Any Kitchen Will Do

Give me a kitchen and I will cook.

Whipped Lotion

patchouli whipped coconut

This was the hardest and easiest toiletries replacement I have made. It is very easy to make and use. It has been a little bit hard to stop using the commercial lotions. I still have some left and enjoy their scent. I have to say, though, this whipped lotion does a better job of moisturizing than the commercial stuff. The commercial scent is stronger, but that could be resolved with more oils  in this creamy stuff. I will continue to experiment with amping up the scent in my lotion potion. It is very soothing, almost instantly softens and moisturizes my skin. It may take a little extra time to soak in than other stuff, but the results are very much an improvement, and the extra rubbing in time ends up being a self massage!

Whipped Lotion

1/2 cup coconut oil
10 drops essential oill (I use patchouli or sandalwood)

Place oils in a medium bowl. Using a hand whisk or blender whisk attachment, whip for about two minutes, until fluffy and about doubled in size. Transfer to airtight container. Store at room temperature. To use, scoop out a small amount (about 1/4 of what you would pump out of a typical lotion bottle). Rub lotion between hands to warm. Rub on dry skin and massage until absorbed.

Bacon Muffins

bacon egg muffins

These eggs were so good Big D inhaled three, then went to stare at the leftovers, wishing he had belly room to eat more. I know the ingredients are the traditional stuff you may find in a breakfast, only the convenience of having it all together in a little ball makes them taste oh so much better! Depending on my mood I may add garlic powder, parsley, chili powder….whatever is sprinkled on top mixes nicely with the egg and cheese to give them even more character. They also travel well, for those mornings when we run late and breakfast is in the car! If you like crispy bacon line the cups with the meaty side up (the pictured egg in the foreground). If you like softer bacon line the cups with fat edge up (eggs in the background). Another nice thing about these eggs is breakfast prep time drops exponentially. A typical bacon and eggs breakfast requires me to stand over crackling bacon and gently fondling eggs for 20 minutes or so, while sometimes taking special orders for soft bacon or easy over eggs. With this dish I did five minutes of prep then sat down and read some Harry Potter to Little B until the oven timer went off. Always looking for more cuddle time! And she insisted they be called Bacon Muffins when I started suggesting other names. Sometimes it is wise not to argue.

Bacon Muffins

2 Tbsp butter, cut into 12 pieces
12 slices bacon
12 eggs
1 cup shredded cheese
Sea salt and coarse ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a muffin tin that holds twelve muffins, line each cup with a piece of bacon. For crispier bacon stand the meaty side up in the pan; for less crispy bacon stand the bacon fat side up. Drop a piece of butter in the bottom. Crack an egg into each cup. Sprinkle salt and pepper (or other seasonings to your liking) on top of the egg. Sprinkle cheese equally among the twelve cups. Bake 18 minutes for soft, and up to 21 minutes for firm eggs. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes to cool, then serve.

 

King Cheesecake

king cheesecakeIn past years I have created a myriad of different King Cake-themed treats. This year I almost passed up creating a new treat, but then Big D opened his mouth. I do admit that most times when he does that the result is positive. Other times, not so much. This time when he got a look on his face and was about to talk I held my breath. Really? We don’t have enough possibilties to choose from? Really?! Well, after he finished sharing his idea (aka closed his mouth) I was sold. Really, we don’t have enough. More more more! This here treat is a wonderful combination of past creations – the limey cheesecake, the Unholy King Cake and King Cakelettes.  I officially say, Big D, here and now, you were right…this time. The cheesecake is, as always, extremely creamy and satisfying. The crumbly, nutty topping reminds me of the spicy middle of a traditional King Cake, and the colored frosting provides for the traditional colors of Mardi Gras – green, gold and purple. I do wish the colored frosting was more vibrant in the picture, for I had to make a choice while waging a gentle battle. Today, being a gymnastics workshop day, Little B ran and flipped and tumbled pretty much nonstop for four hours. This means that her temperament, and mine, were at a bare minimum. After promising her for days she could help with this treat I could not refuse her here at the end. There was no margin for adjusting color or hue when mixing the three little bowls, so what you see is our wondrous treat with a pastel version of our dream. The good thing is she helped and looks forward to ending our feast tomorrow with a big slice. The bad thing is the decor is about four shades darker than planned. A small price to pay for some fun time with my little chef! Laissez les bon temps rouler!!!!! I hope you all have a wonder Fat Tuesday celebration tomorrow and are properly somber (whether from absinthe or faith or both) on Wednesday!

