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Friday, February 24, 2012

THE SPICE OF LIFE

The herb garden in winter
While all you dear southern friends are out enjoying an early spring, we are having  our winter at last.  So today, while I wait for the snowstorm to end so I can shovel out, I decided to write a post about spices and herbs.  Something I have intended to write for some time.  If you know what spices and herbs to use with meats and vegetables, you can pretty much improvise any meal; a simple soup made from scraps, a heart casserole, an omelet.  That along with how to make a basic white or cheese sauce which I have written about in  a past post.  I tried to find a guide to common spices and herbs, but couldn't, so I made up this one:

BEEF: sage, bay leaf, majoram, thyme, allspice, oregano, cumin, chili powder, basil, garlic

CHICKEN:  sage, parsley, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, bay leaf, dill, basil, dry mustard, paprika, garlic

PORK:  rosemary, sage, majoram, dry mustard, nutmeg, garlic, caraway

POTATOES: rosemary, dill, parsley, garlic, chives

APPLES: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ginger

WINTER SQUASHES AND PUMPKINS:  cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg,  mace, ginger

TOMATOES:  basil, oregano, fennel, garlic, majoram, thyme, dill, parsley, tarragon

CHEESES: dry mustard, paprika, dill, garlic, chives

ITALIAN FOOD: basil, oregano, fennel, garlic, parsley, allspice

MEXICAN FOOD: cilantro, chili powder, cumin, garlic

A simple little herb garden only a few feet square can provide you with quite a few of  these herbs.  Just one plant of the basics; oregano, dill, sage, parsley, thyme, rosemary and basil, cilantro.  With some garlic bulbs tucked in somewhere else.  And it's pretty too!  Last year I planted one of those strawberry pots with just the basic herbs and kept it by the back steps.  Ended up using that more than the larger herb garden.  Just goes to show you that you don't need a large space to have nice fresh (and expensive) produce.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

HAPPY PACZKI DAY!

Happy Shrove  Tuesday!  Shrovetide is the day to use up all the fats and meats forbidden during Lent.  In our neck of the woods we ate paczkis (pronounced punch-keys) and type of yeast raised doughnut.  They are different then the jelly doughnuts that the local bakeries now pass off as paczkis.  My grandfather's fifth wife (what do you call a fifth step-grandmother), Mabel, made the best ones around.  Which was strange because she wasn't known for being an especially skilled cook.  Anyway, she would bring our family a large dry cleaning bagful.  So many that they cover the entire little round table in our breakfast nook.  They were so good warm and fresh.  And they didn't have any jelly filling.  Which was wonderful because none of us liked jelly doughnuts except for my father.  It was the only pastry he knew the name for so when we sent him to the bakery, we knew what he'd be returning with.  Which is why we never asked him to pick up any goodies! 

In England they eat pancakes on this day.  A nice tradition.  I'd much prefer a pancake to a jelly doughnut any day.  Especially when they are made with this recipe:

Overnight Buttermilk Pancakes

2 C. flour
2 C. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg

Combine all the ingredients and refrigerate overnight.  The next morning prepare as usual.

These are the nicest, tenderest pancakes you'll ever find.  And since they are mixed up the night before, they are so easy to have ready for a nice breakfast.

Speaking of pancakes reminds me that it is getting time to tap the maple trees, as we are having warm sunny days and cold nights.  All you need is a spile and a bucket to collect the sap.  Then it's just a matter of boiling the sap down to make syrup.  The old instructions caution against boiling the sap down inside the house because it causes so much steam, but now days with advancements in high powered vents for kitchen ranges, I don't think it's such a problem.  At least, I've never had a problem.  It doesn't create much more steam than a long day of canning.

When I was a little girl, we used to take school field trips to a sugar shack.  This was an old-fashioned operation where the sap was boiled in big vats over a wood fire, not the modern-day evaporators.  Those images have stayed with me forever, but I do marvel at the strong nerves the teachers must have had to take a classroom  of five and six year olds to such a potentially dangerous place.  I'm sure now days with its lawsuits and such, it could never be done. 

So do you celebrate Shrove Tuesday?

Friday, February 17, 2012

THE VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD


  The Rules:
 1. Add the award to your blog. 
2. Thank the blogger who gave it to you.
3. Mention seven random things about yourself. (see below)
4. List the rules
.5.Award to 15 bloggers
6. Inform each of those 15 bloggers by leaving a comment on their blog. 

The lovely April of April's Homemaking has honored me with The Versatile Blogger award.  Thanks April!   


So here's seven random things about me:  


1.  I'm the youngest of four girls.  Being surrounded by all that femininity made me a rather prissy little girl and my nickname growing up was Lady Jane.  My mother claims I'm the only child she ever saw that could play all day making mud pies and not get dirty.


2.  I have a slight German accent that I wasn't aware of until I left home and everybody  (and I mean everybody) asked me what country I was from.

3.  I'm a crazy cat lady and I feed all the neighborhood strays.  Last year we  fed about two dozen, but this year thankfully we only have about six.  Here's a picture of Mama Cat  (yeah I name them too).  Cute huh?  


Lest you worry about them in our cold winters, the neighbor keeps his garage open for them and I built shelters for them.  They are the most spoiled strays anywhere.  Just recently I ran out of the expensive brand of food I was feeding them and bought some unbranded kind from the local grocers.  They won't eat it!   I'd love to catch them and adopt them, unfortunately they are just too skittish and fast to catch.  They seem pretty happy being wild.


4.  The hardest thing I ever did in life is care for my father as he died.  


5.  I don't like chocolate, bacon, ice cream and cheese (unless it's in a casserole or on something Mexican).  Should be easy to stay on a diet right?  Unfortunately I love potato chips and spice cake with a thick layer of buttercream frosting.  I also don't like coffee unless it has a lot of cream and sugar, but I love the smell.  And I don't like tea either, but I love to make it properly and serve it to others.


6.  I grew up in a port town that was home to The Great Lakes Fleet.  When I was a baby one of the ships sank (the Carl D. Bradley).  My uncle Elmer Fleming was one of the only two survivors.  He was offered the job of captain on another ship (the Cedarville) but turned it down.  It sank too.  As a result many of my friends were fatherless.  And those who did have fathers, sailed and were gone for long periods of time.  So my perception of  fathers and families is perhaps a little different than most  Shows like Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver seemed very foreign to me growing up.


7.  Many of you have read my post about having the German measles when I was fifteen.  The rest of the story is that I came as close to death as anyone can get without actually dieing.  The doctors couldn't find my pulse for fifteen minutes and when they took my red blood count they couldn't find any red blood cells.  In other words there was an infection through my entire body and I was in a coma for several days.  Sometime during that period, I had a near death experience.  I can tell  you death is nothing to fear if you believe in Our Savior.  As a result I don't really fear anything.  Which may come across as being frivolous to some.  I just don't take this life too seriously.  


Now comes the hard part; selecting others to award.  Since I only have a few followers and some of them have private blogs and others have mentioned that they don't care to participate in these sort of things,  and several others that seem to busy at the moment, I'm going to break the rules and just give it to five.


Matty at Lazy Bee Farm, who has been my blogging pal and confidant for several years.


Sandy at And He Shall Direct My Paths, who has been a source of inspiration for several years also.


Andrea at Buttercups and Bees who remind me of the gals I knew back home.


Delisa at Dances with Yarn, a real southern lady that always has the most beautiful pictures and wonderful stories. 


And last but not least, Rainey, at Flower Lady's Musings whose beautiful gardens are always a joy to behold.

PS:  We are finally getting our winter. Look at the beauty I awoke to this morning!