Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Braided Spinach Stromboli

I was introduced to this recipe by a friend in college and I'm still making it!  Hows that for an Endorsement?

Pizza Dough (I'm not gonna lie, white is better, but I made it with Whole Wheat like a good little girl)
18 oz Frozen Spinach or a TON of fresh spinach (of course, it's a topping, so use however much you like but remember it shrinks up a lot as it bakes)
20 oz Ricotta Cheese
~1/2 c. Grated Parmesan or Romano
Shredded Mozzarella
Minced Garlic
Italian Seasoning

- After you've made your dough and let it rise once, punch it down and roll it out into a broad rectangle (so it's almost a square) and set it aside.  If you're baking on a sheet pan, you can probably roll it out on it, but beware of non-stick because you're gonna have to cut on whatever you roll it out on.  I bake mine on a pizza stone, so i prefer to cover my wooden peel with sprayed foil (for ease of transfer, corn meal never does the trick for me) and roll it out on that.

- If you are using frozen spinach (which is actually best in this instance), it needs to be thawed and drained of excess liquid within an inch of it's life.  If you're using fresh spinach, you can either steam & drain it or leave it fresh.  If you leave it fresh, it will wilt as it bakes, but it's a pain to deal with and the texture will be a tad off. That being said, I used fresh spinach in the pics below because it's what I had.
- Mix together the Ricotta with enough grated cheese to absorb any excess liquid then mix in garlic & Italian seasonings to taste.

- Spread the cheese mixture down the middle third of the dough.  Then layer on the spinach & then the mozzarella cheese.

- On both sides, cut tabs into the dough.  It doesn't matter how many, just that there are the same number on each side and they are at least an inch wide.

- Cross the tabs over, one from the right then one from the left until the Stromboli is sealed.  The above pic isn't necessarily the best example (fresh spinach really distorts things) but usually it's quite pretty.
- Bake @400 until golden brown.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Baking

I spent ALL morning baking for the upcoming Thanksgiving festivities.  As you can tell, I'm a seriously messy cook.  Here are my projects:

All you need are 1/4" thick slices of citrus fruits.  Lay them out on a baking sheet (I greased it, i don't know if its necessary or not) and pop them in a VERY low oven (I put them in at 200 degrees) and l eave the door ajar just a bit (i shut a wooden spoon in the door).  Thats it! Wait for a good long time, probably more than 4 hours, checking on them occasionally until they're like little hard stained glass windows.  If you only want them for the year, then just poke a hook through them and hang them on a tree, but you'll need to shellac them if you want them to last.  


Mashed potatoes, seasoned with sauteed onions, cheese, bacon, or whatever your heart contents and pasta cut into bigger circles than for tortellini.  Put a small dollop of potato on the circles, wet, fold over and press the edges with a fork for a tight seal.  Boil for about 2 minutes, but until they float.  Fry up to taste or freeze on sheets and put in bags for later use.  

Since I got married, I've been using the pie crust recipe that came with my bread machine.  I like it mostly because it's made from things I have on hand.  So many recipes call for shortening, which I never keep around.  This one calls for vegetable (or Canola oil, as I prefer to use).  Lately, however, I've been frustrated with it.  It's never as crisp or flaky as I'd like it to be.  As such, I decided to use my mom's pie crust recipe (with my own little spin, of course).  

1 3/4 c Flour (I just can't bring myself to use Whole Wheat in pie crusts and organic White is so expensive, I bought All Purpose, it's a treat afterall)
3/4 c Crisco (I used Organic vegetable shortening, which i discovered is just palm oil.  The dough was a little harder to work than I remember my mother's being, but even if it was the shortening, I wouldn't trade it.  I'll have to soap with it at some point)
3/4 tsp Salt
1/3 c Cold Water

Put the all the ingredients but the water in the food processor until you have crumbs, then add the water.  It'll form a ball (rather like when you make buttter).  Makes a top and a bottom or two bottoms.  


In years past, I have mad a more mild pumpkin pie.  My mother-in-law, however, makes a very rich spiced pie from a 50's cookbook that is absolutely to die for (unless you're my father-in-law, who gets heartburn from it).  

1½ cups Pumpkin
3 Eggs - beaten
½ tsp. Salt
¾ cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Milk
2 Tbsp. Molasses
1 tsp. Cinnamon
¾ tsp. Ginger
½ tsp. Nutmeg
¼ tsp. Cloves
¼ tsp. Allspice
2 Tbsp. Melted Butter

Mix it all and bake @ 450 for the first 10 minutes, then @ 375 for 45-55 or until it sets.  


No, seriously, my fam honestly thought I bought them the first time I made them.  

  • 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
  • 2 cups warm milk (110 to 115 degrees F)
  • 6 tablespoons shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 7 cups all-purpose flour

If you're gonna use a bread machine, you have to half this recipe. Let the dough rise fully, then beat it down and shape and let it rise again before baking @350 for 20-25 min.  

