"The best times you are going to have in life are at the dinner table and in bed." Old Italian saying. So relax, and enjoy the simple things!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Simple Things to Do Before a Storm: Simple Living in Practice


woman with muffins
Got to have some fresh Apple Muffins for the storm!

I'm writing this post on Sunday with the assumption that we will lose power from the Frankenstorm that is heading our way. You see I live in a very wooded area and it doesn't take much wind to knock down a tree or two and our town's power is out. 

Sometimes our power is out for about a week. Priority  for getting electricity working is given to larger towns and cities in Westchester County, NY, which makes sense but leaves us little towns dark for longer. 


It would be great if in the comments you shared other ideas of what to do before a storm. Then next time we 
all will be more prepared.


So what do Simple Living folks do to prepare for a storm.


canoe building
Finish up work on the canoe you're building.

beeswax candle making
Make some beeswax candles.

woman cooking soup
Cook up a pot of soup.

1) Stay calm and remember, "This too shall pass..."

2) Fill up the car with gas in case we do need to evacuate. The pumps don't work when there isn't any power.

3) Get cash. Most stores will run on a cash only bases because they don't have power to authorize credit card purchases.

4) Check batteries in flashlights. We break out our camping lamplights they are great for reading at night. Take out candles too. We really enjoy our long burning beeswax candles that we make from our hives.

5) Buy water about a gallon per person per day. I usually get enough for 3 days. Don't forget to include your pets in your head count. They drink too! 

Buy batteries and food that doesn't have to be cooked: baked goods, popcorn, peanut butter, canned tuna, dried meats, nuts, fruit. Pickled things are good too: olives, beets, etc. Hopefully you have some of these things on hand. Don't BUY THE STORE OUT!!! People freak and buy way too much food. If you have a little camping stove you can cooks somethings. NOTE: Make sure you have your medication supply for at least a week.

6) A day to two days before the storm cook up and eat any meat you have in your freezer or fridge. Use up whatever can spoil.

7) Day before the storm make soup with whatever is left in your fridge.

8) Night before the storm. Charge up your electronic devices and remove them from the outlets so they won't be damaged from a power surge when the power goes off or back on. 

9) A day or so before a storm. Store lawn furniture, plants etc. that are in your yard that could be picked up by the wind. Do your laundry. 

10) The night before the storm. Batten down your hatches. Run the dishwasher. Turn up the power on your fridge and freezer. Fill up your bathtub with water and fill a bucket of water next to each toilet so you use these to flush. We don't have municipal water so when the power goes out our well pump doesn't work.

 Say a pray and sleep tight.



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Monday, October 29, 2012

I feel Squashed!: Healthy Eating

Source of Photo: What's Cooking America

It takes a little bit of effort to cook squash but the taste and the health benefits are profound.Squash is a rich source of C and B vitamins along with minerals. Orange squash has a tremendous amount of carotene, vitamin A which helps prevent cancer and protects you from infection in the winter months.


Here are some of my favorite squash recipes from my food parties this Fall.


Curried Butternut Squash & Apple Soup
Curried Butternut Squash & Apple Soup
southwestern tabbouleh stuffed squash
southwestern tabbouleh stuffed squash
Savory Squash Pancakes
Savory Squash Pancakes 
Moroccan Butternut
 Moroccan Butternut
Zucchini and Feta Pancakes
Zucchini and Feta Pancakes
Balsamic Squash and Kale in Rice Tarts
Balsamic Squash and Kale in Rice Tarts


Weekly Meal Plan:


Meatless Monday: Pesto Pasta with Tomato salad

Tuesday: Red Lentil Curry Potatoes with Pita Bread

Wednesday: Stuffed Artichokes

Thursday: Stir Fry: Snap-peas, Carrots & Scallions with Shrimp & White Rice.

Friday: Macaroni and Cheese with salad

Saturday: Sausage and Farro Stuffed Squash


This post is shared on:

menu plan monday


We are preparing for the Frankenstorm here on the Northeast of the US, so if I don't respond to your comments I apologize now... it is probably because we lost power.
Stay safe, stay warm....
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Harvest Pie Pops: Foodie Friday

Harvest Pie Pops
Harvest Pie Pops

Those of you who regularly follow this blog know I rarely post desserts. You see I'm not a baker, but my husband and my daughter are.

