Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bake It Hot, Eat It Cold

Homemade Granola
It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows me, but I like making lists. There is a comfort in writing things down. Digital lists are not half so satisfying as hand-written lists... but I employ both methods. After all, one can't have too many lists. The list-making for me is an attempt to organize my thoughts and ideas, and also a way to drain off some of the excess stuff swirling around my brain-pan at any given moment. It gives me mental breathing room. Reduces the mental clutter. I always feel better after cleaning my house – less claustrophobic, less stressed. Making lists does that for my brain.

I have an on-going list of things that I make myself – things I don't have to buy already manufactured or processed. There is also a list of things I want to try making at home. Sometimes it's a while before something on the second list makes it over to the first list. The need has to be there. I usually wait until we've run out of whatever it is before I attempt to make it.

Feed The Need
Granola has long been on the "want to try making" list, but cool mornings call for hot breakfasts. Well, last week that suddenly and blisteringly changed. It was 84°F... in the shade... at 8:00 in the morning. Yech. It would be the first scorcher of the summer, a real thermometer-buster, and I was unprepared.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Do Snails Love Basil More Than I Do?

hole-y basil
Snails couldn't possibly share the same kind of love I have in my heart for basil. Though by the looks of our plants... they're certainly not shy with their PDA.

After lackluster growth in the past, we decided to put our three basil plants into the ground this year instead of in pots like we usually do. The snails, of course, have been delighted with our decision.

I went to the web in search of chemical-free snail solutions and instead came across some valuable advice regarding growing, pruning, and harvesting basil. I found out two very important things regarding our basil plants... a) we've been doing everything wrong, and... b) it's not too late to fix it!

The very next moment I was out the door with my straw hat and pruning snips in hand. I pruned/harvested all of our basil plants, and now I have a sink full of ugly snail-nibbled basil. You guessed it... it's pesto-time. In fact, it's Big Batch pesto time. I had enough for 2 batches — one for now and one for the freezer.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Kitchen Elves Have Insomnia

The kitchen elves are hard at work
If necessity is the mother of invention, then is laziness is the father of efficiency? Can slow ever be fast?  And when does "from scratch" ever equal "E-Z"?

I spend an inordinate amount of my time in the kitchen. What with all the DIY, MIY, MYO, and MIM-ing going on (even my computer is in the kitchen). Making all our meals from scratch may be healthier, more economical, and less wasteful, but it doesn't mean I want to start from square-one every single day. Oh, heck no. That's why I tend to gravitate toward "big batch" recipes, freezer meals, and other sensible shortcuts and time-savers.

I'm just glad they don't whistle while they work
So how do I manage to combine homemade with convenience (two words that don't usually show up in the same sentence)? Easy... I employ kitchen elves. Yep, elves. Or as they like to be called: Kitchen Convenience Facilitators. They work at night while we're asleep, and in the morning coffee is made, breakfast is ready, and the dishes are clean. Now if only I could get them to vacuum and mop the floors, I'd really be a happy girl.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Little Cautious Bravado

"Dinner's going to be late, Honey... just pretend we're in Spain!". I add that last bit when dinner's going to be reeeaally late. Like the other night. But then, as I recall, we actually did eat like they do in Spain... I made Tortilla Española.

In case you're unfamiliar, a Tortilla Española (or Spanish Tortilla) is a tasty traditional dish of potatoes, eggs, and onions. It can be served hot, cold or room temp (love that). It's perfect for brunch, lunch, dinner, or as an appetizer (love that). Any occasion, any time of day, any time of year. And, yeah, the other night we ate it well past the hour when most American dinners are long since over. Well, as they say... más vale tarde que nunca!*

The only tricky bit about making a Tortilla Española is the inverting or flipping... that's where it can get dicey if you're not confident. Did I mention the sizzling skillet... centrifugal force... hot oil? Go ahead and shout "Olé!" after flipping it. Or, do like me and just exhale. You'll probably be holding your breath. The good news? It gets easier each time.

So, with a little caution, some bravado, and a big handful of salad greens on the side... you'll be amply rewarded with a tasty and easy meal. A meal that goes equally well with red or white wine, I might add, but in this heat, I think it's especially nice with a chilled rosé.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blood-Orange Ginger Tea Bread

Blood-Orange Tea Bread
Ready or not, it was time to start using the blood-oranges on our tree. These are the fruits that were on the tree when we bought it back in December. According to various sources, the fruit should have been ripe anywhere from late-February to May. It's now June and whether they were ready or not... I was.

I had dreamed of making something that would highlight the gorgeous ruby flesh of these first fruits; something simple, elegant, and fruit-forward. But alas, they were still a tad too tart. Chalk it up to a Northern-esque climate and an especially cold and wet Spring. I do keep harping on that, don't I? Well, you can take the girl out of So. Cal. but you can't take the So. Cal. out of the girl.

Let's just say I'm feeling a real affinity with this orange tree right now.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Eat This Only On Days Ending In "Y"

"Unda Style" Quesadilla
Not too long ago, I decided to buy corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas, just for a change of pace. It wasn't long before I realized that I didn't really know what to do with them. They baffled me. Other than enchiladas and soft tacos, what could I do with them that didn't involve frying in a pool of oil? (I'm serious... any suggestions?)

Thankfully this recipe and method crossed my path when it did. Can I love a method? I'm pretty sure I've loved processes before, but now I'm loving a method. A simple, awesome, and very adaptable... method.

Still simple, but a lot more special
Just what is this marvelous method for? Making quesadillas (sort of). That's right, already one of the easiest things in the world to make. But these are not ordinary quesadillas... nor are they over-complicated in any way either. That's part of their beauty.