Category Archives: Recipes

Super Simple Chocolate Wacky Cake

Oh my. We have been on a bit of a wacky cake kick. We love the classic cake, but we’ve been playing with the recipe, and have some variations that are to die for!

Actually “we” is a misnomer. I hardly get involved at all anymore. This cake is so simple that my daughters (8 and 10 yrs) are able to make it with zero help from me.

No need to prep the pan or dirty a mixing bowl!

No need to prep the pan or dirty a mixing bowl!

It’s about a 35 minute process which makes it perfect for short notice company, sudden cravings on a busy weeknight, or when your kid tells you about the bake sale the morning of the bake sale. And it doesn’t need to have any fancy ingredients. You likely have everything you need for the basic recipe in the cupboard right now.

Let’s get started!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Grab a cake pan.  I use 9×13 Pyrex, which yields a thinner slice.
You’re going to mix your dry ingredients right in the pan, no need to grease it first.

In the pan whisk together:

1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour
1/3 C Cocoa Powder (mileage may vary by brand-I use toll house)
1 C sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Make a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients, and add:

1 tsp vinegar (I use ACV)
1 tsp vanilla
5 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 C water

Mix wet and dry ingredients well and spread evenly in the pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Variations:

Substitute melted coconut oil for the vegetable oil, and add 1 C shredded coconut for a tropical twist.

Substitute orange extract in place of vanilla for orange truffle cake.

Substitute cold coffee on place of the water for a mocha cake.

Use your imagination.

YUMMY!

Venison Pasties – A Christmas Tradition

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First things first. You’re going to want to bookmark this recipe. Trust me on this. You do not want a Google search for “Pasties” on your browser history.

Now then, moving along.

I really enjoy sharing old traditions and starting new ones with my little family. One of our newer traditions is having the extended family over for Venison Pasties on Christmas Eve.

Never heard of Pasties? If not, I’m guessing you live somewhere west of the Rockies. And you’re reading it “paste-ees”, which is not correct.  I like my in-laws, but I do not invite them over to swing festive reindeer booby tassels for Christmas. It’s p-A as in apples-sties.

Pasties. Handheld meat pies, traditionally from Cornwall, and particularly popular in the mid-western US. Think hot pockets, but good. Wiki has a fascinating history of the pasty here.

On to the recipe.

I typically double this depending on how many guests I’m expecting, and I make them smaller since we have them with other finger foods, cookies, candies and general Christmas gluttony.

I also mix up the filling, and pie pastry the night before.  This is not necessary, but since I’m making so many at a time, I like to minimize my work the day of.

You will need:

One double pie crust recipe, prepared and chilled

1 pound venison, cubed

2 med potatoes peeled, and cubed

1/2 C rutabaga (I find it easier to grate rutabaga than chop)

1 small onion, diced

1 carrot (adding carrot is strictly frowned upon in Cornwall, but we like it in WA)

Salt and Pepper

6 tsp butter

egg wash to brown tops

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix meat, veggies, and seasonings in a bowl.  Divide pastry dough into six balls and roll into six-inch circles.  Place about one cup of filling on each pastry, and top with one teapoon butter.  Fold pastry over and crimp edges.  Pierce pastry tops with a fork and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Brush tops with egg wash and bake for about one hour.  My mother in law grew up in Wisconsin, and she says these are “perfect” every year!

I usually only make pasties at Christmas, but they do also make a great lunch on the go, or make ahead for a busy weeknight dinner.

I hope you enjoy this taste of our Half Acre Christmas!

photo credit: The Richards

<ahref=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/92873332@N00/103774533″>A taste of home!…</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Roast Beast

We are so fortunate to live in a place where there is abundant game. No joke, this is something I thank God for every day, and twice or three times when I go to the grocery store and look at the price of the crummy beef, let alone the higher quality stuff.

It also helps to have a dedicated hunter in the family.

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When I first saw this photo I thought he was goofing around, but it turns out he was hunting overlapping seasons.  I won’t lie.  He’s quite studly and I have a huge crush on him.

