Egg-cellent

I’m a huge fan of eggs for protein.  I blame it on my Bradley Instructor, Donna.  I started eating two a day when I was pregnant with Liam as soon as I could keep food down and have continued that patterned several times a week since.  I’m very picky about the eggs I get and am in the very fortunate position to have a friend who raises chickens in her backyard.

There is just something about a fresh egg, and these are have beautiful, bright orange yolks. Those yolks are indicative of a nutritious diet for the chickens, which in turn means a load of nutrients for me!  (Funny story, once I started using my local eggs, I didn’t pay attention before a snow storm and realized I was going to need some so I just zipped into a store and grabbed a carton.  The next morning I made breakfast and discovered those eggs had yolks as pale as could be.  I baked a cake with those eggs and have never bought eggs away from the farm since!)

Anyway.  The point of this post is to tell you that if you haven’t tried “hard-boiling” your eggs in the oven, you really should.  30 minutes in a 325 degree oven, and you’re on your way with creamy, perfectly cooked eggs.  I put my eggs in a stoneware muffin tin to cook them, but I’ve seen people just put them on the oven racks.

The next thing you need to do is make yourself an egg salad sandwich.  Only just use mayo and horseradish.  You don’t even need to add salt or pepper or mustard or whatever you use.  For kicks, make your sandwich on white bread. I know.  Not what I usually recommend, but every now and then… it’s nice just for the sake of nostalgia.

Fall Flavors and Family

My dad’s birthday was earlier this month, but because of soccer schedules, we didn’t manage to get together until this weekend.  I kind of waited until the last moment to figure out what I was serving because October weather has been so odd this year!  Today, for instance, was supposed to be warm and sunny.  It’s overcast, breezy and cool.  If I can ever get myself together, it will be a perfect day to work on a new baby quilt.  I have my strips cut and a fresh pot of coffee, so half the battle has been won!

I made the Pumpkin Cream Farfalle from Whitney’s book and added green peas and chopped chicken breast so it was a complete meal.  It’s the third time I’ve made it since the book arrived a few weeks ago and once again, it was a hit.  Whitney wrote a fabulous cookbook, but I tell you, this is definitely my favorite of all!

For as long as I can remember, my dad has always requested pumpkin pie for his birthday.  But I didn’t feel like wrestling with pie crust and since there was already so much pumpkin in the pasta, I wanted a different flavor.

Thank Heavens for Pinterest.  There, I found this recipe for apple cider pound cake.  It looked glorious and comforting and since I had fresh apple cider in my fridge, the perfect solution to our dessert quest.  And then, I saw the actual recipe and realized I needed to make some adjustments.  The result was amazing!  My family loved it and although the glaze looks nothing like what the original showed, I’m very pleased.  Pleased enough that I think this will accompany my usual pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving!

Apple Cider Pound Cake with Caramel Maple Syrup Glaze (adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)

  • 1 cup butter (softened)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup fresh apple cider
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat the butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla together until smooth and fluffy.  Then, mix in the spices, salt and baking powder. Add one cup of flour and mix through.  Pour in about half of the apple cider and mix.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides before adding the rest of flour and cider.  Mix on medium until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and the batter is flecked with the cinnamon and nutmeg.  Pour batter into a very well greased loaf pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for an hour and 20 minutes.  Test with a knife in the center to make sure it comes out clean.  Allow the cake to cool enough to handle before removing it from the pan, making sure to loosen the sides before you do so.

This is what was left of the Apple Cider Pound Cake… it got eaten too fast for me to take a photo of the full plate!

In a small pan, once the cake comes out of the oven, mix together, 1/4 cup sugar, 3 Tbsp. butter, 2 Tbsp. milk, 2 Tbsp maple syrup and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.  Bring to a boil and stir frequently.  It will take 5-8 minutes for the sugars to caramelize, so you will need to stay nearby, stirring.  Keep the glaze boiling, until the caramel turns to the color you desire.  I boiled mine for about 7 minutes and the color wasn’t that dark.  But, oh…  it tasted so good!  Drizzle over the pound cake, while the cake is still warm from the oven.

