Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tag! You're It.

I was tagged today by sweet Kate at Kids & Cocktails. It's my first tag too, so, this is rather exciting!

4 things I did today
1.) Went grocery shopping
2.) Finally bought the newest Domino
3.) Played Frisbee with one of my pups
4.) Watched my husband solder my laptop power cord to make it functional again! It was a scary moment when I thought it was a goner. He is definitely my hero!

4 things on my to-do list
1.) Learn how to fly a plane (long term to-do!)
2.) Travel to Russia... and Peru... and India... and Ireland... and New Zealand... and ok, I'll stop here because truthfully the list is almost endless!
3.) Make Apple Crisp- I've been wanting to make some for days, but haven't gotten around to it.
4.) Finish some wedding thank-you notes (ack! I know, Mom! Some of the gifts only came in recently though.)

4 of my guiltiest pleasures
1.) The Hills & Army Wives...hokey shows? Yes. Am I addicted? Yes.
2.) Currently, Peanut Brittle Ice Cream (sadly, a seasonal flavor)
3.) Magazines (see below...)
4.) Starbucks (which I haven't had in a while b/c I've been making my coffee at home every day. Oh, but a flavored soy latte and slice of pumpkin loaf- yum!!)

4 random things you probably didn't know about me
1.) I've been a vegetarian for 12 years, although for the last 6 or so, I have only been a semi-veg, as, on occasion, I will eat fish.
2.) I am a complete magazine-addict and have a degree in Magazine Journalism, but I've never worked at a magazine.
3.) I hate tomatoes (it's a texture thing,) but I love tomato-things: tomato soup, tomato-based sauces, salsa, etc. Oh, and fried green tomatoes- delicious!
4.) In second grade when my youngest brother was born, I told my entire class his name was the one I had wanted, rather than the name my parents actually had given him! Embarrassing when I was busted two weeks later... :)

Thanks Kate!

If you'd like to participate, consider yourself tagged! Leave a comment; I'd love to read your list.

This little piggy...

I read about the Etsy shop Chez Sucre Chez on Design*Sponge today, and I am absolutely smitten with this tote! I really do adore pigs, and for me, this the sweetest way to imagine the ending of "This little piggy goes to market!"

Just A Toy

TWD ~ Creme Brulee

Tuesday with Dorie is here again and Mari of the blog Mevrouw Cupcake chose Creme Brulee; found on page 393 in Dorie Greenspan's cookbook: Baking From My home to Yours. I have always wanted to make creme brulee but learned that using a torch to melt sugar is not that easy. In fact, the recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon of sugar sprinkled on top of each creme brulee and this makes a really thick and overly crunchy crust. I figured about a teaspoon and a half was an ample amount of sugar. I can't wait to see other fellow TWD bakers and their brulees to see if anyone else had dark spots on top when taken out of the oven?

The torch was definitely fun to use and I can see using this little torch on meringues in the future. I also can see I need practice. The recipe is simple to make and fast to put together. The biggest part of the recipe is the waiting time for the little creme brulees to chill. Next time, I would like to use only 4 ramekins so there is a deeper spoonful of the custard to scoop from. I didn't deviate from the recipe because I already LOVE vanilla flavor and wanted the original recipe to be my first try.

There are just a few ingredients needed to make this custard. Starting out by bringing heavy cream and whole milk to a boil is easy enough.

Whipping the 3 egg yolks, adding sugar (I used by vanilla bean flavored sugar), and the vanilla. Making sure not to add to much air so there are as few bubbles in the mixture as possible.

I used my gravy grease separator for pouring the liquid custard. By using this cup, very little bubbles on the surface poured into the little ramekin dishes.

I have had these little porcelain ramekins for a while now and finally was able to use them. The first ramekin, I poured the custard from a regular measuring cup and there were bubbles on the surface. After using the other cup, no bubbles.

I was worried about the brown spots on top of the custard. I do not remember ever ordering a creme brulee at a restaurant and seeing anything colored like this.

This one has a thinner crust of sugar but the coloring looks a little rough =).

This one had almost the whole tablespoon of sugar on top and I found the thick, caramelized sugar crust to be too much. Less sugar on top for us.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Window Shopping {LF Jewelry Designs}

While I have bracelets and earrings a plenty, somehow I do not have the equivalent number of necklaces; they are an accessory that I love, yet do not manage to purchase quite as often.

While doing a little "window" shopping, I came across these sweet, delicate and affordable necklaces from Etsy shop LF Jewelry Designs. I like that most of them appear dainty enough for easy everyday wear.

In honor of her upcoming birthday and to celebrate the beginning of her last year in her 20s, the shop owner of LF Jewelry Designs is offering all regularly priced items at 20% off through the 2nd of October.

