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Middlest Does It Herself: Yogurt!

14 Oct

I have been making my own yogurt for a luxurious 6 months. I feel like I have finally perfected the recipe, hence why I am sharing it all with you today.

milk
The end result is creamy & thick. The recipe is almost effortless. Please leave yourself enough time for the yogurt to sit for at least 8 hours.


Ingredient List.
1 gallon of 1 1/2% milk. Make sure it is not ultra-pasteurized
1/4 cup of yogurt containing bacteria
2-3 ice cubes
Cheesecloth or flour sack.
Large pot
Large bath towel
Colander
Large bowl or additional large pot


Before we delve into the recipe, I am going to tell you what I have changed from previous recipes that, I feel, have made a big difference in the end result. 

  • I went from skim milk to 1 1/2% milk. I also switched from store bought milk to milk that gets delivered to my door. Royal Crest (my farm-to-door milk) claims that they don’t use pesticides or hormones. Because of these switches, I taste a difference in the end result. Is it the fat or is it the type of milk I now buy? I love getting milk delivered to my door, so I may not know for a very long time. The cost difference is $3.39 a gallon vs $4.49 a gallon. That’s a decent increase, but I’ll spend a dollar to not go to the store whenever I want to make yogurt. And they reuse their milk containers, so my green(ish) heart is happy that one more plastic bottle isn’t in the landfills. 🙂 Buy whatever milk you want…just make sure it isn’t ultra-pasteurized!
  • I decreased the amount of yogurt needed to start a batch. Why? When I moved out to Colorado I had to use a store-bought yogurt starter. It just didn’t feel right to lug around a half cup of my homemade yogurt while moving 1,000 miles west. I went to the store and bought a yogurt that contained bacteria in it. It was so good that I ate all but 1/4 cup of it. Whoops. I tried it out and the milk still turned to yogurt! Yay! Anyway, THIS IS IMPORTANT for your first batch: The milk needs bacteria to feast on in order for the end result to be yogurt. So please, just buy a little container of plain yogurt that contains bacteria in it. Afterwards you will just reserve 1/4 cup of your homemade yogurt for your next batch. Easy-peasy.
  • I drain the yogurt with a flour sack. The flour sack is a smaller weave than many of the cheesecloths I was using in the past, which has made the yogurt a lot smoother than previous batches. It takes longer to strain, but the end result is worth it. When I want a thin yogurt, I don’t strain it at all. It’s totally a preference, so play around as you wish!

Directions.
1. Take your large pot and place 2-3 ice cubes at the bottom of it. At room temperature, let the ice cubes melt. This prevents scorching to the bottom of your pot, which results in less scrubbing later.
2. Pour the milk to the bottom of the pot. Turn to medium high, uncovered.
3. Allow the milk to heat to approximately 190ºF. Use a cooking thermometer or just use your eyes. The milk will start to foam at sea level. In Colorado (at 4,284 ft above sea level), the milk looks like it is just about to boil. Turn the heat off at this point.
foamy-milk
4. Cover and allow the milk to cool to 110ºF.
5. Add previous yogurt/store yogurt to batch milk and stir for about a minute, making sure the yogurt is fully incorporated.
6. Cover with lid and wrap pot with your large bath towel. Leave in a warm place where the milk will rest for 8-12 hours. This step is important. I have peeked at my milk at 6 and then again at 7 hours with no such luck. The milk truly needs to set for at least 8 hours. Plan accordingly.
7. Now lift up your cover. You will see a liquid separated to the top of the pot. This is called whey, which is great for baking & smoothies. It’s so awesome. I love this stuff!
8. Remove 1/4 cup of yogurt and store in an airtight container. Place in fridge. This is your starter for your next batch.
9. Place the cheesecloth over colander that is in or resting on top of a large pot. Now scoop half of your yogurt over the cheese cloth. Allow it to sit for a period of time and let the whey drain from the yogurt. Stir occasionally to let the yogurt on top seep into the bottom of the cheesecloth. The idea is to let the yogurt drain until it’s at the consistency you like. For a thinner yogurt, drain for a shorter period of time than you would if you wanted a thicker yogurt. I let my yogurt drain for up to an hour when I am making Greek yogurt. When you’ve determined the consistency you like, place in a container. Then repeat this process with the remaining yogurt.
10.Refrigerate whey and yogurt. It spoils in about a month.


Depending on how thick you like your yogurt, you will yield anywhere from 2-4 quarts of yogurt and 1-3 additional quarts of whey. Thin yogurt means more yogurt and less of whey. Thicker yogurt means more whey, but less yogurt. It’s a win-win regardless!


