Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Lesson in Hurricane Sandy

Before I say anything else, I want to send my prayers and thoughts to the thousands who were and still are in the path of Hurricane Sandy.

I have several East coast friends who were in the brunt of the hurricane and have seen their updated pictures throughout the evening and early hours this morning. It's bad, people. Very bad.

One of my friends is a Councilman in New York and lives on Long Island. Although our politics don't always agree, I have to say Dan is definitely a man who works for his people. He was out in the middle of the storm, tracking flooding, fallen trees and electrical outages, reporting his findings in real time to his constituents. His reports & photos were both horrifying and fascinating.

This, my friends, is why we prepare.

Photo Credit: Dan Halloran
Photo Credit:  Dan Halloran

I had friends who took a very laisse a faire attitude in the days leading up to Sandy. I worry for those folks. It's the old "It won't happen to me" thought that gets people in serious trouble.  Few have been online today due to power outages, so I wait.  I can only hope that they are safe and their property didn't suffer too much damage. 

Meanwhile, the last 24 hours have really hit the message home for me.  Will I be a victim or will I take responsibility for me and my family?  I know my answer!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pork Butt!!

Doesn't that sound awful?  PORK BUTT!  Sounds like a nasty little taunt but it's not. 
Photo Credit to Crazy Neighbor Lady blog.
This is what I made from the leftover meat from the Smokey BBQ Pork I made earlier this week.  It was delicious and will definitely be made again.  Sorry.  I forgot to take pictures.  Next time!

Pulled Pork Soft Taco
Leftover meat from Smokey BBQ Pork
Ground Cumin
Broth from Smokey BBQ Pork
Corn tortillas
Chipotle Slaw
Monetary Jack or Cheddar cheese, shredded
Onion, chopped
Shred the leftover pork and put in a medium size skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle liberally with ground cumin. Add a few tablespoons pork broth and stir to combine. Separate pork and gently warm until the pork has absorbed most of the pork broth. Set aside.

Heat a small skillet on high. Add 1 corn tortilla to pan. Let warm for approximately 30 seconds, flip and warm another 30 seconds. They burn quickly so be alert. Put warmed tortillas inside a folded tea towel to keep warm. Continue to cook and put in towel until you have the desired number. I typically eat 3 to 4. Hubs will usually eat 4 to 6.

To assemble taco:
Place tortilla on plate, add pork, then cheese, slaw, onion and top with cilantro. Fold and devour!

Chipotle Slaw
1/4 cabbage
1/4 cup real Mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Rice Vinegar
2 tablespoon Chipotle Powder

Shred cabbage. Mix mayonnaise, vinegar and chipotle powder. Add cabbage and toss. This is better if made a few hours before so the chipotle can really infuse the mayo.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hoping for Best, Planning for Worst

Having a homestead means a lot of different things to different people.  For me, homesteading is all about self reliance.  I also see it as a viable way to provide the Fam with options.

By growing some of our own food, I spend less at the grocery store/farmers market and therefore, I don't have to work full time.  I get to choose what crops I grow and how I grow them.  I can preserve a variety of items to line the shelves of my pantry.  I guess in a nutshell, homesteading to me equals freedom. 

Another common idea among a lot of homesteaders is preparing for future.  I'm not one of those who believe the world will end on 21 December 2012.  Nor do I think our country is on the verge of a major social upheaval which will plunge us into some sort of Mad Max barbaric free-for-all.  I do think global warming is a real concern.  I think this will impact us more deeply than most realize.  With droughts come fewer commercial crops.  Between that and the high fuel costs, food and goods prices will increase exponentially.  This is the future I am preparing for.

Another issue I am preparing for is the possibility of a major electrical grid shut down.  My Hubs pointed out how antiquated and venerable our grids are.  Believe me, when Hubs points something out, I listen. He's not into 'prepping' at all! 

And last but not least, I live in Tornado Alley!  We have serious thunderstorms every Spring, Summer, and Fall.  In the Winter, we get ice storms.  We get tornadoes, floods, crazy heat waves, and ice almost every year. Oh, and let's not forget earthquakes.  Yup, we get earthquakes in Oklahoma. Don't you wish you lived here? 

One ice storm can knock power out for weeks.  Believe it or not, so can a heat wave.  Even if our house doesn't get hit by a tornado, the neighborhood can and we could again be without electric and possibly water.  Heck, we may not even be able to leave the neighborhood due to fallen trees and debris. 

