Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tomato Sauce Season Begins

30-lb boxes of roma tomatoes are available now through my CSA, so tomato sauce season is here! This time, I timed each step to track the time I spend making and canning 5.75 quarts of tomato sauce.

Chop 20-lbs of tomatoes and throw them into the giant beer pot. 15 minutes of active time.

Simmer the tomatoes for an hour. There isn't anything for me to do except clean up the knife and cutting board and give the sauce a stir every 20 minutes or so. 5 minutes of active time. I used the boy's beer pot, which can probably hold 60-lbs of tomatoes. I contemplated making a double-batch, but it was cumbersome lifting the huge pot with the 20-lbs in it.

Since these pots are thin, I did burn some of the skins on the bottom of the pot, but luckily it wasn't enough to leave a scorched taste in the sauce. The other near accident was that I didn't close the spigot, but I noticed the tomato water coming out before if flooded the kitchen floor and fixed the problem.

Strain the tomato seeds and the skin. Active time, including clean up, is 1 hour. Clearly, this is where I need to speed things up.

The final steps had very little active time: reduce the sauce for 1 hour, and pressure can the sauce (10 minutes of active time, and 1 hour for canner to finish).

5.75 quarts of sauce takes roughly 4.5 hours, and the majority of the active time was spent putting the chopped tomatoes through the food mill. Although I have mostly an automated set up, it still was annoying to operate the food mill for an hour, but it is much quicker than using a manual mill as I've done in the past. For my next batch, I'm going to try straining the through the food mill first, and then reducing the sauce.

Last year, I canned 140-lbs of sauce, and we only have a small bit left. This year, I want to can more quart jars since I used them up quickly last year for pasta sauce.  I had to ration them. Half pint jars were also a hit because they were the right amount for paella or a single serving of quick pasta sauce, but because I'm short on reusable lids, I'll probably can mostly pint jars.

Is it worth the time and the effort? It's something I ask myself every year because I feel a little crazy doing all this work, but I keep on doing it because I like the taste and I enjoy the process. Plus, I can reuse the jars and lids (Tattler lids really do work!) year after year, so I can give myself a green pat on the back.

I have closet space devoted to my canning efforts, and JarBoxes keep it all organized and secured. I'll need to buy more Tattler lids because now that I can more than tomatoes (chickpeas, black beans, and an assortment of stocks), I'm running low. I'm waiting until they have the red lids again because, well, red! However, I may have to cave in soon because I don't have enough for tomato season.

Post canning, I made myself a whiskey smash. And then I made another one. Meyer lemons, pineapple mint, rye, and gum syrup make a heavenly libation. Gum syrup isn't cheap ($1.40 per ounce) and I've gone through 1/4 of the bottle already, so that may be my next DIY project.

Have you seen the magnificent blog Confused Cats Against Feminism? I need to think of a clever caption for a Greaseball or Fifty photo so I can submit it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Potential Hoodie

I can almost feel this sweater on me, but I still need to seam it together, add the zipper, and knit the hood. So, I'm not very close to wearing this in Mendocino, but I'm much closer than when I started Granville on Christmas 2013. Usually, I blaze through clothing I make for myself, but the arrival of Sesame and a slew of other early 2014 happenings made my knitting take a backseat. Just in time for… Summer?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Happenings

When you live in an area that's not too hot and not too cold, it's easy to be blasé about summer. However, it's still my favorite season of the year because waking up in the light and coming home with at least an hour of sunlight left makes it feel like I can do anything! Garden? Sure! Walk or slowly jog? Sure! Play ball with Sesame? Sure! Make a cocktail and sit on the deck? Always!

The Bee's Knees is the bee's knees
Sesame has gone through 3 months of training classes now, so two diplomas are on the refrigerator: one for basic obedience, and another one for intermediate obedience. This dog loves to train, which is good because it keeps the pressure on me to find fun classes for us to share.  Next up will either be Rally-O or an off-leash beginning course. She has come a long way from the fearful, stressed dog she was in January, but she still has a ways to go to become the dog I know she can be.

She is such a smarty pants! While out on a walk, we came across a water fountain. After she watched me take a drink, she copied me.  Maybe she knew this from her previous life?

