Thanksgiving Menu–adding a couple of new dishes to the menu

I’ve been making Thanksgiving dinner since I was 18 years old. For my husband I’ve been making the same Thanksgiving meal almost 23 years. Several years back I decided not to try new dishes for the first time during holiday meal making, because if they don’t turn out then my stress level goes through the roof. Nothing worse than a dish that flopped and there are a minimum of10 hungry people at the table. Every year though I say to myself– “self, I should try something new this year”, but I never do. Until this year when I began prepping our Thanksgiving meal a few weeks in advance with a trial run of mashed cauliflower and a new dessert- pumpkin bundt cake with cream cheese frosting.

The recipes I chose worked great and both the cauliflower and pumpkin bundt cake turned out terrific.

I followed a recipe from Eating Well for Creamy Mashed Cauliflower.

Now, I don’t like garlic. Well, I used to, but I haven’t been able to tolerate it or onions for about five years now. No clue why?

Once my cauliflower was cooked, mashed and creamy I added butter, buttermilk, and nutmeg. Try Nutmeg– I promise you this will become your go to seasoning. It works well on cauliflower that has been steamed or boiled (just sprinkle a little over the top once done) and works great with green beans and brussel sprouts. Just make sure to have a bit of butter worked into the veggies and then lightly sprinkle with nutmeg. In place of butter, if you like, you can use any oil you would normally drizzle on veggies. I would find a good priced quality extra virgin olive oil if you are opposed to adding butter.

My menu looks something like this—

Roasted 16# Turkey
Mashed Potatoes
Mashed Cauliflower
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Baked Squash drizzled with Maple Syrup
Gluten Free Stuffing
Homemade Parker House Rolls
Pumpkin Bundt Cake
Pecan Pie  

(I love King Arthur Flour recipes– their pecan pie recipe is a big hit everytime I make it)

Until next time Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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My love affair with heirloom tomatoes

To be truly honest with you when I was growing up I’m not sure what kind of tomato we were growing. I suppose they could have been heirloom? Maybe they were started from seeds grandma saved? There was no Walmart’s or Home Depot’s back in those days, so our only source besides seed saving was purchasing plants from local greenhouses.

I’ve loved tomatoes since I was eight years old and never throughout the last forty-five years has my appetite for them waned. Up until a few years ago, I’d never had a home garden. Which meant any tomatoes I would be eating would either come from a grocery store or a Farmer’s Market. I never enjoyed grocery store tomatoes, but I ate them nonetheless. Because (ahem) I love tomatoes.

In the last three years, I started seeing Heirloom tomatoes pop up at the farm stand and a time or two at the Dane County Farmer’s Market. When I say pop up I mean scarce and rare, but it happened. I remember buying one for $4.00 about three years ago and thinking “boy that was worth every penny I spent.” But that’s a lot of money. The last two years I’ve waited patiently for the farm stand we visit every week to have them. Usually, right at the end of the season, they’ll have a half dozen heirlooms sitting at check out waiting just for me. I pay about a $1.00 a pound for these. This year the farmer saved just one big red one–the nicest one he could find just for me. I’ll take them bruised, soft, and overripe. It doesn’t matter to me. While eating the heirloom this year I vowed never to eat another tomato for the rest of my life unless it was homegrown and an heirloom tomato. No more store bought ever again.

Until you’ve tasted an heirloom tomato you have no idea what you are missing. Their taste is more than just sun-kissed, or warm and fleshy. Heirloom’s taste like the very best homemade pasta sauce you’ve ever tasted –authentic and flavorful. Nothing sold in grocery stores for the last thirty years can compare.  There are also taste differences between the different colors of heirloom tomatoes. I prefer the red ones which are quite acidic, whereas the yellow ones are very mild.

For tomatoes to qualify as Heirloom tomatoes there seed must be at least 50 years old.  I found out a lot of information here about heirloom tomatoes.

I’ve found a place online that I am going to order heirloom plants and seeds from and I am going to try to grow my own. If successful I will be delighted, and if not well–I’ll wait for the farm stand to save me a few precious tomatoes at the end of their growing season. It’s a small price to pay to be able to eat a real tomato.

Here’s an almost current picture of my container garden all wrapped up for winter!

We bungee strapped a couple more blankets around the middle of each tree hoping to keep the roots from getting cold. I read that keeping the roots from freezing is the secret to over-wintering container shrubs and trees. Fingers crossed. I brought both the rosemary bush and the last geranium inside to overwinter because both plants performed better than any flowers or herbs I’ve grown yet and I’d like them to have another chance next spring.

I’ll be sharing this post over at the lovely blog A Stroll Thru Life for Marty’s 398th Inspire Me Tuesday!

