Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A new apron

My daughter was convinced I needed a new apron.  Not sure why she would think that.  I've only had my apron for 18 years. :-)  Anyway, Kyra picked out the fabric and my sweet mama made this lovely apron for me.  Isn't it darling! I love the vintage fabric.

Monday, June 20, 2011

And a little bit more Africa...from my kitchen

I love to cook.  To me, there is nothing more fun than being in the kitchen and creating meals for my family and friends.  Thankfully, my husband and kids are always up for trying new things.  We love to experiment with different recipes from all over the world.  Here are a few of our favorites from Africa...
(Sorry...I haven't taken pics of any of these.  Perhaps I should. )

Beef Kofta Curry

1 lb ground beef
3 T finely chopped onion
1 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 T plain greek yogurt
4 T flour
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 fresh green chili (seeded and finely chopped)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ tsp black mustard seeds
1 egg
Salt and pepper

For the curry sauce:
2 T butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 T curry powder
4 green cardamom pods (you can take these out after it is finished cooking. Pretty nasty to bite into!)
2 ½ cups hot beef stock
1 T tomato paste
2 T plain greek yogurt
1 T fresh cilantro, chopped.

Put beef in large bowl, add remaining meatball ingredients and mix well with your hands. Roll into small balls and put aside on a floured plate.
To make curry sauce, heat butter over medium heat. Fry onion/garlic about 10 minutes or until soft.
Reduce heat and add curry powder and cardamom pods. Cook for a few minutes, stirring well.
Slowly stir in stock and then add paste, yogurt and cilantro. Stir well.
Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add meatballs a few at a time, allow to cook briefly and then add a few more, until all of them are in the pan. Simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through.  Avoid stirring, but gently move meatballs around. The curry should thicken slightly, but you can add a bit more stock or some water if it gets too dry.
Serve hot with rice.

(Moroccan Chicken Pie with Cinnamon)

2-3 Tbs. olive oil
7 Tbs. butter
3 onions, halved lengthwise, then halved crosswise and sliced with the grain
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2-3 Tbs. blanched almonds, chopped
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp coriander
9 oz. chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 large bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
7-8 sheets filo dough (thawed, if frozen)
1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 tsp water
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400.
Heat oil in a skillet with a pat of the butter, add the onions and cook over med heat, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes, or until they begin to soften and color.
Stir in the garlic and almonds and cook for 2 minutes, until the almonds begin to color, then add the spices.  Toss in the chicken and cook gently for a few minutes, until the water in the saucepan has evaporated.  Toss in the herbs, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let cool.
Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan.  Separate the sheets of filo dough and keep covered with a clean, damp cloth.  Brush a little melted butter over the base of an ovenproof dish (a round one works nicely) and cover with a sheet of filo dough, allowing the sides to flop over the edge.  Brush the sheet of filo dough with melted butter and place another one on top.  Repeat with another 2 layers.
Spread the chicken and onion mixture on top of the dough and fold the edges over the filling.  Cover with remaining sheets of dough, brushing each one with butter.  Tuck overlapping edges under the pie.  Brush the top with the egg yolk mixture.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the filo dough is puffed up and golden. Dust the top with a little cinnamon and serve immediately.

Palaver Chicken
(Ghana, Sierra Leone)

1 ½ lbs boneless chicken breasts
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 T butter
2 T vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, skinned and chopped
2 tsp peanut butter
2 ½ cups chicken stock
1 fresh thyme sprig, or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 bunch fresh spinach, chopped
1 fresh red or green chili, seeded and chopped (these are tiny, very hot peppers…sometimes called Thai chilies)
Salt and Pepper

Cut the chicken into thin slices, place in a bowl and stir in the garlic and a little salt and pepper.
Melt butter in large skillet and fry over med heat, turning once or twice to brown evenly. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Heat the oil in skillet and fry the onion/tomatoes over high heat for about 5 minutes, until soft.
Reduce heat, add peanut butter and half of the stock. Blend together well.
Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring to prevent peanut butter from burning. 
Add remaining stock, thyme, spinach, chili and seasoning. 
Stir in the chicken and cook over med heat for 10-15 minutes.
Pour mixture into warm serving dish and serve with rice.
This chicken is really good served with the Akkras.


1 ½ cups dried black eyed peas
1 onion, chopped finely
1 fresh red chili, halved with seeds removed
About 2/3 cup water
Vegetable oil for frying

Soak the black-eyed peas in plenty of cold water for 6-8 hours or overnight.  Drain the beans and then briskly rub the beans between the palms of your hands to remove the skins.

