Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Remember that dreamy picture I posted of my lemon tree in bloom last March?

Well, baby got back and she's loaded with big, juicy Meyer Lemons! This past week I've made Vanilla Bean Marmalade, Lemon Ginger Marmalade, and last night, I mixed up a few quarts of preserved lemons, which should be ready before New Years!

Meyer lemon treeI'm following my basic orange marmalade recipe, which can be mixed up fruit-wise to whatever crawls up your skirt and turns you on!

Kathy's Meyer Lemon Marmalade
(makes 7-8 half pints)

5 large Meyer lemons
8 cups water
8 cups sugar

*Note: For Meyer Lemon Marmalade, I used about 5 large lemons from my tree. For "regular" store-bought Meyer lemons, use approximately 7-8 lemons. Follow the same directions for processing as listed below.

Cut each orange and lemon in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut the oranges and lemons into very thin slices. You could probably use a mandoline, but I’ve never had much success with mine using citrus. Place the citrus slices and any reserved juices into a large stockpot.

Add the water and bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and add the sugar; stir until the sugar is dissolved. Place a lid on your pot and let the orange mixture sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, bring orange mixture back to a boil, then lower temperature to a steady simmer. Simmer orange mixture for 2 hours, stirring often. After 2 hours, bring heat back up to medium-high and boil for 30 minutes to gel stage (220 degrees). The orange mixture should have a dark golden orange color. Ladle hot orange mixture into prepared canning jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

For the Love of Schmaltz

Here’s a condensed report from this past week. Thanksgiving took a different turn this year, but it’s all good. I hope you had a wonderful holiday!

- Hubs and I went to visit my father who is in a nursing home 3 hours from where we live. He wanted a cheeseburger for Thanksgiving and I was more
than happy to bring him one.

- We actually had our Thanksgiving yesterday and it was wonderful.

- I made, I think, four…yes FOUR batches of stuffing in the past 6 days. One for a potluck at my work, one for hubs’ potluck at work, uhhhh…and I think two more batches since then; it all is just a blur.

- I almost had a huge FAIL for the stuffing I made for a Stuffed Turkey Breast Roulade recipe by accidentally adding cumin seed instead of rosemary. It turned out pretty good, but different.

- Sarah Palin came to my town last week and signed autographs for her new book… this video makes me want to move to Canada.

LOOKIT’ DEM LAZY MEXICANS, GRANDMAAA IMA OUTTA MY HOTPOCKETS!

- SJ is making Bacon Fat Infused Bourbon. I’ve always wanted to try this, so I am living vicariously through her bravery.

Sigh.

Oh, and I made the most amazing, perfect, silky-smooth, wonderfully rich turkey gravy and I owe it all to chicken schmaltz! About a month or so ago, I finally rendered some chicken fat I had slowly squirreled away in the freezer over the past year. When I thought there was enough, I melted it down, refrigerated it, and patiently waited. So, on the day-of-all-days (for us), I made a roux with about 3 tablespoon’s worth of the schmaltz and flour, added homemade chicken stock, roasted turkey drippings, and TA-DAAA, magic! I AM the Gravy Queen!

It was a beauty to behold indeed. Hubs and I are savoring every delicious drop of that gravy all week! Tomorrow, it’s back to the slow, painful death that is my day-to-day job BUT our lemon tree is finally ready for harvesting and I am making marmalade till I drop!

Have a good week!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Green Onions

Well, I was going to start this week’s post with a voyeuristic peek into my life-long obsession with salsa, but then I made Elise’s (Simply Recipes) Apple Walnut Gorgonzola Turnovers, and was sure I had found Nirvana.

But what’s better than Nirvana you might ask? Could there be anything better than hot, applely pockets filled with melted gorgonzola, thyme, honey, and toasted walnuts?

Why, yes. Yes there is.

Last night, hubs and I went to a “Jazz in the Gardens” festival that is held every fall at a local botanical gardens. We’ve been going to this concert for about 5 years now, and it’s more of an adult, evening picnic sort-of-thing than a festival. Concert goers bring their own food and drinks (alcohol is allowed) and get to spread out on the beautiful grass with blankets and candles. It’s very romantic and lots of fun.

So, every year we look forward to choosing the right food and wine for that particular evening. Well, this year I happened to make sort of an antipasta spread with cheeses and olives and fruit. I tried a new recipe and the warning that came with said recipe claimed the following:

WARNING: These are very addictive and you will find yourself unable to eat just one!”

And I must say, if there ever was a warning to put on a recipe, this is the most spot-on that I’ve ever seen. I TRIPLED this recipe and we couldn’t keep our hands off it!

My friends, I give you Nirvana:

Antipasta Marinated Mushrooms
Recipe Source: The Cooking Forum

1 pound of brown or white mushrooms, or a mix of both
4 tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil, or more if needed
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of red onions or shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds (optional)

Wash mushrooms well and remove stems. Boil mushrooms in salted water for about 10 minutes, drain and let cool. While mushrooms cool, combine all other ingredients in a jar, close the lid and shake until it's all combined. Add mushrooms, close lid and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the fridge at least 10 minutes before planning on serving it.

Note: The olive oil may get hard on the fridge, you can void that by adding some vegetable oil to the marinade , or just shaking the jar every once in a while.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

How to Use a Pressure Cooker: Lima Bean Soup

Now that the weather has cooled off.

MUUU-WWAhh-HAA-HAA-haaaaaaa….

