Shrimp and Chicken Pasta

Home alone. Well, kinda. Does having 4 dogs with you really count as “alone?” Is it kinda like “you’re not drinking alone if your <dog>/<cat> is with you?” Either way, after surviving on Cheerios for the last 3 days {no exaggeration, I eat like a toddler 95% of the time}, it was time for a “big kid meal.”

Ingredients:

1-2 lb shrimp (my bag was a 40-50 count)

Chicken (breasts, legs, what ever. I had some left over legs I chopped up and threw in)

Garlic clove

Butter

Olive oil

Pasta (penne is perfect!)

6 cups water

Tomato sauce (I used a pint mason jar of our homemade stuff)

1/2 cup red wine (optional but oh so yummy)

Salt/Pepper

Basil

Onion

Parmesan Cheese

Oh the best part, all done in ONE pan!!! BOOM!

*THAW AND PEAL YOUR SHRIMP BEFORE YOU START IF NEEDED! DONT FORGET TO DEVEIN! Prep what ever chicken you are using as well!*

  1. In your pan, melt butter with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. While they are heating chop cup your garlic and onion.
  2. Once your butter has melted, on medium/high heat, add in your garlic and onion to sauté. While they are going, cut up your chicken, get your ingredients in order.
  3. Add in your shrimp and chicken to the butter goodness in the pan. Sear for 2-3 minutes.

13672090_10209826670848571_74546087_n4. Add in your tomato sauce, water, pasta, red wine, and sauce seasonings

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6. Serve nice and hot with parmesan on top!

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Total prep (including shrimp for me) 30 min. Clean up- 5 minutes, we have a great non-stick pan.

 

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Antietam Valley Farmers and Artists Market

A very lovely friend of mine recently moved to the Antietam area. She discovered and shared with me that they have an awesome farmers market on Saturday mornings. Their grand grand opening for the season was earlier this summer. The event is usually all outdoors but because of the rain they moved it into the rec center there at the park. This alone was super awesome.

We first did a circle to see everything. The worst thing to do at a farmers market is to buy at the first stand you see. You must walk around, see what everyone has and THEN go around and purchase.

My first purchase came from Conebella Farm. They are a dairy farm that has been owned by the same family since 1923, a whopping 5 generations. They have AMAZING cheese. After trying a few samples I was HOOKED and left with a 10oz block of Hickory Smoked Colby Jack. I purchased the Old Bay cheese  spread the last time I was there. It’s so good with pretzels. The prices are great for a local, fresh cheese!

Next came HONEY! Griesemer Beekeeping has fresh honey made out of Wernersville. I did not buy a jar of honey this time, but couldn’t resist a few honey sticks 5/$1. They have a variety of flavors and it was hard to pick just a few! Fun fact- buying local honey is also great for allergies!

Grow Your Own Freedom was my next stop. I am addicted to this stand. I’m just going to leave their website right HERE! I’ve been using their bug sprays all summer. At least once a year like this because of bites-IMG_7001

I usually swell and hurt and throb, it’s a nightmare. This year, I got ONE bug bite on my hand because I forgot to spray once. Even with working in the garden. Even in the middle of a swamp in North Carolina on vacation. NO BUG BITES. Seriously. This stuff is MIRACLE spray. The last time I was at the market I got their Vanilla Mocha chapstick. Uh. Holy. Moly. I can’t even. Or odd. So yummy. It leaves my lips nice and soft without being sticky. I am in LOVE. They make soaps, salves, scrubs- tons of all natural and locally grown/made stuff. Garden care is also a service that they provide and help with. Seriously. I think I’m in LOVE. 

We bought a few other goodies, but I will write about those in a later post. For now, enjoy this picture of me with a purple tongue from eating a pint of black raspberries all by myself.

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Snow Day Garden Planning

It is a winter wonderland right now. Seriously. We have over a foot of snow in our yard, a combination of the approximately 8 inches we got today plus what was already laying on the ground. My dad used our snow blower to created a doggy path in our back yard since our critters are a bit vertically challenged.

