Cookie Scoops as a Unit of Measure

During December, I made a lot of cookies. In the course of all that cookie-making, I learned something new. A recipe I was following said to use a #40 scooper to portion out cookies. I had no idea scoopers were numbered.

I did a little research and learned the numbers are engraved on the underside of the metal tabs that protrude from the handle.

The numbers refer to how many level scoops of food product are needed to fill a one-quart container. A #20 scoop would give you 20 scoops of ice cream from a quart container. With the #40, it takes 40 scoops to fill a quart container. Posed another way, a cook in a commercial kitchen would know that a gallon container of cookie dough would yield 160 cookies if a #40 scoop were used.

In my kitchen, I have three cookie scoops. Here’s what I learned about them:

I found that when making my Aunt Rose’s Christmas cookies, I could make 78 cookies with the #30 or 105 with the #40. Bonus discovery: because they were uniform in size, they cooked evenly in the oven. Also, if I measured the portions out all at once, it took no time to grab a mound of dough from the tray and shape it into the pretty cookies our family likes to bake during the holidays.

I found I could use the #40 to portion out the sticky, crunchy filling for my grandmothers’ Sicilian fig cookies without having to stop and wash my fingers of the gooey mixture every few minutes. Once the fig mixture was portioned out, I shaped it into logs and then shaped the already portioned out cookie dough around the fig filling.

And why stop there? I used a heaping #30 scoop to make uniformly-sized Italian meatballs. I think a #20 would have been better for the job (it holds a little over three tablespoons of food), but I didn’t have one.

This photo of scoopers comes from the commercial kitchen of The Nashville Food Project where I am a volunteer cook.

There, we use the scoopers to portion out consistent amounts of food like breakfast egg muffins

and the ricotta filling used to make lasagna — when making trays of it to feed 600 people!

I was telling my husband about my cookie scoop discovery, and he explained that the gauge of a shotgun is measured similarly. The gauge represents the number of lead balls, of the diameter of the barrel, it takes to make a pound of lead. A 12-gauge shotgun takes 12 lead balls, and a 20-gauge gun takes 20. The smaller the diameter of the barrel, the higher the gauge of the shotgun. It’s an antiquated way of describing the size of a gun.

Once I started portioning out cookie dough onto sheet pans, it took no time to figure out I could freeze the dough while it was on the tray, place the dough balls in a freezer bag, and store them in the freezer …

until the next time we wanted a few warm cookies fresh out of the oven.

This method yields evenly-sized cookies, a bonus when making cookies for a bake sale or neighborhood gathering.

Related Posts
Italian Sesame Seed Cookies
Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies
Oats, Sorghum, Ginger and Cranberry Cookies
Home Ec: How to Measure Ingredients Properly

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© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Group Project: A Shibori Dyed Quilt

I love learning a new word and suddenly having it pop up all over the place, either in the spoken or written form. It makes me wonder about all the words I simply gloss over in life. Shibori is one of those words. It comes from the Japanese word “to wring, squeeze, or press.” Also known as resist-dyeing, shibori is a design technique for creating patterns on fabric. The idea of bunching fabric tightly with ties to resist the penetration of color when it is dunked in indigo is a technique that has been around for centuries. Many of us know it as tie-dyeing.

Japanese artists raised the art form to a high level. From the book, Shibori, the Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing by Wada, Rice and Barton: “Here [Japan], it has been expanded into a whole family of traditional resist techniques, involving first shaping the cloth by plucking, pinching, twisting, stitching, folding, pleating, and wrapping it, and then securing the shapes thus made by binding, looping, knotting, clamping, and the like. The entire family of techniques is called shibori.

In May, the staff of The Nashville Food Project, a non-profit close to my heart, came up with the idea of making a shibori print quilt as a group wedding gift for beloved TNFP Meals Director, Christa Bentley. It was to be a surprise. The Executive Director of TNFP,  Tallu Quinn, has a degree in art (in addition to her MDiv) and learned the technique in college. She wrote the instructions for the project, sent them to the participants, and provided pre-cut 12-inch squares of muslin fabric for staff and volunteers to create tied designs. Here is a partial collection of what they created.

The How-To
The first step was to tie the fabric to create a design. I used marbles, corks, and rubber bands to create patterns on the two squares I contributed.

This is how they looked after I tied them,

and when they were dyed,

and then after they were dipped and untied.

Here is another set of pre and post photos.
 

