Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Keeping Warm

Well, winter has finally descended upon us and that means cold days and frigid nights.  Since we have barn animals that means even more to us since we have to give our livestock enough food to keep them warm.  Good old straw plays a huge role in this as well.

Kent goes out at night and finds that one chicken who was not smart enough to get back to the coop before dark (chickens can't see in the dark and so they don't move at all which makes them easy pickings for a coyote).  He scoops up said chicken, tucks her under his arm, and returns her to the coop, even going so far as to place her on the roost under the heat lamp.  Yes, our chickens have heat lamps; having their combs get frostbit is heart breaking.

Keeping ourselves warm means wearing layers.  We always have on a sweater or hoodie in the house.  And I always feel warmer when I knit, so I always have a queue of projects to work on.

I also believe that making hearty comfort food keeps you warm.  Soups definitely fit the bill as do thick rich pasta dishes.  But this week we had a set-back; my oven went out!  The stove top works but the igniter on the oven went out.  How to cook and keep warm???

Well, since the stove top works it is soups to the rescue....I am trying out a new one Saturday night. We have some friends coming over so they get to be Guinea pigs. And my husband is always on stand-by as the tester.  So, I am making Corn Chowder with Bacon and Sweet Potatoes.  I found the start of this recipe in this over sized cook book that I got I don't even know how far back;  I know it was before we moved (4 yrs. ago).  This is just one of a set.  They are heavy and huge and very hard to manipulate. That is a sixteen ounce cup in front of it in the picture, just to give you an idea of the size.

So I was looking through this book a couple of weeks ago and I found this soup! I did make one change in that I am leaving out the chicken, adding in bacon and a bit more cheese.  So this is my attempt at a new soup for a new year.
My Corn, Bacon and Sweet Potato Soup
The original recipe was a first place winner and she had a nifty trick to really make it wonderful.  

3 C. of whole milk
1 c yellow corn muffin mix (Jiffy)
2 T. butter
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. dried oregano
2 qts of chicken broth
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed in 1/2 inch pieces
1 c shredded cheese, plus a cup to be served with the soup
3 c of frozen corn
1/2 c flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
1 lb of thick cut bacon

Mix the milk and corn muffin mix up and set aside for now.
Melt the butter and cook the onion till tender, about 5-8 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin and oregano, saute for a 2 minutes.  Add chicken broth and the sweet potatoes, bring to a boil then turn heat down to low and let this simmer till the potatoes are fork tender, about 8 minutes.
Stir in the milk mixture and simmer another 10 minutes.  Add the corn and cheese and simmer till the cheese is melted.

While the soup is cooking, dice up the bacon and pan fry till crisp.  Drain and then just before the soup is ready to serve, toss the bacon on top.  Serve the soup with additional cheese to sprinkle on top, sour cream would also be good on this.

Variation- you could add a white potato to the soup as well.  For a twist on this, chop up a jalapeno and saute with the onions.  Add more heat with red pepper flakes.  And no, I cannot let a recipe alone....well not all the time.

Christmas Day...

'Tis the day...the day many wait for all year along.  I would be in that group.  I plan for this day starting way back in January.  I start thinking about what to serve, to buy and to do.  I want to create those memories that are reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell picture.  I fall short, a lot, but I figure that falling short is better that not aiming at all; and most of our Christmases have happy, warm memories.  We have had great ones and good ones; never a bad one.  I have tried to make them meaningful for our kids as well as for my husband and myself.  The number one aim has been family time.  That was far easier when our children were youngsters.  Now they are adult children still living at home and the rules are changing.  Finding the balance between independence and wanting to be at home gets a little tricky.  It helps that nothing is open on Christmas, for which I am thankful.

We have brought the intensity of Christmas down over the years.  We now do a secret Santa; we all draw names and buy something for that person only.  Secret Santa also adds an element of sneakiness, hush-hush, and subterfuge.  Kent always tries to guess who-has-who, as does Ethan.  I am just glad that I can pull it off and not spill it to someone, like where I had been shopping, or why was I at Backwoods?  We put a monetary limit on gifts, and hand out lists with at least three items.  All the items have to be reasonable, so no 2014 Mustangs allowed, even if it looks cute on the list.  We stress that the gift need to be well thought out; no gift cards.  Sometimes this can be a struggle.

This year I drew my 20 year old daughter, Emily, who had just bought a bunch of stuff from William Sonoma, where she got a 40% discount.  So I have a new candy apple red Kitchenaid mixer on my counter (looks so pretty and I am so jealous) and several other items.  To top it off, she had no idea of what she might want or like and so was no help.  I was way out of my league... My other daughter, Clare, and I were out shopping on Christmas Eve and I had very little time to make this happen and somehow I wasn't to let Clare in on it.  Obviously, that was not going to work.  So I did what any savvy smart mom would do - I spilled to Clare and asked for her help.  It worked.
We found Emily a gorgeous soft brown knit dress, and she liked it!  Score!!!!!

Now, that is how we roll at our house.  Kent had figured out that Clare had me, (also Clare and I were so tired and she still had her secret Santa to buy for, which was me so I picked out my gifts, she wrapped them and I over acted surprised, we had a blast).  So we unwrapped gifts, made Swedish pancakes, bacon and hot apple cider.  We watched a movie after breakfast (which was around 11:00) and then took naps, yea!  And then we knitted, watched more movies and just hung out.

