Friday, April 30, 2010

The Momma Bear

This is part of my family. There are 2 more daughters, 2 more sons-in-laws and 2 beautiful grandchildren that live elsewhere. Today I discovered that I would die for my family.

I also discovered that I would kill for them too.

The day started out great. I decided to take the 4 youngest kids with me to pick up our turkeys in town. Normally, I would've left the kids at home to work on their schoolwork. But, not today. I just felt like they needed to be with me today.

We also ran some other errands then hurried home to make some lunch. Arriving home, my son Tj and I stopped at the family room refrigerator to put away the raw milk. The other 3 children ran upstairs with the rest of our goodies. Tj and I then went back up the stairs, passing Matthew, who was on his way back downstairs to unkennel the dogs and walk them.

Seconds later, as Tj and Heather headed out the back door to deposit the new chicks in the coop, (the turkeys didn't come in, but we found 6 more cuties we couldn't live without!), Matty came back up the stairs and quietly said, "There's a man in the exercise room."

My heart stopped, but my head told my feet to move. I went to the gun safe, grabbed a gun and loaded it (who knew?), then headed down the stairs. I didn't think about the intruder maybe having a weapon. I didn't think about the fact that I'm an out-of-shape 42 year old with way more bark than bite. All I could think about was the fact that there was a stranger in my home.


A parent tries their best to provide a safe place for their children to grow, a place where they can reach their full potential. A place that is the starting point of the rest of their lives. A place that they can also come back to. A place of rest. Of love.

As I entered the room that the intruder had broken into, I could only think about my children's safety. The window was open, screen lying on the ground and the closet door wide open. I closed the window, making sure the lock was set, then checked out the other 2 bedrooms and bathroom. Realizing that nobody had entered those rooms, I made my way outside and around the house. Not seeing anyone, I went back indoors and called the sheriff.

Within 5 minutes, we had 4 deputies and a canine unit searching our woods and looking for fingerprints. While they didn't find the guy, the evidence points to the fact that he was in our home, and had only gotten as far as the room he broke into. The evidence also shows that he was in our home when we were downstairs, probably hiding behind the closet door.

The whole ordeal lasted just under 3 hours. After the deputies left, the reality of what had just happened hit us.

Like a brick wall.

I could've shot someone. Somebody who only had to ask for food or money and I would've gladly given it to him. Somebody who probably has people in his life who love him. Someone who made a very bad decision that could've cost him his life.

Psalm 27:1-3 says, "The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident."

I will not live in fear, nor will I take my children down that path.

Tonight I will be holding my kids a little closer. I'll be praying a little longer.

And I'll make sure to thank God that nobody was hurt.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Home-Baked Beans

I've got summer on the brain.

I wish it were sunshine on the face, but right now my face would be pelted with pea-sized hail if I were to look up.

Which is only slightly better than drowning from tilting my head to the skies!

Around here, summer doesn't officially begin until July 5th. Anyone who dares to not bring a rain poncho, an umbrella or a water-proof blanket to the fireworks display is just begging for a good soaking and a head cold.

Here, we just know.

So, in honor of the thought of summer, I decided to make baked beans.

And because I couldn't stop dreaming of warmer days, we had them twice!

Baked Beans from Scratch
(I've got to come up with a better name!)

1 cup dry navy beans
4 cups water
3 strips organic bacon
1 sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup organic ketchup
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tb. sucanat
2 Tb. molasses (not blackstrap)
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t. sea salt
1/8 t. black pepper
1/8 t. chili powder

Soak beans overnight with a little lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or whey. The next morning, drain and rinse.

Cook beans in 4 cups of water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. (Skim the foam from the water, that's the "toots" and you don't want those! Trust me.)

Cut up bacon and fry until cooked, but not crispy. Remove bacon and saute onions in bacon grease until soft.

Drain beans; reserve liquid. Pour beans into 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. Stir in bacon, onion and molasses mixture. Pour enough reserved bean liquid over beans until covered by 1/4 inch.Cover and bake at 375F. for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 300F. and continue to cook for 5 hours, stirring halfway through. Allow to stand for 15 minutes before serving.
Join the recipe swap over at Grocery Cart Challenge!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Baked Salmon with Asian Marinade

I really love salmon.

