Homemade Vanilla Extract

It’s the most gift giving time of the year, and one of the most special gifts I can give is something I have prepared right in my own kitchen.  It could be cookies or fudge, bread or cake, dinner or breakfast.  I could wrap it and deliver to your door step, or I could have you in my kitchen.  The reason giving from my kitchen is so special is simple; the whole time I am in my kitchen I am thinking about the person or people I am preparing a treat of some kind for.

We can all admit it’s so incredibly easy to get caught up in all our lists.  Christmas cards and gift giving, shopping, maybe travel, parties, teacher gifts and more.  But when I step into my kitchen, I turn up the carols, light a candle and just spend time focusing on the families I hope my talents will touch.

The first order of business is getting myself organized.  I try to plan out what I am going to prepare, and what ingredients I have versus what I need.  My FB followers saw this snap shot on Monday.

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All that planning and organizing and shopping, and I came home to no vanilla extract.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I came home to no home made vanilla extract.  Earth shattering, nope.  Disappointing, a little bit.  I pulled my empty vanilla bottle out of the pantry, and remembered I had several empty bottles.  I figured I could kill two birds with one stone so to speak.

I gathered up all my supplies. (not shown is the Meyer’s Dark Rum.)  I tend to work better with everything out in front of me.  It can be hell for counter space, but makes the process better for me.

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I am about to share the easiest homemade gift you will ever see.  As you can see, you will need vodka, or bourbon, or dark rum, or just one kind if you like, vanilla beans, and air tight bottles.  I prefer these swing tops because they don’t leak, and can be washed and reused.

To start, split the pods in half, but not cutting all the way thru.  You are just exposing the beans.  This is pretty terrible picture of me having just done that.  You need one pod for every 8 ounces of liquor.  The swing tops I used are 8 ounces, so 1 per bottle in this case.

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Add the pods to the bottles.

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Pictured above is handful of unused pods.  To store these for later, put in an airtight container and store in the fridge.  You can also split some, just like above, pour sugar over them and make vanilla sugar, which also needs to be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.  With all that said we may be the only house that buys vanilla in bulk.  And by house, I mean restaurant where I snagged these. 😂  (Pods are readily available in most grocery stores, specialty stores, and online.)

Once the pods are in the bottles, just pour your choice of liquor over them.

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Close the lids, and you are pretty much finished.  Some items to note, these need to sit, preferably laying on their sides for thirty days.  I just made these a few days ago, so you can see the vodka is still clear.  In thirty days it will turn to an amber color. You can use these in any recipe that calls for vanilla, and maybe you are like me and put vanilla in things that don’t even call for vanilla.

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I hand printed on the back the date the vanilla can be used.  And a quick note, it’s good for a year.

Ready to go under the Christmas Tree.  Or to a friend’s.  Or in cookies, fudge, and pancakes.

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Merry Baking and Happy Sweet Tooth

Homemade Vanilla
8 ounces of vodka, bourbon or dark rum
vanilla pods, split, but not cut thru
glass swing top bottle

Place one pod, split, into a bottle, pour your choice of liquor over it.
Store the bottle on it’s side for 30 days.

Winter Floral Arrangement

One of the best things about decorating this time for year, is that unless the decorations are Christmas specific, like a nativity and a Christmas tree, the decorations can stay up long after Christmas.  In our house, our outdoor Christmas lights burn bright until just after Valentine’s Day.  It made me want to share a unique and fun winter arrangement you can make for your front porch, back porch, patio, really whatever your heart desires.

The day I was stringing our lights and pine roping I noticed we had lost a pretty large branch from one of our white pine trees.

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That got the wheels turning.  I would normally go to Home Depot to buy cut greens for this project, but as I looked around, I realized I could use greens right from my own yard. So let’s get to it. I trimmed off a few branches from the white pine, the evergreen tree in our back yard, my rosemary bushes, and then a laurel* bush in our front yard.

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I used an urn that I keep on the front porch.  I did zilch with it this Fall.  Just sat there, so I didn’t need to do much prepping. The gist – you need a planter and soil.

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Sorry for the shadow.  I watered the soil before getting started.

