Thursday, March 26, 2009

tart, sweet, refreshing, and wonderful...

I think my lemons (unemployment) have turned themselves into tall glasses of ice cold lemonade.

I have wonderful friends.  They have been so kind to hire me to babysit.  I now have a summer filled with daily nanny jobs.  I love my life right now.  I have time to focus on school, cooking, crafting, and dreaming.  I can actually plan on attending school full time next semester, which means I will {finally} get to graduate in the near future. 

About the aforementioned dreaming: 

I have debated actually mentioning this on my blog.  Many of you already know about this dream, but mentioning it on the blog just seemed too "official," but you are my friends, so here goes...  

I want to launch a personal chef business.  

For those who don't know what a personal chef does: a personal chef cooks for families in their homes as needed.  The chef shops for and prepares multiple meals in the family's kitchen and freezes or refrigerates them for future consumption.  This gives the family the opportunity to enjoy convenient, customized, home-cooked meals, free of questionable ingredients, and without sacrificing taste and quality.  A personal chef is not a private chef, who often cooks for only one family full time, the service can be used regularly or sporadically depending on the family's need.  I will also add another service to this traditional definition, a party service.  I will work with a client to create and prepare a menu of appetizers or a full dinner party.  

This is a dream that I would love to turn into a career.  It's everything I love!  I could cook and spend time with people.  How perfect?!

There's a whole lot involved when starting a business.  It doesn't just come together like I thought it would, it's definitely multifaceted. Personally I'm ready to start cooking immediately.  I've already planned out pricing, some menus, a working title, and some other aspects.

Know any busy families who could use some delicious home cooked meals?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

a quick lunch...

I know, I know, I still haven't announced the winner of the Iron Chef Challenge.... My mom (the judge) is out of town.  I promise, soon.

In the meantime.  Here's a little recipe for you.  Claire (no this does not mean she has a better chance of winning the contest) makes a recipe involving black bean chili over roasted sweet potatoes.  She mentioned it in the Iron Chef Challenge, using other veggies.  Brandon and I ate it Sunday night for supper, with only the sweet potatoes.  I'm currently (I mean, right this minute) cooking it again, and figured I should pen my version as I cook.  The chili is pretty good, you could have it as a stand alone meal if you'd like!

Black Bean Chili:
  • 1 medium red onion- diced
  • Oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic (I'm having to use granulated, it's all we have argh!)
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar (balsamic would be good, but I only have white)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions:  Dice and sautee onion for a few minutes, until translucent.  Add garlic and sautee for one minute (if using fresh minced garlic, if using granulated, add later with the other spices.)  Add beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, maple syrup, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring often.  

Roasted Sweet Potatoes:
  • As may sweet potatoes as you like, diced (and do yourself a favor, leave the skins ON.)
  • Oil (also, whatever you like... but warning.  Olive oil is NOT supposed to be used when cooking at really high temperatures.)
  • A few pinches of chipotle chili powder
  • LOTS of salt
  • Pepper
Throw the potatoes around with the oil salt, pepper, and chili powder.  Bake at 455 for 15-20 minutes (depending on how small the potatoes were diced) turning halfway through.  

Serve the chili on top of a bed of sweet potatoes.  YUM!

PS- To wash the potatoes, place them in a large bowl filled with water and several tablespoons of white vinegar.  It gets all the yucky stuff off.  

PPS- I'm not planning on eating all of this for lunch... I'll be freezing most of it.  

Sunday, March 15, 2009

the vegetables have been eaten...

{I'm not quite ready to announce the Iron Chef winner just yet.... I think I'm going to bring in a third party to judge the entries.}  

Here's how I ate the vegetables during the past week:
  • Shrimp and black bean burritos with brown rice, sauteed squash and mushrooms, and jalepeno guacamole.
  • Vegan Zucchini and walnut muffins. 
  • Mango jalepeno tofu sauce.  (This is an adaptation of a post punk kitchen recipe, it's actually still in the fridge, I should use it soon.)
  • Barely smashed fingerling potatoes topped with caramelized onions.  (I'm really into caramelized onions right now, I'll post more about them in the near future.)
  • Polenta with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and caramelized onions. 
  • Fingerling potato apartment fries.  (Kind of like home fries, just smaller.)
  • I donated the pear to my mother. 
  • I diced and froze the jalepenos, to use whenever a dish calls for a small amount of the peppers in the future.  I do not recommend doing this.  The oils from the jalepeno got under my fingernail and burned for at least 24 hours, despite incessant washing. 
  • I still haven't cooked the sweet potatoes, they last a while, but I really want to make sweet potato bread.  (I was housesitting and left them at my house, so I actually had to send Brandon to Schnucks for our Sat. night dinner sweet potatoes.
Here are some other things I made this past week:
  • Shrimp and red onions with lime and cilantro.  It was a very quickly throw together dish for girl's night at my friend Beauvais' house.  We ate it with brown rice, chips and fresh guacamole, and mango peach salsa.  
  • A ton of caramelized onions, on toast for lunch, on top of potatoes, in polenta, you name it!  They just happen to be my current Lenten obsession, plus I bought a huge bag of red onions at Costco... Need I say more?
  • BLT&A sandwich  An adaptation of the Cafe Eclectic version with soy bacon... PS- the A= Avocado.  YUM!
  • Roasted sweet and white potatoes.  I just love these, also another Cafe Eclectic adaptation. 
  • Crab stuffed portabella mushrooms.  These were really very good.  I mixed together lump crab meat, breadcrumbs, more caramelized onions (they acted as a binder for the stuffing,) and some herbs.  The I cleaned out the mushrooms and stuffed them.  I topped them with more bread crumbs and baked for a few minutes to toast the breadcrumbs and cook the mushrooms.  They were quite the hit!  I'll make them again in the future with some parmesan cheese and maybe an egg to hold the mixture together. 
  • Byzantine lentil soup.  Pretty basic lentil soup but cooked with dried apricots and dill.  I learned about this from our friend Micah last Sunday at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church (we were there for the Sunday of Orthodoxy.)  He was kind enough to prepare lunch for the OCF group along with hummus and fried pita.  Absolutely delicious! 
Woah, I've done quite a bit of cooking this week!  I didn't realize how much I had actually done until I wrote it all down.  Maybe that's why I've had such a wonderful week, I spent most of it in the kitchen!

