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Peanut Butter Cookies at Christmas or Anytime

October 22, 2014

800px-Cookies_1Peanut butter cookies are a favorite any time of year but especially at Christmas. Many family favorite recipes involve peanut butter cookie recipes.

A favorite in ours is a basic recipe that can be varied. Mix together a half cup each softened utter and peanut butter then add a half cup flour, ½ cup packed brown sugar, an egg and ½ teaspoon each baking soda, baking powder and vanilla. Mix together thoroughly then add another cup of flour until well combined and easy to handle. Make into one inch balls, flattened with the tines of a fork gently. Bake at 375 for 7-9 minutes taking care to not burn the bottoms. Cool on wire racks.

Some variations can include substituting a half cup honey for the brown sugar, adding ¼ cup oatmeal or chocolate chips or butterscotch chips or chopped nuts. Another alternative is using chunky peanut butter instead of creamy. You can also vary by instead of flattening pressing an unwrapped chocolate kiss into each cookie. Another option is rolling each ball in sugar. This is a way to offer several varieties with the same basic recipe.

Still another variation is pressing a thumbprint into each cookie and using jam to fill the thumbprint after baking.

Another recipe is similar but the ingredients different amounts. Sift 2 ½ cups flour with a teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon salt. In a large bowl combine ¾ cup butter and a cup packed brown sugar. Add a cup of chunky peanut butter, an egg and teaspoon vanilla. Combine the flour mixture with the peanut butter mix to make a stiff dough and put in refrigerator for a half hour. While chilling melt 6 ounces chocolate pieces with a teaspoon butter and let cool. Take your dough and divide in half. Roll into an 8×10 rectangle between two pieces of waxed paper and remove the top sheet to spread each with half of the chocolate mixture. From the long side roll each half tightly like a jelly roll, removing the waxed paper as you roll it up, and pressing the edges to seal. Wrap seam side down in plastic wrap at least 8 hours, but this can keep for a week to slice and bake as needed. Bake at 375 after cutting in ¼ inch slices- bake for 8 minutes or until light brown.

Both of these are an easy way to get a tasty peanutty treat for the holidays.

3 Quick Breakfasts From Your Sandwich Maker

October 21, 2014

Sandwich_toaster_openHow many admit to seldom using those small appliances that we get then put in the cupboard? Then something happens…the stove goes out and a different one isn’t in the budget. You don’t want fast food, but what to do?

Dig out those small appliances! Think outside the sandwich and use the sandwich maker for tasty, quick and good for your breakfasts that take minutes and skip the drive through!

If you explore a little bit with books like 150 Best Breakfast Sandwich Maker Recipes you might not want to go back to the stove! Quick heat up and easy clean up just wiping it down most of the time and you’re out the door before coffee is ready.

Sausage and Egg on Hash Browns

2 frozen round hash brown patties, cooked in microwave

1 slice sharp cheddar cheese

1 frozen cooked pork sausage patty

nonstick cooking spray

1 large egg

Place a cooked hash brown in bottom ring of sandwich maker. Top with cheese and sausage.

Lower the cooking plate and top ring. Lightly spray the plate with cooking spray, then crack the egg into the ring. Pierce top of egg yolk with a toothpick or plastic fork, place the other hash brown patty on top of the egg. Top with sausage.

Gently close the cover (do not push it down onto the hash brown) and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until egg is cooked to your liking. Rotate cooking plate away from sandwich maker and lift rings. Use a plastic or nylon spatula to remove the sandwich and serve immediately.

Egg and Sharp Cheddar on a Golden Biscuit

Preheat breakfast sandwich maker.

Place one biscuit half, split side up, in bottom ring of sandwich maker. Top with cheese.

Lower the cooking plate and top ring. Lightly spray the plate with cooking spray, then crack the egg into the ring. Pierce top of egg yolk with a toothpick or plastic fork. Season with pinch of salt and pepper. Place the other biscuit half, split side down, on top of the egg.

Gently close cover and cook for 4-5 minutes or until egg is cooked to your liking. Rotate cooking plate away from sandwich maker and lift rings. Use a plastic or nylon spatula to remove sandwich.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWestern Omelet

Preheat breakfast sandwich maker

1 large egg

1/4 cup crumbled cooked bacon

‘1 tablespoon  diced tomato

2 teaspoons finely chopped onion

2 teaspoon finely chopped green bell pepper

pinch salt and pepper

In small bowl, gently whisk egg. Stir in tomato, onion, pepper,seasonings.

Lower the cooking plate and both rings of sandwich maker. Lightly spray the cooking plate with cooking spray. Pour the egg mixture into the top ring.

Gently close the cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until omelet is cooked to your liking. Rotate cooking plate away from sandwich maker and lift rings. Use plastic or nylon spatula to remove omelet. Serve.

Check the book out for lunch and dinner recipes.

