Sunday, October 31, 2010

Is there a school in the room?

Our school room is very hard to keep clean...4 kids learning every day, art projects, music, coloring books, JUNK...you name it, it's in here making a mess.  Not to mention my work office takes up 1/2 the room. 

It is, however, one of my favorite rooms.  I painted it 4 years ago right after Fran was born, the last room in our house to be finished (well besides the white paint and the boy's doodlings on the walls).  I new just what I wanted, my husband thought the color I was putting on the wall was crazy, but he liked it in the end too.

I got a new bookshelf and table for the room the other day and finally gave Em an actual "desk", we may set up a computer for the kids there too (no Internet!) we'll see.

Took some pictures since I had it mostly clean, it's very crowded as you can tell, but I've given into the fact that I will try to keep the house generally tidy, but there's no way around cramming it with stuff when both hubby and I work at home, school the kids at home and simply have 8 people in our family.

And yes, like most homeschool families out there, we do 1/2 of the work out in the kitchen where I actually am much of the time. However Stud Papa teaches them history in here most days of the week while I keep the little ones quiet. The bigger kids like to do their math in here. It's just nice mostly for them to have a place to put their stuff away.




I almost forgot my favorite part, it's when you look up and away from all the clutter...the letters my mom gave me when we moved in here and decided to homeschool.  She'd gotten them in Vermont where she's from and used them every year in her own classroom when she taught at the school when I was younger.  They meant so much to me and I wanted a good way to show them off, so I saved them for this room...one of the main reasons I wanted a school room...silly, I know.  I love the red trim around the room and they fit perfectly above that.  They remind me of the simple life that I'd like to lead. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Silly Chicken Soup with special guest star of Grains

I'm having a blast cooking my soup today because I decided to take pictures of it along the way.  It's much more fun, I should have done this long ago.


Silly Chicken Soup with special guest stars of Grains.

Part 1, make your Basic Chicken Stock:
Making basic chicken stock: chicken carcasses, bay leaves, peppercorns, a few carrots, three onions, celery if you have some. Simmer overnight.
Next day: strain your stock. Above is stock that is ready.

The remains, just throw in the trash cooked bones are bad for dogs.
The dog with the stock. She looks guilty because she knows it smells good and she wants to eat it all. The bungee cord is my dog "insurance".

Part 2: Assemble ingredients, use what ever you have (recipe listed at the end)

I didn't have noodles, therefore I'm using my plethora of grains.

One of my favorite cooking methods is the "Ingredients in Google" game:  Don't know what to make for dinner? Need to use up what you have? I go to Google, type in my ingredients and pick a recipe out of the hundreds that pop up.  I usually have most of the other things that are needed to fill in the rest of the recipe I choose. 

Today I did this, but using chicken soup as my base idea.  I found someone who had made chicken and barley, but I can never pick just one grain so I'm using a medley.

Thanks to my friend, Steph, I'm giving Lard a try in my cooking life. So today in goes a scoop of lard...I'm sure olive oil or butter would do the trick as well.

Wow, onions cooked in lard, can you smell that?! (Don't worry kosher friends, I won't feed this to you.)

 Take a moment to watch the little one pour milk onto the table.

Add the carrots then spices...here I decided to add parsley, pepper corns, celery seed (since we don't have any celery), a bit of tarragon, a little pepper and salt. 


Then I rinsed and added 1/3 cup of both barley and wheat berries...

I should have added the chicken with the spices, but forgot to add it 'till I had put in a bit of broth...


Fill pot with yummy broth and let 'er simmer.  Do you like the irony of the kosher salt?


Then view the mess that is your house, your happy daughter and instead of picking up...go write your blog!



Hubby comes home and brings groceries including celery...to late, haha.
Add soup to the larger pot, add 1/3 c quinoa and 1/3c millet...let 'er cook more...she tastes GOOD!


Add more broth to fill your pot, add more salt and pepper to taste.


Feed hungry children who have enjoyed the snow all day...then finish said blog and take the kids to church.