It’s as easy as layering anything.  I started with the evergreen because you need some height for this one.

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Adding in the white pine.  I trimmed some of the branches for the front to hang over the edge.

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Now you have a good base to work with.  I added in the laurel and rosemary.  (No, there really is no rosemary in this picture, I skipped photographing that step before moving onto the next step.)

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Once all of your greens are arranged you are ready for the fun.  A side note, this is the easiest arranging.  If you have no skills in arranging, this is the place to start because you can just put them in the soil, and move them around if something isn’t working.  Plus, all the mess is already outside.

Up next the real fun. I grabbed a box in the basement filled with sticks painted white, sticks covered in glitter and “glass” beads, glittered eucalyptus, and some other fun things.  My color scheme is green, white, silver and some blue, but you can pick anything you want.  To be honest, this is partly because I already had these things.

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For the fun stuff, this is a terrible picture.  Oh well. Just like before, I started layering in the taller items and working my way in.  You can also see the rosemary added in here.

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After the white sticks, I added in the silver and “glass” covered branches.  Sadly, they don’t show up will in the picture, but in person they add another dimension.

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Layer three included all the glitter.

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Layer four was adding in some pics of silver balls and pine cones.

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And finally, one my favorite things in any floral arrangement.

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I love these because of the whimsical element they add.  This is my forth year using this package.  You can use as many or as few as you see fit.

And when it is all said and done, you end up with this.

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As long as you remember to water this baby, she will last all winter.

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A few quick things to add….
Other suggestions for greens – boxwood, juniper berry, eucalyptus
The floral picks are from Michaels and Home Depot, but you can get them all over.  Hobby Lobby, Target, Pier 1, Lowes, Ace Hardward, JoAnn’s Fabric, etc.
I did not do this, but I highly recommend wearing gloves because your hands will look like this afterwards:
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Happy Arranging!

*After three text messages between my aunt, cousin and Mom, it was determined that it was a laurel.  A pathetic shrub because I have not cared for it properly.  So come March it will get Hollytone and pruning.  Always learning something myself on this blog.

Christmas Tree Tradition

Well, hello there.  It’s been a little while.

For those that may have missed this weekend’s facebook post, I shared this quick picture:

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This is the top of one of many ornament boxes.  In it is my collection of gold and red hearts.  Growing up, my mom and dad always had gold hearts at the top of the tree.  When I moved out on my own, and got my first Christmas tree, this was the first thing I purchased, and they have adorned the tree every year since.

Before I go picture crazy, and share some of my most prized possessions, here is a little history about our Christmas tree tradition.  You may want to get the coffee or nog, it goes a few years back.

The first piece to this puzzle is my Oma would regularly rearrange furniture in her house.  She always called it Poor Man’s Decorating.  There is significant truth in the title, and many of us have contemplated is this a type of decorating genetic disorder? If we haven’t, our husband’s sure have.   I say this because you will not find one woman in our family that is not regularly moving furniture, rugs, wall hangings, and more around a single space or room to room.  If they are really feeling like going next level, there is a bucket of paint involved.

It’s important to share this fact with you because when you move out of your parents home into a studio box, an apartment, a town house, a colonial, a split level, a rancher, whatever it may be, the first question we all lead with is, “so, have you thought about where the Christmas tree is going?”  It could be December 26th, or 95 degrees in July, inquiring minds want to know.  If you haven’t decided, we all have an opinion, so it won’t be long before it’s decided.  You know a lot of us start thinking about this right after Labor Day because there is a flurry of texts, pictures, the request for “keep your eyes out for…,” and every picture you see right where the plans for the tree are.  Yes.  Before. Halloween.  Once the tree comes in, there is no time for where it might go.  You can imagine with all the talks about where the tree will go, what that means for what it looks like, and how it is decorated.

