Category: SFH Food Talk & Recipes

SFH Journal: 2021-02-15 through 02-21 – Serenity @ Serendipity

In the midst of Winter, when the snows fall, when the ice hangs from the branches, this is when Serendipity Farmhouse surrenders to a quiet time and a type of mystical serenity all dictated by the season. Pantry shelves remain filled with the preserved foods from Summer and the woodshed shelters the fuel for many more warm fires. – Even though the temperature has just dipped to 13°F, there is no reason to fear February in the Blue Ridge.

This brief moment of relative silence and calm is the perfect time to reflect upon mysteries and truths extending beyond our valley, beyond our country, even beyond this present world. This last Wednesday began the season we call Lent. It is a season of reflection, prayer, and much more. It is for us the time when we replenish our spiritual foods and draw from them the fuel to rekindle our spiritual fire. – Even though there is turmoil throughout the world, there is no reason to fear Lent in the Blue Ridge.

Meal planning in Lent can be challenging, even for the master chefs at the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen. Meatless meals, reduced portions, no snacks, and other modifications must all be considered when planning the weekly menu. Add to that the fact that getting out to buy groceries is harder than during other seasons.

This last week, we revisited a type of dish that is quite open to variations, modifications, and innovations – sheet pan meals. We learned about this style of meal quite a while back from an allrecipes recipe for Mediterranean Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner. Interestingly, this month, allrecipes featured an article by Caitlyn Diinig highlighting an array of sheet pan meals and dinner ideas. (See Use this Simple Formula for Your Best Sheet Pan Dinners.) Rather than sticking to any single recipe we made a Mediterranean Chicken dinner with the ingredients we had on hand. We added spices and other touches that are only known by SFH Test Kitchen staff members. The result was an enjoyable meal on Thursday, followed by a delightful encore last night. – Try it. You’ll like it.

Each day in February at SFH brings new lessons and new perspectives. For example, last week Mr. Monte showed you a picture of what happens when I make the trek in deep snow to the woodshed. The load is heavy and the wagon wheels sink down into the snow. Some days ago, we had a great deal of snow and ice. That type of wintry mix always bring concerns about power outages and other damage. Yet, with the bad sometimes comes a pleasing good. Yesterday, when I brought in wood from the shed, the ice was so hard and thick that the wagon wheels did not sink. It was as if I were pulling it across a smooth asphalt parking lot.

There was incident that threatened the calm and quiet of this past week in February. – I won’t say that Mr. Monte, SFH Chief of Security, was caught off guard. In fact, he was very much on guard. But, even for an experienced and globally acclaimed security chief like Mr. Monte, it is impossible to be fully prepared for all circumstances. Mr. Monte knows full well that opossums are nocturnal critters. They pose no major threat to the SFH estate. Mr. Monte has viewed security camera photos of the critters, but because he is primarily diurnal and opossums are primarily nocturnal, he had never had a real-life encounter with one.

During the late afternoon of Friday the 19th, Mr. Monte was on watch. I had just come out onto the porch where he was standing guard. It was then that we both noticed simultaneously that a strange, rather ugly looking creature was roaming near the east side of the porch. Mr. Monte immediately went into full alert status, jumping from table to benches, and benches to window sills. There was an unauthorized intruder approaching the SFH inner security perimeter and Mr. Monte was set to respond with full force.

Recognizing that there was no real threat. I quickly picked up Mr. Monte and rapidly explained that this was only a harmless opossum on an unusual daytime foray. Mr. Monte quickly grasped the situation and backed down from full alert. He did ask me, however, to take a picture of the creature as it was retreating to safety. Our Chief of Security had to have documentary evidence to support his official security log entry. And here is proof that Mr. Monte, as always, was on the job.

Opossum in rapid retreat

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-02-15 through 02-21

SFH Journal: 2021-01-18 through 01-31 – Visitors

Hi! Mr. Monte here!