So yeah, hoping for the best and planning for the worst is just dealing with reality.  If we have a tornado, ice storm, or heck, a zombie apocalypse, at least I know my family be prepared. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Tasty Low-Carb Breakfast

Since I've been changing my eating habits, I've had to get creative in the kitchen. It's pretty easy at lunch and dinner, but breakfast has been somewhat of a challenge.

Eggs have been my go-to for a high protein, low-carb meal.  I typically make some sort of omelet or else I make scrambled/fried egg with a side of bacon, sausage or ham.  Don't get me wrong, I do like a traditional American breakfast, but after two weeks I'm getting a little bored with it. 

Since I love veggies (you should see my omelets!), I decided to switch things around a bit.  This is what I came up with.  I can make many variations using different ingredients. 

Feeling Mexican?  Throw in some cumin and chili powder, use lean chiorizo, and top with a bit of salsa and Queso Fresco.  American? Switch the spinach for mustard or collard greens, leave out the garlic powder and hot pepper flakes and use country ham with an American cheese slice. 

Other changes can be using kale or Swiss chard for the spinach.  Change the green pepper to red peppers or roasted peppers.  Use different types of cheeses.  Throw in some mushrooms or leftover low-carb veggies.  Switch up the spices.  The possibilites are almost limitless! 

Italian Skillet Fry
One Serving
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
2 tablespoon Onion, chopped
1/4 cup Green Pepper, chopped
2-1/2 cups fresh Spinach
2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
Salt to taste (Optional. Cheese & sausage have plenty already)
Pepper to taste
Hot Pepper Flakes to taste (Leave out if you don't like spicy)
1/4 cup Italian Sausage Crumbles (I had this on hand. Use regular Italian sausage if you don't)
Cooking spray
1 egg
1 slice cheese, about 1 ounce (Shredded mozzarella or Parmesan are best but use what you have)

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small skillet. Add peppers and onions and cook until both are softened. Add spinach, garlic powder, salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes and Italian sausage. Saute until spinach is wilted. Add a bit of water if this mix starts sticking but make sure all of it has boiled off before plating.
Put on plate and set aside.
Rinse and dry pan.
Spray pan with cooking spray. Fry the egg to your desired level of done-ness. I like mine over medium (set white, runny warm yolk).
Once egg is cooked, cover with cheese, take off heat, and cover pan with lid to allow cheese to melt.
Put egg & cheese on top of spinach and serve.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Smokey BBQ Pork Dinner

Today, Fall has truly arrived!  When I got up, the temp was 64.  An hour later, it was down to 52.  It's dark and windy and I love it!  Time to break out the crockpot! 

Hubs requested BBQ tonight so I'm making Smokey BBQ Pork and homemade Mac & Cheese.  Just the right kind of stick-to-your-ribs meal for this weather. 

Since we both like spicy food, I'm adding Chipotle sauce to the BBQ sauce.  Not only does it add a kick of spice, it also adds a nice, smoky flavor. 

I am taking some of the meat out before I add the sauces so I can make another pork dish later this week.  I love what I call 'twofer' cooking.  Saves time and money.  Can you guess by the seasoning that it's going to be something Mexican?

Opps! Liquid smoke didn't make it into pic!
Smokey BBQ Pork
1 pork butt (around 3 pounds)
1 onion, quartered
2 tablespoon Garlic powder
2 tablespoon ground Cumin
1 tablespoon salt (or to your taste)
1 tablespoon fresh ground Pepper
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoon Liquid Smoke (I used Mesquite but use Hickory if you have it. Both are good)
1 bottle BBQ sauce (use what your family likes)
1 can Chipotle Sauce

Heat crockpot to High setting.  Spray liberally with cooking spray. 
Cut onion into quarters and put in crockpot then add pork butt.
Sprinkle pork butt with garlic powder, cumin, salt, and pepper & bay leaves. 
Add just enough water to come halfway up the side of the pork. 
Add liquid smoke to the water and cover.
Cook meat until very tender. 
Drain broth from Crockpot and save.
Don't throw away this brothy goodness!
The meat should fall away from the bone and be easy separated with a fork.

Put 1/2 of shredded pork in Crockpot.  Add 1-1/2 cups BBQ sauce and 1 can (approximately 3/4 cup) chipotle sauce and mix well.  You can add a bit of the broth if you like a thinner sauce.  We like ours thick. 
Turn heat setting to LOW and let simmer for at least an hour to allow flavors to mingle.
Serve as is for a plated meal or on toasted buns for a delicious sandwich.

