Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Peek Into The Past

Yesterday, I came across a handwritten note of my paternal grandmother titled:

The Good Old Days

  • 1908 were panic days, no money - using scrip
  • Good wages for a ten hour day in hard cash - fifty cents per day
  • 1920 burning corn for fuel; chicken eggs five cents per dozen
  • 1929 potatoes 85 cents per bushel, and a good used car $25 to $50
  • 1933-1939 WPA (Works Progress Administration .. part of the 'New Deal' employing unskilled workers to build public works .. roads, buildings, etc.); a cattle at Sioux City (Iowa) cost $9.50
  • and a comic strip dialog titled, 'I See' ... that went like this:
Wife  "Wake up there's a burglar in the house
eating the rest of the pie we had for dinner."
Hubby "Go back to sleep, I'll bury him in the

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday's Musings

view from my porch ... after the storm 2/27/12
Change of dinner plans.  Fish tacos were on the menu but upon further inspection of the frozen 'fish' ... I've come to discover it's really a reused bag with the backs of 8 or 9 chickens to make stock.    Guess we're having meatloaf, baked potatoes and a tossed salad instead. 

Stock of the week:  you guessed correctly - CHICKEN

Company's coming over twice this week for dinner.

The outside temp this morning was 8F.

Garden seeds are itching to get planted in the mini greenhouse.

It just dawned on me that my days are rather free of late since my daughter is now a stay at home momma.  First time in my life I can do something that doesn't first have to pass the scrutiny of my calendar ;)   ... except in the way-back machine of summer vacation in jr. high school.

Have a blessed day.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Taking Stock of Emergency Supplies

backyard snow piling up
Yesterday 'snowmeggadon' descended upon our our little hide-a-way (home) with a vengeance.   There was barely 1/4 inch of snow when I woke up at 6:30 AM .. and by noon we had over a foot of snow.  Ideally, one should plow the driveway well before a foot of snow accumulates.  The snow blower's directions say six inches is tops.  Ooops .. By waiting, it made the job twice as hard.  Keeping up and even plowing twice would be easier than what transpired.

At one point the electricity went out so emergency supplies were piled on the kitchen counter before we lost the last bit of sun coming through the windows.  Candles, oil lamps, matches, battery radio, deck of cards, etc.  I instructed EVERYONE not to open the refrigerator or freezer.

Plans were in the works for dinner pulled from our basement's storeroom.  We keep canned foods such as Alaskan salmon, green beans, tomato sauces, grains, pastas, etc.  In emergencies, we can heat with a gas heating stove .. and our oven has a gas cook top that can be lit with a match for cooking when the power is out.  This was not the first loss of power this week .... and before dinner, it was restored, bringing a happy sigh of relief.

gas (heater) stove
Each time there is an emergency, we take notes about what extra we should have on hand.  Our home is wired for the use of a generator for longer power outages ... and this summer we will finally buy one before we REALLY, REALLY need it.

It's snowing again ... you can bet I'll keep a better eye on the depth so hubby can wake up and plow ;)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Just In Time

for St. Paddy's Day.  Here's a link for anyone with a hankering to make authentic Irish food for this 'Luck 'O The Irish' day.

Rachel Allen .. the Irish cooking diva .. shares her recipes.

I've tried the potato/cabbage Colcannon recipe and it's delish!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Our Go To Winter Green


Chopped cabbage salad, addition to soups, steamed with butter and substituted for shredded lettuce in tacos are just a few of the ways to utilize this winter garden holdover.  It's also easy to find at the market, and will keep for weeks on end in the fridge. 

Who can forget stuffed cabbage rolls ...(a favorite of my kids) ... ?