And since it is "Trick or Treat" time I decided I would share with you the "Treat" my daughter made for her birthday party. They are pies on a stick: pumpkin ones and chocolate ones... "Cake pops are over." says my 11 year old. "Pie pops are now." 

So check them out, great for parties, Harvest Festivals and fundraising events. 



Harvest Pie Pops
by J. Balch

Prep time: 1 hour                                     Serves: approximately 12 pops

Dough recipe based on: American Pie Dough for Fruit Pies recipe by Cook's Illustrated in "Tje Best Recipe" cookbook pg 481

Ingredients:

Pie Dough:

   4 cups of all purpose flour
   1 teaspoon of salt
   4 tablespoons of sugar
  12 tablespoons of unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
   8 tablespoons of all-vegetable shortening, chilled

Pumpkin Filling:

    1/2 can of pumpkin
   2 tablespoons of sugar
   1 splash of heavy cream
   1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice
   

Chocolate Filling:

   1/2 bag of milk chocolate chips 5 ounces
   2 tablespoons of butter
   3 tablespoons of sugar
   1 tablespoon of heavy cream


Decorations:

   Candy corn
   chocolate sprinkles
   orange sprinkles
   chocolate icing
   popsicle sticks 


Directions:

For the pies:

1) Mix flour, salt, and sugar together in a food processor. Add butter and then shortening until the flour is a pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, butter bits should be no larger than small peas.

2) Kneed dough into a ball wrap it with plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days before rolling it out.

3) Sprinkle dough with flour and roll it out into thin 1/4 inch even sheets. Use a 3 inch round cookie cutter to make the pies.


For the pumpkin filling:

1) Whisk all ingredients together. 

2) Place popsicle stick on pie dough put about 1 tablespoon of filling into each pie, spread evenly, and place another cut out on top. Gentle press the edges together to seal the pop.

3) Bake on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for approximately  
or until the pie begins to get golden around the edges.


For the chocolate filling:

1) Melt the butter in a double boiler. 

2) Whisk in chocolate chips,sugar and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream until the filling is smooth.

3) Place popsicle stick on pie dough put about 1 tablespoon of filling into each pie, spread evenly, and place another cut out on top. Gentle press the edges together to seal the pop.

4) Bake on a parchment paper lined baking sheet on 375 degrees for approximately 10 minutes and then switch the trays front to back for another 10 minutes or until the pie begins to get golden around the edges.


Decorating:
Make sunflower design and add sprinkles and chocolate splashes to the pies while they are still warm. Do not pick up decorated pies until they are completely cool.


Foodie Friday Features:

From: Fox in the Kitchen

Mojito Quinoa Salad
Mojito Quinoa Salad

A really interesting mixture of spices from mint to cilantro make this seasonal pear salad really unique.


From: Jazzy Gourmet

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai
Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai

Spaghetti squash really can be used as a healthy, low cal, gluten free substitute for noodles... plus it is delicious. This pad thai dish is a great way to incorporate such a wonderful seasonally fresh squash.


From: We Like to Cook

Bacon Braised Brussel Sprouts
 Bacon Braised Brussel Sprouts

Don't like Brussel Sprouts? Have you ever roasted them with garlic and bacon? You are sure to love these... come on give them a try it is Brussel Sprout season.


From: Whole Lifestyle Nutrition

pumpkin cheesecake
Organic Pumpkin Cheesecake GF & GrF

This is the healthiest most delicious looking cheesecake I've ever seen. The crust is made from ground nuts... really unique.


Instructions for Foodie Friday linky:

This is a food party please only link up food related posts. Thank you. 

SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG BY EMAIL OR RSS... 

or FRIEND ME ON FACEBOOK

SPREAD THE WORD: PIN, FB, TWEET ETC... this party. It is good for you and me.


