Saturday, May 26, 2007

~Blue~Cool~ Blue~

If I had to pick a favorite color, it would have to be blue. There isn't a shade of blue that I don't like. It shows in my flower garden. When I go to the nursery or page through a flower catalog, my eyes gravitate towards the blue flowers. At the garden center, I put one of each variety in my cart because if I don't, I know that I will have to go back and get it later. There aren't that many true blue flowers, so I settle for purple and black also. How cool are black flowers?

Some of my favorite things are blue. The sky, the sea, bluebirds, blueberries, John's eyes and Blue~my truck.

Up at Crystal Lake, wild blueberries grow under the Oaks. The berries are a lot smaller than domestic blueberries, but they taste so much better. Unfortunately, the late freeze killed the blossoms, so blueberry picking will have to wait for another season.

I'm hoping the blueberry farm, down the road, didn't lose their crop too. I can't imagine a year without blueberries in the freezer.

Here's how I freeze them:
I don't wash them. They're not sprayed and are clean, so I just spread them out on trays and freeze. I then put them in freezer containers. That's it. When I want to use them for a recipe ( or eat them frozen~really good!) I pour out the amount that I need.

We eat our fair share of blueberry muffins and blueberry pie and even blueberry ice cream, but my favorite blueberry dessert is Blueberry Coffee Cake. The combo of blueberries and cinnamon is irresistible. Thought I'd share the recipe:
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups blueberries- fresh or frozen* ( If you're using frozen ones - do not thaw them first.

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup unbleached flour
1/2- 1 teaspoon cinnamon- depends on your love for cinnamon infused treats
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter- softened
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x9x2 inch square baking pan.
Cream together the sugar and butter. Stir in the egg and milk. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and add to creamed mix. Fold in blueberries. Spread into pan.
Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle over batter.
Bake for 45 minutes~or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

I mentioned Blue. I just love my truck. A girls got to have a truck when she carries around as much as I do. I've got to head out to the Co op this morning to pick up metal fence posts to stake tomatoes. Better make hay while the sun shines. Until next time.....

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Perfect May Day

Drop everything and fill up the cat feeder, we're going to Crystal Lake. I haven't been there since Winter and I've been dying to spend at least one day and night in the woods. So, when I got the news that we were going, I got our world together fast and we headed up the mountain.

The lake was full and clean and the fish were so happy to see us! They love the treats that we bring to feed them. I slept like a log with the sound of frogs filling the cool night air. What's not to love about drinking coffee in front of a fire on an early morning May day? Throw in the fact that I planted my first herb plant up at the lake. Peppermint loves wet areas and what better place to plant it than lakeside? I wonder if deer eat peppermint?

Our camping gear is in the downstairs hallway- where it's going to stay. I'm ready to go back home again; just say when.
Until next time.....

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Chess Pie and the Power of Suggestion

Last week I was floofin' around on the Etsy forums and there was a thread about Chess Pie posted by Gemmafactrix. Chess Pie? I hadn't thought about that in years. It's been a long time since I had a piece and from what I remember, I never really liked it. So, why couldn't I stop thinking about it?

The other day it rained and I had a little time to spare. I got out the Russell Family cookbook. It's a cookbook filled with recipes from John's mother's family. In it was a recipe for Chess Pie that must be over 50 years old. Vintage Pie!

Here ya go: This makes a 9" pie.
The crust:
1 1/4 cup unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 stick butter or 1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup ice water- or enough to hold the dough together.
Mix, roll out, slap it in the pie pan and set in frig while mixing up the filling.

The filling:
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon cornmeal
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick butter, melted
1 teaspoon vinegar
5 Tablespoons milk
Mix together and pour into unbaked pie crust and bake 45 minutes at 350*.

Turns out that I like Chess Pie after all. Yo........Gemama- Open Wide.....

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Gemma's work, check out her shop. Beautiful jewelry from a wonderful person.
Until next time.....

