Monday, December 20, 2010

Gutsy Cooks week 10

I don't know why it totally slipped my mind to blog about this.  Perhaps the busyness of life?  We celebrated Asked's seventh birthday and now we're gearing up for Christmas. 

It's been a little busy, I guess.  Anyway, Week 10's menu was Chicken a la King, Spinach Timbales and Kasha Pilaf.  I made several changes, as per my usual.  Well, except to the Spinach Timbales, I followed that one pretty closely.  It turned out super fancy.  I wouldn't make this for our regular family dinners, but if I was having a dinner party and was wearing high heels, pearls and a spotless apron, I may pull this one out again.  But, probably not.

For the Chicken a la king I used all the suggested vegetables except green peppers and instead of chicken, I used rabbit.  It turned out so super good!  Yummy!  I will definitely make this again.
Look at all the yummy vegetables!

The house smelled SO very very good while everything was cooking.

For the Kasha Pilaf, I used bulgar wheat instead.  It turned out well.  It went perfectly with the Rabbit.  So, yay!  Good menu.
Boy.  That is not a very appetizing photo.  Poor food, I did not do it justice.  Just know that it was delicious.

Over the next few weeks we'll be visiting with family for the holidays.  We'll see if I get to make any more gutsy meals before the new year.  I'll be taking my book with me... so we'll see!!  Perhaps a little Gutsy Cooking on the road???


We have chickens, so we are accustom to eggs that don't necessarily look like the ones you get in the store.  But we were recently given some quail eggs.  They are SO CUTE!  They sat in the fridge for a while before I knew what to do with them.
I mean, seriously!  Look how cute they are!
Here is one compared to one of our chicken eggs.  The chicken egg is maybe a 'large' sized egg.
 The internet said they were good boiled.  But they kids are not fans of boiled eggs, so I just fried them.
The chicken egg.

The quail eggs in the same pan.
 The whole adventure amused me greatly.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lovin the library

I love my local library.  They have some really great family programs.  They are quite often things we do as a whole family.  But as of late, I've had to work on Sundays (when the programs are offered) and Jim has been braving it alone. 

Once a month they do a 'drive in'.   They play a recent movie on the big screen in the large meeting room and they provide pop corn.  It's so nice because the whole family usually wants to go and since it's free, you don't feel too bad if the kids are a little noisy (or if you fall sleep part of the way through.)  We go most months. 

Reciently we discoverd that they do a monthly craft as well.  The first one Jim took the kids to, they made messenger bags out of a mailing envenope and duct tape!  This month they made a mini marshmallow shooter.
Very cool!
Joy showing off her shooter

Asked really wants to shoot his sister (who is sitting just out of the shot)

Even cooler were the goggles they made.  They used a clear 2 liter pop bottle, electrical tape and elastic!  Pure genius!
Joy sportin her goggles.
Wish I would have come up with this idea!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gutsy Cooks week 7

We took a little break over the Thanksgiving holiday, I probably should have used that time to catch up, but I didn't.  I hope everyone had a tasty Thanksgiving.  We sure did!
Well, so back to my gutsy cooking.  I think that everyone else is on week 10 or something and I just did week 7.  So I guess gutsy- yes, quick- no.
This week's menu was Lamb Tangine with Couscous and Tabbouleh.  I was excited for this weeks menu.  It just so happened that I made this tasty stew on the first of December and it snowed.  What better day for a warm tasty stew?  I had to make a few substitutions in the spices because, as seems my 'MO', I was out of a few things.  I swapped out some chili powder for ground cumin and dried cilantro for ground coriander.   I also didn't use lamb.  As I've said before, just for the sake of convenience, I mostly shop at Wal Mart.  I don't think they're known for their section of lamb.  But they did have a nice beef roast on sale.  So we had beef.
Here's the beef, seasonings and onions after marinading in my fridge for 4 hours.  I cooked it on the stove to brown the meat, then added chicken stock and orange juice.  
After all that was brought to a boil, I baked it in the oven for an hour and a half.  I will totally make stew this way again.  Yum.  The beef was so super tender.  I served it over Couscous.  I've never made it before.  It was so easy.  I'll definitely do that again!  I forgot to take a picture, but here's one of the leftovers all ready for my lunch!
The other dish was Tabbouleh.  I was so excited for this.  I'm a big fan.  But I have to say that this recipe left quite a bit to be desired.  It was so sour!  I'm going to tell you what I put in it and if you make a tasty Tabbouleh, let me know what I can do differently.  It WAS very pretty, though.
cracked wheat, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, scallions, parsley, mint and tomatoes.  I couldn't find fresh mint and had to use dried, but I don't think that was the issue.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