Making yogurt is extremely gratifying. The results are fantastic; I use homemade yogurt to marinate meat, use in place of sour cream, and eat it in its true state buddied up with honey, dried fruit, or nuts. The results are comparable to all of the plain yogurts I have tried in the store! You get more bang for your buck AND you reap the benefits of having whey leftover to use in many recipes. Perhaps that’s what my next blog posting will be about.
Enjoy.

.x.x.x.x.
Middlest

My 40 Day Challange: Goin’ Vegan!

13 Feb

Being raised as a Roman Catholic, it is tradition to prepare for the coming of Christ forty days before Easter Sunday.  Typically for Lent I will give up a food item or activity to fulfill my Lenten promise.

The contenders were:
Diet Coke, no mo’!
Eliminate weekday drinking.
Going Vegan.

No diet coke is out of the question; I need my liquid caffeine to prevent a 2 o’clock siesta.

Eliminating weekday drinking deemed difficult;  a vegan diet seemed like the easiest choice of the three.  No, not VEGETARIAN…VEGAN.  There is a difference and is explained a litter later in this blog…

Recently, I watched a documentary [Vegucated, if you will]  on the benefits of a vegan lifestyle [love Netflix].  Since I reside on the eastside of Milwaukee, I have become familiar with the term ‘vegan’Not being able to consume animal products, eggs, and dairy deemed challenging to most, yet there are many who make being vegan a part of their identity!

For forty days, I will be calling myself a Lenten Vegan!  That’s right – forty days with NO meat, NO fish, NO cheese, NO dairy, NO eggs [Watch out J. Aniston – I’m ready for your bod now]. I will have to be creative with my cooking and baking, and do some research on Milwaukee dining.  Some online sources say that adapting this lifestyle will be better for my health, the environment, and for animals.

THREE BASIC REASONS FOR GOING VEGAN

  • For My Health

When one eats a plant-based diet, it is believed that they will be consuming less cholesterol and saturated (bad) fats, which in return can prevent diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.  Yes, plant based diets do include whole grains – so I can still have carbohydrates, friends! I will definitely be eating much more veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Talk about having healthy bowel movements! Fortunately I already eat a pretty healthy diet, so increasing my greens and eliminating meat will not be huge issue for me. I just know I will miss my cheese!

  • For the Environment

Apparently, living a vegan lifestyle is better for the planet.  I learned from the documentary that vegan diets produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than meat-based diets.  This is due to the methane gas produced from livestock [when they poop].

  • For the Animals

Factory farms sadden me.

So here we go! Now that this is public, there is no churning back [pun intended. Butter – churning butter – get it?!]

Tips? Concerns? Vegan recipes?  Share below, b!tches.

-Youngest

Slow Cooker, Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oatmeal

11 Jan

A new year brings on plenty of resolutions. This year I decided that instead of failing at new resolutions, I vowed to focus on maintaining the good habits I kept in 2012 (working out, eating well, letting myself sleep after work). And yes…I did keep the resolutions I always fail at such as cussing less and to stop biting my nails, but let’s face it…I’ve had these resolutions since I was 8 (nails) and my late teens (damn cursing). Those resolutions are inevitably too difficult, so I will just be proud of one good habit: eating well.

Ok. Focus, Meghan (which should be a resolution, but would land on the impossible resolution list). Anyway, I love oats. Love, love, love ’em. I once made a fancy posting about my Toatally Eggscellent Oats, which had held me off until now. Now I have another fancy oats recipe! I found this little gem from “The Yummy Life” (click on the picture above for the link)  and have customized it since then. I have made this recipe 4 times now (one batch is cooking right now) for 3 different people and we have yet to be disappointed.

Behold: Slow Cooker, Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Ingredients.

  • Non-stick spray (oatmeal will stick otherwise!)
  • 2 apples (or pears): peeled (I leave skins on. Fiber, baby!), cored, cut into 1/2″ pieces [approximately 2.5-3 cups chopped]
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free milk (soy or almond milk)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats (old-fashion oats)
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (maple syrup or other desired sweetener)
  • Optional: 1 1/2 tablespoons butter (I used canola oil twice and nothing the other 2 times. I don’t believe oil of any sorts is necessary)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I never use this, but go ahead!)
  • Optional: Chopped nuts (I’ve used pecans, walnuts, and pistachios in my recipes so far. Pecans have been my favorite.)
  • Optional garnishes: raisins, maple syrup, additional milk or butter. I’ve stirred in blueberries and vanilla. Mmmm…

Directions.

