HH 6: Cookin’ Up Crime

cooking up crimeI’m thrilled to be part of Happy Homicides 6: Cookin’ Up Crime anthology that was released on Friday. My story is titled Simmer to Death: Did sibling rivalry lead to the poisoning of an up-and-coming food personality? Or were simmering hostilities among the staff the real recipe for murder?

A little tidbit about Simmer to Death:

Simmer to Death was originally going to feature Faith Hunter, my heroine from the Scrap This Series, and her future mother-in-law Odessa who appeared in Masked to Death, but Faith didn’t want to be a part of the story. I kept the setting for the plot, a cooking demonstration and played around with a couple different characters until one of them took over. The story actually evolved better when the original POV character became the victim and the original murderer became the POV character and unwitting sleuth.

I hope everyone will grab a copy at our discounted price of 99 cents. Here’s the link: http://www.bit.ly/HH6CookinUpCrime.

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Blue Apron Favorite: Spicy Korean Chicken Wings

2015-11-02 18.32.44Or as my husband wanted me to title this post: Winner Winner is this Chicken Dinner. We’d been looking forward to trying this meal since I received our order on Thursday afternoon, and figured Monday (wings are perfect for game day) was the night. We usually cook together, but my husband had to work a little later so I was on my own in the kitchen. The first thing I loved about this meal was the ease in prepping it myself. While the chicken was in the oven, I had plenty of time to prepare the rice cakes and baby bok choy without feeling like I was rushing around. I’m still a slow chopper, so sometimes the other ingredients aren’t ready to toss into the pan with its their turn.

I’ve never cooked rice cakes or baby bok choy and was excited about giving it a try. It might sound a little strange to get excited about using new ingredients but it’s what I love most about Blue Apron. Every week, there’s at least one meal with an ingredient I’ve never used. Learning how to cook different types of cuisines and foods has really brought back my love of cooking. (I’m actually thinking about taking some culinary classes at the local college.)

The chicken turned out perfect with the right amount of char and heat. I had used all of the gochujang and was afraid it would be a little spicy for me. My husband usually likes things a little spicier, and the last time I used less of a spice it didn’t have enough of a kick for him. For this recipe we both enjoyed the heat level. The rice cakes and baby bok choy complemented the chicken wings perfectly. I especially liked the little bit of texture and crunch the sesame seeds gave the side dish.

The only disappoint is that my pictures didn’t turn out. The meal looked delicious. And my husband complemented me on my plating techniques. (We’ve also been watching a lot more Food Network lately.) I had checked the photo on my screen but not in my gallery. If I had, I’d have noticed it was a little blurry as I had touched the lens when I pulled the phone from my pocket. I need to start putting my cell lens down in my pocket as this isn’t the first time this has happened to me.

The Spicy Korean Chicken Wings with Rice Cakes and Baby Bok Choy has pushed two other dishes from our favorite meal slot. My husband’s favorite had been the spicy meatball dish, and mine was the shrimp and grits meal. We both now have the same meal in the number one spot. We’re really hoping this comes up again in the meal rotation.

Scrapbooking Recipes

When I started scrapbooking a little over fifteen years ago, I joined some internet scrapbooking communities so I could learn more techniques and connect with other crafters. It was in one of these groups that I meet my friend who showed me there was more to preserving memories than a traditional scrapbook. She had gifted me a recipe album and it opened up my eyes to the different ways we can share our story with future generations. All of the recipes were done like scrapbook layouts. I had a couple of cookbooks but never thought about making pages for my favorite ones, or when a book got ruined, taking out the recipes I used and making a layout to preserve them.

2015-09-26 12.05.12Nowadays, I find myself using recipes I find on the internet more than my cookbooks as it’s easier to find a recipe to use with the ingredients I have on hand. But, sometimes I couldn’t find the recipe again. Either I forgot to bookmark it, my favorites got wiped out, or if I printed the recipe it was getting illegible from using it while cooking and the website wasn’t printed on the page. I kept reminding myself to scrapbook the new recipes so they’d be protected in a protector, and I liked showcasing the recipes with a little of my own creative spin.

recipe crop

My cropping set up for working on the recipe pages.

