Friday, November 30, 2012

Don't Throw Out That Pumpkin!

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It's no secret pumpkins are a serious power fruit...yep a fruit!  So maybe that part is a secret, but the power of the micro-nutrients in Pumpkin can be seen from across the room with it's bright orange color just waiting to infuse your body with Vitamin A and C.  Here's a quick rundown from wholeliving.com:
"Rich in potassium, a nutrient that helps maintain blood pressure and kidney function, pumpkin has a high fiber content, which has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Pumpkin flesh also contains a fair share of vitamin C, an antioxidant essential for healthy skin and gums.The gourd's high levels of carotenoids account for its orange color -- and star status. In addition to its vision-promoting beta-carotene, pumpkin contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which researchers now believe help protect against macular degeneration. Alpha-carotene, yet another invaluable pumpkin offering, may even aid in the prevention of tumor growth. Pumpkin seeds (or pepitas) also provide many nutrients, including bone-strengthening magnesium and copper. On top of that, the seeds contain cholesterol-lowering phytosterols and omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and may help prevent heart disease."

Did you know you can cook and freeze a whole pumpkin with almost no work?  And compared to the price of canned pumpkin, you will save a ton of $$.  Not to mention, that because canned food is treated at such a high temperature that most of the nutrients are lost, freezing your own pumpkin is a total win-win.  You also don't need to buy those small pumpkins, the big ones will render you much more fruit.  Plus, added bonus- you can roast the seeds for a fun snack!  Here's how I do it:

Seed and cut a large pumpkin.  Pile it into the largest pan you have.
Add some water to the bottom and put in a 350 degree oven for 1-2 hours based on size.
(2 hours is you have this much.)



Scoop it out and discard the skin.
Run it through the food processor until smooth.  Then bag it up for the freezer.  
2 cups will substitute for 1 can of pumpkin in any recipe.


When you need it just defrost and use.


Or cook it straight from frozen.  
The 2 cup portions are thin enough to break into pieces even when frozen solid. 
Just slam them on the counter edge.  
(I wish I had a fancy french word for slam it on the counter so I could sound like I went to cooking school!)


You could try this super yummy pasta sauce.


Or fight off winter germs with a smoothie
 I also slip it into chili, cheese sauces, soup or bread...and there's always good ol' Pumpkin Pie!


Love and Butter,

Mishelle





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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homemade "Biscuick" Mix

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So many of my staple party recipes and treats this time of year involve biscuit mix.  But it doesn't take a 5-year-old to turn that box of mix around and see the ingredients are all garbage.  For the sake of shelf-life, this box contains a whole host of preservatives and hydrogenated oils that noone needs to have.  But what about the sausage balls?  Ha Ha!

Here's how to whip up a quick batch of biscuit mix.  This is in no way a substitute for the homemade biscuit recipe in Nourishing Traditions, but it is good for subbing that yellow (or blue box if you're a Jiffy family) in all of your favorite recipes.
I have been messing with this recipe for a while, I wish I could say it is great with all sprouted flour or even whole-wheat flour for that matter, but the truth is it just plain isn't!  But if you do half and half like I suggest you will get some fiber and still get a nice fluffy (not gritty) result.  Plus most importantly, this recipe removes the nasty trans-fats from that biscuit mix and replaces them with soul satisfying, quickly absorbable and converted into energy saturated fats.  I must say I can do some damage in the way of drop biscuits, I'll share my Red Lobster knock-off recipe later this week, but the saturated fat in these makes them so filling and it is easier to say "when"!


Ingredients

3 cups sprouted whole-wheat flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons aluminum free (non-gmo) baking powder
1 tablespoon of sea salt
1 cup of lard (yes, lard!  It is complete awesomeness!) or organic shortening (palm oil)- a mix of the 2 works as well

Combine all dry ingredients.  Bring lard or shortening to room temperature (this is especially important if you keep your lard in the fridge like me).  Add the lard or shortening and cut it into the flour with a fork or pastry cutter.  
I just use a fork, basically you are just pushing the fat through the flour until the pieces of fat become smaller than a pea size.  This is where you will be happy you let it come to room temperature, otherwise your hand will feel like it is about to fall off!



