Monday, October 31, 2011

Meal Plan for 10/31/11

Since this week will be our first full week of school, I have started planning lunches again. Not that my children weren't eating lunches during the summer, but I left it up to them on most days. That meant that they decided, created, produced, and cleaned up.

You know, the good 'ol days.

Other than school, this week will be busy with appointments, a butcher truck, apple butter, and weighing turkeys.

Weighing turkeys? Yep, you heard right. I'm not entirely sure how one goes about weighing a live turkey though. Will they stand still on a typical bathroom scale? Do I need to weigh them first thing in the morning, before they have breakfast? Will weighing them start a terrible cycle of yo-yo dieting that will only lead to depression and low self-esteem?

Oh wait. We were talkin' turkey. Never mind. Forget I said're getting sleepy...

I tend to overthink, overplan, and overreact to situations. When someone asks what the live weight of a turkey that they are buying for Thanksgiving dinner is, I panic. I think of industrial-sized scales. I think of lassos and nets. I think of wearing chain mail and carrying a sword.

(photo credit)
And then someone reminds me that these are not full-sized turkeys. These are the equivalent of oompa-loompa's or munchkins in the turkey world. And then I calm back down and decide to lose the chain mail.

I'm keepin' the sword though. Just in case.☺

Here's what's cookin' this week...

Kodiak pancakes, caramelized apples
Summer sausage, cheese slices, crackers, sliced apples, Peanut Butter Dip (new)
Chicken strips, Spicy Cowboy Fries (I'll share this week!), green salad, biscuits w/ honey

cereal, English muffins
Tuna sandwiches, sliced apples
New Orleans Red Beans & Rice (still new), cornbread, green salad

Baked bean dip, pita chips

Crispy Cheese Crackers, Summer sausage, apple slices

Baked Potato Soup, Apple Dumplings (Eat Your Way Through the USA/Washington)

Cincinnati Chili, green salad

cereal, toast
Navy bean soup w/ ham hocks

This post is linked with Menu Mondays at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Week in the Life

Last week was so busy, my thoughts haven't yet caught up to me.

I thought I'd do a post on the importance of voting. (It is and you should.) Then I thought I'd do a post on the changing of the season. (It did, but I missed it.) Of course, I could always share my delicious recipe for apple butter. (It's awesome, but the apples are still in the box.)

Instead, I'm going to tell you about cows.

Because tonight, that's all I've got.

Cows. They're big. They're stubborn. And every 21 days, they get cranky. Especially if there isn't a man cow to keep them in line. And by man cow, I mean, not him.

Angus, who is 2, had a difficult time weaning himself from his mama, so in order to help him graduate to the freezer, we had to take matters into our own hands.

He showed his appreciation by busting up one of our wooden gates and bawling for 3 nights in a row.

Right outside our bedroom window.

The butcher truck comes on Saturday.

Bailey, Angus's mama, needed some "me" time. So we sent her to the cow spa known as "The Hay Field" where she is currently getting some much-needed girl time.

It's difficult to be the new cow on the block, but the others seem to like her.
Oh wait. Why are they chasing her? This is not the restful vacation she had planned!

"Hey girl, we just wanna talk!"

While girls can be catty, it's really the boys that need to be watched.

"Hey baby, how you doin'?"

Bubba the Bull is a real friendly guy. Apparently, he really likes Bailey.
Nope. Definitely not the vacation she had planned.

But maybe, just maybe, she'll come home in a couple of months a little less cranky.

That'll teach her.

This post is linked to The Homestead Barn Hop.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

First Day of School Cider

One of the reasons that I love the Pacific Northwest is the greeness that lasts throughout the summer. But with that greeness comes water.

Lots and lots of water.

As in torrential downpours.

This is also the reason that I have been trying to talk my Mister into moving to the east side of the state. Where it's drier. And I've been talking for years. It is also the reason that we just began our 2011-2012 year of homeschooling.

If you live around here, you'll understand me when I say that summer doesn't officially begin until July 5th. Apparently, July didn't get the memo, so this year summer didn't really start rolling until the beginning of August. Good if you don't care for extreme heat (and by extreme, I really mean anything over 80 degrees!), but bad if you are expecting much of a garden harvest.

Do you know how difficult it is to maneuver through a farmer's market with an umbrella in one hand, basket in the other while balancing a warm treat from Starbucks, and attempt to pick up things to put into the basket? Thankfully, the farmer's at the market understand. They were very helpful. And dry. Because they watched the weather and thought to put up awnings.


