Category Archives: Food & Cooking

Discovered Another Spice Shop

We’re taking it easy this weekend. No canning, no smoking, no big house projects.

Today was just a laid back day. Sean had a hair cut scheduled this morning, so I got to sleep in while he went out to take care of that. When he got home we had a tasty BLT brunch using some persimmon tomatoes we grew ourselves. I know I know, I shouldn’t be eating tomatoes because it causes my rosacea to flare up… but these didn’t really seem to bother me that much. Maybe it is the lower acidity, I dunno.

I had never had a persimmon tomato before and was surprised to see the inside is different from your usual tomato. Instead of having those large seed pockets your typical red tomato has, the persimmon tomatoes were pretty meaty with lots of little seed pockets marbled through it. And they are huge! The persimmon tomatoes are more than a pound each, and one slice covered the entire piece of bread. We have a lot of tomatoes out there, so if anyone wants some please let us know. I am still amazed we succeeded in growing them. Those tiny little seedlings we planted in the spring are taller than me now! I totally underestimated how much they would grow when we planted them.

Food devoured and a few chores done, we decided it was time to head out. After stopping for a quick visit with Sean’s grandmother we headed to Cameron Village. I spotted a spice shop I had never noticed before named Penzey’s, and just had to stop in. We usually buy our spices from Savory Spice Shop in Lafayette Village, but it is a pretty long drive. Cameron Village is closer than Lafayette, so I was hoping Penzey’s would be a good alternative.

Well, it isn’t. If I need something that is hard to find, and I happen to be in Cameron Village, I would buy from them… but I just don’t like the shop. Not only is it more expensive, but it just lacks all of the appeal that Savory has. When you walk into Savory you immediately feel welcome. Savory is small and has a warm, inviting atmosphere. The moment you walk in the proprietors greet you and ask if they can help.

At Penzey’s the one cashier said nothing to us, it was too bright, too “arranged” and the classical music was too loud. I found myself speaking softly and the other customers seemed to share the feeling, as everyone seemed afraid to make any noise. It was like a spice museum. The only thing I can say for Penzey’s is that they do have a larger selection, including the sweet curry power that I was trying to find ages ago. But I don’t plan on shopping there unless I have to.

 

Things learned since last post:

  • There is a Southern Season Outlet store I had never heard of before??
  • If your soup turns out too salty, add in some cooked potato to absorb the salt
  • Persimmon tomatoes look like this inside:
Borrowed from lovesown.com

 

I must be hungry, this is all about food

Today I went to Foster’s Market for lunch. Now I am wondering why I have never been there before, despite having known about this place for nearly 5 years. I had the most awesome sandwich… avocado, bacon, baby spinach, herbed cream cheese, and a little basil mayo on sunflower bread. It was so wonderful that I might just have to start venturing outside the downtown area for lunch at least once a week from now on.

And, while I was there, I spotted a poster advertising their “Family Meals.” It is one of those programs where you get 5 pre-made meals to reheat throughout the week. I checked out the menu on their site… not all of the weekly menus look appealing, but the one for next week does. I discussed it with Sean and I think we are going to give it a try as an experiment. If it works out, it will be nice on the weeks we like their menu. It would save us money grocery-wise, and it would also be convenient since I get home later these days thanks to my new commute.

Well, for a follow up to my last post… my fig preserves were a complete failure. The figs I got at the farmers market were already too soft and mushy after only one day, and some were even fuzzy. I wasn’t very happy with that, and had to throw out quite a few. And then they burned… I should know better than to trust this book’s cooking times by now. I never get the same results the recipes call for if I rely on the author’s times, but if I adjust the recipe they are normally great. I didn’t really adjust this time, even though I knew I should have. Oh well. Maybe I will try it again later if I get motivated.

My blackberry and blueberry jellies came out pretty well though. I am pleased, because I didn’t actually have a recipe for the blueberry… I just winged it. I think next time I can even try it with less sugar, but next time will probably be next year. I think I have enough jelly for quite a while.

That leaves my peaches. Some of those were kinda gross too, so I tossed them last night. Hopefully it comes out well. I am hoping it is good enough to put in oatmeal, or maybe yogurt. For the past week I have been trying to bring (steel cut) oatmeal in to work, and am getting a little tired of the brown sugar and cinnamon I have stashed in my desk drawer.

