Saturday, April 24, 2010

Chicken Tetrazzini with Cremini and Pancetta

Here's an easy weeknight meal you can make with roast chicken leftovers.  Also wonderful with petite sweet peas, I didn't have any the day I photographed this but it is very good with them.

1 lb Linguine
4 oz. Pancetta or Bacon
1 cup leftover roast chicken or rotisserie chicken chopped/shredded
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1/3 cup whole cream
1 cup shredded pecorino romano cheese (also good with parmesan, mild cheddar, monterey jack, etc., I like a lot of cheese as you can tell, you can adjust to your taste)
2/3 cup peas

Bring a pot of salted water with 1 tbsp. olive oil to a boil over high heat.  Add linguine, reduce heat and boil as directed on package.

Meanwhile saute pancetta or bacon over medium heat.  Add shredded chicken and continue to cook until bacon is crisping.  Add cremini and saute 2 minutes until mushrooms start to lose their water.  Add white wine and stir to scrape any browned bits off bottom of pan.  Sprinkle over flour and stir for 1 minute.  Reduce heat to low and add milk and cream slowly, stirring constantly until there is a thickened, creamy sauce.  Add peas and cheese.  Stir over low heat until cheese is melted.  Season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cloth Diapers-Save More than One Kind of Green

In honor of Earth Day I'm posting today about something near and dear to my heart. :)  Cloth diapering.   When I was pregnant with my first baby, my husband and I knew right from the start that we would cloth diaper.  It just made sense to us.  Our mothers had used cloth diapers on us and we were convinced they would be more comfortable and healthier for our baby.  That was number one.  High on my list was the fact that we would be sparing landfills a whopping 1 ton of trash by the time our son potty trained.  High on my (very frugal) husband's list was that we would be saving ourselves over $3000 in those 3 short years.  How can you ignore something like that?

By the time we were bringing our son home from the hospital we knew all about the world of "modern diapering."  Everyone we knew was envisioning old fashioned pre-fold diapers (which I still think are pretty cool and we even used them on our daughter for her first few weeks), pins, and plastic pants.  Well if that is what you're thinking too, you are in for a surprise!  Modern cloth diapers are nothing like the ones our mothers and grandmothers used.  In fact they are really as easy to use as disposable diapers, often having an All-In-One or All-In-Two design.  You can find them in loads of colors, styles, fabrics and even designer prints!

I was so inspired by cloth diapering that I began designing and sewing diapers for my son.  This turned into a small business, now known as Urban Fluff.  We're not so "urban" anymore, but I think my city roots are still there!  That's the really wonderful thing about cloth diapering though.  It doesn't matter where you live, or what you do, cloth diapering truly has a benefit for everyone.  Modern diapers make it easy enough that even people who live in cities or moms who work outside the home can comfortably use cloth.  It's just a matter of throwing in an extra load of laundry every day or two.  It continues to astound me how people become more and more aware of cloth diapering every year.  When we first started using cloth I would say to my husband, "If people just knew how easy it was, disposable diapers would rarely be used.  If people just knew the cloth diapering options that are out there..."  When I started using cloth I was the only person (in my social circle) who had seemingly ever heard of it.  Now, almost everyone I know uses cloth.  I worried that my husband might think it was fussy, but the times we have used disposables he absolutely detests disposable diapers!  Once you use cloth there's no going back!  I've posted some pictures of my daughter in the iCandy Diapering System by Urban Fluff.  You can purchase enough diapers to go from birth to potty for only $300.

Here are some things I learned from The Real Diaper Association:

*Disposable diapers generate sixty times more solid waste than cloth.

*Disposable diapers use twenty times more raw materials, like crude oil and wood pulp.

*No one knows how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose, but it is estimated to be about 250-500 years under optimal circumstances, long after your children, grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren will be gone.

*Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4% of solid waste. In a house with a child in diapers, disposable make up 50% of household waste.

*Over 92% of all single-use diapers end up in a landfill.

*Throwaway diapers use twice as much water as cotton diapers, mostly in the manufacturing process.

*One ton of garbage is created for each baby who uses disposable diapers.

*In 1955, before modern disposable diapers were sold and consumed, it was estimated that 7% of babies and toddlers had diaper rash. In 1991, long after plastic disposable diapers dominated the market, the number jumped to 78%.