King Cheesecake

Crust
2 cups finely ground almond flour
2 Tbsp coconut flour
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp Stevita granulated sweetener
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 ground ginger
1 egg white, whisked (save yolk for filling)

Filling
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk, room temperature
3 Tbsp butter, room temperature
2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream, room temperature
1/3 cup Stevita, granular sweetener
2 large limes, zested and juice separated from meat (use less for milder lime tang)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Topping
1/2 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp Stevita granulated sweetener
1/4 cup butter, melted
Dash sea salt

Frosting
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 ounces butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp Stevita
Food coloring (green, yellow, purple – made with one part blue and three parts red)

Make the Topping. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread raw walnuts and pecans in one layer on a shallow, metal baking sheet. Place in oven for about five to eight minutes, until they begin to darken. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool. In a microwavable bowl add the butter. Melt on medium power, checking every 30 seconds, until completely melted. In food processor grind toasted nuts until they are a consistency of a rough meal. Add to the butter the ground nuts, cinnamon, Stevita and salt. Stir until well combined. Set aside.

Make the Cake. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In 9″ pie dish cut a round of parchment paper that fits the bottom of the dish. In medium bowl stir together all dry crust ingredients. Add the butter and stir until the ingredients clump. Add the egg white mix until well combined. Crust will still be crumbly. Press crust into dish until bottom and sides are covered.For the filling add to a large bowl the cream cheese and sour cream. Whisk together until completely smooth. Add butter and stir again until smooth. Add eggs and yolk, stirring to incorporate and until smooth. Add sweetener, lime zest, lime juice and vanilla. Beat until well combined and smooth (see a pattern?). Pour filling into crust and gently smooth surface. Place cheesecake in oven. Bake for 20 minutes, until filling sets. Remove cake from oven and sprinkle topping on top - either evenly over the the entire top of the cheesecake, or Just along the edges, leaving a 2″ diameter space the middle uncovered, like the hole in the middle of a traditional King Cake. Return cake to oven for 10 more minutes. Turn off heat without opening oven door. Leave cake in the oven until mostly cooled, about two hours.

Make Frosting and Decorate. Whisk together cream cheese, butter and sweetener until well combined and smooth. Divide mixture into three separate bowls. Using green, yellow and purple food coloring, color the mixture in the different bowls until the desired tint is achieved. Using a spoon for each color drizzle the frosting over the top of the cheesecake – if you left the middle of the cheesecake clear of topping, I suggest you continue the theme of leaving the middle plain and drizzle the frosting over the portions with the topping. If the frosting is too firm to spread randomly you have two choices: 1) scoop frosting onto the bottom of a spoon and run it over the top of the cake, allowing it to catch on the pieces of topping, or 2) heat the frosting in the microwave at half power for 15-30 seconds until it is runny, then drizzle it over the top of the cake. If the topping was spread over the top of the entire cheesecake, then use any pattern you choose to apply the frosting.

Chill finished cheesecake at least one hour before serving.

 

Fennel and Olives

photo (2)

I was at a loss for words. The frondy green topped vegetables with the fat white bases? What the heck are they called? Why can’t I remember? I rushed to the store after work to begin the hunt. Yes, I could look it up online and get an immediate answer, but was enjoying the wonder and the wait. After getting to the store my eyes were hungrily searching the mass of green in the produce department. There they were! And they were actually labeled! Ahhh. Satisfaction – fennel! My mind was sated and my mouth was watering. We were making some crispy oven chicken for dinner and could do with a strong side dish. The fennel, with it’s hint of anise I thought would go well with some tapenade and cheese. The more subtle taste of the chicken went well with the powerful fennel with briny olives.

