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Crockpot Summer Supper

Today’s crockpot summer supper, is a recipe that came about in a convoluted fashion, as so many scratch recipes do.
My garlic cloves were overpowering the rest of the fridge contents, and it is so hot, that heating the oven just seemed wrong.
I came up with this recipe originally as a way to eat wild game that was too gamey on its own. It is a wonderful base for beef as well, and tonight’s dinner proves it.
Quick and easy, place your ingredients in the crockpot and walk away. No miss, no fuss.
Crockpot Beef
1 frozen beef roast 3-4 lbs
1 pkg onion soup mix or your favorite seasoning
1 can tomato paste
Garlic cloves (use plenty, they sweeten as they cook)

I start with a frozen roast and cook it all day on high. If hubs is late, I turn it off and keep it covered.

Serve with greens from the garden and a crusty bread. Leftovers are even better!

Warm Pasta Salad With Mushrooms and Sausage

When all else fails, make pasta! I often cook a meal, knowing there will be leftovers. Pasta salad is a great recipe to make a nice dinner and at least one lunch for everyone, and I can put all the vegetables into it that I have on hand.
This salad was served warm, and included:

  • 2lbs pasta
  • 5 links Italian sausage, frozen and sliced thinly
  • 1 bunch green onions(I used walking onions from the garden)
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped fine
  • 8 ounce pkg sliced mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1Tbsp olive oil, to sauté veg
  • 2 (or more) Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • chopped basil, other herbs as desired
  • salt/pepper (the sausage is salty, so use caution)
  • In a cast iron pan, sauté onion, garlic and any other vegetables until almost cooked through.
    Meanwhile boil pasta in salted water, until al dente.
    Combine pasta, meat and veg, additional olive oil and vinegar.
    Taste and adjust salt/ pepper.
    Serve with a garden salad and bread.

    Leftovers of this salad, are delicious when server cold. Enjoy!

Do Not Be Afraid Of Cooking

Do not be afraid of cooking. So many times I hear people say “Oh you are such a greatcook!” Or that they cant possibly cook. I always wonder about that. I mean, whatis there but something tastes good or it doesn’t? I don’t know many things thatdon’t come with some sort of recipe attached to them, either verbally from thegifter or on the label..You simply follow the recipe and watch what happens.Then the next time you tweak to make it work better for your taste.
I don’t know how many times I have taken the heat out of arecipe for my family. My  husband’s tastebuds are dead due to a lifelong addiction to chewing tobacco, and he has to usestraight up super hot sauce on every conceivable thing (no lie) but babies can’ttolerate that . So I remove the heat and slowly build up as they growolder. I do have one child who can’t tolerate any heat-even black pepper as aseasoning. I am not hip to what that means for digestion, but he is a teenagerand just in the last 6 months has been able to at least be open to trying hotthings. Of course, his idea of hot is sort of silly for even the baby, but weall grow at different paces right? J

Anyways, Do not be afraid to screwing up food! Just playwith heat temperatures, cutting sizes, seasonings and when  you do eat, really sit and taste what you areeating. Have you ever heard that a cook is never happy with what they make?Except for on FoodNetwork, but that’s not real.
Of course they are not happy! A cook always tastes what theycan do to either improve or tweak what they are eating. That doesn’t mean theydon’t enjoy what they are putting int heir mouths (heck I love it when someoneelse cooks-even a restaurant), but cooking evolves every single day for aninspired cook. One who is not afraid to make a mistake and then move on fromit.
One of my favorite things to read when I was younger was theinside cover of many cookbooks for the substitutions section. That was whereyou could go if you were out of eggs perhaps, or find out that you couldsubstitute an egg with ground flaxseed and water or something.
That is where I learned that you could make buttermilk by mixing milk and vinegar. Who knew? I have only had access to real buttermilkwhen I make butter from our goat’s milk and have it left over. In no way doesit resemble that thick weird stuff in the carton at the grocery store..I amnot sure whose brilliant scheme it was to thicken buttermilk. 
I digress. The point of today’s post is to not be afraid offood. It is there for the cooking, marinating, growing eating, making mistakeswith. Where do you thing recipes come from?There are no new recipes..cooks just mess around with things they like to eatand write them down.
I know writing my books, that I shared hundreds of recipeswith the publisher. Almost 400 of them actually. The hardest part of sharingwas that many times what I cooked was jotted down on the back of a scrap paperand god forbid I measured…I had to make so many things just to measure them tosend in to the publisher. It was tedious. But now, I can simply cook out of mytwo books and have a fairly wide range of my regular recipes turn out time andagain. Of course I play around with the tried and true ones still..that isbecause I am a fearless, rebel cook. 

