I feel sleepy
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Homemade living means something a little different for everyone, but above all, homemade living is about continuing to learn new skills, some of which are incorporated into everyday life, others are good to know though not practiced everyday. There are those who are very good at knitting, crocheting and sewing, others are still learning. Sometimes homemade living means living with chickens and other productive farm animals, sometimes it means searching out local sources for such products.
This past weekend we were busy with seasonal and the usual chores and homemade living meant planning ahead for tomorrow's meal so there was something to put on the table.
Some of us have apple trees growing nearby, others have olive or citrus trees in their backyards. Though we have apples available, we have to purchase olive oil and citrus fruit. There are items such as these that I plan to continue buying and using despite the fact that they do not grow in our area; I really appreciate having these products to cook with and enjoy.
Chosing to live a homemade life at times means spending a good portion of the day climbing trees to pick the last of the apples, then making and preserving apple juice so that there can be juice to drink this winter. It means baking cookies so there is something to put into lunches without purchasing sweet treats.
Homemade living means grilling the evening meal with meat from my husband's family, potatoes from the garden, and squash from my parents garden. It means sore shoulders from tilling the manure and compost into the garden.
Building and keeping a well-stocked pantry so that meals can be made at home with a quick trip to the shelves, rather than the store is necessary. We don't eat out much and we cook from scratch rather than heating up frozen packaged meals.
As mentioned, some skills are learned but not practiced in everyday life. For instance, I have made butter at home, this is a skill I have learned, but currently I do not have a source for local milk or cream so I chose to purchase butter. I know the basics of sewing, but it is not practical for me to sew my clothes due to time constraints; I use these skills for mending instead.
Not much is wasted when living a homemade life. Kitchen scraps are composted to be added to the garden later. Sometimes homemade living means getting up at 5am to start the laundry so that all four loads can be washed and hung on the line before leaving the house for the morning. It means cleaning with baking soda and vinegar.
At the end of the day homemade living means enjoying a cup of hot spiced homemade apple juice and a good nights sleep after a full day.
This post is linked to Simple Lives Thursday.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
This soup is so amazingly fresh and tasty, it wakes up your taste buds. What is really great is this takes so little time to make you can easily make this after work. The key is to plan ahead so you have the fresh ingredients on hand.
I used the chicken stock I made and canned earlier this fall. Because I made the stock with whole chickens I had stripped the cooked meat off and chopped or shredded it and froze it in 2 cup amounts. I have nearly used all the cooked chicken I froze, it is so handy to have this ingredient on hand, I plan to slow cook a couple more chickens soon and freeze both the stock and chicken for future use.
Although having homemade chicken stock and chicken is a tasty addition to the soup it is completely possible to make this soup using purchased chicken broth and a purchased rotisserie chicken. I used the corn that I cut off the cob and froze back in August or September. This corn has a very fresh taste, if I didn't have some frozen I would use fresh corn if available.
It is the fresh ingredients you top the soup with that make this so good. We find we crave the fresh tastes of cilantro, avacado and lime. When these are paired with jalapenos and tomatoes this is chicken soup comfort food with a kick. We love the heat of the jalapenos so I leave the seeds in, if you want a milder favor be sure to discard the seeds. My daughter first made this a couple years ago, so she gets credit for this one.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
2 cups chopped or shredded chicken
2 quarts chicken stock
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 jalapenos, thinly sliced (seeded if you want less heat)
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 cup corn kernels, fresh if available
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 ripe avocado, roughly chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
Place the first six ingredients in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes.
To serve: Place a small handful of tortilla chips in a soup bowl, add soup and garnish with cilantro and avocado, squeeze lime over the top and enjoy.
Linked to Twister Tuesday.
Monday, October 25, 2010
What I love about these cookies is how versatile they are. You will notice in the list of ingredients that there are optional ingredients, the cookies taste good no matter which you choose to use. I personally like the cookies with just the pecans, my husband has a bit more of a sweet tooth and he likes the chocolate chips added. Orange zest adds good flavor to the basic recipe, though I didn't have any oranges in the house this time. You can also mix a combination of the optional ingredients, such as chocolate and orange zest or chocolate and butterscotch.
The basic recipe is the one I use for most cookies, I like the addition of oatmeal it makes cookies chewy. Be sure to cream the butter well and sift the flour and spices together to make the batter light and the spices thoroughly mixed.
I decided to make some plain and some with both chocolate and butterscotch chips, using 6 ounces of each. I store the baked cookies in the freezer and my husband takes them to work in his lunches, they will stay fresh in the freezer for several weeks.
The inspiration for these cookies came from reading several cookie and pecan cookie recipes. In the end I stuck with my basic cookie dough recipe and added spices and optional ingredients that I saw in various recipes. I use two cookie sheets to keep the process moving along, this way there is no time lost while waiting for cookies to cool a couple minutes before moving them to the cooling racks. This also prevents the stove from being heated when not in use.
