Search This Blog

Monday, December 19, 2011

going against the gift giving grain

I read an article recently that listed the 7 things that people shouldn't give as gifts.  Number 1 was kitchen appliances (yep, we've broken that one at this house, we've both given each other kitchen stuff and loved it).  The article listed gift cards, too.  We've both given and received gift cards, and liked them.  The main complaint is that they are impersonal, but really, if the gift card is to a place that you enjoy, then even gifts cards can be a thoughtful gift.

The article also listed food, saying that there's an overabundance of food at this time of year and no one wants it.  Well, no one interviewed me.  I love food, and I love getting and giving it as a gift.

Another article said not to bother with homemade gifts.  At our home, we LOVE home made stuff, stuff we can make home made stuff with/in, and other gifts of that ilk.  Of course, not everything we give is homemade, but we make a conscious effort to give things that are homemade and handcrafted.  This year, the girls will be getting hand made, hand dyed, hand sewed dolls.  The dolls are from a local artist and it's nice to support her by buying her dolls. 

As for home made food, we tend to give that out every year.  Generally, we give out a gift basket of home made stuff, or maybe just a jar or two along with a bottle of mead.  Giving a gift that you put your effort and love into is almost always appreciated.  (I like to mention that my siblings and I loved it when we got the jam from grandma when we turned 18, rather than getting toys.  We always got the comfy knit slippers but getting jam too, that's just yum.)

Even if it's not home made, food can be a great gift.  I mean, everyone eats.  Giving food as a gift is  creative, both for the giver who chooses what to put in the gift, and the receiver, who gets to make whatever she or he wants with new ingredients.  It's consumable, so it won't take up space in your home for any extended period of time.  It's also thoughtful because, generally, people would put in a gift something that they want to share that they like, or something that they think the other person would like.

Forget the rules that say you should skip a whole category of potential gifts.  If the person likes it, it's a good gift.

menu plan for the week (12/19/11)

Monday:  scrambled eggs (we still have a lot of eggs, and with all that's going on we needed something easy).

Tuesday:  potato leek soup - from the freezer.  We're expecting a cow hide weighing 150-175 lbs. and need to make freezer space by next week.   Most of our meals will be whatever we can use up (and we just recently started to stock up the freezers).

Wednesday:  chicken, frozen veggies, rice (our Yule dinner)

Thursday:  beef stew - from the freezer.

Friday:  leftover chicken, more frozen veggies

Saturday:  It's x-mas Eve and we'll be dining with the in-laws

Sunday:  Christmas day and we'll be dining with more in-laws!

That was an easy week of planning!

menu plan for the week (12/13/11)

Sunday:  squash ravioli with balsamic vinegar and shallot dressing.  The ravioli is store bought and not real, but it sure is tasty.

Monday:  cheese omelets - Lily's choice

Tuesday:  leftover beef and potatoes over bread

Wednesday:  take and bake pizza.  It was delicious!

Thursday:  Fish tacos.  We had some mango salsa frozen, avocados were on sale, and we had tortillas and fish in the freezer.

Friday:  Out to eat

Saturday:  potluck

Sunday:  Lamb, roasted root veggies (I could have gorged on that alone), salad, and homemade apple crisp with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

holiday baking

My older sister and I used to have an annual holiday baking party.  We'd have a lot of friends, a lot of ingredients, and a lot of fun.  We'd bake all day and then split it up at the end.  I really miss that.  This year, however, I was able to attend a cookie exchange.  Though there weren't a lot of people, there was variety.  I brought molasses cookies in a candy cane shape.  There were chocolate mint truffles, caramel filled thumbprints with nuts, butterscotch bars, and bacon chocolate chip cookies.

Baked goods are one of my favorite things about the holidays.  I don't think I'm done with the baking.  I have some ideas in my head and we'll see if they materialize.  Plus, I'll take pics.

menu plan for the week (12/6/11)

When you don't feel well, menu planning isn't so easy.  The whole house had a not-so-nice stomach issue, so it was all about making ourselves feel better.  We had some bland food, some easy to make stuff, and some soup, because that's what you eat when you don't feel well (it does help that all the food still tasted good).

Monday: beans and rice.  We'd bought some dry beans rather than canned and they are delicious (I'm sure it's the spices Jaimie put in).  He also put in salsa.

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday:  Grilled cheese

Thursday: beef roast with potatoes in the slow cooker

Friday: slow cooker root veggie soup.  The grocery store has some organic, local root vegetables this time of year and we love them roasted or in soup.  The pack comes with turnips, carrots (3 colors), and parsnips.  We also add celeriac (celery root).

