Spicy Carrot Peanut Soup

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Wednesday, April 2, 2014

savvyhousekeeping spicy carrot peanut soup

I like this soup because it is thick and creamy, flavorful, but also chock full of vegetables and protein. It’s a very satisfying soup, especially if you are a vegetarian.

On top of that, it’s insanely cheap to make–$2.30 for an entire batch of soup! (That is considering you make your own vegetable broth.) Here’s the recipe:

Spicy Carrot Peanut Soup

Ingredients:

    2 Tbs vegetable oil
    1 large onion, chopped
    2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
    1 celery stalk, chopped
    1 Tbs parsley
    1 spicy pepper–jalapeño works fine.
    2 garlic cloves
    4 c vegetable broth
    2 c water
    3.5 Tbs peanut butter
    3 Tbs soy sauce
    2 Tbs fresh lime juice
    1 Tbs salt
    pepper


Directions:

Prepare all the vegetables. In a soup pot, warm the oil and add one at a time the garlic, onions, carrots, celery, parsley, and chili. Sauté on high heat for 10 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Add the water and broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the carrots are soft, about 25 minutes.

Next, stir in the peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, salt, and pepper. In a blender, puree the soup in batches. Taste and adjust seasoning. If you want it spicier, add a little dried red pepper. Enjoy.

This makes a large batch of soup. I usually separate soup into single-serving containers and freeze for an easy lunch.

Cost of Dish: Oil: $.05; Carrots: $.99, Onion: $.20; Celery: $.02; Parsley, garlic, lime, and chili pepper: free from the garden; Vegetable broth: free; Water: free; Peanut butter: $.84; Soy sauce: $.20; Salt and Pepper: practically free.
Total Cost Of Dish: $2.30 for the batch, or $.23 per serving.

Fresh Pita Bread

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Tuesday, April 1, 2014

savvyhousekeeping.com

Yesterday I finally got around to using up that half box of falafel. I made the falafel and some fresh hummus, then grilled up some bell peppers and onions to serve with them. But I needed something to serve the falafel in, so I made some pita bread too.

I had never made pita pockets before. I had tried naan several times, and it has never come out exactly how I wanted. Luckily, it turns out that pita bread is easier than naan. Homemade pita is softer and tenderer than the store stuff. Here’s the recipe courtesy of the Joy of Cooking:

Pita Bread

Ingredients:

    3 c flour
    1 1/2 Tbs sugar
    1 1/2 tsp salt
    4 tsp yeast
    2 Tbs melted butter
    1 1/4 c warmish water

Directions:

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Add the water and butter. Mix to combine.

2. Knead for 10 minutes by hand, or on medium speed in the mixer using a dough hook. (I did the latter.) The dough tends to get sticky. You want it to be a little tacky, but not incredibly sticky. I added extra flour to get it to the right consistency.

3. Spray a bowl with pam, roll the dough around to cover in the oil. Put plastic wrap on top and let the dough sit for about 2 hours.

4. Punch the dough down. Divide it into 8 small balls. Cover with a dish towel and let them rest for 20 minutes.

5. Now it’s time to cook the pita. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. I used a pizza stone, although the book says you can also turn a baking sheet upside down as a cooking surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll out each of the 8 balls until they are about 8 inches in diameter and 1/8 of an inch thick.

6. When the oven is hot, spray some water on the pizza stone. Wait 30 seconds. Now put the dough on the pizza stone. I had to work in batches, cooking three pitas at the time.

7. The pitas cook very quickly. What you want is them to inflate into a little balloon, like the pita in the picture above. When they get like that, wait 30 seconds and take them out. When they come out of the oven, they deflate and become pita pockets. It you wait too long, they will not deflate and you will have a pita balloon. Total cooking time is about 2-3 minutes per pocket.

Voila! Homemade pita!

Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 12:00 pm on Monday, March 31, 2014

savvyhousekeeping lemon meringue pie bars

Can’t choose between lemon bars and lemon meringue pie? The solution is to combine them, of course. Lemon meringue pie bars are shortbread crust, a creamy lemon filling, and a layer of meringue on top. They are fantastic. The meringue is so fluffy, it makes the lemon bar seem light and delicate. I highly recommend you try them.

Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

Ingredients:

Crust:

    1 c butter
    1/2 c powdered sugar
    2 c flour
    1/4 tsp salt

Filling:

    1 1/3 c sugar
    1/2 c cornstarch
    1 3/4 c water
    4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
    2 Tbs butter
    2 Tbs lemon zest
    1/2 c lemon juice
    Dash of salt

Meringue

    4 egg whites
    1/4 tsp cream of tarter
    1/2 c sugar


Directions:

To make the crust, blend the butter, powdered sugar, flour, and salt together and press into an oiled 13X9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes until it starts to get golden.

While that cooks, make the lemon filling. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually add the water and stir until smooth. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

In another bowl, beat the egg yolks. Stir about half of the mixture into the egg yolks to temper them. When it is all mixed together, pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the filling. Stir over low heat until the mixture bubbles.

Remove from heat. Stir in butter, zest, and lemon juice. When the crust comes out of the oven, pour the lemon filling over crust.

Now make the meringue. In a mixer, beat the egg whites, cream of tarter, and sugar until peaks form. You want it to be stiff.

Spread the meringue over the filling, being careful not to burst the bubbles. Bake at 350 degrees until meringue is light golden brown, roughly 25 minutes. Make sure to watch that they don’t burn.

Refrigerate 1 hour before serving. Enjoy!

How To Pick A Kitten

Filed under: Cleaning/Decorating — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Monday, March 31, 2014

This post is not an excuse to post pictures of kittens. It’s not!

People always ask me how I ended up with such friendly cats. (Some would call my cats overly friendly.) Part of this is that they have always gotten a lot of attention but part of it is that I picked good kittens in the first place.

Cat personalities can run the gambit from feral to lap cats. Luckily, picking a kitten is not hard at all–in fact it’s very fun–but there are a few things to look for to make sure you get a good one. You want to make sure the kitten is friendly, healthy, and has a good personality.

There are other things to consider when picking a kitten–what it looks like, whether the cat sheds, and whether you want a male or a female (I usually get male cats but find the sex doesn’t matter as long as you get the cat fixed when it’s young). But if you focus on the following points first, you will be happy with your adoption.

When looking for a kitten, make sure the kitten:

Purrs when you touch it.
Unlike adult cats, a good kitten will purr every time it’s picked up. I can’t stress enough how important this is for ending up with a friendly cat. A purring kitten means it’s used to being handled and that it likes people. A kitten that doesn’t purr may be the cutest thing in the world, but if it isn’t bonded to people, it won’t have the same relationship with you that a kitten that purrs will. (Most likely, anyway–there are exceptions to every rule.) If you want a cat that comes when you calls, loves to cuddle, and follows you around, get a kitten that purrs when you pick it up.

Is healthy. There is nothing sadder than a sick kitten. You want your kitten to be in good shape and healthy. This includes:

    A healthy coat. Cats show their health in their fur, so look for a shiny, thick coat. An unhealthy coat may look dull, feel thin, or even have bald spots.

    A healthy weight. You want a kitten with a bit of fat on its body and good muscle tone. Skeletal kittens can have serious problems.

    Clear eyes. It’s common for kittens to have runny eyes. Usually this is a simple problem that can be cleared up by medication, but it’s still something to think about.

    Normal breathing. Kittens that wheeze, sneeze, or show other respiratory issues are doing so because they’re sick. Usually this is a common cold, but sometimes it can be more serious.

    Seems energetic.
    Of course cats sleep a lot, but when the kitten is awake, it should show interest in playing and be generally bright eyed and bushy tailed.

    Has a clean butt.
    Sorry, but you have to check under the tail too. You don’t want to see blood, diarrhea, or any other nasty-looking problems.

Connects with you. Wait for a kitten that has a personality. Usually, this means the kitten will notice and interact with you. Maybe he will come across the cage to see you, maybe he will bat at your clothes, or maybe he will fall asleep on you in the store, as in the case of our most recent cat. However this manifests, you’ll know it when you see it.