Fennel and Olives

2 large fennel
2 Tbsp avocado oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup tapenade
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese

Remove green stalks from fennel bulbs. Slice bulbs in a large julienne. In a medium sauté pan over medium high heat add the oil. When oil is hot add the fennel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss every two minutes until fennel is browned and softening. Add tapenade and cheese, stirring until it coats the fennel. Cover pan and lower heat to medium. Cook for another five minutes, until preferred tenderness. Remove from pan and serve immediately.

Conditioner

conditioner

A little while ago I shared a recipe for shampoo. I love using it because it does not weigh down my naturally curly hair like many store bought shampoos. Depending on the weather wherever I am, I also need conditioner in addition to the shampoo. I am sharing two different types of conditioner, which I alternate. The vinegar rinse is more of a deep conditioner I use while in the shower once or twice a week. Vinegar, you ask? Yep! The stuff does a great job balancing the ph in hair, and after the rinsing with water and getting out of the shower you will not smell the vinegar on you. I certainly would not walk around smelling like vinegar, considering all the lovelier smells in the world. The creamy version I use when needed as a leave-in conditioner, either right after a shower or when styling/taming my hair. Disclaimer: these are personal recipes that work for me and my family. Proportions may need to vary for other people and hair types, but I think it is worth the experimentation to rid ourselves of strange chemicals and things that do not need to be in our home…

Creamy Leave-In Conditioner

1/4 – 1/3 cup full fat coconut milk
1 Tbsp avocado oil
1 cup water

Combine milk and oil into a pump spray bottle. Add water so the mixture is about 1/2 inch from the top of the container, then shake until combined. Shake before every use. To apply, spray a light mist to the ends of your hair, working it into your hair with your fingers. Add more conditioner higher up on your head, if needed. Store in the refrigerator if you don’t plan on using the entire batch within one week.

Deep Conditioning Rinse

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup warm water

Pour vinegar into a cup that holds at least 12 ounces. Take it into the shower with you. When you are ready to condition your hair* add one cup of warm water from your shower. Pour the mixture over your hair slowly as you move the cup from the top of your head to the back. Gently massage your head and scalp. Rinse with warm water.

*On days I use this rinse I don’t actually shampoo my hair, just wet it well with warm water before applying. If you use store bought shampoo this rinse will still work well after shampooing, and help reduce build up from the shampoo.

Broccoli Cauli Mash

broccaulimash

If you are looking for a quick, different, single pot, green side dish then your search is over. It really stands out from the ones that leave the vegetables all whole and overly recognizable. I first got the idea for this dish from my mother in law. We started making straight mashed cauliflower a few years ago, and I would like to think that it was contagious and soon after crept into the kitchen of the in laws. During one of our visits to Texas this broccoli cauliflower mash appeared and was delicious! I don’t know exactly what she put in her dish for seasoning, but I did ours the way we like it – buttery with a little help from garlic and thyme. When I first saw it sitting on my plate it reminded me of mushed peas. When I put it in my mouth it was definitely not made of peas, was light, dreamy, and very much complimented the tender smoked salmon Big D cooked up. A weeknight dinner was on the table in no time!

Broccoli Cauli Mash

2 pounds fresh broccoli florets
1 pound fresh cauliflower florets
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 cup butter, sliced into eight pieces
2 tsp dried thyme leaves
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp sea salt

In a medium pot pour 1 cup water and add broccoli, cauliflower and onion. Cook over medium-high heat until vegetables are soft, 8-10 minutes. Drain and retain water from pot. Add thyme, garlic, salt and butter slices, stirring until mostly melted. Using an immersion stick blender, puree until vegetables are smooth. If puree is too thick for your taste add a small amount of the retained water, from boiling the vegetables, to thin it out. Mash can be served immediately, but flavors will combine more thoroughly after resting for an hour or more.

Toothpaste

toothpaste

During our ongoing effort to simplify the products we use in and on our bodies, we delved into making toothpaste a while back. Our bathroom and kitchen are looking more and more similar, what with all the bathroom products we make now! The toothpaste we came up with works really well and my teeth feel soooo good and clean after using it. We do not go to the trouble of sticking the stuff in a tube, and share the little pot of paste that lives on the bathroom counter. Some may not like the approach of double dipping with multiple brushes, but the stuff naturally has antibiotic properties from the coconut oil and antibacterial tendencies of the baking soda. We don’t worry about spreading cooties – in our little home cooties are going to be spread regardless of shared toothpaste. Each person could have their own little pot, if you get squeamish. The sweetener is optional, but makes the paste more appealing to Little B, so in it goes! There is no harm in swallowing the toothpaste, unlike the stuff from the store, for it has no fluoride. Swallow away!

