Friday, July 26, 2013

"Fried" Green Tomatoes & My Mother's Garden

There's just something about the taste of a slice of green tomato, lightly breaded and fried to crispy golden perfection. Tangy and crunchy with a little bit of sweetness, which is even better reheated with a little Colby Jack cheese for breakfast.

But, take them to the next level and keep your kitchen cleaner by using your Pizza Pizazz and eliminating the grease. I definitely should have tried this much sooner! It's so much easier to wash a pizza tray and wipe down the counter than to clean grease splatters off the wall, over the stove microwave and the stove itself, not to mention drips of egg and breading, and, anything that might make it to the floor.

Plus, there is just so much more room to work on my countertop! Places to set the eggs, cornstarch, crumb mix, and a tray for the finished slices.

First, though, it helps to have some place to secure several nice green tomatoes. A place like your mother's garden! I only took a couple Mom, really. You've a whole pile more on the way and should be nice and ripe by the time you're back.

My Mom didn't get a chance to plant much before she had a family matter to deal with. Her garden doesn't look too bad. Maybe it's just missing her.

Now she can come in an get an update. These stargazer lilies look awesome. The yellow daylilies are basking in their sunny position.

And, since your porch is so quiet, a pair of wrens have set-up housekeeping above your clock.

Complete with little chirping babies. They will probably be flying by the time you get back, so no worries. The parents were hanging around in the nearby lilac bush when we would come outside. They are obviously used to my Mom being around because, while I was sitting in her chair, they had no problem with my being there and taking pictures.

He seemed quite content to pose for this picture for me. Momma was already in the nest with the worm she picked out of the lawn. But as soon as they flew off for the next worm, you could hear the little ones chirping away.

So, all's quiet and mowed. And, there will be nice ripe tomatoes in a week or so. Now, I just need to get my own bottle tree for my yard. BTW, that little bird house to the left also has a little nest in it, so more birds all over. I'm sure they miss my Mom feeding and watering and roaming around.

"Fried" Green Tomatoes
4 to 6 medium green tomatoes, sliced 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick
cornstarch ... I mix in a little masa harina with mine
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Salt ... if you use Hickory Smoke Salt it adds an amazing taste to the finished product
2 Tbsp. dried parsley ... you can use fresh, I was out
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
Slice your green tomatoes about 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick. If you want crisper, go thinner. Place on several layers of paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Let set while you set up the pizza maker (this removes excess water).
Start your countertop pizza maker. Spray a round pizza pan and place it in the pizza maker to heat up.
Set up three pie plates in a row. Place cornstarch in the first pan. Whisk 2 eggs with water and place in the second plate. In the last plate mix crumbs, cheese, salt, parsley, garlic and onion powder.
Once the pizza maker is warmed up, start by placing several tomato slices in cornstarch and lightly coating both sides. Tap off any excess. Dip each slice in egg, coating both sides. Then place in crumb mix and coat each side.
Place each slice on the hot pizza pan and once the tray is full set the timer for about 18 minutes. About halfway through, once the first side is nicely browned, you will need to flip each slice. I just used a pair of tongs and flipped them as they came around.
Each batch takes about 15 to 20 minutes to cook through. Best part, they don't need to be drained. Now, to keep the spouse from eating them as they come off the pizza maker ... if you can.

Notes: I usually need 4 to 5 tomatoes for my husband and myself. We LOVE green tomatoes this way. If you just want to try them, you should be fine with 3 for 2 people. You can also use thinly sliced summer squashes for this or with the tomatoes. I'm still playing with my recipe and I think I make changes every time I do. Next year I'm going to try one of those heirloom tomato plants that ripens green. Oh, and plant more tomatoes!

I placed a large slice of tomato on my hamburger for dinner and topped it with the usual stuff. Delicious.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It's Still Quiet ...

I'm just having a nice quiet cup of coffee before leaving my house. It's so nice to be in my fairly clean living room with no TV, kids or other distractions.

I've tried several different times to come in and write a blog post, but get interrupted so often it's not even funny anymore.