Saturday: leftovers

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Laundry on the line & detergent recipe

Our dryer died a few weeks ago.  Thankfully, my sister had one just sitting around that we could have for free, but we had to wait for 2 weeks until we were going down for a visit.  In the meantime, I couldn't bear having that much laundry piling up.  I did tell the day care to stop using cloth (she really didn't mind that) because I did not want dirty diapers piling up.  I would have to hang the laundry on the line outside (the basement is too damp).  Since it was late November, it was cold with potential for rain or snow, so I could only do laundry on days that it would be dry.  As much as I didn't mind using the line in the summer, maybe even enjoying having clothes on the line, I didn't want to be required to use it, especially in the cold.  It just so happened that it was late, dark and cold when I noticed that the dryer died but I wanted dry clothes so I was hanging laundry in the dark that evening.  I think it was the highlight of my day the day we got the dryer set up and I had warm, soft clothes.  I know it's not very green, but I do love that dryer.  I like to put laundry on the line when it's an option, but in summer.   

Since I was seeming to spend too much time of laundry already, I figured I'd spend some more time on it.  I'd planned on making our own detergent as an experiment when our detergent ran out.  It happened to run out during this time so I went back to the research I'd already done on making detergent.  I originally planned on making it with water and putting it in a big bucket, but then I figured it'd just be easier to make it dry and I can experiment with a smaller batch.  I grated one bar of Ivory soap, put in one cup of Borax, and added one cup of washing soda.  Put it in a container that has a lid, mix it all together and that's it.  I added a few drops of orange essential oil because I like the smell, but it doesn't transfer to your clothes, which is my preference anyway (if you want the smell to transfer to your clothes, then you wouldn't use essential oil but a fragrance oil).  I use about 2 tbsp per load and it seems to work rather well.  You could use Fels Naptha soap (grated) instead of the Ivory soap, but I use the Fels Naptha just for rubbing directly on soiled spots.

Using up leftovers

I really dislike wasting food.  We'll usually have the previous night's dinner for lunch or make it into something else for dinner.  With Thanksgiving just behind us, many people have leftover food.  We didn't have Thanksgiving at our home, but we still had some Thanksgiving food to use up.  We got "leftover" turkey from my MIL (she made it just so that we'd have extras) and leftover cranberry sauce from my mom.

At first I wanted to make this turkey/cranberry sauce pie

However, we ate up all the turkey as is and we had none left for pie.  We did have cranberry sauce, but I didn't want a cranberry pie.  We also had some leftover apple pie filling from when we made a dutch baby (like a panakuken or German pancake) for breakfast recently.  I search for uses for leftover cranberry sauce and I loosely used this muffin recipe found here.

I doubled it because of the amount of cranberry sauce and pie filling I had, and baked away.  Because our oven doesn't heat as well as we'd like, it took a bit more time than the recipe called for, but I used the recipe as a guide and started checking it every few minutes after.  They turned out great.

At my mom's, we had a ton of leftover rolls.  There were too many just for sandwiches so I made some old-fashioned bread pudding.  I don't really use one recipe, but if you do a search for it, just make certain to SLOWLY put the egg in the heated milk because you don't want them to cook.  Also, most recipes call for taking the crust off.  I don't, because, again, I dislike wasting.  Sometimes I'll add raisins, and sometimes not (Jaimie likes them, but I'm not as fond of them).  Bread pudding makes a great breakfast though.  It reminds me of when my mom would be off of work certain cold school day mornings and she'd make us rice pudding.  It's warm, creamy comfort food.

Menu plan for the week (11/28/11)

The last couple of weeks we haven't had a cord for our computer, so no blogging, because I'm not willing to blog on the iPod.  But, we spent most of the time the last couple of weeks eating out, having holiday dinners with family, and eating yummy leftovers.
The menu for this week is as follows:

Monday: Leftover turkey and gravy.  My MIL actually made a turkey just for us to share for "leftovers," which really aren't leftovers if it was made for that purpose, but it was delicious.  I wanted to make this recipe because the idea of using leftover cranberries and turkey in pie form... mmmmmmm.........

But, Jaimie wanted leftover turkey as is, yes, delicious, but leaving none for the pie.

Tuesday: Grilled cheese.  Why?  Because we bought a bag of beans for making bean quesadillas but hadn't prepared them (versus just being able to open a can).  Also, I didn't have the time to make the tortillas.  We did have fresh homemade bread though, so grilled cheese it was.

Wednesday:  We actually remembered to take out the lamb to defrost.  We had rack of lamb with a Cabernet sauce that Jaimie made up.  He made garlic mashed potatoes with a ton of butter and corn on the cob (frozen fresh in August when we bought it).

Thursday:  Those beans for quesadillas were made, so black bean quesadillas it was.  They were SO much better than the canned kind.  Jaimie added cumin and some other spices to make it more flavorful.

Friday:  We're having beans and rice, with whatever veggie I grab from the freezer.  We have plenty of beans left and they are tasty.

Saturday:  Roasted chicken, rice, and veggies.  I'm thinking I might get some carrots, parsnips, and red potatoes for roasting.  It is surprisingly an easy dinner, because if the awesome kitchen appliances we have. 

