Thursday, October 14, 2010


Western NY is the country's largest producer of cabbage. Oh boy, you say, rather flatly, I love cabbage. Um. I think.

Cabbage is not a terribly exciting vegetable, I'll admit. I'm not a big fan of cabbage rolls, cabbage is not my favorite reason to eat corned beef, but I do like coleslaw. And sauerkraut.

I know what you're thinking: "But June, sauerkraut is gross. It is slimy and mushy and you always say we shouldn't eat canned vegetable."

Guess what? You're right. Sauerkraut is slimy and mushy and you shouldn't eat canned vegetables. But I'm not talking about sauerkraut from a can. I'm talking about homemade sauerkraut.

Homemade tastes nothing like the pucker-your-mouth in disgust stuff that comes out of a can. And guess what? It is pretty easy to make.

You may recall that I ordered a ridiculously small crock to use for pickles. Yeah, that didn't work out, but I made pickles anyway. The crock, however, is the perfect size to use for a small batch of sauerkraut.

So, the first thing you do is slice the cabbage. I used the slice disk on the cuisinart, the shredding disk would make it too small. I used a really small cabbage, probably only about two pounds. After slicing, I put it into a glass (non-reactive, get it?) bowl and sprinkled it with pickling salt, (about 2 T) juniper berries (1 Tsp) and caraway seeds (1 tsp). I mixed it with my very clean hands (or you could wear gloves). Then the fun begins.

You have to pack the sauerkraut into the crock really tightly, a little at a time. I used a potato masher to tamp it down. At first, it seems you may not get it all in, but keep going. You can pack a lot of cabbage if you take out all of your aggression on it! Once it is packed tightly, you need to weigh it down a bit. Most recipes tell you to put a plate and a heavy weight, and you can do that, but I used a piece of wax paper and a ziploc bag full of water.

After a couple of days, take the weight off of it and skim the top of any gross looking scum. Do this every two or three days, making sure the cabbage stays submerged in the brine. After about four weeks, put it in the fridge. It will keep for a long time. It will have a nice mellow flavor.

Make a reuben. Or choucroute. Or a hot dog. I don't care, just try it.

Excuse the background mess in the last picture. I just got done packing school lunches and making smoothies for breakfast with the giant drink mixer. You can also see the cool meat slicer in the background. I bought a hunk of ham on sale and sliced it for sandwiches myself, cause I am just that awesome.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wine and Whine

Last night I hosted Wine and Whine. It seems we haven't been able to have as many of our Women Who Wine (and Whine) get togethers as we used to, so I was really looking forward to it. I wasn't disappointed.

And I should have taken a picture to post. I am really bad at photography and I know I should work on improving it, because it seems pretty important in the food blog world, but generally, I find it a pain. And we all know by now that if I find it a pain, I'm generally going to skip it.

So there are no photos, but there was lots of fun and good food.

Here are the rules of the wine and whine (ok, they're not really rules so much as just the way things evolved): one of our group of ladies picks a date and tries to get everyone else to clear their calendars. Everyone brings food and wine. It's a collaboration. When Laura can make it, it is a great opportunity for a certain blogger to make fun of her offerings. Like the time she brought Cheese Doodles wrapped in bologna. Which the kids actually really liked. And the time she brought an award winning spam-ball pate frosted in cream cheese. (One of the most vile things I have ever tried. And believe me, I only tried it so I could make fun of it.)

Last night, we were not blessed with Laura's presence, she felt like she just had to have dinner with her parents who were in from out of town. I hope next time she gets her priorities straight, though. A few others had to do annoying things like work or spend their one free night a week with their families.  But my hard-core women were here: Priscilla, Jan, and Deb. We had a fabulous time.

I hadn't made too much of  a plan because these gatherings are intended to be low-stress, casual, and no pressure. Also, because I wanted to see what looked good at the Public Market in the morning. I found last of the season green tomatoes and 3 for a $1 butternut squash. I grabbed both.

I made a Butte tsrmilk Ranch Cayenne dressing that really complemented the fried green tomatoes well. It was really easy.

Buttermilk Cayenne Ranch

1 1/4 C mayo
1 C Buttermilk
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 C snipped chives
1tsp salt
2 tsp cayenne
1/4 c grated parmesan

Mix everything together. Chill. ( I like to use my immersion blender to make this.)

Speaking of immersion blenders, Deb thought she was ordering one, but instead she ordered this Hamilton Beach Commercial Drink mixer.

Deb decided it was too big for her kitchen and bestowed it upon me! Hannah came home and saw it and shrieked with delight. She actually jumped up and down. This morning, I popped a carton of plain greek yogurt, some frozen blackberries from Priscilla's bush, honey, and pomegranate juice into the metal cup and whirred it all up. The only thing I can say is "amazing". With no effort on my part, no pulsing, no stopping to stir, nothing, it powerfully blended everything until it was perfectly smooth. And delicious. I may have a smoothie obsession starting. Or a margarita one.

