Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I remembered reading about dehydrating sour dough starter back when I first began using it regularly again. I had since forgotten where the information was on it so a few weeks ago I asked some net friends about it. After following instructions given to me, I have since dehydrated all of my starter and now use powdered starter for all my needs. It is much less mess, and for me much easier to remember to make into the sponge for baking needs. I can mix up the powder, let it sit and not think of it again until I am ready to create something. I do not have to worry about bringing the starter to room temp, mixing the sponge and then adding to the starter. I also know that I have approximately 60 recipes that can be made from one jar. It will be easy to know when I need to dehydrate more and that it too can be made from the powdered starter. The powder makes it much easier to store long term or to mail to friends or even take on camping trips to use while there.
When I dehydrated my starter, I made it very thick first so that I could spread it like a thick paste onto my drying sheets. I simply used large cookie sheets with plastic wrap covering them and then smeared the starter on the cookie sheer to about a 1/4 inch thick. I also tried wax paper but, again, that stuck to the end product and was not fun to peel off. I slid my trays under the wood stove and allowed them to dry slowly over the next couple days. Once dry, I put the pieces in to the food processor, ground them into flakes and put in to airtight containers for storage.
To use them, put one tablespoon of flakes with one tablespoon warm water to dissolve.Then stir in 1 cup room temp water and 1 and 1/4 cups flour and mix well. The end result should be like pancake batter. Cover lightly (not air-tight) and leave out on counter. Allow to sit for 24-48 hours. You should see the normal bubbles covering the surface and the volume will have increased slightly as well. This is your working, fed sponge so use it as you would in any sour dough recipe.
Monday, December 27, 2010
It has been snowing here for three days straight here! Mind you, it is not a snow of three inches an hour so our total is only about ten inches or so but it is still enough to keep us snow bound here in the South.
On Christmas morning we awoke to nothing and were a little saddened by the lack of snow. Just before day break however, it started to fall and within an hour or so the ground was covered. The Christmas day snows were very heavy and wet so it laid on the trees nicely and made perfect snow balls. Manthing and I took a nice walk in the morning, and built a big ol snowfeller in the afternoon between feasting sessions. Unfortunately, immediately after the picture taking session, the dogs knocked him over dead.
I do not cook on Christmas Eve, or Christmas day. We instead have easy to make and eat finger foods of various sorts. Even though we do not exchange gifts or make a big deal of the holidays, I am still not going to ruin them by becoming a slave to the kitchen. This year we had cinnamon rolls, crackers, cheeses, ham, cheese balls, cookies and confections. I usually make a Waldorf salad and a veggie tray too but with just us it seems a little much.
Just as it was getting dark , the power went out and stayed out until the middle of the night. We cranked up the candles and played us a game of scrabble before going to bed. It was one of the nicest Christmas days that I can remember and one of the prettiest too.
The snow continued lightly all day yesterday adding another few inches of light fluffy snow on top of the heavy wet snow. It is very pretty but is working on dangerous as the heavy wet once walked or driven on turned to slush then refroze. The road in front of us has about an inch of ice covering it and is barely passable even in a four wheel drive. After writing to an Atlanta news channel about our weather and having no travel advisories for our area all day yesterday another county resident wrote to say that they had called the county about it and were told there was no sand n salt to do anything with the roads. It is very likely that it will be the end of the week before being able to make it to the main highway and who knows how long before our driveway will be passable. It is all good though, we are enjoying it all! Maybe a little too much perhaps but hey... they are calling for 50-60 for New Years and we really have no where that we need to go. The picture below are the neighbors grandies enjoying their first white Christmas. Our hill is a slick sheet of ice because of it but they were sure having fun. They were flying!
Here are a couple short videos from being out and about in our snow. I made a longer one however uploading them has been an issue the last couple days. I think everyone is uploading weather videos. Hard to believe its Ga in the first one! Here is a link to some more of our winter photos. You do NOT have to be a facebook member to see them.
Friday, December 24, 2010
'Twas the night before Christmas & out on the ranch
The pond was froze over & so was each branch.
The snow was piled up belly-deep to a mule.
The kids were all home on vacation from school,
And happier young folks you never did see-
Just all sprawled around a-playing their Wii.
Then suddenly, some time around 8 o'clock ,
There came a surprise that gave them a shock!
The power went off, the TV went dead!
When Grandpa came in from out in the shed
With an armload of wood, the house was all dark.
"Just what I expected," they heard him remark.
"Them power line wires must be down from the snow.
Seems sorter like times on the ranch long ago."
"I'll hunt up some candles," said Mom. "With their light,
And the fireplace, I reckon we'll make out all right."
