Chocolate Pumpkin Latte

pumpkin spice latte   This is the beginning of those cold fall mornings.  It’s going to be a whole new season for me and I’m facing it by hiding behind  MarthaStewart.  There are comfort zone’s we’ve all created around ourselves and once outside those it’s…umm… less comfortable.  So if I can do these little things to help keep myself connected with the homey side I love, it’ll be that much more… uhhh… comfortable.  So here’s my fall tummy warmer: the Chocolate Pumpkin Latte (it’s really more of a coffee drink than a latte, but it’ll save me $3.50, so ya!)

 

Chocolate Pumpkin Latte

2 C. Soy/Almond/Cow/Goat milk

2 C. Super strong coffee

1.5 oz Cocoa chocolate disc (such as IBarra or even better Tazo chocolate/chili bar)

4 Tbs. Light brown sugar

1/4 tsp. cinnamon oil

2 Tbs. Pumpkin puree

Blend all ingredients, except the milk, together in a blender.  You can either add milk and warm on stove top or place in a jar with the milk and keep in fridge ’till ready to warm each morning.  Makes about 4-5 cups.

pumpkin latte ingredients

 

Peach Canning Adventure

canned peachesI love to can peaches!  In fact, I love to can most anything!  “Can, can, can you do the can can?” goes through my head this time of the year constantly… and gets stuck up in there bouncing around and driving me crazy.  Canning is one of the reasons I haven’t post in two weeks.  I find it very hard to do everything I want to.  So I’ve decided I will do only a few things and do them well.  And choosing which ones need to be quality work and which (like “folded” towels) are not so much quality… more quantity!  But carrying out that objective when you add all the very basic household responsibilities is a very heavy load.  Expectations of your home and yourself have to change.  I am my biggest critique.  But being a gentle, not lazy, but gentle critique helps me not get too tired or too worked up when the To-Do list gets long.  Fruit flies are my nemesis!  Jars and rings are my game!  I am Julie… hear me…  hum.   “Can, can, can you do the can can?”

It’s just a season!

I was hoping to show you all the in’s and out’s of canning but I’ve found I’m not a very meticulous canner.  So I’ll show you my strategy in a very tiny kitchen.  What’s worked over the years and what hasn’t.  How you can involve your kids but still get work done around them.  I’ve researched a couple gals that I feel do a wonderful job.  This gal and this gal, who’s a new canner, and this article on canning without sugar, are all a similar approach to how I’ve canned for years.

And it’s very simple even if you’ve never boiled a jar before.  Start with a small batch of 6 or 7 jars.  Don’t try and do it all but start small.  Especially if you have babies.  Back when my kiddos were babies, I would pace myself and do two batches.  The next day do two batches.  And then the next… ’till the fruit was all done.  It did require more clean up time but I felt it was less stressful and therefore less of a difficult impact on the home and my very patient husband.

utensils for blanchingThe night before, stash your dishwasher with jars, rings and lids so they’re all washed and ready to go the next day.  In this photo I have as many pots as I can to get the peaches going.  You need to pull the skins off with the hot water, then plunge into your cold water so it stops the cooking process.  As you get more peaches done, the process can slow down (especially if you’re boiling the jars and not using a pressure canner).  So as the process slows down I remove a pan or two, to free up the other burner for the big water canner or pressure canner.  The slotted spoon helps with the removing of hot peaches from hot water and I use it to plunge the peaches in the hot water so I won’t burn my hands from the splash.

box of peaches to canI’ll set the box of peaches up close with a tall chair.  My sink is across the kitchen, so this square is my sacred space.  That’s why God made baby gates!  I’ll put a rug down between the oven and sink to help with the water spillage so no one slips and it’s really easy to throw in the wash afterwards.

kids can help canI set my older helpers up at the sink with hair pulled back and aprons on.  Keep them up high so the juices don’t run down their arms too much and get them all wet.  We watch something simple, like Fiddler on the Roof, and they go to town pulling the peach skins off.  It’s really a very soothing process and something my little girls love to help with.  I take the peeled peaches, slice them up and straight into the jars.  I’ll put about 2 Tbs of sugar in each jar, 1/4 vanilla bean, fill with peach slices, pour hot water to fill, slide my lid and ring on and set aside to boil.  Once boiled, they get stacked in a safe place to set up for 24 hrs.  That “pop” of the pressured lid is the only thing that breaks up my “can can” song.  Happy feelings!!

