Faux Latte with Cold Brew Coffee

Are you familiar with cold brew coffee? It seems to be gaining quite a bit of popularity. I was vaguely aware of cold brew coffee and wondered out loud to Patrick if it could be a good option for us to have on hand for our Cookies & Cocoa party. Since we only have our Keurig we needed to be able to have a pot of coffee for our guests. Patrick hadn't heard of cold brew coffee and after some research we decided it wasn't a good option for the party. Our neighbor's coffee machine / pot saved us for that! Part of why we didn't do it for the party was because I only asked him the night before and we would've needed a trial and error research period.

Back to cold brew coffee. I had piqued Patrick's interest in the technique when I was wondering aloud before the party. So we figured out what it was:
"Cold brew ... refers to the process of steeping coffee grounds in room temperature or cold water for an extended period. Cold brew coffee is not to be confused with iced coffee, which generally refers to coffee that is brewed hot and then chilled by pouring over or adding ice, though iced coffee can refer to cold brew coffee served on ice. The cold water extract process requires grinding: coarse-ground beans are soaked in water for a prolonged period of time, usually 12 hours or more. The water is normally kept at room temperature, but chilled water can also be used. The grounds must be filtered out of the water after they have been steeped using a paper coffee filter, a fine metal sieve, a French press or felt in the case of the Toddy system. The result is a coffee concentrate that is often diluted with water or milk, and can be served hot, over ice, or blended with ice and other ingredients such as chocolate." [Wikipedia
We followed the procedure highlighted on this website: 1 part coffee grounds to 4 parts water. Into a one quart mason jar we place 1 cup of coffee grounds and fill the rest with water. We then place the jar into the refrigerator and let it "brew" overnight. Finally strain out the coffee grounds through a coffee filter and sieve into a pitcher and put it back into the quart jar to store.

Step 1 - Place 1 cup of ground coffee into a quart jar
Step 2 - Fill with water
Step 3 - Refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours
Step 4 - Strain out coffee grounds and store in refrigerator (not pictured)

Patrick is a bit more of a coffee snob than I am and didn't enjoy the cold brew coffee concentrate. He did like adding it to his homemade mochas though. I, on the other hand, am not a coffee snob and have really enjoyed making faux lattes with cold brew coffee. To present the cold brew coffee as a traditional cup of coffee you would mix it with water in a one to one ratio. When I make the the faux latte it's at least a one to four ratio of cold brew concentrate to milk.

Faux Latte with Cold Brew Coffee
   In a small pot (I use a butter warmer) add 1 cup of milk and 1/4 cup of cold brew coffee concentrate and bring to a simmer. Serve immediately.

What do you think?? Have you tried cold brew coffee? This faux latte is my new go-to coffee drink in the mornings... when I'm not drinking tea of course!

Cupcakes and buttercream frosting

Hope these sweet desserts brighten up your January morning! I'm trying to amp up my baking skills and some lucky friends will get to be the beneficiaries of those tests.

For this specific day I wanted to work on my frosting piping skills. We've piped frosting a few times before but Patrick has been the froster extraordinaire. Now I'm ready to step into the frosting spotlight! I debated coloring the buttercream for these cupcakes but decided I should focus on one thing and I had chosen piping. After some research I decided that the Wilton 1M star tip would give me the results I was looking for. I wanted something that would be impressive with just a few swirls around the cupcake. The Wilton website describes the 1M star tip as: "...another quick way to decorate your cupcakes or cakes. It just takes minutes to pipe a fancy iced swirl and add colorful sprinkles."

After the cupcakes were baked and the frosting made I piped the frosting from the outside perimeter to the center of the cupcake.

The lucky beneficiary of these cupcakes was a local friend who was celebrating her birthday a few weeks ago. We had them over for dinner and a game night complete with surprise birthday cupcakes. The remaining cupcakes went with Patrick to work. His co-workers may have a steady stream of sweets coming in over the next little bit.

I tried a new buttercream frosting as well. It was from Betty Crocker's "The Big Book of Cupcakes". I chose it because it doesn't have shortening in it - the ingredients are simply butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting from Betty Crocker
   Frosts 24 cupcakes (makes about 3 1/2 cups)
6 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 tbsp vanilla
3 to 4 tbsp milk (I had to double this amount)

   In large bowl, mix powdered sugar and butter with spoon or electric mixer on low speed. Stir in vanilla and 3 tbsp of the milk.
   Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable. If frosting is too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. If frosting becomes too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar.

On to the next trial - mixing frosting colors!

