Easy Accessory Wall

This morning I woke up, looked around, and decided it was time to organize and pick up. Water cups were brought to the kitchen, laundry was put away, more laundry was thrown in the washer and dryer, dishwasher was started and then I stopped and realized I had all these necklaces. They were just sitting in this, albeit nice, container and were always tangled together. I really needed a better system.

I forgot about it, walked down stairs with a basket of laundry and saw hooks on the table. The same hooks I’ve been carrying around with me for multiple moves and the ones I recently re-found while cleaning the office a few nights ago.

With laundry on hip, I picked up the hooks and looked at them. Two seconds later laundry was dropped by the washer and I was back upstairs hooks in hand.

This was, by far, the easiest project in the world. Next to my little table I get ready at in the morning is a small wall. I decided to put the hooks in the wall and hang necklaces on them. Sort of make a visually appealing accessory wall. You can find hooks like these just about anywhere for only a couple bucks.

Next step will be to make a few lace frame earring holders and post them on either side of the mirror.

Nothing quite like cheap and easy DIY organization.

Happy Crafting,

-Heather

Easy Asiago Biscuits

I love Thanksgiving. I really, really, love Thanksgiving. I like what it stands for now in my own life. I’m marrying into a really big family, and every year Thanksgiving kicks off a series of get together’s we have during the holiday season. I love nothing more in my life than to sit around with a huge family, laughing, eating, and laughing some more. It does something for your spirit unlike any other thing can do.

For this last Thanksgiving we had to figure out what to make, and I decided on biscuits. I made some sweet biscuits using storebought biscuits, but I didn’t fall in love with them despite being filled with, of all things, Nutella. They were good straight out of the oven the first time around, but the next day – I’ll pass, thanks.

As for the Savory biscuits – homemade was the only way to go. I’m not sure I’ve ever made, in this house or growing up, a non-homemade biscuit. There may have been once or twice in college when someone else baked, but just like huge families – there’s nothing like a homemade biscuit. For a long time my recipe was the traditional butter biscuit. A nice heavy, thick, dense biscuit with bakewell creamer. Not too long ago the fiance asked if I could try a lighter biscuit. I admit I was taken aback a little…but these were “my” biscuits. My biscuits aren’t light and fluffy.

I was so wrong. My biscuits are now super light and fluffy, delicious and you don’t have to roll them…or use butter.

My new biscuit, is hands down, drop biscuits.

For Thanksgiving I made three double batches of these, all with asiago but all with different herbs (sage, rosemary and a thyme mix, which made my future uncle in-law laugh).

I guarantee you’ll love these as much as I do. They are still great the next morning, especially when cut in half and turned into skillet biscuits. Mmmm…..

Drop Biscuits: (recipe adapted from Mama’s Health)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups milk (a little fat is better than none, but not necessary. You can sub in buttermilk)
  • 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil (veggie works too)

Mix dry ingredients and then add in wet. Stir to combine and use a icecream scoop to fill greased cupcake pans or silicon molds. You actually CAN just drop these right onto a greased and floured cookie sheet no issue, but I prefer the contained look from the molds, they aren’t able to spread as much. Try both ways, they are awesome!

Bake 12-20 minutes (closer to 20 if your oven is horrible like mine) on 450 degrees (okay, I don’t think my oven EVER reaches 450 hence my issue. I dream of my double ovens in the future when our kitchen is redone). You want them to be golden brown on top and nice and crispy.

Set aside to cool off and walla, eat with hot delicious butter or gravy and you will be in heaven. I was skeptical. Biscuits without butter? I didn’t really believe it. I do now. Damn, now I’m craving them again. Off I go!

Happy Eating,

Heather

Maple Butter Caramel & Crepes

This morning, I stepped outside into 37* weather and heard the subtle crunch of a light frost under the dogs paws. The wind whipped and settled into my bones, as if it had never left and as it always does in fall, something in me changed. It was, after all, time to whip up a morning fire in the wood stove and get cooking Sunday breakfast. Today that meant making crepes. I had never made them before (surprisingly since I make ployes about once a month, if not more) but I knew I had to try them and today was the day.

