My Kitchen

The Best Ham & Potato Soup

This is really the name of this recipe and I think it lives up to its name!  Since October is National Pork month it’s a great way to round out the month, and perfect for Halloween night.  It’s great for either putting in the Crock Pot or cooking on the stovetop.

The Best Ham & Potato Soup

The Best Ham & Potato Soup

8 medium potatoes (I don’t even peel mine, just wash and dice)

2 carrots, finely shredded

2 stalks of celery, sliced

1 onion, chopped

5 cups of water

5 chicken bouillon cubes

1 ½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1-12 ounce can of evaporated milk

2 cups of cubed ham

Directions to cook on the stove.  Bring water to boil.  Add bouillon cubes, salt, and pepper to water.  To make this recipe quickly, I just wash all my vegetables then run them through my food processor to chop.  I don’t chop the potatoes as finely as the carrots, onion, and celery.  Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to medium; add potatoes, celery, carrots, onion, and ham.  Cook until vegetables are soft.  Add evaporated milk and cook for 5 minutes.

Directions to cook in slow cooker.  Place vegetables and ham in slow cooker.  Add bouillon cubes, water, salt, and pepper.  Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours.  About 2 hours before serving, add milk.

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with chives, parsley, and cheese.  Yummy!

*Bonus – this soup freezes well!*

10 Tips for Quick Cooking

Never to be a gourmet chef, I consider myself more of a “home cook”.  There’s always something to eat, hopefully it’s tasty and filling!

I’m not sure cooking is a fast thing to do, but I have found ways that with a little planning I can speed up cooking for busy nights.  Whether you’re trying to manage a family meal during those precious few hours after work and before bedtime or a farm wife planning meals around harvest – I hope these tips might help you.

These are 10 of my tips for quick cooking, in no particular order, except maybe #10.

  1. Brown hamburger, let it cool, and freeze for a quick meal that requires ground meat such as spaghetti or tacos. I freeze it in quart size zip lock freezer bags.  Freeze the bags flat then they stack nicely in the freezer.
  2. I make a Bierock Bake which is a casserole version of bierocks, cabbage pockets, runzas, whatever your local name is for this yummy creation. When I make this casserole, I’ll make up a half dozen packages of the meat and vegetable mixture and freeze them in quart size freezer bags (I freeze the mixture similar to how I freeze the hamburger in Tip #1). IMG_5580 Then when I need a quick meal, I’ll defrost the meat mixture, add the top layers, and bake. Look under the “My Kitchen” tab for the Bierock Bake recipe.
  3. When making mashed potatoes, I make a double batch. We’ll eat regular mashed potatoes and gravy the first night.  Later in the week, I will heat up the leftover in the microwave until warm and the potatoes stir easily.  Then I’ll add cheese, chives, celery seed seasoning, salt & pepper, butter, anything that sounds good, and mix it into the plain mashed potatoes.  Pour the potato mixture into a dish and bake in the oven until hot and slightly toasted on top.
  4. Keep small loaves of quick breads in the freezer. My favorites are banana nut bread or pumpkin bread.  Both freeze beautifully.  We have a lot of people who stop by and it’s nice to have something quick to serve.  I have a defrosting pan that will defrost the loaf in minutes.  I also take quick bread to the field to serve the harvest crew as a snack or quick dessert.
  5. When I make cookies, I like to freeze half to have on hand for a quick dessert. I freeze them in an ice cream bucket.
  6. Rather than making a 9”x13” casserole, sometimes I will put the casserole in two 8”x8” dishes, and freeze one casserole. Because two 8”x8” casseroles are a little bigger than a 9”x13”, I do increase the fillings.  For example, if the 9”x13” casserole recipe calls for 1 pound of ground meat, I would use 1 ½ pounds, I would also increase any vegetables.  My favorite casseroles to do this with are taco lasagna and regular lasagna.
  7. Most of my soup recipes make a big batch. Rather than eating it for days and days, I will package a meal or two worth and freeze for a future meal.
  8. When I need to shred meat, I use my KitchenAid mixer. I can’t remember where I found this tip a few years ago, but it’s amazing how much quicker meat can be shredded using my KitchenAid mixer. IMG_5583
  9. An entire ham is too much for us to eat. With leftover ham, I slice as much as I can, and the slices go into freezer bags to make sandwiches in the future. Then with the odd bits and chunks left of ham that are left, I cube.  The ham cubes go in another freezer bag to be used in casseroles.
  10. Although I usually cook somewhat from scratch, prior to our busy seasons (spring planting and fall harvest), I’ll stock up on some convenience items to have in the freezer. Our favorites are shrimp scampi for my hubby, individual servings of steamable edamame, and just recently I found 1-1 ½ pound marinated pork tenderloins that are delicious and quick. IMG_5582

