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Archive for September, 2010

I don’t remember having creamy tomato soup that often as a kid, but I do remember how comforting a can of Campbell’s could be as I moved out on my own and couldn’t afford much else.  Today creamy tomato soup still speaks comfort to me, but I quit that red can long ago in favor of brands that have fewer artificial ingredients.  The “natural” and organic brands are pretty expensive, so how about just making our own creamy tomato soup at home?  This recipe will let you use up some of that bushel of tomatoes that showed up in your CSA basket, that caught your eye at your local farmer’s market, or that mysteriously appeared in your garden or on your doorstep.

serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 1/3 medium sweet yellow onion, diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • about 1 medium carrot (2 if the carrots don’t taste too carrot-y), diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 1/2 cups (or more) of fresh or home-canned peeled tomatoes, as many seeds as you can removed (but keep the juice)
  • pinch of salt (more to taste after you cook everything)
  • pinch or two of sugar
  • tiny, tiny pinch of allspice or nutmeg
  • 1/2-2/3 cup whole milk (or more, to taste) or cream, if you’re feeling decadent
  • optional:  garnish with fresh herbs

In a non-reactive, heavy-bottomed pot with the lid on, sauté the onions over low heat in the olive oil and butter until the onions just barely start to color.  Add the carrots and let them get a little color too.  Remember to keep the lid on to retain the moisture.  Add the tomatoes, salt, sugar, and allspice or nutmeg and simmer the soup on low heat until the tomatoes start to break down and the carrots are soft.  Purée using a stick blender if you have one.  If you don’t have a stick blender, let the mixture cool a bit and then blend it in a stand blender or food processor or even run it through a hand-crank food mill.  Bring back to a simmer and add the milk.  Be careful not to boil after you add the milk, or the soup will curdle! Taste and add salt if needed.  Serve hot with a grilled cheese sandwich (or turkey-ham and cheese, like we used).

Have you developed a favorite comfort-food recipe?  If you serve tomato soup, what do you serve with it in your home?

Remember to check out the Homestead’s first ever giveaway.  You could win a Dutch oven, just for saying you’re interested.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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I started our summer squash late this year, but we’ve still ended up with bushels of it.  Last year I posted about summer supper squash pancakes, and earlier this year I offered a can-less version of squash casserole.  Of course, you can always sauté squash with onions, but why not go a little crazy and come up with a few more variations?

Earlier this week we had squash roasted with sweet onions, pimento pepper, a little chile pepper, and strips of turkey ham.  The recipe is simple; just cut the onions into chunky slices (half the onion and then quarter and separate into leaves), toss with a little oil, and give them a head start them roasting at 400 degrees F while you cut the squash into nice chunks, the pepper into dice or slivers, and the ham into strips.  Once everything else is prepped, toss it in with the onion, season to taste, and roast for about twenty minutes more.  You can sprinkle fresh, chiffonaded basil or another fresh snipped herb across the top.  I served ours as a side dish with spinach oyster soup, balsamic fig and bleu cheese salad, and crusty grilled bread.  My husband said he could easily enjoy the squash dish as the whole meal. Of course, this squash dish with that characteristic Southern drawl used a lot of squash, but I still had a lot more.

What to do?  How about squash stir-fried with Asian flavors?  This dish is still based on onions and squash, but it’s definitely different from traditional Southern squash.  Begin by slicing a sweet onion into thin slices.  Stir-fry the onions in a blend of walnut oil, peanut oil, or vegetable oil and a tablespoon or two of toasted sesame oil.  While the onions fry, cut your squash into chunks and sliver some crystalized ginger (yes, the candy ginger!), about two whole pieces per small squash (yielding a couple of tablespoons or three of slivered crystalized ginger).  Add the squash and crystalized ginger slivers to the stir-fry along with a splash of good soy sauce and, if you want, a splash of hoisin sauce.  Sit fry until a few pieces of the squash start get brown goodness.  I served our Asian-flavored squash with citrus-glazed broccoli and ginger-sesame salmon.  

What’s next?  I’m thinking squash with scallops and grits and perhaps some yellow squash muffins on the side, with cheese to make them a savory addition to supper.  I’m also planning on trying the squash relish that reader Regina posted for me in the comments of this squash post.  And this fall without a doubt I’ll be making some squash dressing to go with chicken or turkey.

