Better Butter

First, I’ll allow you a moment to recover from the shock of me posting two days in a row. When I get the chance to “steal” my girl child’s computer to do some blogging, and I actually have something to blog about, I take the opportunity. And this is a post I’ve been wanting to make for a couple years now.

It’s no secret that I love butter. I’ve mentioned fresh butter several times in my postings. I’ve even talked family members who were over for dinner into helping  to make butter (once, even a sister’s ex who only dropped in to see their daughter and wasn’t even staying for dinner helped to make the butter). I don’t always make my own butter, but if I’m making a nice dinner or yummy bread, I like to have really great butter to go with it. More than once, people have said things to me along the lines of “You know they sell that at the store, right?” and “There are easier ways to make butter than that”. “I know” is pretty much my response to all of the comments. So, would you like to make your own fresh butter? You just need one ingredient, one “tool”, and a little muscle (or several little muscles with the help of some kids)

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Pour 2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream into a chilled 1 quart jar with a tight fitting lid. If you have access to fresh, raw milk and the cream that comes from that…well, I’m jealous if you do, but… it will make an even creamier, sweet, beautiful butter! Screw the lid onto your jar. Make sure it’s tight. It is important to not fill the jar all the way. Half-filled is perfect. The cream needs room to move around and do its thing to become butter.

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You can shake the jar yourself, or if you have some bored teenagers roaming around like I do, you can hand them the jar. It’s a tiring job, so usually more than one person and some turn-taking will make the task a little easier. I’ve set kids up in a circle on the floor and let them roll the jar around between them, but that takes longer (although, it keeps little ones entertained for awhile, if you need an easy activity for them!).

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You will know when the cream is turning into butter because it will start to kind of “thud” against the side of the jar. And once that starts to happen, keep shaking, as hard as you can (I almost always have taken over the task from the teenagers with tired arms by this point and finish it off myself), until there is a mass of butter and the liquid has separated. That’s buttermilk, by the way. Save it and use it in some pancakes, or Breakfast Cookies.

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Pour the liquid off into a bowl (or into a clean jar to store for later use, in the fridge of course), and spoon the butter into your favorite butter dish. Mine is a French Butter Dish I got from a friend’s shop last year.

There you have it, fresh butter. One ingredient, and a wonderful treat for topping for your favorite breads, and anything else you love topping with butter!

And now, my dear friends, family, and blog-readers… I must go. The battery on the girl child’s computer is near the end, and Red Widow is on. Have you started watching this show? Oh, you should! You really should!!!

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Filed under Cooking With Love, Recipes, Sauces/Dressings

I’m Not Irish

It’s true. I’m not Irish. But you can still kiss me. 😉 And you may want to when you see how easy and fuss-free it is to make a hearty Corned Beef & Cabbage Dinner for your family. I have talked to at least 4 people in the last week who have either never had corned beef and/or never made it. So, this is for everyone out there who has never made corned beef, especially if you have never made it because you are intimidated by the task. This will make the top 5 list of “least intimidating recipes” I will ever share with you, I’m sure!

IMAG1320Here are your ingredients:

Corned Beef

Red Potatoes

Carrots

Green Cabbage

Water

 

This is a recipe where you will be so happy you own a slow cooker. It’s what makes this such an easy meal to make. Are you ready? Get your knife out and let’s COOK!

  1.  Prepare carrots in the manner you prefer. (Either peel and cut into 1-2 inch pieces, or wash them and leave them whole, with our without the peel. I prefer unpeeled, whole carrots, myself.) Place carrots in bottom of slow cooker crock.
  2. Wash potatoes and cut in half. Place on top of carrots.
  3. Open the corned beef and rinse well. (Keep that little packet of spices. You’ll need it!) Place the corned beef on top of the potatoes in your slow cooker, fat side up.
  4. Pour about 1/2 cup water into the slow cooker.
  5. Now back to that packet of spices. You can take your pick of methods on this one, too. Personally, I don’t like the little bits of spice seeds, but the flavor is amazing and necessary for the roast, so I do use it. If you don’t mind the seeds, open up the packet and sprinkle over the top of your roast. OR, you can put some holes in the packet with a small knife and toss the whole thing into your slow cooker.
  6. Put the lid on your slow cooker, turn it on low, and walk away. In about 6-7 hours, the corned beef will be cooked and vegetables will be tender. (You can use the high setting as well, if you want it to cook faster. Same results!)
  7. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget the cabbage! Cut the cabbage into wedges. Now, if your slow cooker is large enough and there is room to put the cabbage on top of the corned beef, add it to the top 1-2 hours before dinner. If you don’t have room for it, remove the meat and move it to a platter in a warm oven (COVERED, and maybe add a little of the juice from cooking to keep it moist), and then add the cabbage for cooking.

