Friday, August 31, 2012

What a Work Out.

I have let this house go way too long.  Of course, in my defense, I was a little busy taking care of my mom while she was sick and now trying to get all of her things gone through (now that she has passed) and going through my stuff that was boxed up to store while mom had the room.  Honestly, I am not the best at house keeping to begin with, always a bit cluttered, but I am working on it.
First of all, after weeks of researching and reading reviews, this is what I have settled on.  The Vivante Pasta Extruder.  I first saw it at William Sonoma.  They had just gotten in the machines and they were running $349.00 plus tax.  Now the one they have is an updated model I guess because it is a little bit different, the extruder part is located more to the side instead of the middle and it has 14 dies.  I decided to see if there was some reputable place on the internet that might be a bit cheaper, wanted to check out the reviews as well.  OH MY GOSH.  I found it this model on sale at Chefs Catalog for $119 with free shipping and no sales tax. What a savings.  The only difference I can find is that the extruder part in located in the center and this comes with 10 dies.  After Googling the different shapes, the only one that I think I would miss is the one for a shell shaped macaroni.  For $220.00 savings I can buy a lot of shells, which we don't really use much of.  I can't wait for it to arrive.  I have been wanting one for some time, the reviews for this machine were much better than for the KitchenAid attachment and the sale price is much cheaper than the KitchenAid attachment.

Now, on to my cleaning saga.
Now my freezer is all defrosted, sanitized and organized.  I found that I had more in there than I had thought.  Like 10 packages of bacon, 10 packages of ground beef, 4 packages of broccoli, well you get the idea.

The top shelf is all beef. Well, the ground beef is actually in the door. However, I do have a roast, cubed steaks, sirloin steaks, a few other steaks, some round steak for making jerky.

The second shelf is all chicken.  Several packages of boneless skinless chicken breast, legs and thighs packages, some wings, a whole chicken, and some seasoned split breast.  Also, some hearts and gizzards, ground turkey and a turkey leg.

The third shelf is pork.  I found all those packages of bacon, a pork roast, a ham shank, a package of cooked ham pieces, a ham bone with quite a bit of meat still on it, even a ham steak.

The fourth shelf, which proudly you notice is half empty, is for ready made junk.  Taquitos,  mini corn dogs, and such.

The bottom basket is all vegetables.  I found three packages of mini corn on the cobs.  There are also some packages of seafood items in there.

At any rate, I am glad that job is done.  So then, on I moved to the pantry chaos.
This thing was stuffed to the gills.  I had no idea what I had or didn't have.  Soup was in three different  places, nothing was in any type of order any more.  I had decided that I would not buy any more groceries until I had cleaned out the pantry.  Oh and what a job that turned out to be.  I had a lot of things that had really expired, found a jar of pimentos that had popped the seal and molded up and several items that the moths had gotten to.  Not as much as I had anticipated, so happy about that because I get so mad at myself when I throw away good food because I waited too long to use it.
Now that is much better.  Like products are together with oldest at the front to be used first.

I found out I wouldn't have little man today so I moved on to the terrible spice cabinet and the mess in the storage cabinet that holds my baking sheets and then the foil, wax paper, plastic bags and such. I will have photos of that to add later. Now that I am in an organizing mood, need to keep it going. I was just taking a break while I ordered my pasta maker.  At least now that I have organized the freezer, pantry and such, it will be much easier to make menu plans based on what I already have on hand, then I will be able to save some of the September budget to stock up on sales.

Thanks for stopping and by and come back soon to see how I am doing at staying on track.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pasta Lesson

So, I tried my hand at pasta making this evening.  I used the hand crank model roller and cutter that I have had tucked in to a closet or cupboard for literally years. Could kick myself for being able to remember where I stuck the owner's manual so I wouldn't loose it.
I put the noodles in to little mounds of nest, as was suggested in several web sights I searched.  Well, if you have had any experience in pasta making, they stuck together making heavy little nested clumps.  The flavor was pretty good, especially the noodles that were separated, but in the end was over all disappointed that I had put that much effort in to something that just didn't work.  I also have determined, due to my little exercise in pasta making, that if I am going to do much more of this, I will getting an electric style maker.

