Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hunting Homecooking

My Mighty Hunter

Well, it's finally here, opening day of gun season for our deer hunters!  Every year around this time I think of chili and chex mix, both of which I made yesterday for my hunting folk.  My homemade chili is easy and just takes a little time to simmer on the stove top.

My basic chili recipe

1lb ground round
1T extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion chopped
2 stalks of celery
8 oz fresh mushrooms, chunked
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 qt jar of canned tomatoes (or 28oz can of crushed or stewed tomatoes depending on how chunky you like it)
1 15oz can of kidney beans (drained)
1 10oz can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies (lightly drained)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp mrs. dash
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
1/2 tsp oregano
1-2 Tablespoon chili powder
dash of cinnamon
more S & P to taste

Brown ground round in dutch oven, drain.  Saute onions, celery, mushrooms, & garlic in same dutch oven with 1T EVOO with a dash of S&P until veggies are tender.  Return meat to pot, add tomatoes, beans, Rotel, and all other seasoning.  Let simmer covered on low a minimum of 1/2 hour.  If watery, let simmer 15 min. longer with cover off to boil off some of the water.  Makes about 4 servings.

Next up, chex mix.  The guys always need some goodies to take with them so I always have chex mix and cookies on hand.  I make a variation of the traditional chex mix recipe on the General Mills cereal boxes but kick it up a notch by adding some hot sauce.  I use about 2 1/2 T of Sriracha hot chili sauce and 1 T red hot, however that may be a bit too spicy for some.  In addition, I substitute worcestershire sauce with a combination of soy sauce and steak sauce because it contains sardines. (Greg's allergic)  This is what I use for my basic recipe...

                                        Chex Mix

6T salted butter
1T soy sauce
1T steak sauce (like A-1)
1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
3C rice chex
3C wheat chex
3C corn chex
1C deluxe mixed nuts
1C rye chips
1C butter snap pretzels (or 1C flavored snyder's pretzel bits for variety)

Heat oven to 250 degress, melt butter in large roasting pan in oven while it's heating up.  Add all seasonings (and hot sauce if you want it spicy) to butter and stir to combine. (I use a heat proof scooped spatula).  Add all other ingredients trying to do so in rows so all chex mix items have an even amount of surface touching the spicy butter in the bottom of the pan.  That helps the seasoning to be more even.  Stir to coat and place in over for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and spread on paper towel until cool.  Store in air tight container or zip-top baggy.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Salty Pumpkin Seeds

In honor of the Halloween season Greg and I decorated decorated our front porch with corn stalks and pumpkins.  Decorating with corn stalks, though it seemed intimidating at first, was actually quite easy.  I used about 10 stalks per pole and tied them with twine.  Not gonna lie, I did need a lil help from my hubby ;-)

Now, please disregard the couch on the front porch.  We had just brought it home and hadn't moved it in yet, lol.  We are  not THAT hickish!  I added a LOT more pumpkins but can't find that picture...and there's no couch in that one!

Though the porch turned out cute, we had to remove one of the pumpkins from its perch to carve!  After all it was close to Halloween and who doesn't love a lit carved pumpkin.

Didn't my hubby do a great job!  We had a fleeting thought to spell out our whole last name with more pumpkins but that seemed a bit too ambitious for a Tuesday night. :-)

If you do your own carving do NOT let your seeds go to waste!  I have been making pumpkin seeds since college and have learned that, as long as you don't leave the oven unattended, they are foolproof!  Some recipes say to clean them but I leave the pumpkin goop on because they seem to be crispier and more flavorful that way.  We like ours really salty but you could also use any type of spice, seasoning, or sauce to make them reminiscent of a dish you love!  Use cinnamon for a sweet flavor or add a bit of tabasco for a kick.  And remember to lay out newspapers before you get to carving, it will make clean up way faster.  Get creative and have fun!

Per Cup of Seeds:
1T melted butter
1T salt

Heat oven the 350 degrees.  Place the seeds, melted butter, and salt in a bowl, toss to coat.  Spread onto a greased baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes, flip and bake for another 5 minutes.  Watch closely making sure they don't get too dark.  Keep in mind you can slow roast for an hour at 250 degrees, flipping occasionally, or use your broiler to do an even quicker batch.

Beautiful Start to November

November 1st started off as such a beautiful month!  Most importantly my sister gave birth to her first child, Greyden William Hockenberry, who was 6lbs 3oz,18 1/2 inches long, and healthy.  The icing in the cake is that he was born on my mom's birthday so Leah totally got out of buying her a present considering she gave her her first grandson on that day, wouldn't you say?!
Leah and her first baby!

