Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

From our home to yours...

Wishing you a joyful celebration of our Savior's birth and a new year filled with the presence of the Lord.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Double Chocolate Cookies

I think this will be the last whole grain cookie recipe I'll be sharing. Then I'll be taking a break over Christmas. I'm already working on posts for January so come on back after the holidays!

You already know I'm a fan of anything chocolate. These were my favorite cookies to make as a girl. I liked them best with raisins and chocolate chips so that they tasted like chocolate covered raisins, something I also loved. But not all of my family agreed that raisins belonged in chocolate cookies.

I think these taste best with white flour, but I use all whole wheat flour and no one in my family complains and they get gobbled up just as fast. If you allow the dough to sit a few minutes (20-30) the bran in the whole wheat flour softens and the cookies have a better texture.

I also try not to over bake these cookies. It can be a challenge since they are dark from the first. But I aim for slightly under-baking. But the last time I made these, I forgot the last pan in the oven and charred them. I thought they would be inedible but my children loved them. They really tasted like Oreos!

Double Chocolate Cookies

2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
Cream together.

4 eggs
Add and beat well.

4 cup flour (white, whole wheat, or mixture)
1 cup cocoa
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
Add and stir well.

2 cup chocolate chips
Mix in. Allow to sit for 30 minutes if using whole wheat flour. Bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes.

Variation: Add raisins. Or substitute chocolate chips for white chips. Or substitute Andes mint pieces. Or nuts. Or Heath bar bits.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hoof to Freezer - Butcher Day 2010

Local food and slow food may be modern buzz words, but for some of us, the old traditional ways local home grown and processed foods didn't need to be regained. They were never lost.
Every December, my parents hold an old fashioned hog butchering at their farm. This year we butchered four hogs raised by a local farmer. The average weight of these hogs was 430 lb - much larger then a typical hog. That translates into a lot of great pork to be shared by several families in the coming year.

I'm going to attempt to give you a little tour of our butcher day today. A few of these photos are from past years, but most were taken today.

Warning: I edited out the gory photos but raw meat does contain blood and if that bothers you, please move on.

The morning starts before dawn as fires are started under the huge iron kettles. I didn't take this photo as I'm the lazy one who didn't get there until 9:00. But my dad, husband, brothers, friends and neighbors gathered for the kill and quickly began the butchering process. We still do things the old fashioned way. Instead of skinning the hog, they are scalded and the hair carefully scraped off the skin.

 The cleaned halves are carried to the shop and laid on tables for the cutting up.

 For some of the men, this was their third Saturday in December at a hog butchering as friends and neighbors assist each other.

Soon the tables begin to fill with hams, bacons, loin, chops, and ribs.

My brother's new wife brings her skills from her years of working at a butcher shop. This lady can wield a knife!

 Fat is cut into small chunks to be used in making lard.

 The children have a blast with their cousins.

 Small pieces of meat are mixed with salt and pepper and ground for sausage.

Emily had scraped intestine to be used in sausage casing this year. In the past, we purchased casing.  Emily also cleaned stomachs to use for hog maw.

Some of the sausage and loin are smoked.

In years past, there would be a whole row of old neighbors who would come to butchering. One by one they have gone and this year there was only two.  Joe (on the left) and his family have been neighbors to my family for several generations. Even though  Joe doesn't take an active part in butchering, his advice is vital to butchering success. Last week, Joe was in the hospital with a broken hip. We were thrilled that he was able to make it here today - but he may have been even happier. Butchering has been a big part of his life.  For many years, Joe held a three day butchering at his farm with many neighbors taking part and purchasing pork from him. With no sons to carry on the tradition, he is obviously thrilled that some of his friends and nephews are carrying it on.

Keeping the fires is a day long job.  The fires must be kept hot but not too hot for proper cooking.

The fat is put on the fire to begin cooking for lard.

 Dad scrapes the skins. It is said that we use everything but the squeal, and it is almost correct.

Some of the meat scraps are cooked in the kettles and then removed from the bones.
 This meat is then ground for use in the pon haus (also known as scrapple) and puddin. (My best attempt at the spelling, the latter not to be confused with "pudding".