Once summer got rolling, we got busy. With life. Mowing, weeding, planting, harvesting, canning, fishing, camping, hiking, home-improvement projects, fence building, hunting, etc... So while we weren't officially on the clock yet with schooling, our children were being educated. Without the books.

So, with the ending of our "unschooling vacation", we begin the book-learning portion of our school year. And because it was the first day of "school", we made popcorn and hot spiced cider, read our books by the crackling fireplace, and stayed in sweatpants all day.

Because after 18 years, tradition counts for something.

And it was raining.☺

~Hot Spiced Cider~

~The Players~
1 gallon organic apple cider (or fresh-pressed at home!)
1 quart organic apricot juice (I found some that was apricot/mango by Santa Cruz.)
1 large can pineapple juice
1/4 cup sucanat
4 cinnamon sticks (or more if desired)
1 Tb. whole cloves
1 Tb. whole allspice
2-3 star anise
1 stainless steel tea ball or cheesecloth and kitchen twine

Place the cloves and allspice in the tea ball or cheesecloth. (If using cheesecloth, tie off with kitchen twine but leave long tails.)

 Pour juices in stainless steel pot. Add sucanat and stir. Add cinnamon sticks, star anise, and tea ball/cheesecloth bag, but hang tea ball on edge of pot. If using cheesecloth, place a long wooden spoon over top and tie bag to that. Make sure the ball/bag is fully in the juice.

Heat on medium-high until bubbles form, but is not boiling. Reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 1/2 hour. Remove cinnamon sticks, star anise, and tea ball/bag.

Give it a stir and carefully ladle into mugs.

And enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Seeds & Spiced Lattes

After such a crazy gardening season, I was surprised to find 19 sugar pie pumpkins down in the garden. Surprised, because I had only planted 2 plants from seed. Surprised, because I had also planted Sweet Dumpling Squash and ended up harvesting pumpkin from where the squash used to be. Surprised, because now I had to figure where to put all that pumpkin!

Isn't that a terrible problem to have?

If you've never roasted a pumpkin before, go here. It's a painless process that results in a far superior product than the canned stuff.

And the best part? You get to keep the seeds!

Pumpkin seeds provide many health benefits. They help protect the prostate, are high in magnesium (which most people are lacking in), help to lower cholesterol, and contain L-tryptophan, a compound that is a natural anti-depressant.

I don't know about you, but that's good enough for me. Now I know why pumpkin seeds make me so happy!☺

Here's how to roast the seeds...

After scooping out the seeds, rinse them off. Soak the clean seeds in a jar of filtered water with some sea salt added. They only need to soak for a couple of hours, but it's okay to soak them overnight. Drain in a colander, but do not rinse. (The amount of salt is to be determined by the amount of seeds you are roasting. I used about 1 t. per pumpkin.)

Preheat the oven to 325F. Drizzle a little olive oil on a cookie sheet.

Dump the drain seeds onto the cookie sheet; stir to coat with oil.

Sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until seeds are lightly browned and crispy.

Then try not to eat them all in one sitting.

Notice, I said try.

Most of our pumpkin gets placed in plastic freezer bags in quantities of 1-3 cups. This makes it convenient when it comes time to use the pumpkin in a recipe. Of course, if you like to make homemade Spiced Pumpkin Lattes, you'll only need 3 Tb. of pumpkin at a time. My solution?



Monday, October 24, 2011

Meal Plan 10/23/11

Have you ever heard the name Carrie Vitt? Well, until a couple of weeks ago, neither had I. She is the author of the blog Deliciously Organic and if you've never visited it, well, you should. Go ahead, I'll wait...............................................................................................................

Carrie, who doesn't know I exist, cooks with whole foods. Minus the 20% of junk. Minus the refined sugar. Minus the white, organic flour. She uses coconut oil, palm oil, butter, raw milk/cream, fresh ground whole wheat/pastry wheat, sucanat, maple syrup...everything that I already have in my pantry. But she is something that I am not.


And that is about to change.

While on our recent hunting trip, my tummy didn't like me too much. In fact, I got to see it's rebellious side and it was not pretty. It's easy to justify using ingredients one would not normally use while camping. There isn't room or time to prepare everything from scratch unless my plan was to stay in the camper the entire week.

At least, that's what I told myself. The truth? I saw the Nutella and couldn't stop myself. And then I saw the Fritos. And the white buns. And the sugary creamer. And the....well, you get the idea. Four of the six who went on this hunting trip also ended up getting the flu. While camping. Coincidence? I don't think so.

