Instant Pot “Colder Weather” Soup

Anyone that knows me and my cooking, knows that I’m really not good at or disciplined in the area of cleaning as I go. For dealing with this, my husband must be commended, because the dishes often fall on his shoulders. For these, and many other reasons, I like to make one pot/pan meals to cut down on the mess & stress.

Since we haven’t been eating out inside of restaurants since COVID began and we only really order out for pizza, we have cooked at home A LOT and I never thought I’d say it, but… it’s getting old. I’m at the point where by 3 PM, I am wishing food would just appear for my family and that a fairy godmother would come take care of cleanup. I can’t be the only one feeling this way, right?

With the first day of winter right around the corner, I’ve been digging out some hearty soup recipes that we all love and trying to develop some new ones that we can toss into the instant pot, “set and forget”. That said, the groceries are packed with the holidays coming up and I’m finding that they are having a hard time keeping things in stock. Lots of the meats and ingredients I need for the week, when I’m meal planning, seem to disappear before I can put them in my online cart at Walmart or my husband returns home half empty-handed when I send him on a run for my specifics. That was the case this week, which I what lead me to coming up with the soup I’m sharing here today.

The weather is getting colder. A lot of days around here have been highs in the 30s and snow has shown it’s face more than once. A comforting bowl of slurp worthy goodness was just what I knew we all needed. And, if you’re feeling that way too, then this soup recipe is for you! The ingredient list is simple and the tastes are familiar; they marry together in a way that is delectable. Plus, served with 60 minute dinner rolls… midweek, supper time heaven. Disclosure: It does have a bit of heat to it. It’s delightful, but if you’re sensitive to spice, maybe omit the red pepper.

Instant Pot “Colder Weather” Soup

Ingredients:

1 Lb ground Italian sausage

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/2-1 cup chopped celery leaves

1 can diced tomatoes, undrained

2 cans navy beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup white wine

3 cups water

2 cups chicken broth

Salt + pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Set your instant pot to sauté and drizzle the bottom of the pot with olive oil. Cook your italian sausage and onion together until the sausage is brown & onions are mostly translucent. Add red pepper & minced garlic and cook for 5 more minutes.

2. Stop sauté and add the rest of the ingredients to the pot one by one. Pressure cook for 20 minutes.

3. Serve, topped with mozzarella cheese. And, preferably, with your choice of bread. Bon appetit!

Pandemic, Hygge Dinner Therapy

Here we are. In the midst of another rise of the never-ending Covid19 pandemic cases. As you know, if you follow my instagram, I have gone through many ups and downs when it comes to being able to find joy during these unpredictable and tiring times. My lack of being able to remain “present” and finding a sense of purpose in the recent months has reached new levels of unattainability. And, lately, I find myself leaping from idea to idea; grasping at straws trying to keep my mind busy with anything and everything that I can fit into my schedule. Painting my bathroom, trips to isolated book stores far away, amusing myself with imagining and planning journeys to the hippie towns across America, random acts of kindness to friends and strangers, painting a ridiculously hard (and still incomplete) paint by numbers… you name it, it’s probably floated across my mind.

The point is, we all want to feel a little bit of completeness during a time when so little is certain. We want to feel whole where there are voids. And if we can find anything heartwarming, we’ll latch onto it. And what warms the heart more than having a meal with friends and family? Not much.

Unfortunately, at this time, getting together with other humans is discouraged because, well… COVID. Yes, we know it travels, it’s extremely contagious, and you have to move heaven and earth to get people to wear masks… So, dinner parties? Not really much of an option, unless you want to spend time with 15 people and have 72% change of contracting the virus. Or so said an article I read online today. Yet, I have/had been dying to just GATHER. Like, we used to. And it’s brought a number of tears to flow throughout the year, knowing that it’s just not possible. So, I decided to take matters in my own hands.

In the recent years, I’ve developed this attitude like ‘I’m not gonna wait around on other people. If I want to do something, I’m going to. Even if I have to do it alone.” Apparently, dinner parties are included. So, I informed my hubby that I was going to do a faux dinner party, just because and for my family. Decor and all. Just for some kind of therapy.