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I’m in Florida, remember? It might have slipped down into the 70’s today, but that’s because there is a hurricane out in the Gulf of Mexico. This IS cool for us!

Ahem, as I was saying…now that the weather has cooled off, it’s time for some stick-to-your-ribs soups and stews. One of my most favorite kitchen gadgets to use when making heartier meals is my pressure cooker.

Back in your grandmother’s or even your mother’s time, a pressure cooker was the modern kitchen convenience gadget du jour. It was the original microwave oven. It cooked fast, used little energy, and didn’t require a lot of cooking know-how to turn out a good meal.

Unfortunately, pressure cookers have a bad rap for being unpredictable and dangerous. My husband often remarks about when his mother used to yell at him and his siblings to stay out of the kitchen when her pressure cooker was hissing away on the stovetop. She didn’t want anyone to get hurt in case the thing exploded, incapacitating a helpless bystander with molten beef stew.

Yes, pressure cookers did explode back in the day, but thanks to many years of ingenuity and manufacturing, today’s pressure cookers couldn’t be safer. Most pressure cookers have 2, 3, even up to 4 overpressure valves, o-rings, and seals that prevent even the most careless accidents from happening.

So, with that, let’s makes some soup! I use a 6 + quart Fagor Rapida pressure cooker, which is perfect for today’s dish, Lima Bean Soup. I have mentioned this soup in the past, and it’s one of my favorites.


All right, let’s have some introductions. Most pressure cookers have two pieces, a lid and a pot. My Fagor lid has an operating valve (the black knob), a pressure safety lock (the green switch), and a pressure indicator (the yellow pop-up button). So, let's get our ingredients and get cooking!


Pressure Cooker Lima Bean Soup
2-3 cups chopped, precooked ham
1 chopped onion
2-4 chopped celery stalks
3 cloves of garlic
16 oz bag of dried, large lima beans
4 cups of chicken broth
4 cups of water
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
Seasoning of choice


First, I sauté the ham till it releases a little fat, and then throw in the onions, celery, and garlic. Saute till vegetables are soft, add the beans, water, chicken broth, seasonings and most importantly, the olive oil.


Dried beans have a tendency to foam when they are cooking and the oil helps prevent that. Foaming beans are BAD and could potentially clog one of those overpressure safety valves, which at the most would make a huge amount of noise when the thing blew. No one would get hurt, but it would scare the living daylights out of you.


Once all the ingredients are in the pot, I line up the lid and close it. My Fagor has indicator lines that guide me to seal the cooker. If a seal is not made, I would know by the amount of steam escaping from below the lid. Switch the operating valve to "close".


After sealing, I lock the lid by switching the pressure safety lock from “unlock” to “lock”. Notice how the little yellow indicator button is depressed?


Turn the stovetop burner to med-high and wait for the contents of the pressure cooker to heat up. When the cooker is sufficiently heated and pressurized, the indicator button will pop up like this.


At this point, lower the heat to low and start timing. For my Lima Bean Soup, I looked for guidance in Lorna Sass’ book titled “Pressure Perfect” and set the cooking time for 30 minutes. If you are serious about trying this pressure cooker thing, get this book! It’s basically the pressure cooking bible.

Once the soup has cooked for 30 minutes on low heat, move the pressure cooker to a cool burner and let it depressurize naturally. Don’t try to rush it, don’t switch the operating valve to “open” and do what’s often called a “quick release”. Some recipes do require a “quick release” to allow for steam to escape, which makes the cooker depressurize much faster, but that’s for another recipe and time.

When sufficiently cooled, the indicator valve will pop back down again. Unlock the lid and open it AWAY from you as there will still be a lot of steam inside the cooker. You don’t want an instant Lima Bean Soup facial!

Now, it’s soup! Taste the soup and season accordingly (salt, pepper, etc.). If, for whatever reason, the beans aren’t cooked through, bring the pressure cooker back up to pressure and cook an additional 5 minutes and depressurize naturally.


See, wasn’t that easy? If I were to cook this dish “traditionally” in a pot on the stovetop, it would have taken a good hour or two (or more) in order for the beans to cook to the desired tenderness.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How Merlot Can You Go?

Life has been busy lately and I am guessing it’s the same with you. Halloween is just around the corner and I HAVE HALLOWEEN SPRINKLES THAT HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN USED! What’s worse is that these are last year’s sprinkles! I’d better get busy.

The Squash Chronicles have been adventurous this year. I’ve managed to attack two unusual squashes that I’ve never even considered before and they were delish! Too bad the recipes I used were either meh or FAIL due to operator error. I must talk to you about risotto.

Hubs and I racked off a true wine kit Merlot yesterday that we ordered from Cellar Craft. Now, according to many die-hard wine makers, you are not a wine maker unless you make wine with grapes. I’ve only been playing wine maker with my imaginary friends for the past two years, see. Whatev!

This Merlot was amazing! I have to say, this is one of the few rare wines that I’ve made that was yummy even at a young age. We started it ohhh, in September (?) and I had my doubts about it for sure, but it’s a winnah. It’s so good that I might not even give any away!

The Canning and Preserving class is still in the works, but we are having a hard time finding kitchen space to use for classes. You’d be surprised at how many food businesses don’t own a range-top stove and use hot plates. Le sigh.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunrise Slowdown

Is it me or does it seem like the holidays are barreling in on us like an angry bull smacked on the behind? I just don’t know where all the time goes or how to slow things down. I’m not ready for Thanksgiving or Christmas! Stop the music!

