Friday, August 30, 2013

Homemade Sauce and Pasta

My tomatoes have not produced much this year; whereas, last year was 'mater palooza. My neighbor was kind enough to let me pick her garden since she doesn't can. In exchange I send her over some of the stuff I can. It is a win-win for both of us. 

 I had to do freezer sauce because I was out of jars. It was definitely much more easy to ladle sauce into ziploc bags, lay flat and freeze. I have been able to put  up 15 quarts of tomato sauce (and 7 pints of sloppy joe sauce). The sauce is a tad thinner than I typically like but I didn't have very many Roma or paste tomatoes but is it ever flavorful from all the varieties of tomatoes (Roma's, Purple Cherokee, Black Krim, Brandywine, Rutgers, and Golden Jubilee). Had I been thinking properly, I should have separated  my batch into juice and sauce.  Oh well. I don't like to simmer my sauce more than 2 hours because it turns bitter tasting (to me anyway). As it was cooking away it smelled so delicious, all I could think of  is I REALLY wanted some homemade pasta to go with the sauce.  So as a last hurrah before the kitchen is tore out this week, I decided to go all in and make homemade 4 cheese ravioli.

This is the first time I have ever made from scratch pasta. After reading what seemed like 1000 recipes on how to make pasta, it was a challenge to decide because pasta can be made with a variety of flours, eggs or egg yolks, oil or not and water or not., I decided to go with Durum flour for a sturdier pasta. Durum pasta dough is harder to work (coarser grain) but it will hold up well to handling and filling.
1 of my eggs rolled off the counter as I took this picture, haha
Basic Pasta Recipe
2 cups of semolina durum flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons EVOO
4 medium eggs
sprinkle water as needed (you do not want a wet dough just enough moisture  to form a a dough ball)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Blend with a fork until it resembles coarse crumbs. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. The dough will slightly tacky but not sticky. As you knead you will begin to feel the change in texture and see the difference in appearance. The dough will become more elastic, have a softer feel and look slightly slick. After kneading is complete wrap in plastic wrap that has been very lightly oiled with EVOO. Let rest for 30 minutes.

I pulled my ziploc bag of sauce from the freezer and had it defrost while I made the filling.

Cheese Filling**
30 ounces of Ricotta
8 ounces of cream cheese
6 ounces of parmesan
8 ounces of italian cheese blend
2 eggs
1-2 teaspoon(s) of italian seasoning
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
pinch of kosher salt

Mix on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). 
**This makes more than what is needed for this recipe. I portion the extra  amount in 1/2 cup portions into freezer bags, label and freeze (up to 3 months) for other recipes.

I tossed my sauce on to simmer while I began  to roll out the  ravioli's.

I don't have a pasta maker so I went old school with a rolling pin.  Pull off 1/3 of the dough and rolled on a lightly floured surface. The remainder of the dough was re-wrapped and returned to the fridge. I rolled the dough as thin as I could get it without tearing.

I used my biscuit cutter for my ravioli rounds

I added a small dollop (teaspoon) of filling to the center of the dough

Crimp and seal the pasta. It is a little "rustic" looking but that's okay as long as it tastes good!

The ravioli were dropped into salted boiling water and cooked for about 2 minutes. The ravioli's float to the top of the water when they are ready. I removed them using a slotted spoon (to drain the water).

A ladle of sauce, some cracked black pepper, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and  it was paired with a crisp cold salad. All that was missing was a glass of wine.

"Mangia bene, vivi felice"
Eat well, live happy

Monday, August 26, 2013

Take a seat

Boy, oh boy does the hubbs know me or what?!

His work is remodelling the model apartment and they were getting rid of furniture. They actually told him to throw it away. So he did the next best thing. He loaded it int the back of his truck and brought it home.


Remember when my dog Frazzle ate my office chair?
 I was going to reupholster it but I didn't get around to it because I have been so busy taking my classes. I tried using a pillow but boy was it ever uncomfortable!

Then I was using a folding chair with a pillow. It was slightly less uncomfortable but not much.

So this awesome chair is now being used as my office chair.

 I have it the living room as an occasional chair. I am not crazy about it being black leather/ pleather/ vinyl. But all the decorating experts say every room needs a little black, so there you go.

