Friday, December 4, 2009

Farm House Cheddar


I brought the cheese up from our basement cheese cave, a.k.a. The Storage Room. Fortunately there were no spider webs creeping over my cheddar wheel due to my daily diligence of rotating and turning the cheese. I could wait no longer once I reached the minimum aging time. Though the cheese recipe indicated that it only improves with age, I realized that Thanksgiving would be a very appropriate time to open it. I am so very thankful for homemade cheese.

This recipe is from Home Cheese Making by Rikki Carroll, the farmhouse cheddar.

The cheese is a squeaky white cheddar, slightly moist, very sharp tasting and crumbly. I'm looking forward to many evenings with a glass of wine, slice of homemade bread and a pile of cheddar crumbles. Cheers.

(And yes, to those of you who were following my November challenge of writing daily, it didn't happen. Oh well. There are just too many other fun things to do on a daily basis, that getting back to City Farm Girl just didn't happen.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jack Frost

In October when it snowed here, I complained. The frost killed my tomato plants, roughed up my impatiens and forced the end of my growing season.
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This morning when I peered out my window and noticed that Jack Frost had visited, I couldn't have been happier. It is November. It is supposed to be crisp and cold and sometimes even snowy. I dropped to my knees with my camera this morning to inspect every tiny crystalline fleck I could see, creeping around in the garden shooting pictures while the curious folks driving by must have wondered what exactly I was doing at 7:30 in my garden when the temperature read 35 degrees.

Welcome Fall, I'm glad you're here. Winter, could you please wait until after Thanksgiving to really arrive?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanksgiving Bread?

I tried another loaf of bread this weekend from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The recipe is for Pumpkin Oatmeal bread, but they also suggest adding dried cranberries and toasted pepitas. I had both on hand in preparation for a granola recipe I've been wanting to make, so I gave it a go. The recipe calls for 1 cup of pumpkin puree, which can be canned or made from your own roasted pumpkin. (Just don't roast your watery jack-o-lantern pumpkin, yuck! Go for what's called a 'pie pumpkin'. Doesn't this loaf just shout "Thanksgiving"?

You bakers out there... what's on your to-bake list for Thanksgiving? Do tell!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cookie Love

I'm the co-chair of the Organics Recycling program at Carl's school. It seems like the kids are catching on to sorting their trash quite quickly, but a few of the adults in the building are not pitching in and doing their part. The other co-chair and I were trying to figure out a way to gently nudge the staff into compliance, when I remembered how much I used to appreciate a little bit of sustenance in my mail box when I was teaching. Thus was born the idea for these earth cookies.

I wrapped each cookie in a glassine bag then stapled on a tag with our message to promote recycling. Cheers to soft sugar cookies!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Sneak Peek

I've been spending some evenings with a few girlfriends lately, crafting late into the night. We look at our watches and cringe when we realize that we need to be getting up in a mere six hours, yet continue to glue, stitch or paint just a little bit more. This project isn't complete yet so I won't share the whole thing, but I thought some of you might appreciate a little sneak peek.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sewtropolis

A new little fabric store/ sewing studio has come to my neighborhood. We were sad to see the demise of Auntie Em's, a cute kid's book store, but also welcome this little gem. I attended their grand opening a week ago and am looking forward to seeing their stock when it is complete. Hopefully I'll be able to avoid trips to Joann Fabrics for the little things I need and instead skip a few blocks down street and support this local business. Check out their website and class listings.

Monday, November 9, 2009

An Extended Fall

Our October in Minnesota felt like an early winter, but this strange (and wonderful) November really has the birds and plants wondering what to do. The kids, on the other hand, have no problem figuring it out. We've been hanging outside a lot lately with temps in the mid-fifties. Leaf forts, romps in the tree house, bike rides in November.
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And you? What kind of strange and wonderful things have you been doing this lovely fall?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Little Paint

When Gus does art, he really does art. He has never been a color-in-the-lines kind of guy. In fact, I think he'd prefer that there would never be lines. So when he suggested to me that he could help me paint the trim on the back door, I decided he needed a little more freedom in his paint project. Here are the results: pure Gus.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

