I’ve already written about my love for macaroni and cheese here but it was the “last supper” request of my son before he left for college. I love the mac and cheese of my childhood, baked, crusted and totally delicious. The only unfortunate thing is that my childhood mac and cheese was from a restaurant, not my mothers kitchen. I love that through my own stubborn perseverance in mastering this ultimate comfort food I can share it with my own family at home.
This time I used cheddar, Gouda and Havarti cheeses. I used an organic pasta in a curly shape called Conchiglie. Baked and served in these big soup bowls they make such a nice presentation, hardly a common kiddie food, but I can’t imagine any kid not falling for it as I did…way back when.
I made another terrarium last week. You might recognize the container, as it’s the one I used last time. Truth be told, it is; early this summer it had a bit of algae growing on the sides. Yuck! I thought maybe it needed some fresh air and sunshine but instead when I forgot and left it outside too long it got rained on and I was left with a big jar of mud. I scrubbed it out, sorted the rocks and gravel, tossed the soil and replanted the plants outside. I also asked a few more terrarium questions and did a bit more reading and gave it another try. I watched this video again and layered the gravel, charcoal and soil properly. I think my error in my original attempt was using moss and ground covers from my yard. Their soils were too messy. The designers of a beautiful terrarium at a local floral shop advised using reindeer moss. It’s really a lichen that’s used by florists for decorative purposes. As it’s no longer growing it won’t make a mess, instead it adds a great bit of color and texture. I wanted a woodsy garden so used two very different ferns. I had a little Japanese maple growing in a pot so I decided to give it a try. The big polished river rocks and the bright green lichen create a soothing Northwest Forest feeling. A sweet ceramic frog gives the whole thing personality. Now I’m hooked again and am looking for the perfect vessel for a beautiful grouping of succulents I’ve been saving. Stay tuned!
The sun keeps warming the soil and I keep up with the watering so the magic of tomatoes continues to happen. We are going to be eating a lot of tomato based dishes this winter and I couldn’t be happier. There aren’t too many things in my dinnertime repertoire that wouldn’t work with tomatoes.
I’ve tried a variety of processing. Last week I showed you my canned sauces. Truth be told I got nervous because I began reading more about tomato processing and how important it is to stick to the exact recipes for fear of spoilage. I rarely stick to exact recipes so I emailed the Oregon State University Extension Service and asked for their opinion. Mostly I wanted to know if it was spoilage I would see or smell. I was willing to take my chances as I was pretty sure it they would be fine. They advised that botulism is neither smelled nor tasted and suggested I put my jars in the freezer. I did.
This week I’m back to making tomato jazz. I sliced many many tomatoes very thin (1/4-1/2”) and laid them flat onto oiled cookie sheets. I sliced onion and garlic equally thin, salted everything lightly and put them in a 250 degree oven and quite literally forgot about them. Of course the house smelled wonderful and sometime in the evening there was just the slightest change in the smell. Almost burned. Not burned though, more like the sugars in the tomatoes has caramelized. I leaped out of my chair and pulled everything out of the oven. It was all perfectly finished. Often I become impatient and take them out early so I can get everything cleaned up and done. All in all it was probably about 4-5 hours in the oven.
This morning I scrapped everything into the food processor and whirred it until it was a chunky paste. I froze some of it in ice cube trays and a bit more in small containers. It is so rich and full flavored that I won’t need much in any soup or main dish. If you’ve got an abundance of tomatoes I highly suggest roasted tomato paste.
September seemed to arrive quickly this year. Our summer came a bit late in the Northwest but is lasting long enough for us to acknowledge it this year. Our days are beautiful and sunny, though lately the evenings are feeling crisp and cool. The leaves are still on the trees but they are beginning to rustle in the breeze, letting us know that autumn is on its way. Last night while walking the dogs I smelled the telltale scent of a fire in someone's fireplace. I always look forward to fall, a time to come in and make my home cozy.
I want different colors in my home at this time of year, just as the colors outside have changed. It’s time to take out the sea glass greens and blues of my summer favorite pillows and bring in the warmer autumnal tones. Not yet ready for Halloween decorations but these black and white pillows will be a nice transition and will blend with holiday décor when the time arrives very very soon. Keeping the basic furniture neutral has proven great for quick changes. Zip the pillow covers off and tuck them away and bring out these, better suited to the season. Pillows are a great décor changer. Try it!
