Monday Favorites

Yesterday was one of those days that just felt right; everything about it was slow and deliberate. The light streamed through the window, laying a calm sheen over the rooms, and we were content and at peace. 

As you have probably heard or witnessed, we had a bit of a snowstorm up here in the northeast Saturday night. The electricity browned out a few times, and judging by the blinking microwave and oven clocks, went out for more than that in the middle of the night. But all is well, no harm done. Just before the first flakes began to fall, the hubby and I had a little bonfire, burning some odds and ends left over from the summer. It was all far too damp to really make the fire successful, but we had a really nice time hanging out while the sun set. Not to mention the fun of poking the burny smoldering things with a big stick. Because really, who doesn't love that. 

A bit of news: I have quit my job at the candy store. Today is my last day, and just typing that sentence made my heart tingle a little. The decision is a culmination of a few different events. First, Patrick has been offered a chance to work from home sometime in the (we hope) near future. With the holiday season being the busiest time of year for a candy store, I opted to save them the hassle and leave now instead of later. (Explanation: I do not have my driver's license, and we both work about an hour from home.) Also, we are getting chickens! Our six day-old chicks should arrive Tuesday or Wednesday (more on them in a later post). For the first few weeks, they need pretty constant care, so that's another reason for me to be home. The last, and probably most influential reason, is that my being a full-time homemaker is something we have been working towards for many years. I believe the most important job I can have is in the home, helping us to live a happier, healthier, homemade life. Our financial situation has been somewhat tumultuous in the past, as is any young couple's (especially those that decide to change careers and states after being married for just a year.) So basically, we have been waiting and hoping for this day, the day when all forces come together in just the right way. This day when God smiles and decides, we are ready. Ready to take this life we have made and cultivate it. To take this house we acquired and turn it into a living, breathing home.

I am now officially a homemaker. Fear, elation, apprehension, intense satisfaction? Oh yeah. But this is it, this is the way it's supposed to be. We've become pretty good at adapting to new beginnings. Cheers.

This week's faves from around the web:

This spotlight on Yuken Teruya over at Poppytalk. So completely beautiful and intricate. I don't think I would ever have the patience.

Whole grain pumpkin pancakes with apple compote. Healthy, seasonal, and oh-my-gosh-delicious, by the inimitable honey & jam.

A five minute ricotta recipe by The Food Lab at SeriousEats. A big part of me thinks this is way too good to be true, but will try it anyway.

This. Is. Breathtaking. Regardless of your opinion of dance or artsy-type movies, watch this preview for the movie Pina. Please, you won't regret it, I swear.

A comprehensive list of wineries in Maine. I love supporting local Maine industry and business. Not only that, but lots of these wineries offer free tours and yes, free wine tastings. Can you think of anything better to do on a warm spring day?


The tortilla saga, part deux

So I'm a little late, but at least I made it. Here's the other recipe for homemade tortillas. And not 'the other recipe,' all italicized and quotationized implying that it's not as good as the original. These live in their own world, with a texture and complexity that is quite different. These tortillas are flat, like, flatter than a pancake (haha). Super thin, but pliable and soft. After a day or two at room temperature, they become almost a little too soft. You try gently rolling it around some black beans and rice on that third day, and suddenly it splits right in half. I mean, hey, it's still delicious. Just make sure you have a sturdy plate and fork handy. And napkins. Lots of napkins.

For straight-up Spanish food, these are the way to go. For a healthy lunch, maybe oh-I-don't-know, diced tomatoes, sauteed peppers, a spoonful of Greek yogurt, handful of sharp cheddar cheese, I prefer the first recipe. Either way, once you go homemade, I swear you will never go back to store-bought. (If you do go back, no need to feel ashamed. Just slap your wrist and go stand in the corner for a few hours...)

Homemade Flour Tortillas, part two
Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures 

Makes 8 tortillas

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 
5 tablespoons vegetable shortening
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup very warm water

Put the flour, salt and shortening into a large bowl. Mix with your fingers until well incorporated. You can use a pastry cutter, but I find shortening to be too soft to make it worthwhile.

Add the water a quarter cup at time until the flour mixture is moistened but not wet.

Knead the dough for 1-2 minutes until smooth and shiny. I do this right in the bowl.

Place the dough on a very lightly floured surface and form into a ball. Cut the dough half, then each bit in half again, until you have 8 separate pieces. Roll the dough pieces into balls, set aside and cover with a damp cloth or paper towel to prevent drying out. Let them rest for at least 20 minutes.

Pre-heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. (My stove is the kind with dials numbered 1 to 9 , and 5 is perfect.)

Work with one piece at a time: Roll the dough out, until about 7-8 inches in diameter, and place it in the pan. It should sizzle, and it should not stick. If it doesn’t sizzle, the heat is too low. If it sticks, the heat is too high. (I have a system where the moment I set a tortilla in the pan, I begin rolling out the next one, so it’s ready to go when the one cooking is done.)