Cooler weather, Cabbage and Disapproving Preschoolers

Weather in Ohio is sketchy this time of year. It can be in the upper 70s one day and then the next in the low 50s.  I finally started to write down the meals I had bought food for and decide on a day-to-day basis what I’d be serving for supper.  Tomorrow and Saturday are supposed to be perfect weather days… and after that, the forecast looks like it will be on the downhill temperature slide.

So my grocery list is finally being filled with brussel sprouts, broccoli, beans and cabbage.  Casseroles and stews will soon be the most common items in my home!  Yay!  In the cooler days of September, I experimented with a few recipe twists for my beloved cabbage and brussel sprouts. This cabbage recipe is mother-in-law approved. Oh yes.  And husband approved.  Also two-year-old approved.  The four-year-old does not.  But he’s four.  He approves of nothing these days.

This cabbage dish is meant to be a side dish, but if you wanted to make this into an entire meal, you could add some rice noodles (from the Asian aisle, not the ones in the gluten-free section) and call it a vegetarian success. Use dairy-free sour cream and it’s even a vegan success.  In the meantime, whip up a batch of this cabbage and watch your opinion of this vegetable turn from disinterest to delight!

Cabbage and Onion Saute

  • 1 small green cabbage
  • 1 large onion
  • sour cream
  • garlic
  • salt
  • pepper
  • butter

Shred or thinly slice the cabbage and onion.  Saute in butter until tender.  The edges will brown, as much as you let it… I like mine a little more browned than maybe you do, just depends on your taste!  Season with salt and pepper and then stir in sour cream. I don’t use much more than a quarter cup, I just use the sour cream as another level of flavor and texture.  And it’s so good.  And the leftovers? IF you have any, it makes a great topping on a meatloaf sandwich.  But that’s only IF you have leftovers…

Farmer’s Market discoveries

Welcome to the August 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Farmer’s Markets

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about something new they’ve learned about their local farmers.

When Matt and I first got married, I discovered the joy of farmer’s markets.  I don’t know why I’d never really been to one before, but once I got started, it was hard to imagine ever purchasing my food anywhere else.  Over the years, I’ve met many vendors, tried new vegetables and learned so much.

Through farmer’s markets, I met the man who supplied us with lamb for the past 5 years, half a sheep at a time.  Because of him, I know how to grill lamb chops and can make a killer shepherd’s pie.  I bought my first chicken that had been butchered mere hours before and roasted it up for the most flavorful meal I’d experienced up to that time.

Before the market downtown, I’d never had a purple carrot or an orange, heirloom tomato.  I didn’t know you could raise shrimp right here in Ohio.  I had no idea that one could subsist solely on food grown/raised within 50 miles of your home.  I didn’t realize how diverse the agriculture in Ohio could be! I wasn’t aware that an average housewife could make her own cheese from a gallon of milk.  And don’t even get me started on the baked goods I didn’t know even existed!

Throughout the years, I’ve met new people, tried new foods, learned how to store and prepare vegetables, fruits and meats.  Now, I’m learning how to make these foods appealing to a preschooler who only likes bananas and watermelon.  I’m learning the best markets to go to that I’ll be able to corral my little ones and still shop.  My children?  Well, they are learning the names of the vegetables, even if they won’t eat them.  They are learning patience as they wait and wait and wait as I circle the stalls and taste and sample and talk.

Every year as the Downtown Farmer’s Market starts announcing it’s coming in the paper, I find myself waiting anxiously for the vendors to set up and my stroller basket to fill with fresh produce.  And while the market is here, I’m happy to try all kinds of new recipes and stock my shelves with home canned goodies to open in the dead of winter and give me hope for next year’s Farmer’s Market!

***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon August 14 with all the carnival links.)

 

Retreeeeaaatttt!!!!

That was me yelling up there in the title.  Yep.  I went away this weekend for the first time since November 2009.  This year, I’m the new Publicity/Media person for my church’s MOPs charter.  I joined MOPs while I was still pregnant with Liam and I think that at times, it’s fair to say my sanity is a direct result of getting connected.  I don’t have much family in the area and it’s been great to make new friends every year.