I am wondering I can start a format where I list things I have learned since the last post…

Things I have learned:

  • If a baby is exposed to a foreign language that sounds different from their native language, between the age of 8-10 months, it affects the language center of their brain and will make it easier for them to learn that language later in life. The catch? It must be a real person speaking, not a recording.
  • Steel cut oats contain a lot of fiber and will keep you full for quite a while, but any “quick” oats have had the fiber stripped away are basically the same as white rice at that point, they will cause your blood sugar to spike and then dip after maybe an hour which will leave you hungry again
  • Cinnamon helps control blood sugar levels (helps avoid that dip that makes you hungry)
  • Doctor Radio on SiriusXM repeats a lot of programming (hence the previous things I learned)
  • Don’t put fingers near the edge of a steam juicer lid when it is steaming (ouch)
  • You can test pectin content in fruit juice by mixing it equal parts with grain alcohol
  • And some work stuff no one will care about

 

Peaches, Blueberries, Blackberries, Figs, Brisket…

I am going to be busy for the next couple days, so probably still won’t get around to those pictures. Today at the farmers market I went a little overboard. Again. Right now I am trying to decide if I want to start making jelly at 9pm… it is weighing a choice between staying up late, spending all day cooking tomorrow, and/or finishing things up after work on Monday.

So what all will I be making? Blueberry jelly, blackberry jelly, peach jam, and fig preserves. And to top that off, tomorrow we will smoke some brisket and some ribs while Sean helps Wendell change his brake pads. Should be a full day!

I made jelly!

I made my first successful batch of jelly last night. The steam juicer is pretty awesome. Dumping fruit in and letting it steam is so so much easier than the other methods of extracting juice… which involve a lot of smashing, straining, and waiting.

There are now 6 half-pint jars of blackberry jelly in my stockpile of canned goods. I might have to see if I can find enough blackberries to make more next weekend, since I will probably give some of this away. I am very please with how it turned out. And next weekend I will probably give blueberry jelly a shot as well, since there are still plenty of blueberries at the market. There are also tons and tons of peaches right now, so I need to investigate using those for tasty things as well.

I was rooting around in the fridge earlier today when I realized some cherries I bought last week had been pushed to the back and forgotten. There were too many to eat before they went bad, so thanks to the success of my blackberry jelly, I decided to try some cherry jelly. I have the jars sterilizing now, and the juice waiting on the counter. Just have to figure out which recipe I want to use!

Happy Weekend, Everyone!

(this is my first actual real post on the new site!)

I am excited that it is the weekend, and that it isn’t going to be triple-digit temps. We haven’t gone out to the farmers market for a few weeks now, and I miss my weekly routine. This also means I haven’t really canned anything in a while. Partly because I needed a break from canning, and partly because it has just been too damned hot to a) go hang around outside at the market and b) heat up the house by cooking for long periods of time.

But now the heatwave has broken! And, I got a steam juicer! I have been wanting a steam juicer ever since I got my Jam & Jelly cookbook back in May, but the cheapest one I could find was $90. I really didn’t think I should spend that much on something I won’t use very often, especially since I am running out of space in the kitchen and Sean is getting annoyed at my hoarding of kitchen stuff. However, on July 4 a steam juicer popped up on Zulily for $48 and I just couldn’t pass that deal up.

When I saw the huge box it was shipped it I was worried, but it doesn’t take up nearly as much room as I had feared. The components all nest together so that it doesn’t take up more room than your typical stock pot.

At this point, you have probably been saying, “What the hell is a steam juicer?” since the second paragraph. Well, I don’t blame you. I didn’t know what one was before I read about it in my cookbook.

Basically it is a pot with three parts, that stack on one another. The bottom holds water, the middle layer catches juice, and the top is a basket for the fruit. The middle layer (catch pan) has a tube at the bottom, which you stick into a jar or some other container to catch the juice. In theory this means you end up with a clear juice, rather than the pulpy juice you get from a mechanical juicer.

