Birthday Boy

It was Ezra’s Birthday! He’s a big 5 years old now.

DSCN5466I asked him the other day if there was anything he’d like to do for his birthday. He replied “umm make a cake, party decorations…. and masks”. How sweet and doable is that?!

So we started the day making felt masks, because you have to be able to wear them all day, especially on your birthday!

No birthday is complete without a bowl of chocolate (right?) for dipping strawberries to top the birthday cake, of course. And pretzels, and maybe a few fingers, so no chocolate goes to waste. Chefs Ezra and Ishi assisted mixing up the chocolate birthday cake between fielding birthday phone calls and preparing Ezra’s requested birthday dinner: roasted chicken, rice pilaf, veggies and applesauce.

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The day was rounded out with homeschooling, setting up the birthday decor and racing their wind up robots.

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I, and several other relatives/friends who sew, put together the birthday banner years ago when Noah was maybe 3 or so. Each letter is about 8×11. I did the first P in happy and the last Y in day. We’ve been using it every birthday ever since.

DSCN5489DSCN5490Finally, it was time for a candle lit birthday dinner. Ezra choose his birthday to light the beeswax candle he made when we dipped candles earlier this year. It burnt down very quickly and led to wax “experiments” which would have gone on all night if not for the….

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 birthday guitar.

Between all three brothers the guitar has barely been put down. Ishi is super cute and sings “my guitar, my guitar” while he strums.

DSCN5431 DSCN5477 DSCN5478And, of course, there’s Molly. I know, all her photos show her sleeping. It just happens that when she is not in my arms (or in the wrap) and I have the camera out she’s sleeping. Maybe that’s not such a coincidence after all…

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Chicken Kiev

DSCN9992As far as chicken dinners go chicken kiev is one of my family’s favorites. It looks fancy but it’s pretty easy to make. This recipe was passed down from my mother-in-law when struggling_along and I married 10 years ago. I still remember the first time I made chicken kiev. Having never made it before, I did not realize that the chicken was supposed to be wrapped around the filling. I had simply rolled them up, allowing all the butter and herbs to melt right out into the bottom of the pan! It was still edible but it’s even better if you succeed in keeping the butter and herbs sealed in the center of the chicken.

The Recipe

First prepare 6 boneless, skinless, spilt chicken breasts by flattening them so that they are even in thickness and a bit larger, which makes them easier to roll up.Then combine the herbs in a small dish:

1/4 tsp dried tarragon

2 Tlb  dried parsley

1/8 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp salt

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Then, using 1 Tlb butter for each piece of chicken, dip the butter into the herb mixture and coat well. Place the herbed butter in the middle of each piece of chicken.

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Roll the chicken up, around the butter, trying to tuck in the ends of the chicken. Secure with a tooth pick.

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Coat in a 1/3rd cup flour (or cornstarch if you want it gluten-free). Use the flour to help seal the ends of the chicken.

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Then dip the floured chicken into 1 egg beaten.

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Coat in 1-2 cups of bread crumbs (use gluten-free bread to make gf crumbs).

DSCN9959Place in a buttered baking dish. I like to use a Pyrex dish.

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Bake at 425 for 5 minutes then turn the oven down to 400 and bake for 40 minutes or till done. Baste with any butter that does melt into the pan.

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DSCN9982Serve and enjoy! Serves 4-6. This chicken goes well with a lot of different sides. For this particular dinner I made roasted potatoes and peas but any veggies, mashed potatoes, rice pilaf or what have you works well.

DSCN9991Here’s the recipe again, in short form:

Chicken Kiev

6 pieces chicken breast

1/4 tsp tarragon

2 Tlb parsley                   -Mix these herbs together

1/8 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp salt

6 Tlb butter                   -Coat in above herb mixture

Roll up chicken around butter and secure with a toothpick. Dip chicken into (in order)

1/3 cup flour

1 egg beaten

1-2 cups bread crumbs

Place in a lightly buttered pan. bake at 425-5 minutes then at 400 – 40 minutes. Baste with any pan butter.

That’s it.

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Clam Chowder & Peasent Bread

Being this early in spring the days still carry a chill. What better way to warm up and enjoy some comfort food than with Clam Chowder? Ironically, after 5 years on the coast of Maine, the best clam chowder I’ve had was here in Vermont. It was a special and I don’t go out to eat very often so I enjoyed it thinking “I wish I could make this a home”. Then my Mom hooked me up with this recipe- wish granted!

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This recipe is from Grit magazine. My mother made a few adaptations that I think really add to an already excellent recipe. Here’s Grit’s recipe – reproduced for your convenience:

Alida’s Clam Chowder Recipe

A thick, creamy soup, this is my mother’s recipe, and she still makes it.