  1. Coat inside of 3 1/2 quart slow cooker with cooking spray.
  2. Add all ingredients to slow cooker. Stir, cover, and cook on low for approximately 3-7 hours (times may vary. My slow cooker took 3-4 hrs).
  3. Spoon oatmeal into bowls; add additional toppings, if desired.

You may store in the refrigerator or the freezer. Excellent! To reheat single servings: 1 cup oatmeal, add 1/3 cup water/milk. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave for another minute, if needed.

There you have it, friends! Enjoy your new oatmeal recipe!

And here’s a printable version (with my babbling, of course) Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal

.x.x.x.x.
Middlest

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Quinoa Salsa

29 Nov

No Soup for You!

Just kidding, friends. I am no soup Nazi. I am a believer in sharing recipes that are souper. Soup for everyone!

Summer has ended and the best parts of Autumn are behind us. Now Wisconsin is in this weird purgatory season filled with cold days and freezing nights, and neither leaves nor snow are on the ground. To keep my blues in check until snow hits the ground, I like to dedicate many suppers to soup. I have been waiting months to finally try this soup and The Roasted Red Pepper Soup was well worth the wait. A few tricks I learned while tackling this recipe will make my next cooking session much more time friendly and hopefully a lot less messy. Here’s the recipe:

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Quinoa Salsa. Whole Living.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Quinoa Salsa. Courtesy of Whole Living

Serves 4-6

Ingredients.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 4 red belled peppers; roasted, peeled and quartered. [I made this soup twice. Guilty. The first time with solely red peppers and the second with mixed peppers (green, red, yellow, and orange) and it was fuggin’ delicious. Yep. I’m bringing “fuggin'” back, ya’ll. This was a bit spicier than the red pepper soup. Mama likey.]
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • coarse salt

Quinoa Salsa

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (Cooks just like rice: 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of water. Boil water, add quinoa, turn heat to low ((or remove from heat)), keep covered until quinoa splits open and absorbs water)
  • 1/4 small red onion, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
  • lime wedges, for serving

Directions.

Roasted red peppers. There are two ways to do this. I’ll list both ways!

Roasting a red pepper with gas stove

First way: Using a gas stove

  1. Char peppers over flame of a gas stove, turning until blackened and blistering.
  2. Transfer to bowl, cover with a plate and let stand until cool
  3. Scrape off skins with paring knife and clean with paper towel,
  4. Remove stems ribs and seeds.

I personally don’t like this. I bet it would be a convenient way if I were to use a gas grill. Roasting peppers individually on the stove was not appealing to my time crunch, therefore I scoured the internet for a more productive way to achieve roasted peppers. I came across a helpful video and the directions are below.

Roasted red peppers using the oven

Second way: Using the oven/broiler

  1. Preheat oven to 500º
  2. Cut red peppers into halves, discarding seeds and ribs
  3. Coat red peppers lightly with canola oil/cooking spray and place onto a cookie sheet
  4. When the oven is ready, place peppers into oven for 30-45 minutes. I blasted the broiler for the last 10 minutes to get the skins nice and bubbly.
  5. Remove from oven and cover the top of the cookie sheet with an additional cookie sheet. This allows steam to loosen the skins.
  6. Once peppers are at room temperature, remove skins with a paring knife.
  7. Cut skinless peppers into quarters or slices.

Sure, the oven way takes a bit more time, but I can do other things while those suckers are cooking. Productive time trumps wasted time, friends. And I count hovering over a stove turning peppers as wasted time. Ok. Next step!

Soup.

  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat
  2. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook until tender, 6-8 minutes
  3. Add roasted red peppers and chicken stock
  4. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Let cool slightly, then pureé in a blender/processor until smooth
  6. Season with salt

Quinoa Salsa.

  1. In a small bowl, mix together cooked quinoa, red onion, avocado, and cilantro
  2. Season with salt

To serve, lade soup into bowls, top with quinoa salsa, and squeeze with lime.

Nutrition Facts.165 calories, 10 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 3 mg cholesterol. 17 g carbs. 78 mg sodium, 5 g protein. 5 g fiber

The local grocery store I go to had buckets of red peppers for $2, so I (of course) bought a bucket that contained 16 red bell peppers. ha. I tripled this batch of soup because 1. red peppers get pricey and 2. roasting and peeling takes a lot of time. I am glad I did because I have a large container of soup in the freezer just waiting to cure my pre-winter blues at my discretion. Roasted red pepper soup. So. Freaking. Good.

