Monday, September 26, 2011

Canning Dilly Beans

They are salty, spicy, pickl-y (not a word. I know.) and just heaven. I know this because one of my jars didn't seal so I put it in the 'fridge. For later. Or now.

Highlander ran the Quad Cities marathon yesterday morning, and qualified for Boston. (yay!) So I get to figure out what one eats when one is in Boston. (yay!)
I stayed home, roasted a chicken, made peanut butter bars, and ate Dilly Beans.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Oh Yes I Did.

Iowa Valley Food Coop brought it home today with a fabulous grand opening. I brought it home, too. Onions, potatoes, green beans, garlic, bacon, hot peppers, and those beautiful raspberries. Which I promptly poured Everclear over. I'm convinced that I can conquer something so simple as Raspberry Liqueur. Especially if I have two pints of pristine organic raspberries to fiddle with. Hooray.

Live in the Cedar Rapids area? Not a member of Iowa Valley Food Coop? Join. The longer you wait the more embarrassed you'll be for waiting so long.

Iowa Valley Food Coop Website

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I waited inside the front door for the bus this morning. Zoe and her cousin sat on the bench facing the street. When the breeze blows, it knocks the first few fall leaves off of the trees and the whole thing looks like the inside of one of those silly little fall themed snow globes. I was enjoying the view when it occurred to me that today is the last day that Zoe is a five year old. It's technically too early in the day to have a cocktail, so I refilled my coffee and decided to make a trip to the apple orchard by myself today and score some tart fruit for a big batch of applesauce. I should be cleaning the house for the birthday party on Saturday, but I don't want to. I want to stay home, peel apples, and not cry.

Not cry.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Potato Pancakes

I struggle with leftovers. If I don't plan for them, the family sucks up every scrap of food on the table and then complains that there's nothing in the fridge for lunch the next day. If I fill the fridge with leftovers, everybody wants to eat out. So to solve this problem, I employ my new favorite tactic. Apathy.  

You get what you get and you don't throw a fit.

In this case, you get potato pancakes made with an abundance of eggs from happy chickens, and leftover smashed garlic potatoes. If you don't want to eat it, I'll feed it to Max. He loves me. And my cooking.

2 cups leftover smashed garlic potatoes or mashed potatoes or hash or something from last night that had potatoes in it
3-4 eggs from happy chickens
1 cup of shredded cheese, preferably cheddar but whatever

Mix together with a fork until well combined.
Heat a big cast iron skillet over medium heat until you can warm your hands over it. Add a pat of real salted butter and about a teaspoon of oil. Swirl around until the surface of the pan is covered.
Drop the potato pancake batter in with a big spoon. It will be lumpy. We don't care.

Turn the heat down and walk away for a few minutes. Read the paper, find a good Eminem song on your MP3 player, feed the dog. I'm sure you can find something to do.

Flip the lumpy eggy pancakes over with a spatula, wait a couple of minutes to make sure they are cooked through and serve with ketchup. At least one of your family members will eat this and appreciate it. But it doesn't really matter, because no one is keeping track.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My house smells like cow leg.

So, maybe I have a reputation for being the chick that will figure out what to do with the cow bits that no one else wants to mess with. I may have gained that reputation by asking for (begging, really) the parts of the cow that no one wants to mess with. So I have this pile of shank....
It was only a few years ago that I was asking the dude in Hy-Vee how one might cook a steak. Now I'm on my fifth batch of homebrew beef stock and have managed to turn Elk knuckles into soup. Now that made my house smell odd.

I have five sections of shank, each about an inch thick. I browned them and put them in my crock pot with some salt. The plan is to make Phu from the juices and shred the beef for my tall son's barbeque beef sandwich obsession. We'll see how that goes.

See that book over there? This is the second book by the woman who wrote Julie and Julia. They made it into a movie. Really, you can just watch the movie and you'll pretty much get it. In Cleaving, Julie decides to be an apprentice butcher. The meat parts are really interesting and kind of hilarious. However, her relationship is dying (perhaps because she's constantly confusing it with a side of beef and always hacking away at it.) The book is painful, but would be a good read for fall, especially if you live in the midwest, where reading a painful book in February can land you with a box of kleenex in one hand and a prescription in the other.

