In Gratitude

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This Monday morning I am grateful for…

~a wonderful vacation to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. ¬†(Lots more to come in tomorrow’s post.)

~those family members and close friends who pitched in to help keep the Fagan suburban homestead running in our absence ūüôā

~Downton Abbey. ¬†Oh my. ¬†I have recently discovered this show, and have been devouring the DVDs ever since. ¬†It’s like a great British novel brought to life. ¬†What could be better?

~the leader of our book club for choosing The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society¬†for our next read. ¬†I am thoroughly enjoying being transported to the isle of Guernsey in the 1940’s each and every time I unfurl the pages of this novel.

~peas and beans just bursting in our home garden.

~a first hand learning experience for my girls.  We plan to head to the local food pantry this week with our first donation from our school garden.

~the Mason jars strewn across my countertop, just waiting to be filled with all kinds of canned deliciousness.

~the fermentation frenzy that is about to begin this week…woohoo! ¬†Kombucha, yogurt and kraut oh my!

~all of you gathered here today!  Wishing you all much happiness and health this week!

Strawberry Rhubarb Cream Crisp

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‘Tis the season of strawberry and rhubarb, and our kitchen is quickly becoming laden with these early summer lovelies. ¬†This past weekend I played around a bit to come up with a variation to a traditional fruit crisp. ¬†After some experimentation, I came up with this recipe that goes together very quickly, making it the perfect dish to bring to a summer picnic or backyard barbecue.

This crisp is not overly sweet, so it allows the flavors of the sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb to shine through.  Coupled with the rich, earthly flavors of the pecans and oats, this is a treat sure to please the masses.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cream Crisp

For the crumble:

1.  In a food processor, pulse 1/4 cup raw pecans.

2.  Add 2 cups rolled oats, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg to the food processor.  Pulse 2-3 times.

3.  Add 1 stick of cold butter (cut into bits) and 2 tablespoons raw honey to the food processor.  Pulse until a crumble forms.

4.  Set aside.

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For the filling:

1.  Combine 2 cups strawberries (diced), 3 cups rhubarb (diced), 1/3 cup honey, 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 eggs (beaten), and 1 teaspoon almond extract in a large bowl.

2.  Add 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to the fruit mixture.

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Assembling the crisp:

1.  Pour the fruit mixture into a 9X9 inch pan.

2.  Spread the crumble mixture over the top of the fruit.

3.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the top of the crumble is golden brown.

Enjoy!

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*A note about all my recipes:  I use all organic ingredients, local when available.  I use non-homogenized milk, and all of the dairy we use is from animals raised on pasture. I also use oils that are non-GMO verified.  All our meat is raised locally on organic feed, and our beef is grass-fed, grass-finished.  All our spices and cane sugar are fair-trade certified and purchased through a cooperative.

Honey-Sweetened Oatmeal Cookies

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Again, in an attempt to lighten our refined sugar load, I have been playing around in the kitchen a bit to find some alternatives to our favorite dessert recipes.  Replacing the granulated and brown sugars in traditional oatmeal cookies with local honey, created a wonderful cake-like cookie.  The floral taste of the honey, paired with the nuttiness of these local oats, makes this cookie one you just must try!

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Honey-Sweetened Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup butter (softened)

1 cup local honey

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

2 cups rolled oats

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and honey.  Then add the ingredients to the mixer in the order listed, being sure each ingredients is fully incorporated before adding the next.

Scoop out the dough by the tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes.  Enjoy!

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*A note about all my recipes:  I use all organic ingredients, local when available.  I use non-homogenized milk, and all of the dairy we use is from animals raised on pasture. I also use oils that are non-GMO verified.  All our meat is raised locally on organic feed, and our beef is grass-fed, grass-finished.  All our spices and cane sugar are fair-trade certified and purchased through a cooperative.

What do you eat in February?

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Local watermelon. ¬†As strange as that may sound, yes, for dinner last night we feasted on local watermelon we put by way back in early September, and let me tell you…It was delicious!

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle several years ago, I longed for the days of ¬†‚Äúlooking at all [those] jars in the pantry [giving] me a happy, connected feeling, as if I had roots growing right through the soles of my shoes into the dirt‚ÄĚ that Barbara Kingsolver so eloquently describes in her amazing piece of writing.¬† And today, many years later, I truly believe I can confidently make that statement with my head held high.¬† We have established food security for our family.

Our dinner last night was a reminder of this.  With a lovely beef roast from a local grass-fed cow that was processed in October; green beans hand-picked by two adorable Fagan gals, bread and butter pickles made with cucumbers from one of my favorite farmers, pickled beets featuring the dazzling brilliancy of the Chioggia beets pulled from our very own dirt in the backyard, and who could forget that locally grown watermelon frozen in a bit of water and local honey.  Every element on our plate last night came from a place I know and from people whom I trust.