For Susan

I have been neglecting my blogging responsibilities.  My friend Susan has brought this fact to my attention.  I told her I should quit caring for my family and just blog about them.

So, today I made foccacia bread.  My house smells like garlic and olive oil and it is very lovely.  I make the dough in my bread machine, coat my hands in olive oil and then press it into a 9X13in pan.  I warmed about 1/3 cup of olive oil in a pan and when it was hot I turned off the fire and added garlic, basil and chopped tomatoes. I smear that all over the dough, then sprinkled it with parm cheese.  It's still rising, but I would like to eat it now.
It's not baked yet, so the oil is kind of pooled on top.
Maybe I should have taken a picture after it was baked.  But, whatever.  If you don't like it, you don't have to have any.  More for me!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gutsy cooks week 6

I spent a few minutes today flipping through the Cooking Bible and marking down all the recipes that we have done so far and the ones scheduled for the future. 

Doing so got me excited to prepare this week's menu
Cod in Tomato Sauce and Spanish Vegetable Tortilla

I saw in other cook's posts that several of them were not fans of fish with tomato sauce.  I couldn't think of a time when I had ever HAD fish with a tomato sauce, so I was game. 

My first adjustment to the recipie was that I used Whiting instead of Cod.  Whiting was on sale... what's a girl to do?  Whiting is a pretty fishy fish, just so you know.  We like fish here, so it wasn't a big deal. 

My next adjustment was that it called for fish stock.  Ewww, I couldn't even bring myself to look for such a thing in the store, so I used chicken stock. 

I thought the procedure was a little cumbersome.  Cook the fish; remove the fish; make the sauce; add the fish; bake the pan; remove fish from pan; boil and reduce sauce.... ehh.  I'm a lazy cook and this was a lot of work. 

In the end I would say that 'yes' I like fish with tomato sauce and 'no' I do not like THIS tomato sauce.  After trying it, Jim and I both thought it was lacking and so I added some spaghetti sauce that Jim had made and I thought that really perked it up.  So if I do this again, I'll just use our homemade spaghetti sauce and cut out a lot of the busy work that was involved here.  The family were not huge fans... well, except Treasure, she ate 3 pieces!

The Spanish Tortilla was like a fritatta, I guess.  It was tons of potatoes and veggies all cooked together with eggs.  I was so excited for this.  I'm a big fan of potatoes and my family is not, so Gutsy Cooks is a great excuse to cook 'em up!

Anything that involves a pile of tastiness like that has GOT to be good.
I browned the potatoes in a non stick pan along with some red onion and I steamed some broccoli and peas.  I beat 6 eggs, added all the veggies to it and then put it back into the non stick pan.

We have chickens, and they provide us with such pretty eggs, I just wanted to show them off a little!
Life always likes to be underfoot... I mean  keep me company in the kitchen.  Here she was singing 'Uh Oh!' to those forks.  She was cracking me up!
The finished tortilla.  You have to cook it slowly and then get it out of the pan onto a plate, flip it back into the pan to cook the other side and then flip it again on to a plate when you're all finished.  It was tricky, but I was successful!
I liked this quite a bit.  I don't think I would use peas again, they were a little weird.  But it was good.  Jim was pleasantly surprised and said "Huh!  That was better than I expected"  The kids were mostly indifferent, so it is definitely on the make again list!  Maybe next time with some hollandaise sauce?
The finished meal. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The eyes have it

So I was inspired by another homeschooler today when I saw her post on facebook that they had graphed eye color today.  I remember doing that with Treasure when she was in first grade.  So, I thought we would give it a try today.  To make it more fun I did a poll on facebook.   I posted to let me know the eye colors of your family.  (We have 4 blue and 2 Hazel)  Wow!  What a response!  When we did the project we had 97 pairs of eyes to graph, at last check we have well over 100!  Perhaps we'll do it again another day to include all the responses.

