Friday, September 22, 2017

Fun Project, I Made Real Croissants!

Here is a link to the recipe I followed. That way you don't have to read through my long-winded explanation to get to the recipe. :)

It took me some searching to find a recipe for real croissants. I knew that true croissants have butter laminated into the dough and multiple folding and rolling sessions to create the flaky buttery layers.

I was shocked to discover that the crescent roll recipe in my America's Test Kitchen (who I consider to be a very accurate and reliable source for good cooking information) cook book was just an ordinary dough recipe cut into triangles and rolled into crescent shapes! Surely they knew that a real croissant was so much more!

With every Google search for, "Crescent Roll Recipe," I was equally disappointed. All the results were for recipes of ordinary dinner roll dough baked in crescent shapes.

And then it dawned on me, There must be a difference between Crescent Rolls and Croissant Rolls.

I didn't know how to spell Croissant. I couldn't even get close enough for auto correct to help me. I ended up having to use the 'speak to Google' feature on my phone.
Sure enough, by saying, "French croissants," several real croissant roll recipes popped up.

As this recipe says, croissants are a great recipe for anyone to try because they don't require any special equipment or ingredients. They just require technique and time.

And, by 'time', I mean three days worth.

On day one, you make the dough and then it needs to rest overnight in the refrigerator.

On day two, you laminate the butter into the dough. The butter is first encased in the dough. Once sealed, the package is rolled out and folded in thirds,... and rolled out and folded in thirds,..... and rolled out and folded in thirds. Resting for 20 minutes in the refrigerator in between each rolling. When the rolling and folding in done put the dough in the refrigerator overnight.

On day three, you get to shape the croissant roll and bake them.

The croissants turned out picture perfect! And, according to Mr. In The Mid-west, they were flaky and delicious.

I expected the whole process to be quite arduous and difficult, but I am happy to say that it really wasn't that hard and the dough was really easy to work with. (The new marble rolling pin that my mom sent for my birthday, might have been what made the dough so easy to work with. "Thank you, Mommy!" I may give it it's own little post.)

I think I will definitely be making croissants again. I'm sure I won't make them often enough for them to lose their 'treat' status, but they will be something I enjoy creating instead of a chore. If you like eating croissants and baking I encourage you to give this recipe a try. 
I am just leaving a link for this recipe, instead of posting the whole recipe, because it is so long. Maybe I will post the entire recipe on my blog someday so that I can find it quickly, but for now I will just bookmark the page.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Story And Cloud "Bread" Recipe | Gluten Free, Grain Free, And Very Low Carbs

This bread has given me a sandwich experience back!

I did a very restrictive elimination diet for six months, for health reasons. When I started to re-introduce foods again I had a bad response to wheat and wheat products. I tried several times and each time I had terrible stomach pains within a few hours. It was so bad that I decided I would not eat wheat any more. The short pleasure of cake or bread was not worth the amount of pain I would have in the next hours.

I even tried eating properly prepared sourdough, the kind with only wild caught airborne yeast. I thought that process would make the wheat easier to digest. It gave me just as much pain as the other wheat products.

For the unforeseeable future cinnamon rolls, fresh yeast bread, real pizza, and normal sandwiches are just going to exist in the form of memories for me. I have still been baking breads, and the aromas are quite satisfying, even if I must resist tasting.

I was relating this development to a lady a church. She asked if I had tried Cloud Bread. She said she would bring me a recipe. She had made it because she has diabetes and wanted a low carb bread, but she said it should be good for me since it has no grains of any kind.

This Cloud Bread is not a good replacement for all of the things you would use regular bread for, but one thing it does well is hold a sandwich together.

During the whole time of being on the elimination diet I never looked for bread alternatives. It really wasn't possible. All grains, seeds, nuts  and legumes were off limits, as well as, eggs and all dairy products. I did miss bread, but I didn't realize how much I missed having a sandwich.

Sandwiches are delicious! Having meat, cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickle, mayonnaise, and mustard all smashed together in one bite is delightful! I feel like a person that has lived where sandwiches don't exist and now I am trying to describe them to my fellow country-men. :)

Here is the recipe for Cloud Bread.

