Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday's the Potluck Club

Adrian and I tried a new recipe the other day, and we both loved it! Adrian is my soon to be 17 year old. (How does that happen?) He likes to cook and joins me in the kitchen on occasion. We had some leftover, baked mac and cheese. I have seen them fry it before on Food Network, so we decided to give it a try. It turned out pretty darned good, if I don't say so myself.

A note about the leftover mac:

The mac and cheese I used was just one of those where you throw together what looks good. So, it had a couple kinds of cheese in it along with some homemade salsa thrown it. It was the first time I tried that, and it really jazzed it up. You should give it a try sometime if you haven't done so already. It was a couple days old and baked. That part is essential. It must be baked, and it must be at least refrigerated overnight.

I took a peek at Alton Brown's recipe for Next Day Mac and Cheese "Toast" to get an idea of the process. I was SO excited to see that he used panko bread crumbs. These are one of my new favorite things. It's a total texture experience, and they work perfectly with this recipe.

Here's what you need:

Leftover baked macaroni and cheese, refrigerated for at least overnight

1 cup flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne (Adrian said it could have had more. I thought it was spot on.)

2 eggs beaten with 3 ounces water

1 cup panko bread crumbs

Oil for deep frying, preheated 375 degrees


Cut refrigerated mac and cheese into 3"x3" squares (what we did) or bite size pieces.

Add the salt, pepper, and cayenne to the flour.

Dredge each piece through the flour, tapping off excess.

Dip dredged mac into the egg wash, then coat with the bread crumbs.

Allow to rest for 5 minutes. (This is an important step.)

Very carefully drop into the oil and fry until golden brown. (I used a special metal spatula that I have to place them into the oil as well as lift them out. It worked burns!)

Remove to a baking sheet fitted with a rack and rest for two minutes before serving.

I hope you get to give this a try. It's super simple, and a really quick dinner. Just add a side salad and some fruit, and dinner is done! (I'd advance prep any other element of dinner first. The mac fries up so quickly that you want them to be the last step in getting dinner on the table.) Enjoy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Farmgirls - Canning

I finally got around to doing some canning a couple weekends ago. I was going to post about it last Friday, but I came down with an upper respiratory cold. Avery got it as well, but he wasn't as bad as myself and seems to be over it already. I, on the other hand, am still feeling under the weather, but I do seem a bit improved.

Anyhow, while the hubby was off bagging his first deer of the season, I spent the day canning applesauce and salsa with my oldest granddaughter, Harmony. She turned five this summer and started kindergarten in the fall. Harmony has been sitting on the counter helping "Nana" cook since everyone else thought she was too little and that I was crazy for having her up there next to the stove.

Cooking has to be one of the best ways to spend time with my humble opinion. It's a universal language. You don't have to say much if you don't want to, but you can have fun together nonetheless. Each year I have the grands over to make chocolate bark. No matter their skill level or experience in the kitchen there is a task they can master or be in charge of, and it makes them feel so special. (Pictures of this year's gathering will be shared in December.)

I always enjoy a connection with the past when I am cooking. My most prized possession in my kitchen is my Great Grandma Sheldon's pepper grinder. So, borrowing my Grandma Sheldon's old sieve from my mom for the applesauce made the experience all the more special. Here I was sharing the old art of food preservation with my granddaughter while using my grandmother's old kitchen tool. Awesome!

Oh, I almost forgot! We also roasted tomatoes. Harmony is pretty proud when she gets to use a real, bona-fide, sharp knife, and "Nana" let her bask in the lime light that day. If you have never tried roasting tomatoes you just have to. It is SUPER simple, and they taste so amazing. We've plucked ours right off the pan and eaten them like candy, put them on sandwiches, and added them to spaghetti sauce and salsa. There are so many uses for them, and you can just throw them in the freezer. Here's the recipe if you'd like to give them a try:

A bunch of tomatoes, any variety
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
a bunch of garlic cloves

Preheat oven to 325

Arrange cut tomatoes in a single layer, skins down, on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Mince garlic and sprinkle over tomatoes being careful to let most of it drop directly on the tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place in oven and cook for 2 1/2-3 hours, depending on the size of your tomatoes. It usually takes about 3 for romas that are halved. If you quarter them they'll get done a little faster. Keep an eye on them after about 2 -2 1/2 hours. Take a peek through the window. The juices will have dried up, and some of the tomatoes will start to get dark around the edges.

