Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Secret Ingredient Coffee Cake

Coffee cake is good cake. It's sturdy, dense and, if made correctly, moist. It's good for breakfast, lunch, snack, and any time in between. Coffee cake and I have a special relationship you see. I love it and it loves me, maybe a little too much. I tend to make this coffee cake when I'm feeling uninspired and I need to make a treat for lunches or to take somewhere. It's my "go-to" good snack cake.

It is very simple and has a surprise ingredient that contributes to it's deliciousness- mayo. Yup, good old mayonnaise makes an appearance in this cake and it is what makes is so good and moist. It's slightly sweet with a hint of spicy cinnamon, but it is just the basic version. Add nuts, fruit, chocolate chips, coconut or whatever else you might want to try out in the middle along with the cinnamon-sugar swirl and make it different every time.

I use the basic recipe the most, because everyone I have ever made it for loves it. You can bake this in a 9x13 inch baking dish for very tall pieces of cake, or in a jelly roll pan for a slightly smaller one. The jelly roll pan will yield more individual pieces while the 9x13 will yield very, very moist, tall slices. It's up to you!!!

Coffee Cake
Recipe found in my trusty Treasury of Mennonite Recipes :)
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar (I used 2 cups raw sugar and 3/4 cup brown sugar)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
Topping and Filling

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 º F. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir together the sour cream and mayo. Add the dry ingredients and the sour cream/mayo mixture alternately to the creamed egg/sugar/butter. Mix the topping in a small bowl. Spray your pan with non stick spray and spread out half of the batter. Sprinkle half of the filling over the batter and cover with the other 1/2 of the batter. Sprinkle on the remaining topping and bake for 55 min to 1 hour. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. 

Drizzle with 1/2 cup powdered sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla and enough milk to make it spreadable if desired. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013


A couple quick updates for you all....nothing scary I promise :)

  1. I changed the blog layout/color scheme. If you can't find something you normally have no problem finding, let me know. Leave me a comment or email me at cookesfrontier@yahoo.com.
  2. I shortened the posts that show on the homepage to 2. It was taking too long to load a whole bunch and I got tired of it, so I can imagine you did too. 
  3. At the bottom of the homepage, there is not a long bar across the bottom of the page, after the last post, that will let you subscribe by email to this blog. Enter your email address, input the secret code on the pop up screen and you'll get my posts delivered to your inbox. It seems like the best way to combat Google Reader closing down shop.
  4. It's Spring! Have you planted anything yet? Me either.
  5. Have a nice weekend!!
That's it folks, I just wanted you all to know what was going on and I needed to let you know about email subscription. Sign up so you don't miss a thing!!!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Almond Joy No Bake Cookies

Sometimes, not very often but *sometimes*, I make additions to a recipe that I have been making forever and it makes me feel like I'm a genius. No bake cookies are something that I'm pretty sure every house in America makes at some point or another. They are fast, the recipes usually make about a million and they are a favorite of kids and big kids alike.

My brilliant mind looked at my cookbook this morning while making them and had a brilliant idea. Instead of adding peanut butter to these like I always do, what would happen if I used the coconut that it actually called for and added chopped toasted almonds instead?

Magic happened my friends. Fireworks went off, horns sounded and I'm almost convinced that a ray of light from Heaven was shining down on our house from the clouds for a few minutes. Seriously- that good.

Almond Joy No Bake Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 3 cups oatmeal (I used 3 minute oats)
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
In a large saucepan combine the first 4 ingredients. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Let boil 3 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Pour in all of the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.Drop by rounded tablespoon onto wax paper and let harden. Makes about 2/12 dozen.


Yum! I'm was so excited when these turned out as well as they did. My experiments in the kitchen don't always turn out as good! I made a double batch and these will be riding along in lunch boxes to be the treats for this week and probably most of next week as well. Since these cookies were such a hit, I wanted to share them with you too. Try them!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Grind Your Own Almond Butter

Making almond butter at home is a snap- if you have a WonderMill Junior Deluxe hand crank mill that is. I bought mine a looooong time ago and have only used it for the singular task of milling grains. Why I haven't tried peanut butter or almond butter before is beyond me, but the thought that I ought to try finally crossed my mind.

