Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Slow Cooking, Fast Eating

During my first year in Taiwan, I had a slow cooker. Well, it wasn't really mine. A friend lent it to me, and I returned it to her at the end of the year. But it was a nice way to prepare food when there was not time to slave over a hot stove.

Here in Missouri, I don't have a slow cooker. But I have found that if you leave the burner on low, the food cooks more slowly. Last night, two hours before dinner, I threw into a pot some chicken stock I had left over, which also contained two baked onions, and about a cup of brown rice. I let the concoction boil, then cool down, and  I left that on the stove for over two hours on low. At the end of the two hours, the rice which had at first been almost invisible, came to dominate the pot.

It was our main course for dinner. Here is what Bow's dinner consisted of:

His rice bowl looked like this:

Bow asked for his red apple first, then the yellow one. After that he asked for the rice. I was not sure whether he would like it, but he seemed to relish this part of the meal and gave me back a clean bowl.

After that, he asked for his Kedem Biscuits. They are from Israel, and my mother brought them over for us in a bag of goodies during her Thanksgiving visit.

Bow eyed the handful of biscuits I gave him, trying to decide which deserved to be eaten first.

Of course, it really did not matter which one he started with. He finished them all.

After he had done with the biscuits, he asked for his turkey breast, and after that the "big" banana, followed by "more banana." By then the entire meal had been consumed.

Bow went to bed on a full belly and in a very good mood.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Cranberry Sauce and Sparkling Red Grape Juice

As always, we had an abundant feast yesterday at Thanksgiving, including a turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and sparkling red grape juice.

My mother was the chief cook and Sword assisted her. Bow made excited food calls as he saw everything carried into the pen, as always.

But though Bow asked for the stuffing first, his favorite food this year was the cranberry sauce.

 He treated it with all the reverence and solemnity of a truly spiritual feasting experience.

The other thing that Bow seemed to really enjoy was the red sparkling grape juice, which he savored with much ceremony.

It's the simple things that Bow is most thankful for. Especially if they are red, sweet, juicy and sparkle in the light!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Persimmon

I recently had a path mowed through my pasture so I could go walking there. Around Halloween, I noticed a spooky tree with strange orange fruit on it. What made it spooky was that there was only fruit, but no leaves. Last night, the day after Halloween, I took more notice of the tree.

When I looked at the fruit more closely, it seemed oddly familiar. It was something I had seen before, and I could already taste it just by looking. Yet its name was on the tip of my tongue.

As I often do these days to identify flora and fauna, I posted the pictures on Facebook. The answer came back loud and clear from all quarters: persimmon.

Today, I went and gathered the fruit. I washed it, and I presented a sample to Bow.

Bow was curious and willing to try it, but in the end, he did not seem to like it well enough to finish.

Maybe this evening we will try again.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Revival of Oatmeal

We haven't had oatmeal in a long time. We used to have instant oatmeal for breakfast, but then Quaker Oats changed the ingredients, and I didn't feel like having it, anymore.

But tucked away in a cupboard, there were the regular oats that you cook to make oatmeal, and today was a good day to remember them. I decided to make oatmeal as part of our lunch.

Now, the directions on the container said to add salt and water, but in our house oatmeal always went with sugar and milk. So I took a cup and a half of whole milk, boiled it with two tablespoons of sugar, reduced the heat,  then added  a cup of oats and let them cook for about five minutes. Then I served it in two bowls, one for me and one for Bow.

It was still kind of hot when Bow asked for his bowl of Oatmeal. But he enjoyed every bit of it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Poppy Seed Cake -- Not from Scratch

My mother is the one who knows how to bake a real poppy seed cake from scratch. But I can do a nice impersonation, using off the shelf ingredients.

I take a regular pound cake mix and follow all the directions on the box, except that I also throw in a can of poppy seed filling. After I am done mixing everything, this is what the batter looks like.

Once the cake is in the oven, Bow gets to lick the bowl:

When the cake is ready, it looks a little like this,

It is hard to say what Bow enjoys better, eating the cake or licking the bowl!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Enjoying the Peach

After a heavy rain that goes on for days and days, all sorts of changes in the natural world begin to manifest. Creatures come out to play that have remained hidden.

That's how I cam across the red velvet ant.

That's also how I came to meet the seventy year old box turtle. 

It is how a little butterfly cam to land on my finger.

Due to the excess of moisture, bizarre mushrooms have popped up overnight in our lawn, and they look like something from out of a story book.

