"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." --Titus 2:3-5

Friday, July 29, 2011

Today's Kitchen Adventures

I'm pretty sure most of my day was spent in the kitchen! I decided that a good use for my leftover roasted chicken was to have barbecue chicken sandwiches for dinner. Two things I didn't have in my possession: hamburger buns and barbecue sauce. However, I did have a recipe for whole wheat hamburger buns, and I found a barbecue sauce recipe online. I highly recommend trying to make your own hamburger buns. The recipe I used made 18 buns! I have frozen the leftovers (already cut in half) so that I'll have them on hand whenever I need some again. The recipe came from www.heavenlyhomemakers.com. They are really good, but not exactly like store bought. I didn't expect them to be the same because mine are made from fresh ground whole wheat, and they don't have all the dough conditioners that commercial bakeries use. That being said, I think they turned out really good! It was my first time making hamburger buns and barbecue sauce! The sauce turned out really good, but next time I will use less cayenne. I think it's a little too hot for the children. Here's the recipe that I used (I chose it because I had all the ingredients already on hand):

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar (white)
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. paprika (I used a little bit less)
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cayenne (next time I will use a bit less, maybe 1/2 tsp.)

Saute the garlic in the olive oil, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened. That's it!!

In addition to hamburger buns and barbecue sauce, I also made regular loaf whole wheat bread and chewy granola bars! Whew! I don't think I want to be in the kitchen anymore today!

Brain Lapse

Dinner last night. Not one of my brightest moments, I hate to admit. I had planned this wonderful dinner of roasted chicken, broccoli with garlic and cranberries, red potatoes with thyme, and whole wheat dinner rolls. I worked hard to plan so that everything would be done around the same time. I roasted the chicken for over an hour and put the dinner rolls (homemade) in the last 20 minutes. The timer went off for me to pull them out of the oven, and that's when I discovered that at some point (early in the baking process) I had accidentally turned the oven off!! The chicken was still raw, and my rolls were still dough! What's a mom to do?? What we are all so good at; I improvised! My poor children ended up with cheese toast to go with their broccoli and potatoes. Thankfully, my husband worked late so I was able to finish roasting the chicken and baking the rolls (which didn't rise). It was definitely not one of my greatest moments! It was quite humbling, actually. Why am I sharing? Because I know I'm not alone in these brain lapses, and only moms can truly appreciate them.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract!

I just finished starting my own homemade vanilla extract! My first "first" this week! I used the recipe from www.heavenlyhomemakers.com, and I can't wait to see if it works. I sure hope it does; it's a little costly. I received my Bourbon Madagascar vanilla beans yesterday from Olive Nation ($25 for 1/2 pound) to make 1/2 gallon of vanilla extract. I only had 1 quart mason jars, so I am using 2 and splitting my ingredients between them. I cut 20 vanilla beans in half for each jar and poured vodka to fill the jars. I sealed them and put them in the back of my pantry to sit until December. It's that easy! Laura (from the blog site above) says to let the jars sit for 4-6 months to get a good extract. All you need to do is shake the jars every couple of weeks or so. I still have vanilla beans left, but I read that they will last a year or more in a cool, dry place. If my extract turns out okay, all I need is more vodka to make another batch! Hopefully, it will make nice Christmas presents for family and friends.

What to do with leftover Bolognese!

Our family had a "make your own pizza" night yesterday. Emily had been watching Caillou, and it showed him and one of his friends making their own pizzas. She asked if we could do that, and I thought it was a great idea! I hadn't made pizza dough in a while, so she and Erin helped. I had leftover Bolognese sauce in the fridge and it made a perfect pizza sauce, especially since all we had to top the pizzas with was cheese. Apparently Caillou had topped his with mushrooms. Emily asked if we could go get some from the store, but she was satisfied when I told her no. Something tells me that would have been an absolute waste of money and mushrooms! Anyway, in case you were wondering, I found a perfect pizza dough recipe from Emeril and it couldn't be easier!

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
1 packet yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tbsp EVOO
1 tbsp sugar

I used instant yeast, so it didn't need to proof. I combined everything (except the water) in the bowl of my stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and let it stir for a bit. I added the warm water and let the mixer run until the dough pulled away from the sides of the bowl and climbed up the dough hook. I removed the dough and kneaded it on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. I placed the dough in an oiled bowl, covered it, and let it rise for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size. I turned it out onto my floured surface and cut it in half to make two small pizzas (it would make one nice size pizza), rolled the halves into circles and topped with my sauce and cheese. I baked them in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes until they were nicely browned and the cheese was bubbly. Before I put the sauce on the dough, I brushed the dough with EVOO. I read somewhere that it would help the dough from getting soggy from the sauce. The girls had a lot of fun helping make their pizzas, and even my husband (the Papa Johns addict) approved!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Week of Firsts

This has been a week full of "firsts". On Wednesday I cut up a whole chicken for the first time. I butchered the poor thing and kept apologizing to it the whole time. Halfway through I looked online to see how to do it properly, and I wasn't completely base. I didn't get the whole thigh when I removed the leg, but other than that, it wasn't that bad. I used the pieces to make chicken curry and then used the carcass to make chicken stock (another first). The aroma from the stock was wonderful! It smelled just like Swanson chicken broth, and I am so excited to be able to make my own now. It was so easy! I learned yet another lesson from my chicken curry, though. The last time I made it, I tried it in the crock pot. Mistake!! It was not good at all because the flavors concentrated too much. I think if I had only left it in there around 4-6 hours instead of all day it might have been okay. This week I tried another brand of ginger ale. I'm trying to find one that I like that doesn't have HFCS in it. I tried Reed's Premium Ginger Brew ginger ale, and it was a little too much ginger for the curry. I may try this brand again, but using the regular instead of the premium.

