Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I was amazed at all the different patterns the ice can make in the same little culvert. Where ever I look, streams and ponds are freezing over with this week of cold weather we've had.
Before we know it, there will be snow to photograph.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Frozen Garden

With temperatures last week not rising above freezing for much of the week, the garden is pretty well frozen. I'm not sure if these plants are just in cold storage as if they are in the freezer, or if they can still grow in this weather. The leaves are pretty crispy, yet they don't have the signs of damage because of the cold that more tender plants show. Rather they're just very stiff.

This week is very busy with three Thanksgiving meals (Sunday at church, Monday at school, Friday at home in Maryland) and the travel to Maryland. So we won't be harvesting the second bunch of Brussels sprouts until December. Will they grow in the mean time? I'm doubtful. I'll just be happy if they keep until we're ready to eat them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Waste Not

This weekend we made some apple pies for our church's Thanksgiving Dinner.
However, we had to buy new apples because the ones we had picked last month were getting soft and hard to peel. I figured they wouldn't hold up well in pie and that they were too soft to enjoy eating raw. I decided that rather then let those apples go to waste, I'd make some apple sauce. It turned out we had half a bag of cranberries in the refrigerator also from a meal a couple of weeks ago. They went in the apple sauce too.
We also had left over pie crust, and that led to an improvised chicken pot pie for dinner. We didn't have the traditional peas, potatoes, celery and carrots. Rather I had 3 parsnips that needed to be used, one sweet potato, and half a jar of corn in the freezer. I added an onion and sauteed these in a pan with some sage and savory. We had a cooked chicken breast in the freezer that I thawed by boiling in 2 cups broth with a bay leave and some allspice berries. The veggies went into the bottom pie crust, I chopped up the chicken and added it to the pie. Then made a white sauce using 4 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup flour cooked over medium heat for minute or two. Then I added 1 cup milk and stirred while it thickened, then added back the 2 cups broth. This cooked until thickened and then was poured over the veggies and chicken. Covered with extra pie crust, this baked with the pies (but should have baked at 400 for 25 minutes or so.) It took longer with the pies, but saved time and cooking fuel. We were so hungry we gobbled down the chicken pot pie before any pictures could be taken, but we heartily enjoyed it.

Here's the recipe for the Cran-Apple Sauce.

Cran-Apple Sauce

About 7-8 apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1 cup cranberries rinsed over
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
1/2-3/4 cup water
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
3-5 cloves (in a tea ball or cheesecloth)

Combine the ingredients in a sauce pan. Start with lower amounts of sugar and water. Add water only if the apples begin to stick.
Simmer over medium heat, stirring often.
The cranberries will begin to burst, changing the color of the liquid.
Cook until all the berries have burst and the apples are soft.
Remove from heat, remove cloves, and mash with a potato masher. For a smoother texture, run through a food mill or puree with a blender. Taste and add more sugar as needed.
Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. In larger quantities this could be canned, processed in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Makes about 1 quart.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Art Quilting

Today I went to an Art Quilting workshop at the home of one of the ladies in the town where I teach. I didn't know her directly but got invited through the principal of my school. The hostess was trying out an idea of having a workshop on art quilting at her home which might eventually become an event to register for and bring some tourism to the town. It was a varied bunch of ladies from surrounding towns with a variety of skills. The hostess is known for her art quilting pieces and her work has been featured in Quilting Arts Magazine.
We were experimenting with postcard size pieces. The basic idea is that you sew fabric and batting to a stiffener and then begn layering and embellishing. We used sewing machines and a felting machine (which was very cool!). I wasn't thrilled with my first piece and I applied glitter paint to outline my flower, only to realize it would take forever to dry. So there is still one part to be sewn on another day. I started a second piece and enjoyed using the felting machine to add a layer of sheer with lace on it. Next I sewed beads and sequins on and finally gave it a ribbon border. I'm much happier with the second one. Ms. Alford sent us home with some stiffener so I have more to try out another day with my large pile of scraps in the craft room.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Seed Pods

Growing up, we had day lilies of numerous varieties and colors all over the yard. I remember being fascinated in the fall when the seed pods dried and cracked open. I enjoyed breaking them apart and dumping the seeds on the ground. I always wondered about the seeds and whether they would really sprout into a day lily because I knew my mom always spread them by division. I still haven't found out if you plant a seed whether you'll get a day lily or not. Currently in our yard there is just one or two. The texture and color of the seed pods grabbed my interest for a picture a week or two ago.
Here's how it looked back in August. Soon the seeds will be buried under snow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Honey Oatmeal Bread

