Monday, October 31, 2011

My version of Farm LIfe

The last two weeks have left with very little to no extra time.  We have a complicated sewage system.  Our house is 6 inches lower than our lagoon.  That means we have a lift station between the house and the lagoon.  The lift station collects wast water and when it reaches a certain level there is a small green pump that pushes the water out to the lagoon.  That little pump has redefined my entire life.  That little green pump is vital our every day living.
The pump went out a week ago last Friday.  The alarm went off and the light on the post glared red at the house.  Every time I looked outside, that red light would remind me that life as I know it is changed.
First, no unnecessary toilet flushing, showers anywhere else but home, no dish washing (had to buy wash tubs, then dump the tubs when they got full outside), and no washing machine.
We paid 200.00 to have the yucky water pumped out so that we could get to the pump, then found out that the pump was dead.  So we spent another 200+ to get a new pump.  Kent and I put the pump in....I am on load 10 of washing.

So that little green pump is the best little thing I have ever seen!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Slow Braised Short Ribs, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Parkerhouse Rolls....

This Sunday I am trying out a new recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I may change a few things but the essence will be there.  Short ribs that have been braised in the oven in a deep rich tasting wine and a fantastic Balsamic vinegar I bought up at the "Cook's Nook" in McPherson; then adding  thyme, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Diced up carrots, onions and celery will be the aromatics in this dish; they will be braised with the meat till they are limp shells of themselves. The meat will be removed from the pot, placed on a sheet pan and broiled till they get a deep dark brown crust....served with garlic mashed potatoes made with real butter and a touch of cream. 
I have Edna Lewis cook book and the first recipe I will make will be the Parker House Rolls with a slightly crunchy salty top.
We still have tomatoes ripening in our garden.  I think I will slice up a bunch of those and dress them with Balsamic vinegar and kosher salt.

Fall is here...

And it came quickly.  I love fall and everything that it brings, cooler temps, color changes, cooking in the oven again....And bringing my family back to the table.
This has been a very hectic begining of school for us.  My oldest is going to WATC for his Airfram and Power Plant certification-means he will be able to repair plans.  I have a senior and sophomore girls at Trinity.  We are done with the first 9 weeks and it just simply disappeared. 

I set this goal for myself every month and will continue to do so because I need to refocus.  Brining my family to the table for dinner.  Now Ethan my oldest works at nights, so it is just the four of us during the week.  Friday nights are hit and miss with school sports, date night or sheer exhaustion.  Sunday Lunch is our big family meal with everyone...including friends that they may want to invite. 

So make a plan and work the plan to have more family meals together.  The younger you start the bigger the pay off is when they are tweens and then teenagers. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Starting Over

One thing about our lives is that we can start over anytime we choose.  We can pick any point in our lives and declare to ourselves and or others that we are starting over.  Each time we choose this we try to get a little closer to our goal.  We do not have to live in the rut we may find ourselves, we can climb out and, start over.  So I am starting over....

I love food, I love the way it taste, the way I can play with it, and the political side of food.  I know everyone shyes away from the political side of anything.  If everyone can play nice and use kindness and respect we will tackle some of the political sides of food.  If you  can't play nice, you will be banned.  It is my blog and I get to set the rules.  MMMHHHUUUUU...

I have just finished reading Judith Jones book "The Tenth Muse".  I loved the book and could not put it down.  I was a bit stunned at how fascinating the book was.  It was filled with my cooking heroes and and introduced a couple of new ones.  I am just now learning about Edna Lewis, Marion Cunningham (not that MC) and am so sad that I did not learn about them until they have past.  So into my Amazon Cart is two new books to learn about these Ladies of Food.  I may not agree with them politically, but then I can look beyond that and read about their food adventures.
Judith Jones is the amazing lady who found James Bread and Julie Child and so many after that.  It really is a great book by an amazing lady and her interesting life.

She also has a section of the book for her favorite recipes.  I will be the first to say there are several I will never try.  There are just certain things I can not eat no matter how French they may sound.  But there are several I will try.  I will post them as I go through them.

