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Archive for September, 2008

I was never keen on ever using the words “soccer”, “Mom”, and “mini-van” in the same sentence, particularly if that sentence was in reference to, well, me!

The “soccer” word was inevitable when Junior got the chance to join a Saturday morning team with one of his best buddies. The word “Mom”? Well, also pretty hard to deny that one. But “mini-van”? It was bad enough that I lost a $100 bet when we bought our van, having sworn, in writing and before witnesses, that I never would. I couldn’t bear the thought of becoming a mini-van-driving soccer mom.

Xtracycle to the rescue. We load it up, complete with cameras, tripods, blankets, snacks, soccer balls, and son, and pedal our way to soccer. We’re also pretty lucky to know a lot of other riding-obsessed soccer families, so our return trip home this week featured no fewer than 4 families on the bike path. We called ourselves “the soccer bus”.

So while we do have to occasionally drive to soccer (I don’t really see our 80 year old friend Sally riding on the back of Mark’s bike to watch Junior play), I’d much prefer to be known as an “SUB-riding Soccer Mom”.

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We simply can’t get enough of a good thing. Having spent most of last Sunday in the kitchen preparing all those peaches, and canning two gallons of tomato sauce, we really had no desire to “put up” more food this week. But, alas, the lure of ripe tomatoes was too great to resist. An eleventh hour trip to the farmers’ market Saturday yielded a mere 10 pounds of romas and 2 pounds of cherries, which has all been turned into lovely tomato confit and stored in the freezer (where, oh where, will we store that pig in November!?).

Tomato confit is one of those dishes that sounds like it should be best left to chefs in restaurants who have sous chefs to do all the hard stuff. In reality, it is one of the easiest, tastiest ways to preserve tomatoes we have ever used. And, as at least one blog writer commented, I think we will be fighting over the last of the confit come spring!

Tomato Confit, inspired by the Smitten Kitchen

1-2 pounds cherry tomatoes, stems removed, halved
4-6 T olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
a sprig or two or thyme or rosemary, leaves removed from the stem

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Drizzle 2-3 T olive oil in each cookie sheet or two (with sides), and brush to spread
Place cut tomatoes cut-side up in the cookie sheets
Toss around the spice and garlic
brush tops of tomatoes with remaining olive oil.

Cook 20-30 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to brown and soften. You’ll be able to tell if they are done by tasting….they should be SWEET, with a beautiful, concentrated tomato finish. Just be careful not to dry these all the way to crispy and you will be fine.

While I have read that it is possible to can these darlings, I took the lazy way out, and froze our cofit in Ziplocks and FoodSaver vacuum bags. If you want to make it with Romas, I’d suggest making the drying an all-day affair and using a lower temperature (170 deg) and roasting for 5+ hours. Otherwise, you run the risk of browning the tops of the Romas before they’ve had a chance to concentrate properly.

If you are looking for a recipe to use right away (rather than freezing), then have a look at this amazing Baked Tomato Sauce creation by Smitten Kitchen. Simply inspirational…I think we need a bigger freezer to keep putting up all of these good things we can’t seem to get enough of!

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MaryBeth’s mom is an incredible cook. And not a month goes by that MaryBeth doesn’t call her up for a recipe, a temperature, or a secret ingredient. This month, it was for Galumpki.

It doesn’t matter that MaryBeth’s family is not Polish…she grew up in Western Massachusetts where every third family is, so Kielbasa and Pierogi might as well have been her native cuisine. And no one makes Galumpki like MaryBeth’s mom.

What is Galumpki, you ask? Simply, Polish stuffed cabbage.

FILLING
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 lb ground beef
2 cups cooked rice (MB prefers brown)
1 tsp poultry seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
1 egg

Saute onion and beef until cooked through. Add rice and seasonings, and let cool slightly before mixing in egg. To make it like mom, get your hands dirty and give this filling a good massage!

CABBAGE WRAPS
Remove the core from the cabbage (don’t cut yourself ) Steam the head of cabbage, covered, in a large pot with a few inches of water. Don’t let it get too limp. Drain and cool enough to handle. Trim down the membrane on each leaf Holding the leaf in your hand with the membrane part on your hand and toward your arm place the mixture on the lead in the palm of your hand. Roll the cabbage over the mixture toward your fingers to the end and tuck in the sides. Trial and error will do it for you. Spray a deep casserole dish with Pam and make layers of the galumpka, topping each layer with tomato sauce and dots of butter. Cover. Cook at 350 for about 45 mins. Uncover and cook about 15 mins. If you’re my dad, sprinkle with a little red wine vinegar before eating!

So, while MaryBeth made a few modern, Boulder-crunchy whole grain, pasture fed substitutions, the Galomki were “just like mom used to make”.

PS If anyone REALLY knows how to spell Galomki / Galumpki / Galompki, or how I used to say it as a kid, Gawumpki, please let us know!