This weekend we'll need to make more ice cream.  We went through a batch of chocolate, a batch of strawberry, and almost finished off the rest.  We also had great pies (several from a pie social last Saturday).  I'm finishing off the apple crumble pie that Lily made with her day care provider.  (I just have to praise the delicious pies from the social:  banana cream, lemon with berries, ground cherry with cherries, chocolate cream, pumpkin, and so many more).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

menu plan for the week (11/14/11)

Monday:  I made dinner and I don't like to cook, so I did leftovers and stuff I can do in the microwave.  We had egg salad with homemade bread, along with spaghetti squash and baked potatoes.  Just cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds, put some wet paper towels on it, and microwave for about 15-20 minutes.  Potatoes just need to be poked by a fork several times, wrapped in wet paper towels, and microwaved.  Our microwave actually has a baked potato button (I can't believe some grocery stores sell individually wrapped and labeled potatoes for microwaving - any potato can be microwaved).

Tuesday: Jaimie made chicken tenders, leftover spaghetti squash & rice.

Wednesday:  With a sick girl, we went out to eat for lunch after her doctor's appointment.  With a lot of leftovers, we're having that for dinner. 

Thursday:  Wild rice soup.  It's quick and we're leaving town. 

Friday to Sunday we're out of town for a wedding, so out to eat for each of those days.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Brewing extravaganza - mead making part 3

This is the last racking in the mead-making process.  Your mead is in the carboy and you need to get it into bottles (unless you are keeping it in the tapper bucket).  Of course, you sanitize your bottles.  You can either use bottles with caps that are attached or ones that you'll cork.  The ones with the caps are a bit more expensive, but can be used for beer too, and you don't need to buy corks or a corker.  Most people will give you their used wine bottles though (read: free) and corks aren't too expensive, so it's great for gift-giving or just because you prefer to have a full wine bottle rather than a 16 oz. bottle.

If you are transferring from tapper to bottle, you can just fill the bottles that way (though it's much more difficult to see where the sediment ends).  From a carboy, you'll need to bring out and sanitize your siphon tube.  I like to put my (sanitized) bottles in a sanitized baking dish.  More than a few fit in there and then the mead that may spill into the dish rather than on your floor.  If you've got a pressure release system, then there's less dripping, or you could just bend your tube.

Either cap the bottles or cork them.  If you are planning on corking them, you'll need a corker.  The floor corkers are the easiest to operate and takes less strength, especially if you are going to cork often, but it is the most expensive choice too.

Label them and share with friends.

Brewing extravaganza - mead making part 2

After your mead stops bubbling, you'll need to rack it into either another bucket or a carboy.  I like it in a carboy because you can see it in all its loveliness.  If you want to drink it strait from a tapper bucket, you could just rack it into that.  The purpose of racking is to get all the sediment (dead yeast, old fruit, etc) out.  You want a clear product.  Racking it can get the yeast going again, so you'll want to leave it in the second racking (carboy or bucket) for awhile again.  Otherwise, you could use potassium sorbate if you want to stop it (but I generally don't add it).  However, if you decide to bottle it and it's still fermenting, there's the potential to blow the corks out or the bottoms off, or maybe it might just be fizzy.  (If you have bottled some and the corks are leaking honey, or some have blown, then you'll want to put them in the fridge and drink them quickly.)

First, sanitize all you equipment.
If you had a bag or fruit in there, remove the bag or as much of the fruit as you can with a straining spoon.  Save your fruit for smoothies or something.  Now, take your siphon tube and get it going.  You can either get a pump one or one that you have to start the suction yourself.  (This is a great time for a taste test).  Allow the mead to flow from the bucket to the carboy, avoiding letting the sediment from the bottom get into the tube by pulling out the tube when you've got as much of the clear mead as you can in the tube.  Put the airlock back on and allow it to sit for awhile again (a month or two or however long it takes you to get to it). 

Only one more step until you are enjoying your home brewed mead.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Brewing extravaganza - mead making part 1

Yesterday we had some friends and family over who wanted to learn how to brew, both mead and beer.  Jaimie is better at beer making and I do more of the mead. One group of people just wanted to watch the mead process.  Another group wanted to brew both mead and beer, but started their yeast "smack pack" a little late (for the refrigerated yeasts, you are to wait at least 3 hours before pitching it). I am grateful that my friend taught me how to brew, because it is a lot of fun and the end result is delicious.

The first three rules of brewing are:
1) Sanitize
2) Sanitize
3) Sanitize

Mead-making 101:

Supplies needed:  5-6 gallon food-grade bucket with lid (the lid must have a 1/2 inch hole to fit the airlock.  Brew stores sell in both sizes); an airlock (also called an s-tube for ones that look like an S, but not all do) & cap; canning kettle (or some other large pot); long stir stick; floating thermometer; siphon tubes; second bucket or carboy with a lid and airlock; bottles; corks; corker; hygrometer (optional - if you want to measure your alcohol content).   For sanitizing, you could boil everything, which would be time-consuming.  Most brewers will buy some powdered sanitizer (the brand we usually use is One-Step) and just add that to water.

Brew stores would have all of those supplies (maybe not the canning kettle), though you could buy 5-gallon buckets at the hardware store and drill your own hole in the lid (You do want a 6-gallon bucket if you are going to use fruit).  The brew store will have the grommet to fit the lid, and you could save some dough that way.  It's the start-up costs that are expensive.

