Category: Recipe

Chicken with Mushrooms and Cream – or – Chef Monte’s New Bib

We here at Serendipity Farmhouse are in the midst of our Lenten observances. For us, that means there is no meat on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On the other days, meals are based on basic ingredients and we reduce our portions.

This self-imposed austerity, however, does not mean that we can’t have a good meal or try out something new in the soon to be famous SFH Test Kitchen. And so it was yesterday when we prepared Chicken with Mushrooms and Cream from Julia Child’s book The Way to Cook.

I will spare you all the cooking details because you can easily view the whole process on the Youtube link we have provided. Instead, I will recount for you two highlights of our most recent foray into the Julia’s world of cooking.

Continue reading “Chicken with Mushrooms and Cream – or – Chef Monte’s New Bib”

Liver & Onions IHO Tim

In our post On Time – For Once, my hubby promised that the soon to be world famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen would make liver and onions in honor of his brother Tim’s birthday. He even went out on a limb (as he often does) and committed the entire staff of the SFH Test Kitchen to attempt to master Sauté of Calf’s Liver with Onions from Julia Child’s book The Way to Cook.

My hotshot husband figured that we in the kitchen staff would all jump to the opportunity because we had watched Julia make the dish on a video. He said Julia made it look easy. Surely, we could pull it off. But, when hubby says we, he usually means me. Continue reading “Liver & Onions IHO Tim”

SFH Journal: 2019-01-26 through 31 – Gourmet Recipes for the Wood Stove

Highlight: The title for this post might be just a little misleading. Upon first reading, one might think that the staff of the soon to be world famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen have been laboring over the wood stove, concocting amazingly delicious culinary masterpieces, pioneer style, using the most simple cast iron utensils and an assortment of basic, home grown herbs and spices. Perhaps someday we should do that.

But, no, that’s not what we’ve been up too. Rather we have instead been laboring intensely trying to keep the wood stove working during a vicious polar vortex using a substandard load of “bottom wood”. Refer back to our post My Big Cats Got it Done! In that post, I noted, “Granddaughter #1 found fascinating fungus and mushroom growths on the wood. Avoiding spiders and centipedes, she found other critters in the midst of the wood pile that aroused great interest and awe.”

Well folks, that was the first clue that, due to the unusually wet year, the two cords of wood we received were overly damp and would take a long time to dry out and season properly. Although I didn’t mention it at the time, much of the wood was covered with mud, indicating that it had come from the bottom of the stack; ergo, it was “bottom wood”.

Fast forward to this last week when a large part of the nation, including our beloved Rappahannock County, was in the grips of a bitterly cold polar vortex. Yes, here at SFH, when temperatures were dipping to 1.2 °F, this would be the week we ran out of last year’s good wood and had to begin feeding the wood stove the new “bottom wood”.

Fires were hard to start and difficult to keep burning. There was an increased amount of smoke while burning and, every time I inserted a new log, that smoke would escape, filling the house with an acrid stench. On two occasions, the smoke was so voluminous that it activated the smoke detector in the kitchen.

The bottom line and last straw for yours truly, was that beautiful and almost always patient wife lost her patience. She lost her patience with me. She lost her patience with the wood stove. She almost lost her patience with our beloved Serendipity Farmhouse. – – – Needless to say in a situation like this, Mr. Monte took her side and blamed the loss of calm and tranquility in SFH entirely and completely on me.

I won’t bore you with tedious details of all my experiments to improve the situation. Suffice it to say, I worked with the wood stove. I talked to it. I read the manual. I put myself into the mindset of a wood stove that had suddenly had its diet changed from well seasoned wood to miserable, damp “bottom wood”.

Then I came upon the solution. While in deep conversation with the wood stove, I introduced the notion that I wasn’t depriving it of it’s favorite food. Oh no, not at all. What I was doing was merely treating the wood stove to a series of wonderful “gourmet delights”. Where else would a wood stove be able to get the exotic mushrooms and flavorful fungus that I was offering? The wood stove began to “warm” to the notion.

Then, in keeping with current dietary trends, I explained to the wood stove. That all of the “bottom wood” was gluten free. And, although I couldn’t claim that it was also  “low carb”, I could assert emphatically, that all the wood had been seasoned in a new process that was similar to cheese being aged in caves.