My Favorite Pantry Item

Of all the things in my pantry, I think flour is myfavorite pantry item. Why?  Flour is used for so many fabulous things and it isthe basis for most of my scratch cooking. I can make sweet, savory, hearty,fried, crispy and smooth/creamy-all with flour.
My favorite type is unbleached white. Yes, I admit that my favorite flour is not some sort of hippie wholegrain. It is a simple, soft, learnthatunbleached basic white flour. Of course, as you get to know me, learn thatI never leave well enough alone. I also like to play with whole wheat flour andother types, tyring to get the perfect ratio of white flour  to whole grain (which is notorious for makingbricks instead of bread). One of my flours that I use quite a bit is a Bobs Red Mill,10 grain flour. If you don’t mix that high test with white, you can hammer a nail with the resulting bread.
Flour means comfort. It is perfect for those rainydays when a loaf of bread and a bowl of soup tastes perfect. It’s also a pickme up when the family has to get up early to work on the harvest and I canpresent them with homemade donuts or cinnamon rolls when they first come up tothe kitchen.
Flour is my old friend when we are out of food. As long as Ihave flour, I can make sourdough and then bread. With sourdough, I can make allsorts of baked goods without needing yeast or other leavening. Of course, I use extra yeast or baking powder or vinegar/baking soda when I need to, but its great to have my sourdough waiting to help out.
I also make a mean pancake with flour. When I lived in my cabin, pancakes were almost a daily food. I never used a recipe and played with ratios there too. Sometimes I had eggs, sometimes not. Sometimes I had sourdough or other leavening and sometimes it was flour, water and a greasy pan, with a side of black coffee. Anyway, you look at it, flour certainly saves me many times over.
I make it a point to buy a bag of flour, any size, ANY timeI go shopping. I have purchased 1 pound bags from the pharmacy and often buy 25pound bags at the warehouse store. If you are starting a pantry, I recommend getting a handle on your flour totals. Use a 5 gallon food safe bucket and fill that baby up with flour! A 25 pound bag fits nicely.
Then you have to learn to use your flour, but that’s another blog post.

Food Musings

Photo midiman
What a powerful thing, food. We have to eat, and it is so easy to eat badly.
 For some reason our society started thinking that food was supposed to be fast and furious, indulgent, and that we were much too busy to prepare or have anything to do with food, other than packing it inot our mouths.
I think when I was younger, I don’t remember being hungry really, just that food was precious? I would feel so guilty that I couldn’t stand the taste of something, no matter what it was. My biggest dislike was of beets. To this day, I can not even smell them without gagging. It all stems from a horrible memory I have of my brother overeating them, but that’s all I am going to say. Beets = ewww
So as I grew older and started having children, the instability of my young adulthood became very noticeable. I remember when I had $11.00 a week to feed pregnant self and my toddler. Yep, 11 bucks. Those were pretty tight times, but we ate whole foods because I knew how to scratch cook. I am beholdin to all the women of days past, who wrote their meticulous notes on the edges of the old, musty cookbooks at the library. Have you ever seen those? Their pages look like they are falling out, they recipes always include using organ meats nad weird pans and utensils that modern day cooks don’t even know how to pronounce.
 These women cooked on the prarie, on wagon trains and in small sod houses, after starting their own fires before anyone in the family was even awake. Their talents are vastly under appreciated in this modern age of hurry up and rip that box open-style of cooking we all know. Nowadays, we think we are entitled to having someone else cook for us, entitled to eating a dizzying array of foods from around the world at any time of the year, and somehow that sitting down to family food is an unworthy cause-not worth our time or effort.
I don’t get that. At our farm, dinner is the only time we actually all sit together with my husband. He is always busy working on some project or another. Yes he sees the boys, but they are not talking or connecting, they are building or fixing or cleaning up.
Dinner is our time together, then we sit, sigh and catch up. Dinner feeds our stomachs and our souls. We connect. Our time at the table is just as important as a good night’s sleep, our seatbelts, a hug or a good laugh. It is our fuel. Be sure to fuel up your family at least once a day. 

Green Tomatoes Galore

Here is what happens when the season is not warm enough to ripen the tomatoes, but is plenty warm enough to grow them! What? That isn’t too many you say? Well, this is ONE box. We have FIVE and a 5 gallon bucket of them, in storage.

So, what do I do with all these tomatoes? Tonight, I am making fried green ones. Because we love to deep fry them, I make a slightly different recipe than many southerners would recognize. Trust me, they are still delicious!

The coating(based on a fish and chips coating):

1 1/3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 1/3 cup water

-Mix dry ingredients in one bowl
-Mix vinegar and water in another bowl
-Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk until smooth.

That’s all there is too it!

For the tomatoes, choose firm tomatoes of any size. Slice 1/4 inch thick(this will be slightly thinner than usual).

(EDIT: If slices are particularly juicy,  you may want to coat them with flour first, to allow the batter to stick).

Dip into batter and let excess run off for a few seconds before dropping in HOT lard.
Fry for 2-3 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Yes, this means you have permission to taste one. 🙂

This batter is slightly salty and adds a great flavor to the tomatoes. You can use the same batter for deep frying any vegetables. Let me know how you like it!