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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My bread maker machine

I bought my first bread maker from a church basement rummage sale for $4 when I was attending a yoga teacher training about 5 years ago.  I used it infrequently back then, but since October of 2011 we haven't bought bread (but for two loaves of French bread on sale).  So, that means we use it quite a lot.  This past week my bread machine died.  I suppose it would happen at some point in time with as often as we used it.  I do have a bread hook on my Kitchen Aid mixer, but don't want to deal with timing things and going back to knead and wait for rising, and some other probably lame excuses as to why I don't want to go without a bread machine.  I don't buy the whole argument about getting to take out your frustrations by kneading the bread and really going at it.  I don't have that much anger to begin with, and my hands cramp up when I do it by hand, so I'd prefer not to.  (Honestly, when I'm angry, I prefer to clean and organize.  While some people wish they had that problem, just know that I also expect anyone around to also clean while I'm angry, so you may proceed to feel sorry for my husband).  

Back to the bread machine.  We actually didn't even use the machine for baking.  We only used it for making the dough and then we'd bake the bread in the oven because Jaimie likes the shape of the bread better from a bread pan.  It's just really easy to toss everything in, see the timer, listen for the beep, and then put the bread in the oven.  No kneading, no mixing, no waiting for it to rise and checking the clock - the timer will tell you how much longer until the dough is ready (or bread if you want to bake it in there). 

Of course, we found out that our machine died when we attempted to use it and I had all of the ingredients in it.  Yes, I know that bread fixings are relatively cheap, but it really bothers me to waste things, so I was going to do something with that unmixed dough.  I kneaded it (not doing that again, my hands didn't like it) and tried rolling it out.  That didn't work.  I tried waiting for it to rise, and that didn't seem to work.  I decided I'd make something like foccacia.   I rolled it out as far as it would go, and then put it on a cookie sheet to put in the oven.  First mistake: drizzling olive oil on it while it was on a sheet with no lip.  All that oil went off the bread, off the sides of the baking sheet, and burned on the bottom of our new (and still clean) oven, which then smoked up the house and set off the alarms.  Second mistake:  adding dried tomatoes to the top.  When you see pictures of foccacia with dried tomatoes on it, they were probably on there raw and then baked.  It didn't occur to me that putting dried tomatoes on it and then baking it would just make for blackened tomatoes on top.  However, after moving it onto another baking sheet and removing the blackened tomatoes, it baked up ok.  I wouldn't say it was great, or that I'd ever do it this way again, but it was edible.

Before baking

Again, back to the topic of bread makers.  Because I'm resourceful (aka not wanting to spend a lot), I bought my next bread maker at Goodwill.  Prices have gone up on used kitchen appliances apparently, but at $7, I still think it was a good deal (so long as it works, but I haven't yet tested it out).  Our last one was for 1 to 1.5 lb loaves.  This new one is up to 2 lb loaves.  I'm hoping that I love this one as much as I loved the last.  Now that I've got a bread maker again, I have my eyes on a ravioli attachment for the Kitchen Aid.

Dutch Baby (aka Panakuken)

We had a Dutch Baby for breakfast a week ago Sunday, and Shelly wanted me to post about it (Jaimie is writing this post).  I found the recipe for Dutch Baby in the Joy of Cooking that Shelly inherited from her sister when she crossed over.

 Shelly really likes panakuken.  In fact, one of our early dates was to the only remaining Panakuken Huis restaurant that we could find.  That night she had a fruit filled one and I had savory.  I promised her that I would find a recipe and make it for her while we were camping, and began the search.  I didn't find a recipe I liked, so I never actually made it camping (though I could now).  When I began perusing the Joy of Cooking, I found the recipe for Dutch Baby.

Basically, it's almost exactly the same recipe as Yorkshire Pudding or Toad in the Hole (the English version, not an egg in the middle of bread), minus the sausages.  In case you can't read the recipe above, preheat the oven to 425.  Whisk the following together until smooth:  1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 2 large, room temp eggs. Next, on the stovetop over medium heat, melt 4 tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter.

