Happy 2015, everyone!

Happy New Year 2015!

Happy New Year 2015!

Happy 2015! Hope you were all able to stay up and see the new year being rung in. If you weren’t, don’t feel bad. My husband had a long nap in the afternoon, and he still turned in early. 🙂

But, beforehand I was able to share this dinner with him. It’s homemade cabbage rolls with bacon on top, sauteed cabbage with kielbasa and onions, and served with rustic red potato mash.

New Year's cabbage rolls, sauteed cabbage with kielbasa and onions, and served with rustic red potato mash

New Year’s cabbage rolls, sauteed cabbage with kielbasa and onions, and served with rustic red potato mash.

It was all tasty, and we washed it down with this great non-alcoholic sparkling wine drink I found at the grocery store. I really like it. I’m not a fan of booze, or champagne, but I like the taste of this drink. A lot. We finished the bottle as I did the dinner dishes.

2014-12-31 22.48.45It’s about ten minutes to the big moment, and my husband is now sitting on the couch. I guess he wanted to wait it out with me after all. Aww. He’s a total sweetheart.

I’m not one for resolutions, but if you are, I wish you the best in keeping them. Conviction is the key. Conviction and a clear goal without any other voice in your head telling you change isn’t possible. It is. Totally.

Ok, we’re down to five minutes left in 2014. Get your drinks, noise makers and lips ready, kids.

Talk to you in next year!

Coffee Chatter – Sunday Edition

[ After I cleaned out the fridge, I realized I had many mason jars that I really should sterilize instead of simply hand washing them, so I pulled out my big stock pot and did just that because we don't have a dishwasher ]

    [ After I cleaned out the fridge, I realized I had many mason jars that I really should sterilize instead of simply hand washing them, so I pulled out my big stock pot and did just that because we don't have a dishwasher ]

[ After I cleaned out the fridge, I realized I had many mason jars that I really should sterilize instead of simply hand washing, so I pulled out my big stock pot and channelled my grandmother. ]

[ Korean Beef ]

[ Korean Beef ]

[ Mongolian Beef I made a few weeks back that was too salty for human consumption, but was lovely otherwise. Will have to make this again revising the salt and soy sauce. ]

[ Mongolian Beef I made a few weeks back that was too salty for human consumption, but was lovely otherwise. Will have to make this again revising the salt and soy sauce. ]

Yesterday I spent the day puttering around in the kitchen, cleaning mostly (the oven, the stove top, mason jars, dishes, the floor, etc.) but also making a big portion of dinner (Korean Beef) and setting up lunches for the husband since he’s working a lot this week to cover a co-worker who went home to visit her family for the first time in at least 5 years. And luckily since I tired myself out yesterday in the kitchen and at work, we were finally able to go to bed early for the first time in a long time. In fact, I was so tired, I tried to start this post in bed but I fell asleep shortly after logging into the website. (snort)

[ Sushi / maki roll mold ]

[ Sushi / maki roll mold ]

2014-03-22 22.11.36I also found sometime to play a bit with food, and a new gimmicky tool I bought on clearance. I was drawn to this trough looking toy that purports to help make the best rolled rice and filling for maki versus hand rolling, so I figured it was worth $3 to find out. All in the name of science. Tasty, delicious science. ‘Mmm… Ahem.

[ Typical maki roll hand rolling produced by moi. ]

[ Typical hand rolled maki produced by moi. ]

Well, they aren’t lying. Check out this tight maki roll I made using jasmine rice (rinsed two times to keep some of the starch needed to stick the filling together) and carrot sticks. All I did was wet the nori sheet at the ends and a bit in the middle as I went along, and it pulled it tight with the bamboo mat as I rolled it over. And I didn’t have get my hands dirty and tacky at all?? I’m impressed.

In other news, we’re on the hunt for a new oven. I dislike this old cheap version that came with the house, and it now only cooks and bakes on the left side of the oven. I mean… I just can’t even begin to figure that one out other than it’s the broiler or the main element going and simply needs to be replaced, but no matter because we’re taking the opportunity to get something different.

By the way, this same model of old school stove is still sold in stores for less than $400. Good dogs!

