The Thankful Mama

Primal Blueprint 30 Day Challenge: Day 10

Wow, day 10! This has been a great day for getting things done, in spite of not so great sleep. My 14 month old was a little restless sleeper last night, so of course that goes for mom too. She has been surprising us lately with how much she loves meat. She never turns it away or drops it over the side of the highchair for fun. Anything we eat, she wants too…I’m so proud of her! 🙂

We finally made it back to our nightly walk and arm workouts. All of us, including baby and doggie, were glad to get to the park and get out in the fresh cool evening air. It felt great to be in our routine again. I worked on pushups and pullups. I’m looking forward to the day when I can actually hoist my chin above the bar. I’ll keep practicing. I even got in some sprinting as well. I also set myself a lofty goal…I want to be strong enough to do a one arm pushup. I’m hoping I can get there by Christmas so I can give a little performance for the family. I told Hubby he needs to set a goal as well…we’ll see.

Beef Fajita Salad

For dinner we had the fajita salad again and I think this is going to be a regular. It is just so good, you get all the flavors of a nice Mexican dish without all the bloating from the beans and chips. I also remembered to take pictures of it while preparing. Hope it looks as good as it tastes!

Beef Fajita Salad

1-2 lbs beef (stew, fajita etc.)

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

Tsp cumin (or to taste)

1 red or yellow bell pepper

Saute the beef with the garlic and onion in your favorite oil until the beef is cooked through. Add the cumin and bell pepper, cook until tender. Serve over chopped lettuce, such as romaine, with salsa and avocado or your favorite Mexican condiments. Enjoy!

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Chicken Stock…I Can Do It!

I just made my first homemade chicken stock, slow cooked to perfection. My hubby and I have given up sugar and starch, especially the processed kind. We are for sure low carb eaters with a slant towards the primal/paleo way of eating. I would like to be more “primal” in the way I eat, but I just haven’t found the right resources yet for all of the quality food I would like to serve my family. Grass fed beef is a regular now, but still working on pastured eggs and such. Since we’ve totally changed up our way of eating, for the better, I have really been more active in the kitchen. I really have a desire to prepare and cook great healthy meals, made from scratch if at all possible, for my family. My little 11 month old has even been chowing down on almost everything we eat. I have eliminated processed foods from her diet and she eats 100% real foods made by mom. I also enjoy making her little recipes and even more to watch her eagerly gobble them up! Besides, it also scratches my June-Cleaver-wanna-be itch!

I’ve been reading about making chicken stock from scratch lately, and wanted to give it a go. My mom has made this a million times and I’ve eaten it before, of course, but this was my first attempt to make it myself. You know…it’s really easy! I mean really easy. I’m not sure why I expected there was some sort of expertise needed, but it went better than I thought.

I used a roasted whole chicken from our local Henry’s. That made one meal itself, pesto chicken salad (recipe to come). I used the carcass, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, cold water and a little parsley and let it sit in the slow cooker for about 12 hours. I let it cook overnight and then next morning the house smelled fantastic and the stock tasted fantastic!

Vegetables and bones removed

Straining the stock

After I strained of the stock, I had about 6-8 cups of liquid, enough to give away some to my mom. It keeps well in the fridge (3-4 days) or freezer (several months). Perfect for having homemade stock on hand for anytime needed.

I realize now that I can’t throw away any usable carcass from any of our dinners again and the Thanksgiving turkey is going to have a whole new meaning for me!

If you haven’t tried making your own stock before, please do. It’s so easy and satisfying to know your serving your family something very delicious and nutritious!

Stock stored and ready to use

More info about chicken stock:

Homemade Chicken Stock

Alton Brown’s Chicken Stock

Chicken Stock Storage and Tips

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Ace Of Cupcakes

My sister is a self proclaimed “cupcake artist”. She has been diligently practicing her hobby and I think she is really enjoying it. We have all been more than happy to be her cupcake guinea pigs! With each new batch she wows us with her improvements. We have been treated to strawberry, lemon, yellow cake and good ol’ chocolate as well as a delicious array of butter cream frosting.

Yellow cake and chocolate frosting cupcake tower

She is even teaching her little boy how to bake and decorate the cupcakes. He has so much fun helping mommy. It has become a regular activity at their house.

