Monday, October 31, 2011

Meal Plan Monday--October 31-November 6

We did a better job of sticking to the meal plan this week, with the only deviation being having pasties again on Friday and bumping the quiche that was supposed to be for Friday's dinner on Sunday, leaving egg rolls displaced for the week.

I'm going to put pasties back on the menu this week, using up our current freezer supply because of Halloween today.  I'm not sure yet whether we'll eat before or after taking the kids trick-or-treating, but either way it's easy preparation and warming root vegetables will be perfect for the day.  Here's the rest of the week's menu plan:

Monday: pasties
Tuesday: chicken egg rolls
Wednesday: venison hobo packets

Thursday: breakfast for dinner (pancakes with maple syrup, venison sausage, applesauce)

Friday: meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas
Saturday: I'm going to assume that, since A) it is my birthday, and B) I'll be visiting relatives for at least part of the day, that I won't have to make dinner.  If I'm wrong on that assumption, we'll have something that requires virtually no effort on my part, like grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup or leftovers out of the freezer.

Sunday:  chili

If you notice, again, there is no need for a cleaning out the refrigerator night.  That is because Monday is leftovers from the freezer, Tuesday is something that freezes well, Wednesday is something made in individual portion sizes so there shouldn't be any leftovers there, and the pancakes from Thursday and meatballs from Friday will also be made in huge batches for freezing so I don't have make more from scratch again for a while.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Great Aunt Marguarite's Johnnie Cake

My johnnie cakes (aka cornbread) had a greenish tinge to them since I used cornmeal made from the green dent corn of my garden.
I'm considering undertaking a project of archiving family recipes on here.  Some of them will be in the handwriting of the person that I got them from, but this is not one of those recipes.  It is a family recipe (Great Aunt Marguarite was my grandpa's sister), but I'm copying this from a typed up (by me) version of the original.  When I make it, I use whole wheat flour in place of the white flour and sea salt instead of "regular" salt (because that's how I roll) and I use milk and butter, rather than the buttermilk and shortening option, but in the interest of preserving family history, I'm copying the recipe exactly as it appears on my copy (where ever I got it from.  I'm not even sure where I got my copy from!).

Great Aunt Marguarite's Johnnie Cake

1 cup freshly ground corn meal
1 cup white flour
1/4 -1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk or buttermilk
1/4 cup soft shortening or 1/2 cup butter

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 8" pan or muffin pan.  Beat together cornmeal, flour, sugar, and salt until just mixed.  Beat in baking powder, egg, milk, and shortening until just mixed.  Pour into pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda

Baking soda and baking powder are not interchangeable.  Actually, you can use baking soda to make baking powder: simply combine 1 part baking soda, 2 parts cream of tartar, and 1 part cornstarch (omit the cornstarch if you are going to use it right away.  If you are allergic to corn or just don't want to use it, potato starch may also be substituted).  The science geek deep inside me had fun with this post, so be sure to scroll down to the end if you want to know why you want to add cornstarch if you aren't going to use it right away.

I received this actual email yesterday from a reader who I assume wants to remain anonymous since it was sent to my email instead of posted on Facebook:
Oh baking guru, You who can whip up delicious things from stuff you find
laying on the ground, I need help and I beseech thee!


I am *not* a baker and I may have just made a boo boo. But I don't know
if it'll be an *edible* boo boo. I had a coffee cake recipe I was
making. I decided to do one with applesauce because we had that and
we're short on eggs. No problem, zipping along following the recipe...
discover I've put in baking POWDER instead of baking SODA. So I added
the soda. Then I thought about it for a minute. Did I just doom my food?
I have NO idea what adding them both does instead of just adding one.

Please help?

Unfortunately, by the time stamp on the email, I was probably several hours too late to impact the situation.  If this person had simply added 2/3 of the original amount of the baking soda on top of the baking powder booboo, there might have been a chance of saving it, since the other ingredients in the baking powder might have affected the taste, most likely adding a bitter component to the flavor, but it might not have worked out too badly.

On the other hand, adding the full amount of baking soda and  baking powder can have baaaaaad results.  The best case scenario, it would just rise too much.  Worse case scenario, it could actually explode in the oven.  Oops.  (Incidentally, then it would be time to break out more baking soda to clean it!)

 Warning: science geekery to follow.....

