Claudia and Hans Make Stuff

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How to Preserve Summer-time Salsa for Winter

It is super-simple and easy to make various types of salsas. Most of the recipes (at least the ones that I have made) just place everything in a blender and blend it to the desired consistency. Hans and I do not like chunky salsa, so this works great for us.

As our salsas were not chunky or temperature-sensitive, like some fruit salsas might be, I had a couple of different options to preserve the salsa for later.

 

Option 1: Canning hot salsa
This options works great for salsa recipes that require heating the salsa, like the Tomatillo Salsa. It can also be used for other salsas, but you will have to heat them on the stove slowly. I have done this with a tomato salsa before.

Here is what you do:
1. Make the salsa as you normally would. For the Tomatillo salsa, I heated the salsa to simmer it to reach the desired consistency. Tip, if you still need to add spices: take a bit of salsa and place it in the freezer to be able to test the spices of cold salsa. Hot salsa tastes strange.
2. Meanwhile, heat the jars for canning in hot water (only the jars, not the lids).
3. Carefully take one jar at a time out of the hot water bath. Tongs work well. I usually hold the jar using a kitchen towel. Then carefully ladle the hot salsa in the jar leaving just a bit of space on the top. Then make sure that the top and sides of the jar is clean. If not, wipe it clean with the kitchen towel. Place the lid and the band on and tighten. Turn the jar upside down (so that the salsa is touching the lid), I think this helps with the sealing process. Once cooled, you can store the jars right side up in a cool and dark place, like a pantry.
4. Enjoy fresh salsa in the middle of winter =)

Option 2: Freezing salsa that you do not want to heat
This option works great for any salsa that does not have large chunks of any ingredient in it. If there are chunks, these chunks will likely be soggy after defrosting. However, if your salsa is blended and there are no chunks, then freezing should not change the texture of your salsa.

Here is what you do:
1. Prepare the salsa as you normally would.
2. Laddle the salsa into ice cube trays and freeze over-night. The next day, you can remove the salsa cubes and place in a labeled freezer bag (or container) and return to the freezer.
3. Whenever, you want you can then thaw as many cubes as needed. Enjoy =)

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Incredibly-Easy Tomato Salsa

I have posted recipes for Tomatillo Salsa https://ourfunstuff.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/tomatillo-salsa/ and Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa https://ourfunstuff.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/garden-fresh-tomato-and-tomatillo-salsa/. For those who either shy away from using tomatillos or do not have tomatillos on hand, of course you can also make salsa just using tomatoes. Remember the quality and taste of your taste will be directly proportional to the quality of the ingredients.

A couple of weeks ago, I used up the last tomatoes from our garden to make salsa with (except the cherry tomatoes that I roasted, I will post about those soon). These heirloom tomatoes were grown all organic and offered a variety of different tastes. Store-bought tomatoes will work, but they may not taste as amazing as home-grown tomatoes or tomatoes from a local farmer. Also, ideally use tomatoes that were bought in season, you can taste the difference.

Ingredients (Makes approximately 5 cups):
3 cups chopped tomatoes (I used a variety of garden-grown heirloom tomatoes)
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (2 frozen cubes of freshly squeezed lemon juice)
½ jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced
salt and pepper, to taste
cayenne pepper, cumin, and chili powder, optional

Preparation (5 minutes):
1. Place tomatoes, onion, garlic, and jalapeno pepper in a blender. Add the lemon juice and blend until desired consistency.
2. Add spices (For this batch, I only added salt and pepper).
3. Enjoy fresh with chips.
4. Keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days. Alternatively, the salsa can also be frozen or canned for longer storage. I will post a more detailed blog about storage under “Useful Ideas” (RECIPE WILL APPEAR HERE).

 

Note: I seeded the tomatoes before using them. Not because of the taste or consistency but in order to preserve the seeds. We want to be able to plant these heirloom tomatoes again next year. I will post how to save tomato seeds some time soon under “Useful Ideas”, see below.

Note: You can find two options for storing salsa here: https://ourfunstuff.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/how-to-preserve-summer-time-salsa-for-winter/


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Crock Pot Lentil Soup

So not all recipes turn out how they are supposed to…tonight’s kitchen experiment is a great example. I got the inspiration from a cook book and modified some minor things…at least I thought they were minor. It turns out that maybe brown lentils (as suggested by the recipe) and little green lentils (as I used) may not cook the same way.

