Double Up Dinner – Beef Stroganoff

Several times recently I have been asked how I find the energy to do everything I do.  These days I do feel like I have been working harder than I ever have before.  In addition to my own two children I also babysit a two year old little girl.  It seems like every day we are adding something to our little “farm”, which means more chores every morning and evening.  As I am eliminating processed foods from my family’s diet I am doing more and more cooking and baking from scratch.  At the end of the day I am truly exhausted.  Don’t even think of mentioning that I don’t have a job, I just might start throwing things.  With all of this on my plate I’ve had to work on becoming better organized.  The frozen dinners that had been a lifesaver on nights when I didn’t feel like cooking, are no longer an option now that I have read the list of ingredients in most of them.  So after nearly five years of marriage I have finally begun meal planning.

My basic outline for planning dinners looks something like this:

Monday-Double up from last week (beef)

Tuesday– chicken (double up for next week)

Wednesday-vegetarian

Thursday-beef (double up for next week)

Friday-double up from last week (chicken)

Saturday – other (pork, lamb,vegetarian, dinner out)

Sunday – fish

If I stick to the plan I have two nights that I don’t have to cook.  I do have two nights that I have to put a little work into making a double dinner, but really it doesn’t take much extra effort.  I switch the plan around from week to week and try to make enough so that I can eat leftovers for lunch.  Once a week I try to use the crock-pot.  Serving a double up dinner from the freezer on Monday allows me to get organized so that I can stay on track for the rest of the week.

* Beef Stroganoff *

Ingredients

2 pounds ground beef

1 large onion, diced

1 pound mushrooms, diced

4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp pepper

2 tsp paprika (opt.)

1 Tbls parsley(opt.)

1 cup water(or beef stock)

2 Tbls flour

8 0z sour cream (I’ve substituted yogurt with good results)

*2 cups brown rice cooked in 4 cups chicken broth

Directions

Cook rice (or if you prefer, noodles)

Brown ground beef in a large skillet, drain fat and set beef aside.

In the same skillet saute onions in some of the reserved fat (our homegrown beef is so lean I often need to use a small amount of butter) , add mushrooms and garlic, and seasonings.  Cook till mushrooms are soft.  Add cooked ground beef.

Stir flour into the water to dissolve and pour into skillet.  Simmer, stirring occasionally,  till mixture begins to bubble.  Add sour cream and salt to taste.  Simmer for several more minutes.

I place half the rice in a glass casserole dish and cover with half of the stroganoff.   My casserole dishes have plastic lids, but you can cover with aluminum foil if yours do not.  I place the dish in the refrigerator for 1 hour, then place in the freezer.  This meal can be reheated in the microwave or the oven.

This isn't the prettiest dinner, but it is nourishing and easy! A favorite with my family.

I serve my stroganoff with a fresh salad, or home canned green beans.  All of my double up dinners make 2 – four serving meals.

This post is a part of Pennywise Platter Thursdays

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Filed under Beef, Double Up Dinners, Menu Planning

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

My family, thankfully, does not have any food allergies.  I have however, been playing around with gluten-free recipes lately.  A friend of mine has a daughter who is gluten intolerant and I occasionally bake goodies for her.  In return she does my hair, and I’m pretty sure I am getting the better end of the deal.  Last week I made my first attempt at gluten free bread and it was an utter failure.  So today I made something with chocolate in it instead.  My belief is that no matter how bad something is chocolate will make it bearable (that goes for life as well as food).  Well, these cookies were much better than bearable.  I’d even go as far as to say they were amazing.  I didn’t bother to tell my husband that they were gluten-free until after he told me that they were great.  His response was that he had no idea what gluten was but the cookies definitely didn’t need it.  I won’t be giving up bread anytime soon, but these cookies are a keeper.

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 Tbls milk

1 cup butter

1 2/3 cup rice flour

1 1/3 old fashioned oats

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Directions

Cream together sugars, butter, vanilla, and milk

mix in dry ingredients

Fold in chocolate chips by hand

Press dough between the palms of you hands to form cookie shape (makes about 2 dozen cookies).