Christmas dinner is in the oven, Brown sugar crusted ham, cheesy potatoes, and a spinach salad with mixed berries. 

It was a very good day.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Stove...

I measure how clean my kitchen is by how clean is the stove top.  I can get all the counters clean, the sink scrubbed till shiny, dishwasher empty....then there is the stove.  It is covered in splattered, cooked on messes.  I find bits of hard macaroni from the kids making the blue box.  There are crumbs, splashes and muck on every piece.  So everything has to come off, burner grates (I have a gas stove), burner covers and there it is ready to be soaped, scrubbed and wiped clean.

Only it doesn't go that easy....there are pieces of junk that have become one with the stove, crumbs that move out of the way of the dish clothe, spots that my green scrubby sponge won't lift.  I spray cleaner on it and let it sit for 5 minutes while I work on the covers and grates.  I hate cleaning the grates by hand, I rather place them in the dishwasher, but I need to cook again soon.  I try to do it at night, but my brain is off so it doesn't  even register that I need to get them in the dishwasher before I run it.

So back to the stove top; someone has left the front door open and beautiful sun shine is now lighting up my stove, showing every layer of grease on the stove and on the knobs, under the knobs, next to the knobs and then I see it.  The entire front of the stove, the glass window to the oven, is covered in drips and chunks of who knows what.  It looks like I have not touched it in months, yet I know I did it last week!

So now the knobs, face plate and entire front of the stove get sprayed....and it needs to sit for a bit.  I hate trying to clean the knobs, there is no easy flat surface to scrub, so using the green scrubby sponge and a dishcloth I try to get them clean.  Of course I leave a burger knob turned on slightly, it smells like something died and starting rotting in fast action.  Whew, then I remember, O boy check the knobs make sure they are all off and stay off as I scrub them.  No luck the sun is still hitting them and they still look grimy.
Bring on the toothbrush.....hold the knob, scrub the knob with the tooth brush, work it behind the knob and clean, clean, and clean.  Finally the sun  moves on and my stove is clean....no more sun showing the grime and it looks good, especially since I can no longer see the stuck on stuff.

A clean stove means no cooking that night, I need at least one evening knowing that it is clean and will stay clean for just a bit of time.

Then tomorrow I will cook again, and try to wipe it down so that it will stay clean until my kids decide they need food.  The concept of cleaning has not arrived yet in their minds, it will come, it did for me!.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Season

We are only a couple of weeks from Christmas. I am sitting in front of my decorated tree, watching the Texas Tenors sing their adorable heads off.  Very Christmas spirit type of stuff...love this.

I wish I could put into words what listening to this type of music does to my insides...it is like my soul sings along with them. Heaven knows my voice can't.  But this type of music does resonate somewhere deep inside of me and gives me such depth of feeling but such peace all at the same time.  From the incrediable voices to the strings being played with such talent, the thrill of the sound brings tears to my eyes because of it's beauty.  I would be a puddle on the floor if I allowed myself.

I think this is one of the reasons I love this time of the year.  I love being able to enjoy the sense of goodwill that everyone is demonstrating.  I am full of the season.  My family not so much.  I am coming to the conslusion I may have to enjoy the season a bit on my own.  I can only create events that show the season.  They have to decide if they are going to embrace it.  On some level that makes me sad...I remember how excited they would get with Christmas around the corner.  Those of you who have young ones, please take the time to enjoy it with them.  It really is such a pocket of time that is here then gone forever.

There are so many things I would do differently...I was way too stressed about my kids bothering others, keeping the house clean, trying to keep messes from happening.  I really did not understand that my kids just wanted me!  Not the newest toy (that didn't hurt), not the next TV program.  They wanted their daddy and mommy; and that is why God gave us grandchildren.

But I can still make a hit with a meal.  And I did that the other night with homemade pasta and a chicken with Dijon mustard cream sauce that was dynamite.

I saw this pasta on America's Test Kitchen (click and view the video) and have been making it over and over.  We did this in our Middle school cooking class.  The kids loved it and some took balls of it home to roll out for dinner that night!
2 c of flour, 2 T. olive oil, 2 whole eggs, 6 egg yolks.  Mix is a food processor till it makes a sticky ball.  Remove the ball and using as little flour as possible
 roll it out into a log, about 6-8 inches log.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours (ours went about 6 and longer and it was fine).  Cut into 6 equal portions, cover the 5 not in use.  Pat into a 3 inch rectangle, then dusting your board with flour roll out.  Start in the middle and roll up, then the middle and roll down.  Flip and turn and do this over and over till the dough is very thin.  Lay on a towel, repeat with the rest.  Once they are all done, let the sheets dry for 15 minutes.
Fold the sheets of dough onto itself, making them about 2-3 inches deep.  Slice the dough into strips.  Unfold them, toss them with a little flour and you are ready to cook.  Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook your pasta for about three minutes.  Drain and enjoy.  It really is that easy.

I made my Winter Night Chicken with the home made pasta!

Winter Night Chicken-a nod to Kathleen Flinn and the amazing recipe I learned from her book, “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School”.