How do you use your squash bounty?  What’s the weirdest thing you ever did with squash that tasted good?

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Dear readers, I’m always so surprised that anyone visits my little blog, and I want to thank you with my first giveaway.  I’ve known from day one that I want to share some of my favorite things with you, whether that’s recipes or products.  This spring I was privileged enough to win two beautiful pottery bowls from Polly of Polly’s Path.  It’s time for me to pay it forward.

Like this one only new!

My first giveaway is a 2-quart cast-iron camping Dutch oven from Lodge.  (Yes, I picked it up when I visited the outlet this summer.)  You don’t have to camp to use a Dutch oven like this one.  (Yours will be new!)  You can still use it in your oven, in your backyard, or even on the stove top, depending on the type of burners you have.  If you’re not sure how to use a Dutch oven with coals, check out all of these great ideas from a recent Dutch oven cook-off. (You can even roast a whole chicken in a larger Dutch oven outside.)  The Dutch oven I’m giving away is great for a family meal.  It’s ideal for two chicken thighs and two chicken drumsticks with a smattering of veggies.  It’ll roast a whole chicken breast, as long as its not too big.  The Dutch oven works as a casserole for side dishes and desserts.  It’s perfect for your next camping trip or everyday cooking outside or inside.  And if you take care of it, you can pass it on for generations to come.

You’ll also get a lid lifter–as shown here–that is made by Lodge to work with its Dutch ovens.  Yes, yours will be new too.

How do you win these gifts? Tell me here in the comments section that you’re interested, and let me and other readers know how you’d like to use the Dutch oven–inside, outside, on your annual canoe trip, as a gift, as a door stop. You’ll automatically get an entry that way.  You can get a second entry by blogging about this giveaway on your own blog.  Be sure to post a second time here with a link to your blog entry.  That way, all of the readers at Ozark Homesteader will get to learn about your blog too, and I can use the posts in the drawing.  Tweets get you credit too, as long as the tweets show up on WordPress’s tweet counter and you post here.  🙂

Here’s the fine print:  Entries close at midnight central time on Sunday, September 26, 2010; late entries will not be counted.  Entries are limited to US and Canadian addresses.  Entries will be selected at random.  I’ll post the winner by Sunday, October 3, 2010, if not sooner.  And, no, there’s no catch.

Chances to enter the giveaway are now closed.  You can read about the winner here.

If you missed this one, though, check back as the holiday season approaches.  The Homestead’s next giveaway may help you decorate for the holidays and will help you care for your hearth through the winter.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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This summer while visiting my dad, I had a chance to go to the heart of cast iron cookware in the United States:  the Lodge Outlet in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee.  (No, I do not have a relationship of any kind with Lodge; I just like their American-made, last-several-lifetimes products.) The Lodge Outlet is located on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama.  It’s right where Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia come together.  Its location no doubt was influenced by its proximity to the Tennessee River and the iron-producing region of the South that stretches from Chattanooga to Birmingham.  Lodge has been manufacturing here for more than a century, and Lodge’s products will last for centuries if you take care of them, making them some of the most eco-friendly housewares available.

The outlet has cast iron galore!

And the outlet has accessories, like walnut chargers.

And they carry a lot of enameled cast iron now too, although I think it’s made in China instead of in the US like everything else in the outlet.  I love the colors, but I try to avoid Chinese products.

Except I may not be able to resist this casserole dish.  Resisting, resisting . . . .

The outlet room is less pretty (thus no photo), but it’s my absolute favorite, because everything is at a really good price.  It’s tempting, and you know you’re getting a good deal.  And then your cart will start to look like this:

And you may start to worry about whether you’re buying too much, but then you see this sign:

Great!  I’ll keep shopping.  And then you get to the check-out counter and discover if you spend six more dollars, you’ll get twenty dollars worth of merchandise for free.  And you do.  And then your cart looks like this:

I’m not a “shopper” by nature, but I have a really hard time restraining myself at the Lodge Outlet.

Some of the things I bought are for gifts, like these 2-and 3-quart Dutch ovens, which will be wedding gifts.  They were half price but aren’t seconds; Lodge is just changing the design slightly.  I love the idea of giving an enduring gift like a Dutch oven to a couple who likes to cook and eat; they can pass it down to their children and their children’s grandchildren.