Okay that's it!  Now you can store this stuff at room temp as long as it isn't too hot, or I keep mine in the fridge for a month or more.  It will work cup for cup just like the boxed stuff.  

For quick drop biscuits or on top of a pot pie style dinner, mix dry mix with enough kefir or buttermilk to make a sticky, but not runny batter.  Drop onto a pan or dish of meat and veggies and bake in a 375 degree oven until firm.  Times will vary based on the size of biscuits or of the entire dish.  Here's to one less thing you need from a store!

Love and Butter,

Mishelle

This post is linked up at: Real Food Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Simple Meals Friday

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Ramblings of a Chubby Girl

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I guess holiday baking season is upon us, even though Thanksgiving came and left us an entire week of November.  But if the retailers are decking the halls, why not start making treats to fatten up all those lovelies around you?  I mean seriously we have to make New Year's resolutions in 5 weeks, and it is easier if you really kill it at Christmas.  Then you can say "no more holiday sweets" and mean it and stick to it until...well until Valentines at least!
For real, I get really serious with the scale this time of year...can't say I don't hate the thing, but I do keep tabs on my weight so that I don't gain any weight.  I must say I almost double my workouts to balance out the goodies...no just kidding..okay I'm really not.  I have been perpetually trying to lose weight (since I was eight or so and my mother put me on a grapefruit and cottage cheese diet and told me stories about how she had to wear "chubby girl" clothes).  I know it is a sickness, but now after years of spiritual and emotional rehab through the good book and a good man who has loved me at almost every size they make...well, I'd like to say I'm cured, but I think that is impossible.  I don't do diets though.  Never.  Never.  Never.  I don't try to change anything about the way I eat to lose weight, that being said, on rare occasion I allow sweets into my diet (mainly holidays) and I keep those pesky extra carbs in check with extra exercise. 
I should add that this doesn't mean I go crazy, I keep planning good nourishing meals for my family.  But I do get in the holiday spirit by making treats.  Here are my rules...the rules I try to follow (some exceptions apply and are listed below):
-I only use ingredients, I usually accept anyway (this means minimally processed, I can pronounce all of the ingredients and know what they are).  My one exception is Chex Mix.  I make 2 varieties every year, but my family loves them, and that would make a total of 5 boxes of cereal I have purchased in 2012 (3 for chex mix and 2 on vacation), I think that is pretty dang good! 
-I try to avoid all types of food dye ( I do this all year long except for decorating birthday cakes), because in my experience food dye causes much more havoc in children than sugar in moderation.
-If you can't make the treat, don't eat the treat.  Don't just buy all the crap the store puts out, do enjoy the holiday and make treats for yourself and your loved ones!
-Exercise first!  And exercise a lot!!
-Make treats mostly to give away, enjoy a couple and then get them the heck out of your house!
-Make memories along the way, there is no reason to bring sugar into the equation unless you have a tiny person smiling beside you.
-Watch carbs in balance, your pancreas can only do so much.  I try to plan more paleo-like meals this time of year so we can enjoy something sweet afterward.
-Realize that skinny models are miserable obsessive freaks of nature and you should never compare yourself to them.
-Don't get too busy to enjoy real food with the ones you love the most!  Even if its just leftover soup.

Well that's it.  I know it sounds crazy, but trying to follow a traditional diet in a modern world IS crazy.  I know there are traditional recipes out there for any treat you might want to recreate.  I'll try and share some of the modifications I've made through the years.  But most importantly have a Holly Jolly Christmas...and it's okay if you get a little more Jolly, we'll all still love you in January!

Love and Butter,

Mishelle

This post was featured on: Whole Food Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey and Wild-Rice Soup

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Today is a lazy day in our house.  I didn't brave the mall, I came home last night exhausted and was drooling on my pillow by 9 o'clock.  I'm celebrating 10 years with my man in the most simple way with a warm bowl of soup and some fresh biscuits.  This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy leftover turkey.  It would also work if you only cooked a Turkey breast or a chicken.  The best part is all of the ingredients were in my fridge from cooking Thanksgiving dinner.