2 lbs of bone in, skin on chicken thighs & olive oil plus butter; kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper; 8 oz of cremini mushrooms, sliced; 2 springs of fresh rosemary and several of fresh thyme (purchase the poultry bundle and you will have several different ones); 3 T. Dijon mustard; 1 1/2 c heavy cream; 
In a heavy oven proof skillet (cast iron) heat about 4 T. olive oil and 2 T.
butter.  Once it is hot, lay the thighs skin side down to brown.  Walk away...let them brown.  About 6 minutes later turn the meat over, add the mushrooms, lay the springs of herbs on top, 1/2 t each salt and pepper, place in a 400 degree oven for another 20 minutes.  This will finish the meat cooking. 
Bring the skillet back to the stove top, over medium heat, remove the dead springs of herbs.  Mix the cream with the Dijon mustard, pour over the meat and let it come to a bubble. 
Meanwhile bring a lb of fettuccini to boil, cook till al dente.
Serve the chicken and sauce over the pasta.  As usual good crusty bread goes well with this dish. 

This is my tree that my dear friend Jackie helped me do.  My family has been gone working, working and more working, so with her help I got a lot of decorating done.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Meal

What a beautiful day yesterday was!!  We had a wonderful meal; stress-less and tasty.  The turkey came out perfectly...and we have enough left over for turkey sandwiches over the weekend.

I have a friend that I have known for 22 years and have worked with for about 10 years; I have grown to love her dearly.  She is invaluable as she really keeps me focused with at work.  We are also both foodies and love to talk about recipes and cookbooks.  She also has a lot of wisdom in dealing with life.

One day a few weeks ago, while we had a couple of seconds, we got onto the topic of china. I told my friend about my great grandmother's China that has been in the family since 1925.  Grandma Wyckoff bought it either from someone one she knew or brand new for around $500.00.  We aren't really sure. But just imagine how much money that was 88 years ago!  It still is a lot in my book.  But, my Grandma Wyckoff liked nice things. Yet, she was clever about how she purchased her home furnishings.  Tragically, the house caught fire on a cold night in January, 1980.  My Grandpa Wyckoff was killed in the fire; he was 89.  My Grandma died 6 years prior in a nursing home.

Much was lost in that fire - so many things that evoked memories were simply gone.  Only a few things were left; tables, chairs, Grandma's overstuffed chair that she sat in to do her sewing, the table that held the lamp she used to see with.  And the china cabinet survived with all the china in it.  My Grandma Marsh ended up with the china, only she never used it.  Never.  She was afraid to use it, and she didn't want to spend the time washing the pieces by hand.  Those pieces could not go into the dish washer since they were rimmed with 24 carat gold.  So, they sat for 43 years!  Well, almost.  My mom recently reminded me that we used them about 10 years ago for Christmas dinner at her house. 

Mom finally decided that the best place for the china was with me.  And I intend to use it on a regular basis.  It's value, to me, lies in it being used and loved rather than safely stored in a cabinet never seeing the light of day.  I want my daughters to acquire an emotional bond with these dishes.  I hope that doesn't sound too silly, but I simply wish that my girls to see and use the china to keep a new tradition going and to make a connection across my family's generations.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Due Diligence...

Diligence.  The word haunts me.  I am not cut out for it.  I give up, procrastinate, hide behind a box.  I seem to lack the gene for staying power, and I know I am not alone.  I want to focus more - to keep my house super clean, keep the dog hair out of the corners, clean the cushions of the doggy chair.  I want to place glorious meals on the perfectly decorated table while wearing a cute apron, of course.
Due Diligence; doing the right thing, doing what you need to do, doing it and feeling a sense of accomplishment....hmm.  How can I do this and keep balance in my life?  I am learning that I am very off balance.  I want to do so much, yet time evaporates... or wastes away while watching T.V.

I am getting ready to cut the cable.  For many of you that doesn't sound like a bad thing.  Many of you have no umbilical cord to the remote.  But when I grew up, watching T.V. together in the living room was how we had family time.  My brothers and I acted as the remote.  We sat on the floor at my mom and dad's feet and for the first time all day that we were together.  We ate dinner at the table, cleaned up and sat down.  We only had three channels back then and we had a network that we watched more faithfully.  As we got older, mom and dad would sit at the dinning room table with my grandmother and talk, or play Parcheesi.  We played, had cut throat competition and we laughed.  So for me T.V. watching has always been a family event.  No longer.

These days it gets watched on different T.V.s and computers.  Everyone has their own entertainment center, bedrooms, dens, living rooms and family rooms.  It seems hardly anyone in the family watches the same show.  I have one daughter who dosen't watch tv at all.  If we are watching a special movie, then maybe.  Losing the multi-channel (about 100 real channels, not shopping and such) idiot box is huge for me. But our new budget has no room for the cost.

So that is one rung toward the goal of not wasting time.  That is the biggest rung for me.  My health also plays into this.  I have limited mobility; limited but not gone all together.  So I am going to push myself to do more; baby steps, but steps.

So, due diligence....doing what is right, doing what needs to be done, putting the effort and work into a plan.  What is my Plan?  I am still working out the details, but foremost it includes cooking and recipes. I do simple cooking - simple but yummy recipes.  I believe in cooking for my family, eating at home and cleaning up the dishes.  I love to have a clean kitchen and a shiny sink.  That is my plan...

Stay tuned and join me for simple, tasty recipes. Recipes resulting from simple shopping and easy preparation but full of flavor. 

