Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace
Today was really kind of cold and damp so it was the perfect day to rummage through the cupboards and the freezer for "soup-er" inspiration. This is what I came up with: Autumn Harvest Soup and Homemade Flax Seed Bread with Cinnamon Honey Butter!
Isn't it pretty?
Here is the base recipe that I wrote down and added to my recipe collection. I made note of extras or substitutions that I used today.
Autumn Harvest Soup
1 pound mixed split peas (I only had 12 oz but, it was close enough.)
1/3 c. pearl barley (not instant)
1 lb. bacon (I had 1/2 pound of bacon and 1/2 pound venison sausage that I had browned and frozen.)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp dried marjoram
6 carrots, diced
4 sticks celery, diced
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 lg. ham bone
1 bay leaf
14 cups water
Kosher salt and Pepper to taste (I did not add pepper because my sausage had a kick and sufficiently peppered my soup.)
Soak the split peas and barley in cold water while you are assembling your soup. Dice bacon while frozen for easier cutting, put in hot large kettle and cook until well browned and crisp. Add onion, garlic and marjoram and cook until soft. Add all your other veggies and stir to coat for about 5 minutes more. Add your ham bone, bay leaf and water. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer for at least 3 hours. Stir occasionally and check your peas; when they are soft, it is done. Remove your bone and bay leaf. Pick all the ham from the bone and add it back into your soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I used my Pampered Chef chopper to dice the onion, garlic, carrot and celery very fine. I just cubed the sweet potato with a knife. I salted to taste at the very end because sometimes cooking dry beans with salt makes them tougher. It didn't really need alot of salt because of the bacon and the ham.)
See how lovely the texture is? There is a piece of ham and sweet potato on that spoon!
The bread was some I had made for sandwiches which turned out really well except for the rising. I need to learn to wait. The Honey Butter is something that I have been making for years whenever I made homemade bread. Today I was watching Barefoot Contessa and Ina Garden was making the recipe I always use. I guess there are not that many different ways you can make honey butter.
Sandwich Bread with Flax Seeds
2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of sugar
3 cups of warm water
3 Tbsp ground Flax Seeds
10 cups of flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter
Combine 1 tablespoon of sugar, the yeast and 1 cup of warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Let set for 10 minutes. Mix the yeast in well. Then add the 2 remaining cups of water, 1/2 cup sugar and butter. Mix together. Mix in 3 cups of the flour, one cup at a time. Then switch to the dough hook attachment and mix in the remaining 7 cups of flour, one cup at a time. Once all your flour is incorporated, set the mixer a notch higher for 4-5 minutes to knead. Put the dough in a large oiled bowl and flip to coat both sides with oil. Loosely cover bowl with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray, and place in a warm place. Let it rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Punch down dough to remove air bubbles and divide into 3 even pieces of dough. Shape into loaves with floured hands and put into greased loaf pans. Cover pans with oiled plastic and then a dish towel. Set in a warm area for another hour or until doubled in size. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. It is ready when it turns golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped! Remove from pans and cool on a cooling rack. (I let my dough rise for 1 hour but it had not doubled in size. I should have waited another 30 minutes at least. Then I was running out of time so I only let the loaves rise for 1 hour. The loaves should have been taller but I was impatient. It was delicious anyway.)
Cinnamon Honey Butter
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of kosher salt
Blend all ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth. Put it in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.
It was the perfect meal for a chilly fall day!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
So we opted for the Maytag Bravo set. It is gigantic and I was beside myself with glee when I did my first load of laundry. Now I only have to do 1-2 loads per week. When we bought it we were told that we had to use HE detergent so on our way out of the store, I grabbed a bottle of HE detergent. I have been making my own laundry detergent since 2006 after finding this recipe on the Internet. I haven't purchased laundry soap since I bought a laundry soap making kit for $17 from Soaps Gone By in 2006. It has lasted that long! Well that one bottle of HE detergent that I purchased in April is just about gone. I have been reading on other people's blogs that the homemade stuff is safe for an HE washing machine because it is low suds.
Last night, I got out all my supplies to make a batch of laundry soap and was wondering if there was something I could do about the gloppy consistency since my new machine has a dispenser. I was thinking that the clumps of gel might be an issue when it was put in the dispenser. Plus, I thought that a smoother consistency would make it easier to measure out and pour. So, I thought about the homemade hand soap that I made just recently. You can read about it here. And I thought, "What if I used the same amounts of water, soap, washing soda and borax but just changed the way that I put them together and make it more like the hand soap?"
So here is what I did:
* Pour 1 gallon cold water in a large bucket. Set aside.