Another "first" this week was making pudding from scratch. I found a wonderful creamy pudding recipe from www.heavenlyhomemakers.com. I made the chocolate pudding, and it is so good! I'm happy I won't have to buy Jello pudding cups anymore, and I know exactly what is in my pudding! Emily enjoyed it too, but Erin only put it to her lips (I don't think she likes sweets very much...or maybe it's the cold pudding...I'm not sure). It's richer than Jello, but it also has 3 tbsp of butter in it! I substituted corn starch for the arrowroot powder and it worked just fine. I'd like to try the arrowroot, though, because so much corn is genetically modified.

Today I made a recipe using fresh yellow squash (my 3rd "first"). I hate to admit it, but I really don't like squash. Okay, I hate squash! The thought of it makes my face crinkle. Stephen, though, loves squash and asked me to get some from the farmer's market this morning. I grudgingly obliged and then googled recipes for people who hate squash. There are actually recipes out there specifically for people who don't like squash! The one I tried tonight was an Easy Baked Yellow Squash. It nicely covered the squash taste with lots of butter, parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs. I actually ate it and didn't make a face. I was trying to stay strong in front of my children. Emily actually ate some too. The recipe is quite easy:

3 lbs squash, peeled
1/4 cup melted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp parmesan, grated
1-2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (I used Panko)
2-3 tbsp parmesan, grated
1/4 cup melted butter

Cut squash into 1 1/2" cubes. Boil or steam until tender, drain, and mash. Set oven to 375 degrees. Butter 2 quart casserole dish (I really don't see why this needs to be done because there is a lot of butter in the recipe). Add 1/4 cup melted butter, onions, eggs, sugar, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese and mix to combine. Transfer to baking dish. Mix bread crumbs, melted butter, and parmesan cheese and sprinkle over squash. Bake approx. 45 minutes or until bread crumbs are nicely browned.

I think that's it of my new experiences this week!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What a Day!

Wow! I just noticed that it has been over a year since I posted on my blog! How time flies!! Well, it has been an interesting day for us here. There have been a few lessons learned. The first is my attempt at saving the planet by trying to use cloth training pants for Erin who just recently turned 2. I'm amazed and appalled at how many disposable diapers and training pants I have used with my two children, and I've decided that enough is enough! Well, I learned today that cloth training pants (or diapers I'm sure) are not for the faint of heart (or stomach)! I tried putting Erin in these earth saving devices 3 times today, which gave me 2 completely soaked pants and one absolutely disgusting explosion of a mess in the third! Not only did she not inform me that she had soiled herself, but she didn't want me to change her either. I don't know if she was embarrassed by being so yucky or if she enjoyed it...I hope the former. Needless to say, I gave up after the third event and put her back in Pull-Ups. I know I shouldn't be such a pansy, and I will try again tomorrow. Mothers for centuries have been dealing with the bodily functions of their children without the modern convenience of disposable diapers, and I just need to suck it up!

I have been on a "whole foods", "getting back to nature" (whatever you want to call it) kick lately, and I tried cooking with coconut oil today. I have tried this a few years ago, and it didn't go so well. I bought unrefined coconut oil, which is much more natural than refined, but you can only use it if you don't mind everything tasting like coconuts. The refined oil I bought a few years ago smelled and tasted like the machinery used to process it! Disgusting!! Today I used a different brand of refined oil, and thankfully, my french toast did not taste like coconuts or machinery. I secretly added some to my red beans and rice (don't tell my husband) and it worked out okay.

I have been reading heavenlyhomemakers.com and she is a woman after my own heart. I have jumped on her crazy train with abandon! I've been moving in this direction for years, but now I'm making bigger steps (like I've been riding horseback alongside the train, and now I'm actually on it...maybe only on the caboose, but still) I've been really convicted about a lot of things regarding the food we eat and being good stewards of the earth that God has given us. More about that another time. The past two weeks has been about granola bars. I like a good granola bar, but I do not like seeing all the ingredients in store bought bars. I made the chewy granola bar recipe from heavenlyhomemakers.com, but I didn't have enough seeds and nuts to give the bars structure. They tasted good but they're a little gooey. Today I tried Alton Brown's recipe and they have a little too much structure! Bricks! Again, the taste isn't terrible, but I don't think my kids are going to eat them. Back to the drawing board! I think I'll go back to the heavenlyhomemaker's recipe and put in some of the seeds that I purchased since the last time. We'll see what happens tomorrow!