Salt-Free Creole Seasoning Mix

My dedication to this blog waxes and wanes, much like the phases of the moon and my use of jaded writing clichés.  It’s such a fun habit when I’m in the mood, and sometimes stressful when I try to maintain even the lightest of posting schedules (right now I’m happy when I post one time a week).  Though I always am cooking and baking, sometimes I just don’t want to do all the extra work of getting the camera out, taking pictures, editing them, and writing about it.  Then other times, I crave taking pictures and get excited seeing a nicely staged food photograph or any cute babies that just need to be part of a photoshoot.

My new rule is this: if it involves saying no to family and friend time, I’ll skip the blogging without guilt.  This is, after all, just a hobby for me and it’s not like I even get pressure from anyone about doing it.  It’s just hard to break those habits.

IMG_7365

Also, it’s Christmas!  We’ve (well, I’ve) been decorating and just bought a new Christmas album for a friend that came with a free download for me (Idina Menzel’s  Holiday Wishes).  Over a year ago, my grandpa Charles (hi Grandpa!), reigning king of Most Amazing Christmas Tree that Ever Christmas Treed, decided that he was going to retire from the throne and passed down some of his vintage and antique ornaments to the grandkids.  Since we have just a little tabletop tree for now, it is officially heavily loaded with these ornaments and some of my own I’ve collected through the years.

IMG_7420 IMG_7416

Here’s some of my favorites:

Fritz made me this when we first started dating during his microbiology lab class with our best friend Jen.

Fritz made me this when we first started dating during his microbiology lab class with our best friend Jen.

From Grandpa.  Hickory Dickory Dock.

From Grandpa. Hickory Dickory Dock.

Hermey the elf (from Rudolph) who dreams of being a dentist.

Hermey the elf (from Rudolph) who dreams of being a dentist.

With a vintage brooch.

With a vintage brooch.

This peacock was one of our favorites on Grandpa's tree from when we were little--we'd always search out all the birds perched in the branches.

This peacock was one of our favorites on Grandpa’s tree from when we were little–we’d always search out all the birds perched in the branches.

And for the recipe?  This Creole seasoning is based on the ingredients I saw being used at my cooking class in New Orleans, and from a few resources that I found online.  The closest guide is used is this one from The Foodie Army Wife.  I changed some proportions and left out the salt–I prefer to add it myself depending on the recipe I’m making.  The gumbo that was made during the cooking class was amazing, but the chef used a pre-mixed spice blend like this one, except with the salt already added, and it was definitely over salted.

Creole Spice Mix 1

Salt-Free Creole Spice Mix

  • 1/2 C paprika
  • 2 T onion powder
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • 3 T oregano
  • 2 T basil
  • 1 T french thyme
  • 1 T freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 T plus 1 t ground white pepper
  • 1 T celery seed
  • 1-3 t cayenne pepper

IMG_7371

Combine all spices and mix.

IMG_7376

I am a firm believer in ground white pepper.  I think it’s such an underrated spice–it gives a warm, almost meaty spice to broths, chilis, and more.  I discovered it in a recipe for wonton soup, and have loved it ever since.  In fact, my mom and I just had the most delicious guacamole the other day, and when we asked after why it was so good–it was the white pepper.

Add additional cayenne and salt to recipes after seasoning them.

Have a great weekend!

Print Friendly

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fullmeasureofhappiness.com/2014/12/05/salt-free-creole-seasoning-mix/

DIY Glitter Sensory Jar (And Resistance Tunnel)

Warning: this is not food related!  And if you just want to see how to make a sensory glitter jar, just scroll down to the bottom!

IMG_7294

I’ve been thinking about talking a little more about my job on here.

IMG_7299

Obviously not about the specific kids or family that I work with (hi, HIPPA!), but just some things that I think could translate to the homes of you guys or the people you know.  For those of you who don’t know, I’m a pediatric physical therapist.  I work mostly with kids in Early Intervention (from birth up to three years old) and preschool aged (three years to five years old).  On a rare occasion, I’ll work with older kids, but that’s usually just during the summers if I happen to be covering for a PT in a school district who works with school-age kids.

One of the very best things about my job is that I see kids in their “natural environments”–their homes, their preschools, their daycares, the park, the Museum of Play, the mall, the playground.  Wherever we decide to meet.  This means that I get to know the family and the other therapists really well (I often work closely with occupational therapists, special educators, speech therapists, social workers, autism program managers, etc).  It really helps up build a team approach to working with their kids, because kids get way better at rolling, sitting, running, jumping, riding bikes, climbing stairs, playing on the playground, and more when we also address listening, communication, attention to task, and sensory regulation.

