Saturday, July 30, 2011

A visit cut short

Adam told me he was going to be out for a while on a tow so I took the opportunity to go visit a couple people I had been meaning to visit. One is a neighbor that wasn't doing too well the last time I saw her and the other was Grandma Sutton. I took them some banana chocolate chip bread. The one neighbor wasn't home so I left the bread with her husband and Grandma Sutton wasn't feeling very well and wasn't really feeling up to visiting so I didn't stay long. Since I had more time than I anticipated after my visits, I decided to take some pictures before I went and did some grocery shopping.

Her garden is producing all kinds of yummy looking stuff.

And her lowers are amazing!

Her house is on the back side of the stables and in front of her garden is the pasture the arena they use for the horses. This is the view from her porch.

Walking around the other side of the stables, there is the original office building. It looks like it hasn't been used in years but the flowers were gorgeous there...I think it must be Grandma Sutton's doing.






I had never been inside the stables before. The stable probably has about 30-40 stalls but it is dying and only has about 5 horses being boarded there now. This beauty was scared by me.

At one point, this stables was bustling with activity. I remember when I first moved down here, we always had people riding their horses through the neighborhood since the stables is right outside the entrance. The ribbons, silver plates and flowers were from the 80's, as far as I could read, but even some of them were faded into white.

Grandma Sutton sent me away with 4 more cucumbers. Another neighbor gave me some cherry tomatoes, regular tomatoes and peaches from her garden on Sunday. We truly are blessed with sharing friends.

To celebrate my day in the "country", I made a country dinner. Country fried pork, mashed potatoes, country gravy and some of our fresh produce. Good dinner...and one of Adam's favorites.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My special bbq sauce

When we were living in Idaho, we went to a rib shack. On the table, they had 7 different bbq sauces to use. We tried them all and there was one that blew my socks off. It was called Carolina sauce. I could taste the vinegar and it went perfectly with the meat. It was then that I realized that I do love vinegar. I have looked and have not seen any Carolina sauces sold in the stores here so I found a recipe on food.com and gave it a whirl.

It's not perfect. The one at the rib place had a more vinegarry flavor than this one but it is still definitely my preferred bbq sauce. I think if I cut back on the sugar some, the vinegar flavor will come out stronger. I will try that next time.

One of my favorite dinners is chicken and steamed veggies topped with the Carolina sauce.

Big Daddy's Carolina Style BBQ Sauce



1 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 -2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon liquid smoke (hickory flavoring)

Directions:

1 Mix all except soy, butter and smoke. Simmer 30 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 more minutes. Vinegar taste may be very strong until completely cooled. Refrigerating overnight is best and allows flavors to blend.


2 Add a few drops of Louisiana Hot Sauce at the end if additional heat is desired.


On etime I was in a rush and so boiled the sauce instead of simmering...don't do that. I turns into caramel and isn't so good.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Like magic

What if I told you you could take all the excess veggies from your garden and preserve it all without ever having to turn on the stove and heating your house? Sounds too good to be true? Well, it doesn't have to be...although you might need a root cellar with how much space it would all take up, or a second fridge.

What is this magical proccess that would allow you to not have to can any veggies? I have talked about it before and I will talk about it again. It's been such an amazing discovery for me, for my digestive tract, that I need to keep telling others.

I first started doing this as just another experiment in a long list of "old world" ways of doing things that I wanted to try.

It's called lacto-fermenting. The easiest way to describe it is that you are inoculating food with probiotics which also preserves the food...magically. The Greek word for this was alchemy. "Like the fermentation of dairy products, preservation of vegetables and fruit by the proccess of lactofermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibitotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps fruits and vegetables and fruit in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine." (from the book "Nourishing Tradition")

There are limitations to this proccess though. Fruit can only be kept this way for about 2 months because the sugars in the fruit eventually will turn alcoholic. Some have claimed that their veggies are still just as edible after one year so it's a longer term storage for veggies but not fruit. If you recall, my favorite lactofermented food so far is mango chutney. Delicious!! It didn't last two months because I ate it all so no worries there.

