Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Archive for the tag “food”

Recipe Recommendation: Kielbasa

I think yesterday was a new record for how early I brought the slow cooker out, but I wanted to make dinner for the man and I, but it was so grossly humid and damp in MA yesterday ( Labor Day), that the thought of standing in the kitchen for more than a few minutes to make anything made me cranky. I took to my Pinterest slow cooker board in search of inspiration with things I already had in the freezer, pantry, and fridge.

And of course, I had virtually nothing that matched any thing I had pinned or was in the mood for last night.

But what I did have was a thing of kielbasa my parents gave me to over the weekend. I was sort of noodling about what to do with it and after my first attempt at finding a recipe was a fail, I went in search of something to make with the kielbasa.

This proved harder than I thought because I didn’t want anything with cabbage, potatoes, or anything resembling a comfort, heavy meal. After some different searching, I found this recipe which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Essentially it’s kielbasa in a cacciatore sauce ( which I normally don’t like when it’s with its usual friend, chicken).

It was beyond easy- instead of Trader Joe’s fire roasted frozen veggies I used a spaghetti sauce with fire-roasted tomatoes and garlic. I also did not use the entire jar of sauce- I knew the frozen veggies would add water to the sauce already and I didn’t want it to be too liquid-y for eating. We ate it over white rice, but it would definitely taste excellent on pasta and had we not eaten spaghetti a few nights prior, probably would have done that ourselves.

This recipe is definitely easy enough to make on the stovetop too  & if I did that, I would use fresh veggies instead, and might even do that again for the crockpot version. No photo of my completed dish though- we ate it all!

Amsterdam: Food Edition

The Dutch are not entirely known for their cuisine- chocolate, cheese, and beer seem to be the things they do best. In my prep for Amsterdam, I had only a few food “bucket list” items- Indonesian, croquettes ( the Dutch like to mash things up together and fry them), Dutch pancakes ( essentially crepes), and lots of cheese.
shrimp croquettes

 

Shrimp & cheese croquettes

Needless to say, there was a lot of cheese which was fantastic, but there was also a lot of ham. In fact, almost every time there was cheese, there was ham. So much that by the end of the week, I’m pretty much over ham and cheese together. I try not to eat a lot of carbs in my regular diet, but considering I was on vacation, I made sure to eat all the food of the area– by the end of the week, I was definitely sick of the pancakes, sandwiches, and other matter of carbs I was consuming, though since my mom and I were doing so much walking, I actually LOST weight while on vacation!

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Dutch pancake with gouda and ham

The Indonesian food did not disappoint- while we didn’t do the rijsttafel (Rice table), a traditional Indonesian meal, we thoroughly enjoyed a wide array of choices with a lunch special that included the highlights of the restaurant’s menu ( with the exception of a fried banana which might have been the grossest thing I ever put in my mouth). The many frites (French fries) we ate from street vendors and restaurants were amazing- I am definitely a convert to eating fries with mayonnaise.

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Shrimp “bread” with dipping sauce at Sama Sebo, awesome Indonesian food

We had some good meals and a few so-so ones; as most Europeans do, breakfast and lunch are big meals and dinners are often small, tapas style, which is smart, but when you’re walking around all day like we were, we found ourselves snacking a lot later trying to quench our appetites. My mom and I both learned we definitely need coffee to function properly ( we arrived in Amsterdam after a red eye and we’re lucky we found our bags we were so out of it) and almost everywhere we went had such small coffees, we probably spent a good portion of our food money buying multiple cups!

 

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Gratuitousness tulip shot!

 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but for me, it’s about more than the food. For me, Christmas sometimes has a frenzied pace with the buying and trying to visit a lot of friends and family in two days. Thanksgiving has always felt so much more laid back without any pressure, even though I always push myself to make something new and different to bring to the table. Added to the fact that the entire day is about taking time to enjoy and savor- food, family, gratitude, and hands down it becomes the best thing of the year.

The other reason I love Thanksgiving is the traditions. Something about this holiday more than others makes me feel so connected to my family and loved ones in ways that the others don’t even come close to. The making of the Portuguese stuffing is a long held day before Thanksgiving ritual which I’ve taken part in since I was in high school. Many years it has been just me grandmother and I doing it together, others my aunt from California will join us for three generations making our famous Costa recipe. This year it will be just my aunt and I making it together since my grandma has been under the weather, but the tradition still remains.

