Philadelphia in a weekend!

ATTENTION avid gardeners, horticulturists, and plant biologists who crave a side of our Nation’s history:  welcome to Philly’s annual flower show with a side of Independence Hall!

Every year, Philly puts on a huge flower show in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It’s said to be the world’s oldest and largest indoor display of its kind.  This year it was from March 11-19.  It generally lasts for one work week and two weekends.  It varies by theme each year.  This year the last day was for kids and pets!  In addition, there was a garden spa, beer garden, and separate butterfly exhibit as well to make great use of.

Tickets are available online for $28 for adults, $20 for students with valid ID and $15 for children ages two through 16. A service fee of $1.50 per ticket is applied at checkout. Box office tickets are available for $35 for adults, $22 for students with valid ID and $17 for children ages two through 16.  We stayed at a nearby hotel within walking distance that INCLUDED the flower show tickets at a discounted rate.  It was a great way to save money, was able to valet our car at the hotel, and walk over to the show.  Info on the show’s basics as well as nearby hotels are here.  I recommend coat check which if I remember correctly was $3 per item (we had an extra sweatshirt and umbrella).

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Holland was this year’s theme: think windmills and riding your powder blue bicycle through a field of tulips. 17309355_10102540092077142_3413524812341013249_n

It was absolutely gorgeous and like nothing I’ve ever seen. 17353544_10102540092356582_8396886544958749027_nWithin the show are sections of various “mini shows” like centerpieces sitting atop of dining room tables, a small greenhouse, water features sprinkled throughout, headpieces designed using flowers, mini landscaping sets featuring a front stoop and front door like you’d see on the set of a movie or show, and various contests with winning terrariums, centerpieces, or bouquets. 17353137_10102540092256782_9221505993847079577_n

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Something to note, half of the room where the flower show takes place is for vendors.  Here, you’ll see vendors selling homemade crafts and food.  Some flowers and plants were being sold as well but not as many as I’d like.  Of all the vendors, I’d say only 10-20% were selling flowers or plants of some kind. I’ve spoke with others that have attended the show in year’s past, and they have mentioned the entire show used to be only flowers and plants with no vendor booths or crafts.  I was hoping to spend a couple hundred on plants and flowers to find there wasn’t much to choose from and what was there was picked over.  Most flowers to buy were bouquets of roses you’d get at your local flower shop. Other flowers to purchase were bulbs of daffodils and tulips, but I already have these as well from my local Lowe’s.

SATURDAY: Centered around the Convention Center are some typical Philly stops.  One being the John F. Kennedy’s plaza featuring the “Love” sculpture that millions of tourists take pics with.  This year, however, the plaza is undergoing renovation and the “Love” sculpture was removed until renovations are complete in September 2017.  A typical foodie stop is near here as well at the Reading Terminal Market.  We were at the flower show when the Terminal market closed during its regular operating hours, so make sure you plan around it!  This consists of an entire city block and is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market, “with food options of all sorts, including a plethora of styles and cuisines that cater to every meal of the day.”  Lastly, a typical Philly stop near the Convention Center, is the City Hall Tower Observation Deck.  Come here for 360-degree views to decide where you’ll go to next.

SUNDAY: After you’ve seen the flower show and soaked in some surrounding sites, you MUST make a stop at the Independence Hall & the Liberty Bell. 17424942_10102540935941032_6974860057088670287_n An Uber or taxi ride is suggested here if you’re staying over by the Convention Center for the flower show.  You can arrive at the Visitor’s Center around 8:30am to get free tickets for that day but only a limited number of free tickets are available or I paid online to secure a time instead, and then I could customize the time and plan around it for only $1.50 per ticket.

In addition to these stops are some great museums to check out, including the oldest art museum in the U.S.  Chinatown is walking distance from the Convention Center and is another great foodie stop.  If you must try a cheese steak, the typical tourist locations are Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks locations.  I took a local’s suggestion, took out some cash, and went to the local’s fave Jim’s Steaks on South Street. 17358897_10102539825621122_3866189055389330624_o

Leave a comment if you’re local to Philly and want people to get the best out of your city in a weekend.  Who else has been to the flower show and has tips to share?