The taste of the soup was great but the lentils stayed chewy, even after pouring the content of the crock pot into a pot to simmer on the stove for an additional 35 minutes. So I will have to do some reading about the different types of lentils, because they may not be used interchangeably as I thought. I will definitely try this recipe again with brown lentils.

Ingredients (2-3 servings)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 large carrot (I love using rainbow carrots)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
5 cups vegetable stock (2 1/2 veggie bouillon cube and 5 cups water)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Salt and ground pepper, to taste

Preparation:
1. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until softened. Stir occassionally.

2. Meanwhile pick over the lentils and rinse them. An easy way to pick over the lentils is to spread them out on raised baking sheet (see picture). You do not want to miss this step. Check for anything that is not a lentil (e.g., tiny rocks) and damaged lentils. After picking over the lentils, make sure to rinse them. If they are too small for your strainer, place them in a bowl. Gently fill bowl with water and carefully drain the water. REpeat 2 or 3 times.

3. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a 3.5 quart crock pot, add the lentils, water, veggie bouillon cubes, and soy sauce. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Trouble shooting: The soup was still very “soupy” and the lentils were still harder than expected after 7 hours. So I increased the temperature to high for the last hour, with not much success. I ended up pouring the Crock pot content in a large pot and simmered the soup for an additional 35 minutes on medium heat on the stove. The soup thickened a lot, but the lentils were still not as soft as I thought they should be.

Based on the package instructions, the lentils should be simmered for 35-40 minutes. Since I had never cooked with little green lentils before, I will now have to read up on the different types of lentils and their corresponding characteristics.

Lentil soup_6_small


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Apple Pie–Flaky Crust and Delicious Apple-Filling

Phew…months later…I am finally writing down what I did for my first ever homemade apple pie with double-crust. You may remember that we liked the outcome of the apple pie (single crust) https://ourfunstuff.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/first-try-apple-pie/. However, Hans and I agreed that if the pie had a double-crust, the apples would likely have stayed more moist AND made the pie even more scrumptious.

So here is what we did to create the pie.

Ingredients (Makes 1 pie)

Ingredients for double pie crust:
2/3 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups organic flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup ice water
2 tablespoons organic raw sugar

Preparation of pie crust:
1. Make sure that the oil and water is ice-cold. This will make the dough flakier.
2. Add all ingredients together to make a smooth dough. I ended up hand-mixing the dough. Once the dough is done, place it in the refrigerator for one hour.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out half of the dough on a floured surface and place into greased pie baking dish. Bake for 7-10 minutes to allow pie crust to set for filling.

Meanwhile you can prepare the pie filling.
Ingredients for the pie filling:
3 tablespoons raw sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons organic flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
5-6 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

Preparation of pie filling:
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and gently stir to mix ingredients.
2. Pour the mixture into a mediums-sized pan and heat slowly on low to medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until apples reach desired “doneness.” We found that heating the mixture and stirring it, helps to evenly coat the apple slices with honey and sugar.
3. Fill the mixture into the prepared crust. Roll out the second half of the dough and cover the apple slices. Make sure to seal the pie crust edges. I usually use a fork to gently press down to seal the edges. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-45 minutes, or until golden brown and apples are tender.

Covered Apple Pie_4_small


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Spaghetti Squash Made Easy

What is a spaghetti squash?

I had no idea what spaghetti squash is or how to make it. Hans’ mom gave us one a few days ago and tonight I learned why it is called spaghetti squash AND I learned one to prepare it.

The preparation was actually quite simple…ONCE you master getting through the rather tough outer shell. Make sure to use a sharp knife. Cut away from your body and watch your fingers. Or if you are like me, have someone else cut it…and meanwhile walk around the house nervously hoping nobody gets injured.

Once the fruit is cut open, the fun begins.

How to prepare spaghetti squash:
1. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, length-wise. Be careful to not cut yourself.

2. Scoop out all of the seeds and “guts” surrounding the seeds. If you are as obsessed with pumpkin seeds like me, you want to save those seeds and roast them later.

3. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 400 F. Place both halves on a baking sheet with raised edges. Place the spaghetti squash on its cut side. Add a bit of water to the baking sheet to prevent the squash from drying out. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the “meat” is soft.

4. Remove from oven and eat with fork straight out of the shell. (Littlest clean-up that way). Hans suggested to sprinkle a bit of Himalayan Pink Salt on it and he was right it is REALLY DELICIOUS. Enjoy =)

Half was plenty for me. Hans ate the other half.

Half was plenty for me. Hans ate the other half.

