Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fuzzy Brain Findings

~Ok, first I want to acknowledge that the title there sounds more like it ought to be for a Halloween recipe than anything else. Just stick with me, I'll get around to making sense eventually~

I've been wondering why it was that, as much as I love to cook and, even more, as much as I love to bake ... why don't I make Christmas cookies? For the holidays I do make fudge, but that is usually only done a day or so before our Christmas Eve Open House Party and more for gifts than anything else. Shoot, I think this is the second year Santa has not gotten cookies from us. (Don't worry, we're pretty certain he just helped himself to some of the fudge instead!) I see friends posting about all the holiday goodies they're baking and wonder ... why am I not doing this?? The only things that become absolute must-haves this time of year for us are: 1)Chex-Mix & 2)Sausage Balls ~ the latter of which we reserve, again, for gatherings.

So, I keep wondering what is up with me, with us, not demanding more sweets. I was pondering this as I snacked on some Sugar Cookies that someone brought as a gift. I ate 4, maybe 5 of those. Then, it began to hit me. My tummy began rumbling ~ I always begin to think of that silly old Pooh Bear when that happens. I felt like I needed to go for a jog ... or into detox or something.

And then, something really magical happened. My fuzzy little brain began adding things up! If you know me, you know how fuzzy my brain gets when it comes to mathematical stuff, so wow ... a Christmas miracle of sorts.

I noticed that, when I'm not feeling well, when my tummy is rumbly, and especially if all of that is caused by a night of too much drinking, I reach to my one tried and true remedy: Dr. Pepper. We each have our things, Dr. Pepper is mine. Then, because I haven't been feeling too good, I start making bad decisions about what to eat. Sipping on soda, snacking on cookies, almost ready to give in and order take-out pizza for dinner. Yikes.

~I finally bought this book when I found it at Big Lots today or $3, down from the cover price of $24.95~

Now, if you know me at all, you know my love for Nina Planck and her book 'Real Food.' I had checked 'Deceptively Delicious' out from the library after hearing lots of raves about it. It was pretty intriguing, but I let it go without too much thought. When we left the house to run a few quick errands today, I was starting to feel the need to detox. So, when I spotted this book on the shelf for $3 I snatched up a copy for myself, then ended up going back and grabbing one for a friend as well.

I have to admit that right now I actually have that Activia commercial running through my head. Thanks Jamie Lee Curtis. You know, you feel like crud so you make bad decisions with your eating, which just makes you keep feeling like crud. Well, Activia isn't what I am needing, but veggies are!

'Deceptively Delicious' is, according to the cover anyway, "simple secrets to get your kids eating good food." Ok, I don't but into trying to sneak healthy food into my kids. We have a pretty darn lush garden, we don't give them lots of sweets (Santa brought always brings apples and oranges and, seriously, I probably have the only kids who would be delighted to be enrolled in the Fruit of the Month Club as a gift), they know about veggies and love them.

But I realized something today -- it isn't exactly OUR kids I'm worried about at the moment. It's my own damn inner child that needs to be tricked!! I was the picky eater growing up, and I am still really, embarrassingly horrible about eating veggies. I want to be better, I really do, but it's a long road ahead of me. I'm working on it.

This is where I would really recommend this book. That, or if your kids are picky eaters like I was. The basic idea she goes with here is using pureed foods (veggies and fruits) in places you really wouldn't expect them. There is a recipe for Blueberry Cheesecake Cupcakes that includes, among other things, yellow squash puree, blueberry puree, and spinach puree. A recipe for Mozzarella Sticks that uses: whole-wheat bread crumbs, flaxseed meal, & cauliflower puree, along with mozzarella. ~ Now here I will follow the advice of Nina Planck and try finding raw, whole milk mozzarella instead of the skim-milk advised in the recipe. This book has gotten a LOT of hype as well as some seriously rave reviews, so I'm hopeful about the sneaking of extra veggies into our daily routine. If any of these dishes can actually get me to eat cauliflower, something my own inner-kiddo immensely detests, then I'll know it's a real keeper! Here is a link to her website if you wanna check it out:

And, if by New Year's Eve you are starting to make a resolution of hitting the gym because you are feeling funky from all those sweets, I encourage you to pause for a moment. Take a deep, cleansing breathe in. Look at the food around you. Adding more exercise is almost always a fantastic idea, but look at what you're eating on a regular basis. Maybe the answer is right in front of you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Homemade Bisquick Mix

It's that time of year again: time for Sausage Balls!!! I used to have my grandmother's recipe (and still likely do ....... somewhere ..), but since it has gotten lost in the archives, I've been using other recipes. Not too bad, except they ALL call for the same ingredient, as did my grandmother's --- Bisquick!! UGH!!!! That crap will NOT enter my kitchen!!! Turns out Homemade Bisquick is cheap and easy to make. And a lot better than the stuff in the box. So, here we go.

