Friday, January 27, 2012


I got home and my kitchen was a mess.  I have talked about how a dirty kitchen will cost you money.  You don't want to spend an hour cleaning, and then start cooking only to clean again.  And the time factor alone is would like to eat before bedtime.
So I had the girls start cleaning the moment they walked in the door (it was their mess from the night before, and the simple fact that they did not do their kitchen chores after dinner).  Then I told them both that they were my sous chefs for dinner.  Clare really helps me out in the kitchen.  She bends and gets things for me so that I don't hurt as much.
I went on line and found a sweet and sour chicken recipe from .  I have tried several of Jaden Hair's recipes over the last year and they have all worked out great.

I started to prep all of my veggies.  I used whatever I had stashed in the fridge, colored peppers, onions, adult carrots.  Emily thawed the chicken and cut it into 2 inch pieces and she put the cornstarch, egg whites and the salt with the meat.
Clare made the sweet and sour sauce, which was very easy.  Everything was ready.  I cooked the veggies in batches and placed them in a bowl.  Browned the chicken and then added everything together and brought it up to a simmer.  The sauce needed a little bit more cornstarch to thicken it.
We had frozen egg rolls and served the dish over rice.  Kent said it was a keeper!  That was an easy meal to make and we had fun around the table.
So don't over think dinner, just do something simple.  Save the long drawn out meals for the weekend.
Tomorrow night we are having Cheddar Corn Chowder with bacon and rustic bread.  The package actually said  "rustic" bread, so I got it.  LOL

Thursday, January 26, 2012


This is a copy of the blog post that was chosen from  

Dinner at home, a simple statement but loaded with complication. At least that seems to be how America sees dinner at home. We would rather go out and grab something, anything, than to go home and cook a meal. I know because I have fallen into that deep dark pit myself. Let me explain….
I work full time, in food service. I am a food service manager for a private school; we produce about 400 lunches a day. We do a lot of from scratch, healthy cooking for our students. I am surrounded with food….shopping, ordering, getting menus together, logistics, personnel, and cooking. This is my day life, so when I go home I get to do it all again. I am exhausted just like every other family cook.
This new year, I am taking the pledge, family dinners it is! I use a menu mailer to help me not think. I shop once a week, keeping only items in the fridge for that week. We have downsized our fridge; freezer on the top, fridge on the bottom. It is small and we only buy what we can use in a week. That commercial about throwing away half your grocery cart, is all too true. So nip it in the bud….more about that in another post.
I have two teenage daughters, 16 and 18. I also have a 20 year old son that works evenings and is unable to join us nightly, but that is not an excuse for the rest of us. It is so important that we eat together; it is when the girls talk to my husband and me. They tell us about their day, what happened, how a certain class went and what they did during lunch. They open up without even being aware of it. They fight me on the making of dinner and cleaning up, but once we get into it, they are on board. This is precious, precious time and it will set up traditions for their own families.
I believe in eating a home cooked meal more times then most. I think that we are cheating our children when we don’t shop, plan and prepare family meals. We have a generation who has no idea how to feed themselves. They have no idea what half the produce is in the bins, how to plan a meal with whole grains, beans, or real meat. They don’t understand the different cuts of roast beef, how to cook a whole chicken or the difference between pork tenderloin or a pork loin. They have no clue how to take a tough piece of beef into a luscious stew.
We need to change that for our children and our grandchildren. We need to cook again. We need to model behaviors that will benefit them for a lifetime. And in the process, they will learn how to shop, plan, prepare, cook, eat, clean up for themselves. Cooking and eating dinner together will build confidence in our children, and ourselves. Cooking at home will keep us healthier. Cook for our family, cook for our selves, cook for the future.
Rachael Warrington is a Food Service Manager at a school in Kansas and the mother of three. Her blog is Headcook and BottleWasher.
She writes: “It was not until I was 40 that I realized what I wanted to be when I grew up: A Foodie.  I love to read about food, cook food and of course eat food.  I am a wife and mother and that is the most important thing to me.  We own a small farm with several kinds of animals and we grow heirloom tomatoes for market.  We try to live our lives with integrity toward the earth.  We cherish each other most of the time, and we face the outside world together.  We are a family first.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I had a groupon coupon for IL Pointe Cafe and it had to be used before the end of the month. So off we went last night.  We checked out the menu online and found several options that sounded good.  This restaurant has had several names, but seems to be owned by the same group of people.  The menu is Mediterranean, including some Italian, which is in the Mediterranean.
The restaurant has had a major face lift, it was pretty and my favorite part quiet.  No blaring music, it was low opera that was restful.  It was early and there was only one other couple seated.  The manager waited on us and he was very pleasant.  He would have looked great in black slacks and a white shirt instead of jeans and a blue pullover.
We ordered a bowl of the tomato soup to share.  It was fantastic!!!!  Creamy, peppery and a great tomato flavor.  We polished that off in no time.
Kent ordered the beef kabobs and I ordered the lamb kabobs both meals came with a fattoush salad, homus (their spelling) and warm soft pita.  The homus had a garlic pesto that was unbelievably yummy. I took pictures with my phone so they a bit dark, but I think you get the idea.