 

 

KitchenAid Stand Mixer: From a Kitchen Work Horse to THE Holy Grail

*The heavens open up with angels singing*  In other words, we’re discussing the KitchenAid stand mixer.  It is my Holy Grail kitchen appliance! Now, I could shout from the rooftops all day about how amazing this one appliance is, but people tend to turn to me for advice because I will give it to them straight, and the lawyer in me needs proof and facts for just about everything, even making the right investment in a small kitchen appliance.  I want YOU to get the most out of this one appliance that is pretty expensive but lasts a lifetime.  This thing can do anything and everything!

First up, price shop around, people!  This can be said for almost every purchase you make in life, certainly more expensive, “big-ticket” item purchases you’ll make.  The KitchenAid website itself seemed to be the most expensive.  Brick and Mortar chains like Kohl’s and Macy’s tend to offer deals that you need to look out for with the possibility of combining with Kohl’s cash or Macy’s reward coupons (see stores for details).  QVC is a great go-to for many items for the ability to use “Easy Pay” which is essentially monthly payments toward the item, like layaway, except you receive the item immediately after purchasing it in your shopping cart and there’s no interest gathering.

My mixer.  Isn’t it a beaut?  It’s “Aqua Sky” and matches our other KitchenAid accessories and my Frenchie apron.   It MAY or MAY not even match my front door.  IMG_20161224_09050946916683814_10102483124251122_8543809888438650035_n

The mixer was a Christmas gift from my amazing boyfriend, and he knows how to shop around as well.   Where did he get it?  Amazon.  In fact, my awesome mother agreed and went on to get me two birthday presents in February.  She shopped around and found Amazon to be the cheapest as well.  Of course, there’s always free shipping if you’re an Amazon prime member.  She was able to get me the ice cream attachment and ravioli attachment for ALMOST the price of getting ONE accessory.  IMG_20170204_104043023_HDR In addition, he purchased a separate warranty if you’re worried about the issue of warranty not purchasing directly from the manufacturer.

Mine came with the stainless bowl, so let me help you right off the bat before you start off on the wrong foot.  There are multiple forums dedicated to the issue of a grey or silver substance coming off of the bowl and into your food the very first time you start making something – especially if what you’re making is white.  KitchenAid tells us that it’s harmless and is part of the “mechanical polishing process…used in stainless steel bowls to make them shiny.”  They offer up a product that may help, but we used the food-safe alternatives of a baking soda paste or a lemon + salt scrub.  We did both using a nylon bristle scrub brush, tried one then would wipe it with a paper towel and was still getting the residue.  Then we moved onto scrubbing it rather VIGOROUSLY with the lemon + salt combo.  We were STILL getting residue on a white paper towel.  We just kept going with more and more batches of the lemon + salt combo until eventually we didn’t see grey or silver anymore.  Lastly, we tested the bowl by using flour + water to see what color the flour would turn – voila – no grey or silver residue!

So, that is my one complaint with the mixer since it appears to have a problem right out of the box and many others with that problem from years ago, which means they haven’t fixed the issue.  Aside from that though, I actually have no other qualms after using it and multiple attachments for 3 months.  You may find yourself wanting the glass bowl and avoid the stainless altogether.

We then felt the need to adjust the flat beater using the “dime” test.  This will help with your clearance between the beater and the bowl.  Not only will this help with the grey residue from the stainless steel bowl but will also help the white coating stay on your flat beater. For the video on the “dime” test, click here.