Greyden William Hockenberry 11/1/10

In addition, I started a new job as an admission counselor for Vincennes University which I think I will really enjoy!  Right away I made my boss aware that I would have my phone attached to me on my first day because of Leah's impending labor.  The best part was that he was SO supportive that actually told me to get on a plane and start work in two weeks and that family comes first!  I, of course, stayed at work but was on high alert.  I don't think I retained anything from that first day :)  This first week has been so exciting/stressful with the new job and not being able to see my new nephew that I am just exhausted.  Not to mention Greg has been gone for over a week so I didn't have him here to share in the excitement/fear/stress/happiness of Greyden's birth and my new job.  I guess whatever I get through alone can only make me stronger!  Needless to say I am ready to take this weekend to recoup and relax.  Now that Greg is home I hope we can enjoy this weekend and get some together time...that is IF I can get him out of the woods!  Darn hunters anyway ;-)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Baby Times!

So I got the call that my sister is going to have her baby on Monday!  How that girl can seriously pick the week she is going to deliver and then make it possible for everyone to be there for it by being induced is beyond me.  I swear, she is like a machine, in control of EVERY move of her life.  She checks off her life events like a freakin grocery list!  I, however, am the exact opposite.  As Greg and I wade through all of the information on how to conceive, what's best to do, and how to chart your cycles, my head starts spinning.  (and let me make a note here stating that if Greg had it HIS way I would've miraculously given birth to our first child the day we got back from our honeymoon pressure, right?)  Sometimes I wish I could have just an OUNCE of Leah's patience to read and take in all of the information.  What I've learned thus far is that getting pregnant is not a piece of cake.  I always thought, "well people do it by accident all the time, how hard can it be?"  Well, turns out it's a bit more complicated than you'd think.  So, here I am, trying to stay organized, on top of my cycles, and educated on the wonderment of conceiving.  Let's hope for my sake that it just happens easily so I don't have to try to wade through the wonderment of fertilization treatments...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chicken, Broccoli, and Stuffing Casserole

This is a recipe I came up with after hearing a few different versions.  It baked up creamy and delicious and my husband even went up for thirds!!!  I too couldn't help myself when it came to going up for more.  Greg raved, "this one is a keeper!" 

1 box wheat or regular stove top stuffing (prepared)
1 bag of broccoli cooked al dente, I used a 16oz bag of broccoli spears which I steamed
2 cans cream of soup.  (can be mushroom, chicken, or celery) I used 98% fat free mushroom and chicken
1 can milk (I used skim)
1 small can of mushrooms
2-4 Cups cooked and cubed chicken, depending on how meaty you like your dish
garlic salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Coat a 9x13 glass baking dish with cooking spray

Mix the cans of soup with one can of milk. Add the mushrooms and season with garlic salt and pepper to taste.  Pour into the bottom of the dish.  Cover with the cubed chicken.  Layer broccoli over the chicken.  Top the broccoli with the prepared stuffing.  Bake for 1 hour, it should be brown on top and bubbling.  Make sure to check it after 45 minutes to make sure it doesn't get too dark on top. Let stand for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Now What?!

Wow has posting been lacking...and by lacking I mean 5 months.  That's almost a half a year!  Is my life really that boring?  Unfortunately NOT so much.  Greg and I have had an awesome summer!  One of my closest friends got married, one of his closest friends got married, we've spent a TON of time in Michigan, and visited our family and friends often.  Most recently we went to Frankenmuth for Oktober Fest with my cousin Kim and her husband Michael.  Greg also traveled to their new farm in Nebraska, which I was excited for him to see because I've been being threatened to move there.....hmm....not so much.  He loved it but decided he'd leave that farm to other people and we would continue to grow and stabilize Indiana...but who knows what comes next?!?  Still job hunting, need to give up on finding the perfect job and just figure out a direction to go. I'm getting bored now that harvest is over and things are calming down around here.  Still writing songs and pursuing music.  I just LOVE singing :-)  I'll keep you posted on life as it comes!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Asparagus Tacos

I love this time of year when seasonal veggies begin to pop up at road side stands and in local grocery stores.  I was recently given some fresh picked asparagus and, when I couldn't figure out what to do with it, I decided to take inventory of my fridge and pantry.  I try to peruse my refrigerator often to to make sure I haven't forgotten any of my fresh veggies so they don't go to waste.  It's amazing how fast fruits and veggies go bad and how easy it is to forget them at the bottom of a refrigerator drawer.

After taking thorough inventory I decided to make asparagus and pork tacos.  Now this may sound a little weird but the inspiration came from leftover pork loin I had in the fridge that was just begging to be used. We used corn tortillas and spiced them up a bit by lining them with refried beans mixed with salsa on one side and a southwest dip I had made on the other before loading them up with the filling.