Mead is, legally, a wine.  It's a honey-based wine that's easy to brew.  They sell it at some liquor stores but not in many varieties of flavors, and it's rather expensive considering you can make a batch on the cheap.  All you need is water, honey & yeast.  Everything else is flavoring, additives for controlling it to prolong or stop the process, or up-selling.  For a five gallon batch (the most common batch size in this house), you start with one gallon of water.  Heat that up on the stove and add one gallon of honey (12 lbs, or 16 cups).  If your honey has crystallized, that's okay.  Honey doesn't really ever go bad.  I mean, it does, but it won't go bad till long after we're all dead.  Did you know that they found honey is the pyramids that was still good?  So don't worry if your honey is "old." There's no honey that's too old for eating or mead-making. 

Melt that honey into the water.  If you want your honey to take center stage in your mead, just warm it.  You just need to get all the honey melted.  There are some great flavors of honey, depending on where the bees went.  Some friends had some sage honey that made a lovely mead.  White Tupelo is the most expensive, but wonderfully tasty, honey.  Orange blossom honey would make a great mead.  Commonly, the brew stores sell wildflower honey, which is also good.  If you are going to add flavoring to your mead, I'd buy the cheapest honey available, generally an amber blend, because the flavor will overpower the subtleties in the honey and it won't be worth the extra cost. We buy our honey from a local apiary and we buy it in bulk - 10 gallons at a time - and that lasts us about a year. 

If you are flavoring your mead, go ahead and get that honey pasteurized, stirring it for 10 minutes or so (don't allow it to boil).  You also don't want to just leave it on the heat without stirring, because you'll end up with honey burnt on the bottom of your pot.  Again, if not flavoring, just get it to melt or you could lose some of the flavor (not that the mead would be bad at all though).  

Now that you've got 2 gallons on the stove (1 gallon of water to one gallon of honey), put that in your sanitized bucket.  This bucket is called your primary.  (The carboy is the secondary, followed by bottling.  Each time you move it, you are racking it).  You want to bring down your temperature of the honey water to what it says on your yeast packet.  If using a smack-pack, then you'll have waited the 3+ hours.  If using a dry yeast, you would put that in lukewarm water and let those babies come alive.  At least one person we know likes to use pineapple juice to get the little beasties going, because yeast loves sugar.

To get the 2 gallons to cool down, you start adding more water.  Add another 3 gallons.  I find that if I just put in cold water then it gets down to the temp needed. Keep your thermometer in there and read it as you add.  You can always wait a bit for the temp to lower, but if you need it higher then you've got to heat some of it back up, or add more (more water won't damage the mead, but the recipe is really for 5 gallons).  Once it's at the right temp (generally 109 to 114 for the dry yeast), add the yeast.  You'll hear it called "pitching" the yeast, but really, it's just adding it to the honey water.

Then, you stir, almost frantically, with that same long stir stick you used on the stove, to aerate your mead.  Set a timer and do this 5-10 minutes.

Want flavoring?  It's easy enough.  It's worth experimenting because you really can't easily screw it up.
You can add a 4 oz. bottle of flavoring from a store (4 oz. will flavor one 5-gallon batch).  You could even mix and match half of a bottle with a half of another flavor.  The brew store has many flavors, but I've found some exciting flavors at the Asian market too.  You can add before or after stirring.

You can add frozen juice concentrate.  It MUST be 100% juice.  You'll need 4 cans of it for your 5-gallon batch.  Thaw it out and add it in before stirring.

You can add 10-15 lbs. of fruit.  (If you add fruit, you really want to use a 6 gallon bucket so that it doesn't bubble through your airlock and get fermented fruit everywhere).  For cleanliness sake, we add after stirring.  (Bonus: you can use the fruit in smoothies or such when done with it in the primary).

You can add herbs or flowers.  We sew a sachet of lavender and add that in before stirring.  Lavender mead is delicious. 

Put your (sanitized) lid and airlock on the bucket. Fill your airlock.  A lot of sites or stores will tell you to fill the airlock with water but we fill it with vodka.  It's sterile and anything that makes it into the capped tube will not be making it into the bucket.  You want to keep all hair, dust, etc out of there.

Put your bucket in a warm enough place to let it sit and ferment.  You don't have to leave the heat on high for it, but you don't want to put it in your cold basement either (that will make the yeast go dormant and you will end up with them waking when the bottles are left out, leaving exploding bottles and stickiness all over).  When you no longer hear bubbling (a few weeks, a couple months, whenever you eventually get to it), you are ready for part 2.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Menu plan for the week (11/6/11)

Monday:  Egg foo young.  Jaimie makes this taste good, even though I've never liked it before.  Plus, we didn't use as many eggs as we thought we would last week and we've got a lot to use up.

