Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Apple Pie-itas

Do you ever just throw something together really quickly and it turns out amazingly yummy? I love it when that happens! Look what I did with a few simple ingredients today to satisfy my sweet tooth…

I’m really trying to cut sugar out of my diet. But, it’s really, really hard. Today, I had a really bad craving for something sweet and fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) I didn’t have any junky sweets laying around. We very rarely do, although on occasion I do buy my hubby cookies or there is leftover birthday cake.

My daughter had just made a quesadilla for lunch, and I started thinking about those fried cinnamon things from Taco Bell. I don’t really like them…they kind of remind me of pork rinds with cinnamon or maybe what fried paper towels would be like if you sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar. Gross, either way you look at it.

I got an idea to fry up a tortilla in some butter and sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on top. Impromptu oreja de elefante. Then I got the idea to spread some homemade applesauce on that and drizzled a tiny bit of half n half (I’m unfortunately out of raw cream at the moment or that would have been even better!). I rolled it up and tooka bite and WOW was that good. Really satisfied my sweet tooth!

It could have been healthier…homemade tortilla instead of store-bought, sucanat or raw sugar instead of white, and raw cream instead of pasteurized half n half, but I think it was still infinitely more healthy than an apple pie from Mc Death’s.  Honestly, it kind of tasted like one…but better! I will be making these again with more healthy ingredients next time, but I’m glad I found a way to make something delicious, inexpensive, quick, and with minimal heat added to my kitchen on this hot, sunny day!

I quick took a picture before it was on the picture for an up close and delicious look!


  • 1 soft tortilla
  • 1 Tb butter (or other healthy, traditional fat) for frying  I think coconut oil would be awesome!
  • 1 tsp (more or less to taste) cinnamon sugar, or combine your favorite sugar and cinnamon
  • 1-2 Tbs unsweetened or lightly sweetened applesauce
  • drizzle of raw cream
  • a bit more cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top, if desired
Makes 1 serving


Melt fat in cast iron skillet, add tortilla and coat well in melted fat. Flip over to coat other side, then fry each side until slightly crispy (you need to be able to roll it up). Remove from pan, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Spread applesauce on top, drizzle with cream and stir it around a bit until combined. Roll tortilla, sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar, if desired. Eat. Would also be good topped with fresh raw whipped cream, raw vanilla ice cream, yogurt or kefir!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What’s For Supper Wednesday: Tostadas de Alba

tostadas de alba
Quick, tasty and fresh...just what I love in meal!
Click on the picture for a closer look
In an effort to be more consistent with my blogging, I’m going to try to post on Wednesdays what we’re having for supper.  PLEASE feel free to leave a comment and share what you’re eating too! I love to see what other people are cooking!

And so, for the very first What’s For Supper Wednesday post, I’ll share the Mexican-y thing I whipped up that got an enthusiastic thumbs up from my toughest critic…My Husband...

I wasn’t sure what to call this dish…I guess they’re Tostadas, so for  the lack of a better name, I’ll call them Tostadas de Alba…which is a very loose translation of my first name. I love artistic license…

Supper needed to be quick and easy, and what can be easier than tortillas with something on them? I fried some ground beef and lightly seasoned it with a different blend of spices than what I usually use ( a homemade taco seasoning), which was what the Husband liked. He said he likes taco seasoning, but then ends up burping it all night. Come to think of it, so do I…and I unfortunately remember a bad night after eating too much taco salad while I was pregnant with my son. I didn’t eat anything Mexican for a long time after that. 

The tortillas were fried crispy in butter, topped with refried beans, meat, sharp cheddar cheese (if only I had some queso blanco….) and pico de gallo. The result was absolutely delicious! I just threw this together, so measurements are approximate…and feel free to substitute peppers…we’re not a spicy kind of family so it’s very mild, but I think I would have actually liked a bit more kick. My tastebuds are getting wild in their old age…

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp paprika
generous shake or two of Miss Tink’s House Seasoning
salt, as desired
refried beans of your choice
flour tortillas
butter or other traditional fat for frying
shredded cheese 
I made this with what I had on hand so it’s not necessarily “authentic.” It sure was tasty though!
1 roma tomato, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 c green pepper, diced
1-2 tbs hot yellow pepper, minced
1 tbs fresh lime juice
1/8 tsp ground coriander
salt to taste
Make the pico de gallo first so the flavors can blend nicely while you’re cooking the rest of the dish. Combine the vegetables, lime juice and seasonings and set aside.
Brown ground beef, season with Miss Tink’s while cooking. When cooked, add coriander, paprika and more salt/Miss Tink’s as desired.
Heat refried beans. Meanwhile, melt butter or other fat in skillet and fry tortillas on both sides until crispy. Layer beans, meat, and cheese, waiting a bit for the cheese to melt slightly before topping with pico de gallo. Makes about 3 to 5 tostadas, depending on how generously you top them.
This was super easy to make and really tasted good! I would have preferred to use fresh cilantro, however I didn’t have any on hand…and the Husband doesn’t like as much cilantro as I do anyway. The hot yellow pepper I used wasn’t very hot at all, so if you like spicy, adjust accordingly. It also would have been good with some Mexican crema, sour cream, or homemade ranch dressing…but it was still delicious without it! The different seasoning on the meat was a delightful change from the plain old taco seasoning I usually use. I will definitely be making this again.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I LOVE MY BIG BERKEY! Look at What We DON’T Drink Anymore!

photo from
I love, love, love my Big Berkey! I’m not getting paid one cent to rave about it, either…I just love it that much! 