But this would not be a recipe site with out a recipe:

My simple dry brined, spiced rubbed turkey

12-14 lb turkey
1 double batch of McCormick Turkey Rub
1 onion
1 lemon
1 bunch of rosemary, thyme and sage from a purchased poultry fresh herb blend
1 stick of softened butter

Two days before you plan to cook your turkey, you will dry brine the bird. 
Remove the bird from it's packaging and rinse the whole bird.  Remove the neck and save for later (I make stock with it), find the bag of stuff and either discard or use later.
Place the turkey on a small sheet pan, with sides.
3-4 T. of kosher salt, do not use regular "table" salt.  It will leave a metallic taste.
Sprinkle the salt all over the bird, it should look like it has snowed.  Place the bird uncovered in the fridge.  You could loosely cover it with wax paper if you have too.
The salt melts into and through the skin, it keeps the meat moist.  Also drying out the skin helps to produce and great crispy skin.

Day of cooking!
First thing you must do is turn the oven on to 500 degrees.  The oven needs 20 minutes to truly heat up.
Rinse the bird, then place on a rimmed sheet pat.  Using paper towel dry the bird completely.
Peel the onion and cut into chunks, cut the lemon in half.  Stuff half the onion inside the cavity, the lemon, a spring of rosemary, sage and thyme. Rub the butter all over the bird.  Sprinkle the McCormick Turkey Rub over  the entire bird. 
Now place your turkey in the oven, legs first, and set your timer for 30 minutes. 

When the timer goes off, remove the bird, and cover the breast meat with a piece of buttered foil,  This helps keep the breast meat protected.  Turn the oven down to 350.

Now I am going to tell you what I do, this is not what our wonderful gov. tells you to do.  You do want you wish.  This is simply how I do it. 
I cook my bird until the temp between the leg and breast meat reaches 150 degrees, (my bird is un-stuffed).  I then cover the entire bird with foil, tightly.  The bird must rest for a good 20 minutes.  The temp of the bird will continue to rise and will hit 165 for 15 seconds, which kills everything bad.  But you will have a moist, tasty bird. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I am building an Ark

At least that is what my animals have asked of me.  Our back yard looks like a white water rafting river for chickens.  Little white headed waves rolling down our yard to the new and growing pond on the south side of the front yard.  Please Lord move the system out of here????  We have had enough for a while.

You always hate to complain about getting too much rain when for the last couple of years we have had such a need for it.  So I pray very carefully.  But we are starting to have real issues and my heart breaks for all those who have had floods in their houses; with no insurance I don't know how they will come back from it all.

Meanwhile I have been cooking....using up leftovers has been my goal this week.  I had left over flat iron steak that I wanted to use up so I threw a bunch of stuff together out of the pantry and fridge and came up with this.  It was pretty good, and my hubby liked it.  Ethan ate it and I usually can't get him to eat left overs of any kind.

Stir-Fry on the Fly

3 cups of colored peppers, cut into thin strips
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed then minced
4 green onions, cut in 1/2 inch pieces on the bias all the way up to the ends
4 more green onions sliced thinly, including the greens
1 lb of left over steak or you can use raw steak and cook it a bit longer; cut into thin strips
2 eggs
1 lime, squeezed
1/4 c fish sauce
1/4 or more bunch of cilantro coarsely chopped
1 t. of more red pepper flakes
1 lb of udon noodles or you can use spaghetti, but I love Udon noodles

I used my enameled cast iron pot and heated it up with olive oil, I normally would use grapeseed but I was out. So heat your wok or pan to a high heat.  Teflon covered pans do not preform well at high heat so avoid them if at all possible, if you have know choice keep your heat to a medium high.
Once the oil is sizzling add your peppers and onions.  Move them around and let them just start to cook.  If you are using raw meat add it now and keep it moving.  When it is about half way cooked add the garlic.  Keep moving everything around.
Meanwhile bring a pot of water to boil and prepare your noodles, cook, drain and hold.
When your meat has pink it is still add the eggs and scramble them up into the mixture.  Turn your heat off and add the lime juice, fish sauce, cilantro, pepper flakes and noodles.  Toss everything together to mix well. Serve in bowls with additional lime wedges.

You can add these two sauces to the dish to spice up.  You can use any type of meat, ground beef, chicken ect...you can also add any veggie.  Just cook your harder veggies first. This recipe is a process and can be tailored to your taste.  Don't be afraid it is only cooking!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A little Thai cooking!

I was watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, a favorite show.  It showed this talented gentleman from Thailand make this simple, healthy, low-carb salad that I have now made twice.  It is called Pork Larb and it takes minutes to make and is so good.  It turned out to be a huge hit in my family.  So here is the recipe, enjoy.

 from yummy.com

Adapted from Serious Eats

3/4 lb of lean ground pork (you could use beef, chicken or turkey if you like)
2 c shredded carrot
1 c red onion, cut thinly into slivers
1/2 c fish sauce
1/4-1/2 c of fresh squeezed lime juice, and more limes to serve with the meal
2 c shredded red and or green cabbage
2 scallions, cut thinly
1/2 c basil, preferably Thai if you can find it-chopped
1/2 c cilantro-chopped
1/4 c fresh mint leaves-torn
2 T. red pepper flakes (optional)
2 T. honey
Cold Romaine Heart Leaves

