(Incidentally, that title has virtually nothing to do with this post.)
I decided that, given it is still considered the Easter season, it would be a good time to try to raise this blog from the dead. So since it has been awhile, I should start by saying that I am profoundly happy to see you again, yes, we ARE still making food from scratch, and yes, you WILL continue to see the weekly posts that you have surely started missing.
A lot has been going on since last you read – a lot of life has been lived in the Young household. Our garden is in full swing, we have discovered several snake skins in our yard, I have learned to make jam, we have had three sets of company (granted, one only stopped in to spend the night on her way to and from another destination, but it sounds so much more dramatic to say “three sets of company,” don’t you think?), we have celebrated Sammy’s first birthday, we have been feeding all kinds of colorful things to our composter, and I have started the lemon juice/cayenne pepper/maple syrup cleanse. (It was my intent to kick off our food-from-scratch year with this cleanse, but – and you will surely be shocked at this – I wasn’t organized enough, so today is officially day two. And you will, I’m sure, be interested to know that Jay, while supportive of the whole cleanse because he is good that way, is a bit weirded out by it, so I think he is sort of treating me like I am ceremonially unclean. Last night I went to kiss him, and he backed off, telling me that I had “lemon breath,” whatever that is.)
So anyway, I’d like to pick up where we left off, with a twist. But first I would like to tell you about our blueberry plants. We have four blueberry plants. Jay bought them for me because I love blueberries, and he loves to be the hero. All four are already fruiting, and they are all in pots still. So we have both done some reading on blueberry plants, but I have done more because I am a novice gardener and they are, after all, my plants. I have referenced two books and numerous websites and tried very hard to wrap my mind around exactly what to do for my blueberries, which has felt sort of stressful to me – especially because they have all developed spots on their leaves, and I just want to take care of them well. Well finally, while venting my blueberry frustration to Jay on the phone during his work day, I got the brilliant idea to call a local blueberry farmer. I mean, really – isn’t that both insane and brilliant? So I totally did. And he totally called me back. He gave me a crash course in raising blueberries, and one thirty minute (if that long) conversation with him was worth more than HOURS of research on my own – not to mention, it was a lot more entertaining. ”Raising blueberries is like raising kids,” he said in his awesome drawl. ”You gotta feed ‘em right. Some kids don’t get fed right, and they might grow up to be thirty years old, but they still talk like they’re twelve, see? They don’t really mature. That’s what’ll happen to your blueberries if you don’t feed ‘em right.” That was only one nugget of wisdom, too. I LOVE this guy. And he has a pick-your-own farm that opens in June, and I cannot WAIT to take my children (who I AM feeding right) out there to meet him. Wherever you are, you should really look into pick-your-own farms in your area. The produce is delicious, the effort is satisfying, and spending money at local, honest businesses only makes our society better. Plus, if your farmer is half as cool as my new best friend, you will be in for a fun ride.
Okay, back to tonight. Wednesday nights are officially reserved for telling you about Jay’s top five and bottom one recipes of the week. Well since it has been over three weeks since I’ve posted, I’ll just nix the numbers and give you some of his favorites and not-so-favorites of the past few weeks.
First, we have been eating a LOT of salads. This is really cool, as it is a natural outcropping of our whole inspiration of doing this in the first place, which probably makes no sense to you, so I really need to take the time to write about what made us decide to do this. (Hold me to that.) Anyway, Jay has been really enjoying the salads, and I made this spinach and strawberry and chicken salad that he particularly liked. It started off as this online recipe, but it morphed a little because I added some gorgonzola cheese, some oranges, and some chicken sauteed with salt, pepper, and garlic and onion powders. Salads are fun because there is so much you can do with them.
And speaking of salads being fun, I started making a ginger dressing, and it is OH. SO. GOOD. Mince around a half to one Tablespoon of garlic and two of fresh ginger, and add 1/4 cup soy sauce, 3/4 cup oil ( I start with a little sesame in the measuring cup and then add whatever salad oil we have on hand to fill it), 1/3 cup rice vinegar, and 3 Tablespoons of honey heated up so it is runny. Then shake it. Easy-peasy. And after three batches, we are not remotely tired of it.
