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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'!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bread!

Is it Wednesday already? These past two weeks have kept me as busy as a one-armed paper hanger on a windy day! I don't know where all the time goes, but homemade bread always has a way of slowing things down.

A few weeks ago, I visited another loverly blogger's website at Lindsey's Luscious and spied a tasty looking bread recipe. It looked good enough for me to brave snail-mail spam and order a bag of Harvest Grains Blend from King Aurthur Flour company.

Why is it that when you order something from one company, a thousand other companies send you junk mail for their junk? Anyway, the bread was worth the risk! Thanks Gina!

BTW, this makes the best damn toast you ever wrapped your lips around!

Ahem.


Honey Oatmeal Harvest Grains Bread
Recipe Source: Lindsey's Luscious

Makes 2 large loaves

1 cup prepared steel-cut Irish oatmeal (cooled)
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup whole milk
1 egg
1/2 cup honey
4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup mixed nuts and seeds (I used KA's Harvest Grains Blend)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup water (more or less/as needed)
egg wash (one egg beaten with a tablespoon of half-and-half)
rolled oats

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine all ingredients except the egg wash and rolled oats. Mix until fully combined, cover the mixer with a tea towel, and let sit for about 20 minutes to fully hydrate the dough before kneading.

After the dough rests, remove the towel, turn the mixer up to medium speed (about 4 on my Kitchen Aid) and knead with the dough hook for five minutes (it will seem a little soft and sticky, but that's okay).Turn the dough into a large, greased bowl (I spray mine), cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled.

Punch down the dough, divide in half, and on a well-floured work surface, shape into two rectangular loaves. Press each loaf into a well-greased pan. Cover the loaves loosely with sprayed plastic wrap, and let proof in a warm place for about a half hour, until about an inch over the top of the pans. While the loaves are proofing, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.When loaves have fully proofed, carefully remove the plastic wrap, brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle liberally with rolled oats.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the loaves are golden brown on the bottom. (You may need to cover the tops of the loaves with foil after 30 minutes to prevent over-browning.) Remove from the oven, and cool loaves in the pans on a rack for fifteen minutes or so. Then turn the loaves out of the pans and cool completely on the rack. Store in an airtight container, bag, or wrap.

Photo from Lindsey's Luscious

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Clam Chowder!

Feeling a little chilly today? Well, I have the perfect thing for you! How 'bout a nice hot bowl of clam chowder with some crusty bread, or even some oyster crackers? A glass of white wine, a big ol' blanket to wrap around you, a good book or movie on the couch and I'm set. Baby, it's cold outside today!

Many people I know don't make clam chowder that often because it seems like a lot of work. I'm one of them. My typical recipe involves makeing a roux, and let's not even talk about whether to use real or canned clams. I'm already tired!

Well anyway, I had a hankering for clam chowder but didn't have the time to make it the way I usually do. I found this recipe on Recipezaar and it seemed easy enough to send to Hubs and let him take the lead.

Let me tell you, I've had A LOT of clam chowder in my time and this stuff ROCKED!! I was impressively surprised and it is so, so, so easy! Don't be a hater because of the Cream of Celery soup, trust me!

Clam Chowder
Recipe Source: Recipezaar

6-7 pieces bacon, cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
2 (5 ounce) cans baby clams, with juice reserved (drain juice into a bowl or cup)
1 bottle clam juice
5 potatoes, peeled and cubed into 2” chunks
2 (10 1/2 ounce) cans cream of celery soup
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 ½ tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon dried dill weed (if you don’t have dill weed, use thyme)
1 tsp pepper
Salt to taste

Add bacon to dutch oven and cook on medium heat until crispy. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add clam juice from both cans plus bottle of clam juice. Add potatoes, bring to a simmer, and cover until potatoes are fork tender, about 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally so potatoes won't stick. Add clams, soup, cream, milk, dill weed, and stir together. Add butter and let melt into the chowder, then add pepper. Simmer for about 30-45 minutes or until thickened. Stir occasionally and add salt to taste.

NOTE: This can be lightened by using 2 cups of milk instead of cream.

Image source: http://www.treehugger.com/

Monday, February 02, 2009

Superbowl Sangria

My head hurts a little today. Maybe it's because I drank too much of this last night:

Spanish Sangria
Recipe source: Barbara Hansen's Mexican Cookery (1981)

1 bottle, dry full bodied red wine
2 tablespoon orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)
1/3 cup of simple syrup
1 lime thinly sliced
1 orange thinly sliced
1 lemon thinly sliced
Juice of one orange
1 cup club soda

Combine wine, syrup, brandy and orange juice and stir. Add sliced fruit and just before serving add the soda water. Do not let the fruit slices sit in the Sangria for more than one hour before serving as the peels can cause the drink to be bitter.

Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Bring water and sugar to a boil and simmer until liquid is clear and the sugar has dissolved. Pour in to jar and refrigerate. Keep for 3 weeks.

Servings: 4
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