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All of those hours spent hovering over the hot stove, in the sweltering heat of this past summer, seemed worth it when all I had to do was head to my basement last night, grab some meat and veggies from our freezer and a few jars off the pantry shelf.  Since beginning our journey toward sustainability, I am filled with an extreme sense of gratitude that I never thought possible.  It seeps into every one of my pores and I can feel it in every fiber of my being.  The Earth has provided us with so much, and by harnessing these gifts in a conscientious manner, we have been able to provide food for our family, even in the dead of winter.  God is good.

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Homemade Granola Bars

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As I mentioned on Monday, we are prepping for a winter hiking trip, so I’ve been trying to come up with some homemade snacks to bring along. ¬†I wouldn’t want the troops to get hungry on our fun, little adventure.

While the girls busied themselves in the playroom yesterday, crafting all kinds of Valentine goodness, I messed up the kitchen a bit and came up with this granola bar recipe.  We all sampled the granola bars last night for dinner and agreed the test was a success.  Enjoy!

In a large bowl, mix together the following ingredients:

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons seeds of your choice (I used Garden of Life’s Super Seed, but you could use flax seed, chia seed, etc.)

1/3 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened dried bing cherries

3/4 cup unsweetened dried cranberries

Then, in a saucepan over medium heat,  mix together:

2/3 cup honey

1/3 apple sauce

Once the honey and applesauce mixture is combined, remove from the burner and mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Pour the honey/applesauce/vanilla mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated.  Line a 13X9 baking dish with parchment paper.  Pour the mixture into the pan and pat down firmly.  Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan.  Cut into bars.  Enjoy!

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*A note about all my recipes:  I use all organic ingredients, local when available.  I use non-homogenized milk, and all of the dairy we use is from animals raised on pasture. I also use oils that are non-GMO verified.  All our meat is raised locally on organic feed, and our beef is grass-fed, grass-finished.  All our spices and cane sugar are fair-trade certified and purchased through a cooperative.

Hearty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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I am constantly testing out recipes in my kitchen, attempting to incorporate local organic ingredients to amp up the healthiness of the goodies we love to eat, while also keeping them super yummy.  I still had some locally-grown rolled oats in my fridge from this farmer and whole wheat flour from this farming family, so I created this recipe to highlight those hearty grains and their lovely earthy, nutty flavors.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup brown sugar (packed)

1/2 cup granulated cane sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 baking soda

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)

4-6 oz. high quality milk chocolate chopped into chunks (I love using Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate in all my baking.)

Cream the butter, coconut oil, and both sugars using a hand blender or stand mixer.  Then blend in the eggs and the vanilla.  After all of these ingredients have been well incorporated, add the baking soda, followed by both flours.  Now, mixing by hand, add the oats and chocolate.

Scoop the dough out (about 2 tablespoon-size) and bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes, depending on whether you like chewy oatmeal cookies or crunchy ones.

*A note about all my recipes:  I use all organic ingredients, local when available.  I use non-homogenized milk, and all of the dairy we use is from animals raised on pasture. I also use oils that are non-GMO verified.  All our meat is raised locally on organic feed, and our beef is grass-fed, grass-finished.  All our spices and cane sugar are fair-trade certified and purchased through a cooperative.

Yam Fries With Spiced Aioli

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With winter now in full swing, I am trying to get seasonal ingredients on the table as much as I can.  This week I tried out a new experiment with fresh yams I found at the store.  This recipe made for a nice sweet and salty treat that the kids just gobbled right up.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3/4 cup canola oil, plus additional oil for frying

1 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

pinch of pepper

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, plus more for garnish

4 large yams

For the aioli: ¬†Whisk the egg yolk with the Dijon mustard. ¬†Very slowly, drop by drop, add the canola oil while whisking briskly. ¬†The mixture should start to thicken. ¬†Once all of the canola oil has been added, then very slowly, add the olive oil. ¬†Continue to whisk while adding the olive oil. ¬†The key is to add the oils very, very slowly while whisking continuously. ¬†(This may take some time to master. ¬†If the oil breaks, don’t get frustrated, it happens. ¬†You could try again, or like I’ve done many a time, just eat it anyway ūüôā ¬†It still tastes pretty yummy, it’s just not the greatest consistency.) ¬†Once both oils have been added, mix in the salt, pepper and nutmeg. ¬†Pour into a bowl and garnish the aioli with a pinch of nutmeg.

For the yams:  Slice your yams into small strips.  Pour about one inch of canola oil in a pan and heat it.  (A trick is to sprinkle a drop of water in the oil once the oil has been heating for a while.  If the water sizzles when you add it, you know the oil is hot enough.)  Add a handful of the yams to the hot oil and allow to fry for 3-5 minutes.  Remove from the oil and allow to rest on a plate covered with a paper towel to drain off the excess oil.  Salt to taste.  Serve with the aioli.

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*A note about all my recipes:  I use all organic ingredients, local when available.  I use non-homogenized milk, and all of the dairy we use is from animals raised on pasture. I also use oils that are non-GMO verified.  All our meat is raised locally on organic feed, and our beef is grass-fed, grass-finished.  All our spices and cane sugar are fair-trade certified and purchased through a cooperative.

