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, February 27, 2013

Pineapple Casserole: So Unhealthy, But So Good

Our school has a wonderful bunch of teachers that eat together every Tuesday.  A different team of teachers is responsible for bringing in lunch for the day.  Usually the meal revolves around a theme.  This week my team was responsible for bringing the meal.  We chose to have a Dr. Seuss inspired menu and have green eggs and ham (spinach, egg and ham casserole), green eggs and mushrooms (spinach and mushroom quiche), and other breakfast inspired items (fruit, biscuits, etc.).  I wound up being in charge of dessert.  So, I decided to bring along an old favorite. 

This is one of those recipes that I haven't made in years because it doesn't fit into how we normally eat at our house, but, I knew that it would receive rave reviews and I had all most of the ingredients.  Well, actually, since we're still in the pantry/freezer/canning cupboard cleaning out mode, I made quite a few substitutions.  Here's the recipe (my substitutions are in bold).

My mom got this recipe from a dear old Italian lady that used to go to our church.  She used to serve it as a side dish when we had ham.  It made frequent appearances on our Easter table. It's a very pretty, sunny looking dish.  The pineapple is so yellow and golden.  It smells heavenly when it's baking too.  Just don't delude yourself into thinking that you're eating anything healthy.  The eggs and the pineapple can't save you from the other ingredients.    So this is...

Mrs. Pingatore's Pineapple Casserole

Tear 5 c. of white bread into small pieces.  Place them into a bowl. (Yes, you have to use store bought white bread - homemade and whole wheat don't work very well.  I happened to have a loaf of white store bread in the freezer that someone had brought to the camp out.)

Melt 1/2 c. butter (I used 1/4 oil because I was out of butter.  You could also substitute applesauce for the oil, but I didn't think about that until later.)

In another mixing bowl...
Beat 3 eggs
Then add the melted butter and ...
1 3/4 c. sugar (I did about half sugar and half brown sugar because I didn't have as much white sugar as I thought).
1 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple (drained)
8 oz. of canned milk ( I used lite coconut milk - again, it's what I had.)

Mix this all together, then add to the white bread.  Pour into a shallow baking dish (8x8 would work), and bake at 350 for 45 - 55 min. until it's bubbly and thick,and the sugars begin to caramelize.  It will thicken a bit more as it cools.

I doubled this recipe to make a 9x13 pan.  It would also freeze well, but I don't think I've ever had leftovers of this recipe. 

How about you?  What oldies, but goodies do you hang onto from your childhood that you almost never make because the thought of feeding it to your children gives you pause? 

 Oh well, can't be healthy all the time, now can we?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Can you believe he eats this stuff?

So... the Kimchi is almost gone.  Any guesses as to why?  Hope he saves some for me.  I'll have to eat sauerkraut instead. 
Kimchi is one of those freebie foods at our house.  He doesn't need to ask permission to have it as a snack.  So, this has been his go to after school and mid morning snack lately.  He's even been using it to round out his breakfast.  Love that boy!  What a foodie... a kid after my own heart. 
The kids get paid more with each birthday, but they also get an added responsibility.  This year he'll be helping me more in the kitchen.  His response - cool!  Can I help now?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Strange, but Wonderful

Tomato, Peanut butter and Mayo Sandwich:  Trust me the combination is heavenly.  It is especially transcendent when you use homemade mayo, homemade bread and a big slice of an heirloom tomato.

I don't know about you, but this time of year I start craving summer food.   It seems like as soon as I order the tomato seeds I remember how bland winter eating can be.  We've eaten our way through the potatoes, there are enough sweet potatoes for one more meal, and there's one big Hubbard squash ready to be cooked.  The freezer is still packed, but we're down to just green beans and chard for anything green.  The greens in the garden aren't ready to be picked yet, and sprouts aren't much fun without anything else.  Finally, we opted out of a CSA share this time around because we're trying to reduce our grocery budget and eat what we have.  So this Valentine's Day I'm not dreaming of chocolate, or a fancy seafood dinner.  Nope, I'm just dreaming of the day when I can start having these every, single day for lunch (and sometimes dinner too).  Can't wait.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fastnachtkuchen (Fast Night Cakes)

Today is the day before Lent starts.  Some of you call this Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), and some Shrove Tuesday.  You might eat pancakes for dinner, or wear Mardi Gras beads, but in our house we make Fastnachtkuchen.  Fastnachts are little holeless doughnuts made in Germany on the day before Ash Wednesday.  Traditionally, the idea was to use up the last of the fat and the sugar in the house before starting the Lenten fast. 

