Weekly cooking day
My hubby and I have always enjoyed cooking from scratch. It was no big deal when it was just us, (which didn't last long) and had a lot of free time or even when we just had one kid. Our free time started to disappear, but we still wanted to cook our "from scratch" meals. Our kids know what real food is. They usually will not eat food from a box or even snack foods that are loaded with sugar and artificial flavors. (We definitely do eat kraft mac n cheese and a frozen pizza every now and then) So we decided to turn Monday into our cooking day. We have been doing this for the past 3 years. This is the day we make enough meals, snacks, and breads to last the whole week. Yeah, we make a huge mess in the kitchen this day, all of our silverware and every single mixing bowl ends up dirty, but it makes preparing meals so much easier and we have way less dishes to clean during the week.
What do we usually make? Well, we always make homemade tortillas, a big pot of vegetarian chilli, granola bars, a quick bread, treats, snacks, enchiladas, pizzas, lasagna, soups, hummus, and the list goes on. We usually make enough to freeze for future use. We our always good to our future selves!
Our menu for this week was: homemade tortillas, vegetarian chili, carrot bread, chocolate clusters, and fattiar. (Labanese meat pies) We still have enchiladas, granola bars, and oatmeal cookies in the freezer if we need them. As a nursing momma, I am hungry all the time. So I really love having all these healthy and yummy foods ready to go. Sometimes the kids will say, burritos again!?! But they always gobble them up. I love that we are still able to eat healthy meals, but not spend hours in the kitchen preparing them on a daily basis. I also love that my kids know what "from scratch" means and prefer meals made by us and not from the frozen food isle. I hope they will continue this tradition with their own kids!
My hubby is part Lebanese and I love Lebanese dishes. We make grape leaves, kibby, hummus, and mujaddara on a regular basis. Here is a recipe we use for the meat pies aka: Fattiar. You can also use spinach and other veggies for the filling.
From: Favorite Syrian Recipes Cookbook
Recipe for Fattiar
4 cups flour, (we used 1 cup heirloom red fife and 3 cups unbleached white)
1/2 pkg. dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1+ cup water
Mix wet ingredients together, add to flour, knead well. Form dough into lemon sized balls. Cover with dish towel. Let raise for about an hour or until double in size.
Meat and potato filling:
3 cups ground beef
3 cups grated raw potatoes
1/2 cup grated onions
1 T. salt
1/3 tsp pepper
2 T. lemon juice
After grating potatoes, rinse well. Mix all filling ingredients together.
When dough is ready, roll out into circles about the size of a corn tortilla on a floured board. Place about 2 TBSP of filling in the center of each circle. Pinch sides to make a triangle. Bake on oiled pan at 375 for about 20 minutes. ENJOY!
Is there something your family does weekly to make life easier? Do you have a favorite food/recipe you can't live without during the week?
Happy Valentine's Day!
We have been celebrating Valentine's Day here for the last couple of days. The kids made their own boxes and had fun making and handing out valentine's to each other. I surprised the kiddos with a heart shaped breakfast: biscuits and eggs. They loved it! They said it was the best Valentine's Day ever! Which is something we here often over here on holidays and birthdays. I am glad it doesn't take lots of candy and gifts to satisfy my kids on holidays. A little bit of handmade gifts and a whole lotta love is all it takes.
I made the biscuits with locally grown wheat flour. My new favorite flour to use in all my recipes. It is so yummy!
This is where you can purchase it and find out more: http://goodearthmill.com/
What did you do for Valentine's Day? Does your family of a tradition?
From: Clear Creak Coop Cookbook
1 c. Good Earth Heirloom Whole Wheat Flour
1 c. all purpose unbleached flour
1 t. sugar
1 T. baking powder
½ t salt
5 T. unsalted butter (cold, in small pieces)
3/4 c. half-and-half
Preheat oven to 450F. Toss together flours, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add half-and-half, stir gently. Gather into ball. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface. Knead 30 sec. Pat into 3/4 in. thick rectangle. Using 2 3/4 in cookie cutter, cut out 8 circles, using all the dough. Arrange biscuits about 1 in. apart on baking sheet. Bake until puffed and golden, about 12-14 min. Cool on wire rack.
Homemade Laundry Soap
We all know that laundry detergent is full of nasty ingredients and can cause allergic reactions, rashes, and contact dermatitis. A few of these ingredients are: Chlorine, Quaternium-15, Artificial fragrances, Nonylphenol ethoxylate, and Petroleum distillate. The "natural" detergents found in the stores are close to $15 and those of us with kids who have to do loads of laundry every week, can't afford to pay those prices. Also, are those "natural" detergents even natural?