When I need it for the desk I just wheel it around . A much needed improvement! No more achey back or numb butt, haha.

The hubbs also brought home a matched pair of these dining chairs. I wish he could have brought a dining table with them, haha. I would like to reupholster the seats, other than that they are quite lovely! They are in the garage for now. Boy Meow Meow, our cat who live in the garage,  has already claimed  them to sleep on. So I put old towels over them for now. He may give me a fight when I finally take them back.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Small Batch Canning: Cowboy Candy

Alternate titles I considered for my post were "How to Pepper Spray Yourself" and "Help! My Stove is on Fire and So Are My Lungs"

(And I apologize for the lack of my personal  pictures--none of the batteries for my camera were charged)

So adventures in canning--I have them. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES PEOPLE! haha

It began innocently enough-as it always does-with me perusing PINTEREST looking for recipes and ideas for hot peppers. There were like a kazillion pins for Cowboy Candy. Intrigued, I began to click on links to learn more. Curse you Pinterest (shakes fist)

Once I identified the object of my obsession, there was the invariable self conversation.

Me: I am so gonna make this!
Self: "Um this involves hot peppers."
Me: Yeah, so what?
Self: "Um you DO realize you are a walking disaster, right?"
Me: Hey! Don't judge me because I am life challenged!
Me: Shut up-I am doing this!
Self: "Oh Boy, this is not going to end well!"
Me: Hmmm, MAYBE it is time I see the Dr. for some quiet pills?
Self: (silence)
Me: HA!

So after my trip down insane lane, I got busy prepping my peppers. I had about a pound of mixed peppers  from my garden of jalapenos, cayenne and red thai. And for the love of gawd--WEAR GLOVES! These suckers burn. So unless you want to be curled in the fetal position crying for your Momma, wear the dang gloves!

I removed the stems, shaved the tip, rinsed and sliced the peppers into 1/4 inch slices. These were tossed into a lidded plastic container with 3 cups of water and 1/3 cup canning salt. They were stored in the fridge overnight...okay more like 32 hours because I forgot about them. And when I finally remembered, I was too tired to mess with it.

I rinsed the peppers several times to remove the brine then let them drain.The majority of the seeds and pith had fallen out of the slices. For those that didn't, I used a toothpick to knock out the seeds and pith. Another quick rinse and while the peppers were draining I made the syrup.

Into a non reactive pot combine:
1 cup of apple cider vinegar (no caramel coloring)
2 cups of white granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon dehydrated minced onion

Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat and add pepper rings. Simmer for 8 minutes. Now here is where you gotta pay attention! All peppers have a compound known as capsicum. Depending on the Scoville unit (hot factor) of the peppers species determines how much capsicum is in the pepper. Also capsicum is the active ingredient used for hot pepper spray--MACE. Yep-the stuff used to neutralize the bad guys. Now 2 things are gonna happen. 1) The peppers have been fermenting in a brine (in my case 32 hours) and they are going to outgas the capsicum. If you breathe these fumes you are gonna be bawling like a baby. 2) When the capsicum outgasses from the peppers, they will displace the volume of the sugar syrup in your pan. Meaning it will froth and boil over. If it boils over the liquid will evaporate and the sugar will char. If the burner is hot enough it could catch on fire. GO ahead--ask me how I know!

Now I realize you are saying 1 of 2 things right now."Yeah, yeah whatever"  or "oh gawd you really are a dumbass".  You would be correct on the last statement.

I admit it--I was distracted. I was a chemist for 20 years. I am aware of the properties of capsicum ( hot peppers). I have been canning for a year now. I know what I am SUPPOSED to do. But I didn't. I didn't pay attention. My pan boiled over. Sugar was on fire on my burner and I inhaled a big ol' snootful of vinegar-hot pepper  fumes when trying to move/ clean everything. OH MY GAWD! I thought I was gonna die!

I ran to the sink to run cold water. I practically submerged my me head to splash my face and rinse my eyes. I held a wet towel over my mouth and nose to breath . It took close to a half hour before I no longer felt like I was gonna pass out. Hoooo Boy! So I am gonna make a suggestion,  when making the syrup, you might want to consider using a pot that is twice the volume of what you are making. 