Homesteader Goal #5 & 6

Buy a cast iron skillet- check

I bought a Lodge at Walmart for $15.00. Right away I went to YouTube to watch videos on seasoning cast irons. There are a million videos out there. The first time it worked fine, but the video I watched suggested to season it a second time before use. This time it came out sticky even though I used a very very tiny bit of oil. I scrubbed it good with a brush and fried bacon in it and it seems to be doing just fine. No more stickiness.  I’ve hesitated for years buying another one after a disastrous seasoning experience in 2000.

For my birthday this past weekend, my husband bought us a Berkey Travel Water Filtration System. I’ve researched this system for over a year and we finally reached the point, tired of buying water, to purchase one. The taste of the water is incredible–absolutely incredible. We’ve been drinking Evian for years and both love it. However, the water we are getting from our Berkey is even better than that. Cleanest, clearest tasting water in the world. No more city water straight from the tap for us. The reason we didn’t buy the Big Berkey is this travel size is recommended for two people and it works just fine for us. It holds 1.5 gallons of water at a time, filters fairly quickly, and my husband has gone completely crazy over it. I’ve never ever seen him drink so much water.

Twenty-four years ago I couldn’t pay him to drink water. Then five years into our marriage he would drink flavored water. Fifteen years in still at flavored water until he started drinking Evian. Then he would drink a bottle here and there and he the last five or so years he’s up to a couple of big bottles a day. But drinking Evian is expensive, very expensive.

My goal for over a year has been to buy a water filtration system so–now we own one!

Goals 1-4 of this Urban Homesteader:

  1. learning to grow garden plants from seed
  2. learning to grow vegetables and fruits from both seed starters and plants
  3. producing food
  4. preserving food

I’m feeling pretty good. Hope you all are too! Until next time, be well.

Sundays in our home

Every Sunday in our home is roasted chicken day. It’s also fresh baked cookies day, in preparation for the work week. I begin to prepare dinner around 2:30 p.m. every Sunday and I’m out of the kitchen, usually, by 7 p.m. after clean-up. This time of year brings with it a lot of baking– I bake pumpkins and save the pumpkin for pumpkin bars and pie. I dry the pumpkin seeds for our winter population of birds. About twice a week for approximately four- six months we eat squash. We love acorn squash. Apples my husband didn’t care for were peeled, sliced, and cooked into homemade applesauce. I like mine a bit on the chunky side. For 3# of apples I got four cups of sauce–I peeled, cored, and cut the apples then added 1/4 c. sugar and heated on medium heat for 25 minutes.








Tomato Tortellini Soup

I’ve needed this soup lately. This fall has been a bit trying. We live in an area that up until six months ago was fairly quiet. Suddenly construction started around us everywhere. There has been construction on the interstate that starts up at midnight and goes on until we get up. While I realize this is the only time some of these repairs can get done– we get no sleep during these times.  Most of the construction has involved machinery that digs down deep into the cement, tears it up, chews it up, and then a truck backs up (beep, beep, beep) and collects it. Then during the day, there is construction from 6am until 6pm right across the street. On the weekends the property manager for us has been trying to have the driveway and parking lot fixed, so you guessed it over a month now of construction right outside our door. My husband sleeps right through it, me not so much. Six months of this and I’ve reached my limit. Here’s hoping for finished construction projects and long cool nights of sleep in my future.

Here’s the recipe for the Tomato Tortellini Soup 

There is nothing better after a long day of work on little sleep than a good hearty tomato soup. You will love the Tomato Tortellini, it’s easy to make and yummy.

This month has been busy already with processing squash to eat this winter, visiting nearby lavender farms, zoos, even a corn maze, and of course visiting local apple orchards and buying lots, and lots of apples for eating and applesauce.

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I hope your fall is going great!

Fall food from the farm stand

Well it’s that time of year again when we head to the local farm stand and buy up approx. 20 acorn squash to freeze. I cut each acorn squash in half, remove the seeds, place on a cookie sheet (8 halves fit on mine) and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees or until skins are loose and squash inside is tender. I used to brush with butter while cooking but that gets pretty messy. Once the squash is cooled down enough to handle I scoop it out into freezer bags (1- 1-1/2 cups in each), press out air, seal, date, and place into the freezer flat.  Reheat a portion or two on the stove top when ready to eat, add a bit of butter and pepper, and enjoy! While at the farm stand we  bought some of the last of the heirloom tomatoes to be found. After eating them I made a promise to myself to never buy grocery store tomatoes ever again. From now on heirloom tomatoes only. I found a great site online that will ship me some heirloom tomato plants come springtime- here.

We also bought some apples, new potatoes and sauerkraut and I fixed my husband a meal of baked apples, new potatoes, sauerkraut and local organic pork sausage. Great fall food!

Compost scraps from a broasted chicken dinner made a colorful photo. I’ve also put up 14 bags, with 2 cups each, of shredded zucchini- so zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, and zucchini pancakes are in our future.





