Monday, May 31, 2010

NYC Day 1: BreakFast w/ Cookie

After getting situated on our first day (grocery shopping, checking out our surrounding area and relaxing for a bit.) We realized it was time for bed...Having only slept 15 hours in 3 days it was definitely necessary.  

I wake up the next morning and all I could think is..
What should I make?....Again I began to think about our pantry and what was in stock.

Oatmeal with Honey Caramelized Peaches, and Bananas 

1c Oatmeal
2c Milk
1ts Honey

I just throw these ingredients together and gently stir occasionally until the Oats are cooked.

Honey Caramelized Peaches:
1 Peach peeled and cut into segments
1ts of honey

This is really simple..turn your flame on to a bit above medium, add your Honey, heat until it begins to smell caramelized and the bubbles have begun to slow down. Add your peaches and cook until the peaches have begun to breakdown.

1/2 banana cut into thin rounds

All together this took maybe about 10 minutes. It was a great start to the day. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Making Pasta: Part 2

This is the part that's a little trickier, and will take some time to get it just right. I currently use the Kitchen Aid attachment, because it is the quickest way to roll the pasta out at work. However, when i'm at home, I use the hand turning pasta machine/ tool.

The best way I find to get this started is to manually roll out the dough to about a quarter inch keeping the width of the pasta machine in mind.  Once achieved, lightly flour the pasta dough on both sides and pass the pasta through the largest setting (1 usually), and fold the ends in (again keeping in mind the width of the machine).

Roll the pasta dough with a rolling pin to a quarter inch again and pass through the machine.

From this point you would pass the pasta twice at each setting beginning with one.

At first this will seem possibly easy but once you get the the middle of rolling the pasta through the machine it might feel a bit overwhelming because the pasta begins to thin and get longer and longer. This can be a hassle sometimes, being that if you do not keep an eye on the pasta it can feed into the machine wrong, messing up all your hard work. The best way to get around this is to cut the pasta at a reasonable length and keep an eye on it. If for some reason the pasta does feed into the machine wrong (and it will) just stay calm and turn the machine off, turn the setting on the pasta machine to a larger setting so that you can remove your pasta and save what you can.

(If you choose to cut the pasta, lightly flour on both sides and cover with a towl. This prevents your pasta from sticking to each other and drying out)

After you've managed to pass all this pasta through the machine its time to cut it to your liking. For this I prefer to use a pizza cutter, does the job just right.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Making Pasta: part 1

I got to work early one day and decided I would document my daily pasta prep, so that I could share with everyone. This is a basic Egg based pasta recipe, that can be used for all sorts of dishes. The last picture shown here is the pasta sheet that we will then cut and turn into papardelle.

Making pasta:

300 grams Semolina flour
125 grams "OO" flour
3     egg yolks
3     whole eggs

(This recipe should make enough pasta to feed at least 5 people very well)

Using a bowl,  combine the dry ingredients, then using the classic well method create a well in the center of the flour and put your eggs in the center.

incorporate all ingredients by gradually bringing the dry to the center

After you have incorporated as much as you could with your fork, bring the dough together with your hands. When you are finished, it should look like this. 

At this point its time to knead the pasta dough on a clean table with your hands for about 10-15 min. The goal is to just fully combine all the ingredients. Developing some structure but not too much.  Some say a good rule of thumb is to knead the pasta until it feels like the outside of an eggshell. Then let rest for at least half an hour. Making sure to wrap it up in plastic and store it in the refridgerator. 