Because so much of this year has been Sesame-focused, we are making sure that Mingus doesn't feel left out.
No one is excluded from being Sesame's pillow
Again, he was the mascot for the Balto race car, and he soaked up all the attention. He also came with us to Pints for Paws, a beer tasting event where dogs were not only included, but part of the event's allure. Mingus has such an awesome temperament: dogs are sniffing him, people are hugging him, and he has that dopey grin on his face the entire time.

The food experiments commenced after we had Sesame for a few months. My new favorite toy is a pasta extruder, although I need to work on the fusilli form factor.  Although the pictured pasta dish was delicious, it looked like a dish Martha Stewart would feature on her twitter feed.

Less time has also translated into many dinners out, and one of my new hangouts is Dumpling Express in Berkeley. I wouldn't rate them as the best dumplings ever, but I do appreciate that they are made to order. Their xiao long baos and their shrimp garlic chive dumplings are my favorites. There are also a number of rice plates and noodle plates here, but I only go for the dumplings.

Currently in the fermentors, we have two different types of plum wines, sauerkraut, two types of beer, kombucha, and some soured beets.

These beets are destined for a barley beet soup. I made that soup years ago and am still thinking about it. 

Happy summer, everyone! What have you all been up to?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Welcome, Sesame!

Sesame is officially our dog! She is a work in progress (aren't we all?), but in the 3 weeks she's been at our house, she has learned the basic commands, how to be nice to our cats, how to ride in a car, and house manners.

Of course, I also taught her how to shake because every dog should know that! Little smarty pants got the idea in 5 minutes, and now she's a shaking fool. Anytime my hand approaches her, she daintily offers up her paw. 

Sesame came from Grateful Dog Rescue in San Francisco. I don't get on my soapbox often, but let me reiterate that there are plenty of great pets in shelters and rescue organization that are waiting for a home. Please consider them first when you have room in your family to add a new member.

She has claimed the purple recliner as her own, and I am hoping that she'll pull a Mingus so we can kick that nasty chair to the curb.

Although I tried to convince myself that we were a 1-dog family, the speed at which this all happened proves that we had a black hole the size of a GSD lurking in the background. Once again my life is full of obedience classes, my hands smell like dog treats, and my heart is full.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

So, This Happened...

More details to follow, but the short story is that we're fostering (and hopefully adopting) this little girly dog. Mingus is smitten, the cats seem to not give a crap, and we are all adjusting to life with +1 dog.

Dialing in a new dog is so much work. I take for granted all the time we've put into Mingus until a guest dog comes along who is clueless. She's bright and eager to please, so at least the work is fun.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

He Tries So Hard to Fit In

Sadly, Mingus, you are not a cat. Greaseball and Fifty can see you, even when you curl into a tight ball and squeeze your eyes shut.

Yes, the cats are cliquey. No, I don't feel sorry for you.

Now, get off the bed!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Refilling the Staples

Although I often yearn for a substantial, unstructured stretch of time, I've come to the conclusion that unstructured time and me do not mix. So with 5 days to spend at home, the boy and I tackled some house projects and food projects that we've been meaning to do. I'll spare you pictures of the house project since most of it involved replacing some cabinets (2 cars and 2 trips to the furniture store to pick it all up), and clearing junk from the old cabinets so we're not storing the crap we haven't touched for the last 10 years.  However, there are plenty of food pictures.

A side effect of brewing and bottling beer is that once in awhile, you'll end up with a flat bottle. Since it pains me to toss anything that resulted from so much work, we transformed a bottle of flat porter to honey mustard. Again, I used this recipe, but I added an extra 1/3 cup of black mustard seeds. The resulting mustard is thicker and spicier than my last attempt.

I also took over the mash for the chestnut beer that we recently brewed. After hounding the boy about his inefficient mashing methods and spouting off better ways I researched (but never tried) to hit the target gravity, he relinquished the role to me so I would stop. My main complaint was that he was "cheating" on achieving the target gravity by increasing the amount of grains instead of simply stirring the mash more. With my timer set to ding every 5 minutes, I stirred often and adjusted the heat. And guess what? This batch will hit target with the specified amount of grains so long as the yeast do their job and convert all that malty goodness to alcohol. This success does mean that I am locked into doing the mash, but it suits me and my OCD ways quite well. So long as I don't have to wash those giant pots, I am happy to help. It has crossed my mind that I was lured into doing this...