 The lard is beginning to cook and needs almost constant stirring so that it doesn't stick.

Our weather today was perfect. Cold, but not bitter like last week, with clear skies. When we've had rain on butcher day, we use these kettle stoves inside but it is much nicer to have the cooking fires outside.

Ed found this Hobart band saw on Craig's List last year. It made cutting chops and ribs so much easier.


Wrapping meat.

The pork chops were huge!

 When the fat is cooked almost crispy, it is time to take it off and strain out the lard.

The crispy fat pieces that remain after the lard is squeezed out are called "cracklings". The are ground and added to the puddin.

 Always  lots of pans and buckets to wash.

To make pon haus, flour and cornmeal is added to a large kettle of broth. A little ground cooked meat is added along with pepper and salt. There is no recipe so there is lots of taste tests until it is deemed "just right". The pon haus needs constant stirring so that it does not stick. This is a critical point so Joe came out to watch that the young guys get it right.
When the exact moment is pronounced, two men quickly carry the pot into the shop.

 Pans are quickly filled with the steaming pon haus. When cool, this will be sliced and fried for a delicious breakfast.
 But back at the kettles, Joe still supervises the stirring of the puddin. This meat mixture is also seasoned with salt and pepper.

The puddin is also placed in pans to cool.

And the final result - a table full of pon haus and puddin pans cooling. The hams and bacons will go to Joe's smoke house and cured for several months.
To most people, home butchering probably appears to be a crazy way to spend a December Saturday.

You can pick up a package of sausage and bacon at the grocery store, but Butcher Day is more than just food.

It's learning from the elders and training in the young'uns.
It's about family tradition, shared labor and community.

It's laughter, banter, and taste tests.

It's real food - and another year's worth of good eating.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crisp Sugar Cookie

Continuing to share whole grain cookie recipes...

My favorite cookies are peanut butter or chocolate but I  also enjoy a simple buttery sugar cookie.  This is a recipe I received from a friend years ago.

1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
Cream well.

2 eggs
Add and beat well.

1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp vanilla
Add and mix well. Chill for 1/2 hour. Roll into small balls. Bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Whole Grain Cookie Tip

I've been sharing some of our favorite cookie recipes this month.  These aren't fancy holiday recipes but just simple drop cookies.

I've been adapting some of these recipes to make them just a wee bit more healthy. That usually includes replacing shortening with butter and adding whole grains. They still contain sugar and aren't really health food but I'm at least making an attempt. We will be eating enough rich food over the holidays without me making it at home, too.

A reader sent me her tip for using more whole grains. She said I could share it with you if I didn't use her name. I've learned so much from her, that I wish she'd start her own blog!

I keep a mix of different grains that I grind myself to use instead of all whole wheat, in anything except yeast breads. I use some wheat, brown rice, millet, amaranth, quinoa and sometimes rye, barley or oats. I grind it all together, putting the tiny grains on top of bigger ones to keep from plugging up the grinder. We especially like the brown rice in baked things like cookies as it has a good grainy taste. White rice gets gritty when ground. I feel it is healthier to use a wider variety of grains than just wheat and oats.
After reading this several months ago, I ground some millet and amaranth together and have kept it in the freezer.  When baking cookies, I would replace about a third of the whole wheat flour with the multi-grain mixture. I honestly couldn't tell a difference in taste. I'm hoping to do some more experimenting. If you have a grain grinder, give it a try. Some of these alternative grains are more expensive but very nutritious.

If you use some alternative grains in baking, I'd love to hear your tips.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Book Review - His Word in My Heart

I knew I wanted to share this book with you, when I had only read the first chapter. Since then, I've read His Word in My Heart at least two times but I've hesitated to write about this book, because I feel like I should be living it out first.

But this book is so good, that I can't wait until I get my act together before sharing it with you.
His Word in My Heart: Memorizing Scripture for a Closer Walk with God
In His Word in My Heart, Janet Pope shares her desire to know God better. As a busy mom with young children, she was frustrated at her lack of time to study God's Word. Desiring God's power in her every day life, she clung to the God's promise to "give unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him." 11 Peter 1:3 But how to get to know God when you can't squeeze in time for Bible reading and prayer?