Wellness Wednesday - 1,000 miles challenge

In November I shared that I was thankful for health and had challenged myself to take 600,000 steps during November and December. At the time of the post I was in the middle of Week 4 and almost halfway to my goal. I'm happy to report that I met my goal a few days early and exceeded the challenge. In November and December I took 629,333 steps.

Patrick and I traveled to visit his family over New Year's and I fell off the wagon a bit with consistent step taking. I wasn't particularly looking for another challenge but one of my friends emailed me to see if I'd like to join a "1,000 miles challenge for 2016" and I thought why not?!

So here I am almost 90 miles and one month into walking 1,000 miles this year. I'm particularly excited about this challenge because, since it's a long term challenge - a whole year, it promotes lifestyle change and awareness and not a quick fix or solution.

Over the past three months now, from back in November when I started the 600,000 steps challenge until now, I have noticed that getting out for a walk or a jog was becoming a habit. I keep thinking about consistent walking in terms of Newton's First Law: an object in motion will remain in motion until acted on by an outside force. Obviously I'm not constantly walking and my "outside force" is a bit loose - it's my willpower. Each day that I get out for exercise it makes the next day easier. And the same is true with rest days. After the snow/ice storm the other weekend and many rest days it was hard to get my body in motion again! But after that first day and overcoming the willpower to sit on the couch I'm back to lacing up my tennis shoes for the daily outings and I love it. 1,000 miles here I come!

Brunswick Stew

Coming in today with a very timely post. Timely meaning we made this over the weekend! We are usually sharing drafted posts that are scheduled a few days or weeks out but things are a little light for January and I thought it would be fun to get this soup post up the week after we made it.

Much like fellow East Coast folks we were snowed in this past weekend. On Friday morning we awoke to a blanket of snow and a beautiful winter wonderland. Fortunately we never lost power so we were able to enjoy the comforts of our home (cooking and heat, primarily) throughout the weekend. Patrick and I kept ourselves well entertained during the icy storm and remnants. On Friday I ventured outside to deliver goodie bags to all the neighbors (post on that next week) and enjoyed saying hello to everyone. Then on Saturday we invited neighbors over for lunch and an afternoon game. Finally on Sunday we forged on in our journey called "paint the house" and painted a bunch of upstairs doors.

One thing Patrick and I were pleasantly surprised when we moved into our house last year was that several other houses were occupied by young folks! Woo millennials! We put in an effort to get to know said young folks over the past year and have enjoyed building these neighborly relationships. With everyone cooped in houses and impassable roads on Saturday we invited the neighbors over for lunch and games. I had things on hand for Brunswick Stew and passed along the message that if folks wanted to bring something to share that'd be welcome. In addition to the stew we had homemade rosemary bread and angel food cake. The majority of our young folk neighbors are not from the South and only one had heard of Brunswick Stew so it was fun to share one of my favorite soups with them.

Before setting out to make this Southern soup I called my grandmother and asked to "walk me through" making it. My grandfather answered the phone and after telling him what I wanted he said, "good luck, she does it differently every time." After telling me the basics of making the soup she asked me when I was making it and when I responded with "it's for lunch" she quickly responded "well you better hurry up and start." So I hung up and here's how I winged it:

Brunswick Stew
   Serves 8
2 tbsp butter divided
2 onions, diced and divided
2 qts water
2 large chicken breasts
2 cups butter beans (frozen)
1 pint corn (frozen)
3 Yukon potatoes, 1/2" dice
1 bell pepper, small dice
2-3 carrots, small dice
1-2 celery stalks, small dice
3 cups stewed tomatoes

   In a large soup pot melt 1 tbsp butter and saute onion. Add salt. Once translucent add water and chicken. Bring to a boil and simmer until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken and set aside. Once chicken has cooled, shred and reserve.
   To the broth add butter beans, pint corn, and potatoes. Continue to simmer. In a separate pan melt remaining butter and add saute diced bell pepper, onion, carrot, and celery. Once sauteed veggies are soft and translucent add to the broth mixture along with shredded chicken and tomatoes. Season accordingly and keep on a low simmer for about an hour.

Mine didn't turn out quite as good as Granny's so I'm looking forward to refining my Brunswick Stew technique. She highly recommended started the soup base with pork (either a ham bone or bacon) but I didn't have either one of those at my disposal.

It's Always Caturday
Nacho analyzing the white stuff

Did you make snowed in soup this weekend??

