Shellfish is one of my favorite foods and when it is available at reasonable prices I can’t pass it up. Our local warehouse store has bags of Calamari, Shrimp, Scallops and Mussels (Seafood Blend) at a reasonable price. It was a 3.5 lb. bag and I was able to get by with using only half and saving half in the freezer for another time. Of course, only three of us ate, so if the mouths you have to feed are more numerous, the whole bag would have to be used. The amount I purchased would make an ample dinner for six people.
One of my favorite things to do is to make what I call ‘clean out the refrigerator’ soup. So to make the Cioppino, I used what I had on hand which is the following: 1 Onion, 3 ribs of Celery, 3 Tomatoes, 2 Potatoes, 3 Carrots, Mushrooms, frozen Baby Peas, leftover Marinara Sauce, Tomato Paste, Balsamic Vinegar, Marsala Wine, Salt and Pepper plus fresh Basil and Oregano and some ground Thyme.. I had some lobster shells and shrimp shells in the freezer with which I made a seafood stock. And of course, there was the bag of shellfish that I had purchased.
I used a 12 cup pot in which I melted some Butter (about 4 Tbsps.); Olive Oil would be a healthier way to go and would have preferred that to the butter, but thought about it too late. In the melted Butter, I sauteed a diced Onion, sliced Celery and Carrots and the Mushrooms. When they were softened and just beginning to caramelize I add the Seafood Stock which I strained before adding. I also added the Marinara Sauce and let the whole thing simmer for about half hour. While the soup mixture was simmering I added a whole Jalapeno just to give it some umph. This was a fresh Jalapeno from a plant I have growing outside and the fruit of this particular plant is extremely hot, so I left it whole to prevent too much heat from penetrating the soup.
I then sauteed the seafood blend in some hot Olive Oil and let it cook for about three minutes or until the Mussels were fully opened and the Calamari was fully cooked. Be careful not to overocok seafood as overcooking it will toughen it.
I tasted the Vegetable Stock mixture and then added enough Salt and Pepper to season it along with the fresh Basil & Oregano. I also added about 1/4 teaspoon of ground Thyme. If you have fresh Thyme, that would be even better. It still needed some zing so I added a dash of Balsamic Vinegar and a splash of Marsala Wine. Just before serving, I placed the cooked seafood in my soup serving pot and covered it with the vegetable mixture.
I served the Ciopinno with garlic bread. This provided a hearty meal which went very well with a green salad, which by the way is not necessary as the soup is plenty to satisfy one’s appetite.
Along with a productive Apple and Peach tree we also have an Asian Pear tree. The pear tree is not quite as productive as the other trees and the pears for the most part don’t get really big, however, they are sweet and flavorful. This year I tried out a new way to conceal and bake them in puff pastry. My usual method is to make turnovers, but my mind was leaning towards baked pears, much like baked apples.
Since the pears have thin skin, I decided to leave the skin on. After washing the pears, I quartered and cored them and then cut the larger pieces in half lengthwise. Then I tossed them with some lemon juice and added some brown sugar, cinnamon, about ¼ cup flour. I gently tossed them all together and then proceeded to prepare the puff pastry.
The puff pastry I use is a commercial brand which is sold in 15 lb. boxes of 20 large sheets each. Remove the sheets you are going to use and place them on a pastry board to thaw. Return the box to the freezer. This size only works if you have an upright freezer that can hold large items. Smaller quantities of puff pastry can be purchased in the freezer section of your local market. Unfortunately, this type is usually sold folded and it is recommended that you thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. You must be careful with the folds, because sometimes they tend to tear.
Another pastry suggestion is to make your own using a quick puff pastry dough or regular pie crust. The puff pastry is the best tasting though. Whichever type of dough you use, cut them into equal squares. I cut the commercial puff pastry into 5” squares.
Once the dough thaws then it is time to place the prepared pears on the pastry. I put several slices of the pears in the middle and then brought up the corners to the center. You want to pinch the points together. When the pastry bakes, the pinched points will separate. Pinching them together keeps them from separating too much, thereby preventing the filling from spilling out.
Puff pastry needs to be baked at high temperatures (400 degrees F.) in order for the laminated layers of dough to puff up. Baking them at low temperatures will result in hard over-baked tough pastry. Baking them at high temperatures will results in light, puffy and tasty pastry. So preheat your oven and allow it to come to temperature before baking. For a shiny glaze on your pastry, brush with a beaten egg and sprinkle with a little Demarara sugar (also sometimes sold as raw sugar, although it is not really raw)
If you only have one pan of pastry, bake on the middle shelf. If you have two pans, adjust the racks to be at the second and fourth positions. Bake for at least 20 minutes or until a medium golden brown. Do not open the oven during the baking process or the pastry may not puff up. At the end of the 20 minute baking period it will then be safe to open your oven. If you want the pastry to be darker, leave them in for another 5 minutes or until the desired color is reached.
Your resulting pastries will be like baked pears in light, puffy, flaky blankets. If you have too many to serve at one sitting, the unbaked pastries can be frozen. To freeze them, place them on a parchment or silpat® covered baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap and then with foil. Place in the freezer until frozen solid. Once they are frozen, they can be removed from the baking sheet and placed in plastic bags. The frozen puffs can be baked right from the freezer in your preheated oven.
Next time I make these, I will write down the quantities so that there will be exact recipe. For whomever wants to make them now, you could use the filling portion from a pear or apple pie recipe.
