Category Archives: Cooking

What to do on a day at home.

Today, I am grandparent in charge. There is no preschool for N on Thursday. Most Thursdays are spinning day, except once a month, we can’t use the room. Mountaingdad, when he rode the Big Bad Harley to Roanoke on Tuesday, scheduled it’s spring maintainence for today, so off he was going today also.

I came downstairs to 5 overripe bananas and an empty granola jar on the counter, along with a sink full of dirty dishes accumulated since after dinner last night, a load of laundry in the drier that must have been drying when daughter’s family went to bed last night, so set about to remedy all of that. Dishes loaded, laundry folded and my load run, and a quick straighten up while grandson ate his breakfast. Once he was on his bus it was time to do some cooking. Since we are getting eggs and there was no spinning today to sell any, I mashed the 5 bananas and made 2 loaves of banana walnut bread.

Once they were on the counter cooling, the oven temperature was reduced and a half gallon of granola was mixed to bake.

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That will provide breakfast, snacks, and lunch supplement for daughter’s family for a bit.

Granddaughter and I took the trash to the convenience center and son’s hat to the post office and stopped for a pound of pasta and some salad additions. Once home, the last package of frozen tomatoes from our garden last year, half a package of frozen summer squash, and the next to last package of frozen Bell peppers were chopped and added to sauteed onion, garlic, and herbs and set to simmer for pasta sauce for dinner. There is a pint of left over pasta sauce frozen to add later. The last few jars of home canned sauce will be kept for a dinner night when I have less time.

Granddaughter is napping, but once she is awake or her Mom gets home, I am going out to plant the onion sets, peas, radishes, turnips, and kale.

Kitchen Play

Saturday’s are Farmers’ Market day.  There are very few vendors this time of year, but Cavalier Farm, where I get beef and pork and eggs when my girls are being slackers, is there year round if the weather allows them to get there.  We needed meat and eggs today.

This week, Glade Farm was there with a large selection of produce.  I came home with two huge Daikon radish, about 4 pounds worth, a bunch of salad radishes, bags of Tatsoy, Bok choy, and salad mix.  They also had some winter squash, as well as some other leafy greens.  I still have a bit of kale and chard in the garden if it doesn’t freeze solid in the next few days and the root cellar has many winter squash stored.

The Daikon radish were too great a temptation to not come home and make a big batch of radish kimchee.  I was introduced to kimchee when we moved here.  There is a Korean restaurant in the next town and though I don’t like all of them, I do love the spicy radish one.  Last year I found a recipe on the internet that was so similar a product that I bookmarked it.  Four pounds of radish, makes a bit more than a half gallon of spicy kimchee.  It is tasty as soon as you make it, but it is so much better after fermenting on the counter for a few days.

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Once that was cleaned up, the kitchen became the soap making location.  The Holiday Market put a huge dent in my inventory of soap and since I left just a few days after because of my Dad’s hospitalization and then his memorial service, followed by Christmas with a houseful of family, I had not begun the resupply.  Today I made a batch of Mountain Man soap and a batch of a very moisturizing unscented facial and body soap, using my new wooden molds made by son T.  Tomorrow, I need to get another gallon of olive oil and another essential oil and a couple more batches of soap will be made.

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I love my new molds.  Tomorrow, I will unmold those two soaps, cut them into bars for curing and make the new batches.  Probably the newest scent, Lumberjack and either Lavender or Jasmine.

Maybe tomorrow will also be bread baking day.  The last two loaves are gone and we are going to regain grandson and his air escort, his other grandmother who will stay for a few days.

Pre Prep and Deliciousness

I tend to cook from scratch.  Rarely do we purchase “mixes.”  J loves pumpkin pie with holiday meals and it drives me crazy that so many pumpkins are sold in the fall, set on porches and left to spoil.  And when you look for a recipe for pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, it calls for canned pumpkin.  We grow pumpkins each year and the ones that were harvested in the fall of 2014 were such good keepers, that I cooked the last 4 small ones yesterday to use to make the two pumpkin pies that will be baked on Wednesday.

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None of the remaining pumpkins from last year were very large, just slightly larger than a grapefruit each, and cut in half, they all fit on my huge baking sheet.  The chickens benefitted from the raw pumpkin seed and cooked skins with the small amount of remaining meat that I couldn’t scrape out.  The 4 pumpkins only made just under 6 cups of cooked puree.  This will be more than enough for two pies.