Return the beans to a bowl,  fill bowl with water and the skins will float to the surface. Discard the skins and soak beans again for 2 hours.

Place the beans in a blender or food processor ( I do them in small amounts.)  Blend peas with the onion, chili and a little water.  Should process into a thick paste.  Pour the mixture into a large bowl and whisk for a few minutes.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and fry spoonfuls of the mixture for about 4 minutes…until golden brown.

Great served with other African/Middle Eastern dishes.

Serve hot.

A little bit of Africa in Texas

It is my opinion that one of the fabulous things about traveling is eating.  But...what is more fun than going to a new place and trying out new restaurants?  Going to a new place and trying out new restaurants with old friends!  Jay and I were recently in Austin, TX.  While there, we met up with some of our favorite Montana friends who happened to be in Texas at the same time.  Perfect.

Going on a recommendation from a local (the best way to choose a meal in a new city), we decided upon a little hole-in-the-wall place right off the interstate in downtown Austin,  Aster's Ethiopian Restaurant http://www.astersethiopian.com/   Honestly, without the recommendation I doubt we'd have looked twice at this place.  Sad, but true. A big fan of both cooking and eating African food, I found this place to be a delight with it's down to earth atmosphere and amazingly fragrant, spicy fare.  Yum!!!!  If you ever find yourself in the Austin area, mosey on over to Aster's for a great lunch. :-)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In case you were wondering...

I've had a few questions about the name of my blog, so I thought I would share with you the reasons for my choice. It's kind of a funny thing, naming one's blog.  I thought it should somehow reflect who I am and who I want to be.  I actually thought about it for quite a few weeks before finally settling on a name.

"Just one kind of folks" comes from Chapter 23 of  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, one of my personal favorites of all the classics. For those of you familiar with the story, Scout and Jim are having a discussion about the differences between the different kinds of people.  When Scout asks if Walter Cunningham can come over for dinner one night, Aunt Alexandra replies, "There's no doubt in my mind that they're good folks. But they're not our kind of folks."  She then proceeds to explain that, while one must always be friendly and gracious, "you don't have to invite him home."  This upsets Scout, so Jem takes her into another room where they continue to discuss why people are different.  Jem suggests it could be a lack of "readin' and writin'."  This is Scout's reply, "No, everybody's gotta learn, nobody's born knowin'. That Walter's as smart as he can be, he just gets held back sometimes because he has to stay out and help his daddy.  Nothin's wrong with him. Naw, Jem, I think there's just one kind of folks.  Folks."

I love Scout.  I think of her as the original Junie B. Jones.  :-)  If you've never read the book, read it.  The movie with Gregory Peck is wonderful, an all-time favorite as well.

So there you go...how I chose the name of my blog. We like to label people so that they fit into certain categories, which seems to me to be a way to try to make sense of a world that so very often makes no sense at all. Maybe it makes us feel better about ourselves to be able to label others that we disagree with, are jealous of or those we don't understand.  The gay couple down the street? Perverts.  The girl driving the Prius with the Obama sticker?  Obviously a liberal, socialist hippie who wants to destroy our country.  The family in the minivan with the right to life sticker?  Well, they are religious fanatics who shoot abortion doctors. The neighbor with the perfect lawn who looks askance at the proliferation of dandelions in your front yard?  Snotty and elitist, needs to get a life.  The kid who can't seem to fit in at school?  Loser, destined for juvie.  Yes, I could go on.  But I won't.  I think you get the idea.

I like to think that I can start to see beyond the labels and the stereotypes, that we all can work to rise above.   After all, there's just one kind of folks.  Folks.

Green in the morning...or any time of day

I truly believe the adage "you are what you eat." As a mom, I am forever trying to find ways to include more healthy foods into our diets at home. At times it can be a bit discouraging. Life gets crazy sometimes and good nutrition can take a back seat when the family is running around in survival mode.  I do try to make home cooked dinners a priority in our house, but life happens. So I decided to look for ways to get more of the "good stuff" in all of our diets.  I've found green smoothies to be the easiest and best way to do just that.

For me personally, drinking green smoothies every morning after a workout makes a huge difference in how I feel all day.  It's an easy way to get lots of the greens, vitamins, etc, that can be so lacking in our diets. I make sure every smoothie includes protein, omega 3s, greens, probiotics and coconut oil.  (I finally caved and bought a Magic Bullet http://www.buythebullet.com/, which my friend, Becky, told me about several years ago but I never wanted to spend the money.  Sooooo worth the money, seriously!!!!)  I've found that I don't get sugar cravings like I used to and I don't have the blood sugar drops mid-morning or in the afternoon.  It really, truly makes a big difference in how I feel on a daily basis. Plus, the protein I use has lots of fiber...but we don't have to talk about the benefits of that :-).