It wasn’t until we started getting the Blue Apron orders that I knew I had to set aside some scrapbooking time to work on my recipe pages. We were enjoying the recipes from Blue Apron and I wanted to keep them in a binder. Why just put them in a binder when I could make some layouts with them? I’d have to find an alternate method of scrapbooking as the traditional way wouldn’t work as the 8 1/2 x 11 inch cards had the ingredient list on the front and the steps on the back. Pocket style scrapbooking was the way to go. I could see both front and back, and by using 12×12 pages, I could add some decorative touches and comments.

I bought a Fuse, a tool that’ll seal the page protector, so I could create my own pockets. I placed the recipe into the binder, then fused on the side so the recipe stayed in place. I added pattern paper on the top and side of the recipe to add journaling and embellishments. On the side panels on my pages, I noted our favorites and also any changes I’d make the next time we cooked the recipe. There was one where the mint was a little strong for me so I noted “less mint” for the next time.

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The End of a Garden

2015-07-29 17.02.04It’s time to say goodbye to our garden. We’ll be picking our last harvest tomorrow., not that there’s much left. The temperature is cool in the morning and the plants are no longer thriving. I was hoping to have one more batch of tomatoes, but it is not to be. I have enjoyed my time in the garden this summer and am bittersweet at its depature. I love my almost 5-foot tall jalapeno plant and would love to wait it out and see just how tall it could get. But alas, my husband is ready for the last mow of the season, and to prep the garden for next year, so it’s time to get the last of the vegetables and dig up the remainder of the plants (to make it easier for him to mow).

I have plans to make the garden a little bigger for next year because there wasn’t enough space for all I planted. This was our first year gardening and we were told not to worry if some of our plants didn’t take. It happens. Well, we had beginner’s luck and lost only one tomato plant. Okay, we did “lose” all four of our green bean plants but that was because of the rabbits. Baby rabbits are the perfect size to sneak between the holes in the wire fence. And those little rascals love, love, love green beans.

Some of the lessons/tips I’ve learned this year are:

  1. If the recommended planting space is 18-24 inches, go with 24. Once the plants started growing, there wasn’t enough space to easily weed, and I broke a few plants.
  2. Marigolds. Our 4-foot tall fence didn’t keep out the deer. One morning, my husband saw a buck in the middle of the garden chowing down on the tomatoes. He yelled at the deer and it jumped out. We noticed a neighbor still had lovely, red tomatoes in their garden, and had marigolds planted on the corners. Apparently, deer do not like the smell of the marigolds and it keeps them away. I’m not sure about that, but since it worked for them, I’m all for giving it a try.
  3. Four plants of four different types of hot peppers equals an overabundance of peppers. Next year, we’ll go with one less variety. Three of them my husband really liked for making his homemade hot sauces.   2015-09-02 11.07.17 2015-09-12 18.32.17
  4. Add mesh to the bottom of the fence so rabbits don’t bring their babies to your garden to use as a buffet. If I looked out the window and saw the mom and dad rabbits (or maybe they were all moms or all dads) sitting a few feet away from the garden, that meant the offspring were munching away on the green beans.
  5. I have gained a love for eating vegetables. For some reason, vegetables from your own garden taste so good.
  6. Gardening can become very addictive. There’s just something about growing food that is so satisfying. I have to say my most exciting moment was when it was time to harvest the brussel sprouts. I was telling everyone I could that I “made” brussel sprouts. It’s a highlight of my summer that ranks right by there with going to Disney World.