As the weather begins to cool down in the evenings here in the northwest, it’s time to bring out the coverings. Our home is old enough that it’s not always evenly heated or cooled. Our downstairs stays cool year round which is great in the summer, but during the other seasons we need a little something in the evening to keep the chill away. I’ve always got blankets around but it’s nice to have a place for them when they’re not needed. Everything in its place.
I found this great, well made basket at Schoolhouse Electric in the old industrial part of Portland. It’s a great shop with wonderful home furnishings and thanks to a little snippet in Sunset Magazine this summer I found it. The shop is full of lighting, bedding, office needs, upholstery and accessories. The flagship store is in Portland with one other showroom in New Yorks Tribeca neighborhood. The old warehouse setting gives the shop an urban chic with an industrial edge feeling. Everything in the store looks to be of high quality and well made. A bonus of a small florist and a not Starbucks coffee bar makes the surroundings most appealing. You’re encouraged to get a latte and take your time strolling around the store.
I like the way my throws are rolled so the beautiful shades of yarn are on display, yet they are out of the way and contained in this sturdy basket with very cool braided leather handles. I love finding a new spot to shop!
A cool weekend upped my productivity in the kitchen. I picked all the ripe roma tomatoes to make a big batch of spaghetti sauce. There are still loads of green ones, and weather permitting I’ll get a chance to make more before the fall rains.
I added fresh garlic, oregano and basil from our garden so we’re sure to have delicious dinners this winter. I simmered it for hours to cook it down, down, down until it was rich and thick. I canned it all in much smaller (1/2 pint) jars and then continued to cook the remainder until it was thick enough for pizza sauce. I canned this intense sauce into very small weck jars and I can’t wait to use it on my homemade pies. Cooking down yields much smaller batches but it’s well worth the full flavored results. It was lots of work and the kitchen was a steamy mess but there’s something quite satisfying in preparing food for the coming winter months…especially after the kitchen is cleaned up and back to normal.
The weather here in the Northwest doesn’t seem to show it but the inevitable fall weather will soon be on its way. My garden is looking tired and dreary from the late summer sun. Leaves are beginning to crinkle, blooms are spent and nature is telling me that I’ll soon move indoors. I stopped by the nursery yesterday and found myself looking at house plants. I guess I’m not ready to leave the great outdoors, but rather bring a bit of it inside with me. I found this great Alocasia Portora, also known as Giant Elephant Ears. It can live outdoors beginning in the spring but would rather spend the colder weather inside…much like myself. Once our nights begin to cool, it will be moved in to the living room. I think it will look quite lovely near the window, bridging that gap between outside and inside.
While traveling last week I quickly noticed that I had neglected to bring any kind of activity to keep me busy during the long drives or during the evening. I don’t know how I forgot my books and I planned on tucking in a small needlepoint to work on. Alas, I guess I was more concerned in making sure the college boy had everything he’d need to deck out his dorm room. I managed to keep busy with a couple of magazines but by the time we were on the second leg of our trip (boy dropped off), I needed something to do. It’s been a while since I’d picked up my knitting needles, but something made me want to simply knit. I checked the yarn shop opportunities on my cell phone and was already planning my project.
We drove into Bozeman on our way to Yellowstone and I requested my yarn stop. There are a couple in town but the one that caught my eye was The Yarn Shop and Fiber Place. They carry a nice variety of local hand spun yarns that intrigued me. I picked out a couple of earthy choices, had them wound, tossed in a long size 8 circular needle and I felt much better. Back in the car (as passenger of course), I cast on 300 stitches and began a simple knit 2, purl 2 rib pattern. On our way home I stopped again and purchased two more skeins of grey and brown. I think it will be a beautiful blanket.
The end of summer is the perfect time to begin knitting a warm winter blanket. At this point it’s not too big but by autumn it will begin to keep you warm. Keep going and by December or January you’ll be nice and toasty as you cast off.
Gather up some yarn on your next journey and get started!