Nov 29, 2016
Recently, my kids asked for hot cocoa - one of their favorite winter treats. We were at Walmart, and sticking to my rule of reading all food labels, I picked up their favorite brand and read the ingredients list. I stopped reading at the second ingredient: corn syrup. Then I read every other hot cocoa label on the shelf. All of them contained corn syrup, plus a host of other icky ingredients. Sigh.
(Wondering why I don't want my family consuming corn syrup? The short answer is that high fructose corn syrup is one of the most common and most unhealthy ingredients found in processed food. It is linked to diabetes and a host of other health problems...and now it can be listed simply as "corn sugar." In addition, corn products are almost always genetically modified (GMO). I am not comfortable feeding GMOs to my family; you can read about some of my reasons here.)
When I got home, I got on Facebook and asked my friends if they knew of a brand of hot cocoa that didn't contain corn syrup. Some suggested Ghirardelli's, and one friend touted AhLaska Organic Cocoa Mix. But another friend said, "Why don't you make it from scratch?" I was a little embarrassed, because I'm that annoying person who's always suggesting making everything from scratch - yet it never occurred to me to do DIY hot cocoa.
So I looked at a gazillion from scratch hot cocoa recipes, and finally settled on this one (from Epicurious). Incidentally, you can find recipes for making your own hot cocoa mix, too, but everything I saw was contained processed ingredients (like powdered creamer), so I decided it was better to make each batch fresh, with fresh dairy.
From Scratch Hot Cocoa Recipe
Multiply this recipe as needed for the correct number of servings.
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (found in the baking aisle of grocery stores)
1 - 2 tablespoons cane sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 cup whole milk (or 1/2 cup whole milk and 1/2 cup cream)
1/4 teaspoon real vanilla extract
Organic marshmallows (optional)
1. In a saucepan placed over medium-low heat, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk until sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Whisk in the remaining milk/cream; whisk occasionally until the mixture is hot.
3. Stir in vanilla.
A Few Notes About the Recipe
* When choosing sugar for this recipe, I prefer real cane sugar. That's because beet sugar, or sugar that doesn't mention its source, is usually GMO. Avoid agave, since it's proven the worst source of sugar you can eat. I also avoid Truvia, which is highly processed and full of questionable stuff. Real, pure, stevia may work for this recipe, but I have not tried it.
* I use sea salt exclusively, because processed salt (any salt other than natural sea salt) is linked to autoimmune disease.
* For the dairy, I recommend whole milk, since it's less processed than other types of milk. (It will also make the cocoa creamier.) Ideally, I'd use raw milk, since it isn't processed at all, but it's illegal in my state. (I need to add dairy goats to the homestead!)
* Check your vanilla extract to be sure it's the real thing, and not full of artificial ingredients.
* Regular marshmallows are made from high fructose corn syrup. Look for organic marshmallows, which are usually made from real cane sugar.
But most of all, enjoy! No matter how hard we try to eat healthy, we live in a fallen world, and our food will never be perfect! Eat the foods God provided through nature, but don't get stressed about every bite (or sip), friends.
Nov 3, 2016
I have a sort of love-hate relationship with my crock pot. Like the rest of the first world, I love it's convenience and simplicity. But I'm also not much of a fan of most crock pot recipes - and neither is my family. Recently, though, I discovered a recipe that is inexpensive, hearty, and the whole family loves. Yay for me! So very yay, I gotta share the recipe with you.
A Few Recipe Notes
I found this recipe over at Becoming Betty, and I've discovered there are lots of ways to go about preparing it. The original recipe called for using a slow cooker or crock pot for almost the entire cooking process. I have a smallish crock pot, so this doesn't work for me. Therefore, I pour the contents of the sauce in the crock pot and let the flavors cook and meld together all day, then finish the dish on the stove top. But if you wanted to, you could do the whole thing on the stove top. It's your choice: All in the crock pot, partially in the crock pot, or entirely on the stove top.
