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Dan Dan Noodles via F&W

This recipe came to me via the Food and Wine email and I had perfect opportunity to try it. I have a friend that has recently moved to rural northwest Georgia from Tibet. We have been spending quite a bit of time together and she loves having me over to her house to cook meals and watch movies among other activities. She is trying her best to make food like that of her homeland, but it is hard to come by the same ingredients and she sometimes becomes frustrated. The day following a meal at her house, I got the F&W email and decided to try to give her a little taste of home, if only similar.

See the recipe here.

I did manage to find all of the ingredients in my local market, which was a relief. I took everything over there and commenced on making the meal. I asked her to prepare her mein noodles as she does at home and asked her if these ingredients looked familiar. They did and I could see a sparkle in her eye as I was bringing everything together.

She does not have a food processor or blender as of yet, so I chopped all of the ingredients by hand and used a whisk. It worked just fine. It was beautiful as well.

 

After using the skillet for the first cooking, I browned some pork chops in the peanut oil with just a little salt and pepper. Once they were nicely browned with the perfect crunch, they were set aside for a few minutes. Before serving the noodles, we put them in the skillet so that they could soak up all of the leftover oil and goodness. I thinly sliced the pork with her magnificent Chinese cleaver and placed over the top of the noodles. We poured the sauce mixture over the noodles and pork then topped with green onions cut on the bias and a squeeze of lime.

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This was one of the best dishes I’ve made in quite a while. My friend loved it. Not quite like home, but close enough. She loved it so much that she wanted to cook it a second time this week for her husband’s family. And so, we did. The second time, we used a blender, hoping to get the consistency described in the recipe. However, I must say, we were both disappointed with this method. The flavor was quite different and the second dish did not compare in beauty. We decided that next time, we would revert to the original, more time consuming method.

Let me know if you try it or have already.

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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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Today, I’m a Plumber.

The kitchen faucet at my cabin has been leaking for how many months now? Six? At any rate, it was time to fix it. This time I decided to do it myself! I have a Delta washerless faucet with a center control handle. Having never seen the inside of a washerless faucet, I figured I could do it anyway, whatever the effort involved. Can’t be that hard, right?

So, how was I going to accomplish this, having zero knowledge of it except that there is no washer? Easy. Just go to the internet! I looked up a video on YouTube on “repair delta washerless faucet” and sure enough, an array of choices appeared for me to choose from. I went with the first- it was from Home Depot. The handywoman knew what she was doing. Her most important instruction was to keep everything in order and put it back in exactly the opposite order I took it out in.

When I got to my local hardware store, I told the person that helped me exactly what I needed. Then I found out that there are more than one kind of washerless faucet. Ugh. Didn’t know that. Mine is not the kind with the cartridge. It has a ball and stem center. After my second trip to the store, I came home, ready to repair!

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My parts all in order at the top. Parts from the kit on the bottom.

I did exactly as my video handywoman told me to do- keep everything in order (even though it was a different type than she used). She was right. I was in and out relatively quickly and painlessly. I will not go into great detail about the steps necessary to replace the faucet.  There are plenty of people that have done it already.  What I will tell you is something they left out. Look at the tool below.  One end has an Allen/hex wrench and the other, a curved and hooked end.  The hex end takes the handle off.  The other end is for the cam (white plastic piece underneath the handle).  Nobody seems to point that out. ( I can’t seem to find the name for it the other tool/end.  Please feel free to provide it if you know.)

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Tool that comes in the repair kit.

Nearing the end, when you are tightening everything up, this tool is crucial to the process.  Once the metal cap is on above all the small pieces, the handle can go back on.  However, the cam must be tightened! If it is not, everything will seem to appear in working order, but the faucet will produce a stream of water. Tightening the cap with an adjustable wrench or pipe wrench will not complete the job.  So, make sure this is snug before the handle is replaced.

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Hooked ends on included tool fit right into the grooves.

Hopefully, this little tip will help you on your way to becoming an at-home plumber.  Live and learn.

