Fresh home-style guacamole…

Greg loves guacamole… he really really likes this stuff!  He puts in on all kinds of things.  When he dips a chip in the bowl, you can bet that a significant amount of guac will be gone because he piles it on. He puts it on everything mexican, sandwiches,  eggs, in some soups and more…

When I went to the store the other day (unfortunately the local one that does not have guacamole… unless you count guacamole “flavored” dip as close enough – we don’t)  I walked by the avocados and decided to pick some up so I could make him some… It took a couple of days for them to be the perfect ripeness but then we were in business.  As for what I did:

I put the avocado flesh (about 4 of them) in a bowl with a tad of lemon juice (I would have used lime if I had any), then added a little bit of diced tomato, one jalapeno, some chopped onion and a little bit of a sweet yellow pepper that I had… oh and I put a tiny dash of garlic and onion powder – that is it that I recall.  Then I used a fork and mashed it all up!

Here is the result and of course, we ate it! It was pretty good if I say so myself! It is really quite simple! One word of advice, it brown very quickly, so some kind of acid is needed to keep it longer – but I would plan of eating it right after you make it. Even with some lime/lemon juice and the tightest of tight sealing – it will brown by morning.

 

Avocados are healthy too! They contain healthy fats, potassium (more than a banana), vitamin E, folic acid, B vitamins. Eat up… maybe not like 10 a day, but you know! 🙂

A little bit of Oregon to warm my heart…

A little bit of Oregon to warm my heart…

A little bit of Oregon to warm my heart...

SO, today I was super hungry at lunch and the thing that sounded best was a good ol’ PBJ… it is quick and o-so-tasty, especially with a glass of milk! I opened up the loaf of bread (the best of what there was the chose from at the local store) and when I pulled out my two slices, I had to smile because the first thing that came to mind was OREGON… “home”! So, of course I had to take a picture and let all you Oregon folks know I miss you, the beauty and just all that comes to mind when I think of Oregon (trying not to make a novel post right now, ha ha).

As I was making my sandwich I was hard not to be thinking of some of the other food items that are not sold here like…. many awesome breads … franz varieties such as… Black Butte, Oregon Trail, Shasta Wilderness, Columbia River, Willamette Valley etc. You know, those breads only found “there”. Also, Great Harvest Bread Co… I could go for that any day – but right now, I could go for a fresh slice, toasted with a nice generous spread of Marionberry Jam (also not sold anywhere around here).

Anyways, there are many other things I am sure, but as mentioned – no novel post today, I should try and get something else done!

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Fresh Squeezed Florida Orange Juice…

Sunday was a nice stay-at-home day for me.

Seems like we have been on the go so much that home has been more of a crash pad that anything else.  If you know me, you know that I love my home time and do best with a steady amount of it.  Even if I am not doing much of anyting, it is just nice to be home.  I spent most of the day doing a lot of nothing, but managed to roughly clean the kitchen, do dishes, pick up Chaco’s toys, sort through a few piles of papers that have been stacked up here and there, do about 5 loads of laundry, enjoy coffee in the sun with Greg between his studying for tests, enjoy some doggy time, bake a big batch of very tasty cookies (which will hopefully appear on a later post), and for the punch or should I say juice project of the day… I made some fresh squeezed orange juice… from local oranges (much thanks to a friends with an orange tree)!

Now, to many peoples’ surprise, I do not own a fancy juicer, not even a unfancy one… I own no juicing equipment. Where I am from juicable items do not grow on trees, just pile up at the local grocery store. All that to say, I do have willing hands to juice… so that is just what I did – juiced them by hand. I gave them all a good massage, rolling, beating and more, then chopped them in half and squeezed as much juice as I could out of them. Seems like I completely demolished them to be exact… but the whole house smelled of orange zest as did my entire front side.

 The result: wonderful, fresh, sweet orange juice. 

Did I already mention it was so, SO yummy!  The fresh squeezed juice made such a wonderful companion to our “loaded omelet” breakfast this bright and early morning!

Folks, this juice does not need a long shelf life because it will be gone before long!