~A pastry cutter really would've helped here. See my broken, wooden fork?~

Homemade Bisquick Mix
(recipe adapted from

*6 cups all-purpose flour
*3 Tablespoons baking powder
*1 Tablespoon salt
*1 cup lard

~ Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together well. Cut in the softened lard with a pastry cutter. I made two mistakes here: I used frozen lard thinking it would warm up quickly enough .. it didn't and it took me slowly, gently heating the mixture to get it to melt. Also, this is one of those times when you realize why you really ought to own a pastry cutter. I used my wooden fork, and ended up breaking off on of the tines. Don't worry, it was a clean break, no splinters in the food!
~Once it is all well-mixed together, store in air-tight containers in the fridge. This makes 7 cups of "mix" and will last up to 4 months in the fridge.

~Ta-Da!! The finished product, just waiting to be called upon for use in Sausage Balls~

Ok, now I know some of you have probably just cringed at one of the ingredients in my list .. but before I address that I'm going to go in order as there is something to be said about almost all the ingredients.

*The flour - I used about a 1/2 & 1/2 mixture of unbleached white flour and whole wheat flour that I get from a local mill. Justin doesn't care for all whole wheat flour, so we've found blending the two works quite well for us.
*The baking powder - I used Rumford's Baking Powder as it is aluminum free. There has been research done that links Alzheimer's disease and aluminum. Aluminum builds up in your body, mostly in your brain. It is damage that is done over time. It also can give things a metallic, "tin" taste to them. Enuf' said for me.
*The salt - We've switched to Real Salt. To quote their homepage: Real Salt is an all-natural, kosher-certified sea salt extracted from deep within the earth, crushed, screened, and packaged. Real Salt's unique flecks of color are the result of more than 50 natural trace minerals essential to human health (including natural iodine!). For more info -

And this brings me to the last ingredient, the one ingredient that I simply HAD to change from the original recipe. The original recipe called for vegetable shortening. I used lard. Not store-bought lard. This is lard that I rendered myself. The fat came from the farm where we get our meat, and was pasture-raised and organic. This is real lard.
Most people still have a hard time getting over using lard. I'll admit, it even took me a bit. Then I read Real Food; What to eat & why by Nina Plack. Get this book & change your life. To quote Nina about lard: The thing about lard is that it is mostly unsaturated fat, which nobody knows, and the monounsaturated in it is the same one in olive oil. (this was from this Q&A with her -
Vegetable shortening also contains hydrogenated oils. Something really not good for you. Again, read her book, and you'll know why you won't ever look back.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A spoonful of sugar

Have you got Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins going through your head yet?? I know I do. So now we have before us the days when the sunlight is limited, the winds whip through us, and the cold chills to our very bones. Now are the days, especially mornings, when coffee beckons us more than ever. You might think you need that java to get you going in the morning all year long, but when your feet leave the warmth of the covers on your bed and land on cold, wooden floors .... well, then you really want the coffee!!
And, of course, you want to make sure you're drinking some organic, fair-trade coffee. Not only is "regular" coffee grown with an INSANE amount of chemicals and pesticides (on the list of things grown most saturated, coffee ranks high up there), but also, the farming business isn't kind to small farmers or the region that is good for coffee. So, if you love your coffee, then love where it comes from and how it got from plant to your cup.
But the main reason I am writing this isn't so much about the coffee itself. It's about the sugar you use. Or, more accurately, how much sugar you're using.
Personally, when I started drinking coffee I was one of those "would you like some coffee with your sugar?" kinda drinkers. Pour it on! Now, I'm trying to cut back. And one of those ways I've found is a pretty damn obvious one. Use a smaller spoon.

