Not Your Mama’s Sauce ~ Jen

Cooking while drinking = blurry pictures...

Cooking while drinking = blurry pictures…

Fires, Family, Football and Food! We love Thanksgiving here at Full of Graces

We’re coming at you lots this week: Cranberries today, swiss beans tomorrow and spicy pumpkin pie on Wednesday. 

When I decided that I could be a scratch cooking diva in the kitchen, cranberries were my first throw down.

“How hard can it be?” I asked my cousin over a bottle of wine the night before Thanksgiving, 1998.

Well, you can buy a can of cranberry sauce—or worse, that jelly stuff—that may have been fresh six months ago. Or you can buy a bag of cranberries, throw them in a pot with a cup of water and a cup of sugar and cook for ten minutes. Viola! Cranberry sauce.

That’s all it takes. To make it more exciting, I recommend you ask someone in the house if they want to taste a raw cranberry. Those shiny red berries are hard to resist. My cousin is still mad about that one.

Since then, I found two go-to cranberry sauce recipes. I make one or both every year, whether we do turkey or ham. And it turns out that cranberries are super healthy and cancer fighting. Bonus!

The first is a cranberry apricot sauce to serve as a side dish:

California Apricot Cranberry Sauce

½ cup dried apricot halves, cut into strips

¾ cup cranberry juice cocktail

1 12 oz bag fresh cranberries

2/3 cup sugar

1 tbsp minced ginger (use fresh for a strong taste, dried for a lighter taste)

Soak apricots in cranberry juice in a saucepan for ten minutes to soften. Add cranberries, sugar and ginger. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium and cook uncovered for ten minutes until cranberries pop and sauce thickens.

Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, about 3 hours.

The second is an orange cranberry Dijon mustard to serve as a relish. This is unbelievable on a slice of ham or a turkey leftover sandwich:

Cranberry Mustard

12 oz bag fresh cranberries

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

½ cup orange juice

2 tsp grated orange zest

¼ cup Dijon mustard

2 tbsp unsalted butter

Place cranberries, sugar, water, orange juice and zest in saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to medium low. Cook until berries pop and sauce thickens.

Remove from heat. Stir in mustard and butter. Cool and serve.

You could even make these tonight or tomorrow and put them in the fridge. They keep!

Welcome Autumn! ~ Dana

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Well, it’s official.  Autumn is finally here!  And no, I don’t mean just the arrival of the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks (although that is quickly becoming one of my favorite things of autumn!).

I’ve always loved autumn, and when I moved to Austria, I fell in love with it even more.  The changing of the seasons is visible everywhere there. The local restaurants begin to change their menus to represent the seasonal fare.  My favorite restaurant in our town had something called Wild Woche or Wild Week in which they slow-roasted venison, wild boar, wild hare, all of which had been caught in our forest, and served them up in wonderful, hearty sauces, with earthy root vegetables, all meant to fatten the townspeople up, steeling us against the harsh winter that was sure to come.

But more than the beautiful colors, the comfort food, the inviting scents, there’s just something different in the air once autumn comes.  I’ve always felt it, that magic electricity.  It’s like in Mary Poppins when Burt sings “Winds in the East, mist comin’ in, like somethin’ is brewin’, about to begin!”

This past Sunday was the Autumnal Equinox, a time of equal light and equal darkness.  The balance has tipped and we descend into darkness.  This happens not only literally as the nights are now longer than the days, but for many people, it happens in a spiritual sense as well.

The bright warm days of summer, which beckon us outdoors to the beach, the mountains, or even just the backyard, are over.  As the temperatures cool, we turn our focus inside, many of us decorating for fall and burning pumpkin-scented candles.  Our tendency, when things get dark, it to turn on more light, to fill our already busy schedules with even more things.

But I invite you this autumn to take some time in the darkness, to sit quietly with your soul and take stock of what you have done this year.  How have you grown?  What seeds did you sow in the spring and tend in the summer that are now coming to harvest?  How can you prepare yourself for the craziness that the holiday season can bring on?

Pull out your favorite snuggly sweater or blanket.  Get some pumpkins to put on your front porch.  Put some gourds on your mantle.  Make some of your favorite comfort foods.  And if you want a new favorite fall recipe, I’m sharing my very best one with you, A Kitchen Witch’s Pumpkin Spice Bread.  And have a glorious autumn, everyone!

