31 July 2010

Garden update

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It's been a good year for our garden so far, as everything inside that tiny wooden fence is flourishing.  It's a lot to keep up with the constant changes, so I make a point to go out everyday and give it a nice inspection.  I usually go out there after I get home from work, and Ari and Emilie love to come out and look at the plants with me.

Our lettuce has been harvested for the year, and it was interesting to see how it matured.  We picked the leaves off as it grew for our evening salads, and then it just started growing up with little flowers spouting on top.  The artichokes haven't changed much in the last month, either, but I really don't know what to expect from them.  If anything, they have been a fun experiment.  All in all, though, everything else has done really well.

We have three large cantaloupes right now that look like they will need to be harvested and devoured soon.

The Wisconsin 55's are plentiful and flavorful, proving last year was no fluke.  The fresh tomato salsa, pasta sauce, and pizzas are in full swing, with plans for making my own ketchup in the works!

Speaking of salsa, these little jalapeno peppers have been a real treat.  They really gave the salsa nice kick, and I could definitely notice the freshness.  I also made a chimmichurri sauce with them to accompany grilled pork tenderloin.  Delicious!

More peppers!  One of our starter plants we bought after the frost scare was this macaroni pepper plant.  It has done really well, along with the cherry tomato plant (not pictured).  I am waiting for these peppers to turn red for a sweeter flavor.  What a productive month in the garden!

29 July 2010

The No Bake

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I love no bakes!  I remember my mom making them when I was a kid and they never lasted long in our house.  When I really started gaining an interest in cooking, no bakes where one of the first things on my list of things to try.  However, I could not find my mom's recipe, so I set out to find one.  As it turns out, this is one of the oldest recipes in my repertoire that is not a family recipe.

This recipe is actually from the Food Network show Cooking Live with Sara Moulton.  Talk about a blast from the past!  Cooking Live was one of the first shows I watched on the Food Network, and I can't remember whether I saw these cookies being made on the show, or if I just found it doing a recipe search online.  Either way, this is a simple recipe and produces quite delicious cookies.

No bakes are a lot of fun to make.  They are easy, quick, and a nice change from traditional 'baked' cookies.  Plus, since they don't need to be baked, they are a great idea if you need to make a sweet treat in a pinch.  The cookies are chocolaty, sweet, and rich.  Definitely fun to make with the kids, and they still don't last long in our house. 

Chocolate Peanut-Butter No Bake Cookies
Recipe courtesy Helen Ostrosky
Printable Recipe

2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups oatmeal
Waxed paper

In a heavy saucepan bring to a boil, the sugar, cocoa, butter and milk. Let boil for 1 minute then add peanut butter, vanilla and oatmeal. On a sheet of waxed paper, drop mixture by the teaspoonfuls, until cooled and hardened.

26 July 2010

Coyote Kids

2 remarks
Coyote Kids is a free summer running program presented by the Club Kokomo Roadrunners.  Ari has participated for the last three years, and this is the first year Emilie has joined the fun.  The kids absolutely love going to Jackson Morrow park to run, and they get a ribbon and popsicle after each race.

It has become quite the event as kids age 0-18 can participate.  It is so nice to see so many kids out there ready to run.  There are only six weeks of races, but it is the highlight of our Thursday evenings while it is going on.  Emilie ran in the 25-yard run, while Ari ran the quarter mile.  Parents can run with their kids, too, and I have to admit Ari left me in the dust a couple times during the quarter mile run.  The kids seem to have an endless supply of energy.  Emilie did a great job, too, even if we had to hold her hand during her race.


23 July 2010

Blueberry Buckle

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So I was watching Good Eats with Eva one night as we were waiting for Daniel and Michelle to arrive from Chicago.  The episode was "Kinda Blue (Blueberry)" and as soon as we turned it on I knew what Alton Brown was preparing on the show, blueberry buckle.  Blueberry buckle!  Blueberry buckle is one of my favorite Alton Brown recipes and I sat there wondering why I hadn't made it for so long.  Right then and there, I decided that when blueberries were in season blueberry buckle would be the first thing I would make with them.

And I did.  I have made it using both fresh and frozen blueberries and I would definitely recommend using fresh if at all possible.  Blueberry buckle is a blueberry lovers dream as it is jam packed with the little blue orbs.  It is not too sweet, and the topping just takes it to another level of culinary delight.  The buckle is wonderful served warm out of the oven, but also holds up well over several days in an airtight container, if it even lasts that long.

I am so glad Eva and I watched this episode because it was a nice kick in the pants to get back on the buckle wagon.  Never again will I let a summer go by without preparing this delightful dish.  As for the other recipes from the episode; I currently have a disk of blueberry pie filling waiting anxiously in the freezer, and I haven't yet made the soda, but it is on my list of things to try.  Here's the recipe for those of you who are interested.  My suggestion, take advantage of the season and give it a try!