Cloud Bread

3 eggs, separated
1 packet of stevia (you could use 1TBS. of honey)
3 TBS. cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Separate eggs.
In a bowl mix yolks, cream cheese, and sweetener.
In another bowl combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Mix at high speed until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold egg whites into yolk mixture.
Grease a large cookie sheet. Spoon batter onto the cookie sheet making hamburger buns shapes.
Bake at 300°F. for about 30 minutes.
Remove from cookie sheet and cool.
Place in an airtight container and wait until the following day to eat them.
 These freeze well.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Chicken Armenian Recipe

This is a pretty simple chicken recipe. It is a recipe I found in my early days of marriage, you know, back in those days when you are figuring out what will be the staple ingredients in your husband's and your kitchen. Things aren't the same as your mom's kitchen any more, and you have to learn your husband's tastes and figure out your(plural) "go-to" meals.

Anyway, this recipe is really tasty and uses cheap ingredients, but dresses up really well and would make a good company dish.

The chicken pieces get browned in a skillet before being transferred to a baking tray.

The recipe calls for two fryer chickens cut into pieces, but I use chicken legs or thighs. A lot of the time I use a package of chicken quarters and then cut them into leg and thigh pieces.

The sauce is poured over the chicken and then it goes in the oven to bake.

Chicken Armenian Recipe

1/4 to 1/3 cup butter
2 broiler-fryer chickens (about 2 1/3 pound each)  cut in 4 pieces
1 large onion, think sliced
1 clove garlic (I use at least 3) minced
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
2 TBS. wine vinegar
1 tsp. paprika
1 1/4 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large frying pan and fry the chickens on both sides until light brown. Place skin side down, side by side, in a large shallow baking pan or broiler pan.

Fry the onions in the remaining butter, adding more if necessary, until limp and golden; add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, and paprika to the pan; and heat just to the boiling point. Pour over the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake uncovered in a 400° F. oven for 45 minutes or until light reddish-brown, turning the chicken at the end of the first 20 minutes. Baste with pan juices several times during the last 25 minutes of cooking. 

Serve with rice if desired, spooning some of the pan juices over the chicken and rice.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What Has Been Keeping Me Busy? Food Preservation!

Among other activities, I have been busy preserving fresh food from our garden and some produce from other people's gardens that they had extra.

I thought I would share a few pictures that I have taken along the way.

I don't have a separate post on each of these, but I just wanted to share some of what I have been up to quickly.

These pictures of my garden beds were taken back in June. The squash plants that you can see in this picture were volunteer. I wasn't sure what type of squash they would be, but I was pretty sure that they would be a cross. They turned out to be something like a pink banana squash. The squash beetles ended killing the plants, but only after they had produced several mature squash for us.

My tomato plants were just babies back then. :) Now they have exploded to be taller than me in some places! And, they are producing some good yields. I have been able to can a few batches of plain tomato sauce this past week.

This sink full of tomatoes came from a neighbor's garden. They were not able to use them and kindly offered some to me. I turned them into 30 pints of salsa.

I am so happy to see my cupboard filling up with canning jars. :)

A relative gave me lots of homegrown cabbage. I don't remember how many pounds I was able to make into sauerkraut. In the end I had a gallon size jar and a quart jar. It is sure to last me a while.

I have also learned how to ferment cumbers into pickles, and have made a few quarts of those with cucumbers from the garden. Sorry I don't have an pictures of that.

These are some tubs of washed and drained kale from the garden. I froze these and got 9 serving sized (maybe 2 cups each) bags in the freezer.

That's a wrap!

Have any of you been preserving Summer's bounty? What types of food do you put up for your family? What preservation methods do you employ the most?

Let me know in the comment section! :)

Genesis 8:22 
While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

My Total Eclipse Experience!

I spent a lot of time looking forward to and planning to see the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017.

I first learned about the upcoming eclipse over two years ago. I made up my mind that nothing short of a disaster would keep me from being in the shadow. At that time the employer that Mr. In The Mid-west had was not likely to give him a day off for something like an eclipse. I was also pregnant. My initial thought was that I would be traveling to see the eclipse with a two year old by myself, without Mr. In The Mid-west. Thankfully, Mr. In The Mid-west's employment has changed and he was able to have the day off.

