Category: Recipe

SFH Heatwave Chicken

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, this has been and continues to be a very hot and dry Summer here at Serendipity Farmhouse. (Please refer to Ol’ Fuzz Face’s comments on the matter in his post SFH Journal: 2021-07-26 through 08-01 – Hot & Spicy.) As you can see by this candid photo of me, I have taken the appropriate feline approach to ensure that I remain cool and comfortable.

Blondie and Fuzzy, on the other hand, see things in an different way and have chosen to make a period of what should be a time for rest and relaxation into an unnecessarily frustrating time of tension, and drama. Rather than try to make sense of their heat-induced delirium, I will turn the writing of this post over to Fuzzy while I resume my nap.

——————————————————————-

Despite Mr. Monte’s less than flattering remarks, the staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen had a remarkable and noteworthy week. No, I wouldn’t say it was our best week ever, but I would say it demonstrates our unique ability to bounce back from an apparent failure and turn it into a resounding success. Here’s the story.

On August 5th, our weekly menu called for us to use our Sun Oven to prepare Barbecued Chicken according to a recipe in the Solar Chef cookbook by Rose Marie Kern. But my most perceptive Wife noted that tomatoes harvested over the past few days had reached their prime and had to be canned immediately. So, we changed our plans and spent the day preparing a “new and improved” (N&I) version of our long-time favorite SFH Pasta Sauce.

All went well with the initial stage of canning of our “SFH N&I Pasta Sauce.” To our basic recipe we added homegrown garlic, Italian spice and a couple of other twists. The wonderful aroma of the simmering pasta sauce filled the house. Then we performed the required processing of the five pint jars of sauce. We retrieved the jars from the boiling water at the 40-minute mark and waited for the five pings from the cooling jars. Within seconds, we had ping numbers one, two, and three. Number four took a little longer. … … Unfortunately, ping number five never came – the jar had failed to seal. – – Dang!

Then, simultaneously, resourceful Wife and I stumbled across the same idea. – – Tomorrow, we shall use the un-pinged jar of N&I Pasta Sauce in an entirely new SFH Test Kitchen creation – “SFH Heatwave Chicken”! (Providing there is sunshine …)

Background

We purchased our Sun Oven in Idaho. We only used it once, but that was a great success because we lived in high desert with virtually no trees nearby. More often than not, the sky was very clear and our home sat on a point that was nearly a mile high. – With these perfect conditions for solar cooking, we could get that Sun Oven up to over 400°.

A couple of years ago, we attempted to use the Sun Oven to make a pot roast here at SFH. For many reasons, that was an abysmal failure. Virginia has trees and many of them reside right here on our vast estate. Even when the rare sunny day comes, those trees are dedicated to a single cause – – blocking the Sun Oven. There is one Sycamore tree that is particularly nasty and vicious because it knows it commands access to the precious southern exposure. It is a bully of a tree and I have often thought of having our local tree service remove it.

Day of Reckoning

On August 6th, the sun rose and there was some haze in the sky. The forecast indicated that clouds would move in later in the day. Our chances of success were diminishing rapidly and we knew we wouldn’t be free to start cooking until nearly 1 PM. Nevertheless, Blondie and I were committed – we were going to make this work. So, at about 12:10 I set up the oven and began preheating it. By 12:31 it had reached 275°.

Blondie took charge of preparing the chicken by adding some salt and pepper and then the layering the chicken in our untested, untried, and untasted, brand new “N&I Pasta Sauce. When she finished, I carefully took the pot to the oven and placed it on the leveling rack. The glass door was closed and sealed at 12:51 – this cooking game was now afoot.

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The red arrow in the graphic taken from the official SFH Weather Station shows that, when we began cooking our SFH Heatwave Chicken, we were already past the prime conditions we had earlier in the day. We decided we would let the chicken cook for four hours at about 325°. The question was would that work? Would we be able to get to the desired 180° internal temperature required for poultry? Only time – four full hours – would tell.

The picture above answers that big question. When the picture was taken, the gauge was still climbing and we knew our chicken was fully cooked. Later, when we sat down to eat. We found that it was not only fully cooked, but it was at the point where the meat just fell off the bone; we didn’t even need our knives to cut the meat.

So, on this 92°+ day, we sat down inside the cool SFH dining room and ate a wonderful meal of solar oven cooked SFH Heatwave Chicken, which was resting on a layer of couscous that readily absorbed the savory flavor of our own SFH New & Improved Pasta Sauce.

There are few failures in the SFH Test Kitchen, but there many ways to find paths to new successes!

 

RV Trip 2021-02: I Wanna Go Home!

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia and Ohio, there are clearly defined limits to my ability to tolerate trips in my Class-C RV “El Camino Del Monte” (ECMD). You would think getting out of the hot city and relaxing in a cool woodland setting would be the goal of most intelligent humans.

