Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dill pickles, potato salad and rest for the soul

I'm tired of being busy and having plans all the time. Summer is supposed to be slower and more relaxing - but between work and camps for the kids and vacations and the 4th of July - today was a glorious plan-free day. Well, I had plans that went like this -
1. Long run with Molly
2. Shower and nap
3. Figure out what to do with abundance of cucumbers and tomatoes and red white & blue baby potatoes in my kitchen
4. Drink beer & watch soccer
5. Grill burgers for dinner

I am happy to report these were the best plans and they worked out fabulously.

Molly and I ran 8 miles:

2. I showered and laid down (but my neck hurts so I didn't really nap.

3. Carson and I looked up tomato sauce recipes because I had 6 pounds of tomatoes that were super ripe. We found this recipe:

And this happened:
And then this made my house smell like heaven:
And the final product (which apparently "freezes beautifully" and as Annelle said in Steel Magnolias: "this is in the 'Freezes Beautifully' section of my cookbook. And I wanted to take something that freezes beautifully!":

So I also have about 6 pounds of adorable little potatoes that happen to be red white & blue. If you have not heard of Rise 'n' Shine organic farms and their CSA offerings, go check it out. I can't believe this is the first year we have taken part. 

We get some recipes each week with our share and suggestions about what to do. With the potatoes, we got this recipe:

And it turned out amazing - I would give it rave reviews. It was so tasty and satisfyingly delicious! Plus it's pretty:

Finally, we made pickles. I have had cucumbers in our CSA box for the last 2 weeks that we haven't eaten. I have gotten a lot of questions about how to make pickles. They were the first thing I canned when I got my canning supplies. Super, super easy. But I use a mash-up of the Ball dill pickle recipe in my Ball canning book and 3-4 different recipes on my Pinterest "Food in Jars" board. Basically, dill pickles are so simple my recipe looks like this:

And here is how I really do it:
Get some cucumbers, fresh dill (NOT dill weed, just dill) and some garlic (we have garlic from rise n shine, too - delicious!). 
Group cukes together by size roughly. If you like whole pickles, or pickle halves - by all means cut them like that. We prefer quarter spears and round slices for our burgers and sandwiches. 

Sanitize your jars - I run mine through the dishwasher because I'm lazy. Then peel all that garlic (I use 1-2 cloves per jar but I like my pickles really garlicky.)

put a clove of garlic and some dill (2-3 little sprigs) at the bottom of each jar:

Pack the jars with the cucumbers. Pack them really tight. Fill them up! This part is kind of like a little puzzle. 
Top with another clove of garlic (or not) and another sprig of dill and line up your jars:

At this point you want to put your lids in a little saucepan to simmer. It sanitizes them and prepared the sealing part for sealing. (You can only use canning lids once - after they are sealed to the jar and reopened, they won't reSeal.) 

Get the canning pot (or super large stock pots with a rack to lift the jars from the direct heat on the bottom also work fine for this!) going - fill it half to 2/3 full with really hot tap water and put it on the burner on high heat. 

For the brine: combine:
8.5 cups water
2.25 cups white distilled vinegar (5% acidity - this is standard cheap regular old white vinegar...)
1/2 cup of pickling salt (sometimes called canning salt)
***canning salt makes the water stay clear. Regular salt works fine. It will taste fine. But the water will be kind of foggy and cloudy. So the pickling salt stays clear. 

Put these three things in a non-reactive (not aluminum) pot and bring to a boil. Remove it from the heat. Now - you will ladle the brine into the jars using a funnel and leaving 1/4" headspace. A note about tools:
This 4 piece set comes together as a beginning canning set and I got it as a birthday present from my grandmother a while ago. The funnel is self explanatory, the tong thingies are used to put jars in and take them out of the hot water. The little stick thingie is a magnetic lid lifter (for getting the kids out of that simmering water...) and the last thing is a headspace tool to measure 1/4" or 1/2" headspace to leave when you fill your jars. 

I also have this funnel - which is awesome because it sits securely on any size jar and it has the headspace measurement right on it. After you fill the jars, wipe the rims to dry with a paper towel and put the lids on. 

Put the rings on and tighten (but not super tight) - by now your canning water should be close to boiling. Using tongs, gently place the jars into the canning pot. 

The water should be up to the neck of the jar or covering the jar. Process (let it sit and cuddle in the pot) for 15 minutes. Then use the tongs and set them on a dish towel to seal and cool. 

You will maybe hear some "pings" - that's the pressure pulling the seal down. Check for a good seal and then label your pickles!  I think you need to wait about 3-4 weeks before they are "pickles" but my people usually can't wait more than 2 weeks. 

