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Monday, October 31, 2011

Taking Winter by Storm - Part I

I wish I could take credit for creating the term "Taking Winter by Storm", but alas, that came from the local government.  It is their campaign to get area residents ready for winter weather.

Now, if you've ever lived in Seattle, or seen the news during winter, you'll notice that a hard frost gets renamed "Winter Blast" or "Frost-ma-gedon" or something equally as overly-dramatic.  Last November, the Monday of Thanksgiving week, we had a decent amount of early snow.  We probably had 3 inches by noon, and when work sent everyone home around 1, I laughed and made fun of everyone for being so freaking whimpy about weather. 

Well, within an hour or so, I wasn't laughing any more.  A storm system came in that afternoon that brought with it ice and wind, and turned the 3 inches of snow in to one solid sheet of ice across the region.  The power went out, and Troy decided - despite the fact that we had just bought a kerosene heater - that we should head to his parent's house because they had a wood stove.  I did not want to go, and I believe I bratily stomped my foot saying no.  He insisted and since I rarely let him get his way (did I just admit that?), I relented.

That night taught me four things:
1) I am always right and I always need to listen to my gut
2) It's a good thing that lawyers and judges don't drive cars that identify they're lawyers or judges
3) Always been prepared.  Those little Boy Scouts know their stuff.
4) God bless Subaru and their AWD capability.

We were stuck in this horrible ice storm for THREE hours trying to go SEVEN miles to his parent's house.  I've never been so pissed off at Troy in our entire relationship.  I was freaking livid.  The wind pushed my car off the road, and hundreds of cars came so close to causing accidents during the entire trek.  I was literally exploding with so much rage because Troy dragged us in to that mess, that a few weeks later he commented that had a lawyer or a judge been in the car next to us during the storm, I would have walked over to their vehicle to file for divorce.  And he was right.  See "things that night taught me" point number two.

Thank god Jack napped for the whole trip.  By the time we got to the inlaws, their power was out too (ahem), but their wood stove did keep us quite warm. 

The next day, the area was iced in, and most employers were closed until after the Thanksgiving holiday.  When we finally got back to our apartment the next evening, we found it was 38 degrees inside.  I know we could have stayed warm with our kerosene heater, and lots of layers and and quilts.  Even though it took a full day for our apartment to get back to a warm temperature (worst and most inefficient heating system in the world), I made a vow that I will never again put my family in jeopardy because of the weather.

So, once a week for the next month, I will focus on how to keep your family safe and your home prepared for winter weather.  A bit timely for my East Coast readers I'm guessing...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spooky spooky spooky!

Deviled eggs recipe here.

Meal plan for October 31 - November 6th

Happy Halloween week to everyone!  I hope your kids come down from their sugar highs by at least Thursday.  Jack thinks candy is "yucky" (he is a strange little dude!), so I have a feeling that Troy will be enjoying whatever Jack gets in his bucket.

This week will be all treats with no tricks for dinner.  It's a busy week of late nights, so my cooking duty will be light.

Monday:: We're going to a friend's house for a Halloween party
To do - Prepare the homemade Bisquick for the chicken

Tuesday:: I'm trying a new way to make chicken "fingers".  I saw my MIL do this and it was awesome and so easy!  Will be served with fruit and sweet potato fries - which is the only form of potato my little dude will consume.

Wednesday:: I'm working late.  J will eat at my aunt's, and I'll have eggs or something simple when I get home.

Thursday:: I'm working really late!  Troy and Jack will either have grilled cheese, or they'll walk down to the little restaurant in our town.
To do - cook chicken for pizza

Friday:: BBQ chicken pizza (in-laws invited us over for dinner last week so this didn't get made), salad, and fruit
To do - prep marinade for pork roast

Saturday:: I'm trying my hand at making one of Troy's favorites - Hum Boa.  We'll see how it goes...I'll be serving with a cabbage salad

Sunday:: Dinner at my parent's
This week I spent $37 on really unhealthy foods.  Ugh.  The crackers are for the appetizer I'm bringing to the Halloween party tomorrow.  The candy is for um, the trick-or-treaters (it's hidden so Troy can't find it).  Pretzels are for more Take 5 bars.  YUM!

