Coffee Chatter – Sunday Edition

Happy-Mothers-Day-Graphic-Design-4While I wait patiently for my mother’s phone line to free up so I can wish her a happy Mothers Day, I have been trolling around on Pinterest, pulling weeds out of the garden (it’s raining right now so I’m on a coffee rest break), and checking up on some online friends.

I’m not sure about your lawns but ours seems to be over run with dandelions this year. Last year was bad enough, but this year they’re back with a vengeance. I blame the local township banning all kinds of chemical weed killing products.

badweedsMy hips and lower back hate weeds more than I do. They will only allow me to bend down while pulling for a half hour at a time before they seize up on me. I have been thinking a lot about one of those pole devices that leave holes in the grass big enough for gophers to pop up out of. My body’s not getting any younger, and my next door neighbour lent me hers last year for a quick trial. My pride wasn’t quite to the place it is this year back then, so I passed on picking one up at Crappy Tire. But this year… I might just break down (before my back does). 😀

nappingGuess what? I guess I got too much sun weed pulling that I fell asleep on the couch halfway through this post. LOL I woke up and a few hours of my life disappeared. And it’s about to rain again. It started raining when I fell asleep, so perhaps I should just stick a fork in this day and put my PJs on now.

And no, I still haven’t gotten a hold of my mother. I have no idea what’s going on over there, but she did birth seven of us, and she is legally blind, so my best guess is she didn’t hang up the phone properly after one of the others called her to also wish her a happy Mothers Day. I will have to try her again tomorrow after work. *sigh*

hotcoffeePS: When I fell asleep, my freshly brewed cup of coffee was HOT. When I woke up it was cold. That’s quite the feat given how hot it is outside and in the house today. How long was I out cold, anyway!? Jee-bus! Oh, well. It’s nothing a few ice cubes couldn’t sort out. 😉

[ All images found on google.ca ]

Coffee Chatter – Saturday

2014-04-29 17.36.21[ We have become enamoured with the local Wok Box franchise. It’s our new go-to takeout spot. For the days when I don’t want to make us lunch or dinner. ]

I’ve been thinking about takeout food today. And foods I’m so over. What’s on your list of foods you’re over? I need to know, so share! Here is mine:

Can I just say how exhausted I am of cakes, cookies, and desserts in general? It takes a lot to get me interested in any of them, let alone into the kitchen to make them. They’re just so… pedestrian at this point. I guess it’s because there is so much of each already in the world, and it seems like that’s all people think about on Pinterest. Sugary crap. I get it, I used to be the same way. But then I grew up, my hormones changed along with my taste buds, and here we are. I much prefer steak & eggs over a bag of chips and greasy hamburgers. (Sidenote: while spending a lot of time at the hospital, I discovered the hot Kettle Chips Tim Hortons sells for $0.99. Amazing! Perfectly cooked and salted? C’mon!)

I like burgers – I do! – but not all the time. I like pizza, but only when I make it at home. I like to use ingredients I know are fresh and tasty, not overly produced and globby. I’m a bit of a snob like that. I’m sorta kidding here, but one time we ordered a custom pizza made fresh in front of us while we waited, and by the time I got to eat it 15 minutes later at home, it was disgusting. The drive home was less than 5 minutes door to door, and still, it was a soggy mess. And it was overly salty and overly greasy, and the pieces were so soggy I should have drake them. I couldn’t deal after half a slice. What a waste of money, time and materials.

soggy pizza[ Not my picture, but my pizza slice was just as wet on the bottom as this one.]

Funny aside to this story is the owners of that pizza shop stopped by our store to hand deliver menus and coupons about two months afterward. I said no thank you to the coupons. They were stunned, so they asked me why. We had a lovely chat about that pizza I bought. Coincidentally, (or possibly not) 6 months later they sold their franchise location. Huh. Perhaps I was one of many to have a similar story for them to hear? Maybe. Doesn’t matter. The current owners are doing well and I haven’t heard anything negative about their pizzas since. Still. I won’t. I can’t. I refuse to let anyone else make me a pizza from scratch.

