Tomato Paste

20120918-213520.jpgI love tomatoes more than the average person, I would say. I could definitely pick one up and take a bite out of it, and be really satisfied. So, it’s kind of strange that, for me, a fresh tomato seems kind of ruined when it is cooked to be made into sauce or ketchup. I do not like ketchup at all. It is so acidic. When I make anything that has tomato sauce I find myself copying from my mother and grandmothers and adding a little something sweet to the sauce to cut the acidity. My favorite addition is brown sugar. One grandmother uses plain table sugar, and the other grape jelly to do the same trick. Maybe it is because I was always spoiled by such sweet sauces that I have never liked spaghetti from anywhere but home.

Every week when Jay and I venture to the local farmers markets and I see piles and piles of tomatoes, I die a little inside. Because, two people couldn’t possibly eat that many tomatoes, but I want them all. The farmers around here grow a rainbow of different varieties, and I want them NOW!

So, I decided the best way to maximize our tomato purchase but minimize the yield, is to make tomato paste. This week we bought about 8 large, deep red tomatoes for $4. Score. For some reason, slowly cooking down the tomatoes into a paste brings out the sweetness in them. Whatever it is, I like it. And, Jay says I am an old Italian grandmother at heart today. Maybe this polish girl is proud of that, okay?

Also, I’m really wishing I could send you the smells this is creating in our house. Garlic an onions cooked for hours will surely ward off all vampires for tonight.

Tomato Paste from Gilt Taste

6 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
3 pounds super ripe, juicy tomatoes
¼ cups extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches salt

Cut, chop, purée!

Heat oil in large heavy bottomed pan over medium-low heat.

Roughly chop garlic and onion and blend in a food processor/magic bullet (onion smoothie anyone?) and pour into the pan. Cook and stir frequently, about 15 minutes or so. Add a pinch of salt.

Roughly chop tomatoes, and puree them to liquid in the food processor.

Strain

Strain tomatoes (optional)
If you’re unhappy with tomato skins and seeds, pass the pureed tomato through a fine-mesh strainer.

Cook tomatoes

Pour the tomato into the pot, turn heat up to high, and bring to a boil. Add a couple light pinches of salt. Reduce heat to a simmer, give it a stir, and wait. You’ll cook it for a long time, but it’s hard to say how long since tomatoes differ in water content. Bank on 90 minutes or more.

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Wait
Wait.

Wait some more
Wait. And stir, too, more frequently as the tomato loses its juice and thickens. Keep cooking and stirring. It’ll get thick and annoyingly splattery for a while, as it gets to a pizza-sauce thickness. You can partially cover the pot when that happens, then uncover it again when enough water’s boiled off so that it no longer splatters.

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You’re almost there
When it starts to look pasty, you’ll notice that it’ll get stickier. Keep stirring, clearing the pot, mixing back in the thin, darkening layer at the bottom, and spreading the paste out. At some point, it may look like the oil wants to weep out; this is good. When the paste suddenly sticks together like a dough and slides around the pot, you’re done.

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Store

Turn paste into a dish or bowl and let cool. Pack into containers, press a layer of plastic wrap directly on to the surface, and store in the fridge for weeks, or in the freezer for months. Stir into anything.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Savory, Tomato

Skinny Coconut Shrimp

Jay and I have been stuck in a little bit of a food rut lately. Eating healthy has left us with a smaller bank of recipes we enjoy. We usually try one new recipe a week, but every other day of the week is the same. Monday chicken, Tuesday pork tenderloin, Wednesday chicken, Thursday veggies, Friday chicken, Saturday chicken, Sunday chicken. You get the point.

This week we are trying a new recipe everyday. So, when we had skinny coconut shrimp last night it was a real treat. A much needed break from chicken. This recipe was a recent pinterest find and it turned out to be really delicious!

I am always weary of trying a recipe with perfect pictures and not many suggestions, or a “here is where it all went wrong” story. Have you seen the pinterest-gone-wrong blogs? That is where my fears really come from. Have you seen the gorgeous layered rainbow cake in a mason jar that looks amazing and easy but really turns out looking burnt and not so rainbowy? I am afraid of those incredible fails. I usually find that there is something I should have done differently in each recipe, but I hate a complete fail. Especially the kind where you have to throw the entire recipe away.

