Monday, March 25, 2013

RIP Brown Betty

Yes, it is true. After only a few short weeks, Brown Betty is another of my casualties.  I don't  know what it is about me, but if it can be broken, I will break it. I have always been that way. Just ask my family. Just last week I broke my Bodum tea press that I like to use to make herbal tea in. It is the teapot version of a French press coffee maker. I was peeved at myself, but no big deal. I'll get another one sometime.

But Brown Betty? Oh man, that was heart breaking.  My shiny dark brown pot-bellied friend is no more. I had her sitting on a shelf over the stove and was putting a large casserole on the shelf above when I lost my grip on the dish and it hit the shelf the teapot  was on and broke the spout off. I also broke two sweet little antique cream jugs I have had since I was a little girl. If you are going to go for broke, go all the way I guess. I briefly considered saving the pot and planting some moss in it. Some coming out the top and some growing from the gaping hole that used to be the spout. But I figured whatever I planted would get water logged, so I gathered all the chunks of broken redware and disposed of it. I will be getting another, you can count on that. Just a few short weeks with my English friend has me spoiled to the earthiness of these classic teapots. I can't say the tea tastes any better, but there is just something about that humble little pot, fragrant tea steam wafting through the air,  that makes the whole process that much more pleasant. As if brewing a pot of tea could be anymore pleasant.

After such a debacle, I definitely needed a little comforting, so I turned to another tried and  true friend-food. Brown Betty and I may have been new friends, but food and I go way back. Today's food Rx need to be warm. It was a day of ferocious wind, snow showers, rain, and very cold temperatures. By the time I made my rounds to the farm to gather eggs and on to the dairy to pick up my dairy CSA, I was frozen to the bone and still bummed about my teapot. I needed pudding. Warm, vanilla pudding made with fresh milk, a little sugar, and eggs that were just hours old.

I remembered seeing a recipe on a new blog I found. Simple Farmstead Cooking . There are lots of good recipes here. The author has another blog too. Life at Cobble Hill Farm If you like blogs about simple country living, gardening, pets, and chickens, then you will like this one. I only found it a few days ago, but I am already a fan.

Back to the pudding. It was a simple recipe. I don't really make homemade pudding, even though warm vanilla pudding is heavenly.  I end up scorching it every time. Pudding is the MOTH's department. He is patient; I am not. But this recipe cooked up quickly. In no time, I was hunched over a bowl of the stuff, blowing on it so I could get its warm comfort inside me as quickly as possible. Honestly, I could have eaten the entire saucepan of creamy, sweet goodness.

It's been a few hours since BB's demise and I think I might be ready to head over to the English website I got her from and order another. It's a testament to her character that I must have another. And the healing power of vanilla pudding.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cooking in my Sun Oven

Last year I bought a solar oven to add to my emergency supplies. I have always been fascinated with solar energy and the MOTH and I would someday like to convert our farm house to solar. Years ago I bought a booklet on making a solar oven from aluminum foil and cardboard boxes meaning to do it as a science project with the girls. That never happened, but I still maintained my interest.

When I came across the Sun Oven while surfing the net, I knew I had to have one and started saving up to buy it. I have not been disappointed. In a lot of ways it is like a crock pot that is powered by the sun. But you can also pasteurize water, sterilize medical instruments and dehydrate food in a solar oven. The company that makes these ovens is promoting their use in third world countries for everyday use and during disasters. Because people in those places cook over smokey fires they have a lot of eye problems. The solar ovens alleviate this. They are even building giant models to use as bakeries for communities.

The one drawback to the solar oven of course, is that you can't use it in cloudy weather. But cold weather? As long as the sun is shining, no problem. They have even used it on Mt Everest. I used my solar oven a lot last summer when it was hot and sunny and it worked just great. As winter settled in, I sort of forgot about it in favor of my nice warm kitchen with it's big oven and crockpot for making all those winter soups and stews.

However, one Saturday before leaving for the farm to work, I decided to see how well it worked on a sunny, but cold day. It was ten o'clock in the morning when I set it up to pre-heat. It was in the upper 30's outside. This is the temp in my oven after ten minutes. Right at 100 degrees.

I went inside and put together a pot of chili, which took about ten minutes. It was a simple recipe using Bush's Chili Magic. When I took the pot outside to place in the oven, this was the temperature inside the oven:
300 degrees! In a span of twenty minutes, my oven had gone from cold to 300 degrees.It eventually got up to 350 degrees. On a cold winter day in the 30's. With nothing but the sun. That just amazes me.