To keep your KitchenAid mixer looking brand new forever and give it that “Holy Grail” vibe, I wipe it down after every use with a damp kitchen towel.  You’ll find that some parts and accessories are hand wash only while others are top rack dishwasher safe.  To err on the side of caution, I hand wash everything and immediately dry after use so no metal parts can get rusty. In fact, I now have such a huge collection that I honestly can’t remember which is dishwasher safe without pulling out the manuals for each accessory and attachment, so I just handwash regardless.

Because I have a stainless steel bowl instead of a glass bowl, I hand dry with a soft kitchen towel, so it doesn’t dry leaving water spots, as this is out on display 100% of the time.  Don’t be lazy.  It’s part of that “Holy Grail” look.  Brushes come with a lot of the dough attachments so wait for your dough to dry on the attachment and brush it off – it will come off in flakes instead of wet sticky batter.  A special tool comes with the juicer attachment that makes juices, tomato sauce, and jams, in order to clean the little mesh screens where your pulp and seeds will collect and gather.

PhotoGrid_1489363178824Tips & Tricks to go from a work horse to the “Holy Grail”:

  1.  The splashguard (pictured above) is great for flour that kicks up at you, but some people just drape a wet towel over the bowl (a shower cap to keep dust out when not in use).   Don’t use anything if you haven’t applied powder after your foundation that day. Nah, it doesn’t kick up that bad.
  2. The mixer itself is very heavy and hard to slide toward you to use and then slide back when not in use.  Add a kitchen towel to slide under it or a cutting board!
    • What I haven’t seen and would like to try myself, is a plant stand on casters!  If you have enough cabinet clearance, I would suggest obtaining a flat plant stand on casters to roll it where you need it on the counter top.
  3. Finagle the extra cord length you may have with any cord gathering accessory you’d normally buy for your earbuds or other electronics.
  4. NOT JUST FOR BAKING: Use the flat batter to shred chicken or pork instead of using forks by hand or even to “mash” potatoes or hard-boiled eggs into egg salad.
  5. NOT JUST FOR BAKING: Use the dough hook for a softer-textured meatloaf.
  6. To organize, I keep an entire cabinet for just my accessories and attachments in the same cabinet next to the mixer so it’s all within easy reach.  My brushes for cleaning and manuals are all housed there as well.
  7. Use command hooks to free up space and hook up the paddle, whisk, and dough hook.
  8. For ice cream, keep the ice cream bowl in a freezer before using, at least overnight.Screenshot_20170312-160558
  9. For the pasta attachment, start out slow in speed flattening out the dough each time, moving up one speed at a time slowly.  If you have an eggy recipe, constantly flour your dough and attachment each time you run it through so it doesn’t stick.IMG_20161229_185904660
  10. For the juicer, start out with small pieces of fruit to juice then gradually add more.
    •  There’s a pitcher with measurements on the side where your juice goes to collect during the process, pop the lid on it to take to your fridge to serve from, saving less dirty dishes. IMG_20170218_120247449

Stay tuned for individual recipes and tips for that individual attachment.  The most exciting thing coming up for the canning season is simplifying the process of taking the skin off and removing pulp from tomatoes (for canned tomatoes & sauces) in the summer with the juicer attachment.  Leave a comment with your tips, tricks, and hacks below for how to turn this one appliance from a work horse into the Holy Grail.

If you’re looking for something to make her puuuuur, try the Artisan Black Tie Limited Edition mixer.  There’s only 500 to be sold.  You can’t go wrong.  ME-OW.

https://www.kitchenaid.com/shop/-[KSM180LEBK]-5965096/KSM180LEBK/

Top 10 Hot Spots in Cape Cod

I began the blog a little over two months ago with my first travel post.  I was lucky enough to go on three vacations this summer – well, one being a three-day weekend getaway and one being in April – but they count as summer vacations!  In that first blog post, I wanted to give you tips on seeing the most prominent sites at our Nation’s Capital in Washington D.C. while only having a weekend and while maintaining a budget.