I have been dealing with my son for several weeks. Earlier this month he was introduced to a girl and she took his debit card and about 300 of his income almost making him homeless. With his disabilities, he's OK most of the time, but sometimes can get overwhelmed if tired, hungry or frustrated.

Right now he's in my basement with one of his computers. I can hear him down there talking to the computer. If he's online, he may be talking to his dad.

Meanwhile, the oldest daughter is in Texas helping my parents clean out the house of my mother's oldest brother, who passed away earlier this spring. It's been a job involving dumpsters and they are still not finished. Jess might get to see the Gulf of Mexico as a birthday present. She is going to love that. I might never get her to come home, lol.

My younger daughter has been dividing her time between helping me with Matt, helping me with a house I need to empty and college visits. We've just begun the college visit season with about 6 more visits scheduled. I'm sure we will be filling out paperwork sometime in September for the ones she liked best. So far, ISU is in the top 5.

Love this picture of one of my sunflowers with the bees. My garden took a hit earlier this week with a very windy rainstorm. I lost half of one of my pepper plants and picked up three green tomatoes from plants that were knocked over. Everything will be fine. Next year, 3 garden beds and I will put more soil in the pots so they tip less. I can't wait for next year's garden season, but then there will be January for planning it.

And, for planning my landscaping. Since big projects are somewhat out of my scope, I chose one area of the yard to work in. I still have a ways to go, but the long-term goal is to have garden space for herbs and vegetables. Second, to have enough annuals, perennials and biennials for a nice cutting bed for flowers.

I truly believe every family, no matter the income, should sit down two to three times a week at a table together. I also think flowers really make a difference. Sometimes they start the dinner conversation, but it's the conversation that should become the feature. Talking with one's children and taking them seriously, it really makes a difference. And, since my table flowers are a regular feature, I will let one of the kids pick the flowers out and arrange them if they want, too.

Now I'm off for the next part of my day. I have a disability appeal. It has been so difficult not to think about it all the time, but I've just been working to pass it to my higher power and trust that the right thing will happen, and then to focus on the things I really can change.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sewing & Life

Life in general is a lot like mending a pair of pants.

These are a pair of my son's pants. Somehow he managed to rip them in two places all the way from the hem to the hip. He was going to toss them out because he couldn't see fixing them.

Sometimes life gets mess and looks shredded around the edges, too. Like my son's life ... he met a girl at his local malmart. I don't know much about her; never met her. Meanwhile, she took his debit card and spent 300+ of his money, leaving him with nothing to pay his rent. He even got seriously drunk and told off all his family.

The landlord's agent finally managed to kick the girl from his apartment, but the damage was already done. He may end up without internet, television or phone for a while. He did finally call me, though it's taken 10 or so days to finally get the whole story, or what seems to be most of it anyways.

Like mending clothes, you can mend family relationships. It might not be as easy as mending a pair of pants, but it's usually worth it in the end.

While your relationship with your family isn't quite the same, it is nice to know they are there for you even when you've made some mistakes.

In the realm of mending, we're going to be working on mending his relationship with his bank, his landlord and his utilities. Then with his doctors and social services. We've already banded together to clean his apartment. I don't think I've ever seen it this clean, ever. We even took every stitch of laundry from every spot we could find it and brought it to my house where we're working on washing EVERY thing.

And, we do mean everything ... blankets, bedding, towels, kitchen towels, unders, socks, socks and more socks, pants and an endless trail of tee shirts. And, in the folding process, we are sorting and mending tears and holes.

Did I mention I'm tired of laundry??

And, that's only part of it. It will be so nice to have a clean living room again. Most of what you see will leave when we take Matt home. The rest will either have homes in my house or be in a box for my niece to see if any fit her.

And, to make my morning ... my morning glories bloomed today in shades or purple, blue and white streaks and I think there will be a fuchsia one tomorrow ... definitely need pictures! My tomatoes are just beginning to turn. I've been getting banana peppers in piles. My basil plants have been supplying enough that I could give it away if I knew someone who'd use it, meanwhile, it looks nice in the jar in my kitchen window.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An Open Note To My Oldest Son

This is my oldest son Matthew. He escorted me down the aisle, him on one side and my younger son opposite. He's been a pillar of strength for me over the last year, but maybe he doesn't know how much it's appreciated.

