I love eating from the garden and preparing foods that we've raised here on our property. Most days when we sit down to eat, at least one of the items on our plates is homegrown or raised. Sometimes it's only one homegrown ingredient that's been used in a dish, but even so, it makes me feel better about what I'm serving my family. And it usually improves the taste of the food! On this page you'll find a collection of dishes that we eat often. Most recipes are simple, and all of them are delicious. So go ahead, scroll on down, and pretend you're flipping through the pages of a well-worn cookbook! Enjoy.
My morning usually starts with a mosey around the garden. I like to check on the vegetables, pull a few weeds, and pick whatever is ripe on the vines. Then, with my bounty in hand, I head back into the house and straight into the kitchen. Because it's smoothie time! For breakfast I love making a smoothie from whatever fruits and greens I've found on my morning walk. I also like to juice some of the vegetables I've picked and freeze it in ice cube trays for future smoothie use. I pick our fruits and berries when they ripen and freeze them too for the same reason. The frozen items keep the smoothie cold and prevent it from becoming too liquidy. Every smoothie I make is different because I use what I have available. That's the beauty of homesteading! It's hard to get bored because nothing ever stays the same--even our meals! Here's a list of what usually ends up in my smoothies:
Greens--usually kale or spinach, but sometimes I toss in some lettuce, chard, or carrot tops. Berries--our blackberries, mulberries, dewberries, and strawberries are all power foods, and some even help prevent wrinkles and gray hair! I double up on those. Frozen fruit--I stock up on bananas, pineapple, grapes, and more when they're on sale. Frozen vegetable juice cubes--the bounty from the garden, juiced and frozen in ice-cube trays Wheat grass juice or powder--this superfood is easy to grow and juice, but the powder works great too. It's good for our blood cells and it increases energy. Juice--fresh or bottled juice adds liquid to the mix. I like orange juice or mango juice.
Here comes my favorite part: The bullet blender. These things are perfect for making personal size smoothies! You just assemble all the ingredients in the cup, screw on the nifty lid the has blades attached, flip it over, and place it on the base. One simple downward twist is all that's needed to start the motor whirring. A few minutes of blending later, you take the cup off the base, unscrew the blade lid, and screw on the green drinking rim. Ta-Da! It's ready to drink. I never knew how easy this could be until I found my bullet blender at a yard sale. Once I tried it, it opened up a whole new world for me. A world that didn't involve a big cumbersome blender but did involve less cleanup--you drink right out of the cup that you blend in, so it cuts the dirty dish count in half! And now I can not only eat from the garden, I can drink from it too...what a great way to start my day!
Vintage Chocolate Meringue Pie
There's a certain charm about vintage recipes, and this chocolate meringue pie recipe has completely charmed me. The pie recipe comes from my mom's vintage Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook, and the crust recipe comes from the cookbook "Stories and Recipes of the Great Depression of the 1930's" by Rita Van Amber. This is a three part recipe, and it isn't a quick instant pie for sure. But sometimes the end result makes up for the lengthy process, and for me, making this recipe is a window to another time. So, peek through the window. And maybe someday soon you can spend an afternoon baking a pie just like Grandma did.
Step #1: The No-Roll Crust This is the only crust I ever make because it's so easy, and it tastes fantastic. I use it for fruit pies, pudding pies, custard pies, and even pot pies, cobblers and crumbles! The recipe is for a 9" pan, which works great for this pie because it only requires a bottom crust. It's easily doubled though, for those pies that require a top and bottom crust. Here's how the recipe goes... 1 1/2 cup flour 1 1/2 t sugar 1 tsp salt 1/2 cup oil 2-3 tbls milk Combine dry ingredients in pie pan. In a separate container, use a fork to whip together the oil and milk then pour into flour.
Stir it all together until the mixture forms a ball of dough. Now, if that wasn't easy enough, all that's left to do is press this dough out evenly in the pan. Ta-Da! No chilling, no rolling, no floury mess everywhere! Just prick it with a fork a few times so the air bubbles don't expand and slide this thing into the oven. Bake it at 400 degrees for ten minutes or so, just until it starts to feel crisp but hasn't yet started to brown. Then let the crust cool while you work on step #2. That's right, now it's time to move on to the chocolate filling!