I would recommend this restaurant to everyone.  It is quiet, great food, serene atmosphere.  We will be going back!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I cooked...

This entire weekend was eaten up with cooking!  And I have dubbed it the Pioneer Woman Cooking Weekend.  I didn't realize how many of her recipes I was cooking till I was telling my mother-in-law.  Every recipe came from her cookbook or her show I watched on Sat.  So here is the weekend.

Emily made 18 million PW red velet round cakes.  It was only 9, but seemed like much more.
PW Cream Cheese Frosting
More cakes and  more frosting
PW Chli for 20 (that is a lot of chili and yet there were some left overs-Sunday night dinner)
Cake Balls from the trimmings of the cake
PW meat balls with a tangy sweet tomato sauce- This was so good!!!  How such a simple recipe can create a dish that makes you dance with joy is beyond me.
PW Flat Apple Pie- I was watching her show Sat. and she made this.  It looked too simple.  Could it really be that simple and still taste like apple pie?  Yes and Yes!!!  I hate making pie, I hate trying to get it into a pie dish, baking it without it having spills than smoke the house up, and then trying to get that first piece out?  This was beyond simple.  And it tasted great, but I would let it cook a bit longer to allow the apples to break down more.

I took the left overs of my cooking extravaganza to my in-laws.  They got chili, meatballs and a flat apple pie.  I also made bown beans and ham.  They loved that.

So that was my cook weekend!

PW's Meatballs

1 1/2 lbs of good ground beef
3/4 cup of oatmeal
1 cup of milk
3 T. minced onion
1 t kosher salt
1 t fresh cracked pepper
1/2 c flour
4 T. cooking oil

I thought I was out of flour so I used Panko Bread Crumbs.  They worked out perfect and I will always use Panko.  I used about 1 1/2 c
Mix this all up, but do not over work the mixture.  If you handle the meat a lot it will toughen up as it cooks and be very dry.

Make the meat balls, I use my 2 oz. scoop so that they are all the same.  Heat a large skillet with a little oil to cover the bottom. Roll the meat balls in the panko to coat. Let the skillet heat up for a good 5 minutes.  Turn your heat to a medium high.  You are only browning the meat balls, not trying to cook them through. Place them in the hot skillet, do not crowd, and cook till they are golden brown, turn over and brown the other side. Place the browned meatballs in a 9x13 dish.

The Sauce
1 cup of ketchup
3 T. minced onionm
3 T. sugar
2 T. vinegar
2 T. Worschshire Sauce
Mix and pour over the meatballs.  Bake these for 35-45 minutes at 350.  I served them with pasta, but they would also be excellent with garlic mashed potatoes.  The sauce is very tangy, you can cut back on the vinegar if you like a more mild zip.  You can also just use BBQ sacue if you like or the cranberry ketchup sauce.  I had some left over panko so I just sprinkled it over the top and it browned in the oven and gave the dish an extra cruch on top. 

I took pictures and will add them as soon as my daughter emails them to me.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Today is a huge mile stone at our house.  My baby is 16...and I am turning 50 in two weeks.  My youngest child is no longer a child and I am no longer in my 40s.  My youngest is more grown up then not and I am a real middle aged woman.  This just dose not seem fair....the time has disappeared and I am now looking at colleges and future jobs for my kids.  Our thinking has changed from just getting through school to what are they going to do with the rest of their lives. 
My mother often says "Growing old is not for the faint of heart", and that is so true.  How do I see the next 40 years of my life?  Filled with family, grandchildren and maybe even great grandchildren;  taking our farm to a viable business that maybe one of our grandchildren may wish to continue.  Planning small goals for myself...knitting a full sweater for myself....teaching moms to cook for their family, teaching children how to cook. I want to head in the same direction that I am going, but set myself on the path with more detail.  Living the rest of my life with more purpose and direction. 

As I was standing next to my daughter, watching all her friends singing to her, I realized I am in a new phase of my life.  I am pleased where I am and I am proud of my children.  I have not done parenting well, I have made some colossal mistakes with each of my kids, I have apologized and started over.  I have yelled when I should have walked away, I have ignored when I should have acted, and I have had fun with each of them.  50 is looking pretty good.

And I am still making dinner!!! 