Now, at first, that was going to include lanterns and 150 paper cranes hanging from the ceiling. I was THIS close to ordering a massive amount of twinkle lights from Amazon and stringing them up. Nearly bought new dishes… Until, I realized that I might be getting a tad carried away.  I mean, we are legitimately just trying to get by in these awkward, socially distant times. So, instead, I resigned to save my really amped up ideas for when I can fill my home with more people I love. And, decided my main objective would be to just set up a budget friendly, cozy meal that would feel intimate and a little more rustic than say handmade origami ornaments at each place setting. Are you sensing a theme yet?

I’ve been craving Asian food for weeks and, specifically, missing a restaurant from our home in NC. My fave dish is served there and it’s flawless, along with their coconut cake for dessert. So I looked up some recipes on pinterest for what I wanted and found an overabundance of options. I decided to make the main course and dessert from scratch and accompany it with pre-prepped appetizers and sides. Yeah, I was going a real restaurant style dining here, and wrote up the menu on my dining room chalkboard a week in advance so I’d have something to look forward to. You could, of course, do this week any type of food.

Now let’s talk decor and place settings. I’d like to talk about this in case you are in a little bit of a slump and want to do something simple like this in order to bring yourself and family a little bit of cheer. I’ll go through what I threw together and what alternatives there are out there.

The tablescape, you’ll notice, was rather uncomplicated. I didn’t have time to get flowers or anything and my table is SO long that it’s very hard to find an inexpensive table runner or table cloth to cover it. So, I started thinking about how some restaurants cover their tables with butcher paper and thought, “HELLO, KID FRIENDLY & easy cleanup!” But, rolls of butcher paper were like 15 dollars! This craft paper, gift wrapping paper was $1 a roll at Dollar Tree. I could’ve used the underside if I had wanted it plain, but I really loved the fun polkadot playfulness it gave the table. They also have plain kraft paper available for just under $2 a roll at Dollar General.

I already owned the candle lanterns and candles, which I got from walmart at the beginning of fall from Walmart. I’m linking the candles (which smell divine!) HERE. I haven’t seen the the lanterns since, in-store or online, so HERE are some similar ones. And you could probably also look at places like Hobby Lobby or Old Time Pottery for something similar and inexpensive. As well as the candles.

I simply bought reindeer moss for $1 a bag from Dollar Tree and filled the bottom of my lantern with it, around the candle, for a more woodsy and homey look. And to avoid fingerprints on the glass, I maneuvered it around with a spatula.

I got my snowy trees on a log, tabletop decor from Walmart for like $6, but I can’t find it on their website anywhere. If you can’t find anything in your area similar, you could probably craft it pretty easily with supplies from a dollar store. Or you could purchase a set like THIS from Walmart (below) or THESE glittery gems from Target.

On either side of the trees, I places cutting boards to place appetizers on and flanked them on one side with a beaded garland I got from Amazon earlier this year. I also used four, mercury glass votive holders I found at Dollar General for $1 a piece on each corner. They are adorable and I’ll definitely be reusing them again and again. I found a similar set of 12 on Amazon HERE.

Now, let’s talk about dishes! Mine are by Magnolia (Hearth & Hand) from Target and I got them a little over a year ago as part of their fall collection. They are no longer available, but if you are in the market for new dishes, I strongly suggest checking out what they do have in stock. Such as the beautiful, red rimmed dishes they just came out with!

I used the mixed matched silverware that I already own (I’m due for a new set) and wrapped it with $1 white napkins from Dollar General & found red burlap ribbon on sale to tie it up with. Next time, I may go ahead and spring for some more expensive linen napkins like the ones I’ve found online (below). And if you are having a little fancier of an event with more extended family…etc, it would definitely be a nice touch. You could even do matching ones with your dishes like the photo above.

There are also plenty of nice biodegradable options online. Like these palm leaf plates! Which are a great, more natural, primitive choice.