Unlike canning, you can do either large or small batches. You can do a single pint jar or a large crock full with 20 jars worth of sauerkraut all at once (without heating your house up, remember).

It's a very simple proccess. In a nutshell, you chop up your veggies, put into container (usually a jar), add spices, mix whey with filtered water and salt, pour water mixture over veggies (making sure the water is higer than the level of the beggies and seal the jar. Leave it on the counter for 2-4 days before putting into cold storage. Cold storage is either the fridge or a root cellar. I don't have a root cellar so I am pretty limited on how many jars of fermented foods I can have going on at once. I have half the bottom shelf reserved for them and part of another shelf. Once I have my root cellar though, I can make as much of whatever I want.

The two most important parts are the whey and salt. I make my own whey. I empty a container of plain yogurt into some cheese cloth and hang that to drain the liquid out. The leftover solids is now very close to cream cheese and the liquid (which is quite yellow) is the whey. The salt is used to keep putrification at bay until enough lactic acid is produced to keep the bacteria away by itself. You should use sea salt or some other salt that hasn't been iodided. (And when it's called for, you should use filtered water because the chlorine in water straight from the tap can kill the good bacteria.)

Bubbling food is nothing to be concerned about during this process. It stops bubbling when the fermentation levels off. Sauerkraut can be eaten after the first few days but imrpoves over time, becomes more mellow flavored. Some say the optimum time is 6 months. I gave a jar of sauerkraut to my SIL recently and while we were visiting, it was sitting on the table. After a few minutes, bubbles started escaping out under the lid and my SIL looked at me like I was trying to poison her. lol...it's ok. It's all part of the process.

When I buy ginger, I am buying it for just one recipe so inevitably, the rest of the ginger ends up going bad in the fridge. But with this method, that doesn't happen anymore. I just cut it up, put it in a jar with the water solution and I use that when a recipe calls for fresh ginger. Little costs like that can add up so this can save you a bit of money as well.

If you are interested in learning more about it there are a couple books I would reccomend: "Nourishing Traditions" and "The Wild Fermentation".

In the months I've been making these, I haven't shared a single recipe with you. So here's my favorite, Mango chutney.




3 cups firm mango, peeled and cubed
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into a julienne
1 small onion, chopped
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped (optional)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, cut into pieces (I didn't use that so I can't say how it tastes with that)
1/8 cupe sugar or honey
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup whey
1/2 cup filtered water

Mix mango with ginger, peppers, onion, mint and cilantro and place in a quart sized, wide mouth mason jar. (I followed this recipe and ended up with the three jars instead of just one.) Press down lightly with a wooden poubder or a meat hammer. Mix remaining ingredients and pour into jar, adding more water if necessary to cover the fruit. (I ended up having to make up a lot more water mixture to accomodate the three jars instead of one.) The chutney should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature for 2 days before transferring to fridge. This should be eaten within 2 months.

It's really simple, really. Give it a shot and see how your body responds to it. I didn't know what I was getting into when I started but I am glad I stumbled upon it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

corned beef

I made a slab of corned beef last week. I had two different recipes and wasn't sure whch to use but the instructions seemed more clear in the one from Nourishing Traditions (my favorite cook book). I did, however, deviate from it on a couple of steps.

I just loved the colors of the spice mix I made for it. The purple things are juniper berries that I foraged last October. I used all I had left so I need to go get more.

This recipe calls for whey. The whey is the liquid left over from draining yogurt. It keeps in the fridge for a few months (the whey, not the meat).

1 2-pound beef brisket, frozen 14 days and thawed
1/2 cup whey
1 cup filtered water
2 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
4-5 bay leaves, crumbled
1 Tbsp juniper berries, crushed
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix seasonings and rub into both sides of brisket. Place in a bowl that just contains it. Mix whey with water and pour over brisket. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 2 days, turning frequently. Transfer to refrigerator.

Now, here's how I veered from the recipe. I marinated it in the fridge for 10-11 days. Then, instead of eating it raw like this suggests, I cooked it according to the other recipe I looked at. I am just not brave enough to leave meat at room temperature for 2 days...veggies and fruit, yes, but I'm just not there with meat. ..and eating raw meat...just isn't going to happen.