.x.x.x.x.
Middlest

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

1 Nov

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

“Oh my Catholic God. This is so good.” Nom, nom, nom. “I lurve leftovers…Hmmm…maybe I should blog about this.”

That was my conversation to myself about 10 minutes ago. I still have the savory taste of Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala in my mouth (and the warmth of the spices in my chest) so I deemed this to be the best time to write all about it. Yes, a recipe is involved. And no, I did not make the recipe up myself. Click on the above picture for a link to the blogger who was genius enough to concoct this recipe.

I found this gem on Pinterest, which ultimately led me to the aforementioned blogger. I had this recipe printed (click here for the recipe straight out of my cookbook! —> Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala) for almost 6 months before attempting it. It was partly because I found the recipe when it was nearing Spring, which is when my slow-cooker begins its hibernation. Another reason is because I wanted to wait to cook it for guests who loves Indian food. Hey, I’m all for the encouragement of people’s taste buds to explore new cuisines…I just don’t want them to explore when my ego is on the line. First-time recipes can be tricky. YaknowwhatImean? And then there’s time: the chicken needs to bathe in a marinade overnight. I rarely plan meals ahead of time to marinate something. Anyway, the stars lined up and I told myself, “Self…it’s time to attempt Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala.”

Time to shut up, Middlest, and get to the good stuff. Do not be discouraged by the ingredient list. A lot of spices are listed more than once because they’re used at different times during the cooking process. It’s super easy; pinky promise! The recipe below is what I did. My tweaks are highlighted in italics.

This is a 2 step process…just like a folk dance. Let’s dance!

STEP ONE:
Ingredients for Chicken Tikka.

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6-8 chicken thighs, skin on; bone-in. (I used a whole damn roasting chicken: thighs, wings, breasts & discarded the skin)

Directions.

  1. Stir all ingredients except chicken into the bottom of a large plastic container.
  2. Add the chicken and coat the chicken completely with the marinade, cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

STEP TWO:
Ingredients for Masala.

Ingredients.

  • 1 can 28 oz. diced tomatoes. I used my own canned diced tomatoes. NBD.
  • 1 can 5.5 oz tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp garam masala (Whole Foods has this for $2.99)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried coriander
  • 2 inches fresh ginger, grated (store your ginger in the freezer for easy grating)
  • 1 tbsp tikka paste…you could use mild curry paste instead, but then also add about a tbsp of lemon juice. <– I used red curry paste and forgot the lemon juice. Whoops!

    Plus:

    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • 1/2 tsp garam masala
    • Salt
    • 1 cup cream <—nope. I used yogurt.
    • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped. I used about 1-2 cups of this stuff. I love fresh cilantro!

    Directions.

    1. Turn oven to broil.
    2. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a rack over top.
    3. Take the chicken out of the marinade (discard the marinade – That’s wasteful…I poured the marinade all over the chicken) and place on the baking rack.
    4. Place under the broiler about 6-10 inches from the heating element and broil on each side about 10 minutes until browned. You do not need to cook the chicken all the way through, friends. That’s what the slow-cooker is for.
    5. Meanwhile, in a pan over medium high heat, add about a tsp or two of oil.
      1. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes to soften.
      2. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for a few more minutes until the mixture is nice and fragrant.
      3. Place the mixture into your crockpot.
        1. To that, add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garam masala, tikka paste, cumin, chili powder and coriander.
        2. Stir together.
        3. When the chicken is done broiling, add them straight to the slow cooker. (I de-boned the chicken at this time. I never feel like working for my food once it is on my plate)
        4. Stir chicken into the masala (sauce). Slow cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low 6-8 hours.
        5. Before serving stir in 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala and salt.
        6. Stir in the cream (yogurt) and fresh cilantro.

    6. Serve the chicken tikka masala sauce over rice.

    Meghan’s Rice.

    1. Using a rice maker (Godsent), add 1 cup of brown rice to 2 cups of water. Turn the rice cooker on. Wow. That was easy.
    2. Once rice cooker turns to “warm” mode, add a tablespoon of olive oil (or thyme-infused olive oil if you’re me) and a half cup of fresh cilantro.

    The only thing I regret is not picking up Naan for this meal. Pretzel bread was used for this recipe (thanks to Whole Foods), which was a nice substitute. The recipe could easily forgo the bread, but I think that scooping up the sauce with a piece of bread is a lot sexier than licking my bowl clean with my tongue.

