Saturday, July 23, 2011

Morning At My House

My kitchen was a hoppin' place yesterday morning before 7 AM. Let's take a pictorial walk through what I was doing, shall we?

In no particular order:




Milked the cow.




Baked a coconut custard pie.




Made zucchini bread.



Skimmed the funk off the sauerkraut.



Strained the milk and put it in the fridge.



Made butter!!

Whoo! I feel tired just thinking about it. I'm glad I don't have to do that everyday....oh wait. Yes I do. LOL

Have a good weekend, stay cool!
 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cheesy Potatoes



I feel a little bad for putting all these recipes that use an oven on here right now when so much of the country is suffering from the heat wave. Yesterday was just about the last day I am going to get away with making a meal like this in the oven, but I wanted to share this recipe with you anyway. I've heard that it can be done in a crockpot, although I've never done it myself. You would have to try it out and see how it does.

I made this as a side dish last night, along with meatballs in brown gravy and green beans, but with some ham or bacon and maybe the addition of some onions this could easily be a nice main dish.

No more chitty chat, on to the recipe!!



Cheesy Potatoes

8 cups (roughly) of thinly sliced russet potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
6 Tablespoons butter
6 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups milk
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 (or another cup of milk)
3 cups shredded cheese, I used cheddar

Grease a 9x13 inch pan. Put 1/2 of the sliced potatoes down and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Next, make the sauce. Melt that butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Stir together and let it cook for 1 minute. Add salt and garlic powder. Slowly drizzle in the milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Let cook until thick and bubbly, about 5-10 minutes. Add the cheese all at once and stir quickly to melt. Pour 1/2 the cheese sauce over the potatoes in the pan and layer the rest of the potato slices over that. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover with the remaining cheese sauce. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.



Can you tell it was popular? The family loved this. Once the weather cools off I'll be moving this into regular menu rotation.

Please friends, if you are in one of the areas getting hit with all this heat, please be careful. Try to stay cool and drink lots of water!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How To Use Up Zucchini And Make Your Family Very Happy


It's summer! Well, in some places it's summer. Oregon seems to be having a problem getting with the picture, it's 64 degrees right now. The past few days we have had clouds, rain and a massive thunderstorm. The thunderstorm part was kind of awesome and all of the rain means I haven't been having to water the garden as often, so that's a plus as well.

Since it is summer and gardens are teeming with zucchini right now, I thought I would share 2 recipes with you. The first one is one that I have previously posted about, and the other is a new-to-you recipe. I Wanted to post the "used" one again because so many of you are new and might not have seen it when I first posted it last year.



The first recipe is for Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. I won't write the whole recipe here, you can just click over to see it and the whole cake frosting process in that post since it is a repeat.




In a weird way, this picture has a lot to do with the next recipe. You see, I dehydrate every. single. extra. zucchini that I get out of the garden and store them in a big glass gallon jar. In the winter when I am making a soup, or stew, or chili or enchiladas, or heck just about everything~ I throw in a handful of dried zucchini. I also re-hydrate it, squeeze out the extra liquid and make zucchini bread, cake or muffins as well. I know you can just freeze your zucchini shreds, but I don't have a ton of freezer space and you would be amazed at how many dried zukes will fit into a gallon jar :)

And so I give to you our next recipe, it's one that I got off of Allrecipes.com and I l-o-v-e it. Please make it so you can love it too!

Mom's Zucchini Bread
from AllRecipes.com

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts

Spray 2 loaf pans with non-stick spray, set aside. Mix the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in everything else except for the zucchini and nuts. Stir well, fold in the zucchini and nuts and pour into the prepared pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 45-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

I don't have a picture of the actual loaves.....because they are in the oven right now and I wanted you to have the recipes as soon as I could get them on here. I'll update with a picture of the loaves when they are done.

I know some of you are dying in the heat...but maybe you can get one of these treats baked early enough or late enough in the day to enjoy them. I hope so, they are really good!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Homemade Pudding Cups



I pack a lunch for Kevin 5 days a week and I used to just go down the isles of the grocery and pick up granola bars, pudding packs, crackers, chips, etc. Since we have been cracking down on preservatives and trying to make as much from scratch as possible, lunchtime snacks have been hard for me. But when I really stopped to think about it, it shouldn't be. After all, all those things I was buying for his lunch, I knew I could make at home. It was just a matter of doing it.

