Spring Tomato Soup

20130409-200332.jpg It is a beautiful spring day, and it has me craving something summery...tomatoes. Though my tomato seedlings are coming along, they won't have fruit until July/August. So I dug into my canning cabinet to find a taste of summer from last year.


Using butter and cream from a trickling springs creamery, plus tomatoes, thyme & garlic from my garden it was almost a 100% local meal. One lone sweet onion from Georgia, but I say close enough. To jazz up the soup a bit more we'll be dunking in a local baguette & stirring in some pesto made last summer. I suddenly feel the urge to uncover all of my patio furniture and eat al fresco!


Ingredients: - 2 28oz jars of crushed tomatoes - 8 tbsp of butter - 1/2 to 1 cup of cream - 1 big pinch of dried thyme, or 10 sprigs of fresh if you have it - 1 large sweet onion, diced - 3 cloves of garlic, pulverized - 1 tbsp sugar - 1 tbsp salt - garnish with pesto & a crusty baguette

Method: - prep your veg while your butter melts in a large soup pot over medium/low heat - add onion, garlic & thyme and sauté until onion is soft - add salt &'sugar, stir and let dissolve - add tomatoes & simmer for as long as possible. I let mine sit on low in the slow cooker for a few hours. But if you only have a few minutes, it's fine. - either serve chunky or blitz with a hand blender or in a blender. Stir in cream after you ladle into bowls. - add cheese of choice and/or garnish with pesto & a crusty baguette


Anything left in your canning cupboard? Has sprung sprung in your neck of the woods?


From My Cupboard & Freezer


This winter is just about over and my canning cabinet & freezer are emptying out. Though I wasn't as creative in the kitchen this autumn & winter, I was able to rely on favorite recipes from years past & my canned/frozen reserves to fill us up.

We ate a lot of soup this winter and the base of the soup came from my canned & frozen tomatoes, as we'll as my canned salsas. Here are some of the soups that were in a heavy rotation:

Tortilla Soup Minestrone Tomato & Bread Soup Chili Tomatillo Soup


When we weren't slurping soups & stews we had a few favs that made it onto the dinner table weekly. These came in handy when I was steering clear of the kitchen. My first trimester was a doozy, so these meals were in the hands of my very capable husband:

Double Decker BLTs Stuffed Mushrooms Acorn Squash Risotto Chard & Gruyere Strata

Now my attention is turned to the garden and all the veg we'll grow this summer. Which should bring new inspiration to my kitchen.

Salmon on Friday

Baking salmon is my favorite way to make it at home. No messy frying pan & no residual scent in the house. Combined with some light fresh ingredients this meal goes down well, and you don't feel guilty about seconds. Once you get the hang of this recipe try adding more herbs and other veg, possibilities are endless! 20130304-121938.jpg

Ingredients: 4 pieces of wild pacific salmon 5-6 oz each 1 leek, sliced into half moons and cleaned of any grit 1 lemon, sliced thinly 2 tomatoes, rough chop Olive oil Salt & pepper Pappardelle noodles Homemade or good quality store bought marinara sauce 1 tbsp cream to blush the sauce


Method: - preheat the oven to 350 - warm marinara sauce & get water for noodles boiling - arrange foil pockets on a baking sheet - fill with lemon, salmon, salt, pepper, leeks, tomatoes & drizzle with olive oil - close up the foil packets & bake for 20-25 minutes - cook your noodles according to the package instructions (about halfway through the salmon's cook time, so it's all hot at the same time) - add the cream to our marinara & turn off the heat - check the salmon at the 20 min mark, it should be cooked through, plate it all up & dig in!


We eat a lot of this & fish tacos during Lent. It's quick, nutritious & delish. My five year old asks for it regularly!


What kind of fish are you cooking up?

