Tag Archives: cooking

Olio August 16, 2014

Olio: A miscellaneous collection of things.

On Thursday, I returned our eldest grandson to his home.  He had been with us since July 3 and it was a wonderful 6 weeks.  He enjoyed playing with our dogs, learned to ride his bike, traveled to Florida with us to visit his Aunt and Uncle and cousins for a week, swam, had outings with Granddad to the batting cage and several movies.  He and Granddad played catch in the yard and had batting practice.  A few times, he cooked with me, learning to make his favorite blueberry muffins and getting some math practice with measuring and calculating which measuring cups would give him the quantity he needed.  It was a relief to his Mom and Dad to not have to try to find summer care for him and figure out how to get him to and from that care when they both left very early for their jobs.

Yesterday after playing with his neighborhood friends, showing off to his Mom and Dad his new bike riding skills, having Grandmom take him to his guitar lesson, they all left at 9:30 last night on the Metro to Union Station to catch an 11:30 p.m. Greyhound bus to Virginia Beach, where he and his Mom will spend the next week with her parents.  Our son will return home to Northern Virginia on the train tomorrow so he can be at work on Monday.  His Mom’s summer job has ended and her school begins just before Labor Day.  I returned to their house to spend the night before traveling home this morning.  As I was avoiding the interstate and taking a leisurely cruise down the Skyline Drive this morning, I received a text from son saying that they were stuck in Richmond, VA, only a couple hours from their home and a couple hours from their destination almost 12 hours after leaving on the bus.  Their 4 hour trip lasted 14 hours.  There is something truly wrong with Greyhound’s business model that passengers with tickets can not have a seat on a leg of their trip.  If they hadn’t had to disembark at the transfer station in Richmond, they would have been at their destination in the early hours, not the next afternoon.

After enjoying about an hour and a half of scenic drive, I got back on the interstate, so my 4 hour trip wouldn’t take all day and like Thusday, was again stuck with the semis.

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I followed these two for miles and miles doing less than 60 mph in a 70 mph zone. Behind me was a line of at least a dozen more.

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It is amazing how quickly chicks grow.  These little guys and gals are a week and a half old.  They can almost get out of the brooder which is a huge stock watering tank. I guess I am going to have to put a screen over it soon.  They are all darkening and growing wing and tail feathers.  The one center front is the one I named Chipmunk because of the dark stripes on his back when I uncartoned them from the Hatchery.

Egg production is picking up.  The pullets are getting the hang of the laying bit.  In the past 6 days, we have gotten 7 pullet eggs, so I know that more than one of them is laying.  We also got 5 hen eggs, though Broody Girl is still insisting on empty nest sitting.  This has gone on now for over a month.  Perhaps I should get her some fertile eggs and just let her give it a go.

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The pullet eggs are so small compared to the hen eggs.  At least we are getting some again.

The garden loved last week’s rain, the tomatoes are ripening in the sun, peppers are swelling and I am nearly overrun with Tomatillos.  I haven’t looked under the row covers to see how the transplants are doing, but they will have to be watered today or tomorrow.

My purple thick skinned grapes are ripe.  Perhaps I should attempt some grape jelly.

The weather feels like fall already.  I shouldn’t get too excited, it will probably get hot again soon.

This week, we tackle power washing the decks to re-stain.  I’m trying to figure out how we are going to keep the outdoor cats off while they dry and how we will get the dogs in and out.  I guess they will have to go through the garage, but neither of them are used to doing that, so it may require leading them out on a leash til the decks dry.

Hubby took off early this morning on a ride on his BBH (Big Bad Harley) with the Hog Club from where his bike came.  It is a ride to just get there, over an hour.  They were going to have breakfast then ride into West Virginia.  He texted me that he did go and that he was in West Virginia.  I guess I will see him later this afternoon when he returns.