In this post, I want to tell you how you can spend a great vacation in Cape Cod, Massachusetts while still maintaining a budget, including taking a ferry to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard as well!  Halloween is right around the corner and Massachusetts has some of the greatest ghost and historical tours around the town of Salem.  All in all, I want to share with you some of my summer vacation tips in Cape Cod while keeping the state on your radar for Fall as well.  Look for a Salem post coming up!

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Cape Cod itself is made up of many small towns, so depending on what you’re looking for (for instance, nightlife vs. something for children) there’s really something for everyone that won’t break the bank.  I stayed in Dennis, the middle section of the Cape.  Staying in the middle section is a little more quaint, offering tree-lined streets with multiple mini- golf courses 13782271_10102089612611602_1008756190859885467_nor restaurants to walk to.  There isn’t any chain restaurants, but a lot of mom and pop shops instead. It’s a great location geographically to explore going East and then North to Provincetown or explore going West.  Towns around Dennis, like Yarmouth and Hyannis are very family-friendly.


Top 10 hotspots:

  1. The Scargo Tower in Dennis is worth a visit. A wooden tower built on this site in 1874 was one of the Cape’s first tourist attractions; visitors would pay 5¢ to climb to the top for the views. That tower burned down, and the present all-stone 30-foot tower was built in 1901 to replace it.
  2. West Yarmouth is home to the inflatable water park. Rates here are $31 per person (at the time of this post).  Tip: you can make it cheaper by going in the off-season or even summer evenings from 6-10pm for $17 per person.  These areas offer many beaches popular for teens, parks for the kids, ice cream shops, mini golf, and water sport rental shops.
  3. Hyannis is home to an annual hydrangea festival July 7-July 16, 2017 at $5 per person per garden tour.  13882665_10102089613335152_6122190217929475645_n
  4. The Heritage museums & gardens in Sandwich is 100 acres of gardens, making it the largest public garden in southern New England.  It’s more than just gardens, however, with its museum exhibits and an outdoor Adventure Park with tree-to-tree bridges and ziplines.  Tickets can be for just the gardens or the adventure park or together into a package.
  5. If flowers and plants aren’t your thing, Hyannis is also home to the John F. Kennedy Hyannis museum.  The museum is open Monday to Saturday 9:00 am-5:00 pm and Sunday 12:00 pm-5:00 pm. Labor Day 9:00am-3:00pm.  Tickets are $10 per adult 18 and over.
  6. If interested in lighthouses, click here for info, as they are spread out throughout Cape Cod.
  7. For a guide to whale and dolphin-watching, visit the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce for more info.
  8. A must-see that is decently priced is the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown! 13619989_10102087401417852_166133185728679851_n                    The monument commemorates the Pilgrims’ first landing in the New World and their signing of the Mayflower Compact. It has 116 steps 13680590_10102087401916852_9210864922348897238_n                   and 60 short ramps to the top for a panoramic view. 13872730_10102087403119442_5879987943841480335_n
  9. So, I cheated for #9.  A little far from the Cape, but since Halloween is fast-approaching, don’t forget to check out Salem, Massachusetts.  This town is known for its Halloween tours, centered around the 1692 Salem witch trials.  There’s also foodie tours, street festivals, and must-see locations where the movie, Hocus Pocus was filmed, for the kids (and my 30-something self too).  This blog does a great piece on a self-guided Hocus Pocus tour.  More to come on Salem in an upcoming post!
  10. The islands of Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket – Discussed more below!

Places to stay

Places to stay in Cape Cod vary quite a bit.  If you’re looking to stay a couple of days then a hotel, a motel, or a b&b may be best for you.  If you’re looking to stay a week or longer, then renting a cottage or cabin may be your best bet.  Like with any beach towns, you should reserve something pretty far out for the summer you plan on vacationing.  TIP: We rented a house that was not within walking distance to the beach but still a very close drive to other family members who were walking distance to the beach. 13879195_10102089612551722_398140657628413705_n Our house had four bedrooms and two bathrooms to be able to share and split the cost.  This also works best because you get a full kitchen to buy and make your own food instead of eating out every night with a hotel that doesn’t have a kitchenette. Cape Cod really has unlimited options for any budget.