*Update- Lindsay, owner of LF Jewelry Designs, wanted everyone to know that the first image was photographed by Cameron Kline Photography

Crushed Blackberry Sundae with Toasted Pecans, HomeMade Caramel Sauce, and Whipped Cream

Thinking back, I do not recall ever making my own caramel sauce. I picked the last of our blackberries for this season and wanted to make something special but light. Looking through recipes and ideas, an ice cream sundae with a blackberry sauce sounded really tasty. Bobby Flay did this Blackberry Sundae with HomeMade Caramel Sauce that really sounded unforgettable. In fact, I read this recipe several days ago, along with many others, and this recipe is the only one that I kept thinking about, mainly because of the homemade caramel sauce. A vanilla bean is used in the caramel and the sauce itself sounded easy to make. No crucial timing, no worrying about overcooking, nothing but simplicity.

Today, I finally had the time to give the recipe a try. Besides, I was worried about losing my blackberries since they have been in the refrigerator for 3 days. I also looked for any chance to use my vanilla bean flavored sugar. I sprinkled this sugar on the berries with the Creme de Casis and I sprinkled the sugar on the whipped cream. I absolutely love vanilla bean flavored anything. I know so many other cooks are looking for the brilliant flavor combinations along with color but I really think that the vanilla beans gets overlooked at times. Whats wrong with loving this simple flavor?

The recipe? Simple, easy, and can definitely be used as a showstopping dessert for dinner guests. The flavor really pops with toasted pecans chopped into large pieces, homemade vanilla bean flavored caramel sauce, fresh blackberries, and homemade whipped cream. I believe that frozen blackberries, dethawed, would work just as well.

Crushed Blackberry Sundae with Toasted Pecans, Homemade Caramel Sauces, and Whipped Cream

1 cup pecans
1 quart premium vanilla bean ice cream
Caramel Sauce, recipe follows
Crushed Blackberries, recipe follows
Freshly whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spread the pecans evenly on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8to 10 minutes. Remove and let cool before coarsely chopping.

Place a scoop of ice cream in a parfait glass and top with caramel sauce, crushed blackberries, and pecans.
Repeat 2 more times and then top with a large dollop of whipped cream.

Caramel Sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split in 1/2 lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
Pinch salt

Place the heavy cream and vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove the cream from the heat and let sit while making the caramel.

Whisk together the sugar and water in a medium non-reactive saucepan over high heat. Cook until dark golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.Remove the caramel from the heat and immediately add the cream slowly,stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Return to the heat and cook until the mixture becomes smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and salt. Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately.

Crushed Blackberries:
2 pints blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cassis liqueur

Combine the blackberries, sugar, and cassis in a medium bowl and stir well. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, use a fork to crush the blackberries.

These sundaes are so worth making again! Delicious =)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pinzgauer Beef For the Freezer

We live around a lot of farms and buying a half or quarter cow to have in the freezer over the winter is such a wonderful feeling. An abundance of hamburger, stew meat, and beef bones for flavorful stocks and soups is at my fingertips. I work with a plumber right now who raises Pinzgauer cows with his neighbor and best friend. Between the two farms in Centralia, WA, they have quite a few acres to raise their herd of cattle. This beef is suppose to be so much better then Black Angus for several reasons. One of which is that the meat is leaner. Less waste to fat when butchered and cooked. The butcher that Paul and Matt, the two cattle farmers/constructions workers, use has been butchering beef for years. In fact, Roger, the butcher, has been butchering beef for Paul and Matt's fathers, when the two were still toddlers. Roger stated that 2 Black Angus steer will fill a 55-gallon drum with waste of fat, etc., when butchering yet ALL 12 head of Pinzgauer beef butchered only filled (2) 55-gallon drums with waste! The meat is lean and tender. Graded at Choice, an excellent quality and marbling. The grades for beef are Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, and Canner. Quality grading is voluntary by packer and not all packers choose to grade the meat. Pinzgauer beef have increased wean weights, thrive in all climates, early maturing and disease resistant, with tender lean beef without losing "any" flavor.

The cows were grain fed and went to the Butcher in late August. This is a general time that most beef cattle go to the butcher in the Fall period. The meat was hung for 21 days and then cut into specifications of each person paying for their half or quarter. The butcher, Roger, is a wholesale butcher, not retail. This means he breaks the beef down into specific cuts and only offers "some" specialty cuts. I, of course, have to be a pain in the butt and ask for all the specialty cuts I can get away with, such as Porterhouse steaks, briskets, leftover tender roast after cutting the Porterhouse steak.

