"The wife is like the fire, or to put things in their proper proportion, the fire is like the wife.
Like the fire, the woman is expected to cook: not to excel in cooking, but to cook,

.... be a cook, but not a competitive cook,

a school mistress, but not a competitive schoolmistress; a house-decorator but not a competitive house-decorator, etc...
She should have not one trade but twenty hobbies; she... may develop all her second bests.

Women were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow;
on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad.

G.K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World?

November 15, 2013

My Favorite Pie Crust Recipe

Since Thanksgiving is around the corner and I know everyone loves baking pies (Come on, you know you do! ;), I thought it fitting to share the crust recipe I've been using for years now.  I went through many recipes that I thought were the best until I found this one, and I've never looked back.  It rolls out like elastic every time. (Make sure you do the "chilling" step.  It make a big difference in the roll-out ease.)

It's from the The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen cookbook.  It makes four crusts, for two pies.
Everything I have made out of this cookbook has turned out really scrumptious.

"Grandma's Pie Dough"
4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 3/4 c cold unsalted butter (3 1/2 sticks), cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 large egg
Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.  Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Whisk the vinegar, egg, and 1/2 cup of ice water together and mix into the flour mixture with your hands until just combined.  Transfer to a clean work surface, and gently press to form a dough.  Divide the dough into 4 equal parts.  Shape each into a ball, flatten slightly to form a disk, and wrap into plastic.  Chill for at least an hour.  Roll out as indicated in your recipe.

You could make the dough in a food processor, using the pulse feature, or in a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or the good old fashioned method, with a pastry cutter, or two knives.  I've done all four methods.  They all work, just some are more work than others.

It's always nice to have "helpers" with the apples too -


September 30, 2013

Good Old Fashioned Banana Bread

If you're looking for a healthy banana bread recipe...  this is NOT it.
This has got enough oil and sugar to make it just like the loaves your grandmother used to (probably :) make: moist, dense-yet-fluffy, and simply banantastic. Thanks to my sister-in-law Susie, who shared this recipe with me almost two decades ago, our family has been enjoying this bread pretty much every time we don't eat our bananas fast enough.

Banana Bread

2-3 ripe bananas (the more black dots the better)
1 1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1/2 C oil
1 3/4 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C plus 1 TBS buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 C nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

1. In a mixing bowl mash the (peeled ;) bananas.
2. Beat in sugar, eggs, and oil.
3. Add in combined dry ingredients.  Mix (But don't overmix!).
4. Add in remaining ingredients.  Mix until just combined.
5. Pour into greased bread pan.
6. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

In the loaf shown above I changed it up a tiny bit.  I made an almond milk version of buttermilk by combining a teaspoon of white vinegar with enough almond milk to equal the quarter cup + 2 TBS.
 I also replaced one cup of the the white flour with 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup oat flour and I reduced the sugar to one cup. My children still said it was the best banana bread I'd ever made.  So there you have it.

August 5, 2013

Lemon Vinaigrette

 I've been experimenting with fresh salad dressings for a few years now. 
 This is one of my favorites.

Mix together in a bowl:

1/4 tsp Fresh Lemon Peel
1 TBS Fresh Lemon Juice
2 tsp Minced Shallots (I've also substituted garlic)
2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp Honey
1-2 tsp Dijon Mustard (optional, for more flavor and a thicker consistency)
Salt and Pepper to Taste

While whisking these ingredients in a bowl, slowly pour in:

2-3 TBS Walnut Oil or Olive Oil
(The walnut oil gives it a lighter and nuttier flavor)

And my favorite salad to put it on:

Mixed Greens
A thinly sliced Granny Smith Apple
Gorgonzola or Blue Cheese
Roasted Walnuts

You can dress it right before serving or serve the dressing on the side.

August 1, 2013

Fruit Cobbler

This is our favorite cobbler recipe.  We snagged it from my sister-in-law Susie many years ago.  It's originally made for blackberries, but we've used it for peaches and raspberries.  I think this topping/crust would work over anything.
 (Just check the ingredients and you'll know why. :)

We've used canned peaches in the winter, but in July we love to use fresh peaches.  You simply blanch the peaches, peel them, dice them into bite size pieces and they're ready to be baked.