Obviously, I don’t have two of those. No, I have the kind of humans that think that is fun to go someplace hotter and far less comfortable than Serendipity Farmhouse. Rather than listening to calming classical music, my humans would rather listen to the cacophonous, nerve-shattering noise of an air conditioner running 24/7. – It is my considered opinion that any common sense they may have ever had was baked out of their brains by overexposure to the infernal heat of Virginia in July.

We arrived at Shenandoah River State Park at 2:25 PM. Fuzzy completed setup in record time. By 3:12 PM, he had the weather station assembled, revealing the severity of our situation. The temperatures at the park had climbed into the mid-90s, so all windows and doors had to be shut and the sound of that miserable AC began to numb my mind. You can see for yourself that my humans had made another marvelous choice of camping dates. – What were they thinking, if they were capable of thinking at all?

Of course, the heat was followed by rain, a torrential downpour that crashed down on the roof of ECMD. The splattering of raindrops the size of golf balls shattered my inner peace and grated on every neuron of my highly tuned feline nervous system. By 8 PM, I was a useless, shivering pile of fur, incapable of reacting in any normal way. It was then that I first heard myself say, “Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

Dinner No. 1: Texas Hash

My humans apparently took no notice of my distress. Their only concern was pleasing their belly and their gut, preparing another “gourmet” meal. Granted, they prepared it to a human standard of perfection, nevertheless, its aroma and presentation aroused no interest whatsoever in my feline appetite. Yet, as the author of this post, I am required to give you details that might help those humans among my readers to recreate this culinary delight. So, here you go. The dish is called Texas Hash. The original recipe appeared in the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book, 1950. Currently, the recipe can be found in the book Betty Crocker Lost Recipes: Beloved Vintage Recipes for Today’s Kitchen.

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As an interesting sidelight. In a moment of weakness, Ol’ Fuzz Face confessed to me that, when he was young, he thought that Betty Crocker was a real person and was devastated when he found out otherwise. Poor guy, he never learned the real truth, but I did after doing some internet searches. It turns out that Betty Crocker was a shapeshifter. Her true persona was Mamagon (ママゴン) the lovely kaiju (怪獣) of Japanese fame. You can find out more about her at the Ultraman Wiki.

As you can see below, Betty Crocker/Mamagon had nothing at all to do with the meals I was served on this trip. For me, it’s always the same old stuff. Nope, nothing gourmet quality or special for me. Nope, no ice cream or tasty treats, just the same old swill.

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The Case of the Obnoxious Fly

The second day of this misadventure was just as hot and steamy as the first. Fuzzy and Blondie attempted to humor themselves and enjoy their outing as if the weather was perfectly pleasant. It was apparent that they had spent too much time in the sun and were delusional. Blondie went so far as to pose for pictures to prove that she was having a delightful time. But, it wasn’t even a half hour later at lunch when she lost all of her composure.

Let me tell you what happened and what I saw through the kitchen window. At lunchtime, Blondie proclaimed that lunch would be served in her beloved screen tent. She opined that it would be ever so pleasant to dine outside and enjoy the sounds of nature and the gentle breeze. Blondie and Fuzzy carried all the fixings for lunch to the tent. They carefully zipped up the doorway screen and sat down to eat their midday repast. Simultaneously, two things began to happen. First, both of those “nature lovers” began to sweat profusely. They smiled at each other attempting to hide their discomfort, but moisture oozing from beneath their garments betrayed them. Second, it became apparent that the screen tent, when closed, does two things: it locks flies out and it locks flies in. In the case of my two humans, they had locked in with them the single most obnoxious fly in the entire Shenandoah Valley. It landed on their food. It landed on their beverage glasses. It did pirouettes on their ears and their noses. It caused them to swat and flail about, feverishly attempting to smush the intruder. And the obnoxious little fellow would not cease.

It wasn’t long after lunch before Fuzzy, at the bidding of Blondie, was taking the tent down, folding it up, and storing it away for the remainder of our misbegotten RV trip. Once again, I could be heard to say, “Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

Dinner No. 2: Persian Shish Kabob

There’s no real need to go into detail about dinner on the second day. Sure, the smell of the meat used for the shish kabobs was somewhat pleasant, but what cat can eat meat that was soaked in lime juice, garlic, and onion for 24 hours. Anyway, Blondie and Fuzzy exclaimed that the allrecipes Persian Shish Kabob recipe was really good and, of course, their cooking skills exceeded that of most mortals.

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Radicalized!!!

My dear feline friends, the second night was just as hot as the first. The air conditioner kept running, and running, and running. One could not hear oneself think. Of course that meant nothing to my humans because, obviously, they weren’t thinking. I mistakenly thought that it could get no worse. That was when Fuzzy and Blondie decided to add to the noise by watching a horrid British detective show. Because they couldn’t understand the British accents, they cranked the volume up to an intolerable setting. I was in pain. I was in agony. I had finally reached the point where I could stand no more. And that is when I devised my radical solution – there would be no sleep for anyone in ECMD until this cat was returned to his rightful place in the most peaceful and tranquil Serendipity Farmhouse.

