Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cabin, Snowflakes and Dumplings

We loaded a lot of lumber on the trailer last week and hauled it away to get planned, edged and tongue and grooved.  The call came today that it is finished.  How exciting since our weather is going to be in the 40s and 50s next week.  The last bit of insulation will be done and we can start putting the boards on the ceiling!  Our long winter's nap is coming to an end.  Lists are mentally being made on what to do, what to do.  The cabin is top priority until the middle of May and then garden will be top of the order.  Once it is planted then back to the cabin until hay season.  I am hoping by the middle of July we can take a break to enjoy the view of the little cabin that already might have a long term guest. 

I was alone today...not really alone.  Quincy was here, snow flakes, chickens, guinea hens and of course Smokey.  Quincy and I sat by the window, I was watching the snowflakes float down and I think he was looking for a squirrel or his favorite guy to get home.  It was very calming and peaceful.  How many snowflakes have I watched in my lifetime with the same feeling.  Once they hit the ground they are no more.  Every time I watch them it is as good as the last time.  Like a snow globe that I don't have to ruin the moment by shaking it again.  The day was perfect to take deep breaths and just shut the world out.  I didn't even have to think of ........what's for supper.  Just me and a few leftovers that will do me just fine.  Beef stew and dumplings and chili.  My pick whenever I want to eat.  Now that is another treat of the day, when I want to.  No hurries, no worries.

Speaking of leftovers.  The beef stew and dumplings was our supper last night.  I had made a roast beef in the pressure cooker last week.  One night it was the roast with whipped potatoes and a few days later hot roast beef sandwiches.  What was leftover went to the freezer. Yesterday I thawed it up, put it in a big pot with carrots, peas, potatoes and green beans that I had cooked.  Then mixed up a half a batch of dumplings  and put on top.  Nice, 3 meals from one roast.  Cook once and just give it a little tweak for 2 more meals.  The dumpling recipe is in Della's Daughter Cookbook. 

Dumpling Recipe:
2 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 TBSP. shortening or lard

Put dry ingredients in a bowl, cut in shortening and then stir enough milk to make a thick batter to drop by spoon full into hot liquid.  Make sure you cover the pot and leave it covered for about 10-12 minutes.  Take the lid off to check if the dumplings are done.  Just take a fork and lift up the top of the dumpling it should be dry with no sticky dough in the middle.  If they aren't done cover it for a few more minutes.  You can use chicken and gravy or beef and gravy.  Add whatever veggies you like or none.  You can also use blackberries, blueberries, peaches, apples or fruit of your choice with sugar and water, bring to boil, drop dumplings on top and sprinkle with sugar.  Cover and cook the same way. 

The beef stew, make sure it is on a low simmer.

This is what the dumpling batter should look like.  If it is
just the two of us I only make half a batch.

Make sure you leave room for the dumplings to cook.

All done, I sprinkle paprika and parsley on before cooking.
Now you see why you must leave room for the dumplings
to cook.  Nice big and fluffy.

Big helping for him, little helping for her.  Plus he
likes butter on his.

Dessert was homemade tapioca pudding.

Today I received a thank you card from a little girl.  It was beautiful, the card was too.  She took the time to tell me her dad is going to make a frame for the picture I gave her.  All written in cursive and so nicely said.  It was wonderful to see the adult in her life showing her "the ropes."  By that I mean she will grow up knowing how to be polite, thankful and giving.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Rice Pudding

It has been a very dreary day so far and it is only noon.  After breakfast I watched a few youtube programs that I have been following.  From small off the grid cabins to cooking on a woodstove and regular stove.  You would think I would tire of cooking but not the case.  Tending to lean towards good old fashioned recipes and ignoring the new add this and that recipes.  Why take a good thing just to ruin it with usually lots of sugar or cheese.  For example a down home honest to goodness old fashioned chocolate cake.  Now try this, add chunks of candy bars, caramel, nuts, coconut and anything else that will add more "sugar me up".  I do like sugar and I do like candy but not to the point that it is more work and more money to make.  How about a baked potato with sour cream, cheese, bacon, creamed broccoli?  Seriously give me a baked potato with butter, salt and pepper. Separate the potato and skin because butter salt and pepper on the skin is an added bonus.  Then there was a meatloaf recipe with a kazillion kinds of cheeses put in the middle.  No thanks.  We were just talking about ice cream.  For us a simple dish is fine, put on all the syrups, sauces, fruits, nuts, etc. just takes away the ice cream kaboom.

