Friday, December 31, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Here is yet another recipe that I made for Christmas this year. I first had this when a colleague of mine brought it into work. It was soooo good! She just uses a recipe found on AllRecipes. I wanted to try making it with my own healthier ingredients... and I wanted to do it all in the crockpot. So I made some modifications and voila! Buffalo chicken dip... and I have to say I think it tastes even better than my colleague's! :) It was a hit at both Christmas parties that I took it to. It doesn't look too appealing, but once you taste it (and if you like buffalo wings), you'll be hooked!

Buffalo Chicken Dip
2 cups shredded chicken (I used some that I had shredded and frozen... and I just dumped it in still frozen)
2 cups soft cheese (or you could use organic cream cheese)
3/4 cup hot sauce (like Frank's Red Hot, Tabasco, etc.)
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Dump all ingredients into a 2 or 3 quart crockpot. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 2-4 hours. Stir before serving. Serve with celery sticks, crackers, or tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sausage Cheese Balls

We had to travel two hours west for one of our Christmas parties.  I wanted to find something to take that was portable, tasty, and fairly good for you.  I couldn't decide what to bring, so I scoured the Whole Foods for the Holidays posts.  I came across these Sausage Cheese Balls on Titus2Homemaker.  They sounded very easy and portable.  So I tried them out.  I used our pastured, naturally-seasoned sausage, a mixture of whole wheat and spelt flours, my homemade cultured butter, and raw cheddar cheese.  They are more dough-y than I guess I expected and they didn't blow me away, but they were okay.  They taste like a biscuit with a slight cheese and sausage flavoring.  The naturally flavored sausage doesn't have as much spice as conventional sausage does, so maybe they'd have more flavor with conventional sausage... I didn't think about it in advance, or I'd have probably added a few spices. 

Sausage Cheese Balls

3 cups whole wheat flour (I used 2 cups whole wheat and 1 cup spelt)
1-1/2 Tablespoons aluminum-free baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 lb. butter (I used homemade cultured butter)
1 lb. breakfast sausage, raw (I used pastured pork sausage with natural seasonings)
8 oz. grated cheddar (I used raw cheddar, a mixture of mild and sharp)

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter. With your hands, mix in sausage and cheddar, adding a tad bit of water to make a dough. Form into 1″ balls (I used my 1-inch cookie scoop) and bake on a baking sheet at 375 for 20 minutes.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Smoked Salmon Spread

I had decided I wanted to make a salmon dip or spread for one of our Christmas parties this year.  So I went searching for a good recipe.  I settled on a Smoked Salmon Spread with Pecans on Heartland Renaissance.  I pretty much followed the recipe as written.  I did use my homemade soft cheese in place of the cream cheese and I used crispy (soaked and dried) pecans.  This was very simple to make.  I served it with some organic whole wheat crackers.  I thought it was very tasty!  I'll make it again sometime, for sure.  Kevin liked it, too.  People who like salmon would like this, too.  Its really not too fishy tasting, nor too smoky, but it has a really good flavor.   

Smoked Salmon Spread

One 1-lb. can of wild, Alaskan salmon
One 8-oz. package of cream cheese, softened (I used soft cheese)
2 teaspoons grated white or yellow onion
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (I used crispy pecans)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon horseradish
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, snipped (or 1 Tablespoon dried parsley)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Drain salmon, removing bones and skin. Flake salmon into a bowl. Combine cream cheese, lemon juice, onion, horseradish, salt and liquid smoke with salmon, mixing well. Chill several hours or overnight.

About an hour before serving, combine pecans, parsley and paprika. Shape salmon mixture into a log or ball and roll in pecan mixture. Chill. Serve with crackers, sliced baguette and sliced fresh vegetables.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ranch Dressing

I have been making this Ranch Dressing Mix for awhile now... regularly for nearly a year.  It really is a great thing to have on hand.  We make our own ranch salad dressing quite often, as its my favorite.  I've also made dip with it for raw vegetables many, many times.  I've used it in other ways, too.  But I realize I've never posted anything about the actual salad dressing.  So I figured I would do a quick post.  Making the dressing is so easy.  Just whisk together some of the mix, mayo, and buttermilk or sour cream.  I've never made it with sour cream, I've always used buttermilk, but I'm sure it'd still be good.  This is the best ranch dressing I've ever had.  Way better than the Hidden Valley brand, which always seems to be a favorite conventional brand.  It's even better with your own homemade mayonnaise and buttermilk!  Yum!  Anyway, sorry for the poor picture, I mixed up a cup of dressing to use in a buffalo chicken dip I was making for Christmas Eve and just snapped a quick picture in the bowl.  Maybe I'll update someday when I take a better picture.  For now, you get the idea.  :)

Ranch Dressing Mix5 Tablespoons dried minced onions
7 teaspoons parsley flakes
4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix together and store in an air tight container.

For dressing: Mix 2 Tablespoons dry mix with 1 cup mayonnaise and 1 cup buttermilk or sour cream.

Yummy Yummy Coffee Cake - made healthy(er)

I have been wanting to try making the Yummy Yummy Coffee Cake a little healthier for awhile now.  I figured why not make it for a breakfast during the holidays?  So I made it to have for breakfast on Friday morning.  I used whole wheat and spelt flours and I soaked them in homemade buttermilk.  I also used homemade cultured butter, half sucanat and half cane sugar, farm-fresh pastured eggs, homemade vanilla, sea salt, and aluminum-free baking soda for the cake.  I used sucanat and cane sugar, plus cinnamon for the filling.  And I used unbleached powdered sugar and raw milk for the glaze.  Everything was organic and local where possible.  Its still not a healthy dish, but making it this way is much better for you than making it with processed, conventional ingredients. 

Yummy Yummy Coffee Cake

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar (I used half sucanat and half cane sugar)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup sucanat
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup nuts (optional)

1 cup unbleached powdered sugar
2-3 Tablespoons milk

If you are soaking the flours, mix flours and buttermilk together in a small bowl.  You may need to add an extra 1/4 cup of buttermilk.  You want to have just enough moisture to cover all of the flour.  Cover the bowl with a plate or kitchen towel and let sit at least 8 hours or overnight. 

When you are ready to bake, heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan with coconut oil or butter.

Beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla together. Add baking soda and salt.  Then add the soaked flour mixture.  Stir well. 

Mix filling ingredients in a separate bowl.

Put half of the dough in the prepared pan. Top with half of filling. Spread the remaining dough on top. Then remaining filling.

Bake 35-40 minutes.

While still warm, mix glaze and drizzle over top.

This recipe was shared in the Kitchen Stewardship Soaked Grain Recipe Carnival.

Meal plans and the week ahead

What a whirlwhind, awesome week last week was! We have had some great times with family and friends! We have our last Christmas party this afternoon, which will be a lot of fun again. We're really looking forward to seeing the Hollebooms again today!

Tomorrow morning, we may get together with the Holleboom cousins again, if Aunt Mary, Uncle Justin, and Rebecca stay in town overnight. Either playtime at Grandma's or maybe a trip up to the Flint Childrens Museum. Carson and I may go up to FCM regardless since I think Kevin will have to work (yes, he's supposed to be off for shut-down... hopefully he'll be working from home, at least) and will have another very stressful day. Tuesday and Wednesday I'll be going into work in Lansing. Thursday and Friday are holidays for me. I'm not sure what we're going to do.  Friday, we'll go to pick up the milk at some point during the day.  And Carson and Sara have a playdate in the afternoon with Sara's college roommate, Tiffany, and her boys, Evan and Tyson.  Friday is also New Years Eve, but we're just going to celebrate at home again this year.  We haven't decided what we'll do on Saturday yet. We might invite some family or friends over for dinner, but haven't decided yet.

