Monday, October 25, 2010

No More Tiny Barbie Kitchen

My kitchen has been transformed. Barbie would be proud.

The weather here has been stormy all weekend. Lots of wind and rain. Time to focus my energy indoors. I had been saving up to take a nice vacation the beginning of November. Those plans hit a snag. Hmmmm....what to do with my savings? How about expanding the Barbie kitchen? Time to make another visit to Ikea. My shopping list included: A Varde base cabinet, another Gorm shelf and a a 5'7" x 7'10" Dragor rug. First, let me remind you what my kitchen eating area looked like.

We rarely sit down to eat as a family. The teen is never home and the husband and I work different shifts. The table becomes a catch all for all sorts of junk. You usually couldn't sit down to eat if you wanted to. My first order of business was to move the table and chairs, around the corner, and into the living room. The new rug is underneath it, to protect the hardwood floor.

Now it was time to have the hubby assemble the new base cabinet. Here it is, with Gladys happily perched on top.

Look at all this storage room! Before:

And after I rounded up all my various kitchen paraphernalia from the spare bedroom, linen closet, and everywhere else I'd stashed it:

The second Gorm shelf joined the one already in place. I'll have the hubby fasten them together and install a couple of cheap 4 foot shop lights under the shelves. The plan is to use this space to grow lettuce, green onions and herbs over the winter. I'll keep you updated as to my progress. And you can see that the bottom shelves are handy for storing my crock pot, dehydrator, etc...

The last addition to the kitchen was found on my favorite shopping site, Craigslist. I wanted some type of rolling butcher block island, for additional kitchen work space. When I saw this Oasis Concepts island offered on Craigslist I knew it would be well worth the drive to Kirkland to get it. It was brand new, still in the shipping box, and I paid a mere $100. Sweet!

It doesn't appear my model is offered anymore, but this is the closest. It looks the same, except mine has a towel bar. BTW, if you are in the market for a kitchen island, I highly recommend the Oasis Concepts products. They are extremely well made, and they fold up, in case you want them out of the way. So now you know what I've been up to. The rain continues to come down and the wind is not letting up. I swear, my chickens have webbed feet. Their run is a mud pit, and they are so happy. The 3 of them have produced 6 eggs over the past 2 days. That hasn't happened since the summer. They are truly Pacific Northwest hens.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Breakfast Sausage

Safeway had a BOGO deal on their pork and beef roasts, last week. I decided it was time to try to make some sausage. First up? Breakfast sausage with 3# of the pork. I recently bought some sheep casings. Just the right size for little breakfast sausages. I opened up the package of casings, took one whiff, and thought they must be spoiled or something. They smell rank. But after looking around on the web I discovered that they aren't rotten, they just smell awful. I had to rinse the salt off them and soak them in water for 30 minutes, to soften them up. While the casings were soaking, I ground the pork.

After this first grind, I mixed in the seasonings, let it sit in the freezer for 30 minutes, then reground it. Now it was time to stuff the casings.

Let me just say, I am not at all impressed with the sausage stuffer attachment for the KitchenAid. It took FOREVER to stuff this 3# of sausage. Sausage stuffing is really a two person job. One to load the grinder, and one to control the casings. Since I was all by my lonesome I had to do both jobs at the same time. Needless to say my sausage isn't the prettiest. And my arms got really tired. But here is my filled sausage.

Now to twist it off into individual links and hang it to dry for 30 minutes. Hang it to dry? Where? Time to rig up something like coat hangers on the back of a chair.

Good thing the cat didn't wake up. Here are my little sausages, all ready for the freezer.

And here is the breakfast I fixed for my sweetie, this morning. He said they tasted like breakfast sausage from the store, and he's still alive tonight, so I guess it was a success.

Here are the seasonings I used.

Mild Breakfast Sausage
Per each pound of ground pork, add:
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. ground sage
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 TBS. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/8 tsp. paprika

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Frost On The Pumpkin

Woke up this morning to frost on the ground. I knew it was coming. There's been a chill in the air all week, in spite of the clear, sunny sky. I need to finish up the last bits of yard work, like mulching the garlic. Speaking of which, the hard neck garlic is sprouting.

This is my first year growing garlic, so I didn't know what to expect. The 2 containers of soft neck garlic aren't sending up any shoots. My yellow eyed grass babies are beginning to flower. A bit late, but pretty none the less.

