Friday, August 30, 2013

Homemade Peach Butter

What's for breakfast over here, you might be asking yourself.

Alright, there is very little chance you are asking yourself what's for breakfast over here, but now that I've mentioned it, I'm guessing you are just a bit more curious than you were before...maybe?  I'll just show you.

Easy Scratch Buttermilk Biscuits with homemade peach butter.  Sounds good, but maybe you are asking yourself, what is peach butter?  It sounds like you take a hunk of butter and mix some peaches in it and spread it on toast.  Sounds good if you ask me...but nope, it's basically jam.  You cook it for a long...let me repeat...LONG time so that it cooks out most of the liquid and it gets really thick and the flavor is really concentrated.  No pectin needed.  The kinda fun thing about peach butter is, it reminds me of my Grandma Kathy's peach leather.  So, I think it's extra delicious.

Extreme close-up.  And yes, that spoon is in imminent danger of being....cleaned...we'll call it.

Not just me who thinks this is the best breakfast.  This little girl would eat just biscuits if I let her.  She might mix it up with jam one day and honey the next, but all biscuits, all the time would not even phase her.

So, peach butter.  I doubled the recipe which turned into a fiasco because Smitten Kitchen said it takes ohhhhh....40 minutes max to simmer it down to the appropriate thickness.  Bull.  It took me almost 3 hours and that's just because I decided to give up getting the appropriate thickness and kept turning my temperature up hoping for a faster reduction.  As my pot's contents got lesser and lesser from it slowly being put into jars, the remaining product eventually got some will be thicker than others.  Oh well.

**********The thing you need to know about canning is...well there are three things that I feel are most important. ***********

1- READ THE INSTRUCTIONS COMPLETELY BEFORE YOU BEGIN.  I can't tell you how many times I have messed up a step because I think the sugar should go immediately in the doesn't.  READ FIRST!

 2- The 7 P's!  Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance (for those of you who didn't know the 7 P's).  Have all your supplies ready.  Pre-measure things.  Have your canning gear ready to go.  Fill things with water and get them boiling.  Because you just know you're going to want to do something and you're going to have to go find it, because canning crap is usually at the bottom of a pile in your garage or you have to wait for water to boil.  Not fun.  Be ready.

3-Have all your jars and twist-on lids already washed.  Nothing killed an attempt at canning faster than jars that have been sitting in a cupboard for a year. This really is part of the 7 P's, but felt it was important enough that it deserved a specific mention.  So, go get yourself a bushel of peaches and makes some butter!

Smitthen Kitchen's Peach Butter Recipe

I also referred to my Ball Blue Book to make sure I wasn't going to give my family botulism.  These kind of things are important.

Happy breakfasting!!

Thanks for reading!

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Two For One Dinners...Ground Beef Enchiladas

It's the middle of the week, you've just walked in from whatever errand you've been running around doing, and you have no idea what's for dinner.  You're on your last nerve and the very thought of having to get something out of the freezer and attempt to thaw it in the last spare moments of daylight in order to nourish your family is not going to happen.  Grab a pizza?  Take the kids for burgers? What to do, what to do?  Oh wait!  You have a solution!  You read This post about making enough meat for two meals! Hurray!!

Enchilada Night!!!

The great thing about this meal, is the protein is already cooked, and everything else is stored in your pantry.  Let's hear it for pantry meals, they don't get enough love in my opinion.

Ground Beef Enchiladas
Leftover taco meat
1 can enchilada sauce.  You can use red or green, I find that red is a bit milder, so my kids eat it better but sometimes I do a combo of red and green.
Flour or corn tortillas (my family likes flour better, but corn is healthier, and I find the corn tortillas fall apart easily)
Shredded Cheese.  Whatever you have on hand.  I used a combo of Cheddar and Pepper Jack...and a good sized pile of it.  2+ cups

Preheat oven to 350 F.

This is one of those intuitive recipes.  I'm not going to give exact proportions, just go with what feels right and it'll taste amazing, I promise.  Spray a 13 x 9 casserole dish with cooking spray.  Pour a tiny amount of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of your dish, just enough to coat the bottom.

