Stuck in a Rut

meet-a-first-paper-notebook-with-coloring-pages-for-adults-4__880

photo via coloring notebook

I apologize for the lack of posts as of late.  The goal was for us to post twice a week.  To be honest it’s been a bit of a struggle. One of my biggest faults is being a perfectionist, which makes it very difficult to finish projects or anything really.  My home is really good example of that.  There’s a half painted wall.  Seriously!

I’ve never really considered myself to be a good cook.  Pretty much anytime I ever make anything the first thing I notice is, what could have been better?  Needless to say that type of mindset can make things a wee bit difficult.

If someone would have told me a year ago that Rachel and I would start a food blog my response would have been “yeah, right”.  But after spending loads of time with her she’s inspired me to get out of my comfort zone of eating the same thing five times a week and cook up something different.

This week I’m super excited!  We’re having a bunch of really good friends over for our first annual friendsgiving this weekend.  Also I promised myself that I’m going to start spending more time nurturing my creativity.  I feel like lately I’ve been stuck in a bit of rut and it’s time to make some changes.

Have any of you ever been stuck in a creative rut? If so, how did you cope?  I’d love to read your comments and suggestions.

xo – Kristin

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Oh hey, it’s November!

november-child-fun-outside-playing-play-leaves-fall

some of my favorite things from around the web.

this watercolor print.

I want to run a marathon next April.  This will probably be me at mile 22.  (photo via long run saturday)

 we might have to make these for our friendsgiving brunch.

The most cut-off man on Earth.

this portrait of Angelina Jolie

This post about communal living was very insightful.

Has anyone else heard of bullet journaling?  I’m intrigued.

I just read an article about this denim brand.  Has one else order jeans from them?

This site will definitely come in handy when cooking and baking.

This shirt.

Low-Carb “Gnocchi”

keto-low-carb-pasta-comfort-foodHave you ever ran 3 miles in the pouring rain?  I haven’t either until today.  Normally for me, 3 miles is meant to be a quick 30 min run, in and out.  Today, those miles weren’t quick nor easy.  It was a struggle once I got past the second mile.  I was cold, very wet and somewhat hungry.  The only thing that kept pushing me to keep on going was knowing as soon as I finished, I would get to come home and make this recipe.

Boy was I disappointed.  For the amount of work and elbow grease that I had to put in, my yield was fairly small.  I barely had a bowl full.  Also with each bite I took, I felt like I was eating a forkful of mozzarella sticks.  Not the warm, soft “potato pillows” I was expecting.  I ended up eating half a bowl for lunch to conquer my “post run hunger”.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so physically full from eating such a small amount of food.  This definitely won’t be going into my weekly meal rotation.

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But any who, if you try this recipe out please let us know what you think.  I’m curious to read what other people think of this dish.

xo – Kristin

Low Carb “Gnocchi”

adapted from the Primitive Palate

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • butter & olive oil for sautéing
Method:

First, place cheese and granulated garlic into a microwave safe bowl and toss around to combine.  Melt cheese in the microwave for about one to two minutes (or until the cheese has melted).  Then fold in one egg yolk at a time until a homogeneous dough forms.  Keep doing it until the cheese and egg yolk completely combine with one another.

                       

Then portion the dough into 3 or 4 equal size balls.  After that stick them into the fridge to chill for at least 10 minutes.  Once the balls of dough have chilled, roll out each ball into a 12 inch log on a lightly greased parchment (to keep from sticking).  Slice each log into one inch pieces (I even took a fork to give the pieces that gnocchi look).

keto-low-carb-pasta-comfort-food         keto-low-carb-pasta-comfort-foodIn a large pot, bring about a half gallon of salted water to a boil (like you would for normal pasta). Place all the gnocchi into the pot and cook until they float, about 2-3 minutes. Then strain into a colander.  While the water is boiling, heat a large pan on medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil to pan.  Add the gnocchi and sauté each side for one to two minutes or golden brown.

keto-low-carb-pasta-comfort-food

I added marinara sauce to mine, but feel free to add any sauce you see fit.

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Putting the Bloody Mary in Jello-Shots.

bloody-mary-jello-shot-booze

When Rachelcakesmakes and I were trying to figure out what to bring to my brother’s tailgate, I figured we’d have to bring at least something that was boozy.  Then I found the two year old giant bottle of Absolute Peppar stashed away in the cupboard.  There is only one thing you can make with that and that’s bloody mary’s.  Put a bunch of college kids into the mix and let’s see if we can turn it into a jello-shot.

