Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our New Year's Tradition

My mother's people are from the South. They founded Walden's Ridge, Tennessee, which is part of the Cumberland Mountains. (Insert snickers here as well as your visions of John Boy and voices bidding goodnight as our lights go out). It's no surprise that I am a fan of the Waltons and that when I am a little spirited, the southern accent comes out. And yes, you did see pictures of my eldest son's homemade egg nog in mason jars on facebook. But I digress. We have a family tradition of eating black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year's Day. They have been served many ways over the years, even straight from the can if necessary. I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes with black-eyed peas and we will be having it tomorrow for supper.

Hoppin' John

1 1/2 cups dry black-eyed peas
4 cups water
1/2 cups chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1 bay leaf
8 ounces ham hocks
salt and pepper

Bring peas and water to a boil in a large saucepan. Boil two minutes and remove from heat. Let stand 1 hour. Add remaining ingredients, return to heat, cover, and simmer for two hours, stirring frquently. Add more water if necessary. Remove ham hocks and bay leaf, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice. Serves 4.
(Recipe courtesy of 365 Simple Pleasures collected by Susannah Seton)

I will be using diced, cooked ham instead of ham hocks, since I am having difficulty finding unsmoked ham hocks. If using cooked ham, add when 15 minutes are left.

I will be serving a side of spinach and a skillet of homemade cornbread as well. My sister is bringing sweet potato pie.

Here's to a new year filled with health and happiness! Happy New Year's to you and yours from all of us at Melia's Urban Farm!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Way of Baking Bread at Home

I love to bake bread. However, I use a bread maker. I know, I know, I can hear you scoffing as I type. I dislike actual baking. I just don't have time for it. I dislike being trapped by the time it takes to bake. Cookies, they are my nemesis. Raising a family with 5 children, required the baking of no less than 6 doz at a time. I felt trapped by having to wait and wait and wait, between each sheet. Bread requires more time than I am willing to give up. I taught my daughters (and willing sons) to bake as soon as safely possible and they love to bake cookies, cakes, pies, scones and yes, bread. I fell in love with bread machines when they came up with one that makes a 2 lb loaf. I can put in the ingredients and go on about my day. Oh, we still make Irish Brown Bread in a conventional oven, and I bake cakes for birthdays and special occasions, but for the bread we eat for daily consumption, it's the bread maker for me! Why bake when I can knit? I perused many bread machine cookbooks for recipes that were simple, yet delicious. They proved harder that necessary. So, I came up with my own.

White Bread

1 1/3 cup of water microwaved for 1 minute
2 tablespoons of butter, cubed up
4 cups of unbleached flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of yeast

Place first 5 ingredients in bread maker in order as listed on recipe. Make well in center and add yeast. Select white bread and your preferred crust. Start bread maker and leave! Yields a 2 lb loaf. It takes my bread maker 3 hours and 10 minutes to complete a loaf.

This girl is moving on to other things! I can hear the needles clicking now!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas - Ten Fold!

It is often said when you do something good it will come back to you ten fold. We have lived it this Christmas. Behold, the Giving Garland aka Helping Hands! But first, I must submit a back story....Our family has played a blind $5.00 gift game on Christmas Eve at my mother's house, that frankly, some of us did not like. It involved stealing gifts from the recipients and gifts that, how shall we say, were less than stellar. Now, don't say "Well, what do you expect for $5 bucks?" I have always shopped all year for these gifts and purchased something that I would like to get if that's was how the game turned and I ended up with it. That cannot be said of every player and feelings were hurt and children disappointed, but still we played the game for many years. Since I have inherited hosting Christmas Eve from my mom this holiday season, I abolished "the Game". Instead, I asked everyone to bring the money they would have spent on the gift and we would choose a charity to donate the lump sum to. I saw a knitting pattern to make a mitten garland to count down to Christmas, and from that, the Giving Garland was born. I have knitted a mitten for each family member to put their donation in. I used leftover yarn from various projects and was given great joy while knitting each little creation. This year we chose Samaritan's Purse. We collected enough money to purchase a goat and two flocks of chicks! Everyone loves our new family tradition! You may be asking, where does the "tenfold" part come in? I have made no secret of our current financial challenges while posting frugal recipes. However, it was never my intention to garner sympathy, just to let people know they are not alone with their financial struggles and that I could share money saving recipes and ideas. Well, yesterday an "Angel" came to our door to wish us a Merry Christmas and gave us a $100 gift card to a local grocery store. Bless you, Christmas Angel! Your generosity is touching and will be put to good use! All of God's promises are true! Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

This Soup's for You!

I had a request for another frugal recipe and this is one of my favorites! One of my friends who lost their job in the various rounds of layoffs executed by Borders is feeling the same pinch in the pocket book that we are. In fact, many of us who lost our jobs, or who have spouses that lost their jobs, or have just had a bad run of luck are feeling the same way. I am happy to share my recipes and help stretch the food budget. It's my version of Yankee Bean Soup. The ingredients, if you had nothing on hand, are under $5 dollars at Aldi and are actually a fraction of that if you have some of the items on hand. You can get 2 batches of this recipe if you had to buy the all of the ingredients and still have onions, carrots and celery left for other recipes.

Julie's Yankee Bean Soup

One medium onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
1 lb of dried navy beans, rinsed

Place all ingredient in slow cooker and add enough water to an inch from the top of the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours. Add salt to taste, usually about 1 tsp, an hour before serving. Add pepper to taste.

If you have any left over ham, dice it up and add it instead of the salt, about one hour before serving. I have also added a ham hock to the slow cooker in the beginning, but it seems harder and harder to find a ham hock that is not smoked. Most of the time, I just make it without the meat. This soup also freezes well and rewarms nicely for leftovers.

So, this soup is for you! I hope you like it as much as we do!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Our Mitford Snowman

The kids decided to build a snowman today. They were clearly inspired by my Mitford Snowmen collection I have acquired over the years when Hallmark made various snowmen based on Jan Karon's At Home in Mitford series. I loved those books! I was drawn to the spiritual and community message contained in those books! I was moved to tears by the fact that the kids constructed their snowman facing our bay window so I could enjoy him from the warmth of our dining room. Over the next few days, the weather will be growing warmer and the weatherman is calling for rain. I am thankful that our snowman will be immortalized here and in our minds and hearts on their playful and joy filled day. To Anthony and Chelsea: Thank you for such a wonderful gift! I love you both dearly!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

More Repurposing: Things with a Purpose

I just love making something out of what most people would toss in the trash. The two Strategy bags were ordered, the chicken bag is also sold, so all that's left is the rabbit food bag. I also love that Purina Mills donates a portion of the proceeds of each pink bag of feed sold to breast cancer research! So, when livestock owners bought the pink bags, they purchased with a purpose! Kudos Purina! Shoot me a message here or on fb if you are interested in the pink bunny bag. The price is $15.00 (includes shipping and handling).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Girl, you got skills!

I enjoy knitting! I am self taught. I've been told I don't hold my needles correctly or weave the yarn through my fingers to obtain proper tension, but I still manage to produce knitted objects that people love to wear, make things for their pets wear, or I make toys to play with. Sometimes, I use patterns and sometimes, I create my own. I sell some of my work and give many things as gifts. I also teach others to knit, but upfront, warn them of my non-traditional methods. It is very soothing to knit and I can knit while I work at Gallup. Today, I wore the shawl you see pictured. I received many compliments, but my favorite was from a co-worker who, when he realized I had knit it, said "Girl, you got skills!" I thanked him. Little did he know how his words sustained me through the day! Skills, no. Doing something I enjoy, yes. But, I'll take the compliment.