Thursday, April 30, 2015

Breakfast Hash

I admit it, I'm not much of a breakfast eater. Don't misunderstand, I LOVE breakfast foods, just not when I first wake up. Just give me coffee and don't expect a lot any conversation until that first cup is gone. If you really want to be safe, wait until I've had my second cup of coffee. 

One of my favorite foods is potatoes! I've never met a potato I didn't like, so this recipe for breakfast hash is a winner for me. It's especially nice because you can use ham that was leftover from dinner the previous night (that's what I used), throw in any vegetables you may have, or keep it simple as I did here. Use your imagination! Do you have peas, greens, carrots, mushrooms, corn? Throw it in! I promise, you will love it!

Cast of characters

I started by dicing 4 potatoes into small pieces. Although it's not easy to see, I used a combination of red potatoes and russet potatoes. Next, I chopped half of an onion and the rest of a bell pepper that I had, about a cup of ham, and 2 cloves of garlic. 

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. When the butter is melted, add the potatoes, onions, pepper, garlic, and any other veggies you want to add. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Saute until the potatoes are almost cooked. Add the ham and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender and the ham is heated through. 

While the hash is finishing, fry an egg sunny-side up. If you prefer, you can poach the egg or fry it but you want the yolk to be me, seriously, trust me!  

The phone rang while I was cooking so the next picture I have is of the finished deliciousness! 

Break the yolk so it runs down into those luscious potatoes.....what's NOT to love! 

I'm not going to post a list of ingredients because you can (and should!) add anything you want to this hash. This is the base and beginning of many wonderful future breakfast meals. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Gardening 2015

It's time! We have anxiously been awaiting the day we could begin planting our garden! We usually plant our early peas mid to late February but this year we had freezing temperatures with snow and ice (or at least predictions from the weatherman.) That was followed by days of rain so the ground was just too wet. Today, the temp is supposed to be near 80 and the ground has sufficiently dried and warmed up...EXCITED!

One of the main things I plant each year is tomatoes. It seems no matter how many I plant it is never enough. So, this year we have started almost 100 plants indoors. Obviously, this isn't all of them and if you look to the left of the tomatoes you will see rhubarb. That was the Mr.'s idea. I have never planted rhubarb nor have I cooked with it! Help, I will need ideas for this stuff!

We also decided to add a few more grape vines to our current vineyard. I know what to do with these....jelly, jam, wine, mmmm! If we don't get this one planted soon, I will be harvesting from the windowsill.

I have never met a potato I didn't like, so that's another of our annual crops. This sweet potato was purchased from a local farmer but began sprouting before I used it. We stuck it in a jar of water and this is what greeted me a few days ago. It may be too late to plant this one but it will look great in a hanging basket. 

I still need to start our cucumbers, squash, zucchini, and peppers. Since those are planted later I haven't been in too much of a hurry. We hope to get our peas and beans in the ground this week.

Have you ever heard of cutting off the bottom of a celery stalk and planting it in dirt? I read about this a while back and decided to try it. Here is what happened after a couple of weeks.

Should I leave it or plant it outdoors? 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Laundry Detergent

SPRING is in the air! Last week we had freezing temperatures, ice, and snow. Today, I have the windows and doors open. The saying in Georgia is, "if you don't like the weather, wait a minute." 

I love this time of year. We are planning our garden, ordering more hens, the daffodils are beginning to bloom, green is starting to peek out on the trees, my kombucha production is getting into high gear again.... all the things I love are just around the corner.

One of the things I enjoy is the smell of laundry that has been hanging on the line. Mmmm....freshness! What I don't enjoy is paying $11-12 for a box of detergent that I might be able to get 40 loads out of! So, a few years ago I began the search for the perfect recipe for laundry detergent. The first few batches I made were in liquid form. While it worked fairly well, I didn't like having to do all the melting and blending of the batch. I also didn't like having to shake the bottle each time I used it, not to mention having several bottles sitting around the laundry room. (My recipe made almost 4 gallons.) Recently, a friend gave me a recipe for her detergent. It couldn't be more simple! You dump everything into a trash bag, mix it up, put it into your container ...done!

