Monday, November 15, 2010

Home-Cured Ham

We get our meat from a local farm and we get 1/2 a hog twice a year. The meat is fantastic, it is pasture-raised and organic (though not certified). We know the farmers and they are some of the kindest people we've ever met. But .. there was a problem. How is it possible that we get an entire pig a year and yet we have to go out and buy ham for Hokie Ham Biscuits ( or for holiday meals, or just for any ole reason?? Something just ain't right!

You can imagine my delight then when I found a website that gave step-by-step instructions for curing your own ham at home!! You use a wet cure rather than a dry cure. *Traditional Virginia Ham is dry cured.* I had talked to my farmer-lady and she told me that some of the other folks who get meat from her have tried dry-curing it, but that it can be very tricky. Wet-curing is the solution folks. (pardon the pun)

Here's the link for the website:

Today I put four 3lb ham roasts out to cure. Here's how it goes.

Hello ham!! Pork Fresh Ham Roast is what the label says. We get ours cut to the size we want. The 3lb size makes it easy to work with.

Four Hams in a pot.

The ingredients & the brine. Sounds like a fairytale. 2 liters water (re-using an old soda bottle makes measuring easy), 1 cup packed brown sugar, 3/4 cup sea salt (if you're gonna cure your own ham, use good salt!), and 1 tsp DQ Curing Salt. The DQ Curing Salt is what gives it the rosy color and also ensures you don't get botulism.

Ham soaking in brine. I weighed this down with two plates to make sure that the ham stays moist & covered with the brine.

I then put this into a small dorm-sized fridge that we have. The site says it cures at a rate of roughly 2lbs per day. I'll leave this in for a week. After we take it out we'll smoke it as well.

One of the really great things about this recipe is that you can do it in batches of most any size. Whatever you have room for. I love it.

TA DA!! The finished product!! Ok, well the finished product from our last batch. You know you're on to something when the ham hops off the smoker and says "HOT DAMN I look good!!" Literally, it did. It tasted even better.
I've never really cared for ham at holiday dinners, but we're planning on serving some alongside the turkey this year. It really is that good. Mouth-watering, moist, just the right mix of salty & sweet. Damn delicious.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

I've gotten back into sourdough bread. I love watching the starter bubble and grow. Lucky for me my mother is a sourdough fan and had wonderful, time-tested recipes that she shared with me a couple of years ago. I'll share with you the base recipe for these.

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls:

*Dissolve 1 envelope (or 2 1/4 tsp) yeast into 1/2 cup warm water. Add 1 cup starter, 4 TB oil, 2 + cups self-rising flour, and a dash of salt.
*Mix & knead with extra flour. Shape & let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

*Divide into half. Roll into 2 rectangles.
*Mix 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Spread onto rectangles & drop on raisins.

*Roll lengthwise & slice.
*Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Now, like I said, this was my base recipe. Here are some of my substitutions:

1) I use a mixture of 1/2 whole wheat & 1/2 unbleached white flour. Even in my starter. So these have more wheat oomph and are a little healthier. I also used 2 1/2 cups flour when I began, then extra flour for dusting when rolling.
2) I don't use self-rising flour. To make 2 cups of all-purpose flour into self-rising flour you need to mix in 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda, & 1 tsp baking powder into the flour.
3) Instead of 1/2 cup warm water for the yeast I used 1/2 cup raw cream. I warmed it in the microwave - about 30 seconds.
4) To the dough mixture I added a little bit of homemade vanilla extract and also some organic maple syrup.
5) For the filling I used 1/2 of a 15 oz. can of pure canned pumpkin, 1/4 cup (give or take) homemade raw butter, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup organic raw sugar, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie seasoning, roughly 1 TB organic maple syrup (this was eyeballed, not measured), and a good dash of homemade vanilla extract.
6) I don't necessarily use all of my filling. I spread it on there so that it looks properly covered. This left me about 1/4 cup filling leftover, maybe less (again, eyeballing it!). Read on to see what to do with it!

Fresh out of the oven & filling the house with an aroma that is far too tantalizing!

I've made Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls once before, and I made the mistake of not making icing to go with them. I don't think Justin has stopped sulking about it since, much less has he let me forget my horrible, horrible faux pas.
So it comes with no surprise that when I told him what I was going to make today his first question was "With icing?" I reassured him yes, with icing. "With cream cheese icing??" Yes, with cream cheese icing.
But this wasn't just cream cheese icing!

I got the base recipe here: - but I'm going to go ahead and just give you how I did it.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icing for Cinnamon Rolls:

*1 block cream cheese (do NOT go with anything other than regular .. aka "full-fat" cream cheese!! If you're going to indulge, do it properly damn it.)
*3+ TB raw milk butter (it does taste better & is better for you, but store bought is ok too. Best if you can find it from pastured cows though!)
*1/4 tsp vanilla (as usual, I used the homemade stuff. It's too easy not to make it yourself and so much better!)
*1 cup powdered sugar
*2 - 3 TB raw cream (actually, this was another eyeballed one. Use less for thicker icing, more for thinner)
*Remainder of filling
*Another splash or so of organic maple syrup

~Blend room temperature butter & cream cheese together. Add the rest of the ingredients. Attempt not to dig in with a spoon right then and there. MAKE SURE you are armed with a good wooden spoon to smack away your loved ones' hands as they attempt to eat the whole thing right then and there.
-- Special note to single gals -- Want to be swarmed by men?? Make this up!! They'll swarm around you, trying to charm their way into the mixing bowl. And, no, I'm not being a pervert there. You don't even have to put on makeup, their eyes will likely not go that high. Unless you are shorter than the mixing bowl, and if that's the case, go for the make-up just in case.

Still warm, topped with icing (though they would get more before it was all over), and ready to be devoured.

Would you like more proof of how delicious these little babies are?? That above photo wasn't the first one I took of them "done." Here is the actual photo.

As I was trying to take the photo this little hand snuck in, giving me the thumbs-up! So .. there you go, Shannon's seal of approval!! ~ fyi .. Tristan was unavailable for comment at the time of the photos as he was still sleeping. But, when he got up he was very excited about getting "Ciddabon Rolls".

