Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chai Coconut Ice Cream

I recently mentioned how I had ice cream on the brain, so to get my fix I made a batch of chai coconut ice cream from one of my favorite food blogs, Cookie + Kate. This recipe first caught my eye last year because the base is coconut milk, not dairy milk. I don't digest dairy very well, but I still love ice cream, so I just make my own with coconut milk since it's easier on my tummy.  

Kate's recipe calls for mixing spices with black tea, but since I already had chai tea bags in my pantry, I just used those so I didn't have to mess with all the spices. Honey is added to sweeten up the ice cream, another reason why I really like this recipe. I try to use natural sweeteners whenever I can and honey is a favorite. Hopefully this year we will be able to harvest some of our own honey from our bee hives to use in future batches of this ice cream!

The ice cream is perfectly delicious as is, but this time I decided to add some mini chocolate chips and walnuts on top and found that it was such a good combination. I like different textures in my food, so the chocolate chips and walnuts added a satisfying crunch to the luscious, smooth ice cream base.

Have you ever made your own ice cream?


Monday, February 24, 2014

DIY Muddy Boot Tray

Last week our weather warmed up enough to melt all the ice that had plagued us earlier this month, so things have been quite messy around here. I'm happy that the dangerous ice is gone, but now there is a thick layer of mud to deal with. Which apparently can also be dangerous, as I've found myself sliding and nearly falling on my way down to the chicken coop several times!

Due to the muddy conditions, I knew it was time to bust out the muddy boot tray again.

Photobombing Gizmo strikes again.

Our boot tray is simply a tray filled with river rocks. That's it! I found the plastic tray at Target a while back (it's actually a food serving tray) and the rocks are repurposed from our wedding reception way back when. They were used in the centerpieces on each table and we loved them so much that we saved them after the reception to use again in the future.

By placing the rocks in the tray, the boots can drain and don't just sit in a wet muddy pile all day long. When the river rocks and tray start to get dirty, I just give everything a good scrub down. I put the rocks in a bucket, fill it up with water, and swish the rocks around a few times to remove the caked on dirt. Hose the tray out then place the clean river rocks back in and it's good to go. Easy peasy!

Our tray is located in the entryway right inside the back door, so we can take our dirty boots off right away and not track the mess throughout the house. Even though I do sweep the floors daily, this cuts down on the frequency of mopping. And that is one of my least favorite chores, so I count this simple muddy boot tray as a big win!


Friday, February 21, 2014

Feathered Friend Friday: Random 5

As I've done in the past, today I thought I'd join my friend, Nancy, for a random 5 post about my feathered friends. Today's random 5 is all about eggs!

1. This week two of our hens started laying again after their winter break. Isis (Easter Egger) lays green eggs and Summer (Welsummer) lays dark brown eggs dotted with speckles. It's so thrilling to find the first mint green egg of the season in the nesting box!

2. We sell our eggs for $2 per dozen. For interested potential customers, we like to provide a colorful half-dozen starter pack to try and get them hooked. How could you not love these pretty eggs?

3. Collecting eggs from the nests at the end of the day, bringing them inside and writing the date in pencil on the end of each egg, and arranging them in cartons is one of my favorite things ever.

4. Since we always have access to delicious fresh eggs, you might expect that we eat them at just about every meal. In reality, we don't eat eggs very often. I do bake with them, but we only eat egg dishes every couple months or so.

5. Right now we collect up to seven eggs each day, and I usually put them in my coat pocket for safe keeping until I get back in the house. Several times over the past couple weeks I have accidentally crunched eggs in my pocket. It makes for a pretty gooey mess. Yuck!


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Chickpea Curry

You know those recipes that you try once and keep making year after year? This chickpea curry is one of those recipes for me. I recently came across it in the very back of my recipe folder and couldn't believe that I had totally forgotten about it! I hadn't made this curry in forever, so I quickly remedied that by cooking up a batch over the weekend.

Chickpea Curry
Slightly adapted from The Kitchn
Serves 4-6

1 clove of garlic
1/2 t peppercorns
1/2 t whole coriander seeds
2 T vegetable oil
1 T red curry powder
2 cups sliced potatoes (sweet potatoes work also)
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups water (or stock)
2 cups cauliflower florets
14 oz can fire roasted chopped tomatoes
14 oz can full-fat coconut milk
14 oz can chickpeas
2 T tamari (or soy sauce)
1 T fish sauce (optional)
1 T honey or agave
2 cups cooked brown rice

1) With a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, peppercorns, and coriander seeds into a paste. Heat the oil in a dutch oven on medium high to high heat (you want the oil very hot when you add in the paste). Fry the garlic mixture and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add curry powder and fry another 30 seconds.
2) Add the potatoes and carrots and stir to combine with the spices. Pour in the water and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower, tomatoes, coconut milk, chickpeas, tamari, fish sauce, and honey.
3) Bring mixture to a simmer and continue cooking until the vegetables are done, about 15 minutes. Serve the curry over brown rice with a good bit of Sriracha on top for added heat.

