Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Buttermilk Ranch-style Salad Dressing

The sugar snap peas are ripe. Hooray! They are a tasty addition to my daily big green salad (with some other stuff layered on top) and the salad dressing of the day -a homemade buttermilk ranch-style salad dressing. It is so easy to make and so good, you may never buy the bottled stuff again! Besides the buttermilk, dill weed is the key ingredient here, but you can mess around with it if you want -omit chives if you don't have any, use fresh garlic instead of powdered, use half milk for half the buttermilk, substitute yogurt for sour cream -you get the idea.

Whisk all together in a bowl:
1 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream (regular, lowfat or nonfat)
1 c. (or more) buttermilk
1 T. each minced fresh Italian parsley, chives, dill weed (or 1 t. dried) and grated onion
1 t. honey
1/2 t. each garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, and white vinegar
1/4 t. each salt, black pepper and paprika
1/8 t. cayenne powder or dash Tabasco sauce

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Chicks Have Hatched!

The arrival of new babies is one of the best things about raising animals. The 'Oh my gosh, they are so cute!' thrill never goes away -no matter how many times you experience it. These guys were hatched in our incubator from eggs collected from our own layer hens. In the incubator now and expected to hatch in 28 days is the turkey poults.

The only question is which is cuter? A box of baby chicks...

... or a box of baby bunnies?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Date-Pecan Granola and Green Enchiladas

The pollen from the sheep-belly-high orchard grass is making me miserable with allergies. Instead of doing the hundreds of things outside yesterday that I should have been doing, I stayed inside, as much as possible, with the windows closed and cooked.

I was motivated to make granola by my daughter who keeps checking the empty crock where I usually keep it. It's really easy, so there's no excuse why I haven't made any for awhile. I vary the fruit and nuts in this recipe -dried blueberries and filberts, dried cherries and almonds, and raisins and walnuts, are favorites. This time I made a new variation, Date-Pecan Granola, that is particularly good. The recipe is adapted from the Andy Fairfield Granola recipe in Nigella Lawson's cookbook Feasts. This really is the best homemade granola you'll ever eat. If you don't have a large roasting pan, mix it all in a bowl and then divide between two smaller ones -or halve the recipe.

Date-Pecan Granola
Mix in a really large roasting pan:
5 c. old-fashioned rolled oats (thick like Bob's Red Mill)
1 c. sunflower seeds
1/4 c. sesame seeds
3/4 c. applesauce
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/4 c. honey
1/3 c. Lyle's Golden Syrup (or all honey, if not available)
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 - 2 c. pecans
1/2 - 1 t. salt
2 T. canola oil
Bake 325 for 10 minutes. Stir and repeat until golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Cool and add 1-2 c. (8 oz. package) chopped dates. Store in closed containers.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie. For the recipe, click on my Saveur link and use their 'Search Recipes and More' box.

Making enchiladas involves frying each tortilla and then immediately coating it in the sauce -and then you fill and roll each one. These are time consuming steps, but worth it. My sister-in-law Angela's mother, born and raised in Mexico, says traditionally they are first dipped in the sauce and then fried, but this results in such spattering and sputtering that the reverse process is preferred. I used purchased green enchilada sauce here, but prefer to use my green sauce that I make and freeze in the late summer when the tomatillos and cilantro are profuse. We ate all I froze last year so I will try and freeze more of it this year.

Green Enchiladas
Have everything ready for filling and rolling before you start frying the tortillas.
Pressure cook 1 pieced rabbit (or chicken) for 9 minutes, quick release pressure and cool. Debone and shred meat onto a plate.
Grate 4-6 oz. Pepper-Jack (or Monterey Jack, Co-Jack or Cheddar) Cheese
Dice 1/2 onion
Open small can Diced, Roasted Chilies
Open 28 oz can (or defrost quart frozen) Green Enchilada Sauce and place in large bowl.