Tuesday: Soup with winter melon.  We bought some winter melon at the Asian market.  I thought that it would be sweet like a regular melon.  Looking it up online, it is not sweet and is meant for soups and such.  So, we'll make up something with it, likely along with the onions we got.  Like anything else, it'll be an experiment.

Wednesday: Quinoa and acorn squash

Thursday: Spaghetti squash, rice and lamb.  I cannot believe how tasty the spaghetti squash was last time with just some butter.  Normally I would use it like pasta (hence the name), but I like it as a side too.

Friday: Leftover lamb, carrots & purple potatoes.  We didn't do so well on growing potatoes this year but we got a few purple ones that I'm excited to eat.  We'd had them roasted once before.  I don't know whether we'll roast them with the carrots, or mash them.  Either way, they'll be tasty.

Saturday: We've got company coming and not much time for cooking.  I think we'll have a whole chicken, baked potatoes, and a veggie yet to be determined.  It takes time to do the chicken, but once it's in you just let it go, so it doesn't take too much effort.

Sunday:  We'll be brewing on the 13th, so we'll figure out something quick from the freezer (leftovers of some sort likely).

spelt tortillas with dinner tonight

Tonight I tried out my tortilla press.  You've got to use plastic (like a cut plastic bag) on both sides of the press.  Don't use wax paper because it'll stick.  We learned the hard way.

I had some spelt flour that I've been waiting to use on something but wasn't sure what to do with it.  I'd read that it doesn't tend to be as lofty of a loaf if used in bread, but tortillas are supposed to be flat so I figured I'd try it on that.  The tortillas obviously don't come out as perfectly round as you get in the store, but they were still good.  I would have liked it if I'd gotten them a little more flat.  With them being slightly thicker, we thought that we could probably make pitas with the same recipe and it would hold its shape.

Jaimie made something tasty to fill the tortillas. He used chicken breasts, dried peppers and dried tomatoes from our garden, a bunch of seasonings from the cupboard and a little of whatever was in the fridge.  It turned out fabulous.  We had that along with some fried plantains with jalapeno jelly for dipping.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fall planting

Last fall I planted some garlic in early October and then we had two weeks of 80 degree weather.  None of it came  up.  This year, I waited until yesterday and planted three rows.  It's late October, late by most standards for planting fall garlic, but I didn't want to lose them again.  We like to practice crop rotation (less of a production than you'd think for a backyard garden).  Crop rotation is good for preventing disease and also takes into consideration the nutrients left behind in the soil from what was previously planted there.  We tend to move soil around too, because we're still expanding our garden with more raised beds the previous spring (having hauled two trailers full of compost while 9 months pregnant in May).  After a bit of research, I found that most crop rotation plans suggest planting garlic after tomatoes.  (Tomatoes shouldn't be in the same spot year after year.  They should have two years in-between so that they are in the same spot only every three years.  Also, other nightshades like potatoes or peppers shouldn't follow tomatoes either). 
This year I planted some garlic we'd bought from the farmer's market and some we'd bought from the grocery store.  I figured two types might make a difference.  Last year I bought some from a catalog but they rotted before I got them in the ground, and then the garlic I bought from the local garden shop didn't come up at all.
I'd also heard that turnips and parsnips can be planted and then harvested in the spring when planted in fall (we're up in zone 4a here).  I did plant some seeds several weeks ago, but nothing.  None of our parsnips came up at all this year.  It wouldn't be so bad if I could find them at farmer's markets but I can only find the ones covered in wax in the grocery store.  I have already decided to give up on carrots because they are easily found at the farmer's market during any time we'd be able to produce them and our nutrient rich compost makes for forked (but very small) carrots.  The turnips (and lettuce and kale) at farmer's markets are much better than we'd produced too - I'll leave those to the experts.  But, I've got to continue to try for the parsnips.
Our kale, which I'd heard tastes better after a frost, is very small but growing (the rabbits got to most of it a few weeks ago).  Now that it's past a frost date, I may harvest what little we have.  Every time I say that our harvest is over, I remember that there's still something edible to get out there, and that seems to be true until the snow flies.
Last year I planted some tulips bulbs in the fall, but this year I have no desire to plant more.  I enjoyed them when they came up until the rabbits bit off the tops.  If those come back up, I'll enjoy those too, but I would rather spend my daylight hours playing with our daughters since we spent so much time on our garden over the summer.  It's time for rest and relaxation.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


It's the end of the season but perennial herbs are still growing.  We made some pesto with the basil earlier in the season and today we're making more.  Basically, pesto can be whatever herb you want to blend up with some additions.  If you want to freeze it, I wouldn't add the Parmesan.  We use nutritional yeast rather than Parmesan for the frozen pesto.  Today, we're making pesto from the cilantro we bought from the store for some other recipe.  The cilantro in our garden went to coriander well before the tomatoes were ready, so that wasn't useful for salsa.  But, cilantro sold in stores is generally sold in a bunch that has way more than you'd use for just one thing.  Today we're also making mint pesto and oregano pesto.  I think we may even have some thyme pesto in the freezer from before.  I'm really looking forward to eating the nasturtium leaf pesto we made this summer.  You are limited only by your imagination.