I spent $7 on raw milk, and $19 on $43 worth of organic produce.  I bought a Groupon a few months ago for a family box of produce from Full Circle Farm.  The order is getting delivered tomorrow!

And in other news, when we got the new stand up freezer a few weeks ago, I found a container of pumpkin puree that I made from my garden pumpkins in 2010.  I used it and made pumpkin pie baked oatmeal.  YUMMERS!  I used brown sugar, pecans, and a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.  I used apples at the bottom instead of bananas, and left out the berries.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Just this moment

No words, no explanation, no caption.  Started by Soulemama.

But I will break the rules to tell you the awesome editing is courtesy of my friend Kat.  Jack was in the cape and mask, but she did the rest!  Thanks Kat.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Take 5. Or more

I love healthy foods.  I love kale in smoothies, veggies, whole wheat products, pastured eggs, and tons of fresh fruit and quality meat.

But then, there are days.  You know those days.  The days where your toddler is driving you so crazy that you scrap your plan for dinner, and decide that popcorn on the couch while watching a DVD of Puppy Bowl seems to make the most sense because it keeps him QUIET.  Ahem.

Those days call for chocolate.  And peanut butter.  And salt.  

I found these bars on the Bru Cru Blog.  I licked the screen, I drooled, and then I made them.
Take 5 Bars
1/2 cup of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup peanut butter baking chips

2 cups chopped pretzels
2 cups chocolate chips
1 tsp shortening

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.

Cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs, vanilla, and peanut butter and cream again.  Slowly add the dry ingredients until it is mixed in.
Stir in the peanuts and peanut butter chips by hand.  Spread the dough into the prepared pan and bake for 24 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.
When completely cool, melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave safe bowl.  Stir every 30 seconds, so it doesn't burn.
Lay the chopped pretzels on top of the cooled bars and spread melted chocolate on top.
 Let set before making out with enjoying.

Stressed out about homemade bread? There is no knead to worry!

My love for my Dutch oven is well documented, and frankly a little weird.  I long for the day that Congress allows marriage between a person and their kitchen tools.  Dutchie and I would be so happy together.

Dutchie is a Martha Stewart dutch oven because well, that was the only company that had the exact blue color that I wanted.  I'm brand "loyal" like that...but you can get a less expensive version if you buy a Lodge product.  Lodge is a brand that is built to last, and still made in America.  You can find them online (omg, I love the green one), at Wal-Mart, I think Target, and I believe I've even seen them at Costco.  I'm guessing it would be a long hunt at Goodwill to track one of these down.  With the holidays coming up, a Dutch oven would be a great item to have on your wishlist.

Anyhoo, Dutchie and I decided to make some no-knead bread the other day to accompany some chicken soup.  I've made this multiple times ever since I read about it in Mother Earth News.  Apparently a few years ago (2007?  2008?), the NY Times ran an article on making artisan bread at home without a $10k fancy bread oven.  This recipe has been making it's way around the interwebs ever since.  And for good reason!  It's wickedly easy, and the result is fantastic.

It's been a year or so since I've made this, so I'm curious as to at what point in the last year, Troy added this very helpful ingredient
Oy, poor Jack.  With a mom who hits on guys in front of him, and a dad who writes fart jokes on recipes, this child is doomed.

Never fear if you're fresh out of farts, this recipe will still come off without a hitch.