10437617_10206255174127735_8793836284818350200_nI am desperately looking forward to the days when our yard looks more like this-

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Last year was the first garden my parents did. This little plot is 8×10. This year, we are more than doubling that to a whopping 32×10. Yes, 32×10. That is 320 square feet of prime food growin ground. When you decide to grow a garden that big, you can not haphazardly throw plant in the ground. There is an art to this, a serious science. I have spent at least 3 hours researching, drawing, erasing and going back to the garden boards to plan out our vegetable garden this year. An excel spread sheet, and 2 tables later, I think I’ve got it!

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This is an excel spread sheet of all different fruits and vegetables we will be growing, whether in the main 32×10 garden, in a separate box, like our strawberries, or in our side garden, like the cucumbers. It features how deep to plant the seeds, how far apart to plant them, how many can be planted in a square foot, when to plant, companion planting info, soil info and sun preferences. Instead of having to search 18 different websites, I can simply pull this up and all of the info I need is right there in one spot!

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This is our 32×10 garden lay out. Below is the color key, black is walking space. It is a pain in the butt to harvest, weed and take care of a garden when you have no room to actually walk! What a travesty to have great plants and accidentally step and crush them! This helps aid this problem. Having it laid out also means no guessing when it comes to planting time. Each square will have 1-16 plants depending on what is being planted there. We LOVE canning homemade tomato sauce, and being able to harvest and freeze fresh green beans, carrots and peppers to use throughout the winter and spring. Nothing beats having fresh carrots and green beans in a good hearty pot of stew in the middle of December. We are also planting marigolds around the perimeter of the whole garden. There are numerous benefits of this, one of them being that they attract bees, which helps pollination, which in turn means lots of produce!

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 5.18.33 PMRight now, the wind is blowing and the snow is still kinda falling. By the end of the week it is supposed to bounce back up to the 40s and Spring will quickly be approaching. I still have our front flower gardens to plan and a few weeks before we’ll be able to till the ground and get our (organic/natural) soil additives in preparation for planting time mid-April. Though it seems so far away, like the snow may never stop and the ice will never melt, I know that in just a few short weeks I will have my toes in the dirt and seeds in the ground!

Homemade Pizza

This may be a throw back for some of you. This pizza dough recipe comes from none other than the The Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith. This is an easy homemade Focaccia dough with lots of fresh toppings! This recipe also makes two pizzas

Sauce Ingredients: 24oz of tomato sauce (I used our canned stuff)

3 minced garlic cloves

2 tablespoons minced onion

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon parsley

1/3 teaspoon oregano

1. Combine all sauce ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Leave on low heat to mellow and allow the flavors to release and develop while you are making the dough and such.

Dough Ingredients:

5 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

2 packets of dry yeast

2 cups tepid (warm) water

1 tablespoon of white granulated sugar

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1. In a bowl combine the yeast, warm water and sugar. Stir a little and allow the yeast to react. It will get kind of bubbly and rise to the top of the water when this happens.

2. Add in the olive oil, vegetable oil, and salt.

3. Slowly add in the flour until it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl as it mixes. If you are using a Kitchen Aid, slowly add in all 5 1/2 cups of flour, using the dough/knead attachment, knead on medium/low for 10 minutes. If you are hand kneading, add in 4 1/2 cups and knead the remaining cup in as you go.

4. After kneading, separate into two balls, stretch/roll out over two greased baking sheets/pizza stones. Let rise for at least 30 minutes in a relatively warm environment. I turn my oven on “warm” at 170 while I am making the dough and turn it off the last few minutes. It’s just warm enough to help with rising without baking the crust!

