Monday, June 28, 2010

It was only a matter of time.

I've been conflicted about posting lately. Plenty of things have happened that would have warranted posting in the past - but now I just think, "Why bother?"

I just scrolled through my posts from the past 10 months and it was fun to see all of things I've cooked, and all of the big changes that happened to our yard. It was fun to reminisce...and it made me hungry.

When I decided to start this blog, I told myself that I would just write on it for my own pleasure - not to receive comments from others. That's what undid me when I had my last blog...I got too caught up in wanting feedback from other people that I made myself crazy.

Well - I've reached that point where writing on this site just not that enjoyable anymore. My friends see my projects and hear my stories in person, so I ask myself: why am I bothering with this? Everyone who cares can just as easily be informed through a monthly photo album of what's happening in our lives. So no more guilt about not writing here!

Thanks for the good times, Frau Farmer! Auf Wiedersehen!

Monday, May 24, 2010


So...Just checked my email.

There was a Yahoo Groups update message.

Hmmm, that's funny, I thought. Aren't I no longer part of any Yahoo groups? (That means you, Freecycle.)

But it turns out...I am.

Looks like they didn't quit me after all! Or maybe they did, but then they found my post and realized the error of their ways?? Well, in any case:

Step 1: Insert foot into mouth.

Step 2: Delete the post where I tell Freecycle to suck it. I'm sorry, Freecycle. You're not that bad, after all.

Step 3: Blush and then add "find stuff to give away on Freecycle" back onto my To Do list.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Back in December after watching Food, Inc., I decided that I wasn’t going to eat meat from restaurants that didn’t buy their meat from humane farms. I didn’t want to be merely disgusted by industrial agriculture – I wanted to stop supporting it with my purchases. (Kind of like how I have been boycotting Wal-Mart for the last 6 years.)

I wanted my burger to have had led the kind of life that a cow deserves to lead (moseying around pastures eating grass) – and not to have led the kind of life that cows raised on factory farms are forced to lead (standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of other cows, all knee-deep in their own manure, eating grain and ground up dead animals - to include other cows).

But that’s not just because it makes me feel better emotionally to support these humane farms. If a human is going to eat meat, it's healthier for us to eat meat from animals that have lived their lives eating the foods that they have evolved to eat (imagine that!).

It’s healthier for the cows, too. From
The average cow will die within 6 months from consuming a corn based diet (their livers blow out), which is about all the time a factory farm needs to fatten up a cow for slaughter. To keep the feedlot animal "healthy" (healthy enough to survive), industrial farms feed the cows a constant dose of antibiotics. Did you know that most of the antibiotics sold in America end up in animal feed? It is now generally acknowledged that this practice is a direct contributor to the evolution of new antibiotic-resistant "superbugs."
Yikes, right?

Now, I’ll be honest. Even knowing all of this, I have not been 100% successful at keeping my own goal – and I’m not beating myself up over that. I consider myself to be off the hook when I eat over at other people’s houses (if there is a veggie alternative being offered, I eat that, but if not, I go ahead and eat whatever meat they’re serving). And this past weekend was the first time that I broke my rule while in a restaurant. We went to a German restaurant in North Carolina to celebrate Mother’s Day with Eric’s parents and faced with having only sides for dinner as I did when we were there at Christmastime, I caved and ordered the sauerbraten.

For quite some time now we’ve been buying all of our meat from the farmers’ market, mostly from a local Virginia farm that raises buffalo. But some friends recently offered us up a deal that was too good to pass up. Friends of theirs moved to a farm in Pennsylvania and had a cow that was going to be butchered soon. They wanted to know if we wanted a share of it.

The new term for this?


We thought about it and decided to do it!

Three couples shared the butchering fee ($324.40 total) and then split up the meat evenly, with one couple specifying that they wanted a few specific cuts. (Um, yeah - go ahead and take the tongue! Fine by us!)

We ended up with 127 pounds of meat.

  • 1 brisket
  • 5 T-bone steaks
  • 1 short ribs
  • 1 regular ribs
  • 1 rump roast
  • 2 sirloin tip roasts
  • 3 rib eye steaks
  • 5 sirloin steaks
  • 6 round steaks
  • 1/3 of the ground beef

Needless to say, our freezer is more than a little bit full right now.

 The bottom two freezer baskets had to be completely removed 
in order to fit it all in.

When you add the butchering fee to the per pound price for the meat, we paid a mere $2.39 per pound for our grass-fed Jersey cow.

Not bad, eh?

Beef: It's what's for month...