After reading back through this, I’m realizing that I have a complete dependence on my freezer.  There’s definitely a theme going on there.

I’d love to hear your tips too.  What do you do to speed up cooking in your home?

 

Bierock Bake

This recipe has been a work in progress over the years.  Way back in college, one of my roommates introduced me to Cabbage Pockets.  They were so good.

For many years, I made Cabbage Pockets as a mixture of hamburger, onion, cabbage, and seasoning.  At first I made my bread dough.  Then I started buying frozen bread.  Then I started buying the frozen rolls.  The problem for me was that between working full-time and a growing boy with lots of activity the bread just took too much time and I couldn’t find the time to make them.  Quite honestly, I also didn’t think it was as good.

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On my second visit to the Kansas State Fair, probably over 10 years ago, I found my (all time) favorite food stand.  I believe it’s operated by a Mennonite family, and they serve bierocks that are awesome!  I’m not particularly forceful about things like where we’re going to eat, but when we go to the Kansas State Fair, don’t even ask me if we can eat elsewhere – we will be eating these amazing bierocks.  One thing that they do differently is that they add shredded carrots into their mixture.

Back to my kitchen – one day when time was short, I decided to make the bierock mixture (with carrots), put the mixture on the bottom of a casserole dish and top with crescent rolls.  Wow – that was way quicker and tasty!  My brother-in-law offered up that it would be even better with a layer of cheese.  Well, of course, everything is better with cheese.  My work in progress recipe was nearly perfected.  I sense seen other versions of this, but this is how I make it.

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Even better, this recipe works really well to make ahead and freeze.  See below for freezer meal instructions.

Bierock Bake

1 pound ground beef

6 ounces cabbage, shredded

Half of one onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, shredded

1-2 cups of cheddar cheese, shredded

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 can of crescent rolls

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop and shred all vegetables. This is important, the vegetables will cook with the meat.
  3. Start to brown hamburger, add cabbage, onion, carrots, salt, and pepper to let cook while hamburger is browning. Once hamburger is cooked, drain excess fat off meat and vegetable mixture.
  4. I use a 7”x11” baking pan, but an 8”x8” baking pan would work too.
  5. Place meat and vegetable mixture in bottom of baking pan.
  6. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of meat mixture.
  7. Top with crescent rolls.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

A special note to all my Farm Friends who are taking this to feed the crew in the field, and require food that can be eaten while “on the go”.  When serving, turn the casserole upside down to eat.  The cresent roll will serve as a crust to hold the filling up.  My MessMaker especially likes to have his “cut as triangle” on the crescent roll lines, and eat “like a slice of pizza”. If you served it wrapped in foil, I think it would work to eat one handed.

This recipe is really easy to freeze up several batches so I can later make a quick meal.  I make the meat and vegetable mixture, and freeze.