    And that’s it. The recipe is delicious and a great way to curb your Indian Cuisine cravings until the next time you’re at your favorite Indian restaurant. My Milwaukee fave is: Maharaja on Farwell.

    Happy Eating! Nom, nom, nom…

    .x.x.x.x.
    Middlest.

Middlest Does It Herself: Herby Goodness!

5 Oct

Photo: Our new herb garden consists of: upright rosemary, thyme, curly parsley, chives, sweet basil, basil, dill, chocolate mint, and cilantro.

This summer was youngest’s and my first season for attempting to have a full-blown herb garden. We decided on three types of basil, parsley, thyme, chocolate mint, chives, rosemary, & dill. The satisfaction of having fresh herbs greatly outweighs the work that goes into it. The potted herbs has yielded moderate productivity overall so far.

In the beginning of summer I was super eager to harvest the herbs the “correct” way. I did a bunch of research on each type of herb regarding watering, temperatures, soil, sunshine, yadda yadda yadda. Our balcony is shaded with approximately 3 solid hours of direct sunlight each day, which is frustrating as most of our plants require full sunlight. This explains why some plants thrive while others do not. I had a difficult time keeping dill cool and moist during the summer months, which caused the dill to turn to coriander by mid-July. The coriander then turned to dead seed by the time August hit. I wasn’t able to recognize the coriander turning into seed in time to save the seeds, which was a goal for me this year. Sigh. Dear coriander seed: Imma gonna get you next year! Thyme thrives from dry, hot environments – so youngest and I have been swimming in thyme this year. The rest of the herbs would go through spurts of productivity to near death experiences throughout the months. The greatest tip I learned from keeping basil bushy and productive all year round is to cut stems, not individual leaves. Same goes for rosemary (which has been the most productive herb of all so far). Anyway, here is my research in word documents on each potted herb, organized by hard and soft herbs. Excellent! Hard Herbs – Rosemary, Thyme, Savory, SageSoft Herbs – Cilantro, Basil, Mint, and Parsley

Bullet Points that rock:

  • Pick sprigs instead of leaves to keep plants bushy and productive.
  • Cilantro needs moist, cooler environments.
  • Thyme thrives in dry, warm environments.
  • Cut chives 3/4 of the way down when harvesting.
  • When harvesting, cut chives and parsley from the outside in.
  • Mint loses most of its flavor when dried. Use fresh.
  • Soft herbs (Cilantro, Basil, Mint, Parsley) are best used in the final steps or after the cooking process [raw].
  • Hard herbs (Rosemary, Thyme, Sage) are best used in longer cooking times.
  • The flowers/buds in herbs are packed with flavor. Use as you would the leaves to flavor foods.
  • Try to harvest before buds appear. If they do appear, harvest/cut the herb.
  • Cilantro turns to coriander. Coriander goes to seed, which can be replanted for the next growing season.
  • Harvest about every 3 weeks to keep plants bushy and productive.

My first harvest of the herbs in July consisted of me freezing them into jars. It was very simple: cut, store in glass jars, and place in freezer. No difficulty there. The only “beef” I have with this is that the herbs tend to clump together, so I deem all frozen herbs to be used in soups, stocks, and stews. Wanting a more diverse use of my herbs, I had to figure out another way to preserve ’em. And then one day I was catching up on “Good Eats”, a show hosted by the great Alton Brown. The man is a genius…a GENIUS, I say. Anyway, the show I caught was all about herbs. What luck! The show explained an easy, fool-proof way to dry herbs by using air filters, bungee cords, and a box fan. “Say whaaaat?!”, exclaimed Middlest. “I cannot wait to try this!!” One trip to Blaine’s Farm & Fleet and I was ready to go. Here’s a video of how to dry herbs the Alton Brown way. http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/drying-herbs/1278.html

Great video, yes?! The first batch of rosemary took almost two weeks of drying to complete…in the middle of August. I was frustrated at first and cursed at Alton for being “wrong”, but then I realized that the humidity determines how quickly these herbs dry. Sorry for my frustration, Mr. Brown. I will never doubt you again, my prince. My batches now only take approximately 2 days. I also take individual leaves off of the stems, which has cut drying time immensely. I don’t bother with drying thyme with a box fan, as the leaves are so small that they get stuck in the fibers of the air filter. Thyme, I believe, dries easily by tying them upside down and placing them in front of a window for about a week.

Ok. So we have frozen herbs and dried herbs. Let’s add one more thing: Herb Infused Olive Oil.

Herbs? Good. Olive Oil? Goooood. Herb infused olive oil? Freaking fantastic. Here’s what I did:

Ingredients.

