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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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Market Colors

Market colors make a grey day bright again!

In spite of the cloudy, drizzly day today, the local farmers were out as usual on the street, sharing their food and their knowledge. I always learn something when I go to the market, and what’s better than that is that I often get to teach something as well. This grey day turned colorful as I walked around, talking to the farmers and other vendors, picking up my colorful bounty.

Today I was given a great way to cook up some kale leaves. I picked up the Russian Kale from Parke Creek Farm where she told me the differences between the varieties and some ways to cook them. I chose this variety because she described making kale chips with them by spritzing them with some olive oil and sprinkly with some sea salt, then baking in a low heat oven until crisp. Sounds like a great snack. I also picked up a colorful bunch of radishes in several different colors, along with some onions and arugula. This is my main stop for produce each time I visit the market. This week, though, I did pop over to get some fresh tomatoes as well. I grabbed the remaining handful of “seconds” (these are tomatoes that may be slightly bruised or are badly mishapen, but they still taste great and it gives me a chance to try a variety of tomatoes!) from their bin and went happily on my way to the cheese stand to pick up some fresh goat cheese.

Another favorite stop along the way is always Whitaker Grass Fed Beef where the farmers are always glad to see me. Today we chatted about family and how we eat. She is much better than I am with keeping processed foods out of her home, but I think I’m getting better. And I got to teach her something today. Yup! We talked about my Eye Roll Worthy Ranch Dressing and she seemed excited to try it. I hope she likes it as much as we do in our home. I picked up a couple packs of ground beef from her that I have not decided yet what to do with them, but I have a couple recipes in mind (one of them is a soup recipe I found when going through some old papers this morning).

A successful, colorful day at the market will end with a family favorite dinner of  Old Faithful, using pork chops from another local farmer. I am running low on pork in my freezer, so am glad that I have paid my deposit for this year’s order and look forward to filling up again in a couple months! The tomatoes and onions in the dinner will be from my market finds today, and I am going to use Jasmine rice, just for something a bit different. And as an added bonus, I have FRESH herbs growing in my garden that I get to use.

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Rhubarb Dessert

I look forward to this every year. Rhubarb brings back memories of childhood. Of going out to the yard and picking a stalk off the plant and eating the tart treat right then and there. I can feel the tingle in the back of my mouth now, just thinking of it.

As quickly as this crop comes in and seems to be over-abundant, it is gone. Not to be seen again until next summer. So I savor it while it’s here, and sometimes, if I’m really lucky, someone will share the extra from their plants and I might even slice some up to freeze for use mid-winter when I’m craving this simple rhubarb dessert.

This recipe comes from my Mom. She and an old neighbor came up with it one summer when there was, apparently, a bumper crop of the tasty, tart treat, and it has been a staple in our kitchens ever since!

Rhubarb Dessert

  • 5 c chopped rhubarb*
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 (3oz) pkg jello (red, preferably raspberry)
  • 3 c miniature marshmallows
  • 1 pkg white or yellow cake mix (plus ingredients to make the cake)

Arrange rhubarb in a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle sugar and jello over rhubarb. Top with marshmallows.

Prepare cake mix as directed on package. Spread evenly over marshmallows. Bake at 350F for 50-55 minutes.

If desired, after cooling for 5 minutes, turn it out of pan. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

*You can make this a strawberry-rhubarb dessert by using 1/2 strawberries and 1/2 rhubarb at about 2.5 cups each.

**Yes, this is filled with lots of processed foods. Yes, I am well aware that I talk about eating whole foods, unprocessed foods… but I also know that it is ok to have a treat now and then. And… as a reminder, I am not perfect. Well, I am perfectly *imperfect*. 😉

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Eye Roll Worthy Ranch

I make an eye roll worthy Ranch dressing. It will make people roll their eyes for different reasons, but will almost always bring on the eye roll in some form.

Believe it or not, some people don’t understand why I would make my own Ranch dressing (or any other dressing for that matter) when the condiment aisle is filled with so many choices and it wouldn’t take any effort. These people are rolling their eyes at my preference to make my own dressings (and many other things) because they think I waste my time to make something that I can just buy in a bottle… but they don’t know what the next group of eye rollers know…

Anyone who has ever tried my Ranch dressing has rolled their eyes. It’s that eye roll of pleasure. Yes, I don’t mind if I do say so myself, my Ranch dressing will make your eyes roll back in your head!

My secret is simplicity! And I’m going to share it with you.

