Living in DC, I have to admit that Veteran’s Day seems much more real than when we lived in California — the monuments, the military presence, and the connections that we have formed with so many people who have chosen to serve. Today as a nation we honor the contributions of the many generations of men and women who have unselfishly sacrificed for this country.
On this crisp fall holiday, I am thankfully reflecting on the sacrifices of our veterans. I am also grateful for the extra day to spend more time with my husband, more time trying to get over the world’s slowest progressing cold, and more time getting caught up on things around the house.
Thanks to the previously mentioned cold, I’ve been slacking off around the house since late October, so despite not being back to 100% I started cooking and baking up a storm on Friday. I even made dinner on Friday — quite impressive, I know — and when my hubby got home from work we enjoyed some fresh baked bread and chicken roasted with carrots, potatoes, and onions in brandy. It was pretty delicious if I do say so myself. I also whipped up two batches up mini corn and green chili muffins for a potluck and yesterday we kicked off the gorgeous fall day enjoying a toasty applesauce coffee cake with crumbly topping. Yum. Of course, it was all so tasty that I didn’t snap any pictures before the devouring began…
Apart from all the kitchen time, I’ve been doing my best to capture each phase of the work on our new addition (often by stealthy stalking the guys from the dining room — hey, it got cold last week!). The foundation has been poured and we will have our wall check this week. Hopefully next week there will be some really clear developments as the basement level storage room begins to take shape! Here are a few pictures of the progress:
The garden is doing its best to power through the intense summer heat after enjoying the heavy rain we’ve been having. It looks like this week will be hot and dry — well, humid as all get out, but there are no thunderstorms in the forecast. Our sugar snap peas are long gone, but we are starting to get green beans and cayenne peppers. There are loads of tomatoes on the vines, but only one big tomato and a handful of cherries have actually turned red. And, of course, something ate the big tomato before we could enjoy it…
Thankfully our cucumber plant has been prolific this summer, which is fabulous since last year we only got about 3 cucs before the plant called it quits.
We’ve used at least 8 huge cucumbers so far in salads, for tzatziki, with hummus, and in spicy cucumber gazpacho and have these 4 in the fridge. There are 3 on the vine that are just about ready for picking. If you have a cucumber surplus like we do and are looking for a cool, refreshing dinner option, I recommend making gazpacho. It’s very flavorful, super easy to make and perfect for scorching summer nights. Enjoy!
SPICY CUCUMBER GAZPACHO*
2 large cucumbers, peeled and diced (set aside 1/4 cup of the diced cucumber for topping)
3/4 cup + 1 Tbls. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup ice water (I don’t usually add quite so much)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup + 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
1 small shallot, finely diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
1 Tbls. basil, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Combine the remaining cucumbers with 3/4 cup olive oil, ice water, garlic, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1 jalapeno, and lemon juice in the blender. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and transfer to a serving bowl. Cover and put in the fridge until chilled. This is a great recipe to make the day before or in the morning so when dinner time comes, you only need to make the topping and it’s time to eat!
Stir the shallot, 2 tsp. vinegar, and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup cucumbers, basil, the remaining jalapeno, and 1 Tbls. olive oil. Season with salt if needed.
* from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market Cookbook
I am pretty sure that I did not eat rhubarb until I was well into my 20s and my father-in-law had a hankering for it while visiting us in DC. We picked some up at the grocery store (who knew it looked like celery?) and made a crisp. It was tart and tasty, but I didn’t give it much thought once it was gone.
Some time passed and then my sister-in-law returned from a trip to her parents with some stray rhubarb that had been growing like weeds in their yard. She planted it and waited to see if it would take off. And take off it did! When my hubby and I started gardening in our own backyard, his brother and sister-in-law generously donated a hunk of rhubarb root to us and it has been going strong ever since. Well, except at the very end of last summer when I thought it was totally dead. Yet 7 months later when I returned from Turkey the plant had gone from nothing to so big I could already pull stalks from it—I guess it was just napping in the interim.
Since I have already been harvesting the rhubarb I wanted to make sure to use it, but I didn’t want my husband to miss out on getting to enjoy whatever I made. So on Sunday I cooked up some rhubarb sauce to put over ice cream when he gets back from Afghanistan. I figured if I made it on a day that wasn’t so hot, I could freeze it and we can use it later this summer without having to turn on the stove.