I also made pancake muffins (with my new turkey sausage) and mini corn dog muffins, for dinners this coming week.  

November Yard Work

Typically, I make a rule of stopping most outdoor projects by October, but we has a couple really beautiful weekends this November and we took advantage of them.

The first project we did was a walkway between the driveway and breezeway.  Technically, there already was one, but if you looked at the ground, you never would have known it.  The first order of business was to dig it up and locate it.

Then, I dug the extra pavers my aunt gave me out of the garage (to use in addition to the ones we dug up), made a pattern out of them and started lifting sod to put them down.  If I had wanted to get fancy, I probably should have put some gravel down for drainage (to prevent the sinking that happened to the original bricks) but we didn't have any around and I have other, bigger plans for that area in the future, but for now its enough to not get muddy getting into the car.  

Believe it or not, we didn't actually have a compost bin.  We have been composting on top of the potato patch during the summer and the rest of the garden in the off season, but this summer (with my increased compost collecting) it became too much and it was about time.  Fortunately, my grandfather runs a business that fixes and sells used pallets.  Because of their slats, they make a great compost bin.  Compost needs to breathe.  He gave is a plastic one for the bottom, so it wouldn't rot and we just made an cube open on 2 sides out of it.  Simple and  hardly complex, but it'll do.  Maybe i'll whitewash it to match the fence and maybe I won't, it might just show more dirt from stirring the compost if I do.  

Sadie says hello!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pasta, Take 2: Tortellini

After my last pasta making attempt and the death of my electric pasta machine, a good family friend gave me a Pasta Queen hand-crank pasta machine.

It comes with a linguini cutter and a spaghetti cutter.  I mixed up 1lb (by weight, obviously) of whole wheat flour and 5 eggs in my bread machine on the pasta setting, though it is easy enough to do by hand if you like.  I then let the dough sit for a few minutes and cut it into slices. 

The hand crank machine has 7 roller settings, from 1-7.  1 is the widest setting and 7 the narrowest.  You start out by lightly flouring one of the slices and running it through 1.  Then you fold it over and lightly flour again, until it comes out consistently.  Then you pass it through each other setting one time, getting thinner as you go.  I made two mistakes the first time I did this.  First, I didn't cut my slice in half and as the dough got thinner, it became very long and unwieldy.  Secondly, I ran the dough all the way through to setting 7.  It was very delicate and soft, but so thin it was almost impossible to cut and when I tried, I wound up with a jumbled mess that had to be pitched. 

Afterwards, I took it easy and never rolled it past setting 5.  I also did a bunch of linguini, before attempting spaghetti again.  I don't actually own a pasta drying rack, so I laid it all out to dry on cookie and pie cooling racks.  The idea is to get as much air to it as possible.  Do

Of course, I couldn't be satisfied with just plank pasta, what challenge is that?  I decided to also make tortellini.  Nick'll be surprised when he gets home if I can make his favorite arugula side with homemade tortellini when he gets home.   I rolled the pasta out in sheets without cutting it and used a mason jar as a cookie cutter to make circles.  I mixed some ricotta with grated Parmesan & Romano, garlic & Italian seasonings and put a VERY small dollop in the middle.  This mix is awesome and plays an important role in my favorite stromboli, which I will share soon.  I then wetted the edges of the circle, folded it in half and pinched around.  I then took the two corners and pinched them together.  Voila! Tortellini.  It will probably need to be Flipped as it dries. 

If not being cooked immediately, all homemade pasta should be dried to touch and frozen until use.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Well folks, I spoke too soon about those shampoo bars.  The first week went really well, then things went downhill.  My hair was taking longer to dry and starting to feel gross, the sure signs of build-up.  I got out my trusty baking soda and scrubbed my guts out, but I swear it made it worse.  I have always used baking soda for build-up, be it chlorine from swimming or hairspray.  I swear in this instance, it just gave the guk something better to stick to.  This weekend, it was so bad that I took my aunt's advice and washed my hair with dawn dish detergent to get it out.  So...more shampoo fail and back to buying it. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Turkey Sausage

I love sausage.  It's my breakfast meat of choice.  It's not terribly good for you, but have you ever bought a pork sausage alternative?  I've never tried the tofu/soy variety but I have tried store-bought turkey sausage.  It usually comes pre-cooked, full of preservatives, in patty form.  Those patties are too small and too tall to be comfortably used in a breakfast sandwich (my breakfast of choice).  They're also seriously over-seasoned.  What's a trying-to-be-less-overweight girl to do?

Make it.  Of course. 