No-Knead Dutch Oven Bread
Courtesy of Mother Earth News
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cup of warm water (I usually aim for about 110 degrees)
3 cups of flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 tsp of salt
I'm adding vital wheat gluten if using whole wheat

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water
Add the flour and salt.  If using whole wheat flour, use 1 tblsp of vital wheat gluten per cup of whole wheat.  The vital wheat gluten is vital (HA!) to helping your bread rise and not turn in to a dense hockey puck.  Stir the ingredients until just combined.  It will look ugly and shaggy.  That's ok.
Cover with plastic wrap.  Given the fruit fly orgies that have been taking place in my kitchen lately, I also covered the bowl with a cutting board to prevent my bread from becoming the staging area for a fruit fly reinactment of Caligula.  And no, my cutting board isn't dirty.  It's stained orange from all the carrots I've cut on it over the years.
Allow the the bowl sit for a minimum of 8 hours, but 12-18 are preferable.  I start this process the night before I want to eat the bread.  You're supposed to let it sit somewhere that is about 70 degrees, but I'm too cheap to pay to heat the house to 70 degrees.  Someone once told me that putting the bowl in the oven with the light on and the door closed will maintain a temp around 70 degrees.  Someone also once told me that if your hand was smaller than your face, then you had cancer.  So sometimes "someones" aren't reliable resources.  Regardless, I've never had a problem with this dough rising in temps under 70 degrees.
Flour a work surface, and remove the dough from the bowl.  Sprinkle the dough with flour, and fold it over itself once or twice.  Cover loosely with the plastic wrap from the bowl, and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
Flour your hands, and shape the dough in to a ball.  Generously coat a towel with flour or cornmeal and put the seam of the dough down on the towel, dust with more flour, and cover with the rest of the towel.  Allow to rise for 1-2 hours.
At least 20 minutes before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 475 degrees and put your covered dutch oven (or other high-temperature baking dish) in to the oven to preheat.  I like to put parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal in the bottom of the oven before setting it in the oven.

After the oven comes to the proper temperature, remove your baking dish and uncover.  Then, slide your hand under the towel, and carefully put the dough into the pot, seam side up.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the lid, and then bake another 15 ish minutes. 

Remove the bread without burning your hands on the pot that is the temperature of lava, and let the loaf cool on a wire rack for about a hour.
Want to serve this with something extra special?  Consider trying flavored butters.

Flavored butters are so easy.  If you want to go the sweet route, simply blend cold chunks of butter and honey in a food processor. 
You can also do butter and fresh herbs like chives, garlic, and parsley for a savory version.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chicken and dumplings - delicious, nourshing, and slutty

Slutty?  You can also file this post under "how Sarah becomes the whore of the bacon store".

Jack has named our local butcher the "bacon store" because that is usually a big part of our order when we go there.  Jack adores bacon - he's a smart boy like that.  This weekend, Jack and I headed to the bacon store to get some chicken and bacon for future meals.

While we were there, Chad - whom I think is the son of the owner - was talking about making chicken and dumplings later this weekend; that it had been "requested" by someone.  I piped up with "ohhhhhh, I have a great chicken and dumplings recipe"!  I couldn't remember the measurements, so I wrote my email address down and noted "email for Sarah's dumplings" on it.  I handed it to him and he gave me a smile.

Jack and I loaded our stuff in the car, and when I put my hands on the wheel to start to pull back in to the flow of traffic - I saw it.  Or rather, the lack of it.  My wedding ring.  My hands have been so dry lately that taking my ring on and off has left my knuckle shredded, so I haven't worn it much this week.

Sooooo, if you're in Chad's shoes, a woman without a ring just offered you her personal email, wrote "email for Sarah's dumplings" on it.  While holding her toddler son in her arms.  So, not only am I a "dumpling" offering flirt, I'm also apparently in the market for a new babydaddy for my boy.

Oy.  I think it might be a few weeks before I head back to the bacon store.  With my ring on.  And Troy in tow.

Given that this recipe is SO good that I'm willing to offer my contact info to strangers, you should probably make this ASAP.  Just don't whore yourself around town while doing so.  And if you happen to make it for your spouse, perhaps reminding them that they're the only one in the world for you would be a good move.

