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We are visiting family outside the Ozarks tonight, but we are getting snow here and expect to find snow at home too.  A white Christmas is always a beautiful gift!  I want to wish all of my readers a merry Christmas. Thank you for visiting the blog!  If you, like so many Americans, are suffering from financial losses, may you remember that this holiday is about love, not stuff you buy from stores or trinkets you hang on your tree. I hope you’ll enjoy holiday-friendly ideas and recipes like Christmas lettuce, breakfast casserole, grits casserolechocolate-chip gingerbread, turkey gravy, turkey brine, and turkey hash.

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Broccoli is in season, and we can get it local and organic when we don’t have any in our own garden. I bought some broccoli last week.  We had the florets sauteed, steamed, and in salad.  Then I took on my favorite part:  the stalks.  Broccoli stalks are actually sweeter than the florets, and peeled and sliced they can easily form the basis of a fantastic, rich soup.

Start by dicing one or two red potatoes.  Set aside about two thirds of the diced potatoes.  Toss about a third of the diced potatoes in a medium-sized pot.  Now peel off the outer, woody exterior of a half dozen or so broccoli stalks.  If florets are present, trim them off and set them aside.  We can use some of them.  Slice each stalk in half lengthwise and then slice again across the stalk, in slices each of about 1/4 to 1/2 inch each.  Toss the broccoli stalks in the pot with the potatoes.  Add enough lightly salted water or chicken broth or stock* to cover.  Start cooking.  Add one medium leek (or part of a large one), cut lengthwise and cleaned and then cut across the grain, like you did with the broccoli. Be sure to use the leek tops.  They will help make the soup greener!  Simmer the portion of potatoes, broccoli stems, and leeks for about half an hour.

Meanwhile, put the rest of the diced potatoes on a cast iron baking pan (or any other heavy baking pan), toss with oil and seasoning (I used a Greek seasoning mix), and roast at 400 degrees for about half an hour, turning regularly.

How are the potatoes, stems, and leeks in the pot?  Are they starting to soften?  At half an hour, turn off the heat and take off the lid.  Let the mixture start to cool.  After it has cooled a fair amount, scoop out the solids (potatoes and stems), leaving behind the liquid.  Yes, we’ll use it, just not now.  Put the solids in a blender.  Now add cold milk just to cover; the cold  milk will help you avoid a blender explosion.  Puree until you have a wonderfully smooth mixture.

Pour the pureed mixture back into the pot with the retained liquid.  Add the roasted potatoes.  Add a handful of the florets, cut rather small.  Now heat the soup until the florets are tender.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Serve. Eat.  Add good grated cheddar cheese to the top if you want.

*Here’s an important frugal tip:  make your own stock or broth by boiling the bones from your roasted birds.  I’ll cover details in a future post.

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I refer in my “easiest bread ever for camping and home” to a camping, or outdoor, Dutch oven.  I’ll talk today about how indoor and outdoor Dutch ovens differ from each other in appearance and use.  First, I’d like to sing the praises of cooking equipment that looks like it belongs in a shop in J.K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley rather than in a modern kitchen.

I am a big fan of cast iron because of its durability and health benefits.  My oldest piece of cast iron is probably my 1883 frying pan from Cleveland Stove Company, although I have a few unlabeled pieces that I suspect may be older.  Well kept for a century and a quarter, the cast iron delivers the same great service for me as it did for my great-great grandparents.  Cast iron has never been implicated in any adverse health conditions (unlike aluminum, plastics, etc.).  It even delivers an iron boost to you as you cook in it and foods absorb small amounts.  For these reasons, I believe cast iron is a frugal, healthy choice.

Twodutchovens.jpgCast iron comes in many sizes and shapes, including today’s subject, Dutch ovens.  Dutch ovens are pots with nipped handles and specialized lids.  I’m picturing two Dutch ovens here.  The one on the left is a typical Dutch oven for use inside.  The one on the right is for use with charcoal, although you could use it inside in a standard oven or on a gas stovetop.

