Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Old Fashioned Diapers and Wipes

My in laws gave me the best baby gift ever: diaper service. I put out a bag of dirties on Monday morning, get a bag of powder-scented diapers in return and repeat the process ad infinitum (or until baby is potty trained, you know). That's what most of our moms did in the 70s, too, so it makes me nostalgic to thump a white bag on my porch of a spring morning.


But sometimes I'm short a few diapers at the end of the week, so I fill in with disposables. Not any more! I bought a dozen unbleached double-fold diapers ($28 at a local store), stitched some bright red lines on the ends to distinguish from the diaper service ones, and I'm feeling good about my eco-footprint.

Also on the clothesline are my nifty Amish-made clothespin-roundy-thingys which are wonderful for socks, rags, napkins, and, as here, baby wipes. I used to make my own baby wipes with paper towels, baby oil, warm water, yaddah, yaddah, but just before Ben was born, I had a conversation with my grandmother:

me: What did you use to wipe poopy babies, Grandma?
Grandma: Little washcloths. I kept a stack on the changing table.
me (surprised): You mean, you used dry washcloths?
Grandma (surprised in turn): Well, no, I kept a little basin of warm water there too. The bathroom was around the corner.
me (wheels turning): I see. Thank you. . . .

So I cut up some soft squares of fabric and ran a zigzag around the edge. Now when I need a batch of wipes, I just make them the right dampness with plain water and put them in a lidded leftover container. Nothing else. We dispose of them in a little lidded container next to the changing table and about once a week, I wash them with the diaper covers and (now) a few cloth diapers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dark Days Week 19: Pantry Supper

It was dark and rainy. I saw the chance to use up some stock from my freezer before the warm weather makes us turn our noses up at soup. I usually think soup must have bread or crackers, but in this case, I had nothing local and was too lazy to bake local bread. So I filled out the meal with a favorite, reasonably nutritious dessert instead.

Turkey Corn Noodle Soup
I boiled up some homemade turkey stock, added some local organic frozen corn, and locally made whole wheat noodles. At then end, I snipped in some local organic spring onions and parsley, plus a dash of cayenne.

The Reasonably Nutritious Dessert
Homemade yogurt from local milk, local egg, local home-canned peaches, local whole wheat pastry flour, local butter. If you glance at the recipe, it may look like too many steps to be simple and quick, but look more closely: I don't do fancy for family desserts! This one is easy.
(prior to baking - my photo of the finished pie was blurry - oops; notice the thawing stock and corn behind the pie)

Peach Kuchen (from, what else, More with Less)

Stir together:
1 1/3 cup flour (use all or part whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. sugar

Cut in:
1/3 c. butter

Pat mixture firmly into pie pan to make a crust.

Peel and slice into halves or quarters:
4-5 peaches (or 3-4 cups, canned or frozen, well drained)

Arrange peaches in crust.

Mix and sprinkle over:
scant 1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Bake at 400 for 15 minutes.

Pour over peaches and bake 30 minutes longer:
1 egg beaten
1 c. sour cream or plain yogurt or combination

Allow to cool a bit before serving, or chill completely before serving.

When the rhubarb comes in, use 2 c. diced rhubarb instead of peaches and increase sugar over the fruit to 1/2 c.

This is the last official dark days' post for 09-10, but no worries, I'll still be making and eating local food. I'll keep you in the loop!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Six-Layer Dish

I was tempted to make Seven-Layer Salad with the Six-Layer Dish, but in reality it duplicated meat from the casserole and richness from dessert, so I gave up the silliness. I made a Lemon Sponge Pie. Lemon Sponge is a PA Dutchy thing, with meringue folded into a lemon custard part and baked.

So, what I made was a simple salad of spinach, watercress, and mushrooms with honey-mustard dressing. By the way, do you know how easy it is to make honey-mustard salad dressing? I mix equal parts honey and mustard with enough olive oil to make it pourable. Done! I usually use a good brown or dijon mustard, not just the common yellow hot dog mustard.

-thawed ground beef
-made Lemon Sponge Pie

Sunday morning:
-assembled Six-Layer Dish, set on timed bake
-washed salad greens and put them in a dishtowel in fridge

Sunday noon:
-set table
-sliced mushrooms into salad
-made honey-mustard dressing

I make that breakdown of tasks so that you can see how you could tweak it. Depending on your family or what time you get home from church (or wherever - you can apply these principles to other occasions), you could do everything ahead of time, even setting the table. Or you might realize you have enough time to make the salad when you got home.