And, by golly, it worked! Soon, the wood stove and I had found just the right way to set vent and flue settings so that the new dietary delights were not just palatable, but were eagerly accepted. I had discovered how to make gourmet treats for my wood stove!

The polar vortex came and brought its stinging chill, but Serendipity Farmhouse was warm inside thanks to another astounding success by the SFH Test Kitchen.

SFH WX Station Report: Because I’ve already described the arrival of the polar vortex, let me just give you the weekly and monthly weather summaries. For more details and graphics click here and play with the settings where it says “Weather History for Fletcher Mill, VA [KVAFLETC4]”.

Weekly Summary
January 24, 2019 – January 31, 2019

High Low Average
Temperature 57.2 °F 1.2 °F 28.9 °F
Dew Point 56.1 °F -14.1 °F 17.4 °F
Humidity 99% 23% 66.5%
Precipitation 0.59 in
High Low Average
Wind Speed 11.6 mph 0.7 mph
Wind Gust 18.3 mph
Wind Direction SSW
Pressure 30.36 in 29.35 in

Monthly Summary
January 1, 2019 – January 31, 2019

High Low Average
Temperature 62.2 °F 1.2 °F 32.4 °F
Dew Point 56.1 °F -14.1 °F 22.5 °F
Humidity 99% 23% 71.7%
Precipitation 2.64 in
High Low Average
Wind Speed 16.6 mph 1 mph
Wind Gust 25.1 mph
Wind Direction SW
Pressure 30.61 in 29.24 in



Boeuf Bourguignon – A Noble Quest

We at the soon to be world famous SFH Test Kitchen learn from our ?infrequent? mistakes and failures. If you recall, in November last year we had a simply devastating experience with a sad excuse for a boeuf bourguignon recipe. In the course of executing that recipe perfectly in every detail, we wasted a bottle of excellent wine, destroyed a world-class piece of beef, and went to bed with severe hunger pangs and bruised egos. As I noted in Highlight 1 of our post SFH Journal: 2018-11-04 through 07:

Let me merely say that three absolutely essential ingredients were absent from the recipe: butter, bacon, and garlic. Butter starts my day, bacon lifts my spirits, and garlic makes life worth living! That wretched recipe has left me traumatized.

We are slowly and incrementally working our way to a “grand challenge” – perfect execution of Julia Child’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon. Along the way, we hope to learn why she chose certain ingredient options over others. Our plan is to attempt various recipes, each requiring greater skill and lengthier (more intricate and demanding) preparation steps. Continue reading “Boeuf Bourguignon – A Noble Quest”

How to Make Japanese Gyoza


Happy New Year!

What dish did you have on New Year’s Eve that might be special to you and your family? For us, it was a simple choice – an all time family favorite – Japanese Gyoza (餃子).


Japan, the land of the rising sun, was also the land of our rising family. Beautiful (wife) and I were married in Japan and we spent nearly a decade together there. Our children hold on to memories of Japanese festivals and customs. Perhaps our fondest memory of Japan is our dear friend Reiko. She shared with us the mysteries and magic of Japanese cuisine.

I would be at work. Beautiful wife would call. “Reiko’s here. She’s making gyoza.” Five minutes flat – I was home. Children gathered round. Grace was prayed. Chopsticks (お箸) would dart to the gyoza-filled plate. Five minutes flat – 40 gyoza gone. “Reiko, are there any more?” – – Yes, we loved this treat.

Skilled and wondrous wife watched Reiko prepare the gyoza. She made mental notes. She practiced. In time, the understudy mastered the art. Then, she passed the skill on to her daughters.

Now, every New Year’s Eve, and on special days in between, Japanese gyoza makes its way to the dining table at Serendipity Farmhouse and to tables in the homes of Daughters #1 and #2.

In case you might ask, yes, and even I your humble chronicler of SFH customs and lore, have learned:

How to make Japanese Gyoza

Continue reading “How to Make Japanese Gyoza”

Comparing Apples to Apple Butter

“Once upon a time, Apples were a premier crop of Rappahannock County. Even before the creation of the county, apples were grown as a staple for families and as a cash crop.”


That is how the presentation Apples and Rappahannock County, researched and prepared by the Rappahannock Historical Society, begins its study of the history of  apples in our county.

Serendipity Farmhouse sits proudly at the center of the county’s historic apple growing and processing landmarks. When you look at the pictures in the presentation, many times you will see the very same views we have from our office window. The pictures allow us to look back in time and see that SFH was at the heart of what was a thriving county industry.