In a large skillet, brown your meat till cooked through, drain away any grease.  With the heat on add your carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, then add your onions and let this cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Turn the heat off and add everything else to and toss to coat.  Taste and adjust the seasoning to suite you.
I like lots of fish sauce and pepper flakes.
Fish sauce can now be found at most large grocery stores, or better yet Asian markets.  They charge a lot less.  My favorite Asian market is over on Harry between Web and 143rd.  I buy most anything there that I need.
Serve this with lettuce leaves for wrap or scooping.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Corned Beef Hash-Done

The cool morning yesterday at the Old Town Farmers Market was amazing.  Full sunshine, light breeze and temps in the 60's.  It was so beautiful and enjoyable.  We chopped, we cooked and we went with the flow.  The menu for the day was scratch made corned beef, and flat bread with roasted veggies and a local white cheddar.  So here are the recipes

Scratch Made Corned Beef
Warning: This takes 10 days to brine, so plan accordingly, it is so worth the planning.

I used Alton Browns brine recipe for the grass fed brisket from Graze the Prairie Ranch in Beaumont Ks. 

Alton Brown here is his recipe.  Tip: rinse your brisket well before cooking it.  You will find that your final dish will not need salt.

Roast your brisket in a 250 degree oven for 8 hours.  You can let your creativity come out here. Always add about 4 cups of water to prevent it from burning or drying out.

In your roasting pan layer 2 onions sliced thinly, add about 12 whole peeled garlic cloves; place your brisket on top and cover tightly.  I will often use an oven bag.  Into the oven for an all day slow roast. 

Now the fun starts; what to do with all that corned beef?  Ruben sandwiches are a great choice, but our favorite is Hash!

Farmers Market Corned Beef Hash 
2 lbs of fresh made corned beef, roasted and shredded
2 cups of fresh corn, removed from the cobb
1-2 green, red, orange peppers (your choice) diced
1 red onion sliced thinly
4 cups of red potatoes, diced and boiled till tender
8 farm fresh eggs

In a large skillet start with a couple knobs of butter (about 4 T).  Add the onions and saute for about 3 minutes, then the corn and peppers.  Saute for about 4 minutes till they just begin to soften.  Now add the brisket.  You will want to warm the brisket up,  I like to press it down into the pan and allow it to get crusty.  You may need add more butter in order to keep everything browning.  Once you start to get the meat crispy add your potatoes.  Stir and continue to cook till everything is really hot.  Turn your heat down and flatten the hash down into the skillet.  Make 8 small indentations; crack an egg into a small bowl, one at a time, then tip the egg into the shallow cup into the hash, repeat with the remainder of the eggs.  Place a lid on the skillet and allow the eggs to cook, or you can place your skillet (if it is oven proof) under the broiler, or you can scramble the eggs into the hash.  Your choice.
Serve with fresh fruit and whole wheat sourdough toast from Crust and Crumb Bakery out of Newton, but available at the market.

Roasted Veggies on Flat Bread
Delano Bakery has these great flat breads that are par-baked and ready for you to top and enjoy,
Pick your veggies of choice-zucchini, eggplant, onions, peppers; what ever you like.  Grill the veggies with a bit of olive oil and kosher salt.  I like to grill the veggies in large pieces then cut them down for the flat bread.
You can add meat if you like (we used the brisket), keep the size similar to the veggie pieces so that everything will heat evenly.

Top your flat bread with any cooked meat and roasted veggies that you like and have on hand.  Top with your favorite cheese, we used a local raw milk hearty cheddar.  You can then place them in the oven at 350 till the cheese is all melty and the flat bread a bit crispy.  You can also place these on your grill, cover with the lid and let them finish.  Do watch them carefully so that they don't burn.


In two weeks I will be preparing a a locally grown and processed chicken from Faye Farms out of Udall.  I will cook the bird whole, on the grill.  But don't forget checking out the Old Town Farmers Market each Saturday from 7:00-12:00.  A great way to find new friends and eat healthy.
See you there!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day three and doing great, not just good, but great.  I feel better than I have felt in years.  I don't have that bloated, heavy, sluggish feeling that I thought was normal.  Guess what?  It is not normal!  I could get use to this.

I am trying to be very honest with myself about my eating.  I have to work on the why in order to keep the weight at bay.  I am trying to figure out why I over eat and what plan to put in place.  Here is a couple of things I have started to figure out.

1.  I am an emotional eater, give me an emotion and I eat.  I eat out of sheer boredom....sitting in front of the TV and my mind goes off and I eat.  I don't really enjoy what I eat, I just consume.

2. I do not eat what I truly want....I eat what is either around or what I think my family will eat.  There are certain menus and foods that get me really excited-Maui Maui with a Mango Jalapeno Salsa....A fresh Corn salad with feta cheese.  Steak with Blue Cheese Butter....and so forth.  I have pictures in my head about what food I would really like to eat, and that is what I am going to act upon.  My family will simply have to come along for the ride....

3. I eat out of anger....when I get upset at my dear hubby, I go an eat....my internal voice goes something like this..."I will show him, I will eat....cake, brownie, cereal with toast, pbj, I will show him I am in control of my world"....can we say crazy thinking?  Insane internal voice?  Who am I hurting?  Not my hubby, even in some type of twisted way.  Wow! how we lie to ourselves.