All I know is, this stove is making baking quick and yeast breads a nightmare. I have to practically sit beside the oven and watch the action like a hawk as they bake lest they burn or take an extra half hour to cook all the way through. Who has time for that crap? Not me!

[ A Cinnamon Raisin Bread recipe idea I'm experimenting with for the husband ]

[ A Cinnamon Raisin Bread recipe idea I’m experimenting with for the husband ]

What type and brand this new stove will be, I don’t know. We don’t have gas lines on our street, and the kitchen is located too far inside the house to even consider a propane hookup for a gas stove, so I have been researching and reading up on new electric range models. I’m sufficiently frightened by how shoddy new appliances seem to be these days. Worse than when I first starting hearing horror stories 17 years ago from an old boss, if you can believe that.

I get that major appliances will never be built to last ever again, but this seems ridiculous. I don’t have a job where I can take X number of random days off to wait for repair people to come fix or replace parts in a NEW stove just because something like the self cleaning feature runs at a high temperature and burns out the convection electronics, or the dashboard circuit blows on its own a month into owning the damn thing.

Honestly, I should just keep the old stove, but I am loathe to do so. Did I mention the wonky, uneven burner elements on top? No? Well imagine trying to pan fry something and the liquid rolls off to one side of the pan instead of staying in the middle where it’s supposed to be. (It’s my personal nightmare holding the handle as I tilt the pan so food cooks properly because that further compresses the nerves in my neck, which makes the hand I’m using go all pins and needles numb.) At first I thought the floor was uneven and that made the whole stove uneven, but my husband proved it wasn’t using a level. Oy ve. So after bending down and looking at the elements, and pulling each one out and putting them back in, I have concluded these burners have been through hell and back. Enough!

Anyway, back to shopping. I hate Samsung anything (they make good appliances on the whole, but they keep repeating known design flaws for YEARS, over many of their models, so forget that nonsense. I’ve already broken the middle freezer drawer because they use the same weight distribution design flaw that causes the drawer to stick and stall as you pull it in and out of the unit.), and I’m leery of the now crap reputation Bosch has. Moving on, the next three players are: Maytag, Whirlpool and Kitchenaid (all owned by Maytag) who also have their own design flaw — the self cleaning feature that never seems to work. At this point, I’m not even looking for a stove with that feature. I’m happy to hand clean my oven every so often as required.

So that leaves me with a small brand name pool of: Frigidaire, LG and two others I can’t recall right now. All have their detractors online and known past issues with certain models. So far I can’t find one stove, or even one brand of stoves, that stands above the pack. It’s like we’re left to decide between poop and diarrhea. Greaaaat…

And then there is the issue of range surfaces. There are great reasons to go with induction, but my understanding is it requires new pans that work with the magnet attracted elements. I don’t want to replace my pots and pans if I can help it, and I’d really love to continue using my big ole cast iron Dutch pot up top if I can, so that leaves us with an enamel tops but good luck finding one. I’ve looked around and so far came up empty. I suppose I could go back to coil burners but they’d have to be in a certain arrangement that I like (two big elements up front, two small ones in the back) that won’t lead to more neck compression leading to more nerve compression leading to more pain in the ulnar nerves causing me loss of hand use – all because stoves tops are set at 36″ tall and I’m barely 5′ 2″. I just need some KISS platform boots to work at my stove, right? 😉

(sigh)

I’m starting to give myself a headache just typing this all out. Hahaha. Ok, that’s enough for now.

[ My knock-off Tim Horton's tangerine-yogurt smoothie. ]

[ My knock-off Tim Horton’s tangerine-yogurt smoothie. ]

Moving along, I have been testing a few new drinks to add to my Summer Drinks category. The first up was a promising banana latte, but it turned into something that my taste buds rejected outright, and the next one was my attempt at coming up with a Tim Horton’s tangerine-yogurt smoothie knock-off, and this one proved easy to do, and it was tasty! I’ll post that one soon.

Until next weekend, ttyl.

Summer Drinks – Fast & Dirty Frappé

FrappeDrinkI’ve been playing around with stripping down the classic frappé into something that’s not only healthier (let’s be honest here!), but faster and easier to assemble and blend into a tasty drink we all don’t feel grossed out consuming so much of. My frappé ends up being a little over half the size (10oz) of the Starbuck’s tall serving (16oz).

