Tomato Figs

Monday, October 14, 2013


{Jellies at the River // Photo by Sister Rachel}

This weekend I got to visit one of my best friends up in Fayetteville. 
It was awesome. We had so much fun…maybe a little bit too much…(no such thing).

{Sara + Victoria // we are some crazy kids}

While we were there, Sara (one of my best friends) took me to the farmer's market.  It was magical! The market wrapped around the town square, with vendors ranging from local farmers, florists, artisans, bakers, and so much more.  Excitingly, this market had a lot more summer produce still available than the markets in Little Rock have had recently.  
Naturally, we decided to make some salsa (duh).

After a visit to the local co-op, we had everything we needed (so we thought), and started blending away.

Man friend and I have been making salsa all summer long. 
After looking up a couple of different recipes (I know, I know, story of my life), I decided to just whip something up.  It was the right choice.  

This salsa recipe doesn't have any measurements, just guesstimates.  It really does depend on how much you want, the certain taste you want, and how much heat you can handle.   
But no matter the combination (ok, so not exactly true…you can make this "not quite right" but that can be easily remedied) this salsa is sure to be a hit.  You'll never want to buy store bought again when you can get it fresh and make it yourself.  

{Homemade Salsa // nom nom nom}

Homemade Salsa (or nom nom salsa if you so choose)

a couple of bulbs of garlic
an onion (purple or sweet or yellow…whatever floats your boat)
some tomatoes (depends on the size of the 'maters…maybe 4 or maybe 8)
hot peppers* (one or two cored and seeded) 
lime juice (just a squirt or two…so maybe just one lime)
white wine vinegar (probably about a tbsp)
a dash of sugar
lots of salt
cilantro (maybe about half a bunch or a fourth)

[1] Get out your handy-dandy food processor [2] Core and seed your hot peppers [3] Cut your onions in half [4] Cut your tomatoes in half [5] Place the hot peppers and garlic in the processor and process (hehe) [6] Next, put in the onion and process [7] Then put in the tomatoes [8] Now add the lime juice, vinegar, sugar, salt, and cilantro and process away [9] Taste your salsa (with a chip!!! it is a requirement) and see what ya think.  

If it needs more of something, add it! Too spicy? Add another tomato! Not enough salt? Shake that stuff in there. Want more cilantro? Add it! 

The most important, and final, step: [10] eat that shit up! 

Seriously! It is so tasty! This salsa won't be chunky, but that's alright. Grab some chips and a friend and eat your little hearts out.  Or don't tell anyone you made it and save it all for yourself.
Both options are totally acceptable.

Another gift for you? Some cute pics of our doggy wearing a beanie. Oh yes please. 

She clearly loves us.

* You could go with any hot peppers here. Seriously, we have tried so many different ones.  We even did a ghost pepper salsa…I wasn't kidding when I said we liked it hot. The batch I made this weekend had about 6 jalapenos in it…and I still didn't think it was that spicy.  2 habanero peppers usually gives us the right amount of heat. A couple of chinese fire peppers was also a good amount.  We just got some spicy thai peppers this weekend, and we are going to make another batch soon with those in them.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

spice up your life

{Maple View Farm in Hillsborough, NC // fall fields}

It finally feels like fall here in good ole Arkansas.
Highs in the mid-70s, lows in the high 40s = sweet bliss.
Nothing is better than breathing in that crisp, clean fall air, walking around in shorts and flannel, and falling asleep with the windows open.

One of fall's greatest gifts comes in the form of spices.  I've already talked about this a little bit. Whether they are whole or ground up, spices make the world go round.

Recently, I've been trying to make more things myself and not buying everything.  I like to make my own blend of seasonings, preferring a slightly different taste than the ones pre-packaged.  I also like to make a lot of blends at once.  It's nice to have a large stockpile at hand.
Another thing that I've been thinking about doing (especially as it gets closer and closer to the holiday season) is making these homemade blends for family and friends (hehe).

Check out my previous post about an infused salt. Seriously, not exaggerating...I use the salt blends in every meal I cook.  