For more information on cow-pooling, 
check out the following resources:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Step by Step

(Why can I not write that title without hearing New Kids on the Block playing in my head? Oh great. Now it's not going away. Oooooh, babaaay. Gonna get to you girrrrrl!)

Focus! Why did I log in here again? Oh right. To post some photos. Apparently Eric is sick and tired of looking at the picture of the blond kid with his pool noodles, so I'm going to spare his precious retinas and post some other images for your (and his) viewing pleasure.

We went in the pool for the first time on Saturday! It. Was. Freezing!

We finished landscaping along one edge of the pool. 
The lights look awesome when they're turned out at night.

My friend Sara came over on Saturday and helped me to set 
some of the walkway stones. Thanks, Sara!

It was intimidating-slash-depressing to see how long it took us to do this one section of the walkway. I hope I'll be able to finish it before our pool party on Memorial Day weekend!

Check out the garden photo album to see the latest garden photos. I noticed last night that one of the strawberries has turned red already!!! So very exciting! Tonight Eric finished putting up some trellises to cover up the pool pump and air conditioning unit, along with a small raised garden bed in front of it. We filled it with the leftover dirt from last year's garden and I immediately planted a few cucumber seeds and a bunch of sugar snap peas. Can't wait to see how that works out...Stay tuned. We may have a cucumber coup on our hands in a few months.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Free Noodles!

No, sorry – I'm not giving away a coupon for a free lunch here...

What I wanted to share was that last night I used my new (free) membership to our local FreeCycle group to score some free pool “noodles”!

(Our noodles, however, did not come with a little boy as pictured here. 
Thank god, because I have no idea where I'd store one of those.)

FreeCycle is like Craigslist but it’s only for giving away completely free stuff. No bartering, no strings attached – just straight up FREE. It’s not first-come, first-served because that causes people to waste time and gas by traveling somewhere to pick up an item that may no longer still be there. After joining your local FreeCycle group, you either place ads for stuff that you want to get rid of (for free) or respond to ads that others have posted.

From the FreeCycle website: “By giving freely with no strings attached, members of The Freecycle Network help instill a sense of generosity of spirit as they strengthen local community ties and promote environmental sustainability and reuse.”

So in the spirit of keeping things out of landfills and saving money at the same time, I responded to someone’s ad for pool noodles and some small boogie boards. He put them out on his porch for me and I picked them up last night.

I have to say that it was a bit strange to just pull into someone’s driveway, walk up to their house, take stuff off of their porch and then drive away! But kind of awesome!

And the benefit to being part of a FreeCycle group that’s specific to my section of town is that I'll never have to drive very far to pick up my free goodies. (Maybe not quite so true in the more rural areas of the country, but here in the DC area there are tons of neighborhood-specific FreeCycle groups.)

Want to find one near you? Go to and search for one where you live!

Monday, April 19, 2010


It has been almost 8 long months since we signed the paperwork to get a pool put in our backyard...and today, the pool was FINALLY finished.


We awoke at 7 am to find the crew on our property, preparing the pool for its plaster finish. The guys were super nice, seemed very knowledgeable and did an excellent job. Five hours later, the pool was complete! (Well, minus the water. We're working on that part as we, write.)

And with that, I leave you....our pool.

See more images in the sidebar where the album of pool construction photos are!

Friday, April 16, 2010

W-E-E-K-E-N-D, it's weekend!

This week Eric continued to work outside in the yard every evening after work, with me pitching where I could be of use. In digging out the ZGW (Zen Garden Walkway) he ended up with lots of displaced dirt, which he piled up next to the pool deck so that there isn't such a terrible drop-off any more. The one large area has been turned into our wildflower patch. Although it doesn't look like much now, we hope that it will look AWESOME a month or two from now. (Fingers crossed!)

Last night I built a low stone wall in front of the landscaping that leads up to the shed. Building those are my specialty around our yard! Just as with laying the stones down in the ZGW, it's like a game of Tetris to me. Then I laid down some grass seed in front the shed and put up some "fencing" to keep Tater out of there. (See the terrible shape the shed is in? Tater looooves peeing on it.) That's a project for another day. Or year at this point.

On Wednesday night I used our leftover rice from the Chinese food we'd ordered the night before to make a curry rice with carrots, peas, raisins, and almond slivers, plus tofu and onion that we'd purchased from Arganica. We used to buy garlic naan (Indian bread) from Trader Joe's, but I decided to try the recipe in my bread book for curry naan with raisins in it and it was fantastic. (Sara - you and I are going to have an Indian dinner some night and we're going to make this! Yummmm!)