Blueberry Buckle
An Alton Brown recipe
Printable Recipe

For the cake:
9 ounces cake flour, approximately 2 cups
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
5 1/4 ounces sugar, approximately 3/4 cup
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
15 ounces fresh whole blueberries, approximately 3 cups

For the topping:
3 1/2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/2 cup
1 1/2 ounces cake flour, approximately 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 ounces unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Lightly oil a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed for 1 minute or until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat for 30 seconds. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until incorporated and then add 1/3 of the milk and beat until incorporated. Repeat, alternating flour and milk until everything is combined. Gently fold in the blueberries and pour into the prepared baking dish.

For the topping:
In a small bowl combine the sugar, flour and nutmeg. Add the butter. Integrate the butter into the dry mixture with a fork until it has a crumb-like texture. Sprinkle the mixture on the cake batter. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden in color. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.


21 July 2010

Tomato Basil Pizza

2 remarks

I really like this time of year because the fresh tomato and basil pizzas come fast and furious.  I took advantage of our newly ripened cherry tomatoes and our two abundant basil plants and threw together a pizza featuring the two remarkable toppings. 

I have become a fan of what we call 'brick oven' pizza lately; meaning I bake the pizza on a stone in the oven.  More and more of my pizza cravings are leaning this way.  I used to only make deep dish pizzas that yielded a thicker, doughier crust, but I'm hooked on the brick oven variety at the moment.  The crispy, yet chewy crust of a pizza cooked on a stone is just remarkable.  Plus, the kids really like to watch me throw the pizza dough!

I am also in the habit of letting my pizza dough sit in the refrigerator overnight.  I started doing this out of necessity so I could still make pizza after work and have it ready at a reasonable hour.  I soon discovered that the overnight fermentation added a lot more flavor to the finished product.  It just goes to show, there's always something new to learn in the kitchen!

The freshness of the tomatoes and basil makes this a pizza like no other, and it is a perfect summertime treat.  The fact that I have the ingredients readily available in my garden make it even more special.  Not to mention that I am always looking for a good excuse to make pizza!

19 July 2010

Brave the tomato plants!

3 remarks
I've been closely watching our cherry tomato plant as the little tomatoes slowly change to red, eagerly anticipating plucking them off one by one.  At last the day was here, and Ari picked the first tomatoes of the season! 

Our garden basically looks like a little vegetable jungle. It is apparent that I still have a few things to learn about how far apart to space out the plants, especially the tomatoes.  Nevertheless, there were tomato plants to be slain!

Undaunted, Ari plunged into the viney plant and snatched the first red tomato he saw!  He narrowly escaped the clutches of the artichoke plant to give his prized bounty to the fair maiden anxiously awaiting his return.

She gazed longingly at her cherished treasure, realizing that soon she would sink her teeth into its juicy flesh.

She held her prize in triumph knowing all will eat well this night!


16 July 2010

B&K Spanish Sauce

3 remarks

Looking for an easy way to make hot dogs exciting?  Well, look no further than B&K Spanish Sauce!  I got the recipe from a co-worker and it tastes exactly like the sauce the drive-in serves.  I made the sauce for Emilie's birthday party and it was quite a hit.  It seemed like everyone was asking me for the recipe or telling me how good it was.  Talk about a crowd pleaser! 

The recipe is very simple, and after the meat was cooked, I just transferred it to a small crock pot until we were ready to eat.  It does make a lot of sauce, so I would recommend cutting the recipe in half for smaller affairs.  A coney dog for the ages, and it is so much better to make it from scratch.

B&K Spanish Sauce for Hot Dogs
B&K Drive-In at Logansport, Indiana
Printable Recipe

2 pounds lean 15% ground beef
3⁄4 cup water
2 cups Hunts ketchup
4 1⁄2 teaspoons chili powder
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1⁄4 cup onion, diced fine
1 teaspoon salt

Do not cook hamburger meat first. Mix raw hamburger with the water and add all the ingredients together in a pot. Simmer for 1 hour. Spoon over hot dogs, or delicious served on a bun by itself.

14 July 2010

Happy Anniversary Ditalini Press!

2 remarks
Two years ago today, Ditalini Press was created. 

Ditalini Press is a blog consisting of a group of creative writers who post at regular intervals. We are given a writing topic at the beginning of the month and are encouraged to submit our works by the end of the month.
Ditalini Press gave me the inspiration I needed to start Latent Chestnut, and I am happy to recognize the second anniversary of the first post. The number of Ditalini Press contributors has grown significantly over the past couple years; we started with five, and now have twenty-two contributors. 

I was more nervous than excited when the first topic was given on July 14, 2008 because I had not written anything creative for years.  But now, I eagerly anticipate each new topic and look forward to the challenge it presents.  It is a rewarding experience for me, and keeps my creative juices flowing.  As always, Ditalini Press is open to anyone, and we are always looking for more writers to join the fun!