So do some of the neighborhood girls.  😉

Enough about the man though, this post is about a different beast.

When I tell people we eat bear,  I get a range of responses.

I could never eat bear, you can tell they have a soul by looking in their eyes.   Although I don’t think she ever actually looked a bear in the eye.

Ewww, do you like it?  It’s so (insert adjective, greasy, pungent, stinky, …)

Wow, I’d love to get your recipe!

First I’ll give you some background on our local bear population.  We live in a very bear friendly country.  Apple Country.  Actually these days its really more pear or cherry or wine country as more and more farmers are pulling out their apples in favor of more lucrative crops.  But you get my drift.  Lots of low hanging fruit.  We also have plenty of wild fruit such as elderberries, service berries, and choke cherries.  In the summer it is very easy to pick out a berry bush that has had a bear foraging in it.

In fact there is no shortage of bear sign, from tracks, to scat, to mauled branches, it’s obvious we have a healthy bear population.

Despite all the sign, it’s very easy to forget we live in bear country. Unlike some of our neighboring communities, we have never had our garbage raided, never had one in our camp, never seen a bear when we weren’t specifically looking for one.  The raccoons give us more trouble than the bears ever do.  They just don’t need to venture into our neighborhood because there is plenty for them to eat in the hills and orchards.  I suppose they also eat small critters and fish sometimes too, but with such abundant fruit, they can pretty well rely on easier meals.

Fruit eating bears are mild-flavored bears.  I have no experience cooking or eating bears from areas where they mostly eat fish.  From everything I’ve heard, if you’ve had bear that tasted “pungent” it was probably a fish eater.

We usually have our bears processed into jerky, German sausage and summer sausage, but we also have a bunch cut into roasts.  My absolute favorite way to eat bear is as a pot roast.

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I cook it the same way I would a beef or pork roast.

Pop it in the crock pot and give it a generous coat of minced garlic or garlic powder, and black pepper.

Toss in some coarsely chopped onion and one or two bay leaves.  You don’t need to add any liquid.

Put the lid on and cook it on low for around 4- 6 hours.   More won’t hurt, but you’ll want to baste it if you go much past 6.

Chop a couple potatos and carrot, or whatever veggies you like, and add those for the last hour of cooking.

Really that’s it!  It’s tender and juicy, and as good as any roast beef I’ve ever had.

Leftovers (which we rarely have) make awesome sandwiches, or stews.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Sloppy Joes For Four

A few weeks ago, while I was making up a meal plan for the month, I asked my husband for some suggestions.  He suggested Sloppy Joes, and I jotted it down and moved on.  It wasn’t until this morning that I realized I have never-ever made Sloppy Joes, not even with a can of Manwich sauce.  So I hit up the ever helpful Google, and came up with loads of recipes.

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Unfortunately sloppy joes are apparently intended for large families or small armies.  Each recipe I read called for three pounds of ground beef.  I know I could make a huge batch and freeze the extra, but I’m not a big enough risk taker to use three pounds of anything (not even cheap ground beef, which I don’t actually happen to have, I used venison) on my first try at a recipe.

I noticed that they all seemed to have a varied mix of a tomato base, sugar, vinegar and some veggies.  I decided to use the basic premise, but strike out on my own, based on what I had on hand.

  • A scant pound of ground venison (My kids don’t eat much and a pound is usually more than we need for a recipe so I package ours light figuring I can add veggies to most recipes to bulk them up if necessary)
  • 1 C ketchup
  • 1/4 C brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 C yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, grated

Brown ground venison (or beef, which will need to be drained) and add in chopped veggies. Reduce heat, and place a lid on the pot to steam the veggies while you mix up the sauce. Add the sauce and simmer for an additional 5 or 10 minutes.  Serve on grilled hamburger buns with a side of your choice.  Yields four, two-scoop sandwiches, and had a bit of extra sauce, so you could choose to use a full pound of ground beef and get another sandwich or two.

Enjoy!