We make Fastnachts because it's a fun tradition and a good connection to our German heritage, but also because it's a good symbolic reminder of the coming of Lent.  Most of the adults that the kids know will give up sugar and other unhealthy habits for the next 40 days.

I make the dough and fry the fastnachtkuchen, and the kids are in charge of shaking them in cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar.  The house smells heavenly.  You could make these for breakfast, but typically we have them for dinner with sausage, eggs and fried apples.  Delish!

One Bowl Fast Night Cakes (Fastnachtkuchen) from Fleishman's New Treasury of Yeast Baking

Mix together 1 1/4 c. bread flour
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 T yeast

Add 1/4 c. softened butter, margerine, shortening or lard
1 c. very hot tap water
1 egg

Knead until soft and elastic

Rise for one hour, covered in a warm place

Roll out into an 8 x16 rectangle.  Cut into 2 inch squares and make a 1/4 inch slit in each square.
Transfer to greased trays to rise.  Let rise 45 min. in a warm place.

Fry in peanut oil, shortening, or lard.  Don't have your fat too high or they'll burn.  Flip with a slotted spoon, and remove to a paper towel lined plate when they are golden brown.

While still hot tip them into a paper bag with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar.  Kids can then shake the fastnachts until they are coated.  Remove to a plate to cool, and then repeat until you are finished. 


Friday, February 8, 2013

The Last of the Harvest

We're still doing pretty well with not buying groceries.  So far, no one is really feeling deprived.  We've bought a handful of items (mostly for celebrations - birthdays and the Super Bowl), but have managed to keep our grocery buying pretty slim.  Since December 20th  - for regular, every day meals, I've bought ketchup, vegetable bullion, barley, brown rice, ranch dressing and one quart of almond milk - but the Woodsman really bought the milk, so do you think it counts?
I'm still enjoying going through what we've got.  The small freezer is finally empty enough that I can open it without fear of being attacked by frozen containers of leftovers, and I've worked my way through all of the winter squash with the exception of one giant Hubbard and one butternut.   
Another positive of limiting my grocery purchases is that it forces me to use the food I raised.  Recently, I wanted to make baked beans, but I was out of bagged dried cranberry beans.   So, I had to shell out the dry beans that have been waiting near the fire since October.
Boston Brown Bread, New England Baked Beans, Cabbage and Sweet Potato Coleslaw

New England Baked Beans

There are no real measurements for this recipe.  It's very much a dump and taste kind of affair.  I'm approximating here.
The night before soak several cups of dried beans (Jacob's Cattle or Vermont Cranberry work best here).  Then the next day add the soaked beans, a quart of tomatoes, mustard (a good squirt), maple syrup or molasses (about 1/2 c.), onions and garlic (to taste - can also use garlic and onion powder), a bit of ginger and a few cups of water.  It will be really soupy at this point - that's what you want.  Put it to bake in a covered deep dish casserole at a 325 oven.  It will need to bake for about 3 hours.  When the beans are tender, taste and adjust seasonings, then remove the lid and bake until the liquid has been absorbed.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

I'm also out of cornmeal, but I really wanted corn bread to go with my Chipolte beans.  So, I shucked the Bloody Butcher corn and buzzed it in the Vita Mix.  Within a few minutes I had gourmet, home grown corn meal.  Reading girl complained about the corn bread.  She wanted real corn bread (you know - the yellow kind).  I told her that this corn bread was about as real as it gets.

Bloody Butcher Dent Corn

Corn meal made in the Vita Mix

Grandpa's Skillet Cornbread (Not my grandpa mind you - I don't think either of them could even boil water) 

Add 2 T vegetable oil to a heavy duty cast iron skillet.  Turn the oven on to 425.  Put the skillet in the oven while it comes to temperature.  It will start to smoke (be careful not to let it get TOO hot). 

Mix together:
1 c. cornmeal
1 T baking powder
1 1/2 c. milk or water
1 c. flour (whole wheat works, but the corn bread is flatter)
1 t. salt
2 eggs

Pour this into the smoking skillet and bake for 18-20 minutes.  Serve with butter and honey.

This corn bread gets a crispy crust - much like pizza.  It's probably my favorite corn bread. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Soup, Don't it Smell Like the Answer?