To my 23,417 feline followers, especially my many cat cousins residing in Virginia, before we get into the boring “human interest” malarkey, here is this month’s lesson on how to wage a psychological influence campaign successfully. In this case, the objective of the campaign was to influence my two big cats to purchase a new comforter set suitable to my regal position at Serendipity Farmhouse.

First, it is necessary to understand that in waging such a campaign, the subjects must be worn down, tired, and mentally confused – sleep deficit tactics are most useful. For nearly a week, I would wake both of them, alternately purring, nuzzling, and sitting on their heads. Once they were suitably disoriented, I then pretended that something was in the comforter, perhaps bugs or gnats. I would paw at the comforter, sniff at the comforter, and then pounce on the comforter as if something were actually there. They finally couldn’t stand the notion that something might be crawling around, so they got up and turned on the lights to see what it was – they saw nothing.

I continued attacking the imaginary critters to the point that Fuzzy and Blondie brought in flashlights and minutely inspected every thread of the comforter. They couldn’t see a thing. – I resumed alternately stalking and attacking the imaginary critters.

Fast forward to the next morning. Blondie hit the Internet before the sun was up and looked for a comforter set worthy of yours truly – price was of no concern. – – My dear feline followers please observe the picture above. There you will see the spoils of psychological warfare – my new comforter set. Blondie and Fuzz Face never had a chance!

SFH Security Force Staff Award

Lightning After Disposing of an Intruder

On different note, it always gives me great pleasure to recognize our faithful and exceptionally talented SFH Security Force Staff members. While Bronto the bear and Rusty the Ratsnake take a little time out for their Winter naps, Lightning the broad-winged hawk continues to make his patrols in an effort to rid the SFH estate of unwanted rodents. No matter what the season or what the weather you can hear Lightning overhead, monitoring every corner of this vast estate, ever vigilant to seek out and deter unwanted intruders. – – Today stands as the most recent example of Lightning’s unusual dedication to service. Even now as Winter Storm Orlena is dumping many inches of snow on SFH and the surrounding regions, Lightning’s call can be heard echoing throughout our valley. – – As one proud predator to another: “I commend you, Lightning!”


Okay, the important information has been dutifully conveyed, I guess I can spend some time on that “human interest” stuff that so boars me. We’ll start off with the feature picture of a Great Blue Heron. We on the SFH Security Force call this guy “Benny the Blue.” He is a sporadic, but welcomed visitor. He’s colorful, has lots of good stories, and can show folks a few things about fishing in the North Fork of the Thornton River. He’s also quite welcome because of his eating habits. According to the Audubon Field Guide, his diet is “highly variable and adaptable.” In addition to all the aquatic and amphibian creatures you might expect, he’s quite capable of joining in with Lightning eating snakes and rodents.

I would be greatly remiss even I didn’t spend some time talking about our most recent and greatly cherished guest, Granddaughter #1. She’s no stranger to SFH. In fact she has been featured in several posts including Monticello & Granddaughter #1. Just like Benny the Blue, Granddaughter #1 has many endearing attributes. For example, she is a cat fancier. She knows how to talk to big guys like me without using one of those overly sweet voices. More importantly, however, she is a great cook. She has a natural talent for understanding taste, aroma, and the magical aspects of preparing a fine dish. So, it was with great pleasure that Blondie and I could sit back Friday evening and watch Granddaughter #1 and Ol’ Fuzz Face put together the most aromatic and enticing pizza I’ve ever seen. Our visitor needed no recipe or instructions. She selected the finest ingredients; mixed and matched a wonderful balance of spices and herbs; and ensured that Fuzzy didn’t mess up the crust.

Of course the result was a perfect example of the finest dishes ever produced at the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen. But it didn’t end there. No, if you refer back to our post Hot Peppers Above & Beyond you will note that mere, ordinary crushed red peppers are not what one should put on a truly great pizza. The perfect topping is, of course, our very own SFH Spicy Hot Peppers.

Finally, although I might be one of the world’s finest felines, a truly exquisite blend of knowledge, cunning, and loving affection, Blondie and Fuzzy have something that I would envy. I would envy the fact that they have such wonderful grandchildren. But I don’t have to live in envy. That’s because my two big cats share their grandchildren with me. I guess that’s one of the reasons I like it so much here at SFH. Well, that and the fact that I now have a comfy new comforter set.