Add a heaping handful of cheese to your taco meat and a splash of the enchilada sauce to make everything nice and moist.  p.s.  I really like that people get freaked out by the word moist.  Makes me like it even more.  Stir everything until nicely combined.

Take a tortilla and add a nice sized scoop of your meat mixture (you'll get a feel for how much is the right amount).  Roll it up and place it in your dish, seam side down.  Continue until you have used all your filling.   I have my row of enchiladas, but then I had a smidge of filling left, so I stuffed two more in horizontally, along the bottom of the dish.  If you ask The Mister, the more enchiladas, the better.

Using the rest of the enchilada sauce (you should have approximately half a can left), pour it over the enchiladas.  Then, cover everything with a nice layer of cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes until everything is warm and meltsy.

Serve with a diced avocado, some tomatoes freshly picked from your garden, black olives, salsa or sour cream would be great here too.

These enchiladas will taste so much better knowing they were mostly done before you even got started.  Love you Two for One Dinners.


Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Two For One...Dinner Style...Ground Beef Tacos

Every day it clock work.  5 pm rolls around and My Oldest comes in...I'm STARVING!  What's for dinner?  I tell her and she is usually pleased at whatever it is I'm cooking.  My Youngest comes strolling in.  What's for dinner?  She asks very politely.  I tell her.  Not tha-aaat.  I don't like that.  Sigh.

Whatever.  I am not usually the type of Mom to make more than one meal, so they just have to eat what I cook...or they don't eat.  The only exception to this rule, as my sister knows, is if I...or she (which is usually the case) make something the girls have never eaten and I have a hunch they will not like, then I will break out the nuggets for then, but make them at least try the unusual offerings of the night.

My favorite thing to do, and the reason I'm starting this series, is to get two meals out of one prepared food item.  It saves me time and mental strain.  I know immediately what we're having for dinner and it is so much quicker to prepare.  And, come on home chefs out there...isn't half the battle just figuring out what you're going to make.  This is your sanity-saver!  Here's how this series is going to work.  On Wednesday I will post the recipe number one.  On Thursday I will post what you make from Wednesday's left overs.  I am cooking for a family of four.  Please adjust amounts to suit your family size.  My cooking does accommodate lunches for The Mister, too.  Okay, got it?  Simple.  Easy.  Good.

Day 1: Tacos
2 lbs Ground Beef
1 onion, diced
2 cans beans, drained (I used one can Red Kidney and one can Black...use what you like)  Adding the beans extends the quantity of meat...and gets those healthy legumes in your diet.  If you don't do this already, start.  Your family won't notice a difference.
1 packet taco seasoning (I use can make your own...cumin, garlic salt, oregano, chili powder...)
Diced pepper if you want (I have Padron's growing, so I used a couple)
Salt and Pepper to taste
 The Fixins
Tortillas or taco shells
Sour Cream....and whatever it is you like on tacos.

In a large skillet heat a couple TBL of oil over medium-high heat.  Brown beef, diced onion and pepper (if using) until cooked through, season with salt and pepper.  Once cooked, throw in your beans and taco seasoning.  Stir and reduce heat to low and let simmer for a few minutes while you prep the rest of your meal and get the table set.  If you find it looks too thick, you can add a smidge of water.

Toss together a tasty taco and serve with some melon and Spanish Rice.

I hold my daughters' tortillas closed with a toothpick.  This makes it easier for them to pick it up and eat.  Try not to poke yourself!  And remember, save your leftovers for tomorrow!!


Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tomato Abundance...and aren't we smiling

The fruits of my labor.  Yellow Pear, Black Cherry and Indigo Rose.  Yum!  Tomatoes at their August best.   I grow many heirloom tomatoes, but this year I tried a new and unique variety, Indigo Rose.  The "bluest" naturally bred tomato out there.  The blue pigment gives you the healthful antioxidants of blueberries.

My Indigo Rose tomatoes.  These babies have tricked me all season long.  They start out like this...

Deeply purple with a green spot.  Then they finally mature after what seems like ages and ages and the green bit goes red.

 And then you do this.  Heaven!