How did you know your cat was “the one”?

What’s Up Doc? Cocktail

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Friday, March 28, 2014

savvyhousekeeping what's up doc carrot juice ginger gin cocktail

Carrot juice is good for you, full of minerals and vitamins and so on. So why not ruin it by adding alcohol? DIY Cocktails and I thought that sounded like a good idea, so we ground up some carrots and made a cocktail out of their juice.

With ginger liqueur, gin, and a touch of cinnamon on top, this drink is almost like drinking a piece of carrot cake.

savvyhousekeeping what's up doc carrot juice ginger gin cocktail

This could be a good alternative for brunch cocktails like the mimosa and the Bloody Mary.

The recipe:

What’s Up, Doc? Cocktail

(Makes one cocktail)

Ingredients:

    1 1/2 oz carrot juice (fresh is ideal, but you can also buy carrot juice at health food stores)
    1 1/2 oz gin
    1/2 oz ginger liqueur
    Ice
    Cinnamon to top (optional)


Directions:

Combine carrot juice, gin, and ginger liqueur in a cocktail shaker. Shake thoroughly. Put a few cubes of ice in a glass and strain the drink over the ice. If you want, add a slight touch of cinnamon on top. Enjoy!

Freezer Pizza Dough

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Thursday, March 27, 2014

I’ve mentioned before that homemade pizza is much cheaper than delivered or restaurant pizza. It costs me $2.65 to make a pizza at home compared to paying $25 for delivery. That’s about one-tenth the price of delivered.

Once you’ve got it down, homemade pizza tastes as good, if not better, than most delivered pizza, and it doesn’t even take that long to make… providing you have the dough ready.

Luckily, raw pizza dough is easy to freeze. My system is to make a big batch, divide it into pizza-sized portions, and freeze it. On the day we’re having pizza, all I have to do is pull one of the dough balls out of the freezer and by dinnertime, it’s ready to be made into pizza. Here’s how I do it:

Freezer Pizza Dough:
(Makes enough dough for four 12″ pizzas)

Ingredients:

    4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
    2 2/3 c warm water
    7 c all-purpose flour
    1/4 c olive oil
    2 Tbs salt
    1 Tbs sugar

Directions:

In a mixer, add the yeast and sugar.

Turn the water on your faucet to hot and let it run until you see steam. You want warm-to-hot water to stimulate the yeast.

Once the water it hot, add it to the yeast and sugar. Quickly add the flour on top of the warm water to lock in the heat and continue yeast activation. Add the salt and oil.

Mix the dough for 1 minute on low speed until all the ingredients are blended. Switch to a dough hook and knead the dough for 10 minutes on medium speed. At the end, you should have a compact dough that is smooth and elastic.

Spray a bowl with oil to keep the dough from sticking. Put the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a warm out-of-the way spot until it doubles in size, about an hour and a half.

To divide the dough: Gently remove the dough from the bowl. It’s okay if it deflates a bit. With a cleaver or some other kind of knife, cut the dough into four similar-sized pieces. Weigh the dough to make sure it is the same size–usually each ball weighs about 3/4 of a pound.

Roll each dough section into a ball. Wrap in freezer-safe parchment paper or wax paper to avoid freezer burn. Put in a plastic bag and stick in the freezer.

You now have dough for four pizzas. To defrost, simply take a ball of dough out and let defrost on the counter. But dinnertime, you’ll have nice fresh dough to shape into a pizza.

savvyhousekeeping homemade pizza dough freezer

Hurrah! Pizza about to go into the oven.

Unusual Pizza Toppings

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 12:00 pm on Wednesday, March 26, 2014

savvyhousekeeping corned beef pizza

Like the above Corned Beef Pizza, I like trying unusual toppings on my homemade pizzas. One of the best pizzas I have ever made was one with barbecue ribs. It had rib meat, a combination of mozzarella and smoked cheddar, and a mixed marinara and barbecue sauce. It was awesome.

