Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chili for a chilly day

Chilly is one of those magical foods alongside with stews and soups that no matter what type of cold day it is, it will warm you straight to the bone Yet is hearty enough to provide you with the energy for any type of adventure.

It is perfect on those crisp cool September days; dreary soak-you-to-the-bone November ones; and is equally warming on those days in January when the cold can suck the breath right out of you.

Yesterday was the perfect day for chili: not only was it freezing cold, but what should have been a short errand run became almost a two hour long ordeal when I locked us out of the house!

So the chili was the perfect ending to our adventure, and was very easy to make!

Homestead Chili
1 medium package of lean ground beef
1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 small green peppers, diced
4-6 medium white mushrooms, diced
2 cans red kidney beans (or one white, one red) drained and rinsed
1 large can diced tomatoes, drained
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp salt
3 heaping tbsp chili powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)

In a large pot, saute the garlic and onions with a bit of water until the onions are translucent (I have been using water to saute my meat/vegetables for a while now, and only add a little olive/sesame oil for taste if a recipe calls for it). Add the salt, chili, and ground beef, and saute until the meat is fully cooked, then add the mushrooms and green peppers and continue to cook until they just turn soft.

Pour in the beans and tomatoes and while stirring, turn down the heat so that the chili stays at a nice low simmer. Simmer with the lid on for half an hour to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve on top of steamed rice or with garlic bread, and enjoy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Bake of the Week: Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

When we made the decision to avoid processed food as much as possible for our family, that included all members; furry or not.

However, it has taken this long for me to actually start making their treats myself. I am not sure why. Perhaps I imagined them to be more difficult than cookies designed for human consumption, or perhaps I just didn't know where to start looking for recipes.

Either way, I decided that I'd waited long enough; and that it was time I started making healthy and cost effective treats for our pets (with the added bonus of knowing exactly what I was feeding them!).

For the recipe, I knew I wanted one that was peanut butter-based. Both dogs go crazy over the stuff, and we still had almost a full jar of it that we were not going to eat ourselves (it was left a little too close to the edge of the counter and was "found" by the dogs - I never threw it in the compost though because I knew such an occasion would arise where I could use it!). I eventually found one and modified it slightly (substituting eggs for oil, and adding rolled oats), and the end result is a crunchy, yummy-smelling cookie that the dogs will do anything for!

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits
Makes 50 medium sized biscuits
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpous flour
3/4 cups whole wheat flour/or any stoneground grain flour (I used a seven grain flour)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg, beaten

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Quickly stir in the water, egg and peanut butter.

Transfer to a well floured surface, and after adding a couple handfuls of flour (I had to add about 4 in total to get a dough that was pliable but no longer sticky), begin to knead.

Once the dough is the right consistency, roll out to 1/4 of an inch thick. Cut with a cookie cutter appropriate for the dog consuming these (I have two medium dogs, but usually ere on the side of smaller, to make the treats last longer and give them less at a time).

Preheat the oven to 350 F, and bake the cookies for 20-25 minutes, or until they are a nice golden brown.

Transfer to racks to cool completely before storing in an airtight container, and just watch for the tail wagging to begin!

Painting Pianos?!?

One of our readers had asked if we would share some pictures of the creative painting and  crafting space I made for Chris. As I had already filmed footage of our new piano to share, I thought it would also be a great idea to film the new room as well!

So here is our family's second vlog; showcasing the new piano and crafting room!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A New Year's Suprise!

There are many changes that are going to take place over the next year here at the Homestead, and just now the first one has become a reality!

For a while now I've wanted to start taking footage and create some videos to suppliment the blog (which became even more important once we stopped having use of our camera!), but that has been exeedingly difficult considering we didn't own a video recorder.

But no longer! One of my gifts from Chris this year was a beautiful little Flip camera, and since Christmas Day I've been wanting to share that footage with you!

