Friday, December 17, 2010

Favorite Christmas Cookie

Molly's class had a holiday party on Tuesday and we were asked to bring something that represents one of the traditions we celebrate. Well crap, we don't really have any traditions except spending hours in the car going from one place to another. So I figured that I should send in some gingerbread cookies, for several years we did have a big cookie day but haven't been able to round everyone up the past year or two. Gingerbread is one of my favorite things to make and I've been doing it a long time. So here is my recipe that I've been tweaking over the years I hope you enjoy it :)

Gingerbread Cookies

8 Tbsp butter (yes REAL butter none of that fake stuff!)
1/2 C. white sugar
1/2 C. molasses (man alive this stuff smells awful!)
1 egg
2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground clove
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp allspice
sprinkle of nutmeg

Beat the butter with the sugar and molasses. Mix in egg. Sift dry ingredients and mix into wet mixture. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll out a portion of the dough 1/4 inch thick (leaving the rest in the fridge) on a well floured surface. Cut dough with a floured cookie cutter basic shapes give the best results. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges are a little crisp. Enjoy the smell of freshly made gingerbread!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Molly's Invitations

Along with getting ready for Christmas here we've also been getting ready for Molly's eighth birthday party on Saturday. December is a huge birthday month for us, my niece is the first, brother is this Thursday, stepdad is this Friday and Molly is Saturday. We have a few more thrown in too! December is just craziness.
Anyway I just wanted to share the first part of Molly's party prep with you. I can't wait to show you the decorations, it's starting to look like something threw up pink all over the house (well not so gross I promise).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ready for some greens

I don't know about you but I'm ready for something a little greener in my diet. As much as I love all the traditional favorites at Thanksgiving it always leaves me a little weighed down feeling in the food department. So this is a salad I whipped up to serve with the turkey leftovers and lighten the load.

Romaine Lettuce
Baby Spinach
Crumbled Blue Cheese
Dried Cranberries
Toasted Walnuts
Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing

Toasting the walnuts is totally optional but it really does add an amazing crunch and makes them extra flavorful. All I did was place them in a cold skillet and kept the heat on low. Every couple of minutes swoosh them around the pan and once you can smell them when you are at the stove they are done. Don't try to rush them and turn the heat up because they will scorch and that just isn't yummy at all.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dorm Cooking EP:2

Well as promised, here is episode two of my dorm cooking! I decided to make a casserole. With only a microwave!


Leftover Colcannon (mashed potatoes and cabbage)
Canned veggies
Rice (I used rice a roni chicken rice, you'll want something that has a creamy texture to it otherwise it will be bland and flavourless, unless you had some cream and herbs to make your own sauce with butter and whatnot)
leftover chicken bits

Prepare the rice as directed in a microwave bowl. While rice sits to finish after cooking, add canned veggies drained with mushrooms into a bowl and cover with water then microwave about 5 minutes and drain, Add to rice and mix, warm chicken bits briefly in microwave to warm then add to rice mix, top with cheese and return to microwave until the cheese is melted and gooey.

the finished dishes complete with tea biscuits and blackberry jam

How it looked in the pot, my cheese wouldn't melt >.<;


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dorm Cooking EP: 1

ohmigosh it has been soooo long since I have posted anything. Recently I have been perfecting the art of dorm cooking and wanted to share with you my first dinner that turned out amazing!

Now to let everyone know, I recently moved to PA to live with my boyfriend and have been doing a lot of living on campus, he finally just recently got a mini fridge so we can now keep some things cold, but the Kitchen is broken so, I decided to try to make homemade meals anyway, using our neighbors microwave. And here are the results:

Dinner: Chicken, boiled carrots with butter, and colcannon.

The first dinner I made was my take on a homemade irish potato leek soup, I'll post pics of the leftovers when we warm them up on a later post.

