprouts and does not end until the leaves, vines, tubers, shoots and seeds have given their all.
If home cooks reconsidered what should go into the pot, and what into the trash, what would they find? What new flavors might emerge, what old techniques? Pre-industrial cooks, for whom thrift was a necessity as well as a virtue, once knew many ways to put the entire garden to work. Fried green tomatoes and pickled watermelon rind are examples of dishes that preserved a bumper crop before rot set in.
“Some people these days are so unfamiliar with vegetables in their natural state, they don’t even know that a broccoli stalk is just as edible as the florets,” said Julia Wylie, an organic farmer in Watsonville, Calif. The produce she grows at Mariquita Farm is served at Bay Area restaurants like Delfina, Zuni Cafe and Chez Panisse.
At some large farms, she said, only the florets are processed for freezing or food service; the stems are shredded into the chokingly dry “broccoli slaw” sold in sealed bags at the supermarket.
(A much better way to treat broccoli stalks: cut off and discard the tough outer peel, shave what remains into ribbons with a vegetable peeler, scatter with lemon zest and shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese: all the pleasure of raw artichoke salad with half the work.)
Mariquita Farm also runs a flourishing Community Supported Agriculture (C.S.A.) program and sells at farmers’ markets, where, Ms. Wylie said, she has become expert at holding shoppers’ hands when it comes to stem-to-root cooking. She reminds them that even the thick ribs of chard, beets and other greens soften with braising (most kale stems, though, are too fibrous to eat). She encourages them to cook the leaves that sprout from the tops of radishes (they have a delicious bitterness) and offers a traditional French method of baking fish at high heat on a bed of fennel stalks.
Among her favorite neglected greens are the big, sweet leaves that grow around heads of cauliflower — leaves that supermarket shoppers never see and recipes never call for. She cuts them across the ribs, then sautés them with minced onion.
“It’s like a silky version of a cabbage leaf, with a hint of cauliflower,” she said.
At this time of year, cooks around the country haul home full bags from the farmers’ market or a weekly box from a local farm but also wonder how to make the most of their produce. Eating more vegetables, being spontaneous in the kitchen and celebrating the season are the aspirations that lead people to join C.S.A.’s. But many find that they don’t know what do to with boxloads of melon, tomatoes, onions and leafy greens, not to mention their stalks, tops, peels and stems.
“I joined a C.S.A. because I wanted to be frugal and I thought it would force me to be creative in the kitchen,” said Megan Smith, a learning specialist in Brooklyn. “But it generated a huge amount of work and all this debris.”
Much of what is tossed out is edible, but not everyone greets the opportunity to recycle food scraps as an exciting food adventure.
“When you mention using them for stock, that’s when people start to roll their eyes,” said Ronna Welsh, a cooking teacher in Park Slope, Brooklyn, who chronicles her adventures with chard stems and watermelon rinds on her Web site Purple Kale Kitchenworks, in a column called “Otherwise, Trash.”
Her students are the kind of home cooks who make the extra effort to go the farmers’ market and support local agriculture, she said, but whose schedules and lack of skills cause them to feel stressed by a refrigerator full of raw ingredients.
Ms. Welsh likes to generate recipes for trimmings, she said, because using up everything satisfies some of the same urges that fuel the desire to be a better cook.
“When you spend $40 at the Greenmarket, the pressure starts right there,” she said. “You feel more invested in the carrots you buy from the farmer than the ones you buy at Key Food. You feel sentimental about them, you have more respect for them.”
Ann Arbor, with its thriving farms, gardens and greenmarkets — including a new one this summer that is held in the evening so that working people can shop — is a fertile source of stem-to-root ideas.
“People know that nasturtium flowers are edible, but the leaves are also great salads and the seed pods, if you pickle them, make a wonderful substitute for capers,” said Kevin Sharp, an outreach manager at the People’s Food Co-op there, one of the oldest in the country.
He substitutes the palm-size leaves from stalks of brussels sprouts in recipes that call for collard greens, cooks the leaves and shoots of sweet potatoes and battles a bumper crop of asparagus by making a sweet relish from the woody ends.
Lindsay-Jean Hard, who works at a new farm-to-table Web network called Real Time Farms, said that she chops the leaves atop celery stalks to make a pungent, fluffy celery salt.
Last year, hundreds of homeowners around Ann Arbor joined a local 350 Gardens Challenge, a global climate-change initiative that includes “visible food production” (like a garden in an urban front yard) as one of its engines for sustainable food.
One of those homeowners, Erica Blom, a graduate student who says she eats everything from apple cores to potato peels, especially if they come from her own garden, has embraced the slight bitterness of her homegrown carrot tops, mincing them as a garnish like parsley and using them in salads.