One other VERY special thing I made this week were 40 crowns cookies with my little buddy James (who turned 5 today!)  On Monday we commemorated the 40 Holy Martyrs of Sebaste.  If you don't know much of their story read this.  We made the crowns to remember the crowns that appeared over the martyrs heads.  James really seemed to understand the story of the martyrs, it's amazing how much he's grown up since I started babysitting him almost 2 years ago.  

Most Holy Martyrs of Sebaste pray to God for us!

PS- Just for James we made Lenten SUGAR cookies, he has established a very strict "no chocolate during Lent" rule that developed when his Pops (Deacon James) told him he wouldn't be able to drink chocolate milk during Lent.  Don't you just love how children take things so literally? 

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The CaitlynCosm Iron Chef Challenge

Are you feeling creative?  

NOTE: There is a prize involved.  Read on:

We made our Easy Way run yesterday.  I got some great deals on some stuff that was dangerously near its expiration date.  Brandon and I spent a total of $12.75 for 2 big bags of produce! 
Here's what we bought:
a bunch of spinach
5 button mushrooms (99 cents!)
a tray of at least 15 jalepenos (39 cents!)
3 avocados
a mango with a pear (who knows why they were bundled together, but they only cost 59 cents.)
2 trays of fingerling potatoes (probably around 20 potatoes.)
10 small sweet potatoes
5 small yellow squash and a small zucchini (together, for 99 cents!) 

When I got home, I started to feel a bit uninspired.  You can only sautee and roast vegetables so many times before they get boring...  

I'm feeling very Iron Chef about the whole thing.  Let's think of some {fasting friendly} things we can make with my purchases.  You don't have to be able to cook for this challenge, just think outside the box. 

OK, the first ever CaitlynCosm Lenten Iron Chef battle has begun... 
Here are the RULES:
  1. Use at least 4 of the 9 fruits and veggies listed below.  (Extra points for using everything!)
  2. Feel free to create a meal, a dish, appetizers, whatever... as long as it includes at least 4 of the ingredients!
  3. Make sure it's fasting friendly: no meat or fish (excluding shellfish,) dairy products (this includes eggs,) olive oil, and wine. 
  4. Use as many other ingredients as you would like, as long as they're fasting friendly.
  5. Post your meal ideas (or recipes) in the comments section by SATURDAY MARCH 14.
I'll announce the winner next weekend...  The prize it to be announced.  

I can't wait to get some new ideas for these yummy items from my super creative friends.  

Again, the foods are: 
a mango
fingerling potatoes
sweet potatoes
yellow squash
a zucchini
a pear 

I'm getting really excited about this!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

i think this is in order for tomorrow...

We took this picture back in February on an rather warm day at Overton Park.  I hope that tomorrow will provide park time at some point. Bring on the 75 degree weather!  (I was not a fan of the snow.)

We're also planning a trip to Easy Way for some veggie shopping tomorrow. 

Yesterday was a good day: mini choir practice and almond butter with Liz, errands, picking up James and Paul in the afternoon, Presanctified Liturgy at night.  Overall very nice.

Today I'm hanging out with my sick little sister, she has an awful cough.  For lunch I was inspired by a conversation with Liz to make a super healthy smoothie for lunch.  

I blended frozen strawberries and blueberries with some cranberry juice and a banana.  The best part, I threw in a few handfuls of spinach and some ground flax seeds!  I even had a handful of almonds on the side.  I'm feeling pretty healthy right about now.  

Tonight we'll be going to church again.  Talk to you later.  

