Saturday, October 11, 2014

Midori Traveler's Notebook (and my trip to Spain and Portugal!)

I'm headed to Spain and Portugal in a few weeks.  I'm super excited about this trip.  Both countries have been on my bucket list for a long time.  I can't wait to check them off!

When I travel, my ritual is to buy a journal that is normally way too big.  I fill it with thoughts, souvenirs and names and addresses of great restaurants or shops I find along the way.  I have a shelf full of half and one-third used journals.  What a waste of paper. 

I was trolling the internet for personal planner ideas when I came across something wonderful - the Midori Traveler's Notebook.  I recently took the plunge and bought a Midori Traveler's Notebook. I love love love the leather!! It's made in Chiang Mai, Thailand (another of my fav destinations). You can google it and you will get a million hits if you want to oogle it up close and personal. People use it as planners, art journals and daily journals.  I'm secretly envious of all those artsy people who doodle and draw in these.  My drawings consist of stick people.  But I digress.  My idea though was to take this notebook on my travels.  It is afterall called a traveler's notebook. 

I love the variety of inserts that you can buy for this notebook.  You can buy thick paper books, thin paper books, kraft paper books, lined paper, graft paper, calendars etc.  It really allows you to customize it to you! It also comes in two sizes: the regular notebook and a smaller passport size. I love that you can change the inserts and insert as many books as you want into the cover.

I went with the regular sized notebook and bought a variety of different inserts.  However, for my upcoming trip I decided to use the kraft book insert (014).  I love the look of kraft paper!!  I used scrapbook paper to cover the cover.  These papers are from DCWV's Fiesta Forever Stack.  I love the fun and festive colors and designs.  I used sticker letters for the titles. 

I will use the notebooks just the same as before in slambook fashion.  I will bring some washi tape with me to tape in ticket stubs and other souvenirs as I go along.  I have printed out mini city maps to paste on the inside to write and draw on.  It will help me keep track of my adventures.

When I come home, I will shelve the little inserts and refer back to them as a sort of scrapbook.  Spain and Portugal, here I come!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Preserving Hatch Chiles

It's that time of year again!  Hatch Chile season!!  If you don't know about Hatch Chiles, they are a very flavorful chile from New Mexico.  There's literally festivals built around this rather unassuming vegetable!  Here's a post I did on them last time: Hatch Chiles.

Well Hatch Chile season technically started a month ago.  I've just been drowning in other produce to tackle the chile issue.  People have asked me, "where have you been?" and "you haven't posted much on your blog".  I know.  I apologize.  I've been busy picking, canning and trying to enjoy what's left of summer.  I'll post the canning stuff later (peaches, plums, apples, pears, blackberries, oh my!!).  

On to the chiles.....  Freezing is the best method for preserving Hatch chiles for use all year long.  Last time I split a case of Hatch's with a friend.  I got lazy after peeling all the chiles and I froze them whole (seeds and all).  It wasn't a big deal.  When I was ready to use them, I defrosted them but had to take out the seeds before using them.  

This time I actually took the time to pre-prep so that when I pull them out of the freezer, I can just pop them into my recipes.  After the peppers had been roasted and allowed to cool, I peeled the skins off (Wear gloves!!  You'll thank me later!).  Then chopped the chiles up.  I flash froze them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper into 1/2 c. servings.  These are about the size of a can of chiles they sell in the store and believe me when I say they are much tastier!!  These are a mix of medium and mild chiles. 
You can see they freeze in a nice disk or puck shape.  After a few hours, take them out of t he freezer and place them in a large freezer bag.  You can take out pre-measured portion sizes as you need them.  For this method, they will likely last about 3-6 months or so.  
I was, however, looking for a more long term storage method.  I like to keep them for up to a year or until I use up my stash.  I placed each individual disk or puck into a Food Saver bag.  As you can see, with the air sucked out, there's less chance of freezer burn and my precious Hatch chiles will last longer!
I also froze the pre-prepped chiles whole.  I placed about 6 chiles per bag and Food Saver'ed them also.  This will keep them nice and happy in the freezer!
Anyone have some tried and true Hatch chile recipes?  My favorite is this Hatch Chile Verde.  Yummy!!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Meatless Monday: Roasted Summer Veggie Ratatouille

Summer always finds us with a bounty of amazing vegetables to choose from.  The colors are dramatic, the textures enticing and the flavors are divine!  If you find your garden producing like a banshee and are trying to use up a lot of your summer produce all at once, why not take a cue from the French?  Oui?    
Here I had a mixture of colorful vegetables from my own garden (tomatoes and eggplant) as well as some beautiful Farmer's market finds (Lebanese summer squash (Have you tried these?  You must!!) and red bell peppers).  My massage therapist also gave me a yellow squash from her garden.  She's adorable!  I was also able to use up some fresh garden basil and some leeks in this recipe!  Seriously, add whatever is in season!  This recipe was delicious and filling.  You won't miss the meat at all!  It makes for the perfect Meatless Monday dinner!!