Back to a simple dessert for the day.  What to do on a dreary day but go through old cookbooks and come up with.......I haven't made that in a long time.  Rice pudding, one of my favorite childhood  memories.  No Della recipe for this but we had it often. Pretty sure it was one of those memory recipes that never made it to paper.   I do know she baked it and had raisins and cinnamon in it.  Definitely no cinnamon for mine, fresh ground nutmeg is the choice.  Cinnamon doesn't get along with me and it took 50 some years to figure it out!  No raisins, none in the cupboard so they will be put on the grocery list that always hangs on the frig.  Golden raisins, I don't like the dark ones.  Since I'm the cook around here it is my choice of ingredients.
Ready to fold in the whipped egg whites.

Rice Pudding Recipe:
2 eggs separated
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups milk
2 cups cooked rice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Mix two egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, salt, vanilla, nutmeg and milk in medium bowl.
Stir in cooled rice.
Beat egg whites until stiff
Fold egg whites into first mixture and pour into a buttered baking dish.
Bake for 30-40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Serve warm or cold.

Hot from the oven.

A little steam rolling and oh so good!

The pudding is good just the way it is but if you want a little extra sweet, whip some heavy cream for the top.

Here is my thought on trying recipes.  They don't always turn out like the picture or the reviews.  A recipe is a list of ingredients, amounts, how to and timing.  Let me tell ya, it may take several tries to get it just right.  I always say weather plays a big part on how many recipes behave.  I do mean behave, even the best and oldest cooks have failures.  Sometimes you have to tweak that recipe for the day.  Also you may like more of this, less of that or change the seasoning completely.  It is all in your personal taste.  Today finding this recipe just happened to be a score.  It very well could have been a failure and may the next time. This freezing rain kinda day was OK for me. 

You can use skim, 1%, 2% or whole for the recipe.  I used 2% and greased the baking dish with real butter for the flavor.  The vanilla was what I made thanks to a friend and neighbor from 50+ years ago.  Her parents had a farm not far from ours.  She read in my cookbook that someday I might get brave enough to spend the money to buy ingredients to make vanilla.  That sweet Barb Maxson Adams sent me the vanilla beans and bottle to get started!  I am now hooked!  What a great aroma and flavor.  I used a very inexpensive vodka.  It took 6 weeks from start to finish.  Now I have it started at different times as to not be without.  The only vanilla that rates right up there with this is white vanilla we have bought in Mexico or our son in law brought to us.  Now I can use the real deal instead of using the cheap imitation in cookies and cakes!  Yes, I can be that cheap at times. 
Homemade vanilla, a beautiful golden color.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Cook'n by the Creek: Snow in the Valley

Cook'n by the Creek: Snow in the Valley: January is going out with a snow storm and February is  coming in with a storm.  This morning looking out the kitchen window it was the firs...

Snow in the Valley

January is going out with a snow storm and February is  coming in with a storm.  This morning looking out the kitchen window it was the first hint that winter will soon be pushed away by spring.  The sun has moved down the valley giving way to beautiful sunshine in the back field earlier.  With the big flakes falling it reminds me of Maple Tapping Time.  Living on the farm tapping trees in March was a most exciting time and today that old memory just made me stand there visually seeing the "old sugar shack" with smoke coming out the chimney and steam rolling out the door from boiling sap that would soon be maple syrup.  What a great many pictures crossed my mind.  The fire wood stacked by the door that would dwindle down with each nights boiling.  Yes, nights because on a farm the cows need milked morning and night.  That left the middle of the day for the wagon to go through the Maple stand to empty the buckets and hauled back to be dumped in the big boiling pan.  After lunch the fire was started and the boiling would begin.  While it was still in the beginning stage it was off to the barn for evening chores.  Mom would take sandwiches, cookies and a thermos of coffee to the Sugar Shack for our supper. The sap was finished off to the beautiful golden syrup.  They always kept a little sauce pan to add syrup to, boil it down until it spun a hair and then pour it over a pile of fresh snow.  Heaven on the snow.  There is something about that memory that always makes me smile.  Even my parents would wind it up off the snow to eat.  Once the syrup was back to the house the next boiling started.  Mom would make maple cream and maple sugar candy.  If you have never had a warm buttermilk biscuit or piece of toast with butter and maple cream it should be on your to do list.  If you like maple you will be hooked on maple cream.  Take a trip to Rathbuns on the Eleven Mile Road this spring for their open house.  You can sample and buy maple cream and maple candy.

