Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More Than I Bargained For

A few years ago, Tara and I bought a used truck.  At the time, we each only had small cars.  Tara's was a ‘91 Toyota Celica with barely enough room for people and I had a ‘99 Saturn, which we still own.  Oh what an advanced piece of technology.  While most vehicles are rated based on horse power, I believe mine has about 90 mouse power.  Yeah, that's right, it couldn't pull Bert's Radio Flyer wagon if someone got behind and pushed.
The truck has served us well.  But, like any vehicle, it needs some TLC every now and then.  Right now, the truck needs new wheels and tires.  The tire treads are low and the steel wheels are deteriorating; causing constant flats.  Luckily, we have an air compressor, courtesy of my father-in-law (thanks by the way).  But, filling tires every time I want to use the truck gets old and, although we plan to “drive it until the wheels fall off”, I would prefer if the wheels didn’t actually fall off. 
My mechanic told me he no longer deals with used wheels or tires and I wasn’t about to put new wheels or tires on a truck with over 140,000 miles.  So, I decided to go to one of those U-Pull-It places.  How hard could it be?  I've changed tires before.  Besides, when I called and said what I was looking for (15" steel or aluminum wheels with decent tires) they said that they had some, already pulled and ready to go.  Of course, me being the trusting type, I believed them.  Yeah…
So, I went to the front office (a busted up trailer) and told them who I was.  Of course, the person I had spoken with was not working that day.  Picture three large men; missing teeth, long beards, bandanas and old trucker hats, cigarettes hanging out of their mouths and seemingly speaking in only four letter words - all looking at me like I had three heads.  Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against any of them and it's not like I am always the poster child for proper English.  It was just a little intimidating is all.
Finally, one of them found a Post-It note with my information and said, "You were looking for 14" wheels, right?"  Ummm, no.  So, he offered to drive me around the yard to find other wheels and/or tires I could use.  Now, apparently, they experience a lot of theft.  (Just as an aside, if you're going to risk getting arrested for stealing, might as well steal new parts, eh?!)  Anyway, this guy gets a call from the office saying they saw people hopping the fence on a security camera and this guy needs to go confront them.  Wouldn’t you know it; he decides to take me along for the ride.  Joy.  Now, I don't condone stealing, but I certainly hadn't planned to confront the type of individuals who do.  I just came for the wheels.  Thankfully, we never found anyone.  Oh look at that, I said "we", as if I was helping him look.
Finally, we found 4 wheels that were still in good shape with two good tires.  Of course, the day I picked to get these wheels was the same day Irene came to greet us.  Again, joy.  In my defense, I didn't think it would matter since I was told they already had the wheels ready to go.  So, there I am, standing in the pouring rain, soaked to the bone, taking the wheels off of a truck that's balancing on a wet fork lift, four feet off the ground, on a muddy hill, unsteady at best.  This is why people pay mechanics.
I should mention that the fork lift operator was great.  Once it began to really pour, he carried the truck over to his trailer and got out an air wrench for me to use.  He even removed the two bad tires - something that wouldn't normally seem like much but I left out the part where he only had one arm.  No joking, one arm. And, he did it all with a smile.  I was impressed and he got a tip.
Four hours later, I got four steel wheels and two good tires for a bargain compared to what a shop would have charged. 
So that's my first junk yard experience.  Good times.  I might consider paying someone else next time.  Or, I could always fill the Saturn with whatever heavy supplies I need and call AAA to come tow it to my house.  Nope, pay someone else, definitely.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fabulous Frittata

I have recently fallen in love with frittatas. They are scrambled eggs on a whole other level. They are quiches for dummies. They only take one pan. They are incredible. It all started with a spinach frittata, which I'll share with you next time I make it. But I found this recipe in the Parade section that comes with the Sunday paper and we were blown away. Plus, we could use fresh stuff from the garden. Fantastic!

Tomato, Pepper, Bread, and Ricotta Frittata
(Yes, that's really what they called it. Which I guess is a lot more straight-forward than something like Hearty Rustic Tuscan Frittata.)
12 large eggs
1/3 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. cubed (1-inch) day-old bread, crusts removed
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch thick strips
1 each red and green bell peppers, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1/2 c. ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 c. fresh ricotta

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat eggs, heavy cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Add bread cubes; let soak until softened, about 15 minutes.

2. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium. Add onion; cook until wilted, about 4 minutes. Add peppers; cook, stirring, until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in tomatoes. Add butter and remaining oil to skillet; heat until foaming. Pour egg and bread mixture into pan; cook over medium without stirring.