Asked, who is in first grade,  picked 4 families and graphed their eye colors using counting blocks.  He ended up with 21 people to graph.

The girls used hash marks to figure the number of each color

and then made a bar graph to show their results.
Blue (51), Hazel (13), Brown (17), Green (16) and Gray (2)
 I may see if Jim will do a line graph with the Treasure and Joy tomorrow.  Maybe even a pie chart!  If they do, I'll be sure to add on the pictures.

As a kid, I always thought everyone seemed to have hazel eyes like me.  Boy was I wrong!  What an interesting project.  

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gutsy Cooks week 5

This weeks menu is Braised Oxtail with Wine and Herbs and Polenta.

Jim and I both agreed that we are willing to try a lot of things, but just didn't feel like a tail was one of them.  If someone else made it and we could taste it, we would totally do that.  And if we liked it, I would be all over this.  But... that is not the case, I'm sorry to say.  If you want to make this and invite us over.  Great!  I'll bring a cake.  So we're skipping week 5 and we'll see you for week 6, Spanish Vegetable Tortilla and Cod in Tomato Sauce.  Sounds yummy!

In an unrelated incident, Jim wanted a Snickers Bar and all we had were Milky Ways, so he improvised.
He's always got SOMETHING up his sleeve.

Gutsy Cooks week 4

I am behind in my gutsy cooking.  The busyness of life and my own exhaustion in living said life, has gotten in the way.  I almost let this weeks menu slip by when Jim said "Will we have something new and delicious tonight?"  Ahhhhhh, I my cooking soul has been revived!  So I busted out my mushrooms!  This weeks menu was Wild Mushroom Tartlets and Vanilla Custard.  I didn't make the custard tonight because it takes at least 4 hours to cool and the 4 hour mark would have landed at kidlet bed time, so we'll try that another time.

First, I need to say that I think I should gain bonus points for attempting to only grocery shop at Wal Mart.  Ugh!  You first might ask yourself   "Self.  Why would Brenda torture herself by not only shopping at Wal Mart in the first place, but try to shop there almost exclusively?'' My answer is that I have 4 kids.  'Nuf said.

So, surprise surprise, Wal Mart did NOT have the dried mushrooms that I needed.  Or any wild mushrooms, for that matter.  So I bought 2 packages of mushrooms.  Mini portabellas and then the regular old white mushrooms. 

My next obstacle is that I don't have the mini tart pans with removable bottoms.  Think think.  Think think think ""Lightbulb""  I can make a big tart with my spring-form pan.

Third obstacle, I have to make hollandaise sauce.  Ugh!  Really? Can I just skip that step?  Don't you need a culinary degree to make such a thing?  I just worked and I'm tired and.... fine fine.  I looked it up in my trusty Kitchen Bible.  It didn't look impossible.

I was ready.

They say to make the crust in the food processor.  It worked really well.  My crust ended up being a little dry, but since I used the bigger pan, I just kind of patted the crust into the pan instead of rolling it out as the recipe directed.  It worked out well.  Then I cooked up the mushrooms and onion.  The mushrooms are supposed to cool and then be put in the food- processor with some cream cheese.   The recipe says to do the mushrooms first then the crust.  In the interest of laziness, I did the crust first, didn't wash the bowl, then did the mushrooms.  It all worked out.

So then the hollandaise.  I won't bore you with the details, because the whole process went smoothly.  I will however, stop here and say.  Until today I would say "I don't like hollandaise sauce."  But I was basing that on the one time I had it.  I ate Eggs Benedict at Perkins Family Restaurant.  Perkins, is known for their pancakes, not their hollandaise sauce.  And there is a reason for that.  Ick.  But, this lovely, beautiful, happy golden sauce I made today has totally changed my mind and I may just start eating it on everything.  Hollandaise on your cereal kids?