Now the chicken part was super easy, I just bought a rotisserie chicken and cut it to bits taking off the wings and legs and breast and warmed in the microwave with some butter on it. Followed by sliced carrots in water, which I put in the microwave to boil/steam, when I took them out I added more butter to them ^^ and last but not least colcannon, I microwaved the cabbage and potatoes together in water, when the potatoes were done so was the cabbage, I mashed them together with butter (if you have cream, add it for an extra yummy).

rotisserie chicken
4 peeled and sliced carrots
3 peeled and diced potatoes
2-3 leaves of cabbage washed and diced
butter(we used Irish butter because its delicious)
salt and pepper

slice up the chicken and put onto a plate with butter set aside. Put the sliced carrots into a microwave safe bowl with enough water to cover, cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the carrots are cooked all the way through (alternately you can out the carrots cabbage and potatoes in the same bowl but you have to dig the carrots out after) add the potatoes and cabbage to a microwave safe bowl with enough water to cover. cook 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are mushy tender. Drain the carrots and the potatoes. Add butter to carrots, cover, and set aside. add a good glob or two of butter to the potatoes and cabbage and mash, I didn't have a potato masher but I had purchased, the day before, a soup ladle, so I just used the back of it to mush the potatoes. You can do the same thing with any large spoon, or if you are daring use a small plastic spoon, just know, it will take you longer. Before you mash the potatoes put the chicken in the microwave and nuke for about 3-4 minutes just check it to make sure it doesn't get all dried out. The butter will help with that.
Plate it up and you have a delicious Irish inspired dinner, home cooked and better for you, and better tasting than take out, or cafeteria food. Happy Dorm Cooking!!


The finished dinner, this is my boyfriend's plate, I ate the breast meat. If you put a glob of butter in the middle of the colcannon, dip each bite into the well of butter instead of mixing it in, it's more traditional and waaay yummier.

This is my prep space ^^

And the tiny crummy microwave we use, it's my boyfriend's suite mate's. It's nice of him to let us use it though.

Friday, October 8, 2010

DIY Laundry Soap

I was speaking to a girlfriend of mine one day about making something and she told me that her mom makes her own laundry soap! I found that fascinating, we go through an unbelievable amount of laundry soap. So girlfriend's mom emailed me her recipe and photo dude and I made it one night. It goes together very quickly and works beautifully. Actually the weekend that we made it my poor nephew had a bloody nose and this laundry soap even got the blood out without leaving that brown stain on the white part of the shirt (we did get to it quickly and stain stick it first just so you know). So here you go and photo dude will hopefully put all the cost break down up tonight when he gets home from work.

Here are your supplies
Arm and Hammer Washing Soda I found mine at ACE Hardware
One bar of soap grated (any kind will do I chose to use Castille soap)
A big bucket that will hold over three gallons of water

Throw your grated soap into about four cups of boiling water. You want the soap to dissolve. It doesn't take very long at all. When our soap dissolved we were amazed that the water was clear! Kinda' crazy huh?

Pour your dissolved soap mixture into your bucket. This bucket came from the donut shop down the road you don't have to buy a new one just make sure it is clean.

Add 1 C. of washing soda and 1/2 C. of borax to the bucket and stir well. Let sit for a day before using so that it can incorporate.

This whole project took us probably half an hour from start to finish. I think we figured that it is going to only cost us about five cents a load! You can't beat that price.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Peanut Free Muffins

If you have kids in school currently you know what a big deal the whole peanut thing is. When I was in school the only allergy I remember is having to make sure that there where vanilla cupcakes along with the chocolate cupcakes. I give thanks everyday that my two don't have anything besides seasonal allergies, I see what there auntie goes through my my nephew.
So when I was getting some snacks ready for this kids lunches I wanted to make sure that I stayed away from nuts. But really can you have a banana muffin without some sort of crunch? Chocolate chips don't count because I wanted this to be healthy and weirdly enough not everyone in my house likes banana bread with chocolate, bizarre huh? I went to a local market and got a package of nonsalted sunflower seeds. Take your basic favorite banana bread recipe and leave out the nuts. In the place of the nuts throw in the seeds. I didn't check the sunflower seeds quite as carefully as I should have because they were processed with nut oil. The overall taste was really good but the seeds were not crunchy as nuts would have been. Overall a very nice substitute.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bright Fall Cookies

