For the love of Salsa!

This is a post from the archives, but Cheyenne made a batch of salsa yesterday and she just nailed it.  That Salsa is so good, it needed to be shared again!

 

Me & Cheyenne (drinking bubbly apple juice)
Cheyenne and I share a lot of things.  For instance, neither one of us can hide our feelings very well, what we think is telegraphed on our faces, we love taking care of our animals, we are strong willed, and we love babies.  Also, we share a love of really good Salsa.  Mexican food makes us happy and we like a little heat.  She is her mother’s daughter, with just enough of her daddy mixed in to mellow her out in a nice way.
She has been making some noise about needing to make salsa with our bountiful harvest of tomatoes.  Apparently, Cheyenne has not thought that using the tomatoes to make tomato sauce was a very wise use of those beautiful ‘maters.  A love of spaghetti is not something we share.  So, I surfed the internet for a recipe and found one that was simple and looked promising. And yesterday we got busy over some tomatoes, hot peppers, and cilantro.
The recipe was simple and we followed it up until we tasted the salsa, then we went to tinkering.  Cheyenne is really good about making notes as she improvises so we were able to recreate the same flavor this morning, as we already needed more.
Below is the recipe- our rendition, not the one from the internet.  Before putting everything in the food processor, we cored the tomatoes and scored the other ends and dropped them into boiling water for about a minute.  The tomatoes are in the boiling water just long enough for the skin to start to curl.  Then the peeling just slips off, chop the tomatoes roughly and toss in the processor.  The longer you run the food processor the finer the salsa, so if you like chunky then just pulse a few times.  Also, for thicker salsa use paste tomatoes such as roma or Illini Gold.
Cheyenne’s Fresh Salsa
2-3 medium tomatoes, stems and peelings removed (see above)
½  onion coarsely chopped
2- fish peppers seeds removed- unless you want to up the heat then leave the seeds in. (if you don’t have fish peppers, jalapeno or any other hot pepper will work.
Juice of one lime
1 cup cilantro
1 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
½ tsp of cumin
Put tomatoes, peppers & onions in food processor and pulse for about 2 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse till you are happy with the consistency.  Taste- if too hot add more tomatoes, if not hot enough, add more peppers.
Let set in the refrigerator for one hour to let the flavors blend- if you can wait that long, we just eat right out of the blender bowl.
ENJOY!

The Best Things In Life Are Free

jonathan picking berries

Oh, summertime.  One of the first signs that summer has arrived, other than every item of clothing on your person being soaked with sweat- and I mean all your clothing- is the arrival of dewberries.  These are a variety of blackberries- not as big and not quite as sweet as the cultivated varieties but they are available for the picking.  Seriously, free and organic fruit- what could be better.

Around the corner from us on an abandoned fence, there is a whole mess of berries.  Lots and Lots.  Jonathan and Sierra and whoever else will walk down the road with them have picked berries everyday for a week now.  The vines are so loaded that I think we will have another week of harvest.  There are so many things to do with berries- cobbler, ice cream, flavored cream for the top of a pound cake, pound cake, crumb cake, and the list goes on.

As Jonathan and I picked berries together in the warm sunshine, he prattled on about the possibility of what we might do with the berries. Once back at the house, of course, the first thing to do is to get a bowl full and sprinkle them with sugar and eat them with your fingers- that way you can lick your fingers clean. But in the meantime, you eat the most plump and ripe berries right on the spot.  No, you don’t need to wash them they are fine.  You might eat a bug, but it won’t kill you.  Eating them off the vine is a big part of the fun.  The best part of the berry pickin’ is the memories you make.  The conversation is seemingly meaningless as we chatter, but in that chatter you build connections with your kids.  These are the tidbits that come together as the whole picture that tells the kids who they are and where they come from.  Not to mention the warmth in your heart you feel when your twelve year old son reaches over and takes your hand as you walk down the road.  I love that kid and I love to pick berries with him.  The best things in life are free.

My favorite use of berries is a cobbler and here is the most simplest of deserts best eaten warm with vanilla ice cream!

 

Dewberry Cobbler (or whatever berry you have on hand)

One recipe of pie crust

2-3 cups of berries

1 cups sugar

Take one half of the pie dough recipe and roll it out.

Put half of the rolled out dough in the bottom of a 9X9 pan-  I like cast iron pans.  Place berries in the pan and pour sugar on the berries.  Cover with the other half of the rolled dough.  The dough does not have to cover the berries or the bottom completely.  Place in an oven heated to 350′ oven and bake for 30-45 minutes- just until the dough is brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.  Put a generous helping in a bowl and top with ice cream.  Let the good times roll!

