Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What we've been making lately

I post our weekly menu's here at Our Semi Organic Life but don't take photos of said food that often. Often what I do take photos of the more exciting food we make - which usually ends up being desserts, special breakfasts, and more that don't end up on the weekly dinner menu.

We made waffles one morning and instead of syrup Tony made a fruit sauce with grocery salvage berries (look how good they look!). He just chopped them up and cooked them down with a little Truvia.

I got some puff pastry at Fresh to Frozen our grocery salvage for really cheap (that stuff is normally expensive!) so decided to make an apple tart since we had so many apples. Yum!

I was stocking up on homemade food before returning home after a long Christmas break out of town. I made chili, black bean soup, muffins, cornbread & regular bread. All ready to live off of when we got home so we weren't forced to cook upon returning home. So easy and quick. 

Just a random baking adventure - I made blueberry, lemon bundt cake. I'd made it about a year before and loved it so much. I made a comment on the print out "march 2011, so good you don't even need frosting!". That meant I had to make it again! We got a new (blue) bundt pan (everyone needs more than one right?!) for Christmas so I tried it out. It's one of those flexible, silicone ones. The cook time took about 15 more minutes than expected. The shadow in this photo below isn't all burnt. Really not burnt at all.

A typical meal where I make vegetarian chili in the crock pot with Morningstar crumbles, beans, canned tomatoes etc along with cornbread muffins. So delicious. We eat them with the corn muffin on the bottom of the bowl. They get all soggy and yummy.

Sorry this is so long! I've been saving these up apparently! This was a beginners adventure into making french onion soup. It came out great even though I didn't have the right type of cheese. Have I already blogged about this? Perhaps.

One last one: tomato soup & dumplings. This is a big hit at the house! All from scratch. And so easy to make! Every time I make it I think it's just perfect as it. I cannot improve this dinner. See ingredients in photo.

If requested I'll post any of these recipes!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Great Customer Service Shout Outs

I'd like to take a moment to give a couple special shout outs to some great experiences I've had with certain customer services. Normally we're either griping about how bad a customer service is or not thinking about it. Right? Yep, that's me. Today I'd like to thank two companies who've recently been awesome to me.

Kitchen Aid and Aerogarden

Both have been hands down awesome.

First our 'planted' Aerogarden babies were all doing well except one. First post here. The chives just weren't sprouting so I called up their customer service for help. The lovely old lady in Michigan told me that they guaranteed that their plants grow and that she'd ship me a new one for free. Guaranteed. Free. Awesome. Just like that a new one arrived in the mail a few days later. Now the chives are all set up and ready for a second try.

I didn't need to have any proof of purchase when getting a replacement. I didn't need to have an account, my original receipt or anything. It was that easy. Thanks.

aerogarden, customer service, great customer service, great customer service aerogarden, aerogrow customer service
here is the progress today
baby chives in the bottom right corner

Kitchen Aid has been great. My food processor broke. Well the handle of the bowl broke. It has this fancy locking mechanism so you can't start the machine without it being secure. Perfect so you don't a. accidentally get food splattered all over your kitchen & b. chop off a finger or anything. Smart thinking. Except fancy locking handles with lots of pieces sometimes break apparently. Boo.

kitchen aid, customer service, kitchen aid customer service, great customer service, kitchen aid good customer service, good kitchen aid, kitchenaid, kitchenaid customer service, food processor, red, kitchen aid red
see I can't close the lid or use it :(
I online chatted with customer service. Luckily I had registered this food processor after getting it as a gift (though I forgot this detail). I told them it was a wedding gift and it matched all my other Kitchen Aid appliances and I love them, will be a customer for life etc. And even though I was slightly out of the warranty time frame they decided to replace it for free. Phew. What a relief and so much gratitude. Thanks. It is true - I have a matching red stand mixer, a new immersion blender and more things like cutting boards and scissors from them.

With just a few days to wait I got my new free food processor bowl in the mail.

Except there was a slight snafu at this step since the one they sent wasn't perfect. Oops. Well no worry, they express shipped the replacement for that replacement even quicker. I'm so thankful since I was out of warranty (just by a little bit) and have no money right now for replacement parts. Heck even the couple of weeks it took me to get online with customer service I suffered with no food processor. I use that thing a lot!

I was just so happy with the free packages that arrived at my door step I just had to blog about this. Thanks Aerogarden and Kitchen Aid!

I was not paid, perked, or compensated in any way to write this . Kitchen Aid and Aerogarden do not even know that I am even posting this. I just loved them enough to do this.