Sarah's Chicken and Dumplings (it's kind of like Matzo Ball soup for gentiles)
Originally stolen from some other website, but I don't remember what it is

Homemade chicken stock
Chicken, uncooked (hell you can use frozen) or cooked
Sliced carrots, celery, and onions
Salt & pepper to taste
Parsley, and lots of it!
A pinch of sage
Olive oil

I've made this in both my dutch oven (of course) and the large crockpot.  Both are delicious, but I love the taste of the veggies when they've been sauteed a little bit first.

In a heavy pan (perhaps a dutch oven if you will...), drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over sliced carrots and celery.  Saute for a bit until the veggies begin to soften just a little.  Add the onions, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Transfer to the crockpot at this point if you don't want to baby-sit the soup all day.

Cover the veggies with stock, and add the chicken if uncooked.  If using cooked chicken, add it in the last hour. If you're going to cook this all day, the frozen chicken will be done by time you serve this.  You'll likely get a white "scum" using this method, but it's so easy that I find myself doing it a lot.  I had cooked a whole chicken earlier in the day, so I used that shredded meat for this.  Side note: Jack does not like chicken or veggies in his chicken soup (yeah...toddlers), so I go light on the chicken when I'm making this for the whole family.  It's less stuff to "pick out" later.

If you're using the crockpot, this should be done after about 4 hours on high, or 6+ on low.

Now, for the dumplings:
2 cups of whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tblsp butter, melted
3/4 cup of milk
fresh diced herbs to taste (optional)

Mix the dry ingredients together, add the wet ingredients, and stir until just combined.

If cooking this in a pot, bring the soup to a boil, drop spoonfuls of the biscuits in the soup, reduce to a simmer and leave the lid on for about 15 minutes.  Resist the urge to open the lid.

If making this in the crockpot, turn the crockpot to high for a few minutes.  Drop the dough in the crockpot, put the lid back on, and wait about 25 minutes.
When you first add the dough, it will sink to the bottom
Then, put the lid on, and they'll start to pop to the surface
Serve the delicious soup with a side of crusty bread* and shame.
*recipe coming tomorrow.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Park your money in this stock

Homemade stock is one of the healthiest, cheapest, and easiest way to introduce delicious nourishing food in to your diet.  When I say easy - I mean EASY!  I don't lie.  Ever.  Ok, I just lied about that, but I didn't lie about the stock.

When you're cutting up veggies throughout the months, save all the peels, tops, and parts you wouldn't eat, and keep them in a Ziploc in your freezer.  This will be a major ingredient for a healthy stock, and it's something you were literally going to throw away or compost (you were totally going to compost it, weren't you?  Just say yes because it will make me happy).

The next time you roast a chicken -whether in the oven or in the crockpot - keep the carcass (sounds delish when I put it like that, right?) to make the stock.

Stock it to me
1 chicken carcass (off to a great start...)
2 tblsp of apple cider vinegar.  Plain white vinegar will work too
Salt & pepper to taste
Discarded veggies

Stock recipes usually have you simmering a pot on the stove for hours.  No thanks I say.  Here is my crockpot I say.  Who am I saying this to?  No one knows. Troy is gone all the time.  I get lonely.  And weird.

Place the carcass in the crockpot along with the veggies, vinegar, and seasoning.  Cover with water and set the crockpot on high for about 2 hours.  Reduce your crockpot temp to low and allow it to cook for 24 hours.  See why you should use the crockpot instead of your stove?  Do you want to keep your stove on for 24 hours?  I don't!
Doesn't that look disgusting?
Put a strainer over a large bowl, and slowly pour the contents of the crockpot in to the strainer.
I usually discard the chicken and veggies because at this point, they're mush.  I then either run the broth through a metal sieve, or I place my little metal sieve over the tops of pint or quart jars and ladle the broth in to the jars.  The metal sieve is a great step to make sure you have a broth free of bits.

