General, Recipes

End of Week Pasta Salad

Alright, by now we all know that I love to save money. I don’t like to waste, and I attempt to be healthy by not eating too much processed foods, or eat out where they have control over my food.

This pasta salad is one of those meals that I whip up, very often, in order to use up produce and cheese, that have been in my refrigerator for the week.

I am on a stupid diet right now so I am using ingredients that are heart healthy, like whole grains and olive oil. You can use anything you want in your pasta salad. That is the beauty of this pasta salad. I have literally made it without any vegetables, without any cheese, or without any extras like olives and such.

The point is to use what you have and make a delicious dressing to go on it. That’s the secret to a good pasta salad, every time. Not the ingredients, although certain ingredients are perfect in pasta salad, but the overall taste of the salad, aka… the dressing.

Here are some pictures of the ingredients I used.

 

As you can see I cooked a 1/2 pound of whole grain pasta, just a little because I can only have a couple cups a day, and whatever vegetables were left from the week. Use more noodles if that’s what you have most of. This pasta salad gets eaten very quickly so this a great way to use up those peppers that are starting to show signs of over-ripening. Also, those tomatoes, I didn’t have many. I cut them in half.  The rest of my ingredients came from a can, olives and pickled garlic. I had small blocks of cheese, several kinds, so I cut them small to incorporate all through my salad.

So, for that dressing I bragged about.

You will need:

1 cup of olive oil (I used extra virgin for the health properties)

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon of oregano and 1 tablespoon of tyhme

I would normally use some garlic salt as well but I put pickled garlic in my salad and omitted it this time.

Salt and pepper to taste

You want a lot of dressing. You want the dressing to sit at the bottom of the bowl when it first goes in. So, if you are making a bigger salad than me, be sure to really make lots of dressing. The noodles soak it up as it sits in the fridge.

Whisk together all the ingredients.  Dump them on your pasta salad and mix well.

Let your salad sit in the fridge for an hour, covered, then take it out to taste it. I really encourage this part. The salad tastes so different after it sets.  The herbs and spices have more time to soften and marinate together. Also, after it sits, the noodles soak up that dressing and you want to make sure you don’t need to add more. If you let it sit too long without enough dressing, the flavors do not get into the noodles properly.

KIMG0446.jpg
Great little snack. Healthy and delicious.

Whatever doesn’t get eaten on the weekend, gets used for lunches on Mondays. I like to save sour cream containers for the kids, school lunches. I save them, then pack up this salad in their throw away containers, and put them in the fridge. They can grab them and go on Monday mornings.

 

General, Recipes

Alice’s Homemade Noodles

My Grandma Alice. Boy do I miss her.  She’s a legend in our family.  She was so sweet unless you made her mad, then look out. My generation grew up loving her profoundly and fearing her immensely.scans 072

Grandma Alice raised 6 children. Her husband, my grandfather, died at a young age from cancer.  Alice became a single mother. As you can imagine, she didn’t put up with a lot of crap.

A group of us, my cousins and myself, can remember a time when we disobeyed Alice. Alice lived in front of railroad tracks, and for perfectly good reasons, we were not allowed on them. Don’t ask me whose big idea it was to go play on those tracks. I quit trying to figure out who is the bad influence, amongst my generation, a long time ago. Of course, we thought we were so smart and would not get caught. Ha.

All any of us remember is seeing Alice stomp down those tracks with a fly swatter in her hand. We should have run. We should have begged for forgiveness. But instead we froze. She swatted us all. I don’t remember if it really hurt us. What I do remember is how bad I felt that Alice was so mad at me.

Alice’s house always smelled like coffee, that she made in a percolator, and fresh baked bread. She always made Parkerhouse rolls, applesauce and coleslaw, at every Sunday meal.

Alice made a lot of depression era meals. I wish she was still alive so I could talk to her about those days. I love to talk to my 82 year old mother-in- law about the depression. She has so many amazing recipes that I’m excited to share with you, when I get the chance.

Today, I’m making a recipe that Alice made at many Sunday dinners, Homemade Beef Tips and Noodles. Alice made her beef in a pressure cooker. I’m using my Dutch oven. If you don’t have either of these, no big deal. Any pan with a lid, combined with a high heat in your oven, will give the same results.

kimg0432.jpg
Alice would be proud of that plate.

 

 

scans 022

My mom would also make this recipe. It’s a treasured recipe in my family. My mom and I are the only ones that continued the tradition.  However, everyone loves the meal. As a kid, I loved helping my mom make homemade noodles. My mom would make the noodles early and let them sit on the counter to dry. I use to eat them raw when my mom wasn’t looking, so I thought.