Modern chefs have long embraced a nose-to-tail approach to meat, but recently they have been looking at the plant kingdom with a predatory eye. One of the most adventurous is Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C.
“It came from a curiosity about flavor, more than a need to use things up,” she said, referring to stem-to-root recipes she has tinkered with. “But of course that’s a benefit, and something our ancestors were very good at.”
She has infused wine with peach leaves, toasted the seeds of watermelons and taken a hammer to cherry pits, cracking them open to unleash the kernels’ sweet almondlike perfume into panna cotta. The recipe is included in Ms. Reusing’s new book, “Cooking in the Moment.”
(But as good as it is, this dessert should be eaten in moderation. Cherry pits, like peach leaves and apple seeds, contain minute amounts of cyanogens, compounds that can produce the poison cyanide. Other plant parts can also contain small amounts of toxins, so be cautious when eating them. The central number for the American Poison Control Centers is 800-222-1222.)
Ms. Reusing spends a lot of time prowling farms in North Carolina, where, she said, she finds all sorts of renegade vegetable specimens. She particularly relishes the strange shoots that emerge when a garden has bolted from too much heat: cilantro flowers, broccoli seed pods and tough lettuces that cry out for creamy, rich dressings and bacon-fat vinaigrettes.
Her cooking often combines Southern farmhouse tradition with the flavors of Japan, Korea and China, rich sources of stem-to-root traditions. She buys from farmers who grow Asian varieties of turnips, soybeans and radishes; she has salt-cured whole daikons, pickling the white flesh and salting the greens with chiles. The leaves of the wasabi root, she said, have an oily, mustardy kick: she slices them thinly to use as a garnish for a Japanese-inflected pot-au-feu.
Other chefs are redrawing the sometimes arbitrary lines between vegetables, fruits and weeds. At Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio, Jeni Britton Bauer "milks" the first corn cobs of the local harvest, adding the sugary liquid to her basic ice cream mixture, and then swirls the buttery results with tart berries.
John Shields, the chef at Town House in Chilhowie, Va., festoons plates with chickweed and makes juice from wild grass. Last summer he harvested a crop of green strawberries, curing them in salt and sugar so he could serve them as dessert with soft drifts of whipped cream, cucumbers and marshmallow.
For Mr. Shields, stem-to-root cooking is a means to an avant-garde end. He worked in Chicago at Alinea and Charlie Trotter’s before making his way to Chilhowie, in a part of southern Virginia pressed up against the Appalachian hills. The lush wild and farmed land around the restaurant is, he said, the main reason for restaurant’s location, with unexpected vegetal pleasures that even the lushest urban farmers’ market cannot provide.
“I picked the flowers and shoots from the green bean plants at my farm this morning, and I am going to work with their sweetness,” he said. “In my kind of cooking, I wouldn’t really know what to do with green beans.”
At Your Disposal
Before you throw away your vegetable trimmings, consider some alternative uses:
CARROT, CELERY AND FENNEL LEAVES Mix small amounts, finely chopped, with parsley as a garnish or in salsa verde: all are in the Umbelliferae family of plants. Taste for bitterness when deciding how much to use.
CHARD OR COLLARD RIBS Simmer the thick stalks in white wine and water with a scrap of lemon peel until tender, then drain and dress with olive oil and coarse salt. Or bake them with cream, stock or both, under a blanket of cheese and buttery crumbs, for a gratin.
CITRUS PEEL Organic thin-skinned peels of tangerines or satsumas can be oven-dried at 200 degrees, then stored to season stews or tomato sauces.
CORN COBS Once the kernels are cut off, simmer the stripped cobs with onions and carrots for a simple stock. Or add them to the broth for corn or clam chowder.
MELON RINDS Cut off the hard outer peels and use crunchy rinds in place of cucumber in salads and cold soups.
PEACH LEAVES Steep in red wine, sugar and Cognac to make a summery peach-bomb aperitif. (According to David Lebovitz’s recipe, the French serve it on ice.)
POTATO PEELS Deep-fry large pieces of peel in 350-degree oil and sprinkle with salt and paprika. This works best with starchy potatoes like russets.
YOUNG ONION TOPS Wash well, coarsely chop and cook briefly in creamy soups or stews, or mix into hot mashed potatoes.
TOMATO LEAVES AND STEMS Steep for 10 minutes in hot soup or tomato sauces to add a pungent garden-scented depth of tomato flavor. Discard leaves after steeping.
TOMATO SCRAPS Place in a sieve set over a bowl, salt well and collect the pale red juices for use in gazpacho, Bloody Marys or risotto.
TURNIP, CAULIFLOWER OR RADISH LEAVES Braise in the same way as (or along with) collards, chards, mustard greens or kale.
WATERMELON SEEDS Roast and salt like pumpkinseeds.

Hurry Curry Cauliflower

Haven't tried this one yet either. Another recipe from Good Eats.


1   tablespoon canola oil1  teaspoon cumin seed
1   teaspoon coriander seed
2  teaspoons  curry powder
1  teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1  whole clove garlic, smashed
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1  cup  rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup  cider vinegar
3  tablespoons sugar
1  teaspoon pickling salt

Heat the canola oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Crush the cumin seed with the coriander seed and add to the pan. Add the curry powder, ginger, and garlic to the pan. Cook these spices, stirring until the oil colors and the spices are fragrant. Add the cauliflower florets to the pan and toss to coat.
In a lidded plastic container, combine the water, rice wine vinegar, cider vinegar, sugar, and pickling salt.

Shake to combine.

Once the cauliflower is slightly tender, add it to a glass jar. Pour the pickling liquid over the cauliflower, filling to the top of the jar. Cool, chill, and store the pickles for 1 week to allow the flavors to develop thoroughly.

About the photo: It looks like Hurry Curry Cauliflower but it's actually Cauliflower with an adapted Savory Bread and Butter Pickle Brine that I added the curry cauliflower spices to.

We had lots of brine left so we used it. We packed the cauliflower in pint size jars, added the mystery brine, and processed in a hot water bath for 15-20 minutes.


Gayle saw this made many years ago on Good Eats on the Food Network. She adores the host, Alton Brown and was quite sad when she gave up cable and no longer could watch the show.

1-1/4 pounds Baby Carrots
1 cup Water
1 cup Sugar
1-1/2 cups Cider Vinegar
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 teaspoon Mustard Seed
1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon Chili flakes
2  Dried chilies

Place carrots in a spring-top glass jar. Bring the water, sugar, cider vinegar, onion powder, mustard seeds, salt, and chili flakes to a boil in a non-reactive saucepan. Boil for 4 minutes.

Slowly pour the hot pickling liquid over the carrots, filling the jar to the top. Place the chilies in the jar. Allow the carrots to cool before sealing. Refrigerate for 2 days up to 1 week.

We cut up the chilies and added them to the carrots, made the brine and packed them in pint size jars. We processed them in a hot water bath for 15-20 minutes.

