Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Texican Grilled Cheese

We had these for breakfast today but they would make a great breakfast, lunch, snack or even dinner.

1. Make your bean dip (AKA smashed black beans).  If done ahead instead of postponing until you need it you will save time and energy during this recipe.  [I learned that if fatigue slams you when the beans are done in the crockpot they can cook on low another 6 hours (overnight) and still be fine.]  I adjusted a recipe for the black beans. Put the following into a food processor:  1 clove fresh garlic (I pulsed that first so it would get well chopped); 1/4 C sauteed chopped onions; 1 teaspoon salt; 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (I alternate between Braggs and Spectrum - whichever I find or is on sale); and one pound dried black beans cooked until soft (I think that roughly translated to 8 Cups of cooked beans).  If you use canned refried beans then you are already done with this step.  If you only have a mini-chopper instead of a regular food processor it will take a bit longer... ask me how I know!  I think it took about 5 batches or so for me to get through all of the beans.  I froze 2 portions for other meals as well.

2. Pry apart the frozen corn tortillas that you *thought* would surely be thawed by then.  It's actually easier when they are completely frozen than when they are partially frozen... ask me how I know!  A knife inserted between frozen tortillas will pop them apart with a little twist.  I use Bread for Life sprouted corn tortillas.

3. Generously spread the bean mixture, avoiding the very edges so it doesn't goo out when cooking (again... ask me how I know what it's like to have it goo out in the pan and get sticky).

4. Sprinkle some freshly grated cheese.  I like sharp cheddar for grated cheese.  Be sure to get a block if you can that does NOT have the mold inhibitor.  The Kroger and Wal-Mart *block* cheeses do not yet have the inhibitor and use annato for coloring instead of unnatural coloring.  Raw cheddar would, of course, be better - but not possible for me.

5. Cover with another tortilla.  If you think you see ice crystals it's because you do :).  Don't worry about the tortillas still being frozen - they do fine.

6. Repeat step #2 of prying apart frozen tortillas from another pack when you realize that you need 2 more because you made an extra so you could have one too.  Be thankful that you got 2 packs when you went shopping instead of just one.

7. Heat butter in skillet.  I used a combo of coconut oil and butter.  The butter for flavor and the CO to get some in the dc.  I used refined CO because I didn't think the coconut flavor of virgin CO would go well.  Grill the stacked tortillas in the oil, flipping frequently with a spatula until done to your desired crispness.  I like to flip the first side over quickly so both sides get a generous soaking of the fats/oils.

8. Optional:  Slice into 4 wedges.  Serve with Mexican cream.  I actually prefer Salvadoran Style Cream but the store I used only had Mexican style.  Delicious.

This is part of Kelly's Real Food Wednesday posted here:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Biome Pin Map

I was finally going through a basket that's been staring at me since this summer.  Actually, I think it's been staring at me for over a year, but anyway...  I found this world biome map already printed and laminated, just waiting to be finished. 
-I trimmed it and taped the pages together. 
-I rubber cemented it to foam board and trimmed the foam board. 
-I cut out the control (the colored key) and printed the labels. 
-I made the pins using quilting T-pins (JoAnn's has them 50% off right now)(1-3/4 inch seems really too long but the dc said that it's better).

This is not the original link where I printed off the map/control but it could also be used:

While you are there look at the many wonderful resources offered - use the right tool bar:

In case the map link doesn't work, here is one just like the one I used.  I just changed the blueish desert color to pink:

Here are my pin labels in case anyone can use them.  There should be extras of each label.  I didn't want to reprint if I messed up making a pin.

What's Cookin'?

