Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whoa, Baby!!!

Whoa, I think she's taking this pregnancy too far, don't you. Look how huge she's gotten and I thought she was big last year. This photo was take a week before her due date, next Tuesday. If you think she's wide, you should see how deep she goes downward. It's like she has swollowed a humungous augh.... what? What's this big?

Standing next to Chicory is her daughter Contessa who is a yearling and due in four weeks from when this photo was taken. She's good sized but her mom well, I'm afraid she's going to have more than three. I know there are lots of goat owners that read this blog, what's your opinion? Is she fat or full, full, full of babies. I'm worried about her for you don't see that distinct tale tell lopsidedness that comes when the babies shift to one side or the other of her spine. That's what has me wondering if she is just packed full with no room for them to move around much. I've only had one goat before that had quads. She was older, not three like Chicory, and a larger goat being that she was a good sized Saanen. The gal we bought Chicory from was almost appologetic because she had just a single her first year. Oh my is she making up for that. Last year it was triplets and this year, well...what do you think? I've delivered kids, lambs, puppies (that was not fun, I'll have to tell you about it sometime- remind me.), piglets, calves, and aided foals after deliver, but I'm still a bit nervous. I encountered things I've never dealt with during Chicory's last deliver and just what I'm up against this time I don't know. Now I'm wishing mightily that I could put in a request, I'd ask for twins as there's plenty of milk and a faucet for each kid. As a benefit for me, the doe produces more milk than if she were to have a single and that means more milk after the kids quits nursing for our family. If the doe has triplets, she typically produces even more milk still but I can't sneak some milk here and there for our family like I do with twins because the kids need it all. Now quads, that means a higher risk pregnancy and delivery. I have to be present because legs become intertwined and often two kids compete to exit first. Or one or two and sometimes all three kids are headed out breach.

With a triplet delivery, I once had two kids each with a hoof sticking out at the same time. No matter how hard the doe pushed the exit door just wasn't big enough for two to leave side by side. I of course didn't know the hooves belonged to two kids and became confused when I tugged on them but no nose appeared. As I slipped my fingers up inside to investigate, I found two noses instead of one which caused me to chuckle. Now mind you the goat didn't think it too funny as I promptly pushed both kids back inside. Yup, if I could have interpreted that beller of hers and the dirty look she gave me, I'm sure it was a string of goat cuss words that would have stripped the paint off a car. Can't blame her after all that painful work and then to have me shove the kids back in. She probably thought she had to start all over. But it wasn't but a minute or two and I had those two kids repositioned and pulled them out one at a time, then I went back in looking for their sibling. The doe was pretty tired by then and I figured she'd had enough.

I can handle this situation but what will Chicory throw at me this year. Quads is beyond triplets by a ways and raises the risk level a great deal. It isn't so for pigmys as quads is pretty common but not as much so for dairy goats. There is also a question of having enough milk and so I hope Chicory is just extra fat this time and she has three inside, not four. I'll have to keep a close eye on her as other things are raising my concern. Her udder isn't nearly as full as I think it should be at this point, plus her tail head is barely beginning to soften and loosen. Wouldn't you think she would go early if not late? Now I've had a few does who's udder filled while they were in labor so she just might decide to do that this time. Then again I've had a couple pregnacies on does where their udder filled two days after giving birth. Not a good thing.

Last time of course Chicory's udder was very full before she kidded and I suppose she's just doing this to keep my attention pinned on her, making sure I'll be there to hold her hand, or rather hoof as she labors away. I wish animals would set a pattern for delivery but often each one is different. Though I have had does that always went on 150 or 151 days, which is nice. One thing is common though and that is the increase in Braxton Hixes with each pregnancy. Some of our older does and ewes drove me crazy as I thought countless times they were in labor and I got up at night to check them to find them peacefully chewing their cud. Our old ewe Lorna was horrible about them. She'd labor 12 hours before she'd lamb and spent a couple weeks sometimes in intense false labor pawing, getting up and down, and even sinking in in the flanks. Now her lambs were 12 to 14 pounds a piece and she had a large number of triplets. Which meant 36 pounds of lambs she was carrying. She was a LARGE ewe.

That is what Chicory was having last night as I shoveled the pile of sawdust from her pen into the pickup truck. Usually I keep it picked up but doing chores with our youngest waiting in the car, because it is too cold for her outside, has dictated that I make short cuts. Only shorter for the moment because in the end it still has to be done. So while the kids were with their mom, I was down there a while collecting a few months worth of bedding while Chicory moaned and groaned and pawed the ground frequently. Yup, the next month and a half will be busy and interesting. As you can see, Contessa on the far left will have twins or please no, triplets, as the greatest growth time for the kids is in the next few weeks; and Katarina in the middle will have a single or twins as she has by far the smallest belly. She is also the littlest doe and I'm sure I'll end up selling her this year if Chicory has does. I know I'll just have to keep one. Chicks are due the beginning of May, I'm working on the garden, and those yaks, well, we'll see what we do.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Noodles - Eventually

I know the last blog was rather cruel since the heading had a picture of an adorable kid goat and then I talked about butchering a wether. Sorry, my apologies to you softies to which I have a cute one in this family also, our middle grand daughter, but I'm bogged down at the moment and didn't have time to change the photo. Yesterday, I was in the middle of yakety yacking up a storm and felt good to get a blog up at all, let alone changing the heading picture. Yes, I'm in the the middle of researching and talking to seven breeders about yaks, trying to decide just what breed we want, how many, and what are our plans for the future for them.