* Pour 1 gallon of water into a large pot and bring to a steam (you should just see tiny bubbles on the bottom of the pot and steam coming up off the top of the water.
* Add 1 bar grated soap. I used Zote (Pink and smells nice).
* Add 1 cup Super Washing Soda and 1/2 cup Borax. Give the pot a stir, turn off the heat and stir until the powders are dissolved. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes uncovered.
* Use your immersion blender and blend until smooth and creamy (no little bits of soap should be left).
* Pour your soap mixture into your bucket of cold water and use your immersion blender again until smooth.
* Leave the bucket to cool and gel overnight UNCOVERED.
* In the morning, you will have soap jello. It will be springy to the touch but not wet. Use your immersion blender again and blend well. Break up all the chunks of gel. It should turn the consistency of liquid laundry detergent. Even and smooth. At this point, you can add 10-15 drops of essential oil to scent your detergent, although this is not necessary. After the addition, blend well with the immersion blender.
* Use a funnel to pour your liquid into old detergent containers for easy pouring. Shake before using if you want to but you shouldn't have to. Those large clumps should be a thing of the past. Use 1/8 to 1/4 of a cup for HE and front load machines and 1/4 to 1/2 cup for top load and non-HE machines. I wrote directions on some masking tape and put it on the bottles.
This is what we had for Sunday lunch . . . Chicken Parmigiana with Linguine. YUM!!!
I used the sauce that I made here. It was delicious!
Friday, October 2, 2009
Regardless of what your finances are, there are always things that we can do to save money, reduce waste and reuse things. I know I am NOT the only person who upon checking out of a hotel, takes the little soaps, shampoos and lotions home with them. Now I am NOT one who takes the toilet paper off the wall, tissues and extra trash bags. I worked housekeeping for a summer at a resort and the other ladies and I used to talk about the guests who would do that. VERY TACKY! The worst guests were the ones who took towels and linens. We had to report those and those people got charged for those items. But, I digress . . .
Anyway, we have a box of extra toiletries under the sink in our bathroom. You know, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, hairspray and the like. There is a Ziploc bag of hotel bar soaps from everywhere from Econo Lodge to the W Hotel. Some are nicer and more luxurious having designer scents and fancy wrappings while others were just plain old soap. If you are like me, then you understand the aversion I have to a bar of soap sitting on the side of the sink all slimy on the underside with dried dirt from someones hands all over it. YUCK!!! I also don't like using bar soap in the shower because it gets dropped and gets hair stuck to it. Just being real here, folks!
The other day, I noticed that we were running low on liquid hand soap . . . mostly because of a four-year-old who thinks he needs three pumps of soap to get clean. I hated to go out and buy one of those big refills of hand soap when I knew I had tons of bar soap that was just sitting in the cabinet. So I searched the Internet for recipes for homemade hand soap. I didn't want to buy any ingredients that I didn't already have on hand. Alot of them called for glycerin, which I did not have. I thought about how I make our laundry detergent and thought, "it should work the same way for hand soap, right?" So here is what I did:
I weighed various bars of soap with similar scents until I had 4 oz. I grated them on my cheese grater. This batch was lemon and sage/rosemary scented soaps.
I then poured the soap shavings into the pot and stirred it. I took the pot off the heat and set a timer for 15 minutes. See that there are still some shavings visible.
After the 15 minutes was up, this is what it looked like.
Then I blended the mixture using my immersion blender until there were no more soap shavings.
I then let the mixture sit overnight uncovered. It was hard on the surface the next morning. It almost looked like the hardened fat on top of homemade stock that has been refrigerated.
At this point I used the immersion blender again to get a creamy, liquid soap consistency. I didn't get a picture of this step . . . SORRY!
I filled the pump in the background and here is what I had left.
The cost of this project was $0.00. I also made a gallon of body wash and a gallon of tear-free soap for the kids using a Johnson's Baby Bar that I had from my last son's baby shower (5 years ago). It all smells good and washes well.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Last Wednesday was our produce pick up and one of the items we received was avocado. I had never actually purchased avocado myself but had eaten it on sandwiches and in guacamole at restaurants. Our favorite local Mexican Restaurant makes a pretty good guacamole. I like it but I wouldn't die if I never had it again. It is not one of those foods that I crave or anything.