And so, I bet you want to know what we all thought of this naughty little tart.  Treasure ate a few bites but didn't want to finish her piece.  Asked gave it a thumbs down.  Joy had the best response "I don't really like it, but I can see how someone who likes that sort of thing might think it's good."  When asked if he would eat it again Jim immediately said yes.  He thought the sauce was a little too 'acidy' but he overlooked that and had a second piece.  I think I could eat this often, maybe daily.  There are 4 pieces left, if I can somehow eat them all tomorrow... I will.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Lesson in Tooth

I felt like our last trip to the dentist really knocked me down in the 'mother of the year' rankings.  Treasure's check up was great.  No cavities.  But Joy and Asked... UGH!  Both would require 8 fillings and Asked was going to need 3 teeth pulled AND a root canal.  I left the office in tears.  How could this have happened?  I made sure they brushed their teeth daily and I bought them flossers so they could floss their own teeth.  When I really thought about it, I wasn't sure the last time I actually WATCHED them brush or floss their teeth.  Upon further inspection I found that Joy wasn't properly flossing and Asked only cared for his front teeth.  DOH!  Well,  nothing  can undo what was already done, but we have taken steps to greatly improve dental hygiene in Jim and Brenda's house.  And I've spread the word so that what happened to us doesn't happen to others.  Learn from us, people!

Today was our first of several visits to the dentist for tooth repair.  Treasure had some sealant put on her adult teeth.  She went first.  Easy peasy.  Although during her procedure there was a boy beside her who was getting a tooth pulled.  The other kids seemed oblivious but it totally freaked me out.  I texted Jim in a panic.  He said "Tell them they're all together and it's going to be ok."  I didn't say anything to the kids because they didn't notice what was happening, but, really, I didn't have to say anything.  They were all very encouraging and supportive of each other. 

Joy and Asked got to go together and both got laughing gas  Joy was super emotional and whimpered quite a bit until the end when she started humming the Pink song "So What"  and finally seemed relaxed.  But she listened well and when the dentist said to stop doing whatever she was doing, she immediately stopped.  I stayed with her most of the time because Asked really seemed to respond, shall we say, positively to the laughing gas.  He talked even more non stop than usual.  His best comment was "I was born with ninja skills."  He was cracking the hygntist up.  And THANK GOD for Treasure who stayed with him without flinching or complaing.  I'm so blessed!
Joy getting the 'laughing air' as they called it at the dentist.  I took the camera and a few times she asked me to take a picture of what was going on so I could show her.  She likes to know what's happening.  I think next time will be less stressful for her because she knows what to expect.

They give the kids sunglasses to wear so the big light isn't so bright.  The kids all love that.

Joy has one more appointment and Asked will have two to finish all the work that needs to be done.  Today, their good behavior and bravery was rewarded with milkshakes and new games to play on their DS's.  And Asked was told that the Tooth fairy is extra kind to kids who loose their teeth at the dentist.  He lost 2 and so I think he will find the regular $1 a tooth and perhaps a little something extra under his pillow in the morning.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gutsy Cooks week three

Well, our fourth week of Gutsy Cooks really worked well for us, as we are studying Mexico in our geography class.  Week four was Empanadas and White Bean Soup.  I served the Empanadas on taco night and tada!  it's Social Studies!  I love homeschooling ;-)

I didn't make the soup.  I would have eaten it.  But I don't think I could have convinced anyone else to partake... so, no white beans for us.

I was very sad, because for some unknown reason (butter nappers perhaps?)  I was out of butter.  So I had to substitute shortening for the butter in the pastry.  I also chopped some fresh tomatoes instead of using canned.  Other than that I stuck to the recipe.