Now, what do you do with all these tomatoes besides eat them freshly picked?  Melted cheese and tomato sandwich, of course!!  A lovely sprinkling of salt and pepper, melty oozing cheese, crusty bread and the freshest tomatoes around!  The angels in heaven are singing right now. There is a melted cheese sandwich underneath the tomato abundance there...would I like some sandwich with my tomatoes?  Maybe.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. 

Neither could she.

Yes, she is just eating the tomatoes off of the sandwich.  My children, pretty much every day run outside and harvest all the ripe tomatoes.  Eat half of them outside, then bring me whatever they didn't gobble warm off the vine.

Other tasty things that have been devoured at the Hearth lately, Smitten Kitchen's Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones using Bear Lake Raspberries.  And if you're not from Utah or Idaho, you might not know, but these are the best raspberries you can find.  Period.  Head to Bear Lake for the tastiest raspberry milkshake you've ever had.

So, enjoy the fruits of the season.  Get out to a Farmer's Market and start thinking about what you want to plan in your garden next year.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Oven Roasted Bacon

Bacon, there's nothing quite like it.  Salty, crisp, a touch...make that a lot, greasy, so, so, so good and everything instantly becomes better when it's included in the recipe.

I love roasting my bacon in the oven, for a couple of reasons.  First: I don't get splattered with bacon grease.  One day I was making bacon and a splatter just missed my an eyelash.  Talk about scary.  Look, I don't mean to complain, but I'd hate to be that person who had to say she went blind in one eye from bacon grease.  Second: The bacon cooks up nice and flat.  This makes it so nice for a BLT.  Third: You don't have to stand by the frying pan and fuss with it.  You simply toss it in the oven and 20 or so minutes later out comes the good stuff.

Oven Roasted Bacon
Bacon...yup.  That's it.  This is the best recipe evah!!!!  One ingredient.  Make extra, always make extra because sneaky fingers might try and snag a piece or two.

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Place a cooling rack inside your sheet pan.  Lay the bacon on top of the rack.  Cook for 18 to 23 minutes.  Cool and eat.

I cook mine towards the high end of the time spectrum...because I like my bacon to be more on the crispy side, and I use the nicest, thick cut bacon from my butcher shop.  The other nice thing about this cooking method is that the grease drops down from the meat and collects in the pan.  I still like to drain mine on paper towels though.

Go ahead, give this a try.  You won't want to pan fry bacon ever again.

Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Just beet it....beet one wants to be...Pickled Red Beets

Oh Michael.  My Aunt had your poster hanging up in her bedroom in the 80's alongside Tom Selleck in his itty bitty khaki shorts.  I still have a thing for mustachioed men in short shorts and love it when The Mister indulges my mustache whims.  He flat out refuses to indulge my short shorts whim.  Whatever.  He claims that red-heads should NEVER have mustaches (but every once in a while I get a mustache out of him).  This stems from a childhood with a red-headed father who wore a mustache.  I will never confess to him that this may, in fact be sage wisdom.  I still like it.  I also like...beets!

Beets are a misunderstood root vegetable.  I think they get a bad rap from being cooked incorrectly.  Roasted they are divine.  They are sweet and pair so nicely in savory dishes.  As a child, beets were always pickled and canned.  So when the time came to harvest my own beet crop, I knew exactly what I was going to do....make my children recreate a page from my own childhood.  Scrubbing beets.

Here's what you do.  Put on your dumpiest clothes.  Beets juice will stain the heck out of anything.  Clothes, hands, counter tops, so be prepared.  Get a scrub brush, a clean bowl and head outside with your kids.  Turn on the hose and ask them to scrub the dickins out of each and every beet.  You want all the dirt off and the beets to gleam bright purplish red.   If you have a dog...they will probably try and steal your beets.  Wild beast.
At first, your kids will think this is lots of fun.  Until they realize that Mom is actually having them do work.  Then be ready for the whining and complaining.  Don't give in.  Make them scrub those beets.  You had to scrub bushels of them...for goodness sake, I think they only have 25, max!  Weak.

While kids are cheerfully scrubbing beets, get your work station set up in the kitchen.  Pot for boiling the beets.  Canning pot and tea kettle ready with hot water to replenish canning pot's water level.