Five years ago, I had a painful conversation with L&L’s pediatrician.  It went like this.
Dr. O, “You’re going to have nix your real tree?”
Me, “Excuse me?  I am pretty sure I didn’t hear you correctly.”
Dr. O, “The boys are allergic.  It’s what is making them sick the entire time the tree is in your house.”
Me, 😫😫😫😫😫😫

I will admit, I was not happy.  It took me long time to work thru no Christmas tree farms, no real pine scent, no 1800 lights that had to be hand strung, no cutting out the limbs in the way, no vacuuming pine needles, no remembering to water the tree.  Even more than that, it took awhile to find an artificial tree that looked like the tree I grew up with.  To be honest, this is our fifth Christmas with this tree, and while it’s not exactly the way I would like, it’s pretty remarkable.  So, let’s get to it.

I mentioned above about the hearts.  Here is close up.  Six gold, and three red on this tree.  Go to my Mom’s she has the same.  Trees are generational I think and I love this tradition.

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When I was a child, my Aunt Boots made these pea pods for each of her siblings.  I loved it.  I moved out.  Got married.  Had L&L.  No pea pod.  I may have expressed several times how much our tree needed one too. She gave me this two years ago.  This guy gets top billing on our tree.

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Some string popcorn, some string beads (I wish I had this skill), some put on silver tinsel (that doesn’t really work on an artificial tree that is saved year after year), I put on icicles. This year, there are four different types.  Next year, I am tracking down the old school tin ones too.  Here’s looking at you etsy.

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You know those ornaments on your tree that really may only have special meaning to you, but every time you look at them a flood of memories, or may be just one memory returns?  That’s what these are.  The angel engraved was my third Christmas.  I am not even sure you can get anything like it these days, and this only one of two ornaments that I took from the “childhood tree,” all the rest are still there, and my mom puts them on her tree each year.  The second ornament is actually fairly new to me.  My parents traveled to Germany a fews years ago, and my mom brought this back for me. (It was July, so it’s true what our family says, we are always thinking about Christmas.) I love this ornament for two reasons, one it honors my family’s German heritage which has been taken to the next level at Christmas time.  The second it is reminiscent of an ornament that we had as kids that I always loved.  (When the CT (childhood tree) goes up, I will update this post with a picture of it.) You maybe asking about the second ornament I took. She was a pretty angel and she bit it.

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I love, love, love decorating the tree with L&L.  This precious kiddos love the tree as much as me, and they have been collecting, and making ornaments for several years now.  They each have their own box to cut down on ornament confusion, and to keep them busy while I am hanging things not meant for little hands.

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The first year they helped, I was a bit tortured.  I wanted to rearrange all their ornaments, so I did.  That was a mistake.  They both questioned me for days about it, and I realized it’s their tree, as much as it is mine.  They are getting better with spreading out the ornaments, and are certainly taller, but L2 didn’t let me down, and this branch wins this year.  That’s five ornaments. this-branch-wins-tersiguels

There a lot of special ornaments on our tree.  Each one a story.  These are Plain Jane, but I look forward to the years of looking back.  LT is almost 1, L2 was 1 because there wasn’t enough sleep from the time he arrived home until his first Christmas.  I have them hang them, and they try to match their hands, but those days are long gone.

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Yes, I was marking time.  Then they get out their own hand crafted ornaments.  They have stories too.  L2, “Mom, I made this in the heart room with Miss Caitlin.”

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LT, “Mom, this was the snowman on my class tree with Mrs. Buckley.”

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Then there is this silly guy, and this even sillier tradition.  I googled this because I wanted to be sure I had my facts straight when I said, “The pickle is a German tradition, and the first child to find it would get a prize.”  Guess what?  It’s. Not. True.  It’s an American tradition.  Too funny for me.  Needless to say this year I didn’t even have a prize because in the past I always hid it for my niece, so L2 hung this bad boy right in front.  Alexa, you won’t have any issues this year.

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If I had to guess, well, I can’t.  I have not idea how many ornaments we have.  Shot in the dark?  200, give or take.  Like this Santa I bought the year LT was born.  Or the Le Bien I have been collecting for half of my life.

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I could go on for days, but I have to keep somethings just for me, and let’s face it you would be bored to tears.

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And finally, her she is.

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I truly hope as you are putting your trip up and decorating it, so many wonderful memories are created and even more come flooding back to you.  Merry Christmas!