It's best to have some sort of food processor or blender for this process. Generally people think pesto is basil, Parmesan, pine nuts and oil.  You can substitute any nut for pine nuts.  We use pecans because I prefer them to other nuts and because pine nuts at the local store are $43.99 a lb.  Instead of Parmesan, you can use nutritional yeast (found at a natural food store).  Again, we're not much into measuring, so we just grab a bunch of the herb, a tsp. or two of nutritional yeast or Parmesan, less nuts than herbs, and enough oil to make it smooth without being soupy. Jaimie also likes to add garlic.  Freeze in freezer bags or the canning jars used for freezing, or eat it right away.

Our baby's first food!

Our nearly 5 month old has started eating solids.  When we had our first daughter, our doula recommended avocado for her first food because it was full of healthy goodness, and tasty too.  Since then, we've read articles that avocados are great for baby's first food, so we figured we do the same for this daughter as well.  No need to mix breast milk with cereal (filled with added stuff in the ingredient list).  It seems to me that she liked it.

sweet goat cheese or cream cheese wontons

Jaimie likes to make cream cheese wontons.  It's easy and delicious. The first time he made them we used egg roll wrappers because that's what I had in the freezer.  It's been awhile, but I like to make a banana caramel dessert in the egg roll wrappers (topped with more caramel, ice cream & whipped cream, and sometimes a raspberry for garnish).  For cream cheese wontons, he uses an 8 oz package of cream cheese and adds sugar.  Of course, the sugar isn't a measured amount.  Use as much as you like to make it taste how you want it.  Because we had some goat cheese from someone, we tried it with that instead for this go-round. Mix that up and put it in a baggie, cutting off the corner to pour small amounts into the wonton wrapper.  Wet the edges of the wrapper with water and fold them to seal them up.  He likes to fold it so that the square wrapper goes in half to make a triangle, and then folds in the two sides of the triangle. Take that and fry it in oil on the stove top.  Eat and enjoy.

Dinner pictures

Tacos with the last of the summer tomatoes and homemade salsa

Couscous made with homemade broth topped with carrots & cauliflower

Banana pecan pancakes (yes, we had these for dinner)

Chili (almost always made from leftovers)

Rice noodles, chicken, peas, carrots & onions.


We go through a lot of eggs at our house, between just eating them for breakfast to cooking and baking.  We're fortunate to have a connection for reasonably priced pastured chickens, lamb & cows, and now we have a connection for eggs.  It's one of those things that you try not to think about where they come from because you know that the chickens who lay most store-bought eggs are treated terribly.  We've bought from friends who have chickens but we don't see them often enough to keep us in the amount of eggs we use.  Just a few block away, though, is a small Mexican restaurant where they sell eggs.  The owner's uncle has chickens, pastured, that he houses in the winter with heat lamps.  The restaurant carries them all year.  She said that she gets about 10 dozen a week to sell.  We put in a standing order for 2 dozen eggs a week.   Yes, these eggs come at a premium price (but not too much more than store bought), but when I cracked some beauties open to make chocolate chip cookies, their yolks were a deep, dark, lovely yellow.   The eggs themselves are beautiful, with green, bluish, brown, cream and white eggs in the container.  They are so gorgeous that, probably around March next year, I'll start blowing them out to save shells for decorating an egg tree. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Happy Food Day! (and a 2-week menu for 10/24/11 - 11/6/11)

I hope your Food Day went well.  Food Day is October 24th, starting this year.  It's goal is to bring awareness and change in our diets to eat more real food.  See the last post for more info.

I've decided that our two week plan for a menu generally goes off track a little after we hit the week mark, so it's not what we actually eat.  However, I'm still going to list a two week plan this time around because I'll be gone for most of week 2 and Jaimie doesn't like to be left without dinner ideas.  (Which really, that's what a menu is - just ideas.  If you think of something different than your plan, go for it, but at least you've got an idea in your head to make something for dinner with ingredients you've got on hand).

Monday (today): Spaghetti squash with butter, neeps & tatties (mashed turnips mixed with mashed potatoes).  We were planning on chicken but it is getting late and the chicken is nowhere near done, so vegetarian tends to be quick.

Tuesday: Chicken, turnip greens over couscous

Wednesday: Leftover chicken (it's a huge chicken for being pastured), baked potatoes, carrots & pea pods (we've got to finish off some fresh produce so it doesn't go bad).

Thursday: Quinoa stuffed acorn squash.  Why? Because we have quinoa, we have an acorn squash from the farmer's market, and Jaimie was perusing The Joy of Cooking and found a recipe for it.

Friday:  Leftovers.  Either from earlier in the week or the leftover lamb chili from the freezer

Saturday: We'll be at a pot luck, so Jaimie's making colcannon.  It's mashed potatoes with  mashed cabbage. 

Sunday: Pumpkin mac 'n cheese.  We didn't get to it the last time around and I'd still like to try it.  It seems like the right time too, because it's the night before Halloween.

