Friday, July 30, 2010

Quick Creamy Pizza or Pasta Sauce

We had pizza a few different ways this week: we had the sourdough pita pizzas I mentioned earlier this week, but we also had some super thin crust pizza.  I had remembered the last time I made NT's Yogurt Dough I had some left over.  I had actually made it for chicken pot pie and once it was rolled out there was enough dough for 4 crusts.  I only needed two for my pot pies, so the other 2 crusts I rolled out onto parchment paper then rolled them up together, sealed in a plastic bag, and froze.

My son was begging for pizza one morning, so I pulled the "pie crust" out of the freezer & let it thaw on the counter for the first half of the day.  By lunch time we were ready to make some super thin crust pizza!  Pre-bake your crust for a few minutes and then add your toppings.  I didn't have any pizza sauce on hand, so that morning I also pulled out a handful of cherry tomatoes I had thrown in the freezer (yup, just threw them in there right in a freezer bag).

We also had a lot of dried oregano from our CSA, which ended up being the main flavor here.  This turned out differently than your usual pasta sauce (not so red or strong on tomato flavor), but since it was so easy & we enjoyed it, I thought I would share it with you.  Spice it to your taste...

Pizza or Pasta Sauce

cup of cherry tomatoes
Roma tomato (sliced)
couple tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of honey
teaspoon of salt
tablespoon of beef broth
2 tablespoons chopped celery
5 garlic cloves (mine were previously cooked in the BBQ)
onion powder
lots of oregano, basil, rosemary
and dash of pepper

Puree in blender until smooth.  You're done!


This post is a part of Pennywise Platter Thursdays and Fightback Fridays.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lot o' Sourdough

This week I decided to try my hand at making sourdough bread again.  I don't know why, after my other failures...  but some sourdough bread with butter was just really sounding good to me!  My starter was looking pretty good this time- as I had pulled it out of the fridge & fed it a few times, and it was looking bubbly and active (maybe they like the warmer kitchens of summertime?).

I decided to try out this recipe for short rise sourdough bread.  My busy life got in the way that day & I ended up letting the dough over-rise (instead of the 8 hour rise I had planned on, it rose for about 10 or so hours on a warm day).  I tucked the dough back into the pan & baked it anyway.  Surprise- this is one of my best looking sourdough loaves yet!
The texture was a little crumbly, but still hit my the spot for my sourdough craving.  Since I had my starter out & going, and I had a lot of hummus in the fridge, I decided to make sourdough pitas too (next to the bread).  I messed up on them though- I did not preheat the baking sheet in the oven.  And, the high heat (500) vaporized some grease in the bottom of my oven & made my smoke alarm go off- waking everyone up (I was baking at night).  Whoops!  They turned out tough & without a pocket, but I still tore them into pieces & dipped them, and I also used some for mini pizzas.

We also made some yummy sourdough pancakes this week (they're on the plate).  I love this recipe because you don't have to soak & it is so fun to watch how the baking soda reacts with the starter- it's alive!  Cook them as soon as it all bubbles up & you get these fun pancakes full of little holes.  Freeze any extras & pop them in the toaster for quick breakfasts.  I only made a half batch this morning (didn't have enough starter for a whole batch) and since I didn't want to use a "half" of an egg, I substituted a couple of tablespoons of ground flax seeds for the egg.

I'll share more about other things tried out in my kitchen later this week~

This post was linked to Tuesday Twister.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Camping & Palm Plate Review

I was so excited when the UPS man brought my sample of disposable palm plates & bowls from Marx Foods the morning before we left for our camping trip.  Excited because this is the first real product review on my blog, and excited because what better way to test them out than while we were camping?

Every year we go camping with two other families, and we have been doing this for almost a decade now!  We go for 4 days/3 nights and we share the cooking duties.  It works great because each family cooks one breakfast and one dinner, and then we all do lunches on our own.  It is so nice to not have to cook or clean dishes every meal!

Back to the plates: Marx Foods makes these plates from palm leaves (read how they are made here) and they are both disposable and biodegradable.  They have a wood grain look to them & my first thought was how great they would be for a large function: like a charity dinner, wedding reception, large party, etc.  When we were planning our a banquet for our ministry last year I looked into disposable plates that were supposed to mimic china, but were in fact plastic (and there just was no denying that).  These would look so much better & be a great conversation piece too.  As a matter of fact, even though they are disposable, my daughter liked them so much that she insisted on washing & reusing them (more about that later)!