That’s about it. I would’ve done placemats like these had I thought about it beforehand, so that’s also an option. I also, ordered chopsticks because of the nature of food, that only set me back $6.99. Plus, everyone loves chopsticks! Twinkle lights also came into play all over the room where I could hide the LED battery pack HAHA! Spent $5 on 5 packs of those at the dollar store and they were a nice addition to the cozy, hygge factor. And the candlesticks on the mantel + burning wood stove in my dining room didn’t hurt anything either.

Overall, I spent approximately $28 (not counting all the groceries for dinner) and repurposed a lot of things I already owned. I hope this gave you a lot of ideas of how you can easily create a comfortable, spruced up space for you and your loved ones to enjoy a special dinner despite everything going on in the world right now. You don’t have to have a lot of money to enjoy a nice, memorable evening together- even if you’ve already spent months in the same house. Take the time out to make your life extraordinary!

GUEST POST: Fulcrum Farms’ Chicken Paprikash

I am so thankful for Instagram and the people it provides to you at the right time. Amber @ Fulcrum Farms has always been super sweet and supportive of my page so it just felt right to reach out to her and ask if she would write a post for the blog. If you talkto her, it just felt like a natural fit. She came up with such a great post and one of my fave comfort foods to write about for you. So, without further adieu…

FULCRUM FARMS, Amber:

When I was contacted by the lovely Quin, to write a post for her blog, I was kind of caught off guard. What could I possibly say that anyone would want to read? I’m new to owning land, I don’t have experience with real farming, and I’ve never officially raised an actual farm animal (aside from chickens, which most people start out with anyhow). So what could I write about that people might be interested in?

Then I decided – well, I could just share a quick recipe, something perfect for cool weather, and comforting after a long day of work. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use a good recipe for that! Everyone that I have shared this with has enjoyed it immensely. It’s super simple, but it is also absolutely delicious. Handed down from mother’s side of the family, I make this many times through the fall/winter months to fill all our tummies when we are running on low. I hope that you like it as much as we do!
Chicken Paprikash

4 Bone in Skin on Chicken breasts (or thighs or a mix)32 oz chicken broth1 large yellow onion, chopped4 cloves garlic, crushed1/2 C flour1/4 C Hungarian PaprikaSalt and Pepper, to taste 16oz sour cream
Heat and oil a large skillet or pot with a lid. Cook chicken until browned on all sides, it will finish cooking through during braising.  Remove to a plate and cover.  Lower heat. Add onion and garlic to the skillet, pour more oil if needed.  Cook, stirring often, until fragrant and onions turn translucent.

Meanwhile, mix together flour, paprika, salt and pepper.  Once onion and garlic are soft, stir in the flour/paprika mix.  Increase heat to medium and stir, it will be VERY thick – you just want to cook the flour for 30-60 seconds to remove the raw taste. Whisk in the broth, be sure to stir it very well to remove clumps. Once the broth has been mixed into the flour, bring pot to a boil. Return chicken, submerge and lower to a simmer.  Cover with lid. 

Allow to cook several hours, I usually leave mine on low for 4-5.  Or, if your cooktop likes to burn things, put into an oven at 250* for 3-5 hours (optionally a slow cooker and/or instant pot would work wonderfully for this recipe too!). Check every so often, if you’re using an oven or cooktop, to make sure the it isn’t boiling hard – you want to braise the meat slowly in plenty of liquid. 

About 60 minutes before you plan to eat, put sour cream out on counter to come to room temp.  30 minutes before you plan to eat, use a colander and drain the chicken, onions and garlic.  Wipe out pan, then add liquid back into pot, keep off heat. Separate the onions and garlic from the chicken, discard. Debone, remove skin and shred or chop the chicken, set aside.  Whisk sour cream into pot, turn heat to medium low.  Add in chicken, stir, and keep warm until serving.

