September 9, 2011

That's Why They Call It Labor Day

Isn't it wonderful to have a day off from work!  A day to lounge around in your PJ's, eat cereal for every meal and even skip brushing your teeth (if the mood so strikes you.)

Is it?  I wouldn't know since that's not how we do things at the Samuels' house - after all, it is called Labor Day.  Geesh.

No PJ lounging for us. Nooo.  We were too busy laboring, sweating and other kinds of foolishness and mayhem.  In fact, our day went something like this:

My husband spent most of the Labor Day weekend on a ladder painting trim and shutters.  Gone are the faded green shutters and the funky maroon/burgandy/whatever-you-call-it trim.  Looks. So. Much. Better.

While my husband sweated it out up on his ladder, I was busy heating up the kitchen.  I had been planning my to-do list all week and I knew it was going to be a busy day.  But I had NO idea.

Egads. The things I get myself into.

I started by mixing up two separate batches of dough.  One to make pitas and the other to make tortillas.  The tortillas I had made before and  was not too worried about.  The pitas, however, were a first and I was a little nervous about those - especially since they called for using a bread machine to mix and raise the dough. And I was choosing not to drag out a bread machine because I wanted to keep my counter tops open for other shenanigans.  I mixed up both doughs and put them aside to rise.  Just enough time to get my salsa mixed up and simmering on the stove.

Or so I thought.

Things started out well enough.  It was while I was scalding and peeling my tomatoes that I started thinking I had an awful lot of tomatoes.  In fact, I thought, not only did I not have enough jars prepared for all these tomatoes but I also was going to need more lids and salsa seasoning.  I ran downstairs and grabbed more jars, threw them in the dishwasher and started it - hoping the cycle would be done before I needed the jars.  I then assigned child #2 to watch the stove while I ran to the store for more stuff.

Half an hour later I returned back home to finish prepping my tomatoes.  I put all the peeled tomatoes into my large pot and then started second guessing my original observation about having too many tomatoes.  I quickly dismissed my second thoughts, though, and dumped in all of the salsa seasoning.

After only two stirs I realized I had made a HUGE mistake.  The smell of cayenne and garlic burned the inside of my nose and I knew I was in trouble.  For once, I should've paid attention to my "second thoughts" - I had added WAY too much seasoning and I now was trying not to panic about wasting over 20 lbs of tomatoes.

I quickly dug out another pot, filled it with water and put it on the stove to boil.  I spent the next 30 minutes begging for tomatoes from our neighbors and even another friend down the street.  I even managed to pull a few slightly-more-pink-than-green tomatoes off of our own plants.  As tomatoes came in the door, I was blanching, peeling and adding them into the mixture.  The heat index was slowly leveling out.  Then I remembered I had two quarts of "practice" salsa in the freezer that I had made a week or so before.  It had actually turned out a little blah milder than we like.  I dug this out from the freezer, quick defrosted it in the microwave and added it to the pot, for good measure.

At this point, I could just about breathe again.  It usually takes me about an hour to get the salsa mixed up and ready to put in jars.  It has now been 2 1/2 hours and my jars are still all in the dishwasher.

And now some kids want to know what we're having for lunch.  Really?  I believe I saw some Funyuns in the pantry.  Help yourself.

The next 5 hours were a blur.  I filled, sealed and simmered salsa jars.  I rolled, grilled and flipped tortillas.  I parted, patted and puffed pitas.

I did this all without any Pepsi or chocolate for support.  OK, there may have been some chocolate but there definitely wasn't any Pepsi.

And I even found time in there to make a bowl of fresh guacamole with my last two genuine California avocados and some of my freshly made salsa.

8 hours later, my kitchen counter looked like this:

14 pints + 1 half pint + 3 quarts (not pictured) of salsa.
8 pita rounds
16 homemade tortillas

And just look at the puffy goodness of those pitas.

My friend, Jackie, would be proud.

And supper that night was a very proud moment.  We had tacos with homemade salsa and homemade guacamole and wrapped in homemade tortillas.

And still, not a drop of Pepsi.

I am very happy with my pita results but am curious how they will turn out after being mixed in the bread machine.  The next morning we filled them with scrambled eggs, diced sausage and cheese.

The children raved.

It made all the effort totally worth it.

Needless to say, I slept like a rock that night.

The next day I tackled that last item on my list: Strawberry Rhubarb Jam.  I do not brag about my cooking - that would be just wrong.  But I make good jam.  I mean, really good jam.  If I ever invite you over for supper and burn the main course (and the odds of this happening, sadly, are very high), I'll just hand you a biscuit slabbed with half a jar of my homemade jam and all will be well with the world.

I've made this jam a gazillion times and was expecting to get it done quickly.

Will I ever learn?  Apparently not.

I will not bore you with all the details except to say that my one hour project took my over three and before it was over I almost burned the house down.  OK, not the whole house, maybe just the kitchen.  OK, maybe just the area around the stove.  This is what was left of one of my drip pans after the foot high flame burned out and I cleaned up the mess.

Oops.  At least I saved the jam. :)

It will be fun giving some of this jam as gifts to neighbors and friends during the holidays. 

What a crazy weekend - but very productive.  And, yes, I would do all it again.  Well, except for maybe the almost-burning-down-the-kitchen part.  Even with all the near misses and near tragedies there really wasn't any harm done, unless you count my nails.

Yikes - told you that salsa was hot.  Doesn't that scream, "Get that girl a manicure!"

Oh, wait, it is No Spend September.

I guess it's just whining "Get that girl a nail file...and a Pepsi already."  Geesh.

How did you spend your Labor Day? Have you had an exciting adventures in the kitchen lately? How would you save a meal (and your reputation) if you burned the main course?

Want to try your own hand at the pitas or tortillas? You can find the recipes here:

Peppy's Pitas
Authentic Mexican Tortillas (I use butter instead of the shortening and they turn out fine.) BTW-  it says a hot skillet - we use our griddle with the temp between 350* and 375*. And I've found it is best to the the dough 'rest' a little before rolling

I'm linking up to Beauty & Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday. Check it out!

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