And the good news? It loves me back.

Salmon, caught in the wild, is a good source of Omega 3's, (important for normal brain function), is heart healthy and low in calories.

Not that I care about any of that.

I eat it because it is good.

Asian Salmon
(adapted from Simply in Season)

1-1/2 lbs. wild-caught salmon
1/2 cup fresh chives
2 Tb. tamari sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tb. toasted sesame oil
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger root, finely minced
optional: sesame seeds

Place salmon in baking dish or broiler pan. Whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour over fish. Bake in preheated 375F. oven for about 15 minutes, or until fish flakes apart easily. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Can also be grilled.

Serves 4.

*I normally do not cook food in aluminum foil. The exception to this rule is fish on the grill, which is what I had planned.

God had a different plan.

He sent rain.

With wind.

Wisdom is knowing when to go to Plan B.

For more real food recipes, please visit Kelly the Kitchen Kop for Real Food Wednesday!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Air I Breathe...

I wanted to name this post, "If I Only Had a Million Dollars", but somehow that didn't seem like an attitude of gratitude.

I mean, we're supposed to be content and bloom where we're planted, right?

Then I realized that I'm blooming right down the road from one of the prettiest places I've ever seen.

And I can visit it whenever I want to.

For free.

This is an old homestead that at best guess, was probably built in the late 1800's. The old farmhouse and barn are long gone, but some of the outbuildings are still there.

Site of the old barn that burned down a few years ago.

An old hay storage shed is still standing though.

The old hog house and chicken coop are still standing, but barely.

So is what appears to be an old outhouse!

The Mister and the Son-in-law, shooting the breeze on a Sunday afternoon.

The old butchering area has seen better days, but there was a pile of bones still there.

The family standing in front of the old root cellar.

Or what was left of it.

This little creek helped keep the temperature in the root cellar cool.

Now it's just a fun place to play on a warm, summer day.

And it's a place where we'll spend a lot of time.

And continue to dream....

Please join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

MPM 4/26/10

Saturday morning, with the sun shining, my Mister and I headed in to our farmer's market. With latte in hand, we made a plan of how to get in and get out, without buying something from every vendor.

We had a plan. And it was going to work. After all, how many tomato plants does one family really need? Not to mention, there is a very limited supply of fresh spring greens in April, so this was going to be a piece of cake.
Until we pulled into the parking area. That's when we noticed that the size of the market had doubled since last week. It's still early, so it's not at its maximum capacity, but is still larger than the previous 3 weeks.

This was NOT going to be easy. In order to support everybody there, we needed to visit everyone there. And we knew that we were going to have to rethink our plans.

We started at one end and found an organic farmer who had heirloom tomato plants. Green Zebra, Purple Cherokee and Brandywine to name a few. We chose 6 more plants to add to our 16 that are happily resting in the greenhouse before heading to the next vendor who had organic herbs.

Oh the smell coming from this area! Starts of basil, oregano, lavender, thyme, rosemary; it was intoxicating and I could only fantasize about the plants they would become.

Then the wind started howling, the black clouds rolled in, and a torrential downpour soaked us in a matter of seconds.

Running back toward the car, we managed to grab enough greens to complete our meals for the week. Two different vendors who unbundled enough to take our money and send us off with sympathetic smiles. (They, of course, were under awnings!)

Curly lettuce, spinach, lamb's quarters, Swiss chard, radishes

Here's what's cooking this week...

~Scrambled eggs, elk sausage
~Maple/Walnut Scones, Plum Smoothies
~Baked Salmon, leftover baked beans, green salad

~Peanut butter & honey sandwiches, blueberry/maple yogurt
~Elk roast, risotto w/Swiss chard, devilled eggs

~Buttermilk pancakes
~Berry smoothies, Maple/Walnut Scones
~Chana Dal Chowder (new), spinach salad

~Soaked oatmeal w/blueberries
~leftover chowder, sourdough bread
~Macaroni/cheese/broccoli, applesauce

~Fried eggs, toast
~Tuna sandwiches, organic tortilla chips & salsa
~Couscous & French lentil salad (new), grilled burgers (no bun)

~Baked Peanut Butter Oatmeal
~Spicy black beans, sourdough tortillas, green salad

~Simple Supper Sunday

During the past week...