 

The noodles are crazy inexpensive. There are a couple different ways I make them. I use them with Beef Ragu and Alice’s traditional, gravy-style beef. I also use chicken and turkey, with the noodles, instead of beef. Those are both really tasty too. It’s also a really great way to use up leftover meats.

For the noodles you will need to whisk together 3 eggs with salt and pepper.

kimg0410.jpg
I love my giant fork.

 

Then, you need to add in 3 cups of all purpose flour, about a cup at a time, until a dough is formed. Knead the dough until all the flour is mixed in.

 

 

Dump the dough onto a well floured surface area. Cover and let rest ten minutes to soften the glutens. You will have a very hard time rolling these out if you don’t let them rest.

kimg0413.jpg
First attempt, about half way there.

 

I rolled but it was still hard to roll as thin as it needs to be. The noodles will swell when they cook, just like prepackaged noodles. So, thin is where you want to be.

kimg0414.jpg
Roll, flip, rest, repeat

 

 

kimg0415.jpg
Perfection

 

Now that your dough has been rolled thin, you want to roll it up into a jelly roll.

 

 

Then, with a serrated knife, cut the roll in slices. I like big thick slices but cut them however you like them.

 

 

After they are cut, you unroll the slices to make your noodles. You can cut them in desired lengths. Or you can do what I do. I rip them in smaller pieces as I unroll them.

 

 

Let the noodles sit on the counter all day, if you can, to let them harden up a little. This just ensures they cook without turning to mush and sticking together. I am sure I have had times that I didn’t have them sit long. Sometimes time is not on our side. On a meal like this, you want it to be a day you’re hanging out at home.

And kids love to help make these noodles. It is so much fun and think of the wonderful memories.

Now the beef. There are many ways to make a beef roast but I like to make anything in my dutch oven. It’s fast and makes any meat fall apart.

You’ll need about 2 pounds of beef. I like them very beefy. You could use one pound if you are on a budget. You could easily use less meat and double the noodles, if you are trying to save even more money.

Today I didn’t have much as far as vegetables and stock goes. I only had celery and carrots. So, I used a packet of onion soup to help with the flavoring.

Here is my typical recipe:
2 pounds beef chuck, round or sirloin roast

1 each of diced onion, carrot, celery, garlic clove

4 cups beef broth

1 tablespoon parsley

1/4 olive or vegetable oil

1/4 cup of flour

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Coat the roast in flour, on both sides, and salt and pepper to taste. Then sear the meat in a hot oven safe pan. Searing is critical for a very tender roast.

 

 

Remove the meat from the pan. Cook the vegetables, until golden brown, in the same pan and oils.

Once veggies are browned, add 4 cups of broth and stir and scrap the bottom to incorporate all ingredients well.

Add the meat back to the pan.

kimg0409.jpg
I burnt my veggies a little but it still tasted amazing. I tasted the burnt tidbits to ensure they weren’t going to ruin my meal.

 

Cover the pan and cook the meat until falling apart and easily shredded. This took me about 2 hours. The time will vary depending on your pan. My iron, dutch oven cooks very quickly because of the high temperatures that get trapped in a dutch oven.

 

 

When it’s done, you want to pull it from the pan and shred it with two forks. I keep mine in very big and chunky shreds.

Then, bring the juices to a boil, either on top the stove or in the oven. Once the juice is boiling, add the noodles.

kimg0427.jpg
In the hot pot they go.

 

Let the noodles cook for about 1/2 an hour.

kimg0428-e1517675064507.jpg
Swollen noodles.

 

Once the noodles are cooked, add the meat back to the pan, along with about 1/4 cup of milk or cream. The milk is optional but I really like the creaminess it gives. Cook everything for about 15 more minutes. Watch the pan closely because it will easily stick to the bottom and burn at this point.

kimg0429.jpg
All done.

 

Oh that smell. That smell takes me back to my childhood. If I could get one wish granted, I would wish to drink percolated coffee with Alice and my mom. But they are both gone. I’m so grateful for the things I learned from them both. Today, I felt a little nostalgia and a little sadness for my losses. However, it was a great reminder that it’s traditions like this, that keep our loved ones with us for many generations.

kimg0433.jpg
Parkerhouse rolls and peas to complete the meal.

 

 

General, Recipes

Not Chore Sandwich

I have a confession to make. I haven’t gone to the store in over a month. I have sent my husband to get milk and creamer but nothing else has been bought. I started my January like I always do, not wanting to spend money. Don’t we all get sick of all that shopping and dealing with people during the holidays? I know that I do. I love people, don’t get me wrong. I am as extroverted as they come. Even I have my limits, especially with all the holiday demands on my time, and more importantly, my cash flow.

