School Starts and Job Beginnings

Hello, everyone! Today is the first day of school for many of you or your kids. Since I’m finally free from those  shackles… *cough* I mean I start college next year…. I no longer have to worry about that. On the other hand, I did finally find a cool job that pays well and is a lot of fun. Oh, and I also found this weird box out in the garage. It has these cool angel statues on top of it and my Oma said that Nazis were after it in WWII and that it melted some losers face off.

Just kidding! I did not, in fact, find the Ark of the Covenant. I did get that sweet job though, so there’s that. Specifically it’s a job at one of the Hyvees  in my home town. (Hyvee is a great grocery chain the Midwest.) I’m saving up money to buy a car and move out, so I might be working there for a little while. Lucky for me, it’s fun. On the other hand, I also now have money to buy new cookbooks and new inspiration for this blog.

Along with the Victorian food lineup I’ve been working on, I made a nice little discovery at a second hand store that should add a little fun to the mix. You have all heard of some of the terrible foods that were popular from around 1950-1975 right? Well, my friends, do I have a treat for you!

Like, say, this.

 

Jellocookery

*Twilight Zone Theme plays*

Shall we play a game?

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Food! Messing with Ramen

Most of us are familiar with ramen noodles. They’re cheap. They’re (kind of) filling. They’re the stock food of students everywhere. They taste like sadness and student debt. Well, I’ve never really liked how Ramen tastes, so when I was making lunch the other day and realized that was all we had left in the pantry, I finally realized that there was something I could do about it. Also, I was hungry.

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Summer!

Hello! Yesterday was rather fun for me, I had to lifeguard a pool party for some little kids. 13 boys and 2 girls.  They were pretty wild, but at least they behaved themselves the whole time. Since the people running the party were my uncle and aunt my payment was a Pinata stick and a few pizzas to take home. It was an awesome fun time!

On another note, these posts have been pretty sporadic for a few good reasons, my Mom has been really sick for the past few months and will be in surgery soon, so I’ve been taking care of things around the house and with my siblings.

The other things I’ve been working on are nearly complete or getting toward a stage where I can share them easier and have people like them. One of these is that E-book I previously mentioned, ‘Lavender’, and the other is this ‘constructed Language’ I’ve created to fill in the signs and literature of my Minecraft world.

But this is foremost a food blog, and before those get shared this blog will once again be filled with delicious food, because I planned out a lineup of meals I’ll make for the blog. Most of these are going to be pulled out of a Victorian cookbook of mine. While some of the recipes are questionable at best (Turtle soup, Head Cheese and the ‘BOIL ALL THE THINGS’ mentality toward veggies) I’ve picked out the ones that sound great. Also, since my Mom will be recovering from surgery I’ll be making different dinners and meals for my family, so that gives me a much better excuse to get off my bum and back to cooking.

 

Homemade Naan bread

I’m a big fan of curry and naan bread, especially with a good chutney.

Which is why when my mom was out volunteering the other day I decided to try making homemade naan bread with chicken curry and rice. The nice thing about curry is that it’s not only good for you (as long as you don’t eat artery-clogging cream varieties in excess) and is absolutely divine.

This blog post will go over making naan bread step by step, while also making a few other foods to go along with the meal. The naan is the hardest part, while the other parts of the dinner were mostly just remnants from previous meals and all they required was heating up. So if you have shredded, pre-cooked chicken, rice, and curry sauce, then you’re good to go with the entire meal.

But your not reading this blog for mindless chatter, you’re here for food. So here it is!

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The Science of Syrup part 2

The syrup is finished and I have a ton of photos to share! At this point the hardest part of making the syrup is keeping an eye on it and having some patience while it boils. It’s very straightforward. Just, whatever you do, do not do this inside unless you have a fire extinguisher on hand at all times and do not over boil it. You might think about keeping a first aid kit nearby, because if you get boiling sap on any part of your body I can promise that it will hurt.

As I’ve stated before, you probably should take a class before trying to make maple syrup by yourself. It’s also funner and safer if you have someone helping you along the way, so if you do accidentally catch something (or someone) on fire, you’ll have help on hand.

 

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Very full sap bags, these can be very hard to pour out without making a big, sticky mess.

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Dad pouring a portion of the syrup into a boiling pan

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The spare syrup will be boiled later or used in desserts or drinks

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Starting the boil process.

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Notice the change in coloration? It’s turning into syrup.

 

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Filtering the syrup before boiling it further.

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It’s a nice, amber color at this point but it could be darker.

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Boiling it down further with a hotplate on the porch. Classy.

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This is where we had to watch the syrup at all times. The last stage we had to do indoors because it rained. You can see how thick the syrup is at this point and how dark it’s gotten.

 

The Science of Syrup: Part One

When you think of maple syrup, what comes to mind? Thick, gooey, amber liquid cascading over fluffy pancakes on a Sunday morning? An icy, fun treat in the winter? A refreshing drink in the summer? I’m guessing you weren’t expecting those last two. It’s true though, maple syrup is incredibly versatile and delicious.

