Showing posts with label in the kitchen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label in the kitchen. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"take a deep breath, mama"

Dinner prep did not go well this evening. I'm back to monthly meal planning, and tonight's dinner was tacos. Here's the thing about tacos at our house: I have to make everything from scratch. Everything. I dream about those taco kits from the store ...

Taco night is tricky because I need a long stretch of time to make dinner. Like two hours if I do it all in one go. I usually make the tortillas halfway while the kids are resting then finish them off while I am making the filling and fixings, but today during rest time I crashed on the couch with my Bible and a chocolate bar.

I started with the taco seasoning, which I knew I needed to make more of. A few spices, shake the jar up, done. Then I began making the tortillas. When I went to add the baking powder I discovered an empty jar. Gah! I quickly mixed up a batch of baking powder (we don't buy it from the store because we don't eat corn).

J and I had recently discussed why the tortilla recipe had sugar in it. We concluded that it was for flavoring purposes so I decided to leave out the sugar, but the end result was so sticky I ended up throwing the batch away. I told B, "We don't normally do this - in fact Daddy would never do this - but if Mama doesn't throw this away and start over she is going to start yelling."

While I was mixing the tortillas Ainsleigh was screaming as loud as she could because a) I wasn't giving her peas fast enough, and b) that's what Ainsleigh does. Queen Squawkers is the perfect nickname for her. I think the Lord thought it would be helpful to make her super loud so that all of my worries about her verbal skills failing to develop well because of her hearing loss wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

Then B joined in the yelling, because he is three. And then I yelled, because I am human.

I was mixing the dough, getting more and more frustrated, and then B, who was standing in his helper tower, looked at me and said, "Mom, you need to breathe. You need to take a deep breath, mama," because that's what I say to him when he gets frustrated.

The tortillas did not come out perfectly, but I got enough done and pressed that we could have dinner. I threw them onto silicone mats then pulled the griddle out so I could cook them. Two weeks ago when I made tacos I had two silicone mats full of beautiful little circles all laid out and ready to cook as soon as J got home from work. This time I wanted to throw all the tortillas out the door, or have J fix the problem - which he is brilliant at - but I knew J was going to be home late and I didn't want to make him walk in the door and fix dinner (foreshadowing!)

Tortillas done. Spanish rice started. Taco meat started. Fixings done. J almost home. I thought I was home free.

Oh, wait! While I was busy cooking Ainsleigh was pushing the kid chairs and table all over the dining room, which I thought was no big deal because she does that all day every day. But little miss was scheming and plotting and when I peeked in the dining room I saw this:

She used the small chair to climb on the big chair and was doing her best to get up on the table!!

J finally came home and whisked the kids upstairs with him to change/bounce on the bed. I put dinner on the table. I taste tested the Spanish rice before putting it on the table since it was my first time making it. SPICY!! I tried to figure out what I did wrong while eating cheese to ease the burning in my mouth.

"Something is wrong with the Spanish rice," I told J. "You can try it if you like, but it's really spicy."

I served the kids then made myself a taco. I took a bite, then my eyes began watering.

"J! This is SPICY! B, stop! STOP! Don't eat the meat."

He tried a bite. His eyes got huge.

"Eat some cheese, baby!! Quick! It helps!"

"It must be the chili powder, J! The chili powder we bought from the bulk bins this weekend."

"There's different kinds of chili powder?" he asked.

"I don't know! I guess so."

Then another thought crossed my mind.

"Oh my word, that's a pound of grass fed beef!" 

"Stop freaking out, let me try to fix it."

And he did. Mostly. Of course. He used his science brain to add a certain ratio of fats to the meat to tame the spice, then he rinsed it out, and it was edible. Ish.

I just put my head in my hands and ate a plain tortilla.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

from scratch (help needed!)

Every time I crack open a jar of spaghetti sauce I think, I should really make this from scratch."

I've conquered a lot of items on my "I'll never be able to make this" list, but spaghetti sauce is really daunting for some reason. I make pizza sauce from scratch! Well, kind-of. I buy canned tomato sauce and paste, so I guess that doesn't really count.

