Friday, November 30, 2012

Day 5: Chili-Spiced Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Well, we're now 5 days in to Sweet Potato Week, and we're finally making a dent in the giant laundry basket full of sweet potatoes in the garage!

Yes, this recipe is for mashed taters, but don't think that means they're just any 'ole mashed potatoes.  The chili and orange really give these a fun kick.

2 large sweet potatoes (1.75 lbs. or so)
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
1 tsp. orange zest
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. salt

1.  Bake sweet potatoes in 425-degree oven until soft, about 70 minutes.
2.  Once cool enough to handle, scoop out the insides into a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients.

3.  Mash!  (Or, if you're feeling brave, employ a little helper to mash for you.)
4.  Serve.

Tomorrow will be our final day of Sweet Potato Week, and I'm hoping it'll be a good one:  a dessert recipe that makes use of leftover sweet potatoes!

Thanks to Women's Health magazine for today's recipe

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day 4: Sweet Potato and Apple Soup

This soup is absolutely delicious.  Even the "texture weirdos" at your table should be satisfied by its creamy consistency.  The tang that the Granny Smith apples provide is amazing!

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Kosher salt and pepper
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" or smaller chunks
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
4 c. broth (I used chicken, but you could use vegetable to make this a vegetarian meal)
pinch of nutmeg

1.  Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper and cook until tender. 
2.  Add sweet potatoes, apple, broth, and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until 'taters are tender. 

3.  Blend it all up!  I used my immersion blender so that I didn't have to dirty my standing blender.  (Be sure if you go this route, that your soup is deeper than the blades of your blender; otherwise, like me, you'll be wiping splattered sweet potato mixture out of your eyes and off of every surface in your entire kitchen.  Ah, well, you live and learn.)

We served this yummmmmy soup with salad, crusty bread, and "fancy cheese."  Be sure to eat your fancy cheese with your pinkies out, like we did!  ;) 

Thank you to Real Simple for inspiring this creation.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day 3: Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Okay, seriously.  Is that not beautiful?

I've never had sweet potato in a salad, but when I took a look at the ingredients list for this one, I just had to try it.

2 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1 c. jarred roasted red pepper, thinly sliced (or, roast your own red bell peppers along side the sweet potatoes in the recipe)
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
1 lb. spinach or arugula, torn into bite size pieces
2 sliced cooked chicken breasts
about 1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese

Okay.  So, I loved this recipe because I have a  laundry basket full of homegrown sweet potatoes sitting in the garage, a cold frame full of greens including spinach, cooked chicken breast from a backyard chicken leftover from another recipe earlier this week, homemade goat cheese in the freezer, and 1/2 jar of roasted red pepper leftover from the Super Stew I made recently sitting in the fridge.  That means that to create this beautiful bowlful of salad I didn't have to put a single item on the grocery list!

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2.  Throw sweet potato chunks (and red bell pepper, if you're roasting your own) onto a large roasting pan, add oil, salt, and pepper and stir to coat.  Roast, stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes. 
3.  Place the greens in serving bowl, top with potatoes, red pepper, chicken breast, cheese, and drizzle with the vinegar.
4.  Enjoy!

If you wanted to serve this salad as a side rather than a meal, just omit the cheese and chicken.

Mmmmm.  Beautiful, delicious, and nutritious!

Thank you to Women's Health magazine for inspiring this meal.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day 2: Rosemary Sweet Potato Wedges

These are a great alternative to a deep-fried potato, and the rosemary is a special treat.

2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. dried rosemary
about 1-1.5 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut up home-fry style
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1.  Heat oven to 450 degrees.   In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the oil over medium heat.  Have a super cute helper stir in the rosemary.

2.  Throw in the potatoes and stir to coat.

3.  Arrange the wedges on a large baking sheet so that they don't touch.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4.  Bake in the upper 1/3 of the oven for 20 minutes, turning once.  They should be softened and slightly browned. 

5.  Enjoy the beta-carotene-packed, crispy goodness!

Thanks to Women's Health Magazine for the recipe that inspired this creation.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 1. Baked Sweet Potato Latkes

Here we go!  It's Sweet Potato Week here on the blog, and we're going to kick this off with something I've never made before -- Baked Sweet Potato Latkes. 