That’s it! Your dinner is done and it will taste as if you slaved over it all day. Your secret is safe with me, if that’s what you want your family to believe.

In our home, we serve this with bread (and fresh butter of course!) and put some butter and sour cream out for the potatoes, and vinegar and/or lemon for the cabbage, along with mustard and/or horseradish for the corned beef.

There you have it! Enjoy. You may now kiss the Cook Girl. 😉

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Filed under Main Dishes, Recipes, Slow Cooker

Live; You Might Like It

Live; You Might Like It

So there’s this life I love. And in this jumbled, imperfect life, I try to find time to do all the things I love and, well, I just can’t fit it all in. So when it comes to choosing which things are priority, it’s the living of life that wins. The enjoying everyday, ordinary moments.
Of course, this means my blogging suffers, as does my housekeeping. But the thing that doesn’t suffer is life.
In a kitchen conversation with my girl child several months ago, we were talking about how I have done things I never would have dreamed of doing even just 2 years ago (things like accepting an invitation to go out on a boat with people I did not know…taking on new adventures…quitting my job…finding new joys in this crazy world), and how much more fun life is when you decide to live it. It was a “lightbulb moment” for both of us, especially for her. She excitedly yelled “Live; you might like it.”, and then ran out of the room. She returned, proud of herself, and apologizing for running out like that, but she said she wanted to write it down before she forgot.
And that night when I was getting ready for bed, I found this sticky note on my bathroom mirror. And there it stayed until moving day a few weeks ago, as a daily reminder to Live.
Oh, that’s right. You don’t know… After working 2 jobs to barely make ends meet for awhile, I was offered a new job. This new job allowed us to move out of our tiny apartment and into a nearly-perfect house, complete with garage, yard, garden, and an amazing kitchen! If we didn’t know any better, we’d think this house was built just for us. And maybe it was. And it’s just been waiting for us to be ready for it.
I have so many things to share with all of you, so many recipes, moments, new adventures, LIFE! I hope you’ll forgive me for Living Life and my delays in sharing about that amazingly imperfect perfect life!
Now, please do me a favor. Go. Live! You might like it, too!

 

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Colorful Taste

I haven’t posted in awhile, and I have so many posts running through my mind, so many fun things to share with you… But my alarm is set to start beeping at me in, oh, about 7ish hours (at 2:30am!) because the fine folks of my town need their coffee, and I don’t want to deprive them of that. So, I will share 2 pictures with you. A colorful bounty

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from my local Farmers Market and a hidden treasure waiting to be oncovered (or RE-covered as the case may be…..more on that soon.)

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Best Banana Bread

Over the past few months, I have promised several people that I would share my favorite banana bread recipe. It is not my own recipe, it is just my favorite. I mean, it’s hard to improve on a Betty Crocker recipe (but I think I managed, just because of my own special touches). The original recipe is here, which I found in a magazine-style recipe collection titled “Brunch”. I love brunch. Not because I’m pretentious and like to say things like “Let’s do brunch.” No, it’s because mornings come too early and I don’t like to cook in the early mornings, so if I’m cooking in the morning, it’s more likely to be a late breakfast/early lunch kinda thing, which is typically referred to as “Brunch”. (It’s laziness, not pretentiousness…lol)

Yesterday was a day off from my “day job”, so we had dinner early, which gave me time to make banana bread for dessert. The pictures and recipe, along with my commentary follow below:

Gather your ingredients:
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts, if desired

You’ll see in the picture that I am using the vanilla sugar and vanilla extract I made back in April. I also had the girl child make some butter while I was gathering all my ingredients, and this produced just a bit of buttermilk, so I included that in the recipe so it didn’t go to waste. I love getting all the use out of our food as we possibly can!

Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, 8 1/2×4 1/2×2 1/2 inches, or 1 loaf pan, 9x5x3 inches.
Mix sugar and butter in large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. 

