Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sea Salt

Normally I don't like to just "re-post" articles, but read this one tonight and I thought it was worthy of sharing:

From Ocean to Box: How Sea Salt Is Harvested via

If you eat sea salt, you might be interested in reading how it gets to the package!  I'm not one to harp on what kind of salt you eat or don't eat, but I do know that sea salt is just good....  as well as kosher, and other types besides plain old table salt, which also holds an important place in the culinary world.

What type of salt do you normally use?  Have you ever even thought of using something other than table salt?  Salt is salt is salt, right?  Well, kind of.  Read this for a good explanation of the differences.

Kosher takes the crown in our kitchen, hands down... out of our "salt cellar" or  "salt pig" too.  It just makes us feel like important chefs when we can just take a pinch and sprinkle it onto the food :D  What the heck is that?  Well, unless you have table salt, most salts won't fit through the tiny holes of a salt shaker (no matter how cute it might be... this adorable pair has never been used, even though they have been full of table salt and black pepper since the day they came home from Anthropologie over 3 years ago).

You can google "salt pig" and you will find a few expensive containers that are really just glorified trinket dishes.  I happened to come across this little guy at Urban Outfitters with other jewelry containers, and knew I needed it, and Mr P said it would be perfect for salt since it has a wide mouth so fingers can get inside to get a good pinch.

....aaaand he sits next to the pepper grinder (looking for a more awesome one... anyone have ideas?), sugar pot (one-of-a-find from Brandon Knott Pottery), olive oil squeeze bottle (sooo cheap from Wasserstrom... yep, you read that right... $0.64.... restaurant supply stores are the best), and refillable vegetable oil sprayer (ha! did you even know these exist??  me neither, until Mr P introduced me to this one that used to be his brother's... greenest idea ever... no more Pam and its super un-green aerosol throw-away container).

So if you haven't tried sea salt, kosher salt, or other types of salt besides plain old table salt, you should!  Especially now that you know where it comes from!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rice Krispies!

Since we decided to drive to Cleveland this weekend, decided not to take any days off of work, decided to drive Friday night after working all day, we are doing nothing but relaxing at Mr P's parents' house!

A long time ago I promised Mr P's little cousin that we would make rice krispie treats the next time we came home, but since we are always on the go seeing those whom we don't see often, I always let her down, and we didn't make them.  This time, since we are just relaxing all weekend, I bought the stuff to make them waaay ahead of time, and we made them this afternoon!

Though I brought sprinkles with me, they had lots of little bits of leftover sprinkles from making cupcakes, so we used them ALL!  haha  Rice krispie treats are the easiest fun treat to make, with just marshmallows, butter, and rice krispies cereal.  That's it!  Except we this time added sprinkles and cake mix!!

Rice Krispies

3 tbsp butter
1 10oz bag of marshmallows
6 cups of rice krispies cereal
sprinkles and 1/4 cup of cake mix (dry) are both optional

Butter a cake pan prior to starting to make the treats.  Heat a large pan over low heat, add butter and allow to melt completely.  Add marshmallows and continue stirring until marshmallows are completely melted (do not turn up the heat, or the butter and/or marshmallows will burn, just be patient!!). Add the dry cake mix by the spoonful and stir until thoroughly mixed (if you choose to add cake mix).  Add the rice krispies cereal and continue stirring until completely mixed.  Pour into cake pan.  Butter hands and press mix into the bottom and sides of the pan so that it is an even thickness throughout.  Add sprinkles if desired :D

Enjoy!  We surely are enjoying them this lovely and coooold afternoon.


The Little Guy Turns ONE!

Last weekend we went to FLORIDA!  Because the little guy turned ONE!  The "little guy" is my nephew Ryker.  Never in my life have I seen one child get so many toys!  But, he deserves it, for being so stinking cute.

new ride... and skeleton Halloween outfit :D

Mommy and Daddy, 438290438290 toys, and
Great-Grandpa and Shirley in the background

the "smash" cake didn't get so smashed... because this baby
loooooves his icing

...more yummy icing

...and even MORE yummy icing

with Great-Grandma who came to visit from Ohio too!

But most of all, we were just happy to see this face all weekend long!

...and this one too :D

Can't wait to go down and see him again!  Last weekend we got to see sooo many people in my family, now we're off to Cleveland to visit with Mr P's family... always always on the road....


Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Thank you for being domesticated.."

