Fresh from the garden lettuce & RMO Essential Oils and Pest Control blend

For most of the last three weeks, all we’ve had in Wisconsin is rain, rain, and more rain. Every day is cloudy. Somehow in my fond dreams of yesteryear, I remember spring having some sunny, warm and simply satisfying days before the hot and sticky days of summer arrive. This year I made a solemn promise to take spring slow and enjoy every moment of it. Now all I want is heat and sun–go away rain, the rivers are flooding.  Less than two weeks after planting the last six lettuce plants we’ve had two big salads from those six plants, a lettuce leaf on five sandwiches this week, and lettuce on our hamburgers tonight. Believe it or not, there is still at least one salad left and more to come. This has been my most successful year of growing bibb lettuce.  While harvesting the lettuce I was bitten a total of three times by pesky mosquitos, which reminded me I need to order some Bug off! from Rocky Mountain Oils.

Last year I used a blend made from RMO’s cedarwood, lavender, peppermint, and lemongrass essential oils in purified water in a 4 oz spray bottle. I put in 30 drops of cedarwood, 25 drops of lavender, 15 drops of peppermint and 15 drops of lemongrass. I shake the spray bottle gently before each use.  I use either, it just depends if you want to make up your own batch or buy a blend that has all of the essential oils and more already in it. Either way, you cannot go wrong using Rocky Mountains Oils as your go-to pests go away and stay away from me spray.

 

Ramp Salad and Rhubarb Crunch

This week at the first of the season local Farmer’s Markets–
Ramps

Ramps are related to leeks and here in the Midwest they’re the very first thing that pops out of the ground and are usually sold at Farmer’s Markets from late April to very early May (about three weeks) and then gone. It’s hard to define what a ramp tastes like. They taste both sweet and strong- maybe slightly like a sweet earthy garlic. A popular way to enjoy them is in a salad. We spent Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market in Madison WI and brought two bunches of ramps home with us. I made a ramp salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing– the recipe is here .  It was fabulous, you will love it. Give it a try. Next week, perhaps two weeks from now, rhubarb will be available for sale.  I’ve included a favorite family recipe for rhubarb crunch.

Ingredients
3 cups diced rhubarb
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup & 2 pats of butter
Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
In a large mixing bowl combine rhubarb, granulated sugar, and 3 tablespoons flour. Stir well and spread evenly into baking dish. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl combine brown sugar, oats, and 1 1/2 cups flour. Stir well then cut in butter or margarine until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle mixture over rhubarb layer.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

I’m joining Marty over at A Stroll Thru Life for her 373rd Inspire Me Tuesday!  Until next time be well!

Naturally Fermented Probiotic Lemonade

Christmas time brought me two new cookbooks-

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I haven’t had much of a chance to go through each one of them yet, but I did find an interesting recipe in Nourishing Traditions that I wanted to try right away.

Naturally Fermented Probiotic Lemonade- this drink is very very good for your gut.

Ingredients

  • 5-6 Lemons,  juiced
  • 1/3 Cup Lightly refined sugar
  • 6 Cups of Water (not boiled)
  • 1/2 Cup of  Basic Whey

Dissolve sugar in water in a large glass container with an air-tight lid.
Allow the mixture to become room temperate before stirring in the lemon juice and whey.
Leave at room temperature for 2-3 days.
Once done I transfer the lemonade into 2 Weck Jars for Juice for easy storage and serving.
Refrigerate. It will continue to ferment but at a much slower pace.

Easy Homemade Pizza Crust

Pizza is a love of mine. In my early twenties I was considered a pizza connoisseur. One of my three jobs at the time was pizza maker. I took this job very seriously, so seriously I took day trips to pizza shops to try their pizza. Why? Because I loved pizza and because I wanted the pizza where I worked to be the best pizza around. There was a time in my life I could have easily ate pizza every day without issue. Even today pizza is my favorite meal. Aside from going out to a pizzeria one can always buy a premade pizza found in the freezer department of every store. We’ve tried them all and even though there are some that are pretty good (Paul Newman, Digiorno), nothing beats homemade. I bought the kits for years to make homemade pizza, but grew tired of the dough not rising or being too sticky or ? So this past Decemember I started to try my hand once again at making homemade crust. I found a recipe here that makes perfect easy to work with pizza dough every time. Try it!

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Homemade Turkey Gravy

Over the years I have perfected two things Thanksgiving dinner related- the turkey and the turkey gravy. The only thing about my thanksgiving meal that never turns out is the stuffing. I’m not one to stuff my bird– I’ve tried bread crumbs and day old dried bread but it never tastes as good as store bought. But store bought has so many ingredients in it. Have you ever looked at the ingredient list for Stove Top stuffing? We cannot eat it. So no stuffing this year, but of course there will be a well made Turkey and lump free gravy.  And lots more, but this post is about turkey gravy (ahem).