One Pot Stew on the Stove Top- (there is a longer less expensive variation at the end)

2 lbs of sirloin or a Petite Should Tender (this is not a cheap cut of meat, but it is so good!)
1 lb of Yukon gold potatoes
2 onions, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 lb of real carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces (not the baby ones, they do not have as much flavor)
1 lb of parsnips (these are our new favorite veggies, loaded with good stuff)
4 stalks of celery cut into 2 inch pieces
1 cup of flour
1 T. kosher salt
1 T. fresh cracked pepper
1 box of good beef broth or stock
2 bay leaves
1 package of frozen peas
1/2 c water
1/3 c of flour
1 t. of kitchen bouquet (this gives the stew a dark color)

In a large bowl add the flour with the salt and pepper.  Cut the meat into 2 inch pieces and toss them into the flour covering all the meat.
In a large heavy pot heat up about 1/4 c of oil-you can use olive oil it will take a little longer because you will need to keep your heat to medium.  I use coconut oil mixed with a little butter so I can brown at a medium high heat.  You can also use a vegetable oil which if that is what I have, that is what I use.
Heat the oil and add 1/3 of the meat.  Leave the meat alone so that it can brown, if you move it all around it will not brown, you are looking for a brown crust on the meat.  Do this in batches, moving the meat to a holding bowl. 
Once the meat is all browned and out of the pan, you are going to de-glaze.  I will use left over red wine if I have any or you use the beef broth.  Carefully pour your liquid into the hot pan and using a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pan.  You will feel the brown bits loosen and mix with the liquid.  This is gold, this is what gives stew its character. 
Now you add your meat back in and all the juices that have accumulated in the bowl.  Add all the veggies except the peas.  Add more beef broth or water to cover everything.  Turn the heat down to a low simmer.  Let this cook for about 45 minutes.  Test your potatoes, when they are tender you can add the peas.

Here comes the thickening part of the stew.  In a small bowl add 1/2 cup of water to this add 1/3 c of flour on top,  mix with a fork till combines.  Add this to the stew and turn the heat up. 
Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed, and add the kitchen bouquet.

Variation- 3- lb chuck roast, cut into 2 inch pieces.  Cut the thickest pieces of fat out and discard.
Use an oven proof pot.
Do everything else the same, but instead of cooking on the stove top pop the stew into the oven at 325 for about 2 hours.  You can turn the heat down to 250 and cook it for about four hours.  Or you may do everything through the bay leaf and pour everything into a slow-cooker and cook on low for about 8 hours. 

Give this a try and serve your family a hearty stick to your rib meal.  This is my family's favorite!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Big Sucess

I made a new soup from Relish this weekend.  I posted about it, Beefy Mushroom Barley with Kale. This is the recipe the reflects some of my changes.  It was one of the best soups I have ever had or made!

My Version
Beefy Mushroom and Barley Soup with Kale

1 lb of good ground meat (could use turkey or chicken if you liked, I don't like...)
1 lb of cremini mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic pressed or minced
1 cup of diced carrots (not baby carrots, adult carrots)
1 cup of diced onion
1 cup of diced celery
Salt and Pepper
1 box of beef broth - use the low sodium
2 cups of water
1 cup of pearl barely
1 bunch of fresh kale

In a large pot brown the meat and add all the veggies including the garlic.  Salt and pepper- a good pinch of salt and several grinds of the pepper mill.

Let this cook for about 10 minutes and stir well.  Break up the ground meat (I use my mix and chop from Pampered Chef).  Break up the mushrooms as well.

Add the broth, water, and pear barley.  Bring up to a rapid boil, then reduce the heat to low and let this bubble for about 45 minutes. 

Meanwhile cut the large ribs out of the kale and then rough chop everything.  You will have about 2-3 cups of chopped kale.

The last 5 minutes add the kale and bring up to a rapid boil.  Turn the soup off and grab large bowls!!! 
Next time I make this I will make crostini for dipping. 

This soup gets a five star rating from me.

Also this weekend we got a new to us dishwasher!!!  It is a Whirlpool Gold and works great!!!  My girls are so happy that they even loaded the dishwasher on their own yesterday!!!!
Now I can get back to cleaning out my very packed very messy new years resolution-getting rid of the clutter!!!!

Simple Soup Crostini

1 bagguette
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
3 T. olive oil

Heat a skillet up with the oil.  Cut the bread at an angle for pretty pieces, or just cut strieght.  When the oil is hot add the sliced garli and stir quickly.  You do not want to burn the garlic, if you do start over.  Remove the garlic just as it turns golden.  Now place your bread in the garlic flavored oil and toast on each side.  Serve a couple floating on each bowl of soup.  Leave the extras on a plate with the location known only by you for later. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Weekend