Cats need sensory regulation, too.

Cats need sensory regulation, too.

The number one question I get when people ask what I do is “what do kids need a physical therapist for?”  If you have or know a child who gets services, then this probably seems really obvious, but most people picture PT as that place you go after you have knee surgery, or where your grandmother went for rehab after she broke her hip. I see babies and kids when they have developmental delays for unknown reasons (i.e they don’t start rolling/sitting/walking when expected), if they have genetic disorders that effect their ability to physically function (like Down syndrome), or other diagnoses that result in motor delays (autism, cerebral palsy).

Glitter Jar 4

Anyway, I absolutely love my job.  It can be incredibly challenging, exhausting, exciting, and fun.  Part of the “fun” part is being creative and helping to figure out solutions to what can be very expensive for parents–learning how to problem solve with their kids.  This glitter jar (sometimes called a “mind jar”) was by no means invented by me, but can help kids who have difficulty communicating their feelings or kids who respond really well to a different sensory input (visual, in this case) to calm down.

Shaking the jar makes a crazy whirling vortex of glitter (feeling angry/frustrated/overwhelmed/disregulated) that slowly falls to the bottom (feeling calm/regulated/organized).  The glitter is mesmerizing to watch and can simply provide an external focus for a child who may be feeling unable to calm down on their own.  Plus, it’s fun to shake.

A child without special needs could benefit from this, too.  All kids will at some point have difficulty negotiating that crazy jungle that is emotional development.  I would typically use this for two-to-five year olds, but hey–try it out for whomever!  I’d use it with older kids, too, if they were in my caseload and it was appropriate.  Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fritz bringing out a glitter jar for me during my more, ahem, excitable moments.

DIY Glitter Sensory Jar

Supplies Needed: 

  • watertight jar or container (I used a tall, skinny, widemouth mason jar)
  • clear glue (Elmer’s works)–you can use white glue if that’s what you have, the water will just be slightly more opaque
  • glitter–I used three small containers of glitter: gold, red, and purple for my jar.  I like to have at least 3-4 tablespoons of glitter
  • water

Just combine the ingredients!  I start with 1-2 tablespoons glue (approximate, no need to measure precisely), then add glitter and water.  The more glue you use, the slower the glitter will settle as you increase the viscosity of the water.  For a child who needs a longer time to calm down, add a lot of glue.

Glitter Jar 6

For kids who are likely to throw or drop the jar, use a clear plastic water bottle so you don’t need to worry about it breaking.  I like the heaviness of the mason jar as additional sensory input, but I am usually right on top of the kids using it.

Glitter Jar 5

Play it cool, man.  It’s just glitter.

I also have to remember not to leave it in my car overnight for fear of freezing and/or bursting.  It’s also normal for the water in your jar to turn the color of your glitter.  NBD.

Glitter Jar 6

Definitely try this a few times–novel items can also be stimulating for a child, so introducing it at a calm time first might be a good idea if your child overstimulates easily.

Resistance Tunnel

IMG_7348

 A coworker of mine made a brilliant suggestion for a resistance tunnel that I thought I’d share because it’s just so, so easy.  A resistance tunnel is used to build up core and shoulder girdle strength, and provides sensory input that may be either calming or exciting (not always in a good way) for a child.  Basically, this tunnel is a long tube of jersey knit material that they creep (PT term for crawl) through.  All you have to do is buy a yard or two of “circular knit” or “tube knit” material (I happen to know it will be 60%–normally $9.99 a yard–off for Black Friday at Joann’s), and that’s it!  Once the tunnel gets overstretched out, chuck it in the wash and dryer and it will shrink back down again.  The tube knit means you don’t need to sew it, and that there’s no seam that might be irritating for a child with sensory issues.IMG_7361

For the resistance tunnel, only use it with supervision and with a child who has the strength to safely navigate the tunnel (you can help if needed).  It can be scary to feel trapped in a tube of fabric, so show them how to help pull it open, or how to bunch it up to get through easier if necessary.

IMG_7350

Cat approved, as usual.

More food posts coming up, I promise!  Have a great Thanksgiving!

Print Friendly

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fullmeasureofhappiness.com/2014/11/23/diy-glitter-sensory-jar-and-resistance-tunnel/

King Under the Mountain

Sorry to my friends in Buffalo buried in snow–stay safe and warm!  We have very little snow just an hour away in Rochester, but it’s still chilly.