Tonight while Eric was outside working on the ZGW, I looked up a recipe for brownies from scratch - which unbelievably, I had never made before - and whipped some up for our dessert! A half recipe, 10 servings, contained 1 cup of sugar and 2 sticks of butter, amongst other things. Sweet baby Jebus. But who knows what the hell is in the boxed mixes in the I'd rather be reminded that what I'm eating is not exactly healthy so that I can (try to) stop myself from finishing off the entire pan in one sitting. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Breaking Ground on the ZGW

Screw spring! Here in Northern Virginia, we're apparently fast-forwarding right to summer. Yesterday it got to 90 degrees (that's 31 degrees Celsius for my European readers!) and today and tomorrow the forecast is in the mid-80's again. After a long streak in the 70s, it really does feel like summer!

Of course, at the end of this week, it's supposed to dip back down to normal (in the 60s)...just in time for them to FINALLY come do some work on our pool.


Or so they say. But I have been led to believe that by the end of next week, we may have a completed pool. Holy crap! Pictures will be posted, trust me.

I've been making lots of new things from scratch recently: ravioli, baguettes, gnocchi, and danishes. (My kitchen is heaven for carb lovers!) I didn't manage to get a photo of the gnocchi but you'll just have to trust me: they look like gnocchi. Here are some photos of the ravioli and one of the baguettes, which I made with two of my lovely friends, Sara and Eliza:

 The wine is from a Virginia winery, too! So yummy.

And here are the apple and golden raisin danishes that I made for my friend Amber's Easter brunch:

Nooooo, absolutely no butter was used to make these at all. None.

I had made the dough for the danishes a week ago and froze it, so on Sunday I "only" had to roll it out, shape the danishes, let them rise, make the filling, fill them and bake them. But other than that, recently cooking has taken a back seat to working outside the house.

I took Friday off of work and between Friday morning and Sunday night we:
  • planted the dormant plants we had purchased at Meadows Farms
  • had something like 4 tons of rock and rock dust delivered to our driveway for the walkway I designed for the back yard
  • started the aforementioned walkway, which we have named the ZGW (Zen Garden Walkway)
  • stained the entire deck (two coats = ugggghhhhhh torture).
The entire time, I could only think about two things:
  1. How I'm wearing my crappy Working Outside Clothes while covered in dirt/paint/sweat all weekend while other people are enjoying the lovely weather doing lovely things like riding bikes along the lovely W & OD trail path or sipping refreshing drinks while sitting on lovely patios; and
  2. This had all better be worth it.

But really - life is good. We are incredibly fortunate to be able to create this little bit o' back yard paradise and I'm really excited to see how it all turns out! It's a lot of hard work but it's rewarding when we see the progress we're making.

Check out the photos in the side bar to see what we've done so far...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lucky Dog!

Tater plowed through the Snickerdoodle Poodle Poos that I made him last week, so tonight I mixed up some Cheese, Please! cookies. Super cute!

 I'll be honest, they didn't all look so perfect.
(Somehow I'm guessing Tater won't notice.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Glutton for (Delicious) Punishment

A few months ago, there was a night when Eric was going out with the boys and I decided to spend my evening alone by ordering take out and watching a girlie movie. My take out choice ended up being a small pizza from a local Italian-Greek restaurant...and onion rings...and a piece of cheesecake. Go big or go home, right? (And by big, I apparently mean fat in this instance!)

I ended up saving one piece of the pizza (couldn't finish the whole thing, of course - I mean, that would be shameful!) and saved the cheesecake for another evening. But the point of this (other than to tell you that sometimes when a girl has a craving, all common sense goes out the window) is to say that I was amazed at how much time I had that evening!

I was done eating my dinner by 6:30 pm. On an average night, we're finishing dinner around 8 pm! And then there are the dishes to deal with!

But while that may be exhausting, on most nights I'm happy to have chosen to spend my time in that way. We're eating healthier meals made of fresh whole foods, and not only does it taste great - but the pride in having created something tasty from scratch is priceless.

Case in point: I lost my mind on Friday night. After working 8 hours (and commuting 50 minutes each direction on the metro), then coming home and walking the dog for 45 minutes or so, I:
  • whipped some of my bread dough out of the freezer and baked it and then turned it into garlic bread
  • made pasta from scratch for the first time (outside of the class I took at Sur La Table)
  • made my favorite cookies, you know the ones I'm talking about by now - the oatmeal chocolate chip walnut ones? Yeah, those. Drooool!
Needless to say, we didn't sit down to eat until 9 pm. Unthinkable to many, I know (like both my and Eric's parents!) but hey - go big or go home, right? It was a delicious meal, and while I might have been ready to pass out after the last dish was washed, I sure was proud of what I had made from raw ingredients.