So my resolution was to stay out of the stores and to use up what we have. I call this time, “Clean out the freezer month.” It involves more than just cleaning out the freezer. We have a pantry stacked full of food, as well. In fact, we have food all over our house after the holidays. Frozen leftovers. Cans of vegetables. Canned soups, salsas, green beans, fruits, butters, and pickled items from my garden. I have lots of baking goods from my mass cookie baking over the holidays. I always go overboard and buy too much stuff around the holidays.

Plus we own a granite business and people give us stuff. Lots of stuff. It’s this big push to give lots of stuff and get lots of stuff.

And you know what? I just love it!!

 

Just look at this food. This is after a month of not grocery shopping. I just feel guilty spending money on food when we have so much.

But here’s the catch. There’s always a catch isn’t there? It’s our busy day, basketball this evening. I usually make sandwiches of some sort because we don’t have time for a sit down dinner. We eat on the go tonight.

Today, I looked in my fridge and nothing. Nothing came to me. I didn’t feel like making bread and didn’t have any bread. I didn’t have any wraps, or chips. Nothing. I had a few vegetables that I cook with, like carrots and celery, cream cheese, salsa, corn tortillas, 2 yogurts, a couple dollops of sour cream, pickles (lots), eggs and some swiss cheese. A lot of items in my pantry too but nothing that a kid could easily eat on the run.

Then it hit me. Corn tortillas. Salsa. Cream Cheese. YES! We are having homemade nachos for dinner and they will be somewhat healthy. The tortillas are whole grain. My own salsa is organic and homegrown. The frying is the worst part but the best part.

So I went to work.

My cream cheese was cold, of course, so I had to soften it. I put the pint of salsa, one block of cream cheese, cut into smaller pieces, and those few dollops of sour cream. I microwaved the mixture for about 3 minutes total, but in 30 second intervals.

KIMG0378.jpg
A little chunky still
KIMG0379.jpg
Perfect. Cream cheese lumps are gone.

It was a little bland for our liking. We like flavorful food around here. So I started digging through my spices and came across a packet of seasoning that is used to make dips. It was perfect. If you don’t have that, you could use taco seasoning and that would be really good. That was my first idea. Just a couple of tablespoons. You could also add chili powder, garlic and onion powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, be creative.

KIMG0388.jpg

If you don’t have salsa, look around, you might have other ingredients that are salsa-ish. For example, canned tomatoes, dehydrated onions and garlic, and cumin, would give this a really nice flavor as well.

KIMG0381.jpg
Put it in containers and into the fridge

So for the chips. I love to fry. So many people are afraid to fry things. I know this because that use to be me. Once you figure out how things work, frying is super easy. I prefer to fry in peanut oil but it’s too expensive for my budget. So, good ole canola oil is what I use.

I know this seems like a lot of work, but these chips cook extremely fast. Also, remember, the other half of this dinner was made in the microwave in a matter of minutes. If you really don’t want to fry, skip this part and buy some whole grain chips instead.

Frugally speaking, you are much better off buying the tortillas and frying them yourself. So much cheaper. I had these for another meal I made a week ago, Tako No Mo, Asian Chicken Tacos. As we know, I am not one to waste.

tortillas
30 of these for less than a dollar at Aldi.

You know what else is yummy with this dip?

KIMG0382.jpg
Everyone has carrots in the fridge

Make sure you use a deep pan if you are frying on your stove top, like I am today. I love to use my iron skillet/dutch oven for frying. It gives the best heat, that is even and easy to maintain. This is not a requirement though. Any deep pan will work.

KIMG0397.jpg

Now a few tips on saving money with frying. Don’t throw that oil away when you are done. The only time I do that is if I am frying fish or seafood of some sorts.  I don’t know if you even need to do it for that but I do. Reusing your oil does not only save you money, but also, used oil is easier to fry with. It has already been heated to extreme heats and therefore has the coloring of cooked oil. What does that mean for you? Browning. It adds the perfect color and texture to your fried foods.

KIMG0391.jpg
My used oil stash

You want to get your oil very hot. If you don’t, whatever you are frying will be logged down with grease. Have you ever eaten at a restaurant and your fried food was covered in grease and disgusting? That is because they are not frying in oil that is hot enough.

While your oil is heating, you can use this time to cut the tortillas in the desired pieces.  This is also a good time to prepare your draining surface. I used a cookie sheet and paper towels. I use a slotted spoon to scoop up my fried chips.

You will need to cut slits in the tortillas, prior to frying, to help with the puffing up. I cut them all at once, while I have them stacked together. Just run a sharp knife through the whole stack.

