Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pantry Stew

Tonight I made pantry stew in honor of my dad, who was known for mixing his food in crazy fashion.  He would have loved this soup.  Tomorrow it will be 8 years since we lost him to lung disease.  I miss him.

I decided to share the recipe with you.  The problem is, there is no recipe.

So, I decided to take a picture of the pot I made tonight...but then stopped, because I realized that that would be misleading; it never looks the same way twice. 

I'm just going to tell you about this wonder.  You take whatever you happen to have in the pantry by way of veggies or beans and throw it in with some root veggies or whatever is going to go bad if it doesn't get used.

Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself...I'll start from the beginning.

Start by heating up some olive oil on medium and then saute a chopped up onion and a couple of cloves of garlic.  Brown some ground beef or some stew meat. 

Add to that a couple of carrots, a couple of stalks of celery, and a couple of potatoes.  Have squash? Add it.  Have zucchini?  Add it.  Have broccoli?  Add it.

It is that kind of dish...forget "a cup of" or "two tsps of"...its just "some" and "a couple".  Let your hair down.  Be free.
Pour in a can of chicken or beef stock.  Add enough water to come up to the top of the veggies already in the pot.  Use bullion instead of stock, if you must.

Pinch of salt and some pepper.

This is where it gets interesting.  Ready?

Beans.  I added great northern, black, kidney, and green tonight.  Sometimes I add pinto.  Sometimes I add navy.  I always mix it up.  Three or four cans is about right.

I added a can of corn tonight too.  And a small can of green chilis.  And a small bottle of pimentos, because I wanted the jar to use for salad dressing in my lunch.  I threw in a handful of chopped tomatoes.  Sometimes I use a can of diced. Tonight I used fresh, because they are coming out of my garden right now.  I was going to add mushrooms, but only had canned and didn't feel like it.  So sue me.

Once the potatoes are tender, I add the spices.  This gets fun because I pull down half my spice cabinet to do it.

Basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley, marjoram, and savory.  Pinch of each.  I thought about dill and then decided that wasn't the direction my heart was taking me.  Turmeric, cumin, and red pepper tonight.  Just a bit. A dash of seasoning salt. Splashes of Worcestershire sauce.

Voila! Curl up on the couch with a bowl of this in your lap.  I'm going to eat mine with some homemade bread my visiting teacher brought me yesterday. 

Have I mentioned I love fall?  And my dad. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Talk of the Taters

We dug up a couple hundred pounds of potatoes a couple of weeks ago, and my niece Kayla gathered all of the "potatoes with personality" and put them in a bucket for me. They have been sitting in the produce fridge ever since, and as I went to retrieve the neglected pears also sitting there, I spied them with my little eye!

They are so cute.

They are almost human.

And I need your help in giving them names. There's a name associated with each one, which I put below each picture as to not screw with your thoughts, but my question for this psychotherapy session is....

What do you see in the 'tato??

So.... without any further ado, here are the taters...

Tater #1

"Sitting Dog"

Tater #2

"I Have No Clue"

Tater #3

"The Mouth"

 Tater #4
"Rubber Ducky"

Tater #5
"Bulbous-Nosed Man with a Distinguished Brow"

Tater #6

"Rubber Ducky Reincarnate" or "Laying Dog"

Tater #7

"The Hand" 
Dun dun dun duuuuuuun...

Tater #7
"Sloth?" or "Winnie the Pooh"

Tater #8

Tater #9
"Little Lamb"

And a family of taters...  or ducks. I can't decide. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Saucy Situation

There was a saucy situation going down in my kitchen today...

I received an email from OSU Extension Agent Ross Penhallegon, advising me to pick tomatoes and use them in sauce immediately. The weather we've been experiencing in Oregon lately has been less than ideal for growing tomatoes.

Heat, rain, heat rain... that makes for a lot of cracked, pathetic, and confused tomatoes.

I decided to get crackin' myself and whip out a batch of sauce.

We use this sauce for everything... pastas, pizzas, calzones, lasagna... it's a wonder sauce. It's fabulous.

The recipe comes from Barbara Kingsolver's Book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" - a must read if you haven't done so already.

She calls it her...


Dun dun dun duuuuuuuunnn...


Straight from the book: 'The point of this recipe is to make a large amount at one time, when tomatoes are in season. If you are canning it, stick closely to the recipe; adding additional fresh vegetables will change the pH so it's unsafe for water-bath canning. If you're freezing it, then it's fine to throw in peppers, mushrooms, fresh garlic, whatever you want. This recipe makes 6-7 quarts - you can use any combination of pint and quart canning jars or freezer boxes."

I got 10 quarts out of my batch, and only did one thing different than the recipe calls for.

I let my simmer.

Overnight. All night. The whole night. Night entirety.

It was a glorious smell to wake up to. Really.