  • Empty wine bottle
  • Cork
  • Olive oil (I bought a gallon of a non-fancy EVOO for $17)
  • Dried herb of choice

Directions.

  1. Sterilize empty wine bottle and cork with the use of a dishwasher or submerging in boiling water for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Stuff the bottom of the dry bottle with some dried herbs of your choosing. You can mix a variety together or just use one type of herb. I like simplicity and have stuck with one type of herb in each bottle. The herbs must be dried herbs. I read a lot of websites that claim that fresh herbs may cause botulism to occur. This is also why I choose to store them in bottles with corks. If botulism occurs, I’m hoping that the tops will fly off, just like in canning. Is this accurate? I am not sure, but it makes me sleep better at night.
  3. Fill bottle with EVOO. Leave some room for the next step.
  4. 2-3 times a week, invert the bottle, letting all the herbs sink to the top (now bottom) of the bottle. Repeat inverting 6-7 times each day. This will help getting the herbs to infuse into the olive oil. Do this for a month.
  5. One month later, taste the olive oil. You should taste a delicious balance of herbs and olive oil.

I am so proud of my olive oils so far. I have made thyme infused olive oil and rosemary infused olive oil. I have yet to make basil, as I use dried basil for almost all of my dishes. That shit is like gold – so I must be very selective in my use. Fear not, friends…it’s on my list after my next drying session! Anyway, I use  the oils in my salads in replacement for dressing. They’re so good that I do little dances with my fork as I’m eating my salads. Yes, swaying is also involved. I also have added olive oil to my tuna and tomato salads, any pasta, and made some kickass pesto with the rosemary EVOO. The thyme olive oil is superb with crusty french bread. The flavors are so strong that a little goes a long way, which is excellent for the waistline. I only have to use 1/2 of a tablespoon in each salad! Those herbs sure do  pack a flavorful punch.

And there you have it. I am hoping my herbs last throughout the winter months indoors so I have fresh herbs year round. I have learned a ton about herbs this summer and am looking forward to taking my trial-and-errors into the next growing season. Dill, you WILL be productive next year – you temperature sensitive twat.

Happy Herbing, folks. Yes, herbing is a verb in my vocabulary. Enjoy.

.x.x.x.x.
Middlest

It Takes Two to Taco.

16 Jul

Fish & Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro Lime Rice, Crema, & Black Bean Parmesan. Click for fish & crema recipe

><º> Tonight’s meal blew us right out of the water. So much so, that we decided to write a blog about it mid-digestion. How did this miraculous meal came aboat, you ask? Let us lure you into our experience.

The evening started like any evening when Middlest and Youngest are home together for a meal. Youngest called Middlest and suggested to have fish tacos, as they had stale taco shells from two weekends prior.

, expressed Middlest – but she proceeded to be agreeable to this suggestion. Just like most fish-related dinners, Middlest scoured the internet for a palate pleasing recipe for fish tacos. Within two minutes, a recipe from MyRecipes.com really caught her [wall]eye.

Meanwhile, Youngest voyaged over to Aldi to pick up the only items they did not have in their fully-packed refrigerator: a tomato, avocado, and a bag of medium shrimp. She also bought a pair of pillows for $8.99. Hell yeah, Aldi – you wallet-friendly store!

Once Middlest and Youngest were reunited on Bradford, they began a-cookin’. Youngest was in charge of the black beans & shrimp. Her recipes were as follows:

Black Bean Parmesan.
1. Mash one can of drained black beans.
2. Mince one clove of garlic.
3. Add 2 tablespoons of dried cilantro.
4. Mix in 1/8 cup of parmesan cheese.
5. Crack pepper to taste.

Shrimp.
1. It’s all about the de-tailing! Remove tails from shrimp.
2. In medium sauce pan, add shrimp to 2 tablespoons of canola oil & 1/4 cup lime juice.
3. Stir in 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes.
4. Sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes or until shrimp curl.
5. Turn off heat & cover with lid for additional 5 minutes.

Middlest was in charge of the fish, sauce and rice. Recipes are as follows:

Fish.
1. Combine 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground corriander, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp ground red pepper flakes, 1/8 tsp garlic powder in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Spray baking sheet [cover with aluminum foil for easy cleaning] with non-stick spray.
3. Take spice mixture and rub onto both sides of 2 Tilapia fish fillets.
4. Place onto aluminum foil and bake at 425º for 12 minutes.
5. Leave out to cool. Shred with fork.