Now that we are swimming in milk, I'm making pudding and yogurt for the family a couple times a week. I thought I would share my recipe for pudding today and show you how I make my own pudding cups.



Put sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large saucepan. Slowly stir in the milk so you don't get lumps. Heat over medium heat, stirring often.




Meanwhile, whip up 4 egg yolks in a bowl. These will just hang out on the counter until you are ready for them.




You want to bring your milk mixture to a boil. When it boils, time it for 1 minute, stirring constantly.




Remember those egg yolks? You're going to take the milky mixture off the heat and use a measuring cup to s-l-o-w-l-y drizzle a cup of the hot milk into the egg yolks. You are going to whisk the while time, so you can avoid making scrambled eggs.

When you have the whole cup of milk into the eggs, stir the egg mixture into the saucepan and put it back over medium heat. Bring it back to a boil and boil it for 1 minute stirring constantly.





It'll be thick and golden and rich looking. Take it off the heat and stir in vanilla extract (homemade if possible, it really has such good flavor) and butter. Stir, stir, stir it all together and put it in your containers immediately.

Place in the fridge and let it cool overnight. Or, you could use it as a sauce on pound cake, gingerbread or plain devil's food. Some people like to eat it warm, but I'm not one of them. If you are go for it~ it's your pudding, do what you want!



I'm using 1/2 cup containers here and it makes 8 portions. Perfect for lunches with a couple left over for snacking.

Basic Vanilla Pudding Cups
from Betty Crocker's New Cookbook

2/3 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk
4 egg yolks
4 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon vanilla

In a saucepan mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Slowly stir in the milk. Cook over medium heat until boiling. Stir and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Whisk 4 egg yolks in a bowl and add 1 cup of the milk, stirring constantly to avoid curdling the eggs. When the milk is mixed with the eggs, place the milk back on medium heat and stir the egg mixture back in. Stirring constantly, bring back to a boil. Stir and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Serve warm or put in containers and refrigerate until cold. Makes 8- 1/2 cup servings

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cherries!



Our Bing cherry tree is loaded with cherries this year. The long, cool spring and summer have made for ideal growing conditions. Since we aren't about to let this much amazing free food go to waste, we have to get up there and pick those cherries.
BUT....there's always a "but" isn't there? But, our tree is pretty tall and we don't have an orchard ladder. Don't fear! We have it all figured out.




Kevin put his ladder on some boards on top of the garage. It's perfectly safe.....until you fall off, at least. I really wasn't all that interested in watching Kevin pick cherries, but I wanted to be there with my camera in case he fell off the roof. He would have wanted me to get photographic evidence so he could show the guys at work.




Here's an up-close and personal view of his setup. Looks good, no?




Showing off the fruits of his labor (har, har, har).




We (meaning Kevin) picked about 5 pounds of cherries and didn't even scratch the surface. We have borrowed an orchard ladder for the next few nights and plan on really stripping the fruit off. After pitting them, we decided to load up the dehydrator.

Why not just eat them fresh or freeze them? I can do so many things coming from dehydrated: pie, stew them, cobblers, crisps, sauces and just to eat in granola or for a snack. Plus, they won't take up much space to store.




Kevin loading up the last tray before we put them in the Excalibur. I just checked on them and they have a few more hours to go. I'm so excited!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Day



Recently I have had several people ask me how I have time to fit "everything" in my day. When I have someone ask me this it is so hard not to laugh! I NEVER get everything done, and most days I don't even get all the things I would LIKE to get done, done. But, since there seemed to be at couple people interested in what my day was like, I thought I would outline it here for you.

Just a note~ I do not feel special. I do not think that I get tons done every day. I don't think that what I do is in any way, shape or form more important than how you fill the hours of your day. This is simply a way to answer those questions in a fairly simple way. :)

5:30-6:00 AM~ Wake up time! Kevin goes to milk the cow and I get ready to deal with the milk. I also try to make his lunch and breakfast, start a load of laundry and get the dishwasher ready to go.



7:00 AM~ Kevin is home, I strain the milk and I may or may not pasteurize it, depending on what I am doing with it. I get the milk bucket cleaned and scalded and then I put my whole mess of milky dishes in the dishwasher and start it. I decide what we're going to have for dinner and make sure I get something out of the freezer if I need to.

