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Archive for November, 2010

Whisk Broom

Today in the Ozarks the skies are dark, pouring an icy rain that makes me wish we had a fireplace.  If I had a fireplace, I’d have an even harder time carrying through with my holiday giveaway.  Earlier this fall, I wrote about my summer visit to the Ozark Folk Center, near my home in Arkansas.  I purchased two beautiful handmade brooms.  One is a standing broom for my own home.  The broom works so well and glides so easily that I genuinely do more of my share of sweeping than I did before I got this household treasure.  I also bought a gift for one of you, my dear readers, a whisk broom made in the same historic style as my standing broom.

As with the standing broom, every detail on this whisk or hearth broom is natural.  The broom measures a foot long and 8 inches wide at the base.  It retails for $25.  This broom also works as well as the standing broom, whether you decide to use it to sweep your hearth or whether it becomes your whisk broom to tidy up the end of a sweeping session.  Of course, it can also just be a decorative feature that might fit your country holiday or year-round decor, hanging next to your fireplace or in your kitchen.

If you are interested in winning this hearth broom, please post here with a special holiday memory or tradition, even if it’s just a sentence. It doesn’t have to be long or eloquent; just share a little.  If you’d like two entries, please post about this giveaway on your own blog or tweet it, and then indicate here in a separate comment that you’ve shared it.  Entries close Sunday, December 5, at noon Central Standard Time.  I’ll announce the winner, selected randomly, by Dec. 6 at noon, so that I can get your address and get your gift in the mail to you in time for holiday decorating.  Regardless of which winter holidays you celebrate, I wish you a happy, healthy season!

Legal stuff:  I am not a spammer and will keep your information private.  Readers from outside the US are welcome to post and enter, but you are responsible for any customs charges.

Entries are officially closed.  I’ll post the winner by noon on Monday.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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I love cranberries, so I stock up when they appear in markets in autumn. (I’m ordering some plants for the homestead, so by next Thanksgiving I may have my own!) I, of course, like making cranberry sauce, but this year I’m not home, so I decided to use my first bag of cranberries for cranberry-gingerbread pancakes.  You may enjoy their spicy, tart taste with warm maple syrup for breakfast this weekend.

This recipe makes 6 medium-sized fluffy pancakes.  To make the pancakes a bit thinner, use a tablespoon additional buttermilk, or just use all milk instead of buttermilk, with the original measurement.

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries, macerated for a few hours or overnight with 1 tablespoon brown sugar  OR 1/2 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • OPTIONAL:  chopped pecans or black walnuts
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon buttermilk or milk (milk will make pancakes less fluffy)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1-2 tablespoons molasses
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour OR part whole oat flour (Oat flour will make a softer pancake with no crisp on the crust.)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of allspice
  • tiny pinch of cloves

Mix together the egg, buttermilk, butter, and molasses.  In another small measuring cup, mix the flour and other dry ingredients. (You can do these steps the night before, if you want to make breakfast really easy.) Heat a large fry pan or griddle over medium heat until  drop of water dances on the surface.  Grease with oil or a butter and oil mixture.  Mix together the wet and dry pancake ingredients and stir in the cranberries and optional nuts.  Drop pancake batter on greased griddle and immediately spread mix slightly with back of spoon. (You won’t need to spread if you used the thinner batter recipe.) Cook on one side until little bubbles start to form.  Depending on your heat source, you may need to slip your spatula under the pancakes and rotate them before you flip, if it looks like they are cooking more quickly on one side than the other.  Flip when the bubbles are even dispersed across the top and the edges start to look cooked.  Cook the other side.  You can keep cakes warm in the oven while you cook the rest.  Serve with maple syrup or a dollop of cranberry jelly.

Ingredients for a dozen medium-sized pancakes, for bigger families or bigger appetites!

