A Plumpin’ Pumpkin Pie

I don’t know what’s happening in the universe, where I would publish three kitchen-based blog posts in a row, but we’re going to roll with it.

I mentioned in this other post how Dad bakes pumpkin pies from actual pumpkins, and I was always super impressed by that. Then I started doing it myself, the first time being mostly unsuccessful, though I’ve only gotten better since.

I remember when Mom gave me her cookbook that had Dad’s super-secret pie recipe in it. Dad wasn’t all that thrilled Mom gave me the book, and had to make sure he had a copy of his beloved pie recipe. Continue reading “A Plumpin’ Pumpkin Pie”

The Best Wednesday Of My Kitchen’s Life

I’m not sure what you were doing last Wednesday night at 8:45, but I was rolling around on the floor in absolute awe and amazement.

Nothing freaky-deaky. Here’s what happened…

I was working away on my computer when I thought I should grab myself a glass of water. I turned around (my “office” is in a corner of our hallway, three feet from our kitchen) and caught a glimpse of our fridge.

“UGH. That’s so disgusting.” said Ma Val.

Handprints. Watermarks. Smears. Smudges. Dirt. Filth.

We, like so many modern Americans, have stainless steel appliances. I, like many frustrated housewives, have struggled to find a way to clean it and get it mark-free without the use of chemical cleaners. Norwex and water wasn’t cutting it. Shaklee cleaner wasn’t cutting it. Spit and elbow grease (calm down, I never spit on it) wasn’t cutting it.

NOTHING COULD GET RID OF THE YUCK.

I turned to my most trusted advisor for a solution: Google.

That’s when I came across this blog post that changed my life.

“Val, don’t be so dramatic. Cleaning doesn’t change your life.” Wrong. I love you, but you’re wrong.

When there is physical mess and clutter, I suffer from tremendous mental mess and clutter. I cannot think clearly or function properly in the midst of mess. The fridge smears were so distracting, I could not even quench my thirst and get a glass of water. I had to act right then, or lose sleep.

I grabbed one of Brent’s old t-shirts from under the sink, grabbed our gigantic bottle of vinegar (Thanks, Costco), and grabbed our bottle of olive oil.

I started with the dishwasher. The dishwasher has always bothered me, as it is always streaked with water stains. I followed directions and wiped (with the “grain”) using the vinegar first. Minimal change, but it made me feel productive, at least. There was some dirt on the t-shirt, so I knew it was doing something.

Secondly, I took a tiny bit of oil and started to buff the grain.

Oh.

My.

Word.

I had a brand new dishwasher. No joke, it SHONE. I heard the angel chorus. I started hollering to Hubs. “Look at this! Look!” In his ever-enthusiastic usual reply, he uttered, “Huh.”

I scooted over to the oven and shrieked in delight as I turned it into a brand new appliance. “This is unbelievable!” I may or may not have done a celebratory dance while sitting in the middle of the kitchen.

Then, I moved on to the real test. The filthy, disgusting fridge.

You guys.

In less than 20 minutes from the time I started scrubbing on the dishwasher, I had a sparkling kitchen and there was not ONE SINGLE grimy fingerprint on my refrigerator. I spun around from appliance to appliance marveling at the sheen. The shine. The shimmer.

I got my glass of water, but not before feeling one of the most incredible senses of accomplishment in my life.

Let me be clear: cleaning the kitchen is not my favorite thing. Not even close. That said, I’m really looking forward to being able to clean my stainless steel appliances again. Granted, these aren’t ~my~ appliances, because #littleapartmentontheprairie, but won’t management be pleasantly surprised when we move out (please, Jesus, now) and they think they have brand new appliances in the kitchen we’ve used for the last way-too-long-time-period!

I know you’re chomping at the bit to try this yourself, so I’ll wrap up. But remember this: if your bit is also stainless steel, now you know how to clean it without chemicals.

God bless vinegar and oil. Great on leafy greens, better on stainless steel appliances!

How A Chicken Keeps You Sane

chicken

Many moons ago, someone submitted a survey suggesting I post recipes. Whoever you are, if you still read my blog today, this post is for you.

Really, it’s for anyone tired of cooking the same thing repeatedly, running out of creative ideas, and who doesn’t want to spend an entire Saturday bagging things up to put in the freezer so you can forget to thaw them in time to put them in a crock pot one day.

First, a story. Once upon a time, I tried to embrace our situation and make the most out of it. As much as I detest living in an apartment, I made a decision to make the best life possible here, now. That’s how the whole “Little Apartment On The Prairie” came about. Playing what you’re dealt and doing it without being a sourpuss is how Ma Ingalls spanked me into a big ol’ reality check.

Little Apartment on the Prairie isn’t just a cutsie hashtag phrase. It’s a reminder we still very much walk in the Lord’s blessing, He’s gotten us through a lot worse, and He has a plan for much better.

Now… what does that have to do with cooking? One thing I grow tired of is having to think of, prepare, then cook dinner every day. I love cooking, and I’m quite good at it (save for the time we invited friends over and I ruined it and had to go buy pizza…), but I don’t live to cook. Recently, I’ve been traveling, trying to get various family members over their illness bugs, and I’m flat out tired.

