Walkabout The Snow Day

Snow DateDepending on your line of work (teachers) and your age (still in grade school) you will see a ton of snow days in Kentucky. I don’t get many snow days as I am not a teacher nor am I in school. Snow Days in the South are a big joke to people up North who get snow in feet not inches. Down here, it would be insane to send a standard yellow school bus down curvy country roads that haven’t seen salt trucks ever. We got several inches of snow and several inches of ice overnight and I got a snow day! Sometimes it is good to live on back roads. It took most of the day for the road crews in our area to get the main parkways and interstates clear. We’re still waiting for our main highway to be cleared today (day two).

On our snow day we made a big pot of chicken and dumplings and sipped on hot coffee through the morning.

Veggies in broth

This photo of the chicken stock and the onions, celery and carrots was too beautiful not to share. Isn’t food just BEAUTIFUL! You can tell why my weight loss is so slow going. Hah!

Chicken n' dumplings

I painted my nails blue while we watched tons of episodes of Bones, Leverage and Rules of Engagement. I also caught up on some reading–glorious, glorious reading.

messy blue

In the afternoon, I donned three shirts, two pants, a sweater, hat and insulated overalls. I hadn’t ventured out of the house much because I hate being cold, but given the proper preparation I love it! I romped in just about every snow drift on the farm to show how impressively deep the snow had gotten–Several feet.

I attempted to  throw a snowball at Kit but quickly realized it was much to powdery for any real fun. A snowman would have been out of the question.  However, I had a grand time romping in drifts, making a snow angel, spying tracks of and seeing some actual wildlife.
We brought the camera: 

driftone

One foot on top of snow and the other sunk to what I assume was the ground.

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I remember making dozens of snow angels as a kid until I got the perfect one. Then my brothers usually walked through it.

Drifttwo by fence

Sunken into a drift that built up by the neighbor’s fence row. My knee is below the snow line.

snow angel poseHad to pose by my not-so-perfect snow angel.

geeseonpond

We wanted to see the half frozen pond and had to stop in short to keep from scaring off the pair of moose enjoying the pond. Okay, moose is a weird inside joke and it is what we call Canadian geese. If I explained it you would just think I am more crazy and less funny.

sillysnowfaces

The obligatory Snow Day Selfie! I hope you guys got to stay home with your loved ones. And if you didn’t get to yesterday, then make a point to spend a day with the people who make you smile soon!

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Ham & Bean Soup

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I constantly steal recipes from my Sister in Law (SiL) and rework them depending on what I have in my cabinets. Yesterday, I did this and completely transformed a Vegan Bean Soup recipe that Beth found on Pinterest.

I will share my version of the recipe. The link above is to the original recipe if you’re more diligent about following recipes than me.

Easy Ham & Bean Soup

  • Generous dash of olive oil
  • 2 sweet onions, chopped20140226_125018
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • ~4 cloves of garlic minced

Saute veggies in a medium sized soup pot until they are a bit soft–for about 10-15 minutes then add: 

  • 3 cans of (whatever you can find) black beans, pintos or mixed beans—Or if you’re cabinets are like mine, one of each. Drain and rinse.
  • 2 cups of your choice broth (I had beef broth on hand)
  • Roughly 1 1/2 or 2 cups of chopped pre-cooked ham
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 tsp powdered curry
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes20140226_125013

Slap a lid on that puppy and set it to low-medium or just above a simmer for about 30 minutes. I forgot to add but I do recommended 1-2 TBSP of lime juice.

This would make a fine meal by itself, but if you really want a happy belly: 

Throw some tortillas in a skillet and put some cheese in the middle. A cheese quesadilla pairs beautifully with this hearty soupy meal.

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Traditions: Black Eyed Peas, Kale & Ham

Have you heard of the Southern New Year’s Day tradition of black eyed peas and greens? Well, apparently it is a thing. Usually we were celebrating my sister’s birthday so there wasn’t much time for other random traditions. Now that we’re grown and siblings are moved far apart I feel a strong need to fill that gap in my celebrations calendar.

I guess you could say I want to make this soup for my sister…in a weird proxy celebratory way. However, this is a “normal” Southern thing. Don’t worry, I won’t be putting a dime in the pot. Check out About’s summary of the tradition, they even have some common recipes.