Dilly Beans

Haven't tried this one yet, I made my own version.

The first one is from the Ball Blue Book, 1974


2 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cloves garlic
4 heads dill
2.5 cups water
2.5 cups vinegar
1/4 c salt

Pack beans into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. To each pint add 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 clove garlic and 1 head dill. (Mom put this on the bottom!) Combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour, boiling hot over beans, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Adjust caps. Process pints and quarts 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

Yields 4 pints

Note: let beans stand for two weeks before tasting to allow the flavor to develop.

Gayle is sure that this is the recipe her mom used (the page is awful stained in the book). Her sister disagrees and thinks it's this one from the Better Homes and Garden Home Canning Cookbook. (1973) The ingredients are similar. Again, a stained page.

2 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons pickling salt
2 teaspoons dillweed
1/4 teaspon cayenne
2 cloves garlic, crushed.

Yields 4 pints. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.


Some of Gayle's mom's pickling recipes that we made on Monday.

Her mom's recipes were short on details. All should be processed in a boiling hot water bath leaving a 1/4-1/2 inch headspace when packing the jars.

Make sure you use new lids and be sure reused rings are clean and free of rust. Jars should be clean and hot when you fill them. (Straight from the dishwasher is great. If you do them by hand, fill them with hot water to reheat them.) Also put the lids and rings in a bowl of hot water to heat them.

Use a jar grabber to remove jars from pot. Place on the table or counter that has been prepared with a layer of newspaper, covered by a kitchen towel.

In a few minutes you should hear them start to "pop".

In 24 hours check your seals. If the lid moves up and down, it's not sealed. Put those in the fridge and eat them!

BASIC BRINE (many of Gayle's moms recipes start with or say to use "Basic Brine.")

3 cups vinegar
3 cups water
1/4 cup salt

Adjust volume depending on quantity that you are canning.


2 pounds cauliflower
1-1/2 pounds green beans
2 pounds carrots
1 tsp tumeric
1-1/2 tsp mustard seed
1-1/4 top celery seed

Cook each vegetable separately. Drain. In a pan combine the turmeric, mustard seed, celery seed and basic brine and brine to a boil. Pack veggies in jars and cover with liquid. Seal. Process 15 minutes.

YIELDS 8 pints


4 c. vinegar
1 c. water
3 c. sugar
1 c. prepared mustard
6 qts. blanched yellow beans

Cut beans in pieces or to the size of the jar. (Mom always did the size of the jar.) Blanch. Boil brine. Pack beans in hot jars and cover with boiling brine. Clean and seal. Process 10-15 minutes.

BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLES (sweet and salty)   

6 large cucumbers, sliced
4 onions, sliced
1/4 cup salt
1 pint white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed

Use fresh cucumbers; wash and slice. Slice onions. Mix vegetables with salt and let stand 1 hour.

Drain and rinse with 2 cups cold water. Combine vinegar, sugar, celery and mustard seeds and heat to boiling. Cook 3 minutes.

Pack vegetables into jars, add hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/4" headspace. Seal at once and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Store pickles in a cool, dark place. Ready to eat in 3-4 weeks. Keeps for up to 1 year.

Makes about 6 pints.


12 medium cucumbers
6 onions (sliced)
2 cups vinegar
2 cups water
2 tsp celery seed
2 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric

Wash cucumbers and slice. Let stand 2 hours in salt solution (1/2 salt to 2 quarts water) Bring rest of ingredients to boil and boil 5 minutes. Add veggies and let heat thoroughly. Jar and seal. Makes 6 pints.

Canning peaches

My mother-in-law is now talking about picking peaches and bringing us some fruit to preserve. Gayle did some research and some family chatting and compiled her notes on peaches. But, the odd thing is, both my mother-in-law's family, my mother-in-law's mother-in-law's family and Gayle's family always included a peach pit in every quart. Why? Did it change the flavor or the acidity?  Or was it mere food superstition?

I don't remember peaches being this much work1 I guess it's because there was many people. Sharon said she had to dip and skin them.

From my Ball Book c 1974

It starts with the whole check, wash and heat the jars routine.

Sort wash & drain enough firm ripe peaches for one canner load. Fill water bath canner half full with hot water. Put canner on to heat. Prepare sugar syrup. (i'm sure mom made the light.)

Place peaches in wire baket or cheesecloth. Dip peaches into boiling water 1/2 to 1 minute to loosen skins. Dip into cold water. Drain.

Cut peaches in half, pit and peel. (You can slice, that's what mom did.) Scrape cavities to remove pink and red fibers because they might turn ugly brown in processing. Pack peaches into hot jars, cavity side down, layers overlapping. Leave 1/2 inch head space

Cover peaches with boiling hot syrup leaving 1.2 in headspace. It will take 1-1.5 cups syrup for each quart jar.

Run table knife gently between fruit and jar to release air bubbles. Add more syrup if needed

Wipe top and threads. Put on lid and band...tighly

Place in canner with hot water (not boiling). Water should cover 1 to 2 inches.

Process pints 25 minutes or Quarts 30 minutes after boiling

Let cool 12 hours before removing bands, checking for seal, and storing.

Light syrup
2 cups of sugar to 1 qt of water, yield is 5 cups.

Medium syrup
3 cups of sugar to 1 qt of water, yield is 5 cups.

Heavy syrup
4.25 cups of sugar to 1 qt of water, yield is 5 cups.

Measure sugar and liquid (either water or fruit juice) into saucepan. Cook until sugar dissolves. Keep syrup hot until needed, but do not let it boil down. Usually 1-1.5 cups of syrup are needed for each quart of fruit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pesto chicken mystery meal

We took two chicken breasts from the freezer, the ones I made a monto ago as pesto chicken. For lunch today, I shredded it and reheated it with the pickled greenbeans from last week in my cast iron skillet.