 
*After seeing this page has gotten the most hits out of any on my whole blog and I don't have a very good recipe written, I'll post one here. This is approximately what I did, but remember this recipe is flexible and it's all about using what's in your pantry. -Anna 8/18/2013*
 
Silly Chicken Soup with Grains Recipe: (yield appx 5 quarts)

1/2 c lard or butter or olive oil or coconut oil (these are Anna approved oils) 
~heat in heavy bottom pot~
2 onions, diced
2 or 3 carrots, chopped
2 or 3 stalks of celery, chopped
~put these veggies into your oil and cook for 5 or so minutes~
~Season these veggies while cooking with:
8 or so peppercorns
tarragon
celery seeds (if you don't have celery in your soup)
some fresh ground pepper
1/3 c barley
1/3 c wheat berries
~rinse these and add to the pan~
2 lbs shredded chicken 
~add to the pot~
3-4 quarts chicken stock
~add to the pot and let simmer 30 minutes~
1/3 c quinoa
1/3 c millet
~rinse these and add to the pot and let simmer 30 minutes~
salt (you will have to taste this based on how much salt is in your broth, don't be afraid of salt, especially if you're using sea salt, it will make or break this soup or any meal really)

And more broth (or water) as needed. Be sure your grains are cooked before serving. Add salt and more pepper if needed. Let this simmer all day or cook it up quickly. The wheat and barley take longer to cook so you could exclude these if you need a faster cooking time. Use what ever grains you have, just be sure you know how long they need to cook. 
 
If you soak your grains overnight the day before it will make your grains much more digestible and let your body access more of the nutrients in the grain. If you cook the chicken stock the night before, just soak the grains as well in another bowl. If you add a bit of yogurt to your soak water it breaks them down faster and further and makes them even more nutritious. (like a quick/mini ferment)






Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Natives are Restless

The natives are restless this evening...

I made a good meal, they ate and some enjoyed...and what is my thanks?  They are insane!  Jumping around, screaming, laughing uproariously at their jokes and play.  You really would think that I just fed them each five candy bars each.  Have you ever noticed this with your own kids?  When you FEED your children they get incredibly spastic?  I really don't think it's just sugar that gets your kids hyper.  When they actually start fighting I'll probably step in, but for now I just had to escape into my office and post about them.

I made my Greek chicken pot pie for dinner and I disappointed myself.  It's ok, but not great like last week.  I used feta, oregano and filo to make it Greek, also my newly made chicken stock, fresh veggies, chickens and our goat's milk...  Oh well, I went wrong somewhere.  It's not bad, just not fantastic.  I think you have to be Greek to cook fantastic Greek food.
Yes, my Greek chicken pot pie.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

I'm literally dreaming of eating one of these right now and it definitely will be a midnight snack...figured I'd share the wealth.

The first time we ate one of these was at the fair, a glorious moment in time where you realize that this combo of food is what you've been missing all your life...food perfection.  Of course this is not to say that it's the *best* thing I've ever eaten, but for a snack to make at home, I'm not sure it can be beat.  We have since tried to re-create that perfection at home, it's so easy and beyond good...I don't quite know why I always forget about them, but I often do.  And when I remember, I get excited all over again.  Unfortunately now that I've given such an intro you will inevitably be disappointed...so don't get your hopes too high...but I think you might just like it, at least a little bit.

Silly Old BBQ Quesadillas

One flour tortilla
Melt able cheese like Colby jack or cheddar or something you like
Leftover shredded chicken, or make some for this...about a bowl full, 1/2 -1 cup...how hungry are you?
BBQ sauce...I'm sure any and all kinds would be great.

Heat tortilla on a oiled or dry pan, I've done both and they are both good.
Slice cheese and put around your tortilla.
Put your chicken in a bowl and add a generous amount of bbq sauce...mix to coat.
Add chicken to your tortilla...let it all heat, shake the pan sometimes.

Fold over your quesadilla with a spatula and  cut on a board and serve with sour cream and salsa if you like...plain is also good.

Enjoy!

I know I will.


Not my quesadillas.  This woman added onions to hers...to each their own...maybe I'll add jalapenos.

Winter is here, let's buy furniture, cook chickens & dream of sewing!

It snowed yesterday right as I was leaving to run errands in Wasilla.  It inspired me to buy a desk at Fred Meyer so that I can hopefully set up my sewing machine and get back into sewing this winter.  I know I won't have as much time as I'd like, but something is definitely better than nothing.


Children outside before the snow melts.
 After the kids convinced me (not hard to do) that they REALLY wanted to play in the snow, out they went instead of doing math.  Fran, in the meantime, convinced me that she REALLY wanted some pound cake with cream cheese and powdered sugar on it (her idea not mine) this idea sounded pretty awesome, so I made myself two pieces and her one before I got busy in the kitchen.
Fran modeling our snack.

