March 20, 2012

Chai Tea for Now...or Later

As I mentioned yesterday, I want to share a Chai tea recipe. Not only because I love chai tea but I've been promising my Aunt a recipe for a few years. (I am a procrastinator.) I had given my whole family chai tea fixins (that's Southern for "ingredients") in canning jars for Christmas one year. Aunt Sharon asked for the recipe, which I didn't have, since I just made it usual. How do you write down "a little of this and a little of that" and expect someone to follow it? When I saw this recipe on Lavender and Lime, I knew it might get me out of the dog house. Will you forgive me now Aunt Sharon??
Chai Tea Mix
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp green cardamom pods
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp anise seeds
1/4 tsp peppercorns
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
6 c water
10 black tea bags
1 c sugar (use more or less according to your taste)
2 c water

Bring all the spices and 6 cups of water to a boil. Add tea bags and let steep until very strong tea is made. Remove tea bags and add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Add 2 cups more of cold water. Store this concentrate in the fridge in a closed pitcher.

Pour concentrate into a mug, filling halfway. Fill the rest of the way with milk and heat in microwave.

My kids request hot tea often, for afternoon snack or for special occasions, but they LOVE chai tea. Super Bear even requested it for his Secret Agent birthday party.

This makes a great gift  - end-of-the-year teacher gifts, new mom, get well, etc. Just change the colors I used that Christmas long ago and make it whatever colors you like. To make chai tea into a gift, bag the spices together. Fill a container with the sugar in the bottom. Lay the tea bags on top of a square of wax paper. I wrapped mine in colored tissue paper to jazz it up. Add the spice bag on the top. Tie a ribbon around the container with instructions. Your container could even be a pretty pitcher to keep the concentrate in!!


March 19, 2012

Anise Dusted Venison with Red Wine Grape Sauce

It's Secret Recipe Club time again!! I was pretty excited when I was assigned a blog from outside the US called Lavender and Lime. Tandy is from South Africa, a country where I know exactly two people...Ronald and Lize. I met Ronald in Australia, where he told me many South Africans often come to visit or live. I met Lize our preschool where I got to teach her precious daughter Neika at Vacation Bible School. So Tandy makes three people, wow, I'm on a roll.

I was charmed by the language used in Tandy's writing. For instance, the word "dessicated" which you never see used in the US, (we say dried) but dessicated sounds so much more intense. I also loved how her recipes are in grams. We really should have stuck with the metric system in the United States, it makes a lot more sense.

When I was browsing Tandy's blog I noticed she eats lots of foods that are not common here in the US: ostrich (which was yummy when I had it in Australia), springbok, lamb, liver, and crawfish. Talk about an adventurous eater, but maybe not by her country's standards. For all I know, ostrich may be a South African staple. That's why I like taking my kids to eat at different ethic restaurants. There they can learn people eat different things, look different, talk differently and dress differently. Respecting differences is something I was taught as a child and it's never left me. It's my hope that raising my kids this way, will teach them God created people to treasure differences. The only hard part is when they learn that not every kid has this respect. It wasn't until my son starting taking his lunch to the homeschool co-op that he even knew it was "unusual" for kids to eat sushi, liverwurst, deer burgers or Cesar salad. It actually broke my heart a little the first time he came home and told me the other kids said his lunch was yucky and weird. How sad is that? Especially when his lunch was SOOO much more delicious than the applesauce cup and Lunchable the other kids had.
I had some serious trouble deciding which recipe to make when I browsed through all the choices. The Orange Marinated Duck sounded delicious and I can see making it with chicken. I also really wanted to make these Cranberry Oat Slices because you know I'm a little obsessed by cranberries. I'm guessing I will make this outside of today's post.

When it came down to it, I decided to make two things from Lavender and Lime. Her Venison dish with anise and grapes got my attention since I have a freezer shelf full of deer thanks to my hunter husband. This dish sounded like something I would order at a restaurant - something fancy - something I would not normally make at home. I had to give it a go. I also decided to make her chai tea mix. I'll share that one tomorrow.