Here is a very quick, easy, and CHEAP way to make your own laundry soap. It consists of 4 ingredients including Naked Beauty Bar Soap, Borax, Washing Soda, and Water. Some people have a hard time finding washing soda, I get mine at Hy-Vee Grocery stores.
Supplies: 1 quart Water (boiling), 2 cups or one bar Naked Beauty Bar soap (grated), 2 cups Borax, 2 cups Washing Soda
-Add finely grated bar soap to the boiling water and stir until soap is melted. You can keep on low heat until soap is melted.
-Pour the soap water into a large, clean pail and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
-Add 2 gallons of water, stir until well mixed.
-Cover pail and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry. Stir the soap each time you use it (will gel).
Now go get dirty so you can some laundry!!
You can also add essential oils to scent and to add antibacterial properties.
You can use any Naked Beauty Bar Soap.
You can grate up a lot of bar soap of once and store some in the freezer until you are ready to make another batch.
Well we had a ton of swiss chard. We planted it in our backyard and it really took off. There was a period of time when we didn't harvest any so the other day we decided to really cut it back. We ended up with about 4 or 5 pounds of Swiss Chard. That maybe doesn't sound like much, but 5 pounds of leaves is quite a pile. We made a big salad, used some in scrambled eggs, enchiladas and ate some straight, but we still had a whole bunch left over. So we decided to try and make chard chips. We've tried Kale chips before and they were very good. We found someone online that did chard chips so maybe they would be similar. To make a long story short they were good, but making them was much more difficult. Swiss Chard leaves are much thinner than Kale and they also have much more water content. Which means that you have to be extra careful about not letting them overlap at all. When they overlap the water gets trapped in the leaves underneath and they steam instead of dry out. Then you just end up with a tray of steamed Swiss Chard. It's not a terrible situation, but 5 pounds of steamed Swiss Chard is pretty hard to eat with any expediency. I suppose you could freeze it though. Luckily I made that mistake on only my first tray. Needless to say I had my fill of steamed Swiss Chard that night. I was able to pull off some good chips from the outer half of the tray. They were good, the kids liked them and we ate almost everything. But I think if I were to do it again I'd leave the chips to the Kale and just freeze Swiss Chard after steaming it. Another thing to try is Swiss Chard rolls. I'll let my plants grow back and try that next time.
There's a big semi truck full of delicious tree ripened Georgia peaches that rolls around southern Minnesota selling peaches for cheap. Who could pass that up? You have to buy at least 25 pounds though. They make stops at a whole bunch of towns around here and stay for only a few hours. If you don't know about it then you're out of luck, and we were lucky to find out. Here's a fun little story about John getting some peaches:
It was an unusually hot day for us at about 101 and very humid. On top of that our air conditioning in our car had just gone out and we had to drive about 40 miles round trip to get the peaches. The girls were sure they wanted to come so I took them for a test drive around town in the heat just so they would know what it was going to be like. After they decided that they were tough enough we got a couple ice packs, bottled water, some freeze pops and hit the road. As luck would have it the peach truck was parked in the parking lot of an auto parts dealer. I had enough freon left in a couple of cans to refill the a/c but there was a leak. The guy at the auto parts store said I probably needed to replace the O rings. That was about 5 bucks. Since I had my tools there I decided to tackle the job in the parking lot on the shaded side of the building. It's not every day that things go this smoothly, but I'm happy to say that after about 20 minutes of tinkering and peach eating we were back on the road with a/c and 24 pounds of peaches. When we got home we cut most of them up and froze them. We'll decide what to do with them later. And yes, they were amazing!
Juicing Greens from the Garden!
My hubby got me a juicer for my birthday, which is in January, and I am excited to finally start juicing the veggies from our garden! I wanted to find out the best leafy greens to juice (other than spinach) so the kiddos and I picked all the leafy greens we had and started juicing each one. Whatever we juiced, yummy or icky, we all took our turn tasting it.
We started with Kale. We love to eat Kale steamed or sauteed and I thought it would be delicious juiced. WRONG! Pretty bitter and strong. It would be better with an apple or some carrots added to the blend, but we were only focusing on the leafy greens.
One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6, 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.
Next, we juiced collards. We have a garden full of collards, but we don't cook with it that much. The juice was pretty strong and bitter. A little bit better flavor than Kale.