Have a wonderful week and try to make time for something you love!

My first turkey…

This Thanksgiving I got the wild idea to try a turkey… yep!

Even Greg told me this, and I agreed because I thought the same thing… It seems weird that I have never done a turkey before or at least helped with one after all the cooking done by my mom growing up… but it is true, this is my very first experience with a turkey!  Grandma usually took care of the turkey department… which now I am more thankful for!

I thought it would be fun to try one and Greg encouraged me to do so… I mean why not? … You have nothing to lose and if it does not work nobody will care! This is true, since we did not have a huge gathering or anyone to impress or disappoint. So off to the store I went with my thanksgiving list which included a big ol’ turkey.   Thanks to the advice from my mom, I got one that was already thawed because trying to thaw out a huge turkey shaped rock was not on my list of exciting things to do for thanksgiving prep. Plus, it was already Tuesday evening.   Finding a bird NOT frozen was more difficult and there was either huge turkeys or baby turkeys… so I went with the baby of the huge! We still ended up with a hefty 18 pounder.

Here are some of the thoughts that ran through my head through my turkey experience before I move on to the dramatic process:

 What on earth am I doing? What was I thinking?

What if I just got a rotisserie chicken already cooked and present it on a platter?

Why does pizza sound good at a time like this?

What day is thanksgiving again?

Who would want to work in the turkey factory (if there even is one)?

I’m glad this thing does not really have a smell.

I wish mom was here.

Someone or some…thing missed a few feathers.

This is heavy and slippery, bad combo

I should move the pie to another room, it does not deserve to watch this.

Greg is really missing out on a show!

but really… OH MY GOODNESS!

So, back on track: I have my turkey… now what? For started I tucked it in the fridge and tried not to worry about it, but honestly somehow I saw a very fast-forwarded version… basically in the bag to on the plate.  I knew it would not bake itself, but I had accepted a chore it felt like.  I love to cook, don’t get me wrong, but I think most of all I like to bake, and create things… or use pretty, colorful and clean ingredients…not wrestle with raw, cold and rather icky things.  So, help I needed indeed.

I did my research at least so I was not completely in the turkey dark… I looked to my Food Network Magazine, which I love getting in the mail and milking over the month until the next one comes (thank you mom)… and there was a whole section on thanksgiving which included ideas, meals and directions and more… Let me tell you, the page that talks turkey has some stains and wrinkles on it needless to say.  There were all different options for brining the turkey, different selections of butters, glazes, gravy and seasonings but since I am a new-bee, I went with the most basic “dry brine”.  It involved rubbing the bird down thoroughly with salt (lots), pepper and some herbs and letting it chill in the fridge overnight… uncovered, there to greet me every time I opened it up.

I have to back up a little bit, my whole process started with having to remove the bird from the fridge, unwrap it and wash it off…  I wanted to be done after the first feather I saw once I peeled back the plastic.  I am such a baby, huh? I pressed on and got over it pretty quick… So here I am alone in the kitchen, just standing there with a huge ugly naked bird in my biggest bowl staring at me (although he was headless of course) just sitting there in the sink. Oh man….

What does one do? CALL MOM !!!!!

(and pray she answers immediately even though she is in a different time zone and almost 3,000 miles away)

She answered…thank goodness and gave me a little pep-talk and help, which is just what I needed.  She told me to remove the neck and giblets and laughed at my response: huh? She told me to reach into the “cavity” and there would be a packet in there. Phew, a packet of guts is better than I was expecting. What a relief that I did not have to gut the thing.   Next, she said I needed to find the neck and remove it… it is in there… just feel around. Finally finding that long nasty thing was half terrifying. At a time like this it is easy to forget turkeys even have necks for crying out loud. Sorry folks that use all that “stuff” inside the cavity because I tossed it.  Yes, wasted it without a thought. Too much to deal with at once.  After our talk and a lot of strong laughter, I was ready to tackle this thing.  I will master you turkey!  I washed it off, inside and out… dried the thing and made my “brine”.  I rubbed that turkey down like nobody ever has ever rubbed a turkey down… put it on a pan and tucked it in the fridge for the night (Wednesday night that is). It really stared at me every time I opened the fridge.  It is not everyday you open the fridge and see that!