Last week, Matt's friends kind of set him up with a young lady about his own age. As far as I can/could tell, he was very taken with her and I think it's a good thing.

I don't know anything about this young lady. My son, though, wanted to bring her everywhere he went. I chalked this up to being a new relationship, until he wanted to bring her mowing with him.

Mowing. Sounds simple. It's not. We were going to mow a lot in West Brooklyn, IL, were there is no power, no water, no toilet. In fact, West Brooklyn is so small, there's not much of anything except a bank. I had a very tiny house there once, which is now in some serious need of either a complete rebuild frame up or a complete tear down.

I can't say it's not some place to take a first date, because the first place I took my new, then boyfriend, now husband, was to see what I thought was one of my not-so-great aspects. But for me to take my son's new girlfriend? I don't think so.

We would be mowing and I wasn't sure what condition the property would be in. I wasn't sure if mowers would do or I would need a brush hog. There are lots of dips in the land and not a lot of places to be out of the way. If you don't know your way around, it's easy to turn an ankle and not really close (12 miles) to a hospital.

My oldest son has psycho-effective disorder, rather like psychosis. He doesn't always grasp some concepts easily, like liability. It's one thing to be liable for my own children, but quite another to be liable for someone else's.

So, Matt, I'm very sorry I couldn't take your friend there, but I wouldn't probably take your friend Dave either. It's really one thing to take you or any of the other children, but it's really something different to be responsible for someone else's, especially when you know nothing about them.

So, I think my son feels that I don't like that he's dating and don't support his decisions, when that is really furthest from the truth. I'm comfortable with my son dating. I'd like to get to know his date first before taking her places that my liability might be extreme, though I realize that my son didn't consider liability to be an issue, or give me an opening to explain it.

So, Matt ... if you read this ... it really comes down to needing to meet your new friend and the fact that I cannot afford the liability issues to take your new friend to places I own. But, I love you bunches!


Monday, July 8, 2013

Mending and other stories

This morning I can hear the rain and hear Steve sigh, probably thinking it's going to rain all day and they will get further behind at work.

Yesterday, I spent part of the day doing all the mending I had accumulated. Three of Steve's shirts, two of mine, two underthings that needed new hems, done. About a week ago, I changed out a plastic cabinet for a beautiful wood dresser that matches my dining room hutch. Since my girls were here, knew I wouldn't be able to re-arrange that room by myself, or for that matter, bring the dresser in, they volunteered.

Before I dashed off into the kitchen, I gave them a rough idea of what I was thinking and then a handful of large baskets to move things out of the way to the basement. Then my dining room became a hive of busy children, moving baskets, moving furniture and doing that giggling cursing thing that people do when they moving things for someone else.

They were able to move both large sewing machines and change out the table the serger was on. They brought in the new dresser and found a home for it. It may not stay there, but it does look so much nicer than that plastic cabinet that was taped up the front. And, after all, when you are eating in your sewing room, looking classy helps. Removing clutter also helps.

I am never going to be able to say I'm completely without clutter, but I'm working on having homes for those things I simply must keep. I've also been working hard on getting rid of things that I don't need or have a home for. The best question I've used to pare down my things is "and where will it go?" If I can't answer that question with a good answer, one besides the attic or the basement, I seriously consider getting rid of the item.

The harder part of getting caught up is overtaxing yourself. Last week, we ended up making a mad dash to another house and found it overgrown to the point of needing to rent a brush hog to mow it down. Brush hogs are awesome, but very wearing. The bruises are still coming up and Steve finds them everywhere, like half dozen new ones every day since. I'm so still today, I'm seriously considering staying at home.

