Crest Cottage Creations

Food, Family, and Fun in our little cottage…

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You may have noticed that here at Crest Cottage, we are… frugal.  You can dress it up and call it “Green,” but at the end of the day, we like to squeeeeeeeze every last cent and then use the things said cent were spent on as much as possible.  
Now that we have our own home, with a bit of land, we are planning on doing some gardening.  Right now, we only have some garlic planted (and that was all John.  I am more of a planner and would take a year just to learn all about it.  He took a whole bunch of garlic cloves, stuck them in the ground, and they grew.  He’s awesome like that.) but in the future we would like much more.  We do NOT, however, want to spend much additional money on this gardening thing.  The point it to save money by growing (and then preserving) healthy food, not spend extra to make it happen.  Enter:  Compost.
We don’t waste much food, using them for other recipes and stock, but some things just aren’t used.  Since we wanted to have healthy soil and get the most out of our food $$, we started to compost.  
It started easily.  Our backyard is a forest, so once the seasons changed, our patio areas were covered in leaves.  Instead of buying bags and putting them out for the town to take (they make it into compost and mulch), we stuck them in a pile in the forest, near where we were planning on having our garden.  
Now, we save all produce scraps not destined for other recipes and throw them in there.
There should be a balance between  “green” things (produce scraps) and “brown” things (leaves).  Since we have tons and tons and TONS of leaves, we have recruited both of our sets of parents to help out.  We also add in coffee grounds and egg shells occasionally. 
Personally, we keep a big tupperware in the fridge and just add in the scraps.  When it is full, I throw it into the pile. 
John regularly goes out and scoops it around to incorporate everything.  If it has been unusually dry, he also occasionally waters it.  
That’s all we have done so far!  It is starting to decompose on the bottom already, so we must be doing something right.  I will keep you posted as the year goes on, but I have faith that this will work, and be a huge asset to our gardening!

This post has been featured on Simple Lives Thursday at Gnowfglins and The Pennywise Platter at the Nourishing Gourmet!


Black Beans and Rice…and shrimp… and spinach…

I was going to make shrimp quesadillas with black beans and rice on the side.  I have been really tired lately, though, so I didn’t have the energy to make the tortillas.  Our milk/meat/cheese delivery service wasn’t going to be delivering for a little while, so I had to make do with the cheese we have until then.  AND THEN John tells me that, well, he doesn’t really like the dried beans cooked.  He likes the canned ones better.  I had cooked up a boat-load of back beans and frozen them and was planning on using them.  I was at a total loss.  No idea what to make.  
I grabbed the black beans out of the freezer to defrost and set up the rice cooker with 2.5 cups of brown rice/5 cups turkey stock.  As I was setting it up, I realized that it has a steamer basket.  Hmmm… Maybe steaming the beans to defrost them would make them softer, the way John likes them?  I tried it. 
While that all cooked, I chopped up 1/2 an onion and 3 big cloves of garlic and put them in the pan with a chunk of butter.  
When they were soft and smelled like heaven, I added some cumin, parsley, and salt.
Then, the spinach jumped into the pan.  I’m not sure how it got there, but it did.
When it wilted into the delicious flavors, with some help from extra butter, the now-defrosted and somewhat mushy (YES!) beans were added, along with defrosted raw shrimp.
At this point, I poured in a little bit of turkey stock to help it all along.  When the shrimp looked nice and pink, I added the rice and some more cumin.
For all my exhaustion and doubts, it turned out to be way better than I could have imagined.  It was warm and filling and yummy!
With a salad on the side!
This post was also featured at Real Food Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop!


Post-Thanksgiving Recovery

Hello All!
I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving feast.  I know I did!
Food on the day after Thanksgiving usually consists of leftovers.  I get that!  I don’t know about you, but sometimes, my tummy is just on overload by the end of the day.  I want something crisp and fresh and light.  Enter-Massaged Kale.  
This is probably my favorite veggie/salad meal.  I eat it weekly at least.  I sit down and eat an entire head of kale because I can’t stop.  It is my version of Pringles.  Once I pop, I CAN’T STOP!!
How to make it?  Clean a head of kale and rip it into bite-sized pieces.

Mix together olive oil and Apple Cider Vinegar at a 3:1 ratio.  For 1 head of kale, I use 3 T EVOO, 1 T ACV.  Also, add salt to taste. 
Whisk it up and pour it onto the kale.  Here is the important part.  Get in there with your hands.  Make sure each kale piece is rubbed up with dressing.  The leaves will turn into a deeper green color when they are adequately massaged.  I know it seems like extra work, but that is what makes it so delicious.  It softens the leaves and helps them absorb the flavor.  The whole head only takes me a minute or 2, so its not that much more work, anyway.
See that nice, deep green?  It is SO GOOD.  I eat it like potato chips, literally not stopping until it is empty.  
Hopefully this will help you enjoy all the post-Thanksgiving leftovers without feeling overwhelmed.

This post is also featured at A Moderate Life’s Hearth and Soul Tuesdays, Tuesday Twister, and Meatless Mondays at Midnight Maniac!