Step #2: The Filling We are basically making homemade chocolate pudding here, so don't get scared with all these ingredients. They come together beautifully to create a pudding that tastes quite a bit like a melted chocolate chip, only creamier. We'll pour this in our crust, top it with meringue, and it will be easy as pie! Here's what we need... 1 cup sugar 1/3 cup flour or 3 tbls cornstarch 1/4 tsp salt 2 cups milk 3 slightly beaten egg yolks 2 tbls butter 1 tsp vanilla 2 oz unsweetened chocolate First, chop the chocolate in pieces. It helps to have this done ahead of time, and it's easy to do with a serrated knife. I just use my bread knife, and it takes no time at all. Then I get right to the rest of the recipe.
In saucepan, combine sugar, flour or cornstarch, and salt. A whisk works great for this, and keep it handy, because then it's time to gradually whisk in the milk and chocolate. Cook and stir this mixture over medium high heat until it's bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more, and then remove the pan from heat. Make sure the heat is medium high so it cooks at just the right speed. And the cooking times need to be pretty exact, so setting a timer helps with this step.
So, we've come to a tricky part--adding the egg yolks. First we have to separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. The best way to do this is to slightly crack an egg over a dish, carefully prying apart the shell into two halves, with the egg innards in one half. Transfer the yolk back and forth in each shell half, letting the white drain off into the dish each time. Be very careful not to break the yolk, because we'll be using the whites for the meringue, and it won't set up if there is even a trace of yolk in that mixture. Back to our pudding, though. Blend together all the yolks in a separate dish, and stir in a moderate amount of the hot mixture, maybe 3/4 cups or so. Stir this some more and then add this egg mixture back into the hot mixture. This is called tempering, and it's done because the eggs can't be adding directly to the hot mixture or they will curdle. This way, they are gradually introduced, and they blend in much better.
After tempering the eggs, cook and stir for 2 minutes. The filling should begin to thicken in this time, and once it does, remove it from the heat. Add the butter and the vanilla, and blend it together well. Now we have our pudding filling! Pour the pudding into the cooled pie shell, and set it aside while we make the meringue.
Step #3: The Meringue Meringue is actually fairly easy, at least easier than I thought it would be the first time I made it! It the same concept as making homemade whipped cream--beat it until it's thick and then add sugar. But let's get more specific. First the ingredients... 3 egg whites 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1/4 tsp cream of tartar 6 tbls sugar
In a stainless steel or glass bowl, beat egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. This means that when you pull the beaters out of the mixture, there's a soft mound with a rounded top that forms. This is the time to gradually add in the sugar, beating after each addition until finally the mixture forms stiff and glossy peaks. Stop beating it now, all the sugar is dissolved and the meringue is ready to go on the pie.
Use a spatula or butter knife and carefully spread the meringue on top of the pie. Be careful to make sure the meringue touches the crust so it forms a seal, otherwise it will pull away from the crust during baking. I learned this the hard way! Bake the pie at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the meringue turns golden on the top. Give the pie plenty of time to cool. The filling needs to set or it will be runny when the pie is sliced. Because it's all sealed up, it takes a while to get completely cool in there. Once you're convinced that the pie is cooled, dip a knife in water and start slicing. The water helps reduce friction, and the meringue will cut smoothly. Make a cup of tea or brew some coffee, and dish yourself up a slice. Sit back and relax, and enjoy the piece of beautiful vintage-recipe pie you put so much effort into. You deserve it. Congratulations! And don't forget to think about Grandma!
Bittersweet Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Cookies and milk are so incredibly satisfying. It's one of my favorite comfort foods, but I don't have the patience to scoop out the batter into all those individual cookies. I love shortcuts, and so I make cookie bars. It's much faster! This recipe is basically a traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe with a few adaptations to suit my taste buds. And let me tell you, when I bite into one of these, it is pure heaven fresh from the oven. I think they're best warm, and I can never give them time to cool anyway. And if you've never tried bittersweet chocolate, now's the time. It literally melts in your mouth and in your hands!
2 sticks softened butter 1 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup white sugar 2 tsp vanilla 2 eggs 2 cups flour 1 tsp fine sea salt 1 tsp baking soda 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips Preheat oven to 350' and grease a 13"x 9" cake pan. Here's a few tips: You definitely need to use an electric mixer with this recipe since the batter is so thick, and the butter and eggs blend better at room temperature, so try to lay them out an hour before mixing. I can't say that thinking ahead is one of my strong points, so I just do the best I can with that.
Place the butter and sugars in mixing bowl, and beat until creamy. I like to make sure the sugars dissolve well, so I pinch a tiny bit out and rub it between my fingers. If it feels gritty, I beat it some more. Then add the vanilla and eggs, and whip it. You'll notice a change in the color of the batter pretty quick, it becomes a lighter creamier shade of yellow. When this happens, it's time to add the dry ingredients.
