Archive for April, 2010

April 29, 2010

Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Chicken Noodle Soup

Martha does it again…. Found a fabulous chicken recipe on her site from Lucinda Scala Quinn’s cookbook, “Mad Hungry.” I deviated a bit from the recipe, and found the result to be delicious and extremely fast to cook – about an hour for a whole chicken! The trick is to cut the chicken down the backbone, fry in a pan and then throw the pan and all in the oven. I really got into punching the chicken to flatten it so much so that the recipe was dubbed by my family as “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Chicken!” Looks like I may have to add this cookbook to my collection…

Sorry, no pictures of our dynamite dinner, but I do have a few of the home-made chicken noodle soup made from the left-overs.

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April 27, 2010

Dandelions

The darling of seasons, SPRING, has arrived. Flowers are popping up to treat winter weary eyes with their unmatched beauty. One of the first lovelies is the humble dandelion. Just as the majestic lion is the crowned king of the beasts, dandelions are the reigning monarch of SPRING!

Recently, I read an article about the woman who brought dandelions, not indigenous to North America, to Minnesota for her famous dandelion bread and other concoctions. Dandelion bread – who knew? I’ve had dandelion greens in my spring salad green mixes, but the thought of bread opened a whole new world. I began to research and found other recipes such as dandelion wine (my grandmother used to make) and jam, but what really caught my fancy was dandelion syrup.

I read several references about Swiss grannies in the Alps with jars and jars of dandelion syrup. Now not only was my curiousity peaked, but now my imagination was in full bloom. I had to have some – I became a bit obsessed. If little Swiss grannies can, I can too!

Gathering my faithful foragers, we picked a bucketful of the fragrant spring blossoms (fortunately, I’m closely related to some certified organic farmers so I knew where to find the good stuff!). Alas, my busy bee-like boys soon got bored, and grabbed their baseball equipment. Apparently, the romance of gathering spring flowers for sweet and sticky syrup was lost on them. I knew once they tasted dandelion syrup, they would be transformed. Undaunted by their lack of enthusiasm, I acquiesced and joined the ball players. Even though I was stuck in the outfield, I managed to continue to pluck a few more dandelions and chase the occasional ball that came my way. In the end, we had a ton of fun and my bucket of flower heads was full.Then came the work of separating the petals – this was fairly easily managed with a knife. I covered the blossoms with filtered water, boiled for the designated amount of time, turned the heat off and let steep overnight.

In the morning, the mixture was strained and I was left with a yellowish, dandelion blossom tea. I added sugar and some lemon juice, and the mixture was simmered for about 3 hours. The end result was a unique and special syrup rather honey-like in taste.

Dandelion syrup is a delightful addition to warm cornbread or wheat germ pancakes. I’m excited about the possibilities; a whole new world has opened up to me. I’m now eyeing the fields of yellow dots of sunshine with a fresh point of view (my taste buds). Dandelions, the reigning monarch of Spring, have found a new and sweet place in my heart!

Follow some of my rabbit trails for dandelion recipes & inspiration:

5orangepotatoes.blogspot.com

fxcuisine.com

yummysupper.blogspot.com

fat-of-the-land.blogspot.com

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Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.” Song of Solomon 2:12

April 23, 2010

Family Movie Nite Treat: Honey Carmel Popcorn

Family meals and family movie nights are an integral part of our family’s culture. Our “Comfy, Cozy, Casual Nights” have seen many slight modifications over the years as our family has grown and aged. We probably won’t be watching Pooh’s Great Adventure anymore (unless we do a themed night or a family retro night), but the basic premise has remained the same: our family together enjoying a “family movie,” some cuddle-time, some laughs and some yummies. The yummies may vary in popularity, but Honey Carmel Pop-corn is certainly a family favorite.

Looking for a sweet pop-corn treat sans corn syrup? Look no further. I copied this recipe from a honey cookbook borrowed from my parents, but have modified it a bit. Most often, I make a half batch which is sufficient for our family of 6.

1/2 Cup raw honey (from unmedicated bees)

2 Cups organic brown sugar

2 sticks (1 cup) organic butter

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

6 quarts popped corn

Pre-heat oven to 225 degrees (I have a very hot oven so I heat at 200 degrees). In a heavy bottomed pan, cook first four ingredients over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and continue the boil while stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add baking soda. Mix and pour over popcorn. Spread on cookie sheets and bake for 15 – 18 minutes. Please note: Honey burns easily so remember to be conservative when heating.Happy Movie Nite!