Tilt the pan to coat all sides and pour the egg mixture in.  Cook for one minute without stirring.  Place in the oven and bake 12-15 minutes, or until puffed and golden.  Serve immediately or it will go flat.  I like to top with fruit, so I heat whatever fruit I can find in the cold room or freezer.  Usually it's apple pie filling, but if I use frozen fruit I'll add a bit of sugar to draw out the juices, and let it heat on the stove while the pancake cooks.  That's apple pie filling (homemade, of course) in the pan at the back of the stove and the pancake batter in the bowl next to the stove.  Below is the pancake just prior to topping, and half of the pancake on my plate just before I ate it.  It was yummy.

The Joy of Cooking says you can double the recipe and cook in a 12x9 glass baking dish, if you want.  Just extend the cooking time to 15-17 minutes.  Enjoy!!

Squash risotto

We had squash risotto last week when we had the in-laws over for dinner.  I was searching for a recipe and everything had ingredients I didn't want or have, or had specific measurements when I wanted to use a whole squash and onion, or it sounded like it would taste like something I wasn't in the mood for.  So, I came up with my own recipe.  And by recipe, I mean that I just threw stuff together and didn't have exact measurements.

First I took a butternut squash (a holiday gift from my mom - we still have a few more squash (squashes?) in the cold room), cut in half to remove the seeds, poked it with a few fork holes, and microwaved it for about 5 minutes.  I peeled it and cubed it.  I figured that if I wanted there to be squash chunks then I wouldn't want it cooked all the way in the microwave.  If I'd been in the mood for a smoother risotto, I would have pureed the squash, or at least cut it very small.

While that's in the microwave, chop up a medium onion and caramelize it in a bit of olive oil.  Once it's good and caramelized, put 2 1/2 cups of rice in the pan and make sure that it gets covered in the oil.  If you need to add more oil, do that.  Or, you could add a pat of butter like I did.  Then put that in the slow cooker, along with your squash chunks/puree.  Add 6 cups of broth.  We pack our broth in 2 cup and 4 cup sizes for the freezer, so I just grabbed one of each and put the frozen broth right in the slow cooker after I melted it enough to break it up a bit.

Put your slow cooker on high for three hours.  I was thinking of adding salt and pepper but instead I thought that a bit of fresh grated nutmeg would do the trick.  I don't know how much was put in there because my MIL put it in, but it really made the dish.  We'll be doing this one again.

Monday, February 27, 2012

More benefits of Real food

Yet another article has come out about the hazards of additives, specifically yellow #5, which is in just a ton of stuff.  It even mentions that it's in store-bought pickles.  That just makes no sense.  It notes that the tartrazine in the yellow #5 causes hyperactivity in kids, asthma, migraines, and cancer.  Since yellow #5 (and any other of those dyes) are not in real food, you know you're not exposing yourself to that kind of risk when eating right.

Menu plan (2/27/12)

I want to use up some leftovers in the freezer, so we'll be having leftovers a few nights this week.

Monday:  lamb and potato green curry leftovers. This got hotter than I remembered when we ate it last.  After dinner, we tossed the remaining leftovers out.  I know that I don't like to waste food, but I also don't want to eat something that is too much for me.

Tuesday:  French onion soup.  Jaimie suggested this.  I think it's a great idea for something warm and healthful.  It's made with onions, homemade broth, croutons, and cheese.  I've always loved eating French onion soup but gave it up for quite awhile because I could never find it unless it was made with beef broth.  It's so nice to have it homemade because we know exactly what's in it.

Wednesday:  leftover squash risotto

Thursday:  a noodle salad with leftover turkey

Friday:  pizza, with our homemade dough, sauce, and mozzarella

Saturday:  Eating with friends at their home (and a seed exchange/ordering party)

Sunday: Probably a chicken, with roasted potatoes and a veggie from the freezer.  We're having company.  I love having company.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Week 8: $25 in groceries

This week we had some traveling to do, so we wanted snacks for part of our budget.  So far, we bought:

Sweets & Beets chips: 2 bags for $5
Coconut oil (for both body use and cooking): $5.84
Potatoes (with coupon): $.99
Apples: $1.71
Parmesan cheese: $3.29
Kefir: $2.79

We're at $19.62 and that leaves us enough for onions and bananas.  Since we were over a couple of times and under other times, I figured what we actually spent for the total amount, and after 8 weeks we should be at $200.  I want to make it so that we are at or under that $200 figure.  That means I have $3.74 to spent for this week yet.