The sauce we put on the pasta was homemade from our garden tomatoes back in September!

And then tonight, I decided that I was going to make rolls for our buffalo burgers from scratch. As soon as I got home I made the dough, much to Tater's chagrin. ("We'll go for a walk in just a minute, Tater, I swear." Queue dog to freak out because I said the "w" word.)

Between making those and sweet potato fries (which turned out pretty terribly - I still can't figure out the best way to bake those to get a good result) I was a bit stressed out in the kitchen again - maybe several of the rolls slid off the baking sheet into the oven at one point when I was moving them from one rack to another...maybe I uttered a few choices curses...but hey, I never claimed to be Martha Stewart. The end result (for the rolls anyway) was yummmmy. A little dense for a burger roll, Eric said, but would be perfect with a stew. I'm pretty excited to turn the leftovers into sandwich rolls for my lunch this week, or croutons to go with the wild salad greens we have in the fridge.

See the indents in a few of the rolls? That's from my snatching them out from the various crevices of the oven that they slid off of the parchment paper into.

We had some landscaping done yesterday but that's a whole 'nother post - so I'll get to that later this week. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Frau Farmer? Yeah, we'll see about that.

When I got home from work this evening, I saw that my veggie seeds had finally arrived! After walking the Tater Tot in the gorgeous 70 degree weather, he and I headed into the back yard and got right to work. (Well, me to work - him to eating dirt and random stuff he found on the deck, that little weirdo.)

After reading the seed packets and separating them into piles of "plant now", "plant later" and "plant inside ASAP". The "plant now" ones, well...I planted them now! Brilliant, I know.

Planting veggie seeds in the garden could not be easier, especially because we use raised beds with nice dirt in them. I simply drag the mini shovel, as I like to call the trowel (I had to look that up - I honestly didn't know what the hell that thing was really called) in two rows, 24" apart, to create a little trench and then I sprinkle the seeds. Then you cover the seeds with dirt again and water them. Done!

Sprinkling the seeds always makes me laugh. They all come with 50 to 200 seeds in each packet, and generally the instructions say to plant them between 3 and 12 inches apart. Do you realize how much land you could plant with one packet of seeds that costs $1.50? So with the space I have set aside for the broccoli, I only (technically) needed SIX seeds! But of course, I sprinkled more than that just in case one of the six seeds doesn't feel like coming up to greet the sun this year.

Third garden bed is to come once the pool construction is finished.

I'm just crossing my fingers about everything I planted. The broccoli should've been started inside ages ag, and what I would've ideally planted outside today would've been little tiny broccoli plants - not seeds. And the onions - well, I've never grown those from seed either, so that's a total adventure. I also put 5 of my strawberry plants in the pot I bought for them last weekend...never done that before either. Stay tuned to see how this turns out!

 I know - this looks completely pathetic right now!
Hopefully not for long, though!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Finally an Update (Thanks to a Lazy Sunday)

Wow. It's been more than a month since I last wrote something.There were many times where I planned to post something to this blog, but then I was too tired or didn't have time to upload the photos to my computer or *cough cough* AmericanIdolwason. What was that? Huh? Anyway...Here's what's been happenin'.

Come to me, veggies!

Thanks to a super cool and thoughtful birthday gift from a friend, this week we received our first delivery of locally sourced veggies (and more!) from a local company called Arganica. A description from their web site:
"Arganica is Washington DC's premier local-source food club providing year-round delivery direct to your doorstep once a week. ... Arganica's goal is to provide a healthy, locally-sourced variety of great foods from the best small-scale and artisan producers we can find, at competitive prices, while creating a better market—and thus income—for the producers involved. We put our efforts into supporting the local economy, family farms, and small batch kitchens by seeking them out and bringing their products directly to you."
Does that sound like it's right up my alley or what?

Wait, you may be thinking. Isn't that called a CSA? (Or maybe you weren't thinking that because you have no clue what the hell a CSA is. CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. By joining a CSA you sign up to receive a share of a farm's goods each week or each month. Click here to find out if there's one in your area.)

But Arganica is different from a CSA because they allow you to pick the items you want to have delivered to your doorstep. That way, you're not receiving a basket of mystery veggies - where there's inevitably some item that rots while you figure out what the heck to make with it.