Eye Roll Worthy Ranch Dressing:

  • buttermilk
  • mayonnaise
  • garlic
  • fresh herbs

As with most of my “recipes”, there’s not much recipe at all, just a list of ingredients. And with this one, it’s a matter of taste and how much dressing you want to make. So, here’s how I do it.

Start with equal amounts of buttermilk and mayonnaise (I never measure, but it’s probably about 1 cup of each). Mix in 1 pressed garlic clove and 2-3 tablespoons of fresh herbs. My favorite combo is dill and chives. I’ve used oregano and marjoram and thyme, also. Generally, I send my kids out to the garden to choose 2-3 herbs to mix in. Whisk all of it together and put it in a jar in the fridge. It’s best to allow at least 30 minutes for the flavors to blend together before serving.

I would try to give you an idea of the shelf-life for this, except it rarely lasts more than 3 or 4 days in my fridge before I find the jar empty. 😉

I serve this up with salads, potatoes, oven fries, fresh veggies… you can make this a thicker dressing for a dip by adding more mayonnaise than buttermilk.

Enjoy!

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Kitchen Success

I’m back! And well, I thought it would be so much more fun if you had to GUESS what my latest kitchen success might be! So here’s a poll. It’s open for only 1 day. Cast your vote by tomorrow night and I will reveal the details of my kitchen success once voting closes. Share with all your friends and get them in on the fun, too!

 

 

 

 

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Evolution of a Recipe

As a young Cook starting out in the kitchen, I was given a recipe from Mom that has stayed with me ever since. We made it together once, and she wrote it down for me. The original recipe she wrote out was not exactly what we cooked together. I think this must have been the beginning of the end of following recipes “to the letter” for me.

Over the years this recipe has served me well as a quick, “throw it together at the last minute” meal, and it is also a “company worthy” meal, especially if paired with a nice salad. What started in my kitchen as simply “Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli”, has evolved into something that I still call “Chicken & Broccoli”, and yet, it is a rare occassion that broccoli is the only vegetable in the pan/on the plate.

Tonight’s version included nearly 2 heads of garlic (much more than the 6 small cloves called for in the original recipe), carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, chicken, and angel hair pasta. Amounts? You got me! I have no idea, except that all of it together more than filled my very large Stir Fry Skillet and will provide leftovers for dinners and lunches this week.

 RECIPE EVOLUTION:

 ~Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli~

½ lb. spaghetti

¼ c. safflower oil

6 sm. cloves garlic, minced

2 bunches broccoli, cut into small pieces (3 cups)

3 whole chicken breasts, boned, skinned, halved and cut into strips (1 ½ lb.)

¾ c. chopped fresh parsley

Black pepper

 Boil spaghetti until AL DENTE; drain. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add broccoli and sauté for 2 minutes, then transfer to a heated dish. Add chicken to skillet and sauté until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Toss pasta with broccoli and chicken. Garnish with parsley, sprinkle with pepper and serve.

 Serves 6

 cal. 421                        chol. 57mg

carbo. 37g                   sod. 79mg

prot. 28g                      pot. 802mg

t fat 18g                      fiber 2g

sat fat 3g                     calc 159mg

                                    iron 3.5mg

Mom’s notes:

When I made this, I sautéed the garlic along with the broccoli and sprinkled with lemon-pepper. If you use a salt-free lemon pepper, the sodium count from above stays the same. One with salt adds to the sodium content of the dish. I also sprinkled some lemon-pepper on the chicken as it cooked and skipped adding the pepper at the end of the recipe. Most times, my broccoli took longer than the 2 minutes to cook properly, too.

/end Mom’s recipe

For years I have posted online with a group of women. We are bonded together by our love of cooking, but our relationships have grown to be so much more than that. This is where the above recipe was in it’s evolution stage when I was still pretty new to online groups, and this is how I shared my recipe at that time.

Chicken And Broccoli With Pasta Recipe

broccoli flowerettes (approx 1 pound)
boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed (approx 1 pound)
4 cloves garlic, pressed (I probably use more than that, b/c we like garlic)
angel hair pasta

In a large skillett cook broccoli until crisp-tender, chicken until done. cook each with as much garlic as you like (we use A LOT!!) cook pasta, toss all together. I sometimes add a little parsley, and lemon pepper. it’s fast and easy, total of about 15-20 minutes. I put soy sauce and parmesan cheese on the table, and everyone picks their own topping.

Serve with Garlic Toast (or Garlic Cheese Bread) and salad.