“There ain't no point in making soup unless others eat it. Soup needs another mouth to taste it, another heart to be warmed by it.”
Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

I'm a teacher  - so I pay a lot of attention to the weather in the winter.  Whenever I hear that we might have the next day off due to snow or freezing rain, I fall asleep pondering which soup I'll make the next day if we're off.  There's something so satisfying and comforting about a pot of soup simmering on the stove, or in the crock pot.  It's like a little bit of love in your bowl.  Pair it with some fresh bread or muffins and I'm in comfort food heaven.

We eat a lot of soup in the winter.  Typically, soup is on the menu three or four times per week.  Plus, the adults in the house frequently take the left over soup for lunch.  Soup is nutritious, simple to make (especially when you use your crock pot), and it fills you up without spending very much money.  It's also good at using up the odds and ends of vegetables in your root cellar and freezer. 

When I make soup I double or triple the recipe so that I have several quarts to put in the freezer.  Then, when I want soup for dinner I pull out two quarts the night before, thaw out a loaf of zucchini bread  or some muffins, grab a jar of applesauce from the pantry and dinner is done.

One other trick I use is to freeze vegetables in the right amounts in gallon freezer bags during the summer.  Then I have even less prep work to attend to on a busy morning before I head out the door.

Here are some of our favorites:

Borscht (Moosewood Cookbook)


Red Lentil (no idea the original source - I've changed it quite a bit)

Put 2 1/2 quarts of vegetable or chicken broth in a big pot. (I use vegetable bullion cubes).
Then add:
2 T. dried onion flakes
1 t. garlic powder
2 T. dried celery flakes
1 lb. red lentils (don't substitute regular lentils)
1 t. cumin
1/4 c. brown rice
1 c. chopped carrot (optional - this is how my mom makes it).

Simmer for 45 minutes until you have a nice thick puree.  You may need to add more broth.  Then add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

You could certainly use real onions, garlic and celery here. If you decide to do that saute the vegetables first before adding the broth and lentils.   I tend to make this soup in late January and February when I've worked my way through all of the fresh onions and garlic.  I think the dried versions work really well here, and they make this soup go together very fast and fat free. This is probably the soup I enjoy most.  I could really eat it every day.  I especially like to take it to school for lunch - it really fills you up.  It's a bit like taking a love note to yourself along to work.  It cooks down into a lovely creamy soup.  The red lentils fall apart - it has a similar texture to dal, but thinner.

Garden Chowder

Hearty Broccoli Cheese

We make this one a lot in the fall.  It's a great way to use up the less than pretty bits of broccoli, carrot and potato that come out of my garden in October.  I think , if I let him, Soccer Boy would eat all of it himself.

Barley Bean (No idea of the source - adapted quite a bit)

This is another of those straight from the pantry type soups.  I make it in mid winter when I'm running short on fresh vegetables.  It's great for weekend lunches, and for after work.  It takes an hour or so to cook (if you're starting with soaked beans), but you don't need to do anything with it once you put everything into the pot (except stir every now and then).  This soup also works well in the crock pot - add a little extra broth if you do as the barley tends to absorb liquid.  I love, love, love this soup.  It satisfys all of those savory cravings and is guilt free.
Put the following ingredients in a large pot and simmer for an hour until the beans are tender.
3/4 c. kidney beans (soaked)
1/2 c. barley
1 T. dried onion
1/2 c. dried mushrooms
1 T. dried rosemary
2 quarts vegetable broth
bean soaking liquid
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 c. chopped carrot (optional)
I'm always looking for new ones.  Anyone have one to share?  I have a few on my list yet for this winter.  Hope spring doesn't come too soon and we have a few more snow days yet to come.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fort Firewood

The Woodsman and I were talking about firewood tonight.  He has enough wood cut, split and stacked for at least the next winter (probably at least the next two winters).  He works hard to cut, haul, split and stack wood during the spring, fall and winter.  Summer is the season when he relaxes most - he's learned that summer (at least in our humid, gnat plagued corner of the world) is a terrible time to be working with wood. 

I'm just about the opposite.  I work really hard three seasons of the year (spring, summer and fall) growing and processing food.  Then during January, February and March I have some down time.  I don't cook much from scratch, and when I do I use staples from the pantry (like vegetable bullion, dried onions, garlic powder, etc.) that require much less prep time. 

William Blake said, "In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy."  I really understand this view.  Winter is the time when I get to sit down and relax.  I read more.  I knit more.  But mostly, I find more time to spend with my kids.  We play games.  We read together more.  We ski together, and I find time to enjoy and appreciate their creations like this fort made of firewood.  The Woodsman assures me that it will not collapse and crush their precious skulls.  I'll have to suspend my anxious heart and trust him on this one.