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Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday Mumblings

I am so sore this morning! We did about 2 hours of yardwork on Saturday and my hamstrings are really bitching today. At this time of year, it’s all I can do to keep up with the weeds; everything grows so fast! But I must admit it’s worth it. I get so much joy from the garden and all the butterflies. We planted several caterpillar host plants just for them. Sometimes there are so many butterflies flitting around, you have to control yourself from swatting at them.

I started another batch of wine this weekend; a red this time. It’s an oaked cherry wine that is supposedly ready for drinking in 6-8 weeks. We’ll see about that! So far, all I’ve made is fruit wines (my Banana Grigio is w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l), so I’m a little nervous about working on my first red. I’m crossing my fingers cuz that “organic” cherry juice cost me an arm and a leg even with the coupons!

Made more Hippy Muffins, got my hair cut, shopped a little, made dinner yesterday and I’m whipped! I feel like I need another day or two off; good thing Friday’s a holiday!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

You Know You're a Floridian If...

Here's a few good ones, courtesy of Vitiamin Sea:

1. Socks are only for bowling.

2. You never use an umbrella because you know the rain will be over in five minutes.

3. A good parking place has nothing to do with distance from the store, but everything to do with shade.

4. Your winter coat is made of denim.

5. You can tell the difference between fire ant bites and mosquito bites.

6. Anything under 70 degrees is chilly.

7. You've driven through Yeehaw Junction.

8. You know that no other grocery store can compare to Publix.

9. Every other house in your neighborhood had blue roofs in 2004-2006.

10. You know that anything under a Category 3 just isn't worth waking up for.

11. You are on a first name basis with the Hurricane list. They aren't Hurricane Charley or Hurricane Frances. You know them as Andrew, Charley , Frances , Ivan and Jeanne, Wilma too.

12. You dread love bug season.

13. You know what a snowbird is and when they'll leave.

14. You think a six-foot alligator is actually pretty average.

15. 'Down South' means Key West .

16. Flip-flops are everyday wear. Shoes are for business meetings and church, but you HAVE worn flip flops to church before.

17. You have a drawer full of bathing suits, and one sweatshirt.

18. You get annoyed at the tourists who feed seagulls. (arrrgh!)

19. A mountain is any hill 100 feet above sea level.

20. You know the four seasons really are: hurricane season, love bug season, tourist season and summer. (What about Christmas?)

21. You've hosted a hurricane party.

22. You can pronounce Okeechobee, Kissimmee , Withlacoochee and Micanopy. (Don't forget Econlockhatchee)

23. You understand why it's better to have a friend with a boat, than have a boat yourself.

24. You were 25 when you first met someone who couldn't swim.

25. You've worn shorts and used the A/C on Christmas and New Years.

26. You recognize Miami-Dade as ' Northern Cuba.

And I'll add some of my own...

27. You don't actually PAY to go see a live alligator (same goes for seashell souvenirs).

28. You don't make u-turns on any Florida interstate grass median. They may LOOK solid, but you know better.

29. "Full sun" on any plant growing description really means "Florida shade/partial shade"

Hippy Muffins

Doesn’t that sound like the name of some retro punk band? Or maybe the title for another cool foodie blog? But still, it also conjures up images of a middle-aged, pudgy woman who wears mom jeans, Keds, a size too small sweatshirt, and a bad perm. Go figure.

Anyway, I’m always looking for healthier, convenient options for breakfast and these are PERFECT. Grab and go. Best of all, they actually TASTE good! They have wheat germ, low fat yogurt, nuts, veggies, and only 170 calories per muffin. Eat up you hippies!

Hippy Muffins
Recipe source: Martha Stewart Living (originally titled "Carrot-Zucchini Yogurt Muffins")

Vegetable-oil cooking spray
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
1/3 cup packed, dark-brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 large zucchini, peeled and grated
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat standard 12-cup muffin tin with the cooking spray. Whisk together flours, pecans, wheat germ, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In a separate bowl, stir together carrots, zucchini, yogurt, egg yolks, molasses and orange zest. Fold flour mixture into carrot mixture, just until combined. With a whisk or a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites until shiny, stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into carrot mixture.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling to the brims. Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

**I have frozen mine in a gallon sized ziplock bag and grab one for breakfast during the week!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Acting As If

I can really be a strange duck at times. For example, you’ve heard of the concept of projection when it comes to picturing something you want, right? Like, if you want, let’s say to fit into a certain outfit for a special occasion, you should picture yourself wearing that outfit, how it feels, and what you would do in it while you’re working your way towards your goal. I’ve also heard it being called “acting as if”.

When the summer temps start to creep towards triple digits, I “act as if” its fall. I start making fall crafty type things, usually for Halloween, thumb through my Martha Stewart October and November issues (I’ve kept every October and November issue for the past 10 years), and I bake and cook fallish type food. Maybe in some way, I think that by doing this, it’ll get here sooner.