Be kind and share these with those living close enough to be tormented by the aroma!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Happy Meal Experiment - One Week Later

It's now been one full week since I bought the Happy Meal for this experiment. It is a plain cheeseburger Happy Meal, with fries. I am treating this Happy Meal as a "Forgotten Happy Meal." This past week it has sat on my kitchen counter. For the record: our house has no AC and we haven't had the heat on either. Temperatures have varied this past week from the lower-mid 90's to barely 60 and rainy. It has been pretty humid here though, no matter the weather. We have the window open in the kitchen, as well as fans going, so there is a lot of air flow in general. So, the Happy Meal has just sat out, forgotten about, on the counter. The only thing I've done is taken the toy out of the box. Even the napkins are still in there! Take a look!

~Looking as if I just brought it home from McDonald's~

~Unwrapped for examination. So far, still looking rather new. The fries have shriveled up and darkened a little bit. The burger still feels normal.~

~A close-up of the french fries.~

~When I was handling the bag of fries I noticed that the bottom of the bag felt heavier than it usually does when it is "fresh." So, I peered in. I noticed at least one fry was growing mold and turning black. Since the ones on the top weren't doing this, I'm inclined to think that this is because the fries on the bottom of the bag are clustered together in a more moist environment. I moved the fry so that we could get a photo of the one I saw with the black spot. I did NOT take all of the fries out. This is a "forgotten Happy Meal", to take them out would be messing with it too much.~

~The cheeseburger seemed fine. I pried the bun away from the bottom just a little bit, it was NOT wanting to come apart. So far, everything still looks roughly the same, maybe just a little older looking. When I turned the burger over though, I could see some white fuzz of mold beginning to grow. Again, given that the burger was wrapped with the loose part of the wrapping being on the top of the bun, I am inclined to say that the growth here is for the same reason as the fries.~

It is decaying more than I thought it would. Which makes me cringe to have to admit my husband might have been right in his "I don't believe that" about the 4 year old Happy Meal that has not rotted or decayed at all. I am keeping this for at least another week, but I have a feeling that it will have rotted to the point of tossing by then.
I am also reminded of the food that I find in the car. Anyone who has kids finds food in their car at some point in time and wonders how long it has been there. It doesn't always rot and mold and decay.
I wonder if the Happy Meal in the video wasn't left to sit out and air-dry to some degree. Sitting out yes, but not wrapped up. Should that be the case I feel like the video is misleading and twisting truths since she shows it in original packaging (wrapper, fry bag, etc).
I'm very curious to see what next week brings.

What do you think??

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Happy Meal Experiment

I recently saw this video on YouTube of an interview with a woman who had been carrying around a McDonald's Happy Meal for nearly 4 years.

I believed the woman and was pretty grossed out by the fact that the food wasn't decaying. Food is meant to go bad and decay, not stay the same year in, year out.
I told Justin about it. As usual, his response was a very matter-of-fact "I don't believe it." ~ Ok, it's a little bit more than annoying when you find out something new and eagerly tell your spouse about it, only to be met with an arrogant & condescending "I don't believe that." Without having seen it, without wanting to hear more about it, without knowing anything about it. I love the man, but ... grrrrr!

HOWEVER, that being said, he does have a point. Do I believe the lady? Yes. But did I see this personally? No. Have I seen how it was truly kept? No. Scientifically speaking, Justin's doubt is justifiable. Time for a Science Experiment.

So yesterday I went out and bought a plain cheeseburger kid's Happy Meal from our local McDonald's. I'll even admit to buying myself a meal too. The kitchen is still under construction, so I hadn't eaten, and if this experiment turns out the way I think it will, I decided to let myself have one last McDonald's meal.

~The said Happy Meal, properly dated.~

And so begins "The Happy Meal Experiment".

THE QUESTION ~ Will food from a McDonald's Happy Meal decompose and rot like real food should, if left out? Food includes a plain cheeseburger and a small french fry order.

MY HYPOTHESIS ~ I don't think it will. I think it will turn stale and old, but not properly rot.

THE VARIABLES ~ I am treating this Happy Meal as a "forgotten Happy Meal." One set aside to be eaten later, and then forgotten about. The food will be kept somewhere in my house, set up out of the way so little hands and hungry dogs won't be able to get it.
*The food will be stored the way it came when I ordered it. The cheeseburger is loosely wrapped in it's wrapper, the fries are sitting in their bag. I've even left the napkins in the bottom of the box. (I did remove the toy and let the kiddos have that)
*For the 1st month I will take weekly photos of the food inside. After that I will take monthly photos.

Here is the first photo of the food, taken yesterday Sept. 23, 2010. You can see how these items come served.
I did not open the cheeseburger to expose the burger or cheese. I won't do so until they begin to fall apart on their own.

What do you think? Do you think this food will rot & break down?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Got Sour Cream??

This video is worth watching, and worth listening to. You can tell because I put it at the top of the blog ;) - Here is the link to it, just in case the video won't play

What Michael Pollan said about sour cream got me thinking. He said if you looked at the ingredients of no-fat sour cream that you would be stunned.

Fat Free Sour Cream from Kroger, with the little colorful labels to assure me it is good for us. But, to quote Michael Pollan "It's an image, an idea of sour cream..". As much as I believe in real food, as much as I love raw milk, I will sadly admit this is what I had been buying for my family.

This is what I'm buying now. Why? Well, let's look at the labels.

From Breakstone's All Natural Sour Cream:

Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Milk and Cream, Enzymes
- In case you want to double check, just click here - or you can also click here -

From Kroger's Fat Free Sour Cream:

Cultured Skim Milk and Cream, Modified Corn Starch, Cellulose Gel, Propylene Glycol Monoester, Gum Arabic, Cultured Dextrose, Gelatin, Titanium Dioxide (For Color), Cellulose Gum, Lactic Acid, Natural Flavor, Anhydrous Milkfat, Xanthan Gum, Salt, Rosemary Extract, Sodium Citrate, Vitamin A Palimate.
-If you want to double check me on this one, you're going to have to go to Kroger, meander down the dairy aisle, and read the label for yourself. I tried and tried, but couldn't find the ingredient list online. The Nutritional Info I could find, the ingredients .. nope.