While traditional latkes are skillet-fried and use regular potatoes, this recipe changes things up a bit.  This Jewish favorite typically consists of grated potatoes, chopped onion, and some type of binder (in this recipe, egg and flour are used).


1 lb. grated sweet potatoes
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/8 c. flour
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.

3.  Drop by quarter-cupfulls onto a baking sheet coated well with cooking spray.  Flatten.

4.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Flip and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

5.  Enjoy!

Their crispy exterior and oniony-sweet taste made these an excellent addition to a chicken dinner!

Thank you to Rodale recipe finder for today's recipe.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Winner, Winner!

And the winner of this month's giveaway, a Thankfulness Journal, is . . .

Allison Carroll

Yea!  Now, though it may seem rigged, since she had such a great comment regarding what she was thankful for, I assure you, I didn't play favorites!  ;)  (By the way, I think you're pretty awesome, too, Allison!)

Be looking for your journal in the mail!  And, everyone else, you didn't win the free journal, but you could still set up your own way to practice intentional thankfulness, a practice that would behoove us all!

Now, be sure you check back in tomorrow and the rest of next week -- it's Sweet Potato Week!  So, for 6 solid days (even God rested on the 7th), I'll be posting 6 different sweet potato recipes.  (And not a single one of them will be a traditional sweet potato casserole, we're talking some fun, new ideas here!)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

An Entertaining Log: Every Hostess Needs One!

Something I've discovered about myself over the years is that I really enjoy entertaining.  While we don't tend to host big, fancy soirĂ©es, we love to have friends over to play, to eat, to laugh.  I'd like to eventually become that graceful hostess who makes entertaining a crowd look effortless.  In the meantime, I make use of my entertaining log to help things run a bit smoother.
Meet my Entertaining log.  It's a pretty humble affair -- just a paperback notebook filled with lined paper.  In it, I record what dishes I serve others, when I serve them, and how they liked them. 

Here are a few excerpts:

5/1/10  Sisters In Christ Mother/Daughter Brunch
Spinach Quiche -- Eaten up :)
Frozen Morning Delights -- too hard for plastic forks
Banana Nut Muffins -- not eaten
Berry Punch -- a big hit
Decked Out Water -- no one tried it

or this . . .

6/12/10  The Insells
Cucumber Dill Turkey Sandwiches -- eaten up, but Chris doesn't usually like mayo and Angie doesn't like cukes
Salami Mozzarella Pasta Salad -- eaten up
Fruit Cups -- eaten up
Frozen Berry Pie -- Angie didn't finish

or this . . .

5/29/11  Insells and Youngs
burger and hot dogs -- more adults ate hot dogs than expected

Are you beginning to see how useful this could be?  Can't remember what you took to your last church potluck or whether they liked it?  Look it up!  Can't remember whether you served this family burgers the last time they came over or not?  Look it up!  Thinking about cucumber salad for the Insells but seem to remember something about cucumbers for one of them?  Look it up!  Can't remember how long it's been since you hosted a certain group?  Look it up!  Can't recall what cookies you took to last year's cookie exchange?  Look it up! 

Of course, it doesn't have to be a pen and paper record.  There are much more techy ways to keep a record.  I'm just a pen and paper kind of gal. 

Also, today's the last day to tell me what you're thankful for and get entered into the drawing for the Thankfulness Journal.  Click here to visit the post and make your comment.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Totally From Scratch Pumpkin Pie!

John and Girl 1 love pumpkin pie.  I could take it or leave it.  But, I thought it would be fun to try to put one together for them to enjoy this Thanksgiving.  Plus, the kiddos were out of school Wednesday, so I knew I'd have all the help I needed.   
So, we started out with the pumpkin we'd had as part of our fall decorations and 3 separate recipes -- crust, filling, and whipped cream.

We started with the most awesome part, cleaning out the pumpkin goop!  Of course, we set aside the seeds for roasting.  The chickens got the goop and loved it!

Once cleaned out, we sliced the pumpkin into pieces* small enough to fit into my steamer basket and steamed until soft (about 20 minutes).  Once cool, I placed the skin side in the palm of my hand and spooned the pulp into the food processor.  We processed until smooth and separated our puree into 2 separate 2 cup portions, enough to make 2 pies.  (If you don't want to make 2 pies, freeze the extra 2 c. for later use.)