I'd decided yesterday that I would bake some chickens today.  We have a huge freezer now, but it can only hold so much.  We had 20something birds from this summers chicken harvest, so that takes up a lot of room and I need to use more chicken!  My friend, Steph inspired me to do bake them this way couple months ago...roast 4-6 chickens all at once, then eat chicken for dinner and then shred the rest and freeze it for future dinners (like chicken pot pie!) and make chicken stock.  I forgot that it's time consuming to stand there shredding, but I think it's worth it in the end.  Here are my somewhat frozen birds going into the oven for a couple of hours.

Then I got busy on my new sewing area.  I have had plenty of sewing areas in the past, but ever since my business took over the school room and office last fall, I decided that it had to be my "hobby" for the winter so that I could get it back-on-track.  Well, it's in good shape, and I still work more than I'd like, but my paychecks pay for the kids music, art, and various sports.  I'm happy to be able to pay for those things with out flinching and thinking "well maybe we can't afford it"...that's why I work, to pay for those classes that I don't know or give a hoot about.  Anyway, K cleared out the corner by the piano for me and then I could get busy assembling the new desk while their Papa taught them some history.

My littlest ones enjoying the peace & quiet during history. 
In the meantime we had a brief visit from Steph (from Up North, Over Yonder & Out of my mind.) & her DH when they came drop something off and then their car decided not to start.  It was quite enjoyable since we don't get to visit that often.  They were eventually rescued by their daughter but I do believe I have inherited a pretty sweet non-running Volvo with many Libertarian, Republican and Progressive crazy person bumper stickers on the rear.  Sometimes I wish I didn't care what others thought as much as Steph...I'm working on it.  While they visited the 4-yr-old was invited to her friends to enjoy the snow and then my 4 older ones made their way over to their new music lessons that they adore.  I am stupid for not starting these sooner...but I'm spoiled that I have a music teacher as a next-door-neighbor, so she's ready to give my kids private lessons this year.  (Yay me!)  I got the sewing area somewhat set up, but not enough where I have to dive in just yet.  Still have chickens to de-bone.


While de-boning the birds we played the "what now mama game...with M&Ms"  This is the version with actual treats added so that there is not as much whining and moaning.  It's much more enjoyable.  They have to say, "What now mama?" and I give them a job and when they come back and say "What now mama?" they get a treat and and another job.  The house went from utter disaster to somewhat picked up & K went and milked the goats.  We also started clearing out a corner in the school room for the book case and table I got last night too.  Em's desk this year has been 3 boxes stacked up next to a bunch of other boxes...um, so, yeah.  Needed something there. 


Chicken stock.

I thought about doing the bookcase tonight but I'm so tired!  The chicken stock is cooking and Papa is watching a VERY LATE "coy boy night" with the kids.  My sewing area is all pretty and waiting for me now.  Don't worry, be patient.  I'll be there eventually.

My wonderful old machine on my new desk.

*Pictures taken with my new Blackberry phone that GCI "gave" me (along with a 2 year contract).  Picture quality isn't bad for a cell phone and it's so handy to get pics onto the internet.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My new found love, chicken pot pie

I just want to thank Steph @ Up North, Over Yonder & Out of my mind for the fantastic idea of making chicken pot pie.  It does seem to be a (dare I say) new fad?  I just don't remember anybody making it before this year...ever!  She sent me her recipe and followed it mostly, I was lacking in tarragon so I used parsley.

YUM!  I literally gorged myself.  Not good, but good, you know?

I was going to make lasagna today, but I'll have to do that tomorrow or later this week....I just didn't want to make lasagna when we got home from town at 6:30pm but I did feel like making this.  We had a good late dinner and I discovered a new way to use up my: meat chickens from summer, goats milk, and veggies from the garden.  Next I'd like to try a Greek chicken pot pie with oregano, feta and filo dough.  mmm

As for the rest of the day, well I'm definitely in a funk.  I wonder if it's the lack of sun because I'm not hermitized for winter, or the fact that we have tons of candy around the house from our last Costco trip and it's way to available and it's killing my blood sugar.  Anyway, I need to snap out of it and soon.  I need some real energy.  I wish I liked to exercise because I KNOW that's the "right" answer to this problem.  Too bad I like facebook much more.

Not my chicken pot pie.
Ingredients

1 sheet frozen puff pastry

2 tablespoons butter

1 roasted chicken, shredded

1/4 cup chopped red sweet pepper

2 medium shallots, thinly sliced (I used an onion)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed  (I used parsley)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups milk

1 cup heavy cream  (I didn't have any, so I used 2 1/2 c milk, but it could have been creamier)

1/3 cup dry white wine (I just realized I forgot this)
1 1/2 cups peas, blanched

1 1/2 cups carrots, blanched
2 potatoes, peeled, diced, and boiled  (or you can steam these 3 veggies for 15 min, that's what I did)

1 egg plus 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash

Directions

Thaw puff pastry according to package directions, get out your chicken if it's frozen and thaw that.

