28 September 2010

Hello there...

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As I was scavenging the garden a couple of days ago, I happened to notice an artichoke plant developing a little artichoke in the middle of it's leaves.  This is the first change I have seen in the artichoke plants in over two months.  I was quite excited with this latest development.  I don't know if I will get anything edible, but it's nice to know our little artichoke endeavor wasn't a total failure.  Isn't gardening fun?  Just when I thought it was over, I get this little surprise.

23 September 2010

Roasted Marshmallows

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One of life's simple pleasures.  Even better when done with a homemade marshmallow.  There is something magical about putting a marshmallow on the end of a skewer and holding it carefully over the fire.  Watching the outside caramelize while the center becomes deliciously molten is a treat unlike any other.  Not to mention how much fun it is just to be outside by the fire for kids and adults alike.  Then, trying to navigate eating it without making a total mess.  Now, for very special occasions, one can take roasted marshmallows to another level...

S'mores.  It's amazing the difference a little chocolate and graham cracker can make.  The gooey molten center of the roasted marshmallow oozing and melting the chocolate with the sweet crunch of the graham cracker is unbelievably satisfying.

I enjoy roasting marshmallows and making s'mores in the fall when the air is crisp and cool.  It makes sitting around the fire that much more enjoyable.  Times like these make saying goodbye to summer a little bit easier.  I'd like to wish everyone a happy autumn, now go roast some marshmallows!

20 September 2010

Real tomato ketchup, Eddie?

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Oh, nothing but the best.

All joking aside, I did make my own ketchup.  Hours of toiling over a simmering pot to make a condiment so abundant and commonplace I could go to McDonald's and grab a handful of packets for free.  So, was it worth it?  You bet it was! 

I never really thought that much about ketchup, it was just always there when I needed a dip for my fries.  A couple months ago, I wrote about my tomatoes in facebook and Jeremy commented about how he used to eat homemade ketchup.  He found a recipe for me to use, and I was all set!

I had forgotten about my desire to make ketchup until about a week ago, and I decided it was time to give it a try.  The recipe Jeremy gave me made a thinner ketchup than what is commercially available, so I altered it a bit to get the result I was looking for.  I really wanted to make a ketchup that looked like the leading brands, mainly because that is what I am used to.

I started with five pounds of tomatoes and pureed them in my food processor.  I then strained them to remove the seeds and skin.  I then pureed an onion and added it to the strained tomatoes and simmered the mixture on the stove.  Once the mixture reduced to about half, I added some vinegar and spices, and continued to reduce the mixture until it looked like ketchup.  I put the ketchup in a jar, then placed it in the refrigerator to cool.  It was really quite easy, though time consuming.

I decided to first try my ketchup with french fries.  To my delight, it looks and tastes just like ketchup.  It has a more pronounced tomato flavor, and is really quite delicious. 

16 September 2010

The Last Hurrah?

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For all intents and purposes, this looks to be my last substantial harvest.  All in all, it's been a good year for the garden.  The move to the back of the yard worked well, and we learned a lot with the new plants we tried.  The trick will be not to forget everything over the winter...

13 September 2010

Pear-nana Bread

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The kids love banana bread, and I am quite fond of it myself, actually.  One afternoon, I noticed a few over-ripe bananas on the counter along with a pear that was a little past its prime.  I knew I should make some banana bread, but I didn't know what to do with the pear.  Just then, a light bulb came on in my head and I decided to dice up the pear and add it to the banana bread.

My first loaf was a little too dense, but it had really good flavor.  It reminded me of a pear bread pudding fresh from the oven.  The experiment was successful enough that I decided to make another loaf, adjusting a few things from what I learned with the first one.

My second loaf was a complete success.  The bread was light, moist, and sweet.  The pears added such a nice flavor, as well as a slight textural change.  The kids ate it up too, so it passed that test.  I was also glad to find another use for pears, since I don't really have a lot of recipes that call for them.  So I figured, if I couldn't find a recipe that calls for pears, I might as well come up with one of my own.  I will be making this bread again for sure.  I hope you do, too!

Pear-nana Bread

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg (lightly beaten)
3/4 cup very ripe bananas (mashed)
1/2 cup diced pear
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and lightly flour a 8x4x2 inch loaf pan.  In a mediumm bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. 

In a separate bowl, combine the egg, mashed banana, diced pear, sugar, oil, and lemon zest.  Stir until all ingredients are well combined.

Make a well in the center of the dry mix and add the banana mixture all at once.  Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together.  Do not over mix.  The batter will be lumpy.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for about fifteen minutes before removing from the loaf pan. 

09 September 2010

Oh where...is my toothbrush?

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I had never seen a toothbrush with a suction cup on the bottom of it until Ari brought one home from the dentist.  It's nice because the toothbrush can stand up on the counter without assistance.  What will they think of next?  One night I was waiting for the kids to come brush their teeth and thought it would be a good idea to stick Ari's toothbrush somewhere he would not expect to find it.  I mean, it has a suction cup on it!  Why not have a little fun?

The first time I "hid" it, Ari's face lit up when he finally found it and it soon became a mandatory procedure to hide his toothbrush every night.  I don't mind; in fact, I probably enjoy finding different hiding places as much as he likes finding the toothbrush.  It's fun to shake up oral hygiene a little bit.

Who knew brushing teeth could be so much fun?

07 September 2010

Seussian landscape

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I really enjoy watching these trees sway in the breeze while sitting in my backyard.  They look like they were transplanted from Who-ville.

02 September 2010

Carrot Cake

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My old stand-by.  I have been making carrot cake since I was in my early teens and it has always been a hit.  I first started making it for family gatherings, and I remember a conversation I had with my Aunt Joan about how I shredded the carrots.  Not that shredding carrots is some big mystery, but she noted how they were so fine, and weren't really noticeable at all.  Ever since then, I make a point to always shred my carrots by hand on the medium grating blades of my box grater.  Over the years, my recipe hasn't changed much.  I have tweaked my cream cheese frosting recipe a bit, added more cinnamon; and I like to pack in as many shredded carrots as possible to get three cups, since they are the star of the show.

At work, we have a birthday cake rotation, each person is asked to bring in a cake for the person who's birthday comes after their own.  Last year, when it was my turn to bring a cake, my co-worker asked for a carrot cake.  After trying the cake, several people asked me for the recipe.  I didn't want to just copy the recipe from the cookbook I used because of the changes I made, so I typed up a recipe of my own. 

When preparing to post the recipe here on my blog, I didn't know who to give the credit to.  I did a little research and found that recipes themselves aren't copyrighted, but the text of them are.  I could use the exact same ingredients of a recipe, write my own directions, and call it 'original;' but that wouldn't be ethical.  However, with the changes I have made to my carrot cake recipe, I can proudly say this is a true "Luke" original, and my first original recipe posted on Latent Chestnut.  I can't think of a better recipe to hold that title than my carrot cake.

Carrot Cake
Printable Recipe

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups finely shredded carrots (firmly packed)
1 cup cooking oil
4 eggs
1 batch cream cheese frosting (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 13x9 baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a small mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and oil, then add the shredded carrots and combine.  Next, add the carrot, oil and egg mixture to the dry mix until it just comes together; making sure not to over mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. package Cream Cheese, softened
4 oz. butter, softened
3 1/2cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

With an electric mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and butter until thoroughly combined and light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add the salt and gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Add the vanilla and the gradually add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.  Once the powdered sugar is combined increase the mixer to high and mix until the frosting reaches spreading consistency.


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