Baking powder and baking soda work differently, but perform the same function, as a leavening agent, something that makes the baked good rise.  Baking soda is a base (which is why it is fun to clean toilets with it, some liquid soap, and vinegar, the vinegar being an acid) and reacts with an acid in the recipe to form bubbles, causing the baked good to rise.  Baking powder, on the other hand, contains both a base (baking soda) and an acid (cream of tartar, aka potassium hydrogen tartrate).  In their powdered forms, they don't react, but once you add moisture, either in a recipe or with moisture from the air, the party starts!  This is why you want to add cornstarch to homemade baking powder that is made ahead of time, to absorb the moisture from the air instead of the acid or base to extend its shelf life.  That's also why any baking powder, whether it be homemade or store-bought, has a shelf life: eventually the moisture will cause a premature reaction, so it won't react in the recipe.  It's already spent.

When I run out of store-bought baking powder, I have no intention of replacing it.  Even though it looks like it is more expensive to make your own, if you don't use a lot of it, that may not be the case once you factor in the waste of what you don't use before it goes flat.  Cream of tartar and baking soda, on the other hand, have a shelf life of approximately forever, so there should be no waste there.  In addition, if I'm not buying baking powder, I don't have to worry about accidentally picking up the kind with aluminum, a concern for me since my favorite grandma died of Alzheimer's.  Plus, I've heard it just plain tastes better to make it fresh, and I'm always for better tasting baked goods!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween on a "Boo"-dget

Reused firefighter costume + cardboard box = super cute!
Even though it is last minute, it isn't too late to avoid spending a frighteningly lot of money and do Halloween on a "boo"-dget. 

Search your house for parts of costumes. For children, a well stocked dress-up box may be a treasure trove of parts of costumes.  There might even be costumes from previous years that could be reused by a different sibling or adapted for use again.  Even without a dress-up box, other articles of clothing you already have laying around may give you some opportunities for great costumes without spending a lot, or maybe even any, money.  Dance leotards and skirts may be the beginning of a fairy costume, fancy dresses from special occasions may be perfect for a princess or angel.  Jeans and flannel shirts could be for a cowboy or miner.  Sheets can become togas or ghosts.  I saw a news clip about "Occupy Wall Street" being a "hot" costume this year, so you may find some inspiration there, possibly with a 99%-er sign covering most of you, or as one of the corporate "bad guys" in a suit.  Old clothes you may have been meaning to get rid of could be easily turned into a zombie costume as well.

A princess, wearing a dress from her dress-up (originally made by Renaissance Costumes and More by Lady Elizabeth, a friend of mine) and a cowboy, wearing clothes he had, a bandana from the dress-up box, and a foam cowboy hat from a dollar store)
If you don't have anything at home, check with friends.  Maybe their kids or themselves have something that could be transformed into a great costume or they might even have complete costumes from previous years that you could get for free, cheap, or trade.

The next place you'll want to try is second-hand stores.  Here you're looking for the same sorts of treasures, but with more opportunity for greater variety.  Of course this may be pretty picked over so late in the game, but more stuff may be brought in every day, so there still is a chance.  Same thing with Freecycle or Craigslist--you might find treasures, but it is awfully late in the game for finding something fantastic without a fair amount of luck.

Dollar or discount stores may present opportunities to find the crucial missing pieces to make your costume perfect for very little funds.  You can probably find makeup, vampire teeth, foam accessories like swords or cowboy hats, fairy wings, and many other finishing touches that make it look like you put a lot more money and/or effort into your costume than you really did.

An oak tree (felt applied to regular clothes), a Tootsie Roll (fabric, foam, and ribbon glued together), and Tinkerbell (dress up box treasure + discount store accessories)
As a last resort, you could actually put a lot of time and effort into a costume.  Cardboard boxes and a little paint or aluminum foil offer many opportunities, from robots, to spacemen, to fire trucks, to pizza.  Felt is another possible treasure trove; last year I turned one of my sons into a Tootsie Roll and another into an oak tree with a lot of brown felt, a little green felt, and a little foam, ribbon, and glue.  If you are good at sewing, you might be able to find a quick pattern that could be turned into a last minute costume idea as well, but that is probably your most expensive and most stressful option, so that idea might be better saved for another year, when you have more time.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chocolate & Oat Bars--Week 5 of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies

These certainly aren't the cheapest cookies I've ever made, but sometimes you want what you want, ya know?  And the more expensive ingredients in these, the chocolate chips, the nuts, sweetened condensed milk, and butter all tend to go on very nice sales around the holidays.  Plus, if you have coupons....well, it could become one of the cheapest cookies, if you play your couponing/sale-searching game right!