Also, aren’t cats kinda like dragons?  They like to defensively guard their little burrows and sneak around peering at stuff.  I call it Smaug-mode.

Smaug eyeball.

Smaug eyeball.

See?

Anyway, I’ve had a crazy busy week at work and just haven’t gotten around to cooking/taking pictures/etc–that unfortunate combination of too much work and too much laziness afterwards. We’ve eaten an impressive variety of frozen Trader Joe’s products (hello, vegetable samosas) that I managed to warm up in the oven, and I even made a delicious meatloaf one night.  But then it was dark, and pictures would have been ugly, and we ate it all.

Sorry about that (it was the America’s Test Kitchen recipe, except I halved it and subbed ground turkey for beef, since that’s what we had in the freezer).

I also made this jambalaya, but didn’t take pictures of it until the second day, and I didn’t think the photos were good enough to warrant an “official” blog post.  Since I followed the recipe almost exactly (a few tweaks passed on from the cook who taught the class), you can find it here.

IMG_7276

 

Although once inserted into a blog post and not in a tiny little thumbnail in my hard drive, it looks better.  If anyone wants, I’ll do a full post with tips once I put together a spice mix (like the pre-mixed “New Orleans” spice you can buy).  I didn’t buy any mixes while I was in New Orleans ’cause they are loaded with salt and I’d rather make a salt-free version that I can adjust myself.

With Thanksgiving coming up, there are a few recipes I’ve been eyeing for side dishes.  If anything turns out good, I’ll post them here.

Lastly–any recommendations for beet recipes other than pickled (yum, but over it), and plain roasted with balsamic (and occasionally goat cheese)?  I’ve got lots to use up but am a little tired of the same old, same old, and I’ve had a few recipe failures with beets over the years, so I’m wary (note: uncooked grated beets is an automatic no).

See ya later!

I AM KING UNDER THE MOUNTAIN

I AM KING UNDER THE MOUNTAIN

Also, just in case you don’t follow me on Instagram (I accept all non-suspicious/creeper, non-client/coworker followers)…Emerson just fell asleep like this:

"My teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail is a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!"

“My teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail is a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!”

 

Print Friendly

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fullmeasureofhappiness.com/2014/11/20/king-under-the-mountain/

Butternut Squash Soup

Have I mentioned lately how much I love having a dishwasher?  It makes it so easy to clean a kitchen (especially a small one like mine)–and clean kitchen basically means clean house, in my opinion.

Anyway.  Fritz and I just got back from New Orleans and man, oh, man, did I eat a lot.  I ate beignets no less than three times from Cafe du Monde, went to a spectacular dinner at Commander’s Palace (ate turtle soup, prawns, and shrimp and goat cheese grits), took a cooking class, and even grabbed a po’boy to eat in the airport on the way out.

image2

Basically Fritz had to drag me kicking and screaming out of the French Quarter.

image3

image5

 

Not to mention drinking our way down Bourbon street (and yes…this is the only picture of us together from the trip).

image1

I already made the jambalaya from our trip (had to keep the memory fresh), and you can bet I’ll be sharing quite a few New Orlean’s inspired recipes in the near future.

But before that happens, let just get this first winter soup off my external hard drive.

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup (adapted from The Culinary Institute of America Book of Soups)

  • 1 T butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 T minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 roasted medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and cubed (3-4 C)
  • 4 C chicken broth
  • 1 small white potato, peeled and diced
  • salt and ground white pepper to taste

You can skip this first step, and simply add cubed raw butternut squash to the soup pot and let it cook.  I like to roast the squash ahead of time, let the flavors get sweeter and deeper, and add the cooked squash to the soup.  I also hate peeling and cubing uncooked butternut squash.

To cook the squash, slice in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds out.  Lay face down on a baking dish and add a cup of water.  Roast at 350 degrees until easily pierced by a knife.  After the squash cools a bit, it’s easy to peel and cube the squash.

Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and ginger until tender.  Add the diced potato, broth, and squash, and cook until the potato is tender.

Using a stick blender (or in batches, blend in a blender with the vent in the cap open), puree the soup until smooth.

Butternut Squash Soup 2

Season with salt and white pepper to taste.

Butternut Squash Soup 3

This is a classic smooth and comforting autumn soup.  The ginger gives a little spicy kick, and the white pepper adds the most warming heat without distracting from the squash flavor (I firmly believe that white pepper is highly underrated).

Butternut Squash Soup 4

Though this soup doesn’t have any rich cream or sour cream added, it’s not lacking at all in heartiness.  You may want to serve it with some thick bread or crackers to help give it a little more staying power for a few hours later, though.