She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. Proverbs 31:15

April 22, 2010

My New Cookbook!

As a hopeless bookworm, there’s an extra special spot reserved in my heart for cookbooks. As a teeny toddler, I could often be found sitting cross-legged on the floor pouring over the pages of the Betty Crocker’s Cookie CookbookConsequently, I learned to bake quite young because I had a mother who was patient enough to give me free rein. I was baking cookies and cakes by age 10. During my teen years and into my twenties, I found baking a great stress reliever. On the other hand, I had a personal aversion to basic cooking. Since I’d every intention of being a full-time career woman and never a mere housewife, what was the point? Weren’t there plenty of good restaurants?

I was certainly naive (complete understatement here!). Fortunately, when I was a young mother, Martha Stewart came on the scene. Although we never met, she was my mentor. Watching her show and reading her magazines, I learned a tremendous amount about cooking and homemaking. She elevated it to an art-form rather than a task. She taught and inspired me. I discovered I could cook just about anything I wanted, and I rediscovered cookbooks.

All this to say, I have a new cookbook in my life! My sister and brother-in-law, knowing my fondness for cookbooks, gave me the inspirational and pretty, Organic & Chic Cookbook (thank you, thank you!!). Written by the like-minded, Sarah Magid, this book is a visual treat featuring unique recipes, great tips, and a feast for the eyes.

Not wanting to feed her children junk-food sweets made in large factories, Sarah developed her own recipes reminiscent of store bought favorites. Her background as a top accessories designer shines through with each whimsical and artistic, edible masterpiece. As a true artist, she understands form follows function. Her recipes begin with quality, organic ingredients with a healthy dose of love.

This book is simply brilliant – a must read from cover to cover! I’m looking forward to duplicating many of these wonders!

“And from fine wheat flour, without yeast, make bread, and cakes mixed with oil, and wafers spread with oil.” Exodus 29:2

April 19, 2010

The Power of a Simple Apron

When I get blue and don’t want to budge, I instinctively search for a dose of inspiration (some days, a double dose). Often, I’m inspired by beautiful imagery such a lovely table setting or brilliantly designed floral arrangement. Other days, a powerful quotation will spark a fire in me. Housework, especially laundry – my personal nemesis, is an unending cycle of daily tasks that can bring down even the most dedicated, disciplined and visionary of mothers.

I’ve a secret weapon. Some people wear power ties or power shoes, my self-inspiring garb is a little less glamourous – it’s a power apron. Sure, I’ve been guilty of mocking pictures of mums in fancy apron and pumps, but now I’m in awe of those wise women who went before me. There’s power in a simple apron! When I tie those proverbial strings, my whole persona changes. I become “Mother” in the dearest sense, and I’m ready for work. I’m suddenly the heart of my home wiping noses, baking cookies, kneading dough, folding laundry, and….

My apron inspires me. It lightens my load. Like the glorious and faithful rainbow, we all need something external, tangible and pretty to serve as a remembrance. My apron reminds me of all the quotes I collected, verses memorized, the Martha Stewart magazines devoured, the countless books and articles absorbed, and the cookbooks read cover to cover in an effort to become a better mother, wife and homemaker. My little apron does all that and more (on a practical note, it even protects my clothes from inevitable doughy clumps). It truly is a power apron!

For more super cute aprons, check out:

www.squidoo.com/jessiesteeleaprons

www.flirtyaprons.comLove the cupcakes!

Fabulous color combination! Are you inspired, yet?

“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love…” 1 Thessalonians 1:3

April 16, 2010

Le Fort Cafe Follow-Up: 1 and 1

Just a follow-up from Le Fort Cafe and the mad multi-tasking that goes on in a day. Okay, I’m 1 and 1. Here’s the breakdown (living in a sports-driven household, I speak with statistics – a language they can really understand!):

  • The Cherry Cobbler = Amazing! +1
  • The Ham Hock = RIP! -1

Moving on, then, from the Ham Hock Horror

For the cobbler recipe, I reworked my classic dumpling recipe which I use for both beef and chicken stews. If you’d like to recreate this heavenly delight….