Anyway, I was wreck about leaving my kids overnight and had a hard time relaxing and enjoying the other moms and our “work” of planning out the 2012-2013 year.  Once I settled in and we started talking I managed to sit back and appreciate this time away from my home to recharge.  Although, use of the word recharge is only applicable in the mental sense as I stayed way past my bedtime and am still feeling the effects of treating my aging body as though I were still in college.  😀

For me, one of the best parts of the weekend was coming in from a short morning run and having breakfast already made!  Eggs, pancakes, fruit, yogurt, granola… oh my.  Breakfast is tough in this house because it’s time consuming and the kids almost always steal my plate.  Thankfully, last night, I managed to finally figure out a quick hash brown recipe that will keep overnight in the fridge.  Initially, this was a side dish for our supper last night, but since we had leftovers, I tried them 2 different ways this morning and now cannot wait to get back to the farmer’s market and pick up more new potatoes!

Yes. That's a homemade iced mocha in a Ball jar. Recipe to come!

Farmer’s Market Hashbrowns

  • 2 pounds small red/new potatoes
  • 1 small green pepper
  • 1 small red pepper
  • 1 medium candy onion
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • seasonings of your choice (I used garlic salt, paprika and mustard powder)
Wash the potatoes and cut them however you like best.  I chose to quarter mine since they were so small.  Place them in a steamer basket and then into a medium sauce pan with about 2 inches of water in the bottom.  Steam the potatoes until they are just fork tender.  The fork should be able to pierce the potato, but not smash it.  Bottom line: the potatoes still need to be a bit firm.  In the meantime, chop or slice the peppers and onions in a size that is comparable to the potatoes.  Heat a skillet over a medium burner and add the butter.  Saute the peppers and onions until tender.  When the potatoes are done cooking, add them to the skillet with the peppers and onions and saute for about 5 more minutes.  Add more butter if necessary and then season to taste.  If you are making these ahead, store them in the fridge for up to 3 days.  They can be reheated in the microwave or (like I did) just tossed into the pan after you’ve cooked your eggs.
What do you like to eat for breakfast?

My library of canning inspiration

Since you’ll probably be reading more than a few posts on canning this summer, I thought I’d go ahead and let you know my favorite resources so you can check them out of the library or add them to your own collection!

Ball Blue Book of Preserving: This is the first book I owned with any sort of canning instruction.  I’m attached.  I love the clear directions and photos.

All About Canning: I have both this book and the original Joy of Cooking cookbook.  Both have simple, easy to follow recipes and instructions.  It should be noted though, that the Joy of Cooking does not have images that are remotely helpful in the text.

Put ‘Em Up!  I was given this book for Christmas and I already have it dogeared and noted.  I’m very anxious to try some new recipes from it!  I’m hoping to find some good rhubarb at the farmer’s market this weekend so I can make the sparkling rhubarb jelly.  I especially love the variety of recipes and the icons on each page providing a quick referral of the potential storage methods (freeze, can, dry).

Canning for a New Generation: Also a Christmas gift, this one is also showing my plans for the summer.  It is packed with recipes and ideas and as a bonus for those of us who can extra specifically so we can give our goodies away, there are gift tags in the back!

Simply in Season: a stand-by of mine for the last few years, I find myself flipping through this book every time I need a new recipe for seasonal produce.

These are my favorites and I do hope that by the time my children are my age, they’ll find them stained, worn and noted.  I know some people don’t write in their cook books, but I can’t control myself.  I need to know what I had thought while I was cooking.  I like to mark how much we enjoyed it (or didn’t!) and any changes I made.  I’m always making little changes, so that last part is awfully helpful.  Now that you know my favorites, do you have any you’d like to add to the list?

Checking off my jam list

Last week, the newest issue of Kaia came out and I was more than a little excited to see my article on canning in it.  I grew up making freezer jam and terrrified of the idea of a boiling water canner.  I learned to can because as a wedding gift I was given a Ball start up kit from Lehmans and since I had everything, I needed to bite the bullet and get over my fear of getting burnt.  Some people get hooked on shopping or running races, I discovered that I love making jam.  I really, really do.  I love testing for the jelling point, wiping the threads of each jar and then listening to the jars sound their triumphant “ping” as they seal.