Electrolytes For Livestock

When I need to give an animal electrolytes this is the recipe I use:

Electrolytes

1 quart of water- boil and let it cool

Dandelion greens and roots- place in the water after it has come to a boil, the herbs will steep as the water cools, strain before mixing with the rest of the ingredients.

1- tablespoon of honey, corn syrup, or molasses

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda

Mix all together, except greens,  put in bottle for babies use a large syringe to drench adult animals.

Jonathan & I feeding the new calves.
Jonathan & I feeding the new calves.

 

 

Quick & Easy Cream of Mushroom Soup

The basic ingredients for Cream of Mushroom Soup- things I keep on hand at all times.
The basic ingredients for Cream of Mushroom Soup- things I keep on hand at all times.

One thing I have encountered in my quest to cook healthy food which means very little from cans and nothing from boxes is the challenge of finding good casserole recipes that do not call for canned cream of mushroom soup.  Most of our favorite recipes from “the old days” had cream of mushroom soup in them.  Even before we made the changes in our diet, I must say that I found the huge sucking sound that the canned soup made as it slid out of the can into a cylinder shaped blob on top of the other ingredients a little disturbing and disgusting.  However, I did not know any different.  Now that I have been cooking from scratch and eliminating as much processed food as possible, I just can’t stand it.

As with all packaged food, somewhere out there is a recipe that was once the standard that the “counterfeit” food was based.  So, I went looking.  First I looked at my Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking- which I love- and found the soup took two hours to cook after assembly.  Well, given that I needed the whole casserole done in 2.5 hours, this was not going to work for me.  I then turned to the internet and specified “quick” in my search and found a lovely short recipe that could be done in 30 minutes.  Now granted, the recipe in the French cookbook is probably a show stopper and one I would do for a main course soup, but this one was quite good.

Of course, the recipe below is not like the one on the internet because there were some flaws and extra steps that were not necessary.  I also prefer cream in my soups- it is after all, cream of mushroom soup.  So, I used the recipe as a base and formulated my own.  Give it a try, I know you will like it.  This recipe takes the place of 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup so it is an easy swap in your favorite recipes.

Simple and Quick Cream of Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups of broth
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  • In a large saucepan, saute onion in butter until tender. Add mushrooms and saute until tender add more butter if needed.
  •  Stir in flour and cook for 5 minutes more
  •  Add broth stir until smooth.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
  •  Reduce heat. Stir in the cream, salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring often.
  •  Yield: 4-6 servings.

Goulash- Our Way

A family favorite from the farm that will satisfy your tummy and soul.

I know that there are variations on this dish and what I grew up calling Goulash is not what those of that culture call Goulash.  However, my kids love this and if you say “Goulash” this is what they expect.  I love it because it is simple and good, very filling especially when it is cold outside- and it only uses one pot to boil pasta and one dutch oven for the rest.  I like to use ground turkey in this dish because there is no excess grease to drain off and that makes preparation much easier.

Goulash-

Ingredients:

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 lbs of ground Turkey

1- tablespoon of cumin

1- tsp of paprika

1- pint of stewed tomatoes (if you don’t can your own you can use a 14 oz can of stewed tomatoes)

1- ear of corn with kernels cut off the cob (1- 14 oz can of corn)

1- pint of ranch or chilli style beans (1- 14 oz can of ranch style beans)

Salt and pepper to taste

16 oz of pasta- elbows, shells, or bow-tie- really any small pasta that you like.

Boil pasta according to your liking.

While pasta is cooking- In a large dutch oven, add a tablespoon of olive oil and cook onion until clear.  Add meat and brown.

Add remaining ingredients and heat through.  When pasta is done, add to mixture.  Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.  Feeds 6-8 with some leftovers for lunch.

All done- Enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie

Did someone say “Chicken Pot Pie?”

Pot Pie is one of our favorite recipes.  Golden brown crust that is flaky and filled with warm veggies and tender chicken swimming in gravy- that is comfort food!  Any type of chicken will do, breast, bone-in thigh, whole chicken, whatever you have on hand.  If you boil a whole chicken, you will only need about 1/3 of the meat, so you can freeze the rest for another meal!  By boiling the chicken you will get the broth that you need also.

The herbs in the recipe are 3 of my favorite.  Each of these is very easy to grow and you can cut them fresh from your Garden almost year round.  Sage, Parsely, and Thyme add a warm comforting flavor very common in Southern food.