It is really, really simple. I bought some raw almonds and roasted them in the oven. Pretty simple, spread them out on a cookie sheet in a single layer and bake at 350 degrees. Give them a little stir every 5 minutes. It took my almonds 20 minutes to get to the toasty-ness that I liked. One of the bonuses of grinding your own nut butters is that you can add (or not add) the amount of oil, sugar and salt you want to be in your butter. We had a jar of name brand peanut butter on the jar, so I went and took a look at it. It has 16 (16!!!!) ingredients on the label. That almond butter up there in the picture? 3. 3 ingredients: almonds, honey and a teeny, tiny pinch of sea salt.

I highly recommend this grinder for this! It was easy to use, the clean up was simple and the butter was smoother than I can buy at the store. I was really impressed.  The oil in the almonds makes turning the crank a breeze and it took about 10 minutes to grind the 3 cups of almonds into about a pint of butter. Make sure you are using the stainless steel burrs, the stone burrs will gum up and you will have a serious mess on your hands.

After grinding, clean up took little to no time at all. I just removed the flour shield and the stainless steel burs, washed them in the sink and set them aside to dry. The mill itself, I just undid the clamp and ran some water through the mill itself. I used the spray hose to make sure there weren't any little almonds hanging out in there. I dried it off as best I could and then set it aside to dry completely. Obviously, you aren't going to want to grind anything in the mill until it is completely dry.

I stirred in some honey and a pinch of salt into my almond butter. What you add, or how much, is completely up to you. Cinnamon, cocoa or even sugar or brown sugar could be added as to taste. This makes a really good spread for toast and on crackers! My kids have been enjoying it so much that in less than one day, there is only this much left!

Do you make your own almond butter? What do you use to make it- a grain mill or a food processor? I'm enjoying this handy grain mill. Not only can I grind flours, meals and crack grains- I can also grind oily seeds and nuts to create my own butters! Sunflower butter is up next for me, I can hardly wait.

This was an interesting and educational experiment for me. I really enjoy my WonderMill grain mills, they are some of the biggest workhorses I have in my kitchen. It's nice to have an appliance like this that you can count on AND that can do so many things. It gets my full stamp of approval!

This review is my honest opinion of a product. I purchased the grain mill myself and this is my personal experience with the product. I love this product and wanted to share it with all of you. 

Montana Salad

For Valentine's Day this year, Kevin got me an old Oregon Cancer Society Fundraiser Cookbook. The copyright in the book is 1961 and I was mildly surprised to find this recipe among the salads listed. I didn't know cooking with wheat berries was hip among the cancer society cookbook circles, but hey- I'm glad it was! This salad is delicious, hands down, but also surprisingly different. The cooked wheat berries lend a chewy texture akin to tapioca and a nuttiness, too.

When my family first tried this dessert fluff out, they were very surprised and they all tried to figure out what it was they were eating. It's mellow and smooth but the berries are so different with their unique flavor and texture. This is one of my most favorite desserts now. I'm just in love with it for so many reasons. I did have to laugh at the original recipe though- when it called for the wheat berries, the instructions pointed you to the feed store to buy them! Thank goodness we've come far enough to be able to buy wheat berries at every health food store and most chain super stores. How funny :)

It's very simple to whip up, but needs to chill a couple hours before serving. It calls for a lot of convenience foods, but I transformed it to an all homemade version that is divine. However, I can vouch to the tastiness of the other way as well. Either way you choose to whip this up will yield the same delectable salad.