7 Tips for Stretching the Christmas Budget

October 15, 2014

Finances are tough for many people this year, and for some it’s always worse around the holidays. Here’s some tips for stretching your Christmas budget.

1.Start gathering supplies early. There are some things you can’t get until December but for others that you know that you’ll need start stocking up now. If you know early to mid December is your baking time the stores know it too as that’s when many push demand. Buy sugar and other baking supplies now when you find it on sale! Not only will you save money but you’ll have everything you need at the time you need it!

2.Shop for little things early. Stocking stuffers and smaller presents don’t take a lot of storage space in your home. Stock them up and wrap them as you find them – often on sale. Don’t shop for the Christmas sales only – there’s money to be saved all year if it’s something you plan to buy anyway.

3.Be a creative shopping expert! Look at your recipients’ interests. Someone likes grilling or summer entertaining hit the *summer* clearance sales for Christmas presents at sometimes 60-70% off. You have the ideal gift for them that you won’t find in November or December because it’s seasonal.

4.Do a little at a time. You have a couple hours of time there’s nothing that says you can’t bake a few dozen Christmas cookies and put them in the freezer! You’ll have that much less to do and save money on ingredients.

5.Shop at direct purchase outlets in season. When you’re passing that farm stand that advertises pecans or walnuts or maple syrup – stop and get some and set it aside for holiday treats. You help small business and give yourself a great “taste of the season” cheaper, or at the same money, as commercial stores vying for your Christmas budget dollar.

6.Recycle/reuse. There are thousands of ways to use every day items that most throw out to make things with them. Check out Instructables.com or even youtube.com for how to videos and make things for Christmas!

7. Start now setting aside $10 or so per week for holiday meals. Watch for sales! If hams go on sale and you have $20-40 saved up you can get that and stick it in the freezer. Spreading out the work can make a big difference as well as the finances.

There are many ways to stretch the Christmas budget and when things are tight it can mean getting creative. It also helps to adjust your thinking. Planning for a Christmas budget isn’t about what you’re doing without it’s how much MORE you can do with what you have!

Fast Food in a Mug

October 14, 2014

Dried_chillyOK admit it – we all have times where it’s easier to grab fast food than cook something. Or we do without dinner because it’s just us and doing a big meal isn’t of interest. So make fast food – in a mug.

With “250 Best Meals in a Mug” you’ll have months worth of options without repeating the same thing. If you are looking to take something inexpensive and better for you than the vending machine to work, here are possibilities.

I admit to being a bit of a picky eater, but found many options in here. Breakfast, lunch, snacks – you have options! No more drive through windows on the way to work.

This is a book worth sharing not only for the great recipes and beautiful photos, but some great info about foods too. It doesn’t take loads of expensive special food, although it might introduce some to foods they don’t use currently. Instant brown rice, quick cooking barley, corn meal, oatmeal, pasta, marinara sauce, salsa, chopped vegetables…no mystery! Pretty basic actually. Metric measurements are included.

A pretty, personalized set of mugs might be needed! Christmas is coming! There are whole sections of 4 ingredients or less (how easy is that!), bread and muffins, soups and stews, meatless main dishes, meat main dishes, pasta and grains and desserts. Easy and filling for quick meals or snacks. Get you some 16 ounce mugs, and enjoy some variety!

Pepperoni Pizza Dip

1/2 cup thick and chunky marinara sauce

2 Tablespoons chopped turkey pepperoni

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese

In 12-16 ounce mug microwave marinara sauce on High for 45-75 seconds or until beginning to bubble. Stir in pepperoni, sprinkle with cheese. Microwave on high 30-45 seconds or until cheese is bubbly. Let stand one minute. Serve with breadsticks, pita wedges or crusty French bread.

The book has a couple variations and another I’ll add – this is a great way to use up small amounts of leftovers. That little bit of burger or other that’s not a meal by itself – use in a mug meal!

Essential Omelet

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons milk or water

pinch of salt

pinch of pepper

add variations or use as above (see below).

In the mug, whisk all ingredients until well blended. Add other ingredients if using them. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, stir, microwave on high 30-45 seconds or until eggs are puffed and just barely set at center.

Options -

Cheese – add 2-3 tablespoons shredded cheese of choice or 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese to beaten eggs.

Denver – add 2 tablespoons chopped ham, 2 tablespoons shredded cheese and a tablespoon chopped pepper to the eggs.

Bacon Swiss – add 2 tablespoons shredded Swiss cheese and 1 1/2 tablespoons ready to eat bacon bits to eggs.

Herbed – add up to 2 teaspoons basil, cilantro, chives or choice of herbs to the egg mixture.

The book has some other options too!

 

Unstuffed Pepper mug

1/3 cup instant brown rice

2/3 cup water

1/2 cup coarsely chopped drained roasted bell pepper

1/2 cup rinsed drained canned black beans

1/2 cup diced tomatoes with juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

1/3 cup shredded cheese.