So we did a little bit of searching on the internet and found a recipe (who knew?!?).  We tweaked it a little bit.  Took out an ingredient or two, added a little bit of dill, (that little bit makes all the difference).  As a self proclaimed bloody mary “expert”, I prefer mine with a little bit more “bite”.  So we added a lot more worcestershire sauce than what the original recipe called for.

Keep in mind that this is a jello-shot.  So the vodka flavor is VERY strong.  We ended up sprinkling bacon flavored salt on the top to help mask some of that flavor.

Just a word of caution:  If you are NOT a fan of bloody mary’s this recipe is NOT for you!  

bloody-mary-jello-shot-ingredients          

Bloody Mary Jello-shot

adapted from the improv kitchen

Ingredients:
1 c. tomato juice
1 packet knox gelatin
¼ t. lemon juice
¼ t. garlic powder
¼ t. onion powder
¼ t. pepper (omit if using absolute peppar)
¼ t. salt
half tablespoon of worcestershire sauce (or as needed)
squirt of tabasco sauce
¾ c. vodka
flavored salt for the topping
Mix all ingredients except the vodka, gelatin, and celery stalks in a pot over medium heat. When liquid is bubbling, add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Pull mixture off the heat and let cool for 1 minute. Add vodka and then pour into little jello-shot cups.
If you try this out, please let us know if you end up liking it
xo – Kristin

Our third anniversary.

JLB-Wedding-photographer

(photo from my wedding courtesy of Jeffery Lewis Bennet)

Last week was pretty rough.  Between my husband working from 11am to 11pm all week and our son being sick, we had an unexpected death.  A really good friend of my husband had suddenly passed away at the young age of 27.

Way too often life can become a monotonous routine.  Wake up.  Go to work.  Come home.  Go to bed.  Sometimes it comes too naturally for me to nit-pick the little things.

“Carl, you looked like you slept in that, you should change your shirt.”                                                                                       “How hard would it be to put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket?”

And then today, I look through our wedding album to find a photo for this post and see the photo of us relaxing on the sofa.

Just the two of us.

The first time I ever saw that face I knew right then and there I was going to spend the rest of my life with him.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the everyday and let the little things grind you down.  I learned the hard way last week that they don’t really matter.

Life is short and beautiful.  Finding someone to spend it with is a gift.

xo – Kristin

How About ‘Dem Apples Galette

apple-gelette-homemade-fresh

Something about autumn triggers an innate need to bake something, anything. Combine that with apple season and the internets are bursting with apple baked goods. The most quintessential of all apple baked goods is apple pie. We decided to take a more free form approach and make an apple galette, which is essentially a pie baked on a baking instead of a pie pan. The advantages of a galette over a pie are that it is easier to transfer the pie dough to a baking sheet compared to a pie pan, and it is easier to serve and most importantly to eat (kinda like pizza).

We decided to make Jacques Pepin’s country Country Apple Galette. We liked the simplicity of the filling, just apples, sugar, honey, and cinnamon. It allows the flavor of the apples to shine. However his recipe calls for making the dough in a food processor, and that just did not sit right with us. I know if a food processor is good enough for Jacques, it should be good enough for us amateurs. However, the lure of the food processor pie crust is not all it’s cracked up to be. When you use a food processor, it’s much easier to over incorporate the fat into the flour; I know this from past crust fails. That being said, handmade pie dough does not have a reputation for being easy to make either.  There is the still the danger of over working the dough and letting the fat warm up. We looked at a few different crust recipes and ultimately decided to use Bon Appétit’s Flakiest Pie Crust. The method is described as “foolproof” and a “blow your-mind technique for the best damn all-butter crust”.  We were sold.  It is, to date my best pie crust making experience. However, we did have to put it back into the fridge mid rolling out, but that could also have to do with the fact that we had to pause for a few pictures. Also, it was pretty fun to work the butter into the dry ingredients with our hands.

rolling-pie-dough        fresh-michigan-golden-delicious-apple

Speaking of butter…I just want to say butter is simply the best. It is fundamental to baking and makes everything taste better. For greater exposition on this, I defer to the kitchn. Butter also reminds me of my Papa; he was repulsed by it. Just the sight of it would cause him to make some remark and/or facial expression of disgust. We grandchildren would taunt him by slathering butter on our corn on the cob say, “Oh Papa, doesn’t this look sooooo good? Do you want us to pass the butter?” But that was all in good fun and he knew it. We made sure any dish we prepared for him was butter free. If we tried to deceive him and the truth was found out, he would have never trusted us to cook the offending dish or anything that could possibly have butter, for him ever again. Recently my Grams confided in me that in later years she would sometimes sneak butter in her cooking and baking. And my Papa would remark that the food tasted really good, better than he remembered. Butter does really make everything taste better.