We're hoping to get some things done around the house this week, but we'll see how the week goes. It will depend on whether Kevin ends up working all week, or just a day or two, too. We shall see. Hopefully he will at least have time to build me a cheese press! :)

For now, here's the plan...

Sunday - church; Holleboom family Christmas
(prep grains for noodles)
B: leftover coffee cake
L: leftovers
D: at my in-laws' house, I'm bringing cheesy veggie casserole; buffalo chicken dip

Monday - Flint Childrens Museum? Play time at Grandma's?
(make butter; make yogurt; make noodles)
B: hard boiled eggs; fruit
L: leftovers... buffalo chicken dip with celery, salmon dip with crackers, cheesy veggie casserole
D: cream cheese chicken over noodles; green beans; corn

Tuesday -
(make beef stock)
B: fried eggs; veggies
D: spaghetti squash lasagna

Wednesday -
(prep grains for cinnamon rolls)
B: yogurt with granola
D: french onion soup

Thursday - off work
(make sourdough cinnamon rolls; make sourdough crepes)
B: sourdough english muffins from freezer with peanut butter
L: peas and cheese tortellini
D: cajun sausage and chicken casserole chicken and rice in the crockpot

Friday - off work; milk pickup; play date with friends; New Years Eve
(culture milk for soft cheese)
B: sourdough cinnamon rolls
L: leftovers
D: taco bar with sourdough crepes for shells

Saturday - New Years Day
(hang soft cheese)
B: sourdough cinnamon rolls
L: leftover tacos
D: tbd... depends on if/who we have over.... possibly a beef roast or brisket

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

One of the Christmas treats I made this year are Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles from Heavenly Homemakers.  These were so easy to make and I love that there are so few ingredients.  Not only are they easy to make, but they taste awesome, too!  If you love chocolate and peanut butter, you will love these!  This is definitely a keeper recipe!  I made the recipe as written, though I'd like to make them again sometime with some changes.  I'd like to try them with half carob chips and half chocolate chips and I'd like to try them with homemade sucanat powdered sugar (which I have actually made, but didn't have any when I made these, plus I had some organic unbleached powdered sugar that I needed to use up). 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

2 cups milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used raw cream)
2 Tablespoons butter (I used homemade cultured butter)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (I used homemade peanut butter)
1/4 cup organic, unbleached powdered sugar

In a saucepan stir together chocolate chips, cream and butter over medium heat.  About the time the chocolate chips are almost melted, add peanut butter and stir until smooth.

Spread mixture into a pie pan and chill for about two hours.

Roll mixture into 1 inch balls.  I used my 1-inch cookie scoop and I actually only filled it half-way since the full scoop was too rich for me.  Then I just dropped them right into the powdered sugar to cover and placed on a serving plate.  Then chill them until they're set. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Parabens... and my favorite lotion

I've been on a quest for quite a long time now to eliminate (or limit in some cases) the toxins that our family is exposed to. One of the first steps I took, way back when, was to eliminate the parabens in as many of our personal care products as possible. This was no easy task. Parabens are one of the most commonly used ingredients in personal care products. The only ingredient that is found more often than parabens is water.

Parabens are synthetic chemicals that are added to most personal care products as a preservative. This allows your shampoos, conditioners, sunscreens, deoderants, lotions, hair products, etc. to sit on the shelf for many months and years. This is a good thing, right? You would think so... but really it is very dangerous to your health.

Parabens have now been proven to mimic the estrogen hormone in our bodies. This can lead to extra fat storage/obesity, diminished muscle mass, and male breast growth. Many studies have also linked parabens to an increased rate of breast cancer.

The different types of parabens have different effects on your body, as well. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that methyl parabens are linked to developmental, metabolic, hormonal, and neurological disorders. Yet they continue to allow them to be used in products. Sadly, the power of money and the lobbyists for the personal care companies is huge.

I could keep going... it continues to be just as scary. But there are articles upon articles of information on the internet that you can google if you still aren't convinced. This was enough information to convince me, though.

So I started on my quest. Since I use lotion many times a day, I really wanted to find some good alternatives to the brands I used to use. I thought it would be a pretty easy step. I first went out to Trader Joe's because they are known for good quality products. I just grabbed a moisturizing lotion off the shelf, assuming it was safe. I was appalled when I got it home and saw a couple different parabens on the ingredients list. That was one of many wake up calls that many products labeled "natural" or found in health food stores really aren't any better for you than the national brands that you see at your local big-box store.

There are no federal or official guidelines for personal care products. So basically, anyone can claim their product is natural or organic. Yes, even organic products. Some products labeled as organic actually only contain a very small percentage (like single-digit) of organic ingredients! Truly organic products will not contain any preservatives, however they may contain some natural antimicrobial/fungal ingredients (like grapefruit seed extract) or antioxidant vitamins (A, C, and E). These ingredients will act as preservatives with no dangerous side effects.

Back to my quest, after the Trader Joe's lotion debacle, I tried out many other brands... and I always started by researching the brand on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Cosmetics Database site before purchasing it. I tried several brands, but just wasn't satisfied with them. They either left me feeling greasy or left my skin feeling dry. But I kept looking.

I finally found a lotion that I'm happy with while we were out in Colorado this summer. Dr. Bronner's Magic Organic Lotion. It has an EWG rating of 2 (ratings of 0-2 are low hazards). Although, it does have ethanol listed as an ingredient, which isn't safe but it doesn't effect the overall score of the lotion. I like to use this lotion on my hands and body. It keeps me feeling moisturized and does not make me feel greasy. Dr. Bronners is known for using purely organic ingredients and seems to be an overall great company with healthy products.

I also like to use straight coconut oil as a moisturizer when I'm feeling really dry. It does leave a greasy feeling, which I'm not too fond of, but it does moisturize very well. And its totally safe. Its great to use in the winter and it'd be awesome to use on a pregnant belly, I think.

So anyway, if you are looking for some new moisturizers, I'd highly recommend the Dr. Bronners Magic Organic Lotion - and straight up coconut oil.

If nothing else, I encourage you to take a look at the ingredients list of your most used personal care products. If any parabens are listed as ingredients, I urge you to try some different, safer products. There is no question that the beauty products you use on a daily basis can and will harm you. The adverse effects of the toxic ingredients are compounded over decades. Please choose wisely and read your labels.

Menu plans and the week ahead

I can't believe Christmas is already this week!  Eek!!  This is going to be such a fun week.  I'm so looking forward to everything with Carson - he's just at such a fun age this year! 

Today we're headed to church.  Then we're headed to First Baptist in Grand Blanc for the Christmas program to see our niece and nephew.  Afterwards we're going over to my BIL's/SIL's house to celebrate my BIL's birthday.  Tomorrow night I'll be going out with my colleagues for dinner and happy hour for Christmas.  Wednesday, our office is having a Christmas breakfast party.  Thursday and Friday are holidays for me at work.  Kevin is taking Thursday off and his holiday shutdown starts Friday.  I'll be meeting some college friends for dinner in Grand Rapids on Thursday night.  Friday is Christmas Eve!  We'll be going to my Aunt Sharon's house in the afternoon/evening.  Saturday is Christmas!!  We'll do our own thing in the morning, then we'll be heading to Grand Rapids for Christmas with Kevin's extended family in the afternoon/evening.  We still have to figure out when we're getting together with my parents and sister.  My mom has to work later than she thought she might on Christmas Eve now, so I'm not sure what we'll do (we had planned on going over there before heading to my aunt's house, but it won't work now).  Maybe we'll have them come over to our house on Christmas morning, or we'll go over there mid-morning.  We'll see. 

