Friday, March 11, 2016

Cooking from Scotland: Cock-a-Leekie Soup

For a long time now, I've been passively interested in trying to make authentic dishes from the British Isle's, and especially from Scotland.  When I started learning about traditional cooking, I wondered if there were any cookbooks out there that used truly authentic methods in their recipes.  On a whim I searched for one on  One book came up, but wasn't available, and it didn't have a thumbnail either.  I put it on my wishlist and promptly forgot about it.

Well, last month, completely out of the blue it became available, and I ordered it.  I was pleasantly surprised that it does indeed call for soaking oatmeal, as well as lentils and barley.  All the bread recipes however, call for "plain" flour, which I take, is white flour, so no sourdough, or soaked baking recipes.  I couldn't find a copy available on Amazon to link to, so here's a picture of my copy for anyone interested.

The first recipe I choose to make is called "Cock-a-Leekie Soup."  Here is the description from the book: After haggis and shortbread, this is probably the next most recognisably Scottish dish.  It is an extremely old dish which was enjoyed by the kings of Scotland and working folk alike.  The traditional way of making it is to make stock from a whole fresh chicken rather than with leftover chicken bones.  In older times it would have been made with an older boiling fowl, a cockerel at the end of it's life, and the flesh would have been used in another dish.

The ingredients:
A 3 lb chicken, a bay leaf, leeks, water, rice, prunes, salt and pepper.

I've never bought leeks or prunes before, and wasn't sure what to expect.  The chicken was boiled with the bay leaf, and the greens of the leeks, as well as the salt and pepper.  The recipe said that you could remove the greens once the chicken was done if you don't like their slimy texture, so out they came!  As a family, we don't eat a lot of onion, I usually chop it finely for casseroles and spaghetti, or just use minced.  So I was a little wary of how this would taste.  But it turned out that leeks are much milder than onions, and they cooked up nice and soft, so no weird crunch like an onion.  The prunes gave it a delightful hint of sweetness too.  Considering the lack of seasoning in this soup, I was quite surprised by the fullness of flavor, and how filling it was.

The hubs and I enjoyed this immensely!  All 3 hobbit lasses gave it a couple bites and decided it wasn't what they were expecting.  All well, I'll definitely be making this again anyway!
For a little fun, here's a couple UK cooking terms vs US terms.  UK bannock, US flat round cake.  UK digestive biscuits, US Graham crackers.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Another Birth Story!

It's hard to believe my 3rd daughter is now a month old!  Life with 3 certainly is challenging, and I believe this is the longest I've gone before writing a birth story so far.

There were so many factors that went into this birth, and I don't have the space to go into them at this time, although I want to write a follow up post comparing the births of my 3 daughters and how I believe nutrition played a key role in main differences between them.  But I do need to give a brief overview of where I was at this time.

For starters, my diet was drastically improved from either time before, yet I gained hardly any weight.  This concerned me greatly, as I really wanted to birth a bigger baby this time after my other two were born so small.  Second, I manged to drink a half pound of red raspberry tea in less than 3 months in preparation for labor, so that was even better than I did the time before.  And #3, because the majority of my pregnancy took place over the winter, I didn't get out much, and was horribly out of shape.

My due date was June 24th, and I *really* wanted to make to full term this time because of what had happened last time.  My parents were due to arrive on the 20th, and my mom was also really hoping to be present this time.  However, the little miss had other plans.

On Monday the 16th of June, I was all out of sorts.  My emotional state was in constant flux, and I couldn't relax.  I didn't do much until afternoon and evening when I felt a rush to get loaf of bread made, and roast a chicken.  I am so thankful I have a double oven!

Not long after dinner I noticed that I seemed be getting more Braxston-Hicks than normal.  Finally I told Zack that perhaps we should start tracking them.  At which time we discovered they were consistently 10 minutes apart.  After we got the girls in bed I put all the leftover chicken pieces in the crock pot.  I also remarked that I was going to ask the midwife when I went in the next morning to check me because I really wanted to see if all these BH's were actually doing something, especially since they were getting more uncomfortable.  I also decided that since I hadn't gotten around to it before, now was an excellent time to pack my hospital bag.  :-P  We didn't end up going to bed until after 11.

At 4am I woke up needing to use the bathroom.  After I got back in bed I tried to track my contractions a bit more and see if they were any closer together, but I was so tired I couldn't keep a good eye on the clock.  But it wasn't long before I thought I felt wet, and upon checking myself, I realized that I was *very* wet.  So I got back up went into the bathroom, and even more fluid came out.  At this time Zack woke up and got up to check something outside, (I still have no idea what it was!)  When he came back I turned the light on and informed him that my water had broke.