At first I thought, oh how cute, I'd love to make my husband happy and get him something he wants. I usually have such a hard time finding him a gift. But now, we see this will be an investment, not just a gift and we'd better think hard and long about what our goals are. We've set up an appointment to see yaks this Saturday and I'm going to make another appointment to see another group hopefully on Friday. We are going to have a yackety yack weekend. That's why I was so late blogging yesterday. If we weren't talking to breeders we were talking amongst ourselves trying to decide. Seven ranches later we are a bit confused of what type of yak we want but we have leanings. We just want to see some different varieties up close and feel it will help us to make a decision. We'll talk later about all this when I have some pictures to share because I'm big on pictures as you know.

Now for an update, the tough goat loin cooked in the crock pot last night has fallen all apart and is now as tender as can be. It's lunch for Kirk today. And I want to pass along a tip I got from the local butcher who owns his own processing plant. Hanging your meat three days is all it takes to tenderize it. After that it is not tenderizing but adding a stronger flavor to the meat. Interesting!!

And... as to the home-made brown sugar, it made delicious chocolate chip cookies, so cooks forge ahead and make your own from white sugar. It's wonderful.

Yes, today is an update day and I've much more to tell you but I've got a promise to fulfill and that's part two of oodles of noodles.

So here we go let's get to talking about noodles

Factory dry noodles carry sauce. and I'm not talking about serving them hard and brittle. Is there a recipe for serving them hard and brittle? Anyway, I'm talking about what they do after being cooked. My personal take on this is that the factory noodles are rubbery and everyone knows liquids slide off of rubber. Why store noodles have this texture, I don't know. The label as far as I can tell isn't any hint to the reason why. I guess it must have to do with how they handle the dough.

Delicious home-made noodles absorb the sauce, enhancing the flavor. Besides the fact that home-made noodles have more flavor to start with.

Different shapes of noodles are used to help different kinds of sauces cling to the noodle.

This is the part that is new to me. I've always wondered what was the reason for all the different shapes? Was it a visual thing or what? It is the or what and my new Cuisine magazine has the scoop on it.

Thin-stranded pastas like spaghettini or angel hair are best for oil-based sauces. Angel hair pasta is one of my favorites because it means more sauce surrounding every noodle. I've not made any oil based sauces but you can bet I'm going to try some when I find them. Are they the ones that have butter and you put the raw egg in and the hot noodles cook the egg? Yes, my ignorance is quite substantial in this area. The more I learn the more dumb I know myself to be.

Thicker strands of spaghetti are better for tomato sauces and that would be Fettucine or lasagne noodles in lasagne.

Pasta that has wells, think shell pasta, or has twists and curls, think Cavatappi "corkscrew", and curves is meant for creamy sauces. Think macaroni and cheese or Alfredo. The twist and wells lends area for the sauce to pool in. I've got to try this as I've always served my Alfredo sauce with angel hair pasta but now I have a choice with the new noodle maker and I'm going to explore.

Tube-like pastas with hollow centers, think manicotti, are intended for meaty, chunky sauces. The sauces fill those hollows more evenly distributing the sauce into every bite. I make lasagne noodles and then roll them with the ricotta inside and meat sauce over the top instead of buying manicotti noodles.

Now you are just as smart as I am and probably smarter.

I'm going to go forth and take this new found knowledge and try some different noodles with different sauce along with making my very first oil based sauce. I always say there is no excused for being bored. You are must just be lazy because there is so many things to do and learn and you don't even have to leave you home. But then if you want you could go in search of a nearby yak ranch. I was so surprised at how many were near here. Of course that is if you live up North. Yaks need high elevation and cold winters and fairly cool summers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tenderloin Sauce

When you raise your own meat , you don't worry about cooking until you've achieved shoe leather status in order to kill unwanted bacteria. You cook it to perfection with the center still pink but the juices not running blood red instead brown with a slight pink cast. This gives you the most tender level possible. Kirk did an awesome job on this tenderloin. We chose to serve it to some pretty adventurous friends of ours. At first we thought about dishing it up and after they'd had a few bites announcing what they were eating. But, Kirk and I thought even if they hadn't eaten it before, they could handle it. Sure enough Roger said he'd eaten beaver and a raft of other unusual meats making what we served tame in comparison.

Even if Roger had eaten things we'd never touched and Kirk had eaten things Roger had never tasted, we all felt the meal was an new adventure. A bit of a disappointing one but fun none the less. The let down started just 40 minutes before Diane and Roger were to arrive, Kirk brought in tenderloins he'd just cut off the carcass hanging in the garage and declared them a bit tough due to the way the knife sliced through the meat, not because he'd been gnawing on it. Now if the tenderloins are tough, you know you are in trouble because that's the most tender meat of the whole animal. Oh well we decided and charged ahead full bore anyway, figuring if we couldn't salvage it, we could always grill up the hamburger meat we had thawed in the refrigerator.