Here's the plan...
Sunday ~ church; First Baptist Christmas program; BIL's/SIL's for birthday cake
(prep sloppy lentils (lentils soaked last night); make yogurt; make AP cleaner
B: dutch baby pancakes; sausage
L: salmon in parchment packets
D: pork chops; garlic-spinach mashed potatoes; asparagus

Monday ~ out with colleagues
(soak pecans)
B: pumpkin scones from freezer
D: K/C - leftovers; S - Irish Pub in Lansing

Tuesday ~
(dry pecans)
B: oatmeal with maple syrup
D: sloppy lentils over spaghetti squash

Wednesday ~
(soak grains for coffee cake overnight)
B: Christmas breakfast at work
D: pesto cheesy chicken with garlic scape pesto; veggies; applesauce

Thursday ~ off of work; dinner in GR
(make coffee cake; make truffles)
B: bruleed yogurt parfaits
L: tuna salad with crackers; sliced cheese; raw carrots and cucumbers
D: K/C - leftovers; S - at Papa Vino's or Carlos O'Kelly's in Grand Rapids

Friday ~ off of work; Christmas Eve at my aunt's house
(prep celery and dip; prep sausage cheese balls; make salmon spread?; prep breakfast for Sat.)
B: yummy yummy coffee cake (modified to be soaked and using healthy ingredients); yogurt
L: leftovers
D: at aunt's house in Fenton... I'm bringing pickles/olives; buffalo chicken dip with chips and celery; and cookies

Saturday ~ Merry Christmas!!  Christmas dinner in GR
B: sourdough cinnamon rolls or breakfast casserole
L: leftovers
D: at SIL's house in Grand Rapids...I'm bringing pickles/olives; sausage cheese balls; peanut butter truffles; and possibly a smoked salmon with pecans spread with crackers.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cheesy Vegetable Casserole

We hosted a Christmas party at our home last weekend with some of my family.  We had a lot of fun and, of course, we had quite the feast, too.  Everyone brought some food to contribute.  I supplied the ham and some sides, all of which were as REAL as possible.  A few days before the party, I realized we didn't really have enough vegetables, so I was going to just make some roasted veggies.  But then I saw Kelly the Kitchen Kop post a recipe for a healthy broccoli cheese casserole.  I knew I wanted to try it!  So I made it for our Christmas party.  It was sooooo good!  Yum!  This is definitely going to be a regular dish at our house!  I used to make a similar dish with the fake processed cheese (Velveeta or Cheez Whiz), but haven't made it in a couple of years now.  I'm very excited to have a great substitution that tastes even better than the fake version! 

Cheesy Vegetable Casserole

8 Tablespoons butter
8 Tablespoons arrowroot powder
4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1 pint homemade cream of mushroom soup
sea salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
onion powder, to taste
pinch of sugar/sucanat
4 cups chopped veggies, fresh or frozen
1/2 - 1 cup bread crumbs, seasoned to taste

Start by shredding up some cheese in your food processor, or you can use a box grater.  Set aside.

Next make a white sauce/roux.  Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Whisk in the arrowroot powder.  Whisk continuously for about a minute.  Add the milk, about a cup at a time until it thickens, then add another cup until you've added all the milk.

Once all of the milk has been added, add the cheese.  Then stir in your cream of mushroom soup.  Next, add salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar.  Taste it and adjust as you see fit.  You really want to make sure you get the sauce right - it is what makes the dish.  Keep stirring as it continues to thicken.

Meanwhile get your vegetables ready.  You can use fresh or frozen.  If you are using fresh, you'll want to blanch the veggies for a few minutes.  I used frozen vegetables, some broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. 

Prepare an 8 1/2 x 11 inch baking dish by buttering the sides and bottom.  Next, place your vegetables in the bottom and pour cheese sauce over the top. 

Top with breadcrumbs. 

Bake 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy! 

Note:  Kelly suggests melting another 8 Tablespoons of butter and stirring in 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs to make a topping.  Let your veggies bake without it for 10-15 minutes, then add the butter/crumb topping.  I'm sure this is delicious, but I was trying to save a step so I just added some homemade seasoned sourdough breadcrumbs to the top of mine (without the butter) before I baked it. It still tasted great!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

Holy cow, its cold outside!  This week is going to be freezing!  Its way too early to have these kinds of temperatures!  At least we're getting some snow that should stick around a little.  But I could do without the 20s and worse yet, the single digit temps this early in the season!  :) 

Our Christmas party went very well yesterday.  We all had a ton of fun!  We had awesome food, the kids got some really fun gifts, we got to visit and catch up, and we busted out the Catch Phrase game, which is always a great time!  We can't wait for all the other Christmas celebrations we have coming up in the next few weeks! 

So this week is pretty low key.  Today we're going to church at my in-laws' church, at my mother's-in-law request.  And since we never made it to Journey to Bethlehem on Friday night (Kevin worked too late and didn't get home till almost 9pm), we're planning to go this afternoon as long as the weather isn't too crazy.  Tuesday night I'm going to dinner with some girlfriends from high school.  And that is about it for definite planned activities this week.  Kevin will probably be working late every night again.  We'll see what the weather is like on Saturday.  We might just stay home all day to get some things done... Kevin needs to work on the mower (weld the wheel shaft back onto it so that it's driveable again... and get it out of the garage and into the barn so we can bring the plow into the garage) and I could stay busy with some painting or sewing or cooking, I'm sure.  But we'd really like to get up to Longway Planetarium for the holiday laser show.  And we may go some where to see Santa.  So we'll see. 

I'm planning to do some cookie baking this week.  Definitely sugar cut-out cookies and probably some banana cookies, too.  I'm planning to modify both recipes to make them healthier.  I'll post the changes and results in a new post once I make them.  I am almost finished wrapping gifts, so I want to finish that up this week so I don't have to think about it anymore.  Carson and I will be making some Christmas ornaments this afternoon and finishing them up tomorrow after they've had time to sit and dry.  I'm planning to make some soft cheese this week, too.  I'd like to try making a cheesecake with it, so I may try that later in the week. We'll see what else I feel like doing or making. 

Here's the plan...

Sunday ~ church; Journey to Bethlehem
(make steel cut oats, wrap gifts, make ornaments with Carson, start soft cheese)
B: scrambled eggs with ham
L: leftover meatballs, layer salad, fruit salad, vegetables
D: white bean and ham soup

Monday ~
(finish ornaments with Carson; hang soft cheese)
B: steel cut oats
D: split pea soup in the crockpot (with leftover ham)

Tuesday ~ dinner with the girls
(finish soft cheese; make ricotta cheese)
B: smoothies
D: K/C - leftovers; S - Sam's in Rankin

Wednesday ~
(make sugar cookie dough)
B: steel cut oats
D: herbed baked eggs; roasted veggies

Thursday ~
(bake sugar cookies)
B: sourdough english muffins from freezer
D: spaghetti squash with pasta sauce; leftover roasted veggies from Wednesday

Friday ~
(decorate sugar cookies)
B: waffles from freezer
D: butternut squash soup; rolls from freezer

Saturday ~ Longway?  Santa? 
(make banana cookies; make cheesecake?)
B: sourdough skillet pancakes
D: beef roast with potatoes and carrots

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

This week is fairly busy.  Today we're headed to East Lansing for a Wharton Center family show with my BIL, SIL, and niece.  Tuesday we may go downtown for the Flint Holiday Walk in the evening.  Friday is my flex day and I think Kevin will take the day off, too.  We have Kindermusik, milk/CSA pickup, and the last cleaning and prep for Saturday.  We may go up to Faith Lutheran on Friday night for their annual Journey to Bethlehem - if we don't go Friday, we'll go Sunday afternoon next weekend.  We're hosting my dad's family for Christmas on Saturday.  We're keeping it casual and doing a mid-afternoon lunch/dinner combo buffet.  Mostly appetizer and some meal type stuff.  I've got a great local, nitrite/ate-free, pastured ham that I'll be making and I'll be using all real food ingredients in the other things I'm making.  My mom, grandma, and cousins are all bringing some things, too. 