1/2 a Turkey (bones and leftover meat)
2 tbsp. of Apple cider vinegar

2 lbs of carrots, sliced
6-8 celery stalks with leaves, sliced
2 small yellow or white onions, diced
8 oz of bella or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup of wild rice
1 cup of brown rice
4-5 quarts of water
1 bay leaf
1/8 cup of dried or fresh parsley
1 tsp. of garlic powder
1 tsp. of thyme
2-3 tbsp. of sea salt

In a large pot, cover leftover turkey with water and vinegar.  Bring to a boil, skip foam if necessary, and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 2-3 hours.  Remove meat and bones and let cool.  Add rice and cook for 30-40 minutes on a lightly rolling simmer covered.  When cool enough to touch pull meat from bones and discard bones and skin (this is my dog's favorite part!).  Add meat and veggies and spices, raise heat and bring to a boil again.  Reduce temperature and cook until veggies are tender.  Remove bay leaf and add 1 tbsp. of salt at a time until it tastes right.  Serve and enjoy!

For the Crock pot, cook the turkey, water, and vinegar overnight and then add all of the other ingredients back and cook for 2-3 hours on high.

You can also use a pressure cooker to speed up the process.  I love my Fissler!  I stopped using my pressure cooker for a little while after reading Nourishing Traditions, but after reading more about it here and comparing notes on how gelatin is broken down under high heat and seeing that pressure cooker stock is full of gelatin, I started using it again for stock and soups.  My favorite is still, meatloaf in my perforated pan...but that's for another post.  My verdict would be if you have a pressure cooker you paid $300 for like I do, you should use it.  If you don't have one...you may not need one.  Anyway...Happy Black Friday!!

Love and Butter,

Mishelle 
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

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These are the five people who make me who I am.  I live and breathe for them, with them and sometimes in spite of them.  My husband, who tomorrow I will celebrate 10 years with, and my four most beautiful blessings and trials.  Each day I awake to these faces and I am reminded of the God who promised me years ago to be patient and walk in Him, then He would bring me the desires of my heart and this, folks, is them!  Life is not perfect, that sounds so cliche, but the will of God is perfect and I am trying to realize that more and more each day.  And I must admit, that whining, frustrations, and disagreements teach me this just as much as smiles and giggles.

The truth, the will of God is Thanksgiving.

1 Thessalonians 5:18  In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

I've been meditating, memorizing, and repeating this verse for a couple of months now.  I've had it written out on the top of my markerboard in the kitchen, and I figured I would take it down whenever I saw it realized in my life.  That this, whatever this is, is the will of God for me in Christ Jesus.  The past year has been a trial of sorts in our home, with God challenging us to uproot every preconceived notion we have of Him and how we choose to live in regard to who He is.  I'm not there yet, so the verse will remain for now, maybe forever.  Maybe I should suck it up and stencil it directly onto the wall!  But I must tell that it has changed the daily struggle I have to be content with the mundane nature of home-making and it is beginning to shed light on some of the pain-causing circumstances we are walking through right now.  
Just the other day, I had a mini-breakdown coming on, my hubby could see it from across the room.  He made his way over to me, put his arms on my shoulders and turned me to face the board....

give thanks....

give thanks...

because this stupid pipe under my sink that we have fixed three times is leaking again less than 48 hours before my family comes to have dinner at my house....

give thanks...

for this is the will of God for me--right now...right here...in the midst of frustration or pain or suffering beyond compare.  

That I would turn my eyes heaven-ward and see HIM for who HE is and I would throw my hands up, in surrender to what I want, in praise to His glory and his plan that is so much broader and grander than I could think or imagine.


