Saturday, July 14, 2007

Various and Sundry Things...

  • Sharon visited for a bit this week. It was a great time to reinforce my "favorite aunt status" with Renee and Lucas--Lol! Isaac and Samuel came for a day, and had lots of cousinly fun at grandmama's house...

    Grandmama's placemats become guitars...

    Sweet Lukie.

    Thanks to Sharon for the photos.

  • While Sharon was here, I discovered a source for local, organic, free-range eggs! It was by complete happenstance that we ran into "the egg lady" at a produce stand. (The yolks on these eggs are almost a burnt orange color. It's amazing.) She also grinds and bakes freshly ground whole-wheat bread, and gave me a tip for local, organic, soft red wheat! $17 for 50 pounds! Whew! What a windfall!

  • I tried my hand at making butter, after an article in the NYTimes (So sorry--I was able to access it a week ago without Times select!) and pictorial directions from this blog. I was about to toss some "over-ripe", already separated, pasteurized whipping cream when I remembered these links--and tried my hand with a Mason jar and a lot of shakin' action. I think I could have shaken it longer-- I later found out through my good friend Susannah that she'd seen it made with a marble in the jar, to help agitate the cream and solidify the butter. But judging from the flavor, it's definitely worth the work. The butter has a rich, creamy flavor, and a spreadable consistency that you just don't get from the store. And-- well-- it's mostly gone. And my family isn't the sort to put butter on everything, either! So--right now, my lovely, creamy raw milk is in an iced tea jar, so that the cream's rising to the top. And, depending on when I decide to make it again--I'll either skim off the cream with a ladle, and make sure I've got mostly only cream with a gravy separator, let it sit overnight for flavor-- and then try it again. Though, Sharon might beat me to it, as soon as she gets her iced tea jar!

  • I'm also starting into a Kambucha Tea experiment again. We'll see how that goes.

  • I'm also trying to paint my room. We'll see how that goes.

  • I'm also contemplating sewing ideas... and projects...
Lol--one thing about having many hobbies: You're never bored.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A random Summertime update about everything under the sun...

...or rather, under the clouds at this point. We're finally getting some rain, after being deprived for some time.

This is where Friday afternoon found me:

Heather, her children, and I met up at the Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock. It's such a beautiful house, with goats and chickens and a garden to interest the kids, as well as a great pond down below with huge bream, some ducks, and some beautiful pond lilies. All great things for children. And for the adults, there was a house to look at, a tour to take, a gift shop with lots of great books to examine, cheese and soap to buy, and (if you didn't miss it as we did), a cheese demonstration to attend. As well as a picnic to enjoy. And as a pseudo-writer, I love to hear the history and the words of Carl Sandburg. He was a writer for the common man, the same way Aaron Copeland was a composer for the common people who took the ideologies and folk tunes of America and molded them into new sound...

Ahem. Let me get off my soapbox.

Heather and I decided to do a switcheroo--I'd bring her raw milk and freshly ground whole wheat bread, and she'd bring me veggies from her garden and some free-range eggs from her chickens. I think I got the more generous bargain, 'cause she stuck in some of her black raspberry preserves, too. Wow. Yum. Delicious. (Ahem-- Heather... how'd you like the raw milk? And how'd the bread go over with Alex? )

And so, tonight found me cooking with some of the produce. Specifically, the greens from the beets. (Well, I cooked the beats too, in the oven at 400, which is a great way to precook them, should you ever come across a beet to cook. and then, you can slice them, removing the skin in the process, and saute them in butter with salt and pepper and some nutmeg... )

In the process of cooking the greens, and trying to find a recipe and failing (well, okay-- I didn't look on the 'net...), and then inventing my own perfectly good recipe after inspiration from Joy of Cooking... I returned to Mark Bitman's How to Cook Everything to discover that beet greens are basically swiss chard, in which Mark Bitman has 3 recipes for, and no telling how many Joy has... Lol.

But here's my simple recipe for Swiss Chard (a.k.a. beet greens) with Apples:
  • A bunch (however much you have) of swiss chard, washed; damaged stems and leaves removed, and then both stems and leaves sliced into small 1" pieces. (washed and chopped, I had about 3 cups.)
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 t. Bacon grease, if you are so blessed to have it. If not, a combo of butter and olive oil.
  • (I rounded out the grease with 1 T. olive oil)
  • ~ 1 T. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 t. Italian Seasoning
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste.
Heat grease, butter, and/or oil in pan. Add apples, sauteing for a minute. Add in chard, saute for another minute, and then add in seasonings. Cook until greens are tender--about 5 minutes max. at fairly high heat.

I think know this recipe will not appeal to all... it's something like Sharon's kale and tomatoes... lol... So let me leave you with another which will appeal more universally.

My mother has a great way of cooking any bean that is incredibly simple. Basically, you wash and sort through a package of any dried beans, place in the crock pot with stock or water and appropriate spices, and depending on the bean, it'll be done any where from 2-3 to 7-8 hours later. It's the same as many old-fashioned cooks used to do, but instead of a bean-pot, Mama just uses the crock pot. She wanted me to record what I'd done today with some black-eye peas, so here goes:
1 package black-eye peas, washed and sorted through
1 large or 1 1/2 small onions, stem and root removed, sliced in thick, 1-2" wedges
4-5 slices pre-cooked bacon, sliced or torn into pieces
4-5 bay leaves
3-4 whole cloves 1 to 1 1/2 T. better than bullion (chicken base)
2 t. (one squirt) ketchup

Hot water (about a quart)

Place all ingredients in a medium-sized slow cooker. Cover with hot water, stir, and cook until done, 1 1/2--2 hours on high heat, or 3 1/2-4 on low. Add:

Salt and pepper to taste
Generous Dash of ground sage Enjoy.

For those who have dealt with long soaks for beans before--according to my favorite foodie, Mark Bittman, it's unnecessary, and doesn't help with the "nitrogen content" anyway. I tend to agree.

Quotes by Carl Sandburg:

I have always felt that a woman has the right to treat the subject of her age with ambiguity until, perhaps, she passes into the realm of over ninety. Then it is better she be candid with herself and with the world.
Life is like an onion: you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.
Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during the moment.
The greatest cunning is to have none at all.

When a nation goes down, or a society perishes, one condition may always be found; they forgot where they came from. They lost sight of what had brought them along.