Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hard Boiled Eggs

Really???  Hard Boiled Eggs???  I mean, do I really need to make a whole post on hard boiled eggs?  Why yes, yes I do!  If you've ever had a fresh egg, and I mean a really fresh egg.  Like straight from the chicken fresh.  Then you will know why I need a post on how to make hard boiled eggs.  
Hard boiled eggs

Friday, January 30, 2015

Buying Seeds for the Garden

During the winter I get the itch to get back into the garden.  All the beds are hibernating through the winter just waiting for us to plant again in the spring.  The beds have all been dug up,  chicken manure has been added, and finally a nice snowy blanket was placed on top.  

I start all my gardening planning now.  First I flip through the seed catalogs.  I primarily look at Johnny's Seeds and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Our local nursery also carries seeds that I tend to pick up when I'm there.  I also reread my favorite gardening books to read up on new items I'm wanting to try.  I want to understand the growing conditions, the season, and what else I might need to do to make a successful harvest.  
Seeds for the Garden
Browsing through a seed catalog.

Once the whole family has marked our selections in the catalog, I go back through and edit our order.  We tend to go a little crazy with the number of seeds we order.  When they arrive in the mail, we go open the box like it's a Christmas present.  

President's Day weekend is our marker for starting our tomato seedlings.  A couple of my friends and I get together and plant between 50-100  tomato plants.  That's way more than we can use, but those seeds are so tiny that it just doesn't seem like much.  We get back together to replant and then finally we divvy up all the plants.  Once I have a plant in my hands, I just have to plant it.  I tend to end up with a LOT of tomato plants. These all need to be started indoors and don't get moved outside until mid May...if we're lucky. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chicken Broth

Homemade chicken broth is easy, delicious, and so much cheaper than buying broth at the store.  I make a big batch and freeze to use later.  I freeze in quart jars for soups, and smaller containers for when I just need a small amount.  I don't add salt to my broth.  Instead I wait until I add the broth to a dish and then salt to taste.  
Chicken Broth
Chicken Broth

There's something so comforting about broth simmering on the stove.  The smell is delicious and I keep thinking about all the hearty ingredients that my family will be consuming later.  

I use a whole chicken here, but you can also use chicken parts (wings, thighs, backs.)  We raise our own meat chickens so the size of the chicken is never the same.  The chicken in the picture is actually from when we butchered last summer.  We had purchased a batch of laying hens, but as they grew up, several of them were roosters!  Too many roosters is not beneficial.  When we butchered our meat hens, Rod also culled our extra roosters.  This chicken is only about 3 1/2 pounds.  Perfect for making broth!

Not only do I use the broth, but I also use the meat from the chicken.  After the broth has simmered for about three hours, I pull out the whole chicken and let it cool.  When it's cool enough to touch, I pull all the meat off and discard the bones, skin and fat.  I use the meat for soups or other meals that use shredded chicken (enchiladas, chicken and dumplings...)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cheese Dip for the BIG GAME!

With the Big Football Game coming up we have been planning our munchies!  Rod has been craving Queso Dip...  You know the one.... Velveeta Cheese melted and mixed with salsa.  The perfect accompaniment to the lowly Corn Tortilla Chip.  I had to remind him
Cheese Dip for the Big Game
The perfect Cheese Dip!
Velveeta was loaded with all sorts of unpronounceable ingredients.  He's not nearly as vested as I am to trying to reduce our processed foods, but he agreed not to buy the Velveeta.

In the hope of finding the perfect replacement, I began experimenting.  I think I found one!  My daughter asked skeptically, "Is this any good?"  We chorally answered, "NO!"  She took one look at us and dove right in.  She announced it's good but needs more cheddar.  Well, Dear Daughter, there's no cheddar in this here dip!  I suppose it could be added, but the rest of the family decided it was near perfect!  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chicken Salad

I love chicken salad.  I'm talking about taking left over chicken, adding veggies and a mayo type dressing.  There are so many variations for dressings and so many ways to eat the chicken salad once it's done:  on crackers, in a lettuce cup, in a wrap, or just out of a spoon!
This is the perfect dish for any season.  I enjoy it as much on a cold winter's day as I do in the hot days of summer. 
Chicken Salad

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hamburger Buns

Hamburger buns are so versatile.  You can use them for dinner rolls (before you slice them), sandwich rolls, sloppy Joes, and yes, hamburgers.  I made these hamburger buns with sloppy Joes in mind.  I don't like my buns too big.  These are somewhere between a regular hamburger bun and a slider sized bun.  

Hamburger buns

I may be the only one in my family who loves sesame seeds on my buns.  It's not that they don't like them, but if they had their choice, they would go with no seeds.  You can decide...with or without.  I would still use the egg wash if you decide to go without.  The egg wash gives the buns a beautiful color and sheen.