Borax (76 oz)
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (55 oz)
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (64 oz)
OxyClean (56 oz)
Fels Naptha - 3 bars (grated, or you can use the food processor)

As I mentioned, all you need to do is put it into something that you can easily and thoroughly mix it up. A trash bag worked for me. The glass canister is one I used for making pickles. Looks like I will need to go shopping again :)

Use 2 tablespoons per wash. This should last a long time!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fire Cider

In our effort to return to the simple life, the Mr. and I have been researching various plants and herbs that also have beneficial health properties. Our belief is that God created all things for our pleasure and our good, so with that in mind we began looking into things that we could use to strengthen our bodies and aid us when the invariable cold/flu/viruses arrive at our door. 

One "tonic" that kept showing up was Fire Cider. Depending on which article you are reading, it can be used daily as a preventative or taken daily when you feel an illness coming on. It came up in conversations so often that I decided to try it for myself. 

To each quart jar add the following chopped ingredients:
1 part onion
1 part garlic
1 part ginger
1 part horseradish
1 part turmeric (powder works if you can't find fresh)
1 part hot peppers (or a combination of hot and mild)
Zest of one lemon
2 - 3" pieces of rosemary

Your jar should be 1/2 to 3/4 full. Fill with raw, unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar. I use Braggs Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. Cap the jar and place in a cool, dark place. Shake the jar once or twice a day for 2 weeks. At the end of two weeks, strain the ingredients. The tonic will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.

Once I've strained the tonic, I take the chopped ingredients and dehydrate them. This can be used in soups or stews, sprinkled on salads, or used in any number of ways. 

We have chosen to use the fire cider on an as needed basis. One reason was because I couldn't get the nerve to try it the first time! This stuff is strong and smells nasty HA! However, during the winter I ended up with a really bad case of laryngitis. For 3 days I could only squeak out a whisper. While the Mr. enjoyed my inability to speak, I finally decided the fire cider couldn't be as bad as my throat, so I put 1-2 tablespoons in a shot glass, held my nose, and drank it! Oh my goodness...I know how it got the name "fire" cider! It burned like you know what, but within 4 hours my voice was coming back. It works! 

How does it work? I really can't explain it, but I can tell you some of the medicinal qualities of the ingredients.

Onions - Can relieve congestion, coughs, stomach upset and other gastrointestinal disorders. It has also been shown to prevent blood clots and reduce hypertension. Onions can be used to reduce sugar levels and to treat asthma. Onions contain high anti-bacterial properties

Garlic - Boosts the immune system, can reduce blood pressure, aids in minimizing bone loss, contains anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties

Ginger - Widely used in the treatment of nausea, muscle pain, anti-inflammatory qualities

Horseradish - Used for urinary tract infections, kidney stones, fluid retention, cough, achy joints, gallbladder disorders, sciatic nerve pain, gout. It has been shown to help in weight loss, maintaining blood pressure, digestion and bone health

Turmeric - Useful for fevers, diarrhea, and is an anti-inflammatory

Hot peppers - Used as a decongestant, pain reliever, and anti-oxidant

If you are looking for natural treatments for whatever ails you (as my mom would have said), then Fire Cider should be added to your medicine cabinet. That first dose is a doozy! but it gets easier and you will develop a taste and appreciation for its medicinal qualities. 

What natural treatments/tonics do you use?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Maple Syrup

On Saturday a friend called to say she had 1.25 gallons of maple sap. Her husband was pruning their tree and the sap started "gushing". Of course, I was more than willing to take it off her hands! 

Before you start giggling, I know it takes a LOT more sap to make any quantity of syrup, but making syrup is something I've wanted to try for a long time, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. 

I began by filtering the sap into a large sterilized stockpot. 

The instructions I read said to heat to 7 degrees above the boiling temperature of water. Now, I'm not a genius and I may be missing something here, but if the boiling temp of water is 212, wouldn't 7 more degrees be 219? Wouldn't it just be easier to say "heat to 219 degrees"? (Anyone who understands why the instructions were written this way, please comment below.) 

How difficult can this be? So... I turn up the heat.

...and I wait!

...and I wait!

