Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

This is my favorite cake - banana cake with penuche frosting.  It has special memories for me.  I remember my grandma making this cake a lot so I think of her whenever I bake it especially since I use her cake pan with all its dents and scratches.  The pan must be 50 years old but it is still my favorite.  Once my cousin, Michael and I tried making this cake at his house.  I don't remember how it turned out but we had a ball trying to figure it out, including how to spell penuche so we could find the recipe.  This is now my daughter's favorite cake and I love being able to share the memories and make some new ones.  A few years ago, she wanted a banana cake for her birthday but she wanted it to be an actual banana shaped cake because that's what she thought a banana cake was so we made a banana shaped banana cake with penuche frosting.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

2011 Food Photo Album

Many of our activities at home revolve around food.  Here are some new things we tried this past year. 

Rolls rising in the Iowa winter sunshine (works well when the oven is being used for other things)

My one and only attempt at making pita pockets

Thanksgiving Morning: Cornbread made from popcorn kernels I milled. Delicious!!

Laura loves to press tortillas!

Samuel planned and made this meal! (Daddy grilled the steak)

 Food Face plates that Santa brought.  The kids love to decorate their food face - the only rule is they have to eat what they take for decorating.  It actually gets them to eat things they normally wouldn't.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

This recipe is from Lyn Schafer at Classic Floral Design in Waukee.  She was gracious enough to make 18 gallons of this soup to share with the community to help celebrate our annual Winterfest celebration.  It was so good, I needed to make some for myself.  The recipe has lots of different steps so it did take me a while to get it put together the first time but I always allow double time to make something on my first try.  I added some helpful tips at the bottom in hopes that your first attempt won't be as disorganized as mine.  Thanks for the soup, Lyn!

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

1 box Uncle Ben's wild rice mix
8 oz. cream cheese cubed
1 can evaporated milk
2 to 4 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed or shredded
2- 15 oz. cans chicken broth
1 cup chopped carrots (into bite-sized pieces)
1/4 onion - chopped

Make rice per box instructions. While rice is cooking, chop onions and carrots.  Saute onion in small amount of oil until tender.  Add carrots to onion and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring every few minutes so they don't burn. Boil, bake or grill chicken (however you choose to cook the chicken).  Combine all ingredients into crockpot or large pot.  As mixture thickens, you may need to add some milk to thin it out.

Helpful Tips:
This recipe will require 4 different cooking pots/pans.  I doubled the recipe and used a 2 quart saucepan for the rice, 12 inch skillet for onions and carrots, 5 quart stockpot for boiling chicken (you could also use leftover grilled or baked chicken) and a large oval crockpot for the soup.  With the doubled recipe, the soup barely fit in the crockpot.  If you make a single batch, it will fit in a 5 quart stockpot on the stove. 

If you are using a crockpot, you can put the broth and cream cheese in first to start melting the cream cheese.  You will need to stir and smash the cream cheese against the side to get it all mixed in so it may be easier to get it started melting before adding other ingredients.

Alternate way to do the chicken and broth:  You can get bone-in chicken and add 8 cups water when boiling and then use the broth you've made for your chicken broth.  This will not work for boneless skinless chicken because you won't get the flavor you need. 

I am not a big fan of onions but this was fine. I probably could have used more onion and I still would have liked it.

A double batch makes a huge amount of soup so I hope it freezes OK.  I'll update on how well it comes out of the freezer.

If you try it, let me know how you like it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Homemade Tortillas

Now that we have been using freshly milled flour for a year now, we have almost eliminated all store-bought bread.  One item we were still buying at the store was tortillas.  I would buy the white tortillas because I just didn't like the taste of the whole wheat ones as well.  I decided to try making tortillas to see if we could make the switch to homemade.  The first thing I learned was that you really do need a tortilla press.  I tried rolling them out and it was too difficult to get them thin enough.  I got a small 6 inch press since I wasn't sure if I would really use it that much.  The bigger presses were a lot more expensive.  The results were very impressive.  The taste is so much better than anything store bought.  Freshness really does matter!

Some tips: 
1. You need to use freshly milled flour - we tried a comparison with white flour and the white tortillas actually shrunk immediately after pressing so they were really small and thick.  I haven't tried whole wheat flour from the store.
2.  Use saran wrap to cover the press so the dough doesn't stick to the press.  You can just peel the plastic off the tortilla. You can use the same plastic over and over for your batch.
3.  They are best eaten immediately.  We do make enough for leftovers for an extra meal but they aren't as good.  Re-grilling them does help somewhat.
4.  Allow about an hour for prep time.  You can chop up tomatoes, etc. while the dough rests.
5. Enlist the help of your kids or another family member.  They can press while you throw them on the grill.
6. I use a countertop pancake griddle so I can grill them almost as fast as my daughter can press them.  It takes about 3 minutes on each side.

Tortilla pressing is so easy!  If my 5 year old can do it, so can you!  Laura pressed all 20 tortillas one night for dinner and loved being a helper in the kitchen.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Birthday Treats

Today was my husband, Darwin's birthday.  Of course, we had to celebrate with favorite foods.  Laura made lasagna (yes, this recipe is so easy, I just gave her the ingredients and she put it together - it is the Costco ravioli lasagna recipe.

