31 August 2008

bringin' home the bronze

i didn't watch much of the olympics this time. i never do. but this year, i had an excuse. i was perfecting my salsa recipe. when we canned our first batch of salsa, i thought i might enter it in the annual salsa contest at the farmer's market (sponsored by our local co-op). just for fun. i'd never really made salsa before, other than a spontaneous pico de gallo now and then. so i had no idea how mine would compare. it was tasty, but nothing special. but i picked up a packet at the co-op anyway. when i read the instructions i discovered that home canning was not allowed. all salsas had to be prepared the day they were turned in for judging. so, i had to make a new batch. i was disappointed in our first effort, and the green salsa we made next, because no matter how many hot chiles we put in, the salsa still ranked a medium in terms of heat. our fingers were burning for days from handling chiles such as serranos and "the little worm," from our neighbor jack's garden, and cayennes from curtis at the farmer's market. the kitchen was filled with eye scorching steam, but the finished salsa was still medium.

i became determined to make a salsa with some serious heat this time. so, i got a pint basket of scotch bonnets, similar to habaneros, and two green ones from the chile woman's stall labeled "the hottest," plus a bunch of long yellow ones knows as "hot wax" and one "mr. purple" from our garden. i put them into the food processor, seeds and all, and chopped them finely. i added them towards the end of the cooking, along with the cilantro and fresh garlic. THIS salsa had some fire to it. it still had a nice flavor though--it didn't completely burn and numb the taste buds. i named it "bee in yr bonnet," due to the overwhelming number of scotch bonnet chiles, and the two squirts of honey. i transcribed the recipe, filled the provided containers, and took it down to bloomingfoods. the rest we canned later that night.

the salsa contest includes three categories: cooked, tomato based, raw, tomato based and specialty (non-tomato based). i was in the cooked, tomato based group. there were around 20 other entries. on the day of the contest, at the farmer's market, they had samples of all the entries for tasting, while supplies lasted. there were some yummy salsas. i couldn't really tell how mine ranked. it seemed rather simple compared to most, but one of the hottest. when they were announcing the winners, i was shocked to hear my name called for third place in the cooked salsas! i seriously did not expect to place, i did it for the fun of participating in a community, food related, event. carl was so proud of me and it really made my day. the prize was a gift bag of various items donated from local businesses, including a book called the farmer's market book, published last year, all about bloomington's beloved saturday market. it's a book i've wanted, but probably would not have shelled out the cash for. the perfect prize.

you can see my recipe, and the other winners here

20 August 2008


cosmo's first day of pre-school.
he's going for a couple of days a week. he was a little shy at first, but quickly got into the swing of things. i love that we can walk, or ride the bike, and his teachers are great.

first cantastrophe.
we were canning a bunch of roma tomatoes that i got at the farmer's market (16 pounds for $10!) and one of the jars broke when we put it into the boiling water bath. we aren't really sure why it happened. either the glass had a flaw, or it had cooled off too much while we were packing it with tomatoes...? anybody have any other ideas? the rest of the tomatoes turned out fine though.

first boat ride.
cosmo got to go out on a boat on lake lemon. the woman who owns the place that shawna is renting has a pontoon boat that she lets her tenants use. shawna even taught cosmo how to "drive" it.

first night away.
cosmo spent the night with justin and shawna while carl and i went up to indianapolis. he said he missed me, but he never got upset about it, and had a great time making marble mazes with justin (it's safe to say that marble mazes, of any kind, are cosmo's most favoritest thing right now). the first night away was probably harder on mama than it was on cosmo.

first bowling outing.
we went to the bowling alley on campus. naturally, cosmo loved it. they had a ball ramp and some bumpers to fill in the gutters, so he could actually hit some pins now and then. his favorite part though, was the track where the balls came out.