"For from Him, through Him, to Him are all things" and our hearts in Thanksgiving can respond, "to You be the glory forever, to You be the glory Lord amen!" (Matt Maher, Kari Jobe)


"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." Jude 24-25

Love and Butter,

Mishelle


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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Menu

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I smell like onions cooking and I'm munching on extra ginger snaps.  Prep work is under way here in my little kitchen.  I am hosting a small dinner tomorrow (for 11-which isn't even double my normal dinner!) and I think I must say like most important things in life I have procrastinated.  I have this dang leak under the sink that we cannot identify and I am not about to turn off the water and pull out the plumbing when my sister is half-way here from Kentucky.  So I keep drying it and trying to catch the drips, that seem to change where they are coming from every time I get a container under there....geesh!
But on a brighter note, I do believe cooking Thanksgiving dinner is one of my favorite things all year.  Last year I cooked it in my sister's kitchen and did all of the traditional sides, but this year is a little bit different.  Since my sis is traveling here, where her hubs is from, then she will spend Turkey day with her in-laws and I will spend it with mine.  So to avoid repeating, I came up with an alternative menu for tomorrow.  It is still holiday-type food just not the norm in our families.

Roasted Citrus and Sage Turkey
My Grandma's Stuffing (from memory, recipe to follow)
Mashed Potatoes (nothing special..just lots of butter!)
Real Gravy
and More Gravy...is there really ever enough gravy?
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Caramel-Apple Cherry Pie (this was on the front cover of BHG this month)


I am excited to make my Grandma's stuffing.  I must admit, it isn't a real recipe, and better ones have probably been written.  I don't think she followed a recipe, and I don't even think she made it the same way every year.  But each year when I have stuffing with my husband's side of the family, the one dish so different is the stuffing, and I can't help but thinking back to my grandma's big table and our enormous Italian family dinners and her stuffing.  And my husband calls it "dressing"...what's that about?  He is so southern...it's stuffing in my book!
My grandma was a modern day saint.  She raised 14 children on a budget that would make a shoe-string gasp.  She put herself through nursing school after they all started school, and managed to help my disabled Grandpa...and she never missed a mass and I think she even did yoga.  It was probably what kept her from cracking all of those years.  I idolize her in my head, and I have since I had my 4 children in 5 years and my husband was sick for most of them.  Something in my soul felt close to hers, and something stronger than myself reminded me of her strength whenever mine was going to fail.  She passed from death to eternal life right after my littlest was born, and with my husband sick and my littlest still attached to me (literally) every 2 hours I didn't get to make the trip down to see her.  But tomorrow I will share a glass of wine with my sister and eat this stuffing and we will talk about the goodness and strength of our beautiful Grandma.

By Memory, Grandma's Stuffing
1 lb of bulk breakfast sausage 
1/2 cup of wild rice
2 apples, diced
4 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
2 onions, diced
1 cup of raisins
8 oz. of baby bella mushrooms, chopped 
1 bag of organic herb stuffing
1 loaf of sourdough bread diced (the drier the better)
Chicken stock about 4 cups
Sea salt
Fresh sage (optional, I have a ton on hand, so why not!)

Brown Sausage in non-stick frying pan.  Add onions and celery, cook until they become translucent.  Add apples and raisins continue to saute for 2 minutes.  Add mushrooms and 1 tsp of salt.  Meanwhile in a small sauce pan cover the rice with chicken stock or water and a little salt.  cook until the rice starts to split open a little, add to the sausage mix.
This can be made the day before.  When ready to serve, bring 4 cups of chicken stock to a boil in a large pot.  If you are using homemade (unsalted) stock add 1 1/2 tsp. of salt.  When boiling add meat mixture in, allow to return to a boil.  Add bread mixture in. It is important that you don't stir it too much, or the bread will not remain in pieces   Taste for salt.  Stir in fresh sage.  Serve then or put in a casserole dish and keep warm in the oven.  If it is too mushy just bake it uncovered for a little while.

Love and Butter,

Mishelle
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Friday, November 9, 2012

Review: The Phonetic Zoo Spelling Program

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I wanted to write a quick review on the Spelling curriculum I have been using this year with my third grader.  I first learned about the Institute for Excellence in Spelling's program while watching some of Andrew Pudewa's Writing Seminars.  Which, side note, the man is a genius...GENIUS!! 