Today, I cleaned the black filtering elements in my Big Berkey, and I thought I’d show you what we’re NOT drinking anymore. It’s completely disgusting, seriously. I don’t know what it is…and honestly, I’m not sure I WANT to know. But I’m very happy that my family and I are not ingesting it, whatever it is. Take a look…I wish I had a better camera, because this picture does not fully capture the essense of the nasty that it is  in real life.

nasty berkey filter

There you have it, folks…just one of many reasons I love my Big Berkey. I ordered mine from and have really been happy with the product and their service. I’d like to encourage you to check it out…especially if you live in my town…our water is so nasty. I don’t even want to shower in it…yuck! Berkey makes showerhead filters too…I definitely want to get one for our shower!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Music to a Real Foodie Wife’s Ears: “I Feel Like Crap”

sick face greenYes, you read that right…my husband recently said that to me and I couldn’t have been more happy to hear it. Why? Because it reinforces why I do what I do and shows my husband that I’m not such a lunatic after all. What am I talking about, you ask? Read on…

For the last week almost, we’ve been busy getting ready for Number Two’s high school graduation. This meant cleaning house, moving furniture, shopping…busy busy busy.  And if you don’t plan ahead (something I’m not exactly wonderful at…) you end up eating stuff you shouldn’t…and wouldn’t normally. Even though I was feeling like a brand new person, after recently beginning treatment for low thyroid, I had months of cleaning and organizing that I was behind on and that took center stage. I didn’t bake or soak or otherwise prepare anything that would necessarily be called “real foodish”. Honestly, I don’t even really remember cooking. I know we ate…but what, who knows!

My father-in-law came from Arizona and stayed with us, and following tradition, treated us to supper one night. We ordered two giant take-out pizzas from a local pizza joint…and I mean GIANT. The leftovers ended up being breakfast and lunch at least twice! We had brats and hot dogs on commercially baked, white buns, potato chips, fried chicken from a local grocery store, and prepackaged coleslaw. Sodas. Capri Sun drink pouches. Cake...don't forget the least two of them were homemade by my mother-in-law, but one was a commercially prepared cake loaded with buttercream icing and lovely food coloring. It really looked neat though. And ice cream…mmmmm….I just love ice cream…and honestly, I didn’t care that it had red 40 in it, it was that yummy!

This is my handsome second-oldest stepson. This young man will soon be serving our country and protecting our freedoms as a United States Marine and we are very incredibly proud of him! That's that cake I was talking about there...

The graduate wanted a taco bar for his open house, and I bought pre-cooked and seasoned taco filling from GFS for far less than I could make it, even buying cheap meat…I didn’t look at the ingredient list, on purpose! Canned nacho cheese sauce…I would never buy that…for one, I don’t like pepper-flavored cheese, and for two, canned cheese is not necessarily food, I don’t think. Shredded iceberg lettuce has minimal nutritional value, and commercially prepared tortillas are laden with hydrogenated fats. There were, at least, brown rice and sesame tortilla chips and fresh veggies.

I really struggle sometimes, when it comes to preparing food for others. On one hand, I know certain foods really are not healthy for you…but on the other, do I “waste” expensive, healthier foods on people who don’t particularly care what they eat? I feel guilty, but my main focus when it comes to food is my family. And so I do my best to feed my family foods that I know are healthy and nutritious, and when it comes to feeding others, I revert back to the SAD most people are used to (that’s Standard American Diet…no surprise the acronym for that is SAD!!) unless I can afford to do otherwise.

Yesterday, my husband told me he felt like crap all day at work. Couldn’t concentrate or think clearly…tired, and generally feeling yucky. I felt bad that he felt bad, but secretly I was pleased in the sense that the benefits of the changes I’ve made in our diet aren’t just  “all in my head”. My husband feels better…we all feel better, for eating, at the very least, less processed foods and chemicals.

So, tonight, I enjoyed preparing some “real” food for a change. I must admit I enjoyed the convenience of the last several days, but at the expense of our health and well being…well, it’s definitely not a long-term habit I want to pick up again. As we enjoyed our supper tonight of ground turkey burger patties topped with sour cream, soaked and seasoned brown rice, buttery mixed veggies and fresh sliced tomatoes (with a lovely sprinkling of that heavenly pink Himalayan salt on mine….Oh. My. Word.), every cell in my body seemed to be giving me a standing ovation. It tasted lovely and was deeply satisfying. Plus, I know my husband will feel better tomorrow and that makes me very happy indeed.

turkey burger rice veggies

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Attempted Homicide Biscuits

white death flourHave you heard people refer to white flour as White Death Flour? That’s how I’ve come to think of it…but, my family is still rather fond of that stuff.  They eat what’s in the house…and since I’m in charge of all things food, well, they don’t eat a lot of stuff made with that White Death Flour – at least not at home.  And, truth be told, every now and again I get a hankerin’ for some biscuits or tortillas or a nice, thick hunk of white bread fresh out of the oven and kissed with butter.

I made biscuits the other night. Killer biscuits, to be exact. When that descriptor went through my mind, I immediately thought of White Death Flour…BUT, I reasoned, since these biscuits were made from scratch and had raw milk, coconut oil and butter in them…well, they were at least healthier than biscuit mix or those refrigerated cans of dough.  They couldn’t really be classified as killers, could they? Wouldn’t it just be more like attempted murder?