Makes approximately 4 dozen small cookies
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup regular oatmeal
2 cups chopped pecans
Optional (use one or more of the following if you like, cutting the amount of chips in half if you use both):
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
12 ounces chocolate chips
12 ounces butterscotch chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a mixer, beat the butter until it is light and fluffly. Add the sugars, salt and vanilla, mix well. Stir in the eggs. Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and gradually add to the mixture, stirring to incorporate with the moist ingredients. Stir in the oatmeal, pecans, and any of the optional ingredients you are using.
Drop the dough by the spoonful onto a baking sheet and bake for 8 to 9 minutes. Allow them to cool and firm up on the pan for a couple minutes before transferring them to a baking rack to cool. Store in airtight container. They will stay fresh on the shelf for a few days or in the freezer for a few weeks.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Aged, or composted, cow manure can provide numerous benefits for the garden. We picked up a truck load at a coworkers farm Tuesday evening after work, it is now on our garden waiting to be tilled in this weekend. Though the manure we received did not come from a certified organic farm it did come from naturally raised cows, pasture fed in the summer, hay and grain in the winter.
For centuries, animal manure has been recognized as a soil builder because it contributes to improving soil quality. Nearly any kind of manure can be used, depending on what is available in your area. Horse, chicken, cow, and sheep manure are commonly used. However, it is not recommended that anyone use cat or dog manure, these types of manures are unsuitable for the garden or the compost pile since they carry parasites.
Cow manure is made up of digested grass and grain but needs to be aged or composted prior to use as it contains high levels of ammonia that can burn plants when directly applied. Allowing the manure to age until it resembles dirt rather than manure also eliminates harmful pathogens such as E. coli as well as weed seeds. Manure contains most elements required for plant growth including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and micronutrients. However, it is manure's organic carbon that provides its potential environmental value. Organic carbon from manure provides the energy source for the active, healthy soil microbial environment.
Applying cow manure to your garden will add generous amounts of organic matter to your soil resulting in fertile, friable soil. Nitrogen applied in this form fosters favorable soil microbes that are an indication of healthy, fertile soil. Cow manure also does not contain excessive amounts of nitrogen like chemical fertilizers, which contain more then the plants can use allowing the excess to run off into rivers and streams upsetting their balance. Mixing aged manure into your garden soil improves its moisture-holding capacity allowing for less frequent watering as the roots can use the additional water and nutrients as needed.
To maximize the benefits be sure to properly age or compost the manure. The manure we took home was a couple years old and had turned into rich black soil. If the manure is not completely aged or composted be sure to till it into the soil during the fall, allowing it plenty of time to break down before spring planting. Never use fresh manure as it will burn your plants. As the soil absorbs manure, nutrients are released, enriching the soil and suppying a premium growing medium for your plants.
When compared to more conventional fertilizer, manure properly applied to land has the potential to provide environmental benefits including:
- Increased soil carbon
- Reduced soil erosion and runoff
- Reduced nitrate leaching
*Some of the above information was obtained from the NDSU Extension Service.*
This post is linked to Simple Lives Thursday
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I have been working on a couple of new pages for this blog. If you haven't spotted them yet, they are located at the top of the page just under the "Sense of Home" title. The "recipe" page is finished, but I will add to it as I post more recipes. The "homemade living" page is still in the works and I may add headings to the page to make it easier to find the kind of articles you may be looking to read. I was surprised by how many recipes and homemade living articles I have written, and as winter approaches I should be able to find more time to write. If there are any specific subjects or kinds of recipes you may be looking for, let me know in the comments or through email (located at the bottom of the "about" page).
Monday, October 18, 2010
Since I don't get paid overtime I arranged to take a compensation day on Friday, and what did I do with my day off? Well after visiting a friend in the hospital, I spent some time in the kitchen of course. I knew I would have Friday off at the beginning of the week so one evening I paged through a couple cookbooks in search of something interesting to make.
I came across a recipe for Sweet Potato Brioche that sounded interesting. However, since sweet potatoes don't grow around here, it feels more like pumpkin season and I have lots of pumpkin in my freezer, so why not Pumpkin Brioche? I made some other small changes to the recipe, like honey rather than sugar, but either way this is an absolutely delicious recipe. Brioche is a very soft, slightly sweet bread that is made with lots of eggs so that it has a yellow appearance, especially when made with farm-fresh eggs.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Sense of Home
I have always wanted to make a paella, so when I saw a short grain rice labeled as a paella rice at the store I knew it was time. I found Tyler Florence's recipe for "The Ultimate Paella" and decided to adjust it to fit our locality. Tyler Florence's recipe calls for lobster tails and littleneck clams, that would be the ultimate paella and for those who live closer to the sea these would be good additions. Here in the middle of the country those items come frozen and they are rather expensive.
I decided that rather than cutting up a whole chicken I would use the cooked chicken I had in the freezer, I added the spices to the chicken shortly before adding it to the paella. This is not traditional and those that have made paella for years would object, but this saved quite a bit of time (something I have been short on) and the final product was very good. This was a fun, colorful recipe to make and provided enough for me to send a large portion home with my daughter and provided us with plenty of lunches through the week.