The first night we had spaghetti for dinner.  Perfect test: spaghetti sauce is one thing that can really soak through a paper plate.
It is amazing how plates just made from baked palm leaves can be so sturdy.  No weakening at all from this dinner.  Afterwards my daughter washed her plate & although the plate was stained from the sauce it was ready for the next meal.

In the morning it was our turn to make breakfast.  I decided making sausage, egg, & cheese breakfast muffins would be easy to make for a group.  I think it makes camping so much easier if you do as much prep & cooking ahead of time as you can.  I found a "natural" pork sausage at the store, but then I realized that plain "natural" ground pork was only .99/lb (a savings of about $3/lb), so I bought several pounds and used this recipe to make my own seasoned sausage (the only thing I changed in the recipe was to reduce the nutmeg).  I then formed them into patties & pre-cooked all of them.  That sausage was so yummy!
The only thing we had to do in the morning was cook the eggs, butter & warm the muffins (I have a camp oven that goes on the cook stove), and warm the sausage.  The other great thing about going with other families is we share our cooking appliances & cookware.  So, while my husband's cooking eggs on one cook stove, I'm warming the muffins on the other, and we use our propane camp grill to reheat the sausage. 

This was a fairly dry breakfast so we washed the plates under running water & reused them for lunch (and those breakfast sandwiches were so good that I reheated a leftover one for lunch).  For dinner that night we were making taco salad.  I cooked the meat & beans before we left, using this recipe, so I only had to reheat it at dinner time.  Chop some veggies while that's heating & dinner was done!  We had all the fixings laid out so everyone could build their salad in their way. 
These stood up so well to heavy and wet foods, washing (not immersing), and being reused, that I thought they must have some kind of resin in them, but it's palm leaves & nothing else.  Pretty cool, huh?  Now, you may be thinking, "When I'm camping I get to just toss my paper plates into the fire, I'm not going to wash them, so how do these work for that?"  Well, I thought you might wonder that, and even if you didn't, here's our fire test.
The plate is just beginning to catch fire & burning like wood: producing heat & not turning all ashy (like paper plates do).  A minute later it really took off:
Woo hoo!  (Your inner pyro delights in this, I know!)  When it was done burning there was some ash left, but it just stayed in the fire pit & incorporated into the wood ash.
Now back at home, I thought we should give the bowls one more test: a bowl of my granola with kefir, honey, and milk.  I even let it sit while I got ready in the morning.
It held up great.  I even rinsed it off so it can be reused.  You may be able to tell in this picture that washing the plates or bowls will make them lose their shape slightly, but once they air dry they can be reused!

A side note:  we made lots of "real food" compromises this weekend.  Like, you'll notice the english muffins are store bought, not the homemade sourdough ones I've made in the past.  My husband told me, in his sweet way, that I could not subject our friends to any "wierd" food.  Which is probably just as well, because I still spent hours in the kitchen getting ready for our trip.

So, after a weekend liberally sprinkled with sweets and preservatives we found ourselves waking up Monday morning totally exhausted & groggy.  Could we blame it all on not sleeping as well while camping?  I don't think so.  I think we've got junk food hangovers.  A few more days of good sleep, kefir & healthy foods, and we should be recovered!

If you would like to find out more about these plates and bowls (they have 10 different styles) you can visit the website for Marx Foods hereMarx Foods sent me these plates & bowls for free to sample and review, but I was not required or obligated in any way to give them a positive review.  I just think they're super cool, that's all!


This post is a part of Tuesday Twister and Real Food Wednesday.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Taco Soup

How do you stretch 1/4 lb of beef to feed four people?  Taco soup is a great way to stretch your meat (and be kind to your budget) as well as getting nourishing bone broth into your family.  I know soup is not the first meal you think of in the summer heat, but if you let it cool a little bit before eating (not piping hot) you will find it to be a satisfying meal.   Plus, this is an easy meal to throw together from things you probably already have in your pantry or freezer.  If you substitute fresh vegetables for frozen, just allow a little more cooking time.

Taco Soup

1/4 lb. ground beef (or other chopped meat)
clove garlic
1 Tbsp. chopped (green) onions
3 cups bone broth (chicken or beef)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen green beans
1/2 cup frozen shredded potato
1/4 cup salsa (or more, to taste)
1 cup pinto beans (or other)
1 corn tortilla
cheese (shredded)

Brown the ground beef along with garlic and onions.  I also added a teaspoon of Italian seasoning.  Break up meat & cook until all red is gone.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer.

Meanwhile, cut corn tortilla into 1/4" strips, then cut strips into 1" or 2" pieces.  Stir into soup. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes.