For the first time in almost four years we had to break in a new babysitter last night. Our dear sweet Alisha (co-writer of the blog) moved to be with the love of her life and that left us without a sitter. Luckily we have a niece that lives just a block or so away that was looking to take on a few more babysitting jobs. I figured that since it was her first night with the kids she might need a little bit of a bribe tool. So these cookies were born! I was inspired by Joy the Baker's Cranberry Orange Almond Oatmeal. The mix of cranberry and orange always seems to be such a bright flavor combo and then the oatmeal is just perfect for the gray nasty icky weather we had here yesterday. Hope you enjoy the recipe and it makes you smile
Cranberry Fall Cookies

3/4 C. butter softened
1 C. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of one small orange (about 1 Tbsp.)
1 and 1/2 C. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground clove
1/2 tsp. salt
2 C. rolled oats
1 C. dried cranberries
1/2 C. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350

Cream together the butter, sugar, eggs, zest and vanilla until smooth. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, clove and salt. Slowly combine the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Fold in your oats, cranberries and pecans. Using a small spoon to drop these on to an
ungreased cookie sheet (I like to line mine with parchment paper).

Bake 10 to 12 minutes until lightly golden. Let them cool for a few minutes on the sheet then remove to a cooling rack. These are delicious soft cookies even the next day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

We must be crazy

Wow we've had some crazy stuff going on at our homestead. My sister of the heart came over two weekends in a row with my nephew so that she could learn how to can her own things. We started with simple freezer jams and moved to our favorite Dilly Beans. During the weekdays between visits I got a lot of peaches canned and some jalapeno jelly. When Nikki came back we got a ton of pickles made (a half bushel makes A LOT!! of pickles!) more freezer jams for Nikki to take home, spaghetti sauce, and we started on tomatoes for me to can. A lot of the tomatoes ended up getting frozen so that we didn't loose them it has been a rather bizarre growing season in our region this year. Oh and I also boiled and froze potatoes! It is an experiment that was born from being given about 10 pounds of potatoes after having just purchased a 5 pound bag myself.
So the run down of things done so far this year
28 pints of dill pickles
11 jars of jalapeno jelly
12 pints of dilly beans
5 quarts of tomatoes in jars
4 pints of tomatoes in jars
9 pints of spiced peaches
15 pints of peaches in syrup
9 freezer gallon bags of spaghetti sauce and a whole lot of freezer jam in two different flavors and whatever ended up in freezer bags. Whew! That was a lot! The tomatoes that were frozen are going to get thawed and put up in jars as soon as we get an extra minute. We've got to do at least one more 1/2 bushel of tomatoes for jars. Soon the pears will be in, along with apples from my favorite orchard. So much to do but so worth it all winter long.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mad Crazy Weekend

Just to keep everyone up to date. This weekend is very crazy. We will have many posts to come and pictures also but right now we don't have the time. We are canning like crazy. The growing season was a little weird this year around here so we have to do a lot in a short time. We have a half bushel of cucumbers an a full bushel of tomatoes to go through this weekend. Plus we are also doing some pears to can. On top of all that I (photo dude) put the frame work in for the new planting beds for next year with the help of my Molly girl. We will be posting all of this soon. Have a great holiday weekend everyone. Jeff

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Sorry for not announcing this sooner. We had a fun weekend with family staying over and canning lessons going on. The winner is
Anonymous Brandy Brady said...

Wow Erin how come I never seen this before..your Summer Bruschetta recipe looks good going to try it some time this week..I will be checking back on your blog a lot more often now that I know it's here.