Friday, February 4, 2011

What I did during the Blizzard of 2011!

Two snow days in a row....from both of the schools that are in our lives....heaven right?  Yes and maybe a small no.  I loved that we were all home together, snug and tight in our new house.  But one look outside we knew that the animals had to be checked on.  So, encased in our Carhart Coats, hats, gloves and anything else we could find Kent and I ventured out.  Now at this point my hubby was far smarter than I, he put is long underwear on, I did not, stupid.  That wind was strong!  It was an effort to place one foot in front of the other.  You could not face the wind, it hurt!  What were the donkeys doing in this mess? 
Brighty and Pedro were bedded down in a shelter that we had split in two so that both animals could get in.  We are still keeping the two of them separate since one is gelded and one is intact.  Pedro wants to dominate everyone and poor little Brighty is half his size so we are being careful.  We walked around the corner of the shelter that we have lined with straw bales---it was pathetic, both donkeys were snow packed from end to end.  Pedro had icicles hanging from his nose and mouth and they were shivering!  That was hard to see.  They are in our care and we take that very we had to do something. 
We went to work in the chicken coop, Brighty could go in there till this was over.  We had re-arrange chicken feeders, and their heated water dish, which meant re-configuring all the electrical cords.  Everyone has a heated water dish, water freezes overnight if it is not kept warm.  It was 10 degrees in the chicken coop.  My legs were frozen (remember no long johns) and I could no longer feel my fingers.  We got the goats tucked into a small enclosures within the chicken coop, they were fed and had water.  They we move the chicken's stuff to the top of the those enclosures within the chicken coop.  Then we had to deal with the ducks.  We will never get ducks again, they are the messiest creatures you have every seen.  No matter how small the water dish is, they will get in it and fling water everywhere, they have to have water in order to eat.  What happens when water is sprayed all over a place at 10 degrees?  It freezes in seconds!!! They are a mess!
We figured Brighty's dish was heavy enough that it would not tip over if the ducks tried to get in and Brighty most likely would keep them from getting in, yet they could drink.  Okay so now comes the next step....
We had to move Brighty from the small pen to an unknown area for him.  Donkeys view the world different than horses, they see a new place with no exit and they freak.  There is nothing like having 140 pounds of fur and hooves freaking out! 
Clare and I got the lead on Brighty and brushed as much snow off of him as we could.  He was a sad site!!!  Then we started leading him, well not leading him really more like dragging him!  He did not want to go anywhere.  But as parents we all know that sometimes we have to force an issue because we do know what is best.  So imagine Clare and I on either side of this donkey pulling in a deep snow drift for all we are worth and Brighty digging his heels in...all four of them. 
Kent came to the rescue.  Brighty dose not kick, which is a bit strange, that is their main defense and if you walk behind Pedro be prepared he will kick.  But not Brighty, he was so scared, which was breaking my heart.  But onward we went and Kent came up behind him and pushed, hard.  That worked we got him out of the pasture and lined up to enter the chicken coop.  For every new area there is an invisible line that every donkey knows for a fact he can not cross, ever.  Hmmm, we had to get him inside because I was running out of energy.  Being 39 for the second time this decade was telling on me!  Again Kent came up behind him and pushed and in he went!
So we got Brighty settled down and eating.  The chickens were howling though!  We have one rooster and he was going off!  When chickens get unsettled they let you know all about it, then suddenly they have said their piece and they are all silent.  We looked around and they were all up above just sitting and watching.  The ducks were still fussing and the goats were happy to see their friend even if it was through a fenced in door.  I was frozen- I had to go in and so Clare and I tromped off to the house to see if I still had fingers intact.  Kent was working on a stall in the barn for Pedro.  It had taken us two hours to move Brighty!  We had to wait till Ethan got home to move Pedro so for a bit we could rest......

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cooking Class today

Today we start a new semester with our cooking class.  I have elven 8th graders and they seem taller than me!  We are doing simple pasta sauce....making it from the items we have on hand.  Good canned tomatoes, fresh garlic, onions, basil, olive oil....served with pasta.  Then we can take it up a notch from that by adding carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes, tomato paste and cream-yum. 

