Thursday, June 28, 2012

Camp Cooking Redux

Remember when I told you I was in a shipwreck? Well, I was using the term shipwreck rather loosely. Perhaps boating accident would be more apropos. The most apropos would be to tell you I was canoeing, my canoe capsized, and I got pinned against some rocks. Shipwreck just sounds so mythical and courageous. (Apologies for the exaggeration; it's the Cobb in me.)

Back to the story. The canoeing was part of a weekend camping trip I took with some friends. I took care of the food, and our meals culminated in a delicious breakfast on the last morning. Note to self: make scrambled eggs cooked in an inch of bacon grease part of my last supper. We had a spread: banana chocolate muffins, hash browns, roasted vegetables, and the aforementioned eggs and bacon.

We had way too much food. (I sense a trend here.) So I volunteered to to take home the leftovers. What a martyr I am. The veggies and hash browns were only partially cooked, so I finished them off in the oven and iron skillet, respectively. I topped it with a fried egg. (I curse the broken yolk!)

The smokiness of the fire was still in the veggies and potatoes. I have camp food so rarely that I'm always astonished at the flavor of food cooked over an open flame. If you have a chance this summer, cook a meal over a fire. You won't regret it. And if you do, I volunteer to take your leftovers.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Verse about a Purse

I'm not picky about much. I'll pretty much eat any food, listen to any music, read any book, but when it comes to shoes and purses, I am a picky purchaser. This translates to, "I have bought approximately three purses in my adult life." If I'm going to carry it around every day, I want my purse to be just right. Ergo I have been patiently waiting to find a cute, smallish, and fun shoulder bag for a couple years. My current shoulder bag is a Kavu, and while it definitely has function, it is lacking on the form. Now don't think that I have been obsessing over this search for two years. I really don't think about it often, but whenever I go to a store with purses, I always check them out with the hopes that I might find my rose among thorns. Last weekend I finally decided to scratch the purse-finding and get on with the purse-making. 

I made this purse entirely from materials that I already had. And I didn't even use my sewing machine. It's on the fritz! (Don't worry, it'll be fixed in no time. Have you been reading my mom's blog?) Bottom line: this is a project anyone can do! 

Here are my raw materials (minus the zipper that I cut out of one of my many unused teacher bags): 

The strap is an old belt. The lining is canvas, leftover from my pillow recovering (re-covering, that is), and the red print is from a skirt that my family brought me back from Bolivia. (Correct me if I'm wrong??) I liked the skirt, but it was too long and the bottom section was ill-fitting, so I cut it off a couple years ago, and now I wear it as a mini skirt. I kept the fabric because I liked it. It's sturdy and cute and fun, so what better way to put it to use than in a purse? 

Aforementioned mini skirt:

Here's what I did to make the purse: 

I first cut down my materials to the right size and took apart the hardware on the belt. 

Then I sewed the outside layer on three edges, keeping my seams on the inside. 

Here is how I attached the belt as a strap. One end already had a hole (from the buckle), and I hammered another small hole on the other end. I used an embroidery needle and yarn to loop through the hole about 10 times.  

I made my lining and sewed the zipper in. I realized that I didn't make the edges long enough to extend the length of the purse, so notice the patch I sewed on at the end on the left. (See, even people who don't measure can make the purse!)

Then I sewed the lining to the inside of the purse, sewing straight through the belt.

Finished product! I am thrilled with the outcome. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Six Bullets for your Saturday

  • iTunes shuffle - This has been an issue for me for some time. Does anyone else find that iTunes shuffle does not work? It seems like it only plays the songs you play the most. But isn't the point of listening it music on shuffle to hear songs you haven't heard in awhile?? I listen to an iPod SHUFFLE when I run, and I always find myself skipping through the tracks I hear all the time. (First world problem)

  • Euro Fußball - Deutschland gewinnt. Alles gesagt. (And Poldi's pulchritude (swoon) inspired me to make this Hey Girl parody. Translation: Hey Girl, I'll win this Euro trophy for you. Afterwards we can cuddle.) 