3. Meanwhile, add ricotta by tablespoonfuls, forming little pockets on top. Continue cooking until bottom is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. There should be a few bubbles around edges.

4. Once bottom crust has formed, transfer skillet to preheated oven; cook until center is firm to touch, about 15-20 minutes. To serve hot, let frittata stand at room temperature 15 minutes; to serve warm or at room temperature, let stand a little longer.

We felt very gourmet and cultured eating our Hearty Rustic Tuscan Frittata. In front of the tv.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Weekly Photo

Don't forget to check our weekly photo post for the updated photo of Bert each week!

Weekly Photo post

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Few Firsts

Can you believe it? Bert has grown out of his newborn clothes already! He has started to smile at us (when he's not screaming at us) and is playing and looking around more all the time. He is also sleeping more (yes!), thanks in part to surrendering to swaddling. Swaddling = a 5-6 hour stretch each night. It is blissful. He has also taken to his pacifier, which makes the "I'm fussy for no good reason" times much more manageable. And bearable.

Two weekends ago, Bert had his first road trip to my family reunion. The rain was pouring down, I ran into the cabin with the baby, and never went back out for the camera. Duh. But here's a picture from the next afternoon napping with Uncle Travis back at Memere and Popper's house (my parents).

Later that Sunday when we got home, there were fireworks at the park across the street from our house. Bert's first fireworks! He should be thrilled! He screamed until we took him back inside, and then he slept in his swing until they were over. Is that how a baby shows he is thrilled?

I need to work on the nighttime settings on the camera. Oh, and the streetlight really adds to the shots, huh?

Next up was the local fair. His first fair! Can you guess what Bert thought of that? Yeah, he slept through it.

But here's what we saw...

We so need a goat.
Better check the borough code first...
Adorable piglets! There were at least 10 of them.
Keith says, "Can you imagine if you had a whole litter
to feed instead of just one?"

Family reunions, fireworks, and fairs. Ahhhh....summer.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Peter Piper Picked...

...a peck of pickled peppers.

How much is a peck anyway? I didn't know so I had to look it up. And now I'm sharing it with you, courtesy of Britannica online.

peck, unit of capacity in the U.S. Customary and the British Imperial Systems of measurement. In the United States the peck is used only for dry measure and is equal to 8 dry quarts, or 537.6 cubic inches (8.810 litres). In Great Britain the peck may be used for either liquid or dry measure and is equal to 8 imperial quarts (2 imperial gallons), or one-fourth imperial bushel, or 554.84 cubic inches (9.092 litres). The peck has been in use since the early 14th century, when it was introduced as a measure for flour. The term referred to varying quantities, however, until the modern units were defined in the 19th century.

The point to all that is the recipe from my grandpop I am about to share with you calls for a peck of peppers. As usual, I approached my recipe with a certain amount of disregard for exact measurements and eyeballed it. Lucky for me, this time it worked. For as particular as I am about a lot of things, when it comes to cooking, I can be pretty relaxed. When I bake though, I follow recipes to a "t." 

Anyway, back to pecks and peppers. I made a half batch because that's all the peppers I had.

Salad Peppers
1 peck hot peppers cut in circles (I used banana peppers)
5 cloves garlic
1/4 c. oregano
1/2 c. salt
3 c. water
3 c. vinegar
2 c. canola oil

Mix syrup; put in gallon jar. (I split my half batch in two quart jars because they fit in our fridge better.) Add peppers. Keep in fridge. You can keep adding peppers. You can also use the leftover syrup as a marinade when the peppers are gone.

Keith loves these on sandwiches. We also use them on our homemade pizzas.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A to Zucchini

We don't grow zucchini for two reasons: 1) our garden is small and zucchini takes up a lot of room and 2) someone is always giving zucchini away. Having been the recipient of said abundant green vegetable, I thought I would share with you what I did with them.

The first endeavor was zucchini crab cakes. Don't be fooled, no seafood necessary.

Zucchini Crab Cakes

2 c. grated zucchini
1 Tbsp. grated onion
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire
1 1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 c. Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
grated carrot (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and shape into patties. Fry or bake.

I find one recipe makes about 6 patties and I prefer to fry them on the electric griddle. I made a quadruple batch and froze them to eat later.

The second way I used up our gifted zucchini was in a cake. Yes, that's right. Zucchini in a cake. And a chocolate one at that.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1/2 c. margarine or butter
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. sour milk
2 eggs
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbsp. cocoa
2 c. shredded zucchini
Optional: 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/2 tsp. cloves
Chocolate chips

Cream margarine, oil, and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, and milk.

Mix dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixture.

Stir in zucchini.

Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Pour into 9 x 12 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

I like to sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Scone Lady Visits

The Scone Lady, aka my mom, came down for a few days last week to help me with baby Bert and things around the house. Can I just say she's the best? She spent a lot of time in the kitchen making meals and putting together zucchini bread for the freezer and cucumber and onion pickles for the fridge. I wish I could say I had more of a hand in things, but mostly I held the baby and directed her to pans and ingredients in the kitchen.

I also got her to make a batch of scones I saw in a magazine. Because I was holding the baby, I don't have pictures of the process but here's the recipe.

Savory Double-Walnut Scones (Better Homes and Gardens, August 2011)

1 1/4 c. walnuts
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. cold butter
4 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme, crushed or 1 1/2 tsp. snipped fresh thyme
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 c. buttermilk
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
Shredded Gruyere cheese, chopped walnuts, and snipped fresh thyme (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 1 1/4 c. walnuts on a baking sheet. Bake for 7 minutes or until toasted. Coarsely chop 1 c. of the walnuts. Finely grind remaining walnuts; set aside. (We skipped grinding the walnuts and just used the 1 cup.) Increase oven temp to 375 degrees.

2. In a large bowl combine flour, finely ground walnuts, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir in the 4 ounces Gruyere, 1 cup chopped walnuts, and thyme. Make a well in center of flour mixture. In a small bowl, combine egg, buttermilk, honey, and mustard; add all at once to flour mixture. Using a fork, stir just until moistened. (Mom prefers to mix scones with her hands rather than the pastry blender and fork.)

3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough by folding and gently pressing it for 10 to 12 strokes or until nearly smooth. Divide in half. Pat or lightly roll each half to a 3/4-inch thick circle, about 6 inches in diameter. Cut each circle in 8 triangles. Place triangles 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. (Mom bakes scones on parchment paper.) Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden.

4. Transfer to cooling rack. If desired, top with additional cheese, walnuts, and thyme. Serve warm. Makes 16 scones.

They were delicious. Perfect for lunch. Or breakfast. Or a snack.

I think any hard, sharp cheese (like an extra sharp cheddar) would work just fine so you don't have to shell out the extra dough for the Gruyere.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Diaper Diaries: Part 2

As promised, I am back with an update on the cloth diapering. We started using them over the weekend, just after Bert passed the 3 week mark. They are a little bulky, but seem to be working well. His newborn sized clothes don't fit over them so well, so we have started putting him in the 0-3 month size clothes. It seems that the diaper changes are a little more frequent, as the cloth diapers don't absorb pee quite like disposables but what's an extra diaper change or two during the day?

I washed one load so far, using my homemade laundry detergent and dried them on the line and everything looked very clean. We have been storing the dirty diapers and cloth wipes in a wet bag and haven't noticed the smell, even with the heat we've been dealing with.

Since Bert likes to pee and poop immediately after a clean diaper is under him, I feel a lot better using the cloth diapers. It really irked me to have to toss a disposable diaper that hadn't even been on the kid long enough to undo the velcro! At least with the cloth diapers, it's just another one to go in the wash.

We will probably still use disposables if we go away for the weekend or something just for the convenience, but at home, we are officially cloth diaper converts. Or should I say, Bert is the convert.

Look at those muscles!

I should note that we are dealing with some diaper rash, so I have been using the liners that came with the bummis cloth diaper kit to keep the diaper cream from getting on the diaper. This is recommended because the cream can interfere with the absorbency of the diaper. The liner is almost like toilet paper, but a little softer, and can just be flushed or thrown in the trash. Hopefully the rash will clear up soon!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Po-tay-toe, Po-tah-toe

In a fit of productivity, Keith dug up all our potatoes out of the garden. This year we had a good amount of nice sized potatoes from just 6 hills. We planted them from last year's potatoes that sprouted.

Because our basement is so damp, potatoes don't keep that well. We decided to try freezing them this year. After a little internet research, we decided on this method from www.best-potato-recipes.com:

Diced potatoes can be frozen for use in a variety of recipes. Here's how:
  • Peel two pounds of potatoes. (or whatever amount you want to work with.) Cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes.

  • Simmer the diced potatoes in salted water until just tender.
  • Spray a sheet pan with non-stick cooking oil and spread cooked potatoes in a single layer on the pan.
  • Place the pan of diced potatoes in the freezer until frozen solidly.

  • Transfer the frozen potato cubes to freezer bags or containers to use as needed.
  • When ready to use, reheat diced potatoes in simmering water.
Keith left the skins on since we grew red potatoes and like the skins in mashed potatoes. Hopefully it will be a successful way of storing potatoes! Has anybody else tried freezing potatoes?
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