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Poultry Stock (In Honor of Thanksgiving)

Happy Thanksgiving!!! 
This is, hands down, my FAVORITE holiday.  Why?  Well, I love food and I love my family.  Those two things come together (without the pressure, cost, and waste of gifts) in perfect harmony on Thanksgiving.  
In honor of this holiday, let me show you a bit about how I make stock.  My family actually had a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving (not to practice, but to extend the holiday!) and I grabbed up the turkey carcass.  I thought my dad’s head was going to pop off, since he usually snags them!  If I can give you one tip about eating well on a budget, it is DON’T be afraid to ask/beg.  Friends and family grow in their gardens, buy too much, and waste scraps.  Garden food is awesome, over purchased eases their burden, and scraps can be stock, soup, even compost!  
(The bag on the right is for soup scraps, the Tupperware on the right is for composting.)
Right now we are having BOTH of our sets of parents save all of their fruit/veggie/coffee/egg scraps for our compost pile (more on that in the future).  Anyway, ask and ye shall receive!
In this case, I received a huuuuge turkey carcass that was barely picked over at all.  It went into my crockpot with scraps of carrot ends, celery leaves, onion ends, and garlic ends.  I save these EVERY time I cook (and I use a LOT of onions and garlic, let me tell ya) in the freezer and take them out when I am ready to make stock.  The crock-pot was then filled up with water and a few splashes of Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother). 
It cooks up for a few hours on high, or overnight on low (that’s what I do).  When it is done, pluck out what you can, and strain the rest of the stock. I pick over the stuff that is strained out and, depending on how picked-over the carcass was to begin with, I get 1-4 cups of shredded chicken off of it!
This was used for egg rolls and fried rice!
I put the strained stock into Mason Jars to store them in the fridge, or double bagged in the freezer.  I haven’t ventured into glass in the freezer because I just don’t have the room right now.  I’m hoping to get an upright freezer soon, and then it will be all glass, all the time!
It really is that easy.  I throw the stock into everything.  I cook rice in it, sometimes I cook macaroni in it, I add it to basically ANYTHING that is being cooked in a pan.  Anywhere you would use canned broth/stock, use this!

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Making yogurt is one of those things I never thought of doing.  On the other hand, it was one of those things that John’s mom had always made for him growing up.  He started making it for us when we began eating in a more whole, traditional way, and now he’s taught me!
We make our yogurt from gently pasteurized, non-homogenized whole milk.  We don’t use our raw milk for this because it is more expensive and the milk is heat up anyway.  I buy a quart of milk, and add it to the double boiler (a pot full of water with a smaller pot in it.  It keeps the milk from scalding since the steam from the water is what is actually heating the milk.). 
When the milk is above 170* (I usually aim for 180*), remove it from the heat.  Allow it to cool down to about 110* and then add some yogurt (2T?).  I use yogurt from the last batch, but if we haven’t made any in a while, I use store-bought.  Make sure the temperature of the milk is not above 115* or you risk killing the yogurt bacteria!
Stir the yogurt well into the milk.  Now, all you have to do is keep the milk at about 110* for 8-12 hours so the milk can do its magic!  We used to put it into a cooler with a hot water bottle, but we lucked out at a garage sale and got a yogurt maker!  Basically, it is just little individual cups that you put the milk into and it incubates it for you.  Not something I would have bought full price, but considering we make yogurt weekly, it was a great $5 used purchase!
 After 8-12 hours, you can put the yogurt in the fridge and enjoy it! 

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Egg Rolls Part 2- Filling and Cooking

Part 2 of 2 in Egg Rolls.  For Part 1, click here!
When we last left off, we had created the wonton wrapping and rolled it out.  It was waiting somewhat patiently to be filled.
The filling was made of things I had lying around the house.  I started by slicing… 
…and dicing some celery. 
Carrots were also sliced and diced.  They were added in with more or less 2 cups of shredded up turkey.  Chicken, pork, beef, or other veggies would also work.  I just happened to have massive amounts of turkey left from a stock-making escapade. 
All of those chopped up thaaangs were combined with 2 eggs and 1 egg white.  I probably should have used the yolk instead, but I wasn’t paying attention and the white slipped out. 
IMPORTANT NOTE!!  Add seasonings here.  Especially salt.  I forgot to, and while the end product was still super duper awesome, it would have been enormously less bland with seasonings.
Now comes the fun part!  Scoop out the filling, and add it to the wonton wrappers.  I like to place it toward the bottom of the wrapper. 
To wrap it, I fold in the bottom part, then the sides, then roll it all up.  Seal the edges up with the remaining egg.  I used the yolk ’cause I am silly, but the white would work better, most likely. 
They are now ready to be cooked.  I placed them in a pan with veggie oil and lightly fried them.  That gave them a great color.  I forgot to take photos, though, because they were so yummy.  