KIMG0401.jpg
Slit it to prevent too much puffing

 

When you think the oil is hot enough, try one chip as a tester chip. If it immediately bubbles up and floats to the top, you are good to go.

If you are a beginner, just fry a couple chips at a time so you are not overwhelmed.

I made a video of my fried chips so you can see how quickly they are done.

 

When the chips are draining, you want to add some salt to taste.  When they are cooled enough to touch, they are ready to eat. At first, the chips will be soft but will harden as they cool. If you have any helpers, this is a good time to round them up. They can be salting while you are frying and taking the chips out of the fryer.

KIMG0403.jpg

For fun, I put the chips in small brown lunch bags. I cut the top off to make it easier to get his hands into.

KIMG0405.jpg
Cute Little Bag of Chips

I packed it all up with those yogurts, a drink and some canned pineapple chunks. My little guy really enjoyed this meal. Eating can be fun and frugal at the same time. And I got to be creative and avoid the store. It’s a win for everyone today.

KIMG0404.jpg
Lots of fruit and veggies, protein and whole grains. My little guy is set for a meal.

 

 

 

General, Recipes

8 quarts for $1

Over the holidays, turkey was on sale everywhere. I mean for $.67 per pound, who would ever pass up on deal like that? Me, Mrs. Frugality, would take full advantage of such a discount.

I am a person that saves money by weighing my options. When I grocery shop, I am looking for the bottom dollar, yes, but quality plays a factor as well.  I think we have all suffered from buyers remorse when you get something of very, poor quality. If you buy in bulk, like myself, you are really stuck with those remorseful feelings.

Poor quality speaks for itself, in my opinion. That is typically something that is trial and error; and, there is not much I can say to help you with those decisions. Just don’t buy in bulk if you are really concerned, and be concerned. Don’t just spend freely on something you have never tried. If you do err and buy something you don’t like, donate it or use it anyways. In the great words of Macklemore, “One man’s trash is another man’s come up.” There is someone out there that likes what you bought. Trust me. Or, like I said, suck it up and use it up. I don’t believe in wasting. That is a sin in my opinion.  After all, there are starving children in Africa.

To look for the bottom dollar is one of the best ways to save money. I am not a couponer. I really don’t have the time to use them. You have to shop at a lot of different stores. I don’t have that kind of will power. If I go to a store, I am unable to buy only the couponed items. I will overspend at every store I enter. I am infamous at saying, “Oh what a great deal.” and buying things that I really don’t need. Ok, so you get 10 tubes of toothpaste, or shampoo, that I don’t even use, for 1/2 the price. That’s still money that I am spending and on things that I don’t like. I am particular about certain items. I don’t use store bought shampoos or conditioners. I take very good care of my teeth and only use what my dentist told me to use. He has never steered me wrong. Having dry and cracked hair, or cavities and sensitive teeth, is not worth that kind of savings to me. In the end, you are going to pay from poor quality.  Now, if I have coupons for the items I know are good, then by all means I will use them.

I have learned, over the years, to buy things when they are on sale, and buy a lot. If you are saving a lot of money, then that is when you buy.  When I buy turkey I buy enough for almost a whole year. I have two refrigerators, and one large freezer.  We buy beef from a friend and we have our own hogs. My husband hunts for deer. We have a large garden too. We don’t always have our freezer stocked. We unplug it when it is not being used; however, there are times when I can’t fit another thing in all 3 freezers.  We have chickens for eggs only, and no turkeys, so we are limited to Amish, or store bought poultry. At first it is hard to buy in bulk because you are spending a lot of money on that one item. That is where you learn to live without for a bit. It is hard, I know, but worth the challenge. It’s ok to want for something. When you always have whatever you want, whenever you want it, you don’t appreciate it as much. We don’t eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in the winter. We eat a lot of canned from my garden, or store bought. So when strawberries are in season, we eat our weight in strawberries. I also buy those strawberries and freeze, or can them, for the winter. They aren’t as good as when they are fresh but they are good. They are still great in smoothies, cakes, muffins, etc. Be creative. So, since you are not buying a bunch of strawberries in the winter, that is when you buy the other stuff, like ham and turkeys, that are on sale over the holidays. Buy in season and buy a lot. You are saving hundreds, maybe thousands, annually by doing that. If you want to be frugal, learn to go without and appreciate what is in season.

So what’s my point here?