Jan made delicious salsa and guacamole. Prissie made a fantastic fig and mesclun salad with a port wine reduction vinaigrette.  Jan also made really tasty, yummy cherry tomatoes stuffed with bacon, mayo, and green onion. I used to make these a lot, they are the perfect little bite of salty bacon, creamy mayo, sweet tomato, and a little kick from the green onion. Just hollow out the tomatoes with a melon baller or spoon and stuff with the bacon mixture, just enough mayo to hold it together.

Wine night was great, next time, maybe Laura will show up with Cheez Whiz and saltines again, can't wait.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Another upcomnig review and Eggplant

It's official. I'm selling out. I am going to accept more free stuff to review. Okay, I don't really consider it selling out because I'm only reviewing stuff I probably would have bought anyway, from places I probably would have bought it. Places like CSN stores. CSN has over 200 stores with everything from dining sets to cookware, clothes, shoes, you name it, they've got it. So, I'll be ordering this egg cooker and I'll see what I think.

In the meantime, I need to tell you about what I've been cooking and also rant a bit. First, the rant: if you happen to want to raise some money, and you happen to put on a fundraising dinner, try to at least make the food taste good and don't even think about making people pay good money for food from a box. If you have a really good main course, don't ruin it by taking shortcuts on the sides. I'll support you, but next time, I might just give you a donation and tell you to keep your bad food. Life is too short to eat bad food. And calories are too precious to put bad tasting ones in your mouth! "Nuff said? I think so, consider yourself warned.
The end of the harvest is here and several of my friends have dumped unwanted produce on me, assuming (correctly) that I can turn their would-be compost into a feast! And I have!

My dear friend, Deb, brought two enormous eggplant and a plethora of hot peppers my way. She crinkled her nose at the eggplant she had received in her weekly CSA allotment and resigned herself to the fact that she had no time to figure out what to do with all of the peppers. Well, I did have time. In fact, I kinda stole an idea from her, although I changed it up a bit. Deb takes those cute little multi-colored sweet peppers, whacks the top off of them, stuffs hot Italian sausage into them and then grills them. They are quite tasty. She may be a little mad when she realizes that she could have done an equally easy and tasty recipe with the yellow Italian frying peppers she gave me. I cut them in half down the middle, stuffed them with chicken and wine sausage mixed with Parmesan and breadcrumbs and then drizzled them with olive oil and stuck 'em in the oven. Mighty tasty. 

The eggplant ended up as stir fried Chili Garlic Eggplant. You know, a little bit Chinese-y. First, cut up the eggplant into cubes, salt it lightly and set it to drain over the sink or a bowl for a good 30 minutes. Then, squeeze out all of the liquid you can from it. Next, heat a couple tablespoons of oil in the wok (wait, I can't believe I just said that: heat the wok until it smokes, then add the oil, geez, I must be losing my touch) anyway, then add a couple of tablespoons of chopped ginger. Stir once, add the eggplant. Cook, stirring for about five minutes, or until the eggplant is cooked through. Add about a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce from the Chinese section of the store. Be careful, it is really hot. You can always add more when the dish is done, but you can't take any away. Add a half cup or so of soy sauce and 2 T of sugar. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the sauce reduces. Stir in a handful of chopped green onions and serve with sticky rice. 

Note: you might want to use Tamari, because regular soy sauce can make the dish really salty if you use too much; you can also thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch mixed with water, if you like your sauces the way they are in your take-out Chinese. But guess what? Chinese people don't really do that very much.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Brazillian Mango

No, it is not a hairless mango. Mangoes don't have hair to begin with and certainly would never undergo such a ridiculous and painful procedure.

Today, at the Chinese food store, I spotted a sign that said "Brazilian Mango". They were hard and green, but I had to buy one, because my loyal reader, The Reader (I do know her name, but she kinda went cuckoo over the whole online privacy thing, so I'll respect her wishes and not use her name!), is an expat living in Brazil. She is always going on and on about the fruit there. So of course, I have to try it. I'm going to wait until it is soft, even if it doesn't change color (which it might, you never know). I'll let you know if is good or not. I haven't ever had a mango as good as an atulfo or champagne mango, but we'll see. Champagne mangoes are smaller than regular supermarket ones and yellow instead of red/green. My kids will eat boxes of them. I love it when I find a healthful food of which they can't get enough. I'll buy a big box of them, even if it $20. At Weggies, they cost around $3 a piece, when they have them, but at the Chinese store they average $1.50 a piece.

Update on the SNAP challenge, wherein I attempt to feed my family for $18 for one day, for all three meals: it is not going well. Yes, I suppose I could trot out some oatmeal for breakfast (kids hate it) and serve canned spaghetti sauce and pasta for dinner with no meat and canned green beans for dinner, but I am trying to do something better than that. I am still planning. Imagine if that was all you or I ever had to spend on food. Which I guess is the point of the challenge. We need to support our local food pantries because they supplement the diets of people in need above and beyond what food stamps provides. Believe me, I don't think anyone is living high off the hog on food stamps. I think they are scraping by and I think the fresh vegetables and good quality protein the food pantry provides are crucial to the families' well being. So, I'm still thinking and I have a half written blog post about it. I figure I'll take a regular day and cost it out item b y item and compare it with my SNAP challenge day. But tell me, how am I supposed to get through a day without using extra virgin olive oil or or real butter? I'll tell you, it ain't gonna happen.