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While the pumpkins were baking, I started a couple of loaves of bread.  I used to bake all of our bread, but A, the 8 year old grand that lives with us, prefers what I call balloon bread, the soft gummy square commercial loaves.  I keep trying to make a bread that is light enough to suit him.  The rest of us love a good hearty rustic loaf.

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My wooden bread bowl was put to use, more unbleached bread flour than whole wheat used and the loaves came out almost lighter than I prefer.

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Two beautifully risen,  golden loaves. . . and still not to his liking.  But the rest of us polished off a whole loaf with our dinner last night.  SIL will enjoy making his lunch sandwiches on the other one this week.

I need more flour, but with having 9 folks in the house for most of this week, I will do another baking when the oven is hot for pies on Wednesday.  We will need it for lunches and breakfasts later in the week.

Last night the bottom fell out of the fall thermometer. It isn’t as cold as we will see and it will moderate in a couple of days, but it was 26f when I got up and the chicken water is frozen for the first time this season. A has been dispatched to the bus, N has been fed and dressed, chickens have been fed, but I need to take some warm water over and see if I can thaw their water pail.

If it warms enough, I need to put urethane on the Beard and Apothecary gift boxes that I’m putting together for the December 12th Winter Holiday Market. If not, J and I still need to go to the bookstore to get N a book for her birthday tomorrow.

 

Morning Madness

Yesterday was spent waiting for Nature’s Yarns in Fairfax to open so that I could use my birthday discount to get some needles that I wanted, now that I have become a convert to DPN’s for socks, hats, sleeves, and other small rounds.  Their winter hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., so I had to wait before my drive back home.  That followed by the 5ish hour drive back to SW Virginia, then dinner prep and I was ready for bed before the grands last night.  I think I managed to stay awake until maybe 9 p.m.

This morning, refreshed from a night in my own bed and a shower to wake up, I tackled part of today’s chores.  K’s freezer is plugged in beside our freezer in the basement and it became the repository for most of the meat this weekend.  Now that it is all solidly frozen, I tackled both freezers to sort into boxes and baskets so that you can actually find a package of stew meat, a roast, a half or whole chicken or some parts, a package of fruit or vegetables to not have to dig for them.

SIL loves granola and it is cheaper for me to make it, than to buy it.  I make a batch, each time the half gallon jar appears empty on the counter.  It appeared on Friday, but with the Holiday Market on Saturday, the chickens on Sunday, travel yesterday, the jar got washed and dried and sat empty until this morning.

As I was measuring out the ingredients this morning, I was curious about the calorie content of the granola.  I know that it is not a low calorie food, and I make it partly because of cost and partly to control what goes into it.  This morning, I made it with honey, sometimes with maple syrup.
Cabin Crafted Granola
5 c rolled oats (1560 cal.)         1/3 c coconut oil melted (636 cal.)
½ c wheat germ (149 cal.)        1/3 c raw honey (344 cal.)
1 c chopped pecans (832 cal.)   1 tsp ground nutmeg or cinnamon
Dash of salt                             1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 c raisens(419 cal.)

Mix all ingredients except raisens in a large bowl. Spread in a lightly oiled baking
pan. Place in preheated 325°f oven. Toast for 30 minutes, stirring every 10.
Remove from oven, stir in the raisens and cool. Makes about 8 cups of cereal.
Total estimated calories – 3940 or 492.5 per cup
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Wow, was I surprised. I rarely eat more than a tablespoon full sprinkled over ice cream or yogurt. Guess it is a good thing.

I still need to go out and clean out the cull coop.  Collect and scrub their water and food containers and sanitize them until they are needed again.  The hen flock was still very fearful of me this morning as their pen is adjacent to the meaties pen and they watched me go in and come out, carrying an often squawking young hen on Sunday.  They will calm down as I continue to feed them and provide them with treats this week.  I wish they would finish their molt and start laying again.  I only get an average of 1 egg a day right now from the 9 of them.

Still loving life on our mountain farm.