I have a lot of questions about making spaghetti sauce:

What tomatoes are best?

What else do you add?

How long do you cook it?

What's your process?

How do you store it?

Making spaghetti sauce is probably a task that requires a little trial and error. I need time to get in the kitchen and figure out what to do, but there isn't time for much of anything right now.

I recently finished reading Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss, which made me feel like we need to cut back even more on processed foods (absolutely eating a bowl of ice cream while I type this ...).

I remember our early married years when taco night involved a seasoning mix and pre-made shells from the store. Now I make tortillas and the seasoning, and while I'd like to drop kick the tortillas down the street they taste good and it's not too difficult. I have a feeling spaghetti sauce will be the same story once I figure out a good recipe.

And if I really get a handle on the process I'll plant tomatoes in the garden next year so I can harvest them then make sauce. I love the complete cycle - from garden to food - and I love when it takes place in our yard, but it is difficult to do and very time consuming. Thus the invention of processed pre-made foods!

If you make sauce from scratch please share your process!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

gluten and corn free tortillas perfected

It took me somewhere in the range of nine months to figure out how to make a good gluten and corn free tortilla. Of course it's free of nuts, dairy and eggs as well. I've had the basic recipe for a long time. I got it HERE. But I couldn't make it work perfectly for me. The dough was sticky. The dough fell apart. The dough worked, but the taste was mediocre, or downright awful. I threw away entire batches. I got mad. I got frustrated. And then I figured it out.

The only flour that I have had success with is the perfect flour blend from Namaste Foods. I buy it at Costco. Now, I can't figure out how to make anything else with this flour, but it makes a mean tortilla.

So Namaste flour plus the rest of the ingredients - minus xanthan gum because it's in the flour blend & I use coconut palm sugar instead of brown sugar - is the magic mix. The tortillas come out pretty small. Next round I think I'll double the batch so we can have bigger tacos.

Form into balls, roll out on parchment paper (use a little brown rice flour if dough sticks to roller) use a bowl to make each tortilla into a perfect little circle, and warm over medium heat until it's as done as you like it.

5 ingredients.

Simple. Easy.

We can finally have tacos again. And elephant ears. I can't wait to try this out with butter (or ghee) and cinnamon sugar.

I'll leave you with a picture of Ains, who shouted at me the entire time I worked on the tortillas. Her new nickname is Queen Squawkers. She is going to love that when she's a little older. It's almost as good as Grumpy Bear. Maybe we should combine it - Queen Squawkers Grumpy Bear. Now that's a nickname.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

kitchen adventures: homemade fruit snacks / energy bites {allergy friendly}

I wanted to make B homemade fruit snacks, but there were some hurdles to face first:

- I needed grass-fed gelatin (what the what is that?!)

- I didn't know how to use the juicer 

Once the gelatin was sourced - online, by J - I asked how to use the juicer. J laughed and said it was easy, did I really need him to show me?

Well no, no I don't, thank you very much, sir.

This morning B and I went to the store then prepared ourselves to make homemade fruit snacks. One thing J did not take into consideration: I'm pregnant. And pregnancy makes me a little stupid.

I couldn't figure out how to turn the juicer on.

I put it all together, I understood the mechanics of it, but the on button was missing from our model.

I had to watch a YouTube video to figure out how to turn the darn juicer on. (Why am I admitting this?)

Once I learned that the button was at the back on the very bottom (the guy on YouTube was a little confused too) I did just fine.

From there it was pretty easy. Well, I had to Google "what is compote?" to make sure my definition matched that of the general population, but overall I did fine.

And the fruit snacks are good! B is meh about them, but I am determined to make him like them. We popped in for a quick doctor visit this morning (B has a mysterious one sided rash next to his mouth that will not clear up) and heard the best news: B has gained 1 lb since April and the doctor is pleased - hear that, pleased!! - with his progress. If I can get gelatin in this boy we may actually hit 20 lbs by the time he's 2.