While still very hot, ladle into bowls and immediately add a generous amount of shredded cheese on each serving, allowing it to melt into gooey goodness!  You might want to try sour cream or avocado too.

This recipe could even serve 6 people if you start the meal with a generous fresh salad first and then serve the soup.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Back from Baja

From June 25th to July 1st our family was in Ensenada, Mexico (Baja California) working with a team on an orphanage there.  When this trip was first planned I really wanted to go (I have been on mission trips to Mexico about 6 or so times & speak a little Spanish), but because our goal is getting to Rwanda, I didn't think we could afford for both my son and I to go (my daughter, age 11, raised her own money to go).  However, it ended up that they needed a cook for the team- so guess who my husband asked?  I was quite intimidated (never have cooked for a group of 15 people before), but really so thankful to be able to go.  It was also great that our family was able to be together, since my husband had just been gone for 3+ weeks in Rwanda not a few weeks prior to this trip.

Being the planner that I am I mapped out all our meals, typed out the recipes (tripling amounts for most), and had a rotating kitchen crew from the team to help me.  Thankfully the kitchen there sports three large ovens, two large gas stove tops, and a griddle.  There was one challenge in my planning: one of our teammates had a wheat sensitivity.  With a little digging around the internet for info and recipes (and some spelt flour brought from home) we were able to feed everyone comfortably.  Can you believe Ensenada has a Costco, Wal Mart, and lots of other American stores?  I wasn't expecting to do most of my shopping at Costco and Wal Mart, but that's what we did!

We ate things like: Honey Baked Chicken, with Creamy Potatoes, and Sweet Potato Corn Bread (I made muffins and they were so moist & yummy)!  I baked extra chicken to use the next night in our easy Chicken Enchiladas  (batches made with both corn & wheat tortillas).

I also cooked extra black beans that night so I could make Black Bean Brownies for our group.  Most of them tried it- but not everyone came back for more!  However, I did make the person who can't have wheat very happy!
There are 30 children in the orphanage we were working at (the team was doing some minor repair projects, putting in window screens, curtains, dry wall fixes, etc.)  I was told that as economic times are tough in the US it has an effect on these ministries as well, because Americans are going less and giving less. They asked if we could cook some meals for the kids to help out their food budget.  Now, I'm not just cooking for 15, but 45!  I put on my "big girl pants" and said OK.  We ended up cooking 4 meals for them during the week, breakfast twice and dinner twice.  The first group dinner was Shephard's Pie (here's me trying to decided correct portions so everyone gets some)
served alongside Cheese Stuffed Jalapenos (a team favorite)
I still did soaking of grains/flours during my trip.  This included our breakfast meals of pancakes, baked oatmeal, and  German pancakes (again using spelt flour).  I didn't get to soak the flour when we made pizza- boy did we make a lot of pizza that night!  Those kids love pizza.
We made 5 huge pizzas. The crust had to be spread pretty thin because I just made enough dough for the amount of yeast I had- but we managed.  Our pizzas had pineapple, bell peppers, sausage, chopped pepperoni, and ham.  Oh, and the grated cheese from a $25 wheel of local cheese!
I am so thankful for a great team who never complained about the mountains of dishes that had to be done after every meal too. Another group meal that we made for everyone was Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole.  Seemed like a great idea, until I realized that Mexico does not have frozen hashbrowns: they must not eat them. So, I bought bags of french fries instead & chopped them small.  Here's our bowl of 48 eggs, 3 cups milk, 12 cups cheese, chopped french fries, among other goodies!
I cooked part of them in muffin tins (for easy serving & portions) and what didn't fit in the muffin tins went into a large pan.  No matter what we made, God always made sure we had enough.  I'd have to say that probably no one lost any weight on this trip- whether they wanted to or not!
A few other items we enjoyed were Rice Porridge another morning (well, one or two people may not have been so sure about sweet rice for breakfast), and Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies for a treat another night (if you're following the links you'll notice I got a lot of recipes from the Easy To Be Gluten Free blog and they all were great).

Another plus for me being in the kitchen that week: it was cold in Ensenada!  Well, 68 and breezy cold.  Too cold for me to feel comfortable in my tank tops, shorts, and no coat- thankfully the kitchen was warm so I was happy to be in there a lot!

The team had a great week of working & loving on kids and I am thankful to have been a part of it.
That's my mom who lives in California loving on one of the babies.  It was a blessing that we got to share this week with her too!


This post is a part of Tuesday Twister  and Gratituesday.