  • 1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries, macerated for a few hours or overnight with 2 tablespoons brown sugar  OR 1 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • OPTIONAL:  chopped pecans or black walnuts
  • 2 medium eggs or 1 extra-large egg
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk or milk (milk will make pancakes less fluffy)
  • 3 tablespoon melted butter
  • 2-4 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour OR part whole oat flour (Oat flour will make a softer pancake with no crisp on the crust.)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of allspice
  • pinch of cloves

Do you have a favorite holiday breakfast?  Do tell!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Tonight I write from an in-law’s home, and it would be easy to dwell on how I want to be home making my own dinner, instead of being on the road eight hours today and destined for eight hours more on Friday.  The truth is, we can almost always find things for which to be thankful.  For me, I know I need to acknowledge more each day the things for which I can be thankful.  Fellow  blogger of Nourishing Words recently convinced me that I need to start a gratitude journal.  Instead of trying to name everything for which I’m  thankful today, I’ll just say I’m thankful that I have nice in-laws!  I’m also so thankful for all of my blog readers and how all of you share your recipes and ideas for living here.  You’ve made my life richer in so many ways.  Will you share one or two thing for which you’re thankful?

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I’ve recently been on a mission to re-organize and clean out our freezers.  I know we have things that have been in the arctic depths too long.  The other day on a clean out I found some sweet bread (coffee cake remnants?) that I had frozen in chunks.  I tasted it.  Hmmm.  It was okay.  But it had been frozen a while.  What to do?  Bread pudding, of course!

I used

  • about 2 cups of bread, torn in chunks
  • an apple that I cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
  • two eggs whisked with half a cup of milk
  • about 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • cinnamon and nutmeg
  • a crumb topping that I had also frozen when I had a bit too much for a previous recipe
  • black walnuts leftover from breakfast (topping for oatmeal)

Layer the bread in a buttered dish (or cast iron pan like I used).  Sprinkle on a tiny bit of nutmeg and a bigger bit of cinnamon.  Add the apples and cranberries.  Drizzle on the syrup with more cinnamon.  Pour on the egg and milk mixture. Let the pudding sit for about an hour to start absorbing the liquid.  Add the crumb topping if you’re feeling really decadent.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.  Serve warm.It’s just some old bread, some fruit, eggs, milk, and spices, but it is ooohhhhh so good!  Mr. Homesteader kept asking for more and practically whimpered when I told him that there was no more.

What’s your favorite freezer clean-out ever?  Or are you organized enough that you never need to clean out your freezer?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Every fall I am overwhelmed by a desire to surround myself by pumpkins and winter squashes, one of the most enduring symbols of autumn’s bounty.  Every year I make pumpkin soup.  Every year Mr. Homesteader eats the soup politely but, I must admit, not that enthusiastically.  Knowing his love of exotic flavors, I’ve tried lots of variations:  with cinnamon and sweetness, with ginger and curry, with southwestern flavors.  It was my most recent rendition of the perennial pumpkin soup, however, that won his heart and had him polishing off his soup in record time.  And it was the most basic I’ve ever made.  I present it to you here.  I know it’s basic, but he really thought it was good!

Pumpkin sizes vary so much and this recipe is so easy that I offer this recipe casually, with no precise measurements.  Begin by washing well and whacking in half one eating pumpkin or large winter squash.  Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh. Save those seeds, cleaned free of the flesh!  Roasted, they’ll make great healthy snacks with lots of good omega-3s. Bake the pumpkin halves in an 350 degree F oven for about 30 minutes, depending on size.  If you can cover the pumpkin, put just a couple of tablespoons in the cavities where the seeds were located. If baking uncovered, fill each cavity about 2/3 full.  After you’ve baked the pumpkin for 10 minutes, add one  clove of garlic, unpeeled, to the pan and let it roast with the pumpkin for the remaining 20 minutes.

Scoop the roasted flesh from the skin, letting it cool a bit to make sure you can get every last bit.  Cut off the tough end of the roasted garlic and squeeze it into a cooking pot with the pumpkin flesh.  Add a splash of chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock and a splash or two of cream and/or milk.  Blend everything with a stick blender, in a food processor, or in a stand blender, adding more cream or milk to get a smooth consistency.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Add a pinch each or so of finely ground cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and rubbed sage.  Heat gently and serve.

Does your family eat pumpkin soup?  Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe to share that you think Mr. Homesteader would like?  He’s mighty adventurous!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts and tweets are fair use, as long as you provide a full URL.


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Even though I miss summer tomatoes come fall, at least I have apples with tangy, juicy crunch.  A few weeks ago I tossed together a fall salad with simplicity of preparation that belies its sophisticated blend of flavor and texture.