A few weeks ago, a friend and I took some amazing photos of a field of swamp daisies at sunrise. Every morning as I went to work, I would pass 5 or 6 eager photographers poised on the side of the expressway trying to take shots like this:

The daisy bloom only happens once a year in this location, and it didn’t even do so for the past 2 years because the field was flooded. It’s right on the edge of Lake Jessup in Sanford, Florida.

Lake Jessup has the 2nd highest population of gators per shoreline mile next to Lake Okeechobee. I also find it funny that a bunch of genius businessmen wanted to start a water-ski instruction school on this lake a few years ago, but got turned down by the city. I wonder why?!! That would be like chumming for gators!

Anyway, for the past couple of years, I promised myself that I would get my butt up and get a few good shots as the flowers are only there for about a week. Then they're gone.

Here’s to slowing things down…at least for a little while.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

Friends, lovers, Amway salesmen, I have the most amazing news! I'm going to teach a Canning and Preserving class!

Let me repeat...I'm going to teach a Canning and Preserving class!

You don't know how excited I am to be able to do this! This is even more exciting than the one time where I almost had a CHIPPENDALE'S DANCER as a roomate! Back then I thought, "PLEASE GOD, LET ME JUST ONCE LIVE WITH A CHIPPENDALE'S DANCER!"

But I was fresh out of a divorce and knew the dark, horny path I was about to go down was a bad, bad move. So, I asked for my deposit back from the CHIPPENDALE'S DANCER and weeped into the sunset. The end.

Sigh.

Ahem, where was I? Oh, yes, classes will tentatively start on November 14th (a Saturday) for a 4 week, 4 class course. I plan to go next week to see if the classroom facility is legit and there will be more information to come. Be patient, darlings!

Oh, and Heather McPherson, from the Orlando Sentinel is going to write an article about me and the course! Squeeee!

More to come...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy Fall Y'all!

First off, Mr. Burns the black racer is getting his wardrobe ready for the impending "cold" weather here in Florida.


I found this snake skin, almost 5 ft. long, in the garden the other day. It looks like we have a naked snake slithering around here at JTRS.


No comments from the peanut gallery. Ahem.

Secondly, I have been researching and poking around about initiating, maybe even teaching (gulp), canning and preserving classes here in Central Florida! I bet you didn't know it, but there is a Canvolution going on. Yes, right at this very moment!

You see, I've been talking with the folks at local Cooperative Extension offices about offering a Master Preserving course here in Orlando. It's a no go. Not enough money, interest, politics, yadda-yadda-yadda. So, I let it sit in the back of my mind, but not forgotten. In the meantime, I've been taking the online courses at the NCHFP.

Then, a few weeks ago, a good friend of mine said, "Well, shoot Kathy, you don't need no stinkin' certification to teach people how to can." And you know something? She's right!

I believe in synchronicity, that we are all connected through the-right-time-at-the-right-place, and that our friends, lovers, aquaintences aren't coincidences. I've been reading Shauna's blog at Gluten Free Girl for years, who also happens to sponsor the Canning Across America website, which advocates local, slow food, which by the way, I BUY raw milk from the VP of Farmer Relations at our local Slow Food chapter!

Whew! All of these people have been nudging me ever so gently in their own special way over the years.

So, fall is a time to rest for many. A time to gather resources and hunker down (I hate that phrase!). But really, I hope it is a time to start anew and take on new adventures! I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rosemary Port Fig Jam


Doesn't this sound intriguing? I spied this recipe somewhere...dunno where, and tweaked it via Christine Ferber of Mes Confitures. I started it last night and it smelled very interesting, so I'm curious to see what it turns out to be. I bet this would be great with some goast cheese. Heck, ANYTHING would be good with goat cheese!

So, now what do I do with a whole-bottle-minus-one-cup of white Port wine?



Kathy's Rosemary and Port Fig Jam
- recipe adapted from Food and Wine Magazine
- Method adapted from Christine Ferber

4 pounds green or purple figs, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup white port wine
1 4-inch sprig of rosemary

Place chopped figs, sugar, lemon juice, port, and rosemary in a nonreactive jam pot and let ingredients marinate for 30 min (till sugar is mostly dissolved and figs are juicy). Bring ingredients to a simmer over med-high heat, stirring occasionally, and then set aside off heat. Cool and cover jam pot; place in the refrigerator over night to macerate.

The next day, simmer the fig jam over moderate/high heat, stirring occasionally, until reaching gel stage. Remove rosemary and discard.

Spoon the jam into 6, 1/2-pint prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top. Process in a BWB for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Deep-Dish Apple Pie

Have I mentioned how much I love Ina Garten? I have? Are you sure? Well...maybe just a little. Well then, let me get right to the point about her deep dish apple pie!

My wonderful, awesome husband gave me a food processor for my birthday last week. A 16-CUP-OMGBBQAPOCALYPSE-CUISINART!!!! This baby smokes my little, 5-cup Kitchen Aid FP into the dust. Still, there were some good memories there over the past 10 years.

Anyway, I went cah-razy and made pie crust this past weekend, cause OH, I CAN. Making pie crust in my old FB was a pain. And so, since I was making crust and all, why not make pie?

The crust was amazing; probably the best I've made. Oh, and the pie was good too!

