Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day - No Reservation Needed

Happy Valentine's Day!
Photo Credit: Joe Lingeman/The Kitchn

Whether you are heading out for a fancy night on the town, or staying at home snuggled up with your honey, or with 
a rom-com and some wine, I wanted to send some love out to each and every one of you.

Thank you for following along and being the very best part of Eat*Drink*Cleveland!

Some Last Minute Valentine's Day Eats

Tonight we are ordering pizza from one of our favorite local spots. While ours will be a traditional circle, you can find a heart-shaped pizza and brownie combo at Jet's, Marco's PizzaPapa John's and Pizza Hut.
Or you can make your own. Just get some pre-made dough from your favorite store (my favorite dough is from Jim Alesci's in Solon) and create a festive heart shape. Use parchment paper to retain the pizza's festive shape, or form it directly on a pizza stone. You can even make mini-pizzas simply by dividing the dough.

For a bonus, make heart shaped pepperoni by folding the circle in half, and snipping off the top of the straight edge just like you do when making paper hearts.

Three words: Garlic.Bread.Donuts. There are a few tickets for the Brewnuts Spaghetti Dinner left for tonight so grab them while you can.  SOLD OUT
If you are looking for something sweet, the heart-shaped donuts from Dunkin Donuts are too cute to pass up.
And you will certainly be a hit if you come home with a Valentine's Day box from The Macaron Tea Room.

Chocolate covered grapes from Malley's are one of my absolute favorites. They also have chocolate covered strawberries and all their other treats to choose from too.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Perfectly Imperfect Apricot Jam

Have you heard of Perfectly Imperfect Produce? It's a local company that is tackling the issue of food waste and hunger by purchasing unwanted fruits and vegetables and selling them in weekly boxes delivered to your home
The unwanted fruits and vegetables may be blemished or bruised, they could be misshapen or a non-standard size, or it may just be excess that the farmers can't sell. 

I've found that the products are excellent quality and have been exceptionally happy with my boxes. But when I got a bunch of really sad apricots in my box, I was stumped.

6 Billion Pounds of Produce Are Wasted Due to “Imperfections”

Many had splotchy skin, but what made this even tougher is that they were out of season and sour. What was I going to do with these? Someone suggested jam, and while I was skeptical, I figured why not! Well I'm really glad I gave these apricots a chance, because with a little sugar and lots of stirring, they were transformed into something delicious!
I based my jam on David Lebovitz' pectin-free recipe, and added a vanilla bean, some fresh ginger (also from Perfectly Imperfect Produce!), and a tiny pinch of cardamom -  and the result definitely exceeded my expectations!

Apricot Jam

14-16 fresh apricots (about 2 1/4 lbs) - I used 15
1/4 cup water
3 cups sugar
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, quartered
1 t. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 t. vanilla
pinch of ground cardamom

1. Cut the apricots in half and remove the pits. You do not need to peel the fruit.

2. Place the apricots in a large pot with sliced ginger, and add the water. Cover the pot and cook, stirring frequently and smashing the fruit with a spoon, until the apricots are tender and cooked through.

3. Remove ginger chunks. Add sugar and vanilla bean and cook, uncovered, until the mixture thickens and reduces, stirring frequently to make sure the mixture doesn't burn.

4. Cook until the jam looks thick. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean and discard pod. When done, a candy thermometer should read about 220ºF. 
*note: David Lebovitz also has a method that doesn't require a thermometer. See his original recipe for details.

6. Remove pot from heat. Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla, and ladle the jam into clean glass canning jars. Cover tightly and let cool to room temperature. Once cooled down, refrigerate.

The jam will keep for up to one year if stored in the refrigerator. If you want to can it for even longer-term storage, refer to the USDA Canning Guidelines.