~Fun Fact -- Titanium Dioxide (also found in sunscreen & toothpastes among many other products) is a known possible carcinogen.

I don't know about you, but after reading the ingredient list on Kroger's Fat Free Sour Cream, I was pretty turned-off. Grossed out. And left standing in the dairy aisle wondering such things as "what the hell is Proylene Glycol Monoester" and "why does a white product need coloring added" and "Cornstarch? Really?!?"
Also, it really creeps me out that I couldn't find the ingredient list online for Kroger's Fat Free Sour Cream. Yea, sure they list the Nutritional Info, but to me that is only 1/2 the picture.

Is Breakstone's All Natural (triple churned too!) Sour Cream the best possible sour cream out there? Not likely. It isn't organic, it is highly unlikely that the cows were pasture-raised, and I'm guessing the "all natural" part of their label just means "read the ingredients, there isn't a lot of creepy crap in there!"
But, I DO feel a lot better about giving my children the Breakstone Sour Cream as opposed to the Kroger Sour Cream. I don't think the Kroger Sour Cream should even be allowed to be called Sour Cream. Imitation Sour Cream Product would be much more appropriate.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Putting Sweet Corn By

This evening we just spent 3 hours putting by roughly 50 ears of sweet corn.

~Hello my golden beauties!~

This was a first for us, and originally I intended to actually can the corn. But I read where canning corn can be really tricky, versus freezing it, which is pretty simple and straight-forward.
I found the info needed at It is a truly wonderful site. You can not only find places all over .. well, the place to pick your own veggies, but you can also find corn mazes, pumpkin patches, Christmas tree farms, and ... wait for it ... what to do with it all!!!! Here is the direct link for the info on freezing corn:

But, basically, here is how you do it.

Freezing Sweet Corn:

1) Get yourself some fresh corn & some large pots. You'll want to be able to freeze the corn as soon as you can after getting it as the sugars in sweet corn break down quickly at room temperature.

2) For the pots I used my canning pots. This will depend on how much corn you intend to freeze. Even using my big pots though we did several batches. Fill one pot roughly 3/4 the way full with hot water and get it going to a nice boil. *Eco-Tip & $$ Saving Tip ~ make sure you use a lid on that pot of boiling water!! You'll save $$ and the water won't lose heat as quickly, making it more efficient.* The other pot you'll want to fill with ice & water. And you WILL need LOTS of ice!! DON'T use it all for the first batch either. I needed at least 3 batches worth of ice.

3) Shuck the corn. Get the husks off and as much of the silk as you can. Use a scrubby brush if you need to, but be gentle. We were able to get all the silk pretty much off just with our hands. ~ Fun note ~ the kids actually put down new toys (it was Tristan's birthday yesterday, so lots of new goodies to play with) to come shuck corn with me!! How cool is that??

4) Put the shucked corn into the boiling water. What you're doing now is blanching the corn. For corn you're going to want to blanch it for roughly 7 minutes in the boiling water. ~ Make sure you have tongs!!

5) Once you've blanched the corn, you're going to take it out of the boiling water and put it into the ice water. This prevents over cooking. You're going to want to let it sit in the ice eater as long as it was in the boiling water (as a good rule of thumb). Afterwards, drain it thoroughly.

6) Next you're going to cut the kernels off of the cob. Pretty simple and straight-forward.

7) Bag it up! I figured up roughly how many kernels we ate as a family and added one more, just in case. You can use a vacuum sealer or a ziploc baggy. Just make sure to get the air out as best you can. ~ The air being in there becomes more of an issue the longer the corn is stored in the freezer.

8) Label it & Freeze it. TA-FRIGGIN-DA!!!

~Not the most fantastic of photos, but look at all that corn!~

So, I know you might be thinking "Is it really worth it?". Well, we did all of this in our kitchen, on an insanely muggy day, in a house with no AC, on a gas stove with NO vent, in a kitchen that catches the evening sun. It's the hottest damn room of the house.

But .. financially, is it worth it worth it?? Well, we paid $15 for 50 ears of locally grown corn. I haven't asked them about pesticides, but the farm we got the ears from is listed on the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website, so I'm feeling ok with them. Plus, it is locally grown.

A can of organic corn from our local grocery store is $1.19 a can, plus tax. We use two cans with dinner. Roughly $2.50 per dinner (with tax).

50 ears of corn, 12 bags frozen for future dinners = $15 ~ and you can even add in a dollar or two for other costs of putting it all together. We used a vacuum sealer and bought special bags for it, so you can add another $5 there. So, let's bring the total up to $22 .. just to be generous.

2 cans of corn @ $2.50 each, multiplied by 12 = $29.99

A savings of, at minimum $8, possibly more.
Locally grown corn versus store-brand organic corn grown in .. where, I don't know where. The can says it was distributed in Ohio and Certified Organic in San Diego, CA. Guessing that means it was grown in California. We're in Virginia is all the way across the country for us. Versus Copper Hill which is maybe 20 minutes away from out house, and that's up curvy mountain roads!

Lessons in sustainability, supporting our local economy and more importantly our local farmers, fresh corn that was just picked this week (Do you talk to the farmer before you go to grocery store?? Does he call you back to let you know if the corn was ready for picking?), and actual monetary savings. You tell me if it was worth it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Roasted Garlic Dip

AKA - Crack on a Chip!

This recipe was given to me by my friend Sarah. It is delicious. Justin & I pretty much ate this entire bowl in one evening. I've tweaked the recipe only a bit.

Roasted Garlic Dip

2 bulbs (not cloves!) of garlic, roasted
1 package cream cheese
1 tsp - TB garlic powder
1-2 TB sour cream

~ Let your cream cheese sit out for a while so that it softens and comes to room temperature. Roast your garlic bulbs, then after they are cool enough to handle, squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skins and into a mixing bowl. Add the softened cream cheese (if it is soft enough this is something you can very easily mix by hand) and the sour cream. The sour cream helps keep it from hardening up too much when it gets chilled. Finally add the garlic powder. The garlic powder gives you a nice garlicy bite at the front, use less if you want less of a bite, more if you want more of a bite - hence why I wrote "1 tsp - TB".
~ Stir it all up together. Chill again in the fridge for a bit, or devour it straight away. Good with ripple chips, pita chips, and straight off the damn spoon.