8:00 AM~ Kids are usually up by now, so I feed them and line up their morning chores. They eat and get dressed, then do chores. I finish cleaning the kitchen, wipe down the table, change over the laundry, pick up the living room floor and sweep all of my floors.

9:00-9:30 AM~ We go outside at this point and try to get some outdoor stuff done. Usually this means watering the garden/lawn, mowing the grass, picking veggies, etc. We feed and water the chickens, let them out to eat bugs in the garden.



10:30 AM~ Back inside for a while. I prep anything that I can for dinner, think about lunch and afternoon snack. This year it hasn't been as hot, so I have been able to bake later in the morning. When it gets warmer this will move to first thing in the AM. I change the laundry over for the morning and (usually) fold it and put it away. While I am putting it away, I pick up my room and make my bed.  We do any other household chores that need done (mop, clean bathroom, put away dishes, etc).

12:00 Noon~ Lunchtime! We eat and then clean up. The girls have free time until naps (2:00 PM) so they will play outside or use the table for a project, depending on how hot it is. I use this time to work on my to-do list and any other things I may want to do, like sewing or crochet.

2:00 PM~ The twins go down for a nap and the big girls start school time. Right now we are able to get our work done mostly during nap time. When the "school year" starts again, we will expand from just basics like reading, writing and math. History, Science, Home Ec and other things will be added again. I get dinner ready to go when I get back from milking.

5:00 PM~ Nap time over and snack happens. Everyone gets dressed and shoes on.



5:30 PM~ We go milk Petunia.

6:30 PM~ Home from milking. I strain the milk and put it away and start dinner. Kevin usually gets home about now, so he hangs out with the kids and takes care of anything that might have broken during the day LOL

7:00 PM~ Dinner then dinner clean up. The kids clear the table while I put dinner away and load the dishwasher. They go get ready for bed and we all settle down to do something together. Most often this is TV, but it can be playing outside or walking through the garden or whatever.



8:30 PM~ Bedtime for the kids. Kevin puts them to bed and reads them a story. Right now, they are also practicing one Spanish word as well :)

9:00 PM~ I get a little computer time while Kevin does his thing and then we either watch TV or read. Before we go to bed we talk about the next day and decide what we're going to do. Kind of lay out our day.

10:00-11:00 PM~ Bedtime for us. We always hope to be in bed before 11, but we rarely seem to make it.

Then I wake up and we do it all over again!

 My day is pretty full, and there are things that get done that I didn't list here, but they don't happen every. single. day. so I didn't include them. This is the schedule that I try to stick too. It changes a bit in the fall, but this is basically it.

How do you schedule your day? A rigid schedule or do you just fly by the seat of your pants?? Tell me!!!





Monday, July 11, 2011

Sauerkraut…..Soon.


Not everyone likes sauerkraut. I get that. I don’t think you have to like sauerkraut to say that the fermentation process is amazing. You can take just a few, simple, unassuming ingredients and turn them into something spectacular. Think pickles. Yum!
What I did today was 1/2 a recipe from my Ball Blue Book. I cannot say this enough: If you do not have one of these and think you might want to do some canning, pickling or preserving~ GET ONE. There are amazing sources of inspiration and instruction.
I didn’t decide to blog about making sauerkraut until after I had my cabbage all shredded so I want you to close your eyes and imagine a picture of 10 lbs of shredded cabbage. Do you see it? Ok, next step.
I put the 10 lbs of shredded cabbage in a bowl and sprinkled it with 6 Tablespoons of canning salt. It needs to hang out in the bowl until it starts looking wilted and is giving off some liquid.
Like this:
DSC_1496
Next, you need to pack your cabbage into a crock. To do this you will put some in and use your hand to evenly press it down into the crock. You want nice, even layers with no large gaps.
DSC_1497
My cabbage hadn’t made enough juice to cover it, so I made a brine of 1 quart water and 1 1/2 Tablespoons canning salt. Boil, then cool. Pour it over your cabbage.
The next thing you need to do it weigh your cabbage down. I found a plate that fit but left a little room all around it for the gas bubbles to escape when fermentation starts happening.
DSC_1498
Now, I didn’t follow directions exactly (and generally with canning you should). The book says to just cover the cabbage and brine with cheesecloth and then weigh it down. I decided on the plate instead of cheesecloth so I could use a nice heavy weight. Don’t laugh when I show you what I used:
DSC_1499
If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time you know how much I love finding new uses for vinegar! Here is another one :)
The plate and the bottle of vinegar do not go all the way to the edge so I can still see the bubbles and skim of any nasties that may form.
DSC_1500
Now all I have to do is wait 3-6 weeks for fermentation to take place and then I’ll have sauerkraut. I’ll keep you updated and show you the process all the way through canning.
So what do you think? Is sauerkraut good or no?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Saturday Morning Cartoons