Contains: folates, vitamin C, vitamin-A, vitamin-K, vital B-complex groups of minerals such as niacin vitamin B-3, vitamin B-5, vitamin B-6 and riboflavin.
The leaves and stems are good in minerals like iron, calcium, copper, manganese, selenium and zinc
Then we juiced our Rainbow Swiss Chard. This is such a beautiful plant. The kids and I decided that this was the best leafy green to juice. It had the most juice and the flavor wasn't so strong and bitter.
Contains: vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, rich in B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamin. A rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.
Next time we will come up with different blends!
We love to eat Basil Pesto! It is really easy to make and really healthy. Basil contains these important vitamins and minerals: beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, manganese, copper, iron, and magnesium.
We usually keep our recipe pretty simple. Here it is:
Directions: Combine basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and nuts in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend to a smooth paste. Mix your pesto with noodles for a light and delicious meal!
If you have spinach or any other leafy vegetable, you can also add them to the food processor. When Stinging Nettles are in season, we like to add those. This will increase the nutrients and it is a good way to use up those greens!
We know a family in the Wells area who grows A LOT of Basil using the Hydroponics method. They recently cut everything down and were generous enough to give us a huge tub (see picture) of the Basil they did not want.
What did we do with all that Basil? We turned it all into pesto and froze it! This is so easy to do and it will last through the Winter months.
*Make a huge batch of pesto (using the recipe above) and scoop into muffin tins or ice trays covered with parchment paper. Once frozen, pop them out and store them in a ziplock bag in the freezer. When ready to eat, put on top of hot cooked pasta, put cover on the pot and let thaw. Mix, add more cheese and pine nuts and EAT!!
John and I are running a small CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in the Wells area. We have a garden that is about 1 acre and use only organic gardening methods. To help our customers know what to do with their large baskets of produce, we will be adding healthy, quick and easy recipes to our blog every week.
This week is: Green Onions, Kale and eggs. My favorite way to eat Kale is to saute it with onions and add to soups, pasta or eggs.
To make this meal: Saute Kale, Green onions, add to scrambled eggs, season with pepper and salt . Super easy, very healthy and YUMMY!!
Tortillas are cheap. So why make them? Well there are a few good reasons. For one, homemade tortillas taste WAY better. Partly because they are fresh. Partly because they don't have a lot of preservative. I always hate that weird dry flavor in store bought tortillas. Another reason is that you can make them however you want with whatever you want. We don't usually get extremely creative with this. We usually just add half whole grain flour, but I suppose you could add herbs and spices if you wanted to. It's also a lot of fun for the kids! It is also a lot easier to prepare quick, healthy recipes and eat healthy when you have a stack of freshly made tortillas in the fridge.
What I really want to talk about though is this concept of holistic living as a way of being cost effective. I find that making tortillas is a great way to illustrate. If I look at what I did this afternoon I can say that I made about 50 tortillas in about 2 1/2 hours. I spent about 5 dollars on the ingredients. I know that I can go to the store and buy 12 tortillas for about 3 dollars. I save about $7.50 on 50 tortillas. So I just spent 2 1/2 hours of fairly hard work saving a measly $7.50. Most people would say that this just isn't cost effective and they would go back to store bought tortillas. But there are a lot of flaws in looking at it this way. It makes a few assumptions. The first assumption is that both tortillas are of equal value. The second assumption is that making tortillas was the ONLY thing I was doing for that 2 1/2 hours. And the third assumption is that I'm clocked in somewhere!
So are store bought tortillas and homemade tortillas equal? No way. I can hardly eat store bought tortillas because I'm used to good ones. But the second question is where we get to the crux of holistic living. Was I doing MORE than making tortillas during that 2 1/2 hours? Well, from the second picture you can see that there was at least one other thing that I was doing. I was giving my kids a learning experience. They helped measure out ingredients. They helped mix. They learned that flour gets really sticky when you add water. They learned that the best way to clean sticky dough off of your hands is to rub dry flour on them. They learned how to turn a little ball of dough into a flat tortilla using a rolling pin. They got to participate in family life. And the list goes on and on.
