Category: SFH Food Talk & Recipes

El Camino Del Monte – Cooking with Gas

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El Camino Del Monte with electric, water, and sewer hookups in place
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Propane Stove Test

By 2:50 PM on the first day of the El Camino Del Monte shakedown cruise, electricity, water, and sewer were all hooked up and functioning normally. Earlier, at the dealership, we had tested out the propane heater and knew that worked. Now it was time to open the propane tank valve and test out the stove. As expected, the stove worked perfectly.

Although there were several more items to test, we felt that it was now time to start preparations for our first meal aboard our home away from home. We had cleared the water lines and knew that water would be needed, not only for cooking, but also for washing dishes. So, we turned on the hot water heater of very recent unhappy experience. (See El Camino Del Monte – Water Works? or Waterworks?) Our RV has both propane and electric hot water heaters, we opted for the electric, knowing that the propane heater was still quite soaked.

CurryOur menu called for an old family standby – S&B Golden Curry with beef on Japanese-style sticky rice. Although the meal is based on a store-bought mix, over the years, we have adapted the meal with our own selection of spices and sides (e.g. cayenne, curry powder, corn chips, dill pickles, and cheddar cheese). Don’t expect to find this combination anywhere in India or Japan. The only place you will find it is at our house or in the homes of our clan.

Now the two master chefs of the soon to be famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen had moved to their new mobile facility. The show was now on the road and cooking with gas.

0805181639 (2)Beautiful Spouse did most of the meal prep with the stew beef, onion, and spices. I tackled the technical task of testing out another new piece of technology. Our regular rice cooker is too bulky for use in the RV. So, we purchased a miAroma mini digital rice cooker to save space.

I followed the simple directions closely – add rice, add water, push a button. Minutes Mini Rice Cookerlater we had just enough sticky rice for two adult sized servings of curry rice. The product worked as described. What we didn’t know until we opened the box and pulled out the directions was that the rice cooker could also be used to prepare several other dishes including: cake, soup, pasta, omelettes and more – perfect for RV living.

Now remember, nothing goes perfectly on a shakedown cruise, especially for yours truly. Despite our best planning and preparation, we forgot a key ingredient for our curry. This oversight almost brought tears to my eyes.

Lesson Learned: Never, ever, not now, not ever forget the fresh garlic!


SFH Journal: 2018-08-01 & 02

0802181419c (2)Highlight: So what is it? We found this in our local Martin’s grocery store today. It was bigger than a large watermelon. It was spiny and course to the touch. Unlike a melon, it doesn’t grow on a vine. No, this huge fruit grows on trees. They say it can weigh up to 33 pounds. If there hadn’t been a sign there to explain, I would have thought for sure that this was a remake of the “Pod People (Invasion of the Body Snatchers)”. Even though the sign identified this as Jackfruit, I’m still not sure that I want to go to bed tonight. And if that isn’t enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck, take a look at what the weather is causing to happen. Oh dear, oh my!

Weather: At this very moment, right now, even as I am typing, it’s raining. No, it is pouring; the yard is filled with water, and the river is rising. There are both flash flood warnings and flash flood watches in effect until tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, silently, insidiously, eerily, the lawn is growing; the weeds are growing; moss and fungus are growing. It’s almost like a 1950s horror movie – the vines are creeping in through the windows, seeking to entangle us and then … and then … – – – –

Tune in tomorrow for the next exciting episode of “Serendipity Farmhouse – The Night of the Rain Monster”.

2018-08-01: High – 86º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

2018-08-02: High – 80º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report


2018-08-01: 4 okra pods

2018-08-02: Nothing to report

SFH Journal: 2018-07-24

Highlight: Two highly important food-related items have come to my attention that require some explanation:

First, I made the assumption that everyone in the world knows about linguiça. This fine Portuguese style smoke-cured pork sausage has been part of my life since I could first eat solid food. The feature picture provides some facts about the brand we use. (For those in the know, there is a point of hidden coincidence here.)  Whereas in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, one can obtain this tasty delight most everywhere, it is difficult to find a reliable supplier in Virginia. We have found that Harris Teeter grocery stores usually have some in stock.

Second, with regard to The Besto of Pesto recipe, we should have noted that this pesto tastes best if it has been allowed to rest a night in the refrigerator before coming out for the main event. This allows the flavors to mingle and get to know one another. And, please, don’t despair and throw away any unused pesto. It can be placed in a container and be allowed to take a sabbatical in the freezer, at least for a couple of months. That’s where our leftover pesto is right now.

Weather: Today was cloudy, a bit cooler, with mixed sunshine, rain, and drizzle. The humidity was near 100% most of the day. Even with the lower temperatures, it was beginning to get that oppressive feel.

2018-07-23: High – 78º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report

Harvest: Nothing to report

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!

SFH Journal: 2018-07-21

Highlight: Today was a catch up day (as opposed to a ketchup or catsup day). We had to catch up with paper work, house cleaning, and all the other Saturday type of chores. We also had to catch up with our plans for making our own pesto. Resourceful wife found a simple pesto recipe and then she was out to the herb garden to harvest two varieties of basil. Adding a third variety of basil from Waterpenny Farm, we made the pesto according to the test recipe. Sunday, we shall serve up some pasta with the pesto from our soon to be world famous SFH Test Kitchen. You will get to see what we did, how we did it, and what were the results.