Bierock Bake for Freezing

5 pounds ground beef

2 pounds cabbage, shredded ** I bought a 2 pound bag of shredded cabbage at Sam’s Club

3 onions, chopped

1 ½ pounds carrots, shredded

Salt

Pepper

  1. Chop and shred vegetables.
  2. Start to brown hamburger, add cabbage, onion, carrots, salt, and pepper to let cook while hamburger is browning. Once hamburger is cooked, drain excess fat off meat and vegetable mixture.  I do one mixture at a time.  While the first mixture is cooking, I finish shredding the onions and carrots for the next batch.
  3. Once the meat mixture is drained, move the meat and vegetable filling from the hot pan into a glass bowl to cool. Then start the next batch cooking.
  4. Once the filling is cooled off, put it into quart size freezer bags. Flatten out the bag and they will stack nicely in the freezer.

*** When you’re ready to use the frozen mixture for a meal.  Simply defrost the meat and vegetable mixture.  Spread out on the bottom of a 7”x11” or 8”x8” pan.  Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of meat mixture.  Top with crescent rolls.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. ****

Time commitment – If I’m going start a big project like this, I like to know what kind of time commitment I’m making.  If you were just making up 5 batches of the mixture, it would probably take about 1 ½ hours start to end of clean up.  Last night, I made one Bierock Bake for our supper.  Then I made 4 more meat and vegetable mixtures to put in the freezer for future use.  It took me 2-2 ½ hours from start to finishing clean up.  However, I was also making the rest of our supper, helping my MessMaker with his homework, and doing extra dishes ~ you know, all the normal craziness that goes on at home in the evening.

What other freezer meals do you like to make?

Easter Cookies

Several years ago this recipe was given to me to do with my oldest son in preparation of Easter. This is a great project to do with your kids the night before Easter to reinforce the events that led to the glory of Easter morning.

To be made the night before Easter.

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Easter Cookies

Ingredients:

1 c. whole pecans

1 t. vinegar

3 egg whites

Pinch of salt

1 c. sugar

Additional Supplies:

Zipper baggie

Wooden spoon

Cold metal mixing bowl works best.  Put a metal mixing bowl in the refrigerator an hour before starting the recipe so the bowl is really cold.

Tape

Bible

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  This is important – don’t wait until you are half done with the recipe.

Place pecans in zipper baggie and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces.  Explain that after Jesus was arrested He was beaten by the Roman soldiers.  Read John 19:1-3.

Let each child smell the vinegar.  Put 1 t. vinegar into cold mixing bowl.  Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross he was given vinegar to drink.  Read John 19:28-30.

 Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life.  Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life.  Read John 10:10-11.

 Sprinkle a little salt into each child’s hand.  Let them taste it and sprinkle the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.

 So far the ingredients are not very appetizing.

Add 1 c. sugar.  Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us.  He wants us to know this and how to belong to Him.  Read Psalms 34:8 and John 3:16.

 Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed.  Explain that the color white represents the purity in God’s eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus.  Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.

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 Fold in broken nuts.  Drop by teaspoons onto was paper covered cookie sheet.  Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid.  Read Matthew 27:57-60.

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 Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF!

Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door.  Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed. Read Matthew 27:65-66.

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 GO TO BED!  Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight.  Jesus’ followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed.  Read John 16:20 and 22.

 On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie.

Notice the cracked surface and take a bite.  The cookies are hollow!  On the first Easter Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty!  Read Matthew 28:1-9.

 **This was the first time I had made this recipe with my 5 year old. It would have worked better to read the passages from the Bible if there was another adult – one to work on the recipe with him and another to look up and read the passages.  For his age, it really worked a little better to just tell him the meaning as we went along.  However, this is a project that could be done with children for several years to reinforce the events leading up to the first Easter.  Older children could take turns reading and looking up the scripture readings themselves.**

29 Cuts of Lean Beef in a Heart-Healthy Diet

I am really excited to have Amber Groeling as a guest blogger.  Amber is a Hy-Vee dietitian.  Recently, I had the opportunity to be a part of an evening at the Topeka Hy-Vee store where Chef Alli did a cooking class and Amber shared the nutritional value of all of the foods that were being prepared.  It was a really fun evening, and I’m excited to share with you some of the nutritional information that Amber shared with us.  Bonus:  There is a great recipe at the end, Skillet Steaks with Sauteed Wild Mushrooms, which would be a great Valentine’s dinner.