This week, we had the privilege of having our granddaughter, Madison, come visit us.

It was her first solo run without her mommy & daddy.

And it was good.

Now it's time to get back into a normal routine.

While I missed normal, I refuse to embrace it.

I miss Madison more.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thai Cashew Chicken

I doubt there is an ethnicity of food that I love more than Thai. And I'm not alone in my love of Thai food. Some of my children love Pad Thai, while others prefer Cashew Chicken. My Mister and I have a fondness for Peanut Curry and anything with ginger.

Here's the problem. It's expensive to take out the family. A typical meal out for the remaining 8 of us, runs around $70/meal. That's almost my entire food budget for the week!

Then there's that whole conscience part of it. That nagging little voice in the back of the head that says, "You watched "Food, Inc.", so why are you eating feedlot cows and chickens that have never breathed fresh air?"

Sometimes I really hate that voice.

This recipe is from my sister-in-law, Malish, who like me, loves Thai!

Thai Cashew Chicken

1 lb. boneless chicken, thinly sliced (breasts or thighs work great!)
2 Tb. toasted sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tb. fish sauce (found in Asian section of grocery store)
2 Tb. oyster sauce (found near the fish sauce!)
2 Tb. sugar
1 Tb. organic cornstarch or arrowroot powder
Dash pepper
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4-1/2 t. dried red pepper flakes (start low, you can always add more)
4 green onions, cut in 2" slices
1/2-1 cup water

Mix fish and oyster sauce, garlic, sugar, pepper, and cornstarch. Marinate chicken in sauce for 30 minutes.

Heat oil in wok over medium heat. Saute cashews and red pepper flakes until nuts are toasted. Drain and set aside, leaving oil.

Increasing the heat to high, and add marinated meat and water. Cook until chicken is done. Add more water as needed for desired consistency. (I usually use the whole cup.) Add green onions and nut mixture. Mix and cook for about 2 minutes. Serve over rice.

Serves 4.

Of course, we double it!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dirty Toes

I have come to the realization that my children see me as a predictable person.

Something I never thought I was.

I mean, c'mon...I have 9 children!

Nobody saw that coming.

Including me.
Walking out into the living room, my youngest son noticed my freshly painted toenails.

I thought that since the sun was shining, it was time to bring out the flip-flops and open-toed sandals.

Matthew saw something else entirely.

He saw weeding in his future.

I asked him why he thought that.

His response?

"When you paint your toenails, it means that Dad is going to rototill the garden and you're going to kick off your shoes and run around barefeeted. That's why girls paint their toenails. So they don't have to wash their toes in the summertime!"

I suppose I could tell him the truth, that Momma feels pretty with painted toes, but what would be the fun in that?

I'm going to keep him guessing for awhile.

Maybe I'll even shave my legs on a rainy day.

That'll show 'em just how unpredictable I really am!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

MPM...April 18, 2010

Last week, we tried a couple of new recipes. Let me just say, the Veggie Burrito Bake, Asparagus Soup, and Sourdough Tortillas were all hits!

And the memory of those meals are going to have carry us through the majority of this week.

Tomorrow, our granddaughter is coming to visit for a couple of days! The kitchen can wait. Nana needs to spend some quality time with Maddie! We're also celebrating our "baby's" 10th birthday! So the next few days will be about Maddie and Matty.

As for meals, we'll be sticking to some old favorites that my children can help prepare. I'll be busy reading Dr. Suess and putting some miles in on the rocking chair.

Finally, an exercise I can embrace.

Here's what's cooking this week...

~Soaked Oatmeal w/blueberries
~Pb&J sandwiches, tortilla chips/salsa, applesauce
~Spaghetti, green beans, Farmer's Market Salad (this week-curly leaf lettuce, lamb's quarter's, radishes)

~Soaked Oatmeal w/blueberries
~quesadillas, fruit smoothies
~Thai Cashew Chicken, Farmer's Market salad (I though I had already shared this recipe, but apparently I'll share it this week!)