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Egg Rolls Part 1-Wrappers

In keeping with the pastry-part-one, filling-part-two thing we have going (See pop-tarts part 1 and 2), I decided that I should show you my attempts at egg rolls.  So here you have it.  Part 1-Wonton Wrappers!
I took 2 cups of Whole Wheat Pastry Flour and some sea salt and mounded it on the counter.  I somewhat carefully cracked an egg into the middle of the pile. 
I mixed it up, adding water as needed to create a nice doughball.
The doughball was then sliced up into equal pieces.
Working one slice of dough at a time, the wrapper was rolled out.  It is really important to make sure it is verrrrry thin, but not so thin that it tears. 
That is the end of step 1.  Well, you can roll them all out first, if you would like, or you can roll them out as you are ready to fill/roll them.

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Pop-Tarts Part 2- Filling and Baking

Part 2 of 2 in Pop Tarts.  For Part 1, click here!
When we last left off, the dough was in the fridge cooling off.  In the meantime, I made the jelly filling.  It is just cornstarch and jelly!
3/4 cup of jam and 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with a Tablespoon of water went into a pot and were stirred up over a low heat.  When they were all gooey and mixed, I set the pot aside to cool.
At this point, the dough was almost cool, so I beat up 1 egg to be used to seal the tarts.
Oh there you are, nice cool dough!
Let me cut you into equal pieces and then add the jelly mixture to each center!
Half the rectangles got jelly, then the other half were covered in egg wash and placed eggy-side-down on top of the jelly.  Then the edges were pressed together with a fork.
After making some fork holes over the jelly so they didn’t explode, they were baked for 20 minutes at 350. 
I have to say, they were delicious.  My first venture into pastry-making was a resounding success.  All of John’s friends were jealous when they were in the airport at the crack of dawn and they were chewing on airport food cardboard and John had home made yummy pop-tarts.  
Of course, there was a bit of dough that wasn’t used.  I rolled it out…
Cut it into pieces, and covered it in butter, cinnimon, and sugar.  Then went into the oven with the pop-tarts and were AMAZING!

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Pop-Tarts Part 1-Dough

There is a really really good chance that I am the best wife in the world.  I know, I know, that sounds conceited.  I get it.  But listen.  I mean read.  That sounded weird.  
John was going to a bachelor party.  For 4 days.  In Las Vegas (we live in NJ).  Not only was I all like “have a great time!” I also asked if he wanted me to pack him with any snacks.  WHAT?! Who does that?? 
He asked for home-made pop-tarts.  Ouch.  I had mentioned a while back that they were on my list of things I was going to try someday.  As in not soon.  I had never made pastries of any sort, so I wasn’t looking forward to this attempt.  I guess he knew this and figured this was his chance to get them made.  What is it about men and their pop-tarts?!
Lucky for you, I hate to disapoint him, so here you have it.  Part 1 of 2 on making pop-tarts.  >>Cue applause<<
I based my recipe upon this recipe.  It was a great jumping point!  I started by mixing together 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour, 1 Tablespoon of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of sea salt.  I then cut up 1 cup of grassfed butter and added it to the food processor. 
I processed it all until there were still little bits of butter visible. 
As you can see, you need to be able to mush it together to form a ball.  That’s when you know it is processed enough. 
The processed dough was then added to a big bowl.  1 large (free-range) egg and 2 Tablespoons of raw whole milk were mixed in.
Until it was dough-ey in consistency. 
I rolled it out on a silicone baking mat until it was pretty thin, but didn’t break apart, then stuck it in the fridge to harden up.  That is a VERY important step.  Melty dough is frustrating.  Trust me.
“Pop” by tomorrow (hahaha) to see the filling and the finished tart!
This post was featured on Healthy Kids hosted by Creating Nirvana!


Lacto-Fermented Pickles!

Since jumping headfirst into a more traditional way of eating, we tried many things from “Nourishing Traditions.”  We had not yet tried Lacto-Fermentation.  That changed today.
I have a soft spot for bread-n-butter pickles, really pickles of all types.  Lately, however, I have been finding my beloved sweet pickles TOO sweet.  Any pleasure derived from them was canceled out by my feelings toward the ingredients and a desire to create my own.  Enter:  Lacto-Fermented Pickles.  
I started saving the whey from our most recent yogurt making experience, so I was prepared.  We stopped by a local grocery store that has rock bottom prices, but questionable produce.  When I saw that they had decent cucumbers, I grabbed three.  If this little experiment didn’t work, I didn’t want to have wasted good cukes!
I sliced them up on the mandolin.  Since they were not pickling cucumbers, they got seeds everywhere and weren’t very pretty, but whatever.
I stuffed them into 2 mason jars.
Then,  the magic was added.  1 cup of lemon juice, 1/3 cup of whey, 3/4 cup local honey, 3 Tablespoons of Sea Salt, 1 Tablespoon celery seed, and 1 teaspoon of mustard seed.  
The magic was poured into the jars and the jars were closed up tightly.  
 They lived on the counter for 2 days, and then were taste tested.  Mild, yet yummy.  They have since been transferred to the fridge for future eating.