This batch made 18 buns.  We used them for dinner, lunch, and munching right out of the oven.  If I actually had some extra buns, they would freeze great.  Ohhhh, if only they weren't eaten up right away....I would have some in the freezer! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Honey Bees

When we moved from town to our current place in the country 9 years ago, I told my husband let's get honey bees!  He replied, "You mean, you want me to get honey bees and  me to take care of them, and you want to watch and enjoy the bees!"  Why yes, that is exactly what I meant.  
honey bee hive winter

I finally came to the realization, that I could be in charge of the bees.  Last Christmas, Rod gave me several items to start bees: a brood box, a hat and veil, gloves as well as other items.  In the spring, I picked up a package of honey bees and the adventure began!

There are a lot of different theories on the correct manner to raise and care for bees.  I read as much as I could, talked to local experts, took a bee keeping class at my local co-op and then make my decisions based on all that information.  I still have a lot to learn.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Special Frosting Treat

A treasured treat from my childhood....When we were little and my mom would make her Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes we always had to wait until after dinner to sample the yummy dessert.  Mom would usually bake the cupcakes early in the morning and have them frosted by mid-morning.  That meant we had to look at those treats on display ALL DAY LONG!  Lucky for us, mom always made too much frosting and she made a special treat for us.  She would simply take out a pack of graham crackers, break the long rectangular cracker in half, slather a good amount of frosting on the cracker and then put the top on.  These had to be eaten fairly quickly or else the graham cracker would become soggy.

I think my dad likes my mom to make her Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes just so he can get the graham cracker goodies.  

Graham Cracker chocolate frosting snack

Graham Cracker chocolate frosting snack

Chocolate Frosting

2 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
2 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 Tablespoons Butter - Softened to room temperature
1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla
2-4 Tablespoons Milk

Mix powdered sugar and cocoa powder together.  Add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth.  I usually do this by hand, but you could use a mixer.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Quick Pita Chips

Pita Chips
A yummy quick snack.

I purchased a large bag of pita flat bread at Costco.  I was thinking they were pita pockets., but they had no pocket!  I decided to make these into chips so they wouldn't go to waste.  You can use any kind of pita bread - even the ones with pockets. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

My Grandma Grace was always well known for her Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake.  The funny thing is, I don't remember my grandma ever making it.  She really wasn't much of a cook at all.  I don't think she even liked to cook.  My dad always said it was because when they lived in Wyoming she couldn't figure out how to cook at high altitudes.  For someone who didn't like to cook, she seemed to have some great recipes she passed on to my mom.

The most famous is her Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake.  It sounds gross!  I mean, who puts 

Chocolate mayonnaise cake
mayonnaise in a cake???  That's just crazy.  We never used to tell people the name until AFTER they had eaten our famous dessert.  Then they couldn't say, ewwww.....I'm not trying that.  Although, now that I think about it, maybe we should have told them because that would have meant more for us!  

My mom always makes this using Miracle Whip Dressing instead of mayo.  Either works fine. It really comes down to what's in the fridge and what's your personal preference.  I now use a homemade Miracle Whip which doesn't contain any extra added preservatives.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Homemade "Miracle Whip Dressing"

Growing up, we always used Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise.  When I met my husband, he was a REAL mayonnaise eater.  Miracle Whip was considered an inferior product.  Having two mayo products in our fridge seemed excessive so the real mayo won.  There are times (I must admit) that I miss the tang of Miracle Whip.  It adds a perfect something to potato salad, deviled eggs, and my Grandma Grace's special Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake!  It was my Grandma Grace's recipe, but I don't actually remember her ever making mom is the true Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake (or Cup Cake) maker in our family.  Mom always makes her cupcakes with Miracle Whip, not "real" mayonnaise.  I've tried to make it with "real" mayonnaise, but it's just not the same. 

In my quest to reduce our intake of processed foods, and my desire to make Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake like my mom's, I have found a recipe for homemade Miracle Whip!  

Homemade Miracle Whip Dressing

Homemade "Miracle Whip" Dressing

1 egg
5 teaspoons white vinegar
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 cup canola oil

In a blender, put all ingredients except oil.  Pulse lightly until mixed and just slightly foamy.  Put lid on blender with middle part removed from lid.  With blender on, slowly pour oil through hole in lid.  A slow steady stream of oil with the blender running will allow the ingredients to emulsify. Once all oil has been added, taste dressing.  Add additional salt if desired (1/4 teaspoon more.)  

Store in a glass jar with a lid in the refrigerator.  

Note:  Many recipes call for just the egg yolk.  Because I don't like to be wasteful, I used the whole egg.  I use farm fresh eggs from my own chickens.  If you are worried about using a raw egg, you can purchase pasteurized eggs from the store. 

Homemade Miracle Whip Dressing

Source:  Adpated from Top Secret Recipes

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Eggs from the Farm

When we first moved into our house, our daughter received a birthday gift for her 5th birthday from her aunt....chickens!  We've had chickens ever since and love them!  We primarily have layers, but every spring we buy birds we raise just for meat.

Our layers provide us with fresh eggs daily and I haven't bought eggs for several years.   We get way more than we can eat.  The extras go to our neighbors and friends.  

