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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The great tomato sauce catastrophe of 2012

I am so happy to have discovered a good farmer’s market not too far from my home.  I can get up on Saturday mornings, make the 15 minute drive and come home within an hour or so with everything from smoked chicken to pain au chocolat to fresh tomatoes and okra.

pain au chocolat Pain au chocolat is a dark chocolate filled croissant.

In fact, it’s become such a thing this summer that pain au chocolat (or as my husband refers to it, “the breakfast of the gods”)  is our standard Saturday morning breakfast and smoked chicken and veggies from the market is our standard Saturday evening supper.  We don’t know what we’ll do once it closes for the winter months.

Several weeks ago, I went to the market and had in mind to get a bunch of tomatoes to make and can some tomato sauce.  As it happened, one of the vendors had a box full of blemished tomatoes (which we later weighed at 15 lbs) for about $5.  PERFECT!

tomatoes
I got my tomatoes home and later that afternoon, the kids and I got to work cutting out the bad parts and prepping them for cooking.  I used this recipe as a guide and found it all to be pretty simple.  I used my absolute biggest stock pot and even still, it almost wasn’t big enough.

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The only hitch I encountered with actually making the sauce was that I didn’t have and couldn’t seem to find anywhere a food mill. But I finally came up with a solution involving a colander and a ladle that seemed to give me my desired results.

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That was the only hitch.  Until….

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I had placed the hot/sterilized jars on the wire cooling rack that you see in the picture.  I filled them all.  Then, one by one I picked them up to up on their lids.  All the while, not realizing that the last row of 3 full jars were on the back edge which was beyond where the foot of the cooling rack touched the baking sheet below.  SO, when I picked up the final jar in the next to last row the wire rack finally tipped sending the 3 jars in that final row spilling all over and down the back of the range.

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I cleaned up the top of the range the best I could.  Then, my hubby, saint that he is, set to work the next day….

….cleaning….

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…cleaning…

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… and still more cleaning.

It actually took him several hours to get all the sauce cleaned out of all the nooks and crannies in, around, and behind the range. 

I love that man!

But the result?  Did I get my tomato sauce?

Why, yes.  Yes, I did.

Homemade jarred tomato sauce

All told, I figure I spilled about 1 1 /2 pints of tomato sauce, but the remaining 8 pints will be wonderful come winter-time when we are desperately missing the Farmer’s Market.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

R2D2 Cake decorating steps & tips

A reader emailed me the other day and asked for more pictures and instructions on how I decorated the R2D2 cake for my son’s birthday (posts here and here).  So I went back and dug up some more pictures and decided to post more detailed instructions and tips here for everyone to see.

I used this “vintage” Wilton R2D2 cake pan that my mother in law used for my husband’s birthday cakes when he was a kid, around 1980. 

R2D2 cake pan

1.  Be sure to thoroughly grease and flour your cake pan and remove the cake from the pan about 10 minutes after removing from the oven.  This particular Wilton cake pan has lots of little indentions for R2D2’s different features.  If you’re not careful, some of them may end up staying in the pan.  Not that I know from personal experience or anything.

2.  Make your cake a couple of days ahead of time.  Once fully cooled on a wire rack, wrap the cake in paper towels and then plastic wrap and place back into the cake pan (after you’ve washed it) and either refrigerate or freeze it until you’re ready to use it.

4.  Make your icing and mix your colors maybe the day before you decorate. 

**Spreading out these steps helps me to better manage my time so that I don’t spend as much time all in one day.

5.  You will need four colors of blue using a light blue, such as Wilton Sky Blue, for your base color. 

R2D2 cake colors numbered
Start by mixing your regular butter cream or cream cheese icing.  I think it only requires 1 recipe worth.  I would say take about half of it and mix your #4 or lightest blue color.  Put about 1/4 aside.  Then mix more blue to make it darker for your #3 blue color.  Put some of that aside, and mix more blue and possibly 1 teeny tiny drop of black to get your #2 blue color.  Finally pull some of that out to mix in more blue and probably just a little black to get your #1 darkest blue color.

6.  I do not frost the cake before decorating.  A) It would cover up the detail of R2D2’s features which would make it way more difficult to decorate and 2) We tend to not like tons of icing.  Using just the icing for decorating the cake to icing ratio is much better for us.

7.  Pretty much, I would decorate it in order from 1 to 4 and then white using the patterns as pictured on the pan’s insert.  Stars in some areas and the back and forth snake type pattern in other areas. 

R2D2 cake pan insert numbered 2 
First, using a number 4 (or 5 or 6) tip, outline everything. 

R2D2 outlined 
Next, using either the number 17 or 18 decorating tip, begin filling in the areas as numbered above.  I use the smaller #17 tip for smaller areas and the larger #18 tip for larger areas.

R2D2 partially filled 
8.  Finally, after all the blue is done, fill in the white areas and use red M&M’s or Skittles for the lights on R2D2’s “head”. 

R2D2 cake 4

If I have baked the cake a couple of days before and made the icing colors early, then decorating only takes me a couple of hours.

Best of luck to you!!!  Enjoy!