Some of my hopes for the new year are to try more new recipes. So what better way to start the year? I have wanted to try this recipe for years now and I’m excited to say that I have a few guinea pigs that are willing to eat anything. 

black-eyed-peas

Black-eyed Peas and Kale Soup

Big thanks to Jean on her Yikes Money Blog for sharing her recipe.
Her recipe inspired me, but as you will notice there are some variations between the two.

  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 lb dried black eyed peas
  • 8 cups of beef broth (possibly another cup of liquid)
  • 1/2 TBSP of rosemary
  • 4 cups of kale, de-veined bite size pieces
  • 3 cups ham, cooked and cubed
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Green onions, diced, for topping

Directions

My plan is to cook the beans in a pot or crock pot before hand and then cook them with the rest of the ingredients later. So I suppose step on is cook the beans. Another part of me wants to dump everything into the crock pot at the same time, but I’m worried the rest of my veggies will get too tender.
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
Dump all the rest of the ingredients into a crock pot and cook until veggies are tender.

Of course, if I start losing time, I will saute the onions and garlic first. Add carrots, tomatoes, celery, seasonings and broth and allow veggies to get tender. Add pre-soaked beans, cook some more. Add kale and ham last.

We’ll see how this all goes. I’m hoping to fix gingerbread cookies (for extra spice in 2014?) and cornbread to go with the soup. I am debating getting some cheap sparkling wine for some mimosas. I don’t have a cutesy reason….except maybe that mimosas are amazing.

What do you eat special for the new year?
Have you ever had Hopping John/black eyed pea soup?

Pumpkin Quinoa Soup–The Results

Let me start by saying–my hubbster is picky and I haven’t had anyone else over to the house to be on my side about this soup. I loved it!
If you’re a picky eater or not fond of weird foods then perhaps continue your google searching because you may not like this recipe. My hubbster might have liked it if I had included chunks of ham or chicken. However, as the recipe is below, Kit had no seconds nor leftovers.

You may recall that I posted a blog talking about how I make up recipes and end up a trial Franken-recipe once I get to the kitchen. Here is what I changed once I actually got into the kitchen to cook this soup.

Ingredients
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 TBSP garlic to taste (I never measure this)
2 TBSP olive oil (never measure)
2 TBSP curry powder (you can continually taste and add more/less as you cook because soups are wonderfully forgiving)
salt and pepper
A couple of shakes of red pepper flakes
3 medium sized carrots, peeled and chopped
3 small/medium sized yellow squash, washed and chopped

2 cups chicken broth
1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)
1 can pure pumpkin (15 oz)
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
1 cup uncooked quinoa

Toppings–Grated cheese. I tried both cheddar and mozz.

Directions
Saute onions, garlic and spices in olive oil until translucent. Then add carrots and squash. Cover and allow to cook on low medium until veggies are a bit more tender–Remember you don’t want them super mushy because you want some texture to the soup.
Add broth, coconut milk, pumpkin, diced tomatoes and quinoa. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat the low and cook until quinoa pops open and liquid is absorbed. It took perhaps 30 minutes to make sure the quinoa was popped open and delicious.

What did it taste like?
It was awesome! The pumpkin was prominent and the coconut milk made it creamy and comforting. The curry powder did NOT make this soup hot but added a little kick and more complexity to the soup itself. I thought the veggies gave it just enough goodness to munch on.
If you please, you could reduce the quinoa amount at 1/3 of a cup and chicken broth by 1 cup. You would end up with about the same amount of broth/fluids.

The Process of Making a Recipe

People are constantly begging for my secret, Where on earth do you find these amazing recipes, Kat! Or, Gee, your cooking is the greatest, Mrs. Clark.
Honestly, no one says that, but in my head that is what it translates to when people compliment my cooking.

So here is that process I have to making a recipe. My methods are not unique, but do typically yield good results. It begins with me finding an ingredient, hearing people talk about or getting exposed to a food via media and it the gears start turning.

I have been thinking about pumpkin soup all summer because I have tons of cans of pumpkin in my cabinet and a co-worker mentioned that he really loves making pumpkin soup. Especially as the weather has gotten colder.

I started searching the Internetz for recipes that sounded good to me and almost immediately, had an unhappy realization. Almost all of the soup recipes I found had quite a bit of broth. Kit prefers a chunky soup, so I knew that a watery soups would mean I would have to eat the whole pot.