Bake @ 350 for 10 – 12 minutes

Allow to cool completely before removing from pan.  These cookies are not for the impatient.  If you don’t wait for them to cool completely they will fall apart.

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Milking a Goat

Until a few weeks ago I had never milked a goat.  A few days before bringing my goats home I called a woman I know who raises LaManchas and Alpines and asked if she could teach me.  She gave me a quick lesson on one of her easiest milkers, as well as some tips for getting started.  I thought I would take the time to share what I have learned with anyone out there that might be considering raising goats for milk.

Equipment

A seamless stainless steel milking pail(I couldn’t find one small enough to fit under my dwarf goat and ended up ordering a two quart food/water pail from a dog supply company)

Strip cup

Towels or paper towels

Teat wash

Teat dip cup (I use dixie cups but a shot glass would work too)

Milk tote or jar to hold milk

A treat (I give my goat a vitamin C tablet and she loves it).

Milking

My husband built me a milking stanchion to make milking easier.

Mocha jumps right up onto the milking stand and sticks her head in the stanchion to get her grain.  I can then close and latch the stanchion and she is unable to get her head out.

I begin by dipping her teats in teat wash and wiping her udder clean with a paper towel soaked in the wash.  I use the formula recommended by Molly at Fias Co Farm.

I then squirt a few streams of milk into the strip cup to check for signs of mastitis (any lumps, flakes, or stings in the milk could indicate mastitis, then the milk can be tested with a mastitis test strip) .

Nigerian goats are a dwarf breed and they have rather small teats.  Because of this I get my thumb all the way up on the udder, then I pinch the top of the teat between my thumb and forefinger.

Then I press down with my middle and ring fingers to push the milk out of the teat

The first few times I milked Mocha she managed to kick the pail and spill half of the milk.  After a few tears I got smart and started taking a jar out with me to pour off the milk.  About two thirds of the way through milking Mocha tends to get a bit a kicky.  I personally think she is willing to share her milk up to a point, and then she wants to reserve the rest for her baby.  At this point I pour off the milk from my pail.  Then if she does kick the pail there isn’t enough milk in it to slosh over the sides.  If see seems unsettled I will milk one handed so that I can hold the pail with the other hand.  Mocha gives me between 3-4 cups of milk at her morning milking.  I crate her baby (Chino) at night so that Mocha has plenty of milk in the morning, then I allow them to spend all day together and I do not do an evening milking.  Once Chino is weaned (we will probably wait till 16 weeks), Mocha should give a little more than one and a half quarts of milk a day.  Not bad for a 65 pound goat.

Once I am finished milking I once again dip Mocha’s teats and allow them to air dry.  Then I give Mocha her treat to reward her for sharing her milk.

Milk Care and Handling

I use all stainless steel and glass equipment for milk handling and storage because it can be easily sanitized.  Before beginning milking I sanitize all of my equipment in a sink full of hot water with a quarter cup of bleach.  I have never been a big fan of bleach, but in this instance I feel that it is the safest, most practical option.  I let the items soak for 2 minutes then air dry for 15 minutes.

Before I head out to milk I place the jar I will be using to store the milk and the milk strainer in the freezer.  When I head in from milking the first thing that I do is pour the milk in to the strainer and place it directly into the fridge.  I do not pasteurize my milk so it is extremely important to chill the milk to 35 degrees as quickly as possible, and then to keep the milk between 35 and 38 degrees( no leaving raw milk out on the counter during dinner).  The milk should last for a week.  We use all of our milk within 48 hours so I haven’t actually found out first hand how long it takes to begin to turn sour.

I then wash all of my equipment in warm soapy water and store for the next milking.  I label and date the milk so that the oldest milk always gets used first.  The milk currently in use is placed in a glass pitcher.