So far, I've only used ground beef for this recipe, but you could easily switch that out for ground turkey, venison, or a mild sausage.
Crock Pot (Or Not) Cheesy Noodles, Beef, & Spinach Recipe
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
15 oz. tomato sauce
about 15 oz. crushed tomatoes (I actually use a quart jar of home canned tomato halves, then use two knives to cut the tomatoes up into tiny pieces my children won't recognize in the finished dish.)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (scroll down for a recipe to make your own)
Freshly ground pepper
about 10 oz. fresh spinach
16 oz. spiral pasta (I use Tinkyada gluten free)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup + 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
Make the Sauce:
1. Place a large frying pan over medium heat and add the ground beef. (If the meat is lean, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan first.) Crumble and cook until no longer pink.
2. Add the onion and garlic and stir and cook until onion is tender and almost translucent. Drain off the fat.
TIP: Cook the beef, onion, and garlic mixture ahead of time and freeze. When you're ready to cook this meal, toss the frozen ingredients directly in the crock pot. (No thawing needed!)
3. Pour the beef, onion, and garlic mixture into the crock pot, then add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, oregano, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cook in the crock pot for 6 hours on low, or 2 hours on high. (I turn the crock pot to "warm" after 2 hours on high and let the sauce sit for most of the day before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. This helps bring out the flavor of all the seasonings in the sauce.)
TIP: If desired, you can make the sauce on the stove top, simmering over low heat, and stirring occasionally.
Putting It Together:
4. 20- 30 minutes before you want to serve, cook the pasta according to the package directions, and drain. Add the pasta to the crock pot.
TIP: If your crock pot is small, return the pasta to the pot you boiled it in and pour the sauce over the pasta. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot on the stove, rather than the crock pot. Be sure to keep the heat on the stove very low, and stir occasionally.
5. Add the spinach. Add the Parmesan cheese and 1 cup of the Mozzarella cheese. Stir. Cook on low for another 10 - 20 minutes, or until spinach is wilted and cheese is melted.
6. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of Mozzarella cheese, stir, and serve.
Makes about 8 servings.
DIY Italian Seasoning
Why make your own? It's cheaper, for sure. But it also means you don't have to worry about any added, unwanted ingredients, like preservatives.
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried marjoram
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons dried sage
Mix ingredients together. For a finer texture (more like what you'd buy bottled), run through a food processor or clean coffee grinder for about a minute, or until desired texture is reached.
Sep 20, 2016
Loaded Chicken and Potatoes Recipe
about 1 lb. chicken (I use boneless chicken breasts, but any chicken will do), cubed into 1/2" pieces*
about 12 medium yellow potatoes (or any baking type potato), cubed into 1/2" pieces
1/3 cup olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon Tabasco (Too hot for you? Try 2 tablespoons homemade ranch dressing, or sour cream, or cream cheese, or barbecue sauce with real sugar - no high fructose corn syrup! - instead)
2 cups Cheddar cheese (or a Mexican-style cheese blend; for this photo shoot, I used Cheddar and Monterey Jack)
1/2 - 1 cup cooked and crumbled bacon (about 1/4 to 1/2 lb.)
1/2 - 1 cup diced green onions (scallions)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish with coconut or olive oil; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, paprika, garlic powder, and Tabasco (or alternatives to Tabasco) until well blended.
5. Sprinkle the casserole with cheese, bacon, and green onions. Return to the oven. Bake another 5 minutes, or until the cheese is fully melted.
If desired, serve with sour cream.
Singing Through the Rain says you can make this dish in the crock pot, too. I've never tried it, but if you're interested, click here and scroll down to "Frequently Asked Questions."
* HINT: When using chicken that's been frozen, don't thaw completely before cutting. It will be much easier to chop!