So, anyway, we got 3 avocado and they were as hard as rocks. When I got home, I just set them out on the counter. This morning, I noticed that they seemed a little darker than when we got them. I touched them and they were softer so I decided that when we got home from PE at the Y, I would try my hand at guacamole. I searched some recipes online and found Alton Brown's recipe at Food Network's website. I love Alton Brown so I thought I would try it. I did, however, make a few minor adjustments after reading the reviews and so I am posting how I made it and you can link to Alton Brown's recipe to see the original. Here is what I did (Sorry, I did not take step-by-step photos today.):
3 avocados, halved, seeded and scooped out with a spoon
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dark chili powder
1/2 medium onion, diced
8-10 strips of roasted red bell peppers (SEE THIS POST FOR THE RECIPE)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (I didn't have any but, I would add it next time)
3 cloves garlic, minced
I put all the ingredients in a the bowl of the food processor and blended until mostly smooth. Then I enjoyed with a tortilla chip and put the rest in a plastic container in the fridge. Easy and delicious. Even my picky husband loved it. It may not be pretty but it was YUMMY!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
My good friend Amy gave me a plastic grocery bag filled with assorted tomatoes. There was one really big tomato and a bunch of smaller and grape tomatoes but most of them were yellow tomatoes. I knew we would never eat all these tomatoes before they spoiled so I decided to roast them to make sauce for a later date. I had made some last Thursday with the tomatoes from the produce co-op we belong to and it turned out great so I decided that these tomatoes would meet the same fate. I was able to make a batch of red sauce and a batch of yellow sauce. Here is my recipe in pictures:
First, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. The yellow tomatoes were small but I had close to 3 pounds of them. I washed them and cut them in half. The tomato below was one of the larger ones.
Here they are washed, cut and ready to go in a glass dish (11x15).
Then I added 2 Tbsp minced garlic. You can do this with fresh garlic. I just didn't have any. Just peel 12 cloves of garlic and toss with your tomatoes.
Then I added 2 tsp of kosher salt.
Then I added 2 tsp of dried oregano. You can use fresh. Just use 2 Tbsp of fresh oregano leaves instead of the dry stuff.
Then I added 1 tsp of dried sweet basil. Again you can use fresh basil but I didn't have anymore. Just use 1 Tbsp of fresh instead of the dry stuff. You can also add your favorite seasonings but I like it with just basil and oregano.
I then liberally sprinkled the whole thing with black pepper. You could add crushed red pepper flakes if you like a kick but I did not as the kids are not fond of burning tongues.
Finally, I added 1/2 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I know that sounds like alot of oil but, trust me, it is not and it adds to the wonderful Italian flavor of the sauce.
Here are my lovely tomatoes after they have been stirred to evenly distribute the oil and seasonings.
Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes. This is what they looked like after 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and stir for a minute. Put it back into the oven to roast for another 30 minutes. Don't they look yummy and deliciously browned?
After they came out of the oven, I let them cool for about 10 minutes . . . til they stopped bubbling. Then I transferred them to a bowl with tall sides. I used my trusty immersion blender to blend it into a nice thick sauce. You could thin it with a little chicken stock if you wanted it thinner or don't blend it if you like things chunky. My kids have texture issues, I think. They think they don't like tomatoes but they eat them in chili, taco soup, salsa, sauce, etc. I guess it just has to be small pieces.
Anyway, I got between 4 and 5 cups of sauce out of each batch I made. I poured it into glass jars and either froze or refrigerated the sauce for use at a later time.
I am linking up with Tasty Tuesday and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.
First, I put the peppers on the gas burners of my stove and burned the outsides of them until they were charred and black. I used tongs to turn them and keep them from rolling off the flame. You can do this on the grill but it takes less time if you can get the flame to touch the peppers.
Here are a few more on the other side of the stove.
After they were sufficiently charred, I put them in a large bowl and covered them with cling wrap to steam for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, I put them one at a time into a plastic bag and sort of smooshed it around without squashing the actual pepper. Most of the skin slides right off and stays in the bag. Some black left on it good so people know you fire roasted them. ***DON"T RINSE THEM WITH WATER TO CLEAN THEM OFF!!! YOU WILL WASH AWAY FLAVOR!!!***
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Anyway, through this co-op and friends and neighbors who have gardens, we have been inundated with fresh tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, Anaheim chili peppers, red onion and all sorts of yummy veg that I had no idea how I should use it. My kids won't eat these veggies raw (in a salad) but will eat them cooked in a recipe. I had so many peppers especially that I started thinking Latin inspired recipes. So I said to myself, "Who says that salsa has to be mostly tomato?" So here is the "baby" if you will of this brain storming session. Jeremy called it "The Best Salsa Recipe Ever". I love 8 year olds. They are so enthusiastic about everything.
I chopped the following ingredients and put them into a large pot:
3 medium tomatoes (hard cores removed)
2 large green bell peppers (seeded)
2 large red bell peppers (seeded)
1 cup chopped red onion
2 large red Anaheim chili peppers (seeded)
2 medium yellowish-green Anaheim chili peppers (seeded)
4 cloves minced garlic
Then, I added 1 and 1/2 tsp of salt and 1 and 1/2 cups of white wine vinegar (it was what I had but you could certainly use cider vinegar or red wine vinegar). I brought it up to a boil and then reduced the heat to simmer for 20 minutes.