Meal Plan Monday Post

We had a very eventful week! We started the week by wrapping up painting in the bonus room and upstairs hall. Throughout the week I worked on washing all the sheets and putting the guest rooms back together (we swapped the bed sets between the rooms). Then we woke up Friday to a winter wonderland. Fortunately we weren't without power which means we weren't without some yummy food. However there was one small hiccup with the meal plan. When I went to the store on Thursday I was unsure of how much produce / perishable items to buy because if the power did go out we wouldn't have a way to cook the items. I went on the conservative side and didn't buy a lot. Some meals like the sweet potato risotto could be prepared mostly from the pantry and then the brunswick stew got thrown together with lots of freezer things and the final meal of the week was a salad with all random toppings from the fridge. So the snowed in winter wonderland gave us a great reason to "use up" some items in the pantry / freezer. Finally in preparation for the winter wonderland on Thursday I baked some homemade goodies that were peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and delivered them to our neighbors Friday afternoon.

Meal Plan for Monday January 18 - Sunday January 24

Monday - Salmon, mac-n-cheese, salad
Tuesday - Chinese Chicken Salad
Wednesday - Crockpot Beef Stroganoff
Thursday - Lemon chicken, steamed asparagus, parmesan orzo
Friday - Snow Day!
   Breakfast Donuts and fruit
   Lunch Quiche with spinach, mushrooms, and goat cheese
   Dinner Lemon chicken leftovers
Saturday - Snow Day!
   Breakfast Quiche leftovers
   Lunch Brunswick Stew
   Dinner Sweet potato risotto
Sunday - Brunch Apple dutch baby, cottage cheese and clementines
   Lunch Brunswick Stew leftovers, grilled cheese sandwich, half a banana
   Dinner Salad with random toppings from the fridge

It's Always Caturday
Dupree snuggles

Ricotta pizza with balsamic roasted tomatoes

Despite having made so many great pizza variations over the years, Whitney continues to find new recipes for us to try. I'm not complaining though. Pizza is delicious. This time around we used a store-bought dough so it came together pretty quickly, even with the time it took to roast the tomatoes. The roasted tomatoes and ricotta gave this a subtly different flavor profile than your typical cheese pizza, and it was (as always) delicious.

Ricotta pizza with balsamic roasted tomatoes inspiration from Martha Stewart
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
1 cup grated Parmesan (4 ounces)
Salt and pepper
1 lb pizza dough, thawed if frozen
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, for serving

   Preheat oven to 500 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Combine ricotta and Parmesan, and season with salt and pepper. On a baking sheet, drizzle pizza dough with 2 tablespoons oil and stretch or roll into a 16-inch-long oval. Spread ricotta mixture on dough, leaving a 1-inch border.
   On a rimmed baking sheet, toss cherry tomatoes with remaining 2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Bake cherry tomatoes on bottom rack and pizza on top rack until tomatoes are soft and skins have burst, 15 minutes. Remove tomatoes and bake pizza until crust is deep golden brown, about 8 minutes more. Crush cherry tomatoes with a masher; season with salt and pepper. Transfer pizza to a cutting board and top with tomato mixture and oregano.

Salmon in parchment with asparagus and shiitake

Baking fish in parchment is a great way to prepare fish and make it flavorful. The fish really takes on whatever else you nestle it in parchment with (so don't make it bland). We've done fish in parchment just once before and that used lemon, fresh herbs, a bay leaf, and wine as the flavoring components. This recipe not only includes the flavoring components for the fish but also some veggies to serve with it! This fish in parchment was definitely a winner! We will be making it again. Hope you try it.

Martha Stewart's Salmon in parchment with asparagus and shiitake
   Serves 4
8 oz shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
8 oz medium asparagus (about 1/2 bunch), trimmed and halved lengthwise
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon, plus lemon wedges for serving
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup water (may substitute white wine)
4 skinless wild-salmon fillets (5 ounces and 1 inch thick each)

   Preheat oven to 400 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. Cut four 12-by-17-inch pieces of parchment. Fold each in half crosswise to make a crease, then unfold and lay flat. Toss mushrooms, asparagus, and scallions with oil in a large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
   Remove asparagus from mixture and divide evenly among parchment pieces, creating a bed of spears on 1 side of crease. Top each with 1 piece of fish, then with mushroom mixture. Drizzle each serving with 1 tablespoon water. To close, fold parchment pieces over each serving; make small overlapping pleats to seal the open sides and create 4 half-moon-shaped packets.

Completed packet on the left; veggie bed and salmon on the right
   Bake packets on 2 baking sheets 9 minutes. Carefully cut open packets with kitchen shears (steam will be released). Serve fish, asparagus, and mushrooms with lemon wedges for squeezing.

We served with a side of sun-dried tomato couscous.