This is a perfect dish to make when you have a potluck to go to and little time/energy/desire to prep up something bigger.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Egg & Cheese English Muffin - Take that McD's!

One of may favorite foodie blogs posted this recipe not too long ago: ~ I was intruiged and HAD to try it out.
Let me tell you .. Mickie D's is crap. Real Food rocks. And if you think it takes too long you're thinking wrong. That's just the facts folks. Here's our stab at Egg McMuffins.

~The eggs, fresh out of the oven, tops still poofy~

This recipe is insanely simple, hardly worthy of writing down recipe style. But here it goes anyway.

Egg McMuffins:

4 - 5 eggs
Splash of milk & melted butter

*Scramble these together in your bowl & then carefully pour them into a greased muffin tray*

Package of English Muffins. ~ Be healthy, use whole wheat or whole grain. Remember - the white the bread, the sooner you'll be dead.

*Turn on your oven to 350. You'll want to cook your eggs for 15 - 20 mins. You can also go ahead and slice the muffins, spread them out on a cookie sheet & toast them in the oven with the eggs. The muffins will only need about 10 minutes in the oven, so get your eggs in there first, then slice the muffins, and you should be good time wise.*

~Out of the oven, on the muffin, just needing some cheese~

*Putting it all together is pretty straightforward. Top it with some cheese. We have taken to adding some mustard on the muffin, but do what you wish here.*

Nick's photos are great, so I definitely recommend you check out his recipe for this. He will also give you enough info on WHY you should make these.
We did make a change to his recipe though - we scrambled the eggs. It's an extra step but one we preferred. The first batch, made following his recipe & just cracking the eggs into the muffin pan resulted in bites of pure egg white or pure yolk. And it seemed to make the whole thing hit heavy on your stomach. Feel free to find the way that is right for you though. We also used slices of cheese on ours rather than shredded - no reason there, just seemed easier for us.

I make these 6 at a time, which is really easy since there are 6 English Muffins in a package. Justin has taken them to work the next day for breakfast .. which is the ONLY time I've known Justin to actually eat something for breakfast at work. That should tell ya something. These bad boys are GOOD.
If you want them for your work week, make them up over the weekend. Wrap & freeze. Take to work & reheat. If you have a toaster you can heat them up in there, if not you can zap 'em in the microwave, they just will be a little chewier. But you'll have a homemade breakfast that you can eat at your desk. You'll have the pride of knowing you didn't succumb to spending money at McDonald's. If you're eating local eggs, you'll know you're supporting local chickens (thank you!). Add all those up and you have a tasty-good way to start your day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Homemade Ginger Ale

Temperatures around here have already hit 90 degrees, which is kinda insane (in my opinion) when you've barely entered May. When it gets that hot we all head for something to cool us down, and so I wanted to share this recipe with you.

I don't know about you, but too often I hear a LOT of what NOT to eat or drink, which leaves me feeling like there is little left that is "ok" to eat or drink. We all know sodas are bad. We now here how fruit juices are bad as well, likely because most of them only vaguely resemble true fruit juice anymore. Water is ok, but there's a lot of yabbering about filtered v. tap. Milk is good. Well golly then, I'm left with two options. Not fun. So, I was very happy to find recipes for drinks when browsing through my new favorite cookbook, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

~Homemade Ginger Ale, sitting in between a bottle of homebrew and a jug of homemade cherry ginger lemonade. Can you see the ginger at the bottom of the jug?~

The recipe for Ginger Ale can be found on page 586 of her book. It makes 2 quarts and is very yummy! It has the nice bite of ginger that is too often lacking in drinks that claim to be made of ginger. If you're not used to real ginger (I wasn't) it might take a little getting used to, but it is worth it. Here is how I made it.

Homemade Ginger Ale - from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

3/4 cup ginger, peeled & finely chopped or grated
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4- 1/2 cup organic sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 quarts water

~ I heated some of the water with the sugar to make a simple syrup before adding it to the jar. I also threw the ginger in and let it go for a bit in the pot with the simple syrup. Since I was using a glass jar, I made sure to run some hot water through it first to ensure it would break.
I added the lime juice & salt directly to the jar and then poured the simple syrup (slightly cooled down) into the jar & then filled it on up with water.
~ According to the book, once you've filled up the jar you
"stir well & cover tightly. Leave at room temperature for 2 - 3 days before transferring to the refrigerator. This will keep several months well chilled.
To serve, strain into a glass. Ginger ale may be mixed with carbonated water and it is best sipped warm rather than gulped down cold."

I'll admit, when I first drank this it was with ice and it was slightly gulped down. The ginger ale had not yet made it to the fridge and the kitchen was deathly hot. It was still good though. Likely next time I won't add the ice and I will sip on it rather than glug it.
Ginger is also really good for aiding the digestion process, so this isn't a bad drink to have with your dinner. It also helps calm stomachs, so there is another bonus to it.
Was it maybe a little more expensive than buying a 2 liter of ginger ale soda? Yes. Is it worth it? Without a doubt or any hesitance, yes.
Bring on Summer.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Oh my, PIE!!

This is NOT my recipe. This is me sharing with a wonderful site, with amazing photos. It's a friend's blog and I absolutely love it!!! Every Friday she offers "Free Recipe Friday" ~ here is the link to the most recent recipe:
Because I am nice, and because if you like food you simply MUST actually check out her site, I will post the sans-photo recipe below. It is for a Lemon Chess Pie. Do yourself a favor though and go check out her site for yourself! And then, buy some of the notecards. I have one. I haven't been able to mail it to someone yet. I have resisted actually nibbling on the notecard, for it is too yummy looking, but I do keep it hung up inside the plastic sleeve so that my drooling doesn't damage it. Really, Ashley puts Aunt Bea to shame and Jon Beard's photos make me feel like I am doing stick-drawings with my photos. They are a pair, and they ROCK!! Here's the recipe, from Lemongrass Bakery.