Most of the extras this week will be prep for Saturday's party.  But I'll also be doing some sewing, wrapping more gifts, addressing Christmas cards, and the normal cleaning.  I've already done some sewing today and will fit more in throughout the week... I have some things that I need to get done ASAP so I can ship them out to Colorado and Arizona in time for Christmas. 

Anyway, here's the plan...

Sunday ~ Wharton Center family show
(reserve bacon crumbles for layer salad; make mayonnaise)
B: pancakes with maple syrup; bacon
L: leftovers
D: out to eat

Monday ~
(make truffles?)
B: yogurt; granola
D: chicken noodle soup in the crockpot; sourdough corn muffins

Tuesday ~ Flint Holiday Walk?
B: oats
D: cream cheese chicken in the crockpot over noodles

Wednesday ~
(bake cookies?)
B: smoothie
D: homemade pizza on sourdough crust

Thursday ~
B: oats
D: leftovers

Friday ~ flex day; Kindermusik; milk/CSA pickup; Journey to Bethlehem?
(make sourdough gingerbread; make jello salad; prep breakfast casserole; bake cookies)
B: cheese and veggie omelets
D: crockpot chicken cordon bleu?

Saturday ~ Moore family Christmas
(make real whipped cream; make layer salad)
B: breakfast casserole
L/D: ham (me); meatballs (mom); lil' smokies (cousin); cheese ball/crackers (cousin); pickle/olive tray; nacho dip/chips (mom); layer salad (me); jello salad (me); sd gingerbread with real whipped cream (me); truffles (me); cookies (me); caramel cake (grandma)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

I'm afraid this week is going to feel like a long week.  I have to work all week, which hasn't happened since October with all of the holidays we've had this month.  My 5-day work weeks feel long, regardless, but especially when I haven't had one in awhile... and especially after having such a short week last week with Thanksgiving.  But it'll also feel long because Kevin is gone again.  The good news is that he'll be home on Friday night and he's hoping he may not have to go back to Virginia next week... keep your fingers crossed! 

Last week was a good week.  Kevin had a productive week in Virginia and we got to spend lots of fun time together with family over the long holiday weekend.  We had Thanksgiving dinner with my mom's family on Thursday and we took a trip to Crossroads Village with most of Kevin's family last night for Christmas at Crossroads.  We got our Christmas tree up and our indoor decorations.  I'm going to pull all the ornaments off our tree and re-do it one night this week, though.  I need to pick up some ribbon that I like first, though.  Then Carson and I can have fun putting the ornaments back on it again.  We need to finish putting up our outdoor lights, too.  I picked up two fresh, local, pastured turkeys on Monday night last week.  I cooked one on Wednesday, which I chopped up and put into containers in the freezer for easy additions to meals.  The other one I butchered up, freezing some turkey cutlets, and grinding the rest and freezing in 1-pound packages.  I also made turkey stock, baked some bread, made sourdough corn muffins and corn fritters and froze some of each, made yogurt, made kefirs, made vanilla wafers, and baked a chocolate sourdough cake (at Carson's request).  I also got some candlesticks painted, did some crafts with Carson, got some sewing projects done and started some new ones, and made some progress on learning to crochet.  And I think I may have just about finished my Christmas shopping.   

We don't have a lot going on this week in terms of plans.  Carson and I will have to do lots of fun, creative things to keep us busy.  Maybe we'll start on some Christmas crafts.  Today we'll go to church and then we'll be putting up some more outdoor Christmas lights.  Thursday I might be going to Detroit for some meetings, but they're not definite yet.  Friday is milk and CSA pickup and Kevin comes home late.  Saturday we may head to Longway Planetarium for a laser show, but we're not sure yet.  We're planning to go to the Swartz Creek Christmas Parade on Saturday night. 

Anyway, here's the plan...

Sunday ~ church; put up outdoor lights
(make sourdough crepes; make deviled eggs for lunches this week; make steel cut oats)
B: scrambled eggs; bacon
L: leftovers
D: turkey crepes; roasted veggies; side salads

Monday ~ Kevin leaves for VA
(re-decorate Christmas tree)
B: steel cut oats with maple syrup and brown sugar
D: turkey and veggie quesadillas

Tuesday ~
(re-decorate mantel; start soft cheese)
B: yogurt with fruit
D: hot dogs; roasted veggies

Wednesday ~
(hang soft cheese; clean out refrigerator door and drawers)
B: muffins from freezer
D: eating at my parents

Thursday ~ Detroit for work? 
(make ricotta; make butter; clean out liquor cabinet)
B: kefir smoothie
D: pizza at my aunt's

Friday ~ milk and CSA pickup; Kevin returns
(soak beans; soak almonds)
B: steel cut oats with maple syrup and brown sugar
D: spinach and sun-dried tomato risotto

Saturday ~ Longway Planetarium?; Swartz Creek Christmas Parade
(clean out cars; dry almonds; make pumpkin ice cream)
B: sourdough pancakes; sausage
L: egg salad sandwiches; raw carrots with homemade ranch dip
D: chili in the crockpot

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Traditional Ricotta Cheese

I really try to get the most out of everything when it comes to cooking and food.  So when I saw a recipe on the Fias Co Farm site for making ricotta cheese out of the whey that is leftover when you make a lactic acid or rennet precipitated cheese, I was all about trying it.  So the last few times I've made my soft cheese, I've done just that.  This is extremely easy.  The downside is that you really don't get a lot of ricotta out of a quart of whey.  But this is too simple of a process not to still make the ricotta... plus the resulting ricotta tastes awesome!  I've just been adding it to a container that I've been keeping in my freezer until I get enough to use in a recipe.  I've finally got enough to use and cannot wait to try it next week in a recipe! 

Traditional Ricotta Cheese (made from whey)

You will need:
whey leftover from making a lactic acid or rennet precipitated cheese
vinegar, optional
stainless steel saucepan
large bowl or pot into which the colander fits
2 pieces of 90-count cheesecloth or butter muslin

Pour the whey into a saucepan and heat to 200 degrees.  Once you reach this temperature, you should see very tiny white particles (the albumin protein) floating in the whey.  You may add a little vinegar at this point if you'd like (1/4 cup per 2 gallons of whey).  It's up to you, some people do and some people don't.  I've done it both ways and have not really noticed much of a difference.  Adding the vinegar supposedly makes the texture of the ricotta a little more grainy, but I really haven't noticed it.