Summer Recap

I spent all morning cleaning and organizing our house as L&L prepare for their first day of school tomorrow.  While I was in the kitchen, I was taking down summer info from our fridge to make room for fall and school info that will be coming home.  I reached for the Summer To Do list we made back in June.  For the most part, we didn’t do to bad.  Here is a quick recap.

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– We got the movies a lot, but we didn’t see Pete’s Dragon.  (Don’t tell my kids they missed it.)  I had wanted to go, but was told by two separate people that it was sad and made them cry.  We’ve had enough tears up in here.

– Not only did we go to Rollingwood regularly, we had the pleasure of reconnecting with old friends, meeting new friends, and L&L joined the swim team.  They learned the value of being on a team, plus swim strokes, the diving block, what it meant to be DQ’d, and that one little ribbon can go a long way.  There was a lot of confidence building this summer.

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– We played badminton several times, and Michel was able to join us.  The fact that we all went somewhere together on a weekend is pretty much unheard of in these parts.

– We had balloon battles, SWSC pool days, ate snowballs and s’mores, we hosted our first cousin sleepover, and played outside a lot.

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– We had a surprise trip to Dewey with some of our favorite peeps.  We hit up the Starboard, and ate pizza on the beach.  L&L learned to boogie board, and swim in the ocean mostly independently.

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– We flew on a jet plane, and a putter hopper, and went to Belize.  Our vacation was shortened less because of the flood, and much more because Landon needed the time to heal.

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– We went to an Orioles game and a Ravens preseason game.

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– We went to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, instead of the National Zoo, and it was incredible.

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– We did not get to bowling, mini golfing, or horse back riding.  The last month of summer certainly didn’t go as planned, but even if it had, I am not sure we woulda done those things.

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I asked the boys what their favorite thing was this summer:

LT – The Zoo
Landon – Belize

And their least favorite:

LT is missing the french fries at Tersiguel’s
Landon knows all about blood draws.

I am not ready for school to go back tomorrow.  I feel like we all got gypped these last few weeks.  Our lives have been chaos and we brought that chaos home with us, but I look back and think, all in all we had a great summer.

Onto Fall!
xo, AT

A Journey: What I learned in a flood

On Monday, August 22nd, my dear friends Heidi, Sue and Bonnie, along with countless family members and friends hosted a fundraiser for Tersiguel’s.  When Heidi had contacted me on Wednesday, August 3rd to let me know of the beginning plans, I began thinking about what I would say to every person that has helped us along in the recovery efforts and the internal healing.  Below is the transcript.  If you were unable to attend that event, this thanks is for you.  Michel and I have such thankfulness, gratitude and love in our hearts for each person that has reached out to us during this time.

 

I wanted to share somethings that I have learned over the last few weeks.  Some of them are about myself and my family, some are painful, some are humorous. 

When you experience a flood your first response is safety.  I wasn’t at Tersiguel’s that night.  Michel, my brother Jesse, my sister-in-law Casey, who was my window into what they were experiencing, our staff, and forty guests were there. You think about safety.  Is my family safe?  Is our staff safe? Are our guests safe?  You take a deep breath, you shed some quick tears from worry, and you thank God that they are safe. 

Once your realize everyone is safe, and you see the damage and destruction, you’re overwhelmed with waves of guilt.  Guilt that you are safe, when two families lost loved ones.  Guilt that your building stood the test of time.  Guilt that the resources you could use to help your neighbor are all gone.  Guilt that you dream of moving forward knowing not everyone else will be able to. 

After the guilt and the process of acceptance, you are slammed with waves of grief.  I remember early on my mom texting me, and my only response was “Grief is a real MFer.”  I really did type that because she may have been mad otherwise.

Grief cuts sharper and deeper than I could ever comprehend.  Grief is all consuming.  It pulls us in every direction.  It has ups, it has downs.  It’s real.  Grief is darkness.  Darkness everywhere.  Darkness all the time, every day and every night.  Darkness.  Grief is something we think we easily sweep under the rug; out of fear, out of frustration, out of anger, out of bitterness.  The problem, grief doesn’t like it under the rug.  It keeps coming out.  Facing grief, accepting grief, processing grief has been the most humbling experience of my life.  Accepting that it exists has shed light into the darkness. 