Extra Creamy Mac & Cheese
Makes 4 generous servings

8 oz. pasta (use whatever shape you like)
1/4 cup butter (I use salt free)
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sharp cheddar
1/4 cup Parmesan
1/4 cup Monetary Jack
1/4 cup Munster or Swiss

Shred cheeses.  Set aside.  Do not use pre-shredded cheese. 
Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.
In a saucepan, melt butter then add flour, salt and pepper.  Stir until flour is just barely starting to brown.  Whisk in milk slowly and stir until sauce has thickened.
Add small handfuls of cheese, stirring to melt.  Continue until all cheese is used and melted.  Add pasta.  Serve immediately. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gardening and Eating

Here is my little garden now.  We've had rain, lots of sunshine and cooler weather lately.  Looks like my greens are liking it!  Temps are starting to drop again (YEAH!) so sometime this weekend, I think I need to mulch my garlic.  Won't be long until I can start cutting the kale and chard. YUM!

You've probably noticed I haven't been posting as often.  I've been busy.  I'm looking for a new job and I've been focusing my energy in a new way of eating. 

I've been following The Carbohydrate Addicts Diet.  I love it!  In a nutshell, you eat three meals a day, two of which are very low to no carb meals.  The third, called your Reward Meal, you can eat whatever you want.  Well, almost.  They do suggest you follow 1/3 protein, 1/3 low carb veggie & 1/3 carbs plus a large salad.  Basically, a normal, healthy, well-balanced meal.  I'll admit I've pushed the Reward Meal to its limits a few times but it has not been a problem. 

After following the program for nine days, I've lost over a pound.  OK, I know that doesn't seem like much but remember, once a day, I get to eat anything!  And I do.  I have my meal and I have dessert and I have wine!  Each and every single day!  If I only lose 1 pound a week eating this way, so be it!  I never go hungry.  I never have to deny myself a craving.  And most importantly, I don't obsess over food anymore!  That is a major change! 

For the first time in my life (seriously), food is not my priority.  Before, there was a running commentary in the back of my mind that sounded sorta like this...'What time is it? Is it too early to eat lunch?  What am I cooking for dinner?  How many calories have I eaten today?  If I eat this for lunch, I have to skip dinner.  I'm hungry.  I'm hungry.  I'M HUNGRY!  Is it time to eat yet?...on and on it went.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Does that sound like an addict to you?  Sure does to me.

If this sounds familiar, check out the CAD.  There is a test to see if you are addicted to carbohydrates here.  It's not for everyone but if you score high on the test, give it a shot.  I know I'm only nine day in but I'm totally sold!  Maybe it will help you too.

If you want to follow my progress, I've started another blog, The Healthy Hausfrau.  I'm posting daily progress, recipes, and thoughts on the CAD.  If I get brave, I'll even post my weights but I'm not quite there yet.  ;)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Move over, Hamburger Helper.

Yesterday was on of those days when I just didn't want to spend a great deal of time cooking dinner.  I've been following the Carbohydrate Addicts Diet so I'm cooking breakfast and lunch every day.  So by dinner time, I wanted something easy.  I also wanted something satisfying and homey. 

My 'go to' used to be Hamburger Helper.  Easy and inexpensive.  However, the last time I made it, both Hubs and I were O-U-T!  It tasted like salt, chemicals, and cardboard.  NOT appetizing at all. Since we've been eating better, out tastes have obviously changed.  I had to come up with an easy alternative.  So I went to the pantry and started searching.  This is what I came up with.  It's delicious.  The true test of success in my house is if Hubs goes for seconds.  Yes he did and even packed the leftovers for lunch today.  GO ME!

As always, try to use the best ingredients you can get your hands on.  Quality ingredients make simple foods shine.  To us, quality means organic and local if possible.  No chemicles or additives.  Just real food.  Sorry.  I forgot to take a picture.  It looks just like 'Beef Pasta' with mushrooms. 

Beefy Pasta
1 pound ground beef
1/2 box mushrooms, sliced
1-1/2 cups whole wheat noodles*
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 package brown gravy mix
2-1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon beef bullion paste
Sour cream (optional)

Brown ground beef. Add mushrooms and saute until tender. Add garlic powder, onion powder, and parsley. Stir. Then add brown gravy mix, water, bullion paste, salt and pepper. Stir again. Bring to boil and then turn down heat to simmer. Cover and cook until noodles are soft. If sauce seems too thin, bring temp back up and boil with lid off until the consistency is as you like it, stirring often. Stir in sour cream if using. I usually just put the sour cream on the table to add to taste. I love it, Hubs hates it. Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your family's preferences

*Whole wheat noodles work really well in this.  I normally mix 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 regular as we feel whole wheat pastas are a bit heavy for most dishes.  Feel free to substitute regular egg noodles.  Heck add rice instead of noodles.  That would be good too!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Homestead Barn Hop

This looks like fun!  Check it out!  Lots of great homestead sites.


