Thursday, July 5, 2012

Walking the Dogs

We have a new addition to the family!  He is a sweet, little Jack Russel mix. Someone was trying to give him away outside of a department store.  I don't know why I decided to take him.  Call it fate - or a momentary lapse of good judgement.  My kids couldn't believe it, but I am soft-hearted.  And just like that, we have a new puppy.  Being "Back to the Future" fans, the kids quickly came up with a name for him.  They discussed it for all of 5 minutes.  He was too small to be a Biff, so it was settled.  Marty.  I call him, affectionately, Marty McFlea.  He's a smart little thing, and has given our older dog, Blitz something to do.  Blitz needed an apprentice.  Honestly, I was beginning to worry about him.  I think he has been hanging around the cat too long.  I caught Blitz licking his paw and washing his face the other day in a very cat-like manner.  And, on more than one occasion, I've noticed the cat come trotting up out of the woods with a fresh kill of rabbit.  Talk about confused! Anyways, back to the puppy.  He follows Blitz around, and jumps around his heels. He runs around him in circles, and plays chase with him.  It's the funniest thing to watch! Blitz outweighs him by 50 pounds, and looks like he's moving in slow motion.  So I thought that Blitz, being the very cool, obedient, older dog, would naturally be a good example during leash training. 
I decided to take the dogs and the kids to the park for a lesson.  I thought it would be a fun thing to do to break up the monotony of summer break.  Early in the morning, I loaded breakfast up in a cooler, grabbed the leashes, and off we went.  I wanted to get out early, while it was still cool, so we left before 8am. Unfortunately, our early morning trip to the park was brought to a grinding halt - road construction between our house, and our destination.  So the trip that usually takes 10 to 15 minutes took us about half an hour.  So much for getting out when it was cool!  So finally, we pulled up to the park gate, and the sign said, "Closed till Thursday".  This was Wednesday. I guess they were doing maintenance.  Darn it!  So we decided to go a nearby foot bridge which had a covered picnic table where we could eat our breakfast.  We arrived to the nicely shaded walking area.  I was pleased that we were the first ones there.  Then I realized that the picnic area was on the other side of the bridge. (sigh) So off we go - the lunch cooler on wheels, 3 kids, two dogs, and a loooong narrow bridge.  Maybe this was not the best setting for the high energy puppy to practice his leash skills.  And to top it off, my oldest son was on his bike.  At first he wanted to jump on and zoom down the bridge. After looking at the deep slope of the bridge, the narrow clearance of his handle bars, and the rocky creek running under it, he reconsidered.  So my oldest son led the way, walking his bike, and my youngest was in front of me, so I could keep an eye on him.  I had Blitz on a leash, and my daughter, behind me, had Marty.  As we made our way across the bridge, Marty wanted to lick ankles, and hop around and play with Blitz.  My daughter did a pretty good job keeping him under control.  We got almost halfway there, and Blitz panicked - guess he's scared of heights. Heck of a time to find that out!  My normally calm, well behaved German Shepherd mix went bailing off the side of the bridge like a stock broker on Black Tuesday, almost taking me with him.  Thinking fast, I hit the deck.  I was able to lean over the side to give him enough slack not to hang him.  Then I had to jump down, with him onto the grassy bank.  I walked him to the picnic area the long way around.  My kids finished their trek across the bridge with mom shouting, "Be sure to hold on to the railing!"  We finally made it to the other side to eat breakfast.   
We enjoyed our morning, walking around with the dogs under the tall oaks. The kids thew rocks in the creek, and played in the grass.  It was fairly cool.  When the sun rose a bit higher, the temperature rose quickly, so we decided to pack up and leave.  After our ride home, the dogs were more than eager to get out of the truck, and off their leashes.  They got a nice treat for being good sports.  Even though the morning didn't turn out quite like I expected, Marty's first leash lesson was, well, a bit of an adventure.  And we made a good summer memory with our brave new addition to the Sanders Family.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Enchiladas De Gallo

Most people that know our family know that we keep chickens. I'm rather fond of chickens. They are a great theme for French country kitchens, and rustic decor. In fact, some kids at my church call me the "Chicken Lady". Not the most flattering nick-name in the world, but I'm glad they know who I am.
Chickens are an easy homesteading project - a good starting point to a working farm. Besides being fun to watch, pretty, and a great alarm clock (sometimes in the wee hours of the morning) chickens are a good sustainable source of food. It doesn't take a large flock to have more eggs than you know what to do with. That's when you can get inventive. I've browsed recipes to try and find the ones that use the largest amount of eggs at a time. Pound cakes and angel food cakes are the big winners around here. Quiches make a great brunch, and souffles are versatile and delicious.
We took a few steps further in our chicken operation last year and bought an incubator. It was such a joy to wait and watch for the eggs to hatch. The kids (especially the youngest) fell in love with those fuzzy little baby chicks. We doubled our flock, but half of them turned out to be roosters. So the next, most natural step in my mind was to slaughter them and put them in the freezer. I remember butchering chickens as a young girl. My brother had raised some for a project in Ag Class. They were young, fat, birds - unlike my almost 1 year old roosters. Hubby called them "athletic", which I found to be an accurate description - especially when we had to catch them.
So, for the first time as an adult, we butchered some of our own chickens. It was a nice, cold day for it. I wasn't nervous about it, but I did wonder how I was going to feel when we cut off their heads, and cleaned them - our beautiful hand raised birds. But throughout the process (I'll spare you the details) it honestly felt like the most natural thing in the world.
The roosters weren't old, but they were past butchering age, and had not been fed a diet that would keep them fat and juicy, so they were a bit leaner than your average chicken. Of course, they were perfect for soups and dumplings, but the recipe we liked the most were the enchiladas. So I'll share the recipe with you. I adapted and blended several different recipes to create this one. So I don't know if I'd call these "authentic", but they were good none the less. I'll call them affectionately Enchiladas de Gallo. (Rooster Enchiladas)