Cheers, Olivia

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in House

 

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July Harvest

When I was home at the cabin a couple of weeks ago, I saw lots of progress in the garden. The plants were bigger, the colors more vibrant, and the harvest was definitely underway. Okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, strawberries, eggplant, squash, mystery vines, plus lots of herbs and flowers abounded. Seeing the fruits of one’s labor is so rewarding, especially in a situation like this.  We get to enjoy my family’s work for a year at a time.  Dad’s tilling and smoothing of the ground with the tractor, the work of mom’s planting, the excitement of the seeds peeking out of the ground, the joy of seeing color for the first time as the plants grow, the harvest, the preservation, and the best part- eating it all!

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Here’s the picking from that day.

I’m excited to see the mystery vines getting bigger. These still look like pumpkins at about 6-7″ across. However, one of the other vines has one fruit that has turned a peachy blush color. Any ideas on these? They squaty tiny gourds have since disappeared, so I imagine that they grew into the pumpkins.

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The mystery white pumpkins.

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Oh wait! They’re getting darker! A peachy tone is developing on this vine.

We’ve had tons and tons of tomatoes come in. I took the ones that I picked that day and canned them. In all it was a quart, plus two pints. Not a huge amount, but I will be glad to have them in the fall come chili and vegetable soup time!

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I love the rays of sun coming through this tomato vine.

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Tommy Toes!

Having flowers in the middle of the vegetable garden is a nice addition.  Zinnias are a staple in our gardens and have been as long as I can remember.  They grow tall and proud and abundantly! It is one of the best flowers to keep handy for a quick bouquet.  With a mix of colors, you can go with warm colors or cool ones to compliment whatever setting you have.  They just make you smile!

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Fuchsia has taken over this corner of the garden! Pretty, pretty tones.

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My mom has always had zinnias in her gardens over the years.

Ah, my faithful garden friend, Willie.  Like many cats, he likes to know what you’re up to and get underfoot.  He’s always nosing around out here and loves to dig.  He often comes back to the cabin a much darker color than when he left.

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Here comes Willie through the okra.

The turkeys were one of my favorite sights this weekend.  I see them on the property a good bit, but not usually right near the cabin.  Friday morning, there were two of them right outside the front of the cabin about fifteen or twenty feet away, clucking softly and scratching around. They stayed close for about three hours, but kept out of sight for the most part.  On Saturday morning, there were two families that came by.  Below is the first one.  It was a pair with six chicks! the picture is not dynamic and I wish it was better, but you can get the idea.  About three minutes later a mama and three chicks (a little older) walked by quickly into the trees.

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Morning visitors! A pair and six babies.

Below are some jars of the tomatoes I picked.  I mixed the red and yellow together and think it turned out to be a good batch. I’ve also put up a ton of the cucumbers and will post separately about the experience with those.

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What are you growing this year? Show me or Tweet me a pic @LifeSkillsLivi

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2012 in Food, Garden, Pets, Plants

 

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Grease Burns in the Kitchen

Ah, the trials and tribulations of preparation in the kitchen. From the rookies to the seasoned chefs, everyone ends up with injuries at some point during their culinary adventures. As for me, I fall somewhere in the middle and am no exception to this rule. My latest food frown comes in the form of 2nd degree grease burns to my left hand and foot. Yes, I said foot, too. Long story short, I left a small pan of oil on a live burner and it went up in smoke. During the course of removal, it sloshed on my hand mostly, then went on my foot when I dropped it on the floor. Not a pretty sight, I can assure you. I’ve been joking that my fingers appear as if they are in rigor. A bit lighter in color, swollen, and stiff. Not to mention the oozing. Enough said.

Here I am a couple of days later, trying to heal and keep the wounds dry. As I’ve read through all the recommended methods of treatment for burns, I decided first, that mine is probably not bad enough to seek medical attention besides questioning the pharmacist.He recommended all sorts of non stick gauze, aloe sprays, tapes, ointments and the like. As I was making my decision, I noticed that tea tree oil was on the shelf with all the other remedies. Bingo. I thought to myself that I had some at home and decided to go with it rather than spending eight bucks on a bottle of burn spray. Once back home, I realized that no amount of tape or gauze was going to work out due to the burns being on fingers, toes, their joints, and in between.