Monday: Grilled cheese and tomato soup.  It's quick (and warm) so that we have time to go trick-or-treating.

Tuesday:  Squash ravioli.  It's also quick because we have it in the freezer and it's yoga night.

Wednesday: Leftover chili from the freezer (I'm out of town).

Thursday: Leftover beef stew from the freezer

Friday: Steak, baked potatoes & any random veggie from the freezer that can easily be warmed (Jaimie's getting a lot of mammal while I'm gone).  He can share a steak with Lily and the rest is quick.

Saturday: Black bean quesadillas

Sunday: Italian polenta.  We didn't get to eat this nearly as often as we would have liked, so we'll make good use of the frozen tomatoes and zucchini.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Food Day is October 24, 2011

Food Day  is a day set aside to bring awareness to eating Real Food (the unprocessed, without additives, etc).  You can sign up to participate at  Obviously, you can eat real without signing up, but you can also go to an event if you are interesting in discussing "about what's right and wrong with our diets and whole food system and how to fix them."

Why is there a Food Day?  According to the website, the goal is to transform the American Diet.

The 6 principles are:
1.Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
2.Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness
3.Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
4.Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms
5.Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
6.Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

If not participating in an event, please consider eating only real food.  It does taste so much better when you keep it real and know what you are eating.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The last of the famer's market and harvest

It's the end of October and there won't be a farmer's market after next week.  Because we're both unavailable to go next week, this was our last trip until next year.  It was kind of a bittersweet thing, because we're glad to see the seasons change but also saddened to see the summer end.  When we arrived, the small farmer's market of about 20 vendors was reduced to 2 vendors.  Jaimie questioned whether we should just leave because we noticed a lot of pumpkins, which we had from our garden already, but there were no other people there and I felt that it was our last attempt to support the local fresh food economy for awhile.  It was too much to hope that there would be tomatoes for sale. However, there was much more than we expected.  We got quite a haul, especially because the vendors wanted to sell as much as possible as we were the only ones there and it was about 45 minutes until the end of the market with a lot of food left for sale.  There were some good deals that we had to pass up - like the huge box of peppers for $15, but we didn't want to be processing or freezing all of that, especially considering I'm not fond of cooked peppers.  
We did get two kind of peppers though: Hungarian hot peppers and banana peppers, both for pickling.  Yesterday, we had out a jar of sweet pickles with some Anaheim pepper strips in the jar.  Our toddler requested all of the peppers from the jar, pointing out all the red, and she happily ate them all. 
We figured we could do some jars of just peppers and see how they turn out.  I didn't mind the small taste that I had, so I would be willing to try them despite my aversion to cooked peppers.

Though Jaimie's not fond of sweet potatoes, we did get some.  I like them baked or as sweet potato fries.  Jaimie picked up some shallots for a pasta dish he's excited about.  We also got some turnips because they looked really good.  I'm certain we can mash them with some potatoes in the upcoming menu.  I'm not sure what he wants to do with the cabbage, but he seemed excited about it.  We bought some acorn squash and spaghetti squash.  The vendor gave us a recipe for a spaghetti squash pie that is supposed to taste exactly like coconut cream pie.  That warranted buying another squash.
Here's our haul.

We've pulled out most of the garden long ago, but I did have some saved just because the plants were doing so well and the ones I saved weren't overwhelming to handle.  The Anaheim pepper that we'd overwintered last year was the only pepper plant that produced well at all for us this year.  Unfortunately, I didn't bother to put it in a pot before the last frost, without cover, killed it off.  The frost also killed off the ground cherry plant.  We're planning on making a pie with the ground cherries we have but after husking them we realized that we didn't have enough good ones to do both pie and jelly.  The crab apples are ones that we pulled from the trees by my work.  No one seemed to care that I wanted to take them.  One co-worker said "You sure eat weird things" after he asked why I would even want them.  Well, I wanted them to do the candied crab apples that my sister commented about earlier.  

Jaimie started with the candied crab apples. We're boiling the rest of the crab apples to try a "recipe" for caramel crab apple jelly (recipe is in quotations because it had no measurements and was just kind of a suggestion, which is how we tend to work in the kitchen anyway).

I husked the ground cherries and took all the coriander off the stems (yes, we still had them hung up and hadn't put them in a jar yet). 

We both worked on prepping the peppers for pickling (I left him to do the Hungarians while I did the banana peppers).  Then, maybe tomorrow, we'll work on three types of pesto: cilantro (not seasonal either, but we got it at the Asian market), oregano (from the side of the house), and mint (also from the side of the house).

Breakfast foods for dinner

Every once in awhile I like breakfast foods for dinner.  It's rare, but sometimes.  I had pancakes on the menu and I imagined they would be regular pancakes but Jaimie decided to do banana pecan pancakes.

