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.

- 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...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Corn Bread and Black Bean Andouille Soup

I made a quadruple batch of my Black Bean Andouille Soup for canning today which just screamed corn bread.  I ground my dent corn into cornmeal and then a cup of hard white wheat for the base of my corn bread. The results: moist, slightly crunchy, dense texture, fabulous. I added a tiny dollop of molasses with the honey because that's how we do corn bread in our house: sweet. The molasses just adds a hint of carmel goodness. Too much and it's bitter so just a drizzle will do.

Black Bean Andouille Soup

3 strips Applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled (reserve 2 Tbs grease)
12 oz. Andouille sausage, casings removed and browned
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 1/2 tsp Kosher slat
1 Tbs chili powder (I use medium heat)
1/8 tsp cayenne powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil (if you don't have either oregano or basil you can sub Italian Seasoning)
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken broth
32 oz black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbs tomato paste
2 tsp molasses
1 Tbs cider vinegar

 Andouille Sausage links, casings removed and browned

Saute onion through salt in reserved bacon grease until tender. Add chili powder through bay leaf and saute one minute. Add tomato paste through chicken broth. Bring to a boil, add molasses and vinegar then drop to a simmer. Simmer partially covered for 45 minutes- 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Using an immersion blender (or in batches with regular blender) puree part of the soup. Add bacon and sausage, simmer an additional 15-30 minutes (do not allow to burn on the bottom). Serve with a dollop of sour cream, cheddar cheese, and/or corn bread.

**you can substitute turkey sausage or make it vegetarian, it's still extremely tasty!

  Finished soup: pureed

Yankee Corn Bread: adapted from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book (amazing book)

1 c whole wheat flour
1 3/4 c cornmeal
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 Tbs butter, melted
3 Tbs honey
dash molasses
2 c buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Add honey and molasses to melted butter. Combine with buttermilk and eggs. Put wheat through soda in a sifter and sift into a bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry, stir just to combine. Pour into greased 8 x 8" pan. Bake 350 for 35-40 minutes or until done.  Let sit 15 minutes before slicing.

hot out of the oven


The Making of Beard/Mustache Wax

Cowboy and some of his work crew are claiming February to be Fu Manchu Month (men.... ) Cowboy has promised me he is not shaving his beloved beard off for this event, but just growing out his 'stash a little. No fu manchu for him, thank goodness as I adore his full face of hair though usually closely shaven and well maintained. It is very soft and handsome on him. 

For the growing month, he had shown some interest in beard/mustache wax to tame his "flyaways".  We hunted for a recipe and I whipped one up in the wee hours of the morning.  It was fun to make, not unlike lip balm, and the smell of the beeswax was heavenly. I produced several sized containers, strengths of wax, and scents for him to try. 

Basic ingredients: Beeswax (homegrown from my Dad in NC, a local beekeeper), vaseline, and my own addition of Vitamin E oil.


Adding in a small lump of vaseline (gross, I know)

Melted wax, vaseline, Vit. E, and essential oils

End products. Cowboy suggested the lip balm tubes for easy travel and touch ups.

Vanilla Sandalwood- (one of my favorites. Musky, manly yet slightly sugar cookie)
Ginger Orange Patchouli
Man Blend- WildChild Original and it is by far my favorite scent. Has e.o. of cinnamon, patchouli, vanilla, sandalwood, and others. I scented one of cowboy's shaving creams with this. After he shaves it is not uncommon to find my face permanently buried in his neck, smooching on him. I should rename this "Chick Magnet" or at least WildChild magnet...
Plain- I loved just the sweet soothing smell of beeswax

So far positive feedback from Cowboy on the taming of the beard hairs. He tells me he keeps a small tin in his pants pocket so that the heat of his body warms it slightly making the application easier. The scents are very light and mild which was a good last minute thought since I figured he would be smelling it all day long.  

He smells so good I can't help but get close and kiss on him more. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Country Living Grain Mill

My KA is en route to the factory as we speak to be "diagnosed" and repaired. My discussion with their rep was not very productive. After becoming flustered speaking to their initial employee who attempted to assure me that the plastic housing does not affect the actual function of the mixer I calmly explained exactly how important it was in the entire function of the machine then politely asked for a supervisor. That first employee was also the one to inform me that KA had revamped their mixers with a better housing in '07. I explained that after extensive research on professional mixers I had bought the mixer in '07 so why don't I have the new housing as the box and manual all verify in bold the promise of all metal parts? She said, "You have a '06 model, even though you purchased it in '07. The Serial number indicates the year it was manufactured." Well, I feel cheated in a big way. How would I know that?

I'm also saddened because, all things aside, I really was impressed with the grain mill. I felt it did a great job milling the grains. It was quick and efficient. Now I'm a bit concerned whether I should use it on my machine once I get it fixed. I am thinking I will only do light softer grains with it so as not to stress the mixer. 

So $34 has been charged for shipping three ways (a box shipped to me to put the mixer in, the shipping to the factory, and the factory sending it back). From there they will check the mixer out. It could cost anywhere between $40-$140. If I choose not to get it repaired they charge me a $25 assessment fee and ship it back. I'm throwing a mini pout over this but with them unwilling to fix it on their own I don't have much choice but to purchase a new one or take the cheaper route and just pay to get it fixed. I'm giving you the evil eye KitchenAid. Yes, the evil eye.

Meanwhile, dearest Cowboy bought a hand crank grain mill after seeing the damage the KitchenAid mill did to my mixer and the sorrow it brought.

A 50lb bag of Yellow Dent Corn arrived at the doorstop along with the grain mill. Our first thought: Corn Bread! Cowboy purchased the additional extension handle to make the milling a bit easier along with an extra spare parts kit and a corn/bean auger.

This heavy beauty can handle anything. From the manufacturers:
"Solid I-beam construction from cast aircraft aluminum, double industrial sealed bearings, stainless steel shaft, and carbon steel grinding plates come together to make a rugged and durable mill, which we back with our lifetime warranty. "

First run through at very course setting

Second Run

The Supervisor

I think we only needed two passes through but we weren't sure how it was going to turn out so we just fine tweeked throughout the milling. Cowboy initially had it powdery fine on the last run and I had to adjust because I like my cornbread with a little crunch and texture to it. 

This was a brighter yellow than the popcorn we had milled with the KA. I had set out our store bought cornmeal to compare and we both wrinkled our noses at it. It was a pale washed out yellow, almost white. There wasn't much texture to it and the smell was non-existant. The fresh cornmeal was vibrant, crunchy, and had a great corn aroma. 

I admit, I can see where having a motor (sold separately) attached would be a bit of a luxury. Hand cranking that corn was quite the workout. Not strenuous, as the extension handle made the chore run smooth and snag-free. It just took a bit of time to grind all that. I think I will get quicker at it once I find out the settings to grind the grains on so that I don't have to make too many passes. This will also cut down on over heating the grains. I filled two quart sized mason jars with it (one hopper full) and ended up giving away one to my best friend- my sidekick of all things crafty. She texted me that night "Homemade cornbread with honey butter- yum!" 

Tomorrow I will be making a large batch of my favorite Black Bean and Sausage Soup to can in my pressure canner. I think corn bread is definitely in order! Pictures and recipe to follow, of course.