I served with slices of fresh rye spinach herb bread (perfect for sopping up that pesto)

Honey Oat and Rye Herb Bread

It's a bread day! I started a basic French bread starter and have decided on a honey oat and a herb rye loaf. I divided the starter in two for the first rise and prepped two batches of add-in flour, one that's unbleached white flour and oats, another that is stoneground rye and a touch of brown sugar. I'll add blackstrap molasses to that loaf during the first knead.

I never make a loaf the same way twice, rather always adding a lil of this or that. Like this day:

Today's loaves came out fantastic! I rolled them thin and long (very French). The white bread came out boring, really, but the spinach-herb-rye bread was super enjoyable.

I've been trying for two days to find the basic recipe so I can try and chronicle my deviations (as if I remember now) and finally here it is (with an adorable photo of my daughter in her seersucker train engineer/baker hat):

So, facing a 90 degree day after a heat wave of 100 degree days, I got out my bread bowls. In the first very large bowl, I mixed:
  • 4 cups unbleached white flour
  • about 2.5 teaspoons fresh ground salt.
In a smaller bowl I put:
  • 2 cups stoneground rye flour
and set beside it:
  • blackstrap molasses
  • about one cup fresh spinach
  • 1 heaping tablespoon parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dill 
  • 1/4 cup sorrel
  • about 1 cup basil
In another smaller bowl, I mixed:
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup whole oats
In the final large bowl, I mixed:
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons yeast
  • 2 tablespoons honey
From the flour/salt bowl, I added about 3 cups of the white flour to the liquid yeast mix. I worked it into a dough and let it sit until it tripled in size. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap. It's supposed to take three hours. Mine took about two.

This is what I'll refer to as my starter dough. After it rose, I took the dry ingredients from the rye bowl and poured them onto my lightly floured work surface. I added half the starter dough and mixed. I added the herbs and the molasses as I kneaded. Then I divided the kneaded lump into two pieces, oiled lightly and returned it to the rye flour bowl and another bowl. Covered with a towel to rise.

I repeated this with the rest of the starter and the white/oat flour. Knead. Divide. Oil. Cover. Leave to rise.

Let sit until doubled in size. About an hour.

Preheat oven to 450. Divide into loaves. Let rise 20 more minutes. Place a bowl of water in the oven. Bake baguettes for 15 minutes, remove bowl of water. Cook baguettes for ten minutes more, maybe less. *I often turn mine when I remove the water, helps the consistency of the crust.

Or I leave the water. Because it's hot and dangerous. Sometimes they cook quickly.

Monday, July 25, 2011

My own canning kit

Although I haven't tasted anything yet, I think today's canning session has removed my fears and got me dreaming of my own pickles, condiments, fruits and salsa. Imagine canning my famous bruschetta! (Tomorrow I must do laundry and bake bread.)

I found this blog's take on condiments and I must say I like it, especially since i've selected catsup on its sodium content and use of high fructose corn syrup. Dreaming of catsup and mustard and my own hot sauce...

In a torrential downpour my friend Gayle and I went to the Airport Road Target for canning supplies. In our Target, we have an end cap display of canning items, but this store had only one set of pint jars. I got soaked down to my underpants for nothing!

I really wanted the starter kit. Ball's latest kit is designed for small batches, which excites me because I don't have large scale needs.

So I went to my Target, after witnessing several accidents and sitting in several traffic jams, and the end cap had a box of lids and rings but not just lids like Gayle needed. And no starter kit! Every other accessory but no canning insert for the pot. Gayle mentioned Wegmans.

At this point Gayle was at home, I was the crazy one freezing to death in the air conditioning and wet clothes. I had called her from Target. I couldn't believe they had a decorative 1 gallon Ball jar but not starters kit.

She checked No luck.

I went next door to Wegmans. I got a starter kit for $13.99 and Gayle's lids. (I think the Amazon price was $10.50). I whipped out my $2 off manufacturer's coupon and bought it. Wegmans comes through!

I spent some time on the Ball web site:
Looks awesome! A new adventure!

Canning update

Our canning experience was awesome and at some point, we'll post plenty of photos and recipes. From 8:30 to 11 a.m. we chopped and brined and chatted. By 11, we had our first items in Gayle's BIG pot. Mine will be much smaller. She can do SIX jars at a time. And she has two pots, so that's 12 jars.

When a colleague of mine shared her special pickles, I thought canning-- with all its hot water and prepping jars-- was a lot harder than it actually is. While most everything we made today was a vegetable in some sort of vinegar, there's also fruits and tomatoes to explore. My family doesn't like vinegar much, and I've already stumbled upon some snack carrots and dill pickles we do like so...

Have I used the word 'So' enough in this entry?

We started the day with a pickled mixed vegetable of cauliflower, farm fresh carrots and wax beans. We chopped, warmed the jars (that had been sent through the dishwasher) and stuffed them with veggies. Fill with boiling brine to the jar rim but not into the rim, wipe rim, place lid, and put ring on but NOT all the way.

From there it goes into boiling water for 15-20 minutes and when you pull it out it should go "POP."

Our second item was mustard wax beans. Then firecracker carrots. Then mustard firecracker carrots. Then savory bread and butter pickles. Then I experimented and made pickled, curried cauliflower.


The Coffee Mate folks have launched several new creamers that don't have soy as a base or artificial chemicals. They are tasty, but extremely potent. I love the simple packaging. When I saw these at Target, I wanted to try one but couldn't decide which... I bought them all. Which one did I like best? I don't remember. I do remember that these tasted better than the soy creamers. Since I traveled to France last fall, I really can't stand the taste of creamer. Matter of fact, I got used to heavy cream in my coffee.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Preparation for canning day

Next time we do this Angel and I need to shop together. It's part of the fun. This time it didn't work out.