Crema.
1. In a bowl, add 3 Tbs fat-free mayo and 3 Tbs reduced-fat sour cream.
2. Add in 1/4 cup minced green onion [tops and bottoms!] and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro [unfortunately we only had dry. Damn herb garden.]
3. Zest an entire lime and squeeze the juice. Add to mixture.
4. Mince 1 clove of garlic.
5. Mix, mix, mix!

Cilantro Lime Rice.
1. Prepare 1 cup of brown rice [One cup of rice to two cups of water]
2. Add 1/3 cup cilantro.
3. Stir in the zest of one lime and the juice of the lime.
4. Pepper and salt to taste.

There you have it! Simple recipes! Our condiments for the tacos were sliced avocados, diced tomatoes, & shredded artisan lettuce. Middlest found that adding some of the crema to the rice was a tasty treat. We’re very pond of these recipes! <º><

Lemon Lurve.

25 Jun

My thoughts exactly, Natalie Dee.

When life brings you lemons, you make lemon-y food and bevies! Lemons are perfection beyond a lemonade stand on a sunny summer day. I suggest you order a seltzer and lemon vodka at a bar. And what’s a Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss and/or Summer Shandy without a wedge of lemon?! I have dedicated many work nights as a waitress pouring myself a Diet Sierra Mist with wedges of lemon; it will make your eyes roll into the back of your head. It is one of the only ways I will ever choose a Pepsi product over a Coke product. Coca Cola is far superior, although I will not turn down inferior Pepsi if Diet Sierra Mist and lemon wedges are involved.

Zest it, juice it, wedge it up. Use it when it’s served as a garnish. I’ll never truly understand why parsley and lemon were deemed garnishes in restaurants; talk about a disservice to my palate and my plate.

For my pleasure – and now yours, I have saved several recipes using the loveable lemon. These recipes will not leave a sour taste in your mouth, I swear!


Fish has never tasted better than when topped with this combo before baking it into the oven. I have learned the hard way to not let the fish marinate in lemon juice for more than a few hours. Apparently the acidity in the lemon juice cooks the fish. Very dry; not very delightful.

Lemon Fish.
Ingredients.

  • Two filets of fish [I’ve used Tilapia and Swai]
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 5 shakes of Worcester sauce [Love the stuff]
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • Whatever fresh herbs you have around. My favorite combination is dill, cilantro, basil, parsley, thyme, and rosemary. Gather a lot of it.

Directions.

  • Whisk the lemon juice, oil, Worcester sauce, pepper, and herbs until combined.
  • Put aluminum foil over pan, spray with non-stick spray
  • With your fork, poke holes into the fish on both sides.
  • Spread half of mixture over top of fish. Place this side down onto aluminum foil. Repeat on other side.
  • Cook for 7 minutes at 350º. Flip. Brush mixture over top again. Bake again for another 7 minutes at same heat.

There ya have it, folks! I know I haven’t covered all the possibilities delicious lemon has to offer, but it’s a damn good start. Whenever you want something pleasant, light, and tangy – reach for a lemon.

.x.x.x.x.
Middlest

Fre$h Cents – A cost effective way to keep your greens and things survive a little beyond their expiration date.

22 May

The Champeau sisters are known for being frugal and not being wasteful. There is not much worse when hard earned ca$h is thrown into our garbage disposals.  Like many homes, cleaning out your refrigerator can be the most ‘wasteful’ chore to do on a Saturday morning.  This is not a good way to make your wallet and waistline skinny, people!  It is a well known fact that fresh fruits and vegetables are an easy way to receive your daily vitamins and keep healthy.

Below are some hints and tips on how to keep your refrigerator and tummy’s fully stocked with nature’s fresh greens and colourful treats.

– Mushrooms –
Damp dry with paper towel promptly, layer mushrooms in rows, lining each row with paper towel. Brush off dirt and use.
Keeps Fresh: 2 weeks.

Store in paper bag and refrigerate.
Keeps Fresh: 1 week.
*Discard: slime or bruised spots, rancid smelling, mushy, withered.

–Tomatoes–
If possible, do not refrigerate fresh tomatoes, they can lose freshness this way.  You can store them in a paper bag at coolest room temperature as possible, keeping them out of direct sunlight.
Keeps Fresh:  3-5 days.

If preferred, you can refrigerate tomatoes.  Just make sure you store them in crisper in their original plastic container or a paper bag – lining the floor of containers with paper towel to absorb moisture.  You can also store in a plastic bag, making slots to reduce water loss (like human skin, this causes wrinkles)!   You can remove from refrigerator up to 1 hour to help regain loss of original flavor.
Keeps Fresh: 1-2 weeks.

