Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Crock Pot Tuesday: Cheeseburger Soup


Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Soup

4 Tbs butter
1 lb ground beef/bison
1 c. onion, diced
3/4 c. celery, diced
1/2 c. carrot, diced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. milk
3 c. chicken broth
2 c. russet potatoes, diced
2 c. sharp cheddar, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
optional: ketchup, mustard, pickles, crumbled bacon

Melt butter in saute pan and brown meat. Stir in onion through basil; cook 5 min.
Add flour, coat meat and cook 1 min. 
Stir in milk until mixture is smooth. Bring to boil and cook 2 minutes. Transfer to 3-4qt slow cooker; add salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in broth and potatoes. Cover soup, cook until potatoes are tender on low heat setting for 3-4hrs
Add cheddar just before serving, stirring until melted. Season with more salt and pepper if needed, serve and garnish with optional ingredients. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Crock Pot Tuesday: Marmalade-Glazed Corned Beef with Carrots & Potatoes

Crock Pot Tuesday is here! Adapted again from Cuisine magazine:
***highly recommend serving with beer bread!!***

Marmalade-Glazed Corned Beef with Carrots & Potatoes

3 lb corned beef brisket, rinsed and trimmed
1 1/2 lb red potatoes, skin left on and scrubbed (about 4-5)
1/2 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 2" pieces (about 3-4)- I pretty much doubled this because I LOVE carrots
1 c. lager style beer
seasoning packet (optional)- I did not use

For the glaze:
1/2 c. orange marmalade
1/4 c. whiskey or apple juice- you can guess which one I used
2 Tbs. Ketchup
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar

Combine beef, potatoes, carrots, and beer in a 4-6 qt slow cooker (add seasoning packet if desired). Cover and cook until beef is fork-tender on high setting 4-5 hrs or low heat setting 8-9 hrs. Remove beef and vegetables; discard liquid (I saved a little to drizzle over meat to keep extra moist in fridge).
Whisk together marmalade, whiskey, ketchup, and vinegar; brush over corned beef. Preheat broiler to high with oven rack 6-8" from the heating element. Transfer meat to broiler pan coated with nonstick spray (I covered my broiler pan in foil then nonstick spray for quick easy clean-up). Broil until glaze caramelizes, about 5 minutes.
Thinly slice corned beef against the grain; quarter potatoes. Serve beef with carrots, potatoes, and buttered cabbage (the below recipe was included but I just sauteed cabbage, butter, salt, and pepper).

Buttered Cabbage
1 head cabbage, cored and sliced
1 c. chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 whole cloves
pinch red pepper flakes
2 Tbs butter
salt and pepper to taste

Combine cabbage through red pepper flakes in a large pot. Simmer, covered, over medium heat until cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover pot, simmer approx. 3 minutes to remove excess moisture. Stir in butter, salt, and pepper. Discard cloves and crushed garlic.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Crock Pot Tuesday: Pork Chops with Brats and Sauerkraut

Adapted from Cuisine Magazine (Bistro-Style Pork Chops)

This is a fantastic recipe when making a meal for two, although there's no doubt you could double or triple the recipe. Just remember, as a general rule with slow cookers, when doubling a recipe you most likely will not need to add any additional liquid to the pot other than the initial recommended amount. Adding more will just make your dish soupy! Here's Cuisine's recipe with my modifications (and name change).

Pork Chops with Brats and Sauerkraut

1 Tbs. olive oil
2 bone-in pork chops (about 1/2"thick and 5-6oz each)
6 oz. cooked, smoked bratwurst, cut into 1" pieces
1 1/2 c. quartered small red potatoes
1 small onion, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp each kosher salt and pepper
1/2 c. apple juice (I used cider!)
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 c. drained sauerkraut

Brown chops in oil until browned; set aside. Combine brats through thyme in a 1 1/2-2 Qt slow cooker (I used my 4qt). Place chops on top of vegetables; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir together apple juice and vinegar; pour over chops. Cover and cook until chops are tender and nearly falling off the bone- about 2-2.5hrs on high heat or 3-4 on low heat.
Add sauerkraut to cooker, covering chops, cover, and cook an additional 30 minutes on high setting.

***notes: Next time I would use approx. 8 or so oz. of brats as they were a great flavor. Also I will make them with BEER brats for a bit more flavor ooomph. I love sauerkraut, yep straight cold out of the can unrinsed and all, so I cannot be sure the amount I used after doing "a little bit for the dish and a little bit for me" dance. I wouldn't be shy and would add the full can of kraut to the dish- it tastes fabulous. I didn't have apple juice on hand but I did have cider so that substitute was wonderful.***

Reuben Toasts (serve with chops)
2 slices pumpernickle bread
1 Tbs. Thousand Island dressing
shredded Jarlsburg or Swiss Cheese

Toast bread, remove before fully toasted. Spread on dressing and top with cheese. Broil til golden. Cut each piece in half before serving.




On a side note, did you know that sauerkraut is chocked full of incredibly gut-healthy probiotic bacteria from fermentation? It has been known to:
1. help with the pain, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea/constipation of IBS
2. increases immunity
3. provide Vitamin C (sailors used to eat this long ago to beat scurvy and also found that shipmates whose diet consisted of sauerkraut tended to be less inclined to the famously nasty GI symptoms other shipmates had who didn't eat the fermented cabbage).

"One of the main benefits of sauerkraut is that it is rich in vitamin C, enzymes, and lactobacilli (the essential probiotics we’re seeking).  In fact, this is true of any fermented cabbage dish.  It is said to be healthier to eat lactic cabbage than any raw vegetable!  This means the continued benefits of sauerkraut are boosting the immune system and better overall digestion." 

It also provides various cancer-fighting compounds including isothiocyanate and sulphoraphane

Friday, November 18, 2011

Teaching Our Children: A Conversational Piece

A good friend of mine posted this article to me the other day and, after reading it, felt it was a good conversational message to pass on. The basis of the story is questioning whether we are teaching our children to ignore their instincts, intuition, and self-trust in order to be polite and acknowledge or validate the feelings of another.