Whatever helps me sleep at night, right?

Strict Real Foodies are probably cringing as they read this. The ones that have banished white flour and sugar completely from their diet…and honestly, I wish I could say that’s where I’m at! I have to emphasize here the Real part of Real Foodie, for me anyway, also includes “being real” about my budget, my time, and my family…and sometimes, well, sometimes we eat stuff I really don’t want to. My family eats what I cook because they’re hungry and their choices are eat that or make your own meal. Which they would, probably, if we had ramen noodles, frozen pizza and blue boxes of mac ‘n cheese in the house.

BUT…making a meal that no one but myself will eat defeats the purpose, too. I certainly don’t have room in my budget for throwing out food, nor do I want to – that is not good stewardship of God’s blessings.  So, I compromise on occasion…and make a loaf of white bread, or pizza dough, or tortillas, or biscuits. We’re still eating healthier versions of store-bought foods, and sometimes that’s just the best we can do. As long as the majority of the time we’re eating better (or the best!) foods, we’re still coming out ahead.

Check out the killer biscuits I made:

killer biscuit dough
Right before on the pic to see it bigger and you can see the layers
killer biscuit fall over
You know that nice looking chunk of dough up there in the first picture? Apparently, there was so much rise on  that biscuit it toppled over!  I think If I had cut them wider, say 6 biscuits instead of 9, they wouldn't have fallen over like they did. But the flaky layers are very evident!
killer biscuit flaky layers
When I was still at home, we loved "flakies" - those refrigerated biscuits with the flaky layers.  I won't buy them now, no matter how cheap they are. They just taste gross to me. Besides, I can make my own flakies  (:
killer biscuit flaky layers close up
It's all in the technique, the cut and the fat: Don't overwork it while mixing, then FOLD the dough over on itself 5-6 times, don't knead it like the recipes usually say. You can see evidence of the folding in this biscuit. For higher rise on biscuits, USE A SHARP KNIFE OR BISCUIT CUTTER. The right side of this biscuit was the edge of the dough, the left side was cut with a Cutco bread knife...ubersharp! I don't make round biscuits anymore but squares because a knife is sharper than a glass dipped in flour and I get much taller biscuits that way. Sometimes I trim off the edges of the dough and have darned near perfect biscuits. And the fat secret? Most recipes say cut in the fat until it resembles cornmeal, but you actually need small chunks of fat to improve rise and flakiness. You need to leave some pea-sized chunks of fat in the flour. Also make sure the fat is COLD. I also use a baking stone and preheat it in the oven while making the biscuits.
killer biscuits on platter
These biscuits not only looked beautiful (in spite of some oddly-shaped ones) but tasted  absolutely divine! If  I'm gonna die from eating white flour, this is the way to go...

killer biscuits and butter
No self-respecting biscuit would be caught dead dressed in anything but real, honest to goodness least not at MY house!

I debated on whether or not to include this recipe, since the "best" results (as far as rise goes, anyway) come from using White Death Flour. But, since I started out on this Real Food journey in baby steps, switching from canned biscuits or biscuit mix to making them from scratch, for example, I decided maybe someone else who is in that same place would like this recipe. I usually make these now with half whole wheat flour...and am journeying into the world of soaked grains...but I still fall back to this recipe when the urge for Death by Biscuit hits.


  • 2 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 4 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 c traditional fat (coconut oil, lard, butter or combination)
  • 2/3 c milk (raw, whole fat, or buttermilk will work wonderfully)

Preheat your oven to 450, throw in your baking stone to preheat if using one. Mix dry ingredients, cut in fat with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse crumbs, making sure to have some pea-sized chunks. Add milk and stir gently with a fork just until moistened and the dough will follow the fork around the bowl. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and gently pat into a ball, then press out and fold the dough over onto itself 5 or 6 times. I usually try to shape it into a square or rectangle during this process to eliminate handling it too much before cutting. Using a SHARP knife or biscuit cutter, cut out your biscuits. Place on stone or baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.


It takes practice to get good at doing anything, and baking and cooking are no exceptions. Especially when learning to cook from scratch or learning traditional methods of preparing give yourself some grace if they don't turn out perfectly the first time. Sometimes it's your flour, sometimes it's how you worked the dough, sometimes it's the weather (seriously...humidity will jack up a baking day, trust me!). I've been working on biscuits for over a year now and believe me, I've had some flops. But when they do turn out oh man, there's just nothing like a good homemade biscuit!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Perfectionist Kitchen...Grace Under Fire

I wish this was my kitchen, but it's from
Do you struggle with perfectionism? I always believed perfectionists live in those House Beautiful centerfolds, have perfectly behaved families, and never have a hair out of place. Then I discovered that I was one. And believe me, House Beautiful couldn't be paid enough to photograph my home, my family is not perfectly behaved, and I often have hairs out of fact, it's almost noon as I type this on a cloudy Saturday morning, I'm still in my PJ's, and my hair is stylishly coiffed in a frightful Why-Yes-I-DID-Just-Roll-Out-Of-Bed 'do.