I've kept the meat source a secret up until now because well, I wasn't sure you soft hearted souls could handle it. But it is a part of the real world and so grab some Kleenex if you are so inclined but I've got to tell you we served Cracker Jack. No, not the caramel coated popcorn but the wether goat that I thought several times over was going to end up in someone elses pen. Not that I minded serving him for dinner but you put a lot of feed into a goat and don't get much meat back. The flavor of this particular goat was the best we've ever eaten. Mind you we've only eaten a few goats in our day but we had to declare orchard grass/alfalfa fed goat was mild, not at all goaty and we were really wishing it had been tender because it would have been a real treat. Not all was lost for our guest assured us they had good strong teeth and proved it by having several helpings of the tenderloin. The best part was the new concoction I made up just for the occasion.

Yes, I did my usual and hit the Internet trying to find a recipe for goat tenderloin. Nodda, zip, zilch. Oh there was goat stew and roast but no one was going all out and serving tenderloin. Who can really blame them as a goat produces very little meat and they were just trying to stretch it, something we weren't really worried about since we'd just put a whole beef in the freezers and we don't have a lot of room left in them.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I probably could have found more than two sites if I had really searched and yes, I should have started looking well before the forty minutes left until our guests were to arrive and well before my husband was out in the garage cutting the loins off the carcass to bring them in for me to trim the fat off of before grilling.

So I've got to tell you just how impressed I was with myself at coming up with this recipe at a moments notice. I've never made a marinade sauce from scratch in my life. After this easy success, store marinades may just become a thing of the past because I've some new ideas to try.

Mind you I was throwing this together in a hurry and not doing any measuring but I kept approximate amounts in my head.

1/3 cup Dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon worcheshire sauce

1 Tablespoon Basalmic vinegar

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon garlic granules

Then today, I mixed it together once more and sliced the left over loin into a crock pot with the sauce and more water to simmer over night. Hopefully, the low heat and long cooking time will tenderize the meat. We shall see tomorrow.

But before the tenderloin went into the crock pot and after we'd cut up the rest of the carcass, Kirk fried up some liver and heart. Now I am not a fan of liver and consider beef liver to be the worst yuck, yucky, and tongue parching meat with a horrid after taste that there is. So you'd be really proud of me because I braved a taste of the goat liver after Kirk declared it sweet and pretty good. Of course he eats chicken livers so I'm not sure how good a judge one can declare him to be. To my surprise, the feeling that all the water was being sucked out of my tongue wasn't there but a slight after taste was. Not nearly as bad as beef and if it hadn't been for that last minute bite, I probably wouldn't have minded eating the rest of the piece. Not a second piece. Just the first.

Though the goat meat is a bit tough, it isn't a loss because we cubed it up and are planning tomorrow to mix cubed up pork roast from our freezer and grind the two meats together with spices. Then we'll make sausage patties and the tough goat won't be tough anymore. Besides, it will be another adventure and you know how we love adventures.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oodles of Noodles