Alas, editing (and filming oneself for that matter) is much more difficult than I imagined. For starters, I find I am still quite self concience speaking into the camera. Me. Camera shy. I know, it's hard to imagine. But this strange phenomenom occurs whenever the little red light goes on: suddenly I forget everything I planned to say, I get nervous, and my voice gets high and sqeaky.

I know it will pass; the more I film the more comfortable and less self concious I'l become, but in the meantime, please bear with me!

This was also my very first attempt at film editing ever. I just know that in a year or so I'll look back at this video and loath it, but I also know that's just the learning experience right there. But for the almost two hours of footage shot, I still couldn't believe the end result was under 9 minutes!

Though I want the vlogs to be regular, at this point I am not sure what regular means. I still have footage from Boxing Day and New Years to edit, and a short vlog about our piano and painting space. What I do know is that the vlogs will vary in content, including but not limited to:
  • Cooking and baking recipes
  • Family antics and special events at the homestead
  • Knitting, sewing, and crafting tutorials
So before this gets too long, here it is: Christmas Day at the Homestead!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bread Tutorial Evolution

Our goal of not buying bread on a regular basis and of making it ourselves is still going strong. I can only think of one instance since Autumn that I've broken down and purchased some and if I remember correctly, it was because we were all sick.

So when my sister asked for the recipe and I had a look at what I had written all those months ago, I realised that the recipe needed some revamping.

If I've said it once, I've say it a thousand times: making bread is more of an art than it is a science. Once you become practised, the exact measurements become less important than the texture of the dough when you've added just the right amount of flour; the way the starter and dough look when they've just risen enough (though it does help to know what it looks like when it has risen too long - then you'll know what to avoid!); or the colour of the bread once it has baked for the perfect amount of time.

I have tried to add some notes where I can; things that were left out in the original recipe but that I've discovered are paramount to creating a delicious and airy loaf of bread. That being said; home-made breads are (in my experience, at least!) more dense than their commercial counterparts. It takes a little getting used to, but now I dislike how "squishy" store-bought bread is.

When we last bought bread (and I bought a fresh loaf from the Foodland bakery, hoping for an improvement over the packaged commercial kind) we had such a hard time cutting it and we ended up with flattened slices of toast!

Because home-made bread is a little heavier, smaller loaves are perfect. The smaller slices are just as filling as a slice from the store!

One thing I do want to mention is what happens when you either let your starter or your dough rise to long:

An over-risen starter is easier to fix; simply add a few tablespoons more of flour (and water, if necessary), mix, and let stand a little longer until it has risen up again.

If your dough has over-risen and fallen, there is not much you can do. Continue to form the loaves or, if the loaves are what have fallen, just bake as usual. Just be prepared for bread that is crunchy and not as soft. Do not despair though: this bread if cubed and mixed with a little salt, olive oil, and seasoning makes great croutons. Bake the cubes at 300 F until golden brown and enjoy on Caesar salad!

Here is the link to the bread tutorial, and I encourage you all to give it a try! It is well worth the effort, and after a few successes, you'll be hard pressed to find a loaf that tastes as great, uses as simple ingredients, or keeps as well as this one!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Resolution Time

It seems as if every New Years I make the same type of resolutions: to loose weight; get in better shape; or just to eat healthier (though I do remember one year while still in school resolving to make smarter financial decisions - IE. not to spend so much frivolously!). This year however, my resolutions are much more family-oriented.

For starters, I need to seriously tackle Lucien's potty training. Over the summer I started (but not with much earnest) and then when the holidays approached it was abandoned entirely. I know Lucien is ready, at this point his main set back has been a lack of consistency from me. He got some brand new Spiderman briefs from Santa this Christmas, now it's time to put them to work.

All you mothers reading this; wish me good luck and infinite patience!

Secondly, now that it's January, I am starting to look ahead to April when I will be going back to work. I'll be honest: I am still unsure of how I feel about that. I miss my coworkers, and even like the idea of spending time in adult company again. Yet I am saddened that I will no longer be home all the time with my boys.

