Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, November 8, 2010

Inspired to Create

Lunch is always difficult for me...It is usually the time of day that screams at me to jump in the car and go get fast food. I have been fighting this very hard, and today I was inspired to create a new sandwich. It was an open faced toasted cheese sandwich topped with thinly sliced avocado, bean sprouts, and hummus. It was a very odd combination, but all the flavors complimented each other well and it was balanced and healthy. It reminded me of one of my favorite lunches during my years in college which I will have to make and post soon also.

Of course I ate it before realizing pictures should have been taken. It will be made again...possibly as soon as tomorrow.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Interesting way to use kale

I like kale, it has a good flavor, and a little bite to it. It looks good in a salad and gives it a nice texture. It adds interest in fresh salads, but is also great cooked in main dishes and as a side dish. It is a very versatile green leafy vegetable. Tonight I discovered another way to cook it and the boys actually asked for more. I made chips out of it...Yes, I know it sounds weird and I would have never thought of doing that on my own, but I was in the mood to experiment and that recipe just happened to show up on the top of my search. It is very easy and apparently you can add different seasonings to suit your mood. Tonight I decided to use a seasoning blend and Parmesan Cheese. The boys and I really enjoyed them. I used them as a topping for the salad, but I think it will have to be used as a snack again soon.

Kale Crisps
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 deg. Remove the stem from the leaf, lay the leaf on an oiled pan or oiled parchment paper on a pan. Spray or drizzle oil on leaves add seasoning. Bake in the oven until the edges begin to look brown and crispy(about 10 min), take them out and enjoy.

Add chili powder
Drizzle honey
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Wine vinegar(or other of choice) and sea salt
Parmesan Cheese(This is what I did)
Cheddar Cheese or other cheese

thoughts to try eventually:
Wasabi Powder
Curry Powder

If you try this recipe let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Christmas Time Soap

A few weeks ago I made these two batches of soap for the Christmas Season. They are cured and ready to go.

Peppermint which has a strong peppermint scent and is speckled with pink and green soap chips from other batches of soap; this one always goes fast.

The other is called Christmas Pine. It has the scent of pine mixed with other scents that remind me of Christmas like pine from Christmas trees, peppermint, cinnamon and other spices. the green batch is topped of with a little of the Peppermint batch that is pictured above.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Greetings all on this beautiful Halloween night. This year was a quiet Halloween. For this year we didn't participate in the usual festivities, running around the neighborhoods begging for treats; I could give several reasons why, but instead I will just show you what we did do. The boys were treated to a very special Halloween trick meal...We started the night with a quite artfully put together salad of eyeballs and hairballs...
Then I stirred up a quick batch of goblin guts...
and completed the meal with some
deliciously bloody mummy fingers.
To wash this ghoulish meal down the boys had
day-old bathwater to drink....

...and for dessert they were served a delicious scoop of freshly dug graveyard mud complete with worms and bugs.
Hope your ghouls and goblins had a horrificly terrific Halloween night. Mwwaahahahaaaa!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fresh Baked Bread

In an effort to eat fresher food we have decided to try not to buy staple items from the store that I am relatively sure that I can make at home. So bread, and tortillas are now handmade instead of bought. Some days it is difficult when we have run out of these items and time is short. It has really made me more aware that consistency is very important. Baking bread has to happen at least once a week in order to have it in the house on a regular basis. I have really been enjoying bread baking except when it is rushed. So we are experimenting with freezing bread dough, and possibly freezing baked loaves of bread in order to help out with time. With that being said, my last batch of bread is one that I just came up with the other day because I just wasn't in the mood for white bread. It is a rather large batch.

Whole grain French Bread

Making a Sponge:
2 cups of flour
2 cups of water
3 tbsp yeast(I use instant)
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup of corn meal
1/2 cup cracked wheat
Mix the above ingredients into a very large bowl. It should be quite liquid, if not add a little water until it is not dry. Let it sit in a warm draft free area for 1-2 hours

Making the bread:
After this time the sponge should be bubbling and rising in the bowl. Add to it:
8 cups of flour
2 - 3 cups of water
2 tbsp molasses or honey(molasses adds color and flavor to the bread)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 -3 tsp salt
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Alternate adding the water and the dry ingredients so that he batter does not become too dry. If the batter is too wet add a little flour until it is not sticky and can be kneaded. Some people recommend taking the dough out and putting it on a floured surface to knead, I just keep it in the bowl for the first rising. Knead it for 10-15 minutes until it is no longer sticky, add a little flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Rub a little olive oil on the dough ball and let it rise covered in a draft free area for an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Punch down dough and shape into loves either in a pan or free formed like a French bread. Let it rise for 20 minutes or so. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. This recipe will make 3-4 large loaves.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Best Biscuits