Once I came back from my fire breathing brush with death, I finished my batch. I hot packed the pepper rings in syrup into quarter pint jars, left a 1/4 inch headspace, wiped the rims, sealed and water bathed for 10  minutes. There was no sense breaking out my big canning pot so I used my old bean pot and a collapsible steamer tray which worked perfectly. My yield was 4 of the quarter pint jars.

My quarter pint jars are "quilted" and I wasn't able to get a detailed picture... bummer

I googled to see how these were served and it varied. Some people serve it as an appetizer on cream cheese topped crackers

on a burger
Lori from The Kitchen Whisperer uses them on her chocolate chili cupcake. Wow-does that look good! I am just not sure I am brave enough to eat it, haha.

Other than my dumbass fiasco this truly was an easy recipe. I plan on making this again when I have more hot peppers AND when I am less distracted!

What y'all think?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Small Batch Canning: Pickled Pepper Rings

I literally had a half dozen peppers I needed to do something with, so I thought why not pickle them. This is a super easy recipe and process. Total prep and cook time is no more than 25 minutes (not including overnight brine in the fridge).

I sliced my 4 hot hungarian wax peppers and my 2 marconi red peppers into 1/4 inch slices. It came out to a half pound  for each kind of pepper. I discarded the blossom end and shave the tip end. They received a good rinse then went into a half gallon  ziploc baggie with ice cold water and 1/4 cup of canning salt to brine in the fridge overnight. 

After several really good rinses, the peppers were drained and set to the side. What is nice is the pith and seeds fell out of the rings and I didn't  have to do anything to remove them. In a non-reactive pot combine the following:
2  and 2/3 cups apple cider vinegar
2/3 cups filtered water
1 and 1/2 teaspoon canning salt
2/3 tablespoon celery seed
1 and 1/3 teaspoon mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
This will be slightly more than you need but better to have too much than too little!

Bring to a boil, add the pepper rings and simmer for 8 minutes.  Ladle into clean hot jars, leave a 1/2 inch headspace, wipe rims, seal and water bath for 10 minutes. I ended up with 4 half pints of pickled pepper rings. 

How to use them?
As a snack
On a pizza
On a sandwich
In a salad

I think I will let them stand on the shelf for a couple of weeks to allow all the flavors to marry and mellow. Well that is if I can keeps the hubbs out the pantry!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Root Cellar Envy

We put so much work into our vegetable garden it makes sense we should try to preserve as much of it as possible. Maybe not all of us have gardens but belong to a garden co-op or find really good deals on fresh produce and and would like to save it. 

not a bad haul!

A generation or two our ancestors didn't have the luxury of  a 24 hour mega mart around the corner. What they grew, they ate, they canned , pickled, smoked, dried, salt packed or stored in a root cellar. I don't have a root cellar but I sure wish I did.

I can picture it with jars of jams, pickles and other mouth watering yummies lined up like little jewelled soldiers. Baskets of apples, pears, squash, and potatoes just waiting to be eaten. I can smell the air fragrant with clusters of onion, garlic, peppers, lavender and sunflower pods drying. And I can feel the cool air as I walk in the cellar and survey rewards reaped from a season of hard work. Oh how I long to have a root cellar!

A well-stocked pantry!
Who else has a root cellar?  A great place to store Aroostook County potatoes during the winter--keeps them tasty for many, many months!  :-)
I rely on canning ...
HOT salsa in pint and a half jars
Hot squash pickles
onion relish
Zucchini relish
Polish Dill pickles
and freezing for almost all of my food preservation efforts. 

I have a food dehydrator but have yet to use it, I am ashamed to say. Next year, I swear I will use it!

But all my thoughts keep going back to a root cellar. My house has a cellar/ basement/ dungeon  that might work  as a root cellar. Or perhaps I could turn a corner of my detached garage into a root cellar. I have been reading up on it and one way or another I am gonna have a root cellar!

How about y'all--anyone have a root cellar? Memories of a root cellar from when you were younger? Ideals on making a root cellar? I would love to hear all about it!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

It is a woman's prerogative to change her mind (aka kitchen update)

at least that is what I told the hubbs AFTER I had changed my mind regarding the counter top and flooring selections, haha oops! 