 I recall in my childhood being told to kiss or hug a particular aunt and uncle even though I fervently refused because, frankly, I just didn't want to. The couple gave me the heebie jeebies, were always drunk and obnoxious at holiday gatherings, and just were not friendly individuals. I was probably around the age of 6 or 7. My parents, meaning well, insisted I give them affection so as not to be rude and hurt their feelings. I finally relented and pecked their cheeks and hugged them as distantly as I could to get it over with. They beamed and cooed over it, making a big display. I thought it was so incredibly annoying and uncomfortable.


Reading this article reminded me of this instance and I had to question our tendencies to continuously force our kids' affection on others in order to not be rude.

"At that moment, we are telling them, “Forget about how you feel. Do something that makes you feel uncertain and uncomfortable, so that someone else (an adult) can feel acknowledged and respected.”

Thankfully I have never been molested or abused by any family members, but I can see where this could really confuse a child into falsely trusting the adults in their lives. A hug leading to a kiss, leading to inappropriate touching all in the name of not hurting the elder's feelings. Eventually the child does not know what is good or bad touching and feels guilt if they don't perform to the adult's liking.

If you haven't read it yet, I suggest Gavin de Becker's book "The Gift of Fear". It touches quite a bit on these lines and now I wished he discussed this aspect on children more. I wonder if his other book "Protecting the Gift" which does involve children has this mentioned in it.

Do I agree with the article 100%? Mostly, but I can see a few small holes.There is a point to be made that it is important for the parents to educate the child on good/bad touching, what is appropriate, and to encourage the child to be affectionate by living in a loving home (affection being shown and given to the right people without forcing it). You can live in an aware state without being paranoid. The crux of the matter is trying to find a balance between nurturing the  child's ability to trust his instinct and yet preventing him from being afraid of everyone and everything.

Myself, guilty as sin of encouraging a hug out of friends' little ones, will start to be more self-conscious of allowing a child to say "no" and acknowledging their wishes.What I felt before was innocent affection on my part, I now see as me being very self-centered with no regards to the discomfort this may put on the child. All I can do is offer my affection, or let it be known it is always there, but leave it to the child to accept it on his own terms. This, in essence, could build a very healthy and trusting relationship empowering the child to make his own decisions while learning to trust his gut feelings.

As for my own (future) children, I will take my friend's wise words to heart and teach them to be polite with a simple "no thank you...if someone pushes for it they look like an ass. Anybody who does not honor that is not safe."


What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Crock Pot Tuesday: Gyro Beef Brisket Sandwich with Lemon-Feta Tzatziki

Yet another fabulous slow cooker recipe adapted from my Cuisine magazine:


Gyro Beef Brisket Sandwich with Lemon-Feta Tzatziki

2 Tbs olive oil
3 lb beef brisket, trimmed- coated with 1 tsp each: kosher salt, dried oregano, and black pepper
1 c. beef broth
1 large onion, sliced

Tzatziki:
1 c. plain yogurt
1 c. crumbled Feta cheese
1 c. peeled, chopped cucumber
4 scallions, chopped
minced zest of one lemon
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs minced fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 2 Tbs. oil in skillet, add brisket and sear 5 minutes per side. Transfer meat to 4-6qt slow cooker. Deglaze skillet with broth and add that plus onions to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high heat setting for 4-5 hrs or low heat setting for 8-9 hrs. Remove meat and onion to a plate and shred with two forks (I added about 1/4c. broth back to the meat to keep moist). Puree all ingredients for Tzatziki in a food processor. Season to taste. 

To serve: Divide meat and onion among flatbread rounds (I used basic tortillas). Top each with shredded romaine, diced tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce. Yummmm.

Sorry no pics, it was eaten faster than I could break out the camera!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Crock Pot Tuesday: Open-Faced Pot Roast Sandwich

Holy crap this is good and super easy!

Open-Faced Pot Roast Sandwich
adapted from Cuisine's Slow Cooker Magazine

2 onions, sliced
3 carrots, chopped
1/4 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 c. Dijon mustard
2 Tbs. dried thyme
3 Tbs tomato paste
1 dried bay leaf
1 boneless chuck pot roast (approx. 4 lbs) trimmed, cut in half, and seasoned

For the sandwich: rolls or texas toast, cheese (I used large whole wheat rolls, Swiss, and Sharp Cheddar cheese)

Place onions through bay leaf in 4-6 Qt (I used my Kitchenaid 7Qt) slow cooker. Lay pot roast overtop vegetables. Cover and cook on high-heat for 4-5 hours or on low-heat 6-7 hours. Transfer meat to a large bowl and pull meat apart (toss any fatty sections). Strain sauce, discarding solids. Use gravy strainer if needed to eliminate most of grease. Put 2-4 Tbs "gravy" in meat to keep the meat moist. *I combined meat with all sauce and then strained out the meat with a slotted spoon when putting on sandwich. This worked well to store only one container in the fridge for leftovers.

Preheat broiler to high with rack 6-8 inches from element.

Toast the rolls or Texas toast first. The recipe calls for a mixture of mayo and horseradish sauce but I combined mayo with about a Tbs. of jarred minced garlic. Spread mayo onto toasted rolls, top with meat, then place sliced cheese over all. Swiss was yummy and Sharp Cheddar was extra yummy. Broil until melty and delish!
Serve open faced and with a side of gravy, if preferred, to dip.

Sooooo heavenly. Maybe next time I will precook an additional carrot and/or onion and add to sandwich when preparing for a full pot roast effect (the discarded solids are useless since their flavor is zapped).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Homemade Cleaning Day!

Yesterday I whipped up another batch of homemade laundry detergent. I mixed two batches of powdered detergent using a bar of Dr. Bronner's Almond soap and one 5 gallon batch of liquid using Fels-Naptha. I like to have both the powdered and the liquid on hand. When I get a tough stain I use a little of the powdered directly on the stain, also the powdered is less messy for transporting.

This time I grated both soap bars on my finest grate and, although it was hard work, I was extremely pleased with the outcome. With the last batch I had been slightly lazy and coarsely grated the Zote bar. I ran into problems once I added the soap to the hot water, it wouldn't dissolve completely and clumped up. It still worked in the washing machine but it didn't look very pretty and occasionally I had a small clump of soap still stuck to a pant leg when I pulled them out of the washer.