{Spice Blends #1 & #2 // fall flannel + shorts + sandals}

For the spice blend, I looked up some combinations online.  Quickly, I realized that whole spices are the way to go  (duh me).  I thought about the spices I use the most for these mixes, and used some blends I found online as guides.  However, I followed these mixes just for picking out the spices.  When it came to measuring out the spices and deciding the ratios between all of them, I totally went with my gut.  

{Spice Blend #1…or is it #2 // sniff test}

This was so much fun to create.  I highly encourage you to go out and make your own flavor-flave. 

All you really need are the following things:
[1] Spice Grinder
[2] An assortment of whole spices

That's it. It's so incredibly simple. I'd say the only down side is the initial investment (purchase).  If you've already got whole spices on hand, great!  You just have to buy a spice grinder…but maybe you already have one? Or an empty one? Yay! Just make sure you can take the lid off to add more spices (something I didn't realize-I spent part of my afternoon trying to get the lid off of an old garlic-salt grinder…grrr).  Even though it will cost a little bit to buy the whole spices, it's a good investment.  You can use these spices for so many things. Use them in your everyday cooking or make another spice blend for a friend! Either way someone will be happy.

{Spice Blend #2}

Spice Blend #1 & #2

#1 Ingredients: 
Remember to use whole spices aka not ground 

peppercorn mix (or whatever peppercorns you prefer)
fennel seed
coriander seed
coarse sea salt (or kosher salt)

#2 Ingredients: 
Remember to use whole spices aka not ground

peppercorn mix (or whatever peppercorns you prefer)
coarse sea salt (or kosher salt)
red pepper flakes
cumin seed
coriander seed
celery seed
fennel seed
brown mustard seed

[1] Measure out your spices based on the ratios you think will taste good*. For the grinders I had (the peppercorn and sea salt grinders I purchased for their spices and grinders), it took a little less than 1 1/2 tablespoons of all of the spices to fill those suckers. [2] Place  the measured out spices in a bowl [3] Stir the spices together until they are well incorporated aka don't have a bunch of peppercorn over here not playing nice with the rosemary [4] Slowly transfer the spice mix into your grinders, making sure the spices stay incorporated and don't separate. 


On a separate, but just as important note, look what I finally*** found: 

{Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider // !!!!!!!!!!!!!!}

It wasn't as pumpkin-y as I thought it would be. Nevertheless, it was still delicious. 
Fall is the best.

* For #1 I added more thyme and rosemary than the other ingredients. I also used less fennel seed, because that shit strong. Tasty, but strong. For #2 I, again, used less fennel seed. My man friend and I also adore spicy food, so I added more red pepper flakes than others might like. My advice: be brave and again LISTEN WITH YOUR HEART (belly). You know what you like, so make what you would want. 

** Another idea for these spice blends: grind that shit out into a small bread dipping (?) bowl with olive oil and eat your little bread hearts out.

*** I've been looking for this cider for a couple of weeks. Every time I went into the liquor store or grocery store I searched in vain. When I found it last Friday, I shouted my victory to the rest of the liquor store customers and held it in the air as my prize. Embarrassing? Probably to my man friend, and maybe a little bit thinking back on it. Worth it? TOTALLY. C'MON IT'S PUMPKIN. CIDER. WHAT THE WHAT.

Friday, October 4, 2013

the lonely pumpkin

{the zinnia pumpkin // summer lives on}

It's 90˚F outside, and it's October 5th. But it's also Arkansas. 
No matter what the weather might be, it's fall. And fall means some seriously good cookin'.
Summer is tastiest season of the year, mainly because just about everything is in season, and no matter how you prepare it, cooked, baked, steamed, raw, you name it, it is going to be delicious. Ever eaten a raw potato? It's alright, but you probably won't be going back for more.

Fall, though, brings roasted goodness.  Baked goods come back with fistfuls of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, anise, cardamom plus some and delightfully shoves it in your face.
And then of course comes the pumpkin craze. Rightfully so. I mean, have you ever tried some? Da bomb. 