So I signed up for a free trial, which means that for one month I can buy items from Arganica without paying the membership fee that allows them to keep this business up and running. I was able to use the gift certificate from my awesome friend to pay for the products I decided to try out:

2 lbs each of:
    - red onions
    - yellow onions
    - red potatoes
    - white potatoes
    - sweet potatoes
1 lb of white mushrooms
1 dozen free range eggs
2 bottles of seltzer water in antique bottles
1 package of tofu
1 pint of butter pecan ice cream

The produce was gorgeous! The onions were the largest I've ever seen; the potatoes were firmer than the ones we got from our local farmer's market; the mushrooms were perfect and plentiful. The seltzer water has remained perfectly carbonated day after day; the butter pecan ice cream was a delicious dessert as we watched a movie on the couch Friday night.

Good eatin' for Tater Tot

The dog has been eating as well as we have been for quite some time now. He used to constantly have an upset stomach and had lots of skin issues. After one particularly bad tummy problem, our vet told us to feed him bland food - boiled chicken and rice. We did and Tater loved it. So we decided to keep it up. He eased him back onto his dry kibble but switched it to a brand that has limited ingredients in attempt to avoid as many potential allergens as possible, and then we continued to sprinkle it with boiled chicken, ground turkey, peas and carrots, and/or green beans. The dog's digestive system is now 100% awesome and he drools while we portion out his meals. Not so great for the cleanliness of the kitchen floor, but I'm glad he's so pumped about his meals!

Today, I took Tater's food choices to a new level: I made him treats from scratch. When we're talking to him, our word for treat is "cookie" and now it's actually an accurate description!

The recipe comes from a book that I bought when I was waiting in the checkout line at HomeGoods (or Marshall's or T.J. Maxx - I can't remember). I bought brown rice and oat flour at Whole Foods recently for this purpose, and so working with those and what I had sitting around the house, I made him "Snickerdoodle Poodle Poos". He loooooves them! I personally think they're a bit bland. (What? The ingredients are the same as making human cookies minus the butter, sugar and salt!)

The garden starts to take shape

Last weekend, we worked outside in the yard preparing it for spring. We got two of our three raised garden beds into the ground. (We have to wait to put the third one in until the pool construction is finished.) Now the only thing I'm waiting on is for my seeds to arrive in the mail! I ordered them over a month ago but the company that I ordered them from was without power for 10 days during the snow storms we had on the east coast, so their shipping schedule was delayed even further. *sigh* The second they show up, I'm going to have to get the broccoli and spinach seeds planted, and start the onion seeds inside!

I also received the strawberry plants that I ordered through and would have planted them in their strawberry pot today if the dirt weren't totally soaked from the several days of rain that we've had.

I can't wait for things to start growing!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snoverkill: Snowed In, Day 6

It's now Thursday and due to another snow storm making its way through our area yesterday, I am still off of work! The baking continues, with a cranberry-nut bread now under my belt as well as my favorite German dumplings: Hefeklöße!

Just pretend you don't see the chips on our crappy Target plates.

"Hefe" means yeast and "Klöße" are dumplings. Every time I would visit our relatives in Germany, I would ask my godmother to make these for me. Therefore, I would only get to eat them once a year - sometimes, once every few years. But now that I am becoming much more confident in creating yeast doughs, I figured that it was finally time to give making Hefeklöße a shot...and I was successful! Woo hoo!

They are most often served with sweet sauces - here the dumpling is shown with a strawberry sauce (frozen strawberries, heavy cream, sugar) and a vanilla sauce (a packet from the German store mixed with milk and sugar). But they can also be served in a savory fashion. For dinner, we each had one of the leftover dumplings with the last of the beef stew that Eric made this past weekend - yummy!

Putting the 'Farmer' Back in Frau Farmer

It seems like a funny thing to do when there's three feet of snow on the ground, but on Tuesday I spent the bulk of my day researching websites to buy our vegetable and herb seeds from. I ended up purchasing it all from Heirloom Seeds.

Item:1 - Qty:1, RED BURGUNDY ONION (Hamburger Onion)
Item:12 - Qty:2, COTTAGE GARDEN MIX  (A wildflower mix that we're going to sprinkle all around the back yard - I can't wait to see how this turns out!)

We're going to have WAY more seed than we have room for so we're going to share it with a friend of mine who is going to start her very first garden this year!

Now the only other items we need are garlic (which won't be planted until late in the fall), strawberries (which I plan to grow in a pot on our deck), and sweet potatoes.

I had been wondering why it was hard to find sweet potatoes in online seed catalogs and then I found out that they're not grown from seed! We are going to grow our own sweet potato slips from organic sweet potatoes that we're going to buy from the farmers market or Whole Foods. This should be an interesting project...Stay tuned to find out how that goes!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Frau Farmer: Snowpocalypse Edition

This weekend we received close nearly three feet of snow here in the DC area. The storm was predicted to hit on Friday afternoon so on Thursday evening and Friday morning, DC area residents went into Full Freak Out Mode. Eric went to the grocery store at 8 a.m. on Friday and found that all the shopping carts were already being used. They were out of eggs.

