Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Canning

Nope, not pumpkin.  But I did toast pumpkin seeds today...

The 6 year old was not feeling well so stayed home from school.  Which meant I got to stay home, too!  I set to work on a double batch of baked beans.  I had purchased the ingredients before the weekend, hoping I would have time to cook it all up then, but with all the other stuff I did, I couldn't get to it.  Today was perfect.

Since we weren't using the beans as dinner, I was able to put up the whole double batch:  8 pints in the pressure canner for 80 minutes.  They're about to come out, now.  I don't think it matters which recipe you use; I use the one in my Pillsbury cookbook which I've had for ages.  The cookbook is so old I had to transfer it to a new 3-ring binder when its original cover fell apart.  It has great, basic, simple recipes for great, basic, simple food.  It's one of the best.  And, considering that if I do takeout or even the cafeteria for dinner at work, I spend at least $5-10 each time, I think 8 meals of baked beans is a bargain.  I'm quite sure I didn't spend more than $10 on the ingredients!

Now I'm making a double batch of chili, some spicy and some not.  We will have some for dinner tonight (with grated cheddar or with the homemade mascarpone instead of sour cream) and I will either freeze or can the rest.  Since the pressure canner is out, it wouldn't be too big of an ordeal, just time consuming.

Tonight's chili recipe:
4 small onions, diced
1 tsp. minced garlic
3 pounds ground beef
1 quart tomato sauce
1/2 large bottle of chili powder
1 can tomato paste
salt & pepper to taste
2 packages kidney beans, quick-soaked
1 can (large) whole tomatoes in liquid
2 tbsp. pickled jalapenos (added to the spicy version only, obviously)

2 hours until trick-or-treating!  I LOVE Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nettle Ravioli

And so much more!

Perhaps some of you are aware, it snowed last night.  In Massachusetts.  In October.  And, from what I can tell, Halloween is a rather tenuous holiday which cannot handle snow.  Almost everything I had planned for the weekend was postponed, cancelled, or postponed then cancelled.

Remember how I was making Halloween costumes for the riding competition?  Cancelled.  Too slippery for the horse trailers.

Our neighborhood has an annual Halloween party in the local park.  Postponed, then cancelled.  First it was raining/snowing, then the paths were too wet today.

Instead, I spent the day cooking.  Yesterday I started a batch of mascarpone cheese.  This time I used Creme Fraiche starter culture, so it sat overnight in a warm room and then this morning I drained the creme fraiche in butter muslin for 4 hours to get the mascarpone.  I think I like this version better than the previous, using cream and tartaric acid.  It takes longer, but it's really good!

While the mascarpone was draining, I made a batch of sugar cookies (don't get too excited, it was a mix) in Halloween themed shapes: candy corn, spider, and skull and crossbones.  Later, when we decorated them, we decided that the spiders also worked as eyes with legs, and the candy corns also worked as ghosts.  The 6 year old decided that every shape made an Angry Bird.  (The 6 year old lately speaks of nothing but Angry Birds.  And will be one for Halloween tomorrow.  Yes, I had to make a whole separate costume from the riding one.)

Using the recipe in Hunt, Gather, Cook, I made rye pasta and used my frozen nettles, 2 potatoes, and 1/2 cup of the mascarpone cheese to make nettle ravioli.  The 10 year old was a big help for this project and together we made 5 dozen raviolis.  This pasta dough is even stretchier but much more fragile than the other (plain) pasta recipe, so there were lots of technical difficulties, but after the third dozen we did OK. 2 dozen have been frozen and the other 3 dozen were eaten for dinner, with just butter and parmesan cheese.  The remnants of the dough were converted to spaghetti and served for dinner as well.

We had friends coming over for dinner so I pulled together: a pork roast with onions and apples, applesauce, the nettle raviolis, roasted red kuri squash, roasted beets and a salad of lettuce, kale, Hakurei turnips, carrots, a few tiny green beans, and cucumbers with a balsamic vinaigrette. They brought a fabulous flourless chocolate cake for dessert!

And, in the middle of all that cooking, we took a trip to the hardware store and carved our pumpkins.
For the record, the snow is mostly gone as of this afternoon.  Hmpf.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pot Pie!

Leftovers never looked so good.
Chicken, a little pork, peas, noodles, onion, cream of mushroom soup and a homemade pie crust.

Served with the last farm share salad of the season, an acorn squash, and the nettle & potato soup from yesterday.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Nettle Kind of Day

So, I headed back from my parents' house today, and went straight to the stables to pick up the kids after their lesson.  While I was there I showed off the Halloween costumes a little, and picked a large bunch of nettles.  I wanted to get more before it got too cold; I heard on the news that western Massachusetts might get some snow!

When we all got home, I opened the door to a very strange chirping sound.  Then came the electronic voice, "Warning!  Carbon monoxide detected!  Warning!"