1 pound bacon, diced
3 large onions, chopped
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups water
3 small cans minced clams
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch thyme
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
4 cups milk
1 can evaporated milk

In skillet, fry bacon until crispy. Add onions and cook until browned.

Add potatoes and water, and cook until potatoes are tender. Stir in clams, pepper, sugar and thyme, and let simmer.

In separate pan, over low heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour. Add milk a little at a time while continuing to whisk until white sauce starts to bubble around edges. Pour white sauce into clam mixture and let cool.

Just before serving, stir in evaporated milk. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, or until heated through. Do not boil, as it will ruin the texture of the soup. Yields 3 quarts.

My mother’s suggestions: If the bacon is really fatty drain some of the grease off. Double the potatoes and cans of clams.
I think those are suggestions are spot on. I also sometimes replace the water with bone broth and I use corn starch so it’s gluten free. You can also use half and half instead of a can of evaporated milk or cook 2 1/4 cups milk down to 1 cup.

DSCN0341DSCN0492Now that you have a great chowder only some crusty bread will do it justice. I came across this recipe for a no knead bread called peasent bread, baked in a pyrex bowl. It’s super easy and adapts well to a gluten free version. I tried it with sweet white sorghum flour- delicious! I won’t reproduce the instructions here because it’s quite long with tips, photos and variations.

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DSCN0342Enjoy it with the clam chowder -or even just with jelly.

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Homemade Breadcrumbs

Here’s a cooking staple so easy to make at home I don’t even know why breadcrumbs are sold in the supermarket. They’re almost too simple to post about-  but they’re that good.

First, start with some bread. Store brought or homemade- even gluten free. End slices, whole slices, edge pieces from sandwiches; room temperature or frozen, it doesn’t matter.

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Place the bread in a food processor and pulse several times, running the processor until the bread is in fairly uniform crumbs.

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And there you have it: fresh bread crumbs. Use right away or store in the freezer for a longer shelf life.

For dried breadcrumbs you can dry some bread in the oven before processing or dry the breadcrumbs afterwards. Generally fresh crumbs can be used interchangeably for dry crumbs. Although, once in a great while, a recipe may specify dry crumbs to absorb more moisture.

Also, if you don’t have a food processor you can dry some bread and rub the slices together creating dried bread crumbs or you can use your fingers and crumble fresh slices for fresh crumbs. It works but it’s a lot more labor intensive, hence the food processor.

DSCN9960These fresh crumbs are especially great on homemade chicken nuggets, Chicken Kiev…. basically anywhere you want a tasty, crispy breadcrumb coating these will be the star.

Enjoy!

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Pineapple Vinegar

Finally a way to use up all those otherwise inedible pineapple peels! Once again, I followed Sandor Katz’s instructions for Fruit Scrap Vinegar (found in either Wild Fermentation or in The Art of Fermentation; I also used this method with apple scraps for ACV ). Essentially use 1/4 cup sugar to 1 Qt of water, plus fruit scraps. The possibilities are endless!

Here’s how the pineapple fruit scrap vinegar went:

Cut up  the fruit peel; add to the sugar-water.

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Remember to cover the top – I use fabric scraps held on with the O ring. I keep the lid piece nearby as it’s important to stir the pineapple up – daily, if not more frequently. Shaking/ stirring helps to keep the pineapple immersed. As the fermenting progresses the bubbles will push the peels further up above the surface. Peels above the surface are at a risk for mold; the longer it pokes up above the liquid the more likely mold will show up – especially in the warmer months.

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Before long signs of fermentation will appear!

DSCN8574The liquid will also darken. This fermenting of the peels will take about a week. Strain. Katz’s says to ferment 2-3 weeks longer for your finished product. However I like to add a mother of vinegar to ensure and speed things along.

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A new mother quickly started forming.The pineapple vinegar mother is a lovely pale ever so slightly yellow white.

DSCN8659 Nine days later the vinegar smells – well like pineapple vinegar and the mother has grown quite thick. What to do with the mother now? Save it as a back up, use it to make more vinegar or make some nata. DSCN8782Time to strain and bottle!

I like to use a coffee filter because it catches just about all the sediment. It can take a while and maybe even a second filter. Carefully gathering up the edges of the filter and holding it up can speed things up considerably.

DSCN8787 DSCN8809Use now and/or age. I’m still looking for recipes that call for pineapple vinegar so if you have any – please share! In the meantime I’ve tried a marinade I found here. Combine 1/2 cup oil, 1/2 cup pineapple vinegar, 1 clove minced garlic, a tablespoon chili flakes,salt and pepper. The original recipe calls for a small handful of chopped fresh cilantro. I didn’t have any so I substituted some parsley.