After grief is anger.  Anger all the time.  Anger at our business decisions.  Anger at work stoppage and laying off our family and friends.  Anger at the 8 million unanswered questions.  Anger is a good driving force, but it’s only good for sprinting, not marathons.  And friends, this a marathon. 

Red tape is the meanest SOB you will ever meet.  It is darker, thicker and stronger than you can imagine.  Every day I reminded myself to sharpen the scissors.

On Saturday, July 30th, the flood shut down our community, and business.  On Monday, August 1st, Michel and I accepted that our staff would have to be laid off.  On Tuesday, August 2nd, we realized Michel’s pick up truck would be classified as a “total loss.”  We both just stood side by side and thought out loud,  ‘it can’t get much worse.”  Oh does God have a sense of humor.  Just hours after, our youngest son Landon would be hospitalized for five days from a severe asthma attack. 

For the first time in my adult life, I could honestly say I realized God had a greater plan for us.  It’s easy to say it in the good times, but in the depths of despair, I clung to a vision that God had for us, even though I could not see it, and I still can’t, I know it’s there. 

I can actually look back and see the beginning of it.  My cousin Andrew started working for Fernand and Odette in 1996.  He recruited my cousin Katie, and to say this is the slippery slope of events is an understatement.  Katie went on to recruit 13 other family members including me.

I had a terrible crush on Michel from the very beginning. It took some growing up and other life events to bring us together.  When you take marriage vowels – no one thinks about “for worse.”  No one can even imagine what it means.  I will say this, Michel is the best person to be experiencing  “for worse” with.  He let me cry and sob and scream and go into the darkness as I coped with what his family had built for forty years, and what he and I have built together in the last ten. 

God blessed us with two incredible little people.  Lucas and Landon bring so much joy and light into our lives.  These last three weeks they have shown me they are the strongest fighters I know.  They have shown me what it means to dig deep and fight even when I felt like giving up. 

Through our Tersiguel’s family, we learned of Trinity School, and early on we knew we wanted Lucas and Landon to attend school there.  Two summers ago, at a planned Trinity Kindergarten event, I met a mom.  We bonded over some silly remark I had made, and that laid the ground work for a friendship of a lifetime.  It’s the same mom who pushed me, and organized our go fund me, and along with some incredible moms that I have met and become friends with over the last two years came together to plan this special night.  God truly has a sense of humor.

I learned the power of the iPhone.  On this device, I received text messages, Facebook messages, emails, and phone calls from people far and wide saying, “We love you.  We want to help you.  We will bear this burden with you.”  When I thought for sure I could not longer pick up my legs to go one more step forward, someone would say “I love you.  I am thinking of you.  I am routing for you.”

I learned the power of help.  Help is all around.  After the events of September 11th, there was a  quote from Fred Rogers that said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Help is all around.  I never realized how many lives Michel and I touched, Fernand and Odette have touched, even Lucas and Landon have touched until we needed help.  It comes out of the woodwork, coming up from the wells, coming down the chimneys, coming from every angle.  Help sheds all the light into darkness. 

We have been overwhelmed by love and help.  In our weakest moments, Michel and I have taken time to read messages of love, encouragement, compassion, and strength.  Each of you managed to prop us up when we couldn’t hold ourselves up. 

In my family, there is a Thanksgiving tradition.  Dessert is not served until we have all (35 or more people) said something we are thankful for.  There will never be enough Thanksgiving dinners for Michel and I to say how thankful we are for each of you, the gift you are to us, and the gift you have given us.

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A Lesson in Grief

This originally was written as a facebook post on August third.  The events leading up to this post were painful, and the cuts and bruises remain fresh today.  Each day is a step forward.

 

I don’t really know where to begin. In my heart is grief, fear, frustration and darkness. I could curl up in the darkness forever. It would be easier. There would be no angst, no fight, no loss. The problem with that, I don’t really like the darkness. And even more, every time I turn around someone is shedding light in there. My heart while heavy, is equally overjoyed and overwhelmed with love.