Take the scrubbed beets...and give them a good once over.  I'm guessing your kids do a questionable job, as my kids did.  They're learning.  They'll do better next year.  Chop off the tops and the tails.  Plunge them into boiling water for about 10 to 15 minutes until they're slightly more tender and peel them.  You can actually keep the skin on, but my Mom didn't, so I don't.  Chop them accordingly, if they're very petite...whole.  Halved. don't want huge chunks of beet, you want them to be nicely bite sized.

While all the above is happening, heat your pickling fluid up to simmer and get the sugar dissolving.  Follow your recipe.  Or be like me and use half my Grandmother's recipe and half the Ball Blue Book's recipe.  And then be nervous you're going to give your family botulism and store the three jars you get in the fridge.

This is my fancy new canning pot.  Loving it.  It's extra huge and has a fancy lid that tells you when you are able to start timing.  I live at 6000 feet above sea level, so at different altitudes, you have to adjust your canning time accordingly.  Fancy.  I just said fancy a lot...fancy, is in fact one of my favorite words.

Voila!  Final product and so, so pretty.  I have eaten 2 out of my three jars so far.  A...because they are taking up valuable space in my fridge, but B...they are so good.  Unless you ask my children and they are foul.  They are quite sour because I used a larger vinegar to sugar ratio.  I suppose if I used more sugar they'd like them more.  But, my Mom's beets were sour, so I like mine to be a bit sour.  If you're putting them on tossed salads, they really cut through creamy dressings...and I love it.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Mason Jar Paper-Pieced Quilt Block

If you haven't noticed, there's a mason jar craze going on right now.  People are decorating with them, cooking in them and well, I guess still canning in them.  I know I am.

Thought I'd jump on the bandwagon by making a paper-pieced mason jar.  This is actually my second and a half attempt at making this block.  I should have taken a picture of the first one, but I had a moment of seam ripping inspiration and so I just got to work.  When you're inspired to un-pick just gotta go with it, cause it doesn't happen very often.

The first attempt, was far too wonky.  The lid of the taller mason jar was not a pretty sight, so much so, I had to re-do it....which meant unpicking the entire block.  Even this attempt is still a bit off, but I am much more satisfied, so it gets to stay.

My half attempt had me using a pale yellow, solid fabric for the sash...ahem...can we say urine sample?  Yeah.  Not attractive.  That was undone with lightning speed.

I am going to embroider the above phrase using some floss, but first I had to write it on and make sure I liked how it looked and if it was centered....The Mister wanted me to embroider on something random, but modern as he put it...because I wanted to write...Beets...or...Raspberries.  I don't know, I like to take his advice into consideration because quite often he is correct, but in this case, I just felt like putting something weird on would just be confusing and not modern.

This pen is my new favorite quilting tool.  The ink disappears under friction or a hot iron.  So you can write on your sewing or quilting lines with a pen that writes quite smoothly...and then it just goes buh bye!  No rubbing off and making a huge mess like with chalk and no tell-tale signs of pencil lead.  So a worthwhile investment!

Want to know The Mister's suggestion?  Salty Tart.  Yeah.  I don't think so.  We were watching a show about bakeries and there's one that's named the Salty Tart, which for the record is the best name I've ever heard for a bakery.  But...not good for my mason jar quilt block.  Just saying.  So I finally settled on Fresh Picked.  It's not fruit or veg, but it's not completely random either.  More...modern, if you will.

Oh yeah, and the red thing up there, is a beet.  Not a strawberry.  Artistic license. 

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

VW bus Pillow case you're starting to think about Christmas...what?!?!

I posted this over at CSI Project: they're having a pillow link party right now, and figured might as well mention that Christmas is coming up....fairly soon.  I have a tradition where I make everyone in my family a pillowcase for Christmas Eve to go along with their new jammies.  So, if this is not a tradition you currently have, it is one of my faves.  It's fun to choose the fabrics that fit my kids and husband for that year...or whatever strikes my fancy.  So, time's a ticking.  Get started on those Christmas projects now!

This post is about the raddest pillowcase I've ever made...and the most involved.  When I initially posted this, I didn't want the Mister to see what was going I put a pie decoy picture up.  Very clever, very clever.  Well, let's get to it...