Thanks everyone who entered and we'll be doing this again soon. Brandy catch up with me on Facebook and send me your address please :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cherry Clafouti

Have you ever seen a show called the Fabulous Beekman Boys? If not you should it is fabulous! I'm not sure how I ran across it but after seeing the first episode I was hooked. This is a recipe from their website here. I'd never heard of Clafouti but it looked so yummy I had to try it. It was super simple, cheap ingredients (we had cherries on hand) and so quick to make. It tastes a lot like my brother's bread pudding. Yummy! So if you have a few handfuls of cherries left and need a quick dessert try this you won't be disappointed. And don't forget about our giveaway going on this is the last day to enter!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Easy Tomato Sauce

We have tomatoes coming in fresh every day but it never seems like we have enough to can any of them. We are going to need way more plants next year. To use the tomatoes we did have sitting on our kitchen counter we decided to make up some basic tomato sauce to freeze for later use.
This is a deep sided roasting pan with an assortment of tomatoes including one of the super sweet yellows we grew. The instructions for this came from the Old School blog where you can get some of the best tips and old school learnin' you crave. Anyway just clean up the fruits of your garden or local market and spread down some yummy olive oil with a few cloves of garlic and throw that pan in the oven at 450 until the skins crack and blacken. When you are done you have a hot mess like this. Most of my tomatoes were not super meaty ones so I have a lot of juice in the bottom of the pan. But I like my sauce to be thick so I scooped the tomatoes into a largish sauce pan to cook down some. Using the magic potato masher I came up with a very nice sauce. If you let the tomatoes cool even young children could help with the mashing. The white stuff in the pan is the garlic. That I did pull out separately dice up (along with an extra clove or two) and sauteed in a little more olive oil. Then just let this all simmer down stirring it once in a while so it doesn't burn. You can also add more herbs to your pot as it simmers. Since I wanted this to be a plain base sauce for future projects I just added a little bit of parsley. This is a photo of my finished sauce all nice and thick. If you don't like the idea of the tomato skins you could pull them off before mashing but I like the rustic-ness and you can't really tell they are in the sauce.

Hello yummy!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's our Bloggaversary!

I can't believe that it has been one year since starting this blog. I will admit that it hasn't been as smooth going as I would have liked but darn it we are still here and since you are too I want to give you a present! Check out the fun at the bottom of this post. But first I've got a great little recipe to share that we had for dinner last night. It was supposed to be a snack but it is really filling. Hope you enjoy!
Summer Bruschetta

Start with a fresh baguette, slice about 1/2 inch thick or thinner if you prefer.

Melt about 3 TBSP of butter and throw in three crushed cloves of garlic. Simmer together for about five minutes or until the garlic doesn't smell 'raw' any more.

Brush the melted butter over both sides of the baguette slices. Bake at 200 degrees (or a toast setting on your oven) for 30 minutes or so per side. You want your slices to be nice and crispy when they are done. Let them cool off and start the next step.

Cut up one nice meaty tomato such as a hefty Beef Steak and add an equal amount of cucumber. These are about 1/4" thick pieces ya' want them small enough to sit on the baguette. Add a health dose of dill, fresh is awesome but dried will work just fine. Mix together.

To build smear your baguette slices with veggie cream cheese and then a spoonful of tomato and cucumbers on top. Absolutely delightful! Summer all in one delicious bite.

Now for the fun give away. This is a set of vinyl words from Stampin' Up! and a set of canning utensils. There maybe some other surprise items in your box but these two will be in there for sure. Just leave me a comment before Friday August 27th at midnight eastern time. Your comment can be about anything, your favorite thing to can, a story, maybe even a quick family dinner recipe. You can get a second chance to win by following our blog just leave me another comment. Don't forget to make sure that your email address is right because is would be a bummer to not be able to get a hold of you. Just so you know what the vinyl pieces look like this is the same set on one of the canisters I bought myself this year. BTW unfortunately I can only ship the prize to the continental United States sorry :(

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Compost Bin

One more project we've gotten done this summer is a compost bin. We've looked at lots of different patterns for bins and even looked at the ones in store but they are so expensive and we haven't found any more big barrels like our rain barrel (any ideas where to get them?). As Photo Dude and I looked through a gardening book we saw an idea that we could actually accomplish. It was actually fairly simple and went up in no time. For some reason I had the photo of the gorgeous full bin in my head and was truly a little disappointed to realize that it didn't magically fill. Although if compost had started falling from the sky I would have freaked out.