I make homemade spatzel to go along with this and serve with a side of fordhook Lima beans or baby peas. Egg noodles and rice are both good options as well. 
This makes enough to serve my family of 6 – with seconds and usually some leftover. It’s also easy to adjust to your taste – add or remove ingredients to your preference. We like a lot of paprika, so my recipe calls for a large amount. We prefer white meat, so I use bone in skin on breasts. We don’t like the onions/garlic floating around in our liquid so I strain and remove them. 
If I can give 2 recommendations –

  1. Use bone in and skin on chicken, any pieces will work or just take a whole chicken and cut it up to fry and continue with the recipe as written.
  2. Purchase Hungarian paprika. The better quality you have, the better your dish will taste. You can use the store brand paprika, but if you can splurge on a container of real Hungarian paprika – do it!

Enjoy!

Charlie’s Chocolate Bundt + Lavender Vanilla Glaze

Lately, I have been craving rich, yummy comfort foods. Especially sweet ones! I’m currently trying to break that habit because my jeans don’t really like it, but man! do I love a good slice of cake or decadent pastry. And my passion for baking has only shown itself more in the past few weeks.

I wanted to share this recipe because is a refreshing take on the typical chocolate cake, but it’s also very moist and indulgent. Kudos go to my daughter, or this recipe would have never been born- so it’s named after her. She requested a chocolate butterfly cake a while back, which I obliged with this recipe. However, her cake was slathered with vanilla buttercream and then decorated with a trillion sprinkles.

After making her cake, I started thinking about ways I could make it again, but in a more sophisticated, simple, and elegant way. I have also been trying to use as many unexpected herbs in my cooking as possible, recently. While chocolate and vanilla are classic flavors (and what my daughter picked), I wanted a twist and ultimately decided to add lavender.

I also made a large batch of lavender lemonade to serve with it. YUM! Which my husband eventually turned into a cocktail with gin and ginger beer. Basically, we’ve been living in a lavender heaven!

In my opinion, this is a wonderful cake to bring to a spring or summer gathering or share with family on a special occasion. However, in my case this was just for fun, and I ended up sharing it with my sister-in-law and family. I was glad they loved it- enough to even enjoy it for breakfast! Haha! ( I apologize for not having more photos!)

If you decide to try this out, I truly hope it brings you as much happiness as I had making it.

Ingredients:

Cake:

3 cups flour

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp baking soda

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup cooking oil (I used coconut)

1/2 cup hot water

1 Tbsp vanilla

1 pkt instant chcolate pudding

1/2 cup sour cream

Glaze:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tbsp dried lavender buds

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. For the Cake, mix all dry ingredients, by hand or in a mixer. In a separate bowl, combine pudding mix, eggs, buttermilk, water, oil and 1 tablespoon vanilla. In large mixer bowl, combine dry ingredients and wet, by slowly pour in the wet ingredients while whisking with electric mixer on low/medium speed for up to 2 minutes. Stir in sour cream. Pour into greased bundt pan.

Bake on 350° for 50-60 minutes. Cool in pan 20-30 minutes. Invert cake onto wire rack or plate. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, for the glaze, Bring cream just to a simmer, stirring occasionally, in a small saucepan over medium. Remove from heat, and stir in dried lavender; let stand 10-15 minutes.

Pour lavender milk through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, and cool completely, about 20 minutes. 

Whisk together powdered sugar, salt, 1/4-1/2 of the lavender milk, and 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice. Whisk in up to 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. (However, because I didn’t want the lemony taste to take away from the lavender I ended up adding a little bit of water instead, to thin out the glaze. Don’t add so much water, though, that you dilute the taste or make your glaze so thin it sinks into the cake.)

Sprinkle with dried lavender buds, if desired. Enjoy!

Hopefully you whip this up, post a picture, and tag me on social media @lone_birch.

My Favorite Homemade Cocktail

So, I know a lot of you will be hanging out (hopefully, somewhat socially distant) with friends or family this weekend. I thought it would be a good time to share my favorite homemade cocktail recipe with you. It’s not complicated, and it’s absolutely delicious!

I haven’t served this to one single person who hasn’t loved it. And, I won’t lie, it’s pretty strong. But, the mix of ingredients is super refreshing and great for front porch sippin’, or passing out at your backyard barbecue.

Personally, I think the best way to serve this is in a copper mug. But, putting it in a mason jar was just so aesthetically pleasing- I just couldn’t help myself. Also, jars (or something similar) might be more practical + cheaper, if you are having several people at your home. Even cooler cups, like an Arctic or Yeti, would work fine!