Line a colander with very fine cheesecloth/butter muslin.  I fold mine in quarters so I have 8 layers (between the 2 pieces) of cloth.  You really need a really fine cloth because the cheese will pass right through if you don't.  Place the colander over a big bowl or pot so you can save the whey for soups or baking bread.  Carefully pour the hot whey through the cheesecloth lined colander.

Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together and hang the ricotta to drain for 2-4 hours.

When it has finished draining, put the ricotta in a bowl and add salt to taste.  Ricotta will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, or you can freeze it until you have enough to use in a recipe. 

This post is participating in Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Baked Spinach

This is a super easy side dish recipe. Its is quite tasty, too!   We have had this a couple of times now.  Its quite tasty as leftovers, too... and I don't say that very often because I'm not a leftover fan.  :)  I found the idea on a Crossfit food blog.  You could make this with any type of greens.  I've only made it with spinach, but it'd be very good with others.  You could also change up the nuts and add cheese and other spices.  This picture is made as it is written below.  But the second time I made it, I used crispy walnuts and added some of my homemade soft cheese into the mixture.  Feta would be good, too.  Or a cheese topping. 

Baked Spinach

1 1/2 pounds spinach
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup crispy pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs

Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Saute your spinach in butter until wilted.  Add your crispy pine nuts and garlic. Saute for just a couple of minutes.  Pour spinach mixture into a small casserole dish. 

Whisk eggs in a separate bowl.  Pour eggs over spinach mixture and stir to combine.  Spread evenly in dish.  Bake for 30-40 minutes. 

This post is participating in the Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS, Whole Food for the Holidays: Side Dishes at The Nourishing Gourmet. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

Our luck has run out.  At least in terms of one of us traveling for work.  We found out on Wednesday that Kevin is headed down to Virginia early tomorrow morning and will be home late Wednesday night.  Thankfully, he's able to be home for the holiday weekend.  He will likely be going back to Virginia a week from today and will possibly not be home again until Christmas.  We're hoping he's able to come home at least a couple of weekends.  But we shall see. 

In other traveling (good) news, though... we booked a trip to Arizona to go visit my BFF Jaime!  We'll go at the end of January and I can not wait!  We were hoping to go in the spring, but a flight deal came up that was seriously too good to pass up.  I've been watching ticket prices for a while now and they're usually around $300+/person.  We got tickets for $147/person, including all the taxes and fees!!  Unbelievable!!  Now we get to start planning our trip!

So, today we're headed to church, then we'll be tackling some projects around the house - changing some burnt out lightbulbs, putting up a new outdoor light in the back, paint shopping, priming some shelves, cleaning and rearranging in the garage, and Kevin will be packing.  He's headed out on a 6am flight tomorrow morning and he'll be flying in around 11:30pm on Wednesday night.  Tuesday I'm headed to Sarnia for a meeting all day.  Thursday we're headed to my aunt's house for Thanksgiving.  Friday I'll be headed out early for Black Friday shopping and will be picking up our milk.  Then we'll be following our tradition and putting up our Christmas tree and decorations.  We'll also be going to Christmas at Crossroads either on Friday or Saturday night with some of our family.  We also may go down to hang out with our friends Ben and Kati on Saturday so that Kati and I can do some sewing and she can teach me to crochet. 

Here's the plan.

Sunday ~ church; projects
(make vanilla ice cream; make kefirs; make steel cut oats)
B: sourdough cinnamon rolls
L:  mixed greens salads with hard boiled eggs; bacon; cucumbers; carrots; homemade creamy dressing
D: meatloaf; roasted potatoes and veggies

Monday ~ Kevin leaves for VA
(make vanilla wafers)
B: steel cut oats with homemade strawberry rhubarb jam
D: spaghetti with meat sauce

Tuesday ~ Sarnia, Ontario
B: yogurt with granola
D: vegetable beef soup in the crockpot

Wednesday ~ Kevin comes home
B: steel cut oats with maple syrup and bananas
D: grilled cheese; tomato soup

Thursday ~ Happy Thanksgiving!
(bake bread?; feed sd starter)
B: breakfast casserole
L/D: at Aunt Jeri's... turkey; stuffing; mashed potatoes; gravy; corn; rolls; apple pie; dutch apple pie; pumpkin pie

Friday ~ Black Friday shopping; milk pickup; Christmas tree and decorations; Crossroads?
(make sourdough corn muffins)
B: toast with peanut butter and homemade jam
L: leftover vegetable beef soup; corn muffins
D: chicken lentil quesadillas

Saturday ~ Ben and Kati's? Crossroads?
(make yogurt)
B: sourdough corn fritters with butter and maple syrup
L: leftovers
D: Thanksgiving leftover shepherd's pie

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crockpot Dijon Brussels Sprouts

I love brussels sprouts! They're one of my favorite veggies. Kevin and Carson like them most days. I usually just roast them, but I've been looking for some new ways to make them. I saw this recipe posted on A Year of Slowcooking and wanted to try it. These were pretty good. My favorite way to make brussels is still to roast them (although another recipe I've tried recently may tie for my favorite way to make brussels... I'll try to post it soon), but it was good to try a new way. The sprouts on the edge get brown and bit crispy on the outer edge... that was my favorite part!

Crockpot Brussels Sprouts

1 pound brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup water

Use a 2-quart slow cooker. Wash and trim the ends off of each Brussels sprout, and cut in half or quarters, depending on their size. Toss into the stoneware. Add butter, mustard, salt, pepper, and water. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, or on high for 2 to 3. Stir well to distribute the sauce before serving.

This post is participating in the GNOWFGLINS Tuesday Twister.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thanksgiving Sausage Stuffing

I hosted Thanksgiving with my dad's family last weekend.  Yes, it was quite early, but it actually worked out really well and gives us a good break between Thanksgiving turkey dinners.  I made a traditional turkey (post coming at some point) with our family's sausage stuffing.  Its just a basic sausage stuffing, but its what we always have had and probably always will have.  Its very tasty!  The recipe below is the base recipe, which is for a 12-pound turkey.  I had an 18-pound locally raised, pastured turkey, so I increased the ratios.  I also wanted to do more than just stuff the bird.  So I made a quadruple recipe.  First, I stuffed the bird.  Then I threw the remainder into my big crockpot to cook.  Stuffing really shrinks down in size as it cooks, so even though it may look like a TON before you cook it, it will reduce in size by about half.  So just keep that in mind if you ever make it. 

As for ingredients, use what you like, but I like to use local, organic, and homemade as much as possible.  I was going to make the bread for the bread cubes myself, but decided last week that I would just buy some loaves from our local organic mill.  They are WAPFers and they use very similar recipes to what I've made in the past, so I feel totally comfortable getting their bread.  I toasted it in the oven to make the bread cubes.  I used my homemade raw milk cultured butter; as well as local, organic celery and onions from my CSA.  I used celtic sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and my home-dried sage.  I used locally made pork sausage with natural seasonings.  And I made my own chicken bone broth.  So I feel like it was a pretty healthy stuffing.  :) 

Sausage Stuffing
(for 12-lb turkey)

12 cups bread cubes/croutons
1 cup butter
1/2-3/4 cup onion, chopped
1/2-3/4 cup celery, chopped
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon sage
1 pound sausage
1 quart chicken stock

Fry sausage. Add butter, onion, and celery. Cook until veggies are softened.

Put bread cubes in large bowl. Pour sausage, butter, onion, celery mix over top of bread and mix. Pour chicken stock over top until moist, but not soggy. Add salt, pepper, and sage. Mix well.