Depending on your stove and pan, it will take about 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes per side. I found that, like pancakes, the first side down almost always looks better, i.e golden brown. The second side tends to get really dark in spots, which is normal and delicious. Transfer the cooked tortillas to a plate and cover with a towel to keep warm. You can serve them now, keep them tightly wrapped at room temperature for a few days, or throw in the freezer for an quick and easy dinner later on. 


Some favorite oranges

by grace & gusto (if your image is included and you would prefer I remove it, please email me at tinyglassjars@gmail.com)

1. japanese lanterns, 2. Untitled, 3. Orange buoy, 4. jack1, 5. Gourds, 6. September, 7. Fall, there's no denying it., 8. Gray day, bright houses, 9. Nasturtium Postcard, 10. we got the beet, 11. autumn color week-orange, 12. orange & blue, 13. Orange Kettle, 14. DSC_0389, 16. abandoned.

Color week, autumn style

Knock, knock. 
Who's there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad you stopped by for Poppytalk's autumn colour week?

...I have no shame. 


Color week is back!

Poppytalk's Autumn Colour Week 2011 is in full swing over at Flickr! As always, there are hundreds of stunning images. Today's color is yellow, so if you're feeling blue, today is the day for you!


Halfway in the dark

Every couple of months, I become disillusioned by blogging/writing. It seems like the things I want to write about have already been written, my ideas have already been thought. I wonder why I bother with this when there are people far more qualified/talented/creative than I. After two years, I have only a handful of followers (and I love you guys, don't get me wrong!) But I mean, really. Anyone who says they blog purely for the art of it is lying or in denial. This is the world wide web. We are here to be heard, to be noticed, to receive feedback in the form of comments and subscribers. If it was just writing for the sake of writing, we'd have our heads buried in a notebook. And of course there's nothing wrong with whichever route you take. But having chosen the public road, it's disheartening to still be halfway in the dark. 

But then I remember why I started this thing in the first place- I love to just write. As I said way back in that very first post, "..the purpose of this public display of egotism is solely for the sake of my writing. I need practice, to know how it feels to have words that I have stressed and toiled over for hours to be spattered on anonymous minds. Writing is tenuous like that; when thrown at another person, your words can tumble and tangle into an idea that looks nothing like the original intention. The wind of interpretation is gusty and inconsiderate." There's no contest here, no prize, no end game. Writing is simply a creative outlet, and blogging is about sharing ideas in a sympathetic community. There's a million blogs about homesteading, even more about food and cooking. But so what? I've seen Gone with the Wind many times, that doesn't make it bad or irrelevant. Most of Jane Austen's novels are essentially the same story but with different characters; that doesn't make me love them any less. Sometimes giving your own spin on a classic idea is what spurs innovation. 

So let this be the last of the embittered rants. Instead, I will embrace my fellow writers, and celebrate their ideas with the gusto they deserve. In addition to my Meatless Friday posts, I am hopping on the link love bandwagon. Every Sunday, I'll be telling you about other blogs or articles that caught my interest over the past week. If you have a blog post of your own that you'd like to share, or your own link love, please send it this way in the comments below! 

-Monthly/yearly menu planning over at Passionate Homemaking has me reevaluating my grocery list. It seems daunting, but she says that for just a few hours of planning each month, you can avoid unnecessary trips to the market, and wasted food from over-purchasing. Brilliant!

-October Unprocessed 2011 is a fantastic event happening all over the web. Could you go a month without any processed food? If you've never thought about it, this is a great way to give it a shot. Trust me, once you go unprocessed, you'll never go back. 

-Orangette's salted peanut butter cookies. I have been on a quest for the perfect PB cookie for YEARS. This just might be it, people. I have faith in Molly. 

-I don't know how I managed to miss Joy the Baker all these years, but I am so psyched to have found her. Hilarious and delicious, her blog is totally awesome. 

-The first image in Hula Seventy's recent post has me swooning. 

-What are doing right now? Whatever it is, it can't be as good as these brown butter apple pie bars from Apt 2B Baking Company. Go make them, now. Seriously. 


Homemade tortillas

Just glancing at my room, my house, my life, I see a million tiny little things that need to be done. There’s that scuff on the wall under the window in my bedroom, or the button that needs to be sewn back on to the husband’s coat…it fell off LAST winter. Don’t even get me started on the unfinished basement, or the dangerously overgrown backyard. It seems that every time I triumphantly cross something off the list, I’m throwing on three more things at the bottom.

I set a lot of goals for myself. Most make sense, and are just my method of getting stuff done around here (except for that ‘lose ten pounds by Thanksgiving’ one). Sometimes, though, the goal is unattainable (like that ‘lose ten pounds by Thanksgiving’ one), and I end up just feeling overwhelmed, or worse, like a failure. To combat this, I have trying something that I once read on another blog (can’t remember which one, sorry!): Everyday, do one small thing that you don’t want to do, or have been putting off for a while.That plastic container in the back of the fridge that's starting to look radioactive? Trashed. The sink that's been slow-draining? Cleared. That email you've been meaning to write but just haven't got around to? Sent. Just one of these irritating but necessary things a day can make you feel oh-so-pleased, and, dare I say it, productive. 