Toothpaste

3 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp baking soda
10 drops tea tree oil
20 drops peppermint oil
1/8 to 1 tsp Stevita granulated sweetener (optional)
1/4 cup melted coconut oil

Combine baking powder, baking soda, tea tree oil, peppermint oil and sweetener in a small bowl. Add coconut oil and stir well. Place paste uncovered in a resealable container you will use in the bathroom. Let paste sit for a day – it will thicken and rise a bit. To use, scrape a small amount onto the bristles of a toothbrush. Wet brush and clean teeth as usual.

Shampoo and Such

shampoo

Our kitchen is always full of conversation and laughing and very often a big mess. The messes come from more than meals cooked, and sometimes we use non-kitchen cooking methods. As another year of my blog begins I ponder things other than cooking we do there. During this fourth year I am going to share some of these concoctions and methods, sprinkled among the dishes we prepare fully in the kitchen. I will start this sprinkling with shampoo!

Over the past few years we have gradually replaced many store-bought toiletries in our bathroom with simple homemade versions. Our experiments resulted in combinations that work best for us, although for other people a bit of tweaking may be needed. Our goal is to avoid as many unnecessary chemicals as possible in what touches our bodies on a daily basis. Just like what you get at the store, hair and skin types influence the effectiveness of products. When I used commercial products I had to change brands every two months or so because my hair would get weighed down with build up. The solution was to use another kind that seemed to get rid of the build up, but create another, thus the rotation. This homemade shampoo never seems to create the build up. Each batch may vary a bit from lax ingredient measuring, or the measurer (my batches are apple cider vinegar heavy, while Big D’s have a bit extra baking soda). What works great for my curly hair may make Big D’s or Little B’s straight hair a bit greasy. What works best for them may or may not dry mine out – my hair is sensitive to the humidity level wherever I am, so I can’t honestly blame the shampoo. The measures in this recipe make for a good balance to clean all three of our heads, even though we do not all have the same hair type.

Shampoo

4 ounces (1/2 cup) Castile soap, any type
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp baking soda
4 ounces (1/2 cup) coconut milk
2 ounces (1/4 cup) apple cider vinegar
8-10 drops tea tree essential oil
8-10 drops sandalwood or peppermint essential oil

Using a funnel, add all ingredients into a squeeze bottle that holds at least 16 ounces. Shake for about one minute until will combined. Shake well before each use – the picture shows it rested and separate before shaking. If after three to four uses your hair is greasy use less vinegar and a bit more baking soda. If hair feels dry when it is no longer wet add more vinegar. It may take 6-8 washings before build up from commercial shampoos and conditioners is fully out of your hair, so don’t give up after the first washing – your hair needs some transition time.

 

Three Year Tapenade

tapenade

Happy Blogiversary to me!!! Rarely do I pursue things for long periods of time…consecutively. I do something, then I stop, then I do it again, then I begin something new…you get the idea. It is not that I leave things incomplete, but I will find a stopping point and then go in another direction. My longest recorded continuous successes are people related – being a daughter, a brother a friend, being hitched to Big D over ten years and being mommy to Little B for over five years. Other stuff, like jobs and hobbies are more in the realm of come-and-go. I think I can definitely say that this blog is getting some longevity – a few days ago I started my fourth year, so I have passed my third blogiversary! When I started three years ago it was intended to be a place to put recipes so I could get to them easily. My cookbooks did not always make the cut when we moved and consolidated, so my creations would sometimes be lost. Tracking it on a blog let me combine the availability I wanted, my desire to do some writing and my continued joy in taking pictures. It has become more than just a place to record my food journey, but that of my little family as well. It is a place where others can come and experience it with us. The blog has given me the opportunity to share stories of my childhood, my family, friends and our geographic journeys. The name of it came from the fact that I cook in whatever kitchen I come across.  If the kitchen is not mine the owners so far have generously shared their space with me. Thanks goes out to them and to you for checking in on occasion!