Stuff your turkey with as much as you can fit.  Put remaining stuffing into a crockpot and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

This post is participating in the GNOWFGLINS Tuesday Twister

Crockpot Apricot Chicken

I made apricot chicken in the crockpot for dinner a few weeks back. The recipe is from A Year of Slowcooking. I used some homemade preserves that I bought from a woman at the farmers' market. They're made from apricots from a tree in her yard which she grows organically and cans with natural sweeteners. So I felt pretty good about using it to make this dish. I'm glad I tried it, it is very good! We all liked it a lot. It has a sweet flavor, but its not overly sweet. It'd be good to serve with rice so it could absorb some of the sauce... we had a lot of sauce leftover in the crockpot.

Crockpot Apricot Chicken

11 oz jar of apricot preserves (homemade with natural sweeteners)
1 teaspoon dried minced onion flakes (I just chopped some fresh onion and added it)
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon soy sauce (I used worscestershire)
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional, I left this out)
6 chicken thighs or equivalent body parts

Place the chicken into your crockpot. In a small bowl, mix all the sauce ingredients. Pour on top of the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, high for 4-6 hours.

Meal plans and the week ahead

We have another fairly low key week ahead of us, though we do have a couple fun things planned. Today we'll be going to church. Monday morning I have a dentist appointment to get my teeth cleaned. I'm hoping I'm wrong, but I think I will be told I need a new crown on one of my molars... cross your fingers that I'm wrong. Wednesday I might be making a trip to Sault Ste. Marie for a meeting, but its not definite yet. It'll just be a long day trip, though. I may take Friday off, depending on what is going on at work... but I'll at least be taking the afternoon off so I can make it back in time for the parade... Friday night is Silver Bells in the City in Lansing. Its an annual light parade that ends with the lighting of the tree at the Capitol and fireworks in the sky. We've never taken Carson, even though we've wanted to every year. So hopefully we actually make it this year if the weather is nice. Saturday afternoon we're meeting my BIL, SIL, niece, and nephews at the Sloan Museum in Flint. Then, on Saturday night we're meeting our friends, Ben and Kati, for dinner. Ok, so maybe we have more going on than I originally thought. At least its not too crazy of a week, though.

I'll also have to go pick up our pastured, milk-fed pork once it is ready this week. I need to organize the freezers so that I'm ready for it. Plus, I'm getting two fresh turkeys next week, so we'll have more freezer inventory coming... I need to make some room!

So anyway, here's the plan...

Sunday - church
(make sourdough pull-apart rolls; make extra roasted veggies for soup tomorrow; organize freezers; make hard boiled eggs)
B: greek eggs
L: philly cheesesteak soup in the crockpot (with leftover pot roast from last week)
D: grilled steaks; roasted veggies (beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, red potatoes)

Monday - dentist
(make butter)
B: toast with peanut butter; hard boiled egg
D: roasted veggie soup; sourdough pull apart rolls

Tuesday -
(make steel cut oats)
B: yogurt with granola
D: chicken divan over spaghetti squash

Wednesday - the Soo?
B: steel cut oats with maple syrup
D: leftovers for K/C if I'm in the Soo, if I'm home we'll have butternut squash soup

Thursday - pick up pork? 
B: toast with peanut butter; hard boiled egg
D: baked salmon; roasted veggies

Friday - 1/2 day at work; milk/CSA pickup; Silver Bells in the City
B: steel cut oats with crispy pecans and bananas
D: pork tenderloin; peas and carrots; side salads

Saturday - Sloan Museum; dinner with friends
(make beef broth; make yogurt)
B: sourdough crepes with soft cheese and fruit; local pork sausage patties
L: chicken avocado salad sandwiches; raw carrots and celery with pesto-cheese dip
D: out with friends... Ruby Tuesday?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

We tried spaghetti squash for the first time about six weeks ago. I wasn't sure what to expect from it, but we all really loved it! It really does serve as a great replacement for pasta noodles! We've had it several times now.  I've been trying to use it in different ways and thought about using it in lasagna. So I made one up a few weeks ago... and it was so good! Its a new favorite for everyone in our family. Just replace the noodle layers with a layer of spaghetti squash and use all your normal lasagna ingredients. This is such an easy, delicious dinner! Here's how I made mine.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

1 spaghetti squash
1 jar pasta sauce
1/2 - 1 pound grass-fed ground beef, browned
cheese - shredded, ricotta, cottage, etc.

Cut your spaghetti squash lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and reserve in a separate bowl to pick the flesh and then soak and dehydrate for a great snack. Place your squash cut side up in a baking dish. Add some water to the pan. Bake the squash in a 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, until the squash is fork-tender. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes or more. Once you are ready, scrape the squash flesh with a fork so that it comes apart all stringy like spaghetti.  You can prepare your squash ahead of time if you'd like - I did mine the night before. 

Brown your grass-fed ground beef in a skillet.  Add your pasta sauce so that it is warmed.  I use homemade pasta sauce, but you can use whatever you'd like. 
In a separate baking dish or lasagna pan, pour a thin layer of pasta sauce across the bottom of the dish.  Next, layer in half of the spaghetti squash. Cover the squash with a layer of whatever veggies you like - I used spinach, kale, bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Next, put a layer of sauce.  And finally a layer of cheese. You can use whatever cheese you like. Now start with the layers again, beginning with the sauce and working your way through. The top layer should be a nice layer of cheese.

Bake your lasagna for about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Enjoy!

This post is participating in the Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

This week is pretty low-key.  Today I'm headed down to Livonia for a baby shower for the daughter of a co-worker and good friend of mine, Mohammed. Tuesday afternoon I'm planning to go to my local WAPF chapter meeting. Thursday I'm off of work for Veteran's Day. Carson and I will be going out to the Veteran's cemetery to visit my Grandpa and Uncle Barry, who were both in the Army and served in Korea and Vietnam together. Friday is my flex day and we'll be doing Kindermusik and the normal milk and CSA pickup. Friday night we'll be heading over to my Grandpa's house to celebrate his birthday with the family.  We're not sure yet about Saturday.  We may see if some friends want to hang out, or we've thought about going to Grand Rapids.  We need to talk about it a little more and see what we want to do.

I didn't get a lot of extra stuff done last week.  I was mostly just getting things ready for Saturday's turkey dinner with my dad's family.  Which, by the way, turned out perfectly delicious!  So this week I want to get a few things done that I've been wanting or needing to do for a few weeks now.  I've had turkey stock going overnight, so I'll deal with that tonight after its had a full 24 hours cook time.  Its a huge batch, so I'll be able to put some in the freezer and use some this week.  We'll be getting stock in our diet every day this week but Saturday at this point (and its TBD, so we could have it then, too), between the dinners and then leftovers for lunch the next day.  I want to make some more sourdough goods... crackers and cinnamon rolls.  We're out of both.  I also need to make some more granola bars and protein bars.  So I need to make some crispy nuts and some soaked/dehydrated oats.  I've also got some more herbs to dry.  I've got some more apples coming on Friday when I pick up our CSA order, so I want to do some more apple baking, too.  Not totally sure what I want to make yet, other than an apple crisp.  I think I'd like to make some mini apple pies for the freezer, too. 

So anyway, here's the plan...

