Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Heavenly Holiday Mashed Potatoes

Festive red and green potatoes, these are a hit at every holiday party.

5 lb red potatoes
12 oz onion dip
1 stick of butter
1/4 c. parsley
1/2 - 1 TBS real salt, to taste
1 TBS ground pepper, to taste

Wash potatoes and cut into cubes. Do not peel them. Put in large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer till soft, about 15-25 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. Add dip, butter and mash. Mix in parsley, salt and pepper.

If bringing to a party, spread in a 9x13 pan and cover with foil. Wrap in towels to keep warm. You can put it in the oven to warm at 425 degrees.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Onion Soup Dip

Tasty vegetable dip

8 oz sour cream
4 tsp dry minced onion
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp beef bouillon
1/8 tsp celery salt

Mix together and refrigerate.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chicken Tortilla soup

Rather tasty soup for a cold night.

1 onion, chopped or pureed
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbs butter or olive oil
dash chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic salt
3 (15 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
5 cups chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can corn (or 2 c. frozen corn)
2 (15 oz) cans black beans (or 3-4 c. cooked black beans)
1/4 C. chopped fresh cilantro
3 boneless chicken breast halves, cooked
Shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream
Corn tortillas

In a large pot, heat butter. Saute onion and garlic in oil until translucent. Stir in spices, tomatoes (can puree in blender if you don't like chunks) and broth. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 min.

Meanwhile, cook the chicken. Blend the chicken in a food processor to make small chunks. Add chicken, beans, corn and cilantro to the soup and simmer 10 minutes more.

Meanwhile, heat oil (I use 1/2 coconut oil and 1/2 olive oil). Cut corn tortillas into 1/4" strips and deep fry them in the oil until just starting to get golden. Salt them. Or you can just crush up tortilla chips to serve with the soup.

Serve soup with sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese and fried corn tortilla strips on top.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Canning With Kids: Peaches Slices in Honey

I bought 2 bushels of peaches for $24, which is a pretty great price. They were freshly picked on Saturday and by Tuesday they were perfect for canning (and eating!) The local fruit stands sell 1/2 bushel boxes for about $12-$15. Those boxes are about 25 lbs and the dimensions are 15-1/2" L x 8-1/2" W x 8" D. So yeah, that is 100lbs of peaches we got. Yum! I had the kids peeling and chopping for 2 hours today and in 3 hours we did over half the peaches and that was 20 quart jars of peaches.

Here's how to do it. Read all directions before beginning to ensure you've got everything!

An hour or so before you start - wash the lids & jars in the dishwasher.

Step 1. Fill a large pot with water and set it on the stove to boil.

Step 2. Wash peaches in the sink (about 30 at a time).

Step 3. Fill the other side of the sink with cold water, and add ice to it.

Step 4. When the water is boiling, add peaches (probably 10 at a time) and boil for 20-40 seconds. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and put into the ice water.

Step 5. Repeat above steps. Meanwhile, get the peaches out of the ice water and put in a bowl on the counter. Set kids to work slipping the skins off and slicing into slices. The three year old can put the slices into the bowl of water that you're going to prepare next.

Step 6. Fill another bowl 1/2 full of water, and add about 1 TBS lemon juice to prevent browning. The sliced peaches should go in here. Now that the 3 year old is bored, assign her to watch the baby.

Step 7. Now get your syrup going. Boil 6 cups of water in a big pot. When boiling, add 2 cups of honey for light syrup (do 4 cups for medium syrup.) This is a great place to use that honey in your storage that has crystallized.

Step 8. Hopefully by now, the kids have the bowl full of sliced peaches. Scoop the peaches out with a slotted spoon and into the hot syrup. Set the timer for 5 minutes.

Step 9. Get a small pot and put an inch or two of water in it. Add the lids and start it boiling.

Step 10. Get a towel out and set your first two jars hot from the dishwasher on them. Get a canning funnel and put in the jar. When peaches are heated (5 minutes), use the slotted spoon to scoop peaches into the jar, tapping them on the towel to help them settle. When the jars are pretty full, scoop syrup onto the peaches. Use a table knife on the side of the jar to help the syrup settle (no air bubbles.) You want about 1/2" head space when you're done.

