Monday, August 29, 2011

Preparing & Freezing Kale

Ever since I started making Zuppa Toscana, I decided I was going to start growing Kale so I would have it on hand.  It is so easy to grow that I have had a hard time keeping up with it.  I was beginning to drown in Kale when I had the brilliant idea to start freezing it.  That way I would have it on hand during prime soup season, winter. 
My lovely assistant.  What a pretty girl! My kids love helping me prepare Kale. (work slaves!)

Steps to preparing and freezing Kale:
 1: Grab the stem with one hand and with the other hand slowly and firmly pull the leafy part off of the stem.  
The stems tend to be tough and woody and that is not tasty.  

 2:  Brake the leafy part into bite sized pieces.  
You can cut it with a knife, but I like to just tear it with my hands.  

3: Give your kale a good washing in a large bowl filled with cold water.  
I am always surprised at how dirty it is...

At this point you can throw the kale into your Zuppa, but if you are freezing the kale continue reading the next few steps.

4: Place your kale pieces into a pot that has a few inches of boiling water at the bottom. Then cover with a lid and let it cook for a few minutes and until the kale turns bright green.  I like to use my soup pot because then I know I have about the right amount needed for one batch of Zuppa.

 5: Use a pair of tongs to remove the kale from the hot water and place it into a large bowl filled with cold water.  This helps the kale to stop cooking and also cools it for handling. 

6: Drain off water and place your kale into a zipper storage bag.  Close it most of the way and then roll it up to get all of the air and extra water out of the bag.

7: Close it the rest of the way and unroll it.

8:  Throw it in the freezer to wait for your delicious winter meal!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Vanilla Experiment - 7 Weeks to Go

Well, it's been one week and it smells great, but it looks a little like pee.... I would say that it's coming along though!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Freezing Cookie Dough in Portion Sizes

My favorite school fund raiser is cookie dough frozen in portions. It's just so nice to be able to throw a batch of cookies in at a moments notice. Love it! But the cookies aren't always the best tasting... I definitely perfer home made cookies. So, why not do it at home?
A little extra effort up front yields oodles of warm fuzzies when the kids come home from school to warm, freshly baked cookies. Plus, who doesn't love cookie dough? Death by cookies, that's what I say!
Here's the skinny (ha!)
1:  I like to triple my favorite cookie dough recipe. Go big or go home. Right?  Here are some of my faves. I made Heavenly Chocolate Chip Cookies today. It ends up making about 148 cookies. Depending on how many spoonfuls get eaten before I can scoop them all out.
2:  Speaking of scooping, use a small ice cream scoop (about 2 tablespoons) to make your portions. So nice and easy to make perfectly portioned cookies. My MIL got me mine at a thrift store for a buck. Works good enough for me.
3:  Next, place your dough balls on a cookie sheet. It's perfectly ok if they touch. I am able to fit 96 on one tray. If I have a few extra, I just put them on top of the others. Just don't squish them together.
4:  Freeze em. I don't even cover them. It only takes a few hours for them to get nice and stiff.
5:  When they are hard, go ahead and bag em up. I like gallon sized zipper bags for this task. Then throw them in the freezer.

That's it. Now you get to enjoy the fruits of your sore scooping arm.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Vanilla Experiment

They are here!!! My lovely vanilla beans are here!
I am so very excited to try this. Around Easter my sister told me that you can make your own vanilla with just some vodka and some vanilla beans. Then I found a tutorial from the hungry mouse about making your own vanilla. I am extra excited about this because you just replenish the vodka and vanilla beans as needed. Thus, the bottomless bottle of vanilla. With all of the baking I do, this will come in very handy!

Here is what you will need:


I am not a drinker. I had no idea where to begin. So, I bought the cheap big bottle.
Should do the job. Right?

Vanilla Beans

I bought ½ lb. from through Amazon for about $18. I figure I can make some other yummy things with the extra vanilla beans. Can't wait!

Here is how you make the vanilla:
1: Open Vodka.
2: Put in 2 vanilla beans per cup of vodka. My bottle is 1.75 liters. That is about 7 cups, so that means 14 beans. * I did some research on this process and discovered that a lot of people say to use scissors and cut the beans lengthwise leaving about an inch together at the top of the bean to help the process along... Upside, more vanilla flavor. Downside, lots of little seeds floating around in your extract. They are easily removed by filtering the extract through a couple of layers of cheese cloth when it's ready to use.
3: Let it sit in a cool (not cold) dark place for about 6-8 weeks. Oh and give it a shake every few days just to give it a stir.

You will know it's ready when it's got a nice rich brown color.
I am so stinkin' excited that just can't handle it! Come on October! Come faster!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Heavenly Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a recipe I got from my MIL.  My hubby and I used to make them all the time when we were dating. Ah the memories. We haven't made them in years, but they are back and they are here to stay.
Cream together:
½ C. Butter
⅔ C. Shortening
1C. Sugar
1C. Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla

In another bowl mix:
3 ½ C. White or Wheat Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt

Slowly add flour mixture to sugar mixture until combined.
Then add and mix in:
12 oz. Chocolate Chips
1 C. Coarsely Chopped Nuts
Bake at 375° for 8 minutes

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dishwasher Tune Up

Over the past 6 months my dishwasher has steadily stopped washing my dishes well. It started with the glass cups, leaving food on the inside, then got worse and worse until two weeks ago when nothing was coming out clean and was actually dirtier than when it when in.  Then to top it off, it started leaking like crazy! Arg!  This happened in our old home and we ended up selling our home with a brand new dishwasher.
Well, we just financed a fence for our new home and I did NOT want to tack on another $450 to our Home Depot credit card. So, what's a gal to do? Clean baby clean.

Steps to giving your dishwasher a tune up and possibly even stopping a leak:  
1: Clean out the filter on the bottum of the dishwasher. I wore gloves for this. *gag* The cover should come off pretty easily with the removal of a screw or just a little leverage of a butter knife.  *Caution: Don't force it.  It will be pretty easy if it's meant to come off  .Clean everything out well and replace cover.
2: Check all of the holes where water sprays out. Water is usually recycled from the bottom so food and even soap granuals can clog the holes. I even found a shard of glass from a cup that broke a few months back. I used a skewer to clear the holes out.

3: Clean out the steam vent on the door. Once again, gloves. *gag* I was SHOCKED how dirty this was and I am fairly certain that this is what was causing the leak. It was full of gunk and wasn't allowing water to drain off properly. Thus, the leak. The cover on the inside of the door should be easy to remove with a butter knife.  *Caution: Don't force it.  It will be pretty easy if it's meant to come off.  Clean it out. Replace cover.

4: Last step. This one is easy. Run the EMPTY dishwasher with a 1/2 cup of CLR cleaner. (found with the cleaning supplies) This helps to remove anything you missed in steps 1-3.  And just to be safe, run again to be sure all the cleaner is gone.

That's it! Easy, takes about 15 minutes, and you will be amazed at the difference. No more leaking! :)
Leave a comment if you try it and it works for you. I know it saved me money and time!