*Disposable diapers contain traces of Dioxin, an extremely toxic by-product of the paperbleaching process. It is a carcinogenic chemical, listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. In small quantities, dioxin causes birth defects, immune system suppression, skin and liver diseases, and genetic damage in lab animals. It is banned in most countries, but not the U.S.

*Disposable diapers contain Tributyl-tin (TBT) a toxic pollutant know to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals.

*Disposable diapers contain Sodium Polyacrylate, a type of super absorbant polymer (SAP), which becomes a gel-like substance when wet. This chemical can cause skin irritations and severe allergic reactions including vomiting, staph infections, and fever.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Peaches, Wine, and Art

I returned from my trip at the beginning of this month to find our little peach trees in full bloom with beautiful pink blossoms.  I regret not getting pictures when the trees looked that way, but the flowering seems to happen pretty quickly.  At least judging my apple trees, which bloomed the following week but had lost all their blooms within a few days (didn't get photos of those either!).  I have my suspicions that the apple blossoms dropped early due to an encounter with my 3 year old and our garden hose, but that is another story!

I can't see any apples forming on the apple trees but I was pleasantly surprised to find tiny, fuzzy, peach buds left behind when the petals fell off our peach trees.  Our trees are small but very sturdy and it looks like we'll be getting quite a few peaches from them this year!  I'm so excited to try homegrown peaches, and hopefully there will be enough surplus for some jam and pies.

The only things I regularly make with peaches in them are fruit salad and Peach Bellinis (yum!).

So here are the recipes for those:

Simple Summer Fruit Salad:

Fresh Sliced Peaches
Fresh Blueberries
Fresh Sliced Strawberries

Serve with Vanilla Yogurt on the side.  Optionally add sliced banana, apples, or whole seedless grapes.

Peach Bellini's:

The best Bellini I ever had was in Venice.  But that is probably because the drink was invented there, so if you are ever there be sure to try one!  It was invented by a bartender in the 1940's who named the drink for the color of a saint's robe in a Giovanni Bellini painting!  See the fun things you learn in art school?

There is nothing difficult about making a true peach bellini at all.  All you need is fresh peach puree and prosecco (sparkling Italian wine).  I think it is best just with those two ingredients, but it is certainly versatile so try different kinds of sparkling wine or add other fun fruits like strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries.  In fact, I just had a great idea!  Just puree your fruit salad (above) and add the wine to that!!

Since I haven't done a lot of cooking with peaches, I've been hunting around and saving some recipes that I want to try once we harvest ours.  Here are some of the peach recipes I've saved in my "recipe box" on

Grilled Peaches & Cream

Peach-A-Berry Pie

Southern Peach Cobbler

Apricot & Peach Fried Pies

Spicy Peach Chutney

Georgia Spiced Peaches

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Let the Transplanting Begin!

So, starting seedlings indoors turned out to be a smashing success.  I started 216 plants on my kitchen counter top and they pretty much did the work themselves!  I now have 4 varieties of tomatoes, sweet onions, red bell peppers, rosemary, thyme, and lavender ready to be transplanted to the garden.  My only problem now is space!  We may expand beyond the 25' x 25' confines of the vegetable garden this year.  My days have been so full and busy lately that I am having to take it slow.  I got one tray of tomato seedlings in the dirt this afternoon and the goal is to have the second one done tomorrow and the third tray the next day.  Then I start finding homes for all the seeds I bought in a moment of over enthusiasm...I got a little carried away when the first seed packets appeared in stores this winter but I'm determined not to let them go to waste!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Eggs

Last year we put quite a lot of money and time into building a chicken coop.  Knowing basically nothing about chickens we ventured out to a place we found on Craigslist and got ourselves some hens.  They were young but the guy who owned the place assured us they were all female and that they would be laying in a few weeks.

The summer waned and so did the daylight.  No eggs at all.  We figured they weren't getting enough light but didn't want to force them to lay by putting them on lights over the winter.  The fall was here and we were determined to get a few eggs for breakfast before winter.  I went to another place and bought 3 hens that I was told were already, currently, laying eggs.  Nothing.  One morning I woke up to a "Cock-a-doodle-do!"  Turns out one of our "hens" was a rooster.  In the end it turned out four of them were roosters.  A few succumbed to some strange changes in weather over the winter and what I thought must have been a respiratory ailment.