An interesting point I learned and want to share is this. My half cow weighed 428 pounds. After butchering and discarding large bones, and waste, the meat I received was around 300 pounds. I paid 3.50 per pound "before" cutting and packing. This is a great price compared to what I pay in the grocery store for my different cuts of beef throughout the year. BUT I had no idea when ordering a half cow ~ a person only receives 3 Porterhouse steaks per cow side. If I order a whole cow, a butcher can only get 6 Porterhouse steaks. The region for this tender and luxurious cut of beef is that small of an area on a cow. I was shocked. Here I am counting all my steaks before I knew the facts. I would like to also add that I printed out a diagram of the cow and all the sections, labeled all the cuts I could receive out of each section and gave an estimation of how much hamburger, stew meat, and soup bones I would get. The whole research and labeling took me about 3 hours. I was told to call the butcher directly. . .and boy did I get a wake-up call. That is when I found out that butchers cutting and packing cows in large numbers for farmers all over the area are wholesale butchers and Roger told me how my cow was going to be cut up, what I could expect for cuts of meat, what did I want for a general weight per roast (4 or 5 pounds each: I choose), did I want soup bones, (I asked for the brisket and Porterhouse: specialty cuts), what grade of hamburger did I want (He listed 2 percentages of fat content), (Oh, I also asked for a rib roast so I was given a choice of how many bones I wanted: 6 or 7) and did I want more steaks then roast? Holy SMOKES! This whole conversation lasted 5 MINUTES TOPS! The man was professional, nice and straight to the point. No holds barred! My little diagram and cuts got to go into a file for "gee, now I know what to look for in the grocery store when I want something to fit a specific recipe". Example, Skirt steaks. . .different then flank steaks. I use this cut quite often. I'm on my own here. Don't get me wrong, I have oodles of all the cuts I did recognize, like rib roasts, cross-cut rib roasts, tri-tip steaks, top-round steaks, tenderloin steaks, cubes steaks, and every roast I could possibly think of. It is just that, well, how many times does a person dissect a whole beef in 5 seconds. . .okay, an exaggeration. Now that I understand Roger AND I now have the beef in my freezer, I feel MUCH better. I didn't try the beef until the third night after receiving it because Larry and I would look at the freezer and go "What do you want to try first? Well, I don't know, what would you like to try first?" Then I would get frustrated and go fix something that we took out of our now organized freezers that became part of the "USE NOW" pile. We ended up BBQ'ing Rib Steaks. Even this was an ordeal for us. You see, I have a huge barrel BBQ'er for charcoal and smoking that is MINE and Larry has a HUGE gas grill with this fancy shmancy searer and there was a discussion on WHO was going to be the BBQ'er of choice for the first go around. Well, since I sneakily ordered this half cow and "then" told Larry after I committed us. . .I got caught up in the moment. . .I couldn't help myself. . .I LOVE a filled freezer because I feel like I am taking care of my family, and I had promised to work all the overtime I was given and that I could handle. . .hence my working 6 days a week, 10 hours a day for the last 2 months, (except for when we took off a week for San Francisco, which the overtime also helped on), I got to grill the first steaks!

I didn't put anything on the steaks except pepper and a little red pepper flakes. Salt goes on later because I feel salt pulls out to much moisture from the meat while cooking. After BBQ'ing to a medium rare, I let the steaks sit for 10 minutes to let the juice absorb back into the meat. The steaks were huge and the flavor was great! I was worried over all the talk about how lean the meat was and if I would loose out on flavor. . .you know, less fat content maybe less flavor? Well, restaurant quality flavor! Very good!

New problem: I organized the freezer, cataloged all the cuts of beef, and now I don't want to use them yet because I am still on my "high" for having a full freezer. I start using the beef, the freezer just won't be as full. I know, silly. . .but do you have any idea of what I went through inside (guilt wise) trying to get this beef? Yeesh! This next weekend, I am getting the "whole" weekend off. All 2 days!
P.S. I haven't defrosted my freezer yet. . .it was after work when I organized my freezer and I was already tired. Please forgive the ice built-up. . .I am a little embaressed! =)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Oh Sew Sweet

I love that these Etsy shops have given new life to sewing patterns by repurposing them into new items.

Etsy Shop Natuur/-e
Etsy Shop Paperwerks

Etsy Shop JenniferConway

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sew Lovely

I inherited my love of buttons from my mom, who has always had a soft spot for these notions. The variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and textures intrigues me as much today as it did as a child.

Image from flickr ojamaa9design

Vintage Buttons at Etsy shop onecozynest

Vintage Buttons at Etsy shop onecozynest

Vintage Metal Buttons at Etsy shop rakubuttons

Image from flickr calloohcallay

I imagine I looked much like this following a trip with my mom to gather sewing supplies; I love that the photo shows how gently these "treasures" are being held.