I shopped at four places. First stop Giant, to get canning supplies. We're not sure how many jars of food we are "putting up" so I bought too many lids and rings. It's okay. Stored correctly they don't rust or mildew. I keep my seasonal cooking supplies in the cellar. I don't have room in the kitchen for something that's used (hard) once a year. My lids and rings, and accessories too, are kept in plastic shoe boxes. I have metal work shelves down there. The canners are parked on the shelf. I also have a food mill,  a plastic machine to puree fruit and veggies, and a manual ricer and mallet.

I lugged everything upstairs and washed it all. I brought up too much. I know that. But I'm not sure what we will use tomorrow. I don't want to waste time with dishes. Growing up, the items came up one by one and by the end of canning season everything was on the floor in the kitchen.

In Giant, the canning supplies are in the aisle with the the plastic wrap and plastic containers. It had one whole section. I nearly passed out in the store. I remember having to go from store to store looking for supplies. Everyone carried little, and the little they had was sold out.

Oh my goodness the Ball aisle is Paradise. You don't even need recipes anymore. (Second shelf, right) They have pouches of the spices and what not all mixed together All you do is add water, vinegar and the food! Sadly I took a picture. The bottom two selves are jars. They aren't in the pix.

Angel said the display at Target even has gallon-size jars!

I am disappointed that pickling salt now comes in a pouch. (Top shelf, third from left.) At one time it was in a box, then a plastic tub. I have the tub. I was thrilled. When I buy more I'll need to dump the pouch into the tub.

The best part of my trip to Giant was someone left coupons on the shelf. Dollar coupons. I'm not proud. I used them. I also kept the one for the starter kit. Just in case Angel decides to dive in head first.

I also picked up a gallon of vinegar.

The second  stop was the Emmaus Farmers Market. Ball didn't have their booth set up this week. That's where I met Mr. Eggplant Head.

Green beans were awful, so no Dilly beans. Bummer. I did get wax beans so we'll be making mustard beans. I also got pickle cucumbers, corn, and hot peppers. No cauliflower or carrots this week. Glad I didn't go for greens. Few had them. The heat made them bolt.

Then we stopped at a roadside stand on Emmaus Ave. They had cheap veggies. But they were well past their prime. I think they've been setting out in the heat too long.

I had a few more things to get so I headed to Valley Farm Market, a block away. Here I got the cauliflower and carrots.

The veggies are in a cooler in the living room with ice. That's the only room with an air conditioner.

My sister was bored and cleaned all the beans. She also cut all the corn off the cobs. So some food prep work is done.

I took the last picture of all the stuff piled on the sink and stove—jar grabber, lids, rings,  two funnels, two canners, huge colandar, vinegar and pickling salt.

It's now all clean and sterile.

Angel will pick up blogging about this adventure tomorrow.

Gayle signing out.

Crêpes de la Canicule (Heat Wave Crepes)

I have had a batch of crêpes in the freezer. I don't even remember when I made them. I got them out of the freezer thinking i'd make a nice fresh berry sauce for them as breakfast. But my mom showed up and stole my daughter before I had a chance to feed her. So I moved that plan to dinner.

Okay, but I worked today and by the time I got home it was hot and I was tired. Knowing eventually I had to eat this crêpes, I had my husband buy berries, bananas and Nutella at Target yesterday. The Nutella was $3.19, for a jar I saw on sale elsewhere for $3.99. (of course, this was a specialty retailer.)

Tonight's dinner became a crêpe with a nice layer of Nutella and topped with a slice of banana the length of the crêpe and rolled. Sides of watermelon and raspberries.

I had separated these crêpes before freezing by slipping wax paper between each one and placing the stack in a ziploc bag. They tasted fresh even though I froze them months ago. Yup, crêpes are gone...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Monday is canning day!

This post is in preparation for Angels canning lesson on Monday. She'll do the post about the actual event. If this isn't Angel, who is it?

Hi I'm Gayle and I'm going to show her what to do. Hopefully I will do a good job. I've been canning (and freezing) food since I could stand. Really. My mother and my siblings "put-up" the bulk of our food growing up. Late July, August and September were serious canning months.

No matter how old you were you had a job. The older you were. The harder the job. My Nana sat on the huge pretzel can and ran the kitchen. Or at least my mom made her think she did.

Pictured are some of my moms books and booklets. The oldest is 1931 (The green one). The newest 1974. I also have lots of recipes. There's a ton of info on the web. Including a blog called the frugal canning. I think that will appeal to Angel.

If your interested in canning, I'd start with Ball. They've been doing it for 125 years.  Every farm market I've been to this summer has had a Ball booth. It's really cool. They even have a starter kit now. With three jars, and a little green silicon canner that will fit in any pot!

So how do you prep for a canning day?


If you have jars get them out. If you don't buy some. Also buy lids and rings. You can reuse the rings if they are not rusty or damaged. YOU CAN NOT reuse the lids.

The jars need to be canning jars. (Mason, Kerr, Ball)  A random pickle jar won't hold up in processing. Save those jars for items that don't need processing.

Then you must clean the jars. Even if you just took them out of the box. If you have a dishwasher put them in and let the dishwasher do the work. If your me, you wash them by hand. Air dry them, then boil water and sterilize them.

Gather your recipes. Make sure you have all the ingredients. This part will drive Angel crazy. You know how she loves to substitute! Pickling salt is something she won't have laying around. It's okay, I do.

Also clean your work surfaces, cutting boards, big pots if they were in storage, ect. Have space available to fill the jars, and a place to put them after taking them out of the water bath. Have plenty of clean dish towels handy.

PICK (or buy)

Decide what you want to can, and gather the food. The fresher the better. Pick it from the garden. Or shop for the freshest veggies at the farmers markets and road stands.  We are still deciding on the menu. Growing up, we didn't plan. If my dad brought home a basket of "check" fruit from the orchard, all plans were canceled at that's what we did. (Check=Seconds)

When your prepping your food, throw away (or use it for dinner) anything that is not pristine. If something is starting to spoil, it might contaminate your whole batch. Moms rule of thumb was, "when in doubt, throw it out."


