Monday, January 21, 2013

Welcome to my World, Sourdough!

A school friend (who obviously knows me well) gave me a cup of her sourdough starter last week. This is my first experience with a starter, and I relished in her warning that tending to it would be similar to caring for child.  Right up my alley! (The tending part, not the child part.)  The more complicated, drawn-out, and involved a process can me, I am that much more willing to tackle it.  

Starter, post-feeding

Bread, in need of some kneading

Totally worth it. 

Makes some killer French toast.

So far I have made five loaves of bread using this recipe. (Ahem. I'll leave the number of loaves I have remaining a mystery.) Each time you make bread, you must feed the starter first. And each time you feed the starter, you must discard a cup of the solution. Um, no. That's not going to happen on the Patti Wagon. So with this "discard" cup, I've made pizza dough and cinnamon rolls.

Rise, pizza dough, rise!

Excuse the bite marks. 

So it goes without saying that I'm living the carbo life right now. I'm training for my sixth marathon, so I don't feel so bad, but at some point, I'm going to need to cut back. Just not tomorrow. 

I'll have these waiting for me when I wake up, and I'm pretty sure it's scientifically impossible to have a bad day after a breakfast of homemade, straight-out-of-the-oven cinnamon rolls. 

6:30AM, Charleswood. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fashion Gold at the Bargain Barn

I recently took a trip to the Goodwill Bargain Barn.  It is a room full of troughs containing Goodwill castoffs, sold for $1.45 a pound.  It's a place where ugly clothes go to die.  ReFashionista has a hilarious recap of her experiences at the Barn.  Mine were quite similar, and although I didn't run into any hypodermic needles, I did run into a barn bully. 

Let's just say I witnessed nearly all of the Rules of the Barn being broken, namely aggressive behavior. A woman tried to steal my coat, as in the one I was wearing. Thankfully a fellow shopper came to my rescue. So if you go, be wary of barn bullies. 

All in all, I'm not craving to go back.  It was crowded and smelly and claustrophobic and you had to sift through A LOT of crap to find one item that might have a modicum of potential.  I spent a grand total of $1.72 and got a few items for refashioning.  There was another positive outcome though.  The barn made the regular Goodwill feel like Neiman Marcus. What? The clothes are on racks? And a dressing room? I must be in fashion heaven. 

Item #1: Drab periwinkle sweater
I have been wanting to make a basket weave shirt for some time, and I found a sweater that might do the trick. And for ~50 cents, what did I have to lose? 

I paired it with this cardigan from my closet.  I've worn this guy since high school, and after 13 years, I decided it was time for a reincarnation.  Based on this sad picture, it clearly agrees with me. 

This is the final product.  What do you think? 

Item #2: Indian-inspired tunic
No before picture, but it was looooong, down to my knees long. So I took off the decorative trim on the bottom, hacked off about a foot, and then resewed the trim. A simple afternoon project, and I've already worn it to school. 

Item #3: Men's flannel shirt
With aspirations of a sleeveless dress.

Result: As of now, it's a fail.  Refashioning was going great, until I got overzealous with the scissors and made the arm holes less like a dress and more like a basketball jersey.  I'm putting it on the back burner, while I kick myself and promise to measure next time. (Wait, who am I kidding?)

Check back later for the rest of my refashions. These are going to be epic. What remains to be seen is whether they will be epic successes or epic failures. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Patti Wagon Souprise

Waiter, there's a pun in my soup! <<shudder of shame>>

Patti Wagon has been soup crazy in the past week, that is to say I've made four different soups over the course of seven days. You could call my kitchen a real broth-el. (I need Punner's Anonymous.)

Luckily, I put up lots of summer goodies like tomatoes, corn, and turnip greens that I used in my endeavors. I also always have some homemade chicken stock in my freezer--so completely worth the effort. These advance preparations make a pot of soup a weeknight possibility. (Or so says my inner boy scout.)

What soups did I make, you ask?