My husband told Ben to eat his salad with his fingers - almost-2-year-olds don't have the fork skills for salad. Ben happily dipped the leaves in honey-mustard and ate a lot. He has picked up this funny habit of calling all meat "hot dog" which is very ironic, considering we're rather snooty about such junk at our house (big exception: roasted over a fire) and I'm not sure where he ever ate or named a hot dog! So while he was eating the Sunday dinner yesterday, he kept looking up and piping with perfect enunciation, "hot dog."

Six-Layer Dish - a real workhorse for plan ahead meals (from More with Less)

Layer in order given in 2 qt. greased casserole or Dutch oven. Season each layer with salt and pepper.

2-3 medium potatoes, sliced
2-3 medium carrots, sliced
1/3 c. uncooked white rice
2 small onions, sliced
1 lb. ground beef or sausage or ham or scraps of meat
4 cups canned tomatoes, broken up with hands, with juice
1-2 Tbs. brown sugar, sprinkled over

Bake at 300 for 2.5 hours, uncovered.

An option listed in the cookbook that I haven't used is to put a cup of drained cooked kidney beans in before the meat. I have increased the vegetables sometimes and decreased the meat, using scraps of ham or proscuitto. One time I added some cabbage instead of the carrots and yesterday my potatoes were rather shrimpy, so I added a turnip. I made this casserole one time when tomatoes were in season and sliced a tomato on top and then used 3 cups tomato juice. In the same season, I put in a few layers of fresh basil leaves. I have thought of adding minced garlic, too.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Tale of Two Scarves

It was the best of times. . .

(vintage orange leather jacket found at our church rummage sale nine years ago for three, yes, THREE dollars)

. . .it was the worst of times. . .

The scarf I knitted to make a pretty barrier between my skin and the jacket was missing at the end of market shopping one day.

For months I wore a ho-hum substitute, but then I got a brilliant idea:

It's just cotton from my stash, with no lining, and topstitched around the edge after I turned it. The weight is just right and the colors make me so happy.

And the very week after I made it, my little girl said as we strolled into market, "MOM!! THere's your scarf!!" There it was, on a shelf above a flower stand. It was overlooked for weeks by the market staff and me, but spotted by my sharp-as-a-tack daughter.

(knitted from pink cotton yarn and a crazy yarn that looked like string with tabs of pink and orange shoelaces every few inches; I knitted that scarf maybe 5 years ago)

And because I adore this quote and want to give it full justice, not just a playful poke:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way." Charles Dickes - the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Commencing Quilting

Yesterday, with my friend Rebecca as witness, I started to machine quilt Kim's quilt. A big deal for me. A really big deal. . .it's for Kim, but I love it so much, so for both those reasons I want the quilting to be next to perfect. I wanted the quilting (a new design I dreamed up) to complement the rich colors, not distract from them. Consequently, I used dark yellow thread, instead of white, so it would be more subtle.

And, so far, I'm THRILLED. I feel like a rock star. It looks so good to me!! It also seems to be going quickly, so I hope Kim will be snug under her quilt soon.

I realize the photo doesn't show quilting detail, but I promise lots of good photos when it's done. Right now I'm just happily immersed in quilting (I'm sure it will get boring in a few days - it's a full size quilt).

The daffodils are a new bunch from my friend A, picked along the lane to her farm.. . .left at my door with a bag of magazines one night. Aren't I blessed?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dark Days Week 18: Dandelion Salad

An old country spring tonic: cut dandelion greens before the plant flowers, eat them with hot bacon dressing over potatoes. Feel revived; spring is really here!

Washing and chopping the dandelion.

First the potatoes (I chopped them and baked them at 375 for 40 minutes, flipping twice, while an apple crisp baked), then the dandelion, then the hot bacon dressing.

Ben calls it "apple pie" (Apple Crisp from More with Less)

Dandelion Salad (from More with Less, with my shortcuts)

Fry 1-3 slices bacon, chopped, in large skillet.

Separately, whisk together until smooth:
4 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. sugar
3 Tbs. cider vinegar
1 egg
2 c. water or milk

Turn heat low under skillet and pour in the combined liquid, stirring continuously until smooth and thick. (A variation I sometimes do: omit egg from dressing and reduce liquid to 1 1/2 cups; then, put chopped hard boiled eggs on top of the salad.)