You might have noticed that Laura's hair is MUCH shorter so I am including a "before" picture for comparison.  We cut 9 inches off this week and it looks very cute.  I would have loved having long blond hair when I was a kid but she really wanted it cut and I am happy to not have to deal with tangles anymore.  We are sending her hair in to Pantene for their hair donation program so someone battling cancer can enjoy her hair now.

Laura also helped Darwin in the garden today so she was a busy girl today.  Meanwhile, I made a chocolate zuchinni cake (his request).  I used 1/2 cup dark cocoa, 1 cup of fat (half oil, half butter), farm fresh eggs, and freshly milled flour.  Luckily we still had frozen zucchini from last year. The cake was so chocolaty that it was almost black and it was so good that it needed no frosting.  This is the recipe I used:

I used 9 oz. milled soft white wheat and sifted the flour.  I do need to get a finer sifter to remove more of the larger pieces for baking cakes and cookies however this cake did just fine with a regular sifter.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Comfort Foods at the Tangen House

I love going to Living History Farms.  They have a full scale replica of a typical 1875 town complete with real shopkeepers and other interpreters to explain what life was like in 1875.  Our first stop is always the Tangen House.  This is an upper middle class family home with a beautiful kitchen that most pioneer women would be grateful to have at that time.  Whenever I visit, I am reminded how easy we have things and how we need to simplify our lives.  I have always thought it would be so fun to actually cook a meal there instead of just watching.
Tangen House - Summer 2010

Last week I was able to fulfill my dream of cooking in the Tangen House when I took a cooking class there.  Our class of 5 students plus our teacher, Allison, cooked a full meal on the wood burning stove using only the kitchen tools commonly available in 1875.  Our menu was beef and noodles, chicken and dumplings, rice pudding, biscuits with butter and jam, and apple crisp with whipped cream. Is your mouth watering yet? 

We divided up the tasks between us.  I made the noodles.  Since this was my first time making noodles, it took me a while.  Next time I will know to use more flour on the counter so they don't stick.  The proper way to dry them is to hang them over a rod on the back of the woodburning stove but they felt like they were going to fall apart if I tried hanging them so we used a cookie sheet next to the stove and turned them over after the tops were dry.  My noodle making seemed to take a long time so it was good that there were 5 other cooks in the kitchen to make everything else.  This would have been a big job for one person.  Everything tasted fantastic - now I want to try the recipes at home to see if I can duplicate them in my kitchen with my freshly milled flour.  We used white flour for baking.  The wood burning stove probably made the apple crisp and biscuits better since they were baked in the oven.  The apple crisp was also baked in a pie shaped stone.  Everything else was cooked on the stovetop using cast iron pots.  The chicken was pre-cooked when we arrived and I forgot to ask where it was cooked.

Noodles Drying by the Stove

 Beef and Noodles

 Whipped Cream, Biscuits and Rice Pudding

Apple Crisp

Our teacher, Allison

We ate in the dining room and it was dimly lit with a few kerosene lamps.  To save on dishes, we used paper plates and plastic utensils - not very authentic but since we would be doing dishes in big basins and then dumping the water out the back door, I don't think anyone missed using real dishes.  Here is how I rate our menu in order of how likely I will make them again:

1.  Apple crisp -really good and really easy
2.  Chicken and dumplings  -really good but more work than apple crisp
3.  Rice Pudding - good and easy and my husband likes rice pudding.
4.  Biscuits - I want to try these with fresh flour - I am not a big biscuit fan but will try again.
5.  Whipped cream - really, really good but not sure if I will take the time to do it
6.  Beef and noodles - this was good but not fantastic enough to make again - I will try the noodles again and maybe substitute noodles for dumplings with the chicken.  That is how my grandma made it.  I also need to get the noodles skinnier when cutting into strips. The knife wasn't very sharp so it was difficult to make thin noodles.  The noodles plump up so they will be larger than when you cut them.

I loved the class and learned a lot. Most of all, I am inspired to try some new foods at home.  I was not able to make all the foods myself since we split up the tasks however we went home with all the recipes so we can try them on our own now.  When I try the foods at home using freshly milled flour, I will post as to whether it made a difference in the end result.  If you were in the class with me, please post a comment if you tried any of the foods at home and if you have any tips for the other dishes.

Living History Farms is open for their regular season on April 30th.  I can't wait to go back!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Valentine Box

My son, Sam,  is in first grade and their assignment for the Valentine's Day party is to decorate a box to put their Valentines in.  Last year, as a first time mom to a school-aged child, I completely forgot about it and he didn't even do a box.  We were having a really bad year.  So this year, I decided we would do something really fun.  Sam loves Herbie the Love Bug and agreed that would be his theme.  I got all the supplies together and encouraged him to help me.  As it turned out, he was sick this week and never felt like doing much of anything.  So here is the box that I made.  I'm not passing it off as my son's work.  I even told his teacher that I did it and thought I did a great job.  Here is Sam with the box, just before I drove it over to his school so his classmates could fill it with Valentines while he was home sick today.  He is so proud of the 2 heart stickers he put on for tail lights and the one wheel he cut out.

And to go with the Herbie theme, here is his pinewood derby car (3rd place in his den for speed). His dad did this one - we can't have a 7 year old using a saw, spray painting and using graphite, right??  The pink car belongs to my daughter.  She got to race in the sibling race and place 4th out of 26 cars!  At some point, maybe they can make their own cars.