The teenagers all seemed enveloped in gloom.
Then Grandpa came back from a trip to his room,
Uncased his old fiddle & started to play
Some old Christmas songs the ole' fashioned way.
Mom started to sing, & 1st thing they knew
Both Pop & the kids were all singing them, too.
They sang Christmas carols, they sang "Holy Night,"
Their eyes all a-shine in the warm firelight.
They played some charades Mom recalled from her youth,
And Pop read a passage from God's Book of Truth.
They stayed up til' midnight--and, would you believe,
The youngsters agreed 'twas a fine Christmas Eve!
Grandpa rose early, some time before dawn;
And when the kids wakened, the power was on..
"The power company sure got the line repaired quick,"
Said Grandpa - & no one suspected his trick.
Last night, for the sake of some REAL Christmas fun,
Gramps pulled the main switch - the old Son-of-a-Gun!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
I followed the recipe from the Blind Pig with the exception of the maple flavoring and the corn syrup. I do not like maple anything except for pure syrup so instead used vanilla. I do not buy corn syrup either, so instead used a recipe for a corn syrup substitute.
corn syrup substitute
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. cream of tarter
dash of salt
Combine all ingredients in a pan. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and put a cover on for 3 minutes to get sugar crystals off the sides of the pan. Uncover and cook until it reaches soft ball stage. Stir often. Cool syrup and store in a covered container at room temperature. It will keep 2 months.
Seaside candy roll
1 cup pecans
1/3 cup margarine
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound powdered sugar (4 1/2 cups)
Chop 1/2 cup of the pecans finely and 1/2 cup coarsely. Mix together margarine, corn syrup, maple flavoring and salt. Start adding powdered sugar a cup or so at a time. Mix well, when too stiff, turn out and knead the rest of the ingredients into the dough, reserving the coarsely chopped pecans for outside coating. Once the mixture is smooth-divide it in half; roll/shape each half into a roll 2 inches thick. Brush rolls with additional corn syrup. Roll in coarsely chopped nuts; wrap in wax paper or foil and chill; slice into 1/4 inch pieces before serving.
These are very very sweet and quite tasty although not quite the same as what I remember. After doing a bit of a search I believe that the Stuckey's logs are made from a different type of nougat. It is a bit more detailed and lengthy process than these are but for those interested here is the recipe.
I have been on a fruit leather making kick as of late. It is soooooooo easy to make and it is cleaning out the freezer a bit to make room for some meat to go in there. We were recently going to purchase a side of beef until I had a look see in the freezer and figured we could perhaps fit 20 pounds of meat in, certainly not enough space for half of a steer.
Making leather is a great way to use up some of the many fruits I have frozen that otherwise would likely be forgotten about until next summer when I need room for more fruit and veg. It is not that we do not like our fruit, I just forget about it because of the old, out of sight out of mind thing. The canned jellies, syrups, jams, pie filling and fruit are all on shelves so we use them regularly but the frozen stuff gets forgotten. The leathers will make a nice and healthy addition to the manthings lunches and a great snack to have around the house too.
We only have a solar dehydrator here, but I have learned over time that underneath the wood stove is a great place to put trays of fruits and veggies to dehydrate them in the winter. It does not get too warm but provides a nice steady supply of low heat that does a great job of drying and is as quick as a commercial made dehydrator and its free! Before trying this at home, check and see how warm it is under your stove, for all I know you may be able to roast a turkey under yours.
When I make the leathers, I use frozen fruit. I simply thaw and puree in a food processor or blender.The consistency I like, resembles a thick applesauce. If it is too thin I strain it through a strainer bag for a spell. I use no sweeteners in mine though some folks do. I then spread it on a plastic wrap lined cookie sheet to about 1/4 inch thick and place under the stove on bricks. I would not suggest using wax paper, mine stuck to the leather and was tough to get off. Within 24 hours or so I have a nice sheet of leather. I like to rip mine up like jerky and throw in a jar to just grab as needed. You can also roll the sheet either in the wrap or cut in sections, roll and then wrap. It is just a matter of preference. Ours are not meant for long term storage but they can be vacuum sealed and stored like any other product for long term.
I have not tried any of these additions as yet but thought some of them were pretty neat ideas. I really like the idea of the whirled up squash in order to stretch the amount of fruits.
- finely chop nuts to add to the fruit puree.
- adult-flavored fruit leathers, small amounts of fruit brandy or liqueurs (or nut liqueurs) can be added to the puree.
- unflavored (or vanilla) yogurt with a fruit puree.