I received this antique egg scale from my mother-in-law.
I only use it when I want to see how big a really big egg is.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Beautiful Snowy Day

I'm a firm believer that if you're in  for a good snow storm, you might as well take full advantage of all it has to offer!  We got a good 12 inches of snow so  we grabbed our sleds and headed to the bottom of our property to make use of our neighbors very large steep sledding hill.  The rides down were exhilarating!  However, snow flew every your ears, eyes and in any place your clothing may have exposed a little gap.  The kids decided to wear their ski goggles and helmets to provide protection on the way down.
The only thing better than a great snow storm is a SNOW DAY from school!  Kids, teachers, and principals all really do love a bonus day off from school!  Shhhhhhh.......don't tell the kids that they aren't the only ones who love a snow day!

Getting ready for a ride down.
The hill back up is quite a hike
Plumb tuckered after hiking up the hill. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

New Year's Resolution

I'm not one to formally make a New Year's Resolution.  However, this year I have decided to reduce our intake of processed foods.  We already make many items from scratch, but sandwich bread is one item I tend to buy at Costco or the grocery store and have extra loaves in the freezer so I can easily pull out as needed throughout the week.  My goal: Make Homemade Bread for Everyday! I love making bread - I really do!  But I usually save it for a long weekend or Snow Days when school is cancelled.  It has been something I go to for comfort, when I have the extra time.  
9 Grain Whole Wheat Bread

Bread making is funny.  It really takes very little hands-on time.  However, I do need to plan carefully to be on hand after each rise and allow enough time to bake the loaves.  My kids have always loved homemade bread - but not for sandwiches....until this bread!  I have discovered two tricks:  100% White Whole Wheat Flour and Vital Wheat Gluten.  White whole wheat is made from hard white spring wheat rather than the more traditional red wheat.  White whole wheat is not only lighter in color, it's also lighter in flavor, but still has all the wonderful nutritional value that "regular" wheat flour has.  Vital Wheat Gluten helps all wheat flour breads with creating a lighter rise and a better crumb.  Very little is added, but it does help this bread feel more like "sandwich bread" to my kids.  The final thing I have to ensure my kids will use this for sandwiches is a thin cut.  I can achieve this by waiting for the loaves to fully cool...which is not an easy task!  We usually want to dive right into freshly baked bread.  I have to patrol the kitchen to make certain nobody attacks it until it's completely cooled.  I guess I will need to supplement with homemade rolls from time to time that they can snatch off the cooling rack while they are still hot so I don't deprive my family too much! 

Water, Yeast and flour after a 10 minute rest.

9 Grain Whole Wheat Bread Rising
Ready for the oven

9 Grain Whole Wheat Bread
Fresh out of the oven.  The smell is soooo delicious! 
9 Grain Whole Wheat Bread Slices
Sliced and ready for sandwiches.


9 Grain Whole Wheat Bread
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 packet)
2 2/3 Cups Warm Water
4 1/2 cups - 5 1/2 cups Whole Wheat White Flour
1 Cup Cracked 9 grain Cereal Mix (I buy in the organic section)  Can also use Oats
3 Tablespoons Vital Wheat Gluten
1/4 Cup Oil
1/4 Cup Honey
2 1/2 teaspoon Salt
Butter (optional) for rubbing on top of bread when it comes out of the oven.

  • Place water, yeast and 1 cup of flour in large bowl.
  • Mix lightly.
  • Let rest 10 minutes until yeast in bubbly and foamy.
  • Add 1 additional cup of flour, salt, oil, honey, and vital wheat gluten and 9 grain cereal mix.  
  • Mix. 
  •  When fully incorporated add 1 cup of a flour at a time until a nice dough is formed.  You might not use all the flour.  
  • Knead:  If using a stand mixer, knead for 5 minutes. 10 min. if kneading by hand.
  • Transfer to a clean, greased bowl.  
  • Cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with a non-stick spray to avoid sticking to the dough.  
  • Let rest until doubled;  approx. 1 1/2 hours.
  • Gently punch down to deflate the dough. 
  • Divide into two equal parts.
  • Shape loaves and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Let rise until just an inch above the pan, approx. 30-40 min.
  • Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 35-40 min.
  • After removing from the oven, let rest for 5-10  minutes before removing  from pans.
  • Cool completely on a cooling rack then enjoy!

Note:  Rolled Oats can be substituted for the 9 grain.  I have also made this using all wheat flour.  Just substitute the 9 grain for white whole wheat flour.
Source:  Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Gifts from the Heart

Unexpected gifts are so wonderful!  Our neighbor buys eggs from us weekly.  Last week she showed up at our house with a stack of empty egg cartons and a bundle wrapped in a green ribbon!  She has taken up quilting and wanted to try out her skills.  She made these beautiful place mats that are just perfect for us!  For a beginning quilter, she sure has a lot of skill!!!  Thanks Chris!
The Bundle

5 Different Designs with 5 Different Chickens!

If you look closely you can see the quilting
stitch is designed to look like chicken wire.

So Beautiful...I almost hate to use them!