As I look around my house, I’m well aware that all signs of the hard work that my husband and I did just a week or so ago has been erased. For once, it’s not because we were too lazy or forgetful to maintain our clean house. In fact, the state our house is in today, is proof of all the work we’ve been doing this morning.
Winter seems to have finally visited Florida. I even had to turn the heat on last night, I’m pretty sure the temperature dropped down to the forties. Winter in Florida is different than any other winter I’ve experienced (not that my experience is vast). This is especially true near the beach. When the wind blows, even temperatures that are just in the low 50’s feel frigid, and it can take hours to warm back up if you’re outside for any length of time. I know that winter is not here to stay, at least not yet, but summer is definitely over. That means that it’s officially time to put away the summer clothes and pull out the winter clothes. I sent my husband up into the attic today and he pulled out some clothes that we haven’t in three or four years. It’s almost like having a whole new wardrobe, I’m very excited. Of course, that means that laundry is the word of the day. I’m pretty sure that I spent at least 2 hours folding the clothes that my dear husband was kind enough to launder earlier this week, only to have the basket fill right back up with the winter clothes that are being put back into rotation.
Since we’re going through our closets and dressers anyway, we decided to use this as an opportunity to do some purging. Anything torn or stained was trashed. Clothes that we don’t wear anymore because they no longer fit, or we just don’t like them anymore, was bagged and earmarked for the thrift store. This ended up being a bigger chore than either of us expected. There are three bags of clothes sitting by the door to go to the thrift store, along with a Rubbermaid bin of maternity clothes and a giant bag of children’s clothes that will go to the consignment shop. Our summer clothes were put into vacuum bags, and stuffed into the attic. Hopefully we won’t forget they’re there before summer roles around. It didn’t seem like such a daunting task when we first started, but we started working at 10:30 this morning and worked continuously until 3:30, when my husband had to go to work. I am one exhausted mama, but I’m very happy to have this chore behind us. Not to mention that there is a ton more space in our closets and dressers now that we’ve cleared them out. And it’s kind of like having a whole new wardrobe since I haven’t seen these winter clothes in such a long time. I’m really pretty excited about it.
Photo courtesy of myfirstapartment.com
We all know that it’s better to buy fresh vegetables whenever possible, but sometimes that can be hard on the budget. Even when you can find fresh vegetables that you like and are affordable, they tend to go bad so quickly, that you can still end up wasting your hard earned money if you can’t find a use for them quickly enough. It would be ideal if you could freeze your vegetables and make them last longer, but fresh vegetables don’t freeze well. So then you have to choose, do you buy canned or frozen vegetables that will stay good until you’re ready to use them? Or do you buy fresh vegetables that are better for you but can’t be frozen? I was pondering this exact conundrum just the other day when my wonderful chef husband mentioned something off hand about blanching vegetables. For those of you who aren’t familiar with blanching, it’s just about the simplest way to cook vegetables, and is often used for vegetables that are intended for a sauce, because blanched vegetables absorb flavor so well. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, and have a bowl of ice sitting near your pot. Drop your vegetables into the boiling water for about 30 seconds, then scoop them out and drop them into the ice. Voila! You’re veggies are blanched. Easy. And, now your vegetables are cooked, which means that now they can be frozen. I did this a few weeks ago with some fresh mushrooms. I love having fresh mushrooms, but they only stay good for about three days, so I never buy them, because it’s such a waste of money when they go bad. Well a couple of weeks ago, I got my fresh mushroom and I cut them into small pieces to use for easy use. I blanched them and then put them into individual baggies, and put them in the freezer. About a week ago I took one bag out to use for some vodka sauce I was making. It worked beautifully. The mushrooms defrosted very quickly, so I was able to put them right into the pan with the other vegetables I was sauteing without slowing the process down too much.
By the way, I think that Vodka sauce is just about the best sauce out there for any noodle dish. It’s the perfect compromise between Alfredo sauce and red sauce. It took me about an hour and a half to make it from scratch. I could have let it cook down longer, but I hadn’t really planned ahead, and it tasted awesome as it was. I started by making my red sauce. I made it the same way that I make meat sauce for spaghetti or lasagna, except that I didn’t use any meat. Instead I just used vegetables: squash, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, yum. Click here for my lasagna sauce recipe. Once the red sauce was cooking nicely I added a cup of vodka, and then started on a white sauce. My mom gave me a great cookbook called More-With-Less by Doris Janzen Longacre. The cookbook has some great recipes, but it also gives you ideas for re-purposing left overs. But the recipe that I have gotten the most use out of is the white sauce. A good white sauce is the base for many other sauces, and really opens up a lot of recipe opportunities. At this point, I can make it without using a recipe, but that doesn’t do you any good. So, here is the recipe straight out of More-With-Less for a basic white sauce:
- In a heavy saucepan melt in 2 Tablespoons of butter or margarine
- Blend in, cooking and stirring until bubbly 2 Tablespoons of flour and 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- Using a wire whisk to prevent lumps, stir in 1 cup of milk
- Cook just until smooth and thickened.
I added some mozzarella cheese to that recipe, and once I had the texture and taste to my liking, I added it to the red sauce. I let that all cook together, while I cooked a package of three-cheese tortellini. It was so good. How good was it? My little guy cleaned his plate and asked for more in less than 10 minutes! Definitely a record. And since I only used enough sauce to coat the tortellini, I had a ton left over, which went right into the freezer for later use.