I bought some things to keep too–shhhhhhhh.  Don’t tell Mr. Homesteader.  I’ve already used them around him, but I don’t think he’s recognized that they’re new.  Check out this great Dutch oven or skillet lid that doubles as a skillet itself but will also fit in the toaster oven, so I can make my deep-dish whole-grain pizza in the summer without heating up the whole house. Of course, I also really like small cast iron for when you’re not cooking for a whole crew.  Check out my papa bear lid/skillet with my new baby skillet and lid.I have used this little fry pan so many times since I brought it home.

It’s not only cute; it works well!

I can have a perfect over-easy fried egg on buttered toast in about 4 minutes, and I can come up with 4 minutes on all but my busiest work mornings!

The lid that fits the little skillet also fits this nifty little pot with legs.  I picked up two of them as my freebees, but I wish now I’d gotten more.  They’ll be perfect for making individual servings of the chili-cheese-cornbread bake this fall and winter.

Imagine lifting the lids on little bread puddings in these tiny cauldrons!

I also got two more of these wonderful cast-iron plates that work for fajitas, for starting fish on the stove top and then finishing in the oven, and for smaller versions of my thinner-crust whole-grain pizza.  I think these “plates” are indispensable, especially with the walnut charger, which makes it so easy to go from oven or stovetop to table.

And ultimately I could not entirely resist the enamelware.  I bought this trivet.  My kitchen is white with red accents, so this trivet is perfect!

And I got a couple of more things that were neither wedding gifts nor for me.  They’re a gift for one of you, my dear readers.  And they weren’t on sale or from the seconds area, but that’s okay, because months ago I said that a camping Dutch oven would be my first giveaway.  Watch for me to post it tonight or tomorrow morning!  I didn’t want readers to miss it in this long post.

Do you have a favorite outlet for an American-made product that warms the cockles of your heart?  Have you ever been to the Lodge Outlet?

If you want to know more about using Dutch ovens, check out this recent cook-off, this beginner’s recipe, and this roasted chicken recipe.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Last weekend I had the opportunity join in a friendly Dutch oven cook off for a state outdoor club.  I won the same competition last year, with roasted rosemary chicken (drummies, thighs, breast pieces) and vegetables.  When I say friendly competition, I mean friendly.  I even loaned a few competitors equipment that they needed.

Folks fired up coals.

Well, actually  it wasn’t so much “folks” as men, except a girlfriend who was assisting one competitor, plus me and lovely Jessica, shown hard at work here.  Somehow playing with fire does seem to be men’s game more than women’s, although I’ll never understand why.

Some folks had fancy fire pans.

Others, like Paul, didn’t even use charcoal.

I used this funky rectangular aluminum Dutch oven that belongs to my husband.

I should have paid more attention to presentation, like this competitor, TC, did.

My husband apparently garnished his green chili chicken enchiladas with my tomatoes.  The enchiladas look pretty plain here.

I made lasagna.

Everyone in the cooking area who tasted it proclaimed it the best, giving me hope for a win, although one friendly guy said a beef stew might be my strongest competition.

TC won in the breakfast category with this quiche.  I didn’t try it, since it had red meat.

These apple dumplings won in the dessert category.

Competition in entrees was strong this year, with no flubs and a lot of good food, as I understand it.  The judging was apparently very, very close, with only a few points dividing most of the competitors.  The entree winner was—–drumroll please!———Mr. Homesteader.  Ugh.  He’s kind of a sore winner, a bit obnoxious about it.  It’s okay; at least we’re keeping the title in the family!

I heard afterwards from two judges what kept me from winning:  garnish (ah, if only I’d clipped a few fresh sprigs of basil from the garden!) and the fact that, by the time they judged mine (which was after a dozen other entries), the lasagna was not piping hot.  Next year, I’ll serve straight out of the pan, like I did last year.  Anyway, you too can make whole-grain lasagna while you’re camping!  And, yes, that’s a little slice of flatbread with tomato, cheese, and fresh basil, also from a Dutch oven.

Have you ever competed in a cook-off of any kind?  What’s the dish of which you’ve been most proud, either in competition or at a potluck or big family gathering?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved, including for photographs.

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(Just because it’s Wordless Wednesday for me, it doesn’t mean you can’t leave comments.)