Fully grown now, and this is the first time I’ve looked at this recipe in, well, I don’t know how long. I wasn’t even sure I’d still have the original copy from Mom. And tonight, I made my much-loved “Chicken & Broccoli”. It was really just my way of using up the vegetables in the fridge that were in need of cooking and taking up my valuable fridge space. Yes, tonight, it was as my recipe above states, except that I used nearly 2 heads of garlic, and added to the pan a head of cauliflower and several carrots. I have been known to include mushrooms and/or zucchini, and any other stray vegetables that may be laying around, just wanting to be added to a sizzling pan of oil and garlic and tossed with pasta.

I have discovered that freshly grated/shredded parmesan is better than the powdery stuff from a can. (Although, I do prefer the powdery stuff from a can when making my garlic toast. A little garlicky butter spread on french bread, and sprinkled with that and then broiled until brown… it’s like a slice of heaven that reminds me of spaghetti dinners from my childhood!) I have served this up to many people, and everyone tops it differently. For a friend who likes spicy food, he would add chili paste to his portion. My kids eat it just as it is, no toppings. I like fresh parmesan *and* soy sauce sprinkled on mine.

My Notes:

If you start the water for pasta at the same time you start the cutting and slicing and dicing, you should be eating dinner by the time the pasta is finished cooking, if you’re using angel hair pasta, that is. I definitely prefer this with angel hair pasta!

I cook this now with extra virgin olive oil, and the pasta gets coated with a generous amount of same to keep it from sticking together in one big clump.

As I said, this is an easy way to use up whatever veggies are on hand. I’ve put just about any veggie you can think of into the pan, and always love how it turns out. I mean, really… it’s cooked in garlic! Everything tastes great cooked in a little (or a lot of) garlic, am I right? 😉

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Filed under Chicken, Cooking With Love, Main Dishes, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetables

Comfort on a Plate

Comfort on a Plate

I think everyone has 1 specific meal that brings them comfort. No matter what is going on in their life at that very moment, they can enjoy that meal and feel immediately better, all their worries melting away.

For my kiddos, when they have a bad day, or when they’ve been away from home for awhile, or are about to leave for awhile, the request is almost always Salisbury Steak with Mashed Potatoes. Tonight they got their “Comfort on a Plate”. It’s been a pretty crazy week for us, and giving them this treat was the least I could do for them. Yesterday we picked the last of the potatoes from the garden, and we had some burger patties left from cheeseburgers on Sunday, so it was a logical choice, really. I also pulled a can of beans from the pantry and cooked up the rest of the carrots from the farmer’s market to round out the meal.

I admit, I do not always cook from scratch and I do buy canned veggies to have on-hand. Hey! I never said I was perfect!!! 😉

 

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Gettin’ Pickled

Two weeks ago was “pickle-makin’ weekend” at my sis’s house. I joined my parents, my sis and her foster daughter, and my own kids (who had arrived on Friday afternoon with my parents, as I was at a training and not arriving until nearly midnight) for the weekend on our quest to get pickled!

Mom & Dad picked up the cukes and other supplies needed for the pickling extravaganza, including snipping all the dill from the plants in my garden (I was hoping that big ol’ thing that was out-of-control was going to be useful!)

We had a great time all day, the kids were helpful… the girls were helpful by staying out of our way (at least I think that’s what they have made themselves believe. 😉 ) and the boy was helpful and learned how to make pickles, like my Great Grandma used to make!!! I’ll share the recipe with you, and you can see my sis’s video in her post about the weekend (linked in the first paragraph). As a reward for the all the boy’s hard work, the girls did all the dishes while he got to sit and relax. And he got to be the one to try the very first pickle out of the jars!!!

So, why did I wait 2 weeks to tell you about gettin’ pickled? Because it is 2 weeks from pickling day that the hard work pays off and you get to open the first jar and give them a try. Which means that TODAY, while my sis and her foster daughter were here, we opened the jar and watched as the boy child chose his pickle and took the first bite. And it was good. (And he is still alive, so we must have done it right, huh?)

 

 

Want to make your own pickles? Here’s the recipe:

Mom’s Dill Pickles
(Well, my Mom’s Mom’s… so that would be my Great Grandma)

Put 1 quart cider vinegar, 1 quart water, and ½ cup pickling salt together in a non-reactive**** saucepan and boil for a few minutes. Then pour the mixture over small cucumbers which are packed tightly into jars along with garlic, peppers, and fresh dill. (Ratios to your taste.) Process in water bath for 15 minutes.