  • Did I tell you I got attacked by a lion? No? Well, I didn't. I was involved in a shipwreck though. True story. (Excuse the injury photo. I just can't help myself.) 

  • Fish tacos with mango salsa - The consummate summer meal, in my opinion. 

  • Food Mourn - Recently came across this.  I know my food pictures are seriously lacking, thanks to my super fancy camera (aka, my phone), but I just hope no one is mourning to them. 

  • Gael Garcia Bernal sports a monkey tail beard. Need I say more? (16 seconds in)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Crafting + Running

I saw this wall display on etsy and instantly knew that I wanted to recreate it.  One can always use more wall art, right? 

The idea lingered in my head for some time until two nights ago when I was out for a run.  I accidentally strayed from my normal route and came upon a house with a giant pile of trash out front.  SCORE!  (Please do not encourage this behavior in those whom you love.  Slippery slope.)  The medal display came back to me, and I found a piece of siding that would be perfect.  Engines ignite.  Craft mode is on. 

This what the board looked like when I brought it home.  I couldn't saw through the board to straighten the edges.  I liked the rustic-ness of the edges, so I kept them. 

Then I painted it using dark blue acrylic paint. (FYI: very varied lighting coming up, making it difficult to discern the colors. The last picture is most accurate.)

I drew a saying on the board and painted it with chartreuse, turquoise, and blue. (And yes, I recognize the saying is dripping with cheese.)

I drilled six holes at the bottom and screwed in 7/8" cup hooks from Lowe's. I hammered in a picture hanger on the backside. 

Finished product! Now I'm off to find all my old race medals, a task that's going to be harder than it seems, considering I have moved 82 times in the past 7 years. If I can't find them, oh well; I'll just have to keep doing races to fill up my display. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Teacher Gene

When I became a teacher, I, like all evolutionary creatures, adapted to the new environment. Early mornings don't bother me anymore; in fact, I rarely sleep in now. I have have done my best to learn the teenage jargon, so I can stay relevant to my students. It's still swag, right?  But the biggest change I have noticed has been the discount gene.  Six years ago I did not have this gene, but I am now always on the lookout for things on sale.  I have priced checked dry erase markers at least 1,762 times since becoming a teacher, and I now have eagle-eye vision for cheap tchotchkes for my prize box.  I am coming to terms with the fact that I have become that person who scours the discount bin and can't pass up a good deal. 

How this relates to anything:  I recently HAD TO buy a package of mushrooms (30 cents, yo) and a bundle of yellow squash (Which I don't particularly enjoy, but at 60 cents, I couldn't deny them a place in my basket.).  And they sat in my fridge, waiting for inspiration to strike.

And strike it did.  I introduce "Clean out the Fridge Stuffed Veggies".  I was not expecting a lot out of this meal, and boy, was I surprised.  The squash was delightful.  And the possibilities for fillings are limitless.  I might actually have to buy some more squash at regular price just so I can make this dish again. 

Clean out the Fridge Stuffed Veggies

  • Veggies that can act as vessels (I used yellow squash and mushrooms. I could see tomatoes, zucchini, and green peppers working well too.)
  • Items to stuff into the veggies (I used roasted kale, green peppers, onions, and ground turkey. Dream big here. Or just use whatever is on its last leg in your fridge.)
  • Marinara sauce
  • Cheese (I used mozzarella.)
  • Bread crumbs
  • Olive oil
  1. Scoop out the innards of your vessel veggies. 
  2. Make sure all of the veggies / meats that are going inside are pre-cooked. (I roasted the kale, sauteed the green peppers and onions, and cooked the ground turkey.)
  3. Mix the cooked stuffings, marinara sauce, and cheese together. I went pretty light on the sauce and cheese. You just want something to bind the stuffing together. 
  4. Fill the vessels with the stuffing mixture. 
  5. Moisten the bread crumbs with some olive oil and sprinkle that on top of the vegetables. 
  6. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are brown and the vessels have been cooked to your liking.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

If Only I Had Vanilla Ice Cream

It is the rare occasion that I make dessert at home.  I have an insatiable sweet tooth and less than an ounce of self control.  This equals trouble when faced with the task of eating an entire recipe of brownies.  Some would call that task insurmountable.  Not me.  That's child's play.

