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

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pink or Blue

Last night about 40 people arrived ..  half of those were children .. eager to have dinner AND dessert .. the cake .. cut to reveal the gender of our newest addition .. our daughter is expecting in April.

Can you tell by the expression on my grandson, Jake's, face that he was expecting a different outcome?

Yes .. he wanted .... a sister ....

... but he's getting a brother.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Country Chronicle

' ..... Nobody really knows when winter begins ..... the leaves fall, so the dazzling color is gone .... Practically speaking, our lives change now.  We are done with salads and mousses and molded desserts.  All those sandwich lunches are forgotten.  We want vegetable soup or Welch Rarebit .. and sometimes stuffed mushrooms for supper ....'   as selectively quoted from, Country Chronicle, by Gladys Taber (1974)

My mother gave me a used book this summer by Gladys Taber.  I had never heard of this author but instantly became kindred spirits with her soulful writing of country life.  There are now five used books of hers in my collection.  I savor reading her books for winter nights while soaking away the cares of the day in a bubble bath.  The fact that she describes with great detail every day 'happenings' that most people fail to notice .. and then gives directions for what she's making for dinner that night .. lovely (smile) ... pure simple comfort .. both book and food.

Today our snow is melting slowly .. still covering much of the yard ..but the roof is drip, drip, dripping .. a mild warm up in the 40F's towards week's end .. maybe I can find my garden to plant to garlic.

Has winter arrived early at your home?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Getting Ready For ...

Thanksgiving Day dinner ...

After making my dinner menu, then checking my pantry and freezer, it seems I just need to purchase cranberries, yams and sparkling apple cider.  Everything else is sitting on the shelf in the form of whole ingredients that need to be pulled and put together for a special feast.

But before we celebrate Thanksgiving, there's to be a little 'reveal' party this coming Saturday.  A cake is involved with pink or blue filling .. that won't be known ahead of time by anybody but God and the pastry chef (not even the parents will know).  Our daughter and her husband are expecting a baby in April .. and they only recently made the announcement public.  Today was the anatomy scan and everything looks perfect (hallelujah)!    So ...  this is their clever way of sharing in a bit of joy after such a gut wrenching/heart breaking year with the loss of their 6 month old daughter, Rowan, to a defective heart HLHS (hypo-plastic left heart syndrome).

Come Saturday night .. or Sunday I hope to post a picture of color for you; PINK or BLUE ... what do you think??

Monday, November 12, 2012

Today's Madness ..

... as in the domestic arts:

  • Finish up beef stock for our freezer supply.
  • Start a big pot of chicken stock to have on hand for Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Bake loaves of 7-grain bread.
  • Bake rustic dinner rolls.
  • Bake an apple cake.
  • Bake up a rather large pumpkin for breads and roast its seeds
Today it's snowing outside.  Everything inside looks so colorful compared against the window scenes of black and white.

Last night our wet laundry was hung on a dryer rack in front of the stove, while sugar pie pumpkins were baking in a make shift oven on top.

House cleaning today includes changing the sheets, cleaning the bathrooms and vacuuming the floors.  When hubby asked what I had planned for the day as he went to sleep this morning after working all night, I don't think he gave it much thought when I said 'housework' .... being a full time homemaker is non stop.  I hit the pillow last night at 9:30 to be up by 5:00 this morning.  How in the world did the vision of a homemaker sitting around all day eating bon bons ever transpire?

What's on your domestic to-do list?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Simple Food For Cold Autumn Nights

Minced Beef With Gravy
Serves 3-4

1 pound quality ground beef
1/2 cup diced onion (or 1 tablespoon dehydrated onion)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flour
approximately 2 - 3 cups homemade (unsalted) beef stock*

In a large well seasoned skillet brown the beef, crumbling well; leave about 2 tablespoons of grease in the pan.  Add the onion and cook for a few minutes .. stirring often.  Add salt and pepper and the flour until all is coated well.  Gradually stir in the stock a cup at a time while mixing to thicken.  Adjust seasonings.  

Serve over mashed potatoes or cooked rice.

*If you don't have beef stock .. you can brown the flour in the pan before adding 1 cup of whole milk and enough additional filtered water to thicken the gravy.

This is basically a 'hamburger helper' style recipe .. without all the artificial ingredients.