I won’t burden you with the details of my actions, but you can be certain that all of the following tactics were employed: nudging, bumping, nibbling, biting, scratching, jumping, endless meowing, and repeatedly exclaiming, “Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

Let me emphasize that point by showing you how I expressed my feelings to those two insensitive humans: “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!” “Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

Despite all that, Fuzzy and Blondie continued to act as if they didn’t understand. Finally at 2 AM, out of desperation, I went to the corner where the metal door to my carrier was stored. I clawed at it and dislodged it. I dragged it out to where Fuzzy could see what I had. Then I jumped into my carrier and looked at him and bellowed, “Meoowww! Listen you jerk, Meoowww! I wanna go home!”

But it was all to no avail. Even though they could not sleep, they insisted on ignoring my pleas. It wasn’t until the sun had risen and they drank their coffee, that they would begin preparing for the trip home. Meanwhile, I was sleepless and a wreck from my encounter with their ignorant behavior. I rolled over in front of my carrier, feet up in the air, and played dead. And so I remained until Fuzzy said I should get into the carrier. I immediately did as he said, all the time wanting to take a pound of his flesh, but I didn’t want to delay our departure. Forty-five minutes later, we were home. I quietly flopped on the floor in front of the fan and refused to interact with either of them for the remainder of the day. – May it ever be so humble there’s no place like Serendipity Farmhouse!

 

RV Trip 2021-01: Project Sausage

I will not lower myself to respond to the grossly erroneous and highly embellished statements made by Mr. Monte in last week’s post RV Trip 2021-01: A Very Tent Situation. Besides that, I’m not at liberty to discuss the screen tent incident due to current ongoing libel proceedings in the case of Fuzzy v. Monte.

Nevertheless, I must note that the erection of the screen tent was closely tied to a nearly month-long joint effort by the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen staff and the intrepid crew of the Class-C RV, El Camino Del Monte. This ambitious effort was conducted under the once secret code name: Project Sausage.

It all started more than a half year ago when a fellow Ohioan named Tom raised the exciting possibility of gathering a group of friends for a day of sausage making and mirth-filled camaraderie. I had no sausage making experience and Tom had very little, so it would be necessary to test the feasibility of his plan with a two-man experimental run. – It was agreed, March 20th would be the day.

While waiting for the big day, I consulted with the entire staff of the SFH Test Kitchen and we planned for a broad-based endeavor that went far beyond just the making of sausage. Project Sausage would bring together several cooking disciplines to include: sausage making, long-term storage, at-home preparation, and ultimately, RV cooking in the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Mobile Test Kitchen.

The big day finally came. Tom was so kind as to provide the necessary equipment (grinder and stuffer). He also procured the pork butt and the hog casings. His well-appointed kitchen became both a cooking laboratory and a playground for two Ohio boys who grew up with a great appreciation for East European sausages. – It wasn’t a pretty sight (no one ever describes sausage making as that), but, oh my, it was fun!

The pictures below show some of the highlights of the day.

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At the end of this post you will find the recipe I adapted for this venture. Tom made his own adaptation. Once we had completed step number six, just before stuffing, we cooked up a small sample from each batch. That was our lunch and our chance to determine if changes to spices were needed. – We were both happy with what we had done. Our break was over and we stuffed the casings, cleaned up the mess, and each ended up with over eight pounds of homemade sausage.

The SFH Test Kitchen is no stranger to preparing foods for long-term storage. On March 24th, the Staff assembled for a quick session with the Food Saver and bagged and froze the sausages. That day, seven packs of links and two packs of unstuffed sausage were stored away in the freezer. Two links were reserved for a taste test after grilling. The taste test resulted in a thumbs-up from Blondie.

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Now that brings us to the true goal of Project Sausage. The objective was to turn our homemade sausage into a staple food for RV expeditions. We wanted to take the simple product and turn it into a fine food, suitable for Blondie’s notion of high-end glamping. In so doing, we manged to transform this humble SFH Hungarian Sausage into a dinner delight and a breakfast treasure. And to all that, we added the ambiance of eating in the bug-free comfort of our new screen tent. It was an ambitious pursuit, but, despite my minor tangle (tango) with the screen tent, it was both successful and rewarding.

Below are pictures of our evening meal served in a romantic yet adventurous way. Next you will see a simple brunch featuring SFH Hungarian Sausage (leftover from the night before) with delightfully seasoned scrambled eggs. – – Two meals, one featured item, and great taste all around. – – Project Sausage was a success!!