But those forecasts were right: the snow came...and kept on coming. According to the Capitol Hill Weather Gang and NOAA: "Snowmageddon will rank number 4 in recorded history for D.C. The storm also brings D.C. to number 3 in the top winter totals on record." 

So what's a girl to do when you're snowed in all weekend? Bake, eat, and drink.

Friday night, I defrosted pumpkin puree from our freezer (courtesy of last summer's garden) and baked a pumpkin bread. Then Eric's friends arrived (one stayed with us all weekend, while the other two live nearby) and we walked to the local Irish pub for dinner and some drinks. Back at home, we kept drinking (Bailey's with caramel!), went in the hot tub, and then I made cupcakes with, apparently, a bit of a buzz going - because this is what they looked like when I got done with them:

Just put the knife down...slowly. Now back away from the cupcakes.

On Saturday, I decided to make some pita bread for the first time ever to pair with the hummus that our friend had brought over. The recipe was from my bread baking cookbook and it was super easy. I still can't believe they turned out so perfectly.

After taking a break to walk over to our nearby friends' house, I got back to work in the kitchen by baking rolls for our dinner, a boeuf Bourguignon that Eric was making. I found the recipe on, my favorite site for finding good, solid recipes. It was the first time I'd made a yeast dough by letting the yeast mixture sit in a "well" in the flour but it worked perfectly. If you've never made fresh yeast dough with active dry yeast from the grocery store, you should give it a try. It's not hard and it smells amazing. (Just make sure you use a thermometer to make sure your milk isn't too warm or it will kill the yeast.)

The dough felt really nice when I was kneading it and I resisted the urge to add more flour to make it a little less sticky. The end result were a bunch of rolls that were a bit brown on the bottom (I need better pans) but fluffy and great for sopping up the stew. 

After sitting for a day, they became denser, but then I cut the remaining rolls in half and turned them into mini garlic breads to go with the pasta bar we had for dinner on Sunday night. (Choice of sauces: pesto/vodka sauce/tomato sauce - all homemade from our garden! Okay, the vodka wasn't from our garden, but it was from our local ABC store! Ha ha...)

I finished off the "Snow-my-god!" weekend by baking my good old standy cookies, the oatmeal chocolate chip walnut ones, for the Super Bowl. I could care less about football so I baked them some time during the third quarter. 

But the fun isn't over yet! Work was closed today! However, we are so stocked to the gills with leftovers now that I haven't cooked or baked a darn thing today. (Amazing, I know!) 

And guess what?

They're predicting another 5 inches (or more!) of snow to fall tomorrow night! So Eric is at the store right now getting us some more eggs and milk. 

Hey, if I'm stuck inside again on Wednesday, you can bet I'm going to be making more food!

Thank goodness pool season is still a few months away.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Enjoying That "Old-Fashioned " Feeling

Lately, with rumors of turbulence afoot at Eric's place of employment, he and I have been commenting on how nice it would actually be if one of us was a stay-at-home spouse. Now, of course, that would only ever happen if by force - but we both think it would be kind of awesome.

Well, alright - the less money thing would definitely suck. But not having our nights filled with chores because the house is already clean by the time the other person comes home from work? Ohmygodthatwouldfreakinbeawesome.

Let's stop right there.

If there are any of you who are already in this lovely type of relationship where one of you stays home while the other works:
  1. You likely have children, which means that the one who's at home is definitely still working.
  2. You're probably laughing your butts off at the idea that the house will always be clean by the time the person working away from the house comes home.
But a girl can have her crazy daydreams, right?

Despite the fact that both of us work 40 hours a week, I've still been feeling like a housewife from the 1950's a little bit lately - in a good way. After I come home and walk the dog, I put on my apron (oh goodness, I love my pretty little apron), turn on the Swing/Big Bands radio channel on, and start preparing dinner. And I love it! All of the fresh ingredients, the chopping (sidenote: I haven't cut myself in ages! Practice makes, uh...not bleeding!), the sizzling sounds, the smells... Ahhhhh. Then Eric walks through the door and I greet him with a chipper, "Hello, Honey! How was your day?" Alright, maybe not always that last part, but you get the drift.

