Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Outdoors in October I: Campout and Hike at Tibet Knob, George Washington National Forest

Every fall we invite our friends to camp out at our house.  The canning is usually done, the garden has frosted over and the gnats are history.  So, we sit around the fire, talk, eat and enjoy catching up with each other. 
This year there were some really great recipes.  We had mountain pies on Friday (post to follow soon), and baked potatoes with toppings on Saturday.  But, there were also some excellent covered dishes.

Oregon Girls's Vegan Gluten Free Sweet Potato Chili

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3-6 cloves garlic, to taste, minced
1 teaspoon each: cumin, chili powder and ginger
1 medium red or sweet onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
2 cups sweet potatoes, cubed
3 cups gluten-free broth
1 28-oz. can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Whole Tomatoes, diced or broken up, with juice
1 cup chopped green chiles- mild or hot, as you prefer
2 14-oz. cans black beans, rinsed, drained
1 14-oz. can white Northern beans, or red kidney beans, rinsed, drained
1 tablespoon golden balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar
1 tablespoon organic raw agave nectar
1 large fresh lime- for juice and garnish


To assemble in a slow cooker:

Drizzle the olive oil in the bottom of the cooker; add the garlic and spices and stir to combine.

Add the remaining ingredients except the lime juice. Gently stir with a wooden spoon or vinyl spatula (you don't want to mash the beans) to mix. Cover and follow the manufacturer's instructions for slow cooking a chili with canned (not dried beans). I cooked mine on low for five to six hours, for example.

Read more:

West Virginia Baked Ziti

Cook 1 lb Hamburger; season with salt, pepper, garlic and onion to your taste.
Cook Ziti noodles half time.
In large bowl mix cooled hamburger,  2 c. Ricotta cheese, ziti noodles, and one 8 oz package of mozarella and one 8 oz package of parmesean.
Pour a small layer of your favorite tomate sauce on bottom of baking dish, add half of mixture, add another layer of sauce and 1/2 package of mozarella cheese, add remaining mixture, a layer of sauce and remaing cheese and bake in a 350 oven for 30 min. or until hot.

  Equine Lover's Asian Lentil Salad

1. Cook lentils in vegetable broth for about 20 mins. Check for doneness often, as you don't want them to be mushy, but a little on the al dente side. Cool completely.
2. Chop celery, sweet or purple onion and carrots finely. Can also add peppers. Ithink yellow would be good. Add to lentils. Season w/ S & P.

Ginger Sesame Dressing
1/4 c. Rice vinegar
1/4 c. Orange juice
2 T soy sauce
2 T peanut butter
1 T sesame oil
1 T brown sugar
1 garlic clove crushed
2 tsp. fresh ginger minced
Blend all together in a blender, food processor or smoothie maker.

House and Senate's Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

1 (16 oz.) pkg. macaroni
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (13 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded jack cheese
1/2 cup melted butter

Cook macaroni in boiling salted water, following package directions. Drain well. Grease bottom and sides of 3 1/2 to 5-quart crockpot. Toss hot macaroni in slow cooker with the vegetable oil then add all remaining ingredients. Stir gently to combine then cover and cook on LOW for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

Then, we always take one morning to do this hike.  It's the back side of Tibet Knob in the George Washington National Forest.  

To get to the backside of this trail from Woodstock, VA...

Head West on Rt. 42 (Away from town).  Make your first right onto Wolf Gap Rd.  Stay on Wolf Gap until you get to Liberty Furnace (a huge old iron furnace with a working water wheel).  Turn right onto Sam Clark Road.  Then take a left on Judge Rye Road.  Follow the road to the top and you'll see the trail head on the right.  The blazes are yellow.  Judge Rye is a windy, dirt road.  Be sure to drive slow.

This is a great hike for kids!  There are tons of rocks to climb and explore, and it's an easy hike.  There are also great views at the end. 

This time Farmer Dan, The Ball Boss (and his family) and Reading Girl's best friend - Crafty Girl - came with us.

Looking out across into West Virginia (toward Lost City)
Can't wait to do it again next year!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

That's the Way We Play

Last week my cousin, Adventure Bob, came along to the soccer game.  He is a phenomenal photographer, and he did a great job of catching Soccer Boy, and his friend Ball Boss in action.  I love how both of these boys use their whole body to play.  They're pure joy to watch.  The other players on the team are also really good; we just didn't catch any of them in action this time.

Good Game Everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2012

This October Girl is Wearing Me Out


I will survive... I will survive...