[We totally busted our budget this week.  We went to Milwaukee and there are a lot of cheese shops along the way to and from.  As everyone knows, WI has the best cheese.  We stopped at a cheese shop and got a brick of 4-year-old cheddar (not the kind with artificial orange coloring) for $9.56 and a small brick of Swiss cheese for $4.55.  They totaled just under $15.  We also bought sorghum for $6.99.  All of it was local. I know there's the feeling you get, just like when people say they get when losing weight, that, since you went overboard that you just feel like going way overboard, but I will reign in that feeling and get back on track for next week.  I do realize that with a $25 a week budget we really can't afford really good aged cheese, so that's one thing I'll be looking forward to again when we're done with our challenge.]

[Onions and bananas were $1.20.  Jaimie then bought Fair trade organic Ethiopian coffee for $6.99.  We are so over budget this week.]

Week 8 total:   $48.91.  Since we were already $1.64 over when we started the week, we certainly went a bit overboard.  Even without buying any groceries week 9, we would start week 10 with a budget of $24.45 for the week.  I am uncertain as to whether we want to go without this coming week (I do love fresh fruit), or whether we're just going to call this week a bust.  We'll see what the coming week brings.  Honestly, over the past several weeks, I have thought that we don't even need all $25 in groceries and was buying stuff we already had just to stock up.  This week, though, was the first time I was irritated at the challenge because it's nearly impossible to buy something I really look forward to getting on rare occasion (the good aged cheddar).  Then I told myself to get over it.  It is a challenge after all.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Menu plan (2/19/12)

This past week, each meal seemed to make much more than we'd anticipated, so we had leftovers more often that planned.  So, again, we're repeating things that have shown on previous menu plans.

Sunday: steak, homemade focaccia, butter beets (a jar from a friend and so good), cauliflower

Monday: tortellini and alfredo sauce (sauce from Creatively Domestic).  We don't have parmesan, so we're using our homemade mozzarella instead.

Tuesday: leftover curried potatoes and lamb from the freezer

Wednesday:  chicken and squash risotto

Thursday:  leftovers

Friday:  probably leftovers again if we need too, or homemade pizza

Saturday:  We'll be eating at my parents'

Sunday:  On the road, so out to eat

Sunday, February 19, 2012


We were making smoothies with berries from our cordials so I figured I'd write something on making cordials.  It's a very easy process.  There are a lot of recipes that call for odd additives, but only three ingredients are needed: fruit, sugar and liquor.

We generally use an 80 oz jar.  Put in one pint of your choice of fruit (berries, peaches, even rhubarb), add one cup of sugar, and then fill it up to the top with either vodka or brandy.  We tried rum once, but it turned out a weird almost greasy taste, so we'll be sticking with vodka.  Don't bother with the flavored stuff, because you're flavoring it yourself.

For about a month, stir it daily.  After that month, you can either leave in the fruit to take it out as you want to use it, or strain it out through a cheese cloth.  The fruit will be soaked with alcohol.  You can use it in smoothies, in ice cream, or even in pie (my mom tried this and said that it doesn't all burn off when baking, so beware).

Week 7: $25 in groceries

It's the first date into our week, and we've spent almost all of our $25.

This is what we bought:

$1.99 yogurt (normally we make our own, but sometimes it's good to have a fresh starter batch).
$1.51 flour
$1.99 oats
.49 baking soda
$6.19 goldfish crackers.  I didn't want to really get them, but that's the hazard of shopping with a toddler
$1.12 ketchup.  Again, shopping with a toddler
$1.35 tea
$2.33 cocoa powder.  We needed more chocolate ice cream (some of which we just ate, and it was delicious)
$3.59 heavy cream

That adds up to $20.56 so we have enough for milk for $2.29 and eggs for $1.75, which will bring us under budget!

[We didn't get milk, but we did get Parmesan cheese for $3.29, so that put us $.60 over].