DSCN8970 DSCN8977Use this marinade for chicken, fish or pork; I went with chicken. It was good. Tender, sweet but also a touch sour and spicy. I used my broiler but grilling would be the way to go. I’m going to let the vinegar age a bit then try it in a vinaigrette.

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Macaroni with Tomato Sauce, Baked Eggs and Ricotta

Man have our new chickens been laying! Up until this past week they had been laying 8-10 eggs a day (out of the 10 chickens we have left now that a pig decided to have one as a snack). I find myself adding eggs to anything I can think of. This book: The Good Egg by Marie Simmons is solely egg recipes. I made Macaroni with Tomato Sauce, Baked Eggs and Ricotta one day a while back for lunch. It’s basically lasagna using macaroni. I made mine gluten-free by simply using gluten-free noodles. I like the brand Heartland cause they hold up and come the closest to “real” pasta. The eggs cook up with a soft yolk and creamy whites – actually quite good and adding protein.

DSCN7905And the recipe:

DSCN7899Adding the eggs. One just happened to be a double yolk. The recipe only calls for 4 eggs but this definitely serves more than 4 so you could either add a couple of eggs or perhaps someone might want the sans egg option.

DSCN7894Top with cheese and bake.

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DSCN7904This dish goes together quickly; even faster if you could use leftover pasta. I’ll definitely remember this for a last-minute dinner – especially if there are unexpected guests. The eggs really do make it a meal and it’s vegetarian. Add a salad and maybe a baguette and some wine and your set.

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Chèvre Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped Chicken

I’m been meaning share more from Nourishing Traditions but lately most of the recipes I’ve been using from Nourishing Traditions have been simple and basic: sauté in butter, season to taste with salt and pepper and maybe a splash of lemon juice. Simple, good but not really enough for a post. But this chicken, stuffed with herbed chèvre, wrapped in bacon is definitely post worthy. I saw a similar recipe on Pinterest and later when it was time to get dinner going and I had some freshly made goat cheese and chicken on hand…well one thing lead to another.

First I pounded the chicken to make it uniformly flat and just a little bigger so it would be easier to roll up. Then I mixed up some of the goat cheese I made earlier with some oregano and rosemary I have growing in the kitchen and some salt and pepper. This time I made a simple goat cheese from some yogurt I made from our goats’ milk and strained until it was thick. It was a tad more soft and spreadable than the somewhat chalky bars of goat cheese sold at the supermarket. Store brought goat cheese will work too- just cut a few slices and season (or buy pre-seasoned). Then roll it up and wrap two pieces of bacon around each piece of chicken and secure with toothpicks. The bacon not only lends flavor but helps keep the goat cheese inside.

The next step is to brown it on the stove top- and preheat your oven to 350F. I love my cast iron and it works well for the transfer to the oven. Otherwise brown the chicken and transfer to an oven-safe dish. Bake in the oven till done.

Then serve. I made wild rice and green beans. As you can see in the photo below the goat cheese and herb is absorbed and infuses the chicken with flavor but there isn’t a separate layer inside like when chicken is stuffed with ham and cheese. And if anyone doesn’t like goat cheese you can always skip the goat cheese and just wrap with bacon. Although, in my opinion, they’d be missing out.

Enjoy!

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DIY Corned Beef

Curing your own corned beef is simple but it does require planning ahead so if you haven’t started NOW is the time as corned beef must cure 5-7 days. I used America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe for the spice mixture.

And because I didn’t have a brisket right at hand but I did have a flank cut that substitutes nicely. I speared it about 30 times on each side before rubbing in the spices.

Now it rests in the fridge for 5-7 days. I started a couple days ago so it will be going on 7 on Saturday (St. Patrick’s Day) when I’ll be cooking it.

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Taco Seasoning

We love tacos! Plus they’re fast and who doesn’t love a meal that’s quick and easy to prepare? But have you looked at the ingredients on the prepackaged spice mixes? There are more than just spices in there-things like maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate, and silicon dioxide are common. Definitely not ingredients I want to be feeding my family. And if you raise your own meat or try to buy naturally raised grass-fed beef tossing such ingredients in might feel a bit like ruining a perfectly good meal.

Luckily there is a solution-and it’s easy:make your own taco seasoning (cause if you want it done right you have to do it yourself ya’ know). I mix up several batches at once so I can just add it in and not fiddle around trying to find all the spices and measure them out when I could be slicing lettuce.

Like the prepackaged stuff just toss it in with your browned meat and a little water.

Now if only I could replicate those crunchy corn taco shells (gmo free).

Here’s the recipe from the link above @ allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

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