I blame this somewhat terrible book for my willingness to cook unfamiliar bits of meat. Our family cow has gone to meet his maker, and what he left behind will feed us for then next year or so. I asked for the tail, tongue, liver, and knuckles. Should be interesting. My brother in law got the heart. He promised me a bite.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dear Tomato,

I Love You.


Here's what I did to some tomatoes last night. It was so good that I ate most of it myself. Highlander (when he finally got back from his three hour run) got the leftovers.

2-3 large homegrown tomatoes (cut into one inch chunks)
4-5 homegrown roma tomatoes (cut into four pieces)
three big handfuls of cherry tomatoes (cut in half)

dried homegrown oregano



olive oil

On a jelly roll pan, or cookie sheet with sides, mix the tomatoes, about a tablespoon of dried oregano, a tablespoon of sugar, and a tablespoon of salt. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil.

Cook at 250 degrees for an hour. Remove from oven, turn the tomatoes and juices over a bit to recombine, and cook for another hour.

Serve warm with spreadable goat cheese and homemade bread.

Serves 1. Or 2 if you love your spouse and they are home when this cools off enough to eat.

P.S. There is a fancy name for this. My friend Mollie knows it. I ask her every time I see her, and then I promptly forget what it's called. So....

Friday, August 19, 2011

till school starts

I'm not getting much done down on the Urban Farm till school starts. The littlest one is headed off to Kindergarten next week, so I'll have some...alone time...
It doesn't seem quite possible.
What ever will I do. Laundry.
Yoga? Or dishes.
Then, tomatoes. Every year I get nervous when I see that our heirloom tomato plants have reached up over my head, but haven't managed to produce anything that looks like food. So I start going out a couple of times a day to stare at them. A few days ago, I started feeling confident that we are in fact going to be able to have some homegrown sauce to get us through winter. Such relief.
About the time we get settled into a routine I'll be spending my alone time in a hot kitchen full of jars and tomato goo. Ah, Heaven.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

mad town lemonade

We went to Madison (my favorite town) and had this drink, which I am in LOVE with. I watched the bartender make it. First, I asked her what it's "called" so I can order it every time I'm presented with the question "what are you drinking?" and she kindly responded, "it's only served here, and we use mint from our own chef's garden out back." Oh. Crap.'s what she did.

She opened a drawer full of junk (yes, fancy hotel bars have junk drawers) and dug around in there for two very obviously stolen but unused Starbucks cups. Highlander and I were drinking by the pool. So, no glass for us rowdy Iowans. She put three lemon wedges in each cup and threw in a small handful of that very important mint. I think the next ingredient was simple syrup, and I come to this conclusion by process of elimination. The drink is sweet. After muddling this into a lemonade base, she very quickly (as if to remain secretive) poured in equal parts cheap vodka and seltzer. The cup wasn't full, but then she added a good heaping helping of ice and poked a straw into each drink. At this point, I should have looked away. She wanted me to look away. There was a guy at the bar who was distracting; all engrossed in his blackberry and trying to look like he couldn't bear to stop working even at the hotel bar past 10:30 pm on a Monday night. Waiting impatiently for me to take my Starbucks cups and go away so he could resume hitting on the bartender, who, although twenty years his junior, was clearly a goner for a balding salesman from Michigan. She poured a teeny tiny bit of Chambord in each cup, garnished with mint leaves and a lemon wedge, and pushed the cups towards me. After being dismissed with a semi-cheerful "enjoy!" I wandered around the corner to save all of this into my almost-long-term memory. Which is remarkable, because I'd already had one, and those weren't small cups.
I bought a bag of lemons on the way out of town at Trader Joes. I'm making simple syrup today and buying Chambord at the grocery store this week. Mad Town Lemonade is my new favorite drink. I'll switch to red wine at Halloween.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Iron Rich Black Eyed Peas

I'm gettin' winded going up and down the stairs again, which means it's time to add some Iron. It's a HUNDRED degrees out today, so heavy cooking is not on my to-do list.