The balance of sweet and heat in this dish is what makes it so delicious and interesting. If you can handle it, I suggest adding plenty of Sriracha on top for even more heat! Even more than the flavor, what I love best about this curry is that there are plenty of leftovers to eat for lunch the rest of the week. The mixture gets even better as it sits, so the curry tastes great for up to five days after it is cooked. I haven't frozen it before, but I think it would freeze well. Such a versatile dish!

And a side note - do you have a rice cooker? I have always botched rice when cooking it on the stovetop (too sticky and gummy - yuck!) so I decided to get a rice cooker and I love it! The brown rice for this dish was cooked perfectly and I didn't have to mess with another pot on the stove. I'm hooked!


Monday, February 17, 2014

Frugal-ish Finds

Last week on my birthday, David said we could do whatever I wanted. I thought about some of my favorite things and decided I wanted to get sushi for lunch then hit up an antique shop. I could spend hours browsing thrift stores and antique shops, so I was happy that David indulged me a bit. I normally keep it pretty frugal, but since I had some birthday money from my generous mother-in-law I splurged ever so slightly.

My most expensive item was the set of pink bowls from the 1950s. Last time we were at the antique shop I noticed them, but the $15 price tag stopped me from picking them up. It was a little more than I wanted to spend. But this time since I had some extra money and they were still there, I went for it! I tried to get the clerk down to $10 for the set, but he wouldn't budge. So I happily handed over the $15.

My glass jelly jar was $5, and each small jello mold tin was $1. The ice cream scoops were $3 each and I just had to pick them up because I have had ice cream on the brain recently! I can't wait to make some and scoop it into my pretty pink bowls. I basically got each of these items because of how well I thought they would photograph with food!

I am always on the lookout for anything chicken related, so I was excited to find this sweet little figurine for $2. It does have a hole in top that would probably fit a tapered candle, so it also serves a practical purpose as well as just being so darn cute.

As was the case last time I brought home some frugal finds, Gizmo couldn't wait to see what I picked up.

I think he approves!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Feathered Friend Friday: Beautiful Light

Welcome to our "Feathered Friend Friday" series. Each Friday I write a post with facts, photos, or stories about our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the FFF posts here.  

In the summertime, I am constantly taking photos of our chickens. Bright green grass and colorful flowers provide such a gorgeous backdrop to all my pictures. And the chickens just look so darn pretty in the middle of a lush summertime landscape!

This winter has been so stark that I have struggled with taking my camera out to the coop. The past few weeks I've just felt completely uninspired by the lack of color and freezing temperatures. I really missed snapping shots of my girls and boys, so I was searching for any bit of inspiration when this happened.

I noticed the most beautiful light streaming in through the "hay room" where everyone gathered to get a drink and bite to eat early one morning after being let out of the coop. I immediately sprinted back inside the house (careful not to slip on the ice) and grabbed my camera so I could get a couple shots.

One of my favorite things about photography is how I've learned to see things differently and take time to notice what I used to just glance over in my haste. Now I am constantly finding beauty in unexpected places and I feel such a rush when I can capture something in a way that makes others see the beauty in it as well.

So in the dead of winter I may not have a colorful landscape to inspire me, but now I know that if I just keep my eyes and mind open, the light will always find its way back in.


Shared with Maple Hill Hop 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Perfect Chocolate Birthday Cake

Someone around here has a milestone birthday this week (it's me!) so over the weekend we had some of our best friends over to celebrate. It was my kind of celebration - yummy snacks, good friends, delicious cake, and some awesome gifts. I even got a happy birthday serenade accompanied by David on the ukulele.

The centerpiece of any good birthday celebration is the cake, and I knew exactly which cake I wanted for my birthday. We've always celebrated birthdays in my family with chocolate cake, and this is the absolute best recipe I've found for the perfect chocolate birthday cake.

Perfectly Chocolate Birthday Cake
Recipe slightly adapted from Hershey's

For the cake -
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 1/2 t instant espresso powder
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I use soy or almond milk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 t vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

For the frosting -
1 stick of butter
2/3 cup dark cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk (I use soy or almond milk here as well)
1 t vanilla extract

1) Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour your baking pan of choice (I used a 13x9x2" glass cake pan).
2) Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pan.
3) Bake 35 - 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely.
4) For the frosting, melt butter and stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add vanilla and additional milk if needed.
5) Spread frosting over cake evenly and top with rainbow sprinkles.

The amazing thing about this cake is that it actually gets better the longer it sits. The chocolate flavor intensifies and the cake gets even more moist as time goes on. I think I've eaten this cake up to a week after it was baked and it was still delicious. Keeping it tightly covered at room temperature does the trick.