After your pasta dough has had time to rest, knead it for another 5-10min. At this point begin to roll out your pasta into as much of a rectangle as possible (the width being that of the pasta machine, and the thickness of the largest setting on the pasta machine). Using your pasta machine on its largest setting (on mine its 1) pass your pasta dough at least twice, and continue to do so until you reach to the 7 where you would only pass it once.  
Finished sheet.
This takes some practice, but its worth it. I will post another blog on passing the pasta through the pasta machine very soon. As for now, I hope this post at least sparked interest into some to try to make homemade pasta.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gardening Mistakes

Assumptions are indeed the mother of all F ups ...
                              I planted all my seedlings this year in the little black cells, but didn't label the individual seedlings because I made a an exact replica of where everything was at on paper....BIG MISTAKE....after having to switch and rotate my seedlings (because I only have two grow lights, and am too cheap to buy more) and having to transplant some of the seedlings that outgrew the cells. I have now completely confused myself as to the original placement of everything.
                               It was obvious which herbs were which and what not...but where i'm totally stumped is the peppers....I had cayenne, shishito, fatali, serrano, jalapeno, thai, and bell.....and can't seem to distinguish them. My other problem was the tomatoes...but was able to more or less figure it all out..
                                  Normally I would just take this and stride with it, plant it and be surprised, but because my intention was to sell/ give some of these away...I pretty much just shot myself in the foot...
                  Lesson learned here: ALWAYS LABEL YOUR SEEDLINGS

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday


While I was out in New York I came across this bike and said "wow" I've never seen anything like it, but it looks pretty cool. I thought for sure this was custom made, but I still went home and researched and apparently theres quite a market for them. All different shapes and sizes, pretty cool.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to a Good Life... Review Part 1

I have had this book for some time now, and have enjoyed it very much, but to be honest I never really have read it. You see, i've gotten into this bad habit of buying several cookbooks at the same time, so I often end up flipping through them all and then thoroughly reading one at a time. Well I'm glad that I bought this book, and wish I would have read it sooner.

This is more than just a cookbook, it is almost like a manual. Jamie Oliver did something pretty cool in this book, he not only shares his recipes, but also shares his secrets on how to grow the vegetables.

 He divides the book into seasons then chooses a specific vegetable or protein as subdivision within the season. One of the many things that I enjoyed about Jamie at Home is that it appeals to everyone, as opposed to just chefs or home cooks. It is a book that in my eyes will be frequently revisited and has rightfully deserved a place in my bookshelf.

I have yet to come across a recipe that  have not wanted to try.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shady Swap Recap: At the Chicago Flower and Garden Show

So as it turned out the #shadyswap ended up not being as Shady as initially intended, They were nice enough to allow us to use the press room as well as a table. So that we could all sit comfortably and talk seeds. To be honest it almost gave it a school lunch effect, where the kids swap different lunch items until they get what they want. Which in a sense gave it a feel all of it's own, everyone seemed comfortable and as if we all had known eachother for quite a while. The shady swap had a great turn out; in attendance was Kylee , Xan ,  Julia , Melissa , Mr. Brown Thumb , Auntie Cara , Abbie , and Linda . With special Appearances by: Gina,  ShawnaDiane , Kylee's Wonderful Mother , and Joe L'ampl.

Everyone brought great items to the table. To see everyones individual Seed lists click on here

The Seeds i walked away with!

Scarlet Runner Beans..been wanting to grow these, and now I can.
These are the seeds that i got from the swap, most of these will be put to use in my own garden and others will be given away as seedlings to friends and family. To hopefully inspire them to garden.

One of the greatest things that I enjoyed regarding the seed swap was that after we were done, any seeds that weren't taken, were left for others to try.

In my experience Seed Swaps are fun, and they should be, being that it is a method to give/ receive seeds that will have otherwise gone unplanted. It is also a great way to try and grow something new that you might not have been willing to try otherwise. To Start a Seed Swap in your area these guidelines  have seemed to have worked perfectly as well as Fern Richardson who has also has posted great in depth information on seed swapping.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


One of my favorite things about gardening has arrived!! The time to start your seedlings! This for me is more than anything a sigh of relief, a way that I know spring is not too far behind. There's something about planting seeds and watching them grow that just makes me feel great! However, there is some ground that needs to be covered before putting a seed into the dirt.

  • The temperature (depending on the plant of course) needs to be between 60-70 degrees with a             preferable 10 degree drop. This helps speed the germination process.
  • Lighting, Florescent lightbulbs that are made to replicate sunlight. 
  • Space, a nice space for your seedlings where humidity isn't a problem. 
  • Some method of airflow, this allows the seedlings to build strong stems, as well as it helps to prevent damping off.
The Fun Part:

Planting the seeds!!