As I’ve gotten older, some traditions like going to the high school football game have been pushed aside and others have come into the fold ( my family- immediate & extended- always play some raucous games of Cranium after the dinner). When I was growing up my grandparents were in charge of the Thanksgiving feast, but many years ago, my mom took over the duties and I became her sous chef. In the years when I lived at home, we would wake up early to prep the turkey with the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in the background. My dad would make cinnamon rolls. Even though I’ve since moved into my own house, I still go over in the morning in my pajamas to help get everything ready for the big meal. I can’t imagine not being there with them to help with all the preparations.

This year I began my own new tradition of trying to find ways to give back. A year ago my marriage had ended and I was living on my own in a house I was not sure I could afford with a meager budget. Had it not been for my amazing support network of family and friends who helped in all the ways possible, I very easily could have been a person who needed assistance from strangers. While I haven’t hit the lottery, my financial situation is much healthier this year and I am so incredibly thankful for that. It’s such a small thing to do to buy $30 more in groceries to make a Thanksgiving care package for a family so they have the kind of holiday I love and always had growing up.

Regardless of whether you have a big family shindig or something small, I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving filled with gratitude & love. 

 

Ten on Tuesday: Food Edition

Today is last day to vote in the Stratejoy Essay Contest! My essay is #14 & you can vote here. Voting closes tonight at midnight PST. I would be so incredibly thankful for your vote- $500 will go a long way for me!

Ten random facts about me & food!

1. I dislike almost all cooked fruit, in particular fruit pies. Not. A. Fan.

2. I like ketchup with cucumbers.

3. In my version of heaven, there is lots of bread, vegetables, shrimp, chocolate, and cheese.

4. I like trying and cooking new things, especially Indian and Thai dishes

5. I’m slightly afraid of deep frying things, but I love fried food

6. I’ll take delicious seafood of any kind over a steak any day.

7. I greatly dislike oatmeal, smoothies, wet cereal, milkshakes, some yogurt, and rice & tapioca pudding, but I love pudding. It’s a texture thing, but still sort of weird, right?

8. I love just about every vegetable under the sun, with Brussels sprouts and broccoli tied for first.

9. Chocolate and peanut butter, in any way I can get it, can make the worst situation seem far better.

10. Having a dessert in place of a meal, in particular breakfast or dinner, is not uncommon for me.

What sort of random food likes or dislikes do you have?

Not Your Mother’s Home Ec

As many homeowner’s know, every free weekend in your life is frequently taken over by various house projects, DIY projects, and general upkeep items. This seems more OK to me now that the heat of summer has subsided, as well as the fact that looking at the growing list of things to do has finally motivated me into action.

The weekend began with usual Saturday morning house cleaning- I set an alarm for an hour or so, put on some great tunes, and tackle the piles of mail, clothes, dishes, etc. that have accumulated over the work week. I sweep, vacuum, and so some minimal dusting. You know, the usual culprits of grossness.

When I woke up it looked like the scraping and painting my father and I had hoped to accomplish was going to be thwarted by rain, but sunshine prevailed, and we had a gorgeous (and productive!) day of scraping and painting my front porch. After a second coat today, front porch is all done! Now the beast of scraping and painting the exterior of the sun porch is next. We tried starting it over the summer, but between the heat & humidity we got barely anything done.

This weekend, with some great fall sales, I was able to pick up some home decor items that I had been wanting for a bit of time- new tablecloth, throw pillow, and some decorative elements for the house. I’m also just about finished with a DIY project I had been thinking about for a bit- more to come on that soon!

What really has me so excited this weekend is that for the first time ever, I made my own, homemade from scratch, tomato sauce. My garden is still abundant with tomatoes and after freezing a bunch, using so many in recipes and salads, I still have so many left over. The sauce is simmering as we speak, but I’m hoping it turns out well. The basil in my garden continues to grow like a weed- I’ve made 4 batches of pesto to freeze with plans to make a few more to give to friends– I’ve used more olive oil this summer than ever before I think! I just hung a bunch of basil to dry and will do a few more if this batch works out too.

My garden was a success for the most part- I had success with green beans, tomatoes ( both beefsteak, heirloom, and sun grape tomatoes), and basil. I only ended up with three or four cucumbers, though they were delicious. Sadly, I had no zucchini. Three plants went in at the beginning of the season, and two died by the beginning of summer. The third plant has had squash blossoms on it for awhile, but no zucchini yet and I doubt there will be. I’m happy with my first garden at the house- much of it thanks to my dad, who worked hard to put in the little container area and watered it frequently during the hot days. He has quite the green thumb, of which I am learning slowly!