Heat 1-2 inches oil for frying tortillas. Fry tortillas one at a time 1 minute, or until softened but not crisp, turning once. Immediately remove from oil and immerse in green sauce. Remove to a plate and continue until all are done, 14-20 tortillas for a 9 x 13 inch Pyrex baking dish and 5-6 servings.
As soon as all tortillas are fried, begin layering and rolling. The tortillas will begin to fall apart if left to sit too long. If you double or triple recipe for a large crowd, recruit someone to help you -one person frying and one person rolling. Making enchiladas results in a lot of dirty plates, even before anyone starts eating. On a small plate, place one tortilla and layer down the center:
1-2 T. grated cheese
1-2 T. shredded meat
1/2 T. diced onion
1 t. diced, roasted chilies
Fold two sides over filling and place seam side down in baking dish. Continue until all are filled, making two layers in dish. Except for cheese, scatter any remaining filling ingredients over top layer. Pour over casserole any remaining green sauce, and then sprinkle top with remaining grated cheese and 1/4 c. grated Parmesan, if desired. Cover with foil, folding back along one long side of the dish to leave a 1-inch vent opening. Bake 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Serve with sour cream, refried beans, and a seasonal vegetable of choice on the side.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

A chicken pot pie made with care is really hard to beat. Humble as it is, its honest flavors make a comforting and satisfying family dinner. Here I cooked a whole chicken for 9 minutes in the pressure cooker, quick-releasing the pressure. I deboned and cubed the dark meat for the pot pie, saving the breast meat for sandwiches and the broth for the freezer. Cooking each vegetable seperately is annoying but not difficult. Make the filling ahead and refrigerate it, if that fits your schedule better. While the oven is preheating, simply reheat the filling, make and add the biscuit topping and bake -it will be in the oven within 20 minutes.
Cover with water and cook seperately until tender:
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 c. carrots, cut into small chunks
In large caste-iron skillet melt 2 T. butter
Saute 1/2 chopped onion until soft
Add: 3 T. flour and cook several minutes while stirring
Stir in 1 1/2 c. chicken broth and 1 c. milk or more to make a smooth gravy
1 c. frozen peas
1/2 -1 t. salt
1/4 t. poultry seasoning
1/4 t. white pepper
2-3 c. cubed chicken
drained potatoes and carrots
Cook until peas are done. You can pour filling into a large casserole, individual little casseroles, or fill an unbaked pastry shell -then top with a pastry crust. I usually prefer to top with a rosemary biscuit crust and bake it in the caste-iron skillet.
For biscuit crust mix:
2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 T. baking powder
1/4 t. poultry seasoning and/or 1 t. minced rosemary (optional)
Cut in 1/4 c. butter and then stir in 3/4-1 c. milk to make a wet "droppable" biscuit topping. Put blops all over the top. It doesn't have to cover completely. Bake 350-400 degrees for 15-30 minutes.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sheep in the Orchard

My heart fills with joy seeing the sheep grazing in the orchard from our kitchen window.

Young ewes shorn a few months ago, now grazing belly-high in green orchard grass.

Sheep in paradise -and I am their goddess that makes it all happen! Because I give them hay in the winter, they think I must be she who provides the green grass. They genuinely believe I can change unpleasant things, like the rain and the heat, and baa at me when I don't.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Waiting for Wool

There are two harvest for a shepherdess raising dual-purpose sheep -lamb butchering and wool shearing. I sheared some of my sheep myself last fall, and then this spring had a shearer named Constance Wiseman do the rest. She can be contacted at or call 360-320-1755. Being a relatively new shearer, she was readily available and I applaud her eagerness and enthusiasm. She compensated for being a small woman when shearing Paris, the hulking ram beast, by hobbling him.

I took the fleece from the first shearing the Gretchen's Wool Mill to just be washed. I plan to dye, card and blend the fiber and can't wait to get started. Yesterday she e-mailed me they are ready to be picked up and I am meeting her this morning. I am so excited to get started dyeing and blending the resulting colors. After washing my own wool for the first few years, it is such a luxury to have Gretchen do all the hard work. I believe she really does a much better job than me. Her website is or call 360-793-0962.