This recipe only makes about 5 jars of jam, so if you plan on eating it fairly soon or giving some away, that really isn't necessary.
I definitely recommend trying Perfectly Imperfect Produce! I hate wasting food and love doing my part to save the ugly or unwanted fruits and veggies! They also donate food to food pantries to ensure that the produce is being given to those on need. In 2018, they saved early half a million pounds and donated about 20,000 pounds of produce. What a great company! You know I love sharing amazing companies with you and truly think you'll love your boxes as much as I've loved mine. If you decide to try them, let them know where you heard about them! They know I'm a big fan and I'm hoping you will be too.
One Time Trial Box on the left, Mini Box on the right

The One Time Trial Box is what I have ordered because I wanted to get a feel for the quantity and variety of items in the box. I added on the Mini Box last time and found that it is too small for us, but is perfect if you live alone or don't cook much. They just started offering all organic boxes, all veggies boxes and all fruit boxes. They will also be selling smoothie boxes soon. I definitely can't wait to try that out!

Thankfully they have been really successful and are expanding! They recently started delivering in Columbus and hopefully will be growing even more.

You can follow them on Facebook, Instagram or check out their recipe blog Ugly Food Makeover.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Tidying Up: Organizing Your Kitchen

If you are like me, your New Years Resolution always includes something like "purge unused items", "clean out the basement", or "actually move all the furniture to clean behind and below it". This year, thanks to Tidying Up on Netflix, I am going to try to tackle these types of chores not only to satisfy a resolution, but to see if I can find the joy that Marie Kondo speaks of. I know one thing, any tidying up with bring immense joy to my neat freak husband!
Thanks to the best Christmas gift ever - an electric insert for our fireplace - we started the year rearranging the living room. This amazing remote controlled fire is super easy to install (just plug it in!) and no venting or gas lines are required. 

We previously has a horrible layout in the room because we had three couches thanks to two of them not fitting down the steps to our basement. Once those were sold, it freed up a ton of space. Then we sadly realized that Buffy's vision has deteriorated to the point of not being able to see the neighborhood dogs walking outside anymore. This allowed us to move her favorite chair away from the window. Now we have a cozy room with a fireplace that isn't blocked by the TV. If that doesn't spark joy, I don't know what does!
Confession: I am not a person that feels joy at a completely tidy house. I happen to like a certain amount of stuff "messing up" the pristine emptiness that Ms. Kondo and others prize. I happen to like my little dancing flower on the window sill thank you very much. So I'm going to give you some ideas on how you can realistically wrangle the stuff in your kitchen that is causing you problems.

First priority is all those darn mismatched plastic containers that seem to multiply in the darkness of the cupboard...except for the lids. They must end up in the same place as all of the missing socks! When we moved I tossed all my yucky containers and bought several sets of glass storage containers with snap-on lids. Seriously worth every penny! They nest together or you can store them stacked with the lids on. If you want plastic containers (especially good for folks with kiddos) this 28 piece set from OXO is amazing. 

If you want to do one thing to make your life better in 2019 that is cheap and easy, this is it! Every time I need to grab a container or put them away, I wonder why it took me so long to do this. 

Another "why didn't I buy this sooner" item is this handy spice drawer. Most of my spice containers fit perfectly in it and it's easy to find what you are looking for. 
I put the ones that don't fit in a lazy susan for easy access - one for savory items and one for those that are baking related.

Another thing that I struggled with wrangling is all of our tea. We LOVE tea and have a million different kinds. My favorite way to store them is in clear stackable boxes. If you don't have a ton of tea like we do, this three drawer box is cute enough to keep out on the counter.

If you are like me, you have a junk drawer for all those miscellaneous items like pens, tape, note pads, rubber bands, etc. And we all know how fast that drawer can get out of control! These drawer organizers really help! They make it easy to group like things together and to keep things from bring buried.

Another fantastic addition to the kitchen is this sleek container to store and dispense all of your accumulated grocery store bags.
Finally, we ditched all of our travel mugs except for the two we use every day and a couple spares that we store in the basement for those rare times we forget our mug at work or a guest needs to use one. 

Taking these small steps will definitely make one of the busiest rooms a little less chaotic. What are your kitchen organization hacks? Do you swear by any products that help you stay organized? Please share in the comments because I still have a long way to go to be KonMari ready. :)