Although the county’s economy has changed and the days of the large prosperous orchards are long past, some excellent orchards remain to remind us of what used to be. One thing has not changed, though – an apple from Rappahannock County is apple worth eating. Yes, even those five old, poorly maintained Stayman apple trees here at SFH, when conditions are right, produce apples of unforgettable flavor and enjoyment.

So, in a quest to capture history and good flavor, members of the soon to be famous SFH Test Kitchen (SFH-TK) set out to find some of the fabled, quality apples of Rappahannock. Our research this year pointed us to Roy’s Orchard & Fruit Market , which is literally within walking distance of SFH.

It was a damp rainy day, with Autumn colors subdued by overcast skies. Up the long drive through the orchards we went and eventually found not just a single building selling apples. No Roy’s Orchard is a complex of several buildings with an array of products for sale, ranging from fresh apples and apple products to a large selection of local fruit and honey products.

Knowing that the objective of the SFH-TK was to make a uniquely Rappahannock apple butter, we looked through the apple bins, selecting the very best of each variety. When the selection was completed, we found ourselves holding a half bushel bag containing five different varieties of apples.

Upon returning to SFH, the SFH-TK staff conducted taste testing and evaluation of the primary ingredient for our new preserving effort. Each variety had it’s own signature flavor – sweet, tart, mild, lingering, aromatic, etc. It was an experience akin to partaking in a tasting at one our county’s fine wineries. There were not enough words to describe the flavors.

1115181557c (2)Our job was to combine these many flavors in a single product – G&G’s Apple Butter.* We had to consider each of the individual flavors to determine the proportions and balance of the several varieties. Some of this process was science and some of it was guesswork. In the end, however, the result was pure “serendipity”. This year’s batch of G&G’s Apple Butter was like no other.

The days since the preserving have been highlighted by apple butter on toast, apple butter on English muffins, and if Mr. Monte gets his way, it will be apple butter on ice cream. We can truly say the staff of the SFH-TK is satisfied with their work.

This year, we used an old recipe from our archives. It is no longer available at the website, but, through the marvels of the Wayback Machine, you can find the recipe here: – Apple Butter Recipe. Please note the important  SFH-TK modifications to the original recipe


4 pounds apples ///SFH-TK uses 5 pounds///
4 cups sugar (based on sweetness of apples) ///SFH-TK uses 3 cups sugar///
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves

Directions: Chop apples into small chunks. Add apples and 2 cups of water to pan. Simmer until apples are soft. Press the mixture through a sieve or food mill. ///SFH-TK uses a blender because it’s faster and requires less cleanup///

1105181550a (2)Combine apple mixture and spices in a large sauce pot. Cook slowly until thick enough to round up on a spoon. Ladle into prepared jars and process for 10 minutes in hot water bath. ///SFH-TK processes for 15 minutes///

Yield: 5 pints ///SFH-TK uses 10 half pint jars///

* Note: G&G stands for Granny & Grandad’s

The Besto of Pesto

Our vegetable and herb gardens sometimes dictate what we cook, can, and preserve. This week it was unavoidable, our herb garden demanded that we do something about our overabundance of basil. Recall that we planted both common basil and sweet basil in May. Both plants are mightily over performing. On top of that, our CSA, Waterpenny Farm, added a third variety of basil in last Thursday’s half share. That’s right – basil here, basil there, basil everywhere. Something had to be done.

Amazingly resourceful wife responded in her usual fashion. She hit the Internet running, searching, and seeking a quick, easy, and inexpensive pesto recipe. First she found that recipes abound and they are all pretty much the same. Second, she noticed that pine nuts are used in many of those recipes. Folks, pine nuts are expensive and wife is almost as cheap as I am. She then doubled down and sought an inexpensive alternative to pine nuts. Voila! Success! The answer was walnuts – and the soon to be world famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen had nearly a pound and a half of walnuts ready to go. So, brilliantly enterprising wife declared the Allrecipes Walnut Pesto recipe the winner.

The beauty of this recipe stems from three important facts:

  • It only takes 10 minutes to prepare;
  • It wisely substitutes raw or toasted walnuts in place of expensive pine nuts; and
  • You can make any number of ingredient additions to modify flavor and texture.

