Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Under the Influence of Gardner Guilt (and a little swearing)

So sometimes you have these great ideas and they go really well.  Other times you think zucchini, pineapple, and strawberry Jell-O - how could that go wrong.

Well… I can honestly say I don't clearly know what was going through my head when I decided to make Zucchini Pineapple Strawberry Jam for my family canning exchange.  I'm the biggest proponent of "make something you love - not something weird" and then I stomped all over that sentiment.

Our garden has been great this year.  I can't even tell you how much zucchini we have been able to get out of it.  It's been amazing.  I had some 'bright' idea to look for canning recipes that involved zucchini, because hey why not use something we already have right?

I used my food processor to shred 12 cups of zucchini and cooked it with sugar - LOTS of sugar.  Then pineapple - which by the way is the thing I am most allergic to.  Yet again - why did I pick this recipe?  I can't even try it!  I got to use my immersion blender - which I always love using - and I added the Jell-O.  It was so pretty and pink!

I did the canning process and pulled out the prettiest peach colored weird looking jam.  Um… what?  What happened to the pink?  No idea.  I had Andy help me pack it up - he tasted it… gave a wicked face and said it was interesting.  Hrm…  I had my mom and Gram try it - they said it tasted like pineapple jam with a zing.  Um… wonder what the zing is.  I tried some too from the bit in the fridge that was too small to go in a jar, my opinion?  Oh, I have no idea, I was too worried I was going to die from eating pineapple - I have no idea what it tasted like.

So… let's review things we have learned here.

1. Don't make weird shit for family canning exchanges - stick with something you know and love…

2. Don't make things you are clearly allergic to and cannot even sample.  Just don't do it!

3. Andy is brutally honest when he's cranky

4. Don't swear in your blog posts - people might read it and think you have a potty mouth.

5. Cooking Strawberry Jell-O a second time changes its color.

6. Gardner Guilt is a real thing - feeling like you should do something with your harvest even if it's making weird jelly for your aunts and cousins.

7. These lists will always - always get me in trouble.

8. Sorry Mom.

Strawberry Zucchini Marmalade

6 Cups grated zucchini (squeeze to remove excess water)
6 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup lemon juice
1 large can crushed pineapple (juice and all)
1 (6oz) package strawberry Jello
Boil zucchini and sugar for 20 minutes. Add lemon juice and crushed pineapple. Boil for 5 minutes. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat, pour into hot jars and seal. Process in water bath for 5 minutes. Makes 6 jelly jars.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Don't want to hear about freezer meals? Move on...

Freezer meal, freezer meal - blah blah blah.  I know.  You are tired of hearing my proclaim my love of them.  Well - that's not going to stop any time in the near future.  Freezer meals save my sanity.  They cause my daughter anxiety.  What?  Why are we mixing all these ingredients up?  I want my noodles boring and plain without any possible ounce of flavor on them.

Um… I mean… Bronwyn isn't a huge fan of casseroles.

I want to pack my freezer with meals that I want to eat.  I want to open the freezer door and say "oh wow - what are we having tonight!" instead of "ugh… I guess we'll have that tonight…"  wah wah….  More wow less wah.

I saw this recipe and figured it was pretty easy and simple.  The original recipe calls for a 9x13 dish - but I split it up into two 8 x 8 pans.  I also think there is a mistake on the amount of tortellini.  It says 2 - 20 oz packages… I think it probably should say 20 oz total - but I did the 40 and it worked out pretty well.

My casserole size is starting to need some work.  Considering Nicholas has his 96 percentile weight to maintain - he eats a lot.  Bronwyn?  Well, she eats what we make deals with her on, and then us… there's very little left.  I'm testing out square containers and deeper rectangles - I'll let you know what I find that works.  I'm sure you'll love to hear more about my crazy freezer meals.

Easy Cheesy Baked Tortellini

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 (25.25 oz) jar DeLallo Marinara Pasta Sauce
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 (20 oz) packages refrigerated cheese tortellini
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
Freshly chopped basil, for garnish, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook and additional two minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until spinach wilts and shrinks down. Stir in the pasta sauce and diced tomatoes. Add the oregano, dried basil, red pepper flakes, and fresh basil. Stir and season with salt and black pepper, to taste.