Strawberry Banana Bread

strawberry banana bread

In preparation for a house full of kids, I prepared some strawberry banana bread.  My girlfriend had asked me to watch her kids for her the whole next day.  This was gone before 2 pm along with many many compliments from busy little kids.

Strawberry Banana Bread:

  • 3 lg eggs
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 1 tbs vanilla
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 2 tbs flax seeds
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbs cinnamon

Mix batter together and pour into greased large loaf pan.

Mix together

  • 1/2 cup strawberry jam
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped

Drizzle on top and swirl into batter in loaf pan.

Bake 350F for 1 hour.  Place a pan underneath as mine spilled over the top just a bit while baking.

Homemade Crackers

The cracker is a staple in every home, especially the “wheat thins”.  These taste very similar but have all the health that wheat thins are missing.  It fills tummies, goes with everything, and makes most mouths very happy.  I’ve found if we try and keep our snacks organic it gets so expensive.  And by the rate my kids eat crackers it is not cost effective… so I give in and buy and big tub of goldfish crackers.  But! if I make these, my kids eat them just as fast, with far better results both in pocket book and digestion.

homemade crackers

These dimples only show up when she’s eating. Love them!

The Cracker:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 2 Tbs flax seeds
  • 6 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs molasses
  • 1/2 cup water

Add all dry ingredients together, then cut butter into flour.  Add molasses and water slowly ’till combined.  Place in plastic wrap and chill in fridge for 20 minutes.  Roll out on floured surface to be 1/8″ thick.  (In these photos I forgot to add the flax seed and tried to roll them in… I would not recommend this.  They fall off while baking and handling.)  Cut dough into small squares, or use cookie cutters to make animal crackers.  A pizza cutter works great for cutting the dough.  Give them a light salt sprinkle on top.rolled out crackersPlace one either cookie sheets OR an oven proof wire rack.  Bake at 425F.  If using a cookie sheet bake for 8-10 minutes, then flip all your crackers to toast on the other side.  If using a wire rack bake in oven for 12-15 minutes ’till very toasty.  The time is quite loose because you’ll want to make sure it’s browning and toasting so they’re nice and crunchy.  One of my favorite blogs taught me that trick.cooling crackersLet cool all the way and store in a tub.  They’ll stay crispy for about a week.

The NW Pie

Black Berry PieThis pie was made in tribute to our beautiful Pacific North West!  I love our berries especially when they’re handed to you off the roadway by a nice little bunch of bushes.  Around here, pie is for dessert that night and for breakfast the next morning.

Black Berry Pie

for the crust:

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. raw sugar
  • 1/2 cup ice water

for the filling:

  • 6 cups blackberries
  • 2 Tbs. instant clear gel or corn starch
  • 1 Tbs. Scotch
  • fresh squeeze of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 2 Tbs. butter, cubed

Cut the butter into  your almond meal and flour.  Add salt and sugar.  Wait ’till the butter’s cut into small pea size crumble, then add your ice water (minus the ice) slowly in a stream.  The chill of the water helps the butter to not blend too fine.  Stop mixing right before it looks completely mixed… kinda hard to catch that perfect moment.  Martha has a great process that I’ve been following for years.  It seriously works!  Wrap up your pastry in plastic wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Once chilled, roll out and put into your pie shell.  The almond meal was a bit harder to work with.  I found it was way easier, once it was rolled out, to re-roll it back on my rolling pin then place over the pie shell and un-roll it on.  Kind of a good technique to know how to do.  Pies are so easy once you have your system down.

Alrighty, so the crust is the hardest part.  Mix your scotch, lemon juice, instant clear gel or cornstarch, and sugar in a bowl.  Mix ’till the starch is smooth.  Add your berries to the pie shell.  Pour the scotch yumminess over the berries.  Dollop the cubed butter on top.  Then place your other pie crust on top.  This is my favorite part.  Think out of the box a bit and play with a design, but make sure to pinch the edges to seal in the juices.  Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Place on a windowsill to cool and sing a lovely song… but beware of pie thief cartoon critters!

Simple Granola

the perfect granolaI have always had a hard time getting store bought granola when it’s so easy to make.  This batch took me no time at all.  The ingredients are fairly common but the flavor and crunch is all there.  The trick is in the process.