- add zuchinni 50/50 to the puree for increased yield. The squash picks up the flavor of the fruit while having no flavor of its own
- leave bits and chunks of fruit in the puree
- add spices to the puree to enhance flavor
Monday, December 20, 2010
Yippy! I finally have a two week break from school! I do not think I have been so excited about a vacation to no where in about 35 years to be quite honest. This semester,I am taking a psychology course. And while I love studying and watching people, I have no real interest in studying it and find it to be quite ludicrous to spend an entire semester doing so. That said, my lack of interest and not caring for the teaching style of the professor, it has made the last 3 weeks of life seem like hell.
The weather here has taken a turn for the better, at least for a couple of days. We are now seeing 40s during the day which is much better than what we have been having. The cabbages and the veggies in the greenhouse seem to be holding up quite well despite the extreme temperatures we have had so early in the season.
Although I have not written much in the last couple of weeks, I have been busy and taking pictures so that I can post about what we have been up to. Over the next couple weeks I will probably be posting more than I have been recently because I will have more time. Although, I did sign up to take an online small business class and business writing class over my break so spare time will still be limited. I have ideas and want to try some of them out but to do that I need to know more about business, planning, and so on before doing so. If I do not move on my ideas now, I will again sweep them to the back of my mind with it nagging me for another year until I have time again.This has been something I have been pushing back for many years, it's time to quit procrastinating.
Today, to begin my break, I have to do a load or two of laundry, wash dishes, make some bread and cookies and go fetch drinking water. What a relaxing way to start vacation... Tonight, I am hoping to catch the eclipse but the weather man is saying clouds and freezing rain. For those that celebrate, Happy Solstice!
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Harvested several of the cabbage this morning as we have another cold spell fixin to move in. This one is supposed to be even colder than the last so I wanted to get at least some of the cabbage in that we knew was near ready. Pulled some turnips and carrots while the ground was frost free and gave many of the greens in the greenhouse a hair cut so they are easier to cover on the super cold nights.
Friday, December 10, 2010
She got an early present and learned she was going to be having a baby brother in May. She was so happy she did a little dance...
1/4 cup softened butter
1 1/4 cups smooth peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups old fashioned or quick oats, uncooked
Mix all ingredients thoroughly and form dough into ping pong size balls. Place on cookie sheet and squish them down with a fork and bake. For wood stove cooking, i just keep an eye on them and flip when I see they are ready. For those cooking with a conventional oven, bake at 350 for 15 minutes or there about. Bake just until set and edges are golden. Let stand on cookie sheet 1 minute before removing.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
So much for a warmer than usual la nina winter here in the South! We have had January weather for the last several days and they say it is going to be this way through December. We have been having mid teen nights with days struggling to get to freezing and until today twenty mph winds to go with the cold. Needless to say manthing and I had to construct two hoop (I am using the term lightly) houses the other day and then find coverings for both of them that will hopefully protect the almost ready to harvest cabbage. They most certainly are not pretty but thus far they seem to be holding up and doing their job. Thankfully the broccoli was able to all be harvested before the cold set in. There were only three heads that were still quite small so I did not feel too bad about harvesting them early.
The tall one is just made of sticks placed in a V and lashed with twine then a ridge pole down the top. It is a pretty long row and the only thing we had to cover it was an old tarp we had around. The single covering was not cutting it, so I threw a layer of black plastic over the top of it. We just weighted it all down with brick and will roll the tarp up on the nice days and nights from here on out. On the short one I used some pvc frames thaty we normally use to hold the netting up over the strawberries. It is covered with clear plastic and then a layering of blankets. These too will just roll off the frame as needed when weather permits.
Everything else outside has pretty much withered up and is looking quite sad but inside the greenhouse things are doing quite well and trucking along. Everything in there also has a layer of plastic over it to protect it and it seems to be working. The broccoli in there is starting to head up.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The other day we had a visitor that was absolutely amazed with the gardens we have growing the first of December. Since we get so few visitors, I had not really thought about how pretty it must look for someone that either does not garden at all or who only gardens one season a year. All the brilliant greens really are quite dazzling and to a local that knows the type of weather we have had I guess it is a pretty neat sight. I suppose it is bizarre for them to see someone growing near all their food and eating it fresh in December while giving those plants no special care.
Once again it drove home the point of how far we, as a society, have separated from our food. To see this in the Appalachians where I have always associated the native people with being close to the earth and taking care of themselves is also disheartening. At the same time, it does give me hope that people are truly interested in doing more for self but honestly have no clue how how to do it nor how to incorporate it in to the busy lifestyle that they have. I have so many ideas of what I would like to do in the future; Gardens and sustainability are in all of them. Each time I experience something like the lady and the veggies, I know the ideas I have are on the right track, I just need to turn them into something other than ideas.