I used more chocolate chips in this than nuts, because that is what I had on hand (and I didn't feel like going out to the garage and shelling black walnuts for these cookies and didn't feel like using acorns either), but if you wanted to make these a bit healthier, you could decrease the chocolate chips and increase the nuts.  As long as the total chocolate/nut addition equals about 2 cups, it shouldn't affect the recipe very much (although you would get a more chocolaty or nutty taste, depending on your ratio.  Duh)

Chocolate & Oat Bars
1 cup whole wheat flour (finely ground would work best)
1 cup quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk (not to be confused with evaporated milk)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix together flour, oats, sugar, and butter.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the oat mixture and firmly press the rest of the mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 baking pan.  Bake 10 minutes.  Spread sweetened condensed milk over crust.  Sprinkle on the nuts and chocolate chips.  Sprinkle remaining oat mixture and press firmly.  Bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool.  Cut into bars.

Here's what everyone else has been baking up this week for the 12 Weeks of Christmas cookies:  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Ending and a Beginning--A Trailer Park Homestead update

 I knew true contentment yesterday as I peeled apples to turn another bushel of apples into sauce (and some of that sauce into fruit leather, when I'm running too low on jars), working by the light of the soon-to-be countertop garden, listening to the hum of the dehydrator working to dry out the latest batch of garden herbs.  In the corner of my eye, I could see watermelon seeds still drying on the counter for planting next year (or giving away in TPH seed assortments), a few unripe tomatoes that had fallen from the vine in the winds of the previous few days, and a mountain of pear and apples, still waiting to be canned, dehydrated, or eaten.  Fall is in full effect here at the Trailer Park Homestead, and that isn't entirely a bad thing.

Here is more of Mother Nature's sense of humor.  I planted these carrots and onions about 2 months ago...and they are just now sprouting, when we are due to have about 3 freezing nights this week.  Silly sprouts.  So now I'm thinking of covering these up with some clear plastic or something to let them grow up to be something yummy, instead of freezing to death in a few days!

And if I'm covering up those other plants, should I cover up these, with their flowers that could let me make more salve and the broccoli that isn't full grown yet?  The spinach here I'm not worried about, since I plan on growing more spinach inside over the winter.

And if I'm covering those other areas, should I cover this one up too?  Okay, now I'm just getting silly.  I could probably harvest those carrots any day now, do harvest some of the snap peas just about every day, and really am not that worried about the one cabbage growing in here.

Winter is definitely coming though, as these dead cucumber plants can attest to.

So here is my new "blank canvas" of gardening--the kitchen counter!  (Note the netbook to the side.  That is how I'm able to seem to be online so much but still get so much done.  I just do mini-checks of what's going on in the world outside my kitchen or garden via the internets.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Simple Feast--Baked fish, baked potatoes, and brussel sprouts

This picture probably would have been prettier if I remembered to take the picture before I cut up the baked potato, but I was just too excited to eat this yummy meal!
The primary point of this post is to show how easy it is to make a meal consisting of a variety of dishes to come together at the same time to make a good meal, even in a small home kitchen.  This seems to be an obstacle for some people to overcome before they are comfortable cooking meals from scratch.  (A secondary purpose is to share a simple way to prepare fish!  So moist and delicious!)

It was a simple feast, to be sure, but a feast none the less.  And it was good!  Okay, the brussel sprouts weren't amazing--they tasted like cabbage, which we aren't to fond of by itself (next time, if there is a next time, I have some, I'll probably chop them up and slip them into egg rolls)--but they weren't bad.  If you like cabbage, they probably would be amazing though!

One thing that made this meal nice to make is that it didn't require a lot of effort.  Another is that the potatoes and fish could be baked at the same temperature.  Here's what I made, how I made it, and how easy it is to put together a meal like this, even on a busy night.