Pinterest photo (thanks google):
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Pinterest fail (thanks google):

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Anyways, this is not a failed recipe. So make it, now! Enjoy.

Skinny Coconut Shrimp adapted from Skinny Taste

1 lb (24) large raw shrimp, peeled and deviened (weight after peeled)
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp panko crumbs
2 tbsp all purpose flour (you will only use 1 tbsp)
1 large egg
pinch salt
non-stick spray

For the Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup mango chutney
1/2 of a peach
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 425°. Place a baking rack over a cookie sheet, & lightly spray with cooking spray.

Combine coconut flakes, panko crumbs and salt in a bowl. Place the flour on a small dish. Whisk egg in another bowl.

Dip

Lightly season shrimp with salt. Dip the shrimp in the flour, shaking off excess, then into the egg, then in the coconut crumb mixture.

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Lay shrimp on the cookie sheet; bake in the middle rack for about 10 minutes. Make the sauce while the shrimp are cooking. Remove from oven and serve with dipping sauce.

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Sauce

For the sauce, combine all the ingredients and place in a blender and pulse until smooth.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Main Dish, Savory

Peach Ginger Cupcakes (for two)

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Jay and I have been working hard to change our 1) diet and 2) our exercise habits. One thing that has really helped is in our journey thus far is not restricting our diet. Yes, we eat fresh veggies and lean meat everyday. BUT we have still enjoyed fried foods at the fair, eating “out” sometimes, and most importantly desserts like ice cream or cupcakes. I LOVE trying new recipes and small batch recipes so I know I won’t be tempted by 12 cupcakes sitting on the counter. I’ve found that I still have cravings for pizza with pizza on top or Oreos dipped in hot fudge and peanut butter (by the way I’ve never actually eaten either of those, I just dream about it) but the cravings are curbed by indulging on a smaller scale.

These Peach Ginger Cupcakes for Two are the perfect sweet treat to end any day. I found the frosting to be a little too sweet, actually.

Peach Ginger Cupcakes adapted from Dessert For Two

Makes 4 cupcakes.

Peach puree:

1 large peach
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Cupcakes:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (I keep mine in the freezer and grate it just before using)
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Peach Buttercream:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons leftover peach puree
1 cup powdered sugar

Purée

Peel and dice the peach and place it in a small bowl with the brown sugar. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 1 minute. Blend in magic bullet or blender, set aside to cool.

Preheat

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 4 muffin cups with liners.

Mix

In a small bowl, beat together the veg. oil and sugar until well combined.
Add the egg, ginger and all but 2 tablespoons of the peach puree and beat until combined.

In another small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour this over the wet mixture and mix just until combined—do not over mix.

Bake

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Divide between the muffin cups and bake for 18-20 minutes, until just slightly golden brown on the edges.

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Let cool completely before making the frosting.

Frosting

To make the frosting, beat together the remaining 2 tablespoons of peach puree with the powdered sugar and butter. You may need to add more sugar for the frosting to reach desired texture, this depends on how juicy your peach is! Frost the cupcakes and EAT!

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Enjoy!

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Filed under Dessert, Snacks

5-minute Spicy Salsa

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Jay is obsessed with Mexican foods. Last week we grilled/charred some peppers for another Mexican dish and decided to char all of the jalapeños we had from the farmers market so we could freeze them and have delicious peppers all year long. Today’s delicious dish of fiery peppers is Jay’s guess-measuring blended salsa. It is his kind of “a little of this, a little of that” recipe but he let me watch and take notes on his approximate measurements. Because he used a whole, unseeded jalapeño that was charred (he removed the skin) it is really spicy! Maybe 1/2 a jalapeño next time… Enjoy!

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Spicy 5-minute Salsa

1/4 yellow onion
1 clove garlic
8-10 grape/cherry tomatoes, we used yellow tomatoes.
2-3 whole vine ripe tomatoes (we used 2 yellow and 1 red tomato
1 whole jalapeño, seeds and all!
Juice of 1/2 a lime
A handful of fresh cilantro
Salt & pepper to taste

Pulse in blender or magic bullet until smooth (in two batches if in something as small as magic bullet).

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Enjoy!