Montana Salad

  • 1 cup wheat berries
  • 2 cups crushed pineapple, drained well
  • 1 (8 oz) brick cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups vanilla homemade vanilla pudding (or 1 large box of instant pudding combined with the milk called for and chilled)
  • 2 cups whipped cream ( or 1- 8 oz tub whipped topping, defrosted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Cover the wheat berries with water and soak overnight. To cook, pour berries and water into a pan, add enough water to cover by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook berries for 2 hours. Drain; chill completely. In a bowl, beat the cream cheese and the pudding together. Fold in the pineapple, whipped cream, vanilla and cooked wheat berries. Let chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

So, as you can see this is a very simple recipe. I know those of you who buy wheat berries in large quantities like I do will appreciate an extra way to use them up. A sweet treat that has some nutritional merits (it is a dessert after all) is nice to have under your cap for something a little different.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Coffee Cake Muffins

I love this picture of these muffins peaking out of my bread basket! What a nice way to start the morning and really make Monday, or any day, special. Coffee cake is one of my most beloved creations, but sometimes I don't want to wait an hour or more to have a slice. Muffins make the magic possible in a lot less time and they are portioned out so I don't accidentally overindulge.

This is the most simple, basic muffin recipe that produces a tender, moist, superbly delicious muffin topped with crunchy cinnamon-sugar topping. Or, add in some extras to make it over-the-top good and top with a cream cheese drizzle. You can add in berries, finely chopped or grated apples, choc chips, raisins, nuts- anything your heart desires!

Health-ify the recipe and make it with whole wheat flour, reduce or remove the cinnamon-sugar topping altogether, but I can't vouch for their flavor with those changes. I'm sure they'll still be just as delicious but I can't know for sure.

Coffee Cake Muffins
original coffee cake recipe given to me by a dear, dear friend. I've slightly adapted it to make my version.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 cups buttermilk (I made sour milk instead)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350º F. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and not sugar crystals remain. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the flour, buttermilk, cinnamon and vanilla. in a separate bowl, mix the sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon together; set aside. Line a muffin tin with paper cups and scoop the cup 1/2 full of batter. Sprinkle with reserved sugar mixture. Top with more batter, filling the cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle with more cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Makes 24 large muffins. 

All I can say is this- MAKE THESE! They freeze well and are great to pop into a lunch. Breakfast on the go when paired with a piece of fruit or a smoothie. We love these for breakfast along with scrambled eggs, hashbrowns and toast. Delicious! 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Campfire Baked Beans

When I was a little girl, I would read my treasured copy of Little Town on the Prairie and my mouth would water at the description of Ma's baked beans. You know, the ones she put in the oven Sunday morning before church and let slow cook all day. Who knew wood stoves were the original crock pot?!

In Ma's version, the beans are poured into the pan (presumably with water), drizzled with molasses and a slab of salt pork placed on the top. Simple, easy food, right? Easy to recreate at home, but I knew that we would want a little more flavor than just molasses and pork. No problem! I have always had the suspicion that Ma's beans had some extra flavors in there anyway. Through a lot of trial and error, I have finally come to the baked bean recipe of my dreams.

These are beans are on the sweeter side and are perfect with anything off the grill: BBQ burgers, steak or chicken. A little coleslaw to go along with it and you have one heck of a feast. I call them campfire baked beans because I bake them up in a dutch oven, and they could be easily cooked over a campfire. Also, if you are interested int his sort of thing- all of the ingredients are really food storage friendly. Oh, and did I mention that it's just another delicious way to use up beans? Don't be afraid to buy them in large quantities. They are cheaper that way, store well and have about a million uses!

Campfire Baked Beans

  • 2 cups small white beans
  • 10 cups water
  • 6-8 slices thick cut bacon or side pork, cooked and chopped into large pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup ketchup OR BBQ sauce, optional
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons mustard
  • 3 cups water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large sauce pot, bring 10 cups of water and the beans to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. In a dutch oven, combine the rest of the ingredients, except for the 3 cups water, and stir to combine. Pour in the beans and their cooking water and bake, covered, in the oven for 4 hours. After they have cooked for 4 hours, remove the lid and add in the remaining water. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours more, until they have reached your desired thickness and the beans are completely cooked through. 

