Thursday, February 13, 2020

aebleskivers and madeleines

A couple posts ago I wrote about blue cornmeal and my quest to learn to use new pans, gadgets and ingredients that I have acquired but are sitting around.  My plan is to use a menu planning journal to "schedule" these recipes and gear.   I haven't gotten the journal going yet but I did make two recipes while I was snowed in during our most recent blizzard.

This summer I purchased a Madeleine pan and an aebleskiver pan.  After a quick online search I printed a couple of recipes for each.

A Madeleine pan is a flat pan with shell shaped molds for baking small cake like treats.  It is a classic French treat for tea or dessert. 

An aebleskiver pan is a pan that is used on the stove.  It has seven depressions used to cook a type of a pancake ball.   The aebleskiver is Danish.    Scandinavian baking always appeals to be.  The aebleskiver batter is poured into each depression and when the bottom is cooked it is turned partway over.  While it is partway turned a small amount of filling can be added.  My batch of batter made five pans and I was planning to make them all plain and dust them with powdered sugar but when I got to the last pan I decided to try adding a bit of jelly and they were good too. 

Both pans worked well.  The treats were yummy.  I have a couple more versions of each recipe that I might try again but I am happy with the ones that I used.

aebleskivers after the first turn

finished aebleskivers

madeleine pan

finished madeleines

Monday, February 3, 2020

my garden planning progress

I have been a fly by the seat of my pants gardener, winging it, going forward without a real plan.  When my garden was small it wasn't as much of an issue, but when I decided to do a big garden, planning became much more important and my lack of planning more obvious and more consequential. 

This time of year for many inspires resolutions, organization, reflecting on the past and planning for the future.  I have not typically been one of those people but this year, disappointment in last year has led me to embrace the planning season and see if I can try to not repeat last year in 2020.  Not all of last year can be blamed on things I could control.  The weather was terrible for gardening and also for my farming neighbors.  It was so wet.  And that cold spring.  But I did find that I always seemed to be playing catch up and that is something that is within my control. 

This January I decided to try a bullet journal and set about putting one together.  In the brainstorming I decided that an additional garden journal and a journal for meal planning might provide for a better to do list and a place for documentation. 

So where am I at in my garden planning?  Well, I am started. I start a lot of seeds indoors for transplanting out into my garden and sharing with other gardeners.  Seed starting will be starting soon.  I gathered together all of my extra seeds from previous year's gardens.  I have ordered and received a storage container to hold my seeds.  I have sorted those seeds into the separate boxes that fit into my storage container.  Yet to be done is to label the boxes, inventory the seeds that I have.  I need to make a list of crops that I want to grow and cross reference that to my seed inventory and prepare a seed order for the seeds that I do not already have.  I want to order my seeds by end of the week.

Seed starting has a lot of moving parts.  Some seeds are planted in the garden, some before the last spring frost and some after.  Some seeds are started indoors under lights and transplanted into the garden, some before the last spring frost, some after the ground warms up, some in the summer for a fall crop.  Some seeds are planted every couple of weeks for successive harvests.  Lots of moving parts.  It is not hard, just a lot to coordinate and keep track of.  Other years I have scrambled to figure out what I needed to be doing when.  I have lost count of how many times I have counted back on the calendar from that last frost date to figure out when to start a particular type of seed. 

When I was working on my bullet journal I made three perpetual calendars.  They are set up to be three months on a page so four pages for a year.  Mine are arranged so the first half of the year are on two facing pages and the second half of the year on the following two pages.  Each month is a  column with the numbers down the left side of the column. The first calendar is for birthdays and anniversaries, things that are the same from year to year.  The second calendar is where I track my dad's medical appointments and treatments.  The third is my perpetual garden calendar where I have indicated the dates of the last frost in the spring and the first frost in the fall.  I then counted backward and forward to get the weeks before and after.

Next I took the information from the perpetual calendar and started a spreadsheet.  This will be a master calendar from which I can generate a To Do list.  It is set up with a column for each week of the year.  The dates of the week are at the top of the column.  Below the dates row is a row counting the weeks before and after the last frost in the spring.  And below that the next row counts the weeks before and after the first frost in the spring.  The next section has a list of vegetables, listed alphabetically, one vegetable per row on the far left column.  Across the columns of the spreadsheet I am entering codes for different activities involving that vegetable in the column when that activity should happen.  I have a book that lists lots of vegetables and includes the information and I am using that as a starting point.  I will add additional information as I glean it from seed packets, company websites and other resources.  I am up to peas in my alphabetical list.  Because I grow greens in my passive solar greenhouse in the winter I am going to list all of the greens together after the vegetables.  I will do the same with herbs and flowers.  My goal is to be able to look down the column for the week and know what needs to be done and add those tasks to my To Do list in my bullet journal.