Deep-Dish Apple Pie
Recipe Source: Ina Garten Barefoot Contessa Family Style

Pie Crust Ingredients(for 2, 10 inch crusts):

1 1/2 sticks of butter, cut into 1" cubes
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
3 cups APP flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 T of sugar
6-8 T of ice water (about 1/4 cup)

Place flour, salt, and sugar into FP and pulse a few times to mix. Add butter and shortening and pulse 8-10 times till butter/shortening is the size of peas. With the machine running, add water in a steady stream until dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Pie Ingredients:

5-6 Granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
2 T of lemon juice
1 T of orange juice
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 T to sprinkle on top of crust
1/4 cup APP flour
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1 egg beaten with 1 T of water for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400°. Combine apple, zests, juice, sugar, flour, salt and spices in a large bowl. Divide pie crust into halves and roll out one half for the bottom pie crust. Don't stretch out dough. If it's too small, re-roll until it drapes into pie dish with a little hanging over the side.

Fill bottom pie crust with apple filling. Brush edges of pie crust so top crust will adhere. Roll out second half of pie dough for the top pie crust. Top the pie with the pie dough and trim to about 1 inch over the pie dish rim. Tuck top crust edge under bottom pie crust edge and crimp together with fingers or a fork. Brush entire top crush with egg wash and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of sugar. Cut 5 slits into top crust for venting.

Place pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until crust is browned and the juices begin to bubble out. If necessary, cover pie crust edges with tin foil if they brown too quickly.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Sign of the Times

Do you know what today is? Do you? Why today, dear friends, is the day that Fourbucks starts selling their Pumpkin Spice Lattes!

Meh, you might think, but I will have you know this landmark means a non-stop, unrelenting fallhalloweenthanksgivingchristmas free-for-all till the end of the year! PREPARE FOR THE BESOTTED FRUITCAKE!!

I actually like Fourbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte and they're not bad calorie wise if you get the tall (small). It's only around 260 calories with non-fat milk and whipped cream. If you ditch the whipped cream, then it's around 200 calories. Not bad for a seasonal treat and they fill me up with all sorts of warm fuzzies and excitement for the frigid Florida winters. BAH!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Happy Anniversary


It all goes by so darn fast, but that’s a good thing!

Here’s to many, many more years with my husband that include laughter, kindness, hard work, curiosity, patience, persistence, Sunday mornings, good coffee, good wine, good cheese, health, stability, ambition, dumb jokes, funny faces, baked goods, sweat equity, gentle kisses, passion, trust, stinky shoes, weird neighbors, beautiful gardens, great adventures, frequent flyer miles, steady income, good friends, tolerance, intelligence, wit and cynicism, bravery, great cooking, sloppy mistakes, tender moments, and lot’s of LOVE.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

McFarmlovin'

Last weekend, hubs and I bought about 100 lbs. of organic, pasture-raised, grass-eating, hormone-free, and generally all-over-happy-to-be-here beef from a local farmer. As I mentioned before, Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSAs) programs are pretty darn hard to come by in Central Florida. That makes me sad.

I have to really, REALLY look hard and go a bit out of my way to find people who care about how our food is raised, prepared, and sold around here. We drove through the valleys and over the (muddy) hills, managed to get lost, but eventually found our way to Misty Meadow Farm in Barberville/Pierson Florida.

They don’t have a website, but they are truly legit. Their phone number is (386) 749-9007; ask for Anne.

Anne and Frank were some of the nicest, down-to-earth couples my husband and I have met in a long time. You know they really care about what they are doing, and Anne couldn’t dream of being anywhere else than right there on that farm. Besides organic beef, they sell organic pork, duck meat, duck eggs, goat’s milk fudge, and some of the best goat cheese I have ever had. It’s all organic. It’s all unpasteurized. It’s all wonderful!

So, we pulled out 2 T-bone steaks and fired those babies up on the grill on Sunday. Like buttah!

Now if we can keep the ‘canes away from us this season, we’ll be happy campers in the meat department for some time!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Asian Plum Sauce

It's plum season, so be sure to get your hands on enough plums to make this Asian Plum Sauce! I've had my eye on this recipe for a while, but like asparagus, plums can be mighty expensive if acquired out of season.

This is a sweet-and-sour sauce that is TO DIE FOR! I'm ashamed (almost) to admit that I ate half a jar of this sauce spooned over take-out Chinese last night.

Again, this recipe was acquired from my beloved Harvest Forum. I'm not sure if this is a recipe from a book, but it's plum yummy!

Asian Plum Sauce

4lbs plums
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 T mustard seed (I only used 1)
2 T chopped green chili peppers (I used jalapeno)
1, 1/4x1 piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 T salt
1 clove minced garlic
1 cup cider vinegar

Pit & chop plums (don't peel). Combine plums with remaining ingredients in a large pot, bring to boil, reduce heat. Cook until thick and syrupy, about 1 1/2 hrs. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust caps and process 20 minutes in a BWB.

Yeild: about 4 pints.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Red Rubies

Last week, hubs and I bottled up this year's batch of Strawberry wine. Look how beautiful the bottles were when the morning sun shined on them the next morning!

If you can follow a recipe, you can make wine! This wine really turned out to be a Strawberry Raspberry blend, as I didn't have all the ingredients the original recipe called for. So I mixed in some raspberry juice concentrate in with the strawberries and waited. It turned out very tasty indeed.