I wish I had taken more photos of the before and afters. It was exciting to see how each manipulation affected the final design. The design below was made by folding a cloth many times and using bull clips to hold the folds together. I think it is my favorite.

Although, I do love this one.

I thought this technique was interesting, too. The white area is where the fabric resisted penetration of the dye due to compression by a block.

Actually, I love them all, as I imagine Christa must since they were each made in the spirit of love and friendship.

D-Day: The Day We Dyed the Squares of Cloth.
Tallu prepared the dye vat using an all-natural indigo powder she ordered online. She invited me and another volunteer, Paiden Hite, to come over and help dye the squares.

This is the dye vat.

She prepped the tied cloths by soaking them in plain, warm water.

One at a time, we submerged the cloth bundles gently into the vat being careful not to add extra oxygen (in the form of air bubbles or drips) into the liquid. It’s a chemistry thing. I wrote a story all about it, Seeing Blue, Indigo Blue.

As we pulled each tied cloth out of the dye vat, we watched it transform in color from a yellow-green to a green-blue, to a deep indigo blue. This transition in color seems magical each time I see it happen.

Here are the squares after their first dipping. A few were dipped twice to intensify the color. Color is added in layers, by a redipping process, not by letting textiles soak for a longer period of time in the vat.

After the squares dried and were ironed, TNFP staff members sewed them together, backed the quilt, and then began the task of hand sewing the quilt layers together.

The quilt was presented, in a semi-finished form, to the delighted couple, Christa and Todd, at a wedding shower given for them by the ever thoughtful and generous TNFP staff.

Here’s a gorgeous photo of the newlyweds on their wedding day. Like for many who work at TNFP, the Bentleys are growing their own food using sustainable practices, but for this couple, farming is the family business. They are living the dream of owning their own farm, Sweeter Days Farm, complete with a muster of peacocks. They sell their food and flowers at farmers markets and through CSA shares. You can follow their peacocks, vegetable, and flower-growing pursuits at @sweeterdaysfarm on Instagram. This is my favorite photo from their wedding because it expresses hope and love within the beauty of nature.

I love projects worked on in community, in the spirit of caring and fun, whether it be craft-making, cooking, or planting seeds in a garden. Visiting while creating something that is as pretty as it is useful is a satisfying way to spend a day. For me, it is a way of experiencing and expressing love and joy. Perhaps that is why this picture of the Bentleys makes me smile so much; it expresses both. Soon, Christa and Todd will have the finished quilt to wrap themselves up in. Hand-quilting takes time!

TNFP is in the middle of a capital campaign for the construction of a new headquarters with a commercial kitchen. They would be honored to accept any donation here.

Related Posts
Seeing Blue, Indigo Blue.
Making Homemade Plant-Based Dyes
Morning Rounds in the Garden, July
To Dye For: Making Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

@judyschickens Marinara Sauce

I have two ways of preparing marinara sauce, the summer way and the winter way. Either way, marinara sauce is super easy to make and so much better than store bought sauce.

In the summer, I use fresh tomatoes. I often use the over-ripe and cracked tomatoes for cooking and save the pretty ones for salads.

In the winter, I use Italian, canned, whole, plum tomatoes.

There is also a “hybrid” version of sauce that I make at The Nashville Food Project. There, I use a combination of fresh and canned tomatoes — a mixture that includes canned tomatoes that are often dented (they’re okay to use) and homegrown tomatoes (some perfect, some cracked), all of which are either donated or grown in TNFP’s production gardens. I happily get to make that version in a tilt-top stove which can hold enough sauce for 300 servings!

I use the same ingredients in all three versions: tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, basil, sea salt, and ground cayenne or red pepper flakes. What I don’t use is dried oregano. I’m not sure why people think oregano should go in Italian tomato sauce, but no one in my family ever used it. All versions simmer for ten minutes on medium heat once they have come to a rolling boil. Marinara sauces do not cook for as long as a thick and meaty “Sunday Sauce.” They are meant to show off the beautiful flavor of tomatoes.

Although I’ve been making marinara sauce for most of my life, it wasn’t until the summer of 2006, when our family was on an overnight sailing trip in the Adriatic Sea with friends, that I learned to make a delicious marinara. Our skipper, Toto, prepared lunch for ten on a two-burner cooktop in the small galley kitchen of his boat. What did he do differently? He did not add onions (I used to), he used a pinch of cayenne pepper (for heat), and he only cooked the sauce for ten minutes (I was cooking it for 30-45 minutes). In other words, he kept it very simple.

