Pears, Pears, Pears! Possibly Procure a Prize!

“Hey,” said Albany John.

“Hey,” I replied, “I’m just going out to get some pears from this guy’s tree. I’ll be back in a while.”

“Ooo, pears! Okay, see you later.”

And off I went to go pluck premature precious pears from the tree of a guy I’d never met.
He’d posted something to the Almost Foodies about having a glut of pears on this one tree in his back yard, and to come take some so they wouldn’t go to waste. And possibly a pear pot luck in the future. Ohh-ho-ho-homigosh dude, I love you. Free pears?

My kitchen has been a little sparse on the fresh fruit lately, so what wonderful timing! Pear Dude said that the pears ripen from the inside out, so by the time they’re ready to eat, they don’t really keep. So we plucked them while they were still a little under ripe.

But you know what? I love certain fruit under ripe. I love the hard, crunchy, almost apple-like texture of an under ripe peach, pear, plum, nectarine… you get the idea. They have a little tartness (oh, you cheeky pears!) and bite to them. I just love it. I ate one right off of the tree. It was delicious.

Also, I met and re-met some awesome folks! One guy even remembered me from the CDFI and the Sanctuary! Woah! (and sorry my memory sucks and I blanked… but your face did look familiar!) Those were such good times.

And how gorgeous are these pears? I filled as many as I could comfortably carry into my bookbag. I’m sure I came off as a pear piggie. All of that fresh, delicious fruit! There was even a rad pear picking thing to get the pears off of the high branches!

It was really neat to feel how my center of balance changed after hoarding all of these sweet pears.
These babies. Oh, these babies have some plans a-coming their way.

These pears completely filled up one of my fridge fruit/veggie drawers!

Can you guess how many pears are in the drawer?
Maybe you’ll win a prize! Maybe I’ll email you a picture of my body slathered in pear slices (I promise to shave the back hair, or at the very least put it in fashionable french braids). Maybe it’ll be a taste of something pear-y I made. Maybe it’ll be a sketch of how awesome I think you are. Maybe I’ll be totally lame and do NOTHING (this is the most likely scenario). Either way, don’t hold your breath for a VCR or a fancy used Mazda, ’cause you also know I’m kind of a brokeass. That and it takes forever to file off those serial numbers *jeeze*.

Here’s another glance at the drawer full o’pears.

Oh, ok. You know what making that adorable little face does to me. I’ll give you a hint.
It’s not a prime number.

Mediterranean Pasta

Baking bread in this weather is BRUTAL! I set up a tapestry over the open doorway in my kitchen so the heat doesn’t get everywhere in my apartment, but the kitchen turns into one hell of a sweatbox.

This is just a loaf of bread from dough that’s been sitting in my fridge for a while. Figured I should actually get around to making a loaf. I keep flooding out the gas pilot light when I put a cup of water in to steam the outside of the bread (so it gets that pretty sheen), so lately I’ve been opening the door to… warm soggy bread and a slightly warm oven. But this cooked up just fine after I re-lit the light. I’ve just gotta stop turning the damn light out.

Right, so. CSA this week brought some more zucchinis. I have been highly into biking this week, meaning I’ve biked exactly twice and feel like a super fit and healthy mofo. I mean, it’s not like I’m gonna be talking shop with my pal who’s doing the 100 miles of pain bike rides and marathons in Central Park this year, but you know… I felt like maybe I could keep up with my Dad on his 13 mile bike rides. Maybe.

I wanted some pasta, but nothing heavy and creamy (especially with this heat… doesn’t really make me crave rich and heavy cream sauces).

I got some Greek and Mediterranean books from the library and felt inspired to cook some vegetable and olive oil pasta.

Just cooked some onions and zukes in olive oil with dried oregano, GarlicGarlic! seasoning, lots of salt, and 2.5 handfuls of chopped capers.

Glugged in a little extra olive oil at the end and chiffonaded some basil (also from CSA) to make it a little more saucy and plopped the nearly-cooked-through pasta in to finish it up. Yummy. Also, I added a fairly generous amount of pecorino romano.