The good news is nothing was ordered or purchased before I changed my mind. I had previously shared some of my selections and finishes when I first talked about the kitchen makeover. However, when I went to Lowe's to purchase the materials, I just wasn't "feeling it". I pulled out all of my original swatches and decided I didn't like any of them. There was something wrong with each of them...too dark, too grey, too flesh colored, too...whatever!

So I dumped all the previous selections, walked around Lowe's, picked out new swatches of flooring, counter top and paint. I was bound and determined to make a decision. Besides Lowe's doesn't close until 10 pm, so I had plenty of time, haha. There was one particular combination that I paired together that I drawn to time and again. The good news- the "new" linoleum was cheaper--yay! The bad news- the counter top was NOT cheaper--boo! And both the formica counter top and linoleum  would need to be ordered, there went my blitzkrieg makeover!

But I pulled the trigger and I ordered them! WOOT! My rationale is I have already scaled back considerably and I need to be happy in the space. So I made a few concessions. I downgraded my sink and faucet to adjust for the counter top cost.

The original formica counter top and vinyl flooring selection was Wilsonart Madura Gold 4923K-52 ($96/ 6 ft counter top) and Congoleum Fast Track Windstone Mocha 04526 ($2.19/sf)

These are the formica counter top and vinyl flooring which I purchased. Wilsonart Sandy Topaz 4862K-07 ($197/ 6 ft  flat deck/ no drip edge countertop) and Congoleum Pacesetter Multi/ Bisque Slate 60054-6449 ($1.57/sf) .

These colors aren't "true life" and do match much better than what is pictured. I went with the 2nd choice because it was brighter and more clean looking. The patterns are more uniform and not as aesthetically distracting for me like the first choice. Since they were ordered we are looking at a 2-4 week delay. Oh well...

I downgraded the sink to a single bowl acrylic. I can't say that I am a fan of acrylic sinks but it fit my 2 criteria 1) cheap 2) it is 10 inches deep. So plenty big enough to accommodate my canning pots and my extra large baking sheets. Corstone Coventry($169)
I chose a goose neck faucet and a sprayer. Y'all I am gonna have a sprayer! I may not have a dishwasher but I am gonna have a sprayer! haha Delta Windemere High Arc faucet in stainless ($98).

The 3 paint colors I am trying to choose from right now are Gilded Endive (7003-22), Hemingway (7005-8) and Madison Avenue (7006-14) all by Valspar. I know there are very subtle differences. I think I am going to order samples and paint swatches on the wall so I can decide what works. When I compare the paint chips to the formica and vinyl samples any of the 3 seem like they would work.

Well that's where we are with the project. At least it is moving forward!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Blitzkrieg Kitchen Makeover

Remember I talked about my kitchen remodel HERE? Well it has been a year and finally, FINALLY we are moving forward with a severely scaled back version of what I had originally envisioned...siiighhh. I will be grateful for clean, efficient and some storage.

So the floor plan is staying the same (for now). Sometime in the future I reserve the right to have it the way I have been dreaming for the last 13 years. This is the mock- up of what it will look like. The narrow shelving will be used to store small kitchen appliances and pantry items. The majority of my stuff is in glass jars or containers. So hopefully everything will remain neat looking.

Everything is off the shelf from the local big box stores.
Flooring-Linoleum (Lowe's)
Counter top-Formica (Lowe's)
Cabinets-White laminated (Home Depot)
RTA shelves-IKEA

Congoleum vinyl floor in  Mocha, Wilson Art formica in Madura Gold

Home Depot Hampton Bay cabinets in satin white
IVAR 2 sections/shelves/cabinet IKEA Untreated solid pine is a durable natural material that can be painted, oiled or stained according to preference.
Ikea IVAR shelves

We are drywalling over the plaster since we don't have the time frame or budget to do a gut job. Since I am not purchasing appliances or moving plumbing we expect this project to fit our meager budget. The upside is we think we can complete this in 2 weeks.

So there you have it. I will keep y'all posted of our progress. Fingers crossed nothing goes awry!