I am sure this is something every working mother goes through, no matter how old her children are when she re-enters the workforce. I find it comical that I feel this way now though; by the time Lucien was 4 months I was already back at work.

Perhaps it's because I've had this past year spending 24/7 with both boys, but I feel like Marcus is still too young to be left in the care of someone else. And the fact that breastfeeding is still going strong, I don't want to give up that special bond that he and I share.

And there are other considerations. Being at home, I've slowly built up a great routine over the past months in which I've included art and activity time with Lucien, a some-what regular cleaning schedule, and increased the amount of made-from-scratch foods exponentially. In fact, apart from crackers, all the baked goods we consume are made from raw ingredients; cookies, breads, pizza, snack foods... not to mention the canned goods I've made as well. We have been able to limit the amount of processed foods our family consumes to a bare minimum and I am sure we are all healthier because of it. However, I worry that I will not be able to maintain this once I am back at work. Or, I'll maintain it, but wear myself out. Not sure which is worse!

My head tells me that everything will work out, and it will just be the next chapter in our family's day-to-day routine. But my heart doesn't really believe it. So for the next three months, my second resolution is to prepare our family (and myself!) for the return to work.

Things are going to be busy!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Holiday Time is Family Time


Things here have been crazy since a couple weeks before Christmas. It was a flurry of activity; baking, cleaning, knitting, sewing, painting, and I can't even remember what else. But it is now over, and we are left with feeling very full, very warm, very loved, and yes, very exhausted.

For us the holidays are always special because they are first and foremost family time. After the chaos and activity of the weeks preceding, we can finally sit back, relax, and enjoy the warmth and company of our loved ones. It is a time to enjoy and reflect on our wealth, both in material and non-material terms, and give thanks for how blessed we truly are.

The weeks of festivities (for with the amount of extended family we have, it truly takes weeks to get in visits with everyone!) started off with Yule (December 21). I made a special dinner, and we celebrated with just the four of us the Return of the Sun. (For anyone not aware, Yule is also the winter solstice; and though it is the longest night of the year, it also marks the point in which the days will start getting longer.) I lit candles around the house, and the first gift of the season was given: two new bookcases for the family to enjoy in the living room that I put together all by myself!
Christmas Eve was a quiet evening in with one of our best friends; I made pizzas, we played the piano, and then the little ones were ushered up to bed.

It was peaceful, serene: everything you could hope for the Night before Christmas.

After weeks of scheming, Christmas morning arrived. I was able to give Chris the big gift I'd been planning and working on in secret: his painting and craft space.

We have a beautiful sun room at the front of the house that up to this point has been filled with unopened boxes in various amounts since the day we moved in. Our goal was to have the room turned into a knitting/painting/sewing/crafting room for us adults (because it has the wonderful benefit of having french doors that lock!), but neither of us had the time nor storage options to make that goal a reality.

So I knew that would make the perfect gift.

After a few setbacks the room finally took shape, and it is now a sanctuary where both Chris and I can be creative and little ones are kept at bay until they are old enough to get into the hobby knives, paints, knitting needles and crazy glue!

We spent Christmas day with Chris' family at his parents house, and enjoyed the first of the turkey dinners. The boys got to play with their cousins, and there was more laughter and great food to be had by all.

Boxing day was another turkey dinner, this time with Chris' birth mother and her family. The boys were spoiled by all their aunts and uncles, and we left afraid to eat another morsel lest we explode. I think I am still full with turkey!

This week was a little quieter, though both Chris and I became sick. Whether we actually had a virus, or whether we finally succumbed to sheer exhaustion I don't know. We went back down to the in-laws for New Years, had very long naps, and went to bed early. I did get to attend my first fondue party there, and that was quite something!

I do have something special planned to share with you all, and once I overcome some technical difficulties, it'll be up and running!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...