Butternut Squash Soup 5

Feel free to substitute pumpkin or acorn squash (or use a combination) if that’s what you have on hand.

And definitely keep the soup away from cats!

Butternut Squash Soup 6

Print Friendly

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fullmeasureofhappiness.com/2014/11/11/butternut-squash-soup/

South African Pannekoek (Cinnamon Sugar Crepes)

These pannekoeke (or South African pancakes) are our go-to treat for a rainy or chilly morning or afternoon, when we decide collectively to (ahem) “cluck it”, ditch our work, and snuggle in for a movie.

Pannekoek

Though directly translated to mean “pancake”, they aren’t like our American counterpart and much more like very simple crepes.  Biting through a hot pannekoek filled with crunchy cinnamon sugar and a hint of dripping butter will melt your worries away.  Seriously.

Pannekoek 2

This is Fritz’s mom’s recipe.  One year for Christmas, I gave Fritz a binder with some simple recipes that I thought he could make himself (this is before we lived together) written out for him on index cards.  When his parents moved to Arizona, his mom added a few South African recipes that she knew he’d miss.  And I will say, despite the fact that Fritz does NOT enjoy cooking, he has made these successfully a number of times (though he does usually end up banging a pan in frustration once or twice).

I mean, really.

Isn’t her handwriting ridiculously beautiful?  Tharrie also designed the tattoo on my back.

Pannekoek bite

South African Pannekoek (single batch makes five–we typically double (for the two of us) or triple)

  • 1 C flour
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 t baking power
  • 1/2 t salt
  • softened butter, cinnamon, and sugar for topping

Combine the dry ingredients, then quickly mix in the wet.  I typically add a bit more (usually around 1/2 C) milk or water to get a thin crepe batter consistency (you want to coat the back of a spoon, and the batter should be able to easily spread over a hot pan).

Spray a thin layer of oil on a flat circular pan (we use a crepe pan for easy cooking) that is heated over medium heat.  Dollop a ladleful of batter over the pan, and quickly rotate/swirl the pan to spread the batter evenly over the surface.  Cook for a minute or two until bubbles form, then flip and cook for another minute or two.  The pannekoek should be a nice, light golden brown.

Quickly spread a thin layer of butter over the top, sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and sugar (I keep a mix in the cabinet to make this even easier), and roll up.  These are best eaten right after rolling, so either make them to order, or keep all the pannekoeke in a warm oven until you are ready to roll them.

Pannekoek 3

Warning: the warm cinnamon-y butter may drip out of the end while you are eating them (for the more decadently buttered pannekoeke–Fritz!–so be careful!).

Kaneel

Enjoy!

Pannekoek 4

Now that it’s getting chillier, I’ve been finding Henry casually lounging around our radiators, trying to act cool about draping various body parts INTO the heater.

So not cool.

So not cool.

Straight up gangsta’, that one.

Excusez-moi?

Excusez-moi?

Also, we are finally upgrading one of our cars.  Our Hyundai (the purchase of which is actually documented here) has slowly been falling apart.  Luckily, we were able to end its drawn-out death with the purchase of a (feels so fancy!) RAV4 from Fritz’s parents.  We decided to donate the Hyundai, and hope that someone willing to put in all the work it needs will buy it and help out the charity we donate it to (haven’t picked yet).

Our 2003 Pontiac is still chuggin’ along.  We’re hoping to drag that one out until the end of Fritz’s residency (another year and eight months)…and then I’m planning on letting Fritz splurge and buy a (used) BMW/Audi or something as a graduation present (don’t worry, he doesn’t read here!).  For someone who loves cars the way he does, I know it’s basically torture to make him drive my beloved old rusted Pontiac.

I’m just pumped to be able to easily fit in and take out the giant standers/gait trainers/physioball/chairs/walkers that are an essential part of my job.  Oh, and to have working heat again.  And not to fill my tire with air every other day (we didn’t want to bother patching the tire when we knew we were donating the car really soon) and smell/hear the exhaust leaking from the hose.  Woo!

IMG_7182

Print Friendly

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fullmeasureofhappiness.com/2014/11/02/south-african-pannekoek-cinnamon-sugar-crepes/

Fall Food Roundup

I’m going to be honest with you and admit that I have a very, very low tolerance regarding how many pictures I’m willing to edit in one day.  My poor blog has been neglected because I’ve avoided finally getting to editing the remaining pictures from my trip to California to visit my sister and her family, but today I buckled down and finished it!  So at the end of this post I’ll throw in a few of my favorite pictures from that marathon editing session I just did. (It’s also hard to edit pictures that make me feel sad because I miss those darn family members).