Stars in my Minestrone

20130218-190942.jpg A cold has been running amuck in my house since last week, and I am over it! Since I can't take any cold meds with the bun in the oven, I figured soup is the best alternative. I dug into my pantry, fridge & freezer and found lots of nutritious goodies to warm & sooth this family of snotty noses. Here's how I did it:

Ingredients: - 8 cups of homemade chicken stock/veg stock, or a good one from the super market - 1 cup of chopped carrots - 3 ribs of celery, chopped - 1 bunch of chard, washed & chopped (remember to remove the stems from the leaves, but don't discard, chop the stems like celery and cook them up with the other veg in your soffritto. - 28 oz of chopped tomatoes, I had two containers in the freezer that worked perfectly - 2 bell peppers, diced - 1 onion, diced - 2 shallots, diced (I was in an onion mood) - 2 cans of garbonzo beans, drained & rinsed - pastina stars, I cook up 1 cup per dinner so they don't get soggy sitting in the leftover soup in the fridge - olive oil - salt & pepper to taste (I also added a healthy sprinkle of red pepper flakes to my bowl)


Method: - in a large dutch oven warm a few tbsp of olive oil & toss in all of the veg EXCEPT the chard leaves & tomatoes. - cook over medium high heat until veg becomes translucent & starts to soften (8-10 mins). Season with salt & pepper. - add tomatoes, chard & stock, bring to a simmer & reduce to low. Add beans & cover. Cook on low until its time to serve. - cook your 1 cup of pasta according to the instructions, then distribute between bowls. Ladle soup into bowls & dig in!


We enjoyed this soup almost every night last week, and I'm making it again this week. If you're meat-inclined, add some diced or shredded chicken. The beans were enough for us, though we did serve some extra garlicky bread on the side. Nose clearing was the name of the game!


What are you stirring into your soup these last few weeks of winter? Any special pastas or veg?

Snacking Local: Popped from the Cob

20130218-161824.jpg Things were fairly mellow on Sunday. So mellow we couldn't muster the strength to make lunch. Since we were tucked into the basement watching movies, I decided to make popcorn. Back in the fall I picked up some dried strawberry corn from the Silver Spring Farmers Market, perfect for a cold lazy Sunday in February!



Making the popcorn was a cinch. You need 1 brown paper lunch bag per corn cob, 2-4 tbsp of butter (I used local Trickling Springs butter) & salt (we like the finely ground sea salt on our corn.) Melt your butter over the stove & find your popcorn bowl. Place the cob into the bag & fold the top 2-3 times to keep it from filling your microwave with popcorn. Then microwave for 2-4 mins. I used the popcorn button on my microwave, it was just right though there were a few unpopped kernels. Then shake the corn into your bowl, cover with butter & salt. To feed 3 popcorn lovers I recommend 2 cobs, so repeat the process once more to fill that big bowl.


This has become such a favorite that I'm considering growing it myself! Though, not this year. I've promised to keep the garden low stress so I'm only growing herbs, flowers, cucs, peppers & tomatoes.

How do you pop your corn?

Soup: Chicken Cheese Steak

20130130-080635.jpg This is an oldie, but goodie. For the past 10 years my sister inlaw has been coming over for dinner once a week. It all started when we were crazy for LOST, but even though we bid our castaways farewell, we kept the tradition going. The dinner is almost always a soup, and if Katie had her way it would almost always be chicken cheesesteak soup. I combine chicken breast, sweet red peppers (roasted or fresh), onions and a generous helping of provolone cheese. We keep it simple, yet this soup is so much more than delicious. Here's how I make it:


Ingredients: - 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (normally I'm gaga for the skin, but it's unnecessary in this dish, the seasonings go directly on the chicken and somehow it all works out. So no bones, no skin. Unless you want the work.) - 8 cups of chicken stock - 4 red bell peppers, gotta be red, sliced - 4 onions, red or vidalia or a combo, sliced - smoked sweet paprika - salt & pepper - olive oil - provolone cheese



Method: - I used a slow cooker with a stovetop friendly insert, alternatively you can do this all in a dutch oven and/or transfer it to a slow cooker. - coat the chicken in salt, paprika & pepper, then in an olive oiled vessel, slow cooker insert for me, sear them for 4-5 mins on each side, then rest on a plate - add onions & peppers to the insert and cook until just softened, season with salt & pepper - add chicken stock & chicken back into the insert bring to a boil, then carefully transfer to the slow cooker unit. cook on low for 2 hours. I'm still getting used to my unit so I checked the internal temp of the chicken after 30 mins just to be sure I didn't over cook it. - When your chicken's internal temp is 160-170 set your slow cooker to warm & taste for seasoning.