I was feeling the call of the sweet tooth tonight, so I decided to come up with something akin to satiate the insatiable. This is my super-easy recipe for apple crisp for two. 

Apple Crisp


2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
juice of 1/2 a lemon
dash of vanilla extract (Do not omit!)
1/2 c oats (either old-fashioned or quick cooking)
2 T flour
2 T brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 T butter


  1. Preheat oven to 375. Toss the apples with the lemon juice and vanilla and place in a small casserole dish or bread pan or muffin tin (new idea!). 
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. 
  3. Cut the butter into very small pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Using your fingers, mix in the butter with the dry ingredients until you have a pebbly texture. Some of the oats and flour will be loose. It's fiiiiiine. Promise. 
  4. Cover the apples with the topping. Bake at 375 for approximately 20 minutes. The apples will be soft; the topping crunchy. 
  5. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cheesemaker for a Day

You remember my post on whey?  Well this is the story of how I obtained so much whey. Read on, dear reader. 

Unlike my one day foray into apiculture, I believe that I could actually become an at-home cheese maker for life.  Number one, it's a lot less sticky, and number two, it doesn't require endless hours of hands-on attention.  I started out small, with just one batch of ricotta.  I know cheese making can get a lot more complicated than that, but I found the ricotta to be really easy to make and really delicious to eat.  This is what I did to create the cheese dreams are made of.

Ricotta Cheese
(I got the recipe here.  I halved it and ended up with three decent-sized balls.  I've just included pictures of all the steps.)

1. Add milk (ahem, I used whole), buttermilk (whole again, sue me), heavy whipping cream (have I told you how rich and delicious and creamy this cheese is?), and salt.

2. Stir occasionally for 10 minutes, and then just leave it alone until it reaches 190 degrees. Mine took about 90 minutes. Watch a couple episodes of Mad Men, give yourself an at-home perm, bathe your dog, or just sit and watch it grow. 

3. Once it reaches 190, take it off the heat and let it rest. (Note: I highly recommend using thermometer, but apparently it's not totally necessary, as I was using what now appears to be a broken one. Mine got stuck on 175 for about 20 minutes. After it started to rumble like the boiling mud pots at Yellowstone, I called it 190 and took it off the heat.)

4. Once it rests for an hour, you are ready to scoop out the curds. Put them in a cheesecloth-lined colander in little batches. (See all that yellow liquid? That's whey. Save that liquid gold. You've earned it.)
 5. Tie each batch with some cute string, leaving at least 6 inch tails.  Tie the tails around a dowel rod positioned over a big pot and let the cheese drain for two hours. 
6. After two hours, put the packets of gloriousness: cheese, cheesecloth, string and all into a bowl and refrigerate overnight. You weren't planning on eating this today, were you? Oops. Hope you didn't invite the boss over to try your cannoli. 
7. Wake up, and realize it's Christmas morning. You get to unwrap presents. Wow! Santa left you three beautiful balls of rich and creamy and delicious cheese. How did he know??
8. Grab a spoon, fork, knife, or your bare hand, and take a bite. You will never buy ricotta cheese again. I know it seems like a lot of work, but it's very little hands-on time. Trust the Patti Wagon. Totally worth the effort. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

By the Whey

I recently found myself in a kitchen full of whey.  Like, a lot of whey.  Buckets of whey.  Why, you ask, do I have any whey, much less an inordinate amount?  I made cheese, of course.   But I'll get to that in another post.  This one is dedicated to whey. 
I have about 18 times this much whey. Eighteen. One. Eight. 