At this point, you can allow the broth to cool, and then freeze.  Now that I have a pressure canner, I can them according to directions that came with my canner.
The apple cider vinegar is rumored to pull all the good nutrients out of the bones and allow it make your stock nice and gelatinous (yum!).  Don't worry, you won't be making chicken noodle jell-o soup; the stock turns in to liquid again when heated.

Don't just save this stuff for soups; stock is a great substitution for water when cooking rice, veggies, etc.

This is a great use for the turkey after it has been picked clean after Thanksgiving! You can also use beef bones as well, but I'd recommend you roast them in the oven for an hour or so before placing them in the crockpot.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Meal plan for October 24th - 30th

I got a ton of prep work done for the whole week this weekend, so dinners should be pretty easy for the next few weeks.

On Saturday, I roasted a chicken and potatoes in the oven.  The chicken provided an ingredient for chicken and dumplings soup, 2 meals for Troy's man lunchables, chicken salad, and then chicken stock for future recipes.

Monday:: Chicken salad sandwiches on homemade pretzel rolls, fruit
To do: make the butter crumbles for the shrimp

Tuesday:: A new recipe I'm trying; sauteed shrimp over pasta with mzrytha cheese, salad, and fruit

Wednesday:: Play date!

Thursday:: Another new recipe - apple pancake thingy, scrambled eggies, bacon, and fruit
To do: cook chicken for Friday's pizza

Friday:: BBQ chicken pizza, salad, and fruit
To do: thaw beef, cut potatoes, carrots, and onion

Saturday:: Beef stew, crusty bread, and fruit

Sunday:: dinner at my parent's
This week I spent $40.05 on groceries ($6.49 of it was duct tape), and $7 on raw milk (look how creamy it is!).

I came in $36.12 under budget for groceries for October!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Let's get RAW!

Raw milk that is.  What did you expect? 

I've been buying raw milk for the last 9-10 months because I love supporting local business, and it makes the best yogurt you can find this side of um, Yogurtville, SC.  It also was costing $10 a gallon.  Yeesh.  And it came in plastic jugs.

I was at the farmer's market a few weeks ago, and one of the vendors had a flyer for raw milk sales that his neighbor was offering.  I grabbed one and promptly forgot about it until last week.  I called the farm, and was informed that milk came in glass jars and was $7 a gallon.   And they don't use hormones on their animals.  I headed to the farm on Sunday, and within 2 feet of my Subaru Outback's (hippy mobile) wheels hitting the driveway, I was in love.

The farmhouse is ADORABLE and surrounded by a lovely garden and fruit trees.  The barn is quissential "farm barn", and the cow who provides the milk is waiting by the fence with her calf.
I've named her Buttercup.
You walk in to the self service "store", and I shit you not, the cash register is a calculator and a mason jar full of cash.  The sign next to the jar says "please make change in the jar if you need it".  Don't believe me?  Proof!
My creepy Angelina Jolie hands are hiding the name of the farm.  And I wanted to show off my Finding Nemo bandaid.
After I got my milk, I gave the cow one last nose scratch, and headed to my car.  There, I found a cat sitting on my car; almost like he was checking in to see how my service was, and would I like to take a satisfaction survey.  I tried to get a photo, but the second I put my milk down to try and get my camera, he jumped off the car and made a beeline for the milk.  Drat.

With my new-found treasures safely tucked in (I let Jack ride in the trunk...*), I headed for home knowing that I would be back.
*Jack was home with Troy.  NOT in the trunk.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An exciting new business opportunity for our family!

Well, we've done it.  We're taking the plunge and going in to business for ourselves.  In today's economy, the only person that you can trust to provide for your family is to work for yourself.

I'm excited to introduce our new business venture "Poppy and Jack's Cardboard Box Refurbishing,  LLC".