Autumn Delights

Yesterday Mountaingdad decided to see how he could do on his bike.  He hasn’t been able to ride since April, when an extremely virulent case of bronchitis caused a very long lasting case of vertigo.  We have seen doctors, first for the bronchitis, then for the fullness in the ears and vertigo.  Visits for physical therapy that helped some, but didn’t cure the problem.  He still has some fullness in his ears and will get dizzy lying down in the dark, but is doing better during the day.  He needed to put fuel in the bike before it got too cold to ride, so that he can start it periodically in the garage during the winter.  He did fine riding and since today was the last day of warm and no rain for this week, he took off to Black Bear, about 75 minutes away, for their final get together for the season.  Since it is Saturday, our usual Farmers’ Market day, he rode  to town on his bike, I drove and we had breakfast together before he took off for his ride.  The market is winding down, fewer vendors were there, but my favorites are still hanging in and I supplemented our supplies with beef, pork, onions, greens, turnips and radishes.  The flowers are done for the season, our nights of frost did them in.  I got the last bag of salad from Stonecrop Farm until next spring.

The kids, were off at soccer games, then to the pumpkin patch with the grands.  I am filling the house with the delightful scents of autumn.

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Cinnamon Honey Pecan granola in the oven.

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The apples from our day trip on Thursday were peeled and the Granny Smiths sliced and frozen for pies over the holidays and the others cooked down and canned into 5 1/2 more pints of applesauce for the shelves in the root cellar to be enjoyed later.  The half pint put into the refrigerator to have tonight.

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After the apples were cooked and the canner bubbling, dinner was started.  A package of pork chunks, sauteed with onion and garlic; a small Burgess Buttercup squash, pared and cubed in small pieces;  a couple of handfuls of tomatillos, a bit of cilantro and cumin; a few tablespoons of Roasted Salsa Verde and a couple cups of broth and stew is simmering.  This was a create as I go stew that will be served with rice, corn bread and the applesauce.  If it tastes as good as it smells, we are in for a treat tonight.

Outside, the smell of wood smoke is beginning to fill the air as our neighbors that heat with wood are building their fires for the chilly nights.  It hasn’t gotten cold enough for us to build a fire or light the wood stove yet, but we don’t rely on that as our heat source.  I still need to begin splitting the logs hauled up from the tree cutting a couple of weeks ago.  Maybe I will spend part of my afternoon with the maul and wedge while the stew simmers.

Tonight it turns colder and rainy again for a while and there is no warm up on the forecast this week.

Still loving life on our mountain farm.

Labor Day of Love

I may be retired, but not idle. If anything, I am busier than when I worked outside our home, coming home to prepare dinner and keep household chores under control

.This weekend, I chose to dedicate to putting by, as the old timers say. No sitting around for me. The harvested basket of mostly pears and some apples from our young orchard, along with about ten pounds of purchased apples were preserved so as not to lose them to spoilage.

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This basket plus the purchased apples, produced with lots of labor and love, and the help of several  recipes:

8 pints of Pear sauce with vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger; 4 pints of applesauce ( must get more apples); 5 1/2 pints of Ginger Pear Conserve with walnuts; 5 pints of Apple Pear and Cranberry Chutney; 4 1/2  pints of a nice spicy Pear Apple Chutney.

While the Chutney was cooking today, I harvested a bucket of tomatoes, tomatillos, and various hot and mild peppers. One pint of jalapeños was pickled, tomatillos were frozen until I’m ready to use them in a sauce or salsa, tomatoes were frozen to make them easier to peel later this week when another batch of pasta sauce or chili tomatoes is canned. There is still a pile of mammoth jalapeños that need to be sliced and frozen and the Bell peppers that aren’t going into tonight’s Greek stew need to be sliced into strips or diced and frozen for winter use.

The peppers are thriving with the seasonable days and cooler nights. The pumpkins are threatening to engulf the entire garden. Something has been munching on the sweet potato vines, perhaps it is time to dig them and let them begin to cure. The heirloom paste tomatoes are beginning to redden and there are many left to pick, though I am sure there will be far fewer canned tomatoes and salsas than last year. The tiny Tabsco peppers are ripening and there are many of them, so some hot sauce will be made later in the season.

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It feels good seeing the shelves begin to fill, the freezer with beans, squash, and beets. The basement refrigerator with pickled cucumbers and peppers and soon to have kraut and kimchi. Knowing that there are 26 chickens being raised humanely to help put pasture raised meat on the table. And greens growing in the garden.

Daughter and her family are due back soon from their weekend away, so the rest of dinner prep and some kitchen clean up is in order. Hope you enjoyed your Labor Day as much as I did mine.

Progress but a long way to go!

Today I tackled the basket of apples and Asian pears picked from our fledgling orchard yesterday. Last year I discovered this book.