We have also tried pulled pork, arugula, squash, chorizo, chicken, falafel, and lots of other toppings. All have been good. The trick is to think of the whole pizza as complimenting the flavor of the topping. So with the ribs pizza, I didn’t just dump meat on top, I also incorporated cheese and BBQ sauce that mirrored the flavor of the ribs. This gives the pizza an overall harmony, and harmony = delicious.

Here are some toppings I’m curious about:

Egg Pizza

savvyhousekeeping egg pizza

I have tried egg on a pizza before and found it unnecessary. However Michael Ruhlman’s egg pizza makes me want to give it a second chance. For one thing, he paired the egg with asparagus and bacon, which sounds darn good. Also the egg I had was practically raw, and he cooks his in the oven for a few minutes, which would make a lot of difference in texture. It gives a whole new meaning to breakfast for dinner.

Chard Pizza

savvyhousekeeping chard pizza

I am going to be growing chard this year, so will probably try it on pizza. In particular, I like the looks of In Praise of Leftovers’ broccoli, chard and chévre pizza, pictured above. Wow.

Pear Pizza

savvyhousekeeping pear pizza

Pear sounds like one of those ingredients that could either be awful or genius as a pizza topping. This recipe from the Rustic Kitchen gives me hope that it is the latter. It is pear pizza with red onions and walnut pesto, which sounds kind of awesome.

Corn Pizza

savvyhousekeeping corn pizza

Here’s a picture from the Biggest Menu of “pizza with fresh corn, balsamic marinated roasted red onions, mozzarella, smoked mozzarella topped with fresh chives.” I’m sold. I know that’s good.

Potato Pizza

savvyhousekeeping potato pizza

The LA Times has a recipe for potato pizza. Sounds like the trick is to slice the potatoes very thin to get them to cook. I’m not a fan of white sauce on pizza, so would probably tweak the flavorings to go with marinara instead.

Really, this can go on and on. There’s no end to the deliciousness of pizza, especially when you make your own.

What unusual pizza toppings have worked for you?

Homemade Vs Delivered Pizza

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:52 am on Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I eat a lot of pizza. As such, I have carefully analyzed the cheapest way I can purchase a good pizza. And by good, I mean a pizza with real cheese and a nice dough–not those paper-dough cheese-food pizzas you can get at fast food chains. Here’s my options for purchasing a large sausage pizza, from the cheapest option to the most expensive:

Homemade using my own dough: Dough: $.25, Cheese: $2, Sauce: $.10 (using tomatoes from the garden), Sausage: $.25, total: $2.65

The problem here is you have to think ahead and give the dough time to rise, so this option is not good on spontaneous “Let’s get pizza!” nights.

Homemade using the local pizzeria’s dough: Dough: $2, Cheese: $2, Sauce: $.10, Sausage: $.25, total: $4.35

When we are feeling lazy, we go for this option. We get a bag of the uncooked dough from a local pizza place and then use our own ingredients from there. (Trader Joes also sells uncooked dough for $1.30 a bag. It’s not the world’s greatest dough, but it’s passable.)

Take N Bake from local grocery store, on sale: $6

I’m not a fan of grocery pizza because they skimp on cheese. However, on sale this can be a reasonable way to get pizza.

Take N Bake from local pizza place, on sale: $6-$10

I used to use Papa Murphy’s when they first came out in the 1990s, but now their prices are so high, I don’t see the point of their pizza. If you have a coupon or get them on sale, they can be worth it, but not on sale, they are around $12-$15. At that price, you might as well just get a cooked pizza. (Costco also has a Take N Bake pizza for around $10. It’s pretty good.)

A pizza from my favorite pizza place: $15

Bricks has great pizza and we go there a lot. I have no complaints about Bricks, frankly. I love that place.

A pizza from local delivery place, take out, with coupon: $18

The local pizza delivery places have good pizza. Sometimes I take advantage and order a pizza, using the coupons I get in the mail and picking the pizza up. Without the coupon, the pizza costs between $21-$22.