And yet, I'm busy working in my kitchen...the room that currently looks like a scale model of a nuclear testing ground. I've made sourdough pancakes, fed my starter, mixed up some healthy('s not soaked) granola that is currently infusing my home with the most delightful aroma of oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, honey, butter and coconut ( you can find the recipe here, at Kitchen Stewardship!), and I just started some dough in my breadmaker to make the bratwurst buns we need for tomorrow's outing to a local park to hunt for mushrooms and just enjoy spending the day together. I'm very happy that my 16 year old stepson will be joining will help make for a wonderful Mother's Day!

I'm taking a coffee break...enjoying some freshly ground Starbucks House Blend, sweetened slightly with sucanat and lavishly lightened with some raw cream from local, happy, organically grass-fed cows. Mmmmm...

So, back to the perfectionist kitchen oxymoron...I've learned that "perfectionist" doesn't always mean one does things perfectly and always "has it together". In fact, it can mean just the opposite, because the inability to do something perfectly paralyzes the perfectionist, and nothing gets done. 

I had a long day yesterday...not enough sleep, I've started babysitting for a three year old girl so I toted two three year olds around with me on grocery/errand day (wow...that's a challenge!), came home, made homemade pizza (thank God for 5-Minute pizza crust...), tried to make some sourdough English muffins (emphasis on TRIED. I don't want to talk about that one.), had a daughter who chose to lose out on allowance rather than do her dishes...and I just didn't have the energy to do them, even though starting the day off with a clean kitchen is so much more inviting and efficient. So, I went to bed. And got some rest, which I really, really needed. I wasn't too worried about the dishes running off in the middle of the night, or someone breaking in and stealing them....or washing them for me (now that would be wonderful, though...)

I did neaten the mess up before bed...sounds kind of odd but you know what I mean...stack the dishes, wipe up some crumbs, little things that only took a few seconds and not much energy. 

So, I find myself facing the day, and the mess, early this morning after taking my daughter to a Girl Scout function for the day ("I'll do the dishes tomorrow, mom..."). I know that I want to get these things accomplished today:
  • make granola
  • make granola bars
  • make buns for our picnic lunch Sunday
  • move Little Mister's toys up into his new room
  • catch up on laundry
  • clean up the kitchen, including mopping the floor
A To-Do list is always a little like shopping for clothes for me...I take a big pile of garments into the dressing room, spend forever in there trying them on, then come out with one or two that I like. I know I will not, realistically, be able to get all that done today. So, I have to I clean the kitchen first? It's tempting, since it is usually easier to work on clean, uncluttered surfaces...but then I'll have to clean the kitchen twice. I don't like to do it once, why make myself do it twice? Do I do laundry first? Well, I could start some, but my stepson beat me to the washer and honestly, I feel a bit ADD today, I'm not sure I could remember to stay on top of it! 

My choices then, are, get the kitchen in Perfect Order and then start cooking....or do nothing. Yep, that's how my mind works...all or nothing, most of the time. If I can't do it perfectly, then I just don't do it. It's something I've struggled to overcome for years. So, today, I decided to do something completely different and allow myself to consider a third option: start cooking anyway, in spite of the less-than-perfect conditions. And to remember to give myself some grace...I'm a very real person, I don't have it all together, I can't actually be perfect.

It was a stretch...I had to keep stopping myself from switching over to Clean Up The Kitchen Perfectly First mode, but I was able to get some things my kitchen looks really bad! See, you won't find this in an issue of Better Homes and Gardens, I'm sure...

...kind of looks like squirrels were cooking in there. Highly distractable squirrels who have had one too many cups of coffee...

But, I can take some comfort in knowing I will only be cleaning it once today. And if I can get myself away from this computer, I just might be able to get more than I thought accomplished. 

Beating perfectionism, one baby step at a time...and making some darned good granola in the process...that's my day today...what habits or tendencies do you have that hinder you in the kitchen? How are you overcoming them?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Blueberry Bliss: Whole Wheat Pancakes with Blueberry Compote

ww pancakes w blueberry compote I woke up  wanting pancakes, and after perusing my latest copy of Woman’s Day this morning, I had a plan – pancakes with blueberry compote (pg 182 of the May 2011 issue or you can click here for a slide show presentation of the article “How to Make Pancakes”).  Of course, since I’ve basically eschewed White Death Flour, I make 100% whole wheat pancakes now. I decided to look for a new recipe since I’d just been adapting my normal pancake recipe by substituting whole wheat flour. I found this delicious recipe at and made a couple adaptations to suit our real-food lifestyle…

I left the blueberries out of the pancakes and made Blueberry Compote instead…recipe follows the pancake recipe

  • 1 1/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder (aluminum-free)
  • 1 egg (pastured)
  • 1 c milk (raw)(+ up to 1/4 cup more if needed)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (sea)
  • 1 tbs artificial sweetner raw sugar
  • 1 tbs melted coconut oil (no oil called for in original recipe)
  • 1/2 c blueberries

Sift together the flour and baking powder (I’m too “efficient” for that…just mix them together well!), set aside. Beat together the egg, milk, salt and sugar in a bowl. Stir in flour until just moistened, add coconut oil and blueberries and stir to incorporate.

