Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring Has Sprung in New Jersey

 We finally started cleaning up the yard.  As we surveyed the garden and started talking about needed to be done, we discovered onions!  I planted and harvested onions last season.  They were small did not deter the cabbage worms.  I have no clue how all of these were still hiding in the garden.
These are easily twice, maybe three times, the size of the onions I harvested last season.  I don't know anything about growing onions, but maybe they're like garlic.  Perhaps they need to overwinter to really grow.
For the record, grocery store onions go bad after a few weeks, tops.
Organically grown onions from my garden have lasted a full year and still haven't gone bad.
Look, what's this?!

Kale!  Two of them survived despite my not doing anything to protect them.  I am working on row covers this season.  Those darn cabbage worms were such a nuisance last season and destroyed all my broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. 
BT and row covers this year for sure.

Despite the lovely Spring snow, our strawberries plants are growing in abundance.  Some have escaped their raised bed and made their way into the garden.  I'll relocate them soon.  I think I may try straw this year to keep the berries off of the ground and away from the slugs.

I will also see if picking off the runners will help produce more strawberries.  As you can see, the box is already too full of plants, I don't really need more.

Lastely, my green onions, spring onions, scallions...whatever you want to call them, are happily growing inside.  I will put them out as soon as it warms up.  The ones in the picture, I started simply by sticking the bottoms of the scallions in the pot.  Most people leave them in water, but they need soil.  They grow bigger, stronger and truly last forever. 
Ignore the random weeds in the scallion pot.  I'll get to them eventually....

I also planted the shelling peas, sugar snap peas and some beets.
While I looking forward to this year's gardening season, I am mostly looking
forward to more hours of swinging on the swings with my Peanut. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015


When I saw this book, Mastering Pasta by Marc Vetri with David Joachim, based on nothing but the cover, I thought this book was a comprehensive look at how to make pasta.  I thought it would be step-by-step and include many pictures on how to properly form the variety of pasta shapes and styles.  Let me tell you my friends, I was gravely mistaken.
 Perhaps these recipes highlight the types of dishes Vetri makes at his very successful restaurants.  I think this book was meant for people who eat at his restaurant and have no intention to cook anything from the book.  Or maybe it's for someone who likes to own cookbooks written by famous people, but does more eating out than they do actually cooking.  The reality is, this book is a book of pasta recipes with a minimal amount of pasta making information.  Not only is it mostly a pasta recipe book, but it is not a pasta making book for the average home owner. 

The bulk of the recipes in here include ingredients I am pretty sure that no one reading this has at home.  As someone with enough fresh ingredients and supplies to make food from every continent any night of the week, looking through this book, I counted a total of five recipes that I could whip up without making a run for special ingredients...and that's only if I use all-purpose flour instead of tipo 00, durum or bread flour.  Hence the reason my cookbook review doesn't have one single picture of a tested recipe.  Well, that and with nine egg yolks per batch of pasta, it would be cheaper to buy fresh pasta than to make it using his recipe.
 Vetri also uses veal and foie gras in the included recipes.  Both are foods for people who either don't have a conscious, or who like to stick their heads in the ground and say, "My meat comes from a package at the store."  Those people are idiots.  Just saying.
Honestly, I had a bad feeling about this book when I saw the first recipe was for "Pappardelle with Rabbit Ragu and Peaches." Rabbit?  Really?  The "Orecchiete with Pig's Head Ragu and Black Walnuts" made me laugh.  When I was 10, I was in Sri Lanka.  I went to the market with my mom, where I saw a goat's head.  I asked her about it, because, really, who wants to eat that?  My mom explained poor people can't afford better cuts, so they buy the parts of the animal that are leftover that no one else wants.  Yet, here in America, through good marketing, they are now selling us these crappy parts as high end specialty products thanks to good marketing. 

This book is that goat's head...or in this case, pig's head.  It is being marketed in a way that makes it seem like one thing, but really it's something else.  I'm sure it will do well.  I've read plenty of other rave reviews by people that I don't think actually read anything in it.  Well, I did.  As someone who makes homemade pasta and raviolis, dumpling wrappers, corn tortillas and even pierogies, I thought this was going to be a great way to expand on my current pasta making knowledge, but it was not.
WOULD I BUY IT?  No.  If you want a pretty book written by a famous chef, buy it.  If you want a cookbook to help you master the art of pasta, this is not for you.  It definitely wasn't the book for me.
 I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.  There was no obligation to give a positive review, and if you read my blog, you know I'm a tell-it-like it is kind of girl.  I mean what I say and say what I mean, that holds true for my review.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Adventures in DIY: Kitchen Island Dog Feeding Station

During that adventure, I left a space for a dog feeding station.
Well, quite some time ago...but since I'm a lazy blogger, I never updated my post...
I finally came up with a design I liked, handed it over to the Hubby who turned my vision
into a real life dog feeding station.

An even longer time ago, he picked up a beautiful old, wood tea table at the side of the road. 
It was a mess.  The only things salvageable was it's hardware and spindle legs.  
I was sad dismantling it, but happy we could give it a new life. 
The paint was from a random can that appeared in the basement.  The bowls are my dog's original dog bowls.  The rest was made from extra laminate shelving we had in the basement.
So basically, this dog feeding station cost just about nothing, but some time and energy.

