Monday, December 30, 2013

Lasagna, Chai and a Bright, Shiny New Year

I trust you are having a merry holiday season, friends.  Though mine has been a bit more hectic than I had planned, due to some welcome but unexpected work, Christmas Day itself was delightful.  My Mom, who is a fantastic Italian cook, made her lasagna with all the trimmings for 18 of us... antipasto, bread, salad, tiramisu plus several cookies her Mom used to make.  I definitely ate too much that day, but as I didn't have time to do any holiday baking this year, I've been eating pretty healthily otherwise.

I'd noticed recently that all our pumpkins and some of the spaghetti squash in the pantry were in need of attention.  I baked the spaghetti squash, and froze what we didn't eat last night. Today, I've been canning the last of the pumpkin.  I was blessed with so many wonderful presents over the holidays. One of my favorites has been a milk frother that my dear sister gave me.  That  latte above was my first use of the frother.  Since then, I've made chai, and have really been enjoying it with a lovely froth of milk. I made this recipe, which has been good, but I wouldn't mind a bit more robust taste.  Today, I added a few extra cardamom seeds, a bit of allspice, plus a little more of the other spices.  I bought the spices at Whole Foods, and could not find any loose tea. I've seen it at other Whole Foods, but none was to be found that day, so I improvised and opened up teabags of their organic black tea. I'll be trying a stronger tea as soon as I find some.  I used a rolling pin the first time I made the recipe, which was a bit messy, with some of the spices flying out of the baking sheet.  Today, I used my suribachi and pestle to crush the spices, and that worked better for me.  We've got a bright, shiny New Year before us. Let's make it a good one!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays

May your holidays be filled with joy, time shared with loved ones, good things to eat and time to reflect.  Happy Holidays, friends!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Little Flower that Didn't and a Natural Sore Throat Spray

This is the little flower that didn't make it to the recent show with me.  It was after I took the photo that I was playing with the display for the flowers, when they crashed and burned.  The green dish broke into many pieces.  The poinsettia portion survived with a few added marks of character.  So.... ummm, that was not the display method to use.

I think many of us can identify an area of our bodies that is generally the first to tell us when we're overdoing and needing nurturing.  For me, that area has always been my throat.  For years, I struggled with sore throats at the drop of a hat.  A tea tree-based lozenge was the first thing I found that helped, but at some point I created a throat spray that works wonders for me.  I use a small, amber glass spray bottle.  I save good, little spray bottles for just such a purpose.  My current one began as a frankincense hydrosol bottle.  Just clean the bottle well before using it for its new purpose.  This recipe may be something you' like to include as part of your natural medicine chest.  The ingredients are things I keep on hand.  If you don't have all the ingredients, try it first with what you do have, and see if it works for you.

Natural Sore Throat Spray

2 tablespoons colloidal silver
4 drops red thyme essential oil
2 drops clove essential oil
2 drops tea tree oil

Combine in an amber glass bottle using a funnel.  Fill your spray bottle, and spray the back of your throat 2 or 3 times as needed.  I will tell you it's not the best tasting remedy.  I think the tea tree oil imparts a strong taste.  You may choose to leave it out.  In my earliest versions, I also added a few drops of spilanthes tincture for a numbing effect, but I ran out at some point, and found it still works fine.  I typically double, triple or even quadruple this recipe, to make sure I've got plenty made up.  It's easy to throw the spray bottle in my bag and take it with me on days I feel like I may need it.

There are different qualities of essential oils out there.  I'd recommend researching the manner in which yours were obtained.  Some methods use harsh chemicals to extract the oils, and of course you don't want to be putting that into your body.  You may want to ask your local natural grocery store staff about the brands they carry.

Some recent happy things:

- I love Jenna's writing in general, but this post...   coldantlerfarm: We're Not From Around Here

- The documentary-  I Am

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Autumn Visitors & Canning Vegetable Broth

There have been recent visits of does and birds to the homestead.  The deer come to our pond, which causes quite a ruckus with the pups.  They usually see them before us, and let us know they'd really like to be outside.  These pics were taken through the front door, with jumping pups at my feet.

There was a very large flock of birds that migrated through; blackbirds or starlings, I'm not sure which.  They made quite a loud noise as they passed through.


In late summer, we were offered
 a refrigerator/freezer, and promptly began filling it up with all sorts of garden goodness, sale items, etc.  A few days ago, Joseph realized it wasn't working properly, so we had a grand time trying to fit all that was in it in other places.  There were 3 large bags of vegetable scraps for stock that were not going to fit anywhere, so I put them in a large pot on the woodstove Sunday afternoon. When I got home last night, I strained it and cooked it down, then canned it.  Every batch of stock tastes different, but I'm thinking these 4 pints are the best so far.  I save the best vegetable scraps for stock... carrot and celery ends and leaves, mushroom stem ends, summer squash ends and winter squash/pumpkin skin with some flesh, tomato cores, bits of onion, garlic and herbs.  Some of the things I've learned along the way are not to use too many herbs or onion, as it creates a strong taste I don't care for.  One year I saved the tomato skins and bits from all the summer canning, and this made a sour stock, so I only put small bits of tomato in now.  Those tomato skins and less desirable vegi scraps make fine compost.  I've learned that an all-vegetable stock is properly called broth.

Canning Vegetable Broth/Stock

Put all your vegetable scraps in a large stockpot, and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, and simmer for 8-24 hours. Keep an eye on broth and add water if needed. Strain, and continue to simmer with no lid if not concentrated enough.  Add salt to taste if desired.
I won't get into the basics of pressure canning, but as broth is a low-acid food, it must be canned in a pressure canner.  Canning broth in a  water bath canner is unsafe.
When broth tastes to your liking, fill hot jars with hot broth, leaving 1 inch head space.  Process pints 30 minutes, quarts 35 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure.  If you live in a high altitude, you'll need to follow these instructions.

I've not had much time at home for several days, but found one Happy to share:

An interesting book with papers and clues  "S" by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

The days seem so short already, it's hard to believe we have over two weeks of fall left.  In just a few more days, I'll be joining 39 other artists at Handmade Holiday.  If I don't see you there, I'll see you on the other side.