In the Kitchen {Herbs}

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use Rosemary sprigs as flavorful skewers

 We’ve been enjoying fresh herbs from the garden, mainly parsley, thyme and basil right now, and drying some to use during the winter. They’re flavorful and it’s much cheaper than purchasing them at the store. When cooking just remember that dried herbs are about 3 times as strong as fresh. During the summer I use fresh herbs and during the winter I use dried; substituting one for the other as needed.

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  Parsley was one of the first things in the ground and it’s still going strong. I grow it in mini rows then I cut it and let it grow back again. This method is super easy and prolific!

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This year I tried planting thyme in amongst the carrots while Noah planted some thyme indoors. It’s astounding to compare the two. The outside plants are robust, dark green with large leaves; the indoor plants just don’t look like they’re doing as well. They are small, scraggly and pale. I pick as much fresh thyme as I like whenever I need it during  the summer. When I harvest the carrots I’ll harvest the thyme too and dry it. I use thyme a lot, especially on roasted meats and veggies. I use oregano nearly as often. I have a  container of oregano and two rosemary “trees” indoors too, and while they’re not quite as robust as they would be outside, they’re doing well enough until I can decide where I’m going to transplant the oregano (the rosemary I keep indoors because of our low winter temps). It’s a hard decision because, like mint, oregano has a tendency to spread and the longer it’s there the harder it is to remove.

As for the basil, I only pick a few leaves here and there so it will keep growing strong. Eventually, I’ll make some pesto and I’ll ferment a jar full (at least) as basil takes on a wonderful liquorice flavor when fermented. I also planted some sage and dill this year. It’s not ready for harvesting yet but I look forward to having some on hand for pickling, stuffing into fish, and maybe making up some gravlax!

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Slowly, I’m expanding the list of seasonings I grow instead of purchase. Other than salt and pepper the herbs above are my most used seasonings. I’ve also made onion and garlic powder by dehydrating them and then processing the dried veggies in a blender. The flavor is fantastic! I’d like to get some perennials going (maybe alongside those chives?)  and I wouldn’t mind trying to grow some chamomile (soon!)

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Best Ever Pecan Waffles {GF/SCD}

Have you ever tried to bake up some grain free goodness? Likely you ended up with grain free but not so good results. I know I have. Every new grain free recipe feels like a gamble. How will this recipe turn out? Good? Edible but not quite like the real thing? Or just a huge waste of time and ingredients? This time fear not. These pecan waffles are the best!

DSCN5903I adapted this recipe from Eat Well Feel Well. Eat Well Feel Well is one of my favorite grain free, and Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) complaint, cookbooks. If I’m trying to maximize my chances for tasty grain free results, or make a special meal, this is the cookbook I turn to. These pecan waffles are quite filling. For the best results use a food processor or blender.

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Pecan Waffles

2 cups unsalted raw pecans (use soaked nuts if you can), or pecan meal

4 eggs

1 stick butter- melt 6 Tlbs for the waffles. Use the rest for greasing the waffle iron.

1/4 cup honey

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

Preheat your waffle iron. Warm up your oven (200F) if you want to keep them warm or just serve as they’re ready.

If using whole pecans grind them into a fine meal in the food processor, otherwise place the pecan meal in the food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients. Blend well-till smooth and then run the food processor a bit longer for best results.

Grease your iron. Add 1/4 cup batter and cook until the waffle is golden brown. Keep warm or serve. These waffles cook a little faster than regular waffles so keep an eye on them until you get a feel for how long they take.

Top with honey cinnamon “syrup” and bananas sautéed in butter and a touch of coconut oil. For the syrup combine 1 cup of honey with 1 Tlb cinnamon.

Freeze any leftovers. I think they’re tasty right out of the freezer but you can thaw them and reheat them as well.

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Enjoy!

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Play Dough

  Here’s one for the kids.

This play dough recipe is quick, easy, and handles just like the store brought kind. Plus, it doesn’t leave your hands and table covered in salty (or any kind of ) residue like so many homemade recipes for play dough do. A  batch of play dough would make a great sugar-free addition to any spring – or birthday – celebration.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 Tlb veggie oil
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar

Combine all the ingredients in a pot on your stove top and stir till you have a thick dough. Remove from heat and knead smooth.

Add food coloring of your choice to color, and glitter, if desired.

This recipe can be doubled (or tripled but you might need a bit more muscle to really stir it)

DSCN5755mossy_stone

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The Apple Cider Vinegar Experiment {Part 1 – The Set Up}

There have been a lot of questions (in relation to this post on apple cider vinegar & making a mother) about whether store brought apple cider vinegar (ACV) can be used as a medium for the mother of vinegar. To answer this question I have introduced the mother to a jar of store brought ACV to see if 1. a mother will form and, if so, 2. if the mother will continue to grow on only store brought ACV. To compare growth and timelines I have also started a jar with the same amount of mother to apple juice, as well as a jar of only store brought ACV to see if a mother will spontaneously develop.