Our Sugar Shack was on the side hill at the edge of the Maple stand.  It was across from the farm house.  Being over there until midnight or later we could look at the house across the valley and see the warm glow of lights.  The later it got the more inviting it looked and thinking of a warm bed.  Being in the single digits of age I was never allowed to stay at the house alone.  Even when the morning milking was done I had to get up, go to the barn and there mom would take a blanket and make a little spot in the hay for me to sleep.  Can you believe it might be the best sleep ever?  Nestled in so warm, listening to the cows munch their grain and the sound of the old milkers going.  What a great way to live for me.  Simple, pure and relaxed.  At evening chore time it was take a book (Nancy Drew first choice), drawing tablet and a couple cookies. 

5:30 pm and still  daylight.  It makes going to do chores a Cook'n by the Creek later each night.  Chickens go by how much daylight is left before they want to go to roost.  Go to the barn any earlier and you just get frustrated trying to chase them into the coop.  They can be stubborn girls and won't break the habit.  Smokey also goes by daylight.  When he is ready for his supper he stands by the gate and looks over at the house.  He is also getting later each day.  Hard to believe we let animals run the show around here but it is just easier to go with their flow than to fight it.

With all the winter talk supper is more like a summer meal tonight.  When thinking of what's for supper this morning macaroni salad came to mind.  I can't remember when the last time it was made,   maybe around August.  Tonight is a little taste of summer food, macaroni salad, grilled bratwurst, pickles and a roll.  It won't be long and a whole new eating pattern will start around here.
I'm sure it is no different than in the summer but we both
thought it tasted great!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Cook'n by the Creek: Round or Square

Cook'n by the Creek: Round or Square: What could the pick be?  What is there round and square that we can make choices?  I really haven't thought about it until the other mor...

Round or Square

What could the pick be?  What is there round and square that we can make choices?  I really haven't thought about it until the other morning when I was making Buttermilk Biscuits.  Yes, I capitalized them....they are that important at Cook'n by the Creek.  I have never made square ones but the thought hit as I was pressing out the dough and it just happened to look more square than round.  So I made a definite square of the dough.  Brought out my favorite wide chopping knife and cut perfect squares for biscuits.  I liked them!  All the dough was used up  and no pressing the leftover dough like I do for the round cutter.  The less you work biscuit dough and rolled cookie dough the more tender the finished product.  Now I am did it take me so long to figure something so simple out?  I would like to think the brain cells are getting better with age. 
How about it?  Square biscuits and they taste just
as good as the round ones!  Some with sausage gravy
and a few with wild raspberry jam.
The next choice we prefer round.  Hay for our horse of course!  The square bales are so much more work from field to barn and feeding.  They are all handled by hand, lifting, throwing and stacking.  Then lifting and carrying again when we feed through the winter.  Now that big round bale is lifted by the hydraulics on the tractor.  Stab it in the field, lift it to the trailer to haul home and then use the tractor to get it off the trailer and stacked in the barn.  When winter comes it is the same, use the tractor and drive it to the field.  We never put a whole round bale in the field because we have a wild horse that loves to play with it.  He will push it, pull it, climb on it until it is spread all over.  We just pull some off the round bale and drive it back in the barn to keep it dry.  We have a very spoiled horse that has no idea just how lucky he is to be loved so much.

A couple months ago Dick bought some female Guinea Hens to go with our males.  Hopefully this spring we will  have a hen or two nesting.  They are noisy barnyard birds but also fun to watch. They are like watch dogs that give a warning when something comes near.  This winter we have had a fox, opossum and Red Tail Hawks after the chickens.  When the chicken stay in the barn we know there is a hawk out hawking them.  Now that winter is on the down hill slide we are thinking of when and how many peeps to get.  Our laying hens are down to 9 and 4 of them are getting old.  They are laying big eggs and not to frequent but giving us enough eggs to keep us happy.  I like to have extras to share with our neighbor. 

My favorite saying, it is going to get worse before it gets better.  This is what I say when a tangent hits to remodel, redecorate or haul out and reorganize.  The haul out and reorganize is what has been going on in my kitchen.  17 years with the same white dishes, time for a change.  I went completely out of my usual color picks.  Orange, brown and black is the new look around here.  The brown and black is a 4 place setting from my favorite potter, Kay Brooks from Belmont, NY.  The orange is a 4 place setting from Italy that I found on Amazon.  Still looking for another 4 place setting in maybe a deep olive green.  No luck so far but no hurry something will give the zing to buy.  Notice each 4 place setting is different.  For some reason I want variety this time and a mix of color on the table.  Alright back to the saying.  I had the kitchen cabinets emptied and contents all over the place.  All the white dishes along with dishes, glasses, cups, soup bowls, etc. are all wrapped and packed ready to go to the Salvation Army or Thrift Store.  The new dishes arrived and they are all in place.  Cabinets look like they should with lots of room which makes it easier to locate what is needed.  I found dishes that I forgot about and had not used in years.  Some was tough to let go but seriously I am enjoying organized cabinets.  Next.............the bedroom........the basement..............then the hubs junk/tool room.  The last one could be tricky!  I wanna clean like I'm moving.

