Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Homemade spaghetti, like from scratch

I like to make things from scratch.  This week, we had spaghetti from scratch -- all the way, noodles to sauce.  Here's proof:

Isn't that gorgeous?!?

At this point, we need to establish that I consider myself a messy cook.  I'm saved by the fact that I find washing dishes relaxing.  I know, I know.  That's not normal.  I don't like to dust or iron and I know people who do, so washing dishes is my thing.  It works out nicely, since I don't usually mind cleaning up the mess I make in the kitchen.

The sauce:
 A few weeks ago, I was given some very ripe Grainger County tomatoes.  If you are not from East TN, you might not realize the gift this was.  Grainger County tomatoes are the best tomatoes you'll ever have.  I don't know what their secret is but I love 'em!  This gift, I decided, would be an excellent time to try my hand at homemade tomato sauce.  I found a recipe on and off I go, except I'm out of printer ink and can't print the recipe.  I like to print them.  If they are short, I'll jot them down.  Not this one.   I had recently spent a play date at a friend's house where we used the app on her iPhone to cook.  I think to myself, I'll just follow the recipe from my iPhone!

There are no pictures to post of my tomato sauce making day because I was covered with tomato juice, seeds, sauce... my hands were never clean of all-things-tomato in order to take any pictures.  Not to mention the fact that I was following the recipe on my iPhone.  Note to self: when using your iPhone to cook, change the sleep timer to a longer setting because you'll risk ruining your phone when you are trying to turn it on and swipe the screen to retrieve your recipe with all-things-tomato covered hands.  You'll also risk ruining your recipe due to this usually occurring at a critical moment of needing to add ingredients, remove from heat, stir, whisk or some other necessary-to-a-good-outcome step.

You get the picture.  Well, you don't, literally, but you can see why there aren't any pictures to share.

The sauce was easy to make, though there were lots of steps and lots of simmering time.  It took about 5 hours to make.

Due to family schedules and plans, we didn't eat the sauce immediately.  I froze it until I had time to make noodles.  I felt the sauce deserved made from scratch noodles to pair with it.  Doesn't ever homemade marinara/sauce?

The noodles:
My neglected noodle making machine needed attention.

I followed the simple noodle recipe that came with the machine.  (It's nothing fancy, a "My Perfect Kitchen" Pasta Machine.)
3 eggs and 2 1/2 cups of flour.  
Put the flour in a bowl, make a well, and crack the eggs in the middle of the well.
Use a fork to combine the eggs and flour -- slowly adding water and/or flour until it comes together in a dough.
Put dough on a lightly floured surface and kneed it until its a uniform color and texture.
Put dough ball in a bowl and cover with a damp towel.  Let it rest for 10-15 minutes so that the ingredients can fully incorporate and meld together.

Next, just cut or tear off about a 1/4 or so of the dough and start using the machine to roll it out.  Keep the remaining dough covered with the damp towel.  This got messy for me.  I had to keep flouring my dough to keep it from sticking.  My machine has 7 settings for rolling it out.  You start with 7 and keep decreasing the number until you get to your desired thickness.  You can see the table knife in the picture.  I used it to cut the dough in to manageable lengths, as it gets longer and longer the thinner you roll it.  Then, you let the strip rest and dry for roughly 10 minutes, until it hardens or dries a bit.  Then, cut it into spaghetti and/or fettuccine noodles.
This process takes the longest time.  Did I mention it got messy?  I was flinging flour all over the place - it was on me, on the counter, on the noodles, on the floor...  

Keep repeating this process until you get a pile of wonderfully fresh noodles.  I'm not an expert on this. Mine weren't uniform or perfect in any way.  But, to me, that was the beauty of making these from scratch.  Their imperfections were what made them glorious and homemade.
These were my noodles resting and drying on a flour covered surface.  I just left them there for a few hours until time to cook them for supper.  I don't know if that was the 'right' thing to do.  The instructions were vague on this step.  But, it worked.

After all the time it took over two days to make the sauce and the noodles, the final product came together fast.  I pulled the sauce from the freezer that morning.  It just needed reheating.  As the water was boiling to the noodles, I reheated the sauce in a pan on the stovetop.  The noodles were still relatively soft so they took no time at all to boil - seasoned the water with a bit of salt, as usual.  

We won't talk about the fact that I burned the garlic toast or that this was the second night in a row I had burned the bread.  The bread wasn't from scratch, I used an Italian loaf I had picked up at the store.  Thankfully, I had sliced the toast thick enough that I was able to slice off the burned bits and we still had plenty of bread to go with our dinner.  
So worth it.  Yum!  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Raising Sons --

I was raised on a farm.  I'm no stranger to dirt and dirty.  I was a girly-girl but also spent hours making mud pies and in the 'baccer' patch with my family.  I have one sibling - a sister.  Despite my childhood spent on a farm with sheep, cats, cows, dogs and mud and a few boy-cousins thrown in, I have been surprised by a few things about boys and boyhood.  Raising boys has taught me a few things.   If you have boys in your life, these will not surprise you:

-there can never be too many toy guns/weapons.  If you don't have said toy guns/weapons, sticks and pinecones will work as swords and bombs.
-farts and farting noises are funny, no matter where you are.
-Camouflage matches camouflage.  It makes no difference if the camo you're wearing is nighttime blue or digi cam or regular camo.  If its camo, it matches camo.
-the dinner table conversation can and will be gross.  And, no one's stomach is turned by this conversation except yours truly.
-Shark Week is awesome.
-Requests to groom oneself is often met with "why?"  Stinky-kid syndrome is not a concern so brushing teeth, wearing deodorant, donning clean clothes and underwear is not a high priority.  We've taken care of the brushing hair thing by keeping short cuts that require little to no upkeep.

I'm sure that you can add to this list.  These were off the top of my head.  Here are my teachers of all things boy  ----->
This is their picture on the first day of school this year.  I'm now the proud mother of a 5th and 2nd grader!!

Just look at those faces - what's not to love?