I serve the dressing separately from the dandelion; this amount can dress 4-5 cups chopped greens. You can use this as a dressing for any green salad, but I only use it on dandelion.

One final note about this meal: just before I served it to my parents yesterday evening, I realized this was a dark days meal! Everything was local, except for the rolled oats on top of the apple crisp (and the usual salt, sugar, cinnamon, etc.). I was planning to make a different totally local menu today, but I'll save that one for next week.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Granny's Plastic Wrap

My intellectual pursuit in homemaking recently has been trying to think like a 1930s homemaker. What did they do before tissues, paper towels, and baby wipes? (hankies, rags, and more little rags!) And those ladies did not have plastic wrap until 1953. Have you ever seen this in your grandmother's fridge?

To be ecologically correct and frugal (I love how often those two coincide), set a plate on top on top of bowls instead of plastic wrap. When I'm buying a container, I try to make sure it has a lid too, for easier storage. . . .but I still have a roll of plastic wrap in my drawer.

Bonus: vertical storage in my crowded fridge!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Cabbage & Ham Salad

Although I'm having a hard time fishing transitional clothes out of my closet, this is a perfect dinner for we-have-spring-fever-but-it's-still-chilly-and-nothing-is-growing-yet.

Saturday: I put the cabbage salad together (recipe follows) but did not put the dressing on it. Chopped peanuts and set aside. I also made Fluffy Vanilla Pudding from More with Less.

Sunday morning: Put brown rice in casserole and set on timed bake. Layered pudding with sliced bananas and crushed graham crackers.

Sunday noon: Set table. Dress salad. Eat!

Cabbage and Ham Salad (More with Less; it's actually called "pork", but for semantic and gustatory reasons, I substitute "ham")

Mix together in large bowl:
1/2 head cabbage, sliced thinly or coarsely shredded
2 grated carrots
1-2 chopped scallions
1 c. or less cooked ham or boiled pork, chopped fine
handful fresh dill, mint, cilantro OR Thai basil, chopped

Make dressing and dress salad less than an hour before serving:
1 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce
2-3 Tbs. sugar
3-4 Tbs. vinegar (I use rice vinegar)
juice and zest of one lime or one small lemon

Garnish with 1 c. chopped roasted peanuts (we do this on individual servings or else the peanuts go limp in leftovers).
Eat with hot rice as a main dish, or serve alone as a salad. For a main dish, it's recommended to garnish with hard boiled eggs and tomato wedges (I don't usually bother).

The pudding would be much prettier in individual sherbet glasses; my mom used to do that and as a child, I thought that was the height of elegance.

Now see, there is still winter cabbage and carrots around at my market, and I was lucky to find spring onions. The salad is fresh and crunchy (we feel summery!), but not too too cold with the rice (good - the air is still brisk).

Do you also see how balanced this meal is? When I plan meals, I contrast textures and flavors and try to include carbs, protein, and vegetables/fruits. This meal feels successful on all levels, but it's rare to get it so balanced!

textures: crunchy salad, soft rice, creamy pudding
flavors: vinegary, salty, herby salad on bland rice, sweet milky pudding
carbs: rice, pudding
protein: ham, peanuts, eggs in pudding
veg/fruit: cabbage, carrots, scallion, cilantro, lemon, banana

Friday, March 19, 2010

My Supper Notebook

As I'm cleaning up supper, I write down what we ate, with whom, and where the recipe came from in this notebook. I mark Sunday meals in red, because they're such a different process from weekday suppers. Of course some nights I forget and the whole process is very casual, but it's unbelievably helpful:

1. Gives me ideas when I'm trying to plan menus
2. Reminds me of recipes I've forgotten and which cookbooks they're in
3. A food diary like this shows our eating patterns, likes and dislikes -
fascinating to me!
4. Reminds me of good times with friends and family - always a lift.