Here’s what I’ve got so far. I like this one a lot. Hopefully you all will, too.

Auntie Stacey’s Fast & Dirty Frappé:
8 Ice Cubes
1 C Vanilla Almond Milk
1-2 Tsp Powder Sugar (optional, and can be replaced with other sugar types)
1 Tsp Instant Espresso Powder (double if you like a strong coffee shot flavouring)
1 Tbsp Coffee Creamer

FrappeI mix this all up in the smallest Magic Bullet pitcher the blender came with because it makes the perfect portion size that prevents us from over-consuming (nice little bonus there).

This frappé is one of my go-to drinks to stay cool during the blazing hot days of summer like we’re having this week. Try it at home and tell me what you think in the comments. 🙂

Orange Julius Tweak

OrangeJuliusRedone

So, the other day I blogged about Mel’s lovely Classic Orange Julius, and mentioned in that post that my friend Lisa wondered on Facebook whether she could make this without adding sugar. I said I would play with it and see what’s what.

I am happy to say that taking the sugar and the vanilla out and adding in vanilla flavoured Greek yogurt did the trick. And it also killed a few birds with one stone. It not only pared down the number of ingredients to use, but it also added a great creaminess to the drink that my husband said was missing for him (and I agreed) – all done without any flavour loss or sacrifice!

Here is my version that makes enough to fill two 16 oz tumblers:

Auntie Stacey’s Orange Julius:
1 C Milk
1 C Water
2 Tbsp Vanilla Greek yogurt
4-6 oz Orange Juice concentrate
4-6 Ice Cubes

Summer Drinks – Iced Coffees

TPW_icedCoffee

[ Photo by Ree Drummond, ThePioneerWoman.com ]

There are few things I love more in the wickedly hot Summer months than iced coffee. Sometimes I crave it during the winter, but that’s when I know my hormones are out of whack and I dutifully warn my husband about the rough week that’s ahead of him with me. I’m a considerate wife like that. {ahem}

I have done all the iced coffee brews out there that start with hot coffee and found them all too painstaking and warm, and for awhile I was even using the powdered Starbucks VIA packets (which I recommend if you’re stuck at work – just add cold water and ice if you can get it, and you’ll be good to go!), but I have never made time to try the cold brew methods so many have sworn by.

I’m dumb. Really dumb. And possibly pathologically stubborn. (Don’t ask my family or husband to verify this statement. Please.)

So, here are a few recipes for cold brewing coffee I have been trying out recently that, if you love iced coffee like me, you will want to check out, too. Seriously. Do yourself this favour. Don’t ignore this idea any further. This will complete your life. I swear on my father’s grave!

1. The Pioneer Woman‘s dead easy recipe for brewing a month’s worth of cold coffee. I love her recipes; she never lets me down. And my husband’s eyes light up like a Christmas tree anytime I mention her infamous “crack noodles.” Anyway, I just realized something. She blogged this coffee gold in 2011, and I’m just now getting around to it. Clearly I need life coaching.

I like that her recipe is for the straight brew because that gives me a lot of options for add-in ingredients. I’m experimental when it comes to my coffee drinks, given enough time to think about what I have on hand and how I want it to taste. I don’t always have the time, though. I’m thinking this would be a great weekend brew. Especially if I want to do a great Thai iced coffee drink (with the sweetened condensed and regular milks) idea Ree mentions at the end of her post.

2. Food 52 had posted a great cold coffee recipe that is very similar to Ree’s but it adds all of the sugar and ground cinnamon upfront, so it can stew overnight with the coffee grinds.

This was the first one I tried, and I have to say, it’s perfect. Nothing like pouring the already sweetened strained brew into a glass over ice and being able to drink it immediately. No fussing around with other ingredients because you’ve already added them the night before. This one is a no-brainer on those hot, sticky mornings where you just want to fill ‘er up, and rush out the door to work!