Here is the birdy, early early Thursday after a chilly night.

A fresh new day helped, I was ready to tackle this bird again.  As the directions told me, I was supposed to rinse it off , dry it and then rub it down again, this time with butter butter and more butter galore.  I made my “butter rub” out of well, butter   and some herbs (thyme, sage and a little bit of clove I believe) and again gave that bird the rub of its life.  I rubbed the butter all over the outside and as much of  “under the skin” that I could get to and sent him to the hot place.

About half way through (~2 hours later) the house started to smell of turkey so I snapped a picture of it baking and texted it to mom… who informed me that I forgot to tie the legs together… ummmm. Well? Great! It was probably too late at this time so I stuffed him with onions! If a next time finds me, I will go further and stuff him with carrots, onions and maybe potato too! 🙂

So, I really have went off on this whole turkey business but it actually worked out pretty good and was pretty tasty too!

Check out that roasted bird fresh out of the oven!  Greg’s grandpa and aunt joined us for thanksgiving late-lunch and we had a good time!  I was a little nervous about making a thanksgiving meal but there is a first for everything! It all worked out pretty well and we had a good time! Everything seemed to go smooth… but I have to admit, they arrived to our home about an hour early which as many of you know is “prime time, rush, go crazy time”… ya know, just as the turkey was coming out of the oven, before the rolls were baked, before the table was all pretty, before I wiped food off my shirt and before I could get the dog out for a potty break!  Can you imagine me trying to carve a turkey alone, let alone with company present? Well it was rough, but like I said worked out pretty well. I did not get many pictures, but I managed to snap a few of my made by Beka rolls just out of the oven… and my pumpkin pie that exited the oven just before the turkey hogged it for hours.   I hope everyone had a wonderful thanksgiving and finds themselves overwhelmed with stuff to be thankful for!

Thanks for reading my blog and my dramatic turkey expereince!

Cream Cheese Stuffed Pumpkin Bread

The weather changing, the leaves falling, cool nights, crisp mornings and the holidays getting closer really puts me in the mood to bake…

…even more than I usually am, which is pretty regular.  So now, I want to bake, bake, bake.  Lately, I have been wishing I could bake everyday! My current status (pregnant) has my appetite ravishing whether it is in my head or for real, so this makes it hard not to consume the entirety of whatever I bake. SO, the more I bake, the more I eat…  a joy since I am trying not to gain too much beyond what I need to. But honestly,  I was likely to eat whatever before I was pregnant, so maybe I just have a better excuse now than just plain old boring poor self-control.  I may have to start taking baking orders so the goods go OUT of the house! But the good thing here is that I have been pretty busy trying to stay caught up at work that I have not had the time I need to bake a lot.

But since it is something that I enjoy, I am going to be trying new things, beyond my  normal baking rotation… I have made regular pumpkin bread a few times already  this season, and cookies are a regular staple coming out of the oven, and I made a pumpkin pie the other day… but I am ready to step it up a little bit.  I already have my own standard (as prideful as it may be) to not buy cookies, pie shells, cake mixes, brownie mixes or ready-to-devour baked goods over the counter (over-the-counter? hmm, it just came whether it makes sense or not! ha ha).  Whether they come from the store, or my own oven I know they are not among the healthiest things to eat, but I can make them healthier at home with substitutions or add healthier ingredients… but at a minimum stuff from my kitchen is without artificial products, stabilizers, dyes, etc. But anyways…

For this special treat I used some very special pans who were a gift from my wonderful late grandma. These small pans have housed numerous loaves of her famous bread.  She could make some incredible bread that I would love love love a fresh slice of…

So you can imagine, no matter what the bread tasted like, they would still be good if you know what I mean!