~Sometimes, size really DOES matter .... sorry guys, but it's the truth!~

For me, I "need" two spoonfuls of sugar. I've managed to wean myself down to that, but I just can't seem to be content without two spoonfuls. Still, I wanted to use less sugar. That's when I noticed my old baby spoon gathering dust. *TA DA*
Just like the wise advice of using smaller plates for meals to make you feel like you've gotten just as much food, this tiny little spoon still allows me to have two spoonfuls, heaping spoonfuls at that, but with obviously much less sugar! I wasn't even fully aware at how much sugar I was able to keep out of my coffee until I took this picture, but it is a darn significant amount.

~My new favorite mug for coffee and my two new favorite spoons~

I also usually drink out of one of those mega-mugs. You know the bad boys I'm talking about. But, I've noticed that when I drink coffee out of it I tend to get the coffee jitters, as well as the fact that I'm more likely to have a headache get triggered. So, my "new" favorite mug for coffee is one that was my Mom's and that I grew up seeing in the cabinet. Just the right size.
Another thing that is really cool is that I get to use my baby spoon again. I mean, where is the logic in giving an infant or toddler a silver spoon??? Not like they can fully appreciate it! You might be able to just barely make it out in the photo, but my spoon has my initials on it. I'm pretty certain it was, many years ago, a gift from my grandmother. So, 1) proves the well-known logic that grandparents have no clue what a good gift is when you're a kid (JUST KIDDING!) and 2) it reminds me of her. Sweet nostalgia and familial ties.
The other spoon is one of those super-hip spoons that I'm sure have some proper use, but I just don't know what it is. It came to me as many things do, passed down through the generations. Don't tell Miss Manners or Emily Post on me please, but I just don't know my formal table settings that well. All I know is that it makes a really cool, kinda Art Deco-ish sugar spoon for me. I feel hip, and that isn't something that happens that often.

If you don't have your baby spoon, or you don't have the random little spoon that only very proper ladies know what to do with (and I have my doubts there too), head to your local antique store. Hell, look on ETSY. Either way, you can probably very easily find a spoon for you for less than a cup o' joe (do they still make those) at Starbucks. You'll be using less sugar and you'll be recycling! Makes that morning cup or three of coffee suddenly a lot sweeter, doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Leftover Turkey Ideas

My apologies for the lack of snazzy photos to accompany this post. What can I say? When you get cooking in the kitchen a lot of time the camera is the last thing on your mind. And, besides that, my kitchen is often such a clutter that I am not really sure I would WANT a photo of it up! hahaha

Every year we order our turkeys from Bright Farm in Floyd, Va. They're pasture-raised, we pick them fresh out of the cold water, and there just is NOT any going back to the store for some wanna-be sad turkey. Last year we had a good 25lb bird, this year we managed to pick out a smaller bird ~ 17lbs. For five adults and two kids! Everyone took home leftovers and still we were left with a LOT of leftover turkey to eat.

Obviously, we are not the only people with this "dilemma" as websites abound with ideas on ways to serve leftover turkey. But, something leaves me very disappointed with most of these sites and the things I've seen. I STILL feel like I'm eating turkey!

I know "DUH!! You ARE eating turkey!" But, who wants to feel like they're still eating turkey? BBQ'd turkey, turkey sandwiches, turkey with cheese, turkey casserole, turkey with mayonnaise ... I'm beginning to feel like Bubba talking about shrimp.

~You know you love this scene!~

Anyway, so here are a couple new ideas. Pardon me for only having two, but seriously, you gotta meet some serious criteria to make this worthy albeit tiny little list: pretty much, you gotta make me feel HAPPY to be eating this and NOT feel like I am trying to finish off something in the fridge before it goes bad!

Idea #1: White Turkey Chili ~ here is the link for the recipe we use: ~ substitute turkey for chicken (duh!) and before you know it you're actually hoping you have leftovers!! This is a really rocking dish for football season too, so bring on the game!

Idea #2: Jambalaya ~ this was a first for us this year. Seriously, I've never made jambalaya before today, but I gotta say this was a kickin' dish! Here is the link for the recipe we used: ~ Again, switch out turkey for chicken. In this dish I gotta tell you, it REALLY isn't noticeable! Another recipe that makes me look forward to eating more turkey the week after Thanksgiving.

And, of course, the really big reminder of things to do with leftover turkey .... MAKE STOCK!!! Turkey stock is awesome and works magic just like chicken stock does! If you are tossing out those bones from the carcass without making stock you are tossing out some liquid gold folks.

So ... what do you do with your leftover turkey?? Got any worthy recipes? I wanna hear them!