Cook pancakes on a hot griddle or cast iron skillet. The most important part of making great pancakes is PATIENCE! You simply MUST wait until it’s the right time to flip them…when the top is bubbly and the edges look dry, then it’s time to flip. It’s hard, I know…I’m still guilty of premature pancake flipping from time to time…I don’t like to wait…

Serve with your favorite pancake toppings…might I suggest:

Organic, pastured butter made from raw cream and this fabulously easy and delicious Blueberry Compote recipe with a drizzle of fresh, raw cream…

The link above will take you to Woman’s Day magazine’s website, where you’ll find a slideshow showing how to make perfect pancakes. This recipe is on step 4 of the slide show, or on pg 182 of the May 2011 issue of Woman’s Day

  • 2 c frozen (or ideally, fresh organic) blueberries
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbs raw sugar (I actually used less and it was still delicious…adjust for your taste)

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and syrupy, 5 to 6 minutes

wwpancakes eaten
Bon appetit!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Oh Sweet Mercy…Loose Meat Sandwiches!

loosemeat sandwichGrowing up in the 80’s, I watched Roseanne a lot. One thing I was always curious about was the mysterious “Loose Meat” Sandwich. Several months ago, I searched for the recipe and found one. It was pretty tasty. Last night, I couldn’t think of anything that sounded good for supper. Then all of a sudden, Loose Meat dropped into my head and set my saliva glands into overdrive. I searched again for a recipe, this time finding a different one – and boy am I glad I did! This recipe blows the other one away…(Click on the picture to get a nice close-up view of this amazing sandwich!)

I have completely fallen in love with the Loose Meat Sandwich. Totally. Utterly. Head-over-heels, even. I’m eating them for breakfast right now as a matter of fact. And yes, I said ‘them’. I won’t elaborate on how many that entails…

It’s a fairly simple sandwich, although there is a technique involved and it does take a bit of time. But it is worth every second slaving over that hot stove to create this amazing little Midwestern delicacy.

They are known by several names. Maid Rite. Nu Way. Tavern Sandwiches. Apparently, they originated in  1924 at the Ye Olde Tavern in Sioux City, Iowa. I’ve never heard of them in my neck of the Midwestern woods, but I tell you…after making The Blue Mill Tavern Loosemeat Sandwich recipe I found last night on, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be opposed to spontaneously jumping in the van and driving to Iowa for lunch. Seriously, they’re THAT good! Only, I won't have to because I can make them at home.

There are a few other recipes floating around out there, but plantfreek, who posted the recipe, says:
“If you see a recipe for loosemeats that contains tomato juice-run! A loosemeat is a sloppy joe without the slop-so stay away from anything tomato-ey please!” (Be sure to check out the original recipe here and read the "About This Recipe" on the right...very informative and a great read!)
The first recipe I tried contained ground beef, onion, salt and pepper. That’s it. It was really good! Sounds kind of plain, but really, the way it’s cooked (especially if you use a cast iron skillet) and the toppings make it taste amazing.

And then…there’s The Blue Mill Tavern Loosemeat. With just a slight twist on the first recipe I found, it moved from an amazing sandwich to Sweet-Mercy-I-Have-Lived-Come-Take-Me-Now-Lord-delicious. My taste buds nearly leaped off my tongue in anticipation of delving into this was all I could do to keep from rushing the process and derailing perfection. Yeah, I love them that much!

Ok…I’ve extolled the virtuous taste of these sandwiches long enough. Let’s get to the meat of the matter…
  • 1 pound good quality ground chuck, round or sirloin
  • (if using round or sirloin) 1 Tb lard
  • 2 tsp salt, just enough to lightly coat the bottom of your skillet
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tb yellow prepared mustard
  • 1 Tb white vinegar
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • water, enough to cover
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • hamburger buns
  • dill pickle slices
  • yellow prepared mustard
Get out a cast iron skillet. They absolutely are the best...if you don't have one, borrow one! Pre-heat skillet over medium heat. When skillet is heated thoroughly, sprinkle salt in the skillet and add ground beef.
**IMPORTANT** Using the back of a wooden spoon, crumble the meat as it cooks. It's essential that the meat is cooked in little crumbles. I don't have a wooden spoon...odd as that sounds (I'm waiting until I can get a good set of olive wood utensils) I used a metal spatula and kind of chopped it as it cooked, and that worked just fine. Add the onion and cook while browning the meat. Keep using the spoon or spatula to crumble the meat as it cooks.
When the meat is cooked, drain off any fat and return to the skillet. One of the comments left on this recipe said when you think the meat is done, cook it for five more minutes. Then cook it for one to two minutes more. This gives it a crispy crunchiness and tavern flavor. 
Next, add the mustard, vinegar, sugar, and enough water to barely cover the meat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until ALL the water has disappeared...about 15 to 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Loosemeats are traditionally served on steamed buns, some like them toasted. I've made them both ways and they're both delicious. I think steaming them is quicker...toss them in a steamer basket for about 20 seconds and that's it.
Put some of the meat on the bottom bun, generously top with pickles and mustard. Top off with the top of the bun. Cast off all restraint and dig in!

