Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Once upon a time, back when we lived in a residential neighborhood, I really loved having the little (and big) trick-or-treaters come to our door, all dressed up and asking for candy. It is so fun! After living here for over seven years now, I have to face the proven fact: there ain't no child gonna come up this long country driveway in the dark on Halloween night. I can't tell you how sad that makes me. I still buy bags of candy though, "Just in case," but I'm not fooling anyone!

My son recently moved to Seattle, but before he left, he and his friend put several of his art pieces around in the garden. Its rather ghoulish, shocking even, to find a head, hidden amidst the chickweed and seeming to have sprouted out of the ground. This holiday is a celebration, and mourning, of the end of the agrarian year. Like it or not, fall has turned to winter as the seasons have indiscernibly changed. Growing and harvesting are, for the most part, done and over, and as much as I dislike winter, rest is essential to life. Since moving to the farm, I celebrate Halloween sans trick-or-treaters by making doughnut. While I'm frying and glazing, I'll contemplate the waxings and wanings in life, birth and death, the balance of work and rest -and children and heads in the garden.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

White Boys and White Bread

With the new lamb's arrival, the boys were kicked out of the barn and moved back into the orchard. They tussle about with each other in the barn and I was worried they might hurt him. It is amazing just how much effort all the flock exerts to make sure and not injure the little ones, both kids and lambs -but boys will be boys, and I didn't want to take the chance.

After their initial disgruntlement, Paris and his two sons, settled down to the serious business of grazing in the orchard. Paris has a colored gene, so he throws both white, like the boys here, and colored, like the girls and our new lamb. I love both the dark and white wool. I like the variety in the dark fleeces but I also like the classic white. Classic white wool and yarn is really quite lovely and a classic farmhouse white bread can be pretty spectacular, too.

Long ago in the B. C. (Before Children) part of my life, after graduating from college and moving to Portland, our next-door neighbor, Lori gave me this recipe. She had gorgeous red-hair, that I (very unsuccessfully) tried to capture the beauty of, by oil painting her portrait. She was my age, had a toddler son when we moved in, plus infant twins less than a year later when we left for Baltimore. We talked a lot about life, choices -and food. I'm always fondly reminded of my friendships from the past when I cook using the recipes my friends have shared with me. Friends may move on, but their recipes, and their place in my heart, remains.

Milk and Honey Bread
"Especially from Lori"
Mix in a small cup and leave until foamy:
1 T. yeast
1/2 T. honey
1/4 c. warm water

Heat to warm and pour in stand mixer bowl:
2 T. butter
1 c. milk
3 T. honey
1 t. salt

1 1/2 c. bread flour
Beat. Stir in:
1 egg
foamy yeast
Switch to dough hook attachment. Knead and add 2+ c. more bread flour, or as needed to make a smooth and elastic dough.

Place in a greased bowl. Leave to double in size. Deflate and let rise again. Shape one loaf and 8 rolls in a second loaf pan. Rise. Brush with egg-milk mixture (I always forget this part) and bake 350 degree oven for 35 minutes (20-25 minutes for the rolls). Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Two Gifts

I think surprise gifts are the best kind. Like our new lamb yesterday. Here he is out in the great big world for the first time. He was intrigued by the fence posts and everything else as he followed his mom around in the pasture.

And 800 yards of an ultrasoft, laceweight, single-ply wool yarn, handspun and handdyed, named Tabula Rasa ('blank slate'), I found on Etsy in Girl With A Sword Productions' shop (Check out her blog, Adventures in Wonderland).

Its purples and blues perfectly complement the blue yarn for my sweater project. "I don't think I have enough yarn." I worried after doing the math (twice) and knitting swatches of my blue yarn. "What do you mean -you have half a dozen sheep in the barn, how can you not have enough yarn?" asked my husband. Half a dozen sheep, lots of yarns, lots of fiber, but no more of this particular blend. I pondered this dilemma for several days.

This skein of yarn is the solution to the little glitch in my sweater knitting project. And how lovely -it came in the mail, wrapped as a gift! Knit together with my bulky blueberry blue yarn, it is the wee bit extra needed, to use a large-enough sized needle, to make the yardage I have, make the sweater I want.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Lamb!

This morning I heard the sound I've been waiting for -the unmistakable sound of a mama ewe calling to her newborn lamb. Starting in October, I listen for it every morning when I first step into the barn and today we have our first new lamb of the season!

Leek and Potato Soup and Irish Soda Bread

Many of the most comforting and soul-satisfying foods, like rice, risotto, mashed potatoes and oatmeal, are the least attractive. Their beige monotony does not generate visual excitement, so we take them for granted and often overlook them. For years I have passed by recipes for Irish Soda Bread, believing so few and so basic of ingredients, put together with so little effort, and of such humble origins, could only be so good. Good enough to get one through a famine certainly, but probably not great. Do not be deceived by its simplicity; it is amazing with butter, with or without jam, with fresh horseradish -or served with soup. The honest flavor of the wheat comes through pure and delicious. I now completely get everything I've heard and read from those singing the praises of Irish Soda Bread.

