October 29, 2008

Baked Pumpkin Pudding

Continuing with the pumpkin theme for Halloween week, this dessert was a hit with DH last night! The recipe came from a search on the Light and Tasty web site. Click on the link to get the recipe. If you don't have egg substitute, then use egg whites, or whole eggs. Another note, my custard cups are all smaller than 8 0z. so I got 7 puddings out of this recipe instead of 5, and the cooking time was a little longer than stated, so go by the "knife in the center coming out clean test" to check for doneness. This dish is like pumpkin pie without the crust, but all the wonderful smell and taste. True comfort!

I took a couple of these little goodies to my Grandmother today and we enjoyed them with a cup of coffee in the dining room at the nursing home. She's a true pie lover and ate every bite! I also took Grandma a little sample of our pear butter and her own container of homemade applesauce. The kitchen ladies will keep it in their frig and serve it to her over the next few days - or sometimes she treats her whole table to a sample of whatever she's been given by friends and family. My grandma always liked to be a hostess in her own home and it's nice when she has a chance to do that on some level at least. As always I was blessed by my time with her. I usually end my posts with Grandma's famous words at the close of a phone conversation, a quirky way she has of indicating that she's all done talking for now...

Well, this is all then.

October 27, 2008

Pumpkin Maple Biscuits

I'm feeling festive this week so thought I'd post a couple of pumpkin recipes in the next couple of days. This recipe was a combination of ideas I came across over the weekend. One suggestion was adding pumpkin puree to any biscuit recipe and the other was using pancake mix for quick biscuits. We had a buckwheat pancake mix that was a little TOO "healthy" if you know what I mean. Once in a while we stumble across a whole grain mix that has seemingly forgotten the importance of taste as well as health! So in an effort not to waste it, I found some recipes online for using pancake batter as a base for biscuits. These were delicious with our chili (made using frozen garden tomatoes in juice) and they would also be a great way to "use up" some apple butter!

Pumpkin Maple Biscuits
2 1/2 C whole grain pancake mix
1/4 C oil or melted butter
1 egg
1/2 C pumpkin puree
2 Tbs. maple syrup
1/3-1/2 C water
Mix together all ingredients except water. Add water a little at a time until dough is moist but not too wet to pat out onto a lightly floured surface. You also don't want to overwork the dough. Pat out to an inch or a little higher in height, then use a sharp biscuit cutter or a knife to cut into rounds. Bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes. I baked mine on parchment paper. Makes 12-14 biscuits.

October 24, 2008

Stashing Sweet Potatoes

Storing sweet potatoes can be a little tricky, and since we don't have much in the way of a "cave" area in our basement for long term storage of root vegetables, we opt for canning or freezing. Plus the fact that if you want to store them long-term in a fresh state, you're supposed to cure them for 2 weeks in the dark at 70-80 degrees - now where in the heck would I do that??? You wait until it's cold to harvest them and THEN you're supposed to find someplace that's 70-80 degrees? Whatever...

I was pleasantly surprised to see that even the gargantuan sweet potatoes were very nice all the way to the center.

Today was the day to peel, blanch and freeze the sweet potatoes. Dropping them into a bowl of cool water as you're cutting them keeps them from turning brown until you're ready to process them. I used the same blanch, cool, drain and freeze steps that I used with green beans and other produce from the garden. The color is just so pretty!

Now they're ready for Thanksgiving and beyond. Two gallon freezer bags will travel with us for Thanksgiving dinner in Colorado. My oldest brother and his wife will be hosting Thanksgiving this year and my SIL found a wonderful sounding recipe for sweet potatoes in the November issue of Good Housekeeping that includes ginger and almonds - yumm! And my pastor's wife gave me a November issue of Better Homes and Gardens that is full of good sweet potato ideas - like adding roasted sweet potatoes, bacon, and caramelized garlic to stuffing bread - oh my! While I love the traditional brown sugar/marshmallow topped, stand-by recipe, it's great to branch out from that. My SIL says that this year, as always, it's her goal to put some color into the Thanksgiving meal! Hopefully these potatoes will help!

Our dinner tonight had beautiful color since we saved out a few of these tasty potatoes, marinated them in a combination of oil, honey, tamari, and ginger, then grilled them. This is one of our favorite ways to have sweet potatoes and DD will be green with envy when she reads this blog! Miss you honey!