I stirred it occasionally.
When my 20 minutes was up, I transferred it in batches to my very faithful blender who burned up just this week. I was trying to mix the oil back into the almond butter to make it spreadable and she slowed down and smoke started billowing from her motor. She lasted from April of 1997 to September of 2009. She was a wonderful kitchen helper and I certainly used her lots. Let's have a moment of silence for my dearly departed blender. I have my eye on the new 700 watt stainless steel model and my birthday is 2 weeks away. But, back to the recipe. You can certainly leave it chunky or any varying stages from chunky to completely pureed. I completely pureed mine as that is how I like it.
I then poured the very hot salsa into clean jars and tightened as tight as I could. I let them sit on the counter until they were room temperature. I checked the pop-up buttons on the lids and pushed them in as the salsa cooled. They sealed themselves. I then put them into the refrigerator to keep even though they were sealed. In fact, I brought a jar over to my neighbor's house and we couldn't get it opened. I am the one in my house who can usually open anything and it took me about 5 straight minutes of struggling with one of those rubber jar opener things to get it opened. The button popped really loud!!
This recipe made 3 jars and some leftover which we ate the next day at a cookout with my parents. My 6 foot 6 inch little brother (the professional chef) said he liked it but he would add more heat. If you want heat, you could certainly add/substitute jalapenos or any hot pepper and leave some of the seeds in the mix. I made it mild for the kids' sake. You could also can this recipe properly using a water bath and everything but like I said, the jars self-sealed so I didn't bother.
Try it out and tell me what you think. I've also been making pickles because I am the only one in the house who will eat cucumbers but everyone loves pickles. Maybe I'll post that recipe next Tuesday.
Friday, September 4, 2009
I lived in that house until I went away to college. I experienced culture shock when I moved to a small Indiana town of 3,000 (when school was in session). Corn as far as the eye can see! I came home to get married and have a baby. My new family and I lived in a one bedroom apartment in the house in Staten Island until November of 1999 when my parents sold the house and moved to North Carolina. We too were looking to move south but my husband was having trouble finding a job. So our little family of 3 moved back to Nonna's house in Brooklyn except this time, we all lived in Nonna's 2 bedroom apartment. By February, Michael had found a job and we moved to North Carolina.
I say all of this to say . . . I am a city girl. Until now (and except for college), I have never lived outside of New York City. I hate yard work. I do better with potted plants. I miss sidewalks, street lights, block parties, the ice cream man, L&B Pizza, being able to walk to the corner store and get milk and bread. I know you are all saying, "We have those things in the south." I know! I just don't live near any of it. The morning after we moved into our house, I was awakened to find that roosters really do crow early in the morning but they also crow all day long. Goats and cows smell bad from far away. Country folk let their dogs run free and don't spay or neuter their animals (ASK ME HOW I FOUND THAT OUT!!!). Did you know that you never have to go the grocery store for meat because you can sit on your back porch with a shotgun? For this city girl, This was like Green Acres!
After almost 10 years of living here, I am used to the . . . shall we say, quirky ways of country folk. Every now and then something really strange will make me ask what I was thinking but for the most part, I realize that I am raising country boys!
So we were really excited when one of our homeschooling friends came over this morning with a gift for us. Let's call them Farmer Bob and Farmer Amy. They are dear friends and our boys get along very well. They brought us some fresh eggs from the chickens that they raise on their property. Amy told me she had some extra and asked me if we wanted some. I am never one to turn down free food so I said, "Sure! I'll take some eggs! Thanks!"
Amy and Bob showed up at my home with 5 DOZEN EGGS!!! I only took four dozen because that was all that would fit in my basket. Did you know that eggs . . . fresh eggs straight from the chicken coup are dirty? You are probably saying, "DUH! Of course their dirty, Genius! They shoot out the back end of a farm animal!" In my defense, when you have ever only seen eggs in a carton in the grocery store, you don't realize that eggs are dirty and somewhere along the way someone sterilizes those eggs before they can be sold in stores. So I gratefully took my chicken poop and dirt coated eggs into the house and gave them a bath in anti-bacterial hand soap. They are so pretty and let me tell you how good they tasted! YUM! We are being short changed at the grocery store. These eggs were huge and all different. When I cracked them into a bowl to make breakfast, the yokes were a rich deep yellow and they were huge. I just had to share them with all of you.
See all the color variation and pretty speckles?
So I know all my country friends are shaking their heads and laughing at the city girl. I am glad I could make you smile.