My tried and true recipe is here . Where it says gravy or cornstarch, I always use cornstarch. You are to dissolve the cornstarch in water ( as little as needed to make a thin paste) and while it is dissolving I take a clean finger and stir it around until fully dissolved and then add to the drippings in the pan. When I used to use a spoon to help dissolve it, the cornstarch (clumps of it) would stick to my spoon. Make sure your paste of cornstarch is thin. Besides being a simple recipe, it is simply delicious and your people will thank you.

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Here’s wishing all who are following my blog, or who just stop to read a post or two, a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Cranberry Sauce

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The recipe I use is — Cranberry Sauce

It’s almost that time again for some to fix the turkey, prepare the stuffing and serve the cranberry sauce or mold to friends, family or in my case- both plus I will also serve dinner at one of the shelters I volunteer at.  I didn’t always like the tartness of cranberry sauce, but over the years it has grown on me. Now, it seems my turkey would be naked without a spoonful or two by its side.

This coming weekend we are running to Hobby Lobby and Target to look at all their Christmas decorations. We were at both places two weeks ago when they were just starting to put stuff out. Usually we don’t buy things at the beginning of the season. For years we really haven’t bought much new because we have totes and totes and more totes filled with Christmas. This year, though, we just couldn’t resist and we were able to get some things I really wanted before they were all sold out.  So far how we are decorating for the holidays seems to be what is trending right now. Woodland creatures are everywhere, but I still believe glitter and fur will be the trendiest.

Until next time–stay safe and enjoy the nice weather outdoors!

Pear Tart

My husband and I have eaten a lot of pears lately. Pears and apples abound around here folks. We went on that last run for the last of the freshly picked apples and pears at Bauer’s Marketplace and bought a ton. No, not really a ton. We actually bought a large box of pears- 64 total, and 30 # of Macintosh apples. I’m a big lover of fruit. Once upon a time when the food chart was a big thing people had guidelines by which to eat from the four food groups. I believe ideally adults were supposed to eat three to five fruits a day and something like 3-4 veggies. I tried hard to imagine what this would be like many times over the years and never came close. Then about seven or eight years ago I suddenly had a craving for fruit in my life and began eating fruit like crazy.

Every day I eat one to two bananas, and starting with spring/summer I add in raspberries, strawberries, blackberries. I buy quite a bit of frozen fruit too, to make fruit smoothies out of when I cannot use fresh fruit. I love pineapple, blueberries, peaches, melon of any kind, and apples. In the fall I buy cherries, figs, pears and apples. I get my daily five by eating two bananas, a fruit smoothie- two fruits/sometimes three (bananas, strawberries and mango). And every day without fail I eat at least one tomato sliced with a meal, one apple usually as an afternoon snack and 3-4 prunes with breakfast. I also use fruit in fruit salads, fruit pies and tarts for desserts.  My favorite of fruits is the tomato and a close second is peaches. Although I love oranges I am not able to eat oranges anymore for some reason?

One of the things I should caution you with is that when you eat as much produce as my husband and I do you need to really stay on top of things. As you well know and have probably experienced fruits and vegetables spoil fairly quickly especially if they are organic. Tomatoes are best when not refrigerated as are zucchini and cucumbers. At any given time we have squash, bananas, tomatoes, cucumbers and apples on all our counters. Whenever we go to market we buy an abundance of everything because during the growing season produce is very affordable. Buying in abundance means eating in abundance most days. There are times I need to eat three tomatoes instead of one, or I need to bake up all the squash sitting around, or like this last weekend hubby and I needed to eat three pears a day to keep up with how fast the pears were ripening. Finally I decided to make a pear tart. Without further ado here is the recipe.

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I’ll stop back later in the week with some photos of what I’ve been working on around the house and the fall garden. Have a great rest of your week!

 

 

 

Fall Feast Plans

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Fall is my favorite time of the year, with springtime a close second. One is a time of new and the other the time before everything rests and is renewed. Fall is also a very busy time for my husband and I as a couple, for myself as a volunteer and for tasks that at times seem never ending.  Fall cleaning is one of the first things I do on my to do list. I thoroughly dust everything, shampoo carpets throughout our home, haul our winter coats and stuff to the cleaners (though I usually do this in the spring) and decorate for fall and then the holidays. I decorate our home for Halloween, Thanksgiving and for Christmas and I go big. All of it is time consuming, but totally worth it when it is done.

A couple of weekends ago we traveled into Madison for one of the last Farmer’s Markets outside of the year.

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I found time to upload a couple pictures of our fall decor~

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freshly cleaned carpet

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cozy new pom pom throw

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My birthday is near the end of the month and all I want to do is catch up on all my reading. I have two cookbooks to peruse, and I’d love to get through my stack of magazines. Instead we will go to our favorite restaurant and let someone else cook for the night. Less than a month later I will be preparing a big Thanksgiving meal for family and friends here in Wisconsin. This year’s menu is: Turkey, apple walnut stuffing, green bean casserole with fried shallots, pickled peach and cranberry salsa, roasted sweet potatoes and salted caramel peanut butter fudge pie.