Don't worry, Janet's answer wasn't hiring a nanny or getting up at 4:00. But it was memorizing Scripture. By choosing a verse each day and spending a few seconds throughout the day reciting the verse, she saw her mind transformed by the power of Scripture.

I guess what I liked most about this book was that it was firmly within the realm of possibility. It was something I can actually do. It  takes motivation but not super human strength or brains - neither of which I have. Reciting a verse was something that could be done in the midst of a busy day, while brushing teeth, changing a diaper, or washing dishes.

Janet gives ample encouragement, practical tips, step by step helps, and personal testimony of the benefit of knowing God's word. This book made me very grateful for all the Scripture that my parents and teachers taught to me as a child and has propelled me to be more diligent in teaching Scripture to my children. I still haven't been doing much personal Scripture memory but I have been reviewing some of the verses I had memorized in the past and hoping to get some new Scripture started soon.

I would rarely use the description "life-changing" when speaking of a book, as I believe only the Bible truly has the power to change lives. But if by reading His Word in my Heart, you are inspired to commit God's Word to memory, you truly may find this book life changing.

I highly recommend this book. I can't think of any better book to read as you begin a new year. In fact, the copy I'm reading is my mom's but I plan to get my own copy just to share with friends. So if you know me in real life, please ask to borrow this book!

And for those who have asked about my health - I think I'm totally 100% better. I couldn't believe that a cough could hang on for so long but I'm delighting in good health once again. The morning that I woke up able to breathe deeply without hacking out a bunch of gunk, I was so excited, I stayed in bed an extra ten minutes just delighting in the simple joy of breathing! Now that I quit coughing, my rib cage is able to heal as well. Thanks for your prayers.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter is one the favorite food at our house, coming right behind chocolate. Any cookie that combines peanut butter and chocolate is a true winner.

Since these cookies have real butter, instead of shortening, and whole wheat flour, I can pretend they are good for us. Of course, they still have sugar but you could probably substitute Sucanet if you wanted.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
Cream together.

2 eggs
Add and beat together.

2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or white flour if you prefer)

1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Add and stir well.

1 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Stir in.
Shape into balls, place on baking sheet, smash gently and bake for 9 minutes at 350 degrees.
For extra peanut dose, use peanut butter chips.

For peanut butter blossoms, omit the chocolate chips in the dough. Roll dough in balls. Bake for 8 minutes. Push unwrapped Hershey kiss into center of cookie. Bake 2 minutes longer.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie

In the great debate over which is best chocolate chip or oatmeal - my vote is for whichever cookie is in my mouth. But, to me, the perfect compromise is this recipe. The oatmeal is blended so is not overpowering yet adds great texture.

I've shared this recipe before but it truly is the cookie I never tire of. It makes a huge batch which is perfect for sharing. There is lots of great cookie recipes around this time of year, but I rarely make fancy cookies. Tried and true favorites like chocolate chip work for me!

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
Cream butter and sugar together.

4 eggs
Add eggs and beat well.

3 cups whole wheat flour
5 cups oatmeal (blended until fine)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
Blend in dry ingredients.

2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups chopped nuts (optional)
Stir in chips and nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

After sharing the monster cookie recipe, a reader asked how to substitute peanut butter for a child who has a peanut allergy. Since peanut butter is such a big part of monster cookies, I have no idea how to make them without it. I'd probably just make a good oatmeal cookie and add chocolate chips and M&Ms.

I love oatmeal raisin cookies and have tried many recipes. This one, slightly adapted from Mennonite Girls Can Cook, is my current favorite. I know it sounds picky to use to different types of oats. You can do as you like but I've tried numerous variations and this combo is my favorite texture. These cookies are actually rather sweet, and I may further adapt them by decreasing the sugar.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookie

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup quick oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup raisins (you can use dark or golden raisins, craisins, currants, or a combo)

Beat butter and sugars. Add eggs and beat well. Add dry ingredients. Stir in raisins.
Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Do not over bake.


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