 

Adding ingredients

Carefully cracking the eggs

Her latest was a whole tray of decorated cupcakes that looked like a box of fancy chocolates. Each one was even filled. I love how she made some to resemble a Hostess Cupcake. Of course those cupcakes wish they could taste this good!

Her next big project is going to be a birthday tower for her little boy’s 3rd birthday party. She is going to make the Big Birthday Cake from the book Hello Cupcake. I’ll be sure to post the results!

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Homemade Pizza Night

I have a new system for dinners that I have been trying to stick to. On Sunday I make up a dinner menu for the whole week. I’ve been going through some of my lesser used cookbooks to find some new stuff to try out. Then I try…and I stress try..to do just one shopping trip to the grocery store for ingredients. It’s been working out great and my hubby seems to like the variety.
Homemade pizza was on the menu last night. I made this a couple of weeks ago and it was so easy and delicious, we had to have it again. It’s a good weekend dinner since it takes a little extra effort to make the dough.
I made two pizzas using a basic french bread recipe, but adding olive oil to the dough. We love this bread so much around our house, why not try it for pizza too? It works pretty well, although my favorite is thin crust, and I’d like to experiment with making that style too. If anyone has any suggestions on good pizza dough please let me know.
My french bread pizza dough recipe is:
1c warm water
1/3c olive oil
1 lb (about 4 cups) unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

I use the dough hook on my kitchen aid mixer and let it knead the ingredients for about 8-10 minutes, then let rise in a warm oven for about 40 minutes or until doubled. This makes two small pizzas about 8-12″ in diameter…I didn’t measure them, but it memory serves me correct…

We have fun coming up with toppings for them. Last night we decided on Italian sausage, bell pepper, mozzarella and Monterrey jack cheese blend for pizza #1

Pizza #2 had bell pepper, basil, mozzarella, goat and Parmesan cheese. There weren’t any leftovers and I guess that speaks for itself!

Pizza #2

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Eggnog Bread

I recently found a clever recipe for eggnog bread. It can be found in the book 25 Years of Brand Name Baking and there is a similar recipe here, although I haven’t tried that particular one. This is a great recipe perfect for gift giving. It uses eggnog in the dough as well as a glaze before baking. The bread is braided and topped with almonds, giving it a very pretty presentation.

It has been quite damp and rainy here the past few days, making bread baking rather difficult. I found that the dough is kind of dense and with the added moisture, I thought it wasn’t going to rise properly. I ended up turning on the heat and the oven and that did the trick. It took a couple of hours but it finally doubled in bulk. The second rise, after shaping, seemed to take a lot less time. Probably because I had the kitchen already heated up!

Shaped bread ready for baking

Finished eggnog braid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We tasted it right after coming out of the oven and it was delicious. It has just a hint of eggnog flavor and the nutty taste from the almonds pairs well with the sweetness of the bread. We also tried it the next day toasted with butter… also excellent! Happy Baking!

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Apricots and Apple Butter

I have been busy in the kitchen lately with one of my favorite things…bread baking. My mom shared a great recipe with me. It’s a bread containing apricots and Brazil nuts. After I tasted it, I was dreaming about it all day. Just another slice…with butter! It’s so good, I had to make a loaf. The recipe is quite easy and can be found at visitingmonica.com. Her site is lovely to read through and is full of beautiful photos and stories. She has great recipes, more of which I plan on trying.

I used my bread machine on the dough cycle to mix the ingredients and for the first rising. After that I shaped the dough into a loaf and let it rise a second time, then baked it off in the oven.  About three hours later I had a gorgeous loaf of this delicious bread.

Apricot Bread

My other bread delight was a batch of Apple Butter Muffins I made for work for Christmas Eve Eve. It’s always nice to have something warm and homemade for breakfast at work on your last day before a well deserved holiday break! These muffins have a sweet surprise in the middle…a gooey apple butter lava explosion. The recipe is a typical spice muffin batter, your favorite will do. When you are ready to fill the paper muffin cups or prepared pan, layer 1 tbs of batter into each cup. Then add a dollop ( or about 1 tsp) of apple butter of your choice, followed by another 1 tbs of batter. You can also top these muffins with cinnamon sugar and nuts or both. I used about 1 tbs sugar, 1tsp cinnamon combined with about 1/2 cup of chopped pecans. It makes a nice crunchy sweet top to bite into. Then as you get deeper into the muffin, a smooth apple butter layer is waiting to temp the taste buds! These were a big hit at work, my sister ate about four of them! They are also pretty quick and easy to make the night before. Happy baking!