29 cuts lean beef

Lean Beef – Adding Flavor to Heart Health

Have you been told you have high cholesterol? Instead of hearing “No red meat!”, you’ll now hear Hy-Vee dietitians encouraging the consumption of lean beef as part of a heart-healthy diet. The BOLD (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) study compared the consumption of 4 ounces of lean beef daily to the gold standard of heart-healthy eating, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Both diets contained a similar mix of nutrients, including fewer than 7% of calories from saturated fat, but the BOLD diet contained 4 ounces of lean beef each day while the DASH diet limited red meat. At the end of the study, BOTH diets lowered LDL “bad” cholesterol in participants by 10%, providing evidence that beef may not be as bad for cholesterol and heart health as once thought. Advancements in science may also change the way consumers view beef.

  • Cattle producers are actually raising beef that is leaner than it was fifty years ago. A sirloin steak now has 34% less total fat, compared to a sirloin steak in 1963.
  • We also know that over half the fat in beef is actually monounsaturated fat, the same type of heart-healthy fat found in olive oil.
  • There are more than 29 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for “lean,” including T-bone, tenderloin, top sirloin and 95%-lean ground beef. Look for the words “loin” and “round” in the name to help identify lean beef cuts.  Or visit http://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/leanbeef.aspx for a complete listing of lean cuts.

Use the plate method to help incorporate lean beef in a heart-healthy way. Balance your plate with one-fourth lean meat or protein, one-fourth whole grains or starchy veggies like potatoes, corn and peas, and one-half non-starchy veggies or fruit. For example, serve top sirloin steak with steamed green beans, roasted cauliflower, and a whole-grain roll for a tasty meal.

 3 Easy Steps to Pan-Broil – Top Sirloin Steak

  • Stovetop skillet cooking is ideal for cooking a tender, juicy top sirloin steak during the winter months.
    • Step 1: Heat heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes.
    • Step 2: Remove steak from refrigerator and season as desired, such as with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Place steak in preheated skillet, don’t add water or oil and leave uncovered.
    • Step 3: Pan-broil top sirloin steak 12 to 15 minutes for medium-rare (145˚) to medium (160˚) doneness, turning occasionally.

Dietitian Recipe of Month…

 Skillet Steaks with Sautéed Wild Mushrooms

 Serves 4. Total Recipe Time: 25 to 30 minutes

 All you need:

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 cups assorted wild mushrooms (such as cremini, oyster, shiitake, enoki and morel)*

2 cloves garlic, minced, divided

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1 to 1-1/4 pounds beef top sirloin cap steaks, cut 1-inch thick

Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

All you do:

  1. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add mushrooms and 1 clove minced garlic; cook and stir 2 to 4 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and browned. Remove; keep warm.
  2. Combine thyme and remaining garlic; press evenly onto beef steaks. Place steaks in same skillet over medium heat; cook 8 to 11 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness, turning occasionally. Remove to platter.
  3. Carve steaks into slices. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Top with mushrooms.

 *Cook’s Tip: Three cups sliced button mushrooms can be substituted for assorted wild mushrooms.

Nutrition information per serving: 195 calories; 9 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 5 g monounsaturated fat); 71 mg cholesterol; 8 mg sodium; 4 g carbohydrate; 1.5 g fiber; 26 g protein; 9.2 mg niacin; 0.5 mg vitamin B6; 2.3 mcg vitamin B12; 4.3 mg iron; 31.5 mcg selenium; 5.4 mg zinc; 18.5 mg choline. This recipe is an excellent source of protein, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, selenium and zinc

Leftover Mashed Potato Redo

Looking for something to do with your Thanksgiving leftovers?  Here’s a great option to redo the mashed potatoes.  Honestly, I don’t make mashed potatoes very often because during my first 18 years, I ate enough boiled potatoes to last my entire lifetime.  But when I do make mashed potatoes for my family, I generally cook twice as many potatoes as we’ll eat so I can make these a few days later as a quick side dish.