My meal plan for the week will look a little different. I'll be using several of Carrie's recipes that are found in her cookbook, "Deliciously Organic". Since these recipes aren't mine, I won't be able to share them with you, but do yourself a favor and get the cookbook. You won't be disappointed.

Unless of course you're looking for Nutella recipes.☺

(Carrie's recipes have an * by them.)

Here's what's cookin' this week...

*Raspberry Almond Muffins, granola
Toe-Warmin' Chili, *Cheesy Jalapeno Cornbread

*Sour Cream & Lemon Pancakes w/ Blueberry Puree

*Loaded Baked Potato Soup, Green salad w/ Orange Vinaigrette

Coconut Berry Smoothies (new), Peanut Butter Breakfast Muffins
Mac & Cheese, meatloaf, steamed broccoli

Pumpkin Spice Muffins, homemade hot chocolate
Chicken Strips (new), Cowboy fries, Marinated Tomatoes w/Basil (new), fresh applesauce

New Orleans Red Beans & Rice (new), Kim's Kornbread

Speltcakes w/ caramelized apples

Granola, toast
*Spicy Black Bean Soup, Sourdough bread

For a little menu inspiration, visit Menu Mondays!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Venison Breakfast Sausage

Last year was our first experience making our own sausage. We loved it so much that it seemed to disappear within minutes. Okay, maybe not minutes, but close. Of course, we had sausage every morning and sometimes for dinner, but it still went fast.

Fast forward to 2011 and we're making sausage again. This time it is twice the fun since 2 of the boys got their deer. (We're still holding out hope for Annie Oakley and the Mister!) Twice the fun means twice the work, which translates into twice the spices, but everyone knows that 2 is always better than 1...unless we're talking squash, then I beg to differ.

Back to sausage...

Since it is deer season over much of the United States, I thought now would be a good time to share our recipe for sausage. While we didn't actually create this explosion of spicy goodness, I did write it down.

Minus the origin of the recipe. Because that's how I roll. It's an illness really. I get so excited about a recipe that I just jot it down on whatever is handy...the edge of the classifieds, the copyright page of a book I'm reading, junk mail, a napkin, my arm...

Don't judge.

In order to make this sausage, you'll need to pay a visit to the butcher. Because venison is so lean, a fatty meat needs to be added. Last year, the butcher recommended adding pork butt. Something you should probably know, because I didn't, is that pork butt does not come from the rear end of a pig. It in fact comes from the shoulder, which oddly enough makes it a lot more appetizing if you're just thinking about making this sausage. Of course, once made, it wouldn't matter if the added meat was rat. It's that good. (A big apology to my niece Gracie who just got a pet rat for her birthday. I'm sure it's a lovely creature. Honest.) 

~The Players~

6 lbs. ground venison
2 lbs. ground pork butt
1/4 cup meat tenderizer (MSG free!)
1 Tb. ground black pepper
1 Tb. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tb. dried sage

Mix seasoning in a bowl. Add to meat after first grind. Mix well. Put meat and spices through grinder again. Pack and freeze.


This post is linked to the Homestead Barn Hop!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Scenes from a Hunter's Camp

As the sun goes down on another hunting season, I thought I'd share some highlights of our trip. In case you're one of those people who is under the illusion that the origin of meat starts in grocery store freezer cases, I'm about to rock your little world. For the freshest, most uncertifiably organic meat available, look no further than the woods beyond the concrete jungle.

The mountains directly above our campsite.
The Quaking Aspens were just starting to turn...
...and finished while were still there.

That black oval? That's my son who thought shooting his first buck down in the pit of a canyon was a good idea. Of course, we did forbid him from going to the top of the mountain...
Tanner and his first buck; a forked horn.

Under Grandpa's careful supervision, dinner was loaded into the trailer for the trek back out of the canyon.

Matthew's first buck; a 3 point. Both were shot within a minute of each other, 60 yards apart...just to make it a little easier on us.
A picture, just to keep the little hunter honest.

Matthew got a little side-tracked when it came to skinning the deer...
...until his Daddy gave him (and Tanner) their own skinning knives.

While I didn't actually hunt, I did enjoy riding the trails with my mom-in-law and daughter, Mandie. Notice the super white tennies...oops.
Mandie made more than $8 collecting cans from the sides of the trails. Apparently, people in this town have not heard of the concept behind "Do Not Drink & Drive".
Even though Annie Oakley, I mean, Heather, didn't get her deer, she did score big in the trash pile someone left behind~perfect fenders for her dirt bike!

Oh Nutella, where have you been all my life?