This time, the Fels-Naptha grated up nice and dissolved within a few minutes into the saucepan. The smell was floral but not too bad. Nothing stinks worse to me than that super floral scent reminiscent of old ladies' talcum powder and bathroom spray. Eww.  I decided to leave the liquid concoction as-is but the powdered mix with almond soap was very mild so I added a few drops of sweet orange essential oil and mixed well. The almond paired well with the citrus creating a nice clean scent.

I sealed the bucket up tight and it is sitting in our laundry room untouched for 24hrs to "set".

***I just check on it and YAY! It set to a gel extremely well without any soap clumps and it smells really really good.***

I also re-cultured two more quarts of buttermilk using my previous batch to work off of. It is now a mixture of 2%, powdered, and skim milk (largest percent being the skim). As an updated report the 2% buttermilk turned out great but super creamy, almost too creamy. The fat settled at the top of the jar and was a pain to try to clean. The buttermilk derived from the powdered milk turned tangy very quick but pleasantly so and remained a nice creamy consistency. This worked the best for our waffles and pancakes. I think we will probably continue to use the skim milk for culturing but now know in a pinch we can use the powdered milk just fine.

After the laundry soap and buttermilk, I tried a new recipe for automatic dishwashing detergent from my book The Naturally Clean Home:



Automatic Dishwashing Detergent
1 c. borax
1 c. washing soda
essential oil (I used grapefruit and sweet orange for a clean citrus scent; next time maybe lemon-lavender!)

Combine all and store in tight fitted lid. Use 2 Tbs. per load.

Finally I made homemade antiseptic household cleaner from my go-to product book:


I had run out of homemade cleaner and grabbed a "green" product off the shelves in desperation one day as I was shopping. The cleaner was by Seventh Generation. When I got home and started spraying my eyes teared up and my nose burned, my senses felt assaulted. It was a horrible chemical meets vinegar scent and I disliked it immediately. Not wanting to waste money, I continued to use it while warning my husband before each use that he might want to step into the other room while I clean. He detested the smell also.  As the last droplets left the bottle yesterday I silently cheered with glee. Back to homemade stuff...

All-Purpose Antiseptic Household Cleaner
2 tsp borax
1 tsp washing soda
2 c. hot water
1/2 tsp liquid castille soap
total of 1/2 tsp antiseptic essential oils

Combine all in a spray bottle and shake to mix.  Spray on counter tops, let set for a minute or two and wipe clean.

I used peppermint castile soap and orange essential oil (yeah I was going for an orange theme).

The first batch I made, I followed a suggestion in the book for a holiday scent. A combination of clove and cinnamon essential oils. As soon as I spritzed I got an instant headache leading me to toss the batch down the drain and start over. Both clove and cinnamon e.o. tend to be very very strong to me leading to olfactory overload. I wouldn't necessarily toss this idea of a recipe but I would most likely strip down the amounts significantly to a more "hint" of a sent than a blast up the sinuses.

The peppermint and orange married well and I am very pleased with the scent!

Overall, a very successful homemade cleaning product day.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Canning, a Friendly Affair

Over the weekend I received a text "I've got tomatoes from the garden. Need to can!" So, Sunday I had Kelsey and Katie (two girls I practically consider sisters) over. We canned tomatoes, Cowboy Candy, and prepared applesauce and pearsauce from fruit I had just purchased at the local farmer's market.

Pears...
Kels displaying her peel art. Bought this apple peeler from Pampered Chef; we are very impressed with it!

The Supervisor

Kelsey wanted to "make more stuff!" so we had her grind wheat and corn for homemade cornbread. 

Katie and Kelsey with the duty of slicing jalapenos. I think it was the first time I've ever seen Kelsey so still.

Cooking them in sugar, cider vinegar, and spices.


And this is what NOT to do when you grab the side of your extremely hot crock pot...dang that hurt.

Overall we had a wonderful time and I think I overwhelmed Katie with my fun canning books! I just bought a new canning book and love it!




It is chocked full of modern and exciting recipes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Peaches!!

This past weekend was packed full of canning, canning, and more canning.

Day One: pressure canning using my All-American 30 Qt hoss. I prepared then canned Barbecue Beans, cubed fresh pumpkin (from pie pumpkins bought at the Farmers Market), and extremely thick sliced smoked hickory bacon from our local meat market. I also put together a batch of Sweet and Spicy Pickles and cultured some buttermilk.


I tested out different "milks" for the buttermilk. In the large jar I used Organic 2% milk and added 1/2 c. non-fat buttermilk. I then reconstituted some of our LDS powdered milk, added 1/2 c. buttermilk to that and divided it into 2 Qt jars. I let them set out for 24hrs on the counter to thicken then placed in the fridge to store. The powdered milk was excellent and creamy, not too watery. The 2%, as you could imagine, was super thick. Our powdered milk was from LDS cannery and during my prepping to make the buttermilk I sneaked in a sip "just to taste it".  I screwed up my face in preparation for nasty chalky watered-down awfulness. Instead, my taste buds were pleasantly surprised when I noticed hints of vanilla and a creamy milky texture. I really liked this powdered milk! After Cowboy tasted it and claimed the same surprise, we decided this powdered goodness will be joining us on camping trips from hence-forth. Of course we prefer real milk overall, but this was good for ease of use and storage.

The next morning we decided to make a "food storage" breakfast. LDS waffle mix with homemade buttermilk (instead of milk), reconstituted powdered whole egg, and applesauce with a little bit of oil. We then rehydrated some freeze-dried strawberries. We cheated a little by using some Redi-whip (but hey we had it on hand so that kind of counts!) to top it all off. It was DELICIOUS!

Day Two: Second day was dedicated to water bath canning. This day I made three different types of peach jam: Sweet Basil Peach, Peach Cardamom, and Traditional Peach Jam. Then I canned Roasted Red Pepper Spread and sliced peaches: 2 Qts regular peaches in medium syrup using raw sugar, 1 Qt Spiced Peaches, and 1 Qt Brandied Peaches.

