April 2013 archive

DIY Dry-Erase Love Note Board

For the "little things"

For the “little things”

Inspired by my DIY dry-erase board, I started surfing Pinterest to get other dry-erase ideas. I was looking for something that would help me organize my pantry when I found this adorable dry-erase love note board over at A Content Housewife.

My husband and I work opposite hours so he is usually sleeping when I leave for school in the morning and gone by the time I get home from the gym at night. This is such a cute way for us to stay connected throughout the week.

You’ll need:

  • 1 frame – I got mine at Michael’s on sale for $7
  • 1 sheet of scrapbook paper – $.50

The font I used was called “Loopi” and you can download it here.

I made this for Valentine’s Day, but it would be a great one-year anniversary gift since the first anniversary is paper!

It is fun to find your partner has changed the note!

It is fun to find your partner has changed the note!

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Making homemade broth is incredibly simple and seems to really impress people. It is also inexpensive, totally customizable, and so much better tasting than any canned broth or bullion cube on the market. I make homemade vegetable broth approximately once a month. I keep a gallon sized freezer bag in my freezer and throw any vegetable trimmings and ends from my food prep into it.

Store vegetable trimmings in a freezer bag to make homemade vegetable broth

Store vegetable trimmings in a freezer bag to make homemade vegetable broth

When the bag gets full, I dump it out into a large pot of water and 4-5 hours later have a rich, dark amber broth that is perfect to use as a soup base. You can refrigerate the broth if you are using it that week or freeze it for later use. I like to freeze my broth in ice cube trays and use them to cool down hot soup. I use this method for cooling down my hot coffee.

Ice Cube Tray Measurements

2 cubes = 1/4 cup
4 cubes = 1/2 cup
6 cubes = 3/4 cup
8 cubes = 1 cup

Save Vegetable Peelings and Ends for Homemade Vegetable Broth | cucinakristina.com

Don’t discard gems like this!

This is also a great way to use up any vegetables you won’t be able to eat before they spoil. The smell that will seep throughout your house is amazing as this broth is simmering. The hardest part about making broth is waiting

Ingredients that can be used:

  • Carrots (shavings, tops, trimmings)
  • Parsnips (shavings, tops, trimmings)
  • Radishes (trimmings)
  • Celery (leaves, base, trimmings)
  • Onion/Shallots (all types! skins and trimmings)
  • Garlic (skins and trimmings)
  • Mushrooms (whole or scraps)
  • Fennel (trimmings, base, tops, scraps)
  • Leeks (base, tops, trimmings)
  • Turnips – I always toss a whole one into any batch of stock
  • Any vegetable you have on hand!
  • Herbs (rosemary, oregano, parsley, whatever you like!)
Freeze odds and ends for later

Freeze odds and ends for later

The great thing about this method is that your broth will change flavor depending on the scraps you collected in the bag. Generally, I make sure to add a few garlic cloves, an extra onion that is chopped into quarters, and a turnip. I find the turnip gives the broth a nice earthy undertone that is otherwise missing.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Save Vegetable Peelings and Ends for Homemade Vegetable Broth | cucinakristina.com

Simmer for ~4 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 turnip, quartered
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bag of vegetable trimmings*
  • Water – The amount of water you start with will depend on the size of your pot. Generally speaking, you want the water to reduce to about 1/3 of the original amount. The more it reduces, the more concentrated your broth will be.
  • Salt and pepper**

*NOTE: If you do not collect trimmings and want to make broth from scratch just use whole ingredients from the list above.

**Generally, I don’t add salt or pepper to my broth. I usually wait until I am cooking with it to add salt, pepper, herbs, etc. However, you should experiment and season according to your taste!

Directions:

  1. Place all items in a pot and fill with water. Leave about 1 inch from the top of the pot.
  2. Bring water to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for ~4 hours. Times will vary depending on the size of your pot so be sure to check periodically the first time you do this.
  4. When the water has reduced to about 1/3 of the amount, remove from heat and strain.
  5. Let the veggies cool and then squeeze them over the broth to make sure you get all the flavor you can out of them.
  6. Strain again to remove any big chunks of vegetables.
  7. Freeze in ice cube trays and store ice cubes in a large freezer bag.

April Photo A Day – Days 9-14

I have been taking my photos each day, but have been too tired in the evenings to post them and write blog entries. I am telling you… these Kindergarteners are tiring me out! I am better about posting them to my Instagram so if you are in Instagram look me up under cucina_kristina.

Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Day 9: Tiny – Tiny raindrops make for big storms! We had a rainy week in Chicago and from the looks of the weather forecast, it doesn’t look like this coming week will be any different. I am trying to stay positive and think about the wonderful flowers all of the rain will bring next month, but I am getting a little antsy for nicer weather!

Day 10: A Place – This is the Kindergarten classroom I am student teaching in. This is one of the best school experiences I have ever had. I am learning so much from student teaching and can’t wait to have a classroom of my own next year!

Day 11: Detail – I taught a lesson in perspective this week. I read the students Duck! Rabbit! and then had them decide whether they thought the character in the story was a duck or a rabbit. The kids loved it and got super into it. I love Kindergarten artwork!

Day 12: In The Middle – This is a collection of chocolates that I picked up from Chocolat’ in Galena during our ski trip last month. My favorite was a toss-up between the chocolate chili truffle and the salted caramel square. I had planned on enjoying these as treats throughout the week, but they didn’t even make it home!