So, I went with the tea tree oil to start with. Let me tell you, the pain relief was instant. I rubbed just enough to cover it and it soaked in within 4-5 minutes.

The days have gone by now; its been 6. I have put the tea tree oil on multiple times a day in addition to taking some otc pain reliever and using some antibiotic ointment on occasion. The blisters formed, filled, and burst. Now the new skin is appearing, the healing itch is in full force, and I’m over the hump. The pain is still here for sure. Elevation, t.t. oil and ibuprofen have gotten me through.

I will say this: the tea tree oil has magnificent drying power in addition to the pain relief. The moral of this story is to try the oil next time you get burned. My experience with it has been better than anything I’ve ever used.

Below is a photo of the products I used. The Aquaphor is an antibiotic burn salve, but regular antibiotic ointment with pain reliever works just as well.

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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Kitchen, Plants

 

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Crème Fraîche 3 Ways

Crème fraîche is a French cream product that has similarities to sour cream. cream cheese, and yogurt. It is thick, smooth and creamy, containing between 18 ad 36% fat.  The flavor is tangy, similar to sour cream and the texture is easily spreadable.  It lends itself to both sweet and savory dishes.

Here are three things to try:

  1. Use it as a substitute for yogurt, sour cream, or even mayonnaise in most recipes.  Give it a shot!
  2. A very simple (and healthy) dessert or snack idea is to add a dollop on top of some fresh berries and drizzle with honey.
  3. Potato Gratin with Gruyère and Crème Fraîche

A fact about crème fraîche that is good to know is that it can be cooked or reheated without curdling.  This makes for easier use and a creamier outcome.

If you are unable to find it or would like to make your own, it is vary simple.  Here’s the recipe:

2 cups heavy cream
2 Tablespoons buttermilk

Stir the buttermilk into heavy cream in a glass container that has a lid (quart canning jar would be perfect).

Leave the container partially covered, and let it sit at room temperature until it’s at your preferred thickness, about 8 – 24 hours.

Stir the contents and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

There are lots of varieties to this recipe.  Some cook for a short period, some use yogurt, some vary the amounts of buttermilk ratio.  I imagine that all will produce a similar product.

Have you ever tried making it?

Cheers, Olivia

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in 3 Ways, Food

 

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Jalepeño Cornbread

Growing up, my mother always made cornbread and I must say, has been very good at it. On occasion she would make Mexican Cornbread. I’m not sure how she came into making it, but I always enjoyed it. As I remember, she would add a can of Mexican style canned corn to the batter and occasionally a chopped onion. The burst of the corn kernel and the crunch of the onion always appealed to my senses as a child.

Last night, while making chili, I wanted something different to accompany it. So Mexican cornbread it was. Not having the recipe or being able to get my mother on the phone at the moment, I went to the internet to find a good substitute. Of course, who did I find there? Ina herself. If there is another woman in the kitchen that I love besides my mother, its Ina Garten. After looking no further than the Barefoot Contessa recipe, I was ready to go. Jalepeno Cornbread sounded close enough and better. As it turns out, I decided to marry the two recipes and what a wonderful product I ended up with.

Here’s Ina’s recipe. Link to Food Network.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread 2006, Barefoot Contessa at Home

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pan
  • 8 ounces aged extra-sharp Cheddar, grated, divided
  • 1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts, plus extra for garnish, 3 scallions
  • 3 tablespoons seeded and minced fresh jalapeno peppers

Directions

Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don’t overmix! Mix in 2 cups of the grated Cheddar, the scallions and jalapenos, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking pan.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining grated Cheddar and extra chopped scallions. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut into large squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Here are my modifications:

First and foremost, this is a giant recipe.  I cut it in half right from the start.  She says that her’s makes 12 large pieces and she isn’t kidding.  In half, it filled a standard iron skillet for me.
In addition to the scallions, I had a little white onion left over from my chili and I wanted to add that.  So, I added about 1/4 of a cup. I added 2/3 of a cup of canned corn (or half of an 11 oz. can). Her recipe calls for 3 extra large eggs. I used 2 large for the half recipe.
In hindsight, I wish I had added the seeds of the jalepenos.  The extra heat would have been a welcomed addition.
I must say, this was truly some of the best cornbread I’ve ever eaten.  The recipe called for much more flour than meal, which is more Northern for sure. We didn’t mind one bit. The texture was cake like and fluffy.  Brandon (the bf) and I walked into the kitchen and said at the same time “Oh my god, that smells so good.” Believe me when I say it- it was so good.  He and I both forgot to take a picture of it when it came out of the oven because we were dying to eat it.  We couldn’t even wait for it to cool at all- which you will see by the crumbs and broken pieces below!! At any rate, I am exceptionally happy with this recipe.  I will probably play with it a little more and I’ve even thought about making some sort of stuffing out of it to accompany some pork. MMMMMM.  Stand by for that.
Cheers.  Olivia

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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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Dinner Party Pointers

Karen T. from Alabama emailed me recently with a couple of questions. I answered the first one regarding RSVP etiquette. Now, on to the second half. She wanted advice on throwing a dinner party. There are a lot of deciding factors that go into throwing one of these dinners. Use these and you will be able to figure out what works best for you.

1. How much space do you have? How many people does your table seat? My table seats up to ten people comfortably, so I usually stay between 6 and 8 for this.

2. How big is your kitchen? Do you have enough space to get all of this food together? My kitchen at the moment is a resemblance of a NYC apartment. Very little cabinet and countertop space, tight quarters, and doors that all bang into each other and don’t allow for opening more than one thing at a time. Frustrating, but I make it work. The more space you have, obviously, the easier it will be.

3. How much do you feel comfortable cooking? Do you feel that you can cook for 10 or would it be better to start with a smaller number? Do you have the cookware to accomplish this meal? Whatever you feel you can take on, go for it.

4.  How much time will you have? Will you cook everything at the last minute or make some things that require some early prep? I recommend spacing out the time. If you start early, then you will have time to spend with your guests when they arrive and won’t be a slave to your stove. That’s why they call it entertaining. Also, something to think about is having extra help. Guests always ask what they can do to help. By all means, let them! Or maybe you have someone that could come by your house and give you a hand in cooking. A sibling, a parent, your child, perhaps a neighborhood child is looking to earn a little extra money or maybe you have a weekly house cleaner or helper that might be willing to help. (Asking a friend to help would be left to your own judgement. Make sure that person is not involved with the group at hand as to not hurt someone’s feelings for not being a part of the party).

5. Do you have enough place settings and serving pieces? Just make sure you have enough dishes to serve all of your guests the same thing. I.E. plates, bowls, glasses, stems, flatware, etc. If you don’t have enough serving pieces or enough room on the table, serve the plates from the kitchen and deliver them to your guests. A little pre-presentation effort is always a crowd pleaser.

6. Decor is something to think about, too. If you want a full table setting with cloth, flowers, candles, etc. By all means, do it. If you want to go simple and just use placemats, that is just fine also. Just make your table look put together and nice. Guests feel special with a warm touch to a table.

7. Meal plan. This is as broad as the Chattahooche River. (This should be a post on its own). Lots of factors to consider here besides the aforementioned. Budget, tastes, allergies, vegan/vegetarian, occasion, etc. What’s the occasion- just a Sunday dinner or holiday? How much can you spend on this meal? Are you on a chicken, rice, and salad budget this week or are you shooting for swordfish, pearl cous cous, and lots of vegetables? What about drinks? Alcohol or not? Who’s coming to dinner? Know your guests special needs. If you would like some menus, I can provide some.

8. What can someone else bring? Unless you’re doing potluck, it’s probably best to refrain from asking your guests to provide anything too complicated. Have them bring a bottle of wine or an appetizer or a loaf of bread to accompany the meal. However, there’s always an exception- if someone insists on preparing a dish, you are at total liberty to accept. It will save you time and money.

9. One last point to consider is level of difficulty. I recommend keeping some dishes easy. Having all the components at a high level of difficulty will make for a strained host and hostess. Let some dishes take center stage and have others as a support to the meal.

Let me know how your dinner parties are coming! What worked and what didn’t? Cheers. Olivia

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2011 in Food, House, Kitchen

 

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