Anywho, we are heading into an early deep cold spell and rather than spend hours covering and uncovering the outdoor greens and veggies, I made a big harvest yesterday.
The peas grew beautifully and started producing but each frost we have had has beat them down and the growing peas get frost bit so they are all designated bunny food. The cabbage is near harvest size on the good end so will watch them and see how they do for now. The broccoli, I have been cutting for a few weeks now and have froze 10 quarts or so plus we have been eating plenty fresh. I cut another dozen or so heads yesterday and the rest will be watched to see that they are ok. I gave all of the greens a good trimming and brought them in for either freezing or using fresh. This saves me bunches of time trying to cover beds and keep them covered and I do not feel bad if the plants die from cold. The carrots and turnips I continue to pick fresh out of the beds and will continue to do so through the winter. With some mulch covering them, rarely does the ground freeze enough to prohibit harvest.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
2 1/2-3 cups flour
1 cup squash, pumpkin or sweet potato (cooked & mashed)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup water
2 tsp yeast
oil or lard for frying
Put all dry ingredients in bowl. Heat water and melt butter, mix with dry ingredients. Dough is a soft dough but you don't want it gooey either, add flour as needed and then knead for 3-4 minutes. Raise until double in size. Punch down and roll to 1/4 inch thick and cut donuts. Place donuts on parchment paper or floured surface and let rise 20 minutes. Fry in oil until brown and turn. Remove from oil , cool on paper towel and coat with cinnamon sugar.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Yesterday afternoon I needed a break from school work so headed to the gardens to walk through and enjoy them in the cool fall drizzle. While down there I decided these four heads of broccoli were done growing so I harvested them, thinned out one of the carrot beds, plucked some green onions, pulled a few peas, and ripped out some salad greens. The old saying of not going to the grocery store hungry also holds true for heading to the gardens. The only difference is you spend no money in doing so and the guilt does not come into play as it may in a store.
The only logical dinner I could think to make with the haul was pasta primavera in an alfredo sauce as it was nearly complete with my pickins. The only thing I needed to add to finish dinner was some pasta and a little bit of sauce to make it a meal. Veggies cost me nothing, pasta was about $.50, and the ingredients for the sauce were under a buck. It took me longer to chop the veggies than it did to cook and it made for a nice healthy meal. The recipe below is for 6 people as a main dish. While I used carrots, peas, and broccoli as my veggies, cauliflower, corn, mushrooms and summer squash also go nicely in the dish. Frozen veggies can be used in place of the fresh and the meal would still be a budget friendly option. Canned or fresh chicken or hams chunks also make a nice addition to the meal but are not needed to make it a more filling dinner for the meatosaurs among us.
1 pound pasta (of your choosing)
5 cups of veggies sliced thin
1 onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 oz cream cheese
2 oz butter
1 cup milk
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 tsp flour
cook pasta as directed adding the veggies for the last 3-5 minutes of cooking. While pasta is cooking, in a sauce pan add butter, onion and garlic and saute to bring out the flavors of the onion and garlic. Add the flour and mix well. Slowly add the milk sour cream and cream cheese and heat until cheese melts and sauce thickens a bit, then add the parmesan. Drain pasta and mix the sauce with pasta, stir and serve.Add salt and pepper to taste.
Monday, November 22, 2010
For this cake you can either used canned apples (not pie filling) or fresh apples (with a bit of lemon and 1/2 cup simple syrup added). If using canned apples use two cans including liquid. If using fresh apples I use 6 cups of apple slices. Dump into the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Add any other fruits you want, cranberries and raisins go well. Pour one box of spice cake mix evenly over apples. Melt 3/4 cup of butter and drizzle over the cake mix. Top with either chopped pecans or walnuts and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes. Serve warm or cold with either whip cream or ice cream.
The gardens are doing well and we are now eating fresh broccoli, carrots, greens of all sorts, onions, peas, turnips and very soon to be cabbage. Some of the cabbage is taking longer than expected due to low light issues. As soon as we can get the frame to the fifth wheel that we dismantled moved. There will be some major tree trimming going on in order to open that area of the garden back up. I do not know if we will be getting any cabbage from that area of the garden before the deep of winter sets in or if once it does I can keep them alive. The other end of the garden however, is doing very well so we have been eating fresh broccoli for the last week and the two rows of cabbage on that end are very near harvesting, so we will still get a decent haul from them.