"Oh, no, not I, I will survive

Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive

I've got all my life to live, I've got all my love to give

And I'll survive, I will survive, hey, hey."  Gloria Gaynor

October has truly been frenetic.  Here's what's been going on... Archery class, Gymnastics, Soccer, Karate, Piano Lessons, our annual Fall Camp Out party, a visiting author and friend stayed with us, a weekend trip to the farm for our annual Applesauce and Wood cutting party, Lego Club, Halloween Parties and a fall camping trip to our favorite campground.  Just reading that list makes me tired. 
Two weeks into October I had this conversation with my youngest:
Me:  Phew... October is wearing me out.
Him:  Who's October?
Although I'm thankful that November is almost here, and grateful that we'll soon be down to only one after school activity, I also wouldn't have traded any of this madness.  Last week my eldest asked, as we were eating dinner in the car traveling between activities, "Will you be glad when we're gone?"  I quickly told her that too soon the house would be quiet and I'd have as much time as I wanted to myself - and I would miss her terribly. 
I wouldn't have dropped anything from this crazy busy month. Not one.  The kid's activities are self-selected, and they're passionate about them.  Plus, I get a real high off of watching them be successful and watching them grow.  It's also part of that "It takes a village to raise a child" mentality.  The coaches and mentors that the kids have outside of the home give them important ways to change and grow. 
I wouldn't have given up any of our fun family traditions either.  Spending time with friends and family helps me remember to count my blessings - and there are a lot of them.  My mom is fond of saying that we're busy building memories... she's right.
There were a few nights we managed to be home this month, the garden continued to produce, and the CSA bag kept coming.  Plus, I find cooking to be much cheaper than therapy, and infinitely more satisfying.  So, here are a few "keepers" for you to try. 
P.S.  In case you're curious... 2 more soccer games, 1 more practice, 2 more gymnastics classes, archery is done, and the Kempo school is closing down until after Christmas.   All... most.... there....
Roasted Root Vegetables, Swiss Chard and Feta Quiche, Honey Cinnamon Acorn Squash

Roasted Root Vegetables 

Use a mix of sweet and less sweet.  This batch has beets, turnips, sweet potatoes, white sweet potatoes, potatoes, and parsnips.  I don't normally use that many root vegis, but they were the ones that needed to be used. 
Cut them in equal sizes.  Toss with 2 T olive oil and a seasoning of your choice.  These have salt, pepper, tarragon, rosemary and garlic.  Really any combo of flavors is good.  Use what your family likes.
Roast at 425 for about 15-20 min.  Check and stir at 10 min.  They may be done sooner than 15, or may take longer than 20.  It really depends on the vegis you use.

Swiss Chard and Feta Pie

This recipe was given to me by my friend Jane when Soccer Boy was born.  She makes it with a crust, I usually omit the crust.  They both work out great!  This freezes well and is a wonderful meal to give someone.  Head on over to her blog to pick up the recipe.

Honey Roasted Acorn Squash

Turn your oven on to 350.  Cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place cut side down in a 9x13 pan with a little water in the bottom.  Bake for 30 min.  Turn the squash over.  Fill with a little butter, honey and cinnamon.  Bake for 30 more minutes, or until tender.  Put the whole thing right on the plate.  Everyone except for really young kids can scoop out their own.  Another family favorite is to fill the cavity with some maple syrup - the real stuff folks!

Greek Salad and Eggplant Scallopini Marsala

Greek Salad 

Reading Girl invented this one...  Build your salad in this order.  Greens, cukes, tomato, feta, kalamata olives.  Toss with a garlic and herb vinaigrette (fresh garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and some herbs of your choice).

Eggplant Scallopini Marsala (Adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook)

Put a few tablespoons of olive oil in your skillet and then add the following:

1/2 c. chopped onion
1 lg. eggplant - chopped
2 green peppers - chopped
1 c. of rehydrated shitake mushrooms and their liquid
1 bay leaf
2 t. salt
Saute about 10-15 min. until eggplant is tender.


1 c. Marsala wine
4 ripe tomatoes - chopped
a few grinds of black pepper
10 cloves of fresh chopped garlic
Simmer 15 more minutes.
While the sauce is simmering cook some pasta.  Then ladle the sauce over top and grate on some fresh Parmesan.

Winter Squash Green Curry (Adapted from Vegetarian Suppers)

I've been looking at this recipe for at least two years.  Finally, this year, the warm fall allowed me to have eggplant, basil and winter squash at the same time.  Eureka!