I came up with this recipe back in the winter, when my best friend was visiting me and I had basically no ingredients in my house to make drinks. We wanted to sit and relax with a cocktail, but my supply was so random… I wasn’t sure what to make. No matter what I Googled, I never had all the components. So, I decided to mix and match what I had based on a couple different ideas I had come across.

Since COVID, especially, this has been put in the regular rotation. It’s a great drink to sit and wind down with after a long day of work on the farm, and sitting around an early evening bonfire.

One thing I want to mention before I go ahead with the recipe is, for measurement, I use a tall shooter glass. However, you could also totally use a jigger like THIS ONE I found on Amazon. So, let’s get to it!

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 oz lime juice

1.5-2 oz gin (depending on how strong you like your drink)

1.5 oz elderflower liqueur

sprite

ice

optional: lemon or lime slices for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Put ice into a shaker and pour in the lime juice, gin, and elderflower liqueur and shake vigorously.
  2. Transfer mixture into a copper mug (or glass of choice) and top with sprite. Stir, garnish with a lemon or lime slice, if you wish.

This is snappy, refreshing perfection. A great drink year ’round, but especially for summer leisure time. Enjoy!

Living A Farmed Life: Intro

Hi! I’m Quin and I’m the voice behind The Lone Birch. It’s a pleasure to have you here!

I grew up in an extremely small, rural town in Ohio and never wanted to know anything else. I was content as a child in a relatively untouched place. And, when I say, “untouched”, I mean there was no Walmart nearby. But, eventually, the path of life took a turn and I ended up in a city by the beach, hundreds of miles away, for almost 15 years.

Funnily enough, I met my husband and he, ironically, also grew up in a little area in Ohio. After we got married, we were very keen on the idea of moving back to a simpler place and transporting ourselves into a slower pace. It seemed, like it would never work out, though, due to multiple factors we faced over the years. Until one summer…

Suddenly, our circumstances changed in 2019 and we were able to, very quickly, make the transition from city dwellers to country residents. Foremostly, we wanted to be here to help out my in-laws. But, selfishly, we wanted to be here to raise our four children with a sense of peace surrounding them. To allow them a bit of the serenity of the childhoods we experienced. A chance to chase their dreams through open fields and sunbathed woods, without fear.

This brought with it, the challenge of trying to find a new home. Not just a house, but a place to really thrive. And, that’s when we happened upon our sweet, little 1940’s farmhouse.

It’s always been my dream to have a farm. When I was a little girl, my best friend and I would plan out all of the animals we would have and what we would name them. And, as I got older, that fantasy started to take the shape of a bohemian farmhouse haven. Somewhere special for me to unleash a little creativity and enjoy the absence of complication, I didn’t know then, that I wanted for my unborn children.

This all came to fruition when we found our current home. A quaint farm with a lone birch tree in the middle of the yard… surrounded by many other trees, unrelated. Five acres of green, surrounded by woods, complete with a big red barn. (Photos to come!) We visited this property once before we knew it was the definition of the home we were looking for.

As of now, we have been [officially] back in Ohio for about 10 months and in our fixer upper for about 8 of those. And, since things are beginning to feel more settled- despite these nasty, untold events of 2020- it seemed like a good time to take on documenting more of our adventures and what we are undertaking. I’ve also really been challenging myself, in the kitchen, with house projects, and hobbies, so I am hoping to share those with you. As well as all things #momlife, because navigating two boys and two girls (13, 7, 5, & 2) has me in my feelings!

I’d love to connect with other hobby farmers, mothers, self professed chefs, interior designers, fashionistas, writers, and readers from all walks of life. And, honestly, the connection with others and finding insight into other perspectives, trading ideas, and getting feedback is why I am endeavoring to blog publicly, instead of keep my thoughts to myself. I hope to hear what’s on your mind as well!

Let me know, in the comments, what kind of things you’d like to see included on the blog. Or if you have any questions you’d like me to address in a post.

Thanks for reading! More soon, xoxxo-