Step 11. Wipe the top of the jar with a paper towel so no residue remains. Get a lid from the pot of boiling water (use a magnetic canning wand or if the kids stole yours like they did mine, you can use tongs.) Put on top of the jar and put a ring on. Tighten, but not too much.

Step 12. Get your water bath canner or steam canner water boiling. Continue to fill your jars until you have enough to fill your canner.

Step 13. Put the jars in the canner and process for the recommended time (see your instructions.) My quart jars had to be processed for 35 minutes in a steam canner because I live at a high altitude.

Step 14. Call all the kids back to continue peeling and slicing, since they all ran away when your back was turned filling the jars with peaches. Repeat until you've got them all done!

Soft Cinna-Ginger Cookies

Sorta like snickerdoodles, but different texture. Much better for you anyway! My kids said they should be called "The Goodest Cookies in the World."

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

1/2 c. butter, softenened
1 c. honey
2 eggs
3 tsp vanilla

Beat all together in one bowl.

3-1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour (soft white wheat), give or take
3 TBS cinnamon
1 TBS ginger
1/4 tsp cloves

Mix together in another bowl.

Add dry to wet and mix. Put on saran wrap and roll into a log. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Grease cookie sheet or put parchment paper on. Cut dough into circles 1/2" thick. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Strawberry Lemonade Slushy

So refreshing! The kids LOVE this one.

About 3 c. frozen strawberries
1/4 lemon (the whole lemon, not juice)
1/2 cup honey or agave
about 2 c. ice
Water

In a blendtec or vitamix blender, put about 1 c. warm water. Add honey and blend. Add berries, lemon and ice. Then put in water to about the 5 c. line. Blend, adding more water if necessary.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Apricot Bavarian

I froze a bunch of apricots but we never seem to eat them. This recipe was pretty good!

1 cup frozen apricots, thawed
1-1/2 envelopes plain gelatin
1/3 cup agave (or to taste)
1/8 c. water
1 c. plain yogurt

Puree the apricots, set a side. In a small pot, add gelatin to the water, then slowly heat to dissolve it. In a bowl, whisk together everything else. Taste it to make sure the sweetener amount is correct. Mix in dissolved gelatin. Put in individual cups or leave in the bowl and chill till firm.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Milly's No Bake Cookies

I'm not totally sure who Milly is, but I got this recipe from Elaine Andelin.

1 c. honey
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. carob or chocolate powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 c. coconut
1 c. oats
1/2 c. peanut butter

Bring first 4 ingredients to boil for 3 minutes. Add peanut butter, melt. Add vanilla, coconut and oats. Roll small balls in coconut. Makes about 30.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Caramel Corn

Light and tasty!

12 c. popped popcorn
4 TBS butter
4 TBS honey

Melt the butter and honey together in a small pot on the stove. Drizzle over the popcorn in a large bowl, stirring to coat. Spread out on two cookie sheets lined with foil or parchment paper. Bake in 325 degree oven 8-10 minutes.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Fresh beets!!!

Fresh beets are so delicious, yet most people have never had them. If you've only ever had canned beets, you have no idea what you're missing out on.

To cook them:

Cut off the tops of the beets so you leave about 3" of stems on the beet. Save the beet tops for greens in your salad or you can cook them like spinach (but personally I think that's disgusting.)

Scrub the beets with a dish scrubber (I have one that I use only on veggies.) Put in a pot of water, bring to a boil with a lid on the pot. Set the timer for about 25 minutes. Check to see if they are done by poking with a fork. It should pierce easily. Bigger beets can take 45 minutes or more.

When they are done, put them in a bowl of cold water. The skins should slip off easily. Cut up into slices or chunks and serve. You can also put butter, salt, pepper, etc, but they're quite tasty as is. If you have kids, show them how to apply beet lipstick. That's one of my favorite memories from childhood dinners!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cilantro rice

Delicious as a side dish or in burritos.

2 TBS butter or olive oil
1 onion, pureed
2 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 to 1/2 bunch cilantro, washed & chopped
1/2 lime
garlic salt

Melt butter in pan. Saute onion and garlic till soft. Add rice and continue to saute until rice is heated through and lightly browned (if desired). Add cilantro and stir. Squirt lime juice over and sprinkle garlic salt to taste.