Whenever it gets below 40* in the fall, I feel the need to do two things – make warm fires and start cooking Franco-American food. I don’t know the language, but it doesn’t negate the fact that I love everything to do with my heritage – mostly the food. There’s something about it that makes you feel like you’re being hugged tight by someone who loves you very much.

If you research Franco-American cuisine, you’ll find that much of it contains similar ingredients combined in different ways with different herbs. This means much of the food, as my Pepere would say, was what was in the back yard. Money wasn’t exactly falling off trees. People lived off what they raised, hunted, and grew in the garden. This normally meant chickens for eggs and meat, fowl and venison, pork for a fall slaughter, and lots of tubers & root vegetables – like potatoes.

As I was making them I decided that maple butter would be delicious on them – but how to do that? A quick search online (hey, I’m a modern Franco) turned up the easiest recipe ever. As I whipped it the steam came rolling out and it turned into this delicious maple ‘caramel’.(It wasn’t actually cooked into a traditional caramel, but it had the same consistency)

After the ‘caramel’ was done I spread it on the crepes, rolled in some bananas and drizzled the maple butter caramel over the top. Then, I ground some coffee, brewed it up – added a little milk and caramel to it and stirred it in.

Why did I do this all at 8am on a Sunday morning? Besides the aforementioned cold weather settling back into my bones, my fiance has been absolutely wonderful and fixed my car for me the last few days when the breaks got messed up. He’s been helping people all summer long with things he doesn’t have to, and he’s just a really great guy.

What guy like that doesn’t deserve a homemade breakfast in bed on a Sunday?

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Crepes:

  • Mix 1 cup white flour with 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Lightly whisk 2 eggs in a separate bowl and add a splash of milk
  • Add the liquid mixture to the dry and stir together
  • Add more milk slowly until the mixture easily fall off a spoon, but still leaves a slight coating.
  • Place the mixture into a shallow large dish, that your pan you’ll be using for crepes can fit into, and touch the bottom (so you can easily get all the mixture).
  • Heat up a pan with a rounded bottom (this is just my technique, try whatever you want!), flip the pan over. Yep, you’ll be using the bottom of it, and butter it. Dip the bottom quickly (or else it will cook there and make a mess) into the batter and flip back over onto your stove.
  • Your crepe will take a very short period of time to be done on one side. Gently (with a spatula) release it from the edges, and then slowly slide the spatula underneath the crepe and flip it. Leave for a few more seconds and it’s done.  Continue this method, while reapplying butter or non-stick spray for each crepe, until done. Mine aren’t the prettiest, but they were still pretty tasty.

Maple Butter :

  • Bring 1 cup of pure maple syrup up to the hard ball stage (roughly 250-266 degrees F. The closer you get to 266 the closer you’re getting to making hard candy, so be careful. Do this over low low heat.

(Don’t make my mistake of adding in the butter, cold, and before the syrup hits soft ball stage. It cools it down way too much, and butter makes it foam like nuts as you heat it back up)

  • Add in 3/4 cup of butter (you read right, I didn’t say this was healthy, Franco food is meant to keep meat on your bones and supply you with enough calories for a hard days work). I recommend preheating the butter so you don’t bring down the temp of the caramel
  • Either pour into a deep bowl and use a hand-mixer or put into a kitchen aid and go for it. Either way if you stand over it you’re going to get a maple syrup steam bath but you can walk away with a kitchen aid. Let it whip up until it hits butter stage – this can take a bit.

If you want maple butter ‘caramel’ like me, only heat the syrup to thread/soft ball stage and then follow the same process. You will still whip it until thick, but keep checking and take it out when it gets very very caramel like (I let mine go for a while, and it was super thick but never turned to butter. I could still drizzle it).

Spread your maple mixture onto the crepe, fold in your favorite fruit (I used bananas), roll it up and drizzle the maple butter caramel over. Did I take a picture of the final product? Nope – I was too excited to eat it and forgot.

I put the rest in a jar for use in other items, like spreading between a cake, on ice cream or just for a little sneaky dip into it once in a while.