I got to take home 28 of the 54 jars of pickles, because of my larger family. For those of you who think this sounds like a lot of pickles… well, today for lunch, we ate half a jar. My kiddos love to take pickles for their lunches and I like to put them out as a snack when we have people over, and then of course there is potato salad, sliced pickles on sandwiches, chopped pickles in tuna sandwiches… the list could go on and on… So… I think we might have enough to last us the year…

::Notes taken from my sis’s post:

** We are not bound by these guidelines, but if we want to enter things in the county fair, they must be made to USDA standards. Oh, and it’s meant to be safer.
*** Ratios of water/vinegar have been changed from the original to be in line with what we made. Dad also points out that some of the reasoning for this is that ‘in the olden days’ vinegar was more acidic that it is today.
**** Non-reactive saucepans are a stainless steel, chip-free enamelware pan, or glass pans.

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Filed under Canning, Cooking With Love, Recipes

Journal. 8.11.2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It was hot today as I ventured into the garden to see what would await the dinner table. I found:

  • tomato plants heavy with fruit which has yet to ripen
  •  eggplants that I am beginning to wonder if they will produce any fruit at all (though the leaves are a gorgeous deep purple now, making me smile)
  • corn stalks that I am proud to say we started from seed and are now growing nearly as tall as my 13-year-old girl child
  • potatoes, oh so many potato plants (I will definitely be sharing those crops!)
  • and there… at the back of the garden is where I find the night’s treasure

The zucchini has been slow to start, but I am so proud to report that we snipped 2 zucchini from the vines, each about 4 inches long. We also snipped several blossoms, including the still-young zucchini they were attached to. And oh my. The flavor! Intense, bright flavor! I experienced tonight a flavor explosion so great that I may never buy zucchini from a store again (ok, that’s probably not true, since we don’t have a long growing season… but it will never be the same).

—————————————————————————-

Well, that was fun… but I haven’t kept a journal in many years, and don’t expect I’ll be starting again now. So, what triggered that journal posting? Simple… I shared my productive day with friends & family via a Facebook Status Update that read:

WOW! Productive day! After work I set the raw milk out with yogurt culture (yes, making my own yogurt! Go Me!), clipped the first of the zucchini (2 of them) off the vines, along with a few of the blossoms & snipped some chives. Put together a quiche with our fresh veggies, then used the remaining chives and some leftover buttermilk to make a fresh ranch dressing…..

Two of the replies that followed:

Patty said: Little House on the Prairie!!

Daniel said: I feel like you should be on one of those survival TV shows…. where they are left out in the middle of a forest on a deserted island…. you’d probably whip up some German Chocolate Pound Cake from roots, bugs, and moss… idk how, but I’m sure you’d find a way lol

Those replies made me wonder what it would have been like to live “On the Prairie” (which, by the way, I don’t remember ever watching the show… but perhaps I should…) or try to survive on a deserted island. I would surely keep a journal then, right? Well, this blog from That Cook Girl is as close as you’ll find me to journaling. So, enjoy… and check back soon because I’ll be sharing my experience with making yogurt (which I will then turn some of that into cream cheese)… and I’ve got some amazingly wonderful ideas for using up an over abundance of eggs (no, I don’t have chickens, but many of my friends do… so I get eggs. I’ll share my garden crops with them).

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If You Build it… They Will Eat

The kitchen table is a magical place. Wouldn’t you agree? It is there where you dream and where you get to have long talks with your family and your friends. It is the kitchen table that makes life, dreams, and love possible. If the kitchen table is so magical, I have to wonder why more people don’t sit around theirs. It seems to me that the best way to have a magical life is to create it around your kitchen table.

My dream of building a house is on hold, but that’s ok. It gives me more time for planning every detail. I once drew a quick sketch of what I wanted in a house. When I showed it to a friend, he asked “Why is half the house a kitchen?” I couldn’t even come up with a reply to that. My question when I see house plans is always “Why is the kitchen so small?” I say get rid of the living room, because I want everyone to gather in the kitchen with me, around that magical table. I want people to enter my home, whether through the front, back or side door and be transported to a special memory of sitting around the kitchen table at Grandma’s house. I want my kitchen to be what envelops my home, with access to all other parts of the house coming right through the kitchen.

As I go outside, I want to pass through my kitchen and into a garden that is fit to feed my family and all my friends, using only the freshest, most high quality foods, grown right outside my door with love. A view of mountains surrounding my home, with endless trails through forests of trees and meadows filled with wildflowers in every color will make the backdrop for the outdoor kitchen with even more magical potential for gatherings of loved ones.

I could dream for days, weeks, months… well, years, really, about my dream home, and every time I think of my dream home, it is, of course, filled with love, laughter, friends, family, and even friends we’ve yet to meet… and in all those dreams we are gathered in my kitchen cooking and eating, laughing and dreaming.

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