What is your favorite birthday cake?


Friday, February 7, 2014

Feathered Friend Friday: Winter Weary

Welcome to our "Feathered Friend Friday" series. Each Friday I write a post with facts, photos, or stories about our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the FFF posts here

This winter has obviously been an extreme one for most of us, and we definitely haven't seen a colder winter here in Missouri since we got our first flock of chickens four years ago. The chickens and guineas are hanging in there and being good sports, but I can tell they are getting just a little bit tired of all this wintry weather - just like the humans are.

Last weekend we got some snow as you can see in the photo above, then a couple days later we got a lot of ice on top which has basically turned our world into a giant ice skating rink. The temperature this morning was only seven degrees, so the ice isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

The other day I was giggling at the guineas as they were slipping and sliding as they tried to walk across the run, then karma got me back as I found myself falling flat on my butt while trying to feed the chickens. I think the guineas laughed a little bit. Luckily I had tons of layers on so my fall was padded and didn't hurt!

Even in this tough winter, our young hens are amazingly still producing eggs for us. All season long we've been consistently getting between three and six eggs each day, so we have plenty of eggs for us and some to sell which helps with the feed cost. 

For the most part everyone is still in good health, but Cam has developed frostbite on the tips of his comb and wattles because they are so large. And some of the chickens are sneezing and snotting a bit, but hopefully they will clear up when the weather turns a bit warmer.

It will eventually get warmer, right???


Shared with Maple Hill Hop 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Black Bean & Quinoa Soup

With this never-ending winter, the only thing I want to eat lately is soup. A big bowl of warm, hearty soup really hits the spot when it's cold and icy outside.

We are very fond of Mexican style soups, especially ones with plenty of lime and avocado that are best when eaten with a giant pile of tortilla chips. I've made this black bean & quinoa soup several times since finding the original recipe here, and it's quickly becoming a favorite.

Black Bean & Quinoa Soup
Adapted from The Post Punk Kitchen
Serves 6

1 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes with their juice
1/2 cup quinoa (I used red quinoa)
2 carrots, chopped
2 bay leaves
4 cups vegetable broth or water, divided
14.5 oz can black beans with their liquid
1 cup corn
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Additional toppings:
Lime juice

Preheat a 4 qt soup pot over medium heat. Saute onion in olive oil with salt & pepper for about 5 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes and saute for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes, quinoa, carrots, bay leaves, and 2 cups of the broth. Cover and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Add the other 2 cups of broth, black beans with their liquid, and corn. Cover and bring to a boil, then remove lid and simmer for 10 more minutes.

Add the nutritional yeast and let sit for about 10 minutes so the flavors can blend. Remove the bay leaves and ladle into bowls. Top with lime juice, cilantro, avocado, and radish and dig in.

The additional toppings are optional of course, but what really makes this soup shine is the creamy avocado and lime. The nutritional yeast is optional as well, but I find it adds a nice depth to the soup with a hint of cheesy flavor that makes it even more delicious (you could use Parmesan cheese in place of the nutritional yeast). And you have to scoop up the soup with some tortilla chips! The salty, crispy chips add another layer of texture that takes this soup over the top.

Do you eat a lot of soup in the winter?


Monday, February 3, 2014

Moonshine Sweet Tea Giveaway

I was recently contacted by the nice folks at Moonshine Sweet Tea to see if I'd like to give their black tea concentrate a try. I had entered a giveaway for their product on another blog and didn't win, so I was really excited to try out their tea and also give a free 33-ounce bottle away to one of my readers!

photo courtesy of Moonshine Sweet Tea

When I first learned about their product, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of a tea concentrate. Their tea is brewed so strong that only 2 tablespoons per 8 ounces of water results in a glass of delicious sweet tea! I grew up on sweet tea and still make it all the time, so I know what good sweet tea tastes like. And this stuff is good! It's so handy to be able to make a glass of tea quickly when I don't want to take the extra time to brew and sweeten the tea myself.

Moonshine Sweet Tea is based in Austin, TX where they brew the tea one batch at a time with the same recipe as their founder, Leo, used when he started making the tea back in 1940. The tea only has three all natural ingredients - black tea, water, and pure cane sugar. Nothing artificial here!

Leo, the founder

Moonshine Sweet Tea products can be found at any Whole Foods store in Texas. For those of us not in Texas, their tea is for sale on Amazon here.

I enjoyed their tea so much, and once the tea was gone I found another use for their bottle. I'm always trying to repurpose items whenever I can, so I used my bottle as a bud vase for some pretty flowers. The label and typography is so cute that I couldn't throw out the bottle!

To enter the giveaway for your chance at winning a sample of Moonshine Sweet Tea concentrate, use the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents! The giveaway ends this Friday. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I was given a free sample of tea, but no other compensation was received. All opinions stated are my own.