Serving Size: Two servings

Recipe Ingredients:

DSC_0400 (2)

  • 2 cups basil
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (optional, we didn’t use it)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 TBS. lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)

Recipe Directions:

DSC_0402 (2)

  • Blend basil, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice together in a food processor until pesto has a paste-like consistency.
  • Taste then add salt and pepper as desired.

Now, I suspect most of you out there know how to make pasta. (Mr. Monte would laugh at you if you admitted you can not.) Nevertheless, reserve a bit less than a cup of water from the pasta before draining. When you return the pasta to the pot and add the pesto, add the reserved water to aid the pesto in mixing with the pasta.

We recommend that you serve this walnut pesto pasta with salad and wine. Simple, fast, cheap, and tasty a perfect meal when you have lots of basil and very little time. Enjoy!

SFH Journal: 2018-04-27

Weather: It was rainy in the morning. The rain moved out during the early afternoon and it was partly cloudy for the remainder of the day – perfect for picking asparagus and making for a daily highlight. (Detailed Summary – click here)

Plantings: Now that the weather is warming, we purchased:

  • 2x Mr. Stripey heirloom tomato plants,
  • 1x Basil plant,
  • 1x Jalapeno plant, and
  • 1x Habanero plant.

Harvest: The asparagus are in their third year and now we are enjoying the reward for our patience. We cut two spears a week ago and sauteed them with squash – a taste treat. Today, we doubled the number picked. The spears are thick, juicy, and surprisingly tender. See our daily highlight for what we did with them.

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Beets: We planted 28 Early Blood Turnip-rooted Beet seeds ten days ago. Two have germinated and are seeking sunlight.

1st Beet
The first beet makes its debut

Collards: We planted 20 Georgia Southern Collard seeds on the same day we planted the beets. Several have germinated and are happy with the recent rain.

Apple Trees: We have six apple trees. All are in blossom. Two look like they will produce abundantly this year. The remaining four are not doing as well. With proper conditions, there will be plenty of apple juice, apple sauce, and apple butter for the holidays.

Daring Dairy: We made butter in the evening. It took nearly 25 minutes of churning, which is unusually long. Perhaps the problem was that we used a different brand of heavy whipping cream. (Click here to see how we make butter.)

Daily Highlight: My amazingly talented wife took those four asparagus spears she picked and used them in an Asparagus Risotto recipe from Simply Recipes.* It made for one great meal. She has experimented with this recipe on several occasions and has made it much better. Here are the changes she made to the original:

  • olive oil instead of unsalted butter,
  • 1/2 onion instead of chopped shallots,
  • Calrose Japanese style rice instead of arborio rice, and
  • vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.

*To see the original Asparagus Risotto recipe click here.

Goat milk cheese? – Yes, now!

You say you like cheese? Go to the store to buy cheese and you get what you get. What you get might be surprisingly delightful or it might not suit your palate at all. For example, buy chèvre (perhaps the least complex type of goat milk cheese), and you might react in the same way my beautiful wife did when I bought some for her- it’s too sour or it’s too bitter.

Taste is a puzzling and unusual sense. You can be sure there is more disagreement about flavor than the visual beauty of a sunset. We can usually agree about what we see and what we feel, but flavor and aroma are perceived more personally. So, even though my true love and I could drink goat milk together we were divided by store-bought chèvre.

Indeed, I have a loving wife, and she would never let anything divide us, not even a type of cheese. So, I received a present some two years ago – a chèvre cheese-making kit. It was a chance she had to take – perhaps homemade goat milk cheese might be better than store-bought.

Dairy_dare-01Dear readers, the rest is history. My wife’s intuition was sound and now homemade chèvre is a regular and lasting part of Serendipity’s Daring Dairy repertoire. We hope you will come to enjoy making your own chèvre as much as we do.

So, now it’s finally time to dare to make chèvre in the soon to be famous SFH test kitchen.

Preparing to Make Goat Milk Cheese

Knowing nothing about the process herself, my enterprising spouse did some quick  research and determined the market was filled with simple, inexpensive cheese making kits. She selected the Chèvre Cheesemaking Kit by Roaring Brook Dairy. It worked just fine. Since then, however, we have become more confident in our own abilities and we purchase our own supplies and continue to experiment with the process.