So far the sun and I have baked cookies, casseroles, soups, beef stew, and now chili together and the only thing that I have had a little trouble with is the cookies. It only takes about five or ten minutes longer than baking in a traditional oven does, but both times I have tried, I have left them a little too long not believing it could be that fast and they have turned out hard. You can't really burn anything in the solar oven except stuff with sugar in it, so I need more practice in the baking department. I plan to work on that. I also want to bake bread in it.

If you are into new cooking gadgets this is definitely a fun one to get. It is also great to have for use during an extended power outage. Armed with a solar oven, and a good camp stove and dutch oven, your diet wouldn't have to suffer if you ever find yourself in a power down situation.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Here she is, my new best friend Brown Betty. She is stout, sturdy, earthy, and practical (Ha! I just described myself). No wonder we get on so.  As you can see she was born in England. In the picture she looks black, but she has a rich chocolate brown glaze over her redware foundation. I just love some of the sentences printed on the info tag included. "The Red Terracotta Clay with its Rockingham Glaze, Coddles the brew, and gives the perfect cup of tea." The capitalization was theirs. I love the word "coddle".

I already owned a teapot-a pretty white one and it brewed tea just fine. When the occasional craving for tea came on I used it. But I have spent  many happy hours lately watching the British TV series "Larkrise to Candleford" and of course, "Downton Abbey" and now I am embracing all things British. I guess it was seeing all that steam rising from all those teapots. Some of them humble models like my girl and some very ornate. Now I have to have a cup or two everyday. Nothing fancy, just English Breakfast Tea. And I don't use teabags. I like the whole business of heating my pot and adding my leaves and then using a little strainer when I pour it into my cup. Then I add just a touch of fresh milk from the dairy cow share I participate in. The simple things really are what make life good.

All of this tea drinking has brought about an unexpected mini-obsession. Tea Cozies! I already owned a pretty blue toille cozy that I made for my white teapot and I just love cuddling Brown Betty in it and tying the ribbons to keep her round belly full of tea hot. But now I am perusing knitting sites for knitted versions and looking at fabrics to make a couple more quilted versions. It's a little crazy. And probably silly sounding to some. But just so you know-apparently I am not the only one with this obsession. Typing "tea cozy" into the search engine at Ravelry, the knitting world's best online resource, you get tons of pictures and patterns for knitted and crocheted tea cozies.

This in turn has lead to an interest in British foods and cooking. I am collecting some ingredients so that I can invite my girls over for a spot of tea and biscuits and some other British foods. Amazingly, tucked away here in the Appalachian Mountains, you can buy quite a few British foods at the local grocery. Maybe it's the Scotch/Irish influence of the population? I don't know. I am just glad. I've got my clotted cream and I am a happy girl. Cup of tea, anyone?

Monday, March 18, 2013

It's been crazy busy here. The MOTH took a week off from work so that we could work on the plumbing at the farm. Until we get that done, everything else is kind of on hold. Floors can't be put in until we get all the pipes and stuff in place. The weather, however, did not cooperate. Rain, snow, and very cold temps brought all work under the house to a stop. We had lots of bee hives to put together and paint so we worked on that and after the weather cleared, we got our backdoor in. Yay! The original back door was on the side of the house under the porch slope. It was very low and very ugly. We moved it so that we could put in a standard height door. Now our tallest son-in-law can come in without stooping.

The nine straight days of farm work and renovations was followed by the quilt festival in Pigeon Forge, which meant the Cherry Pit was a buzz of activity with all of us working extra days. It's a big deal-quilters from all across the country and overseas converge on the area. And they are ready to shop and spend money, let me tell you. We had one customer spend $900.00 on quilting supplies! I can't imagine doing that, but I bet it would be fun. They save their money all year long, rent cabins with their friends and have a high old time.

After all these days away from my home, I am glad to be back and in the swing of things home-related. I was awake by 5 a.m. and had bread rising by 5:30, breakfast made, coffee in the French press, and when Jerry came down, I was planting tomato seeds in peat pots. Yes, I have missed being home. I told Jerry last week, I sure would be glad when our wife came back. No home-cooked meals, laundry piled up and the kitchen a wreck, not to mention the rest of the house.  I am no paragon of neatness, but I do like a small amount of order in my life. And I miss my girls. I haven't got to spend much time with them at all lately.