I looked at the eclipse maps to figure out where I would like to be located along the path of totality. I saw that there was a pretty easy route along interstates to somewhere south of St. Louis, Missouri. The general area was pretty rural and didn't have any very large cities. I just used my fingers to zoom in on the map in the center of the path of totality and came to the town of Sullivan. Close by to Sullivan is a small state park, Maramec State Park. I thought, "Perfect, we can camp at the park Sunday night and watch the eclipse on Monday." I went to the park website to look into reservation and prices. The price was very reasonable, but I couldn't make a reservation more than 6 months in advance.

I didn't check back, about the reservation, until only 2 months before the eclipse. By that time all the camp sites were taken at the Maramec State Park. I looked up all of the state parks in Missouri that were located in the belt of totality. I only found 2 campsites that were available and they weren't even in the best locations. They were kind of on the edge of the shadow band. When I called to make a reservation I was informed that due to the eclipse event they were only allowing reservations that were 3 days in length, and not any 3 days, it had to be that Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I was not to happy about that, and decided not to make a reservation. We only wanted to stay one night. We would just sleep in our car. We have done it many times. The back seats fold down and we spread our blankets out in the trunk and onto the folded down seats. All of us fit comfortably, and I sleep soundly. Mr. In The Mid-west has trouble getting comfortable sometimes, but he'd rather sleep in the car than rent a hotel room.

In April I bought the solar veiwing glasses. I used some of the money I had made from selling my hair (there is a post about that here) to buy the glasses. I considered it an investment and was hoping to make money on them. Back in June I didn't think my business proposition was going to work out. No one that I talked to was really interested in the eclipse. But, the general population's enthusiasm finally did catch up to mine, and I was able to sell all of my eclipse glasses. Of course, I kept three for our family.

When we were a week out from the Eclipse date I could finally check the weather forecast. We were planning to leave home after church on Sunday night and drive to our veiwing location. In that amount of driving time it would be possible for us to get to Central/Eastern Missouri, Southern Illinois, or Western Kentucky. During the day on Sunday I kept checking the weather forecasts and cloud coverage maps for these areas, trying to make a final decision about which direction we should head that night. The forecasts were similar. They changed slightly throughout the day. It was predicted to be, "Party sunny with a 20-30% chance of thunder storms after 1pm." And, later they switched it to 3 pm. After studying the maps I settled on Sullivan, Missouri. I had asked God many times to allow us to see the total eclipse. All I could do was use what information I had to try and make a good choice and trust God to answer prayer.

We packed the car with our blankets, pillows, stroller, cooler, snacks and water. We double checked a couple times that we did indeed have our solar veiwing glasses. That would have been gut wrenching to arrive and discover that we had left our glasses at home! We had a pretty smooth drive. We got to the Walmart in Sullivan around 12:30am. There were a few other travellers using the Walmart parking lot as a stopping place for the night. We parked and set up our blankets in the car. We left the car running to keep the air conditioning on, and slept soundly until about 6:30am.

The sun was just coming over the horizon, bright and clear. It looked like the beginning of a beautiful day!

We strolled through Walmart for a while. Funny story: I was trying to occupy Boy In The Mid-west while we were in the store. I took him to the sporting goods section and found the fishing bait refrigerator. I opened a few different containers of nightcrawlers to show BMW. He loved it. He touched the clump of worms and then was thrilled to watch them wriggle. As he observed them he said, "Beeauutifull!" And that is BMW for you. He loves critters. He stops to wave and say, "Hi!" to all the caterpillars, birdies, and rabbits he comes across. :)

We drove around and explored Sullivan. We found the fairgrounds, where they were hosting public eclipse veiwing. Some people were already set up with their lawn chairs. The fairgrounds were plenty big and we didn't see any need to find a spot yet. We spent time at the city playground until about 10:30am. Then we went to the fairgrounds to "stake our claim." There was still plenty of room. We parked under a couple of large, sprawling oak trees.

It was a beautiful day! The eclipse began at 11:48am. At that moment Mr. In The Mid-west and I had our glasses on and our eyes on the sun. We could see the ever-so-slight dent at the one o'clock potion on the sun. I could hardly believe that I was actually there getting to see this in real person. I was so excited! I was so grateful for the clear skies.