And I’m not the only one who loved the sauce. To this day, if you ask my boys, they will tell you it was the best spafhetti and marinara sauce they ever had.

Yield: Makes 4-5 cups

Ingredients:
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
6-8 cloves of smashed and chopped garlic (about ¼ cup, chopped)
4 pounds of ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and rough-chopped (about 8-9 cups) or 2 28-ounce cans of whole Italian plum tomatoes
2 teaspoons sea salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper OR ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
15 large leaves of basil, rough-chopped OR 2 loaded stems (about ½ cup when chopped)
1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional, it cuts the acidity)

Instructions:
Core the stems of the tomatoes, slice tomatoes in half (horizontally), and use your index finger to scoop out the seeds. Rough-chop tomatoes into 1 to 2-inch chunks. I do not peel the tomatoes. If using canned tomatoes, pour them into a bowl and break them up with your fingers. Swizzle each empty can with a ½ cup of water and pour the liquid into the bowl. Set aside.

Smash the garlic to break up the bulb. Remove the tissuey peel. Take the flat side of a chef’s knife and press it down over each clove to flatten and make it easier to remove the last layer of peel, then rough-chop the garlic cloves.

Pour olive oil into a 6-quart sauté pan. Add garlic. Sauté for about one minute on medium heat until the garlic starts to change color. Do not brown the garlic. If you do, discard and start over. It will make your sauce bitter.

Add the tomatoes, salt, and cayenne or pepper flakes to the garlic and oil. Bring to a boil and then simmer on medium heat for about ten minutes. Stir in sugar. Remove from heat.

Stir in basil. Let flavors meld together for at least 15 minutes. If desired, purée the sauce. Personally, I like a chunkier texture.

Serve over cooked bucatini and sprinkle with Reggiano Parmesan.

Recipes from Judy’s Chickens that use this Marinara Sauce recipe

Roasted Eggplant, Mozzarella, and Ziti  Amazingly delicious! My family loves it.

Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta and Mozzarella Yummy for a quick evening dinner. You could add cooked chicken for protein if desired.

Spiralized Zucchini with Fresh Marinara Sauce I’ve taught this recipe to a few different groups and each time half the people present ordered spiralizers before they left the room.

Check out other family-favorite Italian pasta dishes here.

Never buy a bottle of salad dressing again! Keep a bottle of this 4-ingredient vinaigrette in the cupboard. Use it for salads and marinades: @judyschickens Everyday Salad Dressing

One of the most popular recipes on the blog developed by me after our trip to Croatia: “Croatian Cheese” a Flavorful and Exotic Appetizer Made with Feta and Goat Cheese

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Morning Rounds in the Garden, May

The Spring garden is producing! The lettuces, kale, collards, spinach, peas, spring onions (aka scallions), radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, garlic, and herbs are experiencing unfettered growth.

Farmers grow food to eat, but I have to believe the majority of them are nourishers at heart who enjoy watching things grow. They are people who appreciate the miracle that happens every time you place a seed in the ground, water it, watch it sprout, grow leaves, and bear fruit. They can appreciate that within every seed there is the capacity for dormant energy to awaken and grow a root that pushes downward through dirt to seek water and a stem that pushes upward to gather sunshine for continued growth through photosynthesis.

Picking up where Morning Rounds 1 left off in April …

The Lower Garden

Typically, only the perimeter of this garden is planted in the spring. I usually leave the interior raised beds open and available for summer crops.

Two words about raised beds — build them! The beds are almost maintenance free. The soil does not need to be tilled because there is no compaction from being walked on. They also offer excellent drainage and are easy to weed.

Influenced by my recent trip to India where I saw daikon radishes in almost every village, I decided to grow a trial crop of them in four of the empty raised beds. You can see them in the photo above. A side benefit of growing this crop is how well the radish’s long roots break up the soil. They do the work of a tiller.

The Sugar Snap Peas planted on February 20th have started producing. Like wild! The plants were nearly four feet tall before the first flowers appeared. Now they are loaded with blossoms and peas.

Butter Crunch Lettuce has been growing well at the foot of the pea plants.