Saturday morning always meant cartoons when I was little~ and I don't mean what they call cartoons today. I get so disgusted when I watch cartoons with my kids now. Everything has to have a lesson or a moral to the story. I'm not suggesting that there SHOULDN'T be lessons and moral stories in children's lives, I just don't get it in cartoons. Cartoons are just an amusing waste of time. Period.



For my girls cartoons are a little different. Since we don't have cable or satellite, they are confined to what Netflix has to choose from. The other day I was looking around and found some old Popeye for them to watch and that generated a suggestion for a 3 1/2 hour block of cartoons called "Cartoons that time forgot". These are oldies, from the '30's and they are so good! Some of them are done by early Disney illustrators and cartoonist.




The girls have been watching these and enjoying them immensely. Sorry Dora, these are REAL cartoons. The only difference between Saturday mornings for my girls and what Saturday mornings were like for me? I used to devour Pop Tarts and they ALWAYS ask for biscuits and gravy. Spoiled much?




So they sit happily wrapped in blankets (uh, it's summer right?), eating their biscuits and gravy and watching cartoons.



It makes everyone happy!!




On a completely unrelated note, isn't this picture kind of cool? I know it's totally overexposed, but it turned out to have kind of a cool effect, eh?

Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Butter!



Well, well, well.....would you look at that. It seems that I made butter :) I've made butter before, by shaking it in a jar, just for fun to show the kids how it was made. But last night I had a 1/2 gallon of cream to make into butter so I opted to use my Kitchen Aid instead.

I didn't take any pictures because:

1) It was really late when I made it and my kitchen was dark
2) I forgot

However it is so simple, so quick and so easy that I am going to outline it here for you (just in case you feel the need to make some butter) and the next time I make it I'll update this post with step-by-step pictures.

How to make butter~ The unofficial, probably wrong, super easy way I did it :)

Step 1~ Pour some cream into your mixer bowl and start whipping it up, just like you are making whipped cream. When it gets to be whipped cream, just keep going! If you watch, you will see the smallish globs of butter become bigger and then the solids will separate from the liquid and look like one big 'ol honkin mess.

Step 2~ Place a strainer with fine mesh over a bowl and dump the whole butter/liquid mixture into it. The liquid will strain off and leave the butter solids in the strainer. I then ran the strainer under cold water and sort of flipped the butter around.

Step 3~ Place the rinsed butter into a bowl and begin squishing the buttermilk out. I would squish, rinse with cold water, squish, rinse with cold water.....and so on until the water was running clear.

Step 4~ Place your newly made butter into a container and run around your house showing everyone you can find that you just made butter. Be amazed at it's fresh flavor. Stare in wonderment at it's amazing yellow color. Text your mother a picture. Put it in the fridge.

Step 5~ Eat it or freeze it. I didn't salt this butter (mostly because I forgot until I woke up in the middle of the night and suddenly remembered) and as I understand it salt helps to preserve the butter and make it last longer. Oops! Oh well, I may not salt a lot of my butter anyway, because I prefer to use unsalted butter in my cooking and baking. But, I also plan on freezing my butter pretty much right away and just getting it out as I need it.

So there you have it, butter fresh from the cow. Can I just add that I did NOT add any coloring to the butter that you see in the picture below? That is just the color God made it. Amazing huh?

I do have one question for all y'all out there~ What do you do with the liquid leftover from butter making? Should I leave it out to sour and use it as buttermilk or should I culture it to make true buttermilk or should I feed it to my chickens or what? Any ideas?


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Vanilla Bean Yogurt Update

Yesterday I posted about making vanilla bean yogurt and today I thought I would share the recipe with you and show you the end result. This works out really well if you bought a pound of vanilla beans off of eBay and are trying to find ways to use them up (like me) other than making more vanilla extract. I have enough for me for a year, plus I have made enough for Christmas presents too :) I love getting things done early in the year!