For every two servings you’ll need:

  • 1 well-washed apple
  • 1-2 stalks of fresh celery
  • 1 green onion or small bunch of chives
  • 1 tablespoon, give or take, course-ground prepared mustard
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • optional:  pinch of salt to taste

Cut the apple into quarters (eighths if its really big) and cut out the tiny bit of core.  Slice the quarters or eighths across in sections about a quarter-inch thick.  Thinly slice the celery across the grain.  You should have a bit more apple than celery.  Cut the green onions across the grain or snip the chives.  Mix the mustard and cider vinegar in your serving bowl and toss with the apples, celery, and onion.  Serve at room temperature or cold.

Do you eat fewer salads in the fall?  Do you have a favorite fall salad recipe?  Tell us here!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved.  Tweets and short excerpts with full URL and reference to Ozarkhomesteader are fair use.

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Latkes–fluffy, savory pancakes made of grated potatoes–make a filling base for a cold-weather meal.  We make them with regular potatoes, but we also like them made with sweet potatoes, whose bright orange color fits our fall mood so well.  Sweet potatoes are also loaded with nutrients, so be thankful if they’ve been showing up at your farmers market or in your CSA basket recently.  The problem with making latkes from sweet potatoes is how to get the sweet potato to cook through without burning the exterior, since sweet potatoes’ sugar content make them susceptible to excess caramelization.  I’ve discovered a secret, though, that I’ll share with you today; just keep reading!
Ingredients
  • about two cups grated sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon jerk seasoning OR sausage seasoning OR cajun seasoning OR a dash each of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper–Use what you have and what goes well with your meal.
Method
Grate the sweet potato using a course grater. Try to get long strips of potato as well as shorter ones.  Now--and this is one of those secrets I hate to give up–microwave the grated sweet potato for 2 minutes on high.  The sweet potato should take on an almost rose-floral scent as it starts to cook.  If you don’t have a microwave, bake the grated sweet potato in a covered casserole dish at about 350 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes.  You should get similar results.
Let the grated sweet potato cool a bit and then stir in the flour.  Add the egg and your chosen seasoning and stir to combine.  Heat a heavy-bottomed pan (you know me:  I’ll use cast iron!) to medium heat (about 300 degrees) and add about a quarter to half an inch of oil.  Drop latkes in with a big spoon and spread a little to form pancake shape.  Cook on each side until they’re crispy, about 5 minutes per side.  You can hold the cooked latkes in a warm oven on toweling while you cook the rest.
Try sweet potato latkes with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt or even some apple butter.  I served our recent sweet potato latkes with plus cabbage and onions, grilled organic turkey bratwurst, and a sweet, sour, and crunchy fall salad that I’ll post tomorrow–I promise, it’s already written!
Do you like sweet potatoes?  What’s your favorite way to eat them?
Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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A few weeks ago I had a chance to meet part of my Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  I don’t want to offend the vegetarians, but this picture very well may include that bird.  I snapped a shot of these birds at Falling Sky Farm, now of Chime, Arkansas.  Mr. Homesteader was so impressed with the operations that for a week afterwards, no one could say chicken without him launching into an explanation of Falling Sky Farm’s operations and attributes.  The things that make Falling Sky Farm stand out include the freshness of the graze, the complete lack of odor, and the cleanliness.  Falling Sky Farm, naturally producing healthier food, stands in stark contrast to the factory farms that resulted in the recall of billions of eggs.

All of the animals at Falling Sky Farm graze on pasture.  What is most remarkable is that they get moved to fresh pasture either once or twice a day, depending on the animal.  Look at how rich this light grazing technique leaves the pasture, even after Arkansas’s extraordinarily hot summer and drought.

Frequent moving of the animals lets the manure composts easily on its own, in place, never leaving a strong smell like you find on factory farms.  The lack of concentrated manure also means that flies aren’t attracted in large numbers. With this system, animals never rest in their own waste, reducing disease.  Here you can see the chicken “tractors” in the distance and the rectangles indicating where they were in the past few days.

overlooking the chicken "tractors"

Pasture raising also eliminates bad bacteria from animals’ guts; the bacteria just don’t grow on pasture feed.  Finally, pasture raising increases the good Omega-3 fatty acids, helping you balance out the cholesterol that can come with eating animal products.  This hen promises she’ll produce better eggs!