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Note: This SFH Test Kitchen recipe was adapted from Hungarian Homemade Sausage (Hazi Kolbasz), written by Barbara Rolek

Serendipity Hungarian Sausage

Prep Time 1 hr 45 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Course Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4

Equipment

  • Meat grinder, manual or electric
  • Sausage stuffer, manual

Ingredients
  

  • 6 pounds well-marbled pork butt
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 4+ garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 ½ tbsp salt
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • tbsp paprika
  • 1 cup water
  • 14+ feet hog casings (rinsed three times)

Instructions
 

  • Gather the ingredients.
  • Rinse hog casings and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • In a small bowl, mix garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, and water, and set aside.
  • Slice pork into strips small enough to fit in meat grinder. Coarsely grind the meat in a hand-cranked or electric grinder. Place meat in a large container.
  • Add ground beef to ground pork and mix thoroughly.
  • Combine water-spice mixture with meat until thoroughly incorporated. To ensure the seasonings are just right, fry a small patty and taste. If desired, refrigerate the meat mixture, covered, overnight before stuffing so it flavors.
  • Remove casings from refrigerator and knot one end. Lightly coat the stuffing funnel with cooking spray or some leftover fat from the pork. Slip the other end of the casing over the mouth of the funnel. Continue to push the remainder of casing up onto funnel until you have reached the knot.
  • Begin to force the meat into the casing with one hand while using the other hand to control the thickness of the sausage as it is extruded. - The sausage will shrink when it cooks, so you want a nice plump sausage. But be careful you don't overstuff or the casing will burst.
  • Keep extruding until the casing is used up. Tie a knot in that end. You can either leave the sausage in a large coil or twist it at 6-inch intervals to make links. Use immediately or store sausage refrigerated and covered up to two days until ready to cook.
  • For long-term storage, freeze sausage in suitable freezer bags. The SFH Test Kitchen packs four sausage links in single Food Saver vacuum sealed bags. - You can also freeze un-stuffed sausage for other cooking purposes.

RV Cooking – Two Easy Meals

For the intrepid crew of El Camino Del Monte (ECDM), RV Trip 2020-02 was an unqualified success. (See SFH Journal: 2020-06-08 through 06-21 – Father’s Day.) After two very short and frustrating RV seasons, ECDM is now cruising and camping with a qualified crew.

IMG_20200616_173857294_editedOne of the most notable and rewarding achievements this season, is the way in which my beautiful wife has mastered the art of preparing gourmet meals in the cramped confines of our RV kitchen. She is no mere camper. She is a “glamper”. She knows how to raise the level of any common dish to the sublime. And she does so using the most simple equipment and a bare minimum of space

So, let’s take a closer look at how she has developed her skills and elevates camp cooking to “glamp” cooking.

Planning: No adventure on ECDM begins without a menu, prepared in advance, with all ingredients neatly stowed in their appointed places. Likewise, recipes for main courses must always be available for reference. Below are the menu and recipes for our most recent trip.

Food Prep: Most efficient and adept Spouse has determined that it is best to do as much food preparation as possible prior to departure. The prepared items store better in the fridge and much time is saved. For longer trips, of course, food prep has to be done as part of meal preparation. Another thing, make sure you have all the necessary spices and they are clearly labeled. – Note that there was a menu change for the second evening. – One has to be flexible.

The Right Equipment: Storage space is limited on ECDM. That means that sweet Wife must make the most out of just a few select pieces of cooking equipment. For example, we have what essentially is a rice cooker. However, we have found dozens of recipes that can be prepared in that little wonder. Likewise, you will see later on several ways in which our master chef makes use of our large sauce pan.

Don’t Overdo It: Even for my amazing Glamper, breakfast and lunch are meant to be more relaxed – especially that first cup of coffee. Mr. Monte agrees that breakfast must be relaxing, savored, and enjoyed. Please note: In the picture below, Mr. Monte immediately washed down the dinette table and sanitized all surfaces after eating. He is a most fastidious feline.

Now to the food. The first recipe is one of a host of different curry dishes served at Serendipity Farmhouse. This particular recipe has been modified and improved over a period of more than 25 years. Slight changes have been made to allow for best results on ECDM.

The second recipe came off of the side of a Frigo Parmesan Cheese container. The reason we selected it was quite simple. We had a head of broccoli from our local CSA that needed to be eaten. This recipe made that possible.

Indian Chicken Curry – The ECDM Way

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Indian Chicken Curry - The ECDM Way

This has been a family favorite for 25+ years. There are several versions. This version has been adapted for cooking in a cramped RV kitchen.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4

Equipment

  • Large sauce pan
  • mi AROMA 3-cup Mini Rice Cooker or similar

Ingredients
  

Chicken

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil extra virgin
  • 4 bite-sized, boneless chicken thighgs we prefer dark meat, substitute white meat if you prefer

Curry Sauce

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil extra virgin
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup tomato juice we use 1/3 cup catsup mixed with 2/3 cup of water
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

Sticky Rice

  • 1 cup calrose rice
  • 1 1/4 cup water

Instructions
 

Chicken

  • Add olive oil to sauce pan and bring to medium heat. Add chopped chicken and cook thoroughly. Reserve cooked chicken when done.

Sticky RIce

  • Add rice and water to rice cooker and start on white rice setting.

Sauce & Final Touches

  • Add olive oil to sauce pan and bring to medium heat. Add chopped onions and celery begin to sautee. Stir in flour to coat vegetables. Gradually stir in broth and tomato juice (or catsup and water mixture), Stir in Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Allow to cook for 15-20 minutes, until mixture thickens.
  • Stir in cooked chicken and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Serve Indian curry mixture either over or on the side of the sticky rice. Garnish dish to taste. - - Please note, this dished can be served with any number of traditional sides, e.g. raisins, cashews, mandarin orange, etc.