Apples.  I hope.  I got 5 3-lb bags of apples yesterday.  It's not so much that they were on sale as the fact that I could find bagged organic apples.  They were actually cheaper than some of the non-organics, believe it or not.  Now I have to do something with them!  Mainly we love just eating them.  I also plan on doing the following (I think I need more apples!):
- Dehydrating apple rings.
- Making apple sauce.  We usually make apple butter but I don't think I have enough apples to spare.  I can't decide whether to can or freeze the apple sauce.
- Freezing some pre-sliced apples for later to make pies, cobbler, or more applesauce.
- Caramel apples using homemade caramel (I can't wait to make these even though I never eat them -  it will be the first year we make them from scratch).
- Popcorn balls.  Wait, that has nothing to do with apples.  That slipped in by free association via caramel apples...
- Apple turnovers using the yogurt dough in Nourishing Traditions.

Last night I made apple crisp in honor of Sts. Crispin and Crispinian.  The only problem was that I wasn't able to make them in time for us to actually eat it on the right day, lol.  Oh well.  It was just what we needed to fill the gap for today's afternoon snack after a loooong afternoon and a late start with dinner.  Baking in a old, small toaster oven is a challenge but I am so grateful to have it.  You can see a few burned tips in the picture but they actually didn't taste burned at all.  I used the following recipe with the only change being rapadura instead of the sugars listed (and only 1/2 C rapadura in the topping instead of 3/4 C).  In my toaster oven they were ready in about 20 minutes on 350F.  Thanks, J., for sending me this link!


Tonight for dinner I sauteed spinach and kale together in butter.  The kale was from our garden so that was cool :).  I learned that they cook at different speeds.  If I ever cook those together again in life I'll let the kale cook a bit first.  Not that anyone else would combine those two, but just in case, now you know.  Here they are in a super close up because I'm trying to hide the fact that I was using a teflon pan (egad!). 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Imaginary Island Pictures ~ Feast Day Cooking

What's Cookin'?

I think my new nickname around here will soon be the "the soup lady."  The last week we've had bean soup, chicken noodle soup, and potato/cheddar soup.  We may have alphabet soup today for lunch or dinner (I have some letter noodles).  Having homemade bone broth ready in the refrigerator is a lifesaver!  Soup has really helped us stretch our food plus it is nourishing and easy to make.  I've also been adding a bit of gelatin from those ham hocks to every soup.

Last night I made what I dubbed Texican Grilled Cheese.  I put bean dip on a sprouted corn tortilla (the only kind I can eat) and sprinkled cheese on it (which I stole from the grated cheese for the soup).  Then I topped it with another tortilla and grilled in butter as if it were a grilled cheese sandwich.  Mmmm.  They didn't really match the potato/cheddar soup but hey (shrug).  I used this recipe as the basis for the bean dip.  I only  had black-eyed peas on hand and I think it would taste much better made with black beans.  I'll be sure to get a bag of dried black beans to make for next week!

Does liquid hand soap count for cooking if it is on the stovetop?  I have 2 quarts cooling in a pot.  I added tea tree oil and peppermint oil.

Here is a picture of the BBQ sauce while the onion, pepper, and garlic were cooking and my LABELED BBQ sauce that I'm freezing from the double batch:

What's Schoolin'?

The dc finished painting their imaginary islands. I will print these pictures to paste in their culture/geography notebooks.  Each island has at least 4 water forms and 6 land forms:

Cooking/Celebrating Feast Days:

We not only enjoy making/eating special treats to celebrate certain Feast Days, but it also impresses upon the children the celebratory attitude (and gratitude) toward our wonderful role models from throughout Christian history.  As we examine their lives we see character virtues in action, and even sometimes flaws (such as short tempers) that are overcome.  We can try to emulate them in our daily lives as it applies to our lives.  I'm not going to get into the theology; apologetics is NOT my gift, nor am I eloquent in those matters.  Suffice it to say that it is important to us, and fun :), to celebrate saint feast days.  We tend to do it more often during Advent for some reason.  I guess we're in that groove of prepping (inwardly and outwardly) for Christmas and some favorites are during that time such as St. Nicholas and St. Lucia. 