For example:
a week in November 2008

Sunday: leftover colcannon made into potato filling (More with Less), peas, cranberry applesauce, pumpkin pie (recipe box)

Monday: Tennessee Corn Pone (Recipes from the Old Mill), collards, leftover Mennonite Bliss (jello salad from More with Less)

Tuesday: Spaghettini con Sugo di Tonno (recipe box), green salad, pumpkin pie

Wednesday: Turkey Barley Soup (Simply in Season), biscuits (More with Less), cranberry applesauce

Thursday: Roasted Vegetables (Simply in Season), green salad, Wacky Cake (recipe box)

Friday: Chili con Carne (First pack of Harley's beef!!), cornbread (More with Less), applesauce

Saturday: Turkey Barley Soup, biscuits

To switch from November to SPRING, look what's on my piano! My dad also brought me a gorgeous bunch of daffodils, and the windows are open today. Hallelujah!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Filling the Cookie Jar: ANZAC Biscuits

I finally understand what the cookie jar is for: kids with rosy cheeks and grimy fingers, smelling like fresh breezes, saying, "I'm hungry!" I like to hand them something quick, filling, and relatively nutritious. Occasionally I wipe their hands first.
This week, it was ANZAC Biscuits, which came to me from Rebecca who tweaked it off of Martha Stewart. The story goes that the cookies (biscuits, in "British") are good keepers and the railway workers took them along as they worked out in the wilderness for weeks.

Anzac Biscuits

Mix in a bowl:
2 c. WW pastry flour
1 and 3/4 c. rolled oats
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. unsweetened coconut
pinch salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 to 1 c. chopped nuts

Melt together:
3/4 c. butter
2 Tbs. Lyle's syrup (I do use Lyle's but I suppose you could try honey or corn syrup)

Dissolve together:
3/4 tsp. baking soda
6 Tbs. boiling water

Now, add the water/soda to the butter/syrup. Then stir into dry ingredients. Drop by tablespoonfuls very well spaced on nonstick or parchment lined cookie sheets. Flatten a bit. Bake 12 minutes at 350. Allow to rest for a minute on the sheet before removing to rack to cool. Makes about 3 dozen.

Clearly I got the raw cookies too close.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In Which I Buy Frozen Waffles

As I sat down to breakfast this morning, I realized that I had again used obscure cooking skills. In the interest of keeping that kind of knowledge alive, I will share our breakfast and the pedestrian photo.

I bought frozen waffles at my discount grocer. WHAT?! Yes, I bought frozen waffles. The ingredients were normal, they were whole grain, and cheap. They originally sold for $4.99 for 6, but I got them for $.99. My children didn't even know what they were, since I don't have a waffle maker. The brand is Lifestream and I got two flavors: mesa something which is corn and flax, and the ones we had this morning which were 8 grain (quinoa, flax, wheat, etc.).

I had saved the juice from a jar of home canned peaches with no clear goal in mind. But this morning, I thickened it a little with cornstarch, added a pat of butter and a dash of cinnamon.

Then I whipped some cream and cut it with a slightly less than equal amount of homemade plain yogurt. I piled the cream on top of the waffles and drizzled them with peach syrup. The children also had apples and peanut butter; the adults had coffee instead of fruit (you know). It was delicious.

A note about my food photography: it is supposed to illustrate, not make your mouth water. I wish I knew how to style food and I wish I had a slick camera, but I just use what I've got. I do try to make sure the table is crumb-free and I didn't take a bite first, but sometimes I'm so hungry I forget even that. I promise I won't (even subtly) apologize for my photography again.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dark Days Week 17: White Branch Sugar Cream Pie (et al)

Isn't that a lovely name for a pie? The recipe comes from the White Branch Church of the Brethren in Indiana, courtesy of my friend Rebecca. My father-in-law, who stopped by at dinnertime, said it tastes like pecan pie without the pecans. The local part was whole wheat pastry flour crust and local cream (plus the usual non-local suspects: sugar and salt). I have found through frustrating trials, that to use whole wheat pastry flour in a pie crust means I have to use shortening, not lard; lard + pastry flour = too fragile to handle. But I can use lard successfully if I use all purpose flour.

However, we didn't just have pie for our dark days dinner. I made polenta with milk, mushrooms, a bit of sharp cheddar, and scallions (all local, organic) and then fried it in my own tallow. I was disappointed that the polenta was still rather bland after those additions (the recipe came from Simply in Season). We garnished it with some homemade marinara from the freezer.

Plus we had a spinach and watercress salad with hard boiled eggs and shredded turnips (all local, organic). I've made this salad dressing three times in less than a week now, I love it so much. The dressing is not terribly local, although I did use a local scallion, but it's so so so good that you must make it. I begged it from my cousin's wife Beth after eating it at a Christmas family gathering.