Then prep your veggies and cook those to have them ready.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt butter over medium-high heat. Add chicken, sweet pepper, and shallots and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in flour, salt, tarragon, and black pepper. Add milk and cream all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in wine, peas, carrots and potatoes; heat thoroughly. Transfer the hot chicken mixture to a 1 1/2-quart casserole.  (I cooked it in and used my dutch oven to bake it in.)  Place pastry over the hot chicken mixture in casserole dish. Brush puff pastry with egg wash then cut slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 45 minutes.

The only thing I "missed" was more real crust.  I love the crusty pot pies, so perhaps next time I'll grab a store bought one and do it in there or try the Greek one.  My friend also said she uses a biscuit top, that sounds delish!

Monday, October 18, 2010

FETA update

So happy to announce two out of the three fetas turned out great!  We did a taste test (well the men that were here) and liked them very much.  The kids then did their own and also liked them very much.  I'm a happy cooker.  The one I liked best was the easies to make.  It simply takes our "farmers cheese" we make regularly and then you heavy brine it (salting it) and then pickle brine it for a week.  Could not be easier!  Now we'll see how they are after 2 weeks, etc.  I kind of want to try some other feta recipes now that I've watched more YouTube videos on it, I like the idea of using the whey (with added salt) as a brine for the feta, seems less wasteful.  The cheese book we have is great but I really want to strangle the author sometimes...he makes things much harder than they need to be.

Yesterday I made cottage cheese and today I made mozzarella...guess what I'm making tomorrow?  (Hint:  It includes moose burger and spaghetti sauce and layers...yum)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fabulous Borscht

I have never been a fan of borscht....until now. 

Recipe given to me by my wonderful pioneer woman neighbor. It uses many things from the northern climate's garden and any game meat you might be fortunate enough to have. It is extremely versatile and very simple to prepare, it does not require very many ingredients to make it delicious. It's perfect on any given Sunday in October. Invite your closest friends and make a double or triple batch...I promise you, your guests will be more than impressed. This is my go-to recipe this time of year.

Fabulous Borscht

2 lbs beef shanks, or chunk beef, or sausage, or hamburger browned in lard, bacon fat. (Could also use butter, coconut oil or olive oil.)
1-2 leeks or onions chunked - add to beef
1 c ham, or pork shoulder, or ham hock, or bacon, or kielbasa - add
~3 carrots - add
2 lbs(ish) beets peeled chunked - add if uncooked...if cooked or canned add later (can use homemade pickled beets if need be, that's what I typically use)
new potatoes or chunked potatoes, optional
~2 1/2 qts water
2 bay leaves
8 pepper corn
4 sprigs parsley or dried ~1T
1/4 t pepper
1T salt (adjust to liking)
1/4 c white vinegar
1 6oz can tomato paste
1/4 c fresh dill or some dried
1 small head cabbage
1 c sour cream

Garnish with:
fresh dill
more sour cream

Add ingredients in approximate order as listed. This recipe is so flexible, add more or less vegetables as listed, you will never know the difference.  We have friends who don't eat pork so when they're here I add other things, yesterday was turkey kielbasa and some turkey smoked sausage and that added some great flavor. I have also added leftover chicken, left over spaghetti sauce, leftover pieces of steak from kids plates when their eyes were bigger than their stomachs. I actually keep a "For Borscht" quart size bag in the freezer with bits and pieces of good meat that I don't want to throw to the dog. 

This is a great recipe to make soon after harvest in a very large pot. If you have leftovers it's perfect for freezing or eating the next day. (Like any good stew or soup, it's better the next day.)

Yesterday I tripled the batch in my large stock pot and it fed 8 adults and 11 children, most people had 2 bowls and I have two good sized containers of left overs in the fridge. 


I shamelessly stole this gorgeous photo from Food & Wine where they have their own recipe.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Introductions

I was looking through my pictures tonight trying to spice up this blog...a blog is just not as fun unless it has good pictures!  I came across some great ones of my funny kids and decided to share some.  Blogger's lay out drives me a little crazy and I lost some pics trying to arrange them...but you get the picture. ;-)

Youngest to oldest. 

Suz


 The Fran
Sweet Em





Max to the Most





 Smiley Aid




Energetic K