Oh, and one last thing. When I get on Fuzzy’s computer to write my exceedingly witty and insightful posts, I often take time to look at pictures of the grandchildren. Just today, I ran across this picture of Granddaughter #1 on a ‘great explore’ at Craters of the Moon National Park. I think Fuzzy captured a bit of her personality in this photo. She is someone who seeks and explores. – As a 21-pound Maine Coon cat, I can appreciate that kind of spirit.

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post.:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-01-18 through 01-24

SFH WX 2021-01-25 through 01-31

SFH Journal 2021-01-03 through 01-17 – Just Hanging In There

Hi. Mr. Monte here.

This time of year is very difficult for a fully mature, unusually fit, remarkably agile, and unquestionably intelligent, 21-pound Maine Coon Cat. The days are short. The weather is dreary. And, most unpleasantly, outside time on the porch is greatly curtailed.

Oh, you may may experienced the Winter blahs, but you have never known the uniquely intense sense of frustration and misery that besets me during this time of year. – – – There, now that I have set the proper mood for this post, let’s see what Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face have been doing to keep our spirits high during these Winter doldrums so that we can just hang in there until Spring arrives.

There’s more on the door.

We at the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen take great enjoyment in cooking gourmet and traditional American meals. Blondie and Fuzzy do a fair-to-middling job of following my instructions and they occasionally surprise me with some excellent cuisine. We like to experiment with all kinds of meats, but inevitably my two big cats come back to their favorite Julia Child recipes featuring beef (boeuf).

This year, one of the fine friends of Serendipity Farmhouse offered to go in with us for a side of Reality Farm beef. – – What great jubilation there was when Blondie and Fuzzy received their share of the beef. A highlight of the last week was when they prepared beef short ribs for the first time in their years together. It was delicious! – – – As a cat I was happy to see that my two big cats were happy. As for me, beef might be fine for them, but if I didn’t kill it, I’m in no real rush to eat it.

Finally Clean! – An oven doesn’t have to be exceptionally dirty to be exceptionally hard to clean. I’m told that when Fuzzy and Blondie moved into SFH the oven did not meet the high standards of cleanliness that are exacted by Blondie. When I arrived on the scene a year later, even though Fuzzy had spent some time in working on some very resistant, burnt-on stains, several offending stains remained. Over the years since then, Blondie and I have reminded Fuzzy that, until that oven is entirely clean, the soon-to-be-world famous SFH Test Kitchen would not be at its finest.

To his credit, Fuzzy pursued his duty to rid the oven of the offensive signs of filth. Finally, on January 14th, 2021 (mark that date for posterity), Ol’ Fuzz Face achieved success. He has submitted this photo as evidence to those who may have doubts.

Fuzzy, don’t be so foolish as to think that you can now rest on your laurels. – – The oven job was only one item off of Blondie’s “honey do” list. You may get away with resting on the Lord’s Day, but all the other days still belong to Blondie and me. – – Now get back to work!

SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post.:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2021-01-04 through 01-10

SFH WX 2021-01-10 through 01-17

SFH Journal: 2020-12-29 through 2020-01-03 – Making Amends to His GRITS

Hi! This is your Serendipity Farmhouse Girl Raised In The South (GRITS).

This is a story about my Hubby. Although, he may have some rough edges and is not quite as cute and cuddly as my sweet Del Monte, in his own way, he is a big part of what makes SFH the pleasant home and quiet retreat from the world that it has become. As I reported to you a year ago, my adventurous and daring Hubby learned two very important lessons concerning common sense and an over abundance of self reliance. The unfortunate affair revolved around Hubby’s desire to master the use of our brand new Instant Pot and to make the best New Year’s Day Southern-style ham and black eye peas ever.