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I love butter.  I loved it even when it was supposedly bad, because it's got fat or some other goofy reason, and then margarine ended up having that trans-fat problem.  Thankfully, our family didn't care about the health benefits of margarine and we stuck it out with butter.  Yummy, tasty, creamy, delicious butter.  It's not because we were anti-health food.  It's because we are German, and butter is a food group for Germans. 

On another website, I saw this WI creamery that has rolled butter.  Then, I realized that I've had their butter, and it was delicious.  I mean, I wouldn't eat it like my sister's cat used to by just licking it as is, but I like butter in almost everything.  I like to drench my pancakes in it.  I like to drench my potatoes in it.  I know that there are plenty of creameries in Wisconsin, being the dairy state, but rolled butter is just divine.  I think I'm going to have to add rolled butter into our budget.

Week 6: $25 in groceries

The last two weeks we went over, by .62 and $2.   The previous three weeks, though, we were under budget, with $24.76, $24.32, and $24.53.  I was determined to make it under budget this week, and we did.  We said we'd do 3 months, which is about 13 weeks, so we're almost halfway through the challenge!

This is what we bought:

$4.78 for two gallons of whole milk, with coupon
$3.99 for clementines.  Lily loves these and knows how to open them on her own.  It's not local, but it's Real.
$2/2 bags of flax, on sale
$2.99 for wild rice, on sale
$2.99 for semi-sweet chocolate chips, 24 oz.  I didn't really need these for a recipe, and, of course, they are not Real, but it is a good price and I know I'd use them.  Since it's not Real food, it is taxed, and that comes out to $3.05.
$3 for 5 boxes of pasta, with coupon
$5 for 3 packages of cheddar cheese, on sale

That comes out to $24.81, and we're under budget.  I wanted to get cocoa powder, just because we're out but not because we needed it for anything.  We'll wait for next week for that.  Jaimie also wants heavy cream, which we use in so many things, like creme brulee, ice cream, scones, etc.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sweet things with ricotta

When making mozzarella from whole milk, you end up with whey that you just don't want to waste, so you end up making ricotta.  The last two times, we made a pasta bake and then a lasagna with the ricotta.  For today's batch of fresh ricotta, I wanted to do something different.  Considering that we're nearing Valentine's Day (a holiday we don't generally celebrate but I end up craving chocolate), I remembered that you can make a chocolate mousse with ricotta as well.  After researching a few recipes, I thought we'd make it like so:

Take the ricotta from your leftover whey (maybe about 15 ounces like a store-bought size), add about 1/3 cup of melted semi-sweet chocolate (or 4-5 oz baker's chocolate and 1/3 cup sugar), add about 1/2 cup cream, stir & serve. Add some garnishments, like whipped cream or our awesome molasses cookies (in moose form).

There were so many recipes out there, and I wasn't going to do something where I would have to run to the store, especially since we have hit our $25 for the week.   Other recipes called for raw eggs and I didn't want to do that.  Several called for maple syrup, honey, or sugar, generally when using unsweetened cocoa.  Many called for fat-free this or low-fat that, but low-fat foods are just disgusting and unhealthy, so we won't have any of that in our house.

I may have considered using powdered unsweetened cocoa, but I used that all up when making a batch of chocolate ice cream this morning. 

Because we'll be making plenty of cheese in the future and we'll have a lot of ricotta to eat, I thought that I'd research for a few more ricotta desserts.  I haven't tried them out, but here are some to choose from, from various other ricotta-loving bloggers and bakers out there.

Coffee and chocolate mousse, using just ricotta, dark chocolate, honey & instant coffee.
Orange ricotta mousse with orange caramel, which just sounds and looks decadent.
Ricotta fluff, with amaretto and rum.
Hindu Cheese Dessert, with cottage cheese and cardamom.
Ricotta Vanilla Cream, with just a few ingredients.
Warm honey and cinnamon over ricotta, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Balsamic Strawberries with ricotta, with basil garnish.