I also have some fleece at Superior Wool Mills. These fleece I am having processed into rovings to offer for sale to handspinners. I was surprised to find that their mill is located only 3 minutes from my daughter's friend's house, tucked back in a very nice residential neighborhood in Edmonds -not on a farm. When I dropped the fleece off, they were busy preparing to attend the Black Sheep Gathering but said they would begin processing mine as soon as they returned. Their website is or call 425-778-6519

I recently took this photo while visiting Eileen Hordyk at her farm in Arlington to interview her for the spinning guild's newsletter. She told me she was also planning to attend the Black Sheep Gathering. She has been showing there and traveling down with Lin Schweider, since 1990. They both are honest-to-goodness real shepherdess' and amazing women that I admire enormously. The first time I met Eileen she was teaching a shearing class and I learned she shears 1-2 sheep a day, three times a week. The second time, I learned she also works nights as a labor and delivery nurse, and the third time I met her she was spinning an amazing boucle yarn from a peach-colored wool and mohair blended fiber. I couldn't help thinking, "I am not worthy to touch this woman's sheep shears!" Having the opportunity to invite myself for a visit and get to know producers like Eileen is why I love doing the Calendar Girls articles for the Valley Spinner's Guild newsletter. I highly recommend anyone belonging to a spinning guild and wanting to be more personally involved with the other members, to volunteer themselves to do this. It is amazing how it has enriched my life and how much fun it is.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Filling and White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Rugosa roses between the barn and Miss Piggy's pen.

I recently made this chocolate lovers dream layer cake to celebrate a birthday. The frosting is out of this world and perfect with my favorite cake recipe which I have dubbed the little black dress of cakes. It is always appropriate, looks great, tastes fantastic -and is easy to make. The following is for one layer but you can easily double it, like I did here, to make a two layer cake.

The Little Black Dress Cake or Black Magic Cake
adapted from Hershey's Homemade
Cut wax or parchment paper to line one 9 inch cake pan. Grease bottom and sides of pan, fit in paper, grease paper and flour. This step is a pain but you must do it.
1 c. sugar
scant 1 c. cake flour
1/3 c. dark cocoa
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. each baking powder and salt
1 egg
1/2 c. strong black coffee (use decaf if you are serving this in the evening)
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. canola oil
1/2 t. raspberry liquor, Kahlua or vanilla
Beat 2 minutes. Batter will be thin. Pour into prepared pan and bake 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until tests done. Cool 5 minutes, invert onto rack and cool completely. Meanwhile, make frosting.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle
2 oz. Baker's White Chocolate, or other high quality white chocolate -NOT chips
Beat for 1 minute with electric mixer:
8 oz cream cheese
2 T. soft butter
Add melted white chocolate and mix until blended. Add and beat 1 minute until smooth:
1/2 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. vanilla
3/4 c. powdered sugar
Use right away as it hardens quickly.

To assemble cake, carefully cut horizontally using a serrated knife. Gently spread a generous amount of homemade raspberry jam onto bottom half, then carefully replace top half. Cover top and sides of cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. Decorate with dry, fresh, organic raspberries, if they are in season. Refrigerate until frosting sets.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Big Green Salad

We eat a big green salad, at least once a day this time of year, from our two gallon salad bowl we fill every other day or so with amazing lettuces and greens from the garden.

My husband is the gardener -I weed and harvest -so I don't know exactly what
variety these are. I know one is some type of green (red?) leaf lettuce and also there is some corn salad, romaine and spinach here. I know they all taste fantastic as well as look beautiful.

This is called 'Flashy Trout Back' and is a type of romaine lettuce. I think it is really lovely.

I make a variety of home-made salad dressings, including our favorite standby Honey Dijon, and this red one. I have seen variations of it called Catalina, Ketchup, Italian Tomato, Russian and French Salad Dressing. I like my version of it -whatever name you choose to call it.

