Homesteading In The Pacific Northwest

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lasagna Rolls and Stuffed Shells in Mason Jars

I'm still working on meals that can pop out of  the freezer and be ready to eat in a hurry.  I've made lasagna rolls before and it occurred to me that I could use the same ingredients to make stuffed pasta shells.

Lasagna and large shell pasta
Ricotta (I used my homemade version with garlic scape vinegar)
Fresh basil
Meat Sauce

For the meat sauce I ground my own beef (no pink slime!).  I used the meat grinder attachment on my Kitchen Aid ...

... and it was not only easy but money saving, too!  I got a nice chuck roast on sale ... 

... almost four pounds of ground beef for $10.20!!  

I browned the beef in a large sauce pan, added two quarts of my Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce from the pantry and let it simmer for about an hour.

While the water was coming to a boil for the pasta I made the cheese filling ...

 ... grated mozzarella, ricotta, finely chopped basil and garlic and some freshly ground black pepper.

I started with the stuffed shells ...  I cooked the pasta as directed on the package, drained them and allowed them to cool and then filled them with the cheese mixture ...

I placed two shells in half pint mason jars, added a scoop of the meat sauce and some more shredded mozzarella ...

Six jars went into the freezer ...

... and one went into a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes ...

Next came the lasagna rolls ... I cooked the pasta as directed on the package, drained them and allowed them to cool and then laid each one out flat and spread it with some of the cheese mixture ...

... and then I rolled them up ...

I put six of the rolls in a dish, topped them with sauce and more shredded mozzarella ...

... I froze these overnight, popped them out of the dish and packaged them up in individual freezer bags and returned them to the freezer.

I also made two more for our dinner that night ... again a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes ...

So that was 12 meals into the freezer and one for the night I made them ... not a bad afternoon's work if I do say so myself :)


Monday, March 19, 2012

Harvest Monday ... and Big Changes

Whoo Hoo!  I have a harvest!  I had a bed of beets that I had planted late last summer for overwintering.  The last time I had checked they didn't appear to have really done anything and as a part of the "Big Change" I was pulling them out so I could dismantle the raised bed ... and lo and behold, I actually have a few beets big enough to make a serving at a meal!

I'm joining other bloggers over at Daphne's Dandelions as we share our weekly's fun to see what others are harvesting and what they are cooking up with it...check it out!

Now on to the changes!  I mentioned a while back that we are putting in a greenhouse.  As a result, one of my raised beds was going to have to be dismantled.  When we took it apart I realized why the moles had been able to get into my beds last spring ... the chicken wire we had placed under them was rusted and torn in several places.  The decision was made.  We are going to have another late spring in the Pacific Northwest.  While the rest of the country is having record high temperatures we are expected to have snow tonight!  As long as spring is on hold we decided to go ahead and pull up all of the raised beds, reconfigure the garden layout and mole proof the beds.

We went form this (taken last summer) ...

... to this, with two of the beds removed ...

... and adding hardware cloth nailed to the bottoms ...

... replaced three of the beds.  Here you can see the beginnings of the foundation for the greenhouse and the three 4' x 8' beds in the background.  There is still the 3' x 12' bed in the back. (The broken down fence and dead trees are on the neighbors property ... nothing I can do except hide them eventually with some trellis and vines :(

Once the greenhouse construction is completed there will be room for one more 4' x 8' bed; we will wait  to put it in so as to give us room to move around while building.

We are also taking out the beds that were in front of the dogs yard ... that area just gets too muddy with our Washington rains.  I'm going to have three pretty wine barrels with flowers and herbs there instead.  I will end up with about a third less growing space in the back of the house, but I figure some of that will be made up for by the greenhouse and also some by the new cold frame that we have added to the front of the house down by the lake....

I'm hoping to transplant some of my Asian greens from the potting shed into the cold frame by the end of the week, depending on how much snow we get.

It's a lot of changes but I think it will be better looking and easier to care for.  I'll keep you posted!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Cheese Stands Alone ....

I have a confession to make.  I am addicted to Pinterest.  I love the quick, generous sharing of ideas and interests.  I recently clicked on a pin of a freezer full of carefully stacked and labeled packages ... I was doomed!  I found a whole series of pins about make-ahead and freezer meals and tracked them back to their blogs and web sites.  Now I am in the process of filling my freezer ... not just with healthy, organic, No GMO whole foods, but also with already prepared foods that I can thaw and cook up in hardly any time at all.  Today I'm planning to make lasagna rolls.  The first step is the homemade ricotta cheese.

I made my first batch of ricotta following this recipe at Smitten Kitchen.  It was good, but I didn't care for the strong lemon flavor and it was a little too salty.  Today I altered the recipe a bit ...