 

Pantry Cooking- Mexican Restaurant Style Rice

I can’t believe it hasn’t occurred to me to share this recipe before now.  I literally tell someone how to make this at least once a month.  The conversation goes something like this:

Friend:  I would eat white rice at home, if only I could make it like the Mexican restaurants do.

Me:  It’s really easy, I’ll show you how.  (I’m super helpful that way 😉 )

You’ll need two secret weapons to complete this task; a pan with a tight fitting lid, and Knorr brand Caldo de Tomate.  You’ll also need white rice, but I don’t suppose we can call that a secret.  (I am not affiliated with Knorr, but I do recommend this specific brand.  We love it, and eat it far more often than we should considering it’s sodium/msg content.)

First, brown one cup of white rice over medium heat.  We usually use butter or cooking spray for this, but dry works too.

When the rice is nicely browned, add 2 Cups of boiling water and 2 tsp of Caldo de Tomate.  Give it a quick stir to incorporate the caldo, then reduce heat to low, and put the lid on.

Allow it to cook with the lid on for about 20 minutes.  Resist the urge to check it by taking the lid off, and whatever you do, DO NOT stir it!  Stirring it will cause it to become sticky.

After 20 minutes you can check it.  It will likely be done, but occasionally I find that I need to add more water.  If this happens, pour a little boiling water in the center of the rice, Do Not Stir It, and put the lid back on for a few more minutes.

After the water is all absorbed, fluff the rice and serve as a side dish to your favorite Mexican entrée.

Enjoy!

 

This recipe has been shared at The HomeAcre Hop, The Homemaking Link Up, and No Ordinary Blog Hop. and The Homestead Barn Hop.

Pantry Cooking- Wheat Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Awhile back I mentioned that I was working on a recipe for wheat and sugar free peanut butter cookies.  I think I’ve got it tasty enough to share. 

The original recipe called for sugar, eggs and peanut butter, but I always try to find ways to leave the sugar out of, or replace the sugar in my recipes.  I tried this one with stevia in place of sugar and it was decent, but not great.  I finally settled on 1/3 C of honey in place of the cup of sugar originally called for.  It’s still got a glycemic load, but at least it isn’t refined sugar. 

The following recipe is the basic model.  You can dress it up with chocolate chips, coconut, or raisins.  Use your imagination!

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C peanut butter (I used creamy)
  • 1/3 C honey
  • 1/2 C oat bran
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Mix all the ingredients well and bake bar or drop style for about 15 minutes at 375.

Enjoy!

I’ve shared this recipe at The Homeacre Hop, and The Homestead Barn Hop

Sweet Pickled Jalapenos

We’re big fans of Mexican food around here.  While I don’t usually go for too much spice myself, I try to keep a can or two of pickled Jalapenos around so my husband can spice up whatever “bland Americanized Mexican” food I try to feed him.  That’s a direct quote. 

In the past I’ve just bought them at the store and kept a few cans on hand.  But when our jalapeno plant made a heroic push to put on a big crop right near the end of the garden season, I figured I’d give pickled Jalapenos a try.   Now, I can’t speak from experience since I don’t like the spicy stuff, but my husband and his buddies love them.  

I used the small 4oz jelly jars because it’s closest to the size we use at one meal.  I don’t like to have opened jars of stuff in the refrigerator because we inevitably “lose” it in there and it ends up going to waste. 

If you have a friend or relative who is a spice lover, these make nice gifts too.  In fact we just gave out a bunch for Christmas. 

You will need

  • 10 or so medium-sized Jalapeno peppers, sliced, with or without seeds
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 T pickling spice
  • 2 C distilled white vinegar, 5% acidity
  • 2/3 C sugar

This is not a tested recipe from a book.  I’ve simply borrowed the brine recipe and processing time from my favorite cucumber pickle recipe. I was a little paranoid about trying it at first, because as home canners we are always warned about the dangers of untested recipes.  However, I did a lot of looking around and it seems you truly can pickle anything, and for many recipes canning is optional.  In fact a manual put out by the OSU extension office gives advice for how to use an untested recipe on page 7.  I choose to can mine because I’m a paranoid mom-type. 