~Scrambled eggs w/elk sausage, sourdough toast
~Toasted cheese, Marionberry/Peach Slushies
~kids fend for themselves (returning Maddie to her parents *sniff*)

~Pb&J Popovers, homemade blueberry yogurt
~Lemon Asparagus Pasta, baked Tilapia (new)

~Black bean burrito on sourdough tortilla, lacto-fermented salsa

~Maple Walnut Scones, Kefir smoothies
~Grilled no-bun burgers, Baked beans, Crescent Rolls, Farmer's Market Salad

~Simple Supper Sunday (to be determined on the way home from church!)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Whole Foods and a Confession...or Two!

Even though we're a "whole foods" family, not everything we consume would be considered healthy.

Confession #1: I had a chocolate/peanut butter frappuccino today. With real peanut butter. And it was good. I didn't even feel guilty about it. I am sure that I burned off the calories pulling a very full wagon around the garden center.

Confession #2: My college-aged children brought me home a chocolate/peanut butter frappuccino this afternoon. With real peanut butter. And it was good. This time however, there is guilt. Tremendous guilt.

What is a mother to do when her children present her with such a gift? It would've been rude to deny them the obvious pleasure that they received, delivering to me that sin in a cup. What could it have done to their psyche? To their developing, yet still fragile self-esteems?

It is because I love them and desire them to go into adulthood with the utmost confidence that I accepted that second cup. It is also why I am in stretchy pants right now. And why I will have to spend a little extra time on the treadmill this weekend. (I'm still in denial that I can burn off the extra calories just by sneezing.)(Don't judge me. It's my fantasy.)

Most of the time we eat whole foods. Here is how the rest of the day went.

Strawberry/Peach Slushies...I didn't have anymore frozen strawberries (What will we do for the next 8 weeks or so?), so I substituted marionberries for the strawberries and used organic maple syrup instead of stevia drops. It may not have peanut butter in it, but it was still wonderful!

During the making of these, I had to interrupt with a kitchen/homeschool lesson.



Good thing it was bamboo...pandas love this stuff!

For dinner, we had beyond organic, grass fed, grilled burgers with a Garlic Potato Salad and home-canned applesauce. We sweetened it with maple syrup and added some cinnamon for kicks. (Recipes are below.)

Juicy, Grilled Burgers

2 lbs. organic ground beef
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. onion powder
1 Tb. dried parsley
1 t. sea salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 piece sourdough bread, ground fine
1/4 cup milk

Using your hands, mix together. Shape into thick patties. Grill until just done. Do not overcook!

Garlic Potato Salad
(adapted from Simply in Season)

6 cups new potatoes, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup green onions, diced fine
3 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup EVOO
2 Tb. balsamic vinegar
2 t. fresh rosemary, minced
sea salt & pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Mix everything in bowl. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cheesy Asparagus Soup

My Mister & I have been busy planning our garden. There are a few foods that we have never tried growing ourselves. One is asparagus.

I'm pretty sure that it's because we're an impatient lot.

Asparagus cannot be harvested the year it's planted. Even the second year, it can't be heavily harvested. The third year is the jackpot year that will reward the patient gardener.

This will be year 1 for us. Because of that, we have to buy our asparagus at the farmer's market and a couple of different local farms.

May God bless our simple act of faith.

And grant us patience!

In the meantime, we will be building our asparagus recipe collection. This soup was fabulous! I found the original recipe in my "Simply in Season" cookbook, but of course, couldn't leave well enough alone and had to "tweak" it a little. I hope you enjoy it!

Cheesy Asparagus Soup

2 lbs. fresh asparagus
4 cups vegetable broth
2 medium thin-skinned potatoes, diced (can use new potatoes)
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cups half & half (or 2 cups cream and 2 cups whole milk)
4 Tb. flour
salt & pepper, to taste
1-1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
plain yogurt

Cut off asparagus tips and blanch until just tender. (Drop in boiling water for 3 minutes, then remove and drop in ice water.) Set the tips aside. You can substitute the asparagus water for the broth if you wish. I used the water and added an organic vegetable bouillon. Chop the asparagus spears, and add to the soup pot along with the broth, potatoes, onion and celery. Cook until asparagus is soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Puree until smooth. Return to pot.

Add half & half (temper it first!), flour and salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens slightly.

Just before serving, add cheese, stirring into soup until well blended.