Can I get a quack? Thank you very much!

Now I know most people don’t even want to think about heating up the kitchen in the summer, but it makes me happy. I can dream can’t I?

Harvest Pork Roast

4-5 lb. bone-in pork roast
2 T olive oil
Salt and pepper
½ cup all purpose flour
1 cup apple cider
2 T honey
2 T cider vinegar
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried rosemary (or use 1 T fresh, minced)
½ cup dried raisins
½ cup dried cranberries
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2” chunks

Preheat oven to 325. In an oven-proof dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Season pork roast with salt and pepper. Place pork roast in a large bowl and evenly coat with the flour. Place pork roast in dutch oven and brown on all sides. When browned, take dutch oven off stove. In a measuring cup, mix apple cider, honey, and cider vinegar with a spoon. Pour apple cider mixture into dutch oven, add onions, bay leaf, rosemary, raisins, and cranberries. Place lid on dutch oven and put in the oven to cook for approximately 3 hours (or until done). 1 hour before the roast is finished cooking, add the sweet potatoes to the dutch oven. Cove and cook for the last hour.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Random Thoughts, Or Why Keeping Chocolate On Your Desk Is a Bad Idea

Lisa turned to me and asked, “Can I use your husband?” Sure, no problem. Go right ahead!

On Saturday, dear hubby got to climb on top of 12 different women. He made the painful mistake of returning early to pick me up from a women’s self-defense class I was taking and was used “for practice”. He naively found himself in a room filled with riled, empowered women, ready to stomp, elbow or flip something. Anything.

Poor dear. He never knew what hit him.

I’ve decided that keeping a jar of chocolate on my desk at work, supposedly for my coworkers delight, is a bad idea. It does no good to eat salads for lunch and get up with the chickens in the mornings to walk when I end up snarfing down 8 chocolates throughout the day.

I could have eaten a whole candy bar.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Take Two

I feel kinda bad. I offered to submit a tasty strawberry recipe to Cooking In Cleveland's food blogging event and all I did was give a pictorial for something out of many reader's reach. It was a nice gesture, but kinda over-the-top, soooooo I wanted to make it up.

I'm submitting another recipe for a very simple and bright Strawberry Salad. There's really not much to the salad, per se, but its charm and zing is in the dressing. I think the dressing would be perfect for just about any salad!

Strawberry Salad with Cinnamon Vinaigrette
Recipe source: Southern Living

1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 pint fresh strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted (I forgot to add these)
1 avacado, sliced
1 head of lettuce, your choice (I used iceberg, but romaine would be good too)
Cinnamon Vinaigrette

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with half of Cinnamon Vinaigrette, tossing to coat (I omitted and preferred to let guests put their own dressing on). Serve with remaining vinaigrette.

Cinnamon Vinaigrette Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup rasberry vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

Combine olive oil and remaining ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously. Chill at least 2 hours; shake well before serving.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kisses Like Strawberry Wine

In honor of Cooking in Cleveland's food blogging event, I'm entering my Strawberry Wine as a submission. Enjoy!

A few people have been asking me about making wine. To catch you up, I taught myself how to make homemade wine a few months ago and it’s been so far “so good”. The thing about making homemade wine is the fact that you won’t know if you’re really any good at it for some time, so this isn’t a hobby for the impatient. That’s perfect for me because I’m impatient as hell!

It doesn’t really take elaborate equipment, but it does take time to make something decent. If you can read and follow a recipe, then you can make wine. I knew before I started that I wanted to make Strawberry Wine. GOOD wine though, not “Grandpa Jaja’s Elderberry Hooch”! I wanted to make wine that would be decent to serve at the dinner table or give as a gift, so I started researching and reading and asking questions.

Most of the ingredients are right at hand, but unfortunately you won’t be able to simply reach into your pantry and whip up a batch of wine without a considerable amount of research and preparation. Once you get the hang of it, it’s no more troublesome than canning or preserving, but with a longer shelf-life. And once you get started, the possibilities are endless!

So, I’m not going to bore you with details regarding the recipe, as most homemade wine ingredients like tannin powder, potassium metabisulfite, and pectic enzyme have to be purchased from a wine hobbyist vendor. But I will give you a pictorial of what it was like and what the end result looks like!

If you’d like to take this further and possibly give Strawberry Wine a try, go to Jack Keller’s website and search for his Strawberry Wine recipe. I used his recipe when I made mine and he’s a very reliable source.

Ok, first, you get a big ol’ cheesecloth bag full of strawberries and you add it to your primary fermentor (a food-grade plastic bucket). You then pour some simmered water with your required amount of sugar over the strawberries, add the rest of the water, other ingredients and wait 24 hours.