12 July 2010

Dulce de Leche

2 remarks

Let's keep this leche train rolling with another recipe from the Good Eats episode "Milk Made".  Dulce de leche.  Milk caramel!  Yum!  I was quite intrigued by this application when I first saw Alton Brown prepare it on my television.  I wanted to try it, but for some reason I hesitated.  I really don't know why it took me so long to finally make this smooth, rich, creamy, milky, caramelly sweet concoction; but I do know it won't take me so long to make it again.

Dulce de leche was really quite foreign to me.  I had seen dulce de leche flavored ice cream, cheesecake, and coffee, but none of them ever seemed enticing enough for me to try.  At the time, I really didn't know what it was.  After seeing the Good Eats episode, I finally knew what it was, but still not determined to try it.  Still, I could not escape the thought of it.  Maybe it was the shot of Alton eating it by the spoonful that kept it fresh in my mind. 

I have never had dulce de leche before this, so I really have nothing to compare it to.  It was easy and simple to make, albeit a little time consuming.  The recipe calls for basic household ingredients and I must admit that added a little vanilla extract when it was done reducing instead of using a vanilla bean.  I am happy with the results, even though I have just eaten it drizzled over ice cream or cream puffs.  I can definitely see how Alton could eat it by the spoonful.  I look forward to expanding the use of it next time I make it, though.  Perhaps I will make a dulce de leche cheesecake of my own.

Dulce de Leche
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Printable Recipe

1 quart whole milk
12 ounces sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a large, 4-quart saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the baking soda and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered at a bare simmer. Stir occasionally, but do not re-incorporate the foam that appears on the top of the mixture. Continue to cook for 1 hour. Remove the vanilla bean after 1 hour and continue to cook until the mixture is a dark caramel color and has reduced to about 1 cup, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a month.

10 July 2010

Vision of Summer

2 remarks
I was on the deck at my mom's house seeking a quick moment of solitude during a family pool party, quietly enjoying a wedge of watermelon.  I looked down at the vibrant pink flesh, pitch black seeds, and smooth green rind as I lost myself in the cool sweet juicy busts of the welcome summer treat.  I paused a moment as I noticed the gorgeous blue behind the melon in the pool below.  I stood there and stared, realizing that I was looking at a perfect vision of summer.  I made a mental note to take my camera next time we were over so I could capture the image.

09 July 2010


2 remarks

Our cantaloupe plant became so big that we had to direct it out of the garden and into the yard, which has made for quite a lawn mowing headache.  I had just been mowing around it for a while, but the grass was getting so tall around it, I had to give it a trim.  To my delight, as I was rustling through the vines, I found some small melons starting to take shape.  It was a fun and unexpected little garden discovery.

08 July 2010

06 July 2010

Tres Leche Cake

2 remarks

Diary lovers rejoice!  Calorie counters hide!
For I have made the Tres Leche Cake!

When I first saw Alton Brown make this cake on Good Eats in 2007, I knew I had to try it myself.  As a self-proclaimed dairy lover, the name alone suggests this cake is definitely for me.  The episode "Milk Made" originally aired on June 6, 2007, so I convinced Angela to let me make it for her on her birthday.  I made the cake and the results were less than desirable.  The cake didn't absorb all of the milk mixture and was somewhat soupy, way too wet for my liking.  Everyone ate it, and didn't complain, but it was not the result I was looking for.  I held on to the recipe but I didn't attempt to make the cake again, nor did I have any requests.  Until...

This year I asked Angela what kind of birthday cake she would like, and to my surprise, she said tres leche cake.  I was nervous to make it, but determined not to let her down again.  I figured I had three more years of cooking experience since the last time I made it, so I should be able to execute it much better than I did last time.  I followed the recipe word for word, and even took the internal temperature of the cake with my thermometer.  The morning of her party, I spread the whipped cream on top of the cake and hoped for the best.

To my delight, the cake turned out much better this time.  It is moist, milky, sweet, and very rich.  A little bit goes a long way, and it would probably be wise to serve it with some fresh berries, which is something I will do next time.  The cake was a hit, and I am happy to share Alton Brown's recipe.  Notice that the amount of cake flour needed is measured by ounces, so if you don't have a scale in your kitchen, get one!  You will not be disappointed.

Tres Leche Cake
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Printable Recipe

For the cake:
Vegetable oil
6 3/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces sugar
5 whole eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the glaze:
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half-and-half

For the topping:
2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour a 13 by 9-inch metal pan and set aside.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar over 1 minute. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix to thoroughly combine. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches and mix just until combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. This will appear to be a very small amount of batter. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden and reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.

Remove the cake pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork. Allow the cake to cool completely and then prepare the glaze.

For the glaze:
Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and the half-and-half in a 1-quart measuring cup. Once combined, pour the glaze over the cake. Refrigerate the cake overnight.

Place the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk together on low until stiff peaks are formed. Change to medium speed and whisk until thick. Spread the topping over the cake and allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

02 July 2010

Mario Head Start

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I am half-way finished with the front of my Mario quilt; and Ari and Emilie would be happy if I stopped here.  I have to admit I have had the most fun making this quilt because I am able to see Mario come together with each square. Stay tuned...


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