We have been eating turkey and not much other poultry. When I cook turkey it is really delicious. Next time I make one I will share my techniques. The breast is great for so many recipes. After my turkey thaws, I cut my turkeys up and use the white meat, mainly. We don’t like the dark meat as much. I usually cut those sections off and freeze them again. Yes. You heard me. Freeze it again. There is a horrible misconception that you can not refreeze uncooked meats. You certainly can and I have been doing so for as long as I can remember. The recommendation is that you only thaw your meat in the frig. Ok, so do that if you are concerned. I don’t keep refrozen meat in the freezer for long though. It does tend to get freezer burnt more easily because oxygen is the enemy. Make sure you wrap it very tightly and use it within 2 months, at the latest.

So, what to do with all these turkey parts? Make a stock. Lots of it.

I made a huge pot of stock on my wood burner. It cooked for hours. It was super cheap to make. In fact, it made 8 quarts of rich, flavorful turkey stock. Turkey stock is usually around $5.00- $7.00 a quart. That’s crazy!! I made 8 quarts for about $1.00. Actually, on the day I cooked my stock I also made chicken and dumplings, so I got more like 12 quarts out of this pot. But I will stick with my conservative pricing and say 8 for $1.00.

I added a couple carrots, onions, celery, garlic, dill, sage, tarragon, parsley, thyme, the meat, salt and pepper. In the summer, when I have more available varieties, I would add parsnips and kale. Make what you have. Don’t run to the store and buy a bunch of ingredients. If you don’t have onions and garlic, dried is fine. If you don’t have the herbs, don’t include them. You can include whatever you like to whatever you are cooking, when you actually use the stock. Sometimes I do that on purpose so that I can add those flavors later. I don’t always want all those flavors in my food.

Now, there are two ways you can store your stock after you cook it.  You can put it in containers with lids, (I use to use recycled sour cream and yogurt containers) or Ziploc baggies. The other is to can it in a pressure canner. That is the way I did it.

KIMG0376.jpg
Look at the color. That is rich and flavorful. What a treat to add to your favorite soups and gravies.

 

My pressure canner is invaluable. I spent $60.00 on it. Today, when I made 8 quarts of stock, I saved, on the low end of the estimate, $45.00. Just one day of stock saved me over half of what I paid for my canner.

Canning can be scary but once you do it for the first time, you start wondering why the heck you waited so long to use one. They are so simple, especially the ones in the stores these days. They simplified the process by removing the old-school gauges and replacing it with an automatic weight and gauge. I mean seriously it was so easy.

Once the stock has cooked, and the meat is falling off the bones, I ladle the liquids into the jars. I drain the meat into a bowl and add the last bit of liquid to my jars. Then I follow the instructions for canning meat that comes with your canner. Those are very easy step-by-step instructions. Be sure to follow them religiously. You will save yourself a lot of trouble that way.

KIMG0375.jpg

When I first started canning it took me some time to understand how things work under pressure. The biggest mistake I made was adding too much, or not enough water. Even if you do these things, the finished product is still edible. It just looks funny because the water is so low. It doesn’t hurt anything. You do have to add more liquids when you actually cook the meal. It defeats the purpose of having a soup in a jar if you have to do more cooking when you are ready to eat it. There are things that you can not can, like dairy products, rice and noodles. Those are things that I add to my meal after we crack the jar open for dinner. No big deal and no one dies from botulism.

So what did I do with all the goodies that flavored my broth, the meat and veggies? I added rice and made 16 cups of dog food with it. If it were anything but turkey, I would feed it to my chickens. But I have a serious problem with feeding poultry to my poultry. I know many people do and no judgement here. It’s just not something I do. My neighbors have two dogs and they get all the rewards. I pick out the bones and smash every thing up. I cook rice in my microwave and add it to the other ingredients. I also cooked, separately, the turkey guts. I don’t care for the flavor they add to my broth but the animals love them. I just put them in with the rice when I microware the rice. You put the lid on the rice and cook it until it is tender.

KIMG0377.jpg
This is why my neighbor dogs love me.

 

If you really want to be frugal, start freezing all the scraps from cooking, like the carrots, celery, pepper and onion ends, or carcasses and meat pieces from chickens, turkeys and hams. Wash the veggies and add them to the freezer. Pull them out and throw them in the pot, just the way they are. The animals will love you for cooking those for them, instead of throwing them in the garbage.

I know this sounds like a lot of work, but incorporate help from your family. Saving money is good for everyone. Think of what you can do with the hundreds of dollars you save. Don’t just think of it, show it. When you take the kids to the movies, or bowling, tell them, “Thank you for helping me be a frugal mom by helping around the house, and kitchen. With the money we saved, we can now do these fun family things together.” Or use the extra money to donate to your favorite organization. Save the money for a trip to Disney.