It was a simple little recipe that turned out to be delicious!  What's great about it is that you can swap out both the leftover meat and veggies with anything you want or have sitting in your fridge.  My husband and I enjoyed this "picnic style" on our front lawn under the setting sun with the birds chirping all around.  We had a corona with lime with dinner and some freshly cut up strawberries and kiwis for dessert, which were also things that I found that needed to be eaten.

Here is the recipe for the basic dish.  Whether you eat this at the dinner table, on the porch, or picnic style, I hope you thoroughly enjoy the unique flavors of this simple meal.

Asparagus Pork Tacos

1 tsp butter
1Tbs olive oil
1 med garlic clove minced
1 med onion diced
1 bunch of fresh asparagus (cut into about 1 1/2 inch bits)
1 lb of cooked pork loin sliced in thin strips (fajita style)
1 10oz can Rotel "Mexican Lime & Cilantro" (diced tomatoes with lime juice & cliantro
1-2 Tbs taco sauce
1 Tbs cumin
dash of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Corn or flour tortillas
Shredded cheese
1 lime cut into wedges

1. Melt butter in a large skillet along with the olive oil over med-high heat.  Add minced garlic and diced onion and let cook 1-2 minutes or until softened.  Next add the asparagus to the pan and sauté until tender.

2. Stir in strips of pork, can of Rotel, , taco sauce, cumin, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.   Let simmer until the water in the Rotel has boiled down and the flavors are all combined; about 8 minutes.

3. Serve in corn or flour taco shells with a little cheese and a squeeze of fresh lime on top.  You can also add some of the usual taco fixings, such as tomato, sour cream, guacamole, etc.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lost a Jean Button?

Dritz® No-Sew Bachelor...

As I write this blog I would hope that it isn't only my husband and I that have lost the button on a pair of our favorite jeans.  If I'm honest with myself it probably means that either I have grown out of them or that they are just too old to continue wearing.  However, I was not ready to assume defeat and therefore needed to figure out how to repair them.

At first I thought it would be a complicated process involving some sort of "bedazzle" machine.  I was pleasantly surprised, though, that when I asked a worker at JoAnn's how to remedy my jeans, she lead me to the, what else, button section.  It turns out all I need was a hammer and a pack of jean buttons (I got a pack of 6 for $3.79) and I was good to go.  I will caution you to get a good quality button, as the flimsy ones bent as I was hammering them in.

So there you have it.  A quick and easy fix to get those favorite pair of jeans back on your booty.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ask and you shall recieve

As I started my 45 minute drive to Terre Haute today to do some errands I heard one of my country radio stations running a contest called "Dakota's easy teasy question" for a Gloriana CD.  Now I love this band and have wanted their CD but try not to buy things I "don't need".  I thought, what a great opportunity to get something I really want!  I listened to the question, called in, and after a few tries, I called in and got the answer right!  My first ever radio win!

Fun huh?  Ask the universe and you shall receive ;-)

(as soon as I figure out how I will upload the segment from my iphone)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cleaning Bathroom Mirrors

I always dreaded cleaning my bathroom mirrors because it would take so long to get those pesky specks of hairspray off.  One day after my husband showered without the fan on I went to clean the bathroom while the mirrors were fogged up and, to my delight, they cleaned with ease!  The fog acted like a pre-soak  and softened up the hardened spray and other bits.  Now every time the bathroom mirrors fog up I do a quick swipe with my a small spray of window cleaner and, wha lah!  An effortless clean every time.

To Splenda or not to Splenda?

Splenda Logo Vs.

That was the question posed at breakfast a few Sundays ago by a close friend of mine and Greg's.  I had ordered coffee and immediately opened a packet of Splenda to add to it.  When Chris asked me why I used Splenda, I hesitated and said, "because I hardly have to use any in order to get the sweet taste I desire in my morning coffee".  Embarrassingly I hadn't comprehended the fact that I had opened and used a packet of artificial sweetener in front of a sugar beat farmer.  That is like making mashed potatoes from a box in front of my potato farming husband!  NOT a good plan...

I had always wondered how Spenda was made and if it truly was safe but had consciously decided to be ignorant and not look it up.  I truthfully didn't want to know because I liked the taste and the fact that it was 600 times sweeter than sugar.  I had consciously decided to be an uneducated consumer who bought into the marketing effects of Splenda.

Chris later went on to tell me that he had learned that Splenda was created by washing sugar in a bath of chlorine.  Of course I was shocked by his claim, but decided that it was finally time to do my own research on the product that had claimed it was made from sugar.  Here is what I found.