Here’s what you need:

Leftover Mashed Potatoes

Butter

Cheese

Seasoning – we like celery seed, onion powder, salt, and pepper

**You can add a lot of other things to these potatoes such as bacon, chives, onion rather than the seasoning.

I warm the leftover mashed potatoes in the microwave until the potatoes are slightly warm.  Once the potatoes are warmed, I can easily fold in the butter, cheese, and seasoning.  Then I will transfer the warmed potato mixture into a greased baking dish, and bake the potatoes at 350 degrees until hot, usually about 20 minutes.

Let’s Talk Turkey

My friend, Katie, from http://www.onthebanksofsquawcreek.com/ has graciously allowed me to share her blog with you.  Katie and her husband farm in Iowa and they raise turkeys for meat.  The first time I met Katie, she asked if I liked the Subway turkey sandwiches, and said that their turkeys are used in Subways sandwiches.  Every time I go to Subway now, I think of Katie!

Thanksgiving Turkey

Go to her blog and look under “Turkeys”, it’s fascinating to learn more about how her family raises turkeys for meat consumption.  It was interesting to learn about the testing that their flock goes through to ensure food safety.  She also has some great recipes.  Honestly, I’ve always thought of turkey more as a holiday food, but after looking at some of her great recipes, I think we’ll be eating turkey more year-round!

Last, but certainly not least, check out Katie’s farmhouse renovations and all of the DYI projects.  So many great ideas!

Thanks for sharing, Katie!

The Best Ham & Potato Soup

This is really the name of this recipe and I think it lives up to its name!  Since October is National Pork month it’s a great way to round out the month, and perfect for Halloween night.  It’s great for either putting in the Crock Pot or cooking on the stove.

The Best Ham & Potato Soup

8 medium potatoes (I don’t even peel mine, just wash and dice)

2 carrots, finely shredded

2 stalks of celery, sliced

1 onion, chopped

5 cups of water

5 chicken bouillon cubes

1 ½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1-12 ounce can of evaporated milk

2 cups of cubed ham

Directions to cook on the stove.  Bring water to boil.  Add bouillon cubes, salt, and pepper to water.  To make this recipe quickly, I just wash all my vegetables then run them through my food processor to chop.  I don’t chop the potatoes as finely as the carrots, onion, and celery.  Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to medium; add potatoes, celery, carrots, onion, and ham.  Cook until vegetables are soft.  Add evaporated milk and cook for 5 minutes.

Directions to cook in slow cooker.  Place vegetables and ham in slow cooker.  Add bouillon cubes, water, salt, and pepper.  Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours.  About 2 hours before serving, add milk.

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with chives, parsley, and cheese.  Yummy!

New Twist on Spaghetti Pie

Don’t get me wrong, I like traditional spaghetti pie.  But, it’s always seemed a little heavy to me.  My sister shared with me that she loves to make spaghetti squash and serve it with spaghetti sauce over it.  Last year when our squash was ready in our garden, a little light bulb went off.  How about using the spaghetti squash in this old recipe?  My teenager looked at it with disgust, rolled his eyes, and said, “Are you kidding?”  Me:  “Just try it”.  When he took a second helping, I did not say a word.

1 spaghetti squash

1 lb ground beef

1-24 ounce jar of spaghetti sauce

2 cups of mozzarella cheese

8 ounces sour cream

1 roll of refrigerated crescent rolls

Cut spaghetti squash in half & clean out the seeds.