Ladle soup into bowls and place a dollop of yogurt on top. Using a butter knife, lightly cut the knife through the yogurt a couple of times. Add a few asparagus tips to the top.

Serves 8.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Veggie Burrito Bake with Sourdough Tortillas

I'm going to keep this short and sweet.

This rocks.

Even my son, who thinks spinach was put on earth to torture him, licked his plate clean.

And I let him.

This recipe is adapted from the cookbook, "Simply in Season". The sourdough tortilla recipe has been adapted from a couple of different recipes.

Veggie Burrito Bake

1 large clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 cup uncooked rice
3/4 t. turmeric

Saute in saucepan in 1 Tb. butter until onion is tender. Stir often.

1-1/2 cups vegetable broth

Add and mix well. Simmer, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes for white rice, 40 minutes for brown rice. Remove from heat, let stand 5 minutes, fluff with fork.

16 cups fresh spinach, loosely packed
1-1/2 t. garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

While rice cooks, steam spinach, 1 handful at a time, until just wilted. Spinach should be moist, with loose leaves, not clumped together.

2 cups cooked black beans
1 Tb. chili powder

Mix in bowl. Layer ingredients as follows in 2-quart casserole dish: half spinach, all of the rice, all of the beans, remaining spinach.

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Sprinkle cheese on top. Cover and bake at 375 F. for 45 minutes. Serve by spooning onto warm tortillas. Optional garnishes: salsa, avocados, guacamole, sour cream, hot pepper sauce, chopped
fresh cilantro, lime wedges. Serves 4.

*I used plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and didn't use any other garnishes. Mainly because I can't get any of the garnishes locally. If you live in a warm climate, these would be great additions!

Sourdough Tortillas

Sponge: 1/4 cup sourdough starter
1-1/2 cup flour (I used organic white)
1 cup lukewarm water

Lightly cover and let sit for 6 hours.

1-1/2 cup flour
1-1/2 Tb. sea salt

Mix together.

Cut in 2 Tb. lard or organic shortening until crumbly. Add sponge mixture and knead 5 times. Separate the dough into 12 balls. Roll out each ball very thin. Cook in medium, preheated cast iron skillet until bubbles form. Turn over and cook another minute. You can use a little coconut oil or dry cook. Keep hot tortillas covered until ready to use. Can also be frozen for later use.

*I'll just warn you now that these tortilla's will be in several dishes next week!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gratituesday...A Returning Soldier & Gardening

I feel very blessed today.

This morning, I was serenaded by a Pavorotti-in-the-making, otherwise known as Frisky Biscuit, who thinks "he's all that".

Until someone had to help him down.

How embarrassing for him.

I went out to the greenhouse to water the seedlings and found that a salad will be on next week's menu plan!

And discovered that tomatoes will not.

This is a month's worth of growth. I can feel my thumb turning brown....

I feel blessed that we have a local farmer's market that just happened to have an older lady selling heirloom tomato plants. Most people are waiting until May to set theirs out.

Because the sun is shining, I made a little stop at the garden center to pick up a few more plants...

With fish fertilizer and a little love, my $6 worth of plants will put the $30 hanging baskets to shame! (At least, that's the plan!)

I feel blessed that our transplanted climbing roses didn't suffer from shock and are happily reaching heavenward.

I feel blessed that we had some dirt and a little grass seed to patch up all the holes from dogs and moles!

I also feel blessed that nobody thus far has twisted their ankles in these holes.

I feel blessed that this little bed has been weeded by my son and is waiting for the artichokes to be planted.

My daughter, Heather, blessed me by planting different mints again and asking if this could be her very own garden.

I feel blessed that she likes to get creative in the garden and figured out a way to train the sweet peas to grab onto the fence. (These are hazelnut suckers that she weaved into the fence.)

I feel blessed to have a husband who shares my vision for self-sufficiency and organic farming.
This is one of the two beds he built...

...before realizing that 2 wouldn't be enough!

And finally, I feel blessed, privileged and honored to welcome home our son-in-law, who has been in Iraq for the last 8+ months.

Even if he couldn't stop kissing our daughter.

I feel blessed to be in on the surprise that not everyone was privy to!

Welcome home Jake.