When J came home from work - more like stopped in, that man is working so hard right now on so many projects - he noticed the cleaned juicer next to the sink.

"Hey!! You juiced!"

"Well, I made a little orange juice for those homemade fruit snacks. I didn't really juice."

"I didn't think you would actually do it without me!"

Then I did this really embarrassing hands on hips head bob thing that comes out sometimes when I don't know what to say, but feel the need to project a little attitude.

I showed him, didn't I?

On to the next adventure, which was really easy in comparison: Vegan Gluten-Free Energy Bites. I made these once. J found a different homemade granola bar for me to try later this week. Wait, it's Thursday? Make that next week. I like this recipe, but it uses oats and we're trying to wean off the grains. I might try making it again with quinoa flakes because B loves it so much.

It only took me a few minutes to throw this recipe together. I cut out the hemp seeds (didn't have any) and cacao powder (didn't have it until it showed up with the gelatin).

Up next: homemade marshmallows and the granola bars I mentioned above.

In case you missed it: Homemade Fruit Snack Recipe HERE

And Vegan Gluten-Free Energy Bites HERE

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

christmas traditions: cinnamon rolls

It's only Christmas if cinnamon rolls are present. Last night I made my first batch. Love you mom and dad, but these WAY beat out the store bought ones you made every year. I've wanted to make cinnamon rolls for a long, long time, but always thought it was too difficult. Oh my stars, it's so easy! I have no idea what I was worried about.

I've always loved to bake, but after Charlotte died I baked and baked and baked. I learned how to make bread and other things from scratch. It was so reassuring to go in the kitchen with a recipe in hand and come out with a finished product. It restored a little bit of my confidence to mix together ingredients and have the end result look and taste like what I planned and expected it to be.

A few days ago I was talking to J about how little confidence I have in myself and my abilities since Charlotte died. I told him how it's difficult for me to stop asking how I failed Charlotte and where I went wrong when she died. He said, "sure, of course." He then proceeded to come up with the best baby loss analogy I've heard.

In the dark of our room at a very late hour (at least ten o' clock) J said, "It's like going in to the kitchen to make bread. You mix your flour, water and yeast, wait patiently for the bread to rise and then put it in the oven. When you open the oven door to take it out the bread pan is empty. You don't know where the bread has gone, or why it's disappeared. You followed the instructions exactly, so you must be to blame for what went wrong."


Baking the cinnamon rolls last night made me so happy. I had to mix up a test batch before J's family brunch on Saturday because I've never made the recipe before. I love baking (and I'm slowly starting to enjoy cooking.) I didn't sub, or cut, any ingredients. I used butter, whole milk and flour. I used cream cheese, sugar, and powdered sugar. I poured the butter, cinnamon and sugar on the dough until it rolled off the sides. And then I baked, frosted (and ate three hot cinnamon rolls) at 9:30 pm.

I disregarded the clock and calories and I enjoyed every. single. bite. I admit, that's the happiest and most proud of myself I've been in quite some time.

The Recipe:

Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls Pared Down (Makes about 10) (Thanks for doing the math, J).

1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 package yeast (.25 oz package)
2 cups flour (+ 1/4 set aside for later)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 Tablespoon salt
1/4 cup butter (plus a little more if desired)
1/2 cup sugar

For process go to The Pioneer Woman's site.

Cream Cheese Frosting (from

4 oz cream cheese softened
1/4 cup butter softened 
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon milk

In a mixing bowl, beat ingredients until well mixed. Or if it's late and you're worried about waking the baby mix by hand. Ignore any and all lumps. It will still taste amazing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

fall recipe: roast chicken, two ways

September is a warm time, if not the warmest time of year in the Willamette Valley. This morning I stared at the 10 day forecast with dismay, but I know the rain will fall soon. When I did a quick read through of blog posts this evening I saw no fewer than three 'fall is coming' posts so I know it is almost upon us.