4. Finding a positive turn around.  When we have these negative crazy thoughts instead of acting on them in a way that will be negative against ourselves, what can I do that would be positive?  When I get bored and my mind starts an inventory of the pantry and fridge, what can I do that will be beneficial to myself?  Here is my list:- have a knitting project, read or listen to my Bible, knit and listen to my Bible or an audio book.  Go outside and take a look at my flowers, garden, animals, sunset anything to just remove myself.  Work on my recipe books....I have a couple of Smash Books that I seem to never have time to work on...

Get the idea?  Do something anything positive....change that internal voice that screams at us all the time with false information.  I will no longer be defined by my weight.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chapter One, Page Two

Day Two:

I ate my dinner, and did not eat anything else.  That was hard, and the more I thought about it the harder it was.  So I watched a non-food show and tried to get a new knitting project going.  I did keep from eating, but am still figuring out which knitting project.

When I started to think on food and what I "couldn't" have I kept honest and asked myself am I hungry?  I wasn't....and I refused to think about what there might be to eat.  I, with tons of prayers from other, did not give in.  When I went to bed I was hungry, but you know what, I was not going to die from it.  So I just went to bed and slept like a log.

When I got up this morning, I sat and took inventory of how I felt.  Was my pain there, yes, was I tired?  No I wasn't, I felt pretty good.  Mornings for me are really hard, I feel sluggish, and in a lot of pain. I usually feel so tired....bone aching tired.  I still had pain, but I felt good.  So off I went to take my shower and weight myself...according to the scale I was down 6lbs.

Now I asked myself how could I loose that much in only one day....then I thought I really don't care....I am going by what the scale said.  So I am down 6 lbs!!!!!  And I feel well rested.

So day two is in motion!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Chapter One...

Here we go....a new chapter, taking back control, living a better life.  All of this is my new motto.  I want to live long and I need to live healthy...that can not be done at my current weight.  So it must change.
Today I have started my new lifestyle.  It will be hard, change always is, but change is usually good.

How does a person who loves to cook, loves food, and enjoys loving on people through food do on a diet? How do I meet that internal God given passion and lose weight?  Diets are just that diets, but the word die has more meaning than just the perceived drought of food.  Jesus informs us that we must die to self in order to follow Him, could this mean dying to food as we eat it in today's world?  Could it mean actually giving up things in order to turn toward Christ whole heatedly?  I think so.

With that said I am going to go on a "diet" and lay my food will before His feet and each day die to it.  But I still have the passion that God has given me and I am going to turn that towards my "diet" and learn to eat differently, healthy and with control.

My first day I have done my shake and lunch will be a couple of hard boiled eggs (which I love and never make), handful of raw almonds.  I was not as prepared as I should have been, but tomorrow will be a little better. Tonight I am having Mexican Pile On, a bed of romaine lettuce, 4-6 ounces of protein, beef, cheese, sour cream, then a few tomatoes and salsa.  Then I find a new knitting project, because if I am knitting I can't eat.  I will need to give up watching a lot of my cooking shows, I will record them.  It is hard to see the food and not replicate it at home.

I have several health problems, I have 2 heart mummers, high blood pressure, an arthritic knee, and something called Charot's Foot which is pretty serious and non-reversible.  Taking the weight off will be the best thing for it. I have belly fat which is bad all the way around.  I want to change all of this and it is all related to weight.

Today is my first day of chapter one.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Seeing is Beliving...

It was sunny, then a little cloudy, a bit of wind, but lots and lots of heat.  So to all you brave people who came out to the Old Town Farmers Market, my hat is off to you.  We had fun, we cooked, we ate, and we talked.  Here are some photos of Saturday.

It was really hot grilling but the brats were well worth it.

The table loaded with food, sauerkraut, bread with home made butter....

We had fun....

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sour What?

What a great time we had at the Old Town Farmers Market this morning!  It was hot and muggy, but what better way can a group of like-minded spend our time than chatting, drinking cherry limeade, eating kettle corn, watching the kids be thrilled with balloon creations, and eating fresh, homemade bread?  We had fun.

At the Chef's Table we demonstrated what fermented food is, how to make it, and then, the best part, how to eat it.  We also made real butter....my gosh, if I had known that it was this easy I would have done it much sooner.  Seven minutes in the food processor, and presto: cream transforms into golden globs of buttery goodness.  I had made a batch in my Kitchenaid the night before but using the food processor was faster. 

Fermented foods have so many beneficial qualities, and our society has lost the art of creating these foods.  But what if the medical studies continue to prove that those qualities could make us healthier....really healthy?  Now, the medical community is slow but our great grandparents where not.  I strongly believe that food is the best medicine we have.  Today's food can either be the worst poison or the very best medicine.  We choose with our wallets which of the two we believe it is.
So, one of the best things we can eat is fermented foods; coffee, chocolate, tea, sauerkraut, yogurt, and cultured butter, milk and so much more.

All the recipes or techniques come from the book "Real Food Fermentation" by Alex Lewin

Cultured Butter

1 qt. of raw heavy cream (find a local farmer, or message me on Facebook)
a bit of real sea salt

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, add about half the cream.  Secure the lid and turn on...walk away or watch.  In about 7-10 minutes, you will have large globs of butter and the milky whey.  Strain the mixture, separating the whey from the butter.  Knead the butter with your hands, squeezing the whey out.  Rinse the butter and knead  a bit more.  Store in the fridge and enjoy on bread purchased from "Crumb and Crust", some of the best bread I have had in years.  Thank you for this treat.