Out with the old.

It did get better!
All finished!
If you live in our area and love winter it has been a beautiful weekend with lots of snow and cold temperatures.  Just the way we like it. The snowshoes will be coming out this week for a hike in the woods to look for animal tracks and our winter hot dog roast.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Calendar

Yesterday I found an interesting recipe that I had never heard of......Dutch Baby Pancakes.  Well, let me tell ya..........they are delicious, says the guy that lives here.  Not only delicious but so easy it is almost sinful for something this good to be so quick and easy.  Tradition is to squeeze fresh lemon juice and sprinkle confectioners sugar on top as soon as it comes out of the oven.  This is how we had it but I see endless possibilities with this Dutch Baby.   As I type Dick is on his second piece.  Fruit fillings, jams, maple syrup and even pudding would be good too.
Just out of the oven, a few lemon juice drops
with confectioner sugar.

Before the sugar and lemon.

Happiness to see the Dutch Baby doing its thing.

Ready for the oven.

So good!  Recipe at the end of the blog.
Last week at the Amish grocery store they handed my husband a calendar, actually two of them.  Everyone knows two are a necessity for a house and barn.  That is years ago two were needed.  In the last few years we have not hung a calendar in house or barn.  I can remember writing important "stuff" in each square and on some of the squares drawing lines with an arrow pointing to what I had written that wouldn't fit in the little square.  Then there were cancellations, reschedules and last minute things, more lines and more arrows.  Our calendars looked pretty sad and it took quite a talent to follow lines and arrows but it worked.  Very seldom was something missed that had been documented on the calendar.  When the kids were old enough and had something exciting they wanted to remember they would even write on the calendar.  I also had 3 letter abbreviations that only I knew what they were.  Oh, the memories when the little Amish gal handed Dick the calendars, she was so filled with pride.  They are beautiful too, nice size and full of wildlife pictures as each month goes by.  For the first time in a long time my kitchen will have a calendar and one for the cabin!  

Years ago so many businesses gave out calendars we never lacked for one.  Now, very rarely and if they do they are usually the little tiny self stick ones.  No room to write reminders but useful to make sure of what the date is.  Who needs a calendar when we have a smartphone, tablet or computer close at hand.  We know instantly day, date, time, weather, etc.  Progress is good but the calendars made me smile.
There they are packed full of wildlife and birds.  A new picture each month.
 The cabin update. It has been too cold to work on the insulation.  Four 4' pieces and the ceiling will be done and then the walls.  Once it is insulated the work should move right along with a little heat.  We are lucky to have a great friend that gave us an electric cook stove for the cabin.  We measured the spot and it will fit perfect with room for the counter top to run along side of it.  How lucky can we get to have such a wonderful friend that thought of us.  Water will be another concern, the original spring went dry.  We need to find a "spring guy" that knows what to do.  Above the spring house it is a lush green in the summer so we are thinking it is still there just needs to be dug into.  Springs are touchy and if you don't know what you are doing and dig wrong it will reroute and you lose it.  So, if you know a good "spring guy" let us know.
An overnight snow has left the world of Clara, clean
fresh and beautiful.
It looks like we have a measurable amount of snow moving in at Cook'n by the Creek the next couple of days.  I have plenty of yarn for socks and a little stuffed doll baby to finish.  Nothing better for me to be snowed in with a few fun projects during the winter.  Then there is youtube which I have been enjoying some mighty fine rustic, country style cooking shows.  If the snow prediction is right we will be pulling out the snowshoes and x-country skis.  Time to get in shape, we have been setting around long enough or at least I have.

Dutch Baby Recipe:
Melt 3 TBSP of butter in a 10 inch skillet.  I used cast iron.  Make sure the handle is oven safe.
In a bowl:  Mix 3/4 cups flour, pinch of salt and 1 TBSP plus 1 tsp of sugar.
Add to flour mixture:  3 beaten eggs, 2 tsp vanilla and 3/4 cup of milk.  Beat until no lumps are left.
Pour into the skillet that has been on low heat with melted butter.
Put in 400 degree oven and bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown around the edge.
Remove, drizzle a little lemon juice and sprinkle confectioners sugar on top.  Slice and eat warm.