I have chosen to use a smaller 3 ring binder for my garden journal.  It has some dividers and loose leaf paper.  I have several different growing areas, vegetable beds, a potager, perennial fruit, an herb garden and areas with flowers. I am not sure exactly how the journal will be arranged but I do know that I want to have maps of the different areas so that I can keep track of which perennial varieties are planted where.  Right now I have scraps of paper that have my notes as to what is planted in some of the areas.  My goal is to transfer all of the information on those scraps of paper to the journal, perhaps with a separate page for each area.  I would like to have a list of vegetable varieties grown each year, where they were purchased and any notes about them.  So far I have used it to make notes on pruning techniques, recipes for fruit tree sprays, trellising techniques and suggested varieties of English cucumbers.  Having a ring binder instead of a bound book will allow me flexibility to take notes and then then organize them later.  I imagine that I will rearrange it a few times until I find a method that works best for me.  I have a 8.5x11 graph paper pad that I think I can punch holes across the top to fit my rings and if I turn it sideways I should be able to use that for maps.  We will have to see.    

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Blue cornmeal

One of my goals this year is to learn to use new ingredients, gadgets or tools that I have acquired but are still sitting around waiting for me to get to them.  One of the ingredients is blue cornmeal.  My sister first expressed an interest in finding blue cornmeal.  We looked locally and close by but did not find any, so we ordered some online and shared it when it arrived.  I hadn't used it yet but decided that it was time so I searched out recipes for cornbread. 

I don't have a go-to recipe for cornbread.  I  haven't made it very often and when I have I have used the recipe on the cardboard container.  Being snowed in and not expecting to be able to run to the grocery store for a couple of days I was looking for recipes that called for buttermilk since I had that and didn't want to use the last of my milk.  I ended up combining ingredients from a couple of different recipes and the results were pretty good.  I am in my second day of nibbling on the cornbread.   I think I will make some of the cornbread into croutons for adding to salads, soups and chili. 

I am not out of cornmeal yet so I think my next project will be learning to use the tortilla press that I bought this summer and make some homemade corn tortillas.  Stay tuned.

If you are interested in the cornbread recipe it can be found here.


Friday, January 17, 2020

Snowed in

Typical Minnesota January.  We have already had several significant snow events and our ground is pretty well covered.  Some of the animals that live in our grove have been bolder in their search for food.  A couple of days ago I had a bunny checking out the dogs' food bowl.  Usually this time of year the Blue Jays are interested in any left over food in the dishes but I haven't had rabbits before, at least not that I know of. 

And then the next day I had three pheasant hens up in the yard digging and scratching just out from my front door.  I hear them in the grove and sometimes see them fly in there from the road but this was the closest I have seen them to the house.  Of course as soon as I opened the side door they flew off.  I walked over to where they had been and saw that there was an empty ear of field corn.  All of the kernels has been removed.  I imagine the dogs brought it up from the field across the road at some time. 

I have decided to try to feed them, but trying to find a way to to do it so that they can eat without harassment from my two dogs.  I put food out yesterday, but now I will wait until the current weather passes.  We are in the middle of a three day weather pattern.  The last couple of days have been cold with windchill warnings.  It was -14 I think at the lowest.  Today and tonight it is warmer but we are getting snow.  One prediction is 4-7 inches and another is 8-12 inches.  Schools were cancelled and people were encouraged to stay home.  I don't know how much snow we actually got.  It has been snowing for much of the day.  It is still snowing and looks like it will snow much of the night.  It is windy and so the snow is deep in some spots and absent in other spots.  Tomorrow it is supposed to be even windier and a blizzard warning is next.  By tomorrow night I am hoping that it is done.  So far everything is working, no power outages or branches down.  I have these nifty new heated hand grips for my snowblower, a Christmas gift from my kids that help keep my hands warmer when I am snowblowing--probably my Sunday project. 

I haven't minded staying home.  I have gotten started on some projects that I have needed to do.  Today I sorted my garden seeds into a new container that arrived this week, a baby step in getting better organized for the garden.  

Keep warm!


Thursday, January 9, 2020

One week into the new year

Well, we are one week in. How am I doing?  I am started.

