Maine Maple Sunday

The 4th Sunday in March is always Maine Maple Sunday. The sap’s a-runnin’!

Below is an article explaining Maine Maple Sunday.When you think of sugar houses and fresh maple syrup you might think, “Vermont” or New Hampshire” but Maine is right up there with production.  Since 2010, the article states, “Syrup production has more than doubled and the industry brings $48.7 million to Maine’s economy.” Plus, fresh maple syrup is yummy!

Sugar houses statewide celebrate Maine Maple Sunday all weekend

Here are a couple of pics I took some years ago when I lived in Maine. I took them with my Lomo camera.

maple sapmaple sunday

Now go eat a pancake! Or maybe a “Dutch Baby

Saturday cooking

I love my Tea Time magazine. There are beautiful place settings and china to look at, brief and interesting articles about the history of tea or tea accouterments, and recipes. I had tried a recipe of English Pea salad in mini-phyllo cups a year ago and liked it, and I decided to make it again, along with a recent recipe from the latest issue- egg chicks. Here is the result.

Continue reading “Saturday cooking”

Recipe review: Best Avocado Cauliflower Mash

My friend posted a recipe on Facebook. It looked really good so I thought I’d try it! It is a cauliflower patty with mashed avocado on top, with a fried egg on top of that. I like it for each of the three elements in the dish. However, the intent of the dish is that the cauliflower is supposed to be some kind of substitute for toast.

I’ve seen this trend elsewhere, for example, that the cauliflower is made into some kind of pizza crust. Blaring headlines on Facebook and Twitter proclaim, “You can’t tell the difference!” Or, “Tastes super!” I’ve never believed these kind of headlines. It’s illogical. Cauliflower is cauliflower, and toast is toast. Cauliflower is cauliflower, and pizza crust is pizza crust.

But I really like cauliflower. I usually roast it. I’m always looking for new ways to eat stuff so I thought I’d give the patty mash a try. Here are the results. The top three pics are mine and the bottom one is the recipe’s For once, mine came out pretty close to the recipe! Bonus!

 

The recipe says to use a cheese grater to crumble the cauliflower. I have a mini food chopper so I used that. One or two pulses and the cauliflower was made very small. It all came together very quickly which is always a good thing. 🙂

The tagline for this recipe says,

You’re going to want to replace all toast with this delicious, carb-free cauliflower version.

No. No you’re not. But if you want a healthy and filling breakfast that comes together pretty quick, Best Avocado Cauliflower Mash is for you!

Pad Thai

I just discovered the Kroger shrimp skewers! There are five fresh large shrimp on a wooden skewer, sold for $1. Woo-hoo!

I had a hankering for Pad Thai. Now that I know they sell shrimp this way I will buy the skewer more often and make Pad Thai more often. That’s Thai rice noodles, scallions, tofu, chicken (or shrimp), bean sprouts, an egg, lime, and crushed peanuts. It is a dish that goes together pretty fast because none of he ingredients take a long time to cook. The shrimp cook in minutes and so does the tofu. I don’t use chicken.

You put the rice noodles in warm water and soak them until they are soft. I speed this up by turning the stove on low. Use a wok if you have it, I don’t so I use a large saute pan. Heat oil and toss the tofu you’ve cubed into it, and the scallions and shrimp or chicken. I forgot to buy scallions so I threw in some roasted greenbeans I’d made the day before, just to have some green in it. Kroger doesn’t sell alfalfa or mung bean sprouts. 😦 You can make a sauce which uses a lot of ingredients, or you can buy pad Thai sauce pre-made, which is what I like to do. Add the sauce to taste. A little goes a long way.

Put pad Thai mixture in a bowl, sprinkle lime juice over it, a lot of juice! I think the lime juice makes it. Sprinkle crushed peanuts over it. Eat immediately. Enjoy!

Week’s worth of lunches

The woman blogger at Good, Cheap Eats is a homeschooling mom who loves Jesus and writes cookbooks. She had a recent blog post which caught my attention, titled

How to Make a Week of Lunches & Save Money

Well, I’m all for that. Aren’t you? Her week of lunches is actually 4 work days, because extending prepared lunches to a fifth day violates her 4-day leftover rule. Her husband eats lunch with his son on that day anyway. As for me, I also do not stress about Friday By then I’m so tired of thinking about what to make or pack or tore or prepare…that I just toss in whatever I can grab first. I’m just grateful I’ve made it to Friday, to be hones. Sometimes, lol, I wind up with lunches on Friday like raw zucchini (I forgot the knife) a handful of homemade granola, and a brown banana.

Today I made granola, a broccoli and cheese quiche, roasted broccoli (the remainder that didn’t fit in the quiche, baked teriyaki tofu, and baked potato. I wash the potatoes, and then rub a teaspoon of olive oil on the damp skin, then wrap in tin foil. They come out pillow soft. As for the tofu, it’s half a brick that I haven’t used from the recipe from last weekend, pad thai. I simply cut them into one inch thin slabs, spread teriyaki sauce on the bottom of a baking pan, laid the slabs on top and poured more sauce over them. Then bake.