Two comments that helped the most in the original posting of the recipe are what I noted above about cooking the meat until it's kind of crispy and crunchy. I'm not talking about cooking it until it's hard little pellets, but you'll start to notice the crumbles getting brown and crispy on the edges. The other comment that was helpful was regarding the simmering. The commenter stated to simmer, simmer, simmer and simmer some's essential that ALL the water is cooked out. This kind of leaves a carmelized coating on the crumbles. I tasted the meat at several stages during the cooking process and truly, the flavor you're after doesn't fully develop until the last few minutes. Be patient. If you's worth it!
Plantfreek also said don't mess with the least not the first time you make it. It's a very authentic rendition of the actual Blue Mill Tavern recipe, so make it like this first to experience it then tweak it if you think it needs it. Honestly, as a habitual recipe-tweaker, it was hard not to start adding things like garlic or whatever, but after making this, I wouldn't change a thing. It's perfect as is!
Of course, if you don't like pickles or mustard, you won't like the traditional way these are served: with plenty of both. I, however, love both and the slightly sweet taste of the meat balanced out with the salty, vinegary pickles and mustard are an absolute delight to my taste buds!
This wasn't as nourishing as I aim for because I used commercially-prepared hamburger buns made with white-death flour. But, I used good-quality locally raised ground chuck, sea salt, and home-canned pickles. So, it was mostly nourishing...and sometimes, that's the best that can come out of my kitchen. If I had planned ahead, I would have made my own hamburger buns and used grass-fed beef. There's always  next time...and this is one recipe I will make as often as I can get away with! I'm hoping that  means I can make them a lot since my husband said, in response to my comment about if we ever find ourselves in Iowa I want to eat the real deal there, "we could always move to Iowa..." 

Seriously, they really are that good!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Homemade Hamburger Buns (Bread Machine)

Why make homemade buns when you can buy them so inexpensively at the store? If you read labels at all, and are put-off by ingredients that you can’t pronounce and would be hard-pressed to locate in your local grocery store, then making them yourself with ingredients that you recognize is a healthy, and satisfying option.
I love Money Saving Mom’s website. She recently posted a D-I-Y Experiment  list to work on this year and one of those items on her list was making homemade hamburger buns. She used a recipe a reader posted from, Homemade Hamburger Buns (Bread Machine). I had to make some adjustments in the ingredients, as my bread machine is apparently on the small size, and I used part whole wheat flour, natural sugar, and coconut oil instead of butter.

I was especially intrigued by her technique, which involves rolling the dough out and cutting it with a glass, like to make biscuits. She wasn’t especially thrilled with the shape of them after they rose, and I suggested in a comment to use a sharp biscuit cutter. I’d learned a while back that when making biscuits, you should use a very sharp cutter or knife to get maximum rise – using a dull edge presses down the dough, hindering its ability to rise.  I thought the same might work for the buns.

I conveniently needed hamburger buns for supper tonight so I thought what the heck…why not play around a bit while preparing for tonight’s meal?  I discovered that I do not, in fact, have a biscuit cutter, sharp or otherwise. I’ve always just cut them into squares. cut bunsSo, I rolled the dough out into a rectangle, instead of a circle and used a nice, sharp Cutco bread knife to cut them into squares. They stretched out a bit in the transfer from counter to baking stone, so I smushed them back into a more squarish shape and let them rise.  I was quite pleased with how they looked, kind of like the fancy rolls you can buy at the grocery store.  

buns risen
 I was afraid they’d get monstrously big in the oven, but they didn’t. They were light and fluffy, overall, I’m very happy with these. I just need to figure out a way to make them round!

baked bun100_2524
  • 1 1/4 c milk, slightly warmed
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 Tb butter (or coconut oil)
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 3/4 c bread flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
Place ingredients in bread machine according to manufacturer’s directions, set on dough cycle. When cycle is complete, remove dough and place on floured surface. Roll dough out and cut with sharp knife or biscuit cutter. Or use a floured drinking glass for a round shape. Bake at 350, checking after 9 minutes, until golden brown and baked through.

I used baking stones to bake these, one a rectangular bar pan with sides and one a round pizza stone. The pan with sides took longer to bake, about 15 minutes, where the round pan only took 12.

I adjusted the recipe using the tool on the recipe site, had to play around a bit to get it to a flour amount that wouldn’t exceed my bread machine’s capacity. I ended up with some weird measurements, which were quickly figured out using the conversion table I downloaded from Carolina Clipper’s site.

These buns turned out great, light and fluffy and delicious. We had them with Mexicali Chicken and Cheese Sandwiches. I think I will cut back on the sugar by about half next time, though, they were just a bit too sweet for my taste. Definitely a keeper recipe and one I look forward to making more often!

Crockpot Love: Mexicali Chicken and Cheese Sandwiches

The switch to DST (Dumb Stupid Time in my book) always leaves me off-kilter for basically the entire 8 months of this ridiculous practice. So, my crockpot and I continue our love affair…only changing things up a bit from chili, soups and stews. Tonight, it’s an adaptation of a recipe I found on called by the same name…Mexicali Chicken and Cheese Sandwiches. My DST stupor has left me too uninspired to change the name…really, I’m just happy I got it in the crockpot in time to be done for supper…

  • 4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 c water
  • several generous shakes of your favorite pepper sauce, I used LaBelle No. 5 Pepper Clear, a mild sauce with vinegar and garlic
  • appx 1 Tbs Miss Tink’s House Seasoning, more or less to taste
  • 3/4 c home-canned salsa
  • 1/4 c no HFCS ketchup
  • 1/4 c water
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • shredded Monterey Jack cheese, or other shredded cheese
  • Hamburger buns or Kaiser rolls
Place chicken breasts, water, and pepper sauce in crockpot. Sprinkle seasoning over chicken. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low 6-8 hours, or until chicken is cooked through and shreds easily with a fork. Drain liquid and shred chicken, add remaining ingredients except for buns and cheese and cook in crockpot until heated through or cook in a pan on the stove. Put on buns and top with cheese. You can then broil if you like. I don’t know what happened to the broiler innards in our oven so I didn’t broil them. Just let them sit until the cheese melts or pop them in the oven for a few minutes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

GIVEAWAY ALERT: Nutrimill Grain Mill Via Kitchen Stewardship

If you've ever wanted your very own grain mill, here's your chance to win one! I bought a big ole bag of wheat berries several months ago, and I can tell you that there is nothing like freshly milled whole wheat flour! I don't currently own a grain mill, so I'm reallllyy hoping to win this one! They're a little salty. But, definitely worth the investment if you can shell out the dough for one. But, until I get one of my own, I'm ever so grateful to my dear friend, Heather the Hippy Homesteader, for letting me stop by and grinding my grain for me in her grain mill. She is a super friend, let me tell you! She also needs to get her hippy butt back home...but, I digress...