I usually cook my rice in a rice cooker and freeze it in batches of 3 cups.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pasta Primavera

This is a real throw-together dish, so amounts are not at all exact. I'll put approximately what we use.

2-3 cloves fresh garlic
1-2 TBS butter or olive oil
2 c. chopped veggies of all kinds (julienned carrots, thin sliced celery, chopped broccoli, chopped peppers - red, yellow, orange or green, snow peas, etc.)
1-1/2 lbs pasta like rotini or whatever kind you want.
1/2 to 1 c. heavy cream
1/2 to 1 c. shredded parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta. Meanwhile, mince the garlic cloves and fry up in butter. When soft, toss in the veggies and stir fry till crisp tender. Pour in cream and stir it up to warm it. Add to noodles and stir. Add parmesan cheese last - you can either add it to the whole pot or individual bowls.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Eczema helps

There really isn't a medical consensus as to why people get eczema. It could be because of weather changes, too much exposure to allergens or chemicals, reactions to foods or who knows what. I've even heard it's a genetic disease, which I suppose makes sense that there are those who are more likely to get eczema than others. Certainly is the case in my family. My middle son just broke out in a rampant case of it, and I wish we'd been home instead of camping so I could've treated it better!

Here is what we do:

*Omega 3 supplements. Our favorite is probably Children's DHA from Nordic Naturals, but you can also get it from ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil (easy to add to a fruit smoothie.) My daughter is prone to eczema in the winter time, but if I make sure she gets her omega 3, she doesn't get it. Since it's summer time I've been forgetting this important supplement, but I'll be sure to get back on it now!

To soothe the rash:

*Witch Hazel - can feel soothing and help with the itching. You can buy plain witch hazel at the drug store or health food store. Often found in hemmorrhoidal preparations too, but along with other stuff.

*Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil - keep the affected area moist to help with the itchiness. Applying coconut oil helps heal, keep it moist, and reduce inflammation. I sometimes mix the coconut oil with a base like 100% cocoa or shea butter to make it spread more easily. Cover with a soft flannel cloth or gauze so it doesn't get everywhere. Apply several times a day.

*Diaper Rash Ointment - can help sooth the rash in a pinch. Use a natural type like Burt's Bees if possible.

*Wear Cotton Clothing - other types of clothing can irriate the rash.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Italian Meatballs

Homemade meatballs do take a while to roll by hand, but they sure are tasty. And you know what's in them!

2 eggs
2 slices fresh bread (use GF bread to make GF meatballs)
1 TBS italian seasoning
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 c parmesan cheese
1/2 onion, pureed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 lbs to 2 lbs ground beef

Put eggs in a bowl and whisk them. Blend up fresh bread in blender to make bread crumbs. Add to eggs and let it soak for a minute. Add seasonings, cheese, garlic and onion and stir. Add in the ground beef and mix it with your hands. Roll into 1" balls and put on a cookie sheet. Broil for 10 minutes on each side, or until meatballs are done. Can add to spaghetti sauce and let it simmer. Serve with spaghetti (use Tinkyada brand for GF.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Breakfast Cereal Muesli

My son took an "around the world" cooking class, and for Switzerland, they made muesli. The teacher let the kids add whatever they wanted of the following ingredients:

rolled oats
rolled rye flakes
wheat germ
brown sugar
raisins
dried pineapple
dried cherries
chopped almonds
chopped dates
ground flax seed
chopped fresh apples
Coconut flakes

Then she let the kids pour milk or cream on top. It was really yummy! I thought I'd mix up a batch to have on hand for breakfasts. Here is what I mixed together:

8 rolled oats
1 c. barley flakes
1 c. triticale flakes
1 c. raisins
1/2 c. unsweetened dried cherries
1/2 c. currants
2 c. unsweetened coconut
1/2 c. ground flax seed
1/2 c. sucanat
1-1/2 c. chopped nuts (pecans, sunflowers, almonds, whatever)

The cool thing is that you can pretty much make this however you want. I found that about 10 cups of grain flakes, 2 c. dried fruits, 2 c. coconut, 1 to 2 c. nuts, 1/2 c ground flax and/or wheat germ plus 1/2 to 3/4c. sweetener worked out pretty well.