How Does Your Garden Grow?

Just an update on my Fall garden.  The Swiss chard and kale have taken root and are growing.  Since it's starting to cool off a bit, I think in the next week or two, I need to mulch the garlic for the winter.  You can see the garlic has grown quite a bit.


All in all, things are looking pretty darn good.  Here the chard.

And the kale.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Oatmeal

I like oatmeal.  I like it plain.  I like it fancy.  I like it thick & I like it thin.  Unfortunately for me, oatmeal just isn't a good breakfast choice.  I'm one of those weird people who needs to eat protein for breakfast.  If I eat carbs (this includes yummy pastries, oatmeal, cereal, french toast or pancakes), I am starving for the rest of the day.  Seriously, I can eat a Jethro Bodine-sized bowl of cereal and an hour later, I'm ready to eat again.  Craziness!

But as I said, I do really like oatmeal, so I eat it as a late-night snack.  I tend to think of it as dessert.  The other night, it was really cool outside (finally!) and I was craving something warm and sweet.  I thought about chocolate chip cookies but it was too late to bake.  I looked in the pantry and saw the oatmeal.  Then I saw the cacao nibs and I hatched a plan.  Chocolate Chip Cookie Oatmeal!

Now I know others have put chocolate chips in oatmeal before but OMG!  THIS recipe was so damn good!  I've made it twice since I made the first batch.  Give it a try.  If you can eat carbs for breakfast, go for it! 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Oatmeal
Makes 1 serving

1/2 cup Oatmeal
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoon cacao nibs
1 tablespoon flax seed
1 teaspoon vanilla
Handful pecans (use any nut you like or leave it out)
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon butter
Honey to your desired sweetness

Mix together the oatmeal, water, cacao nibs, flax, vanilla, nuts, & salt in a microwaveable bowl.  Microwave 2 to 3 minutes until oatmeal is of your desired consistency.  I like mine a bit chewy.
Drizzle with honey, butter and a splash of cream. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Donning the Uniform

I lost my job about a year ago and though I've worked as a contractor a bit, I consider myself a full-time Hausfrau for the moment.  I know it's a temporary position but one that both Hubs and I hope will change in the future.  Actually, we're doing more than hoping.  We're actively planning on it becoming a permanent position.  We both enjoy it. 

Being home the last year has also taught us a lot. 

Hubs has learned how important he is to our family.  When I was working, we shared the financial & household responsibilities.  Now that we are down to one income, we've settled into more traditional rolls.  Hubs has really taken on the mantle of being 'The Man of the House' and has become proud of his ability to provide for us. I think it's the first time in his life that he really feels 'manly' (he's an artistic type) and it manifests in many ways.  He's doing very well in his career and is much more authoritative (in a good way) with his son than ever before.

I've learned to take real pride in the running of my home and taking care of my family.  I realize that the old motto 'If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy' is so true!  I set the mood for our home.  Since I have time to take care of myself now, I am able to, in turn, really cater to the needs of my men.  If Hubs had a rough day at work, I can make sure the house is a place of rest for him to return home to. Soft light, gentle music, a tasty meal, and loving arms go a long way to soothing over the harsh realities of the work day.  If Step-Son had a rough week, he knows when he is here, he has my time and attention and will listen to his worries (such that a 5-year-old have) and will help him through them.  Yes, being able to stay home is a true gift.

Another thing I've learned is that everyone needs a uniform. Uniforms help establish what we are to the world and to ourselves.  It helps define our roles and the jobs we perform. 

 Hubs has one.  He dons his button down collar and tie and everyone who sees him knows he's a business man.  Son has one too.  He puts on his clothes and backpack and all know he's prepared for a day of study. 

And me?  Well, I have a uniform too.  My uniform is the Apron.  It's an age-old uniform with well-defined mental connections.  The moment I tie one around my waist, I am transformed. I am instantly recognized as 'Lady of the House'. 

I have a small but growing collection of Aprons. I usually wear one for a couple of days, depending of course, on how dirty it gets. I use them to cook. I use them to clean. I wear one in the garden. I even forget sometimes and wear them running errands. Funny thing is, when I do, I seem to get treated a bit, ummm, different.  Different in a good way.  Respected.  Perhaps revered a bit? 