 Follow the directions on the back of the seed packet ( Very Important!..unfortunately  I didn't do this for my parsnips, and assumed the directions would be the same as carrots. As it turns out the Parsnips need a longer cold period, and I might not be able to grow them to their full potential now.)

Watch them grow...and good luck!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Quit Damping Off!!

As Gardeners, it is our job to nurture our seedlings and make sure they grow nice and stout. Tending to their every need in hope that if you do a great job, the once seed, turned seedling, then plant will eventually produce for you. Whether it be sustenance (such as vegetables, herbs, or fruits) or Aesthetically ( being flowers, shrubs, and so forth).

Before you get to this point though you need to make sure that the seedlings grow strong, and don't fall victim to Damping off. Which is when a seed or newly emerged seeding is attacked by a fungus in the soil. Causing the seed to either rot and become mush, or a seedling to become weak and fall over.

some ways to prevent this are:
  • to use seed starting, either homemade, or store bought, as opposed to  reused soil, because there can be left over fungi in them. Some people sterilize the soil. 
  • Same goes for pots/growing containers, make sure they have been cleaned properly.
  • have good air circulation
  • watering just enough, and never overwatering
  • not crowding space between seedlings..less space equals less air flow
just recently Lisa, of Getinthegarden mentioned that Chamomile tea around the base of a plant will help to take care of Damping off ( trick she learned from an Herb farmer she use to work with), I tried it this evening, and well so far so good.. thanks for the tip!!

    Double Coconut Tree

                  On a recent trip to the Garfield Park Conservatory I came across The Double Coconut Tree (Lodoicea maldivica) which isn't really even considered a Coconut tree. it is Extremely rare, and can Primarily be found in 2 of the 115 Seychelles Islands, which are on the South coast of Africa. Often called Coco de mer because the seed was often found floating in the sea by explorers. The double Coconut tree has male and female plants, and cannot be germinated without the other. It is said that The fruit of the tree is very sweet and jelly like, as opposed to a regular coconut which is firm. The germination of this seed is said to be difficult taking anywhere from a few months to a few years. The Leaves of the palm are also fan shaped as opposed to the regular coconut tree. The tree itself can grow up to 150 feet, but the most fascinating thing about this plant has to be the seed, weighing up to 50 lbs, being the "largest seed in the plant kingdom".

    (Shady) Seed Swap List

    Here is a list of what I will be bringing to the table during the Shady Swap:

    Flat Leaf Parsley, Rosemary, Danvers Carrot, Bodacious Sweet Corn, Lolla Rosa, All American Parsnip,
    Ruby Red Swiss Chard, Florence Fennel

    Shishito Peppers, Cayenne Peppers, Catskills Brussels Sprouts, Thai Chili Peppers, Katanya Watermelon,
    Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans, Lao Green Stripe Eggplant, Extra Dwarf Pak Choy

    Blue Poppies, Blue Lavender

    I have to say, the Shady Swap at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show is going to be one of the most interesting ways that I have ever met several new people. This will sure go down in what gardenpunk has often referred to as  #yearoffirsts for me.  

    Sunday, February 21, 2010

    Garfield Park Conservatory

    About a week ago, Carolina and I decided to take a trip to the Garfield Park Conservatory. We had never been and decided that taking her niece would also be a fun experience. She loved it!!! When we arrived at the entrance she was given a sheet that was very interactive, almost like a scavenger hunt..she just wanted the stickers that came along with it...She could not wait to see the chocolate tree,

     unfortunately there weren't any pods, but that didn't deter her, we moved right along. She loved all the little paths and ponds and really enjoyed the fish, and turtles.

     Next up came the Banana tree, which she didn't really grasp, most likely because they weren't ripe, and because there was so much going on..