What a great lesson to carry through life. Teaching your family, and yourself, can be discouraging at first but don’t shriek from a challenge. Overcome and reap the rewards.

General, Recipes

Healing with Chicken and Dumplings

So you’ve heard it all before. The best chicken and dumplings. So why am I boldly claiming that I am making the best chicken and dumplings?

Let me show you.

Cooking certain foods can be a labor of love. How many times have I either said, or heard, “it was made with love.” Well, love means “your efforts”. This recipe is not a quick meal. It can be, if you prepare the day before by making the stock. However, there are still techniques that change your soup from being really good, to having people, many people, (I am not bragging but maybe a little bragging to get my point across) tell you that they have never had a better bowl of chicken and dumplings. Now that, my friends, is like music to my soul.

I tend to be a giving person. I love to do nice things for others. It just warms my heart. Cooking is my passion, where I get to create and challenge myself.  I create food and give it away. It brings me much joy. If someone is sick, or just had surgery, chicken and dumplings. Death in the family, chicken and dumplings. Today I am cooking for friends at church that just had a baby. What a blessing! Babies are exciting, especially when you are not the one that has to change diapers, get up all night long, and the many other sacrifices associated with being a parent. Today we celebrate because it’s fun to celebrate, in my opinion. It’s always fun to celebrate.

There are a few things that I have learned about the perfect soup.

  1. You must develop the flavors of the meat and vegetables
  2. You must not over cook the meat until it is a million shreds, or dry and hard to chew.
  3. Never cook your potatoes in hot water. Potatoes have to start with cold water to keep them in the intended chunks.
  4. Don’t add the milk or cream until the very end. It will burn and give you all sorts of troubles.

First thing is first. You want to develop the flavors of the chicken. I do this by searing the chicken in the pan first. I do not add any herbs at this time, only salt and pepper. The herbs tend to burn when you are searing meat.

 

Searing is easy. You get the pan very hot, add your oil, then put the meat in and let it cook until it is golden brown. Then you flip it. Searing is so important when you cook meat. It creates a very juicy finish. Meat that melts in your mouth. It also puts that carmel flavor in the bottom of your pan like here in my picture. That is where so much flavor comes from.

KIMG0333.jpg

Once they the chicken is seared, they are done for now. They will not be cooked through but that is just fine. We are going to finish cooking them later.  Their only job, for the time being, is to give the flavor to the pan, and by searing, you are locking in the juices, to create very, tender chunks of meat. I take the chicken out and place it onto my soup plate.

KIMG0334.jpg
My soup plate holds everything, including the chicken or vegetables that I need to let set out. It saves my counter from the caked on mess that cooking for a long time produces. I use it to store my spoons, ladles and tongs, while I am cooking with them.

 

Next, you want to take full advantage of those pan drippings to develop the flavors in your vegetables. I diced celery, carrots and onions then threw them in the same grease from the seared chicken. Then I sauté them until they are also golden brown. That releases the sugars and then caramelizes the sugars for a more intense flavor.

 

 

Now you are ready to make the perfect potato. Have you ever cooked something with potatoes just to have them turn to mush? That is because you are starting them in warm, or hot, water. I have learned to treat my potatoes very delicately. It only takes a little bit of effort to do so, and the reward is really amazing hunks of potatoes, or mashed potatoes that are not water logged.

I deglaze my pan by adding cold chicken stock, or today I had turkey stock. I also add ice cubes to ensure my water is good and cold. The pan was just searing and blazing hot, so ice cubes are very effective. Then I throw those cubed potatoes into the iced broth.
KIMG0338.jpg

At this point you want to make sure your broth is very flavorful. Potatoes really use up a lot of salt and flavor. If you do not season them well, you will be doomed to never having enough salt and flavoring. So, taste your broth now, or when it starts to heat up again, to ensure it has plenty of salt and pepper. I also have a few ingredients I will never leave out: Dill and Tarragon.  I love sage and chives in my dumplings too. But I feel that it is not the same without dill and tarragon. I grow and dry my own but these are inexpensive herbs to find in the dollar section of your grocery. Sometimes tarragon is harder to find. Tarragon has a really hardy flavor so go easy on it at first. Just a pinch. It compliments creamy soups and completely worth trying.

Also, make sure you scrape the tidbits off the bottom of the pan after the liquids have been added

Now put the chicken back into the pan and boil every thing until the chicken can be easily cut with a spoon, or fork.  That’s also how I knew it was cooked through. Once it is, you remove it again and place it on your plate.

KIMG0343.jpg
The chicken cut like butter with my tongs.
KIMG0341.jpg
Tators are still in whole pieces.