Irish Soda Bread
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
Cut in:
1/4 c. butter
Stir in:
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
Knead to form a solid, shaggy ball. Place in a well-greased 8 inch square Pyrex dish and flatten to fill. Cut a 1/2 inch x into top. Bake 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until done. Cool completely on wire rack.

The leeks in our garden did very well again this year and I use them in place of onions in many recipes. They are incredibly versatile, lending their own unique character in the kitchen. I really hope they keep well into the winter like they did last year, but I don't suppose we'll be quite so lucky.

Leeks are one of the two main ingredients in Leek and Potato Soup, another food who's beige appearance, simplicity of ingredients, and ease of preparation give very little hint to how delightful it tastes. And this soup has the singular honor of being the very first recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. There can be no higher endorsement, no matter how boring it may look.

Leek and Potato Soup
In stockpot, simmer until tender:
3 c. sliced leeks
3 c. chopped peeled potatoes
2-3 quarts water (or chicken stock)
1 T. salt
Mash, using a slotted spoon, potato or bean masher, or run through a food mill. Do not use a blender which will cause too much starch to be released and make the soup have a 'gluey' texture.
2 T. butter
white pepper to taste
1/3 c. cream or milk (optional)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pork, Pumpkin and Pears

Fall is the season for pork. To really celebrate this, gather together as many as you can of those you love, cook a huge ham, and send them home with leftovers. A farm-raised ham boiled in cherry cola is the finest ham you will ever eat. Trust me on this one, it is the only way I cook ham anymore. It always produces a moist, flavorful, tender ham and it doesn't taste like cherry cola.

And fresh bacon for breakfast this time of year -what could be better?

But the pork cut I really love to cook with is country ribs. Pork country ribs, when cooked long and slow, can yield so many satisfying and succulently melting pork dishes: browned then cooked in the oven with sauerkraut, carrots and potatoes; covered with barbecue sauce in the crock-pot all day, then shredded to make sandwiches; moist-cooked in the oven or pressure-cooker, then basted with a honey-soy glaze, and crisped under the broiler; and in Moroccan-style Pork with sweet potatoes and dried fruit.

The Gold Nugget Squash we grow in our garden was developed to be used as a substitute for sweet potatoes in colder, short season climates, like here in the Pacific Northwest. Libby's, famous for canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling, uses Hubbard squash and not pumpkin. Pumpkin just sounds so much nicer than squash, and now is the time to start harvesting and enjoying them.

I substituted dried pears and some dried plums (which sounds so much nicer than prunes) for the apricots and raisins in this recipe, to make the sort of casserole that really celebrates our local seasonal foods. It is as much Pacific Northwest-style, as it is Moroccan-style, and absolutely delicious.

Pork, Pumpkin and Pears
1-2 lbs. pork country ribs, cut in thirds with bones left in
Sprinkle generously with soy sauce and curry powder.
Heat 1 T. olive oil in enameled dutch oven and brown pork.
2 c. seeded, peeled Gold Nugget Squash, cut into large chunks
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into large chunks
1/2 c. chopped dried pears and plums
1/2 c. OJ
1/2 -15 oz. can lite coconut milk (freeze second half for other use)
Cover and bake in 350 degree oven for 2 hours. Serve with cooked couscous and a green vegetable.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Scarlet and Gold Harvests

I love both the foods of fall and the colors of fall. I love all the scarlet found in nature this time of year: the scarlet of our vine maple tree,

the scarlet the leaves on the blueberry bushes turn, and the Scarlet Runner Beans I harvested.

A bit on the late side, but we'll have at least a few to store. I use them in cooking the same as I do pinto beans. In a perfect world, we would grow acres of these, store them, and then eat the dried beans we'd grown ourselves all winter long. Well, we don't live in a perfect world, so we just have this small amount, but I'm still pleased.

I love the Fall Gold Raspberries that are like a surprise gift that keeps on giving. I think the season is all over -but wait no, here's more berries!

And some more.

And it's another small harvest to put away in the freezer.

Our cat, Sunshine (I didn't name her, but the name does suit her) is our little Gold Angel-Demon kitty, so loving to us, but death to any small creatures hiding in the grass.

And more gold to harvest. Unpleasant fact and an unpleasant chore, but they were raised for the freezer and it is time.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bananas Foster Pancakes

I make some great breakfasts on the weekends -beyond my usual granola or toast and jam- but I'm not very good about posting them. These pancakes were inspired by some bananas browning on the counter. This is a delicious and frugal way to use them up. Of course, you could skip making the sauce and just have these pancakes with syrup, if you prefer.

Banana Pancakes
For two people (double as needed)
Mash 1 overripe banana
1 egg
2 T. vegetable oil
1 c. buttermilk

Mix and add:
1 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 T. sugar
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
Cook 1/4 -1/3 c. batter on 300 degree non-stick griddle, or a lightly oiled caste iron skillet over medium-low heat. Turn when lightly browned, and cook on second side until top springs back when lightly touched in the center.