Most any crisp veggie can be used.
2 lbs of shredded green cabbage (you can add purple if you like, but the color does fade)
1 onion sliced very thin
2 adult carrots- shredded
2 cucumbers

Once everything is sliced, add 2-3 t. of sea salt.  Mash the mixture with your hands, turning and crushing.  Do this for about 15 minutes, on and off.  Once everything is mashed and moisture starts to build up, stuff sterilized qt. mason jars - and I do mean stuff - with the sauerkraut. The liquid should come to the top.  Put lids and rings on the jars and set on a baking sheet in a cool dark area.
On each of the first four days, let the gases that build up out by taking the lid off . It will be messy, so do it over the sink.

Get the book and read up on how you can provide some medicine via food for your family.  They may balk at first, but keep at it.

I would like to thank Pat Randles and all of those at the the Help Table who make my time at the Chef's Table so much fun.  Also a huge shout out to Eric who helped at the table today.  Eric, you were fun and so helpful...Thank you!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hummus and Home Grown Chicken...

I have been on vacation, but I am home and ready to hit the computer keys. It was nice to get away, but it is always great to get back to your own bed!

I have been cooking like crazy...a clean kitchen really helps to produce great meals.

Made brown beans with ham hocks....home made corn bread and fried potatoes.  I soaked the beans in water all night.  This really did create a creamier bean....the gravy from the beans was thick and rich.  The smoke flavor from the ham hocks laced the beans and they were so good.  I love my spilled over cornbread and the soaked bread is almost like a pudding.

Then Sunday Night....

I took our last home grown chicken, cut the back bone out and open it up.  Then I rubbed the bird with olive oil than about a cup of Z'atar seasoning.  Rub it under the skin as well.  Brown the bird in an oven proof skillet....flip the bird skin side up and roast it in the oven at 400 degrees till it is 160 internally and the juices run clear.

Home Made Hummus

2 cans of garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 c of tahini paste (can be found at most any store now)
1 T ground cumin
1 T Z'atar seasoning
1-2 t. of garlic salt
juice from on lemon
olive oil

Place everything in a food processor or blender.  Blend till smooth add the olive oil to thin it out a bit.  Taste and adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Take about 8 pitas, brush them with olive oil and sprinkle lots of the Z'atar seasoning over them.  Pop them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Serve the pita with hummus spread on it topped with the chicken.  You can also serve olives and those tiny dill pickles on it.  A fresh vine ripe tomato diced up would be a great addition to the meal.

This was all eaten with great relish and gusto at our house.  I had very little hummus, no pita and 1/2 of the chicken.  Which got turned into my Son's famous chicken salad for Monday's dinner.  Way to hot to cook.

Today is my Son's 22 birthday....we are cooking out hamburgers and corn on the cob, baked potatoes, grilled veggies and tomatoes.  Cheesecake for dessert...just have to find a great cheesecake.

Monday, June 24, 2013


I love food; cooking it, reading about it, playing with it and of course eating it.  I watch true cooking shows on Food Network (when they show real cooking shows),  Cooking Channel ( again when they show real cooking shows), Public Television which does show all kinds of real cooking shows. I read cookbooks, I love to get a book out that I may not have looked at for a while, it's like striking up a conversation with an old friend.  I pull recipes from these books and give them a try...then write about it in my cooking journal.  More about my cooking journal later.

Taco Night!
This meal is simplicity itself, yet using the best ingredients I can get, it comes out tasting complicated and time consuming.  Love that!

Clare made this ....fresh ripe avocados, quartered cherry tomatoes, finely diced spicy jalapenos, fresh limes and kosher salt.  We leave chunks in our guacamole and wells as some mushed parts.  From this point you may add anything to your taste; cilantro, red onion, garlic, sour cream (?) and enjoy.

The star of the show?  Great meat...it's what sets the tone for the entire taco.  Since we are making a simple dish each ingredient matters, the better the items are in the recipe the better the overall dish will be  Use lean, flavorful ground chuck.  You can use ground round but you will need to add some olive oil to get a bit more fat.  You need the fat to help ingnient the spices that you add to make taco meat well tacos.  Ground chuck has fat, and that adds flavor to the meat.  Once you have cooked your onions and meat, spoon off most of the fat, than add your spices, let them heat up and caramelize a bit.  Then add the water that the package usually asks for.  Also I only add about half the package of seasoning: the entire envelope adds to much salt.

I fried up our flour and corn tortillas and built wonderful tacos,  Again this is just a blue print for your tacos, but the beauty of it all is the simplicity of a great family meal.

Simple Tacos

1 lb of ground chuck hamburger
1/2 c finely diced onion
3 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 packet of taco seasoning
1/2 c water

In a cast iron skillet (because I like cast iron the best) brown your meat and onions.  When no longer pink, spoon off most of the fat, leave a bit behind for flavoring.
Add the taco seasoning and water, let this simmer for about 10 minutes.

Re-fried Black Beans

2 (14 oz)  cans of black beans
1 skillet

Heat beans with the liquid in a skillet, mash with the back of a spoon till they are creamy and hot.  I like to add cheese and heat it with the beans.


8 flour, 4 corn
I fry these in a bit of oil till crispy and lightly brown.