At first we couldn't take our eyes off of the spectacle. When we did look away we noticed some discomfort in our eyes. I re-read the safety warnings on the glasses and found that we were not supposed to be looking directly at the sun for more than 3 consecutive minutes. After that we only took short glimpses, and our eyes felt fine again.

The eclipse grew, the temperature dropped, and the lighting became strange. All of the things I knew to expect happen, happened. I knew the logistics of what was happening, but no amount of reading or head knowledge could fully prepare me to see the total eclipse. I couldn't experience it through a description. And to be honest I don't have words to describe what it felt like to be in the moon's shadow, to see the sun's Corona, to look at stars in the middle of the day. It was amazing! It was beautiful! It was unbelievable!

As the last vestiges of sunlight were being blocked from veiw our family was up on a grassy knoll, away from the crowd. (I am really surprised none of our fellow watchers came up to that place.) It was eerily dim. The lighting felt heavy.

And if that is all you ever see of an eclipse, it is definitely worth seeing. But, even that minute percentage of sunlight was bright compared to the instant that totality began. It doesn't compare. It was as if the lights were turned out. It wasn't as dark as the mid-night sky, but it was darker than sunset. It was too dark for my cell phone camera to take a decent picture.

As the shadow passed over the grounds you could hear a cheer rise from the crowd, begining off in the distance and coming closer. The people weren't wild or crazy they just sounded happy. And then it was quite. I heard it coming and when the sun became completely blocked I couldn't help but make a noise. A surge of joy and amazement and pure wonder overwhelmed me. I was filled with emotion and I am not sure what feeling to call it. It was a mixture of feelings, I suppose. It was to great of a feeling to hold inside, though, and it came out as laughter. I was tickled, but not in a giddy gleefully way. I was touched. I couldn't believe that I was getting to see something so amazing and beautiful. I felt a huge sense of gratitude. I was grateful to be there, to have a clear view, to have eye sight, to share this experience with my loved ones. I was excited. This all probably sounds sappy, but you would have to be there to experience it with all of your senses to know what you would feel like.

There were 2 minutes and 31 seconds to enjoy this phenomenal event. We took a picture of us all together under the moon's shadow. We looked around. I saw the night lights come on down by a hospital building.  I saw two stars, that were probably planets. I saw a moth fluttering about. We stared at the "sun". It was a black hole in the sky with a shimmering Halo. It was unlike anything else you see in the natural world. BMW was amazed. I hope he can remember some of the event. I remember somethings from when I was two years old, so I know it is possible.

And, just like that, it was over. As the first beams of sunlight touched Earth again (at least that particular spot on Earth) we had to put on our glasses again. I heard someone holler to the man who had driven 13 hours from Texas with his young son to be there, "Was that worth the trip from Texas?" Which was answered with a hardy, "Absolutely!"

And, I agree, it was definitely worth the drive. I am glad we didn't have to travel that far, but if I had to drive 13 hours to see it again I would. It was so worth the trip!

I guess another thing that makes an eclipse so special is that they are so rare and exclusive. You have to be in a limited location at a particular time to see it. It only lasts for a few minutes. You only have those few minutes to soak up enough eclipse experience to last a lifetime. Very rarely will an average person get to see more than one total eclipse in their life. And if you are privileged with the ability to travel the world you are only likely to see a handful of eclipses in your entire life. You can't rewind the experience. You can't fully relive the event through video. I can think of few things in life that are so rare and un-repeatable.

I have looked at the maps for future eclipses and I hope to see at least two more total eclipse of the sun before I die. The one in 2024 and 2045.

And I want to encourage you, my reader, if it is at all possible for you to see a total solar eclipse, please, please, make the trip. You won't regret it. I promise!

Psalms 40:5
Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Butterfly Metamorphosis!

We found a caterpillar in my herb bed a couple of weeks ago.

I brought the dill plant, that the caterpillar was on, inside. I put the dill sprig into a quart jar.

It was sticking out of the jar, much like flowers in a vase would. I had a suspicion that this caterpillar was preparing to form it's chrysalis because of how slowly it was moving and how uninterested it was on eating.

Sure enough, with in a day it climbing off of the dill and found a place on my recipe box to form it's chrysalis.