Sep 1, 2016
Around here, we love apple everything. Each year, I can applesauce, make dried apple rings, fill the freezer with apple pie filling...and of course we eat lots of plain, fresh apples - or apple slices slathered in peanut butter. But, for some reason, until recently, I'd never made my children an apple classic: Baked apples.
This old fashioned recipe is so simple, and so much healthier than most other desserts. But I didn't grow up eating it. In fact, I'd never even heard of baked apples until I was in my early 20s and a doctor put my mom on a special diet. Baked apples were on her short list for desserts. We hated most of the recipes her doctor gave her. But baked apples? That dish was a keeper!
People have been baking apples for hundreds of years, and there are about a bazillion ways to make baked apples, but I tend to stick with this simple recipe. It takes only four or five minutes to prepare and has great flavor.
Old Fashioned Baked Apple Recipe
4 apples (Pippin, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold are considered great for baking, but experiment to discover what type of apple you like best! For this post, I used apples from our orchard; I have no idea what variety they are, but they are yummy!)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using an apple corer or a knife, remove the core from the apple. The dessert will be less messy if you leave the bottom (blossom end) of the apple in tact, but it's not the end of the world if you remove the entire core, as I did.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Fold in the nuts.
3. Place the apples in a baking dish and spoon the nut mixture inside each apple. Pour the water into the baking dish and bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until the apples can easily be pierced with a fork.
4. Remove the baking dish from the oven and allow apples to cool in it. Serve warm. If desired, serve with vanilla ice cream.
Apple Skillet Cake Recipe
Apple Spice Bread Recipe
Apple Butter Oatmeal Crumb Bars Recipe
Canning Apple Pie Jam
Freezing Apple Pie Filling
The Best Tasting, Easiest Applesauce Ever
Making Dried Apple Rings in the Warmer Drawer
How to Preserve Apples
What to do with Crab Apples
Picking Unripe Apples for Making Apple Pectin
Jul 18, 2016
* Plain canned
* Mulled plums
* Plum Sauce
* Plum Butter (a really thick jam)
* Spiced Plum Jam
* Low Sugar Plum Jam
* 2 Ingredient, No Added Pectin Plum Jelly
* Simple No Pectin Plum Jam
* Plum Pie Filling
* Pickled Plums
* Basic Instructions
* Plum Fruit Leather
* Basic Instructions
Other Plum Recipes
* Plum BBQ Sauce
* Savory Plum Sauce
* Plum Glazed Pork Ribs
* Plum Salsa, Sorbet, Chutney
* Plum Lemonade
* Oven Roasted Plums
* Chocolate Plum Cake
* German Plum Cake
* Plum Crumble
* Plum Cobbler
* Plum Cobbler with Cake Like Texture
* Plum Shortcakes
* Plum Tart
* Upside Down Plum Cake
* Sugar Plum Jelly Candies
* Plum Kuchen
* Plum Oat Muffins
* Plum Coffee Cake Muffins
* Plum Bread Pudding
* Plum Bread
* Plum and Banana Bread
* Plum Popsicle
* Plum Ice Cream
* Plum Kombucha
* Plum Wine
* Plum Vinegar
* Lacto-Fermented Plums
BONUS: Plum Pie Recipe
This recipe is from my cookbook Easy As Pie: 45 From Scratch Pie Recipes - which is only $2.99 for the Kindle or $6.99 in paperback. It's got just about every fruit pie recipe you could want, plus recipes for vegetable pies, cream pies, and much more.
Jun 28, 2016
How to Forage, Clean, & Eat Lobster Mushrooms (with Roasted Lobster Mushrooms in Clarified Butter recipe)
But my dad-in-law is a huge mushroom fan, and he's been telling me about a friend of his who's a mushroom expert. And, Dad claimed, he had an easy to identify mushroom growing on his property that he just had to try eating. So yesterday morning, when he mentioned he wanted to go pick some lobster mushrooms and hinted he'd like me to look into cleaning and cooking them, I decided to give it a go. (I did ask, "Are we sure we can't mistake them for something poisonous?" To which he replied, "No, we can't. I even showed one to my friend to make sure I was identifying them correctly." Further research revealed there are no poisonous look-alikes to the lobster mushroom.)