Serve with the usual; shredded lettuce and cheese, lime wedges, sour cream and what ever you like.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


How many of us even know what fermentation is?  Do we turn our nose up at this word?  Do we see it as something smelly and sour?  Well you would be right about that....it can be very aromatic and it can be sour, in a good way.  But there is a new rage on the horizon that is about to sweep all in it's path, making pro-biotics at home in your own kitchen.  Who needs to purchase pills and liquids that may a only have half their original number still alive?  and it has been found over and over that getting our nutrition through food serves our bodies far better than getting it through pills or other man made forms.  So be prepared, fermentation is here.

Fermentation is an old and time honored way to preserve food.  Long before any form of refrigeration existed, salt and drying was the way to keep food for long, long periods of time.  Then through the making of mead and ale other forms were discovered, kind of.  Sauerkraut is simply salt and chopped up cabbage; but put together and left alone well a sour, savory, sweet and salty glob is created that taste great with brats and Ruben sandwiches. While that cabbage and salt are making friends, others come and join the party.  Those others make up what we call today pro-biotics.....and guess what they keep us healthy...very healthy.  They give our immune system a huge boost....better than anything else we can take.
But the trick is to get it through food and not a plastic bottle that said's it has five hundred million live bugs, but in reality most of them die on their way to you.

So, fermentation...the new/old health benefit that we left and are now returning to in our search for longevity. Almost anything can be fermented...some are more tasty than others, that is a matter of personal choice.  Some may take time to develop a taste for others you may never like.  But the options are many in the forms of fermented food that you will find a couple that you do like.

Yogurt is the most common fermented food that we are familiar with.  Yogurt made from raw milk has even more healthy benefits because nothing has been cooked out and destroyed.  If you want learn more about raw milk head over to your local undercover dairy and take a look at how it is collected, stored, processed and is sold, all under the dark, stern face of big brother.  I am all about safety but really now!

I am reading my fist book on this whole process, I am fairly ignorant and I am trying to learn me some information.  The first book I am starting with is "Real Food Fermentation; Preserving whole fresh food wit live cultures in your home".  I have just started it and am actually understanding it what it is talking about, so far.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Another fabulous salad with high protein, fiber and anti-oxidant health benefits.

Ribbons and Bow Veggie Salad

Farmers Market Veggies- fresh carrots, zucchini, radishes, onions, green beans, and what ever else you might like
2-3 cups of veggies cut into thin ribbons.  A mandolin works great here, you want thin ribbons.
1 lb of cooked bow tie pasta, rinsed and cooled.
1 lemon, zested and juiced
a good drizzle of olive oil-to your taste
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
2 c of fresh basil, torn into bite size pieces
Mix everything together and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes.
1/2 c feta cheese crumbled on top.
Here is a easy salad that will give you fiber, protein and anti-oxidants and still fill you up:

Garden Quinoa Salad
by Patricia Nieh Portola Valley, Ca.

Start to Finish: 30 min.
Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
3 c. water
1 lb fresh asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 lb. fresh sugar snap peas
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
2 T. olive oil
2 T lemon juice
2 T. minced fresh parsley
1 t grated lemon peel
3/4 t. salt
1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
3 T. sunflower seeds

1. In a large sauce pan, cook and stir quinoa over medium-high heat 3-5 minutes or until toasted.  Add water; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 12-15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.  Transfer to a large bowl.

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring 4 c water to a boil.  Add asparagus ad snap peas; cook, uncovered, 2-4 minutes or just until crisp-tender.  Remove vegetables and drop into ice water to shock and stop the cooking.  Repeat with the green beans cooking for 3-4 minutes.  Drain vegetables and pat dry.

3. In a small bowl, whisk oil, lemon juice, parsley, lemon zest and salt.  Add tomatoes ad blanched vegetables to quinoa; drizzle with dressing and toss to combine.  Top with sunflower seeds. 

per serving; 417 cal., 15 g fat, 58 g carb., 9 g. fiber, 16 g pro.

You can use a variety of veggies for this dish.  Quinoa is a great source of protein and fiber as well a micro nutrients.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Welcome to my new cyber home.  I have been looking for a name that would describe not only what I love to do - cooking - but the other half of what I love - journaling.  I have a few goals of what this blog will be about: cooking, of course, but also how keeping a journal about your meals can act as a glue to your family traditions.  For example, how did last Thanksgiving go?  Do you remember what worked and what didn't?  Do you remember what you served or how the cooking plan worked?  What did you use for decorations? Who should bring ice this year and who should bring the killer dessert?   Who helped me out the best and, my favorite, who was worthless? 

Wouldn't it be great to know what you served and the times that you truly enjoyed from year to year?  Who came?  What were the memorable moments?  This is only the beginning of what a cooking journal can do for you.

How many times have you seen a great recipe, then lost it?  I will either print the recipe out, or do the old fashion cut-it-out-and-paste-it right in my journal.  A "Smash" journal will work great for this as, well, kind of a scrapbook for the kitchen.

The final thing I want to accomplish is passing on simple recipes that make sense to the everyday cook who is working all day then pulling a meal together for the family.  Everyone in our family works or goes to school and gets home at different times.  Dinner is usually late and we are all beat.  Yet a meal needs to be cooked, eaten  and cleaned up before we fall asleep.  So, tasty and simple is a must.  More complicated meals are done on the weekend where I can enjoy the process with leisure.