A Recipe for Christmas Fun

Way back when when I was a Pampered Chef Lady, I earned a stoneware gingerbread house mold. My oldest two daughters, the only kids at that time, were 2 years old and 4 years old. That was the first year we made a gingerbread house. We have made one every year since- with the exception of last year.

This year was the first with the grands. The grands are 4, 3, and 2 years old. Their mamas, the two toddlers from the beginning of this story, are 27 and 25 years old. That is a lot of gingerbread houses! That is a lot of really great memories.

Traditions can be a tricky thing. There can be a lot of pressure to continue traditions handed down to you and they can feel like a yoke. Those same traditions can also make you feel grounded, like you know who you are and where you came from. I don’t want my kids to ever feel like the things we do every year are a yoke. If we outgrow certain things, I don’t want them to feel guilty that things needed to change. But, I also want them to have a thread to hang on to that runs all the way back through their history.

The gingerbread house is one of those. It is also my tradition. They can develop new things with their own children, but this gingerbread house mold and this tradition belongs to me and Tony. Mostly me, he was usually at the station when the house was made. My family that I grew up in never made a gingerbread house, we have lots of other traditions. So this is a “new” thing. If someone wants to carry on the gingerbread house when I am gone, that is fantastic. If they don’t want to, that is okay, too. I will have made all the memories that I am going to make by that point and it will be their turn to make the memories they want. But, they will be able to look back at this blog and see pictures and know who I was- at least a little bit. I think that is the best part of traditions- the imprint it makes on family history.

I have included the recipe for the gingerbread just in case you wanted to create a new tradition.

A LITTLE EXTRA FLOUR MAKES THIS DOUGH STURDY ENOUGH TO MAKE GINGERBREAD HOUSES, BUT ALSO WORKS GREAT FOR COOKIES. PLUS, THE SMELL OF GINGERBREAD BAKING IS DELIGHTFUL. (pamperedchef.com)

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp (7 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground ginger
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) baking soda
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cloves
  • ½ cup (125 mL) vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup (125 mL) sugar
  • ½ cup (125 mL) molasses
  • 1   egg

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, salt, and cloves together in a medium bowl.
  2. Use a hand mixer to beat the shortening and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add the molasses and egg and beat until smooth.
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until fully combined.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball and divide it into 2 portions. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for 30 minutes. Use the dough to make cookies with cookie cutters or press into mold.

Cornbread- It’s So Good

Just Good Cornbread
Golden and Good!

I shared a bit of the love story between Brett Bentley, the heroine, and Alex, the hero in The Way to A Man’s Heart. Both love their southern heritage and their food but don’t agree on taking freedoms with the recipe.

I thought I would share the cornbread recipe that Brett was using. As you can imagine, the possibilities of variations are endless but nothing beats a good pan of cornbread.

My bunch likes their bread on the sweet side.  This corn bread has a fluffy texture, a nice crumb and it holds together even with a nice slice of butter on it.  No more boxed mixes, this is too easy!

One note on the honey- buy your honey locally from an individual if possible.  The honey found on the shelves at most grocery stores has been cut and diluted with corn syrup.  YUCK!  Most farmer’s markets and health food stores have REAL honey.  Plus, when you eat honey made by local bees you will get the health benefits and help with allergies.  Not to mention, you are helping a local farmer and businessperson.

I hope you try this, you will be glad you did.

Holly’s Corn Bread

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup of corn meal

3 tablespoons of honey

1/2 tsp salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/4 cup olive oil or melted butter (real butter- not margarine)

Heat oven to 425′

In a mixing bowl stir together the dry ingredients.  In small bowl or 2 cup measuring cup- combine all the liquid including the eggs and beat together.  Stir liquid into the dry ingredients just until mixed- do not over beat.  Pour batter into a 9X9X2 greased baking pan or a 9 inch cast iron skillet- my personal favorite.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Mmmm, now that food.
Mmmm, now that is food.

Enjoy!  The wonderful aroma of fresh cornbread cooking will warm your soul and satisfy your hunger.  What do you like to eat on a cold day?