Stop wasting money buying new things, or buying new things that look old, and actually start repurposing the things you already have!

Getting the spacing right was the pain in the ass part, but the rest wasn't complicated.
He laid the bowl upside down and traced it, then cut the hole about an inch inside the line so the bowls would have a lip to sit on.  It's not a pristine cut, but no one sees it, so who cares?

Insert bowls and voila!  I know that's not much of an explanation, but really, this was not a complicated project.  Make sure you look up guidelines for how tall a feeding station should be based on your dog's height.  I have a very large dog, so this might look very high, but it's perfect for him.

The outlet...yeah, maybe it would be more convenient somewhere else, but a real, union electrician installed it, and I don't like messing with electric.  It's not as big of a pain to use as you might think.
We hung the leashes on the side of the island, but certain tiny humans who will remain unnamed kept knocking it off and broke my owl hook.  Thanks to my lovely father-in-law who welded it back together for me.  That was right after he welded the vintage plant hanger I broke.  My father-in-law is a very patient man...

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Let me start by saying that I love the concept of Clean Slate: A Cookbook and Guide.  It's how we cook here...less processed, more homemade, vegetable based, healthier eating.  The problem is we're not always good, I do a decent amount of deep frying...mmm French fries.  The Hubby is also having a hard time wrapping his head around meals without meat being a real meal and not just an appetizer.
This book starts with a bit of info on the how's, why's and importance of eating better.  It's just enough information to be helpful without being so much that you feel like you're getting a boring lecture on nutrition.  Included in part one, was a 3-day action plan.  Basically, the same three meals for three days.  The three recipes you need are written as three servings, which makes it easy to cook it all at one shot, and then your set for three days.  I thought about jumping right in and doing it, but I realized I should probably test drive some of these recipes first.

Now I am an adventurous cook.  I use a lot of spices and techniques that maybe the average home cook would not be interested in.  This book is not for weirdos like me, it's really set up for the regular home cook.  The recipes are pretty simple, most having ten or less ingredients.  While I don't normally have arugula or watercress, the pictures in here are so appealing, I may actually go out and buy some.  I had tofu sitting in the fridge and a whole wheat ciabatta loaf in the bread box, so I thought this grilled tofu recipe would be a good place to start.

The chimichurri recipe was easy.  I did substitute dried oregano for fresh since my oregano is currently hiding under a layer of snow outside.

While the tofu was marinating, I got to thinking that the super simple avocado and cucumber salad that made up the second part of this recipe was not grabbing me.  And I knew if the Hubby came home to tofu on toast for lunch, he'd say thank you and eat it; but, then he'd quietly make himself something else because this was not going to be enough food.  Plus, honestly, while I like tofu, the idea of eating it on grilled bread...well, I wasn't sold on it yet.

Well, guess what?  Everyone liked the finished product...although it did feel like it was missing a little something.  I know my version looks like way more chimichurri than the picture in the book, but there are a bunch of videos on youtube that correspond with the recipes in this book.  In that video, they pile it on, so I did too.
In lieu of the avocado and cucumber salad that went with this recipe, I tried out the salad that's part of the 3 day action plan. You start with a beet slaw, then mix it with arugula (I used romaine, since like I said, I never have arugula) and top it was sunflower seeds and avocado.  Honestly, I could have used a handful of dried cranberries for some sweetness, but this was a tasty and incredibly filling salad.  I used to think beets tasted like dirt.  This recipe changed my mind. 

None of us were super hungry come dinner time.  I guess a salad with more than romaine and a handful of random veggies can actually be filling!  Since the salad worked out so well, I figured I'd roll the dice with the 3 day action plan soup, carrot, spinach, and green bean soup with dill. 

This actually has a ton of carrots, but they sunk to the bottom, hence you can't see them in the picture.  This soup was so easy, completely vegetarian, and really good.  I never would have thought to make such a carrot and string bean heavy soup.  Especially with water and no stock.  Much like the salad, it was a surprisingly satisfying soup.  Full disclosure, I did make a small piece of London broil, sliced thin with some grilled bread and chimichurri on the side; but honestly, I didn't need it.

WOULD I BUY IT?  Yes, actually I would.  I like that it uses vegetables that I buy every week in a way that I would never think to do.  I also like that it includes recipes with vegetables that I don't normally buy like beets and watercress, and it shows you easy ways to incorporate them into your diet.  I am a white pasta and rice girl, so the amount of recipes in here with grains like quinoa and brown rice has inspired me to go out and actually buy some to try at home.  There are even quite a few juices and smoothies, all that look worth trying out.  I'll be pulling out my Juiceman Jr. for sure.  There are recipes with meat, but I like that the focus was showing people healthy, meatless options.
The pictures are just stunning and the recipes are doable for everyone from novices to seasoned cooks.  Seasoned cooks might think these recipes are too basic, but I think that's the point.  If these recipes were complicated, people who aren't having success at healthy eating wouldn't try it.  This book is a great starting point.  What did I like best?  I was impressed at how beyond full I felt after eating these vegetable based dishes.  Certainly, if you thought a vegetarian diet could not possibly be filling, this book could change your mind.
I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.  There was no obligation to give a positive review, and if you read my blog, you know I'm a tell-it-like it is kind of girl.  I mean what I say and say what I mean, that holds true for my review.