Every year, I mean to make strawberry rhubarb jam and every year, and yet every year passes and somehow, I have not managed to make any!  This year was the year though and I am thrilled with how it turned out.  The berries were really sweet, so there is a much lower amount of sugar in this jam than in other recipes I found.  I think that there is just enough sweetness to overcome the tartness of the rhubarb without overshadowing the flavor.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

  • 4 cups Rhubarb
  • 6 cups Strawberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
Place all the ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pan.  Heat through and then mash well.  (I used an immersion blender to do this, even though I knew it is incredibly unsafe.  I still have strawberry bits on my wall.  If I were you, I’d use a potato masher.)  If you allow the fruit to heat through, it will mash better which is extremely beneficial for the rhubarb as it can be a bit stringy.  Continue to heat the jam, skimming foam from the top of the pan as necessary.  The jam will reduce in volume by about a quarter in 15-20 minutes.  Put a metal spoon in the freezer while the jam is reducing.  When the jam seems thick enough, put a drop of the jam on the spoon to check and see if you leave a clean streak through it if you run your finger through.  If the spoon is clear, then the jam has thickened up enough and will set nicely.   Pour the jam into the jars, wipe the threads of the jars with a damp cloth and screw on the caps and rings tightly.  Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.  Set the finished jars on a towel in a dry place where they cannot be disturbed for at least 12 hours.  Enjoy on fresh toast!

Roasted

See that beautiful baby in the photo?  She’s sweet and precious and someone I fight to protect every moment of my day.  I started doing the October Unprocessed because I was already on a weight loss challenge and I figured it would be good for me.  As the weeks have passed, I’m realizing it was the jump start we needed to get ourselves back on track to healthy eating.  And the motivation I needed to start trying a little harder to make sure those whole foods come back and stay back.
I love that when I open my refrigerator, it’s full of glass jars with things I made myself.  Ghee, salad dressing, jams and now roasted red peppers!  I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but just never got around to it.  However when I was stocking up on pie pumpkins, I found a good deal on local red peppers.  I bought a few with the intention of roasting them and then making my own hummus again.  It took me a few weeks (I know, you’d think I was busy or something…), but once I did it, I was thrilled with the results!  

I don’t have a gas stove so my options are either to roast them on the grill or in the oven.  The weather has been less than pleasant so I opted to do them in my oven.  It took a while since I was timid with the heat, but the result was wonderful!  I set the temperature at 425 and then cut up the peppers.  The peppers that blistered the most were the ones that were the flattest, so I know for next time that you have to cut them with purpose so that they will set on the baking sheet skin up without wobbling.  I lined the baking sheet with tin foil and filled it with peppers.  Into the oven they went and I turned on the light so I could watch them while I worked in the kitchen.  In about 25 minutes, I could see the skins blistering up and forming a bubble.  I took them out of the oven at half an hour and then quickly wrapped them up in the foil so they could steam.  Once the peppers were cool enough to handle, but still warm, I peeled the skin off with my fingers.  I used a few to make hummus and the rest, I put in a jar with some minced garlic and equal parts olive oil and water.  I’m very excited to use my peppers in future recipes and I’m so excited that I made them myself for a fraction of the usual cost!

The end of the tomatoes!!!

I had fully intended to do a lot more blogging this summer.  I have a whole list of topics and several posts started.  I do, however, have a wonderful excuse: canning!  In between having a toddler and a newborn, I started working in May and haven’t stopped.  As I type this, the last 6 jars of salsa are processing in the water bath.  I can’t say that I’m sad.  4 bushels of tomatoes as a solo effort is rather overwhelming, but I know how much effort it will be in the years to come.  I only have apples and squash to do yet this year.  I have plans to do at least 4 dozen quarts of applesauce since I’ll have another mouth scarffing it down here pretty soon.  I want to make some apple cider jelly and lots of pumpkin butter.  Then, I’ll be freezing pumpkin and butternut purees.  I’m thinking that I’ll try to make one of Farmer’s Daughter’s pies for Thanksgiving this year!
 
