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Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Most Amazing Soup!

Have you ever eaten something that was EXACTLY what you’ve been craving? You know the dance; you’re hungry, don’t know what you want. You think of all your options at home or even from a restaurant or takeout. Two hours later, you still haven’t pin-pointed what it is you want. You end up eating something else, but it’s a bit depressing. You might even go through this same cycle for a few days afterwards.

And then, there’s the chance that you are in touch with yourself enough to know what you want, and you eat it. It’s more than just the physical or sensory satisfaction, there’s something else. There’s the spiritual or soulful satisfaction that you are listening to your body and you give it what it wants, or even needs.

Last night (a night of rest), I got back in the kitchen and made the most amazing soup ever! I had a craving for some sort of vegetable soup, and found this gem of course, on the Cooking Forum. I think what really threw this recipe over the edge was that I used 1 ½ pints of my homemade Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce instead of the canned tomato sauce called for in the recipe.
It was sublime.

This is also a really great option for using all those yummy summer veggies that are starting to ripen!

Jamie's Minestrone
Yields: 8 servings
NOTE: This original recipe would make a HUGE amount of soup, so I halved all the ingredients called for and had plenty

INGREDIENTS:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
5 carrots, sliced
2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 cups water
4 cups tomato sauce (I used homemade pasta sauce)
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
1 cup canned kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can green beans
2 cups baby spinach, rinsed
3 zucchinis, quartered and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup seashell pasta
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese for topping (I think Gruyere would be amazing!)
1 tablespoon olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a large stock pot, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and saute garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion and saute for 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, saute for 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Add chicken broth, water and tomato sauce, bring to boil, stirring frequently. If desired add red wine at this point. Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, green beans, spinach leaves, zucchini, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better.

3. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until tender. Drain water and set aside.

4. Once pasta is cooked and soup is heated through place 2 tablespoons cooked pasta into individual serving bowls. Ladle soup on top of pasta and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

E-mail Conversation

Me: So, what do you think about buying a nail gun?

Hubs: I am not a fan of nail guns (I will caveat this prejudice may be a result of witnessing their poor use in home construction, see Hurricane Andrew).

Me: You're funny!

Hubs: Funny as in "ha-ha" or funny "strange"?

Me: Does it matter?

Sweetness, I was only joking

On top of laying tile in a bathroom remodel, I’m still able to throw a fabulous meal together, dust the furniture, bake cookies, iron underwear, and twirl around the house in my stylish shirtdress and conservative sling-back heels. Bling!

HAH!

We still have to eat around here, even if a good portion of the house is in chaos and life is all about waiting for things to dry. Actually, I believe that all major projects shouldn’t begin without a good meal. It helps if you’re not already cranky from hunger.

Believe it or not, hubs is becoming quite adept at using my pressure cooker. I sent him instructions on how to throw this pot-roast together and he did a spot-on job of it. See, we’re all learning new things around here!

3 Envelope Pot Roast

1 pkg. ranch dressing mix - the dry mix
1 pkg. Italian dressing mix - "
1 pkg. brown gravy mix - also dry

Mix them all together in a bowl.

With 2 tablespoons of olive oil, brown pot-roast on all sides on med-high heat. You can brown the meat in your pressure cooker pot and save on making another dirty dish. Take pot roast out of pressure cooker, place on plate, and sprinkle about 1/2 to 2/3 of the dried mix (you are supposed to use the entire amount, but most find that too salty) on both sides of the roast. Place pot roast back in pressure cooker, add 1 cup of water. Put lid on, wait for pressure to come up, and cook per time for your make of PC for a pot roast.

When finished cooking, remove pot-roast and add a slurry of cornstarch and water to the gravy and thicken.

**Note: If you don’t have a pressure cooker, simply follow the same instructions except place pot-roast in a dutch oven with one cup of water. Cook in 300° oven for approximately 90 minutes, or until it reaches your desired tenderness.

This pot-roast was actually VERY good and had a very good flavor. We served it with some good-ole’ fashioned mashed taters, and beans. It came with high reviews from the Cooking Forum. Yum!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pray the Anger Away

Wanna know what we’re fighting about? The plastic, crapass miter box you can buy at either Home Despot or Lowes. We’re doing the baseboards now and hubs says, “I don’t know how the Amish do it, but my last name isn’t Yoder!” We sweated, cursed, and called it a night when things got ugly. “I wonder how the Amish deal with crap like baseboards?” Hubs replies, “They pray the anger away.”

We deal with it by drinking heavily. Seriously, a miter saw is in the works TODAY. Nothing fancy, schmancy, but mid-to-upper range. I don’t need something that will build a barn.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Divorce in the Making

Remember that bathroom remodel I was talking about earlier? Well, we have all of the supplies, gutted the bathrooms, and then waited for the tile guy to show up.