This is my favorite biscuit recipe because it is a very large batch that is also very versatile, and the only one that I have managed to get to work right to make light fluffy biscuits that rise when you cook them. It comes from a Bed and Breakfast in St. Joseph Louisiana that was shared in a cookbook by Chef John Folse; a cookbook that has become somewhat of a cooking bible to me. It is my go to book to use as a base for many of my recipes. I typically do not usually follow recipe directions, but this book gives me a good starting point.

Angel Biscuits
5 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
5 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup shortening
1 package of yeast(dissolved in 4 tbsp warm water)
2 cups buttermilk
4 tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix flour, sugar baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add shortening and mix until the flour mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Add dissolved yeast and buttermilk and mix until the dough forms a ball. Roll out dough to 1/2inch -3/4 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut out biscuits, continue rolling and cutting until all the dough is used up. Brush with butter and place on a baking sheet and cook for 12-15 minutes. The dough can be made a few days in advance. And baked when needed.

Also, you can bake until just slightly underdone and freezing for later by warming them in a 500 degree oven for 5 minutes.

Okay, so my adjustments to the recipe:
Sometimes I will substitute whole wheat flour for some of the recipe, or wheat germ. I use 3 cups of whole wheat or 1 cup of wheat germ for substitution.

Instead of shortening, use butter or lard. Better flavor and more natural.

The recipe says to use a pastry blender...I have found that the flour mixture can be combined better using your hands that way you get a feel for the texture you are looking for; it is messy, but kind of fun. Just make sure you have washed your hands. :)

Regular milk is okay, Buttermilk is good, but 1/2 and 1/2, or whipping cream make a richer batter.

I like adding nutritional yeast for flavor...1/4 to 1/3 cup works well. Not at all necessary.

The Fall holiday shapes were used just because the cookie cutters just happened to be on the cabinet....It made breakfast fun.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Navy Beans with Country Ham

Navy bean cooked with ham and served with a couple of slices of French bread is one of the most simple, and most delicious meals when the weather starts to turn cool. There isn't much to putting it together so it doesn't require a lot of kitchen time unless you are also making the bread to go with it.

Navy Beans With Country Ham
2 lbs of Navy Beans
2 large onions chopped
1 large bell pepper
3-4 stalks of celery
1-2 tablespoons of butter
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1-2 Bay leaves(take out when you serve the dish)
Ham...I use a small amount of meat for flavor about 1/2 lb.
salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce

Soak the beans overnight or do the quick soak method on the bag. Start the beans cooking and let them cook for about an hour on low.

Chop the vegetables and saute in butter until translucent and the edges are beginning to brown. Add to the pot of beans. Also, add seasonings.

brown ham in the pot that the vegetables were in. When browned add meat to beans and deglaze the pan and add this liquid to the pot of bean also. Let it cook for 20 minutes to an hour, test for seasoning and adjust.

Serve in a bowl with a couple of slices of fresh bread and enjoy. Hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce can be added to taste after being served.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The King's Road

Over the years I have experienced many kinds of music, I enjoy listening to many different kinds, each has their own appeal. It was a big part of our lives growing up in South Louisiana. There is a festival to be found in every part of Louisiana celebrating every part of our culture and heritage. A couple of my favorite festivals are music centered, Festival International, and Festival Acadian (this one is this weekend). Festival Acadian is the celebration of the Cajun culture good food, good music, and lots of dancing...always a great time to spend the day with family and friends hanging out at Girard Park in Lafayette Louisiana. Festival International is a week long festival in Lafayette also. It happens in April every year and brings together bands from all over the world. It is a great way to sample many, many cultures and traditions, and it is a week long party. I guess I am feeling quite nostalgic right now, this weather always does that to me now that I am away from home. When fall and spring come around it has always meant it was time for outdoor activities and gatherings. I guess this is a big part of why I have become so fond of the Taylor Farmers Market. Through the growing season local people set up to sell their harvest, but they also gather for the great bands and musicians, both local and visiting. Anyway, to get to the point of my story, the music has all been wonderful over the past couple of years, but this year we were introduced to a band the I am particularly fond of. It was a group called The King"s Road. They are a trio from Scotland and Ireland. The music they played was traditional folk from Scotland, Ireland, and America, but it was done in a more contemporary style...and what a style it was. They played several different instruments including guitar, mandola, banjo, mandolin, cello, and harmonica. The music was wonderful, and beyond that Alister, Rab, and John added their own bit of history, humor, and life to the music that gave it more depth and richness. We were able to see them play twice while they were here. Once at a house concert which was wonderful because we actually got to meet and talk to the musicians and one of their wives who is an author of Celtic historic fiction, which I am looking forward to reading sometime in the future. The next day was spent out at Taylor Farmers Market. It was a lovely day to just sit out in the grass and listen to the music while the kids played. The boys really enjoyed the music, to quote my five year old..."That was awesome! The baby likes Floddens Field and Ms. Hamilton, it has worked well as a lullaby several times, they are very soothing. So a little tribute to The King's Road, the music highlight of my summer for 2010. Thank you for a lovely memory, and I hope to be able to see you, and enjoy your music again in the next few years. We can't wait for you to return for another concert in the future. Blessings and best wishes to you and your families.