For that you'll have to wait till Monday.

Friday, July 22, 2011

No cooking

Due to the recent heat wave, cooking has been kept to a minimum. Salad. Leftovers. Cheese platter.

This morning, I served Morningstar breakfast patties and watermelon as a precursor to breakfast, so child opted out of cream of wheat.

So, I got funky.


- 1 cup vanilla coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon honey
- about 1 teaspoon lavender
- 2 handfuls golden raisins
Heat. Add 4 tablespoons cream of wheat

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pickled Green Beans

During the weekend, I picked the ripe green beans in the garden. I never got around to cooking them. I was going to toss them in the compost when Gayle suggested using the 100 degree heat to pickle them. Why not?

So into the pint jar went salt, pepper and lots of garlic. Two handfuls of dill from the garden. Child shoved in green beans. I filled jar with equal parts white vinegar, balsamic vinegar and water.

In the sun it goes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Brats with broccoli and cheese

So, as I may or may not have mentioned last week, I received several packs of bratwursts. Today for lunch I thought I'd heat the brats and make some nice crispy hash browns, some leftover broccoli in cheese sauce and a side of Dole Southwest Salad.

But instead of my hashbrown pan, I used my Le Creuset skillet and I don't know if it got too hot too fast or not enough oil, but my hashbrowns were a soggy mess but not greasy. The crispy ones adhered solidly to the pan.

To compensate, I poured the broccoli in cheese sauce on top, heated, and served it like sauerkraut on top of the brats. I loved it.

PureCoconut milk

A friend gave me a coupon for PureAlmond or PureCoconut milk. My daughter is a vanilla almond milk junkie, so while she was eager to try coconut, I was hesitant to deviate from the current favorite.

Last night my husband made caramel iced coffees with it, and he really liked it. I found the coconut flavor in the coffee not enough to really add something so it was more of a distraction.

My daughter didn't like it plain, which I found odd, since when I tasted it by itself, I found it very light.

We made our cream of wheat with it this morning and she liked that. Of course, I let her make the cream of wheat in a saucepan on the stove with my supervision and minimal interference so of course she loved it. She made it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Today at Target

We had dinner at the Target café today, after my shift. I also worked yesterday so I had made today's sandwiches. My husband and I each had a ham and swiss sandwich, and our daughter had a chicken marinara flatbread. We also got an order of fries and some beverages. Dinner after my discounts was $11.65.

Now, I had $27 in the checkbook and transferred $50 from my savings.

Then we went shopping.
- Up and Up dishwashing liquid, $2.69
- 68 ounces of Dawn dishwashing detergent, $4.49
- Market Pantry 100% cranberry juice $2.60
- New England Blueberry Cobbler coffee, $6.59
- bananas, 6 at 0.19 for a total of $1.14
- a quart of heavy cream, $2.54 (half price)
- silk vanilla coconut milk, $3 minus a $1 manufacturer's coupon
- unsweetened silk soy milk, $2.79 minus $1.25 manufacturer's coupon
- 64 ounces of organic whole milk, $2.99
- 3 8-ounce blocks of extra shark cheddar cheese, $2.15 each
- Turkey Hill Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream sandwiches, 2 boxes at $1.52 each (half price)
- 120 (or was it 130) 13-gallon trash bags, $12.49
- 4 boxes of ultra soft facial tissues, $4.99
- Iams kitten food, 6 pounds, $12.49
- Purina's new "beyond" cat food, 3 pounds?, one bag chicken, one bag salmon $7.49 each, which gave me a $5 Target gift card

Subtotal: $81.32
Minus team member discount: $7.87
Minus red card discount: $3.43
Tax: 2.44
Total: $72.46

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brainstorming "The Ultimate French Burger"

Tomorrow is July 14. I'm pining for things French and the iron deficiency has me yearning for red meat. "Bastille Day" brings to mind family, picnics and national spirit. And it makes me hungry for a burger.

But how would we make a French burger? Oh, I feel a trip to Wegmans in my bones.

The ultimate French burger would have (play along)...

A brioche for the roll, with a perfectly shaped to fit the roll patty (not too thick not too thin) definitely rare... With some sort of creamy herby mustard sauce, a mild Camembert, hearty leaves of sorrel and maybe spinach or endive. I'm on the fence re: tomato or even scallions...and BIG steak fries with a side of au jus

My friends and my husband are encouraging me to make this bad boy, but it's a culinary creation that can't be rushed.

Mulling it about in my head. Brioche alone is a two day affair requiring 2 lbs of butter and a trip to the farm for eggs. Not to mention, finding the right Camembert to be strong but not too strong and the right meat to make a quality au jus...

My husband wants desperately to take me to Wegmans but the finances aren't proper for a splurge like this.

Broccoli spinach rice casserole

I made a quick casserole last night that my husband said was hearty.

- 1 1/4 cup brown rice (measured before steaming)
- 1 bag green giant steam in bag broccoli with premium cheese sauce
- 1 cup frozen spinach
- 3 Morningstar breakfast patties, torn into chunks
- market pantry six-blend Italian cheese

I started with 1 1/4 cup brown rice in the steamer. Prepare broccoli as instructed on bag. Pour broccoli and sauce into rice, add spinach and "sausage." Stir well. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

More pickling

The first jar of solar pickles lasted less than 2 days. Child and I decided to repeat the experiment, using up our leftover farm fresh cucumbers and carrots.

We used one pint sized ball jar for each.