I will make humus tomorrow and also a fruit salad. Here are the photos of the goodies from today.

You want the veggie to get that golden crust. This is accomplished by thoroughly dredging in oil. I toss mine around in a ziploc. Then dump into the baking dish.

 

I add a slight amount of bread crumbs on top of the quiche to make a crunchy crust. Parmesan also works.

Tofu. What can you do with tofu. Not much except cover it in something that tastes better.

It’s still hot here, in the 90s. I couldn’t wait for fall so I jump started the season by making chamomile tea with honey to sip this afternoon. I can pretend it’s leaves and pumpkin season, can’t I?

Do check out Jessica’s tips. Have a good Sunday everyone.

What can you do with hard pears?

When I moved to the south and go to the apartment I’m in now, I was excited to see there were many fruit-bearing trees and vines in the yard. Fig, apple, pecan, scuppernong, and pear trees abounded. The first time I picked a pear and bit into it, I just about broke my teeth. I waited and waited for the pears to get ripe, but they never softened.

That is because they are windfall pears. I do not know why they are called windfall pears, other than the fact that “they are so hard to eat that they stay on the tree until the wind makes them fall, and even then, the squirrels won’t eat them.” That’s my definition.

But us frugal people hate to see a lovely looking fruit go to waste. There must be something one can do with them? Isn’t there?

After my first year here trying to freeze them, cook them, poach them … I gave up. I do not enjoy making jam or jelly or dealing with sterilizing jars, so that seemed to be that.

But the other day a friend gave me a bag of hard pears, and so here I go again. This time, I decided, I won’t give up.

The thing is, I don’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. That’s why I do all my cooking on Sunday for the week ahead. When you live alone, every single thing that has to be done in my life, has to be done by me. So the more things I can collapse into a convenient bundle, the better.

I also don’t like coring or seeding fruit. I don’t like being sticky. I know, I know, I’m persnickety about a lot of things.

I decided to boil the 12 pears I had been given with skins on and pare them when they cooled. That way, I wouldn’t have to deal with seeds and cores. Ha, HA, take that, cores! I washed them, took the stems off, and simply popped them into a large pot with water. What I didn’t do is add something to the water for flavor, such as cinnamon or lemon or other spices. I forgot. That would have been good to do.

I brought the water to a boil then turned it to simmer until the pears were soft. I don’t know how long it took, because I was happy not to have to babysit the pears and I went off to do other things. It was a good while though, about 45 minutes.

Bring to a boil,

Then simmer

They were done when a knife went through them easily. I cooled them on a clean towel.

When they were cool enough to handle, I cut them up with skins on. There is a lot of flavor in the skins. Plus, easier. The dozen pears even after having been boiled, yielded a lot of meat.

On the left in the small pot, a simple sugar. Also, I finally dragged out the lemon juice from the fridge. I added both to the chopped pears  and simmered again. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the pears further along, but I knew I wanted them soft, really soft. For this stage, I used 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water. I used two caps full of lemon juice. I also added ginger.

 

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Actually, no trouble. It’s a mainly hands free process. The only time I really had to handle them was cutting up the softened pears. The rest of the time, it did its thing on its own!

I simmered until the liquid was gone. I cooled it and popped it in the fridge. I now have a mound of soft, tasty pears. Today for lunch I put a few spoons of the pear compote into my fruit salad. I will also use it in oatmeal, on cottage cheese, and in yogurt. You can also add raisins, craisins, almonds, or walnuts. Add to ice cream, top pound cake, or just plop some whipped cream on a mound of pear compote for a yummy dessert. What other ways can you think of to use a pear compote like this?

Anyway, that is my easy-peasy method of using up windfall pears!

Frugal Cooking: garden eggplants. What to do with them?

It is hot in Georgia in July. And August. And half of September. So needless to say, weekend cooking comes to a near-halt during the dog days of a southern summer. Not to say that stove top cooking ends. But sauteing eggs is done quick and microwave poached eggs are best.

The heavy heat means the heavy foods can wait until fall and winter. I eat Salads, humm
us, sandwiches, cold antipastos.

However I do make some stove top things. I got some tamarind sauce and rice noodles recently and made a pad thai for the first time in a long time. Boy, I love that dish. I like the rice noodles because as an alternative to boiling noodles (or rice as in other Asian dishes), Pad Thai noodles can be soaked in cold water till soft, then flash sauted at the end. Since rice noodles are made with rice flour they are a good choice for those who are gluten intolerant. As always, read the package to be sure it’s not got additives to which you will be sensitive.

I used this recipe: http://rasamalaysia.com/pad-thai/ . Yum! It’s a quick and filling stove-top dish. Since shrimp are expensive for me, I leave them out and just rely on the tofu and the egg for protein. Since sprouts are hard to find, I use more scallions.

Once in a while I need to use the oven to make a more substantial dish. It’s veggie-garden season and I love to take advantage of the bounty. A friend at church had brought in some bounty from her garden, and gave me some eggplants. I had already bought two eggplants the other day. But you can never have enough eggplants! And garden fresh is a luscious opportunity I cannot pass up.