American French or Catalina Salad Dressing

Mix in mini food processor or shake vigorously in jar with a tight fitting lid:
1/2 c. canola oil
1/3 c. ketchup
3-4 T. grated onion
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. sugar
2 t. each Coleman's mustard and paprika
1/2 t. each celery seed and salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1-2 t. minced fresh tarragon (if in season)

Smart Duck and Miss Piggy

This is smart duck -our only Muscovy duck to elude the marauding coyote that has decimated our poultry population over the past few months. The coyote dug into the chicken tractor and killed our two geriatric hens, including Violet, a beloved pet we've had since the kids were young. We also lost a breeding pair of Saxony ducks, a breeding trio of geese, half a dozen Muscovy ducks -and a turkey hen just a few nights ago. We have put the remaining breeding pair of turkeys in a room in the chicken house and they will have to stay there until we are rid of the coyote.

This is Miss Piggy. She is quite rambunctious.

The two are friends. Maybe Miss Piggy protects Smart Duck from the coyote. Then again, maybe Smart Duck just likes to eat the pig food. Miss Piggy does like her company though.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie

A good lemon meringue pie starts with good eggs. Our farm-raised eggs give this pie its vibrant yellow color.

This pie is one of my husband's absolute favorite desserts and pie of any type is one of my absolute favorite breakfasts. In first grade I mortified my mother when I proudly announced for 'show-and-tell' that I had eaten pie for breakfast.

To make the pie crust:
Mix 1 1/2 c. flour and 1/2 t. salt. Cut in 1/2 c. lard, or a mixture of vegetable shortening and butter. (This is the only reason why I don't have pie every day!) Add cold water (3-4 T.) with a few drops of lemon juice added. The amount of water needed can vary. Add just till it holds together. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the freezer for an hour or the fridge for several hours to overnight. This is the key step to a great pie crust. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pie crust, fit into dish, trim and flute edge (or roll and tuck in uneven edge). Prick crust all over with a fork then bake until browned on bottom and done (15 minutes or so). Keep an eye on the baking crust -don't burn it but also make sure its done -an underdone pie crust is not tasty. If it puffs up while baking, poke it with a fork to deflate the bubble or push down gently with a pot holder. OR line the unbaked crust with foil and fill it with pie weights (I use navy beans I keep in a bag for just such a purpose), bake for 10-12 minutes, remove foil and weights and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees. If your dough is wettish and soft this is the recommended way to bake it or the sides will slip down and the pie crust will not hold the filling which is very depressing.

To make the lemon filling, combine in top of double boiler:
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour
2 T. cornstarch
1/2 t. salt
Add 2 1/4 c. boiling water, stirring constantly. Cook over boiling water while stirring until smooth and thickened. Cover and cook 15 minutes.
Beat 3 egg yolks and 1/2 c. sugar until color lightens. Mix in a spoonful of cooked mixture to egg-sugar mix. Repeat several times then add lightened egg-mixture to filling and stir well. Cover and cook 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and add:
2 T. butter
1/3 c. lemon juice
Mix well. Set aside to make meringue.
Beat with wire whisk or until frothy:
3 egg whites
1/4 t. cream of tartar
Slowly add 1/4 c. powdered sugar while beating, and a few drops of vanilla. Beat until soft peaks form but do not over beat and dry out. Pour lemon filling into pie crust, then gently spread meringue over filling. Use back of a spoon to form peaks by pressing and lifting spoon on top of meringue. Bake 325 degrees until meringue just browns, about 8 minutes or so. Watch carefully as the peaks can burn quite easily. When it looks perfect, remove from oven and cool completely.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Snohomish Farmer's Market Yarn Lady

This is my booth at the farmer's market set up and ready to sell yarn just before the market opened. The weather report said 'sunny and warm.' -Yeah, right, but at least it didn't rain. I love taking one day a week away from 'what I need to get done' here at home and having several hours to only spin and chat. Old friends stopped by to talk about their knitting projects, sheep and chicken raising, some new people about spinning and shearing alpacas and llamas and some new customers promised to bring by their completed projects. I really, really like seeing what other's make with my yarn. Like every week, I told several new spinners about Valley Spinner's Guild and what a wonderful group of people are there. Besides spinning and chatting, the next best thing at the market is the food. Well, actually it's probably the first. Cherries, strawberries and sugar snap peas are in and looked delicious when I walked through the market. What to eat? Darlene's big sugar cookies with pink frosting and the kettle korn are both a couple of my favorite choices for noshing and Whidbey Island Ice Cream Company's blackberry lavender ice cream bars sounded heavenly. What I actually ate was the same thing I have had the last couple of markets -a good old-fashioned cheeseburger made with organic, grass fed, locally raised black angus beef from Judy Pedersen's Pioneer Farms. Last week I talked with a mom of a ten year old boy who had his first tast of beef EVER eating one of these burgers -This is beef you can honestly feel good about eating.