I put on a maxi pad so I could get up, then called the on call midwife.  Turned out it was Debra, the very same midwife who had delivered both my other daughters!  After that Zack called his mom to see how quickly she'd be able to get out here.  We were both hoping that she would arrive before we had to leave for the hospital so we wouldn't have to wake up the toddlers.  Zack put a note on the door to remind him to turn off the crock pot when we left, and we went back to bed.

Unfortunately, the contractions where getting more intense, so sleep for me was out of the question.  Just as Zack was drifting off, I had a strong one, and woke him back up.  He put pressure on my back which helped a bunch.  When it was over he decided to see if he could take a quick shower before we had to leave.  But, just before he was about to get in, another very strong contraction came on and he decided that perhaps in would be better to get to the hospital instead.

Once we got there I got examined and learned that I was already 6-7cm!  Grandma arrived and took the girls out.  We had arrived just before the shift change, 3 babies had been born that night, so the nurses were pretty tired.  It took 2 different nurses to get my IV line in, probably because they were so tired.  Turned out my delivery nurse was going to be Nina, the very same nurse I had with baby #2!!  So I ended up with the exact same team I had before.

I was getting these crazy long contractions, 3 to 4 minutes each!  So I found that I was most comfortable sitting cross legged and leaning forward during them.  Zack would stand next to me with one hand putting pressure on my back and the other in front of me to hold on to.  I think we've gotten this teamwork thing worked out this time!  Because my contractions were so long, my body had more time in between to rest, so this labor felt way more relaxed.  As things were getting more intense Nina asked if she should check me again, but Debra very kindly replied that there was no need.

Finally it came time to push.  I knew I didn't want my feet in the stirrups this time, but I couldn't find a good position until Debra suggested I try laying on my side, and Nina held my upper leg while I grabbed the lower one.  Because I was more to the side of the bed, I kept hitting the recline button with my head, if I wasn't in the midst of pushing I probably would have laughed. 

Oh, and the things you quickly forget.  I had forgotten about the intense burning you feel at the very end, and Debra had to coach me through it again.  I also had to be more proactive about the pushing this time, my body didn't take over like it had before, so I had to push myself.  A one point I even pounded the bed with my fist.  I'm so glad now that Zack insisted that the girls not be present during labor.  Definitely would not have been good for them to see Mommy lose control.

Finally the sweet miss was born!  It was just after 8am.  This time Debra put her right on my tummy, and waited for the cord to stop pulsing before clamping it.  Just like the previous two, Baby was a little blue, but instead of taking her away, Nina rubbed her down real hard, and gave her some oxygen right there on the bed.  Nina also got to see something she'd never seen before, what they call the sun rising.  Where the color starts to rise on the baby and take over her whole body.  Zack watched it, but at my angle, I couldn't quite see it.  Apparently, it's pretty amazing to see. :-)

After, her cord was cut, I was able to continue to keep her skin to skin as long as I wanted.  I tired to have her do the breast crawl, but she wasn't able to quite latch herself on, so I finally helped her a little, and we had our first successful breastfeed.  They didn't weigh her for at least an hour, and I can't tell you how excited I was to hear she was 6lbs. 9.4oz.  My biggest baby yet!

An interesting note.  This was my first time to be able to keep my baby skin to skin to immediatly after birth, exept for when she got her first examination, but then she was brought right back to me.  After everyone left and Zack feel asleep on the couch, I held my baby right next to me and was able to sleep too.  Nina came back around 11, and after checking my fundus she felt my bladder and told me that it was very full and urged me to get up to use the bathroom.  While I was up she put my baby in the warmer.  After I got back I decided to leave her there and try sleeping on my side.  However, not only could I not fall back to sleep, I couldn't relax either!  My heart rate went up, and I just laid there wide awake until I finally got up and retrieved my baby.  Skin to skin really does have an amazing affect on both mommy and baby.
After we moved to one of the regular family center rooms, Zack's mom brought the girls in to meet their baby sister.  They are the sweetest big sisters ever!  Maybe a little too loving at times, but they truly love their new sibling.