Mr P, while I'm fixing a quick breakfast before my nephew's birthday party, "Thank you for being domesticated and making me breakfast...."

(says the man who makes 5 star meals on a daily basis, cuts my hair, and does my toes...)



Mid-vaca sneak peak... My Nephew loves the fishies!

....and we can't get enough of this face!!

Happy happy birthday to the little guy :D


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Strawberry Jalapeno Jam

This recipe was a experiment that actually turned out pretty good!  When it's me doing the cooking, I almost always use a recipe, but Mr P almost never uses one.  He uses his 5 senses instead.  He knows what it's supposed to look like, -feel like, -smell like, (-sound like? almost never), and most importantly - taste like.  Mr P always says a good cook tastes his food while cooking.

For making jam, sometimes it's hard to tell what it's supposed to taste like before it's done, but I suppose you could always add more sugar or lemon juice to sweeten it or make it more tart.  Mr P wanted me to make jam, because the first time I made it, it was amazing, and I should have made much more.  I made rhubarb jam.  The taste was right, the texture was right, and it went well as a topping for anything.  I put it on ice cream, I put it in my yogurt, and I have to admit, there were a few times I just ate a spoonful.

But, everytime I've tried to make it afterwards, it just hasn't been as good.  Rhubarb is very sour, so adding sugar to it and cooking it sort of balances everything out without being too sour or too sweet.  Afterwards I tried making strawberry jam (an experimental flop), but it was just so stinking sweet it was hard to eat.  We ended up throwing most of it out because it didn't go well with anything.

This past weekend I wanted to give strawberry jam a try again (since we always have them frozen in the freezer for smooooothies).  I squeezed in some lemon juice, added some sugar, stirred every few minutes until the sugar was dissolved, and let it simmer for a looong time.  Most of the time you should use pectin in jellies and jams, but I just wanted to do it without it!  I always thought that pectin was bad, something overprocessed, and man-made, unnatural.  It wasn't until after I made this last batch of jam that I realized that it's something found in all fruits!  Well that was just silly... I should have researched it before I boycotted using it.  Some fruits are just low in pectin, and therefore don't have the ability to "gel" as well as others.  This website explains the science behind it all pretty well.

Anyways, this recipe does NOT use pectin, though maybe the next time I do an experimental run on making jam, I will try it. It is runnier than I would like, but it goes sooooo well on plain oatmeal for breakfast!!!  Also, it was going to be just strawberry jam, until I remembered we had jalapenos in the fridge, so I thought... why not?

Strawberry Jalapeno Jam

1 pound of strawberries (I used frozen, but you could use fresh if they are in season)
1 jalapeno, diced in very small pieces
2 cups of sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp corn starch (if you need it)

Add strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice to a pot, and heat on low until the sugar is dissolved enough that you have pretty much a soupy mixture with some strawberries thrown in, stirring every few minutes.  Turn up to medium heat and cook until sugar is completely dissolved and strawberries are soft.  Turn off heat, and pulse with immersion blender until strawberries have pureed.  Simmer the pot until the jam has reduced by 1/3.   Allow to cool enough to touch.  If you have not reached your desired consistency, mix the cornstarch with a little bit of COLD water, and stir into mixture.  This should make the jam a bit thicker.  Keep in mind this jam will be soupier than most, but the flavor is great!  It's sweet from the strawberries, but the hint of spice adds an unexpected (but pleasant) element to the taste.  Transfer to mason jar (our new favorite!!) or other storage container, and use as your please :D

Like I mentioned before, I think I will try pectin next time.  I just hope it's not toooo jelly-like and more jam-like.

before blitzed with the immersion blender

Stay tuned for the next jam post!  Until then, I will be eating this "makes-me-look-forward-to-breakfast" breakfast :D

yummy oatmeal with jam

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wonderful Weekend Ahead, and new hair!

Let the festivities begin!  Mr P and I have a little vacation, family reunion, and birthday all in one weekend ahead of us!  We are going to Florida to visit BOTH of my parents, BOTH of my grandparents, and see my brother, his fiance, and nephew who's turning ONE :D  Mr P and I are just a little bit excited about this trip....

How shall we get ready might you ask?  Give each other haircuts of course!  I have been asking Mr P to cut my hair for a very long time (like since the first month that we were dating over 3 years ago)  but his excuse has always been "if I had better shears, then I would cut your hair."