Cucumber & Peach Salad

I am in the middle of a  lovely and busy week.  Heather of the Texas Worm Ranch and I teamed up for a class on Tuesday.  We had a sweet, small group of ladies who enjoyed a wonderful herb themed lunch.  Those recipes will be posted later.  First, I need to post the recipe I made for the White Rock local market Go Texan cooking demo.  This was a great recipe and it was so much fun cooking for the patrons of our market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talk about simple and tasty!  This comes from the blog- The Spiced Life.com

For the basil, I substituted lemon basil and holy basil

 

Cucumber and Peach Salad

Ingredients
  • 3 medium cucumbers, peeled if the skin is thick and sliced into rounds
  • 4 medium peaches (ours were small so I used more), cut into chunks
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ c cider vinegar
  • 1 T water
  • 1 T agave syrup, or to taste
  • 1 T finely chopped sweet basil
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh mint
  • Pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Place the onion slices in a bowl with cold water to calm the onion fumes down. Set aside for 10 minutes while you prep the other veggies.
  2. Whisk together the water, oil, vinegar, agave and salt. Add the chopped herbs and whisk. Taste for more agave, salt or even vinegar.
  3. Place the cucumbers and peaches together in a large bowl. Drain the onion slices and add them. Then toss everything with the dressing.

– See more at: http://www.thespicedlife.com/2013/09/cucumber-and-peach-salad-with-mint-basil-vinaigrette-alex-chops.html#sthash.He3cjotF.dpuf

 

Give it a try- you will be glad you did!

 

 

Swiss Chard- A Power-Packed Beauty In The Garden

swiss chard from the garden

Just two seasons ago I had know idea what to do with Swiss Chard.  But, I bought some because it is so beautiful- and it is pretty enough to be grown for gorgeous foliage all on its own.  But it would be just silly to not harvest and eat those beautiful leaves.

One cup of chopped Swiss chard has just 35 calories and provides more than 300% of the daily value for vitamin K plus it is one of the best sources for magnesium.  Magnesium is an important trace mineral that is missing in most of our diets.  Most soils are depleted of this mineral which is why it is important to purchase organic Chard or grow it yourself.

Growing Chard is very easy.  Plant in spring or fall.  Harvest leaves individually and the plant will keep producing more.  Chard is one plant that can grow in partial shade.  Fertilize with organic fertilizers and compost tea so as to add the trace minerals to the soil thereby enabling the Chard to pick them up and make them available for you.  For more details on growing Chard, click here.

WebMd says this:

Swiss chard is a nutritional powerhouse — an excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber.

 

Here is a little more about the great veggie-

Chard is an annual crop widely grown greens around Mediterranean region and is available at its best during summer season from June until November months.

Chard features distinctly large dark-green leaves with prominent petiole well-developed edible stalk. Generally, its leaves are harvested at various stages of maturity. While the whole plant with its tender young leaves can be harvested for salad preparation, individual large-size, mature leaves with slightly tough texture stem may be picked up for sautéing and cooking in dishes.

Swiss chard comes in variety of types based on their shiny, crunchy stalks and petiole:

 

Health benefits of Swiss chard

Regular inclusion of chard in the diet has been found to prevent osteoporosis, iron-deficiency anemia, and vitamin-A deficiency; and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases and colon and prostate cancers.

So, now that you know why you should eat this little jewel you may wonder how-

Swiss Chard can be cooked the same way you would spinach- saute in butter, steam, roast, chop and add it to green salads.  The stalks can be chopped and added to soups and broth.

A dish that we love for breakfast, lunch or dinner  is listed below.

Swiss Chard, Mushroom, and bacon Saute with eggs.

1/2 pound of Swiss Chard- about 6 large leaves with stems

6-8 mushrooms of your choice (or more if you like)

1/4 lb of bacon, diced

1 small onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed or pressed

2- tbsp olive oil, if needed

4 eggs

Cut stems from Swiss Chard leaves and chop like you would celery.  Chop leaves and set aside

In large stainless steal or cast iron skillet, brown bacon over medium heat.  When bacon is just turning brown add onion, swiss chard stalks, and mushrooms.  Saute until the onion becomes clear.  If the pan is smoking, reduce heat and add olive oil.

Add the chopped Swiss chard and garlic, saute for 2 minutes or so- until wilted and tender.

Now, make four wells in the cooking mixture and break one egg into each well. If you need more oil, add olive oil.  Let cook for 1-2 minutes for sunny side up, place lid on pan and cook for another minute for “over easy” or leave lid on until the eggs are cooked through if so desired.

Serve and enjoy!  A nice piece of crusty bread goes very well.

swiss chard, mushrooms and eggs

How To Make Herbal Tea

lemon sage tea on wood

Cool weather makes one want a nice cup of hot tea, and an herbal tea will not only warm the soul but it will boost your immune system as well.

To Make A Tea:

Place one teaspoon of dried herbs in a  tea bag, a tea egg, or loose in a cup and pour hot water over the herb, cover and let steep for five minutes.  Remove bag or egg if using.  Sweeten with honey & add a shot of fresh lemon juice, if desired.

Enjoy!