Here's what's in my crock-pot now:

1 lb dried black eyed peas
2 cups homemade chicken broth
4 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes with chilis
2 tablespoons ground cumin
5 tablespoons sorghum
1 small white onion, diced
1 tablespoon chopped dried garlic or 3 tablespoons fresh

Both the black eyed peas and the sorghum are high in iron, so this should give me a boost. It's grill night ( cooking) and a side of potato chips with my brat just didn't sound nearly as good as a plate full of gooey lucky sweet and spicy black eyed peas. Happy!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Buffalo Chicken (I LOVE) invention

I. Love. Buffalo. Chicken.
I accidentally invented this dish, and it got a round of compliments from the whole family, ages 5-55.

You need:
3 cups (or so) cooked chicken meat
This is a great time to use left-overs
One tube of crescent roll dough
8 oz cream cheese
2-3 Tablespoons of Frank's Hot Sauce
1 cup of finely shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Bring the cheeses to room temperature, and stir in the Frank's. If your chicken is cold, heat the cheeses up a bit in the microwave and then stir in the chicken until it's all sticky and well combined.

Grease a 9x9 glass casserole dish, flatten the chicken out in a single layer, unroll the crescent roll dough on top, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 11-13 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown.

If you started with cold chicken, you may want to heat it up a bit in the oven before you put the crescent roll dough on top.

I didn't add a layer of corn and peas, because we had a righteous Kale Salad at the table that night. Next time, I'm adding the veggies between the chicken and the dough.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Banana Bread on a Hot Day

I know. It's kind of crazy to turn on the oven today, since today Is the Oven. But my family BEGS for bananas (consuming five pounds in five days) and then refuses to eat them the next week. I came a bit late to the banana bread party, so I am so impressed by freezing over ripe bananas as an alternative to throwing them away. I tried to feed them to our dogs. That did not go well. Just as I sat down at 9:30 pm after a long day of kid-chasing and food-making, Tori hollered, "Momma! Charly just threw up in my bed!" Ewwww.
This morning, I realized I had six bananas in my freezer, and six black speckled ones on the table. Here's the latest Banana Bread recipe I've been using. It makes one loaf. Here at the brick house, that's three servings. We love it.

Thaw 3-4 over ripe frozen bananas. Put them in a bowl. They ooze.
Squeeze the gooey banana pulp into the bowl.
Melt 1/3 cup of salted butter and pour into the banana goo. Stir until the banana chunks are smaller than a dime.
Stir in 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 Tablespoon of white sugar, 1 large fresh egg, 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract (or vanilla if you hate almonds) and 1 tablespoon of baking soda.
When those ingredients are combined well, slowly fold in 1 1/2 cups of white flour.
Pour into a 4x8 greased loaf pan and cook in a preheated 350 degree oven for an hour.
If you like a dessert-crust on your bread, sprinkle brown sugar on the batter in a thin layer before you put it in the oven.

It's hot out, but the bread is still delicious.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tut, Man!

That's shakespeare. I hate him. Hate! Him!
My ninth grade son, Mr. B, is currently nose-deep in freshman language arts. His teacher has a degree in Shakespeare and a minor in hating-on-teenage-boys.
Yesterday, the B-Meister announced that he had to MeMoRiZe a passage from Shakespeare, and although the assignment was given out at the beginning of the semester, he was supposed to do it yesterday. He begged the teacher to grant him an extra day. Which when combined with his current D- grade and loosely translated, means I HAD TO MEMORIZE SHAKESPEARE, while hollering at him about how yes, It's Dumb, and yes, His Teacher Is Lucifer's Bride, but if he doesn't want to live in a trailer with no windows that backs up to a river, reading old biker magazines from the eighties by the light of the candle he fashioned from his own ear wax, he'd BETTER PASS THIS CLASS.
Tut, Man.