So, yes, I know! I know I have been AWOL lately. My father-in-law died, and his wife (my mother-in-law) had a mishap where she broke the tip of her collar bone and spent 13 days in the hospital. She’s home now but we’re all pitching in the help her with cooking and gardening chores she’s been banned from by the doctors. And I have an odd work schedule that’s due to expire in a month, so all of the things I wanted to do this summer are off the table. I will see what I can do in my limited time, but don’t expect much. 🙂

selfwatering planterI am, however, growing some tomatoes from a dozen tomato plants I grabbed from my FIL’s garden after his funeral. They’re doing well in the self-watering container we built a few summers ago specifically for tomato and peppers plants to grow in.

My FIL was sick in the hospital almost a full month before he died, and he wasn’t feeling well leading up to that stay, so he didn’t get a chance to do anything with his garden this year. Nothing. Zip. Nada. After the funeral reception held at the house, some of us went out to look at his beloved roses and garden space to see what we could do to help the MIL out.

What we found was a bunch of tomato plants and leaf lettuce that had sprung up from the ground on their own from seeds that fell into the soil last year in a very random pattern and have really started to grow all on their own – without any human help or intervention. Amazing, non?

garden-2Here is a picture of his garden as of last week when we stopped by the mow and water the grass, and to check on the raspberry bushes like the MIL asked us to. Again, all of it’s growing out of control on its own. On. Its. Own. Look at how densely packed in that tiny space they are! I can’t even get to them to weed let alone count, but I’d guess there is close to 100 in there now. That’s thanks in large part to the beautifully fertile soil the FIL spent over 25 years cultivating. I used his soil in my tomato planter after I transplanted them. They seem to be flourishing well, too.

raspberries-2We picked a lot of berries that night. And I’m told, less than a week later, there are way more ready to be picked this weekend. I’m thinking about raspberry syrup right now. (stroking my chin) I already used a bunch from the first picking to make a yogurt parfait that I included in the husband’s lunch today.

2014-07-08 12.54.32And finally, the last thing I have been distracted with is this cute little preemie, my new niece. I knew you’d want to see a picture of Thea, so here you go. 🙂

Herb Tomato Sauce & Chocolate Pasta

ChocoPasta-1

This year I decided to grow oregano in my garden in addition to flat leaf parsley and my old standby, sweet basil. It’s been working out well. I’ve added small sprigs of the fresh oregano to a lot of different dishes, including some sauteed vegetables we ate over pork loin meat on buns last week. This week I made my favourite tomato sauce from scratch, and decided what it really needed was fresh basil and fresh oregano. The sauce turned out so well, I dreamt of making a pot of pasta to top with the sauce for breakfast. All night I thought about my freshly made pasta sauce in the fridge. All.Night.Long.

‘Mmm… So mouth watering.

This tomato sauce uses Marcella Hazan’s infamous tomato with butter sauce as the base.

Fresh Herb Tomato Sauce:
40 oz Jarred Tomato Puree
5 Tbsp Salted Butter
S&P to taste
1 M-L Yellow Onion, chopped coarsely
1 Tsp Fresh Oregano leaves
1 C Fresh Basil, torn or julienned
Jars with tight fitting lids (enough for about 50 oz of cooked sauce)

Bring tomato puree, butter, onion and seasonings to a boil. Reduce the temperature to a low rolling boil and add oregano and basil leaves. Simmer uncovered for at least 30-45 minutes till the sauce thickens. Remove the sauce from the burner to cool a bit while running your clean jars under hot water so the glass don’t burst when the extremely hot pasta sauce touches it. Pour the sauce into the jars and finger tighten the lids.*

Let the jars rest on the counter till you hear each of the lids pop or snap (about 30 minutes). This happens when the hot air in the jars evaporate and the seal is formed with the lid ring. You can then store the sauce in your fridge at that point. The popping will only happen if you screw the lids tight enough, but if you have a jar that doesn’t pop, and you can push down in the lid still after 30 minutes, just make a point of using that jar first within a week or two.