So, yesterday I added some flair to the already delicious fall staple (pumpkin bread). My idea for stepping it up for the day was as you can tell… nothing too major but mainly just something different. A yummy twist at the least!   I got the idea from a blog called “Annie’s Eats”  and she got the idea from “Bakespace“, so I thought I would try it!  The original recipe is intended for muffins… of which I thought about, but once I surveyed the kitchen for supplies, I only had 3 muffin liners left and going to the store was just going to happen for me at this time.  It takes a lot for me to go to the local store (how terrible is that?) So I took the idea and made it into a yummy loaf… or several! 🙂 I ended up with 6 mini & 2 regular size loaves…

Here are the ingredients and brief directions:

So, now we know, you can make this recipe work for bread or muffins… just whatever  fits your current fancy or supplies.  But please note, this recipe makes about 2 regular sized loaves of bread… or ~ 24 muffins.  I made two batches to get my  goods (6 mini and 2 regular).

filling:
8 oz.  cream cheese (softened) +  around 1 cup of powdered sugar (a little less or a little more… however sweet you like it)

*marry the two until well combined and smooth then put in the fridge or freezer to firm up some so it is easier to work with

topping:
½ cup sugar
5 tbsp. flour
1½ tsp. ground  cinnamon
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

* combine the above with a pastry knife/dough blender or whatever you call that thingy and put in the fridge until you are ready to top the bread

* oven 350°

muffins:
3 cups flour (play around a little with types if you like, I added some whole wheat flour of course because I am fiber girl)                                                                                                                                                ~1 tsp. ground cinnamon
~1  tsp. ground nutmeg
~1 tsp. ground cloves
~1 generous Tbsp. of the wonderful pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda

* put the above into a large bowl, stir around and set aside

4 large eggs
2 cups sugar (I added less, but do what you want)
1 regular can of pumpkin or ~2  cups pumpkin puree if you have fresh
1¼ cups vegetable or canola oil (EVOO will give the bread a different taste)

* in a medium bowl, blend the above together and then stir in with the dry ingredients until just moistened

* to assemble the yummies, spread some batter in the bottom of your pan of choice (about 1/3 full) then dollop or stripe or something like that the cream cheese in. You can put a straight line, dots etc. then swirl it around a little bit or leave it alone.  This is what I did, but next time I will add more and probably come up with a design in there so when it is cut there is something besides a blog in the middle….

Then top the rest with the batter… but before you put them in the oven, don’t forget to top with the sugary yummy topping!

My smaller loaves baked for about 30 minutes (I think), the muffins will take about 20-25 and the full size  loaves I made took about 50 minutes…  Then let them cool some on a wire rack, then take them out of the pan to finish cooling. The filling stays pretty hot, so it may be best to let them cool some to set up some.

I hope you try… and enjoy! 🙂  Happy Fall and Holiday baking… I will try and share more as I try new things!

Happy National Watermelon Day

Happy National Watermelon Day!

I really love watermelon, there is nothing like a perfectly red, ripe tasty melon… and if it is seedless, even better!  I can’t put away a lot of this yummy item!  Since I now live in an area that things can grow stuff (as you already know by my gardening posts), watermelon was a for sure on my “to plant” list.  Well, they actually did phenomenal even with all the dry weather we had for a while.

 

 

Well,  up to a certain point… and here is why.  Just days before several were ready to pick and enjoy, something ate into every single melon out there… maybe around 50 or so total.  On day one we found most of them chewed into and so I picked 3 of the biggest that were left because by the next day the rest were ruined (even all the small ones that were hardly even 3″ in diameter)… they did not stand a chance! Of course I was big-time bummed because they were what I was looking forward to the most in the garden.  But I tried not to let it get me down too much  because hey, I tried and also we can only do so much living several miles from the garden spot.

 

 

But hey, enough on the sad news right? I can go to the store and get one  because there is much to enjoy about these red (or yellow) yummies!   You can quench your thirst and fill your belly at the same time, and enjoy watermelon knowing it is a good source of Potassium, and a very good source of Vitamins A and C.  So maybe next year I will attempt again, or maybe not… Something out there got its fill on my melons and I am not sure I want to feed the local critters any  longer! 🙂

Have a great day and go eat some watermelon!

Color your Diet!