Toppings: This is the easy part. You can do what you want. I went to our local deli and got 4 medium, fresh, mozzarella balls instead of pre-shredded cheese. We had frozen peppers from our garden this summer. We had a ham steak, onion and ground beef. I fried up the onions with some butter, browned the ground beef, diced the ham, and sliced-ish the cheese and went to town! While you are decorating your pizza, preheat the oven to 350. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crispy! Because our two baking sheets don’t fit on the same rack, we did 10 minutes, switched them around and finished them with another 10. Here is the before and after pics! YUM!

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Before baking- Mozz, ground beef, fried onion, diced honey ham! Mhmm

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Before baking- half cheese, half peppers with fried onions! 🙂

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Homemade Tomato Sauce

There is something wonderful that happens when you harvest fruits and veggies from your garden that you have spent months loving and tending, bring them inside and turn them into yumminess. There’s something reassuring when you know exactly what was used to help make them grow. Last summer I had the joyful job of learning how to make my own mater sauce and can. For what ever reason I had this thought in my head that canning and turning tomatoes into sauce was this daunting task. It certainly wasn’t the herculean quest I thought it would be, but definitely a process.

I learned a few things.

1. You don’t necessarily have to do the whole water bath thing. Run the mason jars and lids through the dishwasher on the sanitizing cycle with heat dry and try to time it so that the dishwasher ends when the sauce is ready. As long as the jars/lids and the sauce are nice and hot, they should pop on their own without having to do the water bath mess. If the tops don’t pop then you might have to do some water bathing. I only had to do this for 1 of about 30 jars we did last year. You can also just put the jars and lids in boiling water, pull them and fill. Same concept, works just as well.

2. Avoid putting herbs/garlic/onions in with your sauce. As they sit in the sauce they can make it bitter and taste funny.

3. You don’t need anything but tomatoes if that be your desire.

4. The longer you cook the tomato puree, the thicker it gets and the more like tomato paste or marinara it becomes. There’s a sweet spot.

SO, now that that is all out of the way, time for the actual sauce making process.

Pluck your maters! I found that for about every 30 medium tomatoes I would get 2 quart jars of sauce. We used a combination of heirlooms and romas.

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Romas!

Phase I. Line up your work station. As much as I hate having an electric stove, the flat top can double as extra counter space now and again. Left to right I have a pot of boiling water on the far burner. Next to that on a cool part of the stove I have a bowl full of ice water. On the counter I have a bowl for scraps, my cutting board, and another bowl to put the processed tomatoes.

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1. To remove the skins, place a few in the boiling water for 10 seconds to a minute. Some skins break and start to release almost automatically. Some need a wee bit more time. Once you do it for a while you kind know what they feel like when the skin has separated, and obviously you can visibly see when it splits.

2. Place the maters in an ice bath so that they are cool enough to handle.

3. Peal the skins off of the maters and put the skins in bowl #1. With your hands or a knife split the tomato into smaller pieces/chunks. Remove as much of the seeds as you can now and throw them in your scraps bowl.

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4. The tomato chunks go into bowl two to await their next step.

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Repeat until all of the tomatoes you harvested have gone through this process. When you’re done, clean it all up but leave out your bowl of maters and your scrap bowl. Get out a large pitcher or another bowl and your blender. You are now ready for Phase II.

Fill your blender about 1/2 full of the tomato chunks and blend until smooth. Feel free to leave a few chunks if you’re into that kind of sauce. Pour your puree into your bowl/pitcher. Repeat until all of your chunks have been blended.

Place a big pot on a front burner of your stove on medium-low heat. Place a relatively fine sifter/screen over the top of your pot. Pour the tomato puree through and stir to help the sauce through the screens. This removes the seeds that are still there and any chunks. You can choose to reblend them for smooth sauce or pull them out, make sure they don’t have seeds stuck to them and throw them in the pot. This is the longest part of the whole process and would be much easier with a food mill. Which we haven’t invested in yet.