Oodles of noodles, that's what I made. I'm craving noodles and so the day before yesterday, I made a batch of spaghetti noodles. Today, I pulled out my new fangled noodle maker that has been sitting in the cupboard for months and mustered up the courage to give it a try. Your right, I've made tortellinis, wide noodles, lasagna noodles, spaghetti noodles, why would I be afraid of this simple little machine? I'm here to tell you, research can back fire on you. I saw this machine in one of my cooking catalogs and went snooping to see what people had to say about it on the Internet. Several said you had to crank really slow to get it to work and others said it took forever to make noodles. A few really liked it.
The nays didn't know what they were doing. I cranked as fast as I could coordinate its use and mine turned out great. I'm must tell you that if you want zippety doo daw noodles, go and buy them at the store. This is not a fast project. You have to crank a little bit and then cut the noodles off to the lengths you want, arrange them on a cookies sheet, crank again, cut, arrange, over and over. Then you let them dry for ten minutes before boiling them or space them out on cookie sheets to freeze before putting in freezer bags which is what I do.
I'm not doing this plus fix supper and finish off making the extra noodles too. The frozen noodles I just pop into the boiling water and in two minutes the spaghetti noodles are done. The thicker ones take a minute or two longer. Yes, much much shorter time than the rubbery noodles from the store.
Then again I think if you tried home-made semolina noodles that absorbed the sauces flavor versus just letting it slide around on top like the store ones, you might decide to work on you patience level. My oldest sister after tasting my noodles ate them plain for a snack. Yes, they are that good all on their own.
So determined to expand my noodle choices, I took the plunge. I bought the machine on faith since it was made by the same company that my other noodle maker was made by. I've used it for years. As for the people talking on the Internet --well, I'm here to tell you they were wrong -- kind of. You see I didn't follow the recipe in the pamphlet that went with the machine.
Shocked? You haven't read this blog very long have you? The rest of you are probably giggling, saying yup, that's her. I looked at the one they sent and said yuck and decided to try my own tried and true one.
So instead of the flour and egg concoction they recommended, I used half white flour and half semolina flour and four eggs. Plus an addition of a little more white flour until the dough felt just right, something I've learned from years of making noodles. Why change something that works so well?
I'll admit, I'm a boring noodle maker adding only spices now and then to my noodles. But once I did add pureed beets to a batch and carrots to another. They didn't turn out though Martha Stewart promised they would. Can't remember if I followed her recipe and instructions to the letter or not though. Could of been the problem that time. And though I'm in to nutrition, I haven't used wheat flour because I found out my biscuits don't freeze for very long if I use wheat flour instead of white flour. Watch out though, I'm feeling brave now, I've tasted success with this machine and I'm going to explore oodles of kinds of noodles this year. Nope, I'm not going to be boring any more.
But today since I was already adventuring into new territory, I stuck with my basic recipe KIND OF. Instead of using two cups of semolina flour, I used one cup of semolina and one cup of white flour since the white flour would make the dough a bit stiffer. Of course I added my four eggs and a drizzle of olive oil. The oil adds suppleness to the dough. A must as far as I'm concerned.
And am I glad I used my own recipe because I could crank however I liked. Nanner, nanner nanner!!! LOL
That is I cranked however I liked when I could sneak in a quick turn because my grand daughters thought the machines were pretty cool too. Sinbad, the cartoon DVD from the library did lure our middle grand daughter away after a short time but the youngest hung in their through two batches of dough.
First she worked the older machine that was a bit easier to crank. I used it to work the dough making it just right. I dipped the slightly sticky dough in flour and ran it through the machine on 1. Then I folded it in thirds ran it through again two more times. This saves me five minutes of kneading time with the dough. Okay, yes I'm lazy. I kept our youngest going while the oldest cranked slowly on the other machine and I cut the pieces to lengths as it came out. They kept me hopping.
Then our youngest took over her sister's job and... made noodles...
and made noodles, two hours of making noodles. Granted, if I would not of had quite so much help, the task would have been shortened greatly but how could I deny this cute little tyke? She turned two in January and if this could keep her attention for that long, she was really enjoying herself. I may have a chef in the making here.
Needless to say, I'm thrilled with the new noodle maker. I now have three gadgets that make noodles. One is a simple ice cube tray looking thing that makes tortellinis. I've not quite got those down yet. I think I'm making my dough too thin and cooking the noodles too long. I'll get it though. I'm stubborn.
In case you are wondering since I have so many noodle machines. No, I'm not Italian, though I am in love with tomatoes. My only disappointment today was the above noodles. As I've pondered the problem why they didn't spiral, I'm sure the dough needed to be stiffer.
And so now I've enough noodles for a few months, all but tortellini that is. You may see them pop up on the blog, who knows. I'm a determined soul and I'll get them figured out one of these days. Besides, I'm itching to try making wheat noodles. I know you don't have to freeze them, you can dry them. But I've not a good place to store them, just too much stuff, and my dried ones end up badly broken. That doesn't happen with frozen ones. So the freezer it is.
Next time, I'll tell you about what kind of noodles to use with what kind of sauce. I just learned this and I'm anxious to try it. Plus, I won an blogger award but as I except it I'm to think of seven things I haven't already told you. Seven things I should tell you and shouldn't keep to myself. Hmmm....I'm stuck so I'll think about it over the weekend and tell you next week.
I did confirm a date to go and visit the yak ranch. We are excited to say the least. Oh yeah, I just finished the last of my home-made baking powder. I've still got to try freezing doughs with it in it but so far I'm very pleased with its performance.
How come the more I try the longer my list of want to try gets?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Not Just To Prevent Sunburns

Yes, doesn't she look cute munching on her strawberry? Little miss cutey patooty here is two and those of you who have small children or are grandmas know what that number means. Hidden inside this adorable exterior is a disaster waiting to happen. Don't blink, don't let them out of your sight because something terrible will surely greet you.
Yup, I was typing away on my blog and our youngest was drawing on paper on the floor beside me. I became engrossed in what I was writing and she slipped away from me into the living room. Realization dawned and I panicked. You and I both know what a two year old does with a pen. Not something good. Sure enough, she wrote on my leather chair. I adore leather furniture and I still think it is much nicer to have with children than upholstery. You can wipe their grimy finger prints off with soap and water, which I need to do this week, and you can get permanent marking pen off along with ink pen marks. Yes, you can. I'll show you the trick I learned off the Internet. All you have to do if you have dark leather is use children's sun screen. Dab a little on, rug it around, and rinse it off thoroughly. It magically disappears.
Try that with upholstery, it won't happen. I've done this three times now, wiping the art work of two different grandchildren off my leather. Twice it was pen and the other time it was a Sharpie permanent marking pen.

Next, we will explore noodles and the types that are suited best for different kinds of sauces. I made a wonderful Bolognese sauce last night I've got to tell you about. It was adapting a recipe to what I had in the refrigerator and upping the vitamin content to boot so stay tuned.
Later, we'll go and visit a Yak ranch. I'm researching Yaks as my husband wants one and I've been e-mailing a ranch not too far from us. We are setting up a visit. I'll of course bring you along via my blog so stay tuned.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Yarn Adoption Day

Oh what an awesome Mother/daughter weekend. They are so incredibly fun. We started them a few years ago and our oldest daughter and I do something different each year. Once we included a dinner theater and another time we browsed through art galleries. This year, I was in desperate need of some clothes and Toni found it the perfect opportunity to initiate a make over mom weekend. We started Friday night with a hair cut by her stylist and went to a couple discount clothing stores. Kohl's being one of my favorites.

The environmental, sporty area Toni lives in would give me a better chance at finding something. Toni had assured me we'd find lots. It didn't take long for her to understand why when her mother finds something she likes, she searches to see if it comes in two more pleasing colors and buys all three. My dread of clothes shopping has become so bad that if I was a guy, I'd say foo...wy with the whole thing and buy seven shirts alike and four pairs of the same pant and call it quits.