Friday, January 27, 2012

YouTube Friday

Although I'm sure everyone and their mother has seen this YouTube video I couldn't resist. I had to post it. It's just too funny to me. It's way better than all the other "sh*t [blank] people say". Those are all just inside jokes for those people. This is funny to everyone.

My favorite part: "touch my screen".


Thursday, January 26, 2012


We finally got around to using one of our Christmas gifts - a potato ricer (similar to this one) - to make homemade gnocchi. It's something that most people probably don't make at home from scratch on a regular basis - or at all, but we've made it a few times in the last year or so and love it! It's a little labor intensive but we enjoy a good cooking adventure.

To start we found this video (which is strangely hilarious):

We followed that basic recipe with I think about 3-4 potatoes we had on hand. We boiled them and used our new potato ricer to get those tiny potato curls. Combine with some flour, water, an egg, and a little salt and you've got gnocchi dough. See video for full recipe (or just Google around). It makes a lot so we saved half the dough for another day.

I'd say it looks like an exact science - even for amateurs like ourselves but honestly it was easy. It just came together. Must have been luck or something or perhaps it's dummy proof. Prepare to get your hands dirty though. It's a messy fun. Be sure to generously flour your clean surface first.

These are the big lumps of gnocchi dough. We saved 3 for another day. Side note: when I went to make them later that week the dough had gone all weird in the fridge. I'm not sure what the best way to save the dough is - perhaps freezer. I did end up being able to reuse the dough but it took a little drying out, reshaping and lots of flour.

I rolled out each dough ball into a long thin roll then sliced off little pillows. Each were about 1". Then the fun/challenging bit comes. The goal is to make each gnocchi into a very specific shape - of which I find impossible! Seriously they do it so easily in videos and photos. I cannot get my gnocchi to form in cute shapes.  Here I am using a grater to get a textured side in the dough:

There are other ways of forming the gnocchi - forks, graters, special wooden rolling tools from William Sonoma, and more. We did our best. Take a look:

Um fail? I really don't think these came out the exact right shape. How important is that? Well regardless... into boiling water they go. We have this wide skimmer tool that works perfectly for pulling the gnocchi out of the water. They're done after a few minutes in the boiling water. You'll know they're done when they float to the top.

We made a 'gimme lean' fake sausage sauce with butter and peas. Pour lots of Parmesan on top and its a great dinner!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Meals for the Week - Jan 23 2012

We've got the usual stuff on the menu this week. Nothing too spectacular (yet) but ya never know if something will change. All vegetarian as you see. We'll probably make a big Trader Joe's run this weekend so we'll stock up on extra good goodies for the weekend and the month of February. We may even get some sausage to lessen our vegetarian days. Oh, and breakfasts for the week will be greek yogurt, granola and blueberry parfaits (every day until we run out). 

Anyone else bummed about Picnik shutting down? I'm upset since I loved it. I was even a premium subscriber! What shall I do now? I think google (+?) is going to have their own alternate but I may have to learn that husbands' photoshop. Eaks. Actually I can muddle my way around based on my high school art classes and watching over his shoulder for 4 years. Should be interesting.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DIY Pinterest Wreath

Okay so it's been a while... but I've been Christmas crafting. Yes I did this forever and a decade ago (okay it was really like 6 weeks ago) Better late than... well you know what!

This project was almost free. I bought 2 items; although should have only really bought one. This DIY wreath comes from this Pinterest pin here.
the original pinterst source: here
The idea: you buy a one dollar foam pluming insulation pipe from home depot and make it into a cool holiday wreath. You save on those high priced wreath bases at the craft store. Cool! Seems reasonable. Should everything on Pinterest seem that easy though? No. I don't believe some of it. Regardless... I'm here to prove that some pin's just need more detail.

The first execution: I went to Lowes and pretended I knew what I was doing in the plumbing department. Lots of things that look kinda cool but foreign to me. Then I finally find the long foam tubes I was looking for. Indeed some were as cheap as $1 but there were many to choose from of varying prices. Some were fancy and had tape attached, there were many different sizes and what not. I chose the basic black foam one in the large width size (maybe 1 1/2"??). I figured that the wider the foam the more hefty the wreath will look. Sure. I get home and cut this bad boy to approximate wreath size. I try to form it into a circle...

It will not budge. It does not make a circle no matter what I do. FAIL.

Back to square one.

The second execution: I go back to Lowes and this time get a much smaller tube. About 1" maybe or 3/4". I test it in store to see if it'll easily make a circle; check. I'm in and out in a few mins.