Albany John was out and about in Albany with friends from out of town for the night, and Ellsbells didn’t have any plans, so she came over and we slathered our naked bodies in pasta and veggies while building life size model of Ryan Seacrest out of Discover Card application mail.

I’m kidding. She always wears pants. Girl’s a never-nude.

Albany John went to Aashiana for dinner. Said Saleem, the owner, says hi to me (awwww, he is SOOOO sweet) and that he finished the tray/food bar project he was working on, complete with hand made sneeze guard! Oh, I can’t wait until I scrap up a little more cash and go see it!

I also got a belated birthday gift from my girlie in Waco, TX! She sent me this rad Hello Kitty black wallet! I just got it in the mail. I am so rocking this puppy during the Official Unofficial Troy Night Out After Party tonight at Daisy Bakers!

Yam Fritters

Fritters seem like easier versions of tempura to me. The batter fries up light and crisp – a nice airy soft coating with a lightly crisp exterior.

I made yam fritters last night. I had bought some BIG ASS yams from the co-op earlier in July for $0.59/lb. They are HUGE. Each one is nearly the size of my forearm in length. I bought a few knowing they’d keep well (they have) and figured at the very least they’d be a nutritious starch Albany John and I could split on an evening when we were out of regular potatoes and feeling tuber-starchy instead of rice or pasta.

The Fritter Batter

This was really easy to make. Mix in order:

1 C flour
1 t baking powder
1-2 shakes nutmeg (just a hint)
dash of salt
1 T melted butter
1 egg
½ C milk

Easy peasy. Combine your dry stuff, add in the wet stuff and there you go! I whisked it all together to fully blend it in. It should resemble a thick muffin batter. Let it sit for 30 minutes.

(I am thinking sweet potato starch would be a good AP Flour replacement for gluten free folks)

While you’re waiting you can use your awesome mandoline to make some slivers of yam (that’s what the co-op called them). They didn’t seem all that wet, so I didn’t bother to salt and drain them. I just peeled the skin off of the half of the yam I was going to use and mandolined up to that point.

I really like these yams. They aren’t too sweet. They have a sweetness, yes, but it is much more subtle than sweet potatoes. Are they newer and haven’t had a chance to convert starch into sugar? Are yams less sweet? I have no idea, I just know I’ll be looking in the co-op for these more often, especially at $0.59/lb.

After 30 minutes, mix the yam slices into the fritter batter. Don’t worry about it looking thin. The dough poofs up some when fried.

Fry, mah babies!
Drop spoonfuls (or forkfuls) of yam sticks and fritter batter into your oil. I like my handy dandy deep frier. Let them cook like that for a minute or two, then turn them over and cook for another minute or two. These cook rather quickly, so soon you’ll have gobs of yam fritters.

This is the SECOND layer of yam fritters. Yummy! Albany John and I made our way through a good amount of the fritters, but these would probably be best as an appetizer for 5-6 people.

I stopped a bit of the way through cooked some veggies over rice and an egg or two so we could pretend we were eating healthy food, but these filled us up quite a bit!

It was really hard to stop eating them though – the light batter is so delicious. It’s hard to feel like you’re eating a lot. Albany John opted for some apple cider vinegar to dip them in. I like soy sauce since I can hardly ever get enough salt on them.

If you want something that looks impressive (Albany John made these once before and I was all “Say WHHAAATTT? Yum.”) but is actually easy to make, give these a whirl. The batter isn’t fussy like tempura batter (holy crap, now there’s something impressive that Albany John rocks). You don’t need to ice it. You can leave it out at room temp. Fuss with the consistency so it is how you like it. Add more stuff to the batter. Whatever.

Fritters = WIN. They’re easy to make, impressive, and cheap.


Albany John and I hit the road on Saturday for a day trip out to Amherst, MA. I picked some blueberries with Papa Amherst and soon Albany John’s friend from way back when came over to spend some rare free time with us. He’s the owner of Magic Technology based in Amherst, MA and you should give him a call if you ever need anything done since he’s a computer genius.

We hopped over to Bueno Y Sano and grabbed some food (which, oddly I don’t have on my camera… uh, oops). I wasn’t super hungry, so I just grabbed a chickpea and red curry taco. Albany John and Mr. Magic Technology got the taco specials, where you get 2 tacos, rice, and beans for $6.50.
I liked the taco, and the hot sauces they had were well seasoned, too.