In 16 ounce mug, combine rice and water. Cover with small plate and microwave for 5-6 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from oven and let stand, covered, for 1 minute.

Stir in other ingredients except cheese. Microwave uncovered on high for 30 seconds or until heated through. Top with cheese and microwave 25-30 seconds, let stand 30 seconds before eating.

You can do lunch prep by putting rice in the mug, cheese in a small airtight container and other ingredients in a small airtight container. This can use the entire can of ingredients safely.

 

Venison Meals Make the Most of Your Deer

October 13, 2014

WhitetaildeerUSDApublicdomainMany people spend the time to get good equipment, get a clean shot, field dress the deer promptly, get it to the processor and then fail to get the maximum use of the meat!

Kentucky’s John’s Custom Meats processes deer for hunters, as do many other small processors in other states. Amy says “Most often, I see hunters opting to put the majority or all of the meats into ground venison burger.” While this is certainly a versatile way to use venison it can be so much more!

For some look to value added products like summer sausage, bologna and jerky. If you prefer to make jerky at home have it sliced to bacon thick strips to make it easier to handle at home.

Bratwurst and breakfast sausage are other ways to use venison. “We find that the very same seasonings that make your standard pork breakfast sausage work well with venison, however I do omit the sage with venison” Amy notes.

“The most underutilized cuts here would be the hams, shoulders, and neck. The average size doe or young buck can be made into ham steaks or ham roasts” Amy adds. Don’t overlook having the hams smoked or ‘home cured’ for a holiday meal that is unlike any other.

Make a wonderful pot roast with a 2-3 pound shoulder or rump roast. Brown in a couple tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven then stir in 6 ounces tomato juice ½ cup each finely chopped onion and carrot and 2 teaspoons instant beef bouillon. Brig to boiling then reduce heat and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until tender. Remove the meat and add enough water to the juice to equal 2 cups, returning to pan. Sift 3 tablespoons all purpose flour into ½ cup dairy sour cream and add to the pan, cooking and stirring until thickened. Cook 1 minute more, seasoning to taste. Slice venison and spoon the sauce over it, serving with hot cooked noodles.

Larger deer the shoulder can be made into steaks. For much venison beef recipes work well except that deer are much leaner than cattle. Moist, slow cooked recipes maximize tenderness. “Even the neck can make a flavorful slow cooked roast. Both the shoulders make wonderful pulled venison for BBQ.” Amy suggests

Most hunters do use the backstrap or the loin which is very tender.

Making the maximum use of the meat from your deer just makes sense. It can make a lean, wonderful meal fixed a variety of ways. Marinade and grilled, BBQ sandwiches and venison chops are just a few other ways to enjoy venison. Make the most of your hunting efforts!

Stevia Sweet Stevia

October 10, 2014

imageMy introduction to stevia was many moons ago at a hostel in Santa Cruz California.

As happened often, gardening, agriculture, food came into the conversation and someone had gotten some dried stevia. I’d never heard of it before and was fascinated by the sweetness and the bit of a bite aftertaste – not bad but distinct.

Years later the idea of growing a sweetener – especially in addition to honey – still interested me. I read online but the information was vague at best. I got a few starts and dove in to find answers to the questions no one could answer.

Could it be grown in containers – yes. IF it’s not overwatered and allowed to sit in wet. Stevia is a little fussy in that way – it likes moisture regularly but not wet…let it dry out a little between waterings. One of the plants I lost was because it was too wet.

In other ways it’s very easy to grow. It doesn’t take special fertilizers – the initial bucket had some compost, and I add manure tea with rabbit manure every few months. It’s not cold hardy – it can take chills here in Alabama, but at freezing we bring the bucket in the house for the winter. Watch the spring regrowth – a couple times I thought it wasn’t going to come back when it turns out it was growing like crazy but the dogs were browsing on young shoots!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStevia is a native of Paraguay and Brazil and you’ll need to tinker with it to find ‘your zone’ for using. It’s not quite like sugar where you add a teaspoon and it’s all the same. I’ve found our main plant can vary with the season, and the size of the plant somewhat. Stevia doesn’t spike blood sugar levels and like using honey, maple syrup or other natural sweeteners, it takes some experimentation to find your level. For those wanting a specific plant name, look for Stevia rebaudiana. Stevia likes sun but will grow well in partial shade especially in hot weather like we have here in Alabama.

Seeds are tiny and sometimes fussy to germinate. I found better success putting in a tray with a lid, barely covering with soil, misting to moisten and covering to retain moisture. Use the black or dark seeds – take care when watering to not raise them out of the soil! You can even moisten the soil, plant the seeds and barely cover then cover the container. It will get wet on the lid with condensation and ‘rain’ to reuse moisture. I’ve found that works better than trying to water barely established seeds.