Other ingredients you could add:

rolled wheat flakes
millet flakes
rolled rye flakes
chopped dried apricots
blended or chopped dried bananas (use less sweetener if you add these)
blended or dried chopped apples

You can soak this overnight with a little yogurt for easier digestibility, but sometimes it's nice to have something quick. You can also cook it to make it warm if desired. Serve on top of yogurt.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Asian Salad Bar

This is adapted from a Family Fun recipe. It's very tasty, but we made it salad-bar style to satisfy the whole family. You can mix all the ingredients together and make a salad perfect for potlucks!

Set out salad-bar style:

Bag of coleslaw
1 c. cooked, chopped chicken
2 c. chopped broccoli
1 c. chopped sugar snap peas (or leave them whole)
1/2 c. chopped red pepper
3/4 c. chopped green onions
3/4 c. sliced celery (diagonally sliced)
1/2 c. roasted/salted cashews*
1/4 c. toasted sesame seeds, optional

Salad Dressing:
1/4 c. soy sauce (if using tamari sauce, use a little less)
2 tbs white vinegar
2 tbs natural style smooth peanut butter
1 tbs sucanat
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp ginger
1/2 c. grapeseed oil
1 tbs sesame oil

Mix together in a salad dressing cruet and shake till mixed. Doesn't taste like peanut butter!

This is great served with spring rolls. Or on the rare occasion when I buy pre-made food, the Ling brand potstickers or spring rolls from Costco are pretty good (ingredients and taste!)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Grain Mill

I used to wonder why on earth I'd ever want to go to the trouble to grind my own grains. Now my grinder is one of my most-used kitchen appliances! Here's why:

1. Store bought flour is pretty much always rancid by the time you get it. That's because flour gets rancid really fast.

2. Baked goods made with freshly ground flour taste so much better.

3. Baked goods are easier to make with freshly ground flour because the flour is already warm.

4. It's really not that hard to grind grains, it only takes a few minutes extra! Funny thing is that I had a grain mill for 6 months before I ventured to use it. And then I was amazed at how easy it was. I keep mine on the counter for easy access.

5. It's very cost effective. You can buy grains in bulk, which will make a lot of flour.

If you get a hand grain mill, you will not agree with me. Hand grain mills take FOREVER to make flour! However, a hand grain mill is nice to have on hand - just in case.

I have a Nutrimill, which has been wonderful. It doesn't sound like an airplane is landing, and it goes pretty quickly. The new name for this one is Wondermill. I'm sure there are other good mills out there, just do your research before investing.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Types of Whole Wheat

All the different kinds of wheat is confusing. It took me a while to figure out the difference, so here's a quick primer:

Hard Red Wheat - This is the wheat that most people know as whole wheat. It's great for making whole wheat bread and is high in gluten. Lasts in food storage for a long time.

Hard White Wheat - Lesser known wheat, but commonly found. You can also use this to make whole wheat bread, but it's not as high in gluten as the hard red wheat, so I've found that it helps to add gluten when making yeast bread.

Soft White Wheat - This is what whole wheat pastry flour is made out of. Doesn't last as long in your food storage as other wheat (a year or two.) Great for baking things like cookies, pie crust, quick breads, muffins, pancakes, etc. Not so high in gluten.

Unbleached wheat flour - this is white flour, with the bran removed. Buy the unbleached because it's a step up from bleached flour in nutrition. Often added in whole wheat bread to provide more gluten.

Kamut - Kamut is a relative of wheat. It has a fascinating history! It doesn't have as much gluten as wheat, and many people who have wheat allergies can actually tolerate kamut.

Spelt - Spelt is also a relative of wheat. It has been around for a long time, it too has an interesting history. It has more fiber and protein than wheat. It doesn't have as much gluten, and it doesn't need as much water in recipes as wheat does.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

1 hour Whole Wheat Bread

Yes, it really does only take an hour from start to hot fresh bread! There are a few ingredients that I try to avoid (like commercial yeast and white flour) but I figure this is better (and cheaper) than store bought bread. Many thanks to my sister for showing me how to make this!

