Monday, May 31, 2010

Cooking A (Quarter) Cow

My 1/4 of a cow is arriving tonight! My freezer is emptied and my vacuum sealer is ready to go. My last beef order was for 1/6 of cow in mid-November and I still have a few pounds of ground beef left. I'm hoping this beef will last us in to next year.

Last time I got my beef, it was already frozen, as it will be this time. I just took the packages and vacuum sealed them up. This time, though, I want to prepare some of the ground beef and then freeze the cooked items. My plan is to make:

5 lbs meatballs
4 lbs meatloaf
5 lbs taco meat (I might do 10 lbs because we're in to taco salad lately)
5 lbs sloppy joe meat

I'll bake the meatballs (even though it's getting warmer, it's still not HOT for us yet!), cook the taco meat on the stove and the sloppy joes in the slow cooker. The meatloaf I just mix up and leave raw to be cooked later. I can decided when I bake them if I want loaves, mini-loaves, muffins, etc. Because we're heading in to summer, which is not meatloaf season, I'll make sure to vacuum seal those for the cooler months. If I don't get patties (I can't remember if we ordered those), then I'll also make up some burgers and freeze them raw. And yes, you can thaw and re-freeze meat. It does affect the meat's texture, but I've never notice a significant difference with just one re-freeze.

I also asked for bones and livers this time. Beef liver is loved around here and I'm looking forward to having it on hand. I'm also excited to be able to make my own beef broth!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Margherita Pizza

I spent a summer studying in Athens while I was in law school. Around the corner from where we lived was a little pizza shop that specialized in hemp dough. I always stuck with the good old fashioned white dough made in to a margherita pizza. Margherita is still my favorite pizza.

Margherita Pizza

Favorite Pizza Dough recipe
2 roma tomatoes
1 clove garlic, diced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mozzarella cheese (as much or little as you like)
Parmesan cheese (as much or little as you like)
Basil, chopped fresh or dried

In a small bowl, combine diced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Set aside. Make your pizza dough. Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees. Spread dough on to pizza pan or peel. Brush dough with olive oil. Top dough with mozzarella cheese and then tomato mixture. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake pizza for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. After pizza is out of the oven, sprinkle on basil and Parmesan cheese.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Preparing For Summer

Next week is the last week of school, which means big changes are about to rock my little corner of the world. While my two youngest are home with me full time, summer means that my husband will be home during the day and our oldest daughter will be with us (for part of the summer, at least). Needless to say that adding two full time people to the household tends to disrupt "MY" schedule! I've learned to relax a bit and just go with it, but some pre-planning and discussion helps make my adjustment easier.

In planning out our summer routine (I'm not very good at "winging" it), we decided to try and shift our meals. Our youngest son is 18 months and he still naps smack dab in the middle of the day. I suggested we plan to eat our larger meal ("dinner") around 1-2 PM when he wakes up from his nap. Someone has to be home with him anyway and we aren't heating up the house during the hottest part of the day (4-5 PM). For "dinner" we'll have more lunch type items of sandwiches and salads. I'm hoping this will be a good adjustment for the hot weather!

Aside from eating, we have to keep ourselves busy! In the past few weeks I've been collecting craft ideas and supplies for the kids. I think I have every single activity calendar for every possible location in our city from pottery places to libraries. We also took advantage of a summer program at our YMCA, which has water slides and kiddie pools to get us out of the house. There are a lot of movies I'd like to see this summer so I have been hoarding every free or reduced movie ticket I can get my hands on.

We will do a small amount of traveling this summer. A friend of mine moved to San Diego last summer and this summer is going on vacation for 10 days and they offered us their house to stay in while they are gone! We are thrilled to have the opportunity to have somewhere to stay where we can cook for ourselves, too! I've been clipping more "convenience" food coupons in planning for the trip. I'd like to take a little break myself from cooking and I want to make preparing meals quick and easy. I just keep telling myself it's only for a week!

I'm really looking forward to this summer and all the family time we will have even if it does mean some minor adjustments in "MY" routine!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How to Reuse Net Produce Bags

Wow. That's one exciting title, isn't it! I have to admit, though, that finding new ways to reuse those net bags that onions, oranges, and the like are sold is always an "ah ha" moment for me. They just LOOK handy!