The Curry Paste

Stick all of this in the small bowl of a food processor:  4 cloves garlic, 1 T fresh ginger, 3 hot peppers, a handful of chives or onion, a handful of cilantro, a big handful of basil, a handful of lemon balm, a handful of sorrel, 1/2 t. pepper, 1 t. cumin, 2 t. coriander, 1 t. salt, a T of lemon juice.  Buzz this until it's smooth.

The artist's daughter in me loves these contrasting colors.   Too bad they don't last when they're cooked.

The Vegis

Cut all of the following up and then saute in your skillet with a little bit of olive oil.  2 small eggplant, 1 c. rehydrated shitake mushrooms, 1 butternut squash.
After about 10 minutes add a can of coconut milk, cover and cook until soft.  Then add the curry paste.  I pulled out a kid portion first for Reading Girl (she's not fond of spicy and I was using pepper so spicy they make your eyes water when you cut into them!)  Serve over brown rice.

Curry and Beets

Blue Cheese Beet Salad

Cook beets, slip skins and chop.  Toss with fresh garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper.  Place on a bed of arugula, top with pecans and blue cheese - I could eat this one every day!

Squash and Apple Bake (adapted from Simply in Season)

When we got to the farm a few weeks ago, this was what greeted us.  It's one of my mom's favorite recipes - and I gave it to her.  It shows up on our tables for Thanksgiving, Christmas and winter birthday parties.  If you're looking for a new side dish to take along this holiday season this would be a great choice.

Butter and 9x13 pan.  Peel and slice one large butternut squash and put it in the pan.  Slice 3 or so apples over the top.

In a small bowl mix up 1/4 c. brown sugar, 3 T. melted butter, 1 T flour , 1 t. salt and 1/4 t. mace.  Sprinkle over the apples.  Cover and bake at 350 for about 45 min. or until the squash is tender.   Really, does it get any easier than this?

Mom also made a blueberry rhubarb pie.  I purposefully didn't get the recipe for this one.  Why make one myself when the Laundry Fairy will share?  If you, want the recipe leave me a comment - I'll sacrifice and post it.  I will tell you that it was absolutely delicious.  It had just the right mix of sweet and tart.  Hmmm.... I think my cooking gene was inherited.

"Pie knows no off season. As long as there is an urge to give love, to touch another heart, there will be pie." 
A quote from the Pie Princess at school.  She has a killer apple pie.  Maybe I can get her to do a guest post about pie?  Yum....  It's soul healing isn't it.

A Strange Mixture

One Sunday night I realized that I had to use up a few odds and ends of vegetables, but I really didn't want to make a soup.  We wound up eating breaded, friend okra; Parmesan kale chips, and a stir fry of white sweet potatoes, cabbage and scarlet runner shelly beans (it tasted OK, but looked terrible - no picture folks!)

Fried okra

Cut into bite size pieces.  Toss with milk, then toss in cornmeal seasoned with salt and pepper.  Fry till golden.  Sprinkle with salt.  Fight your children to get any for yourself.

Parmesan Kale Chips

Tear Kale into medium sized pieces.  Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese.  Spread on a baking tray and bake at 375 for 5-10 min.  Don't over do it.  Fight your children to get any for yourself.


Roasted Vegi "Lasagna" (Gluten free - uses potatoes!) and Chewy and Tender Bread Sticks

The Lasagna is wonderful.  I may never make another one again.  I changed very little so here's the link to Rachel Ray's website.  I omitted the mint and used my own canned tomatoes.  It was just about perfect.  

The bread stick recipe is from Mama Jo.  She got it from Clove Lane.  I didn't change anything. She's totally right - these are dangerously easy. I might start making them just because - I'm pretty sure they're going to be a part of a spaghetti sauce party if I ever get around to processing the tomatoes sitting in my freezer.

 Blogging has given us a virtual village. 100 years ago Jane, Jennifer Jo and Sarah might have lived around the corner.  Now, I get to be right in their kitchen - even though I only actually know one of those wonderful women. Blogging helps us feel less isolated.   I am not the only one out there.  Other women are managing to hold it together.  Their lives aren't perfect either, but they're fluttering along the best they can, and we can learn from each other. 


