Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lego Cake

My son is totally crazy about Lego right now and wanted to have a Lego themed cake for his birthday. I looked around at some of the grocery stores but didn't find one he liked. So I thought I'd make one myself. There's  no way I could draw a Lego picture on a cake, but I was pretty sure I could make a cake that looked like a Lego brick. Here's the process.

1. Make your favorite cake batter then split it between a 11x7 cake pan and 6 standard cupcakes (not the mini size).

2. Let cake cool then remove cupcakes from wrappers if you used them and turn 11x7 cake onto a cutting board or other serving tray.

3. Tint your icing to be the color of a Lego Brick while whipping it in a mixer. We used Yellow because it required the least amount of food coloring to get a reasonable color.  (I also added a 1/2 tub of Cool Whip to the container of icing to make it a little more pour-able.)

4. Cut the tops off of the cupcakes so that you have a flat surface. Then place them on the 11x7 cake so they look like the bumps on a Lego Brick. push a toothpick or skewer through each bump to secure it to the sheet cake.

5. Ice the the constructed Lego brick.

6. With an icing or gel writer write the word LEGO on each bump.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chicken Soup

As you may know, we have chickens. And a while back we put a few of those chickens (mostly roosters) in our freezer for future eating. Unfortunately when we put those chickens in the freezer we didn't make any notations on the Ziploc bag indicating how old the chicken was at time of slaughter. So when I pull one out of the freezer I never really know how to prepare it; is it a stewing hen or a roasting hen? The other day I pulled out a bag of chicken parts, made a guess about the age of the hen and decided to roast it. I chose incorrectly and the result was nearly impossible to eat being much too tough to chew. I decided to try to salvage the chicken by re-cooking it the next day in the crock pot. The resulting soup was really good and may become one of  my regular meals that uses our own chicken. If you don't have your own home-grown chickens be sure to buy a free range or cage free chicken from the store, organic if possible. The more a chicken moves during its life the more flavor your soup will have. Enjoy!

Chicken soup
whole chicken or parts from 1 chicken
2 T bacon grease or butter
8 C water
2 C carrots sliced
2 medium sized zucchini sliced
2 t salt (to taste)
1 t garlic powder
1 t chili powder
2 t herb of choice (I used thyme, but rosemary or oregano or Italian seasoning would be good as well)

In a slow cooker, place chicken or parts, water and bacon grease. Cook on high for about 3 hours or until chicken is mostly cooked. Remove chicken from slow cooker and cut meat from bones. Return meat to slow cooker then add carrots, zucchini and spices. Cook for another hour on low or until carrots are tender.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Garden Update

It's another cool wet summer here in the PNW. As a result the garden itsn't really moving along as it should be by this time of year. Some plants aren't really growing much at all and others aren't producing flowers or fruit yet. Maybe by August we'll have some warm weather that will result in some food coming out of the garden.  (I wrote the previous paragraph on Sunday. When I went to look at the garden yesterday I saw that there were several things to harvest. I got a good amount of strawberries, snap peas, kale, chard and lettuce. So I guess I'm getting a decent amount out of the garden. )

So far I've harvested some strawberries, rhubarb, snap peas, lettuce, chard, spinach, kale and one tiny sprig of broccoli. The zucchini and pumpkins had the first flowers of the season last week. Maybe those will turn into fruit sometime soon. My pole beans are winding their way up the poles, the cabbage is producing some large outer leaves and the beet greens seem to be growing as well. I've had some chard and beets bolt on me already this year, which shouldn't happen at all in a regular growing season. But as long as I keep coming up with ways to prepare greens we can eat out of the garden on most days. I'm still getting my veggie box, though, but have changed it to mostly fruit for the summer. If the apple tree produces apples this year, I may be able to cancel the veggie box in August...hopefully.

My sage flowered this year and grew huge. I moved it from the back yard to the sunnier front yard and it seems to love the new location.

See the white spider living in my pansies?

Weather vane?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fun in the back yard

Since sun is pretty scarce this summer we're soaking in every bit of it we can while playing in the back yard. When we moved into our house many years ago the first thing we did was put in the swing set. A few years later Hubby built us a new deck to replace the rotting one in the back yard. This summer we invested in a tether ball set and a new deck umbrella. The back yard is probably my favorite place to be. With the garden to putter around in and the chickens to watch, along with all of our various implements of entertainment we have our own little "Suburban Oasis".

It's a Jamba Juice kind of day.

Reading while swinging.

Gotta love that disc swing!

We frequently have balloons float over our house.

The boy has learned to pump on the swing!

Trying to take a picture of the girl and the boy kept mugging in the background.

The girl and her daddy.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Paleo/primal Power Bars

I've wanted to try my hand at making my own Larabar type power bars for a while, but the food processor intimidates me. Really. It does. But today I got over my fear, dragged the behemoth out from under the counter, tried not to think about the fact that cleaning it would take up a whole dishwasher load and took it for a spin. I made 2 batches of the bars with varying add-ins, and I have to say they turned out quite well. I made one batch with a base of almonds and walnuts that had dark chocolate chips mixed in and made the second batch of almonds with cranberries. Give it a try!