1) Ziploc Bag Keeper: After I wash all my Ziplocs (or most of them, anyway), I stuff them in to a net produce bag. One of them accidentally ripped through the middle creating a really easy way to get bags in and out. If I were super organized, I'd have one net bag for gallon bags and one for quart. Someday.

2) Kitchen Scrubby: I've been reading the book Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck. Sandbeck states some pretty icky statistics, namely that your kitchen sink has more germs than your toilet! The number one culprit in growing germs: sponges. Sandbeck suggested cutting up a net bag and putting a washcloth in it when you need something "abrasive" for cleaning dishes.

It works! I've used the net both with a washcloth and alone and it works beautifully.

I love the fact that my new scrubby is totally free! Works for me!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Make It Homemade: Bleu Cheese Dressing

I found some buttermilk on clearance at the grocery store (Fresh and Easy) yesterday. Gotta say -- buttermilk is my new favorite ingredient! It's been fun experimenting with it, but I really wanted to try out a salad dressing with it. So when we had buffalo bleu cheese burgers (which were DIVINE),  I made up some homemade bleu cheese dressing to use as a dip with celery. We really liked it and it is so simple! It would be great over a lettuce wedge (with some bacon!). I think it would also be yummy on this Buffalo Chicken Salad.

Bleu Cheese Dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream (or more depending on the consistency you want)
1/4 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
Pepper to taste

Mix it all together. It should last for 3-4 days in the fridge.

Changes Coming!

I'm still here! After someone stole my domain name last month, I decided it was time to make some changes so I'm in the process of re-creating my blogging endeavors. I'm brainstorming, domain name searching, and organizing like crazy. I've also (almost) decided to switch from Blogger to Wordpress. Learning a new program has been frustrating, but I'm getting there!

The new blog will have all the same content, just with a bit more focus and organization. I'm hoping to make the switch sometime in June! Scary but fun!

So hang in there with me and I promise a bigger and better resource for you soon!

Thank you so much for reading and encouraging me! I really love blogging and sharing this journey with you. I wouldn't be here without you!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dear Abby's Pecan Pie

Now that you know how to make a pie crust, you need something easy and delicious to put in it!  This pecan pie took me about 10 minutes to whip up. I saw the recipe in the newspaper the other day and since I had all the ingredients on hand... why not? It's delicious!

Abby's Famous Pecan Pie
9 inch unbaked pie crust
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted (I used coconut oil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping cup pecan halves

In a large bowl combine corn syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, salt, and vanilla. Mix well. Pour into pie crust. Sprinkle with pecan halves. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until center is set.

Make It Homemade: Pie Crust

Believe it or not, pie crust is exceptionally easy to make. It is almost as easy as ripping open the store bought stuff, but oh so much tastier and healthier (the store bought stuff has partially hydrogenated junk in it)! If you have a food processor, this will take you less than 5 minutes. Cutting in the butter takes a bit more time by hand, but you have more control. I personally prefer my food processor.

Make sure your butter is HARD and COLD. Basically, you want to put little bitty piece of butter in your dough that will melt in the hot oven creating tiny little air pockets for a nice, flaky crust.

I have successfully frozen and re-used this crust so go ahead and make a full recipe even if you only need one crust.

Pie Crust
Makes two 9" crusts

2.5 cups all purpose flour (feel free to substitute some whole wheat flour)
2 sticks of cold butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
6-7 tablespoons water

Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor (or just a bowl). Process for 30 seconds (or whisk to combine). Cut up butter and put it in the bowl. Process for 30 seconds (or use a pastry cutter or 2 forks to cut in butter) until mixture resembles corn meal. Slowly add in water and mix just until dough forms. Chill for 30 minutes or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for later.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How to (Easily) Wash Plastic Storage Bags

Like many frugal minded people, I can't bear to throw away plastic (ie Ziploc) bags after only one use. But I hate washing them out! I have tried avoiding storing food that makes the bags messy, but it didn't work. A few weeks ago I ended up with about 20 or so bags needing washing. UGH.

After my success washing shower curtain liners in the washing machine, I wondered if it would work with my plastic storage bags. IT DID!! I turned all the bags inside out so they would be more open when washing. I made sure to rinse off any excess food before throwing them in the washing machine. I ran a short/delicate cycle on hot with a tiny bit of Bronners soap (it's safe for food).

After the cycle was finished, I tented all the bags and stood them on towels all over my kitchen. In the morning, most of them were dry, but I live in a very dry climate so you may need to towel them off a bit.