A Kitchen Witch’s Pumpkin Spice Bread

Ingredients:

2 cups pureed pumpkin (fresh roasted or canned)

3 cups sugar

1 cup water

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

3 1/3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¾ teaspoon ground cloves

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, water, vegetable oil, and eggs.  Beat until well mixed.  Measure flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and ground cloves into a separate bowl, and stir until combined.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, beating until smooth.

Grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans and dust with flour.  Evenly divide the batter between the two pans.  Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool 10-15 minutes then remove from pans by inverting them onto a rack and tapping the bottoms.  Slice and serve plain, buttered, or with cream cheese.

Roast a Chicken…Don’t be Scared!

We used to be scared of roasting a whole chicken. And not just because of the  raw chicken thing. It seemed too much like roasting a turkey, and that’s a big dang deal.

But then we noticed that whole chickens are often on sale for less than $5 each. That was too good a deal to pass up for dinner and leftovers.

And then we found a really simple recipe in a Rebecca Katz’s cancer fighting cookbook called Chicken Roasted All the Way to Yum. And it is. Simple and easy and yum. Of course, we adapted it a bit. If you want her original recipe, go here.

Otherwise, you need just a few things: a roasting dish (we use a 9×13 pyrex baking dish); an orange; a lemon; salt, pepper and rosemary. And a whole chicken.

Take a deep breath, because you are about to be elbow deep inside that chicken.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain the chicken and remove the innards. This is important. We predict you will only ever forget once.

Place the chicken in the pan—legs facing up!!!

Mix a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper in a small bowl; grab half and rub in the cavity of the chicken. Sprinkle the rest over the top.

Cut the lemon and orange. Squeeze the juice over the top of the chicken and stuff the rest inside the chicken.

Sprinkle chicken with whole dried rosemary.

Cook for 90 minutes, or until a meat thermometer stuck deep in the breast says the meat is done.

Carve and serve. There will be enough drippings for gravy (but that kind of defeats the purpose of healthy chicken…).

If you are really industrious, you can save the carcass and make Rebecca’s Magic Mineral Broth (just add the chicken carcass along with everything else), and then freeze and use for all your soups this Fall!

Jen cooked one of these Tuesday and forgot to take pictures. So instead, here’s a picture of what your plates will look like if you make this chicken.

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Yep, it’s that good.

Happy Friday!

Homemade Summer Fruit Yogurt Pops

It’s AUGUST!

In our part of the world, that means the kids are headed back to school soon and NFL players are reporting to training camp. As a bonus, the Dodgers are leading the NL West and the Giants suck.

All is well.

We thought we’d share a fun summer recipe we use with our kids. It’s a great go-to when the late summer fruit ripens a wee bit too quickly and is in danger of going in the trash.

Like these cherries I bought the other day. My kids won’t eat squishy and these got squishy fast.

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I would hate to throw $6 of cherries away so I repurposed them into cherry yogurt pops.

I bought the pop maker at Vons for $1.99.

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I use plain Greek yogurt, pure vanilla, honey and the cherries. I pitted the cherries with my handy dandy cherry pitter from Target. If you’ve never used one, I can tell you they are very useful but messy. Wear an apron and prepare for your sink to look like you killed something in it.

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A cup of yogurt, a teaspoon of vanilla, a tablespoon of honey and about a cup of cherries (the fruit amount can be very loose—more or less, depending on how you like it to taste).

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Hit the blender. Pour into the pop maker and freeze. Viola! Cheap and healthy summer treat. No squishy cherries, no wasted fruit.

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Recipe:

1 cup(ish) pitted fresh cherries (or any squishy fruit or combination of squishy fruits on your counter)

1 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together in blender until ingredients reach smoothie texture. Pour into ice pop maker and freeze.

Nutritional Information:

Calories: 89/pop; .2 grams of fat; 15.7 grams of carbs; 6.8 grams of protein; 8% RDA calcium; 6% RDA Vitamin C

I can ~ Jen

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Not like “Yes I can!” Like can food. Jams and applesauce, mostly. Butters. Once, lemon curd.