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Recently I posted a savory tomato tart recipe, with the possibility of leftover pastry dough if you made an 8-inch tart.  I promised that I’d give you another use for that pastry dough, and here it is:  whole-grain apple turnovers.

I must admit that I grew up with whole pies, not turnovers nor my husband’s favorite from his Arkansas grandmother, fried pies made with her own dried fruit.  You could turn these turnovers into fried pies, but why?  They made Mr. Homesteader perfectly happy in the baked form and reminded both of us of fall when we were kids.

recipe for 4-5 turnovers

Start with 1 or 2 fresh apples.  I like to minimize waste, so I cut my apples into quarters and then eighths and then core them.  You may peel the apples if you want.  Now cut each slice in half to make chunks.  In a small, non-reactive pot, cook the apple chunks with a little water, cider, or even butterscotch schnapps and a teaspoon or more of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. If you’re feeling decadent, you can add a little cream.  Cook the apples until they release some of their liquid and it cooks off.

Now let’s assemble the turnovers.  For this recipe you’ll need about a handful of chilled pastry dough, leftover from the tomato tart or another small pie recipe. (Picture a disk about four inches in diameter and an inch or a little less tall.) Because we’re making a sweet recipe, sprinkle a bread board or obsessively clean, dry countertop with sugar instead of flour if you want.  Roll out your dough to about 1/4-inch thickness.  Cut into rounds of about 4-5 inches each.  Re-roll the dough to get your last round out of the scraps if need be.

Now fill each dough round by putting a little mound of filling slightly off center.  Fold the round over the apple mound and press the edges together.  Use a fork to crimp the edges closed.  Poke holes in the top of the turnovers with a fork or small knife.  Place the turnovers on a baking sheet and sprinkle with extra sugar if you want.  Now bake them in a 375-400 degree F oven (toaster ovens work great for these) for about 15-20 minutes, until the filling reveals itself a little and the turnovers are golden brown.

Serve warm with a dollop of good vanilla ice cream or some apple butter.  Eat any leftover filling with your cereal tomorrow morning. Grin.

Mmmm.  Look at how pretty the sugar is, like a sprinkling of fall frost!

Here’s the dough recipe in its entirety, in case you want to make a big pile of turnovers.  Just remember to use about 1-2 apples for every 4 turnovers or so.

Crust Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into bits
  • optional but really tasty!:  handful or two of toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
  • flour for rolling

Put the flour mixed with with salt and leavening and cold, cut butter in a medium-sized bowl.  Cut the butter into the flour, using a pastry cutter or fork.  Once you’ve cut in the butter, creating a mealy mixture, mix in the toasted pine nuts, breaking them with the pastry cutter.  Now stir in the yogurt, just until you’ve formed the dough. Do not overwork pastry dough! Wrap the dough and chill for a few minutes.  Roll on a well-floured or sugared bread board and cut into desired shape.

Do you have a favorite recipe that does double duty?  Did you grow up with baked turnovers or fried pies–or something different all together?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.


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We eat pretty healthy around the homestead, but every once in a while we get a hankering for something a little naughty in the food department.  Last night it was onion rings.  Mr. Homesteader asked for them; I made ’em.

Onion Rings by Ozark Homesteader

Ozark Homesteader's Onion Rings

Like my incredibly easy cheese sauce and way-too-quick chocolate sauce, I hesitate to post this recipe. (I’m starting to wonder if I need a junk food category for the blog.) The good news is that these onion rings are not that quick if you do them right, so maybe you won’t make these rings too often.

You’ll need one good-sized yellow onion, cut into rings about 1/3-inch thick each.  The ends will probably be a bit thicker; that’s okay.  Dry the onion rings.  Set up a dredging station with three bowls:  (1)  corn starch with seasoning (pinch of salt, cayenne pepper) ; (2) egg beaten with beer (about 2:1 ratio, so 2 eggs would take 1/4 cup beer); (3) panko bread crumbs.  One or two rings at a time, dredge the rings first in the corn starch, then the egg-beer mixture.  Let the rings drain from a fork before moving them to the panko crumbs using same said fork and pressing the panko mixture lightly into the rings, one ring at a time.  If you do too many rings at once in the panko, you’ll mess up your crumbs.  Now set the rings aside on a baking pan until you’ve battered them all.

To bake:  In a single pan sprayed with oil, lay out the rings and bake them at 350-375 degrees F for about 20 minutes, flipping half way through.  Season and enjoy!