(*"sliced the pumpkin into pieces" does not really accurately describe what it looked like when I did this.  The pumpkin was TOUGH!  I'm pretty lucky to still have all my fingers and not to have taught the girls some new words during the whole slicing process.)

For the filling, combine all of the following:
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
2 c. pumpkin puree
3 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Girl 2 was my right-hand gal.  She even washed dishes!

All 3 kiddos were excited about the roasted seeds.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that my homemade crust was a flop.  All was going smoothly until I tried to roll it up off the countertop and lay it in the pie pan.  It basically just crumbled up.  I was able to piece it together in the pan for one pie (because I was really hoping to have a completely homemade one), but I used a Pillsbury roll-out crust for the 2nd one.

Anyone have a great homemade crust recipe you'd like to share with me for next year?

We filled our crusts with pie filling and baked at 350 for FOREVER!  The recipe said 50 to 60 minutes or until a knife comes out clean in the center.  I think we baked for nearly 2 hours!  Because we had covered the crusts with a crust shield and foil, they didn't burn during this crazy long baking time.

HOWEVER . . . since I only had one crust shield, I tried to fashion one with foil for the other pie.  Apparently I didn't do so great a job.  I must have mashed down part of the crust, allowing the filling to spill out all over the baking sheet they were resting on.  See the pool of black they're sitting in?  Yep, that's the burnt pie filling that spilled out.  Bright side -- at least I set them on a pan and didn't have to spend the rest of the afternoon cleaning out the oven.

Here's a close up of where it spilled over the mashed-down crust.

On Thursday, just after we ran our morning 5K (the girls' first) and just before we headed to PawPaw's house for Thanksgiving dinner, we whipped up the homemade whipped cream to go on top.  We'd stored our mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer overnight so that they'd be very cold.  We added 1 1/2 c. heavy cream, 1 1/2 Tbs. sugar, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla to the bowl.

1.  Beat on low until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds.
2.  Increase to medium speed and continue beating until beaters leave a trail, about another 30 seconds.
3.  Increase speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form and it's nearly doubled in volume.
4.  Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

I think it turned out great!  The homemade cream was amazing and surprisingly simple.  Making the entire thing from scratch definitely took some time.  But, being able to make the pie the day before and just whip up the cream before serving made it doable.

Oh, before you go, don't forget to respond to Thursday's post by tomorrow in order to be entered into the drawing for the Thankfulness Journal. ;)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Growing Thankfulness: November Giveaway!

Happy Thanksgiving!  This season of thankfulness is such a joy!  Reflecting on the many things for which I have to be thankful leaves me feeling so very full.  God is indeed very good to us.

This concentrated season of thankfulness leaves me feeling a bit convicted, though, that I don't incorporate more of it into my daily life.  I suspect that many of us are like that.  When we were experiencing such drought this summer and then were blessed with that first, sweet rain, I searched the web for a prayer in thanksgiving for rain.  What I found instead were tons and tons of formal and beautiful prayers for rain. . . and not a single one thanking God once the rain had come.
Sometimes I feel too much like that -- like I'm very prayerful in my requests and then silent when I ought to be offering thanks for the answers to those prayers.

I've heard a lot about thankfulness journals.  I think they're a great idea.  I've even tried to incorporate them myself, but it just didn't take.  I have had some success with a thankfulness notecard.  I use a notecard system for my daily prayer time, so this integrated nicely.  It's super easy, but it does cause me to reflect on thankfulness in an intentional way at least once a day.

All I do is mark the date followed by a 2 or 3 word description of something I'm thankful for.  Some examples from this card:
9/25 Shep's birth
10/9 PR
10/9 a friend
10/17 a moment with "Girl 1"
10/25 fixed car

So simple, huh?  Anyone can take that much time for thankfulness.
For my monthly giveaway, though, I'm offering you the opportunity to start a nice thankfulness journal.  This paperback Moleskine journal has lots of empty pages, just waiting to be filled.  (Don't you just love the possibility of an empty journal?!)