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Filed under Canning, Mexican, Savory, Snacks, Spicy, Tomato

Cantaloupe Fro-Yo

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Jay and I have been enjoying our farmer’s market and tons of fresh produce from it. We purchased two ears of corn last Wednesday and grilled them in the husks. Best sweet corn, ever. So we ran back to the same stand on Saturday and bought 13 more. We grilled the corn, cut it off the cob and froze it to enjoy for a while. I like to add frozen corn to soups and it also goes in veggie chili. I also love that I know that this corn is good, it came from the ground in Albert Lea, and is sweet and tender.

We got a melon from the market a few weeks ago and it was a dud. Not sweet at all and the flesh was soft in half and crunchy in half. No good, but the light orange color is enticing. We bought another on sale at the store this weekend and it is so sweet, and has the perfect texture. Jay suggested frozen yogurt and I knew we had to use this melon!

This recipe does require some planning to make. You have to drain the yogurt for 6-8 hours before making the yogurt. We drained it over night (probably about 15 hours) and it was fine.

Cantaloupe Fro-Yo adapted from the Jeni’s Ice Cream Cookbook.

Fro-Yo base
1quart plain low fat yogurt
1 1/2cups whole milk
2tablespoons cornstarch
2ounces (4tablespoons) cream cheese
1/2cup heavy cream
2/3cup sugar
1/4cup light corn syrup

Cantaloupe syrup
1/4 cantaloupe
1/4cup sugar

Strain

Strain 1 quart of plain low fat yogurt for 6-8 hours or overnight into a large bowl with a sieve and two layers of cheesecloth. Discard the liquid in the bowl and measure 1 1/4 cups of yogurt and set aside.

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Cantaloupe Syrup

Cut about 1/4 of a cantaloupe into chunks and purée.

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Add about 3/4 cup of purée to a small saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar. Heat over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves, don’t boil. Remove from heat, let cool.

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More prep

Combine 3 tablespoons of the whole milk with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Set aside.

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Whisk 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese in a small bowl until smooth, set aside.

Fill a large bowl with ice water, set aside.

Prepare a gallon size ziploc bag.

Cook

Combine the remaining milk (1 1/2 cups – 3 tablespoons), 1/2 cup heavy cream, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup light corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and boil for 4 minutes.

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Remove from heat and slowly whisk in corn starch mixture. Return to heat and continue whisking just until mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat.

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Whisk in cream cheese until smooth, then add yogurt and cantaloupe syrup and whisk until smooth.

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Pour mixture into ziploc bag and place in the ice bath for 30 minutes.

Freeze

Pour cooled mixture into an ice cream maker and churn for about 20 minutes. At this point the mixture will begin coming away from the sides of the ice cream maker and become very thick.

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Transfer the frozen yogurt into a container and freeze 4 hours before enjoying (if you can wait that long!). This recipe makes 1 quart of yogurt and the mixture fits perfectly into the container the plain yogurt came in.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Dessert, Frozen Yogurt

Reupholstered Reclining Wingback Chair

Jay and I got this lovely Reclining Wingback Chair from his parents. While it wasn’t actually that bad looking we wanted a statement piece and something to go with our new end tables. The process was rough. I would recommend to anyone who values their hands and time to really, really think about how badly they want to do a project like this on their own. Removing the fabric from the chair requires the removal of thousands (really) of staples. I used a flathead screwdriver and rocked it back and forth to loosen the staple, then pulled each one out with pliers. Oh and don’t forget that for every staple removed, you will have to put a new one in and my staple gun bruised my hand.

*This project took 8 yards of fabric and eleventy-billion staples.

The Process:

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Refurbished End Tables

Two really ugly end tables, $5 each. Yellow velvet embellishments. Winning?

Jay and I stumbled upon these two beauties at a garage sale. I think we scored pretty big at $5 each for these ugly things. The process of refinishing these end tables was long and miserable. Clean, disassemble, prime, sand, prime, paint, sand, paint, sand, clear coat, done! It was repetitive to say the least and we had a hard time deciding on how we wanted them to look. After several failed paint testers we decided to paint them black with blue embellishments. We covered the yellow velvet material with plain black cotton and replaced the dirty golden handles with new silver ones.

A version where we used a silver ceiling tile as the background.

Patiently Painting..

Before & After

P.S. we used an oil based primer because these tables aren’t solid wood, just laminated to look like wood. Also, latex paint and a durable, waterproof/scratch resistant/rust resistant clear topcoat.

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