To the very runny, kinda pink, not very tomato-saucey stuff in your pot I add about 1 cup- 1 1/2 cup of white granulated sugar. Again, this depends on how much sauce you are making. I also added about 3 tablespoons or so of salt. I leave the pot on medium heat for about 3 hours. Check and stir every 20-30 minutes to avoid the bottom burning. This also helps you gauge about when to start your dishwasher if you are using that method.

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Again, the longer you cook it down, the thicker and more paste like it becomes. When I use a jar, I like to simmer it on the stove with a crushed garlic clove, fresh minced onion and herbs so I keep my sauce a bit on the thin side to accommodate for my cooking style.

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The beginning of the cooking process

When the sauce is ready, my mom, dad and I tag teamed to make the process quick. I laid down a dishtowel on the counter. Mom pre-washed the brand new jars and lids. Dad boiled the jars, rings and lids because I think it is easier than the dishwasher for small batches. Dad pulled them, I fill with sauce, screw the tops on and repeat until the sauce is gone or I don’t have enough for a jar and have to put them in freezer containers. If the jar tops haven’t popped in about an hour, you should submerge it in boiling water to make sure that happens.

This particular batch took about 3 hours to cook down to the consistency that we wanted. We got 5 24oz jars! 😀

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Mom is obviously SUPER excited that she FINALLY has sauce from her garden tomatoes!

Throw Together Hash

Obviously school has started again. My posting has once again become sporadic. I’m hoping to change that now that I am in more of a routine. The other day I had no classes and spent the day running errands with dad. I had promised mom I would make dinner, and I couldn’t take that back. I had pulled out ground beef that morning with no idea what I was going to do with it. We had finally had some green peppers come in, so I plucked one of them. We had an onion in the fridge, some left over breakfast sausage and potatoes. So, in true Anna fashion, I threw it all together.

Ingredients:

1lb lean ground beef- you can substitute turkey, pork or any combination of ground meat really

Breakfast sausage links- optional, we had some left over from our big Sunday breakfast

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 rough chopped onion

1 small green pepper- I would have used a red and yellow as well if we had had them!

3-4 medium sized red potatoes

Herbs/Seasonings of your choice

Sour Cream/Cheese as optional toppings

1. In a large pan, brown the ground beef with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, basil, garlic powder, parsley on medium-high heat.

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2. While the beef is browning, chop your vegetables.

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3. Boil the potatoes until cooked through. They just won’t cook in the pan.

4. Throw in your chopped onion, pepper, and cut up breakfast sausage with the beef. Turn the stove down to medium-low, stir and cover. Check and stir every few minutes to keep from burning on the bottom.

5. After the potatoes are done cooking, strain and add to the pan. Mix in, and let them hang out with the rest of the hash for a few minutes to pick up the flavor.

Serve in a bowl with toppings like sour cream and cheese. This is obviously a super flexible dish. You could add lots of different veggies, eat it in a tortilla- what ever floats your boat. My dad was afraid of it, and then had 3 helpings. haha.

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Garden Growth

GREAT PUMPKIN! I don’t think anyone quite understands the joy of having not one, but MULTIPLE pumpkins growing right now. Last year, we had a giant plant and no pumpkins. I LOVE pumpkins. Pumpkin carving and pumpkin seeds are two of my most favorite things in the world. I have not ventured to pumpkin soup. That might change this fall though! They’re still little, and look more like our watermelons, BUT THEY’RE PUMPKINS! Yeah, I’m that excited. Like a kid in a candy store.

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Of course, the tomatoes. They are HUGE! And we have had a few start to turn red. I can’t believe how big they are this year. We must have done something right to the soil. We didn’t get very many even close to the size of these guys. By the time I get back from Antrim I will have a bajillion to make sauce with! Thank goodness I have already set a day aside to do it!

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And the chickens. They are still growing. Their combs are slowly but surly coming in. They LOVE eating strawberries and have begun to associate me with feeding them the delicious little treats. The other day I saw one of the girls “assume the position.” I had never seen a chicken lay an egg and didn’t realize it was different from when they just kind of sit down. Eric, who has a bit more experience informed me that that is how they sit when they are laying an egg! No eggs yet but hopefully that’s a sign that they are coming soon!!! 🙂 I love their fluffy little butts too!