Not a whole lot going on around here, this past week. I had my son Errol over for our Friday night "dinner & TV" and made him some fried rice.

And I'm getting psyched up about going to Ikea, next Sunday, to pick up my new kitchen base cabinet. It will go where the kitchen table is now, and the table and chairs will move into the living room area. No one ever sits at them, except on holidays, and I need this kitchen space for food prep.

Friday, October 8, 2010

100% Momma Made Dinner

Friday nights are when my son, Errol, and I get together for dinner and some TV. I like to make sure he gets at least one home cooked meal a week. And he definitely appreciates his momma's cooking. I decided to surprise him with this 100% momma made meal, meaning it was all made from scratch and some of it even came from my garden.

I made the pasta this morning. I think I'm finally getting the hang of it. This is my second attempt at spaghetti. There is definitely a bit of a learning curve.

The bread was baked this past Monday. The sauce was made a few days ago with tomatoes and herbs from this year's garden. Most was frozen for future use but I had set this aside.

I defrosted some of the beef I'd ground, to add to the sauce. The beef is so lean that I had to add oil in order to fry it up. Look, no added water like when you buy it from Safeway. You end up with a pan full of beef floating in hot water. Yuck. This is all beef.

The green beans were actually from 2009's garden bounty. I still have some in the freezer. Better eat them up. I didn't grow any beans this year.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Time To Plant Garlic

It's that time, folks. Time to get your seed garlic in the ground. This is my first year attempting to grow garlic. I always forget that it needs to be planted in the fall. But this year I remembered! A yarn shop customer of mine works at the Portland Avenue Nursery so, of course, I shopped local when looking for my own seed garlic. Got to keep that money in Tacoma! And my customer happened to be working the day I visited (hi Sandra!). She gave me a quick lesson on growing garlic and I picked out 4 varieties...2 soft neck and 2 hard neck. The soft neck keep the longest but, since I don't know which I prefer, I decided to get a selection this first time. Here are the varieties I brought home.

I actually purchased these last week and have been waiting for an opportunity to get them into the ground. First I needed to decide where to put them. I ultimately decided on pots. I just don't have enough room in my garden. Seriously, I need a farm. You think I'm joking? are the pots. I've already planted the first one and the rest have the garlic cloves ready and waiting.

I'll leave you with some updated photos of "the girls". (Joanie's a camera hog).

Joanie and Shirley.

Laverne and Joanie.

Spaghetti Sauce Time

The tomatoes just keep on coming. I can't believe they are finally getting ripe. It's almost Halloween. Oh well. We'll take 'em when we get 'em. I've been working on a spaghetti sauce recipe. This last batch turned out wonderful. This recipe may be "the one".

I got these 4 jars, plus a Pyrex bowl full (that I'll eat tomorrow night). Why aren't the jars full? I am going to store these in the freezer and the contents need lots of room to expand. You don't want glass jars rupturing in the freezer. That would be a nasty mess to clean up. I would much prefer to water bath can the sauce, but I have the wrong type of stove (glass top). Freezing will have to do. I started the sauce process Tuesday night, after work. I got Gladys all set up with her strainer attachment and began blanching and peeling the tomatoes.

I have to say I was disappointed in the KitchenAid strainer. If I wanted "tomato juice" it would be fine. But it was taking out most of the tomato along with the seeds. I quickly abandoned that idea and went back to chopping the tomatoes in the food processor (R2D2). I don't mind seeds in my sauce. This spaghetti sauce is easy to make using your slow cooker. It needs to be the large size.

Roxi's Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce

10 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, skins removed
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cans tomato paste
2 Tbs. dried basil
2 Tbs. dried parsley
1 Tbs. dried oregano
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 Tbs. salt (or to taste)
1 tsp. pepper

Place tomatoes in a large crock pot. Saute onions, pepper, and garlic in olive oil. Add to pot. Add remaining ingredients. Stir well. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours to allow flavors to meld. Crack the lid, by setting it slightly to the side, to allow moisture to escape and cook on LOW another 4 hours. Freeze or can.

I was able to use my home grown basil and parsley in the sauce. I am getting quite a bit of use out of my dehydrator. Here is the parsley. This is from 2 plants. I started with 4 racks full. Then I condensed it down to one rack. Here it is when completely dry.

I then removed the leaves from the stems and crushed up the leaves before storing them in these handy jars which I'd re purposed. They used to hold Japanese "sprinkles". The kind you put on rice.