Thursday, August 28, 2008

Long weekend.

I am working on a few small projects (house and craft). However, today will be spent cleaning and packing. We leave tonight for our little piece of heaven - my in-law's camp on the lake. We spend our anniversary weekend there every year (Yay for getting married on a long weekend, right?) and are very much looking forward to a few days away after the absolute chaos we've lived in for the past month.

Heaven has no tv (we bring DVDs in case of bad weather), no telephone (spotty cell coverage, even) and no internet (I can survive without checking e-mail daily, it seems). We cook on the fire (pizza!) just because we can. We spend time out on the water in the canoe (Monkey enjoyed it very much when we brought her over the 4th of July!). I may even get to read a book.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


As with squash, we've had quite a few cucumbers. Cucumber slices, cucumber sandwiches, cucumber cubes with hummus or ranch dip.... we've been enjoying our many cucumbers.

If we don't pickle them, our cucumbers will rot (there are just too many for a family of 3 to devour before they go bad!). So pickle we have done.

My preference is dill pickles. We've tried a few different recipes in the past, but were never crazy about any of them. Last fall, my mom tried a new recipe. When we tried her pickles, we knew we had to have the recipe. They tasted almost exactly like our favorites (Claussen)! She even pickled jalapenos and carrot slices with this one.

Here's the recipe (I can't give proper credit for this one. I don't know where my mom got it):

Dill Pickles

Put 1 pod of garlic and 1/2 tsp. dill seed in the bottom of 6-7 pint jars. Pack cucumber spears into the jars. (Double the garlic and dill and halve the jars if you are using quart jars instead). Adding 1 jalapeno to the bottom of the jars is optional.

Bring to boil 1 quart of water, 1/2 quart of vinegar and 1/2 cup pickling salt. Pour boiling water mixture over cucumbers and seal. Let set for 6 weeks before enjoying.

I have a nifty trick for easy sealing, as well. I'll share below. First, let me share our bread and butter pickles.

We saw Alton Brown making pickles on Food network one night. These need to stay refrigerated so we make less of these. Let's face it. We only have so much room in our fridge!

Ab's B and B's

1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 cup water 1 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar Pinch kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon pickling spice

Combine onion and cucumber slices in a clean spring-top jar.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 4 full minutes to wake up the flavors of the spices.
Slowly pour the hot pickling liquid over the onion and cucumber slice, completely filling the jar. Allow the pickles to cool to room temperature before topping off with any remaining pickling liquid. Refrigerate.

Easy Canning Technique

A friend of my grandmother told her about this. While she sticks to traditional boiling, I decided to give this a try.

Boil the lids in a small pot of boiling water (it melts the rubber a little and makes it more receptive to sticking to the jar). Wipe down the mouth of each jar. Take the lids out of the water, one by one (kitchen tongs are great for this) or else they'll stick together. Wipe the lid down as well. Cap jars as normal.

Place the jars into a rectangular cake pan. Be sure the jars are not touching one another! Put them in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. I let them cool on the stove before storing my jars in the pantry.

Easy, right? We don't do much canning, but I have done this with spaghetti sauce as well. I find it much easier than boiling my jars.

Get out there and make some pickles!

Happy Birthday!

I just have a moment this morning, but I wanted to wish my mother a very very happy birthday.

We'll keep her age a secret!

PS - If you go look at their most recent cake was made just for you! SHISAZ!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Morning coffee.

As I sit here, I'm enjoying my morning brew. I dread the time when we're ready to have a second child. Don't get me wrong - I love my Monkey and do want more children. I dread the 9 months of pregnancy forcing me to give up my morning cup - and the 12 months (plus) of breastfeeding where I need to pare it down. Caffeine withdrawals are the pits. Though I would rather give it up to play it safe, it doesn't mean I won't complain about it!

In the past, when we didn't really know any better, we always purchased whatever was cheapest (ground, of course). Then, while registering for wedding gifts, something made T register for a coffee grinder. Friends purchased it for us. Thus began our love affair with a fresher brew (as beans stay fresher much longer than the grounds).

We began experimenting with brands. Folgers was a name we knew well, so we started out with their whole beans. We then moved on to Green Mountain Coffee. We could measure out the exact amount of beans we wanted, as opposed to the prepackaged varieties. Breakfast Blend is still one of our favorites. Occasionally we'd foray into flavored coffees, but we always came back to Breakfast Blend. That is, until T opened our hometown newspaper one day and saw a story about a new roasting company.

Acadia Roasting Company is located near our hometown. We are all about supporting local companies and buy locally as much as we can, so it seemed pretty obvious to try them out. We have since tried all 3 of their caffeinated varieties (they do have a decaf, for you decaf drinkers) and have yet to be disappointed.