06 August 2008

what's your hobby?

we can (not) stop canning! after blueberries, we made some incredible peach chutney, some green beans with lemon and tomato (a slow cook recipe from bittman, where the beans just melt in your mouth), last night we did some spicy pickled green beans (the kind that go great in bloody marys), and we expect to make salsa, maybe this weekend.

i also tried making some fruit leather with peaches i got at a great discount from the farmer's market, because they were quite ripe. i am not sure of the results of the fruit leather yet, since it is still drying, and we haven't tried the green beans either. the peach chutney is to-die-for though, and i am tempted to make more while the peaches are on. apparently we aren't the only ones around here with canning fever. i looked for some books on food preservation today at the library, and all but one were checked out, some with holds 3 deep! i know that part of this mania for me is inspired by reading animal vegetable miracle by barbara kingslover. a couple of people recommended it to me, so i finally started reading it.

(a recent garden and farmer's market haul)

the book is all about eating local, and since we are so privileged to live in a place with an abundance of local food available all summer and fall, it makes sense to put some of it up for the winter months. that way we won't have to buy as much food that is shipped from far away. besides that, we are having a blast.
in other news, cosmo got a balance bike called skuut. it costs about a third of the german made like-a-bike, but seems to be about as well designed and built. cosmo has never been crazy about vehicles, generally. he tries to ride his trike now and then, but he wasn't one of those kids who was pushing himself around on those little toddler cars all the time. so, we weren't sure how he'd take to the bike. after a day of awkwardly walking it, his heels getting run over by the back wheel, he quickly got the hang of it. i couldn't believe it when i saw him picking up his feet and coasting the next day! now he has a taste for speed.

the great thing about it is that he has so much control. he almost never falls because he can catch himself with his feet, and he can steer it and pick up the front tire when he encounters a step or other obstacle. i love this thing, and feel like it was well worth the money ($90, with free shipping*). it works great on grass, gravel, and pavement, and is really fun on hills and inclines of any sort. it is also light and easy to carry, in case he's tired of riding on the way home from the park.

cosmo has been blowing us away with how grown up he seems. it seems like major transformations take place every couple of days or so. i guess it has always seemed that way. he really digs music, likes to sing, and knows a lot of songs now.

(cosmo, carl and maggie at music class)
he's been making up new words, and new verses to songs that he knows. while they rarely rhyme, they do make some sense, and usually they crack us up: have you ever seen cosmo, eating edamame...down by the bay? (down by the bay).... he's developing an imaginative world, which is wonderful to witness, and he draws simple faces on a regular basis now. he calls them people, and sometimes some ghosts.

we went to the county fair a couple of times. first to see the animals and the precious 4H crafts. we went back one afternoon, with shawna and justin, to check out the rides. to my surprise, he loved the rides. there were many that just went round and round, maybe a bump or slope along the way, but rather tame, and suitable for his age.

he went from motor boats, to crocodiles, to flying saucers, to dragons, to trains and trucker convoys. his favorite thing though was the bounce house. he went into that one at least ten times, and jumped and laughed and fell down, and contended with other kids bumping into him, and kept coming out saying "i want to do it again!" luckily the line was relatively short. unfortunately, it was right in front of the funnel cake stand pumping greasy fumes into the air all around us. cosmo also played a couple of games on the midway, one of them involved throwing darts at balloons on a wall, and he popped one and got a prize. all the others were incredibly easy. everyone's a winner, basically. and for a kid whose not yet three, that was just fine. we came home with more shwag than we knew what to do with. (fair photos by shawna bean)

cosmo also got properly introduced to the world of candy at the fair (someone at a booth handed him a dum-dum) and now, it is all he talks about. for the first two and a half years of his life, he didn't know that those brightly colored small things in intricate wrappers were edible. the cat is now fully out of the bag.
well...this post sat around for a week or so, unposted. by now i have some updates: the fruit leather turned out great. it was a wonderful use of a whole lot of very ripe peaches. cosmo, naturally, loves it, and it packs great for snacks on the go. here's a couple of photos of the one i spread out onto a round pizza pan.

we also canned two batches of salsa, one red, one green. they both taste incredible. carl said, of the heat in the red salsa, it's slow in coming, in the back of the mouth....
i said, i may never eat store bought salsa again! carl and i consider canning our new hobby. we lucked into a bunch of canning jars at the goodwill, at bargain prices, and snatched them up.

i should point out that our new hobby is something we carry out after cosmo has gone to bed. it takes some focus, and there are a lot of burners going at once. not a safe place for little ones.

* typo stating the bike was $80, corrected 12/29/2008