What Lobster Mushrooms Taste Like
I was impressed by the mushroom's texture. It was not at all mushy, but firm and meaty. Again, I don't normally like mushrooms, but I found lobster mushrooms absolutely delicious.
If you're curious about how healthy these mushrooms are, you should know they are mostly carbohydrate (about 3 grams per cup), along with a small amount of fiber and protein (1 gram each per cup) and some iron and calcium.
Identifying Lobster Mushrooms
Lobster mushrooms are unique and tough to misidentify. Look for their bright red-orange color, which looks a bit like the red-orange on lobsters. We found our specimens growing on a north facing hill where Douglas Fir and Hemlock trees grew. Much of what we harvested was mostly buried beneath moss and weeds; fortunately, the mushrooms' bright color made them easy to spot.
|Most of the mushrooms we found were largely buried under moss and weeds.|
WARNING: Never, ever eat any wild food you cannot absolutely identify. It's just not worth the risk!
|We found our lobster mushrooms on a north facing hill.|
For best flavor, choose only the best specimens. Look for mushrooms with the characteristic bright red-orange color, that have few cracks in the caps. Slugs and snails, as well as deer and probably other wild critters, love to eat lobster mushrooms, so try to find mushrooms that aren't nibbled on. Before cooking lobster mushrooms, cut them in half to check for freshness. If they are good for eating, the interior will be very white. If the interior is browned at all, it's best to toss the mushroom.
|It's best to remove the mushrooms by cutting the stems.|
Cleaning and Storing Lobster Mushrooms
|A few minute's worth of harvest!|
Preparing for storage: Lobster mushrooms are best eaten within three days of harvesting, but may store for as long as seven days. To prep them for storage, simply brush off as much dirt as possible. A clean pastry brush or paint brush works well for this. Then gently place the mushrooms in a paper bag, roll the top of the bag closed, and place in the refrigerator.
Preparing to eat: Once you're ready to eat some lobster mushrooms, you'll need to clean them in earnest. Although many mushrooms are ruined by washing, lobster mushrooms do just fine if cleaned in water: Fill a bowl with water, then add the mushrooms. Slosh them gently in the water and let them sit for a minute, then use a fabric or paper towel to gently brush away the remaining dirt.
|Cleaning the mushrooms. Eat only the mushrooms that are bright red-orange. I had to discard the mostly white one at the top of the photo because it was brown on the inside and not suitable for eating.|
|When you cut open a good lobster mushroom, the inside should look bright white.|
There are many ways to cook lobster mushrooms, but simple recipes are the best way to get a feel for the texture and taste of this unique fungi. Here's how I cooked them.
Roasted Lobster Mushrooms in Clarified Butter
Clarified butter (Learn how to easily make it here. You could also use ordinary butter, though the flavor of the dish will be slightly different.)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cut cleaned lobster mushrooms in half. For larger mushrooms, cut in quarters.
3. Place an oven proof skillet over medium heat. Once it's warmed a little, add a couple of tablespoons of clarified butter. Once the butter is warm, gently add the mushrooms, cut side down.
5. Place the skillet in the oven and set the timer for about 12 minutes.
6. In the meantime, chop the onion. (I cooked two medium sized mushrooms, and used about 1/4 of a yellow onion, and had more onion than I really needed.) Place a skillet over medium heat and add a little clarified butter. Once the butter is warm, add the onion and cook and stir until softened and golden brown. Keep warm over low heat.
7. After 12 minutes, check the mushrooms. They should be well browned, looking a lot like meat. Plate the mushrooms and sprinkle some cooked onion over them. Serve immediately.