I figured Toni was beginning to catch on to the reason why I dreaded the whole thing so much when I saw her eyes set in concentration staring at me as I stood in front of the dressing room mirror, her little mouth contorted to the side denoting confusion. By the fourth shirt, confusion was replaced by dumb foundedness, and the by the fifth, her mouth wasn't just pressed to the side but frantically trying to escape, while her eyes doggingly looked on trying to dissect the reasons why nothing worked well. Good thing stubbornness is hereditary because she stuck with me and we narrowed the clothing paddock down, found a wild game sized trail of fashions that were so so and even gleaned a few why's and why nots out of the deal. And though it was kind of fun, shopping in the kitchen store was a whole lot funner. There I knew I'd find adventure and a perfect fit. LOL

On the way back to Toni's house, we glanced at Whole Foods store at the oil department as mayonnaise is still on my mind. Talkng to a clerk, we found out that there was an oil store downtown that we missed. We've got to go there next time and we heard there was a noodle store but we never found it either. Plus, I didn't make it to the place that sells home-made tortillas. Yes, you can bet we won't be doing much clothing shopping on the next trip. We've got food in mind.

*********************** We spent Sunday after church walking and then we had stir fried vegetables with a small tenderloin steak courtesy of the deceased Mr. Angus Fence Tearer Downer. The flavor and tenderness was out of this world good. You've got to pay big bucks for a steak of that quality from a restaurant and we haven't got them.

Then stomach full, I settled in on the livingroom floor as the lure that moved the mother/daughter date up several weeks was dumped all around me. Bags and bins of heaven floated down and I sorted it into categories and even some of those categories into companies for though it all made Red Heart look like something the garbage man brought in, there were still those yarns who could have had - for royalty only -stamped on the label.

My fingers and eyes feasted upon this soybean protein yarn carrying me to the beach, ocean waves lapping at my feet.

Then I was whisked off to the dessert as I cradled this Bacterian camel yarn, my eyes trailing off following the prints in the sand of a wandering caravan.

Then I sailed off into the blue blue sky with this mohair creation...

Landing on the mountain tops of the Andes amongst a clump of grass, llamas grazing around me.

I looked up from where I sat in the tall grass and gazed at the blue mountain ridges in the distance and longed for an alpaca of my own.
Or maybe I'll get two for you can never have enough alpacca. Just look at these exquisite earth tones and I dare for you tell me it isn't so.

Chilled, I headed to the sunny tropics where I munched on a banana and quenched my curiosity about just what banana yarn felt like. The bright orange colored yarn reminded me of a Tuscon sunset. No, I've never been there but my imagination has.
Just like I've never been to Italy, but this yarn reminds me of rich juicy tomatoes. The silk label has be questioning the kind. Surely not Tussah or wild silk as they have a satiny sheen. And over heated once more, I head to Tibet to run my fingers through some yak down. An animal my husband has longed for. I'm looking in to them. A subject we've really got to talk about. Since I'm close by, I slip on over to Asia and herd some cashmere goats though I've had a few dairy goats with quite a bit of cashmere wooly undercoats though I've never had it dehaired.

Then on my way home, I slip down south and run my fingers through the smooth slick cool cotton. And finally I land back home and determine once more that this will be the year that get permission to walk the pastures just outside of town where the deer, antelope and bison playand collect clumps of wooly under hair that the bison shed in the spring.

The one place I went but forgot to take pictures was the Merino sheep herds of Australia and the New Zealand countryside where the possums wreck havoc on the enviornment. Yes, these two fibers are blended into a wonderful yarn. I'll bring you along with me next time but right now I'm stuck since I left my bag of yarns on Toni's livingroom floor. OOOOPS!!! and it had the Merino/possum wool inside.

Lest any of you think she's lost her mind, no, none of these skeins came home with me. Toni kept them for her own stash. Who can blame her? But I did collect a heavenly pile of my own. And in case some of you have gotten the impression that we are filthy rich. It isn't so. Yes, some of these yarns are pricey and we both are yarn snobs to the core. I spin most of my own yarn and Toni is an Editor at a crochet magazine where these incredible yarns were part of completed projects for the magazine. Hence, many are partial skeins, some just one full skein left, and in rare instances there are two or more skiens. Many of these yarns find there way back into the magazine in the way of staff projects or technique visual aids. That's why Toni's worked for the company for four years and it isn't until now that this is my first adoption day. You can imagine my thrill.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Unique Stress Relief

Since I've just minutes to pack before heading out to spend a weekend with out oldest daughter, our spring mother/daughter weekend, I'd like to share with you my unique way of relieving stress. Yup, this odd duck starts spouting made up quotes from yours truly when she feels she's knocking on a closed door. Sometimes the person on the other side gets to hear them and I'm hoping while they are stumbling around in the wrong direction some of these truths just might start ringing in their ears and get their attention. And sometimes I don't share these little tidbits because the person's radio isn't tuned to my frequency and they aren't yet listening. So these saying are mainly for me.
I think writing helps me to express what is hardest for me to say. I can change the words over and over again until I feel they are clear. I can't do that when I'm speaking and my brain is scrambling for the correct words while my emotions are tumbling all over themselves. And as I speak I'm fearful for once spoken, the words can't be returned.
Some of you could probably use some stress relief too so feel free to share with all of us on this blog, your own set of wisdom.
Life is less rOCky if you stand on your own two feet and not on everyone elses.