If you are interested in hearing some of the music they played you can go to their MySpace page at:

We really enjoyed all the music, but I think my
favorites are Pilgrims in the mist, Doon the Brae, Floddens Field, and Ms. Hamilton.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's Gumbo Time!

Gumbo...South Louisiana Cuisine

Growing up in South Louisiana has been one of the best parts of my life. I absolutely love my home and my heritage. The people, the culture, the is a place that is beyond compare and the top of that list is the food that we have grown up with.

When the temperature turns cool everyone gets ready for Gumbo. It is a time to enjoy the cool weather gather family and friends and enjoy good food, good music, good company. Today is our first gumbo of the season. I really enjoyed spending the time getting everything together and cooking it outside on our burner, which is nice because I was able to watch the kids, enjoy the weather and was not stuck in the kitchen all day.

Usually our first gumbo is chicken and sausage gumbo, but our local CSA has provided us with great fresh okra, and peppers so instead it will be shrimp and okra.

A good gumbo is only as good as its ingredients and the time, care and love that is put into it. It is not something that can be rushed to the dinner table. This dish is slowly cooked for several hours so that all the flavors come together for a wonderful food experience.

Shrimp and Okra Gumbo
1 pint jar of roux
5 quarts of water, stock, or mixture of both
2 lbs Shrimp
3 lbs Okra
1 can of chopped tomatoes with juices
3 large onions chopped
2 bell peppers chopped
4 stalks of celery chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic chopped
a pot of cooked rice

First start the roux and water boiling in a pot. Be sure to stir until the roux is completely dissolved in the water let it continue to cook while you prepare the other ingredients.

Then satue the onions, peppers, celery and garlic until translucent. Transfer most of the vegetables to the pot of roux and water.

Cook the okra with the rest of the vegetables for about an hour until it is no longer slimy. (a tablespoons of vinegar will help to reduce this. Add the tomatoes and cook for 15 -20 more minutes then add to the gumbo pot.

Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Let it cook on low so that the flavors can come together. 15 minutes before ready to eat add the shrimp. Test for seasoning, serve over rice and enjoy.

A slice or two of fresh french bread is also a great addition.

Note: this recipe makes a lot of gumbo so be sure to invite someone to share it with you, and any leftovers are a special treat, because it is always better the next time it is heated up.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Jacob Turns Three Today

Happy Birthday Jacob!

Today is my third son's third birthday. He is a very active, adventurous, little boy that loves to explore and investigate his world. He loves to sing and dance and has the heart of a Scottish Warrior; he doesn't give up or give in when he truly believes it is what he needs. Yet, he is very kind hearted and gentle and has a very generous spirit and a very sweet boy. This is a little pictorial history of Jacob's first three years.
(September 27, 2007)
Jacob joins the family.

(October 2007)
Our little Pumpkin. He was our tiny tot.

(March 2008)
Out exploring on a warm spring day.

(March 2008)
Enjoying a banana for the first time.

(September 2008)
Farmer's Market Fun in a tire pot made by Felder Rushing.

(July 2009)
Nothing better than a fresh carrot.

(August 2009)
It's just all sweetness and love.

(August 2009)
First Haircut

(May 2010)
Camping Out

(August 2010)
Exploring the U.S.S. Kidd

Happy Birthday to my little man.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Noah!