Pie Crust- click link for recipe

Filling:

2 tblsp. butter

1 tblsp. flour

1 breast and 2 thighs of chicken- any chicken parts will work

16 oz chicken broth

1 tsp each of ground sage,parsley, and thyme.

12-16 oz package of frozen mixed veggies

Salt & pepper to taste.

In a heavy sauce pan or dutch oven, melt butter and add flour.  Cook flour for 5-7  minutes without browning (this will keep the filling from tasting pasty)

Add broth, chicken, veggies and seasoning, bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, broth should be thickened.

Roll half the pie crust out and place in a deep dish pie pan- a 9in cast iron skillet works great.  Pour or ladle filling into crust.  Roll out the other half and lay over the top.  trim the edges of pie crust, cut 5 slits in top of crust.  Bake at 375′ for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Let cool for 15 minutes, serve and enjoy.

Gratin Dauphinois- A Fancy Name For A Flat Out Good Potato

The humble potato!
The humble potato!

You could call these scalloped potatoes, but Gratin Dauphinois has so much more flair!  It is hard to go wrong with potatoes, they are a humble food from the earth that need only a little dressing up.  You will be hard pressed to find a menu that can’t be complimented with a potato dish.  With the pototoes cooked in the oven with milk/cream, butter and a little garlic, the simplicity is deceptive.  This taste is subtle but engaging, the texture is smooth, and the experience is wonderful.

This dish complimented the Beef Carbonnade the family greatly enjoyed at our Christmas Dinner.  There was not a bit left after dinner, always a compliment to the cook!  Unless of course there is none left because the cook did a poor job of planning for her guests, but that was not the case- this time.

 

 

 

Gratin Dauphinois

3 pounds of boiling potatoes– peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick (the food processor works great for this)

1 cup of whole milk – I like to mix 3/4 cup whole milk with 1/4 cup cream- adds to the richness and wonderful texture.

1 clove garlic– pressed and spread on bottom of a buttered flame proof baking dish- I prefer a deep dish 9 inch cast iron skillet

3 tablespoons of butter plus more for greasing the bottom of the dish.

Once you have buttered the cast iron skillet and spread the pressed garlic, place the potatoes in the skillet spreading in layers.

Season the milk with salt and pepper, pour over potatoes.  Add more cream until the milk is 3/4 of the way up.  Place on burner and heat just to a simmer- this is a very important step so that the liquid and potatoes come together in the oven.

Distribute 3 tablespoons of butter (real butter, not margarine) on top of potatoes.

Bake in a 425′ oven for about 25 minutes- until the liquid is absorbed and the potatoes are tender.

 

Serve and be happy!  That is some flat out good food!  Great food does not have to be complicated to be wonderful.

 

 

Beef Carbonnade- Flat Out Good Food

This beef in beer stew is just flat out good.
This beef in beer stew is just flat out good.

I have a thing for cookbooks.  Some people have a hard time passing up a great pair of shoes, I have a hard time passing up an appealing cookbook.  More often than not, I only try a handful of recipes but if I find one outstanding recipe that makes the book purchase more than worth it.  Two years ago I picked up a cookbook, The Food Of France.  The book was worth the price just for the pictures. However, I found many good recipes in this book and one of them I choose for our Christmas Dinner- Beef Carbonnade.

Beef Carbonnade is a simple dish with only a few ingredients.  What makes this just so good is that the beef is cooked slow so that it is so tender it melts in your mouth with such deep flavor coming from the onion, garlic, herbs and beer.  You need to have the beer to make this recipe taste so good you remember it for a long time.  If you must, you can switch the beer for beef broth, but this will give you a dish that, while still good, is not really all that memorable.

Following is the recipe, however, not exactly like it was in the book.  I know, I am not even French and I am tweaking their recipes- I just can’t help myself.  However, what I changed was the amount of food.  This recipe will feed 6 were as the one in the book will only feed four.  I did also change the amount of garlic.  One clove is never enough. The recipe below calls for 6 onions- these are medium size onions.  If you have been to the Farmer’s Market and have come home with onions the size of large grapefruits you can use 4 of those if you want.  The onions cook down in to this thick sauce that is just mouthwatering good especially when soaked up with some wonderful french bread.  So, the more the better.  I use a cast iron dutch oven, but you can use whatever you have in your kitchen.