 

Add bananas, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

I know you’re “supposed to” mash the bananas before adding them. But I hate taking the extra step and dirtying an extra bowl (that I’ll have to argue with the kids about getting washed. Too much effort…). I use very brown bananas, smash them a little while they’re in the skin, and then you can use either a strong whisk or a potato masher to mix them into the batter.

Stir in flour, baking soda and salt just until moistened.

Stir in nuts. Pour into pans.

If it is ever said that I’m an evil mother who doesn’t care what her children like/want, let this serve as proof to the contrary. Banana bread needs walnuts. The girl child doesn’t like them. So, I mix nuts into just half the batter, and divide the batter in the pan so we get a half loaf with and a half loaf without walnuts. Then I sprinkle extra nuts on top for easy identification of which side is which.

Bake 8-inch loaves about 1 hour, 9-inch loaf about 1 1/4 hours, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.

If you’re patient, you’ll let it cool completely like the recipe says. But if you’re me (or anything like me), you’ll wait just until it’s cool enough to touch and slice into it so it’s still nice and warm and the freshly made butter melts right into it! YUM!

 

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Honey Tea

Honey Tea

A friend shared a picture on facebook today that included a link for a “honey tea” useful as a sore throat remedy. I can’t begin to tell you how exciting this was to me. I see these “tea” concoctions all the time. Elaborate, time consuming concoctions that taste awful but are supposed to contain amazing healing properties. I’m sorry. I’m all about natural remedies, homecooking, and all that jazz… but if it tastes awful, I’ll just never use the remedy, so it’s pointless.

This “tea” is so easy, I don’t think it can be messed up.

3 ingredients, 2 preparation “tools”
Honey (preferably raw, local honey)
Lemon
Gingerroot
Knife
Jar with lid

I found my honey at a local place called Bees in the Burbs. I know the owner of the place from my “day job”, and my daughter is friends with his daughter at school, too. So I was thrilled to go in search of their shop that they recently opened, where they were happy to show us around, even taking the boy child outside to show him a swarm of bees that were gathering around an area where some syrup had spilled.

I chose the wildflower honey at his suggestion, and as you can see from the pictures, the honey is crystallizing a bit. That’s a good thing. That means the honey is raw, not pasteurized, a process that cooks out all the good healing properties. At room temperature, raw honey will do this. It has not gone bad (honey is a natural preservative). If you want to be able to pour it into your drinks or cooking at home, you need only warm it lightly.

Thinly slice 1 lemon. This should be enough to almost fill a pint jar.

Peel the outer skin from about an inch-long piece of ginger root. Thinly slice it and add it to the top of the lemons in the jar.

Add the honey to the jar with the lemons and ginger. My 12 oz honey bear filled it to the top. Just the right amount. I stirred it a bit to get the honey mixed in with the lemons and ginger, and that was it. Throw the lid on that baby and put it in your fridge. When someone in your home starts to feel a tingle of a sore throat coming on, pull out your honey tea, place a spoonful in a mug, and mix it with a cup of hot water. Drink and feel the magic of nature go to work!

 

For once, I am actually going to use a “tea concoction”. I’m almost looking forward to that first winter cold now, just so I can pull my honey jar from the back of the fridge and put it to use. (Ok, not really. I actually hope we stay healthy and don’t have to use it, but it’s there if we need it.)

For information on the health benefits of honey, lemons, and ginger, check out the links below. And for goodness sake, find yourself a local, raw honey supplier! You’ll thank me later. (Especially if you’re an allergy sufferer! Local raw honey has been shown to reduce or even eliminate pollen allergies. Why? Because you are ingesting the local pollens and this helps build up the body’s immunity to those pollens.)

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/health-benefits-of-organic-locally-grown-raw-honey/

http://www.amritaveda.com/learning/articles/ginger.asp

http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/Physical-Health/Hidden-Health-Secrets-of-Lemons.aspx

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Crowd Pleasing Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara

I love to cook for people. Have I ever mentioned that before? I recently met some new people to cook for, and at our first meeting, I kinda bragged about being an amazing cook. I even brought some of my Homemade Bagels to share. I think they liked them (either that or they’re great at faking it.lol) So of course, when the invitation came for me to bring my kids out to their house and cook dinner, I was all-too-happy to plan a meal that would be both simple enough to cook while visiting and something my hostess would be able to easily recreate on her own, but also a crowd pleaser and a “wow” kinda meal. I do believe I picked a near-perfect meal to do the trick. I have only 1 picture to share with you, and the credit for that goes to Carri who brought out her phone to snap a picture before we dished up. I was too busy enjoying cooking in a big kitchen and visiting and dancing while doing so to think about taking pictures. (I know, shocking, right?)