In retrospect, he might have achieved that goal had he read the Instant Pot directions and listened to the most observant and wise creature in all of feline creation – Mr. Monte. No, instead, my Hubby chose a different path, and because of that ill-advised decision, he was publicly humiliated and learned the following two important lessons: IMG_20200104_112051376 (2)_edited

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!!!

(For the full story of how Hubby learned those lessons, see SFH Test Kitchen – Hubby Under Pressure.)

Well, all of that happened a year ago. Since then, dearest Hubby has frequently pondered upon those two lessons learned. Over the course of the last year, many a time Hubby could be seen walking about the vast SFH estate, muttering aloud, over and over again: “Instant Pot – – detachable cord; Mr. Monte – – Listen to him!!!”

So, when it came to this New Year’s Day, I considered his request to redeem his honor. He came to me hat in hand, promising to make amends to his beloved GRITS, promising to to make the best New Year’s Day Southern-style ham and black eye peas ever. – – How could I resist his plea? Although he may have some rough edges and is not quite as cute and cuddly as my sweet Del Monte, in his own way, he is my loving Hubby. – – I could not refuse him. I said, yes.

On New Year’s Day we started the year 2021 all together in the kitchen. I worked the magic that only a GRITS can do, making the best collard greens and cornbread ever. Mr. Monte, the soon-to-be-world-famous SFH Test Kitchen Master Chef, observed, advised, and guided our kitchen staff. And, to one side, dear Hubby, ensuring that the Instant Pot cord was firmly fastened and listening to Chef Monte’s every word, prepared the Southern-style ham and black eye peas.

We sat at our places, prayed our grace, and tasted the flavors of the New Year’s Day meal we had prepared. All was as it should be, all was so very good and tasty. Indeed, Hubby had learned his lessons and we feasted on the best Southern-style ham and black eye peas ever. – – Hubby had made his amends to his beloved GRITS.

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SFH by the Numbers

The following links will catch you up with what’s come out of our gardens and what has gone into mason jars and the freezer since our last Journal post.:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly: 

SFH WX 2020-12-28 through 2021-01-03


RV Season 2020 Comes to a Close

For a number of reasons, we, the intrepid crew of the good RV El Camino Del Monte (ECDM), decided to bring the 2020 RV season to an early close. We had reservations for a sixth excursion to Shenandoah River State Park during the last week of October. Their was great anticipation of being surrounded by the magnificent Autumn color in the midst of the Shenandoah Valley. It was a sad moment for all of us as I pressed the computer key that finalized cancellation of that reservation.

Fortunately, however, our dear friends Don and Louise at Serendipity River Park (SRP) invited us over for an overnight. How could we say ‘no’; there was to be no charge for the stay and they provided free firewood and full use of the brick barbecue/fire pit. (See Serendipity River Park – Re-Creation for details concerning our first trip to SRP.)

So, without a moment’s hesitation and with no planning for a menu and provisions, ECDM was positioned at the best camp site in the park. Dinner was a make-do affair. Once the dishes were cleared, we gathered the firewood and lit the campfire. For two hours we enjoyed the warmth and glow of the blaze. My beautiful Wife and I held hands and talked of grand and cherished memories. Meanwhile, Mr. Monte set up a perimeter guard and warned us of potential threats hidden in the darkness.

We then settled in for the night. Mr. Monte was keen on taking the best spot on our queen-size bed. It was only with some serious discussion and an offer of a bite-size bribe, that he allowed us to occupy our rightful places in the bed.

Even though there was a threat that the remnants of Hurricane Delta would bring us a soaking rain early Sunday morning, we took the chance and made plans for a breakfast outside. – – As it turned out, our instincts were correct. The rain didn’t arrive until noon and our early morning camping experience was all that we had hoped. – – Below are pictures of Serendipity River Park’s main water feature and first colors of Autumn.

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My wondrous Spouse is a certified, card-carrying ‘Glamper”. Gourmet RV meals are her specialty. Because there was no time to plan such a sumptuous meal for this trip, she still managed to turn the most ordinary meal imaginable into a culinary delight.