I love fall to pieces. It's my favorite season, which I've told you 1,000 times, I know. I hate cooking during the summer because it's hot and we don't have air conditioning and when it's hot I don't feel like eating. But then fall comes along and eating soup by a fire becomes not only appropriate but necessary (ten months of the year I am chilled to the bone) and hot chocolate in the morning starts to sound good every morning.

This year, as in somewhere around February, I tackled making a whole chicken for the first time. I'm 29. Is that shameful? I think it is. I found a fabulous easy recipe for rotisserie chicken in the slow cooker and I make it once a month, if not twice. I think I've shared the recipe here before. I'm so tired (mastitis, seriously) I'm beginning to think I've already written this post, but I don't think that's the case ...

So that's recipe number one. It is so easy. Go try it. And when you have that one tackled take on this next one. I found this recipe in the Bon Appetit Cookbook by Barbara Fairchild. Somewhere in the last year I became someone who flips through recipe books for fun. To think, it all started with a bit of innocent meal planning.

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme chicken


1- 4-1/2 lb whole chicken
2 tsp dried rosemary
1-1/2 tsp ground or dried sage
1-1/2 tsp dried thyme
bay leaves
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 small russet potatoes, quartered lengthwise and sliced into wedges
8 large shallots, peeled
1-3/4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
6 tbsp butter
minced parsley


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Rub chicken inside and out with salt. Combine rosemary, sage, thyme and generous amount of freshly ground black pepper in small bowl. Rub herb mixture inside chicken. Place 1 bay leaf inside. Tie legs together with string to hold shape. Brush chicken with some olive oil. Sprinkle with half of remaining herb mixture.

Place chicken in heavy large roasting pan. Surround chicken with potatoes, shallots and any other vegetables you are roasting. Sprinkle vegetables with remaining herb mixture and salt. Add remaining bay leaf and mix well.

Roast chicken until juices run clear when thigh is pierced with fork (about 60 - 75 minutes depending on size of chicken). Every 20 minutes or so baste chicken and vegetables with pan juices throughout cooking. Remove chicken and vegetables from roasting pan and tent with foil to keep warm (aerating so skin stays crispy).

Pour pan juices into large glass measuring cup and spoon off fat from top. Add enough chicken broth to measure 2 cups. Add vinegar to roasting pan; set over 2 burners and bring to boil over medium heat, scraping up any brown bits. Boil until reduced to glaze (4-6 minutes). Add broth mixture and boil until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to low and whisk in butter 1 piece at a time. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley. Pour sauce over chicken and vegetables and serve.


I admit, this one taxed my brain a bit, but it was so good I will make it again. And to be completely honest, the first time through a recipe always taxes my brain a bit. To make this post even more exciting I'm going to add a third recipe: homemade chicken noodle soup. This won't be very precise because I make it up as I go along, but it's a great way to use every bit of a whole chicken.

When you've finished supper remove as much meat as you can from the bone. Place the chicken carcass in a large pot. Fill the pot with water until the carcass is just covered.


Carrots and celery, roughly chopped.

Salt (however much you like).

A dash of apple cider vinegar (pulls minerals from the bone).

Fresh rosemary and thyme (if you have it, if not dried will do).

Set it to simmer for a good long while (at least two-three hours).

Remove and discard the chicken carcass (you can pull more meat from the bone at this time).

Pour the broth into a large bowl (or two) through a sieve. Or use whatever you have on hand to make sure you don't wind up with vegetables and herbs in your broth.

Put it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning skim most of the fat off the top, but not all of it! Fat is good for you.

Chop up carrots and celery. Add.

Add rosemary and thyme.

Set it to simmer.

I like to let it simmer all day, but a couple hours is plenty of time.

When you are a few minutes from supper time make noodles separately and then add them to the soup. They go all mushy otherwise.

Taste for flavor. Add salt or chicken broth if you like. I only recently have managed to make a soup that I don't feel needs a bit of chicken broth added to make the flavor stronger.


So there you have it.

Roast chicken, two ways, and a soup recipe.

If you're thinking you can't handle raw chicken I promise you will be fine. I gag through the entire process, but I make it through.


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