                Fresh peach cobbler:

Fruit Cobbler

1. Set oven to 350 degrees.
2. Layer about 5 cups berries (or peeled diced peaches) evenly in a 9 x 13" pan.
3. Mix together these ingredients to make topping:

  1 cup butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 cup flour
1 cup oats

4. Spread topping evenly over berries.
5. Bake for 40 minutes or until topping is lightly browned.

Experiment with different berries and fruits or different flours.  Here's a version I made with two and a half cups each of fresh blackberries and fresh blueberries, and I replaced half the butter with a half cup almond butter. See photo below. It was a success!)

July 29, 2013

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

I made these muffins last week and the boys said they were the best muffins they had ever had.
I plan on making them often for snacks.  (Hey! Something healthy they actually like for a snack! Yes!)

I found the recipe online here.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (I added an extra 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I used almond milk with a TBS white vinegar per cup)

1) Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease the cups of a standard muffin pan; or line with paper baking cups, and grease the paper cups.
2) Whisk together all of the dry ingredients, including the blueberries.
3) In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, vegetable oil, and buttermilk or whey.
4) Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring just to combine.
5) Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them nearly full. A slightly heaped muffin scoop of batter is the right amount.
6) Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with coarse sparkling sugar or cinnamon sugar, if desired.
7) Bake the muffins for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of one of the center muffins comes out clean. 

See, the boys were grabbing them before I could even get a picture! 

Baby brother eyes the action from his Bumbo throne.  Soon son, soon.  You'll be a grabber too. :)

July 4, 2013

Fresh Basil Vinaigrette

This is a recipe I found years ago off the food show Everyday Italian.
I've made it many many times.  It's great on any summer salad.
 How could anyone not like fresh basil?  The smell, the taste, the Italian restaurantish-ness.

Fresh Basil Vinaigrette

In a blender, blend together:

1 bunch fresh basil (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

With blender running, add:

3/4 c olive oil 


June 26, 2013

Maple Walnut Scones

This recipe is from the Farm Chicks in the Kitchen cookbook.
They taste like maple bars.  My kids love 'em.


(p.s. Come on up for breakfast Paula and I'll make these for us. ;)

June 25, 2013

White Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies

As most of you know, I'm a cookie addict of sorts.
I make cookies probably, oh, three or four times a week.  Because after all, they're for the kids!
And if you believe that I've got a cookie to sell ya.

But I do try to health-ify my cookies in different ways each time.  That way I can justify eating as many of them as I do. Ahem.  I rarely make a batch the same way twice, unless I happen to hit upon a real winner, but even then my curiosity for what will happen if I add a little of this or take out a little of that usually wins over a steady recipe.

So, having a bag of unsalted macadamia nuts on hand (yes, I've heard they have something like the highest fat content of any food on the planet) I decided to make up a new batch, with white chocolate chips of course. 

So this recipe is a variation of this recipe, because as I said, all my cookie recipes are variations of each other, none being able to claim status as "the original." (Yes, I try to keep my cookies' pride levels down too. Unhealthy, pride. :P)

Wheat Free White Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies
1 Cup (or a little under) Expeller-pressed Coconut Oil
1/2 Cup Evaporated Cane Juice (I buy by the ten pound bag from Costco)
1/2 Cup coconut sugar
2 Tbs Brown Sugar or Sucanat (optional)
2 tsp Vanilla Extract (Homemade is GOOD!)
2 Flax Eggs
1 Cup Almond Flour
1 Cup Pamela's Gluten Free Flour Blend
1/2 Cup Oat Flour
2 Cups Oats
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt

1 Cup Macadamia Nuts (I used unsalted. I suppose if you use salted you'd have to adjust the added salt amount.)
1 Cup White Chocolate Chips (Totally unhealthy!)

With a mixer, mix up coconut oil and sugars until creamy. (I didn't heat and liquefy my coconut oil first.  In it's natural solid form it creams with the sugars almost like butter would.)
Add vanilla and flax eggs and mix until blended.
Combine flours, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
Add flour mixture to the bowl of the other ingredients and mix until just combined.
Add in oats, nuts, and chocolate chips and stir or mix until combined.

For bars, spread dough about half inch thick onto jelly roll pan (or cookie sheet with sides).
Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until just golden all across top (edges will be a tad darker).