Well today he went to Ricky's and bought just ok shears and finally gave in.  Why?  Because after I chopped off all of my hair, I let it go way... too... long... and I was getting a mullet!  It was awful!  I was so self conscious about it, but good hair salons around here are just so expensive :(

I never hesitated when I told him I wanted him to cut my hair, because A.) it was long, and a real stylist could always fix it but just cutting it shorter, and B.)  I knew he would say no.  But when he finally gave in, I started to get nervous.  But, I didn't get really nervous until I sat down on a chair in the bathroom and he put the cape on me.  Keep in mind I only asked because the mullet was getting out of hand, and I just wanted the back chopped off.  The first cut looked like it was 2 inches long!!  Where did that come from?  I didn't know the back of my hair was even that long!  I guess my mullet was worse than I thought.  Then he just kept chopping, and chopping, and chopping..... "Babe?  Are you cutting of just the mullet or doing my whole head?" "Um, I guess I'm doing your whole head."  (...well doesn't that sound promising).  I tried to not look in the mirror, but the first time I looked up I looked like a 5-year-old Asian girl (you know what I'm talking about).

But, Mr P pulled through, and gave me a haircut even better than my previous $60 haircut!  He's amazing.

I have cut his hair ever since he moved out here over a year ago, so that's nothing new.

Now all that needs to be done is for Mr P to do my toes ;)  He does them better than I can anyways!!

Cheers to a great weekend ahead!  How can we not be excited when we get to see this face all weekend!?


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Different Twist on "Watercress and Beef"

My favorite meal from Mr P is watercress and beef stir-fried in the wok... hands... down...  We make the meal fairly often, since it takes so little time to make.  We made a pot of rice, then followed this recipe for making the stir-fry.  However, we substituted Chinese chives (gao choy) in lieu of the watercress, and we used baby corn instead of bamboo shoots.  Really, you can add whatever you want, this is just what we happened to have in the cupboards and fridge.  We made this Saturday night, and I was able to capture almost every step in the cooking process for once!  Enjoy!


Giving isn't Just for "Givers"

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.”
Stephen Colbert

You've probably seen this quote a LOT recently.  And recent events (ahem, the "Occupy" event that has gone global) has brought a lot of controversy to the table regarding who should be taking action against Wall Street, IF we should be taking action against Wall Street, WHERE our tax money goes, WHO should be taxed and HOW MUCH they should be taxed... Should we be taxing the rich because they have so much effing money they don't need that much?  Or should we be giving them a tax break because they are fueling our economy?  Would you be living off of unemployment too if you had to provide for your family and knew another job wouldn't pay as much?  What if you, living your lavish life, lost your job?  Don't you still have a mortgage to pay and food to put on the table for your family?  Or would you do the "honest" thing and take that minimum wage-paying job at McDonald's so you're not "living off of the government"?  Then again, when you did have that job for X amount of years, didn't you pay taxes that went to those who were unemployed? Don't you deserve to live off of the government now?

So many questions, so many opinions, so much controversy.... Honestly, I would rather stay out of that debacle.  When we say we should "give to the poor", people instantly hear "give money to the poor."  If you have the means to give money, by all means do so.  But don't not give because you don't have money, or you don't want to give money.  There are many other ways to give to those in need, just by putting in just a little more effort.  And whether or not you think these people deserve help or not, the fact is that they are in need.  Do you really want to see more homeless people on the streets because you don't think they deserve help?  Do you really want more crime?  Maybe you think it's a social issue that just has to change and it's "not my problem they ruined their life with drugs and live on the street now."  Wouldn't you rather "give" to an organization that helps prisoners get back on their feet instead of throwing them on the streets, only to do something that puts them back in prison because that's a better life (i.e. spending more of your tax dollars whether you like it or not).  The fact is that these social issues aren't going to change just because we "will" them to change.