So even though I’ve taken pictures for two new recipes to share, I just don’t have the motivation right now to edit a bunch more pictures.  BUT now that I’m free and clear in the “people pictures” editing world, I don’t have to guiltily avoid my camera and I’ll have the photos for a new recipe for you this week–Tuesday or Wednesday, at least.

Anyway, some of you may not have read my blog throughout the years, and have probably missed some of my favorite recipes.  Since it’s solidly into fall (and therefore the BEST cooking weather), I wanted to go back and share some of my favorites–old and new–that I make again and again, or just wanted a reminder to make again this fall.

Vanilla Chai Latte: comforting, warm, spicy–perfect for a relaxing way to end a busy day.

Vanilla Chai Latte

South African Multigrain Rusks: a favorite in our family, for dipping into tea or coffee when you need something before the next meal.

South African Rusks

Double Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti: a sweet and tart accompaniment to those warm drinks.

Double Chocolate Cranberry BiscottiApple Cinnamon Muffins: because–well, apple and cinnamon.
Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Cinnamon Sugar Almond Butter: easy to make from scratch, and a perfect salty-sweet-cinnamon flavor.

IMG_7273Cinnamon Swirl Bread: for the ambitious baker craving that sticky cinnamon swirl that makes fall…fall.

IMG_8543

Tequila-Lime Chicken Wings: these are killer wings.  Tangy, salty, crispy–everything you can want in a chicken wing.

IMG_6062-800x533Chorizo Kale Pasta Bowl: a quick, throw-together meal (though I always now add diced tomatoes–add with the kale).

Kale Chorizo Pasta BowlGumbo: I’m actually headed to New Orleans in a week! Can’t wait to eat some serious gumbo!

IMG_29881Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon: a classic, hearty stew that you’ll dream of for weeks afterwards.

IMG_1274

and last but not least,

Garlic Lentil Soup: a simple, spicy, and soup-er (yeah, I did that) smooth soup that’s not as scary as the ingredient list may lead you to believe.

Garlic Lentil SoupAs promised, here’s a few totally unrelated pictures from my family photoshoot this summer.

IMG_6378 IMG_6494 IMG_6352 IMG_6088

IMG_6120IMG_6170

IMG_6198

Print Friendly

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fullmeasureofhappiness.com/2014/10/26/fall-food-roundup/

The Bears Den (A Trip to the Catskills)

Fritz and I took off last weekend to go to a cabin in the Catskills with his sister, Eber, and her boyfriend, Jake.

View from our cabin deck

View from our cabin deck

It was just the perfect weekend away.

Required jumping on train tracks photo.

Required jumping on train tracks photo.

Eber's hair is a thing of great beauty here.

Eber’s hair is a thing of great beauty here.

We had piles of droewors and biltong (South African preserved meats, kinda like beef jerky but 23923x better), too many bottles of wine (well, is there such a thing?), perfect weather, scenery like you wouldn’t believe, and great company.

Brother and sister.

Brother and sister.

The stars aligned to make this a great weekend away, which was so needed now that we are 5/12ths of the way into Fritz’s prosthodontics residency (not that I’m counting) (I’m totally counting–there’s one year, 251 days, 19 hours, and 33 minutes left as of right now).

Model McModelson

Model McModelson

Eber and Jake

This is totally inappropriate to write on my blog that my entire family reads, but isn’t it such a relief when your family members choose someone great to bring into the family?  It’s just so awkward and terrible when you don’t like the boyfriend/girlfriend, and Jake has been around for a few years now so we are pretty confident that he’s the bomb dig (also, it’s nice to have another American around!).

So Shakespearean…or something.

So Shakespearean…or something.

Also, Eber had never carved pumpkins before, and after I gave her a few tips (okay, actually just poured a glass of wine), she blew my basic cat pumpkin out of the water by carving layers of bark and using pumpkin guts to her advantage in her weeping willow pumpkin.  And this is all using the most primitive of carving tools.

Creepy SO faces are an essential part of the total package.

Creepy SO faces are an essential part of the total package.

Anyway, we snuggled under blankets on the couch watching movies, roasted marshmallows and smoked cigars in front of a fire, went on a hike up a (small) mountain, and visited a small (teeny, tiny) harvest festival.  We chatted and caught up and bantered back and forth all weekend.  Oh, and Eber and Jake rented a Mustang convertible to drive up from NYC, so we drove around a little with the top down, too.