Now, besides bruises, brush hogs, mending and cooking, I managed to pour a whole cup of coffee into my side table. *Frown* This meaning I now had no excuse not to remove the top of said side table and get working on it's new one. So, outside it went. I can say that the top is now stripped off and due to the rain, it's probably as clean as it will get. Now to cut about 100 small Formica samples into squares and glue them all down, but first, I think I should sand the top down and fill any low places with Durham's and sand some more.

I already have a large polished piece of glass I found in a neighbor's trash that is perfect for putting on top the new top once it's dry and the base re-stained. In the meantime, my living room looks like a hurricane blew in because everything that was in the table is now all over the floor. I think I'm at least going to put it into a basket or something to at least *look* presentable.

That being said, I think I'm going to get on that...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Fresh Ravioli

I always read those packaged ravioli that say serving size is like 3 or 5 ravs, but trying it with store-bought can be disappointing. The filling is usually barely there and the pasta, even if well cooked, lacks any heartiness. The solution for this is to make your own, and seriously, it's easy.

I start with the filling for the ravioli. I used well-trimmed gizzards (about 3/4 lb.), fresh globe basil from my garden, three slices from the beef roast and about 1 Tbsp. grated diakon radish. A little parsley chopped fine and added with 6 oz. tomato sauce and 2 oz. water to flavor the meat. The green, red and banana (sweet) peppers are for the sauce.

I brought the sauce up to a boil, then added the gizzard meat and beef, chopped very small, stirred once, then turned the heat down to medium. The idea is for them to simmer until tender and then run them through the blender to make fine enough for filling. When I put the meat in the blender, I did my best to leave the tomato sauce in the pan.

You want your filling mix to be on the finer side but not wet. Put this aside while you make the sauce and pasta. My sauce started with leftover tomato sauce from making the filling. I sliced the remaining roast into petit steaks. I also used half a jar of Four Cheese pasta sauce (for the two of us, we really don't need a whole jar).

Here are all my various peppers, sliced thinly, bite size and added to the pan just after the steaks. Get a little brown on both sides of the steak, then add the peppers and turn the heat down before adding the pasta sauce. Once you've added the pasta sauce, stir and cover, turn the heat to low and let simmer while you make pasta.

Pasta dough is so easy to make it's ridiculous. I think my next purchase should be the pasta roller for my Kitchenaid mixer so I can make my own spaghetti noodles. Into your mixer, start with 2 cups flour and into a separate cup, break 4 eggs. Breaking them into a separate cup assures no eggshell pieces get into the dough. Start the mixer and add 2 Tbsp. oil to the mixer and let it do it's thing. Slowly add the last cup of flour. Occasionally, you will need to turn the mixer off and scrap down the sides and turn the bottom. Keep working until dough forms a raggy ball. Turn onto a little flour on your counter, knead a bit until smooth and cover with plastic wrap to let it rest without drying out.

To make raviolis, start by preparing a couple sheet pans with a layer of flour or cornmeal to prevent sticking. You need at least 2 because you can't layer these before cooking. Second, cut your ball of dough into 2 to 4 pieces, put the rest back under the wrap and work the first piece into a flat circle. With your rolling pin, roll dough out really thin, like 1/4 inch or less. Cut the dough into bunches of little squares and try to keep them the same size.

Take another egg and break it into a measuring cup, whisk it with a fork, then get a pastry brush to brush the ravioli. Then every other square gets about 1/2 to 1 tsp. filling. I used small bites of filling because I was serving them with steak; I think if I was just serving ravs, I'd have used quite a bit more filling. Put the empty square on top a filled square and press together to seal the edges around filling. Take each square and set on your prepped pans until ready to boil. Repeat until dough and filling are used up. The dough can also be refrigerated or frozen.

Since you can't put a lot of ravioli in the pan at a time, I pulled my largest saucepan and filled it about 2/3rds the way up with Cold water and salt. Let come to a boil, then add 3 to 4 ravs to the boiling water. The water should slow it's boil, then return as the pasta gets hot. Ravs will sink to the bottom of the pot, but as soon as they are ready, they will rise to the surface. The easiest way I've found to strain ravioli is to use a Chinese mesh scoop (for frying in a wok).