I did change Tandy's recipe a little just to accommodate my family. I choose to do a large venison roast so I could feed the entire family. I usually save the tenderloins for DNI. I marinated the venison overnight (which I do with all of the whole cuts, not the ground). We also cooked it on the grill since it was a beautiful spring day, but that meant I didn't have the pan drippings that Tandy did. I used anise seed because I had it and I didn't have the star anise. Never in my life would I have thought of putting anise and meat together, but it was a beautiful pairing and everyone loved it.

Anise Dusted Venison with Red Wine Grape Sauce
Adapted from Lavender and Lime

2-3 lb venison roast (you could use a piece of beef)
3/4 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c soy sauce

2 tsp anise seeds (or 2 star anise or 2 tsp five spice powder)
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 c red wine
1 bunch of red or black grapes cut in half (apprx 20 grapes)

Combine the vinegar and soy sauce in a large zip lock bag and add venison. Marinate 2 hours or more (I leave overnight) in the fridge. Dump marinade and pat the meat dry with a paper towel. Let rest on a plate so it comes to room temperature. You never want to grill a cold piece of meat. Crush the anise seed in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Combine anise, pepper and salt together and dust over the meat on both sides. When meat is room temp (about 30 minutes of sitting out) grill over med high heat for 25 minutes, turning once.

While it's cooking, melt the butter, olive oil and wine over med-low heat in a skillet. When butter is melted add the halved grapes and stir around for a minute or two. Remove from heat. When the roast is done, put on a clean cutting board. Let sit for a few minutes before slicing into 1/2 inch pieces. Serve with grape sauce over the sliced venison.

Delicious, thanks Tandy!

PS. This was my recipe that was made over on Foodness Gracious. It's my Moist Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Cream Cheese Icing.


March 14, 2012

Racing Birthday Party

Sausage Boy just turned four and we celebrated with a Racing Party. He's always moving so it seemed perfectly appropriate...non-stop action for the non-stop little boy!!

We began the morning with an actual race for charity at our church. The Warthog Waddle benefited Wiphan ministries. This was the kids' first time ever running a race and they weren't sure what to expect. You can tell they look a little apprehensive before. Turns out they loved it and all of them completed the 1 mile easily. Now the big kids want to run a 5k with Mommy.
At the finish the kids were so proud and determined. Daddy looked...well crazy. You can hardly see Sausage Boy behind his nutty Daddy. He's such a wonderful man and doesn't mind being completely foolish to get the kids (and me) to laugh.
When the official party started back home, we handed out racecar tattoos for the kids. We also asked the guests to bring their bikes, ride on toys, anything they wanted to race around the yard and culdesac. We held many footraces down the driveway and back, even ending with a crepe paper finish line to break through! All of the kids were awarded medals, which they proudly wore. I picked these up at the Target dollar spot, along with many of the other goody bags treasures. Each bag contained a Matchbox car, more tattoos, race car stickers, a coloring page, and Cars pens and pencils.

The kids all loved riding on a friend's John Deere Gator. Big Sister was proud of her medal.

My cousin Michael gave Sausage Boy this cardboard race car for Christmas. I secreted it away to save for this party. We let the kids race up and down the driveway as the driver.

Proud Racer with his medals from the party and the Warthog Waddle race.

We decorated the house with car stuff my husband pulled from the garage. We put things all over the house, being sure to keep dangerous stuff up high on the mantle. We also got LOTS of race car books from the library, and used our Hot Wheels cars to decorate. The kids were pretty interested in the tools and I wish we had set up an old wheel or tire for them to pretend with.
This cake was one I've made before. You can tell when you look at the old photo I've gotten better at cake decorating over the years. While I'm still no artist, I have learned I can create something that looks more like the picture in my head. Through trial and error I've learned some tips to make cakes look more like what you see in magazines and bakeries. One of the first things I had to learn was leveling the cakes after they are cooled. I do use these fabric strips around the cake pans because it pains me to cut off and throw away cake and I have been known to be a Nice Mommy and share the scraps with the kids on occasion.