Start with the baked potatoes:
Baked Potatoes
desired number of baking potatoes, like Russets
shortening, butter, or oil (optional)

Scrub potatoes.  Poke a few holes in each potato.  Rub with shortening, butter, or oil, if desired, for a softer skin.  Bake at 350 for about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours (can also be baked at 375 for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or at 325 for about 1 1/2 hours, if desired).  Serve with butter and/or sour cream, as desired.

Once the potatoes had been in the oven for about an hour, I got the fish ready.  Because the kids aren't big fish eaters, and my husband and I tend to just want moderate amounts of meat, I was able to make just one fillet, about 1/2 pound of fish (which in this case, was $3.50 worth of fish), be enough for all of us, making the entire meal fit in my $5 a meal for the family budget.

Baked Whitefish
whitefish fillets
softened butter
lemon juice

Lay fish fillets out on a baking dish.  Brush with softened butter and lightly sprinkle with lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Once the fish was in the oven, I started on the brussel sprouts.  Like I said before, these weren't the best things in the world--but probably only because we don't care for cabbage flavor by itself.  If we did, I'm sure everyone would have gobbled them up.  Even as it was, they were pretty good.

Brussel sprouts
brussel sprouts

Remove outer leaves of brussel sprouts and rinse.  Boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from water and submerse in cold water until almost tine to serve.  A few minutes before serving, halve or quarter brussel sprouts.  Melt butter in a skillet.  Saute brussel sprouts until crisp tender.
Then it was just a matter of plating the food and sitting down and eating it:  the best part!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meal Plan Monday--October 24-30

We stuck to the meal plan from last week pretty well, until Thursday, when the power went out, so I couldn't make baked chicken on rice like planned, then we unexpectedly went to my husband's mom's house for dinner on Friday, and I was too tired to cook Saturday after not getting enough sleep Friday night so our clean out the fridge night got bumped up to that day.  Sunday, we needed a fairly quick dinner after coming home from spending the day at the zoo for their Halloween event, so I used the chicken I'd thawed for Thursday's dinner (which needed to be used up by this point anyway) for some barbeque chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn.  So basically, last week's meal plan was almost a complete fail!

Here's this week's "plan."  Maybe I'll do better this week!

Monday:  lake white fish (haven't decided how I'm going to prepare it yet, but picked it up at the farmers market this weekend so I need to use it or freeze it pretty soon), brussel sprouts (from the broccoli lady), and baked potatoes

Tuesday: cheese enchiladas & spinach salad, fresh from the garden

Wednesday: venison pasties (and, yes, I was planning on having this before my mom posted her pasties recipe on her blog the other day)

Thursday:  baked macaroni and cheese with sauteed green beans
Friday: spinach feta quiche (we were supposed to eat last week, but didn't get around to it) and tomato slices (a treat that is about to get a lot rarer for quite some time, since I anticipate a freeze will have killed off the garden by then)

Saturday: venison butterfly steaks, mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots

Sunday: chicken egg rolls
If you notice, there is no cleaning out fridge night this week.  That is because A) when I'd most likely have such a night, on the weekend, my mother-in-law will be visiting for a few days and she almost never gets to eat real food, since she eats almost entirely processed food at home so I thought it would be nice to make tasty food she enjoys while she's here, and B) I'm not going to make more than we'll eat of Monday's fish, etc, since I don't have a lot of it, since the fish was quite expensive and we only have enough brussel sprouts to try them for one meal, since I told the broccoli lady the kids and I have never had them; cheese enchiladas, pasties, and egg rolls all freeze exceptionally well for later reheating in the oven for future meals; the mac & cheese makes great individual frozen meals for my husband's lunches at work; and I like to eat leftover quiche for breakfasts.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Baked Kale Chips

I finally found a way I'll eat kale!  Yay!  Don't know about the kids or hubby yet, since everyone was sleeping by the time I made them, but who cares!  More for me if they don't!

Our family had our first experience with kale last year, when I was given a lot of it as part of my share in a community garden we were working in.  My family did not like it.  The only way I found that they would eat it was to slip a little into the stir fry vegetables for chicken teriyaki. 

Yesterday, the broccoli lady, a woman from a local Freecycle group that gave me some herb plants in the spring and has now given me excess produce from her garden twice, gave me more kale.  It wasn't a lot, since I confessed that I hadn't had much luck getting the kids and hubby to eat it, but I'd said before that I never refuse free produce, so I felt like I had to take at least some. 

