Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Not-So-Healthy But Really Tastey Trail Bars

All the hiking and biking we've done this summer has had me on the look out for some good bars. After checking some recipes and noticing that they all call for some sort of corn syrup or rice syrup, which I don't really want in my bars, I decided to just throw something together and see how it stuck together.
This was very spur of the moment, this deciding thing. I had a pan with chocolate chips on the stove before I really knew what was happening and when Spence said "whatcha making?" I didn't really have an answer.
I had about 2/3 cup of dark chocolate chips, I added a couple tbsp. honey, two marshmallows, and 3/4 peanut butter. After it was all melted and smooth I poured it over 2 cups of rolled oats, a small bag of Tropical Medley dried fruit and 2/3 cup of sunflower seeds.
I pressed it between two pieces of parchment paper in a baking dish and coerced it into a rectangle. Then I put it in the fridge until it was firm, sliced it up and ate some(maybe two and half). Yum. So good!
It's pretty sweet, I probably didn't need the honey, but it's actually a lot of oats versus chocolate stuff so it's pretty hearty.
What do you do for bars on the go?  

Another Way To Use Up Multiple Eggplants...

This week at our CSA they had a table set up in the barn with three crates full of Asian eggplant. And signs that said "Help Yourself". I took four. FOUR! What was I thinking? I still had two in the fridge!
I was thinking about 30 hypothetical things I could do with them. And I couldn't remember a single one when I got home.
After thinking and scratching my head and chewing my pen I decided to come up with some sort of  sandwich with thin crispy pieces of eggplant that allow you to actually taste the eggplant, unlike eggplant parmesan.
Tyson walked in and said "Wow, it smells like a restaurant in here!" A few minutes later he took a bite and said "...That's why! Because this tastes like a restaurant!"
Whoo-hoo! Ten points for the midweek meal!
Here's how it happened.
Fried Eggplant "Restaurant" Sandwich
for the eggplant:
2 Asian eggplants, cut into three pieces and then sliced the long way 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick (see pictures)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 flour
salt and paprika
4 eggs whisked in a large bowl
Mix your flour and cornmeal, salt and paprika on a baking sheet. Oil another baking sheet and have at the ready. Preheat your oven to 425 Fahrenheit.
Dip and drip the slices in the egg.
Lay them in the cornmeal mixture and make sure both sides are evenly covered.
Arranged on oiled pan and bake for 6 minutes or until crispy. Flip over and bake another 6 minutes.
for sandwich:
1 Loaf of bread, mine was about the size of a football, sliced the long way through the middle
2 tbsp. mayo mixed with one clove minced garlic
3 leafs of Romaine
4 slices of red onion
Cheddar cheese to make sufficiently cheesey
Oregano (garnish)
 Thinly sliced Red Bell Pepper (garnish)
I put my bread cut side down right on the oven rack for the last 6 minutes of my eggplant.
Spread the mayo and arrange romaine. lay eggplant in an overlapping chevron pattern (see pictures).
Follow with onion, cheddar, peppers and oregano.
Place 'sandwich' open faced on your oiled pan and place in oven until melted.
Slice huge chunks and serve.

Friday, July 26, 2013

This week we've had a cool spell (cue heavenly choir) so we took advantage of this and went to get more blueberries. This time some friends with kids came along. There was 8 month old Millie and 3 year old Clara. They all had such a good time.

London surprised me by walked the whooole way again. Last time we hiked in the morning, this time it was after lunch, but she happily insisted on doing it herself. She walked over rocks and through some mud. Lying along the trail at one point was a fallen tree with a bunch of those little white mushrooms that look like steps. London says "Look! A mushroom piano!" And she sits next to it and 'plays' the mushroom the piano.

I thought that maybe with friends she wouldn't be as into the picking as she was on Monday but she followed my into the underbrush and climbed onto rocks to reach the good ones. She kept going "Oooo, Mommy, found bue-berras! Good ones..." She was so much fun to have around!

Spencer brought a buddy his age and after about the first quarter mile we didn't see them again until the top and even then only as blurs of red and green t-shirts while they ran after each other, green blueberries zinging through the air around them. Needless to say, no pictures of them this time...

I got to carry Millie in the backpack for a while and while we were taking a break on a big rock London climbed up next to me and ever-so-gently pet her head. Dried apricots forgotten, she continued to stroke her and tell her about the mountain we were hiking while Clara took a potty break. Then she turns to me and says with the sweetest smile and the cutest voice:
"Have mines baby someday" Me:
"You are? Do you really like babies?"
Her: "Yeah. Wrap them up. Rock them, hold them..."
It was so sweet, and Millie just looked and babbled at her the whole time. Funny to think someday we'll call them the 'same' age. A year and a half seems like such a huge difference now...

