Friday, October 24, 2008

Vegetable Sprinkle Pancakes

This is one of my favorite things to make the kids when my husband and I are eating something that the kids don't like to eat, like salad. 99% of the time they eat what we eat because I don't want to get in the trap of having to make two meals every night. But I just don't expect a 1 and 3-year-old to eat a bowl of lettuce leaves for dinner ;-)

I used to just called the veggie patties....that didn't go over well, so I now call them Vegetable Sprinkle Pancakes.

1. I scramble two eggs, add some Italian bread crumbs and cinnamon:

2. Then I shred and squeeze the water out of 1 large carrot (fine), 1 medium zucchini (fine), and 1 large potato (coarse):

3. Next I Mix it all together and make patties out of them:

4. I cook them in a medium to medium-high pan for a few minutes on each side:

5. Then I add about 10 sprinkles and dust with cinnamon for the finished, kid-friendly product:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bialetti Brikka 2 Cup Stovetop Percolator Review

In my previous post on my coffee journey, I briefly mentioned that I had transitioned to using my Bialetti Brikka. What I didn't really include is how coming to rely on this little lady for my coffee in the morning has been almost 5 years in the making.

You see the Brikka is not a precision piece of machinery. It has taken years of experimentation and a few replacement parts to get the coffee to come out consistently tasting the same.

When we first bought it we really had no clue what we had just bought. We were in Venice and our bed and breakfast had another Bialetti. We decided we would get one to remember Venice by (we usually buy things for the kitchen when traveling so when we get home we use it and remember our trips). Well, we walked into the store and the lady sold us this one.

We brought our little coffee maker home to see what we could turn out. The first time, and every time after all that came out was coffee spurting out the side like this:

So when we moved back to the US, I packed it up in a box and forgot about it until my latest coffee maker broke. I pulled it out and tried it again, hoping that a new stove might make a difference -- it didn't. I tried every combination of heat, water, coffee grounds and nothing would work. I finally thought to email the VERY helpful people at Bialetti Shop and they told me that I probably needed new rubber seals. So I bought the seals they suggested and it worked (kind of) it only leaks about 10% of the time.

Why does it still leak 10% of the time? I really don't know, but I don't care. Because even when it leaks, I have figured out a way to still get my coffee.

Here is my leaking strategy:

1. As soon as it starts leaking I put the heat up to high and turn the water on my sink to cold.
2. Once it has been leaking for about 15-30 seconds, I turn off the water, remove it from the heat and put in in my sink. Then it cooks just like it should. I don't loose that much coffee from the leaking and the coffee still tastes great.

A few tips I have noticed to make it not leak:
1. Your beans should be ground course
2. Your heat should be medium to medium high
3. Remove from heat as soon as you hear the first noise that says it is coming to the top.

Here are a few different views of the Brikka. First from the top:

Here are the pieces that make up the Brikka:

Notice that the coffee is ground a little bit coarse:

My final tip -- if you need to quickly make another cup, but the machine is hot, just run it under cold water for about 30 seconds, and then it should be cool enough to touch so you can open it up.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Free Learning Resources

I've been following loribourne for sometime on Twitter. She runs a website called Montessori for Everyone I never really clicked through to see what her site offered, until I went to the local Montessori school for a tour when deciding on preschools for my son. I discovered two things on that tour. First, that the Montessori method is a great way of teaching and second, that there was no way I could afford to send my son there.

We chose another preschool that I am very happy with but I still wanted a way to introduce my son to the Montessori way of learning because my son always counts 1, 2, 3, 9 - somehow the 4 always trips him up. So I found the free math Montessori downloads section of her website and got the "Cards and Counters Template." It is a super great resouce and has helped him alot. I put the tracing pages in a page protector sheet so he can use a dry erase marker and do it over and over again without wasting paper.

I haven't bought any of her paid downloads, but I plan to in the future, there are so many resources that I can't wait to use to help suplement my son's learning.

Friday, October 10, 2008

1,000 Cups Under the Sun - My Coffee Maker Journey from Drip to Sip

I was a late coffee bloomer. I didn't start drinking coffee until I was 20 years old - pretty late compared to most people. And when I started, I have a confession - I HATED IT. But I needed a source of caffeine to get things done while finishing up my degree, being an RA, and doing an intensive internship. I started with a little 4 cup automatic drip and stayed with the automatic drip until we moved to was there that I developed my taste for great coffee (and wine for that matter). And so begins my coffee journey...

After Germany, we started with this pricey little model, The Jura-Capresso Impressa E8 which now seems to be discontinued.

I was always happy with this, but never really felt that the coffee was as good as it should be for what we paid. In addition it is not cheap to keep up. You have to buy water filers ($20 each), cleaning tablets ($17 each), and other random upkeep tools. And now, 3.5 years after purchasing it, it broke. It is fixable, but Jura wants $250 just to look at it and to be honest, that is too much right now. So I find myself looking for an alternative....

So I pulled out two little stove top models that we bought while traveling around Italy...

This Bialetti Brikka we bought in Venice:

Bialetti 2-Cup Brikka

And this Shaki one from Rome:

Stovetop Espresso Maker

All three models mentioned above have one drawback, you can only make one cup at a time when you are having a group of people over. Thus, I think my next purchase is going to be a 12 Cup Bodum French Press. Any one have an experience with a french press? I've read that other people have problems with temperature loss, but I have an Carafe I can pour it into.

My next step is to investigate milk frothers, I bought this BonJour handheld milk frother, but the top and bottom don't fit together as you can see in the picture below so have to return it and get another one.