Begin by gathering and setting up your canning supplies.  Sterilize your jars by scalding them and then hold them hot until you are ready to fill them.  This recipe will yield around nine of the four-ounce jars.  Simmer your lids.  Fill your canner and start it heating.  The prep on these only takes a few minutes, so you’ll want your canner nearly ready to boil. 

Add your vinegar sugar and pickling spice to a large sauce pan and start heating.  While it heats you can chop your vegetables and mix them all together.  When your brine boils, add the vegetables and let them boil for just a minute or so.  

Spoon the vegetables into your hot sterilized jars and cover with boiling brine, leaving 1/4 inch head space.

Run a chopstick (or any clean utensil that won’t scratch the glass) around inside the jars to release any air bubbles. 

Wipe the rims of the jars and add previously simmered lids.  Screw on the ring to fingertip tight. 

Place the jars in your canner, and process for 10 minutes at a full rolling boil.  Check your canning manual for the correct processing time depending on your elevation and the size of jars you choose.

At the end of the processing time, remove the jars from the canner, and put them in a draft-free place to cool. 

After they’ve completely cooled you can check the seal by pressing down the middle of the lid.  If it doesn’t flex it’s sealed.  If it flexes, either put the jar in the fridge to eat soon, or reprocess it with a new lid. 

These can also be made refrigerator style, in which case you don’t need to water bath them, just put them into the fridge and wait about a week to start eating them.

I’ve linked this recipe up at No Ordinary Blog Hop, stop by for more fun ideas!

Happy Pickling!

 

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Guilt-Free Ranch Dip!

Summer means plenty of fresh dipping veggies.  But if you’re not careful you may consume a cup of mayo and a cup of sour cream, before you can say “ranch dressing”.  Yikes!!

Instead try my guilt free ranch dip.  I won’t lie.  Nothing is as good as traditional ranch with it’s mayonaisey goodness.  But my guilt free ranch is, um, guilt free!  Fat free, low carb, high protein, low sodium.  And pretty good tasting as well.  Just mix up the following ingredients and dip away.

  • 16 oz nonfat plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1Tbsp parsley flakes
  • dash black pepper (optional)
  • dash dill (optional)

Notes:

As with most of my recipes, measurements are approximate and can be adjusted according to taste.

If you can remember to make it one day in advance it’s extra delish after the flavors have time to marry. 

If you’re not sure you’ll like this, try making it with half mayo and half yogurt the first time.  It’s what I did, and then gradually reduced the mayo content over time until I was used to yogurt only. 

Protein and sugar content vary by yogurt brand.  For this recipe I like Chobani which has a high protein to carb ratio.  Fred Meyer brand is even higher in protein, but it’s a little sweet so I save it for sweet treats. 

I use this dip as a way to sneak protein to my kids who are sometimes weird about meat and have been known to use chicken and veggies only to deliver ranch to their mouths. 

Enjoy those good veggies!

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Linked up at No Ordinary Blog Hop.

Pantry Cooking Series, Whole Wheat Pancake Mix

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? But so easy to skip if you get out of bed at the last possible minute, like I do.  I find having “instant” options on hand makes breakfast more of a sure thing, for my whole family. 

After you try these whole wheat pancakes, you’ll find the mix you’ve been getting at the grocery store bland and disappointing.  When you first make the mix, it seems like too much.  You’ll think it looks like a year’s supply, but you might find you’re eating pancakes more often than you used to.  They’re really that yummy.  I can’t wait for the Huckleberries to come on. 

Thoroughly mix the following ingredients in a large bowl, and store the mix in an airtight container. 

  • 12 C whole wheat flour
  • 4 C powdered milk
  • 1 C dehydrated whole egg powder
  • 1 C dehydrated butter powder (yep, it exists and it’s a miracle)
  • 1 C baking powder
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 T salt
  • 2 C wheat bran, optional, I usually don’t add it to the mix, but rather to individual batches when I feel we need it.

Mix with enough water to make a pourable batter, and cook as you would store bought pancake mix.