I'm getting better with every batch.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Laughing Hysterically

I never really understood the term “laughing hysterically” until now. Anyone who knows me well knows I like to bake cakes, well any kind of baked goods really, but there’s nothing like a really pretty, (and tasty!) homemade cake.

I haven’t been sleeping well, well since LAST YEAR! I don’t know what it is, maybe its anxiety, thyroid, hormones, but somehow my body forgot how to fall asleep. So, mix that loverly, unrelenting condition with this website and well, I laughed until I choked. Maniacally. No control. I mean leave-your-desk-cuz-people-are-looking type of laughing.

Please, by all means, give yourself a good laugh today and check out Cake Wrecks. Flashbacks of The Seasonal Non-Sequitur, Santapillar cakes and The Holland Belly Cake will have people giving me strange looks all day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Baked Ziti Representin'

Baked ziti is the Rodney Dangerfield of the pasta family. It gets no respect.

Thrown together with a jar of store-bought pasta sauce, some grainy ricotta, sprinkled with bagged, shredded cheese, and baked till dry as leather, baked ziti is often sadly used as a cheap, main dish for feeding a lot of people without much effort. Now, don’t get me wrong, those church potlucks can be expensive and your group of picky pre-teens may turn their noses up to anything else, so cheap and easy have their place in the kitchen. It’s just that, well, it can be so much different than that. Oh yes, it can be VERY different!

In the past, baked ziti was too saucy, too dry, too cheesy, too mushy from overcooked pasta, too bland. Too many extremes. Sometimes a ground meat of some sort is thrown in the mix, but really, most baked ziti simply poses as spaghetti in a different shape and acts as a vehicle for all that melted cheese.

Upon eating this last night, hubs proclaimed, “This is probably the best baked ziti I’ve ever eaten in my life!” That’s quite a compliment, huh? Trust me. Step away from the jarred pasta sauce and preshredded cheese. It’s time we got a little respect around here!

Baked Ziti
Recipe source: Cooks Illustrated, April 2009

1 lb. whole milk or 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), divided
Salt
1 lb. ziti
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
5 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, divided (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 tsp. sugar
Ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)
8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, shredded (not preshredded!)

Directions:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave in colander.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sautee for 1 to 2 minutes, do not brown. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and the sugar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and heavy cream. Transfer the mixture to the now-empty stockpot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and 3/4 cup mozzarella. Stir to combine. Add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly with the sauce.

Transfer the pasta to a 9×13″ baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the top. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil from the pan and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.

Photo from: http://www.castellofoodcompany.com/

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie

Oh, July.

I’d say that I dislike you almost as much as August, but at least August has back-to-school sales, which means the fall merchandise will be making an appearance soon. But, July has that extra holiday thrown in there, so it’s a toss up. Sigh.

You know how I feel about pretending it’s fall in the middle of the summer. Some people start putting up their indoor Christmas decorations in October, so why can’t I start wishing for fall in July? That means I'll usually make fall-type foods on a regular basis, even though it’s too bloody hot outside to even go check the mail. I guess it’ll do until the real thing gets here.

This is an EASY pot pie to make. And everyone loves chicken pot pie, right? You don’t even have to make the crust, and who doesn’t love that? This recipe is adapted from the book Kitchen Sense, and is perfect for those days when you wish it were cooler outside, even when it’s not.

Chicken Pot Pie
Adapted from Kichen Sense

3-1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken (a generous pound by weight – Precooked rotisserie chickens work great for this)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, sliced
1 celery stalk, chopped
6 oz small mushrooms, quartered
1 tsp thyme leaves (stripped from the stem or ½ tsp dried)
Salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup sherry or dry white wine
5 T all-purpose flour
2 cups poultry stock
1 bay leaf
1 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
Your favorite pie crust dough (enough for 9-inch pie pan)
1 small egg, beaten with 1 T cold water

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion until soft, then add the carrot and celery and continue cooking for another 3 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook until the mushrooms give up their liquid. Add salt, and pepper to taste; stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Deglaze the pan with half of the sherry; remove the cooked vegetables and their juices to a bowl and set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet, then whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the paste takes on a blonde color, Whisk in the stock and the remaining sherry, then add the bay leaf, parsley, salt, and pepper to taste. Simmer until thickened.

Add the cooked chicken and sauteed vegetables, and peas to the sauce. Transfer the mixture to a 1-1/2 quart baking dish (such as a deep-dish pie pan) and set aside in a warm spot near the oven.

Roll out the pie dough about 1 inch larger than the diameter of the baking dish and about 1/4-inch thick (or like me, I made a bit more of the filling and put it all in a large casserole dish and used 2 pieces of prepared pie dough (Pilsbury) pinched together in the middle). Place the dough atop the pie filling, and press the overlap to the outside of the dish. Place the filled and covered pie on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Brush with the beaten egg, then make a few slits to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 20 minutes (depending on size of pot pie) at 425°F until the crust has risen and begun to take on color. Reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Monkey on My Back

Hey, where the heck did June go? Last time I was here, I was just settling in from a wonderful vacay and now it's 6 weeks later! Let's me summarize the past 6 weeks:
  • Barry is a Barbara and laid eggs!
  • I worked something like 5 weeks in a row without a day off
  • My sweet, dear MIL passed away - We miss you Jean!
  • Hubs and I rebuilt all the shelving in our office closet - Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?
  • Our house is worth less than we paid for it 5 years ago before the economy went into the crapper
  • Raw milk has saved me

A couple of months ago Jojo at Goodness Gracious Acres posted a wonderful article/link about the benefits and legality of raw milk. I've been a supporter of the raw milk moo-vement (sorry...couldn't help it) because I believe that it is OUR right to decide what kind of food we want available to us, not the government's decision. If I want to eat or drink unpasteurized milk or cheese, that should be my choice and not the law. Unfortunately, it is considered illegal to sell raw milk in many states, including Florida, which forces many people to seek out underground "mooshine" dealers for their fix.

