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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Natural Tansy Insect Repellant

We have wild tansy growing on our property.  It is listed as a noxious weed in Idaho, but we don't have much of it so I leave some of it to grow instead of mowing over it.  You can use it as a companion plant with cabbage and other garden plants as an insect repellant.  I'm going to make a spray to keep cabbage worms at bay.  Once used for medicinal purposes such as de-worming, it has toxic properties and should be used with caution for human consumption.  However, as a natural insect repellant, I'm going to give it a try.

Homemade Tansy Insect Spray and other uses.

Tansy photo credit here

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Because I Said So ....

There hasn't been as much flack over the use of homemade dressings and not having sugary lemonade available 24/7.  The Mr. is settling in to eating better and not complaining about eating only what is available at home .. which sometimes means he has to do without treats (fake food).  Why, 'because I said so .. (lol).  Sometimes a homemaker just has to put her foot down and do what is right and best for her family.  Even if that means change.  I think he's noticed that our food bill is a lot less .. yet we are eating real food that is satisfying and nutritious.

Friday afternoon we were out in town; the Mr. and our grandson at the City Park ... and I was grocery shopping.  Ring, ring .. my phone goes off.  It's the Mr. informing me at 2:30 that he forgot company was coming over at 5 PM for dinner.  Panic?  No .. I just bought some fresh Alaskan Salmon from the fish market .. thawed a few steaks from our freezer and made a surf and turf dinner in no time flat.  I did inform the Mr. to call the company to see if they'd come over at 6 instead of 5.  All's well that ends well.  Having a stocked pantry came to the rescue once again. 

Tonight I 'introduced' my family to the proper use of their salad forks, to pull the chair out for me, and to place their napkins on their laps.  Manners are being whipped into shape each time we dine.  Do you instill and insist on your family using good and proper table manners?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Without The Boxed Food

Beef Stock .. simmering
... in my shopping cart I'm able to afford the good stuff.  It's become second nature to put my kitchen skills to good use by cooking every meal from scratch.  Now that the pantry, storage room and freezers are kept stocked with garden and local farm goods, it's really not even necessary to buy much in the way of packaged food.  Our taste in food has developed to one that includes F.R.E.S.H. whenever possible .. and then frozen .. then canned.  We have fresh veggies some raw and some cooked that fills the dinner plate 1/2 full.  One fourth in a protein like meat or eggs .. and a small helping of a carb.  Dinners are a sit down .. s.l.o.w. eating routine and often begun with a thin soup.  Eating a well balanced meal including farm fresh milk ... and cutting out snacks has resulted in effortless weight loss.

If we (people) would just eliminate ONE item from our shopping carts .. anything containing high fructose corn syrup, that would be a GREAT start in healthier eating and send a message to the food makers that speaks loud and clear.  Take your health to heart and 'mind' what goes in your body.  Next to eliminate (or cut significantly) would be beet and cane sugar.  These sweeteners are contributing to the addiction that is fueling obesity.  Learn to live without artificial sweeteners too.. they can be toxic.  Having something sweet is best left as a once in a while treat.

Home Canned Goods

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wind In My Sails ....

Hiking at Tubbs Hill
Today was in the 80's (20 degrees above normal) .. and for North Idaho .. it was a great day to get out and hang bed clothes (i.e. sheets, quilts, blankets).  Seven loads were washed and only one went into the electric dryer.  Everything else was hauled up and out to the clothesline.  This is s.l.o.w. living.  You see, hear, and feel the environment when hanging laundry outside.  Tonight's sleep will be on crisp fragrant sheets.

Nathan and friend ... Post Falls, Idaho
The Mr. was out of town this past week ... which meant I was on a sta-cation.  A gal pal drove down from British Columbia and we tooled around town taking in the sights.  My kids treated me to a Mother's Day brunch at the Greenbriar Inn in downtown Coeur d'Alene ... followed by a quick stop at the water fall in Post Falls.

Garden time is upon us and we are 1/2 way to having everything planted.  One more good day and it should be done. 

What's up in your world?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Baby Cakes

We have nick named her Ro-punzle :)
Update on my little granddaughter.  She is growing leaps and bounds and is supposed to have her next heart surgery in three to four weeks.  At five months of age, she now weighs about 14 pounds and is getting chunky .. something the doctors want to see.  Thanking God for every day we spend with her.

Planting Seeds & Family Memories

Today was a wonderful day weather wise.  Sunny and in the low 60's .. perfect for yard work.  I planted cabbage, and more radishes and mesculin variety lettuce, dahlia tubers that are supposed to produce dinner plate sized flowers, and a canadice grape vine that will eventually climb a trellis hubby is going to build over the garden gate.  Our indoor plants needed some TLC so many were repotted.  The raised beds had been filled with a compost/sand mix that really needed some clay mixed in ... so with wheel barrel and shovel, I found a nice clay mound the was pushed aside when we built our home.  I think this will greatly improve the water retention of the soil (last year the onions HATED this compost/sand mix.).

It was nice enough to get out the BBQ.  Tonight's dinner menu was:

Chicken broth with spring green onions and carrot medallons
Grilled chicken brushed with a garlicky lemon-mustard sauce
Macaroni salad
Smoky grilled asparagus

French vanilla coffee
Cherry puff paste strudel

We've really been playing up the importance of sit down dinners of late.  Even Nathan seems to enjoy all the fuss.  He gets spruced up for dinner and is practicing his best manners.  Sunday is a day to have a special meal and use the good dishes.  This is something I remember doing when I was a child having Sunday dinners at my grandparent's home. Are you in the habit of fixing special meals other than on major holidays or when company visits?  Time spent leisurely around the table makes for good family unity; and the clean up is easier if everyone works together.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Souper Supper

I've been going 'crazy' reading and putting into practice ideas found in my new vintage book, 'The American Woman's Cook Book,' taken from my mother's bookshelf, written long before convenience foods were 'born.'