We are not going to eat these mushrooms, because a search of the Missouri conservation site does not have them listed as either poisonous or non-poisonous.They are not listed at all. A friend says this is because these mushrooms don't normally grow here. They belong in the northwest.

But the fruit on the trees continues to ripen and fall to the ground, and we are definitely eating that. We all love peaches, and we enjoy getting them a the peak of their ripeness.

It is always a pleasure to watch Bow savor a ripe peach.

Monday, August 5, 2013

It Never Rains But It Pours

This has been an excellent growing season, due in part to the almost continuous rain that we have had. For the past week, it seems to rain almost every day. We wake up to a darker dawn, and it keeps raining throughout the morning. Then it clears up for a while in the afternoon, then rains again toward night.

The darkness keeps us very sleepy in the morning, but the abundant supply of rainwater has made our fruit trees very fruitful indeed.

Some years we have no fruit at all. One year a late frost killed off all the blossoms before they had a chance to grow into fruit. But that did not happen this year.

This year, even though we had snow in April, we still ended up with an abundance of fruit.

 Our peach trees are laden with fruit. Absolutely no work went into producing this bounty. I did not spray, fertilize, water or otherwise tend to these trees. I never water. In fact, last year, when there was a severe drought, we lost two peach trees in the front yard and one in the back. Since it didn't rain, they got no water, and they did not survive. You can catch a glimpse of the dead trees in this video from yesterday, when I was picking up pears from the ground during a short lull in the rain.

Even though we have more peach trees than pear trees, it is the quantity of pears that is currently overwhelming. How can we possibly eat all of them? Even after we give some away to friends and neighbors, how will we preserve the rest?

The storm broke off a branch from the pear tree, so we are picking those pears off the branch and bringing them home when they are still green, though they turn yellow when they ripen.

There are bunches and bunches of pears crowded together on every branch.

 Many fall to the ground before they are ripe.

Some are already a little overripe by the time I pick them up. Because of this, I have been serving pear slices to my family for dessert, cutting out the rotten bits and saving what is good.

Just because this pear is partly overripe does not mean we throw it away.

I cut out and discard all the brown bits, but there is still enough to make a nice snack of pear slices.

Bow appreciates every slice of pear I serve him.

Nature is all feast and famine, drought then flood. It is the way of life. It is how we are tested. Those who don't survive the famine have no place at the table for the feast. Next year, that might be us. There is no telling what the future will bring. But while we still may, we enjoy the feast before us.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Israeli Tahini

My mother was recently here for a three day visit. One of the treats she made us was homemade tahini. She also brought the recipe with her from her first cookbook.

I don't know why, but the recipe is entitled "Tahini Salad", although I would not classify it as a salad at all. Here is what is says:

  • 100 grams tahini
  • about 100 grams of water
  • lemon juice to suit your taste
  • garlic, lemon, parsley
  • stir the tahini with the water and the lemon juice
  • add as a condiment ground garlic, salt and chopped parsley
  • The density of the tahini is dependent, of course, on the amount of water. It is possible to reduce or increase the amount of water, depending on the thickness you want.
My mother no longer relies on the exact directions given in her first cookbook, of course. She doesn't measure everything, and she just has a sense of how much of each ingredient is needed. We did not have parsley as one of the ingredients on hand, so no parsley was used.

The ingredients my mother  used were 2 cloves of garlic, the juice of one lemon, a sprinkling of salt and, of course, the tahini and water. Tahini is a sesame paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds. It has a very high fat content and is good for people on a low carb diet.  Even though I never use them, it was good that I had on hand both a primitive hand powered juicer and a press for the lemons and the garlic.

My mother prepared the lemon juice and the garlic and the water and tahini in the kitchen.

Then she added the water to the tahini.

By this time, Bow, who was watching us from the pens felt a little left out, so we took everything and finished the preparation in the pens. My mother showed Bow what she was doing and also explained it.

The first batch was for an event at Orchard House. Lanie Frick spoke about the transformation of her artistic process. It was a great talk, and the refreshments afterwards included my mother's tahini, which was very well received. 

Before she left, my mother made another batch for us to enjoy at home. Here is some footage of  Bow savoring his portion.

Normally, one uses the pita bread to dip in the tahini. I explained that to Bow, and he had seen it demonstrated, too. But he preferred to do things his way. First he ate the pita bread, and afterwards he licked the tahini off the plate.

Whichever way you decide to eat it, Israeli tahini is very good. You might be tempted to lick the plate yourself, if you run out of pita bread.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

From the Garden to the Table

by Kathy Freeze, Guest Blogger

My husband and I have been gardening for a few years, but as we age, the ability to crawl around on  our knees and keep it weeded and keep pests from taking more than their share has become quite challenging.