A quick, painless and easy way to wash storage bags definitely works for me!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Domain Name Issues (UGH!)

So it looks like someone out there (in Norway, according to WHOis) has hijacked my website domain. I can't figure out what happened but my old domain of is not working. Hopefully if you are reading this on a reader, you'll still get it! If you subscribe via email or via a reader, will please leave me a comment so I know if my feed is still working?

For now, I'm publishing at

Maybe this will be the kick in the pants I need to do a blog re-design! Meanwhile, if anyone knows anything about this...??

Happy Amazing Woman Day!

I was just shy of 30 when I got married. For years after college (MY deadline for getting hitched!) I celebrated with so many friends as they wed and started families. Being single and childless while wanting nothing more than to be a wife and mother was awful. I avoided church on Mother's Day because it was just too much.

I have a hard time saying Happy "Mothers" Day because there are so many women out there who so desperately want to be a mom, but aren't. And there are women out there who have no interest in being a mom so they aren't. I have two sisters, neither of whom have their own children, but both of whom love my kids just as much as I do! We are all amazing.

So ... Happy Amazing Woman Day! To all of you moms who tirelessly care for your families. To all of you women who help out those moms by baby-sitting and listening to their rants about potty training and spit up. To all those women who influence a younger generation through volunteer work. To all you women who want nothing more than to hold a baby in your arms and call him your own.

You are all amazing and today, I celebrate all of you!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Make It Homemade: Chocolate Cream Pie

I was browsing the paper Thursday afternoon when I spotted an ad for Marie Callendar's Chocolate Cream Pie (for those of you on the East coast, Marie Callendar's is also a restaurant on the West coast!). I wanted one, but the $7.00 price tag was a bit much. So I did a quick internet search and found a recipe that looked delicious and I had all the ingredients on hand. This was quick and easy and oh so good!  Even my husband said it was a keeper!

The only change I made to the recipe was substituting 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil for each square of unsweetened chocolate.

My pie wasn't as pretty as Marie's but it was just as yummy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Strawberry Bread

You know it's almost summer when strawberries go on sale. I've never even heard of strawberry bread before, but this is delicious!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Buying in Bulk: Coconut Oil

Last October I purchased my first gallon of coconut oil through Azure Standard.  I had been reading up on the great qualities of coconut oil and wanted to give it a whirl and I love it! Coconut oil, however, is expensive. But then I spied a fantastic deal at Tropical Traditions on 5 gallons of coconut oil. The oil I bought is not virgin or organic, but it's close enough for me. It cost about as much as I pay for olive oil.  Now, I knew I was getting 5 gallons. Five gallons of milk? Not too bad. Yeah, it weighs 43 pounds. Good thing it doesn't expire until my 1 year old son's third birthday!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Make Ahead Waffles

One of my all time favorite cooking magazines is Cooks Illustrated, published by the folks at America's Test Kitchen. I love the fact that they are on a mission to make good food as simple to prepare as possible. Last month I picked up a copy of the magazine because it was dedicated to "Make Ahead Meals".

This past weekend I tried out the recipe for "Overnight Yeasted Waffles". Yeast waffles result in a nice crunchy outside with a tender inside, but take time to make. This recipe is made the night before (or the day before) and allowed to sit in the fridge for 12-24 hours. You just pull it out and start making waffles!

Overnight Yeasted Waffles
Cooks Illustrated, Spring 2010

Makes about seven (7 inch) round or four (9 inch) square

1 3/4 cups milk
8 Tablespoons butter (I used coconut oil)
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached, all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat milk and butter (or oil) in small saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted, about 4 minutes; let cool until warm.  Meanwhile, whisk flour, sugar, salt and yeast together in large bowl.

Gradually whisk warm-milk mixture into flour mixture and continue to whisk until batter is smooth.  Whisk eggs and vanilla together in small bowl until combined, then whisk into batter until incorporated.

Scrape down sides of bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 12 or up to 24 hours.

Heat oven to 200 degrees. Heat waffle iron according to manufacturers instructions.  Remove waffle batter from fridge and whisk to recombine.   Bake waffles according to manufacturers instructions. When waffles are done, place in oven (I just put them straight on the oven rack).

I froze the leftovers on a cookie sheet and put them in a Ziploc in the freezer.

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