However, some have found a loophole in Florida's law and it is legal to sell raw milk if it is labeled for "pet consumption only". Anyone who is keen on what is going on knows what this is really about and will gladly nod their head, buy their milk, and feel like they just won the lottery.

I am one of those people. About 6 weeks ago (coincidence?) I started having terrible, unrelenting heartbearn. On some days, nothing would wipe it out and it didn't matter what I ate or didn't eat. I figured, oh I'm just getting old...work is a bitch...stress, stress, stress...blah, blah, blah. But then I had remembered something about raw milk healing people with digestive issues. I did some research, found a "dealer" in the Winter Park Dairy Company, and I HAVE NOT HAD A HEARTBURN INCIDENT SINCE!

Also, hubs has issues with IBS and he is getting better every day from drinking raw milk. And let me tell you, it tastes just like regular ol' milk you buy in the store...only A GAZILLION TIMES BETTER! It's not cheap though. It's $15 dollars for a gallon! So now I have a $60 a month milk habit.

There could be worse things to be addicted to.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Last night, hubs and I watched a commentary by Andy Rooney on his thoughts regarding Memorial Day. Like him, I feel that Memorial Day has become, for the most part, just another day on the calendar, or just another day off. It is a day that we have traditionally set aside to remember the young men and women who "gave their lives" for freedom and honor of our country.

But like Andy, I believe the purpose of remembering isn't really for the dead, but for the living. Rememberance does the dead no good. I feel that instead, we should be honoring those young men and women who are GOING to die for our country, and that maybe we can find a better way to resolve our problems and differences than through war.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Riesling Bound

Where have I been lately?

Well, dear friends, hubs and I just got back from a badly needed vacation up to the Niagra/Finger Lakes area, and I couldn’t very well have posted HEY, THERE’S NO ONE AT OUR HOUSE RIGHT NOW! I suppose I could have posted some sort of silliness in the past week or so, but we completely unplugged.

No computers, no phones, no internets. Sweeeeeeet!

I have lots of pics…some awesome, but a lot that really sucked. Insert sad clown face here. I thought I would be better with my camera by now, but I obviously need a lot of work. If it’s any consolation, I made up for it in sheer number. Folks, I’m talking many, many gigs of memory!

Let me just say this: we have to be the only dorks from Florida who go to Canada when it is cold AND GET SUNBURNED!

An ohhhh, the wine! Did you know that Wayne Gretzky had a winery? Neither did we. So does Dan Akroyd. We had raw milk cheese, Cuban cigars, and even a touch of poison ivy. Awesome! We saw signs for Fries Poutine, more water falls that we could shake a stick at, and THE FLOWERS! Oh, the flowers!

Le sigh.

I’ll follow-up in the next couple of posts with pics and lots of adventurous stories.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Barry's Back and A Humble Harvest

Remember Barry the Box Turtle? Well last year, I saw him scurrying around the yard, I got a rare photo of him, then he disappeared. I figured my handling him the one or two times for photo-ops made him say "Screw this...I'm outta' here!" And then he was gone.

Well last weekend he showed back up! My local earthworm population must be shivering in their...um...slime? Poop? Dirt? Hopefully, he'll keep the local Cuban treefrogs in check too.
On other good things from the garden, we were able to harvest a small handful of yummy produce! I LOVE homegrown tomatoes, so hopefully, this is a sign of things to come. Small, I know, but here's hoping.
Everything is in full bloom and taking advantage of the small window between "Warm" and "Hot-As-Balls". That's an official temperature in Florida, dontcha' know!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dried Herbed Tomatoes

Ah, so you’ve planted a ton of tomatoes this spring and now you wait. Well, if you happen to have too many tomatoes and you don’t know what to do with them, here’s a great idea: dry them! Dried tomatoes are so versatile that you can literally add them to hundreds of recipes. From pizza, to pasta sauces, dried tomatoes add a concentrated touch of tomatoey goodness that instantly perks up any dish.

And have you seen the prices for commercially dried tomatoes in the store?! The best thing about this recipe is you don’t need any fancy schmancy dehydrating equipment, just an oven and patience will do. Once dried, you can store these delicious little morsels in a ziplock bag in the freezer for 6-9 months. That is if you don’t eat them all first! They're won-der-ful!

Dried Herbed Tomatoes

In large bowl combine:
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tsp. Lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh chopped (or dried) Parsley
1 Tbl. chopped Rosemary
Dried Pepper flakes to your taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
Amount of tomatoes is up to you (Note: I use Roma tomatoes, as there is less liquid - I use enough tomatoes to cover 3 full cookie sheets...about 3 lbs. worth)

Leave skin on and cut tomatoes into thin slices. Place tomatoes in the oil mixture and refridgerate for at least 2 hours to overnite. Set oven on 200 degrees. Take tomatoes out of mixture and spread on cookie sheet. It's OK if they touch. They will need to oven dry for about 14 to 16 hours (depending on amount of tomaotes). Size of pieces will determine time. For example, put them in the oven about 7pm and get them out the next morning around 10:30am.