They had a filling of sauteed onion, tomatoes and tuna.  I was surprised at the tuna.  If I make them again, I think I would use chicken. But I thought it was very pretty.  This picture makes it look like there was cheese, there was no cheese.
Here they are all bright and cheery ready to be tucked into their little pastry homes.
Washed with egg and ready for baking.
Done and ready for the taste test.  The family was hungry, so I quickly snapped the picture and took them in which is why the front of my van is in the shot.  Or maybe the van smelled them and is lurking to see if she can snag one.
I am not too good with pastry.  I just can't seem to get it thin enough.  So they were a little bready.  I really wanted a dipping sauce.  We tried sour cream.  But it wasn't the magic element I was looking for.  I really could have used some guacamole.  But, alas, there was none.  Everyone ate them.  We didn't agree on a rating system, but everyone agreed that they were edible but didn't really want to see them for dinner again.  But it was suggested that if they were filled with pizza, apples or caramelized bananas, they would gladly give them another try.

On a random note, we had some wicked storms roll through today.  Here's a picture my husband took.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gutsy Cooks week 2

Week two's challenge was Ricotta and Arugula Roulade and Quindim.  They both looked so pretty in the book, I was very excited to try them... until I went grocery shopping.  Ugh!  What an ordeal.  I couldn't find Arugula or desiccated coconut (needed for the Quindim)  But I was quickly saved by Monica at Sweet Bites who told me to use spinach and gave me this link telling me all about desiccated coconut and how to make it at home.  Whew!  Dinner is saved!

I have to admit, I'm not a big coconut fan.  And until recently, I would have totally skipped this recipe.  But, about a year ago I discovered coconut shrimp.  Yummy!  I have found, through trial and error, that I like coconut milk and raw coconut but not toasted coconut.  Huh!  Who knew?!  Anyway, two of my three kids DO like coconut, so I thought I'd give the Quindim a try.  Plus, as a kicker, we're studying geography in school this year.  The Illustrated Kitchen Bible says that "This sweet, creamy and very rich dessert is a popular party dish is Brazil."   So we found Brazil on the map and we'll probably make this again when we study Brazil later in the year.  Anyway... Now on with the show!!
We have a food dehydrator, that we just HAPPEN to have out right now.  So instead of baking my coconut, I dehydrated it.  It made my kitchen smell nice.
I wish I knew how to turn a picture, but I don't so you'll have to twist your neck.  Anyway, this is Life checking things out in the food dehydrator.  She's killing me lately with all her climbing.  Sheesh!
I was  surprised and pleased to see how easy both recipes were to make.
The Roulade crust had several steps.  But all fun cooking things with wisking and boiling and beating egg whites.  The batter looked great.

It baked up really well and was really easy to deal with.  It didn't crack or break into a million pieces.  It turned out so pretty!
I mean really!  Don't you want to eat this?  I would be so excited to serve it to you.  IT'S SO PRETTY!

The Roulade had so much potential with its parmisan cheese and rocotta and spinch.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  But... it's a tad on the bland side.  And it's the constancy of wet bread.  Eww.  It got thumbs down from the fam.  I have some left and plan to add some ham to it tomorrow morning for breakfast and maybe give it a little toasting under the broiler.  I WANT this to work.  It was so easy for the aesthetic result.  I just want my palate to like it too.

So on to the coconut.  So, I was supposed to put the custard in ramekins in a water bath in the oven.  But I have no ramekins.  So I substituted a muffin pan.
It worked very well.  The only problem was that I couldn't really invert it to get them out.  So I let them stay in the pan and cool quite a bit and then put the pan in the fridge before I scooped them out with a spoon.  Which may have been good.  I saw that several other Gutsy Cooks had issue with theirs being runny.  Mine set up beautifully, but, because I scooped them out, they weren't all that presentable.  But I got one that wasn't too bad.
Of course I didn't have good light, but you get the idea.
Jim, who is not a coconut fan either, ate it.  He said he would have liked it better if it was lemon.  The coconut liking kids, gave it a thumbs up and the coconut not liking kid gave it a thumbs down.

So, much culinary adventure here at Jim and Brenda's this week.  I told the kids that maybe next week, we'll work on a rating system.  So watch for stars or forks or something next week so you know how we REALLY feel.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

First Gutsy Cooks meal!

Finally!  Time for the Gutsy Cooks to start showing what they're made of.  Our first recipies were Potato Skins with Cheddar and Bacon and Baked Barbecue Wings with Blue cheese.