I've decided to take on baking bread on the weekend more regularly. We enjoy having fresh bread for toast in the morning and with dinner at night. This week I made Honey Oatmeal Bread from the recipes that came with my Kitchen Aid Mixer. It was a nice light tender loaf with just a hint of sweetness. I actually followed the recipe to the letter this time, which is unusual for me when making bread. The only change I made was halving the recipe because we only needed one loaf, not two. Next time I'll be experimenting with adding whole wheat flour instead of all the white flour to make it a more hearty loaf.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Brussels Sprouts

Tonight we broke down and harvested some of our Brussels Sprouts. The largest is only an inch. I harvested from the lower reaches of the stems of the five plants. The total harvest is only 6 oz. Here are the sprouts after harvest.
And after cleaning them up. Its interesting that the outer leaves have a purplish hue.
And finally, cooked and ready to eat. They were wonderfully flavorful and tender.
We braised as in first recipe I knew for cooking them, and the reason I tried them at all. The recipe comes from Cooking for Engineers and it was an early blog that I read back in 2005. Shortly after I read the recipe, I saw Brussels Sprouts at the farmers market and gave them a try. Ever since I've been sold on them and enjoy them many different ways. I've introduced them to my family and my sister's even said at times that they are her favorite vegetable.

It looks like we should have another small harvest of Brussels Sprouts with dinner in a couple of weeks.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Indoor Garden

My swiss chard indoors seems to be doing well, though not making huge growth. I've densely seeded lettuce seeds around it and we'll see how these leggy seedlings make out.
I also have a pot of cilantro seed (not pictured). I've had cilantro do very well indoors before.

Tonight we harvested the lettuce from my indoor window box. I'd noticed it was getting a bit leggy. We trimmed most of it off and hopefully it will leaf out again. The one odd thing is that the red leaf lettuce has lost its red color. All the lettuce is a pale green. I wonder if that means it is not getting enough light. My window faces south east, and we've had many cloudy days in the past week. Below are the leaves I harvested. You can see the color they had when I planted them indoors in this post.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Herbed Oatmeal Pan Bread

My sister requested this recipe so she can give it a try Thanksgiving in China this year. Since it's typed I might as well share the recipe here as well. My memories of this are associated with having company over for dinner when we were growing up. I loved the topping and the soft oatmeal bread. I'm not sure of the source, except that I have it in an old printed out email from my mom that is date in 2002. I think I've only made it twice since then, and most recently at last Thanksgiving. I should find a reason to make it again soon.

Herbed Oatmeal Pan Bread

2 cups water
1 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons butter
3 3/4 to 4 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 packages dry active yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
1 egg

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1/4 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/4 tsp garlic powder
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Grease a 13 X 9 baking dish or 2 9x9 pans

Bring water to a boil in a sauce pan, stir in oats. Remove from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons butter. Cool to 120-130 degrees F.

In a large mixer bowl combine 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast and blend well. Add rolled oats mixture once it has cooled to temperature and egg. Blend at low speed until moist. Beat 3 minutes at medium speed. Slowly stir in 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 cups flour until dough is stiff.

On a floured surface knead in 1/2 to 3/4 cup flour until dough is smooth and elastic. Shape dough into a ball and cover with a large bowl. Let rest for 15 minutes. Punch down several times and press into greased pan. Use a sharp knife to cut diagonal lines 1 1/2 inches apart, cutting through the dough completely. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and cloth towel. Let rise in a warm place until light and doubled in size, about 45 minutes. (Alternatively, let rise at room temperature for 20 minutes, then refrigerate overnight. When ready to bake, let dough stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking.)

Preheat the Oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Uncover dough and refine cuts by poking knife tip into cuts until knife hits the bottom. Do not pull the knife through the dough.

In a small bowl, combine cheese, basil, oregano, and garlic powder. Spoon 4 tablespoons of the melted butter over the dough. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Brush on the remaining butter and sprinkle on the herb mix. Bake 10-15 minutes more until golden brown. Serve warm or cool (but they are best warm).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thanksgiving Meal

Last Thanksgiving, my husband and I hosted in our home for my parents, sister, and a gaggle of college students since we were close to where my sister attended college. I had a lot of fun planning the menu of yummy veggies and side dishes and my husband did his part by smoking the turkey in the home-made smoker. Looking back at the pictures, we never got a shot of the whole turkey, but did capture part of the spread.

In the photo, counter-clockwise from top is the Smoked Turkey, Pear-Cranberry Sauce, Salad, Herbed Oatmeal Bread, Braised Carrots, Blue mashed Potatoes, Green Beans with Browned Butter, & Stuffing.