Cooking simple bacon and scrambled eggs on a camp stove became something of a higher order. The bacon was perfect – crisp, colorful, and best-of-all, tasty. The scrambled eggs, highlighted by the flavor of cheddar cheese, and the aromatic scent of bacon flavor captured while cooking, made the dish a tasteful treasure.

You might be wondering, “What about the coffee?” And, of course, that is an important question. The answer is quite simple, yours truly had masterfully prepared two cups of coffee and we were drinking that coffee as we prepared the meal. It would not have been proper to show you my dear Wife’s wonderful meal sitting beside two empty coffee mugs, would it?

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So, there it is, the last camping excursion of 2020. Now, it’s time for year-end maintenance, minor repairs, vehicle inspection, winterizing, etc. But, those are not useless and tedious chores. As each item is accomplished, we will be planning for upgrades to ECDM and mapping out an even better RV season for 2021.

God is good and that is why He gave us the out of doors to enjoy!

SFH Journal: 2020-08-03 through 08-16 – Let the Canning Season Begin!

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

Starting early this week, Blondie has been suffering from a chronic ailment. She’s been in some pain, but she still gets up, does her chores, and tries her best to keep Serendipity Farmhouse the warm, happy place it is meant to be. There are hopeful signs that she’s on the mend. 0924191726a (2)

Until she’s back to her old self, Ol’ Fuzz Face and I have called a truce and are working together to keep up with this year’s bountiful harvest and all the seasonal canning and pickling. I’ve put Blondie on a special diet designed to aid in her speedy recovery. Dearest friend Nancy has been advised and is coming over today with her legendary chicken soup, widely known for its curative powers. As you can see, I’m doing my best to encourage Blondie to eat and regain her strength.


Thank you, Mr. Monte. Despite our frequent disagreements and physical clashes, you have a big heart when it comes to my dear sweet Spouse.

Yes! It seems that the plants in the vegetable gardens are ripening all at the same time. The tomatoes are firm, healthy, and plentiful. The okra plants, both the purple and the Cow Horn, are successfully handling the Summer weather extremes and are yielding several pods each day. Meanwhile, multiple varieties of peppers are presenting themselves in quantities large enough for pickling and joining us at our evening meals.

With the abundance, however, comes the need to practice the fine arts of preparation and preserving at a rapid pace. There is a penalty for delay – tomatoes, okra, and peppers demand processing on their own time schedule. Thus far, the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen has kept up with the demand and our pantry is filling up with the fruits of this year’s harvest.

Boiling, steamy pots sanitizing, cooking, and processing

From Tomatoes to Salsa

The SFH vegetable gardens are not meant to break records on size and quantity. Rather, they are carefully planned to produce quality and flavor. The pictures below show that we have been successful. If a Mr. Stripey tomato should weigh in at almost 1 lb. 5 oz, well, that’s a good thing too.

Each batch of salsa produced by the SFH Test Kitchen is unique in its blend of spices and peppers. The first batch this year is called “SFH Howlin’ Coyote Salsa”. This batch is spiced up with 1 jalapeno, 1 serrano, and 1 cayenne pepper.

The second batch is called “Some Like it Hot Salsa”. Here, we increased the heat by adding 1 jalapeno, 1 large salsa, 2 serrano, and 2 cayenne peppers. Taste testing confirms that this mixture, although relatively spicy, leaves one with a mellow, rewarding afterglow of flavor.

Okra the Magnificent

My True Love and I are most delighted with all the wonderful ways in which one can enjoy homegrown okra. Perhaps our favorite flavor treat is when the okra is properly pickled. We use a very simple brine, pickling spice, and highlight the mix with fresh lemon and our own homegrown garlic.

Peter’s Pickled Peppers

My most creative and innovative Spouse decided that this would be the year that she would attempt to grow banana peppers. Erring on the side of caution we limited ourselves to a single plant. Happily, it thrived and produced enough peppers to be pickled in a single jar.

Meanwhile, we made sure that we had a good selection of other pepper varieties for salsa experimentation and for pickling. This year’s first batch of Peter’s Pickled Peppers looks like it will be excellent. Here again, the flavor of the peppers is enlivened and enhanced by the addition of one homegrown garlic clove per jar.