Cockeyed Cake (adapted from The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken)

Some people also call this Wacky Cake.  Whatever you call it, put it in your recipe file.  It's the best chocolate cake out there, and it's faster and easier than a box mix.  It's vegan and you only dirty the pan you're baking - no bowl.
This is my Dad's favorite cake. This is my Uncle Bruce's favorite cake.  It's the standard at almost all birthday parties in our family.   A few weeks ago author and storyteller Robin Moore  was at our house.  We decided to surprise him with an early birthday cake.  The kids decorated it - can you tell?
By the way, if you're on the east coast and you have a scout group, home school group, church group, or you teach or are a librarian head on over to Robin's site and consider booking him for your group.  He's an incredibly gifted storyteller that brings folk tales to life for children and adults.  I've been watching Robin since I was in elementary school and I never, never get tired of watching him perform. 
 He also has some great books - especially if you have kids who are interested in the outdoors and survival, or if you're looking to bring the Revolutionary War alive for your kids/students. They really devour his books.   His characters really become a part of you and transport you back in time.  He does an excellent job of helping the reader visualize the minute details of his character's daily lives.  They really devour his books.  You can books on his website, but you can also download his new book for Kindle from Amazon.
3.99  on Kindle

 Cake Directions:

If you have a sifter get it out and put it in the middle of a greased 9x9 pan.  If not, follow these directions using a bowl.  
Add 1 1/2 c. flour, 3 T coco powder, 1 t. b.s., 1 c. sugar and 1/2 t. salt to the sifter and sift it into the pan.
Smooth out the flour mixture in the pan, and then make three depressions with your spoon.  Add 5 T oil to one, 1 T vinegar to another and 1 t. vanilla to the third.  Pour a cup of cold water over the whole thing and stir it until mixed.
Bake at 350 for 30 min.  Cool, then cover with Peanut butter icing.  Mix a cup of PB with 1/2 c. of powdered sugar and 1 T milk.  Stir and add more milk or powdered sugar as needed.  

Any good ideas for me for November?  I have a slew of sweet potatoes, a bunch of cabbage and a lot of turnips.  I'd especially love turnip ideas.  I have a few, but there are a lot of turnips in our future. 
Happy Cooking Everyone!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Two Warming Soups for a Frenetic Month

I use this cook book more than any other.  If you don't have a copy and you eat with the seasons, you simply MUST have a copy.  Go here to order one now!

The month of October has been even busier than normal:  karate, gymnastics, archery class and soccer keep us on the go throughout the week.  This schedule combined with the colder weather and produce that still needs to be eaten means that the crock pot has been seeing a lot of action.   Now, if we can just make it to November...

All of these soups freeze well, so I often double, or even triple the recipes.

Hearty Broccoli Soup

Adapted from Simply in Season

Feel free to vary the vegetables.  I use what I have, and it always tastes good.

4 c. chopped potatoes
1 c. onion chopped
2 c. chopped carrots
1 c. celery chopped
4 c. chopped broccoli
4 c. water
4 bullion cubes
6 c. milk mixed with 2/3 c. flour before adding to crock pot
2 t. soy sauce
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper

2 c. shredded cheddar

Cook on low for 6-8 hrs.  Add cheese right before serving.

Autumn Harvest Soup

Adapted from Simply in Season

1 c. onion - chopped
4 cloves garlic - minced
1 c. each chopped - kale, cabbage, carrots, green pepper
1 t. salt
1T each fresh basil, oregano, parsley and sage
4 c. water
4 bullion cubes
1 pint canned tomatoes or 2 fresh  - chopped
1 1/2 soaked beans (kidney or other)
1 c. corn
3 T red wine
4 t. barley

Cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Add 1/2 c. whole wheat alphabet pasta during the last hour of cooking.

Peanut Butter Vegetable Soup

This recipe came from my friend Jane over at Thy Hand.  Jane swore that her kids loved this soup, and said I needed to try it.  I was skeptical about the peanut butter part, but once again - Jane was right.  Who knew that peanut butter and tomatoes make such a great pair? 

This one is fast and easy.  I prepped it and threw it in the crock pot this morning while I was waiting for the coffee to brew.  When I came in the door at 6:30 dinner was almost done.   Heaven!

2 lg. sweet potatoes peeled and chopped
2 lg. carrots peeled and chopped
1 huge bunch of chard, kale or collards - chopped
1 quart of canned tomatoes or 4 large - chopped
1/2 onion - chopped
4 cloves garlic - chopped
1 c. peanut butter
4 c. water
4 bullion cubes

Rounding Out The Meal

The night before, when I'm thawing and chopping ingredients for the soup, I also pull out a loaf of zucchini bread and a jar of applesauce.  When it's dinner time it's simple to just add those things to the table. 

