Wednesday, August 29, 2012

WIAW: Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

This week I'm not going to focus too much on what I ate, but more on what I made. There are some food pictures at the end. But yesterday, I was too busy cooking to take pictures of what I was eating.
But, I'm still going to link up with the awesome Jenn at Peas and Crayons, because I made something that's going to eventually be in a WIAW.
Spaghetti sauce!!!
I have three rather large tomato plants, Big Boy, Rutger and a Julianna Grape. In about two days I had ten ripe tomatoes, and that's more than I can eat before they go bad. I decided to make spaghetti sauce. Apparently, it can be tricky, you want a pressure cooker or the right amount of acid to kill botulism. Well, I didn't want to mess with that. So I looked around for recipes specifically for freezing. I went with this Freezer Spaghetti Sauce (link). I left out the green pepper and tomato paste (I wanted something fresh, no point in adding canned stuff).
 To peel a tomato, you want a pot of boiling water. Drop in your tomatoes, about two at a time and boil 45 seconds to a minute, some took longer than that. You're good to take it out the pot when you see the skin split. Take the tomato out with a giant slotted spoon and dump into a icy water bath.
The skin will slide right off. Then I quartered and de-seeded, and chopped the tomatoes. If you have stubborn seeds, run the tomato under water to help wash the seeds out. I had about 6 cups of tomatoes, and adjuted the recipe as needed. 

After the onions are cooked, add the tomatoes and spices and cook, cook cook. It took mine about
1 1/2 hours until they were done. 
Of course, it was way too chunky, so it got a ride in the blender, weeeee...and turned orange as a result. whatev
To make scooping easy, I placed a freezer quart bag in a wide mouth mug and dumped in 1 cup of sauce. 1 cup between Andrew and me will probably make two dinners. I don't like drenching my noodles in sauce. After they cooled for a few minutes in the quart sized bags I squeezed all the air out and sealed them. All three small bags went into a labeled gallon freezer bag for extra protection. 
I just had a little taste-it was pretty good, a little sweet (I think from the onions) and needed some more spice. I wasn't sure if frozen spices would get stronger in the freezer, but I didn't want to mess it up. So when I thaw these for cooking, I'll add some more spices while reheating.
Since I have so many tomatoes, this is something I will do again, I would love to not have to buy spaghetti sauce all winter long.
Alright, now to the food I did eat. Breakfast and lunch were pretty much the same as usual. But, I had to talk about some cool stuff. 
Wholly Guacamole! I first saw this product out in Texas and it was sooo good! It's gluten free and has no artificial anything. I finally saw it here in Ohio, but they also had these 100 calorie snack packs. So, cool. They have a bunch of potassium, and avocado is great. It's an easy, energy-packed snack pack...say that 5 times fast. 
Next up: More fake meat. Remember my Smart Sausage from last week? Yummy, well I decided to try their lean ground sausage in one of my favorite dishes. Sausage stuffed acorn squash.
This is a leaner meat, so there are less calories, less sodium, but still has excellent protein and potassium. Cut your squash in half, take out the seeds, form a ball of sausage and stuff into the squash. Cook at 350* for about 55 minutes. After it's cooked, add pepper and a touch of cinnamon.
Delicious! I am so pleased with their products, it smells and tastes like regular sausage. You can also see in red on the package that they don't use any freaky soy beans. I love that!  

Have you guys ever made spaghetti sauce?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thrifting and Fall Decor: Owls Ahead

Is anyone else ready for fall? I am. I am already drooling over holiday decorations, I even have several holiday/fall related Pinterest boards. : )
This week our Hobby Lobby had 40% off all Fall Decor and I figured I should check that out...

I wound up with only a few things. Several candles (which smell delicious). We love candles. As soon as the temperatures drop our house is alight with candles. I love the warm glow and scent of candles and we have boxes full of them.
Most of our candles sit on trays, so I bought the cute yellow glass owl votive holder. I also got the owl statue. It is meant to be a fall only decoration, but it looks pretty good holding up my James Herriot book, doesn't it?

I also decided to check out a thrift/consignment store we've only been to once. I didn't have anything in mind but figured I'd go check it out.
I've never considered myself a good thrifter. When I used to walk into a Goodwill or thrift store where I used to live I would feel all panicky and gross. They were so unorganized, messy and everything looked seriously used...badly.

The places I've been to in Ohio are so different. They are pretty neat and organized, and there are a few things that look battered but most everything looks like it came from a good home, was loved but just wasn't needed anymore.

With my thrifting odds greatly in my favor, I went over and wound up with stuff!!!
 Christmas tins!! Do you guys put your holiday treats in these kind of tins? I grew up with tins like this and I was telling my mom, that the sound of opening a tin to get a piece of chocolately fudge was part of the holiday experience. Putting goodies in tupperwares just isn't the same. The ugly green one on the left actually has a music box in the lid and plays "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". I think I'll spray paint that one to cover up the ugly green and yellow stuff.

Everything wound up being on sale and when I first went to check out I didn't have enough for the minimum purchase. So I had to go bulk up my finds. At the last minute I spied these awesome owl prints!
It was immediate love! I don't care for the frames, but those are easily replaced or painted. The feel of the prints is so vintage and cool. Plus, they're owls.

Like how Arson totally photo bombed the bottom pic?

I also bought two small milk vases and a reusable bag that says  "Keep Clark County Beautiful". I'm having fun getting ready for the holiday season and loving Ohio thrift stores.

Do you guys go thrifting? Find anything awesome?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

WIAW: More Zucchini

I have enjoyed cooking in my kitchen this week more than I ever have! Wanna know why? Because, it's finally painted. Everytime I walk into the kitchen I feel proud that it's done and happy that it looks so pretty. It's also caused me to wash the dishes after every meal (I can't stand the dirty dishes in my pretty kitchen anymore). I used to wash dishes once a day.
Anyway, let me show you what I ate this week!
Breakfast: Egg with half an orange, half a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and Chia seeds. Few tomatoes.