May 31, 2016
Today, my 10 year old daughter can't do much in the kitchen, either. Because she's petite, she has a hard time lifting filled pans and seems to have a special talent for burning herself on anything hot. She has a desire to learn to cook, though - and I have dreams of one day being able to say, "This morning, why don't you cook breakfast?" Besides, cooking is an important life skill for all children.
The trouble is, my daughter is still not very accurate at measuring. And because we avoid processed food, we make pancakes from scratch. That means I can't let her make pancakes without supervision...or does it?
The fact is, it's easy to make your own pancake mix - free of preservatives and hard to pronounce ingredients, but still very handy for a quick meal. In fact, while it's really not hard to whip together from scratch pancakes, having a mix on hand does seem to make breakfast come together a bit more quickly. Besides, a mix means the kids can handle pancake making.
To make your own Bisquick, all you need to do is take your favorite pancake recipe, mix up several batches, and pour it into a container. (More details on how to do that below.) Don't have a from scratch pancake recipe? Then steal mine!
DIY Pancake Mix Recipe
This is the from scratch recipe I use; my family prefers pancakes made with some wheat flour. We find them more flavorful, more filling, and more nutritious. However, if you prefer, you can replace the whole wheat flour in this recipe with white unbleached flour.
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/4 cups white unbleached flour
3 - 9 tablespoons cane sugar (optional; I typically don't add any sugar)
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Blend together and pour into an airtight container. I use an empty (and well washed with white vinegar) coffee container, but a gallon sized canning jar works well, too.
To the container, tape the rest of the recipe:
Measure out 3 1/4 cups of the pancake mix. Then add:
1 1/2 cups milk or buttermilk
1 tablespoon olive oil or melted coconut oil (optional)
1 large egg
1 egg white (only needed if using whole wheat flour)
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional if using all purpose flour only, but necessary if using whole wheat flour)
Mix well. If batter seems too thick, add a little extra milk.
HINT #1: Have a reluctant cook or a child who needs a little extra help making pancakes? Make the job even easier by measuring out single batches of pancake mix into Ziplock bags!
HINT #2: I often make more than one batch of pancakes at a time, then pop them in the freezer. Any time I need a speedy breakfast, I reheat the desired amount in the microwave or on a low setting in the oven. Learn how to freeze pancakes (and waffles) here.
How to Make Pancake Mix From Your Own Recipe
If you already have a from scratch pancake recipe you love, it's very simple to turn it into a mix. Just triple or quadruple the dry ingredients. An easy peasy way to do that is to use this online recipe calculator, which allows you to decrease and increase recipes.
To find out how much of the mix you'll need for a single batch of pancakes, measure out all the dry ingredients in their single batch measurements, and place them in a bowl. Now remove the mixture from the bowl using measuring cups (start with the 1 cup size) and place them in another container, making note of how many cups the batch contains.
Finally, remember to print out this measurement - plus the rest of the recipe - and tape it onto your pancake mix storage container.
* Title image courtesy of ポトフ
May 17, 2016
A single rhubarb plant produces more rhubarb than the average family can eat in strawberry rhubarb pies. In fact, my green-stemmed rhubarb is so prolific, last year I gave away tons of rhubarb, canned plenty of rhubarb pie filling, canned rhubarb jam, canned rhubarb concentrate - and still had plenty to pop into the freezer.
Of course, (Lord willing) we are moving soon, so it makes sense for me to empty the freezer as much as possible. But, (Lord willing!) we are moving soon, and I've packed all but my most essential kitchen gear. And apparently when I was packing, I didn't think casserole or cake dishes were essential. But...last weekend I wanted to use up some of my frozen rhubarb and make a totally delish rhubarb cake to take over to my in-laws. (And there was also that casserole I bought all the ingredients for a week ago, only to discover I didn't have anything to bake it in...and, well frankly, it seems like a casserole dish is essential in my kitchen.) My solution was to hit a thrift store and pick up a baking dish on the cheap.
And then I whipped up this very easy, totally amazing, yummy rhubarb cake.