Well, this is all then.

October 22, 2008

Something Fishy

Tonight's dinner was a delicious salmon fillet dressed with our pesto (see my Pesto entry), served over whole wheat couscous with a bit of garden parsley that has survived the recent frosts, and our green beans teamed with organic carrots. As good as it tastes and as good as we're told it is for us, I experience a little nervousness every time I purchase fish these days.

I'm sure I hear the same conflicting things about fish that you do. We're told by everyone that we need to eat more fish. But we're also barraged by confusing news about the best fish to eat. When I buy fish I look for where it was caught and under what conditions, where was it packaged, what's been added to it, and on and on it goes. I prefer to buy fish that's labeled as a product of the USA and with recent changes to laws regarding labeling, knowing the country of origin will get a lot easier very soon, but even then I feel I can't be completely sure about the product. It seems like we get blindsided by surprising recalls far too often. I have two little lists in my purse that are intended to help people purchase the "safest" fish to eat. We have to be concerned about mercury levels among other things and just when we thought we were doing the very best thing by purchasing albacore tuna packed in water, now we're told that light tuna - the cheaper kind we used to buy - actually is less likely to contain high levels of mercury. I took comfort for a while in the idea that "farm raised" fish was safer since it wouldn't be subject to so much contamination, but what's being revealed is that the environment of a fish farm can actually result in some of it's own hazards to the health of the fish, so we're back to only buying "wild caught" salmon. Good, good, grief!

Maybe it comes down to three things. One is to turn off the noise of the T.V more often and not be subject to the latest and greatest "study" since anything that's really valid will eventually stand up to scrutiny and filter down in a reliable way, two is to follow the old advice that we should eat all things in moderation, and three, and more importantly, we just do the best we can every day and never forget that our real trust lies with our God whose wisdom in all things far surpasses our lame attempts to figure it all out!

Well, this is all then.

October 20, 2008

Sweet Times

We spent a wonderful weekend visiting our dear daughter. It was Parent's Weekend at her college and we enjoyed every minute with her. Of course we took gifts from the garden of salsa and pear butter! We got to see her perform with her Concert Choir and they were amazing, plus we got to see her make-up artistry in the fall musical. I have no clue where she learned how to do theatrical make-up so well since she's normally on stage rather than behind the scenes, but that girl is certainly full of surprises and there's no moss growing on her! We also got to visit with some dear friends from Maine who were in Iowa for the week. It was a sweet time together with all of them.

Then there is another kind of "sweet time" going on around our house. Guess what DH is doing here:

Yes! Sweet potatoes have finally been harvested! It wasn't exactly a bumper crop but better than last year's results. My plan is to blanch and freeze the sweet potatoes and hopefully they'll be a nice addition to Thanksgiving dinner. We still have lingering questions about sweet potato growing, like how are you supposed to know when they're ready? This is all you see above ground:

We were told by different sources that we should wait to harvest until the vines have died back after the first frost. However, another source suggested digging them up as soon as they are of a good size, but how would you know that since they are underground???? Hmmmm.... We do want to discover the answer to this question since some of the sweet potatoes grew to an absolutely obscene size!!

Tonight we enjoyed a dish of sweet potatoes, shallots, and organic apple-chicken sausage (from Target). I put all of this into a casserole dish, added some sherry and apple juice to the bottom of the dish and covered it with first parchment paper and then foil. I then baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Oh my goodness it was wonderful! The sweet potatoes taste great. The picture below includes this dish plus our own succotash, and apple butter on homemade bread. Eating from the garden is just sweet in every way!

Well, this is all then.

October 15, 2008

Recipe for a Rainy Day

It's beautiful here this fall! This is a valley view that's just across the street from us. It overlooks corn and soybean fields that aren't yet harvested. They'll be harvested soon but today it's raining and not a good day for that. However, it's a great day for comfort food so I wanted to share a recipe we recently concocted.

I raided the freezer again and made a Shepherd's Pie with some of our green beans and corn. I also used our stored onions and shallots, which are keeping very well in a brown paper bag in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. This pie was just delicious and more so because DH suggested we make it with a dark ale-style beer - sort of like a steak and ale pie idea. As usual, I don't like to use hard and fast ingredients or amounts unless it's a baked item. I'd rather encourage people to use what they have and what they like. Be creative and let me know if you have trouble deciphering my loose instructions! I didn't have the foresight to take a photo of this lovely dish, but I can say without a doubt that you'll enjoy the sight of this coming out of your oven!