Many people around here do not know what to do with eggplants except make friend eggplant parmigiana. I like that too but i hate to make it. Others use the eggplant rounds to make a Stack, here is Mario Batali’s Eggplant Stack recipe.

Two other ways I offer as considerations for your eggplant enjoyment are Caponata and Baked Crispy Eggplant.

I decided to use the garden eggplants in a bake, and the older store bought eggplants for caponata. Caponata is a Sicilian recipe that is complicated and uses some luxury ingredients like fresh olives, capers, and pine nuts. I don’t often have those particular ingredients on hand so I skip them. Some recipes call for roasting the eggplant or frying it first. Again, I skip. Here is one example of a traditional caponata recipe: Sicilian Caponata

Caponata also uses vinegar but I skip that too, lol. The finished dish can be used in sauces with pasta, or as a topping on Italian bruschetta, or as a vegetable side dish by itself.

What I do is saute the onion, and when they are soft, I throw in the celery. Whey they are soft, I throw in the eggplant, which I’d cubed small. Let that dwindle down covered on medium heat. I use oil but also some apple juice if I have it on hand. If not, then add water if you’re watching the fat content, just so the eggplant won’t stick.

Sometimes if I have enough tomatoes, I add those. If not, then later when I’m ready to eat it I add tomato sauce. Or not. Caponata is versatile! Add salt and pepper to taste, and since I am a Philistine, I add canned black olives, lol. Voila, a fast way to use a lot of eggplants.

The baked eggplant recipe I used is here, Crispy Baked Eggplant. I like this recipe because it is simple and uses few ingredients. Also, it takes less time in the hot oven than Eggplant Parmigiana. That’s always good! Remember, this essay is called ‘frugal cooking’. If the eggplant is really fresh I don’t think it needs to be salted, wait, press to drain, and all those steps. I like to save steps. Again, frugal cooking means not only using few or inexpensive ingredients but also saving time. Time is money too. The older eggplant had a higher water content so that is why I decided to use them for the caponata, which needs moisture as it cooks. To make crispy eggplant, less water is better, so normally if you get store eggplant that has been around a while then do go thru the process of getting rid of the water content by salting and pressing..

I keep the skins on the baked eggplant, because that holds it together better. For the sauteed caponata, I stripped the purple skin off because I want it to break down.

Aren’t these garden eggplants cute! And beautiful! They are a deep purple, nicely shaped, and firm.

Cutting the rounds. The skin-on will be baked. Cut 1/2 inch to 1/4 inch. Thicker, and it won’t bake through before burning, thinner and it won’t hold the egg/bread crumb mixture.

I scrambled two eggs with a bit of water in one bowl, and in another poured a mound of bread crumbs. I dragged one round through the egg mixture, using my fingers. If you use a fork or knife it will puncture the skin and the eggplant won’t be as crispy since the liquid will seep into it.

I cooked according to the recipe. When they were done I took them out and tested one. Crunch!

The frugal part: in addition to choosing recipes that use fewer ingredients, or a shorter cooking time (electricity costs more on weekends), or using what I have in the fridge already, or accepting a gift of veggies even though I already had some veggies but I knew I’d use them… if you’re going to turn the oven on during a hot day, don’t turn it on for one item only! STUFF the oven. So I used up some squash I’d had rolling around the bottom of the veggie tray. They were rolling around because they had very thick skins and those take a long time to saute. If the oven was going to be on I might as well put some more in it to have on hand for later in the week when it’s supposed to be even HOTTER. In went the thick-skinned yellow squash.

The green are Poblano peppers my friend gave me in addition to the eggplants. At the bottom of the photo are pita bread triangles. I wiped the top of some whole wheat pita bread rounds with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt, and cut them into triangles to make pita crisps. They will be holding hummus later this week. I also put into the oven a few potatoes washed and encased in tin foil for baking, again to have later this week to make potato salad or home fries. I could squeeze them in between the baking trays. Voila, a stuffed oven!

Between the oven being on and the stove top pot containing simmering eggplant for caponata, it got hot in the kitchen. One of the potatoes being baked was quite a bit larger than the other really small ones, and it was taking forever to finish. I could not take the heat any more so I turned off the oven and kept the door shut. The residual heat would finish baking the potato. I do this on the stove top as well, turning the burner off a few minutes before the item is completely done, and letting the residual heat take care of the finish. I got this tip from Clara Cannucciari of Great Depression Cooking. “Anything to save anything” she had said.

One last tip. I started early when the day was cooler. I don’t like to work a lot in the morning, preferring to do my chores in the PM after I’ve studied my Bible and read my theology books and had my coffee. All the important things,you know. LOL. But with the temps predicted to rise quite high, and it happens fast once the sun is up, I began at around 7:00am and finished at 8:30, and that included washing the pans. This gave the apartment a bit of time to cool down and the oven to return to its resting state before the sun came up over the trees and began to heat up my apartment. As it was, I heard the AC click on higher fan setting about a minute after I opened the oven each time. Ugh. So start early and get it done, why ask your AC to cool the hot air you asked the oven to provide?

So that was the morning! For lunch I plan to have a green salad and caponata on Italian toasted rounds, topped with Parmesan cheese. Abbondanza!