"Spelling is the correct retrieval of sequentially stored, virtually random bits of information" --Andrew Pudewa

You can see his entire explanation on spelling here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-L6yWt6ZG4.  My simple break down was you can only receive a word in it's entirety like when you see a word..like  CAT..you get CAT.  But when you have to spell it, you need to know C...A...T, it must be sequential.  So then the best way to learn to spell a word is to hear it spelled..."C"..."A"..."T".  Because then your brain can receive the information in sequential order and only in that order.  I was sold!  
But I am not sharing this product with you because I bought the concept, but because I have tried it and really love it.  The child uses the product on their own, my daughter loves this (which may be a testament to how awful of a teacher I am).  They grade their own words, so each time they take a test they then check it by hearing all of the words spelled correctly.  Repetition. Repetition.  They move from one lesson to the next only when they spell all of the words correctly (15/lesson) two times in a row.
I must admit some of the harder rules like ie/ei drove my daughter crazy spending 3 weeks taking the same spelling test each day, but when she got it...she got it!  We just completed the 1st cd (of 4) and I can already notice a huge improvement in her spelling on other assignments.  I love that she does this by herself, I think she loves it too...as much as a child can love spelling.
I would, on an aside, say that my daughter is an older third grader because of her birthday and that we spent an extended time in Saxon Phonics 2 which deeply exhausts the skill of coding, so this may be attributing to my girl's achievement in spelling or maybe it is having a genius mom?..don't know?
That's just my two cents.  Any other great spelling curriculum out there?  Any horrible ones?

Love and Butter,

Mishelle
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Not-So-Political Truth

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Yesterday was a funny sort of day, I fell asleep Tuesday night watching intensely the votes trickle in from the swing states, wondering what direction our country has chosen to go.  Then I woke up to a horrible nightmare of one of my children running under a bus, only to end up intact on the other side.  The day was dreary and a little more bitter cold and damp than it usually is this time of year in the South...a lot like the sentiment I read from so many of my Christian friends after the election results.
I must say, first I don't want to be political...as if that is a thing one can or can't be.  We hold our own beliefs, for our own reasons, and we are blessed to live in a nation where we can hold a sign that says them, disagree with our leaders, and most importantly vote.  We get to do all of these things without fear of death or imprisonment.  So in essence, it is impossible to not be political, because even in apathy we choose the political tide of this great nation, by voting or not voting, posting political comments or cartoons of mockery on facebook, we direct the policies and direction of this country through just being whoever we are individually.  
So if I write, on food, on family, on homeschool, that is political even if I never declare what was on my ballot, because I share with you here what is near and dear to my heart and with that my political views and ideas are determined.  I do, in my sentiment, implore you to consider real food for your body and life, consider the bond homeschooling would create in your family, and do, by describing my own moments with my God, suggest that you consider your own religious or non-religious ideas.
In light of this, I have some scripture I would like to share in regards to the election and this ongoing frustration I see in so many.  If you don't want to read it...please by all means don't.  If we meet on one common thread (like food), I hope you still continue to read my blog on that basis.  For I do believe the greatness of mankind is that we are intertwined by so many different types of threads and it is those threads that hold us together.  If Christianity is a thread you hold in common with me, I hope you are encouraged by these words.

Habakkuk 1:5 " Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told."

God gave me this verse the day Sandy hit the East Coast.  I was studying the Flood and I must admit it was hard not to try and make some sort of parallel conclusion.  But that would be something man would do, and did do (in a not so loving way) all over the internet.  But now here we are, we've voted--it's done.  So if you find yourself angry that someone was or wasn't elected, let me share with you the context of this verse.  In verse 6 and on, God begins to tell the prophet Habakkuk that Isreal is going to be taken into captivity by the Babylonians, but out of this, He is going to do great things--things so great that they wouldn't even believe them if they were told.  Please do not think I am comparing the current administration to the Babylonians.  I just want to point out if you had placed your hope in a change of policy and only in that change of policy, that might you consider that you are limiting God in doing so. 

Isaiah 14:24 "The Lord Almighty has sworn, 'Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.'"

We need not trust in government, or policies, or even in the Constitution itself.  We are not secure because we are Americans, we are secure because we are His.  Anything short of this truth and we are clinging to things that pass away.  We need not live in fear, no matter what trouble we think we foresee politically.