I was inspired by these menus at Country Living.

That’s all for now. Later in the week I will be back to share more fall cooking inspiration!

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

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Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for cabbage rolls is here 

Years and years ago I used to unwind by watching two hours of Food Network everyday. Even though I had been cooking since I was twelve, and I had worked in several restaurants with positions from prep cook, to line cook and sous chef in training, I really truly didn’t know much about food. I worked these type of jobs, not for my interest in cooking or food, but rather to survive at the time because these types of jobs were aplenty. When I got married I learned quick that my husband, although not interested where the food comes from, is interested and lets his feelings be known, that he wants home-cooked meals and he wants a variety of good home-cooked made from scratch. It’s how he grew up and never having been on his own before we married, it’s all he knew. So while I was unwinding, I was learning, and mentally preparing to learn to become a good cook. Which more than anything relies on really liking food, getting acquainted with how it grows, where it grows and how to prepare it. The chefs on the Food Network in the 90’s really saved my bacon (pardon the pun). In 2004 I started our family on our journey towards a more sustainable life by changing our diet to a more organic diet. I looked to advocates like Alice Waters for inspiration and information. From Alice Waters I found an abundance of information both at the library, local extension offices and of course the internet. I’ve probably watched 50 documentary’s on food, and learned something different from each one.  Food has a history, food is a part of people’s culture, tradition and history. Food is a living, growing product needed for each and every one of our survivals. The closest you can get a food to pure is to pluck it from the soil it grows in and eat it. As time has gone on I’ve found several homesteaders who have shown me great products, sustainable living practices, farming & gardening methods, food preservation and so much more. One of my favorite homesteaders is Shaye Elliott from The Elliott Homestead. I recently ordered and received her newest cookbook Family Table and I love it. She is also offering, up to 10/10/16, a free Whole Foods kitchen course with every purchase. It is such a great resource for cooking, and homestead living.

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Some time last fall I sat down to catch an episode of A Chef’s Life on PBS and ended up buying all the seasons of the show. Whenever I could find time I would sit down and promise myself two shows just two shows. I always watched at least three and given the time I would have watched all three seasons right there in my easy chair. Chef Vivian Howard of A Chef’s Life lives in North Carolina with her husband, twins and parents.  Chef Howard and her husband own two restaurants in North Carolina. The show is about her and her husband running the restaurant and her sourcing the food, from local North Carolina farmers, and cooking up all these unique food dishes with it. Each show is like a super creative history of something locally grown- peas, sweet potatoes, okra, apples, peaches and so much more. I mean three, soon four, seasons full of food information, foodie topics, watching chef make interesting, and delicious looking food in her restaurant, the inner workings of a restaurant and of course her home life, children, husband and neighbors are featured. I love love love A Chef’s Life. My husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year and without hesitation I said- Chef Howard’s new cookbook- Deep Run Roots . I received it last week- early birthday presents rock. It’s a good sized cookbook weighing in at 4# so I’ve got a lot of reading and recipe trying to get into.

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We are supposed to be getting frost tonight, which mid-October I would kind of expect. A lot of the trees in the surrounding areas haven’t changed color yet. A couple frosts and fall colors will be here. Seems like just yesterday I was sharing recipes for rhubarb a food that signals spring. Last week and this pumpkins and cabbages- foods signaling fall.  Later this week- biodynamic vs. organic.

Apple Fritter Bread

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Every fall we make our pilgrimage to an area I used to live in and buy our mums, our apples and our apple fritter bread. We bring along a thermos of hot cocoa, a pat or two of fresh butter, and head up the hill in La Crescent, Mn for the views on Apple Blossom Scenic Drive. It never gets old and I’ve been doing this for the better part of almost 30 years.

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Apple fritter bread is not hard to make, I found a recipe here that I’m going to try. But even when I try the recipe and I’m able to make my own fritter bread we’ll still make our annual trip to Bauer’s Marketplace for it. Heading out for the day in Minnesota is a tradition and my husband and I value traditional things and love creating new memories every year during this time.

Thanks everyone for the wonderful feedback regarding my posts about whole foods. It’s where my family and I are at right now. You know I started this journey twelve years ago now when I quit smoking. Once I detoxed myself from years of living like a rock star, I decided I only wanted to put organic food in my body. Boy was I in for a bumpy ride. Organic food in these parts weren’t to be found in the marketplace. Soon though things became easier until gluten started bothering me. So I tried gluten-free and then I tried foods that had 5 ingredients or less in them. Finally I chose to limit or eliminate all additives and preservatives and my gluten issue worked itself out. Probiotics and whole foods have helped me a lot with my food sensitivities.  Our diet today consists of mainly organic whole foods.  I am happy to share my experiences here on my blog about what whole foods mean in terms of meals and lifestyle.  Until next time!