I went to impartial websites and to Splenda's website to do my research.  In conclusion I discovered that Splenda is made "through a patented, multi-step process that starts with sugar and converts it to a no calorie, non-carbohydrate sweetener. The process selectively replaces three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule with three chlorine atoms."   I further read that "Chlorine is a natural part of salt, which is found in many foods, like lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, melons, and peanut butter, and chlorine is added to most public water supplies. Chlorine is also a part of more complex molecules found in such things as lentils, peas, and potatoes. It is a part of daily life. In the case of sucralose, its addition converts sucrose to sucralose, which is essentially inert. The result is an exceptionally stable sweetener that tastes like sugar, but without sugar's calories. Sucralose isn’t broken down for energy, and is not recognized by the body as a carbohydrate".  

In conclusion, I have decided that, although it has been deemed safe and not harmful to any functioning systems in the body, I don't like the idea of putting something in my body that it doesn't recognize.  (not to mention there are only 15 calories per teaspoon in sugar) That is my own personal decision and I do not judge anyone that does use Splenda.  In fact, I still have a lot of packets in my household and will try to use them up slowly over time.  A little in my coffee for a sweet treat some days or I could use it on cooked carrots with a little butter like my mother-in-law does.  One of my brother-in-laws calls this carrot dish "carrot crack" because it is so tasty.  

I feel good about the research I did and about becoming an informed consumer.  My question to you is this, "is there anything in your life that you are being ignorant about because you just don't want to know the truth or are too scared?"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tators in Sullivan County

When I visited my husband Greg in the field the other day there was a photographer there taking pictures of them planting potatoes. I didn't ask questions but just gave the guys the the snack I had made for them (hot dogs stuffed with cheese and baked in a crescent roll) and went on my way. To my surprise Greg brought me a Sullivan County newspaper this morning with a picture of him holding seed on the front cover.

Apparently farming potatoes in this area isn't common and the newspaper was writing a story about the Walther Family Farm. It was really exciting to read the article and it was a really proud moment for Greg I'm sure. The only unfortunate part about it was that his hairdresser (me) hasn't given him a hair cut in over a month and, well, he looks a bit young in the picture :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What's for dinner?

Have you ever had those nights where you just don't know what to cook? Well I do quite often and for the life of me I can't think of one darn thing that sounds good. If I don't have inspiration for what I'm making for dinner than I don't put love into it and the taste reflects that. One night while discussing my dinner rut with my sister she told me how she keeps dinner ideas at her finger tips. Every day she writes in her planner what she made or is going to make for dinner. If she ever has one of those nights where she can't think of what to cook, she references her calendar and gets inspired from a previous weeks meal. I loved her idea and started using it myself. I like using the monthly planner page to record my dinners so I can see all my previous dinners at a glance. Try it for yourself and never again have a "I just don't know what to cook" moment!

German Chocolate Cupcakes

My first memory of baking a cake was with my cousin and it was from a box. We were probably 16 years old and the cake was a disaster. It was completely uneven and the looked quite inedible. I wasn't sure if I could ever recover from that but finally, after almost 20 years, I have succeeded in baking a cake. I started small with cake mix from a box and frosting from a tub. After my cousin and I succeeded in baking and constructing that I decided I was finally ready to tackle the big one...cake from scratch. Of course I didn't start with a simple white cake or yellow cake, oh nooo, I started with German Chocolate cake. (my husbands favorite) In honor of my brother-in-laws birthday I decided to make them into cupcakes that are portable for my farming family. This multi step cake included steps on the stove top for both the cake and frosting. With all of the work and love that went into them I was just praying they would turn out and, to my surprise, they did! The guys loved and devoured all of them. All I can say is Go Me! Now I have to decide what to tackle next...

German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-pecan Frosting
Yield: 16 servings; Prep Time: 30 minutes (Ready in 2 hours 50 minutes)
From "Pillsbury Best Desserts"

This cake takes its name from the German brand sweet cooking chocolate with which it was developed

4oz. sweet cooking chocolate, cut into pieces
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 cup margarine or butter, softened
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk*
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup margarine or butter
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour three 9-inch round cake pans.  In small saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate with water; cool

2. In large bowl, combine 2 cups sugar and 1 cup margarine; beat until light and fluffy.  Add 4 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in chocolate mixture.  Add all remaining cake ingredients; beat at low speed until well combined.  Pour batter into greased and floured.

3. Bake at 350 F for 35 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centered comes out clean.  Cool 5 minutes.  Remove from pans.  Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled.

4. In medium saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, evaporated milk, 1/2 cup margarine and 3 eggs; mix well.  Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; stir in coconut, pecans and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Cool 30 minutes or until completely cooled.

5. Place 1 cake layer, top side down, on serving plate.  Spread with 1/3 frosting.  Repeat with remaining cake layers and frosting, ending with frosting.

*Tip: To substitute for buttermilk, use 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to make 1 cup