Have you read Cooked by Michael Pollan? My favorite part of the book were his private cooking lessons with Samin Nosrat, and I wanted to make her sugo recipe. Mincing 5 red onions, 3 stalks of celery, and 3 carrots was a job for a food processor, but since I just sharpened my knife, I tackled it by hand. Since I started the recipe, with everything already chopped, almost at midnight, I didn't roll into bed until 5 AM. It was about 2 AM when I started to wonder why I had to make the tomato paste from scratch. Still, the results were satisfying and I have enough meat sugo for at least 6 more dinners.

The boy and I also folded enough wontons to feed us for months. Admittedly, this could have gone faster if I remembered how to fold them, but once I made an emergency call to my mom, I got it sorted out. The tutorials I watched online were different from what I remembered doing as a child - I'll have to make a video of my mom folding since she is speedy. When coupled with the crab or turkey broth that I canned, wonton noodle soup can be mine in under 10 minutes.

We also cooked our first live crabs (horrifying to me, but not to him) and made a tasty vegan mac-and-cheeze. If you make the mac-and-cheese, you can use a neutral oil to make the roux instead of Earth Balance.

If you have foods that you make in bulk for quick, weekday meals, please share them with me in the comments. Bonus points if you link a recipe.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

How do Californians with an aversion to cold have a white Christmas? We go to the beach, play in the ocean (stand up paddle boarding is quickly becoming my favorite water sport), and dig holes.

I love how he crafted himself a bed with a pillow.

Happy New Year! May 2014 be your best, craftiest year yet!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Point Isabel Cowl

The Point Isabel Cowl is a luxurious cowl that can be dressed up, dressed down, and worn by everyone. It is a must-have accessory for both women and men!


Although the resulting cowl looks intricate, this pattern is easy to memorize and great for working on while at the beach or while watching a movie.

Going for a retro look? Pair two high contrast colors like blue and white or red and white.  Going for a modern look? Pair two muted colors together like black and gray.

This pattern includes a tutorial for the sewn bind off.

Thanks to my awesome pattern testers and the Ravelry Free Pattern Testers group all your help! If you are a Bay Area peep, you can see a sample cowl at The Yarn Boutique.

Bucket of Chicken and Orange Foods

In my quest to use every last scrap of yarn in my stash, I made these tiny chickens for my knitter friends. The free pattern is from Mochimochi Land, and you can find it here. Yes, they were a random gift, but who doesn't love chickens? Most of them are gone now, and my only regret is that I can't take any more cute pictures of the brood together.

In that same spirit of "use what you got," we've been eating a lot of orange foods. I have a backlog of carrots and winter squashes from my CSA, so the carrots have morphed into a French carrot salad with raisins and toasted nuts, and some of the roasted winter squash pulp (this time I used honey nut squash, a sweeter cousin of butternut squash) was transformed into an easy flan with toasted hazelnuts and Gorgonzola. Both recipes were based on ones in Dorrie Greenspan's book "Around My French Table," the first cookbook I've been compelled to buy in ages. I first checked it out from the library, and after renewing it as many times as I could, I was convinced that it would be a worthy addition to my cookbook collection.

Mingus has found another buddy, or is it the other way around? I was startled out of my daydreaming when I saw a flash of GSD butt run past my kitchen door. When I walked outside, I found a husky-GSD mix dog as friendly as can be walking around the front of my house. It turns out that she belongs to a neighbor's friend, and that she had been visiting with Mingus for some time. Mingus often sits on our front deck, and these two have been in love with each other for a few months. I invited her to our backyard, and these two ran around the yard for two hours before they had to part.

I don't think either one of them wanted to be apart, though, since I found her sitting outside my front door after the playdate was over. Then, she walked over to the kitchen door and stared at us. If it weren't for the wrath of our cats, I would have let her inside, but Greaseball and Fifty would never forgive me.

She's a goofy dog who has an unfortunate name (she is named after a sexy female character). I can't even type the name without feeling gross, and I've been trying to think up reason why someone would willingly name her that. One friend suggests that her owner wants to say, "I sleep with ***!" Ew, ew, ew!


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