If you are using a kit, the cheesecloth and cheese mold will be provided. If not, you may need to make a trip to the store or look online to get those items. Everything else you need should already be in your kitchen. Following is a list of the items we use:

Required Utensils & Equipment


Comments / Notes

1x – Medium stainless steel or  non-aluminum pot  We use stainless steel
2x – 1-cup measuring cups
1x – Set of measuring spoons
1x – Spatula or slotted spoon  For stirring
1x – Thermometer
1x – Colander or sieve
1x – Glass or plastic bowl  Larger than colander or sieve
1x – Cheesecloth  Available in kits or sold separately
1x – Cheese mold  Available in kits or sold separately
1x – Butter knife


As you may recall, when it comes to dairy, there is almost always a kitchen controversy. In the case of Julia, Butter & Serendipity Farmhouse, the cause of concern was ultra-pasteurization. Although it seemed to make no difference in making butter, the use of ultra-pasteurized goat milk can adversely affect development of curds for chèvre.

Although we here at SFH have direct access to raw goat milk at Reality Farm, you may have to do some online research to find raw goat milk or simple pasteurized goat milk. (Here again my beautiful wife distinguished herself by doing a great job of research – she not only found the goat milk, she also found a place where I can visit the goats. She brings joy to my life.)

Listed below are the ingredients we use.



Comments / Notes

½ Gallon goat milk Avoid ultra-pasteurized
1   Level tsp. citric acid  Available in kits or sold separately
¼  Tablet rennet Available in kits or sold separately
 1 Tsp. cheese salt  We recommend only 1/2 Tsp.
 2 Tbsp. herbs de Provence  Or season to taste

Making Goat Milk Cheese

We said earlier that chèvre is perhaps the least complex type of goat milk cheese. It takes us roughly 45 minutes at the front end making the cheese. Then, after the cheese drains and sets in the refrigerator, it will take another 10 to 15 minutes for seasoning. Of course all the kitchen rules apply – clean hands, clean utensils, and have all ingredients and utensils ready to go.

Step 1 – Ingredient Preparation: Dissolve the citric acid into a cup of cold water. Dissolve the rennet int 1/4 cup of cold water.

Step 2 – Heating the Milk: Heat the goat milk slowly to 185º. Add citric acid and stir 30 seconds. Add rennet and stir 30 seconds.

Step 3 – Developing the Curds: Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. Press the curds with the back of a spoon. If a dent is left, the curds are ready. If not, allow to stand for 2 more minutes.

Step 4: – Draining the Curds: Drain the curds into the cheese cloth and colander. Let the curds drain for 10 minutes, then gently mix in salt.

Step 5: – Forming the Cheese: Using a spoon, gently pack curds into the cheese mold. Cover the mold, place it on a small plate or in a small bowl. Allow the cheese to drain and set in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Step 6: – Seasoning to Taste: After 2 hours, remove the cheese from the refrigerator and slide the butter knife around the edge of the cheese until it is separated from the mold. Extract the cheese. Place seasonings on a plate and roll the cheese, covering the exterior.


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There it is! Goat milk cheese, ready to eat!


You can store it for up to seven days, but it is usually consumed within a day or two. By the way, grandchildren will ask for seconds and thirds. Make sure you make a lot.

If you’d like to see a more detailed demonstration watch this video.

SFH Food 2018-03: G&G Idaho Fries

Now that you’ve read SFH Food 2018-02: The Idaho Potato, it’s finally time to make honest-to-goodness, guaranteed-to-be-great “G&G Idaho Fries” the way we do. (Oh, by the way, the G&G brand stands for Granny & Granddad, of course.)

Serving Size: Enough for two people.

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 3 medium size, genuine Idaho potatoes (Remember Lesson Learned 04)
  • a little less than 1/4 cup olive oil
  • John’s Spice (if you don’t have any, you’ll have to be very creative)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Recipe Directions:

  1. Wash potatoes (we prefer to leave the skins on)
  2. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
  3. Spray baking sheet with olive oil; wipe off excess with paper towel
  4. Slice potatoes with slicer (you decide on thin- or thick-sliced )
  5. Place sliced potatoes in large bowl
  6. Add olive oil and spices, then mix by hand (make sure paper towels are nearby to wipe your hands)
  7. Arrange potatoes on a large baking sheet

    Keep the fries separated so they don’t stick together.
  8. Place in preheated oven for at least 30 minutes (check for desired color and crispness)
  9. Remove from oven and serve  – Don’t forget the fry sauce – enjoy!

The New York strip steak was grilled outside while the fries were in the oven.