When I was in Northern Virginia to pick up grandson in early July, I bought some variegated yarn at a local shop.  The yarn is one that isn’t available around here and I knit a Hitchhiker scarf from it.  I decided that I wanted a cardigan sweater of the same yarn and returned yesterday to the shop to try to purchase it.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough of it to make a sweater, but I did get a worsted weight solid that coordinates beautifully with it.  As soon as the weather is cool enough to sit with the bulk of a sweater body in my lap while knitting, I will make myself a sweater to go with my scarf.

Though it is only mid afternoon, I am tired from my travels and contemplating a short nap.  Life is an adventure!

Suds and Sweets

Nope, not beer, though I have been known to make it too.  I realized that my homecrafted soap was nearly gone and as it takes 3 to 4 weeks to cure, I knew that I was going to have to get brave and make a batch or two on my own without my mentor’s help.  I have made two batches in her kitchen and only one here alone.  I have been procrastinating but realized that if I didn’t get over my reluctance and accept that I am still a novice and it might not be perfect, we were going to run out.  Summer is not a good time to run out of soap.  Sure, I could go to the grocery or the Farmers’ Market and buy some, but that goes against my nature.

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Yesterday, the soap making box was hauled out.  I quickly realized that I didn’t have the exact oils that the recipe I selected called for, but know that you can substitute some.  I quickly forgot rule #1, that in soap making, everything is weighed and I measured out the water for the lye mix in liquid ounces.  I measured the oils by weight though.  The recipe that I selected only filled my good mold about halfway, but I covered it, wrapped it in old towels and put it aside to saponify.  Today, when I pulled it out, it was a bit softer than the soap I made with my mentor, but the 6 bars are curing for use in a month.  Since the recipe only made 6 bars, I resupplied on the oils that I was missing yesterday so that I wouldn’t substitute and followed a new recipe to the letter.  When I added the essential oils to scent it, the soap seized and it is crammed and packed in the molds, covered to saponify.  It won’t be pretty, but it will be soap.

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Batch one curing.

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Batch two about to go under cover to saponify.

Today’s raspberry harvest brought me up to the 4 cups I needed to make jam.  Mind you, I don’t need any more jam, still having blueberry and blackberry left from last year, peach that I made a week ago, but I grew these raspberries and I want to savor them all winter.  So down came the pots and jars, the berries mashed, the sugar added and jam making round two for the season begun.

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Jam cooking while the jars heat beside it.

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Six one cup jars ready to for canning.

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Six jars cooling on the counter, as I listen to the satisfying pop as they cool and seal.

The rest of this year’s harvest of raspberries can be eaten as I pick, put in yogurt, and frozen for treats during the winter.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

Olio – June 18, 2014

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

Pet peeves of the day;

  • the trend of semi fast food restaurants to shout out across the dining area “Welcome to …” each time a patron enters any door of the establishment.  Do they really think that is appealing and welcoming?
  • also in a semi fast food restaurant or even a real restaurant for an employee to walk up to your table and grab the tray/plate before asking if you are finished with it and say, “May I take your …”  One literally tried to take the tray with my husband’s fries on it today while he was still eating them.
  • along the same vein, to be in an establishment and have not only your own server ask how your meal is, but anyone else that works there.  We have been asked at one steak place we patronize as many as 4 or 5 times by that many different people about how our meal/visit was while we are still seated and eating.  Let us enjoy our food in peace.

Today was resupply all the critters feed.  We managed to run out of dog food, cat food, chicken layer and chick starter grower all at the same time.  That was a car full.

On our way home, we stopped at a local greenhouse and bought 4 new Day-lily plants, different from the two that I have and also bought 3 more pepper plants as some of my heirloom starts didn’t grow once put in the garden.  Of course that mean garden work when we got home and it is HOT, HOT, and humid out there today.  Two of the Day-lily plants went in the perennial bed in the front of the house.  The garage wall bed had gotten grossly overgrown with grape iris, the purple ones that smell like grape Kool-aid.