Sometime in Winter 2011
Just thought I'd start this post with a put him off the track picture...are you looking Mister? I hope the way this is a tasty little creation of mine using chocolate ganache and chocolate pudding. Top it with homemade whipped cream and some chocolate shavings and you've got pure heavenly goodness. Make this.  I used Callebaut dark chocolate as my chocolate involved in the ganache and pudding and it was rich and awesome!  I also weighed my ingredients when necessary. Go get a scale, you'll be happy you did when all your recipes turn out amazing.

Sometimes I'm ambitious...maybe a little too ambitious some might say.  But, look I figure if I want to make a pillow case with a picture of a Volkswagen Camper Bus on it, circa 1970's...then by golly I should be able to do it!  Commence the very difficult project...

I had to scour the Internet for pictures of a VW Bus...because I'm not schooled in this lovely mode of transportation.  We only had 3 kids, we got to pile 3 deep in the back of the Lincoln belts optional. 

There are lots of pictures and of course I figure I can make my own paper-pieced block from my own brain cells.  I've done plenty of paper piecing.  I'm smart enough...good enough...etc etc etc...well...I am...I think.

This started out much more complex.  I figured I could do a slightly off center full-body view of a VW Bus...HAHAHA.  No.  You can't!  Don't try it! Unless you do try it and it works...please let me know if this is the case.

Look, you have to be able to keep everything perfectly centered and so you can't just put a piece wherever you want and hope it'll match up correctly.  There are seams involved! 

Just a fun little fact...the windows on this VW Bus are from one of my husband's shirts.  He thinks I'm a loon because I like to keep fabric from shirts of maybe torn sheets or whatever and save them for future projects.  I like to think I'm frugal...he thinks I'm crazy!  So it was a bit of fun revenge to use one of my scavenged treasures in his pillow.

Really I had to think and rethink how I was going to pull this off at several points during construction.

Because I'd get to sewing what I was sure would work....and then come to realize that I just made it have weird wings at the top...rethink time.

One of the trickiest things about paper piecing is sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and hope you are positioning your fabric correctly...because you are going to fold it over to the right side and sometimes angles are not so friendly!

I confess, I wasted more than my share of fabric on this project...but I was in a bit of a hurry and didn't know exactly what I was doing...I felt a little overlap was what i need to make sure everything ended up the way I wanted it.

Then I got to this point and realized I had to figure out a way to get the wheels on...hmmmm...won't exactly work with the current block, so luckily I had an epiphany and made 3..ish separate pieces to be sewn together at the end!  AHA!  Turns out it actually is part of paper piecing to sew multiple blocks and then stitch them all together at the end.  Now I know. At the time, thought I was a freaking genius!

Oh yeah, got me some wheels.  Of course things didn't exactly work out with these wheels the first time as I miscalculated and cut one of them off completely...right time. 

My seam ripper and I were besties again for this project.  So...the wheels are a little wonky.  But, by this time...the pile of wasted fabric and unpicked thread had piled up and I was a little I figured wonky was the way I wanted it from the start...right?  Right.

Add the extra bits to be later needle-turn appliqued into place...and I was starting to feel really good about things.  The wings were gone...there were wheels, a bumper, the W on the front...HURRAY!!!

Finished product and DAMN if I don't love it!  I put a piece of paper over the personalized license plate...I know, I know...but just in case.  So you can embroider whatever you want on the licence plate to personalize it.  I love the Denyse Schmidt fabric I used to complete the pillow case.  What turned out to be an impulse buy I once regretted has now made me so happy!  I have made 3 things now using it and I love them all!

Here's the back.  I always like looking at the backs of blocks.  It's just fun.  Yeah...there are paper scraps still attached.  I was exhausted by this time.  And picking off every last piece of paper was not happening.

All done and it's love!  This might not be the side my loving husband ever sleeps on, as it's not exactly smooth, but that's okay.  I love it too much and am pretty sure he will too!

Thanks for sticking with me through the play by play.

Back to the future, My Oldest has currently claimed this as her pillowcase.

Thanks for reading!

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