Parmesan Broccoli Pasta

Parmesan Broccoli Pasta

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4

Equipment

  • Large sauce pan

Ingredients
  

  • 1 head broccoli cleaned and trimmed
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 5 oz. Frigo Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup olive oil extra virgin
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Place broccoli in boinling water until al dente, 3-4 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  • Bring water back to a boil and cook pasta according to instructions. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of water.
  • Combine pasta with broccoli, remaining ingredients and reserved water to achieve desired consistency. Toss and serve hot.

SFH Journal: 2020-05-18 through 06-07 – Summer Arrives

Meteorological Summer: There are several conventions for what constitutes “summer.” Here at Serendipity Farmhouse we use the meteorological convention, that is, “summer” is comprised of the months of June, July, and August. That being said, we can now declare that Summer has arrived at SFH.

I didn’t need an encyclopedia to understand that Summer was here. There are literally hundreds of obvious clues and indicators to make the point. For example, the first blossom on our magnolia tree tells the story. It is surrounded by a myriad of buds, each ready to burst open in their magnificent seasonal display.

There is one exceedingly unavoidable sign proving that the hot, humid days of Summer have arrived. Observe the following pictures.

– Can there be any doubt left in your mind? – One rather overheated kitty has retreated to his favorite place – a place of warmth in the Winter and coolness in the Summer. – Mr. Monte’s one smart feline.

The Great Scape!

No, not the 1963 American epic war film starring Steve McQueen “The Great Escape.” I’m talking about the stalk and flower that grow directly from the center of a garlic plant. With garlic you get two harvests. The familiar head, made up of a number of cloves, is the second harvest. The first harvest is the scape. It can be used in much the same way as garlic, and it can go directly into salads or be sauteed with other vegetables. For a quick description of garlic scapes and their uses, click here.

IMG_20200530_144937657_HDR_editedHere you see this year’s harvest of 30 garlic scapes. They’ve just been cleaned and resourceful wife is planning to use them in a number of dishes. But, before she dares use them in any of our food, they must pass a very strict inspection by the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen’s Chief of Food Quality. The following sequence of pictures shows the inspection process. As you will see, our inspector determined beyond any reasonable doubt that the scapes were high quality, clean, completely organic, and that they unquestionably meet the high standards we maintain here at SFH. You will also note that he considers scapes to be among his most favored vegetables.

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Today, we are going to gift all of our dear readers with a basic recipe for a simple cilantro pesto, featuring fresh garlic scapes. I must, however, confess that this recipe has only received one and a half stars from the SFH Test Kitchen judging staff. Nevertheless, it is our job to keep you apprised of all tests conducted in our highly esteemed test kitchen. We are committed to exposing the truth and let it stand on its own merits. So, without further ado here is:

"Not So" Fabulous Cilantro Pesto

When your Spring garden is overproducing garlic scapes and your community supported agriculture (CSA) farm has just handed you a half ton of cilantro, which your beautiful Spouse detests, this is how you modify a basic recipe from allrecipes to make it somewhat palitable. For the slightly atypical family that resides at and cares for Serendipity Farmhouse, this dish guaranteed that half the family would go to bed hungry.
Prep Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian

Equipment

  • Food processor

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound pasta
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 3 each garlic scapes substitute for 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 taplespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan chees
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts substitute for walnuts or pecans
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil extra virgin

Instructions
 

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, and return water to a boil. Cook pasta for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain well. Reserve 1/2 cup water.
  • In an electric food processor or blender, blend cilantro, garlic, vinegar, Parmesan cheese, cayenne pepper, nuts, and salt. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and blend the pesto. Add more olive oil until the pesto reaches your desired consistency.
  • Pour pesto in a small saucepan and warm over low heat, stirring constantly, until pesto begins to simmer. Pour over cooked pasta and toss. Add reserved water to thin as desired.

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s gone into the gardens and what has come out since our last Journal post. They will also update you on the arrival of the hot, humid days of Summer:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-05-18 through 05-24

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-05-25 through 05-31

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-06-01 through 06-07

 

And the morel of this story is …

What happens when Spring, wild chives, fresh asparagus, good neighbors, and a “honey hole” all come together at the same time? We here at SFH call it – “Serendipity!”

My creative and amazing Wife has made Sunday our official “Menu Day.” She thinks and ponders – I wait for her inspiration. Then it comes! She dictates – I type, feverishly trying to keep up with her burst of creative energy. Then, there it is, the menu for the week. A true work of glorious culinary planning has taken shape before my very eyes.

That wonderful weekly menu, however, is not set in stone. No, no, sweet wife is a believer in “Serendipity”, and because we have exceedingly generous and entirely unpredictable neighbors, “Serendipity” is a frequent visitor. (See related posts here and here.)