Mr. Monte, of course, has no liking whatsoever for pesto or pasta. He is hoping that we will serve him a suitable portion of his favorite ice cream.

Weather: Today was cloudy, cooler, and ended with rain and heavy drizzle. 2018-07-21: High – 78º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report

Harvest: Lovely wife harvested 2-3 cups of basil from the herb garden.

How to Host a Tea Party – SFH Style

Three Generations – One Tradition

History & Tradition: You could fill a library with the many books on how to host a tea party. I know, I own several of them. But not one of those books taught me the important lesson I learned from my Mom and other inspiring  women who were part of my Southern upbringing. That is the lesson on how to be a “lady”.

No matter whether it’s a tea party, a dinner, or a church social, a “lady” is the woman who puts all others before herself, speaks kindly, and seeks to instill similar values in the next generation. In short, if you want to have a successful tea party, you invite daughters and granddaughters who want to become “ladies” and you share what you have learned from the “ladies” who were part of your upbringing.

And so it was on Saturday. The three generations of Serendipity Farmhouse “ladies” gathered and shared each other’s company, delighted in each other’s stories, and enjoyed fine teas and tasty treats.

Preparation: The Third Annual SFH Tea Party didn’t come about in a single day. It tookDSC_0323 three months of scheduling, menu planning, and shopping. There was a certain emotional tension in this process. Unlike my hubby who can live with things being “good enough”, I can’t handle the idea of a tea party that is only “good enough”. So, for the last three months hubby has been sleeping fine and I’ve had several sleepless nights.

Fortunately, I have been through this twice before. And even more fortunately I have my friend Nancy to call upon for advice and support. Needless to say, but it is worth saying anyway, Nancy is a “lady”.

DSC_0293Here’s one more essential item. It was also helpful that Mr. Monte was trained in place settings and table arrangement by service staff at Downton Abbey. You will notice his keen eye for measure and placement.

So, preparation for an SFH Tea Party requires only five important things:

  • A good plan,
  • A good menu,
  • A good friend,
  • A good hubby to run errands, and
  • A good Maine Coon cat with domestic service experience.

Food: So, just what does an SFH Tea Party menu look like? Take a look at the pictures to see just a few of the tasty treats that were offered.

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Now that I have your interest, here’s a list of what was served:

  • Assorted specialty teas (my favorite was the lavender)
  • Mints & chocolates (The 92% dark chocolate was gone in flash)
  • Cucumbers sandwiches (with organic butter or cream cheese)
  • Pimento cheese sandwiches
  • Scones (plain & cranberry lemon – provided by Happy Creek Eatery)
  • Lavender tea bread
  • Chocolate hazelnut wafer rolls
  • Banana blueberry mini-muffins
  • Lemon bars
  • Lemon and ginger cookies
  • Watermelon, cantaloupe, and grapes

Lesson Learned: It is the opinion of all the tea party guests and the soon to be world famous SFH test kitchen staff that the lemon lavender scone mix was a disaster and should be thrown into the garbage – which it was. The lesson is – never, ever, no not ever buy food mixes in the gift shop of any historical site. Why? The food mix may be only slightly younger than the historical site. Scone mixes from 1803 will never be used at an SFH tea party again.

Attire: Now this section is the most important and probably the most sensitive issue to be discussed in this post. I will use myself as an example. You will notice that my attire was comfortable and perfectly suited to the high expectations of an SFH tea party. Furthermore, Saturday was also the day of the running of the Belmont Stakes. My hat would have fit in that setting perfectly. Why? Because it was both traditional and stylish.

Now look at my hubby. He tried to persuade all at the tea party that his hat and other attire were both functional and sophisticated. Is there any doubt in your mind why he was summarily banished to his office upstairs with his son? I think the picture speaks for itself.






SFH Journal: 2018-06-08

Highlight: Today was the last full day for preparation for the Third Annual Serendipity Farmhouse Tea Party. Mowing, trimming, weed whacking, clearing off the deck – it all had to be done – and it had to be done properly. Last minute shopping included purchasing fruit, fresh vegetables, and dairy products.

One baker in Front Royal earned the SFH Seal of Approval. On short notice, he managed to put together the finest gluten free scones we have ever tasted. He distinguished himself by improvising when he couldn’t get the currants we wanted. He came up with a delightful mixture of lemon and craisins.

We, on the other hand, were not as successful with a particular scone mix. We followed the instructions precisely, but came up with an overly moist and sticky dough. In the oven, magic things did not happen. The scones did not rise. Undaunted by less than total success, we now have a new Serendipity Farmhouse specialty combining the best (or perhaps the worst) of scones and cookies. We call the new savory delight – SFH Scookies.

There is a strong possibility that the SFH Scookies might not make their formal debut at the Third Annual SFH Tea Party.

Weather:  Both temperature and humidity were higher today. Of course, this made the yard work more enjoyable.  (Detailed Summary – click here.)


Plantings: Nothing to report.

Harvest: Nothing to report.