After about two weeks the butterfly was ready to hatch. I noticed the chrysalis had turned a dark color yesterday morning. This made me think that I would be seeing a butterfly before the day was over.

We didn't catch the butterfly coming out of the chrysalis, but when we saw it it was still very floppy and wilted. It took several hours for it to pump it's wings full of fluid and let them dry out.

It was so fun to release the butterfly and watch it use it wings for the first time. It is amazing what a transformation takes place in just a couple of weeks inside a chrysalis!

Genesis 1:25 (KJV) 
And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Monday, July 24, 2017

No Bake Cheese Cake Recipe: One Of Our Favorites

Yesterday was Mr. In The Mid-west's birthday! He requested this no bake cheese cake for his birthday.

This cheese cake is easy and delicious! It requires no baking, and therefore, no unnecessary heating of the house in the summer, always a plus. :)

No Bake Cheese Cake

Graham Cracker Crust: (Optional: I often make a shortbread crust instead of graham cracker. Both are good.)
1 1/2 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
2 TBS. Sugar
6 TBS. Butter, melted

1 - 8 oz. pkg. Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1 cup Sour Cream
2 tsp. Vanilla Favoring
8 oz. Whipped Cream (cool whip will work.)

Combine cracker crumbs, 2 TBS. sugar, and butter to make the graham cracker crust.  Press into the bottom of a 8×8 inch baking dish. This crust tastes better if it is toasted in a 350° F. oven for 15 minutes, but if you don't want to run your oven, it still tastes good without baking.

To make the filling, cream softened cream cheese and sugar until light and combined. Add sour cream and vanilla flavoring, mix well.

Whip cream until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture.

Pour into prepared crust. Chill in refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours, preferably over night.

Serve with your choice of toppings.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sleeping Dogs Pigs In A Blanket Recipe

I saw this idea on a cooking video. Making these Sleeping Dog Pigs in A Blanket was a fun project.

My Sleeping Dogs were not nearly as cute as the lady's in the video. Some of the heads got pretty lopsided, and the faces were challenging to draw.

I made a few practice faces on the cutting board. The angle of the heads made it difficult to "draw" the faces on, not to mention, they were piping hot, straight out of the oven.

More important than the looks was the taste. Mr. In The Mid-west said the bread on these Pigs In A Blanket was excellent! He really liked it. :)

To make the Sleeping Dog shape, I took the portion of dough and divided it into two pieces. The smaller piece was about 1/3 of the portion of dough.

I rolled the larger piece out big enough to fit a half of a hot dog onto.

I pinched the long edges together.

 At one end of the hot dog I folded the dough under.

At the other end I pinched the open to seal it shut. The I used scissors to snip the flap into what would be the dog's front legs.

To make the dog's head I formed the small piece of dough into a flattened circle.

I used scissors to cut the ears away from the face.

I pinched the corners of the face together to make a rounded chin.

I used the egg wash to attach the dog's head to the body. I think this was a mistake. The egg wash made the area very slippery. I think the heads would have had a better connection without the egg wash.

Before going into the oven the whole surface of the dough got an egg wash. This made them turn out nicely browned and glossy.

To make the "paint" for the faces I mixed together a small amount of flour and cocoa powder with a tiny amount of water. I didn't have a recipe for this part, so I had to improvise.

Here is the recipe:

Sleeping Dogs Pigs In A Blanket

1 pound of hotdogs (8 hotdogs) cut in half

4 1/2 tsp. Yeast
3/4 cup Warm Water
1/3 cup Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup Butter, room temperature
4 cups All-purpose Flour

Egg Wash:
1 Egg, beaten
2 TBS. Water

Face Paint:
Cocoa powder

To make the bread dough, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the sugar, salt, 2 eggs, butter, and 2 cups of flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in remaining flour until smooth. Knead dough until elastic and gluten is developed. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough. Divide into 16 even pieces. Shape each piece around the hot dog halves as described above to make sleeping dog shapes.

Place on a greased baking sheet. Brush with egg wash. Bake in preheated oven at 400° F. for 10 minutes. 

Remove from oven. Quickly pipe on faces with cocoa powder/flour/water paste.

Return to oven for 1 minute.

Remove from oven cool slightly. Serve warm with ketchup (if desired).