9 to 9-1/2 c. freshly ground whole wheat flour*
1 C. unbleached white flour
1 TBS sea salt
3 TBS soy lecithin
3 TBS yeast
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. applesauce
4 c. hot water

Put it all in a bosch machine, and knead for 6 to 7 minutes on low to medium. Dough should be stickier than normal bread dough, but not so sticky that it oozes off your fingers. While the bread is kneading, get out 4 bread pans and grease them. Grease an area about 18" square on your clean counter. When the dough is done, grease your hands really well (and remove rings). Split the dough into four equal sections. Pinch all the corners into the bottom to form a rectangle and then place pinched parts down into bread pan. Repeat for other 3 loaves. Put loaf pans in a warm place with a non-fuzzy towel on top. Next, set the oven to 350 degrees. Let rise for 15-20 minutes, or until doubled. That is the amazing part, it really does rise that fast! When done rising, put the pans in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

You can brush the tops with butter if you like. Let cool and store in plastic bag.

You can also make raisin bread. When you have the rectangle smashed out, spread some butter on it. Then sprinkle with honey or sucanat, cinnamon and raisins. Roll it up.

Makes delicious rolls, scones, buns, focaccia, pizza crust, etc. For some recipes, you may want to reduce the amount of sweetener.

*If you use hard winter wheat, include 4 TBS of gluten in the 8 cup measurement. Hard red winter wheat won't need this. You can make this 100% whole wheat, but I didn't like the texture quite as well. Still working on that.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Home Fries

Easier than cooking them in the oven, and tasty too! Makes a good side dish or have them for breakfast.

4 large potatoes
4 TBS butter
Garlic salt

Don't peel the potatoes. Cube the potatoes into 1/2" pieces. Run cold water over the potato to wash away the potato starch. Dump the potatoes out onto a clean kitchen towel and dry with another towel. In an electric non-stick skillet (or use a non stick skillet on the stove), melt the butter. Add the potatoes, and stir to coat. Sprinkle garlic salt over the potatoes, and stir. Cover the skillet and cook potatoes med-high heat for 10 minutes. No peeking! Remove cover, stir. Replace the cover for 5 more minutes. Remove cover, stir. Cook for another 5 minutes or so without the cover.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

Light and fluffy, my husband said these were like eating dessert! Serve 'em hot & fresh with butter.

2 c. whole wheat pastry flour (soft white wheat)
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. cold butter
2 tsp. sucanat
2/3 c. buttermilk, sour milk, or thin plain yogurt with milk to buttermilk consistency

Mix together dry ingredients. Pour the buttermilk into a measuring cup, and add the sucanat. Stir occasionally until the sucanat "melts." Cut the butter up into chunks and add to to the dry ingredients. Mix in with pastry blender (or two knives or your hands.) Add the buttermilk to the main bowl and mix just until moistened.

Flour your counter. With floured hands, pat dough until rectangle about3/4" thick. Fold dough into thirds. Pat dough down again until 3/4" thick and repeat. Do it a third time! This folding process makes layers in the biscuits, kind of like croissants. Lastly, pat dough to be 1/2" thick. Cut out biscuits with a round cutter. Place them on a cookie sheet lined parchment paper (or sprayed with cooking spray.) You can put them pretty close together because they don't spread out, they rise up!

Bake in preheated 450 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes. Makes about 12-15.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thin Crust Pizza

This disappears in a flash. And the kids say it's better than Little Caesar's!

4 C. whole wheat pastry flour*
4-1/2 tsp yeast
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp sucanat
1-1/2 c. warm water
2 TBS olive oil

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a Bosch or Kitchenaid mixer. In a small bowl, mix together water & olive oil. While mixer is mixing, slowly add liquid. Knead until dough sticks together. Stop the machine and check if the dough is too dry. If so, add more flour. (If too dry, add more water). Dough should be soft and not too sticky.

Spray a medium sized bowl with cooking spray. Put dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 20-30 minutes.

Spread flour out on the counter. Split dough in half and roll out in flour so it is a very thin crust. Spread a thin layer of cornmeal on a pizza stone. Place pizza crust on pizza stone. Spread a very thin layer of spaghetti sauce on top. Add mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. Add toppings of your choice, such as thinly sliced peppers & red onions, olives, mushrooms, nitrate-free ham or pepperoni, chopped chicken, etc. Sprinkle with italian seasoning over everything.

Bake in the oven for about 9-12 minutes.

If you don't have a pizza stone, you can use a porcelain tile. Put a sheet of parchment paper on top. Pizza stones do work better, but this can work too. If you don't have a porcelain tile, you can bake on baking sheets, but you'll have to make the crust a little thicker and cook at a lower temperature (like 375 or 400) for a longer time.