I finished the dish with a slice of provolone and some hot pepper flakes, I'm pretty sure my sister inlaw and husband had a few more pieces of cheese. I often wonder if they were really born in Wisconsin, they are true cheese heads!


Which soups are keeping you warm this winter?

Farro Risotto w/ Turban & Delicate Squash

20130128-122842.jpg Risotto is my favorite way to cook & learn about obscure squash. Normally I'm cooking with butternut or acorn squash but late last autumn my CSA handed out beautiful turban & delicate squash. Time to make risotto!


Ingredients: - 1 turban squash & 1 delicate squash roasted (if you don't have either grab a butternut or acorn squash...even pumpkin will do) - 2 cups of farro, or arborio rice - 6 cups of homemade chicken stock - 1 shallot, diced - 1 dried bay leaf - 1 pinch of saffron - 1 pinch of dried thyme, and one pinch of dried thyme blossoms to finish (from the garden) - butter or olive oil - goat cheese, I used Cherry Glen's Monococy Ash. About half went into the dish at the end, the other half made a nice cooks treat! - 1/2 cup of fresh grated parm or asiago cheese




Method: - an hour or so ahead of time, soak your farro (this will expedite cooking. Alternatively you can purchase par-cooked farro) this is a good time to roast that squash. I just half the squash, drizzle some olive oil and roast at 425 until I smell the squash. 25-30 mins. The squash should be super soft. - in a stock pot, simmer stock with scooped out roasted squash, saffron, thyme & bay leaf - in a large dutch oven, melt a few tbsp of butter with a bit of olive oil & when melted toss in the diced shallot - when the shallot is translucent add the farro and a ladle of the stock mixture & stir with a wooden risotto spoon or any good spoon you have - over medium to medium/high heat continue to stir, ladle and cook until the farro is soft, about 25-30 minutes - finish with the grated cheese then the crumbled goat cheese - taste for seasoning & top with some dried thyme or dried thyme blossoms


Not only is this delicious meal fairly easy (2 pots!) and filling (roman soldiers survived on farro!) it is also romantic...if we were eating in this Valentines Day I'd definitely be making this for my loved ones. Everyone can pitch in, and risotto tastes best with a generous helping of love.


What are you cooking up this Valentines Day?

Eating Local - Rajas

20130211-112159.jpg Got any roasted poblanos in the deep freeze? I had a ton & was in the mood for a little heat. Rajas make for a quick & delicious lunch or dinner side. Even if you don't have the poblanos in the freezer, it's worth the 10 minutes it will take to roast & peel fresh ones. Combined with sweet caramelized onions, sour cream (or crème fraîche) and put into a warm corn tortilla, you cannot eat just one.


Ingredients: - 5-6 frozen roasted poblanos sliced (if you are starting from scratch, here's how I roasted my peppers last summer) - 2 red onions, sliced into half moons - 1 tbsp vanilla sugar - 1-2 tbsp of butter, mine came from a local farm - corn tortillas - 2-3 tbsp sour cream or crème fraîche - salt to taste


Method: - toss your butter into a large pan to melt, then add sliced onions & sugar. (I added the sugar to get the onions extra caramelized as well as to balance the heat. My 5 year old jumped head first into this dish and I think the sugar balanced the heat quite nicely.) - after 5-10 mins add the sliced poblanos & season with salt - cook another 5 mins or so, remember the peppers have already been roasted, you do not want mush. - when warmed through turn the heat down and add the sour cream. Taste for seasoning & serve in a warm corn tortilla.