3. Pour 1/2 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Add half of the tortellini to the dish and spread out evenly. Top with more sauce, just to cover the tortellini. Sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella cheese over tortellini and sauce. Next, sprinkle 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese over the mozzarella cheese. Add the rest of the tortellini to the dish in an even layer. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese over the top. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

4. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray and cover baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil from pan and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Note-this pasta dish freezes well. Split into two 8 x 8 foil pans to freeze.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Yeah, no.

Tomatoes - their seeds are so tiny and when you plant them you think... how on earth will these grow fast enough to give us any amount of fruit in the summer.  Well... get a few packs of seeds and give it a try.
Well... When Andy planted just a few of the plants I'd started I felt annoyed.  I had worked so hard on growing those babies for him to plant only a couple of what I started?  Pffft!  Whatever.
Fast forward to now - when the rain knocked down our massive plants, cages and all - and we have ZERO hope of getting those suckers to stand up since they are so heavy laden with fruit.  Oh my yes.  So about those few little plants?  Well Andy sure picked some winners.  We also had a few that reseeded from last year.  Bonus tomatoes!
I tried a few different varieties, the most prolific currently being these sweet little yellow tomatoes.  Awfully cute.  I made a bunch of salsa with them then wanted to try my hand a tomato pie.  I saw the recipe and from the pictures it looked tasty.  Thought it would use some of our tomatoes and basil too.  It did that!  Also a crust that has been in our freezer and clearly been abused.  Thankfully I thawed it and mushed it back into shape.
while I'd like to share my recipe - I'm not going to.  You see it didn't really turn out that well.  The recipe called for mayo and stupid me I included it.  We aren't super fans of mayo in cooked/baked items... unless it's a chocolate cake.  It just gives it a weird tang.  So... I leave you with these pretty pictures - until I can find a recipe for a winner tomato pie.
Side note.  I blame Dan Quayle for my ALWAYS typing tomato and potato with an extra e on the end.  Right?  Ugh.  Thank goodness for auto-correct - can we auto-correct my brain?

Side Note!  Abby - this is not your recipe!  This was the original one I tried…. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

A Cross-Stitch Christmas - Yuletide Traditions

I know it's hard to imagine Christmas when the leaves haven't even started to change color, try thinking up a Christmas design in the spring a year before it's even ready for the world to see.  Not the easiest thing to do.  I was honored to be asked to be a part of "A Cross-Stitch Christmas - Yuletide Traditions" - a new book by Craftways.  This was one of the first patterns I designed where I did not see a stitched version before sending it to the publisher.  I had to wait over a year to see the finished stitched product - and how fun and whimsical it turned out to be.

These little critters are all hanging around the Christmas tree.  I love how they added buttons and some fun edging to the edge of the design.  How fun to be a part of this great book.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ipema Family Canning Exchange 2016

It's starting to feel more like Fall in Chicago and for my family, that means our Annual Canning Exchange.

My rules are simple.  Show up with something in a jar - you are in the exchange.  M&Ms, peanuts, jelly, jam, whatever you want.

We had our exchange last week and as always it was wonderful.  As you probably have read in previous blog posts, my favorite part of these exchanges are the stories.  I love hearing how each person came up with their recipes, the struggles, the fun, the flops, all of it.  Love it.  We start with one jar, pass it around, each person takes some, the maker gets a chance to say what it is and her story.

This year was much like past years, plenty of laughter and love shared between us.  I thank God for these women in my life - they are wonderful role models in my life and am thankful they all put up with my crazy.  Also seeing my Gram with her family is just where she likes to be.  I'm so thankful she is still active enough to participate and enjoy the time together.

From Left to right:
Top: Sweet and Savory Dressing Bottom: Mango-Raspberry Jam
Top: Walnut Pesto
Bottom: Grandma's Apple Sauce
Garlic Infused Oil
Top: Dried Dill
Middle: Strawberry Zucchini Marmalade
Bottom: Copycat Hidden Valley Ranch Mix
Top: Church Peanut Butter
Bottom: Cherry Jubilee Ice Cream Topping
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