Until next time–Happy Fall!

Cherry Clafouti

Every summer, usually around August, my husband and I head for Door County WI. This year was no exception and we arrived during cherry picking season. Between the Cherry Cobblers and Cherry Crunch, I thought for sure I wouldn’t need another cherry dessert. That was until a friend of ours suggested Cherry Clafouti. Here is the recipe I used this past week- Cherry Clafoutis

I used our stand blender and found this recipe to be quite easy and the results–fabulous! Enjoy!

Homemade Pasta Sauce

One freezer bag of sauce, which will be good for two meals of pasta, took 13 medium sized regular tomatoes (not Roma). Time needed to put up seven freezer bags, which equals 14 meals for us, took me just under 2 hours of time. The great thing about making your own pasta sauce is that you can put into it whatever pleases you. I cannot eat store bought pasta sauce because they contain onions and garlic. Everything in this world seems to be seasoned with onions and garlic and both upset my G.I. system. No idea why? So having gotten frustrated with not being able to eat pasta and sauce, I decided to start regularly making my own. I bought 62 tomatoes for $12.00 and I washed and cored them, and then I placed them in boiled water and slipped the skins off of them. I then cut them up and tried to remove as many of the seeds as possible. Then I put them all in a big pot and added homegrown oregano, rosemary, and thyme-that was dried and crushed, salt and pepper, three tablespoons of good olive oil and cooked for 1 hour and ten minutes. I cooled the pot down once cooking was done in a large bowl of ice, then I put 16 oz of sauce in seven freezer bags, sealed, dated, and placed flat in our freezer.




Dane County Farmers’ Market & Eating Local

This past weekend we drove down to Madison WI for our first trip this year to the Dane County Farmers’ Market. It’s been awhile. We have had several local farmers’ markets we’ve been doing business with for a couple of years now. This year much to our disappointment one of them is selling produce that looks pretty bad and their corn made me really sick. There’s an older lady that runs the stand who is very friendly and we’ve known her for years and get a kick out of her mainly because she really speaks her mind. I asked her if anyone else had complained about getting sick from the corn and she said “Well you know they use A LOT of chemicals in their fields, more now than they’ve ever used to keep up.” We know we cannot always get organic produce, and unless it is noted at the stand, we know most of what we buy has had some chemicals used. Sadly more and more I am getting sick from chemicals, additives and all the crap that’s in our food supply. So, we stopped patronizing this stand and one other that just stopped selling with no fair warning. The Dane County Farmers’ Market is the largest producers-only market in the United States. We started out for Madison at 6:00 am and got there, after a couple of stops, by 7:30 am. Even at that hour the parking ramps were packed, the streets were lined, and the throng of market goers was strong. What you do once you get there is join the moving queue. The market farmers’ are laid out in a circle that surrounds the state capitol building. So when you join you walk in a circle and when you spot something on a farmers’ table you hop out of the moving line to buy it. Once purchased back into the line you go. This can wear you out. I promise. We used to get here around 11 am–it’s really packed then. But you know, 7:30 am isn’t much better. It’s a popular market filled with lots and lots of locally grown food. We love our farmers’ and I’m such a big believer in locally grown and knowing your farmer well. It looks like we’ll have to go there a few more times so that I have plenty of produce to process for winter. It’s hard to see by the photos, but we purchased almost two weeks of produce. We were able to get 1 # of green beans, 1 head of cauliflower, broccoli, 1 squash, 4 ears of corn, 4 zucchini, 2 bunches of carrots, 1 leek, 2 cucumbers, a bunch of kale, fingerling potatoes, 4 heirloom tomatoes and a beautiful bouquet of local flowers (of course) for $15.75. You absolutely cannot beat that. Once home I set about to clean, trim and repackage the produce. I shredded the zucchini right away for zucchini bread. Our dinner menu reflects 11 days of eating this produce so that we enjoy it when it is at its freshest. Next trip will be to buy some tomatoes in bulk to make sauce with. http://janrd.com/blog/5454/divine-tomatoes

How was your weekend?









Summer Sun and Container Gardening

Sun, just the right amount of sun, is essential to a successful container garden. We live in an apartment that does not get southern exposure, and the western exposure we get is HOT, quite hot, from about 1pm each day through 6pm. Watering plants in the early am hours here does not work. Also keeping houseplants thriving without southern exposure can be quite a challenge. I have fifteen African violets that I move around in our bedroom to catch the sun from the west, and then as it creeps around the side of the building I have a shelf in my office loaded with succulents and cactus plants, not to mention my husband’s ever growing bonsai collection, trying to catch the last rays of sun before it disappears for another day. Lots to keep up with. I’ve killed way more than I’ve saved but this year I’ve actually had some much appreciated success.