A pizza from local delivery place, delivered, no coupon: $25

This is a hell of a lot to spend on pizza.

If you compare the most expensive way to get a pizza–delivered with no coupon–to the least expensive way–homemade with your own dough–you’re talking a savings of $22.35 a pizza. When you’re buying about four pizzas a month, like I do, that’s about $90 a month in savings. This is precisely why I almost always make my own pizzas. And if I do go pay for one, it’s usually to Bricks.

Here’s a recipe for making that sausage pizza at the top of the entry, courtesy of Eggs on Sunday.

How To Propagate A Fuchsia Plant

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Tuesday, March 25, 2014


[Courtesy About.com]

Fuchsias are one of the easiest plants to propagate. To grow your own, all you need it a clipping off another plant.

That’s great because fuchsias come in all kinds of colors and styles and are very malleable. You can hang them from baskets, grow them as shrubs, or even train them into trees, like so:


[Read about how to do this here.]

Perhaps most importantly, fuchsias are forgiving plants. They grow in both shade and sun and bounce back from neglect pretty easily. And hey, if you kill it, you can always start again with a new clipping.

How To Propagate A Fuchsia Plant:

Equipment:

    Flower pot
    Potting soil
    Bucket or something to mix in
    Water
    Fuchsia clipping

Directions:

Start with a clipping from a plant. Simply pinch the end off an existing fuchsia plant, like so:

The clipping is wet because it fell into the cup of water I had it soaking in. I don’t know what kind of fuchsia it is, but the flowers look similar to this one, only red:


[Courtesy Love That Image]

Next, choose your pot. Pick one on the smaller side, since fuchsias don’t seem to like a lot of room while growing.

Fill the pot with dry dirt to the top:

Pour the dirt into a bucket or container. Add water until it is thoroughly moist, then pack the wet dirt into the pot again. Add more soil if necessary.

Stick your finger into the middle of the dirt. Insert the fuchsia clipping so that its stem is in the soil and the leaves are in the sunshine, like so:

Clean off the pot, and voila! You have the start of a new fuchsia plant.

Put the plant in a window where it can get indirect light. Once the soil has dried out, start adding a small amount of water every day. Fuchsias like a steady supply of water, but they don’t like to be drowned. I usually give a new plant about an ounce of water a day.

In a week or so, you will start to see new growth on the plant, and that is how you know that it has rooted. Continue to give it water. Before you know it, it will be taking over your windowsill.

Fava Beans

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 11:57 am on Monday, March 24, 2014

favas savvyhousekeeping

This is the remainder of my fava bean harvest. I probably could have gotten some more beans out of the plants but I needed to make room for the tomatoes, so I picked the rest of the crop yesterday and pulled up the plants for my compost.

Because they put nitrogen into the soil, farmers use favas as cover crops. Favas are a cold-season crop and take a long time to produce beans. The plants get about 3 feet tall and don’t produce a ton for their size. I planted nine plants and harvested about 100 bean pods altogether.

The beans themselves are full of protein and quite delicious, especially when fresh. However, they are also labor intensive. Not only do you have to shell them from their pod, but each bean is surrounded by a bitter membrane that you have to remove. To do this, I popped them in a pot of boiling water for two minutes so that the membranes loosened. The inner bean is a grassy green and very tender:

fava beans savvyhousekeeping

Removing the membranes takes some time, but once you do it you have a pile of lovely beans that you can put in a salad or serve as a side dish. I made some for dinner last night. After removing the membranes, I pan-fried them with some oil, garlic, basil, salt, and pepper, like so:

fava beans savvyhousekeeping

Since the pan frying was only about heating the beans and adding flavor, the whole thing took about 5 minutes. The end result was a delicious, pillowy bean, kind of like a cross between a green bean and a potato. And because everything except the oil and spices came from my garden, the cost of making this side dish was around $.10.

fava beans savvyhousekeeping

Planting favas was an interesting experiment. While I wouldn’t bother with them if they were springtime plants, since they can be planted in the winter, they are a nice way to put your garden to use in the cold months. I will probably plant them again.

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