So, here is the result of the first two weeks of the SFH 2020 Canning Season.

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God is good! He watches over us and cares for us!

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 hazy, hot, and humid days of Summer:

SFH 2020 Plantings

SFH 2020 Harvest

SFH 2020 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-08-03 through 08-09

SFH WX Station Report – Weekly:  SFH WX 2020-08-10 through 08-16

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


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



  • 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



  • 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


  • Large sauce pan


  • 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


  • 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


  • Food processor


  • 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


  • 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


Oh, Shenandoah, we came to see you

Mission: The mission’s official name is El Camino Del Monte RV Trip 2020-01. When the day began all systems were “Go”. We had a relatively late departure on the afternoon of May 27, because beautiful Wife treated herself to her first hair cut since March. That was no problem though, because Shenandoah River State Park check in time is 4:00 PM – we arrived at 4:10 PM.

Purpose: The mission’s official purpose was rest, relaxation, and checking out the RV. The unofficial purpose was to get away from TV, radio, Internet, and telephone. For all intents and purposes, this nearby state park allows one to go entirely off the grid. What a blessed relief!


Mission Operations: How about the weather? The sun was out when we were up and the rain came down when we were in bed. So, on the 28th, the air had been washed clean of pollen and dust and the views were remarkable. It was a perfect day for a walk down to the Shenandoah. Sweet Spouse was doubly anxious to stretch her legs. She opined that this would be a good time to reduce the size of what she describes as her “Covid rolls.” It is advisable not to linger on this point. Instead, let’s allow her to lead us on a quick tour to the river and the meadows that were so close to our happy camp site.

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With our walk to the river behind us and the temperatures beginning to climb, we settled into the RV and told Mr. Monte all about the park. He tried to look interested, but it was my sense that he was more concerned about devising new ways to keep us awake during his beloved hours of nocturnal predation. – He has his priorities!

Entertainment: Loving Daughter #2 had given us a game to enjoy during RV trips. Perhaps the game requires skill. Perhaps it requires patience. Perhaps our daughter knows that her parents have neither skill nor patience. Perhaps she has learned how to think like Mr. Monte. Perhaps we shall never know for sure. We played the game. The pictures tell the story.

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Mr. Monte’s Log: Hi, Mr. Monte here. As the pictures on the wall proclaim, this RV belongs to me. You will note the one sign that declares “This house is under the protection of a Maine Coon.” Thus, it’s always an amazement how those two big cats of mine, Blondie & Fuzz Face, take so little notice of all I do for them. While they were out frolicking in the woods and skylarking by the river, I had to conduct my rounds and ensure absolute security aboard El Camino Del Monte.

They frolicked – I protected. Observe the picture of the lizard that menaced our RV. I suspect it was a Northern Coal Skink. As soon as he approached our camp site, I alerted and went into stealth predator mode. Fortunately for him, he sensed my presence and was urged by his instinct of self preservation to avoid conflict with a superior force.

Field Test: Until this trip, all of our RV cooking experiences have been inside on our three-burner LP gas stove. (We haven’t used the oven yet.) This trip afforded us the opportunity to test a newly acquired Cuisinart Petit Gourmet Portable Tabletop Gas Grill.

Don’t be alarmed. I have not, repeat have not, lost my “inner cheap.” Nope, I simply redeemed some of my frequent flyer miles and this handy device was delivered to my doorstep. The primary ingredient for the test meal consisted of two grass-fed, grass-finished porterhouse steaks, raised on Reality Farm just three miles from Serendipity Farmhouse.

I’ll dispense with useless chatter. The grill worked as advertised. The chef performed with great skill and accomplishment. Add in baked potatoes and green beans and this was the all American meal, a worthy reward for two happy campers at day’s end.

Mr. Monte’s Last Word: As I said, “They frolicked – I protected.” And, as I must add, “They ate steak – I ate dry cat food.”

There will come a day of justice – a day of reckoning!!



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

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


  • 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


  • 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!