My booth was across from the flower vendors and these ladies were so happy with their flowers they asked me to take their picture. They were so lovely I asked if I could take one too with my camera. I am looking forward to when Gypsy Rows Farm comes to the market (soon?) and fills this spot -We miss you Darren and Halle.

This is a quilt I made for my youngest daughter when she was little and loved all things pink. She passed her driver's test yesterday and I can't help thinking of when she was a wee tot. She is my third and last child to be let loose on the roads and all its perils. I should be seasoned enough by now, and therefore immune, to the fears and anxieties this step brings to my gut as a parent -but I am not. She has promised to keep her cell-phone in her bag when driving and I know from experience it will take me awhile to relax.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Granny's Strawberry Shortcake

I picked the first of the strawberries this morning -a bit wet from the rain- and though it was not the bountious crop I had hoped for there is enough to make old-fashioned strawberry shortcakes for dinner. This recipe is, as my granny would say 'as old as the hills', but more and more I'm drawn to that which is simple -and simply delicious. She always made one large shortcake but individual biscuit size ones are just as good.
Slice the strawberries -however many you have or want to use. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar (and a drop or two of balsamic vinegar if they are not farm fresh and need pepping up a bit) and leave to macerate while you make the shortcake.
Granny's Shortcake
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut 2-3 T. butter from a 1/2 c. stick and put in 9 x 13 Pyrex dish. Place in preheating oven and remove when melted. Meanwhile,
In bowl mix:
2 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 T. baking powder
Cut in the remainder of butter stick. Stir in about 3/4 c. milk or buttermilk to make a soft, workable dough. Knead a few turns. Granny always divided the dough in half, rolled each half 1/2 inch thick, placed one half on a buttered baking sheet and then brushed the top with melted butter. She repeated with the second half and placed it on top of the first and brushed on more melted butter. She would then cut the baked shortcake into wedges which would split easily to be fill with strawberries. I prefer to use a biscuit cutter and make individual ones dipping the tops in the melted butter in the dish rather than brushing it on, and though the two layer biscuit-sized cakes are nice, one layer is just as tasty. Bake 12-15 minutes until browned. Whip 1 pint whipping cream with a bit of maple syrup to sweeten it. Split warm or cooled shortcakes, top with berries and whipped cream.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Marion Cunningham's Turnip Slaw

We harvested the first of the turnips this week. Earlier in the week I used some in a stir fry of bok choy, turnips, asparagus and shrimp (Yum). Last night I made a turnip coleslaw from The Supper Book by Marion Cunningham. How can you not love a cookbook called The Supper Book? It is full of recipes for all sorts of cozy foods. I served the turnip slaw with more spinach salad and BBQ sandwiches -the burger buns I made in the morning and pork contry-style ribs and sauce cooked in the crock-pot while I weeded in the garden. I liked the slaw but my teen politely declined to taste it. "Mom, nobody likes turnips." Well, I do. I wouldn't recommend making this with turnips that have been sitting around for awhile, but only with ones just pulled up from the garden -or bought at the farmer's market. This is my adaptation of the recipe and I hope you like it.
Turnip Slaw
Mix well and refrigerate:
1/4 c. mayo
2 T. sour cream
1 t. white vinegar
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 t. sugar
1/4 t. celery seed
salt and pepper to taste
1 t. each minced fresh tarragon and dill
2 c. peeled and grated fresh turnips

Sheep, Spinach and Strawberries