Cut the spaghetti squash in half & clean out the seeds.  Cook each half individually in the microwave for about 8 minutes each.  The squash probably won’t be quite done, but that’s okay because it’s going to cook in the oven too.  Once the squash is done cooking, scoop out into a large bowl.  I just pull the squash from the flesh with a fork, and it breaks into “spaghetti” pieces, if it’s still hard inside zap it in the microwave a couple minutes longer.

Cooked spaghetti squash

Meanwhile, back at the ranch while the squash is cooking, brown the ground beef.  Combine the beef, spaghetti squash, and spaghetti sauce into one large bowl.  Pour this mixture into a  9”x13” baking dish.

Mix together the mozzarella cheese and sour cream.  Spread evenly over the squash and hamburger mixture.

Top with a layer of crescent rolls.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes until light brown on top.

**Side Note – my teenager just took this for his lunch two days in a row – must be a hit with him!**

It’s Grilling Season!

One of the guys that I used to work with showed me how he liked to prepare meat for grilling.  He was the master.  Whenever there was a customer appreciation or employee meal, it was always a treat because he’d grill up steaks or pork chops.  Yummy!

Recipe/How to do it –

Lay whatever meat you want to grill out on a flat surface.  I use a cookie sheet.  Put a couple dashes of soy sauce on, rub into the meat.  Sprinkle a couple shakes of lemon pepper, seasoning salt, and garlic powder – rub in.  Turn the meat and repeat – soy sauce, lemon pepper, seasoning salt, and garlic powder – rub each into the meat.

Raw pork – rubbing in the seasonings – soy sauce, lemon pepper, seasoning salt, and garlic powder
Fresh off the grill – Pork Chops!

Make sure to cook your meat to the proper internal temperature.  The USDA recommends beef steaks and pork chops to be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees.

To stretch our food dollar, usually I’ll wait until pork loin goes on sale, and then I’ll take the whole loin back to the meat counter and have it sliced in loin chops.  I usually have them cut 1” thick.  Then when I get home, I will package the bulk chops into freezer bags.  A few weeks ago I was able to get loin roast for about $1.50/lb compared to the pork chops yesterday that were priced at $2.59/lb.

Enjoy the grilling season!

Fresh Beer From The Garden?

Recently a friend sent me a text that said, “Do you want some fresh beer from the garden?”  My initial reaction was, “why, yes, I would love some fresh beer” and “I’d even drink some beer while in the garden” and “what are you raising in your garden, hops & barley?”  But, alas, it was a typo, and he was actually offering fresh beets.  Hmmm, beets.  The only beets that I was familiar with were what comes out of a can, and smells not too appealing to me.  But, I’m willing to try most anything once (within reason!), and I was off to try to cook beets.  As you’ll see from all the food I made that night, I was hedging my bets, and not so sure they’d turn out to be something my family would eat.  🙂

So, this is what they look like from the garden.   Fresh beets, not fresh beer.

Since I was grilling T-bone steaks that night, I decided to grill the beets.

I washed them & peeled them with a knife.
Then I cut them into 1/4″ slices.  Aren’t they pretty?

Added a little butter (surely butter makes everything good?), and wrapped them in foil.

I put the foil pack on the top shelf of my grill, and just let them cook while the steak was grilling.

Our meal that night – steak with sautéed mushrooms, grilled asparagus with parmesan cheese, green salad, and fresh beets.

I was pretty pleased with how the beets turned out.  The texture was very similar to the artichokes that I steamed the night before.

Asparagus Time!

Oh how I love fresh asparagus.  A few years ago, we planted a patch, but it’s really just enough for my husband and I to eat some every other night.  So last year, we planted several more around our garden area.  Mostly, we did this because it seemed like a good excuse to have more asparagus, but somewhere one of us read that when the asparagus goes to seed it makes a good shelter for the other plants in the garden.  Once again, it was really, really just about having more asparagus to eat.  Which as it turns out was a good thing.  Our little Mess-Maker has taken quite a liking to the spear shaped veggie.  Although, I would say he seems to prefer the green variety to the purple, it’s not a color issue more that the purple is thicker (maybe the thinner spears are just easier to eat when you’re two).