The first was a by-the-seat-of-my-pants (the best way to cook soup, in my opinion) chili. It has extra lean ground beef, beans, tomatoes, peppers, and a mixture of spices. Sorry for the lack of photo. (Speaking of, someone needs to tell soup that she does not photograph well. In fact, she photographs about as well as cat vomit. [Yes, my deficient photography skills and equipment are partially to blame.])

Then I made tried and true vegetable soup

Third was a made-up corn and potato chowder with turnip greens. I fried four strips of bacon in my soup pot, then removed the bacon and cooked chopped onions and celery in the bacon grease. (What can bad about that?) Then I added some flour to thicken the future soup and cooked it for a bit. I added corn stock, sliced carrot, and cubed potato and cooked it for 15 minutes. Finally came chicken stock, turnip greens, corn, and milk. Seasonings were ground red pepper and cumin. I cooked it for another 15 minutes. I wanted it a little thicker, so I added a cornstarch slurry. Lots of salt and pepper and the saved bacon bits, and it was finished. It was good, perhaps not great, but I liked the turnip green experimentation. 

Finally, I made my take on this turnip green soup. I changed the black eyeds to pintos and omitted the fire roasted tomatoes, opting for my own canned tomatoes. 
OMG, it was good. The turnip greens are the star, and the spicy chorizo is a great supporting cast member. I stood over the stove and ate an obscene amount of greens right out of the pot. No shudders of shame here. 

I ended up freezing a good bit of my stockpile for future Patti Wagon lunches. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Celebrating One Year with Homemade Noodles

Isn't the traditional one year anniversary gift noodles? I thought so. 

When I reflect on my first year of blogging, I wonder if I have actually achieved anything. Let's look at a few goals of my blog. 
  1. Bragging....JK....Not really. Achieved? Yes.
  2. On the crafty side, to become inspired into a routine of creativity. Achieved? Yes. I have devoted more time to creative projects this year than ever before, and i have some great pieces to show for it.
  3. On the cooking side, to show my readers that homemade is always greater than. I don't really know how much I have to teach you about cooking, but if things like homemade jam, spaghetti sauce, cheese, and pie crust are intimidating to you, I want to show you, my dear reader, that you can tackle anything.  My heart breaks for my many, many students who have never made pancakes, decorated cookies, let alone baked a pie.  I think these are life experiences that everyone should have, and I hope that I can have just a modicum of inspiration in your cooking. Achieved? Maybe. 
On that note, here's my experience with homemade pasta.

This was my second homemade noodle endeavor. I didn't have a pasta roller the first time, so I rolled it out by hand. It is very possible, but the pasta roller makes it easier to get nice, even, pretty noodles. A friend game me a pasta roller she doesn't use anymore. So, sorry Ron Popeil, I've moved on. (Confession: When searching for this link, I did get sucked in for the last time though!)

There are two ingredients in this recipe: eggs and white flour. And the ratio is simple: 2 eggs for every cup of flour. I doubled the recipe, and it made about 5-6 servings-worth of pasta. 

Step 1: Pour the flour on the counter and make a well. 

Step 2: Roll your sleeves up and wash your hands! It's about to get messy up in here; hence, no photos. Crack the eggs in the well and mix it all together with your hands. Knead the dough until it's no longer sticky, adding a little bit more flour if necessary. Pioneer Woman has some great photos of this stage. Just pretend those are mine, mmmkay? 

Step 3: Divide the dough into smaller portions to run through the pasta roller or roll out by hand. Then cut into strips, again using the pasta roller or a pizza cutter. 

Step 4: Dump the noodles into extremely salted boiling water to cook or hang them out to dry. If you cook them before they dry, just be careful as they cook very quickly. 

Step 5: Drain the noodles. Admire their tenderness and beauty for a moment. 

Step 6: (Really should be step 1.) Make your favorite spaghetti sauce. May I recommend one? I doctored mine with ground beef and mushrooms. 

Step 7: Dive in! You've earned it!