Beth's Dressing

In a blender, combine:
1/2 c. salad oil
1/4 c. sugar
2 Tbs. vinegar
1-3 Tbs. onion, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dry mustard

Blend until thick and syrupy and the sugar is dissolved. Make a spinach salad with one pound of spinach and other stuff: mushrooms, bacon, hard boiled eggs, shredded carrots, etc. etc, whatever you like. When you're ready the serve the salad, zap the dressing one more time and then pour it over the salad, tossing gently to distribute. Like any dressed salad, this one will not keep for later, but it's an easy job to eat it up!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunday Treat

My Sunday treat is usually reading all afternoon, but yesterday, all I could think about was chocolate cake and reading. Fortunately, I had an easy solution at hand. The Wacky Cake recipe is strange (can anyone explain the chemistry of it??) so I like it for that, but it's also stupid-easy and so so so good.

My Sunday obsession further extended to Italian Meringue (what Martha Stewart calls it and cautions novices to stay away) which I make using the clever cheater method called "Quick Fluffy White Icing."

It's like a marshmallow crossed with meringue - if you've never had it, it will change your cravings forever. It takes 7 minutes to make, start to finish. That is good news, ladies!

Further Sunday decadence: we cut the cake a bare minute after it came out of the oven and dolloped the Italian Meringue right on top. And had seconds. A little indulgence is good for everyone; my family thought I was treating them, but the whole shebang took so little effort that I felt treated too. And then I finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak for my book club. Humph.

Wacky Cake - from my mother
In 9x13 ungreased metal pan, mix together:
1.5 c. white flour
1.5 c. WW pastry flour (you can use all white if you want)
1 3/4 c. sugar (don't skimp - it's already reduced for a less sweet cake)
6 Tbs. cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
(a little instant coffee if you want)

Make 3 holes in the dry mixture.
In first hole: 1/2 c. vegetable oil
In second hole: 2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
In third hole: 2 Tbs. vanilla

Pour 2 c. water over all and mix (I use a whisk) until all the lumps are gone. You will feel weird doing this, but mix it well.
Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes. I've never seen this cake out of the pan, but I suppose you could try if you halved the recipe and used a traditional cake pan.

Quick Fluffy White Icing (from Mennonite Country Style with tweaks)
Figure out a double boiler (a metal bowl that fits tightly on top of a pan). Fill the pan at least half full of water and bring to a boil.
In top of double boiler (or metal bowl), combine off the heat:
2 egg whites
scant 3/4 c. white sugar
scant 1/3 c. corn syrup
2 Tbs. water
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Now, set pan over the rapidly boiling water. Beat with electric mixer until mixture stands in stiff peaks (the tops of the peaks do not flop over when you turn off and lift the beaters to check). Remove from heat.

Add and continue beating into very stiff peaks:
1 tsp. vanilla

Keep it in the fridge and beat or stir if it separates at all; I've kept it for about a week before with no ill effects. It's soooooo good you will think of all kinds of applications. A few I like: on graham crackers, on scones, on hot chocolate. . . it's a generous batch so just get carried away!

Also on a Sunday note, we had dinner at church yesterday so all I made for Sunday dinner was bread to take along. Back next week with more Sunday dinner plans and menus!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fabric Envelope

As I incorporated more hankies, I separated a collection of hankies just for Genevieve. Recently when I sent her to get a hanky for herself from my drawer, she returned with a gorgeous sheer one with elaborate tatting. Oops. I let her use it for the day, albeit anxiously watching over it.

I can't remember how I came to possess these little fabric envelopes (on the left), but I keep my hankies in them. My aunt who knows a lot about vintage linens told me they could be lingerie bags. I decided to make one for my girl.

I turned out my scraps for Genevieve and told her to pick two fabrics she liked. Same thing with buttons. Don't you just admire her choices? I must say, I am rather proud of her blend of patterns and colors.

I flipped up the corners of the envelope flap to further show off the pretty contrast. She is enchanted with her own little stack of hankies in a fabric envelope she helped design (but not sew - I'm still building up patience for that).

Updated: A Tiny Tutorial

1. Cut 2 rectangles about double the height you want the finished envelope to be (but I play around with it, folding it to see what looks right).
2. Sew the rectangles together, right sides facing, leaving a few inches unstitched.
3. Turn the rectangle right side out through the open inches, and press.
4. Topstitch close to the end the whole way around, closing the hole.
5. Just fold up one end to make the envelope and sew the side seams.
6. Now fold down the other end - that's the flap. You can decide to turn up the edges and put decorative buttons on (like I did) or do other fancy stuff: a real closure of some kind like snaps or button/loop, ric rac or lace, etc., or a RUFFLE (wouldn't that be cute?). It's so fun to play with colors and ideas in this way! By the way, I first made my own envelopes with paper years ago, which is another creative option to fiddle with.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Commencing to Put Away the Woolens

I'm not putting away my knee socks or winter coats, but all the wool is being washed to put away. I particularly want to note this for my record, because I never remember from year to year how the change of seasons actually progresses.