Lemon Chess Pie is our delightful free recipe for today. It is truly an ancient recipe, dating back to the pre stand mixers era. Gasp! Was there a time before the convenience of stand mixers? Whip heavy cream by hand once and you will realize why your grandmother could pick you up off the ground by your ear when you were naughty. Anyway, I digress. Let’s get to it!

one pie crust
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure lemon extract
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup whole milk
4 extra large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lay pie crust in pie pan and press into corners. Crimp edge, set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk sugar, flour, cornmeal, salt and lemon extract until combined.
4. Add melted butter, lemon zest, lemon juice and milk. Whisk until smooth.
5. Add large eggs, whisking between each addition. Whisk until smooth.
6. Pour into unbaked pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.

If you are like me, and wonder how you ever lived without this recipe, I invite you to
support this site by buying one of the recipe notecards. We are positive you will discover the power of amazing dessert. Old friends start calling again, your mother sings your praises, your significant other starts washing the dishes. But, remember, with great power comes great responsibility. You will need to keep baking.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rasananda's Samosas

This recipe is from 'Cooking with the Dead' by Elizabeth Zippern. How can you not love the cover of that book? Or how it contains "Over 65 fabulous, kynd, and caring vegetarian recipes prepared with love"? I love lots, I love lot food, and every time I even hold this book, I am in love.

In the book (page 4) it quotes on fan as saying "When you think of Samosas, you think of Rasananda, and when you think of Rasananda, you think of Samosas." This is his recipe.

Rasananda's Samosas:

2 cups white &/or whole-wheat flour
Water ~ 1/2 - 1 cup (or enough to make dough)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 ghee (Note ~ I just use butter)
*Ghee is butter which has had its protein solids cooked off. To make this, cook butter for a few hours over low heat & scrape off the solids which form on the surface after cooking. To further separate the solids from the ghee, strain over a paper towel. Ghee can also be purchased in a Co-op, health food store, or Indian market*

2 cups potatoes
1 cup cauliflower
1 cup peas
1/2 cup tomatoes
1 tsp or more to taste of cumin, coriander, turmeric, curry, & chili powder

~Steam or boil the cauliflower and potatoes and then drain. Saute them in oil with cumin, coriander, turmeric, curry, and chili powder. Add the tomatoes and peas. Mix well and continue to saute until thick enough to stuff into the dough as a filling. When finished, take off heat, mix, and let cool.

~ Mix the flour & salt with the ghee and add water to make a dough. Make equal golf-ball sized balls out of the dough and then roll flat with a rolling pin. Stuff the stuffing inside, then close tightly like a turnover for frying. Fry in oil combined with a few more teaspoons of ghee. Flip occasionally and fry until a light brown.
* Note ~ I bake mine. I find this much easier, personally speaking, and like staying away from the extra oil. I line them on a cooking sheet and bake at 325 for approx. 20 - 30 minutes, till they are nice and brown. We then serve them with sour cream on the side. Yummy!

~The filling, in the pot, cooling down~

~The dough, looking deceptively dry in this photo~

~The filling in the dough, ready to be folded over. I am notoriously bad at starting with good, small amounts of dough that yield beautiful Samosas and them making them consecutively bigger until I have Hot Pocket sized Samosas. It's a problem, I need counseling &/or therapy.~

~Hot Pocket sized Samosas, brushed with butter, and ready for the oven~

They might not be 100% true to Rasananda's, I've never actually had his, I bake mine and I used butter instead of Ghee. But they are made with love, and they are yummy. And every time I eat them I feel them healing me. It is wonderful and beautiful. Try them sometime.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Homebrewed Pancakes

A while ago a friend of mine posted a very intriguing blog. -- Pancakes with beer?!? Bailie's boyfriend Kevin is a homebrewer like us. Beer snobs we all are. I HAD to try this.
The very next Thursday I made them. We've found that Shannon seems to do better with his drum lessons on Thursday evenings (or at least he did once) if he's eaten breakfast food for dinner. So, a new family tradition has been born.

~The batter in one of my favorite vintage Pyrex bowls, and 3 pancakes cooking in my cast-iron skillet - ahh, life is good~

Here is the recipe, based on a Buttermilk Pancake recipe from my Grandmother's Better Homes & Garden's New Cookbook, 8th Edition (1968, I believe).

Beer Pancakes:

1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 beaten egg
1 cup beer - warmed (or else it will cause the butter to congeal)
2 tablespoons butter, melted

~Sift together the dry ingredients. Combine the egg, beer, and butter; add to the dry ingredients just till flour is moistened. (Batter will be lumpy)
~Bake on a hot griddle or skillet. Makes about 12 dollar-size or eight 4-inch pancakes. I always double the recipe.

~The VERY delicious result!! These babies didn't last long on the plate!~

The Result:
Oh my, these were GOOD!! For the beer I used some of our Ruby's Deep Winter Stout, hence the pancakes darker color. I also believe in letting my pancakes brown a little bit on each side. Call it an Anti-IHOP & Denny's thing. (IHOP & Denny's suck by the way!!)
For those who may be worried about beer in food that is being served to kids, fear not. The alcohol cooks out of them, leaving only the flavor of the beer itself. If you're still worried that the time on the skillet isn't long enough to cook any alcohol out, put the pancakes on a plate and set them in your oven. Turn the oven to low bake and let them bake for 5-10 minutes. They'll still be delicious (my mother has always kept food warm like this till dinner was ready) and you can definitely rest assured.
For different flavors, try different beers. Bailie (& Kevin) used Sam Adam's Coastal Wheat with a touch of brown sugar to help sweeten it. Experiment and enjoy. You will seriously put IHOP to shame!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Help, ideas Needed!! & There's a Reward!