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That is one of 4 huge clusters when they were blooming.  They haven’t been thinned in a few years, they were overrunning the English Daisies, and the bed had gotten weedy as well.  I dug them all out!  I hate to throw them away, but there are too many to replant.  I am going to load them in the tractor bucket and dump them where we don’t mow.  I bet some of them will come up next year and bloom there.  A few of them were moved to a bed by the deck.  The rest of the bed now has the other two Day-lily plants, two lavender plants, some English Daisies, a yellow poppy, three clusters of Dutch Iris plants that I divided from the deck area and on the opposite side of the walkway out of the garage side door, the Bronze fennel.  The bed is weeded, watered, and mulched with spoiled hay until I can get some more shredded mulch to apply to the bed.

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It looks sparse now, but will fill in quickly and have more variety.

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The haying is not going as quickly as we had hoped.  Jeff is trying to do too much at the same time.  They tettered the upper fields yesterday then came back and raked it into rows for baling, but the first bale was too green so they left it to mow the lower field and ran out of fuel. This afternoon the have turned the hay and

hopefully will get it baled this evening as we are due for rain for a few days.

The first batch of mustard is so good, there are 3 batches fermenting now to share. Two are Bavarian style and one is a repeat of the horseradish recipe.
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I think I am going to have to buy some sausages to grill soon.

Raspberries are ripening.  Tonight I harvested about a cup of them and resisted eating them as I picked.  They went into the freezer.  As soon as I have a quart, there will be a raspberry jam making session.

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Life is good on our mountain farm.

A Week on and off the Farm – June 14, 2014

This week, two of our grandchildren celebrated birthdays.  Our eldest, son of our eldest turned 9, our first granddaughter, daughter of our youngest, turned 3.  Though we didn’t actually get to spend their birthday with either of them, they are special.

The garden is growing.  The garlic looks like it is ready to harvest and cure.  Agree?

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I never did make garlic scape pesto.   Oh well, there is always next year as it is a crop we plant annually in quantity to share with our kids.  The peas are or so close to being ready for the first batch of lightly steamed or sauteed fresh peas.  My mouth is watering at the thought.  The raspberry patch is starting to ripen.  It is really going to be a challenge to bring enough in to make jam or smoothies with as I graze as I am in the garden, they are so delicious fresh.

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A few weeks ago, while in Lowes, I purchased two new garden implements, a hoe with a two tine rake on the other end and a loop hoe.  The loop hoe is an okay tool in bare soil.  The other implement bent the very first time I used it and it will be returned to Lowes along with a wire brush they sold us for our new grill that has coated cast iron grates and specifically says DO NOT USE A WIRE BRUSH ON THE GRILL PLATES.  A few days after I purchased them, I received a copy of one of the only two magazines to which I subscribe and they had an article on must have garden tools, one of which is a new Rogue Tool Hoe that has a tapered, sharpened end, flat at the end and a 3 tine rake on the other end.  It is American made, forged and solid.  I ordered one and was notified that they were backordered and it would be several weeks.  I okayed that and two days later, was notified that it shipped.  It is a great tool, well worth the money and the wait.  Used on its side, it cuts right through the weeds.  The end cuts deeper for heavier rooted weeds and the rake grabs even young tap rooted plants and pulls them right up.  The wooden handle is thick and well balanced.  They aren’t paying me or giving me anything, but I highly endorse their products.

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This is the first week of the summer that we have had house guests.  Jim’s cousin and his wife spend Thursday night with us on the way to Pennsylvania to pick up his youngest son from college and will spend tonight with us on their way home to Georgia.  They brought us two bags of Georgia peaches to enjoy along with pecans and a lovely loaf of bread.  Some of the peaches were very ripe and after they left yesterday morning to finish their trip north, I prepared about half of them for peach jam.

