Friday, January 23, 2015

The Cookbook Project - 3/52


The third dish in the Cookbook Project is Beef Paprikash, or Goulash. I learned something about goulash, my friends; I learned that it does not photograph well.

Well, okay, I learned two things; I also learned that beef is insanely expensive.

Neither of those things kept me from achieving my objective, and the paprikash was made! And consumed. And um... consumed rather quickly, actually.

This just seems like the perfect winter food - its almost a hearty stew. We ate it with a side salad and big hunks of the basic Farmhouse Bread from my last post (yes, I already made two more loaves. I'm eyeballing using up my last yeast packet and making yet two more) but I think it honestly would have been Farmers Cookbook, and I kind of wish in retrospect that I had taken them.

Oh well.

It was still delicious.


Ingredients - Amounts Omitted
Steak tips or stew beef (I ended up using stir fry beef because it was cheaper. Still delicious.)
onion, sliced
olive oil
salt
paprika
thyme
pepper
garlic
Tomatoes, cut in chunks (canned is fine)
Sour cream

This is easy. Heat up the olive oil in a heavy pot. Brown meat on one side, then turn over. At that point, add the onions and seasoning while the meat is still browning, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and water, bring to boil, then simmer for about an hour. You want the liquid to reduce and become basically a thick sauce. Stir in the sour cream, serve.

You may have noticed something in the photos above - the absence of sour cream. I totally forgot the sour cream. I failed. Three weeks in and I've already failed the "I will use the ingredients as listed" part of the project.

Woe is me.

Woe to Katie.

It was still delicious, especially when the read soaked up the liquid and we were munching on deliciously paprika-heavy bread. But make sure you don't forget the sour cream, because that would definitely have been the finishing touch on the dish.

The book states that it serves "four hungry people", but even with a side salad and bread, Jason and I found that it was more like three people who are feeling somewhat peckish. For a good family dinner, I'd double the recipe and just plan for a serving or so leftover at the end.

All in all, this is three for three - all delicious recipes so far, and I haven't screwed any of them up enough to affect the taste badly! Yay!

Next week - orange  anise-glazed carrots!

I've never used anise seed in cooking before. This should be fun!





 P.S. the links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links - if you click through and purchase after reading this post, I may receive a small commission in return. All commission monies will go towards either the redesign/domain name buyout of this site, or... a lot of new books for Katie. Either way, everyone wins, right?

Please. I want new books.

I waaaaaaaant them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Those Days


... When you and your baby have been passing a nasty cold back and forth for two weeks, your throat is raw from coughing, the baby isn't sleeping because recovering from an illness apparently removed all her memory of how to sleep at night, you've had something like ninety-two cups of tea in three days... on those days you take what help you can get. Even one small bucket can help bail out a sinking ship, right?

I may have conflicted feelings about daycare some days when I hardly see Audra except when she's doing her bedtime routine at night, but today I could kiss those brightly painted walls. Audra has barely slept at night for the last two days, and we're back to trading sleeping-shifts. I took over last night at 2 a.m. and was able to manage a nice doze-off around 5 a.m., but that was the best I could do. Jason dropped Audra off with the daycare ladies so I was able to go back to bed, and I fell asleep at 8 and woke up an hour later. That one extra hour did magic things. I took my sweet time getting out of bed and felt like a human being for the first time in a week. I still have a nasty itch in my throat and a dry cough, but my throat no longer feels like razorblades are inside of it, so I'm calling this "healing".

I wore pajamas right up until I went to go pick the baby back up. Honestly, I thought about doing the Soccer Mom Uniform and just wearing yoga pants and a loose t-shirt and pretending I'd just come from the gym, but... I probably couldn't pull that off.

Audra and I both seem to be solidly on the mend - the only thing is that she and I both are still wrestling with is a nasty, frequent dry cough. She's wanting to snuggle most of the time and I am definitely willing to help her out with that. I just feel terrible because Jason, also wretchedly sleep deprived, is getting a ton of "honey, would you's" from my place on the couch sipping tea and trying not to speak loudly enough to wake up the sleeping baby on my chest and it's a little like her first days in this world all over again. Only with a lot more coughing and Jason having to go to work.

... and we're out of my favorite whiskey, so hot toddies are just not the same.