When everyone arrived, our starters included: Baked Brie with mango chutney, Grafton Cheese, and cream cheese with Raspberry pepper jelly all served with crackers. These were quickly devoured.

Our dinner included began with Tunisian Pumpkin Soup from the Moosewood Daily Special Cookbook. It's a favorite recipe of ours. My husband smoked a lovely fresh turkey that turned out wonderful.

Our vegetables were blue mashed potatoes, braised carrots, and green beans with hazelnuts and browned butter (no green bean casserole for me!). I'd planned in advance and bought 5 or more pounds of blue potatoes in October to save for this meal. I wanted to excitement of the colorful potatoes. We also had a salad with pears, craisins and pecans. My husband's family is from the south and turkey is always accompanied by cornbread dressing so I made that for the first time. However, I couldn't let go of stuffing, so I also made a Bacon-Apple stuffing. I also made a favorite from my family, Oatmeal-Herbed Rolls. I couldn't make just plain cranberry sauce, and instead ended up with a Pear-Cranberry Sauce.

For dessert we had homemade pumpkin and apple pies.

I get hungry thinking about it all. This year I don't have to plan the menu, we're going to my parents and my husband's immediate family is joining us too. We said we'd bring the cornbread dressing and the Grafton Cheese. When we get there, I'm sure we'll have a hand in the cooking as well. I can't wait!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Forgotton Pictures of Fall

These pictures from October have been languishing on the camera for a while and I finally pulled them of and found the best ones.
Here are two of the famous Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge. The historical marker near it says it is one of the longest covered bridge in the U.S. We took this photo one Sunday in October on the way home from church. We'd decided to take the more scenic route rather than the interstate since the leaves were at peak.
The rest of the photos are a from a walk some afternoon in October. I was struck by the beautiful shapes and textures of the Queen Anne's lace in its variety of forms.
One was even still blooming.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Garden Update

Here's how the garden looked on an early evening this week.

All that remains in the first bed are the chives, the roots of the swiss chard, four leeks,miniture carrots that I'm leaving as a test, and my seeded garlic. In the second bed are my brussels sprouts and kale.

My August seeded kale plants are still quite tiny. They had a rough go of it for a while with the white moth caterpillars. They're recovering now and this one has a beautiful purple color to the leaves.

One of my brussels sprouts has picked up the purple color as well, while the others don't have as much. It may be that this one is more exposed on the end, while the others are more sheltered. The sprouts don't seem to be getting much bigger and I'm very tempted to pull them and eat them at their current size. However the right opportunity to properly savor them hasn't arisen.

And finally, the sun set just after 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Gray Scarf

Last week my husband had a need for a new scarf, having misplaced the one I'd previously knit for him. We stopped at the yarn store on the way home from church on the 26th and picked up some nice Baby Alpaca Brush Yarn. I saw this pattern on Ravelry and figured it out the easy stitch pattern. It's ribbed, but not overly emphasized.
I cast on 20 stitches.

Row 1: Knit all stitches
Row 2: * K2, P1* repeat until two stitches remain, K2.
I knit as much as I could each night and finally finished it up on Saturday the 1st of November. The scarf ended up being 76 inches long. Not bad for a week's worth of knitting. I like the yarn a lot and may be knitting myself a new hat and scarf with it after the holidays.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tuesday's Harvest

Today I harvested what was left of the swiss chard and a few leeks. I left the plants in the ground with a few little leaves because I'm curious if they will make any progress in the next month.Here's the rather dirt-filled chard I harvested and the leeks before and after a clean up.
Both went into a Spanakopita pie with some baby spinach. Last time we made it in a pie pan and found that it was too much for just the two of us. Since it's never as crispy and good as leftovers, this time I divided it between two bread pans. We baked one tonight and then other went uncooked into the freezer for another evening. As usual, we forgot to take a picture of the finished product before we served it. Here's one slice on a plate and what was left in the pan. Baking it in the bread pan was a success, and was just the right amount for dinner.
I found a recipe for No Waste Leek Stock and decided to give it a try with the dark green parts of the leeks. I washed them well and chopped them with kitchen shears. I didn't have potato peelings to add and I thought that would make the stock cloudy. Instead I added a bay leaf and some rosemary as well as one peeled chopped carrot. I put 8 cups of water in the pot with them and simmered for over an hour. It reduced to closer to 4 cups and seems to be a good tasting stock. I'm not sure yet what we'll use it for. Here it is before we strained it.