scoby reunion

Two really great things happened this week. One happened on Tuesday evening when we re-elected our president. The other happened a few days before at the From Scratch Club food swap. Last spring, my original kombucha scoby died. Yes, the mother starter culture for my fermenting experiments. It was compromised, contaminated somehow, and grew mold. Out it goes. I have been scoby-less since that time.

A few weeks ago, I tried to grow my own from storebought kombucha using these and these instructions. Nothing happened. Nothing at all. I was still scoby-less. I wasn't planning on swapping anything at the food swap, but at the last minute I grabbed a jar of tomato jam and a jar of bread and butter pickles from our pantry, just in case someone had a scoby to swap. We used to see more of them at food swaps, but I don't think I have seen one up for grabs in months. Many many months. So the odds seemed low. I knew it was a stretch.

But then! An adorable mother/daughter team walked in holding the most glorious, absolutely disgusting-looking scoby. It was in a ziplock bag with kombucha, flopping around on top of a paper plate. I wanted it. So I stalked them until they swapped with me. Well, I hope I was more gentle and non-threatening than that, but either way they graciously swapped me their scoby for a jar of my tomato jam. That is the magic of food swaps, my friends!

A new episode of the FSC Podcast is available for your listening pleasure! We interview the wonderful Alana Chernila and are bringing all of her food & writing wisdom, directly to you.

Tomato town

Tomatoes are everywhere right now. You can find lots of ways to put them up for the winter: can 'em whole (I never do this), make sauce with them (I rarely do this, but remind me to tell you about the roasted tomato sauce/puree I made), freeze 'em whole (did you know you could do that?), make salsa, tomato jam, etc.

But... maybe you don't want to do any of that. Maybe you would rather read a good book outside in the crisp September air. Maybe you would rather hit up a local happy hour, grab Mexican food or go to a movie. Maybe you just don't want to stand over a stove all day processing tomatoes. Ain't no shame. I have the perfect solution for using up your tomato bounty.

Just eat them. Slice them up and eat them. When I was younger I couldn't imagine doing this. I didn't think I liked tomatoes enough. The fresh, local, in-season, juicy tomatoes from your garden, farmers market or CSA are so much better than the ones available in the grocery store during January. These are worthy of turning around your tomato shyness.

We like to borrow a recipe from Chris' family and add minced shallots, apple cider vinegar, olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper on top. If there is basil in the house, that goes on there too. For extra fancy occasions, a slice of mozzarella may accompany the tomato. Try it. Go buy a fresh, juicy tomato and see for yourself. (Note: Admittedly, there is a limit to how many of these you can eat. I know, because I've pushed past that limit only to find my mouth and stomach sore from all the acid. That subsides quickly though, but consider this a warning.)

Muesli chocolate chip cookies

Yesterday was National Cookie Day. Coincidentally, yesterday was also the cookie-themed food swap! Hurrah. Cookie swaps are a big holiday thing, right? This was my first-ever cookie swap, but there were plenty of pros there who had, I don't know, ten more cookie swaps left this season. Are you a cookie swapper? Yes? Well then send me some of your extra cookies. Do you make really fancy cookies with icing and cut-outs and blood/sweat/tears? I don't. I make wonky little cookies, but they taste good. Especially when you eat them for breakfast.

This recipe borrows from my mom's world-famous Cowboy Cookies, but is modified to include the Maple Muesli mix published in the From Scratch Holidays e-book. So to make these cookies, you'll need to go over there and download your free copy. These are of the chewy and soft variety, because that's the best kind of cookie of course.

Muesli Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup white sugar

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 2 cups

  • Maple Muesli Mix

  • 1 package semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Cream sugars, butter, eggs and vanilla together until fluffy. Stir in the dry ingredients completely, and then add the Maple Muesli Mix and chocolate chips. Drop by a teaspoon on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, removing from the oven when the bottom edges begin to brown. Let cool for 3-5 minutes on the cookie sheet (they also keep baking a little, which is good) and then transfer to wire cooling racks.

Makes three dozen cookies, with enough wiggle room for a few cookie dough tastings :)

And who doesn't love a big glass of milk with a few cookies? I'll tell you who, people who can't tolerate dairy so well. Post-cleanse, I'm finally starting to admit that I may fall in that category. Fortunately, it's not an actual dairy allergy and it's not super severe. This week I'll share with you my Unscientific Non-Dairy Milk Comparison and Analysis! All the non-dairy milks you never knew existed, with taste test results, nutritional comparisons and recommendations for use.

july food swaps, plus a few tips

Swappity swap. We had our first FSC Swappers: Albany event on Sunday. Our generous host, All Good Bakers, provided a great spread and location for our first "go" in Albany. The place was packed with swappers and tons of new faces. So for any swap-curious folks out there, know that it is 100% awesome to show up by yourself. You will leave with good food and good friends. I got to meet so many people that I follow online- it's so nice to have an actual face to associate with a blog or Twitter account! Check out this Flickr group for WAY more photos of the swaps, including some particularly excellent ones from Renee, our quasi-official photog at the Albany swap.

Yup, I made it a booze swap. I brought strawberry-raspberry infused tequila with honey and a twist of lime. JEALOUS? I also made some biscuits using fresh dill and the leftover whey from the cheesemaking party that I still need to tell you about. The tequila was more popular than the biscuits. Guess that should have been obvious.