Whether or not you know how to give, here's a reminder of ways you can "give" without directly giving money, but by just re-organizing your lifestyle a bit:
  • Donate your old things :
    • Take your old clothes to a charity consignment store such as Salvation Army, a homeless shelter, or another organization that may help those in need get on the right track to a better life.
    • Why did you get that new flat screen television? Does your old one still work? Give it to someone in need instead of littering the landfill.  Same goes for your old cell phone, old coffee pot, and other things you have replaced just because you "wanted" one, and not because you "needed" one.  Just because you can't buy new tube TV's doesn't mean someone doesn't want one. 
  • Take advantage of coupons :
    • My mom told me this the other day:  She's going to start giving the "free" item when she gets "buy one get one free."  For Mr P and I, this doesn't happen very often because we buy perishable foods almost exclusively. But maybe you have to get toilet paper, and you have a coupon for buy one get one free for a 12-pack.  For us, we certainly don't have room for TWO 12-packs, but not using the coupon is like turning down free money.  Get the free one, and donate it!
  • Volunteer:
    • I don't think there needs to be an explanation for this one, but there are many places you can donate your time without committing to a regular schedule.  One year my mom and I spent Thanksgiving serving food to those in need instead of being gluttonous like most of those who have the means to provide such a meal.
    • Don't have time to volunteer?  Think about how your spend your time every week.  Do you really need to watch that episode of the Real Housewives of where ever?  DVR it, watch it later, and volunteer one night a week (or month) at a Boys and Girls club or sort through donated items at a charity consignment store.
  • Participate in Charity Events:
    • Oh? You wanted to go to the bar tonight? Why don't we go (here) because the cover gets donated to (this) charity!
    • Starting to run?  Test your skills in a 5k or fun run.  Procedes almost always go to a charity organization.  Choose one that benefits those in need.
  • Buy from stores that give back:
    • Tom's shoes is the best example.  Today I am wearing my Tom's, which remind me that for every pair of Tom's I buy, another is given to one in need (whether it is in the United States or another part of the world)
    • Go out to eat on a special night when 5% or 10% of your bill will go to a charity.

I could go on and on, but the point is... you don't have to have money in order to "give". and if you do have money but don't want to "just give it away", then let someone else turn your trash into treasure, instead of turning your trash into an environmental hazard. Or just buy wisely from places that give back.

Cheers to giving... I think I'll be cleaning out my closet giving some of my old shoes to Salvation Army AND getting a new pair of Tom's giving a new pair to a child in need.  BAM!  Two ways of giving in just one day.

How will you give today?  Tomorrow?  This year?


Monday, October 17, 2011

Special Request by Mr P: Coooooookies

After coming home from work one day (after going to the mall to pick up shoes for a wedding), I surprised Mr P with a Silpat!  He had been talking about getting one for a very long time, but we didn't bake enough things on a cookie sheet to justify buying one.  It's a silicone mat that prevents basically anything from getting stuck on it.  We've had it for about a month now and haven't used it, but Mr P made a special request that we make cookies!  I told him that I would make him whatever he wanted, and surprisingly, he wanted shortbread cookies!  Well, first he wanted peanut butter cookies, and then we forgot about them, then he said shortbread cookies.  They are crumbly cookies, but not necessarily "crunchy".  You sort of "crunch" into your first bite, but then they seem to just melt in your mouth.  You can make them as large or as small as you want, but I like to roll the dough into a 1" to a 1 1/2" roll so you can just pop them into your mouth whole!

Anyways, they are the easiest cookies to make, and so versatile!  Just 5 ingredients makes the "original" cookie, but you can mix in virtually anything.  I have made them in the past with chocolate chunks, chopped pecans, chopped dried cranberries, get creative!

This time I just made the original cookie:  flour, sugar, lots of butter, salt, and vanilla extract (well, and almond extract too, secret ingredient).  That's it!


Key tip: Try to cut your cookies with similar thickness... Mine weren't exactly the same, so you can see how brown some get if you aren't paying attention to them!! (They are still good though :P)

Shortbread Cookies
(modified from Ina Garten's Shortbread Cookies Recipe)

3/4 pound salted butter at room temperature (3 sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (or substitute with 1/2 vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp almond extract)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Use an electric mixer to mix together butter and sugar until just combined.  Add the vanilla (and almond if you choose), and mix together.  In a separate bowl, use a fork or whisk to mix together the flour and salt.  Add the dry mixture to the butter sugar mixture.  Mix on low until it forms a ball of dough.  Take out the dough and form into a disk shape (make sure working surface is floured or the dough will stick!)  Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Take the dough out and roll into 2 or 3 rolls that are 1" to 1 1/2" in diameter.  Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for at least an hour, or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice dough into 1/2" disks and place on non-stick cookie sheet or sheet lined with a Silpat.  Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cookies start to brown.  Keep your eye on them, especially if you think you sliced them thinner than 1/2"!!  Once they start to brown, they get REALLY brown really fast.

Allow cookies to cool, and enjoy!  If they are soft when they come out of the oven, don't worry, they will get their crunch when they cool.