BonJour Primo Latte Milk Frother

Fish is Fish - Book Review

Now that my son is in preschool we have started the book order routine. I love reading to them and go to the library frequently but I really find it hard to not order 100 books every time it comes home. I obviously don't as we still have another kid who will be bringing these things home for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, yesterday an order came home and we've been reading Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni over and over again. I really like his books, but I find the illustrations in this book especially creative/thought provoking because when a frog comes back to tell the fish what he saw in the world the illustrations show that the fish's concept of these "creatures" is limited by his own experiences. I think this book is a good reminder for us "grown-ups" to remember that we may have had certain experiences in life, but these experiences shouldn't define all of our future perceptions.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

101 Things to Make for Dinner

We've all been there. It's closing in on dinnertime and you have no idea what you are going to make for dinner. Here is a list to inspire you. Please add anything I missed in the comments.

I highly recommened you buy these books if you are having problems with what to cook for dinner everynight because they teach you how to cook and come up with ideas in addition to giving you recipe suggestions; Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker, The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper, I'm Just Here for the Food, Pressure Perfect, Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. However, since this is a blog and you are probably searching for something to make tonight, please use the list below for inspiration.

All of these links open in a new window, so you won't loose your place. Browse the recipes yourself and see what suites your tastes, cooking level, and time commitment. My husband is Maltese and I included one of his favorite Maltese dinners in the list. Can anyone guess what number it is?

1. Meatloaf

2. Tacos

3. Pasta Arrabiata

4. Fish and Chips

5. Tacos

6. Taco Salad

7. Chicken Salad Sandwiches

8. Stir-fry

9. Sloppy Joes

10. Chicken Roast

11. Beef Roast

12. Quiche

13. Pancakes

14. Waffles

15. Zucchini Soup

16. Goulash

17. Chicken Soup

18. English Breakfast

19. French Dip Sandwiches

20. Lentil Soup

21. Hot dogs

22. Hamburgers

23. Pork Loin

24. Pork Chops

25. BLTs

26. Schnitzel

27. Roast Duck

28. Roast Lamb

29. Chili

30. Chicken Chili

31. Enchiladas

32. Fajitas

33. Macaroni and Cheese

34. Shepherd's Pie

35. Gnocchi

36. Ravioli

37. Chicken Marsala

38. Lasagna

39. Steak

40. Fried Chicken

41. Chicken Fingers

42. Beef Brisket

43. Tuna Noodle Casserole

44. Homemade Pizza

45. Corn Chowder

46. Quesadillas

47. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

48. French Toast

49. Turkey burgers

50. Tortellini

51. Chicken Pot Pie

52. Minestrone

53. Cabbage Rolls

54. Pad Thai

55. Pasta Salad

55. Kung Pao Chicken

56. Fried Rice

57. Chicken Cordon Bleu

58. Chili Dogs

59. BLT Sandwiches

60. Pulled Pork Sandwiches

61. Pot Roast

62. Stuffed Peppers

63. Cobb Salad

64. Goulash

65. Spinach Pie

66. Rice Salad

67. Ribs

68. Philly Steak Sandwich

69. Hero Sandwich

70. Sausage Soup

71. Salisbury Steak

72. Beef Stroganoff

73. Grilled Shrimp

74. Gumbo

75. Paella

76. Roast Turkey

77. Salmon

78. Rabbit Stew

79. Buffalo Burgers

80. Vegetable Soup

81. Cream of Broccoli

82. Cream of Potato

83. Timpana

84. Chicken Parmesan

85. Pesto

86. Fettuccine Alfredo

87. Spaghetti alla Bolognese

88. Veggie Burgers

89. Frittata

90. Spanish Rice

91. Chickpea Curry

92. Sweet & Sour Chicken

93. Baked Rice Casserole

94. Taco Casserole

95. Stuffed Eggplant

96. Moroccan Tagine

97. Tilapia

98. Lobster

99. Swedish meatballs

100. Tuna Salad

101. Cannelloni

Looking for More Inspiration? I highly recommend these books that along with providing some good recipes, will teach you how to cook, help you come up with ideas, and provide a reference when you need to look something up:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sunbeam Bread Machine Review

About two months ago I bought a bread machine. I bought it for several reasons, but mainly that I HATE sugar in my bread. I could get sugar-free bread if I went to the bakery, but I don't have time to go every day and $5 a loaf could get expensive. So I set about researching bread machines. I research most purchases obsessively, but this one I couldn't decide on and didn't want to spend a lot of money on something I wasn't sure how much I would use, so I just went to Walmart and bought the cheapest one on the market for $40.

So far I am VERY happy with the way it works on both the "do-it-all" settings and the dough settings. I have not tried the quick bread setting yet, but will do so pretty soon. I really like that there is a timer on it so I can put the ingredients in at night and have the dough/bread ready in the morning.

Here are Some Pictures:

I bought the Sunbeam Bread Machine

Sunbeam Bread Machine

This is what the pan looks like. I don't like that it has teflon in it:

Bread Machine Pan

This is what I find annoying about this (or any) bread machine. If you let it run it's course of mixing, kneading, rising, and baking you end up with a little hole in your bread where the kneading blade is. This is pretty annoying because your sandwich will have a hole in it.

Middle of the a loaf of bread from Bread machine

BUT.....and this is how I use my bread machine most of the time. You can easily solve this problem by using the dough cycle of the bread machine to do all the mixing, kneading, rising work for you, and then take it out and put it in a shape/pan you want.


Some things that I think you really need to make your bread machine even more useful is:
* A Peel
* A Good Bread Pan (I like a cast iron bread pan)
* A pizza stone (for unshaped breads like focaccia)
* A good bread machine book - so far I like Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine

If you are wondering how much a bread machine can save you by making your own bread, you can visit some of the blog posts about bread baking on the King Arthur Flour Blog. Their recipes, like this one for Ciabatta always include the cost calculations for the recipe.

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