All you have to do to be entered into this month's drawing is comment on this post by Saturday, telling me something that you're thankful for.  But, you cannot post something that someone else has already posted.  So, if you're thankful for your husband, your children, your God, etc., you'd better comment quickly before someone else steals your idea!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ahh! Needles!

Confession:  I am not very adult about needles.  When I'm at the doctor and needles come out, I just can't look.  I get queasy.  In fact, one year that I was teaching high school, the Blood Drive was taking place in the library just across the hall from my classroom.  I had to keep my classroom door closed all day because my knees got weak when I saw those tables and hanging bags of blood.  I literally had to teach sitting down all day (which was not my teaching style at all).  I realize that this phobia doesn't doesn't jive very well with a homesteading lifestyle.  I did, after all, butcher my own chickens a couple weeks ago, and I did go all "momma bear" on a copperhead this summer.  So, while I don't look forward to the blood draw involved in pregnancy testing the goats, I'm hoping that I'll at least just be able to do it.

According to the website from which we ordered our testing kit, here's what I'll have to do:
1. Using electric shears, shave a 4x8" patch of the doe’s neck to see the jugular vein.
2. Have an assistant (John) turn the head of the doe to the side, at a 30-degree angle, by holding the animal under its jaw to allow for easy access to the vein. Then, I need to straddle the doe, placing my knees behind the doe’s shoulders, and back the doe into a corner or against a wall to help control her hindquarters.
3.  Locate the vein by applying pressure to the vein. The easiest way to locate the vein is to draw an imaginary line from the middle of the doe’s eye down the side of her neck. 
4. Use a surgical scrub to clean the area and keep bacteria out of the needle insertion site. 
5. Guide the needle holder into place with the right hand while the left hand is used to apply pressure to the vein.
6. Once the needle is in place, apply pressure so that the blood collection tube is pushed onto the needle.
7. Collect 2 cc or more of blood.
8. After the needle has been removed from the skin, press fingertip over the area where the needle was inserted.
9. Label and ship the tube and await results.
10.  Take a deep breath, hopefully stop shaking, and do something fun to celebrate the fact that I was actually able to do this.

We could, of course, just take a wait and see approach.  However, in a roughly 5-month gestational period, goats often won't "show" until the final month, if they show at all.  By that time, it is too late to try breeding again as the doe will no longer be in heat.  Large farms can handle a doe or two turning out not to be bred, but when you're only breeding 2 goats for a small homestead, like we are, being sure they're bred is key.  No little doelings or bucklings in the spring means no milk.  The quick turnaround of this test will allow us to try breeding again if one or both of them turn out not to be bred.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Recent Obsession: Tiny Houses

Lately, I've been obsessed with Tiny Houses.  I thought maybe the obsession could be traced back to my somewhat recent reading of a book titled Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream, which was awe-inspiring.  I mean, seriously, no electricity or plumbing?

But, then I remembered how my favorite part of IKEA is seeing how they compress everything one needs to live into only 90 square feet or some such ridiculous number.  I love just meandering through the model set-ups they have and imagining what it would be like to live that small.  But, the obsession may go much further back, all the way back to pop-up-trailer camping with my family of 5 when I was growing up.  It was just so amazing to me that we could compress everything we'd need for the trip into that tiny little pod that we'd pull behind the van.  And, the tiny fridge and cooktop?  Adorable.  So, maybe it should be no surprise that I find Lloyd Kahn's Tiny Homes:  Simple Shelter such a treat.  According to Kahn, a "tiny" home is one that is less than 500 square feet.  This makes a great coffee table book and features amazing images of houses Khan describes. 

One company featured in this book is Tiny Texas Houses, the brainchild of Brad Kittel, whose tagline is "building the future with the past."  Kittel builds tiny homes that are 99% salvaged materials.  Houses are built in Luling, TX, and can be easily transported to pretty much anywhere.  This video gives a visual overview of some of his very cool work.

Our family absolutely loves the outdoors.  When the weather allows, we eat many of our meals outside and congregate in our outdoor living space.  If we lived somewhere with a more moderate climate, I could totally see us attempting to live this small because we'd just spend most of our time outdoors.  As it is, though, it's hard to imagine all 5 of us hunkered down in 400 square feet while being snowed in for days.  Oh, well.  I do follow Kahn's blog via my Google Reader feed, so I guess I'll just have to get my Tiny Homes fix that way.  The blog features a new tiny home nearly everyday.  Check it out here

What do you think?  Could you live that small?  What is alluring about it?  What would you miss most if you compressed your life into only 300 square feet or so?