Last night we paired this with a super delicious tri-tip from Trader Joes, my kid is really into beef & things wrapped in tortillas these days, but if you make enough it can be eaten on its own. My freezer is still full of roasted peppers. We use them in chili & fajitas often. But I think my favorite way to eat poblanos is as rajas. Thankfully my poblano seeds are already sprouting downstairs...more rajas next winter!


How are you cooking up peppers this winter? Any peppers patiently waiting to be cooked in your freezer?

Leftovers: Chicken Salad Sandwich

20130118-095333.jpg We always have something leftover from a roast chicken dinner, this time it was the breast meat. Since I'm in a sandwich mood I decided to make chicken salad sandwiches.

Ingredients: - 2 leftover roasted chicken breasts, skin removed & diced - 3 radishes, sliced - 3-4 local hydroponic cherry tomatoes, sliced - fresh dill - 1/4-1/2 cup of mayo, depending on your taste - 1 tbsp of your fav mustard - lemon zest - butter lettuce - 2 ribs of celery, diced - 1 shallot, diced - salt & pepper to taste - your fav bread - pickles to snack on


Method: - combine: mayo, mustard, dill, zest, celery, shallot & chicken - either rest in the fridge for a bit or serve right away, how hungry are you? - layer bread, lettuce, chix salad, radishes & tomatoes - this is really good stuff, dig in with one chips & pickles


Though the chicken is tender and delicious, the star is the tomatoes. They are ripe & juicy and I ate them all. Thankfully I can get them year-round at Roots. Not only do they come in orange cherry, but they have all sorts of different varieties. Until it's the season to grow my own, I'll gladly pay the price for the taste of summer in January.


What's your favorite sandwich accompaniment? We are really into cornichons right now, tangy and just the right size for munching 4 year olds!

Eating *Almost* Local: Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

20130118-095440.jpg This is definitely soup weather! Snow on the ground & lots of dreary winter days. My freezer and canning cabinet are stocked with veg, herbs & spices from summer. Though this isn't a wholly "local" meal I consider it organic & sustainable, thanks to goodies found at Trader Joe's & Roots.

Ingredients: - 2 cups of frozen corn - 32 oz of crushed tomatoes - 2 dried chili peppers, I used cayenne & fish peppers - 8 cups of chicken stock - 2 red bell peppers, diced - 1 jalapeño, diced - 1 red onion, diced - 3 garlic cloves, diced - 10 baby carrots, sliced - 1 bunch of cilantro, washed & dried. Both stems & leaves chopped - 2 boneless chicken breasts, seared - 2 cans of black beans, drained & rinsed - spices: ground cumin, ground coriander, pinch of saffron & smoked paprika - salt & pepper to taste - garnish: cilantro leaves, sharp cheddar, tortilla chips, fresh limes & diced avocado


Method: - I used a slow cooker w/ stovetop insert, if you're slow cooker insert is not "stovetop ok", then use a dutch oven or sauté pan to get your chicken & veg seared-off. - sear the chicken in olive oil. when both sides are browned, let them rest on a plate - sauté all of the chopped veg & corn, less cilantro leaves, tomato & avocado until just translucent - add in 1 tbsp of each seasoning, cook for a min & add tomatoes & saffron - move he insert to your slow cooker & add in chicken (whole), beans & stock - cook on high for an hour and check the doneness of the chicken & veg. If done, shred the chicken, salt to taste & keep warm until dinner time. - serve in a big bowl with your fav extras. Sometimes I'll add strips of corn tortilla to thicken, but this time I forgot so chips were the backup. And I ate a gluttons share of them too!


Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of my bowl of soup...I'm a tortilla soup fanatic and will remember to take a pic next time. This soup keeps in the fridge or a few days and tastes even better after a night in the fridge.


What kind of soup are you cooking up? Are sides a must when you make soup?