Of course, the down side to this is that we usually end up eating dinner between 7:30 and 8 p.m. (because fresh, healthy meals don't make themselves, you know). But it's just so satisfying to sit down to a home cooked meal made with fresh - and these days, usually local - ingredients. Last night I made a good old standby recipe (courtesy of Real Simple) of sausage, spinach and gnocchi and this time the only ingredients that weren't from the farmers' market were the garlic and the Parmesan cheese. (Fresh - no powdered sawdust from a green can for us. Trust me - once you have fresh grated Parm, you will never go back.) It honestly tasted fresher than it ever did when I made it with ingredients from Giant.

Eating well doesn't have to take hours, though. We bought wild greens and an apple from the market, and when I added some walnuts, blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette to those - voila! A super easy, super delicious, healthy lunch.

Now don't get me wrong - I know I'm no Healthy-Local-Seasonal-Food Saint. I'll be the first person to tell you that I still make unwise food decisions. Last week in a moment of weakness (and frugality!) after a lunch hour workout (I seriously crave chocolate after I exercise), I walked through the Rite Aid that I pass on my way back to the office and convinced myself that the 14 oz. bag of peanut M&Ms would be a good idea. Certainly more bang for my (4) bucks than a smaller "single serving" bag! And maybe, just maybe, I even ate a few of said M&Ms earlier this week prior to 10 o'clock in the morning because I knew they just sitting up there in my desk cabinet, calling my name. (From now on, I think the wallet needs to stay locked up in my office when I go to the gym.)

But back to the 1950's housewife thing. Maybe that's not something I should aspire to be like. I found an article from Good Housekeeping, printed on May 13, 1955 that is titled, "The good wife's guide". Here it is, for your reading pleasure - with comments by me in italics.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

* Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.  Okay, not too bad...

* Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Nothing wrong with caring about your appearance. Indeed. But ribbon? Really? Guess I'm going to have to raid the gift-wrapping bag! I hope it looks pretty with fleece sweatpants.

* Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it. I have heard that some guys are into that... Eric?

* Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the house just before your husband arrives. I actually do this - I think every appreciates a tidy house, no?

* Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper etc and then run a dustcloth over the tables. What's a dustcloth?

* Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction. I'm a little surprised that they are actually instructing a WOMAN to prepare and *gasp!* light a fire! Isn't this "man's work"? Well, fine then. But I'm doing this BEFORE I go get the freakin' ribbon.

* Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children's hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. When I imagine this, I think I would be freaked out by the silence. I find the sound of the washer very soothing - it's working while I am free to do other stuff! Like wash those filthy children!

* Be happy to see him. It's very telling that they felt they had to add this instruction.

* Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him. Make sure you have dried your tears and put the Chardonnay bottle in the recycle bin, as well. (Remember: a tidy house is a happy house!)

* Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first - remember his topics of conversation are more important that yours. "Um, Honey?...Yes, of course, no, please - tell me about your day....Mmm hmmmm, right. Fascinating. What flavor cake did they have to celebrate Bob's retirement?...Sounds delicious. But, um, Honey?...Yeah. The house is sort of on fire. I'm sorry, I apologize - go on. You were saying? Cake, right."

* Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax. Or out at the strip clubs, whatever. Go right ahead, Sweetheart!

* Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit. After you're done building that fire, build a rock garden with a fountain, too.

* Don't greet him with complaints and problems. Right. Would you tell your boss your personal problems? Of course not. Just keep in all inside and grab another glass of wine.

* Don't complain if he's late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day. Like boinking his secretary? Yeah, sure. Stay out all night, Hon. You had a hard day, you might as well party all night. I'll just stay here with the fire and the clean children and the rock garden and cry myself to sleep.

* Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Cool OR warm?!? How am I supposed to know? Am I allowed to ask him? AHHHH, the pressure is too much!

* Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice. Is this your husband or a 6 month old baby we're talking about here?

* Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him. WOW. Just...WOW.

* A good wife always knows her place. Well, we sure do now!

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    More deliciousness...

    So continue my tale of holiday cooking goodliness, let me tell you about the freshtastic veggies (and dead animals) that we picked up at the farmer's market.

    Behold! Seasonal, fresh Virginia produce! (Okay, Pennsylvania and West Virginia produce. But you try finding room for a farm in the DC metro area.)

    l to r: mustard greens, baby portabella mushrooms in the paper bag, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, white onion, and rainbow chard!
    (Not shown: grass-fed beef, leg of lamb, and buffalo sausages) 

    We picked these up on Saturday night but had plans with friends that evening, so we only got around to using some of it on Sunday evening. It was then that Eric made a beef stew that was out of this world. He used beef, onion and potatoes from the market, plus a bunch of (not bagged) carrots and some frozen peas from Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, respectively. Oh, and French wine from the Saint-Émilion region of Bordeaux. So not an entirely local meal, of course, but we're trying. It was pure heaven.