We try to eat pretty darn healthy. We try to eat real food, slow food, traditional food. But, let's be honest ... some nights we revert to take-out/fast food. *head hung in shame*

SOME nights are just THOSE nights. When you've had one of THOSE days. When doing anything much more than popping something into something else to cook is just too much. We all have those nights (and those days), so let's be honest about it. --- In our world, especially when we're still transitioning from boxed & processed to real & slow, we need some dishes that can become real "fast food." Real THOSE nights food. -- We also need a better name for that .... what are your ideas??

Usually, this is where my love of leftovers comes in. Often I'll make things in big batches (I've been a little lax lately - head hung in shame again), just to freeze part for a later meal. My Mattar Paneer is my standby for this type of stuff. Lucky for me at least, I love it and can always eat it.

Here's where I need your help though. I need some ideas on other dishes that are good to pre-start/make-up ahead of time and freeze for later. Something that is as easy to prep as tossing it in the microwave or oven. Something for when I'm too drained, I'm gripping onto the kitchen counter and hanging on for dear life, trying not to snap and kill all in a 25 miles radius like a Atomic Mama Bomb.

I wanna hear your ideas. Comment on this, leave recipes or link to recipes. I'll review them (hey look, a goal!), I'll even remember to post photos!!

And there is a REWARD: The one I end up liking the best, I'll send you a little sumthin'-sumthin' filled with homemade love. --- Ok, that sounds wrong and naughty. But hopefully you'll like it. ... and yes, I know that didn't sound any better.
AND - the person who comes up with the best name to replace 'Real THOSE nights food' will win a little sumthin' sumthin' too. If the same person wins, then they'll get a bigger sumthin' sumthin'.

Deadline???? Hmm .. let's say the deadline for this is one month from now, April 10th.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Best Fridge

If you follow my main blog, you'll know by now we're looking at hopefully renovating the kitchen. We have a great kitchen already, but it needs to work better for us. But this blog today isn't about the kitchen itself. It is about the fridge.

This is a picture of our current fridge, a picture I took today. The fridge is too small for our needs, has some minor other issues, hence we need a new fridge. But I realized something as I was looking at the fridge today. Something that made me stop, instantly take a photo (hence the cell phone pic, sorry) and post this.
This is the BEST our fridge will EVER look. I know that sounds silly. But it is true.
Right now, as you can clearly see, our fridge is old. It is covered in alphabet magnets, farm magnets, construction paper cut-out creations, photos of the kids, my favorite photo of our nephew Gabe, a dry erase board, coupons, and so on. And it is the best it will ever be.
I simply HAD to capture this moment. If I didn't, I would regret it forever. This fridge, as it is today, is something that makes me want to cry.
Right now our children are still tiny and young. That is what makes this fridge so fantastic, so perfect.
One day, before we know it, the alphabet letters will be long gone & construction paper creations, colorings, and art projects will likely not handed to us with great pride to be displayed on the fridge. Right now they are.
Right now, the fridge is beautiful and perfect.

And .. when we get a new fridge, it too will get happily covered in the same things. Our new one will almost certainly be a stainless steel fridge, ones notorious for finger print smudges. And I will love those too. I will not try to erase them as quickly as they appear. They will make the new fridge all the better instead.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Easy as Pie

If you're thinking homemade pizza is too difficult to make for dinner, especially on a weekday night, you've got another thing coming. It's as easy as pie. (pu-dum-pum) Pizza Pie! (ok, I'll stop!)

Basic Pizza Dough Recipe:
*3 1/2 cups flour (I use a nice blend of unbleached white & whole wheat)
*1 cup warm water
*2 TB yeast
*2 TB honey
*1/4 cup olive oil
*1/2 tsp. salt

Two Big Personal Notes Here:
1) I use a bread maker, set for 'Dough'. The main reason I do this is because of Murphy's Law. When trying to make bread and having little kids under foot, someone will always need attention when you are hands-deep in mixing dough. This is just one of those time savers.
2) This recipe is enough for two "medium" sized pizzas and too much for one big pizza. But it is so yummy (as homemade pizza tends to be), you'll be glad you split the dough in half for the second pizza!

While the dough is rising a little in the bread machine I turn my oven on to 425 degrees, with my pizza stone in there. In fact, I keep my stone in there all the time. One, it makes the oven run more efficiently and two, finding somewhere else to store the stone would be a pain.

When you're ready to start, take your stone out & remember, it will be hot! Spread a little whole durum wheat flour (or just flour if you haven't got that) over it. The gritty texture is good. If you can toss your dough, go for it. If not, shape it into a decent ball-shape, put it on the stone, sprinkle it with some flour and get out your rolling pin. Roll it out across the stone. Let the edges start to hang a little off the stone. You'll fold them back up to make the edge of the crust (nice and simple is the key!).

~Not a bad looking pizza dough. You'll be surprised how thin you can roll it!~

When you've got yourself a decent looking pizza dough, put it back in the oven SANS toppings for about 10 minutes. This will help ensure that the dough actually cooks and gets nice & pizza crispy. Otherwise you run the risk of feeling like you're eating pizza on soft bread.

Now it is time for the toppings. You know what you like, so go for it. I will share with you what I ended up putting on our two pizzas from the other night.

~Pizza #1: homemade marinara sauce (made with homegrown tomatoes), ground beef (from Bright Farm in Floyd), mozzarella cheese, mild cheddar cheese, pepperoni, and Amish Bleu Cheese (found out the Co-op), all topped with a good sprinkling of organic garlic powder~

~Yup, that's real Bleu Cheese on there. Review - it was quite yummy!~

~Pizza #2: Made on a cookie sheet rather than a pizza stone (a good alternative). Topped with pesto sauce, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, and .... ~

~ .. lots of fresh mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, freshly grated Monterey jack cheese, and Parmesan & Romano cheese .. as well as some more organic garlic powder for good measure~

My apologies for the lack of "fresh out of the oven" pizza photos, but you can understand that by the time these were both done there was a family of hungry, salivating people demanding slices!!

And .. aside from the time the dough spends in the bread machine, I can get these pizzas made, cooked, and on the table in about 30 minutes. Even delivery places can't promise you that anymore!

What to Expect

There are lots and lots of food blogs out there. It gets quite confusing trying to sort them all out. With the start of a new year, I have found myself looking at other food blogs, looking back at this one, and trying to figure out my "mission statement," so to speak. What is this blog for? What is it about?