First off, how about a Q&A session on whey? 
  • What is whey? - According to Wikipedia, it is the liquid remaining after milk has been heated and curdled. 
  • Is whey healthy? - Yes! According to Self Magazine, it is a good source of Riboflavin, Potassium, Phosphorus, and Vitamin B12. It is also a complete protein. Hooray for having all the essential amino acids! 
  • What to do you with it? - Funny you should ask. Keep reading. 
Not being one to throw anything away, I googled, "uses for whey" and what would I find but a multitude of ways to use this chalky, yellowish, disgusting-looking liquid.  "Use it in place of water in any baking recipe."  Ok, I can do that.  "Use it to cook rice, oatmeal, quinoa, etc."  Gotcha.  "Use it as shampoo."  Wait, what?  Why don't you try it and let me know how it goes? 

The idea that intrigued me the most was freezing the whey in ice cube trays and adding the cubes to smoothies.  I have been training in beastmode recently and looking for an energy replacement to drink after my workouts.  Ah, how sweet it is when worlds collide.

Yesterday morning, I got back from a spectacular run (10 miles at a 7:37 clip #shamelessbrag), and I needed nutrients, and I needed them quickly.

Let me introduce you to the Strawberry Banana Whey Smoothie.  I would drink one of these every day if my blender weren't such a pain to clean*.  It was both replenishing and tasty. And quite easy to make. (Once you have the whey. Making the whey does take some time. But if you ask nicely, I might give you some whey cubes.)

Strawberry Banana Whey Smoothie
To the blender, add 4 whey cubes, 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 banana, 1 tablespoon strawberry freezer jam, 2 tablespoons milk (I used Almond, unsweetened). Blend, and enjoy.

Update: I made another one today and added 2 T of chia seeds. It's a great addition of healthy fats, but I definitely recommend soaking them in the yogurt and milk for about 30 minutes beforehand. If you don't have 30 minutes, skip the chia seeds.

Here are the stats, with chia seeds included:

It might seem a little heavy on the cals and carbs for a snack, but that's the banana, and the arches of my feet need that potassium.  Feel free to replace with any other fruit or veggie to you liking.

*Lightbulb moment: I just made my own cheese, and here I am whining about the time it takes to clean my blender.  I think I will drink one of these every day. And I will clean my blender every day, and I will like it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lasagna Cupcakes

Calling all parents!  This is a great idea for cooking with children, especially lots of picky children.  But don't get me wrong; I'm not a child, and I'm not picky, yet I loved making them, and I loved eating them.  Similar recipes are on the internet, but it's much more fun to set it up buffet-style and mix and match as you choose.

What you'll need:

  • 1 package wonton wrappers (or egg roll wrappers, cut into four pieces)
  • marinara sauce
  • white sauce (I made a quick béchamel, then added parmesan cheese, basil, and lemon for more flavor.)
  • 1 lb browned ground meat (I used ground turkey and mixed it with some of the marinara sauce post-browning.)
  • an assortment of cooked vegetables (I used mushrooms, zucchini, kale, and broccoli.)
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese, mixed with two eggs and about 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • mozzarella cheese

Set all of this up beforehand, and make a space where everyone can reach everything. Hopefully your options are bit more capacious than mine.

What you'll do:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350. 
  2. Spray a cupcake tin with olive oil spray. 
  3. Start with a wonton wrapper, then add a spoonful of the ricotta mixture. From here, you can add a spoonful of the meat or veggies, then add a spoonful of sauce (red or white or both). Then a sprinkle of mozzarella. 
  4. Put another wonton wrapper down, and start the layers over. End with a heaping sprinkle of mozzarella. 
  5. The only rules are start with a wonton wrapper and end with mozzarella cheese. Other than that, layer as you please. 
  6. Once all the cupcakes have been filled, bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes. 
  7. Let them rest for a couple minutes, and they should slide right out of the cupcake tin.

 First layer in. 

 Layer it, girl! 

 All cheesed up and ready to go. 