Joshua 1:9  "Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Whatever the next four years hold, and how you feel about them, God has one plan today, tomorrow and the next--to make you look more like His son.  He will use the circumstances He has foreordained to do so...so walk in them and walk in HIM!  

1 Thessalonians 5:18  "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus."

Have you thanked God for our re-elected President?  God is doing something so big and so great that even if He told us, we wouldn't believe it.  So give Him thanks for it now, for this is true faith. And our earthly goal will be realized, to walk by faith, not by sight.  I'm not one to read dreams, but I can't help but think that bus means something...eh!...for now I will rest in the truth of God's Word, for despite men and their many wanderings He never changes!

Love and Butter,

Mishelle
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Simple Laundry Remedy

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Laundry is a daily chore here.  Gone of the days of separating it, we just shove it in and take it out.  Hope it gets folded and hope the folded laundry gets put away before the dog lays on it.  There is nothing pretty about laundry in my house right now, except that it is always done before we hit the pillow.  I'm sure this will evolve to something better later and I won't have to worry about a cloth diaper leaving its stench on my favorite sweater or a greasy towel spotting my husband's work clothes...but for right now...it is what it is.

I know you are thinking, why am I going to take a tip from a lady who can't separate her laundry, but here's the tip.  In my unashamed laziness, I must admit that on a regular basis I leave wet clothes in the washer too long.  When I switched my dinosaur machine out for a front loader this got even worse.  Because the door is so dang airtight and the high spin cycle leaves the clothes plastered together on the walls of the machine, they sour so quick.  Let me diverge and say a million times over, my front loader is an amazing feat of engineering that has saved me on water and electric...but seriously I think the clothes sour sometimes in less than an hour.  Who am I kidding I leave those things in there forever!
Okay so back to the tip.  If you do this like me, I have a quick solution instead of re-running the entire cycle.  Add some baking soda (the magical powder) and just run your quick cycle or your rinse cycle....viola!  Stink gone!  My machine only takes a fraction of the time to do this, trust me I do it almost every day!

Love and Butter,

Mishelle

Linked Up at: Natural Home Challenge
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Beer Braised Shortribs

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After buying a side of beef this summer, I found myself with a few cuts that I had never used before.  The most perplexing to me was the short ribs.  The first recipe I tried involved dredging in flour and frying, reducing wine, and then cooking in the oven for 3 more hours.  Needless to say, that wasn't a recipe I really had the time for.  On top of that, somewhere along the way I botched the recipe (I think the oven temp) and the ribs were so tough.  I set out looking for a simpler recipe, but most involved this step of searing and also a step that said to remove the silver...something...I had no idea what this meant, I saw no silver stuff on my ribs.
So after a few (12) recipes, I decided to give my Slowcooker a shot to make these ribs tender.  If it is possible, use the low setting to cook, if not the whole time, maybe the last half.  Short Ribs definitely have quite a bit of textures, the slowcooking melted some of these into the sauce and made the meat fall off the bone.  You could easily substitute a roast, it would just cook a little faster.


Beer Braised Short Ribs

3 medium onions sliced
3-4 lbs of grass-fed short ribs
1 bay leaf
1 bottle of beer (12 oz) or (12 oz more of stock)
2 TBSP of sucanat or brown sugar
2 TBSP of dijon whole grain mustard
2 TBSP tomato paste
2 tsp. of dried thyme
1 tsp. -1 TBSP of sea salt (this will vary depending on the stock you are using.  If it is homemade with no salt 1 TBSP if it is store bought 1 tsp-or less)
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
3 tsp. unbleached flour (substitute cornstarch or arrowroot if GF)
Stock (3-4 cups)

This is the only picture of the soup I took,
not sure why I didn't notice how bad the bowl looked. 
Add all of the ingredients except stock to the slowcooker.  Add enough stock to cover the meat.  Cook on high for 5-6 hours or low 7-8 hours.  Serve with polenta, potatoes, or rice and a light salad.