Happy Eats,

Heather

Key Lime & Peanut Ginger Noodles + Swiss Chard Berry Slaw

The garden is exploding in one last push before the coldness of fall settles into the leafs and then into the ground. This explosion of cooler weather loving greens, and root vegetables bursting through the dirt means one thing – harvest overdrive. Tonight I couldn’t decide what on earth to make for dinner, all I knew is I needed to use up some beets, carrots and swiss chard.  As I was harvesting, and chasing dogs who run to the neighbors, I was really trying to think outside of the box. I then remembered we had key limes, then I saw coconut; I realized I might actually have enough items to make an asian inspired dinner.

As I looked around the fridge for things to use I saw a few more inspiring things – frozen wild berries, half a frozen jalapeno piece, shredded ginger and frozen udon noodles (my favorite Japanese noodle). In my typical style a recipe was nowhere in sight – just produce that needed to be used, some basic ideas of flavors and a hunch.

It turned out to be a pretty good hunch. FYI: I made it spicy, feel free to do less or eliminate the jalapeno.

Key Lime & Peanut Ginger Noodles + Swiss Chard Berry Slaw

Ingredients – Udon Noodle Dressing:

  • Juice of about 10 Key Limes
  • 2 tbspn rough chopped coconut
  • 2 tbspn ginger – minced fresh or chopped grated
  • 1 to 2 cups peanut butter
  • finely chopped 3 thick slices jalapeno, seeds and all
  • Shake or two of Penzy’s Spice Zatar seasoning
  • extra light olive oil to emulsify(Uhm, maybe 4 tablespoons?)
  • splash of red wine vinegar
  • couple drops soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Ingredients – Slaw

  • Big Bunch Swiss Chard (don’t be shy, it cooks way down)
  • 3 Shredded Carrots
  • 1 Clove Garlic, rough diced (I’ve only rough chopped in this photo, do more than that)
  • 1/4 large onion or 1 small onion diced
  • 1/4 Cup rough chopped wild blackberries
  • glug sesame oil
  • glug olive oil
  • splash red wine vinegar
  • pinch salt

Directions

Noodles

  1. Start boiling water for your udon noodles. These are normally already cooked through and you only need to very quickly heat up. Save these for the absolute last thing you do.
  2. Udon Noodle Dressing: Add everything under the dressing ingredients together and whisk in except the oils & pb.
  3. Add PB & slowly whisk in the oil, it will be hard at first but will get easier. Make sure the peanut butter is totally emulsified and smooth. You’ll obviously still have chunks of the other ingredients, but the peanut butter should be smooth.

Slaw

  1. Make sure all of your veggies are prepped. Swiss Chard should have the thick stem removed, carrots should be shredded etc.
  2. Heat up a saute pan with sesame oil. Add diced onion and garlic to just hot oil and let saute for about 2 minutes – stir to keep from sticking. Add in about a small handful of carrots and the berries. Splash in your red wine vinegar and salt. Let saute for another couple minutes until the carrots just start to wilt, but still have a slight crunch. Remove and put into a bowl.
  3. Add olive oil to pan and add in chard – be careful, make sure your chard is dry or the oil and water will cause splattering which can cause burns. No burns. It does not make for a good dinner experience. Keep adding the chard until it cooks down. Add in the rest of the carrots, and toss.
  4. At this point add in the udon noodles to your water, wait a few seconds, test one and drain them.
  5. Okay, now go back to your slaw mixture. Toss in the onion, carrot & garlic mix from before into your swiss chard and carrots. It’s done!
  6. Now, throw your noodles in a bowl and toss in the dressing.

Okay.

Ready?

EAT. Om nom nom. Tasty.

Okay, there is a reason I don’t mention the beets again.

Me and beets are at odds with each other. I literally have no idea how to prepare them properly. I actually looked up how to do it and came across the basic “throw them in tinfoil until fork tender and peel skin”. Apparently this is more like a baked potato as I found out this evening, which the fiance and I had a pretty good laugh. Turns out you’re suppose to peel them, season them and cut them up like roasted potatoes. Oh well, they’ll still taste good. The faster I can get rid of them the better. One day when I can prepare them right it will grow on me, but there’s something about a stubborn root vegetable that turns my clothes purple (I’m clumsy) that I don’t particularly enjoy right now. I will say that baked beets do smell pretty good though.

Hey, at least I can make a pretty good asian noodle dish. I have that going for me.

Happy Eating!