Granola:

  • 8 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups whole almonds (or any nuts of your choice, husbands excluded)
  • 2 cups coconut flakes, unsweetened (if large flakes, children excluded, put in the oven with your oats and nuts)
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup flax seed
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cup raisins

Toast the oats and almonds in a 350 F. oven for about 15 minutes, ’till the oats start to golden, stir occasionally.   I usually have two big cake pans in the oven.  The tall sides help me to not worry about dumpage when stirring.  Place the coconut, flour, wheat germ, flax seeds and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.  While the oats and nuts are toasting, put the butter, coconut oil, sugar, and honey in a pan to boil.  Turn on medium high heat, stirring until it comes to a boil.  Boil for a minute without stirring.  Pull off the burner and stir your raisins in.

sugar/oil combo

Once your oats have toasted (don’t wait for all of them to toast, just the first sign of golden color) pour in the rest of the dry ingredients and your sugar/oil combo.  Stir to combine and put back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.  Watch the color to make sure it doesn’t get too dark.  When it looks good, place on the counter and don’t stir.  Letting it sit ’till warm will help the oats to clump up.  Give it a light stir when it’s warm to break the granola off the bottom of the pan and to break up any big clumps.  Now, let it sit ’till completely cool and your granola will be nice and chunky.  Put in airtight containers and it will keep for a few months.  However, I make this a part of my monthly baking.

granola

It also makes for a fantastic “out of the box” gift!

Pork Short Rib’s visit to the Crockpot

roast

I very randomly shoved things in my crock pot:

  • 1 apple, cored and cut in half
  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1/4 C. duck fat
  • 2 racks of pork short ribs
  • 1/4 C. bbq sauce

Surround your ingredients (except the bbq sauce) with the pork ribs.  Let simmer in the crock pot for 8 hrs.  For the last hour slather on some bbq sauce to melt into the meat.  We added a bit more once they were ready to be eaten.  I’m not a huge bbq sauce fan, but just that little bit was enough to give it some spunk!

bbq pork

Mango & Meyer Lemon Sorbet

Mango Meyer Lemon SorbetI had such great expectations for sorbet!  The mango’s were on sale, so I bought a whole bunch.  We made popsicles and chopped them up to put in small baggies to freeze.  The kids eat them frozen, right out of the baggie. (smash the bag of mango to be flat like a pancake and freeze in that shape so the kids can bite into them)  And the popsicles were a mash of blueberries, strawberries, mango and apple cider.  But to finish off our frozen treats we were going to have sorbet.

Unfortunately when organizing my garage last winter, I dropped the ice-cream maker.  “It’s fine.” I said, “It only fell on the cement.”  Well, I was wrong.  The motor only hummed a dreary tune… maybe I can get my husband to work on it?  Until then, I’ll have to do the old fashioned, fork and freezer mash.

Sorbet:

  • 3 mangos, chopped
  • Juice from 6 Meyer lemons
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar (we try and use raw sugars such as turbinado)
  • 1 Tbs Rum
  • 1 Tbs instant clear gel, dissolved in 2 Tbs. cold water

Boil your water, sugar, rum and instant clear gel, making sure to whisk constantly.  Once it comes to a boil, immediately remove from heat and let stand ’till cool.  Blend sugar solution with the mango’s and lemon juice.  If you want to add some zest from the lemons, go for it.  I personally find them interfering with the smoothness of my sorbet.  Now cool and make into sorbet according to your ice-cream maker’s instructions.  However if you’ve dropped yours… or you just don’t have one, place into a metal pan and on a flat space in your freezer.  Ever 30 minutes give it a whisk with a fork ’till it’s frozen and mashy.  Make sure to get the corners and edges as they will freeze first.  If you forget, set it out on the counter for a little while and let it soften up enough to mash, then place in the freezer and continue to check it every half hour.  It takes about 3 to 4 hours ’till it’s ready.  You can store it in a sealed container in the freezer for a couple weeks.  Have a happy summer!

 

Camping Donuts

Happy Camper

Recently while camping, I attempted to make donuts.  By SHEAR LUCK, it was a success.  I’ve had a lot of baking moments flop on me this last while, so I wasn’t holding my breath with these.  But the three things I had in my favor were: 1-butter 2-sugar 3-the “fry” factor!  Anything’s better fried!  jiffy donuts

There are a couple of ways to do this.  The easy way is to pack some jiffy dough, oil and frosting.  We used some vanilla pudding to make them more “eclair-like”.  But whatever suits your fancy.  I bought the croissant version which was quite heavy with oils.  Don’t get me wrong, it was gooood, but we had to sit down afterwards and work on our digestion.

cup cutter

At this point, all you have to do is roll out your dough with a cup or jar.  Cut the rounds with the same jar.  And fry them up.  If you’ve never fried dough before, check out the end of this post for frying tips.