Yes, teas are that simple.  By covering the tea while it steeps, you are keeping the essential oils in the tea.  Otherwise, the essential oils can evaporate into the air along with the steam.  Also, you can substitute a tablespoon of fresh herbs for the dried herbs.  You can also add herbs such as lemon balm and mint to any green or black tea while it steeps.  This not only adds flavor that is just scrumptious, but it adds lots of health benefits, too.  Such a boosting the immune system, relieving stress, calming the nerves, and calming the digestive tract.

Another tip to improve the flavor of you tea, is to heat the water just till the boiling point.  Then remove the water from heat and pour over the tea.  By doing so, the water will contain more oxygen and this leads to a less bitter tea.

A great combination for a tea to boost the immune system and brighten your mood, is lemon verbena, lemon balm, pineapple sage, and sage.  I blend this tea and sell it at our farmer’s market.  It tastes great and makes the body feel good.

Herbs are easy to grow and easy to use, every one should be growing some.  Even if all you have room for is a pot of mint on a window sill, you will benefit from it.

Herbs Make The Difference!

lemon sage tea with window shadow

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries with Rosemary

I must say that for years, I had an aversion to sweet potatoes.  The only form in which I had ever encountered them was creamed with marshmallow on top.  While most of my family loved these at Christmas, I did  and do not.  Not until my husband requested sweet potato fries did I reconsider this versatile vegetable.  Now, I can’t imagine a pantry that is not stocked with a box of sweet potatoes.  I love to chop one up and add it to vegetable soup.  While sweet potatoes are on the sweet side of life naturally, they are not so sugary that they would ruin a good savory soup.  On the contrary, they add a depth of flavor and texture along with a great punch of vitamins, flavor, and anti-oxidants.

As oven roasted fries, sweet potatoes are fabulous with a caramelized outside and a tender yet firm bite.  These compliment any meat dish and pair well with rice, quinoa, and most other grains.

For a simple, non- processed meal, sweet potato fries are a great side.  Easy to make, very healthy, and quite tasty- a great recipe.  This is the time of year to purchase sweet potatoes, they keep for months so you can buy them in bulk at your local farmer’s market and stash them to grace your table all winter.

 

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries With Rosemary

Serves 6

 

4-6 Sweet potatoes

Olive Oil

2 Tsp. dried Rosemary

Sea Salt to taste

Slice sweet potatoes into French fries.  Place on cookie sheet, cast iron skillet, or baking stone. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat, sprinkle with rosemary.

Place in a 450’ degree oven for 20-30 minutes.  Cook until tender with a nice bit of caramelizing.  After 15 minutes, give the fries a stir flipping the potatoes over.

If you are not a fan of Rosemary, just omit the herb.

sweet potato friesSweet potato fries prepped and ready to go into the oven.

sweet potato friesOven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries, cooked and ready to into my mouth!

Try some, you will be glad you did.

 

 

Herbal Deodorant- A Recipe

deoderant

As we journey along on our path to health, herbs are playing a huge role.  The home medicine cabinet can be stocked with so much that will keep the doctor away and keep your body humming like a well-oiled machine.  One of the items in my medicine cabinet that I wanted to replace was deodorant.   It is a well known fact that most antiperspirants and deodorants that you purchase from the stores have a lot in them that our bodies do not need and are harmful to us.  Aluminum being one of the biggest concerns.  But what to do?  Body odor is something no one can live with.

At Full Heart Farm, this recipe was posted.  I have tried it and like and even one of my family who had to use clinical strength deodorant is using it and it works!  The only challenge is that the coconut oil turns to liquid above 85′.  Really, this is only a problem if your are taking this in a vehicle or airplane or you keep your home very warm.  In my bedroom this mixture remains in a creamy state. If I travel in a vehicle I simply put it in a zip-lock bag as a precaution and if I am traveling on a plane I take a long my store bought stuff. Trying to explain the jar of unmarked liquid at the baggage check is more than I care to undergo and I can’t shake the mental picture of me in a holding cell repeating, “I make all kinds of things with herbs and this is deodorant, I promise.”

So, try this inexpensive alternative- you will be glad you did!

Healthy Deodorant:

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 Tbs corn starch

1 Tbs + 1 Tsp of baking soda

few drops of tea tree oil– too much tea tree oil and the smell will overpower just about any other essential oil.  A little of this oil goes a long way.

enough of your favorite essential oil to make it smell good.  Not only do essential oils smell good, you also receive the added health benefits that each essential oil offers.

Mix together and store in a small mason jar or anything that works for you.  A wedge shape applicator sponge works great for applying the salve and it only takes about a dimes worth of salve per pit.

deoderant on displayI like to use an antique Noxema jar for the container.  I love the cobalt blue glass and it looks lovely on display in my bedroom- no need to hide it in the bathroom.

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!

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.