Motherhood is something I would never, ever trade but I have a new appreciation for the idea of being able to take a break from life and sleep, as sleeping is the easiest and quickest way for me to feel better when I'm sick. Mothers all over may go back and forth about daycare and sometimes I'm one of those worriers, but today daycare is the reason you are reading this heartfelt treatise on illness and not just a series of random syllables because sleep deprivation has removed my understanding of human language.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Cookbook Project - 2/52


Okay, so my plan had been to post my newest Cookbook Project item each week on Friday. Two weeks in and I'm already posting a day late. I have a good excuse, though!

I got pretty sick yesterday.

Really, really, really sick.

I woke up with a sore throat, which made sense, honestly; one of my coworkers had been battling something that involved a sore throat and random respiratory weirdness, and Audra had picked up her latest cold as well. So I just shrugged it off and went to work. I had these really deep bone-aches; I couldn't sit still or my leg-bones began to hurt, deep down.

Around noon, I realized my throat was really, really hurting. The bone-aches were way, way worse. I drank nothing but herbal teas designed just for this (I swear by the Traditional Medicinals Seasonal Sampler Pack, Throat Coat especially) all day and that was the only thing that kept it bearable, and even that soon failed me. I felt listless; I looked glassy-eyed.

Eventually I was able to leave, picked Audra up from day care, came home and checked my own temperature - 102 degrees.

"Oh, great," I said out loud to myself. I settled in to feed the baby, who promptly spit up all over both of us after just a couple of ounces and managed to get some in her own eye somehow, and we cried together while I changed and redressed her. Then she napped for a bit. She woke up hungry - which made sense considering how much she'd spit up. She ate a couple more ounces, then spit up on just me. That time I took a bath and she played happily in her chair next to me. Then we napped together again. One more time, she made hungry signals, and one more time she spit up on herself. That time she got a bath, I cried some more, then we curled up together on the couch and settled in with gritted teeth to watch Friends on Netflix and wait for Jason to come home.

Jason brought delicious broth-y soup and took over baby time, covered me in blankets and let me just chill and relax and try to pull myself together. I made a whiskey-heavy hot toddy, which is my favorite cold remedy (and works like a charm, I promise). After a while I finally warmed back up. I took a half-dose of Tylenol before bed, went to sleep, and woke up with only a dull ache in my throat and no bone-aches at all.

So.

Now you know why I'm a day late on posting about this week's project, which I am actually pretty proud of. And those of you who do not have children have probably been entirely scared off of ever, ever having one.

Anyway.

 BREAD.

I MADE BREAD.

I was pretty excited about this. The recipe for Farmhouse White Bread in the Farmers' Cookbook is great. It's simple, just a few ingredients, and the recipe itself is written out really well so you know exactly what you're doing. It's probably only an hour altogether of actual work, but counting all those times to let things rise it definitely took me about four hours.

Still.



Ingredients - Amounts Omitted
Whey, or water with milk
Butter
Honey
Salt
Dry yeast
Bread Flour



See? Easy, right? It barely made a dent in our grocery budget. Everything but yeast and bread flour we keep as basic staples anyway. For something like six dollars altogether, I have the ability to bake six loaves of bread. Delicious, delicious bread.

Honestly, this was just absurdly easy. I don't even know why I was so worried about it. I did not have 'whey', so I did the milk-and-water mix. Mixing the yeast and flour was easy, then I just had to wait for it to start doing its thing. Then more flour, which I moved into a mixing bowl to put together. I actually think I made a mistake here - I should have put it in a warm mixing bowl when it was just water, milk, and yeast and THEN added the first two cups of flour. Moving it from a cooking pot into a mixing bowl when I did definitely created a bigger mess.

Then again, I make a pretty big mess every time I touch anything remotely resembling cooking utensils, so it's not like I was surprised.

I took the advice the author gives in the book and went ahead and just did the first round of kneading in the giant mixing bowl. Normally, you're advised to take a wet dishcloth and lay it over. I didn't want to risk it getting stuck to the lump of bread-to-be while it rose, so instead I put it inside the oven with a bowl of hot, steamy water and closed the door and left it alone for an hour.

I took it out when it had roughly doubled in size.

Then I floured up a my cutting board, and I started punching.

Bread is awesome because it doubles as stress relief during the kneading process. I shaped it into two loaf-shaped blobs, which I transferred into bread-pans I had sprayed with Pam, because I spray everything with Pam. (the book suggests buttering them. Pam is easier, I'm lazy). Then back into the oven for another hour, until they doubled again.

At which point I pulled 'em out, preheated the oven, stuck 'em back in, and baked 'em for something like thirty or forty minutes.