I found my dehydrated ingredients at my local Walmart, but they are also usually available at restaurant supply stores.  If you can’t find the dehydrated ingredients locally, a google search will yield about a zillion results. 

Enjoy!

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News From The Farm, and Homemade Yogurt

It feels like life on the farm has gotten busy, but I really can’t say we have accomplished much more than usual.

I joined the sub roster at my daughter’s school and have been called several times.  Monday and Tuesday I subbed for my daughter’s teacher, and my already healthy respect for her grew ten fold.  Honestly, she has a great bunch of students, and five year olds are just a lot of fun, but what a lot to keep up with!  I still wish we could homeschool, but we’re just not there, and this is almost as nice.

The new pup has settled in and is part of the family.  Don’t you just love the smell of a puppy?  She is a smart dog, but her body has outgrown her brain, as pup’s bodies do.  She has learned, with the help of our three year old, to go up the stairs.  Perhaps next she will learn to come back down.

The spring-like weather we were having last week ended Sunday afternoon.  Sunday morning we played at the park wearing only sweatshirts (okay, not only sweatshirts), and came home to a snow free yard.  We even tinkered in the garden area a bit.  By evening we had three fresh inches of snow and now it’s more like six or seven.  I am confident, though, that this is Winter’s last push and I’m standing by my prediction that I’ll have dirt between my toes in the second half of March.

The seedlings I started two weeks ago are up and doing well.  I think it’s funny that the “Early Jalopeno” peppers were the last to germinate.  My husband was right though, the broccoli and cabbage were already getting leggy, so we transplanted them into peat pots, burying them to just below the leaves.

Homemade Yogurt

Dang! If I had realized making yogurt was going to be so easy I’d have done it years ago. I actually did this project a couple weeks ago, but never got around to writing about it.  I followed the directions given in Storey’s Country Wisdom and Know How, but there are a lot of directions on the internet, and they are all basically the same.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Qt milk
  • 1/3 c instant dry milk (optional, adds protein and makes thicker yogurt)
  • 1 rounded tbsp plain active yogurt (or equivalent starter culture)

 

First make sure your cooking implements are sterile by scalding them.  I hold my sterilized jars in a warm oven until I need them.  Rogue bacteria can impart off flavors to your yogurt.  We only want the yogurt bacteria to grow.

 

 

 

My husband bought me this fancy thermometer, which will sound an alarm when the target temp is reached.

Next scald your milk by bringing it to 180 degrees over a medium burner.  After the milk has reached 180 remove it from the heat source and allow it to cool to approximately 110 degrees.  Add your yogurt and dried milk and stir thoroughly.  If you’d like you can pour the mixture into smaller containers for incubating. I used pint jars.

 

 

 

To incubate my yogurt I put an inch or so of warm water in a slow cooker, then added my containers of yogurt.  I set the cooker to “warm” then covered the whole works with a heavy towel.  I left a thermometer in the slow cooker and checked it every hour or so.  If the temp was creeping above 112 or so I’d turn it off, and when the temp dropped below 108 I’d turn it back on for a few minutes.  Temps closer to 120 yield a more tart yogurt, and temps too low won’t propogate the cultures.

After about five hours, test the set by gently tipping a jar of yogurt.  Keep the lid on in case it is still fairly liquid.  It should be set up by this point, but if not, continue to incubate it until it has thickened.  When your yogurt has reached the consistency you like you can refrigerate it for about a week, adding fruit or flavorings when you are ready to eat it.

Lacking cheese cloth, I used a coffee filter inside a strainer to drain my yogurt.

I added the step of straining my yogurt to make it “Greek”.  When you strain the yogurt, the whey takes much of the lactose with it, leaving you with a low carb, high protein end product.  It also makes a thicker, more decadent yogurt.  I use it as one would commonly see yogurt at the store, mixed with fruit, or vanilla, but I also use it plain in place of sour cream.

 

 

After I made this good yogurt, my friend, Amy, one-upped me by making the most delicious cream cheese I have ever tasted.  I’ll have to try that next and let you know how it goes!

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