Halibut with Cashews, Tatsoi, and Oranges

One of the reasons Patrick and I chose our CSA farm was because they offered the option to customize your CSA box. We are able to login to the "farm store" each week and select what produce we'd like in our box. Some CSAs don't offer this flexibility and you get a surprise box each week. We like this option for two reasons - 1) we're less likely to waste produce since we know how to cook everything we select and 2) we can meal plan with the selected produce and buy accompanying ingredients for recipes before we receive the box.

With all of that said we still like to try something new and exotic every now and then. We've been supporting the same CSA and farm for over five years now so I think we've just about tried everything they offer. Well this year they offered something new - something I'd never heard of before! It was tatsoi. They described it as "a mild Asian green. It is sort of a mix between spinach and mustard greens." I selected tatsoi for our box and off I went to find a recipe that featured this new green.

The Internet wasn't too familiar with tatsoi recipes so I really had to dig around to find something to make with it. The recipe I landed on pairs the tatsoi with fish and citrus. We really liked it! The recipe was featured in a farm CSA subscription newsletter. They had a neat introduction of the leafy green so I'm including it below and then the recipe.

From Denison Farm: “Before we start: you've almost certainly eaten tatsoi before. The mild, mustardy leaves often show up in mixed salad greens, so -- surprise! -- you're probably already acquainted. What's so great about this green? Once you track it down, (aliases include tat soy, tat soi, broadbeak mustard, spoon mustard, spinach mustard, and rosette bok choy), it'll quickly become one of the most versatile green vegetables you know. It's friendly with a number of cuisines and preparations, much like the rest of its brassica siblings. Tatsoi is a very versatile green, equally suited to being served raw or lightly cooked. To make it easy, just use tatsoi anywhere you’d use spinach. Lightly steam or sauté it, wilt the leaves with a warm dressing, or add them to a soup at the end of cooking."

Halibut with Cashews, Tat Soi, and Oranges from Denison Farm and Chef Maya
2 - 4-6 ounce halibut fillets (we substituted cod)
2 cups tatsoi, cleaned and chopped
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp tamari (or low sodium soy sauce)
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (and slices of fresh oranges for garnish)
1/4 cup chopped cashews
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped

   Season halibut with salt and pepper. In a large non stick skillet over medium high heat add sesame oil and halibut. Cook for about 3 minutes until well browned on one side and then flip over and lower heat to medium low.
   Add cashews, ginger, orange juice and tamari and allow juices to reduce for about a minute or two until halibut is cooked through. (depending on the thickness of your halibut it shouldn’t be more than another 2 minutes).
   Remove halibut from pan and add tatsoi. If the sauce reduces too much, add a little more orange juice, just enough to help the tatsoi wilt about 2 minutes more. Add orange juice to deglaze when necessary.
   Remove from heat. Place tatsoi on the bottom of the plate and top with halibut. Spoon sauce and cashews over the halibut and garnish with fresh orange slices.

Meal Plan Monday Post

Happy Monday! Sharing a yummy meal plan today. We tried a few new recipes but the majority of our meals were ones we've had before and know we like them! Last week I meal planned for two weeks in a row and by the time we got to this week we had switched things around quite a bit. Typically if something gets switched around or pushed back we can just make the meal a different night since we have all the ingredients on hand. In other news we're working through painting all the upstairs rooms (and eventually the whole house)! Before Christmas we were able to paint a guest room and master bedroom. This weekend we worked on the bonus room and the hallway. One luxury of painting is grabbing takeout which we did on Sunday night.

Meal Plan for Monday January 11 - Sunday January 17

Monday - Corn and black bean quesadilla, quick Mexican rice
Tuesday - Pasta peperonata, salad
Wednesday - Slow cook pork with honey cinnamon apples, couscous, butternut squash, salad
   Dinner for four as we hosted friends for game night
Thursday - Shrimp stir fry with cauliflower, Asian slaw
Friday - Date night at the NC Museum of Art
Saturday - Breakfast Grits and avocado, corn muffins
   Lunch Grilled cheese sandwiches, arugula with beets
   Dinner Bolognese from the freezer and spaghetti
Sunday - Breakfast Oatmeal 
   Lunch Leftovers
   Dinner Chinese takeout [We've been painting our upstairs bedrooms!!]

2015 Holiday Beer Tasting

We had a lot of fun sharing our craft beer interest with Whitney's parents last year during a 2014 Holiday Beer Tasting. So much fun that we thought it would be a fun annual tradition to start! And thus the 2nd Annual Holiday Beer Tasting commenced.