They came out absolutely beautiful. One did not rise quite so much as the other and so was a bit more dense and chewy (and, as you can see in the close-up shot above, had some obvious bubbles in the crust), but they both tasted lovely. Big thick slices immediately went into our curried chickpea soup we had for dinner that night but we also ate them alongside eggs with breakfast and I am excited to make more bread and try them as ends of a sandwich.

I've never made my own bread before!

I am just irrationally proud of myself.

Look at me, I mastered a skill that my foremothers did every single day of their lives and probably knew how to do when they were three!






 P.S. the links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links - if you click through and purchase after reading this post, I may receive a small commission in return. All commission monies will go towards either the redesign/domain name buyout of this site, or... a lot of new books for Katie. Either way, everyone wins, right?

Please. I want new books.

I waaaaaaaant them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Not the Brightest Button on the Espresso Machine


I have this strange delusion that I like hazelnut flavor more than I actually do.

I have no idea why it is impossible for me to remember I don't actually like it. I don't get it. I could list to you all the foods and flavors I don't like right here and now, and I would probably forget to list hazelnut but I would remember everything else.

Although mostly, I suppose, because the list of foods I don't like is pretty short. I am an equal-opportunity eater of delicious things. Except raw tomatoes, which are gross.

But... I'm missing my own point here.

Let's try again.

I routinely order hazelnut lattes or pour hazelnut creamer (most recently a dairy-free coconut hazelnut creamer I bought for funsies to use at work) into my coffees. I get hazelnut iced coffees. When I get coffee at the gas station, I inevitably end up pouring the hazelnut kind into my cup. I mean, this is a serious, somewhat constant habit of mine.

Then I take a drink and I think, oh wait, I don't actually like this at all.

That doesn't stop me, mind you. I finish it, because I'm a grown-up and I know what money means and how you have to work for it and if I spend money on a coffee drink I am going to finish that drink and get my money out of it, even if I spend the whole time asking, "Why did I do this to myself?"

Then I immediately forget about the whole thing just long enough to order another one.

I like Panera's hazelnut coffee, lots of milk only a little sugar. I drink that whenever I'm there. Maybe that is where the delusion comes from, because I do like this one particular location's hazelnut coffee.

But I don't like hazelnut lattes.

I continue to order them.

I don't like hazelnut creamer, not even the coconut kind.

I continue to pick a carton up to use at work.

This is probably the third time I've bought hazelnut creamer in the past two years.

I think there might be a reason I never made valedictorian in high school...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Tea Equivalent of an Afternoon With Mary Poppins (Tea Box Express, January Box!)


You know where I'm going with that title, right? When I say that this month's box is like going on an adventure with Mary Poppins, I'm really saying...

It's practically perfect in every way.

(Please, Disney, don't sue me.)

We'd been given a bit of a hint that this month would be a bit of a Brit theme, and it definitely did not disappoint. Those of you who have picked up the subscription, you are in for a serious treat. Anyone who didn't? Give some serious thought to snagging a box later this month when they go up for single-sale in the shop on Tea Box Express's website.

Those of you who have ordered will receive your box pretty soon, but let me give you a peek at what you're are in for. Because it's wonderful.


Time for a cuppa, indeed.

I know that normally I take a nice photo of everything still in the box, but that simply didn't happen this time, because as soon as I realized what was in there I ripped everything out before I remembered to even try to take a photo. Then it was too late, and I was already scheduling when we would actually test everything out, then I was reading ingredients, then... well.


The tea for this month was exactly what I had hoped it would be from the hints Andrea was giving out; it's an Earl Grey from teapigs! Earl Grey is one of Jason's favorite teas. It has such an exceptionally perfect smell, all bergamot and happiness. The box said this would be an exceptionally strong earl grey, since it has an Assam (which you may remember from previous reviews is Jason's favorite kind of tea) as a base instead of the milder Ceylon or Darjeeling that you normally get.

Jason let his bag continue to steep throughout drinking his cup, and I took mine out after a short brew time. I still got a definite mild kick from the caffeine, so if you like to start your day with a serious strong black tea, teapig's earl grey strong is a good choice. We really liked it - perfect with milk, honey, and the best British breakfast food item...

 

SCONES.

I love scones. I won't even try to pretend I don't just unabashedly love scones. I love British scones, where all the sweetness comes from the add-ons and they are crumbly and biscuit-y. I love American scones, that are basically cookies. I love savory scones like the spinach & cheese scones from the Swamp Rabbit Cafe down the street from our house, I love baking scones, I just love scones.

I am a huge carb fan, though, so I think you just sort of have to assume I'm going to like anything that is similar to bread in any fashion.