Here is my yogurt, all done and in the bowl:



It's really hard to take a picture of white yogurt when there isn't any natural light yet. As you can see, it is thick enough to float a spoon. I may strain mine just a little to get it slightly thicker, or you can add a package of plain gelatin.




Close up of yogurt on a spoon. As you can see, it is thick enough to mound up on the spoon and I love how all the little specks of vanilla bean look. This is so delicious, I had some with granola this morning and my, oh, my. I'm in love.

Vanilla Bean Yogurt

1 gallon milk (whole or 2% works best)
2 cups yogurt with live active cultures
1 cup instant non-at milk (optional)
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large crock pot, heat the milk, vanilla bean pod and the scraped seeds on high until bubbles form around the edges (about 180 degrees), if you are using the powdered milk, add it in this step and make sure that it is really well mixed and no lumps remain. funky things will happen if there are clumps of powdered milk and it's not tasty, trust me on this one. When it has come up to temperature, turn off the heat, unplug the crock pot and let it cool to 110-116. When it has cooled, add in the yogurt culture and the vanilla extract. Pot the lid back on the crock pot and wrap it with a bath towel. Let it sit on your counter, wrapped and undisturbed, for about 6-8 hours. In the warmer months, I find that 6-7 hours does the trick. In the colder months I have had to leave it sit for as much as 10 hours. Once it has thickened to nearly yogurt-like texture, transfer it to a jar or bowl and refrigerate it or at least 8 hours so it can cool completely.
I usually make yogurt in the morning, let it sit all day, put it in the fridge overnight and start eating the next day. It takes about 2-3 hours in my crock pot for the milk to come up to 180 degrees and then about another hour to cool off. So yes, it's a lot of time, but you aren't doing anything for most of it.

You can leave out the vanilla and make it plain then add fruit or jam to it later. I haven't tried adding fruits to it as it cooks yet, but I'm sure I will at some point ;)

Oh, and one last thing~ I don't sweeten my yogurt, but you certainly can. Add a little sugar or honey with the milk before you heat it and you should be good to go. I'm guessing anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup, depending on how sweet you like it.

Make some yogurt today so you can eat it tomorrow!!! LOL

Really, Really Random

Sometimes I'll go through my pictures and see ones that I had forgotten about or just really loved. It's such a waste not to share them, so here are my favorites this week!


Dottie the Super Dog


Middle Kid being goofy


I wont that pig in a contest and part of winning was taking a picture and sending it to them. This was the picture I sent in. I thought it was kind of cute :)


Double rainbow over our house a couple weeks ago.


My Mother's Day basket of flowers that my lovely children won for me. They are so lucky, those little kids of mine.


Youngest. I don't know what she's doing, but it's cute and it makes me love her even more <3

Have a Happy Wednesday!!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Vanilla Bean Yogurt


If you are following me on Facebook, you know that Petunia had her calf a week ago today. It was a little bull calf and we named him Red.




We started milking her for our home consumption Monday morning and I am so pleased with her :) We are getting about 3 gallons a day as of right now minus what Little Mister is drinking (which really isn't all that much). We're milking twice a day and bottle feeding him and everyone is seriously happy with the situation.

Well, except Petunia. When we turned her out onto pasture we found out that her other calf isn't weaned yet and he went right for my liquid gold. She is currently penned up while we wait for a calf weaning ring to arrive. Hopefully that will take care of the problem so she can get out and eat some more of the good stuff.


So now that I'm getting all this fantastic milk, I'm enjoying finding ways to use it. I have never made much pudding or custard because it uses so much milk. But no more! Now I can make whatever I want. I don't know if you can see it in the picture very well, but this milk still has the cream on the top, I haven't skimmed it yet. I'm saving it up to make some butter and some buttermilk biscuits for our breakfast Sunday morning :) So good!

Today I decided to take one of my fabulous gallons of milk and make up some yogurt with it. I have only made homemade yogurt with store-bought milk so I am curious to see if there is a difference at all.

I made my usual yogurt recipe, but this time I added a vanilla bean to it:


I will also add a teaspoon or two of my homemade vanilla extract when I stir in the yogurt culture and begin the incubation. Look at all those little vanilla seed floating around in there. I can hardly wait to taste this. I'll give you an update when it's done, but I can't hardly believe that it won't be good!