Healthful benefits:
* Low in calories, but rich in fiber and various vitamins (including A, C, B2, B3, B6, and K). It is also rich in manganese, folate, and omega-3 fats.
http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/spaghetti-squash-calories-nutrients-1883.html


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Freezing Homemade Pizza Sauce

Not that long ago, I made homemade pizza sauce from home-grown tomatoes and mentioned that it can either be used right away or stored for later by freezing.

I wanted to elaborate a bit on what I did.

What you need:
homemade pizza sauce =)
ice-cube trays
freezer bag (or container that can be frozen) and a marker
freezer

How to freeze pizza sauce:
1. Of course, make home-made pizza sauce. Odds are, you made more sauce than is needed for just one pizza. So now there are left-overs, which you could store in the refrigerator for a few days and then use on another pizza. Or…

2. You could use a pressure cooker to preserve the left-over pizza sauce. However, if you are like me, you may have a pressure cooker somewhere, but have no idea how to use it.  Or you may not even have a pressure cooker. So instead of using a pressure cooker, the pizza sauce can be stored by freezing it.

3. After making the sauce, allow it to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, fill the sauce into ice-cube trays. Make sure to not overfill the trays. Why would anybody freeze pizza sauce in an ice-cube tray instead of a freezer bag or storage container? Because freezing the sauce in the ice-cube tray, allows you to defrost small portions at a time, rather than defrosting the whole batch all at once.

4. Place the ice-cube tray in the freezer overnight. The next day, remove the frozen pizza sauce cubes and place them in a labeled freezer bag or storage container. You do not want to get confused what these cubes are later, especially if you start freezing other things in portions like this–unless you like surprises.

5. Whenever, you want to make pizza, just take the required number of cubes out of the freezer. Thaw and use on your pizza.

Ready to preserve goodness for later

Ready to preserve goodness for later

Frozen pizza sauce cubes

Frozen pizza sauce cubes

 


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Yummy Butternut Squash Ravioli

It’s pretty obvious that I love butternut squash, but we also had butternut squash left over from making butternut squash risotto https://ourfunstuff.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/scrumptious-butternut-squash-risotto/.

So after thinking about what to make with the left-overs, I decided that it would be worth a try to make home-made butternut squash ravioli. I couldn’t have done without the help of Hans. He did all of the hard work from making the dough to making the ravioli. So here is what we did.

Ingredients for the pasta dough (60 ravioli):
1.5-2 cups semolina flour
1.5-2 cups regular flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon olive oil (we used basil-flavored olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Ingredients for the ravioli filling:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 butternut squash, sautéed
salt, pepper, and chili powder, to taste
grated Pecorino Romano cheese, to taste

Preparation:
1. Add flour to a medium bowl and create a deep, wide well in the center. Pour the eggs, olive oil, and salt into the well. Start by mixing the eggs with a fork and then slowly start mixing the flour in from the sides. Once the dough starts to move as a unit, empty the bowl onto a floured surface and knead the dough by hand for several minutes, or until the dough forms a nice ball.The dough should be smooth and homogenous. Knead in more flour, if it still feels sticky.

2. Cut the dough into smaller pieces to be run through the pasta maker. We started with size 1 and slowly increased the level to 5. Level 5 yields a thin layer of dough that we laid out flat to use to make the ravioli.

3. Peel the butternut squash and cut into cubes. Heat the butter and olive oil in medium-size pan. We sautéed the whole butternut squash and used half of the sautéed butternut squash for Butternut Squash Risotto and the other half for this recipe. Add the salt, pepper, and chili powder. Once the butternut squash has been sautéed, use potato masher to mash the butternut squash. Add a bit of freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese and stir until mixed.

4. Place about half a teaspoon of mashed butternut squash onto the dough. Leave some space between the mashed butternut squash to be able to shape distinct ravioli. Cover with another strip of rolled out ravioli dough. Gently press down on the edges to seal each ravioli. Cut the ravioli. This dough and half of the butternut squash will make approximately 60 ravioli.

5. Place ravioli into rapidly boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until dough is done. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small pan. Drain ravioli. Arrange on plate or in flat bowl. Drizzle with a bit of melted butter and sprinkle with more cheese shavings. Enjoy!

Note: We froze half of the raviolis before cooking them. We arranged them on a tray with minimal overlap and placed them in the freezer overnight. This should prevent the raviolis to stick to themselves. We moved the raviolis into a labeled freezer bag for later use. =)

Butternut Squash Ravioli_13_small

 

Ravioli dough inspiration came from: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/ravioli-pasta-dough.aspx