Want to try and win this awesome Nutrimill Grain Mill from Pleasant Hill Grain? Head on over to Kitchen Stewardship by clicking the link below and enter the giveaway. There's multiple entries available for a few moments of your time. While you're there, be sure to look around and check out the terrific information and recipes available there! It's one of my favorite places on the web. Good luck!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Low GI Cooking Adventure: Grassfed Beef and Italian Vegetable Skillet with Buttery Herbed Brown Rice

Ever get some news that just throws a big old wrench in your works? Chaps your khakis? And generally just makes your life a big pain in the derriere?  Yeah, 2011's just turning out to be that kind of year so far...


I got the wonderful news this week that my blood sugar is out of whack. Super. Just what I more thing to have to manage. I'm having flashbacks to my pregnancy with my son, where I ended up having to use insulin. By the end of my pregnancy I hated food. If it weren't for the fact that I had a precious Li'l Man depending on me to keep him healthy, I think I would have just quit eating. Every waking moment of every day revolved around what went in my  mouth:  wake up, prick my finger, check my blood, write it down, figure out what I CAN eat, try to find something I WANT to eat out of that, measure this and measure that, write it down,  then two hours later it started all over again, only then I often needed to give myself a shot.  It was horrible. And now...the finger-pricker and glucose meter have returned. At least there's no insulin this time, I guess.


Today, I spent most of the day starving hungry because there's just not much in the house that's low GI...some almonds, celery and frozen veggies. And eggs...but I have to be in the mood to eat eggs. I was so hungry nothing sounded good. I had a headache. I was very crabby. I'm still mad about all of this anyway.

So, I had to go to the grocery store and find something to make for supper that wouldn't send my blood sugar to the moon. It had to have a low Glycemic Index. It had to sound appetizing. It also had to be cheap. And, I went hungry and crabby and with both kids in tow. Not really the best idea, now that I look back on that.


Earlier in the day I had hoofed it down to the best little butcher shop I know and picked up some of that delicious grassfed beef. I know there's venison in the freezer, but I have been craving some of that wonderful beefy goodness for some time...and darn it, if I have to mess around with all this blood sugar nonsense I'm going to eat at least some of the foods I love. That marvelous meat was the basis of the meal I was trying to formulate, and I decided some brown rice would be good as it is full of fiber and doesn't have a huge impact on blood sugar.  But what else? It's hard to think when you're hungry, your head hurts, you're completely irritated, and your kids apparently don't notice that fact...or they do...

I found some red peppers marked down for 50 cents for two, grabbed a cucumber and some frozen veggies and a few other things just to have around. When I got home, this is what I came up with:

Grassfed Beef and Italian Vegetable Skillet
1 lb ground grassfed beef
16 oz package frozen Italian Blend vegetables (zucchini squash, cauliflower, carrots, Italian style green beans, baby lima beans and red bell peppers)
1 c broth (I used organic, free range chicken broth)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed; or garlic powder to taste
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbs cornstarch + a small amount of water for thickening (optional)
Brown ground beef until no pink remains, season with salt and pepper while cooking; about half way through add fresh garlic. Add broth and bring to a low boil, add vegetables, stirring well. Return to a low boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are done to your liking, about 7-10 min. Combine cornstarch and water and stir into mixture to thicken, if desired. Serve with Buttery Herbed Brown Rice (recipe follows)
This is not overly seasoned in order to allow the wonderful flavor of the grassfed beef to take center stage. You could, of course, add whatever seasonings you like to it. I found that the lightly seasoned brown rice complimented this very well without overpowering that lovely meat.

2 c water
1-2 Tb butter, divided
3/4 - 1 c brown rice
sea salt, to taste
1/2 - 1 Tbs Italian Seasoning

In a 2 quart sauce pan, bring water, a pinch of sea salt, and half the butter to a boil. Add rice, stir well, return to boil then reduce heat and cover. Cook for 20 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed. Add the rest of the butter and all of the Italian Seasoning, stirring well. Add more sea salt if desired.
It really turned out to be quite delicious. Our locally-raised (as in just a couple miles away) grassfed beef has the most exquisite flavor...helped also by a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. I almost hate to even put salt on it! But I try to get a little sea salt into everything to increase our mineral intake. If I were to use regular ground beef from the grocery store, I'd have added all kinds of things from my spice cabinet.  Sliced fresh red and green bell peppers and cucumbers were served along with this as well.