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Weirdest things to google…. “Beautiful Pictures of Pancakes”. Picture copyright Local.com

 

 

Most anyone knows that maple syrup comes from the sugar maple tree. What most people don’t know is that it can take up to fifty gallons of plain sap to make one gallon of pure syrup. Yep. That’s a lot of sap. My next post will give you a demonstration on harvesting and making maple syrup from start to finish (I’m video editing right now) so today I’ll go over the science behind making this delicious treat and the history behind it.

Maple syrup has been made and cultivated for a very long time, originating with northern native American and native Canadian tribes who would drink the sap from the sugar maple tree. They learned that by heating the sap over a fire, they could evaporate some of the water and liquid in the sap and BOOM; maple syrup was born. No one is exactly sure how these people discovered that the sap of the sugar maple was sweet, but one story account told to me at a maple syrup meet up was that a brave was testing a bow and shot into a sugar maple tree. The arrow stuck into the tree deeply and the brave was unable to retrieve it. He came back the next day with a knife, intending to cut the arrow out, but found that sap from the tree had dripped down the arrow into a pool around the tree’s base. After pulling out the arrow, the brave put his now sap-covered hand up to his mouth and discovered that the sap was delicious. While I highly doubt this is what really went down, it makes for a fun story.

Maplesyrupeh

Maple syrup has to be made at a certain time of year, when the sap in the roots of winter-dormant maple trees starts to rise back up into the leaves for spring. Typically this time is around late February to early March each year. This is the time when the snow melts and the temperatures begin to rise in the daytime. Ours came in May one year. That wasn’t fun. This is the optimal time to being collecting sap.

The evaporation process of making Maple syrup is done in many ways. You could use the boiling method (the one I’ll be demonstrating later and the most common one), air evaporation (rarely used commercially but can be the subject of science experiments) or freezing. The latter two are rarely ever used for making maple syrup for consumption, but are frequently witnessed by people going to check on the open taps of maple syrup collecting buckets, where the water freezes in syrup and leaves behind a slightly thicker sap. Dry, cold air is the usual culprit of air evaporation.

The sap itself doesn’t travel through the tree like water through a pipe, instead, it flows through the sapwood of the tree. The sapwood sits just above the heartwood and under the bark. When you’re pounding in a spigot, just beyond this layer is the optimal place for it. If you pound a spigot too deep into the heartwood or if the tree is too small to sap from, you can kill the tree.

Homemade maple syrup tastes nothing like the store bought variety. This is mostly because the store bought kind are typically some sort of corn syrup sweetened and darkened to look like maple syrup. These are false imitations of syrup that should be burned and destroyed in the sake of all that tastes good in this world.

blasphemy

A bottle of disappointment

Now that you have a good idea on the history and science behind making maple syrup, I’ll show you how to go about making it yourself (if you live in the right environment and have a tree handy) and possibly making treats with it in later posts then.

Note: I highly advise taking a class on making maple syrup first, as it is very easy to start a fire or get into trouble while making it. You don’t need any special permit or license (unless you’re trying to sell the maple syrup you make) but a healthy dose of common sense can go a long way.

 

 

Make-do Minestrone

We’ve all had those days where you want to make something nice for a meal and you can’t find any of the right ingredients in your kitchen. (“What in God’s name am I supposed to make with nachos and ramen?”) This happened to my Mom and I when we wanted to make minestrone soup for dinner. We ended up substituting a lot.

So, if you don’t have any fancy ingredients, here’s my Mom’s ‘Make-do Ministrone”

It’s based off of Jamie’s recipe and tweaked because we didn’t have as many of the ingredients and I don’t like adding alcohol to food.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/13333/jamies-minestrone/

You’ll need:

4 tablespoons olive oil (because three wasn’t enough for the amount of carrots we used)
2 onions, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
2 Tbs Italian Seasoning
1 Tbs Garlic Powder
1 Tbs Onion Powder
15 baby carrots, sliced (we didn’t have the full-length variety)
2 cups beef broth
2 cups water
4 cups tomato sauce
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 cup canned kidney beans, drained
2 cups baby spinach, rinsed and chopped up
2 zucchinis quartered and sliced up
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup macaroni noodles (yes, macaroni, we didn’t have anything else)
First, use the olive oil and saute the onions for about three minutes, or until their nearly transparent.

 

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When cooking onions I would recommend wearing goggles or eye protection

Then add the celery and carrots and saute for about five minutes further (I don’t care that the original recipe says to only saute them for two minutes) until the carrots are slightly tender.

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Add the broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and water to a boil. This is usually when I add the spices so they have time to mix in nicely. I forgot to do that when I made the mix and ended up adding the spices toward the end. Try not to forget like I did.

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Yes, the tomatoes are in there. They all sank to the bottom.

Add the beans and spinach and let that sit for about forty minutes on a boil. Depending on whether your stove is possessed like ours and switches to a higher temp when you aren’t looking, you might wants to check in on it once in a while.

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Don’t leave the soup like this, you should stir it.

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Make sure the zucchini is tender before you eat it, otherwise you wind up with a weird chunky-veggie broth thing that is neither pleasant or good for leftovers.

Now, get a smaller pot and boil the macaroni for about 3/4 of it’s regular time, then add that and the zucchini to the mix and let it cook for about eight more minutes. Then it’s chow time! This goes really great with garlic bread or bread sticks. It’s also great for making a week ahead and having a ton of leftovers.