This is my Kitchen Blog as much, if not more than, it is my food blog. In fact, it isn't always going to be a "food" blog because a lot more goes on in the kitchen than just food for eating. There are Herbal Remedies being made. There are soaps being made. Food that is good for going places (insert silly joke about taking food out for a night on the town here). And so on.

But, most of all, this blog is written by a mom. Hence the friggin' name! :) This is a mama's kitchen. That means you're not going to find a lot of terribly fancy food on here. And if you do, it has to pass the "mom test" - which is something along the lines of being "easy" (quick?) to prepare and make, kid approved, and so on.
There are a lot of really fantastic blogs, that I love, that tackle some pretty high falutin' foods .... but this just ain't one of them folks. I'm a stay-at-home mom with two wild boys, who are being homeschooled. We're also urban homesteaders with gardens to tend to, animals to care for, and so on.

So, this blog is more simple, and that ain't bad. If you're new to the kitchen, you're often overwhelmed. Don't be here. This is about getting in the kitchen, making it accessible, making healthy, and making it homemade, even when you feel like you don't have time! I want to encourage more people to get into their own kitchens and get away from pre-made, processed, faux-foods. This is about REAL food!

Tonight I'm making pizza for dinner. I'll try and be good and take some photos of it, as I thought I had blogged about homemade pizza before and just realized I hadn't. Bear with me while I work out some changes on here to try and make things easier to find. It's gotta be easy, it's gotta be practical - some kitchen rules of sorts.

Now let's get cookin'..

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mashed Potatoes Gettin' Good

~Probably my favorite food in the whole wide world! But what is in these would surprise you.~

Mashed Potatoes. Ok, not the most shocking of all posts, but my favorite food so I'm writing about it. This particular batch is a little bit different though, even as far as my usual mashed potatoes go. This was one of the key "I'm not sure about this" recipes from my new Deceptively Delicious cookbook. Ok, well, this isn't exactly her recipe .. I make some rocking mashed potatoes on my own, but I did try her add in. So, here we go:

"New" Mashed Potatoes:
the title in the book is just "mashed potatoes" and you can find it on page 80

1) Get yourself some potatoes. I always use organic potatoes, locally grown when possible, grown ourselves is the best. Again, I make enough for seconds and leftovers, so I used a 2lb bag.
~ Wash your potatoes, peel if you'd like. I leave the skins on, more nutrients there (plus I'm allergic to peeling potatoes, no joke). Cut the potatoes into at least quarters, if not a little smaller.
~ From here you can toss them into your pot of water, OR you can add some extra nutrients by using some homemade chicken stock!
~ Boil 10-15 minutes till they're easily pierced with a fork. -- Eco-Note - put a lid on the pot when you set it to boil. You'll save energy that way and your potatoes will cook faster.

2) Add some Goodness. There are several things you can add to your mashed potatoes to increase the goodness but I'll start with the Deceptively Delicious add-in to be fair.
~ When you're ready to get mixin' add 1 cup pureed cauliflower. (The recipe calls for 1/2 c., I doubled the recipe, so there ya go). Like I said earlier, this is one recipe I wasn't sure about. To date, every time I've tried cauliflower I've HATED it!! Yes, like a little kid!! UGH!! But I was curious to try this out ... "let's see if she can make a believer out of me" kinda thing. I steamed the cauliflower like she said and have to admit it smelled pretty good. I was looking forward to making the potatoes!
~ I also LOVE garlic. Again, organic & local are the best. We planted a respectable sized garlic garden this year, yay!! Garlic is really good for you too. Roast a head of garlic and then put the cloves into the mixer. Yummy, and now a must-have with my potatoes.
~ Garbanzo Beans! I cheat here and use a store-bought can. Organic as often as possible. When adding these to mashed potatoes, toss them into the pot to boil with the potatoes!!! <-- NOTE THAT, cook these babies first! They'll soften up and mush into the potatoes perfectly when you get them all into the blender.
~ Some Dairy: You know to add some butter. Use real butter & don't be afraid of it. You also know to add milk, which you can substitute with buttermilk if you'd like. Add the milk last. If you want some "zest" add sour cream. If you like adding sour cream but want it to be a little healthier, add plain yogurt. You can't tell the difference, and you'll be adding B vitamins as well as saving some calories & fat by not using sour cream. This last batch I didn't add sour cream or yogurt to, and I used milk with. My final dairy add-in, which I did put in there was a package of cream cheese. Insanely delicious with mashed potatoes. Don't cheat yourself on flavor here by trying to get reduced or fat-free ... go for the real thing!

Mash It All Up:
~ Drain your potatoes and get them into your mixer. You can also mash by hand if you want and I will give you massive points for doing so!!
~ For these potatoes I added butter, 1 cup pureed cauliflower, 1 roasted garlic bulb (minus the cloves I couldn't resist eating first), and a package of cream cheese.
~ Get the mixin' going on and see how the consistency is. If it is how you like it, you don't need milk. I did decide to add some milk though.

The Result:
Oh MAMA!! These were some GOOD potatoes!! I didn't notice the cauliflower at all, so she convinced me there. Everyone else liked them as well. Definitely try this out. Don't be scared to add some stuff to your mashed potatoes. Make them healthier for you and your family. Comfort food just got even better.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mama Taney's Hokie Ham Biscuits

~The Hokie Bird running onto the field at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, VA~

My apologies for the lack of food photos once again. These are ham biscuits that I first tried at a tailgating party at Lane Stadium before a Virginia Tech game. I've since adapted the recipe into a really kick-ass recipe. For those of you who don't know, we're avid Hokie fans. If you don't know what a Hokie is, or just need some team-spirit reminders, click here: Now, back to the recipe.