Bananas Foster Topping
Combine in small skillet:
2 T. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon
Cook over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Add 2 ripe but firm bananas, sliced, spooning sauce over banana slices and stirring gently taking care to not mash them, until cooked (less than 5 minutes).

Add: 2 T. rum and IGNITE! This step is optional in the AM hours. I, who just last week inadvertently put the salt in the fridge before drinking that crucial first cup of coffee in the morning (I only stopped myself from putting the broom in there once because it wouldn't fit), am not to be trusted with rum and a match too early in the day, so I skip this step unless making this sauce for dessert (served with ice cream, of course).

Friday, October 22, 2010


I love sheep. I love the way the look, they way they smell, the way they feel.

I love the way they'll either completely ignore me, or watch me carefully, thinking that I am going to do something -interesting or possibly terrifying- but something.

They are just so incredibly cute sometimes! It is such a joy to know they are all content and happy in their still green pasture, even though winter is not far away. I can't wait for lambs!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blue-Blue Scalloped Potatoes

The leeks from the garden are amazing right now. Just as everything else is starting to die off and look pathetic, they are still quite lovely -and delicious.

The potatoes we harvested several months ago are stored in the basement. All Blue is one of several of the varieties we grew. They are a very easy to grow, hardy and disease resistant potato, good for storing, and moist and flavorful. I think they are just simply gorgeous.

The cured hams and bacon from the pig we raised last summer are in the freezer; there is nothing quite like eating farm raised pork, ham and bacon.

I love blue cheese, and the best blue cheese EVER, Smokey Blue from the Rogue Creamery in Oregon, is available both at the Fred Meyer in Snohomish and the Sno-Isle Co-op in Everett.

Our All Blue potatoes are beautiful. Peru at one time grew over 4000 varieties of potatoes and it is really unfortunate that less than half a dozen varieties of potato are commonly used. Think of it: there is an entire universe of potatoes out there that most of us haven't experienced.

This casserole is not just a clever name thing, but a really tasty one-dish recipe, old-fashioned yet not, and with flavors I love that really compliment each other: salty ham, tangy blue cheese, earthy potatoes and flavorful leeks. Of course, the ham can be left out, if you prefer or don't have any, and this will still be really, really good.

Blue-Blue Scalloped Potatoes
Serves 4
6-8 All Blue Potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Cook until just barely done (5-10 minutes). Drain.
Meanwhile, liberally butter a 7 x 11 Pyrex dish. Prepare:
1 1/2 c. ham, chopped (optional)
1 1/2 c. leeks, sliced
3.5 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
1 c. milk, heated but not boiling
Layer in dish: half the leeks, half the potatoes, 2 T. flour, all the ham, all the blue cheese (or put half on last), the remaining potatoes, salt (remember the ham and blue cheese both are salty) and pepper, and the remaining leeks. Pour milk over all carefully. Bake 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pickled Jalapeno Peppers

I find very few things in life as satisfying as canning, and especially when preserving the produce we've raised ourselves. These colorful Apache Jalapeno Peppers my husband grew this year were particularly satisfying because they are so pretty. I usually make these in pints, but these I pickled in cute little half pint jars, a much better size for only one or two pepper eaters. They are so easy to make, just be very careful handling the peppers. My fingers were burning a bit for quite awhile afterwards, so you might want to wear rubber gloves.

Pickled Jalapeno Peppers
In each of 6 clean half pint (or pint) jars place:
1 small garlic clove
2 whole allspice berries
4 whole peppercorns
1 half bay leaf
Trim stem and cut peppers in half lengthwise but leave attached at the stem end. Pack peppers into jars.

In pot bring to a boil:
1 1/2 c. vinegar (white is preferred but I used cider)
1 1/2 c. water
1 T. pickling salt
Pour brine over peppers, leaving a half inch head space. *Add 1/2 T. olive oil to each jar. Don't forget this part. Almost every time I make these I do, then I have to take off the lids, add the oil, reheat more lids, and seal them again. Don't forget.

Seal and water bath process for 10 minutes. Store 3 weeks before eating.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spin, Spun, Done!

I finished my latest spinning project last night. Paris' fiber is fabulous and it was an absolute joy to spin. The colors actually blended to create the yarn I had dreamed they would. My ideas don't always work out that way, so I am really quite pleased with myself.

I am absolutely smitten with this yarn. I love everything about it and I plan to knit myself a sweater with it right away.

Back in July, I dyed wool from Paris sapphire blue, teal, and violet. To create this blend, I added scarlet and a bit of his undyed natural off white fiber to the mix.

I used my little drum carder down in the basement to blend it all together. I feel a bit like Rumpelstiltskin down there -off in a dark corner, cranking away, and creating something wonderful.

I'm hoping for sunshine today so I can hang my newly spun and washed skeins in the sun to dry. I can't wait to start knitting, and I can only hoping my knitting project goes as well as the spinning did. Wish me luck.