Ferry to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket:

There are a few ferries to choose from that transport the locals, daily, to and from Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  Day trips for vacationers is a great way to see the sites around Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket while staying in Cape Cod (which is less expensive).  We were only able to get to Nantucket in the week we were staying there, and it was a day trip, so I cannot offer personal advice regarding Martha’s Vineyard.  What I do know from speaking with locals in Nantucket, is that supposedly the people from Martha’s Vineyard are more laid back than those in Nantucket.  The people we spoke with made it sound like they’re two hometown rival football teams, talking smack on one another. 13658924_10102089613684452_6627108959152229101_n Look at this sign I found in a store in Nantucket.  I thought it was extremely fitting!

I compared all of the ferry rates and found The Steamship Authority to be the cheapest. 13882511_10102089612831162_6564189929835656165_nWe took the high-speed ferry so that it’d only take an hour, leaving in the morning and coming back later at night.  They had their own parking lot to keep your car in Cape Cod and then a shuttle to take you to the port – very convenient!  At the time we went, tickets were $49 per person for roundtrip.

The recommendations I would give (and the visitors center gave) was to visit the Nantucket Whaling Museum.  13686608_10102085748076162_7709742697595637636_n13872751_10102085748225862_6799664769724294023_n13782127_10102085748365582_5207958913216326_n

Erotica scrimshaw pictured above in the museum.

The views from the top are nothing short of amazing! 13669821_10102085747936442_2309494433740870567_n13876528_10102085747866582_2645185076633534813_n

The next stop recommended to us by the visitor center was the historic First Congregational Church of Nantucket.  The fee here is a suggested $5 donation.  Once at the top of the stair climb you get another amazing view of the harbor and town.


Back at the Cape = food!

Foodie:

For waterfront views & family-friendly dining, I loved Tugboats in West Yarmouth.  The lobster roll had HUGE chunks of lobster and will not disappoint.13692649_10102079546199772_5612103012509825289_n

For a broad menu (and those allergic to seafood or shellfish), was this cute place that had every inch decorated in a nautical theme, so I couldn’t resist pictures.  We got the seafood tower at Black Cat Tavern.  Below is a slideshow, and I need that anchor carpet for my house!

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Laid back with beach views and the best steamed littlenecks in wine, try Waydowntown in Provincetown. 13891818_10102087223050302_9039039050644785863_n

Oyster lovers: My bf is an oyster connoisseur, and he swears by The Oyster Company in Dennisport.  They are $1.25 each during Happy Hour or before 6:30 (at the time this post was written).

Craving something sweet?  Every time we drove past this place, there were lines outside the building and wrapping around, so I pledged that we were going to eventually stop.  Try the Cape Cod Creamery for homemade ice cream in Hyannis.

Leave a comment letting me know of your go-to places in the Cape.  I have more foodie suggestions as well, so just ask!  Be on the lookout for a Salem, Massachusetts post for money-saving traveling tips!

Buffalo Chicken Dip: Amped up!

If you saw the blog post about jalapeno poppers just in time for regular-season football, then you’ll love this blog post!  Every weekend in football season, I try to prepare something that is buffalo sauce flavored.  I do buffalo chicken wraps, buffalo cheeseburger mac, buffalo chicken mac n cheese, and then, of course, buffalo chicken dip.  Stay tuned for another blog on how to make your own wings from home – with two recipes for wing sauce!

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Now, buffalo chicken dip has been done before, and you can find a TON of recipes online and on Pinterest, but I’d like to think mine’s a little special.  I took some tips from a friend chef of mine and mixed in some ingredients of my own.  For those not familiar with buffalo flavor, it is a wing sauce that is simply not just straight hot sauce, but can be found in the same aisle.  Believe it or not, I have seen questions asking about buffalo sauce in other parts of the country since here in the Northeast and New England states we are all too familiar.img_2097

Let’s get started:

You’ll need the buffalo sauce (pictured above or whatever brand you like).