Proud of myself for figuring out the the roller and cutters.  I learned a lot of valuable lessons from doing this, that I am sure I will be making more batches in the future.  If nothing else, I will at least get some what proficient in the rolling of the dough and cutting the dough before this is all over.  My dough on the other hand was pretty awesome. I do need to change up my ratio of flour to egg, but I have the technique part of it down.

Will post more of my adventures as they come.  Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Playing again.

Last night I played again with my roto slicer.  It is just too cool.  This time, I had potatoes, and used the thicker slice drum.  I need more practice on feeding the food through, but the curve is fun so don't mind.  I made homemade potato chips.
They were awesome.  I couldn't believe the family ate them up so quickly, actually came back looking for more.  I think I could have made two batches. Now I have a new request.  Miss Zebra wants me to figure out how to make vinegar & salt chips.  I do think however that maybe I need to use the thinner slicer until I figure out how to run the food through.  Some of the slices that came out correctly were really good.  However, some of the slices that came out paper thin on one end, thicker on the other, came out acceptable, but the thinner part was pretty crisp, more like a store bought potato chip.  I wonder how the thinner crispy ones would taste the next day?

Oh, and before I forget,  I bought a new deep fryer yesterday as well.
It is awesome.

I have a Waring Pro that the kids gave me for birthday.  It is still working wonderfully well, but I happened to see this Presto brand in Walmart and saw how big the fryer basket was.  I can hold quite a bit more than the old one so I bought it.  I made the homemade potato chips in it.  It claims to be cool touch, but is not.  In fact, it gets so hot I believe it could easily burn a person by touching it. The cord attaches nicely though.  I don't know why all these fryers have to have magnetic type attachments for the cord.

That's it for today.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Loving My New Toy!

I did it! I bought myself a new toy.

Let me back up and start from the beginning, so to speak, so you get the whole story.  Over a year ago, I decided I wanted to take a cake decorating class from the Michael's store.  The Wilton for beginners.  I had a grand baby on the way and wanted to be able to make some really great cakes for birthdays.  I also wanted to make nice cakes for holidays and church gatherings. At any rate, I started the classes, bought the big kit and then some extra things to go with it of course.  It was a four week class...I made two of them.  I am going to try to take them over, but have to see what time the classes are available.  So, to help with the "big plan" I decided to purchase a stand mixer, all I had was a little hand type.  I wanted a KitchenAid, my mom had one and hers was always so reliable.  So, I asked mom about it and she said she would buy it and I could pay her back.  Well, she ended up giving it to me as a birthday gift.  While I miss my mom's mixer and it's glass bowls, I am loving my white mixer with the stainless steel bowl.  Why not, everything else in my kitchen is stainless steel.

I think I made like two cakes with it, about that many batches of icing for decorating.  Now, over a year later, I was some how remembering the little attachments my mom had for her mixer.  OH HOW I Wish I hadn't put them in the estate sell in 2010.  Kind of funny though, my mother in law came by and bought my mom's mixer.  She used to own a bakery so she knows her stuff. Back to the story though.  I had just bought a new food chopper to replace mine that was broken.  The little thing was the greatest and only cost about $10, but the lid cracked and it just doesn't seem to run right after that.  To replace it I bought a Ninja Express, a red one, which I have not used it as yet, will post how it works for me another time.  Since I am now on a quest to organize my life, wanting to get back to OAMC and menu planning,  I have after much thought, decided it was time to invest in some of the attachments.
I found a huge bargain on this little bundled set, it is actually two attachments and an accessory. I bought it.  If you don't know anything about mixers, KitchenAid is considered one of the top brands and is a little on the pricey side, but they have a great warranty.  What you see above is a vegetable roto cutter/shredder, which comes with a set of 4 blades, meat/food grinder and the little extra attachment to stuff sausage.  I can't wait to really try them all out.  There are just a ton of attachments and accessories one you can buy to go with the  mixer.
My first experiment was with cucumbers.  It has been so hot and cucumber salad was sounding so good.  I didn't have my glasses on (have an appointment Wed. to get updated prescription) and did notice that two of the cutters looked similar, however I was not at able to read the marking on the drum cutter so though it was for a regular cutting. In no time I had everything cut. They came out wonderful, but paper thin so I will be sure and use the thicker cut slicer next time. I can see a trying this thin cutter to make some homemade potato chips very soon.