Again a reminder: My rhubarb has stalks that stay mostly green when ripe. They taste the same as red rhubarb - but this cake would be much prettier with red rhubarb stalks. With either red or green-type rhubarb, though, I'm sure this is a special treat you're going to want to try.
(Incidentally, this is not my Oma's recipe. This is actually I recipe I saw in Allrecipes magazine a few years back.)
(Oh and P.S. I'm not thrilled with my photos of this cake. But, (Lord willing!!) we are moving soon, and currently all my lighting and props are packed.)
Oma's Delish Rhubarb Cake Recipe
Coconut oil or butter
1 1/4 cups + 1 cup granulated cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups + 1/4 cup all purpose, unbleached flour (plus more for dusting)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
3 cups diced rhubarb (If frozen, allow to thaw slightly before dicing, then thaw fully before proceeding)
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 in. baking dish with coconut oil or butter. Lightly flour. (Not sure how to grease and flour a pan? Click here!)
|Grease and lightly flour the pan. (Thrift store purchase not required.)|
|Fold in the rhubarb.|
4. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the butter and remaining 1 cup sugar until well blended. Stir in 1/4 cup flour and stir until the mixture is crumbly and all the flour is incorporated into the mixture.
|Stir together the streusal topping.|
|Sprinkle streusel over the top of the cake batter.|
Canning Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling
Ridiculously Tasty Rhubarb Recipes
Jan 21, 2016
If you've never roasted veggies before, you'll be happy to know they are about as easy as it gets. However, you do have to follow some basic guidelines, which you'll learn about here. (And if you've unsuccessfully roasted vegetables in the past, read on for tips about common errors.)
How to Roast Vegetables
1. Begin by preheating the oven to 450 degrees F. Do not place the vegetables in the oven until it has reached this temperature! Place an oven rack in the top third of the oven.
2. While the oven preheats, cut the vegetables into bite sized pieces. In this post, I'm showing you some roasted broccoli we ate last week, but you can roast any vegetable. Some of our personal favorites also include cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, turnips, radishes, winter squash, and onions. Also, don't feel you must stick to only one type of veggie; a mixture can be great, too. The main thing is, though, to cut the veggie pieces into approximately the same size, so they roast evenly. If you're roasting more than one type of vegetable, at first it's a good idea to choose veggies that are similar in density. For example, don't roast potatoes and summer squash together - because the potatoes are going to require more roasting time than more delicate summer squash.
3. Place the cut vegetables on the rimmed baking sheet. Don't overcrowd the veggies or they won't roast evenly. Try to leave a bit of space between each vegetable piece.
4. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil. Don't be stingy! It's important that all the vegetable pieces are covered in oil, since this will get them nicely browned. If necessary, adjust the vegetable pieces again, so they aren't touching.
5. Season liberally with sea salt and pepper. The salt is especially important because it help draw moisture from the veggies, resulting in a better finish.
6. Pop the baking sheet into the preheated oven and set the timer for about 10 minutes.
7. After 10 minutes, take a peek at the vegetables. If they are good and golden all over, flip them over with a spatula and close the oven door again. (If they aren't golden all over, give them a few more minutes in the oven.)
8. After about 8 minutes more (be sure to set your timer so you don't forget about the veggies and end up burning them!), check the vegetables again. If they are well browned, remove them from the oven and serve. If not, give them a few more minutes. When they are browned and caramelized, they are finished.
That's it! They don't even need a squeeze of lemon juice or a sprinkling of Parmesan or a little more salt or oil - or anything else, in my opinion. They are DELISH as is.
A NOTE ABOUT COOKING TIMES: Vegetables that are more dense, like potatoes and carrots, will require more roasting time than veggies that are lighter, like broccoli and summer squash. In addition, vegetables that are cut into larger pieces will take longer to cook and veggies cut into smaller pieces will take less time to cook. Check the veggies frequently if you're trying out a vegetable you've never roasted before.