A New Bread:: Potato Rye

I pre-ordered Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a day and it arrived last week. It is the follow up to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It is much more informational than their last book and contains a wealth of knowledge about gluten-free breads, for those of you who are looking for a non-gummy recipe for gluten-free bread. When the Amazon box arrived, I knew that it was going to be a late, cuddled up with a cup of tea and my new book.
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I don't have the gluten on hand that is required to help all the whole grain flours rise to amazing heights, so I satisfied my need to try a new bread with a recipe for a European Potato Rye from the old book. It called for one cup of mashed potatoes, which is exactly what I had in the fridge from making baked potatoes last week for dinner. Goodbye leftovers, hello delicious bread.

Friday, November 6, 2009

He's Missing Something

Carl has been waiting very patiently to lose a tooth. Most of his friends at school have lost a tooth or two, some even a whole mouth full. He waits, he wiggles, nothing happens. Until this week.
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Carl's front tooth was bumped or knocked a few years back, we're not sure quite when, but know that it was the result of a fun, boy romp with his brother or cousin. The tooth turned brownish-grey and did nothing. The dentist assured us that this greyness was normal, that it happens to most boys at some point in their childhood. Fast forward to November 2009 and one day he informs me, "Mom, my front tooth is leaking some sort of liquid down the back and into my mouth." Hmmm, that's not the sort of thing I ever expected to hear as a mom. We kept our eye on it for a few days and knew it was time to head to the dentist when overnight a little puffy bump appeared above the tooth. Off to the dentist we went, knowing in my mind that most likely the infection would mean that the tooth would have to be pulled. Where in my training manual for how-to-be-a-good-mom was this listed?
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I went for it. "Hey Carl, you know how most of your friends have lost a tooth? Wiggly, knocked out or something?" I went on to explain how cool it would be to actually lose the top tooth first, instead of the regular way his friends had lost the bottom row first.
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He took it and ran. "Yeah, mom... if they take out my tooth today then the tooth fairy could come tomorrow and I could get a silver dollar and then tell all my friends about how brave I was at the dentist."
The dentist agreed that the tooth would have to come out. The laughing gas, the novocaine, the pliers... he was fine with it all. He was most impressed with the cool little green box that they sent his tooth home in, even cooler than the small yellow envelopes that teachers have in their desks for the same reason. Not even a moan or a wince, he was fine.
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I, on the other hand, tried to be brave but just couldn't do it. Since I love medical procedures and body stuff so much, I wanted to sit next to him and watch, listen to the dentist chatter on about the procedure, to really feel the moment. When I began to feel a bit woozy, I knew it was time to step away. My head felt cloudy, my hearing was muffled, the lights dimmed. What? Why was my body betraying my interests? I stepped away, took a seat and watched in awe of my little baby-turned six year old boy as he lost his very first tooth.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

An October Birthday Cake

For the past three years I have baked Country Living's Halloween cake for my sister's birthday. Her birthday is in October but we don't always get around to celebrating it right on her birthday, thus the Halloween/fall theme always seems appropriate. Here is last year's cake. This spooky spider cake is number four.
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I think they must use a vacuum to suck off the excess sprinkles before they remove the spider template. Otherwise, how do you explain the pure white frosting? I think my extra sprinkles make it spookier, right? Right?
The actual recipe for the cake hiding under my Betty Crocker cookbook white frosting is the one from last year's cake. This year's recipe called for a box cake plus a few additions. I remembered that we really liked the moist, dark chocolate from last year, so I reused this recipe. It has become my standby chocolate cake recipe.
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Classic Chocolate Cake- Halloween Style[from country living]
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Ingredients
2 cup(s)flour
1/2 cup(s)cocoa
1 teaspoon(s)baking powder
1 teaspoon(s)baking soda
1 teaspoon(s)salt
3/4 cup(s)butter, softened
2/3 cup(s)granulated sugar
1/2 cup(s)dark brown sugar
3eggs
1/4 cup(s)sour cream
2 teaspoon(s)vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup(s)milk
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Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour, two 8-inch-round cake pans (for layer cake; pictured), Set aside. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.
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Beat the butter and sugars together in a bowl using an electric mixer on medium-high speed. Beat in the eggs. Reduce speed to medium-low. Stir the sour cream, vanilla, and milk together and add it in thirds, alternating with the flour mixture. Beat until batter is smooth, about 3 more minutes.
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Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans and bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center tests clean. For layer cake, it should take about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Trim cooled cake layers, if necessary, to make level.
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And you? Have you been baking anything yummy lately?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Little Witchy