Noah's First Five Years

Today is my second son's fifth birthday. He is very excited to be five today and has a joy of life that is just so precious to watch. He is precocious, adventurous, curious and it usually leads him to trouble at some part of the day. Noah has a love for everything that is just bigger than the world, but has a roughness that only a little boy can claim...he loves frogs, bugs and mud. He is sweet, beautiful, and angelic...only while he is sleeping. This is a little pictorial history of Noah in his first five years.

(September 21, 2005)
The Day we met.

(Summer 2006)
Exploring nature even before he could walk.

(October 2007)
Loving an afternoon out in the Pumpkin Patch.

(Summer 2008)
Oh those beautiful curls.

(Later in the Summer 2008)
First haircut....

Fourth of July Tye Dye

(Summer 2010)
My boy loves his feathered friends.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Red Beans And Rice

Red Beans and Rice is one of my favorite meals to cook when the weather starts turning cool. It is good any time, but it is just one of those warm, stick to your ribs kind of meals that makes you feel cozy inside. It is also a very good vegetarian recipe, just leave out the meat products. If you want the smoke flavor that the sausage gives it add some liquid smoke.

I really like to start this meal completely from scratch with dried beans instead of canned, but for this recipe I will use the shortcut version, because that is what I had to do this time because I realized in the afternoon that I forgot to soak the beans overnight.

This recipe will feed an average family, I like to double it and have some to freeze.

1-2 tablespoons of oil to saute vegetables(butter or bacon grease are good choices)
2 onions chopped fine
1 bell pepper chopped fine
2-4 cloves of garlic to taste chopped fine
2-4 stalks of celery
1/2lb. - 1 lb of sausage depending on how meaty you want it(or none)
2-3 cans of Red Beans you can use the big or small beans or a mixture of both(we use both)
1-2 quarts of liquid for cooking the beans water or broth(chicken or vegetable)
1 can of fat free refried beans(this saves the step of mashing a portion of the beans while cooking)
Seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, or a Cajun seasoning mix
Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce are also good flavorings to add to the pot or to the bowl.

Start a pot of rice I usually cook 2 cups(uncooked) for our family. Sometimes we have leftover sometimes not...depends on how active everyone was that day.

Saute the onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic in oil until tender. If you want to start with bacon grease, two strips of bacon will come in handy to start with. You can crumble and add the bacon to the beans or eat your choice.

Cut the sausage into small pieces and add to pot, cook sausage for about 5 minutes.

Add the drained and rinsed beans to the pot(not the refried beans).

Add water or broth to cover the beans . At this point everything is cooked, if you are in a great hurry, you can add the can of refried beans and adjust the liquid so that you have a smooth, thickened gravy with the beans.

If you have extra time, add the liquid to the beans and let it cook on low for about 20 minutes so the flavors can come together. Add the refried beans and adjust the liquid so that the gravy is smooth and thickened. If at any point the beans and gravy get too thick just add more liquid to your liking.

Serve this over rice with a nice crusty slice of French bread to get all the gravy out of the bowl.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The New Bars of Soap

Here are the new bars ready for the curing racks.

This green marble batch is Tea Tree Oil.

These Brown bars are Chai Tea.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Harvest Season

I love this time of year. There is always one day in the year that signals it, and today was the day. There are other nice mornings, but this was that first briskly cool morning that really says fall is here. It just makes you want to start storing food for the winter...jams, jellies, canned vegetables, and my next new adventure, lacto-fermentation. I am really anxious to get some things done. Today I have several projects that I would like to complete. Lately my expectation on finishing things has been very low, but I just keep trying. I will be making a couple of new batches of soap today. These will be my seasonal fall batches. One of them will be Chai Spiced Tea, and the other will either be Pumpkin Pie Spice, or Spiced Apple Cider.

Bread needs to be made today, and if time permits, and the baby allows, I will be attempting the following:

Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar
1 Head of Cabbage(8-10 Cups)
10 Juniper Berries
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
1-2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup filtered water mixed with 1tsp. salt

In a clean non-metallic bowl, mix cabbage, juniper berries, caraway seeds, mustard seeds, and salt. Stir to release juices. Let is rest 10 min(or more) and stir again.

Pack into a sterilized quart jar and push down with a wooden mallet. Add filtered water with salt to the rim of the jar. Loosely cover and place on a tray to catch overflowing juice. Place in cool room for 2-3 weeks.

After bubbling stops, check container and top off with more salt water if level drops below rim. Skim any white spots or film off of the top and close jar tightly, wipe off outside of jar and store in refrigerator until you use it up.

Well, my hands are free for a few moments, so it is time to start the lye, and get the bread dough rising, maybe I will be lucky and get to chop the cabbage also....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010