Well, we waited and waited.

The jerk had the nerve to flake out on us two days in a row and didn't show. Good thing we didn't give him any money! Why is it that contractors feel that if a job isn't big enough, it relieves them of the testicular fortitude to tell you they don't want to do it? Instead, they'll "commit" and flake out without a phone call. This is after you've taken off time from work. The sad part is, this isn't the first time I've had to go through this with a contractor.

GRRRRrrrrrr!

So that means we are DOING IT OURSELVES! Both bathrooms. Should I hire an attorney now? I see many marital spats on the near horizon.

FC, how far are you from Orlando??? :-)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Meet Barry!

Meet Barry the Box Turtle! On occasion, I’ve heard some serious scurrying going on under the bushes & plants in the garden (can turtles scurry?). I never thought much of it, as we have quite an assortment of critters in our yard, to include Mr. Burns the garter snake, lizards, birds, squirrels, rabbits and whatever else comes out at night. But the other day, I found this little guy underneath a huge porterweed bush while I was hacking back my over-aggressive Joseph’s Coat.
At first, I started leaving him (her?) some veggies and salad to munch, but I later found out that box turtles are really carnivores (Hmmm…so who’s been eating the veggies I left?). Now I know what’s been happening to my earthworm population! Over the past year, I must have “relocated” close to 100 earthworms to my garden and never can find any when I dig. The soil is perfect for them, moist, lots of organic matter, poop (cow, not mine), leaves. Little monster!

Till then, he’s free to roam around and chill.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Florida Farmer's Market

I’ve had a little time off this week, so I took the time to visit one of our local farmer’s markets. Now, this market is held on WEDNESDAY of all days (why not Saturday when most people have off?), which makes it hard for me to get out there more than a couple of times a year. I’m usually in and out of there by 9 a.m., as it gets to oh…150° after 10 a.m. and I’m a dripping ball of sweat.

This is Barefoot Bill. He NEVER wears shoes. Ever. Even if the temperature outside is icy and frigid, Bill is Barefoot. Hence the name. But, Barefoot Bill sells only what he grows and it’s 100% organic.

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I met this lady shucking some yummy looking purple zipper peas. I asked her how to cook them and she said, “First you shuck them. Then you throw them in a big ole’ pot with some fat-back or some salt pork. A ham bone is good and so is bacon. Then you add some water and simmer them for about an hour till the gravy gets good and thick. They’ll be real good ‘bout then.”

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And that’s exactly what I did. And they were VERY good. I made a big pan of cornbread and some fried (sautéed) cabbage to go with them. YUM! That’s what we had for lunch.

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The rest of the farmers market is a flea market, where you could buy all sorts of things like scary, creepy baby dolls.

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Or this kick-ass wine bottle (which I did) for $1.

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But basically, I was there for the tomatoes. I made and put up a big batch of Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce. Enjoy!

Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce

8 cups (2 L) coarsely chopped peeled tomatoes -- (about 9-12 tomatoes or 4 lb/2 kg)
1 cup chopped onion -- (250 mL)
3 cloves garlic -- minced
2/3 cup red wine -- (150 mL)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar (5 % strength) -- (75 mL)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil -- (125 mL)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley -- (15 mL)
1 teaspoon pickling salt -- (5 mL)
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar -- (2 mL)
1 6-oz/156 mL) can tomato paste

Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, wine, vinegar, basil, parsley, salt, sugar and tomato paste in a very large non-reactive pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until mixture reaches desired consistency, stirring frequently.

Remove hot jars from canner and ladle sauce into jars to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of rim (head space). Process 35 minutes for pin (500 mL) jars and 40 minutes for quart (1 L) jars in a BWB.
Yield: "8 cups"

Note: If you don't can or preserve, this sauce is great on it's own right away. It also makes an excellent base for a quick pizza.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Quiche Me, Dahling!

Like Chinese food, I like the IDEA of eating quiche, but I don’t like to make it. I don’t know why that is, but I think it has something to do with the eggs. It just sounds so high-maintenance, like soufflés or custards. Eggy things that need tempering and beating and folding. And then I’m disappointed and always think, this is just an egg dish. I spent all that time and high expectation on an egg dish! Bah!

BUT, (there’s always a but!) sometimes I think all that extra effort is worth it. Like homemade ice-cream or this dish. My Jedi Masters promised it to be good, and deliver they did!

SALMON QUICHE WITH WALNUT CRUMB CRUST
Recipe source: The Cooking Forum (Thanks Annie!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Pastry:
Easy - doesn't require rolling, just press down with fingers and back of a spoon into a 24 cm (9.5 inch) pyrex flan dish or pie plate.