Don't think you can travel down the same road and reach a different destination.

No one deserves to be happy but everyone deserves the right to seek it.


Love can only flourish if two people share the same path, not just a crossroads.


When someone feels they are free to do as they please, someone else is not.


I feel better. Now it's your turn.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lumps and Bumps Pancakes

Oh Chicory, how I miss your wonderful milk. The wait is killing me. I know she has only a few weeks left until she freshens but her offspring will be devouring her milk and I'm still not going to get any. Boo, hoo!! I'm sorry but canned goat's milk just isn't the same. And the buttermilk I've been making from the store's cow's milk is so ho hum I've decided to quit. I know I'm spoiled. There is nothing quite so wonderful as fresh goat's buttermilk, thick, rich creamy, and so full of flavor that it has me completely spoiled.
But this morning I decided to make buttermilk pancakes anyway since this week we've had cereal one day and scrambled eggs another. So while the kids ate their morning helping of fruit, this morning it was pineapple from a can, (I'd gotten it on sale quite a while back and stocked up) I began putting together buttermilk pancakes. Look carefully at the photo and you will see lots of suspicious lumps and bumps. That's the tale that's a bit similiar to the old lady who swollowed a fly. Yeah, one thing led to another until I had lumps and bumps pancakes.
It started with a partial pint left of buttermilk, shy of the two cups I needed. So I measure out what I had and then...
I figured since the recipe called for sour cream, I'd make up the difference with it by added a larger portion. But... when I opened my last container, I discovered I didn't have much left. Barely the 1/4 of a cup the recipe called for.
So I spied the cottage cheese in the refrigerator and remembered I'd seen a recipe for pancakes calling for cottage cheese and I know there are bread recipes with it in it so I emptied the last of the cottage cheese into my paritally filled cups of buttermilk and between the three I had the required amount of dairy. Lucky, because my next move would have been to add yogurt but yesterday the kids ate the last of that.
What does all this mean. First of all I need to go grocery shopping. But since we were talking about make do or do without I thought I'd share my morning's adventure. You can often substitute interchangeably buttermilk, cottage cheese, yogurt, or sour cream. Yes, it does change the flavor a bit and if you are counting calores it might lower or raise them but it still is doable.

If you choose to use cottage cheese as a substitute, I'd highly recommend running it through the blender to moosh up the curd clumps first. I didn't and that's the lumps and bumps. You could see the curds as you cut into the pancakes. Not as appealing a sight, so next time I'll run the whole dairy conglomerate through the blender making a nice smooth addition. Meanwhile, I'm going to dream of fresh goat's milk and of course gather the girls up and go shopping. We've got to make a 40 mile trip to the next town over as I've some serious shopping to do and our little country store won't do. Wish me luck, I'm taking all three little girls as school gets out early today.

You might recognize the munchkins.
This is ...I've got a belly ache and don't want to go to school. Can I stay home with you Grandma? Yes, she had that horrible influenza last weekend and is still under the weather. But even on a good day, she's still looking for an excuse to stay with me. I'm just going to have to quit being so much fun. LOL Here is... Merry sunshine since she hasn't been sick but can't take but a couple stores before it's melt down time. We suspect a bit of Aspergers in her. That's why I've been staying up until late each night to adjust yet another pair of jeans, as she's grown again, and they have to fit just right or she can't handle it. Being hypersensitive in some areas, her tolerance levels are low. Clothes is one of those areas. And the littlest munchkin with a run away nose. No, she didn't have the flu like her sister but she did have two days of high fevers and this is what it left. Yup, grandma up and running every time she hears an achoo.
Oh the joys of parenthood. LOL

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nasturtiums a Food Choice

The first I'd heard of Nasturtiums was on Tawnya's blog as she told about canning the seeds.