1) Copy the Foodie Friday Button's html from this website's sidebar.
2) Paste this html to the html page of the recipe you want to link to Foodie Friday. You can also make a word link or post our button on your sidebar.                                                                 Please link back.
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4) Click on "your next" on this page.
5) Past your link and type in the name of the recipe, not your name.
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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chicken Tagine with Sweet Potatoes and Prunes: French Fridays with Dorie

Chicken Tagine with Sweet Potatoes and Prunes
Chicken Tagine with Sweet Potatoes and Prunes

I know it is Halloween, but I got a little concerned about Dorie's description of this dish's "haunting" fragrances... I was concerned that the exoticness of this dish would scare off my family, and of course, I have a stereotype in my head about prunes = old ladies + need for fiber...

I tried to stay open minded. Reading through the ingredients I was thrilled to get to use some more star anise, since I don't have a clue what to do this expensive spice without Dorie's direction.

I noticed that I did not have any saffron and after hunting around in a few gourmet shops I realized why: $18 for a few threads...WOW. I have quite a treasure chest of expensive herbs now thanks to Dorie.

OK, so the results... well, I loved the vegetables the onions, sweet potatoes and even the PRUNES were scrumptious. The chicken was very tender, but I really want to know why I had to bother browning all those thighs when the skin doesn't stay crisp and mostly falls off in the dutch oven??? 

So, Dorista's please enlighten me... is there culinary importance to browning the meat, since we don't use the browned bits to make a sauce or... what? I need to know or I am just going to buy skinless chicken next time.

Well, that star anise turned out to be an issue for my daughter and I... I found the smell of it distracting. I could barely taste any of the other seasoning... especially the saffron because it was just too aromatic for this dish. I will skip it next time, and put more cayenne because I found the dish to be too sweet. The seasoning is interesting but it needs to be balanced... this not one of my favorite recipes.

I liked this blogger's version of this dish because she skipped the star anise. Though she also omitted the cayenne, which I think is really important for keeping the flavors balanced.



Note: As a member of French Friday's with Dorie I am not allowed to print the recipe. I invite you to take a look at this wonderful cookbook "Around My French Table" if you are interested in this or any other recipe I review. 

 






Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Just Vote!: Simple Living in Practice

your vote is your voice
Source: The Sierra Madre Tattler

When I was a little kid my dad was home from work and in his recliner at 5:15 pm to read his newspaper. One day I got up the nerve to ask him why he always read the paper. I was expecting an answer more along the lines of, "So, I don't have to deal with four kids the minute I get home from work..." Which may have been partly true... but his answer surprised me. 

My father put his newspaper down and stared me in the eye and said, 


"I read the newspaper everyday because I believe in democracy, and democracy doesn't work if people aren't informed."

My dad was a very civic minded person. He always held offices in our church and in community organizations, as well as being an Army reservist. So a lecture on "civic duty" from him was not unfamiliar to me, but this statement in particular really stuck with me... maybe because it was so simple, yet so important. 

By the time I was in high school I had convinced my parents to subscribe to the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal along with our local paper. 

Dinners always involved heated discussions about topical issues. My siblings and I still debate which news sources are best for different information. My dad, who died when I was 18, would be proud of his kids. We all grew up to be well informed citizens.

To this day, I always put aside a half hour a day minimum, to read the New York Times... and as I run my errands during the day I listen to National Public Radio... 

Well, knowing what is going on in the world is only step one of our civic duty my dad would tell you: 


"You have to vote." 


It was a little harsh, but my dad would tell us that our opinions were worthless if we didn't vote. They definitely were not making an impact in our community or our country by not voting. 

And it is easier to make a decision on who to vote for when you regularly follow the news.

This is a very important presidential election to participate in because both parties have very different visions of the future of American.

If you are still undecided read each party's platform:



Regularly follow a nonpartisan news source (so, no I don't recommend: MSNBC or Fox News)

The following are good nonpartisan sources for political news:




40% of eligible voters in the US don't vote
don't be one of them!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Don't Let Pumpkins Scare You: Healthy Eating

jack-o-lantern
My son's jack-o-lantern

Don't be afraid of pumpkin. They are in their peak season and will be going on sale the closer we get to Halloween. All you have to do is split one in half, scoop out the seeds, and bake it until it gets tender. Check out this simple guide on Elana's Pantry. Scoop out all that goodness and use it as a substitute for squash or sweet potatoes in any recipe and of course bake some pies and muffins too.