Most of the milk that I get from Mocha is for my eleven month old daughter, who is thriving on it.  Any left over I use for making yogurt.  Eventually I plan to breed Mocha and build a small herd of milk goats.  I figure three goats would provide my family of four with milk for drinking as well as some cheese and yogurt.   My husband was a bit skeptical about this plan until he tasted the milk.  It is wonderful!

These goats have been such a pleasure to own.  In less then three weeks they have become a part of our family.  Mocha follows me around like a puppy while I do my chores.  It is so much fun to see my two year old play with Chino.  They chase each other around the pasture, the backyard, and sometimes through the house.  I am looking forward to sharing my goat stories for years to come.

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Crock-Pot Yogurt

I have always loved yogurt.  I was partial to Yoplait, all those fun flavors in conveniently packaged single servings.  I never gave a second thought to how many of those plastic cups I threw away.  It never occurred to me to read the ingredients, it was yogurt.  Then, as most of you know, I began my real food transformation.  It has been slow going and I still eat plenty of things that I shouldn’t, but yogurt has been the easiest change to make.  My sister-in-law gave me this super easy crock-pot method for making yogurt, and I haven’t bought a single serving cup loaded with high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and fillers since.

Homemade yogurt with bananas, strawberries, and agave nectar

Ingredients

1/2 gallon milk (whole, 2%, or even raw milk)

1/2 cup yogurt or starter culture

Directions

Place milk in crock-pot on low (I used raw goat’s milk for the first time this week). Cover.  Leave for 2 hours and forty five minutes.

Turn off.  Do not uncover.  Leave for 3 hours.

Remove 1-2 cups of milk from crock-pot. Stir in 1/2 cup of yogurt (once you have made your yogurt you can reserve a 1/2 cup for the next batch, but eventually it will stop working and you will need to by a new container).

Pour back into crock-pot, stirring gently.

Cover.  Wrap with two thick towels and let sit for 8-12 hours.

Uncover in the morning (I try to start yogurt at about 3:00 in the afternoon, so I can wrap it up before 9:00 and uncover it between 7:00 and 8:00 in the morning).

Homemade yogurt will be a bit on the runny side because it does not contain fillers, if you must have thick yogurt you can add 1/2 – 1 cup dry milk powder when you add your starter.

Place in a storage container and refrigerate.  I store my yogurt in mason jars because they are easy to sanitize.

Serve cold with fresh fruit.  You can sweeten it with agave nectar or sugar.  If you are trying to go low calorie try Stevia.  I use yogurt for cooking, baking, salad dressings, dips, fruit salad ….. the possibilities are endless.

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Banana Apple Flax Muffins

My two year old is obsessed with cake.  Yesterday all day long he asked me for cake.   This morning before he got up, I decided to make him “cake”.  The muffins were nearly finished when he came into the kitchen, so I turned on the oven light for him to see.  “My cakes, my cakes”, he shouted.  I couldn’t help but laugh, if only he knew his favorite “cake” was a healthy, nutrition packed muffin.

This recipe calls for ground flax seed.  Flax seed is packed with good for you omega 3’s, fiber, and lignans so I bake with it frequently.  The best way to use flax is to grind it fresh in a coffee grinder.  All grains begin to lose nutrients within hours of grinding, so grinding your own is always the best option.  However, I also buy cold milled golden flax seed meal because let face it sometimes I’m just too lazy to bother grinding grains in the morning.  The other great thing about flax is that it makes a great substitute for eggs or oil when baking.  Flax seed has saved the day many times at my house when halfway through measuring my ingredients for chocolate chip cookies I realize I’m out of eggs.  Here are some handy substitutions:

1 egg = 1 Tbls flax + 3 Tbls water

1 Tbls butter or oil = 3 Tbls flax

Banana Apple Flax Muffins

Ingredients

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

¾ cup ground flax seed

½ cup agave nectar

1 tsp baking soda

1 egg

½ cup applesauce

2 ripe mashed bananas

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 Tbsp plain yogurt

¼ cup chopped pecans

¼ cup raw sugar

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, flax seed, and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, mix egg, agave nectar, applesauce, bananas, vanilla, and yogurt.

Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients.

Spray the muffin pan with non-stick spray or line with paper muffin cups.  Fill cups.  Sprinkle with pecans and sugar if desired.

Bake 25-30 minutes @ 325° (if you chose to substitute the agave nectar for sugar, you can bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes)

Enjoy your cake for breakfast!  Makes 12 muffins.

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Italian Beef Roll

I love this recipe because it looks much harder than it actually is, plus my husband who is kind of stingy with the dinner compliments gave this one raving reviews.

Inspired by Kate’s Ground Beef Wellington

1/2 batch crescent roll dough or store bought crescent roll dough

1 1/2 lb ground beef (I used 1 lb, but will use more next time)

1 Tbls Italian seasoning

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 Tbls olive oil

1 lb sliced mushrooms

1 diced onion

1 diced red pepper

3 cloves diced garlic

1 cup mozzarella cheese (I used pizza blend)

Prepare crescent roll dough.  Twenty minutes before beginning I placed all of the ingredients for a 1/2 batch of crescent roll dough in the bread machine (wet ingredients first) and started the machine.  When I was ready to use the dough I turned the machine off  and pulled the dough out.  If you don’t want to bother with this you can buy the store bought kind, but the homemade version really isn’t that much work and tastes much better.  (I also substituted 1 cup whole wheat flour in the recipe).

Place ground beef in a bowl and add salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.  Shape meat into a log, about 10 inches long.

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, and garlic and saute till onions begin to caramelize.

Roll out crescent roll dough about 12 inches square.

Spread veggie mixture over the crescent roll dough.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Place meat in the center and roll up tightly

Place on a cookie sheet, cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 350 degrees, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove aluminum foil 30 minutes before finished to allow roll to brown.  Remove from oven and let sit at least 20 minutes before cutting.

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Feeding a Sick Family

I bought my first goats this week!

Mocha is a three year old registered Nigerian Dwarf doe.   I also bought one of her babies, I think we are going to name him Chino, as in Mocha – chino.  The verdict is still out.  Anyway Chino is a 9 week old wether (castrated male) who will serve as Mocha’s companion since goats are herd animals.  I have had a busy week between picking up the goats, getting them settled in, and beginning to milk Mocha (who has never been hand milked before).  Then on top of that I got sick this week.  Then, of course the kids got sick too.

I took the kids to the Doctor this morning.  He recommended giving the kids jello since they haven’t had much of an appetite.  So I headed to Wal-mart to pick up Jello, among other things.  Now that I have made a commitment to feed my family real, nourishing food I read the labels on everything.  Jello is, of course, nothing but gelatin, sugar, and food coloring.  Well I can’t really see how that is going to nourish my children, so I decided to make real fruit juice gelatin, instead.  My two year old loved it (the baby didn’t seem to care for the texture).  At least I know he got the benefit of real fruit while he was sick.  So if, like myself, you have never tried this before, here it is.

1 0z powdered gelatin

4 cups fruit juice (I used grape-apple-passion fruit)

Chill 1 cup juice.  Bring remaining 3 cups juice to a boil.  Pour chilled juice into a bowl  and sprinkle gelatin on top.  Let sit 1 minute.  Pour hot juice into bowl and stir till gelatin is dissolved.  Pour into a 9×13 pan and refrigerate for 3 hours.  Slice into cubes.

It isn’t any more work than making Jello, and it does qualify as a real food.

I also made myself some garlic soup (which oddly enough the baby loved even though it had two full heads of garlic in it).  This stuff is amazing.  I’ll be making more to freeze for next time my family, or one of my friends is sick.  It truly made me feel better.

I found the recipe on one of my favorite blogs.  Here it is

http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/05/15/cheaper-than-a-visit-to-the-doctor%E2%80%99s-garlic-soup/

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Filed under Desserts, Soup