Then you use what’s called a hydrometer to test your potential alcohol level. Yeast turns sugar into alcohol, so therefore; the more sugar you add, the higher the alcohol level will be in your wine. Typical table wine is around 12% total alcohol, so you can use your hydrometer to adjust your sugar levels appropriately.

Then you “pitch the yeast”. See the dry yeast on the surface? It’s no different than a packet of bread yeast, but it is NOT bread yeast. You’ll end up with hillbilly hooch if you use bread yeast. Use wine yeast, it’s important!

Then you wait. Primary fermentation can take anywhere from 2 days to 6 months, depending on a whole bunch of factors. Mine took about 4-5 days.

Then you check your potential alcohol level (called a specific gravity) again, and when it’s at the right spot, you pour your wine “must” into a secondary fermentor, which is usually a glass jug. Add an “air lock” to prevent air from oxidizing your young wine and wait again.

Notice how cloudy it is? It takes some time for all the sediment to settle to the bottom or “clear”. Once this is done (anywhere from 2 months to 2 years!), you siphon your wine off the sediment into another glass jug, stabilize it so it won’t referment (more additives), sweeten if need to, and bottle.

See? Isn't it purdy?

Now, the truth is, that glass next to my bottle isn't my Strawberry Wine. For the most part, young wine really doesn't taste what it supposed to and it needs time to age. My lovely Strawberry Wine should be tasty come around Thanksgiving, but from the tiny tastes I made before bottling, it should be a huge hit!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Summertime!

I always tell hubby that nature abhors a vacuum. For example, whenever we lug a large box or something to our storage unit (no basements here), then something else magically appears to take its place. Or like this weekend, I had to dish out $600 for two tires (alignment, labor too, etc.) this weekend for my car, but won $100 on a scratch-off lottery ticket. So I say to Ma’ Nature…where’s my other $500 dollars!!

Update: the ticket didn’t win after all, so I’ll keep waiting.

Anywho, summertime is grill time and we love to grill out on the patio. From steaks to fish, to fruit and veggies, even bacon gets the grill treatment, and I love it! And of course, no grilling event would be the same without cold beverages, preferably the alcoholic kind. I found this nifty and VERY tasty Margarita recipe last year at of all places, the comments section of Stephanie Klein’s website. I can’t remember the name of the lady who posted this recipe, so I just called them Austin Margaritas.

Thank you, whoever you are!

They’re sooooooo easy and you can truly lighten up the calories on this drink by using diet drink products; it tastes exactly the same either way:

Austin Margaritas

1 12 oz. can of frozen Limeade (or use diet Limeade)
1-2 12 oz. bottles of Corona, to taste (or use Corona Lite) **I like 2 bottles
1 12 oz can/bottle of Sprite (or use Sprite Zero)
1 12 oz can of tequila, your choice (just fill up Limeade can for measure)

Mix all ingredients in a pitcher with ice. Salt rims of chilled glasses and enjoy!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Food for Thought

I’m all for locally grown, farm raised produce or organic food; however, one of the lacking aspects of being able to support local farming operations in Florida is availability and location. For example, a local u-pick blueberry place is at least an hour away and charges $4.50 per lb of berries, which you pick. Our local grocery sells locally grown blueberries at $5.00 for 2 pints (which equals approximately 1 ½ lbs.). As much as we would want to support our local farmers, it would cost us more in time and gas to go out of our way. That sucks.

When people think of Florida, they think of a lush, tropical paradise where anything grows. The truth is, not much out of citrus or very exotic tropical fruit grown near Miami is available. Sure, we have “two growing seasons” but even that is limited, especially with the weather getting warmer every season. It’s just too damn hot! Besides that, Florida is just not hip on farmer’s markets or CSAs. Forget apples, pears, plums, peaches (unless you’re near Georgia), asparagus, really any kind of berries, most root veggies as it is ether too hot or too wet for them, cold-loving veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, lettuce mixes. We do get strawberries, sweet corn, cucumbers, and tomatoes, however. And don’t even get me started on “other” aspects of a true farmer’s market, like artisanal cheeses, or breads, or preserves.

I guess my beef is other places make it look so effortless. When we went up to Virginia, we stopped at a local farmer’s market in Charlottesville. We found artisanal cheeses, spring lettuce mixes by the pound, grass-fed beef, free range eggs, more homemade breads and pastries than we could count, and even a man GIVING away unpasteurized, organic goat cheese because the government would not let him sell it! These sort of things are unheard of in Florida, and it makes me sad. Florida needs to get with the program of what a farmer’s market is all about, and I’m not talking about those fancy-schmancy, quasi craft-fair markets either. I’m talking about places like this. I won’t even mention what the farmer’s markets are like in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll start crying.

Just sayin’…
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