My counter filled with canned goodness

Finally my masterpiece discovery: BACON JAM. I wasn't sure how this would turn out but as a lover of all things bacon-y, I just had to try it! WOW-ZA! Saying it was fabulous would be an understatement. First time 'round I ate it just as Foodie with Family had- crusty rustic bread slathered with bacon jam and topped with a fried over-easy egg. Sloppy and soooo heavenly. Second time I spread it on a piece of toast coated with peanut butter. Yep, this is my new favorite food (eaten sparingly of course). It is hard to describe this jam. Smokey, barbecue-y, sweet, and tangy, and bacon-y. It's amazing and you should try it.

Still caramelizing, before putting into food processor

Online Foodie with Family doesn't actually "can" this recipe but I don't see why you couldn't. It being meat, I would suppose it should be pressure canned. Next batch I will step up and try canning it. I have a feeling if anything bad happened to the world this stuff could easily be used as top shelf currency!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Putting Together An Emergency Bag

Otherwise known as Rescue Bag, I am putting together my final emergency bag. This will be my go-to bag in events such as fire, tornado, earthquake, winter storm, or some other unplanned disaster. Many people see the words bug-out-bag and automatically reflect on crazed extremist touting war and the end of the world speeches.

I don't think like that. That stuff depresses me quicker than anything and it's a lonely black hole to climb out of. Yes, the world around us is changing. But it has been changing; like a constant evolving organism. Things aren't the same as 10, 20, 40, 100 years ago (people were talking about TEOTWAWKI even then)- should we expect it to stay the same? No. My mom reminded me that when my father and her were wanting to have another child (aka ME) people would approach them in disbelief stating, "How could you even consider bringing a child into this world in a time like this and it's only going to get worse!" Times were rough but my mom didn't want to live in the what-ifs. If my parents had listened to all that end-of-the-world talk I would never have been born!

In terms of politics, finances, governmental proceedings...well, things do look pretty dang meek but besides being a bit more actively involved in decisions I have control over (even in tiny amounts) I just try to become more and more independent of others in order be on the outer rings of this ripple.

How do I become more independent you may ask? Here's a few "hobbies" I have: canning, making homemade meals starting from the basic ingredients (hand ground wheat, vegetable garden, honey, etc), sewing, making my own housecleaning/beauty products, etc. I make it a point to stay fit and healthy for many reasons but this too is one. If I remain fit and healthy that means: less trips to the doctor for ailments, little to no medication to sustain my life, and increased strength, endurance, and flexibility. Because of my profession I have knowledge to take care of my family medically from allergies, to minor cuts, to minor surgeries and traumas. This means I don't have to rely on misinformation clustered over the internet or an unnecessary trip the doctor's to mend minor ailments.

I also try to live simply. I do have a few basic luxury items but overall I choose to not indulge in too many items that serve no purpose. I'm the type of girl that loves a new piece of rugged camping equipment or running gear over a Louis Vuitton or Dooney & Bourke handbag.  Living simply also means that if I have to leave my home for some reason or other (or my home becomes destroyed) I have less "stuff" to weed through to figure out what to keep and what to leave. "Stuff" that gets destroyed is just "stuff"- irreplaceable things such as my husband, my dog and my cat are priorities.

So prepping, to me, really means bringing things back to the basics. Back to the "olden and golden days of my grandmother". Pies in the window, potluck cookouts with friends, and neighbors offering their handmade goods to each other for services paid. Preparing for disasters coincides with forming a more independent life.

Hearing my parents discuss their preparations for the incoming hurricane on the east coast made me proud. My mother told me she pulled out both of their rescue bags and went through them to check batteries, replace outdated food, and organize or add equipment. I feel I've finally rubbed a little of myself and my prepping lifestyle onto them!

I had put together a few Rescue Bags over the last few years but I realized I don't have a full bag with all my needs should I not be able to return (for a few days? weeks? ever?) to my home. I have an emergency bag, a medical bag, food, and a 7 gallon water tank in my car should I ever get stranded away from home, but I need to put together something more substantial for longer term.

I am trying to fit all items into my largest backpack for speed and comfort. My largest backpack is designed to hold a sleep system, hydration bladder, while still having plenty of room for extras. It also has a specially molded waist belt and suspension system to reduce fatigue on my shoulders while still bearing a solid amount of weight. So far I have a few categories my items fit into:
Medical
Sleep System
Navigation
Nutrition/Hydration
Clothing
Odds-N-Ends

Then I have a category of things to bring IF roads are manageable and I can drive a vehicle to a safe place. Finally I have a category of items to pack for the pets in an emergency.





Saturday, March 19, 2011

Honeybee Part II


Pollination

You can thank pollinators for one out of every three bites of food you eat!  The bee anatomy is well suited for carrying pollen.  In search of nectar in the flower, the Honeybee brushes against the sticky stigma (female part of the flower) leaving pollen grains (from the male part of the flower) from previously visited blossoms.
     
Honeybees tend to forage on blooms of the same kind when finding a nectar source and this results in unique flavors of local honey such as clover, tulip popular, sourwood, orange blossom, lavender or whatever is characteristic of a particular area.  Local honey is incredibly good for allergy sufferers because it is made from the flowers (therefore pollen) that are indigenous to their area.

Local honey has many holistic medicinal qualities:
·      Relieves asthma/bronchitis
·      Promotes restful sleep
·      Relieves indigestion
·      Replenishes energy
·      Enhances physical stamina
·      Boosts the immune system
·      Has natural antibiotic properties  (can be spread on skin wound or abrasion and covered with bandage)

About 90 crops in the US depend upon Honeybee pollination, the largest of which is the almond groves in California.  Sixty percent of fruits and vegetables we rely on to feed our families need Honeybee pollination.  The value of Honeybee pollination in the US is more than $14 billion annually.




Honey Production

The Honeybee collects nectar from flowers and converts it into honey, which is then stored in the hive.  Nectar is transported by the Honeybee in her special honey stomach and begins the conversion in flight through the addition of various enzymes.  Nectar/Honey is stored in wax cells on the hive frame and is partially dehydrated through ‘fanning’ by the bees.  (This changes the nectar from 80% moisture to 17%, which is the exact humidity that causes honey to never ‘spoil’.)  When the honey reaches 17% moisture the bees cap the cells with a thin layer of wax, which is produced in special wax glands on their abdomens. In its lifetime, a bee makes less than a small spoonful of honey.  To do this a bee may visit thousands of flowers a day. To make a small jar of honey, bees must visit approximately two million flowers.