My next little adventure will be in pasta making. I have always wanted to try it, I love the texture of fresh pasta.
This is the pasta roller attachment for my mixer. The options are a roller with two cutters or five cutters.  You roll the pasta out really thin, then roll through the cutters which make different widths of noodles.  It is really pricey, so was thinking it over before making that kind of investment.  Because I also want the pasta extuder attachment.
With this attachment, you don't roll the dough out, you put in small balls of dough, a couple at a time, and then it is forced through the die cuts for the different shapes, the little wire cutter is used to make the length you choose.  Works like the play dough barber or beauty shop that makes the hair grow. I want this attachment so that I can make macaroni, rigatoni, spaghetti, and even the spiral type.

That's when it hit me.  I have a roller already.  Out to the garage I went and lucky for me it was sitting on the shelf closest to the edge, so literally right in front of my face.
Okay, granted it is hand cranked, but it is already bought so the price is right.  It has a roller head and one cutter blade.  I think I buy extra cutter blades, for making different widths of pasta ribbons, but, there is a little cheaper way.
It is called a pasta bike.  You can put the wheels really close together for narrow pasta like linguine, or spread them out farther to cut lasagna strips. The pasta bike allows you to cut several strips at once.
Or you can use this type of cutter to cut one strip at a time.  One side for straight edges, the other side for a wavy effect such as lasagna or for crimping ravioli.  Looks like a wheel I have for marking sewing patterns.  Speaking of ravioli.
There are all kinds of ravioli makers.  This one is pretty cool.  Place one sheet of dough over the metal tray, spoon the filling of choice on top, then place another sheet of dough on top.  Take the rolling pin and roll across it and it cuts the dough and crimps the edges  for seal. There is also a rolling pin that is grooved to cut the ravioli with out the tray.  There are different shaped cutters as well.  The ravioli can be made with out a form, just put the first sheet of dough on the counter or a board, spoon the filling in, top with second sheet of dough and the just run you hand cutter through to separate and seal. I even have a little round cutter in my kitchen drawer.  Of course, there is an attachment for my mixer for that as well.  You load one pasta shape, let it drape to the left, load the other pasta sheet, let it drape to the right, then spoon in the filling as you go.  There may even be an attachment for my hand dough roller.

If I had a large family, or did catering, I would probably invest in the more fancy ravioli makers, but not at this time.  So, actually, my next big purchase is either the extruder for my mixer or just buy a pasta machine that does all the mixing and then extrudes the shapes out.  My problem is I have read mixed reviews on both set ups.  I have not found any one that has actually used one or the other.  I also posted on the local Free Cycle group to see if anyone has a pasta machine that they would like to get rid of. We will see what happens.

In the mean time, today I am going to clean out my pantry and see just what food I have on hand.  My sweet little daughter (15) got it in her head to clean out the bottom part for me one day.  She even wrote out a list of what all I had on hand.  Problem is, she didn't put it back in any order, and not in the spots I am used to so am struggling to find items.  The top part of the pantry is a total disaster as well.  Cans of soup on three different shelves, fruit and vegetables all mixed together. Have got to get that one cleaned out as well.  I know, I know, sounds kind of OCD of me, but I hate having to look through all the shelves to find what I am looking for. Or worse, buying products just get home and find that I already have three of them.

Oh, and my freezers need some serious cleaning out and reorganizing as well.  I am sure I have meat in there, but can never seem to find it.  One freezer has a lot of frost that is taking up valuable room, not to mention making the unit work harder, so will defrost it when I clean it out.  I am sure there is a lot of stuff that really needs to just be thrown away.

Of course, that is not an easy task when most of my time is taken up with the grand son. He seems to think that I nothing else to do but hold him and play with him.  And...he is usually right.

On a side note, finally got my shelf units in to my sewing room.  Soon as hubby gets the one set attached to the wall  I can start pulling all my supplies out of storage and getting that all organized back.  Had to store it all when we turned the room in to a bedroom for my mom to live in while she was sick.  Now that she has passed, there is so much to do and so much to still go through.  All of her personal belongings are in storage, but I have until the end of December to actually get rid of all that.  The hard part is wanting to keep the larger items because it was hers, but I don't really have space for it.