We went ahead and baked these Saturday morning to have for breakfast before we began our weekend trip up to Asheville. We spent Saturday night and Sunday morning eating like kings (or, um, queens, in my case) and I still say the scones were one of the best items we had in those two days. This scone mix just needs a little water and it comes together perfectly. We chose to bake it with the spoon-drop method instead of as a round, so that they'd have lots of little points and flakes.

They're a bit on the sweet side, and they go perfect with two other add-ons in this month's box:


Clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Clotted cream is one of the recipes I have lined up as part of the Cookbook Project I'm doing this year (although it won't be until April I think) and I have been trying to convince myself to try it for a couple of years now. The words 'clotted' and 'cream' do not actually sound all that appetizing next to each other for this American, but on the other hand it's such a mainstay of the British tea experience that I wanted to try it at least once.

Andrea, who is apparently psychic, knew that and now I have tried clotted cream and I am here to say that it is so, so good.

It's a bit like a thick, slightly sweeter butter. It spreads and melts like butter, but has a stronger taste. It has a bit of a yogurt-y tang to my tongue, but pairs perfectly with the sweet strawberry jam that was also included. The scones, plus clotted cream and jam, plus a nice sweet, milky cup of Earl Grey? It was the perfect way to start a Saturday.

 

I mean, look at that. Tell me that doesn't look delicious. Well, you can't tell me that, because I ate it and I know it was delicious. I won't even tell you how many of those scones I ate. It... It was a shameful amount of scones.

(Jason ate that many too, so he should also be ashamed.) 

(he's not though.)

Now, every box has tea and food items as well as something that isn't food, but has to do with sort of the idea of drinking tea. I am deeply in love this this month's "tea accessory", because it's something I've been trying to convince myself to pick up for when I have company over for a long time.

 

It's a beautiful little pitcher for pouring cream, with a little stirring spoon that has a teapot on the end of it. Seriously. In love. This is exactly what I've been looking for, one of those little extras that I'm never sure if I want to spend the money on but sort of daydream about. I'd like to believe I'm the sort of person who might have people over for tea and need a pitcher for them to pour their cream out of.

I'm... not that person, but I'd like to be.

Until then, I'll just use it to pour my own cream into my own mug of my very own tea.

And I will feel delightfully British while I do.

Maybe Julie Andrews will even come by and sing a song.

She probably won't, though, because if she did I would faint dead away, but only after shrieking and chasing her around the house and there would be a lot of yelling and panic.

Overall, I'd give this box a very high rating. This is actually my favorite of the three I've tried as far as the overall box itself (although the masala chai from November is still my favorite tea so far!). It's essentially the perfect morning date in a box - tea, scones, jam and clotted cream, and a pitcher for pouring your milk. Jason even remarked on how wonderfully the box appeared like it had been planned for a date - a platonic one with a friend who also loves tea or a romantic one.

Seriously, my only regret is that I didn't have enough stuff to invite my friends Sarah and Liz over to have some, too.

I definitely think if you've been waffling or holding out and waiting to see if there was a box you really wanted before ordering, this is probably going to be that box. I loved everything in it.

So... what are you waiting for?

Go get some! Or I'll sing songs from Julie Andrew's entire ouevre at you! 

Let's start at the very beginning...









* This post was done in partnership with Tea Box Express - they give me a nice discount on my monthly box, I share the goodies and my feelings about it with all of you! All opinions are 100% my own - if I sound enthusiastic, it's because I really am. If I seem mope-y, well, that's authentic, too... although tea very rarely makes me mope-y. If you have any questions, feel free to comment here (or my the blog's FB, or wherever you may see me a-wanderin') and just ask! You'll get my honest answer. If you do decide to pick up a box, either by signing up for a subscription, buying it as a one-time gift, or purchasing it from the shop after-the-fact, please please please let the good folks at Tea Box Express know that it was me who sent you!

November's Review
December's Review

This post was done in partnership with Tea Box Express - they give me a nifty discount and monthly box a bit early, I show you what's in it and tell you what I think about it. - See more at: http://stressandstars.blogspot.com/2014/12/if-i-cant-have-white-christmas-i-can-at.html#sthash.vFNHF6sU.dpuf
This post was done in partnership with Tea Box Express - they give me a nifty discount and monthly box a bit early, I show you what's in it and tell you what I think about it. - See more at: http://stressandstars.blogspot.com/2014/12/if-i-cant-have-white-christmas-i-can-at.html#sthash.vFNHF6sU.dpuf