The spread! Salads, slaws, croissants & quiche.

Swapmaster Chris lays out the ground rules and sets the swappers loose.

Albany Swap Scoreboard

Brought: Strawberry & Raspberry Infused Tequila, Whey Biscuits with Dill
Scored: Corn salsa, beet hummus from Sarah, samosas from Liz at Brown Betty Farm, lavender tea cookies, hom-a-rah (Syrian red pepper dip) with pita chips and I even snagged Leah the Nosher's sample jar of pickles.

***

And then we had the Saratoga swap at The Common Thread on Wednesday...

These FSC 'Toga swappers BROUGHT it. There was challah, English muffin bread, pear butter, homemade sour cream, fermented half-sours, garden veggies, Asian slaw, quiches, granola, zucchini muffins, strawberry sauce, pull-apart cinnamon bread, ginger simple syrup, whole wheat hamburger rolls, avocado-feta salsa and lots more. It was really incredible. I felt like a kid in a candy store.

'Toga Swap Scoreboard
Brought: Strawberry-Infused Tequila.
Scored: sweet potato & zucchini muffins, a kombucha SCOBY, asparagus and goat cheese mini-quiche from Ashley (owner of The Common Thread), ginger syrup (for homemade ginger ale!) and pear butter from Jen. Boo yah.



Now that I have a few swaps under my belt, here are some thoughts. In bullet point form, because it's been a long week.

  • Label your swap items! It's helpful to write out a list of ingredients so peeps know what's in 'em, but I think it's really nice when items are also labeled with the person's name and blog/twitter/whatever, if applicable. That way when I get home with my goodies, I'll remember exactly who I got things from and how I can track them down to get more.
  • Don't be afraid to bring some "weird" stuff. These swaps tend to draw a happy, foodie crowd that loves experimenting. Meals that are ready-to-go are awesome... almost every one of my lunches this week was a swap item. But keep in mind that a lot of people (though not all!) are pretty creative home cooks, so jars of homemade ingredients are also a big sell. Think jams, sauces, dressing, starters etc. Personally, I tend to go after savory stuff versus the sweets. Which is crazy, because I have an insane sweet tooth but even I recognize that it's not a very smart idea for me to come home with a dozen cupcakes, a batch of cookies, three pies and a ray of brownies. I like to stock up my pantry or supplement my planned meals for the week.
  • Finish strong and don't give up. Even if it seems like the swapping has wrapped up, I guarantee there are people out there with some swap items yet. Maybe they'd like to take them back home, but maybe they are looking for a swap buddy! Stick around, chit chat and scope out the scene for closing call swaps. And if you aren't able to trade all of your items, that's actually pretty great because you get to take them home and enjoy the fruits of your labor! I couldn't get rid of my last set of biscuits at the Albany swap but they happened to be delicious so I didn't mind bringing them back with me.
  • It's ok to bring a lot of different things. I haven't done this, but I love when one person lays out this crazy spread of things. Also, it seems to be easier to swap when you have some variety rather than 40 jars of jam. Then again, if your jam is crazy awesome or you have a famous recipe for something, go ahead and bring 'em all.

Phew, what an insane few days it's been. Meetings before work, meetings after work, swap prep, kitchen voting, my Facebook giveaway and to top it off, we're rocking near-100 degree temps here. I will admit to hiding out at the mall last night for a bit of heat relief and walking away with four or five new dresses. They were on super-sale! Couldn't help it! Blame it on the heat.

I've shared a few tips for surviving a tiny kitchen over at From Scratch Club today so if you are also lacking some cooking space, check it out. If you are so inclined, you can vote for my 40 square foot kitchen at the Small, Cool Kitchens contest! It would mean so much to me. Chris has been away on a little trip and I'm excited to surprise him this weekend by welcoming him back to a now nationally-famous kitchen! Ha. "Ta-da! Strangers everywhere have seen inside our apartment! You're welcome." I think it would be a better surprise if I could announce that we were at the top of the Rental category... we shall see :)

inside the cooler, week no. 7

Greens, rosemary, summer squash (I will never get sick of summer squash), beets (At some point I'm sure I'll get sick of beets but it hasn't quite happened yet) and cucumbers! You know your CSA delivery rocks when your delivery gal sends you a text notifying you that not only are your veggies there, but that your Zappos order came too. Fresh produce & new shoes! Perfection.

I had a nice four-day weekend. Did some stuff, did some more stuff, laid around outside, went to a barnside movie party & swapped some infused tequila for really awesome things. More about the food swap later. Albany swappers really brought it. It's a crazy double-swap week for me, with Albany's yesterday and the 'Toga swap on Wednesday. Yowzas. Will report back... say, Friday? Yes, Friday will be a food swap round-up. If you aren't on board yet with strangers swapping food, you will be soon. It's so fantastic. Actually, if you are a local reader, just sign up for the Saratoga Swap and see for yourself. You don't even have to swap anything if you don't want to, you can just chit chat and check it out.

Don't forget about my giveaway on Facebook! Click here and comment on this FB post for a chance to win Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle plus two homemade beverage cozies! So easy. You have until Wednesday night...