That is where the “honey hole” comes in. Whether it be the mysterious gathering of huckleberries in Idaho or the Spring rite of finding a highly favored mushroom in Virginia, the location of the “honey hole” is never ever revealed.

Thus it was on Thursday, an unnamed friend, provided an undisclosed amount of those highly favored mushrooms, gathered from a most secret “honey hole” somewhere within a 10-mile radius of SFH, to our dear neighbor. She, in turn, requesting utter and complete silence on the matter, gifted us with a dozen medium sized morel mushrooms.

Wondrous Spouse immediately set Mr. Monte and me to the task of finding an appropriate recipe that would highlight the delicate texture and flavor of the morels. We found several, but none was good enough to allow the morels to stand out as the deciding feature of delight that they certainly should be.

Saturday night, lovely Wife made the decision to take some ideas from the several recipes we collected, but she would improvise and make it a recipe truly her own. Immediately, the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen was mobilized. Mr. Monte would inspect all ingredients and supervise kitchen safety. I would slice, dice, and fetch. Meanwhile, the Chief Chef for the night worked with amazing speed and masterful zeal – this was an opportunity to take the best from what the Serendipity Farmhouse gardens were producing. It would also be an opportunity to invoke here “inner Julia”.

A key ingredient for the dish was our own garden asparagus. Wild chives grow everywhere in the yard. Mr. Monte recommended including some of them. Rather than use garlic, our beautiful Chef would mate the chives with a chopped shallot. With the exception of the gnocchi, all ingredients would be sauteed in just the right amount of butter and olive oil.

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In just a very few short minutes, my ever so capable Wife had prepared a masterpiece. It spoke of Spring freshness with our own chives and asparagus, and it mysteriously punctuated the entire meal with the exotic yet earthy aroma and flavor of morel mushrooms. – –

And the morel of this story is – never make a menu set in stone when there is the slightest chance that “Serendipity” might appear.

Gnocchi with Morel Mushrooms

Serendipity
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 package fresh gnocchi
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 dozen morel mushrooms sliced in halves
  • 2 wild chives chopped
  • 1 shallot finely chopped
  • 2-3 spears asparagus sliced diagonally
  • 1/2 - 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup reserved gnocchi cooking liquid
  • 1 pinch kosher salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper or to taste
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese for garnish
  • 1/4 tsp grated lemon zest for garnish
  • 2 wild chives for garnish, finely chopped

Instructions
 

  • Boil fresh gnocchi 2-3 minutes until soft; reserve 1/2 cup liquid prior to draining.
  • As gnocchi cooks, add olive oil and butter to wok or large skillet and warm over medium-high heat until butter melts. Add morel mushrooms and saute, tossing occasionally, until they soften slightly.
  • Add chopped shallots and chives and continue to saute for about 3 minutes.
  • Add gnocchi, asparagus, peas, and reserved cooking liquid in with mushrooms. Cook, tossing occasionally, until asparagus and peas begin to warm and sauce starts to thicken.
  • Serve and add grated parmeson cheese, lemon zest, and uncooked chives to garnish. - - The flavors have now reached their peak. Eat without delay!

Making Better Than “Do” – Sometimes

It’s not my intention to burden our readers, followers, and friends with needless words this day. Perhaps a few background notes, a descriptive sentence, and well chosen photos will suffice. Let’s give it a try.

In our post How We Make Do we discussed menu changes, food substitutions, and a few other ways to make a good meal even though we have the present set of challenges. Over the last few weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to experiment and develop our food preparation strategy. Some experiments have worked quite well – some have not. Here are some examples of both types of results.

Example 1 – Goat Milk Cheese – (Rating *****): This was a no-brainer. We have written IMG_20200416_144648722_editedseveral posts about how we make goat milk cheese here at SFH. We have plenty of supplies on hand and the goats at our local dairy farm have been very obliging this year. – – I’ll be making some more tomorrow.

Example 2 – Ham & Bean Soup – (Rating **): We had leftover ham and ham bone from Christmas. We have many pounds of dried beans. The Instant Pot recipe was highly confident in saying that the beans need no soaking before cooking – “No Presoaking Dry Beans.” The recipe lied!! Beautiful wife was unhappy. Mr. Monte and I sought shelter.

The next day the house was filled with the delightful smell of the first day’s failed ham & bean soup as it the cooked in the slow cooker. After hours of additional cooking, wondrous Spouse announced that the terrible mistakes of the preceding day had been successfully remediated.  Although the final result was acceptable, only two stars can be awarded to this meal.

Lesson Learned: Always, always presoak the beans.

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Example 3 – Pasta Carbonara – (Rating ****): There is no shortage of pasta in the SFHIMG_20200421_180304825_edited pantry. Bacon, however, is a precious commodity these days. No problem. We had some prosciutto approaching its expiration date. Farm fresh eggs are available in abundance at our local dairy farm and, most happily, our asparagus is now producing enough for limited use. Voila! Pasta Carbonara with the SFH magic touch.