Honey provides the energy for Honeybees’ flight muscles and for enabling the bee to shiver, generating heat to keep the cluster of bees warm in the winter months. The brood requires a temperature of 93 degrees F for them to stay alive and grow.  In the summer months the bees fan air throughout the hive to act as air conditioning and in the winter months the bees create a cluster around the brood and queen to keep them warm.  Pollen is also collected and stored which provides protein and fat for the brood to grow. The queen lays eggs in early spring resulting in thousands of worker bees being born and ready in late spring to carry out pollination activities.

Anybody can keep Honeybees; farmers, businessmen and women, homemakers, carpenters, children, doctors, university professors and just about anyone else you can imagine. Honeybees can be kept almost anywhere.  There are beekeepers in deserts, small towns, and rural areas, in suburban areas, in large cities and on beachfront property.  There are bee hives on the Paris Opera House, in Hyde Park in London, England and in the White House garden.  A number of restaurants have hives on their roofs in order to supply their honey needs. Check out this video about a rooftop beekeeper in NYC.



Beekeeping as a hobby is fun and interesting.  The more you read about the Honeybees, the more you respect Mother Nature and how interdependent we are with this planet.  A good book that has all you need to begin beekeeping is “First Lessons in Beekeeping” by Dr. Keith Delaplane.  Another great book is “Beekeeping For Dummies”.

I leave you with this thought from the movie, “Vanishing of the Bee”: 

“The future of the bees is not in one beekeeper with 60,000 hives but with 60,000 people each keeping one hive.”



Thursday, March 17, 2011

Canning Soups and BACON

A head/sinus cold hit me three days ago and has been beating me down more and more each day. While writing this I have a melee of health aids next to me: decongestants, Mucinex, a book, nasal spray, tea, dark chocolate, and Kleenex. My head is stuffy and everything is draining out my nose or collecting in my chest. I. feel. miserable.

The previous night, when I was feeling a bit better, I whipped up several batches of soup, beans, apple butter, and ground bison to can. Everything took a touch longer than anticipated so instead of canning that night I decided to wake up early today and get the jars in the pressure canner. This morning, however, I woke up feeling like a semi hit me. Head stuffed, chest tight and congested, nose running, boy short panties exposing a cheek, face flushed,  hair unruly, eyes watering and tearing down my face. I am sure I would have been a prime candidate for the world's most un-sexy female award.

I couldn't imagine throwing all that food away (or freezing it) so I dragged my pathetic butt out of bed and into the bathroom. I stood staring blearily at the open cupboard while debating for a full five minutes whether or not to stuff tampons up my nose then reluctantly tucked a box of tissues under my arm, adjusted my undies, and plodded downstairs to meet Cowboy in the kitchen.

We love all things bacon-y here, so after reading this article we decided to give canned bacon a try.

mmmm....bacon.


We used thick cut bacon and laid it out on baking paper (no wax)


then rolled it up (make sure you put paper in between the fold)

  then slid into a quart jar. 


Canned Bacon
Canning it raw, you don't need any extra broth or liquid.



We also canned ground bison. We prefer the leaner, more flavorful bison (or elk) to ground beef when we have the choice.  You can raw pack this but for convenience of use I chose to saute it up first then used a tsp of beef Better Than Bullion dissolved in hot water for liquid to each pint, or pound, of meat. Next time I think I will try one jar raw packed and the other with hot water instead of broth. With the beef broth in these, I figured once opened and heated I would have the option of adding flour for some delicious gravy.


For soups I made Cowboy's One Pot Meal and a super simple Black Eyed Pea Soup with Sausage. The Black Eyed Pea soup is very healthy and full of flavor for as little ingredients that are in it.

One Pot Meal



and Black Eyed Pea Soup


Black Eyed Pea Soup with Sausage
**if you have a garden and the time you can use fresh greens, homemade stock, dried beans cooked, and fresh diced tomatoes.

4c. chicken broth
2 c. water
8 oz. frozen chopped collard greens
15.5 oz. can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (I use San Marzano tomatoes- they make the very best sauce), undrained
optional add ins:
Beef Sausage or Kielbasa, sliced
gnocci
pasta

Combine broth through tomatoes (leave out the 2c. of water if you are putting it in a crock pot).  Bring to a boil then simmer for 1-2 hours. Add in sausage, season then simmer 10-15 minutes. Serve with gnocci (my favorite) or pasta.
* if you are going to can this, leave out the gnocci/pasta.

Cowboy's One Pot Meal

2 cans canned green beans, undrained
2 cans new potatoes, undrained
1 package sliced or chunked smoked sausage

Combine all, add a little chicken broth if canning, then bring to a boil then simmer a few hours.



Thursday, March 10, 2011

Back in Town

My beloved KA is now back and on her counter where she belongs. Safe and Sound. Cowboy and I had to verify and approve of the work done on her, so we opened her up. Sure enough there lay a brand new metal housing over the gears. Here are the 'before' pics. And now, the after:



Sexy isn't it? Yeah I thought so.

I haven't mixed anything up yet but I did run her a little and she purred like a kitten.

Everything was in working order, in fact there was grease dripping down the sides from their abundant lubing, but no complaints from me there. One complaint I did have was the flat burnished beater that was returned to me (I was told to pack mine with my mixer for the factory testing) was NOT my original beater! This one was old and worn down to a near nub. It looked like it was at least 30 years old and had been used every day of those thirty years. I was horrified at first but counted to a hundred and ten then politely made a call to the factory sweetly stating, "it must have been a simple mistake but...". The staff member was on it immediately, apologizing profusely and telling me she was shipping out a new one to me ASAP. After everything, I give KitchenAid 4.25/5 stars (5/5 once I dealt with the actual people that were going to fix my mixer): 0.5 lacking star for the fact that I still feel bamboozled about purchasing my mixer in '07 and, unbeknown, received an '06 model. The final lacking 0.25 star is for the frustrations during my initial phone call. 

