Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cooking and Baking, Oh My!

I have been on a roll lately with cooking and baking.  I have made a few things that I have never attempted before and am very proud of myself!  Namely, jam and granola bars.

Here are some of the treats that I have been working on.

Mom's Beef Stroganoff

This recipe surprised me.  I can't recall ever having a stroganoff that had tomato in it.  Apparently it's common but I have never made it this way.

Jason and I both really liked this. The boys wouldn't touch it (shocking) but they are picky.  Even though I try and try to get them to eat new foods.

I roasted up some broccoli (this is my absolute favorite vegetable right now by the way) and served this over rice.

Blackberry Crisp

With the bounty of berries from our picking adventures, I whipped up this blackberry crisp.  I doubled the recipe and am glad I did because even doubled, it didn't make very much.

I realized too late to take a picture so you get stuck with a half empty pan of blackberry crisp.  Oh man, this was good. That little hint of cinnamon really made a difference.  The tartness of the berries and the sweet of the topping.  Perfect dessert.  It didn't even need ice cream.

Coconut Cream Pie

I made this for Jason for Father's Day since it's his favorite dessert.  I love how easy it is.  No baking of the crust beforehand?  Check!  No cooking the filling on the stovetop?  SOLD!

I love how the link takes you to my old food blog where the very last post was Father's Day three years ago where I made the same pie.  Ha, I am predictable.

I cannot speak to how this pie tasted since I hate coconut cream pie.  Jason ate his topped with fresh whipped cream.  Aren't I a good wife to make this for him?

Chicken Fajitas

I followed the recipe above with a couple of modifications.  First, I pre-cut the chicken into strips (quicker cooking).  Second, I let the chicken marinate for a while.  Third, I didn't use a grill pan. I just used a screaming hot skillet to cook the chicken and veggies.  This was SO EASY and probably one of my most favorite meals I have made lately.

I really liked how filling these were for very little Points also.

Granola Bars

Oh.  Oh my.  These?  Amazing!  Forget store bought granola bars from now on.  I will be making these.  Not only do my kids love them, which is unheard of for them to try new things, I love them.  I love the versatility and options.  Don't want to use chocolate chips?  Use butterscotch chips.  Or dried fruit.  Or nuts. Or a combination of all of those.

The only thing I didn't do in this recipe was use organic ingredients.  Other than that, I followed it exactly (omitting the flax).  Sooooo good!


I have always wanted to make jam but have been too chicken to try thinking it would be hard.  Or time consuming.  Or both. It is SO NOT hard.

I used the Sure Jell recipe which comes inside the box of pectin. Yes, it uses a ton of sugar, but I would rather use real sugar and know where my jam is coming from.  Plus?  It made a ton and it cheaper this way rather than buying jam at the store.  I made both batches of jam during the boys' nap time.

My only complaint is that my jam is a but more runny than I would like.  It still tastes great though.  Just today the kids had some jam on waffles for breakfast instead of pancake syrup.  They love it too!

I made 4 pints of strawberry and 4 pints of blackberry.  We won't need to buy jam for a while!

Sauteed Kale

I haven't cooked kale before except to make kale chips.  I have been wanting to incorporate more greens into our diet and picked up some kale at the grocery store recently.  I served this with our chicken and potatoes.  Even Jason liked this which surprised me!  Next time I won't almost burn the house down though. I scorched the hell out of my favorite pan making this.

I have a bunch more recipes to post, but they are going to have to wait for another day!  How do chocolate chip muffins sound?  Or a yummy way to cook quinoa?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Strawberry Fields Forever

The weather here in Portland has been on and off.  Sometimes it's rainy and cold-ish, sometimes it's sunny and 80 degrees.  Even though the weather was not perfect on Sunday, I took the kids and a friend of mine out to Sauvie Island to go berry picking.  I haven't been berry picking since I was a little girl.

The weather was overcast but not cold.  The drive out to the island is about 30 minutes and we arrived at 10:00 and managed to beat the crowds.  I had researched to see what farms on the islands had You Pick berry fields.  Bella Organic made it to the top of the list because they are organic.  If my kiddos were going to pick berries and eat straight off the plants, I wanted to make sure they weren't sprayed with any pesticides or other chemicals.  Plus, their prices were awesome.  $2.50 a pound for strawberries!

The fields are separated into the sweeter strawberries (Hoods) and the more tart berries (Totems).  Since the Hoods tend to be more picked over, we trekked out to the more abundant fields.

The farm provides buckets to put your fruit in but you can also bring your own.  I used their's with the intention that we would fill our buckets.  I was right.

Cal hitching a ride with me

Jack taking a ride in the wagon.  He thought this was pretty cool.

There was no one else in the fields while we were picking.  The berries were small and super sweet.  Once in a while we would find a large berry.  The boys had an absolute blast picking and eating.  No surprise, they managed to eat far more than went in the bucket.  I didn't even need to feed them a morning snack!  

Cal got heavy in the Ergo (all the bending and standing) so I took him out and let him run free.  Since we were on an island and the fields are all short, I had no worries that he would disappear.  I was right.  He stayed close to the source of food.  

Cal eating and carrying his bucket

Jack and Cathi picking.  It was nice to have another set of hands.  I asked Jason if he wanted to come and since it was Father's Day, he chose to sleep in.  Slacker!

Cal showing off a super yummy berry.  Notice his shirt covered in berry juice and dirt.  He picked berries all by himself.  It just took one pick to show him the red fruit and how to pluck the berry off the plant.  That was all he needed.

Jack stayed much more clean but he ate his share of berries.  I didn't even need to show him how to pick.  Apparently an episode of "Special Agent Oso" covered how to pick berry.  Twist and pull folks.  

After about 30 minutes of picking strawberries, we were ready to head to the blackberry fields.  The farmers told us there weren't many blackberries yet but that didn't detour me!

The boys riding to the blackberry fields.  Pulling 60 pounds of kid is hard!

There were TONS of blackberries.  We didn't even pick for 15 minutes before the bucket was full.  Surprisingly, the boys loved eating the blackberries right off the vines.  They are pretty tart but that didn't stop them.  

Look at these gorgeous berries!

All in all, we picked about 12 pounds total of berries.  Almost 6 pounds of each.  

I wish you could see just how dirty this kid was.  It was so hysterical watching him play in the dirt, stop, pick a berry, eat it, run and play in the dirt some more.

It was seriously a great day.  The boys had a blast, I had a blast and the weather was not too hot.  Once we were home and the boys were down for a nap, this mom got to work!  

The berry haul

So what did I do with all those berries?  
8 pints of jam

I also macerated some strawberries in sugar for strawberry shortcake.  I froze some blackberries for later (about 4 cups worth), we ate some strawberries, I gave two pints of berries to my friend so she could make ice cream, and I have another 6 cups of fresh berries in the fridge to eat and make into pies.

I am super pleased with how easy the jam was.  I have never made jam and because I am a newb, I did freezer jam.  The only cooking involved was boiling the pectin.  Other than that, it was as easy as mashing the fruit, stirring in the sugar and pectin and then into the jars.

Even though the jam has a lot of sugar, it's cool knowing exactly what ingredients are in it.  I will be happy to put this on toast or sandwiches.  Plus, my kids love PB&J's so they will enjoy the fruits of my labor.

What an awesome day.  I love doing things like this with my kids.  It's something new for them, it's a learning experience and it gets them out of the house, outside in the fresh air.  We will be going back to the island in 2 weeks because blueberries will be in season!