On the way down Clara got a piggyback ride which meant everyone was walking with much longer legs so we ended up hiking down just the two of us. She told me she was a zebra.
"When did you turn into a zebra?" I asked "I didn't notice that happening."
Her: " Uhhmmmm... Saturday"
Me: "Really. Let's see we were with Roger and Goia on Saturday."
Her: "Yeah. Jussdid."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Blueberry Picking On Gap Mountain

Taking a snack break. She was such a trooper! She walked all the way up and 9/10ths of the way down.
"Sitting Tree"
She patiently and meticulously filled her "bucket" three times and ate them all before she decided to fill it and bring them home.
There's a very large mountain in that cloud. Take my word for it. It's right there.

Grilled Eggplant(Aubergine) Pizza

It's an adventure every year being part of a CSA. Having such a diverse presentation of what is truly seasonal forces me to consider how tightly boxed my choices end up being when I'm shopping at the grocery store.
And this isn't because I don't have the same amount of options at the store; there are literally at least a hundred things to choose from in the produce section. But having the days harvest presented in wooden boxes for me to choose from has such a different appeal. "It's ripe now, right now. It's never going to taste better..." No list in my hand, just the appeal of the colors and the scents. And my imagination.
I've been forced to find new ways to use things because I've bought fennel and eggplant/aubergine in the winter time and thrown them in a hotoven, but I'm not doing that in the summer. I already shared my carmelized fennel; here's my aubergine's "new outfit".
Grilled Eggplant Pizza
(loosely adapted from smittenkitchen)
1 Medium Aubergine, sliced 3/4 inch pieces
1 /2  Chopped Green Olives
1 minced Garlic Clove
2 Sardines
Lots of Melty Cheese
Handful of minced chives
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Sprinklings of Salt
Pizza dough for one medium pizza
Mix oil and garlic and a dash of salt.
Brush the aubergine slices with garlic oil and grill on medium heat for 8 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.
Cut the slices into chunks. Mash sardines into remaining garlic oil.
Roll out dough and brush with plain oil. Grill with lid closed for 4 minutes. Flip over and brush with garlic/sardine oil.
Spread olives and aubergine (that really rolls off the tongue...) and sprinkle with cheese.
Close lid and grill another 4 minutes. The cheese will be melted but not brown, so you can give it a minute under the broiler if the want some crispy bits.
Spread chives and serve.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Best Banana Muffins

How do you like your muffins?
Some people like them crumbly. Some like them cakey. Some like them cup-cakey sweet, while others like them breakfasty and hearty. Some like them big, really big. There are muffins out there (they may or may not be from dunkin donuts) that hold 800 calories in their unthreatening paper wrappers.

I do like mine cakey. If I want something crumbly I can buy a scone (although my homemade scones are tender. recipe in a post from march 19th...). But not too sweet. I mean they're not dessert, right? I will probably be eating them in the morning, so...

This is my favorite muffin recipe! Adapted loosely from Dorie Greenspans "Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips", I've turned it into muffins and never looked back. Because of the bananas it's always moist, even when I've forgotten to set the timer, and it even works with wheat-free flours. Also, because of those bananas, it has a lot of natural sweetness so I've cut the sugar a bit.

To be politically correct I will say that the chocolate chips are optional, but we both know better than that.

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Banana Muffins w/ Chocolate Chips

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, or wheat free flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 salt
1 stick of room temp butter
3/4  or 2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
2 very ripe bananas, mashed a little ( I keep bags of paired very ripe bananas in the freezer, in case of emergencies...)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
chocolate chips til it looks sufficiently chocolate chipy

Oven at *350. Whisk flour baking soda and salt together,

In a large bowl beat the butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg and beat until smooth and shiny.

Add bananas, mashing a little if needed but leaving some banana pieces.

Mix in half the dry ingredients. Stir in yogurt. Pour chocolate chips in and then add the rest of the flour mixture on top. As you stir these in the flour will coat the chocolate chips and keep them from all sinking to the bottom.

Line muffin pan with cups, and fill. I have trouble getting a full dozen because I like mine full, but you get 12 medium sized ones. I think this is because it was originally a perfect sized loaf recipe.
If you have an empty muffin cup just fill it halfway with water. After taking out the paper cup.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean and they don't look wet in the peak.

Cool just slightly, then devour.

Homemade Chive Chip Dip (and how to make tzatziki)

how telling is a pretty picture of untouched food? food is guaranteed good when it's gone...

Very rarely do I "throw things together". I do make things up and play with swapping one ingredient for another. In fact, it's almost impossible for me to get through a recipe without swapping one thing for another... But very often if I'm making a dish from my head I've thought about it before hand. I may have even lain awake in bed running through the contents of my fridge and cupboard, pairing flavors with textures. Or I may have read a recipe and taken the basic technique but, well, not and then I change everything else about it, too.

But yesterday I threw something together and I was very excited when it worked.