Making Butter from Scratch

I had some heavy cream left over from another cooking project and wasn't sure what to do with it. Then I decided that I should make butter! Homemade butter is so much more awesome than the butter in stores and it isn't that fake yellow color. I decided to use my handy food processor for this because I did not want to try doing this by hand. Really this can't get much easier. Start by throwing your cream into the food processor and Whoosh! away it goes. It doesn't take long for a nice foam to start. I did throw in a dash of salt just 'cuz. The first thing you get is whipped cream. It would be yummy except the added salt and lack of sugar. The first time I made whipped cream after moving out on my own I didn't know you where supposed to add sugar, I quickly learned. After some more time you the cream starts to separate from the liquid. I drained the liquid off and processed a bit longer to make sure it was all out. Next I added a half cup of ice cold water at a time to 'wash' the butter. This is to make sure all the butter milk is gone. Just keep adding and draining the water until it is clear. You don't have to do this step if you are going to be using your butter quickly but if you want to be able to store it then this will help it last longer. When you are done you will have beautiful creamy butter that is different than anything you've had from a store. This is a wonderful time to add other flavorings or seasonings like garlic or herbs.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jar Sorting

Wow time sure has flown here. I can't believe that July is gone already. The Fourth of July tomato has been giving us little red tomatoes every day and they are so sweet and delicious. Everything else is getting there. We look at the number of tomatoes on each plant and can't wait to get canning. The kids helped us count the jars, lids and rings this weekend so we knew what to buy more of. Those wide mouth pint jars were so great that those are on the list of 'can't have enough', there are tons of the quart jars just waiting for tomatoes. Life is good.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Garden Update

Wow it has been a little while since our last photo update huh? Can you believe how big everything has gotten? It is just crazy! Never in a million years did I think anything like this would have happened. So as a quick up date, all of our tomatoes are growing beautifully. We have finally ascertained that the cherry tomatoes are the ones that died right off the bat. These gorgeous red ones are the Fourth of July tomatoes. We are having them tomorrow on BLT's so I'll let you know how they taste. The banana peppers are doing very nicely also. We harvested the first one already and threw it in chili (we actually didn't know what to do with just one). The other peppers are starting to come in also. There are so many that we are beginning to ask our neighbors if they like peppers :) It would be great to have some to share. These are so cute too I can't wait till they begin to change colors it is going to be a rainbow out there. We had a wicked storm this past weekend with estimated 70 mile per hour winds. Our plants got knocked around quite a bit. Photo Dude had to stake some of them because they had almost come uprooted. Next year we are going to get bigger tomato cages and put the peppers in the smaller ones from this year. The cucumbers are very stubborn. They are not happy just climbing along the fencing they wanted to use the tomato plants to climb on too! Photo Dude ran twine to the back fence for them to run along too. He needs to go out every day to coax them on to it and off the tomatoes. They are very disobedient. This is just one of the yellow squash plants we have going. I never knew they grew like this, they almost look like lilies or something very pretty. I really hope that our neighbors like squash, I've only got so many recipes in my box. Last but not least are the green beans that I don't have a photo of. These are the only plants that we have had a problem with the rabbits getting to! We had cute purple flowers one night and then the next nothing but sad empty stems sticking out of the ground. We aren't pulling them out yet because they keep coming back and if nothing else maybe it is keeping those buggers away from everything else. I guess next year we'll know that rabbits love beans.