Dark Chocolate coconut power bars
2 C raw almonds
1 C walnuts
1 C dried plums
1/2 C unsweetened coconut
1 T vanilla
2 t cinnamon
1/2 C dark chocolate chips
2 T maple syrup or honey (optional)

Pulse almonds and walnuts in food processor until they are a mealy consistency. Add in dried plums, coconut, vanilla, cinnamon and syrup. Pulse until mixture comes together into a lump. Pour lump into a mixing bowl then mash in the chocolate chips. Press into a 8x8 pan and refrigerate for at least an hour until they are more firm. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Cranberry vanilla power bars
1 C raw almonds
1 C flax seed meal
1/2 C dried plums
1/2 C unsweetened coconut
1 T vanilla
2 t cinnamon
1/2 C dried cranberries
1 T maple syrup or honey(optional)

Pulse almonds and flax seed meal in food processor until they are a mealy consistency. Add in dried plums, coconut, vanilla, cinnamon and syrup. Pulse until mixture comes together into a lump. Pour lump into a mixing bowl then mash in the cranberries. Press into a 8x8 pan and refrigerate for at least an hour until they are more firm. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Is it a crime to grow your own organic veggies?

Apparently in Oak Park, MI, it IS a crime to grow veggies on your own property. Julie Bass, mother of 6, is being charged with a misdemeanor and faces 93 days in jail for refusing to remove her front yard vegetable garden.

This story is now all over the news in places like The Huffington Post, The Agitator, The Washington Post, Fox News and many others. The gist of the story is that after the city tore up the Bass' front yard for sewer work the family decided to install an organic veggie garden to help feed her family of 8 organic produce that they were unable to afford otherwise. Spurred on by a couple of nosy neighbors who complained, the city has declared that her vegetables are not "suitable" plant material for a front yard and wants her to grow grass...water-hogging-useless grass. Julie Bass  has refused to remove her veggies and is now facing 93 days in jail if convicted of the crime of growing her own food...on her own feed her family. And as you can see from the picture above, it's a very nice garden completely devoid of weeds. It has mulch, and is beautiful. That's more than you can say about a lot of people's grassy front yards.

Is it just me or is this insanity? Julie has her own blog at Oak Park Hates Veggies where you can read the whole story straight from her own keyboard. And you can sign the petition  to "protect residents' rights to urban homesteading and demand that the ridiculous charges brought against Julie Bass be dropped".  

If there is any common sense left in the city council of Oak Park, MI, they will drop this absurd case immediately and get back to more important matters rather than harassing its citizens.

Monday, July 4, 2011

BLT Salad, Stuffed Mushrooms & Strawberry Pie

It's starting to feel like summer here in the Pacific Northwest and I'm loving it. It's not been too hot here yet so the garden isn't producing a lot, but I'm getting a good amount of kale, chard and lettuce. And the pea plants have a few snap peas ready to pick.

Last week the kids and I went strawberry picking and picked 18.5 lbs of organic strawberries! You don't realize exactly how many that is until you start to hull them. I think the family and I hulled for days...ok, maybe a couple of hours, but it felt like days. I put about half of them in the dehydrator in batches, made a strawberry pie at the request of the boy, made strawberry smush for pancake topping and we ate a metric ton each fresh out of the bowl. They were so yummy! And guess what? When I was weeding the garden yesterday what do you think I found ready to pick? Strawberries! :)

For dinner the other night i wasn't really in the mood to cook much of anything. That's the way it is during the summer. I just want to play outside all day and not stop early enough to cook dinner. So I thought cooking some bacon would be an easy way to feed the family. I had greens from the garden and my veggie box last week contained some tomatoes and mushrooms. BLT Salad was born! The stuffed mushrooms was an experiment gone right. I'll probably make them again; they were so easy.

BLT Salad (Paleo/Primal, Dairy Free, Gluten Free)
1 lb bacon (I cook mine on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes or until crisp)
Several handfuls of greens (I used chard and lettuce)
2 tomatoes sliced
drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Arrange greens on a plate, add sliced or diced tomatoes, top with bacon and drizzle balsamic vinegar over all.

Stuffed Mushrooms (Primal, Gluten Free)
About a dozen medium sized button or Crimini mushrooms with stems removed
1/2 C cottage Cheese
1/4 C cheddar cheese - shredded
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp chili pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Remove stems from mushrooms and wash caps. Place mushrooms on a paper towel on a microwave safe plate and nuke for 1.5 minutes on high. Remove from microwave and turn caps upside down to water can drain. Mix all other ingredients together in a small bowl. Fill caps with cheese mixture then microwave again for 1 minute on high.

Strawberry Pie
1 deep dish pie crust (frozen or make your own)
1 C hulled strawberries
2 T corn starch
3 T Coconut Crystals (or sugar of choice)
1/2 C water

Arrange about half of sliced strawberries in pie crust. Take other half of strawberries, combine with corn starch, water and coconut crystals in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat while stirring constantly. Pour boiled mixture over sliced berries in crust. Bake pie for about 30 minutes until crust is golden. Let cool then chill for about an hour before serving.


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