1lb. of chicken breast

Chicken broth (enough to cook the chicken breasts)

Cayenne Pepper (to season the chicken to your taste)

Paprika (to season chicken)

Salt & Pepper

Cream Cheese

Sharp cheddar cheese

Mexican blended cheese

Blue Cheese Dressing

Ranch Dressing

Crumbly blue cheese

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  1.  Cook chicken in chicken broth, seasoning with cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, & pepper.
    • Here is where most recipes call for canned chicken. I recommend not using any canned meats.  In addition, I’ve always heard from chefs to flavor every step of the process, so although this will be doused in hot sauce and cheese, I still flavor the chicken.
    • Others use rotisserie chicken from their local grocer for ease and quickness.
  2. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  TIP:  You can shred chicken breast using your stand or hand mixer…or…of course by hand with two forks. I like the chicken cubed to scoop it up with “Tostitos Scoops” chips.
  3. In mixing bowl: Mix chicken with 1/2 cup of buffalo sauce
  4. Mix in entire 8oz. of cream cheese block
  5. Mix in 1/2 cup of blue cheese dressing
  6. Mix in 1/2 cup of ranch dressing
  7. Mix in 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese
  8. Mix in 1/2 cup of mexican cheese
  9. Combine into 8×8 baking dish
  10. Sprinkle blue cheese crumbles over the top covering the dish and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes
  11. Garnish with chives!
    • I had extra from the garden.  Chives will survive the winter as they are a perennial.  You can also divide the root and bring some of it inside to have chives all winter inside.

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Let me know what recipes you have for buffalo chicken dip!  How do you amp it up in order to deviate from the norm.  What other dishes do you make that are inspired by buffalo sauce?  Comment below!

 

 

Jalapeno Poppers: Recipe for those that don’t actually like jalapenos

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So, believe it or not, this foodie is actually just not that into Jalapeno poppers.  It’s not the poppers’ fault, really.  I don’t tend to like jalapenos in general (unless diced tiny in pico de gallo or guacamole).  My boyfriend was on a mission to get me to like HIS jalapeno poppers…and he did just that.  This is perfect and just in time for regular-season football too!

HIS biggest tip:  They were bite-sized, cut in sections going across the pepper, instead of lengthwise, so you can actually pop them into your mouth in one bite.  And yes, THAT does make a difference.  Something else he does, is soak the sections in milk for about an hour after removing the seeds.  This helps with some of the heat that secretes from the pepper.  You can go shorter or longer for time and use water in place of milk.  Both of these steps are what persuaded this foodie into liking jalapeno poppers.

Recipe for your football cravings.  Serves 2-4.  7 jalapeno peppers:

1. Cut jalapeno across in sections about 1/2″ to get approx. 3 pieces out of each pepper.

2. Take out the seeds and membrane.

3. Soak the jalapeno pieces in milk for an hour. image

4. Fill a cast iron pan with canola or vegetable oil (our preferred method for frying). We fill it higher than the largest jalapeno popper, so that all of them are submerged in the oil while frying.

5. Prepare dipping stations: image

  • One for flour (approx. 1 cup).
  • One for the egg mixed with milk. *You should have the same amount of volume of milk per the same amount of egg (1 egg).
  • One for breadcrumbs (approx. 1 1/2-2 cups). *We prefer to bread things in Panko breadcrumbs over Italian breadcrumbs.

*I suggested that buttermilk could also be used because I know it’s used generally in homemade fried chicken, and so, I liked it for this application as well.

6. Take the pieces out of the milk and stuff them with cream cheese. *You can also use shredded cheddar, but he prefers not to (because of how greasy it can get).