Love for my neighbors whose lives will never be the same. Love for the extended Tersiguel family, including our staff that we let go of this week, and yet they keep sending the love back. Love for our community. We could so easily quit, and yet, we are fighting for and with each other. Love for my family, who in my darkest hour said, “We will help carry this burden.” Love for friends that continue to check in, and send thoughts and prayers, and want to help in anyway they can. Love for our Trinity School & Church community. Love for the Rollingwood Seals. Love for friends that build a go fund me because in my own despair I didn’t know where to begin. Love for so many selfless acts that go beyond the call of duty.

If you put the events of this week in a movie, it would be called Unbelievable. And yet, it’s not. This is life. This is the real deal. This is when we put up and show up even surrounded by darkness.

#ecstrong #tersiguelsstrong

Shortcake with Whipped Cream

So, how about that heat?

You know it’s been too long when I feel like I need to lead with the weather.  Weather is the most universal ground breaker, I think.  We can all relate some how to too hot, too cold, too much rain, not enough rain, too much sun, too many clouds.  We can all agree it’s been HOT.  Maybe you love it, maybe you can’t stand it, but it’s been HOT!

When the weather is like this, I have two rules.  We go to the pool.  We don’t turn on the oven.  So in all fairness, there has been a lot of this in my life…

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and this

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and this, too.

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You can tell I have been spending about enough time in the kitchen to put on the coffee, and not much else.  It’s summer.   What more can I say?

We had a bit of crash and burn toward the end of the week with all the fun we have been having, so I knew we would be staying put for the day, which gave me a chance to assess what really did have in the fridge.

I give you the berries.

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One of my favorite breakfasts is cottage cheese with berries.  For you Facebook followers, I mentioned that L&L and I would be going to the beach for a few days, so no one was eating berries.  It’s Sunday, and all I kept thinking about was shortcakes.  I now will bring to your attention that HEAT situation.  And the summer rules.  Yup, I cheated.  I went right to Trader Joe’s and picked up pre-made shortcakes.  No judgement needed.  You will thank me when I am not suggesting you turn the oven on in 99 degree weather. To be fair to you and myself, the only thing I wanted was homemade whipped cream.

I gathered my helpers because the Kitchen-Aid mixer was coming out. L2 poured in the cream.

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LT turned her up to 8.

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After a few minutes on high speed, we had some whipped cream.

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L&L added two tablespoons of powder sugar, and I added a splash of vanilla extract, and mixed by hand.   Then we all got a spoon to taste.  I was too busy tasting to take pictures.  Trust the three of us, it’s good.

Here are the players.

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I mean, come on friends.  You can already taste it.  I want to extend an invite to all, on another day, when there is enough to go around.

I used my pro skillz, and cut the shortcakes in half and assembled.

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It’s your shortcake, you do what you want to.  Maybe you only like the cream on top or the berries on the side or you don’t cut yours.  Maybe you don’t like berries and only want shortcake and cream. Or you don’t like berries or shortcake and only want whipped cream.  (Um, you are only kidding yourself if you cannot admit this is true. And I don’t want you to be alone, so I did just that.)

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Keep on summering (is that a word) friends!
xo –
AT

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 T powder sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract

In a stand mixer*, beat the cream on the highest setting for several minutes, until medium stiff peaks form.  (If you ever want to make butter at home, put the cream in the mixer, set on high, go into laundry room and fold laundry, come back out and slice a baguette for your butter.)

Add powder sugar and vanilla.  Gently fold into the whipped cream with a rubber spatula.  Enjoy!

Covered in an airtight container, this will keep several days in the fridge.

*Don’t have a stand mixer, no big.  You can use a hand mixer set to high, or a good ole fashioned whisk and your biceps and triceps, and your neighbors too.

Ain’t No Thang Like A Chicken Wing

For a long, long time, I had an aversion to buffalo chicken wings.  It’s a sad tale really, when I think about how the aversion arose in college, many hours spent at Happy Hours, and I was missing out on this classic pub grub.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the taste or flavor, quite the opposite, but I couldn’t stand sitting at the bar or a restaurant and my hands being covered in buffalo wing sauce.  Years later, like ten years later, a friend told me how silly my logic was considering how much I enjoy picking blue crabs.  They had a point, and I had to figure out a way to enjoy buffalo wings.  The key for me – making them at home.  I can get messy, there is  sink with soap right in the kitchen, a plethora of paper towels, and if wing eating really goes awry, there is a washing machine.