The Holiday Beer Tasting is a sampling of 6 different beers presented with tasting notes and enjoyed at some point over the holidays. This year we did the tasting during the Duke football bowl game which seemed appropriate. As this was our 2nd Annual Holiday Beer Tasting I had some past experience to guide me in curating this year's selection. What I learned last year was that my parents aren't quite as adventurous beer drinkers as we were expecting and some of my predictions were wrong. For example, last year we had a chocolate stout and a java stout since they love chocolate and coffee but they weren't big hits. Curious to know what we tasted?!

Foothills Carolina Strawberry | Carolina Brewery Sky Blue Golden Ale | Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale | Bell's Winter White Ale | Tap Room No. 21 Copper Lager | Duck Rabbit Milk Stout

I prepared us some tasting notes that contained the type of beer, information about the beer and brewery, and a general description of the style of beer. If you'd like to read over it for this set of beers you can view the google doc here.

Here are Patrick's thoughts on the tasting:
Even for us seasoned beer drinkers, last year's tasting was pretty adventurous with mostly dark and flavor-heavy beers. Considering the general feedback last year it seems like Whitney went for a lighter, more likely to please assortment of beers. Even so, for me it was nice to try a range of beers outside my normal stouts, IPAs, and occasional lagers. My favorite was the Bell's Winter White Ale, which was a slight surprise for the style, but not for the brewery, with Bell's having several of my favorite beers including their Java Stout and Two Hearted Ale. What an awesome Christmas.

I can't wait to see what we'll try next year!

Christmas Eve: Chicken Marsala & Chocolate Mousse

Did you know that Patrick proposed almost four years ago?! If you need a reminder, or you're a new blog reader, we took a spring trip to Asheville in 2012. He proposed at the Biltmore House and Gardens and after the proposal we visited the winery and purchased a few bottles of wine.

Now you're probably thinking I'm getting my holidays mixed up and that a proposal has nothing to do with a Christmas Eve dinner (as the post title has promised a Christmas Eve dinner featuring chicken marsala and chocolate mousse).

Well one of those purchased bottles of wine after the proposal was a Merlot and we saved it to drink at Christmas. Christmas 2012 was half way between our engagement weekend and our wedding (August 2013). It seemed fitting to have the wine then and I thought it fitting to have a bottle of Biltmore Merlot every Christmas thereafter. This Christmas we toasted our seventh Christmas together and drank our fourth bottle of Merlot (first bottle, second bottle, third bottle) on Christmas Eve.

Our menu featured chicken marsala served with rice and sauteed kale and instant chocolate mousse for dessert. Here's a printable google doc for everything. This was our first time making chicken marsala and we really liked it! Enjoy!

Martha Stewart's Chicken marsala
Serves 4
3/4 cup flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, butterflied, pounded thin
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
10 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 C dry Marsala wine
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon (3 tbsp)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp chopped oregano
   Combine flour, salt, and pepper in a large, shallow dish; set aside. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Dredge chicken in flour, tapping off excess; set aside. Add 3 tbsp oil to skillet. When oil is shimmering, add chicken, and cook until lightly browned, about 3 min. Turn over, and cook 3 min more. Remove chicken to a plate; set aside and keep warm. Wipe skillet clean, if necessary.
   Heat remaining 2 tbsp oil in skillet. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are dark golden brown and the liquid has evaporated, 5-7 min.
   Remove skillet from heat, and add wine. Return skillet to heat, scraping up any brown bits. Add garlic, lemon juice, butter, and oregano. Cook for 10 min until reduced and slightly thickened. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Pour sauce over chicken, sprinkle with oregano.

Sauteed kale
2 slices bacon
2 tbsp evoo
1 small onion, diced
Salt and pepper
Dash of red pepper flakes
2 handfuls of kale, chopped
Apple cider vinegar
   Add bacon to a skillet set over medium heat. Once fat has rendered, add a little olive oil and cook onions until soft. Add salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Then add kale. Cook until just barely wilted (and still bright green) and add to a serving bowl. Drizzle with a little cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar) to taste. Garnish with chopped bacon.

Nigella's Instant Chocolate Mousse
Serves 4-6
1 ½ cups marshmallows
½ stick soft butter
9 oz good bittersweet
  chocolate, chopped
¼ cup hot water
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
   Put the marshmallows, butter, chocolate and water in a saucepan. Use low heat to melt the contents, stirring every now and again. Remove from the heat.
   Meanwhile, whip the cream with the vanilla extract until thick, and then fold into the cooling chocolate mixture until you have a smooth, cohesive mixture.
   Pour into 4 glasses (about ¾ cup each) and chill.
   Serve with whipped cream and fresh raspberries.