I'd heard of kale chips last year, but was kind of scared to try them, since how could that possibly be good so I put it off and put it off until the kale that was still in the fridge shamefully went bad.  This time, the day I got it, I made me some kale chips.  I admit, I was pleasantly surprised.  They aren't my favorite food, but they are something I definitely would be interested in having again, to the point that I'm considering on growing some next year.  I've long loved how hearty the plant is, perfect for Michigan gardening, and how nutritious it is, so here's my chance to use it!

My biggest issue with the kale chips I made was that they were pretty bland, so next time I might try these seasoned kale chips instead, but the Parmesan cheese ones I made would be worth repeating as well.  They definitely have a satisfying crunch, but are healthy enough for guilt-free late night snacking.
Kale chips before being baked (the ones on the left were seasoned with sea salt and Parmesan.  The ones on the right just with sea salt).  They aren't as cute coming out, when they are more brownish and dry looking.
Baked Kale Chips

olive oil cooking spray
sea salt, Parmesan cheese, or any other seasoning you want

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Thoroughly wash kale (seriously.  Those icky green cabbage caterpillars like this stuff too, so you don't want extra protein creeping in, literally, like that!).  Tear small pieces, about the size of a smallish potato chip, of kale off the thick center rib.  Pat dry with a towel.  Arrange pieces on a baking sheet.  Lightly spray with olive oil cooking spray.  Move pieces around to ensure even coating of oil.  Sprinkle with desired seasonings.  Bake 10-20 minutes or until dry and crispy, flipping chips every 5-10 minutes to prevent sticking and to watch for doneness.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Survivialism: Not just for nutjobs anymore

 If you are reading this, I think it is safe to assume the world didn’t end on 10/21 as Harold Camping predicted. Not too many people were surprised by this, especially since this isn’t the first time that he or countless other “prophets” have been wrong throughout history. But just because no one has successfully predicted the end of the world yet, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for it to end at any given time. (click here to read the rest of the article on ViewsHound)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thrifty's Fried Chicken Bowl

I admit, I love the taste of KFC's food.  I'm especially fond of those mashed potato bowls, filled with those tasty layers.  I hate that I love it, as overpriced and drenched in chemicals as it is, but what can you do?  Well, in my case, I knock it off and make my best imitation at home.  Sure, it tastes almost nothing like the real thing, since mine is completely free of MSG and low in salt and I have yet to figure out the other ingredients in their chicken breading or gravy (and why is the gravy so brown?), but I can pretend!  Another huge advantage of mine: you can make it entirely out of leftovers!
Theirs (they clearly can afford a better photographer...or at least a better quality camera than my phone has!)

Thrifty's Not-so-famous Mashed Potato Bowl

a few tablespoons or less of milk
leftover mashed poatoes
leftover kernel corn
leftover popcorn chicken
leftover gravy
sprinkling of Cheddar, colby, and/or Monterey jack cheese

If needed to make the mashed potatoes extra creamy, add milk and mix with an electric mixer until desired consistency.  Top with kernel corn and popcorn chicken and drizzle gravy over everything.  Heat in microwave or oven until warm through.  Top with cheese(s) and serve.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Apple Spice Cookies--Week 4 of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies

I have it on good authority (my 4 year old daughter) that Santa would approve of these cookies, even with the whole grains and fruit in them.
I've been trying to make my contributions to the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies a little healthier, with ingredients like fruits, nuts, and whole grains.  My kids and picky husband haven't noticed.  With the overload of flat out junk food during the holidays, I'm trying to make them a teensy bit healthier, so we can relax a little more and enjoy ourselves--not worry as much about the overload of sugary treats we are being constantly tempted with.  I'm not going to guarantee that this is what will be happening for the next 8 weeks, because I give in to temptation sometimes too, but I'm trying....and I hope you enjoy my efforts.

Apple Spice Cookies

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce, plain or cinnamon
1 egg
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Beat together brown sugar, butter, applesauce, and egg.  Stir in flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, and salt.  Mix in raisins.  Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto an ungreased baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.  Bake 10 minutes, or until set.  Let cool before removing from baking sheets.
Here are this week's other cookie and sweet recipes for the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Forgot the Clever Title I Had Here--A Trailer Park Homestead update

I woke up this afternoon (the rain and the kids let me sleep in.  Yay!) and discovered Blogger seems to have eaten today's post!  So here is take two. 