I had some tzatziki (cucumber yogurt salad) in the refrigerator that needed to be used up, maybe half a cup. I strained some yogurt (about a cup and half) and added a handful of minced chives. Then I stirred it into the tzatziki and added a liberal shaking of salt. I let it sit form lunch time to dinner time and then served it with potato chips.
It was so good! It was like an onion dip because the load of chives versus anything else, but the cucumber shavings gave the whole thing a coolness beyond the yogurt alone. I'm definitely doing this again. Although, it will probably be a little different...

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Tzatziki template
a quart of plain yogurt
2 cucumbers grated
a handful of chopped dill (some people also add mint, but I like mine with unadulterated dill)
lemon juice (or you could use lime)
salt and pepper

Strain your yogurt over a glass measuring cup using wet cheese cloth or wet paper towel overnight for the whole day at room temp.
Meanwhile, salt the cucumbers slightly and drain them for a couple hours.
Squeeze them as dry as you can and add to the thick (greek) yogurt. Add the dill and stir. Mix in lemon and salt/pepper to taste.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lake Swimming

Another scorcher this week. It should be breaking for a slightly cooler one next week, but until then we've been seeking emotional shelter in bodies of water. We tried out a new one last night in Spoffard and loved it. There was a play structure and swings. The water was shallow for a long ways out and it was plenty wide enough to accommodate all the other swelter-ers. Spencer jumped it and found a underwater rock the size of a car and we didn't see much of him after that. The shallows were a bit blasé comparatively. Constantly torn when one kid is 12 and the other 2 1/2... Thank goodness there's two parents, right?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pizza Of The Week - Carmalized Fennel w/ Feta and Garlic Oil

Usually a sore throat is a precursor. At least for me, a sore throat lasts about a day and then the rest of the cold hits. But since Sunday I've felt like a very poorly trained sword-swallower.
I've stayed away from sugar; I've skipped by nightly raisin-bran with milk (ack! just thinking about milk makes me phlegmy!), and I haven't had cheese on my avocado sandwiches. And today was a little better.
But I read about caramelized fennel after I got some at the CSA this week and I was so psyched about putting this on pizza that I couldn't wait. I made it, and ate it, with gusto. Will I pay tomorrow? Probably. 
Every summer I get so excited about buying fennel. It looks elegant, smells delicious, and promises so many unique dishes with it's particular licorice flavor. And then I can't figure out what to do with it. Potato au Gratin with Fennel it great, but who want to have the oven of for an hour and half in July?
So this was an enticing prospect. And it delivered.

It was amazing!

So if youre looking for something to do with fennel I highly recommend caramelizing it. You could serve it as a side dish, put it on toast, in a risotto, or... on pizza.
Or find something else to do with it. Do share!

Month Three Sham-free

So I am just short of three months without using any commercial shampoo. So I thought it was time for an update.

I was curious how the summer heat would go with all this sweating and all that we've been doing, but so far it's been fine, no worse! If it's been particularly sticky outside I'll give it the baking soda wash with the apple-cider vinegar rinse every other day instead of every two or three. Which is still fine. It doesn't dry it out or make it hard to work with, it's just that I've gotten used to my showers being so quick.

So here's how it's been working. I take some dry baking soda in a recycled cap into the shower. I scrub little bits into different parts of my scalp and work it in with my finger. Let is sit for a minute to absorb your extra oil and then rinse it out. Follow with a rinse of diluted apple cider vinegar and then rinse out the vinegar(your house mates will thank you).

And this leaves my hair smooth and easy to work with. I've been having a hard time being objective because my hair is at a kind of awkward growing stage (you can relive adolescents anytime with your hair!) but I'm looking forward to these funny layers growing out. My hair itself has been very healthy and shiny! I haven't been using any styling products, but I hear the baking soda is game enough to take anything out, you may just need to wash it twice for extreme cases.

So there it is! I don't foresee any reason why I would go back to buying shampoo. I'll save almost $175 over a 12 month period based on the shampoo and conditioner that I was using. And my hair is much more manageable than it ever has been.

Let me know; have you tried it? What did you think? What was/is your hair like?

Missed Pics from Last Week

Summer vacation: living at the park!

...And eating watermelon.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Dinner At 94 Degrees (or Pizza on the Grill)

\/ Our porch has become a second living room lately \/
 \/ But there's no substitute for old fashioned sofa reading with Daddy \/


 Looking through my photos I'm struck with how few I have of Ty and I, just the two of us. I'm always holding the camera, leading to very predictable angles and poses. And he is not into staging at all, so I have to do it quick. But over the years I've managed to get a few. Here they are.
And if you happen to be with us, with a camera, feel free to a snap a few. I'd be grateful.
On our way to a quick-build on Friday, 6:15am

In Maine last month

 Prime Roast over the winter
 After hiking Monadnock last July
 Our first day trip since London had been born, exploring Glouster on our 5th anniversary
 About 12 hours after London was born
 Best concert: Neko Case with Paul Rigby, tiny little town hall in northern VT. It was February and the place was roasting!
 ...Reese's Peanut Butter Cups after said concert
Somewhere around our first anniversary
Our first summer(photo courtesy of SG)