A Bit of This and That- An overdue Update


Hello all! Sorry it’s been awhile! I think I’m going to have to start posting little updates as to what projects I’m working on, even if I don’t sit down and write out a recipe, etc. The deeper I get into this whole world of baking, sausage making, fermenting, etc. the more hesitant I am to share recipes since they are become part of my “arsenal” if you will. Cookbook material, bakery recipes, heck who knows maybe even food truck offerings. The sky is the limit right now and we are are contemplating the best move for us, financially and to sustain my seemingly ADHD need to try my hand in EVERYTHING culinary. Focus, focus, focus I keep telling myself but it is so hard with a world of gastronomic delight at my fingertips.

Chocolate Brownie Cake for my mom's 60th bday! We drove down the VA to surprise her! It was amazing!

Chocolate Brownie Cake for my mom’s 60th bday! We drove down the VA to surprise her! It was amazing!

I sat down to write this post tonight, trying to decide what particular item to make the star, and just couldn’t choose one  recipe. I started scrolling through the loooooong list of photos on my camera’s memory card and then decided that perhaps I should just share a few offerings with you on this fine evening. Perhaps this will be the first of many “update” posts so you don’t feel left out of the whirlwind that is my life. Hahaha. Yes, but seriously, I DO schedule myself kitchen projects pretty much every couple of days and especially on my days off from work. I have a stack of cookbooks growing towards the ceiling that I wish I had time to read and no bookshelf room left on which to organize them. Oh what a mess I am. But in my own way, I do so love it.

Beginning a series of recipe testing for the vanilla option of my brother's upcoming wedding!

Beginning a series of recipe testing for the vanilla option of my brother’s upcoming wedding!

Trying out three very similar yellow and white cupcake "bases" topped with a silk meringue butter-cream!

Trying out three very similar yellow and white cupcake “bases” topped with a silk meringue butter-cream!

Troy and I took a business class through our local SCORE network this past week and it was very inspiring. I highly recommend reaching out to your local SCORE branch if you are thinking of starting up a business. I think I got more out of it than Troy, since he majored in Business and Accounting in college and this seemed a lot like a recap of that material to him. So for those of you like I, who have not been properly trained in such things, what a great resource to have. (Don’t you find it awfully convenient that since he majored in Business he can handle the books while I am the “talent”? HIS words, not mine! I won’t argue. Teehee).

So to start with, I will tell you my garden is getting out of control! In a good way I guess though. Especially my sweet 100 tomato plant it is like some sort of crazed mutant tomato plant, threatening to take over the entire garden. It is growing up the side of the house, tried to grow in one of the windows, so I have been periodically tying it off around the window frame. It grows these glorious little clusters of grape tomatoes that are just he sweetest ones you’ve ever had!

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My neighbor admits to walking by and eating them straight off the vine. Yea, they are tasty. My zucchini and cukes seem to be having some problems with powdery mildew which I have tried to nip in the butt, to no avail. I am still getting a decent crop despite it.

I know this looks like lasagna (and it tasted a lot like it) but this is zucchini fresh from the garden, stuffed with Italian sausage! Smothered in cheese and swimming in a good tomato sauce, naturally.

I know this looks like lasagna (and it tasted a lot like it) but this is zucchini fresh from the garden, stuffed with Italian sausage! Smothered in cheese and swimming in a good tomato sauce, naturally.

 

Right now my major focuses are on the cupcakes, which you saw above and on sausage making. My dad brews beer (and is amazing at it) and is throwing an Oktoberfest this fall. I am going to make all of the sausages for it this year and the sauerkraut! This is a very exciting although slightly daunting task. My goal is to make Italian sausage, bratwurst, frankfurters and smoked Polish keilbasa! I have made test batches of the Italian and the bratwurst. The Italian I totally overhauled after the test batch since it didn’t seem flavorful or juicy enough to me the first time. The brats I’ll am tweaking a bit but I think I’m nearly there.

Italian sausage (left) and Brats (right)

Italian sausage (left) and Brats (right)

I bought two BIG pork butts on sale, cubed them up, cubed the fat back up, portioned them out for each type of of sausage and froze most of it until I’m ready for sausage making day. I set out to make the Italian sausage the same day as all the prep work and I got through grinding, seasoning it, making a test patty, adjusting the seasoning and preparing the casings before I ran into trouble. I have used the sausage maker attachment on my Kitchen Aid before but never for so many sausages and was getting overly frustrated after just a half a batch. The casings kept blowing out due to trapped air (there is no pressure release with this type of stuffer). In my frustration, I decided it was best just to pack and clean everything up for the day and somehow through all of this ended up throwing a piece of the kit away. I dug through the garbage (ICK) and still couldn’t find it. Feeling defeated I thought I would just have to buy a new kit. Although I was having real trouble starting down the barrel of stuffing another HUNDRED sausages or so with that dreaded attachment. And I LOVE my Kitchen Aid, but it is not meant to be a sausage stuffer. SOOOO, I did what any NORMAL girl would do…… and spent a couple hours researching vertical sausage stuffers before finally justifying spending $150 on a stainless steel model promising to be a workhorse and make this process a real breeze. I decided on a brand called a “LEM“. I am waiting with baited breath for it to be delivered! Eeek a new toy! Albeit one I’m not sure I should have decided I could afford but in the long run I’m sure I’ll be soooo glad I made the investment.

Getting sauerkraut ready to ferment for the first time!

Getting sauerkraut ready to ferment for the first time!

And let’s end this rant off on a sweet note… I made a cheesecake for my friend Katie’s birthday last week and I have to say it’s one of my favorites to date. That COULD have something to do with the fact that it’s filled and topped with my most favorite of favorite ever desserts, Toffee Crunch bars. That’s right kids, toffee crunch bar cheesecake.

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Drizzled with bittersweet chocolate ganache and more toffee bars. The crust echos the crust of the toffee bars and is absolutly divine. Not my words actually, “divine” is the word my dad used to describe the crust and this is not a word that shows up in his vocabulary often so this is a high compliment.

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6 responses to “A Bit of This and That- An overdue Update

    • Awww, thanks that means a LOT! Sometimes I wonder if I’m an “inspiration” as you say or just a crazy girl! Either way, I am enjoying the ride! I worked on a food truck briefly and it was a LOT of work but I think it would be fun to have my own. We will see where this leads us…. Glad to know I could count on you for some local support!

  1. Omg Jess everything you make is so pretty! If you open a bakery or restaurant I will fly there to eat at your place!! I love the variety of things you make! Making home made sausage and sour kraut is awesomeness! I would have never thought to try that! I hope you have some cook books published! Lots of Hugz Lisa and Bear

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