Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gabby has her kittens

We have 3 gray tabbies and 1 charcoal tabby. Mommy did splendidly. Although I suspect the names will change daily (perhaps minute by minute), for now they are called: Jimmy, Buddy, Sissy, and Cosmo.
We watched the last one, Cosmo, being born. It was a beautiful thing. Gabby moaned faintly and his siblings mewed the little guy into being.
The children all watched. It was most distracting to complete our Spelling, but worked out well that our day turned into an impromptu biology lesson. There is no covering up all the nasty bits, like Gabby eating the afterbirth and chewing off the umbilicals. But also, what a beautiful exhibition of Gods design and creation.
I consider this a school day well spent.

Oh, and...who wants a kitten?!?!?!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Best Oven French Toast

And I aint lyin...

This dish is SO worth the extra time in the morning, and far better than plain ole toast and eggs.
It has this caremlized crunchy crust over the top, reminiscent of monkey bread. Swoon.

Oven French Toast with Buttery Nut Topping

1 loaf french bread, thickly sliced (about 15 slices)
6-8 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup half and half
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the Topping
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup half and half
1 cup sweetened and roasted pecan or walnut pieces

Let the bread slices dry on the counter overnight, or for at least 6 hours. In the morning, about 1 hour before you want to serve the dish, beat the eggs and then add all the ingredients through the cinnamon. Mix well. Grease a large baking dish (I used a large roasting pan or you can use two rectangular pans) and place the bread on the bottom, slightly overlapping. Pour egg mixture over top and let sit on the counter for at least 30 minutes, being sure that all pieces are covered with the mixture. Flip bread about 15 minutes through to make sure all sides are soaking up the egg mixture. Preheat your oven to 350.
Meanwhile, make the topping by mixing the butter, brown sugar, half and half and nut pieces in a small bowl. Right before baking, drizzle the topping over the top of all the bread slices and use a spatula to spread it out gently so you have bits of nuts over each slice.

The drizzle oozes happily over the bread.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until all your edges are a beautiful golden brown.

Its a masterpiece for the taste buds.

Serve with warmed syrup and a puff of powdered sugar. Some fresh bananas and strawberries and maybe some spicy breakfast sausage wouldn't mind being alongside, either.

Oops...sorry. You have a bit of drool...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Oh, *that* ham? YES, please, and thank you!

I purchased this book a few weeks back and have been absolutely devouring it. Although I would not consider our family of 6 a “large” family, the ideas and methods mentioned within can be utilized no matter the size of your household.
I knew nothing of the author, aside from reading the reviews of her book in a few homeschool catalogs I receive. I also did not know that she had a blog! Score!!! She has included lots of recipes, and she follows almost the exact guidelines that I have for my own menu planning. She cooks a lot out of her slow cooker. I think I love her.
In reading this recipe post, The Ham that Jumped into my Shopping Cart, I was instantly motivated to remove the large 9.4 pound ham that had been idling away in my big freezer. And I put this recipe out for you guys (all three of you) just in time for Easter ham season. But, I have to warn you, this ham did not make me think of bouncing bunnies and prismatic eggs. Nope. It reminded me of Christmas. Good thing I LIKE Christmas. And, yes, as the author states, “Your stomach will growl all day”. This is factual.
I am copying her recipe exactly, with the exception of one typo (which she later corrects in her comments), the orange zest that I substituted for the orange powder she has listed, and my own personal addition of honey because I just L-O-V-E a good honey ham. Feel free to omit the honey if you aren’t feeling as sweet and sassy as myself. I also stuffed the little spent orange carcasses in with the ham for good measure, which you can do, or not do. What-evs.

The Crock-Pot Ham from Kim Brenneman

1 (7.5) pound bone-in ham
6 cups apple cider
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger
4 small or 2 regular sized oranges, zested and juiced
1/3 cup honey

1. Place the ham in the slow cooker.
2. Pour in the apple cider.
3. Add the spices and stir into the apple cider a bit.
4. Put the lid on and turn the slow cooker to low.
5. Cook for 8-10 hours.
(see the disintegrated remains of those oranges? now *that's* good flavor)

(ham for DAYS!)

I took a couple of cups of the cooking liquid leftover and reduced it in a saucepan for half an hour. Then I cooked up some egg noodles, scooped up some of the meat, and drizzled the sauce reduction over all to make a quick pasta dish. Served with sliced cucumbers that were sprinkled with sugar, red wine vinegar, and a hint of dried thyme.