They were delicious, and the pecans added some protein.  It was also a good way to use up some of the bananas in the freezer rather than make more banana bread (but we still have plenty for banana bread).  He took his normal pancake recipe from The Joy of Cooking and just added mashed bananas and pecans, then cooked them on the cast iron griddle.   We had the leftovers for breakfast this morning, along with plain yogurt with local, raw honey added.  Local raw honey is better than you can get at any store, and it's great for helping to tame your allergies.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

making yogurt

It's not a difficult process at all.  I thought that I'd need special equipment or lots of time, but it's easy to make your own yogurt, and a great way to cut down on paying for all the individual containers when you can just make your own.
I don't have a yogurt maker, and our oven doesn't have a pilot light, but you don't need that if you've got a crock pot.  Start by putting your crock pot on the Stay Warm setting.
I make one 4 cup batch at a time.  I take about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of plain yogurt (starter) and set it aside, allowing it to warm up to room temperature.  This yogurt can be from a batch you bought at the store or from the last batch you made. It must be plain yogurt, and none of that junk with no fat (i.e. full of artificial sweeteners).
I heat about 3 1/2 cups of milk in a Pyrex container in the microwave (you could do it on the stove if you wanted, but this is easier for me).  Heat to about 170.  That takes about 5 minutes for me in the microwave.  If it's not there yet, then add 30 seconds at a time until it gets there.  DON'T overheat to boiling.  If there's a film, take it off.  Try to avoid a film because then you've heated it a bit too much.
Keep the thermometer in the container and leave it in there, waiting for it to go down to about 105-110.  Go do something else at this point, but don't forget about it.
You could put it all in the crock pot and put it in a container later, but I like to put it in the container it'll be in once it goes in the fridge.  Get a quart jar (I just use a canning jar).  Put some yogurt and warmed milk in it and swish it around.  Then put all the milk and yogurt.  Put a lid on it and put the jar in the crock pot.  Turn off & unplug the crock pot but wrap a thick towel around the crock pot to keep in the warmth. Wait 4-8 hours (it's great to do this before bed and have it fresh in the morning) and then put your new yogurt in the fridge.

If you like yogurt Greek style, just put the yogurt on cheesecloth over a bowl and let the whey (slightly yellowed liquid) separate from the thicker part of the yogurt.  If it's too thick, add some more whey in. Don't waste your whey.  There's a lot of good stuff in there nutritionally.  You can use that in place of water in recipes (though I haven't tried it in anything but bread).  Sometimes I use the yogurt in place of water & milk in bread too.    You could also drink it outright, but I don't know that I'd do that without some other flavoring (maybe in a smoothie or something).

If you're making a bunch of yogurt, you could use your whey to make ricotta.  I haven't tried this, but, hey, ricotta is tasty.

You can flavor with jams, honey, fruit, whatever.  I like mine with honey, but jam is always good too.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday Breakfast

I spent Wednesday morning getting the rain barrels ready to store for winter and reconnecting the downspouts.  We have decided that we need a shed, though, because we have way too much stuff to store in the garage with the van.  First thing Monday morning, I need to find out if we need a permit to put up a prefab shed.  Hopefully, we'll just be able to do it without pulling a permit.  I didn't think about needing a permit when I decided to build raised garden beds and an outdoor oven.  I guess I'd better check on that, too.

At the moment, I'm eating a delicious French toast strata that my mother-in-law made.  Shelly wanted me to post the recipe, so here it is (with MIL's additions in italics).  It's from the April 11, 2011, issue of Ladies' Home Journal (p 110) (Bench, 2011).

Photo by Yunhee Kim

French Toast Strata with Raspberries

One-dish french toast saves you time and is a sweet treat for your guests.
Serves 6
Work: 30 minutes
Total: 5 hours 30 minutes
5 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
7 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 ounces cream cheese
Butter for dish
3/4 loaf (15 ounces) brioche or challah, thinly sliced and quartered
2 pints raspberries
Confectioners' sugar
1. Mix together the eggs, milk, and 4 tablespoons sugar. In another bowl combine cream cheese with 1 tablespoon sugar. Butter a 2-1/2-quart baking dish.
2. Quickly dip half of the brioche slices into the egg mixture and arrange them in a slightly overlapping layer on the bottom of the dish. Top with bits of half the cream cheese and half the raspberries. Repeat with remaining brioche, cream cheese, and raspberries. Pour remaining egg mixture over the top and sprinkle entire dish with 2 tablespoons sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
3. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap and bake strata until eggs are set and top is golden, about 55 minutes; cover with foil if top gets too brown. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.
Per serving: 395 calories, 18g total fat, 7g sat fat, 317mg sodium, 47g carbs, 206mg chol, 12g protein, 5g fiber

This recipe is copyright 2011 Ladies' Home Journal:  
Bench, T. (2011, April). Good Eggs: 6 New Brunch Recipes . (Meredith Corporation, Producer) Retrieved October 15, 2011, from Ladies' Home Journal:

This is so delicious that I had to share it.  It can certainly be made locovore by using local organic eggs, locally sourced milk, and homemade butter, cream cheese and bread (and of course, local raspberries).  Hopefully, my citation is complete enough that I won't get sued for posting it.

Have a great rest of the weekend.  Now, get outside, it's beautiful out there!