Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Canned Creations

My first attempts at canning have been a success in the sense that all of my jars have sealed (depressed or "innie" button). Being that it's kind of hard to stick your finger in to taste a boiling pot of syrupy water, I have yet to taste anything. So far I'm leaving it up to chance and the honesty of close friends and relatives (yes, I've already given some away as gifts).

My first canning creation was pickled jalepenos and pickled okra. I followed a simple, all-purpose-pickling recipe from "Joy of Cooking." I didn't have any pickling spice so I forged my own picling spice using what I had on hand.

Kate's Pickling Spice
1 cinammon stick
1 bay leaf
5 whole peppercorns
10 whole mustard seeds
3-5 whole cloves
5 whole corriander seeds
1 whole allspice

Place ingredients in a small swatch of cheesecloth. Tie ends together with kitchen twine. Use based on recipe.

My second canning creation was Hot Pepper Jelly. I combined concepts and ingredients from both "Joy of Cooking" and the recipe on the pectin package. Since I had an overabundance of hot peppers, I used a combination of cayenne, jalepeno, and serano peppers and did not include bell peppers. I have yet to try a sample of the finished product, but I'm sure it is HOT! My hot pepper jelly appears to have set properly, but I'm a little frustrated at its appearance nonetheless. I was hoping for more suspended solids.

I've been told I need to bottle-up my salsa recipes, and finally, I took it literally. Our tomatoes are done (as mentioned in the previous blog post), but the tomatillos keep on coming. Here's my recipe for salsa verde.

Salsa Verde
2 cups of chopped tomatillos
1 clove garlic
1 green bell pepper
2 serano peppers (seed and devein optional depending on how hot your like your salsa)
Juice from one lime
2 T. fresh cilantro, chopped
2 T. sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Combine first 4 ingredients in a food processor. Pour mixture into a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Add lime juice, sugar, salt, and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and gently stir in cilantro. Can according to your typical process.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Garden Update

I realized I haven't posted in a while about the garden. Fortunately, unlike the rest of my life, the garden has gotten out of control! I kindly refer to the eggplant, okra, and basil as trees and to the tomatillo as "the big green monster." Since my husband has been away, I honestly have not applied a single fertilizer, insecticide, or herbicide. Surprisingly enough, the plants keep on growing. (I do weed and prune from time to time - go me!)

Our tomatoes are done for the season, but our eggplant, okra, tomatillos and peppers continue to produce. Sometimes I'm not quite sure what to do with all of them, so I've started dabbling with canning. So far I've pickled okra and jalepenos, and I'll find out in a few weeks how they actually taste! If they're decent, I'll share the recipe. If they're a complete failure, I'll pretend like it didn't happen.

Fall/winter veggies I started from seed seem to be doing okay. I think it's been way too hot for some of the seeds, especially peas and carrots. Hopefully in a few weeks I'll start harvesting greens and pole beans. Here are some recent photos:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

DIY Faux Headboard

My apologies for the long hiatus. My first week back after vacation has really sapped me of any motivation for non work-related projects. Thankfully I have one in reserve!

The bed in our masterbedroom is without headboard. And I've never been happy with whatever picture we've tried hanging over the bed to fill that space. Recently I saw an idea on www.thenest.com - create a faux headboard by stretching fabric across a frame and hanging it over the bed. I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Originally I wasn't quite sure how I'd go about making the frame. I've never been great at carpentry-type projects involving 2x4s. But just as luck would have it I found two large canvases in the clearance pile at Michaels.
I decided to use the fabric from my favorite tapestry (I bought it several years ago at Urban Outfitters). First, I ironed the tapestry, then cut enough fabric to stretch over both canvases. I stretched the fabric over the canvas and stapled it to the wood frame using a heavy-duty staple gun.

Here's the finished product hanging over the bed. I think it still looks incomplete, so I'm contemplating my next step to make it look more polished. Suggestions are welcome!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Last Week (or so) in Veganville

Probably the most difficult two weeks in Veganville yet...vacation!

Vacation started in San Antonio, Texas. My first meal there, I went out to breakfast with an old friend. Our catch-up location of choice was Central Market (http://www.centralmarket.com). A foodie's dream market, but I struggled a little as a vegan. We both ended up getting a falafel, pita, hummus, taboulea, and stuffed grape leaf platter. I was so excited considering I haven't seen falafel offered anywhere in Middle Georgia. The falafel, however, was a little dry and disappointing. The coffee, though, was sooooooooooo delicious. (In Middle Georgia, our coffee offerings are limited to the big green monster, a.k.a Starbucks, and whatever is available in the grocery store)

Lunch was a little disappointing. I was at the mercy of my travel companions, so we ate at the food court in the mall right on the River Walk. I had avocado sushi.

Dinner, however, was MINDBLOWING! Such vegan goodness! We went to The Cove (http://thecove.us/cove/index.php), which has been featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. This unique little restaurant/bar/car wash/laundromat was just what the doctor ordered. Thursday nights, they have Vegan Night when the chef prepares a unique vegan dish. They do have vegan offerings on their regular menu too. This past vegan night, the menu included lentil burger with sweet potato fries and a peach-rhubarb crisp with avocado cream. What a happy little vegan camper I was!

Outside of San Antonio (where I spent the majority of my vacation), my vegan choices in restaurants were primarily limited to side salads and plain baked potatoes. I did discover a vegan gem at the local Walmart. Soy Chorizo! Frieda's Soyrizo (http://www.friedas.com) is something I will definitely keep an eye out for (or order) in the future. It has great seasoning and texture and was even pleasing to the meat-eaters of the group.

I did cave on a few ocassions and indulge in ice cream and locally caught sea food (I figure if I'm going to eat meat, it might as well be sustainable). Before I ate my fish, I thanked it for providing me with a meal and apologized for any pain it may have experienced. It helped me feel a little less guilty. Call me crazy, but I think we ought to do that every time we consume an animal product. It's about being conscious. Your food gave it's life for you.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hey Mr. Postman!

This may perhaps be the ugliest mailbox I have ever seen. And guess whose house it stands in front of? That's right, mine. What were the previous owners thinking??
My husband and I had discussed for months about replacing the mailbox, but never got around to it. Finally, I'd had enough of this curbside eyesore. So I decided to repaint the darned thing.

Steps to the repaint:
1. Sand chipping paint and rust.
2. Spray with primer designed for rusty metals

3. Spray with rust-resistant, outdoor metal paint

4. Monogram

For the monogram, I went very low tech. I created a MS Word document, found a font I liked, printed it out, and cut out the letters to make a stencil. I placed the stencil on the mailbox and sprayed away.

It may not be the nicest looking mailbox in the world, but it's a whole heck of a lot better than what we had. Hopefully this will last us until we break down and buy a fancy mailbox.