* Finger tight is a term used for screwing a canning lid on till tight with your fingers only, not your whole hand and muscles to apply force.

Digression: The first dish I used this gorgeous tomato sauce over was my homemade chocolate pasta. I was still trying to nail it down to one or two different ways we can enjoy it at home when the husband asked me to not make these noodles again. Ever. He’s not into chocolate pasta. At all. And he’s a pasta fiend. (!!!) Oh, well. :-\

So, instead of doing a whole separate post on how to make chocolate pasta at home from scratch, here are a few pix of the attempts and some of the production of the pasta itself to give you an idea of what it was like, and what efforts I put into it.

Side Note: I previously served these pasta noodles with an Alfredo sauce and the same meatballs awhile back. We disliked that dish. So much it took me a long time to come around to cooking these noodles again. But I really needed to figure out if it was the sauce or the noodles we didn’t like so I could correct what was holding this pasta idea back from becoming a staple in our home.

So, with that in mind, I made a repeat pasta dish – with the only change being my tomato sauce instead of a creamy white sauce. All in the name of science, you understand. 🙂 As it turns out, for me it was that I didn’t like the Alfredo sauce over these noodles but found my tomato sauce worked quite well with chocolate pasta, whereas with the husband, as previously stated, he didn’t like the taste of the chocolate pasta in this dish either. So…

Given this whole experiment ended in a stalemate (and not at all how I imagined when I first discovered its existence), I’ve decided to give up on chocolate pasta. It’s not going to happen in this house. If you want the recipe, ask in the comment section of this post. I’m sure I can scare it up for you in the blink of an eye.

Below are the basic steps you’d make to produce the pasta from start to finish. Pretty, no?

ChocolatePasta-DoughMaking-2Two eggs, pinch of salt, flour and coco powder. I forget the exact measurements offhand, but my rule of thumb for pasta dough making has always been 1 egg : 3/4 C flour if that helps. And I think this recipe calls for a ratio of 3:1 flour to coco powder, but don’t quote me on that. It makes sense given I used 2 eggs for there to be 1 1/2 C flour to 1/4 C coco.

ChocolatePasta-DoughKnead by hand on a floured surface. You can start the kneading in the mixer if you like. I’m not a fan of sticky fingers myself. I stop when the dough pulls away from the bowl and then turn it out onto my work bench to hand knead.

ChocolatePasta-Resting

I wrap the dough ball to let it rest at least 30-45 minutes before I dig in to make the noodles with my pasta attachments and bench scraper.

ChocoPasta-DryI don’t have a proper drying rack, so I use an old coffee mug stand to air dry my pasta noodles after I loosely wind them around my hand after dusting the dough with flour. Once it air dries on the rack, I carefully (because it’s so frah-gill-eh) slide it off and slip it into a plastic baggie to seal up for storing. You can also make the noodles and then dump them straight into a pot of boiling water if you’re planning to eat them immediately.

ChocoPasta-Cooking

They look so lovely and tasty swimming in the pot, and only look better as they rest in the bowl before being sauced. Remember, they are fresh and fragile, so resist the urge to toss this pasta with sauce. Only top it with your best sauce, and serve it with your best cheese.

ChocoPasta-Cooked

Gardening In The Heat

Aphid-2

My gosh, it’s hot out. I’m sweating from working in the garden.

Sadly I had to rip apart two beds of rotting lettuce sitting in potting soil spiders, earwigs and other thingies were squatting in. I ditched the soil and washed out the containers, and am now toying with the idea of what else to plant in them. And hopefully whatever it is I plant next won’t attract weird spiders. (See above pic.)