For the mother I am using Bragg’s ACV with the mother. Each jar (except for the pint of straight ACV) contains either 3 cups of store brought ACV or 3 cups of apple juice plus a generous 1/4 cup of Bragg’s ACV with the mother. My jar of Bragg’s was rather old so the vinegar had more visible mother sediment than a new jar does.

The jars, labeled and color coded. Red is ACV plus the mother, blue is apple juice plus the mother and green is straight ACV. These were all started on March 1st. My house is rather cool so things may take a while.

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The only development so far is a slight cloudiness from the jar of Braggs.

DSCN5732Updates to come as they develop.

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Cooking on the Woodstove

With temperatures hovering in the negative and single digits I am glad to finally have our wood stove hooked up! Not only does it add a cozy ambiance to the house, it’s also reassuring that should the power go out we wouldn’t freeze to death, and it’s saving us money by using less propane to heat our house and when preparing our meals. Since the stove is burning all day anyway it’s easy enough to place a cast iron pan on top and cook a meal, or three.

DSCN5062I have found that generally anything I’d cook or reheat on the stove top will cook just as well on the wood stove. Some meals we have enjoyed off the wood stove are: eggs in a nest, pancakes, any kind of soup, mac n’ cheese, burritos, grilled cheese, etc. Depending on how hot the wood stove is it may take a little longer or a little less time than using the gas range would. It’s important to keep an eye on the level of liquids, and if you are adding milk, cream, or cheese (for example to soup or mac n’ cheese) be careful the stove is not so hot as to break (curdle) the dairy product. Removing the pot from the stove or raising it with a cast iron trivet or on canning lids can help prevent overheating. I have also prepared some things I’d normally make in the oven by using a dutch oven. The easiest and most delicious of these is a pot roast. After the roast spends the day slowing cooking over the fire the roast is always fall-apart-tender and the broth cooks down into a delicious gravy. Add some potatoes and carrots towards the end and a full meal is ready – and the house smells great.

For your enjoyment here is Alton Brown’s stove top Mac n’ cheese recipe (reproduced below). It’s prepared essentially the same on the range or on the wood stove. First prepare the pasta then add the butter, sauce and cheese. I remove the pot from the wood stove when adding the sauce and cheese. The pot I use stays hot enough to heat the sauce and melt the cheese and this way the mac n’ cheese stays creamy and doesn’t break as mentioned above. If you don’t want to use, or don’t have, evaporated milk you can gently simmer 2 1/4 cups milk down to 1 cup of milk, or use 3/4 cup whole milk and 1/4 cup half and half, or substitute light cream.

Alton Brown’s Stove Top Mac n’ Cheese

1/2 lb elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Directions:
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.
This will reheat easily on the wood stove too.
Enjoy!
mossy_stone

Dairy Kefir In The Winter Kitchen {plus NT recipe}

During the summer I keep a jar of dairy kefir out on the counter. I use it freely and top it off daily – with summers abundent milk supply. Now that winter is here I find our dairy kefir usage has plummeted. It’s just too cold to mix up a frosty smoothie and, not in the least, our milk supply has dried up. Yet, kefir grains need to be fed regularly. So how does dairy kefir fit into my winter kitchen?

For starters I keep my jar of diary kefir in the fridge. This slows the fermenting process down considerably. That means there’s less to use daily and I can feed my grains less frequently. The kefir still ferments so when I do want to use some I can. Then I replace however much I just used up with fresh milk. If I use over half the jar I might leave the jar out to ferment on the counter, otherwise it might not be ready for a few days at least.

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During the summer kefir generally goes into smoothies and veggie dips and dressings. During the winter I use kefir mainly as a replacement for yogurt or buttermilk in recipes, like pancakes or meatloaf for example. These are cooked so they won’t contain the benefits of live kefir; although any grains in the recipe will benefit from soaking in the acidic kefir. You can still reap the benefits of kefir’s live cultures if you make dressing, dip or consume it unheated in some other way.

Here is a recipe I adapted from Nourishing Traditions, it’s kind of a three recipes in one recipe. It’s a light mild dressing. NT calls for piima cream or creme fraiche but I used kefir instead.

Creamy Dressing

First make the basic dressing (pg129 NT) This makes about 3/4 cup.

Combine the mustard and vinegar then add in the oil in a thin stream, stirring all the while till emulsified.

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 Tlb plus 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar ( NT calls for wine vinegar)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 Tlb flax oil, if you have it.

Add 1 tsp finely chopped fresh herbs i.e. parsley, oregano, tarragon, thyme, basil etc. This is now the herb dressing (also pg 129 of NT).