So far my two attempts at jelly have been less than desirable. The first try was Spiced Apple Cider Jelly, which came out as syrup. Probably because I got lazy and used some apple cider from the farmers market rather than making my own with fresh apples. The second attempt jelled fairly well, but it wasn’t very pretty because we used a mechanical juicer to extract juice from blueberries. Hopefully my new toy will help me make some good jelly!

So that is pretty much my plan for the weekend. Farmers market, jelly making, probably smoke a brisket, and try to make some progress on getting the old content up on the site. Exciting eh?

Strawberries…

As mentioned in my previous post, last weekend I made strawberry syrup, strawberry butter, and bread & butter pickles. I should be stocked up on enough pickles to last for quite a while now, although once we hit cucumber season proper I promised Sean we would make dill pickles, so I guess I still have some pickling ahead of me. At least we shouldn’t be making anymore sweet pickles though… what a sticky mess! You would think the syrup would be the sticky one, but no.

The strawberry syrup & butter has a pretty low yield, only about 3 pints of butter and 2 pints of syrup from four pounds of berries. So I obviously had to make it again this weekend! I will probably never use all the syrup, but the butter is just so good I have to stock up. And I need enough to give people as gifts too of course.

This morning the berries looked so good at the farmers market that I bought two flats worth. I still have some of the first flat left after making a batch of syrup and butter, so I will probably be making at least two strawberry recipes tomorrow as well. I just ran out of time today.

This might be my last weekend of strawberries unless I come up with some other must-try recipe. I just need to get a good stock of strawberry butter while I can, but we are both pretty strawberried-out.

But then, we also planted strawberries this week. I know it is pretty late for planting strawberries, but the planter was only $2 and the plants were on clearance for $1 each. We also planted tomatoes, cilantro, basil, and oregano. With luck we will be able to actually succeed in growing something edible. And with a lot of luck and good fortune we might even produce enough to actually can some stuff we grew ourselves.

Spring!

It’s that time of the year again… where the flowers and blooming, the birds are singing, and our bank account just seems to funnel directly into Lowes and any number of other garden centers. But I love it.

Last Sunday we made good use of Sean’s new truck by bringing home 60 cubic feet worth of mulch for the flower bed in the back yard. While splitting the bags open I managed to stab myself (thanks to gloves it was only a knick) with a utility knife, which reminded me I hadn’t had a tetanus shot in 10 years… so got one of those Wednesday and have had a very sore arm ever since. It is better now though.

Today the spring time fun continued. We started out the day with a trip to the opening day of the North Hills market, where we picked up some shishito and tomato plants as well as some other goodies. Then we went to check out the crawfish boil at Lafayette Village before heading to the state farmers market.

The state farmers market is running over with strawberries. This week they were all dark red and sweet, unlike the past couple weeks where they were bright and tart. So I picked up two buckets of those and plan on doing some more canning tonight or tomorrow. I have three new canning recipe books that I am dying to try out. One of the recipes at the top of my list is strawberry syrup, from which I can use the pulp to make strawberry butter.

I also found some good looking cucumbers, which will soon be bread and butter pickles. And we spotted some bigger tomato plants out there, so I might have to pick some up of those next weekend.

After our farmers market visit it was back to Lowes for some soil, tomato cages, and flowers for the deck. Of course I got the wrong size planters for the holes in the deck, so I get to go hunt for some square 15” planters tomorrow. They are surprisingly hard to find, and the ones we have are starting to fall apart.

Once we returned home we sawed the legs off a long raised planter that the bottom had fallen out of, and put it on the ground for our tomatoes and shishito peppers. Of course there is a chance Eddie will munch on them there, but we will see how it goes. I had already ordered some of the Topsy Turvy (they were on sale super cheap) hanging tomato planters and one strawberry planter from Ace last week, so they should be here soon. So next weekend means another trip out to a garden center for soil and plants… although it will probably be Logans this time.

I really hope our tomatoes and peppers grow, and don’t end up being bug food. Fingers crossed! Guess I had better start reading up on tomato growing and pest control. The last time we tried growing things it ended up infested with green caterpillar-like worm things, and the strawberries became bird food. This will be my first attempt at tomatoes and shishito. The most I have to go on is a very vague memory of my great grandmother growing tomatoes in the back yard.