 

This winter, I plan on learning about canning and pruning so I can enjoy next year’s bounty more.2015-09-12 18.16.11

My Blue Apron Journey Continues: Crispy Catfish with Freekeh

I started a new job so things have been hectic around my house. I’m still working on finding the balance between writing, the new job, and taking an online class, not to mention finding time to enjoy my hobbies. My meal choices are once again reverting back to the standard meals I made when my children were younger and we had sport commitments. The food I’m cooking is good, but I had been looking forward to branching out and making more “elaborate” meals. Thank goodness for Blue Apron. This service allows me to have three days during the week when I can try new recipes and some new foods.

I have a half a shelf in the fridge dedicated to the Blue Apron food so no one uses those ingredients for something else. I group the ingredients for the meals together, placing the vegetables into a storage bag so I won’t have to hunt for them. As I can’t start dinner until later in the evening, it’s nice having everything sorted so I can collect the items needed for the recipe and just start cooking.

2015-09-03 20.14.45From our newest order, our favorite meal was Crispy Catfish with Freekeh. My husband and I had never had freekeh before and I’ll admit we weren’t that excited about trying it and kind of put it into the category of something we wouldn’t enjoy. We were wrong. It was one of our favorite parts of the meal. The combination of the freekeh with the vegetables was outstanding.

My husband usually isn’t a fan of tomatoes, matter-of-fact he avoids them unless they are a part of a Blue Apron meal. The combination of spices and additional ingredients added with the tomatoes (or tomatoes are added to) turns this once hated vegetable into a favorite of my husband’s.

While I was preparing the side dishes, my husband was cooking the catfish. (Sidenote: I have to say my favorite thing about Blue Apron is that it’s turning into a lovely hobby my husband and I share.) He read the directions a few times to make sure the catfish was only to be coated on one side. He’s cooked fish many times and this was the first time a recipe said to only flour one side. The fish turned out wonderful. We both enjoyed having the bottom of the fish crispy while the top remained tender.

I can’t week for our next meals to arrive. Stay tuned for more adventures in what is turning out to be a new hobby. I am thoroughly enjoying cooking again.

Beginning my Blue Apron Adventure

blue apronTen days ago, I saw an ad on Facebook for Blue Apron, a service delivering fresh ingredients and the recipes for three meals to your home. I’ve been wanting to branch out from the standard meals I’ve been cooking (for what seems like forever), and expand our palate a little more. As we live in a rural area, some ingredients are hard to come by so Blue Apron looked perfect for us. I also liked the fact I could order a 2 person or family plan which your choice of omnivore or vegetarian…or you can mix it up a bit. My son is a picky eater, so I knew he wouldn’t eat the fancy meals but they were perfect for my husband and I. It would be a fun way to have an elegant, date night meal at home.

Another reason I ordered was to see the amount of ingredients needed to cook for two people. I have been cooking for 5 or more for such a long time I’d forgotten how to cook small. Most of the time we had so many leftovers, the same meal was eaten for lunch and dinner a few days in a row, unless it was something that could be frozen and remain edible (note: cucumbers do not freeze well). Also by having so much food available at mealtimes, I was encouraging huge portion sizes.

I hadn’t realized our mind-set until I made the first Blue Apron meal for my husband and myself. As I was preparing it, we both thought the protein (meat) included was rather small for a two-person meal. There was no way we’d be full after dinner, even taking into account the vegetable part of the meal. Much to our surprise, not only were we full but we had some of the vegetables left. We made the second meal yesterday, and again, discovered that the meat portion was exactly what we needed and not on the skimpy side. I’m looking forward to making the spicy meatballs tomorrow, and getting my next shipment in two weeks.

And a huge shout-out to Blue Apron for making it so easy to skip a delivery. In the delivery schedule, the next five weeks of meals are listed and I can choose which ones I’d like and the ones I prefer to skip. It’s so convenient to look at the menus and schedule the next couple of weeks at once rather than having to remember to check every week. I’m really looking forward to week when shrimp and grits is one of our recipes.