The tomatoes are done when they have a leathery feel to them. There usually is some oil left in the cookie sheet, which I blot off with a paper towel. Cool and lay dried tomatoes on paper towels to absorb any remaining oil. Store in ziplock baggie in the freezer for 6-9 months.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On The Hoof

What do they say about the best laid plans?


This past Sunday, hubs and I went to visit my good friend Mary that lives in Deland. Her and her husband own a cattle farm with lots of animals, beautiful landscape, and lovely gardens.


I had some ideas for a few good pictures I needed for my photography class, but mix 4 rambunctious farm dogs with a couple of sticks of cheese, some used red high heel shoes, fishing string, a big red ball, and well...let's just say the cows were more cooperative!

Still it was all good fun. Thanks Mary!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Pickled Asparagus: Tis' the Season!

I wait all year for this to happen, and then I move in for the kill. I’m talking about asparagus season! For Florida, fresh asparagus is obscenely expensive most of the year. It usually runs close to $4 a pound! But for a brief window of time, it’s in season and affordable. I buy as much as I can, gorge, and then make pickled asparagus.

I make this every year and I’m very protective of every little jar. Pickled asparagus is wonderful with any antipasta tray, chopped up in salads, served as a condiment, or my favorite, inside a sandwich wrap. Basically, anything you can do with a pickle, you can do with pickled asparagus. I also like that the spears never lose their crunch, and afterwards, the leftover brine makes a fan-friggin-tastic dirty martini!

Pickled Asparagus
Recipe source: The Joy of Pickling
Makes 5, 12 oz. jars

3 lbs of fresh asparagus (sometimes I need more or less, depending on spear thickness)
5 garlic cloves, peeled
15 allspice berries
50 black peppercorn berries
20 coriander seeds
Red pepper flakes
Nutmeg
2 ½ cups white wine vinegar
2 ½ cups water
2 ½ tsp canning salt
2 T sugar

Trim asparagus to fit inside canning jars, giving ½ inch of space from the tip of the spears to the top of the jar. Prepare jars for hot water bath canning. In a saucepot, mix vinegar, water, salt, and sugar; bring to a boil. When brine has boiled, fill each hot jar with 1 garlic clove, 3 allspice berries, 10 black peppercorns, 4 coriander seeds, a dash or two of the red pepper flakes, and a pinch of nutmeg. Fill jars with asparagus spears, tips up, till comfortably full without packing. Ladle brine into jars, giving ½ inch headspace; top jars with prepared lids, then process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Wait 4-6 weeks before eating.

**Note: If you don't want to process for canning, just pour the hot brine over the asparagus and keep in the refridgerator.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Golabkis! - Polish Comfort Food

There's really no pretty way to photograph a golabki.

What's a golabki you ask? Well, golabkis, pronounced as: GO-wump-kees, or GO-lump-kees, GO-wonk-kees, or my favorite, GO-boink-kees are a Polish dish of meat-stuffed cabbage leaves with either a sweet/sour tomato sauce or even sauerkraut. They're exactly like stuffed green bell peppers except, well, you use cabbage leaves!

I can't remember if my mother made them, but I've had them before I met my husband, who is only two generations off the boat! His family is Polish and they used to eat these back in the day, so I was happy to make them for him. They're really good, especially with mashed taters!

This is another loverly recipe I snagged from The Cooking Forum. Thanks Diane!

Diane’s GOLABKI

a 3 # head of cabbage
½ # ground beef
¼ # ground pork
¼ # ground veal
1 ½ C cooked long grain rice
1 small onion, chopped
1 egg, beaten
salt & and pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp ground horseradish
1 C condensed tomato soup
2 T brown sugar
1 T vinegar
1 C beef broth

Remove the core from the cabbage, place cored end down in large pot with an inch or two of water & steam for 15-20 min. Or what I do is freeze the whole head the night before I make these, defrost in the sink for a couple of hours--then cabbage leaves are just as pliable as steamed. When ready, CAREFULLY peel down leaves by placing the cored end up and doing one leaf at a time (if steaming).

Mix ground meats, egg, onion, rice, salt, pepper, garlic and horseradish. Scoop out about 1/2 C of mixture and GENTLY pat into an oval. Place the oval on thickest part of cabbage leaf and roll once. Then tuck edges over the rolled part & continue to roll. Place all rolls into heavy pan that is lined with a few cabbage leaves, layering rolls as needed.

Mix undiluted soup, beef broth, brown sugar & vinegar and pour over rolls. Cover and bake in 350° oven for 2 -2 1/2 hrs.

Also can be made in casserole form. Just layer steamed cabbage leaves with a layer of meat and rice mixture, another layer of cabbage leaves. Pour sauce over all and bake.

Note: I made double the sauce because I found I needed (wanted) more gravy!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Has Sprung

Our Meyer's Lemon tree is chock-o'-block full of lemon blossoms, more than it ever has had before. Wish you could smell these!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It Ain't Easy Being Green

But it sure can be yummy sometimes! I bring you Key Lime Cupcakes with Key Lime Cream Cheese icing for you lucky Irish folk out there today. Or really, anyone who loves all things limey.