Brew and Moo

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The mercury had risen just a touch, but enough to make it bearable outside.  The snow fell lightly upon the ground, leaving a white dusting on the roofs of houses and the paved roadways.  This past weekend we took full advantage of this beauty.  I kept the kitchen warm with the stovetop all abustle, and the smell of warm milk in the air.  Meanwhile, my hubby could be found in the nearby garage, reading and mixing his brew with the aromas of hops pouring forth into the crisp air outside.  The girls frolicked in the snow, while the cat sat perched in a tree, taking in all the action.

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My oldest daughter and I used our favorite cheese kit and made two pounds of fresh mozzarella cheese. ¬†(You can check out our previous cheesemaking experience here.) ¬†For the first time, I allowed her to truly assist me by slowly stirring the curd and then stretching it, adding salt, and then forming it into small balls of deliciousness. ¬†The best part of the entire experience was when this six year-old, who normally only likes “cooked cheese,” ¬†took a ball of fresh mozzarella and bit in. ¬†She said, “Well, I only like cheese that I make. ¬†That’s the only kind I’ll eat.” ¬†Love.

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The holidays left us empty handed in the home-brew department, so my husband brewed three fresh batches this weekend. ¬†He tried out a new brewing¬†kit, and then made two tried and true favorites…a caramel creme ale and a fabulous breakfast stout.

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The finished products of the day:  beer, cheese and a bit of hot chocolate of course.  Is there anything better?  Yum!

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Musings

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It has come to my attention as of late, that my blog sometimes leaves moms feeling inadequate in their role as parent.  Please know, this has never been my intention.

Two and a half years ago, when I made the enormous leap to leave my paying job and stay home with my little ones, I was met with reactions that I never expected.¬† People flooded me with questions like, ‚ÄúWhy would you want to just stay home?‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúWhat on earth will you do all day when you are sitting at home?‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúWhy would you want to leave a career you have worked so hard for, and invested so many educational hours and dollars.” ¬†This reaction sent me reeling for a very long time.

Then,¬†as I stated in my¬†“About” page,¬†once I took the step and was enjoying my time home with my daughters, I still felt a sense of isolation because I didn‚Äôt feel as if I fit in with many of the moms I came into contact with.¬† It was at this time that I leaned heavily upon the holistic-momma-type blogs that I regularly follow, for the support I needed to get through the day to day that we all know can seem so very long sometimes.

I then decided to create a space of my own, right here, where other moms like me could go for crafty ideas, recipes, or just plan ole mommy support.¬† My sincere intention was, and still is, to simply put forth musings that may be useful to others.¬† And please do remember, this space is offering just that, musings. This is not, by any means, a minute by minute account of my life.¬† You may see a sewing project I just completed, but you don‚Äôt see the enormous pile of laundry that has been sitting in front of my Christmas tree for over a week now, so that I could complete that sewing project.¬† (I have included a picture of this now for your enjoyment ūüôā )¬† You may see a yummy home-cooked meal I prepared on a Monday night, but you don‚Äôt see me serving up popcorn, apples and cheese for dinner on a Friday night as we rush out the door for a tumbling lesson.¬† My point being, we are all human, and no one is super woman.¬† At least I‚Äôve never met her.¬† We are all just trying to do the best we can for the little people God blessed us with.

And through this space, conversations have been opened up and valuable discussion has flourish in the waiting room of my daughters’ dance school, and in the parking lot of their preschool.¬† This blog has helped me to realize I am not alone in many of the decisions I make, and there are many people, right here in my very own community, who are trying to live a more conscious lifestyle in which they try to dig deeper and live more closely to the earth.¬† And I am so very grateful for each and every one of you who visit my blog daily, and for those that just stop by every once in awhile.¬†¬† All of you have sincerely helped me to feel better in my own skin, and for that I am eternally thankful.

Fried Green Tomatoes…Italian Style

We have a LOT of green tomatoes this year.  A lot.  So, last night I gave fried green tomatoes a shot.  But instead of serving them up Southern-style, I decided to do a play on eggplant Parmesan. Instead of eggplant, I used some of those green tomatoes covering my countertop.

Italian-Style Fried Green Tomatoes

-Slice 8-10 green tomatoes and set aside.

-Scramble 3 eggs in a small shallow bowl and set aside.

-In a large shallow bowl, mix together 1/2 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 cup corn flour, 1 tablespoon dried basil, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder.  Set aside.

-Pour about 1/2 inch of oil in the bottom of a frying pan (I used an organic, non-GMO canola oil.).  Heat the pan until very hot.

-Dip each tomato slice in the egg, then the dry mixture and then place in the hot oil.  Allow to cook until brown, flip and cook the other side until brown.  Remove the fried slices from the hot oil and allow to rest on a paper towel for a few seconds before plating.

I served my fried green tomatoes on a bed of pasta, topped with my homemade tomato sauce and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!