I made the kids stand on the sidewalk and called 911.  The firefighters couldn't have been nicer.  As soon as they had a few normal CO readings, they let us in, and they checked everything.  They even had me crank the thermostat up to make sure the boiler was OK.  We decided the detector either needed new batteries or had gotten dust in it or something.

When that adventure was over, my husband came home and we all had to drive to Home Depot to get some supplies for a science project.  That meant we couldn't have the nettles for dinner because it would be way too late by the time we got home.  I had, however, blanched them by that point so I froze slightly more than half and, once we did get home, made a batch of the nettle potato soup for tomorrow.  We can just heat it up.  Tomorrow is the last farm share distribution, too.  That makes me sad, but we can look forward to next year, right?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Productive Day

I'm visiting my parents for a few days and they requested I make a full batch of toorshi for them. So I gladly chopped up 2 heads of cauliflower, a bunch of celery, a pound of carrots, 4 peppers, 8 hot peppers, and 2 cabbages and Mom peeled 3 heads of garlic. From start to finish it took 2 hours. And now they have 4 half-gallon jars and I get to keep my second jar!

After that, I set to work on the Halloween costumes. The kids and I are riding in an event on Sunday as a team (our instructor will be the fourth member of the team). There are prizes for best costume. How can I resist? I love Halloween. I love making my own costumes. The challenge here is to make costumes that we can ride in. We decided on chess pieces. I have completed the sewing today: shortened the horses' blankets, made a bishop's stole, 3 belts and 2 small tunics (for the knights) and one long tunic for the queen. Guess who is going to be the queen!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gingered Spaghetti Squash

Last night's dinner was a roasted chicken (and, yes, I'll be making stock and soup sometime - the bones are frozen until I get a chance to do that), a big salad and gingered spaghetti squash.

Since I wasn't really sure what to do with them, the spaghetti squashes have been sitting on the counter, taking up space.  And I haven't really been around much to make dinner, so it seemed like last night was the right time to tackle it and be creative.  I cut it in half and seeded it, and roasted it for about an hour at 350 (cut side down on the baking sheet).  Then I used a fork to make all the little spaghetti strands, and fried them in butter with grated fresh ginger and some salt and pepper.  I allowed a lot of the moisture to cook off.  I think it was a success!

The salad included arugula, mustard greens, and tat soi from the farm and dandelion greens from my yard.  I'd been planting Jerusalem artichokes and found a few dandelions so brought the leaves in for the salad.  My husband very politely commented that it was a "challenging" salad.  Too much sharp and bitter for his taste, I guess.  Just wait until I have Jerusalem artichokes to add!

I now at least have used enough squashes that the rest fit into a large basket instead of just hanging out all over my kitchen counters.  2 butternuts, 2 red kuri, 2 acorn, 1 spaghetti, 1 blue ballet, and that's a cob of popping corn in there, too.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Days of Chores and Applesauce

This weekend is one of my work weekends.  But I have the morning off for a change, so I am hurriedly doing 4 loads of laundry, a little light cleaning, feeding the kids pancakes for breakfast, and making applesauce.

Thursday was the farm share pickup, as usual, and next week is the last for the season.  I will miss it, as always.  The share (my half) was: 12 apples, 1/2 of a bowl of tat soi and arugula, 3/4 lb. potatoes, 1/2 quart of carrots, 2 cabbages, 1 cob of popping corn (we will NOT repeat last year's mistake of popping it in the microwave), some mustard greens, a bunch of dill, and 2 squashes - 1 butternut and 1 red kuri.  I plan to use the cabbages and dill to make my father a whole huge batch of toorshi next week.  He decided he wanted more than one jar a year!

While the kids slept this morning I chopped up those 12 apples and boiled them with 2 cups of water.  The the food mill came out and I ran all the apples through, ending up with a very unappetizing color of sauce.  Not really yellow, but certainly not pink.  Sort of an unpleasant green.  Cinnamon fixed that right up!  I added about 2 cups of sugar to the whole batch as well, and ended up with 2.5 quarts.  Of a lovely light brown, smooth and appetizing applesauce.

Tomorrow may consist of: working, planting my Jerusalem artichoke tubers (a birthday present from my sister), Halloween costume construction, and more applesauce.  It all depends...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Farmed, Foraged, Homegrown and Homemade

After my pasta-making extravaganza this morning, I spent all afternoon wondering what sort of sauce I should serve the raviolis with.  I mean, here are these wonderfully fresh pumpkin-sage raviolis.  A brown butter and sage sauce might be too much sage, right?

As I pondered this, I remembered that I had foraged a few cranberries in Maine last week.  So I did a little searching and came up with this sauce, paired with a pumpkin risotto.  I cut the recipe in half and, since I didn't have cranberry juice, just used water.  Here's my version:

1/6 cup water
1/2 cup frozen wild cranberries (foraged)
1/2 T. dijon mustard
1 shallot (small; farm)
2 T. sugar
4 T. brown butter

The first 5 ingredients were pureed in the blender and then the brown butter was added with the blender on low.  I set this aside while I cooked the raviolis and the rest of the homemade spaghetti.  In the pan in which I'd browned the butter I cooked all the little green beans from my bean plant.