–Broccoli–
Precut, wash, and pat dry for quick and easy snacking.  Store in airtight container or sealed plastic bag in crisper.
Keeps fresh: 4-5 days.

Before buds turn yellow, you can also keep cut frozen heads and stems in freezer bag.
Keeps frozen: 3-4 months.

–Carrots–
Cut off greens, store in airtight container or a sealed plastic bag in crisper.
Keeps Fresh: 2-4 weeks.
*Discard when limp and shriveled as they have lost their vitamins and crunch.

–Celery–
Store in airtight container or a sealed plastic bag in crisper.  Clean edges and precut for easy snacking. If slightly limp, still usable.
Keeps fresh:  1 Week.

–Cucumbers–
Store in airtight container or a sealed plastic bag in crisper. Cut as you use to maintain longer shelf life.
Keeps Fresh: 5 days.

–Leafy Greens–
Store in airtight container or a sealed plastic bag in crisper. Pre-wash, pat dry, and line bottom of containers with dry towel.  As you eat produce, wipe any moisture in container/bag with paper towel to keep dry and fresh.
Keeps Fresh: 7-10 days.

–Strawberries–
Do not wash or cut heads until you are ready to consume them.  To store, place strawberries on a paper towel in a tightly-covered glass or plastic container in the refrigerator
Keeps Fresh: 2-3 days.

Strawberries may also be frozen whole or in pieces. To freeze, wash and hull, cut if desired. Place in freezer containers or zip-top bags.
Keeps Frozen: Within 1 year.

–Avocado–
Do not store unripened avocado in the refrigerator. To ripen, keep at room temperature for 2-3 days. Ripen fruit may be stored in the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator .
Keeps Fresh: 10-14 days.

**Hint: Only using half an avocado today? Keep pit in leftover half and store in refrigerator in plastic bag for tomorrow!

–Bananas–
Buy bananas with a yellow portion of about three-quarters, they should have some green on both ends with no blemishes. Obviously, the greener the banana, the more ripe it is. Store the bananas on a hanging rack or on the kitchen counter, separated from their brothers and sisters. Bananas will ripen quicker in the summer as heat speeds up the ripening process. When the bananas get to the desired ripeness, just put them into your refrigerator. The skin will turn black, but the banana inside stays perfect for two or three days. Like avocado, never store unripe bananas in the refrigerator. They simply will not ripen properly because the cold interferes with the ripening process.
Keeps Fresh: 2-3 days after ripening.

You can also peel bananas, cut them in chunks, freeze them and eat them as a frozen treat.
Keeps frozen: Up to 6 months.

–Youngest

Toatally Eggscellent Oatmeal Recipe

17 May

I eat oatmeal about 4-5 days a week. Approximately one day a week I indulge in Toatally Eggscellent Oatmeal. Mmmm…!

Oatmeal, my oatmeal – how our relationship has progressed over the years. I remember being a young girl, staring at the bland chunk-o-meal mom would give me to break the fast. Adding a cup of milk and large clumps of brown sugar allowed my little tastebuds to tolerate many breakfasts. It was not until my college years when I explored beyond sugar and milk. Mmmmm…Honey. Raisins. Peanut butter. Dried Fruit. Fresh Fruit. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. The possibilities were endless. Yes, I learned to add many delicious ingredients to spice up my oatmeal, but the preparation always remained the same: Always boiled. Always on the stove top.

Over the years I have encountered some recipes from friends, family, and strangers. Yes, I have researched oatmeal recipes. I have finally concocted a recipe that is so decedent I blush when I eat it. Kind of kidding. But not really kidding. I do not mean to set the expectation bar so high, but it is pretty damn good. And today I’m going to share that recipe with you. It is going to be toatally awesome.

Now, when I decide which type of oatmeal I want – I base it off of two things: time and my plans for the day. Ha. Like I’ve said to many friends & family, steel cut oats rip through me like a tornado. They also keep me super full, so I typically make them when I am going to be working a 12 hour shift. Steel cut oats also take a lot longer to cook than quick oats, so cooker beware. Steel cut oats also require more chewing than quick oats, which makes me very happy. I love to chew. The nice thing about quick oats is that they’re quick, easily digestible, and get “fluffier” from the egg whites than steel cut oats. So, there ya have it. How I rationalize which type of oats I’m going to make.

Toatally Eggscellent Oats

Attached is the recipe that is in my recipe binder. Step 10: Enjoy!

.x.x.x.x.
Middlest