After that, Mr. Magic Technology took us out to do some nature walking (there’s lots of nature walking in the area). It was near some lakes and streams and quite nice. The water levels were really high! I guess they’ve also been getting a lot of rain.

Albany John and I also stopped off at Deals & Steals in Northampton, MA on our way into town, as was my wont to go insanely over budget. Their prices aren’t so low any more, still pretty good with the occasional deal, but they used to be “Holy crap, how is this so cheap?!”. Like, we used to find pastas or grains on sale for 8 boxes for a dollar. Now that doesn’t happen so much any more. Their deal is they sell out of date or store buy-out products on the cheap, and a lot of them are organic/all natural, so they’re cheaper than they’d be at full retail prices. A lot of things are more out of date than they used to be, and we’ve basically learned to steer clear of the crackers and carbs in boxes (really, really stale), but the chips and bagged things are fine.

We lucked out with a few decently priced things and deals. The small box of Japanese curry blocks for $0.99 was fair, and we didn’t have any basmati rice at home and $0.99 for 12 oz wasn’t too bad either. However, the two ham and chicken soup bases for $0.99 was something we couldn’t pass up. Albany John made a split pea soup last night for dinner with the ham base – it was quite good! Hooray!

I also picked up some little food prezzies for mi familia. Ellsbells already got hers, but I still have to give them to my Sis, Bro, Margarita, and Benny.

Nothing super, but they looked tasty and I felt all crafty.

Oh, look. More blueberries in mah lap! Papa Amherst also showed us that there are 3 types of blueberry bushes growing in their yard. I took a picture of their different leaves, but I also don’t have them on this memory card… uh. These are the small blueberries. All from one bush! So sweet and yummy. Papa Amherst has a net and frame set up to cover the berries, no pesticides necessary. We didn’t even wash these off – so yummy and good.

I also had some fuzzy little buddies over who kept pretending to eat them after I’d take a few blueberries from the container. They’d dunk their little fuzzy heads in, sniff, and then smack their lips and pretend to chew. How freaking cute is that?

My Savings Have Gone Up in Smoke(d Salmon)

Well, sugar… looks like I went on a bit of a spending bender last month… ah but what a way to go! This month will have to be much more frugal, but what with the CSA coming in, hopefully that’ll provide me with enough variety.

The smoked salmon is really good. I guess I really do love food if I’ll totally decimate my savings on seafood. Like, um, close to $730 on food and beverage this month. Whoopsie doo! Talk about over budget, hee hee!

P.S. Totally worth it.

Baked Ziti

Y’ALL!!!! I found my camera! It turns out that I didn’t lose it on my birthday after all. I found it in my bedroom underneath a box on top of a mini bookshelf. For real. I saw the wrist strap and was like “Hmmm… that looks like the wrist strap to my… OH MY GOOOOOSSSSHHHH!! CAMERA, CAMERA, CAMERA!!! YOU HAVE RETURNED TO ME!”

No, seriously. That’s basically how I was.

There were even a couple of pictures on it too, which I totally don’t remember and Albany John kept referencing The Hangover (movie). It was kind of like that, except only about 5 pictures of an intoxicated me at home and in no way shape or form involved tools, teeth, or strip clubs(aw).

So now I am reunited with my beloved pinkus. Ellsbells had cause for celebration last night and invited us over for a baked ziti dinner!

This was good ziti. She used something called “Imitation Mozzarella” which was cholesterol free. I was skeptical, but it baked a nice and browned cheesy topping, so it was good. I like ziti with a nice cheesy topping.

The innards were also delectable! Vegetarian/vegan ground “beef” crumbles and ricotta. Creamy, delicious ricotta.

Ok, family story time.

So my sister loved, LOVED baked ziti when we lived in Texas. If girlie could have eaten it every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, she would have. I liked it just fine, but kind of O.D.’ed on the stuff. Once I moved up here (land of Italian food) from the South I couldn’t eat the stuff for a while. Hee hee. Now I like baked ziti again, especially with ricotta! (Oddly enough, it was just baked ziti. Lasagna and any other baked pasta was fine and dandy, but I could *not* do ziti).