Our hosts spent a good amount of time that day showing me and my kids around and introducing us to all their animals, even putting my girl child on a horse to ride around for a bit (the boy child had no interest). They shot a bow and arrow, enjoyed the company of children other than each other, and generally just had a nice, fun, relaxing day/evening. And I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with adults outside of work, something I don’t get to do enough of lately.

I am not a perfect cook, to which I have admitted many times. I do make some really great food, most of the time, but I do have my mishaps… In planning the menu, I decided I wanted to make dessert as well, which I was going to prepare at home and bring along. I decided on my old “signature” dessert of cream puffs…but they didn’t puff, and my work schedule was so hectic there was no way I would have time to re-make them. Seeing my sadness (I was near tears…probably more because of my hectic schedule and trying to do too much and overwhelming myself than having not had success with the puffs, though…) at not having success with this, my girl child (15 years old now, by the way! How did THAT happen?!) offered to give them a try while I was at work. When I saw her facebook status update declaring “I WIN”, I knew she had had success and it was for sure a proud mommy moment.

So, what did we share with this family of new friends? Having bragged about being an amazing cook, it had to be something amazing, of course… Well, the cream puffs, of course, thanks to the girl child. I also made Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara (the recipe is below, but to be honest, I didn’t really follow it too closely, and had only made it once before this night, so threw it together from memory, but it seemed to turn out quite well… also, this recipe is a combination of several I found on the www with my own little twists added to it) and a big green salad with lemon salad dressing. Yeah, that’s it. But it was plenty!

Thanks again for letting me come out to your house and mess up your kitchen!

 

Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara

This is a dish that can be complete in less than 20 minutes if you gather all your ingredients before you start. It’s simple, with simple ingredients, and a crowd-pleaser!

When I told my kids one night that we were having Spaghetti Carbonara for dinner, they both cried out “YUM!!!!” But they had no idea what it was. They just liked the sound of the name. When I told them it had bacon in it, I thought they would both faint from excitement. I love these simple meals that impress. 🙂


Ingredients:

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 3/4 pound bacon, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, divided
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 lemon
    Here’s What to do:

    1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Smash about 8 cloves of garlic (or more) and add them to the water (I do this instead of salt) along with the pasta. Cook to al dente, according to package directions.

    2. Meanwhile, heat the largest skillet you have over medium to medium-high heat. Add bacon to pan and cook, stirring often, until crisp. Chop the remaining garlic cloves, and slice the green onion (green and white parts), reserving a bit for garnish. Add these to the bacon and grease in the pan and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Chop tomato into cubes and cut lemon in half during this cooking time.

    3. In a bowl, beat yolks and add 1/2 cup of the water from the pasta. This keeps the eggs from scrambling when added to the pasta.

    4. Drain pasta and add it directly to the skillet with the bacon mixture. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Working quickly, toss to coat the pasta, adding more water to make a creamy texture, maybe a ladel or 2 full. Remove from heat and add a large handful of cheese, about 1/2 cup or so, and chopped tomatoes. Continue to toss the pasta until it thickens. Garnish with reserved green onion and extra grated Parmesan.

    5. Serve in pasta bowls or on plates with large sides to hold the yummy goodness in!

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My Bacon Story

There was a time in my life when making bacon was a chore. But bacon is worth the chore, right? So I would get out the shirt aptly named “The Bacon Cooking Shirt”, courtesy of all the bacon grease splatters it was stained with, and get the bacon started on its way to sizzling, crispy perfection on the stove, jumping every now and then to try (and fail) to avoid the bacon grease splatters. We would enjoy the bacon, it would make us smile..and then we would walk into the kitchen and slide across the grease-covered floor and start the cleanup of bacon grease from the stove, counters, and floor. We didn’t eat bacon very often in those days. Too much work.

It pains me to learn of the number of people who still cook bacon this way. There is an easier way, people. Easy! And no babysitting of the pan, or flipping of the bacon is necessary. Yes, really. It’s true!