I prefer my wings grilled, so I didn’t really have to worry about frying them.  I was worried about grilling them, getting the skin nice and crispy, only to discover I may have to grill them within an inch of their lives.  Chicken + grilling = must marinade.

The morning of the day before I wanted to grill these guys up, I grabbed one of the bags of wings I prepped a few weeks back and put it in the fridge.

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The next morning, I pulled them out of the fridge and using the same zip top bag, I added buttermilk, salt, pepper, and avocado oil.  I closed it back up, shook it to be sure all of the chicken was covered and put them back in the fridge it went.  Buttermilk is one of the simplest ways to keep chicken juicy and flavorful.  It technically could qualify as the simplest, but I recognize most people don’t keep buttermilk in the fridge.  Some great substitutes are sour cream or greek yogurt.

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I dreamt all day about grilling these wings.  And it was finally time.  At dinner time-ish.  I lit the grill.  I grabbed the wings from the fridge and set them out to allow them to warm up a bit, so I wasn’t putting them directly from the cold fridge onto the hot grill.

 

Back in the kitchen, I cleaned some carrots and celery and trimmed them up for a classic preparation.  I also got out the trusty butter, and good ole Frank’s Hot Sauce.  On the stove, I melted a the butter and add the hot sauce, and whisked them together, and removed from the heat.

Back the grill.  I put the skin side down first, closed her up and headed back into the kitchen.

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I like blue cheese with my wings, but I don’t like to buy blue cheese dressing.  I prefer to make it at home.  Pioneer Woman has a great blue cheese sauce.  It’s easy to make and it’s my go to recipe.  You can find it here.  Gotta check on the wings, and turn them.

Twenty minutes later, and one rye whiskey, the wings are looking great.

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I took a large melamine bowl and the wing sauce out the grill with me, and mixed everything together right there.

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Man, just writing this is making me want wings for dinner.

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Buffalo Chicken Wings
6-8 whole wings, cut into threes, saving the tips for stock, or trashing if that’s not your style
6-8 oz buttermilk, or sour cream, or greek yogurt (if you’re using sour cream or greek yogurt add 2 T milk to thin)
1 T Oil (I prefer avocado oil when grilling because it cooks beautifully at high temps.)
Salt and Pepper

2 T butter
1/2 c Franks Hot Sauce
Melt the butter, add the sauce and whisk together.

In a zip top back, combine all the ingredients. Let marinate from a minimum of thirty minutes, and up to overnight.

Preheat the grill.  While preheating, remove the wings from the fridge to bring them up in temperature.  Place the wings skin side down to start.  Grilling on each side 10-12 minutes.

Once removed from the grill, coat with the sauce.

Serve with carrot and celery sticks, and blue cheese dressing.

Pulled Pork

I gotta give it you guys.  You have been patient, and I appreciate it, and now your taste buds will appreciate it even more.  Last week, while I was working on the summer freezer prep, in the background, my slow cooker, was just doing its thing.  As soon as I got home, before I even started preparing the other items, I grabbed the slow cooker, an onion, some peeled garlic cloves, and one half of the pork shoulder I picked up.

Here is the start:

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I added, you guessed it, the pork, with fat cap on top.  Along with my cooking bffs, salt and pepper.  (I didn’t photograph this, but one cup of chicken stock went in there before I put the lid on.)

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After five hours, on the high setting this gloriousness was in my kitchen.

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Friends – I wish for smell-o-vision for all of you.  But as that doesn’t exist, you are just gonna have to make this, and see for yourselves.

The slow cooker that I use has a cast iron insert.  Once the pork finished cooking, I lifted the insert out and let it cook for an hour before I dug in with two forks.  This method makes pulling the pork a synch.  In a matter of two minutes, I had it all shredded.

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I divided the pork into three zip-top quart size bags.  And threw them in the freezer.  (SN – next time, I would likely weigh the portions.  One bag prepared five sandwiches. It’s great for your large family, and my Memorial Day company, but if it’s just L&L, and me for dinner, I am going to be eating pulled pork all week.)