Personally, I'm just glad to have my mixer back and ready for some serious action.

The Magical Flight of the Honey Bee


With the desire to share my fascination with honey and honeybees, I've decided to do a two-three part series on the basics of beekeeping. In my childhood our family had a constant supply of honey on hand. It went into nearly everything buttered toast, cereal, fruit, chicken, yogurt...but mainly was scooped right from the jar and into our mouths. 

In my early teenage years I somehow found my way into the home of a local beekeeper and volunteered my scrawny pony-tailed self to help him with his bees. His wife was ailing and he was an elderly man, introduced to me by my father, who smelled of pipe tobacco and honey. Still today, the scent of a corn cob pipe burning brings back fond memories especially when paired with the sweet smell of honey. 

He taught me how to spin the honey out of the combs, gently pick out the random casualty, and pour into awaiting jars. Being constantly sticky became standard. I learned how to cut out the wax slabs filled with honey from their wooden frames and package into squares for customers who preferred honeycomb to spread onto their toast. As we worked he would feed me tidbits of information about bees and the health benefits of their honey. We would break for peanut butter and honey sandwiches with a glass of milk, then go back to work in the basement. I am not quite sure what the "contract" was but I know I worked a few hours here and there and came home with a handful of freshly cut honeycomb, jars of warm honey, and even more in knowledge. 

Now into my adulthood, and being incredibly proud of my father who is a beekeeper, I have embraced honey as nearly part of my DNA. I adore honey in all ways. I still put it on my cereal, on my toast, in my tea, and in vinaigrettes, but now I have many other uses for honey. As an ultra runner and endurance athlete I have been experimenting with my nutrition in relation to my training and racing. I am currently using a product called Liquid Gold by Glory Bee Foods which is pure honey mixed with molasses and sea salt. I have several reviews and information on it if you do a search under my sister blog. Similar to GU, it is used to fuel my runs and so far has proved to be very effective not to mention incredibly tasty. 

Lastly, for nearly a year now I have used honey as a face wash (and scrub if the honey crystalizes) followed by either Rosehip Seed Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil, or Unrefined Coconut Oil as a moisturizer. Honey is both a moisturizer and an anti-bacterial, working perfectly for my irritable combination/sensitive skin. I also hand make several of my own spa products such as lip balms, candles, body butters & balms, shaving creams, bath scrubs, face masks, and household cleaning agents. Many of these products have honey in them! 

So from me to you: here's a little bit of knowledge that is "buzz"worthy.

The Honeybee
-written by Victor Lipinski, certified beekeeper located in eastern North Carolina

Touching on History

    Honeybees have been functioning on this planet for millions of years, initially solitary bees eventually evolving into social insects.  Honeybees play such an important role in agriculture that the plant world expends a lot of energy attracting bees and other insects with brilliantly colored flowers and sweet nectar (nectar is produced solely to attract pollinating insects).

     The scientific classification of the Honeybee is Apis Mellifera: meaning “honey bearing bee”.  Honeybees, native to Africa, Asia, and Europe, were brought over to the New World by Spanish and English colonists.  American Indians called the Honeybee, “white man’s flies”.

     Feral, or wild bees, live in hollow spaces found frequently in tree cavities.  Early beekeepers in the Western World kept Honeybees in various containers such as woven skeps, logs or wooden containers and harvested the honey by crushing, then gravity- straining, the wax and honey.  The father of modern beekeeping, Lorenzo Langstroth of Pennsylvania, invented the modern Langsthroth hive in 1851 when he discovered “bee space” (3/8 inch space that bees naturally create in hives) and the present day beekeeping hive design has changed little in the past 150 years.  It features 3/8 inch space between moveable frames, interchangeable parts, hive bodies and supers (where the honey is stored by the Honeybees and then extracted by beekeepers).

Structure of the Hive  

left to right: worker, queen, drone

The Honeybee hive contains three types of bees:  one queen, many female workers and a few male drones.  The queen is the mother of the hive and lays about 1500 eggs a day that metamorphize into adult bees in 16 to 24 days.  The stages of metamorphosis are egg, larvae, pupae and adult bee.  The queen doesn’t actually “rule the hive” but it is her pheromone that is transferred from bee to bee within the hive that creates a sense of calm and security.  When something happens to the queen, thereby disrupting this pheromone, the Honeybees become agitated and dysfunctional.  They must create a new queen quickly in order to propagate the species.  



     The worker bees are all female and they are responsible for keeping the hive functioning.  They take care of the queen, build up the frame cells with wax they produce, clean and guard the hive, remove dead bees, feed the brood (larvae) and eventually forage to collect pollen and nectar and water for the hive.  They never sleep and wear themselves out in about six weeks—a brief but productive lifespan.

     The drone bee, or male of the hive, has mainly one job and that is to mate with a queen.  This sounds like an easy task, but the queen cannot be from his own hive.  Every day in the early afternoon, the drones from various hives fly within a mile of their hives and remain in a ‘drone congregation area’ approximately 50 feet up in the sky awaiting the arrival of a queen to fertilize.  Fertilization by a few lucky drones occurs in flight, after which the drone dies.  The queen mates over several days with many drones as this is her only opportunity to be fertilized for the rest of her life.  (If she returns home not having accomplished enough ‘matings’ her attendants will push her out of the hive for another day of mating.)  The queen flies to a ‘drone congregation area’ further than a mile from her hive to insure that she doesn’t mate with a drone from her own hive.


We beekeepers sometimes think that it is our expertise that keeps the Honeybees alive when actually we must just learn to listen to the bees, watch them function and discover how we may support them in doing what they have done for millions of years – survive.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pressure Canning 101

First off, good news. My KA mixer is currently on its way back home from the spa. Diagnosis: stripped gears, cracked housing, and a few other maladies. I was promised repairs would be made and a new metal housing placed to protect them all. The chipper KA staffer also wanted to inform me that all models '07 and later automatically came with metal housing. Grrr....I told her I knew that and purchased my mixer in '07 although clearly was hoodwinked as the box contained an '06 model (insert explicit verbalized silently in my head). She quickly skipped on to ask me how I would like to pay the $91 charge for fixing my mixer. Oh well, bright side is it cost less than purchasing a brand new mixer.