    To our surprise She actually had given thought into this scavenger hunt and was finding some of the things all by her self!  Finding the Double Coconut Tree seed all by herself.  Amazing by the way..being the largest seed in the planet, weighing up to 50 lbs.

    She then took us on a hunt for the Orange tree,

     which happened to be in the children's section where there is a slide and somewhat of a play pen, for lack of a better word. So she didn't really pay any attention to the tree because the tunnel slide kept calling her name.

    She had a great time and so did we. Can't wait to go again..and neither can she..just this Friday she asked if we could go again..

    My First Seed Swap

                      Even though Twitter and Facebook are great ways to meet other gardeners, I've always been more of the traditional type, where I like to meet people in person, prefer writing letters than email, and talking as oppose to texting. So when I seen the open invitation by SnarkyVegan (on Twitter) I instantaneously accepted. Not knowing what I was getting myself into- insecurities running throughout my head ....
                     We arrived at the house and Snappyjdog welcomes us in, and right away all my worries and concerns were left behind with the cold winter breeze as the door was closed behind us.
    Introductions were made SnarkyVegan was the host, Snappyjdog was the coordinator/ Birthday girl, Stuccolow, MySkinnyGarden, Debbie  and Michelle were all in attendance and drinks were offered as well as snacks ( and I sure love snacks!) everyone mingled talked shop and had a blast. Debbie brought great home made salsa, SnarkyVegan made this amazing pesto that had pistachios in it, and Snappyjdog brought these ridiculously tasty cupcakes from Swirl.

                     On to the nitty gritty... If you want to organize a seed swap following the Guidelines here should lead you to a nice clean swap.
                                               these are the seeds i brought to the table.

    I don't think that my first seed swap experience could have gone any better, I can't wait for the ones to come. Thanks to all who made it great.

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Dealing with Winter

    On these days when Winter begins to tease us and Seed Catalogs start showing up at our doors, getting us ready for Spring. I begin to feel like a little kid again, anxiously awaiting the dreadfully long car ride, to get to the park and just run and play and eat Elote's and Poncho's Paletas. Getting dirty but not ever really caring.
    Paletas Poncho
    (this pic was found on 24Gotham's flickr, thank you for the wonderful pic)

    The worst part about getting to the park was indeed the car ride (a.k.a. winter now a days) , because it always felt like it took forever! 

    As winter takes its corse and it's time doing so, I'm very tempted to start seeds.. but I made that mistake last year and ended up praying for the time when I could start to gradually take everything outdoors because I didn't have space indoors anymore.

    This year in the mean time, i've been working on plotting everything out as well as making educated decisions on when to start everything. I've also been doing a lot of reading as well. So hopefully this year will provide greater success as well as failures to learn from.

    Thursday, January 28, 2010

    Life at the Lincoln Park Conservatory

    I found these two little guys at the Lincoln Park Conservatory in the Orchid Room.
    Much to my surprise, I asked the nearest employee If he knew anything about them, and whether or not they had been placed there. The Gentleman was as surprised as I was, and then came to the conclusion that they must have been brought in with one of the flowers, and decided to make themselves comfortable. They were no bigger than a penny..never in my life had I seen such a small frog. Just goes to show you, there's alot more life in the Lincoln Park Conservatory than we possibly will ever see..
    Posted by Picasa

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    More Than Meets the Eyes

              It seems that over the course of a few years, gardening has become the latest trend. Mostly due to the downward spiral the economy has been going through. Everyone wants to "Be Green" and "Eco-Conscious". So, just like myself, they start to garden, and attempt to reduce their Carbon footprint. Educating themselves, attending seminars, doing research, and possibly even trying to educate others. Shunning the use of "unnatural" items, such as styrofoam and plastic. There's nothing wrong with this, by any means. Let's just hope that it isn't the latest trend, that will end up yesterday's news like Hammer Pants.