That said, I rarely do it because 1) I forget; 2) I don't have a good calendar; 3) I don't spend time researching who is coming before the date is here nor activities to go along with that saint; and 4) Did I mention I forget?  For example, our school's name is St. Jerome Academy.  You would THINK that I would at least know when St. Jerome's feast day is approaching.  In the middle of the day I realized it (thanks to a daily Gospel e-mail) and asked the homeschool forum and jumped online.  We ended up making open-faced lion sandwiches with whatever we had on hand.  It turned out fine but it would've been nice to have been prepared.

Below are some resources that I'm hoping to look at in depth in order to choose at least one as a home resource.  If I had a book on the shelf even the dc could help look ahead and plan recipes.  Even if we just did one a week it would be something special (or even one a month!).  The dc could take turns just like they are with the Janice VanCleave's Chemistry for Every Kid to plan and lead the week's treat/feast day of their choice.  We would absolutely have to adjust the recipes to be closer in alignment with a Nourishing Traditions way of eating - our health depends upon it - but it would give us a starting point.  Yes, I could do this online, and I even have a book of saints that we could use to look ahead and then research ideas online...but I haven't so far.  I would love to have both aspects in one book: the calendar and the ideas/recipes.  Thanks to I. for sending me the title of My Nameday - Come for Dessert!  You got the ball rolling :).

I plan on coming back to this post and adding more as I find new resources.  Please post any recommendations in this post's comments section.  They can be for books or for links (or even just ideas for a certain saint).  I'm grouping the links first and the books below for now.

Here are links that have either recipes or ideas to celebrate feast days:

Here is the list of what I have so far for books (pictures/links below): 
A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year

Mondays With Mary A Celebration of Marian Feasts Throughout the Year
Cooking with the Saints
The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions for Children's Faith Formation
A Yearbook of Seasons and Celebrations
Tis the Season to be Baking: Christmas Reflections and Bread Recipes
Feast Day Cookbook; The Traditional Catholic Feast Day Dishes of Many Lands
Twelve Months of Monastery Soups
100 Activities Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church: For Grades 1 to 8
Catholic Traditions In The Home And Classrooms: 365 Days To Celebrate A Catholic Year
Grace Before Meals: Recipes and Inspiration for Family Meals and Family Life
Saints at the Dinner Table
Let's Say Grace: Mealtime Prayers for Family Occasions Throughout the Year
Celebrating the Church Year With Young Children
Catholic Mosaic: Living the Liturgical Year With Children
Sacred Feasts: From a Monastery Kitchen
A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Read-aloud ~ Ham Hocks ~ BBQ Sauce

What's Schoolin'?

We started reading Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne.  It's a great follow-up to Twenty-One Balloons, it fits with our History study, it fits with Geography, it's a classic, and will be just plain fun.  After the olders and I read it I'll look for the old classic movie in which Cantinflas (Mario Moreno) plays Passepartout.  I actually accidentally almost knocked that actor down when I was a tourist in La Zona Rosa in Mexico City *many* years ago!  I was walking down the sidewalk not watching where I was going as he stepped out of a restaurant - bam - I walked right into him.  Yikes, talk about embarrassing!!

What's Gardenin'?

I have 7 little cantaloupes growing :) but the pepper plants are wilting and I haven't gotten much from them :(. The eggplant is gorgeous but hasn't gotten pollinated all spring, summer, or fall. I need to go hand pollinate, but I keep forgetting. The sweet potato leaves are huge and the vines keep growing - it could be the main character in a low-budget sci-fi movie.

The lettuce, beet, kale, etc seeds that I tossed around the biggest bed recently are sprouting; although, they all look pretty much the same right now. At least I thought to mark each area with labeled popsicle sticks.

I pruned the peach tree and have a bucket full of trimmings in water. We were thinking about trying to root them or something - I need to do some research...

What's Cookin'?