Our trips up north have always consisted of making lists of purchases we need to make (Houlton Farms butter for T, for instance). Making sure we've got a constant supply of coffee beans is now at the top of our shopping list.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Squash has overrun our home!

This being only the 2ND year we have a garden (and it's been expanded on from last year, even), we're still learning how much we need to plant to provide for our family. T has taken on the garden - and over did it just a smidgen on the yellow squash (by just a smidgen, I mean we're buried in gourds).

Yellow squash from our 2008 garden

Normally, we just slice and grill. I've tried a bunch of different recipes to change it up a bit (I'll share below). But today, I'm trying something new. Freezing.

First I hand washed the garden filth off my veggies. I dried them with a hand towel and placed them in my colander until I was ready for them.

I then seeded and chopped them into small, bite sized pieces.

I placed the pieces on parchment lined baking sheets and put them in the freezer.

I'll leave them in the freezer for a few hours to make sure they're frozen through. Then I'll transfer them to freezer bags. I've opted not to blanch them in hopes of keeping the mush at bay (or at least to a minimum). We'll see later this winter how this experiment goes.

Now for the good stuff. Recipes. These were all a success in our house (I wouldn't suggest them if we didn't like them).

The first one is something a friend suggested. I tweaked her suggestion and flew with it. I don't have any measurements (as I was flying by the seat of my pants - not something I do often when cooking. I'm a recipe follower....)

Squash Tomato Pasta

I started off with a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in my saute pan. I put in a couple chopped cloves of garlic and a thinly sliced onion. Then I added my squash chunks and cooked them through. I added a splash of Shiraz (red wine), a can of diced tomatoes and a handful of chopped fresh basil. After letting it simmer a few minutes, I mixed in a generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese. We tossed it with cooked linguine.

The following 2 recipes I got out of Parents Magazine (August 2008 issue). You'll find the article and more fresh produce recipes by clicking on the link.

Squash Nuggets

"Dip sliced squash into Italian dressing then in a mixture of seasoned bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes, or until browned."

Yellow Submarines

Parents version:
"Saute 1/2 cup chopped peppers in hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley, salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Fill four hollow yellow squash halves. Sprinkle with more Jack cheese; bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes."

My kicked up version (the Parents version just wasn't stuffed enough for us!):
Chop: 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper, 3-4 celery stalks, a small onion and a couple of big mushrooms; saute in hot oil until veggies are tender. Stir in chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste, a handful of shredded Monterey Jack and a tablespoon of Parmesan. Fill four hollow squash halves and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Just a little variety from plain old grilled squash slices!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A new start.

I've been thinking about starting a blog for some time now. Every time I come up with a great idea for one, it's always been in the middle of the night - and I can never remember exactly what I was going to do in the morning. (I hear forgetfulness is a common problem in mothers of young children).

I guess I'll start with a little about me and my life. I'm 29. I work 20 hours a week as a bookkeeper - 10 of those being in the office on my husband's day off and the other 10 are hours I sneak in when I can from home (nap time, anyone?). I also freelance (more bookkeeping) for a small trucking company (I call that my play money because I set it aside for house projects).

My husband (he'll be known as T here) is also 29 and is a nurse. He works 36 hours a week (9 hours a day for 4 days). We're lucky. Our 1 year old daughter (aka Monkey) is able to stay home with us all week and doesn't need to be sent to a sitter just so we can work. We work to live, not live to work.

We both grew up in extreme Northern Maine. On the Canadian border, to be exact. We relocated to Central Maine after we graduated college in 2002. It was a very hard adjustment for me. I come from a small, close knit family. Sunday lunch after church was something we did every week at my grandparents house. The 200 miles between us made it a little difficult for me to continue this. After living in an apartment for 2 years, we found a little house about 20 minutes out of town that was perfect for starting our life together (he had recently proposed marriage - a story for another day). We're still there, 4 1/2 years later.

Deboullie Mountain in 1999 (site of marriage proposal in 2003)

Now we're working towards a new goal: both of us working 2 days a week within the next 5 years. This is a hefty goal, but we're extremely confident in our ability to pull it off.

We've started gardening (as much for our love of fresh produce as for the money it saves us). T started a new hobby just today: wine making (we do love a relaxing drink every now and again). We are DIYers and do all we can to save money. I'll share projects and money saving ideas later...

Picture of our 2008 garden in mid-July

I'm hoping now that my daughter is getting older, I can get back into crafting. I very much want to teach her how to get her hands dirty. And I very much want to complete the 3 half finished scrapbooks that are on my shelf.

But now, I must get to work. My baby girl is napping and I've got a folder of work sitting next to me waiting for my attention.
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