Friday, October 18, 2013

Making Spices

Drying your herbs:

How many spices do you have on your shelf that have been there for more than six months? Well they're just taking up unnecessary space because spices only hold their oils for roughly six months! Crazy, huh?

A couple of weeks ago, I came across an excess amount of fresh basil. I didn't want to waste it, so I decided to dry it and use it for my spaghetti sauce! The process was actually super simple and not labor intensive at all. 

- Spice container
- Spice
- Knife
- Cutting board 

If you're picking your own spice, you'll want to read up about the proper way to harvest. We just cut the whole stock of the basil plant (we had that much). But if you're just harvesting a few leaves of basil, you'll want to prune it right above a set of leaves . Pruning is very important for the plants health. Try to not let your basil flower.

But if you have flowers,  you'll want to get rid of them before you eat the plant!

After that, you'll just spread your leaves out and wait for them to dry. I just laid them on a paper towel on my kitchen countertop. These need to stay there for at least three days and probably no longer than one week. (Another way to dry would be to bundle the stems and hang the herb upside down! This is a very effective way of drying.)

Day 1
 Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

After you feel they're dry, you just cut them up and put them in your spice jar! Simple as that! You can also experiment and dry different herbs to make tea!


Monday, October 14, 2013

Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce!

A little taste of summer:

I know... I know... It's fall- start doing fall things and stop doing summer things. But I can't seem to let summer go juuuust yet. Is it me? Or does it feel like fall is going by rather quickly? I mean, if I'm honest with myself, I shouldn't be canning fresh tomatoes... but if they're still growing, I'm still canning.

However, for our wedding we were given a dutch oven. If you've never used one of these babies, GO BUY ONE! Not to mention, they're the perfect chili pot (see, that's fall-ish).

So, I came across an abundance of freshly picked tomatoes, and had to make some spaghetti sauce.
Little side story: before I came to college, I wasn't aware spaghetti sauce came in a jar. My parents had always made it homemade... I didn't know the other stuff existed. It was a blessing and a curse: I've had great sauce all this time... but now I'm too snobby to accept it in a jar... Actually, I'm sure if you were to serve it to me, I probably wouldn't notice.

Back to the point. So I made this great spaghetti sauce and then I learned how to can it! It's a super, quick and easy way to can- trust me. The label on the mason jar made it look WAY more complicated than necessary. Let me tell you how!

- Tomatoes 
- 1 Onion
- Italian seasonings- parsley, oregano, basil 
- Salt 
- Pepper
- Olive oil
- Meat (optional) 

- Canning jars (yes, the real purpose for mason jars)
- Water to boil 
- Dishwasher
- Tongs
- Clean/damp rag 

Forewarning: I tend to go more by taste than by measurements. So nothing is exact. I can tell you, however that I used a WHOLE lot of garlic... and it is delicious.

To begin, you first need to dice your garlic, tomatoes and onions. I don't mind the skin in my sauce. If that isn't for you, just blanch your tomatoes prior to simmering.

It's optional to put meat in, I didn't- but if you do, go ahead and brown your meat in a separate pan.If you're not using meat, use a little more olive oil to get some more fat.

Next, brown onions. Once this is complete, toss everything into your biggest pot. (This is where my dutch oven comes in handy!)

Simmer your sauce with the lid off. This can take over an hour. Just be sure not to burn the bottom of your sauce!
While you're simmering your sauce, place the mason jars in the dishwasher. Boil a pot of water and place the flat lids within the pot.

Once the jars are on the drying cycle (and your sauce is complete), take one jar out at a time.

Fill up your mason jar with your sauce. Quickly and thouroughly clean the rim of the jar with your rag. It's necessary for it to be completely cleaned. Don't skimp on this step or it will not clean. Once you've cleaned the rim, simply withdraw the lid from the boiling water and screw it on!

Your lid needs to be this clean!

It's important for EVERYTHING to be hot. Jars. Sauce. Lids. Everything.

It will take about an hour for the jars to seal. You'll know they're sealed when the lid is popped inwards. And that's it! It's a super easy way to can, you don't need a pressure cooker or a whole lot of time! Fun, fast and easy.

But then you have to clean :(

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

chocolate chip cookies- enough to share!

It's never the wrong time for cookies:

So, I was writing my "thank you notes" and my aunt had given me a gift card to Bed Bath and Beyond. You know, that store that you go into and they try to get you to buy everything you never knew you needed? They're super friendly, don't get me wrong... but no! I don't want to buy the item of the day at the cash register... just let me buy my over priced juicer. Anyway, so I was writing my thank you's and I had mentioned I was going to buy a mixer with her gift card. THEN, she sent me her famous chocolate chip cookie recipe! They're so good,  she used to sell them! You've all been waiting patiently... So here they are!

- 1 C Butter
- 1 C Peanut Butter
- 1 C Sugar
- 2 Eggs
- 1 tsp. Vanilla 

-- 2 1/2 C Flour
-- 1 1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
-- 1/2 Tsp Salt

--- 12 oz. semi- sweet chocolate chips (Hershey's) 
--- 12 oz. semi- sweet chocolate chips (Nestle) 

With a mixer (my first time using my beautiful Kitchen Aid!!!) Blend together the first section (-).

In a separate bowl, blend together your dry ingredients (--). Then combine the two.

Finally, mix in your chocolate chips.

Use an ice cream scoop to pack your cookie dough. 

Even Captain wanted to help... Notice him licking his lips? 

Place in oven for 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees. However, once they started to become golden, I'd take them out. Let them sit on the cookie sheet for about 3 min. Then, transfer them onto a wire drying rack.
These make a large amount of cookies. Too many for Matt and I to eat, so we froze some of our dough! And, the dough tastes much more like peanut butter than the baked cookie does!


Friday, October 4, 2013

Fall Wreaths

From summer to fall:

With the plan of making our apartment a home, I figured we needed a wreath. I mean, fall calls for wreaths, right? Isn't that what every girl grew up with on their front door? My mom was always really talented with creating wreaths. Good at the whole floral arrangement thing. While I love her creations, I wanted to make our wreath our own. 

From making my weekly (sometimes daily) trips to my little nursery, I've recently discovered air plants. Don't have a green thumb? These are fool proof! Mist some water on these babies about once a week. Poof, you're done. 

I found these wreaths in my dad's shed. Apparently he made a bunch for my mom a long time ago. So I snagged some for our front door. 

As always, it's a good idea to plan ahead...
- Wreath
- Fishing Wire
- Scissors 
- Air plants

This was a very simple process. I just chose where I wanted to place the air plants and tied them onto my wreath. Easy peas-y. 

My front door may not be pretty, but at least there is a wreath!