Playing in the Dirt

I started the morning by adding three nuisance birds to our bag in preparation for Nuisance Stew.  Since we have a lot of Starlings and similar invasive/nuisance birds around I had the idea of eating them.  A quick Google search showed that while I am crazy, I’m not the only one.  I now have 6 or 7 birds in the fridge that will be going into some sort of dish on Monday.  We’ll see how it works out.  If nothing else they’ll make decent dog and cat food and they’re fun target practice.  Not to mention that I’m helping farmers and the native cavity nesting songbirds.

After the backyard hunting excursion we took Bella to a friend’s birthday party then picked up a few things for the garden from Lowe’s.  We walked out the door after spending almost $40 and not getting a single thing we had planned to buy.

Upon our return, the real work began.  Okay…  Maybe we ate fried chicken and watched TV first, the real work did happen – eventually.

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I dug all the old flowers, weeds, and small trees out of the previous tenants flowerbed.  The dirty bowling ball-sized rock was buried in the bed, too. I’ll put in some of our early plants in here tomorrow or Monday.  Unfortunately the bed is in the middle of Tank’s path so it will have to be fenced in.

The best part of the evening was building a little dirt pit for the kids to play in and watching them load and dump a handful of rocks over and over.

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The sod boundary walls will hopefully keep most of the dirt and rocks contained.  We’ll see.  For the moment at least the kids are enthralled and are following the rules pretty well.

While the kids played in their dirt I started digging the garden.  The neighbor stopped by and offered the use of his backhoe – which I don’t want anywhere near my garden.  I will, however, be asking for his help with excavating if my pond plans work out as I hope.  I think I’ll be able to persuade another neighbor to lend me a couple pigs to seal up the pond.  But I need to get a better handle on the garden and new chicken tractors before I go to far with that project.

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Potato (or Broccoli) Cheese Soup

On Thursday, a friend came over and we had broccoli soup for lunch. When she asked for the recipe, I mistakenly told her the recipe was on my blog. Oops… it wasn’t. 🙂 I distinctly remember writing it and taking pictures for it, but now cannot find the post anywhere. The pictures have also disappeared. Who knows? I have crazy mom brain.

My recipe (Singular, yes. Same recipe; one has potatoes, the other has broccoli.) for Potato Soup and Broccoli Soup come from my Mom. It’s the BEST recipe I’ve ever had, and I will never, never, ever, ever switch to another. I hope you enjoy it, also!

Potato OR Broccoli Soup

       1   quart chicken broth
    ½    onion, chopped
     4     garlic cloves, peeled
     2 T butter
1/3 c  shredded carrot
     5 c  peeled (or not) and cubed potatoes
                          OR
     5 c broccoli pieces
    1 c shredded cheese (Any kind; I’ve used Farmers, Cheddar, Colby-Jack, Mozzarella…)
   ½ c milk (or buttermilk)
   ¼ c flour OR 2 T cornstarch
Salt and Pepper to taste
Basil, Parsley, and/or Oregano to taste
Saute garlic and onion in butter over medium heat until softened and slightly browned. (You can do this in a skillet or directly in your soup pot, which is what I do.) Pour broth into the soup pot and bring to a boil. Remember that you will be adding more things to the pot, so you don’t want to use a pot that just barely holds your broth! Add potato or broccoli and carrots. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the vegetables are done.
A note: I think that’s about how much potatoes and broccoli I add. I never measured, so I am not sure. I add enough broccoli that the broth doesn’t quite cover it, as the broccoli “shrinks” when it cooks. I add enough potatoes that the broth barely covers it. If you want more broth than veggies, add fewer veggies. If you want more veggies, add more and cover partially with a lid.
Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the milk, flour (or cornstarch), cheese, and 1/2 c of hot broth from the pot. Blend until thoroughly processed. Once the potatoes (or broccoli) is done, slowly pour in the milk/cheese mixture, stirring constantly. Allow to boil for three minutes, stirring constantly. If the soup is not thick enough, combine 1/2 c broth from the pot and 1/4 c flour or 2 T cornstarch in the blender and add to the soup. (Warning: if you will be cooking enough to have leftovers, the soup DOES thicken as it cools and sets. However, if you over-thicken, you can make a nice casserole with it; pour it into a casserole dish and sprinkle it with bread or cracker crumbs. Yum!) Taste your soup and add salt, pepper, and herbs as necessary. My favorite addition is basil and oregano with potato soup.

But I don’t want to go Gluten Free! (Blueberry Cake made with Oat Flour)

This past week has been entirely too fun-filled for my taste. First, we realized that Bella seemed to have the run-to-the-bathroom-every-five-minutes kind of upset stomach. My first thought was the way she eats: mostly fruits and vegetables and whole-grain breads. It’s a high fiber diet for her!

Then, I remembered that we had just re-introduced whole wheat bread into our diet. I had run out of wheat the week before our stomach flu episode, and bought more at the beginning of last week. Her upset stomach started about the same time as I started making bread again. Long story short, we decided to go gluten-free for a week, then dairy-free for a week, then something else free for a week, etc… until we figured out what exactly was upsetting her. I didn’t see how it could be gluten; she’s been eating whole grains since she turned one. Lactose intolerance didn’t make sense, either, since she’s had raw milk for over a year now. But, better safe than sorry, and my little girl was miserable.