Bahn Mi @ Home

20130118-093846.jpg I've never ordered a bahn mi in a restaurant or from a food truck, but that didn't stop me from coming up with a delicious Soffritto version. The flavor profile just sings to my pregnant pallet: seared meat, crusty baguette, spicy citrus mayo, pickled & fresh veg - YUM!


Ingredients: feeds 4 hungry adults - 2 packs of bool kogi beef from Trader Joes (alternatively you could grill any of your fav meats or extra firm tofu) cooked to desired doneness - 4 radishes, thinly sliced - 1 bunch of cilantro, washed & dried - 1 package of shredded carrots, soak in apple cider or red wine vinegar for an hour - 2 hours - 2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced - 2 French baguettes, cut into fourths, half & pull out some of the internal bread - 1 jalapeño, sliced - Sriracha - 1 cup of mayo - 1-2 limes


Method: - get the carrots soaking in the vinegar, soak for an hour or 2 then drain the vinegar. Sharp is good here. It cuts through the meat & spicy mayo. - prep all the veg & keep cool in the fridge - make the spicy mayo: combine mayo, juice of 1-2 limes & add desired sriracha. It's got a kick so taste as you go. Store in the fridge until making the sammies. - grill up the meat - cut the baguettes & start layering on the sauce, veg & meat


The veg prep goes fairly quickly and is most of the work. This is one of our Friday favs, delicious and quick. When our little eater is in a picky mood we put the meat & veg over rice so he can eat and roll out, while we dig into a second helping.


What's your fav sandwich? All this talk about sandwiches is making me hungry...

Holiday Hiatus

20121216-142512.jpg It's getting quite festive in my neck of the woods. No snow, but our neighborhood is lit up for Christmas. I've been out of the cooking loop since October, and for good reason. I just finished my first trimester of pregnancy! Yup, Soffritto baby #2 is on he way and I've had zero interest in anything food related. Thankfully my husband can cook & we've survived my nausea and exhaustion.


My big cravings surround sandwiches, super spicy soups & arugula. So things have been interesting! As each day passes I get more & more interested in food. There's one place that inspires most of my ideas - my blogging pals from the Summer Sole Food Challenge. I hope to join them & get back into he swing of things after New Years. Fingers crossed!


I hope your season is full of delicious food and fun with family & friends!

Happy Holidays!

Eating Local: Breakfast Sammies

20121031-094752.jpg I'm closing out the SSFC Challenge with one of my favorite meals - not to cook - breakfast. Josh is the breakfast man and comes up with the most delicious meals, and we are fortunate to have a CSA that loads us up with what we need to make it - eggs, bacon, cheese, butter & bread! Eating local isn't just about the veg - you'll be amazed at what you can find at a farmers market. So do it already!


While the bacon is sizzling, Josh lovingly whisks up the eggs in a dash of half & half, salt, pepper & turmeric powder, (a tsp goes a long way.) After the bacon is done, he drains it on a paper towel and toasts up the ciabatta bread. Then tosses it into the oven to keep warm.

Next he tosses a tbsp or so of butter into the pan and scrambles the eggs until they are just cooked through - low & slow is the way to go.


Josh assembles the sandwiches and I can barely take a photo before we dig in. It's just that easy, and oh so delicious. What are you cooking up for breakfast? Here are a few other eggy delights from our kitchen:

Chard & Gruyere Strata Herbed Omelette Egg Noodle Torte


Pumpkin Muffins

20121026-122644.jpg It's getting cooler, except for the near 80 degree temps on Wednesday, and I'm starting to bake more and more. Though, I do love a shortcut pumpkin muffin, I had a little more time and wanted to experiment. The result was an airy pumpkin muffin that is almost scone-like and - importantly - used up a whole can of pumpkin purée.