The lack of eggs was seriously upsetting to my omelet-loving husband, so he was tearing his hair out when a friend of our's chickens started laying in the dead of winter, no lights, nothing.  He made a half hearted attempt at putting a leftover bit of rope lighting in the hen house, but I don't think it was bright enough.  Kind of made the coop festive looking though!  One night we ordered in Chinese food and my husband, who had just been bemoaning the lack of eggs, opened his fortune cookie to read "A hen today is better than an egg tomorrow."  I hung his mis-fortune on the fridge.

Finally spring arrived.  Friday morning I was going about my outdoor chores.  I cleaned the rabbit cages, and fed, watered and exercised our three netherland dwarf rabbits.  I brought out some lettuce and green waste to scatter in the chicken run and let the chickens graze in the yard a bit while the dogs were kenneled.  I assessed the vegetable garden and what I needed to get started fixing up our soil so my seedlings can be transplanted.  Finally, I put the chickens back in the coop, turned and started towards the house.  But something stopped me and I thought, what the heck, I'll take a peek in the nest box and maybe today will be the day.  At the very least I can make sure they have fresh bedding.  I opened the lid and my heart stopped.  There was a huge, brown egg.  It was perfect.  I ran into the house for my camera and yelled to the kids that we had an egg!  We all marveled at the perfect egg laying on the straw and took about a hundred photos.  I immediately posted our announcement on Facebook and emailed my husband.  It was a monumental day for us, we were not failures at keeping chickens after all!

I was completely in love with my chickens again!  The next morning I practically ran to the coop, took a deep breath, lifted the lid of the nesting box, YES, another egg!  Now I was feeling more confident.

I sold the last rooster and went out to get a few more young, but laying, hens.  Having had this experience and being disappointed before I was crossing my fingers that firstly, these actually were hens and not roosters, and secondly, that they actually were laying.  Once they were all happily introduced into their new home I left them overnight.  This morning I fed and watered them and took the kids to a friend's house for Easter lunch.

Upon returning from lunch I discovered, not one, but FIVE beautiful eggs in the nest box.  WOW.  In three days we went from no eggs to seven eggs!  Now we're talking!  We now have the following chicken breeds in our coop: 1 black sex-link (so called because unlike most chicks these can be sexed at birth), 2 black Australorps, 2 Barred Rocks, and one Silver Laced Wyandotte (pictured).  The Wyandotte is one of the neatest looking hens I have ever seen, and will be real fun to take photos of in the yard!   The Wyandotte is an American heritage breed of chicken so I'm also feeling pretty dang patriotic as well!  Can you tell she's my favorite?  I still want to raise Ameracaunas someday (when we own our dream farm) and sell blue eggs, but I'm thinking we should also raise Silver Laced Wyandottes.  Both of those breeds are so interesting to look at and are good layers.  I think we could easily sell them and get people excited about having backyard chickens!

I don't know why more people don't own chickens actually, I mean I love my dogs but they don't make me breakfast!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Basic Italian Loaf

I spent almost my entire holiday in Seattle perfecting this recipe!  Now I want to bake it every day!

2 tbsp brown sugar
1 and 1/3 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 and 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour

Fit stand mixer with dough hook.  Pour warm water (between 105 and 115 degrees) over brown sugar in mixing bowl of stand mixer.  Allow to sit 10 minutes until yeast is activated and frothy.  Turn mixer to stir speed and add salt and olive oil.  Begin adding flour 1 cup at a time.  Turn mixer to speed 2 and let it do the work kneading for you for 10 minutes.  Remove dough from hook and oil mixing bowl.  Place dough in bowl and turn to coat.  Cover with a tea towel and let rise 1 hour.

Flour counter and large baking sheet.  Turn dough out onto floured countertop and shape into an oblong loaf.  Move to the baking sheet.  Re-cover with tea towel and let rise 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  For a crispier, darker, glossy crust mix 1 egg yolk and half of the egg white with 2 tbsp. water.  Brush bread with egg mixture and sprinkle with sea salt.  For a softer, lighter crust brush with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh rosemary and sea salt.  Bake 35 minutes.