Day 13: View From Your Bed – Our bedroom is on the list as the next room makeover in our house. Right now we have boring white walls, no window treatments, and a mishmash of furniture. This is the view from my bed looking into our living room. I am still working on my pull-up (hence the pull-up bar in our doorway).

Day 14: Water – Does anyone else like to do dishes or is it just me? Dishes are probably the one house chore that I honestly don’t mind doing. We have a dishwasher, but I rarely use it. My knives and pots and pans have to be washed by hand so I find that it isn’t much more time-consuming to just do all of our dishes by hand. By the time I finish washing my pots, pans, and knives, I’m only left with a few plates and some forks. I am sure the dishwasher will get more use as our family grows, but for now it serves as our dish drying rack.

April Photo A Day – Day 8: “On Your Plate”

Paleo friendly!

Paleo friendly!

Remember the artichokes that made it into my carry-on from California? Well, today one made it to my dinner plate. I cook them by steaming them upside down for about an hour. I usually add garlic, salt, parsley, and lemon to the water and it gives the artichokes a light flavoring that isn’t overpowering. Typically, I dip them in melted butter, but I was so hungry tonight I just dug right in! My husband asked for chicken parmesan so I made him that and adjusted mine so that it would fit in with my Paleo diet. I used coconut flour and almond meal as the breading and topped it with the artichoke marinara sauce that my March Foodie Pen Pal sent me. I am glad I made enough for leftovers tomorrow because it was delicious!

April Photo A Day – Day 6: “Air”

Somewhere over Colorado

Somewhere over Colorado

I took this picture on my flight from Chicago to California. When I fly domestically I usually pick a seat as close to the front of the plane as possible, even if it is a middle seat. I like to get on and off the plane as quickly as possible, and since I tend to sleep on planes, getting an aisle or a window seat isn’t usually important to me. My flight was booked solid and the only 4 seats available were in the back of the plane so I opted for the window seat. I snapped this pic somewhere over Colorado shortly before falling asleep for the rest of the flight.

Five Senses Friday – April 5

5senses

Sight - I watched a documentary on Netflix this week called Bully. Bullying is a subject that I feel very passionately about and one that I plan on addressing every year when I become a teacher. It is heartbreaking to see what these kids go through and it is unacceptable that it is allowed to happen in schools. All I have to say is that WORDS HURT. Be nice to each other. We are all human beings trying to achieve the same goal. Happiness.

Hear - There are birds chirping outside my window as I type this. This may not be a very exciting to some people, but to Chicagoans it means that spring is here! I think spring might be my favorite season. I love the idea of rebirth and fresh starts that come with the spring season.

Feel – Anticipation. With spring just around the corner, that is what I have been feeling all week! I can’t wait to plant our garden and enjoy fresh produce from our backyard.

Smell – I love the smell of coffee brewing in the morning. A few weeks ago my brother sent me this article on cold brewing coffee. Apparently, heat makes coffee super bitter and acidic. Cold brewing it helps develop flavor and makes the coffee taste smoother. I am going to give it a whirl tomorrow. I’ll report back!

Taste – The New York Times article The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food by Michael Moss was floating around Facebook for a few weeks last month. I finally sat down to read it in its entirety. It’s a long read, but very interesting and worth a look if you’ve got the time. It brought the perspective of the processed food industry into light and I found myself understanding their point of view more than I thought I would.

Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Homemade Sriracha Mayonnaise

I have never like mayonnaise. I can’t even tolerate it when the flavor is masked and mixed into things. Potato salad? No, thanks. Ranch dressing? Bleh! Sandwich spread? I prefer mustard. Can you imagine my surprise when one night I was craving mayonnaise? I imagine that my body wasn’t craving mayonnaise as much as it was craving fat, but either way I was too lazy to drive to the store, and I decided to make some. Yup. On a whim I decided to whip up some homemade mayonnaise.

I read this recipe from The Clothes Make the Girl and this recipe from Alton Brown and decided to combine the two. I must have gotten lucky because it came together beautifully, tasted amazing, and was super easy. Apparently, mayonnaise is rather finicky and can separate easily if not prepared correctly. 

I will be up front and honest, I have only tried this recipe once, and like I said, I may have gotten lucky. But, if you are a fellow mayonnaise hater, I strongly urge you to make some from scratch. You just may be a convert. I am!

Homemade Mayonnaise
Yields ~1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 cup light olive oil

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, combine egg yolk, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, mustard and salt. I used the blade attachment and let it whirl for about 20-30 seconds.
  2. SLOWLY drizzle the oil into the food processor. Pour as slowly as you can and then slow it down even more. This part should take about 3-5 minutes.
  3. When you have poured all of the oil into the food processor, let it whirl for another 15-20 seconds.

Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Sriracha Mayonnaise

Sweet and Spicy

Sweet and Spicy

Ingredients:

  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil, maybe a little more depending on the size of your sweet potato
  • Seasoned salt
  • 3 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise (see above!)
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 425˚.
  2. Peel sweet potato and cut into strips about 1/2 inch thick.
  3. Toss in melted coconut oil, season with seasoned salt, and spread evenly on a baking sheet.
  4. Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes or until they brown evenly. If you are feeling extra enthusiastic, flip them at the halfway mark.
  5. In a small dish, mix 3 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon Sirarcha sauce until well combined.
  6. Dip sweet potato fries into the Sirarcha mayonnaise and enjoy the flavor explosion!

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