Not only are these really, really good as a side dish- they are also great in recipes where you would use canned pork-n-beans. My family loves it when I make these Beanie Weenies with these beans instead of canned pork and beans. Don't be put off by the large recipe if you don't need to make that many- these freeze really well or store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Honestly, they are even better the net day. If they become very thick when reheating, just add a little water to get them back to your desired consistency. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Cereal Bars

Everyone knows how to make Rice Crispy Treats, but how often do you think about making them with a different kind of cereal? Up until a couple years ago, I never made them with anything but crispy rice. I guess I should be clear and tell you that I only make them a few times a year, since we tend to avoid most of the ingredients involved in making them, but for a once in a while treat they can't be beat. I've made these with fruity pebbles, coco crispies, honey nut cheerios- even capt'n crunch.

But never, EVER with lucky charms until this year. I was grocery shopping and it dawned on me that those would be the perfect treat for St. Patrick's Day!! My kids wondered why I brought home Lucky Charms (we don't eat cereal at our house) but they were super excited when I made the cereal into marshmallow cereal bars.

Yum. Just- yum.

And, like all other cereal bars, these are fast and easy. Make a few for your family this year. They'll thank you :)

Cereal Bars

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 20 marshmallows
  • 6 cups cereal
In a saucepan, melt the marshmallows and shortening together. Stir in the cereal and press into a lightly greased 9x9 inch pan. Let cool completely and cut into bars. Yield: 16 bars

These are fun to make with kids and fun for them to eat. Heck, even big kids will like these. Make some this week!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Orange Glazed Whole Wheat Pull Apart Bread

Yum!! Not only is this whole wheat bread (from the recipe I posted yesterday), it's also pretty healthy as far as pull apart, snack type breads go. I brought this out along with ice cold glasses of milk for our mid-morning homeschool snack. Some carbohydrates to keep us going :)

I'm always looking for ways to sneak in more whole grain and this was another good one. Whole grains are so important- they provide essential fiber, nutrients and they keep you fuller, longer. White flour will always have a place in my kitchen- there are just a few things that I make for special occasions that require it. But, for everyday cooking and baking, whole grains are my new normal.

Grind up some flour and make your favorite recipe for bread dough. I'll wait here until you're ready.

Ready? Ok, roll out your dough and spread it with softened butter or brush it with melted coconut oil. Sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon. Roll the whole thing up jelly roll style. Slice into pieces. What size and how many pieces is up to you. I did pretty small pieces and just tossed them into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and remove from the oven. Let the pull apart bread sit in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and put onto a serving platter or plate.

I used a glaze of 1/2 cup powderes sugar, 1 tablespoon orange juice and enough milk to make a smooth, drizzling consistency. Drizzle over the loaf and enjoy :)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Whole Wheat Bread {Large Batch}

Since receiving my WonderMill, I have been wanting to bake all of my families bread for sandwiches and toast, adding to the fact that I make all of our bagels, pretzels, buns and rolls. The problem I had was that the nice recipes for bread I could find only made 1 or, at the most, 2 loaves of bread. When you have a family of this size 1 loaf of bread lasts 1 meal. Sandwiches may require 1 and 1/2 loaves, depending on how ravenous the family is.

I was walking down the isle at our mega store and I saw cans of Augason Farms vital wheat gluten and dough enhancer. On the back of each can was a different recipe for wheat bread. One was a standard recipe for a bread machine and the other used 11+ cups of flour. BINGO!! I'd found a large batch recipe to try.

I've been wanting to try the dough enhancer and vital wheat gluten anyway, so I bought both cans and headed home. Milling up some fresh flour was my first step, as always. Fresh flour makes such a difference in baking, but you wouldn't have convinced me of that before I started milling my own!

This recipe makes 3 large loaves of whole wheat bread sweetened with honey. It's very soft, chewy and delicious. Another recipe to add to my binder. It's a time saver for me because it means I only have to bake twice a week, maybe only once depending on what is on the menu. It's also a very fast recipe and I think I'm going to try mixing in different flours and goodies (think oats, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds and dried onion pieces, yum!!) the next time I make it. We like "everything" bread, so it'll be a challenge for me to see if I can recreate it.