Shepard's Pie with Ale
1 lb. ground turkey (or substitute another meat)
1 medium onion or a combo of onion and shallot, chopped
olive oil to coat pan
2-3 C chopped vegetables of your choice
1 bottle dark beer
1 pkg. gravy mix of your choice (I used brown.)
few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste, plus any other herbs that sound good to you
4-6 servings mashed potatoes for the topping - fresh, leftover, or instant
1/2 C grated cheddar or other cheese
Heat oven to 350. Brown meat and onion/shallots in olive oil in a medium pan. Add vegetables and a little of the beer. Cover and cook until veggies are crisp tender. Then add remaining beer, gravy mix, Worcestershire, salt and pepper and any other seasonings. Cook for a few minutes until the gravy mix begins to thicken the filling a little. Pour into a greased casserole dish, spread mashed potatoes on top, sprinkle with the cheese, and put into oven for 30-45 minutes. Place a cookie sheet under the dish to catch any run over. Watch for light browning on your potatoes and the filling bubbling up. Hope it warms you through and through!

Well, this is all then.

October 10, 2008

Eating from the Freezer

We've already begun digging into our stash of goodies in the freezer. Other than a second round of rhubarb and sweet potatoes there is nothing else coming from the garden - all gone. So of course having no self control whatsoever, we're already reaching for the next best thing to garden produce, preserved produce!

That's when good things like this happen. These two ingredients, frozen tomatoes in juice and whole wheat noodles...

are baked into this healthy turkey lasagna.

To process these particular tomatoes in this dish, I cooked them down in a crock-pot with some red wine and oregano so that they would be infused with flavor that could go in any direction - Italian, Mexican, etc. Then I put them in freezer containers and note the fancy masking tape label- ha!

Then these two things, frozen applesauce and beet puree...

became Chocolate Beet Snack Cake.

I just scared you didn't I?!! This cake is moist and delicious and there is no need to fear the beets! They are not discernible in this cake as beets, but simply add lots of nutrition, moisture, and a certain something that you can't quite put your finger on. Did you know that beets are rich in vitamins C and A as well as antioxidants and they have plenty of fiber as well. Here's my recipe for the brave!

Chocolate Beet Snack Cake
1C beet puree
(can be made with canned beets in a food processor
with a small amount of added liquid)
1C applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3-1/2C vegetable oil (your choice on how much to use)
Mix these ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
1 1/2C whole wheat pastry flour
(or half whole wheat and half all-purpose)
1/2C cocoa
1/2C sugar
1/2C brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Mix thoroughly and then add beet mixture. Pour into a greased 13x9 pan and bake at 325 for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool before cutting. Needs only a little sprinkling of powdered sugar for topping if you like.
Tip - try cutting moist cakes like this and brownies with a plastic knife. For some reason the cake or brownies are less apt to stick to the plastic knife, resulting in cleaner lines as you're cutting through.

Well, this is all then.

October 8, 2008

Decorating from the Garden

This is somewhat of a departure from my normal entries, but I wanted to share the fun of growing things like pumpkins and gourds for decoration. Though I lost a number of our decorative plants when the deer ate some of the vines, there was plenty left to go around. I've posted some pictures of the ways I've used them around my house - see the photo of our porch on the left side of this blog - but this picture above was taken at our church. There was a nook that we wanted to make into a focal point, so I rounded up some seasonal goodies and raided my shelves and closets and got to work. A family at church had this beautiful table at home that they weren't using, so that was the jumping off point. I added a number of items from around my house plus some of our pumpkins, gourds, and hedge apples to finish it off. I spent $10 on the mirror, $2 on candles, and $4 on a book stand. I still consider it a work in progress, but overall I was pleased with the way it turned out for a mere $16, some garden harvest, and a little time!

Fall gourds and squashes practically grow themselves, barring any critter interference, and they are so much fun to play with. It's also nice to have enough to give away to other people. I think lots of folks see these things in the grocery store and are tempted to buy them, but the cost is outrageous! I'm already excited about what we can grow next year. Just look at these adorable Mini Red Turbin squash from Johnny's Selected Seeds - soooo cute! I wonder if we need to plow up a little more garden space for next spring???