Fall Canning

A few months ago I did a canning wrap up post featuring all of my summer canning adventures. Today I'm updating you with the fall canning adventures! The summer canning adventures highlighted peaches, berries, and tomatoes. I thought my canning would slow down after the summer ended because I assumed most of what I wanted to can would be from summer produce. Well I couldn't have been more wrong! Much to Patrick's amazement I just kept canning. Since we had such a warm fall there was still lots of produce coming in (so in some ways these canning adventures could be classified as summer) but I was canning some classic fall produce like apples and beets. The beets were one of the last things I canned and haven't been shared on the blog yet. The pickled beets recipe is at the end of this post. Enjoy this roundup of fall canning adventures!

But first I wanted to share how cute these were as Christmas gifts!

I cut out squares of holiday fabric and placed them under the band. Then I did a combination of tags. For one I tied ribbon around the band and included a "Merry Christmas, The Eibls" tag and then for the other I slipped a circular "Merry Christmas, The Eibls" tag over the fabric and screwed under the band so it was visible from the top. Loved how they turned out! And now on to the roundup:

~24 pints of Applesauce | 5 half pints of Maple apple jam | ~12 half pints of Apple butter

8 pints of Dilly Beans

7 pints of Piccalilli

10 pints of Pickled Beets

Pickled Beets from Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
   Yield 6 pints or 3 quarts
3 quarts beets (about 24 small)
2 cups sugar
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tbsp whole allspice
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups vinegar
1 1/2 cups water

   Wash beets; drain. Cook beets; peel. Combine all ingredients except beets in a large saucepot. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks. Pack beets into jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Ladle hot liquid over beets, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints and quarts 30 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Gifts for the kitchen

Hello! Checking in today with a new installment of gifts for the kitchen. We like sharing these posts so you can see how we're updating our kitchen gadgets to assist us with all of our meal planning and cooking. We've shared quite a few over the years: this one in spring 2015, this one for 2014, this one for 2013, and this one in 2010 (a long time ago!). I can happily report that most everything in those posts is still being used and loved in our kitchen. Patrick wrote in one of those posts that "It probably won't surprise you that one of the most frequent categories of gifts that Whitney and I give to each other is kitchen tools". Well I think our kitchen is just about fully stocked so maybe next year there won't be quite as many kitchen gifts.

Santa managed to stuff our stockings with a few gadgets we needed in the kitchen and Patrick gifted me a "want" and a surprise. Read on to see what they were...

Santa brought Patrick a pie weight chain
   Santa knew Patrick was getting pretty frustrated with using dried beans as a pie weight. Pie weights are used when you are blind baking a homemade crust before placing the filling in it. The pie weights prevent the dough from rising and bubbling on the base. Dried beans or ceramic / stainless steel beads are commonly used as pie weights. Dried beans or ceramic beads pose a problem for quickly removing them and a pie weight chain solves that problem! Here's a visual for how it works:
We'll be using this pie weight chain when we make our go to pie crust recipe.
[The one Santa purchased from Crate & Barrel isn't available anymore but this is similar]

Santa brought Whitney some soft gel paste 
   Santa knew that one of Whitney's new favorite kitchen hobbies is making royal icing so she can creatively decorate sugar cookies. Unfortunately her pumpkin cookies and Christmas cookies were more pastel than vibrant. Santa did some research and saw that the Bake at 350 blog recommended AmeriColor soft gel paste so he brought her a starter kit. Once she masters these 4 colors she can move up to the 41 color kit!
[purchased this set]

Patrick gifted Whitney a new canner!
   Whitney had been using an old canner that her dad had been keeping in his barn and gave to her. Over the years it had become quite rusty and even though it held water it needed an upgrade. Since Whitney proved she was serious about canning Patrick researched a super awesome canner for her to have. Come check out tomorrow's post and see what all she canned in the fall. She can't wait to test it out!
[purchased this one]

Patrick surprised Whitney with a tea infuser and a variety of loose leaf tea
   Patrick knew one of Whitney's favorite parts of their Californian vacation was their tea tasting in San Francisco's Chinatown. He surprised her with an over-the-cup tea infuser and a variety of loose leaf teas. Though we haven't been tea drinkers before now we look forward to including more tea and less coffee in our life. We learned a lot of about the benefits of tea during the tasting and can't wait to explore the different varieties. They also had some tea gifted to them over Christmas so there is a lot to try!