  • Prepare cherries (or use the can variety)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Fill 9X13 pan with cherry filling
  • In food processor: add 2 cups flour, 1 T sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 T baking power
  • Place cover and while it’s running add 1 frozen stick of butter (1/2 C butter) *
  • Mix until combined – should be crumbly in texture
  • Add 1/2 C of heavy cream while running processor
  • Should have the consistency of pie dough
  • Pat dough into about 9 pieces to top cherry filling
  • Sprinkle with sugar
  • Bake for approximately 20 – 25 minutes (depending on your oven)
  • Serve hot with REAL vanilla ice cream

Note: Before I had a food processor, I cut the frozen butter by hand using a pastry dough cutter (my sister actually uses a 2 knife method). In the long run, it probably is a faster method with less clean-up:)

EnJOY!

The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3

April 13, 2010

le fort café et boulangerie

Here’s what’s cooking at Le Fort Cafe et Boulangerie a.k.a The Strong Cafe and Bakery (it’s always better en Francais – oui?):

Breakfast was a warm Oatmeal Porridge reverently referred to (by me) as “Heaven in a Bowl.” The organic steel-cut oats are cooked to perfection and served with a dollop of butter (real, of course) and raw, locally harvested honey (Ravencroft Farm). A comfort food and taste sensation, Irish oats are pure bliss in the AM! But, alas, the food critics they demand more. They find this simple fare, well, simple. Consequently, the pressure for a pleasing lunch selection was keenly felt, I had to rally…

Lunch….hmmm… Did I mention I had a deadline yesterday and so my 14 year old graciously offered to help with lunch?  I was Chef (chopping vegetables, barking out orders, emailing attachments, and re-emailing attachments) and he was Sous Chef. Well, when I told him to add 2 cups of flour to the mixing bowl (homemade egg noodles for the chicken and vegetable soup boiling away on the stove), he assumed I’d meant for him to add them to the bowl of cherries (hand-picked last year) with a handful of sugar and a pinch of pectin thawing on the counter. Barely making my deadline, I rushed back to the kitchen for some quick kneading of the noodle dough. And then, I saw the bowl – a pink, pasty mixture of cherry delight.

When life gives you lemons – right?  Okay, we’re trained experts here, we can handle this. Added was a few more packages of frozen cherries and more sugar to thaw & marinate on the counter. Today, it was cooked down a bit and it’s now slated for cherry cobbler (writing my own recipe) and cherry turnovers (left over puff-pastry from the Asparagus & Gruyere Tarts made for Easter – AMAZING!!).

It’s hard to think about lunch when you’d rather be a Pâtisserie Chef than just a plan old, boring Chef. As the critics began inundating with questions as to the identity of the Lunch Special, I started to grab. I pulled out my trusty 9×9 ceramic pan in a lovely, spring-green hue and buttered it (again real butter). After slicing the last few pieces of bread, I grabbed and quickly grated all the cheese ends I could find (we’re down to just cheddar – Gruyere doesn’t last here). I threw in some diced ham left-over from Easter; some free-range, organic eggs with their glorious bright orange yokes (indicating a high level of nutritional content); and yummy mushrooms who spoke (“eat me, eat me”) to me when I was rummaging through the fridge. Viola! The Lunch Special was in the oven.

Ham, oh my! A ham hock still remained in the fridge. While lunch was baking, the ham was tossed in the crockpot on a low heat with some water.  Last year, my attempt at Ham & Bean Soup became a copious amount of  salty, mushy bean disaster. But, not one to give up too easily, I’m starting again – perhaps, I learned something and this year it will be tres magnifique… FYI – Mere de Chef doesn’t love Ham & Beans so her attitude may have created a biased that affected the whole process.

Turns out lunch was not so special for all the foodies. One critic, in particular, spent most of lunch comparing the homey Egg Strata to Quiche (which is what he would have preferred to have).  When the general unrest trickled down to the rookie foodies who started to request items from the Ala Carte Menu, Mere de Chef pulled out her standard line perfected with years of use:  “I am not, nor will I ever be, a short-order cook!”

Remember the cherries and puff pastry?  The Cherry Turnovers turned out divinely, and proved to be a triumphant ending to The Lunch Special.  Mere de Chef can kick her feet up still donning her “power apron,” sip her green mint tea from mismatch chinz, contemplate her bowl full of cherries (literally and figuratively), lament another day without homemade yogurt, and plan for The Dinner Special…  Welcome to Le Cafe!!

“These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.” Psalm 104:27