-Heather

Potato & Pesto Chicken Soup

We love basil in our house. I’m not sure that is the proper way to emphasize it, so in spite of correct grammar let me emphasize:

We. Love. Basil.

Thus, this explains the entire row of our garden dedicated to this herb – primarily to satisfy Andy’s constant cravings for pesto. Once the warm air hits the words are not “It’s summer”, the words are “It’s pesto time!!!!”.  So far this summer we’ve put up more pesto than I care to remember. I’m pretty sure our freezer might be made of pesto at this point. Andy has become a pro at what I refer to as pantry pesto. We don’t use $20.00 a pound pine nuts. Andy rarely ever buys anything full price – so it comes as no surprise that he won’t use pine nuts (unless they are on sale). Thus, we have experimented with all different kinds of nuts. Our favorites are cashews – you don’t need to add any salt and they give a meatier texture to the pesto. Almonds will turn it into a sort of pesto paste. Walnuts were okay – but not our favorite. Then there were the peanuts…oh God, the peanuts. Pesto should never, I repeat never, contain peanuts.  It’s like peanut butter pesto (just think about it).

So, in honor of our freezer of pesto, and the fact we still have a ton of basil to harvest before our first frost, which is quickly approaching,  I decided I needed to use some of the pesto up. (the rest of the crop will probably get turned  into..you guessed it..pesto. I wonder if I can get some of it and freeze it before he notices?)

Since it was our first cooler evening, I got the “fall” bug. To me this means hot hearty stews. I had roasted a whole chicken, and decided to use some of the juices and the freshly roasted herbed breast to make this stew. Potato Pesto soup was something my good friend Meg introduced me to in college. I sort of took it and made it my own this time around. I included other veggies, like spinach and red pepper, and took out some ingredients, like ditalini pasta and about 17,000 calories of cream. By the way, I am in no way knocking cream based soups – me and cream are like wheat on rice, only not as healthy.

Enjoy this recipe and as a pantry cook, tweak as needed! Throw in what you have, take out what you don’t have, and add things that I haven’t. That’s all the fun of being a pantry cook – making things your own, and only using a recipe as a very loose guideline.

Potato & Pesto Chicken Soup

  • 1-2 cups Shredded Roasted Chicken Breast
  • Chicken broth reserved from roasting (skim fat, but remember, fat is where the taste is so leave some)
  • 2 cups Pesto
  • 1 medium/small onion
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 small red pepper
  • 7-8 medium/small potatoes (well rinsed)
  • 1 pad butter
  • Fresh spinach (maybe about a cup?) and extra basil if you want
  1. Turn your soup pot on, and add about a pad of butter. Dice the onion and red pepper, and mince the garlic and add all three to the hot butter.
  2. Saute until the onion and garlic smell good and are slightly translucent.
  3. Dice up your potatoes into about 1 inch chunks and toss into pot – stir and mix all ingredients. Let saute, occasionally stirring, for about 5 minutes. Don’t let the potato’s stick to the bottom. This isn’t really a saute at this point as the potatoes will release starch and water (it’s good).
  4. Add in broth, pesto and enough water to thin out the pesto into a stew consistency. You don’t want it too thick, but you also don’t want it to be thin and broth-y – make it somewhere in the middle. It should cover a potato something like this when you first water it down.
  5. When you can easily pierce a potato, add in the roasted chicken just to warm, the spinach (torn up into pieces of you’d like) and the extra basil if you so desire (I’d recommend rough chopping it).  Simmer for about 5 minutes, just long enough to warm up the chicken. It looks pretty unappetizing at this point – but it smells awesome. If you have younger kids go ahead and call this Shrek Soup – they would probably love it.
  6. Serve! Because of the potato’s you won’t need any extra carbs to go with this dish (i.e. bread to dip in, croutons, etc) but that being said – we had garlic bread anyway.

This is an extremely hearty meal that stands alone easily ( I only ate about 1/4 of everything because I was so full). With the amount of potato’s in it – it goes a long way. I was able to get dinner for 3, lunch for 2, and another dinner for 1 the next night from it. It’s quick to make and goes a long way. I don’t recommend having this every night because of the foods involved – but it’s great to warm those bones and put some heat back into them when the cold starts settling in deep.

Enjoy and remember, being a pantry cook is all about making it work for you.

Happy Eating!

Heather