Parent Santa also gifted Patrick and Whitney some fun kitchen gadgets that included a tomato corer, oven rack puller/pusher, cat bag clips, a small funnel, baggy ties, and a Polish pottery tart pan. One can never go wrong gifting Whitney some pottery (I'm sure Patrick doesn't approve of that though)!

We also replaced a nonstick pan with a Le Creuset saute pan at the beginning of December. It was a Christmas gift to each other. Patrick shared the details in this post.

Want a more in depth look at what we're using in the kitchen? Here are linkbacks to our registry post where we detailed what upgrades we made in the kitchen after our wedding: cutlery, electrics, cookware, formal table setting, and our casual table setting.

Cheers to a yummy 2016 in the kitchen! Hope Santa brought you something to use in the kitchen.

Meal Plan Monday Post

Patrick and I returned home last Sunday from our last holiday family visit just in time for a Monday night Bachelor premiere and the beginning of a New Year. After a decadent holiday season we jumped back into the kitchen this week and cooked every single night (with the exception of a weekend dinner where we celebrated a friend's birthday). The first three recipes we made were out of "Clean Slate: a cookbook and guide" which focuses on clean eating with whole-food plant-based recipes. We loved them all and will be sharing those on the blog soon. Then there were some snackier dinners and some we were trying again.

Grocery shopping at the start of the week included lots of fruits and vegetables!

Meal Plan for Monday January 4 - Sunday January 10

Monday - Bonus Breakfast! Oatmeal with yogurt, peanut butter, chia seeds, and cinnamon; orange; green tea
   Dinner Salmon in parchment with asparagus and shiitake mushrooms, couscous
Tuesday - Soba noodles and sweet potato soup
Wednesday - Fish tacos with citrus-avocado salsa
Thursday - Sandwiches and fruit 
Friday - Lemon chicken fettuccine 
Saturday - Breakfast Whole wheat waffles and strawberries
   Lunch Pesto pizza, arugula salad, pear
   Dinner Celebrating a friend's birthday at Sake Bomb Asian Bistro
Sunday - Brunch Egg in the holes
   Lunch Fettuccine leftovers
   Dinner Turkey chili

Come back and check out the blog this week as we wrap up our holiday season! We're sharing our new gifts for the kitchen, our Christmas Eve dinner, our 2nd Annual Holiday Beer Tasting, and canning gifts!

Banana peanut butter and chocolate crepes

These crepes were a fun holiday brunch splurge for us at the end of the month. Even though they were a splurge they still allowed us to utilize ingredients from the fridge and pantry. I didn't buy anything special for the filling. The crepe batter calls for whole milk so I had purchased a pint of that in preparation of our crepe brunch. All of those sweet things (marshmallows, peanut butter, chocolate chips, ...) were all leftover from our holiday cookie baking. We served the crepes with bacon and fresh orange. Read on to see what we did for the filling!

For the crepe batter [serves 2-3]
   3/4 cup all-purpose flour
   2 eggs
   1 cup whole milk
   1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
   pinch of salt
   Place the flour in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking to combine. Add the milk bit by bit and whisk to combine until all the milk is incorporated. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil and season with salt. Refrigerate overnight.

For the banana peanut butter-chocolate filling
   To prepare the peanut butter-chocolate drizzle, place a glass bowl over a pan with boiling water to create a double boiler. Warm 1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Once they begin to melt stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter. Stir constantly until all of the chocolate chips have melted and the peanut butter is incorporated.
   To assemble the crepes, place sliced banana down the center of the crepe and throw in some mini marshmallows. Drizzle with the peanut butter-chocolate sauce. Wrap the crepe and finish with the sauce and whipped cream.

Want more crepes? Bananas foster | Fresh strawberries | Balsamic strawberry and mascarpone | Raspberry nutella | Savory with leek and mushrooms

Kale salad with beets and oranges

I whipped up this kale salad the weekend before Christmas. We were at home then and taking it easy in preparation of holiday travels that were to come. The weekend before that we had hosted two parties with decadent holiday hors d'oeuvres and desserts. We knew we were in a "reset" period where we needed to cleanse our palettes and focus on whole, plant-based foods. This kale salad with beets and oranges hit just the spot!

When we're home for a weekend and don't have any plans I typically meal plan for a brunch and dinner with the intention of fending for ourselves for lunch and figure it out day-of. Sometimes this might be leftovers or finding something snack-y in the pantry. Other times it might mean an impromptu lunch date while we're out running errands. On this particular Saturday there were some basketball games playing that we were interested in so it was in our best interest to stay lounging on the couch and find something in the refrigerator and pantry that would suits our needs.