German Style Red Cabbage With Apples

Serves 4
2 tblsp butter
3 cups shredded red cabbage
2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar                          
1/2 cup diced tart apple                                        
1/8 to 1/4 cup diced onion
up to to 1 tablespoon cane sugar (to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook cabbage, apples and onion in melted butter in medium size skillet approximately 5 minutes.  Add splash of vinegar, sugar and salt.  Cover and simmer until tender (20-25 minutes).

Each day we eat fresh fruit and veggies to provide enzymes along with a fermented food such as salad dressings made with raw apple cider or red wine vinegar.   Enjoy!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Prop 37 in California -

... so this proposition to require food manufacturers to label their food if it contains Genetically Modified Organisms ended up being outspent by Monsanto to defeat the measure, but now more people are aware of GMO foods and that's a step in the right direction.  I try to avoid them like the plague.  There are still some areas I need to improve.  Yellow mustard is my latest thing to phase out because of the vinegar .. which most likely contains white distilled vinegar made from Round Up ready corn.  Wouldn't it be nice to know and decide if we want to consume such food?  The movie, Genetic Roulette, is a good introduction to GMO foods and the problems they can cause.  Once in a while you can view it for free .. but currently there is a $2.99 donation fee to watch on-line, however, there is a free movie trailer to watch at the website.

I spend a good amount of time in the kitchen preparing nutritious food for my family.  If I take the time to soak, sprout, dehydrate organic wheat to grind into flour, you can bet if I make waffles I won't want to top them with sugary sweet artificial syrup containing (Round Up ready high fructose corn syrup).  Our options are to spend close to $30 for a bottle of real organic maple syrup .. or make a lightly sweetened fruit syrup made with very little cane sugar and fresh berries.  Most often, I make the berry syrup and save the maple for special treats.  Are you even aware or concerned about the health risks associated with GMO foods?

Friday, November 09, 2012

This and That

Week in review:

  • Started off with balmy weather ... ending with beautiful first fallen snow.
  • Garden finally put to bed for the winter ~ only regret ... not planting anything this fall with such an extended growing season, no garlic planted (yet) .. there may still be time to get it in the ground ...
  • Made rich (nourishing) beef AND chicken stocks.
  • Baked bread from memory twice this week.
  • Tried a new (old) recipe from a mid century cook book (see below).
  • A trip to Cabellas netted a pair of warm winter boots for Nathan that will give warmth to his toes AND he can put on and take off all by himself.
  • Anniversary (#32) dinner with Mr. Mac ... we're so practical and bought flannel sheets as a present for each other.

Full-O-Flavor Chicken Thighs
1 pound of chicken thighs (I used a mix of thighs and drumsticks).  Roll in 1/2 cup flour; brown in 2 tablespoons butter in a hot skillet.  Remove chicken to a greased casserole.  Heat 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet; blend in 1-1/2 tablespoons flour.  Add gradually 1-1/4 cups milk, 1 teaspoons salt, 1/8 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon marjoram .. pepper and a dash of garlic powder.  Whisk together and cook until slightly thickened; pour over chicken and bake uncovered @325F for 50 minutes.

I served this over cooked short-grain brown rice ... but mashed potatoes would be yummy too!

What's up in your neck of the woods?

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Getting A Little Steamy ~ Ma Walton Style

... well ... at least over the wood stove (LOL).

You need to hydrate the indoor air of your home when you heat with wood.  Fancy decorative steaming pots, kettles, etc. are pricey ranging from $50 to $100 dollars new.  And I've been told that you shouldn't use the hot water because such devices are not food safe.

While browsing a thrift store recently, I purchased an oval enameled roasting pan (minus it's lid) for $1.50.  It does a wonderful job of steaming and humidifying our air.  Adding a teaspoon of white vinegar along with water when filling it up keeps mineral deposits from forming on the inside of the pot ... and doesn't in the least give off an odor.

You know, there's got to be 101 uses for wood stove heat:

  1. heating
  2. clothes drying rack placed near stove when weather is too damp to hang outside
  3. toasting bread ~ place a piece of foil on top of stove, lay bread on top to toast
  4. warming up the dinner plates
  5. drying shoes and gloves by setting near the stove
  6. yogurt and buttermilk set up perfectly when placed near the stove
  7. emergency cooking
  8. ambiance light
  9. heating up your coffee
  10. using ash in the garden and compost pile
  11. using the stove top for dehydrating my sprouted wheat when the fire is med-low
  12. hot water for dishes
Care to add to this list?