Finally blend in 1/4 cup kefir.

 Now you have 1 cup creamy dressing (pg 131 of NT).

Adjust seasoning to taste. I like to let it sit for a while to let the herbs have a chance to release their flavor.

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Some other recipes using kefir:

Susan’s Whole Wheat Kefir Pancakes   (or use your favorite pancake recipe replacing the buttermilk or milk with kefir)

Kefir Pizza Crust

Ranch Dip (from cultures for health- this one is a favorite)

Also, try straining the kefir for a thick & smooth kefir cheese. Season with herbs and salt and pepper. You can roll the seasoned cheese into small (about golf ball size) balls. Place balls in a jar and cover with olive oil.

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Pretzel Bites

To quote struggling_along: “These are awesome!”.

DSCN4190These being ham and cheese filled pretzel bites. I found the recipe here at Pip & Ebby. What a great soft pretzel!  Adding ham and cheese takes it over the top. We eat them as a light meal or as a snack. Somehow, either way, there are never any leftovers!

DSCN4187  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve made these in the last few weeks. I usually make a double batch and try to freeze some for another day. I managed to freeze a small batch just to see how they did in the freezer. I froze them after boiling but before baking. They baked up great with only a few extra minutes needed in the oven. “Extra” cooked pretzels reheat superbly in the oven or toaster oven. I read in the comments (on Pip & Ebby) that the microwave works well too.

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Here’s how they look after boiling. I froze some at this stage, then bagged them once frozen.

Here is the pdf printable of the recipe. I’ve reproduced the pdf printout below for your convenience. Although, I recommend popping on over to Pip & Ebby – if only to drool over her photos.

……….

Ham & Cheese Pretzel Bites
(Source: penniesonaplatter.com)
Servings: 48 bites
Ready in: 2 hours,45 minutes
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees F)
2½ to 3 cups flour
1 package (1/4 oz) instant dry yeast
½ cup finely chopped ham
½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1-2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
Directions:
1.In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar and warm milk until dissolved.
In a large bowl combine 2 ½ cups flour, the milk mixture and the yeast. Stir
until a soft dough forms. Add the remaining flour as needed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times, forming a smooth ball.
2. Brush the inside of a large clean bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and
cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm, draft-free area for about 2 hours, until dough has doubled in size and bubbles appear on the surface.
3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust
hands and rolling pin with flour. Roll one of the four sections into a 12×4- inch rectangle. With the long side facing you, gently press ¼ of the
ham and cheese into the bottom third of the dough, and roll as tightly as possible, starting with the end that has the filling. Cut into 12 1-inch pieces and transfer to a
baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining 3 portions of dough.
4. Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
5. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the baking soda and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
Boil pretzels in batches, cooking about 20 seconds each, turning once. They should be
slightly puffed. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them back to the baking sheets.Bake until
puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Brush warm pretzel bites with melted butter
and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm
…………

 I cut the rolls into thirds instead of bite-sized pieces. After boiling I cut the thirds into bite sized pieces. I also grease a cookie sheet instead of using parchment paper, which kept sticking to the bottoms.

If your kids love to help in the kitchen, like mine do, I suggest getting them involved in the first steps of the process. My youngest two (4 and 2) are quite capable at measuring out the ingredients and mixing up the dough. They also help sprinkle flour, roll the dough out, prepare, and add, the filling.

DSCN4235DSCN4182You’ve got to try them!

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Fire Up the Oven {In the Kitchen}

Daily morning flurries & cold windy days.

I’m practically embracing any reason to fire up the oven. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, desserts. How about a slow roasted roast?!

Here are a few oven dishes we have been enjoying as of late:

Cranberry Orange Bread- I use America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe, my family prefers I leave out the nuts.

Puff Oven Pancakes – Oven 425F. Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a large cast iron pan. Mix 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup flour. Pour into preheated pan. Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and puffed up. Serve topped with fruit and the last of this year’s maple syrup.

Muffins- Oatmeal Banana and random “some of this some of that ” concoctions.

Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bites - recipe coming soon!  Recipe here.

Pizza! Plain cheese is always welcome. We also like to add a little chopped onion, broccoli and bacon to ours.

Roasted Green Beans, Baked Potatoes (lightly EVO and salt the skin before baking), Fermented Fries, Cumin Lime Carrots

Whole Roasted Chicken- Made Chicken Pot Pie with the leftovers and Bone Broth (froze the extra in cubes for future use).

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder-  This was excellent! I replaced the white wine with chicken broth. This recipe is very similar to how I make Beef Pot Roast. Marinated Pork Tenderloin  and Smothered Pork Chops- I’ll have to share that recipe with you soon, it’s also my favorite way to cook ham steaks.