4 cups whole, organic milk
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Line a colander with several layers of damp cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl.  Pour the milk into a nonreactive pan (stainless or glass; no aluminum) and stir in the salt.  Heat over medium high to 190 degrees stirring occasionally to keep the milk from scorching.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice, stirring once or twice very slowly and very gently. It will look like this as the curds and whey start to separate ...

 Let the pan sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.  Pour the curds and whey into the colander and allow the whey to drain into the bowl for about an hour (save the whey ... it's great for making bread!).

After about an hour it will look like this ...

... and you can transfer it to a container and refrigerate ...

It turned out well, but still with a distinct lemon flavor.  Hmmm ... my eyes focused on my bottle of Garlic Scape infused white wine vinegar ... hmmm ...lemon = acid ... vinegar = acid ... why not?

I made this batch a little richer, replacing 1 cup of the milk with organic half and half.  OMG!  This isn't going into the lasagna ... there won't be enough left ... toasted baguette drizzled with olive oil, Garlic Scape Ricotta, roasted red pepper and Kalamata olives ... heaven!

So much for plans ... I'll make the lasagna next time ...


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Shhhh ... Don't Tell FitzGyver ....

Those of you who read my post on February 28 have probably figured out that I'm pretty pissed that the US Government gave Monsanto the OK to use me (and you ... and your kids) as lab rats.  Well, I'm even more pissed after reading the articles on ABC News about the "pink slime".

 I have several packages of ground beef in my freezer that I bought at Safeway ... and since Safeway won't deny that they contain that crap, I have to assume that they do.

As a result of the double whammy of discovering that 70% of the food at the grocery store contains GMOs and 70% of the ground meat contains "pink slime"  ...(what is it with that 70% thing, anyway?) I am embarking on a mission to remove all processed, "pink slime containing" or possible GMO foods from my pantry, freezer and refrigerator.  I hope you enjoy following along ... I've got a feeling it's not going to be easy ....

Fortunately, FitzGyver doesn't read my blog very often ... so he doesn't know that big changes are coming.  Any ground beef in the freezer is going to be dog food (which is what that stuff used to be sold for until someone got the bright idea to feed it to school children instead).  And I won't be shopping at Safeway again ... if they can't give an honest yes or no answer to the question of whether they use "pink slime" it makes me question the quality of the rest of their products.

So ... my first No GMO, No "pink slime" post ... Lasagna Rolls with homemade ricotta cheese will be coming soon ...

Enjoy ...  well, not really ....  Live Long and Prosper!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Something New ....

No real news on the garden yet; the seed starts are coming along nicely and we are getting ready to start work on the greenhouse...

Four huge boxes were delivered ...

And we have had tree branches trimmed ...

Next step is to start putting in the foundation ... hopefully this weekend.

While I have been waiting for spring I have spent some time working on some permanent pages for my blog.  You will see them listed in tabs just above this entry.  I've added to the Garden Projects page and updated my seed list and 5 Season's plan.  I've added several new pages, one with information and links on GMOs, another with some recipes and cooking tips and the most recent, a menu planning page.

One of my goals this year was to start planning menus for a month at a time.  I've been doing it for a few months now and I've found that it is simpler than you think. And it helps you make the most of what you already have as well as any good deals that might hit the grocery store shelves.

One of my biggest objections to monthly meal planning used to be “How do you know what will be on sale?”  Now I hit the sales when I see them and add them to my storage items ... for example my favorite grocery store has local chickens on sale this week for 79 cents a pound.  I'll buy four of them and rotate them in to my freezer stock.  I'll do the same the next time they have a BOGO special on pasta, as I'm starting to get low.  When I make up my menu I'll “shop” my freezer, pantry and garden first and then add in any special items (like corned beef for St. Patrick's Day). The savings in meat alone makes this so worthwhile.

I've made up a rotating 4 week menu that makes it easy to just plug in what's fresh in the garden or I have or found on sale. I've customized it for our lifestyle, for example we often go scuba diving on Saturdays.  We like to have a big breakfast before diving, then snack between dives and something warm and easy to prepare when we get home ... so Saturday is soup night.

Here's a peek at one of my menus in progress ...

March 11 - 17

Sunday Roast : Pot Roast from freezer stock

Pasta Night : Chicken Cacciatore with Garlic Polenta
Start Yogurt

Asian : Katsudon (pork chops from freezer stock)

Breakfast Parfait

Chef’s Choice : Stroganoff  with leftover beef from Sunday


Pizza Night
Start no knead bread
Breakfast Parfait

Fish on Friday : Steamed Clams with Saffron Rice

Big Breakfast Saturday

St. Paddy’s Day Special
Rye Bread


This will be a work in progress.  I'm looking forward to summer when I will be planning meals around the produce from my garden.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Great Raised Bed Garden Tutorial!!

I found this today and just have to share it!

I love what she does with her chicken coops ... Brilliant!