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And another by her, preserving by the pint. Sometimes I follow the recipe, sometimes it is a springboard to create my own. Last fall I used one of her recipes to create my own Apple Cranberry Chutney. As the orchard harvest was mostly pears, it was modified to be 1/3 apples and 2/3 pears. Five pints of Chutney prepped and canned and it didn’t put a dent in the basket of pears. One of her recipes is for Ginger Pear Conserve, so I chopped double the called for quantity of pears, two oranges instead of one and doubled the rest of the ingredients to make 5 1/2 pints of the Conserve. It smelled so heavenly cooking with all of the ginger.

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I’ve used only about half of the basket of pears

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After dinner, a few more were processed using the peeler corer and chopping them small.  With a splash of lemon juice, some vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger, it cooked down.

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Five pints of pear sauce canned.  One quart of chunks partially cooked and refrigerated as the base ring on my blender cracked and came off in my hand with half a blender full of hot cooked pear.  Tomorrow, I will try to buy a cheap hand mill and make a second batch of the pear sauce using the remaining partially cooked pears and peel and core the rest that won’t be stored for eating with sharp cheese.  While they canned, I ordered the replacement ring for my blender.  I love it as it has a glass jar and a strong motor.

All in all, it was a productive afternoon.

 

Transformation

Yesterday it was a bucket of tomatoes.

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This morning they were skinned and chopped along with two gallon size bags of ones that had been frozen when the harvest was too small to bother to can.  Along with onion, garlic scapes, a squash, some salt and herbs all tossed into a giant pot.

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Some simmer time and jar prep.  The pressure canner hauled down and cleaned up from winter’s storage.

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Ten quarts of pasta sauce base prepped and canned.  Unfortunately, two did not seal so I can either reprocess them or better yet, make dinner from one and refrigerate the other for another night.

It feels good to be putting by for the cold months to come.

Cuban Night

Each time that we visited our daughter when she lived in Florida, we returned to a restaurant that I had visited many years before with a friend, when I went down with children in tow.  This restaurant is the Columbia, a Cuban local restaurant with several locations.  The one visited most often was in St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota.  One of us always ordered their Empanadas with Black Bean Salsa and they are wonderful.  In seeking new meals for the family, we started by looking at their menu to see the description and then I searched for Cuban Picadillo, the filling in their Empanadas and played with it this afternoon until we both liked it.  I though about making the pastry dough, but we ended up buying the Goya brand premade rounds in the freezer case at the grocer.  A few nights ago, I made homemade salsa for tacos when we realized a jar we had purchased had spoiled.  Half of that salsa was set aside for tonight and we added a half a can of drained black beans to make a Black Bean Salsa.   I took the task of filling, crimping and dropping them in the hot oil to brown.  Daughter too the task of turning and removing them from the pan to drain.  Our recipe made 20 empanadas with a few tablespoons of filling left over.  The six of us ate our fill and SIL has two lunches of the leftovers from dinner.

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We will miss  our visits to the Columbia, but it is nice to know that we can make these at home.

More Wet Stuff

Our region is under water.  The forecasts have flood warnings, many roads closed, schools today had a 2 hour late start due to the flooding.  The morning dawned beautiful, but the afternoon brought more heavy rain.  You would think that in the mountains that flooding wouldn’t really be a problem, but the rivers and creeks are over their banks, fishing camps and river front yards are under water.

I turned the chooks out this morning to free range and graze on the new grass and emerging bugs.  When daughter and granddaughter came back from taking grandson to the bus stop, the dogs all slipped out.  Lately they have seemed to leave them alone when dogs and chickens were sharing the yard.  For some reason, I looked out to check on them and found our two chasing the chickens and daughter’s Golden Retriever eating one.  I don’t know who actually caught the bird, but I do know that we now have a problem.  The dogs and the chickens aren’t going to be able to be out at the same time again.  One of the dogs realized that opening through the electric fence that had a rope across it wouldn’t hurt them and barged right through.  This required me to move the fence around to create a new opening, narrower and on a different side of the fence.

I had planned on culling a few of the hens later in the summer, but didn’t plan on sharing them with the dogs.  After today’s stress, we only got 4 eggs.  Maybe the one they killed was the one laying weird eggs.  I guess we will see in a day or two.

Since the weather wasn’t good to be out and about much, I made Mozzarella and lasagna noodles and made a homemade vegetarian lasagna for dinner.  I love being able to make the cheese and noodles at home.  I noticed at the Farmers’ Market on Saturday, that I could get raw cow and goat milk for a donation, perhaps I will try raw milk Mozzarella or yogurt.