Well, this is all then.

October 6, 2008

Playing with Seeds

We've been harvesting seeds, saving seeds, planting seeds, and sprouting seeds. This first picture shows the bean seeds from the hyacinth bean vine that I keep talking about. The purple pod becomes the dried out pod and that's when the seeds are ready to come out and be used for next year's planting. I've recently come across directions for making your own seed packets, similar to the ones in this link. I'm planning on making some packets for these seeds and maybe put a picture of the vine on the packet. I think they'll make great gifts.

DH has been doing a more complicated kind of seed saving. One of the tomato plants that we grew this year is a cross of two heirlooms - a Brandywine and an Amish Paste tomato. It was our favorite. DH went through the long process of extracting, fermenting, and then drying the seeds in order to save some for us and for several other people. Check out Seed Savers Exchange for lots of good information on this practice. How can you not be amazed at creation when you look at these homely seeds drying on a paper plate and realize that they have the potential to become pounds and pounds of tomatoes in a number of gardens next summer? It's amazing!

Now for true confessions, we never did do any fall planting for second crops. The planets just never aligned for that venture and it's probably for the best since we're just as happy to be getting the garden tilled and put to bed. However, in a gesture of consolation, DH did plant these herb seeds for me so that we can try to grow them indoors this winter. Here we have cilantro, parsley, and basil since those are the ones we use constantly. I've had variable luck doing this so we'll see. Don't you love this vintage tray?! It's part of a set my mom gave us as a housewarming gift a couple of years ago. Thanks again Mom!

Lastly - my renewed interest in sprouting seeds in the jar set-up. It's an easy way to have fresh veggies in the winter. I picked up this lid in a health food store as well as the sprouting seeds, which are radish seeds meant for sprouting. The lid fits on a wide-mouthed canning jar. I started this easy process on Saturday afternoon and most of the seeds have already started sprouting. You can sprout lots of different seeds, but you have to be sure they haven't been treated with chemicals for planting purposes. Mumm's is a company that sells supplies and seeds for this purpose and there are some interesting articles there about organics and GM foods (genetically modified), which are scary! Different varieties of sprouts have their own distinct flavor and these radish sprouts will be a little spicy - great in a salad, on a sandwich, on top of a burrito...

Well, this is all then.

October 2, 2008

Living in The Wild Kingdom

Pretty huh? This morning almost looked like a frost morning and it's such a pleasure to have these views. However, the point of this post is to share some of the creature battles that go on in this landscape. We're not animal haters by any stretch of the imagination. We realize that living in the country includes animals being near, on, or in your property. We know deer sleep in our yard and have given birth near the pond, we have various kinds of nests on the house and under the deck, we occasionally have coyotes baying in the yard, frogs cling to the kitchen windows at night to catch the moths...

and oddly enough one frog lives on our BBQ grill. Our pond hosts everything from heron to snakes to snapping turtles - and all of this is to be expected.

Rarely do we fight anything off except for protecting our garden and destroying wasp nests. We truly enjoy the wonder of God's creation and the entertainment it brings on our acreage.

One of our favorite hobbies is birdwatching and we have a number of feeders and love tracking the variety of birds they attract. But one bird lately is trying my patience. It's a woodpecker who has decided that it can drill into the steel insert of our gas fireplace. What is it's problem? Doesn't it get a headache trying to drill through the metal? All this week it's come back in the morning to make another attempt. Today it flew into the window first and then landed up on the top of the flue. And no matter how much noise I make or how much I pound the wall, the fireplace screen, and the mantle - it doesn't stop or scare. I've yelled at it, gone out on the porch and into the side yard to try and disturb it, all to no avail. Can birds be deaf?? Or is this bird simply one brick shy of a full load????? I thought of turning on the fireplace - not to cook the thing but just to make the environment less friendly. However, the pilot light has been off for the summer and since I had to be such a "girl" and not learn how to light it when my husband offered to teach me, I'm stuck not being able to get it going. I've just finished trying a little aversion therapy and clanked on the inner pipe of the flue with a ruler that I could fit through the grate. It took a few sessions, but apparently the bird didn't like it and for now it's gone.

I know I need to calm down and enjoy where I live, so I'll just go sweep the raccoon poo off the porch and soak in this beautiful morning in the wild kingdom!

Well, this is all then.