When I lived in Texas, I also went on a diet to lose weight where I basically cut out fatty foods, red meat and pork, and only ate chicken breasts. Totally boring, I know. Not doing that ever again. It was pretty carb-tastic. And I was but a young thing who didn’t know about grass fed rare steaks and tandoori chicken thighs, so I really had no idea what insanely delicious food I was missing.

Anyway, so since I wasn’t eating beef, I decided to try some vegetarian ‘beef’ crumbles. I think it was Morningstar Farms or something. The bag said you could just mix it with pasta sauce and it would be like beef and pasta sauce! I was so excited, pasta sauce and pasta were low fat, and then I could add in this delicious beefy food to it and still have it be low fat! (Uh, you know how crazy people on diets can get…) Yeah, it was like pasta sauce and grossness. Ew. I think I just don’t have the food sprucing touch. So this was such a great way to see how really good those crumbles can be.

However, that period of time also got me totally hooked on veggie burgers and Morningstar Farms corn dogs (so fricking good).

I was also a really great friend and was foraging through Ellsbells’ freezer after dinner. I found some non-lethal ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s Birthday Cake) that was quite tasty.

Thanks for a great night, my dearling!

Stir Fried Beef

Last night I made stir fried beef for dinner. Nothing mind blowing, but good in that cheap take out Chinese food kind of way.

Firstly, I thawed a top round steak from the freezer. This was a very lean cut, but a good amount for two people at 0.62 lbs, close to 2/3rds of a pound of beef.

Hit both sides with the blunt end of a cleaver to soften the steak up a bit.

I sliced fairly thin slices of the beef. Some folks like to do this with partially frozen meat for better control, but this was such a lean little steak that it was no problem to slice fully thawed.

I was cutting against the grain to ensure my meat was somewhat tender and edible.

Bowl full of beef slices! So pretty, red, and sinewy.

Once the beef is sliced and in a bowl, add a liberal amount of cornstarch to coat. Blop.

Here are the slices of beef, lightly coated for the most part. No need to be fanatic about this part since I’m just going to…

Slather it with sauces and seasonings!! About 1/4-1/3 C of soy sauce, 2 T oyster sauce, 1/4-1/2 t sesame oil, and 1-2 T sugar.

Like I said, I was going more for Chinese take out, and not anything really traditional or authentic. It’s got most of the bases covered – salty, meaty, hit of sweetness to counter the salty.

I mixed everything up into a thick slurry. It kind of looked like it was slathered in peanut sauce. Hee hee. I left it on the counter for about an hour while I was doing the dishes and putting rice in the cooker…

And making some stir fried napa cabbage. I couldn’t find the garlic so I used thick slices of onion (a whole small onion). The way I make napa cabbage is super easy. It might be a little bland to some, but I enjoy it when there are other “bigger” flavors with a meal as a refreshing and light veggie dish.

Heat up a pan as hot as it will go, toss in your garlic or onion into some hot oil and let it get very well browned/blackened. This should only take a minute since it’s so hot. Move them to once side and off of the center and then add in chopped napa cabbage. Let it sear for a bit and stir every minute or two until cooked.
I prefer my napa cabbage to get a little bit of char on it. Not burned, but it’s also not just cooked cabbage and adds a little bit of smokey char while retaining a crunch in the stems.
After I took the cabbage out of the pan, I added my beef so they cooked as strips, so I worked in 2-3 batches to cook everything. This way they were nicely browned and cooked through. Once I was done, I turned the heat off of the pan and added the cornstarchy marinade and an equal (or maybe greater) amount of water to make a sauce. Then I tossed the cooked beef strips in and let them mingle in the hot pan for a few minutes before serving up.

Here is the final product on top of some rice. The sauce wouldn’t have hurt from some more oyster sauce or soy sauce, but it just fine and tasty for what it was (and seriously easy). Oooh, or some black bean sauce. Next time.
The beef strips were full of flavor (that teeny bit of sesame oil was great), but I had a hard time biting through the longer pieces. So I think next time I will use the meat tenderizer powder for maximum softness.
For what it’s worth – I cooked both of these dishes in a cast iron pan. I think it really retains heat and stays a lot hotter than other non-stick or aluminum pans, so if you have one I’d recommend using it. You don’t need a wok to cook Chinese food, just a pan you can get really hot.