    Gardening will never fade away, it's a necessity. However, the people's interest might, which is a concern. When you start to garden it can definitely be overwhelming, causing some people feel like a failure because they weren't an instant success, when recycling seems too much of a hassle, or a person stops caring (or for some, never cared) what he/she puts into there mouth, a true crisis, will have evolved. That is why Gardening has become something that is more available to the public. Chef's are and have been writing books about gardening/ cooking. Gardening books themselves are geared towards the people and not just other Gardeners or Horticulturalists. The President even agreed to have a vegetable garden in the White House.

    I personally fall under this "trendy gardener" title because I began gardening two years ago. The first year, I felt like a failure. No matter what was done, I could not get anything to grow, and became very disenchanted with the thought of gardening. The Second year, there was an opening at the Crepe stand at the Green City Market, and knew it would be a great way to meet farmers that would be able to give me some tips on growing vegetables, and keeping them alive. I gathered all the info that was shared and used it as fuel while I gardened, keeping everything in mind and doing extra research on my own. I gave it another shot, and the rewards were great! Not knowing that I then would be consumed by gardening. Taking care of the soil, making plans for the following growing seasons, recording the success and trouble with some of the vegetables I tried to grow. Then looking for ways to improve them for the following year.

    Gardening will be a part of me from now on, becoming something that comes across my mind more frequently as I realize there is MUCH more for me to learn.

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Carbonara For DINNER!

    Lately, because I have been gardening, I've become very conscious about what I've been eating, now that doesn't mean eating healthy by any means. Instead, I've been trying to eat locally, meaning eating food from a Farmer's Market, Made by a friend, such as sausage or bacon, or grown by me in my Garden.
    By all means, I'm not saying I only eat local, but it is something that I strive for, I'm just not there yet.
    A couple of my friends have been working on making sausages, and recently bacon, it's a hobby currently, but they are working on starting their business, in order to be able to (officially sell their product). I was lucky enough to be able to try this bacon, and it was good. So I convinced them to let me have some (for a small donation).
    Dinner time came around, and the thought of pasta came to mind, but what to make?
    Here were my options:
    • Canned Corn
    • Canned Peas
    • Cranberry Jam (made by me)
    • Grits
    • Pasta
    • Bacon (made by friends)
    • Onions
    • Garlic
    • Butter (bought at the Green City Market)
    • Milk
    • Organic Flour
    • a can of PBR
    • Eggs
    • Tortillas
    • Chihuahua Cheese
    • Cereal
    • Peach Vanilla Preserves (from Seedling orchards)
    I know, I know, I should keep a better stocked refrigerator...but I'm hardly home, I cook for a living.

    Instantly, I began to think..what can I make that everyone will enjoy.. Pasta was gonna be the star but what to accompany it with? There wasn't anything to make a tomato sauce with, which its always a winner if A fallback is necessary. An emulsified garlic and butter sauce would have been to simple and not really appreciated.
    That's when it hit me! Carbonara!!
    So I grabbed the Bacon rendered it down and reserved it, cooked half an onion small diced it and sliced two cloves of garlic, sweating them down, getting slight color and then adding a touch of flour creating somewhat of a roux . While this was happening, I heated up three cups of milk and added it to the bacon onion mix, and heated it until slightly thickened, and it was the right consistency. Right before serving, I added peas, and tossed it in pasta.
    And there you have it!
    Make-Shift Carbonara

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    In the Dead of Winter

    I have become a product of Gardening. My every thought seems to be about my Garden and how i can improve it this year. Flipping through Seed Catalogs in order to find the best seeds, anxiously awaiting the day i can actually plant them, and watch them grow. Thinking up plans as to how and where everything will go. The thought as to whether i'm buying to much, or maybe not enough...
    I'll have more space this year to plant, which gets me even more anxious, knowing that i will have hard work ahead of me, but more of a challenge than the last.
    Chicago winters are cruel in the sense that they love to play with our emotions..Especially now when the days begin to warm again..just to drop back down to where they were in a week or so..Chicago winters are definitely a test of patience...the snow..the ice..the cold cold winds..the short days and loong nights...Yet I have been using this time to learn from my mistakes as well as to Learn new things, in order to ensure a hopefully healthy garden.