*Pastry flour is made from soft white wheat. You can buy it already milled at the health food store, or grind your own.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Rolls

If you've never had spring rolls before, give these a try! They are pretty easy to make and not too overwhelmingly oriental for picky eaters.

1/2 package of spring roll wrappers (about 22 wrappers)*
2 TBS olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 large carrot, julienned (or you can toss in a food processor and chop into small bits)
1 large stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 bag coleslaw
1 c. bean sprouts (optional)
1 c. cooked chopped chicken
2-1/2 TBS soy or tamari sauce (use a little less if tamari)
1 TBS sesame oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp garlic salt

Saute garlic, carrots and celery in olive oil for a few minutes. Add coleslaw & bean sprouts and saute till all is crisp-tender. Add chicken and seasonings and stir to mix. Taste it and add anything else it might need.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a frying pan big enough to fit the wrappers, bring about 1/2" water to a boil. Put a spring roll wrapper in the water and leave for about 15 seconds. Use tongs or a fork to remove the wrapper to a plate. Put about 1/4 c. filling in the middle. Fold the sides of the wrapper in. Roll the spring roll and place seam side down on sprayed baking sheet (or line with parchment paper.)

When the tray is full, spray the top of the spring rolls with cooking spray. Bake for about 12 minutes. Remove tray from oven, and flip all the spring rolls over. Spray the tops with cooking spray, and put back into oven to bake for 12 more minutes.

*The package of spring roll wrappers I purchase are made of tapioca starch, so they do not contain gluten. They cost about $1.79 at the local asian market and had about 45 wrappers in one package. Be very careful with them, they are fragile and break easily!

DIPPING SAUCE

Mix together:
1-1/2 TBS rice vinegar
1/2 TBS sucanat
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
dash chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sesame seeds

Dip spring rolls into sauce.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Zuppa Toscana

Olive-Gardenesque potato / kale /sausage soup. Two of my kids absolutely raved about this one! The rest ate it. What more can you ask?

1/2 lb sausage, crumbled or sliced (we love Sue Gregg's breakfast sausage recipe. This recipe is similar.)
2 tbs butter
large onion, chopped (or pureed)
4 heads garlic, minced
8 c. chicken broth
4 large cubed (about 1/2") potatoes, skin on
2 tbs arrowroot powder
4 c. chopped fresh kale
2/3 c. cream
salt / pepper
crushed red pepper
shredded parmesan

Cook sausage and crumble or slice. Meanwhile, heat butter in large pot. Saute' onion & garlic till soft and translucent. Add chicken broth and cubed potatoes. Simmer about 20 minutes until potatoes are soft. With a stick blender, blend up some of the potatoes (or mash with a fork or spoon on side of pot.) In a cup, combine arrowroot and a little water. Pour into soup while stirring with a whisk to thicken the soup. Add more if needed to get the thickness you want. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Last, add kale, sausage and cream, heat through. Serve with shredded parmesan cheese and let everyone add their own crushed red pepper.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Brussels Sprouts - no, really!

No one in their right might likes Brussels sprouts, or so I thought... Mushy overcooked disgusting mini cabbages, haven't had one since I was a kid! Well, my 8 year old son saw Brussels sprouts at the store and really wanted me to buy some. Since it was his birthday and they were on sale, I indulged and bought 6. 6 whole sprouts! ha! Anyway, I searched for a way to cook 'em up, and this is what we came up with:

butter
olive oil
Brussels sprouts
real salt
pepper

Wash sprouts, then cut in half lengthwise. Heat some butter & olive oil in non stick frying pan. Put sprouts cut-side down and let cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until cut side is browned. Don't stir them until that is accomplished. Then sprinkle with real salt and ground pepper while stirring to coat. Chopped or sliced almonds would be yummy to add too.

I usually only post recipes that everyone (or nearly everyone) likes. This recipe was one that both mom and dad liked, as well as 2 of 6 kids. Only 3 kids actually tried them, and of course the baby can't eat them yet. One child like them so much that they are now one of her new favorite veggies. I thought that 50% (higher if I don't count the baby) enjoying this was an impressive statistic for Brussels sprouts.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Roast Soup

I almost called this stew, but it's probably a soup. Maybe I should call it a stewp. Whatever you call it, it's a good way to use leftover roast when you don't have enough for BBQ beef or taquitos.