Example 4 – SFH Salad Deluxe – (Rating *****): Our motto is Pray, Prepare, Preserve. This year, our vegetable gardens add some meaning and illustration to why we say “Prepare.” Food will be there when we need it. So, last night there was an amazing salad featuring Serendipity Farmhouse vegetables. The veggies that came from our own garden included: garlic leaves, parsley, red leaf lettuce, purple kale, and romaine. We added fresh asparagus to the baked chicken thighs. They absorbed the flavor of the chicken and, in turn, added a minor but noticeable accent to the chicken.  The pictures below show how far the vegetable garden has come already this Spring.

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Example 5 – Homemade Whole Wheat Bread (Rating ****): As promised in our post How We Make Do, we made our first loaf of bread machine wheat bread yesterday. This required that I take out the wheat grinder we purchased in 2010 and grind up enough hard red wheat to make flour for at least one loaf of bread. We used a recipe called Easy Whole Wheat Bread by Allrecipes. A whole egg was added instead of egg substitute or egg powder. With one minor exception, the results were excellent. Flavor and texture were perfect, but the top rose and then fell. No damage to the bread, mind you, but an imperfection not acceptable in the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen. – Thus we could only award four stars to this beautiful loaf of the staff of life.

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Example 6 – She Won’t Let Me Do it (Rating – We’ll never know): There are many plants in this yard that are edible but not on our regular menu. Long ago I told you that Redbud tree buds, leaves, and seed pods are all edible. Imagine how delighted I was when I found out that the leaves on the hosta bushes that surround SFH are also edible. I immediately wanted to try out this new wonder. Lovely Wife objected. – Ergo, we will not eat the hosta leaves unless in extremis. However, I can’t help but looking at all those hostas and wondering.

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How We Make Do

For some time to come, what is now in the Serendipity Farmhouse pantry will have to suffice. Oh, to be sure, some items such as milk, eggs, and greens can be found locally. Yet it’s quite clear that in the coming weeks dearest Wife will have to call upon her imagination and incredible resourcefulness to plan our weekly menu. In fact, she has already demonstrated some of the skills that are essential for times like these. – So, here are some examples of How We Make Do here at Serendipity Farmhouse.

IMG_20200322_170557204_editedTaco Salad: In this case, beautiful Spouse brought together a a simple meal by using what was at hand. We had leftover salad and a third of a bag of corn chips. We learned long ago that solid and shredded cheese could be frozen, so we had the necessary cheese. And, of course, we have many jars of salsa from last year’s growing season. Ground beef was in the freezer. Unfortunately, this was the last of the sour cream. But, a dollop of sour cream on a superbly crafted taco salad is one of life’s great joys. – In short, resourceful Wife benefited by using preserved items and leftovers.

Modifying an Instant Pot Recipe: There is an excellent instant pot recipe for ground beef and pasta that we have used several times. (You can find it here Instant Pot Ground Beef and Pasta.) It’s easy to make and doesn’t take much time to prepare. When my wondrous Spouse began to prepare this meal, she found that we lacked two items in the recipe – 8 ounces of campanelle pasta and a jar of marinara sauce. No problem! We have an entire assortment of pastas to substitute – we chose penne rigate pasta. To solve the marinara sauce problem, clever Wife mixed a can of tomato sauce with our very own SFH G&G Pasta Sauce. – The end result was a much more flavorful version of this instant pot dish.

Bread Machine Bread: It’s not worth the trip to a grocery store to get a loaf of store bought bread – ever. Read the ingredients – if you can’t pronounce it, perhaps you shouldn’t eat it. Sweet Spouse has been making bread with a bread machine for decades. So, it’s no wonder that, over the last few weeks, that beloved homemade staple has become an important item in our menu planning.

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White Bread: The soon to be famous SFH kitchen recommends a very simple white bread recipe for beginners. (Check it out here White Bread For The Bread Machine.

Wheat Bread: To stretch out our flour supply, we will start making wheat bread this week. We have a good supply of hard red wheat berries and a flour mill. I will grind up sufficient quantities of wheat flour for bread making. We will try out a number of recipes and will provide updates to let you know which recipes you might want to try.

So there it is. We’ve given you a small taste of How We Make Do here at Serendipity Farmhouse. And, I suppose, we have also given you a small taste of How We Make Dough here at Serendipity Farmhouse.

Bon appetit!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SFH Journal: 2020-03-23 through 03-29 – Oh, Happy Routine!

I won’t dance around the subject. Life is not the same as it was this time last year. Right??

Don’t be so quick to jump to a conclusion. Let’s look back a year and see what we were doing. Take a look at this post – SFH Journal: 2019-04-07 through 13 – Things You Never Expected! Take special notice of the entry “13 APR: Mother Nature Still Calls the Shots:“. Yep, gentle readers, we had set out to power wash and paint the railings on our deck. Did we ever finish that job? Nope.

Well, nope, until this last week. Despite bad weather, procrastination, and very studied and highly skilled forms of laziness, our collective conscience forced us to return to that task. I must say, my dearest Spouse was a very strong motivational force for me.