Simple Sauce
olive oil
1 can of whole skinned canned tomatoes- 28 oz can
1 T. fresh minced garlic
1/2 onion diced small
2 t. sugar
several leaves of fresh basil
a handful of fresh parsley chopped
1/2 can of anchovies
handful of purple olives chopped
1 lb of pasta-cooked

Start with a bit of olive oil in your pan and let it heat up.  Add the onions than the garlic on top and cook till soft and fragrant.  Place your tomatoes in a large bowl and squish them up with your hand till they are all broken apart.  Add them to your pan.  Stir everything together and let it come to a hard boil.  Turn down and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add the sugar and stir, then add the rest of the items.  Stir and heat everything up.  Dump your cooked drained pasta into the pot and stir around.  Simple Sauce Pasta!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 24

We have not done this perfect, but we have cut our eating out bill by over 3/4....I am proud of myself for cooking and the girls for keeping the kitchen clean.  I have been able to come home and cook 21 days out of the month.  I consider that a huge accomplishment in my book.  We have had extra money to do more things with that we really want to do, such as getting ready to buy baby chicks. 

But I have had several request for recipes so here goes:

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 roasted chicken (or roast your own cheaper and better for you)
1 2lb brick of regular Velveeta
2 cans of Rotel Tomatoes
4 cans of chicken stock or broth (they are the same thing)
2 cans of Mexicali corn
2 cups of heavy cream (hey you said you liked it!)
2 cups of a quality enchilada sauce
1 T. of chili powder
1 bag of inexpensive taco chips crushed up
topping; fresh limes, shredded cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro, fresh diced jalapeno

Tear as much meat of the chicken and you can and shred it.  Set it aside for later.
In a large soup pot add your chicken stock and rotel tomatoes; bring to a rapid boil.  While you are waiting dice up the cheese.  When you have a boil turn the temp. down and add the cheese and the corn.  Let the cheese melt into the liquid slowly.  Keep an eye on the soup and stir often.  Once the cheese is melted add the cream and 1 cup of the enchilada sauce.  Add the chili powder, 1/2 the bag of crushed chips and the chicken.  Let everything heat up and come together.  If it is to thick you can add chicken stock or milk or water to thin it down. 
Serve with the toppings and the remaining crushed chips and enjoy.

Ina's Tuscan Bean Soup

  • lb white dried cannellini beans

  • 4 cups onions, sliced

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 large fresh rosemary sprig (6-7 INCHES)

  • 2 quarts chicken stock

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

  • In a medium bowl, cover the beans with water by at least 1 inch and leave them in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. Drain.

  • 2 In a large stockpot over low to medium heat, saute the onions with the olive oil until the onions are translucent, 10 to 15 minutes.

  • 3 Add the garlic and cook over low heat for 3 more minutes.

  • 4 Add the drained white beans, rosemary, chicken stock, and bay leaf. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the beans are very soft.

  • 5 Remove the rosemary branch and the bay leaf. Pass the soup through the coarsest blade of a food mill, or place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until coarsely pureed.

  • 6 Return the soup to the pot to reheat and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

  • I did not puree the soup but left it whole, many others who made this recipe also left whole and raved about it.  If you don't have or can't find the cannellini beans you can use white navy beans.  I have used canned beans in a pinch-just rinse them well.  The cannellini beans  are worth the effort to find though, look at Green Acres or you can order them online.


    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Day 16 and counting

    So far so good.  We did go out to eat, but we had a gift card.  What was so sad is that we did not enjoy the meal.  We wanted to go to Bella Luna at Bradly Fair, but they were closed for remodeling.  We had to stay at Bradley Fair so we thought okay On the Border.  I don't think we will be going back.  The food was similar to Chili's and so was the menu.  I tried their new items using Hatch Chilies, they were tasteless.  Our waiter was great and the service was fine, but the food was not worth the money.  We will not be returning.....