Today I am supposed to be productive – at least that is what I told myself!  It is a really rainy day, which is fine with me, but it makes me want to do things like oh… drink coffee, relax,  then repeat.

So, I figure I will do that for part of the day at least, then get on to some of the projects I want to get done.  I am counting this blogging stuff in with my drinking coffee and relaxing section today so I will make it kind of short (you are welcome) and then I have a magazine that came in the mail I want to look through (Thanks mom for my food network subscription!)

The topic of the day:

COLORFUL FOOD!

(not necessarily M&M’s, but nice try!)

Call me weird, but food is so pretty!  I mean think about all the colors food comes in…. I am talking about NATURAL food here… fruits and vegetables! It is one thing to walk into a department store and see all the pretty spring colors, all the new clothes… but walk into a field of wildflowers or a garden… or the produce section of a nice grocery store and tell me that is not pretty! I love it!  But of course, I am a foodie and it makes me so excited!

Did you know that vitamins and all that healthy stuff are what gives food its natural color? Eating a variety of colors… a  rainbow of colorful foods is what helps provide nutrient rich foods in your diet… which will in turn help you feel better, have a healthier life and even have more energy.  There is not a pill out there to match the health benefits of real, natural food! 

If you think of your dinner plate as a picture, how much color is there? Try and at least have each “item” a different color.  Brown is a color, but for the sake of my example it does not count…. and neither does potatoes or pasta.  So, think of adding color to those basic “staple”/”common” items.  Here are some examples…

  • meat and potatoes can be spruced up by swapping the potato for sweet potatoes or yams… or even better, broccoli, squash, beans etc… think vibrant color, not bland.  The brighter the color, the more nutrients. 
  • Salad is a way to add nutrients to any meal…
  • Adding fresh fruit as a side/condiment or topping is a great idea too!
  • Here are some pictures from “my kitchen” showing some color and ways to add fruits and veggies….

This is bold, but hey I am going to say it!  Fruits and veggies are expensive but so is going to the doctor and so is medication.  I’m not saying that people who eat healthy never go to the doctor, or people who don’t always go… but I am quite sure they go less if not a lot less.  

If you can buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season, it is very  helpful.  For example, strawberries in Florida are pretty cheap right now, but tomatoes are not…   Think of ways to incorporate more strawberries is a great idea (at least right now) and saving your recipes that use a lot of tomatoes may be good if you are on a budget…. don’t make salsa right now! 🙂  OR grow your own, which I want to try this year by the way! But my point is look at what is on sale where you live, shop around and don’t let the price alone determine whether you buy or not, think about the benefits and the fun of colorful food too!   Often we over-look the frozen foods section, often there are good deals there for berries, peas etc.  They are also easy to prepare in many cases because they are already washed and ready to go!

Color your plate, your diet and your world! 🙂

 

Home Improvement #4: My Jar Shelf!

The Jar Shelf Greg Made!

This is by far my favorite “home improvement” project yet… I just love it! Every time I walk into the kitchen it makes me smile.  Greg built this shelf literally in to the wall for me to put my jars on. The problem with our kitchen is that there is not much cupboard space or storage (no pantry area either) so somehow all my dishes, baking items, pans, glasses, mugs, utensils etc. and not to mention food has to fit in the small area!  This was his grand creation…an inset shelf for me to put all my precious jars on!  You can see that before the shelf was there, this wall was just plain and a wasted space because there was no room to add any cupboards, counter or anything…but I sure am using it now, and daily! I get into many of these jars everyday at least once… I have many baking goods, nuts,  chocolate chip varieties, flax-seed, wheat bran and germ, popcorn kernels, cornmeal, candy, peanut butter, dried beans, oats and more!

The nut row...

Items for baking!

This project turned out wonderful! It was a slow process at first while he cut out the sheet rock and 2 studs… while keeping the other side of the sheet rock (living room wall) blemish free, but after the hole was made the rest went fairly quickly. He made the shelf to size and slid it in place!

I think everywhere we live I need a jar shelf…I just love it! The problem is, I can’t take this one with me – he may be needing to make another one someday if we have another house! 🙂