(in the order we put them in the jar)

In the cuke jar
- a big handful of dill from the garden
- between 1/2 and 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground salt
- 3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
- 3/4 of a large farm fresh cucumber, sliced, and artfully stuffed into jar
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- fill half the jar with apple cider vinegar
- add 2 teaspoons It's a Dilly (I'm hoping the lemon flavor will add some pizzazz to my pickles)
- fill the rest of the jar with water

For the carrots:
- large amounts of dill from the garden
- 1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground salt
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- carrots, in sticks, to fill jar
- fill half of jar with apple cider vinegar
- fill the rest of the jar with water

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Green-laden ham sandwiches

Today's sandwiches made me wish I had more of everything for another round, but I don't. Sad.

-Archer Farm Seven Grain bread
-a hearty layer of Lost Gourmet's kale-cream cheese- zucchini dip
- lettuce, sorrel and spinach from the garden
- the last of the homemade pickles
- a handful of the market pantry six blend Italian cheese
- market pantry applewood ham slices

That was practically a Target/garden sandwich.

Cinnamon Raisin Cream of Wheat and Nettle Tea

So, as I hoped, feared and expected, my doctor's appt yesterday revealed an iron deficiency. Luckily, not anemia, but a drop in stored iron from my winter high of 46 to a June 10 low of 13. This means I'm back on OTC iron tablets, vitamin C and a multivitamin.

So, I whipped up this iron-rich breakfast for our summer café: cinnamon raisin cream of wheat, lavender nettle tea and Bolthouse Farms mango-cherry Immunity-C Smoothie.

I had already told myself I would splurge on one of those smoothies when I saw Target had the smoothies on sale for $3.49!!! I dilute mine and use it to take my vitamins.

The nettle tea came loose from the local Nature's Way Market. I didn't know how strong it should be so I just dumped some in the bottom of my French press with some food grade lavender. The child likes it with honey. I prefer it straight.

Heat to almost boiling:
- 1 cup vanilla almond milk
- some sugar (less than 2 tablespoons)
- about one heaping tablespoon cinnamon
- one large handful raisins
Then when just starting to bubble add:
- 4 tablespoons farina

Stir until thickened

Monday, July 11, 2011

Salsa festival

As I mentioned a while ago, Wegmans phased out their organic mango salsa and I haven't been to Wegmans lately to see if they rolled out their new salsa line.

We made nachos tonight with canned refried beans, cheddar, velveeta (a gift), and black olives on Archer Farms blue multigrain tortilla chips with flax seed. (These chips very much hurt my broken tooth, somehow chip ended up over there when I hadn't chewed on that side.)

I had a coupon for $1 off if I bought one 16-ounce Archer Farms salsa and one bag of Archer Farms chips. Hence the chips mentioned earlier. The chips were $2.99 before my discount(s) and coupon. The salsas were between $2.99 and $3.31 a jar. Odd price range.

I opted for two jars: one mild (raspberry with jalapeño, pineapple and red bell peppers) and one medium (corn, black bean & roasted red peppers with roasted jalapeño, red bell peppers and green chiles).

Both are tasty. Now the cheap salsa from Aldi has 10 calories per 2 tablespoons, 180 mg sodium, 2% RDA of vitamin A and no protein or other vitamins/minerals.

My favorite Wegmans mango salsa has 15 calories, 105 mg sodium, no protein, but 8% RDA of A and 15% vitamin C. Much more nutrition.

Archer Farms? Well...

The mild raspberry has 15 calories, 120 mg sodium, 1 gram protein, 4% vitamin A and 6% vitamin C. So it has some punch, but not like the mango. And the corn/black bean also has 15 calories, 220 mg sodium (holy cr*p), 1 gram protein, 2% vitamin A and 10% vitamin C.

Each year I plan my garden hoping to grow enough herbs and ingredients for homemade salsa. Hopefully this summer I'll learn to can and if I don't grow enough, I'll be visiting local farms and farmers markets. Let's make salsa!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sandwiches and salad

Got an applewood smoked ham quarter for $3 at Target. It's certainly not a quality ham or a big ham, but it's sliced for sandwiches and has 1.66 pounds. I heated it with water in the crock pot.

We made sandwiches on bagels from NY Bagel & Deli in the 25th Street shopping plaza, leftover mozzarella from Calandra's in Nazareth, and that kale-zucchini-cream cheese dip from Lost Gourmet at the Pheonixville Farmers Market yesterday.

We served with an Asian style salad that began life as a Fresh Express Very Veggie with some greens and sorrel from my garden, dried peas, dried pineapple, cucumber and Newman's Own Ginger Sesame dressing.

Using the sun

Although I don't have the right ingredients, and we all know I never do, I decided to harness the power of the sun and make new pickles. Gayle did some research and sent her mom's recipe, which I posted here.

We don't have pickle cukes, but since we have some from the farmers market and they are super fresh and crisp. I plan on eating these later today or tomorrow so I'm not worried about them getting soggy.

While looking in the basement for my spare butter dishes, I found one of those really big jars which I washed out and started a batch of sun tea in.

I went out to the garage and retrieved my Ball jars, the pint sized ones. Washed one and put some garlic, probably too much, and a big handful of dill from the garden in the bottom. Added salt. Had the child fill it with cucumber slices and tossed in some carrot sticks.

Poured in some apple cider vinegar, filled the rest of the jar with water, layered the lids on, shook it well, and put it in the sun beside the tea.

Now, we wait.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I've been craving Indian food. I researched making naan and while I haven't attempted it-- apparently it requires yogurt-- here are some interesting web pages on the topic:

Farmers' Markets

Today, my family and I went with my friend Gayle to meet other friends, Kev and Tracy, at the Collegeville and then Phoenixville Farmers Markets.

I spent a total of $39, which includes some contributing to parking and a almond milk/ green tea/ some sort of wheat grass iced latte.

$9 went to Iced by Betsy for some incredible cupcakes.

Got a canning guide and free recipe booklet from the folks that make Ball jars. It has recipes for apple butter, salsa, chutney, pickles, even barbecue sauce.