As I’m preparing for more cooking now that the weather changes ( I’m thinking about making mini quiches tonight for breakfast for the week), I have to laugh a bit to myself because I never would have imagined years ago that I would have been this interested in cooking, freezing, growing veggies, house maintenance, etc. I greatly disliked home economics in junior high- mostly because I didn’t think any of the things were useful- but now as an adult, I find myself reading more home and cooking blogs, magazines, and TV shows than I ever did before. Of course my interests and life has changed greatly- dinners out aren’t a big part of my budget and I’m strict with my grocery store spending too, so being able to prepare and have food in my backyard to eat helps on both those accounts. Before, I saw a lot of the “homemaking”/DIY stuff as too time consuming or boring- my philosophy used to be that there were people who were professionals who could do things far better than I and so I should pay them to do it. I frequently used to say that my sanity had a price. While that still may be true with some things ( I don’t make creme brulee for example, because I know it would never be as good as a pastry chef could do, plus that torch thing scares me!), I find that I want to at least give things a try a lot more than I used. I enjoy making food for friends, family and myself to enjoy; I like making things to have in my home and be proud to show off. It’s a challenge for me many times too and keeps me constantly learning (and often surprising myself) at what I am able to do.

Now if I could just remember how to use that sewing machine, I’d be set!

Dreams of Culinarian Creations

As much denial I am in that Saturday is September 1, I’m also really looking forward to the fall, as I know from the social media world, a lot of other people are too!

I’m looking forward to cool nights, sweater dresses, and cardigans with jeans. Of course the not sweating just sitting feeling will be great, the ability to do work outside on the house without worrying about heat stroke, and not having to commute in a hot sauna of a car without AC and sitting in beach traffic.

There are a zillion things I didn’t do this summer- never got a beach day in ( which is a crime) or went for drinks at Castle Hill. There is still plenty of time for that of course, since summer never really ends in New England until middle to late September, though who knows anymore with the wacky weather.

What I am most looking forward to is having cooler weather to cook again. On hot nights after work in the summer the combination of hot house, sweating, and being tired mean a lot of quick salads, takeout, or dinner over at my parents. It was just too much work and effort for me this year. Now that the temps are starting to get back into the not sweating- all-the-time mode, I can’t wait to bake bread, use my slowcooker, and roast potatoes. I have a pretty strict no oven in the summer rule, which I broke last week to make zucchini bread ( disclaimer: it was the most cool night in the while and I was doing it at about 9pm). I’ve already started planning meals and making organized Pinterest boards for soups and pasta dishes to try out.

Cooking has not always been my favorite thing and it has only been in the past few years where I have come to love it, read recipes and cookbooks for fun, and really experiment with food. I still have so long to go especially when it comes to improvising and looking into the freezer and cabinets to be able to make a meal from the most random ingredients. But I enjoy it a lot and I’m looking forward to making meals to share with my family on a more regular basis. I hate to waste food so I end up eating even some of the clunkers and often feeling down about the bad results, but I’m improving everyday. I’m contemplating a more formal cooking class in the later fall as well to learn more about cuisine, flavors, and to improve my knife skills. And of course- to document all the trials and tribulations on the blog too!

How are you in the kitchen? Are you a reluctant cook or a master chef?

June is Busting Out All Over

(Points to someone if you can name what musical that’s from!)

How is it June!?! I’m still trying to figure out what happened to last October. I feel so old when I say that because of course time is constant, it’s all about perception, etc. I remember when I was a kid summer took  FOREVER to get here and it the summer vacation seemed so long ( not that it was a bad thing!) Now there are days when I am stuck in my office staring at the gorgeous day outside and don’t even get 15 minutes to go stare at the ocean and sit in the sun.

As surprised as I am about it being June, I am filled with so much excitement about the coming summer. No more making lists of things I want to do that ends in disappointment in September at not doing them. No more packed weekends trying to fit in all the summer things. I’m going to be really mindful and aware of my theme for 2012 in the warmer months ahead– to savor and focus. I’m going to focus on what I want to be doing and how I feel- and not feel guilty if I want to stay in and devour another book in the sunroom or sitting in the shade of my backyard. I want to savor the delicious trips to the local ice cream stop and make sure to have cash so I can grab a Del’s Lemonade at the beach when I am driving home.

This summer is going to be all about me and practicing a lot of fierce love for life and what I want. I can’t wait for the lazy Sunday afternoons and weeknight dinner meals of fresh native tomatoes from my garden with delicious mozzarella. I long for the nights reading on the sunporch or taking a walk down by the river. I kicked off this summer of relaxation and me over Memorial Day weekend down with my guy in Philadelphia. It was wonderful to have a whole weekend with no definitive plans, no time tables, and nothing but laughter and fun on the agenda. It was the perfect start to the summer of me!

What’s on your summer agenda?

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