I set to work boiling sugar (c. 1/2 cup) and water (1/3 cup — this was way too much water) while I chopped up the rhubarb. When the sugar water was good and hot, I added in about 4 cups of rhubarb chunks and let it cook down. Because there was so much liquid, I ended up simmering it for about 40 minutes to try and get some of the extra liquid to cook off. If you started with less water, the sauce could probably be ready in as little as 15–20 minutes of cooking.
And that’s it! Easy peasy. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how it tastes…
When we found out my husband was going to spend 6 months (although its really been more like 8) in Afghanistan, I got to work making a long list of all the things I wanted him to do around the house before leaving. He had about 6 weeks between when he found out and when he left, throw in a trip to another undesirable travel destination and lots of training, and there wasn’t much extra time for projects. Still he managed to take care of almost everything I’d asked before leaving.
I ended up heading to California on the morning of the day he left for Kabul and I was quite surprised to come home and find my own to-do list. I’ve failed to complete my list (sorry honey!), but that hasn’t stopped me from starting a new list: my hubby’s welcome list! Isn’t he a lucky guy? This list is significantly shorter than his going away list (although there is plenty of space for me to add more), but there are some things I just haven’t been able to take care of on my own, like installing my AC window unit in my office. I can’t pick the darn thing up, let alone carry it up two fights of stairs! So honey, hurry home. I’ve got a few things for you to take care of around here!
While my husband has been in Afghanistan I’ve tried to be healthy, but there have been stretches where that effort has failed miserably. Last weekend was definitely one of them! Between cupcakes and dinner out with friends at a local pub on St. Patty’s Day, I ate more than my fare share of junky (but very tasty) food.
In a quest to get back on track I cooked lentils, carrots, garbanzo beans, and spinach in a spicy tikka masala sauce and enjoyed that along with some fresh (but not made by me) garlic naan for dinner last night. Unfortunately I am out of my husband’s fabulous homemade curry (or it’s hiding so far back in the freezer that I didn’t see it…), but it was a pretty tasty meal despite purchasing the sauce.
In the afternoon I cooked the lentils and carrots so that when I got home from teaching Jazzercise I could throw it all together and simply simmer the pot until everything had warmed through and the spinach had wilted. I did have a bit of a stirring mishap, throwing a carrot and some lentils onto the stove while try to get the spinach mixed in, but other than that it was a very successful dinner (and left over lunch today).
The dish was quick, healthy, and I am starting to feel slightly redeemed from the weekend. Cooking for one can be tricky, but I have a few more fairly simple meals just for me on this week’s menu — French onion soup (using just enough cheese and whole wheat baguette) with a green salad tomorrow and a salad of grilled chicken, corn, black bean, pepper, and quinoa is on the docket for Thursday. I am teaching Jazzercise Monday through Thursday this week, so I’m excited about having options for easy to make, healthy dinners already planned out.
Every two weeks or so I get a delivery from The Green Grocer — or, as I like to say, The Veggie Fairy. Although I tend to get the majority of my vegetables from Eastern Market on the weekends, if the Green Grocer’s offering looks tempting I am happy to let someone bring them directly to my door.
Last week I was heavily motivated to order a single, organic box based on the sugar snap peas and made some swaps for items I can’t eat like cantaloupe (I’m super allergic) and those I don’t really want when someone else isn’t available to cook them for me (like beets), then waited for my box to arrive.
When it came I was quite surprised at how heavy the box was when I brought it into the house. When I opened it up I was even more surprised by the contents. The swaps I had made meant I was only expecting four items — sugar snap peas, lettuce, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes — but the box was stuffed! There were 3 large heads of lettuce, at least 11 heads of broccoli, 4 bags of sugar snap peas, and two boxes of cherry tomatoes. Either there was a serious over abundance of veggies on-hand last week or someone really wanted me to eat my greens!
Needless to say, a party of one isn’t going to consume all of that in a timely fashion. At least not this party of one. Particularly during a week where I had dinner plans almost every night. So I gave some of the lettuce and broccoli to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and got to work figuring out how I could make the most of the items I had kept.
Freezing seemed to be the best option, so I started by cleaning the snap peas and removing their strings. Then I blanched them in boiling water for 2 minutes before plunging them into an ice bath for 2 additional minutes. After allowing them to dry on towels, I packaged them up and into the freezer they went. I followed suit with the broccoli (although the blanching/ice bath process was increased to 3 minutes) and filled three more bags. I did leave myself one bag of sugar snap peas to eat fresh as well a serving of broccoli.
Now we are ready to make stirfry or another veggie dish at a moments notice with our cleaned and partially prepared snap peas and broccoli. And after all the things I’ve been taking out of the freezer recently, it felt nice to add something for later!