Sunday - baby shower in Livonia
(make turkey stock and freeze; make steel cut oats)
B: pancakes with strawberry syrup
L: leftovers for K & C, I'll be eating at the baby shower
D: Thanksgiving leftovers shepherd's pie

Monday -
(soak almonds, pecans, and oats; dehydrate sage and chives)
B: steel cut oats with bananas and walnuts
D: kraut bierocks; green beans

Tuesday - WAPF meeting
(dehydrate crispy almonds and pecans; dehydrate oats)
B: sourdough english muffins from freezer
D: lentil soup in the crockpot

Wednesday -
(feed sd starter)
B: sliced apples and cashew butter
D: beef roast in the crockpot with potatoes, carrots, and parsnips

Thursday - Veteran's Day, visit Veteran's cemetery
(make sourdough cinnamon rolls; feed sd starter; make granola bars and protein bars)
B: yogurt
D: white chili in the crockpot

Friday - flex; Kindermusik; milk & CSA pickup; celebrate Grandpa's bday
(culture milk for soft cheese; make apple crisp; make sourdough crackers?)
B: sourdough cinnamon rolls
D: pizza at Grandpa's house

Saturday - TBD
(hang soft cheese; make sourdough crackers?)
B: breakfast casserole
L: tbd
D: tbd

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chicken Bone Broth/Stock

I've been making homemade broth/stock from bones for many years now. But I was also canning it at times and I was still buying a good deal of it, too... or making some from Better than Boullion. I decided a few months back that I will not can stock anymore (I will only freeze it now), nor will I buy broth/stock anymore. I'm trying to work broth/stock into our diets more regularly... especially during the cold/flu season that we are headed into.

I've been making stock once a week now for the last three or four weeks so we've been getting it in our diets about two or three times a week. I'd like to eventually have it in our daily diets. That means I need to change the way I make stock... so I can make a larger quantity at one time. Currently, I just make it in my 6-quart crockpot and I usually end up with 3 or 4 quarts of stock once its done. Thanks to a tip I received at last month's WAPF chapter meeting, I think I'm going to start making it in my big roaster so I can make a larger quantity at one time. That way I can still feel comfortable leaving it on while we're away at work (I just would not feel comfortable leaving it on the stovetop when we're away from the house... even if it were only for an hour). I haven't tried it yet, but I look forward to trying it for the first time later this week when I make turkey stock. I'll update on the outcome.

So why the decision on wanting to incorporate bone broth/stock into our daily diets? Because its just so incredibly good for you! A good broth/stock contains minerals that your body can absorb easily - calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur, and other trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons - stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, which are now sold as supplements for arthritis and joint pain... and they cost quite a bit, too. Fish broth/stock is a great source of iodine and other thyroid-supporting minerals. I haven't tried making fish broth yet, but I'm hoping to get fish heads and bones from my uncle after his fishing trips from now on so I can give it a try.

Most importantly, a good broth/stock contains lots of gelatin from the bones. Gelatin is extremely nutritious. It builds strong bones and cartilage and also benefits your skin, digestion, immunity, heart, and muscles. It has been known to have a positive effect on many human ailments - such as ulcers, tuberculosis, diabetes, muscle diseases, infectious diseases, jaundice, and cancer to name a few. It is a wonderful digestive tonic and an excellent treatment for reducing inflammation.

Feet, hooves, heads, and necks from animals contain the largest amounts of gelatin. If you don't already have a source for these pieces, you should definitely find one. I have found many sources for chicken feet and necks. Not so much for hooves, but I also haven't looked into it much yet... I've also heard that selling calves hooves is illegal in Michigan... but again I can't vouch for this yet since I haven't looked into it yet. According to Sally Fallon, you should use 2-4 chicken feet for chicken stock and about 2 pounds calves feet pieces to get the best results in a large pot of stock.

So how do you make a good bone stock/broth? Below, I've included a recipe from Sally Fallon, which can be found in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. This is how I make my chicken stock. I have been using the carcass of a whole bird, plus 2-3 necks and 3-4 feet. Once I start using my big roaster to make my stock, I'll increase the quantities to adjust for a larger amount of stock.

Chicken Bone Broth/Stock

1 whole free-range chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings
gizzards from one chicken (optional)
2-4 chicken feet (optional)
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley
(I also like to add the green parts of leeks... I always wondered what I could do with those green parts aside from throwing them on the compost. Now I just collect them all in a large bag in the freezer to throw into my stocks. It adds a delicious flavor! I also add the leaves from the celery stalks, too!)

If you are using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces. Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot (or crockpot or roaster) with water, vinegar and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. This allows the vinegar to work the bones, making them ready to extract all the gelatin and minerals. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 8 hours (if you are using a crockpot on low, you should let it go 18-24 hours). The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.

Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. If you are using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. (If I use a whole chicken, I take the meat off the bones after a couple of hours, otherwise the chicken gets a weird texture and we don't care for it. Then I put the bones back in to cook... but most of the time I'm starting my stock with only the carcass/bones/pieces, not a whole bird.) Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.

For more information, Sally Fallon has a great article that I'd highly recommend reading - Broth is Beautiful. As well as Kaayla Daniel's article - Why Broth is Beautiful.

This post is part of the Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

Happy Halloween!! This is going to be a fun week! This morning, we're heading to church. Then we'll be going over to my SIL's house later on for dinner and trick-or-treating. Tuesday I'm off of work for Election Day - gotta go vote!! Wednesday I'm having dinner out with some friends. Friday I'm off to prepare for Saturday, but I'll also be taking Carson to Kindermusik since I think we'll miss one of the days later in the semester... and I need to do the normal milk and CSA pickup. Saturday, we're having my dad's family over for Thanksgiving... yes, its really early, but this way we're not eating a ton of turkey and stuffing all in one weekend... and we can actually have some down-time over the holiday weekend. So it actually works out really well! 

Here's the plan...

Sunday ~ church; trick-or-treating at SIL's
(chop cabbage and veggies; prep Monday's dinner)
B: greek eggs
L: split pea soup in crockpot; muffins from freezer
D: pizza at SIL's

Monday ~
(make steel cut oats; thaw chicken)
B: peanut butter banana smoothies
D: cabbage roll casserole

Tuesday ~ Election Day!
(prep brussels sprouts; prep other veggies for soup Thurs.; start chicken stock in crockpot after dinner; start turkey thawing in fridge)
B: steel cut oats with maple syrup and banana
D: crockpot rotisserie chicken; crockpot brussels sprouts

Wednesday ~ dinner with friends
(strain chicken stock and reserve for making stuffing on Saturday)
B: steel cut oats with homemade strawberry jam
D: Kevin & Carson - leftovers; Sara - dinner at Don Pablos w/ friends

Thursday ~
(prep veggies for stir-fry on Fri.; prep veggies for stuffing on Sat.)
B: yogurt with granola
D: chili chicken and veggie soup

Friday ~ off, milk/CSA pickup
(prep food for Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday; clean; prep quiche for Sat. morning)
B: yogurt with granola
D: stir-fry with leftover rotisserie chicken, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and corn

Saturday ~ Moore family Thanksgiving
(start turkey stock in roaster after dinner)
B: quiche with ham, swiss chard, onion, and swiss cheese
L: leftovers/misc.
D: turkey; stuffing; gravy; mashed potatoes; green bean casserole; corn; brussels sprouts gratin; dutch apple pie; rolls

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Soft Cheese (like Chevre/Goat Cheese)

I've been dabbling in the world of cheese making for the last month or so now. I have tried a couple different cheeses, first of which was soft cheese. I followed Wardeh from GNOWFGLINS' instructions in her guest post on Edible Aria, as well as some guidance received via email and facebook. Wardeh has been a tremendous resource to me - in more areas than cheese-making, but I especially appreciate her guidance with cheese. I'm not sure I'd have tackled the cheeses I have so far, nor plan to do the cheeses that I want to try very soon, if it was not for her. So, thank you, Wardeh!