1 TBS butter
1 med onion, chopped or pureed
1-1/2 c. chopped carrots
1 c. chopped celery
4 large russet potatoes, peeled & cubed
1-2 c. leftover shredded roast
8 c. beef broth (or thereabouts)
salt & pepper
garlic powder or garlic salt

Melt butter in a large pot. Saute onion, carrots & celery until onions are soft. Add potatoes. Pour in broth, making sure you have enough to cover everything and then some. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20-25 minutes until potatoes are soft. Use a stick blender to thicken the soup, leaving potato & veggie chunks if desired. Add the roast last, and season with salt, pepper and/or garlic powder/salt.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kitchen Essentials: Stick Blender

One item I use a lot, especially in the winter, is a stick blender. I've found that many people have no idea what a stick blender is. Some picture one of those little stirring sticks to mix up protein powder shakes. I sure didn't realize what a stick blender was or how handy it was until I happened to find one at a thrift store for $4 and figured I'd give it a whirl (ha, pun intended!)

A stick blender is your best friend if you like to make creamy soups. And creamy soups are excellent for hiding lots of vegetables in soups that your kids will actually eat. You can process soups in batches in a blender to make them creamy, but that takes a while to do because you can only process a small amount at a time. It's also risky - it's very easy to blow up hot soup all over the kitchen. I know this from personal experience.

To use a stick blender, you simply put it in the pot of soup after everything is tender. Then you press the button to turn it on and let it blend as you move it around the pot. So easy!

You can also use a stick blender to make dips. Often when you put dips in a blender, the quantity isn't large enough for the blender to be effective, and then if you do blend it in the blender, it's difficult to get out. Make hummus, pesto, honey-butter and more with your stick blender.

When purchasing a stick blender, buy a nicer quality one. A good one will cost around $25-$30. I definitely don't recommend buying a $10 Durabrand one from Walmart. Mine died after only 3 or 4 uses!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Honey Butter

Could it get any easier?

1/2 part honey
1/2 part softened butter (leave out on the counter for an hour or so.)

Blend together with stick blender. Heat and pour over pancakes or waffles. Delicious on scones. Add to oatmeal. Spread on warm rolls or cornbread.

How to cook without a microwave

I don't have a working microwave, and everyone wonders, "How on earth do you cook without a microwave?" Funny, isn't it, that people used to cook without them before they were invented, but now they are so common, no one can remember how to cook without one! A few years back, ours broke, and we never got around to fixing it. After a while, I became so accustomed to not having one that I don't even miss it anymore. Most of the time, anyway.

Without further ado... this is how to cook without a microwave:

*Reheating soup, stew or sauce - Pour in pot. Add extra water because it'll probably be thicker after sitting in the fridge. Heat on the stove and stir almost constantly. Unlike in a microwave, this won't explode!

*Softening butter - Method #1 - plan ahead, and remove butter a few hours before use. I rarely use this method... Method #2 - Place butter in a warm spot to soften more quickly. Some places I've used - on the stove top near a burner that's heating, on top of the toaster oven, under the electric frypan (if it has legs), in the dishwasher that's drying, in the sun. Method #3 - Chop butter into chunks. Put in a small frying pan and warm a bit. Add in chunks. My preferred method is whichever I happen to think of first.

*Melting butter - that's much easier than softening butter. Just put it in a small frying and heat.

*Heating rolls, muffins, pancakes, etc - Put in a toaster oven and heat. Or if you have a lot, put them on a tray and heat in the oven at 350.

*Thawing frozen things - Run under hot water for a few minutes to separate frozen item from bag or container. If it is frozen veggies or soup, you can dump it into your soup. You can reheat rice by pouring some oil or butter in an electric skillet and putting the semi-frozen rice in it and stirring, and sometimes chopping the icy chunks (heard of fried rice? There ya go!)

*Thawing frozen ground beef - Either run under hot water for a few minutes or soak in cold water bath (changing the water every 20 minutes.) When you get bored of waiting for it to thaw completely, put the meat in a pot with about 1/2" water. Heat the pot on the stove. Flip the meat over every minute or so, scraping off the browned beef.