Mama Taney's Hokie Ham Biscuits:

1/4 cup butter
1 TB mustard
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 TB garlic powder
pinch of dill
6 slices Swiss cheese, quartered
1 1/2 lb ham, sliced thinly
24 (approx. 2 packages) rolls, Parker-House style

To Make:
~Melt your butter. Add next 4 ingredients to melted butter and blend together well.
~In a greased 13x9 pan, place the bottom halves of the rolls (I find it best to completely separate the rolls from each other, but try to keep matching tops and bottoms). On each roll place a little bit of ham and a one of the quartered pieces of Swiss cheese. Put the tops back on. *If you want, you can add a little extra mustard here on the rolls, we personally don't though*
~Spoon/Pour the butter mixture over the biscuits. This is where it is nice to have the biscuits separated from each other, as it helps the mixture get in between each biscuit.

Cook at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. We don't tend to cover them when cooking them, but you can if you'd like.

The Result:
Prepare for these to go quickly. In fact, double the recipe and have more ready, because they will seriously disappear on you!! These are must haves at tailgating parties, but great for other gatherings (such as holiday parties). They're so good, that this is the reason I've posted the recipe - it's gotten that many rave reviews and requests for the recipe. Hence also the lack of photo.

Monday, January 4, 2010

"Burgers 1" ~ a review

I wrote about getting this new cookbook in my last post. Since I've decided to try it out, I thought I would review the recipes as I go. My apologies in not having a photo to match this recipe .. sometimes cooking dinner for a hungry family and taking photos just do not go hand in hand.

~My new cookbook, as I try to sneak more fruit & veggies into my/our diets~

In the interest of space, I'm going to type out how I made the dish, which may or may not follow the recipe in the book to the letter. Sometimes you run out of things, or inspiration calls me elsewhere. I will make sure to note the proper title of the recipe though, as well as the page it can be found on, for those who want to look it up themselves. Here we go.

Burgers 1 - page 111:

*1 lb ground beef
(pasture-raised & from Bright Farm in Floyd)
*1 cup breadcrumbs - at the suggestion of my sister-in-law, Gemma, I used fresh, homemade bread & crumbled it up. Our homemade bread is made with a mixture of local unbleached white & whole wheat flour, flax seed meal, and local honey.
*4 TB Ketchup - again, I used my homemade ketchup that was made with our own organically grown heirloom tomatoes.
*1 cup carrot puree - made with organic carrots
*4 cloves garlic, minced

~ Blend all ingredients well, and form into small patties. I tried to keep in mind that a serving size of meat is approximately the size of a deck of cards & made the burgers no larger. I got 9 patties of varying sizes.
~ Heat up your skillet, I used my trusty cast-iron one as it holds heat so well. I heated it up on high, then kept it somewhere around medium, adjusting higher or lower as needed. Pour a little olive oil in, no more than a tablespoon or two. Put your patties in the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes or so per side.
~ We served these with a slice of American cheese for the kids, and then for us a slice of American cheese, homemade zucchini relish, homemade ketchup, and mustard. All of the burgers were served on whole-wheat hamburger buns (store-bought) that I had open-face toasted in our little toaster oven.

The Substitutions & Changes:
*The recipe was actually for 1/2 the amount of meat, but since I had thawed a pound I decided to double the recipe and freeze the leftovers. *A good idea for a quick meal for a night where time is rushed!*
*The recipe also calls for using 1/4 cup (or in my case, 1/2 cup) skim milk. 1) We don't have skim milk and likely never will. 2) I was worried this would make things too moist, so decided to leave out the milk till the end to see if it was needed. Gemma, my Italian sister-in-law, swears that using fresh bread for breadcrumbs will increase the moisture, while using store-bought will make meat dry. I trusted her knowledge here (you gotta try her meatballs!). Our moisture content was fine.
*The recipe also called for using low-sodium soy sauce. We use tamari in place of soy sauce, but happened to be all out. Since I put carrots into my basic tomato sauce I made the decision to use some homemade ketchup in place of the soy sauce. 1) Ketchup & Burgers just go hand in hand. 2) I know the veggies that go into my ketchup and felt it was a healthy decision.

The Review:
These made themselves into patties quite nicely, and we only had minimal problems with crumbling - no more than we would usually have as we test out new burger recipes.
Justin got worried that these really were not cooking as quickly as the cookbook said they would. We decided to try grilling them, but it seems our grill doesn't like cold cold weather and wouldn't work right. The recipe says to finish them off in the oven, at 400 degrees. We were already baking some fries at about that temperature, so we tossed the first round of burgers on a pan and into the oven to finish off. The second round of burgers (can't cook them all at one time on the skillet!) seemed to cook with better timing. Perhaps it's just been a while since we've cooked burgers indoors on the skillet?? One thing we did notice was this: as the carrot cooked it seemed to darken a little, which gave the appearance of the meat not being done. All said and done though, this was only a minor hiccup.
Taste - actually very yummy!! The kids didn't notice that these burgers were any different than ones they've had before. They did have a slightly more "veggie" taste to them that I noticed, however I've also noticed a very intense beef flavor when we've made just straight-up hamburgers. I'm wondering if using the soy sauce wouldn't help give it more of a beefy flavor. However, it didn't taste like a veggie-burger, and was still really good. It was moist and delicious!!

I will definitely be making this one again. All four of us liked it, and that's good enough for me. I liked knowing there were extra veggies in my burger. I am eager to try it using soy sauce (or, more accurately, tamari) instead of ketchup. If the results are significantly different I will let you know. Otherwise, if you want to make your burgers a little more healthy for you, then I would definitely recommend making these!

~~A Follow-Up Review: ~~
Like I said, I made a double batch of these for freezing and serving again later. Leftovers rock, plain and simple. I heated the kids each up a burger for lunch one day this past week, zapping it in the microwave. They crumbled. <-- The burgers that is, not the kids.
Perhaps it was some of the substitutions? Would "true" bread crumbs have been better at keeping it a little drier? Was that the problem? Justin blames the carrots. I'm not certain. It wasn't necessarily a end-of-the-world, awful crumbling, but a crumbling none-the-less, which made lunch messy. Shannon didn't have such a hard time (he's almost 6), but it did take Tristan a bit to get the hang of how to eat it without it all falling out of the bun (he's 3 1/2).
Points deducted.
I'll still try the recipe again. But it is really a big thing to be able to have leftovers we can eat again. We'll see, and I'll let you know!