    So this weekend I have been cooking.  I have made Free Style Nachos for 15 Teenagers Friday night.  Scrambled eggs (from our chicken's) Sat. morning, leftover chili for lunch....home made Clam Chowder for dinner and a home made yellow cake.  Today I made Swiss Steak with mashed potatoes for lunch.  It was good.  Tonight I am making The Pioneer Woman's Chicken Tortilla Soup.  With all this snow still on the ground it looks colder than it really feels.  Recipes to follow.

    I have seen a lot more money in the ole' bank account and a lot less of it walking away.  So much so that I went and got my nails done at Mani Pedi.  Kelly has been doing my nails on and off for the last year.  I started out with fake ones, but was not happy with the fact that they only looked great for one week.  Now they have a new thing called shellac and it is great.  My nails are all real and they look so good.  With a little care this will last 4 weeks easy. I love the way my hands look now.  I feel pretty!

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    What a cold week....

    Well I have a long weekend coming up and I can not wait.  Off Friday and Monday!  I am hoping to get a lot done.  We have been cooking at home, but we did go out last night on a gift card.  Emily's making a ton of round cakes for two seperate birthdays this weekend and I could not even find the kitchen last night.  But we still roasted a chicken and the kids ate that and I have left overs.  But with even this little trip out we have cut our going out by 3/4 at least.  I have beans and hamhocks in the crock pot for tonight.

    This is my new once a month....kind of.  Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg have put together a new book with more family friendly meals.  I admit to being a food snob and I hate cooking with cream of what ever soup...but they have a section in this new cookbook for more upscale recipes if you want to call them that.  They have several menu plans that are for two weeks of meals.  I believe that this is much more doable for me than an entire month.  So I am going to give that a try and see how we benefit from it.  I know it will do great for the weekends and Sunday dinner. 

    My mom always cooked a huge, yummy, wonderful Sunday Dinner every single Sunday.  I look back on it now in total amazment that she did this.  And she was not the only one, many women did.  Mom would get up at the crack of dawn or earlier...she would fix a big breakfast from scratch-biscuits, gravy, fried eggs, potatoes and bacon.  Clean that up and get dinner in the oven.  Round bone roast with potatoes, carrots and onions, huge salad or some type of green veggies, corn, and home made dinner rolls and gravy.  Sometimes it would be a pork roast or sauerkraut and kielbasa, or Fried Steak and gravy.  I stand in awe of what my mom did, I struggle with sandwiches after church!  So I am hoping that this will help me recreate some of those famiy favorites for after church.

    So tomorrow is shopping day and then Sat. is cooking day with Emily.  I will post more details tomorrow.

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Day Six-Rose Above!

    Last night would have been one of those nights that I would chuck dinner and go out for something simple.  I spent more time than I wanted to at the Doc. office, ran around looking for a blue mail box to mail a huge amount of invitations, had to circle back to the grocery store to drop off the prescriptions I got at the doctors office, Ethan had taken Clare to the Ortho and they were closest to Kent and Emily so he picked them.  Headed home beat, and found out that Kent's dad was admitted to the heart hospital for his procedure today. We were planning on going up to visit him for a bit (it is only 4 miles from our house).  Also we had to go buy donkey food at Tractor Supply Co.  So I thought okay here it is...
    Let the day run me over and chuck my family challenge out the door or develop a simple plan for dinner....So when I got home I went out to help Kent with the animals the girls started dinner-Spaghetti with meat sauce and bread-then all three kids cleaned the kitchen while Kent and I ran up to the hospital and talked to Kent's dad. 
    Kent's dad is a WWII vet-a Marine in the sniper division.  He was telling us some great stories about his early days in the corp before he saw battle.  It was a fun time listening to him talk about his young days.

    We made it back home and I was exhausted!  But we ate at home!!!

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    The Best Meat Loaf Ever!

    I love the Pioneer Woman and how she has brought back the fun to cooking.
    I made her meatloaf last night and it was perfect. 