After pinning a few recipes I liked I started thinking and ultimately chose quinoa. It is filled with good proteins, has a good texture and soaks up liquids quite well. Quinoa and savory pumpkin sounds amazing to me. I also like the idea that I could adapt a recipe to having vegetable broth and make it for my veggie-saurus brother.

The trickiest thing about soups are that if you want a certain result of liquid you have to start with the right amount of liquid. Or suffer the cycle of doom where you keep adding things until it gives or you give….And end up with double the amount of soup you intended.

Under closer inspection of the recipes I found some similarities and pulled all the ingredients I knew we would love. I pulled ingredients from this Coconut Curry Pumpkin soup recipe I found on all recipes and a crock pot Chicken Quinoa-Pumpkin soup that I found on a personal blog.

That’s basically the process. The next step, of course, is making it on a night that I will not burst into tears if I have to order a pizza and dump it out. However, that isn’t so hard because I usually enjoy trying a new recipe.

crock-pot-chicken-quinoa-pumpkin-soup

Here is the Pumpkin Quinoa soup recipe that I came up with:
Warning: I have not tried this yet, but am looking forward to it mid-week. I will post an update to let you know what changes I made to the recipe below.

Ingredients
1 sweet onion, chopped2 TBSP garlic to taste (I never measure this)
2 TBSP olive oil (never measure)
1 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

2 cups chicken broth
1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)
1 can pure pumpkin (15 oz)
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
1/3 cup uncooked quinoa

Toppings–Sour cream, or grated cheese (parm) and chopped fresh spinach.

Optional–potatoes, carrots, celery, cooked chicken.

Directions
Saute onions, garlic and spices in olive oil until translucent.
Add broth, coconut milk, pumpkin, diced tomatoes and quinoa. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat the low and cook until quinoa pops open and liquid is absorbed.

Because I haven’t used this recipe before I’m not sure if three or two cups of chicken broth is more appropriate. I think for most people that three cups would be fine, but knowing that we like thicker or stew-like soups we should probably go for less. I already have a feel too, that I will want more pumpkin.

I’m really debating if I want more stuff in my soup. I usually have carrots and celery on hand to fill out a soup, if necessary. Chicken would be good, but it shouldn’t be a main player in the soup. I feel like the chicken would try to steal the show, when really, it is more about the creamy pumpkin soup.

After actually trying the recipe, Kit and I will sit down with our bowls or plates and eat for about five minutes before we start the deconstruction. What spices did you use? Are the flavors mellowed together? If you could change one thing to make this better, what would you do? And so on. We don’t place blame on the cook if the food isn’t perfect, but rather, figure out if we should try it again, tweak it, or keep it exactly the same. I love, love, love this part of our relationship. Not only can we cook and hang out in the kitchen together, but we make a game out of the recipes. Perhaps, like a friendly panel of judges on Iron Chef.

What process do you use when you’re trying to find new recipes to add to your regulars?

Do you ever follow the recipe exactly as you found it?

Top 5 Favorite Toys from Childhood

This turned out to be a mildly challenging list to come up with because during much of my childhood I enjoyed many make believe game. I tried to pick props from some make believe games so I can say I had a favorite toy.
So here are my top five favorite toys in no particular order:

image dog image source

When I wasn’t running around on all fours as a dog, I was pulling around my own pet dog. I think I enjoyed the doggy cluck noise and flopping ears the most. I had no clue, until Googling, that this toy was so old! Around the middle 1960s apparently; even my husband had one when he was a boy. I am pleased to report that my nephew drags around my old pull-dog when he visits grandma.

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Tree image source
Just like link source, my family always piled our stuffies (stuffed animals) under the Christmas tree. My stuffed anims were more than tree ornaments, they were snuggly bedfellows, confidants and actors.

I have tons of fond memories of my brother and I reading a story from our kids picture bible then acting it out with our stuffies for the family.
I have to say, I thought our bible plays were pretty cool. We acted out fairy tales too from time to time. As an adult, I wish for a rainy day with my brother and a pile of actors.
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soup image source

Another game that I have a fondness for was playing kitchen. This blogger Happy Hooligans has the right idea in keeping her day care kids entertained. My mom wasn’t exactly pleased with this game because it always ended in her having to wash weeks of plant materials out of her favorite soup pots.