He thinks it's hysterical to make it look like I'm pregnant in pictures (I'm not).

He thinks it’s hysterical to make it look like I’m pregnant in pictures (I’m not).

Fritz and I

I miss it already.

IMG_7083

IMG_7086

But maybe we can do it all again in one year, 251 days, 19 hours, and 22 minutes?

IMG_6991

Print Friendly

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fullmeasureofhappiness.com/2014/10/15/the-bears-den-a-trip-to-the-catskills/

Sriracha (HOT! Chili Sauce)

Well, it’s definitely my favorite season in the beautiful city of Rochester.  The trees are changing color and dropping leaves so the leaf blowers are hard at work, it’s getting dark around 7:00 (already!?), and I’ve already made an apple pie and ramped up my hot beverage consumption drastically (though still not a pumpkin spice latte girl–just plain coffee and tea for now).  Even though during the day temps have been at a blissful 70-77 degrees, the nights are in the 50s and I am LOVING it.

Changing Leaves

One of the reasons I absolutely love autumn (aside from the obvious: fashion and colorful landscapes) is that I really start to feel inspired to cook again.  Summer is all about trying to fit in vegetables in green monsters and sending Fritz up to the roof to grill; fall is stews and squashes and root vegetables in cast iron pots.

Oh, and the return of The Walking Dead.  I’ve been binge reading and watching all my favorite post-apocalyptic books and movies in preparation.  Can’t wait!

Anyway.  Cooking.  I got this recipe along with the CSA vegetables (from Markwood Acres) this week, and it was the perfect time to use up a pile of jalapeños that I’ve been scared of since I almost burned mouth off last time I used one (seriously–I think I drank a gallon of milk and ate my weight in yogurt to recover from that…including having to bathe my hand in yogurt).  It was actually pretty straightforward and needed just the smallest amount of babysitting, but beware that it does take five days of fermentation before it’s finished!

This awesome utensil tea towel is one of a couple vintage ones my Grandpa gave me a few years ago.

This awesome utensil tea towel is one of a couple vintage ones my Grandpa gave me a few years ago.

Sriracha (HOT!) (makes 1 pint of hot, HOT sriracha)

  • 10 ripe jalapeños (I used 5 red and 5 green)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 T brown sugar
  • 2 t kosher salt
  • 1/2 C distilled vinegar
  • 1-4 T tomato paste (optional)

IMG_6912

This is the best part–combine jalapeños (stems, seeds, and all–just washed) with the garlic and brown sugar in a food processor or blender.  Not having to trim/deseed them means your hands are safe.  Blend using pulses, cleaning the sides if necessary, until it looks the consistency of cooked oatmeal (rough/thick soup).

Place peppers in a glass container (avoid touching it with your hands if you can!), and cover with plastic wrap for five days to allow it to ferment at room temperature.  Once a day, stir with a spoon and recover.

After five days, place the peppers in a saucepan with the vinegar and salt.  Simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on, then press through a fine sieve to leave the seeds and skins behind.  You should have a little more than a pint of thin red liquid.  Discard the seeds/skin, and return the liquid to a pot.  Add tomato paste if desired (it can dilute some of the spiciness, but add a touch more salt), and simmer until it reaches the desired thickness.

IMG_6938

Like most hot sauces, sriracha should stay pretty thin and viscous.  That helps you not get too much spice!  I added one tablespoon of tomato paste just for the taste and mellow the spiciness a bit.

IMG_6914

Jars can be kept in the fridge for at least a month, and you can seal larger batches using a water bath if you have a lot of jalapeños to use up!

IMG_6918

I think this is a great gift for a friend (specially those hard-to-shop-for men in our lives), and if you seal the jars in a water bath you can make them ahead of time and keep them until Christmas (is it too early to talk about Christmas?)!

As usual, be careful using hot peppers and if you are worried about touching them, wear gloves!  Home-grown peppers, especially, since it’s harder to know exactly how hot they are!

IMG_6944

In the spirit of enjoying my favorite season, I was able to drag Fritz out of the lab just long enough for a quick walk at Mendon Ponds Park (one of my favorites).  I adore this park, even though the trails are horribly marked and we pretty much get lost every time we go.

Beautiful Mendon Ponds IMG_6853

I also taught Fritz how you can make cattails explode by whacking them against a tree (or another human?) this time of year.

Not this kind of cat tail.

Not this kind of cat tail.

It’s sad how excited I was that he had never seen that before.