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In 25 or more years of making jam and jelly, this was my first experience with peaches and it didn’t set up properly.  Last evening, we went to town to purchase more fresh pectic, new lids and while there, I bought another case of 1 cup jelly jars and reprocessed it last night with a bit more lemon juice and a new package of pectin.  It turned out perfectly and they will get to take a jar home with them tomorrow along with a couple of jars of berry jams from last season, some of the cured garlic still left from last year and a dozen of my fresh eggs to enjoy once they are home.

I subscribe to a delightful magazine called taproot.  It comes out 4 times a year, contains no advertisements, often contains a gift, such as a small notebook or some notecards with artwork from one of their many artist contributors.  It always has wonderful recipes, craft ideas and generally a knit, crochet or sewing pattern in it.  This issue has infused vinegars and three fermented mustard recipes that I want to try.  Today while making a vinaigrette from it for our salad tonight, since I already had the small blender out, I made the Horseradish mustard to sit and ferment for three days before adding in the last two ingredients.  Once it is completed, I will divide it into 4 oz jars and share the finished product with our kids that want to try it. (It tasted delicious even without the fermentation and last two ingredients, so I bet it is going to be great.)

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There are two more recipes for other mustards in the magazine, but I bet it will be hard to beat this one.

I must have been born in the wrong century.  I love preserving, growing a garden, spinning yarn, knitting, and cooking from fresh ingredients.  As we await their return for the night, I am preparing a meal of roasted radishes, turnips, yellow squash, garlic, spring onions, rosemary from our garden and the Farmers’ Market.  Local grass finished beef kabobs with Monterey seasoning that I make.  Shrimp with mustard basil marinade.  Salad with local vegetables added and the vinaigrette from taproot magazine with fresh from my garden thyme.

Life is good here on our mountain farm.

 

 

Creative in the kitchen

This morning was thick and gray and so was my mood.  I don’t know why, but I just lacked all motivation to do anything or make any decisions.  I didn’t want to decide even on breakfast.  Usually, I cook eggs or make oatmeal or grits.  Even making coffee was a challenge.  Rummaging around looking for something easy, I found a bit of plain yogurt that was nearing its expiry date, some strawberries that we bought on Saturday at the Farmers Market that looked like they wouldn’t last much longer, some bananas that are getting a bit ripe.  Not wanting to throw any of this out, a smoothie seemed the solution.  To the banana, strawberries, and yogurt, I added a tablespoon of peanut butter for protein, a half tablespoon each of Chia seed and ground flax seed for omegas and fiber and whirred it up in the magic bullet.

A quick nutritious breakfast.  What is your favorite or most creative smoothie?

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Food and Fun

Today was the Spunster, my spinning group’s annual Spin In and Potluck located in a beautiful valley in our mountains at the home of our delightful hostess and host.  We get to sit around and spin on the lovely porches, socialize, and eat and our significant others are encouraged to participate with us for this event.  An afternoon of crafting, walking the woods, touring their business, Strauch Fiber Equipment (http://www.strauchfiber.com/) and enjoying the delicious food contributions.

Today, I contributed two salad favorites.

Ranch Pasta & Potato Salad

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  • 6 small Red Potatoes with skins on cubed 1/2″
  • 6 oz spiral pasta (approx 2 c) {Gluten free is fine}
  • 1/2 c chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 c chopped green onion, bulb and stem
  • 8 slices bacon cooked crisp and chopped
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1/2 c Ranch dressing (I use the light version)

Boil the potatoes for 3-4 minutes, add pasta and cook about 9 minutes til pasta is soft cooked (not al dente). Rinse with cold water and drain well.  Toss with chopped vegetables.  Blend dressing and toss into salad with bacon.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

This makes about 8-9 cups of salad.  I got this recipe from my daughter, who got it from a friend, who got it from ????  I have seen variations of it on the internet, so I don’t know where to give credit.