This year I got to help plan a Halloween party just for women. Everyone had to come dressed up as a witch... the only requirement for the party. Some wore just a hat, others were so witchy they were barely recognizable as themselves.
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As the hostesses, we were in charge of making sure the food also followed the theme. Highlights included: bloody bat wings, sludge and chips, witches hats, vegetation and dip. My spookiest dish? Bedeviled Eyeballs. (Here's the recipe, though I left out the ham!)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween and Letting Go


Growing up I learned that Halloween meant homemade costumes. I know that a lot of my friends had store-bought costumes and loved them, but I love loved my homemade costumes.
My mom was a mostly stay-at-home-mom, but worked convenient hours as a nurse and then as a nursing instructor. In my memory, she was around a lot and had great ideas for fun, easy and creative costumes. After we went to bed my mom would toil at her sewing machine for hours on our mice, cats and robots that we needed to be for the Halloween party the next day. The pictures of these glorious costumes showcase just how happy we were the next day with our tails just so, a medallion of homemade (cardboard) cheese hanging around our necks. We loved them. We loved our mom for making it perfect.
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Welcome to 2009. I still have the notion in my head that homemade costumes are better than store-bought. I know that store costumes can be wonderful and creative and downright perfect, but somehow, I still want to make them. You know, I stay at home with my kids, I have six (gulp!) bins of fabric in my stash that could be the perfect start for a costume. I love to sew. I love a deadline to force me to prioritize my life around projects. I was ready.
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This year, my kids all wore hand-me-down store-bought costumes. Was I bummed? Of course. Did I try to suggest thousands of other homemade costume ideas? Definitely. Am I disappointed that they didn't heed my suggestions? Not a bit.
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You see, this year I finally got it. I've been working on some home organizing and home improvement projects as well as helping out on some projects at Carl's school. Frankly, I didn't have time to work on their costumes. And, they LOVE the costumes that they wore. Carl as a Zombie, Gus as a Power Ranger and Louise as a fairy, or is that a fairy godmother? Instead of bribing them to wear something that I thought they would love, they wore something they chose. And they were free. Yep, I didn't have to spend a dime.
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Next year will I once again drag out the costume box brimming with ideas for a little homemade fun? You bet.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

One Month of Purpose


This is the start of a month of being purposeful about blogging. As many of you know, my time on the computer with you ebbs and flows with the demands of my daily life at home and around town. Laundry calls, as do visits to my grandmother, PTO responsibilities, bread that longs to be baked, play groups waiting to be organized. Time passes and I don't visit this site. But other times, the stars do align and I make time for this journal of sorts, this way for me to keep in touch with old and new friends, to trade ideas and learn new things.
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My friend Edward has been trying to convince me to join him this month in NaNoWriMo. What is that, you ask? Edward responds:
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"Noveling? THAT'S not a word.
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I know. But I didn't make it up. A guy named Chris Baty did, and I'm glad he did. I have
enjoyed participating in the National Novel Writing Month, which comes along each
November, and I wanted to let you know about it--some of you again, some of you for the
first time).
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I wasn't a novelist until I'd written a novel. I had ideas but had never followed through to
completion. I finally did it, though, with the aid of the NaNoWriMo
(http://www.nanowrimo.org/), which is a terrible acronym for a pretty groovy project. The
idea is that chasing after good work is not the same as simply writing, whether it's good or
not.
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Participating in the National Novel Writing Month means writing 50 thousand words, good,
bad and ugly. That's the sole criterion."
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And yes, I did consider it. I did. But the idea of 1,667 words every day, in a coherent, cohesive format is a tad bit, well, intimidating. I don't think I have a novel inside me. A craft book, maybe. A book on our process of becoming country folk? Yes, definitely. A novel, not really. But in the spirit of joining Edward on his journey, I have committed to blogging every day for the month of November.
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Yes, I did it. I just typed every-day-in-November. I'm not sure there are many things I do EVERY day, besides brush my teeth and hug my kids, but I'm willing to give it a try. And you? Do you have a novel in you? Do you think you have it in you to do daily blogging? Or is it going to be something different for you? Maybe you'll exercise every day for the month. Or floss, that's always a good one.
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What is it going to be? Hmmm. Do let us know.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Goat Camp