The third assumption is that $7.50 in over two hours is not "worth it." But what would my time have been worth if I wasn't making tortillas? I didn't clock in anywhere. There isn't a minimum wage for my life. Often times the ability to work for nothing is a luxury. And if I want to put a value on my time then the least I can do is claim day care savings. Here in Wells it's about $5 per hour for three kids. That's $12.50 for 2 1/2 hours. Plus $7.50, I'm at $20.00 for 2 1/2 hours. And if I compare to the cost of expensive tortillas I'm sure the number would go up. Also I could compare to the cost of an expensive day care with tortilla making classes. Then the cost would go way up. Pretty soon my time is worth $50.00/ hr. And sometimes I look at it that way. But usually for me the important thing is to asses cost effectiveness through a holistic lens. When you consider all of the benefits of something beyond whats measurable in cost and savings, you start to integrate. Gardening becomes food, exercise, and education. The line between work and play can fade. Saving money and earning money become the exact same thing. And most importantly I find that I start to notice opportunities everywhere. How I can make the best of an item, a situation, or a problem. How I can live holistically.
Here it is: 6 cups flour
1.5 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp shortening or oil
3.25 cups of water
-Mix dry ingredients. Add water and oil. It's better to err on the side of too much water since it's easy to knead in more flour. Knead just enough to mix ingredients well.
-In the bowl that was used for mixing the dough add a little bit of oil and spread it around so the surface of the bowl is covered. Make dough into ping pong to golf ball sized balls. Place them in the oiled bowl but roll them around enough to coat them in oil first so they don't stick together when you stack them in the bowl. If there's not enough oil in the bowl to coat all of the balls then just put a little oil in a little bowl and coat the balls that way. Let them sit for about five minutes.
-Turn the burner on with a large flat skillet on it. Finding the right amount of heat comes down to trial and error since each stove top is so different, in general about low to medium.
-Get out a good rolling pin and dust the counter top with flour. Too much flour will fall off in the pan and accumulate till it starts to burn. Not enough flour will make the dough stick to the counter top and the rolling pin. You'll get a feel for it. Roll out one ball at a time to the thickness of canvas. It should make a tortilla about 6-10" across.
-Put it on the hot skillet. Don't put it on unless the skillet is hot or the tortilla will stick. As soon as you put your first tortilla on the skillet start rolling out your next one. The skillet will heat up really fast if you don't keep putting new tortillas on it. Keep an eye on the one in the skillet and flip it when it gets full of bubbles. Flip it with your fingers. Grab the edge quickly and you wont get burned. Trying to use a tool just gets too cumbersome. The second side cooks way faster so by the time you flip it you need to be ready with the next one rolled out. Keep repeating these steps until you have a nice stack of homemade tortillas.
-The last step is the most important though. There's a fine line between a tortilla and a cracker. Differences in humidity can make the dough dry or wet. The way to make sure the tortillas always stay floppy even when you mixed the dough too dry is to always keep a plate on top of the stack that is done cooking. Even better is a plate and a towel, but this gets hard to add to the pile. Basically you want the pile to steam itself a little bit. This keeps the moisture in. When you do this, dry tortillas become tough but floppy. There's nothing wrong with a tough tortilla, I kind of like them that way because they are really durable and you can pack them full of good food and they'll roll up without tearing.
Our family loves to eat yogurt and the benefits you receive from yogurt are endless. However, the good stuff can be so expensive. Finally, I made some at home!!
I have always wanted to make homemade yogurt but was always a bit intimidated by the process. I thought you needed some fancy machine to make it. I was very happy when I found out you didn't! It was actually very easy and the kids even helped. Our end results were delicious and now we will be making it on a regular basis.
There are tons of yogurt recipes out there. Here is a super simple one.
Here is the recipe we used:
1/2 Gallon whole milk (we used Kemps w/out antibiotics)
3.5 TBSP Plain Yogurt (we used Greek style without sugar added)
Spoon, small bowl, large pot, candy thermometer
Heat all the milk to 180-185 degrees, stirring constantly, cover
Remove from stove top and place in a sink full of cold water, bring temperature down to 100 degrees
While waiting for milk to cool, measure out your yogurt and put in the small bowl
Once milk has cooled, add 1 Cup to the yogurt, mix well
Add the yogurt/milk mixture to the rest of the warm milk
Mix well, cover
Heat oven to 100-150 degrees
Turn oven off, put oven light on
Put towel over/around pot and place in oven for 8 hours
Place yogurt in refrigerator to set. We kept ours in there for ab out 4 hours, the longer the thicker it becomes.
And now you have homemade yogurt!
We had a great time customizing our own bowls. We used: natural flavorings, sugar, honey, fresh fruit, jams, and topped it off with granola! Everyone loved it!! We also made frozen yogurt pops! YUMMY!