[Today is Real Food Wednesday at Kelly's blog.  I'm having 2 issues with RFW. 1-I check e-mail before breakfast and I get soooo hungry! 2-I can't stop reading all of the wonderful recipes and informational posts!  I already have 2 recipes printed just from today.  If you haven't been to a RFW yet, give it a go.  Here is today's link, my post was the freezing eggs experiment: ]

Ham hocks: My first ham hocks. I was so excited to get some local ham hocks from pastured, organic pigs. Dd said, "Mommy, I know you are easily excited but even for you this is a little much." What can I say? I was thrilled :). I put half (2-3) in the crockpot with some black-eyed peas. They cooked all day and were *still* not ready by dinner so I had to come up with a Plan B on the spot - chicken sandwiches. I boiled the other half of the packet by themselves. It smelled like bacon and made me really hungry. I'm not quite sure how to serve the plain boiled ones. I don't have any of the ingredients that I saw in recipes online. I may just cut up the meat and put it in our scrambled eggs in the morning [update: delicious]. By the time they were done cooking I was too tired to deal with it so I just stuck the small pot in the fridge (not recommended but if you have adrenal fatigue or fibromyalgia you can relate - I have both). I got such a wonderful surprise the next morning: the whole thing had become a glorious, fabulous gelatin. My first thought was how good it would be for dh's joints (and mine since I'm still healing from Lyme). I had to warm it a bit so I could strain it into a jar.  I've been slipping it into everything I can, starting with the chicken noodle soup we had last night. If you are like me and can't afford the nice pork cuts from pastured, organic pigs, try ham hocks! For $2.50 I'm getting lots of nutrients and gelatin (glucosamine, anyone?). Yes, I'm thrilled.

BBQ: How do you serve a family of five with 2 eensy weensy pork chops and 4 potatoes? I decided to make BBQ sandwiches and homestyle mashed potatoes. For that I needed some sauce but I wasn't quite sure if the unmarked jar in the freezer was BBQ sauce or salsa. The mystery jar sat out defrosting all day. When dinnertime came and it had defrosted enough to taste it I realized it was salsa. Ugh. Dh offered to run to the store and get some BBQ sauce. Unfortunately they have MSG and high fructose corn syrup (plus the cost) - so they are out for me. I ran outside and quickly got a few little onions and some peppers. I sauteed them in oil. When they were almost done sauteing I found the recipe and saw that it doesn't even mention peppers. Oh well, it gave it a nice taste. Below is what I did for a double batch. This time I will LABEL the jar before freezing!

This was my double batch of BBQ sauce:  saute garlic, onions and peppers in oil in a sauce pan (I used 3 tiny peppers, 2 small onions, and 1 small clove of garlic)(I also added a tad of chicken fat). Add 2-15 oz cans of organic tomato sauce (from a glass jar would be better!), 2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 C rapadura, a bit over 1/4 C apple cider vinegar, 1 squirt mustard (which I forgot to add!), and 2 teaspoon salt (which I didn't have).  Simmer for a bit to let the flavors merge.  It passed the husband-test :).  The original recipe called for more chili powder, so feel free to double what I did.  I was also scraping the bottom of the chili powder - time to mix up some more.
An aside:  I ended up adding a pre-cooked, shredded chicken thigh to the BBQ/meat mixture for the sandwiches to have enough for everyone.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Imaginary Island Salt Maps~Laundry Soap

I love this kind of project. 
- The dc looked over a creative Class Atlas that I made with a public school class eons ago.  It is falling apart but they enjoyed reading it.  In it each student had made up a shape island (like Cloud Island, Hand Island) along with a key, etc.  They also wrote creative stories about the people that lived on their respective island.
-We reviewed the geological forms that they know (and some we need to hone) with our cards from the land/water basket.
-We made a list of land/water forms.  They can pick but need to include 4 water and 6 land forms.  I copied the list for each of them so they could mark off and keep track of what they are including on their island. 
-We made some salt dough.  Fun!  I mixed 2 C flour; 2 C salt; 1 C water.  I doubled a recipe I googled and found here.  BTW, I always try to keep cheap salt on hand for things like this... I sure don't use my Real Salt for salt dough!
-They sketched an outline of their imaginary island on a piece of cardboard and some also drew a slightly more detailed picture on a piece of paper just to remember where they wanted to put what.
-Once they started working with the salt dough, they made a thin layer over the whole island and then began adding on top of that.
-They ended up with more than the minimum land/water forms and had a great time doing it.
-They are dry and we hope to paint them tomorrow.