In my recent issue of Hobby Farms magazine, there was a very fun article about a place called Stony Knolls Farm in St. Albans, Maine. Every year they host two different weekend camps for people who want to learn all-things-goat. This includes everything from the very basics up to hoof maintenance and recipes for goat meat. Considering the fact that I want to be a goat farmer but know absolutely nothing about caring for them, I'm putting goat camp on my must-do list before we officially become country dwellers.
The above photos were from an apple orchard we visited recently. Carl, Gus and Louise loved watching them and were intrigued with the idea of feeding them from the gumball/goat food machine, but Gus got a little goat shy when the time came to hold out his hands with the food. Louise made my day when she said in her 2 1/2 year old voice, "I want to kiss a goat." That's my girl!

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like... WINTER?

Look what we woke up to this morning! Saturday morning we had a little dusting, but this morning, it looks like December! How can this be? It isn't even mid-October.
Here are the swiss chard leaves I was hoping to harvest soon for a lovely soup recipe I found. Wonder what frozen chard tastes like? I brought in one plant that had summered outside on Friday night, but still had a few more that needed to come in for the winter. I think they're probably frozen compost-bound now.
It is quite beautiful, despite the shock of snow in October. My favorite part of the snow is the light it makes, the bright white glow that shines in the windows. Very comforting, cozy and makes me feel like baking. Cookies this afternoon? If you're local, stop by today. By dinner time we should be smelling good!

And you? What's the weather like there?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Roasted Tomato Sauce



I found an amazing recipe recently in an old copy of Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion, before they stopped publishing it. I was enjoying a huge harvest of vegetables from the farmer's market and realized that there was no way we were going to eat our way through that pile of veggies before they would be ready for the compost pile.



The recipe is from the guys at Stonewall Kitchen, makers of fancy food in beautiful glass jars with lovely labels. It appealed to me because of the ease of the process. Got a pile of tomatoes and things? Get cookin'!
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Roasted Tomato Sauce
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Toss with past, serve with chicken or fish, or use with any recipe that calls for tomato sauce. Can be refrigerated for up to five days or frozen up to 10 months.
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Makes about 10 cups of tomato sauce.
15 cloves of garlic
8 lbs of ripe tomatoes, any variety
10 medium onions, quartered
1 cup fresh herbs, chopped (rosemary, Italian flat parsley, basil, thume, oregano, and/or chives will all work)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper
3 to 4 Tbsp sugar, optional
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1. Prehead oven to 450 degrees. Peel and chop 5 cloves of garlic. Leave the remaining cloves whole. In a large roasting pan, gently toss together the tomatoes, whole and chopped garlic, onions, herbs, oil, salt, and pepper.
2. Roast for 25 minutes. Gently stir. Roast for another 25 minutes. Stir again. Roast another 45 minutes or until tomatoes are softened and broken down into a sauce with a golden brown crust on top.
3. Remove from oven and taste for seasoning. If slightly bitter, add sugar and stir. Pour sauce into clean, sterile jars or freezer bags and refrigerate, can or freeze. If you prefer a smoother sauce, blend in a blender until smooth.
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I didn't really measure or weigh the ingredients, just an approximation of the recipe. I even added a few red and yellow peppers. Wow... was it fun, easy and tasty! I put it in quart bags in the freezer, ready for something yummy this winter.