I did get some beans canned though. Well, jelly beans that is. The MOTH loves Starburst jelly beans, and of course, they are out in force at Easter time, so we have been stocking up and I am putting them in Mason jars and vaccum sealing them with my Food Saver. They should stay good for about a year that way. So in addition to all my jars of home-canned stuff all lined up in my pantry, I now have some very colorful jars of jelly beans to add a little variety to the mix. I had a pretty picture of them all lined up to show you, but my computer is not co-operating and won't let me post pix right now.

That freshly-baked bread is calling my name. I think I will spread a little butter on a slice, grab Brown Betty for some tea and have a little sit-down. I don't think I have told you about Brown Betty yet even though I have mentioned her before. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

And the winners are...

Linda Dickerson and Carla Nelson! I will contact both of you via FB to get your mailing addresses. Congratulations to you both. This was fun. I will host a another give-away soon. I am wanting to make a batch of snow so maybe I'll do a homemade soap give-away.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The MOTH is on vacation from his paying job this week, which means we are putting in a full week at the farm working on the plumbing. Being on "vacation" means not having to hit the highways at seven a.m. for his hour commute, so we sit and enjoy a leisurely wake-up time, drinking coffee and watching the news and the weather channel.

This morning Pat Boone appeared in a commercial peddling those walk-in tubs for old folks. Watching it, Jerry recalled being a young child of six or so watching American Bandstand.  A young, handsome, Pat Boone was on performing "Catch a Falling Star".

"And now here I am fifty something years later, watching a half-nude , old, Pat Boone take a bath and a minute later I see his daughter pushing face lifts in another commercial. And I am thinking of buying one of each."

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Give-Away!

Finally I have my little project completed and ready to give away. Do you ever have just a few dishes that need doing quickly and the dishwasher needs unloading and you don't feel like doing it? I HATE unloading the dishwasher. Or maybe you have some things that need to be hand washed? I also dislike dish drainers. They either are taking up one side of the sink, or part of the counter, or you have to find a place to store the thing when not in use. I was spreading a tea towel on the counter to take care of this but one day at work we got in the cutest kitchen themed cotton prints that I had to have fat quarter of each (that's an 18"x22" cut for the non-quilters reading this), and then I needed to find a use for them. That's when I hit upon backing them with recycled towels and using them for those small sinks of dishes we all do. I just throw one on the counter, put my washed dishes on them and when dry, I hang the little towel dryer to dry. I love these things. I have quite a stack of them and have made them for my girls. If you do any canning, they also make great towels to put your jars on after they come out of the canner.

Making these sort of led to the next project, the little knitted dishcloths. These are big among knitters right now. Short and sweet. A perfect take-along project. And useful. If you can bring yourself to use them that is. I think they are so cute that I can't use mine! That is one reason I am sponsoring a give away. Maybe someone else can. I found this pattern on one of my favorite blogs. It's called "Homespun Living". Check out my list of favorite blogs to the right.  Deb, the writer of the blog, created these patterns. She makes all kinds of neat stuff. Her bags are gorgeous. I want one! The waffle cloth is called Aunt May's Dishcloth and the smaller one is her Petite French pattern. The original is red and white like so much French linen is, which I love and adore.

After doing those dishes, you may have a little case of dishpan hands, so I am throwing in a small tin of my handmade cream. I call it "Cream of Roses" and it is marvelous stuff. Made with rose hip seed oil, grape seed oil, cocoa butter, rosewater, and beeswax and scented with Rose Geranium, it will be a treat to smooth on. Heck, you could almost eat the stuff! It really does smell divine.

The towel set comes in two colorways-a red and cream with cute kitchen stuff on the towel dryer and a retro aqua and white set also with kitchen themed stuff on the fabric. I know the photos aren't that great so you may not be able to see the detail.  The dryers are backed with a nice white terrycloth I bought, didn't recycle. Nothings too good for my readers. LOL both sets will include the hand cream even though it is not in both photos.

To get a chance to win, simply leave a comment here on my blog, or if you can't figure out how to do that (been there, so I know), after reading go to facebook and leave one. I will draw a name from the comments on Tuesday and announce the winner here Wednesday. Good luck!