The hens are starting to slow down for the winter on their egg production but we will have plenty of eggs stored back to get us through the winter months. We do not provide lighting in the coop for them this time of year for cost reasons but also because we do not believe in babying the animals much. They get warm, comfy, clean housing and fresh food and water. Beyond that they have no other amenities. We still have about half of the girls laying regularly so we get about 5 eggs a day at present. Still plenty for the two of us and the dogs eggs. The other day I went to collect eggs and found this ginormous bugger in the nest! POOR HEN! Most of our eggs are large to extra large this one was XXXL and not surprisingly it contained two yolks.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
We have been wanting to plant more fruit trees here on the land for quite some time as fruit production is one of the areas we felt we were slack in. This morning we took a trip over to Johnson's Nursery and got our little orchard trees. We came home with 3 apple, 3 plum, 2 peach, 2 pear, 2 cherry and 2 currant bushes. We spent this afternoon planting them in the holes that I dug during the week in anticipation of getting them.
We had another beautiful fall day here in the South and the nursery is in a very pretty area of the county, not that I know of an ugly area, so while waiting I took the liberty of taking a couple pictures of the area.
The gentleman helping us was a kind feller and he walked us through the process of choosing trees, giving a pruning lesson and talking about the state of the economy and business. He was the only one working today so he was multitasking and dealing with other customers the entire time we were there, but it was a really relaxed atmosphere so waiting was not an issue and was almost enjoyable. Prices and service were both quite excellent and they have a very good reputation. If anyone is looking for orchard trees, they do ship all over the US with the exception of a couple states so consider giving them a look.
By the time we returned from the nursery and our monthly town supply trip we had quite a truck full of stuff so in order to get them all home we laid them down. Unfortunately small trees planted to form an orchard do not make an impressive picture, especially in November so pictures will be along in a few years when they get a might bigger and they can actually be detected in the photo. Many of the trees went on the hill behind the greenhouse that we terraced off a couple years ago. Because of difficulty keeping between the beds weed free and the layout of the hill, we decided that fruit trees would be a better solution. The remainder of them went down in what we call the bowl below the terraces. This should be a great location for the trees to grow in to a nice little orchard and maybe next year we can get a few mores to add to it. Either way, in a few years it should provide us with as much fruit as we can eat.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
This is not a light soup, it is very filling like a stew but simple to make and is versatile. While I used a bit of bacon in it, it would taste just as good with no meat in it or a substitution. Many different veggies can be added to it and it can be served chunky or creamy. I served ours with a fresh salad and garlic toast but would have been satisfied with just one or the other to accompany the soup. Total cost of the meal for us was for two slices of bacon, flour, some spices and milk used as everything else was grown and made here.
I used left over baked potatoes for our soup and left the skins on. I like chunky soup and only mashed the potatoes with a hand masher rather than a food processor or mixer. I used powdered milk rather than whole milk because we do not use enough milk to justify keeping it around.
4 strips bacon cooked and crumbled
2 – 3 tbsp. Bacon drippings
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes (use left overs, it cuts prep time way down)
2 cups water (veg or chicken stock is called for, I use water and add my own spices)
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook bacon using until crisp. Allow to cool and chop or crumble into small pieces. Reserve several tablespoons of drippings. In large pot over medium heat add 2 tbsp. bacon drippings and cook onions, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally for a few minutes. Add enough stock to just cover potatoes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender. Mash potatoes roughly with a potato masher. Scoop out about half of the remaining mixture and puree in a blender or food processor. Add milk and any veggies you may want and stir to combine well. Taste for seasoning and add more stock if soup is too thick for your liking. Stir in bacon and bring to simmer, stirring often. Serve hot. Garnish with additional crumbled bacon and chives or other herbs.
I intended to spend an hour or two, no more on gardens and other outside work when I spotted the garlic bed and thought to myself, what a waste. I grabbed the shovel and started digging them up on by one, all forty two clumps of plants until they were all out of the ground and divided into 204 individual plantlings. I then found myself in a predicament of having near 300 plants or seeds that absolutely had to go in the ground very soon because of weather patterns with no idea where I was going to put that many plants at once. My two hours worked in to three then four and in total near 7 hours of time spent. So much for getting the school work for the week caught up but all my little greenies are now in the ground to enjoy the next few weeks of crazy weather patterns until winter settles in. Thank goodness alliums are early growing plants come spring so I will be able to keep track of all the places I planted them in.
This bed is completely planted in walking onions and garlic, even between all the leafy greens.
Some of the garlic plants that I separated and planted in other areas where I transplanted out some perennial herbs. There are also two other beds that I put elephant garlic and garlic in as well. We should have no shortage of garlic next year.