Monday, March 20, 2017

Happy Spring Equinox and a BIG Kitchen Day!

The first day of spring has arrived! Despite the snow, the sun is out, it's above zero every day now and everything is gradually melting. My mood is boosted each morning when I wake up. 

I'm so happy to say that I am continuing the three-dog-walk. :) We went into the woods today along one of the snowmobile trails, but didn't get far because I kept sinking.

So yesterday was a big kitchen day for me. Maybe it's the spring weather...I have no idea, but I think I bit off a little more than I could chew lol...I started with homemade yogurt because we have a fruit shake each morning and it's not a routine I want stopped just because I run out of yogurt!

Alex and I bought each other a nice popcorn maker the first Christmas we were together. I love this thing, but honestly, it's a bit of a pain to clean. We'll never go back to other methods of popping corn though. I use coconut oil and with some clarified butter, you'd think you were at the movies! But I pulled this out of the dusty shelf to make crackerjacks!

I've had this in mind since before Christmas actually but never got around to it. Alex downloaded a good movie yesterday so I wanted to have a popcorn movie night. This is the caramel sauce.

If you love popcorn and caramel and Crackerjacks, do yourself a favour and make these Homemade Crackerjacks!!! They melt in your mouth but they are crispy at the same time! Oh my gosh, they were amazing! Good thing they're sweet because they would have been all gone in 15 minutes. Since Alex is allergic to peanuts, I used pecans and they worked really well!

The next thing to make on the list was homemade sausages. I had a 1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin thawed and I found a great website that had a lot of sausage recipes on it. Ever since I got my handy dandy little meat grinder with the sausage attachment I've wanted to try it out!

Ewww!!! I have to say I was a little squeamish when I touched these! When we went out to get groceries on our anniversary last week, we talked to the butcher and he sold us these hog casings for $3.00. Trust me there is enough in here to make 100 sausages. He told us to keep them in salted water in a cool dark place. He sold us the smallest amount he could and we knew we weren't making 100 sausages! I came to terms knowing most of this would be thrown out, it's too bad it doesn't freeze, once it's prepared it has to be used within a month.

Homemade Sausages. The verdict? Not worth the effort and money! We got SIX sausages from that $8 pork tenderloin. See the sausage patty? That was what got stuck in the meat grinder attachment! I love my little meat grinder, but it's no good for sausage making. I'm glad we tried though because down the line if we can afford a better sausage maker, I'd love to make my own again! It was a two-man job though with that little grinder, the casings kept slipping off. Anyway, I don't regret trying, they are in the fridge right now, setting and flavour-mingling. I'll put them in the freezer for our next European hot dog night!

Next up was Nutella Cigars. For New Year's Eve 2016, I made some appetizers with phyllo dough. I'd put the rest in the freezer and really wanted to use it up. These are very nice, and the Nutella kind of sneaks up on you! These are salted so the sweet and salt go very well together! Very yummy with coffee! :) See that ziplock bag to the left of the picture? That's my homemade pastry bag. I've hinted that I want a REAL one for a gift one of these days! I made meringue mushrooms for my Yule log cake last Christmas and the ziplock was a beach to use, let me tell you. I'd like to do more creative baking so I think Alex got the hint!  :))

For dinner, in my effort to keep using up the phyllo dough, I made Chicken Phyllo Bundles with mashed carrots. This was BEYOND delicious!

Most of the recipes I make aren't too complicated. These weren't either. The chicken breasts are stuffed with a mix of Feta, Parm and parsley. Then they're wrapped in the phyllo and baked. (Just a note on "best before dates" Feta had a best before date of March 6th. I'd forgotten about it. When I opened it up, it was fine. No weird colours, no bad smell, the brine was still watery and in the end it tasted amazing. I've learned over the years that things DO last beyond the "expiry dates", so always give things a second chance before tossing them!)

I took a closeup (a little blurry) of the chicken to show the stuffing. The parsley seems to have disappeared though. This is a definite keeper recipe! And you know what? I STILL have a third of the phyllo dough left!!! It's in the freezer again for the next round of phyllo recipes!