It was warm enough (62) yesterday to open a few windows, after removing the weather sealing tape. So this is how my spring fever begins, apparently. "What will do you when it gets WARM?" my dad would ask.

And big changes are afoot at our house.


used to hang here.

That "here" will no longer be there very soon. More to come!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Amending the Soup, Plus a Dishcloth

The borsch was wonderful, but too spicy for my children. I do not like making separate lunches for everyone, so I hit upon a solution: I added the leftover roasted vegetables from Sunday's roast to the soup. But I freshened it up along the way and made it more anti-viral, as we seem to be leaning into fevers and sniffles here.
This is what I did:
--sauteed an onion in some beef tallow
--added the leftover borsch and leftover carrots and potatoes
--let it get hot, then added a handful of chopped parsley and about 6 minced garlic cloves.

The spicy heat was toned down, but the whole soup was revived into a very good lunch, with some dill bread on the side. As it looked just the same, I didn't take a picture. I almost didn't even blog about it, but my dear friend Rebecca convinced me that these are the cooking skills that are unglamorous but so clever and homey.

I also finished another dishcloth, which looks very springy to me, but I forebore to name it. You may name it if you wish in the comments - the sillier, the better; I simply photographed it against a spring sky.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Beef Pot Roast

I am finally posting this after putting it aside for the comforter and Dark Days. This is very traditional Sunday dinner fare. I have used the oven, but that involves more knowledge and guessing than I have, so I figured out how to use my crockpot. The beef is not technically roasted, but steamed.

put a round roast in fridge to thaw

thaw a container of Pepper Cabbage
salt the roast well

Sunday morning:
Put roast in slow cooker - sprinkle with a little vinegar (tenderizes)
Cover roast with sliced onions.
Pile in carrots and potatoes (if the taties are big, I halve them) and mushrooms. Sprinkle with more salt, some pepper.
Dump a cup of something boiling in (wine, water, stock, what have you).
Turn on high for 4-5 hours.

Sunday dinner:
Reduce liquid by half (if time - boil without a lid); add marjoram, minced garlic, pepper; thicken with milk and flour for gravy.
Set table.

The best part? Walking in from church on a sunny fresh morning and smelling roast beef. . . and then thinking of all the tasty dishes that could evolve from the leftovers. . .

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dark Days Week 16: Borsch with Homemade Beef Stock

When we bought an eighth of beef in the fall from a church friend, I asked the butcher for some soup bones too. And then I saw some bones for sale from my Amish butcher at market. A plethora of bones!

After roasting bones for stock, I normally simmer them in my crockpot, but this batch was too big so it went into my big stockpot with some peppercorns, salt, vinegar, and onions. For two whole days.

Then I skimmed it of most of the fat, packaged it up and tucked it in the freezer.

In true Great Depression-style, I saved the fat I skimmed and after a little research, discovered that in its now-rendered state, it is called beef tallow and is akin to lard. I've been frying some foods in it; I know about tallow candles and I learned more weird non-food uses here, but I'd like to know what else the housewives of yore did with tallow.

With all that stock in my possession, a soup like Borsch took me a half hour to make. The recipe came from More with Less and I followed it closely since I hadn't made Russian Mennonite style Borsch before. I've made the shredded beet version, but this one had beef stock, potatoes, cabbage, onions, and tomatoes (all local and organic except that onion). My cabbage is the size a baby.

It was seasoned with lots of dill and a hot pepper; unfortunately, my frozen chunk of local hot pepper was far hotter than I realized and my children couldn't eat much. At the table, we dolloped homemade plain yogurt on top.

I scratched my head over what kind of bread to have; the only local bread I have in my repertoire is cornbread and that just didn't sound right here. Then I came across a quick bread, again in the More with Less, called Onion Cheese Loaf. I made it with local whole wheat pastry flour, local cheese, local butter/egg/milk, and subbed local garlic for the onion. It was a rich cheesy counterpoint to the spicy Borsch.