*Each time I roasted tomatoes I used Roma tomatoes cut in half.

I hope you enjoy making these tomatoes and getting creative with ways to incorporate them in your cooking. They freeze well and keep for a couple weeks in the refrigerator. Maybe you'll even find a little helper to share in the fun and make some of your own memories.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday Farm Girl: Putting Up Food

I thought I had this summer all figured out. My big plans, you ask? Visiting the local farmer's market, loading up on local wares, and putting them up. Sounds easy, right? Well, apparently not. If the last several summers have taught me anything it is to not make plans for my "free time" in the summer. No matter how simple I think my intentions might be they become monumental when the time approaches. Apparently I forgot to read the memo reminding me of just how much work it is having a baby around, especially when they go through the phase of their world revolving around everything mommy. Need I remind you that I am mommy in this scenario, and it's been about 16 years since I've been so doted upon by a little one? Needless to say, I forgot just how much work it really is.

Raising this new little one in my current familial situation puts me in a position to stand in awe of my grandmother. How on earth did farm moms ever do it? Call me crazy, I'd still have rather lived then. Sure it was hard work, but they were home; plain and simple. They were not chauffeurs. They were not caregivers to their grandchildren. Their role was well defined, and they were integral to the family unit. The harder I work to put myself in that position the more impossible it seems at times.

Even though I am donning the new hat of "new mother", I have also managed to shed myself of a few. I no longer sport "homeschooling mom" or "reviewer for TOS Homeschool Crew". The two hats kind of went hand in hand. Though I am saddened to see these doors close, I am excited about the options that lay before me. You wouldn't believe how often I have to slap my own hand from grabbing up more hats to fill their place. Am I crazy? If it's the slow-paced, focused lifestyle of days gone by I am seeking, why on earth do I keep trying to fill up all of my time? I am beginning to think that being overbooked, stressed out, and taken for granted is the plight of the modern mom. I am fighting it kicking and screaming, and I have to kick myself now and again just to stay on track.

Life has handed us a lot lately. We are steadily moving toward selling our home. I really believe this a true gift of God. There are times when this deal should have fell to certain demise, but it just keeps moving forward. As each day goes by it becomes more and more possible that the time will come for us to seek out a small plot of country land to call our own. Oh, what a dream come true that would be.

It is my prayer that country living will remove some of the burden from my husband as well. As some of you likely know, we own a local transmission repair facility, and my husband is a workaholic. He is definitely "old school" when it comes to his work ethic. If he got nothing else from his father he got that. This man pushes himself so much. Well, last week we had a little scare. Despite our lack of health insurance and my husband's machismo, I rushed him to the ER with severe chest pain. Praise God he is okay and did not require a heart catheterization. However, we do believe that he did suffer a mild heart attack. This was a big wake-up call for both of us, and he is now trying to restructure the business taking some burden off of himself. How rejuvenating would it be to have a leisurely drive home each night and pull into a land full of trees and free of traffic noise? We are taking things one step at a time and moving as we feel led. Even though things are not for sure it is difficult to not get at least a little bit excited.

We are also adjusting to not finding ourselves in the ranks of homeschooling families any longer. My last school age son enrolled in a local arts academy about three weeks ago. He loves it, and I am so happy for him. Just two more years, and we will no longer have any kids in high school. Our next oldest is 18 and is in the local community college. He is taking a small handful of classes while he decides if the Navy is right for him. Lately he has been exploring the idea of becoming a pastor. Who knew? We just never know where our children may be led. What fun it is traveling this leg of their life journey with them. After the 16 year old graduates we will have a nice break with no one in grade school. AMEN!

Well, even though I do not have neat rows of pickles, beets, applesauce, and pears lining my shelves, I did manage to get some food put up in the freezer. I even made a little bit of food specifically for the baby.

So, as you can see life has had it's twists and turns for us over the summer months. The good thing is that we are still moving forward. Things are in progress, and life doesn't look like we planned it, but that is very okay with me. I am so glad to not be the one in control. One can only wonder what next summer may bring. Where will we be living? Who will be doing what? Will there be any beautiful rows of canned goods on my shelves? What shelves will they be?

To learn more about Friday Farm Girl visit: Illinois Lori


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