To fry:  Heat two or three inches of high-temp vegetable oil in a cast-iron Dutch oven or similar pot.  You’ll want a fairly hot fry–350 degrees to 375 degrees F, to keep the oil from absorbing.  Fry rings a few at a time for a minute or two on each side, draining well before transferring the rings to a holding platter.  Season and enjoy!

We had our rings both ways the other night, and we like both ways almost equally.  Yes, it was the fried ones we liked a little more.  Maybe a quick spray of oil on the top of the baked rings before we baked them would have done the trick.  What makes these rings good are their combination of crisp and tender.  The cornstarch helps to dry the rings and lets the egg-beer batter adhere, making it possible for the panko crumbs to hang on.  The panko crumbs will remain crumbs instead of clumps because you’re breading just one ring at a time.  The results are disgustingly divine, if I do say so myself.

What junk food do you occasionally make at home?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved.

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Three nights ago I had seen our two cats hanging around and didn’t worry too much about bringing them in because I still needed to be working in my office (also known as their bedroom) and they aren’t terribly helpful when I’m typing.  I walked past the back porch door, where my big male cat was seemingly relaxing.  He caught a glimpse of me out of the corner of his eye and jumped up, running over to put his paws on the door.  That’s not like him, so I opened the door quickly.  As he dashed in, I heard what he was fleeing.  From the woods, just beyond the cleared area of the property came a howl, then another, then another, then a cascade of answering howls and yips.  Coyotes.

My breath caught.  Where was Tucker’s sister?  She had been here a little while ago–had she strayed too close to where the coyotes were hiding?  Had they caught her, and I was hearing their frenzy over their excitement at a meal?  They do that: signal when they’ve caught something.

I grabbed the flashlight and tore around the exterior of the house, looking all around for her and calling, with the coyotes yipping every time I called and whistled.  I said a quick prayer that my girl was okay and paused under the big oak next to our back porch.  As I stood there, trying to figure out what I should do next, I felt bark bits falling on me and then heard scrambling claws.  My girl was up the tree, waiting until I was directly below it to scoop her up before she would come down.  Was it one of the fawns that the pack captured and would devour?  I hoped not, but they certainly were onto something.

As you probably know, I like most of the wildlife around here, but I can do without the ‘coons and coyotes.  I’m not the kind of person who wants every coyote dead, but I sure as heck don’t like it when they’re on my doorstep.  My girl is usually too much of a homebody to get caught out by the coyotes unless they get really close, but on several occasions my big boy has gotten caught behind enemy lines.  He’ll come home in the wee hours of the morning, a hunted look in his eyes, bark and twigs all over his belly, as if he spent a lot of time in trees.  Typically too on those nights he’ll come from what I think of as the “wrong” direction, as if he had to circumvent what we call around here “the mean dogs” and the “evil yippers.”

I’ve listened each of the past nights since the pack was so close and heard nothing, not even an answering cry to my attempt at a howl.  This morning, though, a gray canine that looked too big to be a fox but too small to be a full-grown coyote stood at the back of the cleared area of the property.  If it’s a fox, no big deal; my cats chase those.  If it’s a coyote pup, it’s a a big problem, because the pack can’t be far away.

I often read about how people should never let their pets outside, how they are happier and healthier inside.  I also read about how neutering a male cat will stop him from wandering.  Tucker is “fixed,” but he still has an amazing sense of adventure.  A couple of years ago we put a pet camera on Tucker’s collar.  He’s big enough that he can wear the device, which was basically designed for a good-sized dog.  Seeing the pictures he took–every 15 minutes for more than 8 hours–was fascinating.  We’re surrounded by about 400 acres of undeveloped space, and I’m betting that Tucker knows a good portion of that acreage.  On the average day wearing the pet cam, Tucker ranged about two miles, climbing hills with an increase of 800 feet in elevation, crossing creeks, and visiting at least one cat about a mile from here, who peered into the camera as it flashed below Tucker’s neck.  We can’t protect him when he roams, but I can imagine how unhappy he would be without his range.  And he turns himself in every night–except for those when he gets trapped behind enemy lines.  All I can do those nights is pray that he’s found himself a safe spot and that he’ll hang tight until the pack loses interest. I don’t sleep well until both of my babies are inside.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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