To be sure, the job took a very, very long time. But please note, we did complete it in less than one calendar year. So, in addition to the picture of my dearest and most sweet Motivator-in-Chief at the head of this post, I will give you a few glimpses of before and after of this now completely completed task.

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– And from all this we derive a great bit of Serendipity Farmhouse Wisdom – A task worth doing is even more worth doing when it is put off to when it can be put off no more.

Once again, I won’t dance around the subject. Life is not the same as it was this time last year. Right??

Don’t be so quick to jump to a conclusion. Let’s look back a year and see what we were doing. Take a look at this post – Reflections on Spring at Serendipity Farmhouse

Take special notice of the portion of that post that says:

“There are two major cycles to life at SFH. The first is our motto, the way we approach each day – Pray, Prepare, Preserve. The second is the underpinning of our relationships – Faith, Family & Country.”

This year as last, Spring has come. Here are some pictures to remind us that beauty and growth are part of the “Happy Routine” here at Serendipity Farmhouse.

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And the best sign that life goes on here at SFH is when the potting table has been returned to its normal place and industrious Wife is nurturing the young tomatoes, peppers, and herbs as she waits for just the perfect time for planting.

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God provides many, many blessings. It our job to seek and to understand them, even when they are shrouded in mystery.

By the way, today is our Anniversary.

Oh, Happy Routine!

 

SFH by the Numbers – Facts & Statistics

SFH Plantings: See SFH 2019 Plantings

SFH Harvest: See SFH 2019 Harvest

SFH Preserving: See SFH 2019 – Preserving – Food for Tomorrow

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: See SFH Weather Summaries & Statistics

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-03-23 through 03-29

 

 

Hot Peppers Above & Beyond

Last night was a food disappointment. Today was a Serendipity Farmhouse, spicy food delight.

Here’s what happened.

Granddaughter #1 was here for a visit last night – that, by no means, was a disappointment. No, it was the food that was disappointing. Yours truly engaged in the ritual outlined for making Italian Herb and Garlic Focaccia Bread sold by the Prepared Pantry in Rigby, Idaho. I followed the directions nearly to perfection. Neither Granddaughter #1 nor the SFH Master Chef, Mr. Monte, found any flaws in my execution. The bread turned out as advertised.

So, what caused the disappointment? It was our choice to use store-bought, crushed red peppers. That was the mistake. Those peppers were lifeless, devoid of zing and zest, just humdrum, lazy old peppers that left one wanting and, as I’ve said, they rendered the overall meal disappointing.

Here’s what we did to rectify our error.

As the clock chimed Noon today, Granddaughter #1, Mr. Monte, Blondie, and I commenced our quest for a spicy hot pepper topping that would be “Hot peppers above & beyond”. So, without further needless prattle, let me explain how we took some of our own homegrown SFH peppers and turned them into a magic spice topping.

As you well know from many of our posts, SFH grows a new kind of hot pepper each year and preserves them. To make our new topping, all we had to do was pull out five jars of our dehydrated, dry-canned hot peppers, select, mix, and crush them.

Utensils & Appliances: As shown below, an electric coffee grinder, a FoodSaver with vacuum attachments, two measuring cups, two plastic bowls, and two small spice shakers were all the utensils we needed.

Ingredients: The five varieties of hot peppers we selected are listed below. To be sure, we paid great respect to the relative spiciness/heat of each of the pepper varieties. In addition to quantity of each pepper variety used, I’ve also provided the original date that we dehydrated and dry-canned the peppers. That will help to understand how preserving our harvest by dehydrating and dry-canning has saved us money over the course of several years.

1 cup – Jalapeno peppers – 2015-10-22
1 cup – Salsa peppers – 2017-08-18
½ cup – Seranno peppers – 2018-08-04
½ cup – Cow Horn peppers – 2019-09-13
½ cup – Habanero peppers – 2017-08-19

The time expended from beginning to the end of this venture was barely 30 minutes. As you can see, 3½ cups of peppers, when crushed and ground, reduced to a rather small quantity of finished product. But, that’s no problem because this mixture is gram-for-gram a very potent mix. It doesn’t take much of this topping to turn what was just a humdrum piece of focaccia into a fantastically tasty joy to eat. – – Today for lunch, yours truly, had a piece of focaccia that was a spicy food delight.

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Lesson Learned 2020-02: Before you try preparing this mixture in your own kitchen, please pay heed to my most earnest and sincere warning. Working with any one of these five varieties of hot peppers would require that you take precautionary measures during preparation. When all five of them come together, if not handled properly, they become a toxic brew that causes coughing, wheezing, watery eyes, and a myriad of other ill effects. At a very minimum, use a face mask as I did.

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Now, some people have an extremely strong reaction to airborne ingredients present during the preparation of our SFH spicy topping. Although you might not be able to recognize her, that is my dear, sweet wife who decided to use a more radical approach to self protection. Mr. Monte wore a similar suit, but I wasn’t able to get him to hold still for a picture.

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