Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Cookie Recipe Swap

Does your family have a cookie recipe that just makes the holidays?  Maybe it's something SO labor intensive that you only make it once a year  :- )

Since my readers live everywhere across the US, it would be very difficult to have an actual cookie swap!    

So I thought it would be fun this season to have a virtual cookie recipe swap.   Type in a copy of your favorite, traditional Christmas Cookie Recipe in the comments section below.  

Here's a recipe I only make during the holiday season.  Why?  I don't know.  I guess it wouldn't be as special if I made it through out the year.  This is a really fun recipe to make with the kids because they like all the rolling - and there aren't any eggs so even little ones who love to taste the batter can help!  

Russian Teacakes

1 c. butter
1/2 c. sifted confectioners sugar, plus more for rolling
1 tsp. vanilla
2-1/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. finely chopped nuts (pecans are yummy, but walnuts taste good too)

Mix together butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy.  
Mix flour and salt and blend into butter mixture.  Mix in nuts.  
Chill at least 1 hour.  
Roll into 1-inch balls and bake in a 400-degree oven on ungreased baking sheets for 10-12 minutes.  While still warm, roll in sifted confectioners sugar.  Cool.  Roll in sugar again.  


And I hope to collect lots of great recipes!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Grown up Cranberry Sauce

What you need:

4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2 cups sugar
Enough Grand Marnier and orange juice to equal 1/3 cup

Preheat oven to 300-degrees.  Place cranberries in 13x9 inch baking dish; sprinkle evenly with sugar.

Bake 1 hour, stirring after 30 minutes.

Add Grand Marnier and orange juice; stir until well blended.  Pour into jars or serving dishes.  Cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate several hours or until chilled.

I bought one of those travel sized bottles of Grand Marnier at the liquor store and it gives you almost 1/3 cup and then I topped off the measuring cup with fresh squeezed orange juice.  For fun you can grate a little of the orange rind into the cranberries as well.  This looks pretty served with an orange slice on top.  

It may be too late to get the ingredients for today, but maybe you'll want to include it in your Christmas menu.  I made it a day ahead of time so that the flavors can fuse.

Of course I had to steal a taste while it was warm. :  )  This recipe takes Cranberry Sauce to a whole new level!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Small Project Finished

An elderly gentleman commissioned me to paint his child's family names on an antique milk can as a Christmas present.

Here is the finished product.  He chose the blue, white, and black base colors and told me how he wanted the lettering.  Then I did the lettering and decorations.  I think it turned out pretty well.

P.S.  Please don't tell if you know the Christies.  It's a surprise!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Year's Resolution?

Here's an interesting idea for a New Year's Resolution:

In 2011, I resolve to eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and less foods that are manufactured in plants.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Are You A "Crunchy Con"?

Do you live a Crunchy Conservative lifestyle?

I like to think that I do.

Sadly though, I find that politics and economics do tend to stick their big noses into my life far too often.  I am VERY skeptical of big business - I believe that it runs our oversized government.

Number 8 (below) is interesting  Think about that KitKat candy bar commercial "crunch crunch crunch" in split second shots - then think about sitting on your porch, a nice glass of wine in your hand, and chatting with friends - how do each of these make you feel?

Number 2.  McDonald's Happy Meal Toys.  "Nuff said.

Number 5.  Absolutely.  If you can't drink the water and you can't breathe the air then you can't live.

I could comment on each one, and I don't entirely agree with each one, but essentially, I feel that most of these are a valuable set of guidelines by which I strive to live.

Are you a Crunchy Con?

A Crunchy Con Manifesto
By Ron Dreher

1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.

2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.

3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.

5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship - especially of the natural world - is not fundamentally conservative.

6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost alway better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract

7. Beauty is more important than efficiency

8.  The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.

9. We share Russell Kirk's conviction that "the institution most essential to conserve is the family. "

10. Politics and economics won't save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Radishes Under Attack!

My crop of radishes is just beautiful.... then I saw the voles are going to town on them.

My miniature schnauzer, Candy Cane, is a vole killing machine.  Maybe I should let her get some quality time in the high tunnel.  The cats are doing all they can to keep down the vole and mouse population around the house.  It's a battle!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Slowly, But Surely, The Garden Goes To Sleep

I'm just about ready to put the outside gardens to bed.  I'd hoped to have it done by now, but I fell a bit behind schedule due to some substitute teaching opportunities as a Home Ec teacher (which I LOVE).