My other contribution was:

Three Bean Salad

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I think this one came off a can of beans many years ago, maybe…

  • 1 each 15 oz can of Red Kidney, Cannelini, and Garbanzo beans
  • 3 c chopped vegetables ( I use the other half of the red bell pepper, carrot, onion)
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1/3 c wine vinegar or Apple cider vinegar
  • 2 finely minced gloves of garlic
  • 1/2-1 tsp Italian Seasoning (I don’t buy mixed seasoning, so I use basil, oregano, thyme, parsley)
  • 2 Tbs Parmesan cheese

Drain beans and combine with chopped vegetables.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Blend Olive oil, vinegar and herbs well in blender or with wand blender and pour over bean mixture.  Stir and chill several hours.

This makes about 7 cups of salad.

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There was a lot of yarn spun, some knitting done, much eating, socializing and a beer or two consumed.  It was a delightful afternoon with a wonderful group of friends.

Kitchen mishaps

We have all had them, right?  The burned toast or worse, empty pan on the hot burner.  If you own a microwave, you learn that bags must be pierced with a hole to release steam, lids must be loosened.  But sometimes our mind wanders or is on other “more important” issues and we have a kitchen mishaps.  I started my day with one, triggering this post.

A decade or so ago, I was still working and had to be at work by 7 a.m., yes, I know that is early and I never wanted to eat that early, so I began a routine of taking something that could be warmed in the microwave for my breakfast.  Usually that was a pair of boiled eggs and a chunk of cheese.  The eggs were chopped and warmed slightly as I don’t care for them cold from the fridge.  Last night I wanted a hard cooked egg with our cold Mediterranean supper and salad.  Since I raise chickens for eggs, the eggs are fresh and don’t peel well when boiled, but do beautifully when steamed, but it takes much longer to cook them that way and since I set up the steamer, I decided to cook a couple extra for breakfast.  This morning, without thinking, I popped the bowl with two peeled hard cooked eggs in the microwave for less than a minute.  I forgot to cut them in half first and was busy cutting cheese when POW, one egg all over the inside of the microwave.  Quickly I turned it off, removed the bowl and began the cleanup so it wouldn’t harden, leaving the second egg in the bowl on the counter.  Once the microwave was cleaned, I turned to chop the what should be the now cooled second egg and as soon as I cut into it, it too exploded, not quite as bad, leaving most of it still in the bowl.  The kitchen is cleaned up and I will remember next time to cut the eggs in half or prechop and only warm for 30 seconds.

This brought back memories of other kitchen mishaps.  The time I was making a hot salsa that I had learned about by watching the housekeeper/cook when visiting Mexico a decade ago.  It requires that the hot ingredients be placed in a blender and blended, adding a few other ingredients later.  I forgot to put the lid on the blender and had hot salsa on the walls, floor and ceiling of the kitchen.

Or the time I went to pour boiling water from the tea kettle over my tea in a mug not realizing the water had been boiling longer than I thought and it perked and spewed out all over my Color Nook, ruining it.
What is you most disastrous kitchen mishap?
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“Uncle” already

Will it never end?  Winter that is.  The predicted winter storm has already started, several hours before anticipated and it did not start as rain as predicted, but rather a slushy mix of precipitation.

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When I went over to check egg production progess for the day, I don’t want them to freeze as the temperature falls, this is where I found all of the hens.  Huddled under the coop wondering when this cold white stuff is ever going to end.  At least with the lengthening days, their production is up a bit, getting an average of 6 per day instead of the 4 from mid winter.

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The newbies are now a week and a day old and are starting to show signs of tail and wing feathers.  The more feathers they grow, the less I worry about the loss of power killing their heat lamp.

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I didn’t get around to my laundry and dishwasher detergent making session a couple of weeks ago, just made my lotion bars, but this morning, I realized that I was seriously low on laundry soap and out of dishwasher detergent, so I pulled out the recipes and went to work.  I was surprised and pleased after finishing it and calculating the cost, to find that it will cost me less than $.06 per load for laundry and about $.07 per load for the dishwasher.  Since I make my own soap, I know what goes into it and added to it only washing soda, baking soda, and borax for the laundry powder, I have an economical product that lacks any of the sketchy ingredients and it is safe for the front loading HE washer.  The dishwashing powder costs slightly more per load as the citric acid is a tad pricey, but that mix is only borax, washing soda, citric acid and salt, again an economical product without the sketchy ingredients and safe for the dishwasher and the septic tank.  Yes, the process takes about 10 minutes because I have to hand grate the bar soap, but I have a huge jar stored on the mudroom shelf, plus a small container on the washer and one to take to my son next month and I only made half of the recipe.

