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September 29, 2009 in daring bakers, vegetarian3 comments

vols-au-vent

vols-au-vent filled with roasted summer vegetables

The September 2009 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

When I read that my first Daring Bakers challenge would be to make puff pastry, and then form them into vols-au-vent — a French phrase that roughly translates to “windblown” for their lightness and airy height — I was trepidatious. Why couldn’t my de-virgination be a nice cake or something? Sure, it might be a complicated cake, but it would have a basis in something recognizable.

brushing egg wash on the vols-au-vent

After several weeks, I took a deep breath and jumped in.

baked empty vols-au-vent shell

The result was light, flaky, buttery pastry baked in shaped shells, begging to be stuffed with fillings sweet or savory. Read more on vols-au-vent…

September 27, 2009 in 24x246 comments

foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: summer’s last hurrah — a celebration of the garden’s final offerings

Do you enjoy reading Shiny Cooking? Me neither! Voting is open to all in the Foodbuzz food blog awards until September 30. If you like me, really like me, like Sally Field like me, you could toss a vote to Shiny Cooking in oh, the Best New Blog category. Or Best Writing Voice, or Blogger You’d Most Want to Whack Upside the Head. Voting is here.

chioggia beets, about to be rinsed and boiled

The end of summer is a bittersweet time for a vegetable garden. Many plants are ripe or ripening, while others still bravely put out blossoms, uncognizant of the coming frost that will put a halt to their reproductive attempts. Indeterminate tomatoes are the most tragic example of this, showing off their dainty little yellow flowers into October if weather allows.

Tomatoes are living proof of plucky optimism. “Winter is coming? I’ll believe it when I see it!”

In my garden still there are carrots, chard, overgrown bunching onions, zucchini, tomatillos, sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, baby watermelon, and a stalwart little eggplant.

For Foodbuzz’s monthly 24, 24, 24 event (24 meals by 24 bloggers in a 24 hour period), I chose to celebrate this last hurrah of the garden, at least in northern climes. The frost date for my area is September 25th, so the end of the month usually coincides with the end of the garden’s frost-tender plants, which is most of them.

The original plan was to host a meal. I know! I haven’t hosted a family meal at my place yet!

justin's 9th birthday party, opening presents

However, my nephew Justin’s birthday is September 25th, and Jennifer decided to throw his birthday celebration on the 26th — the day I was required to hold my 24, 24, 24 event. We decided I would provide several dishes based on summer’s last hurrah. Read more on foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: summer’s last hurrah — a celebration of the garden’s final offerings…

mini palmiers: what to do with leftover puff pastry

mini palmiers

Here’s one amazing thing to do with leftover scraps of puff pastry: make mini palmiers. A good idea for snacks for a crowd. They’ll go fast, though!

Warning: drunken post ahead

My cousin Tone is in town, and he brought a big ass RV and several other modes of transportation with him. I countted five: the RV, the pickup, motorcycle, 4-wheeler and…kayak.

He’s set up house across the driveway. Yay.

He’s from Texas, like his mom —my aunt — who paradoxically was originally from right here. Like, right in this house. The oldest of my paternal triumvirant, Geriann, is his mom, and okay, this is getting both involved and a bit pedantic.

obliterating my ass at 500 rummy

He came over tonight and we played 500 rummy. Four times. He completely, totally obliterated my ass the first two times. He played it a bit gin rummy style, holding things back to kick my ass, playing mind games, and so forth.

I fixed that right quick

no, mini palmiers are not eyeglasses

Here, have some Wal-Mart wine, Tone.

Did you know that Wal-Mart, like Trader Joe’s, has a house brand of wine that will blow you away? In fact, I think the Wal-Mart brand is even better. It must be, because I’m having to spell-check this very carefully, and I don’t get this buzzed unless the alcohol is very good.

Wal-Mart markets two (at least) wonderful varieties under the Oak Leaf label: cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. Since I’m partial to reds, I buy the cabernet quite often. It used to be $2.97, and therefore comparable to two-buck chuck. I think it’s better. They just raised it — today— to $3.49, but I still think it’s a steal.

And I’m not some rube. I’ve had some very good wines in my day. This compares.

The first two games of rummy he smoked my ass. However, he was drinking this lovely cabernet the whole time, and by the third game I was able to smoke him, 605 to 390. Yay! I have to say he was a good foil; I’d never played 500 rummy with someone who played so strategically.

And man that was hard to spell.

Ultimately, we went through 2 and a half bottles of Wal-Mart cabernet. He is going to go buy more tomorrow if he knows what is good for him.

remnants of the pink brandywine

As for snacks, we began by stabbing, literally, at a pink brandywine. My tomatoes just succumbed to late blight, and I’m pulling all the tomatoes off the vines. It is very sad, and let us all share a moment of silence for them. He loved it; it was nearly as flavorful as my previous crop of pink brandywines, which means very smoky and rich.

the mini palmiers are almost gone, AND I'M WINNING

A bit afterwards, in the third game actually — coincidentally, the one where I smoked him — he got peckish again. The cad.

how dare he get peckish

I had a smallish pat of scraps of homemade puff pastry in the fridge, and I whipped it out, sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on it, and made a bit over a dozen mini palmiers from it.

He snarfed them.

Granted, anything puff pastry is going to be melt-in-your-mouth delicious, but include cinnamon sugar and you have little bursts of melty spiciness.

yay, he's totally drunk and snarfing mini palmiers

P.S. Did I mention I won the third game? Yeah, the one where the mini palmiers came out.