Every week at this point, I'm wondering if it will be my last gardening outside for the year.  I'm already preparing to transition indoors, like these carrots in a container hint at
I'm trying to keep things outside as long as possible though, since veggie plants don't tend to do so well without water and I'm horrible about watering plants.  Things are starting to look pretty sad out there, though and we could have a hard freeze any day now, to take that choice away from me.

Here's what's still growing on at the Trailer Park Homestead:
Wide shot of the front garden area doesn't look so bad...

and it isn't all bad.  The pepper plants are still producing, in addition to the calendula flowers and violet foliage, but...

the tomatoes look horrible, more like the fruits on a string rather than an actual plants.  Leaf spot has taken out most of the leaves, but still they hang on!  I'm going to let these bad boys go as long as I can!  Next tomato season is too far away!

Those obnoxious little green caterpillars really did a number on the rutabaga the other day.  The plants were fine one day, just a few little holes, then the next time we walked by, just a couple days later, this is what we found.  I did a double take as I walked by, then stopped to squish.  The kids and I found close to 100 caterpillars, and there are only about 8 plants there!

While no one plant looks particularly sad in the back raised bed, it is beginning to look rather picked over as we harvest carrots as we need them from this area.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Popcorn Chicken

Yes, I know this isn't the healthiest thing I've ever posted (and I'm kind of embarrassed by all the fried food I've posted), but it is tasty--and still healthier than buying the stuff you'd get if you eat out or buy the processed junk at the store.  If you try to avoid factory farmed meats (the meat pictured here was purchased at a farmers market), this also lets you do that and still enjoy the guilty pleasures you might otherwise enjoy.

At first, I was planning on making chicken tenders or strips, but then I realized that the meat would go farther in smaller pieces...and I had an interesting idea with what to do with leftovers (which I will try to post later in the week.  The recipe calls for 2 pounds of meat, but in my house that means I either halve the recipe or make planned leftovers.  I don't think we ever eat more than a pound of meat for one family meal!

Popcorn Chicken

1/2 cup finely ground whole wheat flour (stone ground will not work in this recipe)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 lbs chicken, cut to desired size
vegetable oil for frying

Mix flour, salt, paprika, onion powder, and pepper in a plastic baggy.  Add a few little pieces of chicken at a time, close bag, and shake to coat chicken.  Set coated pieces aside until they are all coated.  

Heat oil. 1/4 inch deep, in a large skillet.  Cook chicken until light brown, anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on size of pieces.  Turn as needed to make sure they are evenly cooked.  Remove from heat and drain on paper towel before serving.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meal Plan Monday--October 17-23

I'm trying out a new feature on the blog.  Each Monday (until/unless I decide I don't want to or if you don't like it), I will post my dinner meal plan for the week (breakfasts and lunches are more freestyle/get-it-yourself type affairs around here), along with links to posts that contain the relevant recipes, if applicable, and pictures, just to liven it up.  

Here are the dinners I plan to make for the week of October 17 to October 23.  I may deviate from this list a little bit, but since this is based on what I have currently available, I don't think I'll wander too far off it:

Monday:  homemade chicken tenders (experimental recipe), mashed potatoes with gravy, corn, and tomato slices

Tuesday:  tacos (with homemade taco seasoning)

Wednesday:  shipwreck

Friday:  spinach & feta quiche and garden fresh tomato slices

Saturday:  corn & potato chowder with fresh, homemade bread & strawberry jam

Sunday:  clean out the fridge night aka leftovers

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apple Acorn Crumble

Just a quick recap from previous acorn posts:  this can be made gluten-free by substituting acorn flour for the whole wheat flour;  also, if you don't have any acorns but want to try this recipe, hazelnut flour could be substituted but it is a lot more expensive!
This recipe is for a larger sized crumble, like to feed my family or to take to a potluck, but could be halved for a less piggy family.

Apple Acorn Crumble
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup apple cider
9 cups peeled, thinly sliced apples
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup acorn meal
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine honey, lemon juice, melted butter, and apple cider.  Pour mixture over apple slices and stir well, so each apple slice is coated.  Pour into a 9x13 baking pan.  

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, sugar, acorn meal, and cinnamon,  Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Spread crumb topping over apples.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is crispy and lightly browned.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Time to Freeze My Buns?