Lunch was interesting the other day because I tried a product I didn't think I ever would. Fake sausage! I was in the "fake meat" section the other day grabbing a package of tofu when I saw these Smart Sausages by Lightlife. I was intrigued and figured I'd give it a try. For my almost six months of no meat, I've stayed away from the fake meat products, I didn't see the point. My goal was not to experiment with fake meat, it was to focus on fresh foods, veggies and fruits. But, for some reason, I couldn't resist.
I took a good look at the nutrition label before buying and was surprised at the amount of protein and potassium, and the lack of fat. There is a bit of sodium, this isn't something I'd eat knowing my sodium intake would be high for the day. I tend to leave salt out of everything, even when a recipe calls for it, so having one item a day with a higher sodium content isn't the end of the world for me. But, keep it in mind.
I made mine in a fry pan with just a drizzle of olive oil. I loved it! It browned up beautifully and actually tasted like I was eating sweet Italian sausage. This would be great to bulk up a pasta dish, but I liked it all by itself. With my giant apple, Brie slices and tomatoes.
If you're wondering why I'm eating so many tomatoes, it's because I have to keep up with my plants.
The other day I also decided to experiment and make some zucchini chips. I saw one recipe that had olive oil, salt and pepper. So I tried that (first picture) minus the salt. I also tried a lemon basil (half of second picture) and then a horseradish (other half of second picture).
My favorite were the lemon basil. They turned out the crispiest. The ones with olive oil had a chewier texture. The horseradish ones were just ok.
The two trays made about 2 cups. It was pretty fun to make, and easy. Since I just put them in the dehydrator and let it do all the real work.
While looking for zucchini ideas I saw that the blossoms were edible. ooohhh.
I immediately went out and picked the ones that were there. I should have waited a day or two till they were bigger, but I was too impatient.

I saw a recipe that stuffed them with ricotta. I can do that. I made a ricotta/basil mixture and stuffed those pretty flowers and baked them. Delicious! Not to mention, pretty.

I had a pretty fun week making new food, especially since a lot of it came directly from my backyard.
Hopefully, in a few weeks my big tomatoes will be ripe and I'll be experimenting with making homemade spaghetti sauce for the freezer.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Kitchen Redo is Done!!!

YAY!! My kitchen is done! Well, mostly done. I still need curtains, a rug and more decor. But, the paint brushes are washed and put away and my kitchen no longer looks like a hardware store blew up in it.

Just to remind you how ugly it was before:

For paint I went with a pretty orange, Carrot Stick by Behr, only I color-matched it at Lowe's. Don't hate me Behr. The paint guy put that smiley face there. See why I prefer our Lowe's?

And here is some of the in-between. Painter's tape and all.

Then, voila! The gorgeous results. The picture on the left shows the view looking from the front door.

A while back, I picked up this Flock of Birds from Target for $20. I saw them and couldn't get them out of my head and bought them. I saw the empty corner above our trash can holder and knew that's where I wanted them. They are quite nice, they come with double-sided foam tape. 

And there ya go! A nice, wistful feeling for that corner. 

And just two more of the mostly finished kitchen. The wall by the table will eventually have something, but not sure about that yet. In between the windows we will hang a winerack and Andrew will be making me a small bar. I think it will really look great in the space. 

I never want to take on a painting project by myself again. If Andrew were here, we would have had this done in two-three days. I am glad it's done and I am so happy with it.

Let me know what you guys think. Any suggestions for the giant bare wall behind the table?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

WIAW: Zucchini Week

I hope everyone is having an excellent summer! The days and nights are cooling off a bit here and it feels great. In the morning I have to reach for a blanket!! Love it.
Let's celebrate summer with food, shall we? I've still been cooking like crazy but not being as diligent about taking pictures and sharing.

If you made some good food this week, you should share too with Jenn at Peas and Crayons.

Breakfast: An easy Lemon Chobani with Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and lemon-zucchini muffin and instant coffee.
Snack: A green smoothie-spinach, almond milk, banana (pretty basic, but yummy).
 This week has been all about zucchini. My single zucchini plant is not only productive, it's sneaky. I can check my plant one morning and have no zucchini and the next morning I have a giant one ready to be picked. Like this one that's as big as Arson.

So, of course I've been trying to find different ways to prepare it. I will definitely have to freeze some too. Dinner was sliced zucchini grilled up and filled with a mixture of Ricotta cheese, pepperjack, parmesan and pizza sauce baked in the oven. It turned out pretty good considering I just threw it together.

What I have been most intrigued by while searching for innovative ways to use zucchini is the myriad of dessert recipes. 
The first one I tried was a Lemon Loaf with Zucchini which turned out pretty good. It made a huge batch of bread and muffins(most of which are in the freezer). The lemon/zucchini combo was nice and refreshing.

The second was Chocolate Zucchini Muffins from Oh She Glows. I didn't use a few things from her recipe, I left out walnuts and chocolate chips. I also made a Chia egg(I was out of flax).
OMG DELICIOUS. Make these now. Perfect combo of chocolate and zucchini. I decided to frost some as well for a little more chocolate : )

I made my first ever homemade frosting, and I gotta say it is amazing. It will be hard to not devour all these in a few days.

I can't wait to try more zucchini recipes! Let me know if you guys have some tried and true favorites, I'd love to hear them!

In other, exciting news. I got a job!!!
I know I don't talk too much about my education/job life on here. But, I'm just so excited! The position is part time at the nature center where I currently volunteer.
It makes me feel good that my hard work is paying off and my career is moving in the right direction.