Got cucumbers, zucchini, zesty white and regular carrots. Lime hummus, wow did that have an unusual fresh flavor and it wasn't made with tahini. Had to buy some ($5) to try and replicate it in the future.

But the real winner for culinary creativity was the lady who made kale-zucchini-cream cheese dip. $6 for 8 ounces. Expensive, but another combination of flavors I had to enjoy. And I'm a minimal connoisseur of kale.

When we got home, we made a giant platter: cheddar, pepper jack, Calandra's fresh mozzarella, crackers, toasted Archer Farms multi-grain bread, cucumbers, carrots, the kale dip, the hummus, strawberries, figs from Forks Mediterranean Deli, unsalted cashews, leftover lamb shawarma from the deli... Oh! And greens and sorrel and fresh dill and fresh parsley all from my garden.

And between my husband and I, we conjured a sandwich of toast, kale dip, greens/sorrel, cucumbers, a touch of Annie's Cowgirl ranch, dill and a thin layer of mozzarella.

Strawberry pancakes

Yesterday my daughter requested pancakes, so we whipped up possibly the fluffiest pancake batter ever, courtesy of the Betty Crocker recipe, adapted. I love "her" opening to this recipe: "Pancakes are easy to personalize..."

- a ridiculous amount of sliced fresh strawberries (probably 3 cups)
- 1 egg
- 4 tablespoons no sugar added applesauce
- 1 1/4 cup unbleached white flour
- 3/4 cups oats
- 1.5 cups sour milk
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- about 1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat egg until fluffy. Add applesauce and whisk thoroughly. Add remaining ingredients, folding in strawberries last.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pork glazed with sesame oil with fresh squash

My mother brought us two garden fresh yellow squash and I thawed out pork in anticipation of guests but they had a family emergency...

-5 thin cut boneless pork chops
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- sesame seeds
- one tablespoon orange juice concentrate

In a large frying pan or cast iron skillet, heat butter and sesame oil over low heat. Add meat, increase heat to medium, and cook for about five minutes each side. Glaze with orange juice concentrate and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

For the SQUASH:
Without cleaning the skillet...

- 2 medium yellow squash, chopped
- about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
- about 2 tablespoons butter
- about 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- about 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- one cup water
- about two tablespoons orange juice concentrate

Add first four ingredients to skillet over medium heat, squash last.

Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl to make a sauce.

Stir fry squash until golden. Add sauce and cook until the juice boils down.

Honey-glazed double grilled cheese

Nothing soothes my soul like a grilled cheese sandwich. I bought Archer Farm multigrain sandwich bread at Target last night with this purpose in mind.

- 4 slices Archer Farm Multigrain sandwich bread
- 1 stick butter, room temperature
- about four ounces extra sharp cheddar
- about 3/4 cup six blend Italian shredded cheese (Market Pantry)
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon canola oil
- 2 tablespoons honey

Put your frying pan or skillet on extra low heat. Drop in the oil and grease pan with fingers or towel. Add one tablespoon butter. Add half the pepper evenly across the pan.

Butter one side of two slices of bread and place in skillet. Coat each slice with an even layer of about 1/4 of the shredded cheese. Cover the cheese with very thin slices of cheddar, covering all the bread. Add evenly the remaining shredded cheese.

Top with buttered slices of remaining bread. You, hopefully, will use less than half the butter. Sprinkle with remaining pepper.

Increase heat to medium and press sandwiches together with a turner. Flip once cheese has melted. Once almost desired brown color, drizzle honey onto the bread. Flip. Add honey to other side. Let first side cook for about a minute-- the honey will burn quickly.

Brown the other side and serve.

Crazy Target Dash

Last night between getting out of work at 9:37 and meeting my ride at 9:45, I did one of my mad dashes through the Target market. I lost my grocery list I had stashed in my wallet and forgot obvious stuff, but my motivation was clearanced pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

- Fresh Express veggie lovers salad, $2.99 (will mix that with our salad greens in the garden)
- Archer Farms Applewood Ham in that ham shape, 1 lb, $2.98
- 2 pieces of Angus beef, not sure what the cut is, but they look like steaks and the receipt says loin, $3.40 for one, $3.36 for the other
- New England blueberry cobbler coffee, 2 bags, $5.99 each
- Archer Farms multigrain bread, $2.54
- 2 lbs strawberries, $1.99 each
- welch's 100% grape juice frozen concentrate, one can was $1.26 and the other was $1.39
- Ben & Jerry's pints, 3 at $1.69 each

Total: 38.95
Minus team member discount: $3.91
Minus red card discount: $1.75
No tax
New total: $33.29

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fresh Garden Salad

The other day, the child and I were in our tiny, mostly fenced in backyard with the cat (Zoot) and the kitten (Oz, after the werewolf in Buffy the Vampire Slayer) when I noticed our mixed greens in the garden looked delicious.

I couldn't resist. I picked them and some French sorrel and made myself a salad of dried peas, sorrel, greens and Annie's Cowgirl Ranch Dressing.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Everyday food


Friday night we were supposed to go visit one of our favorite families, but as we got ready to hit the highway on this fabulous holiday weekend, the car began to spray antifreeze everywhere explosively and smoke profusely. We hitched a ride from one of my husband's work colleagues, sitting in the back of the car with the biggest and friendliest black dog ever.

My daughter was devastated. We ordered pizza from Papa Johns and watched the Muppet Show.

Yesterday my daughter went with my mom while I went with my dad to see if this was a quick easy fix, like a hose. Three hours later all I can say is, it's not.

My husband and I made a pasta dish before I left for work. It was wheat rotini in red sauce, simmered with kielbasa and basil, and served with mozzarella on top.

This morning he made chocolate chip pancakes for brunch and now we're having eggplant Parmesan with several kinds of cheeses.