    Doesn't it look like something you might draw in art class?
    Fresh food is so gorgeous!

    See my new enameled cast iron pot in the back there? Thank you, Target! Me loves this pot!

    And thank you also to my mother, who provided us with this fantastic cookbook when she came down to visit for Thanksgiving. It is called The New Best Recipe and we have been using it for all sorts of things, including this beef stew. It's really useful in explaining how they came to their methods of cooking foods and it even has helpful illustrations. (I can't believe I had never thought before to cut "stiff" greens like kale down their stems with a knife! Duh!)

    Here is Eric's masterpiece:

    Plus,  I decided to go nuts and bake rolls from scratch! After my minor success with the focaccia, I was pumped up enough to try some more yeasty treats. Again, they burned - this time only on the bottoms (I'm going to blame the crappy oven, not myself...yeah...) but I actually did create edible little rolls! Woo hoo!

    Who knows what I'll try next! (Now to just not burn it...)

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    Alles Gute im Neuen Jahr!

    That's "Happy New Year" for all of you non-Germans out there!

    It's been a great two weeks. With the snow storm on the 21st, my self-imposed day off on the 22nd, then our trip to North Carolina for Christmas followed by me being sick (boooo!) and then New Year's, there has been minimal work occurring and lots of relaxation - just how I like it!

    There has also been a lot of cooking, naturally.

    I had been putting off making bread because the recipes in the book I had purchased off of their discount rack at Barnes & Noble (the first book I've purchased in AGES thanks to our town's awesome library) always seemed to call for white bread flour, which is different from all-purpose. (If you care to know what the difference is, read here.) So in the spirit of utilizing the local town's independent businesses, I called up the local natural foods store that I've been meaning to visit but never have.

    It was 5 pm on New Year's Eve and I asked the woman who answered how late she planned to be open. She replied that she was just trying to figure out that out; they'd been slow all day. I asked if she had the bread flour and she checked. She did. I told her that if she could wait 5 minutes, I'd be there to buy it from her.

    I threw on some shoes and drove right over. The owner had a customer at that point, but had left my flour on the counter. Once she was free to chat with me, she informed me that they don't usually sell that flour to the public but they use it in all of the baked goods that they sell. As I gazed around the store to see what else they sold, she brought me a ginger cookie that they'd made with this flour and said it was on the house. They'd been slow that day and it would go bad otherwise.

    I finished my walk around the small store and ended up picking out a few other items to keep my new organic bread flour company: some fantastic organic pumpkin hand cream that smells so good that it makes me want to start licking my own hands, plus a dozen white eggs from an Amish farm up in Pennsylvania that set me back a whopping $1.89. After chatting with the owner for a few minutes about natural foods and how 2010 is looking like a good year for real food to return to the American diet, I practically skipped out of there. Why can't every shopping experience be so fulfilling?

    On New Year's Day, I made crêpes - although (I'm ashamed to say) from a box. When I'd seen the mix in the German store, it was just after having had one of the AMAZING crêpes from our farmer's market and I guess it had impaired my brain. (Damn Nutella!) So I paid close to $4 for the mix, only to realize when I pulled it out of the cupboard on Friday morning to see that it only contained flour, salt and...sugar? I can't remember. But let's just say that it was something ridiculously basic and I felt like an idiot.

    Nonetheless, I proceeded to add egg and water to the mix and voilà!...a too-thick crêpe that more closely resembled a pancake than the thin slices of heaven that are served at the market. Grrrrr.

    Try #2 was a bit more successful but still not quite right. I think I need one of those fancy little crêpe batter spreaders that the girl at the market uses...

    We spread some sugar-free blackberry "jam" (which I put in quotation marks because there was not one chunk of fruit in this "jam" so I'm pretty sure that it should've been called "jelly") on the crêpes and sprinkled them with powdered sugar. Not perfect...but pretty tasty. I still have one more packet of crêpe mix to use up so we'll see if those turn out better. From then on, though, I'm making it from scratch.

    To redeem myself, that afternoon I took my first shot at making bread from scratch. With my 100 Great Bread recipe book in one hand and my new bread flour in the other, I set out to make Potato Focaccia Pugliese. I ended up over-baking it because I got distracted while it was baking and let it bake the entire 30 minutes, but despite the fact that we had to use a saw to cut through it, it was pretty good! I mean, at least it resembled bread!

    A big thanks to our neighbor for letting us cut a branch off of her rosemary bush any time we need one. Couldn't be any fresher!

    Okay, this is getting a bit long. I'll write more soon about all of the beautiful vegetables we picked up at the farmer's market on Saturday...