Chicken quesadillas: Jay loved them. We made them while my cousin was visiting and ate them while Jay was at work. He called when he was coming home, and I said, “I have two set out for you; is that enough?” He replied that he was not very hungry and would only want half of one. Then he came home and proceeded to eat both. All of that to say, they were really, really good. We have long loved making chicken quesadillas, but these were particularly amazing because of the homemade tortillas. I have said it before, but homemade tortillas are SO worth the time it takes to make them. Also, a grand way to get delicious meat for quesadillas is to cube it ahead of time, season it, and put it on a cookie sheet to broil for a few minutes. It stays moist and is delicious. I have only ever done chicken this way, but my cousin told me that after she got home, she tried beef, and it worked beautifully for that, too. Before our making-food-from-scratch days, we made a chipotle ranch sour cream to dip our quesadillas into that was so, so good – a pound tub of sour cream, half a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, and a Tablespoon or so of chipotle seasoning. We used it for veggies, too. At some point in time, I will be figuring out a from-scratch version because we were crazy about it, but I just haven’t done it yet.
Curried quinoa and chicken salad: Jay loved it. And I am so glad because I have been dying to tell you (well, I guess not too much or I’d have updated my blog before now!) about this new website I found. If you have never had the pleasure of eating quinoa, I am so happy to introduce you to it. I have realized recently that it is all the rage right now, and usually on some weird principle that is not worth even trying to figure out, I stay away from things that are all the rage, but we started eating this awhile back because we simply wanted to try some new grains. Then we liked it, so we started researching it, and we found out that it is a complete protein, it can be tweaked into a million and one recipes, and it is all the rage right now. That is why this website that I mentioned is so great: this lady has recipes for quinoa desserts, breakfasts, snacks, salads… she even makes corn tortillas with quinoa, which I am so excited to try! So if you have wanted to play around with quinoa but have not know where to start, then start with this recipe right here. I loved it. Jay loved it. Abigail loved it. And Sammy loved it.
Southwestern garbanzos: Jay loved them. All of us did. And I am happy to report that I can successfully cook garbanzo beans. (As I have only been cooking dry beans for a few weeks, we seem to have a precarious relationship.) This particular recipe had a spicy/sweet flavor, and if you are a sour cream lover, it went really well with a little sour cream mixed in.
I told myself that I could write until midnight, and then I had to wind it down, so I am going to go out in a blaze of recipes…
We have had two amazingly good crockpot recipes in the past few weeks: vegetable and chickpea curry (did I mention that I can cook garbanzo beans?) and chicken tikka masala. Jay loved both of them. If you like crockpot cooking, give these a try. Both have great flavors and are really unique.
Curried fried quinoa: Jay was not a fan. (But to be fair to the recipe, I thought it was great, and so did Sammy, who, as you can see from the above picture, is perfectly happy to mash his little face in curry.) I think maybe the soy sauce threw Jay off.
Chocolate Chip Cookies: Jay was a big fan, and so was everyone else who tried them. My cousin and his wife just had their first baby, and she was wanting some chocolate chip cookies, so I thought I’d try a new recipe. I looked through several and thought these might be what we were looking for, and indeed, they were. My personal favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe is that fake Neiman Marcus recipe that has been going around on email for years… but they are complicated, and we were about to have some company arrive, so I opted for easier, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve made these three times now (did I mention we’ve had three sets of company?). I still like the fake Neiman Marcus recipe best, but these are delicious. I even got to make one batch with my cousin’s daughter, who is six. (I love making cookies with children. And to avoid the frustration that can so easily come, I measure ingredients ahead of time and put them in bowls or baggies so that all the little ones have to do is dump; they get to make them “all by themselves” with just a little instruction, and I get to brag on them! You should totally try it if you want to bake with children, but it gets frustrating for you.) Oh, and Abigail, a big fan of any cookie, was in heaven with these.
Dark chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting: Jay was not a fan. He didn’t think the peanut butter went well, and he thought they were dry. He said to me, “And I feel comfortable saying this because usually you make such great cupcakes.” This is an interesting statement because the last two times I have made cupcakes, he told me he thought they were dry. In fact, I have only ever made one cupcake recipe that he liked. He loves my cakes and cookies and puddings and everything else, but he never seems to like my cupcakes. I think he just doesn’t remember that. (I didn’t correct him.) So in fairness to the recipe, I did not think they were dry, and even if they were, it’s got to be some cupcake-making deficiency that I have. So if they sound good to you, try them and tell me what you think.
And if I had more time tonight, I would tell you about how awesome it was to make jam from wild blackberries, how much we’re enjoying (and by “we,” I mean, “Jay” because I am on that silly lemon cleanse) the Quick Pickle recipe I made, how we’ve been watching the vanilla extract we have sitting, and how we’ve been experimenting with croutons. But I really don’t have time tonight. If I keep staying up too late, I’m going to hit a point where I take another more-than-three week hiatus. And we don’t want that, do we? :-)