Key Lime Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
Recipe source: Bon Appetit

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 T of *lime zest
2 1/2 T of lime juice
Green food coloring (I used paste)
3/4 cup of butter milk

Mix flours and salt together, set aside. Beat butter till light a fluffy, add sugar and continue to beat until incorporated and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down butter mixture in between each egg. Add lime zest and lime juice (batter will look curdled) and mix well. Add food coloring to reach a color you like. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, starting and ending with flour mixture. Mix till incorporated.

Preheat oven at 350°. Pour batter in paper lined muffin tins 1/2 full. Bake 20 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool in muffin tin 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes to cool on a cake rack. Ice with Key Lime Cream Cheese icing.

*I used regular, store-bought limes as Key Limes aren't in season right now and are hard to come by.

Key Lime Cream Cheese Icing

1 stick butter
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
1 T lime zest
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Add lime zest, confectioners sugar, and vanilla extract and beat until combined.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I'm Going to Make Millions!

“Smell my finger.”
“WHAT?!”
“Smell my finger! Smell it!!”

I shoved my right hand under his nose and he took a cautious sniff. He stopped in mid-smell, looked up at me, and I swore I saw his pupils dilate. He then buried his face into my palm and inhaled long and deep.

“Oh my God, that smells SOOOO good! I am going to EAT YOU UP!”

Ahem.

Ladies, listen closely. If at any time you find yourself making beef jerky, be sure to dab a drop of Liquid Smoke in a few strategic locations on your body. You will be ravaged!

Now, if I could only figure out a way to bottle it with some beer and give it some foo-foo French name, I’ll make MILLIONS!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday's Slowcooker Lasagne

I seem to notice a trend lately. Hmmm...what could it be? Oh, I know! I've been pretty lame with my posting of late, and it seems I've been neglecting my darling readers! Fear not, o' dedicated ones! I will forsooth, and umm thou, and umm merrily, and ummm. Aw, hells bells, I've been blazy (half busy-half lazy)!

I've finished my first photography class and I've really learned some neat things, but mostly my pictures still suck ass (hey, that rhymes). I just need to follow that golden rule when trying to get to Carnegie Hall...practice, practice, practice. Here's hoping.

Anyhoo, I put this very yummy slowcooker recipe on to cook while Hubs and I tried to reclaim our poorly frost-bitten yard on Sunday. We got hit pretty bad, even though we did The Bedsheet Boogie. Oh well, just leaves more room for new plants!

Even better, this is a Weight Watcher's recipe that I got from The Weight Watcher Chick! I had extra sauce (I used my home canned Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce) so I just doubled the cheese mixture and made more layers. Lots-o-leftovers, plus the house smelled SOOOOOO good!

Slow Cooker Lasagna
WW Points: 8 Servings: 6

1 lb uncooked lean ground beef (7% fat)
1 small onion, chopped
1 med garlic clove, minced
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz canned tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 ½ cup part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ cup parm cheese, shredded
6 pieces dry lasagna noodles (not cooked)

Sautee beef, onions & garlic. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt, oregano, basil, and red pepper. Simmer 5 minutes. In medium bowl, stir together ricotta cheese and 1 cup of mozzarella. Set aside.

Spoon 1/3 meat mixture into a greased (spray with Pam) 5 quart slow cooker. Break 3 lasagna sheets in half and arrange over beef mixture. Top with half of ricotta mixture. Repeat with another layer and finish with 1/3 beef mixture.

Cover slow cooker and cook on LOW for 4 – 6 hours. Combine remaining ½ cup mozzarella with the parmesan cheese and sprinkle over beef mixture. Cover and set aside till cheese melts and lasagna firms up.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How Do You Get Your Bottles So Pretty?

Meh...it's Wednesday again. It's not that I haven't had a lot to talk about lately, I've just been busy and uninspired. I've been taking photography classes and still training with my running team. Good news is Hubs is down 11 lbs. and I'm down 8 lbs. since the beginning of January.

Woot!

So, today I am going to show you just how we go about bottling our wine and making the bottles look "pretty". I often get a lot of questions on how I make the bottles look like they were bottled professionally, so I thought I'd let you have a look. It may look like a lot of work, but Hubs and I have a sort of assembly line system down, plus it's fun to taste while we're working! The last time we bottled was around the holidays, but don't worry...there's always another batch-a-brewing, just waiting for the right time.

First I clean the bottles with a cleaning solution called BeBrite, which is basically an oxidizing solution like Oxyclean. It's safe and helps remove any seen and unseen debris, which can ruin wine. Like my sophisticated "Poison Control" label? Don't worry, we don't have kids.

After rinsing very well, I spray the inside of the bottles with potassium metabisulfite (kmeta), which is basically a sterilant used to help sterilize the bottles. Any bateria, residual yeast, or wild microorganisms that weren't removed with the BeBrite will be taken care of with this.

Next we add the wine and cork. We use a corking contraption that basically squeezes the corks into a size that can be pushed into the bottle neck. A lifesaver for sure!

After being corked, the bottles get a good wipe down with a damp rag, are dried, then labled. I do this by hand and "eyeball" the correct height and placement. I know there are little contraptions I can build with scrap wood that will help make this easier, but I haven't found the need for it for such small batches of wine.

Lastly, the bottles get their sleeves. The bottle sleeves are slid on the neck then shrink wrapped to the bottle using a heat gun. See? No fancy schmancy equipment here!

See how pretty they are? These babies are ready for some lovin'!

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