We've completed our first rehab, and I'm so impressed with Jack and Troy's craftsmanship and dedication to quality.  No detail has been overlooked in the remodeling of this Kenmore box.  Would you like to take a virtual tour of our first sale?

Here, you'll see that this house has oodles of curb appeal!  From the shutters, to the front door's toilet paper roll door knob, this exterior screams "adorable"!  And the blue trim is a wonderful contrast to the brown paint.
Now, let's take a look inside to see the executive upgrades.  Track lighting has been installed throughout the whole structure.  You'll also notice the back wall has been artfully decorated.
Another exterior shot shows that Troy and Jack have thoughtfully included an escape tunnel to the structure.  Should zombies come in the front door, you and your family will have peace of mind knowing that there is an opportunity to leave unscathed.
Interested in the sale?  Please contact me at ohmygoddoyouthinkthisthingwillbeinmybasementunti

On a side note, I'm not certain who is happier that we got a new stand up freezer, me, or Jack.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The creamiest, yummiest mac and cheese. In 30 minutes. And only using 1 pot.

Delicious mac and cheese in 30 minutes without filling your kitchen with dishes?  Can I get a woot woot?

Sarah's Mac and Cheese
1.5 cups of dry whole wheat macaroni
2 cups of milk
1/3 cup of butter
a shitload of cheese
a squirt of dijon mustard
2 tblsp of whole wheat flour

To make this a convenient weeknight meal, cook the macaroni the night before, drain, and store in the fridge.  I only cook it for about 7-8 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a dutch oven (you knew it was going to make an appearance in this recipe.  C'mon, you knew), melt the butter
and slowly whisk in the flour to make a roux.
Incredibly challenging to do this while taking a photo.
add this much dijon mustard, and stir to incorporate in to the roux
Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk
Had my right hand not been busying taking the photo, I'd be busy whisking
Let it thicken for about 1 minute.

Add the cheese.  I've made this multiple times, and our favorite is about 3.5 cups of Tillamook medium cheddar.  This photo is Tillamook, mozzarella, gouda, and swiss.  Not our favorite, but it's good!
When the cheese is fully melted, add the noodles in, and stir.  Some people like a crispy topping, but we're not those people.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Served with salad from the garden with homemade ranch, strawberries from the garden (they haven't gotten the memo that summer is over), and pears I canned in August.
Pin It

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Meal plan for October 17th-23rd

The weather was gorgeous this weekend (I got a ton of gardening done.  Yahoo!), but despite the sun, there is no denying that fall is here!  I've chosen cozy meals for this week to reflect the temperature dropping ever so slightly.

The pretzels are for a new recipe that I've been dying to try.  Will keep you posted!
This week I spent $33 on groceries, and $7 on raw milk.  I found a new dairy in town that is just perfect, and I'm saving $3 a gallon (woot woot)!

I've decided to add my "to do" list for the night (after Jack is asleep) these meal plan posts.  It will keep me on track.  I hope.  God willing.

Monday - Chicken Adobo and fried rice.  New recipe for the chicken...will keep you posted.
To do: make mayo, make peanut butter, prep tomato sauce stuff in the crockpot.  Cook sauce all day Tuesday.

Tuesday - Play date.
To do: Make lasagna (brown pork, shred spinach, etc.). 

Wednesday - Lasagna, salad, and fruit.
To do: Slice veggies for Friday's soup and pad thai (might as well do two meals at once!).

Thursday - Home canned tomato soup, grilled cheese, and fruit.
To do: Measure and prep dry ingredients for homemade dumplings.

Friday - Chicken and dumplings, and fruit.

Saturday - Pad Thai

Sunday - Family dinner at my parent's.

I'm sure I'm going to be canning some more tomatoes at some point this week.  Look what I gleamed from my 8 plants on Friday night.  They're all in varying forms of ripening.  Even if only 20% of them ripen, I'll be a happy lady.

How you like them apples tomatoes?
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