Today I'm taking it easy. It's going to be a slow-cooker meal, Coq au Vin. Do you freeze leftover wine? I do! White wine, never because I love to drink it. I love red wine too, but I never feel like drinking it when there are leftovers and I hate to waste, so I just put the bottle in a plastic bag, loosen the top and freeze it. I need a cup and a half of red wine for dinner, so my half bottle from Valentine's day will do it. I'm not a fan of "cooking wine"...which basically means an inexpensive vintage. I really think you can taste the quality of the alcohol you use in cooking so I always make sure whatever I use in my food, I won't turn my nose at to drink! Thawed wine still has the nice flavour and is definitely drinkable, but it's a little watery so it's best used for cooking :)

Everyone is enjoying the sunshine! :) Jack and Oscar often sleep back to back with each other. So today I'm going to clean up the porch a little. It's time to take in my winter decorations and think of something for spring! I'm also going to plant some herbs for my window garden. One chore I'm not looking too forward to though is trimming and filing 54 little doggie nails. Alex does the cats and I do the dogs. I did get a small Dremel last month though. One of the ladies at the shelter showed us how easy it was to use with all the tips to keep the dogs safe, so I'm going to try that out today.

I hope everyone has a great day today! Thanks for reading. :))


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Yeah, sausage making is a real production. I had an uncle who used to make a ton of sausages every time he killed a deer. It's a good way to use deer meat because the seasonings can offset that wild game taste.

MrsDuncanMahogany said...

Hi Rain! Happy first of Spring! We are sunny but windy today. We did reach 6 degrees. Tonight they promise it will cloud over and then snow at some point. Sure....I can handle that knowing its not long now. I will just keep patiently waiting.

I took myself to one of the local garden centers this morning. I cannot wait to get gardening. I love it so. I have some good plans for this year :-)

You certainly had a productive day!! I am not a wine drinker but others in my family are. I like knowing that I can freeze wine for future use. If I were to have a glass it has to be something like a Riesling. I like it a bit sweeter. I am not much of a drinker but I never say no to a kahlua and coke :-)

I was contemplating planting some herbs but I think its just a bit too early. Even though they can stay indoors we take a chance putting anything out before May long weekend. I do sometimes take a chance but if we get frost I am running around the yard with sheets and pillowcases covering up my baby plants! :-))

Off to the kitchen soon to start the chili. I was hoping to make some sourdough bread but I think I fed my starter too late this morning. Its not quite where I would like it. I will make cornbread instead! That's a quick recipe to whip up. And I bake it in my castiron skillet and it comes out perfect every time.

Have a good evening!

Kristina said...

I used to freeze wine in ice cube trays for cooking reasons only. That's a lot progress in the kitchen.

jaz@octoberfarm said... cooked up a storm! this reminds me that i need to make yogurt!

Mama Pea said...

Rain, you are AMAZING! What you accomplished in the kitchen in one day's time is unreal. I know how long it takes to do all those things . . . and I don't know how you do it.

Question: Is your fruit shake your whole breakfast or do you have something else with it?

Isn't cracker jack a lot like caramel corn? I usually make big batches of caramel corn around the holidays, but didn't this year. Don't know what happened.

That jar of sausage casings gave me a bit of a start. I am petrified of snakes, can't even look at ones preserved in a jar so you can imagine how that picture made me back away from the computer screen. (I'm not very well adjusted, am I?)

I have seen packages of six sausages sell for almost $8 so maybe you didn't come out too bad on making your own. Except for all the time it took, of course.

I've never tasted Nutella. I'm not even sure what it is other than some kind of a spread?

Your Chicken Phyllo Bundles look very gourmet-ish. No wonder they tasted fantastic. But to m they looked like a lot of work. You are amazing in the kitchen. (Did I already say that?)

Either Oscar is a BIG cat or Jack is smaller than I thought. Glad they're good buddies. How much more comfy could they be?

Rain said...

Hi Debra :) We talked about that yesterday. We feel like we need a big amount of meat to make it worth it. Making 6 little sausage from a pork tenderloin isn't cost-worthy at all, but it was a good experience.