Soft cheese would be called chevre or goat cheese if I used goat's milk, but since I use raw cow's milk, its just soft cheese. It is one of the easiest cheeses to make... hence why I chose to start with it. :) You don't need any fancy molds or presses. Just your ingredients, a jar, some cheesecloth, a large bowl, and a way to hang the cheese. I've now made soft cheese three times and will be making it again this weekend. Its great to use plain (spread on toast, sourdough english muffins, sweet muffins, as fruit dip, etc.), mixed with herbs for a delicious spread on crackers or veggies, as sour cream, salad dressing, or in dishes. We've really enjoyed the results when using it in cooked dishes. Its such a nice, mild, creamy cheese.

The recipe I follow makes about 3 cups of soft cheese. It will keep for about a week in the fridge and it freezes well. Depending on my meal plan for the week, I will keep 1-2 cups of it fresh in the fridge and freeze the remainder for use the following week or whenever. Here is what I do... it may sound like a long process, but the active time is very minimal and does not take much skill at all.

Soft Cheese

1/2 gallon of raw goat or raw cow milk
1/8 teaspoon all-purpose mesophilic culture (MA or MM)
1/4 cup clean, filtered water
double strength organic liquid vegetable rennet
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

You will also need:
cloth napkin and rubber band
stainless steel or other non-reactive colander
stainless steel pot or other non-reactive large bowl into which the colander fits
2 pieces of 90-count cheesecloth or butter muslin


On day one, pour the milk into a half-gallon mason jar. Then, sprinkle the mesophilic culture on top of the milk and stir with a wooden spoon (do not use metal).

In a separate jar or cup, put the 1/4 cup of water. Add one drop of the double-strength liquid rennet and stir well. Take one tablespoon of this solution and add it to the jar of milk. Stir the milk well with your wooden spoon. (If you are using regular strength liquid rennet, mix one drop with the water, but add 2 tablespoons of the solution to the milk and stir well... I just use the double strength since that's what I bought after seeing what Wardeh uses... maybe someday I'll try the regular strength.) If you think you will be making more soft cheese within a week or two, keep the rennet solution in the refrigerator. Otherwise just throw it away.

Cover the jar of milk with a cloth napkin and secure with a rubber band. Let sit out at room temperature to culture for 24 hours.


Once the milk has cultured for 24 hours, it should resemble the consistency of a thick yogurt. Put your colander inside your pot or bowl. Layer the two pieces of cheesecloth or butter muslin in the colander. Gently pour the cultured milk into the cheesecloth. Tie up the cheesecloth, making a sort of bag to enclose the curds. You can just leave this in the colander as is, or hang it above the colander/bowl setup. I hang mine after I've let it drip in the colander for about an hour. Leave this at room temperature for 24 hours, during which time the whey will drip out and the curds will thicken.

Untie the cheesecloth and check the consistency of the cheese. It should be thick, but spreadable and not dry. You may let it hang longer if you wish the cheese to thicken more.

Once your cheese has reached your desired thickness, transfer to a clean bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Stir. Adjust amount of salt to taste. Pop the cheese into the refrigerator to chill. You may freeze some if you don't think you'll use it within a week or two.
Make sure you save the whey that has collected in the pot/bowl. Keep this in the refrigerator for up to 6 months to use in lacto-fermentation or add to soups. 

I end up with a quart of whey, plus three cups of cheese from this recipe.

This post is shared as part of the GNOWFGLINS Tuesday Twister.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Everyday Minerals/Everyday Naturals Makeup

I have been looking for a better, natural makeup for quite awhile now. I've tried several different kinds, but really haven't been all that happy with them. I was very interested in a brand that my SIL recently tried - Everyday Minerals/Everyday Naturals. Mary was very happy with their face makeup - you can read her review here. I was almost out of a few different eye shadows, so I decided to place an order and give them a try. I ordered five eye colors to start with so I could get 2 different looks. I also ordered some brow color, lipstick, a face powder brush, and a face powder sample set (which was actually free).   

I've been very happy with everything and have placed another two orders for some new looks (more eye colors, some blush, some bronzer, another lip color, more face powder samples, and some more brushes). I really like the coverage and vibrancy of the eye colors. The color stays put all day and doesn't get all gunked up in the crease of my eyelid like many other brands have. I don't generally wear foundation or concealer or anything, but you can try a face powder foundation kit free with any order so I've had a chance to try a few different powders. I've been quite impressed with the bases. Like the eye colors, they stay put all day... the face in the mirror at the end of the day actually resembles the face that you created that morning. I still prefer to wear no foundation makeup, but on the occasions when I want to wear it, I'm very happy to have this in the drawer.  I've also been very impressed with the blush and bronzers.  The lipstick is very nice, too.  I do wish it was a long-wear lip color, though. 

All of the Everyday Minerals/Everyday Naturals makeup is organic, vegan, and eco-friendly. All of their products are rated 0-3 by the EWG. They do no animal testing. All makeup ingredients are sourced in the United States and are made in Texas (they do source their containers from Taiwan and make the brushes in Korea, though.. but I'm happy their makeup is all sourced here).

All of the makeup is also very reasonably priced. It was very refreshing to see some good, healthy makeup that is available at such great prices! Each of my eye colors was only $6.50 or $7.00, which I think is amazing compared to the prices I have been paying! They're always offering free gifts with purchase (in addition to the free face makeup samples) and have run some really great sales (I got 25% off, plus free stuff on one of my orders!).  Shipping costs are also very reasonable and orders ship very quickly.

I am very excited about this makeup! Thank you, Mary, for making me aware of it! I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a new makeup that contains healthy ingredients that are not going to poison your body.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

This is going to be a nice, low key week by the looks of it. I was supposed to be in Quebec again this week, but I'm able to stay home instead - yay!!  It will be very nice to have a low-key week to get lots accomplished in advance of our crazy week next week. I'm actually looking forward to doing some heavy duty cleaning in the house this week. For the last few weeks, we've just been doing light cleaning in most of the house (exceptions being the kitchen and bathroom are always cleaned well).

So anyway, here's the plan this week...

Sunday -
(strain chicken stock; clean fitness room and basement playroom; make granola; make butter; make apple pie)
B: scrambled eggs with veggies
L: italian wedding soup with kale in the crockpot
D: italian style spaghetti squash; creamed spinach and swiss chard

Monday -
(roast butternut squash)
B: yogurt with grain-free apple cinnamon granola
D: baked chicken tenders; sweet potato fries; green beans from freezer

Tuesday - in Detroit
(clean bedrooms and bathroom)
B: pumpkin or cornbread muffins; fresh fruit
D: butternut squash soup; pumpkin muffins

Wednesday -
(clean living room and family room)
B: pumpkin or cornbread muffins; fresh fruit
D: loaded baked potatoes with local sour cream, raw cheddar, chives from garden; lettuce salads with veggies and homemade creamy dressing

Thursday -
(clean kitchen and dining room)
B: apples with cashew butter
D: leftovers

Friday - flex day; Kindermusik, milk and CSA pickup
(start beef stock in the crockpot; make yogurt; make soft cheese)
B: scrambled eggs with veggies
D: baked local whitefish; roasted brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower; lettuce salads

Saturday -
B: sourdough pancakes or sourdough crepes
L: lettuce salads with veggies, hard boiled egg, and homemade dressing
D: mummy meatloaf; garlic-spinach mashed potatoes; roasted carrots