Here's what you'll need:

10 quarts tomato puree (about 30 lbs of tomatoes) - And if you're a little slow like me, that's 40 cups. That's how I measured mine out. While I was washing the tomatoes, I cored them and then I chucked them in my blender and frapped the suckers. It felt good. 
4 large onions, chopped
1 cup dried basil
1/2 cup honey
4 Tablespoons dried oregano
3 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons ground dried lemon peel - I didn't have any so I left it out. So there.
2 Tablespoons thyme
2 Tablespoons garlic powder (or more, to taste) - I used the 2T garlic powder, plus about 3T garlic salt. Cause I'm crazy. And I have a husband who hates sweet sauce but loves garlic. Can you blame him?
2 Tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Soften onions in a heavy kettle (I used my big aluminum stock pot) - add a small amount of water if necessary but NO OIL IF YOU ARE CANNING.

Add pureed tomatoes.


Add all seasonings.

Bring to a boil, and simmer on low heat for two to three hours until sauce has thickened to your liking. Stir frequently, especially toward the end, to avoid burning.

This is where I changed things up a bit. I let the sauce simmer all night long. Aaaalllll niiiiggghhhttt loooong! Aaaalll niiigghht. Okay I'm done singing. 

I can let things simmer all night long for two reasons: 

1. I have a natural gas stove. I wouldn't recommend doing this on an electric range - ask my sister how that fares. 

2. I am pregnant. Let me rephrase that... I am hugely, ginormously,8 months, fatty fatty type pregnant... which means I don't sleep so good. I toss and I turn and even when I can get comfortable and I don't have to pee, I still wake up at 3 am just for kicks and find myself fully alert and energized. I swear that's my body preparing me for late-night feedings. Anyways, I'm not complaining - I still get enough sleep - but I can get up several times in the middle of the night to stir sauce and not think twice about it. Last night D woke up and I was just sitting in bed, staring off into space. He looked at me like I was nutso and in only a way D could, asked sincerely, "Everything okay?" He's so sweet. I let him know I was just contemplating the meaning of life and that he was free to go back to sleep. Don't mind the crazed fat lady sitting next to you. Dream away. 

Where was I? 

Oh yes. I can leave sauce simmering. You may not be able to. If you cannot, follow Barbara's recommendation. If you can, praise the Heavens because it means you can break this saucy situation into two days. Excellent. Procrastination at its finest. 

This morning I collected my canning things, fed the child in the high chair, and started filling quart jars. 10 quarts of sauce is easy shtuff. 

If you can't simmer when the sun's down, continue the process as follows... 

Meanwhile, (this is back when you've added your seasonings and such to your sauce... I'm almost positive you forget where I left you) heat water in canner bath, sterilize jars in boiling water or dishwasher (what's that?) and pour boiling water over jar lids.

SIDE NOTE: Make canning easier on yourself, and use a couple of tricks that women have used since the dawn of time. They're tried and true, and they are glorious. I like easy. Easy peasy. 

1. Steal your paper towel holder. use it to hold your rings so you're not chasing them all over the counter. They're slippery little buggers. 

2. Don't run your jars through the dishwasher every time you're going to use them. Run them under hot water for a  moment, drain them, and then stick them in the oven at about 250 degrees. I promise by the time you use them, there will be nothing living. And then they're piping hot when you put what you're canning into them. Love it.

Bottled lemon juice or citric acid - NOT optional!

Add 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice OR 1/2 teaspoon citric acid to each quart jar (half that much to pint jars). This ensures that the sauce will be safely acidic.

When the sauce is ready, ladle it into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Cap jars, lower gently into the canner and boil for 35 minutes. Remove, cool, check all seals, and store for winter.


Voila! You  have Super Sauce!!!!

And thank you Barbara Kingsolver!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What CAN'T Zucchini Do??

I started this post and then forgot about it somewhere between grading papers, reading the Hunger Games series (which I totally recommend as some fine YA fiction), and cleaning my house...because this is what it often looks like in my kitchen.


It's a crying shame too, that you had to wait for so long for it though, because if there is one thing that can compete with the chocolate zucchini cake for top zuke spot, it is zucchini salsa. I'm serious people.  I can eat a jar of this stuff in one sitting, chips are optional.

Start with 10 cups of food-processed zucchini.  Add four chopped onions, four chopped bell peppers, and 1/4 cup of pickling salt.  Let that stand overnight, of for at least six hours.


Next, rinse and drain the mix, making sure to press on it to get most of the water out.  No one likes watery salsa.  Put it in a pot and add the following million secret ingredients that make it so divine you want to eat nothing else for a while:
  • 2 Tbs. of dry mustard
  • 2 Tbs. of garlic powder
  • 2 Tbs. of cumin
  • 1 C and 1 Tbs. of white vinegar
  • 3/4 C of brown sugar
  • 1 - 2 Tbs. of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. of pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 - 4 jalapenos (Use gloves and don't touch your eyes. I'm speaking from experience here.)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro chopped
  • 5 C of chopped ripe tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs. of cornstarch
  • 12 ounces of tomato paste
Bring that to a boil and simmer until you get your desired thickness.

Look at all those beautiful garden grown veggies.


Come to mama.


Pour into clean bottles and water bath those babies for about 20 minutes.  Makes about eight pints.


I really think that this could be a positive step toward world peace.  You just cannot think about hurting anyone when you are as happy as this salsa will make you.