Don't throw out those seeds! Roast them with a little oil and salt... delicious. Here is a little guide for roasting and seasoning your seeds from Pumpkin Patches and More.

Pumpkin is super nutritious and low in calories. 


1 cup of pumpkin only has 49 calories yet it contains 245% of your daily allowance of vitamin A plus: calcium, iron, and vitamin C. 

The following pumpkin recipes are from my Friday food parties enjoy:


Dinner in a Pumpkin
Dinner in a Pumpkin
No Cook Pumpkin Parfaits
No Cook Pumpkin Parfaits
Pumpkin Coconut Shrimp Curry
Pumpkin Coconut Shrimp Curry
Pumpkin Pancakes
Pumpkin Pancakes

Autumn Pumpkin Soup
Autumn Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin Cookies
Pumpkin Cookies
13 Pumpkin Dessert Recipes
13 Pumpkin Dessert Recipes

Weekly Menu Plan:

Sunday: Puree Carrot Soup with Ciabatta Rolls

Meatless Monday: Scarole and Beans

Tuesday: Chicken Dijon with Spinach and Brown Rice

Wednesday: Trader Joe's Breaded Codfish with Green Beans and Roasted Potatoes

Thursday: Refried Beans Taco's with Cheddar Cheese and Guacamole

Friday: Pizza take out

Saturday: Hibachi Birthday dinner for my daughter.

This post is shared on:

menu plan monday

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cheese Raviolis with Pumpkin Sauce: Foodie Friday

Cheese Raviolis with Pumpkin Sauce
Cheese Raviolis with Pumpkin Sauce

This looks good right...wrong. I have been in a cooking slump... my magic wand is broken. All my concoctions have turned into toad's stew lately. Probably, because I have been working with apples, pumpkins, and squash... which are not part of my regular "go to" ingredients... also Fall herbs like rosemary and sage are not typical for me to cook with either... 

I have been trying to make more seasonal meals, and so I have been pushing at my culinary limits... this is all good in the long run, but in the short run I need to come up with recipes for this blog.


My husband encouraged me to share my most recent cooking failure with you.


"Because you don't want them to think EVERYTHING you make tastes good ALL the time." 

He is right... if you really want to learn to cook well you do have to take some chances... sometimes they work out really well, and other times... like this sauce... they just come out too sweet.


I had looked at several pumpkin sauce recipes on line. None of them incorporated apples into the recipe. Which I thought would be a great idea because they are so available at this time of year too. 


 I decided to add apple cider to the sauce, thinking it would be like white wine... but more seasonal. 
Combine with the pumpkin puree...it just made the sauce way too sweet. I did add fresh sage to the recipe, which is an earthy contrast to sweet pumpkin, but it wasn't enough of a balancing agent to off set the apple cider.

Oh, well I tried and I will try again...



I really just need to keep my cooking in perspective: a ruined dinner is truly not that big of a deal... there is always pizza.


So please check out this recipe, it is the closest to what I was aiming for flavor wise (use about 4 pieces of sage) :

...and enjoy a really delicious seasonal alternative to tomato sauce on your raviolis tonight.





Foodie Friday Features: 

From: My Carolina Kitchen

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup Caribbean Style

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup Caribbean Style

This is soup uses Sherry vinegar which has a fantastic flavor. Combine with pumpkin and black beans you have a right in season satisfying vegetarian meal.


From: Carissa's Food Blog

Chicken with White Bean Enchiladas
Chicken with White Bean Enchiladas
I just love the contrast between the mellow chicken and white beans and the chilies in this recipe. Great for a chilly Fall night.


From: cook with Sara

Caramel Apple Cookies
Caramel Apple Cookies 
What could possibly be better than caramel baked into an apple cookie? I can't think of anything. A perfect Autumn dessert.


Instructions for Foodie Friday linky:

This is a food party please only link up food related posts. Thank you. 

SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG BY EMAIL OR RSS... 

or FRIEND ME ON FACEBOOK

SPREAD THE WORD: PIN, FB, TWEET ETC... this party. It is good for you and me.