45 Tut, man, one fire burns out another's burning,
46 One pain is lessen'd by another's anguish;
47 Turn giddy, and be holp by backward turning;
48 One desperate grief cures with another's languish:
49 Take thou some new infection to thy eye,
50 And the rank poison of the old will die.

I hope his pain was lessened by my anguish.
He says he pulled it off.
We'll see....

Monday, May 9, 2011

What's cookin?

Beer Bread. Because it's still cold. In May.

Mix it up in the non-stick bread pan.
Realize that you are not Lazy. But rather, Resourceful.

3 cups SIFTED self-rising flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 bottle beer (not lite beer.)

Pour 3-4 tablespoons of butter over the top and bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour.
Let cool 15 minutes. In my house, that means you'll have to guard/hide it.

Your house will smell like you can bake. Even if you can't.
Add dill to the batter and make yourself a cucumber sandwich with veggie cream cheese. If your kids figure out what you are eating, you will have to lock yourself in a closet. It tastes just as good in there. And you won't have to share.

Oh. Good Lord.

I "took the day off!" Today.
Lotta good it did me....
I began the day by lecturing number one son on the merits of attending and participating in the ninth grade. I continued it with a spat involving my husband and our persistent inability to communicate where the business of running this house is concerned. Zoe wore flip flops to school on a field trip day. Tori packed her own lunch: juice box, peanut butter sandwich, cereal, tiny yogurt. Fruit??? Can I get a fruit?? Apparently, not.
It's hailing.
I was going to paint my Adirondack chairs and kill the invasive species in my front garden today!
Well, I cut up the seed potatoes anyway. The sugar snap peas are up and the asparagus plants are in. Progress....slow....
The brick house is very slowly keeping up with our ever growing family. By growing, I don't mean in numbers, but rather in height and weight. Know what else is growing? The grocery bill. I guess kids don't eat less as they get older. I bought 18 pounds of fruit and 12 pounds of meat on Saturday. It'll be gone by Friday.
Grow Garden! GROW!
That's all.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bacon; The Gateway Meat

It's not too late to get in on "We Love Bacon"
at New Pioneer Coop in Coralville.

Genie is teaching it.

Ah, we do love bacon. We do.

with Genie Maybanks
Thurs., Feb. 10, 6:00–8:00PM

Bacon is sexy, bacon is fun! Join bacon lover Genie Maybanks for a romp through her favorite recipes featuring outstanding bacon from Iowa and beyond. Learn about and sample pancetta, prosciutto and thick cut bacon; try the unique, double smoked Nueske’s, hailed as one of the top ten bacons in the nation. Genie will demonstrate the preparation of Bacon Wrapped Dates, Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus, Spicy Squash Soup with Bacon Crumbles; Savory Chard, Prosciutto and Gruyère Soufflé-style Dutch Pancake; and Alambres, the “taco truck” style steak and bacon tacos.

Blueberry Cake With Everything!

My mom used to make something called "Pineapple Dump Cake."

I looked it up on the vast internet, and come up with a lot of recipes for a heart attack and diabetes. So I figured, how hard can it be to recreate this horrid Good Housekeeping recipe from 1982?

Yeah. Not Very.

And bonus! T & Z love love love it!

Butter a 9x13 glass baking dish, dump in a large can of crushed pineapple, 2 cups of blueberries, and a diced up peeled apple. Spread one yellow or white cake mix over the top of the fruit, chop up about 4 tablespoons of salted sweet cream butter and drop the pieces on top of the cake mix. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.

Zoe named it.

You can eat it with ice cream. It's so cold can eat it for breakfast if it makes you feel better.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Home Sweet Home

I stopped working that big life sucking job.

I'm back.

I don't think I was making a profit. More importantly, my family was suffering. I was suffering. There are many reasons. I can be really analytical. I can prove anything with a spreadsheet, and I will. So I proved that we could probably make it on one income. The thing that really did it for me was this drawing that Zoe made one afternoon while I was at work. When she gave it to me, she said, "This is a picture of how it used to be."
That was the limit of what I could handle. I realized that she had reached her limit, too.