And because I love you, here’s Emerson in a cow suit:

image2image1

Print Friendly

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fullmeasureofhappiness.com/2014/10/02/sriracha-hot-chili-sauce/

Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage

I’ve posted this recipe on the blog before (you can see it here, if you are positive you want to brave horribly edited and strangely close-up photos), but since that was January of 2011, I figured it was about time for an update–both the recipe and the pictures.

IMG_6732 Plus some cats?

And they wonder why they are banned to our bedroom while we eat.

And they wonder why they are banned to our bedroom while we eat.

I actually managed to jot down all the ingredients and steps on a post-it note while I was cooking, so I can be confident this time around that you can replicate this pretty close to exactly.  This is a traditional family recipe, passed down from my Dad’s Hungarian side of the family, and it has become one of my ultimate comfort foods in the cold-weather months.  I really wouldn’t be able to choose between this and chicken paprikash and nokedli in a comfort food showdown, so it really depends on what ingredients I need to use up or input from Fritz when I need a good old-fashioned cooking therapy session.

IMG_6764

Stuffed cabbage was the meal I made to make myself feel better when Fritz got snowed in and couldn’t make it out to Purchase College to see me for our first Valentine’s day together.  And it was just one of many foods that Dad and I tried when we toured Hungary for nine days after I graduated high school in 2005.  I guess that’s the thing with these heirloom recipes–you can’t help but get all wrapped up in memories when you create the tastes and aromas that are so familiar and poignant.

IMG_6722

But maybe that’s just me?  There’s nothing I love more than a hefty dose of nostalgia–Fritz always teases me about how melancholy I am.  That’s probably why fall is my favorite season and I still love listening to old Coldplay and Bon Iver albums and writing in sentence fragments.  But what can you do, ya know?

IMG_6702

As with any family recipe, this has probably been slowly changed and altered over the years, but I’m sure it’s still recognizable to the average Hungarian.

Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage

  • 1 large head of green cabbage
  • 1 t vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 C cooked rice (cooked al dente)
  • 3 lbs ground meat (I usually use a mixture of turkey and beef, but traditionally it’s just beef)
  • 1 t salt
  • several generous grinds of fresh pepper
  • 2 cans sauerkraut (I had two 24-ounce jars)
  • 1/2-1 onion, sliced into half-rounds
  • 2 large cans tomato juice (46 oz cans x two)
  • Additional salt to taste

FYI: this stuffed cabbage recipe makes enough to feed a large family…for a week!  I always use really large cabbages, ’cause this recipe freezes really well and I always like to have lots of leftovers.

Start by preparing the cabbage.  We boil the entire head of cabbage until the leaves are soft enough to be rolled without breaking.  To keep from over-cooking the outer leaves, I remove several leaves every 10 minutes or so and set them aside while the inner leaves soften.  If you keep the entire cabbage cooking until the inner leaves are tender, the outer leaves will fall apart when you make the rolls.

A blog reader also mentioned that you can freeze the entire head of cabbage and then allow it to thaw, and this process of freezing and thawing softens the cabbage leaves enough to let them be rolled–I haven’t tried this yet, but it sounds plausible to me!

While the cabbage leaves are cooking, sauté the diced onion in the vegetable oil until nice and brown.  You can also cook the rice at this point (I had some leftover, so I got to skip this step).  You want to cook the rice just until it is al dente, otherwise it will get mushy as the rolls continue to cook.  My family traditionally uses Minute rice and skips the pre-cooking step, but I hate buying Minute rice when I have regular rice at home.  You want to end up with three cups of cooked rice.  I have also used cooked brown rice with good success!

Prepare the filling: combine the turkey/beef, cooked rice, browned onion, salt, and pepper.  Mix the combination well and set aside.

This is my set-up.

This is my set-up.

Once the leaves are all softened, separated from each other, and cooled, you can prepare to make the rolls.  I take each large leaf and slice off the thick spine on the outer side of the leaf–this also helps the leaves to roll easily.  Toss the spine in a small bowl with the second onion, cut into slices.

Awkward hand picture.  Sorry.

Awkward hand picture. Sorry.

Place a small handful of meat on the bottom inside of the leaf, then roll it up to the top and tuck both sides into itself (see the pictures for a better image).

How much meat you put in changes on how big each leaf is!

How much meat you put in changes on how big each leaf is!

I like to imagine the next steps to the tune of the Cupid Shuffle...