As the temperature is falling, the stew is simmering, I’m going to light the woodstove and fireplace and sit back and see if I can finish the second sleeve of my Estelle sweater that I am knitting of Quince and Co. Lark yarn.

I can’t spin as I packed up my wheel and shipped her off to her new home in Michigan and my new one won’t be in until late in the week.

Life is an adventure on our mountain farm.

 

 

The Sitter

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Several times each academic year,  she travels 4 hours northeast to have quality time with the eldest grandson. He is an active 8 year old, she has two score and 18 on him, but young at heart. Her primary purpose is to provide daycare on his non school days when his parents both have school and/or work. She supervises his homework and guitar practice on those days and gets to enjoy one on one time as well.

Often, an outting or two is planned, weather permitting, the winter being the most difficult to find things to do. His house is less than a mile from the Metro train into Washington, but the temperature is too cold to endure the walk and finding parking there is nearly impossible as it is a terminal commuter station. She seeks alternative activities. 

Today he went roller skating with his School Age Child Care Program, thus giving  her half a day of solo time. Time spent helping out the family with some household chores, buying a few groceries to have the rest of the ingredients for chicken enchiladas for dinner, utilizing some of the meat that her son helped put in the freezer last spring or fall.

Tomorrow, they will either brave the cold, though somewhat warmer and visit one of the Smithsonian museums on the mall or brave the traffic and visit the Space Museum near Dulles.

Family time will be enjoyed Saturday and she will return to her hubby and the farm life on Sunday.

What Do You Do When It Is Subfreezing Temperatures?

We are warm and cozy indoors, the thermostat is set at 68f, but that is not what it is like outdoors.  This is what it is:

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It is still gusty wind, so the wind chill makes it too uncomfortable to go play in the snow.  Let me qualify that and state that I have played in the snow, on skis at that temperature, wearing lots of windproof and waterproof layers, but I don’t want to put on ski clothes to take a walk, so until the sun warms things up to the upper teens and the wind dies down, I’ll stay inside and …

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Start http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/zuzus-petals, a cowl out of Mountain Colors Bearfoot yarn in Lupine color for me.

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Make chili, enough for lunch and 2 quarts for the freezer.  Actually, I spent yesterday while it was snowing making this, starting with dry beans, my small crockpot, lots of onions, jalapenos, garlic, and tomatoes from last summer’s garden and a pound of grass finished ground beef from the farmer’s market.

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Collect and admire the hen gems, admiring the variation of color and size that the hens produce.  I need to enjoy this now, because come spring, I will be replacing many of the hens with more Buff Orpingtons and the variation will cease, but the flock will be self sustaining.  The collecting process involves layering scarf, hat, gloves, barn jacket and barn boots several times a day as eggs freeze and crack at these temperatures more quickly than you would believe.

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The pretty tan birds are the Buffs and again they are in their coop, refusing to step out into the snow and the cold.  The Oliver Egger, my Houdini finally peeked out and I learned how she has been escaping, chased her back in and sealed up her escape hole.  If she gets caught outside the fence with no way back in, she will likely end up with frostbite or dead.

The dogs and I enjoyed some of their gifts for breakfast.

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And read of course.  The current book is The Bloodletter’s Daughter (A Novel of Old Bohemia) by Linda Lafferty.  An interesting historical fiction, set toward the end of the Ottoman Empire, utilizing authentic locations and some characters but playing more on their insanity that history truly reveals.

So how do you spend shut in days?