Beef Carbonnade

1 oz butter (real butter, not margarine)

Cubed Beef- so glad I have kitchen help- Jonathan- for this step
Cubed Beef- so glad I have kitchen help- Jonathan- for this step

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

5-6 lb beef rump roast or chuck roast- cubed 1 inch in size

6 onions

5 garlic cloves – crushed

2 tsp of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of plain flour

4 cups of beer (one of the large single cans of a malt beer works great)

4 bay leaves

a small bunch of thyme sprigs

1 loaf of really good french bread

Preheat the oven to 300′    Melt butter in a large skillet with a tablespoon of oil.  Brown the meat in batches over high heat and lift out onto a plate

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, reduce heat to medium.  Add onion and cook for 10 minutes. Add garlic and sugar and cook for another 5 minutes, adding oil by the tablespoon if necessary.  Lift onion out onto a second plate.

Stirring in the flour after the beef and onion have been cooked.
Stirring in the flour after the beef and onion have been cooked.

Reduce heat to low and pour any juices that have drained off of the meat, then stir in the flour.

Remove from the heat and stir in the beer a little at a time stirring well, the beer will foam.  Return to heat and let the mixture gently simmer and thicken.  Season with salt and pepper.

layer meat and onion in a dutch oven, tucking the bay leaves and thyme in between the layers. Season with salt and pepper as you go.

Pour liquid over the meat, cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 2.5-3 hours or until the meat is tender.

Serve with the sliced french bread toasted lightly on both sides.

This main dish goes great with potatoes of any kind, green beans  or sweet peas.

Our Favorite Pancake

We can now eat out without any tears.
We can now eat out without any tears.
I love traveling with our kids.
I love traveling with our kids.

There was a time when Tony and I gave up eating breakfast out while traveling with our children.  The night before we left on vacation I would make up a batch of sausage & biscuits, pigs in a blanket, and breakfast burritos.  Most trips began before dawn and we would pile our four children, my nephew, and often times my cousin- Stephanie, aka the nanny- into the Excursion and a way we would go.  Then we drove and ate as we wanted.

This sounds crazy given how much Tony & I love to eat breakfast, but when the kids were little it was a bad experience.  The problem was that they always wanted to order pancakes.  I would tell them, “Now , these won’t taste exactly like mine.”  They would then swear up and down that they wanted pancakes.  So, Tony would order them pancakes and the food would come.  Then, they would take a bite and cry, “These don’t taste like yours!”  Refuse to eat anymore and drive Tony crazy.  Therefore, we gave up breakfast on the road.  Once at our vacation destination which was usually a house or cabin rental, I would resume cooking breakfast and all would be good.  I guess I should take it as a compliment that no one ever measured up to me.

Below is the recipe for our favorite pancakes.  When Cheyenne, now 19, was a preschooler she would know what I was cooking by the ingredients that I got out.  If I varied the recipes she got very upset.  One morning I decided to add vanilla to the batter and pour the pancake batter over a super then apple slice that I had browned in the pan.  She had a fit and went without breakfast that morning- a very good breakfast I might add.  I never tried to change up the pancakes again.  With her will of granite and flair for drama, there were plenty of battles to fight and the pancake recipe was simply not a battle I cared to fight.

Our Favorite Pancake

1 1/4 cup flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoon of olive oil

1 egg

Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Mix the liquid ingredients in a smaller bowl, beat slightly.  Add liquid to the dry mixture and mix.  Batter will be slightly lumpy.

Heat large skillet over medium heat.  Add a small amount of olive oil to pan, once hot pour in batter to make the size of pancake you want.  Once there are lots of bubbles popping on the pancake and the bottom is browned, flip pancake over.  Cook another 1-2 minutes- until center is cooked through.  Repeat until batter is gone.

The batter above make for a thin pancake.  I like them thin so that I can have nice crispy edges that are golden brown.  If you like a thicker pancake, reduce the amount of milk and cook over lower heat.

That is it.  So simple and so good.

Blueberry Mega Muffin

 

If the winter weather gets you blue, a taste of summer will lighten your mood.  This summer we took advantage of the you-pick Blueberry Farm near us.  We had lots of fun picking and eating the fresh berries and now have some tasty goodies in the freezer.  The following recipe is the only blueberry recipe that all my family agrees on as great.  I hope you enjoy it as well.

Blueberry Mega Muffin

Ingredients

Batter

2 cups flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries (frozen are fine)

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup milk

Strudel

2 tablespoon flour

5 tablespoon sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tablespoon butter, diced

Directions

Preheat oven to 375′

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, in medium bowl and set aside.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over blueberries- this will help keep the blueberries from coloring all the batter.

In large bowl beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and beat well. Stir in vanilla

Add dry ingredients and milk to butter mixture.

Fold in blueberries

Pour into 9 inch cast iron skillet ( you can use a muffin pan for traditional muffins)

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

Enjoy!