Previously, this would warrant a trip through the drive through, or to the frozen food section of the grocery store for a quick fix. That only makes us sicker and heavier, though, so I’ve stopped doing that. What I do instead is put my big girl panties on and cook.

It’s not as much of a headache as it was, though. I’ve learned some tricks and I’m going to share one with you today.

We all know how amazing the crock pot is. If I had room to store several, I would own several. Crock pots are so versatile and can be used in cooking, canning, reheating, making cider… I could easily have an entire crock pot kitchen. Not to mention they don’t put off near as much heat as an oven, and in the summer time, that does wonders for keeping your home’s interior cool. Don’t think you have to use a crock pot only for a roast or for something you’ve spent a whole day chopping and putting into a freezer bag.

Just this morning, I put a whole chicken in the crock pot. I cut up an onion, minced some garlic, seasoned the chicken with our favorite dry rub, put the lid on, and we’ll have dinner ready in a few hours.

But wait – there’s more!

I have four mouths to feed. Two of them don’t eat much at all, no matter how we plead with them. One whole chicken will feed us at least three times. But who wants to eat the same old chicken three nights in a row? No one. I can’t stand eating the same thing over and over. And I don’t have to.

Today, I roasted a whole chicken. We’ll most likely eat the legs and thighs for dinner tonight. Whatever we do, we’ll have plenty of chicken left over. I’ll be able to divide the leftovers in half and make two more meals.

Tomorrow, we’ll have chicken pot pie. The next night, we’ll have white chicken chili. We’ll have chicken three nights in a row, but different meals so we don’t get bored, and one $6 chicken just fed my family three times. (Don’t like those meals? Chicken and rice, chicken salad, chicken and pasta, bbq sandwiches… the possibilities are endless.)

But wait – THERE’S MORE!

The bones and carcass that will remain after I’ve stripped the chicken meat won’t go to waste. I’ll throw those into my stock pot and make my own broth.

One chicken. Three healthy, wholesome, home-cooked meals. Plenty of broth. $5.94.

You’re welcome.


Crock Pot Chicken:

  • 1 Whole Chicken, rinsed (and not frozen)
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Onion, coarsely sliced
  • Dry rub seasoning

Cut the onion garlic and place in the bottom of the crock pot. Carefully cover outside of chicken with dry rub. You may coat the inside as well, if you’re crazy about the flavor of your dry rub. Place on top of the onions and garlic. You don’t need to add additional liquid – the chicken will provide plenty. Cook on low for 6 – 8 hours (the longer and slower it cooks, the better the flavor and tenderness of the meat. You can cook it on high for 4 hours, but it probably won’t be the best chicken you’ve ever had.).

Chicken Pot Pie:

  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large chicken breast (or equivalent amount of meat), shredded or chopped to bite-sized pieces
  • 1 1/2 – 2 c. chicken broth
  • pie crust(s)
  • ** you may include whatever veggies are your favorites. Potatoes, corn, peas, green beans, etc. all go well. Make it to suit your taste – you’re the one who’s going to be eating it! I’ve even used okra in a pot pie before!

I find it best to have the bottom pie shell already baked before filling the pie.

Sauté the celery, carrot, and onion in some butter (I use at least 1 Tbsp. of butter, you can use more or less) until tender. Add some of the chicken broth (enough to adequately cover) and simmer until broth has cooked down and veggies are nice and tender. Add chicken to pan, and whatever additional veggies you want to add to your pie. Add the rest of the chicken broth (and possibly some cream of tartar or cornmeal, if you want a slightly thicker gravy-sauce consistency) and simmer until heated through. Add your seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic, etc.) to taste. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly (and allow the sauce to thicken). Pour into the baked pie crust, cover with second pie crust dough (or with mashed potatoes if you’re looking for more of a shepherd’s pie) and bake until top is browned (usually 10 – 15 minutes at 375* does the trick).

White Chicken Chili:

This recipe might drive you crazy if you’re a person who needs exact directions. This is really all about how you like to eat your food. I am NOT a spice person (in fact, I have severe reactions to spicy food, so I am the queen of mild flavor), therefore I won’t put chilies in my chili. Counterintuitive, I know… Season this to your liking, and feel free to experiment. You can even add non-white beans to white chili. SAY WHAT?! You heard it here first, folks. Make a meal you’ll eat with what you’ve got. Keep It Simple, Silly.

  • Whatever’s left of your chicken! – best if shredded
  • White beans (Navy, Great Northern, heck, throw some chickpeas in there!)
  • Seasonings & Spices (typically salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, oregano, bay leaves, chili peppers)
  • You’ve still got 1/4 of an onion to use – throw it in here, too!

Get your crock pot ready again, because you can get this ready in the morning and then forget about it until dinner time! It absolutely works on the stovetop as well, however, and you can bring everything to a low boil, reduce heat and let simmer for a good 25 minutes or so.

Throw the beans and chicken in the pot. If your beans don’t have a lot of moisture, you’re going to want to add enough water to barely cover, and check on this throughout the day. If you prefer a soupy chili, add more water. If you prefer a thicker chili, only add liquid as needed. If you add bay leaves, make sure to remove them before serving.

You can cook this on low all day in the crockpot, or follow the cooking instructions listed above for the stovetop.