In preparing asparagus, feel a little like Bubba from the movie Forrest Gump when he talks about the different ways to prepare shrimp.  There are so many good ways to prepare asparagus, but normally I just steam it, why mess with a good thing?  I have the luxury of walking out my back door, and snapping off the spear wherever it feels like a natural break.  Then I wash the asparagus and toss them in the steamer.  Since these are from my garden, there are usually several thicknesses of spears, so I’ll start by steaming the thickest spears then add the thinner ones to the steamer a few minutes later.  Once they are done, I just toss a little butter on them.  Yummy – a quick and easy side dish.

Asparagus washed and ready to cook
Steaming!
Ready to eat!

How do you like your asparagus prepared?

Pretty Deviled Eggs for Easter

Survey says!

So, I made the dyed deviled eggs for Easter dinner.  Of course, I couldn’t just do them one way, I had to try dyeing them several different ways.  They really were pretty, but a little time consuming so I’ll only do them for a special occasion in the future.

All the different types of dyed eggs on one platter.

Preparing the dye.  I just used 4 mugs.  In each one I put – 1 tsp. of vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, and 3 drops of food coloring (I did red ~ for pink, blue, green, and mixed red & blue to get purple – but the purple wasn’t that pretty).

First – I peeled the egg, and dyed the egg whole – so the outside of the egg white was colored and the inside was white.

Outside dyed, inside white

Second, I tried tie-dye eggs.  I rolled the egg shells across the counter, but then to get the dye to reach the white, I had to pull off the membrane from various areas across the eggs.  Honestly, I found it a little time consuming, and didn’t think they were as pretty as the other ways.

Tie Dyed eggs

Third, I cut the eggs in half and removed the yolks – then I dyed just the whites only.

Coloring the whites only

I think these last ones were my favorite!

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I am going to try something new for Easter dinner and wanted to share the link with you so you could try it too.  I love making deviled eggs.  The twist is that you dye the egg whites.  The picture was so pretty, so I’ll let you know how they turn out for our Easter dinner.  Here’s the link to the article.  I think I’m going to try making some that are dyed solidly and some that look more tie-dyed by cracking the egg shell and dipping the eggs with some shell on the hard boiled eggs.  I’ll post my pictures when they are done!

Hot Chocolate Treat

Our church’s youth group is raising money to go to New Orleans next summer where they will do service projects to support the on-going clean up.  This will be our oldest son’s second trip to help with the clean-up.  As a fundraiser we’re doing a silent auction basket auction just before Christmas.  Our family donated a basket with the theme of “Keeping Warm” that included a quart of this hot chocolate mixture, our basket raised $32 towards the trip.

So I called my mom (isn’t it great to call your mom for all these wonderful recipes you haven’t thought of in ages?), and got her hot chocolate recipe.  She used to always have this on hand during the cold season.  After we’d work outside, it was a treat to come in and have a yummy hot chocolate to warm up in the afternoon.  I hadn’t had this hot chocolate in years, and it’s even better than I remember.  With the Christmas holiday here, my boys and I are enjoying this tasty treat.

16 oz. powder creamer

16 oz. chocolate powder (like Nestle Quick)

16 oz. powdered sugar

1 box of dry milk to make 8 quarts of milk

4 T. powdered cocoa (like what you use in baking)

This recipe makes about 1 ½ gallons of dry ingredient.  Since it’s such a large volume, I used a couple of gallon size ice cream buckets and put half of each ingredient in each.  Mix well.  I use 4 T. of the hot chocolate mix per mug, but you can use more or less to your taste.

I haven’t tried it yet, but next time I’m going to use a little vanilla powder too.  I might even add a little instant coffee for a more Café Mocha type drink.  Yummy!

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