I had never heard of them. Granted, I'm not a big flower person, being that I prefer using the little gardening time I have on a vegetable gardening instead. What can I say, I like to eat. I do like a small flower garden though and I am slowly putting one together in our backyard having torn up the one in the front. So I asked Tawnya what did Nasturtiums taste like. Her reply was -capers. Well, I don't use a lot of capers but I've a few recipes I like them in and they are expensive. Since I use so few, it isn't a big deal to buy them but ... being me, to grow my own imitation variety would be a whole lot more fun. The real McCoy, Capparis Spinosa bush, is grown in the Mediterranean and if something is grown their it isn't going to grow here in Wyoming.
Nasturtiums on the other hand just might do fine. They aren't too fussy they say as they prefer soil that isn't too rich but they don't like their feet too wet and I've a problem that our solid clay soil holds water. The flower garden is amended so they might do well there. I've thought about growing them in my vegetable garden as they are an annual and a good companion to cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, and cabbage. BUT, I hauled in load after load of manure last summer - too rich. They say rich soil just gets you lots of leaves and few blossoms. That won't do. Then I wouldn't have my imitation capers since they are from the seed pod. No flower, no seed pod. Not only would I not have the green seed pod to pickle but if you let it mature and dry, you can grind it in place of peppercorns. In fact, that is just what they did in WWII, - resourceful people. One of the reasons I've decided knowledge is the most important thing to have during difficult times. Until I learned about Nasturtiums, I would have thought I'd of had to do without the flavor of pepper.
Nasturtium leaves taste like water cress. What would I do without my water cress and cucumber sandwiches. Okay, I've never had a water cress and cucumber sandwich. I'm from Wyoming after all so I guess I wouldn't miss them never having had one. But who knows, this summer when I taste the imitation, I might just fall in love. I'll have to remember to keep the garden hose handy though as Nasturtiums don't like their feet too wet but if too dry the leaves become bitter and we can't have that. I'd never know what imitation water cress really tastes like. LOL
You know you can eat the leaves and the seeds in two different ways but did you know the flowers are edible too? The only flower I've had is rose pedal and I made rose pedal jelly last summer. YUM!! YUM!! On the net they recommended putting the flowers on a cupcake that had cream cheese frosting. That sound pretty. I wonder what my grand kids will think? Another site recommended breaking the pedals apart and putting them in a salad. I'd say with the leaves of course. But then what do I know since I've never tried any part of the plant.
But first things first I have to find a location for these seeds I found at the local hardware store. They need lots of sunlight as shade produces more leaves than flowers and it's the flowers I'm mainly after. The same goes for too rich a soil I guess as it produces lots of leaves and few flowers. So the flower garden it is for this year. One last little bit of knowledge to share. Nasturtiums are high in vitamin C and with the multiple uses for this nutritious plant, I wondering why haven't I put Nasturtiums in my garden sooner? I tell you, I'm beginning to look at flowers in a whole new light. A flower garden just might become more important as I learn of more edible varieties.
A big thanks goes to Tawnya for blogging about pickling the seeds an peeking my curiosity. Check it out. I've left her link at the top of the page. Now I've got all kinds of adventures just awaiting me this summer with just one plant - the Nasturtium. Thanks again.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I Spy and Try

I spied in Mother Earth News this recipe for corn meal pancakes. It said they were amazing. Now, it isn't often that I take my recipes from Mother Earth News, okay, never. They just don't look or sound good. I being a food snob. And I'll admit I had great reservations about these pancakes. They looked awfully heavy and dense and an entire pancake made of corn meal sounded a bit much but my desire for more recipes to use my corn meal in won over.
The corn meal I'd ground from my sweet corn out of my garden that I'd dried needed to be used in more than just corn bread. Because the kernels were from sweet corn, the corn bread was sweeter than usual and I figured that would be an advantage in pancakes. The recipe did not call for any sugar and no leavening and that had me pretty hesitant.
It did have whipped egg whites which would lighten the batter so I tucked the recipe away to try later.
Last weekend was later. The pancakes looked good on the griddle but I could tell when I flipped them over they were a bit heavy just like the photo. A couple bites and we declared them amazing alright, amazingly awful.
Part of the problem was my fault. Freshly ground grains such as corn and wheat have all the bran still in the flour and it can turn rancid if kept to long without using it. That's why lots of people store their wheat flour and corn meal in the freezer if they intend on using it over a six month period of time or if shorter, the refrigerator. I had mine in the fridge and when I ground it was not labeled on the packaged - naughty me. Despite that, the pancakes still wouldn't have been up to snuff because of texture and lack of fullness of flavor. Besides, we really didn't like the combination of corn meal and maple syrup.

So I'm not going to share any recipe with you. Instead I want to make a point. When times are tough, and they are coming if they haven't already hit your house, it's make do or do without. Things won't be available or you can't afford them if they are. I'm beginning to think Miracle Whip is out of our price range. I'd rather spend my $6.49 on fresh fruit so I've that little experiment to try. Some say the up turn of our economy is just around the corner. The ones that helped run us deep into debt I suspect. Others say think empty shelves and make do. Joseph in the Bible story, The Coat Of Many Colors, knew to stockpile grains and food during prosperous times. He was blessed to know when the lean time was coming but things always cycle. We've had prosperity for a number of years and we've grown greedy as a human race around most of the world. The distance between the have and the have not growing each day.

The most important part of preparing ourselves to weather the down part of the cycle is to stockpile knowledge.

In preparation for what for what was obviously going to be the down slide in the cycle, I've been working on a recipe book. The Theme being Make Do Or Do Without and it includes recipes for four different kinds of biscuits. Each recipe calls for a variation of ingredients differing from the next. Yes, they all require flour but one recipe, my favorite, calls for using cream instead of milk as the liquid and the cream also is the fat so no shortening, lard, or butter is used. Works superb when the goats are fresh and I've a ready supply of cream. It freezes well as a dough also making it especially handy. This is the recipe I want to do what I'd call the supreme test for home-made baking powder. Another recipe has shortening or lard as its base, along with milk and eggs. A third has cheese, chives, milk, eggs, and butter. The fourth is a sourdough biscuit recipe. For now we are just enjoying the variety of flavors but in the future these differences could mean biscuits for supper or not.

But what does biscuits have to do with corn meal pancakes? I've a wonderful array of biscuit recipes, and waffles but pancakes I don't. Besides I wanted to try to expand my corn meal uses which is something I can produce myself. Wheat is not but I'm going to grow a small patch either this summer or next for the knowledge I'll gain. Just encase I'm in a position to need to grown my own someday or need to. That too is why I'm going to grow a little Buckwheat not just as a cover crop as I did last year, gaining valuable knowledge, but to fruition so that I can make home-made buckwheat pancakes, which I like.