This kale salad came together quite easily! The kale had been ordered in our CSA box. I had canned beets the night before and one can didn't seal properly. If this happens you can put the jar into the refrigerator and consume it within a week or two. Fresh oranges had been delivered that week from a local fundraiser we supported. The cottage cheese was leftover from this baked mac-n-cheese we had made in the previous week. The cheddar cheese is typically something we have the fridge. And we try to keep almonds as a pantry staple!

Kale Salad with Beets & Oranges
   Prepare the kale - wash about 8 kale leaves and remove leafy kale greens from stem by tearing in small chunks. Place greens into a medium bowl and drizzle with 1-2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt. "Massage" the kale by tossing it with the evoo and rubbing it together. Do this for about 1-2 minutes. This massaging technique breaks down the tough fibrous kale. Divide the kale into salad bowls.
   Top the salad - Drizzle the kale greens with a few splashes of white balsamic vinegar (or whatever you have on hand). Peel and section 1 orange and split between the salad bowls. Add some pickled beets and a dollop of cottage cheese to each salad. Top with a tbsp of almonds and some shredded cheddar cheese.

The beauty of a fridge / pantry salad is that it can be customized to not only what's in your fridge and/or pantry but also to your individual tastes. Before I assembled the salads I told Patrick what I was going to put on mine (as I just described it) and asked him if he wanted it that way too. I was prepared to omit any ingredients he didn't want on it. He succumbed to eating his fruits and veggies and said I could make it like mine.

Wellness Wednesday - Makeup

It's a new year and with a year comes resolutions... at least for most people, I imagine. I'm a band wagon New Year's resolution maker. But I'm still genuine! I guess I don't view the turn of the calendar as a time to make a change. However I enjoy analyzing my current state of things and seeing if there's something I should resolve to do. Typically my New Year's resolution is to floss. I'm not an every day flosser but hopefully I will be one day.

Today I'm not sharing my New Year's resolutions (shocker, I know) but I'd like to share last year's. Last year for my New Year's resolution I decided to dedicate the whole year to wellness and treating my body better. I wanted to focus on wellness, prevention, making healthful decisions, and I resolved to change things that weren't aligned with that focus. Last month I shared a bit about this when I wrote about swapping out my facial cleanser and moisturizer. I didn't tell you then that it had been my New Year's resolution! And, really, I've been sharing quite a bit with the wellness themed posts!

I knew tackling that wellness New Year's resolution wasn't going to happen overnight. I wanted to make decisions and changes that were rooted in research. After I identified the things that were preventing me from optimal wellness I researched how best to change them. We started exercising more and going to yoga and we did a food challenge to eliminate processed foods. Then I realized I'm doing these surface level things for my wellness all while exposing myself to toxins that were in everyday things that I used - primarily our cleaning supplies and my makeup. Be forewarned - you might fall down the rabbit hole once you start looking into these things. The bottom line, for me, is that the FDA doesn't require testing of the cosmetics industry and companies don't have to disclose ingredients if they're part of their "trade secret" recipe for the products. Furthermore the European Union bans over 1,300 chemicals from their cosmetics while the United States bans only 11. ["International Laws" from Campaign for Safe Cosmetics] This article from the American Cancer Society highlights some helpful facts in an unbiased manner.

So... Do I think wearing my old makeup would cause cancer? I don't know. Do I think it will decrease my quality of life? Not now but maybe later. Even though this seems like a small thing I decided to switch over the makeup products because makeup is on my skin the majority of the day and because I can. There are alternative products that are safe to use. There are companies that are transparent with their ingredients and these same companies are producing a safe product.

I'm not a huge makeup wearer and probably don't have nearly the collection of products that some women do but I also took this opportunity to "declutter" my makeup. I was a sucker for the Clinique promotions and the majority of the makeup in my bag were freebies. I decided I'm done with that. I'm only keeping in a makeup bag the essentials. My makeup (primarily Clinique) was replaced with products from Juice Beauty, Beautycounter, Shea Moisture, and Mineral Fusion. I feel confident that these products are safe for me! I did a lot of googling around to come to this companies. I wanted to try a few products from each company so I could compare them (even though I wasn't comparing the same product).

Here's a before and after of the makeup bag:

Juice Beauty - powder, lip gloss, tinted cc cream, hydrating mist
Shea Moisture - pressed powder
Beautycounter - bronzer / blush, eye shadow, eye liner, lipstick
Mineral Fusion - lip crayon, mascara

And here's my "natural"makeup look

If you'd like some more reading, check out this Why this matters - cosmetics and your health article from the Environmental Working Group.