Finally, I reach 210 degrees...not much longer now!

...and I wait!

...and I wait!

2 hours and 45 minutes later I reach 219 degrees! At this point I almost needed a telescope to see the syrup. I know you are sitting on the edge of your seats waiting to see it! Here is the final product!

Yes, that is an 8 oz jelly jar, and yes it's a little over half full.'s maple syrup! I now know why it's SO expensive in the stores!

Michelle's trees are white maples and not sugar maples so the end result is not as sweet as what we are accustomed to, but it was definitely worth the effort. 

I made maple syrup!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bread - Homemade Rolls

If you look up the word weakness in my dictionary, you will probably find the word "bread". Seriously, who doesn't love a slice of homemade bread fresh out of the oven? Or the perfect homemade roll loaded down with butter? I am always trying new and different bread recipes and I think I may have found the perfect roll recipe. It is so easy and SO good! Even better, there is no hand kneading!

Homemade Rolls
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbls yeast
1 1/2 Tsp salt
3/4 cup water
2/3 cup milk
4 Tbls (1/2 stick) butter
1 1/2 Tsp lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer whisk together 4 cups of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.

2. In a medium bowl, heat the water, milk, and butter, just until the butter is almost melted, about a minute and a half.

3. With the dough hook attached add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix on medium speed adding additional flour as needed until the dough is slightly sticky but manageable. Knead for 3-4 minutes until smooth and elastic. 

4. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.

5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Press into a rectangle shape about 1/2 inch thick. With a pizza cutter or knife cut into equal sized pieces. You should have 14-15 squares. Form each square into a ball and place into a buttered 13x9 pan. Wet your fingertips and rub over the top of the rolls to prevent drying while they are rising.

6. Place pan into oven and turn off heat. Let rise for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. See how fluffly they are? 

7. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls for 15-17 minutes until golden brown. I almost forgot to make a picture before they were all gone!

You really need to try these rolls...they are delicious!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Rabbit Stew

On Saturday, our son went rabbit hunting with a few friends. I chuckled when he told us he was going because we raise rabbits and our freezer could easily testify to that fact. This was his first outing since getting out of the USMC and returning home, so we were thankful he had the opportunity. 

My plan was to put the rabbits in the freezer with the others but the men of the family had other plans...they wanted it for dinner. Not wanting to stand over the stove all afternoon, I decided to take our favorite rabbit stew recipe and turn it into a crockpot version. This is the result.


2 rabbits, cleaned and cut up, seasoned with salt and pepper

4-6 slices bacon
3 carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal
1 onion, thick sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz Baby Bella mushrooms (or whatever you have on hand) halved or quartered
2 cups red wine (I used Chianti, but merlot or pinot noir would be fine)
2 cups chicken stock (I used rabbit stock because I had just made a gallon of it)
2 Tbls all purpose flour
2 Tbls butter

1. In a large skillet, add bacon and cook until the bacon is somewhat crisp and the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Place in crockpot.

2. Add rabbit pieces to the rendered fat and brown on both sides. (The rabbit does not need to be thoroughly cooked because it will finish in the crockpot.) I had to brown the rabbit in two batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. You may need to add a little olive oil to your pan for the second batch. Remove the rabbit and add it to bacon pieces.

3. Add carrots, onions, and mushrooms and saute on medium low heat until slightly brown - about 5-7 minutes. Add your garlic and cook for another minute or two. Remove from the pan and add it to the rabbit and bacon. 

4. Add 2 cups of wine to your pan and scrape all those yummy bits from the bottom of the pan. Let this come to a slight boil and reduce slightly, probably 3-4 minutes.

5. Add stock and return to a slight boil. Pour this over the deliciousness waiting patiently in the crockpot. If your meat is not covered, you can add more stock or wine. Why not add both!

6. About 30 minutes before serving, mix the flour and butter together and add to the crockpot.

7. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. The meat will literally fall off the bones so you will need to remove these before serving. We have a saying we always told our kids concerning fish filets..."it's not supposed to have bones, but it may, so be careful." This now applies to rabbit stew. 

We served the stew over jasmine rice and it was wonderful!