Yesterday, I harvested the entire row of lettuce and donated it to The Nashville Food Project. I will plant a summer crop of string beans in its place. This is Booth Jewett, the Food Donations Coordinator at TNFP weighing the donated lettuce. TNFP weighs and logs all food recovered from the community. Email Booth (booth@thenashvillefoodproject.org) if you have an abundance of any food products you would like to donate.

The Champanel and Concord Grapes budded last week. The tightly grouped green balls (aka ovaries, if I must say it–my kids hate when I do)

spread out and flower for only one to two days. During that short time, the flowers self-pollinate. Self-pollination happens when each flower has both male and female parts. They only need a little wind and gravity to bring the two parts together to set the fruit. Tomatoes are pollinated the same way.

One morning, I found little silvery balls of dew around the edges of a grape leaf. That will make you smile.

As I mentioned earlier, inspired by my visit to India, I planted White Icicle radishes on March 13th and harvested them on May 4th.

The bright white radishes were pretty and tasty.

With thoughts of my visit to the Langar Hall of a Sikh temple in Delhi, where I joined volunteers to prep white radishes for lunch, I donated the harvest to TNFP. Little do those volunteers in India know they planted a seed within me that sprouted an idea.

On the left side of this garden, I grew dwarf Sugar Daddy Peas. I planted cool-weather-loving Hakurei Turnips and Sensation Spinach in front of the peas. As the peas grow taller, they will shade the turnips and spinach extending their growing season by a few weeks.

The Back Garden

The back garden gives me more joy than any other spot in my yard. It was built and designed by Jeremy Lekich, owner of Nashville Foodscapes. It is a lush and peaceful place.

My favorite part is the “blackberry fence” Jeremy installed around the garden. He used four-foot high “rabbit” fencing to keep the chickens out. The blackberries are planted outside the fence.

This cluster of blackberry flowers shows each of the stages of flower development: a closed flower bud, an open flower, and a flower that has been pollinated and is now growing a blackberry. Blackberries do require bees for pollination.

The large kale plants in this kale patch wintered over (uncovered!) from the fall. The smaller plants were started by seeds planted on March 10th.

We’ve been picking from the bed of spring onions, shown below, since May first. I planted an entire raised bed of onions this year because I never wanted to run out. I use them almost daily in salads and in cooking.

I planted lettuce seeds on March 10th, but those seeds never germinated. I think the ground was still too cold and wet. When I realized they were not going to germinate, I bought and planted a variety of lettuce plants. Later, in mid-April, I planted new lettuce seeds so I could have a succession of lettuce leaves to harvest. Those seeds germinated and can be seen growing between the larger plants.

I planted garlic cloves from heads of garlic I had in the kitchen. They have grown beautifully and should be ready for harvest next month. Interspersed with the garlic are self-seeded indigo plants from a crop I grew last summer.  Once I pull the garlic in June, I’ll let the indigo plants continue to grow throughout the summer. I’m dreaming about indigo dyes.

We’ve been eating radishes for about a month now. I will harvest what remains of those plants this week so the beet seeds I planted in the same row and at the same time as the radishes will get more sun.

I only planted a small crop of potatoes this year; just enough to be able to show the children who visit my garden where potatoes come from.

I love my herb garden! Growing in it are lots of rosemary, oregano, and thyme; all herbs I use in my recipes for Chicken Cacciatore, Chicken Marbella, and Lemony Grilled Chicken. Also growing are sage, parsley, chives, cilantro and a fun perennial plant to watch called Egyptian Walking Onions.

I have a few rhubarb plants in the garden. They are perennials, and I’m hoping to establish a small bed of them.

The Chickens

The chickens continue to lay their eggs and delight us with their antics. They are the ultimate composters eating almost everything we throw in the compost pile.

Here they are eating radish and kale tops.

 

 

 

Herb Porch Pots

This is my third year to plant herb porch pots on my front porch. I always plant them using hardy herbs in late February.

My 20-month-old grandson and I have lots of rituals we partake in when he comes to visit. My favorite is to pinch a leaf off of one of the herbs, rub it between my fingers, and let him smell it. Sometimes, he tastes it, too. Yet, another reason to grow your own food!

That’s it for this version of Morning Rounds!

Related Posts
Morning Rounds 1
Eulogy for a Chicken
WWMD? A Bucket of Spring Veggies as a Centerpiece
Herb Porch Pots!
How to Make Grape Jelly (and grow the grapes)
Family Dirt
Cooking 35,000 Meals a Day in a Sikh Kitchen in Delhi (India, Part 1)

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.