Whole Wheat Bread
Augason Farms recipe, located on the back of the Dough Enhancer

  • 6 cups warm water
  • 2/3 cup oil (I used coconut)
  • 2/3 cup honey (I used raw blackberry honey)
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons dough enhancer (find it HERE)
  • 1/3 cup vital wheat gluten (find it HERE)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 11 cups whole wheat flour
In a large bowl, stir together the first 4 ingredients, then add in 2 cups flour, dough enhancer, vital wheat gluten and salt. Blend for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the flour, and more if necessary, to create a nice dough. Firm without being sticky but not too dry either. Mix for 8 minutes. Knead and shape into loaf pans (makes 3 good sized 8x4 bread pans full) Let rise until double and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and hollow sounding when the tops are rapped on. Brush with melted butter to create a soft crust, if desired. Cool in pans 5 minutes, turn out onto their sides to cool completely. Yield: 3 loaves.

I'm impressed with both the dough enhancer and the vital wheat gluten. I'll be keeping them in my pantry from now on, they made a definite improvement in both the texture and the rise of the bread. In my opinion, well worth the money!

Oh, and just so you all know- Augason Farms has no idea who I am, I just really enjoyed their product and I wanted you to know about it too. I've provided links directly to their site for your convenience not for monetary gain on my part. :)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mobile Butchering Day

Patty, minutes before butchering. Notice how calm and mellow he is. 

We had a steer butchered this morning and I promised that I would share the experience in a post here. Now, I know this isn't for everyone- but before you call out the PETA people or make rash comments below, know that what I'm showing here is an animal that was raised in the best way possible, given a wonderful, easy life and became food in as peaceful a way as possible.

If you have wondered what it would be like to be more self-sufficient or wondered what it would be like to have an animal killed on your own place, chances are things are going to go about the way they are described below. The photos that follow this are probably not for children or the weak of stomach. There is nothing cruel in the photos that follow (unless you are a vegetarian and don't believe in eating animals...), but it isn't for everyone. That being said, my kids have seen these photos and were fine, but they've seen a lot of home butchering before (wild game) and nothing much about it phases them, so take caution as you see fit. 

Again, photos will be graphic, NOT gory, and may be unsuitable for some readers. You have been warned :)

The picture at the top of this article is Patty, our steer. He is pictured just moments before butchering began and was as calm and mellow as can be. This is so important, for the animals to be in a peaceful state. It just takes so much stress out of the situation. He had no idea what was going on and was calmly waiting for his breakfast. Not a bad way to go if you ask me. 

The guys in the mobile butchering truck were very calm and quiet as they approached him. One shot and all was over. In this next picture, which I intentionally blurred a bit, shows the throat being cut to allow blood to drain from the animal. I know it may sound barbaric  but if the animal still has the blood in it, it makes the rest of the process a lot harder to do and takes longer since you would need to clean things much more often. Also, bleeding the animal out in this manner allows the meat to cool quicker- think of all of that hot blood still around the carcass- with it removed the cooling process can begin immediately with the removal of the blood.    

Necessary measures. 

Now things really start to move fast. The animal was moved to a cleaner spot and the whole beast was hosed off to maintain an impeccable level of cleanliness. These guys were always spraying off; themselves, the animal, their tools. Cleanliness is so important in situations like this.  

Spraying off the feet and hind end area before skinning begins. 

The feet were removed to make it easier to skin the hide off. 

Feet coming off at the knees on the forelegs. 

And the skinning began at the hind feet. Right now, the animal was propped up with wheel chocks. Absolutely ingenious! We had never seen this done before and it is such a great idea. It keeps the animal from rolling around and dirt or other undesirables getting onto the meat. 

Spraying off and beginning the skinning at the rear. 

The animals is skinned from the middle out, so that is is laying on the hide, and then hoisted into the air for the removal of the stomachs and entrails. But before that happens, the rib cage is split open. It will be too high in the air to be reached once the animal is hoisted up so this step is done now. If they were to split the animal completely open at this point, the hoisting action would cause all of his insides to spill out and cause a mess. NOT what you are looking for. 