Enchiladas de Gallo

1 old rooster (a fryer from the grocery store will due)
enough water to barely cover the chicken
2 1/2 - 3 tsp salt divided
1 1/2 - 2 tsp pepper divided
1 recipe homemade flour tortillas (or a 12 pack from the store)
1/4 cup flour
1 c milk
1 1/2 tsp cumin divided
2 tsp garlic powder divided
1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced
1 onion, minced
1 can rotel
1 package queso fresca (from the Hispanic section, or monterey jack will due in a pinch)
1 small tub sour cream
no stick spray
large casserole dish

Put your chicken in a pot and cover with water. Add 1 tsp each salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn down heat. Simmer for 30 - 45 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Take meat off bone, and shred or chop. Set aside. Strain off 2 cups fresh chicken broth and put in a pan. Heat on medium. Meanwhile gradually whisk flour into your milk. Pour into broth, whisking briskly so no lumps form. You may have to use more or less broth, depending on the consistency of the sauce. Add 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Whisk in 2 or 3 Tbsp sour cream, and turn sauce down to low. (you may want to adjust the spices to suit your taste - this was just an estimation) Saute onion in oil or butter in large cast iron skillet. Add chicken, remaining cumin and garlic, salt and pepper, and oregano. Add 1 can drained Rotel and 1/4 cup of your sauce. Cook for about 10 minutes on low. Add 2 Tbsp of cilantro (optional) mix well, and turn heat off. Heat tortillas so they are pliable. Fill each tortilla generously with chicken mixture, and place in greased casserole dish. Fill casserole dish with enchiladas. Pour sauce over the enchiladas, and crumble cheese over the top. Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove foil and bake for 10 - 15 more minutes or until the cheese is slightly golden. Remove from oven and cool ten minutes. Spread a thick layer of sour cream on top, and sprinkle with more fresh cilantro.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Zucchini Carbonara

There's nothing like enjoying a variety of international applications to your garden bounty! Anyone for Italian tonight? This one was a winner with my 15 month old, and my mother who was out for a visit. I found a recipe on the internet, and altered it according to our taste. The mushrooms are my addition, and I omitted the capers. This dish was pretty rich due to the cream and yolks, and the salty prosciutto - the capers would have been overkill in my opinion.

Zucchini Carbonara Recipe
• Spaghetti: 1 lb
• prosciuto or pancetta 6 – 8 slices roughly chopped (bacon can be substituted in a pinch)
• egg yolks: 2
• Parmigiano-Reggiano or other hard Italian cheese, grated: 1 cup
• Olive oil, extra-virgin: 3-4 tablespoons
• Pepper, freshly ground: 1/2 tablespoon
• Salt
• 1-2 medium zucchini
• 1 small onion
• Chopped basil
• ½ cup sliced mushrooms
• 2 tbsp fresh garlic
• 1/3 cup of heavy cream
Begin by boiling a large pot of water to cook your spaghetti in. Add a pinch of salt and drop your pasta. It generally takes about 10 – 12 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the vegetables in olive oil (garlic, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, but not the basil). Throw in your chopped prosciuto or pancetta. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn that down on low, and start making your sauce base as follows: In a large bowl, possibly even in the one you’ll be using to serve your pasta, beat the egg yolks and cream. Add grated cheese. When the pasta is ready (al dente), use tongs to transfer it into your serving bowl. Toss it around in the cream and egg mixture. Add pasta water to make a thinner sauce. Throw in your veggies, mix well, then add the fresh basil. Sprinkle some extra cheese on top, and drop a fresh cluster of basil leaves right in the middle (it’ll make it purdy!)