So far this fall, despite a few frosty nights, I've had no desire to turn on the furnace (probably due in part to the fact that the furnace filters desperately need changing.  Eeeew!  Don't need that nasty old dust recirculating anywhere, especially since the furnace is practically right outside my bedroom door!).  But the call has gone out by The Crunchy Chicken, it's time to freeze yer buns off in 2011, and she's issued a challenge to go with it!  Apparently there are even prizes to go with it, but it seems to me like everyone participating wins, since you get a lower heating bill just for playing!

I'm going to cheat a little on the challenge and declare my temperatures to be the same as we usually set them in the winter: 65 during the day and 55 at night.  A lot of people seem to think that is crazy low already, so I'm officially going to leave it there. 

Even though I plan on leaving the thermostat the same place as last year, I do plan on better implementing strategies to keep the family warm, beyond putting on socks and a sweatshirt or breaking out extra blankets.

One advantage we definitely have at the Trailer Park Homestead for keeping the temps down in the winter is, like I said, the furnace is practically right outside my bedroom....and everyone wants to sleep in that bedroom.  This means that we don't have to worry so much about heating the far side of the house at night.  If the kids were to actually start sleeping where they are supposed to, we might have to turn the thermostat up a notch or two more, but, as it is, I encourage that less in the winter so they think they are getting away with something by sleeping in my room, and we're getting away with paying less on the heating bill.

Another thing I'll definitely be doing is strategically planning meals and baking around the weather.  If it is supposed to be overcast (more on why that is important a bit later) and cold, I'll be more inclined to stick something in the oven, or maybe fire up the canner to can some stock, or make  or something, which would also serve to heat up the house while getting something done.

One final unusual way I plan on keeping the house warmer without heat this winter is passive solar energy.  I don't even need any fancy equipment for this--just the storm window shut on the screen door!  On sunny afternoons, if I leave that front door that has a screen door open and the screen door shut, the light from the sun coming in generates enough heat that it raises the house's temperature as much as 10 degrees in an afternoon!  And that is even if it is in the 20s outside, so it doesn't have to be a warm day to do it!  I know this wouldn't work for everyone, but check out the windows on your house and see if you can do something similar, if they line up right that if you put up the blinds or curtains, it actually heats the house rather than loosing heat to a potential draft.

So those are my main ideas for keeping the house warm this winter without using much energy.  If you have others, especially ones useful for a single-wide trailer, I'd love to hear them.  This might be a bit of a game for us, participating in this "challenge", but my next door neighbors' furnace is broken and they don't think they'll be able to afford to replace it (yes, it is beyond repair, according to the guy they had come look at it already.  And, yes, we'll be being neighborly and inviting them to come over any time they need to keep warm, even if it means spending just about every night here), so any tips on keeping warm could literally be lifesaving for them.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Acorn Griddle Cakes (with gluten-free alternative)

I started to get a urge to make these the other day when I was looking over ideas for a possible unit study on pre-European-influenced Native Americans in the area (because, really, there are/were so many nations of Native Americans, it is kind of silly to try to cover all of them in any sort of general unit study like they used to, and I'm guessing they still do, in schools) and I came across mentions of dishes involving acorn flour and maple syrup.  Since I have both of these items in my house (doesn't everyone?  No?) and I remembered I had this recipe in my stack of recipes to try, I figured now would be a good time to try them out.  Yum!

One note on this recipe, as opposed to some I've posted, it really does need to be acorn flour, not acorn meal, since the meal would be too gritty for an ideal griddle cake experience.  Remember, all you have to do to transform acorn meal into flour is just grind it more finely, so no biggie.  Just make sure to do it.  Also remember that acorn flour can be used as wheat flour substitute, so you can easily make these gluten-free by omitting the whole wheat flour and upping the acorn flour to 1 cup.

I made these "fun sized" for the kids and of course served them with real butter and real maple syrup.  It would almost be a crime to serve such great, wholesome natural food with the abominations that are trans-fat-laden margarine or maple-flavored corn syrup marketed as "pancake syrup" or "breakfast syrup" or whatever it is they call that garbage!