Bullet Journal

My bullet journal is a blank book and I am customizing the pages hoping to meet my needs.  Some of the journals are beautiful with artwork and fancy lettering.  Mine is going to be more minimalist.  If I can get the hang of this I can try and add fancy later but that is not one of my strengths.  I started out with three year at a glance type calendar spreads.  In each of the calendar spreads I have the name of the month and the numbers but not the days of the week, so they are not specific to one particular year.  I am not going to necessarily start a new notebook next year so I can keep using this calendar ongoing. 

On the first four page spread I am putting recurring things like birthdays and anniversaries.  The second four page spread I will track my dad's medical tests and procedures.  I go with him to all of his appointments and I am hoping this will be an easier way to stay on top of his tests and procedures.  My third year at a glance calendar will be the garden calendar.  I debated on placing that calendar in my garden journal but since I will be generating a to do list from the bullet journal I will start out with it here.  I plan count back from our last frost date and label the weeks before our last frost, and going forward after the last frost date and the weeks leading up to our first frost date in the fall.  I will also track the 'seasons' of the winter growing in the greenhouse.  This will help with knowing when to start the different seeds so that they are ready to be transplanted at the right time. 

My bullet journal next has a month at a glance.  This will have appointments and other nonrecurring things that are specific to one particular month.  I will also have a week at a glance which is where my to do list for each day will be.

I am going to give a habit tracker a try.  My friend Kim is using a gratitude journal.  I like that idea and so I am adding a gratitude page.

I have so many things that I want to accomplish this year and unfinished projects from last year.  So starting in the back of my book and working forward I will make a brain dump page for each of the areas of the farm that needs some attention.  (That would be all of them!)  From those brainstorming pages I will pick and choose and prioritize projects and make a list of goals that will span the year.  24 goals would be two per month.  So far I am getting titles on the brain dump pages, not much brainstorming has happened there yet.


Saturday, January 4, 2020

2019 regrets. I have a few.

Happy New Year.  This time of year always seems to be a time of reflection and review and thinking about the new year.  Whether that is an intentional thing or an accidental thing, for me it just sort of happens. 

2019 was both a challenge and a joy.  I have a lot to be grateful for.  But 2019 was a fight from beginning to end.  Mother Nature did not cooperate.  My garden was a disaster.  The farm repairs seemed to be unending.  Nursing as a profession is hard on the body and this old nurse's joints protested a lot.  So many projects I wanted to get done didn't happen or are still only partially finished.  Blogging was practically nonexistent.  I wasn't even finding time to read my favorite bloggers.  I have recipes I wanted to try, new or new to me kitchen tools that I bought or was gifted that I haven't used.  Holiday decorating was minimal.  Holiday baking consisted of a batch of rosettes and a batch of krumkake, one batch of Russian teacakes and one batch of peanut blossoms.  All at the last minute.  No fancy cookies which I love to make. 

Now that the holidays are past and outside stuff is less, it is time to take a hard look at how to cope better in case 2020 turns out to be a repeat of 2019.  No more limping from one problem to the next.  It is time to make goals and plans that are reasonable, rethink some things to make them more manageable.  If I can no longer do it all I want to make sure that stuff like blogging and trying new recipes makes it to my to do list.  I have picked up some cute notebooks and I am starting a bullet journal, a garden journal, a holiday journal and a meal planner.   

Wish me luck.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Summer is winding down

This summer has been a roller coaster and I am not too sad to see it winding down, but it is not quite ready to be done yet.  We have had cloudy, rainy, cool weather lately but next week is threatening to be in the 80s again.  Plus, there are increasing talk of an early frost and another challenging winter.  We are in that schizophrenic time when it is fall one day and summer the next. 

This has kind of been a year of 'the good, the bad and the ugly'.  It has been pretty overwhelming and I am kind of tired of bad and ugly but I am excited to share the good.  So here is my list:

I had a milestone birthday.  That in itself is not a big deal, those happen all of the time but we did take a day this summer acknowledging that milestone by spending the day touring gardens.  In July, my kids and friends and family took part in the Hennepin County Master Gardeners home garden tour.  We were able to visit 10 of the 11 featured gardens.  Most were flower gardens or landscaping but there was one community vegetable garden.  It was educational so we saw rain gardens and pollinator gardens and one garden that was reclaiming land taken over by invasive species.  So inspirational.

My dad is feeling better than he has in several years.  I have older parents, both 81 this year on their birthdays and my dad's health is challenging and complex.  In February we nearly lost him.  He had a lengthy hospitalization that began with a near respiratory arrest and code followed by a couple of days in the ICU, a thoracentesis, 10 more days on the regular hospital unit, some medication changes and eventually discharge to home.  He lost a lot of extra fluid and has continued to lose weight.  His many medical conditions have not gone away but the symptoms are so much better and his quality of life is better.  He actually felt good enough to dance at the weddings of two granddaughters.

