Blackberry Jelly

There is a segment on PBS Kids where Ms. Rosa take the kids to a grocery store, they ask “where does all this food come from?”  The segment continues with the stocker showing them that it “comes from the back room”.  That makes me sad…maybe in a small sense it does..but food comes from a farm, a plant in the ground, or an animal, from God’s resources.  Food isn’t a complex out of reach item you have to go buy from a big concrete store.  I am a afraid we are raising a generation of kid who have no idea where food comes from!  As parents, grandparents, caretakers we need to teach kids…I dont think we all have to have a huge garden and can everything…but visit a farmers market, go to a pick your own orchard, grow a tomato or squash plant.    Learn, have fun….

This week we picked blackberries from our own patch and Isaac was big enough to help make jelly.  I did the super hot parts (filling jars and water bathing them).  Look for his very own jars at the fair!

My boys know that blackberries start out as white blooms on the thorny bushes, then grow into green, then pink, then black berries.  They then learned you wash ’em, cook ’em, mush ’em, strain ’em, and add a lot of sugar…and you get jelly.  Its really quite simple…and not much  beats a toast with still warm jelly from berries that had dew on them a few hours before.  Only thing better would have been homemade bread and homemade butter…but thats a post for another day..I AM a mom of 3 boys afterall… 🙂

 

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Dutch Oven Spaghetti and Chocolate Chip Cookie

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This past year we decided to join a Dutch Oven cooking club.  Which means once a month we meet and cook meals in our ovens and eat way too much good food.  Its a great family event for us and we (and the boys) learn a useful skill…knowing how to cook using cast iron ovens over a fire/coals.  I’m going to start blogging about our creations and our recipes.

This past weekend Klay had his quarterly Search and Rescue field training.  And since we try to incorporate our whole family into our activities me and boys cooked in the Dutch Oven for the team.  Well…I cooked and boys roasted marshmellows, played in the dirt, and took rides in the wagon.

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On the menu for the day was spaghetti and chocolate chip cookie.

This one pot method for spaghetti has become my very favorite.  For indoors and out!  It is also very verstaile.  Ive made it with lots of seasonal veggies as well as the more traditional meat and sauce version.

To make it I cooked a pound of italian sausage along with some minced garlic in my 14 inch dutch oven.  Nothing technical about the heat here, just browning up the meat.

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Once the meat was cooked I added a big can of crushed tomatoes, a big can of tomato sauce, and my spaghetti seasonings.  I wish I could tell you a teaspoon of this and that but I cant.  I just added a bunch of Italian Seasoning, Oregano, and some salt.  Then tasted it…then added some more.  Just use your best recipe.  Or even jarred sauce.  I then added a box of beef broth.  Just make it really soupy, you can add more along if needed.

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Then I bring it to a simmer.  Once its good and hot add angel hair spaghetti.  Or any noodle, but a good fine noodle cooks good without becoming gummy and starchy.  I break them in half as I add them.  I used one box.  Give it a good stir.  Put the lid on with a few coals on the lid.  Again, nothing super technical with the heat, just want it simmering enough to cook the noodles.  If it starts looking too dry before noodles get done add some more broth or water.

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I think this dish was a hit.  They scraped the pot clean!

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I have a family of chocaholics.  There are so many yummy fruit cobblers out there for the Dutch Oven, my family doesnt like them much.  So I needed a chocolate option.  What could be better than a big, hot, gooey chocolate chip cookie?  Not much…just some ice cream on top!

There is no fancy Dutch Oven recipe for this.  I just took my favorite cookie recipe and put it in my smaller 10 inch Dutch Oven.  The 12 inch works good too, I like to keep it thin so a regular cookie recipe will make two.  Rather than cook two separate cookings I did one in my 10 and one in my 12.  I tried doubling and cooking in the bigger oven for a big crowd and it just didnt work well at all.  It burnt, I was embarrassed because it worked SO well every other time I tried it.  It might work well in one big pan but I suggest just doing two small ones.

I mixed up my favorite basic cookie recipe.  Then I spread it in the pan.  I highly suggest lining your oven for this recipe.  Either use the liners or aluminum foil.  Otherwise, the cookie will just be too hard to get out. I topped mine with chocolate chips because it makes the kids smile!

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I’m sure there is a special formula for number of coals to temp etc.  I just do a few on bottom, a few on top, and watch it closely to see if its burning or cooking unevenly.  If I see one spot cooking faster I just try to rotate it frequently.  Take it off as cooking is just starting to brown.

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And this is why you need to line this.  Just lift cookie out straight to a plate and cut and serve!  You will not be disappointed.

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I think they really enjoyed coming in from training to a hot meal.  And it gave me and boys a way to be involved.  They have already put in their requests f0r next quarter’s training….dumplings has been requested…might have to give that a go.

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Recipe Review-Crockpot Beef and Broccoli

This is one of my family’s favorite crock pot meals.  I got the recipe off Pinterest,  but here’s our slightly modified version.
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The original recipe calls for “chuck roast sliced 1/4″ thick”.  I use venison “jerky” cuts…we have plenty on hand, already sliced,  easy peasy.  1 pkg, around a pound.