Just in case you’re interested, here’s the Canning Tally so far this year:
  • 30 pts. medium salsa
  • 6 pts hot salsa
  • 5 1/2 pts spicy ketchup
  • 6 qts tomato puree
  • 18 qts tomato sauce
  • 20 pts diced tomatoes
  • 20 qts diced tomatoes
  • 1 qt freezer jar of roasted tomatoes (recipe below)
  • 16 pts dill pickles
  • 8 qts dill pickles
  • 12 pts strawberry jam
  • 22 1/2 pts blackberry jam
  • 18 pts pickled peppers
  • 20 pts corn kernels
  • 15 pts. sliced peaches
Yesterday as I was elbow deep in tomatoes and floundering for motivation to finish, I decided I couldn’t stand to dice or puree one. more. tomato.  I had flagged recipe for oven roasted tomatoes in my Pinterest account and decided that I was for sure going to do it.  Even if it only saved me from doing 2 dozen or so tomatoes.  I woke up this morning to the amazing smell of garlic and tomatoes and was smug that I’d been productive, even in my sleep.  
Oven Roasted Tomatoes:
  • Roma tomatoes
  • garlic
  • herbs
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Wash the tomatoes, cut out the stem and slice lengthwise.  In a large bowl, mix together olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and the herbs of your choice (I used herbes de Provence).  Toss the tomatoes in the mixture and then place them, skin side down on a baking sheet covered in foil.  Then, place the tomatoes in a 200 degree oven at night before you go to bed.  The next morning, take them out of the oven and allow them to cool before putting them in a freezer safe container.  Tomatoes done this way can take the place of sun-dried tomatoes in most dishes.  I did 2 full baking sheets of tomatoes and will admit that I’m wondering if I should do more.  All I can think of are the possibilities!

Why yes, yes I can!

I started canning the summer after I got married.  I had been on a mission to learn how to really cook food and somehow, canning my garden’s bounty seemed to fit into this.  That first year really all I canned was salsa, tomato sauce and tomatoes.  The tomato sauce was a disaster; thin as water and over seasoned.  The tomatoes were so insanely time consuming and I hardly got any jars for all the work I put in.  The salsa was edible, though.  That salsa was what told me the next year to go back to the farm stand and get more tomatoes and try again.  2008’s harvest left me with a freezer that was stocked, shelves filled with my home canned goodies and confidence.
I didn’t can a darn thing in 2009 under the misconception that I wouldn’t be able to do anything with a newborn.  He was colicky for sure, but I just didn’t know yet how to manage my time.  Last year, I did everything I could, and was really proud of myself.  I didn’t meet my goals for the year, but I still enjoyed opening my cabinets and seeing the product of my work.  This year, I made my canning goal list out before Sylvia was born and with my guide to the Ohio produce availability, marked out my plan on my calendar and made my plan.  I’ve managed to pass my goals in everything and I even learned how to operate a pressure canner without terror.  The only left for me to do is figure out how much Sylvia likes applesauce and work accordingly.
I can for several reasons, not the least of which being that I know exactly what is going in my family’s bodies.  I know where all my food came from since I either picked it myself or know the growers.  The food is fresh when it goes in those sparkling clean jars made from glass… no chance of BPA there!  Every year, I reuse what I had from prior years and add to the stash as needed.  I recycle my jar lids (and the rings as needed).  It would be a lie to say that I don’t get sad as I watch my stash slowly dwindle through the winter and early spring.  I love that my grocery bills are low through the winter because when I need diced tomatoes, just head to the basement and draw on what I’ve already done.
Prices around here have gone up dramatically.  Even store brand canned corn is over a dollar a can and it’s rarely on sale.  Last week, canned tomatoes were on sale for 69 cents.  Regularly, that brand of tomatoes sells for $1.19.  I bought a bushel of tomatoes for 10 dollars and 36 pints of tomatoes.  This breaks down to 28 cents a pint.  And I didn’t clip one coupon.  My pickled peppers? 19 cents a pint.  By taking the time and the effort over the summer to save money, I can then take that money I would have spent on canned goods and put it into buying more organic and natural products for my family. 

I can because I save money.  I can because I like to use a skill I possess.  I can because it’s healthy for my family.  But most of all, I can because I feel like I get to do a little something extra for my family with each jar that I put on the shelves in the basement.  I love to make peanut butter sandwiches with my own jelly.  I love to know that when I feed people I actually did it all by myself, standing in the heat of my kitchen, scrounging up those precious nap times so I could be productive.  Last week was hard, but I know that come January when I still have shelves full of the summer’s produce, I won’t begrudge one bit the tomato stained finger nails and late nights.  Instead, I will open each jar and savor the moment as I remember this summer and all I learned about myself.