Almost any container that could hold a large amount of fluids would work for this game. I even used a sea shell once….and got grounded forever.

The best games I recall were when I had a lid with a pot so I could make a hot stew over a period of several days of play. The other ideal weather were rainy days, I remember making chickory and grass seed coffee one time during a rain. Not just stirring, building a “fire”, but especially the adventring for magical or rare ingredients.

Love this game. Probably where my love of real cooking has come from. I still feel adventurous when I go to the garden for herbs to add to the soup pot.

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blanket image source
There are so many possibilities for blankets. My all time favorite game–that I still play as an adult–is the holcher globber. Perhaps other families would call this the blanket monster.

The rules are simple. Find a large blanket and crawl around until you can attack and absorb another person. It is wise to pick a large blanket if you intend on absorbing a lot of players.

The monster cannot extend limbs beyond the blanket, so no reaching out and grabbing ankles. Mostly, there is little talking unless under blanket communications for directions are necessary. Mostly growling or grumbling the words ‘holcher globber’.
Much like sardines, when everyone in the house is eaten the game is over.

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lego image source

My brothers were the real kings of Legos, but I did get my build on as a kid. My brothers collected and made awesome castles, ships and worlds from their legos. I was lucky to get a four walled building most days.
I played with Legos much the same way that my older sisters created and executed elaborate doll house adventures. Just another medium for imagination. Of course I loved creating female characters with horses and dragons atop barns.

Do you harbour warm memories for particular toys from your youth?

Spain Series: Food pt. 2

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After our first long day of hiking we enjoyed a big Pilgrim’s meal at one of the two cafes in Roncesvalles. The pasta, wine and bread was gobbled quickly, but Jess and I both had to pause before digging into our fish. Neither of us were experienced with eating too many fish bone-in. Luckily, we had awesome dinner mates at our table. They were patient and encouraging while we fiddled with forks and fingers. After our first few bites we needed very little encouragement to continue.
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Like I mentioned, the pasta was typical part of the pilgrim’s menu. Some were better than others. After hiking all day, we ate every bit and slept well with full bellies.
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We had several different types of pre-packaged desserts. The cup of flan was on a quality on par with the snack pack pudding cups. A Spanish couple at our table taught us how to flip the cup and hit it against the heel of our palms before opening. This knocked the sugary caramel syrup down so it blended better.
image Museo del Jam on was a chain fast food joint. It was a novelty to us in that everyone stood at the bar or around the shop-there were no seats. During busy times, you couldn’t stir them with a stick. It was a mingle, eat and drink type place. The most popular menu choices were dirt cheap. We bought bocadillos (boe-kah-dee-ohs) and glasses of beer. The bocadillos were thick, crusty sandwhiches with a thin slice of Spanish style ham in the middle.
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I wish I had gone back to this cafe when I wasn’t jetlaggin’, but it was still good. We had fresh churros, coffee and hot chocolate.
We could see the cook pulling the dough, twisting it and dropping it into the fryer.
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The hot chocolate was a bit of a surprise. It was perfect for dipping churros, but was almost took much of a pudding conaistancy for drinking.
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The fun Spanish and English menu for the Churros y Chocolate that we went to in Spain. After looking at the menu, I pretty much wanted everything.
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This part of the meal was a surprise to us. We ordered it, I loved it. Then we looked it up on my phone back at the hostel.
“Sepia plancha” is grilled cuttlefish. Cuttlefish are boss at camouflage so I felt a little bad, but it tasted so darn good. The consistancy was similar to scallops or squid.
image We also split an empanada for our first meal in Spain. It was yummy too. Perhaps I could make empanadas here at home. Anyone know an easy version of this?
image At the same meal were some veggies in a light vinegar. They had a good flavor and a nice crunch. Much like a salad served before the meal and along with the bread.
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Along the Way, we stopped at a cafe that had an outdoor oven where they baked pizza, tortillas, and other good things. A tortilla in Spain is an omelet. Believe it or not, even the Fanta soda tasted different.
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Fell in love with an adult beverage while I was in Spain. Apparently this is a thing in USA too, I just didn’t have a clue.
In Spain it is called a pica or clara and in the U.S. it is called a Shandy.
Whatever you call it, it tastes awesome! Fill a glass half full with light beer and fill it the rest of the way with lemonade. Best cocktail ever. I have been drinking them at every opportunity since I have been home.