~adapted from Tyler Florence's "The Ultimate Paella"~
2 cups chopped or shredded chicken
2 chorizo sausages, thickly sliced
1 onion, diced
1 sweet red bell pepper, sliced, save a few slices for a garnish
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
15 ounces whole tomatoes, drained and crushed
4 cups short grain Spanish rice
6 cups water, warm
generous pinch saffron threads
1/4 cup clam juice
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed
Lemon wedges, for serving
Toss the chicken and spice mix* until evenly coated.
Heat a small amount of oil in paella pan (or a wide shallow skillet) and heat over medium-high heat. Saute the chorizo until browned, remove and reserve.
In the same pan, saute the onion, pepper, and parsley. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat, add garlic and cook for another minute. Then, add tomatoes and cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld. Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains. Pour in water and add a little salt, simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Add the clam juice, chicken, chorizo, and saffron. Give the paella a good shake and let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, for about 10 minutes. Add shrimp, tucking them into the rice and continue cooking until shrimp are pink and form the shape of the letter C. When the paella is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, turn the heat up for 40 seconds until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom.
Sprinkle thawed peas around the outside of the dish and add sliced lemons and peppers as a garnish. Lemons slices can be squeezed over individual servings just before eating.
*Spice Mix for chicken
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine ingredients in a small bowl.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Thanks to the generosity of my neighbor I have some wonderful apples with which to make apple juice. Without the generosity of family, friends, and neighbors our food stores would not be so abundant, I just received a large box of squash from my parents garden, another offer to pick apples at a friends house, this spring another friend took me foraging for asparagus, showing me the prime spots to search, there were plums and cherries from my parents trees, rhubarb from my grandmother's yard, squash from a coworker, and corn and beans from the garden at my husband's place of work. We are grateful for all this generosity, it allows us to eat more locally, saves money, reduces packaging, and the food is nutritious.
Homemade apple juice does not compare to store bought, homemade tastes so fresh, like just picked apples. The apples from my neighbor are excellent eating apples, so we are only using the bruised and small apples for apple juice and saving the rest for eating fresh. I also took two of the larger apples and baked them for a treat. The cider mixed with brown sugar carmelizes as it bakes and the addition of cranberries and walnuts add flavor and texture, these are so good and lighter than a pie.
Baked Apples with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries
2 large apples
1/3 cup brown sugar, plus 2 teaspoons
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon whole cloveswalnuts, chopped
Slice off the very top of each apple and core it, place them in a baking dish. Fill cored center with walnuts, cranberries and one teaspoon of brown sugar each, sprinkle the top with cinnamon.
Mix apple cider and 1/3 cup brown sugar and pour around the apples. Sprinkle the whole cloves in the cider around the apples.
Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes, until apples are soft.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Sense of Home
How do you shorten the name of a recipe? I wanted to call this dish Spaghetti Squash with Shiitake Mushrooms, Garlic and Sage Butter. I could even add pine nuts to the recipe title, all these ingredients seem equally important to the recipe. I'm not sure how chef's do it, but I opted for the two main ingredients.
A co-worker gave me a spaghetti squash from her family's garden and I immediately started thinking about how it could be prepared. I have a confession, I have never cooked or eaten spaghetti squash before. It is plentiful at the farmer's market, from friends and co-workers gardens and yet I have never been motivated to cook it before. The last couple of summers I have been determined to try locally grown foods that I have never eaten before, so when I was offered this squash, I jumped at the chance.
I have heard from others that they eat it like spaghetti, with spaghetti sauce. I wanted to try something different, so I started thinking about how I like to eat squash with butter and salt, the same way I eat baked potatoes and yams. This time though I wanted to dress it up and so I thought sage butter would be good and would have that fall flavor. Then I started thinking about how much I love mushrooms sauted in butter, and garlic seemed like a good addition. Well, one thing led to another and I finished the dish by adding pine nuts. Both my husband and I declared this very good, I served it with a little sausage and some fresh sliced tomatoes, we finished the entire dish. The mild flavored squash was enhanced by the flavorful shiitake mushrooms and garlic, along with sage flavored butter, this was a delicious autumn inspired dish.
Spaghetti Squash with Shiitake Mushrooms
1 spaghetti squash
3.5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 fresh sage leaves, left whole
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup pine nuts
salt and fresh pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Add a little water to a baking pan and place squash cut-side down and bake for 30 minutes, or until fork-test tender.
Saute mushrooms and whole sage leaves in butter until mushrooms are almost tender, add garlic and saute for 1 minute more adding a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Shred squash with a fork and place in a bowl. Pick out the sage leaves from the butter and mushroom sauce and pour it over the squash, add the pine nuts. Sprinkle the dish with salt and fresh pepper.
Linked to Just Another Meatless Monday.
Linked to Tuesday Twister