    2 lbs of good ground meat
    6 slices of white bread
    1 cup of milk
    4 eggs
    1 c. of Parmesan cheese shredded
    1/3 cup of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
    1/4 t. of season salt
    3/4 t. of kosher salt
    1 t. of fresh ground black pepper
    For the Top of the meat loaf so reserve
    10 slices of good thick bacon

    Soak the bread in the milk while you are getting the rest together.
    Mix the eggs then in a large bowl place everything including the milk soaked bread.  Make two free form loaves.  Place them on top of your broiler pan with the bottom pan being lined with foil to prevent a messing disaster.  Cut your bacon in half and lay 10 half strips on top of each meat loaf.  Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour and 15 minutes.  Check with an internal thermometer, 160 degrees.  Remove and let rest for about 5 minutes.  It will smell so good!
    I make two loaves so they cook faster.  You can also make them into 1/2 cup balls, flatten slightly and place 2 half pieces of bacon over the top and they will cook even faster.  I made bake potatoes in the oven so I new I had time since they take about an hour.

    This makes great leaf overs for lunch the next day and great sandwiches. 

    Day Five

    Last night's dinner was a big hit with the family.  All sat at the table and talked and laughed. We had the Pioneer Woman's Best Meatloaf, baked potatoes, corn and a simple fruit salad.  Tonight we are having spaghetti with home made meat sauce, home made bread and a spinach salad.  Recipes to follow.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Challenge-No eating out for one month- Day Four

    I am re-issuing my challenge to all.  It is a good time to jump on board no matter what.  I figure even a week can make a little difference and a month can make a big difference.
    We are not going out to eat for one month.  I want to see how much money we walk through with out even realizing it.  I want to break the hold that restaurants have on me, and they do.  So I will post here and include recipes of what I make.

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Jan. 3

    Good Morning,
    I am going to go into a bit more detail on the New Year Challenge I have laid our for my family.  The invitation to join us still stands, no matter what the date.

    We have crazy lives...Ethan is working and playing (19 and knows everything), Emily is going to Trinity and studies very hard.  She also has a very active social life.  Clare studies hard at Trinity also, writes all the time, does face book and truly believes she will wither up if she is not with her friends 24 seven.  My hubby is a teacher (very long hours) and I work full time.  Kent is also the Scholars Bowl Coach and has two matches a week-some in town some out.  Clare is also on the team, but I think she may be done. 
    We also have 12 chickens, 2 dogs and one very playful donkey to take care of.  We are also getting ready to start our market farm.  So when I say we are busy I really mean it.

    We wanted to take better control of our money and giving up going out to eat is just the tip of the iceberg.  I wanted to bring our entire family into this and show how that if we partner together we can save money.  I wanted everyone involved including the men in our family.  Here is the game plan:
    A clean kitchen allows me to cook dinner.  If I come home and the kitchen is a disaster for what ever reason, I most likely will not cook.  I hate that I take an hour clean the kitchen, then cook and then listen to the kids gripe about cleaning it up and not doing a good job of it.  But maybe if they saw a goal-less going out to eat more clothes in their closet?-  they would help out.  So we talked about could we keep the kitchen clean and ready for me to cook?  It will take some practice, and some oversight from me, but it can be down.  The girls had some suggestions and we are doing them. 
    1. When we are down eating everyone take up their own plate; scrapes it, and stack it on the left of the sink.  Sounds simple enough.
    2. While I am cooking the girls set the table and dry the pots and pans as I wash them.  I will even let them  listen to their quieter music.
    3. Ethan clears the table and takes the trash out.  The following morning he unloads the dishwasher before heading to work. 
    4. Before bed there is a call for all dishes, get them in and run the dishwasher nightly.

    All of these simple things allows the kitchen to stay clean.  I do some of the nitty gritty stuff like keeping my black stove clean and wiped down.  I am also developing a list of what I want done in the kitchen daily so that everyone can stay on the same page. 

    We are trying to think through this and see the benefits to our family.  I believe we get caught up being busy and not taking the time to be a family.  I have seen it spliter our own family and I am declaring war.  My first battle is dinner, on the table, with everyone home during the week.