Happy Laying Hen

As Congress debates a new food safety law, the Senate concluded that small farms with less than $500k in annual business that direct market within 275 miles of the farm should be exempt from tighter regulation unless they’re found guilty of distributing tainted food.  I think the amendment exempting small farms makes sense both for supporting local, diverse food sources and for saving tax payers’ money.  Well-run small farms are naturally healthier.

Have recent food recalls changed the food that you buy and how you shop and eat?

(edited Nov. 19, after the Senate included the exemption.)

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Every year now it seems that newspapers, food blogs, and radio shows debate the merits of turkey or sides as the highlight of Thanksgiving dinner.  Personally, I’m all about the dressing–cornbread stuffing baked in a separate pan for those of you who don’t have Southern roots.  I’ll never forget the year that my sister, accompanied by my mother, ended up in the emergency room the night before Thanksgiving.  The task of making the cornbread for the dressing fell to my father.  He made the mistake of picking a sweet cornbread recipe and using that cornbread for the dressing.  It’s the only year that I didn’t pig out on the dressing.  Needless to say, it was genuinely disgusting.  (Sorry, Dad!)  That dressing is part of family legend.  So is our regular recipe, anchoring us to our ancestors like Americans’ gastronomy nationwide reflect their origins.

As I’ve moved around the country, I’ve discovered that asking the simple question “Dressing or stuffing?” can place a person’s ancestors faster than any other question.  If you want to get more specific within the South, you have to ask more detailed questions about the recipe.  For example, the Georgia dressing recipe that I grew up with included the traditional cornbread as well as a sage stuffing mix, celery, onions, broth, and eggs.  The result was a mixture as solid as canned cranberry jelly.  We could cut it into neat slices.  (I use an all-scratch method now that stays fluffier, and I like it much better, but don’t tell Mom.)    Mr. Homesteader grew up in south Arkansas, and his dressing recipe included chopped boiled eggs.  Those chopped boiled eggs seem pretty consistent across the flatlands of the state and can mark a delta Arkansan faster than any accent.  Newer recipes that are tasty include squash dressing.

I confess to an endless fascination with dressing and stuffing recipes.  I’ve always wanted to compile a catalog of regional variations.  Will you help me to start that catalog?  You can build the recipe catalog one of two ways.  For both cases, you’ll need to answer the following questions.  You can answer directly on the blog, but if you prefer not to tie your ancestry to your regular name here, you can send answers to my email (Ozarkhomesteader AT yahoo DOT com), and I’ll remove names before I post them under anonymous listings.  (And, yes, I’ll preserve your privacy and not share your information with anyone else.)  You may also email photographs in jpg format to that address, and I’ll upload them with this post.  Folks from outside the US are welcome to join in too!

1.  What’s the recipe?  This can be a precise recipe or a vague one, but it needs to include the key components (like boiled eggs, chiles, giblets, fruit, nuts).

2.  What consistency does the product have?  Can you slice it?  Do you spoon it?  Is it fluffy?  Can you see discrete pieces of bread?

3.  What do you call it?

4.  What place do you call home, as in where you learned the recipe?

5.  What is your primary regional and/or state influence in cooking?  For most people, we’re talking about where your mother and grandmother(s) originated.

6.  Do you have any relatives who aren’t from that region?  If so, from where are they?

7.  How long have you used this recipe?

I hope you like mapping food history as much as I do!  Join the fun, and spread the word so that we can get a good sample here.  Remember to include your food origins location!

Update, November 23, 2011:  Please continue to submit your recipes and memories of dressing and stuffing at your house for Thanksgiving.  We’ve still got lots of the country to cover!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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There is no question that fall has come.  Actually, we had our first frost about two weeks ahead of schedule, at the beginning of October.  

I am extremely resistant to yielding to winter in the garden.  In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re still picking summer crops.  I used an old king-sized mattress cover for moving to protect my teepee, this year laden with trombetta squash and armenian cucumbers.  We picked several pounds after the first frost.

Sadly, a wind storm last week ripped off the plastic and collapsed the teepee.  I haven’t given up on everything else, though.  Last weekend was the real test, when temperatures plunged into the lower twenties.  Everything that stayed covered survived.  Tomorrow night, we’re expecting more freezing temperatures, but I’ve tucked in the garden and hope that it stays that way.  If so, we’ll keep harvesting for a few more weeks.

How do you let go of your garden as winter comes?  Do you have a ritual of putting the garden in hibernation?  Are you like me, trying to get that last tomato to ripen?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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