Starting Wednesday of last week, we went gluten-free. It went okay. It was hard for me, especially. I didn’t realize how important bread had become to us! This morning, Bella asked to make cupcakes with me. My first thought: “Oooooh, great. How do I explain this one?” But, why couldn’t I make cupcakes? I have rice and oats… maybe, just maybe this could work! And work it did. This is another “keeper recipe” for me! (Note: I realize that there is a lot of debate about oats and a gluten-free diet. However, from our side of things: we haven’t eaten a lot of oats, d a lot of wheat. Eating oats would at least eliminate wheat in our trials.)

Continue reading But I don’t want to go Gluten Free! (Blueberry Cake made with Oat Flour)

Chicken and Veggie Triangles

You know those days where nothing sounds good? I wanted chicken, broccoli, and cauliflower, but not pasta. I wanted something bread-like with it, but bread didn’t sound good. While scouring the refrigerator for something, anything, to have with my vegetables and chicken, I came across the egg roll wrappers. “Hmmm…” I thought. And then, “Yum!”

Chicken and Veggie Triangles

2 c broccoli pieces
1 c cauliflower pieces
1 c shredded, cooked chicken
¼ c feta cheese
1 c any kind shredded cheese (I used mozzarella and farmer’s)

Monkey Cake

For Declan’s first birthday, I made a monkey cake. It was very simple and turned out adorable!

The cake was banana, of course, made with no sugar, only honey. The icing was cream cheese and chocolate cream cheese. I found the original idea for the cake on Parenting.com and made a few changes. The cake recipe is from The Healthy Taste of Honey, by Larry Lonik.

Monkey Cake

      1 c softened butter
      2 c honey
      4    eggs
      4 c whole wheat flour
      4 t baking powder
      1 t baking soda
     ¼ c buttermilk
      2 t vanilla extract
1 ½ c mashed banana (3-4 bananas)

Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Line the bottom of a 9″ or 9 1/2″ springform pan AND the bottom of a 6″ round cake pan with parchment paper. Whip butter with a mixer until smooth. With the mixer running, drizzle in 1 1/2 cups of the honey. Add the eggs and mix just until combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a separate bowl. Blend the banana, buttermilk, vanilla, and remaining 1/2 c honey in a blender. Alternately add the dry mixture and the banana mixture to the butter/honey/egg bowl. Pour 2 1/2 cups of the batter into the small round cake pan. (I used this pan to make Declan and Bella’s small cakes.) Pour the rest of the batter into the springform pan. Bake the small cake for 10-15 minutes and the large for 30-40 minutes OR until a toothpick or piece of spaghetti inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans before removing.

Cream Cheese Frosting
12 oz room temp cream cheese
½ c softened butter
¼ c dry milk
2 t vanilla
¼-½  c honey, go with your preference!
½ c cocoa
1 T milk
3 T honey

Blend cream cheese and butter together using a mixer. Drizzle in ¼-½ cup of honey, add vanilla and dry milk. Set aside 1/4 cup of this mixture. To the remaining amount, add the cocoa, milk, and honey. 

Assemble the Cakes

Once the cakes are completely cool and have been removed from the pans, you can begin shaping and decorating. I used a cup to cut out a small circle from the little cake, then I cut the small cake in half horizontally to get two circle cakes: one for Bella, and one for Declan. I figured Bella would like to have her own small cake, and I didn’t want Declan to eat the whole cake by himself. Mean Mommy, but nice Mommy. 🙂 The “extra” donut-shaped cake was a free-for-all the day before the party.


Cut a triangle out of opposite sides of the cake. (See the diagram at Parents.com.) I cut a triangle from one side, then flipped it upside down and used it as a guide for the other side.  
Leaving a 1/2″ border, ice the center of each cake with the plain cream cheese frosting.
Ice the sides and the border with the chocolate frosting. Decorate your monkey face as desired. For the kid’s cakes, I used peanut halves for the ears, a raisin for the noses, mini chocolate chips for the eyes, and chocolate frosting for the mouth. (Of course, Declan didn’t get the peanuts for raisin.)
For the large cake, I used a peanut half for the nose, raisins for the eyes, chocolate frosting for the mouth, and pretzels covered in chocolate frosting and a peanut half for the ears. 
 Declan and Bella approved. 

Homemade BBQ Sauce

A year ago, I found the absolute perfect barbecue sauce recipe on the back of a molasses jar. Of course, I had to “fix” it a bit for our family. We eat a lot of barbecue sauce; it is Danny and Bella’s first choice when it comes to dip and sauce.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

  1 c ketchup
 ¼ c vinegar
  2 t mustard (prepared, not powdered)
 ¼ c honey
 2 T molasses
  1 t garlic powder
Layer all ingredients in a pint jar. Screw on the lid tightly and hand off to your way-too-hyper three-year old. Tell them to shake it while hopping around the room.  Viola! Barbecue Sauce. For a spicier sauce, add 1 teaspoon-1 tablespoon of hot sauce. For a sweeter sauce, increase the honey to 1/2 cup. For a stronger sauce, increase the molasses to 1/4 cup. Enjoy on chicken, steak, roast, bread, or any other number of foods! I think Bella has dipped her cooked broccoli in it…

Less Wasteful: Celery

I used to cringe when I cut celery. I hated seeing the leaves and bottom of the stalk go to the compost. It seemed so wasteful. A quick solution? I put all unwanted celery pieces in a bag or jar in the freezer. Next time I want to make homemade chicken stock, I have a large portion of celery saved! I also do this with my carrot ends and onion pieces. The compost pile won’t grow as fast, but homemade stock is worth it!