Song for this recipe: Carrion by British Sea Power. Read more on mini palmiers: what to do with leftover puff pastry…

September 21, 2009 in breakfast / brunch, how to, vegetarian7 comments

easy one-egg omelet

here omelet omelet

Neat, this made Foodie Views of the day! They gave me a pretty button to go with it:

Routine is a good thing. I lost 60 pounds eating the same thing for breakfast every morning, and anecdotally people suggest that eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch, and mixing it up for supper is good too. Some crazy theory that not having to think about what you’re going to eat makes it easier to keep track.

But you’re still fat! you say, glancing at that picture over to your left.

So? A little is better than nothing at all. And I’ll do it again. So there. Everyone who’s done a marathon here raise your hand.

*raises*

I love that comeback. All the training and suffering was worth it. Just to be able to say that for the rest of my life. Any time, for any reason. :D

My routine breakfast used to be Shredded Wheat and Bran, soymilk, sliced banana, and orange juice. After a year or two of this I still wasn’t bored with it.

But then the damn blood center began dissing me when I went to donate.

Your iron’s too low to donate.

*month passes*

Your iron’s too low to donate.

*month passes*

Your iron’s too low to donate.

*tear out hair*

Apparently some people (Michigan Community Blood Center, I’m looking at you) seem to think a hemocrit of 37, 36, or 35 is too low to be allowed to give blood. Hmph.

I tried small measures: more beans, some more leafies. Didn’t help. So I turned to the most iron-fortified food on the planet, or at the very least, in my cupboard: Malt-O-Meal, fortified with 60% of the RDA for iron, guaranteed to give you Popeye arms.

And, I actually like it. I don’t know why everyone makes that sour face. Malt-O-Meal is awesome.

But it introduced a problem. A serving of Malt-O-Meal does not a breakfast make, at least not one that’s going to stick with you more than half an hour. I couldn’t have cereal with it, because I had this inkling that that would be stupid.

eggs laid by easter egg chickens! i kid you not

Where to get protein? Oh! An egg! I have all sorts of pretty-colored eggs, thanks to friends who raise chickens that lay Easter eggs. Not kidding. It’s some special variety.

So I got out my little sauté pan and made up a one-egg omelet. All by myself. And it was good. And it made it into the new breakfast routine. I seriously think the green onion makes it. I wouldn’t want it without. The green onion is cooked with the egg. Then I dice up one of the smaller Stupice tomatoes and add other ingredients if they sound good.

As for insides, try:

• tomato
• green pepper
• crumbled bacon
• cheese, even feta
• shredded zucchini

In five minutes, you too can have a little showpiece omelet. Read more on easy one-egg omelet…

September 14, 2009 in canning and freezing, how to16 comments

millions of peaches, peaches for me

those peaches look real purty

You can’t beat a home-canned peach. Store-bought doesn’t compare. Some other fruits handle store shelves pretty well, like pineapple and pears, but store-canned peaches are nearly flavorless in comparison.

If you can only one variety of fruit, can peaches.

pints of pretty peaches

Linda came over to do it with me, bearing a bushel of peaches from the local fruit market. After an aborted attempt at canning them — they weren’t ready yet! — we let them ripen for 3 more days. They were gorgeous. Firm, fragrant, and only one bad one in the bunch, discovered at the bottom of one of the boxes.

really, maybe like 3/4. some jars missing.

We got about 32 pints from that bushel, with about 20 peaches kept aside for fresh eating and baking. Here’s how to can your own. Read more on millions of peaches, peaches for me…

September 8, 2009 in garden porn8 comments

how does your garden grow? oh s*** edition

Previously: How does your garden grow? 8-11-09 edition

What follows is a chronicle of a giant, weed-infested, blight-ridden, cool-summer-stricken garden. It seemed like overnight there were 3-foot weeds in there. And that annoying fungus had killed the cukes and melons near dead.

I guess if the frost holds off til November, we might have tomatoes. That’s a joke, because it usually frosts here by the end of September. Sigh.

parsley, one of the only things in decent shape

Let’s take a tour of the post-apocalyptic mess that is my garden, shall we? What you see above is one of the very few plants that looks normal or, nay, even healthy. Herbs are tough little guys. Including parsley.

the loooong view of the garden, looking west

The long view. Long garden is long. Yes, it’s a triangle. Those tall things in the back? Tomatoes. For reference, those yellow and orange spots in front of them are 3-foot-tall marigolds. Read more on how does your garden grow? oh s*** edition…

look, we canned pears

too bad i hate pears

Yup, we sure did.

I provided the kitchen and the canner and my aunt picked the pears, cleaned the pears, peeled the pears, cut the pears, packed the pears, and processed the pears.

I practically did it all by myself!

the canning stuff, yawn

yer basic hot water bath canning setup

Right there you see the basic canning setup on the stovetop. I began doing this a few years ago, absorbed in some weird home ec flashback. I say weird, because home ec was actually more about how to not kill yourself in the kitchen and how to hand sew misshapen stuffed animals made of highly-flammable polyester. And less about useful stuff like, you know, canning.

Since this stuff often hits Facebook, I bet some of you were in that 7th grade home ec class, or had one yourself. Did you honestly ever cook anything more involved than no-bake chocolate cookies? If that. But I digress, as I am wont to do.

6 pints in 2 hours, man

We (she) canned 6 pints of pears in 2 hours. Of course, many pears do not make it into little jars, and instead find themselves eaten by nephews and ignored by super adorable kittens.

justin, jen, pear, kitteh
Read more on look, we canned pears…