When Adam found out what I was doing and how long it was taking, he asked me, "Is it worth all that work?" Really, just because it takes 10 days to marinade doesn't mean it takes much work, it really doesn't. You mess with it for 2-3 minutes a day and that's it. It is good but not earth shattering good. I will make it again though. It's very good in sandwiches.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pioneer day photo shoot (or getting my geek on)

Yes, I am a geek, just the sci fi type. My inner geek is all about pioneers! I cobbled a pioneer costume together to wear to dinner yesterday. We had dinner at my in laws wth 2 missionaries, 2 neighbors and a family friend. I brought my camera with me and asked Lanette to take a pic or two of me in my costume. It was quite bright out when we started cooking but by the time dinner was over and things were cleaned up, it had gotten a bit dimmer, especially under the porch eave which is where the majority of the picture were taken. This actually ended up working really well because anything that was moving was a bit blurry which is more realistic for photos from the pioneers' day.

Well, instead of just a couple pics, it turned into a photo shoot using their antiques as props. So many of the antiques belonged to Barry's father or grandfather and have all been taken care of very well through the years and most are all still useable though some see more use than others.

My cosume is not perfect by any means. The shirt is all wrong, not even long sleeved but it was what I had on hand. There's another high collared shrt underneath it with a hand crocheted trim but the bonnet ties are ni the way so you can't really see it. I need some kind of brooch for it, I think. The bonnet and apron are both pretty old and handmade. The skirt and petticoat, which you can't see, are both from Lannette (given to me at different times). She doesn't know where she got them but they are both homemade as well. I am also wearing black tights and my pioneer shoes. It did end up getting pretty steamy inside my costume but it was FUN so I wasn't worried about it too much. I did need a tall glass of ice water when we were done though. I don't think too many pioneers had access to ice so I was definitely a lucky pioneer.

We set up one area, then cleaned up and moved onto the next so there wasn't a whole lot of clean up at the end. She took a few pictures in color then switched to black and white which I really like.

Here I am setting up the washer before we got started.



This is actually my stove. It came from our first house. It was sitting in the backyard. We didn't have anywhere for it, not even a covered porch so we gave it to Barry. It has held a place of honor on his covered porch since then...but he's ready to give it up now. I just have to make a place for it and it will be coming back home with me!! The lantern was his grandfater's, the sad iron and kettle were his grandma's. I believe the cast iron pot was her's as well.





LaWanda came over with some home grown cherry tomatoes and peaches for me so I added them to the pot. lol


This wheelbarrow is one that Barry says he and his older sister used to sit in and get toted around the yard. He says it hasn't changed much since then...it was always old.



I was trying to look haggard...not sure it looks haggard but it makes me laugh!



Their side driveway has some gravel (no cement) so we chose that for pics depicting someone walking to town to seel their chicken eggs.



Ok, I also did my hair but the bonnet was on in the rest of the pics so I had to get at least one pic without it on. You can't see much of my hair in this pic but I was also trying really hard to get the look that you see on the pioneer's faces in old pictures.



This washing machine (completely hand powered) runs so smooth (except for while getting it started) that I can't believe that it's nearly 100 years old. His father fixed it up like new in the 50's. He did an amazing job. I was really getting into the rythym of it all.



Then, I got to use the wringer...it still works too.





And my last chore was to churn the butter. I read that they often sang to keep a constant beat of the paddle. So I started singing. lol...but then I was told I had to stop because I was getting really weird faces in the pics.




Then, it was over. Did I mention we had a lot of fun!? We both laughed a lot. We laughed even more when we looked through the pics and saw all my weird faces. I kept most of them out of here but there are a few.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

why I love my clothesline

In my younger years, we had a clothesline some of the time. I can't say if I recalled complaining hen I had to help or not. Mom, did I? I do remember always liking the looks of it. In fact, I have a vivid memory of standing in the bathroom and the curtains blowing in the muggy breeze. The clothes on the line were in full view and they too were flapping back and forth. To me, it is peaceful, natural, attractive. I know there are some people that don't like clotheslines because either they don't like the feel of line dried clothes or they think it looks like white trash...I don't care about them. I love my line. I love to see the clothes displayed, to see them flapping in the breeze, to smell them after they've been airing out all day in the fresh air. Before we put up the line early this line, I was hanging them up inside and didn't get the same joy seeing them hanging in the laundry room with artificial light. How could you not find joy in this simple pleasure??!