Acorn Griddle Cakes
2/3 cup acorn flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp honey
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
3 tbsp butter, melted

Combine flours, baking powder, and salt.   In a separate bowl, combine honey, egg, and milk.  Mix liquid mixture into dry mixture, creating a smooth batter.   Add butter.  Drop batter onto a hot, greased griddle or skillet, by the tablespoon for "fun sized" or 1/4 cup for regular sized.  Cook, turning each griddle cake over when it is lightly browned on the bottom and puffed and slightly set on top.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chocolate Chip Acorn Bar Cookies--Week 3 of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies

I made a very exciting discovery when figuring out this week's cookie recipe.  Acorn flour can actually be used as a straight wheat flour substitute.  This is fantastic!  That means people on gluten-free diets don't have to be slaves to the super high grocery store prices for gluten-free products.  There is an alternative.  It is also fantastic since flour was one of the few things I was still feeling like I'd have to buy from the store until I get some fairly serious land to grow my own, and now that isn't true either.  I probably will still have to buy quite a bit this year, since I found out this miraculous tidbit so late into the acorn season, but next year, gathering acorns will definitely take more of a priority!  Acorn flour does make a denser baked product though, so for flavor/texture preference, I probably won't use anything stronger than a blend of acorn flour and wheat flour for now.  In theory though, you could make these cookies gluten-free by upping the acorn flour (at least some would have to be flour and not meal at that point) to 2 1/2 cups and omitting the whole wheat flour.

(Note:  if you're new here and haven't started gathering acorns for these great recipes, or you live in one of the few-ish places in the world that doesn't have acorn trees, but still want to make these cookies, you should be able to find hazelnut flour at a health food store.  It should give you a fairly similar flavor, I would think.  It is expensive though!)

So how do you make acorn flour?  Once you've made your acorn meal, as described in my previous post on this subject (or one of the many other ways floating around the internet), just grind it again to get a finer, flour-sized product.

Chocolate Chip Acorn Bar Cookies
1 cup butter
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup acorn meal or flour (or combination)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Remove from heat.  Beat in honey, sugar, and egg.  Stir in flour, acorn meal, baking soda, and salt.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Pour into an ungreased jelly roll pan, 15 1/2 x10 1/2 x 1 inch.  Bake 20 minutes.  Cool before cutting into desired sizes.

Here's what everyone else has been baking this week for the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mother Nature's (and the Universe's) Sense of Humor--A Trailer Park Homestead update

For about the last week and a half, we've had temperatures around 80 mid-October.  Note that we've already had a couple frosts.  But now the weather's been playing at summer again. 

In some respects, I like it.  I haven't had to worry about covering the plants up to protect from possible frosts the past week and a half.  It has been gorgeous weather for tucking  the summer sections of the garden into bed for the winter. 

It is a little freaky though.  I'm not used to this at all!  Plus, it seemed weird to have to worry about watering the garden when more than half of it is already gone for the weird.  And I really shouldn't have to worry about my spinach bolting from the heat in October!  After frosts have already came and gone!

 Some of the beans that I'd been leaving out save for seed got a little over excited about the weather as well.  Four of them sprouted!  When I was cleaning up the remnants of the garden in the path of the contractors, I discovered the silly little buggers.  I did what any somewhat obsessed gardener would do of course:  I potted them so I could bring them in for the winter when Mother Nature remembers what season it is!

Another possible interesting development, still just in the rumor phase, but worth noting, is that the neighbor told me that all the driveways in the trailer park are being connected to the garages.  So this area:
where the cornfields, Three Sisters beds, mystery plants, and so much more, may not be available for planting since it might be covered with those horrible rocks that get used in driveways so often.  Part of me wonders if it is part of a plot to keep me, and people I've inspired to mimic me next year, from gardening so extensively in the yard, given the history of the manager's issues with my cornfield.  If that is the case, they have another thing coming, since I'll just plop raised beds right in the middle of the driveway and keep on gardening!  A more rational part of my brain figures this is something that was probably already planned and such an extensive project to keep lil ol' me from gardening is a pretty unlikely scenario.  

Other than that, not much has changed on the 'stead from last week.  Here's some random pics of what's still here:

This actually isn't still here, since we ate these veggies in the chicken teriyaki we had for dinner, but it represents the remaining capability of starting dinner outside, picking the ingredients.
I rearranged the patio furniture again....
as well as some of the planters.  I need to do something about that box on the right, like stick some lettuce in it, I think.

If that driveway thing does come to pass, this may end up being a major portion of my garden right here.