butter-delicious-unsalted-organic-kirkland

apple-gelette-cinnamon-sugarAs far the apples go, we veered slightly from the original recipe and used two golden delicious apples and two honey crisp apples, the recipe calls for four golden delicious apples. Both are great for baking (and just plain snacking) because of their firm texture and sweetness. One of the great things about autumn in Michigan is that fresh, local apples are readily available.

apple-gelette-honeycrisb-michigan        fresh-michigan-golden-delicious-apple

On the whole, our recipe mash up yielded a delicious galette. However, when making this again we would tweak a few things, primarily the quantity of dough used.  The crust recipe we used is for a double crust and we used half the dough, a single crust. However, it wasn’t quite large enough to accommodate the full four apples called for in the galette recipe (though the apples we used were on the large side). When the two crust recipes are compared, it is clear that a single crust isn’t quite enough. Even though we didn’t use all the apples, we still slightly over filled our galette; which resulted in some of the apples on the top getting dried out. Despite it’s short comings, our galette was a huge hit and was quickly devoured. Not too shabby for our first attempt.

Longing For Le Creuset Ratatouille

ratatouille-french-vegetables-side-dish

This year the premier kitchenware maker Le Creuset celebrates it’s 90th anniversary. Their most iconic, and most reviered, piece is the dutch (or french) oven. Often imitated, but never duplicated. We long for the day when we can our call one of those beauties our own. It remains at the top of our kitchen wish lists. Despite lacking a Le Creuset dutch, we decided to pay homage to the object of our desires by making the classic french vegetable stew, ratatouille.

Ratatouille is one of those things that is more a technique than a specific recipe. A quick Google search for a recipe will reveal seemingly infinite variations of the classic recipe. Basically it consists of onions, peppers, tomatoes (fresh or canned, it matters not), zucchini, eggplants, and various aromatics cooked down to a luscious stew. Traditionally, it was a way to take advantage of the bounty of produce from the garden. It is eaten hot or cold/room temperature. And like (every) other stew, it taste even better the next day.

ratatouille-french-vegetables-side-dish-fresh

Some advice on selecting the eggplant and zucchini (and summer squash if using): smaller is better. This helps with both texture and flavor. When we went to the produce market we were lucky to find practically perfect baby eggplants. However, we did not fare so well when it came to the zucchini and summer squash. We selected the smallest specimens available, and even though they were not ideal, we still ended up with a damn tasty ratatouille.

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ratatouille-french-vegetables-side-dish

ratatouille-french-vegetables-side-dish

This recipe makes a LOT of Ratatouille, so feel free to scale it down, or not, because it freezes well.***

Oh, Martha’s Ratatouille

Ingredients

Olive Oil

3 Large Onions, sliced into large half moons

3 Red Bell Peppers, cut into 2 inch strips 1/2 inch thick

2 28 ounce cans of Whole peeled tomatoes, seeded and juices strained

2 TBL Finely chopped garlic

11/2 pounds of zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices*

11/2 pounds of summer squash, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Or additional zucchini*

2 pounds of baby eggplants, tops trimmed and quartered**

1 tsp  thyme

1 tsp oregano

Salt, to taste, and for leeching vegetables, if necessary

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 TBL chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried), plus more for garish

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheight. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a large dutch oven heat a thin layer of olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and red bell peppers. Saute until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and some to all of the strained juices. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan or skillet, heat a thin layer of olive oil over medium to medium high heat. Working in batches, add zucchini and summer squash in a singsle layer. You may need to add more oil in between batches. Saute until golden brown inn spots. Add to the other vegetables.
  2. In a large bowl, toss eggplant with a tablespoon of olive oil. Brush the parchment of the baking sheet with olive oil as well. Spread eggplant in a single layer and roast in the oven 20 to 30 minutes, or until well browned. Occasionally tossing. Add the eggplant to the ratatouille. Add the dry herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until reduced and thick, the time will vary depending on the water content of the vegetables used. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and fresh basil.

Notes

*If your zucchini and summer squash are on the larger side, seed them (which is what we should have done) and place slices in a large colander, generously salt, toss and set aside for about 30 minutes for the salt to draw out excess water. Rinse of the salt and dry before sauteing.

**If using larger/”regular” eggplants cut into 2 inch sized pieces, place in a large colander, generously salt and set aside for 30 minutes for the salt to draw out the excess water. Rinse off the salt and dry before tossing with olive oil.

***If you end up freezing the ratatouille take note that the herbs will lose a lot of their flavor when thawed out, so be prepared to re-season the stew.

Serve with pasta, as a savory crepe filling, with crusty bread, or however your heart desires. We like it topped with a poached egg or two.