In measuring cup, I mix beef bullion with 1 cup water (recipe calls for broth or consommé, I always just use bullion so I dont waste half can of broth or whatever).  I then add 1/2 soy sauce and “handfull” brown sugar (recipe says 1/3 cup).  Then a couple spoons minced garlic (I keep a jar on hand bc Im lazy,  lol), and about a tablespoon oil.  (Recipe says sesame oil, I’ve never used or purchased sesame oil…maybe one day Ill try it).  Stir and pour all that over meat.  Cook on low all day or high half day (technical huh?).

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About 30 mins before “dinner time” remove some of the sauce and mix with 2 tablespoons corn starch and dump back in and stir.  Then dump a bag of frozen broccoli (or fresh) on too, cover,  turn on high and broccoli will cook as sauce thickens.   While this goes,  cook some rice.

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Now heres where mine messed up tonight, Ive done it many times but tonight my broccoli stayed cold and sauce wouldn’t thicken,  so I dumped in sauce pan and cooked it off real quick.

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Serve over rice.   So yummy.

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Potato Soup Recipe

Its cold and snowy today here in Arkansas, calling for a weeknof this mess.  Perfect weather…for soup that is.
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My potato soup recipe came from learning how to make it at a little mom and pop restaurant where I worked.   Now Im not sure this is her exact recipe but I do it this way, it works, we like it!  Sometimes I add some diced cooked ham or broccoli,  its easy to mix it up.

Sorry for lack of measurements, I usually just do it based on how much looks like enough.

Dice potatoes (I did about 6 medium ones), a couple carrots, a couple stalks of celery.   Cover in just enough chicken broth to cover.  Simmer until tender.
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When tender, run a potato masher through it.  Dont puree it just to thicken. 
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Then add enough milk to make “soupy”.  Salt and pepper to taste.  And about 8oz cubed Velveeta.  (You can use cheddar but Velveeta melts pretty).
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Cook on low until cheese melted.  Add more milk if too thick.  Right before serving add about a cup of sour cream.  Top with diced bacon, and any other favorite toppings.
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Tatortot Casserole Recipe

Not sure the origin of this recipe,  Ive just made it my whole life.   Ive seen several tator tot casserole recipes,  but never one like this, and honestly to me the others sound nasty gross.  So…heres how I do it.  Also, it freezes great, just freeze before baking.

1lb ground beef (we use venison because thats how we roll)
1 can mixed veggies (only VegAll here)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Cheese, slices,  shredded cheddar,  velveeta, whatever you want
1 pkg frozen tator tots

Brown meat.  In 9×13 casserole,  mix meat, veggies,  and soup.
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Top with cheese.  I cheat and use slices,  melts nice,  is easy, but any cheese would work fine.
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Top with tots.
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Bake at 375 until bubbly, melty, and browned.
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Yummy!

Menu Plan

Last week went great until about Friday…then I got sick, and family ate too much take out and ramen noodles.  But we are back on track,  been shopping,  and already rolling on next two weeks.  

This shopping trip I added more apples and pears, as we ran out!  But mostly the two week gig worked well.

Thursday: Tacos
Friday: Ranch Porkchops
Saturday: Homemade Pizza
Sunday: Tatortot Casserole
Monday: Potato Soup w ham
Tuesday: Chicken Strips, rice, veggie
Wednesday: Pulled Pork, potato salad, ???
Thursday: Quesadillas
Friday: Spaghetti
Saturday: Stirfry
Sunday: Cheesy Sausage Pasta
Monday: Stew/Soup
Tuesday: Take Out due to out of town appt
Wednesday: Chili mac

Here we go! 🙂

Menu Plan

Thursday…errr Friday…. I went shopping and am going to try to make that do for 2 weeks.  I had a plan thru Sunday so this plan will start with Monday…so really a week and a half.

Monday: Cheeseburger Soup
Tuesday: Crockpot Italian Chicken and Broccoli
Wednesday: Tatortot Casserole forgot tator tots soo..tbd
Thursday: Venison Steak and Baked Potatoes
Friday: Homemade Pizza
Saturday: Broccoli Rice and Ham Dish (new recipe!)
Sunday: Ritz Cracker Chicken Casserole, steamed veggies
Monday: Basalmic Roast, veggie side tbd, rice
Tuesday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes,  veggie tbd
Wednesday: Ranch Porkchops in crockpot, veggie tbd, rice pilaf

And that should get us to next payday!

I was asked about keeping produce for the two weeks, and really with what we buy we dont have much issue.   Sure we are out of (or theyve been turned into something else) bananas before next trip but apples and grapes keep well.  Which is the most of our fruit purchases.   Our veggies keep well too…celery, carrots, potatoes,  onions, lettuce, tomatoes.  Tomatoes and lettuce are giving it up by end of period but we dont consume that much anyway.   We usually do veggies such as canned green beans and peas.  Frozen broccoli or mixed frozen veggies.  

Last week I am proud to announce I actually stuck to my menu!  With the exception of my tacos became taco soup when we had a layer of ice outside and Sunday night I crashed, craved pizza,  so I got carry out..whoops!  Keeping it real…lol

Hows your menu plan looking?  Anything yummy to share?