Another thing you can cross off your to-do list? Homemade flour tortillas. Because, yes, this should on everyone's agenda. Flour, salt, water. That. Is. It. No rising time, no complicated ratios, no crazy ingredients. No secrets. Mix flour and salt in bowl, add water until dough forms, knead for a minute or to until it comes together, cut into pieces, roll flat, cook for a minute on the stove-top. Bam, done. That bag of tortillas at the grocery store with a million ingredients and no flavor for $6.00? Definitely cross that off your list, too. 

For our meatless dinner last night, I filled these tortillas with guacamole, diced tomatoes, sauteed peppers and onions, greek yogurt, and cheddar cheese. Oh, and Sriracha. Because everything is better with Sriracha.

Homemade Tortillas
Adapted from Epicurious
Yields 8 large tortillas

These have a consistency somewhere between tortillas and pita bread. No matter how flat you roll them, they will puff in the pan and have a hearty texture. If you prefer the more classic, super-thin tortilla, stop by here next Friday for the recipe.

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½-3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups warm water

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the water slowly, stirring until a dough begins to form. At this point, mix with your hands until the dough is solid enough to move the counter. Knead the dough for a few minutes, until it’s shiny and relatively smooth.

Cut the dough in half and then in half again, continuing until you have 8 equal portions. Roll each piece into a ball, place them on a lightly floured surface, and cover with a damp towel. Let the dough rest for ten minutes. If you try to roll it out at this point, it will be too elastic and resist being stretched.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Roll out the dough to about ¼ inch thickness. Carefully place in the pan and cook for about a minute on each side, or until it begins to brown in spots. Remove and cover with foil to keep warm while cooking the rest of the tortillas.

These will keep for two weeks in the refrigerator or up to six months in the freezer.


Meatless Friday

Being an old-school Catholic, I do not eat meat on Fridays. It’s a tradition, and like Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof, Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as... as a fiddler on the roof!He also proclaims As the good book says, if you spit in the air, it lands in your face,” which is also quite sound advice.

Whether vegetarian, vegan, Catholic or just budget-conscious, people seem to be all about the meatless lately. There are even semi-radical films such as Foodmatters that condemn eating meat, citing it as the cause of many illnesses. Whatever the reason, I think it’s a good idea to have a solid repertoire of meat-free dishes. They are usually super quick to put together, making them ideal for those busy weeknights or lazy afternoons.

I don’t seem to be very good at keeping up with regular posts, but this is one I think I could handle. Every Friday/Saturday morning, I will be posting a meatless meal. It will usually be whatever I ate for dinner that night, but as I have certain dishes on regular rotation, I may stray from that once in a while.   

Tonight, I made quiche. Simple and filling, quiche is sort of magical. Appropriate for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Check. On the table in less than an hour? Check. Can be served hot, room-temp, or cold? Check. No need for a recipe? Check. Able to accommodate those awkwardly small containers of leftovers in the fridge? Check. Definitely made of magic? Double check.

I don’t think I have ever made the same quiche twice. Its ability to adapt and conform to any circumstance makes the choices nearly infinite. My favorite quiches (is that a word, or is it like fish, which can't be pluralized?) involve bacon, but even that leaves tons of wiggle room. Tonight’s incarnation was born from necessity. I had a bag of mushrooms about to go, a pepper nearing its wrinkly end, and a marathon pie crust session this afternoon (I like to make a bunch of crusts at once and freeze them.) After all was said and done, I even had enough of the veggie mix leftover for pizza tomorrow night. 

Quiche follows a very simple formula: 1/3c liquid for every egg. For an 8-inch pie crust, use 1c liquid and 3 eggs. For a 9-inch crust, 1 1/3c liquid, 4 eggs. The liquid could be milk, half and half, cream, or a mixture of the three. Add salt and pepper to taste and you are golden. The possibilities for additions are endless: ground beef and tomatoes, bacon and onions, tomato, basil, and mozzarella. Just make sure not to overcook it, and you've got creamy, velvety goodness every time. See, I told you. Magic

Mushroom, Pepper and Onion Quiche

1 9" pie crust (I use Martha Stewart's pate brisee)

1 yellow onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
Approx. 1lb white mushrooms, or 4-5 cups, halved then sliced into 1/4" pieces
2 tbl butter
2 tbl oil
4 eggs
1 1/3 cup whole milk
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Bake crust for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool while you make the filling. Turn oven up to 400 degrees.

Heat butter and 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until lightly golden brown. Season with a little salt, remove from pan and set aside. 

In same skillet, add remaining tablespoon oil and set over medium-high heat. Add pepper and onion, season with salt, and cook until onion is translucent and the pepper is just beginning to brown. Remove and add to mushrooms. 

Whisk together the eggs and milk, season with salt and pepper to taste. I used about 1 teaspoon kosher salt and about 8-9 turns of the pepper grinder. 

Spread half of the vegetable mixture onto the bottom of the pie crust. Pour the egg mixture on top. You may have a little egg mixture left over, and that's okay. 

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn oven down to 375 degrees and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes. You want to bake the quiche just until the center no longer wiggles. 

Let the quiche cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.