Monday, November 19, 2012

It's Beef, It's Chicken . . . No! It's Super Stew!

This yummy recipe came to me via Runner's World.  They claim that this combo of black beans (which pack filling fiber and muscle-building protein) and hot peppers (which may boost calorie burn) can help you lose weight even as you build muscle.  And,  by the way, it's delicious.
2 tsp. olive oil
1 diced onion
1 sliced carrot
1 lb. beans (soaked overnight and cooked) or 2   15 oz. cans black beans, drained
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1.5 c. broth (veggie or chicken)
1 c. sliced red pepper
1 Tbs. minced canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (see below for what I used instead)
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
zest of 1 orange
1 Tbs. fresh thyme

I used this sandwich spread in place of the canned chipotle pepper. 

Heat the oil in a large pot  Cook the onion and carrot for 5-10 minutes, until soft.  Add beans, tomatoes, broth, peppers, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Simmer 20 minutes. 

Stir in orange zest and thyme.

Delicious.  And good for you!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Don't Forget the Sugar Snaps

If you look at my blog via computer, you'll see that the little "What's in Season in Arkansas" area in the right sidebar lists only cabbage and broccoli.  And, while it's true that most of my garden has not withstood the frosts of this past week, there is another plant that's doing great.
Our sugar snap peas seem to be loving the current temperatures.  Because they're typically an early spring veggie, I was skeptical about trying them again as temperatures cooled, but I had some extra seed, so I went for it. 
I'm glad I did, because they're producing really well right now.

And, then there's the parsley.  Every frosty morning it looks pretty sad, but by afternoon it has perked back up and is still going strong.

And, the turnips. . . . Ah, the turnips.  As kids, when we'd fill our plates too full and then not be able to eat it all, my mom would tell us that it seemed our "eyes were bigger than our stomachs."  It doesn't apply perfectly, but there was something like that going on when I chose the turnip seeds out of the seed catalog.  The photographs were just so beautiful, and I wanted a variety of roots to try out in our new root garden box.  So, I got some turnips.  They apparently grow best in fall, so I didn't plant them until after most everything else was finished producing.  Anyway, as I bit into this turnip and nearly spit it out, I realized . . . that I had never before even tasted a turnip!  Since I've never tried a store-bought one, I can't be sure of this, but if it's anything like the radishes we grew this year, the homegrown variety has a much stronger flavor.  In the case of the turnip, that was a big problem for  me.  So, now I've got some turnips popping out of the soil and absolutely no interest in consuming them.  (Any takers?)  Oh, well.  It seems when it comes to seed shopping, maybe I should make my list before I open up the catalog.  ;)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Got Babies?

I just love a good goat pile!  Last week, we moved the goats around so that Copper (our buck) is no longer in with the girls.  They seem to be enjoying the newfound peace and quiet.
But, the question remains. . . did Copper get the job done or not?  We never actually saw him figure it out.  We did see him trying very hard on several occasions.  A shepherd friend of ours says that his sheep always make it happen at night, so he very often won't even know they've bred until he tests them.  I'm hoping that's the case here.

Unfortunately, knowing for sure is more complicated than a little pee on a stick.  It will either take time (we just wait until they get huge) or a blood test to know with certainty.  We will definitely be doing the blood test.  I can hardly wait to find out!  This is very exciting to me.

I'm, of course, hoping that by adding Honey as a milking doe, we'll have twice the milk next year.  I'm also excited to see her as a Momma.  She's my favorite goat, remember, and is just so sweet and friendly that I think she'll do well on the milking stand. 
So, Razz has been around the block a time or two.  But, this is Honey's first rodeo.

So, is she or isn't she pregnant?  Well, as you can see, her appetite is strong.

Maybe she's  little queasy?    What do you think -- does she have a glow about her?

I asked Razz what she thought about giving birth again.  I guess she was feeling a little sassy!

Seriously, what's with the tongue?

Anyway, I'll be sure to share with you our news as soon as we find out.  ;)