The bean plant was brought to me at the end of kindergarten by my 6 year old who was excited last week to see that it was huge and had lots of little beans on it.  I think they were supposed to be kidney beans, but as they were all so tiny, I figured we could just eat them.  Once they were sauteed, I put them on the ravioli and topped it all with the cranberry sauce and a sprig of sage from the garden.  Wow.

Just Couldn't Wait

Really, truly, I had other things to do today. That involved being outside. Stacking wood, planting some ground cover, trimming. It's supposed to rain tomorrow, so it had to be today.

But that pasta maker called to me. "You missed me! You really missed me! I want to make pasta with you!"


I now have 3 and half dozen pumpkin raviolis, about one dinner each of spaghetti and fettucini, and a pile of stacked wood.

I used a basic pasta recipe: 1 pound of flour, 5 eggs, and a little olive oil. For the pumpkin filling, I made it up. I roasted a sugar pumpkin in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Then I scraped out the flesh and chilled it a little. I squeezed out all the water and added freshly picked and chopped sage (about 8 large leaves), half a container of whipped cream cheese, salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg.

I had a few technical difficulties making the raviolis, considering it's been about 16 years since I used the press I guess I forgot a few things. So, note-to-self: flour the press, use thickness 6 (consider thickness 5), and don't overfill!

Since I don't anticipate we'll eat all the ravioli tonight, I froze 2 dozen - currently they are sitting on waxed paper in the freezer and, when they are frozen, I will transfer them to bags. When the rest of the pasta is dry, I will figure out how to store it.


I am not the Pasta Queen.  This -

is the Pasta Queen.

I had this little press in medical school.  Don't even ask how I found the time to make my own pasta in medical school, but I did.  Plain, spinach, beet, carrot, lemon, lime (great with margarita shrimp), pepper, oh! the possibilities!

I got married, and in our first home I don't think I ever unpacked the press.  We moved again, this time the storage area was 3 flights down, so there was no way little gizmos such as this would be seen.  We moved again, 8 years ago, and just today, I have brought out this press.  I also dug out the ravioli press, which needs to be washed.  But I have nettles.  And pumpkins.

Oh, the possibilities!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Three Quarts

That's how much applesauce 13 large apples makes.

Today's applesauce was a bunch of golden delicious (I think) and some other kind of apple which was mostly green.  I did the usual thing, boiling them with the skins, but since the skins aren't red, the applesauce isn't pink.  It's yellow, like the applesauce in the store.  I added about 2 cups of sugar to the pot full - I say "about" because there was only a small amount left in the bag and I just dumped it in!

My in-laws just left for home, and I'm sad.  I like having them here.  But, of course, I couldn't let them go empty-handed!  They went home with 6 jars of jams, salsa and pickles to enjoy.  Be safe on your travels!

Friday, October 7, 2011

"There's a Lot of Stuff in My Fridge"

This is what I said to my sister earlier today.

Now, one batch of toorshi later, I have more room in that fridge.  This year's batch consisted of:

2 small cabbages (farm)
3 peppers (from my garden, picked before last night's frost)
4 jalapenos, 3 poblanos and 2 other, unidentifiable peppers (farm)
1.5 pounds carrots (farm)
1.5 heads of garlic, cloves peeled and halved (they were huge) - (farm)
a bunch of dill (farm)
and a bunch of celery and a head of cauliflower (Whole Foods)

The other day we opened last year's jar.  That batch had habaneros in it and it was HOT.  And really, really good.  My father had some and was inspired to open his jar from that last batch.  I think it may be mostly gone already!  In an effort to make this year's batch as hot, I left the seeds in the jalapenos.  Generally, it takes a few months for it to taste right, but it seems we generally wait almost a whole year before we open a jar, so it has a lot of time to get spicy!

Because I added cabbage this year, the volume was greater, so I ended up with 3 half-gallon jars.  One for my brother, one for my dad, and one for me.  Bliss!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Late Night Canning

It's almost 11 pm and I'm processing applesauce.  I wanted to finish up the last of the apples we picked, and I don't have a whole lot of blocks of time to do that in, so I decided to stay up late and make a batch.  This one is chunky with a little cinnamon.  12 or so apples, 2 cups of sugar, a cup of water and a heavy-handed sprinkle of cinnamon simmered for about 20 minutes and then went into 2 quart jars.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that I was up in Maine yesterday and, while we were hiking around, I found tiny little cranberry plants.  At least, I am pretty sure they are cranberries.  I ate one, it looked like a cranberry on the inside, tasted like a cranberry, and I'm not sick or anything, so I'm assuming they are edible.  I picked a couple dozen and will likely make a little sauce to go over some chicken soon.  Currently they are safely tucked in the freezer.  I also found a handful of very-late-in-the-season blueberries, which proved the tiniest of treats!