Of course the best part of stevia is eating it. There was some studies that hinted towards negative health effects, but it’s generally recognized as safe. Dried leaves can be crushed for tea, or grind thoroughly and top oatmeal with a teaspoon or so in the morning. Use in cocoa drinks or other drinks, both hot and cold. Sites like stevia.com have products available but also recipes.

Hot Chocolate

  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp powdered stevia
  • 4 to 5 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Warm the milk in a sauce pan. Keep just below boiling (scalding the milk can leave a ‘burnt’ taste for some folks). While heating, mix the cocoa and stevia together, and add to warming milk, mixing in thoroughly. Just before removing from heat add honey or maple syrup, according to taste. Heat through and divide into mugs. Enjoy!

Are Warnings Useful if Ignored? Here’s 5 to Heed

October 9, 2014

800px-Western-pack-butterBecause we deal directly with customers, I read quite a bit on food issues and go beyond that to comments from people out there, whether I agree or not. It helps me get in the frame of mind of what we can offer that others don’t – and sometimes, I’ve learned, what people say isn’t really what they want (will pay for).

If I came to you for an ad for a car you’re selling then expected a new straight from the lot upgrade, there’s an obvious difference in an older vehicle and a new one. There’s a value difference. So it is among food choices, only many of those are emotional personal choices. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are times that it comes to what is wanted just can’t happen. Millions of people have the luxury to not think about their food because others think for them.  If food is at the market, they have dinner; if not there needs to be another plan. Producing for themselves isn’t in that plan, and won’t be.

Recently my friend Emily from Zweber Farms in Minnesota posted a note on Facebook. Emily and her husband Tim are part of a family run organic farm with dairy as part of what they produce.

Farmer insider tips of the day: fill your LP tank now, stock up on butter now, don’t expect local wines to be cheap in 2015.
Now you know.

I would read that to be stock up on butter for Christmas baking as well as eating! Don’t hesitate. And yet many things I see over the last few years that I’ve tried to warn about go unheeded…until it comes true.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany in urban environments, it seems, thinks we’re being self serving when putting forth warnings – after all we’re selling food. It’s true, there is the potential for sales if someone is close enough and if there is action behind it…and if there is still room in our limited availability. It’s true when I said a year ago that pork and beef were going to go up and folks should buy in it could be perceived to be for profit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change that pork and beef HAVE increased a great deal and surpassed what I was told was too much…less than the grocery store now!

Have you ever looked at a situation unfolding and you just KNEW what was going to happen next? Others who weren’t watching didn’t see it the same way, but you had more information and were right. Emily, like me, has that information not to alarm people with but prepare you. Sometimes there are things that would benefit us, but are dishonest or misleading, as another friend reported recently on a brand of kefir that is not honest about the farmers they use. Should we let you the consumer believe any marketing statements made?

There are issues coming and, directly or indirectly, it might have a say in your grocery bill and food choices. Here’s five tips to heed…in addition to those above!

1. As beef and pork increase, poultry will see increased demand and prices. If you plan on trying some specialty foods – rabbit, game meats, fish for example – plan now for supply. These things are specialty because they aren’t produced in volume, largely because they aren’t as big as pigs and cattle!

800px-Nuts_mixed2. Stock up on nuts – as a healthy snack alternative, nuts are valued, but production issues including the drought, are impacting supply. It takes time for new trees to come into production so if you’re looking at walnut goodies or pecan pie for the holidays, buy them now to insure you get what you want. Be smart, think ahead.

3. Contact a direct purchase farm to see what you can buy direct. For example, here at SlowMoneyFarm we have poultry, raised bed gardens, herbs and other goodies. The Zwebers in Minnesota have seasonal chicken, beef and other options also. Many farms do this as a way to have contact with customers, but also to keep more pennies from your grocery dollar. It helps farm growth and farm survival. You might be surprised that prices aren’t as high as “everyone knows” (incorrectly).

4. As the year’s production winds down in many areas, stock up on fruits and other items. Dehydrate, can and freeze so you have enough until the trees and bushes start producing next year.

5. Learn one kitchen skill per month. Practice it. Start where you are – if you can’t boil water, learn to make a mean pasta over the next month! Read, find some folks to commiserate with and practice. If you can’t find anyone come on over to SlowMoneyFarm’s Facebook page or – better – visit Foodchat on Twitter or Facebook. Get tips, read books from the library, learn new things. There is tons of information available to learn – use it!

None of these are earthshattering. Apart from paying more there may or may not be consequences from not heeding warnings. Doing without food choices is inconvenient – after all we all like to have that luxury. May we not have to do without food, and in some areas that may be a more grim future long term. Sometimes farmers need your help to keep everyone fed, thus trying to include y’all in the discussion.

After all, it’s your food choices.

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