I most grateful for an unassisted childbirth, with not needing any pain blocking meds, or having to be induced.  Maybe next time a homebirth? ;-)
I can't believe my smallest Hobbit is already 1 month old.  She is so precious, another wonderful gift from God, and we couldn't be happier!  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Soaked Whole Wheat Streusel Muffins

I finally came up with a baked recipe! I love making up recipes from scratch, but have been afraid of trying my hand at baked goods before now. What could be more simple than a muffin recipe? Over the last year especially I've been learning the importance of preparing foods traditionally, hence the soaked part of these muffins. If you are interested in the why of soaking grains before using them for baking and whatnot, this article from Weed 'em And Reap is an excellent introduction to it.

Something else that I've noticed with soaking muffins in general, is that there is no longer a worry of over mixing them.  A big plus when your 2 year old and 3 year old want to help stir everything up.  Since the flour is completely saturated before you start with the rest of the prep, there's no such thing as over mixing!  And yes, they still come out light and fluffy! 
Soaked Whole Wheat Streusel Muffins
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2-1 3/4 cups cups buttermilk
3/4 cups coconut sugar or organic brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 egg
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbls. coconut oil melted
1 heaping tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. cinnamon
4 Tbls. cold butter
4 Tbls. coconut sugar or organic brown sugar
3-4 Tbls. white flour

The night before mix the whole wheat pastry flour and buttermilk together.  You want the mixture to be slightly runny.  Cover and leave on the counter top over night.  DO NOT REFRIGERATE!!

In the morning: Preheat the oven to 375.  Add the sugar of choice, baking powder, salt, egg, coconut oil and vanilla to the flour mixture, and mix until well incorporated.  Fill paper lined muffin cups nearly full.  (If you live in a lower altitude, you could  probably get away with  the standard 3/4's full, but up here, we need extra)

Mix strudel ingredients together until crumbly, and sprinkle over muffins.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  I ended up with 14 muffins, you might have more depending on how full you fill the muffin cups. Enjoy the yummy-ness that is these muffins!!!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Rose in Golden Hour

We've moved yet again, at the beginning of April. Our new home has some roses that I've been impatiently waiting for to bloom. Roses are one of my favorite flowers, and I haven't had any since the one I killed in our first home.  I thought these were going to be miniature roses by the size of the plants, but they've turned out to be small, but not tiny pink roses.  I discovered the first blooms today!

I also discovered just what people mean about "golden hour" being the absolute best time to take pictures.  The girls and I went outside about 7pm this evening.  Knowing that it was evening I decided to take some pictures.
Here's the rose.  Looks pretty nice doesn't it in these first two pictures?
And here we are about 7:30.  Notice how much the color is starting to pop?
And I really thought this was it too.
You can't see too much difference here, but now it's 8 o'clock...
And bam!  Look at that color!!  Seriously, scroll back up to the top and look at the difference!!!  Just before sunset really is "golden hour!"
But just in case I was enjoying myself too much, Miss Bubbles (almost 1 year old) wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
...And that was the end of that rose blossom.  She took every single petal off. :(  Thankfully there's lot's more buds!
Except for the last two, none of these pictures where Photoshopped.  What you saw was exactly what my camera got!  Thanks for looking!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Steak Soup

I actually came up with this recipe well over a month ago, but just haven't had time to get it up on my blog. At least I remembered to write the ingredients down this time!

So, what do you do when you end up with lots of left over steak, and don't want to eat the same thing 3 nights in a row?  Make soup of course!  When I grilled the streak originally, I put garlic butter over it, so it already had some flavor to it.  My husband is not typically a soup eater; he'll usually only eat one bowl full even if he says it came out really good.  Well, after trying this soup he ate two full bowls!!  So here we go.
Steak Soup

Left over steak, thinly sliced
1 can Itailian diced tomatoes
1 can pinto beans
Season salt
Worcestershire sauce
Chopped onion
Chopped garlic
Beef broth

Put all ingredients into a pot except corn.  Use as much of each as you prefer.  Bring to a boil, and simmer for at least an hour.  15 minutes before serving, add corn, and continue to simmer.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Our Hobbit Breakfast

For our hobbit breakfast we had:
 White gravy over English muffins 
Scrambled eggs 
And black tea (you can't have a hobbitish meal without tea!)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Late Blooming Flowers

I wasn't able to start my flower seeds until much later than I wanted this year. So I've been waiting all summer to enjoy some home grown flowers. These last couple of weeks they've finally started blooming!

First, the Cosmos.
Daddy taught her how to smell the flowers!

 And the Four O'clock's.  These are planted in a narrow flower bed at the back of the house.