Now we are ready for the dumplings.

Here is how I make them.

I use 1 tablespoon of milk for each egg. Today I used 4 eggs and that made the perfect amount of dumplings for my pan. I add salt and pepper and whisk the end and milk with my big giant fork. Again, make sure these are seasoned well. Like the potatoes, the dumplings will soak up the flavors from your broth, so make sure everything is very flavorful.

 

The secret to delicious egg dumplings is to make them tender and flavorful. I shared the flavor tricks but how do you get them to be tender? Patience.

I used 4 cups of flour and about another cup on my hands to keep the dumplings from sticking to my fingers. You are still going to have sticky fingers but it helps to have very floured hands.

You want to add the flour a 1/2 cup at a time. This helps keep them tender by not having too much flour. I add it and do not mix them up completely. You don’t want to develop the glutens in the flour, so slow and easy.

KIMG0346.jpg
See the chunks. This is what you want, not mixed completely, just enough to bring it together some.

 

 

Keep adding flour and mixing lightly until you can pick it up with well floured hands. It’ll be slightly wet still.

KIMG0351.jpg
Rip off pieces and flatten them a little with your thumb.

Get your broth with the veggies boiling and throw the ripped pieces into the pan.

The dumplings will float to the top of the broth. But they are not done yet. Gently stir to make sure they don’t stick. You want to wait until the dumplings start sinking and mixing with the other vegetables. That is when you know they are done. You will have a nice thick broth with tender egg dumplings.

KIMG0352.jpg
Start

 

kimg0357.jpg
Finished

 

While you are waiting for the dumplings to sink, about 20 minutes, cut the cooled chicken. When the dumplings are sinking, add the diced chicken back to the pan.

KIMG0353.jpg

 

Now it’s time to add the final touches. To really make your chicken and dumplings creamy, you want to add cream and corn starch, also known as a slurry. To do this without lumps, you need to temper the slurry with your broth.

First, add  1 cup of cream, or half and half, and a 1/4 cup of cornstarch to a cup. Whisk with a fork. Then, to the slurry, add a couple ladles of the hot dumpling broth.

 

Stir  the slurry into the dumplings and cook for another 10 or 15 minutes, watching closely to prevent burning on the bottom. It will burn easily at this point.

I served this with delicious homemade breadsticks.  Follow the link to use my quick bread recipe and alter it by cutting dough into breadsticks, and bake them in a 400 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes, until browned. All other steps are the same but these.

 

I learned a couple things today. A) It’s really hard to take a picture of something that is steaming; and, B) you should never run an add for your business and also decide to make homemade chicken and dumplings. But even though this took me all day to complete, blog and all, look at how these potatoes still look like potatoes. And the chicken is still tender, meaty and very hearty.

 

Try this recipe for yourself, on a cold day, when you are locked in for the day, and encourage your children to help you with it. You won’t be disappointed.

General, Recipes

Salisbury Steak in Disguise

Comfort food. What is our obsession?  I don’t know about you but any meal that is served with mashed tators and gravy is what I live for, especially in the winter.

When I was a young mom, before I knew better, I would buy frozen Salisbury steak.  My kids would devour it. Now that I know better, I realize how amazing homemade Salisbury steak is.

To me, this is southern, comfort food that us northern folks have admired for so long, they are now a staple in every home. I learned to make Salisbury steak from a southern cook. Of course, like all recipes I come in contact with, I have to alter it to make it more affordable and healthful.

In my family, we have a mix of picky eaters and eaters that will try anything you give them. The obviously easier to feed, being the ones that will eat and try anything, (like their momma). So how did I incorporate more vegetables into the diets of my picky eaters? I disguised them as comfort food. Oh yes, this meal has plenty of meat, mashed tators and gravy; but, that gravy has tons of veggies in it.

In the south, they use a browning ingredient called Kitchen Bouquet. Basically it has vegetables in it. It’s a rich ingredient with loads of flavors. So what I have done? I make my own version of it with fresh vegetables.

I got the idea years ago when I learned to make my own spaghetti sauces. I use the same techniques to make all my sauces. If I can grind up my veggies so they are unrecognizable, then you get all the benefits of their flavor and nutritional value, without the whining, crying, begging and pleading. I do that for anything that I want to eat with a sauce.  It adds so many health benefits, yes. But the best part, all the flavor it adds is going to blow away even the pickiest eater. In fact, when a rich stock is made, the veggies and the meat bones are where those deep flavors are created. I mimicked those same flavors, without cooking stock.

Here is my recipe:

For the patties:

2 pounds ground beef.