Yesterday was a very independent day. Did not talk to anyone in person, besides the coffee guy, and it was wonderful. I am very much a loner, relishing in those moments when it is just you and your thoughts, even if you are amidst a crowd. And being able to just observe and take in the world around you.

But last night, after I had finished my pre-packaged noodles (don't be hatin'), I realized I hadn't made anything. I pretty horrendous at sticking with a goal, except if it's my job because I adore and devote myself to it-while I am there.  Although I'm dedicated, fast and a hard worker, and responsible at my job, I'm pretty apathetic, slow and lazy, and irresponsible (to a certain extent) in life.  Excelling at the job part, working on the life part.  

But last night! Last night I quickly decided to bake something. Changing my computer backdrop to a vibrant, autumn forest led me to pumpkins. Pumpkin muffins. So off to the store I went, and soon fall filled my apartment.

Day 3 of the shut down turned out to be a success. 2 out of 3 now ain't too shabby.  

After looking at a couple of different recipes (it's just what I do), I made these. Really, I heavily followed one recipe, but I added more and made adjustments. So here is a taste of fall. Make them when you are alone or with friends, either way you'll be happy you did.

Pumpkin Muffins (Gluten Free (duh))
Makes around 12 standard size muffins.

2+* cups of almond meal
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
3 eggs
1 1/2+* cups of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4+* cup honey

[1] Preheat the oven to 350˚F. [2] Mix the almond meal, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl. [3] In a separate bowl mix the pumpkin puree, eggs, and honey together until well incorporated. [4] Slowly add the flour mixture. Make sure it gets well incorporated by breaking up any of the clumps that form from the flour mix.** [5] Place muffin liners in a muffin tin. [6] Place a big dollop of the mixture into the liners. You should fill them close to the top. [7] Pop into the oven for 30-40 minutes.*** [8] Take them out and enjoy!

These are seriously delicious. I see them getting an upgrade soon with some walnuts, possibly some chocolate chips (oh yes please). And if we really wanna get fancy-some homemade cream cheese frosting (c'mon y'all)

Oh fall, I'm so glad you are here.

I added more than this, but just a spoonful or more. It helped, I think. But a "spoonful" is just a guesstimate. If your heart (belly) is telling you to put more in, just go for it. Listen with your heart, you will understand.
** Seriously, make sure that it looks well incorporated. I only had a whisk at hand, and these muffins definitely have a crunch to them. Personally, love that. However, not for everyone. So if that ain't yo thang, then break those suckers up until it looks smooth.
*** When I looked at them after 30 minutes, I decided they needed more time. Stick a tooth pick in them to see if any crumbs stick to the tooth pick, if so stick them back in. If you want the to get browner on top, stick them in for an additional 5-10 minutes. Just keep an eye on them.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

just a dash

{Top Jar: Cilantro-Lime // Bottom Jar: Thyme-Lemon // Far Left Jar: mix of both}

Let's take a minute to talk about salt (since I clearly forgot to mention it in my next post like I said I would). Salt is magical. It can make or break a dish. You add too much, ya kill the dish (and your health). If you don't add enough…it's just "eh." Like I said, it's magical. Also, it's key to just about every dish…there are very few things I don't add salt to. Just a dash. 

So I've been wanting to spice up my salt life for a while now. Seeing fancy salt blends can make your mouth water. But paying for some? No thank you. Instead I opted to make some, and by some I mean a lot! You could make several cupfuls of this stuff. Salt for life! Plus, the great thing about this is you can store it (show off all your hard work) in some cute jars. Yes please.

This recipe was formulated after looking at a couple different versions. In the process of making it, I had to tweak it some, so here's the end result.