We have an apple tree that produces amazing quantities of apples. It has done this ever since we planted it some twenty years ago, even when it was still a small tree. Last year I think I gave away about 200 hundred pounds of apples and still had plenty to use. When the apples are allowed to mature and ripen on the tree each one can weigh well over half a pound. I tend to start picking them in August when they haven’t obtained their ripest point but are great for pies and other baked products. This year so far our freezer has been stocked with Apple Turnovers, (one of our favorites) along with Apple Pastries made with pie crust. There are apple slices all ready to turn into a pie and we have apple sauce.
So far this later summer and very early fall I have made 9 loaves of apple bread. We have already consumed three loaves and I gave away three loaves to my grandchildren and will take one to my Parent/Child Pasta Class tomorrow to serve to the early birds. I have a wonderful recipe that started out as a zucchini bread but which I have turned into a generic model for fruit bread. The basic ingredients remain the same, but I vary the amount and type of sugar used, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. If you use bananas, you can cut way down on the sugar, but if you use something that is not inherently sweet more sugar may be necessary. I also use half the amount of oil or butter that the original recipe used. It still stays fresh for a long time and remains moist for eating, but cuts down on the calories from fat.
This last time when I made the Apple Bread, I used 50% more fruit than the recipe called for but still had shredded apples left over. So for breakfast the next day, I decided to make Apple Fritters. They are very simple to make and satisfy that craving for doughnuts that some of us get every now and then. Apple fritters can be served as a dessert with powdered or cinnamon sugar sprinkled on them or for breakfast with maple syrup as we did. If you need something else to go along with the fritters maple flavored sausage or apple smoked bacon would be perfect. For the Apple Bread Recipe please see ‘Breads’ under the ‘Recipe Section’.
The recipe I used for the fritters called for one egg beaten with 2/3 cup of milk and one teaspoon of vegetable oil. In addition, there was one cup of flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and a dash of salt. I also used 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and combine just to mix. (Do not over mix!) Once all the ingredients are mixed add the shredded fruit (2 cups) and stir to combine. Drop by the tablespoon into hot oil (about 350-375 degrees) and cook until a deep golden brown on all sides. This recipe can also be used for pancakes. Just heat a thin layer of oil (or oil combined with butter) in a skillet and drop the fritter mixture by the tablespoon into the skillet. Use the back of the spoon to slightly flatten the mixture. Cook until golden brown, then carefully turn over with a spatula and cook the other side until golden brown. Serve hot with maple syrup or powdered or cinnamon sugar.
These are just two of the ways in which apples can be used and enjoyed. There are many types of apples available today and there are hundreds of ways in which they can be used, including just plain old eating.
When working with food, it is essential that the rules of cleanliness be followed and that means lots of hand washing. You can wash your hands with dishwashing detergent or you can use soft soap. I prefer soft soap, since it is intended for hands and not dishes. However, have you ever stopped to think how much you are paying for that little bottle of soap? Much more than a bar of soap costs, but it is handy and so we pay for it.
Have you ever thought of making your own? Not that I would go out of my way and buy soap bars just to make soft soap with, but I am one of those people who just cannot throw soap scraps away. You know, those little slivers of soap that are left and are just too hard to deal with? There was one time, when I used to sew them into washcloths and give them to the children in their bath. You didn’t have to worry about them slipping on the soap that they forgot to take out of the water. But the children are grown now and I am still saving soap slivers. Then it dawned on me that I could make my own soft soap and that is what I did. And here is how I did it and how you can do it too.
- Gathered together all my soap scraps and then shredded them with the medium shredding blade in my food processor.
- The Pros of doing this is that you don’t have to shred or slice by hand as some sites suggest.
- The negative items are more numerous than the pros but if you don’t have any of the problems listed, then it is still easier to do it in the food processor.
- If you have respiratory problems, don’t use the food processor as there will be significant soap fumes arising during the process.
- It took about 3 washings to get all the soap residue out of the food processor bowl and pusher assembly.
- I am assuming that most of the people who attempt this project will not have 25+ years of soap scraps as I did and therefore most likely won’t have the problems listed in the negative section of this project. I ended up with 5 cups of shredded soap which is a lot.
- Purchase distilled water for this project so that you won’t have impurities from the water impeding the process. For my 5 cups of Soap Scraps, I purchased two Gallons of Distilled Water.
- Using a large pot, I brought one gallon of the water to a boil and then added the soap shreds.
- Shut off the heat and let stand for about 15 minutes; the soap will melt during this time.
- Using a submersion blender, (a hand mixer will work as well) I emulsified the soap with the hot water until the soap was melted.
- Allow the mixture to stand overnight and then blend again as in #6. Because I had so much shredded soap, I had to add more Distilled Water to the mixture.
- Once you are satisfied with the concentration of the mixture, then it can be poured into dispensers. Since I had so much, after I filled my dispensers, I had enough to fill one of the gallon water bottles and then some.
- To further enhance my soft soap and make it nourishing for my skin, I added 1 cup of Olive Oil to the soap mixture before bottling it. It takes very little to wash your hands and it helps to keep your skin soft.
Now I have enough soft soap to probably last me many months or even years. And all it cost was the price of a gallon and a half of Distilled Water which came to $1.50 plus the water it took to rinse out the soap residue from the food processor bowl and of course the heat it took to boil the water, which by the way was insignificant.
The homemade soft soap is now enhancing the kitchen, bathroom and service porch hand washing areas.