I thought that these two dishes would be perfect together as a fun dinner and a great way to kick off this adventure.  While they were cooking the house smelled like we were preparing for an awesome party.  I wished for a moment that we like football because this food would have been perfect for that sort of gathering.  But alas, not really the sports fans over here.   Anyway... I digress

I usually like to follow recipes pretty closely the first time I make them and then I like to tweak them after.  But I made two changes to these recipes I used green onions instead of shallots and I used chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces instead of wings.  The breasts were way cheaper and I'm no dummy.

I normally take lots of pictures but for some reason I didn't take any of the prep but I did remember to photograph them as they made their way into the oven
While the potatos and chicken cooked I whipped up the Blue Cheese dip

Then finally!  They were done.
The flavor of the chicken was great.  It was a big hit.  Even Asked, who only likes things that taste like pizza right now, gave them a thumbs up and willingly ate the required one.  I did think it was funny that after all my talk of the great pictures in the book, the chicken did not look like the picture.  Next time I make it, I will double it for the 2 pounds of chicken and see how that works.  The blue cheese dip ROCKED.  Life was eating it with a spoon.  Even Asked liked it and ate a great deal with some baby carrots.

Instead of topping the potatoes with parsley I uses some chives.  They were super yum.  Jim, who is not a big potato fan said they just tasted like potatoes but then he ate 2.  Thumbs up from Treasure.  I'll make them again.

So I say the first challenge of Gutsy Cooks was a success in our house.  The kids also enjoyed the fact that there was a little presentation so I could take pictues.  They deemed it a 'fancy meal'

Let the Gutsy Cooks begin!

I love food.  It's no secret.  I like to think about it, plot things to do with it, make a list to buy it, purchase it, smell it, cook it, then eat it.  See.  I like it.  So when my friend Steph at said she was participating in a cooking club that would work their way though a cook book.  I was totally hooked! So she hooked up up with Monica from and I was in.  SA-WEET!  We will work our way though The Illustrated Kitchen Bible

As soon as I saw this book I was in LOVE (Don't tell my husband)  It's got great pictures and recipes.  The pictures actually look like food you would eat.  I mean, I'm all for presentation, but sometimes it's just over the top and it doesn't look like food.  But I thought this book was well done.  Even my kids stole it for awhile just to ooooh and ahhh over the pictures.
As I was preparing to make our first meal, Joy asked me "Why is it called bible?"  Before I could even answer, she was coming up with her own reasons "Is it because the food is so good it's holy?  Because the bible is a good book and this is a good book?"   I guess we'll just have to wait and see!!  Join us on our adventure!  You can follow all the Gutsy Cooks here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The mystery produce

A man at work gave this to me.  I had no idea what it was.

When I got home I posted its picture on Facebook and quickly received a response.  It's a cushaw, a Green-striped cushaw to be exact.  According to this website it has a hardy vine that is resistant to the squash vine borer and is tolerant of the heat. It's a winter squash so you can do all the winter squash things to it... like make pie.   Apparently, it's an heirloom vegetable and more common in Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi.  Although, I've heard from some PA friends that they've seen them at county fairs.  I guess I never paid enough attention in the produce barn.

Well, what a fun culinary adventure!  I did a little more research and decided I would make a pie and see what happened.  I've made pumpkin pie from a pumpkin before, surely I can make cushaw pie from a cushaw.... right?
Asked with the cushaw
I cut it open.  Very squash like.  Makes sense.
I scooped out its guts then placed it upside down on a cookie sheet covered with foil.  Then baked it at 350 for about an hour.
I think it has the prettiest seeds!  I also think I took an awesome picture of them  Who takes good seed pictures?  Oh, that's right, I do!  Woot woot!  

When it was done baking, I let it cool and then scooped out all it's tastiness and processed it in my food processor.  I ended up with 11 cups of cushaw.  Wowzers!
I made 2 pies and froze the rest.
Hello beautiful!
I think the flavor is more mild than pumpkin.  It made a tasty pie, but I think I would use more of the cushaw next time.  I used 3 cups in this pie.  Jim said that anything mixed with eggs, sugar and milk is tasty.   True enough.