1 (3 lb) head green cabbage
1 Tbls. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/2 lb lean ground pork
2 Tbls. uncooked long or short grained white rice
2 Tbls. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbls. butter
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 large onion, chopped
1-1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup beef broth
1 lemon, cut in wedges
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
dairy sour cream

Remove core from cabbage. Carefully remove outer cabbage leaves and discard. Separate inner leaves. In a 3-qt saucepan, bring salted water to a boil. Drop inner cabbage leaves into boiling water. Cook 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well and cool. Select 24 leaves: set aside. Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add small onion. Saute until golden brown. Place onion in a medium bowl. Add ground beef and pork, rice, parsley, salt, pepper, allspice, and oregano. Mix to blend. Spread a cabbage leaf flat. Place 2 Tbls. meat filling on cabbage leaf near leaf base. Fold bottom of leaf over filling. Fold sides toward center. Roll up tightly. Repeat with remaining filling and leaves. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add carrots and large onion. Saute until glazed. Place cabbage rolls in layers on top of carrots and onion. In a small bowl, combine tomato sauce and beef broth. Pour liquid over cabbage rolls. Cover. Cook over low heat 1 hour or until fork tender. Place on a large platter. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream. Makes 4 to 6 servings. The leftovers are great the next day.

What's your favorite use for cabbage?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Just Desserts

English Shortbread .. photo by Mrs. Mac

Chocolate mousse for Valentines Day ... photo by Mrs. Mac
Once a week I bake a treat for dessert.  Hubby has a sweet tooth and I'd rather give him a home made treat than for him to make a run to the store for a package of junk.  I choose the one meal that is most special and get creative in the kitchen.   It's not that hard to whip up a goody when the pantry and freezer are well stocked.  I keep frozen summer fruit for pies, cooked pumpkin for breads, oats and raisins for cookies, and good solid unsweetened chocolate bars for brownies and mousse.   Non homogenized milk gives just enough cream to make a whipped cream topping.  Some weeks, dessert is as simple as making a cup of steaming hot cocoa from scratch.   Making your own dessert allows you to control the quality of ingredients, cut back on sugar, and make smaller portions than the recipe calls for.   Life is too short to not eat a little dessert now and then (at least that's what my 'sweet tooth' Hubby says).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Slowing Down In The Kitchen

Cooking from scratch takes timing and thinking ahead.  A well stocked pantry, freezer and cold storage room are a cooks best friend.  Getting in the habit of mentally thinking what tomorrow's dinner will be helps to make home cooking run smoothly.  I've given up the 'go to' use of my microwave oven and have opted for thawing meat the day before cooking by setting it out on a glass plate for a few hours, then putting in the fridge overnight.

That little bit of maple syrup needed for breakfast .. no longer zapped .. but put into a small stainless steel pitcher (found at a garage sale) to heat on a slow burner.  Trying to undo the quick-fix ease of microwave cooking takes a step back in time and makes for better thinking skills that have been lost with the advent of so called conveniences.   There are a lot of articles about microwave use that question its safety on food.  Learning to rely less and less on it will help better develop your cooking skills.

I leave you with this great website .. Feeding America .. it has an online collection of Early American cookbooks filled with directions and recipes for s.l.o.w. cooking and home keeping.

My current 'go to' book from the collection is 'The White House Cook Book, 1887 Edition' .. it can be found on line here to read from cover to cover.    Update .. you can download the book(s) to your Kindle according to one a comment.

A family's health is most dependent on the skills and knowledge of the household cook.  Learn, learn, cook, cook .. enjoy!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Snow Scene

I was just about ready to take down the snow scene on my blog ..when a big storm blew through and made that idea go out the window.  We're supposed to have snow off and on all week.  I hope hubby wakes up with time to spare for blowing off the circle driveway.  The black specks on the left side of photo are large basalt bowls (rocks) that surround our bon fire pit and are used for sitting.

Today we're having breakfast for dinner .. and sipping hot tea by the fire.

There goes the snow plow driver up and down the street ... my winter hero.  Have a blessed day.

Friday, February 17, 2012

While Waiting To Plant Garden Seeds .... Projecting Into The Year

.... I'm dreaming of summer, vacation, sitting on the back patio on outdoor furniture, bon fires, front porch rocking chairs, cricket serenades, kayaking, ripe raspberries, brushing up against tomato plants with their intoxicating fragrance.