Until next year...
Thank you Republic!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lessons from Hunting Camp

In case you didn't know this already, I am currently in hunting camp, bringing a much-needed dose of reality to the men of camp. It seems with the annual sickness known as "Buck Fever", delusional thoughts are not far behind.

Case in point...

"Some guys just came off the hill on their quads and said all the big bucks are about 7 miles up that really steep hill on the other side of the mountain." (Said by an 11 year old in his most manly voice.)

"You mean up that really steep hill that I told you under no circumstances we will ever climb?" (Said by the Daddy bear in his most reasonable voice.)

"Well, those guys said that that's where all the 4 points are...." (The whining begins.)

Then the voice of reason mentions the obvious...

"So did those boys actually show you their prize-winning bucks that they got up on the other side of that mountain?" (Guess whose voice that was?)

"Well, they didn't actually get one..."

My work is never done. Even at hunting camp. While my boy's and one daughter (that I am going to start calling Annie Oakley) are busy scouting for bucks at the bottom of the really big mountain, I've had a little time to ponder certain things of camp life.

1. When a shower charges you 25 cents for 5 minutes of almost-warm-enough water, you can bet that it will take 6.25 minutes to get all the soap out of your eyes. That leaves exactly 3.75 minutes of time to scout out all of the spiders lurking about.

There were 4.

Past tense.

(photo credit)
2. When there has been a cougar sighting in the exact same place your camper now sits, even a squirrel climbing a tree is reason enough to draw your weapon.

Note to self: Get a weapon.

Or a squirrel trap.

3. Big brothers who tease little brothers about not being big enough to handle the kick-back of his rifle are destined to be bitten by the scope of their own gun...

...much to the delight of the younger, blemish-free brother.

4. And finally, no matter how old your children get, a momma is never quite prepared to see this...

...even if she did have to help them get dressed.☺

It's never done.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wacky Cake for an Equally Wacky Family

Growing up, my mom would make a cake she called Wacky Cake. I thought it was just her making up a name because she had forgotten the real name, but as it turns out, it wasn't made up at all.

(I also thought she was very unoriginal in her naming of the most amazingly, moist, chocolate cake to ever grace my dessert plate, but that's beside the point.)

This cake is eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of-your-head good. Period. It is also made without butter, milk, and eggs, which during the Depression Era were extravagant ingredients that most didn't have on hand. And this is a cake born from that era, without the need for hydrogenated soybean oil, modified corn starch, and polysorbate 60.

My goodness. They were just down-right barbaric. And they probably had a glass of raw milk with their cake too.


One of the reasons I liked making this cake so much was the ease in which it went together. Well, not really. It was more about getting to play in a big chocolate cake-battered bowl and having plenty to lick when I was through. This is all made in one bowl, using one spoon to stir, then poured into a prepared cake pan. Of course, I found ways to use several spoons, a spatula, and a couple of fingers, but that's because I knew how good this was.

And since my mom was busy watching new episodes of "Dallas", she couldn't make empty threats of how I wasn't going to have any of the finished product...

Next time you need a cake in a hurry, forgo the boxed mixes and give this a try. It goes together just as quickly and only has a handful of ingredients that spell-check actually recognizes.

Even better? This has the approval rating from the ones who count.

Teenage girls!

Happy 17th Birthday Amanda Ruth!

~Chocolate Wacky Cake~

3 cups all-purpose, organic flour (I used 1 cup soft wheat pastry flour and 2 cups white flour)
2 cups organic sugar
1 t. sea salt
2 t. baking soda
1/2 cup baking cocoa (sift it to remove lumps)
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (I used refined, but unrefined with flavor would be heavenly!)
2 Tb. white vinegar
2 cups hot tap water
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, optional

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Grease a 9 x 13" pan with some coconut oil. Dust with a little cocoa powder; dump over sink to remove excess.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa.

Make 2 wells in the flour mixture.

Pour melted coconut oil in one well; vinegar in the other well.

Pour hot water over entire mixture.

Using a wire whisk or wooden spoon, stir until smooth. Pour into prepared pan; sprinkle with chocolate chips (if using). Bake for 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

I don't like to frost this cake, but for special occasions, I'll dust the top with powdered sugar just before serving.

Just make sure that the cook has plenty of utensils to lick while preparing.

Trust me.☺


Monday, October 10, 2011

Jailhouse Blues

If a picture is worth a thousand...I mean a dozen words...

And the eagle has failed to land...

Then Lucy...


What once was 12, is now 3 and Lucy has been sentenced to 6 weeks in the country pen.

Her crime? Poult endangerment.

She's just lucky she's a first-time offender.