Get out your sifter, because sifting the flour really does affect the texture of these bars. Measure out the flour, soda, and sea salt, and pile it all in the sifter. Shake it into the creamy mixture a little at a time, blending in between to avoid the flour clouds that can easily occur here. Despite my best efforts, I usually end up with at least a dusting of flour on me during the process. If you go slow, you'll be okay. Just wear an apron.
Once the flour is blended in, add the chocolate chips. Stir them in with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon because at this point, the batter has had all the creaming, whipping, and blending it can take. It's time to be gentle. Get those chips stirred in there good, and then grab your greased cake pan. Spread the batter in the pan and press it into the corners with the spatula. Slide the pan into the oven and bake it for 15-20 minutes. Keep a close eye on the batter, though. I like these bars to be soft and gooey, and they are easy to over bake.
When the top starts to turn golden brown--or if you're like me, right before that--pull them out and set the pan on a heat resistant surface. It's time to cut them into squares. A knife can be used for this, but let the bars cool a few minutes because the slicing motion will rip the hot bars and you'll have jagged edges. I cut them immediately with a metal spatula, pressing straight down so they don't tear. They taste delicious no matter the appearance; so pour you a glass of milk and dig in. A plate is optional!
Natural Pulled Pork Sandwich
We eat a lot of farm-raised pork on our farm, mainly because we raise it! One of my favorite ways to serve it is in this sandwich. I love it because tastes great, but I really like how easy it is to prepare. I like to serve this sandwich with freshly deviled eggs and large curd cottage cheese, but there are so many ways to go with it. I've topped it with BBQ sauce and served it with sweet and tangy coleslaw, or I've topped it with the coleslaw and turned it into a one dish meal. I've even stirred in some taco seasoning and rolled it up in tortillas. But try it first on a bun, then let your imagination run!
3 lb pork shoulder 1 tbls beef or vegetable bouillon 1 1/2 tbls brown sugar 1/4 tsp fine sea salt Place pork shoulder and bouillon in slow cooker and cook on low for 5 hours, 7 if frozen. Remove lid, and take a peek. If there's more than about a cup of juice in the pot, drain the excess. I don't drain it at all, but our pork tends to be lean. If the shoulder isn't boneless, now's the time to remove the bone.
The shoulder should break apart easily when pierced with a fork. Pierce it, then leave the fork in place. Using another fork, gently tease pork away from the first fork. This is the "pulled" part of the recipe. Add brown sugar and sea salt, and stir. Replace slow cooker lid, and cook on low for thirty minutes more. Stir again, and serve. This dish keeps well in the fridge for a few days, and freezes great, too. So, feel free to double the recipe and stash some in the freezer for a busy day!
Freshly Deviled Eggs
What do you do with an abundance of farm fresh eggs? Devil them! Even if you're not supposed to. I'll explain: The shells don't come off fresh eggs as easily as they do older eggs. And to devil eggs, you gotta get the shells off. Now, they'll come off, but they'll probably take a hunk of the egg with them. They still taste the same, they just don't look as pretty. But it doesn't bother me--they're called deviled eggs, not angel-ed eggs. And when you have an overflowing basket of eggs in the fridge, pretty doesn't matter. It's using up the eggs that's important. So here's how I deviled a dozen of them!
1 dozen eggs 1/4 cup mayo 1/4 tsp mustard 1 tbls pickle juice 2 pinches fine sea salt 1/2 tsp sugar 24 round bread and butter pickle slices sprinkle of paprika Put eggs in a pan and cover with water. If you're using fresh eggs like me, dump a bunch of table salt in the boiling water with the eggs. It helps the shells peel off easier. Bring to a boil, then cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 13 minutes (I learned this from Martha Stewart). Drain hot water then cover eggs with cold water.
Pick out an egg and tap it several times on the side of the pan while turning it. this creates small cracks in the shell, and helps it peel better. Find the big end of the egg, then take a teaspoon and whack it. This pops the air bubble and gives you a little space to wedge that spoon underneath the shell. Turn the spoon so the curve matches the curve of the egg and slowly slide it between the egg and shell. Continue sliding it around the whole egg, you'll have it peeled in no time. If you're using fresh eggs like me, don't worry if it gets stuck. Dip it in the cool water to reduce the friction.