Breast bone being split prior to hoisting in the air. 

The animal is hoisted up and the gut removed all in one big piece. Everything is attached....

Guts being removed. 

Here is a really awesome view of the entrails. I have never seen a set come out of an animal so completely or cleanly. This shows every piece and part that makes up the gut of the bovine animal. Stomachs, liver, heart, lungs, intestines...everything. I should have taken a picture later when the stomachs were opened and the grass/hay removed, but we were getting ready to be done and leave at that point so I forgot. 

An immaculate display of bovine entrails. Had the kids been here, this would have been one heck of a lesson in anatomy!

At this point, the animal is hoisted into the air pretty high and the hide is removed the rest of the way. The animal is carefully checked over and sprayed down with water once again. Every step of the butchering is followed by a spray down and check for cleanliness. 

Hide completely removed, animal being checked over before being sprayed off one last time. 

The carcass is now split in half completely, down the backbone. This helps to cool the animal off faster and to make it easier to handle once it gets to the butcher shop. The cloudiness you see here is a combination of steam from the hot animal and fog that was rolling through. 

Splitting the carcass in half. 

Usually, the meat would be tagged with our name and loaded onto the truck at this point and taken to the meat processing/butcher facility. But, our butcher is in another town over, so we opted to have the carcass loaded into our rig, in a plastic and tarp lined truck bed, so we could transport it to our butcher of choice.

Meat loaded up and ready to head to the butcher. 
Secured in our rig, it was time for the mobile butchering truck to leave and for us to be on our way. The meat will hang to cool and cure a bit, about 7-10 days and then be cut and wrapped for us. We'll go pick it up and deposit it into our freezer. 

As you can clearly see, the process is very humane and swift. It took about 45 minutes start to finish and was quiet, quick, efficient and well done. Done correctly, a farm kill on an animal does not have to be a bloody, gory mess. It can be done with respect to the animal, cleanliness and professionalism- and should be carried out in this manner. 

Nothing makes my mind rest easier than knowing that the animal we will be consuming in a couple of weeks lived the very best of life, was fed the most wholesome diet, was well cared for and had a peaceful end. Not something I feel when I cook up a steak from the grocery, to be sure. 

I hope this was an educational experience for those of you who read this far. It certainly is important for anyone who wants to have a better idea of where their food comes from to take a look at an informative article like this, if not witness it in person, at least once in their life. It's not always the most glamorous or even enjoyable job, but it is necessary and may someday be essential for you. Learning to deal with the situation and coming to terms with exactly what has to be done is an essential skill for anyone who is thinking of becoming more self sufficient. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Crockpot Red Beans and Sausage

I love a dinner recipe that can be thrown in the crockpot and forgotten until it's time to eat. This recipe fits that bill to a "T" and it's delicious to boot! Now, we are from the West coast and so unless you have a southern granny, red beans and rice isn't something you're going to find on most menus. I was looking through Pinterest the other night and came across this recipe.

I was immediately drawn in by the simple ingredients and the fact that it uses beans. In my very humble opinion, beans are an under utilized source of quality protein in most American diets. The are cheap to buy, filling, full of fiber and easy to store if you buy them in bulk. I am always on the lookout for a new bean recipe for this reason. Want to stretch your grocery budget?? Incorporate beans into your meal plans.

The red beans simmer all day in a spicy broth and spices, sausage and vegetable flavorings. No need to pre-soak these beans, just dump everything in and let it cook! I found the recipe at Little Magnolia Kitchen and I adjusted it a little bit. She notes that it is originally a Southern Living Recipe (2007) that she has adapted a bit as well.

Crockpot Red Beans and Sausage

  • 10 cups water
  • 2 cups (1 pound) small red beans
  • 2 lbs sausage, sliced into coins (I used smoked sausage)
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup green pepper, diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons beef bouillon granules
  • 2 tablespoon creole seasoning
Dump everything in the crockpot and cook on high for 7-8 hours. Serve over warmed cooked rice and have some hot sauce ready on the side. A pan of Cornbread Muffins served on the side would really round out the meal.