It feels weird to admit this. Maybe because Dana and I have realized that with our recipes and our stories, we might be crossing over into crunchy granola SAHM mom-dom. There is nothing wrong with crunchy granola moms, but we don’t fit the mold. We’re more like cancer fighting sparkly Queens of the Castle moms.  And we’re taking urban homesteading mainstream, baby!

Anyhow, last Fall, I made a giant batch of organic Granny Smith applesauce with nothing in it but apples, water and cinnamon. It was tasty, but we didn’t eat it fast enough and some went to waste. I could have frozen it, but I have issues with freezing things. So instead  I started canning.

I bought the Ball canning kit, which comes with the Ball Recipe Book. There are plenty of websites that have tutorials about canning. I’ll put some at the bottom. Know that canning is science, in terms of recipes and measurements. Turns out, you can’t just make Aunt Sue’s famous pasta sauce and can it. Unless you want to die of botulism. You have to balance things like acids and sugars. Jams are a bit more forgiving, in the sense that if you screw up the ingredients, you only risk getting the consistency wrong, and not death. As long as you have correctly sanitized your jars, lids and tops, that is.

It scared me at first too. But it’s really just a process and once you get the process down, it’s easy. I make sure I use recipes which I know are tried and true.

The first time I canned jam, it took four hours to get three half-pints. I was nervous and kept checking and double-checking the process.

Last week I canned 4 half pints of blueberry jam and 3 pints of apricot jam in 90 minutes total. Six months of jam in an hour and a half.  That’s the kind of canning I am talking about!

I got the apricots at the store. But the kids and I picked the blueberries ourselves.

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I’ve never picked blueberries before. This farm was amazing—beautiful, green, clean. The kind of place where you let the kids run free and don’t worry about them.

We ended up with three pints for $14. Considering blueberries can run $4/half pint in the store when they’re not on sale, this was a pretty good price.

I make low sugar jam because I cannot bring myself to put 6 cups of sugar in anything.  We don’t notice any difference in taste.

In 45 minutes, I took blueberries from this…

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To this…

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To this…

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To this…

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I know, it’s not for everyone. But if you are curious about canning, then I’ll tell you  it’s not so hard once you get started. And there’s something so fulfilling about the fruits (ha!) of my labor all lined up there on the counter.

Resources:

www.freshpreserving.com

www.foodinjars.com

www.kraftbrands.com/surejell

www.pickyourown.org/jam

Homemade Bread ~ Jen

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Our Friday update:

Dana’s daughter is down with the stomach flu. They are playing the 48 hour Russian Roulette of “Who Will Get Sick Next?” Bad way to spend the weekend.

And my kids are out of school today. Welcome summer. Ish. SAHMs, you know what I’m talking about.

I’m working on a wedding post for next week, in honor of June. Tentative title: “What I learned from fainting on the altar at my own wedding”. Oh yeah.

But today, we want to leave you with something a little bold in the homemade department.

Whole Wheat Bread.

I resisted this for a while, because it seemed so Little House on the Prairie. Or I Love Lucy.

 Lucy and bread from oven

I tried a few versions and a bread machine. The kids complained that the loaves were dense and dry. Shea complained that the loaves from the bread maker had a giant hole in the bottom, which interfered with his sandwich making skills.

Finally, I found a recipe that worked for us: No Fail Whole Wheat Bread. It makes two loaves. We freeze one while we eat the other.  It’s light and moist and by far the easiest and least time consuming of the recipes I’ve tried. I can make the two loaves in two hours, but I really only have to stand over the mixer for five minutes. The rest of the time is waiting and baking time.

I have a Kitchen Aide 6 quart stand mixer with a dough hook. Mine was a gift, but Kitchen Aides are expensive. I did some research and there are lots of reasonably priced (under $100) stand mixers out there. Or you can use a hand mixer for the first part and then hand knead the dough for five minutes after mixing.

Thanks to Progressive Pioneer (www.progressivepioneer.com) for this recipe!

No Fail Whole Wheat Bread

Ingredients:

3 ½ cups warm water

1 ½ teaspoons yeast (I buy Fleishmann’s Active Dry Yeast in jars because I use so much)

¼ cup honey

7 cups whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 generous tablespoons olive oil

2 loaf sized baking pans

Directions:

Combine water, yeast and honey and stir gently. Allow to sit for ten minutes so the yeast will activate (it will start to look foamy).