1) Copy the Foodie Friday Button's html from this website's sidebar.
2) Paste this html to the html page of the recipe you want to link to Foodie Friday. You can also make a word link or post our button on your sidebar.                                                                 Please link back.
3) Copy the link to the recipes you want to add to Foodie Friday, not your homepage. You can post up to 3 recipes that you have not shared before.
4) Click on "your next" on this page.
5) Past your link and type in the name of the recipe, not your name.
6) Choose how you want to download the photo.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spur-of-the moment vegetable soup (Carrot Soup): French Fridays with Dorie

carrot puree soup

As a kid I was quite enamored with the Stone Soup story. So much so, that in the winter I would stoke up an electric coiled burner on my back yard porch (with no adult supervision, need you ask... it was the 70's) and require each kid in the neighborhood to give me a vegetable for "the stone soup"... by the end of the afternoon we would feast on what usually turned out to be a "carrot potato soup" since none of us knew that we should have rounded out our vegetable selection to include weird things like celery and onions.

Dorie's soup reminded me a little of my childhood carrot concoction. I wish I knew about immersion blenders back then... our stone soup's texture would have been much more pleasing.

Yes, I did puree this soup... I tend to puree all vegetable soups. I have found it to be a good defense against kids picking out unloved vegetables from the soup. 


When it's pureed the texture is pleasing, and nobody knows what the HELL I put in it!

I have to admit I was skeptical about the rosemary sprig in the soup, but as usual Dorie surprised me with a wonderful combination... I now really love carrot and rosemary together. Another note about this recipe: it called for 6 cups of broth, when I got to 4 cups I stopped... because to me if I added anymore liquid the soup would have been too thin for a puree. I guess it is a personal preference, but I like a creamy soup to be thick also.

A note to the Doristas I didn't make the last two recipes because making hummus for a French cooking group didn't appeal to me, and the Apple Almond Tart sounded wonderful... but my little pastry chef has nut allergies. 

My childhood food allergies have been recently acting up too, so there will probably be more recipes that I will have to obstinate from cooking. 

I can't tell you what a downer it is to have food allergies when you are a foodie... but on the other hand my daughter has become an amazing baker for her age because she feels safest eating desserts she has made herself.

For me... growing up so conscious of what I put into my mouth, for fear of breaking out in a mass of hives or have to rush to the bathroom, has made me hyper-aware of food ingredients which has translated into good cooking skills... 


so there are always blessings hidden in our curses. 


So glad to be back!!!


Notes: This recipe looks a lot like Dorie's: 

         Spur-Of-The-Moment Vegetable Soup


Note: As a member of French Friday's with Dorie I am not allowed to print the recipe. I invite you to take a look at this wonderful cookbook "Around My French Table" if you are interested in this or any other recipe I review. 

 





This post is being shared on the following linky parties check them out:
Meatless Monday:
Tuesday Food:
Hearth & Soul Blog Hop @ Premeditated Leftovers
Tempt my Tummy @Blessed with Grace
Trick or Treat Tuesday @ Bru Crew Life
Totally Tasty Tuesday @ Mandy's Recipe Box
Tasteful Tuesday Party @ Nap Time Creations 
Traditional Tuesdays @ Cooking Traditional Foods
Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays @ SS& GS
Show Me What You Got @ Our Delightful Home
Wednesday Food:
What's Cooking Wednesday @ Confessions of an Overworked Mom
Wholesome Foods Wednesday @ This Chick Can Cook
Cast Party Wednesday @ Lady Behind the Curtain 
Newlyweds Recipe Party @ Newlyweds
Whimsy Wednesday @ The Melrose Family
 Wednesday Whatsit @White Lights on Wednesday 
Recipe Box @ Bizzy Bakes
Fresh Foods Wednesdays @ Gastronomical Sovereignty
Wednesday Adorn from Above @ Adorn from Above
Link it up Wednesday @ Homestead Simple
Show and Share @ Semi Homemade Mom
Wonderful Food Wednesdays at @ Home Take 2
Thursday Food:
Full Plate Thursday @ Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Tastetastic Thursday @ A Little Nosh
Link it Up Thursday @ Seven Alive
Creative Thursday @ Michelle's Tasty Creations
Fantastic Thursday @ Three Little Chiefs
Keep it Real Thursday @ Beyond the Peel
It's Fall Y'all @ Love Bakes Good Cakes until Nov 1st
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