The Mr. and I are anxiously waiting to  make the last payment on our home .. March 1 ... and to kiss debt GOODBY.   The excitement is akin to graduating college without student loans .. I'm sure .. although I didn't graduate from college.  After 31 years of marriage .. it's about time to be done with house payments.  Our plan is to bring sparkling cider to the bank with champagne glasses for a toast .. and to have Wells Fargo Bank hitch up their stage coach and head into the sunset.

We're looking into a family retreat type of vacation here for mid summer, just an hours drive from home.  Hint, hint to any family members that might read this post .. just let us know if you're interested.

The new/old home is much quieter of late ... with the passing of our beloved dawg last November, my grandson spending his days with his mama, and Nathan being so independent and not needing me every other minute.

It's good to be on the back side of menopause.  No more aches or sleepless nights ..and seldom a hot flash.  Life is good.  Carpe Diem!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beware Of The Food Police - Update

As promised, I said I'd post an update:  I called the principal to find out exactly what was up with being charged for fruit .... and that my kiddo was sent to school with an appropriate lunch prepared for him each morning.  He said they do not check homemade lunches to see what everyone is eating. I probably sounded a bit peeved and alarmed.  I also spoke with the teacher after school.  The paper noting charges for fruit was supposedly meant for another student that eats breakfast at school.  However, it was written on my child's take home communication report.  And .. funny, ha-ha, that I just happened to receive the note the day after such an uproar about another student that was given a crappy school lunch as her lunch from home was incomplete according to the new school lunch rules.  So, I rest my case and will have an ever watchful eye on the situation as I'm sure this is just the beginning of a new dance (parental rights food fight).

Today I was checking my son's backpack and came across a note from the school that we owe $ for daily fruit at school.  I assumed this was fruit the government says kids have to eat for proper nutrition at lunch.  Now I'm all for our children eating fruit.  I'm all for healthy lunch.  What I'm not for is the government telling me that my home made/packed lunch is not balanced and adding fruit and handing me the bill.

Each day I get up early and make a nutritious whole foods lunch.  It always included a veggie and/or salad, and a few days a week, a piece of fruit.  Milk is drank at home .. whole fat milk .. not the bluish water they call milk at school that's often soured and/or served warm .. or loaded with chocolate and sugar/high fructose corn syrup.  Nathan has to limit his fruit due to medical reasons.   Most of his colon was removed after it ruptured at birth.  If too much fruit is eaten, he has loose bowels.  Eating five extra pieces of fruit a week .. well lets just say that might be why his teacher is wondering why he needs to use the bathroom more often.

You can be sure I have a call in to the school to object and to give them a piece of my mind. Believe it or not, I still have plenty of mind left ;)

Nathan drying dishes .. does he look healthy or what? :)  Obese .. ??
I just had commented to hubby last night about the food police after reading this story.  And to find out they are out in force across the nation (you can bet this is on the horizon).  Let parents have control over their kids lunch box food.  The government already provides 'free' (someone has to pay for) lunch and breakfast at school .. that have been atrocious in years past.  Get the heck out of my kids lunch box.  Parents need to put a stop to this government intervention.  I will not take part in the intrusive hand of big brother. This statement I will stand by!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Beef Jerky

... a good food for the storage cabinet.
Trying to keep our long term food storage cabinet stocked, this week I made a large batch of beef jerky.  The stuff you buy in the store is loaded with preservatives and questionable meat.  By making it at home, you control the quality and can make it without unnecessary ingredients.  It will store well in a jar fitted with a tight seal for at least six months (if you hide it well).  Stored in a airtight bag, it will last over a year.