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Crepes with Strawberries

Yes, more strawberries. They’re still coming in and will be the rest of the summer. I HAVE to eat them!!!

Crepes:

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1/2 cup COLD water

1/2 cup COLD milk/cream

2 teaspoons coco powder

BUTTER

Cinnamon

Filling stuff of your choosing

I want to take a minute to adore these BEAUTIFUL brown eggs from Eric’s grandparents. Their red sexlinks have been supplying us while we are waiting for our girls to start producing!

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SIFT the flour, and if you so choose, the cinnamon and coco powder. This removes a lot of lumps and makes a nice smooth batter.

1.Whisk all ingredients together. I added a dash of cinnamon and coco powder because, WHY NOT!? It will all be the consistency of really thick chocolate milk, or a runny milk shake. You will have the urge to add more flour. DON’T DO IT!

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2. Chill in fridge for at least one hour.

3. I used fresh strawberries and chocolate syrup. You can use berries, bananas, peanut butter, whipped cream, caramel, chocolate- think of this as like a dessert/brunch taco. Go ham. HAHA get it, ham? Regardless of what you choose to fill your crepes with, you should prepare it while the batter is chilling.

4. Use BUTTER to grease the pan. Because crepes are French. Butter+French=all things good. In all honesty, I used a non-stick pan and you really don’t need that much butter. Slather it on afterwards though!

5. They are thin so they cook super fast. Add a dollop to the center of the pan, grab the handle and swirl around to spread the batter. The sides will begin to pull away.

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6. Flip once to finish cooking/brown the other side.

7. Slide out and fill til your little heart’s content.

8. YUM!

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Totally should have dusted with powdered sugar and coco powder! Oh for hindsight!

And even though crepes are French, I listened to the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack because Jean-Yves Thibaudet is breath-taking.

Children of the Corn

Ok, I thought the play on words was hilarious. I have a very dry, off kilter sense of humor though. It’s ok. I know most of you will roll your eyes or not get it.

Honestly, I didn’t think it would happen. When Eric told me he wanted to grow corn I rolled my eyes. Everyone knows that in order for corn to be successful you must plant quite a bit of it in order to get proper cross-pollination. My aunt and uncle have been growing corn for years, and have had struggling crops more often than not. They do, however, have issues with varmints and deer that we simply do not. Reluctantly, I kept my mouth shut and said “Go ahead,” totally expecting very little to come of this venture. We could be planting green beans in that space! I was quite pleased as the stalks began to creep upward. I was still unsure of whether or not we would get ears of corn. It’s not unheard of to have plenty of stalks with teeny tiny, little to no ears sprout because of a lack of pollination. Today, Eric proudly sent me pictures of  4 baby ears of corn coming in. We have about 20 fuzzy little sprouts coming in.

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I must say, and admit, he was right. I am excited to see how big they get and how many more sprout up over the next few weeks! 🙂 I guess now I have to let him make next years corn area take up a bit more of the garden space.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Milk Shake

Yes. Another strawberry recipe. I have a giant strawberry patch. What else am I supposed to do with them!? This one is super fast, super easy and sure to be a pleaser!

Ingredients:

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1 cup of Milk

Vanilla Ice Cream

Fresh Strawberries

One hot chocolate packet

1. The order in which you dump the ingredients is extremely important here!!!! Ice cream, hot chocolate packet, strawberries, milk on top. If you do not put the milk on top of the hot chocolate mix it will fly up and not combine into the shake like you want it too.

2. Blend until combined with no strawberry chunks or ice cream globs. Unless you like that sort of thing. You might need some more milk to reach the desired consistency.

3. Pour into a glass and enjoy! YUM!

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Variations: Add chocolate syrup, use chocolate or strawberry ice cream, throw a banana in there, make it chunky