Yesterday, I spent many hours moving tractor loads of leaves to the edges of the outside garden.  I put them in about two feet thick and they will break down to about six inches thick by spring.  I hope to cut back on the weed issues that I have.  Weeds are probably the largest issue when you garden organically - and inorganically too - but, I don't use any kinds of weed killers and must pull or mow everything by hand.  I have this mental picture of how the "perfect" garden should look.  Tidy... neat... unrealistic.....

Today I will plant winter rye as a cover crop/green manure.  It should get a couple of inch or so of growth on before the serious snow sets in and in the spring it will take off.  Then I'll rototill it under as a green manure for next year's garden.  I was going to plant winter wheat, but I stopped by our local extension office and he told me that this late in the year I should plant winter rye instead.

The chickens will be disappointed when I plant the rye.   During the day, I've been keeping them enclosed in a movable run due to my predator problem, but every evening I give them an hour or so before sunset when I open the run and let them free range.  I've been letting them get into the garden and dig up all the grubs and such they can find.  I'll close the garden to them once I plant the rye.  A flock of chickens can do some damage to newly planted rye seed!  Tonight I'll throw a few handfuls of scratch feed out in the empty pig pen to encourage them to grub around out there.  I hope, with their scratching through everything, the chickens will take care of any parasites the pigs may have left behind.

Speaking of pig, last night we ate our first pork chops from our own pigs.  I simply fried them with some olive oil, garlic and a little salt and pepper.  They were absolutely phenomenal.  Tender, flavorful.. they are such a far cry from pork chops you buy in the grocery store.  While we were eating them the whole family kept saying, "mmmm."  It was amazing how good a pork chop can taste!

Yesterday, while I was working in the garden, I saw a honeybee fly by!  "What are you doing out?"  I said to her.  I walked over, and sure enough, the ladies were flying in and out of the hive.  Near the bees' hive I have placed dog dish with a rock for them to sit on as their water dish.  It was loaded with bees taking the chance to come out of the hive to have a drink during our semi-warm weather.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Freezer Space

We picked up our pork from the butcher last week.  Between the two pigs we finished with exactly 300 pounds of pork.  We have lots and lots of pork chops, shoulder steaks, picnic steaks ribs, and sweet and hot italian sausage.  Wow!

I'm very happy that we sold half of a pig because my freezers are stuffed so full I can hardly put another thing into them and we still haven't picked up the three hams and three sides of bacon that are being smoked!

Freezer space is at a premium!  

Luckily, large part of the freezers will be freed up when I take out the frozen elderberries to make elderberry jelly and maybe some elderberry wine.  

Last August the kids and I picked about three trash bags full of berries.  A friend told me that the very best way to get all those tiny berries off the stems is to freeze them.  You then bang the bags and the berries fall right off.  It's a nice change from using a fork and trying to pull off all those little BB's and it works beautifully!  

This will be a chance to test out the berry attachment of my Squeezo Strainer.  I think it'll cut out the the very messy part where I hang the mushy, cooked berries in a cheesecloth to strain into a bowl.  I have white countertops and boy do elderberries stain!

Another future project that will clear up some space is my attempt to make wine.  A friend gave me a couple of trash bags of concord grapes.  I've never made wine before, but I'm part Italian, so of course I have to give it a try.  I like a pretty sweet wine, so any wine making suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Leaves Are A Gardener's Friend

Although you may feel that leaves are a burden to rake, bag, and dispose of - they can actually be a boon to the gardener.

You can compost them as a source of "brown," high carbon material.  Alternate them with with regular green materials (such as vegetable scraps, weeds,  and grass clippings), turn the pile every once in awhile, and in the spring you'll have a nice finished compost.

Alternatively, you could use your leaves as an organic mulch.  Just add a two to three inch layer of shredded leaves (you can shred them with your lawn mower) to your flower beds.  Be sure to keep them from directly touching the stems and trunks of your plants.  This mulch will limit weeds, keep your soil moist, and as they break down and worms and microorganisms work on them they'll result in a lighter fluffier soil.

Sadly, here at Fitzgerald's Family Farm we don't have enough trees to get a decent pile of leaves.  We sit on what used to be potato fields and our trees aren't mature enough to drop any significant amounts.  Even if the trees were mature enough, we tend to get a lot of wind here and the leaves all blow away!

Luckily the our town collects leaves and is happy to drop them off for free at your house.  Everyone in town rakes their leaves to the curb and a truck comes along and sucks them up.  I get a couple of big loads each year.  The two loads I have sitting outside will go into the high tunnels for mulch - to keep the pathways weed free - and into the compost enclosure for next year's gardens.