Well, messing around on the computer is sure not getting anything accomplished.  Thanks for stopping by and drop in again soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Backing Up A Bit

Thought I would back up a bit and tell the story of the Lilies in my flower bed.  Be prepared to get amazed.

We have lived in this house for 12 years now, never planting anything in the front flower bed.  Well, some shrubs that died out and a palm tree that hasn't.  At any rate, never any flowers of any kind.  My husband had mowed and trimmed the yard on a Friday evening, all was the same as all the other days.  The following morning, in the early hours, my mom passed away.  That afternoon, a large stalk or stem appeared in the flower bed.  When I say appeared, and large, I mean that a 15-16 inch single stem appeared out of no where in the flower bed. No leaves, on a single stem with a single bud on it.  Exactly one week later, the bud had opened and I was so surprised to find not one, but four lilies.  Three of which were open, the fourth opened on the following Tuesday.  That was the day that my oldest daughter arrived for a visit.  She had lilies in her wedding which mom and I had just been talking about not a week before she passed.  She also talked about the lilies that my daughter would send her for special occasions.  Now, I have four children, three of whom lived in town, and the fourth opening the day my fourth child, the oldest arrived.  Now, those flowers withered and were replaced by five new ones, same single stem.

Mom had 5 sisters and lived with us for five weeks before she passed. The lily is often a symbol of motherhood.  Mom was raised by her sisters.
Now, another note to this little story.

When we held my mom's service, I had remembered at the last minute that I needed a little bud vase to sit next to the guest book.  I popped in to a local flower shop to get what ever she had on hand.  She had the same lilies in her shop, I told her the story, she told me that the story was amazing because that particular type of lily comes from a bulb that has to be planted at least a year or so before it blooms and it rarely has more than one bloom per stem.
So, I do believe she was letting me know that she was thankful to have her last few days here with me and my family, and that now she was with her family once again, and that she was at peace.

Thanks for stopping in and visiting, please leave a comment if you like.

Monday, August 13, 2012

So Many Changes, Where To Start?

So, here it is Monday, August already, and I am still in the middle of a huge, overwhelming mess. 

Mom has passed away, have had her memorial.  We took her ashes back to Texas and buried her next to my dad.  It has been a really busy time, lots of details to attend to, but I feel that I am actually handling it all pretty well.  Still going through her things, seeing what can be sold and what can go to charity.  While the room was empty, replaced the carpet and am now anxious to get started setting the room back up as a craft/sewing/room/studio.  Have really got to come up with a shorter name for the place.  Still working through the financial details with her bills and such along with trying to figure out what the financial outlook is for my part of mom's holdings.  It is splint 50/50 between my brother and I.

I had wanted to buy us a larger house.  Bigger kitchen, bigger living area, extra bedroom.  But, that just isn't possible at the moment.  For one, just can't get to enough cash with out paying huge amount to IRS, the other problem is that they just aren't out there to be found.  At least not in a neighborhood we would be comfortable in. So, after going through all the options, we have decided to do some remodeling on the house.  Guess it is the best compromise, will have to be.  I am ready to get going on the projects though.

School will be starting up again soon as well, so am hoping to have some kind of organized plan in the works by Labor Day.  Oldest daughter will be starting her junior year in high school. You know, as far as menu planning, organization, cleaning, baby schedule (grand son). It is kind of a new role, being a stay at home mom with a baby again.  Granted it is only a few hours during the week days, but it is still an adjustment.  I had just gotten in to the groove, so to speak, of having a little one around again when all the chaos of dealing with mom and her health broke out.  Now I am ready to just get the house in order and get settled in to a routine so I can actually start sewing, crocheting, writing, general crafting as time permits around the obvious demands of a one year old.

Thanks for dropping in, have got to get back to some things around the house.  We have had a stream of visitors, which means day trips to various attractions, and am ready to get over that.  I am really ready for some quiet time. 

Check back often and visit as I hope to get back to updating this blog a little more.