All you need is your favorite bacon (mine comes from a local farmer I used to buy my pork from in my hometown. I’m hoping to find a new local farmer in my new town soon, since my freezer is starting to get quite low on meats!), an oven set to 425 degrees, and a bar pan (jelly roll pan, whatever you call it, as long as it has sides. You do NOT want to use a pan with no sides. You need the pan to be able to hold the bacon grease.) Line the bacon in a single layer across the pan. You can put it pretty close together, but don’t overlap it. Put the pan of bacon in the oven, and set your timer for 15 minutes. (Please, please, please set the timer. Don’t believe that you will remember, because you won’t, and you’ll forget about it, that is, until your smoke alarm reminds you that you were cooking bacon. And then you have a pan of burnt nothingness and that is just wrong, on so many levels.)

Don’t worry. The 15 minutes is just a starting point. I always set it for 15 minutes and check it then, but usually end up re-setting the time for another 5-10 minutes. Personally, I think bacon is done just before it burns. My kids, sadly, do not tend to agree with me. But, I’m the one cooking, and when they decide to cook, they can make it how they like it. But, once in awhile I’m feeling generous and will take a few pieces off the pan early for them.

Tonight’s bacon cooking is serving multiple purposes. BLTs on the menu for the night, paired with oven fries, which I cooked on the same pan (after removing the bacon and most of the bacon grease). The bacon grease gave a great extra bit of flavor to the oven fries tonight. MMMMMMMM!!!!!! And the remaining bacon grease? Well, it now sits in a jar, on a shelf in my fridge, awaiting its turn at flavoring some fresh green beans we got in our Bountiful Baskets produce pickup this past weekend. And it will get to flavor some other things over the next couple weeks as well, I just don’t know what those things are quite yet.

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Worth the Drive!

After working 8 hours yesterday, I took a little (hour long) drive with my kiddos to my baby sis’s house. Why would I do that to myself, after working all day? It was for the tacos. But we’re not talking just any run-of-the-mill, Americanized tacos. Oh no. We’re talking authentic Mexican tacos, with pork so tender the pieces melt in your mouth, onions, fresh guacamole, warm, soft corn tortillas, queso fresco, and oh my word, this time there was a special treat of a cactus salad. I know my sis and brother-in-law were laughing at me as I excitedly asked what it was, but in the instant I asked, I also answered, knowing it must be cactus. Excitement!

But let’s back up  a minute. When I arrived at their house, sis and I took off for the auto parts store and left  brother-in-law to clean the kitchen. Me being the girl that I am, and perfectly willing to play the “girl card” (much to my sister, Frances‘s annoyance), I found this quite hilarious. But, we went, and we bought supplies for him to give my car a tune-up, which he happily did (well, maybe not *happily*, but he did it, none-the-less) after making dinner for us, while sis and I enjoyed some of Mom’s homemade Kahlua with milk over ice. (And then we enjoyed some more with dinner, and some more after dinner…and decided we need to get Mom’s recipe and we need to make more!)

When my brother-in-law makes tacos, I always come prepared to eat, and eat a lot. And this time was no different. I started with 5 tacos on my first plate. (Because that was all that would fit.) And by the end of the night, I had gone back for 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, and been given tacos that others did not eat. I lost count after eating taco #12. And I am not ashamed. Don’t come between the skinny girl and her food!

My kids and I stayed overnight, and baby sis was even kind enough to set up the coffee pot so I would have coffee when I got up in the morning. It wasn’t nearly enough to repay their kindness and generosity, but my kiddos and I helped my nephews with their chores before we left today, so my sis and brother-in-law would (hopefully) arrive home after work to a clean house. I hope the boys managed to keep it that way after we left.

Thanks baby sis and brother-in-law!!! I hope you know how much I appreciate all that you do for me. Love you guys! xoxo

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Purple is Better, Anyway

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Well, I much prefer purple kitchen towels to plain ol’ white ones, anyway. Which is good, because I kinda stained my white towel cleaning up the mess from canning blueberries. Quick tip: when canning, pay attention to the headspace or the liquid will leak all over and you won’t get a proper seal. So these vanilla and lavendar infused blueberries will be stored in the fridge just in case, and used up much sooner than anticipated. I think a jar or 2 may make their way into Mom’s hands so she can add them to a blueberry pie for Dad.

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