RECIPE (courtesy of Heavenly Homemakers)

1 lb ground turkey
3 Tablespoon minced onion
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon marjoram
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
¼ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon sage (I think I'll make that 1/4 next time I try)
2 teaspoon sea salt
1 egg

Put it all in a bowl and mix it like a meatloaf, just enough to completely combine.  Then, you can either leave it loose, form it into patties with your hands or a patty maker, which you can get for $3 in any grocery store or mega-mart. 

I got 2 tubs of patties (one for the freezer and one for the fridge) and a sizeable pile of loose sausage.  When you go to cook it, if you plan on pan frying it (like any other sausage) you'll have to add a little bit of oil or butter because turkey is VERY lean and won't grease the pan on its own.  This morning, I baked ours in the toaster oven and they were quite wonderful.  They tasted very much like pork sausage, though perhaps a tad heavy on sage.  I think in the future I'll half it. 

Isn't it purty?

Oh. P.S. This is post #50!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Living Room to Parlor


This is my Living Room When we bought the house. 


This is that same space at present.   It's a big difference, but it obviously looks... severely unfinished.  We haven't fixed the baseboards or re-installed the shoe molding from when we did the floors.  There are paint swatches on the wall.  That love seat is the result of a bargain my mom and I made while I was in college (she would buy me a real piece of furniture if I quit making them haul the busted bench seat from an old pickup truck to Grove City and Back every year). It has looked almost exactly like this since last January.  It's shameful, really.  After Christmas, this is going to be our BIG project.  Why after Christmas?  Well, for one, I hate trying to decorate a construction zone for the holidays (which are quite busy enough) and for another...I'm asking everyone for Lowe's gift cards for Christmas.

In preparation for this HUGE project, I've been gathering all of my ideas into a mood board of sorts for the room (though I'm not terribly accomplished at this).  But first, you should know: I have a small obsession with Victorian fashion and culture. 

That's my Senior Prom Picture.  We hired a seamstress, purchased a corset (which BTW did some lasting damage to my ribs), the whole deal.  Sorry about the picture of a picture but I don't have a scanner, so there's gonna be a few of those tonight.

Living Room Mood Board

The top left are mostly the fabrics I have used (except for the stripes, those are a new thought).  The Right and Right-Bottom are my existing furniture.  The bottom left is my inspiration.  To it's immediate right is the yard sale Picture frame Nick & I bought that I'm determined to frame my TV with, like artwork.  The picture with the little girl is from an article on wainscoting, with a tutorial.  It's probably what we'll do. 

This is the current wall the Fireplace is on.  I plan on building the fireplace up so it looks a little more like it belongs there and so I can accommodate my plans to hang the TV more securely while disguising it as art above the mantle and hiding the wires first behind the wall, then under the floor, so that the DVD player and sound system and such can be placed on the Bookshelf on the opposite wall.  The area to the left should be exactly enough for an upright piano, and to the right to comfortably open the door.  Perhaps I'll put a small table and mirror there too.  (What is a front door if there's no mirror nearby?)

This is the opposite wall, shown with blinds down (though I always keep them halfway up).  I don't know why I thought I'd make the under bookshelf cabinets so tall.  They won't actually be that tall.  These drawings are a year old but so very little has changed I didn't bother to redo them. Under the window will be a window seat, and the wall will be covered with bookcases with cabinets underneath.  I was really hoping for arches on the bookcases, but I think that will be outside of our abilities. 

These two walls will stay basically the same, plus wainscoting.    Eventually, we really should get rid of the 60's "3 stepped little windows" door, but I'm not saying that's happening this winter. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I'm going to be one of THOSE mothers...

... who lies to her children because it's convenient.

How do I know? Well, I was making meatballs this evening. Bear meatballs, because i'm cheap and refuse to buy beef until the bear is gone, and that could be a while. Sadie was following me around begging like mad. She's always been a moderate begger (a fact for which i am thankful cuz she'd be a force to be reckoned with if she were a severe one) but tonight she was putting on her best pouty face. Why? Because, for some primal reason, game meat appeals to her 10x more than domesticated animal meat. So, covered in raw meat, I look down at her and say "I'm sorry Sadie. I just can't give you any. Some dogs are inexplicably allergic to meatballs and YOU are one of them". I assume I said this because it's what I say to her when i'm making chocolate chip cookies (though in that case it's true). It is also true that my meatballs contain breadcrumbs, presumably from yeast bread, and you shouldn't give dogs yeast products. That's quite the stretch though. The fact of the matter is that (despite my hubby's best efforts) I try very hard to not give her people food. It is both unhealthy for her and only encourages the begging behavior. But is that what I told her? Nope. I lied to my DOG, who can't even understand me, out of convenience. I fear that bad habit may get worse when I have a young & impressionable audience who actually understands me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Etsy Shop

Well folks, I'm stuck here without my beloved laptop (typing to you today from my ancient and tiny Grove City TC1100) BUT I finally got my Etsy shop up and running. I'm starting really small and easing in to it, so i know it isn't very impressive right now, but maybe someday it will be.