Yay pickles! This was a terribly long post, and very picture heavy, and all about food. But it's been a great day and now I am drinking beer and watching soccer while Willie is grilling burgers. Success. :)

 Can I quote Marianne Williamson here? I think I will. “…As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” 

Friday, July 11, 2014

StitchFix #1 review - July 2014

  • It came, it came!!! I have been waiting for about a month now to get my first Stitch Fix

  • What? What's that? You don't know about It's a style service... Basically, after filling out a pretty comprehensive style profile and lots of information about your body type and sizes and stuff, a stylist picks out 5 pieces for you. Tops, pants, skirts, dresses, accessories... And ships them to you for free.  When your Fix is shipped, you get charged a $20 styling fee... (Though if you keep any of the items, that $20 becomes a credit.) The box arrives, you try on your 5 things, get a personal note from your stylist and 5 style cards to show you how you can make complete looks, and a list with descriptions and prices. 

Now, as a quick aside, we have purged our home. I have rid myself of all unnecessary goods. I have taken no less than 32 bags (30 gallon trash bags) of assorted clothes, household items, and linens to the Salvation Army in Rome since March. I have reduced my wardrobe by at least 50% or more. In that process, I determined that the things I kept were 1) not bought on sale 2) of high quality 3) classic design and 4) multifunctional for work, casual, etc.  So, in an effort to enjoy my style a little more, I treated myself to the stitch fix experience. 

My first box came today!

It was wrapped beautifully:

And gave simple instructions!

  • My stylist (Lisa) sent me a nice note and 5 style cards for the pieces I received:

    so I got 2 tops, a pair of skinny pants, a kimono cardigan, and a chevron print dress... Here are the items in no particular order. In the interest of transparency, I am also including the price. (You get to choose the price range for your clothes. I was in the $50-100 price range, though I will go down to the under $50 or "the cheaper the better" price range next time!)

    1) Daniel Rainn - Daria Scarf print cross-front blouse - $74
    Um, no.  This was the one total fail in my box. I hate the print. Like, absolutely despise it. It does not look cute or professional or even intentional. The way it crosses with the funky pattern not matching up makes it even worse. The cut would maybe be ok if it was a smaller all-over print? But I also did not like the bottom. The hem was elasticized. Yuck. And it was too pricey. 

    Verdict: RETURNED

    Item #2 - Pomelo Landers Lattice Crochet Detail Tank $78

    Ok, I confess, when I saw that my box had shipped, I looked up photos on Pinterest and the interwebs to see what I got - and this was underwhelming from what I could tell. A white shirt? Really? 

    But then when I got it out the box, the fabric was soft and flowy.  The detail at the neck and shoulders was beautifully sewn.  It had a cute keyhole button detail at the back neck. The back hem was ever so slightly longer than the front to hit at the right spot on my backside. 

     In the end, I really liked this shirt the most out of the whole box.

    VERDICT: kept it!

    Item #3 - Pomelo Harriet Chevron Print Detail Dress - $64

    This dress is SO me. If I had to just choose from photos and could only keep one thing, this would be it. And even once I got it on, I adored it:

  • Unfortunately, there was one little problem. It wouldn't zip up. 
    Major bummer. I seriously feel this dress just must run small. It is my size and all the other things fit, for the most part... I hope I get a cute dress like this next time (that fits...)

    VERDICT: returned (but only because I couldn't zip it)

    Item #4 - Pixley Monty Scarf Print Kimono Cardigan - $54

    I wanted to love this. Well, I do love this... The fabric and print and colors and style of boho-chic are great. But... On me it looks like a box. It gives me no waist or shape, and according to my husband, it makes me look old.
    But look at it!!!! Pretty. 

    VERDICT: returned

    Item #5 - Sanctuary Rizzo Skinny Ponte Pants - $88

    ok - I have never worn or even tried on skinny jeans or skinny pants. (I know, sad, right?) but, news flash - I am not skinny!!!! I embrace my body shape, and am totally cool with it, but I am way curvy to wear tight pants. (Have you seen the Jimmy Fallon/Will Ferrell "I got my tight pants on" skit? You should... Here - it's irresistible - there is a bad's from the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon...)

    Anyway, I am still slightly torn about these.  But I have convinced myself that 1) they are versatile 2) they are seasonless 3) they are way cuter than yoga pants 4) they could be dressed up or down 5) my husband likes my butt in them. So....

    I went back and forth and back and forth. But the more tops I tried on with them, the better I felt about keeping them. They are like leggings with their clingy-ness and stretch, but thick Ponte cotton with the cute sewn details - think jeggings, only haute fancy jeggings.  My planned big fall purchase is riding boots and these will be perfect...

    VERDICT: kept

    So, what do you think? Did I pick the right things? I got my $20 credit applied from the styling fee, so that helped a little.  And, if you keep all 5 things, you get a hefty 25% discount (which would have been $85.50 in this case!)

    You should try it!!!! If you do - use this link or one of the linkies above. (It is just to take you to the main stitch fix page, but if you use this link, I get a $25 credit for referring you!)Click here to try it!