I used a lean roast trimmed of ALL fat, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces, marinated it in naturally fermented soy sauce (use organic or it will be  made with GMO soy beans), red wine, powdered garlic, black pepper and red pepper flakes.  You can add hot sauce, liquid smoke .. or what ever flavor suits your fancy.  Let it marinate overnight in the fridge.   Once marinated, pound the beef strips quite thin (almost to the point of seeing through them) with a heavy meat mallet.  (You can skip this if you slice the beef slightly frozen into very thin strips prior to marinating.)  Place on trays in a dehydrator and bring the temp up to around 170 F.  I use a dehydrator rack from Cabellas placed inside my convection oven .. it has a drying setting ... and takes about 3-4 hours to dry.  Be sure to keep the oven door opened a little crack.  Let it cool on a plate or tray a good day before storing to ensure the jerky is completely dry.

If my kids read this post, you can be sure our jerky will disappear when they come to visit.  It makes a great snack to take along on hikes or after a workout at the gym.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Week In Review ... It's A Wrap

1.  Stock of the week ... Beef:  Slow simmered using 5 lbs of marrow rich bones and 3 lbs of meaty neck bones = 5 quarts of rich, gelatinous goodness.  Meal #1 ~ meat used for shredded beef in homemade enchiladas.  Homemade sauce included beef stock.  Green salad with homemade buttermilk dressing .. and chocolate mousse for dessert.   

2.  Wheat was sprouted, dried .. and is ready for grinding to make bread.  Supposed to be easier to digest if sprouted and/or soaked before baking.  Attended a 'webinar' detailing the benefits of sprouting grains.

3.  Yogurt made for fruit parfaits.

4.  Ordered our yearly purchase of local/pastured meat:  Chicken, turkey, pork and beef.

5.  Date day with hubby ~ International auto show (new cars).  No .. we didn't buy, we just like to see what's on the market.  Not having a car payment is our incentive to keep ours in good repair.

6.  Hubby is making a conscious effort to cut back on sugar.  I try not to nag ;)  He's now drinking filtered water that has been infused with slices of fresh fruit.  One baby step at a time is good.

7.  This should be first on the list ~ my little granddaughter is doing well.  She's 9 lbs - 4 ounces.  Her congenital heart defect is stable ... it's such a joy to cuddle with her.

8.  And second should have been a mention that my son, Nathan, has a 4.0 GPA.  He's my hero with the extra chromosome.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Waste Not .. Want Not

Today is Saturday .. a beautiful sunny day, and I'm hoping to go take a nice long walk in the cool, crisp mountain air.  It's also the day to tidy up the refrigerator for the week and make use of food and left-overs before they go bad.  I HATE wasting good food .. so It's important to know what's in the fridge so it doesn't get pushed to the back and turn into a science experiment.  We use up our left-overs within a few days to ensure quality. 

I'll be making potato leek soup for dinner as I have extra milk and a huge leek.  There's a quart of chicken stock and a rutabaga as well .. and some steak.  These will get turn into some type of meal as well.  Let's see .. Philly steak sandwiches for lunch (I have red pepper and onions and homemade bread rolls).  Rutabagas are great cooked up with potatoes and mashed .. (that will be a side dish for Sunday's dinner) .. and the stock .. well, I think some may go in the potato-leek soup .. and the rest will be served steaming hot in over-sized mugs sprinkled with some dried thyme and a pinch of sea salt.

There's also a 1/4 loaf of home-baked bread .. I've already got that in a large skillet with a little butter, olive oil, smashed clove of garlic, dried thyme and a little sea salt to make salad/soup croutons.  Stale bread works best for French toast or bread puddings too.  Leftover bread can be whirred in the food processor to make fresh bread crumbs to add to meatloaf .. or toasted in a baking sheet and stored in the pantry for another week or two.

My two cups of buttermilk will be the base for a new batch of ranch dressing, the homemade yogurt will get drained and turned into yogurt herb cream cheese.  

In any economy, good or bad, it's wise to use up your extra food if stored properly, with-in a few days; most times, my family doesn't even realize they're eating the previous day's meal because it's been 're-purposed' into a 'new to them' meal.  How do you best utilize left-overs?