To make the dough from scratch is really easy and a much healthier alternative.

“Healthier?  Really?  These are donuts, Ju!”

Well then, healthier… for a donut.

butter

Ok, so here’s my process:

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbs. yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Let soak and proof about 10 minutes

Then add

  • 1 Tbs rum
  • 1  cup whole wheat
  • 4 cups white bread flour
  • 1 cup room temp butter cut into small chunks

Add the flour and butter in 1/2 c. batches while mixing in between.

butter chunks in dough

Now mix the batter for a good 10 minutes helping the gluten to stretch.  The most important part is not getting your batter too thick.

It should be sticky!  See in picture below:

super sticky dough

Before any rising time.

I allow two rising periods.  Make sure it’s doubled in size (about 30 minutes) then punch down and allow to rise a second time.  These two rising periods cause the gluten to stretch and the batter will become less sticky.

After two rising periods with no extra flour added.  Notice the stickiness is stretchy not gooey.

After two rising periods with no extra flour added. Notice the stickiness is stretchy not gooey.

After it’s done rising, lay down a bed of flour, pour your dough out on top, sprinkle more flour on top and press out.  Keep the dough coated in flour being careful to not let it stick to the counter underneath.  Roll out ’till it’s about 1/4 of an inch thick.roll out doughAt this point, you can cut the dough into squares, circles, or traditional donut rounds.  I used a biscuit cutter and a decorators’ tip.

improvised donut cutter

Save the small holes for donut-hole treats!

Lay out all your donuts in sheets to freeze.  Once frozen, place in a ziplock bag and keep in the freezer ’till your ready.

frozen donut sheetsNow to take them camping:

I put the ziplock bag of prepared donuts with my frozen foods ’till I was ready.  The night before I put them in my  unfrozen cooler to thaw.  The morning of, set them out on a floured paper towel strip to rise for 30 minutes.  Place another paper towel strip over top to keep the bugs off.  Bugs like dough.

small dough in oil

I loved how quickly this enamel pot heats the oil up.  The cast irons take forever and it’s harder to cool off if the oil gets too hot.  You don’t want it too hot or they’ll burn.  So with the propane (where it’s all or nothing) keeping the oil at a good temperature was tricky.  Once I turned the heat on, I stayed with it and would throw little tester dough balls (like the one pictured above) in the oil.  Those are the bubbles you want.  Small quiet ones.  Once I get this effect, I turned my propane down as low as it would go.  That seems to do the trick.

chock stick fryersChopsticks work great for flipping the dough.  Let one side fry ’till you can see the golden color, then flip, about 1 minute on each side.  Make one, then test to see if it’s still doughy on the inside.  Don’t be afraid to let it get darker in color, so the inside can cook all the way through.

perfect homemade donutPlace on a paper towel and let cool.

donut holesThe kids loved the little donut holes.

homemade eclairSome we filled with vanilla pudding and topped with fudge frosting.

And some we left traditional.

homemade donut

Donuts and coffee for breakfast is my kinda camping!

Roasted Potatoes and Thyme

potatoes

Perfectly roasted potatoes!

apple slicerI’ll start by going backwards.  Do you own a apple slicer such as this?  If not, they aren’t very expensive and I’ve even found a few at garage sales.  This one in particular was from a garage sale.  Make sure to always rinse them off immediately after you use and shake it around to get the water off as best as you can.  My last slicer rusted up very quickly from being in water too much.

IMG_5429Now we’ll start at the beginning.  Use smaller’ish potatoes.  I’ve got a russet here, but any kind of potato will do.  If you want to take the skin off, skip the next step but I would highly recommend keeping the skin on.  It get’s nice and crunchy and also helps keep the potato from falling apart.

unscrewSee this little screw?  Unscrew it.  That will remove the peeler feature and thus your potato will only be sliced.

removedOnce removed, it should look a little like this.

sliceProceed to slicing those spuds.  It helped to place my hand at the tip so the spud would stay together and not break apart.

spudPlace in your pan all in-tacked.  I got a fork to help remove the potato from the spiky thing so the center would remain inside the swirl.  Make sure to not launch spuds across your counters and into deep spider web hole like I did the first one.  “Eww!” followed by a slight depression.  But I learned and the next one was successful.

Once they’re all assembled and ready to bake, put a little dollop of butter (I even gave them a little Olive oil sprinkle as well) salt and pepper.  Cover with some dry italian herbs and fresh thyme.  Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for roughly 45 minutes, or until the skins are nice and crisp.

It makes for a heavenly side dish!