7. Dip it first in flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs.

8. Fry them on a medium to medium-low heat until golden brown.image

Voila!  Stay tuned to the blog.  I created an “AMPED UP Jalapeno Popper” that I haven’t seen anywhere else based off of combining TWO of our fave football snacks. image

Brunch-at-Home: Simple & Cheap

Do you find yourself wanting to go out for brunch or breakfast on the weekends because it’s too much of a hassle to prepare after a busy, work week? How about a classic Bloody Mary at home with Eggs Benedict – made EASY? I’m certain those two items were EXACTLY what you were thinking of when I was describing easy because of a busy work week, surely not a bowl of cereal, toasted bagel, or instant-toaster waffles!

When people hear Eggs Benedict, they automatically assume hours in the kitchen, fancy ingredients, difficulty level past where they want to be; yet, it’s actually super easy, and you will most likely have all of the ingredients. The staple of any Eggs Benedict is the hollandaise sauce.  If you’ve never heard of it, don’t be intimidated, because even McDonald’s has it slapped on their egg/bacon/cheese bagel (it’s either still on the menu or was for a limited time – I go very rarely, so not sure!)

So, if you stay tuned, you’ll get to read my blog on make-ahead meals made cheap because of shared ingredients, and these two are no exception.  You can share the same ingredient in your Bloody Mary and in your hollandaise sauce, making it a money-saving brunch-at-home! Yes, please.

First up. Hollandaise sauce.

1. Melt 1 stick of unsalted butter. (Healthier meals also coming to the blog).

2. Wisk together 4 egg yolks + 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice in a metal mixing bowl until it doubles in volume, either by hand or hand mixer. It will have an appearance similar to instant vanilla pudding!

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3. Put the metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (don’t let the water touch the bottom of the bowl) and slowly drizzle in the unsalted butter, whisking until it doubles in volume.

4. Remove from heat and now season with cayenne, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, etc.

Done! That’s it.  3 ingredients with whatever seasoning you already own, and we’ll borrow some of the lemon for the Bloody Mary.

Next up.  Bloody Mary (before you start poaching your eggs for the Benedict). Easy recipe to remember that’s in 2’s and 4’s.

1. 4 oz. of tomato juice of choice for every 2 oz. of unflavored, quality vodka.  (I doubled this for two adults, so 8oz. of tomato juice + 4oz. of vodka)

2. Squeeze in the juice from 2 lemon wedges, but I eyeballed this and did it to taste.

3. 4 teaspoons of prepared horseradish

4. 4 dashes of worchestershire

5. 4 dashes of hot sauce. I combined our fave Pittsburgh sauce image with plain ole’ Tabasco.

CUSTOMIZATION: A pinch of celery seed, celery salt, Old Bay Seasoning, Smoked Paprika, your fave bbq sauce, black pepper, etc.

If you want to put in a little more work, then you can take the lemon wedge around the rim of your glass and combine kosher or sea salt with cayenne or smoked paprika or Old Bay Seasoning or pepper (I did all to get the max amount of flavor but it’s not needed).  TIP: In any recipe calling for paprika, I use smoked paprika in lieu of sweet.  It ups the anty on any recipe – especially that traditional, summer, boring macaroni or potato salad!imageGarnish with lemon wedge, olives, celery stalk, a strip of bacon or shrimp if you’d like but not doing so will still get you an excellent Bloody Mary with ingredients you already have!

Back to eggs Benny: For poaching eggs, my boyfriend and I followed Alton Brown because he’s the science behind cooking, http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/perfect-poached-eggs-recipe.html . White Vinegar is required, but this is cheap buying in bulk and a shared ingredient in a lot of my homemade cleaning supplies (different blog post ahead).

Finish with canadian bacon on top of a toasted english muffin cut in half.  These items we normally have for quick breakfast sandwiches.  The poached egg goes next, then hollandaise after. Most garnish with parsley, but I found I liked using my chives from my spiral herb garden instead. The delicate, onion-y flavor cut through the richness of the hollandaise.