This past week Cowboy and I gathered up ingredients to make soup in anticipation of using our All American pressure canner for the first time. Recipes: Black Bean Andouille Soup and Baked Potato Soup, two of our favorites. Big stock pots simmered aromatically on the stove for the day wafting delicious scents throughout the house.

As they were finishing cooking, I brought out the manual for the canner. I had read and re-read the booklet from cover to cover and it was now thoroughly highlighted with reminder notes in the margins. I had owned a few pressure cookers before but never a metal to metal seal heavy duty canner. Cowboy assisted in the process of ladling the soup into hot clean wide mouth quart jars, checking headspace, guiding bubbles out with my trusty "canning" chopstick, wiping rims, and securing warmed lids with bands. I was familiar and confident performing  these initial steps as they are the same for water bath canning.

Next we added 2-3" of hot water to the bottom of the canner and began to load the jars in, staggering the top jars from the bottom to create good air flow between them.




We set the heavy lid on (which we pre lubed contact points with Vaseline) and battened down the hatches. Heat was increased and we set the timer for the "exhaust" period. When the timer beeped at us we applied the weighted regulator at 15 pounds pressure for our high altitude and watched as the canner built up pressure slowly. We watched, fascinated, as the dial climbed and the gauge began to sputter, rock, and hiss. Heat was decreased to maintain 1-3 "sputters/jiggles" per minute and the final timer was set.




When the timer finally rang out we turned off the heat, allowing the canner (untouched) to come down off pressure gradually. Once the gauge read "0" the regulator was removed to allow any excess pressure to escape. Ten minutes later the lid was removed. Or...attempted to remove. The darn thing had sealed shut and I couldn't budge it. I remember reading that if it seals too tight, use a large flat head screwdriver to gently pry it open. One slight twist and the lid loosened without hesitation.

There were little food floaties in the water and I wrinkled my nose in worry. As I pulled out the jars carefully and set them on a towel, out of the way from any disturbance, I peered at the jars. There was grimy food smeared all over the jars and lids. The contents looked slightly separated, especially the potato soup jars. In fact, the potato soup jars looked down right nasty. It was hard to tell if the process had been successful from first look. I gave the jars 24hrs to cool and seal properly before I started messing with them.

I washed off the jars (crud came off easier than I anticipated) and checked their seals. All lids remained intact and perfectly concave. I peered again at the potato soup jars and made the executive decision to open one and take a peek-see. The lid popped open and inside was a congealed, spongy, disgusting mess.

It smelled fine but did not appear appetizing to say the least.

 Time to figure out what went wrong.

Per the internet, manual, and several of the canning books I owned: do not can foods that use any type of thickening agent, mainly flour. Ooops. For these foods, where applicable, cook according to recipe until the point of adding thickening agent. Can product then, just prior to serving, heat and add thickening agent.

Well, I guess this is a learning process.

Just yesterday we popped open the bean soup and dished some out with homemade corn bread. Delish! The bean soup turned out perfect although I felt I pureed this batch a little too much. Next time I would leave a larger portion with chunks, more like a 60(whole)/40(puree) mix.

Yay for canning!! Next up will be canned meats: ground beef, chunked chicken, and bacon!

So, although you can't can this recipe, I've decided to include my Baked Potato Soup recipe for all to enjoy. It is super simple and absolutely delicious. A true comfort soup.

Baked Potato Soup


4 baking potatoes- baked and chopped
2/3   c. all purpose flour
6 c. 2% milk
4 oz. smoked cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 c. reduced fat sour cream
1/2 c. green onions, chopped
6 applewood smoked bacon slices, cooked and crumbled



Spoon flour into large Dutch oven, gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Add 3/4 c. cheese, sour cream, 1/4 c. onions and potatoes. Mix well and cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated- do not boil.

Ladle into individual bowls and top with cheese,onions, and about 1 Tbs bacon. Garnish with cracked pepper if desired. Oh, and do not pressure can:)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Breakfast Hash

Breakfast Hash

2c. fully cooked corned beef, diced into 1/4"cubes
5-6 potatoes, scrubbed and diced into 1/4" cubes
1 onion, diced into 1/4" cubes
1 large carrot, diced into 1/4" pieces
1/4-1/2 stick of butter
salt and pepper
optional dash of heavy cream

Cook diced potatoes in a pot of boiling, salted water until tender but not overcooked. Drain and set aside.
Melt butter in large cast iron skillet on low. When butter is fully melted, turn heat to medium low and add  onion and carrot. Season slightly and let cook, stir occasionally to prevent burning. When onions start to turn golden (about 10 minutes) increase heat to medium-high and add potatoes and corned beef. Season and toss well, then press down into the bottom of the pan. Let sit- do not be tempted to stir!

About five minutes later (or when you start smelling the mixture get toasted) flip the hash, press down again, and let sit. Continue this until the little bits are caramelized to your liking. Add the heavy cream to make it moist and creamy if this is what you prefer. Serve piping hot!

Cowboy likes his with an egg on top





Sunday, February 20, 2011

Homemade Cream of Wheat

I have eaten Cream of Wheat (also called Bear Mush or Ralston) since I was a child. It was a main staple next to oatmeal in our family since breakfast foods were often served for dinner.  Dad loved to experiment and throw all kinds of fruit into the cereal while Mom preferred hers with "just butter, milk, and brown sugar, thank you." I have found I eat oats like my Dad but Cream of Wheat like my Mom.

Last week Cowboy and I ran out of Bear Mush so I headed out to the grocery store to pick some up. At the store, I surveyed the ingredients in the hot cereal and saw three words: Hard Red Wheat.
What?! Well hot diggity! I bought just the one box to have reference on the texture/coarseness of the grain, and headed home immediately. Cowboy, newly excited about the prospective of making our own hot cereal, helped me adjust the dial for coarseness and I tossed in a cup of hard red winter wheat into our Country Living Grain Mill.  We had to adjust it a few times to try to match the boxed variety but within no time we were grinding out tiny little bits of cracked wheat. The color was a deep golden brown where as the boxed was pale yellow-white.