Add 3 ½ cups flour, all the salt and olive oil and stir together. Let sit one minute. Add the rest of the flour and mix. If you have a stand mixer, use the dough attachment on high for 7 minutes (this will mix and knead). If doing by hand, you need to hand knead it for 5 minutes after you mix it.

Let it sit in bowl for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. When it is ready, turn it off (you just need some heat in there for the dough to rise.

On floured surface, cut dough in half, shape into loaf and plop into both pans. Stick in the oven (it should be OFF) and let rise until the top of the dough is at the top of the pan (about 45 minutes).

Remove pans from oven; preheat to 350. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Let cool ten minutes then turn out on flat surface to cool.

I store mine in ziplock bags. One I leave out for sandwiches and the other I freeze until we need it.

Nutritional Information (2 loaves, 14 slices each)

132 calories per slice; 1.3 g fat; 0 g cholesterol; 168 mg sodium; 26.4 g carbs (2.6 g sugar); 3.3 g protein; 1% calcium; 8% iron; health grade: B+

No preservatives. No chemicals.

I promise, promise, promise that this is a fast and easy recipe for busy moms. And it’s cheaper, once you get the ingredients in your cupboard. Try it once and see what you think.

PS: there is NOTHING like this bread right out of the oven. A little butter, a little honey. Heaven.

How meeting your friend from high school turns into strawberry cream pie ~ Jen

I was Facebook resistant for years. Years.

Then my niece convinced me I could lock a Facebook page down so tight that my name wouldn’t even appear in a search. I was ok with that.

I have 42 friends. That’s all.

Thankfully, one of them is my friend Jeannette from high school. We reconnected last summer through our other friend, Kristen.

Jeannette lives an hour away. But it is an hour that all Inland Empire Californians are happy to drive. When it is 117 degrees in my town for the entire month of July, it is a sea-cooled 80 in coastal North County.

Which means that while the rest of the nation is digging out from that last Spring snow, or sandbagging for the Spring thaw, in Southern California, we have this:

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The other day we piled up the kids and went to a U-Pick field.

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Kate had the bucket for 10 minutes and not one strawberry made it in. Not one.

And yes, she did accessorize it up for this adventure.

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Gabe took picking seriously, so much that he was standing in six inches of mud to get the best berries. “I had to” he told me.

(Sigh. See previous post.)

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Annie was mostly unimpressed, but that’s because I woke her up from a nap.

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At the end, the kids had strawberry juice everywhere. Evan is actually dripping in this picture.

Luckily, I had wipes. We cleaned them up before we walked backed to the car, past the sign that said “No eating while picking”.

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On the ride home, we talked about what to do with all our strawberries. Gabe and I decided we would make a strawberry cream pie. So we turned this:

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Into this:

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I had to hurry, because every moment, there were less and less berries in the bowl.

Shea blames Lizzie, but I’m on to him. Her fur is white. If she was eating berries, I would know.

Thanks to Go Bold With Butter (www.goboldwithbutter.com) for the recipe:

Strawberry Cream Pie

Vanilla Cream Filling:

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons flour

¼ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

3 cups half and half

6 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

Crust:

1 ½ cups chocolate cookie crumbs (I used chocolate Teddy Grahams and processed them in the mini-prep)

½ cup butter, melted

1 quart strawberries

Directions:

Begin by making the filling. In a medium-size saucepan, whisk together cornstarch, flour, salt and sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together half-and-half, egg yolks and vanilla. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the cornstarch mixing, whisking constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. When it thickens, remove from heat, and push through a fine sieve. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours. This can be made 24 hours ahead of time.

Hull strawberries, cut in half and toss with a tablespoon of sugar. Let rest for two hours.

To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350°. Mix the cookie crumbs with melted butter and press into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes, cool completely on a rack.

Pour the vanilla filling into the cooled crust. Arrange strawberries over the top of the pie.

Keep the pie in the fridge until ready to serve.

Nutritional Information (10 servings):

Calories: 408; Fat: 23; Cholesterol: 181 mg; Carbs: 43.9; Protein: 7.7;

The recipe got a grade of D in terms of health. But it’s homemade. And it has 68% of required daily Vitamin C.

That counts for something, right?