Rain said...

Hi Dianna! :) Happy first day of spring to you too! I'm so glad you got some sun, we all need it! I was just telling Alex today that I might throw a fit if we have any more significant snow...I'm on such a roll now with the dog walking, I don't want to give it up! But we do live in Canada, at least the northern part, so we go through this every year don't we? :)

Congrats on getting to the garden center! We actually went as well because the soil that I thought I had from last year wasn't in good shape...without getting into detail, we have a lot of feral cats in this area and you can only imagine the smell....anyway, I got a good seedling/starting soil and I'm going to plant some herbs. I hope my sunny window will be enough for them, I can't take a chance either by putting them out before Victoria Day. But each year, it's so tempting, well, you know! :)

I'm having chili on Wednesday! Too bad your bread won't be ready. We will probably have some tortilla chips with ours. What do you do with the leftovers? I found a really super recipe online for spaghetti squash chili bowls...i'll be making them on Thursday so I'll post the results then.

I will never say no to Kahlua either! :) We love cocktails and wine and find it one of life's pleasures. It just works so well with our food choices! Have a great evening yourself and stay warm!!!

Rain said...

Hi Kristina, thanks I overdid it yesterday though, I was out like a light at 11pm. I used to use ice cube trays too, but I always use at least a cup in recipes, so the bottle seems more efficient in the deep freezer, takes up less room.

Rain said...

Hi Joyce! It was a cooking storm yesterday lol! My back and my feet are killing me today...I don't know where I get these bursts of energy.

Rain said...

Oh thank you Mama Pea!!! :)) I think it was just over 7 hours on my feet...seriously the time just flew by. I do this once in a while, my "marathon kitchen days"...the last one was New Year's Eve...and I was contemplating making a carrot cake for dessert tonight to celebrate spring, omg...too much, I have to slow down a little. My feet hurt though!

Fruit shake...yup that's it! But my routine is a tall glass of water, walk the dogs, another glass of water, 2 coffees while I play on the internet, my exercise routine (30 mins usually) and more water, THEN my shake. By then I'm a little water/coffee-logged and not too interested in eating. But in the shake I put yogurt, maple syrup, frozen strawberries and fill it up with orange juice. By the time I have it, it's usually around noon. Then I may have some snack around 2pm before dinner. Once in a while we'll have breakfast together but that's my normal routine.

Yes, crackerjacks are basically caramel corn with peanuts in them. If you look up an image on Google, you might recognize the package from yonder back...I had them as a kid in the 70's. I had every intention of making them at Christmas too, but cookies got in the way!

I'm so sorry, I should have put a disclaimer on the post for the casings!!! They are a bit freakish! Alex said "that's what they use in horror movies for x,y,z..." I won't get into details but he did mention zombies lol...That's true about the sausages though, I usually wait until they're half price to buy them and I pay around $4. I'd still like to try again, but only if I have a good amount of meat ready for it.

Nutella is a hazelnut chocolate spread, which I really should be making from scratch because it's really not that complicated, but when I see a good price, I do still buy some processed stuff. The cigars really turned out well! Really Mama Pea, the chicken bundles weren't that bad to prepare at all. I just marinated them, stuffed them and wrapped them with 2 phyllo sheets, it was really easy to do! I wish we had leftovers!!!

Oscar is a BIG cat!!! Well, Jack weighs 28 pounds-ish. Oscar came to us a skinny boy from the shelter and he kind of went hog wild on the food when he got here lol...and he's lazy as all heck. We have an air wand toy that has a feather at the end, and when we try to play with him, he's supposed to run and jump after it...he lays on his back waiting for us to serve him. He's a bit overweight but not too fat! Thanks for your nice comment :)))

Nicole said...

Happy equinox sis :) and wow to the kitchen magic ;)

Sam I Am...... said...

