Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dum Dums for Dumb Dumbs

Dum Dums for Dumb Dumbs

Holy Hell! Fall is here and Halloween is just around the corner.  As in, tomorrow! And you know what that means - fat season is here too!  The gluttony always starts with the little mister's birthday in early October, and it kind of doesn't stop until we wake up in a bloated, sugar free and sober stupor on January 1st, cursing all that sugar and flour and boozy, carb-y good/badness!

Last year, we tried to do just a *little* something to head it off.  We tried to keep from eating all that damn Halloween candy.  And so stupidly, I realize now, we - meaning - I - bought suckers.  Not Blow Pops, not Tootsie Pops, no.  Just, Dum Dums.  I figured, it's candy, right?  It's free candy, what's not to like, you ungrateful little rascals?!  No really.  I seriously just thought that maybe if we bought something we didn't like, then we wouldn't eat it.  And I had no idea that Dum Dum suckers were SO SO LAME.  But, yeah, turns out, Dum Dums are lame.  And even if all 3 kids who showed up last year hadn't said so, all my friends verified:  Dum Dum suckers are LAME.  How did I not know this?  I really just thought that free candy = good candy, but not all candy is created equal.  And if I didn't know it before, I know it now.  When your 40-something friends chastise your idiocy in buying a candy as lame as a plain old SUCKER, well then, you might need to admit that maybe you really are the biggest sucker.  When your friends tell you that you MIGHT AS WELL PASS OUT RAISINS, it kind of makes you just shrivel.  Even if secretly, you really um, sort of like raisins.

Is there a moral to the story?  I don't know - but I guess this year we - and by we I mean I - will be buying something like Butterfingers or Snickers or Godiva Bon Bons or something.  And the little mister and I will just suck it up and try not to eat all 27 of the 30 pieces that don't get eaten by those non-sucker lovers.  Or maybe we'll just pass out 10 candies to each of the 3 trick-or-treaters!  Only time will tell!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pickle Mania

Lately I've been making a lot of quick refrigerator pickles. So much so, that puckery pickly goodness is the flavor of the month around here.  It's a darn good flavor.  I bet it might still be the flavor of the month next month, even if it will have to share space with stuff like roasted squash, savory stews, and all things baked.  There will still be room in my heart and in my kitchen for puckery, pickly goodness, because A):  it's delicious, and B):  it's versatile.  The pic you see below is what I threw together in about thirty minutes last week, and the results of said thirty minutes are still delivering the goods.

On the left we have yellow beets, followed by carrots and then cauliflower.  All three batches use a simple apple cider vinegar brine, with various seasonings.  My favorite seasoning is dill seed with crushed red pepper and a few cloves of garlic, as featured in the carrot jar.  But I am also fond of a combination of crushed coriander and cumin seeds, which work particularly well with the cauliflower.

I'm super keen on having these around to snack on - particularly as we get our end of the summer blasts of heat here in the bay area, it's been great to have something cold, salty & crunchy to snack on.  But I've also been loving dicing these little guys up and adding them to salads to add a dimension of crunch and bold flavor - they really pack a punch!

One of my favorite warm weather lunches centers around a bed of mixed greens, topped with a salad that varies - last week it was quinoa, kale from the garden, pickled carrots & red onions.

Today it was a bed of arugula & apples, topped with quinoa, pickled carrots, roasted carnival squash, walnuts, feta & croutons.  Summer meets fall in perfect harmony, I tell you.

Anyway - we're pretty lucky here in the bay area that we can get great produce all year 'round, so I expect the pickling craze to continue.  The basic recipe is below, and the pickles last easily for a month or so, except they never do, cause we always go through them before that.  Use the recipe as a starting point, and go wild according to what you have on hand, and what you feel like creating!

Oh - and giving credit where credit is due:  I came up with the ratios in this recipe based on looking at this one, and this one.  Ultimately I decided I don't like much sweetness at all in my pickles, so I consider the sugar to be optional.  And of course you can just go in all sorts of directions with the spices!  Have fun.  Happy crunching, happy puckering, happy end of summer, happy almost fall!

Quick Refrigerator Pickled Veggies

1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 T. kosher salt
Sugar - optional - I tend to use about 1 T. but you could use more if you like your pickles sweeter
1 T. spices - dill seed, crushed coriander or cumin, or whatever you fancy
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 to 3 cloves garlic
Slice of lemon
Bay leaves
1 bunch carrots, or about half a head of cauliflower, or several beets sliced thin,  or a medium onion sliced thin, or whatever other vegetable you fancy, cleaned & diced, enough to fit into a 1 quart mason jar.

Pour the vinegar, water, salt, sugar (if using) &  spices into a pot & bring to a boil while you clean & trim your veggies.  Pack the veggies into a jar along with the bay leaf, lemon & garlic.  Once the brine has come to a boil, pour it over the veggies.  Make sure all the veggies are immersed in the brine.  Screw the lid onto the jar and leave at room temperature until cool.  Then refrigerate.  Pickles will be ready anywhere from 1 to 3 days to a week later, depending on how darn pickly you like them.  Even if you start nibbling at them in a few days, the ones you didn't get to yet will keep getting better over time.  Spread the pickles on a plate for an appetizer or snack, or dice them up and add to salads.  Enjoy now, enjoy later, and enjoy often!