Monday, January 28, 2013

Southern Comfort!!!

Today we received a text message from my youngest brother who is in New York with his wonderful wife. It was very simple, it read like this: "1 more year". We knew instantly what that meant. Great news!  To celebrate, we decided to make a meal for them. Even though they are not here, hopefully the pictures and knowing that we are happy for them will make them smile. Hmm, what could we make that is a representation of the South? The first thing that came to mind was Shrimp and Grits.

So let's begin! First we started some bread. Tonight,  a baguette artisan-style loaf.  This is just the 5 min. dough made into a loaf.

While the bread was doing it's thing, we started the grits. We used the stone ground yellow corn type. 

Then we started the vegetables; some red bell pepper, fennel, zuchinni and some fresh radishes from the garden. We sliced them and rubbed them with some good olive oil and  balsamic vinegar, then seasoned with salt and pepper. We cooked them in a hot 425 degree oven and 1/2 way through turned them to get a nice caramelization on both sides. We made sure the fennel was tender before we removed them to cool.

Now for the main entree. Smoked sausage and ham, then the shrimp. After it has cooked a few minutes we added the tomatoes (diced), garlic and seasoning.

Then we plated the meal and ate out on the deck. It's hard to believe that it is January and the temperature was in the mid 70's!

Oh my!  Soooo delicious!
Wish you could have been here... (you could have cleaned the kitchen) enjoy the post and even more, enjoy your 

"1 more year"!

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Trying to get the chores done early...

Early Spring Garden gate entrance redo...

Do to the unseasonably warm weather (which we love), we decided to get a jump on the garden walkways and such. One of the problems we have had is that when we get our showers that usually begin in the spring, the water rushes down the slope that heads right to the garden and has washed a lot of sediment through the area. The main target was right through the gate. Our property is quite hilly for the deep south, and when it rains you have to try to control how the water will flow when we get the torrential down-pours. We have never had problems with flooding where we are located, yet when it rains it pours!!!

So here is our gate area. We use to open the gate out or in. Now we can only open inwards. Plus because of the silt, the weeds are starting to move in.

We purchased railroad ties for 10 bucks each, and buried them in the ground, then removed the excess soil.

Now the front door. Yes I said the "front door". I never finish one thing all the way. But the weather was so nice I decided to take advantage of the warm sunshine. Our door has suffered a bit from humidity and doggy toenail graffiti. Notice our fancy saw-horses? I lightly sanded the door and added a fresh coat of sealer. Then placed it in the power dryer to speed up the process.

Then back to the garden! Of course a little Frisbee time with Pickles first.

Next we added our weed barrier (free cardboard), and topped it with some crushed limestone. We love the way it turned out. This should help divert any rushing water.  One project crossed off of the list.  And when the garden starts getting busy, we won't be bugged by a weed-infested garden entryway. 

Oh, I did get the front door hung back up.  Only problem is, I only got to do one side.  That's the way I roll!

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Monday, January 21, 2013

We Luva da Pasta!

Pasta!  Oh lovely Pasta!  We consider pasta one of the gifts of life...especially when you make it from scratch and enjoy each step of the process, until you slip it through your lips...mmmm!  You appreciate a meal so much more when you have a hand in the creation of it, simple or elaborate.  Tonight for us it was somewhere in between...homemade  ravioli with three cheeses and pancetta.  Pasta made from scratch is not difficult at all, you just need to plan to make the dough and refrigerate it about an hour,  make your pasta and let it dry at least an hour.  Then you can proceed with your recipe...we decided to make our own version of a ravioli with what we had on hand, along with a simple tomato sauce that can be used with many pastas.  This is only one of many, many pastas  and fillings we enjoy.  Here we go...

Firstly, we have to have a 'lil snacky-poo while we make the pasta...this is a delicious savory cheesecake leftover from what we made for a party...along with crackers and kalamata olives.  That will calm our growling bellies while we work.

To start the pasta, we assemble our ingredients- 2 1/3 cups pasta flour, eggs, salt, olive oil, and warm water.  Then we pour our pasta flour out on the counter and make a well in the center

Put our 2 beaten egg yolks and 1/2 tsp. salt along with 1 tsp oil in the well 

 Then, stir with a fork and begin to add the water, stirring all along until we get a nice dough. Keep adding the flour as needed, or water as needed, until the dough is no longer sticky and forms a smooth ball. Knead about 5 minutes.

Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for an hour.  Check with the forewomen to make sure you are doing it right...

(Yep. Proceed.) This next step is optional :-)

While the dough is chilling we made the filling. (This is our own mixture)
First get a pan hot add about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, when hot add the pancetta (4 ounces). Cook until browned. 

Remove from the oil and let drain. Then cook 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion in the same pan until tender (around 8 min., medium heat). Place with the pancetta to drain.

While it is draining take a mixing bowl and add 1 cup of ricotta, 1 egg yolk, 3/4 cup each of grated Parmesan and Pecorino Romano, tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley, salt and pepper and the cooked pancetta and onion. Set aside for filling the pasta.

After the dough has chilled and allowed to come to room temperature, divide into 4 parts and begin to roll it out through the pasta roller.

Place it on your ravioli form and begin to fill the pockets...
(You may wish to rub olive oil on the form first for easier removal of the finished ravioli...)

Brush water on the seams of the ravioli, apply the top piece, then roll out to make the pasta squares.

Use a rolling pin to push down on the ravioli form.

By now your help will be excited about the ravioli...

Now the sauce. First get the pan hot that has the pancetta drippings in it, add the garlic (we used 2 crushed cloves). Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes (use a good brand of whole romas or fresh peeled ones) and fresh basil leaves (no need to chop) with a teaspoon of salt and half tsp. pepper. Simmer on low for about 25 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes as it cooks. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove the basil leaves and garlic chunks.

While the sauce is simmering start the pasta water and then place the ravioli in to cook. Try to time the pasta with the sauce to be done at the same time.

Plate the ravioli, top with the sauce, fresh basil (chopped) and grated Parmesan cheese. We enjoyed ours with a nice wine. 

From the kitchen of Sweet Pickles Farm. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

For Daddy and Barb

Life is a kicker, ain't it?  You go along trying to figure out where you fit in and wanting to do everything just right--ruffle no feathers, count all your chickens, cross every "T" and dot every "I", yet you make your share of mistakes, and find yourself on your knees till they are sore.  Just when you feel you are figuring out where you belong and how things work, and that you just want to enjoy your God-given gifts, you realize how frail you are; subject to the circumstances thrown your way.  (Eccl. 9:11)

Just remember that as quiet as some of your offspring are, they think about you all the time...just younger and less experienced.  Still, they realize that the blossoms only last for a season, and they are following in your tracks...

Just a few images for you to enjoy for the moment...

These are my Grandma Alice Josephine's Lilies :-)

We love you and we're waiting for the next time you come to visit Sweet Pickles Farm!