You can use the leftovers to make a great soup.  Just add diced tomatoes and veggies.  I made this on a Sunday afternoon and then we had easy soup after a busy Monday morning.  It's all about making eating well easy enough to do it all of the time!

Love and Butter,

Mishelle

This recipe is linked up with: Simple Meals Friday
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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Family Picture Test Run

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I am dreaming the Impossible Dream.  That a family of 6 can get a good family picture.  Where everyone is looking at the camera.  At the same time.  And smiling.  And dressed to coordinate.  On the perfect fall day.  Today was first practice, I started pulling clothes to see how we could coordinate, what it would look like on film, so I could make a shopping list of what I need to pick up to get a little closer to this absolute total impossibility.  Here's round 1.  I'm not in any of these pics, but in all of the world these are my greatest loves...being themselves...which is exactly what I am trying to avoid!

Let's get started.  Thank goodness for SLR's and continuous takes. 

I have one grump, and one sleepy...yeah!

I almost gave up here.

Zoom in on the only two cooperating

And one who isn't.

Here's where I sighed, and promised them all a piece of their Halloween candy.  

I even had grumpy's attention now.

Looks like everyone's on board now.  Let's do this thing!

I was trying to loosen them up, I think I made a face.

Silly is coming.

Weird mouths.

Silly is making it's way out.

Little more.

Little more.

Close up...

We are getting closer...I promise

Last little bit of silly makes it way out and...

Now we are talking. 
Really like, Big Girl has a lot of teeth though.

I think this one is my favorite, but if I could I would swap Little Girl's face for the previous one.  

None of these look anything like the dream photos I have pinned.  But maybe with a little Photoshop?  I'm not loving the color combination as much as I thought I would, but it might also be that the cloud coverage was really thick.  Either way still some of the better pics of my loves in a little while...we'll see how the real day goes!

Love and Butter,

Mishelle

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Library Goodness

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"The things I want to know are in books,"  said the great Abraham Lincoln as a child.  I can only imagine the quest for knowledge this young man had who worked so hard to one day become one of the most memorable leaders of all time.  Books are my favorite, they have been since I was a child.  Most kids raced to the tv for cartoons on Saturday mornings, I would stay deep under the covers racing to finish whatever adventure I was deep in the midst of.  
My greatest dream, since childhood was to write and publish a book.  I remember my first "book", I wrote and designed it on a computer in the back of my 4th grade classroom in the free time I earned by finishing my work early.  I did digital drawings on the state-of-the-art MacIntosh (back when they had the little rainbow apple on the front), printed it, separated the dot-matrix paper, laminated the pages, and spiral-bound it.  I even got to share it on our school's morning show!  ( I guess this was a time before school budget cuts.)
Little has changed since then.  I cannot end a day unless I have spent sometime holding a book.  I love blogs and the endless amount of information at my fingertips, but there truly is nothing like a book.  I have an on-going Amazon order list that my husband will randomly surprise me by ordering from.  But here are the days of tight-budgets and many little ones needing many things, so buying books falls to the "want" list.  But my heart "needs" books, my soul needs to flip pages and embrace someone else's writing.  To see the scope of things through their eyes, to find their ideas, to feel their personality through their words, to slip into an imaginary world or embrace a world gone by...I need this.
So I must say I am so thankful for my local library.  On top of being an amazing facility filled with thousands of books, they have a state-wide system, so I can order books from all over Georgia.  Just this week I got these 4 books, which retail would cost over $100 and I get to keep them for free...well keep them for up to 6 weeks.  
Do you use your library?  If not, consider it.  Some systems even offer digital copies for E-readers. In the words of Dr. Seuss on the subject of books, "young cat if you keep your eyes open enough, oh! the stuff you will learn, the most wonderful stuff."  (from I Can Read With My Eyes Shut)

Love and Butter,

Mishelle
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Friday, November 2, 2012

Dirty Rice (Without a Box)

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My husband has a secret love affair with the foods of NOLA he enjoyed on his rite of passage bachelor trip to that wild city.  I've never been, but I appreciate anything spicy so I have humored him many a night with box of Zatarains.  I remember when I switched to the low sodium version and patted myself on the back.  But since then I have come a long way in the lines of cooking, but until the other day, my man would still drool a little when he passed that red and white box in the aisle.   It is so funny the tastes our palate holds onto when we move onto real food.  So I branched out the other night after I found these sausages on sale.