Oh, the equinox slipped right past me....this is what old age is like! I should have known though as it was in the 60's yesterday and today was 85! The house heated up like an oven so I had to turn on the AC! The other day it was 28 when I got up....I had to change clothes this afternoon as it was too hot!
I 'pinned' the cracker jacks and the chicken and so glad your name is on the recipes so I know which ones I'll try first! You are a real go-getter in the kitchen! Thank you for sharing your best with us. I did not know you could freeze wine...thank you for that tip! I hope you had a glorious first day of Spring....I need to change my header on my blog now! LOL! Happy Spring to all of you! P.S. I have a Dremel but not sure if I have the courage to try my girls 'black' nails when I can't see the veins.....I take them to the vet and pay them so if they accidentally bleed the doc is right there! I know.....I'm a chicken. What attachment do you use?

Rain said...

Hi Sam :)) I haven't tried the Dremel yet for the dogs, but every You Tube video I see, it looks so easy as long as you get them used to it. I had planned to do the nails today but realized I need to go a little slowly. So today I just put it on and let it sit next to them while they got treats. The noise bothered Charlie. Then tonight they got more treats as I just rested the buzzing Dremel on their feet, no trimming or filing yet! Tomorrow it'll be a little bit on the nails and then hopefully by Wednesday I can get them done! The medium coarse sandpaper is the one that is mostly recommended. Apparently the grinding tool gets too hot and you're not supposed to use it more than a second at a time. I got a hand held one because the other one we have is way too big to manipulate. This one is cordless too. Both Charlie and Jack have black nails so the "quick" is hidden, but I'm going to go really slowly at first just to make sure I'm not hurting them. Though before I used to clip and file by hand so I'm really used to it.

The AC??? Oh gosh Sam I'm jealous!! Our spring and summer goes by so fast...I dream of 85 degree weather!! And thanks, when you try the recipes let me know if they turn out for you!!! :))

Rain said...

Happy Equinox Nik :)) Yeah...I was whirling in the kitchen yesterday that's for sure! Lots of love in those dishes :)

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

It all looks quite delicious. I have become quite a fan of homemade yogurt - I finally broke down and started making it as I eat so much of it.

And Happy Equinox. We were 28 C here today. Not looking forward to the summer.

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Wow. Good for you. We homestead in Illinois and I spend long days in our kitchen. We converted a grain bin into a 700 SF home and so over half the house is 'kitchen". Making your own food is exhausting at times but so rewarding isn't it? We raise our own pork so can't imagine buying in in a store but your made yours look yummy with the sausages.

Goatldi said...

Well done Rain. I too have found that for the most part use by dates and sell by dates are not so much. It is what my I call a suggestion. Often as in so many things in life the resulting product is determined by the way it is stored. So a good look see and sniff test tells all. I haven't made link sausage but have a great recipe for patties that I have used for over forty years. Yup some of you haven't been around that long. Well if you are lucky you will be lol.

Keep it up and you will be the puff pastry queen. I love the stuff but rarely use it as Geoffrey isn't a pastry person. Me I would eat the pie crust with nothing in it. I want to try my hand at my own puff pastry sometime. Have you ever done it from scratch?

Smooches to the critter crew and have a great week!

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

My gosh, you are ambitious.

Rain said...

Hi Toirdhealbheach :) Oh gosh, I do envy your weather. Maybe it's because our winters seem so long...I never tire of heat waves around here. It's starting to warm up though, I can put the snowsuit away! It's so much cheaper to make your own yogurt, the prices the stores charge are criminal.

Rain said...

Hi Donna :)) I love reading your blog, you have a lot of work ahead of you!! I'm not quite full-time homesteading yet, but I'm looking forward to the transition! :) And yes, the food-making IS exhausting, but VERY rewarding! Thanks for your comment :))

Rain said...

Hi Goatldi :)) I did enjoy the sausage making process, but it's just not worth the money invested right now. I don't think it ever will be unless I get a really good deal on a large portion of meat. I made some patties a few weeks back and I like those better. We're not fans of that hog casing and always peel it off when we make sausages, I think I might stick to the patties too! Lol...I want to be the puff pastry queen! :)) I have never made puff pastry from scratch yet. I do regular pastry for pies and pot pies, this might be a new challenge for me :) Have a great week yourself!! :)

Rain said...

Thanks Starting Over :)) I think there is a fine line between ambitious and obsessed with me lol.