For the race car cake you need two 9" round cakes. I made a red velvet cake because my son insisted the cake be RED...his favorite color. Cool on wire racks and then level with a knife or this handy dandy gadget called a cake leveler so you have a flat surface.

After you level cut away a small arc off one of the rounds.

This enables the two cakes to nestle together and make your figure eight race track. {Notice I flipped the cakes upside down. That way I have a less crumbs when I ice it.}

Glop a ton of icing on the top of the cakes and spread around. When I first started I used a rubber spatula, but now I have an offset metal spatula that makes this process much easier. You also want to remember, do not pick up the spatula while you are spreading, that's what picks up the crumbs. instead keep moving forward, spreading the icing. This takes practice, but when you get it, you don't have to do the time consuming crumb coat (ie. two coats of icing). Ice the top and then the sides. This cake can look messy because you are going to cover it.

I used a round small plastic container to mark my inside track.

These lines are your guide for icing the track and infield. You can also cover the track with chocolate cookie crumbs (or black sugar like I did before) and the inside track with green sprinkles instead of icing if you like.

If you want to create grass, you need piping tip # 233 or #234. This tip makes it easy to pipe grass on the top and sides of the cake and it doesn't matter how messy you are, it always looks good.
White icing around the track and Good and Plenty white candies (or more icing) create the dashed lines for the road.
I stuck a few race cars on the track and some candles and we were off. Of course the birthday boy wanted to know if he could race the cars on the track!


March 6, 2012

Love from Chickenville

Some people have dogs or cats, we have chickens. I guess no matter if your animals are furry or feathered, they definitely make you smile.  It's pretty funny to watch the kids with the Girls and I wanted to share some Chicken Love photos. You may not recognize them from when they were baby chicks not so long ago. The Girls are all grown up.

The chickens are not intimidated by the baby at ALL! But... they wouldn't let her get close enough to pet them.

The mob was busy feeding on cracked corn for a treat. Notice Super Roxanne muscling everybody else out of her way. Poor Penny on the right is getting swacked in the head with Roxanne's tush. Roxanne is sweet and gentle, but her girth makes her a force to be reckoned with.

These are the Beauty Queens of the flock. Wendy has beautiful black and white feathers and Waffle (named by Sausage Boy because waffles are the best thing in the world by him and what better namesake).
Wendy is a silver laced wayndotte. Just look at her, she knows she's hot stuff. She's practically strutting across the yard. This is what is it like to be one of the beautiful chickens of the world, everyone loves you and wants to take your picture.

Ahh, the opposite of Wendy is Cloudy. Shhh, don't tell her but she's part pig - not a beauty by any means and she's always eating. If there is food around, she's the first one there. She's the one who comes begging at the back door whenever she hears anyone come out. Maybe she's also part, those are too smart. Cloudy is not smart, she's not beautiful, but she's a seriously reliable layer. This is the kind of chicken most production chicken coops use and for good reason, lots of eggs. I just think all of the sense has been bred out of them.

Here's Crooked Beak out for a walk. She's on her own, as often happens. Even the other Braham hen, Angel, doesn't seem to hang with her much. She operates on the fringe of society, but I love her.

Lovey is the Loudmouth of the group. This bird ALWAYS has something to squawk about. For such a tiny thing (she's a bantam hen) she makes a ton of noise. Even here in the photo, she's bawk-bawking! Sometimes I think she wishes she were born a rooster, but alas, no gender reassignments for chickens.

Here's the beauty queen again, from another angle. Wendy is even attractive from the backside, fluffy and soft grey feathers. I wish I looked this good from behind. That's a little scary... I'm jealous of a chicken...what is my world coming to?

Finally little Goldilocks. So sweet and one of the oldest hens we have. She's a bantam like Lovey with none of the attitude. She's the Queen of our flock. She has immpecable manners and sets the example for all of the others. She's not much of a people lover, she won't sit still for a cuddle, but she's a Chicken Queen.

Love from me and the chickens,


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