Monday, May 14, 2007

Happy Birthday Althea

Today is Althea's birthday. At least, we say that it is. Four years ago on this date, we adopted her from a shelter. They didn't know her age, but her vet, Dr. Chip guestimated it to be about two at the time.

Her papers read like a rap sheet. She didn't get along with animals and had an attitude problem. I didn't care what they said, she was coming home with me.

Turned out, I was right. It also turned out this cat didn't get along with other animals. And it turned out that she also had an attitude problem. The perfect cat. I like an animal that has a brain and a backbone.

She never flinched when we brought her into the house. She wasn't very fond of loud music though. Four years later, she rocks with the rest of us.
Happy Birthday Althea. Today you're six years old.

Until next time.....

Considering a pet? Check out your local shelter or pet adoption agency. There are so many amazing animals waiting for a home. Waiting for a second chance at happiness.
And remember to spay and neuter your pets.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ah Calendula.....

Every herbalist has one or two favorite herbs that they're drawn to. One of mine is Calendula. Calendula Officinalis; known to some as Pot Marigold. It has bright blossoms of yellow or orange. I love picking the sticky blossoms to use in Calendula oil or to dry for future use.

Much to my delight, my favorite soap girl on Etsy makes Calendula Soap. That would be Daisycakes Soap. If you want really good, and I mean really good home made soap, then check out her shop here. I keep a supply on hand. A delight for senses.

I recently purchased Vintage yellow glass flower beads that reminded me of Calendula blossoms; which is exactly what I named the first pair of earrings that I made with them.

My Calendula seeds are planted in the garden and are beginning to germinate. I can't wait to see the blossoms smiling back at me. It's like seeing an old friend again. Until next time.....

Friday, May 4, 2007

John Mac's Super Chilly Dills

Well, the pickling cuke seeds are planted and sprouting. It won't be long before I'm putting up our year's supply of dill pickles.
I posted a picture on flickr of a pint that I put up last year and added it to some of my groups. I got a request for the recipe and promised that I'd post it on my blog. So, here goes. But before I write it down, you should be warned that I don't follow recipes. That means that it's always difficult to tell someone exactly how I make something. I did submit this recipe to John's family cookbook, so I'll copy it from there.

I use whole cucumbers that range from 2- 4 inches. Scrub them and make sure you scrape the blossom end clean. I just scrape it with my fingernail. After they're all clean, pour water over them to cover and set in the frig for several hours or overnite. This step can be deleted, but then you won't have Super Chilly Dills. The soaking helps insure that your pickles will be crisp without having to add anything else to the recipe.

You will need:
A water bath canner with the necessary canning tools to make your job easier. For me that's a jar lifter, a magnetic tool for lifting the sterilized lids and rings out of the boiling water, and a jar funnel.

Fill your canner to the appropriate height and start to bring to a boil. I wash my jars and put them in the oven at a temperature that is equivalent to the boiling point of water- a little under 225 degrees. I leave them in there until I need them and remove them one by one.
Wash your lids and rings and put in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Let these simmer on low while you continue.

The brine:
1 quart water- We use spring or distilled
1 quart white vinegar- 5-6% acidity
1/3 cup canning salt
Bring brine to a boil. You can double or triple this recipe as needed.

To each sterilized pint jar add :
1 Tablespoon dill seed (or to taste)
1-2 cloves garlic- peeled
1/4 teaspoon mustard seed (optional)
1 whole cayenne pepper- pierced with a fork (optional)
2 black peppercorns (optional)
Pack tightly with cukes. Pour boiling brine over cukes to 1/2" top of the jar. Wipe the rim with a clean paper towel. Seal and process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Remove from canner and let sit in a draft free place until cooled. Store in cool, dark place.

Tips for a crisp pickle:
Pick the cukes in the early morning before they get hot.
Chill them down it water in the frig.
Remove the blossom end and scrub thoroughly.
Add a few grape leaves to each jar.

There's nothing more rewarding than opening a jar of dill pickles that you put up from your own produce. I suddenly have a craving for a crisp dill.
Until next time.....


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