Roasted Summer Veggie Ratatouille
Adapted from: (Anne Burrell)

3-4 small or medium Japanese eggplant, cut into bite sized 1/2 inch slices
2-3 medium summer squash (I used Lebanese and yellow), cut into bite sized 1/2 inch slices 
4-5 paste tomatoes (I had some Roma and San Marzanos), cut into 1/2 inch slices
4-6 cloves of garlic (leave whole and in outer skin)
extra virgin olive oil
dried thyme
dried oregano
Hawaiian salt
2 leeks, white and light green parts only and finely sliced
1-2 red bell peppers, cut into bite sized 1/2 inch slices
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
2-3 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2) Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place the eggplant, summer squash, and tomatoes in a single layer on the parchment paper.  I had so many veggies that I needed 2 baking sheets.  Add the whole cloves of garlic (divide them up between your baking sheets).  Drizzle vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with Hawaiian salt.  Sprinkle 1-2 tsp. each of dried thyme and oregano onto the vegetables.  

3) Slow roast the veggies in the oven for about 45-60 minutes (cooking time will depend on size and quantity of veggies).  Stir veggies a couple of times during the roasting process.  When done, vegetables should be soft and pliable and have brown edges to them.  Remove them from the oven and allow to cool.       

4) Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and coat the bottom of the skillet with olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the leeks.  Season with salt and saute until the leeks are soft.  Add the red bell peppers and season with salt if needed.  Cook until the peppers are soft, 5-8 minutes.  Pick out the garlic cloves from your baking sheet and squeeze the garlic out of the outer skins.  Discard the skins.  Add the roasted garlic to your skillet.  Use the spoon to mash up the garlic bits and mix into the leek/pepper mixture.

5) Add the roasted vegetables to the skillet with any juices that collected.  Add the vinegar and fresh basil and mix well.  Add 2-3 more Tbsp. olive oil if needed.  Taste to check your seasoning.  Serve by itself or add it to a bed of pasta.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Oui oui!!     

Harvest Monday: September 1, 2014

This post is late.  I'm late!  AUGH!  Summer has been busy and it's canning season.  My kitchen is a disaster!  But the produce stops for no one!!  

The summer garden is still pumping out harvests.  The fall crop that I planted and have been trying to give shade to has also flourished!  I managed to pick some spinach last week.  Although since we've had a warm summer, it looks like the spinach maybe bolting!  I'll have to quickly replant another round of them!  These greens make lovely salads and smoothies!
The paste tomatoes are coming along as well.  For some reason my Roma tomatoes are small this year.  They're very cute...a little larger than my largest cherry tomatoes or about 2 inches tall.  It's more like a petite roma.  Hahaha.  The San Marzano on the other hand have produced very large beautiful fruit.  Sorry Roma but I may break up with you next year just on principle.  It's not me, it's you!  =)

I've also had some tomatoes from the mystery tomato plant.  It was a volunteer this year but I think it's a Brandywine.  It has potato leaves and the fruit is a lighter pink color.  Shishito peppers have been the ultimate producer this year.  It continues to crank out peppers!! 
My cucumbers have been slow to produce this year.  The lemon cucumbers were a flop this year altogether.  I've managed to harvest a few Japanese cucumbers.  My two eggplant plants have given me a steady supply this year.  They've been good eats!!  Cherry tomatoes anyone?  I'm picking these guys almost every other day!

Happy Harvest!!
Stop by Daphne's Dandelions to see what others' are harvesting around the world!