Thacher Park

John Boyd Thacher State Park. Weekend destination!

After walking through the escarpment, Albany John, Benny (my bro’s roomie(now he’s got a blog-name)) and I were working up a hunger. We’d foraged some black raspberries on the trail, but those were few and far between.

Albany John lit the coals and we nibbled on this tasty salad he’d put together while we waited for them to heat up. The greens and radishes (nice and zesty) are from our CSA. Albany John also made a light tasting vinaigrette to dress the salad with. It was a refreshing way to start our meal.

Burgers. I lose hipster food cred here – I just got the beef from Save A Lot the night before to grill after the Pig Out with Margarita and my bro since I hadn’t planned ahead to thaw out the hormone-free ground beef in the freezer. They may have been rife with hormones and whathaveyou but, at a 73-27 mix of lean to fat, these made some juicy and beefy burgers.

There were 4 on the plate, but Albany John snagged one up right as I started snapping. Hey, chef’s gotta taste his work, right?

Hello ‘Bellas! I think the portobello mushrooms at the Co-Op are some of the tastiest in the area. At $3.99/lb, I think they are also pretty affordable, especially since you can pick the mushrooms you want and are always very fresh. And they are at the very least conventional so maybe I get a little hipster food cred back.

Albany John marinated them in soy sauce, something else, and some mustard powder. Very descriptive, I know. But man, were they good! The marinade helped them stay moist on the grill and juicy while eating. The marinade really enhanced the mushroom flavor and didn’t overwhelm.

That little mushroom in the back? It really was tinier than the other portobellos, and once cooked, it fit onto a bun perfectly! Haha, so freaking cute!

For an afternoon of grilling in a park, I think I prefer Thacher to Grafton Lakes State Park. Grafton has grills near the beach (which is where I always hub), but they’re kind of in the forest and I’m always paranoid I’m going to start a fire in the woods. I mean, it’s not like Albany John lets me near fire or fire starting objects (for good reason, TRUST ME), but lord knows I could trip over something and cause a 3 alarm fire. Thacher’s grassy picnicking areas are also great for taking off your sandals and running around barefoot. Grafton’s a tad less lush, but I think I like it more for the beach.

I think next time I’d like to branch out to visit another one of New York State’s Parks. Any recommendations? I am very tempted to find one that has free/cheap camping, too!

Troy Pig Out

Went to the Troy Pig Out on Saturday. Got there a little later, around 5:30 or 6 pm. The $1 rib sampling looked like it was running smoothly and had completely sold out. Albany John make sad face.

But we walked over to another section which had food for sale. In all honesty, I knew Capital Q was going to be there and made a beeline for it. Albany John wanted to try ribs from Big Moe’s. This is what he got for $7. No clue if it’s a half or quarter rack, but they were about 6 or 7 ribs that came dry. Sauces on the side (hot sauce and BBQ, both yummy). Fairly tender ribs with good flavor. Not falling off of the bone, but they had a good texture in the mouth.

I was waiting for Capital Q to, ahem, compare ribs, but they sold out while I was in line. Probably for the best since I ate one or two of the other ribs and got full quickly. Kind of bad though, since one woman asked us as soon as we got over there if we knew of any place that was good and Albany John and I both told her Capital Q. She was disappointed in a laughing way, but she said it just meant she’d have to go to Albany to try them out! (And she was like the next person in line, awww!)

Albany John saw homemade italian ices being sold. This was the small! For $2, he got a small watermelon flavored ice. It was quite refreshing, with a nice acidic zing at the end of the flavor. I really hate it when fruit flavors fall flat.

Overall, this year’s second Pig Out was far more successful than last year’s. Good job, Troy! Didn’t stay as long as last year since we wanted to keep spending at a minimum, which is really hard to do when, oh, I’m near food for sale (really, don’t ask me about my grocery bills this month… they are reaching astronomic proportions). I’m looking forward to seeing what Troy Pig Out 3 will look like!