*cooks notes:
My ham was a hefty 9.4 monstrosity and didn’t entirely fit into my slow cooker. So, I had to lop off a side and wedge him in there. It worked, but left a bit of him uncovered, so I basted the tippy-top a few times during the cooking period. I also had to ladle out a bit of the liquid half-way through cooking as it was threatening to spill over.
Also, if you prefer your ham “sliced and sturdy”, lessen the cooking time. I cooked mine exactly 8 hours and the meat fell off the bone and pretty much shredded on contact…this was FINE with me, but you may not want yours to shred as such.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Dijon Glaze

A top favorite in our house! I make my own stuffing and have included a very simple no-precook recipe for stuffing, but feel free to use your favorite stuffing recipe or the boxed variety. I use a leftover assortment of bread that is on the cusp of molding in my pantry. This go around it was 2 pieces of cornbread, 3 small yeast rolls, and four wheat dollar rolls.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Dijon Glaze

4 cups bread cubes, about 1/2 inch pieces
2 tsp dried onion
1 tsp dried garlic
1/2 tsp sage
1/4 tsp celery salt or regular salt
1 cup broth (or more)
1 tbs butter, melted

For the Dijon Glaze
1/2 cup dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
1 tsp dried thyme

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

To make the stuffing, leave out the bread cubes on a dry surface (avoid placing them on a towel, as they will hold onto moisture) for a day and a night to let them dry out. If you are pressed for time, you can toast the cubes in the oven until just crunchy but not browned and skip the overnight/all day step.
Preheat oven to 400. Place cubes in a mixing bowl and add the dried onion through the butter. Mix well. Your stuffing should be very moist and almost soggy, add more broth if you need it.
Take each chicken breast and make a pocket opening along one side but not all the way through (imagine a pita pocket). Stuff each breast to overfilling with the mixture and place in a large greased baking dish. Give each breast a light pinch of salt and pepper. Dump any leftover stuffing in between the breasts.

Once you have all the breasts stuffed, make the dijon glaze by mixing the dijon, honey, and thyme in a small bowl. Drizzle the glaze over each breast, but don't rub it in.
Cover and bake 45 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 165 degrees in the thickest part of the meat.
We ate ours with steamed broccoli with a homemade cheese sauce and some applesauce with cinnamon.

*feel oven lazy? this recipe works WONDERFULLY in the crock-pot. make just as directed above, except assemble the breasts mid morning and let cook on low heat in the crock-pot until dinner time.

*You can also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs or pork chops!

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's Called "Junk"

And, yes. It's delicious.

I didn't name it. I definitely didn't make it up. But, it is a staple at our table none the less.
What is "Junk"? Well, it is one of the most versatile dishes; and simple, and satisfying, and my children....they adore it. So there! Kudos to fellow homeschooling pal, Crystal for cluing me in.

The principle is this: you build on a theme; cubed potatoes on bottom, a meat on top, dump in all the other elements that fit your theme, cheese it, bake it, eat it.
Usually the best "Junks" have been a mish-mosh of leftovers. Like the one time our "Junk" was cubed yukon potatoes, chorizo and leftover taco meat, olives, raita, queso fresco, and half of a stuffed poblano pepper from our local Mexican eatery. It was heaven. And I mean H-E-A-V-E-N.

The most common and base recipe is as follows:

Junk (and no, you are not allowed to change the name)

2- 3 medium potatoes, peeled (or not, if you like that), and cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
1-2 pounds ground meat, cooked and seasoned with salt and pepper (or anything leftover hanging out in your fridge)
1 can tomato sauce or 1 1/2 cups ketchup (that's right, KETCHUP! no shame...)
1 tomato, chopped or 1 can tomatoes, drained and chopped, if needed
sprinkle of seasoning (like taco or Italian)
1 cup shredded cheddar

Grease a 9x9 inch dish. Place potatoes on bottom (a sprinkle of salt on top wouldn't hurt), and layer first the meat, then the sauce, tomatoes, seasoning, and cover with cheese. Cover and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender when you poke around hungrily with a fork.

This is a typical lunch or dinner in a pinch for our family. Other themes that we have made that work well are: BBQ Chicken Junk (cubed potatoes, shredded chicken, bbq sauce, sour cream, chives, and cheddar...it's like a loaded potato!), Greek Junk (mashed potatoes, ground meat with a pinch of cinnamon and oregano, tomato sauce, olives, onions, artichoke hearts, and feta), Pizza Junk (cubed potatoes, pepperoni and pork sausage, pizza sauce, mushrooms, mozzarella, parmesan).

Yet to try but plan on next week: Hawaiian Fajita Junk (chicken, bell peppers, onions, pineapples...oh....my)

Really...if you can think of a theme, you can pull this off. And it is so homely and divine in the same mouthful.

There is no shame in simple. And surely no shame in utilizing what your fridge seems to accumulate in a week.

So, eat well (and less stressed)!

Friday, April 8, 2011

A confession

That's right.

I confess my failing, to the whole blogger kingdom. My New Year's Resolution to eat raw food twice a week...never actually happened.

I lasted all of one week.

So, there you have it. Such is This...is not perfect. I am far far from it. I make a goal and fail sometimes (miserably as seen here).

I could gripe about how it was sooooo hard and that I didn't have the time. But, really, I lost my motivation. I over committed myself. Maybe a better goal, like once a month raw lunchtime or some such thing. Who knows.

Oh, and I ran...once, with my friend Bethany. Once.
I did get up early ever day, though, and did really well...until the dreaded Spring time change. Now we do good if we start school by 10am.

OK. Le Sigh.

Yummy recipes next week (with pictures OF COURSE!) to make it up to you.



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