Infused Salt:

1 cup of kosher or sea salt
the zest of {2 lemons} or {4 limes} or {4 clementines} or a mix of any aforementioned 
~2-3 tablespoons of fresh herb(s) {thyme} or {cilantro} or {rosemary} or {lavender} or {basil} or {oregano} or a mix of any aforementioned 

[1] Preheat the oven to 200˚F. [2] On a baking sheet, mix the salt, zest(s), and herb(s) until well incorporated. [3] Place the  sheet on a rack in the middle and bake for roughy 15-30 minutes. It's tricky. You'll start to notice the zest browning. That's when I flipped the mixture over, and then baked it for another 15-30 minutes. I know, it's confusing. Tweaks (eeks). [5] Tweaks mean that basically when you think the mixture looks done, take it out of the oven, break up any clumps, and transfer to a jar/airtight container. [6] Store the salt in a dark, cool place (aka your pantry) and use it to your big ole hearts content. 

Warning: you are going to want to put these bad boys in everything. No, really, I'm serious. And you know what? YOU SHOULD. This salt takes food to a whole new level. Sprinkle, baby, sprinkle. A dash here, a dash there, it'll change your world. 

non-essential, but here's to hopin'

No work for me. Woo hoo…oh wait. Since I'm just a graduate student/assistant, I'm not considered essential. That's alright, using this week to catch up on homework and to *fingers crossed* get a good chunk of my thesis done.  Here's to hopin' we can all get stuff done.  But, if this shut down goes on for much longer, it's gonna get ugly. Here's to hopin' the government gets it('s shit) together and fixes this mess. Oh well. Like I've said, here's to hopin'.

Alongside work, I've also been using this free time to cook new things.  Every night (there have only been two so far) I've tried something I've never cooked before.  It's been 50/50 so far. Oh well. Here's to hopin' the food just gets better from here on out.

Day 1: Minimalist Baker's Baked Apple French Toast
Day 2: Roasted and Mashed (Moasted?) Acorn Squash

Day 1 didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. Two reasons why: 1) I didn't use a 9 x 13 baking dish. The bigger the dish the better the french toast in this case. It would have helped the bread bake and brown more evenly. Lesson learned. 2) Used gluten free bread (duh). I'm actually not quite sure if this was a problem, but normally it is in terms of gluten free baking so I'm just gonna put it on here.  However, it probably would have worked if reason 1 was bigger. 
Overall verdict: get a bigger baker dish, because even though this wasn't perfect, it still tasted delicious, sweet, savory, and an explosion of apple pie + fall in yo mouth. Go make it. But follow the Minimalist Baker's recipe and please use a large baking dish. 

Day 2 was the suggestion from my man friend. His mom used to make this for his family a lot. Trying to replicate a meal for your man friend that his mom made means yours probably won't be as good. Just saying. HOWEVER, this dish was so incredibly delicious (and nutritious…well, minus the brown sugar and butter) that I'm calling it a win. Seriously. Go pick up an acorn squash (they are so cute!!) and make this tonight (recipe below). You won't regret it.

Moasted (Roasted + Mashed (just go with it…)) Acorn Squash:

1 acorn squash 
2 pats of butter
~2 tablespoons (or less) of brown sugar
~1 teaspoon of paprika 

Steps: [1] Preheat the oven to 350˚F.  [2] Cut the acorn squash horizontally (like you were cutting across the Earth's equator)and scoop out the inside seeds/pulp. [3] Fill a baking dish with enough water to go up the sides of the dish (roughly) 1/2 (or less) of an inch. [4] Place the squash halves face (hallow part) down in the water. [5] Pop 'em in the oven for 40-45 minutes. Y'all will know when they are done when a fork can easily puncture the skin of the squash and go into the rest of the squash easily. [6] Place 1 pat of butter in the hallowed out parts of each half. Then add around 1 tablespoon (or less) of brown sugar on top of the butter pats. Sprinkle 1/2 of a teaspoon of paprika (1/2 for each half) on top of the butter + brown sugar mixture. [7] Pop 'em back in the oven for another 10 minutes. 

Now you've got two options for serving. You can:
[8] Take them out and scoop out the squashy goodness into a bowl. [9] Take a fork and mash up the squash, adding some salt + additional seasoning if you so choose.
[8] Serve the halves on individual plates for people to devour at their own will + salt/season at their choosing.

[10] DIG IN!

Seriously, it's so easy…so go make it! 
(I apologize for the lack of photos, we ate it all too quickly…so actually, sorry I'm not sorry.)