1 diced pepper (I used frozen ones from my garden and it had a mix of peppers in it, including green peppers)

1 tablespoon each of garlic powder, minced onion, black pepper, salt

1 teaspoon each of thyme, tarragon (optional)

2 tablespoons of beef broth (to keep the patties tender)

1 cup of flour

1/2 cup oil

In a bowl, add the meat, peppers, seasonings and beef broth. Form the mixture into patties and roll them in flour. Brown the patties in the oil on both sides.

My picky eaters are no longer at home so I left my peppers in the large frozen chunks. If you need to, mince them or put them in your food processor and make a paste.

I cooked my patties on my wood burner, in my dutch oven. That is not necessary. That is just how I cook in the winter. I like to use the heat that is already there, versus heating my oven. If you are using your oven, you want to preheat your oven to 350 degrees. You also want to use an iron skillet or heavy pan.

After frying the patties, remove from the pan and set aside.

For the Gravy:

1 large carrot

1 large celery stalk

1 large onion

4 cups of beef broth

1 packet brown gravy mix

2 teaspoons each of thyme, tarragon, salt, pepper, garlic powder

As I stated earlier, I use vegetables to make my gravy.  For it to taste like a true gravy you have to mince, very tiny pieces, of your veggies.

I love my slap chopper. I would seriously invest in one because they are handy as can be.  You can use a food processor, if you don’t have a slap chopper. The food processor will really pulverize your veggies, making a paste out of them. No matter your method, you will get the same results. I leave my onions whole but feel free to disguise those as well.

After your veggies are minced, you want to throw it in the hot pan, with the same oils, that you browned the patties in.

Brown the veggies until they are golden in color. Once it is golden, that is the point where all the sugars have been released and then browned. That creates so much flavor for your gravy.

 

After you have achieved the proper golden yumminess, you want to deglaze the pan with the beef broth. I used water with bouillon. I am a firm believer in using what I have on hand. You could even use onion soup mix, or canned French onion soup. They are all equally delicious. You will need about four cups of whatever you use.

Add the seasoning, the brown gravy and whisk. Then add the patties back to the pan. Cover the pan. Cook the patties in the gravy for at least an hour, for very tender patties.

KIMG0321.jpg
Those veggies will cook down and make the best sauce you have ever tasted.

 

This video was taken after about 1/2 an hour had passed.

 

After about an hour you will have this yummy meal. Keep checking the patties and when they are easily cut with a fork, they are done.

KIMG0324.jpg

My family devoured it and went back for more before bedtime.

KIMG0326.jpg
The little veggies can be seen but they are not obvious. More important is the taste.

 

 

 

 

 

General, Recipes

Pancake Demonstration

It’s the weekend on the homestead and my little guy is home from school. I just love the weekends. It’s our family time and we always try to have fun.

KIMG0288.jpg
Sled Riding in Style

One of our favorite things to do is make breakfast and spend the morning unwinding.

One thing that brings me joy is that all of my children have my love for cooking, including my little guy. In fact, today he made some pancakes for me.

KIMG0279.jpg
What a cutie

We could make completely homemade, from scratch, pancakes but we don’t. I have found the best pancake mix in the world. I buy this mix at GFS for around $6.00 and it’s worth every penny. Don’t let the huge box fool you. This mix will go fast, especially if you teach your children to make their own pancakes. These are crazy fluffy and slightly sweet. They make your house smell like you are baking a cake. Your family is going to fall in love with these pancakes just like mine have.

KIMG0276.jpg
Best Pancakes Ever

 

So my little guy had fun making these pancakes. I got a hot, delicious breakfast that I did not have to cook.  Now you know why we love the weekends so much.

He’s schooling me on the proper way to make pancakes.

 

In my opinion, frugality is a family affair. If you want to find ways to save money, and live with the freedom that homesteading offers, you must all work together. Quite frankly, I don’t think you need to live on a homestead to incorporate teamwork with your family.  If your children love cooking, let them cook. The sooner you teach them to take care of themselves, the easier the big-bad world is going to be for them. Let them cook and you do the dishes.  Trade a chore for a chore and make your day easier.

KIMG0287.jpg

Just a couple of tips. Don’t over mix your batter. I do this part for him, for now, to show him how it’s done. Also, make sure your heat is medium high. Not too hot to burn but hot enough that the batter sizzles when it hits the pan. It’s easier to flip and cook smaller pancakes. So keep them small and cook only one at a time at first. My final tip, wait until the bubbles form until you flip your pancakes. The more the pancakes are messed with, while cooking in the pan, the less fluffy the pancakes will be.

Next time you are tired and need a break, put them little chefs to work. You will get more than you ever bargained for.