So this year we decided to try “raised bed gardening”. With the plants just below waist height, the weeding and harvesting of the zucchini, green beans and cucumbers has proven to be less work this year! It is not only easier to see the vegetables on the plants, but you can have a more focused watering plan that does not waste as much water as if you were watering a larger garden area.

Zucchini is one of those vegetables that will grow prolifically in your garden and in the last couple of weeks, it has really started producing. I’m trying to find many different recipes in which I can use it.

This is my typical daily bounty from just three plants. I’m beginning to understand why they wrote in the local newspaper, “this is the time of year when it is unsafe to leave your car unlocked as someone will fill it with their excess zucchini”.

Since my husband and I cut out a lot of the simple carbs in our diet, we have found many uses for lots of vegetables, but zucchini has been one of the more flexible. For the meal I had planned, I was going to add it to a tasty spaghetti sauce. During the summer I prefer using my own fresh-grown herbs as well. So, I picked the thyme, oregano and basil from my containers that I keep on my deck.

After combining my fresh herbs with onions, garlic, tomato sauce, hamburger and Italian sausage, I allowed it to cook down for an hour. I then added 4 sliced zucchini.

And cheese, of course. The cheese helps bind the ingredients together into a nice casserole-style dish.

After stirring the cheese thoroughly into the mix, I poured the mix into my favorite glass casserole dish that my father-in-law gave me a few years ago. I have no idea how old it is, but it is so easy to clean after cooking a cheesy, saucy dish that I use it frequently.

The final dish looks so pretty, and Bob confirmed that it was very tasty by eating half of it. Now I need to start on my other recipes as my refrigerator is filling up with more zucchini!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Phlox and Banana Cake

Today is Sword's birthday. She is fourteen. It is hard to believe. The years have gone by so fast.

We celebrated two days ago, because it was a Wednesday, and Lawrence was available to stay with Bow. We had a sleepover at Orchard House with Sword's best friend. There was swimming  and mall crawling, as well as just hanging out.

And there was cake and ice cream. The cake looked like this:

It was one of those store bought cakes, but of the simplest and most elegant design. On the inside it was white cake, and the frosting was mostly white vanilla, too. It was a little sweet to my taste, but just right for the birthday girl and her friend. They really enjoyed it. And to go with the cake there was chocolate ice cream.

So that was the 17th. Now Lawrence is on his vacation trip to California, and we are at home all day and spend our evenings at Orchard House. On the 30th, Lanie Frick will speak about the development of her artistic process at a special evening event at Orchard House. And then on August 1st our new tenant takes possession of the property.

Yesterday was a quiet day, and I made an interesting floral discovery on my property. I finally found some phlox. I had seen those flowers a few days earlier, but they looked like this because they had not opened yet.

I did not know what they were when I saw them like that. But yesterday, the petals started to open, and I finally made the first tentative connection. This could be phlox!

When the petals have not yet opened, they look a little like a spade sticking out.

But they present a completely different face once they unfold.

 Finally, when they are all bunched up together, the many little flowers seem to form one big one.

I was so happy to discover that I really did have phlox growing on my property. One Facebook friend told me it was called "smooth phlox" and is a Missouri native.

Why is this so important to me? Well, when Sword was only four years old, I wrote a poem for her that started like this:

When Sword goes for walks
In the fields full of phlox
She is always concerned
 That she might meet a fox.
At the time, I had yet to see a Missouri fox wandering around on its own, nor had I spotted any phlox on my property. Now I can say that I've done both -- so my poem is thoroughly accurate and involves Missouri native wildlife and wildflowers.

Of course, at fourteen, Sword is not the right age for that poem anymore. But if you have a four year old, you might want to pick up a copy.

Today, Sword slept late, and I prepared a banana cake for breakfast. I was inspired by Julia Hanna's recipe for banana-strawberry bread, only  I didn't have any strawberries, and I did it the easy way, instead of from scratch.

I have observed that a plain pound cake mix, when you add other ingredients to it, can make almost any cake you can imagine. So I mashed up four overripe bananas and added them to the pound cake mix, in all other respects following the directions on the box, which called for 3/4 cup of milk and two whole eggs.

The cake turned out like this:

After we all had our fill this morning, Sword, Bow and I, the cake looked like this:

It's not a birthday cake, but it's always nice to have some kind of cake on a birthday, even if it's not for a party.