Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grain-Free Pigs in a Blanket ~ A Recipe

So here's the deal.  Last weekend, I went out for a special dinner.  We rarely leave our kids with a baby-sitter because, well, we live most of our lives together.  Since I was headed to a festive supper, the kids got to pick their special meal.  They chose boxed mac and cheese with hot dogs.  At least I got the gluten-free kind (with rice noodles) and nitrate-free, organic hot dogs.  Well, there were some hot dogs left over and it's the end of the month.  You know.  When you must use whatever is in the fridge until grocery budgets replenish.  So, out of pure necessity (and thankfully success), I give you...

  Grain-Free Pigs in a Blanket
Makes 16

8 eggs
1/2 cup ghee or melted butter or coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon celtic sea salt
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2/3 cup coconut flour
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated or sliced
4 nitrate-free hot dog franks
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a cookie sheet (or use an ungreased pizza stone).
  2. Using the whisk attachment, mix together eggs, butter, salt, and garlic.  Add coconut flour and baking powder and beat the batter really well until there are no lumps and the eggs have had a good beating (it sounds harsh, I know, but the key to fluffy, grain-free baked goods is thoroughly beating the eggs).
  3. Drop batter by big spoonfuls onto prepared sheet.  Keep the biscuits plump so you can push hot dog pieces into them.
  4. cut hot dogs into fourths and push one piece in each biscuit.  Sprinkle grated cheese (or place sliced cheese) atop the pigs in the blankets.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes.

Now.  If your family is unfamiliar with coconut breads, it is imperative that you serve these with garnishes.  My kids prefer ketchup.  I smeared mine with mustard and sauerkraut.

Yep, I used red cabbage for this batch of sauerkraut.

After the first bight, my eyes closed.  I kinda had a moment.  As much as hot dogs gross me out, there is just something about them with mustard and that irresistibly salty sauerkraut.

Also take note that coconut flour baked goods are way more filling than wheat breads.  You might want to make a half-recipe first to see if they work for your family.  One of these thingies is enough for each of my kids.  Jer and I were stuffed after two.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grain-Free Blueberry Banana Bars ~ A Recipe

We continue to move towards the Gaps diet, finishing off foods that aren't Gaps compliant, introducing recipes that are.  Before the crazy-hot weather hits us, I'm enjoying using my oven and waking the family with yummy, comforting smells.  This "bready," grain-free treat is sweetened only with bananas.  I like the tang the blueberries give, but there are a couple puritans in my family that enjoy their banana bread without them.  This recipe was inspired from banana blueberry muffins found in the Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook.

Grain-Free Banana Blueberry Bars
Makes 16 bars
3 cups blanched almond flour** (recipe for almond flour below)
1/4 teaspoon celtic sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 Tablespoons olive oil or melted coconut oil
3 eggs
4-5 ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups frozen blueberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch glass pan.
  2. Combine almond flour, salt, and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and eggs.  Beat wet and dry mixes along with the bananas very throughly to give the eggs good beating (it sounds harsh, I know, but the key to fluffy, grain-free baked goods is thoroughly beating the eggs).
  3. Place batter in prepared pan and sprinkle blueberries on top.
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the edges are brown and a toothpick stuck into the center of the dish comes out clean.  Let bars cool for about 30 minutes, then serve.


** I made my own almond flour for this recipe by putting (soaked, then dehydrated) almonds through a food processor until right before the almonds turn to butter.  It worked fine in my opinion, but the kids enjoy the finer, blanched almond flour.

I'm sharing this as Monday Mania, Real Food Wednesday, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday, Seasonal Roundup.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Preparing the Coop

Hi there.  It's been a while.  Spring has sprung here at the Riddle Ranch and we have answered to it by spending most of our days outside, trying to hack into ten years of overgrowth and the explosion of this year's new shoots, suckers, and weeds.  But today, we focus on the chickens.  While I wait for my husband and oldest child to come back from town with supplies to finish the coop, I decided to take a moment to guzzle some water and visit with y'all.

To use what we already have and keep expenses down, we are repurposing this old tack shed into our chickens' new home, sweet home.

Ideally (and someday), we will provide the hens with an egg-mobile, but for now, this will have to do.  And really, the accommodations are quite luxurious.  If you are a hen.