Apple Butter Spice Muffins

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Sourdough Starter

Bread making is one of my favorite hobbies. This simple pleasure gives me the opportunity to acquire new techniques, learn history, express creativity and provide a delicious meal for my family.
My great grandfather was a baker and a pretty darn good one from what I hear.

Granddaddy Standing On Right

Granddaddy Standing On Right

I only knew him when I was a very small child, so I don’t remember his glorious cooking and Sunday dinners. I know, though, that my interest and love of bread making is a part of Granddaddy in me. My other inspiration has come from a visit to Boudin Bakery in San Francisco. Their sourdough bread is famous for it’s distinct taste and history. It’s fascinating to watch the bakers cutting and shaping the dough into loaf after delicious loaf…and the smell! Well, after a visit to the Boudin Bakery I was excited to get back into making bread again.
I’ve managed to teach myself the basics, starting with a bread machine and letting it do all the work. I’ve since progressed to shaping by hand, grinding my own flours and making sourdough from my own starter. I love learning and my hubby loves eating the results! 🙂

I’ve decided to start a new sourdough from scratch…again! I let my sponge go a few months ago…shame on me! I also wasn’t baking much since in the summer it is nearly 100 degrees in the afternoons and cranking up a hot oven isn’t appealing. So with the cooler temps comes my itch to bake! I’ve begun a new starter based on the techniques explained in Crust and Crumb by Peter Reinhart. This volume is extremely informative and detailed about the fine art of making superb quality bread at home. His books have given me valuable knowledge of the construction of a loaf of bread from the ingredients to the oven. I highly recommend all of his books for anyone wanting to study the art of bread. I’m using the master formula for the barm sponge starter, which he uses in his San Francisco style sourdough recipes. I’ve completed day one, which calls for a mixture of whole wheat flour, barley malt powder, honey and water. I ground up some wheat berries for the first batch and used local honey.

DAY 1

DAY 1

I didn’t have the barley powder, so we’ll see how that goes. After 24 hours the mixture wasn’t very bubbly or fermenting, which is apparently normal. I fed the sponge more unbleached white flour, honey and water for day two to ferment for another 24 hours, before feeding again.

DAY 2

DAY 2

I hope this turns out to be a great tasting sourdough. I’m looking forward to the results and to getting my hands back into the dough again!

10/01/2009: Day 3

Today is day three of the five day process of fermenting the sourdough starter. The starter is quite bubbly and has doubled in size! It has a very distinct “sour” smell, almost vinegary. I

DAY 3

DAY 3

refreshed it with just water and unbleached white flour. After mixing together the ingredients, the starter has a beautiful creamy white batter appearance. So far so good!

10/02/2009: DAY 4

Today the starter has definitely grown. It has almost reached the rim of the bowl.  Fortunately, today is also the

DAY 4

DAY 4

day to discard half of the mixture. After doing this, the starter is then refreshed with the same amount of unbleached white flour and water as the previous two days and allowed to ferment for 24 hours. The starter still has a nice creamy pancake batter consistency and a noticeable vinegary/sour smell. Perfect!

10/03/2009: DAY 5

DAY 5

DAY 5

I made it! I successfully completed the five day growing of the sourdough starter. It looks wonderful and smells quite tangy. The refreshment amounts for day five doubled, calling for twice as much flour and water as I was using. I decided to keep with the same amounts I was previously using. This gives me a reasonable amount to store in the fridge, and allows for enough starter to make 1-3 loaves at a time, which is more than enough for me to make. After refreshing, the starter ferments for about four hours and then finds a new home in the refrigerator where it can happily repose until bread baking day.

I’m very happy with this method of growing a starter. Although it’s several days of upkeep, the end product is really worth the effort. Making a wild yeast sourdough starter is a great kitchen experiment. It provides the chance to create a masterpiece from scratch. Sourdough breads have a taste to them that just makes you feel history. It’s quite easy to bite into a sourdough biscuit and imagine it was baked in a iron skillet over a campfire by a gold miner in California. That’s a pretty romantic description for a bowl full of thick piquant batter in my refrigerator!

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