Sunday night, I put two bags into the fridge, and Monday morning, they were still frozen solid.  So, I put them in the sink and let them defrost for several hours, and returned them to the fridge until I was ready to reheat.  In a medium sized pot, on the medium high heat, I reheated the pork.  Stirring occasionally.

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When I shredded the pork, originally, I removed very little of the fat cap knowing I would be freezing and reheating the pork.  This made the reheat simple, and the pork much more flavorful.

Now, what to do with all that pulled pork?  Make sauce, of course.

I knew I wanted to make a Carolina style (vinegar) and a Maryland style (Old Bay).  And I took zero photos of this.  One, I wasn’t convinced that either would taste good (I was proven wrong, and the Carolina style is at the bottom of the page).  And the second, the Maryland style came right from the Old Bay website, and I can’t take credit for something that isn’t mine.  The Old Bay BBQ Sauce is zest-tangy-icey.  A little goes a long, flavorful way.  Here are the two preparations, side by side.  (I need to work on my lighting editing skills.)
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Not only was making this recipe simple, (minus my inability to make a decent homemade coleslaw), it was easily transported in the cooler to the pool.

Pulled Pork

3 – 5 lbs boneless pork shoulder
1 onion, cut into eighths
5 garlic cloves
1 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper

In the bottom of the slow cooker, put the onion and garlic.  Place the pork shoulder with the fat cap on the top, season liberally with salt and pepper.  Add one cup of chicken stock.  Cover.  Cook on high for 5 hours.

Let cool for one hour, using two forks shred the pork.  Server immediately, or divide portions, and freeze.

Carolina Sauce
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp siracha
2 T yellow mustard

Combine all the ingredients and whisk together.  Chill for several hours, even over night before using.  Store in an airtight container for up to two months.  Spoon over pulled pork.

Oven Baked Bacon

After all the freezer prep yesterday, I had very little inclination to prepare dinner.  I had already been thinking about BLTs to use up some tomatoes we had.  This is my easy method of cooking bacon.

You may remember this from the epic chicken tender fail:

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This is just a half sheet baking pan covered in tin foil, and a baker’s cooling rack on top.  Pretty easy right?  I spray the rack so whatever I am cooking, in this case, bacon, doesn’t stick to it, and it makes for easier cleaning.

Getting the pan ready is the “hardest” part of this preparation.

Up next, just lay the uncooked bacon on the baker’s rack.

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Throw these bad boys into a 425 degree oven.  Set the timer for 20-25 minutes.  Pour cocktail.

If you prefer more crispy bacon, you are definitely going to need the full 25 mins.  You can flip half way thru if you want, but it’s not necessary.  If you like chewy bacon, 15-20 minutes is your time frame.  All things considered about timing, I use thick cut bacon, if you are using a standard bacon, lesson the time, or your bacon will burn, and it will be a sad and tragic day.

Once the timer goes off, pull those trays out of the oven.  I had one crispy tray and one chewy tray because Chef prefers crispy and I prefer chewy.  Here is the crispy tray.

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Let’s just say, you wanted to cook bacon for the week.  On day one you have bacon for breakfast, on day two you have a BLT at lunch, on day three you have BBQ bacon cheeseburger (right now, I am thinking I want to come to your house), and so on.  No problem.  While your oven is already on, especially in the summer months, get it all baked at once.  Whatever you have leftover, you can wrap in a paper towel and store in an airtight container.  You can keep it in the fridge for up two weeks. (Probably longer, considering the curing process bacon goes through, but we have never made it past the ten day mark with bacon left.)

I like this baking method because the grease is contained, and we all get our bacon cooked just the way we like it.  What I really love about it, is the clean up.

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I was doing this while the pan was still hot, and you do not have to that, I was just trying to get somethings cleaned up on the counter, so I had no patience.  I used the tongs to pick up the baker’s rack and put it right in my dishwasher, and I just wrapped all the grease into a foil packet that went right into the trash.  And underneath is a clean sheet pan.  Cleanliness is next to godliness, and as a mom if I don’t have to clean one thing, it makes my day.

The next time you are making bacon – give this easy method a go.