Did you know that soups made from bone/meat broths aid in digestion by stimulating the digestive juices.  Cream soups, purees, bisques and chowders are valuable as they increase the nutrient content of your meal.  A heavy meal should begin with a thin soup (stock based) .. and a light meal should begin with a heavier soup.  Who knew there was such good reasoning behind homemade soup.  Economical and Nutritious!  When I see advertisements for products such as 'Joint Juice' .. for restoring joints I shout at the TV .. 'MAKE SOME HOMEMADE SOUP!'

Years ago a 'perpetual' stock pot was on the back burner day and night.  You could add any meat, bone scraps and/or vegetables to produce a very flavorful stock.  It is well worth the effort to learn how make your own stock and and keep some on hand frozen for easy use.

Last night we started our meal with a thin chicken broth based soup.  To one quart of flavorful homemade stock I added a diced carrot, leeks and fresh herbs.  Now that was simple.

We've started eating our meals in courses.  The family is tickled at the whole process as it makes dinner more enjoyable with anticipation.  First a small cup of soup is set on top of the dinner plate.  Next salad plates are taken from the freezer and the second course of fresh garden salad is eaten .. followed by the third course (of Salisbury steak with a little pan gravy and a piece of garlic toast).  Dessert can be as simple as a small dish of applesauce.

Tonight our soup was cream of asparagus.  I have not so fond memories of such soup from a can as a child.  But made in about 15 minutes on the stove with fresh milk and asparagus .. well was the star of the dinner.  We started with a first course of chilled salad followed by the soup and small grilled cheese sandwiches .. for dessert .. freshly picked rhubarb turned into a quick sauce with a little raspberry syrup.

Fresh Cream of Asparagus Soup
4 cups milk (I used whole) 
2 tablespoons butter                                           
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chopped asparagus
1 small-medium starchy potato peeled and diced
3 tablespoons of thinly sliced leeks, shallot or onion
salt, pepper or other seasonings (I added fresh thyme)

Prepare asparagus by washing and  trimming off tough ends.  The tough skin on the ends can be peeled away exposing tender asparagus underneath that would otherwise get tossed out.  Cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

Add the butter to a medium sauce pan (4-6 quart).  Add the onion and saute for a minute until tender.  Add the flour and gradually stir in the milk, whisking to prevent lumps.  Bring to a light simmer and add the asparagus and diced potato.  Cook at a medium simmer until the asparagus and potato are tender.  Add salt, pepper and seasonings to taste.  With a stick blender, blend the soup into a puree in the pan (or cool slightly and blend a little at a time in a blender.  I picked up a stick blender at a thrift store for $4; using it saves on washing dishes).  Blending makes the soup thicken up. Cook the soup for a few more minutes.  If you let it sit for a bit and reheat just prior to serving it will thicken up quite nicely.  Store any remaining soup in the refrigerator.  

To aid in portion control, I have started serving our meals from the stove and better judging how much food to prepare so we don't have too many leftovers.  This saves dishes, calories, money and keeps us from eating second helpings.  Serving in courses .. ending with a tiny 'dessert' (fruit sauce, pudding, etc.) gives everyone a satisfying meal and not feeling hungry before bed.  No 'supersize me' portions allowed :)

The reasoning and common sense approach to cooking nutrient dense foods was a standard in homes worldwide prior to duel incomes that started relying on ready-made food 'helpers' with the industrial revolution. These so called 'helpers' have become so loaded with artificial ingredients they rarely have any healing powers, instead tending to be highly addictive causing degenerative diseases of all sorts.  Get the stock pot simmering .. even in the summer for soups that include the bounty of the garden.  If it's hot out, try a cold fruit soup.  Think of peasant food as being economical and good for the body and soul.  Bon Appetite!

vintage image from here

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

From Garden to Table

While our garden is still weeks away from producing much of anything, we had our first harvest of asparagus last night for dinner.  This was planted three years ago and is now producing enough to pick.  Another bed was planted last year and I'm tempted to plant one more strip this spring.  There is NO comparison to freshly picked and store bought.  It's that delicious.  Last night I made salmon noodle casserole served with asparagus, carrots, stewed rhubarb and milk for dinner.  You can buy Alaskan salmon in small tins .. it's drained, flaked and added to homemade mac and cheese making for an easy to prepare meal.

What's getting picked or preserved from your garden?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Vintage Cookbook Review

I picked up a jewel of a book (off my mother's bookshelf;) titled, 'The American Woman's Cook Book,' from the Culinary Arts Institute .. originally published in 1938.  It makes for a good read as it goes into detail the daily nutrition needs of children and adults ... and includes such topics:  Food Values, The Lunch Box*, Menu Making, Food For Invalids, Useful Facts About Milk (farm fresh) .. etc.  This book was written prior to the mass use of commercially produced (fake) food, and the current epidemic of obesity. There are charts explaining vitamin content in produce (cooked and uncooked), the importance of good fats/oils and a host of other topics.  As a gift to you, I'm including a few links .. this one you can read the book online .. and here you can download a pdf copy for yourself.  Enjoy.

*Imagine that!  Long before the FDA got involved parents were responsible for sending nutritious foods packed in boxes for their children to take to school.