The wedding season was great.  My daughter, Caitlin, and niece, Ashley, were both married this late summer.  My daughter at the end of August and my niece two weeks later at the beginning of September.  Of course the shower season preceded the wedding season and that was fun too. 

The shower for my daughter in June allowed me to bring out my vintage china and glassware.  I have a fairly extensive collection and rarely have an excuse to use them so it was fun to haul them to the park and set them up in the log cabin shelterhouse.  It was a fun look.  We did not use the plain white or mostly white china.  I have another niece, Kaylee, who is also planning a wedding and she is thinking that she would like white china for her reception so we have kept them in reserve for her.  But the china with colored or patterned rims were used.  I had purchased a bolt of gray/white ticking and there was enough to make tablecloths for all of the tables.   Flowers and the bride's brass collection and her other vintage treasures served as centerpieces.  We had a fun lunch.  I didn't do any of the food, but it was beautiful and tasty.  Caitlin spent a semester in Italy so a couple of Italian favorites, caprese skewers and prosciutto and melon were on the menu.  There was also sandwiches and cheesecake in mason jars and other sweets for dessert.  It was a group effort and so much fun.

A month later in July Ashley's shower was held.  It was a brunch and the location was a church basement.  Very traditional Minnesota event.  Another group effort.  Her maternal aunts did the decorating  framed photos and lanterns on the table.  Her fiance's aunts helped with food.  We even played a bridal shower game.   This menu was juice and coffee, assorted huge muffins, a fruit bowl and a yogurt parfait bar.  Again, great food. 

In August Caitlin and Robb were married.  They had a ceremony in the church that Robb and his family attended.  The wedding party wore navy, both ladies and the gentlemen.  The ladies wore different styles of dresses made from the same fabric.  The men, wore matching tuxes.  The reception was held in a venue that was originally a vintage movie theater.  It was the theater that my siblings and I attended movies at when we were children so it is old!  It has the marquee on the outside and the buffet was set up in the lobby.  The head table was set up on the stage in the front where the movie screen had been at one time and long tables were set up on the gently sloping floor.  The back part of the theater where the projection booth was and the steeper sloped seating that was up the steps held narrow tables at a railing and chairs facing the front in rows like the old seating would have been.  The meal was a served lettuce salad followed by a buffet pasta bar, with both Alfredo and Bolognase sauces and breadsticks.  The cake was a centerpiece cake displayed on an antique mirror cake stand and featured a handcrafted version of Willow, their dog.  The guests served themselves mini  cupcakes, doughnuts made by my dad and Scandinavian almond cake slices from the dessert table. They had a bar set up and served two classic signature cocktails, the manhattan and the old fashioned, in addition to beer, wine and other cocktails.  Delivery pizza was a late night snack.  Three sizes of glass cylinders with floating candles decorated the tables. 

Ashley and Jeff were married at a lake.  The ceremony was outdoors with white chairs set up on grass just off of the beach.  It was cloudy and unseasonably cold even for northern Minnesota with a cool breeze blowing in off of the lake but at least the rain held off.  The ladies of the wedding party wore a steel blue dress, again, different styles of dresses made from the same fabric.  The men wore white shirts and leather vests, blue jeans and boots.  Between the ceremony and the reception the wedding party went for a pontoon ride, wrapped in coats and blankets.  The ceremony was beautiful but bittersweet.  Ashley's dad was my brother and he died in 2011 from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).  His absence was very poignant.  There was an empty chair where he would have sat after walking her down the aisle.  It held a picture and his leather hat and a framed message in memorial.  Her brother walked her down the aisle and both cried as did most of the guests on the 'bride's side'.  At the dance in place of the traditional father daughter dance Ashley danced with her brother, both of her grandfathers and one uncle.  She had asked these four special men in her life to participate and all were honored to do so.  There were tears.  And when her brand new father-in-law cut in to dance with her I doubt there were many dry eyes in the room.  She had round tables with white tablecloths and white  coverings for the chairs.  There were three different centerpiece designs, more cylinders with candles, very tall vases with flowers and wood boxes with flowers and candles.  There were lots of large wooden spools for displays and rustic boards held up by pairs of whole wine barrels to serve the cupcakes and collect the gifts.  Their menu was a served lettuce salad and a two meat buffet with garlic mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. 

Lots of good stuff this summer.