Food52

[ Photo from Food52.com ]

So, there you have it. Your two essential cold coffee brew ideas. Enjoy, and feel free to hit me in the comments with your own suggestions or recipes to add to this post. 🙂

 

Summer Drinks – Orange Julius

 

Orange-Julius-Pour-jpg

Mel, from MelsKitchenCafe.com, has been kind enough to blog about her homemade knock-off version of the mall drink my husband loves so much, the Classic Orange Julius. I said the other day on Facebook I would be testing this drink recipe in the days ahead to see if it needed any changes or if it was solid as a rock the way it is. I’m looking to make this drink lots over the coming hot days of summer, so the recipe has to be perfect.

And it is!

But, me being me, I made the executive decision to kill two birds with one stone and do away with the use of milk and vanilla extract by using Vanilla flavoured Earth’s Own Almond Milk (the only brand I will ever drink from now on because it’s so damn good and doesn’t spoil as fast as the other brands do).

As suspected, the almond milk blended beautifully and the flavour didn’t suffer one iota. In fact, it probably improved upon Mel’s recipe a smidgen. I hope she won’t mind my tweak.

The only other tweak I want to try out is for Lisa. It’s an idea I have for eliminating the sugar as she asked about on Facebook. I want to see if I can make this using the vanilla almond milk as well as vanilla Greek yogurt.

My reasons for using Greek yogurt is to thicken the drink up a bit, to see if it will blend a bit more towards a smoothie or milkshake type of drink. Sometimes I’m just in the mood for a milkshake, you know? And the extra hit of flavour from the second source of vanilla hopefully will make up for the omission of the powdered sugar. Well, in theory it will, right? We’ll shall see. {crosses fingers}

And naturally, I will report all of my findings back to all of you here on my blog. 🙂

Iced Tea At Home

Ice tea

I love iced tea, but I really don’t like the overly sweet commercial products sold in stores and restaurants. Syrups used in them are typically made from corn, and almost always way overdone. Gag! So, I make my own, at home, with as much or as little sweetenings as I like. It’s not hard. I make three large bottles on a weekend or a weeknight, and store them in the fridge for the whole week.

Doing this has allowed me to avoid soft drinks, milks and more coffee than I need to consume at night with dinner and afterward. I try to keep my calorie consumption to about 1400-1500 per day, and this is one of little tricks I employ since a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in each 8 ounces of iced tea cup doesn’t add up to much. It’s mostly water, and then the sugar and then the teabag extract. Cool, huh?

IkeaBottle

Here’s my method for Homemade Iced Tea:

1. I fill up a 12 oz mason jar with clean water and stick it into the microwave for 3 minutes to heat it up.

2. Carefully I remove the jar from the microwave when it’s done and drop one or two teabags into the hot water depending upon how strong I want my brew to end up at.

(For teas like Earl Grey I may use one bag, whereas with the herbal teas like Strawberry or Mojito Lime, I will use two. I like a strong herbal punch to my iced tea.)

3. I let the bags steep in the water till it’s completely cooled down. This can take 30-45 minutes.

4. I run the facet till the water is as cool as I can get it, or I pull a few bottles of water from the fridge and get them ready.

5. Using a small funnel, I pour the brews into each of the jars and top them with as much cold water as will fit, cap them and then stuff them in the fridge to chill for at least two hours to overnight.

6. I don’t add sugar to the iced tea jars, so I tend to add my half teaspoon to a cup, run a bit of water over it, and then swirl both around to dissolve the crystals before I add the iced tea and ice cubes over top.

If you like at this point, you can top the iced tea with things like fresh basil leaves you’ve muddled a bit in jar or bowl, or just drop a wedge of lemon or lime into your glass to punctuate the natural tea flavour.

Vanilla-Almond Ice Coffee

Well, I’d love to tell you it’s warming up enough to crack out the cold coffee drinks, but I can’t. It’s unseasonable cold. And it keeps lightly snowing. Yes, I know it’s Spring, but Mother Nature doesn’t listen to my whining. Sorry.

So, in the meantime, I’m forced to test a few small batches at home till I find *the* one, the one I will rock all Summer long. I have three months to nail this down. I don’t recall which one I used last Summer, but I have a feeling it was this Vanilla-Almond Iced Coffee drink from Hungry Girl, Por Vida.

Vanilla-Almond Iced Coffee. Recipe and picture courtesy of Hungry Girl, Por Vida

Vanilla-Almond Iced Coffee. Recipe and picture courtesy of Hungry Girl, Por Vida