Another weekend.  We only have 52 of these a year and I am very jealous of each on.  I don't share them nor give them away easily.  I cherish the ones that allow me to sit and knit, or watch and old movie and knit.  But we also cram a lot of farm work into each weekend.  Two days to get caught up with all the work around the farm, fences, feed, cleaning, that is just outside.  Then there is the wash, and underneath cleaning I try to get accomplished in the house.  And then the girls think that the weekend is for fun!!!???  Where did that come from?
This weekend we have several things to do....make our business office more user friendly (in other words get it cleaned up), order seeds for the garden, figure out how many chicks to order and make a pen for them in the barn, build a chicken tractor, and work on the bathroom down stairs.  Yeah and Kent may be gone all day to a scholars bowl meet.....So that means myself and Ethan will be working a lot.
But that brings to some good news, I have my big bulky, uncomfortable boot off and have a new light weight brace on my leg.  I can walk normal again.  Nine months have been spent in that huge "Darth Vader" boot. Yeah

So what will I be cooking this weekend? 
Beef Mushroom and Barley Soup - Relish

I will change a couple of things to fit my family but I am going to make a big pot Saturday for lunch.

1 lb of ground beef (the recipe called for sirloin steak but into 1 1/2 inch pieces, to expensive right now)
1 cup of diced onions
1 cup of diced carrots
1 (12 oz) package of mushrooms, coarsely chopped-I use baby cremini mushrooms
1/2 c of uncooked barley- use the long cooking for better flavor and texture
1 (10 1/2 oz) can of beef broth
5 cups of water
1 t. of kosher salt
1/2 t. fresh cracked pepper
2 cups of chopped Swiss chard, or kale (this adds color and nutrition)
1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan Cheese to add on top of each bowl

Brown the ground meat till no pink remains.  Drain and rinse the fat from it.  Return to the skillet and add the onions and carrots.  Let this cook for about 10 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients through the pepper.  Let this simmer for 45 minutes until the barley is tender.  Add the Swiss chard about 5 minutes before serving.  Ladle into bowls and top with the cheese. 

I will also make some home made dinner rolls.  Before baking the rolls off I will brush each on with egg white and then sprinkle kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper on top.  Bake them off and they are glossy with the the white and black gleaming on top.

This will also make great left overs for Sunday night!

Thursday, January 5, 2012


The years are flying by so fast as I approach 50, will they slow down once I have my birthday this year?  I hope so, I can't keep up.  Everything is so much faster then what our parents lived through.  But I think it is also that the older we get the faster everything seems to be moving.  Sit and breathe for a while, it helps slow it all down.

This post is about cooking, surprise! 
It is about cooking at home, nightly.....
Cooking on the weekend......
Cooking for your family and friends.....

First cooking at home nightly...that is a big one for me and I would guess for you also.  How to get it done and keep your sanity.  I little planning will goes a long ways to that; also help from your family.  Kids make great souse chefs.

Tonight I am making Chicken Parm with a salad.  It will be just my girls and I tonight, but I am still going to cook.  That is not our normal...I use Kent not being their as an excuse to go out with the girls...nothing wrong with that except it creates a money spiral....first we go out to eat, Noodles & Co. is the new favorite spot.  It will run about 25.00 with a little bit of left overs, maybe.  Then Kent will grab something because there is nothing ready to eat at home....8.00.  When Ethan gets off at 8:00 PM he is hungry and will go by Sonic and eat fast food again...3.00.  Then there are no left overs for lunch the next day so Kent and the girls will eat at school for about 10.00 for all three of them.  So all that cost me about 46.00 bucks.  At Target that is a bunch of groceries.  I have to stop the money spiral. 

So dinner tonight will be cooked with enough left overs for all three of them.  I will also make two plates for Kent and Ethan so that they can eat when they get home.  I will pocket the 46.00 for a knitting project!  Not really but if I save enough money this way maybe!!!!!!

Chicken Parmesan with Pasta

2 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 cups of panko bread crumbs
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup of flour
1 cup of fresh Parmesan cheese grated
dash of salt and pepper

1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 lb of cooked pasta

1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat our oven up to 300 before you start and place and oven proof plate or a pizza stone.
Bring chicken up to room temp.  Heat a large skillet over high heat, add your favorite cooking oil.  My is a blend of butter and olive oil.  Let the oil heat up.
Meanwhile get three shallow dishes out. 
Dish one: Flour with the parm cheese and salt and pepper mixed up.  Dish two: beaten eggs.  Dish three: panko bread crumbs.  Dip chicken in flour, shake, dip into eggs, let drip and then lay the chicken down into the panko and press firmly.  Carefully lay the breaded chicken down into the hot oil.  Turn your heat down to medium high, you may need to adjust further.  Repeat with the remaining chicken.  I never cook more than four at a time.  When they are golden brown remove and place on your hot dish in the warmed oven.
Cook your pasta according to package and drain well.  Heat your spaghetti sauce up.  Now assembling.  On a large platter spread your hot pasta, then lay your chicken on top.  Sprinkle the cheese over the chicken and top with the hot sauce.  Serve with a salad and crusty bread!  Now that wasn't so bad was it?