Here are some pictures... if the angles are funny it's because I took the pictures while dc were still working on them (they're such good sports!).

This one is an archipelago that dd made following the land/water command cards.  I took the picture to put it in her geography notebook (instead of their culture notebook - we just changed to a geography-only notebook for the olders because it's a distinct high school credit class).  You may not be able to tell but there is water in it.

Laundry Soap:

Here is a nice, succinct rundown of what is in regular commercial laundry soap:

I have been using Jessica's from Garden of Francis because I know I won't actually make it on my own right now.  It's all I can do to keep the food going along with homeschooling, etc.  The dc use it as well and I've been very pleased with it.  We're so use to having scented this and perfumed that that it may take you a bit to get use to the actual smell of plain freshness.  No 'linen fresh' scent.  No 'mountain fresh' scent. No 'fake chemical flowery odor that makes you run from the laundry room' scent.  Our dc work with horses and I even use it on their jeans after horse camp (I sprinkle some extra baking soda on those heavy loads).  I haven't seen any mud, horse slobber, or who knows what else after washing with this powdered soap.  Here's the link:

Speaking of soap... I've been using her plain soap bar to make liquid hand soap for pump refills and used a bar as a shampoo bar a few times.  It works fine.  I just saw that they now offer the bar soap already grated as well.  One cup of shredded soap made about a quart of liquid handsoap refill.

What's Cookin'?

As I type (which will be 'last night' or even 'last week' by the time I post!) I have chicken s-l-o-w-l-y cooking in the toaster oven, more chicken thighs cooking in the crockpot because it didn't all fit in the toaster oven, and in the mini-crockpot are the last 2 tiny pork chops that dh got from our new pork source discovery on our anniversary (when he got me the best gift ever - a gift certificate to a local organic farm!!!)  On the pork chops I put some garlic (mashed flat with a knife to release the goodness), dried basil from our garden, and several shakes of Real Salt.  On the chicken in the crockpot - same thing.  I'm not very creative in the kitchen.

We had bean soup again tonight.  The thing about soup is:  It always turns out differently!  Tonight I sauteed onion and garlic in the soup pot; then put some precooked rice in there for a bit.  Since I was on a garlic/basil/salt roll I put in some basil and salt and then some pepper for good measure.  Once the onion and garlic were soft I added in the pre-cooked beans (about a pint; a can's worth, I guess) along with 1 quart of  'bean water' I saved from making the beans plus 1 quart of bone broth (deja vu? I followed the same general procedure last week with the bean juice/broth mixture for bean soup).  Since it seemed a bit plain without any snazzy veggies I put in 2 tablespoons of salsa and 5 green beans that I got from the garden.  I only have 2 plants so getting 5 was quite exciting.  [I found one later that I had missed so the guinea pigs got to share that one]  It reminded me of the oil in the lamps because we ate and ate and yet there was still a quart of leftover soup.

What's Schoolin'?

I know, I already talked about school :).  We're using some True Books by Tocci to correlate with our Elements Box (or rather, the other way around).  I read a book to them (or they read to me if I'm cooking or scarfing down my breakfast!), which takes about 30 minutes by the way, and then we put something in the E.Box to represent that element.  So far we have done Calcium, Carbon, and Oxygen.  For Calcium we put in seashells, for carbon we put a piece of charred wood and a piece of charcoal (in a baggie), and for oxygen we put in a leaf cut from a silk flower stem.  These are the books that we've used so far:


Do you need a chocolate bar with no soy and no dairy?  I like the dark chocolate one and can usually get a bar for about $1.50 at the local grocery stores.  The chocolate chips are in some stores as well.  One bar will last a week or so for me, sometimes longer (and sometimes shorter!).