Those little pieces of cloth and string evoke strong memories in myself and everyone who sees me.  Memories of a beloved grandma who always had a piece of candy hidden in the depths of pockets to secretly share when parents weren't looking.  Mothers in the kitchen who stopped cooking to wipe away tears from a youngster who came crying after scraping an elbow or knee.  Neighbor ladies who baked and shared cookies.  Aunts who brought in delicious vegetables from the garden, cocooned in deep folds, to make salads and chow chow.  Yes, deep and beautiful memories.

Aprons.  A HausFrau's armor.  If you've never experienced the power of the Apron, tie one on! 
Fall Collection 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Recipes as Promised

Hubs & I now have only one place in OKC who makes better pizza than me, Falcones Pizza.  The owner, Danny, is a native New Yorker.  The pizza is delicious and is always served with a side of attitude and a nice thick accent.  He's a hoot and we love going there.  However, since we are committed to eating better and saving money, we had to find an alternative.

Be forewarned, once you make this, you will never settle for delivery again.

Make the crust and sauce at minimum 24 hours before baking.  I usually make it all on Monday and bake the pizza on Thursday.  If you're feeling adventurous, try you're hand at my mozzarella recipe for your cheese.

Thin Crust Pizza Dough
(found on Food.com website and slightly modified)
Makes 2 12-inch pizzas
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
2-1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar

Mix sugar into water in mixer bowl/large bowl.  Sprinkle yeast over the top.  Wait approximate 10 minutes until yeast is foamy.

Add flours, salt and olive oil.  Combine.  Knead for 6 to 8 minutes until you have a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. (If using a Kitchen Aid mixer, use the dough hook and setting 2 until dough is as above).  I tend to make mine a tiny bit sticky as it seems to roll out better. 

Cover and let rise for approximately 30 minutes then cover with cellophane wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 4 days.

When ready to make pizza, take out dough about 30 minutes before.
Preheat over to 425 F.
Divide dough in half.  You may freeze 1/2 for later or use a larger 16-inch pan. 
I use a pizza stone sprinkled with cornmeal.  If you don't have one, lightly grease a pizza pan and sprinkle with cornmeal. 
Roll dough half into circle and place in pan.
Pre-bake for 10 minutes.

Spread with pizza sauce and toppings and back for approximately 10- to 20 minutes, until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted and browned to your taste.  See below for details.

Pizza Sauce
Makes enough for 2 12-inch pizzas
18 oz. tomato paste
3 cups water
2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredient and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer until sauce is very thick. 

To Make Pizza
Pre-bake dough as above.

Spread with pizza sauce.

Add your meat &/or veggie toppings. 

Then shredded mozzarella cheese and shredded Parmesan cheese.  I use approximately 6 ounces of mozzarella and 3 ounces Parmesan.  Adjust to your families preferences. 

Bake until bubbly and enjoy! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fall and Make-Them-Now Muffins

Today, it finally feels like fall in Oklahoma.  The morning was clear and cool.  Man, I've been waiting for this!  Fall is my favorite time of year.  I love the colorful leaves spinning slow spirals to the ground.  The crisp smell in the air.  The cool breezes.  Ahhh.  Perfection.

I also love being able to bake again.  With our weeks of crazy 100+ weather, there is no way I was going to crank up the oven!  Here in OK, summer baking is done on the grill. 

I had a few leftover, very ripe bananas sitting on my table so my first official fall baking choice is Banana Nut Muffins.  I also have two full bags of pecans in my freezer.  My Mom picked them last fall and sent them to me.  Sweet, plump Tennessee pecans.  So you can see why muffins came to mind.  For me, this is an inexpensive treat. 
Best muffin I ever had!  Seriously, make them now!
I also added a special, unusual ingredient.  I found cacao nibs at the store.  I was fascinated with the concept although I had no idea what to do with them until now. Yup, they are making their first appearance in the muffins. I mean, what's better than bananas and chocolate, right? If you're a dark chocolate fan, you'll love them.

Banana Cacao Nib Muffins
(or as I call them...Make them NOW muffins)
Makes 12

4 ripe bananas
1/3 cup butter melted
1 egg
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup cacao nibs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees & prepare muffin pan.  I used cupcake liners.  Less clean up!
Mix butter and bananas in large mixing bowl
Add in sugar, egg, vanilla, baking soda and salt.  Mix together.
Add flours, nuts and nibs. 
Mix just until all is incorporated.  Do not over mix or your muffins will be flat and hard.
Pour into muffin pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes. 
Check with a toothpick.  If it comes out clean, they are ready.  Cool on a rack so the bottoms don't get gooey.