Final Product

I ended up with 30 cupcakes, so I froze a bunch for lunches this fall. I'm made lots of different combinations, so I'm looking forward to the surprises I'll get when I defrost them.  

FYI: They are about 150 calories per cupcake, less if you go meat-less. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Because it's Thursday

And I wanted to make a shirt. I henceforth declare June 7th to be make-a-new-shirt-day. Time to celebrate!

I sew a lot like I cook. No recipes. No patterns. Fly by the seat of my pants. So I'm actually surprised I ended up with something wearable. Now it's not the most wonderfully constructed shirt, but I listened to my inner Tim Gunn and made it work. It has a zipper (in the back) and fits me like a glove.

If you're looking into sewing, I recommend not following my methods. Not unless you want to become BFFs with the seam ripper. You could head on over to my mom's blog, Studio Adventures, or try A Spoonful of Sugar. They are exponentially more adept at both sewing and instructing others to sew than I.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Asian Flair

I eat a lot of beans and rice.  And when I get bored with that, I switch it up to rice and beans. What can I say?  I like to keep things interesting on the Patty Wagon.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, I cook them the same way.  Rice with water, salt, and butter.  Drained canned beans cooked with water, cumin, cayenne, garlic, oregano, chili powder.  Mix together and top with sour cream and salsa.  I can (and do) feast on it for days.

I was thinking of dinner options last night, and my mind went to that frequently visited land of rice and beans.  I was looking around in my pantry, and cans of coconut milk and bamboo shoots caught my eye.  Why not make the dish with an Asian inspiration? Delicious. Dinner. Done.

I cooked the rice with equal parts coconut milk and water, along with butter and salt.  To the beans, I added curry powder, garam masala, cayenne, garlic powder, and coriander.  But the real star was the bamboo shoot salsa.  I think I could market this stuff.  It is that good.

Bamboo Shoot Salsa
  1. Cook a can of bamboo shoots on medium heat in its own juices for a couple minutes. This is just to get a little bit of the woodiness out. Cool and chop. 
  2. Chop 1/2 of a red onion, 1 jalapeno, a few basil leaves, a few cilantro leaves, one clove of garlic.
  3. Toss all the veggies with a dressing made of the juice of a lemon, about 1 T of rice vinegar, a squeeze of honey, salt, pepper, and about 1 T olive oil. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pizza Pizza Pizza

A few days ago, I decided to combine the two things I've been recently craving into one meal. Welcome to my world, Buffalo Chicken Pizza.

I made two pizzas, so I could test out my two favorite pizza cooking mechanisms in a side-by-side taste off.

I froze half of the whole wheat pizza dough recipe I made last week. (I froze it after letting it rise once.) After an overnight refrigerator thaw, I let it rise again for about an hour.

I divided it in half and made one pizza on the pizza stone and the other in the cast iron skillet.

The verdict: Pizza Stone all the way. And I can't really explain why. It was just somehow better. Don't be fooled by their similar appearance.

Pizza Stone

Cast Iron

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 T, plus 1 t Frank's Buffalo Sauce
sprinkle of ranch salad dressing mix (optional, but does contribute)
1 T blue cheese dressing (I used Kraft Roka)
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
shredded cheddar cheese
blue cheese crumbles
1/2 recipe of whole wheat dough found here

Cook the chicken in this manner:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350.
  2. Salt and pepper the chicken breasts and sear in a cast iron skillet with olive oil on medium high heat for about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Pour 1 T Frank's Buffalo Sauce over each chicken breast and bake for about 12 minutes, or until cooked through.
  4. When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, shred it, and mix it with anther tablespoon of the sauce (or more, depending on your tastes) and the slightest sprinkle of ranch dressing mix.
To assemble:
  1. Crank up the heat on your oven to 500 and pre-heat your pizza stone.
  2. Top the crust with the blue cheese dressing and remaining teaspoon of sauce.
  3. Add on the chicken, red onion, and cheeses.
  4. Bake at 500 for about 12 minutes.