At home I cut the tube to size and duct taped it secure. The whole idea of using this plumbing foam is so it only costs $1 and not $4 or $5 for pre-made foam wreaths at the craft store. More for those green foam things. So only $2 spent is still good. You could actually maybe get 2 wreaths out of one since each foam piece was 6' long. I found this nice ribbon in my Christmas/craft bag so thought it'd do well. I have honestly no clue where this came from. Craft fairy?! It's not quite something I'd have bought last year (or ever before this project (or pay $3.99 for (wanna see how many parenthesis inside parenthesis I can go?))) although I actually like it a lot now with its' subtle chevron pattern. So I wrapped the wreath in this and tried to decorate it in some other fashion.

Since I bought a bag of scented pine cones one year after Christmas at Goodwill I used those for this Christmas wreath. Just some flower wire leftover from wedding crafts a la 2010 and this wreath became festive! I just strapped the wire through the pine cone and hot glued it to the back of the wreath. Also I had used the glue gun to secure the ribbon too.

It doesn't look that pretty on the back but I tied it all together. I had one of those standard over the door wreath hooks all ready to go, but our back door is weird. In my opinion it's installed backwards - what door that opens to the outside opens outwards? Ours does and it won't fit a hook over the top and still close. So I improvised with something I'd seen online. Using a command hook upside down and using ribbon to hold the wreath. It worked.

So that's the story of this homemade Christmas wreath. It cost $2 to make with almost all of the materials already owned. Moral of the story: check in store if your foam insulation pipe cover makes a circle, don't use anything over 1 1/2" thick, go for 3/4". See ya next year!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Weekend Fun in DC

Over the MLK long weekend we had some fun up in Washington DC. We stayed with some Nepalese friends. We had a great time!

I got dressed in full traditional Nepalese wedding attire! Red is their traditional wedding color. I got the full treatment with a sari, lots of jewelry & makeup.

We also learned how to make momos which are traditional Nepalese dumplings. We had meat and vegetarian options. We and the family sat around and made each by hand. They had some fancy ways to put these together!

My attempt at making momos. Not as beautiful as they should be. They were delicious! They got steamed and we at them with a few different sauces.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It's growing time again

It's that thyme again! Aerogarden time! Ha.

I'll quickly recap the saga of our Aerogarden. First we found this almost brand new (used once) still in the box Aerogarden with all the materials and instructions by the dumpster/free stuff section of an old apartment a couple years ago. A $150 value just ripe for the taking by the side of the road. Yes we took it. We used it once or twice with the store bought seed kits needed for each round of growing. I think we bought those from Bed Bath & Beyond. Then in a 'I'mthriftandcandothismyself' moment we tried to make our own seed pods out of sponges and existing seeds. FAIL. See links for proof. That was 2011. 

This is 2012 and we've learned from our mistakes. We are back with the official seed pods to grow more herbs! Tony gave me this as a Christmas gift which I love because it was thoughtful, practical and pretty cheap! He got a mixed herbs set. Gotta love fresh herbs in the dead of winter! We just set it up last week and already have growth!

If you don't know much about the Aerogarden product it's basically a hydroponic growing system that self waters and has grow lights set on cycles for whatever you're growing. It's all automatic. The seed pods come ready and you just pop them in and put in a little plant food nutrients in the water basin underneath and you're set. Every few weeks you just add more water to the reservoir and the plants just grow! It's amazingly simple!

Here is our setup. The first week or so the seedlings get these plastic domes while they're sprouting. We've got mint, genovese basil, thyme, Italian parsley, oregano, savory (??) and garlic chives. The oregano & chives haven't sprouted yet but the rest are already up and tiny.

In case you're interested these are what we have:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oreo Cookie Balls

For a recent little holiday get together party I decided to make a new dessert. This like most of my "ideas" lately this came from Pinterest. Link to the original pin/source HERE and HERE. Normally oreos aren't my thing. They're okay but not my store bought cookie of choice. In fact I pretty much never buy store bought cookies. I suppose if I did I'd buy milanos or some bakery cookie. Eh. Anyway this came straight out of left field and while everyone else said they loved it I was secretly thinking they were lying. The final result was just okay. I thought it was sickeningly sweet (which is a lot for me because I never say that!) and interestingly textured.
All the soldiers lined up. Half ready for chunk style crumbs, half for dusting crumbs.

Basically you break up and pulverize a lot of the cookies for the outside crumb coating. My food processor was down (now kinda fixed! yay!) so I used a blender. It worked fine and we got nice dark crumbs.

Then you combine 1 package softened cream cheese, 1 cup nonfat dry milk, 1 tsp vanilla & 4 cups powdered sugar. Use a hand blender to combine all and wisk away! Weird, sticky texture. Add chunks of oreo cookies and refrigerate. After a couple hours you can make balls with it and roll them around in the crumb coating mix. I used colored red/green/white sprinkles for added festive flair!

original source photo - way better than my final result!


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