*Thawing frozen meat - Run under hot water or do the cold water bath. Chicken or beef is easier to cut when slightly frozen so you don't want it to thaw all the way. It also cooks faster this way. You can also bake frozen chicken or fish in the oven, it just takes a little longer of course. You can put frozen meat in the crockpot. If you're doing a roast, though, you will need to do it on high so that the middle will cook fast enough (and not grow bacteria.)

*Reheating pizza - Put tinfoil on the toaster oven tray. Put pizza on top of that. Put in toaster oven and reheat. For a crispy crust and messy toaster oven, put directly on the rack and reheat.

*Reheating leftovers - Most leftovers can be reheated by frying in a non-stick frying pan. You may need to chop a little or add liquid. You can also put leftovers in a glass baking dish and heat in 350 oven for about 30-40 minutes. Heat leftover meat by pouring gravy over it and heating in a frying pan.

*Boiling water - You can actually put water in a pot on the stove and heat it up that way. And when you are done and you pour the water out, the pot is clean!

*Reheating a plate of leftovers - Sorry, I haven't figured out how to do this yet. This is the one time where the microwave is missed. Instead, we have to reheat everything individually.

I suppose the other question to be asked is "Why would you want to cook without a microwave?" Well, for one thing, it'll cost a chunk of change to fix our built-in, range hood microwave, and truthfully, I can think of other things to spend the money on. There are also those health reasons that haven't ever been necessarily substantiated. There are rumors that a lady died after the blood for her blood transfusion was microwaved and changed the chemical structure of the blood. And there is the science fair project that school kids do where they water two plants - one with tap water and one with microwaved water - and the one water with microwaved water dies. I really don't know if microwaving is a health risk or not, and if I get my microwave fixed, I'll probably use it again. I do know that I probably won't use it as much, though, because I've found many foods do actually taste better and heat just as quickly without a microwave!

So if your microwave ever dies, remember this post and you too can be a non-microwave cooking champion!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Creamy soup for a cold day! When I make soups, I usually puree the veggies that I saute. Then no one will complain about onions or other offensive veggie chunks.

2-3 TBS butter
1 diced onion
2 stalks celery, diced
4 c. chicken broth
2 c. water
3 large potatoes, diced
3 c. frozen broccoli (or fresh)
2 c. cream (or substitute 2 c. milk)
3-4 c. shredded cheese
Salt & pepper

Melt butter in large pot. Saute onions and celery until soft. Add chicken broth & water and bring to a boil. Add diced potatoes. Cover and let simmer until potatoes are soft (time depends on how big your pieces are, but should be around 5-15 minutes.) Add broccoli and return to boil. Cover and let simmer 5-7 minutes until broccoli is soft. Add cream and heat. With a stick blender, puree soup until creamy. Add shredded cheese and stir till melted. Salt & pepper to taste.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Quick Snacks Bin

It always seems like we never have anything easy to eat around the house. I don't usually buy crackers, pretzels, chips, etc (for the very reason that if I buy them, then that's what we eat.) And sometimes I don't get around to making fun snacks like muffins. We end up snacking on bread instead of fruits or vegetables, because they aren't *quite* as convenient (ya know, you have to bend over, open the drawer, remove item, shut drawer, wash or cut the fruit/veggies....) So I came up with a good idea. I got a plastic shoe box container, labeled it "Quick Snacks" and put it in the fridge. In this bin, I put in ready-to-eat snacks that the kids can get to when they are hungry. Every few days I will refill as needed. Even my husband was excited to see this!

Things I put in the bin yesterday:
(I put cut up stuff and veggies in lunch-size ziploc baggies, so they can open the bag and take out the amount they want.)

Clementine oranges
Washed apples (small ones)
baby carrots
peas in the pod
sliced, washed celery
oranges
cheesesticks (the kids know there is a limit of 1 per day.)

Other things to put in the Quick Snacks bin:
cinnamon apples
peanut butter balls
trail mix / nuts /dried fruits
in season fruits/veggies
a card that says "1 Muffin" or any other baked good I have on hand
And check out this post of snack ideas too.

I thought about making a Quick Snacks bin for non-refrigerated foods too, but I figure that is easy to get anyway. And then everyone would go for that bin instead of the good stuff in the fridge!