This new coop will come complete with easy access,

solar lighting,

local, fine dining,

and a state-of-the-art cooling and air-purifying system.

It will soon include plenty of room for a restful night of roosting, and that perfect nesting box for when ya just gotta lay an egg.  Not to mention an extremely spacious and safe run to scratch, flap wings, and get a good exercise in.  We can't forget that lovely, dry patch of dirt, ideal for when you have the itch for a good, cleansing dirt bath.

I hear the truck coming up the road.  Time to finish the coop!

I"m sharing this at Gratituesday & Farm Girl Friday.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Discovering the Secret Garden

As you come up our driveway, it's unavoidable to ignore the amount of overgrowth our five acres bare.  Ivy crawls up and around massive oaks, ground-cover that's supposed to flower and sit nicely just above the topsoil mounds up in two-foot piles and overtaking nearby redbuds, gnarled mounds of vines speckle part of the hillside, waiting to be noticed...  Anywhere you look on this land, as gorgeous as it is, you will see something in dire need of attention, especially as spring wakes up everything that grows out of the earth.

We spent some time with a neighbor who has lived here for several decades and knows the stories of most of the original owners in our area, and he gave us a history lesson on our land that I ate up.  Apparently, our little cabin has two previous owners.  The last owners (obviously) cared less about this property.  They did no upkeep on the land (or the house) besides paying someone to weed-whack the hillside once a year.  The first owners, however, absolutely poured themselves into this homestead.  They originally built what is now this cabin as their two-car garage and they were going to build a nice, big house somewhere else on the property.  As they saved up for that house, they made this garage into a home, had three little girls, and ended up falling in love with their little house and decided to make it their permanent dwelling.  And the land?  It was simply immaculate.  The woman was a nurse, but when she was home, you could always find her outside, gardening.  The man worked for the telephone company.  He was thrifty and had vision for cast-offs, so he fenced up the pastures with sections of old telephone poles and turned telephone company boxes into beautiful, circular planters.  The barns were almost completely made with massive, solid-wood planks that the phone company had no more use for.  As the man grew older, our neighbor said he entered his, "second childhood" and he would decorate this little house to the nines at Christmastime.  He'd ask all his neighbors eagerly, "Are you decorating for Christmas this year?"  The man eventually left this world and his wife grew too old to care for her beautiful garden, and she spent the rest of her days in a nursing home.

The tale had such a happy beginning, but what a sad ending.  Why didn't one of the daughters decide to make this place her own?  Why did the following owners let it go so down hill?  Was is because it had already been left to overgrowth for too long before they bought it that they couldn't see the vision?  Now it rests in our hands, and the story will continue.

After hearing about this place's past, and as I looked closer to it's detail, knowing there was serious devotion at one point, I began to see what this place once was, and what needed to be done.  I started imagining all sorts of stories about our new surroundings.

This spot was someone's secret garden.

Can you believe that ivy enveloping the oak?!

It's hard to tell, but there is rosemary growing to the right, and to the left, there is a little path that winds up to a huge patch of some sort of bulb that haven't been separated in too long, and I doubt they will flower this year, but I'm guessing they're irises.

This place (I imagine) was the woman's favorite breakfast spot.

There is a little rock path from the house that leads straight to this landing, and there was a circular table with five chairs, one for each family member, and they would enjoy breakfasts there on a glorious spring day like today.  I can smell the freshly brewed coffee hit the dewey, spring air and hear echos of laughter  woven through quiet, morning-time conversations.

This barn (why it isn't painted red, I don't know) sheltered three horses, one for each daughter, I suppose.

And these randomly planted lavender bushes weren't actually random at all.

They used to form a perfect half circle around a cluster of roses.  Only one rose bush is still living.

I noticed right where I dreamed of planting a small vineyard, there were several mounds of vines...

... That happened to be grapes!  I felt even more of a connection with that first couple who probably planted these forty years ago.  I spent all of Saturday afternoon trying to untangle and prune the vines that already started bulging.  I'm praying they survived such a late-season hacking, because now they look like this:

That pile to the right isn't a vine... it's the aftermath.

So, here we go.  The beginning of uncovering the secret garden.  This place will once again be cared for, and it will all come back to life.  I look forward to taking you on little garden tours as we continue to discover, prune, plant, and grow.


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