Let’s look at how the indoor and outdoor versions differ.  First look at the bottoms.  The indoor Dutch oven has no legs.  You can easily use it on a stove top or in a standard household oven.  Now look at the outdoor Dutch oven.  It has legs that are designed to keep it just above coals, preventing direct contact with the heat and permitting oxygen to get to the coals.

Let’s move on to the lids.  The indoor Dutch oven lid is domed indoordutch.jpgon top.  It also has spikes spikesonlid.jpgthat are supposed to transfer juices back into roasts, basting the meat. 

 

 

The outdoor Dutch oven lid has a raised rim on a relatively flat top.flangedlid.jpg  This construction allows you to pile coals on the top as well as the bottom, letting you create a standard oven effect wherever you can collect coals from a fire or burn charcoal.  The underside of the lid is flat too, so you can flip it over and use it as a griddle.

Both of the Dutch ovens pictured here are from my favorite cast iron manufacturer, Lodge in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and both are the same size:  8 inches in diameter and 3 inches deep.  Lodge calls them 2-quart Dutch ovens, but you should only plan on filling half way for breads and cakes that rise.  These 8-inch Dutch ovens are ideal for today’s family, holding easily two chicken quarters with fixings, a good number of servings of soup or stew, a small loaf of my variation of easy-fix yeast bread, etc.  (I’ll talk in future blogs about recipes for home and camp.) 

 

Thanks to combining two households of Dutch oven lovers, two competitors in Dutch oven contests (and a few wins), and a general appreciation of Dutch ovens, my family has a variety of Dutch ovens in size, shape, and construction material.  Today I’ll stick to talking about cast iron.  Lodge’s largest Dutch oven holds 12 quarts and is 16 inches in diameter.  Lodge’s smallest, pictured here next to one of the 8-inch ovens, is 5 inches. DSCN1719 It’s cute, but beyond that I’d say you can live without it.

 

 

Next we have a Dutch oven from (shhhhhhh) China, shown on the right.  Something tells me J.K. had this kind of Dutch oven in mind when she wrote about Percy Weasley’s obsession with inferior, imported, thin-bottomed cauldrons.  This Chinese-manufactured Dutch oven cheapChineseimport.jpg has skimpy legs and thin walls.  I’ve used it successfully, but you really have to watch it to make sure it does not burn.  Can you figure out if it’s for indoor or camping use?  Yep, camping.

Do you have questions about cast iron or Dutch ovens? Post here and I’ll answer what I can.

Remember:  all rights reserved.  Copyright Ozark Homesteader.  I appreciate it when you link my work on your site, but please use only a tiny excerpt, and make sure you include not only a link to the original post but also the full URL, typed out.  Thanks!

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DSCN1690Today I took a partial bushel basket of rosemary, sage, oregano, and sweet basil to trade at the market.  I got in exchange a large, ripe cantaloupe and a quart basket each of small yellow squash and medium and small cucumbers.  We’ve got lots of our own fresh tomatoes, chile peppers, and onions, so I’ll be making gazpacho this week.  I’ll post my recipe (or as close to a recipe as I ever come!) after I make the gazpacho. 

The great thing about market bartering is that we go farmer to farm stand with as little between the producer and consumer as possible.  We know we might be able to get a better price for our herbs per ounce if we went big, but that prospect also would most likely not be sustainable.  This way works just fine for us.  And as I understand it, since we have no net gain from the exchange, the transaction should incur no tax liability.  On the other hand, if the farm stand sells the herbs at considerable profit, then the farm stand might incur tax liability.

Please let me know in the comments section if you do market bartering with your produce, eggs, etc. or if you barter services for homegrown produce.

Text and photograph copyright Ozark Homesteader 2009.  All rights reserved.  I welcome your re-printing excerpts of this and other posts, but please make sure that you copy only excerpts, that the source is prominently displayed, and that you include a full URL, not just a link.  Thank you!

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