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MaryBeth has only two minor gripes about her current Xtracycle set-up:

  • The freeloader cargo bags are not water-tight. In fact, on particularly rainy rides they collect water.
  • A regular rain cover is not long enough to cover this sweet long body. Since we are unfortunate enough to not own a garage, and our shed is packed with other toys, shelter for the X from the great outdoors is essential.

Imagine the glee, then, when we discovered that Xtracycle has added a bunch of nifty new items to its online store that will make all-weather commuting a little easier to swallow here in Colorado….and allow it to happen without threat of bodily harm from the IT department if a freak snowstorm ruins a laptop.

MaryBeth does realize that she could buy dry bags at the local REI, but there is something appealing about one designed to fill the length of a freeloader. (And she happens to want Xtracycle to thrive so she can continue to pontificate on the joys of the long-tail.) One has to wonder, though, if the rain cover will be like those darned maps….never again to fold up into its built-in pocket with ease.

Stay tuned to see just how hearty (stubborn?) MaryBeth is this winter!

[To buy this nifty gear, and your own longtail, visit The Xtracycle Store]

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Peach Season is in full swing here in Colorado, and we’ve been enjoying every minute of it! In addition to daily peach habits, the family has been feverishly ‘putting up’ peaches for those long winter months when a hard, tasteless, peach-like orb from South America just won’t do!

Last week, we bought 40 pounds of organic peaches from Ela Family Farms for a mere $50 – a veritable steal at the Boulder Farmers’ Market. Since then we have dried peaches, frozen peaches and whole peach pies, canned peach chutney, and made peach puree. The freezer is also packed a bunch of peach muffins (recipe below).

What we’ll do with the peaches yet to come in our weekly CSA is a mystery, but there’s a fair chance it will involve this tasty recipe for Bourbon Peach Hand Pies, from Smitten Kitchen!


Recipe for Peach Muffins, courtesy of our good friend Cheryl:

Wet Ingredients

1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1/2 brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Dry Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 cups whole oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Fruit
2 cups fresh peaches (or even more!)

Topping
2 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup oats

Preheat oven to 400 degress

Combine wet ingredients in large bowl and beat at medium speed until just mixed. Slowly add dry ingredients at low speed but don’t over mix.

Add peaches to batter by hand and scoop batter into greased muffin tin. (TIP: if you don’t like messes, find a nice, unbleached muffin tin liner.)

Topping
Melt butter and add dry ingredients and sprinkle on top of muffins. (TIP: if you like lots of topping make at least 50% more than the recipe calls for!)

Bake 12-20 minutes or until slightly brown. Don’t overcook. Check doneness with toothpick or break open. Peach Perfection!

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Recently we had one of those experiences where the marketing of the event differed greatly from the reality. Sort of like the movie trailer that made the movie appear to be worth the $10 ticket price only to find out that the trailer showed the best three minutes of the movie and that much you saw for free.

In our case the marketing lure was that we could make applesauce for free. Reality came in the form of the gadgets needed to make applesauce. Turns out you can get free apples – that’s called being neighborly. If you try to get free kitchen appliances they call it shoplifting.

Chief among the must-have appliances for this kitchen adventure was the Roma fruit sieve – an indispensable gadget for separating fruit pulp from stems, seeds, and skin. Mind you, we used to own a perfectly fine food mill that accomplished the same thing, albeit a bit more slowly, but in a fit of downsizing before our last move, that food mill went the way of the pasta maker and the sushi kit: The Yard Sale. Those last two have yet to replaced with newer models but there has already been talk of the “need” for a pasta maker. Stay tuned.

The apples lived up to their billing and were free – generously given up by various neighbors in response to a post on a neighborhood chat group. It turns out that when apple trees get big they can bear more fruit than any one family could hope to consume. We were glad to help. We made it a family adventure one Saturday morning tooling around on the Xtracycles, ladder and Junior in tow, gathering our apples. Junior was a huge help, inspecting apples for worm holes, and tasting a few along the way.

Alas we needed something to grind up all the apples that we picked, so off we went to McGuckin Hardware, home of every kitchen gadget not to be found at any ordinary big box retailer. A quick spin through the Kitchen Department got us to our prey and we were off and running.

Once we were back at the ranch, Junior was also fascinated with the applesauce making process – he inspected quartered apples for holes and turned the giant crank on the fruit sieve. He didn’t care much for the latter part of the process where we canned our bounty – no knives or cool gadgets, just a bunch of boiling water.

Our Take: “free” is only partially correct but now that we have the tools, the next batch will be free. Little boys like sharp knives and kitchen gadgets that mash things up.

The tally:

Fruit Sieve, $58
16qt stock pot: $39
Applesauce: $11/pint
Making apple sauce with your 4-yr-old: priceless

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The DINKs have taken a bit of a hiatus…the need for sleep and work overtook the desire to post.

Nevertheless, we are back, with a quick post to get us into the blogging swing. We thought it would be interesting to chronicle some of our most interesting Xtracycle loads, like the one pictured here.

Not a real on-the-road load, of course, but good for a few laughs! Our friends’ son Jack was pretty amused, anyway. So…keep your eyes posted for more “notable loads” in the near future.

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