I like to imagine the next steps to the tune of the Cupid Shuffle…

Tuck the right (tuck the right, tuck the right, tuck the right)

Tuck the right (tuck the right, tuck the right, tuck the right)

Tuck the left (tuck the left, tuck the left, tuck the left)

Tuck the left (tuck the left, tuck the left, tuck the left)

One of the greatest skills of cabbage-roll-making is rationing the meat-to-leaf ratio and making sure you don’t end up with extras of either.

Once the meat mixture is used up, slice up any additional cabbage you have leftover and add it to the onion.

To assemble everything, find a large (really large) stock pot and toss down a generous layer of onion/sliced cabbage.  Add in a layer of cabbage rolls, then a layer of sauerkraut.  Repeat: onion/cabbage; cabbage rolls; sauerkraut.

Pour the tomato juice over the top, and add some water if necessary so that most of the cabbage rolls are at least partially submerged.

Bring a light boil, then reduce to low and simmer for several hours, until the filling is cooked through and the flavors have melded together.  Serve with mashed potatoes.

IMG_6737

This recipe is always 100x better the next day.

IMG_6726

And the next day.  That’s the beauty of stuffed cabbage.

IMG_6723 It takes some serious work, but it’s so worth it in the end.  And the cats agree.

IMG_6759

IMG_6751

At least Emerson has the manners to stay on the chair and keep his paws off the table.

Print Friendly

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fullmeasureofhappiness.com/2014/09/27/hungarian-stuffed-cabbage-2/

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

There’s probably at least six million chocolate chip cookie recipes out there that claim to be the best, so when my sister called me and told me that she’s found “the one“, it was pretty easy to just smile and nod and agree to try them eventually.  A few weeks later I found myself craving a bake sesh, and Erin just so happened to Instagram a picture of herself making these cookies with my niece.  She reminded me of the recipe, and I went to work.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 4

Except I forgot I didn’t have any eggs (or flaxseed), so I had to substitute with the best of my Googling abilities.  Then I realized I didn’t have any brown sugar, either, so I had to do a little white sugar and molasses mixing.  Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting anything special at this point (but knew it was my fault).  So when these cookies came out of the oven and I tried a bite, I was really super extra impressed at how good they were.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

And Fritz ate the rest of the batch in two days, so I’m fairly certain he was a fan, too.

And don’t worry, Erin made a few batches of these cookies while I was visiting her in California.  I had to set a limit for myself of two (or maybe three) a day, because they are just so good.  They are soft (and stay soft), sweet and a little salty, and just the perfect amount of underdone-tasting (I think this is because of the cornstarch in the recipe?).  Seriously good.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 2

I keep ruining batches (just made some but accidentally bought mini chocolate chips and then overbaked half of them), and they are still the best cookies.  Slightly overbaking them gives them a slightly crispy edge and bottom, and they taste a little more buttery than their softer counterparts.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 3

So thanks to Erin and Kelsey at Apple a Day for passing on the recipe!

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes 25-30 medium-sized cookies)

  • 3/4 C unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C white sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 2 t cornstarch
  • 1/2 t salt (I use a generous 1/2)
  • 1 C chocolate chips (semi- or bittersweet)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your baking sheets with a silpat mat or parchment paper.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or by hand, you crazy kids), cream together the butter and the two sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and the egg and mix well until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl.

Add in the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt and mix until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Place small scoops of cookie dough on the baking sheet, about one inch apart (I use about a T size for each cookie).  Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 8-10 minutes–be careful not to over bake!  The edge of the cookies may brown slightly, but you want to take the cookies out before the tops start to brown.

Let them cool on the cookie sheet before removing.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 5

These are absolutely perfect for a day like today in Rochester–rainy this morning, and now sunny and 60s.  I’m excited to be entering my favorite season of all time (FALL!), and will admit to having bought my first spice-scented candle of the season this morning.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 5

Also perfect with a cup of coffee.

Teacup art by my amazing sister, Jordi.

Teacup art by my amazing sister, Jordi.

Have you tried this coffee from Trader Joe’s?  It’s my go-to coffee for a smooth medium-roast coffee, and I love it!

Trader Joe's Coffee

Lastly, here’s some pictures of our new-to-us chairs that my friend Emily alerted us were on their way out from her friend’s house.  They were giving them away, and there’s nothing I love more than pretty antique furniture that doesn’t cost me a cent (and now we can finally seat more than three people in our living room).

IMG_6620

 

The cats love them, and sit in them all day (one cat per chair, of course).

IMG_6631

Now off to eat some more cookies!

Print Friendly

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fullmeasureofhappiness.com/2014/09/13/best-chocolate-chip-cookies/

Older posts «