I put a little bit of butter over each batch of raviolis to keep them from sticking to each other. These are a fairly large. Toss them occasionally while you add each batch to be sure they aren't sticking, but try to keep the amount of butter down to just enough to lightly coat surfaces.

Once you've completely boiled all your raviolis, adjust the seasoning on your sauce and serve. Then, hope that you have leftovers for breakfast.

These are just as good the next day. I had a couple for breakfast. I think these would also be awesome made into fried ravioli, lightly buttered, dipped in seasoned panko crumbs and baked on a greased baking sheet until golden and crisp.

Ravioli Dough
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 yolk, for egg washed (I used a whole egg rather than waste half an egg)
Combine flour & salt.
Add eggs one at a time and continue to mix. Then drizzle oil into mixer and add flour until forms a ball. Knead until smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes before shaping.

Cut in half (I divided mine into thirds). Dust counter with flour and roll into rectangle. Brush surface with egg wash. Drop 1 Tbsp. filling apx. 2 inches apart on half the sheet of pasta. Top with other half, gently press out air pockets and form a seal.

Cook in salted water 10 to 15 minutes. Do not over crowd pan. They will float once cooked.

You can use any combination of things you like for your filling ... cheeses, Italian sausage, minced vegetables ... I created the beef-gizzard blend because I had gizzards in the freezer and needed a way to serve them in a manner my husband would eat them, or in other words, hide them. Sorry Hun!!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Happy 4th and Other Notes

I hope you had a happy Fourth of July! This is one of my basil plants. I have been using leaves from it for about 2 weeks and the difference between fresh basil to the standard dried basil is night and day!

For the first year, I did not go to any fireworks. I was so tired after my day that I did not want to go somewhere to watch fireworks late in the evening when Steve has to work the next day. Besides, we would have had to go about 20 minutes from home to watch them. I get tired long before fireworks would start.

And, here is my boy after working hard around our home and then mowing our lawn. I know he works hard at his job and I think that he deserves his time off. Well, and of coarse, I love him to bits.

We've a nice yard and want to keep it nice. I am working on getting some of the areas that either can't be mowed, or look weird when mowed, covered with perennial plants or covered with flowers or vegetables. I talk with him about where I can plant perennial flowers or trees that will bloom. It wouldn't pay to have him mow them down because I planted them in the wrong place!

I am looking forward to bringing some Rose of Sharon babies here and getting them planted into the ground. I also have a hydrangea that I'm going to baby for one more year before putting into the ground. We've talked about some places to put plants and even out the curves around the house. When you are going to mow with something as large as Steve's mower, the fewer curves the better.

I still have more hostas, irises, coneflowers, hollyhocks, Rose of Sharon, and bulbs that I want to get into the ground and have a full range of early spring flowers to fall flowers, plus vegetables without causing him to have extra work mowing our yard.

I have a wrought-iron base I'm spraying black and a table-top I purchased at a garage sale for a dollar that I will use for an outside dining table. I have a patio umbrella to use with the table to create a shaded space for eating outside. Eventually, I want to build a pergola, but it can wait until I've gotten some other things done.

I also brought home a flier on quartz countertops to research into as I would like to upgrade our kitchen with quartz counters, a new sink, and a professional grade faucet with a pull-down handle instead of the sprayer that I have that sticks every time you use it.

I love my kitchen and want to add or improve it any chance I get. I know I've changed my cooking technique to deal with using an electric stove, but I'm finding that a microwave can be an asset if you have glass dishware to use with it. Now I'm going to figure out how to make something from my freezer into something my dear hubby will eat... good thing I've got some time!

I love cooking and he loves my cooking as long as it's something he likes to eat. He will eat something I make even if he doesn't like it, but then I'll find him munching Doritos ... so my usual goal is to cook something good enough for Steve not to be munching Doritos 2 hours later! He's fairly easy ... potatoes or rice, then meat, of course while he prefers no vegetables, I am always hiding them inside the main course, no matter what. Now to go figure what I'm going to make for dinner.