Friday, July 22, 2011

foraging and the unwelcome harvest


The sun is shining bright and the temps are rising...not unlike other parts of the country. But I remembered about all those juicy blackberries on the vine on my last bike ride. I had forgotten about them after I injured myself and hadn't been on a real ride in 3 weeks. Sadly, that season has passed but I gave it my best effort. I came across these two places on the way back from one of my foraging excursions. Someone's clothesline and really cool garden structure...and the other pic is of a large pond in someone's front yard, across the street from the other house.




I had seen this apple tree in a small, empty field. It is sandwiched between a new subdivision and an older one. Both are fenced and for whatever reason, this lone tree was secluded. I got really yummy apples from it last fall. This year they are falling off before they are ripe and they're not looking so hot. I was sad because I miss apples and was looking forward to these.

I collected the better looking ones for making vinegar. Crossing my fingers I can get it to work this time.

I also went in search of blueberries. Most are not ripe yet and when they are, the birds take off with them so I got a load of almost ripe ones. They are still really good.

This is my sad little picking of black berries. I was really looking forward to making black berry jam form them but there's not enough for one jar even.

In total, I got 2 lbs of apples, 1.5 ounces of blackberries and 1.5 lbs of blueberries.

My unwelcome harvest came from the blueberry picking...chigger bites.

So much better than last year. I had about 60-70 bites last year and only 20 this year which is making life much more bearable this go round. I can wear shoes and walk the dogs...it's not really hampering my daily life. They do get really swollen and itchy from time to time but it's not a constant. Thank goodness for small miracles. I am definitely counting my blessings on this one!

2nd try at vinegar

I found some apples in a field. They had already fallen off the tree and had lots of deformity and holes pecked in them. Also, being this early, they aren't ripe. But I decided they would be good for trying my hand again at making vinegar. This time, they're staying in my kitchen instead of the garage so I can keep an eye on them and not forget about them...at least until the smell gets too strong.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

peanut butter filled cookies

Though Adam doesn't like chocolate cookies, I was craving some a few weeks back so I made some anyway. He wasn't excited about it but when he tasted it, he said they were good and has since requested them so I know this one is a keeper. :o)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies




1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus more for rolling)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup creamy peanut butter, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 egg

3/4 cup powdered sugar


1. Preheat oven to 375ยบ F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.


2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.


3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together sugars, butter and 1/4 cup of peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg, beating to combine. Stir in the flour mixture and stir to combine, blending well. Set aside.


4. In a medium bowl, mix together powdered sugar and remaining 3/4 cup of peanut butter until smooth.


5. Pull off a heaping tablespoon of cookie dough and flatten with your hands. Take about 1 teaspoon of peanut butter mixture and place it in the center of the chocolate dough. Wrap the chocolate dough around the peanut butter center, pressing to seal. Roll the cookie into a ball and roll the cookie in the sugar. Place cookies on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten each cookie to about a 1/2 inch thickness.6. Bake in preheated oven for 7 to 9 minutes. Let stand on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

garden progress

Last night, we went to the garden again to do another few rows of weeding. By the time we finish with the weeding, it will be time to start again. Lots of work. I have about 50 misquito bites on my arms from gardening and building the dog barn. I am getting sick of misquitos but I have to put up with it...there's no choice. Maybe I'll get smart enough to remember my long sleeved shirt next time.

We actually have blooms on some of the beans and the canteloupe plants. So exciting!

Here's the part we have to come back and weed.


This is the section we weeded last night.


This is the section we weeded last Thursday. I was happy to see that the weeds haven't completly taken over already.




It's like a real garden and I can't tell you how cool that is to me!!
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