Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday Sort

Hesitantly, I am introducing a new feature to this blog.  It is called the Saturday Sort and is devoted to organization in the kitchen (and elsewhere, if I ever get past the kitchen).  I worked hard this week to get my out-of-CON-trol pantry in order.  I moved on to the refrigerator/freezer.  The hard thing about this is the need to show you the before and the after picture.  I LOVE the after pictures, but I am not so fond of the before pictures.  But in the interest of full disclosure, I feel I must let you know that I am, in fact, human and life gets away from me sometimes...the result is the following....AHHH!

  The Before (how embarrassing!)

Although, I did not read this article from Real Simple regarding cleaning out your pantry, I did use the following tips for cleaning out the pantry:
1. Assess the contents - sort out and throw away what you will never use.  I did this by putting like things with one another in one area of my kitchen as I took everything out of the pantry.
2.  Store foods systematically - in my kitchen this means things are sorted by baking, cooking, grains, snacks, cereals, drinks, and condiments. 

This may seem overly simplified, but it really is easy to do these things.  My general rule of thumb is to be zealous for ridding myself of things I will not use.  When in doubt, throw it away (or donate it, if possible).  It is very helpful to start with a clean slate and the only way to do that is to remove everything from the pantry and start from square one.  With a bare pantry, it is easier to think about how you cook and store food and go from there.  I forgot to take a picture of my empty pantry, but if you can't use your imagination to picture it, well...

So using those two (incredibly over-simplified) rules-of-thumb, here is the result. 

 Ahhh...doesn't that feel much better?


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Banana Bake-Off

Something has come over me in the last few days.  I feel like baking more than normal.  Maybe I am trying to get it out of my system before it is way too HOT to bake anything!  Oh, and when I have lots of ingredients to use up before they go bad, I also get the baking bug. 

The result is a Wednesday evening banana bake-off.  I was perusing some cookbooks on Wednesday afternoon and came across a most intriguing recipe called King Cupcakes.  They of course are inspired by the KING of rock'n'roll, Elvis' love of peanut butter banana sandwiches.  The back story on why this recipe jumped off the page is Drew (my most-of-the-time non-dessert-loving-husband)'s love of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup inspired by the same thing (he has a knack of finding a food/drink item that no one else likes, falling in love with it, and lamenting the all-to-soon disappearance of this item for YEARS after they are gone).  Thus, I thought he would at least try these cupcakes. 
Oh, and I also had some over-ripe bananas that needed to be used mos'scocious (I have no proof that Elvis used this phrase, but I imagine him saying it and smile).
So, I got started on the cupcakes and found them easy to make.  The original recipe is from Cooking Light, so I, of course, used all the real ingredients to make sure I got every bit of fat in each morsel.   I will not put the recipe  since you can find it here, but I will tell you that the frosting requires a little tweaking.  I added a hint of milk to make it spreadable.  Oh...these are really good.  Drew said he would prefer a little more banana flavor in there.  This could be accomplished by the inclusion of banana extract and the exclusion of vanilla extract...I think.
While I had almost all the ingredients at hand, I also whipped up some of my Granny's Banana Bread.  I did change the recipe for the first time.  The recipe calls for water and I substituted milk.  I did not find too much of a difference, so I guess you could do it either way.  I think I will take some over to my neighbor friend tomorrow.  As stated in a previous post, I love my Granny's Banana Bread and am thankful for her example in the kitchen...great memories.  It is amazing that though our loved ones pass on, their recipes remain with us as part of their legacy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Brunch and Dessert

I am one of the few people in this world to be blessed with two mothers and a mother-in-law.  One of the nice things about mother's day is that I get to celebrate these wonderful women in my life by treating them with things they love.
Sadly, one of my moms is not close by, so we just get to talk on the phone.  But someday I hope we can do a special mother's day brunch together!
This year we changed things up for Mother's Day.  We did not go to church and, instead invited Mom and Dad over for breakfast.  It ended up being brunch due to 3 disasters in the kitchen before 9 AM!  Fun way to start the day.

So the menu for our feast was Scones, Fruit Salad, and Bacon and Cheese Quiche.  I had been looking all week for a particular item to try a new recipe but cannot locate it in the store (anyone know where I can find some malt powder?), so I decided to go with an old favorite: Classic Cream Scones from Southern Living Magazine.  The Fruit Salad was inspired by a recipe in Cuisine at Home, but is completely different.  And the Bacon and Cheese Quiche was a recipe found on a delightful cooking blog I found a couple weeks ago. 

The adventures of this morning began shortly before 6AM.  I got started on the scones and was very happy at the success of this recipe.  It could not be easier to make these (15 minutes to oven, tops) and they are wonderful plain, but can be accented nicely with the addition of lemon curd or clotted cream.  They were so easy in fact that I am thinking of getting into the kitchen later this week and playing around with this recipe.  I am thinking cinnamon pecan scones (maybe with maple)?! 

For the fruit salad I was unable to get some of the necessary fruit for the recipe from Cuisine at Home (sad lack of good peaches thus far this year) so I went with what I could get.  Aren't all the best fruit salads made from whatever you have on hand?  I was concerned with the sweetness of the strawberries I had picked because they were HUGE(!)  so I worked up a little concoction of agave nectar lime and lemon juice and poured it over the fruit.  The results were wonderful. 

Now for the woes of the day.  The first: the pie crust fell in the oven while pre-baking it.  The second: the second pie crust fell in the oven while pre-baking it.  At this I almost cried.  What to do? Run to Target for another pie crust (the frozen kind that won't fall in the pre-baking stage).  Success!  The third: Upon filling the pie-crust after getting it pre-baked, it overflowed...and overflowed....and overflowed.  Verge of tears again.  I slipped it into a pie pan and threw it in the oven and prayed for success.  Thirty minutes later...success...yay!  I don't know what was wrong with the pie crusts, but I did buy the store brand and I am considering taking them back and asking for my money back.  Have you ever had this happen to you?  The quiche tasted great - I will definitely modify this recipe in the future and use it again.  I forgot to take a picture, but after all that, can you blame me?

So, with breakfast finished, I got started on a dessert we were taking to the fish-fry at my sister-in-law's house for Drew's Mom.  Morgan requested the dessert based on the picture when she was here on Thursday, so I could not disappoint.   Besides I had been thinking of making it all along.  The recipe for Strawberry Pizza is from Cuisine at Home mag.  It is basically a pecan, shortbread-like cookie with a mascapone filling, topped with strawberries (it should have also had chocolate shavings on top, but I had a hard time locating a dark chocolate bar).  This was surprisingly light after a heavy meal.  It was perfectly sweet (but not too) and the pecans were a nice treat with the strawberries.  I don't think it needs the chocolate, but if you love chocolate, it might be a must.  Mmm...too bad I didn't get any to bring home, man was it good!

So, there you have it.  A mother's day meant to honer the mothers in my life.  I am thankful everyday for the women God has placed in my life to teach me the path of womanhood.  Someday, I hope to be a mom to some little one, so I can tell him/her all about his/her grandmothers.  Thanks, Moms!