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

spread it on honey

Last year during Lent our good friends Hannah and Matthew introduced me to a great little Lenten indulgence: Almond Butter.  It's really thick and has a great flavor.  Last Lent I think I ate it every morning spread on whole wheat toast with a schmear of unfiltered honey.  It was a wonderful breakfast.  
You can purchase it freshly ground at Whole Foods.  But oh baby it's pricey!  Don't even get me started about how much it costs in the jars.  This Lent, with my unemployed person's budget, I figured it was high time to learn how to make the stuff myself.  

Today I made a quick stop into Costco, I purchased a Costco cash card for my monthly gas budget, so now I have no excuse to spend more money at another station! While I was there I picked up a container of dry roasted almonds.  Tonight when I got home from church, I set out to create my very own almond butter.  

I started with the almonds processed in my food processor.  But, since these almonds are pretty dry they weren't coming together, and it was a bit too savory for my liking.  So, I added honey.  But the thing is, our honey is crystallized (still totally safe, just not fresh) so it didn't do much for the consistency.  So I added a bit of oil to make things spreadable.  

Woah.  Bring on breakfast!!!  (Actually I plan to share this with my dear friend Liz first thing tomorrow morning...  Liz is one lucky gal.)

Here's my recipe:
2 Cups almonds  (I used dry roasted, but you can use whatever you like, I suggest adding some salt if you plan to use unsalted almonds.)
1/2 Cup honey
1-2 T oil (for consistency)

Blend together in food processor until it reaches a spreadable consistency.  Spread and enjoy!

PS- that's not my picture... but it looks a whole lot like it, I promise.   

forgiveness, cleanliness, and 15 bean soup.

Officially Lent has begun.  I have been meaning to write about the Lenten Triodian (the three weeks preceding Lent) but haven't gotten around to it.  Claire's post today reminded me to write what has already taken place in our Lenten journey. 

It started with forgiveness.  What a wonderful way to start.  I can't adequately describe how incredible it is to literally ask everyone present at Forgiveness Vespers for their forgiveness.  Even when you don't know someone very well, you still ask their forgiveness.  You say "forgive me a sinner" and they respond with "God forgives, and I forgive" and then ask for your forgiveness as well.  Individually.  One by one.  

The word nervous does not begin to describe how I felt walking into the nave on Sunday evening.  But now, I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it feels to know that the air is cleared!  Everyone is at peace... now the Great Fast can begin!

Dear readers,  forgive me a sinner. 

During the Vespers service the priests change into their dark colored vestments, the lights are dimmed, the bells are removed from the censer, everything changes.  Welcome to the bright sadness that is Lent. 

After everyone has asked for forgiveness the choir sings the Paschal Cannon.  Although we don't actually sing the refrain "Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death" at this time (we save that for Pascha,) it still gives us a glimpse of what is waiting for us after Lent.  I can't help but start to cry whenever I sing the words "Shine O new Jerusalem the Glory of the Lord has shown on you!"  

Yesterday was Clean Monday, the first official day of the fast.  This first week is most stringent.  Not only do we give up all of the foods we will be fasting from for the duration of Lent, but some people don't eat for most of the week.  

I participated in an old tradition yesterday without knowing it, I cleaned out my messy, messy car.  It made sense to clean on Clean Monday, little did I know it really was a tradition.  I have a cleaning schedule for the remainder of the week including my closets, dresser, craft supplies, etc. 

Last night we prayed the Cannon of St. Andrew of Crete.  It is a beautiful service.  We make several prostrations throughout the service, I have heard somewhere near 1,000 total, I know it feels like that many.  

This is the best photo I could find of someone making a prostration (he's the one on the floor.)  It's sort of difficult to describe if you've never seen one, but basically we fall on our hands and knees to the floor with our head down (most people also touch their forehead the the ground as well) and then stand up.  I honestly can't think of a better way to ask for the Lord's mercy.  It's tough, especially throughout a 2 hour service.  But this is Great Lent.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

We will have services every night this week.  I love this time.  I love being in the church.  I love this return to "normalcy" as Lent has been described.  I should always pray this much.  I should always make an effort to abstain from sin.  These reasons are why the fast is such a beautiful time.  

We miss the foods we give up (meat, dairy, olive oil, and wine.) But the fasting helps us to control our bodies as we strive to control our thoughts and actions. 

Today, I have my Hambeen 15 Bean Soup on the stove.  I wanted to share some yummy fasting friendly recipes with you all throughout the fast.  This is a favorite that I try to keep in the fridge.  It's cheap, in keeping with the traditional spirit of the fast.   In my short time as an Orthodox Christian, I have at times spent lots of money on fasting friendly food when this is not the true spirit of fasting.  

I soaked the beans yesterday, and they are simmering on the stove right now.  The bag calls for onions, carrots, ham hock, etc.  But I just make the beans.  I toss out the ham flavor packet (because it has ham fat in it, ew.)  Then I cook it per the package directions and add a few handfuls of Cavender's Greek seasoning.  Yum.  Yum. Yum.  Bring on the healthy protein, high fiber, and low fat soup!  (Also, very tasty with a bit of fresh lemon juice.)

Talk to you soon.