What are all of you growing? Got any ideas for me? Guess it’s too late to find kale seeds in the store, right? Shoot. Next year for sure.

Summer is only half done, so I may end up planting more lettuce, but I’m not too sure about that. The odd weather didn’t help those two beds of lettuce, nor the other two I still have going. And it’s just the two of us, so why did I think we needed to grow that much originally? I’m not too sure what I was thinking a few months ago.

Snail

[ Garden squatter ]

After that, I spent some time uprooting large weeds to keep our grass growing and cleaned up the yard. Maybe less than an hour’s worth of work, but I look like I just got out of the shower.

Speaking of… I’m off to hose down. Blergh.

Aphid-1[ Another shot of that odd to this region spider. ]

Loose Leaf Lettuce – Harvest #1

LooseLeafLettuce-Side LooseLeafLettuce-Top

[ Click pictures to embiggen ]

From one small garden container, and just the mature leaves. I left the baby leaves to grow another few weeks. I still have three other containers to harvest from.

This is like Christmas!!!

(Albeit not the kind of Christmas you’re all used to, I’m sure. *ahem*)

I say that’s enough for one salad, but the husband argues that’s enough to feed a small country. Pfft. Don’t listen to him. He’s silly.

Backyard Clean Up

Today was gooorgeous out. The temperatures were a solid 22 and higher. We took the opportunity to do some Spring cleaning in the backyard and unearth our garden bed to flesh out what we want to do with it this year. It was also junk, waste, yard and recycle day, so we removed the old laundry tub from the yard and raked all the leaves & debris so they could be collected in the morning along with the blue box stuff and garbage.

Are you still awake? Oh, good. Thought I lost you all there for a second. Phew!

RIP, old bush I didn't know the name or species of.

Sadly, today we had to cut down a bush that a previous owner planted years ago because it died over one especially early cold snap two years ago. I finally gave up all hope of it coming back to life. (Sigh)

Old Bush

I don’t remember what the bush was, or even if I ever knew, but it was pretty when the Fall hit, though. I remember that much. Pretty hot pink leaves all over. It reminded me of a feather boa. The husband got to use his reciprocating saw on the bush, so I’m fairly certain he wasn’t sad for long. 🙂

SquatterHome

On the other side of the yard, I was startled at one point when we moved the box the old tub was sitting in. Something jumped out from behind it and sped off like lightening. It scared me. I thought it was a full grown rat till I saw the cotton tail on its backside. It was a baby bunny. Not uncommon in these parts. The local college is nearby and the students are famous for buying one during the school year, and letting it go in any of the local walking trails with brush and trees the second their school year is done. It’s cruel, really. Domestic bunnies don’t know how to fend for themselves, and yet, this goes on year after year.

BabyBunnyBunnyBum

Anyway, this little bun had apparently made its home behind our gardening bins and tools, making a nest with the old leaves that fell between the bins and the wall. Now that we moved the bins and cleaned out that corner, I guess it will move next door where the new owner hasn’t moved in yet and the old owner didn’t bother cleaning up the yard. Next owner’s chore! Those leaves should provide a temporary home for the bunny. At least for a month or two, I figure. By then, this little bun will be a big bun, and hopefully someone will spot it and take it home. Hopefully.

LawnCare

All in all, I’m happy with how the yard turned out after only a few hours of raking and moving stuff to sweep, cutting and clearing, and uncovering a pleasant surprise in my gardent bed – flat leaf parley from last year that somehow managed to survive a snowy, awkward winter season. Not sure how to explain that. Thought for sure the snow and cold snaps would’ve shocked them dead. Huh. Hardy little herb, no?

ParsleyLives

After I plant the rest of my herbs in the coming weeks and get things rolling gardening wise, and the husband has a chance to make the grass seeds he threw down today make some magic happen in those patchy areas, I think this yard will come together nicely. I will post more pictures as things progress or if there is anything amazing to show you, like more bunnies or a zombie playing in my herb garden.