A Few Crock Pot Tips

1) Prep while you're cleaning up the kitchen the night before.  Peel and chop everything and put it in plastic containers in the fridge.
2) Put anything that doesn't need refrigerated directly into the crock pot (salt, spices, etc.) the night before - that means less measuring.
3) Don't put your crock in the fridge - this can cause it to crack.
4) Don't put frozen items directly in the crock - this can cause it to crack.  If you're using something frozen thaw it out the night before.
5) Double check to make sure the crock is one before you head out in the morning.  Nothing  is worse than walking in the door thinking that dinner is ready, and it's still cold.

My crock pot is one of my favorite tools to give my family a healthy, local meal.  I felt very smug when I was pulling out of the parking lot after practice tonight.  I counted several cars where parents were handing their kids fast food bags.  Being organized and prepared in advance means that I have options that are good for my wallet, my waistline and the environment.  I feel warm right to my toes.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Colorful Celebration of Fall

    There are so many things I love about fall.  It's definitely my favorite season.  The weather cools down, the garden and canning slow down and then stop, and there is lots of time to spend together while we enjoy the hard work we've done throughout the summer.

One of the great things about fall is warm PJs and more snuggle time.

Eggplant before roasting

 I love making Baba Ganoush.  It's simple, it's healthy, everyone likes it and it freezes well.  We bought eggplant from the farmer's market this year, and I filled the freezer with breaded and baked eggplant for Eggplant Parmesan.  So, now that my own eggplant finally decided to produce I can make lots and lots of Baba. 

Simple Recipe For Baba Ganoush

Cut eggplant in half.  Place upside down on baking sheet and roast at 375 until soft (15 - 20 min.).  Cool.  Scoop out the flesh and put it into a food processor.  Add fresh garlic and salt to taste, about 2 T of lemon juice and 1 T of tahini.  Blitz it in the food processor.  Put into a bowl and drizzle a little olive oil on top.  Eat!

Homemade pita chips are simple too.   Cut pita into triangles.  Place on baking sheet.  Spray with baking spray and sprinkle with salt.  Bake at 350 for about 10 min. or until toasty.

Eggplant After Roasting

Baba with toasted pita chips

Vegis ready for making juice

Panzanella:  My new favorite tomato dish.  Thanks Gen!

Fall Field Trip

Last Saturday we took a field trip to the Pumpkin Patch (On Rt. 11 near Mt. Airy Farm) and the Corn Maze in Mt. Jackson, VA.  We had a great, great day! We picked our own pumpkins, headed to the Farmer's Market for homemade donuts and then spent the rest of the afternoon at the Corn Maze.  In a year where the squash bugs destroyed any hope of a winter squash harvest, it was wonderful to have another local (and fun) option.

The Woodsman hauls home the giant pumpkin.

Soccer Boy helped me cut all of these.

The donuts were gone too fast - this was the only picture I could get.

Slide on the hay elevator at the Corn Maze.

Bridge in the middle of the maze

Our fall display:  the corn is ours.  I loved growing Bloody Butcher corn.  I can't wait to turn it into cornmeal.

 A Few Fall Recipes

Asian Cole Slaw

Fast, simple, wonderful and the kids gobbled it up.  This would make a great Thanksgiving side dish.  I omitted the baked tofu.

Transitional Season Curry

Put a large handful of chopped basil, garlic and fresh ginger into a skillet.  Saute for a while.  Add a half a can of coconut milk and vegis of your choice.  I added sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and cabbage.


This is the first time I'm trying to make sauerkraut in years.  It's quite simple.  I shredded the cabbage, layered it with salt and tamped it down tight.  I then moved it to the basement to ferment and cure for six weeks.  I'll get back to you.


Asian Slaw

Transitional Season Curry

Sauerkraut:  Week 1

Tamped down kraut.  I covered it with a water filled zip lock back to form an air lock.


It's almost done.  I harvested the last big crops last week (dry beans, carrots and sweet potatoes).   We also did the garden clean up.  So, there are just a few tomatoes hanging on, a bean tower, and a bushel full of gourds waiting to be pulled after the frost.  The bean tipi did very well.  The kids enjoyed it all season.  We got a bumper crop of sweet potatoes - almost two bushels.  That's unheard of for me.  I think it was the new raised beds. 

Keeping Warm

  The Woodsman and Farmer Dan worked hard to give our old wood stove new sides and fire brick.  Then The Woodsman finished hauling up the emergency wood we use when we get big snow storms.  Here's hoping for a better (and by that I mean more snowy) winter.