Any other brand would do, it just needs to be both smoky and spicy. 

Ingredients:
1 pkg of smoked spicy sausages, diced
1 lb of ground beef (preferably grass-fed, and local)
1 medium onion chopped
2 bell peppers chopped
1 jalapeno finely diced (take the seeds out if you can't handle the heat)
3 cloves of garlic minced or pressed
1 tablespoon of Chili powder
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon (or more) of butter, olive oil, or lard (lard is the most flavor neutral, worked great)
1-28oz can (or 2 smaller cans) of diced or stewed tomatoes
a pinch of organic sugar (omit if there is sugar in your stewed tomatoes)
2 cups of white or brown rice
4 cups of chicken stock (plus 1 tsp. salt if homemade unsalted broth)
1 tsp of butter

Directions:
Cook rice:  Add 2 cups of rice, 4 cups of stock (plus 1 tsp of salt if using homemade broth), and 1tsp of butter to a boil in a medium sauce pan.  Reduce heat to low, cover and leave alone for 20 minutes for white rice, 1 hour for brown rice.  Brown the beef in a non-stick skillet.  This will of course be quicker if you remember to leave it out to defrost.  Add in onion and peppers, garlic, seasonings and lard (or oil or butter).  Saute until just softened.  Add in tomatoes and sausage, cook until heated all the way through.  Stir in rice.  Serve!  Garnish with extra diced jalapeno if you want some more heat, serve with a good Hurricane...or milk for the kiddos!

Straight from the farm, grass-fed goodness....and btw, I never defrost! 
Brown the meat.  Add the veggies in.

Add sausage, diced tomatoes and other spices.  When heated through add the rice.
You're done!!
This was a great dinner, my man was so excited to have one of his favorite things and I was glad to know I didn't have to compromise to give it to him.  This one is going on the regular rotation.  I even think you could make ahead this into a freezer meal...hmmm...

Love and Butter,

Mishelle

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Savory Pumpkin Pasta

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I cook and puree 5-10 pumpkins every year to put in my freezer.  Mainly because I love to decorate my porch with them, and I am obsessive crazy about not wasting food.  I love dishes that sneak in this amazing power food.  I have been putting it in my Mac and Cheese for a few years, and now anytime I am making a cheese sauce or soup, you can bet it's in there!  When this meal came together in less than 30 minutes (with frozen sausage and pumpkin), I knew I would make it again, I even think with a pretty salad and a glass of wine this could fall into the really nice dinner category... I'm thinking Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with an orange vinaigrette.  Maybe for another time, we just ate it as a quick lunch on a day when I didn't have any leftovers to reheat.
This recipe has such a great complexity of flavors, as soon as the leftovers were gone I wanted to make it again.  This is enough sauce for a full pound of pasta...a really saucy pound.  It could easily be made and 1/2 of it frozen for another time.  That is what I do when I make enchilada sauce...or any recipe that requires more than 3 ingredients!...Innovative?  Lazy?  You decide.

Savory Pumpkin Pasta
Ingredients:
1 lb of italian sausage
2 cups of pumpkin puree
1 sweet onion diced or 1 tablespoon of dried minced onion
4 cloves of garlic minced or 1/2 tsp of garlic powder
2 cups of chicken stock (could do 1 cup dry white wine, 1 cup stock)
2 tablespoons of fresh sage chopped
1/2 cup of cream
1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
Salt to taste.  At least 1-2 tsp. if you are using homemade unsalted broth.
1 lb of pasta

Cook pasta according to box instructions.  Remove italian sausage from its casing if necessary and brown in a large non-stick skillet.  Add in onion and saute.  When softened and completely cooked through, add in stock and pumpkin puree.  Allow to simmer and reduce some.  Add in spices (except sage) and cream, warm through.  Salt to taste.  Stir in sage, cook 2 more minutes.  Add to pasta.  Enjoy!






Love and Butter,

Mishelle


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