For cookies, place 1-2 tablespoons of dough three or four inches apart on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes (depending on oven and cookie size).

Homemade Vanilla Extract

This is good stuff.  I got original recipe from this post.

Every few years I clean it out and start a fresh batch, but as long as the vanilla beans are in there, you can keep refreshing the vodka in little bits as long as there's enough strong vanilla flavored vodka still in the jar to blend with and flavor the vodka addition.  At least that's what I do.

June 24, 2013

Tips and Tricks: Oil and Honey

When making any recipe which includes oil and honey (like so many bread recipes do!) try using the same measuring tool for both.  Measure out the oil in it first and it is then greased so that the honey pours out easily without leaving much behind!

I do this all the time when making breads and it saves scraping all that sticky honey out of the cup.

June 12, 2013

"Urban Onion" Lentil Soup

So there's this little restaurant downtown Olympia that has long been a local favorite for its lentil soup.  Years ago my sister procured their recipe.  I made this soup last night for the first time and it came out perfectly! My children even liked it, and that's saying something if they like a bean soup of any kind.  My homemade refried pintos or black beans they love, but soup?  That's iffy.
I've changed the quantities of some of the ingredients slightly to fit our family's preferences (I increased the carrots and potatoes) from the original recipe.

"Urban Onion" Lentil Soup

1 3/4 C lentils
3 quarts water
2-4 potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped into tiny pieces
3 large carrots, cut into small bite size pieces
3 stalks celery, cut into very small pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C fresh basil, chopped into tiny pieces
1 12 oz. can tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste (I added a dash of celery salt also)

Fill the pot with the lentils. Cover with the water and simmer until lentils are tender, about 2 hours.
Saute the onion, celery, and carrots until transparent. Throw in the garlic for the final minute or two.
Add the sauteed vegetables to the lentils along with the remaining ingredients and simmer until potatoes are tender. (About an hour or so?) Season with the salt and pepper toward the end.

Serve with some crusty homemade bread and you're in for some healthy, hearty goodness!
It's even better the next day, whan all the flavors have melded and the broth has thickened.


June 11, 2013

Ranger-Style "Vegan" Cookies

This is a recipe for my own version of "vegan" cookies.
No wheat, no dairy, and no eggs.

No, I'm not going vegan, but since I like to eat cookies for breakfast I like to make them as fiber-ful, protein-ful, good-fat-ful, and low-cholesterol as possible.  Just so I won't feel too guilty snacking on them with my coffee every morning.

I don't know if I've ever made them the same twice.  But here's the basic recipe I deviate from.

Leah's Ranger-Style Cookies

Mix together until creamy:

1/2 Cup Coconut Oil*
1/2 Cup Almond Butter
1 C Brown Sugar 
(If you like a sweeter cookie you can also add 1/2 C evaporated cane juice.)

Add in and mix:
2 tsp Vanilla
2 Flax Eggs**

Combine these dry ingredients:
1 Cup Almond Flour
2 Cup Oat Flour
1 C Oats
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt (if you used unsalted almond butter change this to 1 tsp salt)
1 tsp Cinnamon

Add dry to wet and mix until just combined.
Then add the desired amount and combination of any of the following that you like.
Mix and match. 

Chocolate chips
Coconut (unsweetened or sweetened)
Chopped Walnuts or Pecans
Dried cranberries (These work well in combination with white chocolate chips.  In autumn I've made this combo with a dash of nutmeg or cardamom added in to the dough with the dry ingredients. But remember, a little of either of these spices goes a looooong way.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

(I usually make mine on the bigger side, using a large size ice cream scoop to put the dough on the trays.  So mine take more toward the 12 minute mark to bake.  But adjust your oven time to your oven's heat level and the size of the cookie.  I found that taking them out just when the edges are golden and the middle is no longer "shiny" is the perfect time, even though they may not look all the way done.  Then they stay moist and chewy longer, whereas if you wait until the entire cookie is golden brown, they're already overcooked and will not last as long.)


* I use the expeller-pressed oil from Tropical Traditions.  It has been stripped of all coconut flavor but still maintains most of the health benefits of regular coconut oil.

** 2 TBS ground flax seeds placed in a small bowl with 6 TBS of water and left to sit for 3-5 minutes