Leave a comment and let me know how your brunch-at-home went! image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY canning in a boiling water bath (Small Batch)

imageTomatoes! Tomato? Tomato sauce. Tomato juice. Spaghetti sauce. You name it, if I can grow my own organic tomatoes and then can them into any form I want them to take and have it taste amazing in the middle of winter…well, I’m one happy 30-something. Btw, I say organic, but I’m not overly-fussy about everything having to be organic, but it does factor into my life in some areas and then other areas, not at all. Skincare will be one of the areas where I care a little bit more about the ingredients that they contain than maybe other things in my life! Coming up!

So anyway, Spaghetti sauce to an Italian is like what flowers are to bees, hot dogs in mac-n-cheese is to a toddler, or carrots are to rabbits…you catch my drift. I don’t want to spend too much time on the basics of canning (sterilizing the jars/lids, listening for the pop when they come out of the water bath, or checking for a tight seal at the end) as sources are endless online regarding those, so here we go!

Basic tools of the trade:

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Two topics not easily found online or buried:
1. Almost all jams and fruit jellies will need an additional “tool” of the trade – Fruit Pectin – that you can buy at almost any grocer.
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2. Tomatoes walk the fine line of being acidic but possibly, maybe, maybe not acidic enough to sustain a shelf life in your canning jar, so to solve that problem – enter Citric Acid or lemon juice. Citric Acid comes in a small plastic container and can be found in the same area as all the canning supplies. This is not needed if you plan on pressure cooking instead of a boiling water bath. Directions on how much to use for both of these ingredients should be on the container.
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Now, what was overly frustrating for canning is that no sources give you the “number-of-vegetable-per-how-many-quart-or-pint-jars-it-will-make ratio.” Sources instead give you recipes by weight, which doesn’t help if you don’t own a food scale, i.e. me. There’s a few reasons for that. One being everyone grows or purchases different-sized vegetables. With tomatoes, it may depend on what type you use (roma being the preferred for sauces) that will make it vary in size, not to mention how much of the tomato you want to keep whole in your sauce or if you want just the juice, which would render even less of an amount, etc.

RECIPE:
I have 8 roma tomato plants in my garden, 4 grape tomato, and 4 beef steak. This changes every year until I find what works best. I’ve come to notice that the 8 roma tomato plants will yield red tomatoes maybe only 20-30 at a time. This is about the amount you need for doing small work – ONE quart jar. TIP: If some tomatoes are red but not enough to make an entire batch or recipe, you can pick the red ones and freeze them until you have enough to can the rest! In addition, if you don’t have enough finished sauce at the end for a jar, you can freeze the sauce in freezer bags.

For my first quart, I mixed the romas and some grape tomatoes but no beef steaks, as none were ready yet!
1. Cut a slit into an “x” on the bottom of all of the tomatoes.
2. Drop them into a pot of boiling water for no longer than a minute and then shock them in an ice water bath.
3. Doing this, loosens the skin for removal, so go ahead, and do that.
4. Dice ½ a yellow onion, 1 bell pepper, garlic cloves to your taste, & mushrooms.
5. Sautee everything from step 4 into a pan with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt, pepper, fresh oregano, thyme, and fresh basil (added at the end).
a. Some people add a bay leaf, celery, maybe a red wine, maybe tomato paste to thicken
6. Using a food mill, you can either hand-crank the tomatoes making more of a juice with little to no seeds or just mash them by hand with a potato masher.
7. Combine the mashed tomatoes with the goodies from step 4 & 5 into a pan with your citric acid or lemon juice.
8. Slow, gentle boil until you’ve reduced the mixture by half, mostly getting all of the water out.
9. Scoop the mixture into your jars using a canning funnel for less mess.
10. Pop them gently into their canning bath of glory for about 40 minutes for a quart jar.

Voila!
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*Leave a comment if you would like any other info. I can offer you more on the basics of canning if you’d like or the basics of gardening, types of tomatoes, etc.