Braised Short Ribs

Lemon Squares, Cinnamon Roll Cookies

What is your favorite oven dish?

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Homemade Doughnuts!

           I think we found ourselves a new fall tradition – making homemade doughnuts!             While I’m not the biggest doughnut fan in the family I won’t turn one down either. They make an extra special and festive breakfast, snack, or if they last that long, dessert. Especially with a cup of tea, coffee or milk. If you’ve never had one before HOT doughnuts really are that much more delicious!

DSCN3737I started the season by making apple spice doughnuts, perfect for fall. The recipe came with a deep fryer that was gifted to me. It’s a great cake doughnut recipe but it does call for an hour of chilling time. While an hour allows plenty of time to clean up, set up the fryer, paper and sugar for topping, and don’t forget, setting up the coffee maker! We’re a bit impatient. Once we’ve got the dough/batter made the little ones start asking “are the doughnuts are ready yet?!” So I found a quick and easy recipe that’s ready to go right away. The dough is a bit soft so I do let it chill for about 15 minutes and do a quick cleaning/ setting up. Bonus! This recipe is even crisper on the outside and, while it’s still a cake doughnut, it’s not quite so dense and filling. Also, this recipe uses butter whereas a lot of doughnut recipes call for shortening.

DSCN4124Just for the fun of it, the boys pick out various cookie cutter shapes to make the doughnuts. Once we get down to the small scraps I switch to doughnut holes.

DSCN3726So far, we’ve tried stars, trees, snowflakes (my favorite because they have more crispy points) and small leaves.

 If you don’t have a deep fryer you could fry them up on the stove top in a heavy pan, like a cast iron skillet or dutch oven. Just remember to use caution, it’s extremely hot and prone to splattering.

Now for the recipe! I found it on allrecipies.com. For your convenience I’ll reproduce it here. I also found this recipe for yeast raised doughnuts but I haven’t tried those yet. It’s easy enough the kids pretty much mix it up themselves. I referee the turn taking and make sure they use the right measuring spoon, and of course I do the frying!

Plain Cake Doughnuts

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 dash ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 quart oil for frying

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg (add more cinnamon and nutmeg if you want spiced donuts, otherwise you don’t really taste the spice). Mix in butter until crumbly. Stir in milk and egg until smooth. Knead lightly. Chill slightly to make working with the dough easier. Turn out onto a floured surface. Roll or pat to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with a doughnut cutter, or use two round biscuit cutters of different sizes or cookie cutters.
  2.  Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  3. Carefully drop doughnuts into hot oil, a few at a time (like 3). Do not overcrowd pan. Fry, turning once, until golden. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with sugar or spiced sugar.

DSCN4119Enjoy!

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It’s Autumn! Bring on the comfort food.

Foliage season is in full swing; mornings are a frosty 40 degrees. It’s time to cook up some comfort food. Finally we can start our day with hot cocoa and oatmeal and end it with a bowl of something warm, filling and delicious. For me, that list of possibilities is prioritized something like this: homemade mac ‘n cheese, clam chowder (potato corn chowder or potato leek soup for the non clam eaters in the family), chicken pot pie, butternut squash or carrot soup, beef stew, minestrone soup, shepard’s pie, chili…you get the idea.

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Umm chili…with some cornbread of course!

For some reason the majority of my family prefers boxed mac ‘n cheese (how can this be?!) so I’ve skipped right to the chowder, stews and chili.  The majority of these recipes are a super simple variation of onion, potato and chicken broth with perhaps some bacon, and some milk for creamed versions. A smattering of vegetables and a few seasonings are mainly what differentiates one dish from another, yet they always satisfy and somehow they don’t feel like the same old thing, well until spring that is.

I love creating from scratch. The closer I can come to producing each ingredient myself the happier I am. So I was especially pleased this year in cooking up a batch of potato leek soup. Homemade chicken broth, fresh from the garden leeks, and a few (for this year) store brought potatoes and we’re nearly there. Here’s basically how I make potato leek soup.

Fresh Off the Homestead Potato Leek Soup

Slice and rinse grit from 3-4 large leeks (more if yours are small). Saute leeks in butter, oil, or bacon drippings until soft. Add 8 peeled and chunked (about 2 inch pieces) potatoes, and 4 cups of chicken broth (homemade will give the most flavor but you can use store brought or water if needed). Simmer until potatoes are soft. Add 1 tsp salt. Mash potatoes with the back of the spoon till the soup is as thick or chunky as you like ( if you prefer a puree feel free to use a blender). Add about 1/2 cup cow, goat or even reconstituted powdered milk. If needed add up to 2 cups of boiled water to reach the right consistency. Serve with black pepper and top with some garden fresh minced chives, scallions or dill.

This is even better reheated, especially on a chilly day!

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