Once all the eggs are peeled, dry them and slice them length-wise. Scoop out the yolks into a small mixing bowl, then mash them into crumbles with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients, except pickles and paprika, and blend well. Get out a platter and start filling each egg white with an overflowing scoop of filling. I use the teaspoon from earlier, but you could pipe it in with a pastry bag if you want to get fancy! Lay each filled egg on the platter and when they're all done, sprinkle with paprika and top with a slice of pickle. That's it! They're so tasty, no one will even notice if they're a bit rough around the edges!
Ozark Double Chocolate Cake
Look at this piece of cake! It's moist and chocolaty with glossy black icing that just simply oozes indulgence. This is my go-to cake when I just have to have a chocolate fix--which is more often than I'd like to admit. It's similar to a chocolate sheet cake recipe, but uses two types of cocoa, light and dark, and instead of buttermilk I use heavy whipping cream soured with a touch of vinegar. It's baked in a regular cake pan, so it's a bit thicker than a sheet cake, too. I like to texture the top so the icing pools up in the crevices, but I'll get to that later. Here's the recipe for the cake, and the icing recipes follows. Happy baking!
2 sticks butter 2 tbls dark cocoa 2 tbls light cocoa 1 cup water 2 cups sugar 2 cups flour 1 tsp soda 1/2 tsp fine sea salt 2 beaten eggs 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream with 1/4 tsp vinegar 1 tbls vanilla Assemble dry ingredients in bowl. Bring butter, cocoas, and water to a boil, and pour over dry ingredients. Add heavy cream/vinegar, eggs, and vanilla. Bake in 13"x 9" pan at 350 degrees for 20 min.
When the cake is about half done, I pull it out and press down the surface using the back of a spoon. This causes the uncooked batter in the center to ooze to the surface. I pop it back in the oven and let it finish baking. Doing this creates a rough texture on the top, and when the frosting is poured on the hot cake, it pools in the dips and hollows of the surface. This step is definitely optional, it's just something I do to give the cake a different look. And it reminds me of the "hills and hollers" here in Missouri after the spring thaw!
This is the icing recipe: 1 stick butter 2 tbls light cocoa 2 tbls dark cocoa 6 tbls heavy whipping cream with 1/8 tsp vinegar 2 cups powdered sugar Melt butter, cocoas, and heavy cream/vinegar. Bring to boil, and remove from heat. Sift in powder sugar and whisk until thick. Ice cake while warm. Let cake cool a bit before digging in. If you can!
Old Bay Baked Chicken
One of the things we try to do here on our farm is to raise our own meat, and that means plenty of whole natural chickens to feast on. The chicken is pasture-raised, and it's so moist and flavorful that it really doesn't need much added to it. But sometimes I can't resist jazzing it up a bit, so this is what I do: Rub 1/4t garlic salt and 1/4t old bay underneath the skin, then smear 1/4 cup mayonnaise all over the bird. Bake in a greased pan at 300 degrees for about an hour. The mayo keeps it plenty moist, and the smell of it baking will make your mouth water. Serve it with some green beans from the garden and real mashed potatoes, and your taste buds won't know what hit them!
Mood-lifting Oatmeal Bread
The other day when I was snowed in yet again, I decided to sort through the stack of books beside my bed. I came across an article about the health benefits of oatmeal, and how it is considered to have anti-depressive properties. That got me thinking about my mom's oatmeal rolls--moist and chewy inside with just a hint of crispiness in the crust. They suddenly seemed like the perfect antidote to my gloomy mood. I dug out the recipe and got to work. I took some shortcuts, like making a loaf instead of rolls, and only adding flour until the dough felt firm (about four cups plus a couple tablespoons). And I used a bundt pan because it was the first pan I grabbed. But here's the real recipe:
1 cup oats 3 tbls soft butter 2 cup boiling water 2 pkg yeast dissolved in 1/3 cup warm water & 1 tsp sugar 1 tbls sugar 2/3 cup brown sugar 1 1/2 tsp salt 5 cup flour Pour boiling water over oats and butter. Stir and cool. Add sugars, salt, and proofed yeast. Knead in flour. Rise 1 hour, punch down. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Form rolls and put in greased 9"x 13" pan. Rise 20 min., bake 20 min.
Here's a grilled-cheese sandwich I made a few days later using the remainder of the bread. I just made a sandwich using some cheese slices, buttered the bread generously, and grilled it. It then became pure ooey-gooey goodness. I felt great eating it, even though I can't prove it was the oatmeal that did it. But I mean really, how could this treat not brighten your mood?