Ingredients: - 1 can of pumpkin purée - 2 eggs - 3/4 cup of dark brown sugar - 1 tsp of vanilla extract - 1 stick of butter, melted & cooled - 1/4 cup half & half - 2 cups of AP flour - 1/4 tsp baking soda - 2 tsps baking powder (cut back to 1 tsp if you want a more dense muffin) - a pinch of salt - 2 tsp ground cinnamon - 1 tsp fresh or ground ginger - 1/8 tsp ground clove - 1/8 tsp ground allspice


Method: - preheat the oven to 400, rack in the center position - prep your muffin pan or cups. I prefer the silicone muffin cups. Easy cleanup and you don't need a muffin pan. - in one bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt & spices - in another bowl combine the rest of the ingredients - mix the wet & dry ingredients until just combined & portion into the muffin cups - bake for 15-20 minutes until just poked through. Do a toothpick check in a few of them at the 15 min mark - sprinkle with maple or vanilla sugar when they're done - cool on a rack & enjoy with jam or my fav, pumpkin butter


Have you started baking yet? Which goodies are you looking forward to baking this autumn?

Eating Local: Homemade Applesauce

20121022-111317.jpg Last week I was inspired by two girlfriends that make their own applesauce. I haven't made any since my baby-food making days (about four years ago.) Maybe it's convenience or laziness that kept me from making my own, but I have 16 apples from my CSA with no where to go, so I decided to give applesauce a try.


Prep: - tools: stirring spoon, apple slicer/corer, potato masher, knife & large pot - wash, peel, core, & dice up the apples

Ingredients: - 16 prepped (see above) apples - 1 cup of apple cider - 3/4 cup of vanilla sugar - 2 large cinnamon sticks



Method: - gather your tools & ingredients - prep the apples - compost your peels & cores - chuck the apples, cider, sugar & cinnamon sticks into the pot - stir & cover - cook on medium/high for 15-2o minutes, stir occasionally - when soft, uncover and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes - discard the cinnamon sticks & gently mash (so you aren't covered in apple sauce) until you are at the desired consistency


The end result is a delicious treat that everyone wants in their lunchbox. We made enough to freeze too, because I hear it freezes beautifully!


Have you tried making your own applesauce? What are you making with apples this autumn?

Eating Local: Moroccan Root Vegetable Soup

20121015-190349.jpg Again my CSA loaded me up with fantastic veggies! I also hit up Roots Market for some parsnips. It was a feast of roasted vegetables. Because I've been short on time, I kept it quick & easy.


My veg ingredients were sweet potatoes, parsnips, red pepper, garlic, shallots & butternut squash. They were chopped and tossed onto a rimmed baking sheet. I coated them in ground coriander, cumin, salt & pepper. Then drizzled on the olive oil, tossed to coat and roasted in a 425 oven for 35 minutes.

While the veg caramelized, I simmered 4 cups of homemade chicken stock, a cinnamon stick, and a bay leaf. Since I was going for a Moroccan taste, I brought in some Mediterranean flavors with dried thyme and white beans. It brought the flavors back from crossing into India - I love Indian but it wasn't what I was going for.

Once the vegetables were done - my house was filled amazing fragrances - I simmered the vegetables in the chicken broth mixture for 15 minutes. We served this with local bread & butter - it was a knock out and so easy!


Autumn Clean Up

20121014-110047.jpg It's autumn clean up time in my neck of the woods. Time to recycle soil, empty the rain barrels, plant mums & garlic, and put away the hoses and patio furniture. I'm really hoping for a cold/snowy winter this year, so I'm spending a lot of time organizing and putting things away.


The autumn cleanup also includes the last harvest. In come the tomatoes, peppers, and the CSA is loading me up with cauliflower and broccoli. Into the canner, dehydrator & freezer they all go!




Needless to say, I'm swamped. Which leaves me little time to write - but with the big clean up out of the way, I have hopes of spending more time cooking & writing. I also hope to spend a little more time relaxing outside. We left out the fire-pit and some durable chairs. My husband loves to have an outdoor fire during the holidays. I think he just wants to escape the madness, and I do too!


Eating Local: Acorn Squash Risotto

20121004-104947.jpg We don't eat much acorn squash, for some reason my husband is the random guy that doesn't like it roasted and drizzled with maple syrup. But we all love risotto, and I took a leap that acorn squash risotto would go over well, and it did! Though the farro, olive oil and parm are from Italy, the squash, butter & stock are all local. I added a side of local green beans & crumbled bacon. This was one heck of a meal!