So today while the sun shines, and I can well afford to experiment, fail, and toss the results to the chicken, not being force to eat the nasty things because its the only food available for the meal, I'm going to adventure out. The next plan is to use fresh corn meal and make it a small part of a whole wheat pancake batter. No, I'm not defeated, just learning what's survival food- these pancakes- or what move the corn meal on to making it fit accompany a feast.

Hopefully tomorrow, what ever it brings, we'll be eating well having stored up knowledge to expand our abilities to Make Do.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Home-made Sugars

The unrest in governments around the world, along with natural disasters every time you turn around has me thinking in hyper drive. They say, "No man is an island." Well, they aren't kidding since in our world, we are all interconnected. I wish it weren't so and our government was a bit self-reliant, producing more of its own oil and enough food to feed our nation. It could, it chooses not to.This dependency leaves us vulnerable to the dictates of other nations. It's a little hard to stand firm when someone else is controlling the thermometer in your home or the food in the pantry. This has led to price leaps at the gas pump and in the grocery store.

The results of our government's past decisions are a teetering economy and a shrinking of what money can buy. What I've done so far will help us as a family but I can quickly see it won't be enough. Just last night, I had to buy Miracle Whip, something we didn't use much of until I began packing a school lunch for our oldest grand daughter. $6.49 for a jar and I can remember not that long ago when it was 2 something. We'll talk more later about this as I'm going to try making my own.

Beyond Miracle Whip salad dressing, one of the things I've been thinking about is sugar. In times past it rose greatly in price. Think the Great Depression and World War II. It wasn't quite so bad becasue that was when women cooked. Today, that one hike in price would effect almost everything in the grocery store. Mother isn't feeding us now, the factories are. So since I love sugar, I stocked up a bit so I can ride along until it goes on sale and I can buy it at a reduce price. Not a reduced price from its new all time high price but for less. Buying on sale is how this family has stayed afloat but I can see we are going to have to tighten the belt.

I've stored brown sugar, powdered sugar, and white sugar in the past when I knew the price was going to go way up. But with my move toward self-sufficiency, I've got less room in my storage room. More equiptment and more things I make myself. I've begun to wonder could I just store white sugar and have all three products at my home-made fingertips?

Making my own brown sugar would entail keeping a good supply of molasses on hand. No problem since I buy mine by the gallon and so I gave making my own brown sugar a try.

Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons of mollasses

1 cup of white sugar

I at first used a blender but that didn't work too well. Instead I'd suggest you use a mixer or stir by hand which is what I ended up doing. The result is a moist brown sugar. The home-made is on the left side. I would guess it would become lighter in color, more like the commercial kind as it dries out some. I've not intention of making up a bunch and letting it sit though since it is so easly to whip up what you need withinin minutes. One blogger said she uses nothing else but this home-made version as it is richer and moister. I'm anxious to give it a try in baking. If I liked oatmeal cereal in the morning, this would be really good in it.
As for making my own powdered sugar, I wasn't as happy with the results.
This is commercial powdered sugar.This is home-made. The sugar granules just don't break apart as effectively in the blender as with commercial equipment.
The recipe is:
1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon corn starch

You can substitute arrowroot, or tapioca flour for the corn starch if that's what you have or if you wish to avoid corn.

Fragmenting the sugar crystals increases the the one cup you started with to 1 1/4 cups.

The instructions don't recommend you use a food processor as it doesn't do a very good job.

A blender works decent if you use the pulse setting and stop frequently to shake the contents before pulsing again. They said to do only one cup at a time. My blender is rather large and I'm wondering if a cup and a half wouldn't work better.
The results - on the left my home version and on the right the commercial. Some bloggers were happy with the results of not using the corn starch but the big wigs I consulted on the Internet said you would not get as good a results if you omitted it. Don't know - didn't try. My opinion so far is that this home-made version would do in a pinch. It would be great in a frosting to drizzle on cinnamon rolls and would probably work in my angel food cake recipe. I wouldn't be using it to mix frosting for a wedding cake though. Like you'd ever catch me making one or anyone asking me to do it. I'd be more inclined to mix my home-made with the commercial product to make it stretch. That brings me to wonder if cost wise, is significanly cheaper. I've no data and a sick grand daughter which wouldn't appreciate my hauling her to the store to find out. Let alone all the occupants who'd I'd be infecting. See, I can be nice sometimes.

Now if the bees were doing better, I wouldn't be so concerned about purchasing white sugar but the weather here is very uncertain. A couple years ago grasshoppers came in and ate everything in site leaving the bees nothing. The seven or eight years before that it was drought. So they can't be depended upon in a non irrigated area like ours.

I've been reading about how if I grew an orchard, or what ever you call it, of Box Elders then I could make something akin to maple syrup. They grown in Wyoming but since trees period don't do well in this county, it isn't a good option. Besides, I've not the acreage for the project. I've not heard of anyone doing it except in Wyoming pioneer journals.

And if I was prone to move to the other side of the Big Horn Mountains, then I could join the farmers there in growing sugar beets and make a home-made syrup from them. Looked it up, kind of looks fascinating. I may have to slip over there where my Mom is and con a farmer into letting me have some sugar beets, just so I can try making some. But realistically, I can't fit them into my garden along with everything else and who knows if they'd grow. That leaves me with buying some white sugar from the store.