Here is a pic of the basic things we use to make smoothies.  Each of us has our own little "recipe" that we like, so what is in each smoothie is pretty much a matter of preference.  One thing that isn't in the picture is fruit, which we all do use.  My girls love to use frozen fruits like berries and peaches. Kyra and I like to use the Kefir, while Maddy prefers the cultured coconut milk.  Either one is great...full of probiotics that we all need for our digestive systems.  I also include coconut oil in mine which has so many health benefits. The possibilities are endless for smoothies...all kinds of green veggies and fruits.  It's all just a matter of taste.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap

For quite a while now, I've been making my own laundry detergent.  It is cheap, easy and (best of all) non-toxic to either my family or the environment.  Lots of people have asked me what I use and how I do it, so here ya go...

I use Borax, washing soda, and vegetable soap. That's it.  I have glass jars to store all of the ingredients in as glass is always preferable to plastic.  When I get low on detergent, it only takes a few minutes to whip up another batch.  I got the recipe from a group based out of Missoula, MT called Women's Voices for the Earth. For more tips and do-it-yourself cleaning supply recipes, check them out here...http://www.womensvoices.org/

We have hard water, so I use the appropriate variation of the recipe which is as follows:

1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
1 cup soap flakes (make them by grating any pure vegetable soap)
Mix together.  Use 1T per load or 2T for more soiled loads.

Yep, that's it.  If you prefer a liquid detergent, I have seen lots of different recipes out there on the web.  It really takes a minimal amount of time to make your own.  To me, it's totally worth the effort.

One of the things that we try to avoid in this house is pthalates, which are found in most scented products.  If you want your laundry to smell nice, but without the toxic chemicals, try using essential oils. Sophie at Gorgeously Green   http://www.gorgeouslygreen.com/ recommends this:

"Add 10 drops of your chosen oil to the water softener compartment of your washer. Then cut out a 6×6″ square of cotton fabric (an old sheet or napkin will do,) and add 10 drops of the same essential oil that you used in the wash, on to it. Pop this square of fabric into the tumble dryer with your clothes while drying."

Knitting baskets and other stuff :-)

A few things Kyra and Maddy have been up to...

New knitting baskets.  My mom made them after her trip to Bozeman in December.  The girls picked out the fabric they wanted, Jay made the frames and Beebo (bless her heart) made the rest with no pattern.  I think it may have been a bit difficult, but they turned out to be so adorable!  They are quite handy...designed to just be picked up and taken with you. Perfect for a coffee shop knitting session.

We recently repainted Kyra's room.  She was tired of the bright green and wanted to make a few changes.  She decided to change her bedding as well and made decorative pillows to add to her bed. I think she did quite well!

Maddy took art classes this year from a local Bozeman artist, Loretta Domaszewski. http://www.lorettafineart.com/  Loretta is wonderful and Maddy learned so much about technique and color. Here are a couple of things from art class...
The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman has a really cool frog exhibit.  The class spent an afternoon there, drawing frogs. This watercolor was done by Maddy a couple of weeks later. We aren't sure why her tree frog is in the grass.  :-)

All in all, a great class.  Maddy learned a lot and had fun while doing it.  Perfect.

Maddy has a tiny house that she has created.  Every once in a while, I will find her in her room working on some teeny tiny thing to add to it.  Most things, she creates out of clay and then paints them.  It is just cute.

Maddy has always loved itty bitty things.  Perhaps it is because she has always been itty bitty :-)

This is a pic from the Frog exhibit at the museum.  Yes, all of the frogs are real and alive. I thought it was fun to see all of them.  Many are really colorful and interesting.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Under His watchful eye...

The twists and turns of life can be so strange.  It's rather stressful around here at the moment...lots happening, plans to nail down, life to keep living, decisions to make, bills to pay.  I could go on and on.  It's just life.  We aren't any different than anyone else. However, this morning I was reminded by my oh-so-patient Heavenly Father that His eyes are on our plans.  We gave them to Him and then we try to take them back and make them ours.  Why in the world would we want to do that????

Anyway, after a rather stressful evening and morning, I checked my email and this was all that was in my inbox.  Thank you, Father, for the reminder...