1 - 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cheddar cheese (grated)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup walnuts finely chopped – I used a food processor

Mix these ingredients in a bowl, cutting in butter with two knives until crumbly then press into a pie dish, including up the sides. Bake in pre-heated oven for five minutes. Then remove from oven. Meanwhile mix the following ingredients in a bowl:

Filling:
3 eggs beat till frothy
3/4 cup sour cream
1 cup mozzarella cheese (grated)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 can salmon (7 3/4 ounces) – Or use some fresh, baked salmon
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Pour the filling ingredients into the pie crust - bake in oven approximately 45 minutes or until knife inserted in centre comes out clean.

**Note: The crust for this was AMAZING; however, I felt the quiche "needed something" like maybe some dill or a sour cream dill sauce.

Monday, July 14, 2008

In Memory of Olive

Read here about Olive, the world's oldest blogger.

So sad, but incredibly inspiring. I am amazed at the stories of other people's lives, especially our elders who have witnessed so much in their time. I think everyone over 80 should have a blog. We need to hear their stories!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Yellow Prism

We finally bottled the Banana Grigio a few weeks ago. I woke up the next morning to see the morning light coming in through the windows. Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Holy Guacamole!

I have fruit envy. I get especially jealous around this time of year, and well into the fall, of other people’s fruit trees. I can only imagine what it must be like to have an over abundance of cherries, plums, apples, or even avocadoes. Can you only imagine what it would be like to have too many Haas avocadoes?!! I can hardly process that thought. How can one have TOO many avocadoes? Boggling.

But, you know the grass is always greener. I’m sure there are people in other places who dream of growing citrus, Meyor lemons, papaya, and mango in their back yards. Florida has avocadoes too, but they’re not the same as Haas…not as rich and buttery. I wish I could swap; I don’t even like mangos. Sigh.

Last night hubs and I made fajitas on the grill. I my opinion, no fajita is complete without guacamole. It’s so easy to make, yet it’s a personal thing. Some people like it lumpy, some smooth. Some want it with jalapenos, some not. Some say tomatoes are a no-no, others wouldn’t call it guacamole without it. In all cases, you need slightly soft, fresh avocadoes; they should have a little give when you squeeze them.

Fresh Guacamole

3 ripe Hass avocadoes
3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup minced red onion
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ to 1 fresh lime, squeezed
1 small jalapeno, minced (rib and deseed if you don’t want the heat!)
Salt
Pepper

Cut avocadoes in half, stem to core, and remove the pits. Scoop flesh out with a spoon and mash till lumpy in a bowl. Add tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice (to taste), jalapeno, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well with a spoon; keep refrigerated.

Dig in with some chips!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Gilroy Wuz Here!

Any of you who may be on “low cholesterol” or “low fat” diets turn away right now. I beg you. I will not be held responsible for your health, nor your downfall.

The following recipe combines the holy trinity of artery clogging, heart disease inducing, cardiologist cringing ingredients: butter, cheese, and mayonnaise.

See that? That’s my garage with two sets of toilets, two granite vanity sink toppers, two sets of faucets, some tiling, and one Lowes stock item bathroom vanity cabinet (the other is on back order). Do you know what that means? It’s a REMODEL boys and girls!

Wanna’ know how to wrap the Lowes Specialty Bath and Plumbing guy right around your finger? You bring him a pan of homemade lasagna, garlic bread, and homemade chocolate, chocolate cookies.

He’ll do ANYTHING for you!

Gilroy Garlic Bread
This is another dandy from the Cooking Forum
Supposedly, this won the Gilroy Garlic Festival cooking contest (wherever that is)

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temp
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon (generous) dried oregano, crumbled
1 1-pound loaf French bread, halved lengthwise

Thoroughly combine first 6 ingredients in medium bowl. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Refrigerate. Bring to room temp before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 375*. Spread garlic butter on cut side of bread, wrap each half in foil. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Refrigerate.) Place bread on baking sheet cut side up. Bake 20 minutes. (I baked about 10 minutes, then followed with a few minutes under the broiler) Remove foil from bread.

*Note: the butter spread made quite a bit and I had a lot left over. Save the rest in the refrigerator for future use.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tagged!

I've been tagged by Cooking in Cleveland! As with all tags, there are rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on the blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

A few random things about me:

1. I'm a certified rescue diver.
2. When I was 12, I was attacked by a feral cat that jumped up on my face (think of the egg-hatcher things in the movie Alien) and bit me. I had to get 12 stitches.
3. I have a bad habit of chewing my lips when I'm anxious. I do it almost all the time.
4. I'd rather have cheese than chocolate.
5. I have a birthmark, about the size of a silver dollar, behind my right knee.
6. I'm terrified of clowns.

O.k., I am tagging:

Gina at Lindsay's Luscious
SJ at I Asshole
Sol at Memories in the Baking
That cute guy, FC, at Pure Florida
Dances, at Dances in Garden
Jojo at Goings on at Jojo's
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