This makes a fair amount of dinner. It fed 3 adults, 1 kid who eats like an adult and 3 kids with enough leftover to send off 2 good sized lunches today. Good news, though, this (minus the rice of course) will freeze beautifully. If you don't need this many servings, still make the entire recipe and freeze the rest for later. Or, make the entire recipe and take it for lunch several times. Either way, you'll be as glad as I am to have a wonderful, easy and delicious bean recipe under your belt to pull out on busy or lazy days. I think I'm going to can some of the bean/sausage/broth mixture up and see how that goes. Wouldn't it be handy to have this on your shelf and just heat it up while you cook some rice? Comfort food at it's finest :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Simple Finger Knitting Tutorial {DIY}

I'm a crafty kind of mom. I'm always crocheting, sewing, embroidering, hot glue gunning, doing something crafty with something that can turn into a weapon at the hands of a child. Instead of paying the ER a lot of money to patch my girls up, I try to find a craft that they can do that is similar to mine, but safer. When I do embroidery or other needle work, my girls do the same- but with plastic canvas, yarn and a blunt, plastic needle. They learn the basics of the craft and they have something to show for it at the end of the day. My oldest can now cross stitch on large aida cloth.

This is what I've been teaching the girls to do while I crochet. I'm a firm believer in children not doing "busy work", but rather learning the skills they need to complete the craft/skill later in life. Admittedly, not every activity has to teach a lesson, but if it does- why not??

This is very simple- my daughters are 8, 6, 4 and 4 and they are all sitting in the living room watching Veggie Tales doing this without even looking at their hands. They learned about an hour ago so that should tell you how simple it is!

First, simply lay out your hand. Right handed- lay out left hand. Left handed- lay out right.

Place the ball of yarn you will be using to the right of your pinkie finger (lefties, just reverse all of these directions) and pull a strand across your palm with the beginning end laying between your thumb and forefinger.

Now, take the yarn by your pinkie and weave it under your pinkie, over your ring finger, under your middle finger and over your pointer finger.

Loop the yarn under your pointer finger and weave back through your fingers: under your pointer, over your middle finger, under your ring finger, over your pinkie. 

Loop the yarn around your pinkie finger and lay the yarn over the back of your hand, flat, like so:

 And they lay it across the tips of your fingers, flat, like this:

 This all sounds a lot harder than it is, I promise! It's just a little simple weaving. So your hand and yarn set-up should look a lot like this picture above. We're about to start the actual knitting now and it's the same movement repeated all along the fingers over and over again.

You are going to start at your pinkie finger and lift the yarn over the strand that is laid flat AND the tip of your finger, off the hand.

The yarn that is now on your finger is the piece that was laying flat. Repeat with all 3 other fingers. Your hand should look like this now.

Loop the yarn around your hand, and lay it along your fingers again. No more weaving in and our of fingers. Just lay the next round of yarn on top of your fingers. 

And move the loops off of your hand again! Repeat as many times as necessary to get the length that you need. The looser you make your loops, the looser your finished project will be and alternately, the tighter they are the tighter it will be. 

If your children want to make a wider scarf, one of them can volunteer their hands and the other can weave and knit off of both hands outspread before them. You'll be working on 8 fingers that way instead of 4. It's the same concept, just worked in a larger piece. 

To finish the knitting off, cut the end coming out of the ball of yarn off, leaving a nice long tail. Weave the tail through all of the finger loops and tie it off in a secure knot. Weave the end in a ways and snip it off if need be. 

This is a fun and practical project. If your children like to do it, you will probably end up with a scarf for every person in your family. Right now my girls are happy just knitting like this, but if they tire of it there are a lot of websites and YouTube videos out there on different things you can make finger knitting. I'm sure I'll be looking for something in the future, so I'll add nice links I find to this post for everyone to benefit from :)