As far as the GI of this meal, I don't really know exactly. The lists I've found for foods and their GI values don't say what the serving size is so until I can find that information I'll just have to take a stab at it:
  • meat, of course, has zero carbs...that's a good start
  • green beans, cauliflower, 15
  • carrots, 16
  • red peppers, 10
  • baby lima beans, 32
  • cucumbers, green peppers, 0
  • brown rice, 50
All of these foods are considered "low GI". To me, 50 sounds kind of high, but compared to glutinous rice (my most favorite Asian food ever...Sticky Rice!) that runs from 86-98 depending on the list you look at, well, that's not so bad.  Do I add all these numbers up and average them? What does all this mean? How will this meal impact my blood sugar level? I have no idea! I have a book on the way about low GI dieting so hopefully it will clear up all these nagging little questions.

It's been about half an hour or so since I ate. I feel reasonably satisfied, although there is this underlying, nagging feeling of some little monster wanting to be fed. Sugar withdrawal I's reminiscent of when I did the Atkin's diet years ago. Which, by the way, I hated but lost 40 pounds while doing. I don't eat much sugar anymore...that's the real kicker!  And I use as much whole grains as I possibly can. I hope I don't have to do a "no carb" diet...that would not really work for me. At all.

Thanks, 2011. You stink. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Perfect Scrambled Eggs

Do you like scrambled eggs? Have you ever noticed that one morning they turn out beautifully: light, fluffy, flavorful....and the next time you make them, they're flat, rubbery and weird-tasting? Maybe you've never had problems with scrambling eggs...on the surface, it seems as though that's one of those basic kitchen skills we were all supposed to pick up from our moms or at least in the obligatory Home Ec class in school. You know, right below boiling water. 

I must admit, this easy-to-prepare dish didn't always turn out perfectly for me. I was, at least, consistent with my inconsistency.

Always in search of better ways to make the foods I prepare at home, I googled "perfect scrambled eggs" one day. Turns out there's more to it than just beating an egg and throwing it in a pan. There's actually some science involved! And, being a homeschooler I was simply delighted to learn that. Of course, now I must share my newly found knowledge with you. I'm sure your breakfast-eaters will appreciate that!

The Science Behind the Scramble

I'd like to thank Mr. Breakfast for enlightening me on the whole scrambled egg deal.  I think most people would agree that  whisking an egg vigorously will incorporate some air into there, which lends to a fluffy scrambled egg. But wait, there's more! Whisking the egg begins to break down and "unravel" the protein molecules, wherein the air you're whisking in gets trapped. Mr. Breakfast explains that "As the eggs cook, protein molecules firm-up around the air bubbles resulting in a spongy texture and hopefully full and fluffy scrambled eggs." And of course, if you overdo the whisking, you'll just completely unravel the protein molecules and there won't be any place for the air bubbles to become entrapped. You end up with flat, rubbery eggs. 

The proper whisking technique is to hold your whisk at an angle instead of vertically. This makes me think of 50's housewives in their pretty dresses, frilly aprons, pearls and heels...I'm not sure why, but it does. 

So, Let's Get Crackin'

Now that you know what's going on in the pan, let's give it a whirl.  First things first...a list of ingredients and equipment you will need:
  • eggs
  • milk
  • butter
  • salt and pepper
  • bowl
  • whisk or fork
  • pan
As with anything, quality does count. You need some good eggs.  Like some just-laid eggs from your friend's backyard free-ranging, dirt-scratching, bug-eating chickens . Them's some good eggs. I also recommend some fresh-from-the-farm milk. This chicken here just might have laid one of the eggs I used to make these marvelously magnificent scrambled eggs:

I love my friend's chickens. They make me giggle every time I'm around them.  Cluck...cluck...cluck...Check out her blog at The Homesteading Hippy!

Mr. Breakfast also says that, according to the American Egg Board, properly beaten eggs are "frothy and evenly colored." Mr. Breakfast says after about two minutes, your eggs should look like that. If I'm only doing a couple eggs (his recipe is for six eggs), I usually achieve frothy and even-colored eggs in less than two minutes.

And, you've just got to cook in cast iron. Really. I won't cook eggs in anything else. A properly seasoned pan requires very little, if any, butter, oil or cooking spray to prevent sticking.  Plus, there's the added benefit of getting extra iron in your diet, in case fabulous flavor and non-stick cooking don't convince you.  Whatever pan you're using, you need to get it nice and hot before adding the eggs.  Not to where it's smoking, of course...Mr. Breakfast says just above medium.

Martha Stewart, of Course, Makes Perfect Eggs

Ok...pan's hot, eggs are what? There are a few schools of thought on the best way to scramble the eggs once they've hit the pan.  Mr. Breakfast included Martha Stewart's method, and I heartily recommend it.  

If you've added butter to your pan (and I do, even with the cast iron because it just tastes so delicious!), let it melt completely then add your beaten eggs...but resist that urge to start scrambling them around in the pan. Let them begin to set first, then take your spatula and from the edges, start pushing the set part in to the middle of the pan, allowing the rest of the eggs to spill out around what you've pushed into the middle. Tilt the skillet if necessary to get the runny part evenly distributed. Continue this until there is no more runny eggs to cook. I like to keep it in one big, fluffy pile but you can break the eggs up into pieces if you like. Continue cooking until they are as done as you like, but don't overcook!  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Dig in. Be amazed at the fluffy deliciousness of the eggs you just cooked. Just like Martha Stewart does.

Then, if you're like my'll ruin them with ketchup...but, to each his own. I like Bang Bang sauce on mine, to be honest with you.  Here's a recipe I put on my old blog:  Bang Bang Sauce...I'll Put That on ANYTHING!