This week's harvest totals:
  - Cherry tomatoes = 1.35 lb
  - Spinach = 0.28 lb
  - Eggplant = 0.68 lb
  - Cucumbers = 1.03 lb
  - Shishito Peppers = 0.57 lb
  - Roma Tomatoes = 0.85 lb
  - San Marzano Tomatoes = 0.36 lb
  - Brandywine Tomatoes = 0.2 lb

Monday, August 25, 2014

Harvest Monday: August 25, 2014

Summer is almost over but the don't tell the vegetable garden that!  It's been consistently pumping out all kinds of garden fresh goodies!  I've been quite happy with the harvests.  My friends' with black thumbs have been happy with fresh vegetable goodies and my friends' with green thumbs have been equally happy to trade garden goodies!  For me, it's been a win win situation.
It seems I've been having to make harvests every other or every 3 days to keep up with the abundance this year.  We've had an amazing summer here in the Pacific NW and it shows!
One of the crops that didn't like it's home in the spring/summer garden were these golden beets.  Out of a patch of them, these were the only substantial roots.  I think the area maybe too shaded.  Note to self, plant fall/winter beets in another section!
Once they were cleaned up, the baby beets were darling.  The smaller ones are the size of a large radish.  Haha.  Cute eh?  I'm roasting them with some that I bought from the farmer's market.
The basil has had a good year.  Last year mildew got all of my basil plants.  This year, it's growing crazy!!!  I debated whether to let them flower for the bees or cut them back to encourage a burst of new growth.  Yesterday I cut back half of the stems and left half of them for the bees.  Pesto anyone??!!

Be sure to stop by Daphne's Dandelions to see what other gardeners have been harvesting all over the world!

This week's totals:
- Cucumbers = 0.97 lb
- Lemon cucumbers = 0.12 lb
- Cherry tomatoes = 1.17 lb
- Roma tomatoes = 0.55 lb
- San Marzano tomatoes = 0.44 lb
- Beets = 0.31 lb
- Eggplant = 1.31 lb
- Zucchini = 0.27 lb
- Green beans = 0.04 lb
- Japanese Black Trifle tomatoes = 0.22 lb
- Shishito peppers = 0.59 lb
- Lemon basil = 0.16 lb
- Sweet basil = 0.43 lb

Monday, August 18, 2014

Small Batch Pancakes with Blackberry Vanilla Syrup

Like I said on my last post, I was so excited about the Blackberry Vanilla Syrup I had just made that I wanted pancakes!  I often find recipes for pancakes make too many.  I found this recipe for a small batch of pancakes that were yummy and the perfect size. 

Small Batch Pancakes
Makes about 5-6 pancakes (depending on size) serving 2 people

3/4 c. flour
1 and 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1/2 c. milk
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. baking powder

1)  Whisk all the ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add more flour to thicken if needed.

2) Heat a lightly oiled or buttered griddle or frying pan over medium high heat.  Scoop batter onto the griddle or pan.  Brown on both sides and serve hot with Blackberry Vanilla Syrup.  

Canning: Blackberry Vanilla Syrup

I'm a little behind on my blogging.  I had bought a flat of "Loch Ness" blackberries this summer.  I made more seedless blackberry jam and still had some leftover.  What to do with them?  I decided to try a recipe for blackberry syrup.  Yum!!  This is a canning recipe so you'll be assured of having delicious syrup all year long! 
I saved a small jar of the delicious syrup for pancakes the next day.  It was delicious!!  I also tried making an italian soda with the syrup and had it over ice cream.  OMG...yummy!!

Blackberry Vanilla Syrup
Makes: 5-6 pints

8 c. blackberry puree
5 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. pectin
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (or juice of 1 lemon)
zest of 1 lemon
2 whole vanilla beans, scraped

1)  Wash berries in a colander.  Place berries in a large pot and over low heat and using a potato masher, mash berries until they release their juices.

2)  Turn off heat and run berries through a food mill several times until the maximum amount of juices and pulp are extracted.  I believe I used about 5 or 6 pints of berries for the 8 cups of puree.  Measure out your 8 cups of blackberry puree and return the puree to a large pot.

3) Add about 1/3 cup of your premeasured 5 cups of sugar to the pectin and stir well.  Add the pectin/sugar combination to the pot and stir to mix.  Add remaining sugar, lemon juice, zest and scraped vanilla beans to the pot.  Add the vanilla bean pods (just remember to remove them prior to canning) to the pot.

4) Cook syrup over medium heat until it comes to a boil.  Stir well.  Boil rapidly for about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.

5) Skim off foam from the syrup.  Pour syrup into hot sterilized jars and leave 1/2 inch headspace.  Process jars in hot water bath for 10 minutes.