We had 2c. of water with a dash of Kosher salt at a soft boil in a pot. Slowly I added 3/4-1c. cracked wheat to the water while stirring continuously. The aroma that wafted up from the pot was amazing, like homemade bread! A few minutes of stirring and we had a creamy concoction just like the boxed kind.


We headed to the table with our steaming bowls (mine prepared like my mother's, cowboy eats his with just brown sugar scooped on buttered toast) in great anticipation.


WOW. The robust, heartiness of the wheat coated our tongues and made us both shift our eyes to each other in amazement. This was good! I couldn't believe the difference in taste.

"Do I need to buy anymore Bear Mush ever again?" I asked Cowboy.
"I don't see why, fresh ground is so much better!" he confirmed to me my thoughts exactly.

*this recipe is for one person, double it to 4c. water to 1 1/2 - 2c. wheat for 2 persons*

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Creamy Whipped Shaving Cream

***update: I have since revamped this recipe. Jump here for the new improved Mug Shaving Cream***

Cowboy got me hooked on The Art of Shaving products after I voiced great displeasure seeing the mass quantities of disposable razors I use in a year. Cowboy introduced me to the safety razor which use small disposable dual sided safety blades (I use Merkur double edge SS blades). They are more economical and less wasteful than those flimsy molded plastic razors. You can find a pack of safety blades cheap at your local grocery store. They are packaged in a compact container that allows you to deposit a used blade in one side, then flip it over, and pull out a fresh razor from the other side.Very convenient, especially for traveling, and the blades can be used multiple times before discarding.

Using the safety razor for the first time was a bit scary for me when trying to manipulate this sturdy metal razor around delicate areas and bony prominences. Many years ago, I carved out a piece of flesh along my shin. **shudder** twice. I did nick myself a few minor times, mostly on the knee and ankle area, but it got easier the more I used it. The weight of the razor proved to be beneficial by not requiring much pressure against the skin to remove the hair.

I really enjoy using the AOS shaving cream with my badger hair brush. The lather is creamy with a very delicate scent. When using a brush, you need just a tiny dollop of cream about the size of a dime per leg versus the huge handful needed of foam or gel you buy in the can. Honestly, I can't stand the texture or smell of those aerosol creams and they tend to leave me with severely dry skin.

Eventually, I started buying The Art of Shaving's shaving cream in "unscented" and adding my own essential oils to it. Last week I finished off my tub of shaving cream and started dipping into Cowboy's man-scented tub in an emergency. With our busy schedule I haven't had time to run down to the mall to pick up more. I began to ruminate: could I make my own? Off to do some deep searching through my books for a recipe...

Sure enough, in one of my favorite DIY books: Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond I found just what I was looking for! There were a couple of recipes for homemade shaving cream so I picked two and pulled out the ingredients. The first one was a basic creamy recipe. I am still up in the air about this one as it didn't set very well and when I shaved with it (using a plastic disposable for a trial), it gunked up my razor something fierce. I did like the initial feel of the cream though. It was light, fluffy, and made my legs feel nice. I am going to attempt to make it once more and adjust the recipe with less beeswax to see if that makes a significant difference.

The second recipe was for Mug Shaving Cream. It lacked beeswax, but had very simple ingredients: grated castille soap, water, cocoa butter, glycerin, and essential oils. The result?

Oh I am very excited about this one. It turned out incredibly silky and creamy.

Homemade Shaving Cream
8 oz. grated castille soap (I used Dr. Bronner's. I finely grated a bar of baby soap and a little bit of a lavender bar)
8 oz. distilled water (the original recipe calls for rose water, but I felt that a bit too lady like for Cowboy)
2 oz. cocoa butter (I used wafers)
4 oz. vegetable glycerin
essential oils

Place soap and water in a container, cover and let rest overnight. The next day, melt cocoa butter and glycerin in a double boiler. As soon as they are melted, add to soap and blend with a hand mixer until creamy. Mix in essential oils and transfer shaving cream to a lidded container or mug/bowl of choice. For me, this made enough for two glass jars.



Changes: Although I love the smell of cocoa butter, it tends to overpower any essential oils. If you use cocoa butter, I would suggest choosing an oil that marries well with cocoa such as orange and/or vanilla. Next time I am going to experiment using coconut oil, Illipe butter, Kokom butter, or Mango butter. I might try Shea also, however Shea tends to be a much softer butter and might not set as well. The other four butters are harder and easily interchanged with Cocoa butter with less scent. I get my butters, herbs, and essential oils either from Mountain Rose Herbs online or Rebecca's Apothecary in Boulder.

I used the shaving cream tonight and was very impressed (more impressed than with the first recipe by far). Instead of using a disposable razor for a trial I went straight for my safety razor and brush. With AOS cream you dip your finger into the shaving cream and just put a little dollop on your moistened brush then lather. With this homemade recipe, the cream is a bit firmer and therefore kind of chunks/crumbles if you try to pull out a "dollop". True to its name, you have to moisten your brush and swirl it on the surface of the cream. This creates a nice lather on your brush which is easily transferred to your skin.

Noted:
- mug shaving cream lathered up super nice and stayed lathered. I divided my leg up into "parts" and lathered only that part until I finished shaving it then moved on to the next part. This worked well and the lather didn't dry out.
-with the AOS cream I found that if I lathered, put down the brush, then went to lather again a bit later I had to add more cream to it or else it wouldn't lather properly. With the mug shaving cream, this wasn't so. My brush stayed perfectly lathered and ready to use without having to dip into the container again.
-legs felt great after shaving. Nice close shave, very little cream needed for effect, no nicks. I can't say much about dryness since I tend to slather on the lotion like crazy. Of course, living in dry Colorado you kind of have to. However, I didn't feel I needed to reapply the lotion an hour later (have to do this if I use the nasty aerosol crap).

I will update the blog with a price comparison, but right off the bat I can tell you that this recipe (making two containers) is significantly cheaper than the one 5oz tub of AOS that I buy for $22 a pop. No more buying shaving cream for us...