Or, you could put ricotta in crepes with berries for either dessert or breakfast.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Banana cream pie

There's this place not too far away that has great banana cream pie.  I'm not sure if it's made with Real food, but it sure is good.  I kept thinking about that pie, and thinking about it, and thinking about it.  So, we decided to make one.  It took awhile because twice the family ate the bananas that I was planning on using for the pie.  I also wanted a graham cracker crust, but didn't want to buy graham crackers because the ones I found all had high fructose corn syrup.  So, first we started with making graham crackers, to crush up for the crust.  I crushed it, added about a tablespoon of sugar and half a stick of butter, then smushed it into the bottom of a pie pan.  Then it was time the bananas and cream.  I found a recipe that looked and sounded good, and it sure did deliver.
Start with graham cracker crust

Line with banana slices

Add the cream/pudding mix on top

Having been raised in a family that did NOT focus on Real food, just as most of us, I thought that pudding came in powdered form from a box.  I did know that it was made with milk though.   After lining the top of the crust with banana slices, I made the cream pudding portion.  I didn't realize that the milk, sugar, flour, egg yolks and salt would thicken up like it did.  I was pretty impressed with myself.  Just toss in the rest of the ingredients, and pour over the bananas.  We were thinking of making just a simple whipped topping but we had three egg whites left, so we made a meringue topping with cream of tartar, sugar and vanilla.  While it looked pretty, we weren't able to get others to taste test it, because we just kept eating it.  I guess we'll have to make another one soon.

Keep the egg whites if you want to make meringue

Put on top of the pie

Bake till browned

Snow cream

Our daughter likes to eat snow.  We try to stop her from eating the snow off of her shoes, or along the driveway, so we generally take her out in the backyard in an area where the neighbor's dog hasn't run all over.  When we had snow a few weeks ago, she was all for the idea of taking snow into the house and making it into a dessert.

All you've got to do is take about one gallon of (undisturbed) snow.  Put it in a 5 quart bucket (from ice cream previously bought - at least that would be easiest).   We put about 1- 1 1/2 cups milk, with a dash of vanilla, about 1/2 to 1/3 cup sugar.  Just whip it all in the snow and eat.  Keep the leftovers in the freezer and you can be eating snow when it is unseasonably warm as it has been.

Menu plan (2/12/12)

This past week we didn't get to everything on the menu, having leftovers and once eating out because of a time crunch with a necessary urgent care appointment, so some of the items are repeats from last week.

Sunday:  Egg salad
Monday:  Curried potatoes with rice and veggies
Tuesday:  Pesto "pasta" with spaghetti squash
Wednesday: Baked chicken, rice & veggies
Thursday:  BBQ chicken sandwiches on homemade bread with various pickled veggies
Friday: squash risotto
Saturday: leftovers (that risotto made quite a bit last time).

Week 5: $25 in groceries

This week we didn't really need much but we wanted a few things so we each got something that we wanted that we didn't need to make or was just a splurge.

We bought crackers for $3.99, pretzels for $1, and two more cans of coconut milk for $1 each, for a total of $7.99.
Later we got milk for $4.88 (2 gallons, with coupon).
I mentioned how I was thirsty in a store, and of course, Lily said she was thirsty too, just as we were walking past the juice aisle and right on a package was Cookie Monster.  It was 100% juice, but I usually don't buy it anyway just because water is sufficient.  But, we spent $3.32 on that, and $1.94 on green tea drinks for Jaimie and me.
We'll be picking up two dozen eggs again tomorrow, for $3.50.  Then we'll be getting butter for $1.99.  IF I can get brown sugar for under $1.38 (what is remaining of our $25), then I will get that.  

We're still eating well all week long, and loving every bite.

I did buy brown sugar, and we ended up .62 over budget this week, for a total of $25.62.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Menu plan (2/5/12)

As usual, this week we'll be eating very well.

Sunday:  Lasagna - with homemade ricotta and homemade mozzarella

Monday:  Baked chicken, rice, beans from our garden.  For dessert I was thinking an apple crisp because we have one made and frozen and we're having guests over.  But, it's also the 3rd anniversary of my sister's passing so I thought that we'd make something for her.  I still need to figure out what that should be.

Tuesday:  Stir fry with bean threats and mixed veggies from the freezer (beans, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower).  It may include leftover chicken if there is any.

Wednesday:  Egg salad sandwiches

Thursday:  Curry of some sort

Friday:  Steak, baked potatoes and veggies from the freezer. 

Saturday:  Pasta with homemade alfredo sauce from the Creatively Domestic blog.

Thursday, February 2, 2012