I celebrated the end of the first year with cheese stuffed jalapeno halves. Yum! The second year I did it with low carb cinnamon rolls. Double yum! This year I am taking a different slant, with a New Orleans theme.  I am taking a more savory slant this year with some tapenade. It is very easy and very flavorful. If you ever have a bunch of partially full jars of olives, like we often do, it is a great way to use them.

muffalettaThis is not the first time I have mentioned my family’s love for New Orleans. The New Orleans connection is the lovely sandwiches that first introduced me to tapenade when I was a kid. Muffuletta sandwiches are about as common in New Orleans as po’boy sandwiches and gumbo. They originated in the Central Grocery right there on Decatur Street in the French Quarter. When I first had one I could not get enough of the olive ‘salad’ in the sandwich. Between the olives and the meats and cheeses it was a very satisfying meal. To do a version of the sandwich that fits our eating habits I made up some one minute buns in the microwave, whipped up a batch of tapenade in the food processor and opened up a few packages of deli meats and cheeses. The picture to the left does not do it justice, but there is a thick layer of tapenade on the bread that is practically the same color. A blob of the tapenade sits next to it as proof! The tapenade leftovers will not go to waste – I have used it as a dip, a stuffing for chicken, pork and mushrooms. It has an addictive saltiness that, believe it or not, sates my salty snacking craving I used to appease by eating chips. Just a straight spoonful can do the trick! Please make a batch and toast me with a cracker or sandwich full!

Three Year Tapenade

2 cups mixed black and green olives, pitted
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup small capers
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp dried basil leaves
1 tsp dried parsley leaves
1 anchovy fillet (optional)

Place all ingredients except the olive oil into a food processor. Slowly add the olive oil in a stream while the mixture is blending on low speed, until mixture is an evenly sized paste. Serve as condiment for sandwiches, or with crackers as a dip. Store refrigerated in an air tight container.

To make a Muffuletta Sandwich: the traditional sandwich layers Italian meats (mortadella, salami, ham) and cheeses (mozzarella, provolone) in an alternating pattern, so there is a thick pile of it in the sandwich. The traditional bread is a large round focaccia-type loaf about 10″ in diameter, which can actually make about four sandwiches. On one side of your bread (or low carb individual muffins in our case) spread a thick layer of the tapenade. Layer your meats and cheeses until there is a healthy pile. Add the other half of the bread. Cut into portions and eat!

Parmesean Crisps

image

Dinner the other night was some leftover steak. Wonderful stuff, but looking kind of lonely sitting by itself on the plate. I was hard pressed to be inspired by the veggies in the fridge for accompanying the lovely steak. I made some awesome cheddar cheese crisps a while back, and there was parmesean sitting next to the sad veggies. Let’s make some with parmesean! They were quick, fun and brightened up a dinner made up otherwise of leftovers. Little B and I even took some off the baking sheet early and laid them over some spoon handles. When they cooled they looked like little bitty taco shells. Molding the cheddar cheese version did not work as well when I tried, because the parmesean cheese is a drier cheese and cooperated much better. I can’t describe how spiffy they tasted when a slice of steak was nestled in one. Our leftover dinner became a little steak and cheese party. We even finished it off with some of our homemade sugar free ice cream sundaes - party dessert! One warning: I did a few crisps on a baking sheet without parchment paper and they seemed to want to become a permanent fixture of the pan, so I strongly recommend the parchment!

Parmesean Crisps

Grated parmesean cheese
Sea salt
Garlic powder or cayenne pepper powder ( if you like a kick)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line shallow baking sheets with parchment paper. Measure a heaping tablespoon of cheese and drop it onto the paper. Use your finger to spread out the cheese into a round shape of even thickness. Sprinkle lightly with salt and garlic powder or cayenne pepper powder. Leave about an inch between rounds for possible spreading. Bake for about five minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Remove pan from oven. Crisps can be removed from paper after about a ,minute with a spatula. If you want to shape them for fancy serving, do so immediately with the back of a spoon, thick handle of a ladle or press them on the bottom of a muffin pan to make them more like little bowls.

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