Category: Recipe

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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SFH Test Kitchen – Hubby Under Pressure

OK you foodies, I had hoped to bring you a very fine food & recipe post based on our most recent adventures in the culinary arts. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen in this post because my dear, sweet Hubby once again succumbed to his knack of “over thinking” a problem.

A little background is needed. I have the distinct pleasure of being one of those “girls raised in the South” (GRITS). New Year’s Day would not be complete without the traditional black-eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread. Hubby is a Yankee, but this traditional meal is one of his favorites. In fact, he offered to make it the first featured meal of the soon-to-be-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen for the year 2020.

Being the geek that he is, he declared that the ever so important black-eyed peas would be prepared in our almost brand new Instant Pot. Hubby has background experience with pressure cookers since he was young and he thought using the Instant Pot would be a stimulating challenge. – – This, devoted readers, was his plan – his Plan A. He had no Plan B.

Hubby chose the recipe “Southern-Style Black-Eyed Peas” by Laurel Randolph in her book Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook. He elected to go with leftover Christmas ham rather than bacon and added and subtracted a few other items.

Late in the morning on New Year’s Day, the clock was ticking. My dear friend Nancy would be here at 1PM. I had prepared the collard greens – perfect! The cornbread had just come out of the oven – heavenly! Freshly homemade butter was at room temperature waiting to meet the cornbread.

Hubby, with flair and enthusiasm, had sauteed the onions and ham in the Instant Pot. The aroma incited high expectations for what was to come. The broth and black-eyed peas and other ingredients were added to the pot. The lid was locked in place. Hubby set the pressure cook time … and then … and then … and then there was nothing. – – No indicator lights, no build up of pressure.

Meanwhile, Mr. Monte jumped up on the counter. We told him it wasn’t time to eat. He insisted on staying on the counter and was laboring to get an important message across to us. We had no time for that. Mr. Monte was removed from the counter.

My almost but not quite in a state of panic Spouse checked the plug. He moved it from socket to socket. He cycled ground fault buttons. He noted that there was some warming in the pot, but still no indicator lights and no pressure build up.

It was past 1PM. Nancy was late. Hubby was turning in tight little circles. His ears were turning red. Nothing was going as it should.

Then, Nancy arrived. We greeted her. Hubby attempted to look untroubled. He wasn’t very convincing. His ears turned more red and it was obvious that he was suppressing his speech out of consideration of the presence of dear friend Nancy.

At just about the same time, Hubby and I asked the question, “Can’t we take the black-eyed peas and finish cooking them in our old pressure cooker?” Hubby immediately answered the question and said, “That’s it, that’s my Plan B.”

Within 30 seconds, my enterprising spouse had pulled out the old pressure cooker; transferred all of the black-eyed peas; and had the pot heating up on the trusty SFH Test Kitchen stove.

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While the peas were heating, Hubby cleaned out the Instant Pot and was preparing to put it away. – – That is when he saw it! – That’s when he realized that Mr. Monte was calling the wrong person Blondie. That’s when he saw that the plug was no longer attached to the Instant Pot.

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Now to make a very long story very short. The peas went back into the Instant Pot. When they were served they far exceeded the expectations of all gathered around the table. Dearest Hubby said not a word as he completed cleaning the old pressure cooker and, of course, the Instant Pot for the second time of the day.

Lesson Learned 2020-01: An Instant Pot is not like a crock pot or a toaster. The electric cord is detachable. That cord is subject to Murphy’s Law and it will detach itself when you least expect it.

Lesson Learned 2020-02: When your 20-pound Maine Coon Cat jumps on the counter and tries to tell you that the Instant Pot electric cord is detached – – Listen to him!!!

Happy New Year!!!

 

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

新年おめでとうございます。

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).

Why?

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 Waywardseed.com website, but, through the marvels of the Wayback Machine, you can find the recipe here: Waywardseed.com – Apple Butter Recipe. Please note the important  SFH-TK modifications to the original recipe

Ingredients:

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:

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  • 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:

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  • 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!