*note concerning the egg yolks: We use farm fresh eggs, so the yolks are a bit richer. You may use 3 instead of two store bought egg yolks.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Gourmet Pizzas

We love pizza night. It's a Sanders Family tradition. Living out in the country, ordering pizza is not a convenient option so we began making homemade pizza. Everything is made fresh, from the crust to the sauce. Believe me, it's easier than it sounds! With a little prior planning, it only takes only an hour or so, not counting the rising time for the crust(my crust can even be made ahead, and refrigerated or frozen). Now, think about it, how long does it take that pizza joint to bring you a conveyor-belt pizza on a busy night? 45 minutes to an hour. Another great thing about the homemade pizza is the quality control. You can make it as healthy, or as indulgent as you want. It can be completely fresh, or made from canned ingredients, all depending on your taste, and the amount of time you have. Being a family with an adventurous pallet, we've created all kinds of pizza recipes. From pepperoni, cross-cultural pizzas, like our Mexican pizza using tortilla dough instead of pizza dough, and even pizza rolls and Stromboli, the possibilities are endless.
Here are some of our gourmet pizza recipes, using seasonal summer veggies. Let me know what you think!

Garden Veggie Pizza
• 1 recipe of homemade pizza crust (makes two med-large pizzas)
• 3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
• 3 or 4 tbsp olive oil
• 1 package each shredded mozzarella cheese and Colby jack
• 2-3 roma tomatoes, sliced
• 2 tbsp each fresh minced parsley and basil
• 1 tbsp minced fresh oregano
• 1 medium zucchini, sliced
• 1 small onion, sliced
• 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
• ½ can black olives, sliced
• Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper to top

Heat oven to 450 on convection setting. Sprinkle cornmeal on two pizza stones or sheet pans. Roll out crust and slap in on the pan. Push and stretch gently to edges. Mix oil, garlic, and minced herbs in a small bowl, and spread evenly on pizzas. Top pizzas with enough cheese to cover to the edges. Add sliced vegetables. Bake for 10 minutes on top rack. Remove, and blot top with paper towel. The vegetables sometimes produce a lot of water, and this will keep your pizza from being soggy. Put back in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes longer. It all depends on your oven. Just keep an eye on it. Enjoy hot, with a fresh garden salad.

Mediterranean Pizza
• 1 recipe of homemade pizza crust
• A few tablespoons of homemade or jarred basil pesto
• 3 cloves garlic, sliced
• 1 package feta cheese
• 1 cup shredded mozzarella
• 2 – 3 roma tomatoes, sliced
• 1 medium zucchini, sliced
• 1 can artichoke hearts, drained and cut in small chunks
• Extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 450 on convection setting. Sprinkle cornmeal on two pizza stones or sheet pans. Roll out crust and slap in on the pan. Push and stretch gently to edges. Thinly spread a few tablespoons of basil pesto on each pizza crust. Sprinkle feta cheese, and mozzarella cheese on top. Add slices of garlic, sliced vegetables, and artichoke hearts. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Serve with cucumber and tomato salad, or a Greek salad.

Homemade Pizza Crust

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tsp honey
2 tsp yeast (not rapid rise, or bread machine, just plain yeast in a jar)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt

Measure out your flour, throw in the salt, and give it a couple of quick stirs. Mix your honey into the warm water, then mix in the yeast. Add to flour, then add one tbsp olive oil. Stir until it gets stiff, then knead, on a floured surface until it's smooth. Put the other tablespoon of oil in a fresh bowl (or wash the one you already used). Drop your dough in the bowl, and turn it once to coat. Cover with a towel, and let it rise for an hour. Punch down, divide it in half, and roll it out on a floured surface. The dough will be very elastic, so it won't roll easily. If you have the courage, you can pick it up, and toss it from hand to hand to stretch it some. Plop it on your prepared pan, push gently to edges, and there you go.

Summer Squash Pasta

This recipe makes a delicious entree topped with sliced Italian sausage, grilled chicken or shrimp.  It can also be served as a nutritious side to a main dish such as chicken or eggplant Parmesan.

Summer Squash Pasta

2 small zucchini, cut into sticks
2 small yellow squash cut into rounds
1 box fettuccine
3 cloves garlic
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil
a handful of fresh basil, minced
a handful of fresh parsley, minced
1 lemon
sea salt
fresh ground pepper

Salt a large pot of water, and heat to boiling.  When water is boiling, add pasta and set timer for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile heat large skillet or wok.  Add 1/4 cup olive oil to skillet.  Peel and crush garlic.  Mince and add to pan.  When it begins to brown, add zucchini and squash and toss.  Squeeze your lemon to produce a few tablespoons of juice and add to pan.  Zest about a half a teaspoon of zest from lemon and set aside.  When pasta is done, using tongs or a pasta spoon, add hot pasta to squash pan.  Add a bit more oil so it doesn't stick.  Toss pasta and vegetables.  Remove from heat and toss in minced herbs and lemon zest.  Top with Parmesan cheese, or crushed red pepper.  Serve as desired.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fried Shrimp

Tonight, we had fried shrimp. My son had been into some mischief that day and had been fussed at by one parent or the other. The boy just needed to be busy - to do something with his hands. So I employed him as my shrimp peeler. He was a great help! He loved grabbing the slippery little legs, and pulling off the tails. I checked each one to be sure all the peel was removed before seasoning. He had done a great job, and was rather pleased with himself. Next, I put him to work dunking the shrimp in the egg mixture, while I dredged them in flour and dropped them in the frying pan. The combine effort was magnificent - the best fried shrimp I've made to date!