Ingredients: - 1.5 cups of farro (instead of arborio rice) soaked over night or at least 1 hour - 1 acorn squash, seeded & roasted @ 425 with olive oil on it for 25 minutes or until spoon-soft - 2 shallots, sliced - 1 cup of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese - 6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock - 1 pound of green beans, trimmed & blanched - 4 slices of bacon, cooked & crumbled. Reserve the bacon grease for cooking the green beans. - olive oil - salt & pepper


Method: - so your prep is done, farro soaked, beans blanched, bacon fried, squash roasted, veg prepped. Put your stock into a sauce pan & add the squash. Set it over medium then reduce to low. Sprinkle in some dried thyme. - drain your farro - in your risotto cooking vessel, I like a large Dutch oven, melt some butter & olive oil and add the shallots. Cook until just translucent and soft, then add the farro and sauté over medium for 3-5 minutes. - add your stock/squash mixture a ladle at a time. Stirring constantly. - at the 20 minute mark, warm up that greasy bacon pan and add a bit more olive oil, toss in the beans and sauté over medium/high. Ladle in some stock, reduce the heat to low and cover. Check to make sure they don't over cook, you want crisp, and bright green. - it took 30 minutes over medium heat. Stirring and adding stock. When the farro isn't al dente, add one more ladle of stock and your parm. - adjust for seasoning and plate/bowl it up. I added some fried sage from the garden and ate some too. Don't forget your bacon covered green beans!


Lucky me, we had one serving left over. It made for a fantastic lunch. Risotto is on my thanksgiving side dish list this year. You might think I'm a little nutty but there's nothing like sipping wine, stirring risotto and watching the parade!


Homemade Vanilla Extract


Now that its baking season, I'm going through vanilla like it's water! I had some vodka, vanilla beans and glass bottles so why not make vanilla? Vanilla beans are an amazing ingredient but they don't last forever in the pantry. They get dry & brittle in just a few months, but vanilla extract keeps a long long long time.


What you need: - Five 8.5 oz glass bottles (I picked mine up at sur la table) - 10 vanilla beans (found mine on Amazon) - One 1.75 liter bottle of vodka or bourbon (I went with Svedka Vodka, not bottom shelf but it only cost $20) - a funnel (optional if you have a steady hand) - labels (I found mine on Etsy) - 25 minutes to pour, slice & close the tops


Method: - fill each bottle with vodka, leaving 2-3 inches of air space - slice each vanilla bean in half lengthwise - scrape the seeds out of the bean and either drop them into the bottle or place them back onto the bean pod and slide it into the bottle. Either way, the seeds and pod need to be in the bottle. - put at least 2 whole beans into each bottle - close them up and label them - store in a dark, cool, dry place - begin using 1-2 months after bottling


After just 5 days I already see a drastic color change. The vanilla is infusing the vodka, and the scent is out of this world. I cannot wait to bake cookies, brownies, etc...with my homemade extract.


Halloween Here We Come

20120930-131934.jpg Now that October is here, my jack-o-lantern candles and pumpkins are out on display. I love seeing bits of orange throughout the house, and the evening candlelight glow is quite magical.


Now that I've stocked up on candy, I'm also thinking about a Halloween menu. Last year we made homemade pizzas and dips. This year I might class things up with pumpkin soup, pumpkin truffles and.....tbd. I also have hopes of making pumpkin shaped sugar cookies for my son's class!

Before I can really dig into Halloween I need to finish cleaning up the back garden and plant my garlic bulbs. Ah - responsibility.


Though I have a few things left on my to do list, I'm ready for autumn & winter. Nothing gets my household ready for crunchy leaves and cool nights like watching It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! It really is the best way to get ready for all of the fun & treats of autumn, even if all you get is a bag of rocks!


How do you get festive this time of year?